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Just One Taste

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“You’re cruel.”

“You’re an idiot,” Bai Yu said, nudging the thermos a little bit closer. He couldn’t help smiling at Long-ge’s mournful look as Long-ge eyed the gently steaming mouth of the thermos and then the group of bowls in front of him—vegetables, rice, and clear broth. It was just a seafood sauce over fried rice, rich and subtly spiced, but if Bai Yu could smell it, so could Long-ge.

As beautifully rendered as it was, the pathetic look was likely deceptive. Bai Yu had started thinking of Zhu Yilong’s two professional personas as ‘Professor Shen’ and ‘Hei Pao Shi’. The slightly awkward, often bewildered, blinking-doe-eyes-at-the-camera Long-ge that he’d done so many interviews with often seemed incongruent with the focused, driven, and overwhelmingly skilled actor that inhabited the sound stages. Just like Shen Wei, the reality of the man was both and neither, but as Bai Yu was trying to interfere with the creative process, he steeled himself to meet something closer to the righteous wrath of the Envoy.

Then Long-ge pouted. Spectacularly. “You could have at least brought it in one of my thermoses.”

Shit! Bai Yu hadn’t taken Weaponized Adorableness into consideration. “It is one of yours. It’s white and pink.” He actually had no clue. It had been in his kitchen.

“It has a bear. I didn’t sell anything with a bear,” Long-ge said from the depths of despair. Then he pulled out his best spoiled brat persona and continued, “And I would not sell anything with a bear in a pig suit.” He took another defiant spoonful of the broth.

Long-ge in the mood to play and tease was usually something Bai Yu would take full advantage of, but today he could tell it was primarily a distraction. As gorgeous as those cheekbones were, they shouldn’t be so pronounced, and Long-ge’s neck was looking dangerously fragile. Bai Yu was the goofy little brother; he wasn’t supposed to be feeling this protective.

“I don’t like this, Long-ge.”

All pretence dropped from Long-ge’s face and there was a flash of regret, perhaps sorrow, before it was replaced by determination. “At least I’m doing it deliberately. For a good reason.”

Bai Yu snorted. Long-ge should know by now that a guilt trip about his own bad habits wasn’t going to work. He loved his career, too, but there was no way he would deliberately put his health at risk. (Really! He just forgot to eat sometimes.) And the only reason Long-ge was attempting this rapid weight loss for “Lost Tomb” was due to his perfectionist inclinations which, Bai Yu had noticed, producers took full advantage of.

Some of his real worry must have got through because Long-ge reached over to wrap his fingers over Bai Yu’s wrist and rub the back of Bai Yu’s hand with his thumb. “When this is over you can feed me all the zongzi and hongshaorou you like.” He smiled, brilliant and completely honest—totally unfair. “Fatten me up.”

“Xiaolongbao?” Bai Yu said, because he knew what reaction he’d get and wasn’t disappointed as Long-ge rolled his eyes.

“Only if you can find some good reganmian as well,” Long-ge said, obviously fighting a grin.

The thought was more appealing than Bai Yu expected it to be. But it wasn’t just putting the food in front of Long-ge, he wanted to make sure Long-ge enjoyed it. He wanted to be the one to give Long-ge that enjoyment.

“I don’t believe you,” Bai Yu said, with just enough of his own put-on pout to turn it into a tease.

Still, it startled Long-ge into blinking as he sat up straight. “Of course you can.”

Bai Yu grabbed the other spoon on the table and scooped some of the rich sauce and crispy rice out of the thermos. He held it toward Long-ge. “Prove it.” Long-ge reached for the spoon, but Bai Yu pulled it away. “Let me feed you.”

It took a long moment for Long-ge to process that, and Bai Yu could see the instant his reaction went from protest to consideration. His eyes flicked between the spoon and Bai Yu’s face, and Bai Yu tried to keep the hunger out of his own expression, but he resigned himself to failure as Long-ge leaned against the back of the chair with a deep breath. Oh well, it had been worth a shot. Probably for the best; Long-ge’s trailer only had the appearance of a private space.

“Okay,” Long-ge said quietly.

Now it was Bai Yu’s turn to blink in surprise but he only took a moment to shift his ass into the third chair at the side of the table. Long-ge was wearing what Bai Yu thought of as his wax dummy face—completely smooth and still—but the movement of his chest under the black sweater was deeper and faster than it should be. Bai Yu was relieved to know he wasn’t the only one with his heart racing.

Bai Yu looked down at the spoon. He’d taken the sauce from the top and the time it had spent in the open air meant it already looked a little congealed. That would not do for Long-ge, so he stuck it in his own mouth. That broke Long-ge’s stillness as a little frown appeared between his eyebrows.

“It was cold,” Bai Yu said. He dug into the thermos and took another spoonful off the top for himself. “And it’s really yummy,” he said around the mouthful of food.

The smile started at Long-ge’s eyes and worked its way down to gently part his lips. Bai Yu couldn’t look away from that gently blooming smile as he reached for the spoon sitting in the broth. He froze at the feeling of Long-ge’s fingertips on his hand. “That one’s fine,” Long-ge said with a deliberate glance toward the spoon Bai Yu had just had in his mouth.

And Bai Yu’s heart was racing again. What the hell had he gotten himself into?

He had wanted to kiss Zhu Yilong from the first moment the man had smiled at him. Really smiled at him. Not the polite curve cultivated for strangers and cameras, but the full out grin when something amused or pleased him. Bai Yu loved that look and revelled in making it appear as often as possible. The kissing…. He knew how to keep that urge in its proper place. It was a line he wasn’t about to cross and risk what he had with Long-ge.

This though…. This felt like a similar line. Maybe the same line? And Long-ge was standing on the other side of it, making it clear that he would still be there if Bai Yu stepped across it.

Bai Yu focused on getting the perfect balance of warm rice and sauce on the spoon to avoid looking at Long-ge as long as he could. When he did look up, Long-ge was leaning forward, his elbows resting on the table, his eyes wide and clear, and it devastated Bai Yu, the amount of openness and trust he saw there. Fuck, it was just fish and rice! Wasn’t it?

The spoon…. He knew how to use a fucking spoon, but it was still a comfort to have Long-ge’s fingers brush lightly against his wrist, providing just enough guidance to keep the motion from being even more awkward than Bai Yu was sure it was. His gaze kept flitting between Long-ge’s parted lips and his warm eyes until Long-ge lowered his lids as he closed his mouth around the food. Bai Yu let the rush of want wash over him. He hoped that the sound of his harsh exhale was drowned out by Long-ge’s hum of approval as he slid his lips off the spoon leaving the steel spit-shiny.

“That’s really good,” Long-ge said, his tongue sneaking out to chase the taste at the corner of his mouth as he languidly opened his eyes. Bai Yu felt himself mirroring the motion with his own tongue and caught Long-ge’s lingering glance toward his lips. But then Long-ge’s gaze moved higher and he continued, “Make sure there is more of that next month when I’m done with this part of the shoot.”

And that was that. He could see Long-ge pulling back, gathering up the professional demeanour and public distance that he had let drop for the past few moments. It seemed to Bai Yu, all this little taste did was make it clear that he was in exactly the same place that he had been when he’d first walked through the little trailer door. He reached for the lid of the thermos.

“Xiao-Bai—”

“Don’t you ‘xiao-Bai’ me,” Bai Yu said sharply as he tightened the lid more firmly than it needed to be. There was no point in continuing any of this and the resurging concern now had a side-order of frustration—it made him a little testy. “Your dumb-ass decision is making me play the big brother here, a role for which I am completely unsuited.”

“You are far more versatile than you give yourself credit for.” Long-ge looked down and then back up at Bai Yu through his eyelashes. “Yu-ge.”

It wasn’t like Bai Yu didn’t know how much Long-ge appreciated the moments Bai Yu stepped up and took center stage to let him take a breath, gather his energy, readjust his public face. Bai Yu liked being able to take care of Long-ge in those moments, but that—Yu-ge—that was actual, blatant flirting, while sitting in a trailer on set where anyone could interrupt at any time. Maybe he wasn’t in exactly the same place as when he first walked in.

“You’re a horrible human being,” Bai Yu said, and fought to keep his irritated expression as Long-ge’s coy little smile grew to a grin. He must have done a good job, because even though he ran his hand over Long-ge’s shoulder as he moved past, Long-ge craned his neck to watch Bai Yu as he circled around the chair, as if trying to confirm that he really wasn’t mad.

Bai Yu couldn’t leave with that kind of doubt lingering. They didn’t see each other often enough for minor misunderstandings to be quickly washed away with the next meeting. He leaned down, one hand on the table beside the thermos and the other on the back of Long-ge’s chair, and looked him straight in the eye. “I am feeding you properly when you’re done with all this foolishness.”

“Yes,” Long-ge agreed. The last of the tension seemed to lift and the look on his face, in his eyes was just happy.

Bai Yu really didn’t want anything more than that and could have just left it there, probably should have left it there, but, damn it.... “And if during this dinner, you happen to kiss me, I will not object.”

The relaxed cheerfulness drained from Long-ge’s face as his gaze settled on Bai Yu’s mouth. It flicked to Bai Yu’s eyes, questioning, then back to his lips. Then Long-ge started to lean in.

“Oh, no.” Bai Yu said, standing up. “I don’t have your willpower. There is no way I could stop at one.” He hurried to the door because he didn’t have any willpower left after moving away from that confirmation of what he had hoped. Feared. Fuck! He was safely outside before Long-ge caught up with him.

“You’re cruel!” Long-ge said, leaning a shoulder on the door frame and wearing a real pout, all the more effective for its subtlety.

“It’s not my fault you won’t take what I have to offer.” Bai Yu raised the thermos to let the set know that he hadn’t corrupted their star, but both of them knew the comment had nothing to do with the food. And he kept backing away because of how much of a lie it was.

“One month,” Long-ge called, a hint of laughter in his voice. Yeah, he knew Bai Yu was running away.

Bai Yu turned away and lifted his hand in farewell in a motion straight out of Zhao Yunlan’s playbook. He wished he had more than the appearance of the chief’s confidence about this. One month. He glanced back over his shoulder and saw that Long-ge was still watching him even as he listened to one of the assistants who had come over to speak to him.

One month. What the hell was he going to do with himself for one month? Just like today, he was likely going to spend it swinging between wanting Long-ge so bad his teeth ached and being sure he should leave the country. He almost wished he had some work to distract him, but then he would be too busy in a month.

He looked at the thermos in his hands. In a month, he could learn how to cook. Before he turned the corner, he looked back again at the now empty doorway to the trailer. Yeah, that was a good idea. In a month, they’d both have been hungry for too long.