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A Heart Made To Be Broken

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“You are finally here,” Shen Wei chokes out. And Bai Yu doesn’t miss a beat, Zhao Yunlan’s line leaping unbidden to his lips: “Do you have to go?” There is a hollowness at the pit of his stomach at the idea of them being separated, Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan, after everything they have struggled through to get to this point, the dawning realisation that they don’t even get to spend eternity together. Bai Yu is selfishly glad that he doesn’t have to look Long-ge in the eye while shooting the first part of this scene; he doesn’t think he could bear it. The parting between Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan is difficult enough, but for Bai Yu not to be able to see Long-ge again? Makes it almost intolerable. And to think that he didn’t believe that he and Long-ge would be friends when they first met.

THE FIRST MEETING

“Hello, My name is Zhu Yilong.” His new costar politely bent his head and Bai Yu shook himself out of the daze that probably overcame most people when they first set eyes on the other man. He looked like something out of a painting, Bai Yu thought distractedly, all wide eyes and porcelain skin, cold and distant, untouchable and a little sorrowful. He looked like the perfect choice for the tortured but impassive Shen Wei, his baggy jeans and loose t-shirt strangely creating a juxtaposition that only emphasized the sense of elegant aloofness. He was clearly perfect for the role, despite being a last-minute substitute.

He didn’t look particularly friendly though, Bai Yu mused. He liked making friends on set. It made the rigorous hours of filming, the physical and mental exertion, the claustrophobia of seeing the same group of people day after day, just the tiniest bit easier. Given how many scenes Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei had together, being friends would have been so much better. Well, at least they could be cordial acquaintances.

“Hi, I’m Bai Yu.” He stuck his hand out. Zhu Yilong took it in a firm warm grip and as the slender fingers closed around his, Bai Yu realized there was the slightest hint of a tremor. He also realized that Zhu Yilong hadn’t looked him straight in the eyes during the entire conversation, his head ducked just slightly, a faint flush showing even through the light patina of makeup. Had he read it wrong, he wondered, was the cool reserve actually a mask for something else? Bai Yu wasn’t ashamed to admit that he liked mysteries. And here was one ripe for the solving.

 

“All living things end.” Long-ge’s voice chokes on the final word. “And at least our choice means something.” Tears spring unbidden to Bai Yu’s eyes. He has always cried easily, something his sisters gently teased him for as a child, something that turned out to be an unexpected gift as an actor, and this time, for this scene he lets the teardrop trickle down his cheek. They’ve been making choices right through the filming of the show, Long-ge and him, choosing to shoot late into the night, choosing to brave the budget cuts, choosing a family within the cast and crew, choosing endless reshoots to get the best possible show, despite everything- Choosing each other. And here at the very end it means something, it means everything.

 

THE FIRST SCENE

Bai Yu smirked. He’d been right-- Zhu Yilong wasn’t cold, he was shy. Almost ridiculously painfully shy, for someone who had spent nearly ten years in the film industry, someone who was trained to handle intimate scenes with strangers, invasive press interviews, and nosy fans. He was a little bit like a wary kitten that Bai Yu had once met, obviously curious and possibly interested in being friends, but deeply unsure of whether the overtures were meant to be kind or cruel, and how he was supposed to respond to them. Well, Bai Yu had spent three days slowly coaxing the kitten to him. Zhu Yilong couldn’t possibly be as difficult.

The realization came to him during their first scene together, as the director talked them through it. Zhao Yunlan was supposed to rush to Shen Wei’s rescue and get very slightly injured in the ensuing fight. Shen Wei would then take Zhao Yunlan back to his home and tend to his wounds. It was an incredibly intimate scene by any stretch of the imagination, and an extraordinary choice for the first one to shoot between two strangers.

But Bai Yu knew why the director had made that choice. He had read the novel. While the censors wouldn’t allow them to show the real relationship, the crew had been very clear that they wanted to highlight how close Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan were, how meaningful the relationship between the two of them really was. Demonstrating their protectiveness towards each other right at the outset would put the two actors in a space where they would have to start developing the warmth and tenderness that was central to their characters.

Wardrobe and makeup were incredibly quick. Zhao Yunlan’s leather jacket and old jeans were sinfully comfortable. Bai Yu couldn’t say the same for Shen Wei’s much more elaborate outfit. The three-piece suit fit like a glove, and…what were those things on his arms?

He had to ask, “Hey, Long-ge, can I call you Long-ge?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I get the suit, Shen Wei is a salaryman. But what the hell are those?”

There was that blush again, did the man react to anything without blushing? One of his hands went up reflexively to touch the garter, and then dropped again. “Ah, Bai Yu. It’s…um…it’s a sleeve garter. For the sleeves. To not be too long.”

“These suits are tailored for you. Why would the sleeves be too long?”

“I…Shen Wei… he likes things that remind him of what is real and what is not.” Zhu Yilong suddenly stopped short and looked down, biting his lip as if he had said too much.

Bai Yu was intrigued. He always enjoyed talking about the craft, and for all his reticence, Zhu Yilong obviously had many thoughts about his character, down to the very last detail (sleeve garters? Really?). He stared at his co-star, who sat on the next chair, a little hunched into himself. “Does Shen Wei need reminding?”

Wide dark eyes shot up to meet his. “He’s been alone for 10,000 years, abandoned by the man he loves more than anything else in the world. Nobody to touch him or hold him or comfort him. The press of his suit against his shoulders, the weight of the bands against his arms, the heft of his glaive in his hands, these remind him that he is still alive. That he is still here.”

This got intense fast, Bai Yu thought. Intense was a good look on Zhu Yilong. Bai Yu firmly did not let his thoughts wander towards other scenarios where Zhu Yilong could use that intensity. But they were going to be called to set in a few moments, and it was never a great idea to get too wound up before a scene. It was definitely time to lighten the moment. “Well luckily for him he meets Zhao Yunlan, right? Zhao Yunlan clearly wants to touch Shen Wei all the time.”

And the moment was over. Zhu Yilong curled back into himself, and Bai Yu had to physically stop himself from rolling his eyes. Maybe the man just didn’t have a sense of humour.
Bai Yu quietly decided to let it drop. For the moment.

They sat in silence until they were called and while they walked towards the set, something changed. Atmospherically. Bai Yu noticed Zhu Yilong shift his stance, his slight stoop becoming ramrod straight, his gait suddenly stiffer and more modulated, his face almost changing shape until it settled into the contours of someone strangely familiar to Bai Yu from the novel that he had printed out and reread until the pages were dogeared.

Somewhere between the make up room and the set, Zhu Yilong had entirely disappeared. Bai Yu realised that he was looking into Shen Wei’s eyes. And because he was fundamentally competitive, he shifted to keep pace. His own shoulders slumping into a looser, more casual silhouette, a hip cocked in challenge, his mouth curving into a leer. Zhao Yunlan let Shen Wei minister to his wounds, flirting relentlessly, shamelessly, and Zhu Yilong met him beat for beat, tightly wound but his hands gentle on Bai Yu’s arm, his face desperately trying to tamp down on a kaleidoscope of feelings.

Bai Yu had acted with many people before, but this immediate connection - there was something incredible, even magical about it. They both rode the momentum until the director said cut and then Bai Yu slumped back against the sofa, exhausted and exhilarated, Zhu Yilong still taut and tense next to him.

“Long-ge, Long-ge. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Bai Yu giggled, as he leaned into Zhu Yilong’s body without really even meaning to, almost punch-drunk with the success of the scene.

Several beats later, Zhu Yilong responded, a sudden shy smile illuminating his face. “I think it may be.” And to Bai Yu’s delighted surprise, the smile transformed into a smirk. “Lao Bai.”

He did have a sense of humour then? Bai Yu could definitely work with that.

 

Shen Wei turns around and Bai Yu takes a second to wonder at the fact that Long-ge’s eyes are somehow even more tearful than his own. “Let’s make a deal,” Shen Wei chokes out. Long-ge is a great actor, among the best Bai Yu has ever had the pleasure of working with. They have filmed for more than 40 episodes and Long-ge throws himself body and soul into Shen Wei, to the point that Bai Yu has joked more than once that Long-ge is now at least partially Dixingren. Long-ge laughs it off every time but never denies it. This is the fruition of months of settling into Shen Wei’s skin for Long-ge, of learning Zhao Yunlan’s beats for Bai Yu himself and today as they stand at the cusp of saying goodbye, Bai Yu isn’t sure if it’s Zhao Yunlan replying to Shen Wei or whether it’s his own voice coming to the fore when he says, “What deal?”

 


THE FIRST MEAL

“You didn’t eat this morning?!” Long-ge sounded entirely outraged, and Bai Yu ducked his head in guilt. It’s not like he planned to have a gastric attack in the middle of the shoot. It was just that he had overslept, and they had an early call and he had forgotten to grab either some food or his medicines. He hadn’t even thought about it until he had felt a sudden surge in the pit of his stomach, a wave of bile traveling up his esophagus and creating a painful lump in his throat.

He had choked it down, determined to continue with the shoot, determined not to embarrass himself in front of Long-ge who was a consummate professional, disciplined to the point of obsession, who would never skip a meal or forget a workout meeting or fumble a line of dialogue. He had forced himself to keep going until the hollowness in his stomach had developed fangs, gnawing at his stomach lining and forcing him to his knees. Right in the middle of one of their most emotional confrontations.

Bai Yu generally liked being the center of attention. He was intelligent, charming, likeable, he told very funny stories, he cracked great jokes, his wordplay was excellent (shut up Da Jie), but not like this. Not bent over on a pavement, Long-ge’s firm grip around his shoulders the only thing keeping him upright, the rest of the cast and crew hovering worriedly around him while the director called anxiously for a medic. He wanted to babble reassurances, but he was afraid if he did he would throw up and he really wanted to avoid that at all costs.

“Everyone, back off.” Long-ge’s gentle voice had a core of steel, almost like he was channeling Shen Wei, and Bai Yu wasn’t even the slightest bit surprised when the people milling around them obeyed. With one arm still curved firmly under his shoulder, and the other clamped around his hip, Long-ge managed to hoist Bai Yu to his feet. Bai Yu absently marveled at his strength even as he slumped against Long-ge who effortlessly shouldered his weight. Half carrying, half dragging, he managed to manipulate Bai Yu to his trailer, dumping him unceremoniously on the bench that passed as a makeshift bed.

“Bai Yu. BAI YU! XIAO BAI!” When had he closed his eyes, Bai Yu wondered? “Where are your medicines?” Bai Yu managed to vaguely point at a small shelf. He heard sounds of a box being opened, and of medicines being ruthlessly rifled through. Finally, he felt a weight settle next to him on the bed, and a cool hand cup his cheek.

“Xiao Bai, come on, look at me. I know, I know it hurts but I need you to talk to me, ok?”

Well, since Long-ge never wanted to talk, it wasn’t like Bai Yu was going to give up this golden opportunity. He dragged his eyes open - how was it so difficult to focus? - and saw Long-ge’s face hovering over his own.

“Xiao Bai, I have your medicines, but they have to be taken with food. When did you last eat?” Long-ge asked gently.

An excellent question, Bai Yu thought, since he really couldn’t remember. “No breakfast.” He managed to choke out between uneven breaths. “Not much dinner, wasn’t hungry. 17 hours or so?”

His eyes slipped shut again as he was met with a quick, quiet inhale. And then “Ok, alright. You just lie still, Xiao Bai.”

The weight shifted off the bed, and he heard the door of the trailer creak open as he doubled over, trying to breathe through another wave of pain. Time went away for a while until he felt Long-ge by his side again. He couldn’t have said how he knew it was Long-ge, but there was something familiar, solidly comforting about his presence. An arm went around his shoulders, and he groaned as he was pulled up and propped against a stack of pillows.

“Shhh, Xiao Bai, I know. I’m sorry. But you have to eat.” A spoon nudged at his lips and he automatically parted them and oh! It was congee, delicious, warm, delicately flavoured congee, with the rich bite of soothing ginger right at the back of his throat. He suddenly realized how hungry he was and bite after bite followed until the snake gnawing at his innards retreated. He opened his eyes and realized that his costar and tentative friend was sitting next to him in his trailer, feeding him like a baby.

“I can do that myself,” Bai Yu found himself saying, raising a hand, which was firmly slapped away by Long-ge.

“I am sure you can, but obviously you don’t,” Long-ge bit out. Bai Yu didn’t even know he could get angry. He was usually so quietly patient. And then Bai Yu suddenly realized. He wasn’t just angry. He was worried. The pain was momentarily replaced with a suffusing sense of warmth.

“I am sorry,” Bai Yu muttered penitently. “I didn’t realize that this would happen. I’ll be more careful now.”

Long-ge silently handed him a glass of water and his medicines and for a moment, Bai Yu thought he was too angry to reply. And then a gentle hand tipped his head up and Bai Yu resisted the urge to sink into Long-ge’s touch.

“Xiao Bai. Let’s make a deal ok? I’ll come get you for breakfast every morning. You eat with me before we shoot. Ok?”

Bai Yu grinned. More time with Long-ge. “Deal!”

 

Shen Wei moves closer, his steps uneven and unsteady like they have rarely been unless he is grievously injured, and here in this place where all physical wounds are healed, it’s clear to Zhao Yunlan that the hurt is deep inside. His body stays very still, while suggesting with every move that it wants to reach out to Zhao Yunlan to be touched. To be held. “Let’s make a deal,” he manages to choke out, eyes luminous behind his glasses. “No matter how long it takes.” A step. “No matter where we are,” another step. “You and I, we will meet again.” Long-ge’s eyes continue to brim with tears but not spill over, and a detached part of Bai Yu’s brain registers that he needs to ask him how he manages that, but most of him is focused on Long-ge’s mouth, his lips that show just a trace of a tremor. Bai Yu is fascinated by Long-ge’s mouth. It’s mobile and sensitive, capable of snarling with fury or smirking sardonically when in character. But as Long-ge it’s always soft, curving into the slightest smile, sometimes drooping just a little in disappointment, sometimes pouting just a bit as if asking to be kissed.

 

THE FIRST KISS

“Zhao Yunlan figured it out so quickly, he is so smart.” Bai Yu flipped through his script. “The Black Cloaked Envoy, so powerful, so secretive, so terrible at keeping a secret.”

“Took Yunlan long enough,” Long-ge shot back, and Bai Yu grinned at the fact that Long-ge was now comfortable enough to banter easily with him. It had taken weeks for Long-ge to chat with him outside their scenes and it was only after they started their breakfast routine that he had let his guard down enough to show a surprisingly sardonic humour behind the politely deferential façade. Now here they were, just the two of them, hours after filming had ended, Long-ge sipping tea, Bai Yu with a glass of wine, running lines, cracking jokes. It was like the kitten all over again, but better.

“Well he didn’t want to jump to assumptions, now did he? And he knew there was something weird about Shen Wei right from the beginning.”

“I would too, and I don’t head a detective bureau. What isn’t weird about a Biology Professor wandering around every crime scene? I am just surprised Zhao Yunlan didn’t arrest him.”

It was a rare moment when Long-ge’s guard was entirely down, he was entirely present and not stuck in some kind of limbo between himself and Shen Wei. Bai Yu loved those moments.

“Oh, but he couldn’t. Not the lovely Professor Shen. So exquisite and gentle and helpful. How could Yunlan ever put a beauty like that behind bars?” Long-ge blushed and bit his lip, just as Bai Yu had intended. Bai Yu had figured out quite quickly that the one thing that was guaranteed to embarrass Long-ge was a reference to his frankly stunning good looks, something he seemed to be deliberately and stubbornly unaware of.

Bai Yu changed the subject, because much as he enjoyed watching Long-ge go red, he was not cruel. “So, I am going to talk to Wardrobe about changing my hairstyle.”

Long-ge looked politely baffled. “Why on earth would you do that?”

“Because it’s only proper, Long-ge.” Bai Yu projected just the right level of indignation in his tones. “What kind of wife would Zhao Yunlan be if he didn’t change his parting after he got married?”

Long-ge choked on his tea. “Wife?” he spluttered. Bai Yu helpfully thumped him on the back.

“I mean, wife, husband, we should not get so tied up in who plays what role in the marriage. But it is only proper that the hair represent that the relationship is official. You can change your hair if you would rather.”

“This is supposed to be a bromance,” Long-ge choked out and Bai Yu patted his head soothingly.

“I know you’ve read the novel, Long-ge. Nobody looks at their brothers the way Shen Wei looks at Zhao Yunlan. We are trying to show a deep sexual bond, without, you know, showing a deep sexual bond, if you know what I mean.”

“A 14 year old would know what you mean.” Long-ge had clearly recovered his sense of humour.

“Who can blame Shen Wei?” Bai Yu asked, stretching expansively and letting a hand drift suggestively down his chest. “All of this is very hard to resist.”

“And yet, so many people manage. Every day.”

“So cold, Long-ge. So cold and cruel.”

Long-ge laughed. Not the smile he used for Shen Wei, a tight curve of the lip that looked almost afraid of happiness, but his own laugh, nose crinkling, lines blooming around his eyes. “A hundred apologies, Xiao Bai. You are, of course, irresistible.”

Bai Yu stood up, slightly unsteady after the second glass of wine, and bowed. “Your kindness is appreciated, Long-ge. As is your honesty.”

Long-ge had also risen, standing close enough to stabilize him if he faltered. “I think I should be going, Xiao Bai. It is late, and we have an early shoot tomorrow.”

If he had been even the slightest bit more sober, Bai Yu would have left it right there, bid Long-ge goodbye, and then had a good long wank, much like he’d been doing every night for the last few weeks. But he was just on the wrong side of tipsy, and Long-ge was standing so close, the warmth of his body radiating against Bai Yu’s, and Bai Yu couldn’t stop himself from rocking forward just a couple of inches, tilting his head down the slightest bit and pressing his lips against Long-ge’s.

Seconds later, his brain caught up with his body and he realized Long-ge was just standing there, painfully, consciously still, his hand half raised to his mouth and Bai Yu sprang back, apologies spilling out. “Long-ge, Long-ge, I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to. Please…” words stumbling over each other as Long-ge continued to just stand there, eyes wide, lips parted, stunned into silence.

Bai Yu didn’t know how long he apologized, it could have been minutes, it felt like hours, his eyes squeezed shut so that he didn’t have to see Long-ge’s face, when suddenly there was a pair of soft lips against his own. Just for a second, but long enough for it to take his breath away.

“Long-ge…” he managed to breathe out.

“I suppose you are irresistible after all, Xiao Bai,” Long-ge said, that loveliest of smiles on his lips.

 

“Okay.” That’s all Zhao Yunlan can say. “Okay.” It’s the first true gesture of reciprocation for 10,000 years of love that Zhao Yunlan has ever really had the opportunity to make and Bai Yu pours months of yearning into his voice, into that one word. Every feeling that Zhao Yunlan has developed for his brave, brilliant, foolish, self-sacrificing, passionate warrior-scholar is encapsulated in that one single ‘okay’. And Bai Yu knows he has nailed it, when the tears finally slip down Shen Wei’s cheeks and he breaks into a smile that simultaneously holds the realization of possibly eternal separation as well as the hope and promise of an eventual unforeseen but desperately desired reunion. They are standing so close, him and Long-Ge, staring into each other’s eyes, possibly for the very last time. Can it have been only three months since the two of them first met? How can it be over so soon? They have barely started to learn each other

 

THE FIRST TIME

Bai Yu had to stop and breathe. Long-ge was spread out on his hotel bed like a feast, his compactly muscled frame entirely naked and on full display, his cock already at half mast, pink and beautifully curved with a bead of precum tantalizingly, teasingly dripping from the very tip.

“Tell me what you want, Long-ge?” Bai Yu managed to force out as he braced himself over Long-ge, his arms bracketing his head, his lips the merest touch away from a kiss.

“I want you to touch me, Xiao Bai. I want you to touch me everywhere.” Long-ge moaned, his eyes hazy with pleasure. “And then, I want you to fuck me. I want you to fill me up, I want to feel you tomorrow. I want to feel you inside me when this is over and you are far away. Xiao Bai, please. Make me remember.”

Bai Yu had to clutch his cock just to stop himself from coming embarrassingly fast. He was 26 years old, for the love of god, he was not going to come untouched just from hearing a beautiful man pleading for his touch.

He bent down and nibbled down the line of Long-ge’s neck, delicately, gently. This was an experience to be savoured, the musky smell of Long-ge’s body, the salty sweaty taste of his nipple as it beaded under Bai Yu’s tongue, the broken sound of his voice as he arched into Bai Yu’s mouth.

“You are beautiful, Long-ge,” he said, amazed how controlled his voice sounded under the circumstances, and watched with delight as once again Long-ge blushed at the words. He chased the blush with his mouth, following it down from the curve of Long-ge’s neck, nibbling down his chest to the curve of his hip and to the inner thighs, ignoring the little sound of discontent from above when he circumvented Long-ge’s cock.

“How do you want it?” he asked when he had successfully reduced Long-ge into a breathless moaning trembling mass using only his mouth.

“Oh, like this. Bai Yu, Xiao Bai, please. Just like this. I want to see you. I want you to see me.”

Bai Yu lifted Long-ge’s legs, splaying them open wide, a delightfully, shamelessly lewd display of his hole, his cock hard and straining against his stomach. “Like this?”

“Oh, oh yes.” It was barely a breath.

Bai Yu blindly reached for the lubricant on the table beside them and squirted it on his fingers. “I am going to open you up so slowly,” he whispered and Long-ge shuddered under him. “I am going to press each finger in there until you open right up, until you’re wet and shaking and begging for another and then when you can’t take it anymore, I am going to slide my dick in there, nice and easy, fill you up just like you wanted. Would you like that?”

Long-ge’s eyelashes were dark against his cheek, his lips red as he bit down on them. “Please, yes, more than anything.” And Bai Yu knew that if he wanted he could just stay there, teasing Long-ge for hours, keeping him on the edge, making him beg and someday, when they weren’t tired from long hours of shooting, when Long-ge’s back hadn’t been aching from the hours of standing, when they didn’t have to be back on set in just a few hours, he would do just that, but not today. Today he was just going to fuck him, make him come-sleepy and cozy-tired, curl up against the lines of his body and pretend they had forever.

 

As Bai Yu’s ‘Okay’ hangs in the air, they both stand very still. Everything is agonisingly silent around them as Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan look into each other’s eyes for the last time. One of them condemned to light a lamp for all eternity, the other forced back into the wheel of reincarnation, possibly waiting forever. There is nothing to say. Promises aside, they may never meet again. This deal, this bet is a final gift from the capricious Hallows allowing them to say one last farewell. And Bai Yu realises he is crying too, the tears mirroring those trickling down Long-ge’s face because it is goodbye. Oh god, it is goodbye.

The Final Scene

“Cut” the director orders and the set snaps back into action. A young assistant rushes forward to slip a sheaf of tissues into Bai Yu’s hand, and he stares at them uncomprehendingly until he realises that his face is wet with Zhao Yunlan’s tears. Long-ge is clutching a similar set, his expression mildly perplexed as if he doesn’t quite understand what tissues are meant for, his face still set in the same lines as Shen Wei. The dazed, stricken look in his eyes cause a shudder of concern to go through Bai Yu and he rushes forward.

Snap out of it Long-ge! he wants to scream. We’re here. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. It’s okay. But of course he can’t do that. He has seen Long-ge go into these fugues before, far too deep inside Shen Wei’s mind to immediately pull himself out. Bai Yu understands all too well. He feels Zhao Yunlan under his skin as well, struggling to reach out to his lover and Bai Yu isn’t sure how much is Yunlan and how much is himself. He ruthlessly tamps Yunlan’s yearning down, reaches within himself. I am Bai Yu. I am an actor. I have 2 older sisters. I have a dog. I love hugging people. I love kisses. I love laughter and beauty. I love making new friends. I love Long-ge. And suddenly something within him snaps and he’s free. He is back to being himself.

He rushes forward to Long-ge who is standing very still, his back perfectly straight, the tears still staining his face. Long-ge must remember too. Bai Yu tries laughter, he tries touch, he tries everything to get Long-ge to focus as Long-ge raises those dazed eyes to his face and almost physically heaves a sigh of relief as the daze clears just a bit. Long-ge’s lips tilt in a smile that is almost his own and Bai Yu wants to pull him closer, kiss him into being present, into being here with him and not floating somewhere in a lonely galaxy far away.

But before he can do anything more, the crew and the rest of the cast crowds around them, laughing with almost a tinge of hysteria and Bai Yu can’t blame them. It’s the last shot of the day, the last shot of three months of low budget mayhem, thankless labour, terrible hours and gruelling backbreaking work. Everyone is exhausted but also euphoric, ready to celebrate. And in the scrum, Bai Yu barely notices as Long-ge slips quietly, politely out of his grasp, and still dabbing his face with small bewildered gestures wanders away into the wings.

Bai Yu should rush to follow him, but Li Yan winds himself around him and Gao Yu Er slips a cold glass of something delicious and slightly spiked into his hand and he lets himself be distracted for just a moment. By the time he looks around, Long-ge is gone.

It takes a while for Bai Yu to extricate himself from the high-fives and the hugs, the rounds of celebratory drinks, the chaos of a show coming to an end but he finally manages to make polite excuses and stumble out to look for Long-ge. It’s dark and very very hot. Bai Yu has been complaining about Zhao Yunlan’s ridiculous jacket kink for weeks. Long-ge hasn’t complained but Bai Yu can tell that Shen Wei’s buttoned down layers have been getting to him as well. Bai Yu has spent far too much time tending to heat rashes speckled across Long-ge’s body, rashes that Long-ge just laughs away. “The price we pay for being actors.” He says. Bai Yu is grateful that he had the sense to discard the jacket before heading out towards Long-ge’s trailer. He stops short when he sees a dark figure huddled outside his own.

“Long-ge?” Bai Yu rushes forward, his concern ratcheting up, when Long-ge doesn’t respond to his voice. He reaches him, touches him and gasps at the heat coming off him. Still dressed in the white shirt and grey waistcoat that is still sodden with sweat from the strong set lights, and then out here in the heat for far too long, god knows when Long-ge last drank a sip of water. His skin is terrifyingly dry and hot to the touch and Bai Yu wastes no time in trying to pull him to his feet.

Bai Yu’s worry only intensifies when he finally manages to force Long-ge to uncurl and gets a look at his face. Long-ge has been completely silent the whole time, but his face is terrifyingly pale, flushed bright red across his cheekbones. His eyes aren’t entirely focusing and he can barely keep his feet as Bai Yu tries to help him up, his knees buckling under him.

“Come on, Long-ge,” Bai Yu pleads. While he has a couple of inches on Long-ge, there is no way that Bai Yu can manage his weight on his own. “Come on, you’ve got to work with me here. Just a few steps. Just to the trailer. Come on.”

Long-ge has always responded to desperation in people’s voices, in Bai Yu’s voice in particular, and it thankfully it works again, since he manages to keep his feet under him and almost like a trusting child, allows Bai Yu to lead them into the blissfully cool trailer. Bai Yu helps him sit down on the bench and immediately starts working on his clothes. The waistcoat comes off first, those damned sleeve garters, fiddly things, comes off next and finally the shirt. Long-ge sits there unmoving, letting Bai Yu manhandle him, the lack of response terrifying. Once the clothes are off and he is down to his vest, Bai Yu pours out a glass of water, makes sure that Long-ge has a grip on it and then roots around in the trailer for a towel while keeping a soothing babble going. “What were you thinking, huh? Not even stopping for a glass of water? And you say I am the irresponsible one. Who’s the adult now, huh Long-ge?” He finally turns around, towel in hand to a heart-breaking sight.

The glass, thankfully empty, has dropped to one side and Long-ge has slipped over to his side, one hand covering his eyes, the other clutching his heart. Bai Yu can make out soft mumbles of ‘Zhao Yunlan. Zhao Yunlan, no.’

Long-ge has to stop. It’s going to end in a full blown panic attack and Bai Yu can’t have that. He surges forward and wraps Long-ge in his arms, using the wet towel to mop his face.

“Long-ge,” he orders. “Long-ge, look at me.” When Long-ge doesn’t move, Bai Yu reluctantly says “Shen Wei.” And at that Long-ge raises his head, eyes swollen red, worrying tremors going through his body.

“Long-ge, who am I?”

“Yunlan.”

Bai Yu has worked with method actors before, but he’s never seen anyone under this deep. He isn’t sure what to do next, when he remembers. The touch of the brace, the heft of the glaive. If it works on Shen Wei, it might work on Long-ge.

Bai Yu gently lays Long-ge down, gets up and rushes into the tiny powder room, pulling off his shirt and jeans and slipping on new clothes, spraying a truly nauseating amount of his favourite deodorant on himself. He also pulls out one of Long-ge’s oversized t-shirts that had been left behind from when they had rushed into the trailer after everyone had left and spent hours just touching each other.

He is back as soon as possible. He slips the t-shirt over Long-ge’s head “Long-ge, who am I? Where are you?”

Long-ge is still for a terrifyingly long moment. Bai Yu reaches around him and pulls him closer, letting his smell permeate, the touch of his shirt and sweatpants sink in. And finally after what seems like hours, Long-ge moves, reacts, a little twitch, a small whisper, “Xiao Bai?”

“Yes. Yes, Long-ge, it’s me. It’s Xiao Bai. I’m here, I’m right here with you. I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

He keeps muttering promises, keeps touching Long-ge, gently caressing him until Long-ge uncurls and finally, finally looks at him - him, not Zhao Yunlan - his Long-ge, not Shen Wei looking out of those beautiful eyes.

“There you are,” Bai Yu smiles.

Long-ge smiles back, a wan small smile but a smile nonetheless. “You’re okay. You are not leaving me. It’s not goodbye.”

“No. No, I am going to be right here. Forever,” Bai Yu murmurs, pulling him close again. It is a lie. Both of them have fresh scripts waiting in their offices. They are both at the cusp of their careers. They may never work together again, they may never even meet. They may walk out of this set to a parting less final but as inexorable as Shen Wei’s and Zhao Yunlan’s. The government will never allow it. Their families may be horrified. But Bai Yu lies. And he wonders if Shen Wei had lied too. It is a white lie. A comforting lie. And with Long-ge in his arms at that moment the lie is enough. It has to be.