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Warm embrace

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In the evening, when the clock marks 6 o’clock, the ominous clouds assemble in the heavens outside the window and slowly start engulfing the city below in its gloominess while the last struggling rays of sunlight disperse. 

 

Luo Wenzhou lays back on the reclining chair inside his office and grumbles under his breath.

 

Lang Qiao knocks on the open door out of politeness and enters the place with the ease born out of habit, leaves a stack of documents on top of the desk, and without noticing Luo Wenzhou’s sour mood, caused by the sudden change in weather, comments, “Boss, didn’t you bring only your bike today? It seems like…”

 

She trails off as something clicks on her mind. The smile on her face freezes and whatever else was going to come out of her mouth remains stuck in her throat. 

 

Captain Luo ignores her troubled expression, puts what she just brought in inside one the drawers, and says, “Let’s go.”

 

“What? Where?”

 

Luo Wenzhou, already shrouded in his coat, and wrapping a scarf around his neck, replies, “What are you so surprised for? We’re done for the day. I'm going home and so are you guys.”

 

Before she can react Lang Qiao is pushed out of the office by the shoulders. She’s secretly moved to tears because after weeks of overtime work there’s finally some justice being handed down. Perhaps she still can go watch that movie that her friend has been talking about over the phone the other day. 

 

Xiao Haiyang meets her gaze by coincidence and is shown a grin so wide it makes goosebumps erupt all over the skin of his arms. Not again. He resolves to refuse her invitation without any mercy, but then Captain Luo, in a voice that leaves no room to rebut, orders everyone to gather their things to head home. 

 

Before parting ways, Tao Ran pats Luo Wenzhou on the back with intent, stresses the need of setting an alarm for the next morning three times, waves goodbye, and gets in a cab. Luo Wenzhou watches the vehicle disappear at the curb and feels ridiculous for the jealousy that rises in his gut at the warmth he won’t be able to enjoy on his ride to the apartment.

 

Under the pressure of the key, the lock securing his bike comes undone. He pats the seat and mentally pleads to the rain goddess to take pity on him and delay the howling wind a torrential rain a bit longer. Luo Wenzhou spares a longing glance at the cars filling the available spaces in the parking lot, accepts his fate, and puts on the hood of his coat.

 

Unexpectedly the phone in the front pocket of his slacks begins vibrating when his foot is about to hit the pedal. The text message reads: 

 

[Luo Yiguo won’t stop meowing at me. I think he misses you, and shixiong I’m sure you’re busy, but I still thought that it was important to let you know that your family is waiting for you.]

 

The photo attached is a selfie of Fei Du lying down on the couch in their living room, while Luo Yiguo shamelessly takes a nap on his chest. After looking over it for a long minute Luo Wenzhou notes the hidden smile lifting the corners of Fei Du’s peach blossom eyes and is struck with the urge to hug him.  

 

A quick stop at the supermarket has two plastic bags hanging from the handlebars of his bike. One containing the ingredients for tonight’s dinner and the other a couple of cans of cat food to bribe Master cat into granting them some sort of peace treaty. After many years of cohabitation, Luo Wenzhou has learned some tricks that have proven to be useful, especially the ones involving food. 

 

Despite his skills in dealing with a four-legged enemy, he’s still powerless when faced with a large number of citizens in possession of a car in Yan City. The traffic jam allows Captain Luo to let his mind wander. He makes up a scenario where flying through the sky is possible and is very pleased with being the only one within his imagination that has such power. 

 

The loud honking of the drivers lined up behind him in the avenue disrupts his creativity. It doesn’t stop at one or two cars making noise, soon enough it becomes a competition between all these people for “the most obnoxious bastard in the road” award. When Luo Wenzhou is at his wit’s end the traffic light finally changes to green and saves him the trouble of throwing some curses around.

 

Despite his attempt at having a positive disposition on the rest of the way home he still gets slapped in the face with a huge amount of dust when the wind picks up its pace and begins roaring—the branches of the lofty trees swaying in the sidewalk with vehemence. 

 

The firsts instants of the downpour do not cause many problems for the pedestrians and allow them to pursue some nearby coffee shops for shelter. 

 

On the other end of the rope, Luo Wenzhou isn’t sure if he wants to laugh or cry.

 

The material of his wet shirt sticks to his skin as he stumbles his way up the stairs to the apartment. Usually, he won’t struggle so much with bringing his bicycle along, but due to the dirt and water clinging to the wheels right now, the task is proving to be taxing and annoying.

 

With knuckles stiff from the chill outside Luo Wenzhou knocks on the door. He hears footsteps coming from inside and subconsciously makes the effort to straighten his shirt and fix the collar of the coat, but it only worsens his already precarious appearance.  

 

Fei Du comes out to the hallway shoeless and wearing a hoodie that’s too big on him, notices the awkward Luo Wenzhou standing there like a statue, steps closer, smiles at him, and without a word leans in to peck his chapped lips. 

 

After that is done he wraps a towel around his neck and begins drying his hair. 

 

Luo Wenzhou’s white ghost face begins warming up without permission and his speech is momentarily rendered useless. Observing him, and taking note of the slight reaction, President Fei decides to be bolder.

 

In an unnecessarily low and husky voice, he whispers by Luo Wenzhou’s ear, “Welcome home, darling.”

 

Captain Luo shivers, manages to get himself together, and glares at him. “What are you doing wearing light clothes like that outside? Come on!”

 

“Oh.” Fei Du sing-songs, obviously enjoying himself. “Then can we do something fun to warm up inside?”

 

With a false smile Luo Wenzhou counterattacks, “How do you feel about some exercise?”

 

Fei Du stares at him like he suggested taking a trip to an alternative dimension instead of some simple workout and stops talking nonsense, temporarily unable to come up with a proper strategy to defend himself. 

 

Luo Wenzhou doesn’t speak again, the only sign that he’s laughing is the shaking of his shoulders and the crinkles at the corners of his eyes. 

 

Comrade Luo Yiguo glances at the litter box attendant from its cat bed—sees the big, weird object it often encounters in his escapades to the basement and sniffs the air around the living room with a flame of interest lighting up in its belly. Right then, the bag with the cans of food slips out of the handlebar and falls to the floor with a thud.

 

Luo Yiguo seizes its chance to come into contact with its target. Once in close quarters with it, the cat wastes no time to verify its theory by pawing for the nearest can to bring it closer and have a better look at it. Now completely certain of what it contains its tail springs up and its purring soon expresses its contentment. 

 

Halfway down the stairs that lead to the basement Luo Wenzhou raises a hand, points at the cat, and scolds, “Not eating until 8 pm.”

 

A peace treaty is now impossible!

 

Luo Yiguo meows at Fei Du in earnest of teaming up with him to defeat the litter box attendant, but persuading him proves to be futile. The feline annoyed that it couldn’t get its way, gives them the cold shoulder, and runs off in the direction of the master bedroom with its mind set on getting back to these two humans who dare deny him of the pleasures life has to offer. 

 

President Fei efficiently arranges the groceries in its proper places in the cupboards and hides the cans of cat food in the previously agreed spot. It has taken them a whole weekend to figure out that Luo  Yiguo is prone to get lazy when it comes to climbing any kind of surface that is located higher than the distance between the bed and the floor, so the top of the cabinet in the corner has finally started to become serviceable. 

 

After a while, Luo Wenzhou pokes his head into the kitchen, tries to disguise his laughter behind a cough, and asks, “Darling, are you okay?”

 

The can of cat food in Fei Du’s hand teeters on the edge of the cabinet and is forcefully pushed all the way backward. Luo Wenzhou is impressed by the way this person still manages to land back on his feet without displaying any discomfort after standing for so long on his tippy toes. 

 

Luo Wenzhou doesn’t know whether to expose that he has seen everything, so lies won’t make any difference now. 

 

Fei Du though has more pressing matters to address. He approaches Luo Wenzhou, “Are you done with your shower already? Come on, let me help y—.”

 

Not answering Luo Wenzhou circles his arms around his waist, rests his forehead—hair still dripping wet—on his shoulder and lets out a sigh, “I would have carried you on my shoulders.”

 

Fei Du denies his offer with a firm shake of his head, strokes his hair, realizes something, and chuckles, “Oh? It seems like my chance for some revenge has finally arrived.”

 

“What?” Luo Wenzhou mumbles and snuggles closer, much like a cat who’s too tired to deny itself some headpats and affection. 

 

“Let’s go to the bedroom, hm? I can show you there.” 

 

Luo Yiguo peeks at them from the bedside cabinet with only one eye open, licks at its right paw idly, and favors going back to dreamland over paying attention to the trifling matters of the humans. 

 

Luo Wenzhou sits at the foot of the bed and beckons at Fei Du.

 

Seeing his puppy-like attitude and the way his eyelids keep on dropping down with the need to close due to how worn out Luo Wenzhou is after a long day of hard labour, Fei Du takes the time to coax him to lie down first, and then goes to retrieve the hairdryer from the bathroom. 

 

Fei Du doesn’t prompt him to move at all when he enters the bedroom again and instead takes care of everything himself. Luo Wenzhou ends up getting spoiled with little caresses to his cheeks and nose, while his head rests on Fei Du’s thighs and is thoroughly dried. 

 

“It seems like you’ve fina—.” Luo Wenzhou’s sentence is cut off by an involuntary yawn that is impossible to miss in the position they are currently in and Fei Du makes sure to convey his judgment through their shared gaze.

 

Luo Wenzhou, with his thick-face, as if he didn’t just try to brush off his obvious fatigue, continues, “...finally learned some things after all this time.” 

 

He takes one of Fei Du’s wandering hands into his own and intertwines their fingers, “Was this the ‘revenge’ you were mentioning earlier?” 

 

Fei Du shrugs, “Perhaps? Although I’m not as skilled as you, nor do I own a pair of handcuffs and there’s also some sexy events missing, don’t you think so?”

 

“Shameless,” Luo Wenzhou gives a half-hearted complaint. 

 

Fei Du doesn’t hesitate to add fuel to the fire and lives up to the single word that has been uttered eagerly.

 

First, a series of soft kisses land on the space between Luo Wenzhou’s eyebrows, and some stray strands of Fei Du’s long hair start tickling the sides of his face making a corner of his closed lips twitch. Not one to hold back when taking advantage of someone else’s weaknesses, Fei Du distracts Luo Wenzhou with some more innocent attention to his forehead and then launches an attack with his free hand. 

 

The sound of laughter startles Luo Yiguo awake and it glowers at them but isn’t given any sort of apology. Luo Wenzhou is too busy trying to fight off the sneaky President Fei that doesn’t let him catch his breath and keeps on digging on his sides to summon more of his reactions.

 

Luo Wenzhou gasps, “S-stop…” then bursts out laughing again. 

 

Fei Du’s ponytail comes untied and his glasses go askew when Luo Wenzhou manages to gather his strength and pins him down on the bed catching him unawares. He takes a full minute to calm down and pants, “Y-you are too much.”

 

Fei Du, not showing any regret, explains, “Captain Luo, I had to make up for the fact that I don’t have the same means as you when it comes to restraining people.” 

 

Luo Wenzhou can’t help but drop his act and bury his nose in the juncture of Fei Du’s neck and shoulder. At last, finding his heartbeat settling down to its normal pace he points out, “A ‘go to sleep’ would have sufficed.”

 

Fei Du kisses his temple, “Yes, yes. Then let's go to sleep now.”

 

Luo Wenzhou makes sure that he isn’t wearing his glasses anymore and that he changes out of his “thin” clothes into his set of the couple pajamas they have bought at a discount sale during Fei Du’s birthday before giving in and lying down. The faint light of the lamp dies out when Fei Du turns it off. He tucks himself in between Luo Wenzhou’s arms and begins drifting away from reality. 

 

Comrade Luo Yiguo, a little nervous because of the sudden silence that envelops the whole house, stays alert for a moment but doesn’t leave the master bedroom to verify the situation outside. Upon determining that nothing is amiss it hugs its tail between its two paws and curls into a tiny, fluffy ball.

 

Just like that this family of three creates no more ruckus for the night.