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Meet Me at the Noodle Shop

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Arriving early on set as per usual, Zhu Yilong greeted the staff he met along the way between his car and the hair and makeup lounge. Settling himself down in front of the large, brightly lit mirror, Zhu Yilong let the experts comb and style his hair into the signature look of his current role—the proud and immaculate dresser ‘Shen Wei.’ Zhu Yilong had been on the set of Guardian for a little over a week now, and he was still quite shy and reserved, preferring to keep to himself rather than to mingle with his co-stars. Naturally, he had already spent most of his time with the younger Bai Yu, the counterpart player to his ‘Shen Wei,’ but apart from him, Zhu Yilong felt more comfortable talking with the staff in between hair brushing and makeup application than with his acting peers.

About twenty minutes after his arrival, Li Yan came in with a yawn and plopped down in the chair next to him, pulling his headphones off to allow the stylist to work on his hair. Li Yan was a bright and cheerful youth who played Bai Yu’s human-cat ‘Da Qing’ in the series, and Zhu Yilong rather liked his friendly disposition despite their few interactions.

“Good morning, Zhu laoshi,” said Li Yan, throwing his co-star a smile through the mirror in front of them. “Have you seen Bai laoshi?”

“Good morning. No, not yet.”

“Oh…”

Zhu Yilong quirked an eyebrow. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, really. I just wanted to practice a few lines with him before our scene today,” replied Li Yan a bit dejectedly. “Some of Da Qing’s lines really depend on Bai laoshi’s characterization of ‘Zhao Yunlan,’ so I wanted to bounce some ideas against him ahead of the take.”

“I see… that makes sense. Maybe I can help?” proposed Zhu Yilong, wanting to alleviate the pressure on the younger actor if possible.

“Nah, don’t worry about it. I should work it out on my own. But thank you, Zhu laoshi.”

Zhu Yilong smiled and nodded politely before returning his attention to his phone and scrolling through the morning news. He had half a mind to text Bai Yu to let him know that his ‘cat’ was looking for him, but then decided against it. After all, it wasn’t his place to get involved and he didn’t want to come off as being nosy or annoying.

After another fifteen minutes or so, Zhu Yilong’s stylist was done with his hair, and the makeup artist had applied a light foundation over his face and accentuated his brows and eyes with a bit of brushing and styling. Thanking them for their work, and acknowledging Li Yan one last time, Zhu Yilong left the styling station and made his way towards costuming to pick up his outfit for the day. His first scene for the day was going to be when Shen Wei visited the SID for the first time, so he expected to find a three-piece suit and wire-rimmed glasses waiting for him in the dressing room. While Zhu Yilong rifled through the rack of costumes labelled “Shen Wei” in search of the right scene outfit, he felt a light tap on his shoulder, beckoning him to turn around.

“Long ge!”

Zhu Yilong blinked then smiled shyly at the man who played his would-be—hadn't it been for the restrictions—romantic counterpart in the series. “Bai laoshi, good morning,” he said, bowing his head slightly in front of Bai Yu.

Bai Yu was already dressed in Zhao Yunlan’s signature jeans and t-shirt, complete with a light khaki jacket and beige boots, his hair styled into an absolute bird’s nest. Twirling a lollipop in his mouth, Zhu Yilong could see that Bai Yu was already in character and ready to shoot his first scene of the day.

“Long ge, you don’t have to be so polite,” he said playfully. “After all, Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei have a very close relationship” he snickered.

Zhu Yilong laughed lightly to hide his embarrassment. He wasn’t used to his new role yet, and Bai Yu’s comfort and easy acceptance of his character was jarring to him. Bai Yu naturally fell into his ‘Zhao Yunlan’ character, to the point that sometimes it was difficult for Zhu Yilong to tell them apart.

“—ge?”

“Sorry, what?” answered Zhu Yilong suddenly aware that he had been spacing out while staring at his co-star.

“I said, do you have some time before your first scene?”

Zhu Yilong looked at his watch and, running his schedule in his mind, nodded to Bai Yu. “Yes, mine starts at 8. You?”

“7:30!” Bai Yu replied cheerily. “Let’s get some coffee then before we start. I think I saw the catering table near the main set, but it looked quite crowded already.”

Zhu Yilong frowned slightly. “Bai laoshi, haven’t you had breakfast yet?”

“Breakfast? No, I rarely do. Just a cup of coffee will do.”

“No, that’s not right…”

Bai Yu looked at him and smirked before patting him on the shoulder. “Aiya, is Shen laoshi worried?” he teased, laughing easily as Zhu Yilong struggled to reply.

“I-I no, yes, I mean, you should eat before filming, Bai laoshi.”

“Alright, whatever you say, Long ge,” replied Bai Yu in between licks of his lollipop. “Where do you want to go?”

Zhu Yilong pondered for a moment and thought of the nearby places he had seen while driving by. Since they had to be back on set in time for Bai Yu’s scene, he didn’t want to stray too far from the studio. Then, Zhu Yilong remembered he had seen a noodle shop right on the corner of the lot and, thinking back to Bai Yu’s frequent Weibo posts about noodle dishes, settled for that place in his mind.

“I know a place,” he said, his heart fluttering slightly and hoping Bai Yu would be pleased with his choice.

“Alright, lead the way!” Bai Yu said, sweeping his arm in front of him and inviting Zhu Yilong to take the first step. “Oh, wait just one second. I probably shouldn’t walk around in costume…” he added, looking down at himself and taking in ‘Zhao Yunlan’s’ appearance.

Zhu Yilong hesitated for a second before shrugging off his overcoat and placing it around Bai Yu’s slender shoulders. Since Zhu Yilong hadn’t had the time to change yet, his casual jeans and white tee would be inconspicuous enough to walk around in.

“Here, wear this,” he said, looking away from Bai Yu’s piercing gaze.

Bai Yu whistled appreciatively. “Phew, Long ge, my heart!” He said with a dramatic hand on his chest. “Be careful, I just might fall for you!”

Zhu Yilong visibly reddened at the playful words, unable to control his overt shyness.

Laughing, Bai Yu put on the still-warm coat and zipped it up to his neck to hide his filming outfit. Slapping on a pair of oversized sunglasses, and handing another pair to his partner, Bai Yu discarded his lollipop and followed Zhu Yilong out of the dressing area and into the filming lot. They walked side by side in amiable silence, but Zhu Yilong secretly worried that his quietness was off-putting to the bright and sunny Bai Yu. Even though Bai Yu’s easy demeanour made Zhu Yilong feel more comfortable, he worried that the younger man would tire of always having to initiate their conversations. It wasn’t his fault, really; he was simply an introvert at heart, but he secretly admired his outgoing co-star and depended on his energy to kickstart him into conversations.

Rounding the corner of the lot, Zhu Yilong spotted the little shop he had been thinking of nicely nestled in between two still-closed businesses. Pointing to the location, he motioned for Bai Yu to follow him across the grounds and into the empty restaurant. Inside, the area was small with very few seating options, but it seemed like a nice and cozy place. Plus, since it was still so early in the morning, Zhu Yilong and Bai Yu were the only two in the shop, along with the shop lady who made the food herself and waited on the diners.

“Long ge, this is nice!” ventured Bai Yu, breaking the prolonged silence for the first time. “A noodle shop? I love noodles!” he said, grinning and plonking down on the nearest chair.

Zhu Yilong sat across from him and passed him the menu with a smile. “I’ve never been here, so I don’t know if it’s good, but at least it’s near the studio.”

“It seems fine to me,” quipped Bai Yu, throwing his co-star a friendly wink. “I love noodles, how did you know, mm?”

“I… I saw it online…” admitted Zhu Yilong, shyly rubbing the back of his neck.

Bai Yu smiled cunningly. “Long ge, you checked me up online?”

Zhu Yilong was mortified.

“…”

“Aiya, don’t be so shy about it! I looked you up too if it makes you feel better! I wanted to know who my handsome movie-boyfriend would be.”

Zhu Yilong choked on his water, bewildered by the other man’s ease with words and playful jests. ‘B-bai laoshi—”

“Please, call me ‘Bai Yu.’”

“… Bai Yu,” said Zhu Yilong softly, earning himself a happy, bright smile as a response.

“Much better! Now, shall we order?”

Zhu Yilong nodded and, beckoning the shop lady, ordered two bowls of steaming hot noodles for Bai Yu and himself. After the lady had brought them their meal, and that Bai Yu happily tucked into his bowl, Zhu Yilong smiled gently to himself, pleased with his growing relationship with the other actor. It seemed that having left the set for a while with just the two of them had been the right decision, and Zhu Yilong felt more comfortable with the task at hand.

“Long ge, this was a good choice after all,” spoke up Bai Yu between two mouthfuls.

“Really? I’m glad.”

“Yeah, these are very tasty, and the company isn’t half bad either,” he said, throwing Zhu Yilong a devilish smile. “Long ge, can we come back here tomorrow?”

“I… yes, if you want,” fumbled Zhu Yilong, surprised by Bai Yu’s willingness to spend more time with him outside of filming.

“I’d like that,” grinned Bai Yu, finishing up his bowl and setting it to the side.

Stuffing his now unoccupied hands in Zhu Yilong’s coat pockets, Bai Yu fished out a rolled-up script of today’s scenes and, setting it on the table in front of him, proceeded to read through the lines in his mind, running his index finger across the highlighted and annotated sections of Zhu Yilong’s parts.

“Mm, ‘ask about Shen Wei’s morning habits’” read Bai Yu out loud, shifting his eyes from the script to catch Zhu Yilong’s expression. “Why do you want to know that?” He asked with genuine curiosity.

“Oh, I just thought that it would be helpful in deciding on his mood for the first scene today. Maybe he grades papers in the morning? Or maybe he watches the news? Those things would affect his mood, right?”

Bai Yu stared for a short while before breaking out into a smile. “Long ge, that’s really interesting, and you’re completely right! I know that Zhao Yunlan doesn’t take care of himself all that much, but I’m not sure about Shen Wei. I imagine that the professor, being a very strict and diligent person, would plan his classes in the morning around a simple yet nutritious breakfast,” proposed Bai Yu, leaning his chin onto his hand.

“That sounds exactly right, thank you!” Replied Zhu Yilong excitedly. He always enjoyed the moments in which he could fully grasp his character and understand their way of thinking. That’s what made the difference between believable interactions on-screen and haphazardly thrown characterisations.

“Ah, Zhu laoshi, you should smile more,” broke in Bai Yu as Zhu Yilong beamed at him. “And also, I’m glad to see you being more talkative!”

Zhu Yilong ducked his head shyly before looking back up at the other man. “It’s thanks to you, Bai Yu.” Then, suddenly remembering something, he added worriedly: “oh, I forgot to tell you, but Li Yan was looking for you.”

“Li Yan? Why?”

“He wanted your opinion about some lines.”

“Really?” Bai Yu looked at his watch and saw it was almost 7 o’clock already. “Mm, I should probably find him, then,” he said seriously.

“Sorry… I should have told you earlier…” replied Zhu Yilong a bit guiltily. He had been monopolizing all of Bai Yu’s morning and hadn’t considered that others might want to talk to him too. It was easy for Zhu Yilong to lose track of time when he was with the smiling, friendly Bai Yu.

“What? No, don’t worry, it’s not your fault Long ge. He could have texted me if he really wanted to.” Replied Bai Yu, aware of Zhu Yilong’s misplaced anguish. “Come on, we have to get back anyway,” he added, rolling up the script and stuffing it back in his pocket.

Nodding, Zhu Yilong pulled out his credit card—the two struggled for a while trying to determine who should pay—and paid for their meal before leaving the little shop with Bai Yu in tow. Once back on set, Bai Yu and Zhu Yilong parted ways, the former leaving to find Li Yan, and the latter returning to the costuming department to get changed before his shoot.

For the rest of the day, Zhu Yilong bumped into Bai Yu in between takes and during scene changes, and the two laughed easily during their breaks and swapped stories about the other actors and staff. Zhu Yilong’s clear, boyish laughter resounded across the set whenever his co-star teased or joked, often drawing the attention of curious onlookers. Much to everyone’s surprise, Zhu Yilong’s demeanour changed whenever he was with Bai Yu, and the usually quiet man laughed easily and didn’t shy away from Bai Yu’s casual touches across his shoulders and arms.

Bai Yu brought refreshments to Zhu Yilong after his takes, sometimes bringing him warm tea to soothe his throat, and sometimes bringing little snacks to munch on in between scenes as the two sat together to rewatch what they had just filmed. By the end of the day, Zhu Yilong felt saddened to have to leave, but he nevertheless looked forward to starting the process all over again the next day.

Late that night, after his manager and personal staff had left, Zhu Yilong sat in his hotel room reading over his script for the next day when his phone suddenly buzzed on the table in front of him. Picking it up to check the message, his heart leapt when he saw his co-star’s name flash across the screen. Zhu Yilong hurried to open his messaging app to find that Bai Yu had sent him a link to his Weibo. Clicking the link, Zhu Yilong read the short post and broke into a wide smile.

 

白宇WHITE
Today |Bai Yu’s iPhone

“Eating noodles in the morning is the way to go!” #Guardian #Filming #NewRoutine

23.8k likes | 20k comments | 16.1k shares

 

Zhu Yilong scrolled through the comments, unable to stop himself from smiling at the Guardian fans’ guesses about Bai Yu’s post:

"Xiao Bai is eating in the morning?? This is new!"

"Ahh, Bai laoshi!! We love you!!"

"Bai Yu gege, who is taking care of you?"

Thinking of replying himself, Zhu Yilong was stopped by a second message popping up at the top of his phone. Pressing on the notification, Zhu Yilong went back to his WeChat app and saw that Bai Yu had texted him again. Zhu Yilong read through the simple, yet meaningful text and hurried to reply with his heart in his throat.

 

[Bai Yu]
Meet me tomorrow, same time and place?

[Zhu Yilong]
With pleasure.

[Bai Yu]
Great! You can take care of breakfast,
and I’ll keep you hydrated during the day.

[Zhu Yilong]
Sounds like a plan.

[Bai Yu]
More like a date.

[Zhu Yilong]
(is typing…)

 

-The End-

 

Fic inspired by this legit, canon conversation. I can't.