WITHDRAWAL

Chapter 42: Extra Two - Daily Love Calendar

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1.

Qiao Luo chose an incomparably difficult elective.

Don't ask him why. There was only one answer. He didn't have enough course credits, and he couldn't get into any other course.

But with great misfortune came immense good fortune. In that elective, Qiao Luo made a like-minded friend—named Fang Yu.

However, immense good fortune also came with greater misfortunes. Xing An, the teaching assistant of that elective, was pursuing Fang Yu. As Qiao Luo watched the two of them banter and flirt, he felt a bitter pain in his chest. He longed for Fu Shizhou, who was far, far away on business.

And so, one night, he hugged Fu Shizhou's pillow tight and sent Fu Shizhou a message: Your pillow misses you. It nags me every day, just nags and nags and keeps me from falling asleep.

Then, he started to blame it on the comforters: Your comforter misses you. Nags me every day. Nags and nags and keeps me from falling asleep.

Then, finally, he shifted the subject to himself: Luoluo misses you. Can't fall asleep.

They were separated by many time zones. It was a long while before Fu Shizhou was able to answer: Be good. I'll be home soon.

Qiao Luo sent back an audio clip, whining, "Can't hear you, can't hear you, can't hear you."

Fu Shizhou jumped when he received that message. It had given him a scare. What time was it over there? Luoluo was still awake?

He gave Qiao Luo a video call. It took a few rings before the call connected. On the other end, Qiao Luo was wearing a pair of fuzzy pajamas. He'd even put on the hood to play moe, making his face look even smaller and cuter than it was. Then he said, "Zhouzhou-gege, do you miss me?"

Fu Shizhou said, "What time is it? Why haven't you gone to sleep?"

Qiao Luo had actually been in the middle of a multiplayer game with Fang Yu. They hadn't finished their match yet, and Qiao Luo couldn't abandon his teammate, so he'd had to multitask while taking Fu Shizhou's call. Naturally, he didn't have time to fabricate a story. He bluntly told the truth: "I'm helping a friend rank up."

Fu Shizhou hadn't heard anything about Qiao Luo being so close to a friend that he would help them rank up in the middle of the night. He suddenly felt like he'd stumbled into some sort of crisis. Calmly, he asked, "Who?"

Twenty minutes later, Fu Shizhou finished listening to Qiao Luo's story about how he'd come to know Fang Yu. Fu Shizhou's expression had darkened, and he even heard Qiao Luo add a teasing final remark: "He obviously likes Xing-xuezhang, but he still plays coy and acts tough. He's a little bit like you."

Fu Shizhou's temper was starting to boil over. "In what way is he like me?!"

Qiao Luo seemed to have no idea that Fu Shizhou had already fallen into a sea of jealousy. He simply continued, "You're both super awkward, of course. When you started liking me, didn't you also put on an act and treat me poorly?"

Fu Shizhou took a breath. "…when did I ever treat you poorly?"

Qiao Luo started to count out Fu Shizhou's greatest crimes: "You said my dinosaur was ugly, you got me a boring study guide, you threatened me into promising I wouldn't date early, you complained about me being too clingy… oh, and you were super fierce when you called me to get me out of bed."

Fu Shizhou was silent.

After a moment, he helplessly explained, "That's because I was afraid you would get distracted. I didn't want to have a negative effect on your studies."

Qiao Luo pouted and filed a small grievance: "Tsk, I'm almost at the end of my term, y'know? And you still won't come home. Why aren't you afraid that I'll miss you too much and get distracted from my studies now?"

He stuck his head closer to the lens of his camera and bobbled it around a bit. Then he said, "Do you see that? Did you see? My whole head is filled with the words 'Fu Shizhou'. I can't fit any more schoolwork in there!"

Early in the morning of the next day, a sleepy Qiao Luo greeted his travel-worn boyfriend.

Then, together, they went back to sneak in another nap.

That made everything better. Or maybe worse. Qiao Luo had even less interest in studying now.

Later that evening, Qiao Luo received a WeChat message from Xing An, hinting that he shouldn't go out with Fang Yu all the time.

As if he would do that! He was in the middle of an epic romance! His legs and hips were so sore that he couldn't even get out of bed!

 

2.

Fu Shizhou got hurt.

Qiao Luo obviously wasn't going to question how Fu Shizhou broke a bone while saving a small child from falling down an elevator shaft. He wouldn't assume his Zhouzhou-gege was clumsy just for that.

But there was a problem.

Qiao Luo had ample experience in playing spoiled and asking to be pampered by Fu Shizhou when he was sick. But taking care of Fu Shizhou when Fu Shizhou was sick… Qiao Luo's experience in that regard was exactly the same as his position: zero.1

And so, the always-resourceful Qiao Luo quickly opened up WeChat and texted Fang Yu: When you're sick, what does Xing-xuezhang do to take care of you? Please share your experience.

Qiao Luo was pretty easily deceived, and Fang Yu had once alleged that he was a top. Qiao Luo had been surprised, but ultimately he'd believed his friend. And so, he thought the situation he described in his message was more akin to his current situation. He figured Xing An's methods of taking care of Fang Yu would be more suitable for him.

Fang Yu thought for a while before he answered: He usually makes me some congee. The bland and easily digestible sort.

Some time later, Qiao Luo obtained a cookbook that Fang Yu gifted him in the spirit of their friendship. He zoomed into the kitchen and, twenty-some minutes later, Fu Shizhou—who was resting in bed while replying to some work emails—smelled something.

Something burning.

Fu Shizhou had thought that Qiao Luo had gotten bored and gone into the study to play video games. It was only when he smelled something burning that he realized the little brat had gotten up to something else entirely. In an instant, it made him want to laugh and cry at the same time.

At that moment, even if Qiao Luo blew up their kitchen, Fu Shizhou would only feel a sweet fondness for him. He was truly hopeless.

From the bedroom, he called out, "Qiao'er?"

Qiao Luo had just dumped his first burnt batch of congee into the trash. He was stooped down on the floorboards in the dining room now, chatting with Fang Yu about their experiences with burnt congee. When he heard Fu Shizhou call out to him, Qiao Luo leapt up so quickly that he nearly tripped over a chair.

While rubbing at the pain in the knee he'd bumped, he ran into the bedroom, calling out, "I'm here, I'm here! Zhouzhou-gege, what is it? Does your leg hurt? Do you need to go to the bathroom?"

Fu Shizhou could see that Qiao Luo was brimming over with anxiety. He patted the empty space on the bed and said. "It doesn't hurt, and I can get to the bathroom by myself. I just broke one leg. It's not like I'm paralyzed."

Qiao Luo sat down unhappily. He pulled a long, long face and huffily said, "What nonsense is that? Paralysis? What paralysis? Bah, bah, bah!"

The little brat was really unhappy. And so, Fu Shizhou changed the subject: "Something's burning."

Qiao Luo's attention was instantly diverted. He thought of his own failed batch of Love Congee and pitifully whined, "My congee was a failure. Zhouzhou-gege, are you hungry?"

Fu Shizhou had had lunch at two in the afternoon. He wasn't hungry at all, but he still said, "I am."

Qiao Luo and Fang Yu hadn't actually managed to puzzle out why Qiao Luo's congee had turned into a smoldering disaster. Qiao Luo could only dejectedly say, "Then today we'll have to get takeout."

Fu Shizhou calmly pulled Qiao Luo into his arms and said, "I don't want takeout."

Qiao Luo was worried to death now. "Then what should we do? Should I call Mom and Dad and ask them to bring us something?"

Fu Shizhou locked Qiao Luo in his embrace, finally laying his cards out on the table: "I want to eat you."

Qiao Luo stared at him for a moment. Just as Fu Shizhou started thinking he'd stunned the little brat into a stupor, Qiao Luo carefully laid a hand on Fu Shizhou's leg. "Is this… going to be okay?"

When Qiao Luo was direct, Fu Shizhou was always provoked and stimulated beyond belief. He grit his teeth and said, "Hurts. It's not all that okay. So today, I'll have to trouble you to do all the hard work."

 

3.

Qiao Luo and Fu Shizhou received another wedding invitation.

But this time, the invitation was for Qiao Luo. Fu Shizhou was his plus one.

Fang Yu's brother had gotten engaged to Xing An's cousin. But Fang Yu's brother was getting married a bit too late in life; all his same-age friends were married off with kids now. There wasn't anyone who could play the part of his groomsmen.

Fang Yu had taken the task upon himself to be part of the wedding party, and he'd invited his own unmarried friend, Qiao Luo, to be a groomsman as well.

A day before the wedding, Fang Yu had been trying on his suit for the wedding. He'd been in the middle of getting into it when Xing An suddenly came home, catching him in a half-dressed state. Fang Yu was caught with his pale and skinny legs exposed, wearing only a dress shirt.

Fang Yu had been worried that he wouldn't be able to fall asleep that night, but then that became the farthest worry from his mind. Before he even finished trying on the suit, he'd been taken to bed. After that, he was too tired to think of anything except falling asleep.

The morning of the next day, Fang Yu exploded. He grabbed a pillow and started smothering Xing An as he declared, "I'm sick of you! Today, you're not allowed to get within three steps of me!"

However, Xing An was diabolical. He brought up a warm glass of milk and a croissant, feeding Fang Yu breakfast bite by bite. He even took out the secret weapon he'd used while pursuing Fang Yu—orange candies.

 

As a groomsman, Qiao Luo arrived at the wedding venue fairly early. He was just in time to see Xing An comforting Fang Yu, feeding him little candies by hand.

Qiao Luo was stupefied.

Ever since he was little, he had been taken care of by Fu Shizhou. He had been scolded by Fu Shizhou. It had become a part of his subconsciousness, that the older one was allowed to scold the younger one.

He'd never had anything to compare his own experiences to, so he'd never thought anything was wrong.

Now, he tugged on Fu Shizhou's sleeve and said, "I'm hungry."

He kicked over a hornet's nest with that one question. Fu Shizhou looked at him coolly and asked, "Who was it who refused to eat breakfast this morning because he wanted to save room for extra sweets?"

Qiao Luo had originally wanted to pull a face like Fang Yu and glare at Fu Shizhou while giving some snide report. But Qiao Luo didn't do a very good job of copying that vibe at all. His form was totally off, and he wound up whining as usual: "Can't you at least comfort me a little?"

This was already a twenty-some-year-old young man, and he was still refusing to eat breakfast like a little kid. Now, he was even begging to be comforted. Fu Shizhou glared and said, "How old are you? You still want to be comforted?"

Qiao Luo silently thought, Fang Yu is two months older than me! He has someone comforting him, doesn't he?

Aggrievement took over again. He petulantly asked, "Isn't my boyfriend supposed to comfort me? What other purpose does a boyfriend serve?"

Sourly, Fu Shizhou answered, "Your boyfriend also serves the purpose of filling out the numbers of your friend's gege's wedding party."

Right in front of Qiao Luo's eyes, Xing An was still gently comforting Fang Yu and softly stroking his face. Meanwhile, Qiao Luo's own boyfriend was still taking a poor attitude with him. Qiao Luo was miserable.

"Just comfort me," he pleaded. "I'm so easily comforted. Just say or do one nice thing, okay?"

Fu Shizhou didn't know what had gotten into Qiao Luo now, but he could tell that Qiao Luo was genuinely unhappy. So he met Qiao Luo's gaze and asked, "Do you want a kiss or a hug? When we get home, okay?"

Qiao Luo looked even more dejected at that. "I'm not that easily comforted. I'm not the sort that'll be satisfied with just one kiss or one hug."

Fu Shizhou was seriously bewildered now. "Weren't you pretty happy this morning? Why are you suddenly so unhappy that you need me to comfort you?"

Trying to get his way had failed. Qiao Luo froze for a moment.

His mind raced, searching for a reasonable explanation. Ultimately, he gave up. He cast an envious glance in Fang Yu's direction and mumbled, "I just wanted you to comfort me a little."

Fu Shizhou finally found a trace of a hint as to what was going on. He followed Qiao Luo's gaze and suddenly understood.

His little brat was so well-behaved, so easily comforted and so easily deceived. He'd never truly pulled a nasty face at Fu Shizhou.

Fu Shizhou's heart softened.

He lowered his head and helped Qiao Luo straighten out his crooked tie. He took that as an opportunity to draw close to Qiao Luo's ear, whispering, "There are too many people here right now. Tonight, I'll comfort you as I hold you. I'll comfort you until you're satisfied. Okay?"

Qiao Luo asked, somewhat skeptically, "Not the sort of comfort where you'll just kiss me once and call it done?"

Fu Shizhou fell silent for a beat. "…when have I ever kissed you once and called it done?"

Qiao Luo gazed up at Fu Shizhou with his big, unwavering eyes. He tugged up the sleeve of his suit a little, revealing a faint mark on his wrist, as though to accuse Fu Shizhou of a certain kind of brutality.

Fu Shizhou fell silent once more.

He took a deep, long breath before he said, "I'll comfort you with all the words you like to hear. Even if you want me to say 'I love you' a hundred times, I will. Okay?"

Qiao Luo really was easily comforted and easily deceived. His spirits instantly brightened, and he nodded. "Deal."

 

That night, Qiao Luo did indeed hear Fu Shizhou whisper 'I love you' in his ear. The deep, earnest, and passionate sort of 'I love you'.

But the next morning, that faint mark on Qiao Luo's wrist had grown a little darker again.

 

1. In Chinese slang, 'zero' = bottom.

 

Author's Notes:

The weather in April is so bright and sunny, so the extras that come out in April are also refreshing~! These are the light and lovely daily routines of romance and… ahem.

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