When school started up again after winter break, Qiao Luo encountered a sort of dilemma.
On one hand, his critical final professional dance exam was coming up. He wished the days would pass a little more slowly.
On the other hand, his eighteenth birthday was also right around the corner. He looked forward to that day with longing and anticipation.
However, when the long-awaited day of Qiao Luo's birthday finally arrived, he got the feeling that his expectations and reality simply couldn't have been more different.
Qiao Luo's birthday fell at the end of May. This year, it was a Thursday. No one was going to give him a day off school just because it was his birthday, so he had to attend his classes. He had to go to dance practice too. Then, after suffering through a long day, night finally arrived. But because he had his important dance exam coming up, he was too scared to even have any birthday cake.
His expectations had been too high. In the end, besides receiving a few birthday wishes that included the phrase 'from now on, you'll really be grown up', it wasn't a very special day at all. His disappointment was immense.
When you're miserable, you crave sweets. Whoever said that had been spot on.
Qiao Luo took two bites of beef brisket and stared longingly at Fu Shizhou. "I want to eat cake."
There was, of course, no cake. They hadn't ordered one for Qiao Luo. Fu Shizhou picked up a mushroom with his chopsticks and placed it in Qiao Luo's bowl. "Here, for you. Cake."
Qiao Luo didn't want it. He thumped his chin on the table and muttered, "If I knew this was going to happen, I would have eaten more junk food over winter break…"
Fu Shizhou reached over and patted his shoulder until he sat up. "Eat properly."
Qiao Luo was beyond aggrieved. Why was this happening to him? What had he done to deserve this? He was eighteen already. A legitimate adult. Why was Fu Shizhou still scolding him like he was eight?
He puffed out his cheeks and shot Fu Shizhou a scathing glare. Then he dumped all the contents of his own bowl into Fu Shizhou's bowl and said, "I won't eat!"
Mama Qiao couldn't watch this any longer. "Luoluo, you're already eighteen. How can you still throw a fit over nothing? You're watching your figure for your own exam. Why are you taking it out on Shizhou?"
Fu Shizhou, equipped with zero emotional or psychological defense mechanisms against Qiao Luo, slowly started to eat Qiao Luo's leftovers. "Auntie Qiao, it's fine. He's only this way with me."
"Don't you spoil him now," Mama Qiao said.
Old Man Fu interjected there. He took out a jade pendant and said, "Luoluo, why the long face? You're among family. Here, a birthday and coming-of-age gift from Grandpa Fu."
Qiao Luo and his parents all insisted the gift was too precious to accept, but only Fu Shizhou was truly shocked to the core.
That jade pendant was one of a pair. His other grandpa had treasured one of them for a lifetime. Seeing this one here, with Gramps, told Fu Shizhou that the two old men must have settled their past.
He reached out and touched Old Man Fu's hand. "Grandpa…"
Old Man Fu flapped his hands at Fu Shizhou, then at the Qiao family. "Shizhou only came to stay with me when he was seven. How little was Luoluo when he started singing and dancing for me? It's perfectly appropriate for me to give this gift."
Qiao Luo didn't know the hidden significance of this pendant. He waited for his parents to nod before he gave his thanks and accepted the gift, slipping it into a pocket in his backpack.
A fountain pen also sat in that pocket. Fu Shizhou had given it to him. Now, comparing the pendant and the pen, Qiao Luo kicked Fu Shizhou under the table.
Qiao Luo had given Fu Shizhou a very aggressive kick, but all that aggression melted away as they made their way home from dinner. When they approached their houses, Qiao Luo batted his eyes at Fu Shizhou and asked, "Can I go sleep at your place?"
Fu Shizhou was driving; he kept his eyes on the road and didn't even cast a glance at Qiao Luo. "Why my place?"
Qiao Luo's face was a little red. He returned his gaze to the road ahead of them. After a moment, he covered his face with his hands and murmured, "I grew up."
Fu Shizhou was silent.
Papa Qiao and Mama Qiao had taken their own car to the restaurant, but in the back seat was an old man who was pretending to know nothing. Of course, he already knew everything, but there was still a need to keep up pretenses.
Fu Shizhou had already planned on taking Qiao Luo back to his own place, but a wave of discomfort and embarrassment washed over his whole body after hearing just those few words from Qiao Luo. He furrowed his brow and chided, "You wouldn't eat dinner properly, and you stubbornly threw a little fit. Tell me, in what way have you grown up?"
Qiao Luo was extremely aggrieved. "It's obviously because you only gave me a fountain pen."
"Then what else do you want?" Fu Shizhou asked.
Before Qiao Luo could say anything else, the old man pretending to be asleep in the back seat chimed in: "If he asks for something that you haven't prepared, are you going to run out in the middle of the night to get it for him?"
Qiao Luo had thought he'd been speaking quietly enough. He'd thought Old Man Fu was sleeping and wouldn't hear. Now, with just those words, Old Man Fu had him feeling alarmingly tense. Qiao Luo tightly shut his mouth and sneakily peeked over his shoulder before peering at Fu Shizhou, silently asking for help.
They'd already gotten home by then. Fu Shizhou parked and leaned over to unbuckle Qiao Luo's seatbelt as he said, "What do you think that jade pendant means? That's a gift from my grandpa to his grandson-in-law."
This utterance of 'grandson-in-law' was enough to render Qiao Luo thoroughly speechless. He was shocked stupid. When they climbed out of the car, his face was already burning. He was nearly embarrassed enough to bolt straight back into his own house.
But Fu Shizhou had already prepared endlessly for this little brat's coming-of-age birthday. How could he let him run off now? Fu Shizhou tugged on Qiao Luo's backpack to pull him back to his side. Then he turned to Papa Qiao, who'd also just parked, and said, "I've been busy at school these days. Since I'm here tonight, I'll take the opportunity to check his homework."
In Qiao Luo's heart, Fu Shizhou had already become a cold, unfeeling creature who was capable of asking 'did you do your homework' right after confessing. Fu Shizhou could always find time to watch over his little boyfriend while he studied, but it was so damn hard to get him to agree to a date.
Qiao Luo followed Fu Shizhou up to his bedroom and tightly hugged his own backpack to his chest. "You aren't really going to check my homework… right?"
He hadn't even finished his homework yet.
Fu Shizhou could have laughed and cried at the same time. He wrapped an arm around Qiao Luo and pulled him further into the room as he said, "You've been fussing all night. I already prepared a birthday cake for you, but let me make this clear first—you only get one bite."
Qiao Luo picked up a big spoon and scooped up a very big bite. But after finishing it, he still wanted more. He batted his eyes at Fu Shizhou and asked, "Can I have one more bite?"
Fu Shizhou instantly moved the cake farther away. "No."
Qiao Luo sulked, following the cake with his gaze. He looked exceptionally pitiful like that.
Fu Shizhou's heart was actually aching so much that he could have died, but if he let Qiao Luo eat any more, Qiao Luo was definitely going to freak out the next day about gaining weight—even if he didn't gain any weight at all.
So, instead, he kissed the corner of Qiao Luo's lips and said, "After your exam, I'll buy you more."
That seemed to catch Qiao Luo's attention. His gaze drifted from the cake to Fu Shizhou, and he very cleverly said, "Kiss me again. How about, in the future, whenever I want a snack, you can kiss me instead? I won't want to eat junk food if my mouth is occupied."
Fu Shizhou certainly couldn't argue with him. He wrapped Qiao Luo up in his embrace and kissed him for a while before he finally asked, "You're super upset, receiving only a fountain pen from me?"
Qiao Luo had been kissed into a docile state. His little face was so red, and he honestly answered, "Not really… you gave it to me. I like everything you give me."
Fu Shizhou had already known that. He pinched Qiao Luo's little cheek and said, "You just wanted to fuss. Right?"
Qiao Luo didn't answer him. He only leaned forward bit by bit, taking the initiative to kiss Fu Shizhou. In a soft voice, he confessed, "I just wanted you to kiss me. I think you're addictive. After you kiss me, I just want to kiss you more."
Fu Shizhou wrapped his arms around Qiao Luo again. Dancing since he was little had given Qiao Luo a slim and strong waist. Fu Shizhou felt like he could practically fit that thin waist between the circle of his hands. Even if Qiao Luo ate a whole cake, he probably wouldn't gain much weight.
He couldn't resist taking hold of Qiao Luo's hips and pulling him even closer as he said, "Besides the fountain pen, your boyfriend prepared other gifts for you. So… do you want to kiss some more? Or do you want your birthday presents?"
Qiao Luo, who'd just reached the age of eighteen, pouted and instantly declared, "Only little kids have to choose! I want it all!"