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Never Trust a Butterfly with a Secret

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An all-expenses paid trip to Europe courtesy of his sponsors, the chance to work with his idol Zhu Yilong, and best of all, finally meeting his long-time fan and good friend Torch Dragon in-person - this year's championship series was going to be amazing. It seemed only yesterday that he was goofing off in front of a webcam while playing his favorite video game, terrifying his audience of one with unflattering close-ups of his nostrils. Fast forward to today, his stream now commanded millions of followers, his team was steadily climbing the championship rankings, and he even signed a few official sponsorships.

Somehow, without him noticing, he had turned respectable. Fortunately, he wasn't about to let that stop him from traumatizing his fans when they were least expecting it. Pulling up his pant legs, he lifted his feet on top of his chair and zoomed in with the web cam so everyone could get a close look at the hair on his legs.

"Impressive, right?" Returning the webcam to its original place, he made sure to gloat right at the camera as he watched the danmu comments fly across the stream.

Torch Dragon: [ 🙄 Literally no one needed to see that! ]

One particular comment accompanying a very expensive gift stood out against the others. Bai Yu cackled gleefully. "Wow! My dragon-gege is so generous today. Does this mean he wants to see more?"

His fans immediately split into two factions, with one side egging him on while the other side begged him to go back to streaming a game instead. Putting on his most earnest expression, Bai Yu pretended to ponder both sides of the argument.

Torch Dragon: [ Didn't you promise to do a warding tutorial soon? ]

The next message wasn't as flashy, so it almost got lost in the crowd. Luckily, years of instinctively seeking out that all-too-familiar name for reassurance meant that Bai Yu's eyes were immediately drawn to that question. And just like that, he made up his mind.

Bai Yu wasn't the type to play favorites. He really wasn't. But this was the guy who had been there with him from the very start. And when Bai Yu had stared at the lonely words "1 Viewer Watching" at the corner of his screen, wondering if he should give up, it had been Torch Dragon who gave him the conviction to continue.

I know it's selfish, but I hope you keep going. Watching you always makes me happy.

A slow smile dawned on his face at that memory. "Okay, enough messing around! I have heard your clamors for my expertise, so watch and listen closely while Professor Bai teaches you the best warding and counter-warding strategies."

Manic Mayhem: [ It was literally one guy asking for that. ]

Eternal Nightmare: [ This channel is pay to win! How does this Torch Dragon dude have so much money to spend? ]

White Dragon Forever: [ It has nothing to do with money and everything to do with rewarding loyalty and friendship! ]

Bai Yu ignored the chatter. "By the end of this tutorial, your vision control in the game will be so great that everyone will be calling you a vision-ary!"

A chorus of boos filled the stream's comment section.

If there was one thing that he missed from his days as a no-name streamer with an audience of one, it was having their own private little world that came with being the only two people chatting and joking around as they played games. Not that he was ungrateful for his eventual popularity or his new fans, but losing that cozy routine had always left him a bit bereft. It wasn't until he'd signed with his first professional team that he finally found an excuse to reach out to Torch Dragon beyond their interactions on his stream.

On the surface, the excuse had been to send his number one fan some free team merchandise as a reward for all his support. In truth, Bai Yu had just missed bombarding Torch Dragon with the latest memes. (Did something like a meme soulmate exist, who just gets your dumb jokes?) Most of all though, Bai Yu appreciated Torch Dragon's warmth and kindness, which was a breath of fresh air in a game filled with toxic players who got angry at the drop of a hat and blamed everyone but themselves for their failures. Even though Torch Dragon always pretended to be exasperated by Bai Yu's antics, there was never any real heat in his words, and it was never long before he gave up and joined in.

Torch Dragon's good points extended beyond his online presence as well. He was knowledgeable in the most unusual ways, able to provide at any moment the name of the best hotpot restaurant in any city Bai Yu visited. And best of all, he was a considerate and generous listener. Bai Yu had only mentioned his hopeless crush on Zhu Yilong once, and the next thing he knew, Torch Dragon had sent him an autographed poster of the actor.

It was too bad that Torch Dragon had a fatal flaw - his absolutely terrible, horrifyingly awful taste in men.

Excerpt from the WeChat logs of the "MemeUnknown's Battlegrounds" group chat:

White Universe: Another Monday, another morning's worth of productivity lost to Zhu Yilong's beautiful face 😔.

Torch Dragon: There's no need to exaggerate like this.

White Universe: I'm not exaggerating! If anything, I'm being subtle and classy in my response.

Torch Dragon:

White Universe: LOOK AT THIS. It's like he's staring straight at me, inviting me to join him on that bed so I can help him undo his tie. Preferably with my teeth.

Torch Dragon: He just looks like someone getting ready to go to unwind and relax after a hard day of work to me.

White Universe: Seriously? How do you explain his come-hither eyes then?

Torch Dragon: The photographer asked him to look at the camera?

White Universe: I'm taking a screenshot of this chat and sending it to my 'Shit Straight Guys Say' group chat.

Torch Dragon: But I'm not straight…

White Universe: Wait. You're not straight. And you're not in any way attracted to Zhu Yilong?

Torch Dragon: He's about average as far as good looks go for an actor, I guess, but he's not really my type.

White Universe: That's fair. I respect your right to be objectively wrong.

Conversations like these had long become a weekly fixture between them. Every Monday, like clockwork, Bai Yu would wail at Torch Dragon that he was being personally attacked by Zhu Yilong's latest photoshoot. Lying down in a pool of water with his pants unbuttoned? Touching his mouth far more than was strictly necessary? And for the love of all that was holy in this world, would somebody, anybody please stop ReFa from coming out with increasingly suggestive-looking massagers?

In response, Torch Dragon would calmly come out with all sorts of ridiculous theories giving harmless explanations for each photoshoot. Maybe no one had noticed that the pants had accidentally come undone, considering how dark the lighting was for that picture. Touching one's mouth made perfect sense when advertising fast food. And what was wrong with ReFa's massagers? Their shapes were designed to best smooth out the wrinkles on a person's face.

Sometimes Bai Yu wondered if this was a creative writing exercise for Torch Dragon, because nobody could actually be this clueless, right? Every time Zhu Yilong upped the ante in his photoshoots in the most unfair manner possible - if Bai Yu didn't know any better, he could swear that Zhu Yilong was taking inspiration straight from his chat messages - Torch Dragon would be right there to calmly explain everything in the most innocent way possible.

It actually turned into something of a fun game.

Excerpt from the WeChat logs of the 'No Memes, Only Thirst' group chat:

White Universe: Whelp. Say goodbye to my championship dreams. I'm going to lose all my brain cells at the championships because of Zhu Yilong.

Torch Dragon: I thought you'd be happy to finally meet him in person…

White Universe: Meeting him is one thing! Just a quick hand-shake, followed by five minutes of me embarrassing myself while I get his autograph. That's fine! But apparently he's going to be there doing some kind of documentary with all the competing teams too. I'm going to be too nervous and distracted to play!

Torch Dragon: You worry too much. Most actors never live up to the image their fans build for them, in my experience.

White Universe: Zhu Yilong is different. He's more beautiful than a penta-kill Baron steal, with the adorable temperament of a particularly fluffy kitten trying to be fierce.

Torch Dragon: You're ridiculous.

White Universe: I can't even look at my posters anymore without imagining him standing behind me, watching me play, maybe putting his hands on my shoulders, gently massaging the tension out of them… Wait, what was I talking about again?

Torch Dragon: Maybe it's time to pack away the posters and pictures. Come on, you've worked too hard for this championship!

White Universe: Well, now, let's not overreact.

Torch Dragon: I'm overreacting?!

White Universe: I'm gonna give this a few weeks and see if it gets better before taking the nuclear option.

Torch Dragon: I have no idea why I still read your messages when it's Monday.

Logically, Bai Yu knew that he wasn't the only one who needed to ramp up the preparations for the championship series. On top of his existing commitments, Zhu Yilong also had to travel to Europe and get ready to narrate a documentary. So it made sense that Zhu Yilong's studio stopped releasing new pictures. The withdrawal was real, though. Especially when their idea of a compromise was to release Zhu Yilong's own pictures, most of which were artsy shots done in terrible lighting. There was one where there was barely an outline of Zhu Yilong's face. And yet another one where the only indication that a person was in the picture was a tiny black speck in the distance.

"It must be a real Monday emergency if you're calling me." Torch Dragon was already laughing when he accepted Bai Yu's WeChat voice chat request.

"In my most trying hours, it's always the dulcet tones of your voice that soothes my desolate heart."

"Very dramatic!" Torch Dragon laughed again. "Sometimes, I feel like you missed your calling as an actor."

"Well, I do have the good looks for acting," agreed Bai Yu without a hint of shame.

"So, what's your crisis, anyway? Was Zhu Yilong unbuttoning the top button of his shirt too scandalous for you? Or did you leave your packing to the last minute and are now regretting all your life choices?" Torch Dragon was ruthless today.

"Okay, first of all, I do talk about things other than Zhu Yilong on Mondays. I mean, the absence of any new pictures have left a hole in my heart, but that's nothing new."

"A perfectly reasonable reaction."

"And second of all," continued Bai Yu. "My suitcase somehow became smaller between my last trip and this one! Help me!"

Torch Dragon sighed, exasperated. "Should I help you go through the packing checklist again?"

"Yes, please."

"Fine, fine fine." Torch Dragon gave in, just like always. "First item: Do you really need all those bucket hats?"

"Come on, I told you a million times to remove that from the list already! The bucket hats are off-limits!"

If the media asked Bai Yu what he was most excited about on this trip, his well-practiced answer would be his team's chances for the championship. If any of his friends asked him the same question, his more honest reply would be some jumbled mix of Zhu Yilong, the competition, teasing Torch Dragon in person, being part of a documentary, having a hotpot-eating competition with Torch Dragon, and playing the tourist (hopefully with a friendly dragon?).

It felt like an epic, sprawling adventure was out there waiting for him - as long as he could pass the first trial without tripping over his own feet.

"It's so great to finally meet you. I'm a huge fan." Zhu Yilong was, impossibly, even better-looking in person than he was on screen. His eyes shone with earnest admiration, his smile lighting up his entire face. Looking at him was like staring into the sun.

"Hey, no fair! You just stole my line!" Bai Yu blurted out the first words that came to his mind. In his defense, he had spent a lot of time in front of the mirror rehearsing his introduction, and now he had no idea what to say.

Ducking his head to hide the laughter that threatened to escape, Zhu Yilong murmured a soft apology before offering his hand for a handshake.

Bai Yu could only nod speechlessly as they shook hands. Then, before he could recover, he was put in a trance from the lingering brush of Zhu Yilong's fingers against his palm. He was vaguely aware that Zhu Yilong had moved onto introductions with his teammates after their handshake, and that there was some shop talk about the camera crew for the documentary following them for the next couple of hours. But all that was running through his head were the words, 'It was an accident. Don't read too much into it.'

It wasn't until his team captain lightly flicked his ear that he came back to the real world. With a sheepish grin, Bai Yu sat down at his computer and loaded up the game. His captain gave him a sarcastic thumbs up.

Settling into the familiar motions of game-play allowed Bai Yu's racing heart to return to normal. And it didn't take long for him to regain his form either, as his focus narrowed to the computer screen in front of him. Maybe it was the pressure of the cameras filming their practice scrimmage, or maybe it was the psychological need to start the competition off with a win, no matter how unofficial it was. But the whole team played off each other's energy to make their way to a convincing win after thirty solid minutes of play.

With the pressure off, Bai Yu slumped back against his chair and stretched lazily.

"That felt like a pretty tense match," said Zhu Yilong, as he put his hands on Bai Yu's shoulders.

It took all Bai Yu's self-control not to fall out of his chair.

"Y-yeah," replied Bai Yu, his voice unsteady. Inwardly, he cursed his own overactive imagination for thinking Zhu Yilong was about to give him an impromptu shoulder rub. The guy just needed a place to rest his hands while leaning over the back of his chair to watch the screen. That was all. There was no way—

Then, the rest of that train of thought flew out of Bai Yu's head at the gentle pressure of Zhu Yilong's hands that somehow magically landed on the knot of tension in his shoulders. In a state of silent panic, his eyes darted over the rest of the room, because seriously, how was no one else noticing this?! The replay of their last game was up on the computer now, and his captain was saying something that he probably should be listening to, but his single remaining brain cell that was still functioning was fully dedicated to processing this unexpected new development.

Bai Yu licked his suddenly parched lips, and gazed up into Zhu Yilong's warm brown eyes. Those didn't seem to be the mischievous eyes of someone sneakily trying to flirt with him. Was he reading too much into this? Maybe actors were just more touchy-feely than normal people? Dammit, where was Torch Dragon's reliable obliviousness when Bai Yu needed it?

"That was a great play," commented Zhu Yilong with a straight face, like he didn't just brush his thumb over the back of Bai Yu's neck.

"Thanks," replied Bai Yu, as his soul left his body.

After what felt like an eternity, the video analysis session finally ended, and the cameras were turned off. Zhu Yilong's hands seemed to have found their permanent home resting on Bai Yu's shoulders, but at least they stopped the moving.

"Thank you, everyone!" said the director, drawing the room's attention. "I know this isn't your usual practice routine, but it'll be good to let the fans see all the different preparations the teams make for the competition."

"We're happy to help," came the chorus of replies from the team.

"Can we have a copy of this video too?" asked their captain. "I'm going to upload it to our team channel with the title 'Amazing Productivity when Bai Yu stops talking.'"

Bai Yu mimicked a wound to the heart, but that only made his uncaring teammates laugh harder.

"You know, you were a lot more quiet than usual today."

Just when Bai Yu thought he was free, Zhu Yilong caught up to him after the documentary crew had left. He couldn't help giving Zhu Yilong an indignant look, because seriously, whose fault was that?!

"Well, maybe it makes sense that you're not always talkative," remarked Zhu Yilong, ignoring the daggers flying out from Bai Yu's eyes. "Our public personas are often very different from what we're like in private."

Bai Yu resisted the urge to ask if Zhu Yilong was hiding an evil mastermind side of himself behind those large, innocent kitten eyes. With a shrug and a laugh, he settled for a vague reply. "Yeah. I guess I was caught off-guard. You weren't quite what I was expecting."

A startled look crossed Zhu Yilong's face. He blinked at Bai Yu. "What do you mean?"

"You're much better-looking in real life than you are on screen, let's get that out of the way first!" Belatedly, Bai Yu realized that his words could have been taken negatively.

Zhu Yilong ducked his head shyly, then peeked out at Bai Yu from beneath his eyelashes.

"But uh…" Bai Yu gestured vaguely with his hands. He wanted to say that all the touching was a surprise. In fact, this look that Zhu Yilong was giving him right now was shockingly suggestive. But he didn't want to sound like a delusional fanboy reading too much into simple gestures. Wait. Fuck. Did he already sound like a creepy, over-invested fan trying to get in Zhu Yilong's pants?

"Actually, that came out wrong!" Bai Yu quickly clarified. "That was just a statement of fact. I wasn't trying to hit on you. Don't worry, I might joke around or exaggerate on my livestreams, but it's nothing more than some harmless daydreaming. I have zero interest in actually chasing celebrities."

"Oh." Zhu Yilong blinked.

On second thought, saying he had zero interest sounded a little like he was insulting Zhu Yilong's appeal. "Er. I mean, not that you aren't an amazing catch. You're beautiful, talented, and you have excellent taste in eSports teams too. I'm sure you're having to fend off admirers left and right. But don't worry. I'm not one of them. I was just trying to be friendly, didn't mean to overstep any boundaries or anything. I hope you didn't misunderstand."

There was a long pause.

"Okay." Zhu Yilong's voice was small.

There was a faraway look in Zhu Yilong's eyes that Bai Yu couldn't quite parse. Why did he have the sinking feeling that he'd said something wrong? He should probably just… quit while he was ahead?

"Okay! Well. I uh. I have a date tonight, so I have to go." Bai Yu cringed at how forced his cheerfulness sounded. "It was really nice meeting you and I'm sorry I made such an awkward mess of our conversation. Believe it or not, I don't make it a habit to accidentally hit on someone, and then insult them during my apology."

Zhu Yilong smiled. "No, I know what you were trying to say, and I understand. It was nice meeting you too."

Excerpt from the WeChat logs of the 'Countdown to the Epic Hotpot Competition' group chat:

White Universe: Can't wait to kick your ass tonight!

White Universe: How did you settle on Torch Dragon as a username anyway? Don't you think you're over-compensating a little too much with all the fire imagery?

White Universe: I'm at the restaurant now. Are you coming soon?

White Universe: I know you're really picky about your soup bases, so I've held off on ordering, but the waiters are starting to give me sympathetic looks. I'm this close to just ordering everything that has a spicy symbol next to it and being done with it.

White Universe: One of the waiters just gave me a complimentary bottle of wine. If you don't come in the next five minutes, I'm going to order a the blandest, least spicy items they have. It would serve you right!

White Universe: This actually doesn't taste that bad despite not being spicy. Blasphemy, I know!

White Universe: You know, I was having a long, heartfelt talk with Zhu Yilong today, and I'm pretty sure we're soulmates and also in love now. Yet I gave all that up just to meet you, so I hope you appreciate how much of a sacrifice that was.

White Universe: Did you take one look at my new bucket hat and leave?

White Universe: I'm sorry that you don't have good enough taste to appreciate my bucket hat.

White Universe: Hey, are you okay?

White Universe: You don't have to tell me why you changed your mind. Just tell me that you're safe and sound.

White Universe: Please?

Bai Yu threw himself onto his hotel bed, covered his face, and groaned. It wasn't like he'd never heard all the horror stories when people tried to transition from online relationships into real life ones. In a way, it'd be easier to dismiss tonight's failed dinner date if he could imagine that Torch Dragon took one look at his real appearance and immediately ran out of the door. But between the two of them, Torch Dragon had always been the more mysterious one. Bai Yu had never bothered with make-up or filters to make himself look good on his livestream, while Torch Dragon had never so much as sent a single picture over. Come to think of it, he didn't even know what Torch Dragon did for a living, other than the fact that it let the guy travel a lot.

Torch Dragon being nothing more than an elaborate catfishing attempt on Bai Yu would be another plausible scenario. There were times when Bai Yu felt like someone took a list of every trait that made Bai Yu happy and giddy and gave them to Torch Dragon. Except that didn't make sense either, because Torch Dragon had never asked for a single thing from him.

Bai Yu let out a rueful laugh. For some reason, it almost seemed entirely in-character for Torch Dragon to be the world's worst catfisher, who did everything perfectly but completely forgot to swindle his victim out of his money.

With a long sigh, Bai Yu allowed his arms to flop to his sides. Half-heartedly, he fumbled around in the general direction of the bedside table until he found his phone and unlocked the screen.

Still no response.

Bai Yu swallowed, fighting back his growing unease. It occurred to him that if something did happen to Torch Dragon, he'd have no way of even finding out about it. It was honestly ridiculous that they'd known each other for so long, but he didn't even know the guy's name.

Maybe the harsh truth of tonight was that he had never been as important to Torch Dragon as the other man was to him. While he was in his hotel moping and worrying, Torch Dragon could very well have been distracted by another, better hotpot restaurant or something.

Fuck. Other than memes, video games and hotpot, he didn't even know what else Torch Dragon liked.

"I'm the biggest idiot on this planet," declared Bai Yu to the ceiling.

The ceiling was silently unsympathetic. And to add insult to injury, his traitorous phone even made an enthusiastic noise of agreement.

Bai Yu froze. Then he quickly snatched up his phone again.

Incoming voice chat request from Torch Dragon…

Bai Yu jabbed at the "Accept" button so hard the phone almost fell out of his hand. "You're alive!"

"Sorry." Torch Dragon sounded sheepish. "I fell asleep."

"Oh good. For a second there, I was worried you planned to disappear and never talk to me again." Bai Yu tried not to turn his statement into a question.

Torch Dragon stayed silent for just a beat too long. Then, he let out a nervous laugh.

"Do you… do you want to talk about it?" Bai Yu held his breath.

"It's too embarrassing."

"Can it be more embarrassing than that time I lovingly watered a fake plant for a month thinking it was real?"

Torch Dragon's laugh was genuine this time. "Why on earth did you think I'd send you a real plant over the mail?"

"It looked very realistic!"

"Well, I guess my story isn't as bad compared to that." Torch Dragon paused. "In hindsight, it's not that big of a deal. Someone I really liked rejected me, and I spent the rest of the day moping and napping."

"What?!" Bai Yu had a million questions, most of them about why Torch Dragon had never said anything about there being someone he liked. But the most important thing right now was offering some comfort. "I can't believe you know the dumbest person on earth and never introduced me!"

Torch Dragon laughed again, far harder than was strictly necessary. "Yeah, he's not the brightest light bulb."

"Okay, so, change of plans. No more hotpot competition. Come over to my hotel room, and we'll have a bad movie night with lots of ice cream!"

"Ice cream in the winter?"


"Thanks, but I think it's better if I have some alone time. Don't really want your first impression of me to be like this."

Ignoring the urge to physically reach through the phone screen and wrap Torch Dragon in blankets so he would never sound this sad again, Bai Yu did his best to keep his voice light. "I hate to break it to you, but my first impression of you was you telling me that you lost a game in Iron IV. There's nowhere to go but up from there."

"I was new!" protested Torch Dragon, sounding re-energized.

"And terrible."

"Go away!"

Bai Yu grinned. "So, when are you coming over?"

Torch Dragon sighed. "Give me half an hour."

In hindsight, Bai Yu really should have figured it out much sooner. Torch Dragon always being able to get his hands the latest posters and merchandise that Zhu Yilong endorsed. Torch Dragon being the only human being on earth who liked men yet thought Zhu Yilong was only "average" looking. And the "innocent" shoulder rub during practice earlier was clearly just a continuation of him trolling Bai Yu for his thirst. The only way Torch Dragon could have been more obvious was if he changed his username to "Torch One Dragon." Staring at the oversized bundle of winter coat and scarf masquerading as Zhu Yilong, Bai Yu wanted to be offended at how bad this disguise was. Except considering how clueless he'd been right up until a few seconds ago, maybe it wasn't all that far-fetched that he'd fall for this disaster of a disguise too.

"Here, let me take your coat." A morbidly curious part of Bai Yu wondered just how long Zhu Yilong planned to keep up this charade.

Zhu Yilong clutched his coat tighter around him.

There was a terrifying moment when Bai Yu worried that he'd be spending the rest of the night talking to Zhu Yilong's coat. But after a brief hesitation, Zhu Yilong undid his scarf, and threw his coat onto the back of the couch.

"Hello." Zhu Yilong gave him a rueful smile.

"Hey." Bai Yu smiled back.

For a while, they simply stared at each other, grinning foolishly. In the end, it was Zhu Yilong who broke eye contact first, his smile faltering as he turned away. With large strides, he walked towards the mini-fridge and retrieved the giant tub of ice cream that Bai Yu had bought earlier. Then, showing no indications of any willingness to share, he grabbed a spoon, plopped himself down on the couch, and dug in.

Now was a terrible time for Bai Yu to remember how much he liked watching Zhu Yilong's food livestreams and how adorable he found Zhu Yilong's puffed up hamster cheeks when he was stuffing himself with food. Zhu Yilong wasn't just eye-candy and an unattainable fantasy for him now. He was Bai Yu's good friend who needed some cheering up.

Shaking his head, Bai Yu sat down on the couch as well, and nudged Zhu Yilong with his knee. "How about letting me have a bite?"


"Fine!" Bai Yu pretended to sulk even as one of his hands sneakily inched its way towards the ice cream. "I guess I'll just starve!"

Zhu Yilong rolled his eyes and turned to shield the ice cream container from Bai Yu's grubby hands. "You broke my heart, so I'm stealing all your ice cream."

"Huh?" It took a few seconds for Zhu Yilong’s statement to sink in. Then, Bai Yu’s jaw dropped as the last piece of the puzzle slid into place. The dumbest man on earth who rejected the kind, funny, brilliant and wonderful Torch Dragon was him? "You've gotta be kidding me."

Zhu Yilong gave Bai Yu a questioning look.

Bai Yu didn't know whether he should laugh or cry. It was like he had transcended the mortal limits in how utterly stupid he could be about one person. And just when he had come to terms with having hit rock bottom, his creative dumbass self found out that he could actually somehow dig deeper. There were a million words that wanted to tumble out of his mouth. He wanted to apologize for being an idiot; he wanted to explain that actually, he didn't mean it like that; he wanted to shake Zhu Yilong and ask him how he'd managed to keep his evil, trolling side hidden for so long (except when Bai Yu thought about it, this wasn't the first time he got pranked by Zhu Yilong.)

But when he opened his mouth to talk, he got distracted by the smudge of ice cream at the corner of Zhu Yilong's mouth. Actions speak louder than words, right? Bai Yu licked his lips. He bet it would taste delicious. The ice cream, too.

"Xiao Bai?" Zhu Yilong was blinking in that adorable manner he always did when he was confused.

Gently, Bai Yu cupped Zhu Yilong's face, before moving in to press a kiss against the corner of Zhu Yilong's mouth. At the sound of Zhu Yilong's gasp, he flicked his tongue over that delectable bit of ice cream that he'd been eyeing from the start. It tasted even sweeter than he thought it would be. There was a hitch in Zhu Yilong's breath, the sound of which sent a jolt directly down Bai Yu's spine. And when those lips parted in an enticing invitation, he lost the last of his restraint. Making a happy noise, he ran his tongue over Zhu Yilong's trembling lower lip, his hand sliding into Zhu Yilong's hair to stroke and tug.

The kiss was hungry but gentle, intense but playful, a curious exploration of something new that at the same time felt like finally coming back to the only home they'd ever known. It seemed to last forever; it didn't last nearly long enough.

With great reluctance, they finally pulled away from each other, breathless. For a moment, Bai Yu simply let himself stare at the gorgeous picture in front of him. Greedily, his eyes roamed over the flush on Zhu Yilong's cheeks, the red tips of his ears, and the lushness of his thoroughly kissed lips. Then, just as Zhu Yilong looked like he was about to flee from Bai Yu's gaze, Bai Yu deftly swiped the container of ice cream, spoon and all, away into his own hands.

"Mmmm!" Bai Yu collected a generous scoop of ice cream and put it in his mouth. Then he winked at Zhu Yilong. "It's good, but I have to say, it tastes better when it's on your lips."

“Why do you have to be like this?“ Zhu Yilong glared at Bai Yu as his face turned even redder.

"Because I'm your trollmate." Bai Yu grinned smugly. "It's like soulmates, except we know exactly how to perfectly drive each other up the wall."

"I hate you."

"You love me."