Bai Yu frowned and squeezed his eyes shut at the insistent rays of sunlight that were attempting to wake him up. If it wasn't noon yet, he wanted nothing to do with waking up or getting dressed today. Not content to let a little thing like the sun ruin his plans to sleep in, he reached out to pull the covers over his head. He grasped blindly at what he guessed was the edge of the covers, and froze as his fingers swept over long strands of hair instead.
He had a few drinks at the Guardian cast party last night, but he was pretty sure he'd remember taking somebody back to his hotel room. Cautiously, he opened one eye and peeked at the woman next to him. She was lying on her side facing him, her long hair covering her face, obscuring her features. Careful not to wake her up, he gently tucked her hair behind her ears and took a peek at her face. His hand froze in mid-air. Long-ge?! He really hoped neither of them got that drunk last night.
Then Bai Yu looked closer. No, Zhu Yilong should have short hair right now. And he would have known if Zhu Yilong had ever gotten hurt enough to have the faded aftermath of a nasty scar across his chest. Cold sweat broke out all over his body. One person did fit the bill if he pictured the long hair braided. Could it be? He was in bed with... Shen Wei?
He lifted the covers and scrambled to get out of bed, only to have strong arms pull him back. Keeping utterly still as Shen Wei rolled over on top of him, Bai Yu tried his best not to focus on the unusual coolness of Shen Wei's skin as it touched his own. And oh. Shen Wei was naked. They were both naked. Shocked into action, he tried to push Shen Wei off, only to end up with his wrists pinned to the bed.
Taking deep breaths, he slowly counted the seconds until the initial panic wore off. A quick survey of his surroundings with its sparse furniture and scattered weaponry and armor confirmed Bai Yu's suspicions. They never had this exact set during the filming of Guardian, but the time period looked to be about right for Zhao Yunlan's adventures in the past. So that settled the “where” and "when" of the matter.
But how did he get here? He immediately ruled out an elaborate prank played by the Guardian crew. For one, they didn't have the budget to produce anything this authentic. Besides, Long-ge didn't even like taking his shirt off. Getting him naked and in bed with one of his co-stars for a joke would require nothing less than a major miracle.
Could this be a dream? (Let's ignore why a straight guy like him was dreaming about waking up naked with his equally straight co-star.) He wriggled his toes and kicked at the bed frame, wincing at the pain. Nope. He should have known getting out of this situation with nothing more than a minor sexuality crisis was too good to be true.
So that left... magic? He frowned, fuzzy memories from last night's cast party resurfacing. He remembered being a nuisance and coaxing Zhu Yilong into recreating the healing scene where Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei held the Longevity Dial together. As far as ruses went, it worked brilliantly, both bringing Long-ge out of his shell and provoking him into a strength contest. He even managed to win the tug of war- or rather, he pouted until he got his way - and declared that his victory meant Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei were saved. At the time, he had only thought about gleefully sending the fans on Weibo into a frenzy by posting the video. But now... Damn. What was he going to do now?
Bai Yu first considered telling the truth. If he ever got past proving that he wasn't some hostile Dixing villain who stole Kunlun's body, he could skip pretending to be a police officer pretending to be a legendary general, he didn't have to keep up a lie with Shen Wei, and he could even get some honest help reversing whatever magic transported him here.
If they didn't believe him, however, he might end up a prisoner or worse, depending on how panicked Shen Wei would be about Kunlun going missing. Not like Shen Wei was so crazy about the guy he waited 10,000 years for him or anything like that, right?
Deep in thought, Bai Yu almost missed the slight change in Shen Wei's breathing and the decrease in pressure on his wrists. He turned his head and watched as Shen Wei's eyes blinked open, still blurry with sleep. Seconds ticked by. Abruptly, he felt Shen Wei tense up and draw in a sharp breath.
"Oh! I'm sorry!" Shen Wei released his wrists and clambered off to the side so quickly he almost fell off the bed. At the last minute, he pulled himself up by the bed frame and wrapped the covers tightly around himself.
Wait a minute. That helpless, apologetic smile. Those guileless, wide eyes. The unspoken plea for guidance on that innocent face. Bai Yu had seen that expression used on him all too often in their interviews together. "Long-ge! It's you!"
"Xiao Bai!" Zhu Yilong let out a great sigh of relief and stopped clutching the covers as though his life depended on it. And to be fair - if it were actually Zhao Yunlan in bed with him, those covers would have at least saved his virtue.
Bai Yu collapsed onto his back and laughed. "You have no idea how glad I am that it's you. You know, I was just considering how far I was willing to go with Shen Wei, considering our uh, positions there."
Rolling his eyes, Zhu Yilong gave Bai Yu a shove. "You can still joke around at a time like this!"
Bai Yu smirked and hopped off the bed, gathered their scattered clothing, and while pulling on his underwear with one hand, he threw Shen Wei's black cloak over Zhu Yilong's face with the other. He waited for Zhu Yilong's head to pop out from under the folds of the cloak before throwing the rest of Shen Wei's clothing to him. Nodding a quick thanks, Zhu Yilong held his black cloak protectively in front of himself and clumsily tried to dress behind it, a slow blush spreading from the tips of his ears all the way down his neck.
Bai Yu looked away and focused on wrapping himself in the layers of Kunlun's clothing. Though it was heavier than the costume they used in the show, it was thankfully similar enough that he had no problems putting it on. Brushing out his hair extensions and donning the hair ornaments was trickier, but at least he was better off than poor Long-ge. He snuck a peek at Zhu Yilong struggling to braid his hair and hid his grin.
"Need help, Long-ge? Stylist extraordinaire Bai Yu is here to rescue you!"
Zhu Yilong sulked. "I can't believe how much of a hassle having actual long hair can be."
Taking that as a tacit agreement, Bai Yu pushed Zhu Yilong onto a small stool, sat behind him and began to braid his hair. "You're lucky my sisters trained me well for this."
"Thank you," said Zhu Yilong, patting him on the knee. "I don't know what I'd do if I ended up alone here."
Bai Yu nodded. "Me neither, to be honest. By the time you woke up, I was still stuck on the panic stage."
"Yeah. I'm still expecting to wake up at any minute. How can something like this be real?"
"I have no idea. But we need to figure out a way back as soon as possible."
They sat together in silence for awhile, each lost in their own thoughts. Bai Yu finished braiding Zhu Yilong's hair, and rested his hand on Zhu Yilong's shoulders.
"The most urgent thing to figure out has to be Shen Wei's powers. If they expect you to fight..." Bai Yu trailed off. They were actors, and for all that Zhu Yilong had Muay Thai training, that was no substitute for actual experience on the battlefield.
With a troubled look on his face, Zhu Yilong stood up and paced the room. "How much time do you think I have? Where do I even start?"
Bai Yu opened their door and looked up and down the hallway. "Well, I'm not seeing anyone looking for us. Maybe we can start now? Something simple. See if you can summon your weapon?"
Zhu Yilong took a deep breath and held out one hand. For a moment, dark shadows coalesced into the shape of a spear within his grasp. When he went to wrap his hand around it however, it vanished in a puff of smoke.
"Hey! That's pretty good for a first try." Bai Yu grinned and gave Zhu Yilong a thumbs up.
"I'm not sure I'm doing this right. The minute I stopped concentrating, it just disappeared."
Bai Yu watched Zhu Yilong test out making shadow animals in his hand with the same laser focus he used when rehearsing for a difficult scene and shook his head. Only his Long-ge could effortlessly master a power not even shown in the drama and still be unhappy with himself because it wasn't what he set out to do. As Bai Yu watched a small shadow rabbit morph into a shadow bird, an idea struck him.
"Long-ge, do you think you might be using the wrong power to try this? Creating something solid out of dark energy is a transformation that I think will always take concentration because it's basically holding something against its natural shape. But what the Black Cloaked Envoy does with his blade is more like moving something that already exists into his hand. Maybe it's closer to teleportation magic."
Zhu Yilong blinked. "You could be right. But I'm not sure how I can pick and choose which of Shen Wei's powers to activate. These shadow shapes came pretty naturally to me because all I had to do was picture something in my mind."
Bai Yu mulled the answer over in his head. "Let's leave that for now then. Summoning your weapon is convenient, but you'd fine just carrying it with you too." He jumped up and grabbed a rusted shield from the corner of the room, propping it up against the wall. "Okay. New plan! Let's see if you can focus that energy and shoot it at the target."
Zhu Yilong shaped the dark energy into a sharp bolt above his hand and with a quick snap of his wrists, sent it directly into the shield, breaking it apart.
"Amazing!" exclaimed Bai Yu, breaking into applause.
Zhu Yilong gave him a small, pleased smile, the tension leaving his body. Picking up a bow and a quiver of arrows from one of the weapon stands, he turned to Bai Yu and raised an eyebrow. "Your turn?"
Not one to let a challenge to unanswered, Bai Yu squared up his shoulders and took the bow in hand. He waited for Zhu Yilong to place another shield on the opposite end of their room against a window. Once that was done, he nocked an arrow, took his aim, and fired off a shot that bounced off the center of the shield. He grinned. "I think that counts as a tie, don't you?"
"Of course it does," said Zhu Yilong indulgently.
With just the two of them in the room goading each other into mini-competitions and sharing easy smiles, it was a simple matter to push back uncomfortable thoughts of an approaching war and their responsibilities. And much to their relief, when they finally gathered up their courage to wander the encampments around the Alliance headquarters, they were mostly left to themselves. Considering the crowded tents and barracks scattered around the mountains, they were fortunate that the combined status of the Black Cloaked Envoy and Kunlun gave them a larger, more private living space. They could sleep on a bed instead of a bedroll, and their tent even had rudimentary tables and chairs for meetings.
In the Alliance Headquarters, they shared lunch and dinner with Lord Ma Gui and High Chief Fu You, where they discussed the status of the war and their upcoming plans. Analysis of the rebels' movements and plans of the army's counter-attacks flew over Bai Yu's head, so he decided to trust Ma Gui and simply nod at the appropriate times. Zhu Yilong fared better, sometimes pointing out a potential flaw in a plan and often asking questions that that prompted approving looks from both Ma Gui and Fu You. More than once, Bai Yu stole a look at Zhu Yilong, wondering if his friend was just pretending, or if he had a secret love of military strategy.
When talk turned to lighter topics, Bai Yu jumped into the fray himself. Through some subtle questioning, he determined that Kunlun had joined the Alliance one month ago. The heavy wound on Shen Wei's chest was acquired only the day before, which was why the two of them had no duties today. Bai Yu nudged Zhu Yilong and they shared a knowing look. So, not only was Shen Wei and Kunlun's relationship something of an open secret among the Alliance, they have also been together for some time now.
Night fell and they retreated to their tent. Bai Yu paced the floor. "Today almost felt too easy. You'd think if we were magically transported to another universe, we'd be transported to a time and place when something big was about to happen."
"Do you think it's too dangerous to sleep tonight?"
"Maybe we'll get lucky and be returned to our home world tonight if we go to sleep! But if we're unlucky, let's keep our weapons nearby just in case."
"Good idea. Do you want--"
"--I'll sleep on the floor tonight."
Zhu Yilong crossed his arms. "Shen Wei is stronger. He can better handle rougher conditions."
Bai Yu pointed a finger at Zhu Yilong's chest. "Shen Wei also needs to conserve his energy so he can heal properly. You know the wound is severe when it leaves behind a scar even with his healing abilities."
They stared each other down, neither of them willing to budge until Zhu Yilong let out a yawn. If they kept this up, neither of them would be getting a good night's rest.
Bai Yu broke the silence. "We can share the bed too. It's big enough for both of us."
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he winced. That came out sounding far too eager. And well, he was eager, but only to settle the argument and go to sleep! Would Long-ge take this the wrong way? A quick glance at Zhu Yilong showed the other man blushing bright red. Unbidden memories of naked limbs tangled together rose in Bai Yu's mind and heat rose in his cheeks.
"Or we can put the pillows on the floor for me," offered Zhu Yilong, avoiding his eyes.
If the ground were to swallow him up right now and send him to literally any place but here, Bai Yu would be the happiest man on the earth. He had to defend himself here, right? "I mean, we're both straight, and we won't be naked this time!"
Why. Why did he bring up the naked thing. This was the worst defense he could have possibly come up with. Under any other circumstance, he would sit back and enjoy the brand new shades of red Zhu Yilong was turning, but he had a sinking suspicion that his own face was doing something similar.
"Yeah. I... I wasn't thinking about, I wasn't implying--" Zhu Yilong stuttered. "I'm fine sleeping with you. On the same bed. Sleeping on the same bed with you."
Bai Yu sighed and gave Zhu Yilong a wry grin. "Well, now that we've both gotten rid of this whole pesky 'dignity' thing, what say we get some sleep and forget this whole conversation ever happened?"