Bai Yu fell in love twice.
First when he was Zhao Yunlan.
The second time was when he realized, it was not Shen Wei that he’d fallen in love with.
When Bai Yu first read the novel, he laughed. Could this even be filmed, he thought to himself as he dived into the world of Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei's passionate love. The supernatural plot itself was quite interesting, but it was first and foremost a danmei novel.
His manager assured him that the script had changed the relationship into a "brotherhood", but he knew that he would still be expected to play it as romance, as much as the censorship board would allow. After all, the main point of a danmei novel was the relationship between the two main characters. Besides, if the audience couldn't feel the romance, the original fans of the novel would riot for sure.
The raunchier parts of the novel brought him back to the days when he played You Dongdong. But back then, all the gay romance scenes were played for laughs. Bai Yu suddenly realized that he had never played the role of a man who fell in love with another man.
He thought it would be interesting, playing the role of a man falling in love with another man.
He told his manager that he would like to try.
When he first met Zhu Yilong in the small and dingy makeup room, the word that crossed his mind was 'beautiful'. The man was almost eerily so, like the kind of beauty that poets would spend verse upon verse to describe.
The second word that crossed his mind, however, was 'cold'. It almost felt like there was an invisible wall around him, one that he himself built so that nobody could get close to him.
"Hi, I'm Bai Yu." He smiled and offered his hand.
"Hi, I'm Zhu Yilong." The other man took his hand and smiled too, but it didn't reach his eyes.
For a moment Bai Yu was exasperated. This is the man I have to fall in love with? he thought. Would he even let me fall in love with him?
But that thought only lasted a moment. He was Bai Yu for fuck's sake, a professional actor with a decade's worth of experience. If the role demanded he fall in love with this man then by heaven, he would fall in love with him.
Then a stray thought crossed his mind - wouldn't it be fun, if I could make him fall in love with me too?
And so, just like Zhao Yunlan, Bai Yu was set on a quest to make this man his.
Hey, I just found out that you are older than me.
Can I call you Long ge? [smiley face]
Bai Yu waited for the reply. He knew that with a guy like Zhu Yilong he should be more active and engage him first. And so he did just that a mere few hours after the first crew meeting.
Sure. Came the short reply.
Unfazed, Bai Yu continued.
You know, since we are going to be "brothers" [wink] from now on, we should get closer to each other.
Please take care of me, gege. [kissy face]
It was a few minutes before a short "okay" popped up on the Wechat screen.
Bai Yu groaned. This one was going to be difficult.
The next day they met as Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan for the first time. In makeup, a suit, and glasses, Bai Yu thought that Zhu Yilong was even more handsome than before. He thought that he could understand how Zhao Yunlan must have felt about Shen Wei.
"Hey," Zhu Yilong smiled at him. Bai Yu wondered if it was just his imagination, but his smile seemed kinder than the day before. Or was it Shen Wei's smile for Zhao Yunlan?
Nevertheless Bai Yu decided that he would take whatever it was that Zhu Yilong offered.
Their first scene together was Shen Wei applying ointment for Zhao Yunlan's wounded arm, after he saved the professor from the street thugs. The director had wanted them to break the ice quickly. With the scene having much touching, it seemed to be the right one to choose.
"For a professor, you're quite skillful with your hands," Bai Yu said with as suggestive a look as he could muster. Zhu Yilong's ears were getting more and more red as the dialogue went on and Bai Yu knew that had his face not been covered with makeup, his cheeks would be red too.
How cute, a voice in his mind spoke before he could realize it.
"Cut!" the director said, and the crew laughed and commented about how lovey-dovey they looked. Zhu Yilong only smiled and silently watched the scene being replayed on the monitor.
Zhu Yilong's ears weren't as red as before, and Bai Yu found himself somewhat disappointed.
He decided that making Zhu Yilong blush was going to be his daily activity.
The days of shooting went smoothly, until one day Bai Yu woke up with a terrible stomachache. Curling up in his hotel room bed, he cursed his yesterday's self for not eating all day long, when there was a knock on his door.
"Bai Yu?" a voice called from outside the door.
"Long ge? Come in." Bai Yu was surprised. Usually Zhu Yilong would go to the set earlier than him.
"I heard that you have a stomachache?" Zhu Yilong sat on the bed next to his feet. "I know that you are a dedicated actor, but there is no need to imitate Zhao Yunlan's bad habit in real life too."
The older man said it so seriously that it took Bai Yu a few moments to realize that he was joking.
"Ah, it's just my luck, playing a character that has similar bad habits as myself. But don't worry, Long ge. My assistant has gone to buy medicine. I'll join you in the set soon."
"But I can't leave you like this. I'll stay here until you get better, then we’ll go to the set together, okay?"
Bai Yu felt like he should have declined and insisted that Zhu Yilong go to the set first. But some part in his heart felt happy for the attention.
"...Fine," Bai Yu reluctantly agreed. "You know..." He suddenly felt like pushing his luck. "I think I'll get better sooner if my stomach is warm..." he said while rubbing his stomach. "But my hands are cold. Can I borrow your hand, gege?"
Zhu Yilong looked at him strangely, before saying, "Of course." He quickly leaned closer and slipped his hand under Bai Yu's shirt, making the younger man emit a high pitched squeal. Between the nausea from his stomachache and the burning feeling in his face, Bai Yu felt an undescribable feeling for Zhu Yilong at that moment. But the warm hands felt really good on his stomach, so he didn't say anything to stop him.
"Yu ge, I bought some porridge too." Suddenly Bai Yu's assistant barged into the room. Looking at the sight in front of her, she only said, "I'll wait for you downstairs." She quickly set the porridge and the medicine on the side table and closed the door again.
"I..." Bai Yu sat up and couldn't even say anything as Zhu Yilong calmly picked up the plastic bag and opened the food container. He then sat on the bed again, took a spoonful of porridge, blew on it a couple of times, tasted it, and finally presented it in front of Bai Yu's face.
"What?" As soon as Bai Yu opened his mouth, the spoon went in to his mouth. He swallowed it before quickly saying, "what are you doing?"
"Taking care of you," Zhu Yilong said with a straight face.
Bai Yu wondered if this was Zhu Yilong's way of revenge for all the times Zhao Yunlan teased Shen Wei on the set. But he wouldn’t be Bai Yu if he backed down just from being spoon-fed. "Fine," Bai Yu sai. "Take care of me, gege." He smiled and opened his mouth, waiting for another spoon of porridge. Zhu Yilong fed him until he finished the porridge.
The next morning, Zhu Yilong showed up in front of his door again.
"Let's eat breakfast together."
"Huh?" Bai Yu was confused because usually Zhu Yilong liked to eat alone.
"I heard from your assistant that you often forget to eat. If I eat with you, you won't forget, right?"
For once in his life Bai Yu was speechless. But he quickly gathered his wits and said, "Gege really cares about me, I'm so happy!" He clung to Zhu Yilong's arm to complete his act, fully expecting to be pushed away. But Zhu Yilong didn't do so. Instead, he took Bai Yu's hand and started walking.
Bai Yu didn't let go until they got to the noodle shop.
Days went by like this.
Zhao Yunlan would tease Shen Wei in Haixing. He would flirt and make innuendos shamelessly, and Shen Wei would get red-eared for it. But off-set, back on earth, it was Zhu Yilong that would make Bai Yu's heart skip a beat. With all his smiles, and little touches, and all the little snacks that he slipped into Bai Yu's pocket so that his stomach wouldn't go empty for too long...
It drove him crazy.
He felt like he was a teenager again, having a crush who smiled back at him. He felt happy whenever Zhu Yilong paid attention to him.
Bai Yu looked at Zhu Yilong who sat beside him, reading the script seriously.
But, Bai Yu thought, is this my or Zhao Yunlan's feeling?"
Zhu Yilong caught him looking at him, and smiled that snow-melting smile of his.
Bai Yu couldn't smile back.
The relationship between Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei got more intense, and yet it only brought more conflicted feelings for Bai Yu.
Did he really want more than what Zhu Yilong was giving him?
"You are not immortal! Why should I owe you my life!?"
"This life... Is the life I'm returning to you."
The scene was so emotionally charged that even after the director said cut, Bai Yu was still shaking a little. He walked out of the studio as the other crew watched the replay and talked about it.
He could use a cigarette, but he didn't smoke on the set, so he took out Zhao Yunlan's lollipop and put it in his mouth.
"Bai Yu." Zhu Yilong walked over to him. His eyes were still a little bit red. "Everything's alright?"
"Yeah, sure." He smiled. "It's just, you know..." he waved it away. Seeing Zhu Yilong was really not what he needed at the moment. Zhao Yunlan's feelings were still raw inside him, and seeing the man that Zhao Yunlan loved, that Bai Yu had confused feelings for, was too much. He looked up to the sky, hoping that Zhu Yilong would take the hint and go back inside.
But Zhu Yilong didn't. Instead, he stepped closer and hugged Bai Yu.
"Even my soul is black. Only this bit of my heart where you rest is still clean, and the blood is still red. I'm willing to use it to protect you."
Hearing Shen Wei's words for Zhao Yunlan, Bai Yu pushed Zhu Yilong away.
And at that moment, he had a sudden realization.
He didn't want Shen Wei's love.
He wanted Zhu Yilong's love, for himself.
"Bai Yu?" Zhu Yilong was taken aback as if he was just woke up from a dream. "I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me. It was inappropriate, I'm sorry."
"Is that all there is? Shen Wei's love for Zhao Yunlan?" Bai Yu asked. Unlike Zhao Yunlan who confronted Shen Wei with much anger, he only felt tired.
"Do you want more?" Zhu Yilong asked him. Bai Yu thought his face looked amused, but also, hopeful.
"I want more." The answer quickly spilled out of his mouth. "I want Zhu Yilong's love for Bai Yu." There, he finally said it, half admitting to himself. "Are you willing to give that to me?"
Zhu Yilong smiled softly. "I'll give you anything you ask." He then thought for a moment. "But probably not my literal heart, as I'll die. But you can have this one." He gave Bai Yu a heart finger sign and Bai Yu just lost it and laughed so hard. Zhu Yilong only smiled softly watching him.
"Gege, I didn't know you’re such a joker." Bai Yu said. Now that the tension had left him, he felt weak in the knees. "Ah." He stumbled and almost fell, but Zhu Yilong grabbed his arm and held him steady. Bai Yu looked up, and saw Zhu Yilong looking straight at him.
When Zhu Yilong kissed him, all the frustration, all the confusion dissipated from his heart.
The moon shone above them gently.
Three months flew by, and the filming was coming to an end.
"I don't want to leave!" Bai Yu hung on to Zhu Yilong like a monkey hanging on a tree. It was their last night together as the next day Bai Yu would have to leave the set early for another job. "Don't be ridiculous, we'll still meet whenever we want." Zhu Yilong pushed him away. Bai Yu pouted and threw himself on the couch. "I demand compensation!" Bai Yu said, smirking.
"Fine. Close your eyes."
Bai Yu obediently obeyed, expecting a kiss.
Instead he felt something weighing down his chest.
"Open your eyes."
Bai Yu did so and found a feather necklace around his neck.
"I have this feather's pair," Zhu Yilong said as he touched the one he wore. "Wear it if you miss me. Know that I'll be wearing mine too."
Bai Yu touched the feather and the metal felt warm, as if reassuring him that Zhu Yilong would always be with him.
"You are really..." Bai Yu pulled him down into an embrace. They relished in each other's warmth as much as they could.
Three months that felt like a dream had ended, but just like Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei, who promised to meet again no matter how long it took, Bai Yu and Zhu Yilong's story would continue across time.