Fu Ge stared at Qi Han’s hand in a daze for a long time.
He looked at the small scars crisscrossing his palm, the bloodied gauze on the back of his hand and at his forearm that was so skinny that only a thin layer of muscles remained.
His eyes moved to the Alpha’s face and met the sunken eyes, wet and bloodshot, and he realised, as if waking up from a dream, that Qi Han no longer had any semblance of his former self.
Seventeen or eighteen was Qi Han’s best age.
He would always take advantage of the sunset to go to the sports ground to play ball. The setting sun coated the sweaty boy with a layer of light, and every drop of sweat was refreshing and wanton.
He was born proud of his strong genetic lineage, but his father’s gentle and modest nature was also present in his bones. His youthful exuberance and energy were evident in him, yet his not-so-fortunate childhood evoked a slight sense of loneliness.
He was the Alpha who could make a young artist fall in love with him with just one glance, and Fu Ge was not the only one fascinated by him during his high school years.
The basketball court was always crowded when he was there, and during breaks his suitors would flock to bring him water and towels.
Qi Han would only indifferently refuse and rush to Fu Ge through half the court, chasing his own light in full view of the public.
Hug him, lift him, kiss him.
He would let his little boyfriend, who was a head shorter, sit on his arm, hugging him like a child, asking particularly naively: “Gege, was I handsome just now?”
With Qi Han’s sweat all over his body and his light blue jumper torn, Fu Ge would wrap his arms around his neck and say, “Ah Han is so good, so handsome that I can’t control myself.”
How could the big boy with boiling blood stand such words; he would put his head on Fu Ge’s shoulder like a large golden retriever and rub against him, “Ah ah ah, gege! If there weren’t so many people here, I’d kiss you to death! Make you cry!”
Fu Ge’s heart was itchy as he pinched Qi Han’s ear, “Do you have to be so vulgar?”
“I can’t help it when I see you.”
Five years later, things remained the same but people changed.
That nightmare destroyed not only Fu Ge, but also Qi Han, who could hardly ever break free from the abyss.
After a full five minutes of silence, he tentatively closed his palm, “You can give them to me now, can’t you?”
Fu Ge averted his flushed eyes, acquiescing.
Qi Han almost wept with joy, his palm clutching the rings with the separated diamonds, “The diamonds are just a little cracked, I’ll get someone to mend them and put them back in for me tomorrow.”
Fu Ge watched him being as satisfied as a stupid dragon who got a gemstone. His heart tightened fiercely, and he blurted out, “I can fix them.”
Qi Han’s movements froze; he almost suspected he was hallucinating, “Gege… you said… you want to help me fix them?”
“Forget it, do it yourself—”
“No! Doesn’t count! Doesn’t count!” Qi Han squatted by the edge of the bed, unable to stop holding his hand. Feeling the heat of each other’s body made both of them stunned.
“The people outside can’t get it right, so you fix them for me, okay?”
When Fu Ge didn’t respond, Qi Han took it as a “yes” from him.
“Go to sleep, I won’t disturb you.”
He covered the man with the blanket and turned his head away to wipe his eyes quickly.
Fu Ge’s mouth seemed to be glued shut and he couldn’t say a word, so he just turned away from Qi Han with a stern face. Even the back of his round head was filled with chagrin.
Qi Han found him so cute that he couldn’t help but look at him for a long time, waiting for Fu Ge’s breathing to stabilise before he dared to stretch out his hand to straighten him out a little, “There’s an injury on your arm, don’t press it.”
He tore off a piece of paper and wrapped the rings in it, and drew a little bear on the paper, a symbol that belonged exclusively to him.
When Fu Ge could still draw, he liked to use all sorts of cute graphics to mark the people close to him. He called it stamping.
The art teacher was a bubble-headed figurine, his classmate was a bouquet of colourful camellias, and even the stray cat at school had a paw drawn on the tin of cat food Fu Ge brought for it.
His boyfriend’s symbol was even more unique, a little bear holding a jar of honey, because Qi Han was his Mr. Bear Cub.
“Stamped it for gege.” Qi Han pointed at the drawing for the sleeping Fu Ge and said, “The ring is a gift for me from gege, you can’t go back on your word and take it back.”
Turning off the night light, he leaned down and gently kissed the top of Fu Ge’s head, “Good dreams, baby, I’ll give you French fries tomorrow.”
A few minutes later, the small bundle in the bed turned around, and Fu Ge slowly opened his eyes, awake in the darkness.
The next day he slept late, and breakfast had already been delivered.
At the foot of the bed were delicious seafood porridge, crystal shrimp dumplings, chubby white xiaolongbao and a large portion of freshly fried French fries.
The young Beta, who had just woken up, looked in a daze at the fries and then at the one-way glass window, stretched out his finger and flicked the fries away.
Qi Han, who was hiding outside, couldn’t help but laugh, “If you don’t eat it, it’s gone. I talked to the nutritionist for half a day before he agreed to let you eat it once.”
As if deliberately antagonising him, Fu Ge had a rare appetite today. He tasted everything a little bit, just not touching the French fries.
Not only did he not touch it, but every time he took a shrimp dumpling he had to flick the plate with fries in disgust, from one end of the table to the other, making Qi Han want to rush in and catch it.
“Stop flicking, if you flick it again, you’ll drop it. If you hate me, take it out on me, why bully the fries.”
Fu Ge naturally couldn’t hear his words. He really wanted to push the plate off but couldn’t bear it, quickly reaching out and rescuing the fries, clutching them like a thief.
Where there’s one, there’s two. He ate the fries slyly while disliking them, shoving them into his mouth from two sides. He looked content and guilty like a fat hamster who was stealing food. Only when he reached out and touched the plate did he realise that he had already eaten them all.
It happened that at this time the doctor went in to check on him and saw the empty plate: “Yo, your appetite is good today. What was on this plate? Let the nurse write it down and ask the nutritionist to prepare more.”
Fu Ge blushed to the tips of his ears in embarrassment, trying to cover it: “Do I need to remember this, every day I eat… about the same…”
“About the same? Then why did you eat like a bird every day before? What was it? You’re not stealing those oily spicy things, are you?”
“No!” Fu Ge said in a low muffled voice, “It’s French fries…”
“French fries? French fries don’t work either!”
The doctor glared: “Not to mention the high starch content, they are fried. Who gave them to you? Was it your family member?”
He was probably a paediatrician before, so he was really good at lecturing: “I’m so impressed with these family members, they really know how to spoil a child. The patient is too young to control his mouth, and the adults don’t know better, huh?”
Now everyone on the floor knew that not only had he stolen French fries, he was also caught. Fu Ge was so shy that his cheeks blushed red: “No, doctor, I, I’m over twenty years old, I don’t need family members…”
“No family members, then who got you all this junk food?”
“All right, Dr. Lin.”
The “family member” who had been watching for a long time walked in, his eyes wandering over the wilting Fu Ge as he said to the doctor, “That’s enough, he’s been craving this for days, so he ate a little bit, no need to scold him so hard.”
The doctor rolled his eyes at him, “President Qi, are you in good health again?”
As soon as he said that, the Alpha’s gaze focused on him. Qi Han looked at him with a smile, and even if he was weak like this, his fierce aura was still chilling.
The doctor knew that he had made a gaffe and started, “President, I—”
The Alpha nodded towards the door, “Go check the other rooms.”
Up until the two walked out, Fu Ge’s face was still red, quite hilarious. Qi Han liked the look of it and asked in a soft voice, “Are you full? The kitchen still has some fries, I’ll steal them for you? Do you want the sauce?”
The door slammed shut, and Fu Ge pulled the small curtain that blocked the window, annoyed, “Go away!”
Qi Han laughed against the door, “Ungrateful, who saved you just now?”
It seemed that from the time the flash drive was delivered, Fu Ge’s attitude towards him began to ease up.
Those who have suffered enough bitterness will not let go of a little sweetness in their mouth. Qi Han didn’t think about whether there were other reasons for his attitude change, completely ignoring the fact it coincided with the increase in pheromone infusions Fu Ge received.
This afternoon after the check-up, Fu Ge walked to the garden to get some fresh air and found the little boy there again.
The boy was wearing a red jumper and a small green woollen hat. From a distance, he looked like a chubby strawberry lying in the grass.
Fu Ge couldn’t help but go over and pat him on the shoulder, “What’s wrong?”
The little boy’s shoulders were shaking; he was crying, saying that he had accidentally wet his bed during his nap and got water stains all over his drawing album. Now he was too ashamed to tell the adults.
“……” Fu Ge’s fingers moved away from the album quietly; he really didn’t know how to coax the boy: “It’s okay to wet the bed… everyone wets the bed.”
The little boy looked at him in surprise, “Did gege wet the bed too?”
“Well… I did.”
The little boy instantly regained his confidence and asked with his eyes full of expectation, “When did you wet it, was it this afternoon too?”
Fu Ge was distressed for him even more than the little boy himself was distressed. “Not really, it must have been more than ten years ago, not now.”
“What! Gege doesn’t wet the bed anymore…”
The little boy’s mouth flattened, and his tears immediately poured out.
“Hey, don’t cry, don’t cry… I’m past that time…” Fu Ge made him cry again and was at a loss for words, “It’s okay to wet the bed, well… although it is true that there are fewer people who wet the bed as you get older…”
The little boy cried even more deafeningly, “I’m the only one who still wets the bed!”
He looked so pitiful and embarrassed, and also a little bit funny. Fu Ge couldn’t hold back a chuckle and the little boy felt that the sky was collapsing, “Gege also laughs at me… woo woo woo…”
The eyes of four- or five-year-old children are like water taps. Not only can they cry endlessly but also create their own reverberation. When Qi Chuan came over, Fu Ge was already about to cry with the little boy.
“How come you’re stumped by a child?”
He picked up the album and flipped through it, suggesting, “You can just mend the wet painting for him.”
“Why is Mr. Qi coming over this afternoon?”
Pheromones were usually extracted in the morning.
Qi Chuan shook the bag in his hand, “Delivering something to the kid.”
Fu Ge didn’t know that the kid he was talking about was Chen Xing, and didn’t ask deeper, only saying, “I can’t draw well, so I’ll probably ruin his album.”
The heart the little boy had given him was splashed with paint, and Fu Ge didn’t dare to pick up the brush again.
Qi Chuan looked at him for a long time, then smiled suddenly, “So self-deprecating. Lao Qi’s favourite disciple, if you can’t draw well, then no one would dare to say they can draw well.”
“Mr. Qi knows Teacher? Ah yes, the surname Qi is rare, Teacher is your—”
“Grandfather. The ‘Red-Beaked Bird’ you painted when you were eighteen is still hanging on the front wall of our living room. He praises it to everyone.”
Fu Ge’s eyes turned red: “Teacher, he’s still…”
The rest of the question never came out.
During the summer vacation of his senior year of high school, he participated in the summer camp of the Academy of Fine Arts and took Professor Qi’s course for a month and a half.
The old gentleman loved the beautiful tension of simplicity colliding with the passion of his brush, and almost dragged him to the Academy after the course, threatening to recognise Fu Ge as his godson.
All the feelings of those who bond over art are pure.
“You said that you were going to enter the Academy of Fine Arts as his student. He made a tea-style name tag for you a long time in advance (seems to be the ancient/retro style, like the yellowed one, kind of like this). Under his pressure, the registration time for admission was delayed for a full two months, but you never came.”
Qi Chuan sat on the lawn, his jaw tight and sharp: “It’s been five years, and you still haven’t come. You just donated a sum of money. Who is going to get the famous name tag?”
The corners of Fu Ge’s eyes were wet with tears. Shame, unwillingness, helplessness and hatred poured into his heart together, “I wanted to go, but I had no face to see Teacher. I can’t draw anymore… I can’t even hold a brush…”
It was not that he hadn’t fantasised about his future. How many spirited young men would be willing to settle down for mediocrity?
The “Red-Beaked Bird” was just painted on a whim when he was in summer camp, but Old Master Qi silently watched the whole process behind him, pointed at Fu Ge and said, “This child will take over my classes in the future.”
He was the first one of the thousands of students at the Academy to receive such praise from one of the leading artists in China and abroad.
No matter how humble and restrained the young Beta was, he couldn’t help but be a little proud, looking forward to his future with all his heart.
Painting and family were the only things Fu Ge had ever wanted at the age of eighteen, but they were destroyed by Qi Han during those dark fourteen days.
How could he not hate?
“Why can’t you paint?”
Qi Chuan looked into the distance, his voice light and easy-going: “Your eyes can still see, your arms are still strong. You can’t put a brush to paper because you value your fear more than you value what you love. Xiao Ge, you’re not punishing him, you’re punishing yourself.”
“You… you know about me? Mr. Qi, haven’t we just—”
“You will remember.” Qi Chuan took out a brush and placed it in Fu Ge’s palm, “Draw a picture for me, as a return gift for the brooch.”
“Don’t, I can’t draw…”
The hand that tried to retreat was held by Qi Chuan, “Don’t worry, I’ll take you with me.”
After five years, Fu Ge once again finished a drawing in its entirety, although it was only a simple cartoon image and drawn in a crooked manner.
He fondled the paper like a treasure, no longer knowing how to thank Qi Chuan, “You saved me both physically and mentally.”
Qi Chuan lifted his hand and tucked Fu Ge’s loose strands of hair behind his ears, “You must get well soon.”
He tore the page out of the album, “I’ll take this one then.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, his wrist was suddenly clutched violently, the aggressive Alpha pheromones crashing down on his head. Qi Han stared at him with scarlet, terrifying eyes, “What are you doing?”
Beads of sweat rolled down Qi Chuan’s forehead. He pursed his lips tightly and tried his best to break free from the opponent’s hand, gasping for breath. “Xiao Ge is drawing for me,” he said
“Xiao Ge? That’s really intimate.” Qi Han’s face was livid and he was about to explode with anger when his eyes dropped to the painting and his mind exploded with a bang.
It was a little bear holding a jar of honey.
A bear that belonged exclusively to Qi Han.
“Did you draw this? For him?” He tried desperately to calm himself down, but the hostility in his eyes as he looked at Fu Ge was raging.
Fu Ge didn’t even look at him and said to Qi Chuan, “Mr. Qi should go back first, I will come to your house to visit Teacher some other day.”
“You’re still going to his house?” Qi Han was completely blown away by these words, turning around and pressing down Qi Chuan’s shoulder, reaching out to grab the painting.
“Be careful!” Fu Ge exclaimed, reaching to stop him, but it was too late.
Both of them grabbed a corner of the paper and pulled it in their own direction, only to hear a ripping sound. The bear was torn in half.
Fu Ge’s outstretched hand froze in the air. He looked dumbly at the drawing that was torn into two, as if he was stupefied by the scene in front of him.
“For five years, I have only painted this one…” he said in a dull voice.
“Sor… sorry.” Qi Han panicked instantly, hurriedly snatching half of the drawing out of Qi Chuan’s hands and putting it together, “I’ll help you glue it up, okay, don’t be sad, let’s just glue it up.”
“Glue it up?” Fu Ge sneered, his wet, flushed eyes looking at Qi Han, “Some things that are broken are broken and can never be restored to their original state.”
Qi Han’s heart cracked, his panic and fear reaching their peak, “Gege… don’t be like this…”
Fu Ge turned to say goodbye to Qi Chuan and waited for him to leave before saying to Qi Han, “The rings are repaired.”
“Re… repaired… thank you, gege.”
He stammered, nodding, dazed, and went back to the ward with Fu Ge to pick them up. He watched the young Beta take out the two fully repaired rings and place them on the table.
The next moment, Fu Ge suddenly picked up the hammer next to him and, with a bang, slammed it down. The diamonds in two rings were smashed to pieces, the tiny shards hitting Qi Han’s dumbfounded face.
Fu Ge threw down the hammer and said, “Take them.”