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Yizhan

Chapter Text

April 2018

Yibo couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment he fell in love with Xiao Zhan. If he had to put a moment to it, it was probably that very first day when he met him for the second time.

Their first meeting, outside, baseball caps on, under the glare of cameras - well, it couldn’t have been more awkward. Yibo felt Xiao Zhan trying to sneak glances at him, and it made him self-conscious. He knew he was shorter than Lan Wangji was supposed to be, and he looked softer - so Xiao Zhan was probably disappointed in him, lining up all his shortcomings and making a list. He remembered Xiao Zhan from when he’d met him briefly on the set of Day Day Up, his smile shining its way into his heart. He’d been just a kid then, and didn’t know what the feeling was, but he’d danced his heart out on stage to try to impress him.

Yibo was nervous during their first read-through. He didn’t have many lines, and Xiao Zhan had so many more - but he still wanted to impress him, to do well. Yibo never did anything in halves.

When Xiao Zhan read his lines, he became fully immersed. His whole face changed, he became Wei Wuxian. Yibo sat there, staring at him, his whole core shook when Xiao Zhan actually burst out in tears as he felt the waves of emotion that Wei Wuxian was experiencing. Yibo felt his whole axis tilting, and when he stood up after the reading and bowed, he thought he might actually embarrass himself even further by falling over.

They had lunch set out for them in the cafeteria. Yibo was lost in his thoughts, picking up food randomly. He wandered over to a table listlessly, wondering if he’d made a big mistake by taking on this project. Xiao Zhan just… blew him away. How would he ever keep up?

Next thing he knew, Xiao Zhan was at his table, smiling shyly at him and asking if he could sit. Yibo nodded, head ducked. People thought of him as self-centered, as narcissistic, but the reality was on the inside Yibo was constantly criticizing himself. He wasn’t seeking praise - he was seeking validation.

He was so quiet at first, picking at his food and barely eating at all, just sneaking glances up at Xiao Zhan’s face as he tried to engage him in conversation. He couldn’t tell you what they spoke about to save his life, he was so wound up.

But he remembered what it felt like to laugh.

He couldn’t remember what Xiao Zhan said to make him laugh, but god did he remember the feeling. It wasn’t just a smile, or a smirk. It was a full belly laugh, his eyes lighting up, grin stretched wide enough to show his teeth, the gremlin side of him emerging as he held his stomach with his hands and doubled over in laughter. It bubbled up from inside him, erupting out and surprising himself even more than it surprised everyone that looked over at their table, shocked at the outburst from the ice king.
Yibo hadn’t laughed so hard in… he couldn’t remember. Sure, he joked around with his bandmates from Uniq, but it was mostly them teasing him for being the baby and him tolerating it. He smiled genuinely when he was engaged in his favourite hobbies, whether it was grinning with the wind in his face as he rode his motorcycle with the visor open, or whether it was humming happily to himself as he assembled a lego car, sports channel playing mildly in the background. But laugh?

The best part of it was watching Xiao Zhan laugh, too. His laugh was so genuine, coming out from the core of him. When he laughed his whole face lit up, his eyes crinkling, smile bright enough to shine out the sun. And Yibo’s heart just flopped over in his chest. It made him smile and laugh even louder, their laughter infectious.

Yibo fell in love with that feeling. That wild joy that came from abandoning whether or not he looked cool and just giving in to the moment. He didn’t care if someone caught him laughing, didn’t care about his image. He decided in that moment that as long as he was around Xiao Zhan, he’d make it his mission to make the other man laugh. Because seeing that smile, hearing that laugh - it was a balm to his soul. Every piece of him that he had shut away in the darkness, every reservation he had about being close with someone, it all just washed away.

I’ll do anything to keep him close to me, Yibo thought, that very first day.

———

Xiao Zhan was always nervous at the start of a new project. Would he have a connection with his co-stars? Would he remember his lines well? Would he look okay on screen?

Those first few meetings with a new group of people were the worst. Like a dance where you’re just trying to get a feel for the other person’s rhythm. Like a blind date that your parents had set up for you, telling you I just know you’ll get along great!

Xiao Zhan could understand immediately why they’d chosen Yibo for the role of Lan Wangji. Never mind his looks (how on Earth was anyone that pretty??) or the fact that he was a little short for the character. The moment Yibo walked in a room, that boy had presence. He commanded attention, even when he just stood there. He looked out at those around him, his expression cool, composed, taking in the world around him and overall looking unimpressed.

The boy acted like he knew how good-looking he was. He sauntered when he walked, a little sway in his hips. He had the perfect body, slim and tone in all the right places. But the thing that was really, truly exceptional about Yibo was his eyes. Without moving a single muscle on his face, Yibo could seem to convey a variety of emotions just through his eyes alone.

Xiao Zhan couldn’t stop looking at him, when he wasn’t looking down at his script or twirling his pencil around in his hand. And most of the time, when he looked at Yibo, he found Yibo looking right back at him. And Yibo wasn’t afraid to meet his gaze. He didn’t look away. He didn’t blush, or stutter. He didn’t fumble his words.

The only outward sign that the boy was nervous was how intensely quiet he got. Sometimes he’d let out a single nervous cough. And every now and again, he’d lick his lips or bite them into a flat line. Xiao Zhan found himself looking for those moments, just so he could see the magic that it was to watch those enchanting lips move.

Xiao Zhan was just as fascinated by Yibo as Wei Wuxian had been by Lan Wangji in the novel.

After their first reading together, the director, Zheng Weiwen, had pulled Xiao Zhan aside, putting his arm over Xiao Zhan’s shoulder and leaning in close.

“Go talk to him,” Director Zheng urged him.

“He doesn’t seem to want to talk to anyone right now,” Xiao Zhan said doubtfully, looking at Yibo sitting there by himself, pushing his food around on his plate more so than actually eating it.

Director Zheng elbowed him in the side. “He’s supposed to be your boyfriend, Xiao Zhan. I know it’s awkward, but you need to get to know each other better. How can you play lovers on screen if you can’t even talk to each other behind the scenes?”

Xiao Zhan let out a big sigh, dropping his head. “Why does it have to be me that starts the conversation?”

“Just look at him. Do you think he’s going to do it? No. Get over there.”

Xiao Zhan grabbed a tray of food, then made his way over to the table.

He tried several times to engage Yibo in conversation, but he seemed distracted to say the least. Finally, Xiao Zhan decided the only way to press forward was to put his vulnerability out there.

“Are you as nervous about this as I am?” Xiao Zhan asked him in a whisper, looking around then looking back at Yibo, an eyebrow raised.

Yibo looked up at him, meeting his eyes, then nodded.

Xiao Zhan propped his head on his hand, gazing at the boy before him. Young man. He wasn’t a boy. But, god, he looked like one. He looked so young. “It’s gonna be really weird pretending we’re in love with each other, isn’t it?” Xiao Zhan said with a smile. “I mean, we don’t even know each other. Plus we’re guys.”

Yibo nodded, picking up a vegetable with his chopsticks. He brought it up to his mouth, but then seemed to think the better of it, dropping it back down on his plate in disgust.

“This project is either going to be the biggest success China has ever seen, or it’s going to ruin our careers,” Xiao Zhan said with a nervous giggle.

Yibo looked up at him, meeting his eyes, but didn’t say anything.

“You worried about people thinking you’re actually gay in real life?” Xiao Zhan asked.

“No,” Yibo said, surprising him. “I don’t care about that.”

Xiao Zhan raised an eyebrow, intrigued. “I don’t either,” Xiao Zhan admitted. He leaned closer to Yibo, bracing his elbows on the table. “What about the clothes? Don’t you feel like historic Chinese clothes are too feminine?”

Yibo met his eyes again. “No. I like all fashion. I think the costumes are really beautiful.”

Xiao Zhan’s eyebrows shot up again, and he smiled, pleased. “So do I! Sometimes I wish we could wear historic dress all the time. I look so much better in it! Then again, maybe I just don’t agree with my stylist’s choices,” Xiao Zhan said with a grimace. “I don’t have much fashion sense myself so I’m putting my life in her hands.”

“You look good,” Yibo said, looking him up and down. Xiao Zhan actually looked pretty normal, like a boy next door, just wearing a jean jacket with a t-shirt underneath. Yibo, by comparison, looked like a model even in his simple black t-shirt and thin black jacket. His hair, where it peeked out from under his black baseball cap, was dyed blue. He had earrings dangling from his ears.

Xiao Zhan just smirked and shook his head. “And you look amazing. But you dance like a king. Do you remember when we did Day Day Up together?”

Yibo’s head shot up at that, surprised. “You remember?”

Xiao Zhan laughed. “How could I forget? That dance battle was epic. The poor guy on my team, as soon as he heard that he was going to be dancing against Wang Yibo he almost ran screaming from the stage. Wang Yibo! Wang Yibo!” Xiao Zhan chanted, laughing.

Yibo reached out a hand and smacked Xiao Zhan on the arm, the corners of his mouth tilting up. “Stop it!”

Xiao Zhan shot to his feet, trying to imitate Yibo’s famous dance moves. He got low, his knees knocking open and closed, arms in the air. “You did this thing on your toes—” he said, then tried to imitate him and nearly fell over.

Yibo shot to his feet, catching Xiao Zhan by the arm to keep him from falling, and he burst out laughing. Xiao Zhan took one look at Yibo’s brilliant smile, how it changed his face, opened it up, and his heart beat so loud in his ears he thought he might faint.

When Yibo laughed, really laughed, it made him feel like he would explode a little inside.

I’ll make him laugh every day, Xiao Zhan promised himself with a smile.

———

They spent over two weeks just training before they even got to the real filming. They did script readings together, learned how to fight in the fairy-like style used in the series. They practiced music, Yibo learning a little of the guqin, Xiao Zhan the flute. They wouldn’t be playing the instruments for real on screen, but it had to look passably real. The worst part was learning how to do the aerial acrobatics on wires.

During those first weeks of training, the cast and crew all got closer together by eating together, going out on the town, and playing pranks on each other. Yibo and Xiao Zhan both had other commitments other than the Untamed - Xiao Zhan was filming a movie called Joy of Life, and Yibo was a dance mentor on a reality TV show called Produce 101. But somehow they made it all work.

The worst prank that they pulled on Yibo actually put the fear of his life into Xiao Zhan. He’d heard rumours of some of Yibo’s odd habits, how he slept with the lights on, how he was scared of ghosts. Then the younger actors took it upon themselves to scare him, they wanted to see his scared face.

Xiao Zhan couldn’t blame them, watching Yibo’s facial expressions was very rewarding. Although he didn’t participate in their shenanigans, he did follow to see their effect.

The crew were all staying in one large boarding house. It was five storeys tall, with rooms branching off and one main common room and kitchen. The main cast members had their own rooms - Yibo and Xiao Zhan’s rooms were right next to each other - but some of the younger cast members were boarded together.

It was late at night, and some of the younger cast members gathered together. Yu Bin had his make up tested that day, and he still had fake veins painted on his face in black. He dressed up in a black outfit, a black hoodie pulled up over his head. The others dressed the same. Then they all snuck into Yibo’s room while he was sleeping (no one kept their doors locked as the boarding house was secured from the outside). The lights were on, and the TV was on low. They shut off the lights, then padded over to Yibo’s bed on silent feet. The flickering of the TV cast inconsistent lights and shadows across Yu Bin’s face.

Xiao Zhan followed them in, hovering by the door. He watched as Yu Bin reached out and shook Yibo, letting out a high-pitched scream at the same time.

Yibo bolted upright in bed, then skittered backward until he fell off the other side. He then crab-crawled into the corner of the room and hid, his knees pulled up to his chest, arms thrown over his face.

The others started laughing, Yu Bin laughing loudest of all. But from his view at the door, Xiao Zhan could see that Yibo wasn’t moving.

Xiao Zhan pushed past them, shoving them out of the way. “Get out!” he yelled at them, his voice a little shrill. “Now! Get out!”

They looked at him, startled, then started muttering amongst themselves. But they left.

Xiao Zhan walked over to where Yibo was sitting in the corner, shaking. He knelt down in front of him, close but not touching. “Wang Yibo? Can you hear me? It’s Xiao Zhan. They’re gone. It’s okay, it’s just you and me here.”

Yibo was still trembling, still hiding. If anything, his shaking intensified.

“Yibo? Wang-laoshi?” He very carefully, very slowly reached out a hand and touched Yibo’s arm. Something in his chest cracked when Yibo flinched at his touch. “Bo-di, it’s me.”

Yibo lowered his arms just enough to peek out at him, eyes wide and skittering from side to side.

“Bo-di, it’s okay, you’re okay. You’re safe.” Xiao Zhan stroked Yibo’s arm gently, and slowly Yibo lowered his arms.

“Gege?” Yibo whispered in a voice that made him sound about ten years younger than he actually was.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes were shining. He slid his hand down to touch Yibo’s hand, and was gratified when Yibo clutched it, holding it strongly. “I’m sorry, didi,” Xiao Zhan murmured. “I should have stopped them.”

Yibo canted his head back against the wall, closing his eyes, but he didn’t let go of Xiao Zhan’s hand. He was sweating, but his breathing was starting to slow down. He took his free hand and pressed it to his throat, his breathing too fast. But Xiao Zhan could almost see him counting in his head as he slowly forced himself to slow down his breathing.

Xiao Zhan reached out his free hand and pressed two fingers to the pulse in Yibo’s neck. His eyes widened when he heard how stuttered and irregular Yibo’s heartbeat was. Bump-bump-bump-bump……………bump…………bump bump…………………bump-bump-bump……

There was no rhyme or reason to that heartbeat. It was not a normal arrhythmia.

“Do you have medication?” Xiao Zhan asked softly.

“I don’t carry it with me,” Yibo whispered. “Don’t usually need it anymore.”

“Come here,” Xiao Zhan coaxed him, holding open his arms. “Listen to my heartbeat, match yours to mine.”

“I couldn’t. Lame.”

Xiao Zhan kept holding his arms open. “No one needs to know but me. And I don’t think you’re lame,” he said seriously.

Xiao Zhan seemed to realize only then that Yibo was wearing nothing but a thin tank top and shorts, and with the cold sweat on his body, he was shivering. But he finally took Xiao Zhan’s invitation, falling gratefully into his open arms. Xiao Zhan gathered Yibo up against him, cradling Yibo’s head against his chest, his arms around him. He stroked his hands up and down Yibo’s back.

It shook him to see the young man who was normally so composed completely lose it. It reminded him that Yibo was very human, flawed, and very young.

Slowly, as Xiao Zhan held him, Yibo’s breathing evened out. He stopped shivering. He clutched his hand in the fabric of Xiao Zhan’s shirt. His cheek was warm where it pressed against his chest. Xiao Zhan just tightened his arms around Yibo in a hug and held him tight.

Xiao Zhan held him like that until he fell back asleep, his breaths even and slow. After he was sleeping, though, he didn’t have the heart to move him in case he woke him up again. He shifted his leg just enough to grab the corner of the blanket off the bed with his toe, dragging it over to them, then he awkwardly pulled the blanket over them both, tucking them in. He then tilted his head back against the wall and vowed to watch over him the whole night if he needed to.

When he woke up blearily in the morning, Xiao Zhan was in Yibo’s bed, blanket tucked tight around him. Yibo was nowhere in sight.

Xiao Zhan burrowed his face in Yibo’s pillow, groaning. Then he blinked his eyes open again. He had a crick in his neck, the soreness already spreading to his shoulder, but he didn’t give a damn. He’d suffer a hundred days with a sore neck if that would prevent Yibo from ever breaking down again.

I want to protect him, Xiao Zhan realized in that moment. I’ll keep him so close by my side he’ll never have to worry about anything as long as I’m around.

———

Yibo woke up in the morning feeling warm and safe, a blanket of comfort wrapped around him.

He blinked his eyes open slowly, yawning. He was sleeping on something soft and warm. When his vision cleared, he saw soft black hair and a gently sloping ear in front of him. He felt before he saw the slow rising and falling of Xiao Zhan’s chest, felt the gentle, rhythmic thudding of Xiao Zhan’s heart under his hand.

Yibo realized that he was lying down on Xiao Zhan, his head pillowed on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder, their fronts pressed together, legs tangled. A blanket was tucked in around them. And in the same moment, Yibo realized that his own morning erection was pressed into Xiao Zhan’s hip.

Yibo skittered backward, slipping out from under the blanket and standing up with a hand pressed to his heart. Suddenly the memories of the night before flashed before him. The others coming in and scaring him… Xiao Zhan chasing them away. He remembered how his heart condition had started up again, the beats erratic, causing him to not be able to breathe. His fright had made it worse, and if it hadn’t been for Xiao Zhan calming him down, likely he’d be in a hospital right now, hooked up to an I.V. and causing trouble for the whole cast and crew of both the projects he was working on.

Yibo stood there and looked down at Xiao Zhan, sprawled on the floor of the bedroom, conflicting thoughts and emotions running through his mind. Gratitude, fear, shame.

He watched as Xiao Zhan turned onto his side, shivering now that Yibo and the blanket had been ripped away. He was stirring, but not awake.

Yibo’s watch buzzed, his alarm going off. He quickly swiped his finger across the screen, silencing the alarm. He had to rush now or he would be late for the plane that would take him to where he was due to be filming for Produce 101.

Yibo knelt down next to Xiao Zhan, stroking the bangs out of his eyes gently. He then slipped one hand under his torso, the other under his knees, and strained as he struggled to lift Xiao Zhan. Somehow he managed, his arms trembling as he turned and gently placed Xiao Zhan on the bed. He scooted him over, then arranged his limbs. He then picked up the blanket and tucked it in around Xiao Zhan. He took another moment to look down at him, gazing at the face that had somehow already burned its impression into his heart.

“Thank you,” Yibo whispered, his fingers tracing a track down Xiao Zhan’s face.

He then turned and got ready to leave as silently as he could, slipping out the door without waking the sleeping beauty in his bed.

 

Chapter Text

When Yibo arrived on set of Produce 101, the first thing they did was redo his styling.  His hair was bleached to a light brown again, recut to fall pleasantly down around his face, framing him.  They made him look cute, he thought in disgust, but he couldn’t blame them.  He was, after all, filming a girls’ dance show.  

He was then brought to an area where he was taught the main dance that the girls would need to learn.  It was a fairly simple, choreographed song, with some cute elements thrown in.  He was able to pick it up fairly quickly, in just a few tries.  

Huang Zitao, the host of the show and a famous singer-songwriter from Exo came to find Yibo.  When they saw each other, Zitao came over and smiled at him, shaking his hand and bumping their shoulders together in a hip hop greeting.

“Yo, Yibo, thanks for doing this, man!” Zitao said with a smile.

“Sure thing,” Yibo responded, face cool.

“What made you decide to accept this offer, anyway?” Zitao asked, leading Yibo away from the dance practice room.

“I don’t know,” Yibo said, scratching his head.  “I always liked the idea of being a teacher.  If I can help others to achieve something, I think that’ll be a good thing.”

“Yeah, yeah, I agree.”  Zitao walked him into the main stage, showing him how they’d set it up.  

Yibo whistled.  “This looks great.”

Zitao walked him around, pointing out where the girls would sit, where the mentors would sit.  There were crew members buzzing all around them, setting up lights, placing the final touches on the stage.  “The show is going to open with each of the girl groups being presented.  Then the mentors will be presented.  You’ve got your dance routine prepared?” Zitao asked, shooting him a glance.

“Of course,” Yibo said smoothly.

“Good.  So you’ll do your dance here, on centre stage.  Then come and take a seat.  You’re on the far side here, okay?  Then the girl groups will all perform their numbers for us.  We’ll rate them, and sort them into their starting classes.  Then you’ll present the Produce 101 dance routine for them.”

Yibo nodded, walking the space.  He did a few moves from his dance routine, checking how slippery the floor was.  He nodded again.  “Okay.  Sounds good.”

“Make sure you make the Pick Me Up dance extra cute,” Zitao said with a wink.

“Yeah, yeah,” Yibo said with an eye roll.  “Cute.”

“Want to practice here?” Zitao asked, looking him up and down as though measuring him up.

“Sure,” Yibo agreed.  He was a perfectionist, and would never turn down an opportunity to practice.  “My intro dance first, the R&B one.  You’ve got the music?”

Zitao turned around and gestured to the crew member who was setting up the audio.  “Got the music?”

The guy nodded and gave him a thumbs up.

Yibo got in position, starting his dance on a raised platform close to where the girls would be sitting.  He practiced his routine, which was a sensual R&B piece full of twisting hips and rolling abs.  He started his dance on the platform, jumping in a full circle and rolling his torso around.  On his knees, he swayed from side to side.  He then danced down onto the catwalk that led over to the centre stage.  When on stage he did a jump into a full turn and rolled onto the ground, jutting his hips up into the air.  He twisted his body around, got onto his hands and one foot, his other leg stretched out behind him, then rolled his body from hips to chest along the floor.  Zitao whistled, and Yibo stood up, dancing from side to side, hips and torso like liquid.  He mimed giving a kiss out to the camera, which made Zitao whistle again and clap.  He then rolled his chest and stomach, hands on his hips.  He moved his shoulders from side to side, hair whipping around his head.  A few moves later, the short dance was over.

Zitao stood there clapping and whooping.  “Damn, Yibo, I should have given you more than one minute.  The fuck, man.”

Yibo grinned, pleased with himself.  “It’s a good dance, isn’t it?”

Zitao came over and clapped him on the shoulder, his hand lingering there.  “On second thought, I’m glad the dance wasn’t longer.  Any longer and…” he looked around conspiratorially then cupped a hand over his mouth.  “…and we’d have a lot of girls with very wet underwear,” he whispered at him.

Yibo grimaced.  “Thanks for that mental image.”

Zitao cackled and walked away.  “All right, man, I’ll leave you here to practice.  You’ll have some practice time tonight then tomorrow show’s on.”

———

Yibo was freshly showered the next day, hair being blown dry by a stylist when his phone buzzed.  Yibo looked at his watch, frowning at the unknown number.  Then he saw the first part of the text.  “This is Xiao Zhan…” it started out.

Yibo clawed the phone out of his pocket, swiping it open in a rush.  He hurried to save the number, just typing in a boring but sensible “Xiao Zhan” as the contact name.

Xiao Zhan:  This is Xiao Zhan.  I got your number from Director Zheng.  Just wanted to check in on you.  Is your condition okay? 

Yibo stared at the screen for a good while, fingers tapping on his leg as he flushed in mortification remembering the night before.  He typed out a few responses before finally settling on the simple…

Yibo:  I’m okay.

Xiao Zhan:  Oh that’s good then!  Gave me a bit of a scare that night.

Yibo bit his lip, worrying it between his teeth.  

Yibo:  I’m sorry.  It was terribly unprofessional.

Xiao Zhan:  Don’t worry about that, I’m just glad you’re okay.  You should carry your medication, just in case.  

Yibo:  Next time I’m home I’ll pack it.

Xiao Zhan:  The others feel really bad about it.  So I’m apologizing on their behalf, okay?

Yibo:  They did nothing wrong.  It’s me who’s lame.  

Xiao Zhan:  You’re not lame, Yibo.  You’re perfect.

Yibo stared at the screen, eyes shining.  He forgot about the world around him, until his stylist grabbed his jaw and angled it to her so she could take a look.  “What’s wrong, Yibo?” she asked him.  “Don’t mess up your makeup!” she remanded him.

Yibo grimaced at her.  “I’m fine, I’m fine, leave me alone already.”

“I can’t leave you alone, Yibo, it’s time to change.  I’ve laid out your clothes over here,” she said, pointing to where a black turtleneck and black flowing pants were hung up.  “Get changed now before I take your phone away.”

“I’m changing, I’m changing,” he grumbled, shoving the phone back in his pocket.

———

That night, Yibo was finally back in his hotel room, winding down for the evening.  He still had another day on set of Produce 101, this time mentoring the girls on dancing for the first time.  He took a shower, then slipped into bed, checking his phone.  He noticed a message from Xiao Zhan that had been sent hours ago.

Xiao Zhan:  Good luck, let me know how it goes.

Yibo found himself smiling fondly at his phone.  He found some pictures that had been taken of him earlier in the evening, picked what he thought was the best one, and sent it.

 

Yibo:  Wang Yibo on Produce 101

Yibo:  It went really well.

Xiao Zhan:  Wow, Yibo.  Cute!

Yibo scowled at his phone.  

Yibo:  Cool, not cute!

Xiao Zhan:  Cute!

Yibo growled, typing at the keys.  But before he could send his response, another ping came in.

Xiao Zhan:  So, how did it go?  For real?

Yibo erased the message he’d been writing, then bit his lips as he thought of his response.

Yibo:  I had a lot of fun, actually.  It’s really inspiring to see all these girls fighting for their dreams.  It reminds me of myself when I was younger, when I was just starting out.

Xiao Zhan:  What was it like for you when you debuted?

Yibo:  I left home when I was really young.  I practiced so much, for years, before we finally had a chance to debut.  Those days were really hard, we were all living together, fighting for our dreams.

Xiao Zhan:  I know the feeling.

Yibo:  I got along really well with my bandmates, but I was younger than all of them too.  I had to grow up fast.  These girls will have to grow up fast, too.  They won’t have a lot of time to make an impression.  The pressure is really high.

Yibo:  I was really impressed with a girl called Yamy.  She does rap and hip hop dancing, and her energy level is really high.

Xiao Zhan:  Sounds a lot like you.

Yibo:  Hopefully I can help them to get to the next level.

Xiao Zhan:  Well, I’m sure with Wang-laoshi as their teacher they will do very well.

Yibo let out a yawn, as a warm feeling settled in his chest.

Yibo:  Thanks, Zhan-ge.

There was a long pause after that, as Xiao Zhan was no doubt digesting that pet name for the first time.

Xiao Zhan:  Jiayou, Bo-di.  Now get some sleep.

Yibo sank down in the sheets, smiling.  Bo-di.  I like it.

Yibo:  Good night.

———

The next day, Yibo met the girls in person for the first time as a dance mentor.  As he ran in to teach them, they all gave him high-fives, then some of them exclaimed at how cute he was, making him a little embarrassed.  He just wanted to be a good teacher to them, and he poured his sincerity into the work.  

He worked with Class D first, warming them up with a freestyle dance battle.  They all stood in a circle, and Yibo danced in the centre of the circle, hopping from one foot to another, arms swinging around as he danced.  He then pointed to a girl and she hopped in the circle.  Several girls danced before a girl got Yibo back in the circle, and he danced wiggling his shoulders and knees.  He was wearing a jean jacket, white shirt, and his typical skinny black jeans with holes in the knees.  He was having so much fun as he was dancing with them, smiling naturally.

He worked with Class A next, teaching them the dance moves to their official dance.  He didn’t really care that he looked feminine as he did the dance, his butt stuck out as he imitated the moves.  It was, after all, a dance that was choreographed for girls.

He noticed one girl looking really uncomfortable with the moves.  Several of them were just not up to par, and he frowned watching them.  

“Out of this class, several of you are not meant to be in A Class,” he announced, his jean jacket falling off of his shoulders.  He hoped that by telling them that, they would be motivated to get better.

D class might not have had the best dancers in it, but they were all trying really hard.  He respected their dedication.

They interviewed him that night, asking him about what his intentions were teaching the class.

“I hope they can acknowledge me,” he said with a nervous smile.  “I hope they don’t treat me as a teacher.  We learn together.  We make progress together… This kind of state.”  

When he was back in his hotel room, he half-hoped for a text message to come in from Xiao Zhan.  He fumbled with his phone, not feeling confident enough to send the first message himself.  But then, to his surprise, the phone chirped in his hand.

Xiao Zhan:  The first episode of Produce 101 aired tonight.  All the guys watched it, I saw your first dance.  Wow, Yibo.  I didn’t know you could be so sexy.

Yibo stared at his phone, his eyes widening.  Did he seriously just write that??  He re-read the message, and sure enough the words were still there.

Xiao Zhan:  You’re an incredible dancer.  Will you teach me, Wang-laoshi?  When I need help with my dancing?  Don’t tell me you only teach girls.

Yibo bit his lip, his heart turning over in his chest.  He decided to go for non-chalant.

Yibo:  Sure.  Let me know whenever you need help.  On one condition.

Xiao Zhan:  What condition?

Yibo:  You help me with my singing.  You have a beautiful voice.

Xiao Zhan:  Your voice is good, too.

Yibo:  Not as good as yours.  And we’ll both need to sing a duet together.  Do we have a deal?

Xiao Zhan:  Deal!

Xiao Zhan:  But I must add, Bo-di, when you did the Produce 101 dance… Pick Me Up? … you were very, very cute.  The cutest.

Yibo:  Stop calling me cute!  I liked sexy better.

Xiao Zhan:  Hahaha!

Yibo:  I’m going to bed.  

Xiao Zhan:  Sleep well, Bo-di.

———

Xiao Zhan laughed as he held the phone to his chest, his eyes crinkling up in the corners.  Yibo was so easy to rile.

He thought back to earlier in the evening, when all the young guys had been watching Produce 101.  He’d caught them all crowded around Yu Bin’s phone, whistling. 

“What are you watching?”  Xiao Zhan asked them.

“Yibo’s first episode of Produce 101!” Yu Bin declared, turning the phone around to show him.  “Come look at this, look at his first dance.  It’s fucking amazing.”

Xiao Zhan crowded around the phone with the guys, and they rewound, watching it again.  Then they watched it a second time.  Then a third, and a fourth.

“Every single move that he does is perfect,” said Song Ji Yang, who played Xiao Xingchen.  

“He has perfect control,” agreed Zhu Zan Jin, who played Jin Guangyao. 

It was high praise, given that both of them were classically trained ballet dancers.   

When Xiao Zhan got back to his room that night, he watched the whole episode.  He found himself watching that dance over and over, and then the dance at the end, where Yibo demonstrated the Produce 101 dance that the girls were going to be learning.  He was so incredibly cute, it melted Xiao Zhan’s heart.  

Xiao Zhan spent half the night shamelessly researching everything he could find out about Wang Yibo.  He found the very first video of Yibo dancing in the IBD dance competition he’d participated in that started his whole career, gaining him a contract with Yuehua Entertainment.  He laughed when he saw how cute Yibo looked when he first debuted 4 years later, his hair platinum blonde and long enough to scrape the bottom of his jaw.  He then came across a video of Wang Yibo at his very first fan meeting.  He was dressed in a black suit, and he was on stage, crying.

Xiao Zhan felt tears in his own eyes as he watched Yibo break down on stage.  He was wiping at his eyes, trying to control his emotions.  He took a tissue that was handed to him and wiped his eyes, biting on his own lips as he started to sob again, rubbing at his face with his eyes.

They had invited his parents to the performance.  He had hardly seen his parents over the past four years, so having them there at the performance had affected him deeply.  “Dad, Mom,” he said, holding back tears.  “Since my childhood you’ve always been supportive simply because I love dancing,” he said, looking down, trying to compose himself.  He then looked back up at them and said, “Without you I wouldn’t be who I am today.  I never said ‘I love you.’  Dad, Mom, I love you!”  He then couldn’t stand anymore, he broke down completely, squatting on the stage as he cried into his knees, hiding his face.

Xiao Zhan felt tear tracks running down his own face, and he swiped them away.  He felt for that child, the young Yibo.  He’d left home at only 13 years old, leaving China and going to Korea to become a trainee.  He’d learned a new language, but had a hard time adapting to being away from home.  He’d developed a fear of sleeping alone, although he could manage it if he left the lights on.

After 4 years of hard work training, he’d finally debuted in Uniq at the age of 17.  Xiao Zhan looked at video after video of Yibo, the official Uniq music videos, dance battles, stupid videos of things that Yibo had recorded.  He found himself watching over and over every video he could find of him dancing.

When Xiao Zhan realized he’d spent half the night awake just stalking his co-star, he guiltily put his phone away.  When he was falling asleep, he tried not to think about Yibo.  Tried not to remember how he moved when he did the EOEO dance, like he could control every muscle in his body.  Tried not to remember Yibo’s face, the way he held it stoically most of the time.  Tried not to remember how young Yibo looked when he cried.

I want to see you, Xiao Zhan thought to himself just as sleep finally overtook him.

———

The next day was more of the same for Yibo, he was back to teaching the Produce 101 girls.  

That jean jacket was annoying the heck out of him, so he swapped it for a black hoodie before going to work with C class.  He did wear a similar white t-shirt and ripped back skinny jeans today, given that it was pretty much all he had packed for his short trip.  He had chains dangling down from the belt of his jeans that would swing when he danced.  He had on earrings that swung when he moved.  He wasn’t wearing any makeup today, but even without makeup his features stood out clearly, his eyes piercing. 

Some of the girls laughed when he taught them, delighted with watching the cute Yibo doing the girly moves.  

He taught them the moves, impressed when some of them picked it up quickly.  Especially Wang Ju, she showed great promise and energy.  

B class definitely had some promise.  There was one girl in particular with glasses who was incredibly cute when she danced.  Her name was Li Zixuan.  Her moves were sharp and precise.  When he praised her, she looked almost ready to cry.

Then the next group of girls got up, and this girl named Tian Tian was so bad that he had to stop the dance halfway.  “Why is there such a big gap in progress?” he asked her.

“Because I haven’t learned dance before,” said the girl standing next to Tian Tian.

“I just taught Class C,” Yibo said, scratching at his neck from where he sat cross-legged on the ground.  “Speaking of dance, I think their overall strength is stronger than yours.  You need to practice more.  It’s been a day and a half.”

“I can’t remember,” Tian Tian said in a small voice.

Yibo stared at her, dumbfounded.  “What can you do if you can’t remember?  You just have to practice hard.  Practice more and let your muscles remember.”

The girls practiced for a little while, and Yibo stood, watching them.  He was so annoyed, watching her just standing there, not even trying.  Why come all the way here if she wasn’t willing to try?  It boggled his mind.

“Zhu Tian Tian,” he called out.  “Zhu Tian Tian!  There’s no time to rest,” he said, giving her a hard look.

“I don’t remember much,” she said, covering her mouth with her hand.

He just stared at her, annoyed.  “Ask if you don’t remember.  Learn and practice more.”

Then she started to cry.  

Yibo walked over to her.  “Which part do you not remember?” he said, trying to help.  “Where?  Where do you not remember?” he asked her, his hands on his hips.

“It’s just my body is stiff,” Tian Tian said through her tears.

“No choice,” Yibo snapped, “You have to work harder than the others.  There’s no other way.”  

Tian Tian looked at the girls around her, who gathered around to give her support.

There was nothing that annoyed Yibo more than tears.  Tears didn’t help you to improve, they just got in the way.  When the other girls came to hug her, giving her support, he got even more annoyed.  He ran both hands through his hair, gripping it hard as he snapped out, “Zhu Tian Tian, Zhu Tian Tian.  Here’s what I think.”  He gripped his hands behind his neck, his elbows sticking out as he lectured her.  “You already know your capacity.  You can’t keep up with the others at dancing.  Now is really not the time to cry, you know,” he said, looking at her.

She just looked back at him, her face tear-streaked.  She had nothing to say.

Yibo dropped his hands from his neck, staring at her.  “Crying won’t solve anything.”

“What can I do?” she asked through her tears.

“Ask more,” Yibo said, gesturing harshly with his hand.  “If you want to ask, no one is unwilling to teach you.”  He stared at her, willing her to find the resolve to fight for her place in this competition.  He couldn’t do that for her.

When he saw that they had already disrupted the whole class to that extent, he gave up.  He gathered all the girls up, had them sit around him in a circle.  He sat on the ground facing them, cross-legged.

“Let me tell you about my own experience.”  He grabbed the back of his neck with a hand, nervous about sharing this, but deciding to push on through anyway.  “I was a sickly child, maybe since I was young in winter.  On one occasion, I was suddenly out of breath.”  He looked at them, putting a hand to his chest, remembering what it had felt like.  He then closed a fist over his heart.  “My heart felt very stuffy.  Then I went to the hospital and got it checked out, and it turned out to be myocarditis.”  

The girls all got a shocked look on their faces, none of them having any idea Yibo had been so sick on the verge of death.

Yibo looked back out at them, his head cocked to the side, trying to convey his sincerity. “The doctor advised me not to do strenuous exercise.”  He paused, remembering what that had felt like.  Like all his dreams were about to go out in smoke.

The girls watched him, silent, as he relived that time of his life.

“You guys know that I like dancing so much,” he said, shaking his head.  “At that time, I felt terrible.  I thought… No way, I must dance.  What can I do?  The doctor advised me not to.”  Yibo bit his lips, remembering that time.  “At that time, to treat this disease, I had an IV drip - eight bottles a day,” he said, looking around at them.  

The girls all looked down, feeling sympathy for him.

“Then, after that, the illness finally recovered,” he said, playing with the string on his hoodie.  “I started learning again from scratch.  Throughout my summer vacation,” he said, pointing at the air, “I danced from 1pm to 9pm, one lesson after another,” he said, jabbing at the air.  He then put his hand down in his lap, looking out at them.  “I didn’t feel tired.”  He cocked his head to the side again, smiling a touch around the edge of his mouth.  “I felt so happy,” he said, nodding.  Then he blinked, looked around, and thought to himself, How do I finish this thing I’ve started?

“That’s all,” he said with a laugh, embarrassed.

All the girls laughed at him, making him laugh at himself even louder.  “I don’t know how to put an end to it,” he said around a laugh, covering his mouth then leaning back on his hands.

The girls clapped at him.

“Jiayou,” he said, then raised his hands in the air. “Jiayou!”  He then got seamlessly to his feet, his arms still raised in the air.  “Jiayou.”  He then put his hand out to them.  “Come here.”

All the girls came around him, then put their hands on top of his.  “1, 2, 3, Jiayou!”

When he was interviewed later that night, they grilled him on why he was so hard on her.  “Being a trainee is really not an easy thing,” he said, his hands on his knees.  “If you are weak, then you are weak.  If you’re weak, there’s nowhere to go but down.  I feel that she, who was in Class B with a high score, had no time to cry.”

Yibo looked at the camera.  “I know she’s probably born with physical limitations, but if she wants to keep up and make progress she really doesn’t have time to cry,” he said earnestly.

When he got back to his hotel room, he flopped down on his bed with all his clothes still on and palmed his phone in his hand.

Yibo:  I made a girl cry today.

Xiao Zhan:  Yibo!

Yibo:  I’m not even a week in yet and I’ve already made a girl cry.

Xiao Zhan:  Why did you do that?!

Yibo smirked, sliding a hand under his hoodie to scratch at an itch on his belly.

Yibo:  I just got so annoyed.  There was a girl who was slower than the others, she was falling behind.  But instead of asking for help, she just stood there, lost.  I got so fucking annoyed.  I then kept asking her what was the problem, but she just stood there.  Then she started to cry.

Xiao Zhan:  Ouch, Yibo.  I heard you’re bad with girls but that’s something else.

Yibo:  You know what it’s like to be a trainee.  You have to work hard.  You can’t just stand there and expect all your dreams to come true without hard work.

Xiao Zhan:  You’re right about that, Yibo.

Yibo:  Anyway I told them a story about me from when I was young.  About… my heart.

Xiao Zhan:  You mean your heart condition?

Yibo pursed his lips, pulling up one knee as he played with his phone.

Yibo:  You heard it the other night, but it was worse when I was young.  A lot worse.  I almost died, once.  I got myocarditis, I was hospitalized, put on an I.V.  They told me I couldn’t dance anymore.  I thought I’d rather die.

———

Xiao Zhan was lying on his own hotel room, picturing a young Yibo sick and near death, hooked up to an IV.  He rolled over on his stomach, wanting to see Yibo’s face.  

Xiao Zhan:  Video chat?

When the call came through a few moments later, Xiao Zhan flipped it open, propping up his phone against the headboard.  He settled himself, folding the pillow under his chest as he lay there on his stomach.

He watched Yibo fumble with his own phone, cursing softly as he propped it on his nightstand.  He then turned on his side, pillowing his head on his arm as he looked at Xiao Zhan.  “Hey,” he said, voice neutral.

“So you almost died when you were a kid,” Xiao Zhan murmured, looking at Yibo’s face.

Yibo nodded.  “It was touch and go for a while there.”

“And your heart still bothers you?” 

Yibo shrugged.  “Not usually.  But I do scare easy, and when I’m scared my heart does weird things.”

“I’m sorry again, I should have stopped them,” Xiao Zhan said, looking down.

“So very not your fault,” Yibo said, his mouth crinkling up in the corners.  

“Is it true you can’t sleep in the dark?” Xiao Zhan asked, tilting his head.

Yibo nodded, pouting a little.  “I’m okay if someone’s there with me.  But when I’m alone, yeah, I sleep with the lights on.  And I usually need some white noise.  I’ll put the TV on low.”

Xiao Zhan reached out, like he could touch Yibo through the screen, then pulled his hand back.  “You left home when you were really young.  That must have been hard.”

Yibo shrugged again.  “I wanted to be a star.  I fought for that, in every spare moment that I had.  I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity that I was given.”

“Still,” Xiao Zhan insisted.

Yibo huffed out a breath.  “Yeah, it was hard.  Really hard.”

Xiao Zhan smiled.  “But your dreams did come true.”

“Yeah,” Yibo said with a nod, “They did.”

The conversation stilted, and they both just lay there, looking at each other.  Xiao Zhan wished Yibo was there so he could give him a hug.

“Can you not tell the others?  About my heart condition?” Yibo asked shyly.  “I don’t want them knowing I’m so weak.”

“You’re not weak,” Xiao Zhan insisted.

Yibo stuck out his bottom lip, eyes shining.  He then lowered his eyes and bit on his lip.  

“I won’t tell them,” Xiao Zhan clarified.  “But you’re not weak.  You’ve fought so hard, Yibo.  And I’m… I might not know you well enough yet to say this, but still, I’m… proud of you.”

Yibo covered his face with his hands, taking a deep breath.  He then laughed.  When he looked up again, he was smiling.  “I’m really happy I get to work with you, Zhan-ge.  I think I’ll learn a lot from you.”

Xiao Zhan grinned wide.  “I’ll learn a lot from you too, Wang-laoshi.  After all, you debuted before me.  You’ve got more experience than I do.”

“You’re older than me,” Yibo said, “You’ve got more experience.”

“My experience doesn’t count.”

“Sure it does,” Yibo insisted.  “It’s life experience.  Helps you to be a better actor.  What do I know of life?  My life is so far from normal.”

“You wouldn’t know what normal was if it came along and hit you on the side of the head!” Xiao Zhan agreed.

They both dissolved into laughter, laughing with each other.  Xiao Zhan savoured that laugh, the look on Yibo’s face.  He picked up his phone and took a screenshot.

“Hey!  Did you just screenshot me?!” Yibo asked, outraged.

“What?” Xiao Zhan said defensively.  “You hardly ever laugh.  I needed to capture the moment!”

Yibo picked up his phone, miming throwing a fist at him.  “I laugh a lot more when you’re around!”  

Xiao Zhan’s eyes softened at that.  “You do?”

“Yeah,” Yibo said, chewing on his lip.  “Something about you just makes me feel… at ease.  Like I can be myself around you.”

“You can,” Xiao Zhan agreed.

They stared at each other through the phone, something growing between them.  Then Yibo’s stomach made a loud gurgling noise, making them both burst out laughing again.

“Yibo, did you eat?!” Xiao Zhan exclaimed.

“Not since lunch,” Yibo said, fisting his own stomach.  “Shut up!” he growled down at it.

“Yibo, Bo-di, go get something to eat, then go to bed.  I’ll see you tomorrow anyway, right?”

Yibo nodded, “I’ll be flying back in the morning.  I’ll be there for four days then back here again. 

“Well then, go eat.  I’ll see you soon.”  Xiao Zhan smiled at him through the screen.

“Okay, Zhan-ge,” Yibo agreed around a yawn.  “See you tomorrow.”  He then made a V for Victory sign with his fingers, winked, and hung up the phone.

Xiao Zhan flopped over on his back after he hung up the phone, cradling it to his chest.  He threw an arm over his face, growling at himself.  “What am I doing?” he said to the empty room.

I think I like him.  I think I like my co-star.  Who’s supposed to be my boyfriend.  My fake boyfriend.  He’s not my real boyfriend.  Get it in your thick skull, Xiao Zhan.  He’s not yours!  …Not even though you might want him to be.

 

Chapter Text

May 2018

Wang Yibo and Xiao Zhan fell into a kind of rhythm, practicing their lines together, filming scenes, and learning more about each other when they were waiting for cameras to be set up.  They discovered they both had a mutual love of films and games, and spent time together playing games on their phones.  

The first few scenes they filmed were definitely the most awkward.  Yibo’s wig was pulled super tight on his head, and it not only hurt, it also limited his facial expression, giving his face a pinched look.  Even though Lan Wangji was supposed to be stoic, he still needed to express subtleties in his face and it was really hard in those first few episodes.

Xiao Zhan, on the other hand, suffered from a bit of over-acting.  He wanted to display the youthful Wei Wuxian as carefree, but in so doing he definitely overdid it.  If he had a chance to do it again, he’d tone it down a little.

The two of them were sitting together one evening, their wigs just having been removed, their natural hair still stiff from glue.  They were waiting for food to be brought out to them, both of them lounging in casual clothes on the side of the set.

“My head hurts,” Yibo complained.

“Mine too,” Xiao Zhan commiserated.

Yibo flopped on his back on the ground, pulling one knee up and crossing his ankle over it.  “This isn’t your first historical drama, Xiao-laoshi.  Do the wigs always hurt your head this much?”

Xiao Zhan flopped down next to him, looking up at where he thought the stars would be, if there weren’t so many set lights drowning out the sky.  “Yeah, pretty much.  I’ve got a bit of a routine to take care of my scalp, there are some products you can use to loosen up the glue.  But at this rate we’ll both end up with receding hairlines.”

Wang Yibo tilted his head to look over at him, glaring.  “I cannot go bald, Zhan-ge.”

Xiao Zhan looked back at him, laughing, his eyes crinkling.  “And you say you’re not narcissistic.”

“I’d rather be fat than bald.  At least if I was fat I could lose weight.”  He raised an eyebrow at him.

Xiao Zhan smirked.  “Well when we’re finished filming let’s go to a salon and get some hair plugs put in.”

Yibo rolled his eyes.  He then closed them, folding his hands on his belly.  “I’m sleepy.”

“How long has it been since you slept?  You came here straight from Produce 101 again last night?”

“Mmm… maybe 2 days.  I caught a few hours the day before.”

“Wow, Wang-laoshi.  How can you be so composed on so little sleep?” Xiao Zhan commented, admiring.  

Yibo shrugged, his eyes still closed.  

Xiao Zhan took a moment to look over at him, admiring his profile.  “You have really nice eyelashes,” he commented with a smile.

“Not as nice as yours,” Yibo shot back without hesitation.

“Such a pretty face.  I wish my face was as small as yours.”  He leaned over on his side, propping his head on his hand so he could get a better look at him.

“First thing I thought when I saw you - handsome.  Such nice cheekbones.  Your face is really nice.”  Yibo just murmured, half-asleep.

“Wow, didi.”

They had started complimenting each other almost from the start, but it was a game to them now.  Even though they both meant it, they didn’t mean anything by it, and so it was okay.  

Yibo stretched out his arm and flicked Xiao Zhan on his shoulder.

“Ow!  Stop hitting me so much,” Xiao Zhan complained.  “I’m calling elder abuse.”

Yibo smirked, his eyes still closed.

They lapsed into a pleasant silence, just waiting there.  Silence, that is, until Yibo jerked, then jumped to his feet, then screamed at the top of his lungs.  Xiao Zhan sat up, startled, watching as Yibo batted at his legs furiously then took off in a sprint, running away, still screaming.

A crew member was standing there, bags of food in his hands, a blank expression on his face as he slowly turned and looked in the direction Yibo had run off to.  He then looked back at Xiao Zhan.  “What got into him?” he asked.

Xiao Zhan shrugged, then looked down at where Yibo had been lying.  He didn’t see anything at first, then he saw a cute fuzzy caterpillar on the ground, struggling on its back.  Xiao Zhan smirked, then picked the caterpillar up.  “Cute!” he exclaimed.  He then grinned, got to his feet, and ran off in search of Yibo.

He found the boy out in the forest outside the set of Cloud Recesses, his fingers clinging on the bark of a tree.

Xiao Zhan was still grinning, walking up to him slowly, tip-toeing.  He held his hands behind his back.  “Yibo?” he called out, eyebrow raised.

Yibo looked back over at him, his face ashen.  “What.”

“Did something startle you?”

Yibo hid around the far side of the tree, poking his head out.  Xiao Zhan’s grin widened, Yibo is so cute!

“There was a… b-bug,” Yibo stuttered.  

Xiao Zhan walked forward slowly, steps even.  “What kind of a bug?  Bo-di?”

Yibo hid his face behind the tree.  “Caterpillar.  On my leg.”

Xiao Zhan walked right up to the tree Yibo was hiding behind, peeking around at him.  “Are caterpillars scary?”

Yibo circled around the far side of the tree.  “Disgusting.”

“But Yibo, aren’t they cute?  They’re fuzzy.”

Yibo shivered.  “Too many legs.”

Xiao Zhan whipped his hand out from behind his back, displaying the caterpillar.  “But it’s just a caterpillar!  It’s fuzzy and green with white stripes down its back!”

Yibo took off again, screaming as he ran into the forest.

Xiao Zhan laughed, chasing after him.  “Yibo~~!  Come look!”

“Get away from me!” Yibo yelled.

The boy was fast, Xiao Zhan could barely keep up with him, just chasing after the streak of white shorts and shirt that he could see.  Xiao Zhan ran after him, still laughing, the caterpillar cradled gently in his hands.  “Yibo, it’s cute!  Come on, if you just take a look!”

“Bullshit!” Yibo swore, switching directions and running down the hill toward the water.

Xiao Zhan chased after him, his laughter ringing through the hillside.  “Bo di~~~~!”

Xiao Zhan chased Yibo all the way down to the pond where they filmed the cold springs episodes.  Yibo didn’t hesitate, he thrashed into the water, still desperately trying to get away.

Xiao Zhan was so close, he thought I’ll catch him!  But then he tripped on a wet stone and fell face-first into the water, the caterpillar going flying.  He hit the water hard, knocking the breath out of him, then he choked in some water.  He floundered to his feet, choking and coughing, and saw Yibo poised on the other side of the water, drenched, his white shorts plastered to his slim legs.  

“Are you okay?” Yibo asked grudgingly.

Xiao Zhan couldn’t answer, he was coughing so hard.  He did hold up his hands to show that they were caterpillar-free.

Yibo waded back over to him, carefully, his eyes sceptical, but when there was no evidence of any bugs he patted Xiao Zhan on his back, helping him to cough up the water that had gotten into his lungs.  

When Xiao Zhan cleared his lungs, his eyes got a wicked gleam in them, and he spun, sweeping his leg out under Yibo’s and pushing on his chest.  Yibo went flying backward into the water, and Xiao Zhan pounced on him, hands on his chest as he pushed him further into the water.

They struggled, wrestling with each other, and Yibo managed to get his hand around Xiao Zhan’s waist, spinning him underneath him.  

“You’re a beast!” Yibo growled.

Xiao Zhan laughed, then slipped on his ass, head going under water again.  Yibo followed him, and they were both rolling around in the shallow water, grappling with each other, until they were both laughing and coughing up water.

“Are you even human?” Xiao Zhan sputtered.

“You’re one to talk!” Yibo growled as he shoved a hand up under Xiao Zhan’s shirt, gripping his side as he spun him in the water.  

Xiao Zhan flung out his leg, wrapping it around Yibo’s torso and pulling him down.  They ended up lying down on top of each other, soaking wet, Yibo’s body pressed down into Xiao Zhan’s.  

They both seemed to realize the intimacy of the position at the same moment, as they went quiet, looking into each other’s eyes from inches apart.

“You really are too handsome,” Yibo said, reaching out a hand to swipe his thumb across Xiao Zhan’s lips.

Xiao Zhan laughed and shoved Yibo off, getting shakily back to his feet.  “You’re the one with the pretty face,” Xiao Zhan said, still laughing.  He was standing with his hands on his knees, water dripping from his clothes and hair.  He reached out a hand to Yibo, which after a moment, he took.  Xiao Zhan hauled Yibo to his feet.  For a moment, they were chest-to-chest, looking in each other’s eyes again.  Xiao Zhan’s eyes widened when he saw Yibo’s eyes flick from his eyes to his mouth then back up again.

They both coughed, nervously, then moved apart from each other.

“We should be getting back,” Xiao Zhan said, mouth still twisted into a wry smile.  “Our food’s getting cold.”

Yibo shook himself off like a dog, flinging water from his hair.  He then pushed his hair back from his face with both his hands, the movement exposing all the tight muscles under the white shirt that was plastered to his body.  “Sure,” he agreed.  

Xiao Zhan tried really hard not to look at the pert nipples that were tight from the cool water, showing a darker rosy colour than his light-coloured skin through the thin fabric of the wet white t-shirt.  Tried, and failed.

———

When they walked back on set, soaking wet, looking sheepish, the whole cast and crew turned to look at them.  Director Zheng dropped his chopsticks he was so shocked.  “What happened to you two?” he blurted.

Yibo smacked Xiao Zhan on the arm.  “Xiao Zhan was bullying me,” he pouted.

Xiao Zhan smacked Yibo back.  “I wasn’t!  Well, maybe a little,” he admitted, scratching the back of his neck.

“Tyrant,” Yibo muttered under his breath, shooting Xiao Zhan a dark look.  He then stalked off, grabbing a plate of food for himself and shrinking off to a corner to eat.

Xiao Zhan laughed a little, then sauntered in, waving.  “Nothing to see here, nothing at all,” he said with a nervous laugh.

He grabbed his own plate of food, determined to ignore the stares and murmurs of the others around him.  Then he walked over to where Yibo was sulking by himself.

He sat down close to him, bringing a bite of food to his mouth.  He looked up as Yibo scooted a foot away.  He then scooted a foot closer, and when Yibo scooted away again he followed him.

Yibo turned and threw him a solid glare.

Xiao Zhan held up his hands in surrender, giving his best pouty face.  He then ate his food, mollified at least when Yibo ate his, too.  

When their empty plates were set aside, Xiao Zhan sidled closer to him again.  “Bo di~~, don’t be mad at me,” he said, sticking out his bottom lip.

Yibo glared at him again, but his lip twitched.

Xiao Zhan increased his pout, then batted his eyelashes at him.  “I didn’t mean to, I swear.  I honestly thought it was really cute, I just wanted you to see.”

“Bullshit,” Yibo whispered, looking away.  He crossed his arms over his chest, showing off the lean muscles in his arms to perfection.

Xiao Zhan threw his arm over Yibo’s shoulders in a one-armed hug.  “Come on, Bo-di, don’t be mad at me.  Hmm?”

Yibo let out a big sigh, rolling his eyes to the sky.

Xiao Zhan shook his shoulder.  “I’ll make it up to you, ok?  Tell me what you want me to do.  I’ll do anything.”

Yibo looked over at him, then looked him up and down.  “Anything?”

Xiao Zhan stuck his bottom lip out again, then nodded.

Yibo turned to face him more fully, meeting his eyes.  “Okay.  Here’s how you can make it up to me.”

Xiao Zhan nodded eagerly, his hand gripping Yibo’s shoulder.  “Tell me, Bo-di.”

Yibo smiled impishly.  “Send me a selfie.”

Xiao Zhan nodded, eyes brightening.  “Easy!  I can do that.”

“Every day.”

Xiao Zhan looked in his eyes.  “Every day… for how long?”

Yibo’s eyes gleamed.  “For a month,” he said with a raised eyebrow.

Xiao Zhan groaned, his arm falling away from Yibo’s back as he leaned back on his hands.  “Bo-di, come on, really?”

Yibo just sat there, crossing his arms over his chest again, eyebrow raised.  “You said you’d do anything.  Is that really so hard?”

“I hate taking selfies,” Xiao Zhan grumbled.

Yibo got to his feet, stretching.  “A promise is a promise.”  He then threw Xiao Zhan a last look, then took off, sauntering past the cast and crew that were still staring at the two of them, whistling a tune to himself.  

I’m so screwed, Xiao Zhan thought with a groan.

———

Yibo giggled to himself on the set of Produce 101 when the latest selfie came in from Xiao Zhan.  He looked so adorable Yibo's heart flopped over in his chest.

 

Xiao Zhan:  Xiao Zhan

This week he was teaching the girls how to do their individual dance routines.  They had styled him back in his blue hair again, put makeup on him, and for his teaching segment he was wearing a purple tracksuit.  The girls kept egging him on, making him do cute things with them, showing them their own cute moves.  At one point he was teaching the girls a dance to a song called “I Think I Wanna Marry You,” and he ended up on a bench, sandwiched between 4 girls, making cute faces as he leaned his head on the shoulder of the girl next to him and the girl next to him leaned her head on his shoulder.

He almost died from mortification after.  He was sure the tape they shot from this would be everlasting on the internet forever.

Yibo taught the another group of girls doing “Seaweed Dance,” how to do one of his favourite dances that he'd learned recently, a move where he hopped on one leg while kicking out with the other and pumping his hand in the air.  At first the girls looked at him skeptically, but he knew that once the move was integrated into the routine it'd really make it pop.

Yibo: Look at my latest memes

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  Ah Yibo, you're too cute!

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  I don’t just do cute, I do cool too.  Don’t you think these are cool?

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  Yibo, you’re very handsome.  Very small face.  Cute small face.

Yibo:  Even this one?  Profile shot is cool, no?  Not cute?

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  These aren’t memes and selfies anymore, Bo-di, these are studio photographs!  They don’t count.  But even if they did, your profile view is still cute.

Yibo:  Hey, that last one wasn’t a studio shot.  That’s a screenshot of me on camera!

Xiao Zhan:  Really?  Damn.  So cute I want to poke you in the cheek.  Can I poke you in the cheek when I see you?

Yibo glowered at his phone.  He then threw it aside in disgust, not dignifying that question with an answer.

He was starting to get annoyed with Xiao Zhan's veiled (and not-so-veiled) references to their age gap.  He didn't want Xiao Zhan thinking of him as a little brother.  He wanted him thinking of him as an equal.  So every time Xiao Zhan called him cute, or mentioned the age difference, he got a constipated look on his face.

He didn't write Xiao Zhan back.  After another few hours of rehearsing with the girls, and dinner with the other mentors, he finally made it back to his hotel room.  He pulled out his phone, and found Xiao Zhan had sent him a selfie that he'd taken a while back.

 

Xiao Zhan:  Xiao Zhan

Xiao Zhan:  If it'll make you feel better about being so cute, then here's proof that I can be cute too.

Yibo made puppy eyes at his phone.  He then burst out laughing, a full belly laugh.  He finally plucked up the courage to respond.

Yibo:  I am older now, Xiao Zhan.  I'm a man.  I don't want to be cute.  I want to be sexy, handsome.  I want people to see me as I feel on the inside.

Xiao Zhan wrote him back almost immediately.

Xiao Zhan:  But you're an idol and an actor.  Half the time they dress us up and style us in ways that have nothing to do with who we are.  It's the image we're supposed to fit in that moment.  

Yibo:  I'm trying to remake my image.

Xiao Zhan:  Sorry to tell you but not with the styling they've got going for you on Produce 101.  You're cute as a button, even if you're already 20.

Yibo:  Well you don't look 26, either.  You look as young as me.  And you're young at heart.

Xiao Zhan:  Stop talking about me like I'll keel over at 30 years old.  

Yibo:  I'm trying to say the opposite!

Xiao Zhan:  Sure, Bo-di.

Yibo:  I'm serious!  I really don't think our age difference matters Xiao Zhan.

Yibo hoped that by using Xiao Zhan's real name that he'd be taken seriously.  He was whipping out the big guns.

Xiao Zhan:  Sorry, Yibo, I seem to have rubbed you the wrong way.

Yibo:  Then rub me the right way!

Yibo hit send on the message before re-reading it and then blanching when he saw what it looked like he had said.

Yibo:  That's not what I meant.

Yibo:  You don't need to rub me at all.

Yibo:  I'm fine myself.

Yibo:  Oh fuck what 

Yibo:  am I writing

Yibo:  Can you delete all these messages please?

Xiao Zhan:  Hahaha, oh Bo-di, priceless.  Screenshots saved for posterity.

Yibo:  You better be kidding.

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  Low blow, Zhan-ge, sending my own images back to me.  That’s it, I’m never coming back.  Have them write LWJ out of the script, OK?

Xiao Zhan:  Oh, didi, don’t be so glum.  It’s okay.  Everybody does it.

Yibo:  Everybody does WHAT?

Xiao Zhan:  You know… rub themselves?

Yibo:  Shut up.

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  I’m never talking to you again.

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  You’re talking to me now!

Yibo:  Please stop.

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo   Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  You're the one who started it.  You do have the best memes.

Yibo threw his phone away, then screamed at himself and put his face in his hands.  He was mortified.  Beyond mortified.  What must Xiao Zhan think of me???  Oh God must change the subject.  

Yibo:  Anyway I had to teach the girls how to be shy today.

Xiao Zhan:  You’re shy by nature, that should have  been easy!

Yibo:  I was shy about teaching them to be shy.  I got up there then tried to get it out and couldn’t and walked away again telling them to figure it out on their own.

Yibo could picture Xiao Zhan laughing at him, and somehow he didn’t mind.  As long as Xiao Zhan was laughing.

Xiao Zhan:  Hahaha, so cold, Yibo.

Yibo:  I did teach them other stuff!  I even got up on a bench with all of them and did the dance for “I Think I Wanna Marry You” along with them.  They should feel honoured!

Xiao Zhan:  Yibo ah Yibo.  Who were you thinking about when you did the dance?

Yibo flopped on his stomach on the bed and buried his head under a pillow.  Truthfully, in that moment, his mind had been on the one person he wasn’t allowed to feel that way about.

Xiao Zhan:  Yibo?

Yibo fished his phone back out.

Yibo:  Secret.

Xiao Zhan:  Xiao Zhan

Xiao Zhan:  Don’t you have a girl you like?

Yibo: No

Yibo blanched after he sent that.  Was that too obvious?

Yibo: We’ve got the judging tomorrow, I’ve got to go.

Xiao Zhan:  Try to get some rest, Bo-di.  What’s your schedule like the rest of the week?

Yibo: Judging tomorrow, then I fly tomorrow night to do an event, then I fly back to set the next morning and straight into filming.

Xiao Zhan:  Did they book you any time to sleep in that schedule?

Yibo:  I can get a few hours tonight, if I go to bed now.

Xiao Zhan: Then I won’t keep you.  Sleep well, Bo-di.

Yibo:  You too, Zhan-ge.

———

By the time Xiao Zhan saw Yibo again, it was days later.  The young man had hardly had any time to sleep over the past few days, flying back and forth from one event to another.  Today he had to go straight into filming with Xiao Zhan, they were filming some fighting scenes.

Yibo arrived on set looking refreshed, not showing any signs of the exhaustion he must be feeling.  He was sent straight into hair and makeup, and in the meantime Xiao Zhan was sent off to film some other shots.  When Yibo arrived fully dressed on set an hour later, he was the immaculate Lan Wangji again, so different from his normal style.  But Xiao Zhan had to admit, Lan Wangji suited him very well.  Wang Yibo was poised, his dancer’s skills coming in handy when he had to spin and wield his sword.  He’d needed a lot less sword training than the others, since it was like an extension of skills he already possessed.

They were filming the scene by the waterfall, when Lan Wangji went to find Wei Wuxian after he disappeared from class to bring him to the Library for his remedial studies.  In this scene, Lan Wangji had to spin around in a circle, raising his sword to meet Wei Wuxian’s and block his blow.  

On one of the takes, Xiao Zhan actually hit Yibo’s finger with his sword.  He gasped, jerking forward to take Yibo’s hand in his.

“Are you all right?  Did I hurt you?” he said, his fingers gentle on Yibo’s hand.

Yibo pulled his hand away.  “I’m okay.”

Xiao Zhan shook his head, annoyed with himself as he sheathed Suibian.  I could have sliced him open, Xiao Zhan thought with horror.

Some crew members came around to help them fix their hair, and the two of them stood there awkwardly as the crew fussed over them.  

“It does kinda sting,” Yibo complained.

“I’m sorry,” Xiao Zhan said, examining Yibo’s face as he looked off into the distance.

Yibo looked down, pouting a little, then controlled his expression.  Xiao Zhan looked back over at him, examining his face to see if he was really okay, then reached out for his hand again.  “Let me see,” he murmured.

Yibo flipped his hand out of his long sleeve, holding it up for Xiao Zhan’s inspection.  “Stings a little here,” he said, holding up his hand.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes went wide with horror.  He then screwed up his face and looked at Yibo.  “Sorry.”

Yibo pouted at him.  Then he looked up at him under his lashes and said, “Want to kiss it better?”

Xiao Zhan held back a smirk, stepping back from him.  They looked into each other’s eyes, but Yibo held that perfect Lan Wangji straight face.  

“Nooo,” Xiao Zhan said in a singsong voice, leaning in towards him.

Yibo pouted some more.

“No way,” Xiao Zhan said in case that wasn’t clear enough.

“Pity,” Yibo whispered, bowing his head.

The surface of the rocks was uneven, and they had to shoot the scene several times as Yibo lost his footing more than once.  He didn’t fall, but he got a determined look on his face as he practiced the move until he got it right.  

It wasn’t often that Xiao Zhan saw Yibo’s serious face on, so of course he needed to wheedle him a little.  He reached out and poked Yibo.  So naturally, Yibo reached out and poked him back.  They smacked each other a few times, then Yibo turned and held out his hand to a crew member.  “Can I have my script?”

“What you actually need to look at a script?” Xiao Zhan asked.

“I have lines today,” Yibo said, looking down at the script.  He carefully memorized his lines, trying to ignore as Xiao Zhan made fun of him.  Then he handed the script back and got back into his serious face.  They acted out the scene well, and Yibo and Xiao Zhan went back to relax on some camp chairs.

Yu Bin came around with a microphone, interviewing the crew.  Yibo just looked up at him like, really?  But this was part of the job as well.  He dutifully answered some questions.  Then Yu Bin mentioned that Xiao Zhan was praising him, saying he fights well.

Yibo looked over to where Xiao Zhan was sitting next to him.  “Really?  He praised me?” he said sceptically.  He then looked back at the camera.  “There was a camera, he was pretending,” he said with a shy smile.

Yu Bin then went over to Xiao Zhan.  

“I praise him, I frequently praise him,” Xiao Zhan said defensively.  But before he had a chance to finish what he was saying, Yibo smacked him, and Xiao Zhan smirked, trying to hold back a laugh.  “Nervous,” he said, looking back at the camera.  Then he got serious again when he said, “Yes, I think he fights really handsomely because he dances very well.  He fights pretty well,” he said with a smile.  

They were walking to their next scene, which they were going to film inside Han Tan cave, where Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji fell into and then had to tie their wrists together to get past the Lan Clan’s barrier.  

As they walked, their shoulders kept brushing together.  “You don’t have to praise me,” Yibo said under his breath.

“But Lan Zhan, you’re so handsome, and such a good fighter.  Why would I not praise you?” Xiao Zhan teased him.

“Because just like Lan Zhan I might get the mistaken impression that you’re flirting with me,” Yibo huffed under his breath, then looked around to make sure none of the cast had heard them.

Xiao Zhan flung an arm over Yibo’s shoulder.  “Nothing wrong with a little harmless flirting,” he said with a wink.  Wei Wuxian was rubbing off on him.  “It doesn’t mean anything.”

Yibo’s ears went red, but he didn’t say anything.  

Xiao Zhan gave his shoulder one last squeeze for good measure then gave him a little smack as he put some distance between them.

———

When they got into the cave, Yibo was shy but playful.  He was ostensibly reading his script, but as he did so he couldn’t stop playing around with his long sleeves in the water.  He flipped the sleeves around, then patted them, splashing water up onto Xiao Zhan and his script.

“I’m gonna stay away from you,” Xiao Zhan said with a grin, getting to his feet.

As their wrists were tied together, when he stood, it pulled the ribbon taut between them.  

“Stay away from me?” Yibo said with a playful smile.  “You won’t have the headband.”  He then got to his feet as well.  “You need me.”

Xiao Zhan was fumbling with his robes, trying to straighten them out.  He grinned at Yibo then smacked him good with his sleeve.  “You need me, too.”

Yibo splashed him with water.  “Yeah, I do,” he agreed shamelessly.

“Pah!  Lan Wangji would never say that,” Xiao Zhan said with an eye roll.

Yibo gave him a look.  “I’m not Lan Wangji,” he reminded him.

They locked eyes, and the smile faded away from Xiao Zhan’s face.  “No, you’re not.  And I’m not Wei Wuxian.”

They held a straight face for about 10 seconds before both of them burst out laughing.  “All right let’s do this,” Xiao Zhan said, determined.

“Jiayou!” Yibo called out.

They walked up to the platform, recited a few lines, then went back to film the part where their wrists weren’t bound together.  In between, Xiao Zhan teased him, “I think that’s the most lines I’ve ever heard Lan Wangji say.  That was like 3 whole sentences.”

“I had to study hard just then,” Yibo joked, taking out Bichen and sweeping it in a wide arc in the water, spraying Xiao Zhan with water.

Xiao Zhan retaliated with Suibian, splashing him back again.  The two then proceeded to descend to the age group of five year olds as they splashed each other with water, laughing, while the crew set up their next shot.  

The crew then tried to get their attention, saying they were ready, but Yibo just kept playing with his long sleeves in the water, dragging them around, crouching down and splashing.  

Xiao Zhan screeched when Yibo got one particularly good splash in his eye.  Yibo then grinned triumphantly, walking away.  

———

“Look, my hands are all pruney,” Yibo said, showing Xiao Zhan his fingers as they walked out of the cave.

“Mine too,” Xiao Zhan said, showing his hands.

Yibo reached out and took Xiao Zhan’s hand, comparing their hand size.  “Wow, Zhan-ge, you’re taller than me but your hands are so much smaller!”

“Why do you have such big hands!” Xiao Zhan whined, holding his hand and sliding their fingers against each other.

“My hands are normal.  Yours are tiny,” Yibo said, taking Xiao Zhan’s hand and looking at his fingers.  “Were you malnourished as a child?”

“Of course not!”

Yibo linked their hands together, swinging them as they walked.  “Cute,” he said with a smile, looking over at him.

“Well,” Xiao Zhan said with a sly smile.  “I don’t mind being called cute.  But I’m not as cute as you!”

Yibo pulled away, rolling his eyes in disgust.  “Hopeless.”

Xiao Zhan watched Yibo as he walked away, his heart flopping over in his chest.  I shouldn’t fan the flames.  It’s just hero-worship, he told himself.  But still, he couldn’t stop watching Wang Yibo.  When he was around, he couldn’t help but tease a smile onto his face.

Xiao Zhan ran off after him.  “Are you even human?  I think your hands are alien hands.”

“And you say I need to be nicer?” Yibo complained grumpily.

———

Yibo didn’t even know what he did to set Xiao Zhan off this time, only next thing you know he was telling the crew, “Wang Yibo is evil.”

Yibo goggled over at him from across the room, mouth gaping open.

“Wang Yibo is evil,” Xiao Zhan repeated.  “Today Wang Yibo, Wang Yibo sent me 5 portraits of himself today and asked me if he is handsome or not,” he said, holding up a hand to show all his fingers.

Okay, so Yibo had indeed sent Xiao Zhan more pictures of himself.  But it was because Xiao Zhan refused to admit that he was anything other than cute!  Even if he had just said handsome instead of cute he would have been satisfied.  Plus, it was Xiao Zhan himself that had started it by sending him another promised selfie.  Yibo sat there, pouting.

Xiao Zhan just shook his head, laughing a little.  “I really can’t understand him.”

“Don’t talk nonsense,” Yibo said defensively.  “It’s you who sent to me first.  Why do you say it’s me,” he grumbled.

“I sent you the helmet,” Xiao Zhan said, referring to a picture of a motorcycle helmet he’d sent as well, asking Yibo if he thought it looked cool.

“You sent me your selfie,” Yibo called out.  And it was a cute one, too.  Definitely saved in my phone for eternity.

“I sent you a selfie, but you sent me back a studio portrait, a full image.  Do you think I will click on that?” he teased him.  “Do you think I will use up my data on that image?”

You should.  I was hot.

Xiao Zhan pointed to him, laughing and smiling wide.  “What were you thinking?  You’re a narcissist.”

The smile dropped away from Yibo’s face.  I’m not a narcissist.  I never think I’m good enough.  I’m definitely not as good as you.  I thought maybe that picture might make you think I was handsome, in your league, but obviously not.  

“Super narcissistic,” Xiao Zhan continued, unaware of how he was stabbing Yibo in the feels.  “Wang Yibo why are you so narcissistic?”

Everyone has pride.  You have pride, too.  I’ll show you yours.  He got an evil little smile on his face as he thought about his payback.

When the people styling his hair finally finished, Yibo got up, palming his phone into his hand and flipping through the recent photos he’d exchanged with Xiao Zhan.  “You are such a gentleman, Lao Xiao,” he said sarcastically.  

“You slandered me again,” Xiao Zhan called over to him.

“Lao Xiao is really such a gentleman like this.”

“You slandered me again,” Xiao Zhan repeated, never mind that he was the one that had started this in the first place.  “Again.”

“Wow,” Yibo said, a little smile playing on his face as he looked with amusement at their chat history.

“Here we go again,” Xiao Zhan mused.

Success, Yibo found the image he was looking for - the “cute” selfie Xiao Zhan had sent him.  

Xiao Zhan

Yibo got the image on full screen, then went around showing people.  “Lao Xiao was like this,” he said, smiling wide.

“Let me take a look,” Xiao Zhan demanded.

Huaisang burst out laughing.

“Super handsome,” Yibo teased, walking around to show it to more people.  Crew members leaned in to take a look.  Then Yibo walked over to show it to Xiao Zhan so he could see the picture he was using as revenge.

“It was last year,” Xiao Zhan said with an embarrassed smile on his face.  “A photo from last year.”

Yibo looked at the picture again, a fond smile on his face as he giggled.  “So cute, he was trying to be cute,” Yibo said, tapping to zoom in on that pout.  He then showed the zoomed-in pout to the camera.  “So cute, pout!”  Yibo looked at the picture again, staring at it fondly.  I could look at this picture for hours, he thought with a softness in his heart.

“Who doesn’t have a past?” Xiao Zhan called out, still trying to defend himself.  “Don’t overdo it!”

Oh, Zhan-ge, Yibo thought to himself with a grin on his face, If you think this is overdoing it, this isn’t even close.

Chapter Text

May 2018

Yibo was on a plane again back to the set of Produce 101.  He had to admit his gruelling schedule, that had left him no days off in so long he couldn’t even remember, was starting to catch up with him.  

They did an ultimate cuteness styling for his judging session, with blue hair half-hidden under a black hat, subtle makeup on and earrings dangling from his ears.  He was wearing flowing black pants, a white shirt, and a black vest.  He could hear people chanting his name as he walked over to the judging stage.  Whether or not he liked the cute look, the audience surely did.

Xiao Zhan is right, Yibo thought to himself, my role right now is to fit the image that they want me to fill.  And if that’s cute, then I’d better own it.

Yibo was quite excited to see how this competition went.  He was rooting for two of the three dance groups he’d mentored personally, the Think I Wanna Marry You and the Seaweed Dance.  Though truthfully he was also looking forward to seeing how the other groups fared. Particularly one of the front runners, Wu Xuanyi, who had disappointed him by being totally unprepared when he’d shown up to mentor them.  Without hard work no matter how good looking she was she’d never make it.  He hoped this performance ended up being a good kick in the butt for her to start working hard again.

When Yibo got to the stage, the first thing they wanted to do was interview him.

“You missed the last performance,” Ella mentioned.  “Afterwards, going back to the classes to teach them, did you feel that anything was different?”

“Nothing was different,” Yibo said with a straight face.  “Everyone was still very serious.”

“Nothing was different?” Ella said with a raised eyebrow, incredulous.  “Didn’t they improve?”

Yibo groaned internally, embarrassed that he’d already managed to step his foot in it.  He didn’t show anything on his face though.  “No no no no,” Yibo backtracked.  “I didn’t mean that,” he said, gesturing with his hand.  “Just that their attitude, their mentality, things like that.”

Ella was outright laughing at him.

Did everyone have to tease him all the time?  He was starting to think they were doing it on purpose to see him flustered.  

“They are all very serious,” Ella engaged with him, coming to his rescue.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Yibo said, nodding.  

She turned her attention away from him and Yibo leaned his arms on the table, trying not to show on his face how much he wanted to crawl under the table.  He made an effort to force himself to smile instead.  He could see out of the corner of his eye the other mentors laughing at him, too.

Yibo got really fired up when he saw Yamy’s performance.  They did their own original song, based on the theme of the warrior women of China and Mulan.  They actually created a virtual drum up on the screen that Yamy was hitting with drumsticks in the beginning, making Yibo cry out “Woowwww,” in admiration.  The power on the stage was palpable, and Sunnee did a great job as well.  In the middle of this hard rock song Wei Jin burst out into this Chinese opera-style singing, it was a great contrast.  He would love to do a collaboration with them, and that was the best compliment he could think of.

He was super impressed when the first vocal team got up to perform, belting out a ballad all in white dresses.  He actually got shivers, he had to rub his hands down his arms to disperse the goosebumps.  So much talent on this stage.  Li Ziting blew the whole audience away, taking the popularity seat for the rest of the show.

Wu Xuanyi was up next.  He cast his mind back to their training session they’d had with him before.  They’d shown up only knowing a portion of the dance, claiming it was because the choreographers had changed their minds on the choreography multiple times.

“So what am I supposed to look at today?” Yibo had asked them, unimpressed.  “If you didn’t practice.”

“We only know the parts in the middle.”  Xuanyi said.  “Until the halfway mark.”

“I’ll watch first,” Yibo conceded, eyes downcast.

When they had shown the dance to him, it was godawful.  Even for the one half that they supposedly knew, Xuanyi was behind on all the parts, looking at the girls around her for guidance.  Yibo’s mouth thinned out into a straight line as he stared at them, flabbergasted.  Were they even taking this seriously?  He flew all the way back and forth from filming his drama for this?

“Wu Xuanyi, you’re the team leader,” Yibo said in a cold voice, squatting on the floor in his tracksuit, looking at his clipboard.  He then looked back up at her, holding the back of his neck with one hand and using his clipboard to point at her.  “Why is Zhang Chuhan’s dancing so much better than yours?” he asked, bonking his clipboard on the ground.  He then started gesticulating with it again.  “Why is it that she can remember all the moves?”

She had nothing to say to him, so he flipped back through his notes.  “You’re first place,” he reminded her, jamming his pen into his notes.  “And she’s forty eighth.”  He stared up at her, willing her to react to him.   

“I’m sorry teacher,” she said, dipping into a deep bow.

Yibo flicked his nose, not even bothering to grace her with a look.  “We should change the leader,” he announced, wanting to get a rise out of her.  

Instead, she disappointed him even further when she just said, “Okay.”

Yibo looked up at her, wondering if she even wanted to be here.  “Just because there’s no time to practice, it doesn’t mean you can let your condition become like this,” he scolded her.  “Do you understand?”

She nodded, closing her eyes.  

Yibo looked back up at her, rubbing the back of his neck.  “You have to lead everyone to move forward.”  He bonked his clipboard into the ground again, glaring at her and pursing his lips.

When they’d interviewed him later he’d explained to the interviewer, “Just because you have no time to practice, that’s not something the audience will know.  You still need to show the end product.  In this lesson, I’m like a member of the audience,” he explained, playing with the strings on his white hoodie.  “So I only see the end product.  And that wasn’t good.”

As Yibo sat there on stage, watching the girls take their places, half of him hoped that they succeeded.  They were, after all, the girls he was mentoring.  The other half of him wanted to see them fail, just once, just to show them that the audience was not forgiving.  This was the real world.  He couldn’t even muster an encouraging smile for them.

As a dance performance, the choreography was weak, and the energy level low.  He was thoroughly unimpressed.  He just nodded grudgingly that at least they had remembered the moves.  He was embarrassed to call himself their mentor after he’d seen the performances from the other mentors thus far.  The only saving grace was that Wu Xuanyi only got 508 votes compared to Li Ziting’s 569 votes.  Yibo nodded, satisfied with this result.  It made sense to him.  Let that be a lesson to her not to sit on her laurels.

Yibo had so much more fun watching the other performances.  Hey Liar was great, had him bobbing his head and singing along. 

Seaweed Gang was finally up!  Time for them to unleash his super secret dance move.  Yibo grinned at how cute they were.  Li Zixuan was his particular favourite, she was a great dancer even though she had a super cute look.  Once she developed her confidence she’d be killer.

Yibo couldn’t help dancing along with them from his seat as they danced.  They were so great!  When they called out their thanks to him afterward, he got up from his seat and imitated the dance moves, making them burst out screaming.  Yibo laughed out loud at their antics on stage.    

The vocal group who did Let Me Love You were also fantastic.  Yibo turned to the other judges, letting out another, “Woowwww,” with a big smile when Gao Qiuzi started singing with the voice of an angel.  He had to admit he was having fun watching them chase their dreams.  Something about the song Let Me Love You also hit him in the feels.  In that moment he was thrown back to Lan Wangji, could have pictured him singing this song for Wei Wuxian.  Go through the darkest of days, Heaven’s a heartbeat away.  Never let you go never let me down.  Don’t you give up.  I won’t give up.  Let me love you.  Let me love you.  Yibo’s eyes started to swim, his mouth open and his gaze far away as he was transported somewhere else, seeing Xiao Zhan’s face in his mind as he let their voices wash over him.  He got shivers.  He came back into himself as the song ended, chatting with the other judges about how impressed he was with Gao Qiuzi, the overweight one that was the underdog of the competition.  He was cheering her on!  Go girl.  She may not have won popularity queen that night but she won in Yibo’s books.

After the next dance group fired up the crowd again, creating a new move with their fingers to make the Produce 101 crown that all the judges tried to imitate, somehow Teacher Luo and Yibo both were invited to get up and imitate the charming moves.  Yibo was caught off guard at first when they asked him to get up, but he took it good-naturedly.  He turned around, flicking his vest as he undulated his torso in his famous EOEO moves, rippling down his whole body.  Teacher Luo danced up against his back, then Yibo turned and grinned at him, the move being a little too suggestive for primetime TV.  Teacher Luo then reached out a hand and palmed Yibo’s pectoral, making Yibo grab his hand and burst out laughing.  The whole set went wild.  Yibo laughed in embarrassment, finding his way back to his seat and flopping down.  Hell, if my style when I first debuted didn’t make them realize I am gay… if me taking on a role as Lan Wangji didn’t make them realize I am gay… if this dance didn’t make them realize I am gay… what do I have to do?  Get up on stage and kiss a man?

Yibo gathered his scattered thoughts.  Will Xiao Zhan realize?  Will he treat me differently?  He fretted silently.

The vocal team who did Always did a good job, even though he thought it was nothing to particularly write home about.  They didn’t sound as professional as the other vocal groups had.  

Finally it was time for Yibo’s last mentor group - dancing to I think I Wanna Marry You.  The dance moves were not difficult, but the dance relied on cuteness.  They executed the dance perfectly, apart from one moment when one of the girls, Yin Rui, tossed a bouquet of flowers into the audience overhand and nearly beaned someone in the head, making Yibo smirk.  Yibo nodded and bit his lip as they danced, wanting a great outcome for them.   He started to dance with them from his seat, bobbing his head to the music.  

He then almost fell out of his chair in shock, yelling “Whoooa!” when the acrobat of the group, Lu Xiaoyu, suddenly swung up in the air in a hoop made of flowers and did some aerial moves high above the stage.  They hadn’t told him about this little surprise!

Yibo shot to his feet at the end of the dance, hands in the air, cheering.  He got beaned in the face by the judge next to him who was also screaming with his hands in the air, then they turned and laughed at each other, clapping.  The whole audience was screaming their heads off.

The judges were all talking amongst themselves and Yibo grabbed his vest, shouting out “Finale!” pleased with his group.

When Teacher Luo turned and said, “Out of all the dance groups, this one was the strongest,” Yibo nodded, pleased.  

When Xiaoyu took the overall popularity queen ranking of the night, Yibo shot up out of his seat, screaming.  His team had done it!  He was so proud of her he thought he’d explode.  She had tears in her eyes she was so grateful for being acknowledged.  

———

Wang Yibo went out to celebrate that night with the other mentors, sharing drinks and a meal together.  Teacher Luo congratulated him, lavishing praise on him for his skills as a dancer and as a mentor.  Somehow Yibo felt like he had made yet another friend on his crazy journey through life.

Yibo was a little tipsy as he made it back to his hotel room to pack.  He heard Xiao Zhan’s ping coming from his phone and fumbled it out of his pocket.

Xiao Zhan:  Wow, Bo-di - the episode just aired.  Incredible work!  

Yibo flushed all over as he read the message.  

Yibo:  Thanks Zhan-ge.  The girls all worked really hard.  

Xiao Zhan:  Super cute look again

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  Bonus shot here's the full-body look

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Yibo:  And back side

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  And you say you're not narcissistic

Yibo:  Did I look good?

Xiao Zhan:  I'm not dignifying that question with an answer

Yibo:  Do you  think I looked good?

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  You were a little hard on that one girl, Xuanyi, was it?

Yibo screwed up his nose in disgust.

Yibo:  Zhan-ge I’m so annoyed with her.  She was #1 in this competition and she decided she didn’t have to work hard at all.  Did she think she could just get away with a mediocre performance and stay on the top?  Looks aren’t everything.

Xiao Zhan:  You’re a really hard worker, aren’t you, Yibo?  

Yibo:  I have zero tolerance for mediocrity.  If you’re going to do something you have to shoot for being the best.

Xiao Zhan:  Hahaha, that definitely sounds like you.

Yibo:  Gege

Xiao Zhan:  Didi?

Yibo stared at the screen, blinking slowly.  He pushed the video call button.  It rang for a long time before Xiao Zhan finally picked up, breathless.  He was in costume, but not for The Untamed - he was in his Joy of Life costume.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes were wide open and he was breathless.  “Sorry I had to run away from the others,” Xiao Zhan explained, cocking a thumb behind him.  “Warn a guy before you call him, won’t you?”

Yibo pouted at him, sticking out his lip.  “Gege what are you still doing on set?  And not even on the project that I’m collaborating with you on?”

“You’re one to talk!”  Xiao Zhan accused him, pointing.  “You’re on set of Produce 101 half the time!  We’re shooting a night scene.”

Yibo flopped down on his bed, his shirt rucking up and exposing his stomach.  He gave it a little scratch, holding the phone roughly pointed at his face.  “I haven’t seen you in days,” Yibo complained.  “I miss you.”

“Yibo have you been drinking?” Xiao Zhan asked in a lowered voice.  

Yibo nodded, his eyes half-lidded.  “Just a little.  I’m not really drunk.  Tipsy.”

Xiao Zhan smiled, covering his face with his hand.  “Your cheeks are red.”

Yibo shrugged.  Then he groaned.  “Fuck, that smile.  Xiao Zhan.”

The smile faded from Xiao Zhan’s face.  “What?”

Yibo couldn’t tell Xiao Zhan that he had a fluttering feeling in his chest just looking at him.  He thought back to that song from earlier, Let Me Love You.  There were so many things he wanted to say, but he couldn’t say any of them.  He could fuck things up while they were still in the middle of filming.  He couldn’t make things awkward between them just when they needed to be close.

Yibo cleared his throat, coughing.  He reached a hand down to adjust his pants, careful to keep the phone pointed at his face as he did so.  “How is Joy of Life going?” he asked instead, changing tracks.

Xiao Zhan smiled again, bright.  “It’s going really well.  It’s not the main part, so it’s not as much of a commitment as Wei Wuxian.  But I think I’m handling it okay.”

“You’re so impressive,” Yibo murmured.  “How can you keep two completely different characters in mind when you switch from filming one to the other?”

“Mmmm, I dunno.  I guess…”  Xiao Zhan pursed his lips, eyes skating to the side as he thought.  “I try to get myself back in the mood before filming.  It helps when I have a co-star like you to bounce ideas off of,” he said with a shy smile.

“My Lan Wangji is only Lan Wangji because of you, Xiao Zhan,” Yibo continued in that soft voice.  “Whenever I need to make the right facial expressions, I feed off your energy.  I need you there with me to be in the right character, I need to be looking at your face, in your eyes."  Yibo gave him a deep look through the phone.  "Then I can be him in an instant.”

Xiao Zhan let out a breath, muttering, “And you say I’m  flirting with you.”  He then shook his head and looked up again.  “Your dance groups did really well tonight, I streamed the episode on my phone,” Xiao Zhan said earnestly.  “Are you having fun?”

“Yes,” Yibo said breathlessly, closing his eyes.  “I like their energy, too.  Although I’m shy around girls, I like the fact that they are all trying really hard.  I feel…”  Yibo raised up a hand and pressed a fist over his chest.  “Proud.  I feel proud when they do well.  I hope that I’m helping a little.”

“You’re helping a lot, Bo-di," Xiao Zhan said fondly.  "You’re their motivation, their coach.  They feed off your energy, too.  By looking at your reactions they’ll know if they did a good job because you’re not the type of person to offer false praises.”

“Yeah I’m shit at that,” Yibo admitted with a lopsided smile.  “I can only say what’s on my mind.  Maybe it’s because I’m a dumb jock.”

“You’re not dumb, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said softly.  “You feel things deeply, don’t you?  You keep it inside.”

Yibo stared at Xiao Zhan through the screen, wondering how the man had read him so completely so quickly.  They’d only been working together for a couple of months.  “Even when I’m joking, I’m not really joking,” Yibo whispered.

Xiao Zhan laughed aloud at that.  “Yibo Yibo.”

“I want to see you,” Yibo said, staring at the screen.

“You’re going to see me day after tomorrow,” Xiao Zhan reminded him.  “We’re filming the Library scene.”

Yibo licked his lips.  “I want to see you,” he said again.

Xiao Zhan rolled his eyes.  “You said that already, Bo-di.”

Yibo ran a hand through his hair, which was still blue and messily scrunched over the pillow.  “Did I look cute tonight?” Yibo asked, a little shy.

“You know you did, do you need to hear me say it?” Xiao Zhan asked softly.

Yibo’s eyes stared at his through the phone.  “Yeah, I think I do.”  He licked his lips again, biting his bottom lip into his mouth.

Xiao Zhan closed his eyes and let out a shuddering sigh.  “You looked cute, Yibo.  Adorable.”  

“Do…” Yibo said, then stopped.  He closed his eyes, letting out his own sigh.

“What?” Xiao Zhan asked softly.

“Do you want to see me, too?” Yibo whispered.

Xiao Zhan looked off-screen, running a hand through the wig he was wearing and biting on his top lip.  Yibo wished he could read his mind.  Did Xiao Zhan feel any of what Yibo was feeling right now?  Or was he alone in this?

Before Xiao Zhan could give an answer, Yibo heard someone calling his name.  Xiao Zhan stood up, waving.  “I’ll be right there!” he called out.  He then looked back at the screen sheepishly.  “I’m sorry I’ve got to go,” he said apologetically.  “Are you going to be okay?”

Yibo felt his eyes shining with emotion, so he turned his face away.  “I’m fine,” he insisted.

“I think we’ll both be in Beijing tomorrow, do you want to meet up?  We could get something to eat?” Xiao Zhan asked gently.

Yibo’s heart flopped over but he forced himself to say, “No need,” knowing that trying to make it work would be hard on Xiao Zhan.

“I’ll see you soon, Yibo.  Take care.  Try to get some rest, okay?”

Yibo nodded numbly.

“Bye,” Xiao Zhan said breathlessly, hanging up.

When he was lying there with his phone on his chest, his whole body swirling with emotions, Yibo felt a little like he was falling apart.  Like if he couldn’t see Xiao Zhan he’d just… disappear.  He had never felt that way before, and the feeling frightened him.  It wasn’t just lust, even though he was a little hard just from talking to him.  It was so much more than that.  

What is happening to me? Yibo despaired.

He got to his feet, wandered to the bathroom, then jumped in a cold shower with all his clothes on.

Get a grip, Yibo.  Get a grip.

Chapter Text

June 2018

 

By the time Xiao Zhan made it back to the next shoot site for The Untamed, he convinced himself that Yibo’s little drunken call was nothing at all to be worried about.  Indeed, when he saw the boy on set, he didn’t say anything, and they went back to their usual banter. 

They filmed some scenes in Cloud Recesses, playing off each other’s energy really well.  Yibo was smiling and joking with him as usual.

When they got to film the Library scene, Xiao Zhan had flashbacks to the novel.  Most particularly the Incense Burner extra chapter and what Lan Wangji had been imagining at the time.  Xiao Zhan stole glances at Wang Yibo, wondering - had he read the same chapters?   Of course, they wouldn’t be filming it that way, but that tension and undercurrent was in the way Xiao Zhan watched Yibo as he slid into his expressionless Lan Wangji mask.

Xiao Zhan poured his fascination for the real Wang Yibo into his expression when he gazed at him across the room on camera, miming drawing a painting of him.  Of course a properly finished painting had been provided for him, but as Xiao Zhan scribbled on the paper he did draw a semi-decent portrait of Wang Yibo on the page.  Part of him missed drawing, he’d not had much time for drawing or painting with his rushed schedule lately though it was still a hobby of his.

In between takes, Xiao Zhan and Yibo were sitting next to each other at his writing table, playing around with their calligraphy.  They’d both learned to do it as children, but never having a reason to practice it, they certainly were not as good as the screen made it look.

“Try to write it this small,” Yibo directed him, pointing to the tiny characters the professional had written out.

———

Yibo smirked and whooped as Xiao Zhan did an all right job at keeping the letters small.  He was also smiling because Xiao Zhan was leaning over him, the outside of their thighs pressing together, and from this position Yibo could smell the scent of Xiao Zhan’s soap and cologne.  He leaned into his shoulder a little.

“Wow!” he praised Xiao Zhan.

He then cleared his throat when he saw Xiao Zhan write out the character for King, “Wang”, Yibo’s last name.  A simple enough character to write, it was good for practicing.  

“Impressive,” Yibo congratulated him in a singsong voice.

He then watched in amazement as Xiao Zhan then wrote out “Xiao”, his own last name.  “Wow,” Yibo said.  

“Your character looks like a computer font,” Xiao Zhan mumbled, leaning in to keep writing.

Then Yibo realized that combined, the characters wrote WangXiao, a popular ship name of theirs on the Net.  He pointed to the character and said out loud, “Xiao.”  He then looked over at Xiao Zhan, saying to him playfully, “Why did you write out WangXiao?”

Xiao Zhan started, jerking forward.  He then quickly erased over the character Xiao, flustered.

———

Xiao Zhan was mortified when he realized he’d just written out their ship name in beautiful calligraphy.  For fuck’s sake, Xiao Zhan, he chided himself.  You’re on camera!  Not that this would be okay if you were off camera!  

He glanced up at Yibo, and saw the young man had a delighted look on his face, looking very pleased with himself.  Xiao Zhan gestured to himself, flustered, trying to explain, “It was an accident,” his face going red.  

No, I definitely wasn’t thinking about you that way.  Nope.  Not me!

He bent over the paper again, noticing that Yibo pressed the side of his arm against him as he scribbled out the character for Wang, muttering, “I’ll erase this too.”  Yibo was warm, and he smelled faintly of sandalwood.  When had he started wearing a cologne that suited Lan Wangji?  Was he method acting?  Getting more fully into the role?

“Why did you learn this?” Yibo teased him as Xiao Zhan continued to scribble all over the page.

“I learned a lot in my youth,” Xiao Zhan babbled, glancing sideways at Yibo to catch the tail end of a smirk on his mouth.

Goddamnit why is he so attractive!

Yibo nodded wisely.  “I learned it too, but why do I write like that,” he said, coughing and shaking his head to get the side trails of Wangji’s wig out of his face.  “I learned brush writing too.”

“Really?  Soft brush?” Xiao Zhan prattled, sitting back up and trying to convince himself to stop being so rattled by him.

“Mm,” Yibo confirmed.  He reached out for the brush, his fingers sliding against Xiao Zhan’s in the process.  He could have picked up the brush from anywhere along its length, why did he have to brush his warm, long fingers against Xiao Zhan’s?

Xiao Zhan yanked his hand back like it burned, trying to play it cool by rubbing his eye to make the gesture look natural.

“Lao Wang,” Xiao Zhan teased him, “Lao Wang show us.”  He then leaned forward again, leaning his elbow on the writing table.

Yibo drew quickly and efficiently, showing he could indeed write with a brush.  But he didn’t even try to keep the characters short and compact, he wrote large, confident characters on the page.  

“You are lying!” Xiao Zhan said, laughing.  He sat up and brushed the bangs of his wig back from his face.

“I didn’t try my best,” Yibo said with a grin, tilting his head towards Xiao Zhan.  He looked up at him with a twinkle in his eye that made Xiao Zhan’s heart tumble over in his chest.

“Then try again,” Xiao Zhan said, meeting his eyes with a sheepish smile on his face, still fussing with his hair.

Yibo shook his head, pursing his lips cutely.  “No,” he said, then gave that gremlin of a grin that he saved just for Xiao Zhan.

They both giggled at each other, wide grins as they met each other’s eyes.

“But I have learned it, it’s true,” Yibo said, grinning.

Xiao Zhan picked up his script, going serious as he needed to recall the lines for his next shot.  In the meantime, Yibo had fun with the calligraphy brush, making huge, child-like characters with wild abandon on the page.  

“Xiao, how is that?” he said, trying to get Xiao Zhan’s attention back again.

Xiao Zhan pretended not to be interested, even though he wanted nothing more than to lean back in against Yibo’s side and continue playing with him.  Instead he just gave him a thumbs-up without even looking at the page.

Yibo continued his rampage on the page, declaring “Zhan!” with pride when he’d scrawled another enormous character.

“Wow, so good,” Xiao Zhan said dutifully without looking at his handiwork.

Yibo pouted now that he wasn’t able to get Xiao Zhan’s attention.  Xiao Zhan tried to ignore him more as he shifted enough to rub the sides of their legs against each other again, leaning over Xiao Zhan to find another clean page to practice on.  

Come on, Yibo!  Xiao Zhan seethed internally.  There are cameras on us right now!  Stop flirting!

Thankfully the crew called out to them, signalling they were ready to resume filming.

They shot the scene, Yibo keeping his face completely composed into a featureless mask as Xiao Zhan mimed his mouth being stuck together.  He kept the straight face the whole time, no matter what Wei Wuxian did.  He mumbled, he slapped the table, he poked him with a sheet of paper.  He even tossed the paper at him.  Yibo just kept looking at his page, doodling his not-very-impressive calligraphy.

If only the audience could see his real handwriting! Xiao Zhan thought to himself.

When they called “Cut!” Xiao Zhan broke into a big grin, but Yibo’s face was still motionless.  He just blinked his eyes wide, then looked over at Xiao Zhan and catching his eyes.  Their eyes locked on each other for a tense moment until the crew called, “Okay, you guys are done, thank you.”  Then he put his brush down, making a fish face to loosen his lips.  

They both called out “Thank you,” Xiao Zhan clapping his hands as he got to his feet.

Yibo stood up half a second later, then as he was standing up he reached out and smacked Xiao Zhan on the bottom.

Xiao Zhan walked away, refusing to make eye contact with Yibo as it would make him flush even deeper than he was already.

As they acted out the next part of the scene, where Lan Wangji tore up the pornography book, Yibo flung Bichen about wildly, playing around even though his face was still serious.  They delivered their next couple of lines, then Xiao Zhan looked at Yibo’s face and suddenly thought, Damn, even angry you look pretty.

Then completely forgot his next line.

He fumbled, trying to remember, and a crew member tried to supply him the line.

Yibo, on the other hand, mimed threatening Xiao Zhan with Bichen.  He pulled the sword half out of the scabbard then thrust it back in again, looking up at Xiao Zhan with that blank look on his face.

Xiao Zhan smacked his hands together, picking up a discarded piece of pornography and ready this time to deliver the line well. This time he delivered the line, but as he was crawling over the short wall to walk out, he tripped a little.  The director didn’t call cut, so they kept their expressions on their faces until Xiao Zhan was out of the shot.  Then Yibo rolled his eyes and threw the hair of his wig back behind his shoulders, fixing his hair and shaking his head at himself.  

———

Later that night, as they were waiting to film a night scene, Yibo was standing there playing with the hair on his wig, feeling very satisfied with himself.

He’s so cute when he’s mad, Yibo thought, a ghost of a smile on his face.

“What are you laughing about?” Xiao Zhan complained, coming up to him.  He smacked him on the arm.

“Hey!” Yibo said, smacking him back.

Xiao Zhan then leaned around and smacked him on the ass.  “Retribution!”

Yibo grinned.  “But I got my smack on camera.  It will live on forever.”

“Are you even human?!” Xiao Zhan yelled at him, smacking him on the arm again.

Yibo laughed like a gremlin.  

Wang Zhuocheng, who played Jiang Cheng, came over to them.  “You two are always so lively on set.”

Yibo’s expression dissolved into its more normal, polite mask, and he nodded.

Xiao Zhan smiled over at him.  “We might as well have a little fun between takes.  Makes the time go faster.  Besides, who can’t laugh at this face?” he said, leaning towards Yibo and pinching his face with two fingers.

Yibo smacked his arm away, glaring.  “I’ll get you for that.  Later.”

Xiao Zhan’s eyes danced merrily.  “I look forward to it,” he said with a wink.

“Ugh, well, I’ll just leave you two… to whatever it is you’re doing,” he said with a roll of his eyes and wandered off again.

As Yibo stood there, with the wig pulling on his hair, not having eaten much that day, he started to list.  His head went dizzy.  He put a hand up to his forehead, grimacing.

Xiao Zhan tore open a bag of chips.  He was always snacking on something or another.  He popped a few in his mouth, munching happily.  It was only when the bag was half-devoured that he noticed Yibo swaying where he stood.  “Do you want some?” he asked, holding out the bag.

Yibo shook his head.  “I don’t like snacking.”

“That’s right,” Xiao Zhan said with a sigh.  “The ever-polished Yibo, only drinks warm water on set.  Lives on air molecules alone.”

———

Yibo fumbled his way over to a camp chair, folding himself down into it a little less-than gracefully.  Xiao Zhan followed him, worried, but Yibo ignored him, pulling out his phone.  He breezed through his social media accounts for a while, then found one of his mobile games that he liked to play and pulled it up.

Xiao Zhan hooked his foot around another camp chair, sitting next to him.  “Want to spar?” he asked with a smile.

“You know I’ll beat you anyway,” Yibo mumbled.

“Maybe this will be the time I finally manage to beat you in something.”  He queued up the same game, then challenged Yibo via the social connect function.  He popped another chip in his mouth when Yibo accepted the challenge.

Xiao Zhan started singing softly under his breath as he played, singing Wuji to practice it.  After a moment, to his surprise, Yibo joined in.  They hadn’t had a chance to practice singing yet, and Xiao Zhan loved the sound of Yibo’s voice.  It wasn’t as clear and strong as his own, but it had a husky quality to it that made Xiao Zhan’s toes curl up in his boots.  

They sat there, people buzzing around them like bees, but to Xiao Zhan it felt like they were in their own little universe.  He could picture the two of them, in another time and place, sitting on a sofa together, knees knocking together as they played games together and sang with each other.  He pictured Yibo with his short hair, in his ripped skinny jeans and a t-shirt.  Maybe with a cat on his lap.

Xiao Zhan found that emotion lingering in his voice as he sang Wuji.  Why did it feel like that song, the more they worked together, spoke more about each other than it did about Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian?

———

They got into the habit of singing together when they were in between takes.  One evening, Xiao Zhan decided to take this singing “training” a little further.

“Let’s sing it for real,” Xiao Zhan said, looking over at Yibo.

They were still in their formal robes, hair done up in wigs, but they didn’t have their own scene to shoot until the others had finished shooting theirs, so they had about a half hour or so to kill.  On TV they never showed how much dead time there was when shooting a series, as cameras were placed, scenes were shot and reshot, cameras were moved.  Probably about 20% of the time was spent shooting, the other 80% was spent waiting around.  But that was okay, it usually gave Xiao Zhan a chance to go over his lines, and for Yibo to… do whatever Yibo did when he was getting in the mood to shoot a scene.  Sometimes Xiao Zhan found Yibo playing games, one time he even caught him practicing skateboarding in his full Lan Wangji outfit.  He had to pull the skateboard away, convinced the costume designer would kick Yibo straight out of the series if he tore the clothes.

Tonight, Yibo was just sitting there on the steps of the temple they’d be shooting in later that night.  He looked a little haggard.  When Xiao Zhan invited him to sing, he just looked up and nodded.  “Okay,” he agreed.

“Stand up,” Xiao Zhan commanded him.

“Why?” Yibo asked petulantly.

“Because we should practice this for real.  I want to see if you can put enough power behind your voice.”

Yibo just stared at him for a minute.  “Well, if you want me to belt out Wuji at the top of my lungs then we’d better get further away from where they’re shooting right now.  They’d kill us if they could hear our voices singing in the background,” he said, the faintest hint of a smile at the edges of his mouth.

“Come on then,” Xiao Zhan agreed.  He put his hand around Yibo’s elbow, dragging him further away from the crew.

Yibo followed him obediently as they wandered through the old buildings and out to a park.  It was a nice atmosphere, a rather small park, but the trees were pleasant.  The air was hot and humid, summer really starting to kick in full gear.  Xiao Zhan released Yibo’s arm reluctantly, and Yibo stood there, looking at him.

Xiao Zhan looked back at Yibo, catching the tail end of that intense stare.  He then looked away again, and coughed.  “Do you have to look at me so much?” Xiao Zhan murmured.

“Yes,” Yibo whispered.  “I can’t look away.”

When Xiao Zhan looked back over at him, Yibo ducked his head and coughed.  He tried to pass it off as a joke by smiling a little, but it didn’t reach his eyes.  

Xiao Zhan shivered, then put his hands on his hips.  “Okay.  I’m going for it.”  He then hummed the opening melodies of music leading up to his intro, and launched into song.  His voice was high and clear, just enough vibrato to make it sound interesting.  He found Yibo staring at him again, but didn’t let it interrupt his singing.

When it got to Yibo’s part, he started singing, but with Xiao Zhan looking at him so baldly, it came out hesitant, a little wobbly.  He had a nice voice, if only he had a bit more confidence in it.

Xiao Zhan walked over to him, and Yibo’s eyes widened.  “Can you sing from your diaphragm a little more?”

“I don’t know,” Yibo mumbled.  “I was always more of a dancer than a singer.  I rap.  I dance.”

Xiao Zhan shot him what he hoped was a comforting smile.  “You didn’t take voice lessons?”

“I didn’t need to,” Yibo said a little defensively.

“It’s okay,” Xiao Zhan said, stepping close enough to share his air.  “I’ll help you.  You’ll help me with my dancing, right?  I’ll help you with your singing.”

“Right,” Yibo muttered.

“Can I… touch you a little?” Xiao Zhan asked from under his eyelashes.

Yibo’s eyes widened, but he nodded.

Xiao Zhan gave another comforting smile, then closed the distance between them and flattened his palm over Yibo’s diaphragm.  He could feel the hard ridges of Yibo’s stomach hidden underneath those tightly-wrapped robes.  “Sing,” Xiao Zhan prompted him.

Yibo took in a deep breath, and even then Xiao Zhan could feel that Yibo breathed through his chest instead of breathing through his stomach.  “Breathe from here,” Xiao Zhan said, tapping him.

Yibo took another breath, this time from his core.  He then took a big breath and started to sing.  As he sang, Xiao Zhan stepped closer, his hip brushing against the side of Yibo’s body, and slid his other hand onto Yibo’s back.  He pressed his hands together, then said in Yibo’s ear, “Sing from here.  You’ll get a lot more power that way.”

Yibo closed his eyes tight, picturing the muscles underneath Xiao Zhan’s hands, then belted out the music.  The power was there this time, his voice echoing through the empty park.  

“Good,” Xiao Zhan praised him.  

Yibo let out a little smile.

Xiao Zhan moved to stand behind Yibo, leaning his body into Yibo’s, his hand still on Yibo’s diaphragm.  They stood there, swaying together a little, then sang together wholeheartedly, singing through all of Wuji.  It was the best they’d ever sung together, before or since, and Xiao Zhan could feel Yibo’s body vibrating afterwards.

When the notes died away, they just stood there together.  Xiao Zhan let his hand drop away, then deliberately took a step back, putting some space between them.  Yibo turned to look at him, and the two stared at each other, something in the air between them.

“Too bad we can’t sing it that way at our concerts,” Yibo said, face blank of all emotion, but voice wavering.

Xiao Zhan took another step back, then another, until they were about 3 paces apart.  “This is probably as close as we’ll be allowed to get on screen.” He said.  “Do you want to try it again?”

Yibo looked away, taking a deep breath.  “No.”  He then started to walk away.  

Xiao Zhan trotted after him.  “You did really well, Bo-di,” Xiao Zhan said with a smile.

Yibo ducked his head, walking away faster.

“Hey, wait up.  Why you walking so fast?”

Yibo then abruptly broke into a run and fled.

Xiao Zhan stood there, flabbergasted.  What just happened?

——

Yibo thought of himself as a Cool Guy.  Calm under pressure.  Didn’t let the tension show.

But when he had felt the heat of Xiao Zhan’s body behind him, his beautiful voice singing in his ear… well, Yibo couldn’t say he’d been unaffected.  It had taken everything in his body not to grab Xiao Zhan’s arms and wrap them around his waist, leaning back into the back hug that he desperately needed.  

“Fuck,” Yibo muttered when he’d gotten far enough away.

He sank down into a squat, hugging his knees to his chest.  He felt such… desperation.  

“I’m so fucked.”

———

Once Yibo regained his composure later, he plucked up enough courage to approach Xiao Zhan again.  

“You need help with your dance, don’t you?” he offered, both of them still in full robes.

Xiao Zhan nodded eagerly.  “I got sent the choreography video yesterday but I’ve only got 2 days to learn it,” he said, scratching the back of his head.

Yibo had reached out to Xiao Zhan weeks ago to see if he wanted to participate in Produce 101.  There was a particular segment where they needed to invite guests on, and he could think of no one who’d be better placed to join than him.  Xiao Zhan had agreed, but hadn’t really thought about the pressure involved in learning a performance so quickly.  Yibo made it look effortless.

“Okay, hand me the video, let me take a look,” Yibo offered, holding his hand out.

Xiao Zhan handed the phone over.  Yibo watched the video once, his lips thinned out to a line, head bobbing with the beat.  He then handed the phone back to Xiao Zhan.  He hit the play button again so they got the music, then he repeated the whole dance from start to finish without even watching it twice.

“Wow, Yibo, for real?  You only have to watch it once and you got the whole thing?” Xiao Zhan goggled.

Yibo shrugged, acting the cool guy.  “I’ve been dancing a long time.  If you’d been dancing as long as me then you’d be the same.”

“Yeah, well, I haven’t,” Xiao Zhan grumbled.

“Come on, follow me,” Yibo said, doing the movements.  Xiao Zhan imitated him, and bit by bit he started to get it down.

Xiao Zhan practiced his dancing between all of his takes, no matter where he was.  Whether he was with Yibo or not, when he had five spare minutes, he danced.  The others on set just watched him, bemused, but he really had one main motivation for working so hard on this.

I don’t want to embarrass Yibo.  I want him to look at me and think, wow, that guy is good.

Chapter Text

June 2018

 

In the next segment of Produce 101, each of the girl groups would be paired with a male idol.  Wang Yibo was the one who invited all the people to be on the segment, and Ella even questioned Yibo on why he had a right to be in the lineup himself.  When he introduced the plan to the other mentors, they had printed out life-size cardboard cutouts of everyone, and Yibo was pleased to see that his own cutout was standing right next to Xiao Zhan’s.

“Why, because you’re young enough?” she asked him, giving him a look.

Yibo bit his tongue, thinking of what the right answer would be.  “Maybe,” he said, nodding his head self-consciously.

Ella grabbed him by the arm, pushing him away.  He laughed nervously as she pushed him.  

Zhang Jie inserted himself into the lineup.  “I look okay standing here, right?” he said cheekily.

Show Luo pointed at him, saying, “Papa,” playfully.

“Dad, the dad of two twins!” Ella joined in, pointing at him accusingly.  “Stop forcing it!  You come back here.”

Zhang Jie interjected, “Since debuting in 2004 until now I don’t think I’ve changed that much,” he defended himself.

“Debut in 2004,” Song Lao interjected.  

“Yeah,” Zhang Jie confirmed.

“My God,” Show Luo said.  “I debuted in 1995.”

Yibo’s eyes popped out of his head in shock.  “Debut in ‘95?” he repeated to be sure he’d heard it right.

“Yes,” Luo confirmed.

“I wasn’t even born,” Yibo said, looking cheekily over to Ella.

“You weren’t born yet?!” Ella exclaimed.  

Luo then proceeded to chase Yibo around the room, shouting, “How do I slap you twice!”  Yibo evaded him, and Luo shouted, “Come back!” pointing at him.

Some of the girls came in, and Luo then decided to put all of them through an exercise routine, teaching them how he kept himself looking youthful.  Yibo did a really good job keeping up at first, putting his all into the class, until he started to sweat, jumping up and down and punching the air.  But Luo just kept on going, and going.  Some of the girls started dropping out, looking exhausted.  Yibo kept pushing through, jumping up in the air with high knees up in the air.  

This was not an exercise for the faint of heart.  This was high intensity!

Yibo started to flag, going limp, until Luo noticed and came over to push him on.  Yibo tried a bit more then stopped, putting his hands on his knees and dropping his head over between his legs.  He felt like he was going to faint.  

At the end of it, he squatted down on the ground, breathing hard.  The only one still laughing was Luo himself.

———

When Yibo sat down later with his group, he asked them how they felt about getting him as their partner.

Lu Xiaocao said, “We’re done for.”

Xu Jingyun added, “Really scared.”

Yibo goggled at them, thinking, Am I really that scary?!

Even Yamy said, “I was a little worried,” and she was his favourite!  She continued by adding, “Because I heard that senior is very strict.  And randomly changes the leader.”

Yibo smiled, a little deflated on the inside.  But truthfully he was strict, but he was only as strict on them as he was on himself.  He’d make this the most kickass group they’d ever seen, then they’d all be thanking him!

Lu Xiaocao added, “And you said I’m not coordinated, I remembered it for a long time.  Can’t forget.”

Xu Jingyun was smiling when she said, “No, and a long time ago after watching me dance you said that I shouldn’t belong in A class,” then she nervously laughed.

Yibo hung his head, embarrassed at how harsh he’d been on these girls, saying, “Whoa.”  

———

Xiao Zhan, meanwhile, had a different plan of attack with his own group.  He snuck on set as they were practicing disguised as a cameraman, observing them on the sly.  They were really silly and exaggerated, some of them even joking that they wish they’d been paired with a different mentor.

Then Wang Bing arrived on set, and she immediately noticed Xiao Zhan and realized who he was.  She called him out and the others all just about died in embarrassment.

———

Yibo was really excited about working with this group.  He had always wanted to work with Yamy and hadn’t had the chance yet.  He also really liked working with Zixuan and was excited to work with her again.  

The strangest part of the experience was that because Yibo was an idol in this group and not a mentor Luo actually watched their practice sessions and acted as the mentor for him.  So he got a chance to work more closely with him, too.

Yibo put his all into the dance, picking up the moves quickly then spitting out suggestions for how to make it even better.

Luo singled Zixuan out to do a demonstration of the dance, she did the moves perfectly and even added her own cute charisma to it.  

“She has caught on to when to smile and when not to,” Luo complimented her.  

Yibo nodded, agreeing with him, licking his lips.

“Her facial expressions are done extremely well,” Luo finished.  “Teacher Yibo, let’s take a look at being cute.”

“I’m learning too,” Yibo said, defending himself shyly.  

Luo then called them both out, singling them to do a dance battle to see who could do it better.  Yibo grinned, excited, and even Zixuan looked excited.  

When they did the dance, they both executed the moves okay, adding their own hints of cuteness to the dance.  Luo was standing there between them, grinning and pleased with himself.  

“Okay, stop,” Luo called out, walking up between them.  “Hasn’t gotten very good yet.”

“I know that myself,” Yibo said, looking at him.

“So you don’t have— You did smile and also with showing— it’s the teeth, that part where the teeth need to be shown,” Luo said to Yibo.  

Yibo nodded, smiling as he absorbed the information.

“It’ll be even cooler then,” Luo said.  “Me and you, me and you,” he said, grabbing Zixuan.  The two of them did the dance then, Luo over-exaggerating the facial expressions and making the others laugh.  Yibo, though, he just stood there absorbing everything Luo was doing seriously, smiling when Luo overdid it.  

“Something like this,” Luo said when he was done.

Yibo clapped, grinning and looking on Luo with admiration.  

———

That night, Xiao Zhan and Yibo were actually able to get a meal together.  They would have some more practice time the following morning, then it’d be stage time.  

They got a private room in the hotel, eating quietly together.  They chattered about various things, from The Untamed to their training on Produce 101.  But both of them clearly had their minds on the following day’s performance, so they called it an early night, heading back to their rooms.

In the elevator, Yibo looked fondly into Xiao Zhan’s eyes.  “Thank you,” he said sincerely.

Xiao Zhan nodded.  “No problem.  I’m having fun,” he assured him.

Yibo then smiled a little, gave Xiao Zhan’s arm a little squeeze, then slipped out of the elevator.

——— 

When it came time for judging, Xiao Zhan got a look at Yibo backstage before he went on set.  He posed for a photo shoot, and Xiao Zhan couldn’t stop staring.  Yibo looked great.  He was dressed in skinny black jeans with holes in the knees that made his legs look long and lean.  Then he had a black button-down shirt, tucked in the front and hanging loose in the back, with a pattern of red hearts on it.  His hair was back to a neutral brown, and was tousled artfully around his face.  The colours made his skin look healthy and tan, and he practically glowed.  

Xiao Zhan had to resist his urge to grab Yibo by the collar, drag him into a dark corner backstage, and kiss him until those plump lips were swollen and wet.

Fuck me, Xiao Zhan groaned.

He did shamelessly snap a picture of him on his phone while he was posing for his photoshoot.

Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan saw Yibo go up to Zitao, the host, and give him a handshake, bump shoulders, and pat his back, hip-hop style.  Zitao looked like he matched Yibo, in a red jacket, black track pants, and an earring dangling from one ear.  His own dark hair was artfully tousled around his face.  When Xiao Zhan saw the two of them together, he felt a stab of jealousy in his gut.  They looked good  together.  

When Yibo walked on stage, even the way he walked was full of swagger and confidence.  He oozed sex appeal.  

Well, he’s succeeded in dropping “cute” this week, Xiao Zhan thought with a dry mouth.

When they showed him the stats of his original class on the big screen, Yibo steepled his fingers and smiled genuinely.  He was so happy to see Gao Qiuzi, who everyone had written off as the overweight girl, now sitting at the top of the heap in A Class.  She had worked so hard and was so, so deserving.  

“Is this result unexpected?” Zitao asked him.

“It’s actually quite unexpected,” Yibo agreed, nodding.  “Especially Gao Qiuzi.  From the previous performance, my perspective towards her has already changed, like I had no idea that she could sing so well,” he said, gesturing with one hand.  He was beaming with pride.

As Xiao Zhan watched him from the green room, he was enraptured with each facial expression on Yibo’s face.  Every time he smiled, Xiao Zhan’s heart flopped over in his chest.  When he got that super serious look on his face, Xiao Zhan could feel the intensity through the screen.  He felt like for the first time, he was really seeing Yibo in his element.  Super confident.  And damn, that confidence was sexy.  Whenever Yibo broke into dance in his seat, Xiao Zhan felt his heart flutter.

He managed to find a portable fan and kept it on his face to stop himself from sweating.

Stop it, Xiao Zhan, he chided himself.  Focus.

The only saving grace was that Yibo ended up having to leave the stage before Xiao Zhan’s performance so that he could prepare for his own.  At least Xiao Zhan wouldn’t have to look into his eyes as he danced up there.

———

Xiao Zhan felt a little self-conscious in his own costume as he got up on stage.  He was wearing a track suit, black, blue, and white.  It was a cool tracksuit but definitely not what he’d call sexy.  If you put him and Yibo next to each other tonight, no one would take their eyes off Yibo to look at him.

But maybe that was just as well.  Let Yibo take the spotlight.

Yibo had worked hard to teach him the dance, so Xiao Zhan was determined to put on a good show.  

The first half of the song, Xiao Zhan didn’t have to do much.  He just sat in a director’s chair, watching the girls as they danced on centre stage in their own tracksuits, keeping control of his face and making a few gestures as he rated them on what class he’d put them in, holding up cards with letters on them.

In the second half of the dance, Xiao Zhan got up and joined in.  He sat up on the stage, clapping his hands enthusiastically, smiling.  He then got up on the centre stage and rapped with Meiqi.  Then he started to dance, walking down to the centre.  His body moved in all the right moves, getting down low on his knees, swaying from side to side, spinning.  

When the dance was over, they held their poses, waiting for the audience to get a good look.  Xiao Zhan’s eyes skated over the mentor’s desk, but sure enough, Yibo was still gone.  He breathed a sigh of relief that it was over.

Zitao then looked over at Xiao Zhan and addressed him.  “Just now the stage that you performed with everyone is called I Am That Kind of Girl.  As a guy on this stage, what kind of guy do you feel you are?” he said with a sly smile.

Xiao Zhan smiled prettily, making his voice a little lower to sound more manly.  “I feel I am a very lucky boy to be on the same stage as such hardworking meimeis.  And I wanted to give myself sufficient preparation because I hope I’m here to help and not be a hindrance.  So—”

The girls all interrupted him, saying “No, no,” to the idea of him being a hindrance.

“So the moment I got off the plane I felt that I have to quickly make use of the time to practice and coordinate with them.”

He hoped that answer was good enough, and stood there gripping one arm with his hand, looking for their acceptance. 

Zitao then turned to Gao Qiuzi.  “Gao Qiuzi, evaluate this senior.  Be honest.” 

Gao Qiuzi was full of energy when she said, “When I first saw senior’s poster I didn’t feel he was that handsome.”

Xiao Zhan pouted at her from across the stage.

“After looking at the real person, oh my god,” she continued.  “So handsome!” she screamed.  

Xiao Zhan melted into a sweet smile, covering his mouth with his hand.  

“And he really has been working hard to help us all the time, so we’re really very thankful that our senior is Xiao Zhan,” she finished, bouncing up and down with a big “Thank you!”

———

From backstage where Yibo had just finished getting his makeup redone, watching the exchange on a screen, he goggled at the screen.  “She thought he wasn’t handsome at first?!” he yelled out loud.  “Does she have eyes in her head?”

The girls in his group all looked over at him, then started laughing.

Yibo rubbed the back of his neck.  “He’s my co-star.  He’s very handsome,” he mumbled.  “I get to look at his face every day so I know best.”

Yamy just patted him on the arm.  “Sure, sure.”

Yibo pushed up out of his makeup chair, telling the others, “I’ll be right back.”  He ran out to intercept Xiao Zhan as he was walking back to the green room.  He had all the girls from his group around him, but Yibo jerked his head at him, and Xiao Zhan mumbled something about needing to go to the bathroom, peeling apart from them.  Yibo then dragged him off into a dark hallway.

“Yibo—,” Xiao Zhan whispered.

Yibo pushed Xiao Zhan against the wall, crowding up into his space.  From up close, he could see a faint sheen of sweat on Xiao Zhan’s skin, and he reached up to push his hand into Xiao Zhan’s sweaty hair, pinning his head to the wall.

He leaned his face in close, practically close enough to kiss, then murmured to him, “In case there’s any doubt, I’ve thought you were handsome since the first moment I saw you, and every moment since.”

Xiao Zhan’s legs went weak and he slumped against the wall.  He didn’t know what to say, his mouth just opened and closed like a fish out of water.

Yibo’s eyes flicked from his eyes down to his mouth, and he took his free hand to brush his thumb across Xiao Zhan’s lips.  He then put both of his hands around Xiao Zhan’s neck, giving it a little squeeze.  He looked back up to his eyes, giving him one last smoldering look, then he turned and walked away.

———

Xiao Zhan would never forget the look in Yibo’s eyes at that moment, his mouth parted and wet, his eyes dark and pupils dilated.  He was breathing hard, the collar of his button-up shirt open enough to show off the top of his collarbones.  For a moment he’d been sure Yibo was going to kiss him, but he pulled away at the last moment.

Xiao Zhan slid down the wall after Yibo left, grimacing when he realized he was crouching there half-hard, his body over-sensitive.

Damn you, Yibo.

He took a few moments to compose himself, raking his hands through his hair, then walked back into the green room.

He watched from the green room as the last performance before Yibo went on, his thoughts scattered to the winds.  He was sure if someone asked him at that moment he wouldn’t even remember his own name.

When Wang Yibo went on stage for his dance number, he was grinning, pleased at himself.  He had changed into a bright red suit to match the red dresses of the girls in his group.  Somehow he managed to make this look both sweet and sexy.  

For their performance, they’d rigged up a huge platform on top of the stage, with a big podium on it on which was placed what looked like a DJ station.  Yibo’s motorcycle helmet, the green one, was also there.  As the song was about to start, Yibo pulled on his motorcycle gloves, then pulled on his helmet, and he mimed being a DJ as he queued the music up.  He looked very Daft Punk.

Just when I thought he couldn’t get sexier, Xiao Zhan groaned internally.  Yibo was sex on a stick as he messed around with the DJ controls, making movements up there to match what the girls were doing below, dancing on top with Yamy.  

Yamy jumped down to dance with the other girls, leaving Yibo alone up top, conducting what was going on below in his green motorcycle helmet and bright red suit.  

Partway through the dance, Yibo popped down off the platform, disappearing behind.  The girls danced on their own for a while, then Yibo reappeared from the back, his motorcycle gear gone as he danced out in his red suit, his hair tousled.  He started rapping, doing the dance in the centre of the formation.  His facial expressions were great, as he danced around rapping.  In that moment he looked 100% the young idol as he played off rapping with Yamy.  

He then melted back to the rear of the formation, letting the girls take centre stage.  When he jumped back to the front again, the whole audience got up on their feet, dancing along with him to the catchy song.  At the very end, they all got gas canister guns in their hands and shot clouds of smoke up into the air.

Yibo’s smile at the end of the performance - God.  He was dazzling.  Xiao Zhan’s heart was in his throat, and he looked around at the others in the green room to see if anyone could notice how his heart was pounding loud enough to shake the building, but no one paid him any mind where he was sitting in the back row of the green room.  

He wanted to freeze that smile in place on Yibo’s face, to freeze frame it and save it as the home screen on his phone.  He couldn’t, of course, but God he wanted to.  He did save the image to his phone later that night when the episode aired.

Wang Yibo

Zitao turned to the mentors on stage, asking them, “What is Yibo like?”

Zhang Jie spoke first, saying, “When I came to Produce 101 China, I was very, very happy that I could meet Wang Yibo.”

Yibo bowed deeply when he heard that.

“Because before,” Zhang Jie continued, “The Yibo I knew, honestly, didn’t have much to say.  But coming to this show, I think that he is very, very excellent, very talented.”

Yibo’s smile was bright enough to outshine the sun, Xiao Zhan thought.

Zhang Jie continued, “He honestly is that someone else’s kid.  The greatest kid,” he said, playing off the title of the song they’d just performed.  “Vote for you, Yibo!”  

Ella spoke next, saying, “I think that this performance stage is, from what I’ve seen, the greatest performance so far.”

I’ve never seen him smile that wide for that long, Xiao Zhan thought, watching him.  

“And in the beginning,” Ella continued, “I also wasn’t familiar with Yibo.  And after getting to know Yibo, I found that even though he doesn’t say much, his skills speak for themselves.  He is a very skilled person, and he is also very earnest.  And I believe that from his own experience — he was also a trainee, he has also experienced those days, so he is able to understand the girls’ hard work more.”  

The big smile had faded from Yibo’s face, likely as he remembered how hard his days as a trainee had been, leaving his family, learning a new language, cohabiting with other people.  

“He will also hold them to a stricter standard,” Ella said, “So I feel very happy that Yibo can add so much to this stage and bring us such a wonderful performance.”

Yibo bowed again, touched.  “Thank you Ella-jie,” he said as he bowed.  

Zitao then spoke up himself.  “I also want to say, because of this stage, because of the addition of Yibo, it actually became more amazing.  And in the beginning, the knowledge I had of Yibo was that his dancing was really good.”

Yibo looked over at Zitao, his eyes serious as he absorbed his words.

“Even though he speaks few words,” Zitao said, “And he doesn’t compete or fight for anything, I really like people with this kind of personality.  I also like making shows together with this kind of person.”

Yibo’s eyes were shining with emotion as he looked over at Zitao.  Xiao Zhan’s heart seized in his chest when he saw it.  

“So I am also very happy to get to know Yibo,” Zitao said with a smile, “Really.”

Yibo bowed again, saying, “Thank you Tao-ge.”

He stood there with the girls as the audience voted, taking advantage of the time to compose himself, to cheer the girls on.  When he was finally free, Yibo walked back over to the mentors’ desk, getting a high five from the other mentors when he sat down, smiling wide enough to shine out the sun again.

———

When they finished filming that night, Yibo and Xiao Zhan went back to the hotel to collect their belongings and headed straight to the airport.  Xiao Zhan wanted to say something to Yibo, but the young man was clearly lost in his thoughts, no doubt recalling all the events of the evening in a daze.  It wasn’t often that Yibo received so much praise from people he respected so highly.  

They sat next to each other on the plane, in first class, face masks and baseball caps on to cover their features.  Xiao Zhan gave Yibo the window seat, and Yibo spent all of takeoff looking out at the stars as the plane climbed up in the sky.

Xiao Zhan spread a blanket over himself, then spread one over Yibo.  Yibo didn’t look at him, just nodded his thanks without turning his head.

After a while, they turned off the lights in the cabin, plunging the plane into darkness.  Xiao Zhan’s heart went in his throat, but before he could second-guess himself, he slipped his hand into Yibo’s and gave it a squeeze.

Yibo still didn’t look at him, in fact, he turned his face further away, hiding his eyes.  

But he squeezed his hand back.

Chapter Text

June 2018

They were filming in Lotus Pier that day, the heat stifling. Yibo and Xiao Zhan were hanging out in a boat as they waited for the crew to finish setting up the mounts for the camera, chatting with each other. Yibo looked happy and healthy, glowing in his Lan Wangji outfit. Xiao Zhan, on the other hand, looked like he was melting. These black robes are just a magnet for the sun, Xiao Zhan thought in despair.

Yibo sprayed himself with more bug spray and sunscreen. The bugs were everywhere, they were trying to eat him alive. Xiao Zhan, on the other hand, seemed to be quite safe in that regard. At least the mosquitoes prefer Yibo. He has sweeter blood than me!

They started chatting to each other, and someone from the crew pulled out a camera, filming their impromptu conversation. 

“Wang Yibo treats me like this every day,” Xiao Zhan complained to the camera, his robes hiked up above his knees so he could get some relief from the heat. He was holding his favourite fan at his face, and a crew member was also fanning him with a paper fan. “Just now he told me to jump off the boat,” he accused Yibo, pointing a finger at him. He shook his head. “Too scary.” 

“Can you not accuse me?” Yibo said in a soft voice. He was leaning his hands on Bichen, looking very much like Lan Wangji, composed, his face expressionless. Xiao Zhan laughed at him. “I’ve said it before, don’t accuse me.” He smiled gently over at Xiao Zhan as a crew member brushed out the hair on his wig.

“Wang Yibo, I’m gonna say that again. Actually, never mind. I often say it to Jiang Cheng.”

“What?” Yibo mumbles. 

“No, do you know what I’m gonna say?” Xiao Zhan says with a wide smile. 

“What?” Yibo asks louder.

“I always say to Jiang Cheng, every time Jiang Cheng doesn’t admit to the things he does I say it again.”

“Say what?” Yibo asks gently as he fiddles with Bichen.

“I’m not gonna say it to you. Don’t think it’s a good idea.” 

Yibo frowned. “No it’s because I think it’s too hot right now. It’s cooler down there so you should jump down and cool down, you’ll be more comfortable,” Yibo said in a cute voice.

“So if I jump down I’ll be cooler?”

“Yeah,” Yibo said, looking up at him with a twinkle in his eye. He then leaned forward on Bichen, looking at him.

“Wow, so thoughtful Yibo,” Xiao Zhan teased. 

“Or you can take off your shoes and put your feet down there where the water is,” Yibo suggested unhelpfully. 

“Look, look!” Xiao Zhan said, urging the cameraman to shoot where he was pointing down at the bottom of the boat where some dirty water had collected. “Wang Yibo told me to put my feet in here to soak. Look at this.”

“You’ll be cooler that way,” Wang Yibo said, deadpan.

“Oh yeah, cool man,” Xiao Zhan said in English. He nodded at Yibo then switched back to Chinese. “Really very thoughtful. Really great.”

Yibo glanced off to the side, watching the preparations the crew were making. He zoned out a little, the heat finally starting to get to him.

“Wang Yibo, I heard it was really hot when you were shooting yesterday,” Xiao Zhan said. Yibo turned to look back at him. “Heard that an actor fainted. Are… are you okay?” Xiao Zhan asked, stuttering a little with his concern.

“No one fainted yesterday,” Yibo said, confused.

“Yeah I heard someone fainted and fell in the water,” Xiao Zhan clarified.

“I wasn’t shooting here,” Yibo said softly.

“It was right here,” Xiao Zhan said, looking at Yibo, concerned. Is he so tired he’s starting to forget things?  He worried.

“I wasn’t shooting here,” Yibo muttered.

Xiao Zhan goggled at him. “You weren’t here? Where were you?”

“I was—” Yibo started, but Xiao Zhan cut him off with, “You weren’t — you weren’t at the lake?”

“No.”

“Oh you weren’t at this lake?” Where the heck had he been filming yesterday?

Yibo stared at him. “Xiao-laoshi, don’t you read the schedules?” Yibo needled him.

“Where were you guys yesterday?” Xiao Zhan asked.

“Xiao-laoshi, don’t you read the schedules?” Yibo repeated, staring at him.

Why is he so cute? He’s distracting me!  “I do read them,” Xiao Zhan said defensively.

Yibo started to mess with his robes, hiking up the hems to expose his very white knees. “Xiao-laoshi don’t you read them?” he repeated again.

Xiao Zhan was getting distracted watching Yibo hike up his robes. It was so unlike the ever-proper Lan Wangji. “No, it’s because I wasn’t here yesterday,” he explained. His knees are so bony. But strong. I want to touch them.

“Oh yeah, Xiao-laoshi was shooting something else,” Yibo said, looking up at him accusingly. He then cracked his first smile, pushing up his sleeves and leaning his hands on Bichen again. “Oh, Xiao-laoshi was shooting another project.”

Xiao Zhan smiled a little, embarrassed. Stop distracting me, Yibo! I can’t think with your knees all… out like that. He closed his eyes to try to regain his composure, mouth twitching. 

“Xiao-laoshi?” Yibo teased him. “Xiao-laoshi, you’ve worked hard.”

Xiao Zhan had to look away to gather his scattered thoughts before he dove over to the other side and tackled Yibo underneath him. He turned and looked out over the water. The rest of the cast were all hanging out in other boats, but unlike them they didn’t even have any shade. Xiao Zhan then remembered Yibo had spent just as much time as him filming other projects! He whipped back around, pointing his finger he yelled, “Let’s compare who exactly had been spending more time on this set?!” He glared at him then broke into a smile. 

Yibo just smiled sweetly at him, and Xiao Zhan felt his heart melting. 

“Nah, we can’t say it like that, Wang-laoshi. Right, Wang-laoshi?” Xiao Zhan said, pushing his hair out of his face.

Yibo laughed his little gremlin laugh.

“Yeah, it really is my bad, because I signed the contract for Joy of Life so long ago and I can’t change it.”

Yibo looked aside, zoning out again.

“I can only use my Weibo powers to satisfy Wang-laoshi,” he joked, referring to the endless conversations the two had by text in the evenings. “I try my best,” he whined. 

Yibo lowered his head, fiddling with Bichen. “But Xiao-laoshi—” he started.

“Try my best not to affect Wang-laoshi!” Xiao Zhan interrupted him. 

Yibo stared off into the distance again. “But even though you’re shooting two things at once, your grasp of the characters—”

“No no no,” Xiao Zhan interrupted him again. “I think Wang-laoshi is working harder. His reality shows, and with shooting, he’s so busy—”

Yibo interrupted him this time, saying, “His grasp of the character is really good, he doesn’t confuse them or mix them—”

This kid! He’s gonna drive me nuts!  They both started talking over each other.

“He’s shooting reality shows, and the amount of time he spends away from here really isn’t indicative—”

“His grasp of the characters is really good, he doesn’t confuse them or mix them—”

“Really, just—” Xiao Zhan said, looking at Yibo, “I think it’s very impressive. How many days has it been since you slept?” Xiao Zhan turned to the cameraman. “3 days he hasn’t slept. Very difficult. But Wang-laoshi is really amazing, it doesn’t affect his acting. Still steady like always. I really need to learn more from Wang-laoshi.”

Yibo lashed out at him playfully, gnashing his teeth together in a open-mouthed grin, threatening to hit him with Bichen. He hissed at him then slammed Bichen down, gazing off to the side with his impassive expression once more. He then looked back at Xiao Zhan and smiled fondly at him.

Goddamn it Yibo, that smile. That fucking smile. “On set he’s always like this. Poor me,” Xiao Zhan joked. He pointed off to the other boats. “Just now I was hit by that pole. Awful. Poor Wei Wuxian. And Lan Wangji just laughs secretly on the side.”

“I wasn’t laughing,” Yibo said, giving him a look. Xiao Zhan tried to talk over him but Yibo continued, “I clearly said,” then he yelled out at the top of his lungs, “Wei Ying, are you okay?!” He then looked at Xiao Zhan with his eyes twinkling.

“I feel like you’ve got no shame these days,” Xiao Zhan complained. 

Yibo looked at the camera, pointing at himself then at Xiao Zhan when he said, “Dissing me.” He then looked back to Xiao Zhan, pressing his lips together in something between a smile and a frown.

Xiao Zhan started teasing him nonsensically. 

Yibo looked back at the camera. “He abuses the fact that he’s 6 years older and bullies me every day. This gege,” Yibo finished with a smile.

“Wang Yibo, are you human?!” Xiao Zhan leaned forward and started patting himself on the chest. “Every day self-reflect and ask yourself are you human?”

“This gege abuses the fact that he’s older,” Yibo repeated sullenly.

“When did you ever treat me as a gege?” Xiao Zhan demanded. He looked over to see Yibo smiling self-satisfied off to the side. “You call me gege but do you really treat me like one?”

“Bullying me every day,” Yibo said with a smile. 

“Aish,” Xiao Zhan swore, unable to look away from that self-satisfied smile on Yibo’s face. He loves it when I bully him. I bully him and he smiles at me like that, so of course I’m going to keep bullying him.  He’s asking for it!

“Yeah, look, gege is sitting with his legs propped up, didi wouldn’t dare do that,” Yibo teased him to the camera. 

Yibo snickered, grinning at him.  

“Can you be kinder?” Xiao Zhan asked, leaning his arm back over the edge of the boat.  “I advise you to be kinder every day.”

“Okay ge,” Yibo agreed easily.

Xiao Zhan broke into a smile.  “Sunbae!” he exclaimed, speaking to Yibo in Korean.

“Ge!” Yibo said, smiling wide enough to challenge the sun.

“Sunbae!” Xiao Zhan repeated, wanting to keep that huge smile on Yibo’s face.  He then fell off the bench, grabbing at Yibo’s hands, somehow ending up on his knees between Yibo’s spread legs, those white knees so close to him.

“Ge!  Gege!” Yibo said with his wide smile, laughing.

Xiao Zhan squeezed Yibo’s wrist.  “Sunbae.  I’m sorry,” he said in Korean.  

“Ge,” Yibo said, then got into the bottom of the boat with Xiao Zhan, his wrist still held in Xiao Zhan’s hand.  He got down to Xiao Zhan’s level, squatting there looking him in the eyes.

Xiao Zhan’s knee knocked into the outside of Yibo’s knee, but he still didn’t release that wrist, just squeezing it.  Why are you so cute!

“No,” Yibo said softly when Xiao Zhan finally released his wrist.

They both looked at each other, a tender moment passing between them. They both seemed to realize at the same moment that they were being filmed by a camera, and climbed quickly back up to their respective seats across from each other on the boat.

After an awkward moment, Yibo stuck his legs out, looking down at his knees.  He had a big bruise on his left knee and he fingered it.

“New wound?” Xiao Zhan asked him.  His legs look so thin stuck bare into Lan Wangji’s boots like that.  If only Lan Wangji could see him now…

“Got it dancing,” Yibo confirmed, looking up at Xiao Zhan.  He pulled his feet up.

“This is a new wound,” Xiao Zhan said.  

Yibo nodded.  “Yeah.”

“Is the floor slippery?” Xiao Zhan asked.

“When I solo freestyle I like to use my knees,” Yibo said seriously.  

“Oh, this?” Xiao Zhan said, imitating the EOEO dance.

“No, aside from that I do others,” Yibo said, looking at him sternly.  

Xiao Zhan smiled at him, realizing he’d embarrassed him again.  “Aww, sorry then.”  

They both smiled at each other, another tender moment drawing out between them.  

“Of course, dance king of Asia, right?” Xiao Zhan teased him.

“Bullshit,” Yibo murmured.  He tried to cover his embarrassment by fiddling with Bichen again and looking away.

“Hey, what?” Xiao Zhan said in Korean, trying to get a rise out of him.  “What?”  When Yibo didn’t reply, Xiao Zhan leaned forward, going for what had worked last time.  “Sunbae.  Sunbae!”  He then turned to look at the camera.  “To be honest, Wang Yibo really is a big senior to me.”

“Piss off,” Wang Yibo said in a singsong voice.

“No matter if it’s experience—”

“Bullshit!”

“Or debut seniority,” Xiao Zhan continued, “He’s really my senior.”

“No,” Yibo murmured.

“Wang Yibo is also really great, really takes care of me,” Xiao Zhan said fondly.  

“But you’re still my senior when it comes to age,” Yibo countered.

“But age doesn’t matter,” Xiao Zhan argued.

“You’re more experienced,” Yibo insisted, looking at him.  

“How?”

Yibo looked at him, pouting a little.  “You’ve got 6 more years of experience.”

“That’s just life experience.  It’s not important.”  Xiao Zhan looked at him, trying to convince him of his sincerity in this.  “You’re way more experienced in acting than me.  You’re really great.  I really like it.”

“No,” Yibo said, his voice embarrassed.  “I only debuted 2 years earlier than you.”

“2 years!” Xiao Zhan exclaimed.  “Plus the time you spent as a trainee.”

Yibo sighed, pursing his lips.  

You’re so cute and so great, Yibo, why don’t you see that?  “You’re really amazing, Wang-laoshi,” Xiao Zhan said aloud.  “No wonder you’re so good at dancing.  Every time you dance people scream.”

Yibo was earnest when he said, “But Xiao-laoshi you’re also skilled, you know design.”

“What use is design?” Xiao Zhan asked.

“Design is really amazing,” Yibo flattered him.  “Didn’t you earn $200k RMB for one?”

“Oh, that’s true,” Xiao Zhan conceded, brushing his hair back from his face again.  

Yibo looked back at the camera.  “Yeah, Xiao-laoshi is really amazing.”

“But it’s useless now,” Xiao Zhan insisted.

“It’s still a skill you have,” Yibo countered, looking at him.

“But it’s useless now,” Xiao Zhan repeated.  “I couldn’t design something for you right now on the spot.”

“But you can design your own brand,” Yibo said.  

Oh, right, that’s something that Yibo’s always wanted, his own brand.  “That’s true, I guess,” Xiao Zhan agreed.

“Yeah.”

“But it’s still too early,” Xiao Zhan said, exchanging glances with Yibo.  

“It’s not.  Using your status now—”

“But your dancing comes in use whenever,” Xiao Zhan interrupted him again.  He shouted, “Wang Yibo!  Give us one!”  He started snapping out a rhythm.  “Wang Yibo.  Wang Yibo.”

“Using your status now you can design something and people will buy it,” Yibo said, trying to keep the conversation going.

“Wang Yibo, give us one,” Xiao Zhan wheedled him, still snapping.  “Wang Yibo, give us one, Wang Yibo.”

He stopped snapping when he realized there was no way in a cold hell Yibo was about to start dancing.  He fixed a dull stare on Xiao Zhan.

I give up.  Xiao Zhan closed his eyes, trying to keep his mind off the endless heat.

Yibo just stared at him.

“So tired, Wang Yibo,” Xiao Zhan complained.  He leaned back on the bench, stretching his legs out.

“You start it off,” Yibo said grumpily.

“You start, senior,” Xiao Zhan said instead.

“You start, ge.”

“You—”

“Ge, you start it off,” Yibo continued the banter.

“You—”

“You start it off.”

“You start it off,” Xiao Zhan insisted.

“Ge, you start it off,” Yibo repeated.

“You start it.”

“You start.”

“Really, you start,” Xiao Zhan tried again.

“Ge, you start it off.”

Holy fuck he can be annoying. And I fucking love it.  “Hey, stop messing around, Wang Yibo.  Please have mercy.”

“Ge, how can I start if you don’t start, ge?” Yibo asked him.

“Wang-laoshi, have mercy.  Wang-laoshi.  Wang-laoshi!”

Yibo smiled.  “Ge, have mercy on me, ge.”

“Wang-laoshi, I thought you didn’t sleep last night, how do you have so much energy?”

“Ge, have some mercy on me, ge!” Yibo repeated.

“I do have mercy, you haven’t slept for 2 or 3 days, poor you,” Xiao Zhan said, looking at him seriously.  “Why don’t you get some rest?”  He looked at him tenderly.  If he keeps going like this, he’s really going to burn out.

“I don’t dare faint,” Yibo insisted.  “It would take up your time, ge.”

Xiao Zhan’s heart flopped over in his chest.  Oh, this boy.  How could I not fall for him?  “No, it won’t,” Xiao Zhan insisted.

“Ge, there’s no way I’m fainting.”  He looked up at Xiao Zhan, swaying a little in his seat to keep himself awake.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll definitely do my part in the scene.”

He pretends like he doesn’t care.  He doesn’t talk to anyone but me.  He keeps a cool facade.  But he does care, he cares so much it’s eating him up inside.  “I’m thinking if you don’t faint, I might,” Xiao Zhan said to make him feel less bad about being tired.

“I swear I’ll do my best,” Yibo insisted.

“No, it’s me.”  Xiao Zhan watched Yibo, examining his face.  “Because Lan Wangji is so solid.  If Wei Wuxian’s not on top of it—”

“I need you to take the lead for me to be solid,” Yibo said firmly.

“If Wei Wuxian’s rhythm is off Wang-laoshi will yell at me, like this morning.”  Xiao Zhan turned to the camera and explained, “On set he screamed, ‘Come on, let’s do it!’”  Xiao Zhan giggled, mouth pulled wide in a smile.

Yibo laughed back at him, his own smile huge.  “No, I didn’t,” Yibo tried to backtrack.

Xiao Zhan crossed his foot over his knee, leaning his arm over the edge of the boat, grinning.  “Yeah, you did,” he said around a laugh.

Yibo looked at the camera, trying to defend himself.  “No, I wasn’t that loud.”

“At the time I was so scared, I thought, ‘Oh no, Wang Yibo’s mad.’  Sorry, Wang-laoshi!  Because it was the morning, I just got here, I was a little dizzy and plus—”  

“No,” Yibo said, looking aside then back to Xiao Zhan, “I know Xiao-laoshi is working so hard, he has so many lines every day, I was in the wrong.”

“Really, don’t.  Wang-laoshi!”

“I should’ve— I wasn’t being thoughtful,” Yibo said, feeling bad, “I should’ve thought more about your feelings, ge.”  He swayed back and forth in his seat, words coming out choppy, stuttered.  “Because you have so many lines, and it’s so early in the morning, and you’re confused.”  Yibo kept fumbling his words.  “Inevitably your rhythm might be off.”

He’s so cute when he’s embarrassed.  “Who’s confused?” Xiao Zhan asked.  “Don’t talk like that.  Who’s confused?”

“It’s just you might be a little dizzy,” Yibo fumbled.  

“Who’s confused?” Xiao Zhan repeated with a teasing smile on his face.  I laid the trap, but he’s the one who walked right into it!

“Not very clear-headed,” Yibo tried to clarify.

“How can you say that?” Xiao Zhan demanded.

“You’ve got so many lines and it’s so early in the morning, I really shouldn’t have acted that way.”

“No,” Xiao Zhan said, leaning his head back to get the fan pointed at his chin.

Yibo continued rambling, “Just because I have so few lines, I shouldn’t have done that.”

“Wang-laoshi, don’t say that, if you say that I feel bad.”  Xiao Zhan tried to stop the boy rambling but it seemed like once he was on the go, he couldn’t stop!

“Ge, now that I think about it, I was really in the wrong this morning.  I shouldn’t have done that.  I was wrong, ge.”

What have I done?  Did I break him?  “No, Wang-laoshi, I’m sorry.  I’m very ashamed.”

“I’m sorry, ge.”

They exchanged a glance when Xiao Zhan said, “You didn’t sleep for 2 days and your rhythm is still so solid.  What was I doing?  I was self-reflecting, asking myself from deep within my soul, can I face Wang Yibo like this?  In the face of his hard work?”

They had been joking, but somewhere in all the teasing they were actually serious.  They were looking at each other, feeling their mutual sincerity.  

“No, I can’t,” Xiao Zhan said quickly, “So, I—”  He then broke the moment with a short laugh, “I really get it!” he yelled.

“No, no, no,” Yibo said.

“You yelled at me on set but it really was because I wasn’t doing it right,” Xiao Zhan said, smiling at him.  

Then abruptly the crew were ready and it was time to get back to filming.

———

Yibo and Xiao Zhan sat down together in a quiet moment later that evening, plates of food on their laps as they ate on the side of the set.

“I really am sorry,” Yibo said lowly, looking at Xiao Zhan.

“What?” Xiao Zhan asked, confused at the lack of context.

“I’m sorry that I yelled at you on set this morning.  It wasn’t fair,” Yibo specified, giving him a look.

“Oh no, not this again. Yibo it’s fine, really.”  Xiao Zhan popped a piece of tender meat in his mouth.

Yibo looked down, pouting.  “I really like working with you, Xiao Zhan, I was just tired.”

“I know you like working with me, Bo-di.  It’s okay.  I like working with you too.”

Without any cameras on them, they could be sweeter with each other, more genuine.  When Yibo looked up at him, his heart in his eyes, and asked, “You do?”  Xiao Zhan’s heart just about popped right out of his chest.

He reached out and gave Yibo’s arm a brief squeeze.  “Yeah, Yibo, I do.  This has been the most fun I’ve had on set.  Ever.”

Yibo’s eyes swam with some kind of deep emotion, so he turned them away.  “Me, too.”

They both turned their attention back to their eating, faces flushed.

———

A few days later, they were horsing around on set again when someone started making fun of how many snacks Xiao Zhan ate.  No matter where they were, when it was a break between takes inevitably Xiao Zhan was munching away on something.  Chips, chocolate, you name it.  Yibo was standing next to Xiao Zhan under an umbrella, fussing with his collar.

“Me?  I never eat snacks,” Xiao Zhan lied to the camera.

“Liar,” Yibo teased with a big smile on his face, “You’ve just eaten one!”

Xiao Zhan smacked Yibo with his flute then leaned up against him, throwing his arm around him in a one-armed hug.

“A chocolate bar,” Yibo specified, smiling wide.

They looked in each other’s eyes, smiling at each other, eyes twinkling.  

“Haven’t you?” Yibo asked him.

Xiao Zhan smiled, walking away from the camera.

Yibo chased after him.  “And you ate chips this morning.  And yesterday you seemed to be munching on some kind of dried fish.”

“Yibo!” Xiao Zhan turned and glared at him.  “Are you even human?!”

“That’s on top of all the food you ate for breakfast.  And lunch.  And dinner.  And late night.”

Xiao Zhan turned and tackled Yibo, smacking him on the arm then putting his arm around Yibo’s shoulders, giving him a noogie on the side of his head.

“Hey! Don’t mess with the hairdo, ge.”

“Why don’t I take off your forehead ribbon and gag you with it,” Xiao Zhan threatened with a gleam in his eyes.

Yibo’s eyes widened and then he burst out laughing.  He started hitting Xiao Zhan with his long sleeves.  “I dare you to try!”

“Ugh,” Xiao Zhan gave up, walking away.

The camera found them again a minute later when they were walking back to the set together.  “Well, do you eat any snacks?” Xiao Zhan asked Yibo.

“No,” he said, shaking his head and smiling into his eyes.

“It seems true,” Xiao Zhan admitted.  “For drinks he only drinks boiled water.”

They turned and smiled at each other again, then the cameraman put away the camera, giving them a look.

They were completely oblivious to the look the cameraman gave them before he walked away, they were so caught up in each other. Xiao Zhan put his hand on Yibo’s arm.  “Seriously, though, shouldn’t you eat more?  You’re running around all day expending so much energy.  I can give you some snacks.”

“How do you think I maintain my figure?” Yibo pouted.  “I don’t snack.”

“Maybe not usually but when we’re on set, you should.”

Yibo just huffed out a breath.  “I’m fine, ge.”

Xiao Zhan gave him a doubtful look.

Why do I think you’re not fine?

Chapter Text

June 2018

 

Wang Yibo flew back to the set of Produce 101 for the final episode.  He had to admit to himself, even when he was on his way there, he thought to himself that he was feeling a little worn thin from his schedule.

But he was also excited, eager to see the final results of all the hard work he’d put in over the past months.  He hoped that the girls that he really believed in made it to that final step.

When he was getting ready that way, the stylist put him in the most atrocious hair and outfit combo he could have imagined.  They styled him with blue hair again, this time shaped in a mullet, longer hair falling down the back of his neck.  His outfit was strange too, a black hat on his head, white button-down shirt and black tie, black suit pants, and a black and white sweater.  Not at all his style.

When he looked in the mirror, he thought he looked completely ridiculous.  But he didn’t want to be that diva on set that threw a fit so he kept his mouth shut and went with it.  Even though he felt it was not only his worst look of the season, it was maybe his worst look - ever.  Truthfully it was mainly the hair that bothered him.  Well, and the outfit.  Heck, he would have rather gone on stage and danced hip hop in full Lan Wangji gear than this.

He was jealous of Zitao, who got to go on stage looking cute in a track suit and messily-styled hair.  His performance was great too, as he sang and danced across the stage, support dancers in white backing him up.  Yibo watched from backstage and wished somehow he could fire up the audience as much as Zitao did.  

When he walked on stage with the other mentors, he knew he had a bit of a pinched look on his face.  He tried to dispel it.

He was asked to say a few words to the girls.  “All right, I hope that tonight every girl that is chasing her dreams will receive good outcomes.  Jiayou, students!” he yelled.  

“So great,” Huang Bo said as he turned to him.  “And I also feel that when the production team chose the mentors for this show they really thoroughly pondered over it.  There’s talent, visual.  Singing, dancing.  All aspects are taken care of.  And just now I said Teacher Yibo’s appearance on the show this time is all credited to the production team’s efforts.  Think about it, they train so hard each day that their sweat pours down like rain.  And they feel so much pressure every day.  But as soon as Teacher Yibo comes over to mentor, they suddenly see him and go, ‘Wow, how handsome!’  Really brightens up their mood, right?”

Yibo smiled self-consciously on stage.  So you really didn’t give a damn about what I could do for their careers?  I’m just here for the eye-candy?   He thought to himself.

They watched as each contestant did one final song or dance to show off their skills.  Wu Xuanyi, who he had scolded before, was not a particularly great dancer, but she was pretty and she relied on this too heavily in Yibo’s opinion.  Meng Meixi was flawless as always, which wasn’t a surprise since she’d held the top spot in the competition for so long.  Yamy was fucking amazing, shining in her strength, doing a hip hop dance with her hair in braids.  Yibo got particularly fired up by Li Zixuan, his favourite dance pupil, as she did a great hip hop dance.  

The singers came up next.  Sunnee did a great job singing.  This whole time she’d kept her tomboy personality intact, which Yibo respected a lot.  She didn’t try to change herself at all.  When his favourite Guo Qiuzi got up and sang a song called Thank You, he was really rooting for her, too.  She looked cute and her singing was great, even though she looked like she was trying to sing through tears.  Zining’s rendition of Exclusive Memory was objectively a better song, with more perfect singing, but it didn’t touch his heart as much as Qiuzi.  Lu Ziting singing Reflection, though, was by far the best vocal.  The young girl who had come to China from Thailand was really giving it her all to try to make it.  Yibo clapped at the end of the segment, straight-faced.

The girls split up into groups and performed some more song and dance routines.  Honestly at their skill levels now almost any of them could have made it as an official member.

They all got dressed again in their official pink Produce 101 suits, waiting for the final tally of votes.  They all had letters read aloud that they had written at the beginning of the competition.  They invited the mentor group to the stage, along with the girls that were no longer in the competition.  Yibo stepped forward with the other mentors, standing with his hands clasped together behind his back.  He couldn’t say if it was just his exhaustion showing, or the emotion of this project finally coming to an end, but Yibo felt his eyes shining as he stood there.  

The girls that were no longer in the competition said a few words to the audience.  Their words were heartfelt.  The girl from B class, Ni Qiuyun, stood up there and said, “Later on, many of us thought of that moment.  If time could give us another chance, we will, with even less hesitation, say loudly, ‘I want to stand on this stage!’”  Yibo’s eyes were swimming in tears, his mouth working.  

Ella spoke some great words from her heart, her voice wavering with emotion.  “Please remember the two things I want to tell you guys now,” she said as she finished her speech.  “Always maintain a positive and healthy mindset.  And secondly, please continuously improve yourselves.  Continuously grow.  No matter what you encounter in the future, open up your arms.  Whether good or bag, hug it, thank it.  All the best to all 101 girls.  I love you guys.”  

Yibo felt her words resonating in him as he said his own words to the girls.  His eyes were shining with emotion as he spoke.  “I am about the same age as you all.  We all brought the determination to strive, and the thought of being indignant to lose, to PD 101 China.  I believe when we first came there were some worries and fears, some curiosity, some anticipation.  From being your mentor in the beginning, to completing a stage together with you guys… Thank you, for letting me improve together with you all.  In the future, after leaving here, we must continue being good youths who can strive and endure difficulties and who can persevere.  Jiayou.”  

Zhang Jie also said words that touched Yibo’s heart, reminding him of his own experience over the past few years.  “While congratulating you, I also have to remind you.  Standing at a place where everyone can see you, actually it’s also very tough and competitive.  You have to endure blows from winds and hits from raindrops.  Lightning and thunder.  At this moment, for you guys, it’s the easiest to become defeated.  But at the same time, it’s also the best time for you to become stronger.  However you choose belongs to yourself.  So in the future, jiayou, girls!”  

The girls and the mentors, the audience members and parents, all were shedding tears by the time the mentors finished speaking their heartfelt words.  The girls bowed to them.  

Zitao then walked out, looking perfect in his white pants, fancy black and white jacket, his short hair pulled back into a half-ponytail.  He handed the girls a large Produce 101 banner, and they helped to set it up, until the banner was raised up into the air.  

“Congratulations, you graduated!” Ella announced, and the girls all hugged each other.

They then moved into the final segment of the program - announcing the final 11 contestants that would move into the official girl group.  Each group of mentors was responsible for reading out a series of names.  Ella read out the first name.  Sunnee, the tomboy who never thought she could make it into a girl group, was the first contestant announced.  Yibo’s heart flopped over in his chest he was so proud of her.  Tears were streaming down her face as she addressed the crowd.  When she walked to the other side of the stage, she bowed along the way, setting the tone for each girl that would follow her.  When she sat down, she looked lost, shell-shocked.

Zining was announced next.  Then Lai Meiyun, and Yamy.  Yibo was very happy to hear Yamy’s name, she was the best rapper in the group, and had a stage presence that couldn’t be denied.  She also didn’t cry when she got up there, she just had her voice filled with gratitude.  

When it was Yibo’s time to announce, he was a bit nervous.  “Okay, next I will announce the 4th debuting member.  In total, from the Girl Group Founders, she received 1000— oh, ah, sorry,” he fumbled.  Fuck apparently I can’t do math.  Why are Chinese numbers so hard to say out loud?!  He was so embarrassed he wanted to run off the stage.  Luo was dying of laughter, grabbing Yibo’s arm.  Yibo bit his lips, mortified.  He let out a nervous cough, and Hu Yanbin put his arm around him.

“Too nervous, too nervous,” Ella said to cover the awkward moment.

Okay, I can do this, Yibo told himself.  “110,325,869 votes,” he said confidently, reading it out loud correctly this time.  He was trying to ignore how Luo was laughing at him, shaking his shoulders from where he had come to stand behind him.  He repeated the number again, just to be sure he got it right.  “110,325,869 votes.  Ah, uh… She is as clean as a white piece of paper,” he said, meaning she had no real experience.  “But her dancing is very good.  Yes.”

“You guys are just giving hints randomly,” the female announcer said.

“Good at dancing?” Luo asked.

“Good at dancing,” Yibo confirmed.  He looked over to Luo, happy to have someone to banter with to ease his tension.

“Has she been to our classes?” Luo asked.  

“Of course,” Yibo said, looking over at him.

“I know who it is,” Luo said.

“I praised her,” Yibo added.  

“What?”

“I praised her,” Yibo said again.  

“Have I praised her?”  Zhang Jie asked.

“Uh, I have praised her,” Yibo said.  

“I have also praised her,” Zhang Jie said.

“Very good at dancing, wow,” Luo added.

“Who is this person?” Hu Yanbin asked.

“All the girls here are quite good at dancing,” Luo added, drawing the moment out.

Yibo licked his lips, looking over at the other mentors.

“She must be one of those who are very strong in that position,” Zhang Jie added.  

“Yes,” Yibo said.

“Is her skin pale or tan?” Luo asked.

Yibo thought about it, munching on his lips as he considered the question.  Hu Yanbin, standing next to him, was hugging himself he was laughing so hard. 

Yibo smacked his lips, then said,  “A bit tan,” and the same moment Luo said, “A bit tan, right?”

“A bit tan,” Yibo confirmed.  

“What is this,” Huang Bo  said, laughing.  “Those opposite are so nervous.  Okay!  Every time I must cut them off like this.  This is too torturing.”

“She slimmed down a lot,” Luo added, and Zhang Jie nodded with him.

“Slimmed down a lot?” Huang Bo confirmed.  “Don’t torture us anymore Teacher Yibo hurry up!”

“Teacher Yibo, announce it quickly,” the female announcer prompted him.  

“Come on!  She is…” Yibo shouted with a smile.  “Duan Aojuan!”

Duan was actually known more as a singer than as a dancer, so that whole time they were just throwing them off.  

Yibo sighed to himself, relaxed that his bit was done.  God I’m such an idiot, he berated himself.  Can’t even read numbers out loud properly.  For fuck’s sake.

The rest of the girls were announced.  Xu Mengjie, Fu Jing, Li Ziting were announced by Jiang Wen.  Then Zitao got up to announce the girls that took the top 3 spots.  The announcer fondly called him ‘Taotao.’  

“The show has already been filming for 3 months,” he said, his voice wavering with emotion.  “I have also scolded you for crying.  But today, your tears have made me feel especially touched.  Can you not play the music?” Zitao turned and begged the staff, as it wasn’t helping him to keep his own emotions in check.  

He then bowed his head, trying to get himself under control.  He took a deep breath, then said, “Uh.  Because I was at the back just now, holding the banner with my two hands, after hearing what the mentors told you… I really couldn’t control the feelings in my heart.”  He used the paper he was holding to gesticulate, his voice still wavering madly.  “Maybe in the past 3 months,” he said, clearing his voice, “You thought that Huang Zitao was very strict.  Huang Zitao scolds you every time he sees you.  Be mean to you or something.  But actually, if you let me start afresh recording PD 101 China, I would still face you with the attitude in the 1st episode of the show.”

He looked around at them, meeting the eyes of the girls still standing there hopefully.  “I saw a lot of myself in you guys,” he explained.  “But from you I also saw what ‘original intentions’ are.  Anyway, I think this honour… I hope you can cherish it properly.  I hope your radiance, and the memories of this show, in the next 10 years when you switch on your computer and rewatch it… I hope at that time your halo will still exist.  10 years later, watch the 1st episode, watch out 101 girls from the 1st episode to the 12th episode, the process to debut… To the 10th episode, sorry,” he apologized, realizing he’d mistakenly added 2 episodes to the roster that didn’t exist.  

Well, at least I’m not the only one who fucked up, Yibo thought as he watched Zitao talk from where he sat with the other mentors.

Zitao recovered quickly.  “In the next 10 years, you can still carry your halo, carry your smile, and look back at your final original intentions of this show.  I hope you will never forget every step that you have walked today.  Never forget where you started from.  Here, I especially want to thank you guys.  Because unlike the other mentors, I did not have classes with you every day, give you classes, I actually wanted to.  I also said, I said, I can give a class.  They said, because of movie filming I cannot take out time.  After you debut, if you have any questions you can come ask me.  I can help you.   And congratulations.  Thank you,” Zitao said, bowing deeply.  “You have worked hard.”  

He then announced the top 3.  Yang Chaoyue, Wu Xuanyi, and Meng Meiqi.  

The girls who didn’t make it waved and left the stage.  

Yibo was really disappointed that Li Zixuan didn’t make it.  He’d had such a great time working with her, and she even held her own against him in a dance battle.  To see her get so close and be the 12th person when they could only choose 11 was completely devastating.  He hoped that she would continue to hold hope in her heart and shoot for her dreams.  He hoped he’d have an opportunity in the future to help her.

His other favourite, Gao Qiuzi, didn’t make it either.  He wasn’t terribly surprised, it was a long shot after all - but he really hoped that she didn’t give up on her dreams.  She had come so close, and she still had a chance to do this if she really wanted to.

The mentors all stood on stage as they closed the show, Zitao having dropped his heavy jacket off somewhere.  He was standing next to Yibo, bouncing with energy.  He turned and spoke in Yibo’s ear, “I can’t believe it’s over!”

Yibo nodded, waving goodbye along with the other mentors.  He then shook hands with Luo, nodding at him.  

When Yibo got into the car that night, the first thing he did was text Xiao Zhan.

Yibo:  It’s over.  I’m done with Produce 101

Xiao Zhan:  How does it feel?

Yibo:  First thing I’m doing is firing my stylist.  Then I’m going to spend the next 10 years practicing how to say big numbers out loud in Chinese.

Xiao Zhan:  What happened?!  I didn’t have a chance to stream the episode, we’re still shooting.

Yibo:  God, don’t bother.  I fucked up.

Xiao Zhan:  Aww, it’s okay Bo-di, we can’t be perfect all the time.

Yibo scowled at his phone, then typed out a message and hit send before he thought the better of it.

Yibo:  You’re perfect.

There was a long pause as Xiao Zhan digested that one, and Yibo gnawed on his lip.  Did I go too far?  I say that to him all the time on set.

Xiao Zhan:  I’m not perfect, Wang Yibo.  And if you put me up on a pedestal then one day I’ll fall off and you’ll be very, very disappointed in me.

Yibo:  I’ll never be disappointed in you.

Xiao Zhan:  So what now?  Coming back to set?

Yibo:  You really never pay attention to schedules, do you?  I’m on my way to do a performance with UNIQ.  Happy China graduation night.  I won’t even have time to change this ridiculous haircut.  I’m really firing my stylist.

Xiao Zhan:  Is it really that bad?

Yibo:  Yes, yes it is.

Yibo:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  Wow, you look pissed.

Yibo:   I was pissed.  Look, Zhan-ge, I've got to go.  I've got another event.  I'll talk to you later OK?

Xiao Zhan: OK Bo-di.  Jiayou!

Yibo barely had time to sleep again as he was shuffled from one event to the next.  His performance at the Happy China graduation night was very high intensity, and he had only a few hours on-site to prepare and practice the dance.  

As he was performing that night, although he hated his look, he felt like he did really well in the performance itself.  He felt really good about his dancing, he was on time, his form good.  He kept his energy level up high.  

He then went straight from there to the filming of Day Day Up.  At least they were able to fix his styling, he got his hair back to a normal brown, and they dressed him up in black pants and a black and white shirt with red accents.  He had a chain on his pants that he fiddled with as the show was filming.  He felt exhausted, and was worried that he looked it, too.

He was so tired on Day Day Up that he looked downright stupid when he couldn’t answer even simple questions.  The other hosts joked that he’d lose fans when the episode aired.  The only time he redeemed himself on that episode was when he did a freestyle dance with the kids on stage.  

He stole the show for all of five seconds when they did a basketball segment.  Yibo dribbled the ball, running up to the net, then he took a giant leap, passed the ball from one hand to another through his open legs and up into the net.  A perfect lay-up through his legs.  Ha.  He also managed to get a 3-pointer directly in the net in one try.  But then when they had to do the relay, he kept fubbing the 3-pointer.  At some point he started laughing like a gremlin and how hopeless it was.  When it was time for him to throw the ball he was laughing too hard to even stand up.  They ended up having to switch positions, and after Yibo messed up 3 times the tiny little boy that was half his size made the basket in one try.

Gawd, I suuuuck, Yibo thought hopelessly to himself.  

———

He had a few days on set of the Untamed, filming some scenes with Xiao Zhan.  He spent most of his time between takes goofing off, play-fighting with Xiao Zhan.  Then he was on a plane again on his way to film Happy Camp.  The show was set up as a sporting event, Yibo being paired up with a team of much older people in a group called Overbearing Old People Team because he had participated in the event before with Uniq.  They came out on set in black and red tracksuits.  Thankfully Yibo had worked out his styling problem from the previous week, his hair looked great, dark brown, tousled artfully in an off-centre part.  He felt good, on top of his game.

When he was invited to introduce himself, Yibo said, “Hello everyone, I’m Everyday Brothers’ Wang Yibo.”  He smiled widely at the audience.

The members of his group all made fun of him, claiming he was in the wrong group, instead of the Overbearing Old People he should be with the young group.  They then invited him to take the centre position where they felt he belonged.  He smiled and nodded his head a little self-consciously.  He stood there nervously as they made fun of his age, needled him for being cute, then praised him for his accomplishments.  

The competing team was the Bloom of Youth team, full of good-looking young men from a new idol group.  No wonder they thought he was on the wrong team.  

After the introductions, and some good-natured teasing, they invited the judges out on stage.  It was a group of incredibly adorable young girls and boys that did a little dance.  Yibo’s heart melted into a little puddle they were so cute.

On initial instincts, almost all the kids picked Yibo’s team as their favourite, and next thing Yibo found himself hugging two cute little kids, patting them on the head.  

Yibo’s team went first, doing a very traditional Chinese dance.  Then one of Yibo’s members did a rhythmic gymnastics demonstration with a ribbon.  She stole the hearts of everyone.  Then Yibo got up on stage and danced a freestyle hip hop dance.  He busted out all his typical moves, going down on his knees, twirling about, gyrating his body.  One of the kids on the sidelines even imitated his moves, trying to join in.  The audience went wild.  

Afterwards the kids gave them really high scores.  

When the green team went, they danced a modern hip hop dance, full of energy and liveliness.  Yibo was bopping his head along with them as they danced.  Though he liked their dance overall, it was a bit overly choreographed.  

Yibo’s group members even joked around that they should give their own dance another shot.

They then sent Yibo to do the next segment.  The little girl gave a bunch of really cute moves for him to incorporate into a freestyle dance.  

Yibo then got up there, doing a super cute dance full of heart moves.  He was a little embarrassed doing it, but he put his all into it.  The little girl who gave him the moves was bubbling with excitement.  The others all tried to imitate his heart dance.  There was so much laughter as they all gushed over how cute Yibo was.

The other team then had a member that did an impressive yoyo demonstration.  Since Yibo liked messing around with the yoyo too, he stared open-mouthed, then threw his hand up in the air and cheered, praising the other guy’s skill, which was far above his own.

Both teams competed in some skills with balls, doing back walk-overs with a ball held behind their knees, rolling balls across both their arms.  

Next up was the epic dance battle.  The guy from green team went first, doing a hip hop dance.  Although his moves were good, once again they came across a little bit choreographed.  

When Yibo got up to do his freestyle, he shook his body a little, getting into the rhythm, adjusting his clothes.  He then started just by tapping his feet to the beat, getting down on his knees and shaking his body to the rhythm.  Then he was gyrating from side to side.  He popped his joints and spun in a circle.  The move that made everyone die, though, was when he jumped up in the air, spun in a full circle in the air, and landed on his chest on the floor, sliding up his whole body along the floor then popping back up to his feet in a smooth movement.  He then popped his joints, doing a little breakdance, sliding his body along the floor again before swaying to his feet and ending the dance with a little butt shake.  

When they started chanting his name, “Wang Yibo, Wang Yibo!” he couldn’t help smiling wide.

That felt really, really good!

He hoped it had looked as good as it felt.  He felt himself laughing, his mouth open in a big smile.

He then shook his opponent’s hand.  When he got back to his seat, he sat down heavily, sweating.  He was breathing hard, having a little trouble catching his breath.  Luckily he could just sit there and rest while he watched the other members face off against each other.

The next game he participated in was one where they had balloons put on their shoes, then they had to try to stomp on their opponent’s feet to pop the balloons.  His teammate who went before him won the first round.  In the second round, his teammate again got the upper hand by surprising the opponent on the green team, popping one of his balloons, then she spent her time on her knees defending her balloons.  One of her balloons fell off her shoe with her antics and he quickly popped it.  She then accidentally popped her own balloon, losing the round for the red team.

Red team won the third round after a retaliation from a surprise attack, and Yibo threw his hands up in the air, cheering.

They put Yibo up in the ring next.  Yibo fired up the round by saying, “Look, in previous rounds there were people who lost in ‘moral standing.’  And in the competition.  Which way do you want to lose in?”

Everyone cheered.  

Yibo was really quick on his feet, jumping in and back out again, his feet a blur.  He kicked the first balloon from his opponent’s foot straight out of the ring, then stomped on the second.  The round was over in a fraction the amount of time the other matches had taken.  But since one of the balloons had flown straight off the ring, they let his opponent tie it back on again to keep the round going.  

When the round started up again, his feet moved again like a blur, and they joked that it was a “Street Dancing Method” since his feet did indeed look like he was dancing around.  In the end, he couldn’t manage to pop the other’s second balloon even though he was trying his hardest, jumping around.  

They still gave the win to his team.

Yibo was sweating again, breathing hard in the aftermath of that battle.  The little girl came out to give their team the trophy, closing the proceedings.  Yibo held the trophy, stroking the ribbons aimlessly as the MC spoke.  

They had a chance to change backstage as NEXT7 did a dance routine, showing off their skills.  Yibo came back out again wearing black skinny jeans with holes in the knees and a tight black button-down shirt with hearts on the shoulders and collar, black converse.  He felt confident in this outfit, too.

As they got ready to do the next segment, Yibo sat down, crossing his legs at the knee and folding his hands over his knees.  The segment was really confusing, you had to pretend to have a conversation with some sound lyrics?  Then guess the song?

I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, Yibo thought to himself, feeling stupid.  He just sat there, legs crossed primly, hoping someone else would be able to figure this out because it was hopeless.  At least I look good today.  That styling on the last episode of Produce 101 was frankly unforgivable.

Yibo didn’t participate at all, just sat there looking confounded as people guessed the songs.  

When Justin got up to play the game, Yibo thought he actually knew the answer, so he dashed up on stage but he didn’t make it in time.  No matter, because as it turns out he would have guessed wrong, anyway.

Yibo got up and danced along with the young group as they sang a song.  He then introduced his own group who sang a song while he danced along on the sidelines.  Yibo introduced NEXT who did their next song.  

Yibo stood up there at the end with the whole group as they closed up the show, but his energy was definitely flagging.  He rubbed his eyes, trying to make it through.  Fuck I’m tired.  And we have a huge scene to film tomorrow on The Untamed.  I have to find a way to keep going.

Yibo waved to the audience when the show ended, then hightailed it out of there back to the car that was taking him to the airport to go back to Hengdian.  He found a few texts from Xiao Zhan waiting for him already on his phone.

Xiao Zhan:  You on your way back?

Xiao Zhan:  We’re filming in the Nightless City tomorrow, it’s going to be a big day

Xiao Zhan:  I wanted to talk to you about some of the scenes, get your ideas on how to play it together

Yibo’s heart constricted in his chest when he saw those messages.  He felt like he was letting Xiao Zhan down by not being there more, being present for all the in-between stuff on set.  But he also couldn’t back out of the commitments his agency had already made on his behalf.  

Yibo:  I’m on my way to the airport now.  Do you want to meet up when I land?  We can go over things together then.

Xiao Zhan:  Depends on how late it is, if you’re leaving now then you won’t be here until after midnight, right?

Yibo:  That’s right

Xiao Zhan:  Xiao Zhan

Yibo:  I’m sorry.  I should be there.

Xiao Zhan:  Don’t be sorry.  Text me when you land, if I’m still up then we can meet up for an hour.

Yibo:  Okay.

———

Yibo tried to close his eyes on the flight, to catch an hour’s rest, but he was restless and couldn’t sleep.  When he got off the plane he dragged his suitcase behind him, energy visibly flagging.  In the car, he texted Xiao Zhan to let him know he was on his way back.

When Yibo walked into his hotel room, he had just opened his door when Xiao Zhan threw open the door of his room next door and poked his head out.  He waved at him, smiling.

Yibo smiled back, faintly.  He then opened the door to his room, letting Xiao Zhan walk in before him.  

“How’d it go?” Xiao Zhan asked him, buzzing into his room and then bouncing on the bed.

“Good good,” Yibo said, propping his luggage up in the closet.  He took out the remaining clean clothes he had, hanging them up quickly.  “I feel really good about the dance segments I did.  I was on fire!” he said, cocking his head to grin at Xiao Zhan.

“So full of yourself,” Xiao Zhan said with a wink.

Yibo put on the kettle to get himself a glass of hot water.  “Want tea?”

“No, too close to when I need to get some sleep.”  Xiao Zhan let out a big yawn for good measure.  “At least our scenes tomorrow require me to have bloodshot eyes, it won’t be that hard for the makeup team to fake it.”

Yibo poured his water out into a mug, then came to sit by Xiao Zhan.  No matter how tired he was, if Xiao Zhan wanted to talk to him, he’d make the time.  He scooted closer to him on the bed, sitting there with their knees knocking together as they sat next to each other, Yibo sipping his hot water.

“I’m worried about tomorrow,” Xiao Zhan said, clasping his hands between his knees.

He thinks I’m going to let him down, Yibo thought to himself.  “I’ll do a good job, I promise, ge.”

“I’m not worried about you, Bo-di,” Xiao Zhan said fondly, shooting him a smile.  “You’ll be steady as always.  You know your moves, and you love doing the wire work.  I’m sure you’ll do great.  I’m worried about me.”

Yibo turned to look at him fully.  “Why?”

Xiao Zhan wrung his hands together.  “This is the pinnacle of the series, in a way.  The moment when Wei Wuxian fully loses control.  Shijie dies.  The big battle scene.  And finally, my fall off the cliff.  What if…”

Yibo reached out and put a hand on his shoulder, giving it a squeeze.  “What?”

“What if I don’t do a good job?” Xiao Zhan asked, looking in Yibo’s eyes.  “What if I don’t go far enough?  Or what if I go too far and overdo it?  Or what if I forget all my lines?  Or maybe in that moment I won’t be able to call up the emotion I need?”

Yibo shifted his hand to grip the back of Xiao Zhan’s neck, sifting his hand into the hair at the base of his neck.  “You’re always great with showing emotion.  You’re very connected to Wei Wuxian, I have no doubt that when the time comes you’ll embody him perfectly.”  He scratched the back of Xiao Zhan’s neck.  “And I’ll be there with you.  If you want to run ideas by me, I’ll be there.  We can try things in different ways if you need to.”

———

Xiao Zhan’s head fell forward.  Yibo’s hand on the back of his neck, what he was doing… it felt great.  Which was exactly why he should stop him.

“Aren’t you tired, Bo-di?” Xiao Zhan murmured.

“Yes,” Yibo said honestly, but he didn’t pull away.  His thumb rubbed circles in the back of Xiao Zhan’s neck, trying to dispel the tension there.

Oh my fucking god, all he’s doing is touching me with one hand and I’m falling apart, Xiao Zhan thought.

Yibo wasn’t one to touch people easily, Xiao Zhan knew.  He was infamous in interviews for trying to avoid touching other people, even if it was just him taking a phone from someone he’d awkwardly angle his hands until he could find a way to take it without brushing their fingers together.

Xiao Zhan knew the Yibo was comfortable with him, maybe more comfortable than he’d been with anyone other than his Uniq bandmates, but he still hadn’t expected him to touch him on the neck.  His mind was blown wide, and his thoughts scattered completely when Yibo shifted to sit behind Xiao Zhan, slotting his long, lean legs around Xiao Zhan’s, his feet dangling by Xiao Zhan’s knees.  He then dug both his hands into Xiao Zhan’s neck.

I need to tell him to stop now, Xiao Zhan reminded himself.  Right now.

But he didn’t.  

Yibo dug his hands into the base of Xiao Zhan’s neck, his fingers probing strongly into the muscles of his shoulders, thumbs digging in sweeping circles.  He pressed his thumbs in a long line from the base of Xiao Zhan’s neck up into his hair, fingers sliding through the dark locks and scratching at his scalp again.  

He could feel Yibo’s breath faintly on the back of his neck as he leaned forward, his hands sweeping down again, running over the top of his shirt as they traced a line down his spine.  He worked on Xiao Zhan’s lower back a little, massaging the muscles that were always sore nowadays.  The wires were not friendly to his back pain.

Yibo then swept his hands back up, thumbs digging into knots that he found in Xiao Zhan’s back along the way.  When Yibo’s long fingers wrapped around the front of his neck, digging into the muscles leading to his collarbones, Xiao Zhan couldn’t help but let out a whimper.

At the sound, they both stilled, like a spell had been broken.  He held his breath, hearing Yibo’s ragged breathing behind him.

Xiao Zhan then shot to his feet, a hand raising to the back of his neck.  “I, uh, I should go get some sleep,” Xiao Zhan said nervously, unable to look at Yibo.

“Did I… do something wrong?” Yibo asked nervously.

Xiao Zhan glanced over to see Yibo sitting there on the bed, his legs pulled up to his chest.  He looked unsure of himself, nervous.

“You’re wonderful,” Xiao Zhan said with a genuine smile.  “But I should be going.”

Yibo nodded, propping his cheek up on his knees.  “Okay,” he whispered.

Why does he have to look so cute?  He wants me to stay, Xiao Zhan realized.  But that thought was way, way too dangerous.

Xiao Zhan paused by the door, giving Yibo one last look, then he waved a little and walked out.

———

Yibo flopped down onto his bed after Xiao Zhan left, covering his face with his hands.  “Well that was stupid,” he muttered to his hands.

He was half-hard, though thankfully Xiao Zhan hadn’t noticed that part.  He could still remember the faint spicy scent of Xiao Zhan’s cologne that he could smell when he leaned in to the back of his neck.

“He thinks I’m a creepy stalker,” he continued his conversation with his hands.

Yibo flung his legs out on the bed, kicking them up and down in frustration for a few minutes until he’d used up all his energy.

He couldn’t sleep a wink that night.

Chapter Text

July 2018

 

Yibo had been working himself so hard, both on the set of Untamed and on Produce 101 and his other variety shows, without a day of rest in months.  He had lost weight, doing so much activity and not always taking proper meals.  He was having the time of his life, the best months he’d ever lived, so he wasn’t always thinking about taking care of himself.

When they filmed the epic scene at the Nightless City, they filmed all the way from day, through the night, and right on in to the following day.  The director wanted to capture the light of the sunrise, so he didn’t want to pause.

Some of the crew were able to go off in shifts and get some rest, rotating in and out, but the actors couldn’t.

Yibo’s scenes were all very heavy in acrobatics and fighting, and he was really enjoying getting to do these scenes.  It was one of the major reasons he’d taken this role, that he wanted to do martial arts on screen.  

His chemistry with Xiao Zhan was at its max as they interacted with each other on the battlefield, Lan Wangji trying to stop Wei Wuxian from losing control.  

Their chemistry off screen was also at its max.  Every time they had a break in filming, Xiao Xian and Yibo would find each other, standing close to each other and chatting about random things.  They were always looking at each other, smiling, the topics they spoke about not important just their ability to spend time with each other and talk of meaningless things.  They kept each other awake, Yibo playing with Bichen, Xiao Zhan twirling Chenquing in his hands.  

I love your smile, Yibo kept thinking as they chatted.  He smiled naturally back, feeling light inside whenever he had a chance to talk with him.  

In spite of his worries the previous night, Xiao Zhan was in top form, absolutely flawless.  He immersed himself completely into his role, tears streaming down his cheeks as he was overwhelmed with the betrayal of his friends and family.  When he acted out the scene of his Shijie dying, Xiao Zhan had so much emotion radiating from him that the entire cast and crew were rapt, watching in open admiration no matter that they were all so tired.

When they filmed the scene with Wei Wuxian falling off the edge of the cliff, the sun was starting to rise in the sky.  Yibo was caught up in his own emotion, and he let Lan Wangji express his shock, horror, and despair on his face.  It didn’t take much for him to get to the right place with his emotions - all he had to imagine was that it was Xiao Zhan falling to his death, and he felt the horror as keenly as Lan Wangji did when Wei Wuxian fell.

When they finally wrapped the epic segment, the whole cast and crew crowded around, applauding all the actors for their efforts.  It had been an endless night, but their hard work had paid off.  

Yibo felt an intense feeling of relief that he’d done his job well.  He was listless on his feet, but smiling over at Xiao Zhan.  And Xiao Zhan was smiling back.

At least, that’s the last thing he remembered before he collapsed.

———

Xiao Zhan was feeling emotionally and physically drained from the night full of filming.  He had totally immersed himself in the role, and when Shijie died, the tears came naturally down his face.  When he filmed falling off the cliff, it wasn’t hard to imagine himself saying to Lan Wangji, “Let me go.”

When Jiang Cheng missed that fatal sword stroke, Wei Wuxian threw himself off the cliff.  He effectively committed suicide.

They had filmed those cliff scenes on a constructed set.  They had built part of the cliff wall, then down below they’d put a blue mat, and Xiao Zhan was suspended on wires as they filmed.  It was hard on his back, and he was aching the whole time, in spite of Yibo’s efforts to help the night before.

After filming finished, Xiao Zhan was feeling shaken, weak.  But he was also happy he’d done a good job.

Yibo had worked so hard that night.  He’d looked flawless as Lan Wangji, his robes flying as he spun around, wielding his sword like he’d been using one his whole life.  He was stunningly beautiful, perfect.

As the cast and crew gathered around to applaud them, Xiao Zhan searched for Yibo and found him standing slightly aside from the rest of the group, looking worn out and yet when their eyes met, he gave him a ghost of the same smile he’d worn when he performed well in his dance routine.  Relieved, self-satisfied.  

He looked like he was going to walk toward Xiao Zhan, but he only took a single step, wavering on his feet, when his eyes rolled up in his head and he collapsed on the ground.

No one else noticed at first since Yibo had been standing a little apart from the group.

“Move aside!” Xiao Zhan called out urgently, running over to Yibo.

Yibo’s face was pale, drained of blood.  He was completely limp, and for a moment Xiao Zhan panicked, wondering if he had experienced a heart attack.  He pressed his fingers to Yibo’s slim neck, and breathed a sigh of relief when he heart his heart beating, even though it was beating erratically.

Two crew members ran over, both of them first-aid certified.  They took his vitals while Xiao Zhan slid his hand into Yibo’s, giving it a squeeze.  He heard someone calling an ambulance on a cell phone, but Xiao Zhan had eyes only for Yibo.  

“Bo-di,” Xiao Zhan called out urgently.  “Wake up, Bo-di.  It’s your Zhan-ge.”

The whole cast and crew formed a circle around them, not a sound to be heard, silence thick enough to hear a pin drop.

Xiao Zhan had tears running down his cheeks again, this time his own, not Wei Wuxian’s.  

“Wang Yibo!” Xiao Zhan shouted, patting him on the cheek.  “Yibo please.”

It was only a few minutes before the paramedics arrived, though it felt like hours.  Xiao Zhan held Yibo’s hand the whole time, coaxing him to wake up, but Yibo wasn’t moving.

When the paramedics arrived, someone pulled on Xiao Zhan’s arm, urging him to come away and give them room.  He didn’t even look to see who it was, his eyes were trained on Yibo’s face and wouldn’t move until he blinked those beautiful eyes open again.

The paramedics took Yibo’s vitals again, then got him on a body board.  There were a lot of steps leading down out of the set, and it took some wrangling for them to be able to manoeuvre Yibo out of there.  Xiao Zhan followed along, all the way until they got him down to the ambulance.  

“I want to go with him,” Xiao Zhan declared.

“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Director Zheng said, concerned.  “You’ve been up as long as he has.  You should go back to the hotel and rest.”

“Do you think I’ll be able to rest right now?” Xiao Zhan snapped at him.

Director Zheng bowed his head, apologizing.

“Just have someone bring us both a change of clothes to the hospital,” he ordered, then climbed into the ambulance.

The paramedics let him hold Yibo’s hand as they rode.  They put him on oxygen, monitoring his vitals on the ride.  Xiao Zhan kept holding his hand, squeezing it, tears still in his eyes.

Halfway through the ambulance ride, Yibo’s eyes fluttered.  They didn’t open all the way, but there was movement.

“Bo-di?” Xiao Zhan gasped, leaning close to his face.

Yibo’s eyes fluttered again, like he was trying to look at him but couldn’t lift his eyelids all the way.  “Gege?” he whispered.

“It’s me,” Xiao Zhan confirmed, stroking back the hair from Yibo’s forehead.  He was still in full costume, wearing his wig.  His skin was cold and clammy where Xiao Zhan touched him.  “I’m here.”

“Sorry,” Yibo said, letting his eyes fall closed again.  

“You have nothing to be sorry about, didi,” Xiao Zhan murmured.  

Yibo squeezed his hand back weakly, then fell asleep.

———

When they got to the hospital, the doctors and staff were quite surprised to see Yibo and Xiao Zhan there in full period costume.  They had Xiao Zhan wait outside the private room as they undressed Yibo, carefully folding away the precious robes and clothing him in patients’ clothes, a set of light blue pyjamas with a faint pattern on them.  They didn’t know how to remove the wig, so they left it on, smoothing the long hair under his body.  They removed his forehead ribbon, however, placing it on top of Lan Wangji’s clothes.  

When they were finished examining him, they let Xiao Zhan come back into the room.  He stood by Yibo’s bed, slipping his hand into his again.  The doctor was noting something on a chart.  He flicked his eyes up to Xiao Zhan.  “How long has it been since he slept?”

Xiao Zhan bit his bottom lip into his mouth.  “Not for at least 2 days, maybe 3.  His sleeping patterns have been very erratic.”

“What about his meals?”

“We’ve been filming a television series, they usually bring us food on set but we’ve been travelling around a lot lately.  Sometimes we’ve been inconsistent.  Last night we filmed all the way through the night, we only finished an hour ago.”

“Seems like a pretty clear case of exhaustion and malnutrition,” the doctor said, scribbling away on his chart.

“Wang Yibo has a heart condition,” Xiao Zhan said in a low voice.  “Are you sure there isn’t…”

The doctor looked up and met Xiao Zhan’s eyes, shaking his head.  “We took an electrocardiogram when I heard the irregular heartbeat.  There’s nothing to be concerned about.”  He then looked Xiao Zhan up and down.  “I’d like to examine you as well.”

“I’m fine,” Xiao Zhan insisted.

“From the sounds of it, you’ve been in similar conditions to my patient here,” the doctor said, indicating Wang Yibo with his chin.  “Just come and sit here,” he said, indicating the edge of Yibo’s bed.  “I’ll take your vitals quickly.”

The doctor gave him an examination, listening to his heart, checking his fluid levels.  He then nodded, his eyebrows raised.  “Do you drink a lot more than Mr. Wang?”

“I drink a lot of green tea,” Xiao Zhan confirmed.  “And I eat a lot of snacks.”

The doctor nodded thoughtfully.  “Well, it seems like you’re fine, you don’t show any signs of dehydration.  You just need sleep.  Mr. Wang, on the other hand, we’re going to have to put on an I.V.  He’s severely dehydrated.  We’re also going to push in some vitamins to try to replenish what he’s been lacking.”

“Will he be all right?” Xiao Zhan asked, his eyes playing down the contours of Yibo’s face.

“He’ll be fine,” the doctor confirmed.  “Just a day or two of rest should do the trick.  We’ll run a blood test to make sure he’s not anaemic, but even if he is we’ll just put him on an iron regimen.”

Their assistants arrived right as the doctor was leaving, along with Director Zheng.  Xiao Zhan filled him in on the situation.  

“I should have kept a better eye on Yibo’s condition,” Director Zheng said, guilt on his face.  “I’ve asked a lot of you guys recently.  And I knew Yibo’s schedule was more demanding than everyone else’s.”

Xiao Zhan looked over at him, his eyes soft and understanding.  “We all want this project to be a success Director, trust me neither Yibo nor myself are going to blame you for this.  But I trust you will rearrange the schedules to get Yibo two days off.”

Director Zheng nodded, putting his hand on Yibo’s thigh through the sheet.  “Of course,” he confirmed.  He then turned to Xiao Zhan.  “You should go home and rest too, before you’re in the same condition as Yibo.”

“Our assistants will help us to get comfortable,” Xiao Zhan said, indicating the two girls who were patiently waiting to assist him.  “And I’ll have them bring up a cot.  I’m not leaving him alone.  Yibo doesn’t sleep well when he’s alone in unfamiliar environments.”

Director Zheng gave Xiao Zhan a long look, then finally nodded.  “Okay then.  I’ll leave you then.  I’ll send someone in the afternoon to check in on you.”

Xiao Zhan nodded, escorting the Director out to the door of the room.

Xiao Zhan’s assistant helped him to remove his wig in the bathroom, while Yibo’s assistant did her best to remove Yibo’s wig from where he lay in bed.  She managed, only having to wet the pillow a little as she soaked off the glue that held the wig in place.  With the wig removed, Yibo started to look more like himself, although he looked terribly thin in that hospital bed.

While Xiao Zhan was in the bathroom changing, their assistants left to go see about having a cot brought up.  Xiao Zhan emerged from the bathroom to find a nurse just finishing up putting in the I.V.  She nodded to him then slipped out of the room.

The nurse thought she’d been helpful by drawing the blinds to block out the sun, but Xiao Zhan knew that Yibo would be uncomfortable in the darkness, so he pulled the blinds open a touch, letting the sunlight spill in.  He then flipped on the TV on low volume.  With this accomplished, he sat down in the chair beside Yibo’s bed.

Yibo woke up again, briefly, just after they’d finished installing the cot in the room.  He blinked his eyes up blearily.  “Gege?” he called out again in a low voice.

Xiao Zhan went to Yibo’s bedside, slipping his hand into Yibo’s and looking down at his face.  “I’m here.”

“What happened?” Yibo murmured, locking his eyes on Xiao Zhan’s.

Xiao Zhan smoothed the bangs back from Yibo’s forehead.  “Nothing, didi, you’re just tired.  Okay?  You need to sleep for a while.”

“But my schedule…” Yibo murmured, trying to sit up.

Xiao Zhan pressed firmly on Yibo’s shoulder, keeping him lying down on the bed.  “I swear to God if you get out of this bed I’ll hit you for real this time.  You need to rest, Yibo. Your schedule has been cleared.”  He then examined Yibo’s face.  “Do you want me to call someone?  Your parents?”

Yibo shook his head, turning his face away.  “I don’t want anyone to know.”

“Bo-di, I’m your friend and I’m here for you but are you sure…”

Yibo heaved out a breath, sticking out his bottom lip.  “I’m okay,” he insisted.

“Yeah,” Xiao Zhan agreed, stroking his forehead again.  “You’re fine.  Now sleep.”

“Zhan-ge,” he whispered, his eyes falling closed.  

“Bo-di?”  He leaned down close to Yibo’s face to catch his whisper.

“Don’t leave.”

Xiao Zhan squeezed Yibo’s hand.  “I’m not going anywhere, didi,” he insisted.  He then leaned down and pressed his lips into Yibo’s forehead.

But he was already asleep.

———

When Yibo woke up, it was dark outside.  A light had been left on in the hospital room, and the TV was still on with the volume on low.  He blinked a few times to let his eyes adjust to the light, and held up his arm to see an I.V. still pumping fluids into him.  

He glanced around and saw a cot set up off to the side.  He could see Xiao Zhan sleeping on it, curled up on his side, his sleeping face making him look 10 years younger, his hands curled up close to his face.

Yibo got up out of bed, then grimaced and padded his way over to the bathroom.  After relieving himself, he looked in the mirror.  The tiredness had diminished from around his eyes, and his colour had improved.  Even though he was wearing no makeup, he looked more like his normal self.  

He fumbled as he tried to figure out how to get his clothes off with an I.V. still in his arm.  In the end, he ended up ripping the thing out just so he could properly strip and shower, lathering up the shampoo into his hair.  He leaned his hands against the tile, bowing his head as he let the warm water cascade over his back.

I’ve caused trouble for everyone, Yibo thought to himself.  I’ve been so stupid.

He must have been in there a while, because he heard a soft knock on the door.  “Bo-di?” Xiao Zhan called out.

Yibo flipped off the water.  “I’m fine.  I’ll be out in a moment.”

He grabbed a towel, drying himself off quickly, rubbing the towel in his hair.  He picked back up the hospital pyjamas he’d been in, gave them a sniff, and determined he had no choice but to put them back on.  He slipped into the pants, pulled the shirt on over his arms, then towelled off his hair quickly.  He tried to button up the shirt, but he kept fumbling the buttons.

“Wang Yibo?” he heard Xiao Zhan’s soft voice calling through the door.

When he opened the door, Xiao Zhan was standing poised as though he was going to knock again.  He looked still half-asleep, blinking blearily.

“Xiao Zhan,” Yibo breathed, looking at him.  The shirt was still unbuttoned, hanging off around his torso, showing off the lean muscles of his chest and abdomen.

Xiao Zhan looked him up and down, then reached out his hand to take Yibo’s pulse.  When Yibo realized what he was doing, he pulled his wrist away again.

“I’m fine,” Yibo mumbled.

“You look better,” Xiao Zhan agreed, looking him up and down again.  

Yibo bowed his head, standing there awkwardly.  “I’m sorry.  I should have taken better care.”

Xiao Zhan shook his head.  “Yibo, you’ve been working every second since this whole thing started.  You’ve really done your best.”  He gave a little smile as he tugged the edges of Yibo’s shirt together, doing up the buttons efficiently.  It reminded Yibo of a scene they’d filmed where Lan Wangji had done up Wei Wuxian’s shirt after he’d been stabbed.  His heart flopped over in his chest.

Yibo rubbed his face with his hand.  “You should go.  Get some proper rest.  I’ll be fine.”

Xiao Zhan put his hand on Yibo’s arm, pulling him back over to the bed.  It was then that he realized Yibo’s I.V. wasn’t connected.  “Bo-di, why did you pull that out?” he chided him.

Yibo got back into the bed, sitting there with his legs dangling off the edge.  “I wanted a shower.  I feel fine.  Can’t I go now?  I can rest back at my room.”

Xiao Zhan watched Yibo get settled sitting on the bed, looking so young in those pyjamas with his legs dangling, swinging them a little.  He then stepped forward so he was standing between Yibo’s legs.  He looked at Yibo’s face, seeing the young man’s eyes widen at his proximity.  Xiao Zhan reached up, combing Yibo’s hair back with both his hands, scratching gently at his scalp, echoing what Yibo had done for him two nights prior.  Yibo closed his eyes, sighing.  “Do you really want to go back?” Xiao Zhan asked.

Yibo nodded, still not opening his eyes.  “Hate hospitals.”

Xiao Zhan sighed, then pulled away from him and pushed the call button.  When the nurse came in, Xiao Zhan conferred with her, asking to see the doctor, whether they could discharge Yibo.  She left to go find out, and in the meantime Xiao Zhan came to stand by Yibo’s bed, putting his hand on his shoulder.  Yibo opened his eyes and looked up at him, and when their eyes met, something undefinable passed between them.  

Xiao Zhan coughed nervously, pulling back.  He paced around the room until the doctor came.

It was a different doctor on call at this time of night, a woman this time.  She took Yibo’s vitals, listening carefully to his heart.  Xiao Zhan averted his eyes when she unbuttoned Yibo’s shirt but he didn’t leave the room.

Yibo struggled to button up his own shirt again when the examination was finished.  He looked over at Xiao Zhan and their eyes met, making him fumble the button, but he licked his lips and on a second try managed to button it on his own.

“Seems like you’ve gotten enough fluids,” the doctor said briefly.  “If you want to go back to rest at the hotel I’ll release you, but I recommend another day of rest.  And eat lots of food, drink plenty of fluids.  Water is best.  You need to regain your strength.”

Yibo nodded.

“Okay then.  I’ll leave some papers for you to sign at the counter then you’re good to go.”

Yibo nodded again, and she breezed back out.

“Do I have a change of clothes?” Yibo asked Xiao Zhan, embarrassed and scratching his cheek.

Xiao Zhan fetched the bag with the change of clothes Yibo’s assistant had brought over the previous morning.  

Yibo disappeared into the bathroom, changing into the tight black and red track pants and oversized black t-shirt that were in the bag.  He left the hospital shirt and pants folded neatly on the sink.  When he came back out again, Xiao Zhan was waiting by the door, his own bag slung over his shoulder.  They walked out together to the reception desk, and Xiao Zhan waited while Yibo signed the release papers.  

They both put on their face masks before leaving the hospital.  Yibo was surprised that there was a car waiting for them, but Xiao Zhan just murmured to him, “I called to let them know we were on our way back.  They sent the car.”

Yibo nodded then climbed into the back of the van.  He slid all the way to the back, and to his surprise, Xiao Zhan followed him, sliding in right next to him, their sides pressed together.  In the dark of the back of the van, Xiao Zhan put his hand on Yibo’s knee and gave a little squeeze.  

Yibo was too embarrassed by his weakness to feel good about it.  He just leaned his head back, resting it on the back of the seat and closing his eyes.  Xiao Zhan kept that hand lightly on his knee for the whole ride back to the hotel.

When they got back to the hotel, Xiao Zhan climbed out first, then held a hand out for Yibo.  He took the help as he got out of the van, but then they separated, walking side by side inside.  In the elevator, they stood apart.

“Thank you for everything,” Yibo whispered as the elevator rose.

Xiao Zhan paused for a beat, then looked down and said, “No need for thank yous between us.”

Yibo’s heart flopped over in his chest at the line from the script.  It was Lan Wangji’s line, that he had said to Wei Wuxian.  

Yibo walked down the hallway in the direction of their rooms.  When he got to his door, he expected Xiao Zhan to keep walking to the next door over, but instead he hovered behind Yibo at his door.  When Yibo turned to look at him, raising an eyebrow, Xiao Zhan just gestured for him to continue.  He opened the door, his eyes widened as he saw a full spread of food laid out on a room service tray, along with a tall pitcher of water.  Xiao Zhan followed him in, saying, “I had them prepare enough food for both of us,” in explanation.  “I’m hungry,” he said with a smile.

“You’re just watching to make sure I eat,” Yibo said grumpily, but he moved the food over onto the little table in the room.  Xiao Zhan followed him, and the two of them sat together, eating in companionable silence.  Yibo kept sneaking glances at him.  “You don’t have to stay.”

“I’m just going to eat then go,” Xiao Zhan said with a smile.

Yibo drank a glass of water as he ate, forcing himself to eat even more than he would normally.  He didn’t want to let anyone down by collapsing on set again.  

When they finished eating, Xiao Zhan cleared away the dishes and took the tray back downstairs, rinsing the dishes quickly.  He then popped back into the room.  “Now brush your teeth and get in bed,” Xiao Zhan ordered.

“I’m not a kid, Xiao Zhan, I can do that myself,” he snapped.

Xiao Zhan just nodded, smiling, and sat on the edge of Yibo’s bed.  “Well off you go then.”

Yibo went in the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.  But Xiao Zhan could hear the sound of the tap then Yibo brushing his teeth.  When Yibo emerged again, he went to the bed and Xiao Zhan stood up, letting Yibo brush past him.  Then Yibo pulled his shirt off in a smooth movement, folding it and putting it on the nightstand.  

“Sure you don’t want to leave,” Yibo growled, not looking at him.  He could feel Xiao Zhan taking a look at him, then turning his back.  

“I’ll leave when you’re asleep,” Xiao Zhan said in a rough voice.

Yibo slipped off his pants, folding them up on top of the shirt.  He then slipped naked under the covers.  When he was under, he pulled the blankets up to cover himself, and looked over where Xiao Zhan was standing slightly off to the side with his eyes averted.

Yibo flipped on the TV, putting it on a low volume.  He then settled himself more comfortably.  

Xiao Zhan dragged a chair over next to the bed, folding himself down into it.  

Yibo turned to look at him, and their eyes met once.  Xiao Zhan smiled at him and said, “Close your eyes.”

“You’re really going to stay here until I fall back asleep?” Yibo asked doubtfully.

Xiao Zhan nodded.

Yibo huffed out a sigh, then closed his eyes.  

As his breath started to even out, he could swear he felt a hand stroking his hair.

———

Xiao Zhan went straight back into filming the next day, filming some scenes at Burial Grounds.  They had rearranged the schedule in a rush to focus on scenes that didn’t include Yibo, and Xiao Zhan had already been gone from the set for a day.

Even though he was tired from the ordeal, he was happy and satisfied that Yibo was out of danger, so he put renewed energy and vigour into his performance.  He found it relatively easy to call up that youthful joy of the young Wei Wuxian, mixed with the feelings of helplessness at his situation.  

It was also fun acting with the child actor that was playing the young A Yuan.  He was totally adorable, and Xiao Zhan got to film the scene where he was planting lotus seeds in the muddy water and then planting A Yuan like a radish.

The next day, if all went well, Yibo would be back on set and they’d be filming the scenes where Lan Wangji came to see Wei Wuxian when he was living at the burial mounds.  

Xiao Zhan texted Yibo when he got back to the hotel that night.

Xiao Zhan:  How are you feeling?

Wang Yibo:  I’m fine.  

Xiao Zhan:  Did you eat today?

Wang Yibo:  Yes, daddy.

Xiao Zhan stared at his phone, goggling at it.  Did he just call me daddy?

Wang Yibo:  Stop fretting.

Xiao Zhan sputtered.  He then sent Yibo one of his own memes.

Xiao Zhan:  Xiao Zhan

Wang Yibo:  How did it go today?  Were you too tired or was it okay?

Xiao Zhan:  I’m good to go.  I’ve got my magic green tea to keep me going.

Wang Yibo:  What’s in your magic green tea?

Xiao Zhan:  It’s just good green tea.  Helps to reduce swelling and lose weight.  And promotes general healthiness.

Wang Yibo:  I’m going to have to try it.

Xiao Zhan:  I’ll try to remember to make you some.

Xiao Zhan stripped himself of his clothes then hopped in the shower.  He brushed his teeth, getting ready for bed, and when he got back to his phone after he saw a few messages from Yibo.

Wang Yibo:  Get some rest, Xiao Zhan

Wang Yibo:  I’ll see you tomorrow

Wang Yibo:  Have good dreams

Wang Yibo:  Good night

Xiao Zhan smiled when he saw the messages.  He would have responded, but he hoped that Yibo was already asleep.  So he just crawled under the covers, switched off the light, and closed his eyes.

“Sleep well, Yibo,” he whispered to the darkness.

Chapter Text

July 2018

 

The next day, Xiao Zhan arrived on set before Yibo. They were setting up to film the scene where Lan Wangji came to visit him in the burial mounds. 

Xiao Zhan had a few scenes still to film on his own, with the Wen clan, so they filmed those scenes first. Then the set went all hushed when Yibo arrived.

He was already all dolled up in his Lan Wangji gear, the blue young man’s outfit, looking picture perfect with his tiny waist. As he walked through the cast and crew, he sort of shuffled his eyes from side to side, self-conscious. He gave of a cool, unapproachable air, so no one came to ask him if he was okay.

Xiao Zhan walked straight up to him, clapping an arm over his shoulders. “You good?” he asked briefly.

Yibo gave a terse nod.

Xiao Zhan smiled radiantly at him and gave his arm a quick squeeze before pulling back. He then adjusted Lan Wangji’s hair, pulling the tresses back over his shoulders. “Good!”

Yibo winked at him, then punched him lightly on the arm.

Xiao Zhan pressed a hand to his own chest. “Lao Wang!” he cried out in mock outrage.

Yibo cracked a smile and hit him again. 

Good, he’s back to his normal self, Xiao Zhan sighed in relief, taking a martial arts stance. The two mock fought each other for a good ten minutes while the staff just watched. 

“Are you even human!” Xiao Zhan shouted as they twirled and fought each other.

Yibo smiled widely, clenching his teeth together at Xiao Zhan, making him laugh out loud.

“Yibo, a moment,” Yibo’s manager called from the sidelines. She’d flown in the day before specially because of Yibo’s illness. Yibo’s smile faded and he walked over to her. The two of them chatted in low voices to each other, Yibo nodding, surely reassuring her that he was fine to go on. After a few minutes she bowed, nodding, and went off to go confer with the director.

Yibo drifted back over to Xiao Zhan, his face solemn again, no doubt his mind sifting over all the trouble he’d caused again.

“Oh, look!” Xiao Zhan cried out, pointing at the ground. “It’s a centipede!”

Yibo shrieked in a very undignified way, coming to huddle behind Xiao Zhan’s back, his arms clenching his arms, very reminiscent to how Wei Wuxian got around dogs. Xiao Zhan folded his actions away to use as inspiration when fighting the dog scenes later.

Xiao Zhan started laughing, clutching at his belly. Yibo then released his arms abruptly, stepping back.

“You lied,” Yibo accused him.

Xiao Zhan turned and grinned. “Yup.”

“Tyrant.”

Xiao Zhan then started it up again, saying, “But Wang-laoshi, you’re so pretty when you’re scared!”

“Oh, we’re starting this, are we?” Yibo said, raising his eyebrow in challenge.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes gleamed as he folded his arms over his chest. “Yep.”

Yibo reached out a hand as though to touch his face. “Xiao-laoshi, you have such nice cheekbones. And your face is so expressive. I want to make you cry to see how your tear ducts open up like a switch!”

Xiao Zhan laughed. “Bo-di, you’re so good at acting with your eyes, you don’t even need lines to help you.”

“Zhan-ge, you’re so good at memorizing lines, you embody Wei Wuxian perfectly, I could never play Wei Wuxian,” Yibo said, smiling, warming up.

The crew members came around them and started fixing their hair while they still played with each other.

“Bo-di!” Xiao Zhan said playfully.

“Zhan-ge!”

“Bo-di.”

“Zhan-ge.”

“Bo-diii.”

“Zhan-ge.”

“Bo-dii,” Xiao Zhan said, singing his name. “Bo-diii.”

“Zhan-ge,” Yibo said, an impish grin on his face as he looked over at Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan finally wandered off, getting called to start taking their positions on set.

They filmed all the scenes in the city first, Yibo smoothly sliding into his role as Lan Wangji. The most important scene for him was that first look he got at Wei Wuxian, when A-Yuan was hugging his leg and he looked up to see his soulmate walking towards him. Yibo acted it perfectly, a kind of lost, soul-wrenching look that dissolved into pure relief and bliss at seeing him again.

Xiao Zhan had to admit that his own heartstrings pulled a little at that look, and that helped him to play Wei Wuxian, walking up to play around with Lan Wangji, joking around that A-Yuan was his own kid.

The scene in the teahouse was great, too, Xiao Zhan thought, smiling over beautifully at Yibo. As Lan Wangji, Yibo always sat up with his back straight, making that poise look effortless. The sweet half-smile on his face when he let A-Yuan sit on his lap made Xiao Zhan get butterflies in his stomach.

They moved locations out to the forest, and a whole pile of crew was standing around them when Yibo gave him an earnest, shy look and said, “I want to take a picture with Zhan-ge.”

Xiao Zhan laughed at him, saying, “Again?”

Yibo smiled shyly at him, and Xiao Zhan realized he was serious. Oh my god why is he so cute!  He reached out to pinch him on the shoulder, but Yibo playfully evaded it, batting his hand out of the way. 

“I want to take a picture with Zhan-ge,” he said again, that earnest smile still on his face.

What the hell, does he think I’m gonna disappear or something? Plus there are cameras on us! 

Yibo seemed to realize this at the same moment Xiao Zhan did since he suddenly blinked, his smile falling away. He then turned to Ji Li, who played Nie Huaisang, who was standing next to him and said to him instead, “Let’s take a picture, director Nie.”

Xiao Zhan knew that it was a cover up with Yibo then slid his eyes back to Xiao Zhan and smiled. 

“I also want to take a picture with director Nie,” Xiao Zhan said, laughing when he saw Ji Li’s hand on Yibo’s shoulder. But Yibo wasn’t looking at Ji Li, he was looking at Xiao Zhan.

All the same, Yibo got his cell phone out and the three of them snapped a selfie, posing for the camera. Even though Ji Li was standing between them, Yibo reached out behind his back to trail the edges of his fingers along Xiao Zhan’s belt.

Goddamnit Yibo!

It didn’t stop there, either. As Xiao Zhan was walking away to film a solo scene, Yibo called out, “Zhan-ge! Didi loves you!”

This fucking kid!  Xiao Zhan turned and made a gagging motion.

Then he did it again! “Zhan-ge! Didi loves you!”

He turned and made another gagging motion, Ji Li also turning to throw Yibo a befuddled, half-amused look.

When they met up again later, Yibo was bored so he started playing the hand-slap game with Ji Li. They wold hold their hands on top of each other, then the one whose hand was on the bottom would try to flip over and slap the other’s hand. If they succeeded, they continued. If they missed, they switched places.

Xiao Zhan watched idly as they played, and he knew from having played this game with Yibo before that the young man was incredibly good at it. Yibo got about 5 hits on Ji Li before they switched the first time, but Ji Li couldn’t even get a single hit before they switched again. Yibo made a crazy face, opening his mouth wide and sticking his tongue out, laughing in triumph. They they switched again. Poor Ji Li's hand was actually going red from all the slaps. Yibo got over 20 successive hits before switching places, then Ji Li got only one hit before it went back to Yibo.

“How is this a fair competition?!” Ji Li shrieked.

Just when he thought maybe Yibo was settling down, later that day as they were waiting for the crews to set up, Xiao Zhan and Yibo were hanging out in a building, trying to escape the hot sun. Xiao Zhan got up to get some of his green tea, when Yibo shouted it again!  “Zhan-ge I love you!”

Xiao Zhan turned and goggled at him, mouth hanging open. “Will you please stop that? Gremlin!”

Yibo snickered, his eyes laughing.

Xiao Zhan threw him a rude gesture and walked away. 

Yibo shot to his feet, chasing after him. “Xiao Zhan, I need to stay hydrated,” he declared, then reached out and yanked Xiao Zhan’s tea out of his hand. Xiao Zhan goggled at him as Yibo raised it to his lips, his whole head tilting back and his throat working as he drank a generous portion. He then smiled, self-satisfied, and handed the glass jar of tea back to him.

“Pleased with yourself?” Xiao Zhan muttered darkly.

“Very,” Yibo confirmed with a sly smile.

He’ll be the death of me.

Later the same day he stole his tea again. 

“This is not the first time you drink my tea,” Xiao Xhan said with an annoyed smile on his face.

When Yibo handed the tea back, Xiao Zhan immediately tipped it back, taking a big gulp of it himself. Yibo was watching him as he drank.

Indirect Kiss, Xiao Zhan knew the boy was thinking.

“Wow, this tastes so good,” Yibo said as he watched him drink.

Xiao Zhan just nodded, handing the tea back to a crew member.

Brat.

———

That afternoon they filmed the scene where Lan Wangji carried A-Yuan for Wei Wuxian as they ran back to the Burial Mounds. There was a moment when Yibo tripped over his long skirts, and fell down. He managed to shield A-Yuan from the fall, but the crew had to come over to tidy up the dirt on his robes, making Yibo grimace in embarrassment.

“You okay?” Xiao Zhan asked as he came over.

“Peachy,” Yibo grumbled.

“Feeling dizzy?”

“No,” Yibo said shortly, shaking his head. “Just tripped on the length.”

Xiao Zhan laughed, holding his stomach. “Bo-di, Bo-di. Be more careful!”

“Well you try running over rough ground with a young child in your arms!”

Xiao Zhan continued to laugh merrily. “That’s the second time today. I heard from the crew you tripped earlier?”

Yibo rolled his eyes, huffing out a breath. “Just a little. Didn’t fall down.”

Xiao Zhan socked him on the arm. “Yibo, the ever elegant dancer, with perfect coordination, fell down not once but twice - and in the same day!”

Why can’t the ground just swallow me up whole?  Yibo thought to himself, mortified.

“Mn,” he grumbled instead.

———

Wang Yibo and Xiao Zhan had another one of those interviews-on-set, this time hosted by a girl that was interviewing them for Bazaar. Xiao Zhan was in his typical black costume, Wang Yibo in Lan Wangji’s youthful blue outfit, since those were the scenes they had been filming that day. 

They were both in spirits, smiling and joking around at the beginning of the interview. To get things off to a good start, Wang Yibo introduced himself as “Lao Xiao,” and Xiao Zhan introduced himself as “Lao Wang,” pretending to be each other.  The interviewer didn’t bat an eyelash at this odd introduction (did she even notice?), just went on to ask them what they were working on and they answered in unison “Chen Qing Ling!” 

They answered questions in unison, finishing each other’s sentences, as Wang Yibo pointed the mic at himself and at Xiao Zhan. 

She asked them, “What was your first impression of each other?”

They looked at each other, Wang Yibo smiling his little gremlin smile. 

“Cold,” Xiao Zhan answered seriously.

“Handsome,” Wang Yibo said, smiling at the interviewer and drawing a smile out of Xiao Zhan.

“Any changes now?” she asked.

“Still handsome,” Wang Yibo answered without hesitation. 

Xiao Zhan glanced at Yibo, considering, then said, “He doesn’t seem that cold anymore, hmm…”

“Zhan-ge loves to smile,” Yibo added. 

Xiao Zhan gave him a look then said to the inteviewer, “Actually Wang Yibo likes to smile too. You know, this cold appearance is just his hypocritical shell.”

Wang Yibo goggled at his use of the word ‘hypocritical,’ turning to fix him with a look. “Hypocritical?” he murmured. 

Xiao Zhan started to laugh, “Ah no no, hypocritical shell?” He waved his hand in front of his face, wishing he could take those words back, it wasn’t exactly what he meant! “Cut this out!” Xiao Zhan begged. He brushed the hair back from his face. “He just, um, uses it as a protection, yes,” he said gesturing at his own chest.

Yibo pointed the mic back at his own face and looked back at the interviewer. “No, I just take a long time to warm up to people,” he said, leaning back to push his long hair back behind his shoulder, glancing over at Xiao Zhan who was blushing. “On the first day we were extremely shy, right?”

“Really shy!” Xiao Zhan agreed. “Because we are both that sort. We are not naturally close to others. Strangers need a period of time, and then…”

“Yes,” Yibo agreed with a nod.

“To get more familiar with each other, yes.” 

They both settled down, serious expressions as they looked at the interviewer.

“Are your characters in the drama similar or different from your actual personalities in real life?” she asked.

“There are similarities and differences,” Yibo answered as he exchanged a glance with Xiao Zhan. 

Xiao Zhan nodded in agreement, glancing at the interviewer. Yibo turned to watch him as he answered. “Both similar and different, anyway during casting it definitely has to be similar, but there is still some tiny little differences,” he said, brushing his hair back from his face again. 

Yibo looked back at the interviewer and added, “Mn,” in agreement, sounding 100% like Lan Wangji, only proving her point.

They prepared a segment for Xiao Zhan to draw while being peppered with questions, and Yibo grinned, delighted at this. “Yes, he learned design, he’s really good,” he said with a wide smile. 

Yibo peppered him with questions, periodically glancing over at him, complimenting him on his drawing. When he messed up questions, he’d turn and cough nervously off the mike. When he asked a question about mosquitoes, Xiao Zhan answered, “This time… because I usually attract mosquitoes, but ever since I joined the ‘Ah Ling’ team there is Wang Yibo.”

Yibo’s eyes opened at attention when he heard his name. 

“The mosquitoes don’t bite me, they all bite Wang Yibo.”

They looked at each other, Yibo’s eyes wide, Xiao Zhan looking a bit guilty.

“You didn’t get bitten, not even once?” Yibo asked, annoyed.

“Of course I did but much less, in the past when I’m with my friends,” he said, turning back to his drawing, “I’m always the one who gets bitten.” Yibo peered down at the drawing as Xiao Zhan said, “But I don’t know why, this time around, they all went to bite Wang Yibo.” You must be sweeter than me, Xiao Zhan thought.

Yibo stared off in the distance past Xiao Zhan. Is he annoyed?  Xiao Zhan wondered.  I love his annoyed face.   After a long moment, they started up with the questions again.

“You are drawing me so handsomely! Wow!” Yibo complimented him, keeping the mic off his own voice. 

When Xiao Zhan really tried to answer questions seriously, he’d stop drawing, then he’d start up again, so he probably could have gotten further along with the drawing if he’d really paid attention. They went off script and bantered with each other about how they both wanted to play Xue Yang.

“What is something you can do that I can’t?” Yibo asked him. “Huh, something he can do that I can’t, that would be drawing,” Yibo answered himself.

“Drawing, that’s right,” Xiao Zhan agreed, paying attention to the drawing he was doing. He then looked up at Yibo who was fussing with his hair again. “There isn’t much else, right?” He then looked back at his drawing as he said, “Actually, Teacher Wang has that particularly difficult dance, yesterday I think he almost drove me crazy with it. Teacher Wang dances too well,” he said in a singsong voice.

“Didn’t you say I danced too well and you couldn’t do it,” Yibo said without turning the mic towards himself.

“But for that one yesterday, you are totally giving in, and still I couldn’t do it. The point is, I can only dance choreographed moves.” He pushed up, looking over at Yibo with admiration, “Teacher Wang is incredible, he practiced from young.” He looked back down again, determined to finish this drawing. “Therefore I… I really can’t.”

“You could, if you practiced from young,” Yibo said as they exchanged a glance.

“But I don’t have anymore time to practice from young. If I start from young now, I’ll actually start from my adult years now.”

“That’s true,” Yibo conceded, looking over Xiao Zhan’s shoulder at the drawing. 

When the segment ended, Xiao Zhan showed the drawing he’d done of Lan Wangji. “I only drew a little, one half of it,” Xiao Zhan said, holding it up. But what he had drawn was drawn well, with clear lines and confidence.

“Amazing,” Yibo said seriously. “But you drew my eyes too big,” he added with a sly smile. “My eyes are not that big.”

“I feel that it does, it is a little, uh… Some fans on the internet said that Teacher Wang’s eyes were pulled up really tight.”

When he looked over at Yibo, Yibo smiled, gazing back at him with a deeply fond look on his face. Yibo raised his hand to stroke the edge of his jaw, his eyes never leaving Xiao Zhan’s face.

“But I just want to draw them a little bigger,” Xiao Zhan continued. He then looked over, catching the tail end of that look Yibo was giving him, making him drop his hand and focus on what he was saying. “But it is actually better now, right?” Yibo nodded. “It was a little tight at the start, but it is a little better now,” Xiao Zhan explained, talking about the wig.

“My eyes aren’t that big in reality,” Yibo said to Xiao Zhan. He then cleared his throat nervously and looked at the camera.

“We will all get stretched a little,” Xiao Zhan said, pointing at the edge of the wig where it attached to his forehead. He exchanged another glance with Yibo, then they both looked back at the camera.

In the next segment, Yibo was given a toy that he was supposed to play with while Xiao Zhan asked him questions. It was a dog with a bowl, and the game was to try to pick up the bones from the dog bowl without activating the sensor.

“Teacher Wang, share a similarity between you and Lan Wanji,” Xiao Zhan prompted him.

Yibo messed with the dog toy, and it made a loud noise almost drowning out his response. It didn’t help that Xiao Zhan forgot to point the microphone at him when he said, “We both don’t like to talk.” 

“Hey!” Xiao Zhan said with a grin, “You know that well!”

They answered some questions back and forth, and laughing with each other as Yibo played with the toy. Yibo then pushed the dog toy towards Xiao Zhan, making him exclaim, “Ayyy, are you even human?!”

Yibo smiled, satisfied with himself.

“If you can recite one of your lines, what would it be?” Xiao Zhan asked, pushing the dog toy away from himself.

“Wei Ying, focus,” Yibo responded without hesitation.

“Okay! Eh? Since you are afraid of ghosts… you’re afraid of ghosts?” he asked, exchanging a glance with Yibo. He hadn’t actually realized when they played that prank on him before that he had a genuine fear of ghosts, he thought it was just that they’d startled him.

“I’m scared! I’m scared of ghosts and of the dark,” he answered, covering up his embarrassment by fiddling with the toy. 

“Oh right, you’re afraid of horror movies,” Xiao Zhan said. Who wrote these questions?? It seemed like they were designed to make Yibo as embarrassed as possible. “Since you’re afraid of ghosts, how do you survive doing a spooky scene during filming?”

Yibo looked at Xiao Zhan’s face, and Xiao Zhan looked up at him and asked, “Is ‘Ah Ling’ spooky? It’s still okay.”

“Ah Ling is still okay, it isn’t really scary,” Yibo agreed, turning back to the toy. He leaned closer to Xiao Zhan, their knees brushing together under the table. Their forearms brushed against each other. If Xiao Zhan hadn’t known better, he’d say Yibo was inching closer to him on purpose. 

“That’s right, there’s nothing really spooky about it. Then you learned a donkey sound,” Xiao Zhan started.

Just then, Yibo triggered the sensor on the dog toy and it snapped at Yibo’s hand. Yibo yelled, “Aish!” in a very Korean way and jumped back, and Xiao Zhan startled as well, eyes wide. Yibo then collapsed his elbows on the table, leaning over it as his heart went wild, bumping erratically in his chest. He bit the edge of his hand in his mouth to cover his reaction.

Damn it I shouldn’t have let them deliberately scare him, Xiao Zhan thought, worried for Yibo. He sighed loudly, looking at the sky then looking over at Yibo to see if he was okay. Yibo was still biting his hand, glaring up at the interviewer. The staff were all laughing in the background, which annoyed Xiao Zhan because Yibo really wasn’t okay. He decided to cover up the moment, grabbing the dog toy and moving it towards himself. “That scared me to death!” he said, glaring at the dog, but it wasn’t he dog that scared him, it was Yibo. The boy was still biting his hand, unable to move. His heart taking a while to come back down. “What is it doing?” he said, fumbling with the dog toy. “What is wrong with it?” 

Oh my God is he okay?  Xiao Zhan thought.  I’d better kill some time in this segment to give him time to recover.  “It’s so deformed!” he exclaimed in a bright voice, trying to cheer up Yibo who was still biting his hand. “Look at this dog!” He lifted the dog toy in the air, showing the backside to the camera so the audience could see its strange shape. Yibo finally released the hand he was biting, although he was still slumped forward on the table.

“Whoa, it’s so distorted!” Xiao Zhan exclaimed. 

Yibo finally sat up, coughing nervously. He then looked up and around at the crew who had finally stopped laughing at him, then looked back at the dog toy resignedly. Did he really need to continue this segment?

“Get him to return back to normal,” Xiao Zhan said to no one in particular.

“Whoa, I got a shock,” Yibo said, embarrassed, glaring at the dog.

“You learned to make a donkey sound, have you responded to this?” Xiao Zhan recovered, trying to continue the segment.

Yibo reached out for the dog toy, grudgingly resetting it. “I didn’t learn to make a donkey sound,” he grumbled, “I probably learned a horse sound or something else,” he said, exchanging a glance with Xiao Zhan.

“Can you demonstrate it live for us?” Xiao Zhan asked, looking over at Yibo. Good, he seems to be recovering. But for the love of God don’t make that dog bite him again!

Yibo loosened his lips, breathing out like a horse does, shaking his head from side to side. 

Xiao Zhan just looked at Yibo, admiration swelling in his chest. He’s such a pro, he recovered.  “Wow, wow,” Xiao Zhan said. 

They chatted back and forth through the rest of the segment, although Yibo didn’t smile again since he got scared. Xiao Zhan kept trying to get him to laugh, but he didn’t. They did lean their shoulders against each other as Yibo glanced at his phone, making sure Xiao Zhan wasn’t making up the questions. Xiao Zhan made him do a motorcycle noise, then his voice broke and Yibo looked embarrassed again. 

Xiao Zhan couldn’t successfully make Yibo smile again, but at the end of the segment when they were supposed to dance, Yibo agreed to show Xiao Zhan the Day Day Up dance, and as Xiao Zhan followed along with the moves Yibo did start smiling again. Xiao Zhan smiled back at him, laughing with him. Good, he’s back.

Xiao Zhan clapped his hands together and gave Yibo a thumbs up, making Yibo clap his hands and give him two thumbs up.

“Did you choreograph this?” Xiao Zhan asked him as they looked in each other’s eyes.

Yibo tilted his head.

“It’s an exceptionally good dance,” Xiao Zhan said, smiling when he saw Yibo’s self-satisfied smile back where it belonged.

“Thank You,” Yibo said seriously. 

Yibo reached out, sliding his hand up Xiao Zhan’s forearm. His hand was cool where he touched him. 

“Easy and good to learn,” Xiao Zhan said earnestly.

Yibo gave his arm a squeeze, looking in his eyes. “I hope you can help me promote it,” he joked.

“Did you really choreograph this?” Xiao Zhan asked him, not even attempting to pull his arm away. Why is he holding my arm on TV like this? He’s such a gremlin.

Yibo squeezed his arm again, smiling. “Nope,” he admitted with a grin. 

Xiao Zhan laughed and finally pulled away.

They did another segment together, Pictionary style drawing and then guessing what the other was drawing. Yibo was smiling the whole time, now fully recovered. He may also have been smiling because Xiao Zhan kept leaning close to him to peer at his drawing, knocking their knees together under the table. 

When Xiao Zhan had a hard time figuring out the word, Yibo tabbed his pen on the table, looking over at him and smiling. He then finally resorted to cheating, whispering words to him. Then finally writing out the full character. Eventually Xiao Zhan got it.

Yibo was really into it, leaning over Xiao Zhan’s arm, Xiao Zhan giggling when Yibo tried to guess. Yibo was looking at him, laughing a little in embarrassment when he couldn’t guess. At one of the words, Xiao Zhan complained that it would be difficult for Yibo to guess. 

“Are you saying I’m dim-witted?” Yibo asked, serious, looking over at him. 

Why does he keep saying that about himself?  Xiao Zhan wondered.  “No it’s me, it’s my problem,” Xiao Zhan said instead. 

Yibo cleared his throat, unsmiling as he asked him how many syllables. He then started guessing things randomly, making Xiao Zhan giggle. Xiao Zhan then covered his mouth and started to whisper to him, inviting him to cheat.

Yibo leaned over, pressing his shoulder firmly into Xiao Zhan’s as he covered his ear with his hand, saying, “Ahh?” like he couldn’t hear what Xiao Zhan was whispering. He then leaned in again, pressing their shoulders together and smiling brightly. He finally heard the syllable Xiao Zhan was trying to (not so discreetly) whisper to him. 

Yibo then leaned back to his side, their legs still pressed together under the table as he pointed to Xiao Zhan and said, “I know!” He pressed his hand onto the top of Xiao Zhan’s shoulder, finger still pointed at him as he said, “Catch a turtle from a jar!” 

Xiao Zhan clapped his hands and Yibo looked at the camera, smiling bright enough to shine out the sun. 

They spent the rest of the extra time doodling on scrap paper, laughing together. Yibo’s knee was pressing firmly into his under the table as he scribbled on his sheet of paper, drawing even worse than he would normally to make Xiao Zhan smile. Yibo made a horrible drawing but then finished it by adding Xiao Zhan’s mole, the only distinctive feature he could do.

As they left that set, Xiao Zhan pulled on Yibo’s arm, tilting his head close to Yibo’s. “You okay?”

Yibo elbowed him in the side. “I’m fine, Zhan-ge.”

“I was worried when that dog bit you.”

Yibo stopped walking, fixing Xiao Zhan with a dull stare. “It was a toy. I’m not going to have a heart attack from a toy.”

Xiao Zhan threw his arm over Yibo’s shoulders and gave him a brief squeeze. “Good! Because we have another interview tonight. This time it’s a Sina Entertainment interview.”

Yibo rolled his eyes. “I’m not playing with toys anymore. They can just talk to us like normal humans.”

“Okay, Yibo, Okay.”

———

The first question they asked in the Sina Interview was one of those weird questions they only really ask you in China. "It’s your first time working together. Can you sing each other’s praises?"

Xiao Zhan laughed when he heard the question, so Yibo went first. He cleared his throat nervously then said, “To be honest, in the past I didn’t have a good understanding towards Xiao-laoshi. But I knew that he is part of a group called XNINE. Before joining this production, I found out that Xiao Zhan-laoshi is from XNINE then I reflected back to that episode of Day Day Up when they were guests,” Yibo said, gesticulating with his hand. They were sitting close together, arms brushing as they spoke. “After interacting with him,” he said, turning to smile at Xiao Zhan, “I realized that Xiao Zhan-laoshi’s acting is exceptionally good,” he said in a singsong voice, making Xiao Zhan laugh. “Xiao-laoshi’s tear ducts are just like a switch.” He mimed it with his hands, “When opened, bam!” he said, miming a tear track running down his face. “When closed, retreat.” He gave Xiao Zhan one last admiring glance, then turned to the interviewer and said, “Really great.” I think everyone around was shocked, Yibo had never before strung together so many sentences, and he didn’t give false praise, so he must really like Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan then took the mic. “Actually I knew Wang Yibo since a long time ago,” Xiao Zhan said.

“Rubbish!” Yibo said to him with a smile.

Xiao Zhan giggled. “To tell the truth,” he started, then got interrupted by Yibo saying, “Lies!”, so Xiao Zhan had to continue talking over him when he said, “When we joined the Day Day Up program, we had this dance battle segment in the middle. Battle. In our group, we also have a member who dances very well.” Xiao Zhan could feel the intensity of Yibo’s gaze on his face. “When he heard Teacher Wang Yibo’s name, he started trembling in fright.”

Yibo looked away and coughed nervously. 

“He said, Wang Yibo?!” Xiao Zhan recounted in a singsong voice. “How can I win against him in dance?” Yibo tried to interrupt him again but he spoke over him, saying, “But I said, it’s really okay.” He then turned to Yibo and pointed at him, looking in his eyes when he said, “I swear this is the truth.” Then he looked back to camera and said, “So I said, it is still okay. I said, I believe you can dance better than him. Eventually, during the battle, I realized that…” He stopped and shook his head sadly. “Wang Yibo-laoshi dances extremely well.” 

Yibo was looking over at Xiao Zhan, a touched look on his face as he realized Xiao Zhan wasn’t making fun, he was sincere.

“And later, when I started working with Teacher Wang Yibo, I realize that Teacher Wang Yibo doesn’t just dance well.” He could feel Yibo’s smile when he pointed at him with his thumb and said, “He also acts superbly well! Since Lan Wangji doesn’t have many lines, he mostly uses eye expressions, together with tiny facial expressions. Therefore I feel that Wang Yibo-laoshi is really amazing for a little kid born in ‘97.”  Ha!  Take that.

———

Yibo had been making embarrassed faces the whole time Xiao Zhan talked, but when he heard himself being called a kid, he turned his head and glared at Xiao Zhan. I’ll show you how much of a kid I am. One day. When we’re done filming, and I’ve got nothing to lose.

“To be able to embrace a character like this…”

Yibo elbowed Xiao Zhan in the side, smiling at him as he thought of all the things he’d do to prove he wasn’t a kid.

“…Actually I feel that he’s pretty incredible, really.”

Well. There was nothing he could complain about that. 

Xiao Zhan gave a wide smile and a thumbs-up. Yibo couldn’t stop looking at him in open admiration. Fuck, why do you have to be so cute. I’m trying to be mad at you!

Next question was, Do you feel the 6 year age difference? What common interests do you have personally?

Yibo exchanged a glance with him, hoping Xiao Zhan was about to say the same thing he felt - which was that he didn’t give a damn.

“I feel that the two of us are still all right,” Xiao Zhan said. 

“Ah, yes,” Yibo said, relieved, still watching him.

“There isn’t much of a difference. Seems like my mental age is too young,” Xiao Zhan said with a smile. Yibo had to look away for a moment.  God he's amazing.

“And mine is too old,” Yibo said, turning to face Xiao Zhan again, “Is that what you’re saying?” he teased. 

“Like it averages out?” Xiao Zhan said. 

“My mental age is too old?” Yibo asked, pointing to his heart. He gave Xiao Zhan a look. “You mean this?”

“I didn’t say that!” Xiao Zhan exclaimed, leaning back to lock eyes with him. “I said I am too young,” Xiao Zhan explained, trying to mollify him. “You are still okay.”

Yibo looked down, pouting as he fussed with his outfit.

They chatted with each other for a while, arms brushing together, smiling at each other, laughing and smiling. The whole time, Yibo had a really hard time taking his eyes off Xiao Zhan. He tried, he really did, but when Xiao Zhan was talking, he just wanted to keep looking at him. He wanted to watch every expression on that face, how he smiled, how his eyes lit up.  I could watch him forever.

———

After filming a few more scenes outside, the wind machines blowing dust and debris into them non-stop, Yibo’s eyes were burning something fierce.  He went to go sit down, leaning back on his hands and tilting his head back to try to get some relief.

“You okay Bo-di?” Xiao Zhan asked, coming over.

“My eyes are burning,” he complained, keeping them closed.

“Oh!  I can help with that.  I’ve always got eye drops on me,” Xiao Zhan said brightly.

“Yeah, that’s right, you’ve got like 3 different kinds.  Do they really help?” Yibo asked, rubbing his closed eyes.

Xiao Zhan grabbed his wrist, stopping him from rubbing them.  “Yes, didi, they help.”  He then demonstrated, tilting his own head back and squeezing a few drops in each eye.  He breathed out a sigh of relief, feeling instantly better.  He then handed his eyedrops to Yibo.  “Here.”

“I can use yours?” Yibo asked, holding his hand out.

“Sure.”

Yibo leaned back, putting the eyedrops in.  “Ahhh, feels so good, gege,” Yibo said with a smile, blinking his wide eyes.  He handed the eyedrops back to a crew member nearby.

Xiao Zhan came to sit right next to Yibo.  “Anytime, Bo-di.  Just let me know if you need more,” he said with a sweet smile.

“Thanks,” Yibo said in english, smiling back just as tenderly.

A crew member handed him a tissue, and Yibo used it to blot at his eyes.  Xiao Zhan gave Yibo a little pat on the thigh.  “Good boy,” he praised him.


———

That night, somehow Yu Bin ended up with a microphone and a camera again, walking around the set at night interviewing random people. He chatted with people on the set. They were filming the Chang Residence scene, which went all the way until 4 in the morning. 

Xiao Zhan was actually happy for the interview, it was a chance to break up the endless night of filming. 

“Oh, what a coincidence, isn’t this Wen Ning?” Xiao Zhan exclaimed fakely, as they had just greeted each other a moment before off-camera. When Wen Ning had asked Xiao Zhan for an interview, Yibo had just trailed along after him, as he was wont to do.

“Hey, why are you here?” Yibo said in just as fake of a loud voice.

“Yes, I got discovered by the two teachers,” Yu Bin said with a little smile, sandwiched between the two. “Yes, I am Wen Ning. Actually, I am here today because I want to interview you. The first question I want to ask is, in this drama The Untamed, who is the resident bully? Who is the resident victim?”

“Do you even need to ask?” Yibo said, inclining his head and coughing in Xiao Zhan’s direction. The two of them exchanged a glance in front of Yu Bin, Xiao Zhan’s arms crossed over his chest, then Xiao Zhan laughed and turned his head away. 

“He even struck a pose, look!” Yibo exclaimed, pointing at Xiao Zhan then imitating his stance with his arms crossed over his chest. “Me,” he said, looking over at Xiao Zhan.

“No no no,” Xiao Zhan said defensively, eyes twinkling as he looked back at Yibo then Yu Bin. “Why is it me?” Xiao Zhan asked, his arms now crossed over his chest again. “Wang Yibo-laoshi, please explain.”

“I also don’t know why,” Yibo rambled, looking off. “I just followed everyone…” He then smiled and nodded his head, shutting his mouth in a thin line.   But he bullied me first!  He bullied me practically from Day 1.

“Followed them to attack me, right?” Xiao Zhan accused him, turning to face him more fully.

Yibo skated his gaze away again when he fumbled, “Yes I just followed everyone and… I also don’t know, why does everyone attack you?”

“Be a little nicer, Want Yibo,” Xiao Zhan sneered, giving him a side glance.

Wang Yibo bowed his head shamefully.

They chatted a little about the scene they were filming, then the interview went to a place Yibo was not expecting.

“Our web viewers would like to know, between the two of you, who has the slimmer waist?” Yu Bin asked. He looked over at Xiao Zhan first, then turned to Yibo. “Do you think your is slimmer, or his?”

The fuck is this question?  Yibo seethed internally. Who gives a fuck about our waist size?! Come on, people. Be a little nicer.

“I don’t know whose is slimmer,” Yibo said aloud. “I’ve never measured mine,” he said with a forced smile.

“Me neither,” Xiao Zhan said, trying to rescue him. “But I think probably his is a little slimmer than mine.”

“Yours isn’t that far off,” Yibo interjected, giving him a look. The fuck is this line of questioning. For real. Xiao Zhan is perfect. I’m fine. Just… stop.

The crew then interjected, telling Yu Bin that he had to become a human measuring tape and measure for them.

All three of them looked thoroughly unimpressed.

No fucking way, Yibo thought. He actually glared over at Yu Bin, which Xiao Zhan must have seen because he took the microphone from Yu Bin quickly, letting out a little smile. 

“So I still got to do it?” Yu Bin asked grudgingly.

“I’ll help you hold it, do him first,” Xiao Zhan said, raising his eyebrows and pointing at Yibo with his chin.  Yibo looked over at Xiao Zhan.  Are you seriously asking me to do this?  But Xiao Zhan just gave him a hairy eyeball.

Yibo stood there, faced Yu Bin, and spread his arms. There was a challenge on his face, and he was thinking, Are you for real? You fucking touch me and I’ll kill you. But he looked up at Xiao Zhan who was shaking his head at him minutely off camera, and Yibo just clamped his mouth closed and put up with it.

“How do I…” Yu Bin fumbled. He looked at Yibo’s waist, then took his arm, turning him to face the camera. Yibo stood there with his arms out as Yu Bin put his hands on Yibo’s waist, trying to get a feel for how narrow it was. Yibo was looking down at the ground at first, seething, then he looked up and glared at the crew. I am not happy right now.

“I feel like adding Titanic music in the background,” a crew member said.

Yu Bin then wrapped his arms fully around Yibo, giving him a full-on back hug.

Yibo closed his eyes, grinding his teeth together. I haven’t even gotten a back hug from Xiao Zhan, I have to get one from Yu Bin first?! Get real. Get off me.

Yibo dropped his arms, glaring at the crew again. “Do we really have to measure?” he ground out. 

“That’s because it’s roughly the same,” the crew explained, defending themselves.

Yu Bin then walked over to Xiao Zhan, immediately giving him a back hug.

Oh fucking fuck off! Get the fuck off him how dare you give him a back hug before me!!

Xiao Zhan was smiling sheepishly, then he elbowed Yu Bin away from him. “Hey, that’s not right,” he said with a nervous laugh. 

“It’s about the same,” Yu Bin said.

Yibo looked away from Xiao Zhan and Yu Bin, seething internally. I am so fucking pissed right now.  If anyone ever makes comments to Xiao Zhan’s face about his goddamned fucking waist size I’ll punch them in the nose.  Not even kidding.

Yibo kept it together for the camera.  Barely.

“Let me officially announce, it is really about the same, yes, about the same,” Yu Bin announced, taking the microphone back.

Yibo looked over at Xiao Zhan past Yu Bin.  They exchanged a quick glance, then the crew thankfully cut the camera.

“Yibo, don’t look so pissed,” Xiao Zhan said, socking him lightly on the arm.

“I have a right to look pissed,” Yibo said angrily out loud.  He then pointed at a crew member, jabbing his finger in the air.  “They know that I don’t like casual touching.  You know that I don’t like casual touching.  But you give me a look and make me think I have to let Yu Bin touch me.  No offense, Yu Bin,” he said as an aside, looking at him.

Yu Bin held up his hands in surrender.  “None taken, bro.”

“You let me touch you all the time!” Xiao Zhan yelled, throwing his hands in the air.  “I thought this whole no-touching thing of yours was just a joke.”

“It’s not a joke!” Yibo yelled louder than he should have.  It was probably the first time they'd ever heard him raise his voice.  The crew all backed up a step, so Yibo lowered his voice.  “It’s not a joke.”

Xiao Zhan had the grace to look a little embarrassed, as did the crew.

“Uh, I hate to say this guys, but we need to finish off the segment.  Just say a few words to have people watch the show… you know.  Look cute?” they asked him this time.

Yibo grabbed the microphone, then put on a falsely bright, cute look.  Xiao Zhan bowed his head, laughing at the ground as Yibo spoke.  What a pro.  When the camera was rolling, he had a huge smile on his face as he said, “Everyone please follow The Untamed.  Because…” then he passed the microphone to Yu Bin with a big smile on his face.

Yu Bin stood there for a second, not knowing how to complete the thought.  “Great!” he said with a thumbs up.

They cut the camera again, and Yibo immediately dropped the false smile from his face.  “Are we fucking done?” he asked.

“Uhh, can you thank… the crew…?” The crew asked.

“Give me that microphone,” Xiao Zhan said, holding out his hand.

Yibo handed him the mic.  “Make it quick.”

When the camera was rolling, Xiao Zhan put a bright smile on his face.  “Firstly our sound mixer is Teacher Lin.”  

“Wow~!” Yibo said, exaggerated.

“He’s really awesome, you know,” Xiao Zhan continued.  Yibo and Yu Bin both clapped in unison.  “If you open the videos, you will benefit from it, you know?” Xiao Zhan finished with a dazzling smile.  “If you listen to it you will benefit, you know!  You have to watch it!”

Yibo snapped and pointed at the camera, clapping again.

“It will definitely not let you down,” Xiao Zhan aid, dragging it out.  “Ah Ling, fighting!”

As soon as he said that, Yibo ran off at a quick pace, his smile falling away as he stalked off.  

———

Xiao Zhan followed after him, looking everywhere for Yibo.  They still had some shooting left to do that night, they couldn’t just leave yet.

Where has that boy gotten to?  He wondered to himself.

He finally found Yibo, kicking at a stone wall, his face frowning.  He then started to shadow box in the air, like he was fighting some unseen enemy.

“Yibo,” Xiao Zhan called out.

“What,” Yibo ground out, not looking at him.  He continued fighting the air.

“Are you okay?” Xiao Zhan asked in a soft voice.

“Peachy.”

When Yibo wouldn’t stop fighting the air, Xiao Zhan went and wrapped his arms around him from behind, clamping down on his arms.  “Stop moving, will you?”

“I said I don’t like being touched,” Yibo ground out.

“You also said it was different when it was me,” Xiao Zhan reminded him.

It took a few moments, but the tension gradually reduced in Yibo’s frame.  Xiao Zhan squeezed him harder, leaning his head on Yibo’s shoulder.  “Better?” he asked.

Yibo nodded once.

Xiao Zhan stepped away, saying, “We should get back to the set.  They are probably looking for us.”

But before he could make it more than a step away, Yibo grabbed his arm.  He yanked him back, then he put his arms around Xiao Zhan’s waist from behind, giving him a back hug this time.  Xiao Zhan’s eyes widened, surprised.  When Yibo tightened his arms, slotting the whole length of his body against Xiao Zhan’s back, it felt like his whole body was burning.  Yibo’s breath was husky in his ear as he leaned up on tiptoes to whisper in his ear, “Actually, this is better.”

Even though Yibo was naturally a few inches shorter than him, with the inserts in his shoes and him going up on his toes like that, they were roughly the same height.  Xiao Zhan could feel the hard muscles in his arms as they clamped around his waist, his hips slotting in perfectly to his ass.  

Fuck, we fit well together, Xiao Zhan mused.  He thought back to a time, back when he was ‘normal,’ when he would have been free to put his arms around Yibo’s that were around his waist.  He imagined himself turning around, gripping Yibo’s face in his hands, and kissing him.  

Imagined it, but didn’t do it.

They stood there for a long moment, just feeling the warmth of each other’s bodies, neither one seeming to want to let go.

It was actually Yu Bin that found them there.  He gave them a quick look up and down, then said, “Well you must feel better now, right Yibo?” with a grin.

Yibo let his arms drop from around Xiao Zhan’s waist.  “Fuck off,” he muttered.

“Oh, sure, I’ll fuck off right after you fuck off back to set because everyone and their uncle is waiting for you to film this scene.  And it’s 2am.”  Yu Bin cocked a thumb back behind him, eyebrow raised.

Yibo just raised his head, smoothed his face into his placid Lan Wangji mask and walked away.

Goddamn, Xiao Zhan thought.  God…damn.

Chapter Text

July 2018

 

Yibo was actually really excited to film the scene where he carried Xiao Zhan.  He thought that it would look very pretty on screen, not to mention he was excited about having an excuse to touch him.

In the original script, Lan Wangji was supposed to carry Wei Wuxian bridal-style.  Yibo stood there, in his Lan Wangji outfit, looking at Xiao Zhan in his Wei Wuxian outfit, a touch of a blush on his cheeks as he imagined putting his arms around him and carrying him.

They tried it, once.  Yibo leaned down, intending to scoop his arm under Xiao Zhan's legs.  Xiao Zhan put his arm around Yibo's shoulders, which was great, since he got to inhale the fragrance in his neck.  Yibo put his arm around Xiao Zhan's waist, which was also great, because - hey, waists are great.  Then Yibo got his arm under Xiao Zhan's legs and pulled.  And pulled.  

Err, is he heavier than he looks, or am I just weak?  Yibo thought, flushing with embarrassment.

He really strained, his arms shaking and his back creaking, and did manage to lift Xiao Zhan up in his arms.  They stood there, faces pressed close together, close enough to kiss.  Yibo looked in his eyes and for one daring moment he almost did reach out and kiss him, thinking to himself mischievously, I could pass it off as an accident.

But then Yibo's legs started to shake and he was wobbling all over the place.  He tried to walk with Xiao Zhan in his arms, but he made it about ten paces before his knee crumbled under himself.  As he fell down, he took the fall hard on his knees, but managed to cushion Xiao Zhan into his body so he didn't hurt himself, too.

"Yibo!  Are you all right?" Xiao Zhan asked, alarmed.

"I'm fine," Yibo ground out.

Xiao Zhan leaned down and pushed up the bottom of Yibo's robes, noting that at least the skin wasn't torn.  His knee was swelling and would probably have a bruise but he wasn't bleeding.

"I think we've got this scene backwards," Yibo murmured.

Xiao Zhan looked up at him, eyes wide, only just realizing that he was stroking Yibo's thigh and probing his knee with his fingers in front of about 20 people. "Ah ha ha... ha.  Yeah."

Director Zheng came over to assess the situation. "This isn't going to work, is it?"  He leaned down and took a look at the burgeoning bruise on Yibo's knee and clicked his tongue.

"I'm fine," Yibo insisted. "I'll be able to do it."

Xiao Zhan put his hand on Yibo's knee, giving it a little squeeze. "It's okay, Bo-di, it’s not your fault.  You’re shorter than me and I’m heavier than I look.”

“Are you calling me short?” Yibo goggled at him.  I know I’m shorter than Lan Wangji is supposed to be… All these actors around me are so tall… I look like a shrimp standing next to them in a lineup.

“Not short, not short,” Xiao Zhan said, patting his knee.  “You’re very handsome, Bo-di.  But I’m taller.  I’m too tall.  I should get shorter.”

“Ridiculous,” Yibo scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest.  “We weigh about the same.”

“But you’re a dancer, it’s not like you go around lifting weights every day.  Look how skinny your arms are!” Xiao Zhan exclaimed, putting his hands to make a ring around Yibo’s thin biceps.

Yibo scowled, shoving him away.  “Shut up.”

“You should lift weights more!” a crew member called out, and they all laughed.

I want to sink into a hole in the ground, Yibo thought, flushing with embarrassment.  He got back to his feet, brushing himself off.  “It’s too late for that,” he grumbled.  “Come on, Xiao Zhan, let’s do this.  If you lean your weight into me closer, you’ll be closer to my centre of gravity, that will make it easier for me to lift you up.”

“We only actually need one take of you lifting him.  Carrying him when you’re already upright is easier, if we can just get that one take,” Director Zheng said, slapping hand against his own leg.  “Can you do it or…?”

“I’ll do it,” Yibo said through gritted teeth.

The cameras started rolling, and they gave it another go.  Yibo got his arm around him, then leaned down and… strained… and got him up, his face all red and sweaty, a frown between his eyebrows.

“Cut!  That won’t do at all, Lan Wangji wouldn’t look so strained, he’s got to make it look effortless,” Director Zheng said as they came over to fix Yibo’s makeup.

Third try, but there was no way for Yibo to make it look effortless when it was such a strain for him.  Xiao Zhan thought he’d help so he leapt up into Yibo’s arms.

“Cut!  Xiao Zhan!  You can’t just go ‘Wheee!’ and jump up into his arms!!  He’s supposed to be taking you by surprise!” Director Zheng scolded him.

The whole crew burst out laughing.

Xiao Zhan slid his arm around Yibo’s neck, pouting.  “But I think Wei Wuxian would just jump up there.  He’d be like, ‘Lan Zhaaaan~!  Carry meeee!’”

Director Zheng slapped his own forehead in his hand.  “Maybe later in their relationship he would.  But not now!”

Yibo hung his head, defeated.

Xiao Zhan rubbed Yibo’s arms, chafing them.  “Does it hurt?”

Yibo shrugged a little, pouting.

“I have an idea,” Xiao Zhan said, turning to face Director Zheng with his hands still on Yibo’s arms.  “Why don't we make it a piggyback ride instead?  He can still carry me but it's not as hard on his back and knees."

Director Zheng sighed.  “Let’s do some camera tests.”

When they saw what it would look through in the lens, it was actually… super cute.  Plus Yibo could carry him just fine like this.  They did a few takes of Wangji picking Wuxian up, working the angles to make it look the most elegant and effortless.  Then they were directed to walk off the bridge, down the steps, and along the street.

Holding Xiao Zhan on his back felt really, really good. He loved the heat that he felt from Xiao Zhan’s body, loved being able to grip his thighs in his hands, loved even the way that Xiao Zhan’s head was tucked into the side of his own.  Ah fuck this is fun!  We should piggyback more often!

“Good Boy,” Xiao Zhan whispered in his ear.

Yibo found himself smirking, then Xiao Zhan was smirking, then Director Zheng was calling out, “Control your expressions!”

Yibo’s chest fluttered with silent laughter, and he felt Xiao Zhan’s arms tighten around him. 

———

It was hot on set.  Sweltering hot.  Unbelievably hot.

How does Yibo manage to look like he isn’t sweating at all? Xiao Zhan seethed.  He was sweating buckets, even with his little fan pointed at his face.  The crew were sweating buckets.  Only Yibo looked clean and radiant in his white robes.

Okay, maybe there was the tiniest sheen on his face.  But he still didn’t have the right to start singing, “Ya, ya, ya, it’s hot,” to himself in a little tune.

“How can you be hot?” Xiao Zhan demanded.  “You look fine.”

“The light also toasts me,” Yibo explained, pointing up at the stage lights.

He got his own stage fan, and some sunscreen, then looked over at Xiao Zhan with that gremlin-like grin on his face as he shook the sunscreen out.  He’s not really hot!  He’s making fun of me!

Xiao Zhan watched Yibo, admiring how elegant he looked when he closed his eyes and sprayed the sunscreen all over himself.  So pretty.

Yibo began spraying sunscreen on the other actors, and Xiao Zhan got jealous, so he held out his hand, saying, “I also want some,” even though there wasn’t much point in putting sunscreen on his already-tan hand.  He wasn’t getting any whiter.

Yibo dutifully sprayed his hands nonetheless, a look of concentration on his face as he tried to get full coverage for him.

“Wa, you will be white,” Xiao Zhan joked at his own hand.

Yibo looked up, and they exchanged a glance, smiling at each other.  

“Whew,” Xiao Zhan sang.

“Whee-hoo!” Yibo sang in response, always one to pick up what Xiao Zhan was putting down.

A crew member made fun of them, imitating Yibo’s Whee-hoo sound.

Yibo just ignored them, continuing to sing to himself as he played with his hair.  “De doo-doo-doo.  Dududu.”  Yibo was pulling on the long strands of hair that fell in the front of his body, toying with them as he held his fan up to his face.

“It’s too hot,” Xiao Zhan grumbled, trying not to look at how cute Yibo was.  Trying and failing.

They were both getting their makeup touched up when Xiao Zhan called out to him, “Wa, your face is too small.”

Fanxing, who played Shuzui, was standing behind him.  When he heard this, he came over for a look, eager to watch the antics of the two older actors.

“From this angle your face is so small,” Xiao Zhan said.  Yibo just looked at him, not saying anything, so Xiao Zhan repeated, “From this angle your face is extremely small.”

“Really?” Yibo asked in English.  “Really really?”

“It’s too similar to a bamboo shoot,” Xiao Zhan joked, laughing.  “Do you know what a bamboo shoot is?”  He then made a face, trying to imitate one.  “The bottom is sharp and narrow.”

“I know,” Yibo said, looking deep in his eyes.  His eyes then twinkled.  “It’s because of my hairstyle,” he joked back, a half-smile appearing on his face.

Ah shit, he’s deployed the half smile!  My weakness!

Xiao Zhan’s mouth dropped open when he saw that smile, and he just looked over at him, admiring him.  

“You resemble a pineapple,” Yibo told him.

“Really?  That’s not so bad, yeah.  Pineapple is not so bad.”  He was smiling over at him, joking, “Pineapple, OK!” he said in English.

Yibo looked at the side, gathering his energy, then said in a loud voice, “Pineapple,” in English.

“Pineapple,” Xiao Zhan echoed him.

“Uh,” he said, rapping it out.  “Pineapple paaan.”

Then the two rapped in unison, “Pineapple paaan.  Pineapple paaan.”  “Uh,” Yibo interjected, then Xiao Zhan finished it off, “Pineapple apple pan.”

They both looked at each other, eyes twinkling.  God he’s so fucking cute.  And we’re so in sync.  Pineapple.  It’s our new rap.  Composed together.  Watch for the soon-to-be released single, in stores tomorrow!

———

They were filming in the Jingshi, and it was the first time that Xiao Zhan saw Lan Wangji with his hair down.  Instead of wearing the crown on his head, the top of his hair was just pulled back in a simple ribbon.

Yibo looked really, really, really cute.  Like really cute.  

Xiao Zhan almost couldn’t stand it.  Like almost did something stupid like kiss his face.

They started filming inside, Lan Wangji was at his guqin, Wei Wuxian in bed in his black robes.  It was the scene when Wei Wuxian woke up for the very first time after the flashback that took up the majority of the first half of the film.  

Yibo was playful again, playing around with the guqin.  He plucked away at the strings.  Shoved his tassel underneath the strings and cleaned it.  Made that circular motion that Lan Wangji made when he did a guqin attack.  

Xiao Zhan couldn’t stand it anymore, he got up and came over.  He pulled him out from there and the two of them sat at a table with a tea set and alcohol jars on it, a candle between them.  They stared each other down for a minute, then Xiao Zhan asked, “Why are you so handsome?” against his better judgement.

Yibo was just smiling impishly at him.  He then snorted and said, “Because,” in English, then switched to Chinese, “I am Lan Zhan.  Hanguang Jun.”  Xiao Zhan almost died, there was something so cute about the way Yibo was speaking.  Xiao Zhan joined in and they said together, “Lan Wangji.  Lan Er Gong Zi.”

Then Xiao Zhan smiled wide and continued, “Lan Er Ge Ge.”

“Er Ge Ge,” Yibo said with a raised eyebrow, “Okay,” he said in English.  He then started up again.  “Hanguang Jun.  Lan Zhan.  Lan… Lan…”  He seemed to get distracted when Xiao Zhan held up his fingers in an OK signal, but still said, “Lan Wangji.”

“Lan Er Ge Ge,” Xiao Zhan said, leaning closer to him.  “What else?  No more.”

“No more,” Yibo agreed.  

“Is there nothing else?  Is there really no more?  Lan Zhan, Hanguang Jun,” he said, counting off his names on his fingers, “Lan Wangji, Lan Er.”

Yibo nodded at him.

“So you are the legendary Lan Er.”

Yibo nodded again.

“Whose beauty makes others untenable.”

Yibo nodded.

“Hanguang Jun.  Whose beauty makes others cry with joy,” Xiao Zhan continued teasing him.  

“My brother,” Yibo said, then Xiao Zhan started singing to himself.

Yibo seemed to get bored with this game, then decided he’d have more fun trying to put the candle flame out with a karate chop.  He tried, over and over, but couldn’t do it.  Xiao Zhan laughed at him trying.

“Can you fan it out?” Yibo asked.

“Oh no,” Xiao Zhan said, shaking his head a little.  Why do you even need to try?  Yibo!!

Yibo got up on his knees, leaning over the table and trying to fan it out.

“I’m afraid it’ll drop, believe it or not,” Xiao Zhan said, leaning further away from the candle.  “Are you happy to be doing this?” he demanded to Yibo.

Yibo just had a really concentrated look, his lips sucked between his teeth, as he tried a couple more times.  The staff looked on and laughed.

Yibo was determined.  He got to his feet, this time trying to karate chop the flame out from above.  

“Lan Zhan!” Xiao Zhan yelled at him.

Xiao Zhan pulled his knees up, wrapping his arms around them.  He couldn’t stop looking at Yibo, he just gazed at him as Yibo finally gave up then started chatting with the staff about their local language.  Yibo then practiced saying things in that dialect, looking at Xiao Zhan for approval.

Xiao Zhan had to join in, practicing with him.  Yibo was so cute as he sat there playing with his hair.  He finally got bored of this new game and got to his feet, wandering off.

Xiao Zhan took a few minutes to look at his script, reviewing his upcoming lines.  When he didn’t hear Yibo for a while, he looked up, curious at where he had gone.  Yibo was a little hyper, a little ADD, so he was always playing around or getting into trouble between takes.  What had he gotten up to that left him so quiet?

Xiao Zhan got up and snuck around, then he stopped dumb in a doorway and watched.  He had found him.

Yibo was sitting there, a bunny held in his arms.  He was cooing at it, gently rocking his arms up and down.  Blowing gently on its face.

Oh. My. God.  Cuteness overload.  Holy fucking shit if I hadn’t fallen in love with him already this would have done it.  Ohmygod.  I can’t.  I can’t even.

Xiao Zhan took out his phone, snapping a picture.  Then another.  Then he recorded a video, snapping pictures as it recorded.  He probably snapped 20 or 30 pictures of Yibo sitting there with the bunny before Yibo finally noticed, looking up and smiling at him.

He watched Yibo’s lips pout as he blew gently on the rabbit’s ears, and thought to himself, Fuuuuuck.  I want to kiss him so bad.  I’ll die if I don’t kiss him.  He’s so good with animals.  I want him to meet Jian Guo.  I want to marry him.  If I were married to him I could just walk up to him right now, kneel down beside him, and kiss him.  Then I could pet that bunny with him, our fingers nudging together on the soft fur.  Then maybe he’d pass the bunny into my arms and kiss me back.  

Xiao Zhan’s face was on fire as his mind whirled a million miles a minute, imagining a completely different life for himself.  He couldn’t figure out what it was about Yibo.  He’d never felt this… tender about someone before.

“We’re set up for the next scene,” the staff called out, breaking the moment.

“Coming,” Xiao Zhan said in a quiet voice.  Yibo put the bunny down, then stood up, squeezed Xiao Zhan once on the arm, and walked away.

They were filming the next scene outside, where Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian were conversing on the terrace as snow fell beautifully around them.  

Xiao Zhan was practicing his lines, but when Yibo tried to interrupt him he slapped Yibo’s hand.  

“You don’t want to know the answer?” Yibo recited his line, looking aside at him.

“I really did when I just resurrected,” Xiao Zhan recited conversationally.  “But now,” he continued, at the same time as Yibo tried to mess him up by saying with a smile, “But later…”

Yibo then looked over at him, that sly smile on his face, waiting to get a rise out of him.

“I gotta leave right now,” Xiao Zhan said, fubbing the line and just freestyling it instead.  “Sayonara.  I just want to say… Humph.”

Then they both said in unison, “Screw it!”

How is he so in sync with me??   Xiao Zhan wondered.  He reached out and tapped Yibo’s wrist, turning to him.  “No I just want to say, ‘Whatever,’” he said, but then they both said again in unison, “Screw it.”  

“You threw Whatever away?” Yibo tilted his head to ask him, referring to the sword.

“Of course not,” Xiao Zhan said.  

As the crew started setting up the fake snow, Xiao Zhan broke out in song.  He started singing the song from Frozen.  “Let it go, let it goooo.  Don’t hold it back anymooore.  Let it go, let it goooo.”  He kept humming the tune then ended up choking.   He didn’t let that stop him, he picked the tune right back up and started singing again.

The whole time, Yibo was watching him out of the corner of his eye, a sickeningly tender look on his face.

As if he didn’t notice.

———

Yibo was off filming yet another episode of Day Day Up when Xiao Zhan got bored without him around.  Xiao Zhan had some scenes to film solo, but he didn’t have his best friend to play around with between takes. He tried to keep himself entertained, playing games, talking with the guys, but he was just… bored without Yibo.  And Yibo was only gone for a day and two nights.  

Xiao Zhan ended up going back through his phone and looking back at the pictures he’d taken of Yibo with the bunny.  His heart melted inside, he was soooo cute.  Like so cute.

Xiao Zhan:  What are you doing?

Xiao Zhan:  I’m looking back through pictures of you with this bunny

Xiao Zhan:  You really like animals, don’t you?

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  Oh my god I can't stop

Xiao Zhan: 

Xiao Zhan:  

It was a half hour before he got any response from Yibo.

Yibo:  I love animals.  Cute, fuzzy ones.  No insects!

Yibo:  We’re in a hotel suite, we’re all hanging out here for the weekend.  There’s a pool with a frickin’ unicorn float in it.  First thing I did when I got here was eat ice cream.

Xiao Zhan:  Sounds different from your normal shows.  

Yibo:  It’s so relaxed, it’s like they just want to film us hanging out.  I’ve been messing around with virtual reality games, snacking, and then they just arrived with a shit ton of food, there’s gonna be a masssssive local feast for us.  So much food!  They even have lotus roots.  They made me take the seeds out.  I felt like I was practicing for our scene.  And now I’m texting you.  

Xiao Zhan:  Whoa, you get to eat lotus seeds before me!  Jealous.

Yibo:  I hope they don’t actually want me to help with cooking.  I’m a shit cook.  I’ll just cut myself and burn everything.

Xiao Zhan smirked to himself, picturing it.  Yibo was like a kid who left home before his mother could teach him to take care of himself.  He’d seen a video of Yibo cooking ramen once, but imagined that he wasn’t good for much else.

Yibo:  Gotta go GG.  

Xiao Zhan:  Jiayou.

When Xiao Zhan got home later on, he flopped down on his bed and palmed his phone into his hand.

Xiao Zhan:  What are you doing now?

Yibo:  What, you want a play-by-play?

Xiao Zhan:  I’m bored.  Entertain me.

Yibo:  Well, we played some video games earlier.  Now we’re eating dinner.  My brothers did an awesome job cooking, wow, like pro level.  The only thing I could help with was picking out the lotus seeds.

Xiao Zhan:  Did you eat well?

Yibo:  Yeah I’m pretty stuffed.  Gotta go again.  They want to play video games.  I’m gonna kick their butts.  Eat something good ok?

When Yibo  went offline, Xiao Zhan spent his time googling Day Day Up episodes.  Ah god there’s so much Yibo content available on the internet!  But I don’t have time to watch all these videos.  Only when I’m bored.  And Yibo’s not around in person.  Then I’ll watch.

Xiao Zhan found a video that had been taken back in 2016 when they asked him to call his dad.  He did the math and figured Yibo had to be… 18?  He looked so young and sweet, Xiao Zhan found himself smiling into his phone.  The premise of the video was “Can you call your dad and talk to him for more than 3 minutes?”

Now Yibo was known for not being a talker.  Like in general.  Everyone made fun of him for it.  In fact, how did he even get on a talk show like Day Day Up in the first place with that ‘winning’ personality?!  But Xiao Zhan was curious, did that extend to his family as well?  Or was he just as reserved with them?

Xiao Zhan queued up the video eagerly, waiting to be amused and astonished.

Already within 6 seconds of turning on the video, Xiao Zhan went “Awwww!” and snapped a screenshot.  So cute!  Then he exercised his design skills and made a giphy.

Yibo had a really taken aback expression on his face.  The kind that made Xiao Zhan wand to squish up his cheeks and kiss him.  

Xiao Zhan watched as the phone rang, his father chatted with him a little.  “Have you eaten in the morning?”  “Yes, I have—”  “Time for lunch now?”  “Will have lunch later.”  “Eat less if you feel the meal is spicy.”  Then Yibo broke out into a glorious smile and said, “The meal tastes good.”  “Ok ok ok.  Not much going on for me.  Just been taking care of your grandfather this past month.”  “Ahh.”  “Any problem?”  “Ah, not much,” Yibo said, tapping his nose.  Was that a lie?  It seemed they had both run out of things to say, since they went silent.  When the silence dragged out, Yibo just licked his lips, nervous.  His dad finally said, “Okay, goodbye.”  “Mn.  Bye bye,” Yibo said in English.  He then hung up the phone.

Xiao Zhan rolled over on his bed, curling his legs up as his chest went soft inside.  What had Yibo said on the phone?  Yes I have.  Will have lunch later.  The meal tastes good.  Ahh.  Ah, not much.  Mn.  Bye bye.

Jesus Christ, Xiao Zhan thought, No wonder he was cast as Lan fuckin Wangji.  Lan Zhan.  Fuck dude you were Lan Zhan before you were Yibo!

Xiao Zhan had to watch the first part of the video again, just gushing over how cute Yibo was.  He wondered yet again how this kid had gotten to be a talk show host of all things.  Maybe they all just enjoyed bullying Yibo on screen as much as he enjoyed bullying him in real life?  So they could see these reactions on his face?  They were very rewarding to watch.

Xiao Zhan sighed and noticed there was a second half of the video.  He hit play.  

“Call Dad again,” he was instructed by a woman off screen.  “Say I love you.”

Yibo got that half-shy, half-annoyed look on his face, that exact same look he’d seen in a meme exchange recently from Produce 101.  Xiao Zhan’s heart flopped over in his chest.  He hasn’t changed a bit.

Yibo was squeezing his phone tight in his hands as he said quietly, “These three words… I’ve never said them since I was a child.”  Well, apart from that one fanmeeting at your debut, when you burst out in tears on stage, Xiao Zhan remembered.

Something clenched tight in Xiao Zhan’s heart when he saw Yibo pulling apart his own phone, worrying at it, pulling the case off.  Those long hands were so familiar to him now, he knew the shape of each finger, and how it felt to hold his hand.  In that moment as he watched the video, he very much wanted to hold Yibo’s hand.  “Can I not call?” Yibo asked in a very quiet voice.

“We’ll give you the choice.” 

“I choose not to,” Yibo whispered, a shy smile on his face.

Oh God Yibo.  Oh God.  My heart.  You’re breaking my heart.  You little… 

The camera stayed trained on his face, on that shy smile, until it slowly faded and Yibo just sat there looking… lonely.

The video cut to a screen that read, “I love you, can you say it to your father?  Love is right now.”  

And then it cut to a video of Yibo clapping, tears in his eyes.  He wiped his nose, then a single tear ran of of his eye and down his cheek.  He sniffed and wiped the tear away.

Xiao Zhan lay there afterwards, feeling as though somehow he’d just witnessed something he had no right to see.  And yet the whole world had witnessed it.  He really wished he could wrap him up like a burrito in a big blanket then jump on top of him until he squealed in laughter.

Xiao Zhan found himself texting Yibo again.  He just couldn’t leave it alone.

 

Xiao Zhan:  What are you doing now?

Yibo didn’t respond right away.  It was late at night when he finally got a ping back again.

Yibo:  I kicked their butts at the video game, it was a soccer game.  We won so hard it was great.  Then we went in the pool.  I horsed around in their for a while, did some laps.  We had a little swimming competition but my brothers are hopeless.

Yibo:  When I shook the water out of my hair they made everyone imitate me, trying to get that sexy head shake going.  Another impromptu contest.  Needless to say I won that too. My brothers haven’t learned how to flick their hair back attractively hehehe

Xiao Zhan bit his lip, imagining wet Yibo.  He imagined him doing that thing he did when he shook the water out of his hair, hands raised above his head.  He was definitely going to be watching this episode later when it aired.  

Xiao Zhan: Wow Yibo, sounds like so much fun!

Yibo:  We played around on the inflatable unicorns then my brothers broke it!  It looked so sad all floppy in the water.  Then all 3 of us squished onto a rainbow floaty thing.  We were splashing around all over the place I felt like 5 years old again!

Xiao Zhan:  I’m so happy you’re having so much fun!

Yibo:  We sat around on the couch on our PJs and ate chicken wings.  I’m now hanging out in the living room while my brothers are sleeping. 

Yibo:  Yeah well, today was a good day.  It’s not this much fun filming every episode.

Xiao Zhan:  How did someone as shy as you get into this in the first place?

Yibo:  Hmm… Uniq went on Day Day Up and I guess they really liked me so they made me an offer.  I thought it was an honour, it’s such a famous show, so I didn’t want to say no.  But I feel like I often fall short in people’s expectations of me.

Xiao Zhan felt his heart roll over in his chest, picturing Yibo sitting there alone in his PJs texting him about his insecurities.  He really wished they were together.

Xiao Zhan:  Why do you feel you fall short?

Yibo:  People think I’m stupid sometimes.  When I first started, an anti-fan actually threw oil paint all over me.

Xiao Zhan gasped when he read that, picturing it.  

Xiao Zhan:  Can I call you?

A minute later, Xiao Zhan received a video call.  He saw Yibo’s face on screen, saw the soft blue shirt of his pyjamas, his hair all soft from the shower.  He was walking, and pressed a finger to his lips at first, then Xiao Zhan saw a door open.  Yibo went outside, found a quiet place to sit near the pool.  “Hey,” he finally greeted him, voice rough.

“Hey,” Xiao Zhan greeted him back with a smile.

Xiao Zhan just looked at him for a minute, drinking in his features.  Yibo looked back at him, something deep in his eyes.

“So when are you coming back?” Xiao Zhan asked.  

“Tomorrow,” Yibo said.  “I’ll be flying back out here later in the week to film the live studio portion of the show, but I’ll be back with you tomorrow.”

“Good,” Xiao Zhan said.

Yibo raised an eyebrow at that, but looked self-satisfied.

“Yibo I want to ask you something,” Xiao Zhan said, then paused, worrying his teeth between his lips.

“Mn,” Yibo said, looking at him and running a hand through his hair.

“You’ve been very disrespectful towards someone that I happen to like a lot, and I wanted to ask you if you can stop,” Xiao Zhan said in a quiet voice.

Yibo’s eyes widened.  He bit his own lip.  “I have?” he finally asked, dumbfounded.  “Who?”

“You.”

Yibo’s eyebrow scrunched up in confusion.  “What do you mean?”

Xiao Zhan snuggled into his bed, angling the phone at his face.  “It’s more than once now that you’ve referred to yourself as stupid.  Why do you think you’re stupid?”

Yibo pulled his feet up, resting his chin on his knees and propping the phone up on a table in front of him.  “I dunno,” he mumbled.

“Bo-di, humour me for a second.  Why do you think you’re stupid?”

Yibo hugged his legs to his chest.  “I guess I didn’t finish school.  So sometimes there are things everyone else thinks are so obvious and I just don’t know them.  Then it makes me feel like an idiot because I don’t know those things.”

Xiao Zhan nodded, humming.  “And when other people were in school, what were you doing?”

“You know that already,” Yibo murmured.  “I was in idol training.”

“And do you think that all those people you think are smarter than you, do you think any of them know all the things that you know about how to be a good idol?  How to dance like you do?  How to rap and act?”

“I think if they had the same training as me, then yes they’d know how.”

Xiao Zhan raised an eyebrow.  “I don’t.”

Yibo opened his mouth, didn’t know what to say, and closed it again.  

“You shine so bright it hurts my eyes, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said in a quiet voice.

“I know I have a pretty face, but that doesn’t mean I’m not also stupid,” he argued.

“So narcissistic,” Xiao Zhan said with an eye roll.  “What I’m trying to say, Yibo, is that you might not know as much as other people do about math and science, but they don’t know as much as you do about dance and rap.  And that’s okay.”

Yibo smiled a little.  “You don’t have to try so hard, Gege.  I’m not actually upset about it.  Maybe a little self-conscious about it, but it doesn’t really bother me.  But you won’t be able to change my mind about this one.  Xiao Zhan you have a university degree, I didn't even finish high school.  You just don’t understand.”

“I don’t understand what, Yibo?” Xiao Zhan asked earnestly.

Yibo blinked slowly, then looked away.  “You are smart enough to have a fallback.”

“Do you think you need a fallback?” Xiao Zhan asked, surprised.

“Well maybe if I wasn’t an idol then I’d be a motorcycle racer.  But then again, I think the only thing that would prevent me from being an idol would be if I broke both my legs and then I wouldn’t be able to ride motorcycles either.  Or ride skateboards.  I’m too much of a jock.  I’m not like you, I couldn’t become a designer or anything.  And one day I’ll get old and no one will want to look at me anymore.”  Yibo’s voice got quieter and quieter until Xiao Zhan could barely hear that last bit.

“Yibo there are plenty of idols and actors who work until they are old and grey, and trust me, even if you gain a hundred pounds and lose all your hair you’ll still be beautiful,” Xiao Zhan said softly.

Yibo laughed his little gremlin laugh at that one.  “Yeah, right.  So not true.  But okay.  A+ for effort, gege.”

Xiao Zhan felt his heart melt in his chest.  “Can you just do me one favour, didi?”

“Mmm?”  Yibo looked up, his eyes looking a little heavy like he was sleepy. 

“Whether you believe me or not, can you please not call yourself stupid anymore?  Please?”  Xiao Zhan tried to search his eyes through the phone.

Yibo pursed his lips, rolling his eyes up to the sky.  “Mmm, on one condition.”

“Why does everything with you come with conditions?!” Xiao Zhan practically yelled.

Yibo giggled.  “Because it’s fun.”

Xiao Zhan rolled his eyes.  “Fine, fine, what’s your condition this time.”

Yibo gave him a fond look.  “When all this is over, I want to meet Jian Guo,” he said, referring to Xiao Zhan’s cat.

Xiao Zhan goggled at him.  “That’s it?  You’re trading your self-worth for a cat?”

Yibo nodded his head slowly, pursing his lips.  “A very cute cat.  With short legs.”

Xiao Zhan burst out laughing, he laughed so hard that he clutched his stomach.  “Oh, wow.  Oh, wow.  Okay.  Okay then.  It’s a deal.  You can come see Jian Guo.  But only if I never hear you call yourself stupid again.  Ever.”

Yibo’s smile faded, and he just gazed at Xiao Zhan through the phone.  “Mn.”  Then he let out a huge yawn.

Xiao Zhan checked the clock and saw that they’d been talking half the night away.  “You’d better get some sleep, Bo-di,” he said fondly.

Yibo nodded.  “Mn.”

Xiao Zhan just looked at him, sitting there with his legs pulled up to his chest, his cheek pillowed on his knees, eyes falling closed.  “Don’t sleep there, Yibo!  Go to bed.  Bed.”

Yibo’s eyes flared open, then he looked around.  “What?”

“Go.  To.  Bed.”

Yibo blinked again, then rubbed his eyes.  Then yawned again.  “Okay, gege.  See you tomorrow?”

“See you tomorrow.”

After Xiao Zhan hung up the phone, he felt the ache in his chest ease a little.  I’ll see him soon.  And I’ll convince him every day that he’s worth standing by my side.

Chapter Text

July 2018

 

The next day they were filming the scene at Lotus Pier where Lan Wangji found out about Wei Wuxian’s golden core.  Although they had filmed quite a few of the Lotus Pier scenes already, they’d deliberately left this one for late in the process.

“You and Yibo need to be really close to each other already to have the chemistry he’s going to need to act that scene well,” Director Zheng had told Xiao Zhan a month earlier when he’d asked by they hadn’t filmed it all at the same time.

Well, Yibo and Xiao Zhan certainly had all the chemistry they needed now.

Something was off with Yibo, he was quieter than normal.  Yibo’s sombre mood was actually very appropriate for the scene, and he drew upon it.  When Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian knelt down next to each other, praying to his ancestors, it really felt like they were getting married.  That energy they had with each other, that push-and-pull, Xiao Zhan imagined that whatever he was feeling with Yibo was very similar to what Wei Wuxian must have been feeling with Lan Wangji.  That desire to keep him by his side.  Wanting to protect him from truths that would hurt him, from a world that wouldn’t accept him.  

As Lan Wangji fought with Jiang Cheng, Yibo’s eyes were on fire as he defended the one he loved.  Then so, so gentle when he took Wei Wuxian’s arm.  The desperation in his eyes when Wei Wuxian fell, and the tenderness as he held him in his arms, those were Lan Wangji but they were Yibo, too.

When Lan Wangji listened to the story of Wei Wuxian’s golden core, tears streamed down his face.  They were Yibo’s tears, finally let go on free reign as he was allowed to express everything he’d been bottling up.  

Xiao Zhan thought everyone on set was probably pretty surprised at how much Yibo got into it, at how much emotion there was in his face.  But Xiao Zhan knew.  He knew that underneath the aloof exterior, underneath the childlike playfulness, Yibo had an old soul.  He hid it well, but he cared for things deeply.  It took him a while to warm up, but once he loved you, he loved you forever.

Yes, him and Lan Wangji were very much alike in that respect.

If that’s really true, Xiao Zhan thought, Then a year from now he’ll feel the same way about me as he does now.  And if he does, then maybe… maybe.  

———

Yibo felt so much better after filming the golden core scene.  He’d been feeling bottled up for days, his feelings ready to burst, and when he filmed that scene it was like a pressure valve was released and he just… let go.

He stood up awkwardly after it was over, looking around him and wondering if everyone could tell that the tears on his face were real.  

A makeup artist came over to fix his makeup, but he held her off, wiping his own face with his hands.  Out of the corner of his eye he could see Xiao Zhan hovering close by, but he didn’t let himself look at him.  When the makeup artist approached again, he let her in, then there were two people that started fussing with his hair, smoothing it back into place, making Lan Wangji proper again.

Yu Bin came to stand next to him when they finally left, taking his arm.  “You okay there bro?” he asked.

Yibo nodded, clearing his throat.  “Fine.”

“I have to admit, Yibo… that looked really good.  Like perfect.”

Yibo cleared his throat again, looking over at where Xiao Zhan was standing.  He was nearby, but he wasn’t paying attention, he was looking at his phone.

Zhuocheng came to throw an arm over Yibo’s shoulder.  “Yibo, I’m impressed.  I didn’t know you had it in you.”

Zhuocheng had cried just as much as he had, but his tears had seemed a little more… forced.  Yibo nodded, ducking his head.

“Okay, guys!” Director Zheng called out.  “We’re looking good.  Yu Bin, Xiao Zhan, and Yibo - let’s go film the scene in the boat.”

“O-kay!” Yu Bin called out, throwing his fist in the air.  He took off first, sauntering away.

Yibo lingered, eyeing Xiao Zhan.  He’d spent most of that scene faking being asleep, but the angle had been weird.  He’d been rubbing his back for the past 10 minutes.

Yibo finally plucked up the courage to walk over to him.  He put his hand on Xiao Zhan’s lower back, digging his fingers in to find the sore spot.  Xiao Zhan practically jumped, turning to look at him, then he breathed out a breath.  “Oh, it’s you, Yibo.”

“Who else would it be?” Yibo glowered.  But he found a knot, and with two fingers he applied pressure until it started to release.

Xiao Zhan breathed out a sigh of relief.  “Thanks, that position really wrecked me.”

Yibo slow-blinked.  He imagined Xiao Zhan saying those words under completely different circumstances, then blushed.  

“Yibo?” Xiao Zhan asked him when he went quiet.

Yibo just ducked his head, letting his hand fall.  “…Did I do okay?” he asked in a small voice.

Xiao Zhan smiled at him, giving his arm a little squeeze.  “You did great, Bo-di.  You’re amazing.  You’re the best.”

Yibo flushed even more under the praise, a little smile on his face.

Xiao Zhan tugged on his arm, urging him forward.  “Come on, they’re waiting for us.”

———

They got into the wooden boat and took a few minutes to get themselves oriented correctly so that they’d look good on screen.  Bichen was propped up in the boat behind them, then Yibo sat down with one leg on the bottom of the boat and the other propped up, his arm resting on it.  Xiao Zhan then got in, lying down on Yibo’s leg, his head leaning against Yibo’s knee.  

Yu Bin sat at the far end of the boat, perched there rather comfortably in comparison to the two guys in the bottom of the boat.

The scene in the boat was mostly Lan Wangji and Wen Ning talking to each other while Wei Wuxian slept.  They filmed all those shots a few times over to get the correct angles before even trying to film the part where Wei Wuxian woke up.

You’d think I’d love having Xiao Zhan lying on me, Yibo thought to himself, but fuck man this is uncomfortable.  My leg’s got pins and needles, my knee is all squished, and I’ve been holding this position for over an hour already.

He gazed down at Xiao Zhan between takes, admiring his face, wondering whether he should say anything about how uncomfortable he was.  He didn’t want to be a diva, but his leg felt like it was gonna fall off.

He finally caved.  “I can’t feel my leg,” Yibo murmured down to Xiao Zhan.  

“Who cares?” Xiao Zhan said callously, looking up at him.

Yibo smiled a little.  Wow Xiao Zhan, you’re so kind.  You tell me I need to be kinder.

Xiao Zhan was pointing that little fan at his face again.  He was probably even hotter because of Yibo’s body heat.  

“I am trying to hold— hold my hands like this,” Xiao Zhan complained, indicating his position.

Seriously, though, Yibo was now in outright pain.  He had a bit of a grimace on his face, though he hid it well.  “No, my leg’s really numb,” he said again.

“I don’t believe it,” Xiao Zhan said.  “How could it be?”

Yibo realized he thought he was talking about the leg that was upright.  “The numb leg is not this one,” he said, bouncing his upright knee a little with an exasperated smile, “It’s the other one.”

The crew started to laugh at them, and Yibo smiled widely, amused at Xiao Zhan.  Xiao Zhan himself looked embarrassed when he said, “I forgot you had a leg below.”  

Yibo leaned forward a little so he could look Xiao Zhan in the eyes.  He shimmied his knee a little so Xiao Zhan could feel it under his back.  He giggled.  “You are pressing on my lower leg,” he said in his gremlin voice, grinning down at Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan broke out laughing, screwing up his forehead.  He held onto his stomach he was laughing so hard.  They laughed together, Yibo leaning his elbow against the edge of the boat.  He then shook his arm out, lowering it back to its previous position, his hand on Xiao Zhan’s arm.

“I am so sorry,” Xiao Zhan said, shifting his weight minutely.

Yibo raised a hand to fix his hair, pulling on the long strands that dangled down his chest.  After they did another few takes, they got the OK to move a bit.

“Let me move a little bit, so you won’t be pressing me like this,” Yibo said, pressing a hand into Xiao Zhan’s lower back to help him sit up.  He then shifted his leg, just adjusting its position without making it look any different from camera.  “Okay, lay down again.  Hey hey,” Yibo cheered when Xiao Zhan lay back down.  “Doesn’t press on it anymore.”

“Could the space which your legs hold be wider?” Xiao Zhan asked.  

Did he just ask me to spread my legs for him?!  Yibo thought as he looked down at him for a beat.  He then considered it.  How to make the position more comfortable for both of them, without having Xiao Zhan pressing down on somewhere even more uncomfortable than his leg.

Xiao Zhan shifted up again, and Yibo fiddled around with his position.  When he lay down again, Xiao Zhan said, “Is this okay?  This is okay.  You also feel okay, right?” glancing up at him.

“Yes,” Yibo said in English, playing with his hair again.

Xiao Zhan got out the fan, pointing it at his face.  

As Yibo was fussing about with his hair, he ended up hitting Xiao Zhan in the face with his sleeve.  Oh shit!  He smiled to cover his mortification.  Xiao Zhan pushed the sleeve out of his face.

“Sorry,” Yibo said in English, looking away and flushing. “Sorry,” he repeated in Chinese.

Xiao Zhan smiled.  “Wow, Lao Wang you are so great.”

Yibo looked back down at him.  “Hmm?”

“Wow Lao Wang, you…”  He sucked through his teeth.  “What have I done Lao Wang?”

Yibo put both his hands behind him, leaning his weight back on his hands to try and ease the ache in his own back.  Xiao Zhan was completely propped up against his knee.  Yibo started twisting, trying to loosen up his lower back.

Xiao Zhan tilted forward, muttering, “I’ll give you some time to relax.”  

Yibo shifted, then patted Xiao Zhan on the back, urging him to sit up again.  “Give me some space,” Yibo said quietly.

“Give you some space,” Xiao Zhan repeated in a loud voice, sitting up with his little fan still in his hand.

Yibo gripped the side of the boat, staring into space as the blood started to rush back into his lower half.  

“Please give me more time~~” Xiao Zhan sang.  “More spaaace~”

I need to move!  I’m so restless, I want to go run around the block and come back!  Yibo complained in his mind.  Oh!  I know!  Yibo started to rock back and forth, rocking the whole boat along with him.

Xiao Zhan glanced back at him, then started singing again.  “Don’t take everything awaaay~~”  

———

They filmed a few more shots then they finally got to the part where Wei Wuxian actually woke up.  Lan Wangji picked the lotus roots from the water, and the three of them ate on the boat.

In between takes, Yibo and Xiao Zhan ate lotus seeds.  They needed to eat them anyway - at the end of the scene they were supposed to have a boat full of empty lotus roots.  

Yibo is so pretty when he eats, Xiao Zhan thought to himself, watching him with amusement.  He hardly ever saw Yibo snacking, he usually didn’t snack between meals, so it was a rarity to say the least.  He watched him closely as he popped a lotus seed in his mouth.

“The lotus seeds taste so good,” Yibo said, pointing at them then looking over at Xiao Zhan.  When Xiao Zhan held out his hand, Yibo held one out to him, and their fingers brushed as he handed the seed over.  “Tell me if you like it.”

Yibo shook his head to get the hair out of his face, watching Xiao Zhan to see his reaction. This one was pretty good, so he gave Yibo a thumbs-up.

They kept eating, Yibo munching away happily, every so often pressing a seed into Xiao Zhan’s hand.  One time, Xiao Zhan was less than impressed.  

Uhh… this lotus seed isn’t good.  It’s bitter!  Bitter!  Did he trick me?!

Xiao Zhan made a face, sticking his tongue out.  “Ahhh, this lotus seed is so bitter!” he cried out.  

Yibo looked up at him, laughing at his reaction.  Ah crap he’s cute even when he’s laughing at me.

Yibo looked down, still continuing to take out the seeds.  He prepared another one for Xiao Zhan, handing it over.  He looked up at him, meeting his eyes as he handed the seed over.  Xiao Zhan’s heart fluttered in his chest.  This is so domestic, he thought.  But Yibo looked back down again, focused on his task, which let Xiao Zhan watch him as he popped the seed in his mouth.

He nodded, satisfied.  “This one is good.”

Yibo passed him another, and this one was bitter.  Xiao Zhan spit it out, gagging, then started hitting Yibo, making him burst out laughing, eyes curling up into half-moons of delight.  

“Hey, pass one to me!” Yu Bin called out.

Yibo smirked, then tossed a seed up in the air.  Yu Bin tried to catch it in his mouth, but missed. He started playing on his own, tossing the lotus seeds up in the air and trying to catch them in his mouth.  But he kept missing.

“Throw one to me!” Yibo said, watching him.  

“If you want,” Yu Bin agreed.  He then tossed a seed up in the air.

Yibo opened his mouth, angling it up in the air, then moved his head to catch the seed in his mouth.  When he caught it successfully, he held up both hands and looked around, as though to say, AREN’T I THE COOLEST?

Xiao Zhan’s face was shocked, deadpan as he looked over to Yu Bin.  Really?!  Yu Bin shrugged back at him.  Xiao Zhan then looked back at Yibo, who was smiling, happily munching away on the seed.  Xiao Zhan smirked.  Yes, Yibo, you’re the coolest.  And the cutest.  And the best.

———

Yibo was in a much better mood when they got back that night, he came down and ate with everyone.  Even though he didn’t say much, he was smiling at Xiao Zhan a lot while he ate.  

Yu Bin put his elbow at the table, pointing a finger at him.  “Catching that lotus seed in your mouth, was that a one-off or are you actually good at that?” he asked.

Yibo cracked his knuckles, tilting his head back to look at Yu Bin under his nose.  “I don’t know, why don’t you try again and see?”

There was a pile of grapes on the table, so Yu Bin plucked one out.  “Okay, let’s do this, man,” Yu Bin said, giving him an evil grin.  He then tossed the grape high up in the air.

Yibo looked a little silly, sitting there with his mouth open, leaning back on his hands as he angled his head to catch the grape in his mouth.  But when he successfully did, his eyes lit up, and he made that same gesture, two hands out to the side.  He was twinkling as he looked around at the others, pleased with himself.

“Let me try,” Zhuocheng said, elbowing Yu Bin out of the way.  He tossed another grape, and sure enough, Yibo caught it in his mouth.  Next thing you know, all of them gave it a try, and one by one, he caught one grape after another.

Finally they lost it, they all plucked grapes at the same time and tossed 6 grapes at him all at once.  He caught five of them, but the fifth one bounced off his forehead then onto the ground.  Yibo pouted, looking down at the grape like it offended him.  “Bullshit,” he told the grape.

Xiao Zhan whacked him on the arm.  “Watch your language, didi!”

Yibo rolled his eyes at him, then smiled at him sweetly.  “There are no cameras around now, wife,” he growled at him.

“Don’t call me wife!  Husband!  Husband or nothing at all!”  He grabbed Yibo around the neck in a choke hold.

The whole table goggled at them as Yibo shot to his feet, arching his back to dislodge him.  He sent both of them tumbling backwards, but twisted on the way down like a cat so that he landed first, on his stomach, and Xiao Zhan somehow ended up on top of him.  Xiao Zhan then gave him one last smack on the butt for good measure.  “Impudent.”

Yu Bin slow-clapped him.  “Well done, Xiao Zhan, well done.”

Chapter Text

July 2018

 

Yibo realized there was only a month left to go on set.  Even though he’d spent the whole time shuttling back and forth between his various events, the months that he’d spent on the set of The Untamed were some of the most precious of his short life.  He couldn’t imagine what his life would have been like if he hadn’t met all these people.  Especially Xiao Zhan.

He was waiting for Xiao Zhan to finish filming a solo scene, hanging out on the side of the set by himself.  When he wasn’t filming, he was either with Xiao Zhan or he was alone.  He didn’t bond as much with the others as he did with Xiao Zhan.  

He sat there looking through videos of recent motorcycle riders he was following, analyzing their techniques.  He’d be off for a quick track day at the end of July.  It had been months since he’d ridden his motorcycle and he was eager to get back in the saddle.  When I ride my motorcycle I feel like I’m flying.  Like I’m floating.  Like I’m someone else.

Even though it would make for a hectic week, Yibo was hoping that by getting back on the track it would help to calm him, help him to get his head back in the game and out of this little fantasy he’d built for himself on the set of the Untamed.  A fantasy where he could actually hold the hand of the man that he liked and no one would care.  

God fucking damnit I can’t even think about my motorcycle without thinking about Xiao Zhan,  Yibo seethed internally.

As Yibo was sitting there, frowning and looking at videos, Yu Bin slid over next to him, peeking over his shoulder.  “Whatcha lookin’ at?”

Yibo showed him.  “Motorcycle.”

“Oh, your other wife,” Yu Bin joked.

Yibo frowned harder, then threw him a death glare.  “You know you shouldn’t keep joking like that.  Zhan-ge doesn’t like it.”

Yu Bin looked up at him, meeting his eyes with a smirk.  “No, but you do,” he said confidently.

Yibo slid his gaze away, saying nothing.

Yu Bin sat back, leaning on his hands and stretching out his neck.  “Don’t worry Yibo, your secret’s safe with me.  Frankly I couldn’t give a shit.”

“Well that’s reassuring,” Yibo said sarcastically.

“He’ll never go for it for real, you know,” Yu Bin said, giving him a side glance.  “He might flirt a lot but he’s a serious type.  He wouldn’t do anything that would compromise his reputation.”

“I know,” Yibo whispered, looking down at that motorcycle on his phone with determination.

“He’s not reckless like you,” Yu Bin teased.

Yibo looked up at him, a frown between his eyebrows.  “I’m not reckless.”

“Suuure,” Yu Bin laughed.  “Says the guy who left home at the age of 13, rides motorcycles at speeds that could kill him instantly, and isn’t afraid to get on TV and pretend to kiss a guy on stage.”

Yibo blanched, then covered his face with his hand.  “Oh God, you’ve seen that?” he said, mortified.

“Yup,” Yu Bin said, smacking his lips.  "Not only have I seen it I've got the gif conveniently saved on my phone," he said, showing it to Yibo.

“I’m waiting for the appropriate moment to show Xiao Zhan.  I can’t wait to see the look on his face," Yu Bin said with a snigger.

“Don’t you dare!” Yibo said urgently, grabbing the front of Yu Bin’s robes and giving him a shake.

Yu bin cackled, grabbing Yibo’s robes and hauling him to his feet.  “Come on, Yibo, let’s fight!  You’re always fighting with Xiao Zhan I feel left out!”

Yibo glowered, then released him.  He stood there with his hands clenched at his sides, his mind whirling.  

“Aww, spoilsport,” Yu Bin said, smoothing the front of his robes.  “Anyway you should know Yibo there’s no keeping secrets from me.  After all I’m the one they get to film all these behind the scenes interviews and shit.  Trust me, I’ve seen everything that goes on behind the scenes.”

“I doubt that,” Yibo scoffed.

Yu Bin threw his arm over Yibo’s shoulders, giving him a quick squeeze.  “Anyway in all due seriousness, if you ever need to talk, or to punch someone, I’m here okay?  Since I know everything already.  You can just sit there and glare at me, too, if that’s what helps.”

Yibo shrugged out from under his shoulder, then gave him a look and said, “Thanks.”  He then walked away, and called out behind him, “But no thanks.”

———

It was time to film the famous drunken scene.  You know, the time he’d have to… hold two cocks in his hands.  Yibo laughed internally.  

It was quite smooth going for the first part that they filmed outside.  Yibo had a fun time putting on a half-glazed look on his face, pretending to stumble around.  He loved the way Xiao Zhan would grab his shoulders, steering him in the correct direction.

When it came time to actually handle the roosters, Yibo looked at the cage with some apprehension at first.  Are these roosters or chickens?  he wondered.

“Do they bite?” he asked the animal expert.

“No, they shouldn’t.  Just make sure to grab them like this,” he said, demonstrating how to reach into the cage and grab them behind the wing.  “Then they won’t be able to get around and peck you.”

All the cast and crew had converged to watch him do it, most of them laughing as he attempted to practice.  He looked into the cage apprehensively.  There’s so many… feathers.  And beaks.  And pointy little feet.  This isn’t fun like bunnies.

Yibo flattened his mouth into a line, then slowly reached in, his hand shaking a little.  

“That’s it,” the animal expert said.  “Don’t be afraid, you have to reach in pretty quick.”

Yibo shot his hand in, making a grab for one of them.  It scattered away, twittering at him.  Yibo chased after it with his hand, but it was fleet of foot.

“Come on, Yibo, grab that cock!” someone shouted out from behind him.

Yibo felt his face flaming.  Stop it, Yibo.  Get a grip.  It’s just a frickin bird.  He made another attempt, then managed to get the bird behind the neck.  After a few tries, he had managed something of a technique, so they decided to try to film it for real.

Xiao Zhan was watching over him with amusement dancing all over his features.  “Ah, Yibo, Yibo.  So sweet.  Giving me presents.”

“If I gave you a present it wouldn’t be a cock,” Yibo muttered under his breath, then shot him a look.

Xiao Zhan burst out laughing, holding his gut.  “Damn too bad the cameras weren’t rolling for that one.  Priceless!”

Yibo straightened up, then gestured for the makeup artist to come over and check his face.  He pulled the strands of long hair in front of his chest, smoothing them out.  When he was looking proper again, they backed away.  Yibo closed his eyes, straightening his face out.  He donned that half-dazed expression, mouth slightly open.

“Roll!”

Lan Wangji squatted down, opened the little wooden door of the cage, and stuck his hand in.  He had to reach three or four times before he grabbed the wing, but then he yanked the bird out, managing to keep a straight face while Xiao Zhan kept calling out, “Lan Zhan!” in a hushed voice.

Lan Wangji looked in Wei Wuxian’s eyes, gazing in a way that he hoped held all the longing that he felt to be closer to this man.  I’m giving you a present because I’m stupid in love with you and I want you to realize that without me having to tell you, Yibo thought as he thrust out the rooster.

“Hold it,” he muttered.

Wei Wuxian’s expression when he picked it up and then looked over at him was priceless.  Little frown between the eyebrows, looking dumbfounded.  “But why are you giving me a chicken?” he asked.

Lan Wangji looked down.  One wasn’t enough.  He didn’t get the message, he thought as he turned and reached into the cage a second time.  

“What do you want to do?  These chickens have an owner,” Wei Wuxian whispered as Lan Wangji managed to yank the bird out by both wings held in one long-fingered hand.  “Anyways, do you know that you’re stealing them?!”

Lan Wangji looked up at him, thinking, He doesn’t like the present.  Why doesn’t he like the present?  I’m giving him a present to show my love.  “Aren’t they fat?” Lan Zhan asked.

Wei Wuxian stared at him, a dumb look of shock on his face.  The birds then flapped in his hands, and he looked down at them, startled.

Lan Wangji held up the roosters a little higher.  Don’t you love me?  My gifts are not good enough.  But they are all I have.  

Wei Wuxian let out a little embarrassed smile.  “They’re fat, they’re really fat,” he said, giving him a thumbs-up.  “You’re amazing.”

Lan Wangji had a mild look of happiness on his face as he thrust the birds into Wei Wuxian’s lap.  “Here, I’ll give them to you.”

Wei Wuxian looked in Lan Wangji’s eyes, the two of them sharing a long look.  I love you,  Yibo thought on behalf of Wangji.  I’ve loved you since we first met.  Are you looking at me?  Do you see me standing here in front of you?

Wei Wuxian smiled a little.  

Lan Wangji stood up, looking around for something else to do to prove himself worthy of Wei Wuxian’s love.  

'Poor Lan Zhan, born of a noble family,'  Wei Wuxian thought, the voice narration super-imposed in post.  'So bound by the three thousand family rules that his mind spins.'  He smiled fondly, shaking his head a little.  He then picked up the chickens and knocked them together.  'This drunkard is crazier than me,' he thought with a pout. He then looked up, and tossed the chickens as he shot to his feet and ran over to Lan Wangji who had just carved graffiti into a wooden pillar.

“Lan Zhan!  What are you doing now?”  They both looked over at the pillar, and Wei Wuxian read aloud, “Lan Wangji was here.”  He then sighed and reached for Wangji’s hands.  Wangji was just standing there, managing to have a self-satisfied look on his face without moving a single face muscle.  “Lan Zhan, let’s stop fooling around, okay?” Wuxian asked, holding his hands and looking at his perfect face.  “Let’s go back and sleep, okay?”

Lan Zhan tilted his head, looking down at him through half-hooded eyes.  You want to sleep with me?  Maybe my courting-with-roosters plan was successful after all.  I’ll take you back and kiss you.

“Let’s go, let’s go,” Wei Wuxian urged him, tugging on his hand.  He then put his arm around his shoulders, gently steering him.  “Go, hurry and go.”  

They stood outside the entrance, Wei Wuxian holding Lan Zhan’s shoulders tenderly for a moment, then he got a smirk on his face as he leaned in to whisper to him, “Lan Zhan, wait a second.”  He gave his arm a little squeeze.  “Don’t move,” he urged him.

As he dashed away, Lan Zhan wavered a little on his feet, looking at the ground.  Oh no.  Wei Ying has left me.  He’s left me here.  I’m all alone.  Is he coming back?  I miss him already.  What if he doesn’t come back?

Wuxian came dashing back out after copying his own name onto the post.  And clapped his hand on Wangji’s shoulder.  “Lan Zhan, I’ve settled it.  Let’s go.”

He came back!  Yibo thought on behalf of Lan Zhan, showing mild relief on his face.  He’s here.  Wei Ying is here.

Wei Wuxian grabbed Lan Wangji’s arm and dragged him away.  “Let’s go.”

“Cut!  Okay, great job.  Managed to get through it all in one go, bravo.  Yibo that was a great job with the facial expressions.  I’m so charmed!  Now let’s reset for the close-up angles.”

“Oh, Yibo, you’re so cute!” Xiao Zhan said, throwing his arm over Yibo’s shoulders.  “So charming.  How do you manage to be so charming without showing it on your face?  Such a small face.”

Yibo’s heart fluttered at the close contact, and he just muttered, “Mn.”

———

Back in the inn, they filmed the fighting scenes.  Xiao Zhan watched in amazement as Yibo managed to make the cutest drunk face he’d ever seen, lips parted, shaking his head when asked if he’d put out the light.  Xiao Zhan got to hug Yibo a lot tonight, the two of their heads close together.  Even from just inches away, Xiao Zhan couldn’t find a single imperfection in Yibo’s face.  

Fuck, he’s cute.  Stop thinking about it, Xiao Zhan, he scolded himself.

Yibo did a great job fighting, managing to convey Lan Wangji’s muscle memory of how to fight and his instinct to protect Wei Wuxian while still looking half-dazed.  After the intruder left, Wei Wuxian grabbed onto Wangji, stopping him.

When Yibo glanced up at him, out of the corner of his eye, weaving on his feet, Xiao Zhan wondered what Yibo was thinking about to put that expression on his face.  He always had the perfect expressions.  Did he just run through his mind what he thought Lan Wangji was thinking?  What did he imagine he was thinking now?  Close enough to kiss, probably.  Maybe trying to pluck up the courage to actually do it. 

Wei Wuxian helped Lan Wangji to sit down by the table.  He was tender as he got himself a glass of water, chattering away to him.  Wei Wuxian would be fond, right now.  Exasperated.  But fond.  After all, who could look at that face and not be fond of him?

“Thirsty,” Lan Wangji said in the most cute fucking drunk voice.  He looked up at him, then said, “Water.”

God damn Yibo, you’re so cute.  If this were me, and not Wuxian, I’d plump up your cheeks and kiss those lips.  And sure I’d get you water.  Or whatever else you want.  I’d cook for you and feed you until your belly was full and you were half-asleep in my lap.  But this isn’t me and you.  It’s Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji.

The look on Yibo’s face as he played Lan Wangji was so tender.  He gazed at him, and even though there was hardly any expression, mouth open just a touch, it was all in the eyes.  Those eyes looked at him as though he wanted to memorize the shape of his face.  As though he wanted to find a way to tie him down and keep him from ever leaving him ever again.  How does Yibo manage to get that look on his face?  He’s so young.  Has he ever felt that way before?

When their hands brushed together as he handed him the water, Xiao Zhan felt his heart flutter in his chest.  Lan Wangji raised the cup above his head, and Wei Wuxian took his hand gently between his two hands, helping to guide him.  His fingers are so long.  Beautiful and elegant.

He kept his fingers on Yibo’s hand, gently guiding the movement.  I’m so blessed that he lets me touch his hands.  He doesn’t let anyone else touch his hands.  

As they lowered the cup, Yibo’s head was tilted down, catching the light in a way that made him look so, so beautiful.  It wasn’t false tenderness in Xiao Zhan’s heart as he reached out and gently wiped Yibo’s face with the back of his hand.  His cheek is so soft.  Even just watching the way he swallows is fascinating.

Wei Wuxian sat down and the two of them chatted together.  Xiao Zhan genuinely smiled in excitement at the next part of the scene.

“Lan Zhan.  What’s this figure?” he asked teasingly, holding up two fingers.  Yibo’s face, god almighty!  Those half-lidded eyes, that pout!  I want to stick my finger in his mouth.  Hahaha!

Lan Wangji’s eyes followed the finger, then he said in a low voice, “Two.”

“So now it’s question and answer time,” Wei Wuxian said.

“Mmm,” Lan Wangji hummed, nodding his head.  

I don’t think the Lan Wangji that MXTX was imagining was this cute!  Xiao Zhan thought to himself as he gushed internally.  He didn’t have to work hard to let that thought show on his face as he smiled at him.

“Have you ever tasted Emperor’s Smile at Cloud Recesses?” he asked playfully.

“No,” Lan Wangji said sullenly.  He never looked up, just staring off into the distance.  

“Have you ever broken any regulations?”

“Yes,” he admitted guiltily.  Yibo didn’t change his face at all!  How did he still manage to express that emotion?!!?  I’m going to have to dissect this video later to examine him… for acting purposes.

Xiao Zhan knew he had a surprised look on his face, but he smoothed it out into a quick smile.  “Do you like rabbits?”

Yibo let that serene little smile pull the edges of his mouth up, his eyes still looking down as he whispered, “I like them.”

Wei Wuxian started laughing while little fireworks danced in Xiao Zhan’s chest at that smile.  It wasn’t Yibo’s smile, but he’d lock that smile away in his heart as a fond memory of their time filming together.  He laughed aloud, settling in closer to him.  “Lan Zhan, you admit it finally,” he said around a giggle.

Then Wei Wuxian’s face fell as he got to the question he really wanted answered.  “Why do you help me?”

Lan Wangji slowly slid his eyes up to meet his, guilt and shame warring on his features.  “I have regrets,” he whispered.  That tone of voice that Yibo used, it reminded Xiao Zhan of something - and all of a sudden he remembered that video of Yibo, when they’d asked him to call his father and tell him he loved him.  Yibo’s voice, when he let out that shy smile and said, “I choose not to,” — that voice, too, was full of guilt and regret.  Yibo, you are a master,  Xiao Zhan thought, his face full of love.  I can feel those emotions, even if I don’t see them.  I feel them radiating from you.  

“What regret?” Xiao Zhan whispered as Wei Wuxian, thinking, I want to ask you this question in real life, Yibo.  What regrets are there when you think of your parents?  But that was too intimate a question for him to ever ask.  

Yibo took his time, letting Lan Wangji find his way around to an answer.  His eyes dropped away, mouth pursed in thought.  When he finally spoke, the words came out almost in a mumble, Lan Wangji’s eyes looking far away in the distance, looking at the past.  That voice was so soft and regretful.  “At Nightless City,” he said, then took a breath, “I wasn’t by your side.”

My heart just broke.  

Xiao Zhan forgot all about Yibo and himself, he was pulled into Wei Wuxian’s head when he heard those words.  Imagining what it would feel like, his heart ripped to shreds by a whisper.  The man he was falling in love with, who never spoke his mind, finally spoke from his heart.  And that heart was so, so beautiful.  He closed his eyes, overcome with emotion.  When he looked up, his eyes were shining with unshed tears.

“So all this time… You’ve been looking for me?”

Although Lan Wangji didn’t respond, the way he tilted his head away, gazing off to the side, was answer enough.  

Wei Wuxian felt so much love for him in that moment.  So much gratitude.  He had thought himself all alone in the world, and then to discover that he was loved so tenderly was such a gift.

He reached out and took Lan Wangji’s hand in his, squeezing it.  He memorized the feeling of holding that hand in his, the play of skin over bone.  His hands were long and strong.  A little calloused from holding Bichen all day.  

“Lan Zhan.  Remember this,” he whispered.  He shook his head a little, gazing at the side of his face as it was turned away from him.  “This whole thing has nothing to do with you.  Defecting, and studying crafty tricks… are my own choices.”  

Lan Wangji’s face was still turned away, listening to his words but lost inside himself.  He looked so lost in that moment.  But he was still holding his hand, holding on for dear life.

“Do you understand?” Wei Wuxian whispered, giving that hand another squeeze.

Lan Wangji turned slowly and looked at him, and Wei Wuxian’s breath was caught with the way the light danced over his face.  He smiled, so grateful, and so happy to have this man with him.

Lan Wangji looked down again, still introspective.  Would he remember any of this in the morning?

He finally got up and stumbled off to bed.  Wei Wuxian followed him, charmed and amazed when he crossed his hands over his chest and fell asleep, all because it was 9 o’clock.  He gazed down at his sleeping face, feeling his own regrets.

The spell was broken when they called cut and repositioned them for the next camera angle.  But somehow Xiao Zhan couldn’t stop looking at Yibo, and he wondered what the look on his face said.  Do I look as soft for him as I feel?

———

The mood was sombre between them after they finished shooting.  They walked back to the trailer together, Yibo walking one step behind Xiao Zhan.  Xiao Zhan stripped off his robe as he walked, dashing the illusion of Wei Wuxian and walking in a tank top and shorts.  

Yibo followed behind him, watching him silently.  He followed him into the trailer, then just stood there in a daze for a minute.

Xiao Zhan glanced over at him, then came and tugged on the sash around his waist, untying it.  “Come on,” he urged him in a quiet voice.  “It’s been a long night.”

Yibo’s hands brushed Xiao Zhan’s as he was finally jolted into action, removing the belt the rest of the way.  He slipped the outer robes off his shoulders, and Xiao Zhan held out a hand to help him hang up the garment.  He stripped off his inner layers one by one, handing each one to Xiao Zhan for him to hang up.  

When all his Wangji garments were removed, Yibo was standing there in his own tank top and shorts.  He found his track jacket, slipping it on.  

There was a little loveseat in the trailer, and Yibo flopped down on it, letting out a big sigh.

Xiao Zhan fumbled around then found two water bottles.  He handed one bottle to Yibo, then sat down next to him on the loveseat.  Their thighs brushed together on the small piece of furniture.  They didn’t have to say anything, they just sat there together in companionship.  There were a lot of heavy emotions dancing around in the air.

They drank their water in silence, just letting that mood float around them.  

After a while, Yibo shocked Xiao Zhan by leaning over ever-so-slightly and tipping his head onto Xiao Zhan’s shoulder.

He must be tired,  Xiao Zhan thought fondly.  It takes a lot of emotional energy to shoot scenes like that.

Xiao Zhan let him lay like that for a while - longer than was wise, perhaps.  Someone could walk in and misunderstand.

“Your shoulder is bony,” Yibo pouted a while later.

“So is yours,” Xiao Zhan shot back.

“How would you know?  You never put your head on my shoulder.”

Xiao Zhan looked down at him, smiling enough to crinkle his eyes.  “Yeah I did, I leaned my head on your shoulder when we were looking at Ji Li's phone the other day.”

“Oh.  Right.”  

"Someone snapped a picture.  Want to see?"

Yibo nodded.

Xiao Zhan got out his phone, flipping through his downloaded pictures to find the one he was looking for.  "See?"

Yibo lapsed back into silence.  He moved his arm a little so it pressed up against him, the back of his hand brushing against his.

Is he asking for my permission?  Xiao Zhan wondered.  He glanced down at him again, then flipped his hand over, sliding his fingers through Yibo’s as he threaded their hands together.  

Yibo let out another sigh, going boneless.  After a few minutes, Xiao Zhan was astonished when the boy actually fell asleep.

Xiao Zhan heard the door rattle, so he slid his hand regretfully out of Yibo’s, settling it in his lap instead.  He looked up to see one of their assistants coming in with the alcohol to help remove the glue from the wigs.  She looked at the two of them, startled, but Xiao Zhan just held up a finger to his lips, urging her to be quiet.  She got a little smile on her face but nodded.

Xiao Zhan motioned her over, and they managed together to remove his wig without disturbing Yibo.  When it was time to remove his wig, Xiao Zhan gently cradled Yibo’s face in his hands, propping it up just enough for her to work his wig off.  She was smiling the whole time.  Yibo kept right on sleeping, his breaths even.  Such a cute sleeping face.

When she had the wigs set aside carefully, she knelt down in front of him.  “Do you want me to get the driver?” she asked him in a whisper.

Xiao Zhan nodded.  He held up a hand, indicating five minutes.  

She gave him a thumbs up and quietly snuck out of the trailer.  

Xiao Zhan let him sleep for another few minutes, then regretfully stroked his cheek, murmuring, “Bo-di.”

Yibo frowned in his sleep, swallowing, a little furrow in his brow.

Xiao Zhan put a finger on that furrow in his brow, smoothing it out.  “Bo-di,” he said louder.  “Lao Wang.  Wang-Laoshi.  Yibo.  Lao Wang.  Yibo.  Bo-di!” he said Yibo’s names in increasing volume.  “Wang Yibo!” 

Yibo’s head jerked up and he looked around startled.  He met Xiao Zhan’s eyes, and Xiao Zhan saw with amusement that there was a crease running along Yibo’s face from the imprint of Xiao Zhan’s tank top.

“What?” Yibo asked in Korean.

Xiao Zhan stood, grabbing Yibo’s hands and tugging.  “Come on, we can’t sleep here all night.  Come on, let’s go back.  Sleep in a bed.”

Yibo allowed himself to be dragged to his feet, swaying a little and yawning.  “A bed or two beds?” he asked with a little gleam in his eye.

“Two beds!” Xiao Zhan said, pinching his arm.

“Ow!  Tyrant.”

They laughed together as they walked out of the trailer.  Good, he’s back,  Xiao Zhan thought fondly.

Chapter Text

Yibo was gone for the weekend, off doing some kind of motorcycle thing.  Xiao Zhan had some commitments, himself, though he had to admit it felt really strange being off the set of the Untamed for a little while.  Somehow that place had started to seem more like the real world to him, the modern world seeming strange and off-kilter.

Xiao Zhan had time to stop off at home, where he greeted Jian Guo fondly.  She was rather cross at him for being alone for so long, but after a few minutes of giving him attitude, she warmed up and brushed up against his legs.  

He cooked for the first time in ages.  He loved to cook, though he hadn’t had the opportunity while being on set.  

He prepared a variety of dishes, then realized that he’d prepared way too much food for just one person.  He ate quietly by himself, checking his phone.

Xiao Zhan:  How did your track day go?

Yibo:  Great!  Oh it felt so good to get back on my motorcycle.  I’ve missed her.

Yibo:  

Yibo: 

Yibo: 

Xiao Zhan:  Holy shit Yibo, do you think you’re leaning over a little far, there?  

Yibo:  My knees actually rub the ground when I race. That’s why my riding leathers have special plastic kneepads.  And sometimes my boots get scuffed, too.

Xiao Zhan:  How does the bike not just… fall over?

Yibo: You’re the University graduate.  Didn’t they teach you physics in school?

Xiao Zhan rolled his eyes.  Impudent!

Xiao Zhan:  I’m a design major, Yibo, not a physicist!

Yibo:  You really want to know?

Xiao Zhan:  I asked, didn’t I?

Yibo:  Okay, well, there’s some important points.  First you have to have traction between the tires and the road.  If you try to lean over like that and there’s no traction, then the bike will just fly out from under you.  That happened to me once when I rode over some leaves hehehe

Xiao Zhan:  Isn’t that dangerous?!

Yibo:  It wasn’t so bad.  Bike went flying, and I just ended up standing there on my feet, looking sheepish.  

Yibo:  Got to watch out for oil spills, too.

Xiao Zhan:  Be careful, Bo-di.

Yibo:  I’m always careful.  I’ve never hurt myself yet.

Xiao Zhan:  It only takes once, Yibo.  

Yibo:  Anyway then there’s the concept about actually turning on a motorcycle.  You don’t turn the direction like you do on a car.  Since you’ve got only two wheels, you’re relying on the center of gravity and the line that the tires make to do the work

Yibo:  They call it Gyroscopic Precession Steering, or Counter-steering.  If you want to turn right, you actually push the handlebars in the direction you want to go, which turns the wheel facing the other way but gets your bike banking on the side you pushed.  So it can be counter-intuitive at first.

Yibo:  But what that does if you look at it from the top-down, is it created an arc shape, but the centre of gravity is in the centre of that arc, so then the bike tilts over.  Like drawing an arc with one of those metal-pencil-holder thingies you use in design.

Xiao Zhan:  A compass

Yibo:  Yeah, like that.  When you draw an arc with a compass, you tilt it in the direction you want to draw the arc in, right?  So usually just tilting the bike alone is enough, your centre of gravity is now over the side you want to turn, and boom!  You turn.  But when we’re racing, sometimes we get an extra lean in to the bike by using our bodies.

Xiao Zhan:  Why do you need an extra lean?

Yibo:  To go around tighter corners at higher speeds.  The way that you steer a bike at low speeds is quite different from high speeds.  

Xiao Zhan:  

Yibo:     

Xiao Zhan:  And you think you’re not smart.  Ha!

Yibo:  

Yibo:  I still have a lot of learning to do.  I’m planning to race next year for real, but there’s so much precision involved.  When you’re racing with people at that level every angle that you take at every turn matters.  You need to know the track like the back of your hand.  I need a lot of practice.

Xiao Zhan:  Wow, Yibo.  That’s impressive.  You can never do anything without putting 100% into it, can you?

Yibo:  Well if you’re going to do something why not shoot for the top?

Xiao Zhan:  Hahaha Yibo ah Yibo.  

Xiao Zhan looked down at his phone fondly.  Although people liked to think of Yibo as taciturn, when it came to his hobbies he could go on for hours and hours.  He sat there and let him go on and on, talking about his favourite bikes, his coach and riding buddies.  The riders he followed online.  Places he wanted to go so he could do track rides.  Yibo went on until half the night was gone and Xiao Zhan was yawning.  

He got up to pack away the food, packing it into two lunch containers.  One for me and one for Yibo, he thought happily, singing to himself.

Yibo:  Are you still there?

Yibo:  Oh God I just realized what time it is and looked back at all my messages

Yibo:  I’m such a dick I’m sorry

Yibo:  Are you sleeping?

Xiao Zhan:  I like it when you’re excited about something, I don’t mind.  Not sleeping yet but will go to bed now.

Yibo:  Okay.  See you tomorrow?

Xiao Zhan:  See you then.  Be safe and sleep well.

Yibo:  You too.  Pat Jian Guo for me.

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  Will do.

———

It was raining the next day, which made it perfect to shoot some of the scenes they’d been holding off on.  One of them was the scene just after Wei Wuxian got stabbed, when Lan Wangji was helping him to escape.  The other was the famous scene where Wei Wuxian took the Wens to escape to the Burial Grounds and Lan Wangji tried to stop him.

They started with the stabbing scene during the day.  Lan Wangji looked flawless in his pure white robes.  For some reason, Yibo kept being paranoid about his forehead ribbon that day.  

“Is it still crooked?” Yibo asked his manager.

She insisted that it was fine, but Yibo turned to look at Xiao Zhan.  

“Wei Ying, is my forehead ribbon crooked?” Yibo asked Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan just shook his head, unimpressed.

“Let me see, give it to me,” Yibo asked his manager.  She handed him a mirror, and he double-checked his own forehead ribbon, carefully adjusting it.

“If I didn’t know better I’d mistake you for the real Lan Wangji,” Xiao Zhan said in disgust.

Yibo slapped him on the arm, handing the mirror back to the his manager.

———

Xiao Zhan wasn’t wearing any makeup for this scene.  He looked haggard, bloodless.

Lan Wangji had his arm around Wei Wuxian, supporting him as the two stumbled along the forest path, the rain falling down around them.  Wei Wuxian’s blood was staining Lan Wanji’s robes, turning the white fabric dark red in places.

Wangji’s arm was tight around Wei Wuxian’s shoulders, taking his weight as they moved.  Wei Wuxian’s arm was flung around the back of Wangji’s neck, his hand gripping the edge of Wangji’s shoulder.

Wei Wuxian looked pale, eyes bloodshot, while Lan Wangji looked like fresh clean snow, his face pained in its expression but clean and beautiful.  

His body feels so small, Yibo thought as he half-carried him, the rain pelting the back of his head.  I can feel the edge of his ribcage through his robes.  He’s lost weight, as I have.  

They stumbled together over to a tree, where Lan Wangji gently let Wei Wuxian down to the ground, hugging the sides of their bodies together as they both sank down to their knees.

I want to hold him longer, he thought.  I want to hold him forever.

Their knees brushed together after he let him down, his hand ghosting down Wei Wuxian’s back.  He placed both their swords on the ground, then turned to look at him.  He made the motion to transfer spiritual energy, his expression desperate on his pinched face.  

Wei Wuxian was shivering, soaked wet.  The veins in his neck stood out strongly as he trembled.  

The look on Wangji’s face was determined.  Lan Wangji would never give up.  He’d give every last drop of spiritual energy he had to keep his love alive.  Wangji’s lips were slightly parted as he watched Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian trembled, his face shaking, then his head moving a little from side to side.  

Wei Wuxian’s eyes opened, and he looked up at Wangji, smiling a little then laughing softly.  Wangji’s eyes were closed now, his whole body concentrating at keeping him alive.  Wangji’s eyes flipped open at that laugh, and he stopped the flow of energy.

“Why were you laughing?” he asked softly.

Wei Wuxian was holding onto his injured stomach.  “Nothing,” he whispered.  “Just… something funny.  When everyone admired my power and wanted to flatter me, you’re the only one who scolded me.”

He loved you, wanted to protect you, Yibo thought.  He thought he was doing what was right.  He thought he was the only one that could lead you back to a good path.

“But right now,” Wei Wuxian continued in that dull whisper, “When everyone wants me to die, and hates me…”  He looked up into Wanji’s eyes, and they gazed at each other, striving for understanding.  “You’re the only one standing by me.”  He then started to cough, and Wanji watched him in abject fear as the one he loved coughed up blood on the ground.

The spell between them was broken when the cameras stopped rolling.  They both sat there together a few moments longer, looking in each other’s eyes and letting the rain fall over them.  

Xiao Zhan picked at his hair.  “I look horrible in this scene,” he grumbled.

Yibo was gazing at him fondly.  

As everyone told him he looked good, Xiao Zhan said, “You guys always lie to me.”

“Xiao-laoshi is so handsome even without makeup!” Yibo called out at once.

Xiao Zhan turned to look at him, an incredulous look on his face, but Yibo was smiling down at him fondly.  He then smirked, their eyes never parting.  

Xiao Zhan gave him a thumbs up, making Yibo finally look away.  

They replayed the scene again, and this time Yibo didn’t get out of character right away.  He was sitting there, his eyes on Xiao Zhan, unable to tear his eyes away.

“What are you thinking about?” Xiao Zhan asked Yibo, looking up.

Yibo’s eyes were full of complicated emotion as he looked down at Xiao Zhan.  “I’m thinking about what it feels like to love someone enough to not care if you have to risk everything, to give everything up to be with them,” he whispered.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes widened.  They looked at each other, some undefinable understanding passing between them.

I think I would do it,  Yibo thought as he looked at Xiao Zhan.  I’d be willing to give up everything.  If I could have you.

Xiao Zhan smiled, and the moment passed.  “Ah Yibo Yibo, I had no idea you were such a romantic.”

Yibo frowned at him.

Xiao Zhan then poked a finger at Yibo’s mostly dry forehead.  “So unfair.  Your headgear prevented the rain from falling on your face.  I look like a mess but you look perfect, still.”


———

When they had a break for lunch, Yibo was surprised when Xiao Zhan pulled him aside.  They sat down inside, and Xiao Zhan pointed to a camp chair, saying, "Sit!" imperiously.

Yibo sat.  He shook his leg, whistled a tune, then when he got bored he took out his phone and started googling motorcycles again.  What is he doing?

Xiao Zhan finally returned, two bowls of food dished out.  He looked a little sheepish, then handed it over.  "Here."

Yibo took it wordlessly, then dug in with his chopsticks.  When he took a few bites, his eyebrows shot up.  "Oh God this is really good.  Hey, this is much better than the crap they've been ordering recently.  I wonder where it came from?" Yibo commented idly.

"I made it," Xiao Zhan said, rubbing the side of his nose nervously.

Yibo goggled at him, mouth wide open.  "You made  it?  You're such a good cook?"

Xiao Zhan shrugged, smiling down at his food.  "I could be better.  But I love cooking.  I wanted to cook yesterday but I made too much food, so I brought some for you."

"Wow," Yibo said, nodding his head.  "I'm impressed.  I'm such a bad cook.  I can make ramen and sandwiches, that's about it."  

Xiao Zhan got a warm feeling as he watched Yibo eat happily, a smile on his face the whole time.

One day I'll cook for you in my home.  You'll curl up on the sofa with Jian Guo while I putter about the kitchen.  I'll make it happen.

———

Xiao Zhan spent hours on set filming before Yibo that night.  He was soaked through, as they did take after take of Wei Wuxian with Wen Qing, searching the corpses for Wen Ning, finding the cultivators.  

This is what it feels like to be a drowned cat,  Xiao Zhan thought in disgust.

But he had to admit, the scene was going to look absolutely stunning.

In between takes, he walked up to Yibo who was waiting under shelter for his turn.  “It’s gonna be payback time soon,” Xiao Zhan said with a grin, hands on his hips.  “I can’t wait to see the impeccable Lan Wangji soaking wet.”

“Yibo,” Director Zheng called out, walking over.  He handed him an umbrella.

“Wait— Wait— Yibo gets an umbrella?” Xiao Zhan screeched, pointing.

Director Zheng threw him a smile.  “Lan Wangji wouldn’t get wet.”

Yibo opened the umbrella, admiring the beautiful workmanship.  It was a wooden umbrella, white waxed paper with a pattern in grey clouds painted on it.  He then smirked over at Xiao Zhan.

“This is so unfair,” Xiao Zhan grumbled, still soaked through.

Yibo just shrugged.  He stood up and walked around, swinging the umbrella like a sword.  

Xiao Zhan came over to him, and the two of them stood together, looking at each other as someone fixed Yibo’s hair.  Yibo started to grin, then let out his little gremlin laugh.

“You—!” Xiao Zhan growled, lunging forward.

Yibo raised his umbrella, and Xiao Zhan and Yibo had a little mock battle, umbrella vs. flute.  Then Xiao Zhan gave up, huffing out a breath and walking away.

Xiao Zhan had to admit, though, as he watched Yibo from the sidelines as he filmed his first scene, walking in with that umbrella held above his head, he looked stunning.  I wish I could paint him like this,  Xiao Zhan mused.  The umbrella kept the majority of his clothes dry, only the bottom of his robes started to absorb water.  He looked clean, angelic.  

There was something charged in the air when they filmed their scene together.  A magnetic energy between them.  

Yibo stood there on the ground, looking up at him, a hopeless look on his face.  Xiao Zhan looked down at him from where he sat on the horse, his eyes conflicted, desperate.

The whole set was silent, poised at the energy between the two of them.

He’s so beautiful,  Xiao Zhan thought.  If I was really Wei Wuxian, I would be so conflicted.  I would not want to leave him.

Lan Wangji’s voice was soft, almost a whisper as he begged him to think again about his choices.

Wei Wuxian’s voice was soft at first, too, as they started to speak.  Then it rose in conflict as he defended his position.

Both of them had unshed tears in their eyes as they looked at each other.  Xiao Zhan was impressed that Yibo was able to reflect that emotion in his eyes.  He was practically glowing in the stage lights, his body elegant as he stood straight up, the umbrella unwavering even though he’d held it like that for over an hour already.

They became Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian as they stood there, eyes locked.  Rain splattering on Wangji’s hand, on Bichen.  Rain sneaking under Wei Wuxian’s hat to touch his face.  No matter how many takes they had to do, or how much Xiao Zhan’s horse was restless underneath him, they kept that energy level taut between them.

Xiao Zhan felt tears falling from his eyes as he lived that feeling.  Hopeless, determined, resolute.  He had to do what was right.  And Yibo was looking up at him like his soul was being destroyed.

“If I finally have to fight with them… I’d prefer to fight with you,” Wei Wuxian said, arm held out, holding Chenqing steady in the air.  Tears rolled silently down his cheeks.  

Lan Wanji looked up at him, and a complete understanding was conveyed between them.  Lan Wanji understood Wei Wuxian better than anyone had in his life, up to that point and after.  And he loved him.  He let that love for him shine through his eyes, because though he wanted them to be together, at that moment Lan Wangji couldn’t see how he could make it happen and respect Wei Wuxian’s decisions at the same time.  That conflict was bare, naked on his face.

“If I am doomed to death,” Wei Wuxian whispered, “At least, let it be done by Hanguang Jun.  That would be worth it,” he said with a sad smile.

Lan Wangji stood there, his hand gripping Bichen tightly, mouth slightly open.  His mouth then slowly closed, their eyes locked in an embrace.  As they stood there staring at each other, the rain falling down around them, Xiao Zhan and Yibo forgot all about cameras and lights and sets.  They forgot there was anyone there at all.  The moment took them over completely, and later on that would show on screen.

Lan Wangji slowly lowered his eyes, his mouth opening as he tried to breathe through his emotions.  His foot started to move, slowly, reluctantly, his mouth pursed in a light frown as he slowly turned his body to the side.

Wei Wuxian felt his heart breaking in that moment, and felt Lan Wangji’s despair, too.

Wei Wuxian gradually lowered his arm, then yelled, kicking his horse with his feet.

As they rode past Lan Wangji, he stood there, looking so incredibly alone in the world.  His gaze lowered, he stood there, his face gradually turning to look longingly in the direction Wei Wuxian had taken.

They caught that emotion in Yibo’s eyes as he stood there, tears slowly gathering.  The rain falling like a curtain around him.  A tear slid down his cheek, his eyes completely lost.  Somehow along the way, Lan Wangji had forgotten how to live without the one he loved beside him.

Xiao Zhan hadn’t been able to leave the set after he finished filming.  The crew had given him extra blankets to warm up, which he had wrapped around his shoulders.  He stood there on the side, watching as Yibo slowly fell apart on camera.  He couldn’t believe the tears at first.  Xiao Zhan was the one who had tear ducts that engaged on command.  What is Yibo thinking about, to be moved so completely?

He looked so cold and alone standing there in the rain in his thin robes.  They adjusted the camera to get a top-down angle, then Yibo slowly lowered the umbrella, letting it drop to the ground.

You’re not alone, Xiao Zhan whispered in his mind, his heart throbbing in his chest.  

Yibo slowly turned his face up to the sky, letting the rain wash away his tears.  He blinked up into the rain, then let his eyes drop closed, the rain caressing his cheeks like a balm to his soul.  He let the umbrella go, and it fell to the ground.  Yibo stood there a long time, his face tilted up at the sky, rain running down his face.  He stood there even after the director called “Cut!”  He seemed to be lost in his thoughts.

He stood there with his face tilted up as a crew member retrieved the umbrella.  Another person came to gently pry Bichen out of his hands.  He stood there as people started to bustle about, checking the shot to see if it looked good.  He stood there until Xiao Zhan slowly walked up to him and slid his hand into his.

“Wang Yibo,” he whispered.

Yibo’s fingers slid against his, but he didn’t open his eyes right away.  

“What are you thinking about?” Xiao Zhan murmured.

Yibo finally opened his eyes, slowly tilting his head back down.  He turned his eyes to look at Xiao Zhan, and something deep and dark was behind them.  He still had tears in his eyes.  “I…” he started, but had to clear his throat once before he could get the words out.  “I’m feeling what it feels like to be alone.”

Xiao Zhan knew Yibo didn’t like being alone.  Though he appeared cold and aloof, in reality he liked to be surrounded by people.  He’d spoken about it on camera in the past.

Xiao Zhan gripped those long, lean fingers, giving them a squeeze.  “You’re not alone,” he whispered.

Yibo just gazed at him, looking just as lost as Lan Wangji had a moment ago.  “Aren’t I?”

Xiao Zhan looked into his eyes, shocked when he saw tears still gathered there.  As he watched, a tear streaked down his face, hidden by the rain.

Xiao Zhan reached up with a trembling hand and stroked his thumb underneath Yibo’s eye.  He wanted so much to tell him he wasn’t alone… but he couldn’t.  I can’t be what you need me to be, he thought sadly.  I’m not brave enough.  Not as brave as you.

Yibo closed his eyes, bowing his head.  He arched his face into Xiao Zhan’s hand for the briefest of moments, then he slipped his hand out of his and pulled away.

Xiao Zhan watched Yibo as he walked off, alone.  Then it was him standing there in the rain desperate to find a way to close the distance between them. 

Chapter Text

August 2018

 

It was August 4th. 2018. 

In a few hours, Yibo would turn 21. Still another year before he could legally marry according to Chinese law, but who was he kidding? He wasn’t getting married. Ever. Gay marriage wasn’t legalized in China, and he sure as shit wasn’t going to be marrying a girl just for appearances’ sake. He could enter into a relationship with another man where he could declare himself that person’s legal guardian, and vice versa, but that was as far as law allowed.

At least it wasn’t criminalized anymore, not since 1997. Which was pretty recent compared to a lot of places. But if he was out, he could never adopt children. There was no protection for him against discrimination.

And Xiao Zhan wasn’t interested in being with him, not that way. For some reason, today, that was hitting Yibo in the feels.

Yibo ran his mind through all the things he’d done that seemed so obviously gay to him, not the least of which was being a supermodel spokesperson for Shu Uemura makeup. 

Even though it was risky, even though it could cost him his career, on some days Yibo thought maybe if he came out he could make a difference, make some change. But not yet. He didn’t have enough clout yet. At this stage in his career, with so few years under his belt, if they decided to blacklist him he’d just disappear from the news media in a year or two and everyone would forget about him.

He’d followed other celebrities around the world who had come out. Of course in the West there were examples of success stories, his favourite of which was Neil Patrick Harris who was now not only married but with kids. But in Asia, he thought about people like Hong Suk Chan, the first openly gay celebrity from Korea. After coming out, he’d been banned from major TV roles. Now he was a restauranteur. 

There were some success stories, mainly in Thailand, in Taiwan, even in Kong Kong, and in the Philippines. But in China, Korea? The places that had made him famous? There were tons of idols he knew were gay, but out of the sea of faces there was only one that he knew was openly out - Holland from Korea. Yibo had never met him, but they were the same age, and Holland had released a song called Neverland that had over 15 Million views. Holland not only came out as gay, in that music video there was a scene where he made out with a man on a bed. There was no ambiguity like there was in the way they were filming The Untamed.

Maybe he could be China’s Holland.

He scoffed to himself internally. China was different. The media was so tightly controlled by the government, it wasn’t the same as Korea. They’d never let his videos see the light of day. He’d just disappear. 

Plus, if he came out, chances were he couldn’t see Xiao Zhan again. If he came out and the world knew they were friends, and how close they were, they could get the wrong idea. He could drag Xiao Zhan down with him just by association.

All these thoughts were buzzing around in his brain, because when he asked himself, What do I really want for my birthday? There was only one answer. Xiao Zhan.

Yibo comforted himself by just reminding himself how hard he’d worked for his career since a young age, and taking some happiness in his accomplishments. Whether it was dancing, acting, skateboard, motorcycling - he had a lot of success. That was enough. He could just keep throwing himself into his work until the world changed around him enough for him to be in public who he was on the inside.

His bandmates from Uniq were all texting him throughout the day on their groupchat, making fun of the baby of the group getting older. Yibo tolerated it with a fond smile, admitting to himself that watching them banter back and forth actually made him feel better. His brothers still remembered him on this day, even though he hadn’t seen them all together in a while. 

They were filming back in Cloud Recesses that night. It felt like full circle, seeing Xiao Zhan in his white visiting disciple uniform. He, himself, was dressed as the young Lan Wangji, his hair not as high on his head, pieces falling down by the sides of his face.

He had to admit that he was a little distracted all day, but it was actually okay, it added to his air of aloofness that was the main character of Wangji at this time. He channelled all his brooding in the deep looks that he gave Wei Wuxian.

As it came closer to midnight, Yibo started getting messages from his parents. He sat there on the phone on the side of the set, recording voice messages and sending them off. He hated calling his parents, he always felt both grateful to them and guilty that he had left home at such a young age, so he found talking with them to be a bit awkward. He hoped that one day as an adult he’d find a way to come to peace with his relationship with them, that he’d go and visit them more often, but with his current lifestyle it just didn’t happen that much.

“Lan Zhan Happy Birthday,” Xiao Zhan said to him as he sat next to him, listening to him send off those messages.

Yibo couldn’t reply, he was back on the phone again, listening to another message from his parents. He blinked his eyes, keeping his emotions in check.

“Giving Wang Yibo a happy birthday,” Xiao Zhan muttered to himself as someone fussed with his hair. He messed around on his phone, mumbling, “Wang Yibo Happy Birthday Wang Yibo. Wang Yibo is now 21 years old. 21 years. Wang Yibo.” After a beat, “Wang Yibo!” he said louder, pouting. He was not used to being ignored.

Yibo was only half-hearing Xiao Zhan as he was muttering to himself, his whole concentration on another voice message that he was recording to send back to his parents. 

———

Yibo’s been down all day. He didn’t even make a happy face when I offered to take a selfie with him, just the two of us. I just want to cheer him up, but how can I do that when he’s ignoring me? I know I have no right to be annoyed at him for ignoring me, it’s his birthday after all… but! 

Xiao Zhan found a grasshopper on the ground.

Aha~! Score. This’ll do the trick.

Xiao Zhan grabbed the grasshopper, then slowly inched his way closer to Yibo who was still on the phone. When he got super close to him, he nudged him on the shoulder, and was rewarded by Yibo arching an elegant eyebrow and looking over at him.

“I have a present for you, didi,” Xiao Zhan announced.

“You do?” Yibo asked, surprised and hopeful all at once.

Xiao Zhan opened his hands, showing him the grasshopper.

Yibo shrieked, like properly shrieked, then shot to his feet and stalked off. “Don’t,” he said angrily as Xiao Zhan chased after him, the crew looking on in shock and amusement.

“Wang Yibo~~!” Xiao Zhan called out, chasing after him. Ever elegant, Lan Zhan didn’t run. He just walked. Very fast.

“Oh my god,” a crew member said when she saw the huge bug in Xiao Zhan’s hand, covering her face and running away.

“Don’t come near me,” Yibo threatened him, pointing a finger back at him.

“Do you want to eat this thing?” Xiao Zhan asked him, teasing as he continued to follow him around the set. “Do you want to eat it? Wang Yibo, look!”

Lan Wangji’s robes were streaming gracefully behind Yibo as he stalked off, feet moving quickly underneath him.

“Do you want to eat it?” Xiao Zhan repeated. “Wang Yibo!” he shouted. “Happy Birthday Wang Yibo!”

Yibo climbed up on a wooden platform, scrambling in his haste to get away.

“Wang Yibo! Do you want to eat it???” Xiao Zhan shouted. “Do you want to eat it?”

Yibo held up a hand as he stalked away, as though that would keep Xiao Zhan away from him.

“Don’t come!” Yibo shouted as he nearly tripped and fell down the stairs on the other side of the wooden platform.

Xiao Zhan smiled. I don’t think I’ve ever heard his raised voice before. He’s so cute when he’s scared! And angry! What a great combo!!

Xiao Zhan started laughing merrily, chasing Yibo all the way behind some trees. 

Yibo then gave up all pretence and actually started properly running, trying his best to get away, but Xiao Zhan matched his pace, running after him. He lost Yibo when he took a hard left, darting through the trees and out of sight.

Xiao Zhan laughed happily, turning around to try to cut him off at the pass, showing the bug to the crew member who was trailing after him with the camera. 

“This thing is really cute!” Xiao Zhan called out to the empty air.

He then turned and spotted Yibo standing behind him, hiding between two sets of trees.

“Don’t come over,” Yibo threatened him, finger pointing.

Xiao Zhan laughed, then tossed the bug away. He turned and showed Yibo his empty hands, then turned to the camera man and said, “Show’s over, you can run along now.”

After the cameraman left, Xiao Zhan walked slowly up to Yibo.

Yibo backed away, hiding behind the tree.

“Wang Yibo, I threw the bug away. I showed my empty hands.”

“You might have another,” he said in a little voice, eyes peeking out carefully from behind the tree.

Xiao Zhan made a show of his empty hands, then patted down his body all over. “Where would I be stashing another? Huh? Wang Yibo?”

“Don’t know,” Yibo said sullenly. “Don’t come here.”

“But Yibo, I have another present for you,” Xiao Zhan said sweetly. “I can’t give it to you if I can’t come closer.”

“I don’t see any presents on you,” he mumbled.

Xiao Zhan made his way around the tree, finding Yibo standing there, his hands in front of him as though ready to fend him off. Xiao Zhan held out his arms at right angles, turning in a slow circle. “See? Nothing to be afraid of, right?”

Yibo was peering at him, looking him up and down. “If you have another bug in there somewhere, or a snake, or a ghost, then I’ll really kill you. Like I’ll really never talk to you again. Ever.”

“Yibo~!” Xiao Zhan sang, sticking out his bottom lip in a pout. “I don’t have anything scary on me.”

Yibo slowly dropped his hands. “Give me your present from over there, then,” he declared.

“I can’t,” Xiao Zhan whined. “I need to get closer to give it to you.”

“How close?” he asked, eyes narrowing.

“Close,” Xiao Zhan said with a nod, slow-blinking at him. 

Yibo looked him up and down again, then made him open his hands again to show they were empty. He finally nodded. “Okay.”

Xiao Zhan walked up to him, then slowly reached up and took Yibo’s hand in his. His hands are so big, Xiao Zhan thought as he laced their fingers together. He tugged Yibo further behind the tree, hiding him from sight of any cast or crew. 

“What are you doing?” Yibo asked softly, looking in his eyes.

“I’m giving you your present,” Xiao Zhan said with a little smile. He squeezed his hand. 

“What, holding your hand? That’s your present?” Yibo asked doubtfully.

Xiao Zhan nodded. “Mmhmm.”

Yibo looked down at their joined hands, then something in his face softened, some tension that he’d been holding all day just bled away. He let out a deep sigh.

Xiao Zhan rubbed his thumb along the back of Yibo’s hand. “Okay there?”

Yibo nodded, looking down at the ground.

“Okay listen, I’m going to give you another present,” Xiao Zhan announced in a murmur.

Yibo flicked his eyes up to look at him, and their eyes met for one charged moment. Then Xiao Zhan let go of Yibo’s hand. He then raised both of his hands, sliding them over Yibo’s shoulders as he leaned in and gave him a hug.

They’d never hugged before. Not for real. Not like this.

Xiao Zhan could feel how hard and fast Yibo’s heart was beating, their chests pressed together with only the thin fabric of their robes separating them. Yibo paused at first, his hands hovering like he didn’t know what to do with them, but then he slowly slid them around Xiao Zhan’s waist, then closed his arms around his back. 

Xiao Zhan squeezed Yibo as hard as he could, wanting to see if he could get any bones to pop. Yibo let out a little gasp, then his arms tightened just as hard around Xiao Zhan. He tucked his head into Xiao Zhan’s neck, hiding his face.

“That’s a good boy, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan cooed. “That’s it. You needed a hug today, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Yibo whispered. “I needed a hug… from you.”

They stood there like that, swaying together, for what seemed like forever. Then Xiao Zhan pulled away enough to look in Yibo’s eyes. He saw there were unshed tears there, again. 

Why are you so sad, Yibo? Why do you look so lost? Why do you cling to me so hard?

There was a complicated expression on Yibo’s face as they looked at each other. Xiao Zhan reached up his hands, and with his thumbs he gently pressed Yibo’s beautiful eyes closed, shutting away those tears before they could fall.

“Do I get one more present?” Yibo asked in a whisper.

“Yes,” Xiao Zhan said, “But not here. There’s something waiting for you back with the others.”

“I want another present now,” Yibo sulked.

He wants me to kiss him,  Xiao Zhan knew. Right here, right now. And half of me is considering doing it, too.

“I don’t think another present for you here would be wise, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said gently.

“I don’t care,” Yibo declared.

Xiao Zhan sighed deeply. Yibo’s arms tightened around him, refusing to let him go.

“Keep your eyes closed,” Xiao Zhan ordered him.

“Okay,” Yibo whispered.

Xiao Zhan cupped Yibo’s face in his hands, his thumbs making circles in the soft skin of his cheeks. He couldn’t resist, just once, brushing his thumb across that delicious-looking mouth. Yibo gasped, his mouth opening a little.

Xiao Zhan then tugged Yibo’s head to the side. He leaned in close, and like the touch of a butterfly’s wings, he gently, gently pressed his mouth to Yibo’s cheek, his mouth just grazing the edge of Yibo’s ever-so-slightly. He found himself drawing out the moment, memorizing the feel of that soft skin beneath his lips. I want more, Xiao Zhan realized, shuddering.

Yibo was shuddering too, his eyes falling open, and Xiao Zhan jerked his head back. Yibo turned his face like he was going to kiss him on the lips, but Xiao Zhan laughed and pushed on his chest, making Yibo release him.

“I think that’s enough presents for right now,” he said, breathless.

Yibo stood there, back against the tree, breathless and flushed. He looked all dishevelled, his mouth open and wet, inviting. 

God I want to kiss him, Xiao Zhan thought, his eyes dropping to look at that mouth.

When he looked back up at his eyes, he saw Yibo was looking at his mouth, too, his gaze intense.

“Come on,” Xiao Zhan said, tugging on his arm. “We’ve got to get back. It’s almost midnight. The staff are waiting for us.”

“Okay,” Yibo said grudgingly.

———

This birthday has to be the best birthday I’ve ever had, Yibo thought to himself as he dutifully followed Xiao Zhan back to the group. Well, minus the chasing me around with bugs. Except, chasing me around with bugs led to hugging, so I guess that’s worth it.

Yibo started smiling to himself. And he kissed me! Well, not properly. But it was still a kiss! Guys don’t just kiss other guys. It has to mean something. Doesn’t it? It means something. I’m not in this alone. Whatever this is, he feels it too. He just doesn’t know if he wants to do anything about it. Oh my fucking god I think I’m going to melt!!

“Xiao Zhan,” Yibo said as they got closer to the others.

Xiao Zhan ignored him, humming happily as he walked.

“Xiao Zhan,” he said more urgently.

“Hmm?” 

“What are you planning? I don’t want to make a big deal out of this,” Yibo said nervously.

“Oh, nothing much,” Xiao Zhan said with a merry little grin. When he got back he stole an iPad from someone, checking out the exact time. He sat there for a minute whiling way the time, then he whooped and said, “Okay, time to count down. 10! 9!”

Oh God he’s counting down the seconds until my birthday!  Yibo was pleased and annoyed at the attention all at the same time. He was so brimming full of energy, he didn’t know what to do with himself, so he started hitting Xiao Zhan with the long sleeves of his outfit.

“8! 7!”

Slap!

“6! 5!”

Slap! 

Some of the staff had noise-makers that they were shaking, making clicking noises all around them.

“4! 3! 2! 1! WANG YIBO HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!” Xiao Zhan yelled at the top of his lungs.

Slap! Slap! 

Xiao Zhan shrieked, losing his balance and falling backwards. 

Yibo just stood there, embarrassed smile on his face, then started clapping along with everyone else when they started cheering and clapping for him.

Xiao Zhan!

Yibo stood there awkwardly, looking down at Xiao Zhan, feeling all bubbly inside. “I really wish I had some cake right now,” he commented.

“It’s been arranged, it’s been arranged,” a staff member told him.

“It’s been arranged,” Xiao Zhan confirmed.

Yibo got a touched look on his face, then gave a deep, formal bow to Xiao Zhan, Lan Wangji’s robes flying dramatically together.

It didn’t end there. They pulled him aside, where someone handed him a huge bouquet of white roses. 21 white roses, to be exact. He gazed over at Xiao Zhan where he was lounging, watching Yibo clap along to the birthday song. Did Xiao Zhan buy these for me?  They had brought out an enormous cake, all the staff gathering around to clap and sing. At least he could hold the roses up to block his face at the end of the song, hiding that expression he knew was plastered all over it since he couldn’t look away from Xiao Zhan.

Oh God I feel so happy.

“He’s so sleepy, he can’t even smile,” someone commented off to the side.

He handed the roses off to a crew member as someone lit the candles on the cake. He then pressed his hands together, praying with genuine intensity.

Dear Whoever-is-listening. Please let the Untamed be a big success. Please let me and Xiao Zhan stay friends forever. Please let me feel this happy at least once more in my lifetime. And please find a way to remake the world so that one day I can stand on stage with Xiao Zhan by my side as my partner. The end. Oh, wait, and let me win a motorcycle race. And become a great skateboarder. And I’d like to build more lego cars this year. Okay that’s really it. Oh, wait, and let me release a good single and do some really great dancing. Okay that’s really really it. Thanks.

He then blew out the candles and everyone around him cheered.

Yibo smiled, self-satisfied. “Where’s Bichen?” he asked, straightening up.

“You’re gonna cut the cake with Bichen?!” a crew member goggled at him.

Yibo smiled wide enough to break his face, looking over at Xiao Zhan.

“Are you for real?” another person asked.

I was for real, Yibo was thinking, But it looks like you won’t let me. Shit that would have been memorable.

They then presented him with some gifts. From the Producer, he received a motorcycle outfit. From Xiao Zhan, a motorcycle helmet. Haikuan, who played his brother Lan Xichen, gave him a toy model from DC comics. 

As he opened the gifts, Wang Yibo felt really happy, like the cast and crew were his family for the evening. He looked up, looking around to find Xiao Zhan, but he was sitting all the way on the other side of the square, the staff applying the alcohol to loosen his wig.

“Zhan-ge, thanks for the helmet!” Yibo called out to him, waving.

Xiao Zhan shrugged, giving him the sweetest, most genuine smile he thought he’d ever received from the other man. “No need for thanks, as long as you’re happy! Yibo-ge.” he said sweetly back to him.

I’m happy. I’m so happy.

“Zhan-ge thank you for the helmet!” Yibo called out again.

“No need for thanks, Lao Wang,” Xiao Zhan said, smiling. “Lao Wang.”

He’s saying Lan Wangji’s words to me, Yibo thought, feeling deeply touched. No need for thanks between us. We’re too close for that.

“Thank you, Lao XIAO!” Yibo yelled.

“LAO WANG!” Xiao Zhan yelled back.

“Lao Xiao,” Yibo said more softly, changing back into his regular clothes. Shorts and a track jacket.

“LAO WANG!” Xiao Zhan yelled again.

“Lao Xiao,” Yibo said back playfully.

“Lao Wang,” Xiao Zhan said, softly.

———

When they got back to the boarding house, there were huge “Happy Birthday!” signs pinned up on the wall, streamers dangling from the ceiling. And a ton of alcohol laid out on the counter. There was beer and baiju, and a lot of it.

The common room was packed, everyone in attendance. All the cast were there, plus Director Zheng, Producer Yang Xia, and some of the crew.

There were a ton of snacks laid out on platters, and after they got Yibo a beer and cheered him, singing him happy birthday again, they all stood around and chatted, ate, and drank.

Yibo ran upstairs to change, not wanting to party in his dirty clothes with goop still in his hair. He took a five minute shower then changed into his favourite pair of tight black and red track pants and a clean black hoodie. He didn’t bother putting a shirt on under the hoodie. The hoodie was really soft on the inside and he wanted the feel of it against his skin.

Yibo was feeling a little melancholy again when he made his way back downstairs 15 minutes later. They would be wrapping their shoot in just over three weeks' time. In a way, this was a birthday party, but in a way it was also a pre-farewell party. 

Director Zheng came to talk to him, giving his shoulder a little squeeze and smiling. “Yibo Happy Birthday. I’m so happy to have met you, you’ve done such a great job this year,” he said genuinely.

Yibo ducked his head, smiling shyly. “Thank you, Director Zheng.”

“I’d be really happy to work with you again. You’re so earnest and you try so hard. And you had such great chemistry with Xiao Zhan. I hope we have another chance to collaborate in the future!”

Yibo nodded, then they drank together.

Since Yibo wasn’t a big talker, he didn’t know what to say after that, but Director Zheng seemed to understand. He just clapped Yibo on the shoulder again and wandered off to chat with Xiao Zhan.

Producer Yang Xia also came over to talk to him. “Wow, Yibo. It’s hard to believe you’re only 21! You always seem so much older than the other guys,” referring to the actors the same age as him - Jin Ling’s actor Qi Peixin, Xiao Xingcheng’s actor Song Jiyang, Jiang Cheng’s actor Wang Zhuocheng were also his age. Yu Bin was actually the same age as Xiao Zhan, though Yibo often forgot that.

“You think I act old?” Yibo asked, surprised. With his antics on set, he would have assumed the opposite. 

She nodded, smiling warmly at him. “You’re very mature, you take your work very seriously. You’re heartfelt and kind. Yeah, you like to goof off on set, but only between takes. When the camera’s rolling, you’re always serious.”

Yibo bowed his head.

“I don’t know how you’ve kept this up, frankly, with that schedule of yours. Filming the Untamed, Produce 101, and Day Day Up all at the same time? It’s impressive, Yibo. I’m really proud of you.”

“I did have that one day I fainted on set,” Yibo said shyly, scratching his cheek.

She reached out and gave his forearm a brief squeeze. “It’s okay, Yibo, we’re not asking you to be perfect. You did great.”

Yibo nodded again, smiling a little at her. “Thank you.”

Before he could politely extract himself, Yu Bin came over and pulled on Yibo’s arm. “Come on, Birthday Boy! We’re about to get this party started!”

Someone then cranked up the volume on some dance music, and Yu Bin pulled Yibo into a dance battle, right there in the living room. Never one to say no to a dance battle, Yibo got a big smile on his face.

Yu Bin was actually a pretty good dancer, too, trained in hip hop style like him. People hastily dragged furniture off to the side of the room to give them space, and next thing you know they were trading back and forth, dancing in turn as everyone gathered around them, whooping and hollering.

Yibo could see Xiao Zhan out of the corner of his eye, propped up against the wall, sipping on a beer as he watched him. He had changed and showered, too, and was wearing a soft-looking grey knit sweater and tight blue jeans with holes in the knees that made Yibo’s mouth water. It made Yibo want to dance ever better.

Yibo broke into his classic moves, wiggling his hips from side to side, gyrating his body. He did some popping and locking. Started out with the easy stuff, but his body still moved like magic, at ease, in control, smooth, and totally in sync with the music. He could feel his hoodie riding up as he danced, exposing the smooth planes of his stomach to the air. But he didn’t care, knowing that he looked good.

He then traded with Yu Bin, who had a more fluid style, his hips moving and arms waving in the air. He then got on his hands on the ground and humped the floor suggestively, making everyone start to whoop.

When Yibo traded back in again, not one to be outdone, he started to take this seriously. He got down to his knees, undulating from side to side as he spun on his knees and popped back to his feet again, rolling his chest and snapping his arms. He spread his knees and got low, his arms snapping from side to side as his body moved with the beat. He then did his classic EOEO move, undulating his stomach smoothly then sliding to his knees and rolling his hips like he was fucking the air. He lifted his sweatshirt, showing off his tight abs as he leaned forward on one hand and fucked the floor. He slid smoothly back to his feet, breathless as he flipped his hoodie back down to cover his stomach. He then tapped Yu Bin back in. He glanced over to see Xiao Zhan watching him, his eyes smoldering. Yibo’s heart flopped over in his chest.

Yu Bin didn’t have the moves that Yibo did on the floor, but he did have really good rhythm, and his hips had a lot of control, swaying from side to side. He spun in a circle, dropped to his knees and arched his back, then snapped back to his feet. He moved his hips to the music, his feet whirling as he moved from side to side. He tapped Yibo back in with a smile.

Yibo was happy they had moved the furniture, because it had given him enough space to do his signature move, jumping in the air, twisting his body, then landing on his chest and rolling his body on the floor. When he got back to his feet he did a breakdance on his hands, spinning on his shoulder then leaning back on his heels and finally popping back in the air. He then fell back, sliding onto the floor and pumping his hips in the air. He rolled onto his stomach, then got on his hands and knees and slid his whole body on the floor, snapping back to his feet. He went airborne again, jumping up and twisting around and sliding his body on the ground one more time.

When he got back to his feet again, everyone was cheering. He glanced to where Xiao Zhan was standing and saw the older man standing there, his mouth open, just staring at him. When Yibo winked at him, Xiao Zhan shut his mouth with a snap and swallowed heavily, dragging his eyes away from Yibo’s forcefully.

If that didn’t turn him on then I don’t know what could,  Yibo thought to himself, a self-satisfied smile on his face.

“Can you top that?” Yibo asked Yu Bin.

“Just a sec,” Yu Bin said, a gleam in his eye, then he ran over and switched the music. The next thing you know, Yibo heard nothing other than the Seaweed Dance! The one he’d taught the girls to do at Produce 101.

Yibo started clapping when Yu Bin started doing it, looking so adorable, making cute faces. He then joined in, doing the moves with him as they danced side by side, laughing. Yibo taught Yu Bin his signature addition to the seaweed dance, a move where he jumped on one foot, pumping the air with his hand and kicked out with the other leg.

Someone then put on the theme song for Day Day Up, and Yibo grinned, calling everyone over.  He taught the whole cast and crew the simple dance, until they were all doing it together, dancing and laughing.  

By the time they finished dancing, Yu Bin and Yibo were both laughing and sweating. Yu Bin clapped Yibo on the shoulder, then spread his arm and announced to the room, “Dance King of Asia!”

Yibo grinned, then did the formal Lan Wangji bow. He went to the kitchen and got himself a beer, downing it almost in one go. When he glanced over at Xiao Zhan he found him still standing against that wall, watching him from across the room as he drank. Don’t look away, Xiao Zhan, Yibo thought fondly. See how good my neck looks when I drink? He then tilted his head back, giving Xiao Zhan a good angle as he downed the rest of the beer and got himself another.

He sauntered over to Xiao Zhan, then leaned up against the wall next to him, catching his breath. “Was I good?” Yibo asked, tilting his head to look at him.

Xiao Zhan swallowed heavily, nodding. “Yeah, you were good. The best.”

Yibo propped his shoulder on the wall, crossing his arms over his chest and turning to lean in close. He put his face right next to Xiao Zhan’s ear then whispered, “Was it sexy?”

Xiao Zhan looked away, nodding.

“Mmmhmm,” Yibo said, pleased. He smacked his lips together then moved back to lean his whole back against the wall, tilting his head up and closing his eyes. When he caught his breath, he cracked his eyes open and found Xiao Zhan looking at him.

“Still sexy?” Yibo asked him.

Xiao Zhan nodded, seemingly having lost the ability to form human speech.

Yibo grinned, then reached out and ran a finger down the centre of Xiao Zhan’s chest before walking away.

As he walked back into the kitchen, various members of the cast and crew came up to talk to him, congratulating him on his good dancing. Most of them hadn’t seen him dance in person, having only seen him in his role as an actor. Having them see him in a different light actually made Yibo really happy, and he found himself smiling widely. 

The younger guys all got in a circle and pulled Yibo over to play some drinking games. They started out by playing dice, each one of them with a cup and five six-sided dice. In each round, they shook the dice in their cups, then went around the circle guessing at the sum inside. Then they called bu xing, “not possible,” when someone made a crazy guess. Depending on whether the person was right, either the one who called bu xing or the one with the guess had to drink.

They went straight to the Baiju for this game. After a few rounds, things started to get rowdy, Yu Bin standing on the couch and pointing over and Fanxing as he yelled “Bu xing!”  In that case, Yu Bin himself ended up having to drink.

As the night went on, the staff started to leave, so it was just the core cast now, the ones all living in the boarding house, sitting around playing games.

Xiao Zhan wandered over to join them, sitting next to Yibo. They ended up switching from dice to the finger guessing game, pairing off. Yibo of course got paired with Xiao Zhan, shouting up numbers as guesses as they held up a certain number of fingers and had to guess at the number correctly. Yibo always beat Xiao Zhan at these types of games, whether it was hand slapping, rock paper scissors, or finger guessing. Xiao Zhan was quickly behind by a few drinks so he tapped out, laughing when he started to go red in the face.

Yibo held up a hand, tapping out too. The others continued to drink as Yibo followed Xiao Zhan into the kitchen. 

“You haven’t eaten anything,” Xiao Zhan pointed out, leading him over to the food that was still scattered on the counter. He smiled sweetly at him as he made him up a plate.

Yibo took his from him, meeting his eyes and brushing his fingers against Xiao Zhan’s as he took the plate. “Thanks.”

They ate there by the counter, standing close enough for their hips to bump against each other, their backs to the others. “You should dance with me, Xiao Zhan.”

“You know I’m not a good dancer like you,” Xiao Zhan said nervously. “I can only dance choreographed moves.”

“I don’t believe that,” Yibo said. “You can dance at a club, right?”

“I don’t really go clubbing,” he said, giving him a side-eye.

Yibo turned and gave him a pouty face. “But it’s my birth-daaay,” he sang.

Xiao Zhan looked up at the ceiling. “This is a very bad idea.”

“But you’re going to do it, aren’t you?” Yibo said, then blinked rapidly at him, fluttering his eyelashes.

Xiao Zhan laughed, smiling that wide, genuine smile. “If you look at me like that, then yeah, I’ll do it. But only tonight. This is a once-a-year deal, birthdays only.”

“Ha!” Yibo shouted. He then went back to the stereo, cranking up the sound. He queued up some good dance music. He then went and grabbed Xiao Zhan’s hand, dragging him over to the little makeshift dance floor they’d cleared earlier. Xiao Zhan looked reluctant, but he let Yibo lead him there even with that scared look on his face.

Yibo kept holding his hand, just bopping up and down a little with the music until Xiao Zhan moved with him, an easy movement to follow. Xiao Zhan looked into his eyes, and Yibo couldn’t look away.

Yibo then deepened the moves, swaying his hips a little. Xiao Zhan imitated him, swaying his hips in response. He wasn’t as smooth as Yibo, but Yibo didn’t care. All he cared was that he was looking in Xiao Zhan’s eyes, their fingers still laced together. Yibo smiled wide enough to out shine the sun. Oh God I love him, Yibo thought to himself helplessly. 

Xiao Zhan then smiled back at him, who wouldn’t?

Yibo tugged him closer, sliding a hand on Xiao Zhan’s hip as he moved him where he wanted him, sliding them from side to side, up and down. Xiao Zhan mirrored his movements, his eyes going half-lidded. When Yibo pulled him close enough that their hips brushed together, he thought Xiao Zhan would stop him - but he didn’t.

They were in a safe place right now, the only ones around them their fellow castmates, who had seen the two flirting with each other for months. If anything, they were all cheering them on. They wouldn’t have been able to dance this way outside in the real world, but in here they were safe.

Yibo shimmied down, his hips shifting from side to side as he slid down Xiao Zhan’s body. Xiao Zhan froze, looking down at him, but Yibo just slid back up again, dragging his hands along the outsides of Xiao Zhan’s thighs, pressing on his hips to get him moving again. He then slid around him, so his front was pressed to Xiao Zhan’s back, guiding him so their hips moved in tandem, sliding back and forth with the beat of the music. 

Fuck he smells so good, Yibo thought to himself. 

The song changed from one to another, but they kept dancing, Yibo always touching Xiao Zhan somewhere, on the hip, on the arm. Xiao Zhan seemed to be loosening up, moving more freely, arching back so his back slid along Yibo’s chest. He had a faint sheen of sweat on his face.

Yibo slid his hand underneath that soft sweater, feeling a tight t-shirt on underneath there. 

“What are you doing?” Xiao Zhan asked him urgently.

“You’re sweating,” Yibo explained, now diving under that sweater with both hands. He slid his hands suggestively up the sides of Xiao Zhan’s body, sliding the sweater up. He slid his hands up, cupping Xiao Zhan’s arms to raise them up in the air so he could get that sweater off completely. They kept dancing, and Yibo tossed the sweater generally in the direction of the couch.

“Fuck it,” Xiao Zhan said all at once. He finally reached out behind him to touch Yibo, snagging the edge of Yibo’s pants to pull him in close. 

“Ah shit,” Yibo swore. His hips slotted up against Xiao Zhan’s ass, and they moved together as one, a little friction making him half-hard. He had to pull back before he embarrassed himself - these tight sweatpants didn’t leave much to the imagination - so he pulled back enough to remove that point of friction. 

“Yibo,” Xiao Zhan practically whined.

“Shut up,” Yibo growled, then grabbed Xiao Zhan’s hand. He spun him away, then danced in a circle around Xiao Zhan’s body, his joints popping as he paid homage to the man he loved. Xiao Zhan had his eyes half-closed, and was rubbing his hands down his chest, over his hips.

“Fuck,” Yibo swore, then he grabbed Xiao Zhan around the waist, pulling them flush together. He arched his hips against Xiao Zhan, doing that classic EOEO stomach roll, but now doing it against Xiao Zhan’s stomach.  Xiao Zhan was snapping his hips back, and they ground against each other, bodies siding from side to side as their hips knocked together.  Goddamn it that friction was back, and it was driving Yibo crazy.

Xiao Zhan slid his hand around Yibo’s waist, sliding it up the back of his hoodie.  He then snapped his eyes up to Yibo’s.  “You’re not wearing a shirt under here,” he said in a scandalized voice.

“No, I’m not,” Yibo confirmed, his eyes dark.  He slid his hand up the back of Xiao Zhan’s t-shirt in response.  “Does it matter?”

“Y-yes,” Xiao Zhan ground out.  

Yibo palmed his back, sliding his chest against Xiao Zhan’s.  He leaned in close, their chests pressed together, his cheek sliding against Xiao Zhan’s.  “You’re so hot,” Yibo said in his ear.

He felt Xiao Zhan shuddering, but still they moved together, their hands exploring each other’s backs under their shirts.

It may have been all the alcohol, but Yibo had literally completely forgotten by that point that there were other people in the room.  Like literally, legit, completely forgot.

It seems Xiao Zhan had forgotten too, because he said back, “You’re very sexy, Yibo, but this is a bad idea.”

“What’s a bad idea?” he asked, pulling back.  He danced further away from his body for a moment, moving his body in a way that had Xiao Zhan watching him longingly.  “We’re just dancing.”

“Are we?” Xiao Zhan asked him, his pupils blown, mouth open, a sheen of sweat on his skin.

Yibo stood back, his hips still dancing as he raised his sweatshirt up, fanning it away from his body, exposing his tight stomach to the air.  He had a sheen of sweat on his own body, and Yibo smiled, biting his bottom lip into his mouth when he saw Xiao Zhan’s eyes stray down for a look at his abs.

Fuck it, I’ll just take this off, Yibo thought to himself blearily, then started to pull the hoodie off all the way.

He had it up under his armpits, his whole chest exposed, when Yu Bin jumped over the back of the couch and came to clamp his arms over Yibo’s, shoving the sweater back down.  “Whoa, there, Lan Zhan.  There are children here!  Mind their eyes.”

Yibo looked around, realizing all the others were sitting there on the couch watching them, and he had nearly performed a strip show for them all.  “Oh.  Right.”  He then turned back to Yu Bin, his head spinning a little.  “Children?  They’re my age!”

“Fanxing is two years younger than you!” Yu Bin said, putting a hand to his chest in mock outrage.  “He’s barely legal!”

Yibo turned to face Fanxing, who played Lan Shizui, who was waving his hands at him from the couch, shaking his head.  “It’s okay Yibo!  It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.  Well, I mean, I haven’t seen your chest, but I’ve got my own!”

Yibo smiled at him, then held out a finger heart to him.  “A-Yuaaan!” he called out.  “Did you like my dancing?” he asked him, making a cute face.

Fanxing’s face was on fire, but he was bold when he said, “Is that what you call it?”

Yibo crossed his arms, pinching his chin between a finger and thumb, cocking his head and sticking out one hip.  “Why, what would you call it?”

“Foreplay?” Fanxing blurted out.

Yibo burst out laughing.  He laughed so loud he doubled over, clutching at his stomach.  “Don’t be silly, Fanxing, Xiao Zhan doesn’t like me like that.  Isn’t that right?  Zhan-ge?” he said, turning to look at Xiao Zhan.

Somehow in all the confusion, Xiao Zhan had put his sweater back on, and he was standing far away in the kitchen.  Yibo had to search for him with his eyes.  “Right Zhan-ge?”

Xiao Zhan crossed his arms over his chest, looking at him with a complicated look on his face.  “Aren’t you tired, Bo-di?  Don’t you think it’s time we turned in?”

Yibo yawned on command.  He nodded.  “It’s my birthday,” he told the room, sweeping an arm out.

“Yes, we know,” they all said in unison.

Yibo nodded, satisfied.  “Okay then.  I’ll go to bed.”  He then saluted the room.  “Farewell, friends.”

When Yibo stumbled, Xiao Zhan came over to take his arm, helping him over to the elevator.  He stopped in the kitchen along the way, snagging a water bottle out of the fridge.

In the elevator, Yibo leaned up against the wall, and Xiao Zhan stood as far away from possible on the other side.  On the fourth floor, Yibo got out first, weaving a little as he walked.  Xiao Zhan took his arm, helping him to make his way to his door.  When he was at his door, he turned to face Xiao Zhan.  “Birthday present!” he declared, then threw his arms around Xiao Zhan’s neck, hugging him tight.

“Yes yes, okay,” Xiao Zhan said softly, amused.  He hugged him back.  He then pushed him away, got Yibo’s door open, and pressed the water bottle into his hand.  “Drink it before sleeping, okay?”

“Okay,” Yibo agreed, nodding.  “Thanks.  Zhan-ge, didi ai ni,” he said brightly, then disappeared inside.  

Chapter Text

August 2018


They had taped a special segment in Day Day Up to commemorate Yibo’s birthday, and it aired on the day itself, August 5th.  To Yibo’s dismay, the entire cast gathered in the common room to watch the episode.  Yibo just about died from embarrassment as he folded himself into the corner of the couch the farthest away from the rest of them.  

Xiao Zhan came to sit beside him, close but not touching.  “Embarrassed?” he murmured to him.

“All my secrets gets exposed,” Yibo said, looking at him conspiratorially.

Xiao Zhan smiled back at him, clapping his hands together in eagerness.  “Oh, I can’t wait for this!”

Yibo covered his face with his hand, groaning and leaning into the arm of the couch.

Everyone was there.  Haikuan, who played his brother Lan Xichen, came to sit next to Xiao Zhan.  Zhuocheng, Fanxing, and Jiyang were piled onto another couch.  Then of course Yu Bin wasn’t one to be left out, sandwiched between Pei Xin who played Jingyi and Li Bowen, who played Song Lan.  Others pulled up chairs to hover nearby, including Ji Li who played Huaisang, Meng Ziyi who played Wen Qing, Wuan Lu who played Yanli, and Wang Haoxuan who played Xue Yang.  

“Are you guys sure you want to watch this?” Yibo asked still hiding in his arms.

“Yes!” they all called out in unison.

They cheered and clapped during the opening sequence, when the five brothers of Day Day Up walked Beatles-style in different outfits.  Then there were flashbacks of old Yibo episodes, including some dancing and stupid stuff they’d made him do over the years.

Yibo settled down, coming out from behind his arms, when they showed a couple motorcycle shots.  That part he liked.  Then his brothers rolled onto the stage on a scooter and a tiny motorcycle, dancing around with balloons.  They chatted a while then in came Yibo with some of his bandmates from Uniq, along with Cheng Xiao who was a friend and fellow member of Yuehua Entertainment.  They performed a dance routine to 911.  Yibo was wearing black and white loose plaid pants, a white t-shirt, and a pink vest.  He had fun dancing around the stage.  

“Oh wow, they brought your friends from Uniq to the show!” Fanxing called out, excited.

“Yeah,” Yibo said shyly.  

His friends all introduced themselves.  

“Hello everyone, I’m Cheng Xiao, Yibo’s junior apprentice,” she said, smiling at him and making Yibo smile shyly back.  

“Hello everyone, I’m Uniq’s leader, and our Wang Yibo’s gege,” he said, putting his arm around Yibo.   Yibo gave him a look, and he dropped his hand from his shoulder.  “Yes Wang Yibo’s leader, Zhou Yixuan.    Thank you to all the hosts.  Thank you to the audience for taking care of Wang Yibo for so many years.   I thank everyone here,” he said, bowing.  

“It’s as if you’re his father,” Da Zhang Wei said, clapping him on the shoulder.  “Amazing.  The parent is here.”  

Yibo clapped, laughing.

“I am Uniq’s Li Wenhan.  I am Wang Yibo’s childhood sweetheart,” he said. 

Yibo let out a half-embarrassed, sweet little smile.  

“Childhood sweethearts?!” Qian Feng goggled.

The camera cut straight to Yibo’s face, that was still smiling but he was looking shyly aside.  He didn’t deny it.

“You guys are childhood friends,” Da Zhangwei cut in, coming to the rescue.  “Not sweethearts, okay?”

“Because Yibo and I were the first ones in the company, the first batch of trainees,” Li Wenhan explained.  Yibo’s expression sobered and he nodded.  “We signed our contracts the same day,” Wenhan finished.

“Oh signed your contracts the same day?” Wang Han said, looking over at Qian Feng reproachfully.  “That’s very rare, right?”

Qian Feng nodded, “Right.”

“Three of his good friends came today,” Wang Han said.  “Yibo and Day Day Up, it can be said that they were destined to be together.  Before becoming a part of the Day Day brothers, he came to Day Day Up before.  Yibo, do you remember that year when you came to Day Day Up for the first time?  Do you remember when that was?”

Yibo looked up.  “It should’ve been 2015,” he said, looking back down.  “During that time, our group came together.”

“June 19, 2015,” Wang Han supplied.

The video cut to a shot of Yibo three years prior.  The brothers complimented him on how far he’d come in two years of being on Day Day Up.  They then turned to the friends Yibo had brought to the stage and asked them to “Expose things we don’t know about Yibo,” for the audience.

Yibo said, “I don’t have any weaknesses,” shyly as the others all were writing down their answers.  Yibo then turned his back as they pinned the answers up on the board, and Yibo was then invited to turn around and guess which friend had written which answer.

“There’s ‘afraid of the dark’ and ‘easily scared,’ who wrote it?”

“It should be… Let me think,” Yibo said, “Let me think.”

“Get your brain turning,” Qian Feng said.

Goddamnit even those brothers are making him feel like he’s stupid,  Xiao Zhan seethed a little internally when he saw that.  He leaned in close to Yibo, pressing up against his side as he sat there watching, his front half draped all over the arm of the couch.

Yibo on screen said, “Uh…”

“Yes, it’s really hard to guess,” Wang Han said, coming to the rescue again.

“It’s very hard to guess,” Yibo mumbled, eyes looking to the side.  

“It’s very hard,” Wang Han agreed.

“Seems like it’s someone with long hair,” Yibo said, looking over at them.

Cheng Xiao put her hand on her hip, thinking that Yibo was talking about her, but then Yibo said, “Someone who’s wearing red,” referring to Wenhan instead, effectively making fun of his hairstyle that was longer than it usually was.  “Did you write it?” Yibo asked, pointing.

“Way too accurate,” Wenhan said.  

They then cut back to a segment they’d hidden previously showing that Wenhan had actually given away the answer earlier and Yibo was just playing dumb.

Xiao Zhan breathed a sigh of relief.  Okay, so his brothers aren’t actually making fun of him for being slow.  That’s good.

“Why are you afraid of the dark?” Wang Han asked.

Wenhan answered for him.  “Because before, during our trainee days we all slept together.”

“So trainees are treated like this,” Wang Han interjected.

“How else are friendships formed?”  Da Zhengwei added.

“Yeah, two people in one room,” Yibo added, holding up two fingers.  

“And he was scared to sleep with the lights off,” Wenhan said.  “He needed to sleep with the lights on.  If he was alone, he kept the lights on when sleeping.”

Yibo was shown pursing his lips in embarrassment.

“If there were two people,” Wenhan continued, “He had to touch the other person.”

Yibo smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes.  Xiao Zhan could imagine him thinking, I’m gonna kill you after this.  

“Touch the other person?” Qian Feng goggled.  

“Touch where touch where touch where?!?!” Da Zhengwei asked, excited.

They panned around to all of them who were looking on expectantly.

“The earlobe, right?” Da Zhengwei teased.  

Yibo didn’t answer, just stood there with that embarrassed smile on his face.  The Yibo sitting on the couch groaned and his his whole head in his hands, burrowing deeper into the couch.  Xiao Zhan sighed and tipped his leg, giving him a little contact.

“No,” Wenhan said, “Not that place.  Like hands or something like… his foot would touch you.”  

“He needs to hold on,” Wang Han said.

Yibo put that shy smile back on his face, silent.

“What kind of imagery is this?” Qian Feng said.  

“I can confirm this,” Zhou Yixuan interjected mercilessly.  Yibo, who was standing next to him, just looked at him with a when-is-this-gonna-end  look on his face.  “If Yibo watched a horror movie at night or hears a scary story, he will need to hold on,” he said, grabbing Yibo’s forearm.  “Like for example, if I put my hand here.  He would have to hold my hand, or be connected.  Or put his leg over mine,” he said, demonstrating by flinging his leg over on top of Yibo’s who was still standing there silently.

“In order to sleep,” Yibo tried to say, but he was cut off by his brother Wang Han saying, “He needs to feel someone next to him.”  

“It gives a sense of security,” Yibo said sincerely. 

“Oh my God, so cute!” Fanxing called out in the living room, then the others joined in, gushing over him.  Yibo was still hiding in the corner of the couch, but Xiao Zhan patted him on the knee briefly.   

“Da Zhangwei, when you’re with Yibo and sleep together…?” Wang Han implied.

“Yes, but we’re not that close,” Zhangwei said, laughing and grabbing Yibo’s arm.

“Did he hold your hand?” Qian Feng interjected.

Yibo was looking at him with a straight face, apprehensively.  “That night, I felt like I was carrying someone,” Zhangwei said with a laugh, making Yibo laugh too.  

They moved onto the next paper.  “Modern-day ‘Tang Seng’,” Qian Feng read aloud, referring to a story about a monk, pointing at the paper.  “I don’t understand this one.”  

Yibo correctly guessed that it was the girl, Cheng Xiao, who had written it.  They then joked around about fox spirits wanting to eat him.  They all demanded an explanation from Cheng Xiao.

“Because I feel like the modern-day ‘Tang Seng’ has already become synonymous with Yibo,” she said.

“Why?”

Yibo was chewing on his lip as she spoke, apprehensive again.  

“No, because at first, I thought he didn’t really like to interact with girls.  And didn’t really like girls.”  She gave him a look.

Yibo on screen screwed up his face, but didn’t deny it at first, just slapping a false smile up on his face.  Yibo in real life stiffened where he was lying on the couch.  Xiao Zhan put his hand on Yibo’s knee again, giving it a comforting squeeze.  

“What kind of gossip is this?” Zhangwei asked, pointing.

Xiao Zhan couldn’t stop looking at that expression on Yibo’s face on the screen.  Internally he thought of it as the Panicked Closeted Gay  look.

The others joked with each other a little then Yibo finally recovered, saying, “Don’t speak nonsense.”

“I saw the previous broadcast of Day Day Up,” Cheng Xiao said, “And you roomed together.  And next to Yibo’s bed, there were a few photos on display.  Does everyone remember?” she asid, asking the audience.

“Yes yes yes, that’s an interesting point,” Qian Feng said.

“And then,” she continued, “He covered all the photos.  Have you considered our feelings?”

They had cut to a short flip of Yibo flipping all the photo frames face-down. They then cut to Yibo’s face live, where he gave a kind of exasperated, panicked look.

“There was a photo there of him and Cheng Xiao together,” Qian Feng explained.  

“Why does he need to consider your feelings when he’s sleeping?” Zhangwei asked.  “Right?” he said touching Yibo on the shoulder.  

Yibo raised his hand and shook it negatively in the air.  

“Tell us why you covered it,” Zhangwei instructed.

“The three photos she’s talking about,” Yibo stuttered out nervously, “I feel like, I feel like if I have three photos, with three girls, I feel like—”

“You only want to be friends with girls,” Qian Feng interjected.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Yibo said, tilting his head.  “It’s rather—, it’s kind of—, it has that unfaithful feeling.”

Wang Han stepped in.  “I thought that you had displayed those photos by your bed because you were holding back some fears.”

Yibo goggled at him, mouth dropping open.

“Some people have these particularities when sleeping,” Wang Han continued, “For example, there can’t be any mirrors by the bedside.  Because they’re afraid when they get up from bed… Gwuyaaa!” he shouted, making everyone laugh.

“After you take your makeup off,” Qian Feng said with a smile. “You’re easily scared to begin with.”

“No, no, no,” Yibo said, that embarrassed smile back again.

Oh, Yibo, Xiao Zhan thought fondly.  You’re so adorable.  He looked over at him and saw that Yibo had come out from under his arms, but now he was just flopped with his head against the back of the couch, his long throat exposed as his head was tilted upward.  He let his arm flop down, falling close to Xiao Zhan’s, then tilted his head enough to exchange a glance with him.  

Xiao Zhan smiled to himself, letting his arm fall down next to Yibo’s so the backs of their hands brushed together.  He glanced back at Yibo and saw to his satisfaction that Yibo now had that self-satisfied smile back on his face, his attention back on the screen.  But he curled his finger a little, running it along the back of Xiao Zhan’s finger unobtrusively.

“All right Yibo, why don’t you explain,” Wang Han said, “If you’re really like this, are you afraid of being shown like this and being misunderstood by others?”

“A misunderstanding that I’m with a lot of girls,” Yibo said with a shy look on his face, gesturing.  When Zhangwei put a hand on his back, Yibo smiled a little.

“But do you really just not like to interact with girls?” Qian Feng pressed him.

“That’s definitely not true,” Yibo said defensively.

“Because when Song Zuer came here, she also said that Yibo completely did not have any interactions with her,” Qian Feng told the others.  

“Zero interaction,” Wang Han agreed.

“It’s because we’re unfamiliar with each other,” Yibo pouted.

“Let’s take a look together at his movements back then,” Wang Han said.

It cut to a flashback to a previous episode.  Yibo was standing there shyly while an adorable girl chattered away.  “Afterwards, I was noisy while he was sleeping,” Song Zuer said, “Because I was really bored.  He turned around and said to me, ‘You’re the most talkative person I’ve ever met.  Do people at home find you annoying?’”

“Wang Yibo!!” Wang Han called out in the flashback.  In the living room, Yu Bin called out, “Lan Zhan!!”

“I kept talking to him,” Song Zuer continued, “And he only had one expression towards me so I had to control myself.”

The young Yibo who was standing next to her bit his lip nervously while she demonstrated his expression, head tilted back, eyes rolled up, trying to block his ears.  Yibo watched her, his tongue tucked in the side of his mouth.  Then he remembered to smile for the camera.

The flashback ended, showing Yibo standing there with a very similar shy look still on his face.  He looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up whole.  

On the couch, Xiao Zhan lightly hooked a finger around Yibo’s, and Yibo gripped his back, to his relief.

“All right, let’s look at the third one, the one that doesn’t have any words written,” the hosts continued.  Then they spoke with Zhou Yixuan, Uniq’s leader, who proceeded to talk about how cute Yibo got at times when he wanted something, pouting and tugging on your arm.  

“For example, when he wants me to go shopping with him,” Yixuan said.

“I might have said that before, but I wasn’t that exaggerated,” Yibo defended himself.

“How did you ask him?”  Wang Han asked.

“I don’t remember, because I was a trainee then,” Yibo deflected the question, tapping Yixuan on the arm with a fist.  “Maybe it was a big bro thing.  I’d get him to buy me water.  Buy a drink.”  

Qian Feng jumped in.  “It might’ve been that type of ‘Didi asking a gege’ type of feeling.”

“So how did you ask?” Zhangwei prompted him.

“I don’t remember,” Yibo said, turning to face him.

“He just doesn’t want to do it,” Cheng Xiao said with a smile.

“Yeah.”  “Show us Wang Yibo.”

Yibo looked at Yixuan, who was smiling at him in delight.  Yibo then punched him on the arm with a fist, saying, “Xuan-ge, buy water with me.”

“It’s not like this,” Yixuan said with a big smile.  They then exchanged a glance with each other, smiling, and Yibo tucked his tongue in the side of his mouth again.

“Yibo isn’t like this.  Yibo is like this,” Zhangwei cut in.  Then he did what Xiao Zhan could only describe as a very, very gay limp-wristed hand movement, stroking Yibo’s shoulder.  “Ge~~,” he gushed, then turned to the others, “It’s like this.”

Yibo gave him a stink eye, smile still in place on his mouth.   

Yibo started to pull his hand away from Xiao Zhan’s where they were sitting on the couch, but Xiao Zhan turned and put his hand on Yibo’s wrist, holding it in place.  He looked over and they exchanged a glance.  Yibo’s eyes were full of fear and nervousness.  Xiao Zhan just gave him a sweet smile, hoping that his expression mirrored his thoughts.  It’s okay, Yibo.  It’s okay.

Yibo gazed in his eyes for a moment, then lowered his gaze, pursing his lips.  He then relaxed minutely, and he turned and gripped Xiao Zhan’s hand in his boldly.  Xiao Zhan let out a little huff of breath, but he didn’t pull his hand away.

On the screen, his Day Day Up ‘brothers’ were all still making fun of how gay Yibo was.  “He said, ‘I’m begging you~~,’” Qian Feng imitated him, grabbing onto Wang Han’s arm who promptly jerked aside.

“I’ll act as you and you act as me,” Yixuan was saying to Yibo, who was looking at him with another stink-eye.

“Next time you’re on a show don’t invite him,” Zhangwei interjected, patting Yibo on the back.  “Got it?”

Yibo nodded, turning and smiling at Zhangwei.

“Yibo, sorry to bother you,” Wenhan called over.

Yixuan then reached out and grabbed Yibo’s hand, swinging his arm back and forth, pouting.  “Xuan-ge~~~,” he whined.  “Go shopping with me.”

Yibo stood there with a fake smile plastered on his face, but his eyes were giving out a death glare at the world.  

Yixuan put his arm around him, giving him a side-hug.  “Xuan-ge go with me,” he said, his face close to Yibo’s.

His Day Day Up brothers laughed and goggled at how cute it was, and Yibo just stood there shaking his head.  

“I’m definitely not exaggerating,” Yixuan said, releasing him and holding up one finger in the air.

“He was still young back then, right?” Wang Han jumped in.  “Because at that time, you weren’t aware that there would be a type of show like this.  Right?”  

They all burst out laughing, Yibo included.  Well, at least he can laugh about it, Xiao Zhan thought to himself, giving Yibo’s hand a last squeeze before releasing it.  What a pro.

Qian Feng then went on a rant, making fun of how Yibo didn’t breathe out underwater, and Xiao Zhan was delighted to see a shot of Yibo (in a t-shirt, sadly) wet in a pool.  Cute!  I’ll have to find some reason to go swimming with him sometime.

They kept making fun of Yibo, going on and on for another ten minutes.  

“What is this?”  Haikuan finally broke in, crossing his arms over his chest.  “Is this whole episode just a Wang Yibo roast?”

“Pretty much,” Yibo grumbled, but soon enough a new segment started as guests were invited on stage.  

Yibo actually looked unusually enthusiastic to see these guests, actually running over and giving one of them a hug.  Xiao Zhan’s eyes opened wide, but then he realized that these guys rode motorcycles with him.  Yibo looked like a completely different person in this segment, still shy but also really excited, almost bubbly - well, for Yibo.  Yibo level of bubbly.  Oh my God, so cute!   Xiao Zhan gushed internally.  

He loved seeing him like that, genuinely laughing and smiling, full of energy.  The Yibo in the living room was relaxed now, and he leaned back, sprawling his legs out in front of him.  He tipped his knee into the side of Xiao Zhan’s.

When they called him handsome, Yibo on the screen smiled shyly, making the girls in the living room look at each other and cry out, “Cuuute!”

“Right?” Xiao Zhan agreed, looking at them.  He elbowed Yibo lightly in the side.  “See, they think you’re cute!”  he said, teasing him.

Yibo rolled his eyes at him, then stuck out his tongue, smirking.

Xiao Zhan elbowed him again, then Yibo elbowed him back, then the two of them were grappling on the couch, laughing.  Haikuan looked over at them, smiling serenely at the sight.  Xiao Zhan ended up getting Yibo in a headlock, and he rubbed his knuckles over his hair.  “Why are you so cute!”  Xiao Zhan laughed at him.

Yibo slapped Xiao Zhan’s thigh.  “I give up, I give up!”

“Cutie!” Xiao Zhan laughed again, but released his head.  

Yibo shook his head ruefully, reaching up to pat his hair back down.  “Oh!  Look!” Yibo said, pointing at the screen.

They had gotten to the motorcycle segment that Yibo had left to film the other day.  As they showed clips of them on the track, Yibo narrated, his voice passionate, practically shouting as he described each twist and turn around the track.  

Then at the end of the segment, they caught one of Yibo’s genuine, all-encompassing smiles on screen, and Xiao Zhan’s heart just about stopped in his chest.  

“Handsome?” Yibo asked, looking at Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan just clenched his teeth at him.  “Cute.”

Yibo let out a huff of breath, pouting and crossing his arms over his chest.

They brought out little mini motorcycles, and Xiao Zhan laughed aloud when he saw Yibo trying to demonstrate the leaning technique on the pocket bike.  

“Oh my God what is this?” Guo Cheng called out as Yibo used a pocketbike to fake-ride around the screen.

“How do they come up with this stuff?” Li Bowen agreed.

They did some other segments, one where they invited some female motorcycle racers in (which Yibo looked dutifully impressed at).  A behind-the-scenes look at Yibo at the racetrack (where Yibo managed to look simultaneously sexy and cute as a button).  Then there was a practice race, and they showed Yibo coming in second place.

“Hey Yibo,” Haikuan said, looking over at him.  “I’m really impressed.  I knew you liked to ride motorcycles but I didn’t realize you were so skilled.”

Yibo leaned over to look back at him, nodding and pressing his hands together in thanks.  “I love it.  I’m hoping to race for real next year, professionally.”

“Can you do that at the same time as acting?” Haikuan asked.

Yibo nodded.  “I will  do it at the same time.”

Xiao Zhan felt something curl in the base of his gut when they showed Yibo suiting up in his gear for the real race.  Yibo was so beautiful when he shook his head back, putting his helmet on.  Then he was on the racetrack, squatting to loosen up his legs.  He slung his leg over the bike.  So pretty.  Motorcycle racers weren’t that pretty.

During the actual race, Xiao Zhan tensed up and leaned forward in his seat, his heart in his throat.  He knew that the race was already over, and that Yibo was sitting next to him, unharmed, but when he watched Yibo riding that motorcycle, leaning over so far that his knee scraped the ground, he was so scared.  Yibo looked confident, sliding smoothly through one corner to the next, accelerating through the straightaway.  He looked so thin and small sitting on top of that powerful bike.  How does he have the strength to control those g-forces when he couldn’t even lift me up in his arms?  Xiao Zhan wondered.

“Hoooly shiiiit!” Yu Bin called out as he watched the race.

When they switched to a close-up view right under Yibo’s face, Xiao Zhan got a real impression of the speed they were riding at.  It was frightening.  

“Go, Yibo, go!!” Fanxing called out as they showed the final lap.

He didn’t make first place, but came in second place instead, a good 20 seconds behind the leader.  Yibo on the screen looked both pleased but also disappointed in himself.  They showed Yibo smiling, drinking champagne, and holding a trophy.  

“I’ve still got a long way to go before I can win it,” Yibo in the living room said to Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan smiled at him, clapping him on the back.  “Knowing you, you won’t stop until you win.”

The smile Yibo gave him was sweet.

Back on the screen in Day Day Up, Yibo looked really pleased with himself.  After a few interludes, they cut to a dance segment.  

“Wow, they really did design this entire episode after you,” Fanxing commented, looking over at Yibo.

Yibo just bowed, clapping his hands together.  Then he gave a cheeky smile and said, “It’s my birth-day,” as though that explained why the universe rotated around him.

“We know!” they all called out in unison.  

Xiao Zhan laughed, throwing an arm around Yibo and hugging him, his cheek on Yibo’s shoulder.  Yibo’s shoulder was shaking with his laughter.  

In the dance battle segment, they squared off in two teams and competed against each other.  When it was Yibo’s turn to get up there, he danced with energy, going down on his knees and spinning, then doing a handstand, legs curled in the air.  His shirt rode all the way up to his armpits.  I see nipples!  Xiao Zhan laughed to himself, giggling, his head still on Yibo’s shoulder.  

“Holy shit!”  Yu Bin cried out, pointing at the screen.

Yibo on the screen was still dancing, back on his feet then somehow going just on one toe, practically horizontal, his body falling to the floor then popping back up again.  He did some smooth moves, then transitioned into some popping and locking.  

Then next thing he was on his knees, dancing back and forth.  He finished the dance on his feet, torso gyrating as he spun in a circle then pointed to the other side.

“I’m gonna have wet dreams about that dance later,” Ji Li said to no one in particular.

“Gross!” Fanxing said, disgusted.

No matter how good or how funny the dances that followed were, none of them were as good as Yibo’s.  Xiao Zhan spent his time watching the Yibo standing on the side, watching those facial expressions on his face.  Like when he smiled so hard that he fell down into a squat.  God, that smile.  I die every time he smiles like that.  Or when he licked his lips, holding his tongue between his teeth.  Or when he pursed his mouth, or thinned it out into a line.  All those little Yibo-like expressions that he could watch for days.  Xiao Zhan sat back up, taking his head off Yibo’s shoulder and sliding his hand off his back.

They made the losing team drink something sour (Yibo’s, unfortunately, due to a couple of low performers).  They cut the camera close to Yibo’s face, making a baby crying sound when he drank the drink, and they all got to see the expression on Yibo’s face when he swallowed reluctantly, pursing his lips together.  Omg cute!

Then there was a tap dancer there who did a tap performance.  After the performance, he taught Yibo some moves live on stage, and Yibo followed along effortlessly.  After only showing him once, Yibo executed the dance perfectly.

“Did you ever do tap before?” Haikuan asked him.

“No,” Yibo said with a breathless laugh.

Haikuan nodded, impressed.  

They then introduced some ballroom dancers who did an impressive display.  They showed a swing dance full of liveliness.  Then taught him how to do a cha cha on the spot.  Within minutes, Yibo learned the dance perfectly then demonstrated it on stage.  

“Never did cha cha before either, I take it?” Haikuan asked him.

“No,” Yibo said, smiling and shaking his head.

“Whoa, Dance King of Asia,” Yu Bin said, clapping.

At the end of the show, they brought out a massive cake for Yibo, with his picture on it, a motorcycle.  And they watched as he clapped his hands together and prayed again.  Then he blew out the candles.  

The show finished with Yibo singing a song.  His voice was clear and clean, a slightly husky quality to it.  His face looked so pretty as he sang, face tilted up.  Then they cut over it with clips from his past, of him dancing, eating, and hosting the show.  Finally a clip of him and Zhangwei hugging tightly.  Then a close-up of his face that made him look, somehow, a little lonely.

Xiao Zhan glanced over at him, and Yibo glanced back.  The look they exchanged held too much to explain, so Xiao Zhan smiled a little and looked away.  Even surrounded by people praising him, he still feels alone.

After the episode was over, they all came over and tackled Yibo, hugging him in a way that made him laugh a little uncomfortably.  

They all gathered in the kitchen, brought out some leftover cake, and ate together, toasting him again.  “To the eternal Lan Wangji, Wang Yibo!” Yu Bin toasted him.

They all cheered him, raising their glasses.

The smile on Yibo’s face was enough to melt Xiao Zhan on the inside.  If only he could smile this wide every day.  I’d do anything to keep this smile on his face.

———

When Xiao Zhan drifted up to his bedroom later on, Yibo followed him, as he tended to do.  They rode the elevator together, Yibo watching Xiao Zhan, his lips pursed as though he wanted to say something.  

“What is it?” Xiao Zhan asked as the elevator door opened on their floor.  They walked in step, totally in sync as they walked back to their rooms.

“What did you think about… that first part of the episode?” Yibo asked, sucking his lips between his teeth.

Xiao Zhan smiled at him.  “It was cute, Yibo.  Your friends seem to know you really well.”

They stopped in front of Yibo’s door.  He was looking down, not meeting his eyes, but not making a move to enter his room, either.  

“What is it?” Xiao Zhan asked him again quietly.

Yibo just shrugged, looking down at his feet.  He seemed to have a lot of thoughts buzzing around in his head, but no way to get them out.  Is he worried about how much they made fun of him?

Xiao Zhan glanced at his phone.  “Hey, Yibo, it’s still ten minutes to midnight.”

Yibo looked up at him, meeting his eyes.  “Hmm?”

“It’s still your birthday,” Xiao Zhan said with a smile.

“Mmn,” Yibo agreed, nodding.

Xiao Zhan sucked his bottom lip into his mouth, then held his arms open.  He felt a little embarrassed doing it, but he said, “Do you want one last birthday present?”

Yibo’s eyes widened, but he didn’t hesitate at all as he stepped forward, folding himself in against Xiao Zhan’s chest.  Xiao Zhan wrapped his arms around his shoulders, squeezing him tight.  Yibo wrapped his arms around Xiao Zhan’s waist, sighing and settling into him like they’d been hugging for years instead of for a day.  Their height difference was more pronounced as they stood there in their bare feet, and it made it easy for Xiao Zhan to tilt his head down onto Yibo’s.  

“You’re so good, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan murmured, stroking his hand down that thin back.  “You’re the best.  I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to do this movie with.”

“Really?” Yibo asked in English.

“Really really,” Xiao Zhan confirmed, nodding against the top of Yibo’s head.

Yibo squeezed him tighter, then regretfully stepped away, his head lowered.  He glanced up at Xiao Zhan’s face, shy.  “Thanks.”

Xiao Zhan smiled back, reaching out to stroke the hair out of Yibo’s eyes.  “Sleep well, Bo-di.”

Yibo nodded.  “You too, Zhan-ge.”

Xiao Zhan waited for Yibo to leave, his heart heavy as Yibo slipped into his room, giving him one last sad little smile and nodding.  “Bye bye,” Yibo said, the same way he’d said it to his father on the phone.

Xiao Zhan waved.  When he got back into his own room, he flopped down on his bed, closing his eyes and fisting his hands in his hair.  He’s right next door, he told himself.  If I wanted to, I could just go over there.  I could knock, open the door, push into his bedroom, and kiss him.  And he’d let me.  

Xiao Zhan groaned, then flopped onto his stomach, kicking his legs on the bed.  Stop it, Xiao Zhan.  Stop!  Stop.  

He hardly slept all night.

Chapter Text

August 2018


Note: spoilers ahead.  If you want to watch the Korean horror movie Gonjiam, either watch it before reading this chapter or skip it.  You can rent it on Google Play.


Once they had all watched that episode of Day Day Up and the revelations therein, the guys started talking about wanting to watch a movie together.  They didn’t have much time left on set, but there were a few evenings that they had off.  

It wasn’t a secret anymore that Wang Yibo was not a fan of horror movies.  Or ghosts.  Or scary things in general.  Heck, he couldn’t even sleep at night with the lights out.

So when they had a rare evening off, and the younger boys in the group all wanted to watch a horror movie, Wang Yibo was immediately like “Yeahno.”

Except that Xiao Zhan was going to watch it.

“It came out in March,” Yu Bin was telling the others.  “It’s a story based on a real place, an insane asylum called Gonjiam.  Want to hear the full description?” 

They were all gathered around, still in their period attire, just having finished shooting their scenes for the day.  Zheng Fanxing, who played Shizui, eagerly nodded.

“The crew of a horror web series travels to an abandoned asylum for a live broadcast. It soon encounters much more than expected as it moves deeper inside the nightmarish old building,” Yu Bin read aloud from his phone.  The fact that he was reading it while still having those creepy veins drawn all over his neck didn’t help matters either.  Yibo shivered.  Fuck no.

Xiao Zhan smiled, walking over to them.  “Count me in.  I love a good scare.”

“I’m game,” Guo Cheng, who played Jingyi, said eagerly.

“Me too,” added Wang Zhuocheng, who played Jiang Cheng.

They all turned to look at Yibo, who was standing there apart from the group, trying to pretend he was interested in some speck of dirt on the ground.

Xiao Zhan walked over to him, putting his arm around his shoulders companionably.  “Want to join in, Bo-di?” he teased him.

Yibo stared at the ground, pursing his lips.

“I’ll sit next to you,” Xiao Zhan promised.  “I’ll even hold your hand if you want.”

An excuse to hold his hand… Yibo thought to himself.  Is a few sleepless nights worth it?  He thought about it hard, then finally admitted to himself, Hell yes.

“Okay,” Yibo agreed, against his better conscience.

The others all cheered.  

“Whoa, wait, you’re going to watch it?” Zhuocheng goggled, coming over to look at him.  “Why would you agree to that?  You’ll never be able to sleep after.”

“Only if Xiao Zhan is there,” Yibo muttered, still not looking up.

Xiao Zhan gave Yibo a one-armed hug.  “Okay, Bo-di, it’s a deal.”

———

The boys popped up a ton of popcorn, dividing it out into massive bowls that they set on the coffee table.  While they were messing about in the kitchen, Yibo went to take a shower, washing the remains of the glue from his hair.  He lingered in there longer than he should have, wanting to draw out the moment until he’d be scared out of his wits.

Just don’t let me do something I’ll never live down… like wet myself.  Screaming I can live with.

He changed into old, comfortable track pants and a soft, oversized t-shirt.  

When he emerged from his room and went downstairs, he saw that the others were all gathering around the television.  Guo Cheng and Fanxing took one of the couches.  Zhuocheng and Yu Bin sat on the second couch.  Then Xiao Zhan, smiling and radiant in his sweatpants and t-shirt was sitting on the third.  He looked up when Yibo entered, and his heart flopped over his chest seeing Xiao Zhan all soft and freshly showered with his hair drying around his head, no makeup on his face.  He looked great.

Xiao Zhan raised a hand, beckoning Yibo over to where he was sitting.  He patted the cushion next to him.

Yibo walked over slowly, one step at a time.  He then gradually lowered himself on the couch next to Xiao Zhan, wondering again whether this was a good idea.  

Xiao Zhan reached over and gave his knee a quick squeeze, shooting him a reassuring smile.  “Okay?”

Yibo nodded.  He then leaned his head back against the back of the couch, sprawling his legs out.

Xiao Zhan got up, then came back a minute later with a soft throw blanket in his arms, which he draped over his lap when he sat back down.  The place they were staying was air-conditioned, so they didn’t feel the oppressive muggy summer air in here.

Zhuocheng got up to turn out the lights while Yu Bin queued the movie up on the screen.

“Do we have to turn out the lights?” Yibo asked in a small voice.

“Yes,” Yu Bin, Fanxing, and Guo Cheng answered all at the same time.

Yibo sank lower in his seat.

Yu Bin hit play, and they all settled in.

At first the movie wasn’t scary at all, which made Yibo relax a little.  There was a whole intro part where the crew that was going to film at the haunted psychiatric hospital all met up for the first time, gathered equipment, did introductions, and drove to the site.  Then they set up the filming equipment, installing some CCTV in Gonjiam.  He found himself becoming comfortable with the movie.  This isn’t so bad, he thought.  Maybe I’ll get through this without embarrassing myself.

Then the first scare happened rather early on.  A door slammed all on its own, scaring the camera crew, and Yibo jumped, yelping.  

The others laughed at him, and Yibo sank down lower.

“Come here,” Xiao Zhan whispered to him, opening up his throw blanket.  He tossed it over both their laps and invited Yibo to sit closer to him.  

Yibo gratefully took him up on the offer, leaning into Xiao Zhan just a little so he could feel the press of his warm thigh against his own.  He looked up at Xiao Zhan, and he received an encouraging smile in response.  

Yibo found himself leaning more against Xiao Zhan’s side as the movie went on.  There was a general creepy atmosphere, the camera crews splitting up and exploring Gonjiam in groups of two.  He shivered when one pair explored the showers, finding the outline of a body against the wall, and then he shivered again when they found a wig floating in the central bath.  

A couple of girls explored a laboratory, discovering various different scary things, including a doll that was on a cabinet.  One of the girls stepped on a jar, shattering it, and they got a brief look at what looked like a dead chicken that had been floating in formaldehyde.

He freaked the fuck  out, however, when they got to the scene where they discovered a room full of wooden cabinets that had holes in them at chest height.  One of the camera crew stuck their hand into a hole in a cabinet that they supposedly had locked patients in for ‘treatment,’ then their hand was pulled violently further in.  Yibo screamed like a little girl.  Then when the girl stuck her arm in and started screaming, Yibo screamed along with her.  When she pulled her arm out, it was covered in scratches and she was weeping.

He only calmed down when Xiao Zhan reached under the blanket and took his hand in his.

When the door of the cabinet opened on its own, and the girl ran screaming off, Yibo gripped Xiao Zhan’s hand tightly in his.

———

Yibo was trembling like a leaf against his side.  As he gripped his hand tightly, Xiao Zhan could feel Yibo’s pulse thundering erratically.  He turned and glanced over at him, finding Yibo white as a sheet and sweating.  

Xiao Zhan leaned in close, asking in a soft voice, “Okay?”

Yibo nodded, though his mouth thinned out into a flat line.  

Xiao Zhan didn’t find the first half of the movie that scary.  He wasn’t as scared of ghosts as Yibo was, though he did startle at loud noises.  

Yibo, on the other hand, was getting more and more tense.  Two of the girls had run off into the forest, trying to escape Gonjiam, and Yibo’s hand was squeezing his tightly as they ran off through the darkness.

He’s scared of the dark, too, Xiao Zhan reminded himself.

The whole movie built up to an explosive degree in the last half hour.  The lights started blinking in and out, the camera equipment working erratically, and Yibo was trembling so violently that Xiao Zhan wrapped his arm around him, pulling Yibo half into his lap.  He pulled the blanket up around their shoulders, tucking them in.  He then took Yibo’s right hand in his right hand, then wrapped his left arm around Yibo’s thin back, holding onto his shoulder and cradling him against his chest.  Yibo pulled his legs up on the couch, pushing himself closer in against Xiao Zhan’s body.  

When really scary shit started to happen, furniture flying, doors slamming shut, people getting knocked out - Yibo wasn’t even capable of screaming anymore, he was just squeezing Xiao Zhan’s hand tight and holding on for dear life.

He was the most scared at the two girls who were running around in the dark outside.  One of the girls ended up getting possessed, and her eyes went all black, and she started whispering endlessly.  

“Holy fucking shit,” Yibo swore, climbing even further into Xiao Zhan’s lap.  “What the fucking fuck.”

The girl was screaming, then running, trying to get away.  She ran through the dark, her breathing fast and erratic with her terror.  She finally reached what he thought was safety, but in fact was even scarier still.  She was all in darkness, no light for her to see anything.  Then the light blinked on, and she saw her possessed friend standing in the corner.

“Fuck,” Yibo swore again in a whisper.

The tension in the whole room was palpable, everyone on the edge of their seats.  Xiao Zhan was rubbing gentle circles into Yibo’s shoulder, but then a tangled, naked, injured-looking man showed up on screen.  Yibo’s eyes were so wide the whites showed all around.  Then the naked person started moving, just a little, shuffling to the side.

Yibo couldn’t take it anymore.  He turned away from the TV, shoving his face into Xiao Xhan’s neck, gripping Xiao Zhan’s t-shirt with his hand.  Xiao Zhan wrapped both arms around him, cradling him to his body.  He's so small, Xiao Zhan thought as he held him.  

“Please help me,” the girl cried.  “Please help me.”  Then she was banging on the metal door, screaming for someone to let her out.  Then the naked figure rushed and attacked her, dragging her screaming off into the darkness.

When all went quiet, Yibo turned his head, peeking out.  “Is it over?” he whispered, breath hot against Xiao Zhan's neck.

Xiao Zhan loosened his hold on Yibo, letting him turn a little to get a look.

But no, it wasn’t.  Now one of the cameramen that had been knocked out earlier regained consciousness, and ran off to warn the others of the danger.  

This part was less scary for a while, so Yibo turned his body to watch the screen, leaning his back against Xiao Zhan’s chest.  Xiao Zhan shifted his legs, letting Yibo settle between them, fully in his lap now.  He wrapped one arm around Yibo’s waist, settling his hand on Yibo's stomach.  He could feel it fluttering as Yibo breathed erratically.

They lay there like that, all tangled up, watching the screen.  But Xiao Zhan was only half-paying attention.  The other half of him was memorizing the feel of Yibo in his arms, the warmth, his natural scent.  He was picturing another life for them, one in which they watched movies together like this every week.  They'd trade off choosing which movie to watch.  On Yibo's weeks they'd watch action-packed adventure films and sappy romances.  On Xiao Zhan's weeks they'd watch indie films and dramas.  It'll never happen, Xiao Zhan thought to himself sadly.

In the movie, the rest of the crew in Gonjiam got sucked into the haunted room, water on the floor, water on the ceiling.  When hands started to reach around their faces, Yibo yelped again.  

“The fuck,” Yibo whispered.

Xiao Zhan wrapped his arms tighter around him, holding him as he shook.  As, one by one, they descended into darkness again, only able to see the ghosts on camera, Yibo closed his eyes tight, leaning his head back on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder when a horrible sound started up, hundreds of voices moaning.

When there was another scream, Yibo again turned his head away, tucking it in under Xiao Zhan’s neck.  This time, he didn’t come out again.  He spent the rest of the movie with his head hiding, his arms wrapped around Xiao Zhan’s waist, his knees pulled up against the back of the couch.  Xiao Zhan was just smoothing his hands down Yibo’s back under the blanket, trying to calm him.

When the movie was over, the others all started to chat excitedly with each other, pulling apart the different elements that had scared them the most.  One of them flipped the lights on, then they all pointed and laughed at Yibo who was still curled around Xiao Zhan like a starfish.

Xiao Zhan just put a finger to his lips to shush them, then waved them away.  They all nodded, bowing, then snuck out of the room.

When they were alone, Xiao Zhan patted Yibo on the head.  “It’s over, didi.”

“I know,” Yibo mumbled.

They sat there a while longer, then Xiao Zhan finally said.  “We should go to bed.”

Yibo nodded.  But he didn’t move.

Xiao Zhan pressed his fingers to Yibo’s wrist, and Yibo didn’t stop him this time.  He could feel Yibo’s heartbeat was still wildly erratic.

“Okay, come on,” Xiao Zhan said.  “Let’s get up.”

“Can’t move.”

“It’s okay,” Xiao Zhan said in what he hoped was a comforting voice.  “I’ll carry you.”

Yibo grunted, but didn’t stop him.  

Xiao Zhan turned Yibo in his arms, so that Yibo’s arms were wrapped around his neck, his legs splayed on either side of his hips.  Then he slid his arms under Yibo’s bum, holding him like a baby.  He groaned as he got to his feet, knees cracking, lower back twinging.  Yibo just stayed there, his arms wrapped around Xiao Zhan’s neck, legs wrapped around his hips.  

He’s so light, Xiao Zhan thought as he walked them over to the elevator.  I forget sometimes that he’s smaller than me.  His personality shines so bright.

He punched in the number for their floor in the elevator, propping Yibo up against the wall as the elevator rose, then walked them down the hallway.  When he got to their rooms, he hesitated, then let himself into his own room, carrying Yibo over to the bed.  He gently laid Yibo down there, then pulled away.

Yibo shot out his hand, grabbing onto Xiao Zhan’s arm.  “Don’t go,” he said urgently.

“This is my room, Yibo, I’m not going.”  He then threw him a smile.  “But I have to pee.”

“I have to pee too,” Yibo admitted.

“I’ll go first,” Xiao Zhan said.

Yibo just kept holding onto Xiao Zhan’s arm, not letting go.  

Xiao Zhan threw him an exasperated look.  “What, you want us to pee together?”

Yibo didn’t say anything.  In Lan Wangji talk, that would have been a yes.

“I’m not peeing in front of you!” Xiao Zhan said, annoyed.

“I won’t look,” Yibo whispered.  “I’ll turn my back.”

When Xiao Zhan looked down at Yibo, his face averted, still trembling, still holding onto Xiao Zhan’s arm, something in him softened.  He then let out a big sigh.  “If you tell anyone about this, I will kill you,” Xiao Zhan promised.

Yibo nodded without looking at him.

When Xiao Zhan started to back up, Yibo came to his feet, wobbly, still holding Xiao Zhan’s arm as he led them to the bathroom.  Xiao Zhan propped Yibo up against the sink, and he stood there, his hands white-knuckled against the porcelain, his eyes closed and face averted.

“Can’t believe I’m doing this,” Xiao Zhan muttered, but he just pretended he was in a urinal with other guys and that got him where he needed to go.  When he was finished, he flushed the toilet, then nudged Yibo out of the way so he could wash his hands.  “Your turn.”

Yibo’s hands were shaking as he fumbled with his pants.  Xiao Zhan turned away, so  not willing to help.  He had limits.  After what seemed like an eternity, he heard Yibo relieving himself, letting out a little sigh of relief.

Yibo flushed the toilet and washed his hands, then the two of them stood there side-by-side looking at each other through the mirror.  “Want to brush your teeth?” Xiao Zhan asked.

Yibo nodded.

“Want me to go get your toothbrush from next door?”

Yibo shook his head.

“Oh for fuck’s sake.”  Xiao Zhan turned on the tap, got out his toothbrush, and quickly made work of his own teeth.  He then did his best job to clean the toothbrush thoroughly, then squirted some toothpaste on it and handed his own toothbrush to Yibo.

Yibo wouldn’t meet his eyes, but he did take the toothbrush with still-shaking hands.  He brushed his teeth, fumbling a little, but got the job done.  When his teeth were clean, he thoroughly rinsed out the toothbrush, then put it carefully back in the glass it had been standing in.

“Okay now?” Xiao Zhan asked him gently.  “Can you sleep?”

Yibo shrugged one elegant shoulder up and down.  The oversized t-shirt slipped down his neck, exposing the smooth skin of his shoulder to the air.  

Xiao Zhan reached up and pulled the t-shirt back into place.  “Come on,” he urged him.  When Yibo didn’t make a move, Xiao Zhan grabbed his hand, leading him back to the bed.  He left the light on in the bathroom so that the light could spill out into the hallway and provide the illumination that Yibo needed.

“Okay now, that’s good, we’re there.  What’s less scary for you, close to the window or close to the light?”

“Light,” Yibo whispered.

Xiao Zhan pulled the covers back on the bed, then slipped inside, scooting over closer to the window.  He then held out a hand, which Yibo took, and he pulled him into the bed after him.

They lay down next to each other, not touching.  Yibo lay down on his stomach, his face tilted towards Xiao Zhan.  Xiao Zhan lay on his back, his face turned away.

Xiao Zhan himself had no trouble falling asleep.  Within fifteen minutes he was gone.  That was, until he was woken up some time later by Yibo sniffling next to him.  He blinked his eyes open, then saw to his dismay that Yibo was shuddering, crying in his sleep.

“Oh for the love of God,” Xiao Zhan swore, rolling his eyes up to the heavens.  

He’s such a softie, Xiao Zhan thought with equal parts affection and exasperation.

Xiao Zhan reached out and tugged Yibo close, tucking Yibo’s head onto his chest over his heart.  Yibo shifted in his sleep, murmuring, but he settled down when he heard that heartbeat.  He shifted his hips, scooting closer, then tangled his leg up in Xiao Zhan’s.

Xiao Zhan smoothed his hands down Yibo’s slim back, petting him until he settled down completely.  Xiao Zhan then laid a gentle kiss on the top of his hair.  

For the love of all the good, green things on this Earth, I promise I’ll never let you watch a horror movie again.  Now sleep!

Chapter Text

August 2018

 

Xiao Zhan woke up in the morning before Yibo.  He blinked his eyes open, surprised that he’d woken up before his alarm.  

Yibo had scooted away from him in his sleep, lying further away on the bed, his narrow back facing Xiao Zhan as he was curled up on his side.  He had lost his shirt sometime during the night.  

So small, Xiao Zhan thought fondly.

He restrained himself from reaching out a hand and running it down that back.  

Yibo then let out a sigh, rolling onto his back.  His head flopped to face Xiao Zhan, and he shamelessly spent the next five minutes just watching Yibo’s sleeping face.  And maybe getting a good look at that chest and those steel abs.  He pulled the blanket up to cover Yibo’s naked torso.  So cute.  One day someone will be lucky enough to wake up with this face next to them every morning.

Xiao Zhan reached out a hand, carefully using one finger to swipe the bangs back from Yibo’s eyes.

“Gege,” Yibo murmured in his sleep.

Xiao Zhan froze, poised like that, waiting to see if Yibo would wake up.  

“Didi… ai ni…” came another murmur.  Little brother loves you.

Xiao Zhan slid back, putting some distance between him and Yibo, but the boy still didn’t wake up.  Yibo just flipped over onto his stomach, burying his face in the pillow.

For him to say that in his sleep, it must mean he really means it.  He really feels that way about me.  He's not just flirting.

Xiao Zhan shook his head, trying to clear away his stray thoughts.  Even if he does, it doesn’t make a difference.  We’re idols.  We can’t.

Xiao Zhan slid off the bed, stretching and creaking his joints.  He glanced over at the clock, then saw he still had some time to get ready.  He took a quick shower, pulling on black shorts and a black sweatshirt.  When he emerged from the bedroom, Yibo was still sleeping, facing him, mouth open, drooling a little.

Xiao Zhan smirked.  He squatted down in front of Yibo, then gave his shoulder a little shake.  “Bo-di, time to wake up!” he said in a singsong voice.

Yibo mumbled something incoherent, snuggling down deeper in the bed.

Xiao Zhan shook Yibo’s shoulder again.  “Wake up, Bo-di, wake up!”

Yibo blinked his eyes open incoherently.  He pursed his mouth, swallowing, then raised a hand to wipe the drool from his face.  “Gege?”

Xiao Zhan sat back on his heels.  “Time to get ready.  We have to go get our makeup and hair done.”

Yibo grumbled, then flung his legs off the edge of the bed, sitting up.  He sat there for a minute, eyes closed, mouth a little open, legs dangling.  Xiao Zhan shook his shoulder again.  “Come on, Bo-di.  Up we go.”  Xiao Zhan located Yibo’s shirt, then squatted down in front of him again, holding it out for him.  “Here.  Shirt.”

Yibo blinked his eyes open, then rose clumsily to his feet.  His mouth was all pouty as he took the shirt, eyes half-open and swollen.  He fumbled with the shirt for a while, it was inside out and he had to get it the right way.  When he got it figured out, he stuck one arm in, eyes still half-closed and mouth pouting as he got it over his head.

“Good boy,” Xiao Zhan complimented him, giving him a little pat on the head.  “Now go shower.”

Yibo padded over to the bathroom, then started to go inside.

Xiao Zhan grabbed Yibo’s shoulder, wheeling him out and towards the door leading out of the bedroom.  “Not here!  In your own room, next door.  Shower and dress.”

“Hao,” Yibo agreed, then fumbled at the doorknob.

Xiao Zhan sighed, then squeezed past Yibo to open the door for him.  As he held it open, the two of them blinked out into the corridor and saw Zhuocheng standing there, frozen as he had been walking towards the elevator.

“…Morning,” Zhuocheng greeted them, giving a little bow.

“Mmn,” Yibo grunted, stumbling out of Xiao Zhan’s room and pushing into his own.  

Xiao Zhan just stood there for a moment, looking at Zhuocheng, then he gave him a little wave and a nervous smile.  “Morning!” he said brightly.

When he closed the door again, he felt like his face was on fire.

———

Yibo emerged from his room wearing a very similar outfit to Xiao Zhan, black shorts and a black sweatshirt.  The matchy-matchy aspect had made Xiao Zhan almost stumble, but he kept his composure all the way to the makeup area.  

They got their wigs on first, then they were all sitting in vanity mirrors getting their makeup done.  Someone gave a video camera to Xiao Zhan, telling him to film some footage for behind-the-scenes.

“Dun dun dun duuunnn!” Xiao Zhan sang playfully, walking up to where Yibo was getting his makeup done.  He was sitting in the chair, hiding his face behind his camera.  “Look, who is this!” 

Yibo held up a hand to the camera, trying to block the view of his face getting ready.

“Bingo.  This is Lan Wangji,” Xiao Zhan said for the camera.  

Yibo actually stuck his hand right up against the camera, getting a big smear on the lens.

“Hey!” Xiao Zhan said, annoyed.  “This is an expensive camera, Yibo,” he chided him.

“Here,” one of the crew members said, handing Xiao Zhan a lint cloth.

“Thanks,” Xiao Zhan grumbled, then wiped the lens with the cloth.  When he got it relatively clean again, he repositioned himself to get a better angle on Yibo’s face.  “Don’t touch the camera again Yibo.”

“If you film me now I’ll get you back later,” Yibo grumbled at him.

“Ha.  What could you possibly do,” Xiao Zhan taunted him.  He then got the camera rolling again.  “Lao Wang’s eyelashes are so pretty,” Xiao Zhan said for the camera, zooming in on the artist that was applying eyeliner to his eyes.

Yibo blinked those beautiful eyes open when she pulled back.  He was using the self-facing camera on his phone to check how he looked.

“Lao Wang’s features are unassailable perfection,” Xiao Zhan said from a different angle, now able to see all of Yibo’s face.  “There is no blind angle within 360 degrees.”

“Ashamed to compare to Lao Xiao,” Yibo said in a low voice.

“Wow, Lao Wang’s eyelashes.  Separated and distinct.”

Yibo blinked his eyes open, looking at himself on his phone.  “Lao Xiao doesn’t even need to have eyeliner, I have to put eyeliner.”

“Wow, Lao Wang is so handsome!”

Yibo looked up at the camera, then in a smooth action he yanked it out of Xiao Zhan’s hand.  “Are we finished?” he asked the makeup artist brusquely.

She nodded, stepping away.  

Xiao Zhan was pulled away to go sit in a chair to get his wig adjusted, but now Yibo had the camera, and was pointing it at him.  Someone else was filming Yibo as he filmed Xiao Zhan.  The whole thing was ridiculous.

“Zhan-ge, what did you eat today?” Yibo asked him, a sly smile on his face.

“Fault fault fault, it is my fault!” Xiao Zhan sung at him, using his hand this time to cover the lens on the video camera.  

Wow, it is really annoying having a camera pointed at my face when I’m getting ready, Xiao Zhan thought to himself.  He covered the lens of the camera again.

“Enough, Lao Wang,” he said with his hand over the camera.  “It is my fault, Lao Wang.”

“Can you please leave first, okay,” the hair stylist asked Yibo as he was in the way.  The stylist put his hand on Yibo’s shoulder, pointing him away.

Yibo just moved to the other side, instead.  “Let’s shoot the left side of Lao Xiao’s face.”  Yibo got a good profile shot, then smiled, pleased with himself.  “Handsome left face.”  Yibo kept filming him as the stylist used a blow dryer to fix his bangs.  He then got up underneath Xiao Zhan, filming up under his chin.

This can’t be a good angle for me!  Xiao Zhan covered the camera again with his hand.  “Enough Lao Waaang,” Xiao Zhan said, annoyed.

Yibo was grinning like the little gremlin that he was.  Now the stylist was smiling too at their antics.  

“Done, I’m done,” Yibo said, walking away.  “Who wants to play?” he asked.  He then spotted Huaisang.  “Do you wanna play?” he asked, handing the video camera to him.

Yibo then got himself some breakfast, sitting down to eat it quickly before he got pulled into something else.  

Next thing Huaisang was pointing the camera at Yibo as he was eating.  “Did you do your makeup Yibo?” he asked him, camera pointed.

“I am not Yibo,” Yibo said.

“Ah?” Huaisang goggled at him.  “Who are you?”

“I am Lan Wangji’s double,” Yibo said around a mouthful of food.

“Lan Wangji’s double?” Huaisang repeated.

“Mn,” Yibo agreed, nodding.  

“Lan Wangji’s double is so delicate,” Huaisang said, getting in close to film Yibo eating, chopsticks held between those long fingers.

Yibo ignored him, focusing on eating.  In the end Huaisang got bored of filming him and went off to film Jin Guangyao instead.  He then filmed Song Lan, Xue Yang.  Even Xiao Xingchen.  

After he finished eating, Yibo somehow got a hold of the video camera again.  He started following Xiao Zhan around, trying to film him, but Xiao Zhan had had enough.  He was running away.  

“You are handsome,” the staff chided Yibo, indicating he looked perfect with his hair and makeup done.  “Don’t chase him.”

Yibo wasn’t listening, still pointing that blasted camera at him, so Xiao Zhan covered the camera with one hand and with the other reached out and smacked Yibo on the bum.  He then went to smack him again but Yibo dodged.  

“Ah!  Zhan is hitting me, Zhan is hitting me!” Yibo said, reaching out to grab Xiao Zhan’s hand.  Yibo was smiling widely at him as Xiao Zhan backed away, holding an arm up in front of his face.

This little brat!

“Show me your gorgeous face,” Yibo coaxed him.

Xiao Zhan reached out as though to slap him again, but Yibo fended him off with one hand, pointing the camera at him with the other.  Xiao Zhan then gave up, walking away.  Yibo kept following him, so Xiao Zhan held up a hand at the camera again.  “My makeup isn’t done,” Xiao Zhan complained.  He walked out of the room, but when Yibo made to follow him, he blocked the door.

“Don’t come back,” Yibo said playfully.  

Xiao Zhan batted at his hands, pushing him back into the room.  He tried to get at the camera but Yibo held it high above his head.  Xiao Zhan smacked him on the arm, getting a solid hit, and Yibo turned his body sideways.

Is he hoping for another smack on the butt?!

They then started playfighting right in the middle of the makeup room, batting at each other with their hands, threatening to kick each other with their feet.  Xiao Zhan grabbed Yibo’s arm, trying to get at the camera, then walked away again.  Yibo followed him, so after half a turn around the room, Xiao Zhan covered his face then kept smacking Yibo on the arm softly.  

Yibo backed away out of slapping range, then held the camera up again.

Xiao Zhan followed him, a hand held up to block his face, and they made another half-turn around the room.  Xiao Zhan then sank down into a chair.  “What’s your problem?” he whined in a super cute voice.

The staff were now full-on laughing at them.  

Zhuocheng got up, trying to shove Yibo gently out of the way, but Yibo evaded him then squatted down to try to get a better angle at Xiao Zhan.  He pointed at Xiao Zhan’s legs instead of his face.

“Wow!  Look at Lao Xiao’s leg hair.  Charming legs.”

What the fuck Yibo!  Xiao Zhan pulled his leg up, trying to get it out of view of the camera.  

Yibo stood up again, whooping, pleased with himself.  That brat had no hair on his skinny-little-legs.  He pointed the camera at Xiao Zhan’s face from above.  Xiao Zhan pulled out his phone, filming Yibo on it in retaliation.

“Lao Xiao, are you looking in the mirror?”

“Wow, Yibo, you are soooo handsome!” Xiao Zhan said, filming him through his phone.

They filmed each other for a moment, then Xiao Zhan got to his feet, trying to get a better angle on Yibo.  

“Lao Xiao’s lips,” Yibo said, pointing the camera at him.  

Xiao Zhan immediately held up a hand in front of his lips, blocking the view.

“Let’s zoom in on Lao Xiao’s leg hair,” Yibo said instead, pointing the camera down again.

I can’t protect both my legs and my face at the same time!  You little shit!

“Wow, super cool!” Yibo exclaimed while still filming his legs.  He then pointed the camera back at his face, whooping.

The crew watched in bemusement as they kept filming each other, Xiao Zhan raising his hand to try to point his phone down and get an angle at Yibo’s face.  Yibo ducked his face behind the video camera.

Xiao Zhan then reached up to block the camera with his hand again, reaching his phone up and under the camera to get at Yibo’s face, then Yibo grabbed Xiao Zhan’s hand in his, pushing him back.

“Behave yourself, my wife!” Xiao Zhan shrieked, falling backwards.  “The fuck!” he yelled in Korean.

A crew member came to rescue the video camera from Yibo before it could fall victim to their play, then Yibo grabbed Xiao Zhan around the waist and started tickling him.

Xiao Zhan ran out of the makeup room, squealing.  Yibo chased after him, then the two of them wrestled with each other until Xiao Zhan ended up pinned against the wall, Yibo’s hands on his wrists, looking in each other’s eyes.

“Mr. Xiao?” his makeup artist said, poking her head out at them.  “We’re ready for you now.”

“C-coming,” Xiao Zhan stuttered.  He then tried to pull his wrists out of Yibo’s grip, but Yibo held him a beat longer, looking in his eyes, then finally he smirked at him and let him go.

Xiao Zhan felt a little weak in the legs as he stumbled back into the makeup room.  Goddamnit, Yibo!

———

Yibo was so playful that day, like a little chatterbox, just blabbering on nonsensically.  I think he’s trying to get me to laugh, this little shit.  And it’s working.

“I have to recite my lines after I go back today,” he said with a wide smile.

“Looking forward to Lao Wang’s acting,” Xiao Zhan said, grinning in spite of himself.  He laughed out loud.

“I never recite lines in this drama,” Yibo said, playfully tapping his own chest.  “I always just take a look at what I am going to act the day before.”

“Are you taunting me?” Xiao Zhan asked, holding the fan up to his face and brushing his bangs out of his eyes.

“Never recite,” Yibo repeated, looking over at him with a smile.  “There is no need to recite since I have so few lines.”  

“Yeah,” Xiao Zhan agreed, trying his best to ignore how cute he was.

“Yeah,” Yibo said.  “It’s enough for me to take a look at what I am going to act the next day.  It’s all status.  But I have to recite the lines for tomorrow.”

“Are there a lot?” Xiao Zhan gave in, asking.

“Three rows,” Yibo declared proudly, a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

The crew member behind Yibo holding an umbrella up for him covered his face, laughing.  Yibo’s smile grew wider as he laughed that gremlin laugh of his.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Xiao Zhan grumbled, turning away.  “I was going to offer to help you but for 3 lines?  Learn it yourself!”

“Oh, Zhan-ge,” Yibo said, grabbing his own umbrella and chasing him as he walked away.  “I want your help!  I’ll take it.  Help me tonight to memorize the lines.”

“Fuck off,” Xiao Zhan grumbled.

“I’ll help you with your lines!” Yibo offered with a shout.

Xiao Zhan turned and gave him the finger.

———

Later that day they had a break in filming.  They were both sitting down with each other on a large rock, their hips pressed together.  They were in some kind of orchard.

“How much?” Yibo asked, pointing at the fruit.  

“500 RMB,” A crew member answered.

“That expensive?” Yibo goggled, shocked, as he leaned over and touched the plant.  Xiao Zhan just looked dazed by the heat, gazing out into the distance.  There was a camera filming them for BTS footage, but he couldn’t be bothered.  He’d hardly slept all night with Yibo’s antics.

“500 RMB for picking one?” Xiao Zhan clarified, cluing in to the conversation.

“They are probably not even ripe,” Yibo scoffed, sitting back up again.  He then leaned back down.  “This one looks ripe already because it is hard,” he announced.

I really want to pick one, Yibo thought, gazing down at the fruit.  What would a fruit worth 500 RMB actually taste like?  Sweeter than normal?

He sat back up, realizing that Xiao Zhan was ignoring him, so he declared, “Zhan-ge let’s do rock paper scissors.  The loser has to eat it.”

He succeeded in getting Xiao Zhan to look his way, but then he scoffed, looking away again and crossing his ankle over his knee.  He had hiked his skirts up to get some relief from the heat, and his bare knees poked out.

“Okay?” Yibo asked him.

Xiao Zhan continue to ignore him.  “Nope,” he said.  

He doesn’t want to play because he always loses against me in Rock Paper Scissors, Yibo thought.  “Why?” he said aloud, picking at some lint on his clothes.

“Zhan-ge is drained, I need a break,” Xiao Zhan said, looking away.

Yibo leaned back, his shoulder brushing against Xiao Zhan’s, giving him something to lean against and rest.  “Rock paper scissors,” he said again.  “Whoever loses has to eat it.”  He tapped his fingers against his knee.

Xiao Zhan looked over, yawning and shaking his head.  He leaned back ever so slightly, leaning against Yibo.

“How about it?” Yibo said.  He was relentless.  “Come on, rock paper scissors.  Whoever loses has to eat it.”  He held up his fist, ready to go.

Xiao Zhan’s head drooped, his eyes closing.  He then shook his head a little, trying to wake himself up.  

Yibo dropped his hand, pouting in defeat.  He then looked down at the ground.  “So many ants are over here,” Xiao Zhan commented idly.

“Are you scared of eating spicy food?” Yibo asked out of the blue.

“Nope,” Xiao Zhan said, leaning his weight into Yibo.

“Look, there’s a really big ant right here,” Yibo said, pointing at the ground.  

Xiao Zhan glanced over, his body pressed against Yibo from shoulder to hip.  He leaned more against him, and Yibo leaned back, taking his weight.  He tilted his head in close.  “Aren’t you scared of them?” Xiao Zhan asked.

“Who would be scared of ants?” Yibo said, pouting a little.

“Aren’t you scared of insects?”

“Ants are okay,” Yibo mumbled.  

“I see,” Xiao Zhan said, sitting up for a moment, putting the fan up by his face. He then leaned back enough to lean his shoulder against Yibo’s again.  “Then I’m gonna tell you a little bit about the cabbage white caterpillar.”

Yibo turned his head away a little, but pressed his shoulder more firmly against Xiao Zhan’s.  “What does it look like?” Yibo asked in a soft voice.

Xiao Zhan reached over, sticking out his finger.  Yibo turned his head back towards Xiao Zhan.  “What?” he murmured.   He glanced over at Xiao Zhan.

“The cabbage white caterpillar,” Xiao Zhan said, fingering his knee.  

“Huh?”  Yibo looked over at him, his mouth open a little, head bowed.

“It is a squirmy creature,” Xiao Zhan teased him, head turned towards him.  

“That’s just disgusting,” Yibo said, looking down at the ground again as though searching to see if such a nasty creature was close by to them.

Xiao Zhan reached up and pushed his hair back.  They then settled back down again, backs pressed together.

“Do you think there are any snakes around here?  Probably.” Yibo asked in a low voice, looking around.

Xiao Zhan fiddled with his fan.

Yibo looked up, leaning back against Xiao Zhan.  “Probably yes,” he said nervously, looking back down.  Xiao Zhan didn’t even answer him.  At least if Xiao Zhan’s with me, he can scare all the creepy crawlies away.  He’s not afraid of them.  He picks them up with his bare hands!  Yibo thought with a shudder.  He pursed his lips, looking down at the ground again.  

After a while, Yibo yawned, his back still pressed to Xiao Zhan’s as he pointed at the grove on the far side.  “Are those apples or pears?” he asked around his yawn.

“Pears,” a crew member answered.

“Apples,” Yibo said instead.  If I say the wrong thing, then maybe I can make him look.  And stop ignoring me.  Although I like the feeling of his back against mine.

“They are green apples.  Look at them carefully their shape is round,” Yibo rambled.

Xiao Zhan turned, sliding the side of his thigh against Yibo’s back as he turned to look over his shoulder.  “They are apples?” Xiao Zhan asked Yibo playfully.  “I can tell they are pears.  Bro, do you have common sense?  Jesus Christ.”  He turned forwards again, screwing up his face.

Success!  He’s not ignoring me anymore.  Yibo turned back with him, again pressing up against his side so they were pressed together from shoulder to hip.  He looked over at him, putting a faux-outraged look on his face.  He then smirked and said to him under his breath, “Bullshit.”

Xiao Zhan pointed at the camera that was still filming them, then to Yibo who was looking at the side of his face.  “He just cursed.  Did you hear that?”

Yibo looked up at the camera, that smirk still on his face.  He shook his head a little, looking aside at Xiao Zhan as he pointed to the camera.  “They didn’t record that.  I kept my voice down.”

Xiao Zhan made a face at him, leaning a little against his shoulder.  “Of course they got that down.  There’s a big mic over there.”  

Yibo tilted his face away again, though he leaned his body back against Xiao Zhan.  Xiao Zhan listed a little, drooping into Yibo’s shoulder.  “Do you have anything to eat?  I’m starving,” Xiao Zhan complained.

Yibo smirked then reached down to a pear.  As he was leaning down, the staff nearby called out, “Lan Zhan, your wife is hungry!” making Yibo’s hand slip.  He didn’t intend to rip it off the plant, really, he was just poking fun, but then the pear fell off the branch.  “Whoa!” Yibo exclaimed, looking up sheepishly.  He turned to face Xiao Zhan, smirking as their shoulders rubbed together, faces close.  “I didn’t do it on purpose,” he defended himself.  “It just fell when I touched it.”

Xiao Zhan just looked at him, trying to hide his amusement behind the fan.

“I really didn’t mean to pick it!” Yibo said, looking him full in the face.  He reached up his arm, sliding his forearm against Xiao Zhan’s arm as he turned his face away.  “It fell when I touched it,” he said with a sheepish smile.

Xiao Zhan looked over at the camera, shrugging helplessly.  “500 RMB,” he said, holding up 5 fingers.

Yibo turned to the side, smiling.  Well I make enough money to pay for it.  But Xiao Zhan should eat it.

He picked up the fruit, then held it out for Xiao Zhan.  On second thought, he wiped it with his hands.  “Let me help you clean it up a little bit,” Yibo said playfully, leaning into his shoulder and looking at his face.

Xiao Zhan took the fruit from him then handed it to a crew member, leaning his arm across Yibo’s body.  “Take it back home.”

It was almost time for them to get back to shooting, so their makeup and hair artists came back over to fix them for the shot.  

“Look how professional he is,” Yibo said to the camera, holding out a hand to indicate Xiao Zhan.  “Zhan-ge.  The Zhan-ge that I respect so much,” he said playfully but seriously at the same time.

Xiao Zhan turned to look at him sideways.

“My role model,” Yibo continued, unashamed.  

“Wang Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said, still staring at him.  When Yibo turned his head to look in his eyes, he said, “Are we starting again?” 

Finally, the crew was ready for them.  I’m glad we’re going to be able to start shooting, I won’t be so bored anymore.  But… sitting with Xiao Zhan was nice.  Even though it’s really hot outside he leaned up against me.  Why do I have to like him so much?

“Let’s go,” Xiao Zhan said, getting to his feet. He didn’t get very far, though, because Yibo was sitting on the end of his robes and he got caught.

“Sorry,” Yibo said in English.  He got to his feet, then put his hand on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder.  “I didn’t mean to sit on your clothes,” he said seriously, looking in his face.

Xiao Zhan fixed him with a look.  

“I really didn’t mean to,” Yibo protested, taking his hand away to fix his cuff.

“Lao Wang,” Xiao Zhan said to him.

“Did I say a word when you stared at me?” Yibo shot back.

“I did not stare at you!” Xiao Zhan protested in a singsong voice.

“Yes, you did stare at me minutes ago,” Yibo said, his eyes twinkling.

Xiao Zhan tilted his head back to look at the heavens.  “Aiyo,” he moaned in a singsong voice.  He then turned to look at Yibo in the eyes.  “I wasn’t looking at you!”

Yibo looked back in his eyes, a little smirk on his face.  He's so cute when he's annoyed.  “You were obviously staring at me earlier!”  He then looked down to fuss with his cuff again.

Xiao Zhan looked away, complaining, “I can’t even look at you anymore?  You’re so good-looking, yet I can’t look at you?”  They looked in each other’s eyes again, and Yibo muttered, “Bullshit,” under his breath.  

They started to walk off together.  “You have such a small face and I can’t even look?” Xiao Zhan said to him as they walked.

“Bullshit,” Yibo said to him again, flicking his eyes up and then back down again.  He doesn’t really think I’m handsome.  Not the same way I mean it when I talk about him.

“Not as good-looking as you,” Yibo said, stepping up to walk with him.

“Of course you’re more good-looking than me!” Xiao Zhan protested.

“Not as good-looking as you,” Yibo repeated.

“My face will become smaller just by looking at you,” Xiao Zhan joked.  “How wonderful.”

“Not as pretty as you,” Yibo said again.

“Wang Yibo!”  Xiao Zhan said, brushing shoulders with him as they walked next to each other.  

“No matter how good-looking I am, I’m not as photogenic as Xiao-laoshi,” Yibo said.  

Xiao Zhan reached out and smacked Yibo on the arm.

Yibo smacked back.  His face then fell, smoothing out into its expressionless mask.  I already miss him.  He's still by my side and I already miss him.

———

When they got back to their rooms later, Yibo went straight up into his room and didn’t come out again, not even to eat dinner.  Xiao Zhan ate with the others, joking and laughing around the table.  After a while they all noticed that Yibo wasn’t there.

“Maybe you should go and find your wife,” Yu Bin said later on.

Xiao Zhan gave him a droll stare.  “Really, don’t you start.”

“He sure wishes  he was your wife,” Zhuocheng said under his breath.

“He does not!  We’re just friends, guys, really.  Yibo isn’t stupid enough to like me.  And I’m not going to baby him by going and fetching him something to eat,” Xiao Zhan said in a huff, crossing his arms over his chest.

Then the room went quiet.  Xiao Zhan looked up, checking what the noise was, and it was Yibo who apparently had been standing to the side and overheard the whole thing.

Yibo tried to pass it off as nothing.  He brushed into the kitchen, opened up the fridge, then got himself a bottle of water.  He then left again, making his way back to the elevator.

“Hey, you just taking water?” Zhuocheng called out.  “You need to eat something, man.”

“I’m fine,” Yibo snapped, then the elevator doors closed behind him.

The others all gave Xiao Zhan a look.

“Fine, fine, stop it.”  He then grabbed a plate and dished out some food for Yibo, heading to the elevator.

He knocked on Yibo’s door, but when Yibo’s voice called out, “Please go away,” Xiao Zhan just opened the door anyway and walked in.

“Hey!” Yibo said, outraged.  “A little privacy?”  He was sitting there on his bed, his shirt half-off, rucked around his arms.

“If you want privacy then learn to lock your door,” Xiao Zhan muttered, walking in.  He put the food down on the table, then walked over to Yibo, popping the shirt back over his head and tugging it down over his torso.  “Don’t get into bed.  Eat first.”

Yibo pouted, turning his face away.  “I’m not hungry.”

Xiao Zhan sat down next to him, then used both his hands to puff up Yibo’s cheeks.  “Wang Yibo, you have such a small face, but you need to eat.  We don’t want you falling over again.”

Yibo grabbed Xiao Zhan’s wrists, pulling his hands away from his face.  “Stop that,” he snapped at him.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes went wide at the serious tone.  He dropped his hands immediately, wringing them together in his lap.  

Yibo turned his face away, then grabbed the bottle of water and downed half of it in one long series of gulps.  When he put the bottle down, he twisted the cap on then rubbed his mouth.  “Are you still here?” he said, turning to look at Xiao Zhan with sharp eyes.

“For now,” Xiao Zhan said.  Filming is almost over,  Xiao Zhan thought to himself.  We won’t have a lot of time together after this.  Yibo told me himself he doesn’t want to meet up with me when all this is over.

An oppressive, weighty silence stretched out between them, thickening in the air.  Xiao Zhan held his breath, looking over to watch Yibo.  Yibo was just sitting there, staring off into space, like he'd gone to another place.  What is he thinking about?   Xiao Zhan wondered, worrying his lip between his teeth.  He looked down at his hands.  Maybe he's also thinking about the fact that our time here is almost up.

“Stop calling me cute if you don’t mean it,” Yibo muttered under his breath finally.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes shot up.  “What makes you think I don’t mean it?”

Yibo just turned his face away, saying nothing.

“Bo-di, talk to me, please,” Xiao Zhan whispered.

“You think I’m stupid,” Yibo said, his voice so soft Xiao Zhan thought he had imagined it.

“When did I say you were stupid?” Xiao Zhan asked, trying to catch his eyes.  What did I say earlier?  Xiao Zhan wracked his brain, trying to remember what he'd said to the others downstairs.  I said... I’m not going to baby him by going and fetching him something to eat.  That's not calling him stupid.  What the fuck else did I say?

Yibo huffed out a breath, then got up and walked over to the table.  He sat down heavily, picking up the chopsticks and picking away at his food.

At least he’s eating. 

“I’m sorry,” Xiao Zhan said, though he didn’t really know what he was sorry for.

“Don’t say you’re sorry if you don’t mean it,” Yibo said, harking back to a conversation that had happened between Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji.

Xiao Zhan came to sit with him at the table, propping a head on his hand and looking over at him.  He watched with fascination what eating did to Yibo’s face, all the little twitches and turns in that usually straight face.  He really is the most handsome man I’ve ever seen.  “We’re almost finished filming,” Xiao Zhan commented.  

Yibo nodded, his eyes fixed on the table.  He shoved more food in his mouth, almost angrily.  “You won’t need to worry about me anymore.”

“Wang Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said, reaching out to lay a hand on the young man’s forearm.  His hand was clenched into a fist on the table.  “You were the one who told me you didn’t want to have any contact with me after filming ended.”

Yibo’s eyes shot up to his face.  “When did I say that?”  

“On camera.  Behind the scenes.”  Xiao Zhan’s eyes were searching his face.

Yibo rolled his eyes, looking away.  “And you believed that shit?”

“Yes, I believed that shit,” Xiao Zhan confirmed.  “Though I had hoped to convince you otherwise by the time we’re done filming.”

“Why?” Yibo said, eyes still turned away.  He’d abandoned his food.

“Because… I want to be your friend.  We’re friends, aren’t we, Yibo?” Xiao Zhan asked gently.  

Yibo wouldn’t look at him.  His mouth thinned out into a line.

“I want to know we can still be friends,” Xiao Zhan said, a little desperate.  God, Xiao Zhan, could you make it a little more obvious how you feel about him?  Stop it, stop it, get out of here while you can.

But he couldn't leave, not until he could look into Yibo’s eyes at least one more time.

Xiao Zhan stroked his thumb along Yibo’s forearm.  “Bo-di, look at me, please?”

Yibo finally looked up, looked straight into Xiao Zhan’s eyes.  There were unshed tears swimming in Yibo’s eyes, and Xiao Zhan felt his heart plummet in his chest.

Ah, fuck, what am I doing giving him mixed signals.  This poor kid… he deserves to go his own way, when all this is done.  His whole life is in front of him.  He’ll shine so bright the whole world will want to look at him.  But if I so much as look at him myself, all that will come crashing down.

Xiao Zhan couldn’t have told you for the world what look was in his own eyes when he saw those tears swimming in Yibo’s.  

“Please, Zhan-ge,” Yibo said in a whisper.

He’s going to ask me something stupid.  He’s going to ask me to stay.  To kiss him.  He’s going to go somewhere neither of us can come back from.

Xiao Zhan didn’t know what was in his face, but whatever it was made Yibo stop.  He stopped, his mouth closing firmly, then opening again, and he said, “Please leave,” his voice earnest.

Xiao Zhan nodded dumbly, getting to his feet.  “Okay,” he whispered.  He then cleared his throat.  “Okay.”

He paused at the door, one hand on the doorknob.  Yibo looked so alone, sitting there at the table, the food left half-eaten.  Both forearms braced on the table, hands in fists.  Like he was holding himself back, or maybe just holding himself together.

“Please finish your food.  And get some rest.  We’ve got a big day ahead of us tomorrow.”

“I’ll be fine tomorrow,” Yibo said softly, then turned his head away.  He probably thought Xiao Zhan couldn’t see when a tear fell free, running down his cheek.  “Please leave.”

Xiao Zhan slipped out the door.

I wish I could find a way to stay with you.  But I can’t.

———

It was only later that night, when he was lying awake in bed unable to sleep, that he remembered what he must have said that triggered Yibo.

We’re just friends.  Yibo isn’t stupid enough to like me. 

Chapter Text

August 2018

 

Yibo was feeling a little sad still in the morning, though he managed to put on his expressionless mask and hold it tight as he went with the others to get ready in the morning. He kept stealing glances at Xiao Zhan, just wanting to look at him for as long as he still could. Xiao Zhan kept looking back at him, too. Their eyes would meet in the mirror, and they’d just gaze at each other, until one or the other got uncomfortable and looked away. Then it would start again.

Yibo’s hair and makeup was finished before Xiao Zhan’s, so he got up, walking outside to get some fresh air. 

Yu Bin came up to find him where he was standing there, shadow-boxing the thin air, still in his track jacket and shorts.

“Hey,” Yu Bin said, then started shadow-boxing the air nearby him.

Yibo ignored him, jumping up and down on the balls of his feet and getting started again.

“So, need to talk?” Yu Bin asked.

“No,” Yibo said shortly, though all his body language said the opposite.

They stood there, boxing the air next to each other until finally Yibo turned and fixed Yu Bin with a death glare.

Yu Bin just raised an eyebrow, smiling. “I want to talk,” Yu Bin declared.

Yibo just put his hands on his hips, looking at him. “What?”

Yu Bin got out his phone, whistling as he made an effort to pull something up on it. “I found something interesting last night. Got me to thinking.”

“What?” Yibo repeated through clenched teeth.

“I think, if you don’t confess to Xiao Zhan before we all leave here, that the next day I’ll send him this and tell him it came from you,” Yu Bin said with a wicked gleam in his eye, then turned and pointed the phone to him.

Yibo blanched when he saw an old picture of him joking around with his bandmates, fake-kissing Seungyoun. He shot out his hand, thinking of stealing the phone from him to delete the picture but Yu Bin just laughed, shouting “Reckless!” and dancing away from him. He managed to evade him long enough to shove the phone in a pocket. 

Yibo then stood there, his hands clenched in fists by his side, breathing hard. Then, all at once, he drooped. He walked over to the edge of the steps of the Golden Carp Tower where they were filming that day. He sat down heavily on the steps, then held his head in his hands, careful not to mess up his hair.

Yu Bin sat next to him, calm all at once, but didn’t touch him. He just sat close. “Look, all joking aside, Yibo. It’s going to tear you up inside if you don’t tell him.”

“He already knows,” Yibo whispered. 

“Did you actually say the words? Have you kissed him? Told him you want to be his boyfriend?” His voice was soft so it didn’t carry.

“No,” Yibo mumbled.

Yu Bin sighed, stretching out his legs and leaning back on his hands to look up at the sky. “Things are different when you say them out loud. They become real. You can’t deny them. Even if nothing comes of it, even if it fucks things up, this isn’t even about the outcome anymore. It’s about how it’ll feel for you to be honest - with yourself.”

“It’ll change everything.” Yibo looked up, propping his head on his knees. He sighed, staring off into the distance.

“Maybe. Maybe it’ll also change nothing.” Yu Bin glanced over at him.  “Not sure which is better.”

Yibo closed his eyes, tilting his face up a little to catch the light. 

“What have you got to lose?” 

“Everything,” Yibo whispered.

Yu Bin hummed. “Well, I guess that’s true,” he admitted. “But he respects you too much to let anything bad happen to you.”

“I respect him too,” Yibo said, cracking his eyes open. “So much. I don’t want to do anything to hurt him.”

“So you’ll hurt yourself, instead.”  He could feel Yu Bin’s calm gaze on his face, watching him.

“Yes.”

They sat there for a while, lapsing into silence. Soon enough, someone came to fetch Yibo to get dressed, and he threw Yu Bin one glance and a little thumbs-up, all that he could manage to tell the other that he was okay.

———

Yibo’s mood lightened considerably when they were filming, as he got really into it. I might as well enjoy this while it lasts.

Xiao Zhan had a way of pulling him instantly out of his shell, playing around with him, fighting with him. Even if he wanted to be sad, it was impossible to be when Xiao Zhan was smiling at him like that. 

They started out by filming the daytime scenes, Wei Wuxian accompanying Lan Wangji to Golden Carp tower when they were going to expose Jin Guangyao’s deception. They walked up the stairs together, then stopped halfway, and Lan Wangji gave Wuxian a deeply tender look before saying, “Let’s go.”

At least it’s not hard for me to look at him tenderly, Yibo thought to himself. I can hardly look at him any other way now.

Standing next to each other, presenting as a couple - it all felt incredibly natural to him. In fact, he thought to himself, the harder part will be not presenting that way when all this was over. 

As they filmed the banquet scene, Yibo composed himself into a regal Wangji, always sitting elegantly. His voice when he spoke to Wuxian was tender, and he gave him soft looks out of the side of his eye. When he saw Wuxian talking with other people, it was easy to let a hint of jealousy shine in his eyes. 

I’m going to spend the rest of my life being jealous of anyone who gets to be close to him,  Yibo thought.

———

Xiao Zhan was relieved to see Yibo acting more like his normal self, even if he was a little reserved, not joking with him quite as much. 

In between takes, Xiao Zhan coaxed Yibo into playing the hand-slap game. At first, he let him win. Then, he genuinely tried to win against him and couldn’t. Yibo smirked.

“How are you so good at this game?!” Ji Li cried out, watching them. He’d been the victim last time around, unable to win against Yibo no matter how hard he tried.

“Maybe you guys should do more sports,” Yibo said with a laugh. “Increase your reaction time.”

“Are you even human?!” Ji Li cried out, imitating Xiao Zhan.

Yibo laughed like a gremlin. 

———

They split up at nighttime, Xiao Zhan going off to film Wei Wuxian’s scenes with Jin Ling. When he finally finished these scenes, he found Yibo sitting elegantly in a camp chair in his full Wangji gear, playing a game on his phone. 

Xiao Zhan wordlessly got out his phone, joining him in the game. They played together a little while, then Xiao Zhan started to hum to himself. Yibo joined in. When Xiao Zhan broke out in full song, Yibo joined him again, his voice singing the same song an octave lower.

We sound so good together,  Xiao Zhan thought sadly. 

———

They filmed the scenes in their room, where they sat together at the little table and Wei Wuxian got his paperman out. They filmed both sides of it at once, when he sent the paperman out, and when the paperman came back. 

The look on Xiao Zhan’s face when he was acting as the playful Wei Wuxian was so cute. He’s so adorable,  Yibo thought to himself. 

He had to act as though he knew where the paperman was, when in reality the paperman would be added in post. His voice was tender when he said, “Don’t kid me,” and held out his hand for the paperman. “Be careful where you go,” he murmured, then watched where the paperman would go.

He then filmed the paperman coming back, getting up to his feet and kneeling down to pick him up, looking around. Then helping Wuxian to re-incorporate his spiritual essence.

Wangji reached out to hold Wuxian’s arm, steadying him as he listened intently to his words.

They filmed the two of them walking back out together, causing a ruckus as they fought people on their way to the secret room. Yibo was thrilled inside when he got to use Bichen again. So much fun, the fighting scenes. 

During the scenes that followed, Lan Wangji didn’t have any lines, so Yibo had to focus really hard to maintain his expressions through the monotony of listening to everyone else act the scenes from the different angles required. 

The next scene they were filming that Yibo was really looking forward to was the escape scene, after Wuxian’s identity was revealed and they had to run away. 

They had to run down over a hundred steps, holding hands. 

It sounded like something rather easy to do, but in practice, Wangji’s shoes were really quite overly large for Yibo’s feet, with inserts to increase his height, and the steps were really tiny. The first time they tried to run down the steps together, Yibo tripped, and Xiao Zhan had to grab his arm to keep them both from falling. They burst out laughing together.

They jumped once together, holding hands at the top of the stairs. Then they practiced running down the steps again, but after he fell the last time, he just had a memory of that and he started laughing again. “Little tiny shitty baby steps,” Yibo growled at the steps as they ran down. Xiao Zhan smacked Yibo repeatedly with his script as they ran down the stairs, then when they got to the platform in the middle, he laughed and shoved him away, and Yibo broke out in a huge smile. 

Xiao Zhan stopped on the steps, turning to Yibo with his hands on his hips. “Get it out, Yibo. If you need to laugh, then laugh now!”

Yibo burst out laughing, clutching at his belly and doubling over. Xiao Zhan then laughed at Yibo laughing, clutching at his arm. Yibo got a hold of his hand, and they kept laughing, until everyone on the cast and crew just looked at them, fond and exasperated all at the same time.

“Okay okay, let’s do this,” Yibo said. “Pinch me.”

Xiao Zhan grinned, then reached out and pinched him, hard. Yibo’s face smoothed out. “Pinch me!” Xiao Zhan asked in return.

Yibo reached out and pinched him back.

They smirked together one last time, laughter on the verge of bubbling up again, then they pinched each other one last time, smacking each other for good measure, and walked back up to the top of the steps. 

“Okay guys, you ready to do this?” Director Zheng asked in his infinite patience.

They managed to film the scene well this time, running down holding hands, keeping straight faces. When Wei Wuxian pushed Lan Wangji away, Yibo maintained that face, just looking at him with a kind of brokenhearted conflict on his face. But then he looked up at the others and that conflict was gone. He’s already made up his mind,  Yibo thought as he looked at Wei Wuxian. There’s nothing and no one that he’ll let keep them apart now.

Wei Wuxian dropped his mask, and Jin Guangyao accused him of fooling everyone including Hanguang Jun.

“You’re right,” Wei Wuxian said.

“He’s not right,” Lan Wangji broke over him in a strong voice, cutting him off. 

Wei Wuxian turned to look at him, shocked. 

When Lan Wangji looked over at him, and slowly walked to stand by his side, the look on his face was as tender as his voice as he said quietly, “I have already known he was Wei Ying.” I have known since the moment I saw him. I am the one who loves him best. I am the one who will stand by his side, Yibo thought.

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian hissed, looking over at him with concern written all over his face. 

Yibo just let that tenderness lay naked on his face for a moment, then Lan Wangji drew Bichen out of the scabbard in one smooth motion, swinging it in an arc around him. 

Wei Wuxian grabbed his wrist, saying under his breath, “Lan Zhan, you don’t have to do that. I’ve been used to this for a long time. Let’s go first. Just say you were deceived by me. Others dare not say anything about you.” 

“Wei Ying,” Wangji said tenderly. “Do you remember what you asked me in the Cloud Recesses?” Wangji turned to face him, and his eyes were shining with emotion. I love you so much. I love you and I don’t want to be apart from you anymore. I can’t take it, Yibo thought on behalf of Wangji. I’d rather die with you here today than live one more day without you. Aloud, he said Wuxian’s famous line, “The feeling of sticking to the single-log bridge until it’s dark indeed is not bad.”

Lan Wangji then smiled, that serene smile that was like the winter snow. I love you. I am yours.

Wei Wuxian smiled back, that beautiful, all-encompassing smile that Xiao Zhan had that made Yibo’s heart drop down out of his chest. His own eyes were shining with emotion. Do you feel this, too?  Yibo wondered. Is that look in your eye genuine?  Do you want me to stay by your side?

“Lan Zhan, oh Lan Zhan,” he said, shaking his head. 

Then the two of them stood there, holding hands while everyone watched. The tension in the air was palpable, the whole set silent as they watched them stand there together. There was an energy charged in the air.

Wei Wuxian then looked back up at him one more time. “Lan Zhan, I’ll give you one more chance. Think carefully.”

Wangji was still looking at him with love in his eyes. Then he slowly turned to face their attackers.

“After you walk out this door, your reputation will be ruined.”

As if Lan Wangji gives a flying fuck about his reputation, you dumb shit,  Yibo thought. 

They turned back-to-back, facing the drawn swords around them. 

“Are we going to fight or not?” Wei Wuxian asked.

“Too much talking,” Lan Zhan grumbled.

Wei Wuxian smirked, then shouted, “Fight!”

“Cut!”

They filmed the same scene a few times, the energy in the air still charged, while they got the much-needed close-ups. Then it was on to the fighting scenes, where Yibo got to dance around with Bichen. He wanted to smile, he was having so much fun, but he maintained that placid expression on his face as he fought. 

Then they filmed the scene with Jin Ling. When he stabbed Wuxian, Wangji pushed him away, abject fear on his face as he caught Wuxian’s arm, preventing him from falling down. 

“Are you okay?” Wangji asked in a low voice, concern written all over his features. If I just saw Xiao Zhan get stabbed, I’d feel like I had been stabbed, too,  Yibo thought. He looked in his eyes, searching his face for a sign that somehow everything would be okay.

“Why would this kid,” Wuxian whispered, “Stab me in the same place as his uncle?” 

Wangji looked down at his wound, concerned, then looked back at his face when Wuxian said, “I’m hanging in. Let’s go.”

The look on Wangji’s face when he hauled him to his feet was determined. I will not let you die.  I will not.

They then walked off, arm-in-arm.  

“Cut!”

It was the last scene they were filming for the night.  They’d already filmed the scene that followed earlier, the one in the rain.  

Haikuan and Zhuocheng came up to them after they finished shooting, giving them a deeply respectful look.  

Zhuocheng looked at Xiao Zhan first, and said, “That smile when Yibo looked at you, that smile is going to break a lot of hearts.”  He then turned to Yibo.  “I am really impressed, Yibo.  That look in your eyes… it moved me.  From where I was standing, I could feel the emotion.  It was incredible.”

Yibo nodded, murmuring, “Thanks,” but his mind was in another place.  He was having a hard time coming back from where he’d just gone to get the scene out.

Xiao Zhan put his hand on his arm.  He didn’t say anything, but the four of them just stood there together a moment, letting the moment pass.


———

Yibo stuck by Xiao Zhan’s side like glue the next few days.  They didn’t speak about the important things, that tension lying unspoken between them, like a current in the air.  But Yibo also couldn’t bear to be separated from him.  So he clung to his side, just wanting to be near him.  Yibo and Xiao Zhan even stuck together to go to the bathroom at night, walking the long way to the washrooms in Hengdian Studios. 

When Yibo was alone in his room, trying to fall asleep, he couldn’t help but go online and search about himself.  Yibo had gone to all the extra effort on his birthday to invite fans on the set, and he did a live broadcast with them.  He had sat there in his black shorts, track jacket, and Lan Wangji hair, and he’d eaten a meal with them, then posed in front of them as they took pictures with him.

He saw it as a part of his role, as a part of being an idol.  But the one bad thing about being in the spotlight was the anti-fans.  

This wasn’t a new thing for Yibo.  He’d had paint splashed on him.  Clothes drenched in blood mailed to him.  But when he saw the comments that had been posted about him on his birthday, he was feeling too raw to shut it out entirely.

Yibo had always loved his name.  “Yi” - One, single-minded, concentrated.  “Bo” - broad and profound.  But “Bo” also had a homonym - erection.  Although it sounded funny at first, it had made him the butt of jokes over the years.  He read some of the comments with a heavy heart.

- Is this even a star?

- The fans will be poisoned if they eat this cake

- Fans?  All of them are extras

- WYB nobody

- Like a piece of shit, no character

- His birthday is none of our business, don’t get cocky

- The girl in black is Wang Yibo

- Fifty dollars for screaming, one hundred dollars for singing, two hundred dollars for crying

- A group of crazy

- WYB has an erection

- Can the extras be louder

- Go home.  Don’t come out and suck

- That is all?

- Is that a star?  That’s called a fan?  Bullshit

- Somewhat boring

- WYB erection lasts only a second

- WYB, son of bitch WYB, son of bitch WYB, son of bitch WYB

He’d held himself back from reading the comments for a week, knowing they’d be brutal.  Why did he even open them in the first place?  What did he have to gain by reading hate spewed out by people who frankly didn’t even know him at all?

It didn’t make it hurt any less.  

He couldn’t stay in that room, those comments running along the inside of his eyelids as he tried to sleep.  He put on his black shorts, a t-shirt, and his track jacket, then slipped out of the door with his running shoes.  He laced them up by the door downstairs, then stepped out into the night.

It was still hot at night, close to 30 degrees outside and muggy.  As soon as he stepped foot outside, he took off running.  He didn’t care where he was going, he just needed to feel his legs pumping underneath him.  The last few times he’d gone running, it had been morning runs with Xiao Zhan by his side.  Running now, at night, alone, made him feel again this aching loneliness that was just starting to creep up on him.  

Stop it, Yibo!  He told himself as he ran.  Stop feeling!

But even though he didn’t show it on his face, inside there was a storm brewing.  It had been brewing for a while, rain clouds gathering.  For a brief moment, when he’d been surrounded by the cast on his birthday, he’d felt loved.  When he’d sat there with Xiao Zhan’s arms around him, terrified out of his wits, he’d felt loved.  Why was it that without people around him he couldn’t feel that love anymore?  Was it that he didn’t feel it for himself?  He always felt something about himself was lacking?

He pushed himself harder, running until his legs burned, his heart thumping in his chest, sweat running down his face.  He ran until he found himself running by a river, and then he turned and followed it to run alongside it.  He ran until his legs crumpled underneath him, and he landed on his knees, hard, scraping up raw wounds of road rash.

When he was on the ground, he didn’t feel any pain.  The adrenaline was still strong, pumping through his body, giving him some relief.  He rolled over onto his back, lying there spread-eagled and looking up at the sky.  Out here, where there weren’t any lights to interfere, he could see the stars clearly above.  He started counting them, picking out constellations, just to keep his mind occupied on some task that wasn’t being totally and completely self-absorbed.

Grow up, Yibo,  he told himself.  You don’t need anyone but yourself.  Grow the fuck up.

He must have laid there like that for an hour, at least - but Yibo hadn’t brought his phone with him and couldn’t tell the time.  He also didn’t know exactly where he was.

It was only after he calmed down again that his heart launched into a massive arrhythmia.  When it started doing this, he felt it at first like a fluttering in his throat, then like he couldn’t breathe.  He had followed Xiao Zhan’s advice and picked up his medication, but it was back in his room at the boarding house.  The only thing he could do was try to calm down, try to wait it out.

It’s brought on by stress,  he reminded himself logically.  It will pass.  Calm yourself.  Calm.

Yibo sat up, shaking, and sat himself in a very Lan Wangji-like pose, his legs crossed, hands on his knees.  Others might laugh at him if they knew it, but he called on Wangji in that moment.  He pulled the character around him like a warm blanket, using it to get him into a place where he felt like he was in control again.  He couldn’t clear his mind completely, so he started reciting the Gusu Lan sect rules.  

Do not kill within Cloud Recesses

Do not fight without permission

Do not commit acts of promiscuity

Do not go out at night

Do not make noise

Do not walk too fast

Do not laugh for no reason

Do not sit with a disgraceful pose

…what came next?  

Do not act impulsively?

Diligence is the root?

Be loyal and filial?

Be strict with yourself?

Do not hold grudges?

Love and respect yourself?

He was sure he was messing them up or getting them all out of order, but when he got to that one, “Love and respect yourself,” it twisted something painfully inside him.  How can someone just… love themselves?  He wondered.  

Love and respect yourself

Love and respect yourself

Love and respect yourself

He repeated it to himself, thinking that maybe by letting the thought take form it would start to sink in and translate into meaning for him.  He even said it aloud, “Love and respect yourself.”

Xiao Zhan seemed like the kind of person who loved himself.  He always seemed to have it so… together.  That brightness that he exuded came from inside.  He was clean and pure and Yibo was attracted to that like a moth to the flame.  He knew Xiao Zhan had his own struggles, his own worries, but he was sure that there were never moments when he didn’t still love himself.

I admire him so much.  But I’m so far from being worthy of him.  I can’t be near him until I can stand on my own two feet.

He was suddenly ashamed of himself for losing control.  Again.

Yibo got shakily to his feet, scrubbing his hands back through his hair.  He started to walk back, retracing his steps.  Then he picked up the pace, breaking out into a run.  He didn’t run quite as wildly as he had before, instead he ran composed, regular, steady.  He had succeeded in attaining that calm, expressionless mask that he’d been trying to put on.  It felt familiar in there, comfortable.

He ran all the way back, picking up the pace and feeling like a machine.

When he pushed his way back into the boarding house, he went into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water.  He drank a whole bottle in one go, then pulled out another.  He drank half of it, then walked over to the elevator.  When he was walking up to his door, he thought he’d been silent, but he must have made some kind of noise because all of a sudden Xiao Zhan’s door opened and he poked his head out, looking at him.

“Wang Yibo?” Xiao Zhan whispered.

He looked so beautiful like that, his hair sleep-ruffled, rubbing his eyes.  Dressed in an oversized sleeping shirt and sweatpants.

“Sorry to wake you,” Yibo whispered, lingering by his own door.  “You should go back to sleep.”

Xiao Zhan looked him up and down, then zeroed in on his bloody knees.  “What happened?”

“I’m fine,” Yibo said shortly, pushing open his door and disappearing inside.  

Xiao Zhan followed him inside, pushing in behind him.  Yibo took off his track jacket, giving it a sniff and recoiling, and threw it in the hamper.  

“Wang Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said again.  “Were you outside?”

“I went for a run,” Yibo said shortly.

“In the middle of the night?  Alone?  Didi that’s dangerous,” he said, pushing himself in front of Yibo to meet his eyes.  He looked so concerned.

Yibo let the tenderness he felt for this man show on his face, as he gazed at him.  He reached up a hand and put it on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder.  “I’m fine,” he repeated, his voice softer this time.

Xiao Zhan searched his eyes, still looking unsure.  “You shouldn’t go out at night, especially with your face uncovered.  You could have been seen by your fans, something could have happened.”

Yibo turned his face away, eyes distant.  “I don’t have any fans,” he mumbled.

“What are you talking about?  Of course you do.”

Yibo pulled away, then shrugged out of his t-shirt, giving it the sniff test and promptly tossing it in the same hamper.  “I need to take a shower, Zhan-ge.  You should go back to bed.”

“I’m getting the med kit,” Xiao Zhan said stubbornly.  “Take your shower and I’ll take a look at your knees.”

Yibo rolled his eyes over to him, hands on his hips.  “Xiao Zhan.  I’m a dancer and a skateboarder.  I skin my knees all the time.  It’s fine, really.”

“I’m getting the med kit,” Xiao Zhan said stubbornly, letting himself out of the room.

Yibo took off the rest of his clothes and jumped in the shower, quickly lathering up his skin and rinsing out his hair.  He didn’t linger, especially knowing that he was now keeping Xiao Zhan awake in the middle of the night.  When he got out of the shower, he realized he hadn’t brought in any clothes, and he sighed.  He wrapped a towel around his waist and stepped out.

Xiao Zhan was sitting on his bed, the med kit beside him.  He looked up when Yibo stepped out, eyeing him up and down, his eyes lingering on his still-damp hair, remnants of water clinging to his bare skin.  He watched Yibo as he walked towards him, then sat down next to him on the bed.  Xiao Zhan sat stiffly, his hands on his knees.  Yibo looked over at him, waiting for him to do something, but he seemed to be indecisive.  

“It’s really fine,” Yibo said gently.  “Go to bed.”

Xiao Zhan shook his head, then opened the med kit.  He got out some rubbing alcohol and a swab, wetting the swab.  He then got down on his knees in front of the bed, looking at Yibo’s skinned knees.  He clucked his tongue.

Yibo leaned back on his hands, looking down at Xiao Zhan down on his knees in front of him.  He doesn’t belong there,  Yibo thought absently.  He shouldn’t be on his knees in front of anyone.

Yibo’s stomach tensed up when Xiao Zhan applied the rubbing alcohol to his knees, carefully, one at a time.  His fingers were gentle where they touched his skin, pulling it taut so he could dab the alcohol more effectively.

“You read the comments online, didn’t you?” Xiao Zhan asked him softly.

Yibo didn’t say anything, just pursed his lips, biting his bottom lip into his mouth.

“When I saw what was happening that day, I told them they should shut off the comments section. But they couldn’t.”  Xiao Zhan sounded apologetic.

Yibo turned his face away, ashamed that Xiao Zhan had seen those types of comments written about him.

“I was hoping you’d never read them,” Xiao Zhan said, looking up at him.

Yibo just shrugged his shoulders.  “It’s not the first time.  It won’t be the last.”

Xiao Zhan finished swabbing his knees, then stood up to throw the swab away.  He closed back up the med kit, putting it on the table.  Then he came to sit down next to Yibo again.

“You should go to bed,” Yibo said again, avoiding looking in his eyes.

“I’m not going to bed until you look me in the eyes and tell me that you’re okay.”  His voice was firm, uncompromising.

Yibo looked Xiao Zhan in the eyes, sliding that emotionless mask on.  “I’m okay.”

Xiao Zhan looked back at him, his heart in his eyes.  He reached up a hand, stroking the side of Yibo’s cheek gently with his thumb.  “You’re hiding.”

Yibo huffed out a breath, looking at the ceiling then looking back down again.  “And what will you do if I’m not okay?” 

Xiao Zhan looked him squarely in the eyes and said, “I’ll stay.”

Yibo’s eyes widened.

Xiao Zhan kept looking at him, holding his eyes, full of unwavering trust and support.  “You don’t like being alone, do you, Yibo?  Especially when you’re not feeling good.”

“No,” he whispered.  “I don’t.”

“Do you want me to stay?” Xiao Zhan asked gently.

“Yes,” he said in a voice that was barely audible.

Xiao Zhan nodded, holding his eyes.  “Okay.”

They sat there, staring at each other, something deep passing between them.  Yibo felt the heart that he’d so carefully packed away tonight start to flutter out of its cage.  He felt such… yearning.

“I’ll need you to put something on,” Xiao Zhan said with a wry smile.  “I’ll stay, but I’m not sleeping with you naked.”

Yibo held his gaze for a moment longer, than nodded.  He turned his gaze away reluctantly, getting unsteadily to his feet.  He padded over to his wardrobe, opening the drawers and pulling out the first pair of soft shorts that he could find.  He pulled them on under his towel, then took the towel off to go hang it up in the bathroom.  When he came back into the bedroom, he saw Xiao Zhan had already crawled under the covers.

“Do you need me to put a shirt on?” Yibo asked, scratching the side of his head.

“If you put it on you’ll just end up taking it off during the night anyway, won’t you?” Xiao Zhan murmured, obviously remembering last time.  “It’s okay, you can leave it off.”

Yibo nodded.  He left the light on in the bathroom, but cracked the door open only a foot wide so the light spilled in.  He then turned off the main light in the bedroom.  He padded over to the bed, then hesitated.

Xiao Zhan held the covers open for him.  

Yibo was suddenly nervous as he slid into the bed.  He awkwardly slid in on his stomach, his face turned towards Xiao Zhan.  Xiao Zhan was turned on his side, facing him, just a small halo of light from the bathroom lighting up his face.  

“You like being touched in bed, right?” Xiao Zhan whispered.  “What was it you said?  It brings you a sense of security?”

Yibo nodded.

Xiao Zhan tugged Yibo’s hand, sliding it over his chest.  “Just for tonight.”

Yibo let out a big sigh, then slid a little closer, sliding his leg on top of Xiao Zhan’s, his hand on his chest.  Xiao Zhan shifted a little so he stretched his arm out, and Yibo adjusted his pillow so his head was lying on Xiao Zhan’s arm under the pillow, enough to get the contact but not enough to cut off the blood flow.  Then he lay down again, his hand finding its home on Xiao Zhan’s chest.

Xiao Zhan reached out a finger and touched the mole on the side of Yibo’s neck.  “You have one too.”

“Mn.”

“Is this okay?” Xiao Zhan asked him.

Yibo snuggled in a little closer, closing his eyes.  With Xiao Zhan not only next to him, but letting him touch him, it was more than okay.  It was perfect.  “Yes.”

Yibo was surprised when Xiao Zhan leaned over enough to place a chaste kiss on his forehead.  “Okay, Bo-di.  Sleep now.”

“Mn.”

Yibo never fell asleep so fast in his life as he did wrapped up in the comforting embrace.

Chapter Text

August 2018

 

Xiao Zhan woke first again in the morning, blinking his eyes open to the light starting to spill in the window.  He had a feeling that if they slept together he’d always be the one waking first - Yibo did not seem to be a morning person.

He felt a sense of warmth and security when he woke, and then he smiled to himself.  Security.  Yes, I understand that feeling now.

Unlike the night after Gonjiam, this time Yibo hadn’t moved away in his sleep.  If anything, he’d moved closer.  Yibo’s head was tucked in on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder, his arm flung across his chest, his hand palming Xiao Zhan’s other shoulder.  His leg was thrown over the top of his own, his foot curled around and tucked in under his calf.  He could feel Yibo’s morning erection pressing against his hip, and it made something inside him flutter.  He’d be so embarrassed if he woke right now,  Xiao Zhan thought with a smile.

Xiao Zhan couldn’t slip away as easily this time, couldn’t dislodge Yibo without waking him.  Not that he wanted to.  No, he wanted to lie there and cuddle with him until someone came knocking on the door.

Sadly, they couldn’t.  They had to get ready.  Xiao Zhan, to go on set.  Yibo, to go catch a plane.  He had some kind of commitment today.

Xiao Zhan ran his hand down Yibo’s bare back, stroking it gently as he slept.  He ran his finger down the centre of Yibo’s spine, finding the knob of each vertebrae and memorizing the shape.  He was terribly thin, thinner than when they’d started filming, that was for sure.  Yibo had never been one to hold a lot of weight, but now he looked like someone that needed to go home, visit their mother, and get some good ol’ home cookin’.

If he could come back with me, I’d cook for the both of us, Xiao Zhan mused.  We could take a couple of weeks off after this.  He could meet Jian Guo.  We could watch movies together, play video games, and Yibo could teach me some new dance moves.  We’d sleep together at night, just like this.  

But no.  That couldn’t happen.  For so very many reasons.  

Not the least of which was, as far as Xiao Zhan had been told, Yibo was going straight from filming the Untamed into filming a new project in September.  He couldn’t take any time off.  

When will this kid catch a break?  He thought.  Then he shook his head.  Not a kid.  He’s an adult, and he has been for a long time.  

“Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said softly, stroking the hair back out of his face.

Yibo shifted a little in his sleep, trying to get even closer to him.  He swallowed, and even that small movement looked magical.

“Wang Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said again, running his hand over his shoulderblade.  He then traced the edge of his sharp jaw.  He sifted his hand into the hair at the back of his head, scraping his scalp a little.  “Wang Yibo.”

“Mn,” Yibo mumbled.

“Time to wake up, Wang Yibo.”  He ran his hand down the back of Yibo’s neck, gripping in strongly in his hand and giving it a squeeze.

Yibo blinked his eyes open, tilting his head up just enough to look in his face.  “Gege?”

“Mmhmm, didi,” Xiao Zhan said with a little smile.

Yibo wrapped his arm around Xiao Zhan’s neck, hugging him, tucking his face in.  “Mmm.”

Xiao Zhan slid his hand down Yibo’s back again, pushing the covers down so he could deliver a slap to Yibo’s bum.  “Come on, didi.  Up.  Up.”

Yibo jerked when his ass was slapped, and that made him very aware of his erection, and there it was - the embarrassment he knew was coming.  Yibo’s eyes flew open and he jerked back, sitting up and shoving the covers over his lap.  “Oh God I’m sorry,” Yibo mumbled, eyes still half-closed and puffy.

Xiao Zhan laughed, sitting up with him.  He leaned on one hand and used the other to brush the hair out of Yibo’s eyes again.  “It’s okay."

“I didn’t mean to…”

“I know,” Xiao Zhan said softly.  “Don’t worry, I had one too.  It’s just gone now since I woke before you.”

Yibo’s eyes shot up and he stared at him, open-mouthed.

Xiao Zhan laughed again, eyes twinkling.  He reached out a single finger and tapped Yibo’s mouth closed.  “Didn’t you have a plane to catch today?”

Yibo looked at the clock, then blinked a few times slowly, then rubbed his eyes.  Oh God, so cute!

“Uh, yeah,” Yibo mumbled.  “I’ve got a shoot for an advertisement I’m doing.”

“What’s it about?” Xiao Zhan asked, wanting to stretch out this sweet moment.

Yibo tilted his head back, closing his eyes.  He then tilted his head back down and shook it.  “Travel.  XieCheng.  It should be pretty cool, they’ll film me dancing in various locations.  They’ll have me ride my motorcycle, too.”

“Oh, that sounds right up your alley,” Xiao Zhan said with a smile, watching him fondly as he slowly started to wake up.

“Ugh,” Yibo said, practically falling out of bed as he got to his feet.  He padded over to the bathroom, and Xiao Zhan heard him relieving himself.  Did he even close the damned door?!

He then thought about it, and realized after living his young years with his bandmates in such close proximity he probably wasn’t embarrassed about simple stuff like that.  No, he was embarrassed by other things instead - like his morning wood.  Or the things he was scared of.  Or being caught in a rare emotional moment.  

Xiao Zhan stood up, reluctantly, not wanting this moment to end but knowing that he had to get a move-on.  His alarm was due to go off in less than 5 minutes anyway.  

“Wang Yibo,” Xiao Zhan called out, wanting to make sure he was decent before he walked past the bathroom.

“Mmm?”

He walked up to the doorway and peeked in.  Yibo was standing there, hair all askew, shirtless, his shorts riding low on his hips - and damn, cute  just took a leaping dive into sexy as all hellll.   Xiao Zhan’s thoughts scattered as he imagined himself walking up to him, palming that flat stomach, and pushing him back into the sink to kiss the living daylights out of him.

“I’m going now.  So… have a good day?” Xiao Zhan said with a little smile.

Yibo’s expression softened, just around the eyes.  He nodded once.  “You too.”

Xiao Zhan pulled away with difficulty, but forced himself to walk out of that room.

———

Bored.  Xiao Zhan was bored without Yibo again.  Why did I forget that shooting was so boring?   Xiao Zhan asked himself, exasperated.

He couldn’t resist taking out his phone and typing a message to the man that was now constantly in his thoughts.

Xiao Zhan:  How’s the shoot going?

Yibo responded about 20 minutes later.

Yibo:  Good

Yibo:  There’s 3 day shoots, 2 night shoots.  I’ve done 2 of the 3 day shoots already.  I just finished doing this bit where I dance on a rooftop.

Yibo:  Wanna see some of the pictures?

Xiao Zhan:  Sure

Yibo:  

Yibo:  

Yibo:  

Yibo:  

Yibo:  

Yibo:  

Yibo:  

Yibo:  I think this is one of the few times I’ve done a shoot where they didn’t want me to put any makeup on

Yibo:  Does it look okay?

Xiao Zhan:  Wow, Bo-di

Xiao Zhan:  That looks so awesome

Xiao Zhan:  It really looks like you up there, not like you pretending to be someone else

Yibo:  Is that a good thing?  

Xiao Zhan:  Oh yeah

Xiao Zhan:  You as you is hot as hell

Yibo:  

Yibo:  I’m off to shoot the 3rd daytime one now.  I do think they’re going to put some makeup on me for the night look, make me look like I’m going out on the town with a little eyeliner

Xiao Zhan:  That’s okay that looks good too

Yibo:  You wouldn’t need the eyeliner, such nice eyelashes

Xiao Zhan:  Your eyes are really nice too

Yibo:  They took this real super-closeup of my eye, it’s so weird - have you ever looked at your eye this close?

Yibo:  

Yibo:  I didn’t realize I had a little mole next to my nose

Xiao Zhan:  Beautiful eye

Xiao Zhan:  So handsome

Yibo:  How are things going over there?

Xiao Zhan:  I’m always bored when you’re not here

Xiao Zhan:  When are you coming back?

Yibo:  There’s the night shoot here today, then a couple things to wrap up in the day tomorrow

Yibo:  I was actually thinking of riding my motorcycle up there

Yibo:  I know it’s a long drive but I miss riding so fucking much

Yibo:  Getting on that bike today I’m not going to want to leave it behind

Xiao Zhan:  What do you love about it so much?

Yibo:  I just love everything.  

Xiao Zhan:  The speed?

Yibo:  Speed, the rumble of the engine, the sense of control that I feel

Xiao Zhan:  I have to admit I’m always a little scared that one day you’ll get in an accident

Yibo:  I’m careful

Yibo:  I always ride with all my gear on

Yibo:  I never take risks off the track

Xiao Zhan:  And on the track?

Yibo:  It’s a more controlled environment, so I feel safer there

Xiao Zhan:  Be careful

Xiao Zhan:  Don’t ride it if you’re too tired

Yibo:  I’m not tired I feel super refreshed

Yibo:  Slept like a baby ;)

Xiao Zhan:  … me too.

Yibo:  Sorry gege I’ve gotta go

Xiao Zhan:  Okay I’ll see you tomorrow then

Yibo:  See you

When he sat there, unable to see Yibo’s face except in pictures, he started to get a feeling for what it was going to be like to be separated from him.  And he didn’t like it.  Not one bit.

When Yibo rode in to the boarding house the next night, looking refreshed and happy with his motorcycle helmet tucked under his arm, Xiao Zhan felt like a missing piece slotted into place.  

What am I going to do without him?  

———

Their time was coming to an end on this Untamed journey. There was a palpable excitement in the air, along with a kind of nostalgic melancholy. 

Xiao Zhan was doing his best to enjoy every moment of these summer days. Even though sometimes he felt like he was melting in the heat, and sometimes he fubbed his lines and drove everyone around him crazy, somehow this had been the happiest summer of his life.

He owed a lot of that happiness to Wang Yibo.

Xiao Zhan couldn’t imagine what it would have been like to film this project with someone else. What would he have done if his Lan Wangji hadn’t been so playful off screen, had not smiled at him so gently and laughed with him. What would it have been like trying to play someone in love if he hadn’t felt those feelings inside?

Xiao Zhan found himself watching Yibo all the time. Like he wanted to store away these precious memories somewhere in his mind to take out when he was alone and doubting himself. To remember the way it felt just to stand beside him, that joyful energy between them. The way it felt like the two of them were the only two people in the universe, even when they were surrounded by makeup artists, cameras, and lights.

It would be so lonely not to be able to look at his face each day and smile. 

They still had some work left to do, but each moment felt significant. Precious. 

———

They had one last interview to film for behind the scenes. Xiao Zhan was dressed in Wei Wuxian’s black robes, his hair pulled back in its red ribbon. Yibo was elegant and beautiful in blinding white, dressed as the young Wangji, hair dangling down by his face. 

When Xiao Zhan walked in the room and saw Yibo sitting there on the couch, the natural light of the window falling on his face, he almost tripped. How is he so, so beautiful. How can he make my heart beat with a single glance. How will I live without this feeling.

Xiao Zhan let himself feel grateful instead, grateful that he’d had the chance to meet him, and that they’d worked so well together. Grateful that Yibo hadn’t treated him with coldness but embraced him with warmth, instead. He let that gratitude shine out of his eyes.

Xiao Zhan walked up to him, then tried to sit on the side closer to the window, wanting that light on his own face.  “Scoot over,” Xiao Zhan said, shoving him a little.

“I won’t,” Yibo said with a smile, laughing a little.  “Sit on that side, I don’t care.”

Xiao Zhan just sat on Yibo’s lap, and Yibo reached up to grab his arm as he fell off onto the side next to him, half his buttcheek off the edge of the couch, his whole body pressed up against the side of Yibo’s.  

“Okay,” Yibo said, grinning, pleased with this position.

Come on, Yibo, we can’t do the interview like this!  With me practically on your lap!

“Eh, you really, just — just move over a little bit,” Xiao Zhan cajoled him.

Yibo turned to face him and held up a fist.  “Rock paper scissors.”

When they did this round, Xiao Zhan ended up with his hand in a claw shape, something between a rock and scissors, making Yibo burst out laughing, but Yibo had played a rock so he’d clearly won.

“Sit, sit, sit,” Yibo said, grinning, patting the seat next to him on the other side.

The staff started to laugh.

“But I haven’t—” Xiao Zhan protested.

“You lost, you lost,” Yibo said, reaching out to close his hand over Xiao Zhan’s odd-looking scissor hand.

“I haven’t started yet—”

“You lost,” Yibo said, laughing all the way up until his eyes turned into half-moons.  

Xiao Zhan pulled his hand out of Yibo’s, regretfully getting to his feet and moving over to the other side.  

“You should answer all the questions first,” Xiao Zhan sulked.

“Who beat who?” Yibo asked, indicating the winner of the game.

Xiao Zhan let out a big sigh.  “You beat me.”

Yibo looked over at him, fussing with his clothes.  “Say it again.”

“You beat me,” Xiao Zhan mumbled.  “Okay then, let's start!” he declared in a lout voice.

“What’s the most memorable scene you’ve filmed so far?” the interviewer asked.

Xiao Zhan looked over at Yibo, but he avoided his gaze.  “You first,” Xiao Zhan said, jerking his chin at him.

“You first,” Yibo returned with a half-smile.

Xiao Zhan held up a hand to do rock-paper-scissors.  Yibo smirked but played along, then quickly won against him with a scissors to Xiao Zhan’s paper.  Xiao Zhan sighed.

Xiao Zhan spoke first. “The most memorable scene is…” Him and Yibo both looked down, in sync as they both thought of an answer. “There are too many,” Xiao Zhan said with a smile and a laugh, looking back up. He saw Yibo nod once out of the corner of his eye. “Just scenes with Wang-laoshi.” He then turned to look at Yibo and they exchanged a fond glance with each other. “Which one was it?”

Yibo smiled widely at him, and both of them looked deeply into each other’s eyes, as though they could read each other’s minds. “Which one?” Yibo murmured, breaking their glance to look down. 

“Which one,” Xiao Zhan mused, then slapped his own thigh. “Oh! There was one, there was one!” he said, looking back over at Yibo. 

They looked in each other’s eyes again. “Which one?” Yibo asked, examining his face. A smile ghosted onto his face briefly, almost like a twitch.

Xiao Zhan looked back at the camera. “When he was running while holding A-Yuan and he fell!” 

He could feel Yibo staring at him, so he looked back over and they looked in each other’s eyes again. Yibo had a fake-annoyed look on his face, but his eyes were still twinkling when he said, “Wow! You’re gonna bring this up now.” He couldn’t hold the annoyed expression on his face while he was looking in Xiao Zhan’s eyes, so he smiled at him sweetly.

Xiao Zhan couldn’t stop looking at him, and he smiled back, laughing a little nervously. I hope I didn’t annoy him!  “Well, I mean it’s memorable,” Xiao Zhan said a little defensively.

They both looked back at the camera. “Well, I just accidentally,” Yibo murmured, but Xiao Zhan cut him off saying, “Yeah, he’s just unfit so when he was running with the kid, his legs just gave out.” 

He could feel Yibo goggling at him, giving him that stink eye that he loved so much. I know you’re not unfit, Yibo! You had just had an I.V. the day before. You’re not unfit! Your rock hard abs are proof.  But he just smiled widely, loving how easy Yibo was to rattle.

“So it’s started, has it?” Yibo said, his eyes never leaving Xiao Zhan’s face.

Xiao Zhan looked back at him, grinning, eyes twinkling with mirth. 

“Is it starting?” Yibo repeated, locking eyes with him. “It’s started has it.”

Oh God Yibo why are you so cute! I want to tackle you to the couch and mess up your hair and kiss you all over your face.

“I’m serious, I just thought of it,” Xiao Zhan said aloud. 

Yibo gestured down to his clothes, looking embarrassed. “It’s because this outfit is long, even you can see this outfit is long.” He looked back up at the camera, gesturing with his hands. “And I had to run in this with a kid. So I accidentally stepped on it and tripped,” he rambled on. 

And rambling Yibo is the cutest of them all. He’ll go on for an hour if I don’t stop him.  “All right,” Xiao Zhan murmured to try to get him to stop.

“All right, you just wait,” Yibo grumbled to Xiao Zhan. He then cleared his throat.

“Now you can start,” the staff joked, referring to their habit of complimenting each other.

“Xiao-laoshi’s acting has always been amazing,” Yibo said, locking eyes with Xiao Zhan again, his head tilted towards him. When Xiao Zhan couldn’t hold a straight face and started giggling, doubling over and holding his stomach, Yibo turned and addressed the camera, thoughtfully adding, “So nothing really stands out in particular.”

“Ohhhh, my gaaawd,” Xiao Zhan moaned.

“Okay, then what about just your scenes,” the staff prompted him. “Which one’s most memorable."

“Oh, I got it!” Xiao Zhan declared, sitting up and locking eyes with Yibo again. 

“Oh, so you know now?” Yibo said incredulously, pointing at himself. “You know the scene that I  personally find memorable? You even know this?” 

Ah shit! But damn he’s so cute. I want to squish his cheeks.

Xiao Zhan slapped his legs, addressing the camera. “In this show there aren’t many scenes where Wang-laoshi can show emotion. But there was this one scene, where a single tear rolled down his face. And that shot was just soooo beautiful,” Xiao Zhan gushed, feeling Yibo’s gaze on his face as he spoke. “Super handsome. Really beautiful.”

Yibo started to fidget under the praise, scratching his cheek to hide his face. 

“And so he’d just show us that one scene backstage,” Xiao Zhan continued, gesturing with his hands as though Yibo was holding up a phone. “And he’d keep swiping back to that one scene.”

Haha, did I embarrass him again?

Yibo smirked a little, indeed looking a little embarrassed. 

“Oh yeah, it was that one!” Yibo agreed, pointing at the camera. He flipped out his arm, adjusting his long sleeve. “That one in the rain. Because I really wanted to try shooting a scene in the rain. And I had an umbrella in the beginning, but then I put it down,” Yibo demonstrated, tilting his head back, “And I was just facing the sky so I couldn’t breathe. But it felt so good.”

“So you’re talking about different scenes, right?” the staff clarified. “The one with tears, and the one in the rain.”

Actually Lan Wangji was crying in both those scenes, Xiao Zhan realized. “Yeah,” he said.

“Huh?” Yibo said, looking over at him.

Xiao Zhan turned to look at him fondly. “The tear one was the golden core scene.”

Yibo looked serious when he said, “I didn’t keep showing you guys that one.”

“Yeah you did,” Xiao Zhan said in a quiet voice.

They exchanged a long glance, then Yibo blinked and looked away, trying to remember.

“It was the day we were shooting the rain scene,” Xiao Zhan said fondly, “you had your phone out, showing us.” He laughed, smiling at Yibo.

“Then it’s not the golden core scene,” Yibo said, arguing with him softly. “So we are talking about the rain scene then.”

“No, it was the golden core scene,” Xiao Zhan said, looking deep in his eyes. They were sitting close enough together that their arms brushed together as they talked. “The day we were shooting the rain scene, you were showing us the golden core scene. You forgot?”

Yibo blinked, finally breaking eye contact to look down, a little ashamed. “Ahh, I guess, I dunno,” he mumbled. He covered up his embarrassment by fiddling with his hair, shaking his head and smoothing it down behind his back again.

“Describe each other’s good and bad traits,” the interviewer asked. God why do they ask us shit like this?

“I’m scared we’re going to start fighting,” Xiao Zhan laughed, looking down.

Yibo smiled over at him then looked up at the camera and said, “The good thing about Xiao-laoshi is that he had no bad traits.” 

“So it’s started,” Xiao Zhan cut on top of him.

“The bad thing about Xiao-laoshi is that he’s got too many good traits,” he said, smiling widely and looking over at Xiao Zhan, a pleased look on his face.

Oh this little brat,  Xiao Zhan thought as he laughed, grinning over at him. He couldn’t help laughing, and they looked in each other’s eyes deeply for a moment before Xiao Zhan had to look away, laughing and leaning forward. Yibo looked away too, but that damned kid had such a pleased look on his face. For fuck’s sake, Yibo, always flirting with me in front of the cameras.

 Xiao Zhan cleared his throat, slapping his leg. He looked up at the camera and said, “The problem with Wang-laoshi is that he’s too good. It doesn’t matter if he’s acting in historical or modern dramas, he’s just too good. No bad things.” He felt Yibo look over at him, tilting his head at him like he wanted them to make eye contact again. “Wang-laoshi’s weakness is that he’d too good. You know, a bit too high class.” Yibo tried to talk over him, to contradict him, but Xiao Zhan looked back in his eyes and said, “Come on, we’re just tooting each other’s horns.”

“What about you two do you think is the most like your characters?” the interviewer asked.

They looked in each other’s eyes again, and Xiao Zhan said, “I’ll go first?”

Yibo just gazed at him, a half-smile on his face, and hummed, “Uh huh.”

Xiao Zhan looked at the camera and then compared Wang Yibo to Lan Wangji. “High class.” Yibo restrained a smirk, then evened out his face again as Xiao Zhan continued to speak. “No, honestly, it’s like… his aura is really similar to Lan Wangji.”

“They’re asking about you,” Yibo cut him off, looking over at him and pushing Xiao Zhan’s arm lightly with his forearm.

Oh shit. I keep answering for him and he keeps answering for me. I just want to talk about Yibo all the time! Not talk about me.

“Yourself and the other person,” the staff clarified.

“You should be talking about yourself,” Yibo said.

“I’ll talk about you first,” Xiao Zhan said, giving Yibo a look.

Yibo just nodded, clearing his throat and looking down. Good boy,  Xiao Zhan thought. Follow my lead.

“And he like… just like Lan Wangji he’s really cold. Gives off that vibe that you can’t get close to him. So strangers probably think he has a bad temper or something.” Yibo looked over at him as he said, “In reality his temper’s not too bad.”

Yibo then laughed lightly, smiling over at Xiao Zhan in a way that made his heart thump, so he broke out in to a huge smile. He laughed at Yibo, looking over at him to catch that gorgeous, embarrassed smile on his face. God he’s so cute when he’s embarrassed.

“As for me,” Xiao Zhan continued to the camera, “I think once you get to know me, I just like to mess around a little. Yeah.” Wow, I can talk about Yibo for like five minutes but can’t talk about myself at all. Smooth, Xiao Zhan, real smooth.

Yibo nodded.

“Wei Wuxian is kind of like that too,” the staff prompted him.

“Yeah, yeah,” Xiao Zhan and Yibo said in unison.

Xiao Zhan then smirked. Fuck now we’re answering together. 

“So I think Xiao-laoshi is a prankster and likes to mess around,” Yibo said, looking over at Xiao Zhan. “Just like Wei Wuxian.” When he met Xiao Zhan’s eyes, he let out a brief smile and a huff of breath, then looked back at the camera seriously and said, “And more importantly,” then he turned back to look in Xiao Zhan’s eyes, “I think his smile is really sweet.”

YIBO! Stop flirting with me on CAMERA!

“So he looks even more like Wei Wuxian when he smiles,” Yibo said, looking deep in his eyes. He then nodded and looked at the camera, saying, “Yeah,” and looking rather pleased with himself.

“We’ve heard that you guys call each other by your characters’ names. Is this true?” the staff asked. 

They both looked down as they thought about it, then Yibo looked up at the ceiling, looking like he’d forgotten completely. Why does Yibo have such a bad memory?!

“We did in the beginning, but not anymore,” Xiao Zhan said. “Now I just call him Lao Wang.”

“Lao Xiao,” Yibo said cutely. Then he glanced aside at Xiao Zhan, and the two played off each other, finishing each other’s sentence until they said together, “So we never called each other Xiao-laoshi or Wang-laoshi.”  “No, we didn’t.”  “Just Wei Ying,”  “Wei Ying,” “Lan Zhan.” “And then Lao Wang.”

“Any other nicknames?” the staff asked.

They exchanged a glance then shook their heads, saying together, “Nah,” “Nah, just Lao Wang,” “Lao Wang, Lao Xiao,” finishing each other’s sentence again.

Are we connected psychically? And that’s a lie and we both know it… Bo-di!

“So out of the entire cast, who do you think is the most energetic?” was the next question they were asked.

Yibo licked his lips as she was finishing her question then jumped in with, “Duh, that’ll be Wei Wuxian.”

“Me?” Xiao Zhan demanded, looking over at Yibo. “Isn’t it Nie Huaisang?”

Yibo looked back in his eyes. “Huh?”

“Out of everyone, right?” Xiao Zhan asked the staff.

“Yeah, everyone.”

“Oh, everyone,” Yibo said, “Haa.”

Yibo are you sleeping?! 

“We’re all pretty energetic, I think,” Yibo said sullenly, looking into Xiao Zhan’s eyes again. 

“But the most,” Xiao Zhan prompted him.

“The most,” Yibo repeated, then looked up at the sky, then down at the ground, pursing his lips.  

Why are you thinking so much, Yibo?!  We’re not asking you to sign the answer to this question in blood.  Why are you so serious?  Oh shit you’d better not be getting depressed on me again.

“It’s Nie Huaisang, right?” Xiao Zhan prompted, looking over at him.  

“Nie and you,” Yibo said, looking up into his eyes again.

“I’m really not that energetic!” Xiao Zhan insisted, leaning back and giving him a sceptical look.

Yibo stared at him, spacing out a little, then finally mumbled, “Then I guess Nie Huaisang.”

“Yeah, Nie Huaisang,” Xiao Zhan agreed.  Finally.  Jesus, Yibo.

“How do you pass the time when filming?” they asked.

“Play games,” Yibo answered immediately.  “I’m always the one playing them.  ‘Cause he’s kinda shit,” Yibo said with a grin, looking over at Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan sighed, lowering his head.  “He is really skilled,” Xiao Zhan agreed.  “I have to admit, I can’t compete with him.”  He pointed a finger at Yibo’s chest.  “He’s so annoying, you know!  It’d be a game he’s played a few hundred times and I join and he’s super satisfied watching me fail for some strange reason,” Xiao Zhan complained while Yibo smirked over at him.

“Are you satisfied?” Xiao Zhan said around a laugh, turning to look at Yibo who was still smirking, looking extremely self-satisfied.  

“Do you two talk about fashion or dancing experience in private?” the interviewer asked.

“No,” Xiao Zhan said at once.

“Xiao-laoshi has a really nice style normally,” Yibo said seriously.  

“No no no I think the way Wang-laoshi dresses has a lot of personality,” Xiao Zhan said in a louder voice.

Yibo didn’t argue this, just nodded.

“About dancing, so in the beginning I had no time so I asked him to teach me a dance from this video,” Xiao Zhan said, looking at the camera with a serious expression on his face.  “And he was so gooood,” he gushed, feeling Yibo look over at him.  “He learned it after watching it once!  Honestly.  He learned it after watching it once it was so amazing.”

They exchanged a glance, but Yibo didn’t smile.  

———

They each had individual interviews to do after their couple interview, so they separated for a while.  Yibo had some scenes to film with his brother, so Xiao Zhan didn’t see him for the rest of the day.

Even just being separated from him for a few hours, Xiao Zhan found himself missing him, looking forward to seeing him again.  Holy Shit… what am I gonna do when I can’t see him for months?   Xiao Zhan thought to himself.  I need to break myself of this attachment… somehow.

Still, even though his brain was saying that, his heart wanted to find him and see him again.

It began raining hard that night, and they didn’t have any more scenes to film in the rain, so they were let off early.  The guys all decided to go off and get a meal together, but still Xiao Zhan couldn’t find Yibo anywhere.  He wasn’t back at the boarding house, he wasn’t on the set.  Where the heck did he get to?

“Has anyone seen Yibo?” Xiao Zhan asked the group as they were all gathering in the kitchen.

They shook their heads, each one giving a negative.

“Why, you lost your husband?” Yu Bin joked at him.

“Yeah I can’t find him anywhere,” Xiao Zhan answered seriously, then realized he hadn’t caught on to the joke when the others laughed at him.

Xiao Zhan went to go find Liu Haikuan, who played Yibo’s brother in the drama.  He was sitting quietly in his room, reading a book with the door open.

Xiao Zhan knocked on the open door.  Haikuan looked up, his gaze gentle as always.  “Xiao Zhan,” he greeted him with a little smile.

“Hey, sorry to disturb you.  You were filming with Yibo earlier, right?”

Haikuan nodded.  “Yes, we finished up our scenes a couple hours ago.”

Xiao Zhan wrung his hands together.  “Have you seen him?  Nobody’s seen him.”

Haikuan scratched his chin.  “Well, we came back together and got changed.  Yibo ate something.  Oh!” he said, pointing his finger up in the air.  “I remember now, Yibo said he left something at the Jingshi.  I think he went back on set.  He took his motorcycle out.”

“Thanks,” Xiao Zhan said, then hurried out.  Took his motorcycle out in the rain?  That can’t be safe.  Xiao Zhan worried, picturing a hundred ways that Yibo could have crashed the bike.  He knew Yibo hadn’t had a lot of time to ride while filming, so he’d probably taken the extra hours to get a bit of a ride in, no matter the weather conditions.

I don’t even have a reason to be looking for him, Xiao Zhan thought to himself as he made his way back to the Jingshi.  What am I going to say when I find him?

Xiao Zhan got dropped off on the set, then ran up the stairs and through the set, his legs carrying him swiftly.  He was wearing long, slim-fit black jean shorts and a tank top, but had slipped on his track jacket and a baseball cap to protect him from the rain.  The rain soaked quickly through his clothes, it was falling so hard.  

When he first ran into the Jingshi, he didn’t see Yibo anywhere.  He wasn’t inside, sheltering from the rain.  He wasn’t on the terrace out back, or in the wooded area behind.  

“Yibo?” Xiao Zhan called out.

When there was no answer, he started walking through all the cloud recesses.  He searched through every place where he thought Yibo might have found shelter, but didn’t see him anywhere.  Did he go back already?  Did we pass each other by without seeing one another?

Xiao Zhan finally saw him, and his breath caught.

Yibo was standing on the little wooden bridge, his hands on the wood, his bare face tilted up to the sky to catch the raindrops.  It was like he was reliving that scene from the Untamed, the one where Wei Wuxian left Lan Wangji.  He looked just as alone now as he had back then, his head tilted to the sky, his short hair plastered to his face.

Yibo was wearing a black tank top, leather jacket abandoned on the ground beside him.  The tank top was plastered to his skin in the rain.  His black skinny jeans clung to his legs like a second skin.

He was still stunningly, stunningly beautiful.  Achingly beautiful.  

Xiao Zhan stood there, poised, watching him - but he couldn’t seem to make himself approach.  In that moment, Yibo looked so far away from him.  Like he was a creature from another world.

The longer Xiao Zhan watched him, the more he realized that Yibo was shivering.  

Xiao Zhan approached, slowly, not wanting to startle him.  When he got close, Yibo turned his head to look at him.  His eyes were remote, far away, locked deep inside himself.  

“Wang Yibo,” Xiao Zhan murmured.

Yibo slow-blinked at him, his mouth open a little.  Then he closed his mouth, just gazing over into his eyes.

Xiao Zhan came to stand next to him.  He fumbled for Yibo’s hand, reaching up to put his hand on top of it where it lay on the wood of the bridge.  “Wang Yibo,” he said again, softly.

Still Yibo didn’t say anything, just looked at him.  

Xiao Zhan examined Yibo from up close, the way the water ran down his face, what the sheen did to his collarbones, how thin and delicate he looked with his shoulders peeking out.  He had goosebumps on his arms, and his nipples were perked, denting the fabric of his tank top.  

Xiao Zhan looked back up at his face, saw Yibo still watching him, just staring at him.

Xiao Zhan pried Yibo’s hand off the wood, taking it in his own.  He felt very, very cold.  

“Aren’t you cold?” Xiao Zhan asked him gently.

Yibo looked in his eyes a moment longer, then swallowed hard.  “It feels good,” he said in a low voice.  But he shivered.

Xiao Zhan turned him around so his back was to the railing of the bridge, running his hands up Yibo’s arms to chafe some heat into them.  He settled his hands on Yibo’s shoulders, giving him a little shake.  “You’re freezing.”

Yibo shivered again.  “Feels good.”

“Feels good to be cold and wet?” Xiao Zhan asked disbelievingly.

Yibo nodded, his eyes dark.  “I like the rain.”

“Probably because you didn’t have to film in it as long as I did,” Xiao Zhan scoffed.

When Yibo shivered again, a little more violently, Xiao Zhan put his arms around him, hugging him.  He pressed Yibo’s back into the railing, one of his hands on the back of Yibo’s neck, the other wrapped around his back.  He’s so small.

Yibo shuddered again, clutching his hands in the fabric of Xiao Zhan’s jacket at his waist.  

“Is this what you needed?  To be alone?” Xiao Zhan asked him as he stroked a hand through Yibo’s wet hair.

“I don’t want to be alone anymore,” Yibo whispered.

“Then come back with me,” Xiao Zhan said, pulling back enough to look in his eyes.  Their hips were pressed together, eyes gazing at each other with something undefinable passing between them.  “The others have all gone out to eat.  You can take a long bath, warm up, and no one will disturb you.”

“Don’t want to be alone anymore,” Yibo repeated stubbornly.

Xiao Zhan smiled at him.  “Lan Zhan,” he chided him.  “I am not giving you a bath.”

Yibo pouted.

“Come on,” Xiao Zhan said, tugging him off the railing.  He bent down and retrieved Yibo’s jacket, helping him to slide his thin arms into the wet leather.

Yibo took Xiao Zhan’s hand, leading him through the abandoned set.  There was no one around to see, so Xiao Zhan let him keep holding his hand.  When Yibo laced their fingers together, he didn’t protest.

Such long fingers, Xiao Zhan marvelled.  He rubbed the thumb along the back of Yibo’s hand, and his heart fluttered when Yibo rubbed his thumb along Xiao Zhan’s hand in return.

Yibo led him all the way to the parking lot like that, holding his hand.  They walked slowly, neither of them seeming to care about how wet they were.  When they got to the parking lot, Xiao Zhan saw Yibo’s R6 sitting there. 

Yibo fumbled in his pocket and pulled out his keys, going over to the trailer to unlock the door.  He disappeared inside, then poked his head back out.  “Do you trust me?” Yibo asked him.

Xiao Zhan nodded warily.  

Yibo came out with another leather jacket, which he helped Xiao Zhan put on.  Is he seriously going to bring me back on his motorcycle?

Yibo disappeared into the trailer again, coming out with a motorcycle helmet.  He then stood sternly in front of Xiao Zhan.  “I want to bring you back on my bike.  Is that okay?”

Xiao Zhan found himself nodding, even though internally he was screaming.

“Passenger rules: I will get on the bike first, then you get on after me.  Wrap your arms around me and link your hands together in front of my waist.  Tuck your head on one side, but don’t move around too much back there.  Don’t try to lean with me when I lean into corners, I’ll do all the work.”  Yibo was professional, serious as he relayed these instructions.

Xiao Zhan nodded.  “OK.”

Yibo slipped the hat off Xiao Zhan's head, then undid the snap and threaded it through his belt loop, snapping the hat closed.  Yibo then helped Xiao Zhan to get the helmet on, tenderly reaching up under his chin to tie the chin strap, clicking it into place.  Satisfied, he went back in the trailer and got his own helmet.  He locked the trailer up, then slipped on some leather gloves.  He fiddled with the bike, flipping down the passenger foot pegs.  He then got on the bike, turned the key in the ignition, and it flared to life.  Just the sound of it made something primal stir in Xiao Zhan’s gut.

Yibo turned his head and motioned for Xiao Zhan to mount.  Xiao Zhan put one foot on the passenger peg, swung his leg over, and settled himself on the bike.  He slipped his arms around Yibo’s waist, remembering Yibo’s instruction to link his hands together, so he did.  It put them in a position where Xiao Zhan’s whole body was pressed up against the back of Yibo’s.  

When Yibo flipped back the kickstand, throttled up, and took off at a gentle pace, that primal thing in the base of Xiao Zhan’s gut flared to life again.  Oh, fuck, he thought, the vibration of the bike beneath me… it’s thrilling!

Yibo was incredibly skilled as he manoeuvred the bike, smoothly turning around corners, giving himself plenty of time to accelerate and to brake.  Xiao Zhan had seen him ride before, and he definitely hadn’t been this slow and steady.  Xiao Zhan got a warm, fuzzy feeling in his belly when he realized Yibo was being super careful due to the precious cargo he was carrying.

Yibo took a detour before going back to the boarding house.  He didn’t go anywhere in particular, just rode round aimlessly, slowly speeding up as he got more comfortable with having Xiao Zhan on the back of his bike.  His leather jacket was too thick for Xiao Zhan to be able to feel any of the muscles in his torso, but he felt the warmth radiating from Yibo’s legs through his jeans.  His heart was thundering every time Yibo leaned the bike over.  

The ride was over all too soon, in a blur of rain-slicked streets and traffic lights.  Soon enough they were pulling up at the boarding house, and Yibo waited patiently while Xiao Zhan disembarked on shaky legs.  Yibo stowed the bike, then walked over to him, motorcycle helmet tucked under his elbow.  Seeing Yibo walk toward him like that, wet hair plastered to his head, leather jacket on, motorcycle helmet - yeah, it did it for him.  It touched all the right buttons.  He’s… hot.  Smoking hot.

They walked back inside side-by-side, not saying much.  The boarding house was still deserted when they walked in.  

Yibo walked into the kitchen and got himself a bottle of water, then looked up at Xiao Zhan.  “Want one?”

Xiao Zhan nodded.  He walked up to Yibo and retrieved his hat from his belt loop, setting it on the counter to dry.   He sifted his hands through his hair, fluffing it out.

Yibo handed him the bottle.  He then took off his jacket, tossing it on the counter.  Standing there in that thin black tank top, still soaking wet, he tipped his head back and downed half the bottle in one go.  Xiao Zhan just stood there, agape, watching him.  He didn’t even know where to look, he wanted to look at everything.  The line of his throat as he swallowed.  The way his collarbones met his shoulders.  The lean planes of his flat stomach.

Xiao Zhan coughed, then took a sip of his own water.

Yibo then stood there, looking at him, tapping his fingers on the counter.  Finally, he said, “Don’t tell anyone I gave you a ride on my bike,” with a half-smile that hit him like a punch in the gut.  “It’ll ruin my reputation.”

“And mine,” Xiao Zhan said with a laugh.  He then looked at him seriously and nodded.  “I won’t.”

“Good.”  He then came forward to unzip his jacket that Xiao Zhan was still wearing.  He leaned in close, his eyes flicking up to Xiao Zhan’s as his hands smoothed over his chest under the jacket.  Xiao Zhan’s eyes widened, but Yibo just pushed the jacket off his shoulders, then tugged at the cuffs.  

Yibo tucked both jackets under his arm, tossed the water bottle inside the helmet, and picked up the other helmet.  His arms stuffed in gear, he walked off towards the elevator.

“Where are you going?” Xiao Zhan called after him.

“You told me to take a bath, didn’t you?” Yibo called back.

“Oh, right.”  He looked down at himself, realized belatedly that he was soaking wet too, then grabbed his hat and jogged to meet Yibo in the elevator.  “I need a bath too,” he said with a little laugh.

“Want to take one together?” Yibo asked him, standing there nonchalantly with all that gear in his arms.  

Xiao Zhan frowned at him, but Yibo just had that stoic expression on his face.  “That’s not funny, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan muttered, jabbing his finger in the button for their floor.

Yibo didn’t say anything, just lapsed into silence, but Xiao Zhan felt Yibo’s gaze on him the whole time they were in the elevator.  And when they were walking down the hall.  And when Xiao Zhan let himself into his room.  The only thing that finally broke that gaze was him closing the door, leaving him in his own room, alone.

You little shit. 

Chapter Text

August 2018

Xiao Zhan spent the whole night thinking about Yibo sleeping right next door.  Wanting to knock on that door and let himself in.  But the rational part of his brain was telling himself that if he did it now it would just make it harder.  They were so close to the end of this… thing going on between them.  If he could just hold out a little longer, then he wouldn’t see him every day and he wouldn’t have to feel this way anymore.

At least, that’s what he told himself.

———

To film the closing scene of the series, up high on a mountaintop, they had to travel quite far.  First was a four and a half hour plane ride from Yiwu airport to Guiyang.  Then, a 2 hour ride in a van as far as they could get up the mountaintop.  Then after that, another trek up the mountain farther than the cars could go.  

It was just Xiao Zhan and Yibo in that scene, plus some camera crew, Director Zheng, and the stylists.  All told less than 10 people had to make the journey.

Xiao Zhan and Yibo sat next to each other on the plane, their face masks and baseball caps on.  They left at the crack of dawn, and Yibo was bleary-eyed and sleepy, so when the plane took off he fell almost immediately asleep.  Xiao Zhan looked over at him fondly, even though he couldn’t see his beautiful face, he still felt warmth in his chest just watching him sleep with his thin arms crossed over his chest.  

The sleepiness still hadn’t passed when the plane ride was over.  Yibo walked like a half-sleeping robot just trailing along behind Xiao Zhan who led the way.

When they got into the van, Xiao Zhan and Yibo climbed into the seat furthest at the back.  Yibo looked out the window, at first, then his head started drooping.  He did that thing where he’d fall into a microsleep, then his head would jerk back up again and he’d rub his eyes.

Did he sleep at all last night?

“Why don’t you take another nap?” Xiao Zhan asked him gently.  “We’ll be a while.”

“Mn,” Yibo agreed.  He took off his baseball cap, fluffed out his hair, then tilted his head back against the seat, his legs splayed and arms crossed over his stomach.

Sleeping face.  Xiao Zhan snapped a picture of it.

After a while he stared to lean over, so Xiao Zhan took pity on him.  He reached out a hand, cradled the side of Yibo’s face in his hand, and gently tipped it onto his shoulder.  Yibo murmured a little but promptly fell back asleep.

He must be exhausted,  Xiao Zhan thought fondly.  

He saw some of the crew members glancing their way and smiling at each other, but Xiao Zhan didn’t mind.  After all, they’d seen worse.  Their friendship was tangled and complicated and everyone on set knew it.

After a while, he closed his own eyes.

———

It took them a while to trek up the mountain.  It was easier on Xiao Zhan and Yibo than it was on the crew, who were all lugging the expensive equipment up the hill.  Xiao Zhan and Yibo helped by at least carrying their own things, their cases with their costumes and props.  They were definitely sweating when they made it to the top of the hill.

Xiao Zhan didn’t even know how they’d gotten the donkey up there.  It had been brought separately before them.  That must have been a hassle!

There wasn’t really anywhere to change into their clothes with discretion, and there wasn’t much tree cover at the top of the mountain, so they had to make do by just going off a discreet distance.  Two crew members held up a white sheet for discretion as they changed clothes.

It took a while for their hair and makeup to be done.  Lan Wangji was at his most regal of the whole season, in his chief cultivator garb, layers of light blue inner robes with a long, semi-transparent flowing outer garment.  He had his hair done up in a high bun, strands falling down the front of his chest and the rest flowing down his back.  The contrast of his black hair against his white garments was stunning.  As Xiao Zhan looked at him, something in his heart just flopped over.  When Yibo became Lan Wangji his whole countenance changed.  He stood up straighter, and the way he held Bichen in his hand was now familiar enough to make an ache in Xiao Zhan’s chest.

I won’t be able to see him look like this for much longer.  I love Yibo as Yibo, but Yibo as Lan Wangji is a thing of perfection.

For the first half of the ending scene, Xiao Zhan was dressed in one set of black robes with a dark blue cross-crossing pattern on them.  They made him look simple and unadorned standing next to Wangji.  But still, he had his charm.

They had a drone to film the establishing shot, capturing the natural beauty of the untouched landscape as Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji stood together on the mountaintop.  They were told to just stand there and look at each other as though their hearts were breaking.

That isn’t hard,  Xiao Zhan thought with an ache in his chest.

The way Yibo looked at him was so full of longing and restraint.  

———

The crew set up for their mid-shots.  They came around to adjust Wangji’s long robes, making sure they fell gracefully on the grass.  After they adjusted their hair one last time, they were ready to film.

“Action.”

They stood with each other, the tension in the air palpable.  Wangji’s eyes were lowered at first, then he slowly looked up and into Wuxian’s eyes.  They held that stare, a thousand deep emotions held in those eyes.

“I will go that way,” Wuxian said, pointing behind Wangji.

“I will go that way,” Wangji said, pointing behind Wuxian.

They looked at each other again, as though trying to find a last way for them to be together.

Wangji slowly lowered his gaze.  He thinks it’s his fault, because he has to take on the mantle of chief cultivator - it’s his fault that they can’t be together,  Yibo thought.  He loves him and wants to be with him, but not with the weight of responsibility hanging over his head.  He wants Wei Ying to be free to do what he wants to do.  Doesn’t want to tie him down.

Wuxian smiled gently, looking down.  

And my heart just broke,  Yibo thought as he watched that smile.  That sad, lonely smile.  Wei Ying doesn’t want to tie down Lan Zhan, either.

“Have you decided where you are going to go?” Wangji asked softly, lifting his eyes to look at the face of the man he loved.

Wei Wuxian shook his head a little, looking back to meet his eyes.  He then tilted his head up.  “It’s a big world we live in.  I will wander with my fine wine and a ride, and make it my home,” he declared.

Wangji lowered his head, nodding a little.  I miss you.  I miss you.  I love you.  Please find your way back to me.  Don’t leave.  All these thoughts were in Yibo’s heart as he stood there.

The smile faded from Wuxian’s eyes as he saw that look on Wangji’s face.  “Lan Zhan.  I will get going.”

Wangji looked back up.  He didn’t say anything.  Couldn’t say anything.  Nothing he could say would make the world a different place.  Nothing he could say would make him miss him any less.

Wuxian smiled a gentle smile then looked down at the donkey.  “Apple.  Let’s go.”  He spared one last glance at Wangji, then brushed past him.  The smile on his face was tight, like he was holding himself back.

Wangji turned as he passed him by.  Don’t go,  he begged him internally.  

“As long as the sea is bound to wash up on the sand,” Wuxian called out in a sing-song voice, waving his arm up in the air, “and stars are above you, we will meet again.”

Wangji gazed at him as he left, naked longing on his face.  You’d better hold true to that.  You’d better come back.  I need you by my side.  I can’t live without you.  I love you.

Finally, Wangji turned, walking the other way, his steps slow and reluctant.  Resignation and loneliness on his face.  These are the hardest steps Lan Zhan has ever taken in his life,  Yibo thought as he walked, his long robes trailing the ground behind him.  

When he heard the sound of Wei Wuxian’s flute on the air, he stopped, his heart dropping in his chest.  It was so beautiful, playing their song.  A song he’d written about their love back when it was so much less than the over-arching, soul-encompassing thing it had become.  

He turned back to look, unable to walk away.  

We will find each other again,  Wangji believed, with all his heart.  He then found the strength to take those last steps.  Until we meet again.

———

They had to film it several times, but they could have filmed it a hundred times and Yibo could still keep that look on his face.  He felt that way with every fibre of his being.

He watched as Xiao Zhan changed into his next outfit.  For the very last shot, they’d film him in a different black costume.  It was a subtle change, but ones that the die-hard fans would notice.  Now Wei Wuxian was in black robes with swirling black leather lines on it.  The flute raised to his lips, playing their song again.  The implication was that some amount of time had passed, and that this was the moment when they would meet again in the future.

From the sidelines, Lan Wangji called out his name.  “Wei Ying.”

Wuxian stopped playing, just standing there, frozen, disbelieving.  The camera panned around him as he slowly lowered the flute.  A tiny hint of a smile played on his lips.

He then turned, looking behind him with such a deep look of longing on his face.  Then, when he saw Lan Wangji, that look dissolved into the hint of a smile.  He blinked in relief.  Then he smiled wide, absolute love and joy in his eyes.

When Yibo saw that smile, directed on him as he stood off camera, his whole body went weak.  Oh God if he would one day look at me like that,  Yibo thought.  If I could bring such a smile of joy to his face.  God, I’d kill to be able to do that.

I love you, Xiao Zhan,  Yibo thought hopelessly to himself.

———

Yibo was really quiet as they got changed back into their travel clothes. 

What are you thinking about?   Xiao Zhan wondered as he watched him.  

As though he sensed him looking at him, Yibo looked up and met Xiao Zhan’s eyes.  He smiled a little, his eyes softening.  Normally when Yibo smiled at him, it was wide, sparkling, full of teeth.  This smile was more like Lan Zhan’s smile, soft and sweet.  But no less precious.

They didn’t speak to each other as they hiked their bags over their shoulders, walking step-in-step beside each other back down the mountain.  They didn’t really need to.  The crew may have been surprised to see the normally playful pair looking so sombre together, but Xiao Zhan couldn’t put his fake smile on today.  He couldn’t bear it.

When they climbed back in the van to head back to the airport, Yibo slid in next to him, sitting close.  Yibo immediately took off his jacket, spread it over the two of them, then grabbed Xiao Zhan’s hand and held on tight.

Oh, you sweet, sweet boy,  Xiao Zhan thought fondly, threading their hands together.  I’m going to be so jealous of the next person who gets to hold your hand like this.

They turned their heads away from each other, looking out opposite windows at the landscape that passed them by.  But under the jacket, their hands held each other tight.

———

Back at Hengdian, they had a few last scenes to shoot.  The whole cast and crew got together to watch.  The last day of filming had finally arrived.

First thing in the morning, before they’d gotten their costumes on, the cast and crew gathered together to take a group photo.  When the cast and crew gathered on the steps to take a group photo, the air was excited and sombre all at the same time.  

Yibo and Xiao Zhan were looking at each other with a rather lost look in their eyes, so of course the first thing they did was start to hit each other.  

“Come on, guys,” someone called out.  “We don’t have time for this.  Let’s gather peacefully.”

Yibo bit his lips, closed his eyes, and went silent.

He’s doing it again,  Xiao Zhan thought sadly as he looked at him.  He’s hiding.

But if that’s what Yibo needed to do to get through the day, who could blame him?

They gathered everyone up on the steps to take a group photo.  The whole time they were trying to take the group picture, Xiao Zhan felt Yibo’s eyes on him.  Yibo maybe tilted his head towards the camera once.

After the picture, Yibo horsed around with him, hitting him more than a few times.  But even though he was acting the same as always, there was something harsh and raw in his face.  The playfulness was gone.  

Xiao Zhan grabbed Yibo’s arm.  “Bo-di, stop.  Stop.  Wait here.”

Yibo stood there, quiet, then looked away into the distance.

Xiao Zhan ran off and asked a crew member if she’d be willing to snap a few pictures of him and Yibo.  She nodded, hovering. 

Xiao Zhan led her to Yibo.  “Come,” he said, pulling on Yibo’s sleeve.

Yibo looked at him, his eyes a little lost.  “Hmm?”

“Let’s take some pictures.”

They posed, making some silly faces, some serious ones. Xiao Zhan’s favourite, though, was when they both stood there, one arm covering the lower half of their faces, the other raised up with a fist in the air. They looked like superheroes. Well, superheroes lost in time.

In the evening, after another full day and night of shooting, they took their final cast and crew picture.  All of them got up on the roof, and they sat there together, hands raised in the air in a cheer.

———

It was finally over.  After over four months of filming, the Untamed was a wrap.

There was joy in the air, but sadness, too.  That nostalgic feeling at the end of a project when you realize you’re not going to see all these friends that you’ve made every day anymore.

They went back to the boarding house to pack up their things.  It didn’t take Xiao Zhan much time, he folded all his clothes into his suitcase, took a shower and changed into soft tight jeans and an oversized t-shirt, and called it a job done.

He walked over into Yibo’s room, knocking on the door.  He saw Yibo sitting there on the bed, his legs dangling off the edge, suitcase open on the bed next to him but nothing in it.  Yibo was just staring off into space.  He did look like he’d showered and changed, at least, he was back in his skinny black jeans with the ripped knees, wearing a fancy black t-shirt and a long chain around his neck.  

Xiao Zhan bustled about, packing for him.  He whistled to himself, carefully folding Yibo’s clothes that he plucked off the racks in the closet and putting them in his suitcase.  He opened Yibo’s drawers, taking out all his underwear and socks and with a blush putting them in the suitcase, too.  He had about three pairs of similar black jeans, then the black and red track pants, and several pairs of black shorts.  Why so much black, Yibo?  He wondered.

Next in went the t-shirts.  Most of those were black, too, though he had a few others.  Xiao Zhan’s eyes softened when he held Yibo’s track jacket in his hands, the one he’d been wearing earlier that day when they had taken pictures together.

Yibo looked up at him, watching him hold the jacket.  There was something deep in his eyes, and his voice was husky when he said, “Keep it.”

Xiao Zhan huffed out a breath, then put the jacket in Yibo’s suitcase.  “Don’t be silly.  I have plenty.”

Xiao Zhan wandered over to the desk, where he fiddled with the two lego cars that were sitting there.  “Did you make these somehow while we were filming?”

Yibo shook his head, looking out the window.  “No time. Just brought them to have something from home.”

“Hmm,” Xiao Zhan hummed.  He tucked the cars carefully into the suitcase.  

There wasn’t much else.  Just his toiletries, which he’d need when he got ready in the morning.  They were both on the same flight back to Beijing in the evening the next night, having prior engagements for the following day.  The others were mostly flying out the day after to have a day of rest.

It seemed so shocking that the past four months of their lives could be packed away in a suitcase in less than 15 minutes.  If only it took so little time to pack away all the feelings stirring in their hearts.

Xiao Zhan zipped up the suitcase, then carefully rolled it over next to the door.  He then stood there, hands in pockets, looking over at Yibo.  “You okay?”

Yibo nodded once, a jerk of his head.  “Fine.”

Xiao Zhan walked over to the bed, then sat down next to him.  He didn’t know what to say, and neither did Yibo.  But they sat there, together, just enjoying the last few minutes of each other’s company.  

When Yibo reached out, tentatively, and took his hand, Xiao Zhan didn’t have it in him to deny him that.  He slid his hand into Yibo’s, and they sat there, just holding hands, silence stretching out between them.

———
 
At the wrap party for the Untamed, Yibo stuck to Xiao Zhan like glue. He sat next to him while they were eating, scooting his chair close enough that he and Xiao Zhan would brush elbows together from time to time, or their knees would knock together under the table. When Xiao Zhan got up to go to the bathroom, after a few moments Yibo would follow, like he was aimless without Xiao Zhan by his side.

Yibo drank more than Xiao Zhan was expecting. Almost as many as Yibo had consumed when he was drunk at his birthday party. Previously when they had gone out, he’d limited himself usually to one beer, not wanting to get drunk and risk affecting his performance. He was always working on multiple projects during filming, going on the weekends to film other shows like Produce 101 and Day Day Up. So he couldn’t afford to not be at the top of his A-game - ever.

So Xiao Zhan was rather shocked to see Yibo pounding back the alcohol. He watched Yibo, admiring the column of his throat and his sharp Adam’s apple as he drank. But the more Yibo drank, the quieter he got, shrinking into himself. The only thing that connected him to the rest of the table was his knee now pressed firmly into Xiao Zhan’s.

The second time Xiao Zhan got up to go to the bathroom, when Yibo inevitably followed him, after they finished in the bathroom he looked around and then dragged Yibo outside into the hot summer air. The restaurant was rather secluded, and it had a nice garden in the back, with winding paths and benches. Currently there wasn’t a soul out there, not even anyone smoking a cigarette, but Xiao Zhan led Yibo far into the gardens nonetheless, out of hearing range of anyone that might pop outside.

He sat down on a bench, looking up at Yibo. Yibo just stood there, weaving slightly on his feet, pouting and watching Xiao Zhan. 

“Bo-di,” Xiao Zhan said softly. “Come and sit with me.”

“Can I?” Yibo asked in a whisper.

Xiao Zhan nodded, patting the seat next to him.

When Yibo sat down, he sat down rather heavily, and ended up leaning against Xiao Zhan’s shoulder. Xiao Zhan reached out an arm, cupping it around Yibo’s back to steady him. Yibo sighed, and collapsed suddenly, his head falling onto Xiao Zhan’s shoulder. As he held him, Xiao Zhan realized the boy was shaking. Xiao Zhan turned to look at him, and realized with shock that the ice prince had a single tear running down his face.

“Bo-di, what’s wrong?”

Yibo reached up to wipe his face, sniffing inelegantly. “I’m sorry,” he said morosely, covering his face with his hands. “How lame.”

Xiao Zhan tightened his arm around Yibo, giving his shoulder a little shake. “You’re not lame. Just tell me what’s wrong? Maybe I can help.”

“I’m scared,” Yibo whispered from behind his hands.

In that moment, the ever-cool Yibo, who always seemed so composed for his age, suddenly seemed so very young. “What are you scared of?” Xiao Zhan asked, tapping his fingers on Yibo’s shoulder.

“I’ve been so happy this summer,” he said in that small voice. “The happiest I’ve ever felt in my whole life. I never imagined I could feel that way. I don’t think I knew what it meant to be so happy that I was laughing every day.”

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

Yibo shook his head, pushing up and out of Xiao Zhan’s arm so he could look him in the eye. His eyes were red, his face splotchy, and it was the first time Xiao Zhan had seen this look in his eye. One of being totally, utterly lost. He grabbed for Xiao Zhan’s hand, holding it in the two of his, running his fingers along the knuckles. “I don’t know if I can be happy without you around.” He swallowed, looking down at their hands. “I’m scared that I’ll turn back into who I was before.”

“Who were you before?” Xiao Zhan prompted him when he went silent again.

“Lonely,” Yibo whispered. “Everyone looking at me, but nobody seeing  me.”

“We can still be friends, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said, giving his hands a squeeze. “You can write to me every day if you want to.”

Yibo’s eyes shot up to his. “I can?”

Xiao Zhan held his eyes, nodding. “We can get together sometimes, when our schedules permit.”

Yibo’s eyes filled up with tears again, but he wiped them away angrily before they could fall down his face. “I don’t know if that will be enough for me. I want to see you every day. I want to hold you, I want to see your smile.”

“I want to see your smile, too, Bo-di. Hear you laugh.”  I want to see that light shining in your eyes that I’ve seen all this summer,  Xiao Zhan thought to himself, a tender feeling in his chest.

“I can’t laugh without you,” he said, hanging his head.

“Not true,” Xiao Zhan said, giving his hands a little shake. “You laughed on the set of Produce 101. I have evidence. I was nowhere in sight.  You laugh all the time on Day Day Up.”

Yibo shook his head, muttering, “Not the same.”

They fell into silence, and Xiao Zhan started to worry about the others coming to look for them. Into the silence, Yibo looked up at Xiao Zhan through his lashes, and said to him, “What am I to you?”

Xiao Zhan gasped at the familiar line. It was what Lan Wangji had asked Wei Wuxian on Phoenix Mountain, when he all but confessed to him. But Wei Wuxian had been too dense to understand him. Was Yibo confessing? Was he finally crossing a line that neither of them would be able to come back from?  

I’ve known how he’s felt about me,  Xiao Zhan admitted internally.  I’ve seen him struggle.  It was courteous of him to wait until a moment where we could part ways gracefully if I didn’t feel the same.  But… what do I feel?

He liked Yibo. He was very cute, endearing, and yet he was also highly skilled and professional. Someone everyone wanted to work with, but no one could really get close to, like the bright moon up in the sky. The Ice Prince, who never let anyone in. But he’d let Xiao Zhan in. Xiao Zhan realized, in that moment, how very difficult that must have been for Yibo. And yet Yibo had made it seem like the most natural thing in the world for the two of them to be as close as they were. And it was  natural. Xiao Zhan felt more comfortable with Yibo than he’d felt with anyone in… well, pretty much ever.

So he carefully considered his answer before he finally looked up and said, “I always thought you were my soulmate.”

Yibo’s eyes widened. He scooted closer, the whole side of his body pressed up against Xiao Zhan’s. “I still am,” Yibo said, voice stronger. He used Lan Wangji’s words to express his own feelings.

Xiao Zhan closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. He felt warm, inside, his heart felt so full. When Yibo tipped forward again, snaking his arms around Xiao Zhan’s neck and pulling him into a tight hug, Xiao Zhan didn’t hesitate at all before hugging him back. Feeling their chests pressed together, hearts both beating wildly, felt so natural. Felt like a hug they had shared for a hundred years.

“I’m going to miss you so much I don’t know if I can stand it,” Yibo said in a small voice in his ear.

“I’ll miss you too, Bo-di.”

“You don’t understand… Xiao Zhan. Didi ai ni,” he said, repeating the words he’d said on set and so many times since. Little brother loves you.

Xiao Zhan’s heart caught in his chest. He’d always believed that what Yibo felt for him was more the kind of hero-worship that a younger man sometimes feels for someone they look up to.  In his case, mixed into it was an attraction they both shared.  But he couldn’t possibly feel what Xiao Zhan felt… that burning inside, like his heart was flopping around in his chest at the idea of being apart… could he?

Yibo finally pulled back, just enough to look in his eyes. Xiao Zhan didn’t make fun of him this time for saying those words. He was searching his eyes, instead, searching for understanding.

Understanding came when Yibo clumsily leaned forward and pressed their lips together in a chaste kiss.

———

I can’t hold back anymore,  was the only thing on Yibo’s mind when he leaned forward and pressed his lips to Xiao Zhan’s. Then, his lips are so soft. And… he’s not pushing me away.

Yibo had never tried to initiate a kiss with someone before. At least, not when it wasn’t on set for a job. Others had tried to kiss him - his bandmates playing games with him, overzealous fans - but he had perfected the art of avoiding an incoming kiss. He had 3 top methods.

Method 1: The Dodge & Roll. Yibo could easily evade an oncoming kiss just by turning his head, ducking, and evading.

Method 2: Hand Covering Mouth. Just like it sounded, see an incoming kiss? Cover your own mouth with your hand.

Method 3: Freezing Death Glare. Just by staring someone down, and saying the words, “What do you think you are doing?” you can stop someone in their tracks.

When Xiao Zhan didn’t use any of these methods, or indeed any of his own, Yibo allowed some kind of hope to blossom in his chest for the first time that maybe, maybe, Xiao Zhan actually did feel the same way that he did. He didn’t reciprocate, didn’t lean into that kiss and grab Yibo and start making out with him, but he didn’t push him away, either. Didn’t that mean something?

Yibo let his lips linger on Xiao Zhan’s for longer than was safe, and still Xiao Zhan didn’t pull away. He just froze, his body tensing.

I can’t hold back. I won’t hold back.

Yibo cupped Xiao Zhan’s face his his hands, then kissed him again, teasing those expressive lips with his own. “I need you to know,” he whispered in a harsh voice, “I need you to know that I love you. That I’ve loved you since the first time I saw you. I’ve loved you every time I saw your smile and I’ll love you even if you don’t love me back. I need you to know.” Yibo slid his forehead against Xiao Zhan’s, rubbing their noses together.

“I know,” Xiao Zhan whispered back. “But nothing can happen between us.”

Yibo looked in Xiao Zhan’s eyes, and saw a multitude of emotions in there that he tried to identify, tried to understand. Was he seeing… regret? Fear? That aching desire? Maybe… determination?

“Why?” Yibo whispered, even though he knew all the reasons why. He’d thought of all the reasons a hundred times over, told himself a hundred times, but he couldn’t stop himself. 

“You’ll find someone else,” Xiao Zhan said in a little voice. “A girl, someone you can walk around with in public…”

“I’m gay, Xiao Zhan,” Yibo said boldly, looking him solidly in the eyes. 

It wasn’t something that idols admitted, not even to each other, and never out loud. When Yibo said it just like that, earnestly, open and honest, Xiao Zhan’s eyes widened in surprise.

“And so are you,” Yibo said, voice firm.

“How do you know that?” Xiao Zhan said with a false laugh.

Yibo just looked at him, then said, “I know from the way you dance with me. Your body doesn’t lie. I just don’t know if you’re gay for me.  Or if you still think of me as a little brother.”

I’m using all the wrong words,  Yibo thought helplessly. I’m so shit at words. I’m better at actions.

Xiao Zhan just sat there, saying nothing. He skirted his eyes to the side.

Yibo leaned closer, scooted to straddle the park bench, then threw one leg over Xiao Zhan’s, laying his thigh over Xiao Zhan’s and wrapping his leg around his torso, using his leg to pull him closer. He then cupped Xiao Zhan’s face in his hands again, forcing him to look him in the eyes. “If you don’t want me, then push me away,” he said before kissing him again.

———

How can he be so bold? So brave? Any second now someone could walk out here and shatter all our hopes and dreams just by seeing us together.

That didn’t stop Yibo, who was determined when he pressed his lips again to Xiao Zhan’s. He had no skill to speak of, but he used his plump lips to tease at Xiao Zhan’s, and again Xiao Zhan couldn’t seem to push him away.

I’ve wanted to kiss him so long. Those lips… So beautiful. So soft. And he’s kissing me.  What does he see in me?  I’m so much older than him.  I’m nerdy and awkward.  He’s young, and cool, and cute and he’s going to dominate the world if I don’t stand in his way.

Xiao Zhan felt Yibo tentatively touch his lips with the tip of his tongue, probing gently.  It was when he felt that soft, warm, velvety tongue on his lips that Xiao Zhan finally pulled back, his hands on Yibo’s chest to keep him at bay.  “Stop,” whispered.

Yibo stopped immediately.  He didn’t push, or try to convince him to keep going.  Although Xiao Zhan could see clearly in his eyes that all he wanted was for Xiao Zhan to kiss him back, he also shone with respect for him.  And that respect kept him reigned in.

Yibo slowly, carefully, pulled back.  He edged backward on the park bench, sliding his legs back to face forward.  He gripped the back of the bench in his hands, then lowered his head.  He stared straightforward, blinking slowly and controlling his breathing.

When Xiao Zhan saw Yibo sitting there like that, head bowed, he felt his heart lurch in his chest.  He looks so very alone.

Xiao Zhan reached out a hand, setting it on Yibo’s shoulder, but pulled it back at Yibo’s whispered, “Don’t.”  There was such anguish in that one word.  

“I’m sorry, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said softly.

Yibo just nodded.

There was a rustling sound that made Xiao Zhan look up, and he saw Yu Bin emerge from the direction of the restaurant.  When he saw the two of them sitting there, Yu Bin waved then made some hand motions indicating the others were looking for them.  He didn’t say a word, and the look on his face was, if anything, understanding and apologetic.

Xiao Zhan nodded at him, pressing his hands together in thanks.  “I’ll be there in a minute,” he mouthed over to him.

Yu Bin gave him the thumbs up then disappeared again.

Xiao Zhan looked back at the boy sitting next to him, who was slowly trying to compose himself.  He could see how Yibo did it, the way he folded his feelings away inside himself, donning that emotionless mask that he was famous for.  Xiao Zhan ached when he saw him do it, when he saw him just… lock himself away inside.  He’d hardly done that with Xiao Zhan before, he was usually open and honest with him.  And when he saw it, he despaired.

“Are you going to be okay?” Xiao Zhan asked gently.

Yibo stood up, smoothing his hands down his pants.  When he turned to look at Xiao Zhan, there was nothing left of the emotion that had been tearing him up inside left on his face.  He shoved his hands in his pockets, gave him a cool look, and said, “I’m fine.”

Xiao Zhan stood shakily, less convinced that he was fine, himself.  But he donned his own version of a mask, that soft, fake smile, and nodded his head.  “Okay.  We should be getting back.”

Yibo nodded once, curt, then turned and walked back inside.

Xiao Zhan lingered there, watching him walk away.  I don’t want you to go.

———

Yibo didn’t drink anything but water for the rest of the night, and as the evening wore on, he sobered up and was back to the young professional that was known for his hard work and cool facade.  He didn’t sit next to Xiao Zhan, opted for sitting down next to Haikuan instead.  Haikuan took one look at Yibo, seemed to sense some inner turmoil, and spent the rest of the evening being a calm, steady presence beside him.

Haikuan and Yibo ended up going back to the boarding house first, after a polite amount of time had passed.  

In the morning, Xiao Zhan went looking for Yibo.  They were booked on the same flight together, late in the evening.  But when he knocked on Yibo’s door, there was no answer.  

Xiao Zhan opened the door tentatively, poking his head inside, but Yibo wasn’t there and the bed was made neatly.  There was a note on the bed.

Xiao Zhan picked up the note, his hands trembling.  It was Yibo’s handwriting, after all.

Xiao Zhan,

Forgive me for changing plans but I couldn’t face you this morning.  My behaviour last night was unprofessional and I must have made you uncomfortable.

I’ve decided to ride my motorcycle back to Beijing.  I left already.  Would you please ask my manager to make sure my luggage gets back to my house.

I hate goodbyes.  I hoped I’d never have to say goodbye to you.  But I do.

I’m sorry.  And thank you.

~Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan held the note in his hands, reading it and re-reading it, looking for some trace of emotion in the penmanship.  The letters were written out neatly, controlled.  

Xiao Zhan glanced at that sad little suitcase sitting by the door, then on impulse he grabbed it himself.  I’ll bring it back to him myself.  If he wants to avoid a goodbye, then he’s got another thing coming.

Chapter Text

August 2018

 

Xiao Zhan texted Yibo’s manager to let her know that Yibo had left on his motorcycle, and that Xiao Zhan would be bringing him his belongings.  She texted him back with Yibo’s address, no questions asked.

He then spent the day mostly pacing back and forth, trying to kill time until his flight by hanging out with the others, but his heart wasn’t in it.  He’d felt a painful tug in his chest when Yu Bin had asked him, “Where’s Yibo?”

“He left,” Xiao Zhan said with a heavy heart.

“Oh.  Did he… talk to you before he left?” Yu Bin asked him, giving him a look out of the side of his eye.

He knows.  He knows how Yibo feels.  

“Yes, we spoke,” Xiao Zhan said shortly, in a tone of voice that made it clear they were not about to discuss that conversation together.

Yu Bin just gave him a little smile and nodded.  He had a look on his face that said that he knew what had been said, and had guessed at Xiao Zhan’s response to it.  Like he’d predicted it all but hadn’t stopped it from happening.

Xiao Zhan had to get out of there.  He went into town, walking around aimlessly, trying to distract himself.  When it finally came time to go to the airport, he went back to pick up their things.

It was a little bulky, rolling two suitcases along, plus Yibo’s spare helmet.  When he got everything downstairs, his bodyguards took over, carrying everything for him.  So it really wasn’t much trouble at all.

He said goodbye to everyone, and lots of heartfelt hugs were exchanged.  But the one person he really wanted to say goodbye to wasn’t around.

Xiao Zhan brooded on the whole plane trip.  He looked out the window at the ground passing below, wondering where Yibo was.  It was only a 2-hour flight, although additional hours had passed in him getting to the airport, being checked in, waiting in a lounge.  It was a 15-hour drive, on the other hand.  Doing the math, Yibo could have reached there already if he’d left early enough.

Xiao Zhan had a private car to escort him first to his own place, where he dropped off his suitcase.  He showered again after the flight, changed clothes, and checked his social media.  

He opened up Weibo and saw the message that Yibo had left for all to see.

UNIQ-王一博 

2018-8-24 11:13 iPhone X

Just got back to Beijing.
Dismay.

Four months of shooting are over.
It’s the first time making a costume drama.
It takes a steel soldier to make it through hot summer fashion shoots!
Sometimes people’s lines are so scary and haha … !
We also had lots of super-large mosquitoes biting us
There were many unexpected situations and many solutions
………………………… ……………………………………

To my colleagues from the production team
You worked very hard !! !!
These memories I don’t want to forget in the future!
I hope you will all be worth it for me … ❤

Goodbye,
Lan Wangji, “Chen Qingling”.

 


Xiao Zhan read the post over and over, his heart heavy and frightened at that one word… “Dismay.”  His eyes lingered over that last picture, the crew shot, where he and Yibo were sitting next to each other, holding flowers they'd been gifted.  Then he looked again back at that first photo, a Lan Wangji selfie that had been taken on the mountaintop.  That look in his eyes... there was such a sense of loneliness in it that it made Xiao Zhan's heart ache at seeing it.  He hadn't even tried to put on that fake smile that he normally wore when he took selfies.  He'd just let them see his face with its real emotion shining out of his eyes.

Unsure of himself, but trying to drag up the courage from within, Xiao Zhan got a private car to take him to Yibo’s apartment.  He lived in a secured building, so Xiao Zhan went to the security desk to ask for admission.  The security guard called up, but apparently Yibo wasn’t at home.  

He tried calling Yibo himself, but the line wouldn’t go through, saying his phone was turned off.

So Xiao Zhan waited on a couch by the entrance, Yibo’s suitcase sitting next to him, and used his phone to pass the time.

Xiao Zhan waited nearly three hours.  People came and went, and Xiao Zhan pulled his face mask higher on his nose, trying to look as normal as a guy possibly could when loitering with a suitcase.

He told himself he’d give it another 30 minutes, and if Yibo didn’t show up then he’d leave his luggage at the security desk.

Just when he was about to give up, the elevator to the garage dinged and out walked Yibo, dressed in his motorcycle leathers, his helmet under his arm.  He logged haggard, exhausted, hair plastered to his forehead with sweat.

When he noticed Xiao Zhan sitting there, he stopped in his tracks, foot poised in mid-air.

“Zhan-ge?” he said incredulously.  A dozen different emotions skittered across his face.

Xiao Zhan stood up, taking off his face mask.  “You made it.”

Yibo nodded dumbly, then looked down at himself, a sweaty mess.  He blinked back up.  “You could have just left the suitcase with security.”

Xiao Zhan just cocked his head at him, peering down his nose at him.  “I think there’s a misunderstanding we need to clear up.”

“Misunderstanding?” Yibo goggled at him.

Xiao Zhan sighed, running a hand through his hair.  He then jerked his thumb at the elevator that led up to the units.  “Can you let me in?”

Yibo brushed past him, hitting the button to call the elevator.  They stood awkwardly together in the elevator, not looking at each other.  When they got to Yibo’s door, he kept fumbling when he tried to input the door code.  He actually fubbed it the first time.  When he got the door open, he held it open for Xiao Zhan, then leaned down and sniffed himself.  “I’m sorry I stink,” he said with red cheeks.

Xiao Zhan looked around when he entered.  It was a nice apartment, high ceilings.  When he first walked in, he saw a kitchen, dining table, and then a massive living room.  There was a set of shelves lined up along the wall, cubbies that contained motorcycle helmets and lego cars lined up like they were on display.  There were three skateboards hung up on the wall.  A huge TV dominated the wall, game consoles neatly stacked up underneath it.  

Everything was tidy, ordered.  There wasn’t a speck of dust.

“So,” Yibo said, clearing his throat.  “You said something about a misunderstanding.”

Xiao Zhan wheeled the suitcase into the living room, then sat down on the couch.  He glanced up at Yibo.  “You must be exhausted.  Do you want to grab a quick shower?  Then we can talk.”

Yibo looked down at himself, frowned, did another stiff test, and grimaced.  “Yeah that’s probably a good idea.”  He glanced at the kitchen, then gestured.  “Make yourself at home.  There’s… uh, tea, there’s tea.  Or water.  Or probably a beer in there.  I dunno, it’s been a while since I was home,” he said awkwardly, scratching his head.

“I’m fine,” Xiao Zhan said.  “Go.”

Yibo just bobbed his head, then disappeared down a hallway.

When Xiao Zhan heard the water turn on in the shower, he decided to busy himself by making tea.  He searched through the cupboards, then saw that Yibo did indeed have a nice selection of tea, and some coffee.  Xiao Zhan rooted around until he found a teapot, then he put the kettle on to boil water.  As the water was boiling, he flipped through his phone again, killing time.  When the water boiled, he made tea, fishing two mugs out of the cabinet.  By the time Yibo walked back out again, still towelling off his hair, Xiao Zhan had two mugs of hot tea ready to go.

Yibo looked delicious in a white tank top and thin black track pants with stripes running down the outside of the legs.   Xiao Zhan could see all the hard muscles in his body, and it made him clear his throat.  When Yibo leaned in close to him, their fingers brushing as he took the mug, Xiao Zhan inhaled his clean, fresh scent.  

Yibo propped his hip up against the counter, looking at him with that impassive look on his face that gave nothing away.  God damn, how is he so sexy just standing there in those simple clothes,  Xiao Zhan thought with dismay.

“So… you wanted to talk?” Yibo prompted him. 

Xiao Zhan forced himself to stop looking at him by turning away and walking back over to the couch.  He sat down on it heavily, bracing his elbows on his knees and dropping his head.  He then looked up at Yibo, who had kept the distance between them, but had hopped up onto the counter in the meantime, his legs dangling down.  It gave him the advantage of height, so for once, Yibo was looking down on him instead of the other way around.

“Why is this so hard?” Xiao Zhan said, flopping backwards.  He glanced back over at Yibo.  

Yibo just gazed at him, sipping his tea.

“I’m older than you are—,” Xiao Zhan started, but Yibo interrupted him with, “I don’t care.”

“We’re both idols—,” he tried again, but Yibo interrupted him again with, “I don’t care.”

Xiao Zhan sat forward, then levelled a glare at Yibo.  “I waited for three hours for you to ride your godmmaned motorcycle home so can you shut up and let me talk??!”

Yibo pursed his mouth out into a thin line and turned his head away, then nodded jerkily.

“Okay then,” Xiao Zhan said, letting out a breath.  “Listen, Yibo.  I don’t think it’s fair that you told me yesterday how you feel but I didn’t give you a proper response.  So here it is.  I’m older than you, I’m nearly 27.  This is already my second shot at my dreams.  You know that I started life out as a designer, but my real dream was to do what I’m doing now - to act, to sing.  I think I’m good at it,” he said, then laughed at himself.  “Well, I could be better.  And I want to get better.  I want to do this.”

He looked up and saw Yibo watching him under half-hooded eyes.

“If I fuck this up, Yibo, there are no third chances.  I go back to being what I was probably always meant to be - normal.”  He searched Yibo’s eyes, begging for him to understand.

“You’re not normal,” Yibo said fiercely.

Xiao Zhan shook his head sadly.  “But see I am, though.  I am normal.  Whenever I get up on stage, whenever I get in front of the camera, half of me thinks someone is going to realize that and tell me to go the fuck away.  What am I thinking, believing that I can stand up on stage next to someone like Wang Yibo?”

Yibo hopped off the counter, stalking over to him.  He shoved Xiao Zhan’s cup to the side then sat down in front of him on the coffee table, putting his hand on Xiao Zhan’s knee.  “Xiao Zhan, you are the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.  And it’s not just your face, your smile.  It’s what’s on the inside.”  He let that mask slip a little, something bright and pure shining out.  

Xiao Zhan looked into Yibo’s eyes, and for a moment, he actually let himself believe it.  Let himself feel worthy of that praise.  

“Thank you for saying that,” Xiao Zhan said genuinely, touched.  He let himself run his hand over Yibo’s that was on his knee, and Yibo immediately linked a couple of their fingers together.  “When I look at you, Yibo, I have so much admiration for you.  I’ve never seen anyone who works as hard as you do, who fights for the things he wants so passionately.  I didn’t really know you before, but every day as I got to know you better and better, I admired you more.”  Xiao Zhan licked his lips, looking up to see Yibo staring at him intently.  

Xiao Zhan sighed, drooping a little.  “I admire you, but you’re still very young,” he said, ignoring the way Yibo bowed his head and clenched his teeth at that.  “You’re young,” he repeated, squeezing his hand, “And your feelings for me might change.  And my feelings for you might change.  There’s so much risk, too much risk.”

“Why did you come here, Xiao Zhan?” Yibo asked, voice sounding world-weary and tired.  His face was hidden under his bangs as his head was bowed down low.

“I came because… when I read your letter, your words sounded so final.  And I don’t want that.  I don’t want things to be over between us.”

Yibo jerked his head up, meeting his eyes again.  “What—”

Xiao Zhan smiled a little.  “I want to be your friend, Yibo.  I came here because I wanted to ask you not to shut me out.  I need to know that I can text you, call you, see you from time to time.  I can’t just have this be… over.  Cut off.  Just like that.”

Yibo bit his bottom lip into his mouth, eyes dropping.

“Can we be friends?” Xiao Zhan asked gently.

“Even though you know that every time I look at you, I want to kiss you?  You want to be my friend?” he whispered with downcast eyes.

Xiao Zhan nodded.  “Even so.”

“Do you…” Yibo started, then his voice drifted off.  

Xiao Zhan squeezed his hand.  “Ask.”

“Do you ever want to kiss me too?” Yibo asked, his eyes lowered.

Xiao Zhan looked at his face, at every perfect angle, at those naturally pouting lips, and thought to himself, How could you not know?  How could you not realize that I’m holding myself back, too?

“Could you please answer the question?” Yibo asked without looking at him.  “I need to know.”

Xiao Zhan let out a big sigh.  “I want to kiss you every time I look at you, too,” Xiao Zhan admitted in a voice a breath above a whisper.

Yibo’s eyes shot up again, and he stared at him, their knees knocking together.  They gazed at each other for a long, charged moment.  Yibo took in a deep breath, then let it out raggedly.

“I know this is hard,” Xiao Zhan said, but Yibo cut him off again, saying, “I’ll agree to be your friend.  On one condition.”

Xiao Zhan eyed him from the side, wary.  “What condition?”

Yibo turned his head away.  “I want you to kiss me.  Just once.  I won’t ask you again.  Just one kiss, then you’ll leave here, and I won’t shut you out.  I’ll be your friend as long as you still want to be mine.”

“I really don’t think this is a good idea,” Xiao Zhan said in a low voice.  If I kiss you, I won’t want to stop.

Yibo’s head was still turned away from him, but he said quietly, “I’m not trying to pressure you, I promise you, Xiao Zhan.  But I need to know what it feels like, just once, to be worthy enough to receive your love.”

“You are  worthy,” Xiao Zhan declared hotly.

Yibo turned back and looked at him, eyes piercing.  “Then prove it.”

They stared at each other for a good, long moment, Xiao Zhan not sure if he was poised to fight or flee.  But he couldn’t back down from that earnest gaze.  Yibo was once again laid bare before him, unafraid.  The bravest boy in the world.

Xiao Zhan sighed and tugged on Yibo’s hand.  “Come here,” he said gently.

Yibo got up and folded himself down on the couch next to Xiao Zhan.  Their thighs pressed together, Xiao Zhan slowly reached out and slid his arm around Yibo’s shoulders, tugging him closer.  They stared into each other’s eyes from inches away, then Xiao Zhan reached up his hand and smoothed Yibo’s bangs back from his forehead.

“Beautiful boy,” Xiao Zhan murmured.  He stroked Yibo’s cheek with his thumb, hand sliding down to cup around Yibo’s neck.  The look in Yibo’s eyes was desperate, deeply longing.

Xiao Zhan tugged on Yibo’s neck, making him lean forward into the crook of his arm as Xiao Zhan closed the distance between them.  He pressed his lips against Yibo’s, capturing a whimper.  He then kissed him, his lips teasing Yibo’s apart, and Yibo kissed him back, his eyes falling closed, following the gentle pressure and pace that Xiao Zhan set.

They melted into each other, Xiao Zhan kissing Yibo’s upper lip, then his lower lip, then tilting his head to slot their mouths more deeply against each other.  I love his lips,  Xiao Zhan thought, mind blown.  His thumb was stroking Yibo’s neck, running over his thundering pulse.  He was getting lost in it, and when he opened his mouth, Yibo did, too, deepening the kiss.  

Xiao Zhan gently bit Yibo’s bottom lip, and Yibo let out a sound low in his throat.  They brushed their tongues lightly together.  

Yibo threw his leg over Xiao Zhan’s legs, his hand sliding on Xiao Zhan’s waist.  Yibo was a fast learner, kissing him lightly, not diving too deep, using just enough tongue.

Xiao Zhan felt like his heart was going to burst out of his chest as they kissed, not rushing, just exploring, both of them not wanting this moment to end.  Xiao Zhan’s hand tightened its grip on Yibo’s neck, pulling him in even closer, as Yibo’s hand clawed into his back.  

I’m never going to be able to look at him without remembering this moment,  Xiao Zhan despaired.  Just one more,  Xiao Zhan told himself.

Xiao Zhan stroked Yibo’s cheek, his arm still tight around him, and kissed him three more times.  He then slowly pulled away.

His arm was still around Yibo, and Xiao Zhan watched as Yibo slowly opened his eyes, his pupils blown wide open, mouth glistening.  Yibo sighed, tilting his head onto Xiao Zhan’s arm where it was around him.  He went boneless, just lying there against the back of the couch, his leg thrown on top of Xiao Zhan’s hip.

“Does that count?” Xiao Zhan asked in a soft voice, eyes twinkling.

Yibo nodded, biting his bottom lip between his teeth.  

“You won’t shut me out?”

Yibo shook his head.

Xiao Zhan stroked his hand through Yibo’s hair, then placed a kiss on the top of his head.  He hugged Yibo to him, and Yibo sighed, his hand resting on Xiao Zhan’s back.

They lay there for a while, just holding each other, before Xiao Zhan murmured, “You must be tired.”

“Not tired,” Yibo lied, eyes drooping.

“You should go to bed.”

“Then you’ll leave,” Yibo whispered.

“Yes,” Xiao Zhan confirmed.

“Don’t wanna,” Yibo said petulantly, pouting.

Why is he so cute!

“I have to go, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said softly, then regretfully disentangled himself.  He got to his feet, then looked at Yibo laying there on the couch, legs tucked up, looking blissed out.  He leaned over, cupped Yibo’s face in his hands, and gave him one last lingering kiss on the lips.  He then smiled at him, smoothing his thumb over those sinful lips.  I can never let myself do that again,  Xiao Zhan thought sadly.

He made a little sound in his throat, then turned away.  When he got to the door, he paused, looking back at Yibo one last time.  Yibo was watching him through hooded eyes, just lying there, his head propped up on his arm.  Xiao Zhan let out a little wave.  “Take care of yourself, didi,” he said fondly.

“Okay, gege,” Yibo whispered.

Xiao Zhan finally walked out the door, down the hall to the elevator, then pushed the button.  When he was in the elevator he slumped weakly against the wall.  I’m so fucked.

———

When he got home later that night, Xiao Zhan finally unpacked his suitcase.  As soon as he opened it, he saw with surprise Yibo’s track jacket lying on top of it.  He knew he’d put it in Yibo’s case the day before.  

Xiao Zhan pulled all his clothes out, putting them away, and saw that his own track jacket was nowhere to be found.  

Xiao Zhan started to laugh.  That little shit,  he thought fondly.  He must have switched them.

If Xiao Zhan took Yibo’s track jacket to bed with him, holding it up to his nose to inhale his scent - who was to know?

Chapter Text

August 2018


Yibo was in a crisis. 

He usually had his ways of dealing with conflict inside himself, and that normally meant bottling everything up inside and putting on a steel facade to the outside world. He thought he’d gotten so good at it over the years. 

He’d thought wrong.

Yibo paced around his apartment after Xiao Zhan left. He flopped down on his bed and tried to sleep. Even though he was beyond exhausted, his brain wouldn’t turn off, and he restlessly got back up again. He puttered around his apartment, tidying things up and remembering where all his stuff was. He flopped down in front of his TV and tried to distract himself by playing video games for a while, but he kept losing when his mind wandered to that fateful kiss. He tried to settle his mind with his other favourite activity - building model lego cars. He put the TV on a sports channel then got out a fresh box he hadn’t started yet. He scattered all the pieces out, then started to arrange them by type. When he had them all lined up in neat little piles he felt his heart start to pump erratically.

Ah shit, he groaned to himself. 

He didn’t bother with his medication - it wasn’t bad enough yet to warrant it - but he did get up and walk around his place slowly, hands on his hips, focusing on his breathing.

Don’t think about him. Don’t think about him. Don’t think.

When his heart had calmed down again, he went to his fridge and took a peek inside. He only had three beers in there, but he wasn’t planning on getting drunk. Just one drink.

He sat back in front of his lego table, drinking the beer. He pushed legos around aimlessly with his finger, sipping his beer. 

Then his face felt wet, and he held a hand up to his cheek in surprise. Oh, great. I’m sitting here fucking crying while playing with legos. No wonder he thinks of me as a fucking kid.

Yibo palmed his phone into his hand, pulling up his group chat with his friends from UNIQ.

Yibo:  911

They all started typing at once. In a laughable mix of Chinese and Korean.

Yixuan:  Baby what’s wrong?

Yixuan:  

Sungjoo:  What???

Sungjoo:  

Seungyoun:  You better not be dead

Yibo:  If I were dead how would I be writing to you???

Wenhan:  Is my sweetheart in trouble? Talk!

Wenhan:  

Yibo: 

Yibo:  Who’s in Beijing?

Yixuan:  Me

Wenhan:  Me

Sungjoo:  Do I need to get on a plane?? What’s going on?

Yibo smiled down at his phone, laughing at their antics already. 

Yibo:  I need to not be alone right now

Yibo:  Who can come over?

Sungjoo:  What the fuck happened? I’m getting on a plane

Yixuan:  Don’t get on a plane dude, I’ll go check on this sich and report back

Yixuan:   

Yibo:  Everything happened. And nothing happened.

Seungyoun:  Can you not be so frickin’ cryptic? Seriously does Sungjoo need to go beat someone up? Let those martial arts skills be of some use for a change

Wenhan:  I just got in a cab. I was at an event but I was bored anyway. Do I need to be bringing alcohol? Or a teddy bear?

Wenhan:   

Yibo:  Jesus stop with the memes!  Maybe… yes… to the alcohol. If you guys are here with me it’s OK.

Yixuan:  I’m en route 

Yixuan:   

Yibo smiled. He rarely called on them to come, so when he called a 911, he was so happy and relieved that his friends dropped everything to come and see him. 

 

Wenhan:  We just saw you a few weeks ago, what happened since then?

Sungjoo:  Does this have anything to do with your post about The Untamed? What was up with that “dismay” shit?

Yibo:  I need to not be alone, that’s all.

Sungjoo: Wenhan, Yixuan, you sure you’ve got this under control?? What’s wrong with Yibo???

Yixuan: Dude we’re not there yet. Can you give us like an hour to figure this out? We’ll call you tomorrow.

Sungjoo: But I won’t be able to sleep if something is wrong with our baby! Our maknae!

Wenhan: Chill

Sungjoo:  

Sungjoo:  

Sungjoo: 

Seungyeon:  Omg stop Sungjoo

Sungjoo:  

Yibo:  Love you too Sungjoo

It wasn’t long before Yibo heard the door buzzer on his phone. He swiped the person up without checking who it was, knowing it would be them. Yibo got up, making a detour to the kitchen to finish his beer and rinse the beer bottle out, placing it on the counter. 

He opened the door before they knocked on it, and there stood Yixuan and Wenhan, both of them together, concerned expressions on their faces. Wenhan held up a bag and grinned. 

Yibo took it and peeked inside. There was beer, baiju, and some snacks. 

“Uh oh he’s definitely feeling poorly if he got the legos out,” Yixuan said with a laugh, going over to the table. “Dude can I put these away? We need the table for drinking.”

“I’ll do it,” Yibo said shortly, then went back over, carefully bagging each group of legos into little plastic bags before putting them back in the box. He then stored the box back in the cupboard he’d gotten it from. 

In the meantime, Wenhan had laid out all the alcohol and snacks on the counter in the kitchen. “Okay we need a couple big bowls. And some glasses.”

“I’m on the glasses,” Yixuan said, reaching up to get down a few.

Yibo just stood there, wringing his hands together as they poured out some baiju and put the snacks in large bowls. In under five minutes flat they had it all laid out on the coffee table, and they steered Yibo into the middle of the couch, Yixuan on one side and Wenhan on the other. They both put their arms around his shoulders. 

“Baiju first,” Yibo mumbled.

“Here, here,” Yixuan said, handing him a glass.

“Sweetheart what happened,” Wenhan asked, threading his hand into the back of Yibo’s hair and giving it a stroke. “Did someone bully you?” Wenhan and Yibo used to room together, and the joke was that they were childhood sweethearts. In reality, though they’d flirted with each other a lot over the years it hadn’t meant anything. Yibo and Wenhan had known each other the longest, even though they were the youngest, they had joined on the same day when they were just young teenagers.

Yibo shook his head, sucking his lips into his mouth. He then took a long drink of Baiju, grimacing. 

“You can tell papa,” Yixuan said. As the oldest Yixuan had always jokingly taken on the role of the parent in the group. 

Yibo turned to Wenhan and pouted. “You shouldn’t have called us childhood sweethearts on Day Day Up.”

Wenhan opened his eyes wide then leaned over and pinched Yibo’s cheeks. “Did I cause you trouble?”

Yibo ground his teeth together at him. “You are trying to out me on live TV. One day they’re going to believe you.”

“Oh my god,” Yixuan said in English. Then he switched back to Chinese. “This is  about the Untamed. What’s that guy’s name?”

“Wait wait wait!!” Wenhan practically screeched. “Did you finally confess to a guy?! Like for real?!!”

Yibo stayed silent, but that silence was enough to speak a thousand words.

“You confessed to Xiao Zhan?” Yixuan asked, voice calm. “Let me guess, he turned you down.”

Yibo nodded, eyes downcast. He then whispered, “You can’t tell anyone.”

“Dude, we’re your family,” Yixuan said, stroking his knee. “Your secret’s safe with us.”

They both hugged him from both sides, then Wenhan started peppering kisses on Yibo’s cheek. “I feel so betrayed. My first love, you’ve moved on. I thought you’d love me forever.”

“You left me sexually frustrated for too long,” Yibo said with a laugh, giving Wenhan a look and a wink.

“We can fix that,” Wenhan joked, palming Yibo’s chest.

Yibo shoved his hand away, laughing. “Yeah right.” 

“So what happened?” Yixuan asked. 

“Yeah, when did you start wanting to do the dirty with him?” Wenhan asked.

Yibo rolled his eyes at Wenhan. “I don’t just want to fuck him,” he growled. Then his voice softened. “I think I love him,” he said in a whisper.

“Like… love  love? Not just want to make love  love?” Yixuan clarified.

Yibo let out a big sigh, then poured himself another drink. He downed it all in one go. “I want to be  with him,” he said, then let out a long groan and fisted his hands into his hair. “And we can’t.”

“Of course you can’t!” Wenhan called out, squeezing the back of his neck. “If anyone found out you’d be ruined.”

Yibo took another long sip of his drink.

“Fuck China,” Yixuan said all of a sudden, startling them. They both looked at him. “Well, I mean, why does the government give a shit? This censorship crap is bullshit. You should have been able to kiss him on-screen.”

Yibo let out a little laugh at that. “I don’t think I’ll see that in my lifetime.”

“I certainly hope you’re wrong about that,” Yixuan said vehemently.

Wenhan started stuffing his cheeks with snacks, then stuffing them in Yibo’s mouth.  “So let me get this straight,” he said around a mouthful of chips.  “You told this dude that you wanted to… not  make babies with him… and he said he wasn’t interested?”

“Not exactly,” Yibo said, sipping away at his baiju.  He felt tears coming again, so he took a deep breath and tried to swallow them down.  “He said he liked me back.  But that we couldn’t.  Too many risks.”

Wenhan sat back, crossing his arms over his chest, satisfied.  “Well he’s right about that.  Way  too risky.”  

Yixuan reached over the back of the couch to smack Wenhan.  “Don’t be like that.  If they wanted to make it work they could make it work.”

“How?” Wenhan argued over Yibo’s back while he continued to drink silently.  “How could they make it work?”

“Secret meetings, they could plan to rendez-vous, meet up in hotel rooms or at each other’s places,” Yixuan argued back.

“And you think that fans wouldn’t figure that out?!” Wenhan screeched.

“They’re not even that popular yet!” Yixuan said, raising his voice.

That one stung.  “Thanks,” Yibo said dryly.  

Yixuan gave him a sympathetic look.  “You know what I mean.”

Yibo flopped back onto the back of the couch.  He’d drunk a few baijus by that point, and he was starting to pleasantly buzz.

“Oh shit you’re getting him drunk already,” Yixuan said to Wenhan, pointing to Yibo.

“I forgot to get real food to eat,” Wenhan said apologetically, then got to his feet.  He wandered around Yibo’s kitchen, opening cabinets randomly.  “Do you have anything to eat?  Baby?”

“Stop calling me baby,” Yibo grunted.

Yixuan gave him a hug.  “You’ll always be my baby, baby,” he said sweetly.

Yibo gave him a little slap on the arm.  “Thanks papa.”

“Ooooh!  I found some ramen.  Wang Yibo!  Let’s relive our youth.  Let’s make ramen while listening to music.”  He got out his phone, queueing up some music.  “Wang Yibo!  Get off your ass and get over here.”

Yibo got to his feet, wearily flopping over into the kitchen.  He got a pot out and put some water in.  

Yixuan got up and messed around in Yibo’s fridge.  “O-kay, looks like we’ve got some eggs in here.  Any dried mushrooms or something?”

Yibo padded over to the pantry cupboard, messing around inside until he found the mushrooms.  “Score.”

“Okay, music’s comin’ up.  Remember this one?   Wang Yibo?”  On came Taemin’s Showtime,  an old favourite of Yibo’s.  

When the music started playing, Yibo immediately assumed his pose, then started dancing.  Yixuan and Wenhan joined in, bopping to the music, doing the official dance moves from the music video.  

“Cooking is so much better with music,” Yixuan said with a laugh.

“Yibo I really hope you’ve figured out how to make ramen properly by now,” Wenhan complained, looking over Yibo’s shoulder as he stirred the noodles.

“Fuck off,” Yibo grumbled, but a smile was tugging at the edge of his lips.

“Don’t add that yet!” Yixuan called out, grabbing the dish with the cracked eggs out of Yibo’s hand.  “You’ve got to stir them up to break up the yolk, Yibo.  And you add the egg at the very end.”

“I can’t cook without our manager here to tell me what to do,” Yibo pouted.

Wenhan slung an arm over Yibo’s shoulders, giving him a good squeeze.  “It’s okay baby, we’re here to help.  We can make ramen together.”

I want to eat ramen with Xiao Zhan,  Yibo thought morosely.  Then sniffed.  

“Oh shit oh shit he’s starting up again.  Where’s the baiju?” Wenhan asked urgently.

“I’ve got it,” Yixuan called out, running back to the coffee table to grab it.  He poured Yibo another glass.  Then he reached up his hands and wiped Yibo’s cheeks with his thumbs.  “Okay, okay, one more drink.  But we eat after this one, OK?”

Yibo nodded, sniffing again and wiping his eyes.  “Okay.”

When they had the ramen made, they all huddled around the kitchen counter, eating the ramen straight out of the pot.  They all went silent as they ate, quickly devouring the noodles.  As he was eating, Yibo’s eyes started watering again.  Wenhan looked up, then panicked a little and got music going on his phone again.  He then plugged his phone into Yibo’s sound system.  “Wang Yibo, Dance King of Asia, let’s bust out some moves!”

Yibo started moving slowly at first, still eating his food but gyrating his hips from side to side.  When he’d eaten his fill, he joined Wenhan and Yixuan in the open space of his living room and they started dancing their hearts out.  They danced until they were jumping up and down and sweating.  

“Wang Yibo!  Wang Yibo!”  Yixuan and Wenhan chanted, dancing around him.

Yibo tilted his head up to the ceiling, closing his eyes.  With his eyes closed and his body moving rhythmically, he almost felt like normal again.  I’m still the same person I was before,  he told himself.  He then started jumping up and down, kicking his leg out in the move he’d taught the Seaweed group.  

“Whoa!  Teach us that one, Wang-laoshi!”

Yibo taught the others how to do it, and next thing they were all jumping down.  Next Wenhan queued up Gangam Style, and they went full-at it.  They danced around the room, then chased each other in circles.  When they’d danced each other out, they got another round of drinks going.  

“UNIQ forever!” they cheered each other.  

“Okay!” Wenhan announced in a big voice.  “Time for karaoke!”

“Gaaawd,” Yibo groaned.  But he didn’t stop them from queueing up the karaoke on the big TV.  

They went around in circles, each of them singing song after song.  Yibo lost himself in it, just letting his voice flow as he felt the haze of drinking settling pleasantly around him.  He wasn’t crazy drunk, but he was more than a little tipsy.

What song would I sing to Xiao Zhan if he were here… Yibo wondered to himself.  He then queued the song up.  

“Oh no,” Wenhan said when he saw the song he was about to sing.  “This won’t be good.”

“Let him sing it,” Yixuan said quietly.  “Maybe he’ll feel better if he gets it out.”

Yibo queued up Nan Hai (Boy) by Liang Bo.  

As he started to sing, Yibo’s voice was gentle at first, just getting used to the feeling of the words.  The only time he had to change the gender was in the very first line.

He fell in love with him by accident
In an era of no hesitation
I think I was clear at that time
So I love you deeply

Yibo’s voice wavered a little at that line, but he pushed on through, determined to keep going.  

A pair of hands is tight and can’t let go
Persistence in heart and future
I can’t forget your love
But the outcome is difficult to change
I couldn’t keep you here

Yibo wiped at his eyes, feeling the tears gathering.  He found that place inside him that was hurting and drew on it, his voice expanding as he kept singing.

Not like him, I couldn’t give you
An expected future like he can give
A childish boy
Your concern has always been taken with me
I open it again when I got where nobody is

Tears were now freely falling from his eyes, but he let them run down his cheeks, tilting his head up and clenching his hands into fists.  

I want to ask you how are you now?
Is there no more sadness in your heart?
Like the sea lying in the sunshine
Like the coloured smeared with the heart
Make you smile, and be brave

Yibo’s voice rose thick and strong as he sang, swaying from side to side.  He could feel his friends watching him, standing there solemnly, but Yixuan had his hand on Wenhan’s shoulder, holding him back from stopping Yibo.  

I can’t forget your love
But the outcome is difficult to change
I couldn’t keep you here
Not like him, I couldn’t give you
An expected future like he can give
A childish boy
I miss you now

Yibo’s heart felt like it was breaking, and he sobbed, tears running down his face.  He rubbed his cheeks almost angrily.

I miss you when I was wandering again
All regrets have not come yet
All love is hard to avoid
Can’t escape from injury

Yibo imagined Xiao Zhan’s face in his mind as he sang his soul out.

There is no need to do it again
Now, I only hope that pain will be over more quickly
On the contrary, we can’t do it again

When the song was over, Yibo fell down into a squat, sobbing.  He pressed his face into his knees.  He felt arms around him as both Yixuan and Wenhan put their arms around him, hugging him fiercely.  They let him sob his little heart out, their arms protecting him from the world around him.

When he didn’t have any tears left, Yibo fell back on his butt, tilting his head up and wiping his face.  “Sorry,” he mumbled.

They both put their arms around his shoulders, their heads close together.  “It’s okay Yibo.  It’s okay,” Yixuan said.

“Does it feel better a little?” Wenhan asked, curious.

Yibo pursed his lips and nodded, eyes puffy and face swollen.  “Yeah, a little.”

“Okay, okay, let’s get in bed,” Yixuan suggested.

“Good idea,” Wenhan agreed.  All three of them piled into Yibo’s room, sliding into bed together.  Wenhan smacked Yibo with his pillow a few times, and Yibo took another pillow and started smacking him back.  All three of them had a good pillow fight until Yibo was laughing again and flopped over, exhausted.  

“I can’t sleep,” Yibo pouted.  “I need to pee.”

“Jesus, Yibo,” Wenhan swore.  “Go pee then.  Yixuan, put those dishes in the sink.  I’ll fix the bed.”

All with their assigned tasks, by the time Yibo came back from the bathroom, they had Yibo get in the bed in the middle then the two of them settled themselves to sleep on either side of him.  They fumbled around a bit to get a comfortable position.  Since Yibo usually slept on his stomach, he ended up throwing his arm over Wenhan’s chest, then Yixuan spooned Yibo’s back.

“Okay?” Yixuan asked him.

Yibo nodded.  

“Okay.  Sleep.”

———

When Yibo woke blearily in the morning, his arm was still around Wenhan, but Yixuan was talking softly on the phone beside him.

“I think we’d better get a rotation going,” he was saying.  “He really shouldn’t be alone.”  After a pause, he said, “Mmm.  I can do next week.  You want to fly in and do tonight and Sunday?”  After another pause, “I think he’s going on set again after that.  Should be OK if he has work to do.  Mmm.  OK.”

Yibo shifted, snuggling in closer to Wenhan.  He hugged him to himself like a stuffed animal.

Wenhan shifted, waking up slowly.  When he saw Yibo, he stroked his head.  “Okay baby?”

Yibo nodded.  “Mmn.”

He’d lost his tank top sometime during the night, but the others didn’t seem to mind.  Wenhan got out of bed then gave Yibo a little slap on the bum.  “Okay maknae, get up.  Shower.  Then we do legos together.  Okay?”

Yibo nodded, got to his feet.  “Okay.”

Yibo wandered into the living room first, looking for his phone.  He had to search for a while, but finally found it stuffed between two cushions on the coach.  When he fished it out, he saw to his surprise there was a text from Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan:  I’m just checking up on you.  Are you okay?

Yibo bit his lips, looking at that text.  I know he cares.  I know he does.  But still… this is gonna be hard.

Yibo:  I’m okay.  My friends are here.

Xiao Zhan:  That’s good.  I know you don’t like being alone.  It’s good you have friends with you.

Yibo:  Yeah.

Xiao Zhan:  Any grand plans for the weekend?

Yibo:  Nothing much.

As Yibo was texting with Xiao Zhan, Yixuan came into the kitchen to clean up the dishes.  When he saw what Yibo was doing, he came to peer over his shoulder.  “You’re texting with him?” Yixuan asked gently.

Yibo kept his eyes downcast.  “He still wants to be my friend.  I want that, too,” he mumbled.

Yixuan rubbed Yibo’s back.  “And you’re going to be okay with that?”

Yibo shrugged.  He then looked up and met Yixuan’s eyes.  “I’ll have to be.  If all I can be is his friend, I’d rather that than nothing at all.  We started out as friends.  In a way, I feel like he’s become my best friend.”

Xiao Zhan:  If you ever want to talk you can call me okay?

Yibo:  Okay.  I have to go now.

Xiao Zhan:  Okay Yibo.  Take care.

Yibo:  You too.  Bye bye.

When he shoved his phone in his pocket, he saw Yixuan clearing up the dishes.  Wenhan came out and retrieved the legos that Yibo had put away the night before, putting the box on the table.  “Go shower!” Wenhan called out.  

“Okay, okay,” Yibo said, disappearing into the bathroom.

That night, Sungjoo flew in and took over for Yixuan.  Seungyeon arrived the next day, but could only stay for the day as he had commitments to attend to.  Still, for the whole week, they didn’t let Yibo sleep alone once.

Even though it was broken, his heart was also full.

Chapter Text

September 2018

 

Xiao Zhan went back to his hometown in Chongqing to visit with his parents.  It felt strange walking back into his home, seeing his parents looking the same, the house unchanged.  He felt like his whole life had changed around him, it was odd to see them looking like their world was just the same as before.

“Welcome home,” his mother said, greeting him with a hug.

“Son,” his father called out to him.  His hugs were never as deep as his mother’s, but he felt his love nonetheless in the gentle smile.  

“You’re so skinny,” his mother chided him, taking his arm and bringing him into the kitchen.  The first thing she did was start to cook for him.  As his mother was bustling about in the kitchen, cooking a variety of dishes for him, his father came to sit with him at the table, bringing out tea for him and Xiao Zhan.

“How did filming go?” he asked idly.  He was fiddling with his teacup, not quite drinking it as it was still quite hot.

“It went so well,”  Xiao Zhan gushed with a smile.  “I had so much fun.  I made so many new friends.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that much fun before.  I just hope the drama does well, it’s so hard to tell sometimes while you’re filming something whether it’ll be well received.”

His father nodded.  “You worried?”

Xiao Zhan shrugged, then shot to his feet when Jian Guo walked in.  She avoided him at first, giving him a hairy eyeball, but she stayed within viewing distance.  “Jian Guo!”

“She’s mad at you from staying away for so long!” his mother said with a laugh.  

“Aww, I missed you so much my darling,” Xiao Zhan said, getting on his knees and cooing at her.  “Jian Guo, did you miss me too?  Oh your little short legs!”  He waited patiently for her to warm up, and eventually she walked over and rubbed up against him.  He picked her up, cradling her in his arms.  Once they’d broken the ice, she went limp, purring in his arms.  

“So you worried about the drama?” his father repeated, finally sipping his tea.

Xiao Zhan got up and sat back at the table, Jian Guo still cradled in his arms.  He stared adoringly down at her, scratching her where she liked on the head.  “It’s a very popular novel.  I feel really good about my performance in the end, but there are definitely moments I could have done better.  I’m more worried about the fact that we had to change some elements in the novel.  I’m not sure how the fans will react to that.”  He leaned down and kissed Jian Guo on the head.

“Well, if it doesn’t work out you can always come back home,” his mother said as she cooked in the kitchen.  

“Being an actor is so unstable,” his father agreed.

Xiao Zhan laughed.  “Stability is overrated.”

His mother started plating the food, placing a heaping plate in front of him.  Jian Guo hopped off his lap with a sniff.  His mother handed him the chopsticks with a pointed look, and Xiao Zhan bowed his head to say his thanks and dug in.  Oh, yeah, that tastes good.  Nothing like a mother’s cooking!!

“You still having disputes with the CEO of your management company?” his father asked as he got some chopsticks out to pick at the food on Xiao Zhan’s plate. 

Xiao Zhan scrunched up his face.  “Yeah.  She doesn’t believe in me, she’s not investing any time or energy in developing me.  If I don’t feel any support from her I may have to consider withdrawing from Wajijiwa.”

“Terminating?!” his mother cried out.  “That seems risky!  Wouldn’t you have to pay a lot of money?”

“I’m not sure,” Xiao Zhan said, still eating the food with relish.  “I will continue to discuss it with her, don’t worry I’m not going to make any decisions without thinking about this from all the angles.”

“Don’t do anything rash,” his father advised.

“Don’t be concerned.  I am working hard to promote myself, and my friends are helping to promote me.  The more work I do, the more I will be recognized.  I’ll work hard!” he said with a brilliant smile.  “I won’t let anything  get in the way of my dreams.”

“Well make sure you eat well.  And get some rest.  You need to take care of your health before you can do anything else," his mother scolded him.

Xiao Zhan smiled and nodded, eating until he was bursting.

———

The first few days were the hardest.  Everything that Xiao Zhan did, he wanted to share it with Yibo.  He wanted to see his face, those priceless expressions.  Hear that deep voice.  

Xiao Zhan made it a point to text Yibo every day.  Yibo was busier than Xiao Zhan, so it was usually Xiao Zhan who started out their conversations with, “Where you at now?”  

At first he received mostly 1-word answers to his texts.  “Where you at now?”  “Photo shoot.”  “What product?”  “Luggage.”  “Is your styling good?”  “Not bad.”  If he was really lucky, he’d send him a photo before it was released publicly.  Sometimes he even got a selfie.  

Xiao Zhan followed Yibo on Weibo, eagerly looking forward to any pictures he could see of him.  Xiao Zhan pulled up some of the pictures to look at as he lay in bed alone at night in his old room.

Just over a week since they’d seen each other, he posted on Weibo photos from a photo shoot he’d done.

UNIQ-王一博  

2018-9-4 14:30 from the iPhone X

Ah, the days of good ~ ~[sun][sun]

 

   

Xiao Zhan found himself staring at those pictures.  Cool Guy Yibo, expressionless as usual in the images.  He saw nothing of his  Yibo in there, the Yibo who smiled and laughed hard enough to double-over.  Even in the third picture, where Yibo looked like he was trying to smile, his eyes looked sad.  

The next day, Yibo posted some selfies.  He had that fake smile on his face, but his eyes looked bloodshot.

UNIQ-王一博  

2018-9-6 23:58 from the iPhone X

Selfie🤳

     

It hurt him so much to see Yibo like that.  He wanted to find a way to make this easier on him somehow, but he just couldn’t.  Xiao Zhan thought of his parents, who he’d hurt so much with his selfishness, and he just couldn’t see a way through the darkness he was feeling.  

The day after, another photo shoot.  Tiffany and Co.  He looked like his Yibo, in his skinny jeans with the knees ripped out.  But he was distant, untouchable.  

UNIQ-王一博  

2018-9-7 13:55 from the iPhone X

Blue World ~

@TiffanyAndCo Tiffany # TiffanyBlue # # # TiffanyPaperFlowers

 

   

 

 

Even on his next episode of Day Day Up he looked a little messy - not the messy-on-purpose style that he sometimes had, more of a I-just-couldn’t-give-two-fucks kind of messy.  Day Day Up didn’t care enough to fix his hair properly or put makeup on him to cover how tired he looked.  At least he was smiling from time to time.  Yibo’s old co-judge from Produce 101, Luo, was on the show.  Even on Day Day Up Yibo was surrounded by his friends.  That was good, at least.  Luo was so lively on stage that he was practically a host himself, stealing the spotlight - but in a way that was good, Yibo could hide a little in plain sight, just standing there quietly.  I wonder if they know that he’s not doing well.  If they can tell.  Or is he hiding it enough behind that cool personality that even his brothers haven’t noticed?

   

Yibo ended up doing silly things on the show, like making funny faces or doing a wave with his eyebrows that made Xiao Zhan burst out laughing.  As Yibo sat on stage with his Day Day Up brothers, his legs crossed primly at the knee, wrists crossed in his lap, Xiao Zhan’s heart flopped over in his chest.  I want to see him.  God I miss him.  

Xiao Zhan watched the whole episode.  An hour and a half of watching Yibo mostly stand around and say nothing.  In the entire hour and a half he must have said about six sentences.  But at least he got to see his natural facial expressions as he reacted to things.  Although sometimes Yibo seemed to be frowning, which he usually didn’t do on air.  The one time Yibo got really animated was when some regional food came out on set.  Yibo was always eating on Day Day Up, he loved trying all the different food.  It warmed something in Xiao Zhan, watching him eat.  It felt nostalgic somehow.  They’d shared so many meals together.  Maybe I’ll be able to cook for him again one day.  Yibo still looked painfully thin after filming The Untamed, so it was good to see him eating and enjoying the food so much.  And he did eat a lot - after the food came out he practically abandoned his role as a host and just stood or sat there eating.  Yibo ah Yibo, it’s a miracle they’ve let you keep this job so long.

Xiao Zhan spent most of his own days painting.  He painted mostly landscapes and little cute figures at first.  Then he spent four days on a painting of Yibo.  He just needed to be alone, to try to gather his thoughts together.  He’d act as a dutiful son and go out to eat meals with his parents, but other than that he mostly locked himself up in his room and painted.  Even his old friends who wanted to see him he found excuses to stay away from, claiming exhaustion and a need to recover.  The truth was that he couldn’t even look himself in the mirror much less look at anyone else.

Halfway through the month, Yibo actually was the one to text him first.  

Yibo:  Where are you at?

Xiao Zhan smiled.  This is gonna be our line now, isn’t it?

Xiao Zhan:  Still at home.  Painting a lot of the time.  Trying to clear my head.  Hanging out with Jian Guo.

Xiao Zhan: 

Yibo:  Very cute

Yibo didn’t specify whether he meant the cat or Xiao Zhan, but he didn’t have the heart to type what he normally would have before - her or me?  Instead he bit his lip and hesitated over the keys, not knowing what to write out. 

Xiao Zhan:  Where you  at?

Yibo:  I went to a car racing event last night, then did a track day today on my motorcycle.  It was my 4 year anniversary for getting my motorcycle license.

Xiao Zhan:  Four years?  Wow!  Did you ride a motorcycle before driving a car?

Yibo:  Yes, and once I got my motorcycle license I couldn’t get a car license for at least a couple of years after.  Not that it matters I mostly get driven around anyway haha

Xiao Zhan:  True.  I can’t remember the last time I drove a car

Yibo:  Do you want to…

Xiao Zhan:  …?

Yibo:  ...Video call?

Although he and Xiao Zhan had video called a lot when they were apart during filming, Xiao Zhan had found out later that Yibo didn’t normally do that - with anyone.  Not even his parents.  Funny the little things that I realize after the fact were him trying to treat me special.

Xiao Zhan looked down at himself, sitting there in his sweatpants and an old t-shirt.  I look like shit, Xiao Zhan realized all at once.  He hadn’t even shaved.  He had little scraggly hairs on his face.

Xiao Zhan got up to run to the bathroom, hastily getting out his razor.  He made quick work of shaving his face, then splashed some cold water on it.  He looked at himself in the mirror and grimaced, then tried to do something to fluff up his hair.  

In the time it took Xiao Zhan to try and make himself look presentable, Yibo had written him again.

Yibo:  I just posted on Weibo.  Just for you.  Check it out.  Sure you don’t want to talk to me?

Xiao Zhan hastily opened up Weibo and saw that Yibo had not posted one or two selfies like he normally would have.  He posted nine.  Nine selfies.  Four selfies with a victory sign.  Two selfies of himself with his helmet.  One selfie of him just looking at the camera.  And two finger-hearts!!!   Yibo hated doing cute stuff like that.

UNIQ-王一博  

2018-9-15 23:29 from the iPhone X

Four years

I'm good, I'm bad, are you still there ... I'm

very happy today

because it's our anniversary

   

   

   

Xiao Zhan had spent a lot of time trolling Yibo’s Weibo recently and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d posted finger-hearts.  Oh no, yes he could remember - it had been on his birthday.  When he was thanking the crew for spending time with him.  When he was thanking me.  Xiao Zhan hastily scrolled back through Yibo's Weibo to make sure he wasn't wrong.  Sure enough, last time he'd posted a finger-heart had been at a post directed at him.

   

Xiao Zhan’s heart bottomed out.  Oh God.

He looked at the new pictures again, scrutinizing them more carefully.  Yibo was wearing a white t-shirt and black ripped skinny-jeans.  That looked pretty normal.  But… he thought Yibo’s eyes looked a little bloodshot, a little wet.  Was it just his imagination?  Or just a poor quality phone camera?

He hit the call button.

Yibo answered quickly.  He looked even cuter on that shitty little video camera than he had on the selfies he’d posted on Weibo.  His hair was all fluffy and natural, and he was clearly sitting on a couch in a hotel room somewhere. 

Xiao Zhan just sat there drinking in the sight of him, not able to say anything.  

It seemed like Yibo was the same way, because he just looked at him back again, those eyes shining and deep.  

Xiao Zhan bit his lip into his mouth, but still couldn’t look away.  He saw Yibo’s eyes flick down his mouth to watch him bite his lip, then Xiao Zhan’s eyes widened when Yibo licked his lips.

Oh God is he remembering our kiss?  Oh shit now I am!

“I watched Day Day Up on the 9th,” Xiao Zhan said abruptly.

Yibo groaned and hid his face in his hand.  “Oh God, I was so off my game.”

Xiao Zhan smiled, his chest warming up inside.  “You were still cute.”

“Oh shut up,” Yibo said, but when he came out from behind his hand he was smiling.  “I was half not even there.  Up here,” he said, tapping the side of his head with two fingers.

“I know the feeling,” Xiao Zhan said softly, eyes crinkling.  “You seemed to enjoy the food, though!”

Yibo nodded.  “That’s the best part of Day Day Up.  They bring in food from all over the place so we get a chance to try out so many things.  I couldn’t stop eating!  People are always making fun of me for eating too much on camera,” Yibo said sheepishly.

Xiao Zhan propped his head on his hand.  “Oh really?”

Yibo screwed up his face.  “One time I tried to do a live stream.  I’m so shit at that stuff.  I ended up literally spending 40 minutes out of the hour just eating on camera.  And people still said they wanted me to do another one!  I’m like, dude, if you want me to do another live stream then I’ll dance or play video games but don’t just sit there watching me eat for an hour that’s so weird,” Yibo babbled.

Xiao Zhan burst out laughing, somehow able to picture that.  

“People kept putting dog-face filters on me.  Like seriously.  After 10 minutes I almost abandoned it altogether but I promised them an hour.”  He rolled his eyes.

“I do live streams sometimes too.  It’s always awkward.  Lately I’ve just been doing live streams with cats then I can just pet them on screen and people go Ahhhhh~!” Xiao Zhan said with a big smile.

Yibo laughed, that familiar little gremlin laugh that left an ache in Xiao Zhan’s heart.

They lapsed into silence again, just staring at each other through the screen.  

“Where are you going next?”  Xiao Zhan asked, scrambling for a topic.

“I’m going on set for my next drama.  Did I tell you about it?” Yibo asked, sinking down low on the couch.  The movement made the t-shirt ride up, exposing a thin line of skin.  

“Generally, but no specifics.  What’s it about?” Xiao Zhan felt his heart slide back into place as he was chatting with Yibo, like that heart had just been slightly out of alignment and was finally back where it belonged.

“It’s about a professional gamer.  He is trying to get his team to win an international competition in gaming.”  Yibo gave up on sitting on the couch, he lay down instead on his side, his phone clearly propped up on the coffee table in front of the couch.  He pulled up his legs, curling up.

Fuck I wish I was there to curl up on that sofa with him.  “Are you looking forward to it?” Xiao Zhan asked.  He decided to at least imitate Yibo by setting his phone up on his nightstand and curling up in bed.

Yibo’s eyes softened as he watched him.  “Mn.  I think this role really suits me.  Ji Xiangkong is really similar to me in a lot of ways.  Young.  Handsome,” he said with a sly smile.  “And wants to win.”

Xiao Zhan smiled at him, giving him a little finger heart.  “Handsome.”

Yibo nodded slowly, then licked his lips.

Xiao Zhan cleared his throat.  “You’re the main lead?”

Yibo nodded, just gazing at him.  He then cleared his throat.  “The only part I’m worried about is that I have to kiss the girl.  I hate kissing scenes.”

A stab of jealousy went right through Xiao Zhan’s guts.  Of course someone else gets to kiss him.  I’ll be kissing someone on my next drama, too.  It doesn’t mean anything.  Even though he knew rationally that it didn’t mean anything, he still felt jealous.  Someone else would be able to taste those lips.

“Kissing scenes are so weird.  When they film you they want to get all these angles, and half the time you’re just poised there, trying to hold the position,” Xiao Zhan mimed.

“And the other half the time you’re just wondering, Does this camera angle make me look fat?!” Yibo said in a falsetto voice.

They both burst out laughing together.  They laughed so hard that it was like they went on a loop and couldn’t stop.  After a while, Yibo wiped his eyes, having laughed himself right back to tears.  Xiao Zhan sobered up, watching him.

“I miss laughing like that,” Yibo said sincerely, giving Xiao Zhan a look.

“I’ve seen you laugh on TV since then,” Xiao Zhan murmured.

Yibo shook his head sadly.  “Not the same.”

A heavy silence descended between them as they gazed at each other.

Finally it was Yibo who broke the silence.  “Are your parents well?”

Xiao Zhan nodded.  “They’re well.  They still don’t think I can make it as an actor and a singer, though,” he said with a laugh.  “They told me I can come back home and get a real job any time I want.”

Yibo bit his lip into his mouth then said, “You’re the best actor I ever worked with.  The best one I ever will work with.”

“You can’t know that,” Xiao Zhan said with a sweet smile.

“Yeah, I can.  I do.”  The look he gave him was intense and made butterflies dance in Xiao Zhan's stomach.

Xiao Zhan scoffed, screwing up his face and sticking out his tongue.  He succeeded in making Yibo smile again.  

“Anyway my parents are just the same," Xiao Zhan said, picking at some lint on the blanket he was lying under.  "Do you ever feel strange when you go home?  Like it’s a time warp?  Like you’ve been to all these places and done all these things and you go back home and everything’s just… the same?”

“I don’t really go back home,” Yibo said softly, flattening out his lips.

Xiao Zhan cocked his head.  “Why not?”

Yibo shrugged a shoulder.  “I don’t know if I have the words to explain it.”

“Do you want to try?  Or do you want to talk about something else?” Xiao Zhan asked gently.

Yibo flopped onto his back, looking up at the ceiling and kicking his legs out.  “I’ll try.  It’s like… You know I left home when I was 13.  I feel like those years that I spent as a trainee at Yuehua, those were the years when I really grew up.  I grew up so fast there.  So fast that I forgot a lot of things.  I don’t actually remember much about my childhood years.”

Yibo folded his hands over his stomach, still looking up at the ceiling.  “The truth is, I don’t really remember my parents that much.  But they remember everything about me.  So…  I feel… guilty.  Like…”  He raised a hand to wipe at his face.  “Like… I robbed them of the son they would have had because of my dreams.  They don’t know me, either.  They follow me online but you know that’s not the real me.  So when I see them, we don’t have much to say.”  Yibo barked out a laugh.  “Well, I never  have much to say, no matter who I’m talking to.  But with my parents I really don’t have much to say.  And that makes me feel guilty.”  He wiped at his face again, scrubbing at his eyes.

Xiao Zhan watched him with his heart in his throat.  “I feel like I brought my mom a lot of pain, too,” Xiao Zhan said softly, tears swimming in his own eyes.  “She didn’t want this life - for me, or for herself.  I feel like I have made things very difficult on my family.  Just because I am their son.”

Yibo tipped his head to look at him, his eyes mirroring the same unshed tears.  “Why are you the only one I can talk to about this stuff?” Yibo whispered.

“Maybe because you know I…”  Love you.  “…won’t judge you,” Xiao Zhan whispered back.

Yibo flopped back to face him, then reached out a hand as though he stroked down Xiao Zhan’s face through the screen.  Xiao Zhan’s heart flopped through his chest.

“I miss talking to you, Zhan-ge,” Yibo said in a voice barely audible.

Xiao Zhan closed his eyes painfully, then forced them open again.  “I miss talking to you, too.”

“I wish I could find a way to see you.  But I’ll be very busy now,” Yibo said regretfully.

“So will I,” Xiao Zhan said with a sad smile.  “I’ll be going into filming my next work soon, too.  It’s a film.  I’m actually going to be working with your pupil from Produce 101 - Meng Meiqi.”

Yibo raised his eyebrows.  “Another one of my pupils is working with me on Gank My Heart.  As the supporting actress.  Lu Xiaoyu.  She was in my group for I Think I Wanna Marry You.”  

“Wow, your pupils are doing so well!” Xiao Zhan said with a big smile.  “Good job, teacher!”

Yibo smiled back.  “I’m proud of them.  They’re working hard.”

“You’re working hard too.”  Xiao Zhan looked at him, wanting to memorize the way his face looked in that moment.  A little sad, a little happy, a little lonely.  And yet underneath that was the same drive Yibo always had to succeed.

“I’m gonna do my best in this drama.  I’m ready.  I’m going to show up on set and give it my all.  Of course I have a lot more lines to remember,” Yibo said with a little grin.  “After all, he’s not Lan Zhan.”

Xiao Zhan giggled.  “No, you won’t have another role like that.  Ever.”

“No, I won’t,” Yibo said seriously.

They lapsed into silence, and they lay there again looking at each other, that is, until Yibo let out a big yawn.  

“You should go to sleep, didi,” Xiao Zhan said fondly.

Yibo nodded, picking up the phone and bringing it close to his face.  “You should sleep, too.”

Xiao Zhan nodded, picking up his own phone and bringing it close to his face.  They stared at each other for another long pause, then Yibo took a deep breath and let it out in a huff.  “Have good dreams.  Of me,” he then said with a wink.

Xiao Zhan covered his face and groaned.  “Wang Yibo!”

Yibo laughed his little gremlin laugh and everything, for that shining moment, seemed all right in the world.

“I’m hanging up,” Xiao Zhan threatened.

“Okay gege,” Yibo said around a giggle.

“I’m hanging up right now,” Xiao Zhan said in a louder voice, pointing with a finger at the camera.

Yibo just nodded, pouting.  “Mmmhmm.”

“Ahh, fuck all the things, stop being so cute!”

Yibo just pouted more, his eyebrows lifting up.  “Back to cute again, hmm?”

“Yes yes you’re cute, you’re adorable, you little shit,” Xiao Zhan said around a laugh.

“I’ll send you something cute.  Right after you hang up the phone,” Yibo said, winking again.

“Okay okay, good night, sleep well, text me tomorrow, and let’s talk again soon,” Xiao Zhan said in a rush then abruptly hung up the phone.

He sat there staring at his phone, his heart feeling light, still laughing, when the text came in from Yibo.

 

Yibo:  

Xiao Zhan squealed.  Literally squealed.  Like a lovesick teenager.  “Oh. My. God.”  He covered his face with his hand, then peeked out to look at the image again.

Then he saved it on the hard drive on his phone.

That night, he was too restless and excited from having spoken to Yibo that he couldn’t sleep.  Everyone says he doesn’t talk much.  But we were on the phone for over an hour!  And he was the one doing most of the talking.  

Xiao Zhan couldn’t resist, he did an internet search for the live stream Yibo had spoken about earlier.  He found it quickly, then shamelessly spent the next hour watching the whole thing.  For the first ten minutes, Yibo awkwardly tried to talk to the camera.  For the next forty minutes, he ate on camera.  Then, for the last glorious ten minutes, Yixuan showed up.  As the oldest member of UNIQ, he had a very close relationship to their youngest.  Xiao Zhan watched with soft eyes as Yibo literally lit up on screen, glowing with excitement.  “I didn’t even know you were coming!” he said.  Then the two of them proceeded to spend the next ten minutes playing songs and bopping their heads on the screen.

It was almost the cutest thing he’d ever seen.  And Yibo had filmed it only a few months before the start of filming The Untamed.  The whole time Xiao Zhan watched Yibo eating, all he could think was, I kissed that mouth.  

Xiao Zhan couldn’t stop now that he’d started.  He shamelessly searched Yibo again.  This time, he came across a dance video of Yibo and Seungyeon that had been recorded two years previous.  The two of them were dancing in front of exposed lights, the rim light hitting them from behind and masking their features.  Yibo was in his typical skinny jeans with the knees cut out - grey this time - and black converse.  A white button-down shirt that was open to expose the half of his flat chest.  

Xiao Zhan was entranced by the way 18 year-old Yibo moved.  His moves were somehow smooth and sharp at the same time as he rolled his chest, danced from side to side, then got down on the ground and pumped his hips up in the air, knees spread open.  Xiao Zhan’s whole face went red as he imagined Yibo doing something very different in that position.  Oh fucking hell, Xiao Zhan cursed himself.  

Just when he thought the dance couldn’t get any sexier, Yibo seamlessly stood, grabbed his crotch, spun in a circle, then went down on his knees, pumping his hips in the air.  He got back to his feet, holding his crotch again, and danced from side to side, then pulled that thin white shirt up to expose the planes of his stomach.  

Oh God.  I’ve made a mistake.  

Chapter Text

When Yibo had arrived on set to film that episode of Day Day Up that aired on Sept 9, he'd been a little hungover and kind of a mess.  It was totally out-of-character for himself, he was usually impeccable if a little shy and quiet.  Even when he dressed casually he still did it with flair.

So when he'd shown up on set looking like he'd been dragged through an alleyway by a pair of large thugs, Qian Feng had spotted him and immediately pulled him aside into a dressing room.  

"What's going on, little brother?" he asked him.  

Yibo scratched his head, avoiding his eyes, and bit his lip.  Finally he admitted aloud, "Let's just say I've been dumped."

"You've been dumped?" Qian Feng exclaimed, shocked. "Since when were you dating anyone?"

Yibo gave him a secret little smile and a shrug. "Let's just say I was in a 'some' relationship for four months," using the Korean term for an ambiguous romantic relationship. "When I wanted to make it official, I was refused."

Qian Feng socked him on the shoulder. "How did you keep this a secret from your brothers??  And who in their right mind would refuse you?"

Yibo went over to the vanity and flopped down in the chair.  He just shrugged again.

Qian Feng came to sit in the chair next to him, legs spread and elbow on one knee.  He then pointed at Yibo. "I'm going to do you a favour, little brother.  I'm going to give you my top secret dating advice that I never gave to anyone!"

Yibo rolled his eyes, looking over at him. "Uh huh."

"Let me tell you something Wang Yibo."  He clapped Yibo on the shoulder, then gestured up and down Yibo's body with his other hand. "This doesn't help.  If that boy sees that you're a mess that's certainly not going to make you look more attractive."

Yibo's eyes snapped over to him at the word 'boy.'  He knows I'm gay?!  Even though the brothers all made casual snarky remarks about Yibo's ambiguous sexuality, they had never gone so far as to use the word 'boy' when referring to his significant other before.  The fact that Qian Feng took it as a natural obvious almost made Yibo fall off his seat.

"What you need to do," Qian Feng continued oblivious to Yibo's internal struggle, "is win him back.  And the only way to do that is by making him want you so much that he can't hold back anymore."

Yibo nodded numbly "How do I do that?"

"Well how did you do it the first time?" Qian Feng asked him, sitting back and crossing his arms over his chest.

"I dunno."  Yibo looked down, playing with his hands in his lap.  

"Step 1:  Look amazing.  That should be easy for you.  If I see you show up for a studio taping again looking like a homeless person I'm gonna kick your ass."  Qian Feng wagged his finger at him threateningly.

Yibo nodded somberly. "Okay."

"Okay!"  Qian Feng exclaimed, clapping a hand over his fist. "Step 2:  Do amazing things. Things that will make him admire you.  You're working on another drama next, right?  You show up to that drama and you make it the best fucking drama you've ever filmed.  Then he'll be proud to be associated with you.  Got it?"  Qian Feng's tone was harsh, but his eyes were soft and understanding.  

Yibo nodded again. "Got it."

"Last but not least - Step 3:  Don't let him forget you.  Text him from time to time.  Call him and talk to him.  Just be around.  But don't be too pushy!  Just be there."  Qian Feng leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. "Can you do that?"

Yibo looked away, chewing on his lip.  He then nodded.  

"Okay.  Yibo we've got a show to do, but I've got your back tonight.  Just hang with me and I'll take all the heavy lifting, OK?"

Yibo nodded. "OK."

Qian Feng clapped Yibo on the shoulder one more time then stood up. "Come on, little brother.  The show must go on!"

The whole time he was on air, he stuck by his brothers, usually by Qian Feng, but sometimes standing by Zhangwei.  Somehow by sheer force of will he got through the event.

After that, his whole outlook and attitude on the situation changed.  Who am I kidding?  he thought to himself.  I'm a fighter.  I am not the kind of person that gives up.  And he's so right.  This is not the way to win someone back, by falling apart.  I'm going to get myself together, get back on my feet, and show him what he's missing!

Yibo's schedule was picking up again anyway, with photoshoots and script readings for Gank Your Heart mixed in with tapings for Day Day Up.  

Getting to talk to Xiao Zhan on the phone the other day left him with a fuzzy feeling inside and renewed vigour.  He felt like he was ready to fly after that.  

He looked kind of sad, too, Yibo thought to himself warmly.  But I got him to laugh a lot.  God I missed seeing his smile.

Next on his docket was filming a very traditional Chinese episode of Day Day Up.  Yibo was going to do a traditional fan dance.  He got really into it as he was practicing in the studio.  It was a little funny doing the dance practice in his ripped jeans, plaid shirt, and a mask.

Yibo had to admit, fan-ography was a secret love of his.  He loved doing fan dance, his body whirling around, snapping the fan open and closed.  He thought it looked super cool, and he felt like a martial artist as he was doing it.

He worked a one-handed cartwheel into the routine, and played around with different movements with his body, even swirling around on the ground.  The crew who were watching him practice clapped afterwards.

The only fly in the ointment came when he tried the dance in his flowing blue traditional robes.  The garments were even more long and flappy than Wangji's, the coat hanging open and flying as he spun around.  Compared to dancing in his skinny jeans, the feeling was really different.  He had to focus on making the moves look more elegant and less sharp.  

He adjusted some of the dance moves, taking out the movements he had planned on the ground, and replaced that with a spin that made his robes fly out around him.  

On the stage as he performed the dance in front of an audience, he felt so cool, so handsome.  Oh if only he could see me now!  Yibo thought.  He'd be proud of me.

Yibo kept that thought in mind as he worked his heart out.  Let me make him proud to be my friend.

Yibo:  What do you think of the traditional look?

Yibo:     

Yibo:     

Yibo:     

Xiao Zhan must have been busy since he didn't respond for at least an hour.  When he finally responded, Yibo was out with his Day Day Up brothers after the taping had finished.  His phone let out that familiar ping that he had associated with Xiao Zhan.  He immediately flushed, digging the phone out of his pocket.  

Xiao Zhan:  Handsome.

Yibo shot up in the air, shouting and pumping his fist.  He then looked around at his Day Day Up brothers, who were staring at him like he'd grown horns out of his head.

Yibo held up his phone, showing it to them. "He called me handsome!  Not cute!  Handsome!!"

As he was showing the phone, another ping came in.  He stood there and turned the phone to face him, then his whole face fell.

Xiao Zhan:  And cute.  The converse kind of ruin the look.

Yibo groaned, falling down into his chair. "Damnit."

"What you looking at?" Zhangwei asked, peering over his shoulder.

Yibo slumped down in his chair, tilting his head to the sky. "Nothing."

"He got dumped," Qian Fengannounced with a full mouth, pointing with his chopsticks.

"Wang Yibo was dating someone?"  Wang Han asked, shocked.

"Some," Qian Feng said with a wink. "Now he's trying to win the boy back."

"The boy?"  Wang Han said, then quickly smoothed his expression out. "Okay, sure.  So what's the status Yibo?"

Yibo meanwhile was still staring up at the ceiling.  His spirit had officially left his body.  He could hear his phone pinging still, but he couldn't seem to get up and look at it.

"Let me see this," Zhangwei said, plucking the phone out of Yibo's hand. "Okay, so first he sent him some pictures from today's show.  Then Xiao Zhan wrote back saying, 'Handsome.'"  Zhangwei looked up, an eyebrow raised. "Xiao Zhan, hmm?  We'll have to invite him on the show."

"No need," Yibo mumbled as he stared at the ceiling.

"Anyway then he said, 'And cute.  The converse kind of ruin the look.'  Then, 'How did the show go?  I'll watch it later when it airs.'  Then he says, ooh, listen to this one guys -- he says, 'I had a lot of fun talking to you the other night.  And.. dot dot dot... dot dot dot... I did dream of you while I was sleeping.'"

The Day Day Up brothers all cheered and clapped.  Yibo snapped upright and snatched the phone out of Zhangwei's hand. "No he didn't!  Oh my God yes he did!"  

Xiao Zhan:  Handsome

Xiao Zhan:  And cute.  The converse kind of ruin the look.

Xiao Zhan:  How did the show go?  I'll watch it later when it airs.

Xiao Zhan:  I had a lot of fun talking to you the other night.  And...

Xiao Zhan:  ...I did dream of you while I was sleeping.

Yibo was staring at his phone, mouth open, when Feng Qian laughed and popped a dumpling in Yibo's mouth. "Go on then, Yibo.  Eat up."

Yibo chewed obediently.  He then looked up at looked around at them.  He opened and closed his mouth a few times, but couldn't seem to think of what to say.

"Well, what are you waiting for?  Write him back!"  Zhangwei urged him.

Yibo scratched the side of his head. "What do I write back?" he mumbled.  

"I don't know Wang Yibo," Wang Han said, rolling his eyes. "You're a man of few words, aren't you?  So you'd better make the words count."

Yibo sucked his bottom lip into his mouth, thinking as he scanned their chat history.  

"Remember," Qian Feng advised him, "You want to be strong and attractive.  Let him know you're there for him, but don't come on too strong!"

Yibo looked at him with a furrowed brow. "That's way too many things to keep in mind."  What if I fuck it up?  I'm going to fuck it up.  I always fuck it up.

"Don't listen to him," Wang Han argued, pointing at Yibo with his elbow braced on the table. "Just be yourself, little brother."

Yibo gnawed on his bottom lip again.  He typed out several responses before he finally settled on one.  

Yibo:  Whether my eyes are open or closed I'm thinking of you.  

Qian Feng whistled. "Damn, you come on strong.  I had no idea our little Yibo was such a romantic."

Yibo reached out and slapped Qian Feng on the arm with the back of his hand. "Shut up."

"Okay okay, we're all enthralled.  What did he write next?  Did he write back yet?"  Zhangwei asked.

Yibo shook his head, pouting. "Anyway from now on this conversation is private!" Yibo announced, pointing his fingers around at all of them.  He then crossed his arms over his chest and looked around at all of them. "Aren't a single one of you surprised that I'm gay?"

"No," Zhangwei said with a laugh. "We've worked with you for years already.  You think we didn't know?"

"Nope," Qian Feng said, clapping Yibo on the back. "You're gay as blazes when you want to be."

Wang Han tilted his head a little. "I wasn't sure to be honest - since you're not stereotypical in any sense you can be hard to read.  But the main thing is that it doesn't matter."  He held up his hand, indicating the ring that they all wore signifying the Day Day Up Brotherhood.  "You're one of us now."

Yibo felt something warming up inside him at their tacit acceptance of the situation. "Thanks, brothers.  For not being weird about this."

"Just make sure you don't go telling anyone," Wang Han said, pointing a finger at him. "It could be troublesome for Day Day Up."

Yibo bowed his head. "I understand."

———

When Yibo finally got back home, he wanted to pick up the conversation with Xiao Zhan, but he saw that Xiao Zhan still hadn’t written him back yet.  He agonized over that, but in the end he thought to himself, Don’t come on too strong.  Let him think about it.

Yibo tossed and turned all night, unable to fall asleep.  He worried that he’d crossed the line - again.  

The following day, he went to Yuehua Entertainment to work on his next single.  He met up with Yixuan, who was there to give him a supporting hand.  “He needs a song that’s going to win back someone who’s toying with Baby Yibo’s heart,” Yixuan joked.

“We’ve been working on a track that we think would be great for Yibo,” the team told them.  They had a first listen to the song “Fire.”   

The beat was staccato and fast, clapping hands in the background, a synthesizer in the background.  Yibo bopped his head to it, getting into the beat.  “I like it.”

“Let’s get him a studio and let him freestyle this puppy!”  Yixuan said, throwing his arm around Yibo’s shoulder.

Yibo, Yixuan, and some other members of Yuehua all went to one of the dance studios, then they all watched as Yibo danced to the beat.  He started the dance by spinning, bopping from side to side.  He used threw his arms up in the air, then swayed from side to side.  There was a part in the middle where the beat was very slow, so he just mimed standing there and humming to the tune even though there were no lyrics on the track yet.  When the beat went to a crescendo, Yibo’s movements were high energy.  He spun, then jumped high in the air, then angrily strode from one side of the studio to the other.  He ended the song by throwing one fist up in the air.

Yibo’s “apprentice” Cheng Xiao stepped forward and clapped.  When had she slipped into the room?  Last time he’d seen her they’d been on Day Day Up together, dancing to a song called “Boyfriend.”

“Nice job, Yibo,” she said with a smile.

He gave her a cool nod.  “Long time no see.”

“The way you danced seemed a little… angry?  Like frustrated.”  She smiled sweetly at him.

Yixuan laughed, pointing at Yibo.  “Wow she gets you so well!”

Yibo rolled his eyes, hands on his hips. 

They met with the lyrics team for him to hear the first draft of the lyrics.  He had to admit they resonated with him.

So you wanna play with fire?
Hey you gotta watch out before you get burnt
Anything your heart desires
We gonna bring fire

We gonna bring fire

Yibo spent the rest of the next 2 days working with the choreographer and lyricist to nail down the details.  He’d be practicing the song on his off-time over the next couple of months until its official debut at the end of the year.  

———

It was close to the end of the month before Yibo heard from Xiao Zhan again.  It was unusual that they didn't text every day, and it had been nearly a week.  Yibo had started to agonize over it, wondering if this was finally a sign that they were growing apart.  I don't want to lose him.  But if I hold on too tight...

When the text finally came, he sighed in relief.

Xiao Zhan:  Where are you at?

Yibo:  Just got home, I’ve been practicing at Yuehua this week.  

Xiao Zhan:  I want to see your face

Yibo:  Want me to call you?

Xiao Zhan:  Yes

Yibo got himself a beer, then sat down at the table, propping up his phone and setting up the video call.  When the call connected, he saw Xiao Zhan also sitting at a table, wearing a white shirt that was half-unbuttoned, showing his flat chest.  He had a necklace dangling down over his sternum, and his hair was all messy.  When Yibo saw him, he couldn't help but lick his lips, imagining what it would feel like to lick that chest.

He looked up into Xiao Zhan's eyes and saw him looking down at his mouth.  Then their eyes met.  

"What are you thinking about?" Xiao Zhan asked in a husky voice, taking a long sip of baiju.

"I'm thinking of what you taste like," Yibo said, staring at him through the screen.

Xiao Zhan groaned, leaning his head back and running his hand through his hair, eyes falling closed.  He then slowly tilted his head back down, looking at Yibo through half-lidded eyes.

He's been drinking, Yibo thought.  He doesn't usually drink that much.

"Did something happen today?" Yibo asked him softly.

Xiao Zhan shook his head. "No."  He then licked his lips. "It's just... it's been a month now, since I last saw you."

Yibo's eyes widened.  He looked down at the table, hard to believe the time had passed already.  

"Didn't you see the guys talking about it in the Untamed Cast group chat?" Xiao Zhan asked, leaning his head on his hand.  "That it's been a month since we all left the set?"

Yibo shook his head numbly, then took a sip of his beer to calm his nerves. "I'm always too busy to bother with that group chat.  I'd rather spend my time talking to you."

Xiao Zhan laughed a little, pouring himself another glass of baiju.  He then held up his glass to Yibo through the screen. "Cheers, Yibo.  To surviving a month apart."

Yibo looked at him, long and hard, then finally raised his beer bottle to fake-toast him through the screen.  As he drank, he couldn't take his eyes off Xiao Zhan and how lost he looked.  After he drank, he looked back at Yibo and his eyes were shining with unshed tears.  

"I miss you so much Wang Yibo," Xiao Zhan said in a low voice. "I miss you every time I eat a meal alone.  I miss you whenever I drink tea, I pause in midair and turn around to give some to you but you're not there," he said, clenching a fist on the table. "I miss you when I need to learn a new dance and you're not there to help me learn.  I miss you when I'm sitting there on the couch watching a movie," he said, gesturing beside him. "I turn around and reach for you to bring you closer but you're not there."

Yibo watched Xiao Zhan as he spoke, his voice low and earnest, his eyes filling with tears.  Usually, between the two of them, Yibo had been the more emotional.  The more reckless.  Xiao Zhan had always kept himself under a tight leash, he'd always kept a part of him locked away out of reach.  He's letting down that wall, Yibo thought in amazement.

"I can  be there," Yibo said earnestly, looking at him. "Tell me where you are."

"I'm preparing for a concert I've got coming up," Xiao Zhan said, shaking his head. "I can't afford to get distracted right now."

"Are you in Beijing."

Xiao Zhan nodded, lowering his eyes.

"Text me your address.  Right now."  Yibo stared at him, his gaze unwavering.  He watched as Xiao Zhan struggled with himself internally.  He could see that fractured debate on his face.  "You want to see me, Xiao Zhan?  Let me come and see you.  You can look at my face again.  Hold my hand.  Kiss me, if you want."

"I want that," Xiao Zhan whispered brokenly. "But I can't let myself have it."

"Yes, you can.  No one has to know but you.  And me."  Yibo's eyes were harsh as he stared at Xiao Zhan through the screen, imploring.

"If I let you in I'll never be able to shut you out again."  Xiao Zhan fisted his hands into his hair.

"Then don't."

Xiao Zhan bit his bottom lip, closing his eyes.  Then he seemed to make some kind of decision.  He opened his eyes, picked up the phone, and hung up.

Then he texted him the address.

Yibo:  I'm on my way.

Chapter Text

Yibo had never gotten ready so fast in his life.  He gave himself a quick sniff then decided best to be safe and hopped in the shower, quickly soaping up his body and hair.  He rinsed himself off and hopped back out again, rushing naked with a towel trailing behind him in his hand as he practically sprinted back to his bedroom.  He towelled himself off aimlessly as he pawed through his closet.  

“Sexy, sexy… what do I have that’s sexy…”

His mind went blank now that he was actually trying to be sexy.  He usually did sexy effortlessly, but when he wanted to do it on purpose he was at a loss.

“For fuck’s sake,” he swore.  When had he felt the most sexy?  He snapped his fingers.  “Grazia photoshoot.”  He stepped into his closet and searched through all his jackets, picking out a thin one that was black with white piping.  It had a pattern of japanese-style ocean waves on the back of it with a large golden eagle dipping its feet in the water.  He threw it on without putting a shirt on underneath, just buttoning up two of the buttons to keep his chest covered.

He pulled on a pair of black pants with decorative silver zippers running in diagonal lines down the pockets, knees, and on the lower legs, two strips of fabric cross-crossing from the back of the belt to connect down on the outside of his knees.  Then he finished off the look with black and white converse.

“Shirt?  Who needs a shirt,” he scoffed.

Yibo grabbed his black face mask then dialled the number for a private driver. He then put on a little deodorant and spritzed a mild amount of cologne on.  He ran to the bathroom and fluffed out his hair in front of the mirror, just spraying a tiny bit of product in.  As he messed with his hair, with his arms above his head the jacket spread out and he could see the lines of his stomach peek out.  

Yibo smiled in satisfaction.  “I think that’s sexy.”

He put some small dangly earrings in his ears, two in his left and one in his right, then put a tiny amount of clear lip balm on his lips.  He then quickly brushed his teeth.

“Okay Wang Yibo,” he psyched himself up.

He got the ping on his phone that the driver was there.  He ran to the door, grabbing his wallet, keys, and phone and shoving them in his pockets.  He put on his black face mask, then grabbed a black baseball cap and shoved it on his head.  

Don’t fuck this up.

———

When Yibo got to Xiao Zhan’s apartment, he was immediately let up by security.  He had closed all the buttons on his jacket before leaving the house, but when he was riding up the elevator, he unbuttoned the bottom buttons again, letting the jacket swirl around his torso a little as he walked.  

He raised his hand to knock on the door, then paused with his hand raised.  He closed his eyes and took a second to pray to whoever was listening.  Please let this go well.

He knocked.  

He heard a scuffling sound inside then a thud and a mild swearing.  Next thing you know, Xiao Zhan was pulling open the door, breathless.

Seeing him in person made Yibo’s heart drop in his chest.  He looked fantastic, his hair all messy around his head, his shirt half-unbuttoned to show off his chest, that necklace dangling down on his sternum.  Yibo looked down and saw now that the shirt was tucked into the front of skinny blue jeans with holes in the knees.  He was barefoot.

He looked back up to his eyes, and saw Xiao Zhan giving him a look down his body and back up again.  When their eyes met, Xiao Zhan’s eyes where shining, his mouth parted.

Since Yibo was still standing in the hallway, he put one hand on the door then another hand on Xiao Zhan’s chest, gently pushing him backwards into the apartment.  Xiao Zhan gasped, but let himself be pushed back into the apartment.  

Yibo toed off his converse, shutting the door behind him.  He then ripped off his hat, tossing it down carelessly on the floor, and reached up with both hands to comb his hair back from his face.  The movement exposed Yibo’s stomach, and he watched, pleased, as Xiao Zhan’s eyes dropped down for a look.

Yibo licked his lips, then raised a hand and put it lightly on Xiao Zhan’s throat, turning him and pinning him against the wall.  He ran his thumb gently over Xiao Zhan’s Adam’s apple, then squeezed just a touch, stroking him.  

Xiao Zhan let out a shuddering breath.  His eyes flicked down to Yibo’s mouth.  

Yibo crowded into Xiao Zhan’s space, putting his hand on the wall next to Xiao Zhan’s face, his other hand still on his throat.  “I’m here,” Yibo said in a rough voice.

Xiao Zhan blinked, then bit his lips into his mouth.  There were a myriad of emotions skittering across his eyes.

“How much did you have to drink?” Yibo asked, searching those eyes.

“Not much,” Xiao Zhan murmured.  “I stopped drinking when you told me you were coming.”  

Yibo searched his eyes, and found them clear.  Tipsy, maybe, but not stone-drunk.  The last thing I want to do is take advantage of him,  Yibo thought to himself, worried.  They exchanged a long, heated look.

“What do you want, Xiao Zhan?” Yibo asked in that low voice, looking deep in his eyes.

Xiao Zhan raised a shaking hand, placing it on the edge of Yibo’s hip and squeezing it.  He tried to lean forward but Yibo held him back with that light pressure against his throat.

“No,” Yibo said, his eyes hard as he stared at him.  “I need you to say it out loud.”  I can’t misunderstand anything.  I won’t.  He can’t regret whatever is about to happen here.

“I want you,” Xiao Zhan whispered, his eyes vulnerable.

“You have me,” Yibo said simply.  “But I need you to tell me what you want me to do.”

Xiao Zhan looked like he was drowning.  He blinked his eyes, then looked to the side.  “I want you to kiss me.”

Yibo slid his hand off Xiao Zhan’s throat and gripped the back of his neck.  “Is that all?”  If that’s all he wants I’ll stop myself.  No matter how that makes me feel.

Xiao Zhan shook his head, still avoiding his eyes.  He then let his eyes fall closed and let out a huff of a breath.  “I want to touch you.  I want you to touch me.  I want to be with you… I want you to stay.”

Oh God he wants me to stay.  This is really happening.  Yibo’s heart fluttered in his chest, and he blinked hard.  Don’t fuck this up Wang Yibo.

“Okay,” Yibo whispered.  “I’ll stay.”  

He then blinked his own eyes closed.  When he caught his breath, he opened them, finding Xiao Zhan looking at him again.  Yibo shifted both his hands to grip Xiao Zhan’s neck, angling his head where he wanted it.  He leaned forward and brushed their foreheads together, their breaths coming harsh.  Then he tugged Xiao Zhan forward and crashed their mouths together.

———

When Xiao Zhan threw the door open and saw Yibo standing there, here, in front of his eyes, he almost didn’t believe it.  He came,  he thought with relief.  

He looked Yibo up and down, from the jacket that was unbuttoned at the bottom, showing the tiniest hint of skin, to the pants that hung low on his hips, all the way down to those familiar black and white converse.  He looked back up and met Yibo’s eyes, reading so much warring around in there.  Hunger.  Fear.  Need.

When Yibo stepped forward, pushing Xiao Zhan back, his legs felt wobbly.  He found himself backed up against the wall, and his pulse was thundering in his throat.  As if Yibo knew it, he raised a hand and placed it over his vulnerable throat, holding him gently but firmly.

“I’m here,” Yibo said, his voice low and rough.

Xiao Zhan couldn’t stop looking at him.  His skin looks so soft.  Oh, God, those lips.  And his eyes.  I could drown in his eyes.  I want him so much I feel like I’ll fall apart if I can’t have him.

“How much did you have to drink?” Yibo asked.

He’s worried I’ll regret this in the morning,  Xiao Zhan realized, his eyes softening.  He thinks I’m too drunk to make this decision.  The fact that he respects me enough to make sure… Fuck, if I didn’t know already how much he loves me this would have sealed the deal.

“Not much,” Xiao Zhan murmured.  “I stopped drinking when you told me you were coming.” 

Yibo met his eyes, searching, looking for the truth there.  I promise you I won’t regret this,  Xiao Zhan thought, hoping that it shone out on his face.

“What do you want, Xiao Zhan?” Yibo asked.  Brave boy.  So brave.  So gentle.  

Xiao Zhan reached out a hand, thinking he could just answer him with his actions.  He slid his hand onto Yibo’s hip, his fingers on Yibo’s pants, his thumb tracing along the edge where pants met skin.  He tried to lean forward, but Yibo stopped him by pressing on his throat and saying, “No.”  Xiao Zhan’s pulse was thundering in his ears.

Yibo’s eyes were hard, demanding.  “I need you to say it out loud.” 

Xiao Zhan looked deep into Yibo’s eyes.  “I want you.”  Xiao Zhan’s heart got stuck in his throat, as all the reasons that they shouldn’t do this faded away.  No matter what the consequences could be, with Yibo standing in front of him he couldn’t deny himself this anymore.

“You have me,” Yibo said simply.  “But I need you to tell me what you want me to do.”

Ah, Yibo, why do you have to make this so hard?  Why do you need to make me say embarrassing things?   Xiao Zhan took a breath, unable to meet Yibo’s eyes when he said, “I want you to kiss me.”

Yibo’s hand slid around the back of his neck, those long fingers gripping strongly.  “Is that all?”

Xiao Zhan’s eyes fell closed as his mind imagined all the things that he and Yibo could do together.  There were so many things he wanted to do that he didn’t know where to start, how to express himself.  He didn’t know or care what acts they committed tonight, all he knew was that he wanted Yibo’s skin against his own and he wanted him to be with him the whole night.  “I want to touch you.  I want you to touch me.  I want to be with you… I want you to stay.”

Xiao Zhan would never forget the look in Yibo’s eyes in that moment.  He looked so young, so vulnerable, but also so relieved, like he’d been mentally preparing himself to do something hard and then all of a sudden that burden was eased.  

“Okay,” Yibo whispered.  “I’ll stay.”  

Xiao Zhan watched, poised, as Yibo let his eyes fall closed for a moment to gather himself together.  When he opened his eyes, there was a taught energy pulled between them, making both of them breathless.  Yibo’s hands both slid to grip the sides of his neck, and Xiao Zhan trembled all over as he went weak in the knees.  Then Yibo leaned forward, brushing their foreheads together.

I love you, Wang Yibo,  Xiao Zhan thought a moment before Yibo crashed their mouths together.

———

There was nothing gentle about this kiss.  It was nothing like their last kiss, which had been a declaration of love.  This kiss was a declaration of passion.

Yibo gasped into his mouth, his hands guiding Xiao Zhan’s head as he slid home deep, tongue brushing Xiao Zhan’s, soft but demanding.

Xiao Zhan whimpered, his heart fluttering madly in his chest.  He slid both hands on Yibo’s waist, slipping up under that maddening jacket.  Yibo’s skin was hot and smooth over lean, hard muscle.  

Yibo’s mouth was addicting.  One kiss led to another, and Xiao Zhan felt like he was slowly coming apart at the seams.  They kissed until they were both breathless, Yibo’s shoulders hunching up as he gripped Xiao Zhan’s neck harshly.

Xiao Zhan slid his hands around to Yibo’s back, tugging him closer until their bodies were pressed together.  They both gasped at the contact as their hips connected for the first time.  Oh, fuck, he’s hard as a rock,  Xiao Zhan realized, something primal curling up in his stomach as he felt their lengths knock against each other through their clothes.  But then again, so am I.

Yibo ground up into him as they kissed, his hips rolling sensually.  Ah, fuck, that move,  Xiao Zhan despaired.  He’d never be able to watch Yibo dance again without remembering this moment.

Yibo slid one hand down off Xiao Zhan’s throat to palm his chest, fingers exploring his sternum, his collarbones, as it slipped inside his shirt.  Everywhere he touched followed a trail of heat.

Yibo pulled back to look down at him a moment, and Xiao Zhan wondered what he saw in him.  Yibo’s lips were moist, parted, already swollen.  He bit his lip into his mouth, then cupped Xiao Zhan’s face in his hand and gently stroked a thumb across his cheek.  “So beautiful,” he murmured.

Xiao Zhan’s heart nearly exploded in his chest.  He ran his hands up Yibo’s torso, fingers making quick work of the buttons as he spread that jacket apart.  He got a first look at Yibo’s torso, his eyes lingering on the smooth planes of muscles, on the rosy colour of Yibo’s nipples, the natural colour lighter than his own, like his nipples had been painted in blush.  His nipples were also smaller than Xiao Zhan’s.  Cute!

Yibo was watching him as he undid his jacket, his eyes dark.  His eyebrow then twitched.  “You just thought ‘Cute’ to yourself, didn’t you?” he growled.

Xiao Zhan looked up, eyebrows shooting up.  “How did you know?”

“I’ll show you cute!” he shouted, then he ripped Xiao Zhan’s shirt open, buttons flying everywhere.  He crashed their mouths together again, kissing him deep and long, shoving his thigh between Xiao Zhan’s legs so he could get some pressure where he wanted it.  Xiao Zhan moaned into his mouth.

Oh, shit!  I've awakened the lion!

Yibo’s hands gripped Xiao Zhan’s torso, lifted him up in the air, slamming him into the wall, shoving that knee all the way in and letting Xiao Zhan sit on it.  He kissed him again, tongues battling for dominance.  When he was body-slammed into the wall Xiao Zhan’s breath left him in a rush and he wrapped his arms around Yibo’s neck, holding on for dear life.

Yibo’s hands were pressing him into the wall, his knee shifting a little to make some friction that made Xiao Zhan go wild.  

“Yibo, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan whined, pulling away for some air.

Yibo’s breath was harsh in his ear as Yibo leaned in to kiss the side of his face, then his jaw.  His lips kissed the shell of Xiao Zhan’s ear, then his tongue dipped inside.  

“Oh God,” Xiao Zhan moaned, his whole body going limp.  The feeling of that tongue delving in his ear, then Yibo blowing gently on it, shit that felt so good.

“Found a weak spot,” Yibo said with a satisfied smile on his face.  

“Found yours, too,” Xiao Zhan laughed, then stroked a hand down the side of Yibo’s face.  “Cute!”

Yibo glared at him, then picked him up fully in his arms.  Xiao Zhan wrapped his legs around Yibo’s waist, his arms around his neck, and Yibo carried him over to the kitchen table.  He set Xiao Zhan gently down on it, then plucked on the sleeves of Xiao Zhan’s shirt so he could tug it off completely.  “How you can call me cute when we’re fucking,” he grumbled.

“Cute, cute, cute,” Xiao Zhan laughed, hooking his fingers into Yibo’s belt loops to tug him closer.  He spread his legs so Yibo could slot in between them, then slid his hand up Yibo’s chest to finger his nipple.  “Cute and sexy.”

Yibo bit his lip, his head hanging.  Xiao Zhan’s finger toyed with the nipple until it perked up.  He tugged Yibo closer by the back of his neck, then kissed his throat, his Adam’s apple, between his collarbones.

“Don’t leave any marks,” Yibo said huskily.  “I have a photoshoot tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Xiao Zhan agreed.  But he still pressed open-mouthed kisses to Yibo’s skin.  He licked along the edge of that collarbone, his fingers both teasing Yibo’s nipples now.  He felt Yibo shudder.  Yibo’s hands went around Xiao Zhan's back, exploring his skin, one hand sifting up into his hair.  

Xiao Zhan slid one hand down Yibo’s abdomen, running along each groove and ridge, thumb dipping into his bellybutton.  He slid his hand down the front of Yibo’s pants, cupping him through his clothes.

Yibo hissed, then bit his lip.  Xiao Zhan looked up at him, an eyebrow raised.  “Chafes,” Yibo ground out.

Xiao Zhan undid the top button on Yibo’s fly, then gently lowered the zipper.  He slipped his hand down Yibo’s belly, then his eyes shot up.  “No underwear?”

Yibo looked in his eyes, pupils dilated.  “I was in a rush.”

“Fuck,” Xiao Zhan groaned out, his own dick impossibly hard in his pants at the idea of Yibo walking around without a shirt and without underwear.  

Yibo looked down at him, something deep and dark in his eyes, then he undid the fly of Xiao Zhan’s pants.  Xiao Zhan breathed out in relief, his mouth dropping open.  They slid their hands around each other at the same moment, in perfect synchronization.

Ah, shit, Xiao Zhan thought to himself.  Yibo’s cock is in my hand.  And it’s so long, and elegant, just like the rest of him.  And my cock is in his!  His long fingers wrapped around me tight.  Fuck there’s no turning back now.

———

Yibo looked down at Xiao Zhan where he sat on the table, legs spread open, shirtless, eyes closed.  He gripped Xiao Zhan’s dick in his hand, marvelling at how it was so hard and yet the skin so soft.  He pumped it once, watching the way Xiao Zhan’s head went back, throat bared.  

The feeling of Xiao Zhan’s small hand closing around his own dick was doing crazy things to Yibo’s mind.  Such small hands.

Yibo leaned in, his free hand sliding on Xiao Zhan’s neck as he tipped his head forward for a deep kiss.  They kissed while their hands worked each other, breaths coming in gasps between kisses as their lips lingered.  

Yibo pulled back, eyes glazed as he looked down at Xiao Zhan.  They exchanged a glance, then Yibo gently removed Xiao Zhan’s hand from his cock.  He sank down to his knees, tugging on Xiao Zhan’s pants.  Xiao Zhan helped him, raising his hips to enable him to slide the rough jeans down his legs.  Yibo pulled down the underwear with them in one go, his hands sliding lovingly down each inch of skin as it was revealed.  “Beautiful legs,” Yibo murmured, kissing the edge of Xiao Zhan’s knee.  

He tossed the pants aside, then picked up Xiao Zhan’s foot in his hand.  He pressed a kiss to the inside of his ankle, then another one on the inside of his calf, then the inside of his knee.  He pressed kisses all along the inside of Xiao Zhan’s thigh, until he rose up on his knees and kissed the edge of Xiao Zhan’s cock.

“Yibo~!” Xiao Zhan whined.

He’s darker than me, Yibo noticed as he peppered kisses along the length, gently cupping Xiao Zhan’s balls in his hand.  He then licked those balls, his tongue trailing up along the length of his dick.  Xiao Zhan’s hands were gripping the edge of the table, his eyes downcast as he watched Yibo slide his mouth down around him.  

Yibo’s hand slid up along Xiao Zhan’s belly, fingers tangling in the happy trail of hair that ran from his navel down.  He bobbed his head up and down on Xiao Zhan’s length, loving the feel of the velvety heat in his mouth.  He hummed around it.

He reached down to touch himself while he sucked Xiao Zhan, just a little, just enough to take the edge off.  

I’ve wanted to touch him for so long, Yibo thought, smiling a little as he pulled off to kiss the tip of Xiao Zhan’s cock.

———

Xiao Zhan couldn’t believe he was watching Wang Yibo’s sensual mouth sliding up and down his length.  He leaned forward, reaching out a hand to stroke the side of Yibo’s cheek.  As Yibo looked up at him, those beautiful eyes deep and dark, mouth wide open, Xiao Zhan felt his heart turn over in his chest.  He reached out his thumb and ran it along the seam of Yibo’s lips locked around his cock.

This  is sexy,” Xiao Zhan said in a low voice.

Yibo’s eyes softened, twinkling.  Then he redoubled his efforts, sliding his mouth further and further down, until at one point he bottomed out and choked a little.  He pulled off and coughed, looking up at Xiao Zhan nervously.

“Come here,” Xiao Zhan beckoned him.  “And lose the pants.”

Yibo stood on shaky legs, shimmying out of his pants and kicking them off his feet.

Xiao Zhan slid off the table, wrapping his arms around Yibo to pull him close and into a kiss.  Yibo eagerly kissed him back, his hands clutching at Xiao Zhan’s back, then sliding down to grip his ass, pulling them flush together.  Yibo rolled his hips, sliding their cocks against each other as they kissed, creating a delicious friction.    

Oh, he’s good,  Xiao Zhan thought to himself as he rolled his hips back to meet him.  

Xiao Zhan tugged on the edges of the jacket Yibo was still wearing, walking backwards with him towards the living room.  They kissed along the way, Yibo’s hands clutching at his skin.  When they got to the couch, Xiao Zhan turned them, flipping Yibo so he was facing the arm of the couch.  He carefully slid the jacket off Yibo’s shoulders, slowly running his hands down that sensitive skin then tossing the jacket away.  He then slotted the length of his body up against Yibo’s back, sliding his cock along the groove of Yibo’s ass.  

He hugged him from behind, running his hand up Yibo’s chest to palm his nipple.  He licked a stripe along the side of Yibo’s neck, kissed the edge of his jaw, then dipped his tongue in Yibo’s ear.  Payback!  He rocked his hips against Yibo’s ass as his tongue delved inside that ear, hand playing with Yibo’s over-sensitive nipples.  

Yibo sighed, his head falling to the side, his butt clenching.  He pumped his hips into the couch.

“Is anyone going to see you without pants on anytime soon?” Xiao Zhan breathed into his ear.

“No,” Yibo whispered.

“Good.”

Xiao Zhan ran his hands over Yibo’s shoulders, sliding them down his arms.  He kissed along the back of Yibo’s neck, then down each groove in Yibo’s spine as he slowly sank down to his knees behind him.  He swirled his tongue into the small of Yibo’s back, hands sliding down Yibo’s torso.  He kissed down to the top of the cleft of his ass, then squeezed both hands around that pert bottom, massaging it.  He slid his mouth over to the line that defined where butt met leg, then he sank his teeth in and bit him, sucking up a welt on that white, white skin.

“Oh fuck,”  Yibo moaned, his hands braced on the arm of the couch.

Xiao Zhan left another love bite on the other side, a mirror image.  Then he spread Yibo’s cheeks apart, licking a long line from bottom to top.  

“Shit,” Yibo ground out as Xiao Zhan licked over his asshole.  

He licked it up and down, then circled it, then just pressed his tongue inside.  He kissed it until Yibo’s legs were quivering, then he used his hands to guide Yibo’s hips to flip him around.  He looked up at Yibo’s face, then slid his mouth over Yibo’s cock.

He bobbed his head up and down, then swirled his tongue around the tip.  It was already leaking - probably had been for a while - and the taste was a little salty, a little sweet.  His skin was smooth and soft.

He’s bigger than I thought he’d be, Xiao Zhan mused as he fisted the base in his hand.  And the colour is so cute.  Not too dark.  

Yibo reached out to grab his jaw, stopping his head.  Xiao Zhan looked up at him. “Mmm?”

“You just thought of me as cute again,” Yibo accused him.

Xiao Zhan rolled his eyes, smiling.  “What’s wrong with that?”

“Goddamnit,” Yibo swore.  He pulled on Xiao Zhan’s arm, hauling him to his feet.  Then he spat crudely into his hand and wrapped one long-fingered hand around both their dicks.  He leaned in and tucked his head into the side of Xiao Zhan’s neck, just kissing there, his breath hot.  “Sexy?”

Xiao Zhan lost his train of thought as he peeked down at what it looked like to see Yibo jack both of them off together.  Fucking hot, Xiao Zhan thought.

“Good,” Yibo grunted.  He flipped them, pressing Xiao Zhan’s back into the arm of the couch, then he rolled his hips, his torso undulating smoothly as he fucked them into his hand.  He braced his hand on the couch to get the leverage he needed.

Watching Yibo move like that, his body so smooth, his lips parted and red - fuck it was the sexiest thing Xiao Zhan had ever seen.  Xiao Zhan reached out and cupped Yibo’s face in his hands, pulling him in for another long, drawn-out kiss.  He felt the pressure rising in his body, like he was on fire.  His legs started shaking, and he started to topple over.

Yibo immediately caught him, falling with him but cradling his head in his hands and bracing their fall with one arm.  When they tumbled down in a tangle of arms and legs, Xiao Zhan on his back and Yibo half on top of him, they both started to giggle, then to laugh.  Xiao Zhan watched Yibo’s face, delighted to see that carefree, open laughter back right where it belongs.

Then that laughter dissolved into something deeper, some kind of depth of emotion that Xiao Zhan hadn’t seen on the surface before.  When he looked into his eyes, Xiao Zhan felt like he could just keep looking forever and never get to the bottom of it.

When Yibo kissed him this time, it was gentle, loving.  Then Xiao Zhan reached up and slid his hands down Yibo’s back, cupping his ass.  Xiao Zhan spread his legs a little, making a cradle for Yibo.  When Yibo started to move again, thrusting their dicks together, his torso undulating, Xiao Zhan felt himself falling apart.   

“That’s good, Yibo.  Feels so good.”

Yibo redoubled his efforts with the praise, his fist sliding between them again to grip both of them tight.  They looked into each other’s eyes as they thrust against each other.  

“I’m close,” Yibo whispered.

“Me too,” Xiao Zhan whispered back.  He ran his hand up Yibo’s back to run over the soft hairs on the back of Yibo’s neck.  He then pulled him into another kiss.

They kissed each other tenderly as their bodies seized, climaxing together.  They kissed long after, even after Yibo slid his hand away.  

———

Yibo fell down on top of Xiao Zhan, crushing him to the hard floor beneath him.  He was winded, and his heart was beating like crazy.  God, I never imagined what this would feel like.  I feel so close to him.  

Yibo had expected the physical pleasure.  What surprised him more was the emotional connection, the feelings that were raging through his body.  He’d never let anyone in before, never let anyone touch him, and so to let someone in so completely left him shaking.

Xiao Zhan was smoothing his hand down Yibo’s back in soothing circles.  He was murmuring something to him, or, no, he was singing.  

Yibo listened, eyes closed, head pillowed on Xiao Zhan’s chest as he sang lightly Li Ronghao’s If I Were Young.

To describe your goodness is to cause a future of reddened eyes
Your loving ways, I didn’t realize at the time

If I was young and promising - not inferior
Knew what was precious
Those pipe dreams
That I never fulfilled for you is my shameful existence

If I was young and promising - understood propriety
I wouldn’t let you suffer for me
At the wedding, have a few more drinks
With the one you’re with

Xiao Zhan’s voice trailed off as he peeked down at Yibo who was still pillowed on his chest.  “You okay?”

Yibo nodded.  He then shifted, squirming at the stickiness between them.  “We should clean up,” he mumbled.

Xiao Zhan gently rolled Yibo over onto his back, giving him a quick peck on the forehead.  “Stay here.”  

Yibo watched, eyes trailing after Xiao Zhan, as he got up and smoothly padded over to the kitchen.  He got out a cloth from a drawer, turned on the tap, and waited for the water to warm up before running the cloth under it.  He then came back to Yibo, sat down next to him and wiped down Yibo’s chest and belly before he wiped off his own.  

Yibo was still watching him under hooded eyes.  They made eye contact, looking at each other for a long moment, then Xiao Zhan smiled brightly.  He reached out a hand, smoothing the bangs out from Yibo’s eyes.  “You look happy.”

Was I smiling?

Yibo nodded, blinking slowly.  “I’m the happiest I ever felt, right in this moment.”

Xiao Zhan laughed, smiling impossibly wider.  “I bet you’ll be happier still in bed.  The floor’s uncomfortable, no?”

Yibo sat up abruptly, reaching out to touch Xiao Zhan on his lower back.  “Is your waist okay?  Shit I wasn’t thinking about it.”

Xiao Zhan shook his head, sliding his thumb along Yibo’s cheek.  “It’s fine.  It doesn’t hurt right now.”

Yibo looked up to meet his eyes, examining them for truth.  Then he let out a sigh.  “Okay.  As long as you’re okay.”

“I’m better than okay,” Xiao Zhan said with another genuine smile.  

Yibo smiled back at him, eyes softening.  I love you Xiao Zhan,  he thought.

“Come,” Xiao Zhan said, getting to his feet.  He held out his hand.  Yibo took it, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet.  

Xiao Zhan tugged him along into the kitchen, propping him up against a counter while he rinsed the cloth and hung it to dry.  Then he took Yibo’s hand again, leading him down the hallway.  He brought him into his bedroom.  When Yibo saw it, something softened inside him as he saw all the joy of the designer in Xiao Zhan in each touch, each colour carefully chosen, each painting that was on the wall.  

The colour palette was bright and joyful like Xiao Zhan’s personality.  It was a mix of turquoise, orange, and yellow, with grey accents.  The bed was rather large, and dominated by a big pillow that was shaped like a cat.

Xiao Zhan scratched the side of his head, still holding Yibo’s hand.  “Jian Guo has to stay with my mother since I travel so much.  So, she got me that,” he said, pointing to the cat pillow.

Yibo walked up to it, picking it up.  It matched Jian Guo’s colouring pretty close.  He squished its plushy body in his hands.  He then held it up and showed it to Xiao Zhan.  “This  is cute.”

Xiao Zhan held up his hands, making a square out of his fingers and looking through them like a picture frame.  “Yes, that is  cute,” he said with a wink, indicating Yibo, naked, holding the stuffed cat.

Yibo mimed throwing the cat at him, and Xiao Zhan shrieked, launching himself to grab the cat.  They grappled a little over the cat, until Yibo abruptly released it, grabbing Xiao Zhan by the back of the head instead and pulling him in for a long, slow kiss.  

Xiao Zhan was smiling at him again when they pulled apart.  He then cocked a thumb behind him.  “Want to use the bathroom before sleeping?”

Yibo nodded.

Xiao Zhan led him to the bathroom, where they took turns, no longer embarrassed in front of each other.  Xiao Zhan even let Yibo share his toothbrush again.  “Sorry I don’t have a spare,” Xiao Zhan said with a laugh.  “You can bring yours next time.”

There’s going to be a next time!  Yibo thought, eyes flaring when he looked at him.  His heart almost soared out of his chest.  He lowered his head, his heart feeling so, so full.  “Mn.”

When they were ready for bed, Xiao Zhan fixed it so the light in the hallway was on.  He then took Yibo’s hand and led him back into the bedroom.  He left the door open a foot, letting the light spill in.  He then walked over to the bed, sliding in first and letting Yibo take the side with the light.  He lay down on his back, then held his arm out.

Yibo slipped in and immediately cuddled up to Xiao Zhan’s chest, slotting his body up against him like they’d been sleeping together a hundred years.  We fit so well together, Yibo thought, sleep starting to drag at the edges.

Xiao Zhan’s hand smoothed down his hair, petting him lightly.  Then he settled his hand on Yibo’s back.  

As sleep was dragging him under, he could have sworn he heard a whisper.  

“I love you, too.”

Chapter Text

Xiao Zhan woke up first in the morning, as was becoming a habit between them.  For those first few moments when he woke up, everything felt right in his world.  He had no worries or fears, no thoughts of the possible consequences.  All he could feel was warmth, comfort, and happiness.  He blinked his eyes open and looked down at Yibo, who was still lying with his arm around him, his head pillowed on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder.  Yibo had gotten hot enough to push the blanket down, and Xiao Zhan could see the whole expanse of his back and the top of his butt before the blanket was draped over his legs.

Xiao Zhan pressed a kiss onto Yibo’s head, stroking his hand down Yibo’s bare back.  His fingers played in the knots of Yibo’s spine, exploring and memorizing the shape.  

He’s so beautiful, it hurts my eyes, Xiao Zhan thought to himself.  How could anyone think that this was wrong?

Part of Xiao Zhan really didn’t understand why people cared.  Who did it harm?  Two people connecting together on this level was a minor miracle, not something to ridicule, scoff at, or demean.  

As his thoughts turned darker, Xiao Zhan felt his eyes filling with tears.  Some of them were for himself.  Some of them were for the young man held in his arms.

Xiao Zhan raised a hand, wiping at his eyes.  At the movement, Yibo stirred, blinking blearily up at him.  “Zhan-ge?” he murmured.

Xiao Zhan turned watery eyes on him.  “Good morning.”

Yibo propped himself up on an elbow, getting a good look at his face.  He reached up a hand, stroking Xiao Zhan’s cheek tenderly.  “Regrets?” he asked in a resigned tone of voice.

Xiao Zhan shook his head.  How can he think that I could regret this?  “I’m just… it’s a lot.”

Yibo pushed himself up so he could look in his face properly.  He was scanning his eyes, looking deep.  “Do you want me to leave?” he asked in a voice that said please say no please say no.

“I want you to stay,” Xiao Zhan said, repeating his words from the night before.

They looked deep in each other’s eyes, mutual understanding leaving a look of immense relief on Yibo’s face.  Xiao Zhan reached up a hand, wiping his thumb across Yibo’s lips.  Then he looked back in Yibo’s eyes, cupped a hand around the back of his neck, and pulled him into a kiss.

Yibo whined, sliding his leg over on top of Xiao Zhan’s as he leaned down into the kiss.  There was desperation in that kiss, in the way Yibo’s hand clutched at Xiao Zhan’s side, clinging.  

When they broke apart, they stared at each other.  Xiao Zhan slid his hand down to Yibo’s ass, gripping it tight.  “Do you have time?” he murmured.

Yibo nodded without looking at the clock, then bent down to kiss him again.  Xiao Zhan wrapped his arms around Yibo’s neck, kissing him back tenderly.  They kissed like that for a while, not rushing, just enjoying the feeling of their bodies lying against each other.

“I love your lips,” Xiao Zhan whispered when they broke apart.

Yibo nuzzled his forehead against Xiao Zhan’s.  “I love your smile,” he said with a little smile of his own.

Xiao Zhan gave him one of his brilliant, show-stopping smiles.  Yibo’s eyes went dark, and he kissed him again, more hungrily this time.  He slid his hand under Xiao Zhan’s thigh, shifting it apart so he could slide his body in where it belonged between them.  Xiao Zhan gasped at the contact as their cocks rubbed together.

“Feels so good,” Yibo said with a sigh, rocking his hips.

“Mmm,” Xiao Zhan agreed, running both his hands down Yibo’s back to grab his butt and pull him harder against him.  

Yibo tucked his head in under Xiao Zhan’s neck, kissing and licking over his pulse point.  “Don’t leave any marks on me, either,” Xiao Zhan said with a little laugh.

“Do you have to be shirtless any time soon?” Yibo asked, looking up at him with gleaming eyes.

“Actually, I do,” Xiao Zhan said regretfully.  “I have a shirtless scene in the movie I’m going on set for in a couple weeks.”

“A couple weeks is enough time for it to fade, isn’t it?” Yibo asked with that little gremlin smirk on his face.

“Wang Yibo!”

Yibo slid down Xiao Zhan’s body, kissing down his collarbones, his sternum.  He smoothed his hand over Xiao Zhan’s flat chest, running his fingers over his nipple.  He then looked up at Xiao Zhan, licked his lips and winked, and bent down to lick that dark nub.  

Xiao Zhan let out a sigh, his hand sifting into Yibo’s hair.  It should fade… We’re not filming that scene first anyway… Xiao Zhan told himself.

He couldn’t even form thoughts anymore when Yibo bit his nipple, worrying it gently between his teeth, then soothed it with soft licks.  He then sucked it gently, making shocks run down Xiao Zhan’s body, his hand tightening in Yibo’s hair.  

Yibo looked up at him, pleased with himself, then kissed his way over to the other side.  He repeated that slow torture until Xiao Zhan was limp and trembling.  

Xiao Zhan watched as Yibo slowly worked his way further down, kissing lovingly each patch of skin he passed.  When he got to Xiao Zhan’s bellybutton, he dipped his tongue inside, then blew on it, making Xiao Zhan’s belly flutter.  He then kissed his way down over Xiao Zhan’s happy trail, licking the hairs there.

“You don’t mind my body hair?” Xiao Zhan asked, peeking down.

Yibo shook his head, eyes twinkling.  “I like it.  I have hardly any, myself.”

“I noticed,” Xiao Zhan said with a laugh.

“You’re so manly,” Yibo said with a wink.  “Your muscles are bigger than mine, too.”

Xiao Zhan slapped Yibo on the shoulder, making him laugh.  They laughed together, but then the laughter faded when Yibo wrapped his hand around Xiao Zhan’s cock, giving it a few pumps.  Xiao Zhan’s head fell back onto the mattress as he sighed, shifting his hips.

“So pretty, my gege,” Yibo said with a smile.  

“Wang Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said without looking at him, a warning in his voice.

Yibo scooted down further, gently separating Xiao Zhan’s legs so he could slide his shoulders down between them.  Xiao Zhan felt the ghost of his breath before he felt the lips teasing his balls, then licking them.  Xiao Zhan spread his legs further, giving him more room, and Yibo rewarded him by cupping his balls in his hand, lifting them gently and kissing the soft skin underneath.  

Xiao Zhan whined, clenching the sheets in his hands.  

Yibo licked and kissed the skin between asshole and balls, then took one of Xiao Zhan’s balls in his mouth.

Oh, god, so hot, so wet, Xiao Zhan thought, his belly trembling.  

Yibo sucked one, then the other, then took Xiao Zhan’s cock in his hand and angled it up so he could slide his mouth over the tip.  Xiao Zhan propped himself up on his elbows so he could look down, watching the way Yibo’s beautiful lips stretched over him as he took him deep inside.  He bobbed his head a few times, then pulled off so he could lick a long stripe up the underside from root to tip.  He licked around the edge of the head, then tongued the slit, his eyes falling closed as he took him fully in his mouth again, head bobbing up and down.

Yibo kept going without pause, his hand gently cupping and teasing Xiao Zhan’s balls as he went down on him.  He took his time, lovingly lavishing praise on that most intimate part of his body.  It was so incredibly hot to watch him do it.  He picked up the pace, concentrated at the task at hand.  

Xiao Zhan felt his whole body floating.  Part of him couldn’t believe this was really happening.

After a while, Yibo pulled off long enough to look up at Xiao Zhan and sucked his index finger into his mouth, getting it wet.  With a gleam in his eye, he reached his hand down, his finger teasing at Xiao Zhan’s asshole while his mouth sucked him in.  That finger just circled, tapped, then he put just the tip in.

Xiao Zhan’s hips jerked, and his head fell back.  Feels so good.  And it’s Yibo.  Yibo is here.

Xiao Zhan reached down, threading his hand into Yibo’s hair, guiding his head in the pace that he wanted, that he needed.  God I’m so close.

He felt his body rapidly approaching that precipice, so he urgently propped himself up on his elbow and tapped Yibo’s shoulder.  “Yibo!”

Yibo flicked his eyes up to meet him, then went down deeper than before, sucking hard.  Oh shit.  “Wang Yibo!” Xiao Zhan cried out, then his whole body jerked, and he felt that satiated rush over his whole body.  Only then did Yibo pull off, and Xiao Zhan watched in mild horror as he came all over Yibo’s face.

Yibo didn’t seem to mind, he just smiled and kissed the head of Xiao Zhan’s dick, licking it to clean it off.  He then scooted back up the bed, looking like the cat who got the cream.

Xiao Zhan sat up, looking at Yibo’s face covered in his come.  “Wang Yibo,” he admonished him, reaching over to the side table to grab a tissue.  He then carefully wiped off Yibo’s face.  Yibo was just smirking at him, pleased.

“Was it good?” Yibo asked cheekily.

Xiao Zhan held Yibo’s chin in his hand, gently wiping the last traces.  He then looked in his eyes, seeing a touch of vulnerability in there, still.  “Yeah, Yibo.  It was good.  It was the best.”

Yibo flopped onto his back, satisfied.  He then stroked himself lazily.  

Xiao Zhan stared at him, just thinking, God, I could just watch him jerk himself off and that would be so hot, too.  But he had an idea.

Xiao Zhan reached over to the nightstand, opening the drawer to take out some lube.  He pooled some in his palm, then swiped it down between his own thighs.

“Gege?” Yibo asked in a low voice, an eyebrow raised.

Xiao Zhan put the lube away then rolled onto his side, presenting his back to Yibo.  “Put it here,” he indicated, pointing at his tightly closed thighs.

Yibo scooted up behind him, guiding himself between Xiao Zhan’s thighs.  “Like this?”

“Yes.”

Yibo wrapped his arm around Xiao Zhan’s waist, then started to rock a little.  “Oh,” he said wonderingly.  

He hasn’t even thought of doing that before, Xiao Zhan thought with a smile.  Cute!

Yibo slapped Xiao Zhan’s backside as he picked up the pace.  “Stop that.”

Xiao Zhan buried his face in his hands, laughing silently.  He then peeked out.  “How do you always know what I’m thinking?”

Yibo leaned his head forward and bit the back of Xiao Zhan’s shoulder.  “I know.”

“No biting!  Stop biting!”

Yibo smoothed the spot over with a kiss.  “Sorry.”  His breath then went uneven as he wrapped his arm around Xiao Zhan again, pulling him close as he thrust between his legs.  “Fuck this feels good.”

Xiao Zhan reached back a hand to grab the back of Yibo’s neck, angling him in for a kiss.  They kissed each other tenderly as Yibo’s hips snapped against the back of Xiao Zhan’s.  

Yibo broke the kiss, his breath going harsh as his hips jerked erratically.  He palmed Xiao Zhan’s chest, hand sliding over his nipple again.  Xiao Zhan’s nipple was so sensitive from the earlier abuse that he jerked a little, gasping.  He also loved the sensation of Yibo rubbing up against his balls from behind.  Even though he had come already, the sensation was still really nice.  He looked down, his eyes going dark as he got a good look at the tip of Yibo’s cock peeking out from between his thighs as he pumped his hips.  Oh that’s hot.  

Yibo’s breaths were harsh in his ear.  He mouthed at the back of Xiao Zhan’s neck, licking the sweat off his skin.  He then leaned down to grab Xiao Zhan’s hip, his own hips rolling sensually, whole torso rippling.  

“Xiao Zhan,” Yibo said, his voice breathy.

“It’s okay Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said, reaching back to palm Yibo’s hip and urge him on.  “I’ve got you.”

Yibo let out a rattling sigh, then let go.  

———

“You need to get ready to go, right?” Xiao Zhan asked him.

Yibo blinked, slowly coming down from the high.  He looked over to see Xiao Zhan sitting up, using a tissue to clean between his legs, a little smile on his face.

God, that smile.  I fell in love with that smile the moment I saw it, Yibo thought.

He realized Xiao Zhan had been talking to him.  “What?” he asked belatedly.

Xiao Zhan tossed the tissues in the trash can, then leaned over to brush the hair back from Yibo’s face.  “Don’t you have a photo shoot today?”

Yibo blinked a few times, then nodded.  He slowly sat up, still feeling weak all over.  He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth, then asked, “Can I take a shower?”

Xiao Zhan stood up, then held out his hand.  Yibo took it, and the two of them walked hand-in-hand to the bathroom.  Xiao Zhan turned on the water.  While waiting for it to warm up, he grabbed a couple of towels off the shelf.   Yibo stood there a little nervously, so Xiao Zhan grabbed his hand again.  He rubbed his thumb along the back of that bony hand, memorizing the pull of tendon and bone.

They exchanged a glance that spoke a thousand words.

“Come,” Xiao Zhan beckoned him, testing the water again before stepping in.  He pulled Yibo in behind him.  

Xiao Zhan pushed Yibo under the water first, letting him get all wet.  He then squeezed some shampoo in between his hands, then reached up to spread it in Yibo’s hair, lathering it up.  

Feels nice, Yibo thought with a little smile.  Never had anyone wash my hair like this before.  

Xiao Zhan exchanged a fond glance with him, then leaned in to kiss him while he washed his hair.  Yibo reached out, pulling Xiao Zhan into his body.  After they kissed, Yibo threw his arms around Xiao Zhan’s neck, hugging him tight.  God I love you.  What happens next?

Sensing his dark mood, Xiao Zhan held him tightly.  After a while, he pulled back to look him in the eye.  “Okay?”

Yibo nodded.  “Mn.”

Xiao Zhan got out some conditioner, working it into Yibo’s hair.  When he was finished with this, Yibo returned the favour, shampooing up Xiao Zhan’s hair.  He then conditioned it, scraping his fingernails along Xiao Zhan’s scalp, making him hum in pleasure.

They washed each other’s bodies, discovering all the little imperfections on each other’s skin.  

“You have a mole on your arm, too,” Xiao Zhan said affectionately.  “I always thought you looked flawless, but the closer I look at you the more human you become.”

Yibo let out a huff of breath.  “I’m far from flawless.”

“Yeah, you’ve got that terrible personality,” Xiao Zhan joked, rubbing the top of Yibo’s head.

Yibo shoved Xiao Zhan’s hand away, then the two hit each other, then they grappled.  They worked their way back into another hug, swaying together under the water until the water started to run cold.

“Come on,” Xiao Zhan urged him, turning off the water.  He handed him a towel, and Yibo dried himself off efficiently, scrubbing the towel in his hair then shaking his head like a dog.  Xiao Zhan laughed at him.

“Hey did you ever go back and look at your Weibo after you posted on the last day of filming?”

Yibo peeked out at him from under the towel.  “Yeah I did I guess, I don’t remember. Why?”

“Do you remember what Director Zhang wrote on there?” Xiao Zhan said, eyes twinkling.

Yibo pursed his lips, looking up.  He then shook his head.  “I forgot.”

“Why is your memory so bad?!” Xiao Zhan said, smacking him on the arm.  “Director Zhang wrote, ‘Congratulations to Xiao Yibo.’”  He gave him a look.

Yibo laughed, his face lighting up.  “I remember now.  Yeah, he did.  I guess this really makes me your wife now, right?”

“I guess he always knew how we felt,” Xiao Zhan said with a wry smile.

Yibo gave him a long look.  “Probably a lot of people knew how we felt.  We weren’t very good at hiding it.”

“Especially not when you wrote him back, ‘Hahaha, Thank you, Chen Dao, then put kissy faces  all over it!!”  Xiao Zhan glared at him.

Yibo pouted.  “Well…”  He then smiled and leaned forward, pecking Xiao Zhan on the lips.  “Kissy faces for you.”

“Gaaaawd!” Xiao Zhan moaned, tilting his head back and rolling his eyes.  “Why do I even like you?!”

“I don’t know, why do you like me?” Yibo asked cheekily, propping his elbow up on the sink.

Xiao Zhan peered over at him.  “Must be your small face.”

Yibo raised his eyebrows.  “That’s all?”

Xiao Zhan got his toothbrush and thrust it at him.  “That’s your only good trait,” he grumbled.

Yibo took the toothbrush, squirting some toothpaste on it.  “I’m sure you can think of a few others,” he said with a grin before brushing his teeth.

Xiao Zhan got out the hairdryer, turning it on and blowing it on Yibo’s head to shut him up.  He stuck out his tongue at him in the mirror.  He dried off Yibo’s hair first while he was brushing his teeth, then Yibo cleaned the toothbrush thoroughly and handed it back to him and they switched places.

When they were both clean and dry, towels hung up, they walked back into Xiao Zhan’s bedroom.  “How much time do you have?” Xiao Zhan asked him as he went to his wardrobe, throwing open the closet.

Yibo glanced at the clock then blanched.  “Shit, I’m gonna be late if I don’t leave right now.  I’ll have to go straight there.”

“Want to borrow some clothes?” Xiao Zhan asked from inside the closet.

“Yeah, sure.”

Xiao Zhan tossed out at him some underwear, a black t-shirt, and a pair of blue jeans with the knees ripped out.  “These probably look similar enough to yours.”

“Thanks.”  Yibo slid into the underwear, then the pants. They were a couple of inches too long for him, but when he put on his shoes it would be fine.  “Socks?”  He pulled on the t-shirt.

Xiao Zhan tossed him a pair of socks.

Yibo sat on the bed to put them on.  When Xiao Zhan emerged from the closet, he was dressed similarly, in a pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt.  

“What do you have on today?” Yibo asked, glancing up at him.

“I’m doing an interview with Lifestyle magazine.  There will be a photoshoot there, too, so they’ll have different clothes for me to put on.”  He sat down next to Yibo, pulling on his own socks.  “I’m gonna be late too if I don’t make a move.”

Xiao Zhan went back to his closet, then pulled out a sweater for himself.  He rummaged around until he found a black hoodie for Yibo.  

They stood up, both fully dressed, looking each other in the eye.  Neither one of them wanted to leave, not knowing what would happen next.  But they had no time to figure that out together.

Xiao Zhan took his hand, lacing their fingers together.  “Thank you, Wang Yibo.”

He’s going to run away again, Yibo thought.  He felt his heart drop.  When am I going to see him again?

“After the shoot tonight, I’m flying to Shanghai,” Yibo said in a small voice.  “So… I don’t know when…”  His voice trailed off, unable to finish the thought.

Xiao Zhan reached up and stroked Yibo’s cheek, kissing him one last time tenderly.  “It’s going to be okay, Yibo.  I don’t know how… but it’ll be okay.”

Yibo nodded, his heart full.  He didn’t stop gazing at Xiao Zhan’s face.

“Come on,” Xiao Zhan said, tugging on his hand.  “We’ve got to go our separate ways now.”

Saying goodbye is so hard, Yibo thought as he dailled for his driver.  When they were waiting for the driver to arrive, Xiao Zhan pulled Yibo close again and kissed him, over and over again, until they were both breathless.  Finally his phone pinged indicating that the driver was there, and Yibo pulled away reluctantly.

Xiao Zhan patted him on the butt, shoving him in the direction of the door.  “Go on, Yibo.”

Yibo turned to look at him one last time, then said in a tiny voice, “Bye bye.”

When he left he had to stop in the corridor for a moment, putting a hand to his heart to stop it beating so hard.  I’ll see him again.  Get it together, Yibo.

———

In the evening, when Yibo was on his way to the airport when he got a text from Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan:  How did it go today?

Yibo:  Went well.  Although…

Xiao Zhan:  What?

Yibo:  I think my lips look a little swollen in the pictures 

Yibo:  Wanna see?

Xiao Zhan:  haha OK

Yibo:  

Yibo:   

Yibo:  

Yibo:    

Yibo:  Close-up evidence

Yibo:  

Xiao Zhan:  Wow, so handsome

Yibo:  How did yours look?

Xiao Zhan:  Do you think my lips look swollen, too?

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  Close-up evidence

Xiao Zhan:    

Yibo:  Beautiful gege

Xiao Zhan:  You look great too, didi

Xiao Zhan:  You on your way to Shanghai?

Yibo:  Yes, we’re starting official filming on Gank Your Heart

Xiao Zhan:  You feel ready?

Yibo:  Just need to study my lines more

Xiao Zhan:  What’s your cast like?

Yibo:  They make me feel tall

Xiao Zhan:  What?

Yibo:  When I was on the Untamed I always felt short!  Bunch of giants.  Cast of Gank Your Heart most of the guys are my height.  And the girls are way shorter than me.  So I feel tall!

Xiao Zhan:  Hahaha, Yibo.  You’re not short.  

Yibo:  You know my profile online is wrong, right?  It says 180 cm but I’m really about 178 or 179.  And you’re… what?

Xiao Zhan:  183 cm

Yibo:  See, you’re taller.  Noticeably.

Xiao Zhan:  I know we had to fake it for the Untamed, but in real life does it really bother you?  That I’m taller?

Yibo:  Nah, just making fun.  I like my height.  I’m not ashamed of it.

Xiao Zhan:  Good, because I think you’re perfect

Yibo’s eyes misted a little as he read that line.  The driver was pulling up at the airport, and he looked up, his heart rolling over in his chest at the idea of flying away from the person he wanted to see the most right now.

Yibo:  We’re pulling up at the airport

Xiao Zhan:  Be safe, Bo-di

Yibo:  You too, Zhan-ge

Yibo put his phone away, stepping out of the car.  Do a good job, Yibo.  Make him proud to be your friend.

Chapter Text

“Hey, it’s my favourite pupil,” Yibo called out, greeting Lu Xiaoyu on the set of Gank My Heart.  They’d been together on Produce 101.  She’d been in his dance group for Think I Wanna Marry You, stealing the show when at the end of the performance she rose up to the sky in a ring of flowers and did some acrobatics.  

“Teacher Wang!” she called out, waving.  “How are you doing?”

“Great, I’ve been working hard on set since I saw you last.  It’s great to see you here,” he said, gracing her with a genuine smile.

The rest of the cast looked on with surprise, as it wasn’t often that Yibo treated people with familiarity.   

He spotted someone else he recognized, though he didn’t know him personally.  “Hey, you’re in XNINE, aren’t you?” he said, calling out to the young man he recognized.

He walked over, bowing.  “Yes, my name’s Yan Xujia,” he introduced himself.

Yibo shook his hand, bowing.  “I just finished filming The Untamed with Xiao Zhan.”

“Oh, yes!  How did he do?”  Xujia asked.  

Yibo let out a genuine smile.  “He was the best.”

Xujia smiled, nodding.  “He’s very kind and hardworking.”  He scratched the side of his head.  “XNINE is having a concert on Xiao Zhan’s birthday in a few days, but I’m not going - I’m staying here.”

That must be the concert Xiao Zhan had been referring to.  “Ah, well, next time you see him you can tell him I said hello,” Yibo said, even though he texted with Xiao Zhan every night.  And sometimes during the day.  

Xiao Zhan wasn’t as close with his bandmates as Yibo was with his, given that Yibo grew up with them since he was really young.  Xiao Zhan had only joined Xnine two years prior as a result of winning a contest.  They were friendly with each other, but it wasn’t the same.  Uniq were more like brothers than bandmates.  So Yibo wasn’t surprised that Xiao Zhan hadn’t spoken to them of him.

The next few days passed quickly as they had their table reading, then got straight to filming their first few scenes.  Yibo found he was easily able to slide into the role of Ji Xiangkong, who was a professional gamer who liked to win and rode motorcycles on the side.  Yibo suspected they’d written the motorcycles in only after casting Yibo for the role to make Xiangkong look more cool.

Yibo tried his best to imitate Xiao Zhan’s easy way of getting along with people to get to know his castmates better.  He bonded quickly with his best friend in the show, who was played by Ding Guansen, when Guansen indicated an interest in doing a track day with Yibo to learn more about riding motorcycles.  

The most awkward introduction had to be when Yibo met with Wang Zixuan, who was playing his co-star and the girl his character fell in love with.  She was very sweet and nice, and spoke naturally with a Dongbei accent.  He found her pretty easy to get along with in the end, although he couldn’t imagine himself actually being attracted to someone like her.  But he could fake it for the cameras.  After all, he was a pro.

Acting in a drama is so easy when you don’t need to spend hours getting dressed in the morning and getting your wig put on!  Yibo thought to himself.  They also styled Xiangkong really similar to Yibo’s natural style, with normal brown hair, often wearing skinny, ripped jeans.  

He goofed around on set a lot to pass the time, usually by tossing nuts in the air and catching them in his mouth, or by singing or dancing around the set.  He had a little bit of ADD, which had been fine when Xiao Zhan was around to entertain him, but his castmates on his new project alternated between being amused by him and exasperated.  

When they showed him Xiangkong’s motorcycle for the first time, Yibo was so excited that he picked Zixuan up and spun her around in the air.  When he put her down he quickly rushed over to the motorcycle to try it out, leaving her standing there with a goofy smile on her face.  Oh I want to take this for a ride!  What a nice motorcycle.  Maybe I should get one just like this.

The one thing that Yibo wasn’t used to was learning all the lines.  It’s not that they were particularly difficult, he was familiar with all the gaming terms, it’s just that he did have a lot more lines.  He spent his off-time highlighting his script and underlining words for emphasis.  How on Earth did Xiao Zhan handle it when he had twice as many lines as this?!

———

Yibo was always texting Xiao Zhan, no matter where he was.  He kept shuttling back and forth, shooting Day Day Up and Gank My Heart.  When he was filming an episode of Day Day Up, he got really excited to meet a rising star and texted Xiao Zhan all about it.  The best episode he filmed was the one that aired on 2nd September, and he was still thinking about it weeks later.

Yibo:  Oh my God Xiao Zhan, have you ever heard of Hua Chenyu?  Did you watch the episode of Day Day Up from Sept 2?  

Xiao Zhan:  The singer?

Yibo:  Yeah, he was on Day Day Up a few weeks ago.  I was filming another episode today and my brothers and I were still talking about it!

Yibo:  Holy shit I’ve never heard anything like his voice

Yibo:  That vocal range is CRAZY!  And the power in his voice!  And the falsetto!

Yibo:  I’ve been looking at all his videos, listening to his other songs.  

Xiao Zhan:  Yeah he’s pretty incredible.  What’s he like in person?

Yibo:  Really sweet, really nice.  Cute.  Like really cute, not handsome like me ;)

Xiao Zhan:  Should I be jealous?

Yibo:  Hahaha, so not my type.  He’s too pretty, too feminine.  But wow!  I have so much admiration.  He’s really trying to live as his true self.

Xiao Zhan:  

Yibo:  There’s only 2 reasons I’m still filming this show, even though it takes out so much of my time

Xiao Zhan:  Let me guess… food?

Yibo:  Yes!  Food is number 1.  Number 2?

Xiao Zhan:  Mmm… getting to meet cool people?

Yibo:  Yes!  How do you know me so well?!  I’m way too shy to introduce myself to people under normal circumstances but on Day Day Up I get to meet so many cool people

Yibo:  They inspire me, give me ideas of things I want to pursue in my own career

Xiao Zhan:  Don’t you get tired with your schedule?

Yibo:  Yeah I do but I’m also energized by it when I’m inspired

Xiao Zhan:  I get that

Xiao Zhan:  Just how cute is Hua Chenyu?

Yibo:  Hahaha, oh, I love watching you drink vinegar

Yibo:  

Xiao Zhan:  Oh, he is cute.

Yibo:  But not beautiful like you.  My handsome gege.  

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo!

Yibo:  

Yibo:  Can you believe he’s a year older than you?

Yibo:  I think he fell into a time machine

Xiao Zhan:  Are you saying I look old?!

Yibo:  NO!  I’m saying he looks like he’s 12.  He was born in 1990!

Yibo:  Not attractive when they look too young, I’m attracted to older men with a great smile.  You look young but more like 22.  Not 12.

Yibo:  Though he definitely bats for our team

Xiao Zhan:  How do you know he bats for our team?!  Did he do something to you?

Yibo:  Gege it’s obvious

Yibo:  Eye contact alone will give you that answer

Xiao Zhan:  You made eye contact with him?!

Yibo:  Well, sometimes.  Especially when I was up on stilts.  He kept looking at my feet.  He’s definitely a foot guy.  Then again I have nice feet.

Yibo:    

Yibo:  

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo!  So narcissistic

Yibo:  

Xiao Zhan:  Why are you looking at each other like that??

Yibo:  hehehehe

Yibo:  We were playing a game who could catch the most fish while standing on stilts - and he was cheating kinda by holding on to someone the whole time.  I stood mostly on my own.  All I had to do was shift from foot to foot to keep my balance.  And I still won!

Xiao Zhan:  Competitive spirit still alive and well, I see

Xiao Zhan:  What are you wearing??

Yibo:  It’s a velvet jumpsuit

Yibo:  

Yibo:  Everybody needs a velvet jumpsuit

Xiao Zhan:  Wow, I never knew I needed a velvet jumpsuit.  I’m missing out.

Xiao Zhan:  I’m watching the episode now.  I’m listening to his song, it’s pretty crazy.  Unique.

Yibo:  Right?!  I could never sing like that, not in a thousand years

Xiao Zhan:  Neither could I.  His voice is totally different than mine

Yibo:  I like your voice better

Yibo:  Sometimes I put your songs on when I want to fall asleep so I can listen to your voice

Xiao Zhan:  …you do?

Yibo:  ……I just said something embarrassing didn’t I

Xiao Zhan:  …

Xiao Zhan:  …you’re telling the truth

Yibo:  Do I ever lie?

Xiao Zhan:  No, actually, you don’t.  Recklessly honest.

Yibo:  

Xiao Zhan:  OK didi, that’s it.  I can't take it anymore!  I’ve been chatting to you for ages.  I’m going to bed.

Yibo:  Okay gege.  Sleep well.

Xiao Zhan:  You too.  And…

Yibo:  …?

Xiao Zhan:  Put my music on when you fall asleep tonight.  I’d rather you listen to me than to Hua Chenyu.

Yibo:  Only you, gege.  Only you.

———

The day before Xiao Zhan’s concert, he texted Yibo as usual.

Xiao Zhan:  So how’d it go today?

Yibo:  Not bad, we’re starting to get really into our roles now, it’s easier and easier.  I like Xiangkong’s styling too it’s a lot like mine

Xiao Zhan:  Have you taken any pictures yet?

Xiao Zhan:  I miss looking at your face

Yibo:  I’m sure I can dig one up

Yibo:    

Yibo:  He’s a lot like me, right?

Xiao Zhan:  Very cute

Yibo:  

Yibo:  He’s supposed to be handsome

Xiao Zhan:  Cute!

Yibo:  Gaaaaawd

Yibo:  So how are the preparations going for your concert?

Xiao Zhan:  Good, we practiced on stage tonight so we’re all ready for tomorrow

Xiao Zhan:  It’s been a while since we’ve done a stage together but it seems it’ll be OK

Yibo:  You love singing, it should be fun for you

Xiao Zhan:  I love acting, too, but singing is my first love

Yibo:  Kind of like dancing is mine

Xiao Zhan:  Hopefully we can continue to do the things we love for a long time!

Yibo:  I know what you mean

Xiao Zhan:  Anyway I should get some rest before tomorrow

Xiao Zhan:  

Yibo:  Good night, sleep well, good dreams ;)

Yibo:  

Xiao Zhan:  

———

The following day, filming dragged on later than it was supposed to.  Yibo kept glancing at his watch, antsy.  He had something important to do tonight.  He kept texting during the day.  By the time they finally called an end for the day, it was late already, and Yibo took off at lightning speed.

———

Xiao Zhan was a little nervous for the concert and for his birthday.  He felt, all of a sudden, like he was getting old.  He was turning 27 at midnight.  Yibo, who was only 21, seemed so young.  His whole twenties were ahead of him.  At 27, Xiao Zhan really felt like 30 was just around the corner.  And in the world of show business, if you didn’t hit it big before turning 30, then you might as well call it all off.

After singing a song, Xiao Zhan walked forward to greet the audience.  They’d practiced this part in the rehearsal, he was just going to say a few words.

“Time really flies,” Xiao Zhan said, looking out at the cheering fans in the audience.  “It’s already XNINE’s 2nd year concert.  Thank you all for coming from afar.   This song, ‘Satisfied’… I’ve always wondered what being ‘Satisfied’ means.  It’s wasn’t until I found out how you have exhausted your energy on me and how you’ve supported me and travelled from afar, I feel this is a kind of ‘Satisfied.’”  He was drowned out by the screaming of the fans so he paused before continuing.

Those cheers, they’re out there to support me.  It’s only thanks to their efforts that I am where I am today, Xiao Zhan thought with gratitude.  “But I’m still looking for a more accurate definition of being ‘Satisfied.’  Then I read something online which I thought was great.  ‘The power of growth.’”  Xiao Zhan paused, looking down as he took a deep breath.  “From when I was a clueless nobody to here where I am being able to earn and share your love.  To me, this is my growth,” he said, putting his palm over his heart.  

Xiao Zhan extended a hand out to the audience.  “When you’re with me, we grow together.  I think this is the power of growth.  I think that the power of growth is my satisfaction.”  He bowed down low at the waist, his head dropping as his body made a full right angle.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  

When he stood back up, he was smiling, but his eyes were filling with tears of gratitude.  He bit his lips, dimples appearing briefly in his cheeks as he did so.  The cheers of the audience reverberated around the room, and Xiao Zhan looked around at the sea of faces.  “The next song is what everyone of us from XNINE would like to say to you.  I wonder if my buddies are ready!” he shouted, looking around behind him.

He was just adjusting his collar when he heard the birthday song break out behind him.  He rubbed the back of his neck, surprised, as his bandmates walked in singing the birthday song, wheeling in a birthday cake.  

“Wow!  Looks very rich!  Mr. Rich!” his bandmates joked.  It was a running joke that Xiao Zhan’s signature looked like the word ‘rich.’

Xiao Zhan bit his lips into his mouth nervously as his bandmates started to speak about him.

“Actually this is our 4th birthday with Xiao Zhan,” Wu Jiacheng said. “Yes yes yes.”  “We’ve been growing up together since we moved to Beijing.  Today, we watched a lot of old clips together.  It felt so good to grow up together.  Anyway, it’s only truly great when we are great together.  Xiao Zhan Happy Birthday!  Really happy for you.”

Xiao Zhan nodded then smiled nervously.

“I think Xiao Zhan can make a wish then say something to everyone.”

Xiao Zhan raised the mic to his mouth, laughing nervously and saying, “We did so many rehearsals but not including this part!”  He shook his head, looking down and biting his lip again.

“We’ve already planned for this!” Zhiguang said, squeezing him on the arm.

“Okay, I’ll make a wish first,” Xiao Zhan announced.  He then pressed his hands together, praying.  Please, let this be a successful year for me.  Let the Untamed be a success.  Let me find a way to get out of this contract with Wajijiwa.  Let me somehow make my parents happy.  And… it feels selfish to ask, but… let me find a way to be with Wang Yibo.  Let there be love and light and happiness in my life, and in his.

His bandmates looked at him while he was praying sincerely, and the crowd cheered him on.  

When he was done praying, he giggled self-consciously and smiled, reaching out to touch Jiacheng on the arm.  He gave that arm a squeeze, tears gathering in his eyes.

“I think… you need to cut the cake,” Jiacheng said, coming to the rescue.

Xiao Zhan nodded, using the moment to cover his tears.  He sniffled, taking the knife in his hands.  

“Happy Birthday!  Happy Birthday!  Looks rich.”

Xiao Zhan cut the cake, and they cheered.  “All the best!” Jiacheng called out.

Xiao Zhan stuck his fingers in his mouth, sucking off the icing.  Jiacheng then dipped his finger in the icing, tasting it.  Then he stuck his finger in the cake again, and stuck it in front of Xiao Zhan’s face.  Xiao Zhan sucked the icing off his Jiacheng’s finger, giving him a look.  He then smiled, looking down.

“Thanks!” Xiao Zhan said.

“It feels great to grow up together.  And thanks so much… and support Xiao Zhan.  The single Satisfied will get released tonight?” he asked Jiacheng.

“Yes yes yes,” Xiao Zhan responded, fiddling with his earpiece.  He then stood there quietly, trying to get his emotions under control.

“Let’s put away the cake first.  Staff, can you please help?” Jiacheng asked.

Xiao Zhan himself, ever courteous, started to roll the cake away.  His bandmates took over, rolling the cake away.

Jiacheng came and put his hand on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder.  “I’ll hand over to Xiao Zhan, please say more.”  He then smiled and backed away.

Xiao Zhan closed his eyes, smiling a little in embarrassment.  His eyes, when they opened again, had a sheen of tears on them.  “Because we didn’t rehearse this, I’m a little lost…” Xiao Zhan said.  He then waggled his finger.  “Today Lei Lei told me…”  He then paused again, tears gathering.  He shook his head, closing his eyes to try to stop his tears.  Jiacheng gave him another pat on the arm.  

Xiao Zhan took a deep breath, composing himself, then said, “I think I’m a lucky person.”  Lei Lei came and patted him on the back.  Someone handed him a tissue.  “And starting from a normal person on the street to now with everyone… for such a long way.  I feel that we will get better, everyone will get better!” he said, pumping his fist in the air.  “The next song is for all of you!”

He then nodded, bowed, and turned around to leave.  

This year, I am a lucky man.  

———

Xiao Zhan spent a while partying with his bandmates after the concert was over.  They all toasted him with drinks, and they shared some stories together.  Xiao Zhan was grateful, but also a little overwhelmed.  He’d never felt as though he’d fully connected with his bandmates, since he had so many worries.  He’s always kept a part of himself separate, to protect himself.  He was definitely closest with Jiacheng, and to hear him say such nice things about him had touched him.

When he stood there on stage around all of them, he felt guilty that he hadn’t given them more of his time and energy.  He already felt like he was drifting apart from his bandmates, especially the more time that he spent on his filming projects.  As he stood on that stage he felt a huge sense of nostalgia, as though he knew already this would be one of the last times that they’d spend on stage together.

They’d been his beginning, but they weren’t really his future.

“Thank you all, so, so much,” Xiao Zhan said, tears gathering in his eyes again.

They all took turns hugging him.

———

When Xiao Zhan stumbled back to his hotel room later, he was so emotionally drained that he just wanted to curl up in bed and phone Wang Yibo.  Jiacheng stopped him, saying, “There’s one more surprise for you.”  He guided him to a private dining room in the hotel, then left him by the door, giving his arm a little squeeze.

Xiao Zhan pushed open the door tiredly, but then got the shock of his life when someone called out, “Happy Birthday!”

It was just after midnight, it was officially his birthday now.  Who was waiting to see him?!

When he walked in, mouth hanging open, he was shocked beyond belief to see Xuan Lu, who played his sister Jiang Yanli in the Untamed.  She was standing by another birthday cake, one that was decorated beautifully with a pattern from the Little Prince, his favourite book.  “Jie jie,” he whispered, shocked.  She walked over to him and he wrapped her up in his arms, giving her a hug.

“I was at the concert, it was so great!” she gushed.  “Xian Xian, happy birthday.”

As they walked further into the room, someone stepped out from the shadows.  If his shock couldn’t get any bigger, it did when he saw the person he most wanted to see in the whole world - Wang Yibo.  He looked relaxed and casual, in skinny jeans with the knees torn out and a black sweatshirt.  Without makeup on, unadorned.  His Yibo, not the Yibo who lived in front of the cameras.  He was standing there awkwardly, hands in his pockets.

“How—,” Xiao Zhan stuttered.  “How did you get here?”

“I drove,” Yibo said simply, shrugging.  “We’re less than 3 hours away from Shanghai.  But I’m sorry, I couldn’t make it in time for the concert,” he said, scratching his head guiltily.

He drove nearly 3 hours… just to be here, with me… on my birthday.  Oh God.  I love him.  I do.  I love him so much.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes filled with tears again, and he walked over and fell into Yibo’s arms.  He tucked his arms around Yibo’s waist, and Yibo sighed, wrapping his arms around Xiao Zhan’s shoulders.  He held him while he cried, his shoulders shaking.

When he finally pulled back, Yibo held his shoulders, looking in his eyes.  Xiao Zhan blinked at him and smiled, wiping his eyes.  “I’m fine.  I’m sorry,” he said, wrapping one arm around Yibo then holding out his other arm for Xuan Lu.  When he had one on either arm, he said, “I just missed you.  Both  of you,” he said, giving them each a squeeze.  “Thank you so much for coming.”

“Come, let’s cut the cake!” Xuan Lu said, pulling on Xiao Zhan’s arm.  

Xiao Zhan kept his arm wrapped around Yibo, dragging him with him.  He clapped his hands together, making another prayer.  Let Wang Yibo be with me for all my birthdays, he prayed, no matter how unrealistic it was.  He then looked up and met Yibo’s eyes, and saw they were shining just like his own.  He smiled at him.

They took a selfie first, all three of them together.  Then they took a picture of Xiao Zhan with the cake.

He then picked up the knife and cut the cake.  They divvied up the slices onto plates, then got beers to drink.  They sat around the table, talking for hours about old times on set.  The whole time, Xiao Zhan sat close to Yibo, his foot pressed against his under the table.  

When it got late, Xuan Lu was yawning.  “I’ve got to go, Xian Xian.”  They all stood.  She took his hands in hers, giving him a warm look.  “I wish that life may treat you gently,” she said with a smile.

Xiao Zhan smiled back at her, squeezing her hands.  “Thank you, jie jie.”

They walked her out, then Xiao Zhan turned to look at Yibo.  He turned a questioning glance at him.

“Can we… go back to your room?” Yibo asked, a little shy.   

Xiao Zhan nodded.  “Come.”

———

Yibo followed Xiao Zhan into his room, carrying what was left of the cake.  He set the cake box on the table.  He then took out his bag, pulling out of it a tightly-wrapped present.  “I have something for you,” he said, turning to face Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan was looking at him with a bit of a lost look in his eyes.  He flicked his eyes down, then back up again, then finally took the gift from him.  He went to sit down on the bed, unwrapping the present.  

Yibo sat next to him, watching him unwrap the gift.  He’d gotten him his favourite book.  But instead of a new store-bought version, this was an old edition of The Little Prince.  And, another package.  Yibo bit his lip as Xiao Zhan unwrapped it.  It was a black cross-body bag with the word “SCULPTURE” written on it.  “Since you travel a lot, it’s a good bag - not too big, just big enough to carry the essentials,” Yibo mumbled.

“I love it,” Xiao Zhan said, turning to him with shining eyes.

Yibo pointed at the bag.  “There’s something inside.”

Xiao Zhan raised an eyebrow, then opened the bag.  Nestled inside was a keychain with two charms on it - a cat with a vague similarity to Jian Guo, and a white rabbit.  Lan Wangji’s white rabbit.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes went misty again.  He fumbled for Yibo’s hand, taking it in his.  They looked deep in each other’s eyes, hands tightly held together.  “Thank you,” Xiao Zhan said sincerely.

Yibo put his arm around him, pulling him into a hug.  Xiao Zhan snuggled in, just loving the feel of Yibo’s arms around him.  After a while, Xiao Zhan pushed back enough to kiss him.  He cupped Yibo’s face in his hands, kissing him lightly and tenderly.  When they broke apart, there was something vulnerable in Yibo’s eyes again.  He reached up and wiped the tears from Xiao Zhan’s face.

I made him sad, Yibo thought with a sinking heart.  I just wanted to make him happy.

Xiao Zhan laughed a little, pushing away to wipe his own face.  “I’m sorry.”  He stood up and carefully carried the bag over to his closet, hanging it up.  He came back to see Yibo sitting there, looking down at his feet.

Xiao Zhan walked up to him, sliding in between his knees, cupping his face to raise his face up.  He looked up into Xiao Zhan’s eyes, seeing them shining with emotion.  “I want you to know how happy you’ve made me, Wang Yibo.  I feel as though I’m blessed so much on this birthday.  One of my wishes already came true, when I got to see you.  I feel like this is probably the best year of my life.  And I’m overwhelmed by it.  I’m scared that everything will fall apart and I’ll lose this feeling that I have right now.”

Yibo’s eyes shone as they looked up at him.  You shine like the sun.  How could anyone not love you?

Xiao Zhan smiled, closing his eyes and laughing, his thumb stroking Yibo’s cheek.  “That.  I don’t want to lose that.  I want you to look at me like that forever.”

“That’s easy,” Yibo whispered.  “I always will.”

Xiao Zhan leaned down and kissed Yibo tenderly, stroking his cheeks with his thumbs.  Yibo kissed him back, his hands circling Xiao Zhan’s hips.  He’s so sweet, Yibo thought, his heart pounding.  When they broke apart, though, in spite of himself, Yibo let out a yawn.

Xiao Zhan hugged him, then pushed him back on the bed.  “Come on, let’s sleep.”

Yibo yawned again, scooting back on the covers.  “I have to leave early,” he said, looking over at him.  “Will it bother you when I wake up?”

“What time do you have to leave?” Xiao Zhan asked, shucking off his pants and his shirt.

Yibo shrugged out of his own shirt, then shimmied his pants off.  He folded them and put them on the bedside table.  “I have to leave at 6am.”

Xiao Zhan glanced at the clock.  It was already 2:30am.  “Are you going to be okay driving with so little sleep?” he asked, brows furrowed.

Yibo flipped over onto his stomach, slipping under the sheets.  “So worth it.”

Xiao Zhan bustled about, fixing the lights, then he slipped into the bed.  “Did you set your alarm?”

“Mmm hmm,” Yibo mumbled, eyes already closed.  

When Xiao Zhan scooted over, Yibo immediately slipped in against his chest in his favourite position.  Yibo’s heart settled down as soon as he was where he belonged in Xiao Zhan’s arms.  I love you so much, Yibo thought, nuzzling his face in the side of Xiao Zhan’s neck to inhale his scent.  If only I could stay longer.  If only I could stay forever.

He fell asleep to the feeling of Xiao Zhan running his hand in circles along his bare back.  

———

At 5:30 in the morning, Xiao Zhan was startled awake by the buzzing of Yibo’s alarm.  Yibo stirred, jumping out of his arms and falling out of the bed.  He landed in a heap on the ground, grunted, then got to his feet unsteadily.  Xiao Zhan stifled a laugh as he watched Yibo wander, half-asleep, into the bathroom.  

He heard the shower turn on, then got up himself to go and paw around in his suitcase.  He got out a fresh pair of underwear, some jeans, a t-shirt, and a big comfy sweater.  When Yibo wandered out of the bathroom again, a towel slung over his waist, Xiao Zhan handed the clothes to him wordlessly.

Yibo grunted.  Xiao Zhan then laughed as he watched Yibo struggle trying to get into the clothes, still wet and half-asleep.  He then gave in and helped him, kneeling down to pull the underwear up his legs and over his hips.  He stood up and pecked a kiss on his lips, then got down to help Yibo step into the pants.  He pulled those up, too, then shimmied them over his hips.  He carefully did up the fly.

Yibo was watching him, eyes half-hooded, something deep in them.

“Shirt,” Xiao Zhan said, popping the t-shirt over his head.  Yibo shrugged into the sleeves.  “Sweater?”  At Yibo’s nod, Xiao Zhan popped the sweater over his head, watching as Yibo fumbled in the arms.  “Did you do your teeth?” Xiao Zhan asked fondly.

Yibo shook his head.

Xiao Zhan steered Yibo back into the bathroom.  Goddamn boy needs to bring his own damned toothbrush!  Well, I guess if we’ve kissed we’ve swapped germs anyway.  Jesus.  He handed his toothbrush to Yibo.  

While Yibo was brushing his teeth, Xiao Zhan dried his hair for him.  He then got out his deoderant.  “Lift your arm,” Xiao Zhan instructed.  When the arm was up in the air, Xiao Zhan dove under the shirt and swiped his deodorant there.  “Other one.”  He repeated on the other side.  He then got his own cologne and gave Yibo a brief spritz.  

Yibo spat out the last of the toothpaste, looking significantly more refreshed at the end of it.  

“Got everything?” Xiao Zhan asked.  “Wallet?  Phone?  Keys?”  

Yibo did a check, then wandered back to the bedroom to paw around for his phone.  He found it on the floor under the bed, retrieved it, and shoved it in his pocket.  

How do you manage to do anything without someone taking care of you?  Xiao Zhan wondered fondly.  

Yibo slapped himself on the cheeks a few times, then shook his head.  “OK!” he declared.  “Ready!” he said in English.

Xiao Zhan handed him a pair of socks, and watched while Yibo sat on the bed, putting on the socks and his shoes.  He got back up, approaching Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan stood in front of him, still clad only in his underwear.  He crossed his arms over his chest.  “Are you sure you’re going to be able to drive okay?”

Yibo squeezed Xiao Zhan’s shoulders in his hands and nodded.  “I’ll be fine.”

Xiao Zhan tipped forward, putting his chin on Yibo’s shoulder.  “Text me when you get there?”

Yibo wrapped his arms around him, giving him a hug tight enough to make his bones creak.  “I will.”

“Okay.”

Xiao Zhan wrapped his arms around Yibo, squeezing him back, and they just stood there for a minute.  As they stood there, hugging, Yibo’s second alarm went off.  Yibo cursed, pulling away to fumble the phone out of his pocket.  He thumbed off the alarm, then turned his eyes to look at Xiao Zhan.  He reached out a hand to grip Xiao Zhan’s neck, thumbing the pulse there.  “Happy Birthday, Zhan-ge,” he said in a quiet voice.

“Thanks, Bo-di.”  He smiled wearily.

“It would be nice if we could find a weekend to spend together,” he said shyly.  “We could just hang around and play video games and watch movies.”

Xiao Zhan’s smile blossomed into a full one, his heart warming up.  “That sounds really nice.  Let’s plan it.”

“Okay.  All right.  Well.  I’ll see you, then.”  Yibo stood there, his hands in his pockets.  He didn’t seem to be making a move.

“I’ll take your clothes back,” Xiao Zhan said, gesturing behind him with his thumb.

Yibo nodded.

Xiao Zhan sighed, then took a step to close the distance between them, pulling Yibo in for a last kiss.  Yibo made a little sound, and kissed him back, a little desperation and a lot of love in that kiss.  When they finally pulled apart, Xiao Zhan turned Yibo around and pushed him by his shoulders to the door.  “Go.  Go.”

When Yibo walked out the door, Xiao Zhan felt so incredibly alone in his hotel room.  He wandered back to the bed, then crawled inside the covers, snuggling into the warm spot left behind by Yibo.  He managed to fall asleep again, his dreams full of a dancing boy.

———

When he woke up in the morning, Xiao Zhan saw several texts had been left behind by Yibo.

Yibo:  I made it safely

Yibo:  Here are the pictures from last night

Yibo:  

Yibo:  

Yibo:  Let’s see each other again soon.

Yibo:  I wish you the happiest year ahead, gege.

Yibo:  You deserve it.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes misted over again.  

Xiao Zhan:  Thank you, didi.

Xiao Zhan:  Work hard today

Xiao Zhan:  Get some rest tonight

Xiao Zhan:  Thank you for the presents

Xiao Zhan:  I hope to see you soon

He felt incredibly lonely when he stood up, got ready, and packed his bag to leave.  The last thing he put into the bag was Yibo’s clothes.  He folded the pants up and put them in.  Then he lifted the shirt to his nose, inhaling the scent for a moment, eyes closed.  When his heart settled in his chest, he folded it up carefully and placed it in his bag.

I miss you already.

Chapter Text

The next morning when Xiao Zhan said goodbye to the other members of XNINE, half of them looked quite hung over.  Xiao Zhan smiled fondly, remembering well their antics from back in the days when they were all learning about each other for the first time.

“Remember that time we drank helium from balloons and then talked in a pipsqueak voice?  We should have gotten you some helium balloons for your birthday yesterday!” Zhao Lei exclaimed.

“That would have been epic.  Why didn’t you think of that last night?” Peng Chuyue asked.

“I think last night was plenty memorable,” Xiao Zhan protested, thinking of him crying on stage, drinking with them afterwards, and his late-night party with Wang Yibo and Xuan Lu.

“Not memorable enough without one of those squeaky chickens.  We should have had squeaky chickens and helium balloons,” Zhiguang contributed.

“We could have made Xiao Zhan reenact his spongebob impressions.  He does a good spongebob,” Chuyue added.

“Oh!  We could have done spongebob with helium balloons!”  Zhao Lei said, pointing his finger in the air in excitement.

“Guys I swear to God I had a great time just with drinking together,” Xiao Zhan said, gesturing around at all of them.  “I’m 27 now I need to start acting like an adult.”

“Adulting is SO overrated,” Zhao Lei said with a fake sneer.

“Let’s go drinking again!  We can start up again now.  I’ll go get the balloons.  I’m sure someone can find a squeaky chicken.  Now all we need is a horse head on a stick and we can ride around the room,” Zhiguang pressed.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Xiao Zhan said, rolling his eyes.

“Or we could just take some selfies,” Jiacheng suggested.  “Commemorate this immortal moment.”

“That I can do.  The rest, I can’t.  I’ve got to catch a plane today!”

“Okay, okay.”  All of them gathered around, taking various selfies with each other.  Xiao Zhan stood in the middle, smiling wide enough to split his face.  It was nice to get together with the guys again, even though they didn’t see each other as often these days.

While the guys were goofing off, Jiacheng pulled Xiao Zhan off to the side, putting an arm over his shoulders.  “So, it seems you were pretty close with your castmates from the Untamed.  Was it nice to see them last night?”

Xiao Zhan’s eyes softened.  “Yeah, it was really nice.  We got really close filming that project.  I’ve never gotten so close to a cast before, it broke a piece of my heart to split up with them.”

“Awww,” Jiacheng teased him, rubbing his arm.  “You get all soft when you talk about them.  Do you have a crush on Xuan Lu?”

Xiao Zhan laughed out loud, then shook his head, waving his hand back and forth.  “No, no, no.  Nothing like that.  Just friends.”

“Disappointing!  I was hoping for some gossip to reveal at some inappropriate time later on,” he joked, elbowing Xiao Zhan in the side.

Even though I love these guys like my brothers, I still think my private life is my private life.  And… I don’t want to share this.  Wang Yibo and I are just for us.  The risks are too high, but even if they weren’t, it’s too fresh.  I just want us to keep whatever’s going on between us… between us.  For now.

Jiacheng gave him a look, watching the thoughts and emotions skitter all over his face.  “You’re hiding something,” he said, peering at him.

Xiao Zhan shook his head, smiling a little.  “Nothing important.”  He then smiled wider to help cover up what was going on in his mind.

“Okay then.  If you ever need to talk about something, give me a call!” he said with a smile.  “I’ve got your back.”

“You got it,” Xiao Zhan said, giving his arm a squeeze.  “Thanks!”

———

Xiao Zhan’s next major event was a book reading and interview.  He dressed up casually in blue jeans and a white button-down shirt, looking just like the boy next door that he’d grown up as.  He thought the topics they asked him about were really powerful.  The topic of the day was 'Sincerity.'

When they asked him “How do you keep your sincerity?”, he’d answered from the heart.  

“All the time, I think keeping sincerity is an attitude towards the world.  A belief and a principle of life.  I am a very principled person.  I’m not easily influenced by other people’s thoughts.  I think I have a clear understanding and consciousness of myself.  I know what I want.”  I want to have a great career and make my parents proud.  “What I don’t want.”  I don’t want people to interfere with my personal life.  “For me, even encountering doubt and incomprehension, I will pursue my dream according to my own ideas.  Just like I went to the training camp at X-Fire to be a singer and actor.”

Xiao Zhan cast his mind back to how hard it was in those days, giving up everything that his parents had wanted for him in order to pursue his dreams.  He’d caused a rift in his family at the time, and it had made him feel so very conflicted.  

“I tried to tell myself to accept the challenges in life.  Stand on solid ground, step by step.  Even if there are thorns in the way… keep the original sincerity.  Live my best life.”

He went on to explain how the book he was going to read related to this concept of sincerity.

“In the process of maintaining sincerity, who has a great impact on you?” he was asked.

Xiao Zhan pursed his lips, thinking about his answer.  When he had it composed in his mind, he said, “I think the impact is related to the environment I grew up in.  In fact, our family has always been a relatively relaxed environment for my growth.  And then…” he tried to compose his words and stumbled into, “I was growing up in the state of ‘being raised free range’ in my family.”  

He smiled, letting out a breathy laugh.  “When I was very young, my dad worked overseas.  So his education to me has always been comprehensive.  He wasn’t just looking at my grades,” Xiao Zhan said, looking aside as he remembered his childhood.  He then looked back at the interviewer and said, “He would also have me learn a lot of extracurricular things.  For example, painting and playing the violin.”  

“When I chose to become a singer,” Xiao Zhan said, steepling his hands together in his lap, “My parents thought it was a bit risky.  But they still supported my decision.  Because they know, once I make a decision, I will certainly do my best to do it well.  So in this respect, I’m grateful to them.  Meanwhile my parents have been teaching me by precept and example to be a kind, loving person.  Of course, there are also my friends who have always supported me.  It’s because of their encouragement and support that I can have the courage and confidence to persist.  So I’m really thankful to them.”

“How do you adjust your state of mind when you’re confused or frustrated?” was the next question.

Xiao Zhan looked down, smiling as he remembered how much of that he’d felt over the past years.  “In fact, everyone has such a lost or confused state.  I remember when I was filming The Wolf, in fact, the shooting environment was very difficult at the time.   The whole crew filmed in Shangri-La.  On the plateau, because my eyes couldn’t adapt to direct ultraviolet radiation, I got an ultraviolet allergy,” he said, gesturing with his hands.  “It then caused inflammation of the eyes.  My eyes were red and swollen.  But I persevered with it until the end.”  

“The second day after The Wolf wrapped up, in order to catch up with the crew, I went to go and film another project right away.  In fact, I felt very tired physically and mentally at that time.  I’d been in a state of over-output.  So after realizing this situation, I adjusted myself immediately after I finished shooting.  I stopped myself temporarily.  Took a walk around to relax.  Emptied my mind.  Gathered my strength.  Kept moving towards my goals.”

He spoke about his future aspirations, wanting to make more music, wanting to become an actor that would be recognized, and maintaining his sincerity.  

“I also hope that the me in the future can be strong facing life’s ups and downs.  Light a lamp in my heart.  Constantly make breakthroughs, and develop in many directions.  I will not stop studying.  I will become more steady and keep moving forward.”

He spoke to the young people of tomorrow, giving them advice on how to be true to themselves, be their own unique people.  

He finished by describing how the first time he’d stood on stage with XNINE, the director had told them to always remember this moment, remember the energy and impulse that brought you to the stage.

He was in a very thoughtful mood when he got home that day.  Rather than texting Yibo with goofy images and little anecdotes like they usually did, he wanted to see his face.

Xiao Zhan:  Video call?

He was able to connect with Yibo only an hour and a half later, but when he did, it was worth it.  Yibo looked like he’d just rushed into his hotel room, his hair all askew and he clearly hadn’t taken a shower yet.  

“Hey,” Yibo said with a smile.

“Hey,” Xiao Zhan said back, smiling at him a little.  It wasn’t one of those big, beautiful smiles, there was definitely more thoughtfulness behind it.  

Yibo gave him a look, searching his eyes.  “What’s wrong?”

Xiao Zhan shrugged, propping his phone up on the table.  He was drinking a cup of green tea, and he saw Yibo eye the tea through the phone like he wanted a sip.  It made him smile wider.  “I did an interview today.  They asked me about sincerity.  I talked a lot about my youth, how I want to be my own unique self, always pushing forward to pursuing my dreams.”

Yibo moved into the kitchenette of his hotel room, flipping the kettle on.  Is he making his own green tea now?  Xiao Zhan wondered fondly.

“You are probably the most sincere person I’ve ever met,” Yibo said quietly, serious.

“Wang Yibo!”

Yibo gave him a look through the screen.  “I think that’s the thing that attracted me the most to you, you know.  I mean, I love the fact that you make me laugh, and when I’m with you I feel so…”  He put a fist in front of his chest, then mimed that fist opening up like a flower.  “So free.  But the reason I feel that way around you is that your inner light shines so bright.”

Xiao Zhan went really quiet.  He was staring at Yibo through the phone.  Yibo was a man of few words, so when he spoke, especially when he spoke seriously, you had to pay attention.  He never lied or exaggerated.  Even when they were playing their flattery game, he had always been sincere.  It was the thing about him that had made Xiao Zhan trust him so, so much.

“Thank you, didi.”

Yibo nodded, his face still flat and sincere.  “This is why people enjoy being around you so much.  Why I enjoy being around you so much.  I feel like you’re… you’re a light that shines the way forward.”  He bit his lip, looking down.  He wrung his hands together a little nervously.  “You’re the light that I want to follow.”  He then looked back up, his eyes shining.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes were also filled with emotion.  His heart swelled in his chest.  “I didn’t really know that you saw me that way,” Xiao Zhan whispered.

Yibo swallowed heavily, looking straight at him.  “When you’re around I can’t keep my eyes off you.  And where you go, I always follow you.  You didn’t notice?”

Xiao Zhan bit his bottom lip into his mouth, worrying it between his teeth.  When he didn’t say anything, couldn’t think of what to say to that, Yibo turned his back and busied himself with pouring the hot water into a mug, dropping in a teabag with green tea.

“This tea is shit compared to yours,” Yibo said with a little laugh, smoothing over the awkward moment.  

“I’ll send some tea to you,” Xiao Zhan said suddenly.  “The good stuff.”

Yibo nodded, still avoiding his eyes.  He had run out of things to do, so he stood there sipping that god-awful hotel-room green tea.

“Wang Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said in a low voice.

“Mn?”  He was still looking away, fiddling with the string on the teabag.

“Can you look at me for a second?”

Yibo looked back at him, his eyes nervous.  His mouth was flattened into a line.  Like he was expecting bad news.  Oh, he thinks I don’t feel the same way about him that he feels about me, Xiao Zhan realized.

Xiao Zhan bowed his head, steepling his hands in his lap.  He then looked back up and said, “The whole time we were filming together, it’s not that I was unaware of your feelings.  But I felt I didn’t deserve them.”

Yibo’s eyebrows shot up, his mouth dropping open.

“You’ve got your whole life and career ahead of you.  And you’re the most kind, beautiful man I’ve ever met.  You might be narcissistic sometimes,” Xiao Zhan said with a wry smile, “But you work harder than anyone I’ve ever met.  And if someone tells you that you’re foolish for pursuing something, you just prove them wrong, time and again.  Whether it’s with your dancing, your acting, or now your motorcycle racing.  Most people would have given up one of their dreams.  You simply shrug off the negative feedback and push through.  You put your head down and you fight for what you want.  And you don’t accept second place as good enough.  I always felt like as soon as the world discovers who you really are, you’ll grow so fast that you’ll leave me behind in the dust.”

Xiao Zhan laughed a little, running his hand through his hair and looking away for a moment.  “I’ve never seen anyone who has such a strong spirit, such a drive to win.  And I felt that my own efforts couldn’t measure up.  After all, I’m just a normal guy.  You’re Wang Yibo.  I know both of us haven’t hit our peak yet, that we still have so much growing left to do.”  He looked in Yibo’s eyes when he said, “My most sincere wish is that we can grow together.”

Yibo smiled, that soft, small smile that was so much like Lan Zhan’s.  That smile that broke his heart into pieces.  “I hope you still feel that way a year from now, a decade from now.”

Xiao Zhan smiled wide.  “I hope you still feel the same way about me, too.”

Yibo laughed a little, picking up his phone and flopping down into an armchair.  “This conversation got heavy.”

“Yeah,” Xiao Zhan said with an answering laugh.  “Sorry, that’s my fault I guess.  I was in a heavy mood today.”

“Thanks for calling me, gege,” Yibo said, eyes sparkling.  “It feels really good to talk to you.  I miss hearing your voice.  Seeing your face.”

“You still listening to my songs when you fall asleep?” Xiao Zhan teased him with a smile.

Yibo nodded.  “Makes me sleep like a baby,” he said with a wink.

“When we hang up I’ll sing a song for you,” Xiao Zhan said shyly.  “I’ll send the recording to you.”

Yibo’s eyes widened.  “You will?”

Xiao Zhan nodded.  “If you want.”

“I want that,” Yibo said without hesitation.

“On one condition,” Xiao Zhan said, giving him a side-eye.

“I thought usually I was the one giving the conditions,” Yibo pouted.

“Not this time.”

“Okay, hit me with it,” Yibo said, closing his eyes and sitting up straight to brace himself for it.

“It’s easy.  You record one back for me.”

Yibo stuck out his bottom lip, giving him a little glare.  “My voice isn’t as nice as yours.”

“Yes it is,” Xiao Zhan insisted.  “It might be different, but I love your voice.  You know your voice sounds… husky,” he said with a grin.  “Sexy voice.”

Yibo laughed, covering his face with his hand.  “Gaaawd.”

“I want to listen to your voice while I fall asleep, too!” Xiao Zhan protested.

Yibo peeked out from behind his hand.  “Is that the only way I’m getting this song from you?”

Xiao Zhan stuck out his bottom lip, nodding.

Yibo leaned back in the chair, hooking his head on the back of it and staring at the ceiling.  “O-kay,” he finally agreed.

“Good!  I’m going to hang up now.  Send me yours first then I’ll send you mine.  Okay?”

Yibo covered his face with his hand again.  “So embarrassing.”

“Why?!  It wasn’t embarrassing for me to send one to you!”

“Yeah but you’re like the best singer.  I’m just okay.”

“That’s not like you, Yibo, to put yourself down.  You sing all the time.  I heard the song you sang with your Yuehua apprentice, Cheng Xiao, for The Meg soundtrack.  It was great.”

Yibo grimaced, giving him another look.  “So  not the same.  That song was half-rap and the other half just normal singing.  Not like singing a love song.  Her voice is better than mine and it covered mine for most of the real vocals.”

Once Again  was a love song!” Xiao Zhan exclaimed, pointing at him, referring to a song Yibo had sung for a soundtrack.

“Yeah, a shitty one,” Yibo groaned.

“Anyway it doesn’t have to be your own song that you sing.  Sing someone else’s.  I just want to hear your voice.  Sing a song that reminds you of me.”  He peered at Yibo, so eager to get this from him, though he couldn’t explain why, it really meant something to him.  “Do you have a song that you think of when you think of me?”

“Yeah,” Yibo replied without looking at him.  “Sang it at karaoke after you rejected me,” he said with a wry smile.

“Which song?” Xiao Zhan asked, eager.

Yibo closed his eyes.  “I’m hanging up.  I’ll sing it for you, okay?  I’ll sing it.  You’ll hear the song when I send it.”

“Okay, okay!” Xiao Zhan said with a delighted laugh.  “Okay.”

Yibo pursed his mouth, then gave Xiao Zhan a “V” sign with his fingers.  “I’m hanging up now.”

“Okay, Bo-di.  I’ll talk to you soon?”  Xiao Zhan’s eyes were soft as he gazed at him from the camera.

Yibo looked back at him, shy.  He nodded.  “Mn.”

“Okay, bye!”

“Bye bye.”

When he hung up the phone, Xiao Zhan paced around his place in excitement for a while.  Then he settled down and recorded himself singing a cappella to If I Were Young.

He waited impatiently for Yibo’s song.  Over 20 minutes must have passed before he finally got the ping from Yibo.  He must have tried to sing it several times.  When he opened the song to listen to it, he was amazed and touched that Yibo had sung Nan Hai  for him.  

I can't forget your love

But the outcome is difficult to change

I couldn't keep you here

Not like him, I couldn't give you

An Expected Future that he can give

A Childish boy

I miss you now

When Yibo sang it, his voice had that clear, husky quality that he had noticed when they sang together on set.  But it was also full of emotion, emotion that Yibo must have kept bottled up inside himself all the time.  He sang this song to his friends when I rejected him, Xiao Zhan realized.  He thought I’d rejected him forever.

Xiao Zhan’s eyes filled with tears when he listened to it.  He thought about the song he’d chosen for Yibo.  If I Was Young

If I was young and promising - not inferior

Knew what was precious

Those pipe dreams

That I never fulfilled for you, is my shameful experience

That’s how Xiao Zhan had felt when he’d rejected Yibo.  They’d both chosen the darkest moment of their relationship to capture in song.  After all… it was the moment that had the most feeling of longing to it.  

It was the song Xiao Zhan had sung to Yibo after they’d made love for the first time.  In that moment, Yibo had looked like he was falling apart and needed time to collect himself.  Xiao Zhan had sung a song of his regrets for all that he’d put Yibo through.  He wondered if Yibo remembered.

Xiao Zhan sent his own song back to Yibo, along with a message.

Xiao Zhan:  Thank you, didi

Xiao Zhan:  I love listening to your voice

Yibo:  Not as much as I love listening to yours

Xiao Zhan:  I can’t wait for us to sing together again

Xiao Zhan:  The music we’ll make together will be incredible

Yibo:  I hope I can live up to your expectation

Xiao Zhan:  You already have.

When Yibo didn’t write back to that one, Xiao Zhan imagined the soft-hearted boy overcome with emotion again.  Hopefully tucked in bed, his phone on the nightstand, his voice lulling him to sleep.

As a bonus for Yibo's hard work, he recorded himself singing his new song Satisfied.  

Xiao Zhan:  I'm singing this one for you, Wang Yibo

 

I fill my eyes with soft messages

I hold a letter from you in my hands

The scenery of your city, the curves of your lips

I gradually begin to see it clearly

 

The screen shows a scene full of warmth

Memories are like a film that keeps spinning

I record each frame by the scale of time

This has become the most precious souvenir

 

I just want to guard what you've given me with all my heart

The little things about us are everything to me

Even if the memories become blurred

I won't forget our beginnings

 

Once you learn to face loneliness, there's no turning back

Because of your smile, I won't be disappointed

Regardless of how hard the future is

As long as you're by my side, I'll be satisfied

 

Let the wind blow away all the meaningless words

All that'll be left is the promise we made to stay together

Use the temperature of your eyes and the calligraphy of our love

To mark down these unforgettable moments

 

I just want to guard what you've given me with all my heart

The little things about us are everything to me

Even if the memories become blurred

I won't forget our beginnings

 

Once you learn to face loneliness, there's no turning back

Because of your smile, I won't be disappointed

Regardless of how hard the future is

As long as you're by my side, I'll be satisfied

 

May you have sweet dreams.

Chapter Text

October 2018

Yibo listened to Xiao Zhan's voice singing him Satisfied over and over.  He'd never heard anything so beautiful in all his life.  He normally only listened to love songs when he was in a particularly dour mood, but listening to Xiao Zhan's voice singing to him, for him, it made his heart go all fluttery inside.  What did I do to deserve him?  Yibo wondered, not for the first time.  He's so special.  

The first time he listened to the song, he lay there in bed and cried.  He wanted Xiao Zhan's arms around him.  He hugged his legs to his chest instead, and let himself cry into his knees.  He cried until he felt worn out, until he was floating.  Then he flopped back on his bed, listened to it again, and tried to fall asleep.  The words kept bouncing around in his head.  

I just want to guard what you've given me with all my heart 
The little things about us are everything to me 
Even if the memories become blurred 
I won't forget our beginnings
  
Once you learn to face loneliness, there's no turning back 
Because of your smile, I won't be disappointed 
Regardless of how hard the future is

As long as you're by my side, I'll be satisfied 

Had he written the lyrics himself?  Yibo didn't have the heart or the confidence to ask him.  If he had written them, when?  Every single line of that song seemed to be speaking to him.  When he listened to it, he could almost feel that loving embrace around him.  Even if Xiao Zhan hadn't written the words himself, it didn't matter... he was singing it just for him.  A version of the song on his phone, sung by Xiao Zhan, that no one else would ever hear.

Yibo's heart was so full it was painful.  

He took that grateful, happy energy with him to work, channelling it into his character Ji Xiangkong and his fondness for his girlfriend.  It was a different feeling, but it helped.

Close to the middle of October, Uniq was approaching their 4-year anniversary since their debut.  Yuehua had something planned, they were flying all the members together to do a photo shoot.  The boys planned an evening of drinking afterwards.

Yibo was excited to see his friends again, they had so few opportunities to get together now with their schedules being so widely different.  A few concerts a year was all they’d managed.  They’d published a few new songs that year, but it was always hard to make it work.  Sungjoo was filming just as many projects as Yibo.  He could feel them starting to drift apart.

Sungjoo:  Can’t wait to see you guys tomorrow!

Sungjoo:  Remember the old days?

Sungjoo:  

Wenhan:  We’ve grown so much since then

Seungyoun:  Especially Yibo

Yixuan:  Our baby’s all growed up

Yixuan:  

Yibo:  We were all kids back then

Yibo:  

Wenhan:  He lives!

Yibo:  What?

Wenhan:  What do you mean, what?  You haven’t been on group chat in weeks!

Yibo:  I’ve been busy

Wenhan:  You totally stood me up

Yibo:  When?!

Yixuan:  Uh oh here we go

Wenhan:  You told me we’d get together on your last day in Beijing before going on set, then I waited for 2 hours for you at the bar before I gave up and left!  Yixuan had to soothe over my poor, tattered soul

Yibo pursed his lips, staring at his phone.  He was sitting in the airport, waiting to catch his flight.  He frowned.  Last day in Beijing?  What was I doing?  OH!  Oh no.  WHO was I doing!!!  Oh shit

Yibo:  Oh sorry 

Wenhan:  That’s it?  Sorry?!

Yibo:  Sorry sorry

Wenhan:  Heartless!  Where were you?!  I demand an explanation!

Yibo:  Something came up

Wenhan:  What does that mean?

Yixuan:  Wenhan, dude…

Wenhan:  I’m seriously pissed dude

Wenhan:  

Wenhan:  I don’t wait around on anyone

Yibo:  Something… came… up…

Wenhan:  What does that mean?!

Yixuan:  Wang Yibo!!

Sungjoo:  What’s going on here?!  I feel like I’m missing an essential part of this conversation!

Sungjoo:  Does this have anything to do with our baby’s 911??

Seungyoun:  I seriously can’t follow this

Sungjoo:  Yibo confessed to someone and was rejected

Seungyoun:  Oh really??

Yibo:  You told them?!!!!!

Yixuan:  They’re our brothers, Yibo, they were going to find out some time or another

Wenhan:  Wait!  Wait!  Wait!!!

Yibo: ……

Sungjoo:  …Waiting…

Wenhan:  Does this mean you worked it OUT?

Wenhan:  

Wenhan:  Like, WORKED it OUT?!?!

Yibo:  Maybe

Wenhan:  So cruel!!!  You stood me up for another guy!!!  I take it back, we were never sweethearts.  I’m so betrayed.

Seungyoun:  I still feel like I’m missing an essential part of the conversation

Yixuan:  I’ll fill you in tomorrow, some things shouldn’t be spoken about even over chat -_-

Wenhan:  Holy fuckin’ shit Yibo, colour me impressed

Wenhan:  What happened?!  I really didn’t think you had the balls!

Yibo:  I’m a guy, I have balls

Yixuan:  

Sungjoo:  

Seungyeon:  

Wenhan:  Jesus Christ

Wenhan:  This is bananas

Wenhan:  

Wenhan:  You’re being discreet, right?  Like shit seriously

Yibo:  Yes

Sungjoo:  Yibo is like the least talkative person outside of his friends, who’s he gonna tell?

Wenhan:  Point

Yixuan:  Our baby’s really all growed up

Yixuan:  I feel like an empty-nester

Sungjoo:  Baby Yibo, I’m so proud of you baby.  Follow your heart.  Don’t let anyone give you shit.  If they do tell me and I’ll come beat them up.

Wenhan:  That’s right, let those martial arts skills come to use sometime

Seungyoun:  I don’t know if I’d trust those skills.  Remember that time Sungjoo hit himself in the balls when he was twirling that staff around on stage that time?  Yeah.  I do.

Sungjoo:  

Yixuan:  Classy.

Seungyoun:  In all seriousness, I’m getting on a plane now.  See you all tomorrow, you can fill me in on all the gory details.

Yibo:  No.

Yibo:  No gory details.

Seungyoun:  Awww you’re no fun!

Seungyoun:  OK bye

Yibo: Bye bye

The next day, the Uniq boys all got together for a photoshoot.  They wore various different black suits, posing for solo shots, then some group shots.  In between shoots, they goofed off on a couch, sitting around chatting.  Conscious of the presence of the photographer and crew, they all left ribbing Yibo on his relationship woes for later.

The guys all gave each other hugs, Sungjoo even going so far as to pick Yibo up and spin him around.

“I missed you baby!” Sungjoo cried out, holding Yibo by the shoulders and giving him a good look.

Yibo pushed him away good-naturedly, then socked him on the shoulder.  “You too.”

Whenever one of them got up to do a solo photo shoot, the rest of them would sit on the couch while waiting and try to make them laugh.  They succeeded in getting Yixuan to burst out laughing with their antics.  

They put Yibo in a stylish black suit, his hair combed back from his face, silver hoop earrings in his ears.  He felt confident in the look, felt like he looked older, more mature.  Even though they’d worn similar black suits when they debuted, Yibo looked totally different.

“Wow, it’s crazy how much we’ve grown,” Seungyoun said, pulling out his phone.  “Look at our maknae before and after photos!”

   

“Wow!” Sungjoo said, coming for a look.  “I haven’t changed as much, but then again I wasn’t 17 when we debuted!

“Only thing different about me is my styling,” Yixuan said, pulling up his old photos.

“Biggest difference for you is that hair!” Wenhan said to Seungyoun, playing with his longer locks.  “I like it.”

Suengyoun shoved him off, laughing.  “Yeah right.”

“I’m so much older than our baby,” Yixuan sighed, looking at photos nostalgically.

“What do you look like?”  Suengyoun asked Wenhan, then peeked over his shoulder to check out the old photos.  “Oh yeah, so cute!  What a cutie.”

“At this rate, I’ll be dead before the rest of you,” Yixuan said, deadpan, continuing his own personal rant.

Yibo, Wenhan, Seungyoun, and Sungjoo all piled up on the couch together.  Yixuan then came and lay across their laps, playing dead.  The four of them clapped their hands together in a funeral pose, then started fake-crying.  Loud.  For a while.

Yibo then coughed, laughed, and pushed Yixuan’s legs off his lap.  

“Okay, okay, I’m not dead yet!” Yixuan cried out, getting to his feet.

“Gawd, you guys are nuts!” the videographer called out.

“And that’s why you love us!” Seungyoun responded, throwing him a finger-heart.

“We done with the shoot?” Sungjoo asked, standing and stretching.  “I think we should do a dance battle!  And go sing karaoke.  And drink.”

“That sounds very sensible,” Yixuan agreed.

A few hours later, after they’d gotten thoroughly drunk, relived all their memories by performing all their dance routines in front of cheering juniors at Yuehua, and finally retired to a karaoke box to sing their hearts out they finally turned to grill Yibo.  Who was definitely feeling happily tipsy.

“Okay, baby, you need to spill,” Sungjoo said seriously.  “We need to know everything.  Seungyoun and I weren’t there to hear the original story in person.”

“Yeah, what’s been going on?” Seungyoun asked, giving him a hairy eyeball.

Yibo grabbed another beer, kicking his feet up on the table in the karaoke box.  “There’s not much to tell,” he said, throwing his eyes to the side.

“Well that’s bullshit,” Yixuan said.  He then turned to the other two.  “Basically in a nutshell, Yibo confessed to the guy he co-starred with in that drama he was filming over the summer.  Then the guy rejected him.  What was it he said?” Yixuan asked, turning to Wenhan.

Wenhan pursed his lips, pinching his chin between a finger and thumb.  “I seem to recall that Yibo said that Xiao Zhan said that he liked him back, but that it was too risky for their careers.  And then I said that I agreed with that, because if anyone found out they’d be utterly fucked.”

“So that’s the quick summary,” Yixuan said, then turned to look at Yibo, who was still sprawled there ignoring them.  “So what happened?!”

Yibo shrugged a shoulder elegantly.  “He said he missed me.  Called me up.  I told him he didn’t have to miss me.  I went over to see him.  And we… made up.”  He gave them all a look, basically saying, and that’s all I’m telling!

“Did you do the nasty?!” Seungyoun asked, mouth dropping open.

“That’s none of your business!” Yibo growled.

“Oh my God you did!”  Seungyoun was practically bouncing in his seat.  “You did!!”

“I’ve been following Xiao Zhan since then,” Yixuan said, giving him a look.  “I saw him post a picture of you, him, and another castmate of yours on his birthday.”

Yibo just smiled a little.  “Nothing happened that night.  I only had a few hours to spend with him.  I had to go back on set.”

“So you guys are like a thing now?” Sungjoo asked, rapt.

Yibo shrugged again.  “I mean, we didn’t talk about it… explicitly like that.  But we chat with each other every day.  We feel… We feel… well.  We know how we feel about each other.”

“But how are you making it work?” Wenhan asked.  “Secret rendez-vous?”

Yibo bit his bottom lip into his mouth.  “We haven’t worked out the details yet.  I don’t know yet… We are both very busy… with work…”

“Oh, baby, that’s gotta be hard,” Wenhan said, putting his arm around Yibo’s shoulders.

“Yeah,” Yibo said in a low voice, looking down at his lap.  “But I’d rather… this… than nothing.  I care about him.  A lot.”

“You love him, you mean,” Sungjoo said, meeting his eyes.

Yibo nodded.

“This is a first,” Seungyoun said, mind blown.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you serious about someone before.”

“That’s because I never have been serious for anyone before,” Yibo agreed.

They all reached out to touch him, a hand on the arm, or on the knee.  Just giving him their support.

Yibo looked around at all of them, then smiled a little.  

“Our baby’s really all growed up,” Yixuan said again, a little sadly.

“It’s okay, papa,” Seungyoun comforted him, patting him on the knee.  “We’ll let you give Yibo away at the wedding.”

Yibo groaned.

———

It was only the next morning, when Yibo fumbled himself awake, eyes sticking together from a long night of hanging out, that he finally looked at his phone.  He realized belatedly he hadn’t texted Xiao Zhan in 2 days.  It was the first time since they’d moved their relationship to the next level that they’d gone so long without texting.  He found a slew of texts from Xiao Zhan.

Xiao Zhan:  Hey, Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  Where are you at?

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  Wang Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  Yibo Yibo Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  Hellooo, Earth to Yibo

Xiao Zhan:  WANG YIBO!

Xiao Zhan:  Where did you go!!

Xiao Zhan:  That’s it, I’m going to console myself by watching Day Day Up.  Can’t see you in person, I’m gonna watch your cute face online.

Xiao Zhan:  …

Xiao Zhan:  OMG!  WANG YIBO!  WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS!!

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:  They did a Cat vs. Dog episode???

Xiao Zhan:  And you did a cat dance?!!?!  In cat ears???

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  Look how happy that girl is in the background to see you in cat ears

Xiao Zhan:  She’s like YES, my inner dreams have finally come TRUE!

Xiao Zhan:  And look at how happy your brother is!!

Xiao Zhan:     

Xiao Zhan:  I would be too if I got to hold that cat, she’s super cute!!

Xiao Zhan:  Too bad you took those cat ears off so quick you were super cute with them

Xiao Zhan:  Although… WHAT IS THIS????

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  Oh GOD you’re so CUTE!!  And so good with animals!!!!

Xiao Zhan:  My my my, Yibo, what a large pussy you have!

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  Okay.  That’s it.  You’re marrying me.  

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  I’m not even asking.  I’m just telling you.  We’re getting married.  The end.

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:  I am marrying this man.

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  This shy man

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:  This man who is beautiful on the inside

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:  Okay?

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  Is that a no? 

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:  Sadface

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  I want to marry this man, too.  The one who gets sad at the idea of a beloved pet passing away.

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:  I don’t know why people think you are emotionless when you wear your heart on your sleeve

Xiao Zhan:  Or is it just that people don’t take the time to really look at you?

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:  I want to marry this man.

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  Even when he doesn’t respond to my text messages.

Xiao Zhan:  You must be busy… I miss your face.  

Yibo’s heart was in his throat the whole time he read through those messages.  Xiao Zhan had started off his messages in a rant, and he’d ended in a declaration of love.  Yibo’s whole chest swelled with emotion.  Why is he the only one that sees me?

Yibo took his phone in trembling hands and wrote him back.

Yibo:  Yes.

Xiao Zhan wrote him back about 20 minutes later.

Xiao Zhan:  What?

Yibo:  Yes.  The answer is yes.

Xiao Zhan:  Oh.

Xiao Zhan:  Sorry about all those messages yesterday, I was a bit stir-crazy.  I ended up having a whole one-sided conversation.

Yibo:  Yes.

Xiao Zhan:  Haha, okay.  I’m so impressed, you’re so good with animals.

Yibo:  I love animals.

Xiao Zhan:  And they love you.  You know animals can tell when you’re a good person on the inside.

Yibo:  Yes.

Xiao Zhan:  Why do you keep saying yes?

Yibo:  I’ll always say yes to you.

Yibo bit his bottom lip into his mouth, worried that he was coming on too strong again.  So he made an attempt to break the tension. 

Yibo:  Are you on set, yet?

Xiao Zhan:  Yes, I’m in Henan.

Yibo:  Wow, is it really pretty there?

Xiao Zhan:  Yes, it’s beautiful

Xiao Zhan:  So where were you yesterday?  Why didn’t you write me back?

Yibo:  I’m so sorry, it was the 4th anniversary of Uniq’s debut.  I flew to have a photo shoot and the guys and I got to drinking and talking, I didn’t check my phone and it ended up running out of batteries.

Xiao Zhan:  Oh!  Did you have a good time?

Yibo:  It was so great to see them again.  I feel like we’re starting to move in different directions, we have different interests, but they’ll always be my family.

Xiao Zhan:  I know the feeling.  XNINE is drifting apart, too.

Yibo:  We all support each other in our successes, that’s the main thing.

Yibo:  And, of course, getting together every now and again and acting like complete fools.  It’s a must-do.

Xiao Zhan:  Hahah!  Oh Yibo.  Priceless.

Yibo:  Look at the shots we took yesterday

Yibo:    

Yibo:    

Yibo:    

Yibo:  

Yibo:  Nice, right?

Xiao Zhan:  Handsome

Yibo:  HANDSOME.  You said HANDSOME.

Xiao Zhan:  Yes, yes, soak it up while it lasts.  You were handsome in the Uniq photoshoot.  You were CUTE as a fucking BUTTON in the cat episode of Day Day Up.

Yibo:  Oh God don’t remind me of that cat dance.

Xiao Zhan:  If you put cat ears on once for me I’ll give you a reward

Yibo:  No

Xiao Zhan:  Don’t you even want to know what the reward would be?

Yibo:  No

Xiao Zhan:  I promise it’ll be good

Yibo:  No

Xiao Zhan:  All right then.  Sad.

Yibo:  …Okay, what would be my reward?

Xiao Zhan:  You said you didn’t want it

Yibo:  …but I don’t know what it is

Xiao Zhan:  You said that didn’t matter

Yibo:  …But what if it was a good one?

Xiao Zhan:  Nope.

Yibo:  …

Xiao Zhan:  Okay let’s just say that the reward would have to do with bunnies.

Yibo:  What does that mean?

Xiao Zhan:  You wear cat ears, I’ll wear bunny ears

Yibo:  Oh god we’re so not doing that

Xiao Zhan:  No?  We did it on set once.  I wore cat ears and you put on the bunny ears for about .5 seconds. I have a screengrab to prove it.

Yibo:  We don’t speak of such things

Xiao Zhan:  I seem to recall when I had the cat ears on you called me “Cute”

Yibo:  You were  cute!

Xiao Zhan:  So you never want to see that again?

Yibo:  …

Xiao Zhan:  Okay.  Your choice.  But we could be wearing cat ears… and nothing else.

Yibo:  I’ll think about it.

Xiao Zhan:  Score!

Yibo:  Erase that message.  Jesus.

Yibo watched a little sadly as Xiao Zhan erased the message.  It was too risky for it to be found on one of their phones.

Yibo:  Thanks.  OK I’ll do it.  Eventually.

Xiao Zhan:  Told ya. 

Xiao Zhan:  OK I gotta run, they’re calling me

Xiao Zhan:  Next time write me back or I’ll go on another rant session ;)

Yibo:  The answer is yes.

Xiao Zhan:  Okay didi.

Yibo:  Jaiyou.

Xiao Zhan:  Jiayou.

After he put his phone away, Yibo groaned and stuffed his face in a pillow.  What did I just agree to?!

Chapter Text

October 2018

 

Xiao Zhan was neck-deep in filming Jade Dynasty, his next film.  The character was so different from any he had played before, he was really supposed to be young, lively, and a little clueless.  This character was really different from Xiao Zhan's natural personality, and the director kept pushing him to take it further and further, so he really started to worry about whether or not he was doing a good job.  

Interestingly, Xiao Zhan was collaborating with Meng Meiqi on this project, who had been the number 1 winner in Yibo's show Produce 101.  Xiao Zhan and Meiqi had worked together before, on an episode of Produce 101 where Xiao Zhan had come in as a guest idol, they'd done a dance together.  

When they first met on set of Jade Dynasty, they ended up breaking the ice by talking about Yibo.

"So how did you like working with Wang Yibo?" she asked him with a smile.

"I found him great to work with," Xiao Zhan said with a matching smile of his own. "He's really hardworking, even though he's also goofy and likes to play around.  I really enjoyed working with him."

Meiqi rolled her eyes a little and groaned. "Teacher Wang was soooo hard on us!" she complained. "He really wouldn't let anyone slack off, not even for a minute.  And he changed the team's leader at a moment's notice.  But he was also suuuper cute and in the end the ones who got to work closely with him didn’t regret it.”

At first when she started complaining about Yibo, Xiao Zhan found himself frowning.  He demands the best, Xiao Zhan thought to himself.  As long as you deliver that, he will respect you and be able to have fun with you.  But you need to reach his standard first.  And his standards are high.

“I have always been really impressed by Yibo’s dedication to his work,” Xiao Zhan said with a straight face.  “I never had an issue working with him, myself.”

“Of course,” Meiqi said, smiling a little and tucking her hair behind her ear.  She threw him a shy smile, blinking widely at him.

Oh God she’s trying to win me over with her looks.  Well, that isn’t going to work.

Xiao Zhan had to film a lot of scenes for this movie that he found embarrassing and over-the-top.  One of the first scenes he had to film was when he was out in the wilderness and he ended up getting covered in biting insects, then had to run off screaming through some underbrush, stripping off his shirt and scratching madly at his chest.  The director really wanted him to play it up, screaming and wailing.  If Xiao Zhan had it his own way, he would have toned it down, but the director kept wanting him to bring it up instead.  

Ultimately, he had to follow the direction of the director - that was his job.  

Xiao Zhan texted Yibo that night to talk about it.  He sat on his bed, drinking some green tea, biting his lip between his teeth.

Xiao Zhan:  Well I filmed that shirtless scene I told you about.

Yibo:  Oh?  How did it go?

Xiao Zhan:  Horrible.  To be honest, I’m not feeling great about this one so far.  The director is asking everyone to over-act, really big, expressive movements.  I don’t find it feels natural.

Yibo:  It is supposed to be a fantasy film.  Do you trust the director’s vision?

Xiao Zhan:  I’m not sure.

Yibo:  Well, all you can do is do your best.  

Xiao Zhan:  Maybe my best isn’t good enough anymore.

Yibo:  Bullshit.  You’re amazing.  Follow your gut.

Xiao Zhan:  I also don’t feel a strong connection with my co-stars on this one.  No chemistry.  It’s making it really hard.

Yibo:  Well we’re not going to have chemistry with everyone that we work with.

Yibo:  The way I feel about my co-star now is really more of a sisterly vibe.  I’m gonna have to kiss her but as long as I don’t have to go further than that it’s OK, I can fake it.

Xiao Zhan:  I’ve got to film a kiss scene with Meng Meiqi soon.

Yibo:  Ha!

Xiao Zhan:  She said you were a very strict teacher!

Yibo:  I bet.  Those girls gave me such a hard time.  At least she was consistent, I never had to give her a hard time herself.  

Xiao Zhan:  She’s trying hard but there’s something missing.  Can’t put my finger on it.

Yibo:  Can’t you mentor her?

Xiao Zhan:  I’ll try

Yibo:  So… do I get to see a picture of this shirtless shot?  ;)

Xiao Zhan:  Hell no, I hate my styling

Yibo:  Haha!  

Xiao Zhan:  Tell you what, I’ll send you something from Oh! My Emperor Instead

Xiao Zhan:  

Yibo:  Ahhhhh, so pretty

Xiao Zhan:  

Yibo:  Damn, I wish I could see you

Yibo:  You have no idea what I'm thinking right now

Xiao Zhan:  My body isn’t as nice as yours

Xiao Zhan:    

Xiao Zhan:  (I think I have an idea what you're thinking about)

Xiao Zhan:  

Yibo:  Have you been searching my body online?!

Xiao Zhan:  I just searched my own body online!  Then I searched yours!

Xiao Zhan:  There’s like dozens of pictures of your abs online

Xiao Zhan:  What did you expect?

Yibo:  Well that’s what I get for doing a dance like EOEO

Yibo:  All the fans take pictures of my abs when I’m doing the dance

Xiao Zhan:  You show off your abs on your own, too!

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  Shameless

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  Explain THIS.  What exactly is going on here?!

Xiao Zhan:  

Yibo:  Not anymore!  I don’t do that anymore!

Yibo:  

Yibo:  Don’t judge my young and immature self

Xiao Zhan:  How can you be so sexy then be so cute?

Xiao Zhan:  

Xiao Zhan:  I might just keep searching you online it's endless fun

Yibo:  .......

Xiao Zhan:  So… when can I see you?  Do you ever have a free day coming up?

Yibo:  I’m flying to Vancouver at the end of the week

Xiao Zhan:  Oh really?  Canada?

Yibo:  We’re shooting some scenes there

Yibo:  I might be unreachable for a few days due to the time difference

Yibo:  When I get back from Vancouver I’ll be in Beijing for a couple of days

Xiao Zhan:  When’s that?

Yibo:  Beginning of November

Xiao Zhan:  We’re actually filming some scenes from the studio in Beijing for the green screen work, we might overlap!

Yibo:  Really?!

Xiao Zhan:  Yeah!

Yibo:  You could come over.  We could have that weekend together.  Well, as much of a weekend as the two of us get.

Xiao Zhan:  That sounds amazing

Yibo:  I miss you so much gege

Xiao Zhan:  Me too, didi

Yibo:  Let me know your dates in Beijing, I’ll look forward to it

Xiao Zhan:  I will.  Take care, Wang Yibo

Yibo:  You too, Xiao Zhan

———

Filming that kiss scene was probably the worst experience in the whole filming of the movie.  First of all, Xiao Zhan’s character had to run away from some bad guys who were chasing him and Meng Meiqi’s character.  They had to run through some brush, then Meiqi pulled him to the ground, and they evaded the bad guy when Meiqi kissed Xiao Zhan.

The first thing that went wrong was when they were running through the brush.  The branches scraped them all over their bodies, pulling up scrapes on their hands and legs.  Meiqi actually had a branch scratch her on the face.

Then she broke down crying.

Xiao Zhan didn’t know what to do, so he ended up hovering nearby while some crew members tried to calm her down, wiping her face.  

When Meiqi finally managed to calm herself, they set back up again to shoot the shot.  The kiss itself was awkward, it was meant to be - Meiqi took Xiao Zhan by surprise in the scene, so Xiao Zhan was not meant to kiss her back.  After all, his character was in love with someone else.  So for the scene, he just had to lay there, his mouth a little open, while she kissed him, her eyes peering to the side.  

It was quite chilly outside as well, and the crew were able to stand around in puffer jackets but Xiao Zhan had to shoot the scenes in his tattered robes.  He made do, making it look like he wasn’t cold, but truth was he was freezing.

In the week after the kiss scene, he had a bunch of other outdoor shots to film.  In one of them he needed to struggle out of a lake, walking towards shore.  There was a monkey being held on a wire leash that watched him as he waded out.  The water was bitter cold, and when he waded out of the water, he shot the scene well but then the crew had to wrap him up in blankets to warm him back up again.  Acting with the monkey was fun, though.  It was super cute.  And there was a dog, too!  The animals were the best.  He ended up spending a lot of time with the dog, running around the set, feeding it treats.  He fell in love with that dog.  I want a dog!  A shiba inu would be best.  But I can’t, no time to take care of one.

On top of the branches scratching him, and the cold water, he also had fighting scenes with wires.  In several of the scenes he had to be dragged along the ground, or had to scoot along the ground on his butt, or had to carry water pails or fruit over his shoulders with a large stick while running.  It was starting to take a toll on his body.  He had bruises all over his body - on his legs, on his butt, on his elbows.

I’ll be black and blue by the time I see Yibo!  Xiao Zhan thought to himself.  He’s going to think I’ve been abused.

———

Yibo and the crew got on a plane to fly to Vancouver.  He’d never been to Canada before.  

His first impressions of Vancouver?  Clean!  Beautiful!  So few people!  It was a city that was bustling with activity and yet still managed to seem like it was very much an outdoors city, with large sprawling parks and beautiful water.  

The best thing about Vancouver though - no one had a clue who he was.  He felt totally, utterly free walking around.  He didn’t have to wear a face mask in public.  He could just stroll about with the crew and be… himself.  It was refreshing.

They were there for just over a week, but in that time, Yibo had a chance to do some sightseeing, to walk around by the water, and to eat with the crew at some great restaurants.  He wasn’t expecting the conversation that came up when they were all out for dinner.

“Did you know that gay marriage is legal in Canada?” Wang Zixuan, his co-star, asked the group.  Her face was open and expressive, non-judgemental.

Jerry Yan, who played Pei Xi, shrugged.  “Not a big deal.  There’s a movement now to legalize gay marriage in Taiwan.  I expect it’ll pass next year.  Why does anyone care about that stuff?”

Guansen, who played Yibo’s character Ji Xiangkong’s best friend, and who had become fast friends with Yibo on set, didn’t seem to take issue with it either.  “I don’t see what the big deal is, either.  Let people love who they wanna love.”

“I guess most young people think this way,” Zixuan said with a smile.

Yibo sat there silent, listening to the conversation and pretending not to care what they said.  Wow, I’m lucky I’ve got such progressive co-stars, he thought with relief.

“There’s a club called Celebrities here in Vancouver, it’s really famous!” Zixuan continued.  “Do you want to go?”

“You want to go to a gay bar?” Guansen asked, goggling at her.

“Why not!  It’d be fun,” she said with a wide smile.  

“There are gay bars in Beijing,” Jerry said with a smile.  “Do you go to those, too?”

“That’s different,” Zixuan said, pushing her hair behind her shoulders.  “Celebrities is world-famous.  If you’re going to go out once in Vancouver, that’s the place to go.  Not just gay people go there, everybody goes there.  Plus they have a VIP treatment.  We can book a private table with our own wait staff.  It would be cool!”

Yibo was still sitting there silently, observing.  She took notice of him all of a sudden.

“Yibo, you’ll go, won’t you?  Let’s go!”

Yibo just shrugged noncommittally.  “If you want to go there I’ll come, but I couldn’t care one way or the other.”

“You love dancing,” Zixuan said.  Then she gave him a side-eye.  “Are you worried about getting hit on by guys?”

Yibo rolled his eyes to the ceiling.  “I know how to fend off people who give me attention I’m not interested in.  But I do love dancing, so I’m not opposed to going out to dance.  If that’s the venue you want to choose, whatever.”

Zixuan clapped her hands, delighted.  “All right!  It’s decided.  We’re going!”

The following night, when they were due to go, Yibo wished he’d resisted harder.  Wished he’d come up with some reason not to go.  But he couldn’t seem to think of one that wouldn’t make someone think he protests too much.

He dressed simply for the evening, skinny black jeans with holes in the knees, stylish white t-shirt and a black vest.  He styled his hair minimally, just tossing a little gel in his hair to scrape it back out of his eyes.  

Zixuan looked great, dressed in a satin tank top and a mini-skirt.  Jerry looked like he couldn’t care one way or the other, just dressed simply in jeans and a nice shirt.  Guansen looked adorable in a fancy t-shirt and skinny blue jeans.  Oh, he’s gonna get hit on for sure!  Yibo thought internally with a smirk.

When they arrived, due to the VIP treatment they’d booked, they were able to bypass the wait by the line entirely.  They were escorted up to a private area on the second floor, overlooking the dance floor below.  They then had some private wait staff that got them some drinks.

They sat around chatting for a while, drinking, and they could have been in any club in the world.  The only difference was the occasional drag queen that came out to do a presentation on the stage.  They ate some snacks, then a DJ came out on stage and the music was really awesome.

Yibo was bopping his knee as he sat there, looking down at the swaying bodies on the dance floor below.  He was dying to get out there, just to dance.  He couldn’t hear great music and not want to dance.

“Why don’t you go dance?” Zixuan urged him.  “You love dancing.”

Yibo drained his drink, then nodded.  “I think I will.”

“You’re gonna go down and dance?  With them?”  Guansen asked, a little afraid for him.

“Nobody knows me here,” Yibo said with a shrug.  “Besides, they’re gay, they’re not lepers.  I’m just going to dance.  It’ll be fine.”

Yibo then got up and sauntered away, unconcerned.  He weaved his way down through the crowd, down the stairs, and out onto the dance floor.  

When he melted into the crowd, he felt anonymous.  No one paid attention to him at first, he just became one with the sea of bodies.  When he danced to the music on the dance floor, he didn’t use any of his fancy dance moves, he just let his body easily sway to the beat, moving from side to side.  He threw his head back and closed his eyes, letting the beat take him over.

Knowing that no one recognized him was liberating.  The more he danced, the more he got into it.  Song followed song, and the others never came to look for him, so he started to loosen up, dancing with his hips more.  

At some point, the music pumped up a lot of energy, and the whole crowd was jumping up and down in the air.  Yibo joined in, laughing out loud.  So fun!  What would it feel to dance like this back in China?

Dancing in a crowd felt totally different to dancing on a stage.  On a stage, he was still playing a character, still acting for a camera.  On the dance floor in the club, he just became a human, like one component of a larger machine.  

At some point, he felt the guys around him start to pay attention to him.  He had a fine sheen of sweat on his skin, and he had a loose, free expression on his face, so surely the others around him noticed how attractive he was and how well he moved.  One guy was even bold enough to slide up behind him, dancing up against his back.  Yibo was feeling pleasantly buzzed, and though a part of him just wanted to give in to the dance, when someone approached him so boldly Yibo startled.  

He pulled away, bowing apologetically at the guy who was trying to make a move on him, and threaded his way through the crowd.  He headed towards the bathroom, thinking to make a quick bio break on his way back up to the VIP table.  But the guy who was pursuing him followed him to the bathroom.

Canadians don’t bow, Yibo realized when the guy pushed him forcefully into a bathroom stall, crowding in with him.  Did he think that was an invitation?!

Yibo didn’t even see what the guy looked like he just felt himself pushed into the stall, and the next thing the guy was leaning in like he wanted to kiss him.

Yibo immediately called up his Methods.  He picked the most effective - Method 2: Hand Blocking Mouth.  He put his hand up in front of his mouth, blocking the incoming lips from making contact.  

The guy was bold enough to slide his hand over Yibo’s waist.  “Don’t like kissing?” he murmured.  He then slid his hand down towards a part of Yibo’s anatomy that he had absolutely no intention of letting this guy touch.

Yibo then applied Method 1: Dodge and Roll.  He ducked, twisting his body, then pushed the door of the stall back open again, practically running out.  His hand was still covering his mouth, his eyes a bit wild.

He was shocked even more when he saw Guansen in the bathroom, giving him a look.  Guansen grabbed his wrist, pulling him out of the bathroom and out into the hallway.  

“I knew dancing was a bad idea,” Guansen swore, looking Yibo up and down.  “You okay?”

Yibo dropped his hand from his mouth, nodding.  “Fine.  He didn’t hurt me, just didn’t understand my actions.  I should have been more clear.”

Guansen sighed, dropping his head.  “Have a little more self-preservation, Yibo.  So reckless.  What if somebody saw you?  Do you have any idea how much your actions could be misinterpreted?”

Yibo felt anger growing in his chest.  Is he mad because he thinks people might mistakenly think that I’m gay?  And that he’d be tainted by association?  He pushed past Guansen, then threaded his way back through the crowd to the stairs.  Guansen trailed after behind him, still trying to scold him for his actions, but Yibo largely ignored him.  When he got back upstairs, he bowed to the others who were still enjoying the drag show from the VIP area on top.  “I’m feeling really tired,” Yibo explained. “I’m gonna head back.”

Yixuan got to her feet.  “Okay.  We should all be heading out too, right?  Let’s get a car together.”

Yibo nodded, lips pursed together in a line.

When he got back to his hotel room, Yibo stripped off his clothes then fell face-down on the bed.  He groaned, burrowing his head in his pillow.  The fuck, Wang Yibo.  You're so stupid.  He just missed Xiao Zhan so much, and in those moments when he was dancing he felt so free.  The thing was, Guansen was right.  There was a huge Chinese population in Vancouver.  There was still a possibility someone could recognize him.  He had horrified visions of what would happen if someone snapped a picture of him pushing out of that bathroom stall, his hand over his mouth, hair disheveled and sweat on his skin.  

Stupid, stupid Yibo.

———

Xiao Zhan glanced at the clock, doing the mental math to figure out what time it was in Vancouver.  It was just after midnight in China, so it should be… 8am in Vancouver.

Xiao Zhan:  Are you awake yet?

A half hour later, when Xiao Zhan was getting ready for bed, he got a response.

Yibo:  I’m up.

Xiao Zhan:  What’s it like in Vancouver?

Yibo:  No one knows us over here.  It’s really refreshing.  

Yibo:  I can walk around without a mask on, nobody even looks at me.  I’ve been told by the locals here that in general Canadians don’t really bother about celebrities.  

Yibo:  If they see a celebrity on the street they’ll just wave and move along.  They don’t have this mob mentality here it’s really great.

Xiao Zhan:  That sounds so nice

Yibo:  We can retire here.  If we ever need a break, need to run away from it all, let’s come to Canada gege.  I feel so… free.

Xiao Zhan:  Do you even remember a time when you could walk around and nobody knew your face?

Xiao Zhan felt really sad asking the question, but he realized that, unlike himself, Yibo had been thrown into the celebrity world when he was so young that he never felt that kind of “normal” life. 

Yibo:  No.

Yibo:  

Yibo:  After all, who could forget this face?

Xiao Zhan cackled out loud, sliding further down in his bed.

Yibo:  I went to a gay bar the other night.

Xiao Zhan nearly fell off the couch in shock.

Xiao Zhan:  You didn’t!

———

Yibo was sitting there, freshly showered, a towel around his waist as he conversed with Xiao Zhan.  He chewed on his lip, not even sure why he had offered that piece of information.  Maybe he wanted to make the other man jealous.

Yibo:  The whole crew wanted to go.  Kind of like a touristy thing.  The club is famous, it’s called Celebrities.

Yibo twisted his face into a smile as he remembered.  Up until that guy who had hit on him, Yibo had been really enjoying himself.  He loved dancing, and being surrounded by others who felt the same had filled him with boundless energy.

Xiao Zhan:  Weren’t you worried someone would see you there?  That could ruin your career, Bo-di.

Yibo closed his eyes, tilting his head back as he remembered.  The pounding music, the lights, lasers, the bodies dancing with abandon.

Yibo:  I danced the night away.  I felt so free.

Yibo:  Don’t tell anyone?

Xiao Zhan:  Of course not.  Your secret’s safe with me.

Yibo let out a raggedy breath, relief pouring over his body.  Silence stretched out between them, Yibo trying to find a way to end this awkward conversation.  He needed to get dressed soon.

Xiao Zhan:  Did you meet any cute guys?

Yibo:  No one that compares to you.

Yibo had typed that out and sent it before he could even consider whether it was wise, then he stared at his phone accusingly like it had somehow typed out the message on its own.  He groaned, fisting his hands in his hair.  

He couldn’t tell his beloved Xiao Zhan how in that dark club, when he drifted away from the others and felt anonymous, he had found himself dancing with the men around him and feeling like he could do anything he wanted, be anything he wanted.  Yibo was feeling the chafing of the restraints that made him and Xiao Zhan keep their relationship a secret.  Just once, he wanted to hold his hand in public.  Just once, he wanted to dance with him in front of his friends.  Just once, he wanted to walk down the red carpet together with him.  

Yibo:  I miss you, Xiao Zhan.

———

Xiao Zhan sat there staring at his phone, blinking.  Something had happened in Vancouver.  That was the only explanation for Yibo not only admitting that he missed him, but also using his full name.

Xiao Zhan:  Do you want to do a video call?

Yibo:  It’s late there, and I have to get ready to go now.  We don’t have time.

Xiao Zhan:  I can make the time, if you need to talk.

Yibo didn’t respond for a while, which made Xiao Zhan worry his lip between his teeth.  

Yibo:  There’s never enough time.  Not for us.

Xiao Zhan:  Bo-di?  Are you okay?

Xiao Zhan sat there watching his phone for another hour, but when Yibo never wrote him back, he finally dragged himself to bed and fell into a restless sleep.

Chapter Text

October - November 2018

 

Xiao Zhan agonized over that text message all day the next day, Yibo still not having responded to him.  He found himself distracted while he was filming, his mind only half-focused on his work.  At some point during the day, he took himself aside, then slapped himself on the cheeks.  Get it together, Xiao Zhan.  Everything’s fine!

It was still a week until he and Yibo could meet up in Beijing.  Xiao Zhan would be flying back first, Yibo arriving a few days after.

Xiao Zhan texted Yibo again, careless of what time it was where he was, just leaving the messages for him when he could pick them up.

Xiao Zhan:  Yibo, if you need to talk you can call me

Xiao Zhan:  Anytime

Xiao Zhan:  I don’t care if it’s the middle of the night here, just call

Xiao Zhan:  Okay?

Xiao Zhan:  I miss you and I want to see your face, hear your voice

Xiao Zhan felt a little embarrassed typing out those words, but he thought probably Yibo needed to hear them.  So he bit his lips and wrote them out anyway.

It was probably 3am when the phone started to ring with an incoming video call.  Xiao Zhan blearily woke up, and seeing Yibo’s incoming call he swiped the call open.

“Hi,” Xiao Zhan said, propping the phone up on the nightstand.  His bare shoulder peeked out from under the covers.

Yibo looked radiant, sunlight shining on his hair, turning it a soft shade of maroon.  He smiled shyly at Xiao Zhan.  “Hi.  I’m sorry about the time… I tried to call earlier but it was a rush this morning.”

“’S okay,” Xiao Zhan said, yawning.

“Do you want me to call back tonight?  Your morning?”  Yibo peered at him, an amused expression on his face.

Xiao Zhan shook his head, gazing at the phone.  “Want to talk now.”

Yibo walked gently, the scenery sloping behind him.  He had earbuds trailing from his phone into his ears, helping to keep their conversation private.  “You okay?”

“That’s what I wanted to ask you,” Xiao Zhan said a little grumpily.

Yibo looked a little guilty at that, dropping his head.  “Sorry, I shouldn’t leave a message like that and run off.  Leave you hanging.  Everything’s OK.”

“What happened?”  Xiao Zhan asked, peering at him through the screen.  

Yibo shrugged one shoulder, looking off to the side.  “Just missed you is all.”

“Someone hit on you at that club, didn’t they?” Xiao Zhan said.

Yibo’s eyes shot over to look at him.  “How did you know that?!”

Xiao Zhan laughed a little.  “You’re very easy to read, Bo-di.”

Yibo pouted a little.  

Xiao Zhan said, “So, what did he look like?”

Yibo let out a bark of a laugh.  “I don’t even remember.  I didn’t even see him, I was just dancing, then he danced up behind me, then I ran off and he followed me and pushed me into a bathroom stall and I had to,” he mimed covering his face and ducking.  “It was sooo embarrassing, Guansen saw the whole thing.”

Xiao Zhan burst out laughing, long and hard.  “Oh, Yibo Yibo, I can picture it now.  Duck and cover!”

Yibo stuck out his bottom lip.  “Can’t a man just dance in peace?!”

“If you’re at a gay club, generally you’re there to pick up.  Of course someone would try to pick you up.  You’re fucking gorgeous.”  Xiao Zhan’s eyes were twinkling.

Yibo groaned, tilting his head up to the sky and closing his eyes.  “I don’t want anyone to pick me up but you.”

Xiao Zhan’s heart flopped over in his chest.  “Thanks for that, Bo-di.  When I went to sleep tonight I had a moment of doubt.”

Yibo peered down at him.  “Doubt?”

Xiao Zhan shrugged, his shoulder peeking out from under the blanket.  “I guess a part of me always thinks someone younger than me, more attractive than me, is going to come along and catch your eye.  Then you’ll just— whoosh!  And be gone.”

Yibo glared at him a little.  “Trust me, Xiao Zhan, that is not  going to happen.”

“How do you know?  You don’t know who you’re going to meet.”

Yibo sat down on a bench, sprawling his legs out.  “No one ever really caught my eye before you.  And I’ve been approached plenty.”

“Really?” Xiao Zhan asked, surprised.

Yibo nodded.  “Really really.”

“I guess I just don’t get why you even like me at all,” Xiao Zhan said in a little voice, pulling the covers tight around him.

Yibo bit his lips into a line, looking at him.  Then he finally said, “I think I’d need to write a book to list all the reasons I like you.  And I’m not good with words.”

Xiao Zhan’s eyes softened.  “I’ll try not to let my insecurities run circles in my head,” he promised in a low voice.

Yibo nodded, satisfied.  “Good.  When I see you, I’ll prove to you how much I like you,” he said in a whisper, covering his mouth with his hand.  

Xiao Zhan covered his face with his hands.  “Gaaaawd!”

Yibo’s head jerked up, then he waved.  He looked back at his phone.  “Sorry, gege, I’ve gotta go.  You’ll be able to fall back asleep okay?”

Xiao Zhan dropped his hands from his face, then nodded solemnly. “Yeah.”

“Okay,” Yibo said, nodding.  “Okay.”  He then sighed.  “I’m sorry.”

“No need for sorry,” Xiao Zhan said lightly.  

Yibo let out a soft little smile, then nodded once.  “Okay.”

“Off you go then, didi, I know they’re calling you back.  Do well today!  Jiayou!”

Yibo held up a fist to the camera, pretending to fist bump him through the phone.  “Jiayou.”

After they hung up the phone, Xiao Zhan snuggled deeper into the covers, covering his face with his hands again.  Fuuuck, I want to see him.  I want to see him now!

———

Xiao Zhan counted down the days until he would see Yibo again.  He ended up flying to Beijing first, to shoot some of the interior studio shots for the film.  On the day that Yibo was getting back, he kept checking his phone, waiting for the ping that he knew was incoming.  When it finally came, his heart starting beating faster.

Yibo:  Just arrived at the airport

Yibo:  What’s your schedule like?

Xiao Zhan:  I have tomorrow off, I can come meet you tonight and we’ll have a whole day together tomorrow

Xiao Zhan:  If you want

Yibo:  I’m free tomorrow too

Yibo:  Come to my place when you’re free?  I’ll be home in an hour

Xiao Zhan:  I’ll be there soon

Xiao Zhan got home a couple of hours later.  He got ready, showering and dressing himself in soft blue jeans and a tight white t-shirt, putting on a necklace and a loose, comfortable sweater.  He pulled on his mask and a baseball cap, then tossed a couple changes of clothes and a toiletries kit in a bag.

On his way out, he stopped at the corner market, picking up some vegetables, meat, and rice.  He might not even have soy sauce there, Xiao Zhan thought, then made a detour to pick up some condiments.  Breakfast… could make omelettes.  He made another detour, grabbing some eggs, mushrooms, and bell peppers.  And some cheese.  OK!  Provisions acquired.

He finally had everything he needed.  He called for a car, then when he was in the backseat he texted Yibo.  

Xiao Zhan:  On my way!

———

First thing Yibo did when he got home was to take a shower.  The flight had been so long that he was more than a little exhausted.  He freshened up, taking particular care since he would see his favourite gege soon!

He texted Xiao Zhan his door code, then got dressed.  He just pulled on a pair of thin track pants and a tank top, sliding a track jacket over his shoulders.  He made sure he smelled nice, spritzing just a touch and putting deodorant, brushing his teeth.  When he deemed himself presentable, he padded back into the living room.  

He put the TV on, flopping down on the couch.  He intended to stay awake until Xiao Zhan got there, but as soon as he put his head on the pillow, he ended up falling asleep.

———

When Xiao Zhan arrived at Yibo’s apartment, he tried knocking first.  When there was no answer, he punched in the door code to let himself in.  He carried in the groceries, putting them on the floor as he toed out of his shoes.

He stopped in his tracks when he saw Yibo on the couch in the living room, fast asleep.  Yibo’s hair was still a little damp, smushed up against the pillow on the couch.  His mouth was open a little, long-fingered hands curled up under his head.  His legs were pulled up on the end of the couch.

Xiao Zhan walked over to him, then took out his phone, taking a snap of the cute sleeping Yibo.  He then squatted down in front of him, gently brushing the hair out of his eyes.  Yibo stirred a little, shifting and mumbling, but he didn’t wake up.

He must be exhausted, poor thing,  Xiao Zhan thought fondly.  

Xiao Zhan went to the kitchen, unpacking the supplies for the weekend.  He started by putting on some rice in the rice cooker.  He then chopped up some vegetables, making up a quick stir fry with just a hint of soy sauce and a little spice.  He then sliced up the meat, making up a kind of sweet and sour sauce and cooking the meat at the same time in a pan, using a wooden spoon to get the meat nice and grilled.

As he was cooking, arms slipped around his waist, and a head popped onto his shoulder as Yibo stood up on his tiptoes behind him.  

Xiao Zhan slid his hand over the arm around his waist.  “You woke up?” Xiao Zhan asked softly.

Yibo grunted.  “Smells nice.”

“Me or the food?” Xiao Zhan asked with a smile.

Yibo grunted again.  “Both.”

Xiao Zhan laced his fingers through Yibo’s around his waist.  “You hungry?”

Yibo nodded his head against Xiao Zhan’s shoulder.  “Now I am.”  As evidence, his stomach rumbled.  He let out a laugh, burying his face into the side of Xiao Zhan’s neck.

Xiao Zhan giggled, ticklish.  “Wang Yibo, let me finish cooking!”

Yibo pressed a kiss into the side of Xiao Zhan’s neck.  “But I missed you.  Wanna kiss you.”

“We’ve got almost two days to kiss each other.  I’ll burn the meat!”

Yibo mouthed the side of Xiao Zhan’s neck again, lips tracing a slow path up and down Xiao Zhan’s pulse.  “Kiss me once then I’ll let you cook.”

Xiao Zhan rolled his eyes to the ceiling, then turned his head.  He gave Yibo a look.

Yibo slid his hand around to Xiao Zhan’s back, ran it up his shoulder, then slid it around to grip the front of Xiao Zhan’s neck.  He splayed that hand under Xiao Zhan’s throat gently, then tipped his head backward to press their lips together.  Their first kiss was sweet, lingering.  Both their eyes closed and they sighed into it, swaying a little.  When Yibo pulled back, his eyes were unfocused but happy.  “Okay.”

Xiao Zhan nodded sensibly.  “Okay.  I’m almost done, we can eat.”

Yibo pulled back, yawning and stretching.  Xiao Zhan admired how the bottom of Yibo’s tank top rode up, exposing a line of stomach to the air.  He then turned back to his cooking, quickly stirring the meat so it wouldn’t burn.  “Get out some rice bowls, plates.”

Yibo obediently padded over to the cupboards, taking out the rice bowls and plates.  He put the plates next to Xiao Zhan, then took the rice bowls over to the rice cooker and filled them with heaping bowls of fresh white rice.  He hummed a little as he did it, and Xiao Zhan realized with a thumping heart that Yibo was humming the tune to Satisfied.

Yibo set the rice bowls on the table, then got out some chopsticks and napkins.  Xiao Zhan plated the food, the vegetables, meat, then drizzling the sweet and sour sauce on top of the meat.  When he was satisfied with the presentation, he brought the plates over to the table.  

This is so domestic, Xiao Zhan thought to himself fondly as they sat at the table.  Yibo looked over at him, his eyes soft and twinkling, then he started to eat.  He hummed in happiness as he ate.  

“I love your food,” Yibo said when he swallowed a few bites.

Xiao Zhan smiled softly back at him.  “I figured you wouldn’t have anything in your fridge.  Thought it was better to cook something fresh.  You’ve probably been eating nothing but takeout.”

Yibo nodded, digging into the food with relish.  “Even the rice tastes better when you make it,” he said after he shovelled some rice into his mouth.

Xiao Zhan smiled wide.  “You look like you’ve put on a little weight since we finished filming.”

Yibo goggled up at him.  “Are you saying I’m fat?!”

Xiao Zhan burst out laughing, then picked up a piece of meat with his own chopsticks and held it out in front of Yibo’s mouth.  “I’m saying we were both way too thin at the end of filming.  We’re at a healthier weight now, don’t you think?”

Yibo gave him a side-eye, but obediently ate the meat from Xiao Zhan’s chopsticks.  He then let his eyes drop closed in pleasure, humming again.  

They ate mostly in silence, just enjoying each other’s company.  Yibo was naturally quiet by character, not feeling the need to fill silences with words.  Although the two of them had chatted endlessly on set, when Yibo was tired he tended to slip into silence.

When they were finished, Xiao Zhan cleared the plates away, rinsing them quickly and setting them in the rack to dry.  “Containers?” he asked Yibo, who was still sitting at the table, his eyes half-closed.

Yibo got to his feet, then stumbled over to the kitchen.  He opened a cabinet and took down some tupperware.  Xiao Zhan put the leftovers away in the fridge, and while he was doing that Yibo washed the pans, so everything was nice and tidy.  Yibo then let out another huge yawn.

Xiao Zhan took Yibo’s hand.  “Want to sleep?”

Yibo blinked slowly at him.  “I had all these plans for what I wanted you to do to me,” he said, but didn’t make it through the sentence without another yawn.

“You can sleep first.  We’ve got plenty of time together.”

Yibo slid in against Xiao Zhan’s body, sliding in for a hug.  He tipped his head on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder, turning his face into his neck and breathing in his scent.  “It’s still early, you probably can’t sleep.  I don’t want to sleep alone.”

Awww, he’s so cute!  Xiao Zhan hugged Yibo, squeezing him tight.  He then sifted his hand into Yibo’s hair.  It had dried while they ate, and now it was all fluffy and soft.  “I’ll come sleep with you if you want.  If I can’t fall asleep, I’ll just read a book.”

Yibo nodded into Xiao Zhan’s neck.  He was swaying on his feet.  When Xiao Zhan craned his head back to try and get a look at Yibo’s face, he saw Yibo was sleeping on his feet.

Xiao Zhan slid his hands down Yibo’s back to his butt.  He then bent his knees, gripping Yibo’s butt and pulling him up into his arms, so Yibo’s legs wrapped around his waist.  Yibo flailed a little then hugged Xiao Zhan’s neck to get his balance.  

“Bedroom’s this way?” Xiao Zhan guessed, starting to head deeper into the apartment.

Yibo grunted.

Xiao Zhan walked them over to Yibo’s bedroom, kicking the door open with his foot.  When he saw the bed, he knew he’d gotten the right room.  He padded over to the bed, then tumbled both of them into it a little less gracefully than he intended.

Yibo grumbled, reaching out to fist his hand into Xiao Zhan’s shirt.  He tugged him down, manhandling him into his favourite position on his back, fumbling with the covers.

Xiao Zhan helped him, sliding under the covers and holding them open.  Yibo grunted again then slid in with him.  He shrugged out of his track jacket, tossing it away.  He then pulled off his tank top, letting it fall on top of the covers.  Then he slid into the crook of Xiao Zhan’s arm, pillowing his head on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder and wrapping his arm around Xiao Zhan’s waist.  He sighed in contentment, snuggling in a little until he was comfortable.  Then he promptly fell asleep.  

Xiao Zhan laughed a little, silently.  He palmed his phone out of his pocket with his free hand, popping open a reading app and opening up the latest book he’d been reading.  He lay there, happily reading the book while Yibo slept the sleep of the over-wearied.  Having Yibo’s smooth, even breathing on his chest was a balm to his soul.

Yibo slept for a few hours.  When he woke up, Xiao Zhan watched the process, how Yibo screwed up his face a little, nose twitching.  He then shifted, canting his hips into Xiao Zhan’s.  He was hard, and Xiao Zhan caught his breath, waiting to see if it would pass.  He’s so tired, if he can keep sleeping…

But Yibo opened his eyes, gazing up at him.  Xiao Zhan met his eyes, something deep passing between them.  Yibo slid his hand up Xiao Zhan’s chest, fingers seeking out Xiao Zhan’s nipple through his shirt as he pushed up enough to be able to kiss Xiao Zhan.

Aww, shit, looks like he’s done sleeping, Xiao Zhan thought, any patience he had rapidly disappearing.  

Yibo’s mouth was gentle against his, probing with lips and tongue.  Xiao Zhan cupped Yibo’s neck in his hands, angling him to kiss him deeper, sighing into it.  Yibo slid his body fully on top of Xiao Zhan’s, his hips thrusting a little against Xiao Zhan’s.  Xiao Zhan’s body flared to life - who could resist?

They kissed until the kiss transformed from something gentle into something more demanding, Xiao Zhan’s hands sliding down Yibo’s back to cup that pert bottom.  He pulled him tight against him, their bodies sliding together in pleasant friction.

Yibo broke the kiss, looking down at him with shining eyes.  He bit his bottom lip between his lips, thrusting shallowly into him, their clothes annoyingly in the way.  He then leaned his hand down, shoving his own pants down off hips hips and shimmying out of them, kicking them somewhere that was away.  He then lay on top of Xiao Zhan, naked, looking down at him with twinkling eyes.

“You have on too many clothes,” Yibo complained.

“You can help me with that,” Xiao Zhan said with a smile.

Yibo grunted, sliding his hands up under Xiao Zhan’s shirt.  He tugged the shirt up, and Xiao Zhan raised his torso enough to let Yibo get it off.  Yibo then used a hand to deftly undo the button on Xiao Zhan’s fly, gently sliding the zipper down.  He sat up, looking down in Xiao Zhan’s eyes when he hooked his fingers around the edges of the jeans.  Xiao Zhan raised his hips enough for Yibo to tug down pants and underwear, tossing them aside.  Finally they were skin-to-skin as Yibo lay down on top of him again, kissing him hungrily.

Xiao Zhan whined, his hands cupping Yibo’s neck again to kiss him back, their lips tangling together deliciously.  Yibo humped against him, making Xiao Zhan catch his breath, his eyes sliding closed.  Oh, God, I’ve missed this.  I’ll do anything he wants to do.  

Yibo pulled back long enough to open his bedside drawer.  He pulled out a bottle of lube, putting it on the nightstand.  Then he fished around and came out with a condom.  He held it up, showing it to Xiao Zhan, then placed it on Xiao Zhan’s chest, looking down at him with a look in his eyes.

They hadn’t gotten this far last time.  They locked eyes, watching each other for a long moment.  So… that’s what he wants, Xiao Zhan thought, mind already blown with all the ideas of what that condom meant.  He then finally plucked up the courage to voice, “How do you want it?”

Yibo looked down at him, eyes dark.  “Do you have a preference?”

Xiao Zhan shrugged noncommittally.  “Do you?”

“I’d need to try both to know,” Yibo said with a little impish smile.  “But tonight…”  He picked up the condom then pressed it into Xiao Zhan’s hand.  “I want you inside me,” he whispered.

Xiao Zhan looked up at him, his mind whirling.  Somehow, he hadn’t thought that was what Yibo would want.  “Have you ever done that before?” Xiao Zhan had to ask.

Yibo shook his head, not flinching away from looking in his eyes.  He closed Xiao Zhan’s fingers around the condom.  “Don’t you want to?”

Xiao Zhan gripped the condom in one hand, using the other to slide down Yibo’s back and onto his butt.  “I want to do everything with you,” he whispered.

Yibo pressed a kiss to Xiao Zhan’s lips.  “Good.”

Yibo flopped over onto his back, sliding a hand over himself.  He then tilted his chin in the direction of the lube, raising an eyebrow.

Xiao Zhan took action.  He sat up, placing the condom on the nightstand.  He then leaned over Yibo, kissing him again, his fingers sliding over Yibo’s nipple to tug it a little, teasing him.  He smiled into the kiss, his hand sliding down Yibo’s abdomen, fondling his muscles, tracing the shape with his fingertips.  Yibo’s belly fluttered under his hand, his breath catching.  He then slid his hand over Yibo’s, both of them tugging on Yibo’s dick, giving it a few strokes.  Yibo shifted his hips, kissing Xiao Zhan lazily.  

“You sure?” Xiao Zhan murmured.

Yibo nodded, licking his lips.

Xiao Zhan scooted down the bed, lifting Yibo’s leg up and out.  He then settled between Yibo’s legs.  He moved Yibo’s hand, taking the time to lean down and kiss Yibo’s dick, mouthing all up and down the length, then taking it into his mouth.  He loved the way that Yibo’s hips shifted, restless.  He stroked Yibo’s balls gently with one hand, cupping them as he sucked him in deep.

Yibo let out a little sound, then gasped.  His hand drifted down into Xiao Zhan’s hair as he bobbed on his length, tongue swirling around the head.  He looked up at Yibo as he went down on him, palming his own dick into his hand when he saw Yibo’s eyes looking down at him, watching him, his lip bitten between his teeth.

Xiao Zhan worshipped his body, holding that dick in his hand as he slid his mouth over the head, then kissed it, then slid it along his cheek, nuzzling it.  He nudged his mouth down, licking those balls lightly with his tongue.  He spread Yibo’s thighs wider, scooting down further so he could lick lower and lower.  He then pushed Yibo’s legs up towards his chest, baring him so that he could lean in and kiss his asshole, tonguing it like he’d done the last time they’d been together.  Yibo’s hips twitched, his whole body trembling. He leaned his hands down to slide behind his knees, holding himself open while Xiao Zhan licked him until he was trembling all over.

Xiao Zhan fumbled the lube off the nightstand, pooling some in his palm and dipping his fingers in.  He circled his fingers around Yibo’s hole teasing him, before he finally slipped a digit inside.  Yibo’s head fell back onto the bed, his eyes closing.  Xiao Zhan worked that finger in and out, taking his time, not feeling any need to rush.  He slipped a second finger in, working it in and out, watching Yibo for any signs of distress.  Yibo just wiggled his hips a little, sighing.  

“This okay?” Xiao Zhan asked.

“Mmhmm.”

Xiao Zhan spread a little more lube on his fingers, then slid in a third.  If I prep him well enough now I can make this really good for him, Xiao Zhan thought as he took his time.  Yibo held his breath a little when that third finger went in, but then Xiao Zhan curled his fingers inside, looking for that spot.  He knew when he found it, because Yibo let out a low groan, his hips shifting again.  

“Oh, God,” Yibo swore.

Xiao Zhan massaged him from the inside, looking up at his face and watching the slack, open expression as he lay there with his head thrown back, that beautiful column of his throat exposed.  Yibo’s hips were shifting, seeking more of that friction.  

When he thought he was ready, Xiao Zhan sat up, shifting over Yibo’s body to reach the condom on the nightstand.  Their eyes locked as Xiao Zhan ripped the package open with his teeth, sliding it down over himself.  

Xiao Zhan leaned over Yibo’s body, kneeling between his legs, hands braced on either side of Yibo’s head.  They looked deep into each other’s eyes, then Xiao Zhan leaned in for a kiss.  As they kissed each other, Yibo’s hands slid around Xiao Zhan’s ribcage, hanging on.  

Xiao Zhan lined himself up, then slid slowly inside.

———

God, I’ve dreamt about this, Yibo thought as he watched Xiao Zhan preparing him so gently, so tenderly.  The look in Xiao Zhan’s eyes when he leaned over to kiss him, it was so sweet, so careful.  When Xiao Zhan slid inside him, Yibo hardly felt any pain, he was so engrossed with the feeling of warmth and comfort that radiated from his lover.

When Xiao Zhan was all the way inside him, they locked eyes again, something deep stirring in Yibo’s chest.  I never imagined that I could feel so… connected to someone.  He’s not just inside my body.  He’s reached down into my soul and soothed all the rough edges inside.

Yibo hooked his ankles around Xiao Zhan’s back when he started to move.  His head fell back, eyes closing, and he let out a sound low in his throat.  Xiao Zhan moved slowly at first, letting Yibo’s body grow accustomed to the intrusion.  Xiao Zhan’s head bent over Yibo’s chest, mouth closing over Yibo’s collarbones, mouthing them, teeth scraping lightly.  He went tortuously slow for a while, their hips rocking together in a sweet friction.  Then he finally buried his head in Yibo’s neck, picking up the pace.  

Oh, God, he’s so deep inside me, Yibo thought, mind whirling.  Xiao Zhan palmed his thigh in his hand for leverage, rolling his hips.  Yibo opened his eyes, looking up at Xiao Zhan whose gaze was fixed on his face.  Yibo grabbed at Xiao Zhan’s arms, clutching them desperately as he felt that intense pressure inside him.  Every time Xiao Zhan stroked inside, he hit that place inside him, and Yibo threw his head back again, laughing low and deep, that laugh dissolving into a moan.

“You’re so fucking hot,” Xiao Zhan said into Yibo’s ear, his hips slowing down before picking up the pace again.  

“Not as hot as you,” Yibo whispered, flying high.

Xiao Zhan’s hips snapped hard and fast, and Yibo groaned again, feeling that intense pressure building.  He reached down a hand to touch himself, stroking himself in time with Xiao Zhan’s thrusts.  

Yibo looked up at Xiao Zhan through slitted eyes, watching how that beautiful face was slack in pleasure, his eyes closed, head thrown back.  The whole line that his long, lean body made was achingly beautiful.  Yibo couldn’t stop looking at him, wanted to see every expression that danced across his features.  No one else can see this face but me, Yibo thought with wonder.  No one else can make him feel this way but me.

Still, despite everything, Yibo felt like Xiao Zhan was still holding back, still restraining himself.  He’s worried that he’ll hurt me, Yibo thought fondly.

“Gege,” Yibo whispered.

Xiao Zhan opened his eyes, stopping his movement to look down at him.  “You okay?”

Yibo reached up to cup Xiao Zhan’s face in his hands, pulling him down into a kiss.  He then glared up at him, his gaze sharp and said, “Harder.”

Xiao Zhan looked down at him wonderingly, then smiled.  He hooked his arms behind Yibo’s knees, bending him in two, and bent down so that he pressed their chests together, claiming his lips in a rough kiss.  Then… he fucked  him.  He mouthed at Yibo’s cheek as his body slammed deep inside, the pace gruelling.  Yibo’s breaths came hot and heavy, little sounds breaking free.  Xiao Zhan kept up that fast, hard pace until both of them felt like they were flying.

Yibo couldn’t reach his own dick with their bodies pressed so close together, but he didn’t need to.  The combination of Xiao Zhan hitting him from the inside, plus the sweet slide of Xiao Zhan’s stomach on his dick, it was so much more than enough.  He felt like he was soaring.

Yibo grabbed Xiao Zhan’s neck in his hands, just holding on, then he fell apart.  He turned his head to the side, mouth falling open, and came all over his belly, the come sliding between their bodies as Xiao Zhan still moved.

Xiao Zhan made a sound, then locked his hips in deep and came.

They froze, locked together, Xiao Zhan’s chest pressed against Yibo’s, breaths harsh in each other’s ears.  Xiao Zhan slid a hand up to cup Yibo’s neck, his thumb stroking the pulse there.  He kissed Yibo’s cheek, then pulled out, tying the condom off quickly and setting it aside.  He leaned over Yibo’s body, their softening cocks laying against each other as he kissed Yibo tenderly.

Yibo watched him through slitted eyes, mouth parted but unable to form any words.  He reached up and slid his hands up down Xiao Zhan’s sides, stroking him gently as they kissed each other, tongues lightly touching, lips tangling together.

Xiao Zhan pulled back enough to look at him tenderly, sliding off to lie on his side, his leg thrown over Yibo’s.  He palmed Yibo’s chest, stroking a nipple lazily.  “You okay?”

Yibo nodded, biting his bottom lip into his mouth.  “Mmhmm.”

Xiao Zhan leaned over to the nightstand, taking a tissue to wipe off Yibo’s stomach gently, then he wiped off his own.  He leaned in to kiss Yibo’s soft cheek, then stood to take the tissues and the condom into the bathroom to dispose of them properly.  

Yibo lay there, totally blissed out, unable to move.  His mind kept running over the details of what they’d just done, every loving action, and he couldn’t bring himself to regret a second of it.  Still, in spite of the fact that he had no regrets, he felt himself overwhelmed with feelings.  He covered his face with his hands, trying to keep them all in.

———

Xiao Zhan walked back in, found Yibo lying like that with his face covered.  He slid a warm cloth over Yibo’s chest, clearing away the last of the stickiness.  He then set the cloth aside, laying down next to Yibo and smoothing a hand down over his chest.  He waited patiently for Yibo to lower his hands, then met his eyes.  He didn’t ask again if Yibo was okay, they just looked at each other and the feelings washed over them, deep and heavy.  There were unshed tears in Yibo’s eyes, and Xiao Zhan’s eyes were shining, too.

Yibo shifted back, sitting up to grab the blankets and pull them up over himself.  He then reached for Xiao Zhan’s hand, tugging him close.  He pushed Xiao Zhan over onto his back, then lay in his favourite position on his stomach,