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Zhu Yilong was trying to blend in among the crowd and failing miserably.

Tonight marked the end of a long journey—filming for his new drama “Guardian” had been completed the day before, and the neverending story had finally come to a close. To celebrate this important milestone, a party had been organized for everyone to get together one last time and reminisce about the successes and otherwise less illustrious moments. Zhu Yilong was immensely grateful to have had the honor to work with such a phenomenal team. Moreover, he felt like this experience had allowed him to grow tremendously as an actor, and that what he was taking away from it far outweighed the efforts and hard work he had had to put in.

If that was so, then… Then why did he feel so empty?

Truth be told, over the several months that he had spent immersed in the universe of Guardian, Zhu Yilong had grown quite attached to its unique world and multifaceted characters. He would have been lying if he pretended not to be a little blue at the prospect that it was all over. Every time he finished a drama or a song, Zhu Yilong went through a sort of mourning period—he always felt like a part of him went with it, but Guardian had taken a larger chunk than usual, leaving him with a gaping hole to fill. It would take a while for him to get used to waking up in the morning and not putting on his long, black flowing cloak and robes, or the three-piece suits and round, wire-rimmed glasses that had become a part of him. But the one thing Zhu Yilong knew he would miss the most was his male co-star, and everything that revolved around him.

Getting breakfast with Bai Yu. Rehearsing lines with Bai Yu. Having deep, meaningful conversations with Bai Yu.

The smiles. The laughs. The fleeting touches.

Zhu Yilong looked up at the sound of a pleasant, hearty laughter echoing through the air, like music to his ears amidst the hum of conversations taking place inside the room, and his eyes zeroed in on the tall, familiar figure of Bai Yu.

After the opening speeches and commemorative photos, the guests had broken up into smaller numbers to chat, and Zhu Yilong had caught sight of Bai Yu a few times afterwards, as the younger man went flitting from one group to the next, true to his nature, before he had lost him completely. As for himself, Zhu Yilong hadn’t been doing so well in terms of socializing. Holding onto his mineral water as to a lifeline, Zhu Yilong had been politely refusing drinks from coworkers and hotel staff alike all night, and inadvertently killing conversations before they had had the chance to thrive, yet people continued flocking to him to congratulate him and try to make small talk with him, so much so that Zhu Yilong had found himself frantically scanning the room in search of Bai Yu to come to his rescue.

And now, there he was, with his strong presence, his blinding smile, his natural charm.

How could everyone not want to be around him at all times?

Zhu Yilong felt admirative, but never envious—if Bai Yu was comfortable being in the spotlight, Zhu Yilong prefered watching from the sidelines quietly.

While Zhu Yilong was mulling over these thoughts in between sips, Bai Yu suddenly spotted him and made a beeline in his direction, crossing over the room in a few, long strides and slinging an arm around Zhu Yilong’s shoulders. Bai Yu’s breath—smelling strongly of alcohol—ghosted over Zhu Yilong’s face when he lost his footing for a second, but he soon regained his balance, though he left his arm where it rested comfortably. “Long ge! I’m sorry I left you all alone. But I’m here now!” Bai Yu grinned, flashing Zhu Yilong two rows of perfectly-aligned and white teeth as his eyes danced playfully. He didn’t look exceptionally inebriated, but he was definitely feeling good, Zhu Yilong noted.

Zhu Yilong smiled mildly. “You don’t need to keep me company all the time, Xiao Bai.”

“But I want to!” Bai Yu insisted, walking right into Zhu Yilong’s personal space and making the other jump at their bodies’ sudden proximity. “I really love spending time with you, Long ge.” Bai Yu said sincerely.

While Zhu Yilong himself was clad all in black, Bai Yu was sporting a dashing eggshell-colored, double-breasted tuxedo with black lapels and matching buttons. As for his hair, it was parted to the side and slicked back.

He looked stunning.

“Let’s sit down somewhere.” Zhu Yilong proposed, willing his heart to slow down as he attempted to extricate himself from Bai Yu’s tight grasp without coming off as impolite.

Fortunately, Bai Yu nodded vigorously and let Zhu Yilong drag him to a nearby table, where, instead of sitting directly opposite him like Zhu Yilong was counting on, he settled down in the seat right next to him. Without warning, Bai Yu suddenly leaned sideways towards Zhu Yilong and shot out his hand with his phone, nestling his chin in the crook of his shoulder and making a peace sign with his free hand as he took a selfie of the two of them. “Nice! This is going straight to Weibo.” Bai Yu announced, showing him the candid shot, which had come out surprisingly well.

Watching Bai Yu tap away happily at his phone and post the picture, Zhu Yilong wanted to ask his friend for a copy of it, but instead decided to retrieve it himself from the social media platform at a later time.

Bai Yu stuffed his phone into his pocket and grinned at him again, and Zhu Yilong found he couldn’t hide his own smile.

The two of them sat quietly, making occasional comments on what was happening around them, but mostly they didn’t say much, as they were content just sitting together without uttering a word. A few of their coworkers, whether it was their co-stars on the show or the members of the filming crew, smiled at them as they went by or stopped at their table to have a quick chat, but never stayed very long. “...If I didn’t know better, I would think they don’t want to disturb us.” Bai Yu observed, winking at Zhu Yilong, who smiled shyly and averted his gaze.

When Bai Yu addressed him, Zhu Yilong answered each of his remarks eagerly, but his heart was in turmoil.

Was this really the end? Were they going to head their own separate ways and go on with their lives? Maybe exchange a few text messages now and then? Meet on the stage once a year at an awards’ gala if they were lucky?

“So… Long ge, what are you going to do?”

Yes, what are you going to do? Are you going to let this chance pass you by? Let him go?

“S-Sorry?” Zhu Yilong stuttered, pulled out of his thoughts by Bai Yu’s question.

Bai Yu smiled benignly, dismissing the apology and repeating his question. “I mean… Now that we’ve wrapped up ‘Guardian’. Do you have any other roles lined up yet?”

“Oh, uh… I received a few offers, but I still haven’t had the chance to go through the scripts and decide.”

Bai Yu beamed at him. “That’s great!”

Is it?

Zhu Yilong couldn’t say.

“Oh! Let’s get something to drink!” Bai Yu suddenly interjected, rising from the table as a waiter passed by holding a platter of wine glasses, taking one for him and one for Zhu Yilong.

“I really shouldn’t…” Zhu Yilong started as Bai Yu handed him his glass, which he accepted anyway.

As he did so, their fingers brushed, and Zhu Yilong did not remove his hand right away, lingering just a second longer than what was socially acceptable so that he may savor the contact of their skins a bit more.

Not appearing to have noticed, Bai Yu made a face as he took a sip from his glass, before setting it down.

“Come on, it can’t be that bad.” He insisted, eyeing the untouched drink in Zhu Yilong’s hand.

It was that bad.

Zhu Yilong ultimately gave in to make Bai Yu happy, downing his glass of wine and the one that had come after—and perhaps another one, though he couldn’t be sure. The problem was that Zhu Yilong and alcohol were old-time enemies. Indeed, Zhu Yilong had the weakest tolerance to alcohol in the history of mankind; even just a few sips sufficed to make him red in the face, and he began to lose his bearings after a drink or two only.

“Long ge… Come here.” Bai Yu said to him in a conspiratorial tone, motioning for Zhu Yilong to get closer as if he was about to let him in on a secret, and Zhu Yilong happily complied. As he leaned in towards Bai Yu, the other whispered in his ear: “That is one lousy wine,” and Zhu Yilong snorted at how true that was. “I’ve got much better alcohol at home…” Bai Yu continued with the expression of someone who was up to no good. “...Wanna continue the party at my place? I can tell you’re not really into this one, anyway!” Bai Yu laughed cheerfully, as if he had not a care in the world.

Despite how drunk he was, Zhu Yilong nearly had a heart attack at the idea of being alone with Bai Yu in his apartment.

He gulped nervously, his mind having gone completely blank.

Well, that much was true, at least. Parties really weren’t his thing to begin with.

Being alone with Bai Yu, on the other hand...

“...o-okay…” Zhu Yilong demurred, making to get up from his seat a bit too fast, which caused his whole world to spin. Thankfully, someone caught him before he toppled over to the floor.

Zhu Yilong’s heart thumped loudly in his chest as he became overly aware of the feeling of Bai Yu’s arm around his waist. “...T-Thanks.” Zhu Yilong said weakly, unsuccessfully attempting to slip out of Bai Yu’s grasp for the second—or was it the third?—time tonight, yet he no longer had the strength to resist, and he was too drunk to care what people might think. “Well… lead the way?” He proposed, and Bai Yu nodded, tightening his hold around him and dragging him along with him while he waved goodbye to the people who had noticed them leaving together.

Bai Yu’s penthouse was located fairly close to the hotel, and as such, was also within a reasonable walking distance, so the two of them decided to head there by foot after a mysterious individual—Zhu Yilong hadn’t had time to see who their benefactor was—had pushed a cap down over his eyes and placed a pair of sunglasses on his nose to conceal his identity before he stepped out of the venue and into the comfortable evening.

Twenty-five minutes later, which was at least twice the time it usually took to get there—after all, navigating the streets at night with sunshades was no walk in the park, even when one was sober—the pair stumbled merrily into Bai Yu’s apartment under Bai Yu’s claims that Zhu Yilong was his ‘bestest bro amongst all his bros’.

As they went in, Bai Yu flipped a switch, and then there was light.

The two walked into the living room, and Zhu Yilong, who was slightly disoriented by the unfamiliar setting that was Bai Yu’s apartment, found himself staring a bit too long at the high ceiling which seemed to rise up to the sky. As he did so, the dizzying height soon went to Zhu Yilong’s head: up became down, and down became up, causing Zhu Yilong to lose his footing and drop to the floor over a fancy, not to mention extremely cozy carpet.

“Shen Wei ah! Wait for me—... oop, ha ha…” Bai Yu giggled as he settled down next to him, holding up a bottle of strong alcohol which, by some kind of miracle, was still intact. “I found something better than wine.” Bai Yu winked, unscrewing the cap while Zhu Yilong watched him intently, spying his every move.

“What is this...?” Zhu Yilong asked him suspiciously.

“It’s a surprise!” Bai Yu piped. “I thought you didn’t drink? It’s not like you’re going to know what it is even if I tell you.”

Zhu Yilong briefly considered this. “............You’re not wrong.” He slurred after a few seconds of reflexion.

Bai Yu laughed happily in response, taking a swig from the bottle before handing it to him.

Two hours later, Bai Yu was draped all over Zhu Yilong’s shoulder, and the two friends had exhausted every topic of conversation that they could think of. Thankfully, the bottle of unknown nature had been momentarily forgotten and set aside—or maybe Zhu Yilong had confiscated it in a brief moment of mental clarity—and the two of them had been talking non-stop since they had collapsed by the couch, a spot that they had not gotten up from since then. The only thing that had changed since their arrival was that they had loosened their ties and unbuttoned the first few buttons of their shirts to be more at ease and cool down after the alcohol had made their body temperatures shoot up.

On top of that, they had also found the time to argue about their hometowns, specifically Zhu Yilong’s Wuhan accent. Again and again, Bai Yu pretended he couldn’t get it right, despite the fact that Zhu Yilong was aware that he was saying it wrong on purpose to test his patience. But no matter what Bai Yu did, Zhu Yilong just couldn’t get angry at him.

Anyway, the two of them now sat in comfortable silence as they turned in their minds the various things that they had talked about tonight, and Zhu Yilong found himself thinking back on the day’s events.

Before he knew it, flashes of the last episode of Guardian, which they had completed the morning before, filled his mind.

A stony pillar, and tied to it, his lover. His soulmate. His friend.

An icicle, aimed at his heart.

The visceral need to save him, even if it be at the cost of his own life.

Screaming. Pain... Just raw pain.

Darkness.

Suddenly, Zhu Yilong felt his eyes burn, and tears started flowing freely down his cheeks.

“Hey… Are you okay?” Bai Yu inquired with genuine concern written all over his face when he noticed his friend’s trouble.

Zhu Yilong tried to say something, but his voice caught in his throat, which had suddenly become choked with emotion.

“Oh, Long ge... Come here…” Bai Yu cooed, wrapping an arm around Zhu Yilong’s back and pulling his trembling form against his chest. Zhu Yilong melted against his body.

“Why did they have to die? It doesn’t make any sense. This whole plot makes no sense at all…” Zhu Yilong lamented, sobbing against the front of Bai Yu’s shirt and wetting the expensive fabric with his tears, but unable to stop himself. Bai Yu didn’t seem to mind as he tightened his hold around Zhu Yilong, rubbing soothing circles into his back to console him.

Zhu Yilong continued. “I mean, I know the reason why, but this makes it seem like they were fated to die, like their being together wasn’t right… and that’s just wrong.” He raised his head to peek at Bai Yu’s face, which looked worried and strangely endeared at the same time. “If two people love each other, they should be able to be together. They shouldn’t be forced apart to suit the tastes of a more conventional audience.” Zhu Yilong sniffed, shifting in Bai Yu’s embrace, though Bai Yu’s hand stayed on his shoulder blades, keeping him close.

For the first time of the evening, perhaps, Bai Yu was at a loss for words.

“You’re so...” Bai Yu began, cradling Zhu Yilong’s shoulders in his arm and looking at him fondly as he cupped his face with his other hand, wiping the tear streaks on his cheek with his thumb. “...so precious that I could kiss you.” Bai Yu murmured, staring at him in mute wonder.

The two of them exchanged a look, as if suspended in time. Zhu Yilong held his breath, thinking hard.

If only… but then again, why not? Why couldn’t they, after all? Was it so much to hope for?

No… Zhu Yilong did not have time to ponder whether Bai Yu’s words had been an invitation or a simple figure of speech.

There was only one thing on his mind now, and that was the man sitting by him, impossibly warm against his side.

Seizing this opportunity which he feared may never present itself to him again, Zhu Yilong covered the distance between their mouths and placed a chaste, lingering kiss on Bai Yu’s lips. Zhu Yilong savored the kiss while it lasted—just a few seconds—before his brain caught up and he backed away in a panic. “I’m sorry! It’s the alcohol… I don’t know what I was thinking—” Zhu Yilong sputtered, apologizing profusely as he retreated, and planning to make for the door as quickly as he could in his current state, never to set foot here ever again, when Bai Yu suddenly cut him off, planting his hands on each side of him to cage him between his arms, and leaning forward to catch Zhu Yilong’s mouth with his once more.

So great was Zhu Yilong’s shock that he froze for an instant as Bai Yu’s lips moved softly against his.

Then, after a beat, the faint prickles of Bai Yu’s rough beard grazing against his skin brought him back to reality, and when Bai Yu worked at his lip tentatively, nibbling shyly in order to gain access to his mouth, Zhu Yilong gladly parted his lips and welcomed Bai Yu’s tongue inside.

Groaning as Bai Yu explored the confines of his mouth, Zhu Yilong grabbed the lapels of his suit jacket and tugged gently yet firmly until Bai Yu was sitting on his lap, straddling his legs and wrapping them around Zhu Yilong’s waist in order to get as close to him as possible. Despite the eagerness that both of them felt, their kiss was languid and sloppy due to their slightly inebriated state, and their mouths crashed together in a messy battle of lips and tongue and teeth, their hands groping and covering every inch of the other as they discovered each other’s bodies.

This is really happening... We’re really doing this. Zhu Yilong marveled, the feeling of Bai Yu’s buttocks brushing against his growing erection very real through the fading haze of alcohol clouding his mind.

Even as the effects of the drink receded, Zhu Yilong became high on these feelings—drunk on Bai Yu’s delightful scent—moved by an invisible force that gave him a courage he didn’t usually possess, and he broke away from the kiss just long enough to let his mouth wander over to Bai Yu’s partly open shirt, scraping his teeth over the tender flesh and darting his tongue out to taste a pert, rosy bud. Bai Yu shuddered, rendered a quivering mess under Zhu Yilong’s mouth. The whole experience was so alien and surreal, yet it all felt so right to Zhu Yilong who, already half-mad from ecstasy, wondered incredulously why he had waited so long to pluck this exquisite rose with thorns—to claim this man who belonged with him only, and whose sharp edges and curves fit under his hands so perfectly.

As Bai Yu rocked his hips, Zhu Yilong could feel himself growing hard fast under him, and as much as he wanted to draw out the pleasure, he wasn’t sure how long he could go if Bai Yu continued grinding into his lap like that. “I’ve wanted you ever since I laid eyes on you…” Zhu Yilong whispered as he unfastened the last remaining buttons of Bai Yu’s shirt, untucking it and pulling it down along with his tuxedo to reveal Bai Yu’s snowy white shoulders, where he licked his way up Bai Yu’s slender neck to his jaw, tracing the sharp lines with his tongue and leaving small butterfly kisses there as his hands explored the smooth expanse of his stomach, skirting his narrow hips before settling on his round bottom.

“You You don’t know how long I’ve waited for this…” Bai Yu replied, grabbing Zhu Yilong’s face to bring their lips together in a bruising kiss, and shifting in his seat again to create a delicious friction between their groins. “Long ge... no one has ever looked at me like you do… no one...”

Underneath the remnants of drunkenness that were quickly dissipating in the midst of their passion, Zhu Yilong could sense the honesty of Bai Yu’s words, and he wanted to return them tenfold to express even a fraction of what he felt for the man. But Zhu Yilong wasn’t good at expressing himself—not out loud, at least—so he did the only thing that he could, and decided to show Bai Yu what he meant to him through his actions. Reversing their positions, Zhu Yilong pushed Bai Yu against the couch and straddled his legs, holding his wrists down against the seat and placing a series of soft kisses on his cheek, which earned him a light chuckle from the other.

Then, feeling a little bolder now, he reached down to unzip Bai Yu’s trousers and palm the bulge beneath experimentally.

Bai Yu’s breath hitched in his throat, his pelvis bucking as if of its own accord, and he leaned into Zhu Yilong’s touch. Remembering something, he stopped Zhu Yilong’s hands on their way.

“What about you, let me—” Bai Yu began, grabbing the belt loops of his trousers and pulling Zhu Yilong towards him.

“You don’t need to—” Zhu Yilong protested.

“Shhh, I want to… come on…”

Bai Yu started fumbling with the buttons of his shirt, but was still lacking in terms of dexterity, so Zhu Yilong helped him with that, making quick work of his shirt, jacket and pants, and setting them to the side. Taking in the sight of his bare torso hungrily, Bai Yu snaked his hands all over the firm, strong muscles of his pectorals and biceps, looping his arms around his neck and placing one last kiss in the corner of his mouth, before leaning back against the front of the couch and stretching his legs over the floor, opening them to welcome Zhu Yilong into the space between his thighs.

Still trying to make sense of what was happening, Zhu Yilong pulled down Bai Yu’s trousers extremely slowly, watching as fabric gradually made way for flesh. Once Bai Yu’s trousers were out of the way, Zhu Yilong ran his fingers up his long legs, caressing the skin reverently and admiring him with his gaze, as well as relishing the way Bai Yu squirmed under his touch. After giving Bai Yu a quick glance and checking that he was okay with taking things further, Zhu Yilong slipped his thumbs under the waistband of his underwear and pulled down, having to hold back a moan as he witnessed how hard Bai Yu already was.

Zhu Yilong’s mind was reeling.

Shaking with want, Zhu Yilong reached over to wrap his hand around Bai Yu’s stiff member, giving it a few experimental strokes and making the other thrash under his hand.

“Long ge…! I… I won’t last if you do that....” Bai Yu gasped as he arched his back. He nodded vaguely towards a corner of the room. “...in the cabinet over there… hurry...”

Zhu Yilong’s eyes followed the direction that Bai Yu had indicated, then fell on a low cupboard pushed against the wall. He picked himself off the floor with difficulty, regretting having to leave the safe refuge of Bai Yu’s legs around him even for a moment, and stumbled over to the cabinet in a sort of daze, rummaging through its contents which were composed of a variety of necessities. Finally, with a tube of lotion in hand, Zhu Yilong hurried back to join Bai Yu who now looked mildly worried. “Everything okay…?” Zhu Yilong asked softly as he sat next to him on the floor.

“I…” Bai Yu stammered, laughing to hide his embarrassment. “I’ve never done this with a man.” He admitted sheepishly.

Zhu Yilong felt his desire flare up at the admission. “Me neither. But it’ll be fine—I’ll make sure of it.” He promised with a smile, reaching forward to caress the younger man’s cheek with the back of his hand. “We’ll go slow, okay?”

Bai Yu nodded imperceptibly, eager yet still a bit nervous.

Crouching down next to him, Zhu Yilong squirted out some lotion on his fingers. “Close your eyes.” He instructed Bai Yu, leaning in to kiss his temple and entwining his free hand with Bai Yu’s on the couch while he slipped a coated finger between his legs, pushing in with as much care and gentleness as he could muster.

Bai Yu jolted at the intrusion.

“Wait… wait, wait… I—… slow down, just give me a sec…” He shivered, squeezing his eyes shut as Zhu Yilong halted his movement, giving him a moment to get used to the feeling. After a few seconds, Bai Yu’s eyes fluttered open again. “I… okay… I think I’m okay now…” Bai Yu huffed, bringing his knees up as he tried to ride out the discomfort and accommodate Zhu Yilong’s finger in him. “It’s… cold, ha ha… ahh—

“Does it hurt?” Zhu Yilong inquired worriedly.

Bai Yu shook his head in the negative. “No, it’s not too painful… just a bit strange…”

As Zhu Yilong continued preparing him gently, Bai Yu huddled up against his chest, burying his face in Zhu Yilong’s shoulder and letting out a faint whimper on occasion, and he grasped Zhu Yilong’s upper arm firmly to ground himself, his fingers digging into the skin while Zhu Yilong kissed his nape and whispered soft words of comfort into his ear. Eventually, the tightness began to ease, and the initial discomfort made way for little sparks of pleasure that took him completely by surprise. “...That felt good. Do that again.” Bai Yu said, moaning softly when Zhu Yilong’s fingers brushed against a particularly sensitive spot. Encouraged by Bai Yu’s reaction, Zhu Yilong repeated the motion to give him more pleasure still.

The sight of Bai Yu’s flushed face, combined with his ragged breathing and the sounds he was making, were so alluring to Zhu Yilong that he was already close to bursting. He bent down to kiss Bai Yu again, making the other groan in his mouth. Bai Yu was so highly-strung that he couldn’t focus on the kiss anymore, instead leaving little licks and nips along Zhu Yilong’s mouth like a kitten. “...Long ge… Long—… stop, this isn’t what I want…”

Zhu Yilong’s eyes widened in confusion as he pulled back. “What… I-I thought…? I’m sor—”

Bai Yu laughed breathlessly, squeezing Zhu Yilong’s other hand in his. “You misunderstand. It’s not enough, gege. I want you in me.” He explained, taking Zhu Yilong’s hand and placing it on his chest—over his heart—for emphasis. “You.

While Zhu Yilong’s brain was computing this particular piece of information, Bai Yu took advantage of the momentum to push Zhu Yilong off of him and against the couch in the spot previously occupied by him. then pulled down Zhu Yilong’s underwear and climbed on top of him, stopping him when he tried to reach for the tube of lotion. “...I’ll do it.” Bai Yu proposed, his voice hoarse and heavy with lust as he poured a generous amount of lotion in his hand and wrapped it around Zhu Yilong’s throbbing erection, making sure to cover it properly from the tip to the base of the shaft as Zhu Yilong writhed under his hand.

Once he was done, Bai Yu positioned himself over Zhu Yilong, hesitated for a second, then went down on him carefully.

“Are you okay…?” Zhu Yilong quavered, looking up when Bai Yu made a choked noise in his throat and tightened around him, though it wasn’t clear whether in pain or pleasure.

“...it’s… too tight…” Bai Yu grunted, overwhelmed by the uncomfortable feeling of fullness. “...damn…”

After shifting his hips around a bit, Bai Yu discovered that, just like before, his body was progressively starting to adapt to the foreign presence, and so, bracing himself against Zhu Yilong’s shoulder, he lifted his hips and began to move his pelvis up and down slowly, building a more regular rhythm until he was riding Zhu Yilong at a steady, delicious pace, and trapping him between his arms as he wound them around his neck, while one of Zhu Yilong’s hand wrapped over his hip, the other one having come to rest on the small of his back.

Underneath him, Zhu Yilong felt overwhelmed with emotion once again as he watched this gorgeous, gorgeous man to whom he was ready to offer his own soul come down on him with such unrestrained abandon, and in such a profoundly intimate way. “Xiao Bai… Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?” Zhu Yilong breathed, and this time it wasn’t the alcohol talking; Zhu Yilong was speaking his mind sincerely, and saying what was in his heart.

“...No… never beautiful...” Bai Yu croaked from behind half-lidded eyes, his front bangs sticking to his clammy brow as he held on to Zhu Yilong for dear life.

You are…” Zhu Yilong whispered back in awe. “...You’re beautiful.”

By then, Bai Yu’s legs had begun straining under his weight as fatigue slowly came over him. Seeing this, Zhu Yilong gripped Bai Yu’s slender hips in his hands and gently toppled the two of them over, laying Bai Yu flat on his back while he placed his balled-up shirt underneath his head in lieu of a pillow. Once he had made sure that the other was comfortable, Zhu Yilong entered him again carefully, drawing a sharp gasp out of him as he lifted Bai Yu’s legs over his shoulders to get better leverage, and began thrusting into him more vigorously, wanting to bring the other as much pleasure as he felt, the familiar tension in his groin a clear indication that he was close to release.

“Long ge... I think… ah—...” Bai Yu swore again as Zhu Yilong pressed him flush against the carpet and rammed into him more and more desperately, sobbing as Zhu Yilong repeatedly hit a spot that made stars appear in his field of vision. “...I… love you… Bai Yu revealed, crying out as he finally reached his climax and his body convulsed, falling back motionlessly onto the floor, completely and utterly spent. The confession alone sufficed to drive Zhu Yilong to his limit, and he too came a few seconds later, collapsing heavily on top of Bai Yu, who was now weeping in silence.

“...I’m in love with you…” Bai Yu repeated feebly after a moment, smiling at Zhu Yilong through his tears.

Zhu Yilong, having finally regained his senses and grasped the magnitude of what Bai Yu had just told him, wrapped his arms wordlessly around his beloved and held him tightly within his arms, promising himself to never, never let go of him again.

No matter what.

Zhu Yilong could not tell what the future held. He knew, however, that regardless of the difficulties that might await them in the future, if they were willing to, they could make this work.

Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan had been tragically torn from each other through death, but they were alive, and young, and free to love whoever they wanted. Zhu Yilong had found love, too—even now, he slept peacefully inside Zhu Yilong’s arms as Zhu Yilong lay in bed at night, fully awake.

In the end, it really was as simple as that, and it wasn’t a question of gender or convention.

Zhu Yilong loved Bai Yu.

Not because he was a man, but because it was him.