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Love, Lies and Flame

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He was always attracted to beauty; women or men. The entertainment world had no shortage of them. No wonder his eyes strayed to his quiet co-star, Zhu Yilong. A man shouldn't be called beautiful, yet this man does with a cold elegance and fair skin. He should've turned away.

He couldn't.

The low voice and awkwardly quiet personality almost brought down the atmosphere, yet Bai Yu was utterly seduced. Flawless white skin, pink lips, and hesitant smile aroused dark thoughts, and he couldn't help but wonder how the man would act in the throes of ecstasy. Ironically, it was Zhu Yilong himself who gave him an opportunity.

The man sat beside him, awkwardly holding their script. "How do you want to approach Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan's relationship?" Staring straight at him with deer-like eyes. He felt like a wolf facing his prey, his scheming self almost smirked in joy. The silence was deliberately prolonged when he leaned closer into those cocoa eyes.

"The script already altered all the BL stuff. Any angle is fine for me," said Bai Yu, smirking sexily, voice lowered down. It was clear blatant seducement. Zhu Yilong blinked, puzzled. Without his usual hat and large jacket, those cocoa eyes looked larger than it was. It was almost insulting that all his effort went over the man's head. Thus, the method had to be changed. A predator always knew how to trap his prey.

"I heard that you use method acting…," said Bai Yu, baiting. For the passive Zhu Yilong, slow fishing might be suitable. "How would that be for Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan?" he started. His co-star blinked several times, perturbed.

"If you asked me that…," murmured Zhu Yilong hesitantly. "Then Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan would be in love, not just a friendship…" Bai Yu smirked in triumph, slowly leaning closer and closer towards the man. His right hand lingered on to Zhu Yilong's knee.

"Then Gege…." The word Gege had never been more seductive. "Be prepared to fall in love with me…," whispered Bai Yu.

xxx

At first, there was a rumor that Zhu Yilong was a cold, arrogant, and conceited actor, but within the first week of shooting, they all knew it wasn't the truth. Yes, the man was quiet, cultured, and elegant, giving them a rich family son vibe, but he was so shy and awkward. Zhu Yilong's method acting style needed him to feel his character Shen Wei, even off-screen, but the real personality was adorable. Of course, Bai Yu was the first one to realized and deemed it necessary to teased the older man to death. Hence the barraged of monkey memes and annoying chats.

The first time Zhu Yilong laughed too loud from Bai Yu's silly jokes, the crew stared in amazement. Realizing this, a burst of pink blooms into his cheek, and the man instinctively hid into his script. Nonetheless, the annoying Bai Yu wasn't deterred until the man snapped.

"Go away!" blurted Zhu Yilong. But the smiles and the eye rolls told them he didn't mind. It didn't take long until the whole crew teased him as Bai Yu did.

xxx

"Long Ge! That looks so good…" whined Bai Yu as he burst into the set. Zhu Yilong was eating noodles like he usually did in the morning. His black hair hasn't been styled, the bangs fell straight into his forehead, making the man looks younger than he was with Shen Wei's hairstyle.

"Have you eaten yet?" asked the gentle Zhu Yilong. Like a sloth, Bai Yu dropped himself into his co-star's shoulder, plastering himself onto the muscled back. He whined pitifully, "Not yet…. Feed me…."

Zhu Yilong gently shook the naughty man away. He noticed Bai Yu had severe stomach problem, but he rarely ate in time. The stubbled man usually slumped on his shoulder, whining about his stomachache every single day. He reached across the table. "Here…." A steaming bowl of thin noodle soup was placed in front of Bai Yu. He had enough of Bai Yu's unstoppable whining.

"For me?" asked Bai Yu, strangely touched. He finally sat properly beside his co-star. He did tell the man that he had this problem before, but he never expected this seemingly cold man to remember. Even brought him food like this. Men usually weren't this attentive.

Suddenly remembering Zhao Yunlan's line, he posed. "Long Ge, you're so nice. How can I let you go?" drawled Bai Yu seductively. It was very sudden and apparent, but Zhi Yilong was either very dense or very innocent as the man stared at him, chopstick hanging on the air in confusion.

"Are we practicing line now?" murmured Zhu Yilong. If Bai Yu hadn't seen the wide-eyed, confused look on the man's face, he would think the man was playing with him, but the constant mistook of his flirting as him being playful were real.

"Long Ge, you're no fun! You should smirk as Shen Wei does…," said Bai Yu, pouting hard.

"Aaah…," said Zhu Yilong. Nodding in realization while Bai Yu sulked silently. Why is it so hard giving signals to this man? He couldn't understand how a person could eat noodles elegantly, yet this man in front of him managed to do that while being a clueless, adorable dork at the same time. His fair, flawless skin shone even without makeup. In those perfectly fitted three-piece suits that Shen Wei often wear, the man was unfairly beautiful, gentle, and polite, cluelessly making female staffs swoon.

The world was cruel in a way that he understood the reason this man wasn't very popular was his shy, introverted personality. In the industry where people acted cheery and fake, it was mistaken as cold and arrogant. Zhu Yilong was very naïve for this industry as he certainly didn't understand the existence of unwritten rules. Despite his excellent education, he had no large backing, thus made it harder to get good scripts. In the dirty and competitive entertainment industry, fun and cheerful entertainer became popular easier even if they weren't as talented.

Some people also used various ways to get closer to the top. Sleeping their way to the top their management presidents or finding producer's backing for roles in top productions. Someone as pretty as Zhu Yilong must've got some unwritten rules offers like this. Either the man was ignorant, or someone protected him too well. He was very open-minded, one of the staff was gay, and he didn't mind working with him, unlike the homophobic conservative people. But Bai Yu's gentle approach was not working. His usual methods weren't viable, true to his personality; Zhu Yilong couldn't drink at all because he was allergic to alcohol. As the shoot went further, Bai Yu realized he should go all out for this man.

Xxx

Trust was an idea that sheltered, naive people still believe. It had no place in an industry riddled with masks and lies. Watching the disoriented face of Zhu Yilong, he couldn't help but wonder whether it was him who swam too well on these seas of deceit, or the man was too gullible. It was so easy, too easy.

There on the bed lies his temptation, barely conscious, fragile, and defenseless. It will be too easy to ruin this man's career with some well-staged pictures, but a man as kind as Zhu Yilong didn't deserve that. They said the purest form of innocence tempted the devil's lusts, and it's true. Bai Yu never thought of himself as a nice guy, but this was a new low even for himself. However, as if he was a wolf wanting to devour the lamb, a predator could never resist his prey.

It was almost orgasmic the way his thin fingers graze those fair skin, aching with lust. He wondered, "You're not a virgin, are you?" Slowly unbuttoning Zhu Yilong's white shirt, the flawless fair skin greeted him. He snorted in irony as the exclusive Zhu Yilong laid on his own bed, at his mercy. The skin bloomed with a red blush as the older man moan lying on the bed, drugs raising his temperature while half-lidded cocoa eyes unintentionally burned with lust.

Bai Yu refused to feel guilt, eyes glancing at the hidden object placed on Zhu Yilong's desk. It was just a short play. This man was already 30 years old. It was impossible for a man this attractive to be a virgin. No one could be a pure saint, especially in the entertainment industry.

"Long Ge…," Bai Yu whispered. Still clothed, he sat on the older man's leg. Those beautiful eyes were too clouded; it was almost pitiful the way Zhu Yilong laid helpless. He knew he should've stopped, but he was too aroused, especially when his prey was stronger than him. The lightly muscled legs trembled when his fingers were sliding inside the man's pants, touching feverishly.

"Ah…." The moan coming from Zhu Yilong's mouth caught Bai Yu's eyes. Those white finger was grasping onto the white bedsheets in aching fever. He leaned down closer, captivated. "Why are you so beautiful?" He whispered, one hand cupping Zhu Yilong's head, hovering above those pink lips. For now, he would taste this delicate feast with pleasure. As if waiting for him, his prey opened those lips, and he dived in.

It was rewarding, kissing, and ravaging that mouth as if he was starving. Up close, Zhu Yilong lashes fluttering lightly as he brought him closer. It was a sweet sinful taste and the older man rewarded him with tantalizing low moan and whimper. He moved along, kissing down to the neck, hands undressing as he went down further.

It was a common affair for co-stars sleeping with each other. Relationship was a rare privilege for actors or actresses. There's no way to sleep with outsiders without public judgement. For him, both genders were fair game as long as they're beautiful. And this man was incredibly responsive and too tempting for him not to take this chance. Who knows after this maybe this can be a common occurrence. Bai Yu smirked. He certainly wouldn't complain.

Xxx

It wasn't the usual annoying sunlight that woke him up today; it was blinding headaches and his aching body that alarmed him. It must be those herbal drinks that screwed his memories. Fans often sent him gifts, however small his supporters were, they're very kind. However, it wasn't the first time he drank the herbal drinks, and it never went like this. Something must be added to it. Strangely, the pain seemed to be concentrated on his lower back as he was gradually aware of his lack of clothing. The sheets that stuck on his sweaty skin seemed very familiar, but the blanket almost didn't cover his body.

Groaning in pain, he turned his head and froze.  The face on his bedside was very familiar, but his co-worker was also in a similar state as he was. Naked.

What the hell happened last night?!

It was clear. The state of his own body, the red marks on his chest, and the scratches on Bai Yu's skin told him the truth. Whatever inside the drinks that set his body on fire, it led to sex. It wasn't like he never had sex before but certainly never with a man or a co-star. The last time he had a serious relationship was a few years ago.

Fifteen minutes after panicking inside, he finally tried to sit. Slowly and painfully as his sore backside, mad the blinding headache worse. He couldn't fathom how this happened.  He had drunk some of the strangest remedies, yet this kind of thing never happened. Since he was allergic to alcohol, his teenager's phase went without any drunken mistakes.

However, this….

This sleeping with his male co-star is a new high of mistake. Even if Bai Yu was always a touchy-incorrigible flirt, the marks on Bai Yu's back certainly didn't make him innocent either. Hands shaking, he grabbed the almost fallen blankets tighter.

What should he do? His mother would certainly kill him if she knew he slept with a man.

"Eh?" a familiar drawl woke him from his musing. Bai Yu's eyes were wandering around for a while until the owner suddenly sat up in a panic. "Long Ge!" bolted the younger man, but suddenly he bowed down in pain.

Zhu Yilong groaned in pain as the loud voice made his headache worse. "Don't shout…." The younger man seemed to be in better condition than he was. In ten minutes, Bai Yu jump of the bed, searching for his clothes while he was burying his face into the blanket, drowning in embarrassment. The scratch marks on Bai Yu's back brought the worst red blush onto his ears.

The silence was so awkward. Bai Yu coughed, "Um… I-I don't remember anything…." The man finally found his pants from the floor. The older actor stayed silent, determined to sink into the bed.

"Are you okay, Long Ge?" asked Bai Yu awkwardly. The man was a mess, hair tousled in every direction, and he accidentally wore his t-shirt backward.

"Can't move…" mumbled Zhu Yilong painfully. Bai Yu gulped visibly as he seemed to realize why his co-star couldn't move.

"Um… That...herbal drink... We… we must be drugged…," said the man quietly. He sat back slowly on the bed. Eyes wandering on the man's bite marked filled skin and red ears.

"I… we…," started Bai Yu, stopping midway. "Headache?" he asked gently. The older man nodded painfully, careful of making it worsen. "Me too… Do you have an aspirin?" Zhu Yilong nodded, glancing towards the cabinet, Bai Yu quickly moved. After giving them both aspirin, Bai Yu sat quietly, seemingly not feeling well himself yet he tenderly brought damp cloth for Zhu Yilong to compress as the man was running a slight fever.

"Thank you…," mumbled Zhu Yilong quietly.  The man was obviously feeling very awkward and embarrassed.

"I'm sorry I shouldn't let you drink too much…," said Bai Yu guiltily. His co-star nodded faintly. This was not Bai Yu's own fault. It took two to tango; both of them were so drunk, and this kind of thing could happen. Bai Yu must be feeling a lousy hangover as well, but the man kindly took care of him.

"Don't let this make us awkward again, Long Ge…. Let's just forget about it. Friends could sleep with each other," declared the younger one.

"Alright…," Zhu Yilong agreed helplessly. What else could he do about this?

Bai Yu realized when his co-star woke up that he miscalculated on the amount he needed to drug the man, also on the fact that his co-star never seemed to sleep with a man before even if he was very responsive. There must be some tear in the entrance area, making the man feverish like this. In a way, he did feel a little bit guilty but seeing how the man looked very cute and vulnerable wrapped naked in a huge white blanket; he felt very aroused.

There were several reactions that people usually do in this situation; blaming others, smirking in amusement or running away, but this 30 years old man preferred to hide behind his blanket like a three years old child. If not for the fact that the man was still naked and the air smells like sex, he would find this unbelievably funny. Here he was, doing things that he never did, helping out his bed partner like this.

It wasn't until on the way home that he let himself smirk in glory. The older man was stronger than him, but he managed to ravage him into a moaning mess last night. Bite marks would be hard to heal as his skin was so fair, Zhu Yilong was lucky that they had two days off. Bai Yu glanced at the pinhole camera on the dashboard that he had placed on his co-star desk last night. It was very delicious, and he could watch it again privately. It wasn't like he recorded it for blackmail or something; his own face was shown clearly on the video. He just like beautiful things. He did this several times with another co-star; male or female, filmed it secretly to watch it again.

Zhu Yilong was a very exquisite creature, though. This victory was very exhilarating as he felt so giddy as if he found a treasured, unspoiled wine and tasted it first. Driving his car, Bai Yu smirked in amusement.

Those pink, swollen lips; he wouldn't mind another taste.

Xxx

It was supposed to be a one-night play, but he found himself watching the video again and again, longing for another taste. Zhu Yilong didn't seem to be unaffected either. The man was always flustered and awkward; to be fair, Bai Yu did tease him relentlessly. It was cute the way the older man told him to stop or to go away, yet smiling in amusement. Sometimes, Bai Yu found the older man secretly staring, conflicted, and perplexed. Especially after he deliberately touched him or after letting himself caught watching those pink lips. Drawing the prey for slaughter.

Tomorrow they would be shooting on a rural mountain area, so today the whole crew stayed on a nearby hotel. Bai Yu deliberately choose a corner room facing each other for Zhu Yilong. It wasn't until 9 pm did he knock on his co-star room, pizza in hand.

"Long Ge…," called Bai Yu. He knocked twice until his Zhu Yilong opened the door, hair still dripping, fresh from the shower. "Pizza?" said Bai Yu, proceeding to push through into the older man's room as he wished. He sat on the bed, shamelessly flipping through the television channel while Zhu Yilong tenderly sat beside him, silently rubbing his hair with a white towel. That was another opening for him. "Eh, Long Ge, why did you rub it so hard? Here, let me do it." Without waiting for an answer, Bai You took the towel.

They were facing so close to each other. Bai Yu dried Zhu Yilong's hair gently, ignoring the bewildered look on those large brown eyes. The older man stayed silent, looking down awkwardly until finally, Bai Yu stared back at him. "I…," started Bai Yu. "I remembered something…" Zhu Yilong gulped silently; a red blush went through his ears prettily as the man moved his gaze downward.

"Me too…," he whispered. It was such an arousing sight. His long lashes trembled under the damp bangs,  cheek burst in pink. Tenderly, Bai Yu was diving closer, slightly touching those pink lips with his own, kissing him slowly. Cocoa eyes framed in long lashes went wide in surprise, but the man didn't push him away. A few seconds went by until Bai Yu stepped back awkwardly, grinning.

"Umm… Pizza?" he asked again. Zhu Yilong dazedly nodded, speechless in shock. However, when Bai Yu casually turned around, he caught a glimpse of the older man dazedly touching his lips. A smirk went through his mouth.

Patience was an excellent virtue, after all.

Xxx

Tenderness fitted Zhu Yilong too well. On the other hand, Bai Yu was passionate. They both might be Aries, but it was easy to forget that with Zhu Yilong. The man was simply too naïve that it was too easy catching the man off guard continuously. For an actor, the man was seriously unguarded and naïve. His introvert personality made it easier for people to let him sat by himself, reading through the scripts for a hundred times when the man had no scenes. Even his manager let him rest on his van alone.

It must be hard for the older man, shooting in the rural area contain many Shen Wei and Ye Zun scene, Zhu Yilong had to constantly wake up early for costume and hair set up. Now and then, Bai Yu couldn't help stealing a few kisses, and the man was adorably scatterbrained every single time. He especially loved how the man looked adorably young with his long black hair as young Shen Wei.

On the last day they had on the small hotel room, Bai Yu deliberately followed his co-star as the man walked alone into his hotel room. As the man opened his door, Bai You jumped right in, letting the door closed behind as he kissed the man thoroughly. The quiet man pounded Bai Yu's chest gently until he stopped.

"You're teasing me again…," said Zhu Yilong annoyed.

Bai Yu smirked in amusement. "You look so good with long hair, Long Ge. I can't hold it…," said Bai Yu seductively. The foxy man slid his hand through that beautiful neck, one hand skillfully unbuttoning the man's blue shirt. Zhu Yilong's Adam apple moved shakily.

"We might be too drugged that night, Long Ge. I might be too rough on you, but I remembered you enjoyed it," whispered Bai Yu. One hand sliding to Zhu Yilong's lower back, caressing the man's curved bottom.

Zhu Yilong shuddered silently. He did remember a few things that happened that night. Only flashes, but enough to know that he wasn't the unwilling participant either. He might be able to excuse that to the drugs which certainly contains aphrodisiac. However, he had never considered himself gay, he had a few serious relationships with girls before, but it was very different doing this while his mind was muddled and doing it sober.

"Long Ge…," called Bai Yu. The finger moved toward his chest, teasingly playing with his nipple, which strangely felt sensitive, while Bai Yu's leg went between his own, moving slowly.

"Ah…," a moan accidentally escaped through his mouth as pleasure ran through his body. Bai Yu kissed his neck, nibbling, licking his sensitive ears. He never knew when his hand circled Bai Yu's neck as his body slowly melted.

"Should we move onto the bed?" whispered Bai Yu right on his ears. Shivers spread through Zhu Yilong as he nodded in silent surrender.

Xxx

Sex with a man was certainly different from a woman, Zhu Yilong wondered. With Bai Yu, everything went fast and passionate; it was too easy falling into the heat and too hard to stop. He never went like this before, and it hard for him to understand himself. Their personality was so different, but Bai Yu's easy-going ones complement his introversion easily. It didn't take long for them to become close friends, outside on the shoot also inside the bedroom. The other man played around the scenes a lot but managed to bring him along, answering questions when he couldn't, and protecting him from female staff admirers.

It wasn't hard for him to feel touched with the cheerful man attentiveness towards him, hence why he always made sure the silly man had his breakfast. He never realized when he started to bring guitar just to accompany Bai Yu's random singing. Gradually the first thing he asked on set was Bai Yu so that he could sit next to him.

They slept several times in his apartment. This time was wearing protections, something that they both missed in their first drunken one. It was scary the way how his own awkward, stubborn and boring self became more open and willing to compromise with the younger man. They weren't just having sex when Bai Yu came over, they played, annoying each other, bantered and arguing about food more than he ever had with another person besides his best friend, Peng Guanying.

The only difference was, he never realized how in every argument, he always ended up letting Bai Yu won.

A sneaky touch on his bottom brought Zhu Yilong half awaked from his sleep. The annoying man was ceaselessly touching him, sniggering as a moan finally escaped.

"Long Ge... I have a photoshoot today, I'll be late to the shoot…," said Bai Yu as he kissed the older man's shoulder teasingly. His hand moved down, slithering under the blanket, slowly fingering.

"Let me do it again…" whispered Bai Yu. Zhu Yilong groaned in mixed feelings, he was very sleepy, yet he found himself yielding to the younger man again, although not without complains.

It wasn't until 10 am did he finally woke up and went to shoot another scene. There were several Shen Wei's solo shoots in the university today, as always Zhu Yilong did his own then monitored them behind the camera. Without Bai Yu keeping them in place, female staff flocked towards him, giving him coffee and jacket.

"Long Ge, are you single?" asked a young girl, one of the staff. Zhu Yilong stammered. He never intended to answer those personal questions. Another staff nudged the girl painfully. "Don't bother, Long Ge!" she scolded.

Zhu Yilong smiled blankly. Times like this made him missed Bai Yu. Thankfully the staff stayed back a little bit, gossiping. He tried to focus on the monitor, but the whispers drew him back.

"Long Ge is single. There were several rumors with actresses, but it was just to promote the dramas..."

"Ah…."

"What about Bai Yu?"

"I've heard he called someone Darling on the phone…."

"He already has a girlfriend. They lived together for three years now…."

Zhu Yilong froze, thunderstruck.

Suddenly the world fell quiet on his ears. The only sound was his own heart thumping loudly. A foreign sensation washed into his body. Cold sank into his bones.

It wasn't like he and Bai Yu were in a real relationship, right? They never talked about it, and he should have known about this. It was his fault for being unsociable, not knowing things like this. Even as he tried to reason with his own heart, it fell cold. He felt strangely empty.

Luckily he only had some easy scenes words choked up in his throat. Maybe it was a good thing that he finished early, and Bai Yu came late today. For his heart beats painfully, and he couldn't even sort his own mind. He sat in cold silence on his way back home. Even his chatty manager seemed to realize his unwillingness to talk.

He stared blankly to the window, watching the Shanghai evening sky passed by. His phone rang several times, but as he watched that name on display, he couldn't bring himself to touch it. The hardest thing was not realizing where he stood on this relationship. The cold spread into his fingers as he realized.

 

There was no relationship in the first place.

 

Once again, he found himself staring at nothing, curled up on his sofa. He should've known, should've expected this. But it was his the first time doing this kind of thing, sleeping with another man without having a relationship in the first place. But maybe there was no place for him to stop this feeling towards someone who had been so kind.

His phone rang several times again; it wasn't Bai Yu's name on display. This time, he hesitantly picked it up. "Hello?"

"Your voice sounds strange. Why aren't you answering my chats? Are you okay?" fired Peng Guanying, his longtime best friend. He smiled emptily, not knowing how to answer. This giraffe always knows him too well. "Yilong?" he asked again.

Zhu Yilong stayed quiet. His friend understood, sometimes he needed his silence. They were friends for almost 12 years since college. They both went into acting, passionate idiots who knew each other too well. Even though in front of Peng Guanying's face, he always complaining about the man's excessive height, hence the nickname Giraffe.

His mouth felt locked. "Guanying…," The word was stuck in his throat, yet Peng Guanying was still waiting. "Have you ever.... slept with your co-star before?" asked Zhu Yilong hesitantly. Silence filled the air until a loud sigh rang through the phone as the man on the phone, wondering about this sudden question.

"Of course, I have…," said Guanying casually, as if it was a norm.

"You never told me about it…," said Zhu Yilong.

"I told you all about my girlfriends. Those actresses were just a fling…. "The word had struck him hard. A fling, it was such short and simple but it described his relationship with Bai Yu plainly.

"It is common in this industry, Long-er…" The familiar nickname seemed so tender, yet he didn't feel warmed. "It's hard for us, actors, to be in a relationship without becoming a scandal. Sleeping with co-stars was just a kind of mutual benefit…," Peng Guanying explained gingerly.

The whole apartment was still dark, and there he was sitting on the cold floor. His breathing was deafening in this silence, eyes unintentionally wet with frozen tears. However, this was not a drama scene; tears had no place in this place.

"Yilong…." Peng Guanying voice break through the silence. It wasn't the usual annoying nickname; it was the worried one.

He should speak, but words failed him. "Hmm…," at least noise came through.

"I… I never told you about it because you were never interested in this kind of thing…," said Peng Guanying gently. That question told him what this silence was all about.

"Who is it?" He knew his best friends well, and whoever it was Zhu Yilong sleeping with, he must be having real feelings towards this person. That wasn't good at all. "Forget her…," blurted Peng Guanying. He knew his best friend would only get hurt.

"I…" started Zhu Yilong.

"Whoever it was you're sleeping with, forget them…," cut Peng Guanying firmly. "They might be sleeping with you, but it was just sex. Back away, in this kind of relationship, you're supposed to be using each other, but if it's you…" Peng Guanying's voice sank into silence.

"You will only get hurt…," he said gently.

Zhu Yilong hugged his legs tightly, mouth opening, but no sound came through. His choked throat stuttering in pain, yet breathing was hard. He hugged his legs tightly, sinking to the walls.

It wasn't his betrayed heart who feels the hardest pain. It was the crumbling walls and broken trust.

"I…," he murmured. Maybe there was a single reason not to feel this cold. There wasn't one. And he could only close his eyes.

Defeated.

"Alright…." He whispered. His friend was right. He was never good at things like this; this aching heart painted him the truth.

Bai Yu might be a good friend for him, but they can't be friends with a relationship like this. This would only bring him more pain. He realized it was his own fault in the first place. He shouldn't be attached by a nonexistent feeling.

Love...

He was never loved in the first place.

Chapter Text

Xxx

Hiding everything was easy and difficult at the same time. It was easy pretending to be fine for Bai Yu, that yesterday was just him feeling sick and fell asleep early.  However, it was hard to be his own ignorant self. His world had changed, and all of a sudden, he was aware of every speck of deceit, and he was drowning. Every lies opened his eyes like how Bai Yu said he was just playing on his phone but chatting with his girlfriend instead. Or how Bai Yu's manager distracted other people every time Bai Yu cornered him alone. It was all staged of deceit.

All this time, he was stupid and ignorant. He was too used to be protected from this kind of thing by other people; by Peng Guanying or his loyal assistant. Even now, it was hard for him to distance himself from Bai Yu.  The man was obnoxiously too easy-going, continuously annoying him with silly memes until a smile broke out on his face unwillingly.  It was too easy to forget his own grievance to Bai Yu.

However, today was tough.

Right before the crew's lunch break, Bai Yu introduced his girlfriend to every crew. The girl was from the entertainment industry, not so popular, but she was quite pretty. It was not the sexy kind of beauty like Gao Yuer, who played Zhu Hong or the fragile nature Rachel Li or Wang Zheng had. She was easy in the eyes, friendly, warm, and kind. She brought everyone her own homemade meal, delivering it by hand to every staff and actor with charming smiles and a sense of humor in hand.

But the food was hard to swallow. Dry and bitter, tasted like ashes on his tongue.

He acted like he usually was towards every new person. Aloof and distant but still with a polite smile in his face. There was no special privilege, even for Bai Yu's girlfriend.

Especially, towards Bai Yu's girlfriend.

Bai Yu, who always noticed his unease for these kinds of social situation, skillfully diverted the attention to others. Bai Yu, who kindly saved him from his own awkwardness every time investors or press crew came. Bai Yu, who teased him annoyingly yet, made him smile even in this bitterness in his own heart.

Zhu Yilong smiled bitterly when the man enthusiastically introduced him to his girlfriend. As if their tryst was no concern for him, clarifying his own foolish belief. He couldn't bring himself hate Bai Yu, yet he couldn't erase this coldness in his heart. For only a few weeks' relationships, no more than two months, it should be impossible for him to be this attached to someone. But watching Bai Yu laughed wholeheartedly, holding his girlfriend's hand tenderly. He realized this heartache was real, that sometimes it struck, stealing his breath away, This pain shouldn't be real, yet it does.

As a familiar longing ran through his bone, he finally realized what happened. It was that one thing his teacher warned him when he chose this kind of acting. For someone who used method acting like him, if the person weren't mentally stable and wasn't careful enough to compartmentalize the character and the real person behind the act, it would bleed through. His act felt so real because it was real for him; he fell in and out of love every time he acted, he died and smiled as he let the character ran through his mind. And sinking into Shen Wei's character was so easy because they're so similar sometimes.

Across the room, they met eyes, and Bai Yu waved happily, asking him to come closer as he and several actors danced around being utterly silly. It was ridiculous, yet that small bloom of fondness that ran through his heart said otherwise. He should've run away, back to the corner of his room, grounding himself to the reality.

He was Zhu Yilong, not Shen Wei.

Shen Wei was a ten thousand years old being who always kept his demon in check, and Zhu Yilong was just a 30-year-old unpopular actor who was awkward and lacking social skills. Shen Wei was content to suffer silently, watching from far, but Zhu Yilong, despite his silence, tends to be frank towards feelings. However, watching that man from afar, he didn't know who had loved more.

Longing was a cruel emotion.

Exhaling a breathless smile, a glass mask slid into his eyes. These days Zhu Yilong did one thing he promised his acting teachers he would never do. He let himself be Shen Wei even off cameras, drawing his real self away from everyday interactions, for the longing had turned into pain. The awkward, sheltered, naïve Zhu Yilong could never hold his own feelings in this bitter truth.

Method acting wasn't the myth they had become in today's culture. The actor wasn't acting their character by becoming them, and it would be impossible. However, they brought the character to life by getting into them through their own life experience and adapting the character's personality, posture, mind, background, and feelings almost every day if they had a long shot. He was used to this. The larger the difference between his own and the character's, the harder and the longer he had to be in character. Usually, it was more for the outgoing, silly one.

Becoming Shen Wei should be easy that he didn't have to try to be in character off-screen. But he always gave 100% to everything that he had done, even falling in love as Shen Wei. However, this time, so did Zhu Yilong and it was harder to be himself around that person. He was afraid that everything would be shown in his face, and it would hurt more. The truth was, he loved someone he should never have like Shen Wei did. However, Zhu Yilong was weak, and Shen Wei, Shen Wei was strong. Strong enough to smile above his own heart-wrenching pain.

That night his phone lighted up with a chat notification.

Beauty Peng: "Hey Jiejie, you alright?". Zhu Yilong stared blankly at the awful nickname they called each other and he typed back.

"I'm fine." Lies.

Xxx

Being Shen Wei was getting easier. It should've scared him more, but he couldn't afford to. Nowadays, he lived in melancholy, breathing in suffocating longing. It saddened him more that no one really noticed.

Not even Bai Yu. The stubbled-man still came close, lingering near his arm, drawing butterflies on his skin. As though they are real lovers. Part of him grieved for what they can be, even if it wasn't as lovers, they could be best friends. But this burning feelings made it hard for him to breathe. The act of longing stares became real longing. The painful smiles became a real pain.

Like a moth drawn to a flame, he was flying closer to the fire.

It wasn't until the last day of shooting that he finally ran away from Bai Yu. He left after saying his goodbyes to all crews and actors, except Bai Yu. He couldn't bring himself to do it. Maybe a few days later, he would do it in chats.

Finally, finding peace in his own apartment, buried within his blanket in exhaustion. He shouldn't meet Bai Yu again until promotion days came. At least he could manage his mind for a few days. He was erasing Shen Wei's character and Bai Yu from his mind.

Two days went quietly until a round of knocks aroused him from his pillow forth. It was already 11 pm yet Bai Yu was standing in front of his door, a silly grin in place.

"Long Ge! Have you eaten yet?" shouted Bai Yu. As if ignoring how thunderstruck Zhu Yilong looked, the man passed him by, placing an armful of takeout on the coffee table while flopping into the sofa. He almost hated how warm that smile brought in his heart.

"Why did you went home so fast? You didn't even wait for me..." Bai Yu pouted as Zhu Yilong came closer.

"Ah... Sorry...," murmured Zhu Yilong. Bai Yu cheerily waved, noisily opening the takeouts on the table.

"I know you liked hot pot, maybe later?" said Bai Yu as he ate a large chicken thigh messily. He patted the seat beside him visibly, asking Zhu Yilong to join. As their thigh smoothly touched each other, Zhu Yilong knew that once again, he was doomed. It was so hard to step away yet so easy to trapped himself once again. Then as the other man playfully challenged him to a round of game after late dinner, he knew the man would not leave for the night.

Yet as his wings burned while he walked closer to the flame, he was a moth, resigned to his fate yet holding on to foolish hope.

-    Flashback    -

"Hey, Long Ge, come out!" A whisper came through his van door. Zhu Yilong groggily opened his eyes. Finding Bai Yu in front of his van window, annoyingly chipper in the middle of overnight shooting.

"Come out, I found a nice place!" whispered Bai Yu through the window crack. Slowly Zhu Yilong came out from his safe place, aka van. Bai Yu would annoy him all night if he didn't. The chipper man grabbed his hand and forced him to follow. It was a few minutes' walks until they found a small clearance near the cliffs.

"Tada!" exclaimed Bai Yu. He flopped into a flat grass then patted the place beside him. "Sit here Long Ge; the sky is so clear tonight! Let's watch the stars!"

"Do you even know anything about stars?" said Zhu Yilong. Exasperatedly sat down beside the hyperactive man.

"Hey I know that's the Dog Star and the Big Dipper!"

"I'm sure you're just guessing."

"So cold, Long Ge…" said Bai Yu, pouting dramatically. Suddenly he grabbed Zhu Yilong and forced him to lie down. "Maybe we could see them better this way…" whispered Bai Yu. They were laying next to each other while crickets sang around them.

"Maybe…" said Zhu Yilong slowly. That night they laid down in silence for a few hours. That time, his naïve self thought that was romantic and cliché but his heart fluttered. The calm and comfortable silence aroused a strange warmth inside. He should've known then that it was indeed to cliché, too easy to be staged. Built with lies and emptiness.

Xxx

The overwhelming success of Guardian blew him away. Suddenly he was thrown out of his feet. It wasn't something he was used too, even after ten years in this industry. He never had this kind of attention, not at this degree. Everywhere he turned, fans were shouting his name. It was a blessing and a curse that Bai Yu stood beside him on almost every promotion. Secretly holding his cold hand as he was overwhelmed with questions and attention.

Their success means more variety shows for him to go. His agent had given up on forcing him to those show years ago since he was embarrassingly awkward and forgotten. But this time he had to go. Guardian was never a drama they would expect to succeed yet they did. On-screen, he could see his own naked emotion when he stared at his other co-star, full of longing. And Bai Yu or yet, Zhao Yunlan, stared at him right back with the same emotion. A part of him knew that for him, it was real, yet for the other's, it was just a job. An act. A play.

The wave of hundreds of fans that greeted him blew him away. Even Bai Yu was faintly dazed with the cheers as they both walked out from their van. For a moment, a part of him felt peace as his hand touched Bai Yu, and they both bowed politely to their fans. As the weibo live and the interviews went well with their cat and mouse-like bickering, for a short while, it felt like he was back at his ignorant moment.

"What do you usually chat about?" the presenter asked. Bai Yu smirked as he couldn't help but think about a certain monkey meme.

"We don't chat around, he just kept annoying me with sending me memes," said Zhu Yilong blandly. Bai Yu laughed loudly. It shortly went into a short quarrel about memes.

Zhu Yilong smiled lightly as other interviews, live streams, and promotions were going on. For a short while, he almost forgot how easy to do this with Bai Yu. How the man always managed to say things that he could never say alone. Calming him down when he felt speechless. Now that their drama went more popular, it would be harder to ran away faster as he sank into Bai Yu's flame. Again. How many times did he have to learn until it stopped?

Xxx

"Did I wake you up, Long Ge? Sorry..." whispered Bai Yu as he tried to put on his jeans. The clock on his wall showed that it was only 3 am. Zhu Yilong stayed silent as his throat constricted, dry, and empty.

"I have to go first. See you tomorrow...."

Just like that, the man walked out again. Hours went by as he stayed in his bed, motionless, eyes watching the raindrops falling on his window. His heart felt strangely empty as he watched the dark skies slowly turned blue. Another night passed by just like this. Empty.

And alone.

His phone vibrates with two new messages.

"Long Ge, let's battle tomorrow!" A cruel one from Bai Yu.

"Long-er, are you with him again? How long will you do this?" And a painful reality from his best friend.

-    Flashback  -

"Is it your mum?" asked Bai Yu one time. Zhu Yilong who had just hung up his phone nodded lightly.

"How's your mom like? You never tell me anything, Long Ge. I told you everything about my family…," said Bai Yu, pouting. Zhu Yilong shook his head.

"I don't wanna tell you anything…"

"Why?!" 

"Because you're annoying…," said Zhu Yilong with a flat tone.

"Hey, I'm not annoying!" Bai Yu's face was flabbergasted.

"Remember the memes? Stealing my Segway? Disturbing my sleeping? Killing me in the game, repeatedly, on purpose?"

"Hey, that was accidents!"

"For damn seven times in a row!" snarled Zhu Yilong.

"You're cursing! Don't curse, what would the girls think?" said Bai Yu in a clear fake scandalized tone. "Also the memes, I couldn't help it, you look so handsome as a monkey."

"Shut up!"

Back then, being with Bai Yu was happiness, exhilaration, fun and lively, now he was burning. Slowly dying.

xxx

"We should stop doing this...," whispered Zhu Yilong when Bai Yu flirtatiously touched his legs in the changing room. The man smiled cheekily.

"Do what?" teased Bai Yu. As if nothing's wrong, he skipped away. Grinning.

He should've known that Bai Yu would not let him step back easily. The man kept coming at him while he was trying to take his distance, even in this work environment.

That night, Bai Yu came again knocking on his apartment and grinning as he walked inside as he was in his own home.

"Did your girlfriend never asked where you go all the time?" asked Zhu Yilong bluntly. However, Bai Yu was either oblivious or didn't care as the man came closer. Zhu Yilong stepped back until his back hit the wall.

"She doesn't...," answered Bai Yu simply.

"We should stop this...," whispered Zhu Yilong again. Yet Bai Yu kept coming closer until their body touched each other. Fingers silently touched his elbow, grazing on the fair skin. Legs were separating his own as Zhu Yilong bowed silently.

"It's alright...," whispered Bai Yu. Spreading butterflies on those fair neck, kissing them seductively. Hands were wandering inside the older man's shirt as Zhu Yilong was strangely frozen yet helplessly letting him do this. It wasn't until he tried to kiss those pink lips that the man turned his head away.

"Please stop...," he whispered again. But this was different than the first night they slept. This was a man in doubt yet not trying to walk away. He knew that his co-star was stronger than him. But those hand was still trapped between their chest. Holding him away yet not pushing him further.

"I know you want this, Long Ge..." said Bai Yu. His tone was unusually quiet and low. As he licked the older man's ears, he whispered again. "It's okay... Ge...." Then he dived fast into Zhu Yilong's pale lips. Nibling and licking it asking for entrance, eyes staring straight into those long lashes.

His right hand held the back of his co-star head, forcing the man to look straight at him. There was a glimpse of darkness on Zhu Yilong's brown eyes before it was fading as he closed his eyes.

The kisses went from passionate to slow and loving yet the emptiness in his heart told him otherwise. His heart sank with his knees as if Bai Yu once again pulled him into his gravity.

It was a painful sensation, of falling in love, falling into the emptiness, and slowly burned alive.

Xxx

Watching Bai Yu's face, Zhu Yilong realized that he wasn't a moth flying into the flame. He was already burned, already used, and drowned in flames. Something in him was dying the day his eyes were forcefully opened. Yet here he was, sitting in silence, gazing at the burning flame as if it would fill his hunger. The night is cold, but he was curled up on the sofa, staring at the sleeping man on his bed.

It was cruel, that love, the feeling he should've cherished, was burning him alive. He was foolish from the start. For feeling so deeply that he was almost empty. He hugged his knees tighter that it was almost painful.

Here he was in forlorn, but Bai Yu was sleeping so peacefully. He longed to touch that face, kissed those lips, but this should be enough. It had to be enough, for Bai Yu was never his to begin with. Tonight would be his last.

So just for this night, he would fill all the emptiness with Bai Yu's face. He was engraving it into his memories. After tonight, the part of him that already dying, burning and drowning, needed to die. He would step away, far from this man, and it should be easier to breathe then. Maybe he wouldn't suffocate then. His eyes were burning with tears but for tonight he would let it be. 

Just until tonight.

Bai Yu stirred several times but the man didn't wake up. And Zhu Yilong stayed in his chair until sun rays broke through his windows. Only then he finally stood up. Building masks until his feelings were hidden. Today he was playing Shen Wei. Strong, calm, and collected Shen Wei.

Self-sacrificing, lonely, and sorrowful Shen Wei.

It was almost 9 when Bai Yu finally woke up.  The man smiled as he came out of his bedroom, fresh out of the shower into his co-star kitchen. He slid his hand naturally into Zhu Yilong's waist as he watched the older man set up a simple breakfast on the dinner table.

"Breakfast for me, Long Ge?" asked Bai Yu lightly. Chest touching his co-star's back while the man was busy with the foods.

"Eat..," said Zhu Yilong shortly while Bai Yu hang on his back like a koala. This was the last time. So he tried not to let his eyes wander on to Bai Yu's lips as the man eat cheerily. But they still wandered. He tried keeping his smiles to reached his eyes as he walked the man to his front door. But the air still choking his throat when Bai Yu turned around with a wave and chipper goodbye. Yet he still needs to bring Shen Wei into the front. Strong, calm, and collected Shen Wei. The one who was able to withstand pain for a thousand years. And this time he smiled back.

"Goodbye…," said the strong Shen Wei out loud.

'Goodbye….' said the weak, naïve, and awkward Zhu Yilong. 

The smile has left his eyes as the flame goes away. Then he prayed that maybe he would stop burning.

Xxx

Something has changed. It wasn't the numerous chats Zhu Yilong hasn't opened that warned him. Nor did the unanswered call. It was the empty smile that never reached those brown eyes the last time they met. The wistful kindness, the wandering eyes, and unspoken words should've told him the truth. Thus he brought out ignorance, yet the guilt was inevitable.

The man had let him go. He realized then, maybe the thing he called a game was not just a game. He was playing with someone's feelings. This brief wistful feeling had opened his eyes when he lost someone he talked to every day. It was a slow start, but he didn't even know when the chats for the older man had turned from playing to friendship.

There was a small emptiness when he saw Zhu Yilong's face everywhere, but the man never answered his calls anymore. Even their meeting place, Zhu Yilong's apartment, was empty and his manager couldn't find out where is Zhu Yilong's new address. The man was running away from him and he should've known it.

That last night, he woke up in the middle of the night. Zhu Yilong wasn't beside him. Instead, the man was curling on the sofa, staring at him with empty eyes. He was crying, Bai Yu realized. Glassy eyes were watching him blankly, but not seeing him, as if the man was lost in his own mind. So he closed his eyes, pretending to sleep. But Zhu Yilong never made a sound, nor moving.

That night, he realized that he was so heartless. Unflinchingly cruel to his own gentle friend. He smiled wider in the morning, hugged his friend tighter, touched him gently. But it wasn't enough.

xxx

Humans always lusted for forbidden things. The more they shouldn't have, the more they wanted it. Their meeting for Allure Magazine's photoshoot was an accident. Bai Yu had to change his schedule, and the magazine changed it into a duet photo session. It was nice to see Zhu Yilong, but it slighted him when the man only politely spoke to him. As if they were a stranger.

Zhu Yilong had changed. It was almost unrecognizable changes if Bai Yu didn't know him well. The man was still awkward and challenges. But now he knew that it was alright for him to do that because fans like it. That it was okay to blank at some questions by answering them with confused blinking and adorable smiles. Fans love his pure personality; he knew that well now.

However, with this man, he needed more. He knew no matter how stubborn Zhu Yilong was at the end, he always succumbed to his will. He was Zhu Yilong's weakness and he loved it. If there's a chance, a small chance, then maybe he could lessen this gap between them.

The Gods must love him then when he realized they both had the same changing room.

"You're running away from me…," said Bai Yu. Zhu Yilong froze, shirt halfway untucked, his assistant had gone away asking for a suitable hat. There were only two of them in the changing room.

"Long Ge…," said Bai Yu gently. Bai Yu's hand went to Zhu Yilong's shirt as if wanting to finish the buttons. But Zhu Yilong turned away, finishing it himself.

"Thank you," said Zhu Yilong. He threw a small polite smile for Bai Yu. It wasn't like Zhu Yilong was cold or silent. It was just distanced. As if they had never slept with each other. The man stayed silent as their shoot began. On cameras, the acts were flawless but it stopped off-screen. Bai Yu couldn't stand this. When Zhu Yilong passed by, he swiftly grabbed his hand.

"Long Ge, we need to talk…." The seriousness on his tone made Zhu Yilong turned around and stared for a while. Bai Yu wasn't playing anymore. "Our relationship, I don't want it to end like this…."

"Like what?" Zhu Yilong couldn't help but ask.

"Like a stranger. We need to talk…," whispered Bai Yu. It was impossibly hard not to break this distance between them. Zhu Yilong felt so familiar; the smell, the cocoa eyes, and long lashes. It was just a few months playing but with Zhu Yilong it felt different.

"Allright…," said Zhu Yilong. The sad cocoa eyes seemed to soften. Not as composed as it was before.

"After the shoot, on the rooftop?" asked Bai Yu gently. Zhu Yilong pulled his hand from Bai Yu's grasps and nodded faintly.

The sun was almost set when their photo session ended. Bai Yu was the first to wait on the rooftop, watching orange hues on the skies with mixed feelings. Zhu Yilong came fifteen minutes later, finding Bai Yu's manager on the rooftop door. The woman gave him a mixed smile which he gave back. He should've known; they're both here because of Bai Yu.

Bai Yu was standing alone on the rooftop and Zhu Yilong couldn't help but wondered how many times Bai Yu asked people to do this. Entertainment buildings were tall, less chance for cameras, and drone shoots. He reminded himself, he was here for closure.

"You're here…," said Bai Yu. Tone strangely shook with an unknown emotion. Zhu Yilong walked closer until they both were just one meter apart from each other. It was hard to form the words as they were so much left to said. Bai Yu turned around, watching his co-star, no, his friend staring at the orange hues with a faraway gaze.

He wanted to ask why the man didn't answer his chats and calls anymore. But he always knew why, so the words that left his mouth were, "I'm sorry." Zhu Yilong smiled blankly.

"For what?" And Bai Yu had known the answer long ago. For the first time that day, he caught Zhu Yilong staring at him gently.

"For hurting you…," said Bai Yu. The smile was still there, but Zhu Yilong's eyes were frozen with sorrow. It had struck him that night, but it caught him breathless now. There was a strange ache called guilt in his conscience.

"It's alright…," said Zhu Yilong, voice low and tender. "You're not." The man was unfairly kind to people like him. But it was a lie; he knew that.

"I saw you that night…." The words came out without any thought. It left him bare, awkward, and guilty that Zhu Yilong still left him ways to walk away. But he didn't deserve to; his friend deserved the truth. "That night on the sofa…." Cocoa eyes widen with recognition. "You were crying…," whispered Bai Yu.

Maybe he should've lied, acting that he never knew Zhu Yilong's feelings because it was harder to see it dimmed before the man turned away, back to watching the skies.

"It's alright…" It's not alright. "I learned something from you…," said Zhu Yilong. The guilt struck him further when he watched the walls that he had broken down were coming back harder.

"What?"

"That all this time, I was still too naïve. I forgot that we live in a world where everything is an act…," said Zhu Yilong. His voice was calm but empty.

"I'm not acting with you…," blurted Bai Yu. He knew then that maybe he himself never did all of this for an act. That the strange emotions he felt were real. Maybe Zhu Yilong wasn't the only one who was in love. His hands moved without command, holding Zhu Yilong's finger gently. The skies were so beautiful, and so did the man in front of him. His heart was thumping, fluttering with butterflies. The older man turned his head, looking straight at him — empty smiles.

"I know everyone does this. I understand…," said Zhu Yilong. Just like that, Bai Yu's heart dropped to the floor. It was too late.

"Long Ge…," said Bai Yu. However, Zhu Yilong touched their connected hand.

"I can't be that with you…," said Zhu Yilong. Gently he broke their attached fingers. Bitterness spread through Bai Yu's heart as the man smiled politely. "Maybe later, we could still be friends…," added Zhu Yilong. The walls now had been fully raised, the world seemed colder, guarded, and distanced. But Bai Yu was used to walls and empty smiles.

"I like being friends with you!" said Bai Yu. The words were true but the wide smile was fake. They both knew it. Zhu Yilong laughed softly.

"Me too," he answered.

"But that means I can send you memes again…."

"Maybe wait for six more months…," said Zhu Yilong politely. It was a warning, that if Bai Yu wanted to speak with him again, he had to give Zhu Yilong six months to move on. To forget him. "Not the monkey one though…" added the man.

"I will find something better then!" said Bai Yu, pouting. Right then, Zhu Yilong smiled gently. It was the most genuine one the man had given him, and it left him breathless.

He was always attracted to beauty and he had found one. The smile was so beautiful, but he had lost it.

"Don't even try…," said Zhu Yilong. Back then, he wanted time to stop for a moment. But Zhu Yilong glanced at his watch and smiled apologetically. "I have another shoot. I had to go…."

"Aaa…" agreed Bai Yu. He waved cheerily, "Bye, Mr. Popularity no 1!". He referred to the weibo popularity ranking that the man has won for three weeks.

Zhu Yilong turned away and waved back. "Bye, Mr. No 5!" Then he walked away, back facing Bai Yu as the smile dropped from his face. Bai Yu watched Zhu Yilong's back until the man left.

As the last streak of orange gone from the skies, the night light around the city brought a beautiful view. But his beauty has left and so did his heart.

Xxx

He was a true bastard; Bai Yu thought as he stared at his computers. The monitor showed him several videos, organized with initial and date. It had many names but the one with ZYL in front had the most videos. All on different dates, different angles, and different scenes. It wasn't the sex videos that he watched this time. It was that night when Zhu Yilong sat all night on the sofa.

He was cruel. His sincere friend didn't deserve it.

In anger, he clicked his mouse crazily until he had enough. The guilt on his heart was too large this time so he did the only thing he should've done from the start. He has deleted all those videos.

He was a pervert, but he knew how to hide this well. All the videos were stored on memory cards, no copies to computers as computers were too easily hacked. No network to his special computers. All of them were recorded with pinhole cameras. He should've done this from the start.

But it wasn't enough, deleting the videos were not enough. Breaking the cameras were not enough. All left him exhausted and empty. He sat on the cold floor, weary.

"Yu-er?" A sweet voice aroused him from his breakdown. Small hands and whisps of roses held his hand.

"What happened?" asked his girlfriend. Bai Yu finally wake up, pouting at the one he should've loved.

"I'm sad, I need a hug…," he said, acting spoiled. His girlfriend was very understanding. Gently tempered and sweet. She never asked him too much, never pressured him to. But he betrayed her numerous times. Is this called love?

"Sit down; I'll cook. What do you want?" said the girl when Bai Yu finally moved to the living room. The man flopped down on the sofa, mindlessly turning on the tv.

"Hot pot?" said Bai Yu. Zhu Yilong loved hot pot, but they had never gone together. Zhu Yilong always went through with Bai Yu's choice. And he never cared enough for the older's man likes. Too little, too late.

"Alright, I'll make them."

The tv was showing some crappy dramas, but it wasn't until the commercial break that Bai Yu saw Zhu Yilong's face. As if fate threw his mistakes back at him.

"My friends were falling in love with him…," said his girlfriend suddenly. "Didn't you said he seemed cold?"

"He's not cold. He's just, shy…," said Bai Yu. His girlfriend hummed in agreement. A few minutes later, the bubbling hot pot was put in front of him. The commercial changed to an old interview with flustered and wide-eyed Zhu Yilong.

"He looks like a gentle guy in the interviews. Is he usually like that? Shy and adorable?" she asked again. However, Bai Yu struggled to find the words.

"He is…." Shy? Awkward? Gullible? Naïve?

"He is sincere." It was the truth, Zhu Yilong was sincere in everything he had done. Unlike him.

"Sounds nice…."

"What? Are you falling in love with him too?" asked Bai Yu.

"I am…" she joked.

"Long Ge would never like you!" teased Bai Yu. His girlfriend hit him lovingly.

"Why do I have such a violent girlfriend?" cried Bai Yu. They both giggled crazily. However, the smiles felt tight on his face as Zhu Yilong face flashed on his mind. The goodbyes, sad eyes, and distant smiles. There were no fluttering butterflies watching his girlfriend smile. There was no thumping heartbeat and passionate feelings.

A small voice on his head told him that maybe he never loved his girlfriend from the start. If he really loved her, he would never cheat on her. He would never play around. This relationship was comfortable, but he had no feelings left inside. It was built on lies. They were doomed from the start, and his heart told him, maybe he deserved it.

xxx

Zhu Yilong curled up on his sofa, munching on the slightly scorched but eatable homemade popcorn, not touching a few cans of beer on his coffee table.

"Your new apartment is great, but you're no fun, Zhu Meili," growled Peng Guanying. He opened the second can of beer which he brought and drank himself because the nice guy Zhu Yilong was allergic to alcohol.

"You always told me that…," said Zhu Yilong. Eyes still watching the new tv that he just bought, playing Shawshank Redemption.

"You suck!" teased Peng Guanying.

"Shut up, Peng Jie!"

"Did you bought this expensive apartment to ran away from that man?"

Zhu Yilong glanced at his best friend. "No, this one has better security than my old one. Some fans managed to breakthrough…." Peng Guanying nodded in amusement.

"Stop smirking, Giraffe…" muttered Zhu Yilong. They were always like this from college, bickering like cats and dogs but they always had each other's back. Traveling together then lost like stupid idiots which he blamed the too tall idiots for. It had been a long time since they met each other. His best friend was shooting outside Beijing for a few months, then he was too busy with his sudden popularity.

"Are you alright, Long-er?," asked Peng Guanying. The serious tone made him pause the movie and turned his head. The light was dim, but he could see the concern in his friend's eyes.

"I'm fine…," said Zhu Yilong. The fragility on his eyes told him the truth.

"Is it really?"

"Yes."

"Yilong…," the rare nickname shook Zhu Yilong's mind. It wasn't alright. He was thrown around with these new situations, the affair with Bai Yu didn't help. A cold feeling rose on Zhu Yilong's heart.

 "You…" It can't be." You're looking at me like he did…," whispered Zhu Yilong. It was the gentle look that showed him away.

"I'm not…," said Peng Guanying calmly. "I am different from him…."

"How long?" asked Zhu Yilong undeterred. Peng Guanying threw him a bitter smile.

"Years…." It shouldn't be; he knew how hard it was to love someone who didn't love you back. He would never forgive himself if he did it to his own best friend.

"I don't want to lose you too," said Zhu Yilong.

"You won't." His friend was calm. Too calm. And it scared him.

"I am not in love with you…." He could feel his own shaken heart. Why was Peng Guanying acting as if this wouldn't change anything?

"So am I" And he couldn't understand this. "I love you as a friend, but I don't mind sleeping with you," said Peng Guanying as if it was that easy. The silence frightened him. "This is why I never told you. You couldn't understand this kind of affair." Slowly he held Zhu Yilong's cold hand, gently intertwining their fingers. "You're so…,"

"Naïve?" cut Zhu Yilong.

"Pure…," said Peng Guanying gently.

"I'm not." He knew his own mind. He was stupid, foolish, and ignorant.

"You are, compared to others in this industry."

"Not anymore," said Zhu Yilong bitterly. He couldn't lose his best friend. Not now.

"Not anymore…," agreed Peng Guanying as he came closer. "You're just beautiful…," whispered his best friend.

"Am I?" People were attracted to beautiful faces; he never thought of himself as one. But it hurts that even his best friend loved him for that. Did love even exist in this world?

"In and out…" said Peng Guanying. There was a teary smiled on Zhu Yilong's face, and the fragility in him almost made him breathless. But he had this feeling for almost ten years, and he was used to it now.

"I'm not in love with you…," Zhu Yilong whispered again. They were so close, breath almost touching each other.

"So am I… But I am attracted to you," whispered Peng Guanying back. "You trust me…." That was true, he didn't have many friends, but he trusted Peng Guanying with everything.

"You are safe with me." Shivers ran through Zhu Yilong's body. He shouldn't do this, but what choice he had?

"Don't change…," he pleaded. Although Peng Guanying hand was so gentle when the man touched his chin. He didn't feel the same burning flame as it was with Bai Yu.

"Everyone has their own need." The taller man said. But it was what came next that breached his last defense. "I can help you forget him…"

It was then he realized even after months apart, he was still burning. Dying alone in his empty apartment. Even after all the steps he had taken, he still couldn't forget him. But maybe, he who already tasted this forbidden thing that disguised as loved, burning with passion and frozen with loneliness. He was already fallen.

What should he do to fill the empty place in his heart? How far does he have to go?

"Yes"

The kiss that spread through their lips was different.

Like a sin.

xxx

One year later

 

He had met Zhu Yilong several times if met means were passing by and barely nodded. As if they never knew each other. Zhu Yilong had given him six months waiting, but he still couldn't write a simple line after one year. His agency preferred them not to be involved in each other's works for at least three years until the Guardian couple hype has run out. It would be better for them both not to be accused as gay, the Chinese Government would not let them be.

However today Zhu Yilong was talking animatedly to the tall man beside him. It was different. He knew how hard it was to get Zhu Yilong opened up like that. Besides, the possessive hand the man placed on Zhu Yilong's back and the barely hidden glares told him this wasn't a simple stranger.

"Who is that?" asked Bai Yu to one of the Hunan TV staff.

"Eh, Yu Ge, aren't you close with Zhu Laoshi? That is Peng Guanying, his best friend since college."

"Oh, I see." That would explain everything then. This Peng Guanying knew about their affair, and he hated him.

Zhu Yilong nodded politely when Bai Yu passed. The man was beautiful in long white coat and fluffy hair. But Bai Yu forced himself not to turn around. It wouldn't change anything. He didn't deserve someone like him.

"Don't look at him like that" whispered Peng Guanying. Zhu Yilong smiled as he nodded to the staff and several directors.

"Like what?" he said, lips still smiling. Of course, he knew what his best friend was talking about. He glanced at the man walking away from him.

"That." It would never matter where his eyes strayed to. It would never matter what he wanted. It wouldn't change anything. He had changed for better or worse; now he was swimming in the same world with Bai Yu himself. In the world of lies and deceit.

"I am not."

His best lie was to himself.

Xxx

"I'm sorry, Long Ge. The airlines said we might have to delay the flight for at least five hours…," whispered one of his new assistants. Zhu Yilong nodded faintly, opening his black mask in exhaustion.

"Ah…" The skies outside the airport window were so dark even at 3 pm. "The storm was too sudden. We couldn't predict this."

"I'll tell the agency that we might be late for tomorrow's shoot…" said his manager before walking away, phone in his ears.

The VIP waiting room was thankfully empty. The rain felt strangely calming as the wind blew faster. It should be a short plane to Beijing, yet he was trapped behind this glasses wall. Even his own reflection stared at him with empty eyes. What is the price of happiness?

"Long Ge?" Bai Yu's voice broke through the silence. At first, he thought he was hallucinating. Why else would Bai Yu be here?

"Long time no see…," said Bai Yu, awkwardly waving.

"Ah… hey…" Why did words always fail him at times like this?

"Mr.Bai! Were your flight delayed too?" said one of his staff.

"Yes, yes… Too bad…" Bai Yu nodded. His manager was talking with the airline staff. The man was politely listening to Zhu Yilong's assistant, but his eyes keep meeting with Zhu Yilong. There was no warm jokes or friendly chats. All that's left from their friendship is this awkward distance.

How long since they met each other like this? In the same room, without only passing by. Zhu Yilong was still beautiful, even more so nowadays with more people who took care of him. Still, he remembered the time when the man only had one assistant. When Zhu Yilong was barely known and unbearably naïve.

"How are you doing, Long Ge? You look….." Beautiful. "Skinnier…" The word was stuck inside his jumbled mind. He always wondered what if he first met Zhu Yilong before he played around. Regret and guilt slapped him blind.

"It was for drama. You look… skinnier too…," said Zhu Yilong.

"Same for me! Hehehe…" said Bai Yu. They both sat near each other as the VIP waiting room was not large. They might be stuck here all night and he couldn't stand this awkward atmosphere.

If this were one year ago, he would be sitting next to Zhu Yilong. Teasing him relentlessly until the man broke out laughing, clinging like a koala, acting like a spoiled child. Watching him this close, Bai Yu realized how much he missed him.

"Um… You still like hotpot, right?" blurted Bai Yu. Zhu Yilong looked up, staring at him closely. He loved hotpot; his fans knew that. But, Bai Yu had never cared enough to eat where he wanted to. Their relationship before was unbalanced. However, the empty hole in his heart was aching for anything, any reason.

"There was a nice place in the west area. Want to catch up there?" the man blubbered. It was then Zhu Yilong realized that Bai Yu was nervous. Why?

"I…." He shouldn't do this. What would his heart be if he let it came close to this man again? But his world had changed so much after meeting Bai Yu. For better or worse.

This kind of meeting, what would it be if it not fate?

Maybe. Maybe he was still the moth. He was still flying near the flame. This kind of life is full of sin, and he already drenched with it. In the end, what he wanted never matter. The one who loved first lost.

In the end, he always was the one who yields.

"Alright…" said Zhu Yilong lightly. Just smile, and everything would be alright.

Lies.

Xxx

We were destined to meet

Born to fall in love

Fate leaves us apart

Yet gravity keeps us alive

-    But I'm still burning because of you    -

Xxx