Fu Shizhou returned and spent the rest of winter break with Qiao Luo. It seemed all of Qiao Luo's hopes and dreams would come true. Fu Shizhou could take him out for snacks and street food. They could go to the movies or the arcade.
However, reality wasn't so sweet. The day after Fu Shizhou's return, he herded Qiao Luo into the study and had him start working on the rest of his winter break assignments.
Qiao Luo's pile of hopes turned into a pile of homework. He wilted like a young sapling that was suffering a severe bout of dehydration. His little branches drooped as he asked Fu Shizhou, "What about our date?"
The date they'd agreed upon was waiting across a mountain of worksheets and a sea of practice tests. Fu Shizhou reviewed solid geometry and trigonometric functions with him, then spent all afternoon making him memorize a paper on the principle of universal connection.
Ultimately, Qiao Luo got so sick of the scent of the ink on his worksheets that he could have thrown up. He shot Fu Shizhou a scathing look and said, "My first love is too bitter."
Studying was important, but there had to be a balance between work and play. Fu Shizhou looked over the assignments they'd finished, then he checked the time. Finally, he reached out and pulled Qiao Luo into his arms. He whipped out a pair of movie tickets, as though performing a magic trick, and said, "I'll take you to see a movie tomorrow."
In order to prepare for his movie date with Fu Shizhou, Qiao Luo woke up bright and early the next morning and started striking poses in front of the mirror. He was dead set against wearing a puffy down jacket. He insisted on wearing a more mature, reliable, and handsome wool overcoat.
But in the end, before he even got out the door, he received a call from Fu Shizhou.
"Your Chubby-ge and Zhaozi-ge are back," Fu Shizhou said. "They want to hang out with us. Wanna go?"
Qiao Luo instantly fell into despair. He flicked the buttons of his super cool wool overcoat and mumbled, "I do… but…"
He was almost frustrated to the point of tears. First he'd waited a whole week for Fu Shizhou to get back. Then he spent a whole day doing homework. Why was their date still being delayed?!
He pursed his lips and quietly grumbled, "But you promised to take me to the movies."
"I'll buy two more tickets," Fu Shizhou said. "We can all go."
Qiao Luo huffed. "I only want to go with you! Just us! The two of us!"
On the other end of the line, Fu Shizhou couldn't help but laugh. He finally stopped teasing and said, "Come on out. I already changed our tickets to a showing later tonight. Just the two of us. We won't let them butt in."
Qiao Luo gave up on showing off for the time being. He changed into a down jacket before heading out. His face was clearly crestfallen as he climbed into the passenger seat, like he was thinking 'all men are evil' as he said, "Let's go."
Fu Shizhou didn't start the car right away. He reached out and gave Qiao Luo's head a pat. "Unhappy now? You sure you aren't forgetting something?"
Qiao Luo didn't let him pet. He dodged Fu Shizhou's hand twice and huddled up against the car window as he complained. "I'm about to forget you."
Fu Shizhou unbuckled his own seat belt and leaned over the center console, crowding into Qiao Luo's space. "You're so angry. Then, will you still let me kiss you?"
Qiao Luo scratched at his own seat belt and thought about it. As he thought, his face gradually reddened. After a moment, he whispered, "I… will, I guess."
Before they took off, Qiao Luo was kissed dizzy by Fu Shizhou. He was pretty sure he tasted like Fu Shizhou now. All the anger in his gut had been expelled through his lungs, sucked away by Fu Shizhou. At the same time, a sweet nectar had dripped past his lips, replacing that anger.
They'd made plans to meet up with the others for lunch, and they chose the same McDonald's that had always been their favorite.
By the time Fu Shizhou and Qiao Luo arrived, the other two had already ordered three huge meals.
When Qiao Luo saw them, he greeted them the way he had when he was a kid: "Little Chubby-ge, Zhaozi-ge."
Little Chubby-ge actually couldn't be called chubby anymore. He'd slimmed down a lot since his high school days, and he'd grown super tall. If it weren't for his trademark black-framed glasses, Qiao Luo might not have recognized him.
Since Fu Shizhou didn't usually come back over winter break, he and his old friends would often visit each other's schools or take trips together over summer break. Qiao Luo hadn't seen these two guys in several years already. He'd always followed them around and played with them when he was little, so they were pretty close. As soon as he saw them, he forgot about his gripes about losing out on his solo date time with Fu Shizhou.
Zhaozi-ge was a jokester. When he saw Qiao Luo, he instantly ordered another serving of the new ice cream on the menu. He offered his own untouched ice cream to Qiao Luo while he asked Fu Shizhou, "Does this little tail of yours still follow you around everywhere? I thought he would grow out of sticking to you like before. So, does he still need your permission before he's allowed to eat ice cream?"
Fu Shizhou took the ice cream for Qiao Luo and said, "Eat something else first, then you can have something cold."
Qiao Luo obediently took an egg tart for himself just as a jiejie, holding a tray with a few pies, approached their table. Chubby-ge instantly took the tray from her and made room for her to sit next to him.
Then, he proudly proclaimed, "Okay, okay, okay. Let me make a grand introduction. This… is my girlfriend."
He cheesily opened one of the pie boxes for his girlfriend and continued, "You just met Zhaozi a second ago. This one if Fu Shizhou, another one of my best buds from middle school. There's also Yu Ziheng, off in the USA. He couldn't be here with us, so I'll introduce you to him later when we get the chance.
"And finally, this handsome little ge is Fu Shizhou's little tail. He's like the sidekick of our boy band."
After the introductions were made, Zhaozi turned to Fu Shizhou and trepidatiously asked, "Handsome-ge, have you shed your sad single status yet? I seriously can't believe that this ex-fatso started dating before me!"
Fu Shizhou calmly fed Qiao Luo a bite of ice cream. He lightly bumped his leg against Qiao Luo's under the table, then smiled and said, "Zhao, ah… you're the only single dog at this table."
Zhaozi was completely dumbstruck for three seconds. Chubby-ge was the one who reacted first: "Now, that just ain't right. Where's your sense of brotherly spirit? I brought my girlfriend back and introduced her to you guys right away. You'd better hurry up and call your person over."
Fu Shizhou let Qiao Luo finish half the ice cream, but he was still worried about Qiao Luo getting too cold in the winter. He finished the rest of the ice cream himself and tugged Qiao Luo's chair a little closer to his side. "In the future, when we get a chance. Let's save the introductions until then."
Zhaozi had been dealt a crushing blow. After a long while, he finally came back to his senses and frantically asked, "What do you mean I'm the only single dog here? Little tail, you have a girlfriend too?"
Qiao Luo was just in the middle of sneakily scooting closer to Fu Shizhou when the question fell to him. He nearly choked on a bite of hamburger. He was indeed dating early, but he didn't have a girlfriend.
But if he had to deny it… he didn't really want to do that either.
He had, in fact, shed his single status. His boyfriend was tall, handsome, and sitting right next to him.
Fu Shizhou wiped a crumb off the corner of Qiao Luo's lips and answered on his behalf: "We'll make the introductions together next time."
As the only single dog there, Zhaozi kicked up more of a commotion than anyone else. "When's next time? How about we arrange another get-together for tomorrow?"
In high school, Chubby-ge had never even received a love letter. Though he'd had to pass on love letters to Zhaozi and Fu Shizhou plenty of times. It was a bit pitiful, and Fu Shizhou felt bad for this brother of his. He didn't want to steal the guy's spotlight.
He made sure to shine that flattering light on Chubby-ge, and even gave him a nicer form of address: "Handsome Chub is the star of the show today. Zhaozi, you hurry up and ask him how he got his wife. As for me… let's wait for summer break. We can all take a trip, and I'll bring my family."
Chubby-ge was so moved by this moniker of Handsome Chub that he instantly raised his big cup of Coke to Fu Shizhou in a toast. "Good man, my brother! When the time comes, Qiao Luo, you come with us too. We'll all bring our families!"
Qiao Luo's face had reddened. He snuck a sip of Coke to cool himself down. He was casually pulled towards Fu Shizhou's side when Fu Shizhou slung an arm around his shoulders and answered, "Sure. We'll all go."
Stupid Zhao, not only are you the only single dog at the table, you're the only lightbulb too!
In Chinese dating culture, it's not uncommon to start calling your significant other your wife/husband early in your relationship. You might also start referring to them as your family member very quickly, so when the guys talk about bringing their 'family' on their trip, they mean their significant others. Also, a lightbulb is a third wheel—or, in this case, a fifth wheel.