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Smooth Operator

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Shen Qingqiu possessed the kind of easy, sophisticated elegance that was impossible to emulate. Luo Binghe tried before. He still did. But the most he could do was an imposing authority that carried none of his beloved teacher’s subtlety, much to his disappointment. Shen Qingqiu was flowing water that could coax pebbles and shift boulders. Luo Binghe wore Shen Qingqiu’s leisurely charm like a monkey wrench drenched in oil. The effect could also be called smooth, and the result was often the same, but his movements carried a hint of greasiness wrought by the simple matter of wanting something too much.

Reality taught him that oily hair was considered dirty on a wayward, vagrant youth, but suave when slicked back in expensive perfumes and paired with a sharply tailored suit. At that time, there was only one person who would pat his filthy hair without hesitation and smile with that impossible grace as though this one action wasn’t the kindest thing a discarded child had ever experienced.

Recognizing these principles didn’t mean Luo Binghe disliked this truth. At twenty-five years of age, everything was his now. He had power. He had wealth. He was in control.

Across the crowded airport, he spotted that perfect dignity with which Shen-laoshi carried himself, much the same as in the classroom that was Luo Binghe’s haven for three years. However, his long black hair was tied back into a loose braid. It suited him well. Though to be fair, Shen Qingqiu would still be the most beautiful man in the world even if he were to have taken an abrupt interest in cosplaying organic vegetables.

In his soft braid and loose sweater, he was softer, gentler, more accessible than even in Luo Binghe’s best dreams, of which he featured in all of them.

Everything had led up to this moment. It was via his subordinate’s mousey assistant that he discovered and delayed the connecting flight of Shen-laoshi, who had gone to teach in another city. Luo Binghe was in a look carefully tailored to display his shapely form while appearing appropriately casual. He spent two hours negotiating whether to leave two or three buttons undone and another two hours to decide whether to wear his sunglasses on his head or hooked on his shirt collar. He absolutely organized a focus group using company resources on the issue of what styling made him look sexier.

This was the person he had been in love with for years, finally back where he could reach him. Nothing could go wrong. Nothing was going to go wrong. He couldn’t let this opportunity slip by.

Luo Binghe was going to finally ask him out on a date. Coffee or tea, maybe a movie. If all went well, he could even take his teacher out for something small, casual, and intimate, like a nice dinner, or an overnight trip to Paris on the private jet currently waiting in the hangar to stay in a luxury resort. As long as he kept his cool, things would go well. He would finally be able to court his teacher and treat him with the things he deserved. What else had he worked so hard for all these years if not to spoil the love of his life? He could do this. He was good at acting.

The roar of an ambient airport soundscape disappeared instantly when he heard Shen-laoshi’s sparkling, bell-like, perfect, beautiful, melodic voice.

Shen-laoshi’s willow-leaf eyes widened in amazement. “Binghe? Is that really you?”

“Marry me.”

“...”

Luo Binghe had not considered the possibility of wearing his sunglasses indoors, but he did now.

“What?” Shen Qingqiu asked with an innocent smile.

“…Shen-laoshi, how are you?”

Shen Qingqiu blinked blankly for a time. “What?”

He repeated, “How are you?“

“No, before that.”

Luo Binghe paused, thinking deeply about what came immediately before.

“Shen-laoshi.”

“…” Shen Qingqiu coughed. “Binghe.”

A trace of the lecturing tone he used back when he was Luo Binghe’s high school teacher slipped into his voice. This was the same voice Shen-laoshi used when he was scolding him for getting into fights, reminding him to slow down when eating the home-cooked meals he made, or chiding him for putting himself down.

“Yes. That is me. I am Binghe. My name is Binghe.”

He remembered to use the seductive whispering tone his researchers promised was appealing at the very end. Thank god. He saved this situation from becoming a disaster.

Shen Qingqiu’s brows furrowed as he set his rolling suitcase upright and gently tapped Luo Binghe’s elbow. His voice dipped low, weighed down by fond concern. Concern was sexy. Shen-laoshi’s concern was sexy. Everything about Shen-laoshi was s—

“Binghe, is everything okay?”

“Yes, everything is fine…Did you want to, maybe, grab some coffee?”

“…Yes, coffee sounds nice,” Shen Qingqiu replied, somehow sounding quite skeptical.

Luo Binghe took the luggage off Shen-laoshi’s hands and led him in a straight line from the gate to the terminal entrance. Then he sharply pivoted left in perfect perpendicular form to a cafe where they had a view of the sunset from their seat.

While waiting for their orders, Shen Qingqiu seemed to realize for the first time the startlingly vacant cafe. He hummed approvingly at the tasteful and elegant decorations.

“This place is lovely. Isn’t it a bit empty though?”

“I reserved it.”

Shen-laoshi quirked an eyebrow. “The cafe?”

“And Gates D8 through D30.”

“Oh.” Shen Qingqiu frowned. He was so pretty, even when he frowned. “Where will the passengers board?”

His teacher was always kind as well, worrying about strangers.

Luo Binghe reassured, “There are no passengers.”

“Did the same storm delay their flights too?” Shen Qingqiu pondered, bewildered.

Indeed, it was the same natural disaster.

Upon receiving his hot mocha with soy milk, Shen-laoshi leaned back into the plush chair and finally asked, “So what are you doing at the airport?”

“Waiting for my soulmate.”

Shen-laoshi wrinkled his brow in worry in the same way that also scrunched up his nose. “That’s nice, Binghe. Are you sure you have time to be catching up with your old teacher?”

“…”

“Is something wrong?”

Shen-laoshi sounded concerned. Shen-laoshi was concerned! Shen-laoshi was concerned for Binghe! And he was Binghe!

“Nothing at all. I have all the time in the world now.”

Exactly one year later, Luo Binghe asked the same question he had spoken the day at the airport. Shen Qingqiu said yes…after he discovered they had been dating for a year. But it all started with coffee.