It was not, Bai Yu thought with significant irritation, as if this was the first time he’d had a crush on a colleague. In fact, he tended to develop them with regularity due to his method of flinging himself headfirst into a role and his tendency to get cast as a lead alongside extremely good-looking people.
It wasn’t even the first time he’d had erotic dreams about a colleague. He was a tactile guy who really enjoyed sex and wasn’t easily embarrassed, so it wasn’t a big deal for him. Good dreams made for good acting in his experience.
It was, however, the first time he’d confused reality with his job. Yes, he threw himself into a role and immersed himself in the character, but he always knew the difference!
At least he usually did.
Fortunately, nobody on this job knew him well enough to see how startled he was to have called Zhu Yilong “Shen Wei” when they weren’t acting or rehearsing and he was able to play it off as a joke. (And not just called him, but thought of him as). Or rather, nobody knew him well enough except for Zhu Yilong, apparently, even though they’d only met a few weeks ago. No, Zhu Yilong’s startlement had been obvious to Bai Yu, although nobody else seemed to have noticed.
Rubbing his eyes, Bai Yu went back to staring down at his script in an attempt to fend off all the people around him by pretending to be working on the next scene. Too bad he could still feel Zhu Yilong looking at him and how did that even work?
“Are you okay?” Zhu Yilong asked quietly.
“Of course!” Bai Yu looked up and smiled brightly. He was an actor, damn it. So why didn’t Zhu Yilong look fooled in the slightest?
Zhu Yilong hummed an acknowledgement and turned back to his own script.
Bai Yu was very careful to not let his sigh of relief be audible.
Bai Yu lay in bed and stared at the ceiling, pouting in annoyance. The problem with avoiding everyone by studying his script was that then he ended up having even more erotic dreams about his costar.
Casting his mind back through the script and the novel it was based on, he tried to remember a scene like his dream. Bad enough if his mind was animating the novel, but if it was freelancing, he was doomed.
He simply couldn’t remember a hot spring scene that was anything like what his mind had conjured up. And the level of detail…Bai Yu swallowed and tried to ignore his body’s continuing reaction to the memory of Shen Wei gliding through the water toward him.
He was not Zhao Yunlan and Zhu Yilong was not Shen Wei and his subconscious was going to have to get used to it. Closing his eyes, he groaned as the full-color image of Shen Wei’s pale skin dripping with beads of water bloomed on the back of his eyelids again.
It was going to be a long night.
Zhao Yunlan’s brain took an extra-long time to reboot in the morning, short-circuited by having his face buried in Shen Wei’s hair, which still smelled like the natural salts of the hot spring they’d visited.
Rubbing his cheek against Shen Wei’s shoulder, he had a strange itchy feeling in the back of his brain. There was something…
Eyes open now, Zhao Yunlan remembered. He’d dreamt about them being actors again. “How odd,” he mumbled.
“Hmm?” Shen Wei—somehow unfairly still looking gorgeous even with bedhead—asked as he rolled onto his back.
Zhao Yunlan chuckled, resting his cheek on Shen Wei’s shoulder and resettling himself. “What does it mean if my subconscious has decided my life is so weird that it has to be fiction?”
Shen Wei stiffened.
“Hey hey,” Zhao Yunlan said, lifting his head to get a better look at Shen Wei’s expression. “I just had some weird dreams. Nothing serious.”
Shen Wei was looking at him intently. “In those dreams, were we actors?”
“And your name was Bai Yu?”
Zhao Yunlan was certain he stopped breathing for a very long moment. “How…?”
“I’m having the same dreams.”
Although it felt entirely ridiculous, Zhao Yunlan allowed himself to be dragged into the office to discuss this with his team. It was going to be awful. Shen Wei had no idea.
Chu Shuzhi stared at them, completely expressionless in the way that meant that at some point in the future, this was going to come back to haunt him in some horrible way.
Da Qing started giggling almost immediately and wouldn’t stop until Chu Shuzhi stuffed his mouth full of dried fish. Which was almost as annoying as Little Guo’s starry-eyed expression of adoration at how sweet the entire thing was.
It was hard to tell if Lin Jing and the ghosts were even listening.
At least Zhu Hong managed to be vaguely professional, taking notes and tapping long fingernails on the table as she thought. “A psychic attack on the Guardian and the Envoy?” She sounded dubious, which was fair.
Shen Wei leaned forward and seemed to be considering this seriously. Zhao Yunlan tilted his head onto the back of the couch and mourned the morning off that he’d planned for them to spend in bed.
“I was thinking more along the lines of a side-effect of the Hallows or our time…afterward,” Shen Wei said.
As the others muttered, Zhao Yunlan slowly raised his head, eyes narrowed at his lover. “You’re not thinking—”
“Mind reading, picking up the dream from the other person?” Zhu Hong looked between the two of them, lips pursed. “I suppose that’s possible.”
“No!” Zhao Yunlan sat up straight, his boots clunking to the floor and drawing everyone’s attention. “That’s definitely not an option.”
“I don’t think it’s a choice,” Shen Wei said, raising an eyebrow at him. “Are you concerned I might be reading your mind?” There was just the tiniest bit of hurt there.
Zhao Yunlan waved a hand. “I was worried that I might have accidentally acquired the ability to read minds. You can’t tell me that’s not a recipe for disaster.”
Faces went white around the table and Shen Wei’s expression relaxed into rueful amusement. “Ah. No, I assume that if this power was given to someone, either accidentally or by the Hallows, it would be me.”
“That’s that, then.” Zhao Yunlan threw himself back into his sprawl on the couch. “You’ll just…deal with it, then.”
The others had gone back to their various discussions, but Shen Wei was still studying Zhao Yunlan. “You have a great deal of faith in my ability to handle it ethically,” Shen Wei said.
Tilting his head, Zhao Yunlan grinned. “Given what you’ve done with the million other powers you have, your ethics are the last thing I worry about.”
Shen Wei’s faint blush was as gorgeous as ever.
Zhao Yunlan stared up at the ceiling and tried to figure out how much testing he would have to allow Lin Jing to do before they extracted themselves.
Bai Yu was…jittery. Normally, that state wouldn’t be too far off from his character, so it wouldn’t matter, but they were filming a scene in which Zhao Yunlan was cool and calm. Zhu Yilong leaned toward him as everyone retook their places. “Is there something wrong?”
It was difficult to focus on the question. Bai Yu swallowed, trying not to stare at his costar’s lips. “I, uh, didn’t sleep well. Strange dreams. You know.”
Zhu Yilong twitched as if the cat standing in for Da Qing had stepped on his toes with his claws out. “Dreams. Um.”
The director called for their attention and they both turned obediently. Determined to make this next take the last one, Bai Yu put out of his mind the other’s strange reaction.
There was a quick break for lunch, which was good because Bai Yu was getting a bit shaky. Oh right, he hadn’t actually had breakfast. Scooping noodles into his mouth significantly faster than was polite, it took him a few moments to notice that Zhu Yilong had just sat down across from him.
Zhu Yilong gave him a tiny smile and it was somewhere between his own smile and Shen Wei’s. Barely managing to swallow the food in his mouth, Bai Yu blinked several times, trying to resolve who he was looking at before he tried to speak. “Hi,” he said eventually, after trying and discarding various possible clever things to say.
Bai Yu scooped some more noodles before his brain could betray him into saying anything else. Like ‘wanna find an empty trailer and make out for a while?’ That was definitely a bad idea.
Zhu Yilong fumbled his chopsticks, which nearly leapt across the table. “Sorry, I…” His hands were…shaking?
Laying his chopsticks across the bowl, Bai Yu pulled his head out of his strange thoughts and really looked at Zhu Yilong. “Are you…is something wrong? With you, I mean.”
Zhu Yilong put his hands down on the table and stared at them. “I don’t know.”
That was certainly alarming. “Can I help you?”
“I…” Zhu Yilong took a deep breath. “You mentioned dreams. I’ve also been having strange dreams.”
Bai Yu told his libido to take it easy. “Okay.”
“It’s like I’m really him.” Zhu Yilong shook his head, as if to dislodge a thought.
“That…uh, that happens to actors.” Bai Yu called on all his acting skills to sound unconcerned. “Surely you’ve had that before.”
“Not like this.” Zhu Yilong’s face was slowly turning a delicate pink.
“Oh ho,” Bai Yu said with a grin. “Our little Long is growing up.”
Zhu Yilong rolled his eyes in a gesture that was definitely not Shen Wei. “Why did I come talk to you?”
“Sorry sorry, I couldn’t resist.” Bai Yu reached out and touched Zhu Yilong’s wrist. “I hope you’re not here to apologize or something. I’m flattered.”
“No, I just…” He paused, frowning slightly. “I’m not sure why I felt the need to tell you about it.”
Bai Yu shrugged. “It’s okay.”
“Really, it’s fine.” Bai Yu squeezed the wrist he hadn’t let go of. “To match honesty with honesty, I was dreaming about Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan in a hot spring and—” He stopped when Zhu Yilong jerked back so quickly, he almost fell out of the chair. “What?”
“Hot spring? Was there a scene like that in the novel?” The adorable pink had faded and now Zhu Yilong looked unusually pale, even for him.
“I don’t think so. I was trying to remember that myself. Why?”
Zhu Yilong finally met his gaze squarely. “I dreamed about that as well.”
Bai Yu was speechless (a highly unusual state for him), blinking at his costar as several other actors chose that moment to swarm the table to tease them.
A busy day on set left them surrounded by cast and crew who seemed determined to keep them from having even a few private words.
Even worse, they both had evening obligations, but they found a few moments behind a trailer.
“You dreamed we were them also,” Bai Yu said, feeling breathless.
Zhu Yilong nodded. “And they were dreaming about us.”
Scrubbing his face, Bai Yu nodded also. “Yeah. They’re sharing a dream, just like we are. They think it’s a…” he waved his hands. “A magic thing.”
“But magic isn’t real.” Zhu Yilong didn’t sound all that certain.
“I have no idea.” Bai Yu looked at his watch. “I’ve got to go. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”
Zhu Yilong nodded once but he looked rattled. “Yes, tomorrow.”
Nodding firmly, Bai Yu set off for his car, only slightly later than he intended for a late meeting with his agent.
Zhao Yunlan stared up at the ceiling of his bedroom, trying to keep from twiddling his thumbs where they lay on his chest. “Are you asleep?” he whispered.
“Yes,” Shen Wei said in his normal tone of voice. “I find it simple to fall asleep under these circumstances.”
Rolling over, Zhao Yunlan threw an arm over his lover’s chest and snuggled against his back. “Do you mean it’s not sexy to have Lin Jing and Da Qing bickering over equipment in the living room while we’re supposed to be sleeping?”
Shen Wei sensibly chose to not reply to that.
“I do have a surefire cure for insomnia.”
“We’re not having sex while they’re in the living room.”
With a snort, Zhao Yunlan patted Shen Wei’s pajama-clad chest. “Okay, fair guess, but just this once, it’s not what I was talking about.”
At that, Shen Wei finally rolled to look at him, eyes widened. “You don’t mean…”
When Bai Yu awoke, his head throbbed and his stomach rolled. The hell? His damned character decided to drink himself to sleep and now Bai Yu got the hangover?
It took an extra-long shower and some extremely nasty high-test coffee to get him onto the set without staggering. Bai Yu ran into Zhu Yilong walking toward makeup and the other man looked equally terrible.
“Shen Wei had one drink,” Zhu Yilong said with desperation. “How can he feel like this after one drink?”
“Well, we know there’s one way you two differ, then, right?” Zhao Yunlan sank into the makeup chair with relief.
“Mmm.” Zhu Yilong looked around, but nobody seemed to be listening. “They were trying to figure out if we’re real.”
“Yeah. Ain’t that a thing?” Bai Yu shook his head.
“How can we be sharing a dream? There are no Dixing powers in real life.”
Bai Yu looked at his co-star, who was clearly upset by this. “Hey,” he said softly, a hand on Zhu Yilong’s arm. “It’s okay. Whatever this is, it’s not hurting us, is it?”
Zhu Yilong took a breath and visibly calmed down. “I suppose not.”
“I know it’s freaky, but…”
“At least it’s you.” Zhu Yilong managed a smile. “I felt comfortable with you from the start.”
It took all Bai Yu’s will to not kiss Zhu Yilong. “Same here,” he managed to choke out. “That’s right, it’s you and me. So, uh, whatever’s going on, we’ll be fine, right?”
Zhu Yilong nodded firmly.
Da Qing was nowhere to be seen, although the window was open, and Lin Jing was scowling at his laptop when they dragged themselves out of the bedroom mid-morning. As Shen Wei, lips tight, went to start breakfast, Zhao Yunlan slumped onto the couch. “So?”
“I…don’t know.” Lin Jing didn’t look up, typing madly away.
“Well, that’s helpful. So glad you came, thanks very much.”
“Boss,” Lin Jing peered over the laptop in exaggerated sorrow. “I’m doing my best.”
“Whatever.” Zhao Yunlan was not in the mood to be merciful, but now Shen Wei was also giving him sorrowful looks. He sighed. “Fine. I’m sorry. Tell me.”
“The problem is that Lord Black Cloak here generates a pretty massive amount of dark energy simply by existing.” Lin Jing poked at the keyboard with apparent irritation. “So I can’t simply measure dark energy levels.”
“And since you, er, returned, you generate some dark energy naturally as well.”
Shen Wei made a sound from the kitchen and Zhao Yunlan tilted his head to look at him. “Yes, my love?”
“Were you able to track the movement of the dark energy?” Shen Wei stepped forward, fastidiously wiping his hands on a towel.
“Not exactly.” Lin Jing scowled. “The sensors were so overwhelmed that they only managed the barest minimum.”
With a sigh, Lin Jing put his hands behind his head and leaned away from the computer. “There’s some kind of connection between your energies but without a baseline, I can’t tell if this…dream thing is related to that.”
Zhao Yunlan grinned. “We have a soulbond, how sweet. I knew we were an OTP.”
Shen Wei and Lin Jing both gave him looks of disapproval for his flippancy, but it was obvious that only the latter actually understood what he’d said. Ha, he knew Lin Jing was reading fanfic on company time.
“There are some trails of energy leading away from you,” Lin Jing said to Shen Wei. “I may be able to compare them to some previous scans and get an idea if there are major changes.”
“Please do. If you need further scans, let me know. Much of what my energies do is unconscious, but I can isolate things as necessary.”
Lin Jing nodded as he turned back to the laptop, eyebrows already scrunched in thought.
“So…” Zhao Yunlan said over Lin Jing’s head. “He…I…Bai Yu ended up drunk from my drinking.”
Shen Wei got the adorable slightly queasy look he had any time alcohol was mentioned. “That seems unfair.”
Zhao Yunlan pretended to think about it for a moment, before laughing. “Yeah. Definitely unfair. He hates me right now.”
In the middle of turning back to the kitchen, Shen Wei paused, head tilted. “You’re seeing things from his point of view.”
“Yeah, I…oh.” Sitting up from his slump, Zhao Yunlan looked at Shen Wei. “But of course, you’re seeing it from Zhu Yilong’s, aren’t you?”
Shen Wei nodded slowly.
“That hadn’t occurred to me. Has it occurred to either of them?”
“I don’t believe so.”
Running a hand through his hair, Zhao Yunlan realized that he’d apparently accepted the existence of these other two people who both were and weren’t himself and Shen Wei. Was that a sign of insanity or accepting reality? “The problem—well, a problem — is that it’s hard to remember more than bits and pieces of what I see in the dream.”
Shen Wei was nodding again, so it must be the same for him. “We should write down everything we remember, because surely some of it will be different. Perhaps we’ll find a clue to what is happening.”
It took focus to remember more than images from their dreams, but as they talked it out, they jogged each other’s memories more and more. It was still frustratingly little data when they were done and staring at the notes Shen Wei had taken in his adorably beautiful handwriting.
Zhao Yunlan stared at the paper, a horrifying thought slowly forming in his mind. “Oh hell.”
“These two…they’re in love with each other.”
Shen Wei tilted his head. “Yes, and?”
“And they don’t seem to want to admit it.”
Shen Wei looked down at the paper, his nose scrunching in adorable confusion.
“Can you please reassure me that we’re not somehow in charge of fixing the love lives of our alternate universe counterparts?” Zhao Yunlan rubbed his temples.
“I...” Shen Wei stared at the paper for a few moments. “That seems unlikely?”
“But not impossible.”
Shen Wei shook his head.
“So, do I just stand here in the middle of our living room and yell ‘Idiots! You’re in love! Just fuck and get over it!’?”
“I think you just did, assuming they remember this when they wake up.”
Grinning, Zhao Yunlan leaned back, hands behind his head. “See, job done.”
“Oh dear.” Shen Wei shook his head in apparent despair but clearly lacked a better idea.
Bai Yu awoke already blushing, before he even remembered why he was embarrassed. Then he buried his face in his hands, the blush warming his face so much he thought he might melt. “Damn it,” he said.
He really really really wanted to pull the covers back over his head and not leave the bed for the day but unfortunately his work ethic wouldn’t allow it. Some deep breathing and meditation later, he dragged himself out and prepared for…whatever was going to happen.
Maybe this time Zhu Yilong wouldn’t remember the dream. Maybe he wouldn’t remember…that bit. Maybe he’d think it was hilarious. Haha! What a wacky idea that Bai Yu might be in love with Zhu Yilong!
“I’m so fucked,” he muttered to himself.
He skulked his way onto the set, avoiding everyone who might possibly want to talk to him. His brain was so confused that he was sure that any statement made to him would lead to him yelling ‘I’m not in love with Zhu Yilong!’ Or even worse, ‘I’m not in love with Shen Wei!’
Unfortunately, he wasn’t lucky enough for this to be a day of filming with other actors. No no, of course it was a day full of Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei in close proximity, eye fucking each other for hours at a time. Phallic substitute lollipops and all.
Bai Yu tried to decide if he could accidentally give himself a concussion, thus getting out of shooting for a day or so until his brain stopped replaying the words ‘Just fuck and get over it’ on repeat.
His first sight of Zhu Yilong hit him like a bolt of lightning. The other man stood in profile, looking at something on the SID set. The lights weren’t even set up, no angels sang, but Bai Yu couldn’t breathe as he looked at his costar.
Zhu Yilong was gorgeous, with or without makeup, with or without Shen Wei’s suits. He was stunning and charming and funny. They’d been instant friends and it was ridiculous to let this bit of weirdness ruin that.
Zhu Yilong turned, eyes widening as he saw Bai Yu looking at him.
Bai Yu wanted to run and hide, but he stood his ground, meeting Zhu Yilong’s gaze and smiling, letting everything he’d just realized come through in his expression.
For a long moment, neither moved. Then Zhu Yilong smiled back and strode toward him, enclosing him in a hug.
Closing his eyes, Bai Yu hugged him back, ignoring the few crew members giving them odd looks. “We’re okay?”
“Better than okay,” Zhu Yilong said.
Breath catching in his throat, Bai Yu pulled back from the hug to look at Zhu Yilong, who gave him a mischievous grin back. “Oh!”
“Later. We’ll discuss this later.”
“Perhaps in my apartment?” Bai Yu murmured.
Two mornings later, Zhao Yunlan stretched, grinning as Shen Wei stirred next to him. Draping himself over Shen Wei’s body, he murmured, “I never thought I’d be so happy to dream I was walking around my secondary school naked.”
Chuckling, Shen Wei twisted to kiss him.
“I suppose the rest is up to them.” Zhao Yunlan said, several lazy kisses later.
“Indeed. I think they can handle it from this point without our assistance.”
“Oh good.” Zhao Yunlan smirked at him. “Because I have some ideas about things I might handle and I’d prefer to have no spectators.”
“Really?” Shen Wei murmured. “Please tell me more.”