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男旦

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Gloomy skies hover over the skyscrapers of Beijing, the impending rain introducing its presence through the howling winds banging against the windows. The noise doesn’t affect the gossips and banter going on in the 24th floor of the Long Zhi Yan Business Tower however, people go about their day as they exchange stories for their plans for the weekend. The chatter in the floor only dies down when the elevator doors open to reveal bushy eyebrows over a piercing gaze and lips shut tight foregoing a morning greeting, the signs of stocked anger, or as they call in the office, Wu Yifan. The tall male struts towards his office like a model, his white shirt wraps around his torso to accentuate his ripped body, his legs seemingly more elongated with his tight-fitting pants, his dark brown hair styled in a pompadour to show off the sharp angles of his face as a thick-rimmed pair of spectacles sit atop his nose bridge. People part like The Red Sea to make way for the Liaison Department’s Team Leader, afraid to be on the other end of the man’s wrath, his presence enough to silence and sway everyone around him.

Yifan walks through the aisles until he reaches his office, trying not to slam the door when he closes it. Just moments after entering his small space, his secretary is already knocking at the door, not opening it until his boss allows him to come in. The team leader opens it himself, walking to his desk afterwards, hanging his coat and placing his laptop case on the table before fixing himself a coffee.

Xu Weizhou, his secretary, stands just by the entrance with the door closed, waiting for Yifan’s orders before moving. When the team leader turns around, he stretches an arm to prompt the younger to move forward and transfer the folder he has on his hands into his boss’ palm. Yifan sips on his coffee, furrowing his eyebrows at how nervous his secretary looks like.

“Weizhou, relax, I’m not going to shout at you,” Yifan says as he places his mug on the table before opening the folder given to him, “Zitao and Jingyu will not let me hear the end of it if I did.” Even with the reassurance, the secretary still stays silent, a hint of fright evident in his eyes as he backs up slowly. The younger has only been working for Yifan for a month in place of his boyfriend Jingyu who has left to focus on his newly opened Brazilian JiuJitsu Dojo. For some, that might be enough time already to be comfortable with the people they work for and with. However, even though Yifan has rarely raised his voice towards him before, the younger can’t help but be intimidated by the other’s tall stature and what many call his resting bitch face. Even if his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s cousin told him that Yifan is a good guy, a part of him still stays behind the partition between him and the team leader, keeping some of his words to himself in fears of saying something that will make the elder explode.

“This is all for today?” Yifan asks, startling Weizhou from his stupor. He looks at the piece of paper where the schedule of their Canadian counterparts has been printed, checking to see that their day will start in an hour. Being the team leader of the Liaison Department and the most fluent English speaker in their office, Yifan has been given the task to welcome and make sure that the Canadian executives and investors who will be arriving to visit their company are well taken care of during their stay.

“Yes, boss,” Weizhou stutters when the elder shifts his gaze to him, bowing his head to avoid the intense eyes of the elder.

“Okay,” the team leader senses the atmosphere and quickly dismisses the other, “just remind me when the time is close,” he taps on the paper before closing the folder, placing it on the corner of his desk before sitting on his chair. He just nods when Weizhou bows to him before leaving, quickly turning his attention to other things waiting for him to tend to.

 

Ten o’clock comes by with another knock on Yifan’s door, Weizhou poking his head in to remind him of the arrival of their executives from their Canadian branch. He stands up with a nod, closing his laptop and straightening his tie before wearing his coat, giving himself one last look in the mirror before leaving the confines of his office.

Yifan has met these people before when he was still just a liaison officer, being sent to Vancouver to settle some problems they had with employees appointed by their branch. The executives were glad with the job he did, even going as far as asking for him to stay behind and work for their branch instead but the request was vehemently rejected by the President, wanting to keep his best employees in the main branch. That was three years before, when Yifan was still an eager and smiling novice with a lot of enthusiasm. But as the years passed and the weight of his responsibility became heavier, the smile became upturned and the expression seems to have decided to stay on the team leader’s lips. Even so, he is still very efficient and effective in his post, something the people he works with cannot deny.

The team leader offers a tight-lipped smile and a firm handshake to the Canadian executives, English greetings falling from his lips as he welcomes them in the lobby of the building. Weizhou, who’s standing behind him, is still in awe at how good his boss’ English is despite knowing the fact that the elder finished his degree in Canada. Yifan ushers the higher ups to the President’s office, Weizhou at his heel to tap the elevator buttons as he is occupied in conversing with the tall Caucasian men. The team leader points to rooms they pass by on their way to the President’s office, Zitao saluting to him when they pass by the marketing department who are having a meeting in one of the conference rooms.

After exchanges of pleasantries, they quickly go down to business, going through the successful year of the Vancouver branch and some of the problems they encountered and the solutions they have implemented for them. Yifan knows about these quite well, the liaison officers sent to their Canadian branch reporting to him about the problem, its progress and its resolution. The hours pass by with them finishing just before lunchtime, Weizhou gently tapping at his watch to remind his boss of the time. Thankfully their counterparts wrap things up quickly, maybe feeling the hunger as well since almost two hours have already passed.

They have their lunch at the President’s favourite, a restaurant at the hotel near their office building, making sure they serve authentic Chinese food to the foreigners. Some of them like it, some don’t but they don’t openly say anything about the food. Yifan can just see it in the way they eat less of the dishes they don’t like, the grimace that overcomes their face that they quickly school to go back to normal, munching on the rest of the food so as not to be seen as rude. The Canadians still thank them for the meal though, excitedly diverting the topic from the food to the factory that they will be visiting next. The team leader isn’t annoyed by it, only thankful that they can move along with their schedule without any delays.

The stop at the factory is probably the longest. The Canadian executives and investors meticulously inspect everything, watching the production floor to look at how each of the product is being assembled and if they can spot some of the new ones that are to be released to the Chinese market in the coming months. They meet with the heads working directly in the production, eyes popping in wonder at each area of the floor.

Dinner compared to lunch seems to be better for the Canadians, the food more pleasant to their palate this time. Conversations flow on their table, crossing the boundary of work to more personal matters. The team leader only listens as the foreigners talk to the President, never joining such conversations. With the intimidating air surrounding him the others don’t bother coaxing him to partake in their exchange anyway. He wonders if he comes off that strong when he thinks he is more amiable to higher ups, seeing as they are still his bosses. But he doesn’t think too much of it and is just grateful that he can enjoy his food in peace. The next and last stop for the day is what Yifan dreads, bringing the Canadian execs to watch Peking Opera.

 

~///~

 

The inside of the theater smells like a mixture of rained on wood with a faint scent of green tea. It looks old even on the outside but the place has been kept well-maintained throughout the years allowing for it to be used until today.

Yifan follows the receptionist and directs their Canadian counterparts and his boss to their balcony seats. It is their first time to welcome guests from their Canadian branch and Yifan’s boss thought it would be best to bring them to watch the opera, a national treasure that’s considered to be a dying art with the youth’s preference for modern music and contemporary art.

“It best represents our country,” he remembers his boss saying. So Yifan has booked four seats for them as the President insisted that the team leader should join them. But since the balcony area only allows three people, and he wanted for their guests to get a royal treatment, he had to reserve an additional seat from below, the remaining one just right before the stage. He has never been a fan of performing arts, though he does listen to music, as any person would, but he never goes to watch these kinds of shows. He has a lack of interest, even for concerts of famous artists, whether local or international, and he is just much too lazy and would rather sleep than spend his precious time in an old building watching an old art form.

He doesn’t know that all of that is about to change.

Yifan takes his seat, removing his coat because of the poor ventilation in the room while his eyes scan the crowd. As he surveys through the rows of people, he realizes that it is mostly composed of elderly people who are probably in the theater to reminisce the olden days when the plays were held long, for hours on end, when opera actors were revered like gods even at a time when their country was slowly falling to the claws of their enemies. He looks at the brochure in his hand, one given to him and his bosses by the receptionist. It talks about the performance that night which is an almost three-hour long play that in the following days will be shortened to show certain acts only. The team leader knows about the story that will unfold in front of him, of the original one the play is based on as well as the version that has been tweaked over time and is more known by the citizens and even of the younger generation.

The tall male rakes his fingers through his hair, the styling wax already losing its stickiness because of the changing conditions that Yifan has been subjected to throughout the day. His hair falls limp over his head as he reads the title, his eyes following the illustrations behind it.

The Legend of the White Snake.

The lights in the hall are dimmed and only the stage lights are lit, the orchestra taking it as a cue to warm up and play randomly yet still harmoniously. Yifan isn’t irritated by the sound despite it being, by his standards, loud and repetitive. He somehow finds himself anticipating what will come after, something that hasn’t happened in a while. When he looks around, he sees that he isn’t the only one feeling that way, the people around him are also getting excited over the music, muttering about how the sounds remind them of the past. Then the heavy crimson drapes slowly open to reveal an empty stage, its size smaller than what most celebrities these days perform at. Yifan can sense the ecstatic air around him; hearing the seats creak as their owners sit on the edge, tea cups clinking against their porcelain saucers as they’re placed back on the table so the drinker can focus on the performance, and the low thrum of collective whispers as they share what they expect to see.

The start of the play doesn’t really do anything to pique Yifan’s interest, his anticipation kept at a steady low level as actors, in what can be considered simple clothes back in the day, walk around the small stage interacting by singing their lines in a way that is distinctly Peking Opera. Then the extras seem to disperse as an actor comes in decked out in blue from head to toe, robes bright but still not enough to pull the team leader’s attention.

Only when an actor comes in with graceful movements and an entrancing voice, did the tall male’s eyes widen, focus honing in on the performer in white. Yifan knows from the very moment the actor stepped on stage that she (or maybe he, the team leader can’t be sure) is the star of the show. The actor’s face is caked with makeup, face covered heavily with white powder, reddish pink accentuating the eyelids and black paint framing his head. But Yifan doesn’t care for the heavy makeup because, for some reason, he thinks the actor is beautiful even without it, despite not knowing who he or she is, or what the person will look like without the garish do.

Yifan leans and stays on the edge of his seat, hands gripping his chair’s armrests as he watches closely, not letting any motion go unseen by his eyes, listening attentively to every dip and rise in note. He is completely enraptured by this actor’s presence and he is sure everybody else in the room is too, judging by the way they clap every time the performer finishes a particularly hard part of the song, whether it’s because of the sudden fast beat or because the performer has to repeat some of the syllables in accordance with the arrangement. The tall male looks on in fascination at the actor, wondering how the person behind the movements is able to maintain the shrill quality of their voice throughout the performance without it going hoarse or cracking when they are doing fight scenes.

The team leader doesn’t even completely follow the story anymore, unperturbed by the lack of the original scenes they have decided to remove to keep the play within its promised three hours. His eyes barely recognize the minimal additions to the stage from act to act; a chair and table here, a rock there, a mountain here. All he can do is to keep his gaze on the actor. He wants to be able to put every dip and curve of the performer’s face and the way the performer flicks their wrists to raise the flowy water sleeves into memory, to retain every expression the artist paints on their face with each turn of emotion. His ears make certain that they are able to hear every change in the actor’s voice, recording the way the voice rises and falls so Yifan can listen to it again later and push himself into the abyss created by the sweet sound once he is in the confines of his empty home.

As the story reaches its ending with Bai Suzhen, played by Yifan’s ‘favorite actor’, holding her child while she sings to the innocent one before she is taken to meet her death, the team leader finds his face falling as he listens to the lead actor’s voice, the sorrowful sound of farewell carrying throughout the hall before lodging a special place in the hearts of its listeners. The tall male knows he isn’t capable of being moved, at least not anymore, remembering that he has not shed a tear for anyone in the past few years. However, when he hears the disconsolate tone coming out from the actor’s crimson lips, he feels his heart shatter into a million pieces, his hands cold with sweat even as the curtains meet in the middle to close.

His tea goes cold throughout the performance, having been neglected in favor of focusing on how the changing fabrics of white flow and wrap perfectly around the actor’s svelte body, on the ornate embellishments atop the actor’s head and that voice, that voice that has Yifan falling into an abyss of eternal solace. He could listen to that voice over and over again, even enter a melancholic stupor because of it and he wouldn’t mind.

When the heavy draperies that cover the stage part once more Yifan finds himself standing up along with everybody else, hands clapping until they are red and hurting, applauding the talent in front of him with his whole heart. Every fiber of his being agrees that he needs to meet this person who has, for the first time, claimed his undivided attention. Thankfully, each actor is introduced to the audience and Yifan patiently waits for the last but definitely not the least, ears perking up when he sees the actor in white take center stage.

Zhang Yixing.

The performer gives a ninety-degree bow once his name is announced and Yifan tries his very best to catch the actor’s attention, eyes boring through the other unknowingly. Once the actor’s eyes make contact with his, he holds it there and mouths You did great, hoping the other understood it.

 

Once the show is completely over, Yifan rushes to escort their counterparts into their car, waving them goodbye with a promise to meet with them again the next day for their scheduled tour. He also says a quick farewell to his boss, abruptly thanking the elderly for bringing him along; the President is surprised but brushes it off quickly. Yifan hurries to return to the theater, hoping to still catch the actor from earlier, seeing a throng of people even from far away. Along the way to the theater he spots a flower shop and against his rational mind, he goes in and buys a bouquet, uncaring whether it is to the actor’s liking or not, just hoping the other isn’t allergic to it. He chooses the most colourful of the bunch, reminiscent of the graceful actor’s vibrancy on stage. A bouquet that he thinks will rival but never win against the actor’s beauty.

Yifan fixes his clothes, giving up on salvaging his hair, hoping he doesn’t look too much of a rag doll with his messy hairstyle. He decides to forego wearing his coat as the weather will surely make him perspire even more and he doesn’t want to present himself to the actor in such a way. Once the plaza is clear, he walks forward to wait by the entrance of the theater. His fingers tighten around the bundled stems every now and then, nervous as he thinks of words to say to the actor once the two men finally come face to face. He draws a blank however, all thoughts startled out of his mind when he hears a boisterous voice shout behind him: “Bye Yixing!”

When he turns towards the opening to the theater, he finds a man who may just be around his age or a bit younger. The actor’s face is free of any makeup yet he is still as dazzling, if not even more, when he was on stage. The other stops in his tracks when he sees the tall suited man gawking at him. He bows slightly before swerving to hurry past Yifan.

“E-exc-cuse m–e.” Yifan splutters when he realizes that the other just walked by him, lurching forward to catch up to Yixing. When the actor looks at him with wide eyes he quickly shakes his head, hoping to jumpstart his brain that went haywire just with the mere sight of the actor. He tries to pull out his inner businessman, the one that commands everyone’s attention, but when he looks at the smaller man before him he only blinks and shrinks back to his uncharacteristically small self.

“Sorry but I have to go.” Yixing finally says, his tone calm with no hint of annoyance. There is even an apologetic smile drawn on his face and even though slight, Yifan can see a dimple on the other’s cheek.

Just when I thought I’ve already regained my composure.

“Wait, umm, here,” before the other can turn around to leave, Yifan thrusts the bouquet into Yixing’s hand. The actor accepts it though the taller male can see the obvious confusion written all over his face, “I was just,” the team leader grapples for his words, unbelieving of the reaction he has to the situation he’s found himself in because this has never happened to him before. Wu Yifan at a loss for words, his colleagues wouldn’t believe it.

“I just thought you were really amazing.” Yifan smiles after spilling the praise sitting at the tip of his tongue, inwardly congratulating himself even if his cheeks are burning with embarrassment as he rubs the back of his neck.

“Oh, thank you,” the smile on the actor’s face is in full bloom and Yifan doesn’t think his heart can take it any longer, “I’m glad you enjoyed the show.”

“Yixing, right?” The actor hums in reply, eyes inspecting the colourful bouquet in his hands. Yifan pats himself on the back for the good choice, watching the other in wonder.

They are still standing close to the entrance of the theater, having only moved a few paces away from it. The lights are already closing one by one as the last of the performers leave, having wrapped up another successful day at work. With the decreasing lights, Yifan thinks Yixing’s beauty glows even more and without preamble he says: “I’d love to see you more.”

 

~///~

 

Just like any other day, the giggles and boisterous voices that run rampant in the 24th floor completely disappear when Yifan walks in the next day. But unlike before, eyes follow him this time while he crosses the aisles to get to his office, his colleagues whispering to each other about his apparent good mood as he smiles to people he passes by. He doesn’t greet them good morning with words but with his smile and he can see the way the others return the gesture with a puzzled expression on their faces. Even Weizhou who greets him with a smile everyday, falters when he sees Yifan smiling to him first, his lips quivering as they curve up.

Weizhou reluctantly knocks at the door when he’s stacked up the papers he has to present to his boss. He almost falls back in surprise when Yifan opens it, the smile still plastered on his face. The team leader takes the folders on his secretary’s arms, the younger unable to say anything from his boss’ sudden action. They stand by the entrance of Yifan’s office as the elder sifts through the documents waiting for him. Weizhou wonders what happened for his boss to suddenly change in behavior, his stern expression shed for a friendly one. The younger fears that this is just for a while and may only last for the first hour, that the team leader’s mood will easily shift back when he sees something that is not to his liking. He’s also afraid that the other is just pretending to be happy to either erase his subordinates’ fear in him or as a coping mechanism for something bad that occurred.

“Is this their schedule for today?” Yifan’s voice startles Weizhou, waking the younger from his musings. The secretary widens his eyes and shakes his head to clear off unnecessary thoughts. He takes a peek at the folder the other has opened in his hand where tickets to certain tourist attractions in the city are also tucked in.

“Uh, yes boss,” he replies when he sees the other waiting for his reply. The team leader hums and gives his secretary a closed lip smile before returning to his office, closing the door gently and leaving Weizhou back to his thoughts. The younger shakes his head before returning to his desk that’s just right outside of Yifan’s room, his officemates look at him with a questioning look and he already knows what it’s for but because he doesn’t know the answer to it he just shrugs and takes his seat, hearing the others talk about the possible reasons for the team leader’s smile.

 

“Baobei,” Weizhou almost spills his coffee when he feels arms wrap around his waist, the familiar deep voice whispering directly to his ear. He quickly turns around to see Jingyu, wearing a simple white shirt and jeans, his duffel bag hangs on one shoulder while he holds a plastic bag on his hand.

“What are you doing here?” The younger lightly pushes at his boyfriend’s chest when the other leans down hoping for a kiss. Jingyu looks upset at the smaller male’s reaction but he only pouts and demands for a kiss, stomping his feet on the ground like a child throwing tantrums. Weizhou gives in and allows the elder to have nothing but a chaste kiss, pushing the taller male by the lips when he asks for more. He moves away from his boyfriend with his coffee in hand, threatening the elder that he will spill the hot drink on him if he keeps pursuing for another kiss.

“You haven’t answered my question,” Weizhou starts after sipping a little bit from his mug, “What are you doing here?” The younger looks at his watch to see that it’s already half past nine, “Aren’t you supposed to open the gym at ten?” He raises an eyebrow at the other whose hand is on his waist, squeezing it every now and then as the elder eyes him.

Jingyu just grins and answers, “It’s Zitao Ge’s day off today so he’s opening the gym with Fengsong.” He wiggles his eyebrows before leaning forward again, aiming for the younger’s lips with his own. The elder grumbles when Weizhou pushes him off once more, holding up his mug as a threat.

“Why do you look so troubled?” Jingyu inquires when he sees the other lean back against the counter, “When I saw you a while ago you were slowly stirring your coffee and your eyes were unfocused as if you were thinking of something very deeply.” The elder repositions his hand from Weizhou’s waist, rubbing the other’s arm up and down before letting it stay and squeeze the younger’s shoulder. “What’s bothering you?” There is obvious worry in his voice when he asks, eyes following the way his boyfriend’s lips frown.

“He’s smiling,” Weizhou murmurs, eyes not meeting Jingyu’s.

“Who is?” The elder tries not to sound jealous, hearing that another man is troubling Weizhou’s thoughts. He’s relieved when he hears his boyfriend reply with his former boss’ name, “Wu Yifan.” Jingyu almost sighs but instead asks, “So? What’s the problem with that?”

“He’s scarier when he’s like that,” the younger worries and bites his bottom lip after uttering those words, fear tinting his eyes as his fingers fiddle with the handle of his mug. Jingyu chuckles upon hearing his boyfriend’s words though, his laugh dying down when Weizhou shoots him a glare.

“You don’t have to be afraid of him,” Jingyu reassures the younger, hoping that his words will be enough to erase his worries, seeing as he’s worked with Yifan for two years before he moved on to open his own gym. “I don’t see why you guys are so afraid of him,” the elder wonders, leaning against the counter after placing the plastic bag he has been carrying onto the table in front of them. “He’s a really nice guy, he even urged me to open the dojo when I told him about my plans,” he remembers sharing his dreams to his boss after a long day at work, finding themselves in the nearest restaurant to fill their bellies before parting for home. “You’ll see what I’m talking about once you get to know him.”

When he sees that the younger’s mug is already empty, Jingyu snatches it from his boyfriend’s hands, making the other jump as he surprises him with a kiss, his duffle bag falling to the floor as he moves to stand in front of the other.

“Now, I didn’t come all the way here to talk about my former boss,” Jingyu whispers against Weizhou’s lips, moving closer again to mold his own with the younger’s, not allowing for the other to protest anymore.

“We can’t here,” Weizhou manages to say when the elder moves to kiss his neck, he feels his boyfriend smile against his skin, his lips sliding up the pale column until the plump pair reaches his ear.

“We can’t what? I’m just here to kiss you because I’ve missed you so much,” the depth of Jingyu’s voice creates ripples up and down Weizhou’s spine, “What were you thinking, huh?” The taller male teases the younger, his tongue darting out to lick the outline of Weizhou’s ear, “You naughty.”

They hear someone clear their throat from the entrance of the break room. When they see who it is, they jump away from each other, Weizhou even pushing his boyfriend with as much force as he is capable, his face and neck colouring with embarrassment as he starts apologizing.

But Yifan waves them off with a hand, a smile blooming on his lips, “I don’t mind,” he then looks towards the work area before poking his head in, a hand cupping the side of his mouth before he whispers, “Take it someplace else though.” Jingyu smiles and raises a thumb up, much to his boyfriend’s dismay. The team leader seems to think for a bit then he adds, “Since I won’t be here the whole day, you can also take a break Weizhou.” Then he’s off with a wave, the smile never falling from his lips. He doesn’t even wait for his secretary’s reply, walking back to his office with a skip in his steps.

Weizhou just shakes his head at his boyfriend’s enthusiasm, wondering how his boss’ uncharacteristic behavior is not bothering him at all. When Jingyu suggests that maybe the team leader is in love, the younger chuckles and responds with, “Impossible.”

 

~///~

 

Yifan sits down with a smile on his face, unable to remove the curve on his lips ever since the night before. Memories from the theater flash through his eyes again when he thinks about it. He remembers the way his attention was asked for by the actor in white, Yixing, right from the very moment the spotlight was on him. The actor’s movements are still fresh from his memories, the way the fabrics moved as he did, the headdress that he wore that enunciated the little sways and nods and how they all came together to capture Yifan’s eyes. His ears are still filled with the other’s voice, reminiscing how each note either made him smile until his cheeks hurt or struck a chord in his heart that he still cannot forget even hours after it had happened.

Even in his dreams, he was able to see Yixing, the white robes that wrapped around his body flowing towards all directions, keeping Yifan’s vision white under closed lids as the actor sang to him through his dream. He was in too deep that he even wished he didn’t have to wake so he could keep watching Yixing move about with his lithe body and keep listening to the performer’s voice, joyful, sad and entrancing.

The team leader can’t help the little laugh he lets out when he is reminded of what happened after the show, when he thought he had enough courage to face the actor and introduce himself. What he didn’t know was that as charming as his movements are, Yixing’s smile is just as disarming, making Yifan stumble in his words and having to apologize whenever he said something quite embarrassing for a man who is six foot two. His mind instantaneously reels back to their conversation the night before, even if he doesn’t want to with his red cheeks and gummy smile.

 

Yixing was wearing a tank top with a thin hoodie over his shoulders, his backpack looked heavy on his back but he kept smiling when Yifan handed him the bouquet, words of gratitude fell from his plump lips and the team leader all but wanted to check how soft they would be against his own. The tall male nibbled at his bottom lip as his gaze unintentionally fell to where Yixing’s collarbones were shining with sweat.

The actor seemed to blush when Yifan mentioned about wanting to see him more and even though he wasn’t quite sure if the taller male meant it differently, Yixing shyly said, “We have shows here daily so you can come and watch anytime.”

Yifan saw that as an opening, an invitation, and even if that wasn’t what he had meant, he was willing to take it, anything to see Yixing really. So he nodded and smiled, promising to see the other’s show when he could.

“I’m glad that there are still some people who appreciate our art,” the actor confessed shyly. Even with his eyes not meeting Yifan’s, the taller male was able to sense the sadness in his tone and his heart clenched at the other’s words, knowing how it felt not to be appreciated for the thing that you love doing.

Wanting to lift the other’s mood, Yifan blurted out, “Are you kidding? Did you see how crowded the theater was?” He smiled as wide as he could, hoping it would somehow make the actor smile. Yixing did, eyes disappearing into crescents as he laughed at how hard the tall male was trying his best to cheer him up.

“That’s usually how it is for opening nights,” Yixing answered, sighing afterwards as his hands fiddled with the petals of the sunflowers, “but the following nights aren’t are as well-loved even though they are made short to fit the decreasing attention span of theater goers.” The actor chuckled, his shoulders deflated afterwards as he kept moving his fingers from flower to flower, distracting himself from the conversation.

“Well, they’re missing out,” Yifan said, raising his chin up a bit when Yixing looked up to meet his gaze, “you’re an amazing actor and they’re missing half of their life not watching you.” The words seemed to have worked, a genuine smile cracked on the actor’s lips, his eyes twinkled with gratitude as the words went unspoken.

“I will see you then,” Yixing looked at his watch, checking if he could still catch the subway, “I wouldn’t want you to miss out on anything.” Yifan smiled in reply, another promise leaving his lips before he offered to drive the actor home.

“As kind as you are we are still strangers to one another,” Yixing tried to politely decline the taller male’s offer, smiling to hopefully placate the other, “maybe next time.”

Before the actor could leave, Yifan remembered he hadn’t even mentioned his name once, without even thinking he almost shouted, “Wu Yifan.” When Yixing looked at him with wide, confused eyes, he cleared himself and offered his hand for a shake, “My name is Wu Yifan.” The actor hesitantly took it but his grip became firmer as the seconds passed. Just before he released Yifan’s hand, the performer smiled, the indentation on his cheek deeper than the taller male had ever seen it to be, “It was nice to meet you, Yifan.”

The team leader watched as Yixing walked away, the actor turning around twice to smile at him before disappearing into the crowd. The way his name fell from the other’s lips kept playing in Yifan’s mind as he made his way to his car, a smile breaking from his face every time he remembered how warm the actor’s hand felt on his. He didn’t think of anything else on his drive home, wanting to ensure that he wouldn’t forget how his name sounded as it came from Yixing’s lips.

 

Yifan is brought back to reality by a series of knocks on his door, calling whoever it is to come in. Weizhou only pokes his head into the entrance to remind him that the van that he will be using for the tour with the Canadian executives will be arriving in thirty minutes. The team leader thanks his secretary and dismisses him, fixing himself for the day ahead before leaving his office. The tour is simple so Yifan doesn’t worry too much about it since he just needs to play the tour guide for the foreigners. It also helps that the attractions they will be visiting are what most people come to Beijing for despite the heavy smog, making it easier for him because he is sure their counterparts will have an idea about the places already. He just needs to let them be, take as many pictures as they want and answer questions they have that can’t be found in the brochures that Yifan will hand to them.

He is so sure about it but by the end of the tour, he feels more like a babysitter than a guide. The team leader didn’t expect the amount of tourists that day, the Forbidden City feeling more like a concert ground than a tourist spot. He had to keep an eye out for the two foreigners after one of them almost got swallowed by the crowd. It is part of his job and he promised the President that he will keep the Canadians company while they are in Beijing. However, Yifan can’t help but frown at how dishevelled he looks like after the whole tour, his hair sticking to every direction and his shirt soaked with sweat.

To cool off, they decide to have some snacks before going off to buy some souvenirs. Yifan quickly agrees to it, seeing as he’s already parched and needs some place with good air-conditioning, or else he fears he will explode. Before he can go in though, the doors to the restaurant open, the voice that travels from the inside catching Yifan’s ear. When he looks up, he sees Yixing amongst a group of four people, three males and a female. They are all pleasing to the eyes, Yifan must admit but his brown orbs are drawn to nobody but one.

“Yixing,” he breathes out as if in relief, all the exhaustion from the day lifting off his shoulders when the other’s eyes seem to light up in recognition. He hears the others talk to Yixing before they disappear, shoving the actor lightly towards the stranger.

“Hi,” Yixing flushes at the way Yifan is looking at him, the taller male turns his gaze somewhere else when he realizes how uncomfortable he is making the other feel. He fights against his instincts to meet eyes with the other again, not wanting their first encounter away from the theater to be an unpleasant one for the younger. His eyes can’t help it though, darting to the man in front of him before moving to look somewhere else when he sees a brown pair meeting his own. He feels like a highschooler who is in front of his crush with how he is acting but he reckons that’s just really how Yixing makes him feel.

“Kris?” One of the Canadians he is with catches his attention using his English name, the actor startled by the foreign name the taller male has been called with.

“Oh, right,” Yixing hears Yifan speak in English, his pronunciation surprising the actor. “This is Yixing,” the team leader gestures towards the actor, the other smiling at the mention of his name so as not to be rude, “we watched him in the play last night.” Yifan goes on to inform the executives that Yixing is the one who played Bai Suzhen, the two foreigners nodding and suddenly exploding with praises for the smaller Chinese. When the taller male has been able to translate the compliments the Canadians gave the actor, Yixing bows and thanks them as best he can in English.

“Wait for me here,” Yifan tells him, quickly switching to Mandarin after talking to his companions in English but the actor holds on to his arm before he can enter the restaurant with the others. Yixing quickly removes his hand around Yifan’s arm once has the other’s attention, the taller male still feeling the heat the actor has transferred to him even seconds after losing the contact.

“I have to get going,” the smaller male tells Yifan. When the other says he will just order for the foreigners, Yixing shakes his head. “I’ll just see you at the theater, I really need to go.” He looks towards where his friends are waiting for him, whispering to themselves as they watch Yixing’s interaction with the tall male.

“Okay,” Yifan finally gives up, “it was nice seeing you here, really.” He smiles, wide and genuine to show the other that he speaks the truth, his heart constricting when he sees the actor reciprocate with his own dimpled smile.

Once again he watches Yixing walk away, the other looking back only once to avoid the teasing of his friends. Yifan stands under the shade of the restaurant, even long after the actor has disappeared.

“I’ll just see you at the theater,” he repeats Yixing’s words, a rush of excitement surging throughout his body at the thought of seeing the actor again. After realizing how long he has been standing there, he rushes into the restaurant to reunite with the foreigners, promising to himself that he will recharge again soon by seeing Yixing.