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Where We Were Meant To Be

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It's a pleasant evening–partly cloudy but not cold, with an occasional warm breeze. The liquid gold of the sun's rays spills beneath the clouds, painting their lower halves in dazzling orange.

Bai Yu watches the sky, mesmerized, as he waits. The view from the restaurant's balcony is truly breathtaking–light reflecting in-between the buildings and sneaking around the trees, it catches in one's irises, creating a filter of haze and leaving behind a shadow trail of light. Whenever the breeze passes by, it's a reminder of a tender embrace.

An embrace, like the one Bai Yu hopes to share with Zhu Yilong later. 

Except that Zhu Yilong is late, forcing Bai Yu to sit alone at his table. The waiter for the area keeps looking over at him with pity.

Time wafts away like the breeze, and gradually sinks away like the sun. Zhu Yilong is not picking up his phone.

It hasn't been that long, really, Bai Yu tells himself, merely an hour. But Zhu Yilong is never this late without a word, so worry begins seeping into Bai Yu's mind.

Perhaps Zhu Yilong's manager will have information. Just as Bai Yu reaches into his jacket pocket to pull out his phone, the waiter places a glass of wine in front of him without any prompt. Bai Yu turns to him, trying to figure out the quickest, most polite way to tell him to leave him alone. The waiter is looking at him with a small smile and understanding eyes; Bai Yu looks for the name tag on his uniform–Feng. 

"Mister Feng, listen, I'm not–"

A hurried shuffle and then Zhu Yilong's voice: "Sorry I'm late." Bai Yu whips around to see him sitting down; hears the waiter walk away with a soft, "Oh."

"Long-ge!" Bai Yu leans forward with a serious expression, "What happened? You're okay?"

"I–" Zhu Yilong puffs out something like a laugh, which Bai Yu doesn't buy for even one second. He narrows his eyes at Zhu Yilong. "I'm fine, it's nothing. We just didn't have good luck on set today, that's all." 

"What does that mean?"

"There was–"

The waiter interrupts by handing out menus and parroting a welcoming speech. Zhu Yilong patiently smiles in his general direction until he leaves before continuing, "There was an accident, my scene partner bumped into the cameraman and they both fell. The floor is granite tile, so they both..."

Zhu Yilong trails off, fliching, and something in Bai Yu twists until it strains with tension. Bai Yu knows first-hand that film sets can be unsafe places but it's still hard to think about his loved one working in such an environment and...

Oh. Bai Yu hasn't quite thought of his relationship with Zhu Yilong in such terms before.

"We still don't know if either of them has broken anything. The camera's gone for sure. We'll be off from filming for three days," Zhu Yilong drags Bai Yu out of his thoughts.

Almost having lost the thread of the conversation, Bai Yu stares for a moment, "And you?"

"What about me?"

Bai Yu frowns at his man. It's very obvious something is off with Zhu Yilong. Dodging the question and seemingly favoring his right side, since he keeps flinching whenever he brushes against his chair's left armrest. 

Zhu Yilong sighs and admits the truth, "I screwed up a jump and landed wrong. I'm fine, it's just bruises."

"You– What scene were you filming that so many people ended up injured?!"

"No, no, the two aren't related," Zhu Yilong hurries to say. "First thing in the morning, I failed at running. Then in the afternoon my partner forgot his positioning, turned too quickly and slammed into the cameraman."

Bai Yu accepts the explanation and drops the subject in favour of reading the menu. They order and soon after the food arrives. Bai Yu lets himself relax.

"Dig in. You need to stay strong," he says grinning, and leans forward across the table to pester Zhu Yilong more efficiently. "Isn't it strange, me nagging you to eat?" Bai Yu says and the only response he gets is a shy smile.

"Yes... It used to be the other way around," Zhu Yilong says after a short silence.

They've come far since they met. Who would have thought that things would play out this way? Bai Yu certainly wouldn't have expected to find himself still growing closer and closer to Zhu Yilong after Guardian's promotion ended. But they'd never lost contact, often sent memes and checked on each other's health and interests. They'd started meeting up again once the flurry of increasing fame had become a background detail; when they'd learned to dodge insistent fans and press. 

Getting together had been gradual but inevitable, Bai Yu realizes when he looks back on their relationship. It feels natural that they've ended up here, like this.

-

Once dinner is over, Bai Yu takes a look at the sky and the nearby park, then glances at Zhu Yilong, "We should go home."

"Huh?" Zhu Yilong looks up in confusion. "Didn't you say you wanted to go to the park?"

Bai Yu really had said that but with Zhu Yilong like this... Bai Yu looks across the road at the park again. He should trust Zhu Yilong to know how Zhu Yilong himself feels. "Are you in a lot of pain?" Bai Yu relents.

"No."

"Then," Bai Yu lets himself grin, "you want to take a walk together? You'll have to lean against me." His grin grows larger as he says the last sentence, watching Zhu Yilong blush.

Instead of replying immediately, Zhu Yilong fiddles with his coat's belt. After that, he agrees.

"If you feel anything–tell me!" Being met with silence, Bai Yu presses, "Good?"

Zhu Yilong nods.

"Long-ge, please."

A deep breath, an eyebrow furrow of annoyance, followed by an acceptance, "Good."

The park is close–they make it there quickly. There aren't many people, mostly families, children running around their parents, who are trying to coax them to stop and go home.

It's calm despite the children's excited yelling. As they walk, Zhu Yilong points out blooming trees and comes up with ideas for terrible selfies. So Bai Yu watches him take a few photos, then joins in, trying to pose in the worst way possible. Though, he does insist they take one normal photo, "For the regular photo album."

But the farther they walk, Bai Yu notices more and more of Zhu Yilong's short puffs of air, sees his eyes drooping in exhaustion, and offers, "Let's sit down."

Zhu Yilong listens. Bai Yu had wanted them to sit by the lakeside and watch the sky but that would probably be too much.

"Will you sit here calmly if I go get the car?"

"Huh?" Zhu Yilong gestures at the path, "You can't drive here."

"I meant, I could bring it closer. Look–" pointing at the road, visible in the distance, outside the park.

"That's not much closer," it almost looks like Zhu Yilong is pouting. "I'm fine, there's no need. I can walk back." 

"You're in pain."

"It's not much; I can deal wi–"

"I don't want you in any pain!"

Maybe Bai Yu had raised his voice too much because Zhu Yilong's eyes widen and he backs away.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you."

Zhu Yilong shakes his head. Then, "Okay, I'll sit."

After another long look, Bai Yu nods and stands up, walking away from Zhu Yilong with a moderate pace. If he walks, he can get back to the car in... maybe ten minutes? If he runs... he can probably be at the car in a few minutes.

Bai Yu runs.

-

As they wait at a traffic light, Bai Yu reaches over to start the radio but stops himself when he sees Zhu Yilong's form slumped against the door. Perhaps silence would be better.

"Long-ge?"

"Just tired," and the low rumble of Zhu Yilong's voice backs up his words.

They drift through traffic for a while. 

"Where are we going?" Zhu Yilong asks suddenly and it takes a second to click with Bai Yu–he's taking the road home but for the past month Zhu Yilong has been living in a hotel room close to the film set; he also has his own home, a bit farther away. Considering Zhu Yilong's recap of the day's events and filming being set back a few days–would Zhu Yilong want to go to his own apartment?

A red light halts them. 

"I'm driving to mine. Do you want to go to your place?" Bai Yu checks.

A moment of hesitation before a single quiet, "Yes."

"Then that's where we're going."

Zhu Yilong points out that Bai Yu has missed the turn which would have been most convenient.

"We'll take the long way," Bai Yu turns to smile at him, resting a hand on his knee. Zhu Yilong still looks tired but there's an ease to his expression. He looks peaceful as he looks out at the road and points out, "The light's green."

They ride in silence until they reach Zhu Yilong's apartment.

-

A sense of calm envelopes Bai Yu in the silent space. He guides Zhu Yilong to the couch in the living room and sits him down, before going to check on the bedroom.

There aren't sheets on the bed, luckily, or else Bai Yu would have had to strip them first. He tries to put new ones on quickly but it turns out he doesn't know where they're kept and then wastes time wrestling with the duvet and its cover. When he gets back to Zhu Yilong, he sees him asleep.

Bai Yu almost doesn't wake him. Why bother him when he's so tired? But he's hurt and sleeping with his clothes on the couch won't help his bruises.

For just a moment or two, Bai Yu allows himself to simply look at Zhu Yilong. His heart fills with warmth and tenderness, with love. Zhu Yilong is handsome, yes, but that's not really what Bai Yu sees. Instead, that face reminds him of the hardworking, gentle and caring soul behind it. Stroking his cheek, Bai Yu softly calls him, "Long-ge, Long-ge."

Blinking his eyes open with a small sound of discontent, Zhu Yilong wakes and looks up at Bai Yu. "Xiao Bai?"

"C'mon, you should go to bed. You won't be comfortable sleeping here."

Zhu Yilong doesn't argue–just silently stands up and walks, a barely perceptible limp in his step. In his bedroom, he immediately sits down on the bed and slowly starts tugging at his clothes. Bai Yu watches Zhu Yilong's fingers slip from the same button on his shirt twice and steps in to help. Zhu Yilong lets himself be undressed without trying to hide the bruises, already looking blue, running along his left arm and thigh. Bai Yu hisses at the sight but Zhu Yilong doesn't say anything.

"What did the director ask you to do? Why are you in this state?"

"...It was my fault–"

"Like hell–"

"It was!" Zhu Yilong insists. "I jumped too early from the wrong spot, so I landed wrong." 

Speechless, Bai Yu stares.

"Please, Xiao Bai, don't worry."

Bai Yu sighs, dropping the matter.

When Bai Yu tries to walk away to get pajamas, Zhu Yilong doesn't let him; he tugs on Bai Yu's sleeve to pull him back. "It's too hot," he says and Bai Yu doesn't argue; just strips to his underwear too and slips into bed next to Zhu Yilong, who snuggles into him immediately.

They lie in silence, Bai Yu slowly petting Zhu Yilong's head until his hand grows tired and Zhu Yilong has fallen asleep. He waits until Zhu Yilong's breathing slows down and the last of the tension from his face falls away. Only then does Bai Yu  place his hand over Zhu Yilong's heart and whisper, "Long-ge, ah, Long-ge... Today... I realized I'm in love with you today."

There's no reply but Bai Yu still smiles. One day, when things have calmed down, he will tell Zhu Yilong when he's awake.

-

epilogue

-

A month and a half later, when Zhu Yilong is finally done with filming, and just before shooting for Bai Yu's newest show begins, Bai Yu gets his nighttime walk in the park. 

This time they go separately and when Bai Yu arrives, Zhu Yilong is already waiting for him at the entrance. The sun is just setting, painting the cloudless sky in shades of orange and pink, and casting long shadows on the ground. Zhu Yilong seems to be half watching it, the sky or perhaps the flying birds, his head tilted up, lips smiling. Not quite looking at the direction Bai Yu is coming from, so Bai Yu can spend a moment admiring the way the sunrays light up half of Zhu Yilong's face and wrap around him in something that almost looks like a halo. After that Bai Yu walks over and greets him. 

It's calm in the park, uncharacteristically empty for a day this warm, and Bai Yu pulls Zhu Yilong closer and, with a low voice instead of a whisper, speaks praises and sweet nothings to him as they walk.

There's another couple at the lake, a boy and girl sitting on a blanket, who don't look away from each other when they hear others arrive.

Zhu Yilong sits on the grass first; expectantly looks up at Bai Yu until he joins him.

They don't really speak as they watch the sky change colors, the sun hiding gradually behind the city's horizon. 

The moon rises and the couple leave not too long after. Apparently, that was something Zhu Yilong had been waiting for because he sighs and moves closer, dropping his head on Bai Yu's shoulder.

Wrapping an arm around Zhu Yilong's shoulders, Bai Yu pulls him in. There's a light wind now, causing the lake's still water to form slow waves.

"Long-ge, are you cold?" 

Zhu Yilong shakes his head without lifting it from Bai Yu's shoulder. 

"Long-ge?"

"Hm?"

Bai Yu wants to say the three words but they lodge in his throat. He swallows instead and asks, "Do you want to go home?"

"Sure," and Zhu Yilong stands.

Bai Yu gets up, his gaze tracking the swaying reflection of the moon in the gentle waves of the lake. Zhu Yilong is slowly walking back to the path; Bai Yu runs after him; catches up to him under a tree. Turning back, face full of amusement, Zhu Yilong takes a breath to speak, "Xiao Bai?" 

And now, somehow, the words come easy, "I love you." 

Zhu Yilong stares for a moment, a brand new expression on his face–something between astonishment and relief, that's also filled with affection. "I love you too," Zhu Yilong echoes. 

They kiss under the wide branches of the tree. 

Zhu Yilong's lips are soft and pliant under Bai Yu's. Pulling him closer by his coat lapels and wrapping his arms around Zhu Yilong's shoulders, Bai Yu feels Zhu Yilong melt against him. 

When they part, Bai Yu is teary eyed and, for a brief moment, the moonlight refracts through the moisture in his eyes in such a way that another heavenly halo seems to wrap around Zhu Yilong. 

Bai Yu pulls Zhu Yilong even nearer, nuzzles his face in his neck and sighs in content.

Zhu Yilong chuckles above him and pets his back. "How long have you been holding onto this?"

"A while," Bai Yu mumbles into Zhu Yilong's neck.

"Me too, you know."

No, Bai Yu hadn't known. But it feels so good to know. He'd never thought he'd have this. But here and now, with Zhu Yilong in his arms, reality is better than anything he would've imagined.