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He's been moving from project to project for so long, it's like some kind of muscle memory kicks in once he leaves the Guardian set. New schedule, new people, new script, new lines to learn. He blinks, and a month has passed.

There have been phone calls with Bai Yu, video calls sometimes, text messages he can only glance at before putting his phone away again, sometimes with an eye-roll, sometimes with a smile he doesn't particularly try to hide. He usually remembers to reply later, sometimes right before falling asleep. Sometimes he forgets. Sometimes Bai Yu doesn't get back to him for days.

It's a long stretch of time to be without someone, if you more or less lived with that someone for two months, if you remember wanting to crawl inside them with such an intensity it took your breath away. He's doing pretty well, considering. Given both their schedules, they will spend the vast majority of their time apart, making do with modern technology to bridge the distance. It is what it is. He doesn't dwell on it.

He's just falling into bed when his phone rings, and he puts it on speaker while he gets comfortable. "Hey," he says, already feeling a little less tired.

"Hey yourself," Bai Yu says, the grin audible. "I was thinking about you."

"You were?" he replies automatically, smiling too.

"Well, I usually am. All day, really."

Zhu Yilong huffs out a breath. "Cut it out," he says, before Bai Yu can lay it on any thicker.

"It's true!"

"I believe you," Zhu Yilong says, wondering if they're just going to spend the whole phone call being sweet and stupid at each other. There are worse ways to fall asleep. He turns off the light, just in case, Bai Yu's voice in the dark taking him back to a different hotel room.

"Long-ge," Bai Yu says, and he sounds different suddenly. "Are you very tired?"

Zhu Yilong bites his lip. "No?" he tries.

"Good," Bai says, and Zhu Yilong sits up enough to fumble around for his earphones on the nightstand. "What are you doing?" Bai Yu asks, probably trying to make sense of the rustling noises.

"Earphones," he says, putting them in, and then he can hear Bai Yu's amused voice directly in his ears.

"You done?"

"Yes," he says, and closes his eyes.

There's a pause, a breath, and then Bai Yu says, "Touch yourself," his voice low and dark. Zhu Yilong can feel it rippling through his whole body.

He sticks his hand under the blanket, cups himself through his boxers at first. It's strange how different it feels, just because Bai Yu told him to. Because Bai Yu is listening.

"Where's your hand," Bai Yu asks, but it sounds like he already knows the answer, like he could tell exactly from the silence, from Zhu Yilong's breath. Like he just wants him to say the words.

Zhu Yilong swallows. "Where you wanted it," he says, and he can hear Bai Yu's smile in response.

"Where did I want it, then?"

"Xiao Bai," he says, not quite a whine, but something close to it.

"You'll have to help me out," Bai Yu replies softly. "Tell me."

He takes a shuddering breath and frees his cock from his boxers, wraps his fingers around it. The blanket comes off too. At the first stroke, a soft sound of relief escapes his throat. He sighs again, louder, moving his thumb over the crown.

"I think I can tell now," Bai Yu says, and Zhu Yilong almost has to laugh, even though it didn't sound like a joke. "I missed hearing you like this."

Zhu Yilong's hips rock up, his breath coming in harsh little bursts now. He wants Bai Yu to hear.

"Do you remember," Bai Yu says, his voice still so soft, "when I kept telling you to stop?"

Oh, god. He makes a sound that could be, yes, I remember, or it could be, yes, please, that. He tightens his grip, moves a little faster, and he thinks it might be the latter. He opens his mouth to tell Bai Yu, to ask for it, to make himself say it -

"Fuck that," Bai Yu says, "I just want to hear you come. Now. Go faster."

Now he does have to laugh, incredulous, his hand stuttering over his cock. "What?"

"Oh, you heard me." Bai Yu isn't laughing at all. "Go faster."

It takes Zhu Yilong a moment to tighten his fingers again, to squirm into his own grip. It takes too long, apparently.

"I can't hear you." Voice like silk, like honey, and Zhu Yilong lets out a noise, a soft moan escaping into the darkness of the room. "That's better," Bai Yu says, and then, "go faster."

He falls into it then, his hips thrusting up, his other hand roaming, finding every spot that feels good, Bai Yu's voice washing over him in commands and praise and filth that only register as one warm wave by the end. "Yes," he hears, and, "come on," and, "I'm so lucky to know what you look like right now," and he's coming all over himself, barely remembering to keep his noises down.

It takes him a while to catch his breath, to come back to the world. He wonders, briefly, if he was too loud, but it doesn't really matter, not right now. He uses his boxers to clean up the worst of it and falls back onto the pillow.

"Five minutes, thirty-seven seconds," Bai Yu tells him, out of nowhere. "Do I have to talk more or less to beat that next time?"

"Oh god," Zhu Yilong groans, once he's sorted through the words. "What is wrong with you?"

Bai Yu just laughs. If he were here, Zhu Yilong would probably swat at him, and Bai Yu wouldn't even duck away. He'd probably take Zhu Yilong's hand and do something unbearably romantic, or filthy, or both.

"Try less," he tells Bai Yu, still a little out of breath, shaking his head at himself. He keeps indulging Bai Yu and he really needs to stop.

"Noted," Bai Yu replies cheerfully. Really way too cheerfully.

"What about you?" Zhu Yilong asks, pitching his voice low enough that Bai Yu will get his meaning.

"Oh, I took care of that before I called you," Bai Yu says, like that's a normal thing to tell someone. "Wanted to enjoy the show."

For a moment, Zhu Yilong is at a loss for words.

"Of course," Bai Yu continues, "I could probably go again, if you-- convinced me."

"You're an ass."

"Well, that's certainly not helping your case."

Zhu Yilong rolls his eyes, trying to decide if he even wants to play this game with Bai Yu. He's certainly not going to attempt whatever it was that just came out of Bai Yu's mouth for five uninterrupted minutes. He can really only think of one time he managed to render Bai Yu speechless for more than two seconds. A momentous occasion.

I've never done this before. Will you be gentle?

He allows himself the indulgence of getting into character, starting with the big eyes. "Haven't I been good for you," he asks Bai Yu, softly pleading. "Did I do something wrong? You'd tell me if I--"

"Oh my god."

Zhu Yilong laughs. "You're really into this lost puppy thing, aren't you?"

"Shut up."

"Did it work?"

"Of course it worked."

"Noted," Zhu Yilong says, still smiling. "Where's your hand right now?"

"Kind of wandering downwards." It sounds cocky, almost like a challenge, so he must have recovered quickly.

"Keep going," Zhu Yilong says.

"You got any other instructions for me?" Bai Yu says, and Zhu Yilong can hear the grin in his voice. Ass.

The thing is, he doesn't have to hide from Bai Yu. Couldn't, really, even if he tried. He's never felt as free, as whole as he does with Bai Yu, and he knows there are still some dark corners inside him that they haven't explored yet, that Bai Yu will also take in stride.

Bai Yu has seen every part of him that he was ready to show and never even flinched.

But he knows Bai Yu, too.

"I've never done this before," he says quietly, listening to Bai Yu's breathing.

"What, phone sex?"

"Yes." He hopes Bai Yu can hear the eye-roll.

"Really?"

"You think I'm making things up to-- convince you?"

"I don't know," Bai Yu says. "Would you?"

"Well, I guess I might," he concedes. He blinks slowly, lowers his voice. "But it's true." There's a shaky inhale, and a faint rustle of fabric. It's enough to press on. "Are you keeping track? Do you have a list of firsts?" God, he probably does. "You can put phone sex on it now."

An inhale, and then nothing for a second. A louder exhale, the air pushed out of Bai Yu.

"All the firsts that matter," Zhu Yilong says, his voice low, "have been with you."

"Long-ge."

"What's your hand doing?"

"Stroking myself."

"Keep going."

This time, Bai Yu doesn't laugh.

"Someone said he'd be doing all the talking," Zhu Yilong murmurs. He sinks a little deeper into the pillow, careful not to dislodge the earphones.

"Someone is a filthy liar," Bai Yu replies, his breath coming more uneven now.

"I wouldn't call it that," he says, listening to the soft sounds Bai Yu is making. "I'd say you're keeping me on my toes." He really shouldn't tell Bai Yu this. "I like it."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," Zhu Yilong repeats, smiling despite himself.

"What else do you like?"

"I like the sounds you make when you come," he says, and Bai Yu's breath stumbles in his ears. "I would really like to hear you come."

There's an ah sound that's really terribly hot, and then Bai Yu says, "Clever," between a pair of stutter-stop breaths.

"I'm trying," Zhu Yilong tells him softly. "I could remind you that it's my first time. Would you like that?" Bai Yu curses under his breath, so that's probably a yes. "I like that I'm your first, too," Zhu Yilong whispers, and it's the first time he's said that out loud, so that can go on Bai Yu's list too.

The world has narrowed down to the dark around him and Bai Yu's ragged breathing in his ears. Nothing else exists right now. Time has stopped just for long enough so he can have this. He can say these things here. He can say anything.

"I want you," he tells Bai Yu, and he means it. Maybe if he says it with enough force, Bai Yu will be able to feel it on his skin, in his own darkness. "I want you all the time."

Bai Yu says his name again, on the tail end of a moan, but mostly he's panting, his breathing loud and urgent and shivering all through Zhu Yilong's own body.

"I never thought I'd find someone like you," he tells Bai Yu, the truth of it knocking all the rest of it loose.

"I miss you," he says.

"I miss your hands on me," he says. "Your mouth."

"I miss hearing your voice," he says.

"I think about your voice the most," he says. "Telling me what to do. Telling me I'm yours. Telling me you--"

And then he says, "yes," and, "let me hear you," and, "yes, yes, yes."

He can just listen to Bai Yu catching his breath, the sounds in his ears becoming softer and more even, and he doesn't have to do anything else. This might actually be the best part. He smiles, and he feels so in love, and he waits for Bai Yu to say something flippant and make this bearable.

"I didn't think you'd be that good," Bai Yu says, and Zhu Yilong bristles a bit, so that's already working.

"Learned from the best," he says, making his voice sound extra saccharine.

"Yes, you have," Bai Yu replies, probably going for cocky. He doesn't sound very cocky right now.

"Don't get used to it."

"Oh, I wouldn't dream of it. We have a record to break next time."

He doesn't even dignify that with a response, but it sounds like Bai Yu understood his annoyed exhale, judging from the laugh. For a while, they're just breathing together.

"Hey," Bai Yu says quietly, and Zhu Yilong hums in response, waiting for the rest. "You don't think I'm insecure because you've slept with men before and I haven't, right?"

Oh.

Surely that's a trick question?

"I wouldn't call it insecure," he says carefully.

"What would you call it?"

"Competitive?"

There's a pause. "That's fair," Bai Yu says finally. "But I'm winning, right?" he adds, and it could be a joke, or maybe another trick question.

In the dark, in the quiet, it feels safe to say, "You make me very happy." It's true, in any case. "That means you're winning," he adds, when Bai Yu doesn't immediately reply.

"Best you've ever had," Bai Yu says after a moment, and it sounds like it wants to be a question. It shouldn't be.

"Do you want that in writing?"

Bai Yu huffs out a laugh. "Are you offering?"

"Go to sleep." In the silence, he can hear Bai Yu smile.

"You too," Bai Yu replies softly, and Zhu Yilong waits for another beat and then disconnects the call. There can be more sweet and stupid tomorrow, when he can bear it again.

He inhales and exhales, listening to the sound without an accompanying breath in his ears, and then opens the messages on his phone. He sends a gold medal emoji to Bai Yu, followed by a trophy, since he's feeling generous. Then he puts his phone away.

He'll see Bai Yu's reply in the morning.