Qiao Luo's question—What do I do?—had come with a teensy, tiny bit of expectation.
He was at an age where he was half-grown, half-enlightened; he had just started to gain an understanding of the ways of the world, but in many ways he was still so pure and naive. He was naturally curious about the intimacy shared between lovers, and he also felt an instinctual fondness towards Fu Shizhou. He wanted Fu Shizhou's embrace, he wanted Fu Shizhou's kiss, and he wanted to do even more intimate things with Fu Shizhou.
However, though he could speak like a giant, he was only capable of acting like a dwarf. He only had the vaguest idea of what these 'more intimate things' would be. When Fu Shizhou's hand finally came to a stop there, separated from him by only his pajama pants and underwear, Qiao Luo couldn't handle it anymore. His whole face, and the column of his throat that was left exposed by his nightshirt, turned scorchingly hot.
As Fu Shizhou softly rubbed him, Qiao Luo trembled with his touch. He felt like Fu Shizhou's hand was extremely hot, and his movements were extremely gentle. Qiao Luo was enveloped by bashfulness and the satisfaction of being cared for by his lover.
It left Qiao Luo not knowing what to do. Helplessly, he lifted his arms to wrap them around Fu Shizhou. His murmured words were so soft and sweet, like his voice had melted into a sticky mess: "Don't be too rough."
Fu Shizhou wasn't rough at all. He only slipped his hand in and touched Qiao Luo there, softly and deftly. He didn't even take off their pants, but Qiao Luo was still driven to the point of burying his face against Fu Shizhou's chest. He whimpered and mewled like a little kitten, making the sorts of sounds that clearly slipped past his lips without conscious thought.
Qiao Luo's emotional maturity had developed rather belatedly, and his physical maturity had followed suit. He hadn't had his first wet dream until he was sixteen, but since then he'd already passed through the throes of puberty. He knew how to quietly take care of himself.
But when Fu Shizhou put his hand there, Qiao Luo felt like tiny electric shocks were running through his whole body. He felt weak and numb from head to toe.
After a while, that feeling of numbness spiked. Qiao Luo clutched tightly at Fu Shizhou's arms and muffled a gasp against his chest. His whimpers turned into soft, panting breaths. He could only hide in Fu Shizhou's embrace and tremble.
Fu Shizhou held him through it, kissing his hair. He carefully, considerately held himself perfectly still, not moving until Qiao Luo stopped trembling. It was only then that he kissed Qiao Luo twice more and said, "I'll go take a shower."
By the time Fu Shizhou returned from the shower, Qiao Luo had already snuck out of bed to change his clothes. Once they both settled in bed again, Qiao Luo cuddled into Fu Shizhou's embrace and fell soundly asleep.
However, the next day, Fu Shizhou discovered that Qiao Luo had become a little… not quite right.
When Fu Shizhou tutored him, or when Fu Shizhou took him out on dates, Qiao Luo always seemed a little hesitant to speak his mind.
At first, Fu Shizhou thought he was just shy. After thinking about it for a while, he decided he hadn't done anything outrageous, so he didn't pay Qiao Luo any mind. The innocent little brat could work through his embarrassment of being touched in that secret place by his lover on his own.
But Fu Shizhou gradually realized that couldn't have been the reason at all, because Qiao Luo got even clingier. When they studied together, he would always find excuses like 'I only got one problem wrong on this worksheet' to beg for a kiss.
After inadvertently getting Qiao Luo 'worked up' once, Fu Shizhou didn't dare kiss him too fiercely again.
But Qiao Luo was as pure as a sheet of blank paper. The slightest provocation was enough for him to chase after the taste of desire. Once in a while, he would still sport a little tent as he gazed up at Fu Shizhou, red-faced.
Fu Shizhou had no choice but to break off their serious studying sessions, every so often, to take his little lover into his arms and help him relieve himself.
Since Qiao Luo wasn't shy, there had to be another reason for his strange mood.
Fu Shizhou thought about the date and realized Chinese New Year's was approaching. The Qiao family would be taking Qiao Luo back to his grandparents' place to ring in the new year. Qiao Luo was probably reluctant to leave Fu Shizhou.
Fu Shizhou was actually reluctant to leave Qiao Luo too.
This little boyfriend was so sweet and so soft. Anyone would be reluctant to part from him.
And so, starting on the 23rd of the last lunar month, Fu Shizhou showed great mercy and stopped forcing Qiao Luo to study. He would either take Qiao Luo out to wander through the city, or they would stay cooped up at home together when it was too cold.
Qiao Luo's family had plane tickets for the 28th of the last lunar month. Originally, thinking Fu Shizhou would be spending New Year's by himself since Old Man Fu was out of town, they'd even planned on inviting him to join them.
Qiao Luo had indeed brightened up when that suggestion was made, but Fu Shizhou had declined that invitation. He would be going out to spend New Year's with Old Man Fu.
And so, on the 27th of the last lunar month, Qiao Luo curled into Fu Shizhou's embrace and finally couldn't hold it in any longer. He pursed his lips and hesitantly reached down, mimicking the way Fu Shizhou had touched him as he reached out to touch Fu Shizhou there.
The two of them were sharing a bed and a comforter, and they were both in their pajamas already. Qiao Luo had just reached Fu Shizhou's waist and started sneaking his fingers towards the waistband of Fu Shizhou's pants when Fu Shizhou deftly captured his hand and asked, "Luoluo, what are you doing?"
Qiao Luo started to struggle. He bumped his head against Fu Shizhou's chest. He wouldn't say anything, but he was dead set on touching Fu Shizhou.
Fu Shizhou had to struggle and fumble to keep Qiao Luo contained. Qiao Luo obviously wasn't a match for him in terms of physical strength, but Fu Shizhou was afraid of hurting him. It took him a great deal of effort to pin down Qiao Luo's searching hands.
He was covered in a thin layer of sweat by the time he asked, "What on earth has been going on with you these past few days?"
Qiao Luo gazed up at him. When he spoke, his words were full of aggrievement: "Let go of me."
"Then no more messing around," Fu Shizhou warned, darkening his tone a little.
Qiao Luo was even more aggrieved by that. He looked like he was about to cry. Fu Shizhou had only just given his expression a more serious edge; he had no choice but to soften it again.
He tried to calmly bargain with Qiao Luo: "I know you're reluctant to leave me to go see your grandparents, but after New Year's, I'll go pick you up. So don't fuss, okay?"
Qiao Luo shifted his slender wrists in Fu Shizhou's hold. "Hurts."
Fu Shizhou really had applied a bit of pressure, but it definitely wasn't too much. He instantly let go when Qiao Luo claimed to be in pain, and he saw that his grip really had left a mark on Qiao Luo's skin.
Fu Shizhou's heart ached. He furrowed his brow and said, "I'll massage it for you."
Qiao Luo gazed up at him with a somewhat distant, vacant look in his eyes. His lips moved several times before he finally asked, "Zhouzhou-gege, do you really like me?"
Fu Shizhou froze at that question, thinking he'd genuinely hurt Qiao Luo by using too much force in his grip. He shifted to the side and lightly kissed Qiao Luo's forehead. "I'm ready to gouge my heart out and give it to you. You tell me, do I really like you or not?"
Qiao Luo was still skeptical. "I think you were worried that being rejected would affect my grades, so you lied to me about liking me back."
What kind of bizarre logic was that? Qiao Luo had never been the sort to quibble about this sort of thing before. He'd grown up in such a sweet and sheltered environment that he'd never developed a need to harbor these sorts of doubts in his heart.
And so, Fu Shizhou bluntly retorted, "Little rascal, if I didn't like you, why would I care about your grades?"
That seemed to be a very reasonable argument. Qiao Luo was convinced, so he wrapped his arms around Fu Shizhou's neck and whispered, "But… you hold me, and you do that for me. Why don't you have any reaction at all?"
Fu Shizhou was silent.
Never in a million years could he have imagined that the little brat's strange mood had arisen from this sort of problem.
Qiao Luo continued, "You've already taken care of me a bunch of times. Why won't you let me touch you?"
Fu Shizhou remained silent.
Qiao Luo had asked everything he wanted to ask, but still continued, "So, these past few days, I kept thinking… either you don't really like me, or you can't get it up."
Fu Shizhou had already taken countless cold showers, and now his little boyfriend was calling his genuine feelings and his physical… capabilities into question. Fu Shizhou seriously didn't know whether he wanted to laugh or cry. He knocked his knuckles against Qiao Luo's forehead and said, "Or… my boyfriend is still too young for me to take that step."
Qiao Luo hadn't thought about himself at all. He'd only thought of explanations pertaining to Fu Shizhou. As soon as he heard these words, he spaced out for a moment, then uttered a monosyllabic, "Huh?"
Fu Shizhou pinched his little cheek and felt it was very necessary to teach his little boyfriend a lesson. "Dumb-dumb, your boyfriend is twenty-one years old. He's very healthy, and he has very reasonable needs and desires. But you're too young. I can't bring myself to lay hands on you."
He paused for a moment, then added, "I'm trying very hard to resist, so don't make a fuss over nothing."
Qiao Luo had already been touched there by Fu Shizhou, so when Fu Shizhou said 'lay hands' in this context…
Realization struck. Qiao Luo's face instantly went up in flames. Smoke practically billowed out of his ears as he shrank under the covers, only leaving a little tuft of hair visible. His voice was muffled as he said, "Then you wait for me. I'll grow up really, really fast."
Qiao Luo had so boldly spoken of this and that just a moment ago, and now the bashfulness was back. Fu Shizhou grinned and fished him out from under the covers as he said, "I'll wait. Go to sleep now. You have an early flight in the morning."
Over the past few days, Qiao Luo had been too busy thinking about all these useless things to lament the fact that he would soon be parting ways with Fu Shizhou. Now, he was truly reluctant to leave.
He scooted closer and kissed Fu Shizhou's chin before he mumbled, half-unintelligibly, "Actually… I can also… I also know how to touch."
Fu Shizhou fell silent once more.
Where had this little brat, who could only whimper and whine and arch his back after being touched by Fu Shizhou just a bit, learned to talk like that?!
Fu Shizhou gripped Qiao Luo's chin and kissed him again and again and again, shutting up that mouth that seemed willing to say any damn thing. He kissed Qiao Luo dizzy, then finally lifted the covers and wrapped Qiao Luo up in his arms again.
"Be good. Go to sleep."