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Do you really want to set the night on fire?

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The cast of The Untamed is back together again (well, some of it at least), and Xiao Zhan’s schedule is so packed for the next couple of months that he is unsure if he can actually survive it, but he hasn’t stopped smiling for the past couple of hours and his face might be just stuck forever like that now.

He didn’t expect to feel as jumpy as he did when he entered the small restaurant that was booked for the actors for this evening (what’s a better way to catch up rather than over good food?), and he didn’t expect the ‘Bo-di!’ almost scream that he made once he spotted a familiar figure. The excited ‘Zhan-ge!’ was something to wait for though, when Wang YiBo jumped from his seat and launched himself at Xiao Zhan, squeezing his ribs in a tight hug, while screaming ‘Zhan-ge’ in Xiao Zhan’s ear and laughing like a little gremlin.

Xiao Zhan didn’t expect how almost painfully happy he would feel seeing his friend again, how strangely warm his chest would get when he saw Wang YiBo wearing the necklace he sent the boy earlier. 

He really did miss him. So busy on the set of another TV drama, he’s managed to almost not notice that.

And now he has dozens of different events in his calendar that have a ‘w/ WYB’ note in them, and he doesn’t really remember when he felt that excited.

The slightly anxious thought of ‘What if it won’t be the same now when they spent several months apart’ hasn’t really formed fully in his mind when Wang YiBo shoves a drink in his hand, makes some offhand comment, grins and raises a brow provocatively, and Xiao Zhan is already baring his teeth at him and has to walk around the table after the laughing boy to slap his shoulder jokingly only to get two hits, another comment and a smirk for his trouble. 

They settle into their usual dynamics as if it hasn’t been several months since they last were in the vicinity of one another. 

Over the next few weeks the two of them live from a plane to a photo studio to another plane to a TV studio, rinse and repeat. Somewhere they go with a few of the other actors, other times it is just the two of them.

It is somewhat different now, the environment is different, and as Xiao Zhan felt almost at home on the set of The Untamed , it is nothing like this in the unfamiliar studios they go for photoshoots and interviews now. They don’t really mess around as they did before, not in front of the cameras, and he feels it is less that their relationship changed somehow and more that they are not comfortable enough to fully express themselves in these new surroundings.

It doesn’t keep Wang YiBo from being his usual self each time they are out of the public view. 

On their first ride from one location to another they are in the back seat of a small six-person van with Liu Hai Kuan and Zhu Zan Jin quietly talking in front, and Wang YiBo attempts to get Xiao Zhan up to date with all the photoshoots he’s had in the past several months. Apparently the chosen few pics he sent Xiao Zhan before is not enough, and he goes through all of them, shoving his phone under Xiao Zhan’s nose. He shows the videos of him doing tricks with his skateboard as well, and Xiao Zhan keeps saying ‘Cool’ on each video and ‘Handsome’ on each picture, and Wang YiBo shoves his sharp elbow in his ribs when he doesn’t, and after just several minutes of Wang YiBo’s mad scrolling through his Camera Roll, Xiao Zhan has had enough and he pulls the phone out of Wang YiBo’s fingers.

“You make my head hurt, Wang YiBo,” he says, dodging the boy’s attempt to get his phone back, and turning away from him. “I’ll do it faster this way, after all how many photos you might have there.” 

The answer is — a lot. Xiao Zhan whistles, moving his finger to scroll through the photos, and Wang YiBo reaches over his shoulder trying to grab the phone. 

“Zhan-ge!” He hisses, and Xiao Zhan pushes him away with one hand. 

“When do you have time to take that many selfies, Wang YiBo?” He muses, holding the boy by his shoulder on an arm’s length while scrolling through his Camera Roll. “Such a narcissist.”

Wang YiBo grabs a hold of his shirt with one hand and his hair with another and pulls. Xiao Zhan cries in pain and throws an accusatory glance at his offender. 

“Careful with hair, I’m still having problems with my hairline! Do you want me to get bald, Wang YiBo?!” 1

Liu Hai Kuan and Zhu Zan Jin are completely ignoring the commotion behind them and Xiao Zhan feels almost like he is back on the set of The Untamed .

“Give it back, gege.” Wang YiBo lets go of his hair only to start hitting his shoulder. 

“Oh, look, you saved the photos I sent you, Wang YiBo,” Xiao Zhan says, leaning away from the hits. “I would say I’m honored, but you saved them in between your naked self― Ouch!”

Xiao Zhan flinches and drops the phone when Wang YiBo pokes his ribs. He is rubbing the offended place, while Wang YiBo quickly grabs the phone from the floor, hides it in the pocket of his jeans and sits back, pulling up his legs and planting his feet on the edge of the seat.

“You should be honored.” He bares his teeth in a grin and tilts his brow. “If I knew you wanted to see my nude selfies you could’ve just said the word, gege,” he says with a wink and Xiao Zhan just shoves his shoulder, shaking his head in disbelief, but he can’t help the smile that tugs on his lips. 

There is an awkward cough from the seat in front and Xiao Zhan averts his gaze, turning to a window on his side and covering his mouth with the palm of his hand. He can hear Wang YiBo’s quiet giggling beside him and he has to press his lips together to hold back a laugh. Wang YiBo always manages to bring up a teenager in him and the six years difference start to seem like nothing.  

They sit like that until they are sure they can calmly look at each other without getting violent or hysterical. 

It feels like home. It feels like getting back something that has been dearly missed.

~

They are having interview after interview, they are participating in different TV shows and photoshoots, and Xiao Zhan is enjoying it way more than he anticipated he would. Wang YiBo clings to him like they are joined in a hip, something Xiao Zhan finds weirdly comforting. After all, it is rare to have someone around he can fully let his guard down with, who he doesn’t have to be especially nice to if he doesn’t feel like it, with whom he can just be the way he is, even at his worst, when he is tired after a flight, not having enough sleep in days, and he just feels like sitting somewhere comfortable and making grumpy faces. And it is not that Wang YiBo actually respects this wish or lets him do that; quite the opposite ― the kid gets the more obnoxious the gloomier Xiao Zhan is, and he nags and pokes and annoys him until Xiao Zhan gives in and gives him a reaction, and no matter how much more tired this makes him, he always smiles at the end of such exchange, feeling at ease, and Wang YiBo just has this satisfied grin on his face, as if he did this all not just to get more attention from his gege, but to drag Xiao Zhan from that stale tired mood. 2

Perhaps it really is the latter. It always works after all.

And then comes the fan meeting, and the two of them are giving an interview before it. Most questions are nothing they haven’t answered before, but the producers tell them they might be asked the same ones during the show, so they make this sort of a trial run. 

There is a question about what part of each other they think is the greatest, and Xiao Zhan figures it probably originates from the multiple occasions on the set of The Untamed and during some of the older interviews when they attempted to throw at the other as many compliments as humanly possible to see who will start feeling uncomfortable first (it is a tie so far — Wang YiBo is more persistent, but also he tends to get somewhat annoyed and quiet when Xiao Zhan overdoes it).3 

And right now this question, that would before hardly have caused Xiao Zhan any trouble, feels that it has more weight than the journalist interviewing them has put into it.

They actually take a pause before answering to look closely at each other as if they haven’t memorised every single part of each other’s faces already. 4  

“Eyes,” Wang YiBo says seriously, and it surprises Xiao Zhan a little because he was sure the other would say something about his smile, as he did a couple of times before. 5  

Xiao Zhan actually hesitates.

Personally he finds Wang YiBo’s lips the most interesting part of his face. His smiles are objectively beautiful and his lips are very expressive, despite what Wang YiBo himself might think,6 but Xiao Zhan chooses to be the judge of that, that with how many smug grins and sly smirks he’s received from Wang YiBo since they first met last year. Still, saying this suddenly doesn’t seem to be something that might be considered safe to say on camera so Xiao Zhan goes for the more familiar for the both of them answer and compliments Wang YiBo’s whole face.

After the interview they are given thirty minutes before the fan meeting starts. The other actors are having a final touch of make-up, and Xiao Zhan and Wang YiBo are free to spend this time however they like, except there is not much to do. 

Wang YiBo drops himself on a sofa in the corner of the spacious dressing room, pulls out his phone and launches a mobile game.

Xiao Zhan sits down beside him and watches him for a couple of minutes. Wang YiBo is engrossed in the game and seems to not pay him any attention. Not completely unusual, but definitely not to be expected after how eagerly the boy inserted himself in Xiao Zhan’s personal space in these past few weeks.

“You are quiet today,” Xiao Zhan finally says, not able to stand that silence.

“That’s my normal state, Zhan-ge,” Wang YiBo answers absentmindedly, still observed in the game.

Xiao Zhan gapes at him in disbelief and at first doesn’t even find what to say. 

Quiet is your normal state?!” he asks eventually and Wang YiBo just shrugs without looking up from his screen. “YiBo-o!” Xiao Zhan draws his name and slaps his shoulder lightly with the back of his hand.

“Zhan-ge couldn't even say what part of me he thinks is the greatest,” Wang YiBo finally answers with a dramatic sigh.

It takes Xiao Zhan a moment to understand what Wang YiBo is referring to before he remembers the question from the interview and he looks at Wang YiBo in disbelief.

“Are you pouting, YiBo?!” he asks and leans forward to see Wang YiBo’s face, but the brat bends down hiding under his bangs and keeps playing on the phone. 

“I’m not pouting.”

“Yeah, I can see that.”

“Couldn’t even come up with anything,” Wang YiBo says and this time Xiao Zhan can clearly hear a pout.

“You are such an attention whore,” Xiao Zhan says in amusement. This makes Wang YiBo finally turn off his phone and look up wide eyed, lips curled in mock indignation.

“I am absolutely not,” he says, arranging his face into a somewhat serious expression that doesn’t at all fool Xiao Zhan ― he’s learnt all of the boy’s tells a long time ago. 

Xiao Zhan clicks his tongue and shakes his head disapprovingly. “You stopped me yesterday when we passed a billboard with your photo and asked if I thought you were handsome there.”

“That just happened once!”

“Because you don’t have me around! You send me your selfies with the same question all the time.”

Wang YiBo looks at him with a betrayed look Xiao Zhan doesn’t believe in the slightest and hits Xiao Zhan’s shoulder.

“How hard can it be to say what part of me is the greatest, Zhan-ge?!”

“I said your whole face is handsome!”

“Bullshit.”

“Bullshit bullshit, you love your face, such a small face, look at you.”

“Are we starting now?”7

“Haven’t you started this earlier?”

Wang YiBo leans back and folds his arms on his chest. “I was being serious.”

“So was I!”

“Right.”

Xiao Zhan looks at Wang YiBo’s sceptical face and sighs.

“I really mean it. This time,” he says seriously.

Wang YiBo tilts his head to the side, blinks and then slaps Xiao Zhan’s arm. “You mean it this time ?! So you didn’t mean it all other times?!” He nearly screams and Xiao Zhan dodges another attempt to hit him, grabs Wang YiBo’s wrist in one hand and tries to press the palm of another at his mouth to prevent him from being too loud. Wang YiBo slaps his hand, sends him another not very genuine look of betrayal, and, failing to free his wrist form Xiao Zhan’s grip, grabs Xiao Zhan’s free hand instead, grinning victoriously. 

“I mean it seriously this time,” Xiao Zhan says, pulling at his captured hand, but to no avail. He muses if it is worth the risk to let go of Wang YiBo’s hand now, but decides it is safer this way since the boy now has both of his hands occupied and won’t be able to beat Xiao Zhan up. 

It doesn’t really prevent Wang YiBo from trying and he lets out a frustrated breath when he doesn’t succeed.

“Anyway, they asked for a part. ” 

“Face is a part.”

“It’s not.”

“It’s―” Xiao Zhan cuts himself short, and releases Wang YiBo’s hand raising his own in defeat. “Fine, I couldn’t choose,” he says earning himself a suspicious look.

“Nonsense. There is plenty to choose from.” 

“Right, and I couldn’t.”

Wang YiBo lets go of his hand and leans back planting his elbow on the sidearm of the couch.

“Is it because of the make-up?” he asks, almost accusatory.

“What? No! Wh―” 

“That can’t be my eyes,” Wang YiBo interrupts. “They are not as beautiful as Xiao-laoshi’s,” he says with a one-sided smirk.

“Don’t start it now. And your eyes are fine.”

“See, just fine, and you said my whole face is handsome, it doesn’t work this way, Xiao-laoshi.”

“You’re a monster, Wang YiBo. I’ll get gray hair because of you.”

“You’ll get gray hair because you are old. And you gotta choose something one!”

“Stop pressing me, Wang YiBo, so pushy, be nicer.”

“Say it! You owe me!”

“I owe you?!” Xiao Zhan cries, and Wang YiBo grabs his upper arm, hissing at him through a laugh. Xiao Zhan glances over his shoulder around the dressing room and notices that the staff that is preparing the other actors for the show are all staring at them in surprise. Right, these people are not used to them two causing a commotion. Xiao Zhan coughs awkwardly and, turning to Wang YiBo, asks again through his teeth, “I owe you?!” 

Wang YiBo lets go of his arm and nods enthusiastically. “I used to say your smile is sweet and this time I said your eyes are handsome. That’s two against nothing from you,” he says with a smug grin.

“I said your whole face is handsome!” Xiao Zhan whispers heatedly. “That's a whole lot more than nothing!”

“It doesn’t count!” The brat is fully grinning now.

“How is— Why are you always so hungry for compliments, YiBo?”

“Only for yours, gege. Don’t care about others,” Wang YiBo says with a shit-eating grin and a slight wiggle of his brows. They both know it is a blatant lie ― the boy can probably live on the compliments alone without the need of such mundane things as food or sleep. 8  

“People who say they don't care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don't care what people think,” Xiao Zhan says and makes a smirk of his own, while Wang YiBo is digesting this, blinking in confusion. In a moment, his face lightens up and he chuckles, nodding.

“Yeah, that’s the idea. Don’t change the topic, gege!”

“Why won’t you drop that, Wang YiBo?” Xiao Zhan whines. 

“I enjoy torturing you,” Wang YiBo answers instantly with a wide smile.

Xiao Zhan can only shake his head on that and give Wang YiBo an offended look, pressing his hand to his chest in a dramatic gesture. 

“You are a monster.”

“A handsome one though,” Wang YiBo says, giving him a half lidded stare.

Xiao Zhan can’t really counter that and Wang YiBo knows that. 

He gives up and averts his eyes. It doesn’t help much, he can still feel the other’s piercing gaze.

“Fine! Your mouth.” 

“My mouth,” Wang Yibo repeats sceptically. 

“Yes. Happy?” Xiao Zhan risks a glance at his friend right on time when he opens his mouth, pointing at it like he is a baby-bird asking to be fed, and Xiao Zhan burst into laughter.

“My mouth?” Wang YiBo asks, looking at Xiao Zhan like he just sprouted a second head and it is as stupid as the first one.

“Not literally your mouth!” Xiao Zhan manages to say through a laugh and earns a hit at his arm for his trouble. 

“You are giving me mixed signals here, gege!” 

Xiao Zhan gets a hold of himself and says with a smile. “I meant your lips, okay.”

“Ah.” 

“What?”

“Really?” Wang YiBo’s frown gives place to a soft smile and Xiao Zhan smiles wider.

“What? As if you’ve never seen your lips. They are…” Sinful , suddenly pops up in his head, surprising him, but he brushes it away to think about later. 9

“Mm. Yeah, what about my lips?” Wang YiBo asks, smiling like a cat that just got a whole pot of cream.

“They look good,” Xiao Zhan says. And then adds quickly just to be safe, “On your small face.”

Wang YiBo nods, seemingly satisfied, and raises his chin, giving Xiao Zhan his best piercing gaze, that gives Xiao Zhan conflicting urges to look away or never avert his eyes, and he lets out a breathy laugh and settles on looking in a space behind Wang YiBo’s shoulder. Sometimes he thinks this boy is just too much for him to handle, but he always comes back for more. 

It is like an addiction, he thinks. The one that doesn’t take anything from him, only giving.

“You just said that ‘cause I wouldn’t let you be, didn’t you?” Wang YiBo asks, but his tone doesn’t have any bite, so Xiao Zhan figures he’s gotten what he wanted. Well, he always does, it is so hard to say no to such persistence. 

Xiao Zhan laughs shortly and leans back, relaxing against the couch. 

“Can never satisfy you, can I, Wang YiBo?” he asks, turning to his friend with a smile.

Wang YiBo just shakes his head. “I like making you try, though,” he says, lowering his head and looking at Xiao Zhan through his bangs.

The conversation dies down naturally, ending, as it often happens, with the two of them just looking in each other’s eyes, smiling. It probably goes back to them spending literal hours sometimes on the set of The Untamed doing a take after take of Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi exchanging glances, when they had to make it look just the eye contact was enough for their characters to understand what the other is thinking. 

By the first month of the filming Xiao Zhan felt that he, as Wei WuXian, actually could.

By the end of the fourth month it spread to their interactions off the set. He can never actually guess what is in Wang YiBo’s head, but it always feels that he is just one breath away from seeing it.

Xiao Zhan is always the first to avert his eyes. He laughs and stands up just in time when the staff of the show calls them all on stage. 

They leave the dressing room and he falls into step with Wang YiBo’s wide strides. He looks at him from the side and there is still a playful grin tugging on Wang Yibo’s lips.

“You really are such a kid sometimes, Bo-di,” Xiao Zhan can’t help but saying affectionately and is taken aback, when the smile falls from Wang YiBo’s face giving place to his usual composed expression.

“Can you stop calling me this?” he asks and it is a question only by the way it is phrased.

“You are joking about me being old―”

“That’s different, Xiao Zhan,” Wang YiBo says calmly, stopping and turning to him.

It is hardly the first time Wang YiBo has called him by his full name, but aside from the first few days after they were just introduced to one another, Wang YiBo has never used it anywhere but when he wanted to annoy Xiao Zhan. 

And neither it is the first time he’s asked Xiao Zhan to stop calling him that, but it never seemed serious, Xiao Zhan taking this as another part of their game.

He wonders now, why this time it is different. Or perhaps he just never paid enough attention to these requests…10

Right now, when Wang YiBo is standing in front of Xiao Zhan looking at him almost coldly, kid is the last word that comes to mind.

“I don’t mean it as anything bad11, YiBo, you should know that,” Xiao Zhan says quietly, still shocked by the sudden change in mood.

Wang YiBo looks at him for another moment and then turns toward the exit to the stage and starts walking again.

“YiBo?..” Xiao Zhan calls after him, confused.

“The show is about to begin, let’s go, Xiao-laoshi,” Wang YiBo answers, without looking at him.

Xiao Zhan catches up with him, thinks of grabbing his arm, to stop him and discuss this, but there is really no time.

“What’s wrong?” he just asks, and Wang YiBo doesn’t answer right away. Only when they reach the end of the corridor and about to step on the stage, he turns around, briefly looking at Xiao Zhan with an unreadable expression, and says,

“Nothing.” 

“Hey…” 

Wang Yibo walks out to the stage and Xiao Zhan follows. He smiles to the audience and to the cameras he can’t see but knows they are there. He looks at his friend, and Wang YiBo’s lips are curled in a smile, small but friendly enough, and when they take their respective places Xiao Zhan sees that it doesn’t reach his eyes.

Chapter Text

Xiao Zhan half expects Wang YiBo to be giving him a cold shoulder during the fan meeting, and he even feels somewhat ashamed that such thought appeared on his mind. Wang YiBo is his usual composed self, but his face is softening in the familiar way when he leans to Xiao Zhan to comment on something, and Xiao Zhan breathes out inwardly with relief ― the last thing he wants is to somehow damage the relationship they have established.

They play a Who will be the last one standing game on the stage and Xiao Zhan registers with some absendminded surprise, that the enjoyment he gets from this silly game is more from the way Wang YiBo is all fired up for this opportunity to have another competition, face lit up with a smile, rather than from Xiao Zhan’s own liking of the activity. 1

“We can try one more time, if you are not satisfied,” Wang YiBo suggests with a challenging glint in his eyes, after he pushes Xiao Zhan from the little platform, and Xiao Zhan takes the offer, like every time he agrees to another round of hot hands or rock-paper-scissors, always walking into this like he actually hopes to win this time, and he rarely does, but it is just so hard to say no , when Wang YiBo is looking at him so closely with that soft but dangerous smile, and Xiao Zhan should probably ask himself why.

They perform their song (and after The Untamed and all the times the two of them have sung it, it just feels natural to call it this way), and the smile Wang YiBo gives him in the end is as genuine as it can get, soft and happy and Xiao Zhan forgets all about the little quarrel (was it even a quarrel though?) they had before going on the stage. 2

The only time Wang YiBo gets tense and borderline angry (and Xiao Zhan can actually see this as such only because by now he can consider himself an expert in Wang YiBo’s subtle microexpressions) is when Xiao Zhan is asked about the size of his waist. Frankly, he finds the question quite ridiculous himself and doesn’t really understand why people might be interested in something like this. 

They both lost some weight during the filming and haven’t gotten it back yet, Wang YiBo looking much slimmer than when they just met a year ago, and Xiao Zhan’s own cheekbones seem even more protruding than usual. 3 Wang YiBo tends to forget he has to eat sometimes, too busy being busy, and Xiao Zhan has more than once caught himself thinking that he wants to just shove a bowl with some food under his nose and make sure the boy eats the whole thing. It is their age difference showing, Xiao Zhan thinks. When Wang YiBo is acting all silly, hungry for attention, as if he can’t get more than his share any given moment, it is hard not to want to take care of him somehow. 

Perhaps it is something similar with their fans. Who knows what goes through their heads, they might as well be genuinely worried about their idols losing too much weight.

Wang YiBo apparently doesn’t find this question acceptable and almost snarks at their host. 4

“Don’t be like that,” Xiao Zhan tells him, leaning closer. “It is a live broadcast, YiBo, don’t do this. 5

Wang YiBo winces in annoyance and looks down with a polite tense smile.

“Don’t blame me. It’s how he is.”

“Just say I’m thin,” Xiao Zhan says, smiling, attempting to soothe him.

“Yeah,” Wang YiBo shrugs dismissively.

Xiao Zhan can’t say he approves of the way the boy did it, but he has to admit, that Wang YiBo standing up for him, even for such a silly thing, is flattering. 

Several ridiculous games, many questions and one awkward face-to-face meeting with two of their fans later the show is finally over and Xiao Zhan realises that he is actually tired. 

His cheeks hurt from all the smiling he did, both from feeling genuinely joyful and consciously trying to keep a polite face answering his fan’s questions. Those smiles are not really fake, but they are more a skill he has acquired rather than something natural. He doesn’t disapprove of Wang YiBo’s impassive expression when he is talking about something that holds close to none interest to him, but Xiao Zhan doesn’t have it in himself to act the same. It is not others’ fault if he is tired or not in a mood sometimes, he still tries to treat everyone the same, being similarly polite and nice to everyone. 

He doesn’t hate it but it drains him and he can’t wait to get out of the stage and into his hotel room, where he can scowl all he wants, and maybe play some mobile games with Wang YiBo or just let the boy pester him, if he so desires.

He breathes out heavily once they leave the stage and rubs at his eyes. Wang YiBo is frowning beside him when Xiao Zhan lowers his hand. He raises his brow in question, but Wang YiBo seems not to notice it, storming ahead of everyone toward the dressing rooms, and Xiao Zhan just closes his eyes for a moment, sighs again and follows quickly.

“YiBo,” he calls, and Wang YiBo stops in front of one of the doors, turning to Xiao Zhan and giving him a dark stare. “Oh, c’mon, Lao Wang, what is it else that I said that made you so unhappy?” Xiao Zhan asks with a roll of his eyes.

“What nonsense was that?” Wang YiBo asks angrily, gesturing toward the stage and taking a step closer to Xiao Zhan.

“What do you mean?”

“They must warn us if they are going to ask questions like that live!”

Xiao Zhan runs a hand through his hair and sighs.

“That waist question again? It was―” Fine , he wants to say, but Wang YiBo interrupts him.

“Once they start asking personal questions like that, there won’t be any end to this. Your ideal person, how would you confess… 6 What will they ask next, who you sleep with?!” Wang YiBo hisses, looking in the space behind Xiao Zhan, his usual cold expression in place but Xiao Zhan can see the light tightening around the corners of his lips, and he is taken aback both from the unexpected outburst itself and from how Wang YiBo seems genuinely upset over this.

“I don’t―” He starts automatically, but cuts himself short, shaking his head. “YiBo, it’s fine, fans always want to know such things,” he says softly, putting his hand on Wang YiBo’s shoulder.

“Doesn’t mean they can ask about this.”

Xiao Zhan clicks his tongue, upset, and tries for a small smile tilting his head attempting to catch Wang YiBo’s gaze. “It really was fine, YiBo.”

“It wasn’t. This is inappropriate,” Wang YiBo answers, finally looking up at him. From what Xiao Zhan can see he is not about to change his mind and Xiao Zhan is too exhausted from the two hours of social interactions to keep arguing with him. He wipes the smile off his face and pushes past Wang YiBo, opening the door to the dressing room.

“I don’t recall you ever having a problem with personal questions,” he says tiredly walking inside and making a beeline toward a small table with water bottles. He can hear Wang YiBo huffing, while he opens one bottle and chunks a half of it in one go.

“They didn’t ask me! ” Wang YiBo says in frustration, and Xiao Zhan looks at him in surprise.

“What, Wang-laoshi is upset he wasn’t asked about his ideal girl?” Zheng FanXing enters the room with a bright smile and looks curiously between them. 

“He doesn’t need anyone, he has his motorcycle.” Yu Bin walks in and winks at Wang YiBo, throwing one arm around his shoulders.

Wang YiBo pushes his hand away, giving him a silent stare, throws a glance at Xiao Zhan and silently exits the room leaving the three of them staring blankly after him.

“Wow, what’s that death glare for?” Yu Bin finally asks, turning to Xiao Zhan, and Xiao Zhan just shrugs, dropping himself in one of the nearest chairs. 

“No idea,” he answers honestly, lowering his eyes to the floor and frowning. What has gotten into the boy today?..

“What were you arguing about?” 

Xiao Zhan just shakes his head dismissively, rising up from the chair and walking toward the door.

“They were arguing? ” Zheng FanXing asks Yu Bin shockingly. “You were arguing?!” he repeats to Xiao Zhan. “Like, for real?!”

Xiao Zhan would’ve questioned the shocked expression on the boy’s face if he wasn’t so surprised himself. It hardly even counts as a real argument, he tells himself, just Wang YiBo being unexpectedly moody. 

He passes the rest of the former The Untamed cast in the corridor, checks another dressing room and a bathroom, and finally finds Wang YiBo standing near the back exit, phone in his hand. 

“Look at this,” Wang YiBo tells him when Xiao Zhan comes closer, turning his phone to him. There is a Weibo post on the screen with a video showing a crowd standing near a building that looks disturbingly familiar. 

“Is this?..” Xiao Zhan raises his brows and looks up from the phone at Wang YiBo.

“Yeah, seems like they all are waiting for us outside now,” Wang YiBo says, nodding. 

“Wow,” Xiao Zhan can only say, shaking his head. “Good thing we’ve got our own bus to take us all back to the hotel.” 

Wang YiBo pulls his phone back, taps on the screen a few times and then lowers his hand raising his head to look at Xiao Zhan.

“I’m not waiting, I’m going now,” he says.

“Going now—” Xiao Zhan takes a step forward and tilts his head, looking at his friend in disbelief. “YiBo, there are hundreds of your fans outside, you can’t just―”

Wang YiBo shrugs and waves a hand with the phone in it in the space between them. “I ordered a taxi.” 

“A taxi…” Xiao Zhan repeats, blinking at him. “Are you serious? Your manager is gonna freak out.” 

“I’ll drop a message once I’m in a car.”

Xiao Zhan searches Wang YiBo’s face for the traces of the boy just messing up with him, but doesn’t find any, and he sighs, stepping back and sagging against a wall across.

“A taxi won’t be able to get inside the territory, you’ll need to walk all the way to the street,” he says. “They won’t leave a piece of you.”

“I’ll just do it before they can catch me,” Wang YiBo answers and a corner of his mouth curls up in a start of a smirk. Finally.

“What, Wang YiBo, you are going to jog all the way there?” Xiao Zhan asks with a smirk of his own.

Wang YiBo looks at him pointedly, grins and takes a step to the side, revealing a skateboard propped against the wall behind him. 

Xiao Zhan lets out a breathy laugh and shakes his head in amusement. “Of course,” he says, looking up at Wang YiBo’s smug face. Wang YiBo wiggles his brows, pulling another laugh from Xiao Zhan, and he claps his hands once, deciding, and looks Wang YiBo in the eye. “Alright, I’m going with you,” he says determinedly.

Wang YiBo looks at him in a mild surprise and shakes his head.

“You don’t have to, Zhan-ge, just wait for others.”

“You can’t get rid of me that easily, YiBo.”

“Who said I want to get rid of you?” Wang YiBo asks with a smirk and a tilt of his brow, making Xiao Zhan look to the side with a smile. “If you are going with me you’ll have to run, Xiao-laoshi,” the boy adds in a sly voice.

“But, Lao Wang, I am too old for this,” Xiao Zhan whines arranging his face in a tragic grimace, that only makes a grin on Wang YiBo’s face get even slier. “Can’t we just walk?”

“It is more efficient on skateboard. And who just said something about fans not leaving a single piece of us?”

Xiao Zhan opens his mouth to retort, but doesn’t find any good argument, and has to shut it. There is a victorious expression on Wang YiBo’s face and Xiao Zhan just winces and sticks his tongue out.

“Alright, you go on the skateboard and I will distract them,” he says finally, dropping his fist into his open palm, and nods to himself.

“How’s that better?” Wang YiBo asks in disbelief, and Xiao Zhan straightens up, raising his head and pressing a hand to his chest.

“It will be an honorable sacrifice,” he says and Wang YiBo huffs and shoves his shoulder lightly.

“You are ruining my perfect plan, Zhan-ge,” he says with a pout and Xiao Zhan laughs.

“What made you plan perfect? I can see at least a dozen of flaws in it.”

“The skateboard!” Wang YiBo answers heatedly, pointing at the item in question. “The skateboard made it perfect.”

“Can’t believe you love you skateboard more than your gege, Wang YiBo,” Xiao Zhan draws his name, clicking his tongue and shaking his head disapprovingly. 

Wang YiBo gapes at him for a moment, then takes a step forward and suddenly hits Xiao Zhan’s arm hard.

“Hey! What’s that for?!” Xiao Zhan steps back, nursing the offended arm and gives Wang YiBo his best betrayed look. “I bet you don’t hit your precious skateboard! Ouch!” Wang YiBo bares his teeth at him and hits him two more times before withdrawing back.

“Fine! No skateboard!” he finally says, eyes throwing daggers at Xiao Zhan, but the corners of his lips are trembling slightly holding back a smile, and Xiao Zhan knows he is not actually angry at him. “The things I do for you!” he adds accusatory and Xiao Zhan needs to make an effort not to burst into laughter.

He straightens up, wipes the smile off his face and says as serious as he can manage, “I will keep the memory of this day when Lao Wang chose me over his skateboard close to my heart for the rest of my life.” He does a ninety degrees bow and gets a light slap on the back of his head for his trouble, not that he didn’t actually expect it.

“Can’t believe you are six years older than me, Zhan-ge,” Wang YiBo deadpans. 

“I’m just very good at getting down to your level― Ouch! Okay, okay, I deserved this.”

The notification of a taxi arriving that comes to Wang YiBo’s phone saves Xiao Zhan from being beat up more. Wang YiBo picks up his skateboard and looks at Xiao Zhan.

“Ready?”

“Where’s the car?”

“Should be around the corner to the left.”

Xiao Zhan lets out a breath and nods. Wang YiBo is smiling mischievously when he pushes the door open and steps outside.They are halfway to the gates from the parking lot when the crowd of their fans notices them. Xiao Zhan has a brief moment to think that it was probably a bad idea, when Wang YiBo grabs his wrist and starts running, and Xiao Zhan has no choice but to follow. He is pretty sure if not for the screaming of fans he would hear Wang YiBo’s cracking laughter. 

They ran through the gates, taking a sharp turn on the street. Xiao Zhan throws a quick look over his shoulder, feeling his eyes widen when he sees all that crowd running after them, and some impish urge, that probably just transferred to him from Wang YiBo through skin contact of his fingers around Xiao Zhan’s wrist, makes him raise his free hand and wave briefly at the fans.

There is another surge of excited screeching behind them, and Xiao Zhan looks up at the boy pulling him forward. 

Wang YiBo glances back at him briefly with a wide happy smile, and Xiao Zhan can’t move his eyes away.

Chapter Text

“So, why exactly did you run off like that?” Xiao Zhan asks as soon as they are in the hotel and the elevator doors close, cutting them off from possible curious eyes and ears.

“I didn’t run off.”

“Hm.”

They get to their floor and head toward their rooms at the end of the floor. Xiao Zhan is not particularly happy raising this topic, whatever topic it actually is, but as much as he counts himself familiar with Wang YiBo’s possible trigger points, the reaction the boy showed today is something Xiao Zhan has never actually seen. There is a natural curiosity in this, sure, but mostly he is worried that there is something he is missing that is bringing his friend discomfort. 

“What made you so worked up, YiBo? The motorcycle comment?” he asks when they reach the door to Wang YiBo’s room. Wang YiBo searches the inner pockets of his jacket, pulls out a key card and opens the door.

“Enough that my fans say I’m married to my motorcycle, I don’t want people I know to be saying that too.” He opens the door, entering the room and after a brief hesitation Xiao Zhan follows, closing the door behind him.

“You bring up your motorcycle in every conversation and interview, YiBo, no wonder such jokes are in place,” Xiao Zhan says with a soft chuckle.

Wang YiBo drops the key card on the small table in the corner and finally turns to Xiao Zhan. He frowns lightly just for a brief moment and then tilts a brow skeptically.

“I bring up you in every conversation and interview, I don’t hear them joking around that,” he says in a low voice, almost angrily. He leaves his skateboard in the corner and takes off his jacket, throwing it on the bed.

Xiao Zhan can only look at him with wide eyes before he realises that the boy is actually serious, and he shakes his head.

“You know why, YiBo,” he says slowly, trying to deliver a point that he knows won’t be heard anyway. He hesitates and then adds, “You’ve seen what they post on Weibo, it is not really something to joke about.”1  

Wang YiBo works his jaw, without looking at Xiao Zhan and then reaches to take off his necklace.

“Forget it,” he says flatly, putting a necklace on the table. He takes off his shirt, dropping it on the floor and heads toward the small bathroom. “I’m going to take a shower.”

“YiBo, wait.” Xiao Zhan’s call falls on the deaf ears, when Wang YiBo enters the bathroom without sparing him an extra glance. “What’s gotten into you?” Xiao Zhan mumbles, but loud enough for Wang YiBo to hear, and he turns around briefly, giving Xiao Zhan a look of utter disbelief, before closing the door.

Xiao Zhan hears him turning on the water in the shower, and he drops himself in the only chair in the room, sagging against it, and stares blankly at the closed bathroom door.

He feels completely lost, almost disoriented. The feeling that there is something just on the very edge of his vision that he is entirely missing is extremely uncomfortable. 

He is caught in the unfamiliar feeling of the conversation being preliminary cut off. And for the third time in just one day! 

He realises that Wang YiBo is shutting him off, something that has never happened before. He is so used to this smooth comradery they’ve established, this comfortable almost natural presence on the edges of each other’s personal spaces, that he’s been taking it for granted, and now suddenly not understanding what the other feels except from seeing clearly that it is something that is bringing him discomfort he is unsure what to do with it. 

Not getting a straight answer from Wang YiBo is strange. For a generally few worded person he is quite open once asked something directly. He is just confident enough in himself to not be afraid to calmly admit in front of the cameras that he is afraid of the dark and has to keep the lights on in order to sleep peacefully — something that Xiao Zhan has only recently learned to his great surprise and not what everyone would be so easily open about and generally not something to expect from a person with a reputation of a badass boy. 

And he’s been even more open with Xiao Zhan, allowing him way more than other people, ever since… well, pretty much the first week they met. It has always felt so natural, so normal, that Xiao Zhan has never thought it might change one day, and he doesn’t know what to think, what to do. Should he give the boy space? Or should he try to fish for answers? 

Lost in his musings Xiao Zhan doesn't notice the sound of shower disappearing and looks up only when the bathroom door opens and Wang YiBo steps into the room. His wet hair is brushed back and he has a towel wrapped around his hips. He is quite a sight, but Xiao Zhan figures it would be a bad time to bring that up now. 

Wang YiBo throws a quick glance at him, seemingly not surprised that Xiao Zhan is still here. He drags the covers off the bed, slips under the blanket, shuffles a little and pulls his towel out, throwing it on the floor. 2  

“Hey, man, what’s bothering you,” Xiao Zhan starts quietly. “And don’t say nothing, cause that would be a lie.”

Wang YiBo watches him for a moment and then shrugs and rolls to his side, his back to Xiao Zhan. 

“You don’t want to know,” he says in a flat voice and Xiao Zhan wishes he could see the boy’s face at the moment. 

He worries his lip, opening and closing his mouth, hesitant of what to say. Wang YiBo is silent, unnaturally so, like he is barely breathing, waiting for Xiao Zhan’s next move, and the thought that the boy is keeping himself so tense in Xiao Zhan’s presence is a bitter taste on the back of his tongue. 

“YiBo, please talk to me, I just want to help,” Xiao Zhan finally says quietly. 

“Why?” 

“I don’t like seeing your upset like that.”

“Why?”

Xiao Zhan shrugs and smiles, although Wang YiBo can’t see it. “You are my friend,” he says. 

Apparently it is a wrong thing to say, because Wang YiBo tugs his blanket over his head, completely hiding himself from the view. 

“It’s nothing. It will pass. Eventually.” 

Xiao Zhan is watching the bundle on the bed, waiting for something else, anything, but there is nothing. His eyes sting and he rubs at them surprised when his hand meets dampness. 

They have never even had a single argument, not serious at least and there were plenty of opportunities, that with their tight stressful schedule, with Wang YiBo being as stubborn, annoying and clingy as a spoiled cat (and the fact that the boy keeps insisting he is more like a puppy frankly never fails to amuse Xiao Zhan). 

In fact their friendship has been so smooth XZ can’t remember ever having such kind of trusting relationship with anyone else. And now Wang YiBo is shutting him out and refusing to speak with him. 

Xiao Zhan knows that if he lets this slide they will continue as usual, and only this one mysterious topic seems to apparently be prohibited to be raised between them. Something that has never happened before in more than a year they’ve known each other. 

There is a honeymoon phase in any kind of relationships. 

Guess, here is where their ends. 

Xiao Zhan silently gets up and picks up the discarded towel from the floor. He folds it and hangs it on the drier in the bathroom. Back in the room he turns on the TV and finds a sports channel, making sure the volume is set on three, only then turning off the lights. 3  

Throwing a glance at Wang YiBo who hasn’t even moved since he cocooned himself in his blanket, he whispers,  “Sleep well, didi” and leaves the room. 

 

Chapter Text

 

Next morning Xiao Zhan wakes up to the horde of silly pictures practically swarming his chat with Wang YiBo. At least a part of them are memes made of Wang YiBo’s photos and all of them look ridiculous and ridiculously cute. Just the right measure of cuteness that Xiao Zhan recognises them as Wang YiBo’s wordless apology. Because if Wang Yibo hates something, it is looking adorable, and if he went to such lengths as to find all those pictures and send them to Xiao Zhan voluntarily, it only means that the boy feels very, very sorry about his behavior last day.1 And also that he is under no circumstances ready to discuss this in actual words.

Closing the topic is not really something Xiao Zhan wants to do, but he accepts Wang YiBo’s apology, sending him a couple of smiley emojis as a reply. He doesn’t really think though there is something the boy should apologise for. If anything, Xiao Zhan feels that it is he who failed Wang YiBo somehow, not earning enough trust for the boy to open to him about his worries. 

But it can’t be helped, Wang YiBo is good in not speaking about something he doesn’t really want to, and neither of them mention what happened when they meet for their next interview.

Days fly by, filled with photoshoots, interviews and different shows. They practice the short dances they need to perform in between, 2 they don’t really need to practice the singing part ― they still seem to be as in sync as they were last year. 3 They answer what seems to be the same questions over and over again, Xiao Zhan losing track already of how many times he has been asked about his ideal partner and he feels that he starts making things up, losing any consistency in what he is saying.

They are being requested to praise each other more times than each of them can stand to say the say words ― perfect, handsome, cute 4 etc ― without them starting to lose any meaning. 5  

Their fans get even more excited about their smallest interactions to the point when Xiao Zhan is afraid to look at Wang YiBo for too long without making their fans scream in excitement. It is draining, and even more draining trying to keep Wang YiBo somewhat in check, not that he actually can, the boy seemingly not caring how some of his words might be interpreted by the audience.6  

Enough already that Wang YiBo chose That Boy as the song he claims to associate with Xiao Zhan ― something, Xiao Zhan can’t find any explanation for other than Wang YiBo enjoying living on an edge and trying to drag Xiao Zhan there as well. 7   

But it comes with being in the focus of Wang YiBo’s almost undivided attention, and Xiao Zhan has to admit that it is definitely worth it. 

And then there is that photoshoot they are doing for Bazaar. 

The make-up artists put their hair up from their faces and add a few longer fake strands aiming for that not so modern but not quite The Untamed look for them. And Xiao Zhan has seen YiBo with his hair up when he was wearing that long Lan WangJi wig on the set, so it is not like the view of his bare forehead is something new, and there is nothing special about his forehead in particular. But that dischieveld hairstyle creates an almost ethereal look, and on top of Wang YiBo’s smiles ― wide and open and a bit smug as if he is particularly proud of himself for making some joke only he knows about ― when he is nagging Xiao Zhan repeating non stop in that teasing manner how handsome Zhan-ge is, Xiao Zhan is met with an unexpected urge to reach and destroy the carefully created hairstyle, in order to pull Wang YiBo’s hair back on his face, hide that careful fairy-like makeup, if only to have a little piece of mind to actually reflect on why exactly it is so distracting for him now. 8

Yu Bin inviting them all into a bar-restaurant to get sloshed as he phrased it in their group chat is to be frank long awaited break from all those different kinds of performance in front of the cameras. Wang YiBo seems to also be almost scarily enthusiastic about that, threatening with a one sided smirk to drink so much, Zhan-ge will have to carry me, it will be like that time, but the other way around, you owe me, ge!

Xiao Zhan can only laugh at the boy’s excitement, figuring he needs this opportunity to just be himself and mess around.

The other actors are already there when Xiao Zhan and Wang YiBo arrive. They are teased for always being the last ones, then someone shoves a drink in his hand, Wang YiBo grins wickedly ordering more cocktails than his weight, Yu Bin manages to talk to everyone at ones and Xiao Zhan relaxes in his chair, feeling like he is almost back on the set of The Untamed (minus drinks).

Yu Bin is the one setting the mood as it often happens when they gather together, 9 and when Wang YiBo downs his third cocktail he joins him in creating ruckus. Drunk Wang YiBo is tenfold maddening 10 and Xiao Zhan is having a hard time keeping up with him while fighting his own drowsiness. 11  

After a few rounds someone suggest Truth or Dare and they all are tipsy enough to agree. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) they are already too drunk to keep any consistency in the game, constantly slipping off the topic, starting to talk about something else, distracted, and after some time the game just turns into dare requests or uncomfortable questions thrown randomly at each other. 

Xiao Zhan’s cheeks hurt from non-stop smiling, and Wang YiBo’s cracking laughter is stuck in his ears. He loses track of how much the boy drinks, barely having enough presence of mind to keep an eye on the amount of alcohol he himself is consuming, only because he knows that if he exceeds his limit he will fall asleep where he is sitting and will miss all the fun (and Wang YiBo will probably not let him live it down, ever). 

Wang YiBo is downing one cocktail after another, getting more talkative and inpatient with each of them, and Xiao Zhan has never actually seen him drink that much. He muses absentmindedly if he probably should try to stop the boy before he gets sick, considering that with his body weight it is already surprising that he is still standing, but once he finally gathers his sleepy thoughts and makes the decision, Yu Bin is daring Wang YiBo for a dance on the table ( on the table?! Did Xiao Zhan hear this correctly?!) and with Wang YiBo’s competitive spirit the result is predictable. They barely have time to move the empty dishes and their drinks away, when Wang YiBo hops on the table and starts searching for something on his phone with an expression too mischevious for all this to end well. 

Xiao Zhan has to raise his head to see him, because of course Wang YiBo has chosen the spot right in front of him, and Xiao Zhan’s head is way too comfortable leaning now on the back of his seat and he has to make a tremendous effort not to fall asleep now, because Wang YiBo is swaying on his feet and Xiao Zhan prefers to have some presence of mind to dodge him when he decides to fall down (Xiao Zhan would probably try to catch him if he was a bit more sober, but with such an amount of alcohol in his system he can only care for one person at once). 

Wang YiBo finally finds what he has been looking for, and when Xiao Zhan hears a familiar music he covers his face with his hands and groans. Groan quickly turns into a silly giggling, but that often happens, when you are drunk, so he just lets it.

Something falls on the floor breaking, whistles and laughs fill the room, and Yu Bin is tearing Xiao Zhan’s hands off his face right on time for him to see Wang YiBo falling down on his knees and making obscene moves with his hips while the UNIQ’s EOEO is playing on his phone. 

Only that in the original dance Wang YiBo was just tugging his shirt up for a brief moment to show his abs to hungry fans, and not pulling it off completely, like he does now. 

“I said dance , Wang-laoshi, not a lap- dance,” Yu Bin says cheerfully, and Xiao Zhan feels his ears burn, probably both for himself and for the shameless boy wiggling on the table in front of him. 12   

“I’m multitasking, baby!” Wang YiBo yells drunkenly to the ceiling and laughs like a goblin, that ruins the sexy image he is obviously aiming for but, frankly, not too much.  Xiao Zhan praises Yu Bin inwardly for arranging for them to have this closed room where no one else can see them. 

“It’s even better this way,” someone says drunkenly and Xiao Zhan’s alcoholised part of the brain eagerly agrees, to his own surprise and mortification.

Wang YiBo is spinning his shirt above his head and Xiao Zhan notices that his eyes are fixed on Xiao Zhan only now, because he has been too distracted by the way Wang YiBo is licking his lips.13 Apparently alcohol on top of making him sleepy, now does weird things to the part of his brain responsible for his sexual orientation. Or maybe it is just Wang YiBo. Wouldn’t be the first time when he makes Xiao Zhan stretch the limits of his beliefs. Anyway, definitely not something he is ready to think about in such an intoxicated state.  

He shakes his head, willing some clearness into his foggy mind, but to no avail. Wang YiBo finally gets tired or, probably just dizzy, and sits back on his heels, stretching to reach for a drink, and this time Xiao Zhan gets distracted by the boy’s abs. Not his fault ― it is literally on an arm's length right in front of him, and he can swear Yu Bin is shamelessly ogling Wang YiBo’s half naked form as well. 

The thought suddenly makes Xiao Zhan sad and he shakes his head again, sending curses to his alcoholised brain.

He stands up, grabbing on Wang YiBo’s shoulder for the balance, but quickly recovers and makes it look like he is shoving Wang YiBo away from the reach of glasses with cocktails. 

“Heey, Zhan-ge,” Wang Yibo draws with a sly smile, looking up at him and licking his lips again. “Dance with me, Zhan-ge!” He says and winks, or attempts to, alcohol apparently also affecting his already poor abilities in this area. 14 He then grabs Xiao Zhan’s arm and tries to pull him up on the table to join him.

Xiao Zhan stands his ground and closes his eyes for a moment, willing his brain functions in some sort of an order. 

“I’m too drunk, YiBo,” he says, picking up Wang YiBo’s shirt from the table and putting it around the boy’s neck. “You too are too drunk. Too...” He lifts one of Wang YiBo’s arms not without effort shoving it in a shirt’s sleeve, and Wang YiBo just lets him dress him, while not tearing his gaze from Xiao Zhan’s face. 

“Zhan-geee. Hey, Zhan-geee.” Xiao Zhan hears him say but doesn’t react, too concentrated on putting Wang YiBo’s other arm in the shirt sleeve. It is a big miscalculation from his side, because he gets a sharp “Gege!” right in his ear next, and flinches back, almost tripping over his chair. Wang YiBo licks his lips again, and raises his hands to lock them behind Xiao Zhan’s neck. “Carry me, Zhan-ge,” he says and then suddenly pouts, blinking at Xiao Zhan with unfocused eyes. Xiao Zhan hums and pets Wang YiBo’s head, that earns him an angry growl and a hit on his arm. Well at least it solves the problem of Wang YiBo apparently having an intention to just hang on him.

“You could dance, Wang YiBo, you can walk on your own,” Xiao Zhan says, tugging him off the table. He slaps his own cheeks twice, trying to force the sleepiness out of his system. It helps, but not much. Wang YiBo cracks a laugh and, apparently feeling encouraged by Xiao Zhan’s example, adds a couple of light slaps of his own to Xiao Zhan’s already burning cheeks, giggling, and then wraps himself around Xiao Zhan’s arm, making him almost lose his footing. “We’re off. I can’t drink more,” Xiao Zhan tells the others, but only Yu Bin seems to actually notice. He stands up, walks to them and claps Xiao Zhan on the not occupied shoulder, making him sway dangerously.

“I’ll go with you. Help you with this.” He gestures at Wang YiBo who at the moment is definitely more “this” than a human being. 

They leave the bar and untangle Wang YiBo from Xiao Zhan’s arm to accommodate his weight more efficiently and without it threatening to pull Xiao Zhan down on the ground. Xiao Zhan has Wang YiBo’s arm around his neck and is holding him across his waist. The hotel is just a few minutes down the street and fortunately their fans don’t know where they are staying and it is dark enough outside for no one to recognise them.

They start walking slowly, Wang YiBo is dragging his feet and humming something under his nose. Xiao Zhan is sure the boy can walk normally and probably just wants to give his poor drunk gege a hard time. 

“Do you think he is like Lan WangJi when he is drunk?” Yu Bin asks suddenly, and Xiao Zhan looks at him in question above Wang YiBo’s hung head. “I mean, can ask him anything and he would answer,” Yu Bin clarifies. He sounds disgustingly sober and Xiao Zhan hates him a little bit now, when he has to fight the fog in his head just to stay conscious. 

Wang YiBo hums louder and Xiao Zhan recognise the That Boy song. Because, of course. Lost in his thoughts Wang YiBo also starts putting more of his weight on Xiao Zhan rather than on his own feet, and Xiao Zhan pinches his waist, forcing a yelp from the boy.

“If you don’t help, we both will fall, Wang YiBo!” he says in annoyance. He is getting more and more sleepy with every passing minute and it starts to bring up a grumpy side of him.

Wang YiBo groans, displeased, but takes some weight off Xiao Zhan.

“He usually answers everything anyway,” Xiao Zhan mumbles sleepily.

“But he doesn’t like some.”

“Yeah,” Xiao Zhan nods. Yu Bin grins and looks at Wang YiBo curiously.

“I bet he will answer now.”

Xiao Zhan just shrugs, as much as the extra weight on his shoulder allows it. “What’d you wanna ask?”

Yu Bin winks at him and then looks back at Wang YiBo, shaking his shoulder a bit until the boy raises his head to look at him.

“Hey, Wang-laoshi, everyone is asking Xiao-laoshi about his ideal partner, tell us about yours!” he says enthusiastically.15

Wang YiBo actually straightens up a bit on that, and Xiao Zhan expects him to dodge the question.

“My ideal partner?” he repeats slowly, and Yu Bin nods. Wang YiBo suddenly pulls the arm that has been around Xiao Zhan’s neck back, and says heatedly, “They gotta be perfect !” He screams the last word and Xiao Zhan winces at the loud sound, almost instinctively shoving Wang YiBo’s shoulder, and Yu Bin has to catch a laughing boy and return him in the vertical position.

Wang YiBo hits both of them (Yu Bin apparently for good measure) pursing his lips angrily. But at least now his is walking on his own, and Xiao Zhan takes the opportunity to stretch his neck.

“Figures,” Xiao Zhan says, smirking, but Wang YiBo doesn’t hear it, going on,

“They gotta be really, really nice, super kind. Cause I’m not nice so they gotta be better than me.” He nods to emphasise his words and Xiao Zhan looks at him in interest. He sounds a bit childish, with those intonations that he adopts sometimes when he is trying to annoy Xiao Zhan, but this time he sounds the earnest Xiao Zhan has ever heard him, just stating those facts, seemingly not being too upset over thinking he might be not good enough. 

Xiao Zhan wants to argue, but Wang YiBo raises his head, looking up with a bright almost dreamy smile, saying,

“And they gotta make me laugh. They should make me smile.” He turns to Xiao Zhan and he would forget that Wang YiBo is drunk, if not for how hard he can see the boy works to keep his eyes focused on Xiao Zhan’s face. “I like smiling,” he adds and this somehow sounds like he is confessing something personal, that he wouldn’t so easily admit out loud at any other time. 

“What about motorcycles?” Yu Bin asks, and Wang YiBo turns sharply to him, almost losing his footing, and Xiao Zhan has to grab his elbow to prevent him from falling on his face. 

“They gotta love motorcycles, man!” Wang YiBo says enthusiastically, not even noticing that he was just a second away from damaging his precious money maker. He shakes Yu Bin’s shoulder violently, apparently not able to contain his joy of thinking about his future partner sharing his hobby. “They can be my second number if they can’t ride themselves.”16 He nods to himself and adds, “And they gotta like skateboard. And video games.” Xiao Zhan is snickering behind his hand at this point and he can only admire Yu Bin’s self control for keeping his laughter at bay and nodding seriously to everything Wang YiBo tells him. “But they gotta be a worse player than I am, like Zhan-ge, cause I don’t like losing―”

“Hey, Wang YiBo!”

“―or they can let me win, that’ll be fine too,” Wang YiBo adds with a wide grin, looking especially satisfied with himself.

“Look at you being such a nice and loving person, Wang YiBo,” Xiao Zhan says sarcastically still a bit hurt by Wang YiBo bringing him as an example of a shitty player.

Wang YiBo turns to him, and Xiao Zhan expects a sarcastic retort as it usually happens between them, but he forgets to take Wang YiBo’s drunken state into an account, so the face that looks up at him is nothing but sincere. 

“But I will love them very much...” Wang YiBo says heatedly like he is trying to prove a point. “So very very much!”  He sniffs, searches Xiao Zhan’s face for something and adds, tugging at Xiao Zhan’s sleeve, “I can love very much!” 

Wang YiBo somehow looks worried after saying this, like he is unsure that Xiao Zhan believes him, like he expects Xiao Zhan to question his ability to really love someone.

“I don’t doubt you will,” Yu Bin says before Xiao Zhan can come up with an answer. “If they are so nice and perfect...” Yu Bin trails off and chuckles. 

“I’ll love them so much!” Wang YiBo goes on, seemingly lost in his thoughts. He is looking in the space behind Xiao Zhan’s shoulder, and Xiao Zhan has to pay extra attention not to faceplant them both in a lampost. “And they gotta go snowboarding with me too…” Wang YiBo suddenly wiggles out of Xiao Zhan’s grip and takes hold of the front of his shirt instead, focusing on his eyes. “Zhan-ge, are we going snowboarding or not, ge, why didn’t you go with me?!” He emphasise his words with a shake and a pout and Xiao Zhan has to grab the boy’s shoulders to stabilize the both of them.

“Stop shaking me, Wang YiBo, you make my head spin!” He has to close his eyes for a brief moment to wait for the dizziness to lessen a bit. “My schedule didn’t allow me, remember?” He says. “We can try another time.”17

Wang YiBo looks at him for another moment, and then drops his arms to his sides and lowers his head.

“I will always be alone,” he says darkly, and Xiao Zhan exchanges surprised glances with Yu Bin.

“Because you set your expectations too high, Wang-laoshi,” Yu Bin says, giving the boy a brief pet on the back.

“Right?!” Wang YiBo cries, turning to Yu Bin. “There is no one better than Zhan-ge,” he says heatedly, “and gege doesn’t love me so I will always be alone…”

Yu Bin’s eyes widen and he looks at Xiao Zhan with uncertain expression on his face. It takes Xiao Zhan’s slow drunk brain another second to process what Wang YiBo just said, and he says, “Ah,” that comes out as a pained gasp, closes his eyes and gives himself another two slaps on the cheeks. 

“Hey, YiBo, we are almost there, let’s go, you need to sleep it off, didi.” Xiao Zhan wraps his fingers around Wang YiBo’s elbow again and urges the boy to resume walking. “And me too…” he adds.

Wang YiBo turns to him and attempts to wrap his arms around Xiao Zhan’s neck again.

“Carry me, ge. Gege, carry me! Zhan-geee!”

Xiao Zhan sighs and helps the boy to climb on his back, supporting him under his knees. Wang YiBo is not too heavy, but Xiao Zhan is not an athlete either, and he is drunk and sleepy, so this might be a bad idea, but he knows Wang YiBo won’t stop his Zhan-ge until he gets what he wants. 

“Just don’t puke on me, YiBo,” Xiao Zhan grumbles and starts walking.

“I never puke!” Wang YiBo says a bit too loud and a bit too close to Xiao Zhan’s ear, and he sounds so proud of the fact, like it is his personal achievement.

“Not true, you puked on the set last year,” Yu Bin says.

“He got sick on set?”

“You didn’t know? He arrived late from Produce 101 and they filmed till three in the morning or so, and he got sick. I wasn’t there, the director told me after. He went to the hospital and apparently it was just an exhaustion,” Yu Bin explains casually and then looks at Xiao Zhan with surprise. 18 “He didn’t tell you?”

Xiao Zhan shakes his head, suddenly feeling a long delayed and not even relevant anymore worry for the boy on his back. He realises he was too preoccupied with his own exhaustion from the heat and having to work between two sets last summer, that he never actually considered that Wang YiBo might have been working himself to the bone.

“No,” he says quietly.

Wang YiBo sighs heavily and presses his face in the crook of Xiao Zhan’s neck. “I won’t dare puke on Zhan-ge…” he mumbles against his skin, sending shivers down Xiao Zhan’s spine.

Xiao Zhan clears his throat and shakes off the sudden awkwardness the feeling of Wang YiBo’s breath on his skin gives him.

The three of them reach the hotel in silence, Xioa Zhan starting to feel a bit less dizzy after a short walk in the fresh air. Wang YiBo is quietly humming that song again, and Xiao Zhan nods goodbye to Yu Bin when they arrive at their floor. 

He contemplates for a moment before Wang YiBo’s room, whether it is worth the hassle to bother the boy and ask him for his keycard, but then the soft humming is interrupted by a quiet wet whimper and Xiao Zhan only now registers that his neck feels damp.

“YiBo, are you crying?!” he asks in a worry, trying to unwrap Wang YiBo’s arms to put the boy down so he can look at his face, but Wang YiBo is holding tight.

“N-no,” the boy answers and shakes his head, only making it more obvious that he is indeed crying. 

Xiao Zhan swallows, feeling almost terrified at the fact. Except for that one scene they did last year, he has never seen Wang YiBo cry. Technically, he didn’t even see it even then, as his role required him to be lying still with his eyes closed. Quite frankly he has been sure the boy never cries, having such thick skin, that nothing can get to him through it. It is most likely to blame on the alcohol, but still, Wang YiBo was cheerful and happy just a few moments ago.

Xiao Zhan makes a decision and heads to his own room. He has to let go of one of Wang YiBo’s legs to pull his key card out of his jeans pocket, and Wang YiBo trying to wrap his freed leg around Xiao Zhan’s waist like a monkey makes this mundane task twice more difficult. 

“Don’t cry, Bo-di,” Xiao Zhan says once they are finally in the room, and having failed to make Wang YiBo put his legs on the floor, he sits them both down on the bed. He urgently recollects what they talked about on their way to the hotel, in order to find what possibly could have triggered Wang YiBo’s tears. “I’m sure you won’t be always alone,” Xiao Zhan tries to reassure him, petting his knee. Wang YiBo finally relaxes his legs, but his arms are still around Xiao Zhan’s neck. “You’ll find your perfect girl―”

“I don’t want a perfect girl,” Wang YiBo rasps, and loosens his hold on Xiao Zhan’s neck just enough to press his forehead between Xiao Zhan’s shoulders. He stills like that, apparently finding this position comfortable enough.

“No?”

“No. I want Zhan-ge,” Wang YiBo says simply, and Xiao Zhan desperately tries to convince himself that he heard a pout in the words, or perhaps the provoking intonation Wang YiBo usually says most of his teasing commentaries with, but the phrase is said too casually, with no bite in it, and Xiao Zhan just stares blankly before him, almost spacing out. He takes one of Wang YiBo’s hands and rubs the knuckles with his thumb gently. 

“C’mon, didi, let’s put you to bed,” he says softly, and Wang YiBo finally allows Xiao Zhan to move him.

He stands up, helping Wang YiBo crawl under the blanket, while tugging off his sneakers. The boy won’t be very comfortable sleeping in his jeans, but right now between Wang YiBo comfort and Xiao Zhan’s sanity, Xiao Zhan chooses the latter. He will really need to reflect on all of this later, when his mind is free from a drunken fog, but for now he just goes through the simple actions, making sure Wang YiBo is lying on his side and a spare pillow is tucked safely behind his back ― at least this way, if the boy gets sick during sleep, he won’t choke.

“You don’t want Zhan-ge,” Xiao Zhan says tiredly, finally sitting down on the edge of the bed beside Wang YiBo. The boy blinks at him, wrinkling his nose adoringly when a strand of hair gets in his eye, and Xiao Zhan brushes it away. “You are just drunk, Bo-di, and emotional.”

“I’m so emotional.”

“I know.”

“I wish gege loved me.”

Xiao Zhan breaths out a laugh and attempts for a reassuring smile. “Gege loves you,” he says in a tight voice and he is not sure why he suddenly feels like crying. It must be just alcohol. He shouldn’t have drunk so much, he knows he doesn’t react well on it.

“No,” Wang YiBo shakes his head.

“Your gege just carried you all the way to the room and put you to bed, and you’re saying gege doesn’t love you.” Xiao Zhan manages a smile this time, and he softly pets Wang YiBo’s shoulder.

Wang YiBo parts his lips, but then purses them in a half-pout.

“Not this way,” he whispers.

“What’s the other way, Bo-di?”

“I’m not saying!” Wang YiBo suddenly cries, hitting Xiao Zhan’s hand, and Xiao Zhan can’t help but laugh at Wang YiBo’s drunkenly adorable angry expression. He really has never seen the boy like this, laid almost bare with his emotions. It is precious, Xiao Zhan thinks, that he trusts Xiao Zhan like that. 

“Alright, alright,” Xiao Zhan says with a smile. “Sleep it off, kid.”

“I’m not a kid.”

“You sure behave like one now, Bo-di,” Xiao Zhan says affectionately. He really can’t understand why Wang YiBo doesn’t see that there is nothing but this ― affection ― in the way Xiao Zhan calls him that. 19 “C’mon, be a good boy and close your eyes.”

Wang YiBo perks up at that, raising his chin and licking his lips.

“I am a good boy. Am I a good boy, gege?” he rasps, wrapping his fingers around Xiao Zhan’s wrist, and Xiao Zhan blinks at the sudden change. He clears his throat awkwardly, wondering if he accidentally grazed something that he is not supposed to be aware of, but he brushes it off forcefully along with the rest of the discoveries he’s made this evening. Tomorrow, all tomorrow. They are both not in the best shape for this. Whatever this is…

“You are the most obnoxious clingiest person I have ever known, Wang YiBo,” Xiao Zhan says with a chuckle.

“But you like me this way?” Wang YiBo asks in a small voice, and his adam apple bobs when he swallows. He looks genuinely worried, and Xiao Zhan realises, he is actually asking, awaiting for Xiao Zhan’s answer, like he thinks that he might draw Xiao Zhan away with his silly behavior, like just the mere thought of it makes him hold his breath and squeeze Xiao Zhan’s wrist in the tight grip of this fingers, like he is afraid that Xiao Zhan will get up, leave and never return. 

“I’m still here,” Xiao Zhan says softly, gently untangling the boy’s fingers from his wrist and covering Wang YiBo’s hand with his own. ”What do you think?” He keeps his hand there, and is reminded of the scene they made last year, where Wei WuXian was similarly holding a hand of the drunk Lan WangJi. 20

More than a year, and these characters still can’t let them go...

Xiao Zhan smiles and rubs Wang YiBo’s fingers with his thumb.

Wang YiBo nods and closes his eyes. 

This time Wang YiBo is not turning away from him and Xiao Zhan doesn’t get up to turn on the TV for the boy to sleep more peacefully.

This time he doesn’t leave. And he is too aware that the room being his own has absolutely nothing to do with this.

 


 
Used sources:
    1. WYB won’t directly admit he made a mistake
    2. Dancing together
    3. Singing together on Day day Up ; Singing on set (they are so in sync, I can’t stand them) ; More singing on set [return to text]  
    4. XZ thinks WYB is cute (motherfucker!!!!)
    5. They are literally being asked to praise each other and they are like, but we just did 5 mins ago can we not pls? xD Is this a Chinese thing? I swear I’ve never seen anything like this during any Hollywood interview lol 
    6. Now, pay attention to what happens here: 

      wyb: XZ is perfect

      wyb: XZ is amazing 

      wyb: XZ is such a perfect man, can’t you see

      a journalist: Why are you so adorable toward XZ and so cold toward girls?

      also wyb: what nonsense [return to text]
    7. That Boy is apparently WYB’s fav song ;  WYB choses this song and XZ is hella surprised ;  Beautiful fan edit with a footage of WYB singing that song and with eng subtitles for the lyrics [return to text]
    8. (Just pretend I didn’t fuck up the chronology) Bazaar shoot: backstage , more backstage , interview WYB compilation , official video  [return to text]
    9. Yu Bin is the best boy FIGHT ME!
    10. WYB is impatient and talks a lot when he is drunk
    11. XZ has low alcohol tolerance
    12. I’ll have you known, this boy has  no  shame [return to text]
    13. For inspiration: WYB licking his lips [return to text]
    14. This boy can't wink to save his life 
    15. I don’t think he has ever been asked exactly that, but here are some close calls: must like motorcycles; shouldn’t be too talkative. [return to text]
    16. I am taking a liberty to be a dirty liar here, because WYB said in one interview (that I forgot to save)  that guys don't ride as second numbers, but side by side on their own bikes, but I mean, cmon, as if if XZ asks him to take him as 2nd number he would say no?! xD bitch please xD [return to text]
    17. Wanted to go skiing  together. You know, I am afraid that with all what has been happening recently, they won’t go anywhere together. [return to text]
    18. wyb working hard and getting sick on the set
    19. XZ keeps calling him a kid (and WYB is almost angry)
    20. The Untamed: WWX putting drunk LWJ to sleep

 

Bonus (cause I don’t know where else to put it so suffer with me):

 

Chapter Text

 

Nothing changes and yet everything does...

Xiao Zhan has an early plane and, throwing the last glance at the peacefully sleeping Wang YiBo, he quietly leaves the room when it is still dark outside. He has then an extremely awkward exchange with the receptionist explaining why, yes, he wants to check out, but there is someone sleeping in his room, and is it possible to perhaps not bother him until he wakes up? That he is trying to smooth out with a smile while his manager is drilling a hole in the back of his head.

He is still a bit drunk when they arrive at the airport, and he’s barely gotten any sleep, having spent the night leaning on the headboard of the bed near the sleeping Wang YiBo. His back hurts, his neck is stiff, his ears are ringing and he is entirely too old to be having a conversation of that sort where he has to reassure his manager, that no, absolutely nothing happened, Wang YiBo was just too drunk to leave him completely alone. And the skeptical look she gives him makes him all too aware of the things Wang YiBo said last night and how misplaced his attempts to explain himself should actually feel like, but for some reason don’t.

He falls asleep once the plane takes off, and wakes up already on the ground to two dozens of messages of Wang YiBo complaining how his whole existence hurts and promising to never drink again. He asks if he did anything weird, claiming he can’t remember anything after his fifths cocktail. Or was it the sixth?.. And the next message is a string of horrified emojis followed by a few meme pics of himself with the similar expression, followed by Nvm!! Apparently I danced streaptease on the table????!! And Xiao Zhan only then notices that their group chat with the rest of The Untamed cast has several blurry pictures of each of them getting sloshed including the one with half naked Wang YiBo kneeling on the table in front of Xiao Zhan. 

Xiao Zhan feels his ears heat up, but he saves the photo, clears his throat awkwardly and hopes that a weird expression on his face that he can’t actually see now but is definitely there could be explained by him still having too much alcohol and too little sleep in his system.

He scrolls through the rest of the messages from Wang YiBo and there is a selfie, clearly taken while the boy was still in bed, with the caption that says Not bad, considering how horrible I feel, right, Zhan-ge? The next texts look more like Wang YiBo talking to himself: I only just noticed I am in your room. Why am I in your room, ge?! Why I noticed it only now??? And Nvm, I can’t find my keycard, guess that explains it, thx. 

And then there is another selfie a bit later with Wang YiBo’s hair, still wet after shower, brushed back from his face, that also looks fresher than in the first photo. He is smiling. A bit tiredly but genuinely, something that Xiao Zhan almost never sees on his selfies and especially on the professional photos, but often notices aimed at him. There is a text after it Am I still handsome, Zhan-ge? , and another one sent just minutes before Xiao Zhan brought his phone back from the airplane mode, How was that dance, btw, did you like it, Zhan-ge, was I good?

Xiao Zhan closes his eyes for a moment, sighing and shaking his head, and sends the short Beautiful , not bothering to clarify which message exactly he is answering to. There is no need. He then puts his phone away and proceeds to the passport control.

Nothing changes and yet everything does.

Their conversations are still mostly chatting and memes exchange, replies not coming for entirely too long and then his phone chiming with notifications at odd hours. They are both busy with filming in their respective dramas, and Xiao Zhan has too many free minutes every day in between the takes that are not filled with Wang YiBo, who always manages to bring his brain to a halt, stripping him of all thoughts, making his whole attention narrow down to here and now and Zhan-ge, was I good , to actually look into himself and into all the memories he’s made in the past year, and reflect on them.

It is a gradual process and Wang YiBo adds more to it almost every day with every message he sends Xiao Zhan stealing a free moment on his set to text his friend, with every ridiculous selfie ― and how can this boy be still so bad at this? Is he too used to the others holding the camera? ― that Xiao Zhan can’t help but smile to, and he manages to catch that moment a couple of times, taking a selfie of his own, that he is not a big fan of doing, but he guesses he owes Wang YiBo a good number of them by now. 

Zhan-ge is always so handsome, he gets a reply a few hours later and he laughs at the predictability of it. Zhan-ge has the most beautiful smile , Wang YiBo goes on, and all the times when he said that to Xiao Zhan’s face stand in his memory and Xiao Zhan smiles, feeling warm. Ge’s smile can probably power up some moderate size town , and Xiao Zhan can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness and he sends a few laughing emojis and snaps another selfie. Just a moderate size? You wound me, Wang YiBo, he texts sending the photo.

He wakes up to the GE’S SMILE CAN POWER UP THE WHOLE COUNTRY! followed by several stickers shooting hearts from their eyes. He has things to say about Wang YiBo’s own smile but he keeps them to himself.

It is so different this time, being far away, their conversations reducing to the texts exchange. They were there once, after The Untamed was finished and they started working in other projects. It was the same in a way, texts, memes, occasional photos and selfies, replies that come too late and rare phone calls. They didn’t meet for several months until the time of The Untamed promotion came, and now the thought that they might not see each other for that long again is almost unbearable. 

Last year when they parted ways he was still high on emotions he’d gotten from the four months of filming. Probably the four happiest and the most exhausting months of his life left him dizzy and incapable of organising his thoughts into the usual order that didn’t include Wei WuXian and everything and everyone related. For long months after his mind felt empty and overloaded at the same time. It took time and effort to finally find that line between his own self and Wei WuXian, to finally free himself from this character. 

And only after that and after some more time passed he realised he had been half expecting that his communication with Wang YiBo would die with him saying goodbye to his character. He remembers feeling confused at the thought and almost guilty. And also extremely happy that it didn’t happen, and his worries that their friendship rooted only on the connection between the characters they played, which he barely even realised he had, were unjustified.

And it was just that those months ― two former partners on set keeping their friendship afloat after the filming was finished. 

He entirely didn’t expect how happy he would feel seeing Wang YiBo again this summer. Neither did he expect how natural and easy it would be to be around each other again, as if those months apart didn’t even happen. 

He also didn’t expect Wang YiBo’s drunken confessions, if he can consider them as such. 

And he sure as hell didn’t expect it to make him want to look back at every and each day he’s known Wang YiBo in search for something that he’s been missing. 

It would be a lie, however, to say that just that one evening has changed something. It was all those weeks of The Untamed promotions that did it, gradually adding more to think about, gradually changing his perception of their friendship. 

Wang YiBo drunken mumbling really was just the trigger that dropped it all in front of Xiao Zhan’s eyes and made him actually look .

He doesn’t look too hard though. He doesn’t have enough time nor he thinks it would do him any good.

He just lets it steam in him on its own pace.

He lets the questions swarming his mind find their answers on their own without him pushing for it, without overthinking, without risking to read too much. 

He lets it all process itself, putting a pause to it while he is busy acting, and sneaking a glance inside his mind when he has a spare minute. 

Every time he does he sees something different.

A month passes and he barely notices it. 

Wang YiBo sends him photos from London and muses how strange it feels to be able to walk along the streets without a risk of being quite literally overrun by the crowds of overexcited fans.

We should go to Europe one day, Xiao Zhan gets the text, It’s refreshing. And Xiao Zhan doesn’t dare question that we

Wang YiBo planning their vacation in Switzerland is sudden but not really surprising, and remembering how their last (and only) attempt to spend some free time together got buried under the weight of Xiao Zhan’s obligations to his career, he can’t find it in himself to say no

He fights tooth and nail to free that week in winter. To convince his manager is just one part of it, and frankly he is surprised he succeeds, but then they need to reschedule all the plans he has for that week, and the headache he gets from it makes him wonder how Wang YiBo freed that time in his own schedule in the first place.

He probably didn’t though, not really. Most likely, the boy just bought the tickets and then dropped the bomb on his poor manager to deal with it.

Xiao Zhan is a bit afraid to ask. 

Eventually, moving a couple of interviews and shootings here and there and spending half an hour to not so pleasant conversation with the director of the new drama he is working in, he manages to free one week, sacrificing, from how his calendar looks now, a few nights of sleep both before and after the vacation. He can’t help but be a bit frightened by the perspective of going on for that long with barely any sleep, but he admits to himself with some almost morbid excitement, that he would take it any day to get an opportunity to spend some time in Wang YiBo’s company. 

The thought makes him giddy, but in a warm and fuzzy way, and, suddenly feeling mischievous, he lets out a quiet giggle, that earns him a suspicious look from his manager who by this point seems to have had enough of Xiao Zhan’s near childish behavior that surfaces each time anyone just mentions Wang YiBo.

Xiao Zhan would argue that it is not really his fault that the boy, acting like a kid half percent of the time, makes these six years difference between them disappear and quite successfully pulls Xiao Zhan to his still rather teenage level, that Xiao Zhan probably shouldn’t be that happy about. He would argue. But he suspects it might not be entirely true and he is as much to blame in this as Wang YiBo.

He is not sure if he is more upset or happy about the incoming fan meeting in Thailand. He will be glad to see the others, to look back to when he was Wei WuXian again, but at the same time it is getting harder and harder going there in his thoughts the further he gets from that moment in time without feeling almost remorseful for that time is over. And the more The Untamed related events they have the more real if feels that he will never be able to get back to being that character. Morbidly righteous, stubborn as he himself has never been, loyal to himself and everyone dear to him. Loved and stupidly in love without even realising it.

He wonders if he can do something about the last one.

Wang YiBo is the last one to arrive at the venue in Bangkok, where the meeting will hold place, going here straight from the airport. Xiao Zhan expects him to be half dead, considering the schedule he had these past few days. He expects him to be sleepy, grumpy and sour. And he sees all that on Wang YiBo’s face when the boy finally walks in and takes off his cap. But it doesn’t last long. His eyes roam the room almost nervously and then settle on Xiao Zhan and then he lits up. His face not just changes but transforms when he smiles happily, almost with relief.

“Zhan-ge,” he breathes out barely audible, when he walks closer, extending his hand. Xiao Zhan takes his hand and they bump shoulders giving each other a half-hug, and his heart is beating just faster enough that he notices this, when Wang YiBo tightens his fingers around Xiao Zhan’s hand for a brief moment, like he doesn’t want to let go. 

They haven’t seen each other for what? A month, two? Somehow it feels much longer and the thought that at the end of the day Xiao Zhan will have to bid his goodbye makes his eyes itch. 

They will meet again soon though. And for the whole week, not just one day. The whole week with no cameras around and hopefully no people who might recognise them. Just the two of them.

His chest suddenly feels too hot, an unexpected surge of adrenaline rushes through his veins and he has to take a shaky breath to calm his pulse.

Wang YiBo tilts his head, blinking with worry and puts his hand on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder. It doesn’t help.

“Zhan-ge, you okay?” he asks quietly, eyes roaming Xiao Zhan’s face, and Xiao Zhan nods and laughs breathlessly, blinking away the itching in his eyes.

“Just happy to see you, Bo-di,” he manages in a somewhat steady voice, feeling his lips curl into a smile. 

Wang YiBo’s hand on his shoulder flinches, but then he squeezes his fingers briefly before letting go.

“Knew you’d miss me,” he says boldly with a wide smirk, his eyes locked with Xiao Zhan, and as always, Xiao Zhan can’t help but look away under the pressure of that gaze.

Wang YiBo is still watching him, Xiao Zhan can feel it, and he finally looks up, a bit taken aback by a small but tender smile that is pulling on the boy’s lips, and the expression in his eyes that is almost dreamy, before he blinks it away, his smile growing sharper and brighter. It is open and beautiful as all of Wang YiBo’s smiles are, but Xiao Zhan finds himself missing that other one he had a chance to peek at. Has Wang YiBo always looked at him this way when Xiao Zhan didn’t pay attention?

“About that vacation,” Xiao Zhan begins, and Wang YiBo draws back, smile disappearing, and nods shortly, and only because Xiao Zhan has spent so much time looking in Wang YiBo’s eyes he can recognise a distant worry in them now. “I talked to my manager…” Xiao Zhan goes on and then suddenly caught by some mischievous vibe that so often pulls at him when he has Wang YiBo in vicinity, he sighs heavily and clicks his tongue, shaking his head and trying to arrange his face in the most tragic expression he is capable of while trying not to laugh.

Wang YiBo jerks his head urging him to go on, and Xiao Zhan sighs and shakes his head again. He is still nearly laughing when he sees Wang YiBo’s expression fall. The boy parts his lips licking them nervously and then presses them tight together nodding. He averts his eyes and blinks, nodding again.

“Yeah, right, it’s…” he clears his throat and finishes, “it’s fine, Zhan-ge.”

Xiao Zhan suddenly feels like he was punched in the gut. He stares at Wang YiBo in borderline horror, swallowing around the bitter guilt in his throat. 

This reaction is unexpected. 

And at the same time who else but not him should have known how important it is for Wang YiBo. And right now he is wasting time, mentally kicking himself.

“I was joking. YiBo, I was just joking,” he rasps and coughs awkwardly as he reaches for Wang YiBo’s shoulder with a sheepish smile. “I didn’t think…” he trails off and shakes his head, smiling more confidently now. “Doesn’t matter. I’m sorry, Bo-di. I’m free that week, so we can...”

He doesn’t finish, the way Wang YiBo’s expression changes makes it impossible to talk. Xiao Zhan expected a mocking anger, perhaps a laughter, he expected being kicked and hit, but the relief on the boy’s face is so intense he finds himself incapable to breathe, and he gasps at the same time as Wang YiBo inhales sharply, blinking away the sudden dampness in his eyes.

Xiao Zhan feels frozen to the floor, his eyes roaming Wang YiBo’s face and he is not sure what emotion is showing now on his own face.

Wang YiBo coughs and all the traces of that vulnerability he let Xiao Zhan see are gone, and he smiles, fixing his eyes on Xiao Zhan’s.

“Good,” he says. “It will be great, Zhan-ge.” His smile grows wider, and Xiao Zhan barely notices a brief change in his expression and how his eyes flicker down just for a moment, when Wang YiBo leans in and plants a short kiss on Xiao Zhan’s cheek. 

Xiao Zhan’s brain is still trying to process the soft and warm and way too brief sensation on his skin, when he gets a hard poke of bony fingers in between his ribs and a slap on his arm, and he starts rubbing the offended places pouting his lips at Wang YiBo who is laughing with his horrible croaky laughter looking one part relieved and four parts happy. 

“No respect for your elders,” Xiao Zhan grumbles, but he is smiling too.

“Zhan-ge is not old,” Wang YiBo declares with a smirk. “Zhan-ge is the perfect age!” He adds raising his voice and taking a step back when Xiao Zhan bares his teeth at him. 

Aren’t you the one constantly joking about me being too old? he wants to ask. Perfect for what? he almost opens his mouth to question. But they are being called on the stage for the rehearsal, and Wang YiBo gives him a wink and a wiggle of one brow, walking past him. 

Later in the day when the show is already in place and he can distinctly see the dark crowds of their fans filling the venue, Wang YiBo walks to him, reaching his hand out for the handshake and Xiao Zhan sees the familiar flicker of the mischief in his eyes, when their hands meet, and he leans a bit farther away from Wang YiBo when the boy pets his arm with his free hand. 

Maybe Xiao Xhan is too paranoid, maybe he just imagined that, after all, Wang YiBo wouldn’t really try to peck his cheek here in the open the way he did behind the stage this morning. 

“Nice dodge,” Wang YiBo whispers before stepping back and there is a promise in his eyes and smile.

Well, apparently he would. And judging by the audience reaction Xiao Zhna has not been the only one who saw the intent. Xiao Zhan can only laugh and awkwardly pull at the high neck of his jacket, suddenly feeling too warm all over. 

The way this day started and progressing he is not sure what to expect from either of them by the end of it.

Their performance of Wuji is off to a not so good start, Wang YiBo being late and Xiao Zhan has to stand alone on the stage waiting for a voice in his earpiece to let him know when they can begin.

The fans are inpatient, dark sea of people before him moving and wavering, ryling themselves up with screams and squeals, and Xiao Zhan smiles softly, raising his finger to his lips, asking them to quiet down.

“Wang YiBo ai Zhan!” some fan shouts, using the short moment of relative silence. Which instantly breaks in the frenzy screeches.

Smile pulls on his lips before he can think about it, words barely registering in his mind that instantly throws I know at him that makes the impossibility to smile wider almost painful. He wants to question this confidence in his mind, it would be so simple to doubt that, to put the words and the fan’s joy from them in that mental box with the label Fan-service , that all the marketologs working on promoting The Untamed  and them as the actors are so fond of. But warm wave that washes over him, through him, making him smile more, making him almost ache with some longing for something, is too big to fit there.

Perhaps just being here, in this temporary The Untamed space makes him too emotional. Perhaps it is just him gettings sentimental after connecting ― just a tiny bit ― with Wei WuXian again, after seeing Wang YiBo talk about Lan WangJi, after remembering, reliving, that special connection their character had. 

Perhaps he is just not ready to let go, perhaps he is just imagining things ― in him and in Wang YiBo’s eyes. Perhaps…

But is it though?..

Ai ?” he repeats in his mic, and the sound gets completely swollen by another wave of screams. 

His earpiece comes to life, the stuff behind the stage informing him that Wang YiBo is ready. Xiao Zhan looks toward the opening in the stage where Wang YiBo should soon appear from, and repeats, “ Ai?” before turning back to the audience to let them know to welcome Wang YiBo on the stage.

Wang YiBo rises on a small platform from under the stage, and Xiao Zhan turns to him, seeing a question in his eyes.

“What did you do to make them scream like that?” Wang YiBo asks him as soon as he is close enough. 

“Well, I just…”

“Oh, you smiled didn’t you? You gotta be careful with that, what if you blind someone?”

“I haven’t blinded you yet,” Xiao Zhan blurts out before he can think about it and the look Wang YiBo gives him is full of disbelief, amusement and adoration.

Performing this song again with Wang YiBo by his side and the clips from The Untamed playing on the screen behind them makes his eyes tingle. 

Like going back to the places that were dear to you on the earlier stages of your life, that you moved on from, almost forgetting. But now back here, they pull on your memory, resurfacing all the feelings you had back then, like no time has passed. 

It is a bit like going back in time, but still staying the new you. Trying to fit this new self in that old but dear place in your memory and realising with remorse that it is too late, and the differences are too big, and too much has changed and it is time to close this chapter once and for all, and it aches and feels impossible to do. And he feels unspilled tears in his eyes when they walk to the edge of the stage for the final bow.

It feels scary to let this go, to let Wei WuXian and everything dear to him go. He is scared that he won’t be able to shoulder this loss. He is scared that he would leave too much of himself with that character.

He is scared no other chapter will be as blissful and fulfilling as this one was. He is scared he will be walking away from it alone.

They all stand before the screaming crowd in their last moments of being the cast of The Untamed, the other actors waving at the fans before them.

He feels the familiar gaze on him and he turns to his left.

Wang YiBo’s eyes are glistening but he is smiling, small and bittersweet. There is an intensity in his gaze that feels at the same time familiar and yet new. And Xiao Zhan knows he doesn’t have to close this chapter on his own. They can do it together, just like they opened it. Just like they can open the next one.

He doesn’t understand why they call it falling in.  

Right now, looking in these eyes, he feels like he is soaring up.