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They're drinking in one of the girls' suites for a change tonight, mostly because, as was aptly communicated by one Meng Ziyi earlier when they piled off the bus, "If I ever have to see another pair of dirty boxer-briefs hanging from the back of an armchair, I'm going to straight up stab someone." Everyone had understandably believed her. Truth in casting, or something. Yibo has to admit, from his vantage point hanging upside down off the couch, that Xuan Lu's space is a lot cleaner than any of the dudes' rooms he's poked his head into over the past muggy week of filming. It must be even neater usually, ruined a little now by everyone sprawled out across the carpet, shelling peanuts and passing around bags of chips, but Ziyi hasn't pulled out a sharp object yet, so maybe she's tipsy enough not to mind anymore.

In the time it's taken for Yibo to get through a beer and a half, Zhuocheng has connected his phone to the TV to play Produce 101 clips, and Ji Li's sucked the rest of the room into a rousing discussion about American hip-hop. Yibo puts in his two cents about A$AP Rocky's new album and lets the overlapping chatter wash over him. When he looks at the TV screen again, the blue-haired him from two months ago is getting bullied by a bunch of trainees into dancing to Marry You with them.

Xiao Zhan, arms curled around his shins, leans back against the couch as he watches, laughs for a minute, and then taps Yibo's shoulder with his beer. He's been nursing the same bottle for the past hour, Yibo's pretty sure. "Slick moves, Wang-laoshi," Xiao Zhan says, waggling his eyebrows. "You should teach me that dance."

"I think I've imparted as much knowledge as you can handle," Yibo remarks, blocking the incoming whack of Xiao Zhan's hand. He shifts, knees hooking over the back of the couch, and swallows around a swig of beer.

"How are you even drinking that without spilling it all over yourself?"

"Natural talent," Yibo says, sending him an easy grin, and takes another long pull. The glass is warm beneath his lips.

The next video that autoplays is a vocal compilation, but they're barely five seconds into it when Ji Li says, "Bullshit," loud and insistent, and draws Yibo's attention back to the heated conversation developing in front of the couch. "There's no way you've actually gone all night before."

"Look," Yu Bin says, holding his hands out. "Just because you might not last long enough to fuck someone for more than two minutes at a time—"

Xuan Lu thwacks his arm. "Bin-bin, be nice."

Yibo blinks, sharing a mystified look with Zhuocheng. "How did we get onto this?"

Ji Li flaps his hand. "You know rappers are always talking a big game about sex. That new song by Big Boi — All Night — it's catchy, right? But the lyrics are totally unrealistic."

"To be fair, I don't think anyone actually thinks Kanye is Jesus, but he raps about that all the time," Ziyi puts in from her armchair, voice incredibly dry.

"So how long have you lasted, jie?" Ji Li inquires, arching an eyebrow.

Ziyi rolls her eyes. Xuan Lu snorts delicately into her hand. "You know," she says, leaning in like she's sharing a secret, "there are times I've slept with someone and never come at all. Pretty sad."

Xiao Zhan starts giggling again into the rim of his beer bottle. Yu Bin clutches his chest in mock horror. "No!"

Ziyi sighs, crunching a peanut between her teeth. "Men."

"Okay, but it's different for guys," Ji Li says. "Come on, back me up. Yibo?"

Yibo takes another sip of his beer, frowning at everyone's upside down faces. "It's not like I have a lot of experience," he says slowly. "I always come pretty fast. Isn't that more efficient?"

"Maybe if you're doing everything by yourself," Yu Bin says, clicking his tongue. "With a partner, though — it's not all about instant gratification. What's the longest you've gone?"

"Honestly?" Yibo says, feeling his face start to turn red. It would be easier to say if it didn't feel like everyone in the room was staring right at him. "Two minutes is probably close to the upper bound." Ji Li chokes. "What? It's not like I have a lot of spare time on my hands."

Haikuan, who's been sitting on his other side this whole time, claps his shoulder absently. "No wonder you're always speeding around on the racetrack."

Yibo flushes even more. He shifts against the couch as a brief wave of ensuing laughter ripples through the room. "I've actually gone the whole night before," Xiao Zhan says all of a sudden, cutting through the noise, and a weight lifts off Yibo's shoulders when everyone turns to gawk at him instead.

"Xiao-laoshi," Yu Bin says, admiring.

"How?" Ji Li says, stunned. "Doesn't it get painful?"

"Natural talent?" Xiao Zhan says, joking half under his breath, which makes Yibo huff and relax a little. Xiao Zhan's fingers pick at the wet label on his beer bottle. Louder, he continues, "I just like focusing on the other person for as long as possible, you know? Plus, there are other things you can use besides your dick. It's not like I'm rock-hard the entire time." He shrugs, nonchalant. "And sometimes it takes me a while to get in the mood."

"Really?" Yibo blurts out doubtfully, alcohol making him run his mouth. "I feel like I'm in the mood all the time." Despite everything, he's kind of in the mood now, thinking about what other things Xiao Zhan could use besides his dick. Situations far less overtly sexual have turned Yibo on plenty of times in the past, and Xiao Zhan said it with such conviction.

Xiao Zhan shares a glance with Yu Bin, who shakes his head and chuckles. "I remember what that was like," Xiao Zhan says, nudging Yibo's shoulder companionably, the corner of his mouth lifting into a real smile. "You'll grow out of it at some point."

"You wouldn't want any future girlfriends to be disappointed like Xuan Lu-jie," Yu Bin adds, saucy, and gets a second smack from the woman in question, this time on the back of his neck.

"If I can get it up again within five minutes is it really a disappointment?" Yibo shoots back archly, which startles another laugh out of Xiao Zhan.

A mournful look passes over Yu Bin's face. "I remember what that was like too," he says, clasping his hands beneath his chin. "Miss those days."

"You make it sound like you're sixty," Ji Li scoffs. "Are you sure erectile dysfunction isn't the real issue here?" From there, the conversation quickly devolves into an impromptu tussle across the floor, elbows and knees flailing, Zhuocheng and Xuan Lu scrambling hastily out of the way. Ziyi yells as an open bag of chips spills all over the carpet.

The night comes to an unceremonious end after Haikuan and Xiao Zhan manage to break things up, around half an hour before the clock strikes twelve. They have a late call time tomorrow, but Xuan Lu forces them out of her room once the stray chip bits have been cleaned up. Yibo polishes off the last dregs of his beer and volunteers to help Xiao Zhan carry the empty bottles to the recycling bin at the end of the hall.

"You aren't going to finish the rest of yours?" he asks, hefting one bag of trash over his shoulder and gesturing at the half-full bottle clutched in Xiao Zhan's hand.

Xiao Zhan makes a face, like he didn't even remember he was still holding it. "Not my thing," he says, squinting down the neck.

"Give it here."

He hands it over. As Xiao Zhan sorts all the trash into the proper bins, Yibo tips his head back and makes quick work of the rest of the drink, fizzy tartness washing down his throat. He lets out a loud burp when he's done, chucking the bottle in with the rest of them, and Xiao Zhan laughs. He has a nice laugh. Melodic, like arpeggios. Yibo swallows a breath, lets out an even louder belch, and Xiao Zhan doubles over a little, punching Yibo's arm. "You're so gross," he says, grinning.

Maybe it's the grin that tips him over the edge. Yibo opens his mouth and says, "I want to learn," barreling past the rapid rise of Xiao Zhan's eyebrows. "To last longer. Will you teach me?"

Xiao Zhan just gazes at him for a moment, eyes sharp and assessing. "This isn't a cooking segment on Day Day Up, Yibo," he says slowly. "Or like, some new choreo or whatever."

"I know," Yibo says, licking his lips. "I just—" He casts about, trying to remember what it was that Yu Bin said. "I don't want to be a disappointment to future partners, you know?"

Xiao Zhan's brow smooths out. "What a selfless motive," he says, a tinge of amusement threaded through his voice. He tilts his head, thinking. "Look, are you sure this is what you want? It's not like I can just show you how it's done."

Yibo squints at him. "Sounds like a load of bullshit to me. Zhan-ge, were you lying about being able to go all night? It's okay, you can tell me. I promise not to let anyone else know."

"Don't try that, it isn't going to work," Xiao Zhan huffs. "God, you're drunk."

"I'm serious!" Yibo steps neatly into Xiao Zhan's space in one fluid motion and jabs a finger in Xiao Zhan's chest. "You're a smart guy. Surely you can figure out how to help me."

This close, Yibo can feel the puff of Xiao Zhan's exhale against his face. "I'll have to touch you," he says, carefully neutral. "A lot. Is that alright?"

"Of course it is," Yibo says, shrugging it off. He tries on a smirk and whacks Xiao Zhan's shoulder. "Don't we touch each other all the time anyway?"

"This is different."

"Is it?" Yibo wrinkles his nose. "If it works, it works, right?"

Xiao Zhan rolls his eyes, but the corner of his mouth lifts. "Fine. I'll help you. But only on one condition." Yibo nods along, impatient. "What is it that people in the movies always say? You aren't allowed to fall in love with me, Lao Wang."

Something sour curdles in Yibo's chest. "Fuck off," he mutters, shoving Xiao Zhan against the recycling bin when he starts laughing again. "You're just a friend helping a friend out. I get it."

They fall into step together walking back to their rooms; this week, Xiao Zhan's is diagonally across the hall from his, closer to the elevator. "You owe me big time for this," Xiao Zhan remarks, bumping their elbows together.

"Let's see some results first before you start trying to get any kind of payment out of me," Yibo rattles off, more careless than he actually feels. Will they start tonight? Is Xiao Zhan going to follow Yibo into his room and interrogate him about all his past sexual encounters, the same way they obsessively review playbacks after each long take? Xiao Zhan is so methodical about every other aspect of his life. It would only make sense for him to approach this with a similar attitude.

"I have homework for you," Xiao Zhan says when they get to Yibo's door, knocking Yibo out of his spiraling thoughts. Yibo slants his gaze over; Xiao Zhan's face is as serious as Yibo has ever seen it. "Don't jerk off for a week. Take a lot of cold showers if you have to. Can you do that for me?"

Yibo's never met a challenge he couldn't immediately throw himself into eyes closed, and Xiao Zhan's slightly dubious frown makes him even more determined. "No problem," he says, pushing into his room. "It'll be easy." He smirks and flashes a peace sign over his shoulder as the door swings shut behind him.



It isn't easy. At all.

Sure, the first couple of days pass without much incident. Yibo is mostly able to distract himself with a combination of long hours filming late into the evening, furious script review in between takes, and even more furious battles of red hands when they get bored. By day three, though, his resolve has begun to waver, a telltale restlessness seeping beneath his skin. Yibo hadn't really considered how much he was relying on a quick wank to get him to fall asleep at night or to loosen up under the hot spray of water in the morning. If he can't put his hands on himself, where the hell else is he supposed to put them?

It doesn't help that talk of sex continues to pervade chatter between their castmates, as though now that they've broached the subject once, it's the only thing anyone ever wants to discuss. Yibo gets an equal amount of gentle ribbing for his lack of stamina and admiration for the number of times he's been able to come in a row (five, to the awe and envy of everyone present except for the girls). Zhuocheng has plenty of stories to tell about backstage hookups at theater school, and all the dancers get asked about flexibility at one point or another. Haikuan and Zhu Zanjin spend a whole afternoon debating the merits of doing the splits as a sexual position, and Ji Li definitely pulls up photos of Xuan Lu with her leg propped up against the wall next to someone's head, which circulate widely. As the week drags on, Yibo tries his best to avoid listening in too closely when the topic comes up on set, but it's difficult when Xiao Zhan keeps hooking an arm over Yibo's neck and dragging him into the fray.

"It's team bonding," Xiao Zhan insists, eyes twinkling.

"You're a sadist," Yibo mutters, walking back from Haikuan's room slightly bow-legged, and slinks off to dunk himself into an ice bath.

The lilt of Xiao Zhan's giggling follows him into his dreams.

"Here's another thing they say in the movies," Yibo mutters at dawn on the sixth day, leg jiggling beneath the vanity as they get their makeup done. He'd woken up hard, lying on his stomach with his dick pressed into the mattress, trying not to hump the tangle of sheets around his waist. At least the brutally cold shower he took after he brushed his teeth had jolted him awake with all the effectiveness of an intravenous shot of caffeine. "You never know what you got till it's gone."

Xiao Zhan chuckles, open-mouthed. His stylist taps his cheek with her beauty blender, and Xiao Zhan obediently clicks his jaw shut again. "We can stop at any time," he murmurs, lips barely moving. "Just say the word."

"No way," Yibo says, jutting his chin out. "I'm in it to win it now."

Xiao Zhan raises his eyes to the ceiling and sighs, like he always does when Yibo turns something into a competition. Once the hair people are done fussing with their wigs and they're on their way out to the bus, Xiao Zhan cups a hand around Yibo's elbow and ducks in close. "Tomorrow, after you're done with your solo scenes," he murmurs, smiling and nodding as they pass a couple of the extras joining them today. "Shower and then come to my room, okay? We'll start there."

Yibo's heart rate kicks up about three notches. "Okay," he says quickly. "Sounds good."

The day proceeds in agonizingly slow fashion. They're filming outdoors, which is both a blessing and a curse. It's the beginning of June, and by noon most of them are crowding around the big air conditioning pipes, complaining about the sickening heat and taking turns getting the full blast. At least the discomfort is all-encompassing enough that Yibo's mind has a hard time dwelling on less forgiving things, like what Xiao Zhan might have planned for tomorrow. "It's only going to get worse from here," Yu Bin laments, wilting against Zhuocheng, who clicks his tongue and shakes him off.

When it's his turn, Xiao Zhan sticks his head halfway into the pipe for a minute, his groan of relief echoing down the aluminum. He reemerges still glistening, trying to pat his face dry without smearing his makeup. He sweats so much; it's no wonder he has to keep hydrating with thermoses of green tea all day. Yibo can't help imagining Xiao Zhan sweating that much in bed, too, and then he has to abruptly cut that train of thought off before it leaves the station. Fuck. Yibo shouldn't be daydreaming about his co-star, even if they are about to embark on some journey of sexual betterment. It's just too damn humid to be this horny.

Yibo thinks he does a good job managing his expressions, but Xiao Zhan bumps his elbow into Yibo's side as they get set up for the next take. "Think you'll be able to last till tomorrow?" he asks, raising an eyebrow. "It's really fine, we don't have to—"

"Don't patronize me, Zhan-ge," Yibo interrupts grimly, blowing out a long breath. If he can't even do this, how is he supposed to get through the rest of his training? Better to think of it as boot camp. Xiao Zhan is expecting Yibo to show up and give it his all, so anything less would be an unacceptable failure. Yibo hates to disappoint. "I can handle this."



The next day, by contrast, passes in a blur. The directors have scheduled Yibo for an afternoon of individual pickups to pace the grueling filming schedule a little better, and he manages to focus long enough to get through it without too many NGs. In fact, they finish an hour ahead of time, just as the sun is starting to hit the edges of the rooftops, and one of the ADs pats Yibo on the shoulder as they pack up. "Great job today, Wang-laoshi," she says, scribbling something down on one of her clipboards.

Yibo's still glowing from the praise when he makes it back to the hotel. It must show on his face after he rinses the day's grime off his body and crosses the hall to knock on Xiao Zhan's door, because Xiao Zhan takes one look at him and says, laughter in his voice, "Good day on set?"

"You could say I was on fire," Yibo preens, stepping past him and kicking his sandals off. Xiao Zhan's hair is wet, sticking to his forehead, and he smells like the minty shampoo the hotel stocks in their bathrooms, nice and fresh.

Yibo wasn't really sure what to expect, but there doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary happening in Xiao Zhan's room. Yibo's hung out here countless times over the past month and a half, for script review and late night snacks, and everything looks mostly the same. Xiao Zhan's open suitcase is filled with slightly crumpled casual clothing, and there's a towel flung over the end of the bed. The only thing different is that the office chair that's usually tucked beneath the desk in the far corner has been pulled over to the fluffy armchair next to the bed.

He spins on his heel when he gets there, bouncing on his toes, and makes a big show of looking around. "No props? No sex toys?" He grins wide to show that he's joking, even as his heart starts pounding a little harder in his throat. There's nothing to be nervous about; this is Xiao Zhan, and he's trying to help Yibo. That's business as usual.

"You need to stop watching so much porn," Xiao Zhan says, mouth twitching. "What did you think I was gonna do, lock you in a pillory?"

"Is that something you've done before?" Yibo asks with interest, though he isn't quite sure he knows what a pillory is. He'll have to look it up later.

Xiao Zhan rolls his eyes. "If you behave, maybe I'll answer that question." He plucks the towel off the bed and lays it out over the seat of the armchair. "Take your shorts off, and your underwear, and sit down."

As Yibo divests himself of his clothes, Xiao Zhan bends over to rummage through the contents of his suitcase. He comes back up with a half-used bottle of lube; Yibo carefully does not think about why Xiao Zhan would just be carrying something like that around with him. Instead, he plops down on the armchair, cotton soft against his bare ass. He's already starting to get a little hard, which would be more embarrassing if either of them was coming into this with zero context. As it is, Xiao Zhan knows exactly what he's been dealing with all week. Yibo hasn't gone this long without rubbing one out in a while.

Xiao Zhan sinks into the desk chair across from Yibo, ankle crossing over his knee. He plucks his phone out of his pocket and navigates to the clock app, the stopwatch panel. After he balances it on his own thigh, he uncaps the bottle of lube in his other hand. "Honestly, I'm impressed you managed to hold out," Xiao Zhan says, wheels squeaking as he rolls closer. Yibo swallows as he squirts a generous helping of lube in his palm, letting it drip down his thin fingers. For an absurd moment, it feels like Yibo's at some sort of medical screening, but he shakes the thought out of his head.

"One week isn't that long," Yibo replies, bravado rising to the surface. "It's not like I'm an actual teenager."

"Close enough," Xiao Zhan says, leaning in and reaching down.

"What does that make you, old man?"

"The person kind enough to take valuable time out of his very long day to teach a rude brat how not to come too soon," Xiao Zhan returns, pinching Yibo's thigh. Yibo sucks in a breath and holds it, dick twitching. "Keep your hands on the armrests. I'm going to touch you now."

Yibo watches Xiao Zhan's hand descend, eyes wide open, but he still isn't prepared for the warm, slick grip around his dick. Xiao Zhan's hands are smaller than his, his fingers thinner, and the contrast makes something go tight in the back of Yibo's throat. This is the first real stimulation he's gotten in over a week, and he fills up so quickly that his next exhale hisses out of him, too loud.

Xiao Zhan jerks him off with perfunctory ease, hand clenching tight around Yibo's erection, the friction sending shivers of pleasure up Yibo's thighs. Yibo isn't quite sure where to look; first he stares at his own cock fucking in and out of the circle of Xiao Zhan's fingers, but eventually his gaze slips up Xiao Zhan's arm and toward his face. His tone moments ago had been even, no nonsense, but his gaze, trained down toward his moving hand, is sharp and bright. Xiao Zhan's so — attentive, concentrating so hard on the task at hand, and that regard is heady just on its own. Yibo knows himself well enough to know that he likes Xiao Zhan's attention any way he can get it, and he also isn't blind. He knows what Xiao Zhan looks like. An extremely attractive man is trying to make Yibo come, and from the wave of arousal rising rapidly in his stomach, it's happening sooner rather than later.

When Xiao Zhan's tongue flicks out to wet his lips, everything going on in Yibo's head grinds to a sudden halt. "Oh, fuck," Yibo gasps, nails digging into the linen beneath his fingers, hips rising off the towel. Xiao Zhan's eyes flick up to meet his, pink lips dropping open, and then Yibo comes in his hand with a low groan, jizz dribbling across Xiao Zhan's knuckles.

"Huh," Xiao Zhan says, blinking down at the mess as Yibo sags back against the armchair. Xiao Zhan's eyes sweep over to his phone. "You really weren't joking, were you? That was like, maybe a minute and a half. After rounding up."

"You're the one who said not to jerk off for a week," Yibo grumbles, draping his right hand over his eyes, pressing down against the lids. "It's not my fault." He refuses to be embarrassed about this. Xiao Zhan knows what he signed up for.

"I know, I know," Xiao Zhan says, rubbing the crease of Yibo's leg soothingly. "I just needed some sort of baseline. This is good." He lets Yibo catch his breath and then asks, "How was it?"

Yibo lifts his hand and squints at Xiao Zhan. "Fine," he grunts, and then starts fluttering his eyelashes. "Oh, Xiao-laoshi, you're so talented, of course you'd be good at this too—"

"Shut up, you punk," Xiao Zhan says, laughing, his clean hand smacking Yibo's naked thigh. "You think you could go again?" His smile turns filthier, and Yibo's dick, which had flagged to half-mast after his orgasm, starts making a valiant comeback. "Show me that famed refractory period of yours, Wang Yibo. Help me collect another data point."

Yibo shifts against the towel, bare toes sinking into the plush carpet beneath his feet. "Yeah, Zhan-ge," he says, raising his chin and pushing his hips forward. "I could go again."

This time, Xiao Zhan braces his free hand on Yibo's hip, palm searing against his skin, anchoring him to the chair. A sweet ache builds in Yibo's stomach as Xiao Zhan's slick fingers rub through the mess on his stomach, milky come mingling with the lube to ease the glide even more. Yibo's warmed up now, like a motorcycle engine revved and ready, and one of his feet kicks out against the wheel of Xiao Zhan's desk chair as Xiao Zhan jerks him to full hardness again. This time, the pleasure unfolds slower, gathering back from his heavy limbs to swirl in his belly; this time, Xiao Zhan pays special attention to the head of Yibo's dick, thumb rubbing just beneath the tip.

It takes longer this time, or at least it feels like it does, the thud of each of Yibo's heartbeats expanding in his chest. This time, right before Yibo comes, he manages to say, "I'm coming," the words strangled in his throat, and then shoots across his abs again, his whole body clenching and relaxing.

Xiao Zhan checks his phone, looking pleased. "Two and a half minutes on the dot."

"Oh," Yibo says, letting out a wet breath, sinking back into his chair. He drags a couple of fingers through his sticky release. "That's a little better."

"It is." Xiao Zhan hums, wiping his hand clean on the edge of the towel beneath Yibo. "A couple things," he continues briskly, straightening up. "It does help if you've already come once in the day, and it does help if you're jerking off regularly."

"Xiao-laoshi," Yibo complains, though he's too orgasm-stupid to sound properly scandalized. "Are you saying you tricked me?"

Xiao Zhan shakes his head and knocks their knees together. "I did actually want to get some sort of benchmark before we started this for real," he says, shoving his phone back into his pocket. "Do you want to keep going?"

"Yeah," Yibo says, nodding vigorously, making himself sit upright so that he looks more serious about it. "Yeah, of course I do." He does want to last longer, and — the selfish part of him acknowledges that he wants Xiao Zhan to keep touching him, to keep looking at him like he's the most interesting thing in the world. Yibo's good at playing the eager student, and Xiao Zhan is a very generous teacher. A cursory glance at the crotch of Xiao Zhan's basketball shorts shows that he isn't really hard as far as Yibo can tell, which he can't help but feel a little disappointed by. Yibo knows what he looks like too, after all; it isn't too much of a stretch to expect some sort of physical response from someone who was just touching his junk. But Yibo isn't here for ego-stroking; he's here for dick-stroking, and for a greater purpose. If Xiao Zhan is willing to help, then Yibo is willing to listen. He has time to figure out the rest.

"Okay," Xiao Zhan says, sending him a reassuring smile. He helps Yibo to his feet, reaching down to lift the clean corner of the towel off the armchair and wipe the mess from Yibo's stomach. "So we'll do this again in a week, alright? Sunday evening, when we're all back on set. You can masturbate as much as you want in between, but I definitely want you to do it the morning of that session."

"Got it," Yibo croaks, yanking his boxer-briefs and his shorts back up. "Have a good night, Zhan-ge."

And if he scuttles back to his room and jacks off again in the privacy of his own shower, shuddering through the oversensitivity — well, who could blame him? It's been an entire week. Yibo's just making up for lost time.



The next morning, Yibo flies to Changsha for a long series of Day Day Up tapings, and then he has a turnaround redeye to Beijing so he can film some final promotional stuff for Produce 101 early on Tuesday. He's too tired to get himself off when he gets back to his apartment that night, but on Wednesday he wakes up with cotton in his mouth and an insistent hard-on in his underwear and has a hand wrapped around himself before he's really even opened his eyes.

It never takes much for Yibo to come when he does this on his own. He barely has any alone time as it is, always being ferried from city to city, schedule to schedule, so every second counts. He's gotten his technique down to a science over the years, knows exactly what he needs to do to come as quickly as possible. He knows he likes it a little rough, that rolling his balls between his fingers always makes something spasm in the base of his spine, that the scrape of a nail across his nipples or the rim of his asshole will get him there more often than not.

Today, though, he tries to linger as long as he can, listening to the tick of the wall clock in his room as he moves his hand slowly over his erection. He'd gotten a substantial amount of sleep last night, his door cracked open to let some of the light from the hallway shine in, and he feels good. He lets his heels sink into his mattress, fucking up loosely into the dry circle of his fingers, mind wandering. It's only natural to think about Xiao Zhan's gentle hands, the measured cadence of his voice. He's the last person who touched Yibo like this, even if it was just for practice.

That's probably why Yibo takes a screenshot of his timer app on Thursday night, after he gets home from a magazine shoot and jerks off before he showers. He snaps a photo of the drying jizz on his abs for good measure and then navigates to WeChat. The last thing Xiao Zhan sent him was a truly savage emoji of Yibo making the ugliest face he could think of during one of the earlier episodes of Produce, coupled with wang-laoshi is so handsome~. Yibo pushes past the rare, vague warning in his head that says this might be weird and uploads both pictures.

timed myself so you can keep track of my progress, he types into the chat box. still two minutes, give or take. you got your work cut out for you, xiao-laoshi! Then he twists the hot water knob on and climbs into the bath.

He's putting together some semblance of dinner in the kitchen when it occurs to him how such a message could be construed. Does this count as sexting? Xiao Zhan didn't say Yibo should send proof of obedience, but he didn't say Yibo couldn't, either. He puts it out of his mind long enough to wolf down his microwaved fried rice, kind of burning the roof of his mouth in the process, and dozes off in front of the television halfway through a game of Mario Kart against the computer. If he can't ride his motorcycle for another three months, this is the next best thing.

At six the next morning, his manager hands him a triple espresso in the ride to some other promotional event. When he gets the chance to check his phone, extra credit for the star student blinks up from his screen. He clicks into the notification; beneath it there's a meme of Spongebob sending him a thumbs up, and something in Yibo's chest unclenches. It was sent at around three, probably after whatever work obligation Xiao Zhan had wrapped then. Yibo shoots back a smug sticker of his own as he's climbing out of his car.

He flies back to Hengdian on Friday night, dozing through a couple hours of recycled plane air and still yawning as he gets checked into the front desk of the hotel. They've got him in one of the corner rooms on the third floor this week, and he's barely managed to unzip his suitcase and pull out a bag of toiletries before there's a knock on his door. Xuan Lu smiles up at him when Yibo pulls it open.

"Yibo-laoshi," she intones solemnly. "You've been cordially invited to have your ass kicked at DFO in Yu Bin's room. I think a few people brought their laptops?"

Yibo clicks his tongue behind his teeth. "What kind of rumors has that idiot been spreading?" he mutters, making a face. He shoves his keycard in his pocket and strolls after her. "Is Zhan-ge here yet? It's always fun watching him lose."

Xuan Lu laughs and shakes her head. "No, I heard the directors say he won't be back until late tomorrow."

"Bummer," he sighs. It's still a fun night, some people curled up on the couch watching a movie with a lot of explosions as the gamers try to nudge each other off the bed. Yibo crushes the competition for three rounds running and can't help taking a picture of Ji Li flopped back over Yu Bin's bed, groaning after the third loss. you're missing out on some extreme domination, he sends Xiao Zhan, grinning when he sees the typing indicator flash in their chat.

i pity the fool who tries to defeat the great wang yibo in any type of pvp match, Xiao Zhan replies, a string of laughing emojis attached.

"Who the hell are you sexting over there?" Yu Bin hollers, dive bombing Yibo so he can snatch his computer out of his lap.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Yibo says, locking his phone, poker face firmly in place. "Another round?"

"Yibo's not allowed to play anymore," Ji Li grumbles, kicking out at his side. "This isn't even fun."

"We can switch to Counter-Strike if you want," Yibo offers cheerfully as he dodges Ji Li's foot. "I'll take all of you on at once." He probably deserves to get shoved off the bed for that one.



Saturday dawns bright and clear. Yibo trudges out to the sets for a few scenes with Haikuan and Huang Ziteng and some of the other Lan disciples. It starts raining early in the afternoon, a sun shower that at least brings in a minor breeze; they duck inside the buildings to wait until it passes and return to the hotel later than expected.

Xiao Zhan's already back by then, contacts swapped out for glasses when Yibo knocks on his door. "Script review?" he says, brandishing a hefty stack of them in his right hand. The upcoming week of filming is supposed to involve a lot of flashback episode tension, Wei Wuxian waltzing into banquets and airing all of his grievances. Yibo has less to memorize, which is always true, but he's found over the past month and a half that their little brainstorming sessions tend to help him get into the right headspace.

"Make yourself at home," Xiao Zhan says, walking back to let him in. There's half-eaten room service on the coffee table in front of the sofa, some curry dish that looks way too spicy for Yibo to handle. Yibo pours himself a mug of hot water from the kettle before settling with his back against one of the armrests, legs stretching out across the cushions.

Xiao Zhan retrieves his scripts from the bedside table and curls up on the other end of the couch. He always highlights and scribbles all over his copies, spiky handwriting in the margins of each lengthy monologue he has to deliver. "I think you're supposed to drink wine for me tomorrow," Yibo says, flipping open to the right page and nudging Xiao Zhan's thigh with his toes. "That would never happen in real life."

"Don't be an asshole," Xiao Zhan huffs, swatting Yibo's shin. They manage to get halfway through the scene before Yibo makes another comment about Xiao Zhan's pitiful alcohol tolerance, and then there's a short scramble on the couch as they whack each other with their scripts.

It ends with one of Xiao Zhan's hands gripping Yibo's ankle and Yibo hanging halfway off the seat, heart beating too fast, an odd sweep of tension rolling through his body. Yibo wasn't wrong when he said they touched each other all the time, but something about this feels different. Maybe it's that the last time Yibo was in Xiao Zhan's room, Xiao Zhan was touching a completely different part of his body; maybe it's just that Yibo is more aware of Xiao Zhan's hands now that he's made him come. Yibo brushes the strange lurch in his stomach aside as he hauls himself back on the couch, blowing his bangs out of his eyes.

Xiao Zhan's glasses have been knocked askew, and he adjusts them as he sinks lower into his cushions. Yibo's feet are still in his lap. "Will you take this seriously?" Xiao Zhan says, exasperated, and runs his fingers along the soles of Yibo's feet, light enough to tickle. Yibo retracts them with a hiss, the tingle shooting up his legs. "You're the one who wanted to do script review."

"Alright, alright, fine," Yibo says, turning back to his script with some effort. They block out three more scenes in the next hour, trading the occasional barb about Yibo's lack of lines, though Yibo points out that Lan Wangji does in fact have several interactions with people that aren't Wei Wuxian.

"How do you think he feels about Mianmian leaving the Jin sect?" Xiao Zhan asks as they read through the next bit, tapping a pen against the paper and squinting into the middle distance.

"Admiration," Yibo says, chewing on a thumbnail as he mulls it over. "That she's sticking to her principles. And frustration that all he can do is try to speak up during a banquet, even when he knows it won't be enough to turn the tide of popular opinion."

"Yeah, I think you're right," Xiao Zhan murmurs. He ducks to make another note in the margins. A moment later, he rolls his neck, back cracking, and yawns loudly. "Okay, I'm kicking you out," he continues, hoisting himself upright. "Unlike you, some of us need to sleep."

"I sleep," Yibo says, protesting just to protest, but he scoops up his scripts and lets Xiao Zhan usher him toward the door. Now that Xiao Zhan's brought it up, Yibo's starting to feel a little drowsy too. "I just need to be properly incentivized."

Xiao Zhan snorts. "So high maintenance, our Wang-laoshi," he says, leaning against the frame as Yibo steps out into the hall. "In a couple years, when you start getting tired at eight, you'll be eating your words."

"Adulthood seems like it sucks," Yibo remarks, shaking his head.

Xiao Zhan laughs drily. "You aren't wrong, kid." For a minute they just stare at each other across the threshold, and then Xiao Zhan seems to snap himself out of his stupor. "Still on for tomorrow?"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Yibo says, bowing extravagantly with both hands folded around his scripts, and grins when Xiao Zhan rolls his eyes.



Yibo jerks off Sunday morning in the shower and floats through the rest of the day loose-limbed and happy. They're firing on all cylinders, running through scenes in two or three takes, chatting in between about managing their expressions and particular line readings. It feels good to be productive, to know that they're doing this right.

They get food ordered up to Xiao Zhan's room for dinner. Yibo picks at his bowl of lukewarm noodles for about two minutes before he shoves it onto the coffee table and says, "Let's just get to it."

Xiao Zhan glances at him, chewing and swallowing around a bite of his sandwich. "You wanna do this on an empty stomach?"

"Zhan-ge," Yibo says, aware that he's whining but not really caring. So maybe he's a little hungry, but that's mostly been drowned out by anticipation for something else. A different type of hunger.

"A bit of patience might do you some good," Xiao Zhan says, but he pulls the desk chair back out across from the armchair and tells Yibo to take off his pants while he gets his supplies.

"I've survived twenty years on this earth without it," Yibo says, undoing the drawstring of his sweatpants. He kicks them off to the side and drops his underwear too, most of the way hard.

Xiao Zhan quirks an eyebrow when he returns with a towel and lube. "Are you sure you already jerked off once today?"

"Didn't I tell you?" Yibo says, sitting down and spreading his legs, cock jutting up at attention. His entire body feels like it's thrumming, a tuning fork struck against the side of a music stand. "Sometimes it feels like I'm always in the mood."

Xiao Zhan sets his phone on his thigh and squirts a generous portion of lube on his hand again, tongue caught between his teeth as he warms it up in his palm. "We're going to try something, okay?" he says, scooting close, voice smooth and calm. Yibo nods, eyes trained on Xiao Zhan's sticky palm, and Xiao Zhan snaps the fingers of his dry hand to get Yibo to meet his gaze. "You'll have to be paying attention. If you feel yourself getting close, say so as soon as you can."

Yibo licks his lips and nods. "Alright."

"Good," Xiao Zhan says, eyes crinkling as he smiles, and reaches down to touch Yibo's dick.

The squeezing pressure and slick glide feel the same as they did last week, the pace still even — not too fast and not too slow. Yibo tries to regulate his breathing, but it's difficult when Xiao Zhan's eyes are glued to his crotch, when every flick of his wrist brings Yibo closer to the edge. Too soon, Yibo feels the familiar tightening in his balls; he manages to gasp out, "Zhan-ge, I'm close," and then Xiao Zhan stops touching him.

The sudden lack of pressure has Yibo reflexively reaching down with his own hand, but Xiao Zhan intercepts him before he can grab himself, pinning both of Yibo's wrists back against the sides of the chair. "Nope," Xiao Zhan says sharply, patting Yibo's forearms as he squirms and clenches his hands. "Keep your hands on the armrests. No touching."

"Ahhh, fuck," Yibo groans, blinking fast. "Fuck, okay."

Xiao Zhan lets him catch his breath; Yibo's still hard by the time he manages to relax enough to unclench his fingers, but he isn't teetering at the brink anymore, which is something. "Good," Xiao Zhan repeats. "You're doing great."

He reaches down again, jacking Yibo slower this time. Pleasure buzzes up Yibo's thighs as his nails dig into the armrests, hips twitching. He braces his feet against the base of the armchair and murmurs, "Close, fuck, close," and tries to hold himself still as Xiao Zhan lets go of his dick again. There's a bead of precome oozing out of the tip of Yibo's glistening dick, and he watches it drip down onto his belly, slightly dazed.

It happens one more time, Yibo skating so close to the edge that his whole body feels stiff as a board, panting through it, and then the next time Xiao Zhan touches him again, two pumps is all it takes. Orgasm rips through Yibo like a tidal wave before he can even get his mouth open, come spurting across his chest and stomach, torso listing to the side. "That was almost six minutes, Yibo," he hears Xiao Zhan say. "Look, you already doubled your time."

Yibo cracks his eyes open and squints at the phone Xiao Zhan's holding up. 5:57 flashes back at him from the screen. "Can we try it again?" he says, pulling himself straight.

Xiao Zhan clears his throat, legs crossing delicately at the knee. "Sure," he says, mouth lifting into a smile. "Let's see how far you can go."

Now that Yibo knows what to expect, now that he's purposely keeping track of the prickle in his spine and the twitch in his stomach and the warmth rolling up his thighs, it's easier to figure out when to open his mouth and tell Xiao Zhan to stop. It's like a video game, in a way, but instead of searching for item drops or chasing shadows, he's trying to catalog all of his body's responses, predict when he might blow.

The second time, Xiao Zhan rests his hands on Yibo's thighs when he isn't stroking Yibo's dick, massaging the muscles almost subconsciously. It keeps a low-level murmur of arousal kicked up in Yibo's stomach, so he gets closer to the edge more times, doesn't think he'll be able to hold out for quite as long, but maybe he's underestimating himself, because when Xiao Zhan shows him the phone after he finishes all over Xiao Zhan's hand, he's made it past the six minute mark. "Nice work, Yibo," Xiao Zhan says, sounding genuinely pleased, and a flood of satisfaction fills Yibo even more thoroughly than the second orgasm did.

"Thanks, Zhan-ge," he says, unable to wipe the silly grin from his face, and sags back against the armchair. As if on cue, his stomach lets out a rumbling growl. "Fuck, I could use some food."

"Clean yourself up and we can finish eating," Xiao Zhan says, swatting Yibo's knee. "Good thing I made you order room service, huh?"

"Xiao-laoshi is as wise as he is beautiful," Yibo agrees, cackling when Xiao Zhan swiftly sends him a rude gesture before gliding into the bathroom to wash his hands. Yibo revels in the pleasant heaviness of his limbs for another minute and then jerks the towel out from underneath his ass to wipe the mess off his stomach.



Yibo's assigned homework over the next week is to practice self control: namely, jerking off and stopping right before he's about to come on his own. "You have a lot of faith in my ability to wait," Yibo says on the bus ride to set in the morning.

"I have a lot of faith in your drive to succeed," Xiao Zhan counters, which may be one of the nicest things Xiao Zhan has ever said to him. They say a lot of nice things about each other as jokes, the ever-escalating compliment war raging on between them, but Yibo is pretty sure he means that one.

Filming proceeds apace, each day hotter and longer than the last. By the weekend, Yibo has probably stolen his own body weight in Xiao Zhan's green tea. Xiao Zhan keeps complaining that he should just brew his own, but every time Yibo reaches his hand out to grab Xiao Zhan's thermos, Xiao Zhan lets him have it, so he can't mind too much.

They do rooftop wire work for twelve hours on Friday, dangling from harnesses and brandishing swords in each other's faces from dawn till dusk. Yibo's sore as hell and soaked with sweat by the end of it; when Yu Bin catches them in the lobby and invites them to the pool, he jumps at the chance. "I didn't pack swimming trunks," Xiao Zhan says, but he lets himself get dragged down the hall anyway.

"Just strip to your underwear," Yu Bin replies. "No one cares." Some of their other castmates are already lounging along the sides of the pool or sitting on the edge dipping their feet into the water; Yizhou is doing laps in one of the demarcated lanes for reasons beyond him. The wall of humidity wraps around them like a second skin, which is only unbearable for as long as it takes Yibo to kick off his shoes and shimmy out of his extraneous clothing and hop into the deep end. The chlorinated water closes over his head, the shock of cold a relief after baking in the sun all day.

When Yibo resurfaces, blowing a blast of water out of his mouth, Xiao Zhan's folding his own clothes over one of the deck chairs. "Refreshing?" he says, padding barefoot to the edge, arms akimbo. From this angle, Xiao Zhan's hairy legs seem impossibly long. His dark boxer-briefs are skin-tight, and the fuzz of his happy trail leads down past the hem of his underwear, right to the outline of his soft dick through the fabric.

A jolt of heat flashes through Yibo, but — it's normal, right? Feeling like this is perfectly normal after everything they've done over the past month; it hasn't technically been much, but Xiao Zhan is still the most consistent sexual partner that Yibo has had since he moved out of the UNIQ dorm. Of course he'd have a professional interest in Xiao Zhan's body. That comes with the territory. "Yeah," Yibo says, cracking a grin as he freestyle kicks away from the wall. "Though maybe you should rinse off before you come in. Wouldn't want you to contaminate the pool with all your dried sweat."

Xiao Zhan dips his foot in the water to splash some into Yibo's face. "Man, who raised you?" he says, looking like he's trying very hard not to laugh. "Can't you be a little kinder, Wang Yibo?"

"Catch me first, and then we can talk," Yibo says, making a break for the shallow end of the pool.

It doesn't take long for either of them to tire out, though Xiao Zhan does dig an elbow into Yibo's side on their way back to the third floor in retaliation for wiping himself off with Xiao Zhan's shirt. "Let's schedule our next session for when we get back in a week," Xiao Zhan says at his door, flicking said shirt so it whacks Yibo's thigh.

"I'll pencil you into my calendar," Yibo says, saluting dutifully.

He lets himself soak in the bath when he gets back to his own room, water-wrinkled hand curling around the base of his stirring cock. He tries to remember what Xiao Zhan told him about regulating his breathing, thinking distracting thoughts, removing all stimulus when he can feel the pressure building, but he can't quite manage to hold out for as long as he did when Xiao Zhan was coaching him through it the previous weekend. Maybe it'll work better when he's back in Beijing.



"So did you try edging yourself?" Xiao Zhan asks the following Saturday, when they're getting set up again in his room.

"Yeah, but it didn't really work," Yibo says. He's already out of his bottoms and sitting on the armchair, chin propped in his hand as Xiao Zhan rifles through his suitcase.

"That's alright," Xiao Zhan says, pulling a small plastic bag out from a stack of clothes. "It's hard to get the hang of, so keep practicing."

Yibo shrugs. "Maybe I just need you around to keep me honest, Xiao-laoshi."

For a moment, Xiao Zhan freezes, and Yibo nearly bites his own tongue clicking his mouth closed. Did he make it weird? Yibo is trying very hard not to make it weird, but it isn't really in his nature to hold back. He just says whatever comes to his mind, usually, and Xiao Zhan has been on his mind a lot, for all the obvious reasons. He opens his mouth to paint over it with something else when Xiao Zhan shakes his head and laughs. "It's not that serious, Yibo," he says, cheeks dimpling. "I know I called it homework, but this is supposed to be fun."

"It is!" Yibo says, shifting forward earnestly, hands on his knees. "So what's in the bag?"

Xiao Zhan settles into his desk chair and fishes a thick silicone band from the plastic bag, along with a fresh bottle of the customary lube. The band has a bit of stretch when Xiao Zhan manipulates it between his fingers, and it's lime green. "Have you ever tried using a cock ring before?" Xiao Zhan asks. Yibo shakes his head, watching Xiao Zhan's practiced hands reach down to slide it over Yibo's half-hard dick, pushing it all the way to the base. The fit is snug, not painful, but tight enough that Yibo can feel the drag against his balls as he shifts. The restriction feels a little odd as Xiao Zhan strokes him to full hardness. "It'll help you last longer."

"You just had one lying around the house?"

"Of course not, I bought a new one just for you," Xiao Zhan says. "I know you like green." Yibo isn't sure if he's supposed to feel touched, but he's too preoccupied to dwell on it. "Plus, reusing sex toys isn't great form."

"I'll try to remember that," Yibo says. He sighs as Xiao Zhan keeps jacking him off, dick twitching against his palm. "Anything else I should keep in mind?"

"Hmm," Xiao Zhan says, the rumble of his voice curling around Yibo's ears. "Maybe this time we can try to distract you with a conversation. Say whatever you want."

"Have you done this for anyone else?" Yibo asks, mouth moving faster than his brain. "Taught them how to last longer."

Xiao Zhan huffs. "Here and there," he says, waving his free hand vaguely. "I used to live in a dorm with eight other guys, remember? The topic came up."

"Right," Yibo says, gritting his teeth as Xiao Zhan's thumb wipes some of the precome from his slit. "The boy band life." That makes sense. Xiao Zhan's too good at this for Yibo to have been the first. "Seungyoun was my first handjob, actually."

"Yeah?" Xiao Zhan says, grip slipping a little. Yibo pitches forward, hands digging into his knees. He tries to keep still as Xiao Zhan repositions his hand and continues, neat strokes up and down. "That doesn't surprise me."

"I think I came almost immediately," Yibo confesses, shaking his head, and then they're both chuckling, the sound briefly covering up the slick pulls of Xiao Zhan's hand. Yibo's stomach is winding tighter, scalp prickling, but the cock ring is as grounding as the palm Xiao Zhan's pressed flat against his thigh, keeping Yibo hard and leashed.

"My first handjob was in high school," Xiao Zhan offers after a pause. "This girl I liked at the time invited me to her house to study. It was pretty clumsy, but a hand is a hand, right?" He runs his thumb up along the vein beneath Yibo's dick and twists his palm over the head before stroking firmly down, all the way to the cock ring. "I figured out how to make her come too, and that was… satisfying."

"You'll have to teach me about that next," Yibo bites out, shuddering when Xiao Zhan's hand squeezes just a shade too tight. "Ahh, shit, I'm close."

Xiao Zhan lets him go but stays near, sticky hand drumming a rhythm against Yibo's bare hip. Yibo sucks in a breath of air and lets it go, chest rising and falling.

"Zhan-ge," he murmurs, trying to knock the encroaching wave of release out of his mind. "How am I gonna know I'll be able to last through having sex with someone?"

Xiao Zhan blinks, chewing on his lip. "Good question," he says at last, taking Yibo's dick in hand again. "I've been thinking about that too." For a minute, he just holds it, not even squeezing, until long after the immediate threat has passed. His pace when he restarts is slower, and Yibo fights to keep his thighs spread out. "I think you'll have to fuck me, so we can judge how long you'll last in a real world scenario," Xiao Zhan says, meeting Yibo's eyes through the fringe of his bangs. "If that's okay with you, anyway."

If you wanted to sleep with me, you could have just said so, Yibo wants to say, but something tells him that Xiao Zhan probably wouldn't appreciate that joke, and then it doesn't even matter anymore because Yibo's coming as he imagines it, too sudden to warn him, making a mess across his stomach as he thinks about fingering Xiao Zhan open, thinks about laying him out across the bed and sliding hilt-deep inside him, thinks about the rush of gratification every time he gets a rise out of Xiao Zhan for once. "Fuck," he moans, shutting his eyes. Coming while wearing a cock ring feels intense to an alarming degree, like part of his soul is being squeezed out through his dick. He flops back against the armchair, completely winded.

"Ten minutes this time, Yibo," comes Xiao Zhan's voice, floating over the pounding in Yibo's ears. "And I'm guessing it's okay with you," he adds after another moment, amusement coloring his tone.

"Uh, yeah," Yibo tells the ceiling. When he opens his eyes again and looks over, there's a light flush high on Xiao Zhan's cheekbones, and the corner of his mouth is turned up. He's already wiped his hand clean. "Great plan. Really scientific." What's a little penetration between friends?



At the very least, jacking off on his own with the cock ring ends up working out much better as practice. In Changsha, Yibo manages a respectable fifteen minutes by himself, which he sends over as screenshot proof along with a graph mapping out his incremental progress.

i can't believe you made a barchart for this Xiao Zhan returns when he sees it, immediately followed by: wouldn't a line graph make more sense as visualization over time?

okay einstein, you make one then, Yibo types back, snorting loudly, and pockets his phone.

Da Zhangwei nudges his elbow as the next set of guests arrive on stage. "What are you giggling at?"

"Math," Yibo says, which is technically true. He laughs again at the nonplussed look Qian Feng throws their way.

"I really think our Yibo's lost it," Zhangwei laments, but Wang Han launches into the opening of the segment, and the moment passes without further comment.



The set move to Guizhou during the first week of July coincides with the worst heatwave that the area has seen in years. Yibo muddles through the first week, managing fine, until he suddenly isn't anymore — which is how he lands in the hospital with an episode of minor heat stroke after ten hours of filming in the hot summer sun. He ends up hooked up to an IV drip for one night as he waits for his head to stop spinning, tossing and turning on a gurney through a restless half-doze. In the morning, a stern doctor tells him to hydrate better and sleep more before handing him back over to his manager. She gives him the same talk and still drives him straight to hair and makeup anyway.

There's a concerned look on Xiao Zhan's face when Yibo plops down in the chair in front of his vanity. Xiao Zhan had just flown in earlier, having spent the last few days on the Joy of Life set, but he's probably already heard about the incident. His brow furrows as he takes in the pallor of Yibo's skin and the smudges beneath his eyes, but before he can open his mouth and say anything, Yibo snaps, "I know, I got two lectures about it already, I don't need a third," and Xiao Zhan just sighs and lets it be.

He does drop his thermos of green tea in Yibo's lap without a word when they get on the bus, though, and that's a little simpler to accept. Yibo tilts his head against the window next to his head, twisting the cap off, and takes a sip of the warm liquid. It soothes some of the itchiness in his throat.

They're filming on the water with the juniors today, the two of them in a rickety boat with ample shade. Despite the oppressive humidity, it's easier for Yibo's foul mood to dissipate when Xiao Zhan is around to tease, when Xiao Zhan doesn't treat him like a porcelain doll or pull his punches. They make it through without Yibo fainting again, bickering all the while.

Still, when they're back at the hotel later that night, Xiao Zhan looks surprised to see him show up at his door. "I thought you might want to postpone today's session," he says carefully. "And if it's too hard on you, we can stop—"

Yibo's chest spasms a little with how much he hates that idea. "No!" he says, cutting Xiao Zhan off. "No, I don't want to stop. I like our… side project." He pushes past Xiao Zhan and sighs at the blast of AC from the unit above his bed, trying to figure out how to mitigate Xiao Zhan's worries. "You've helped me a lot, and I don't say it enough, but seriously — thank you."

"It's no problem," Xiao Zhan says, voice oddly strained. When Yibo wheels around to look at him again, he seems conflicted. "Does that mean you want to continue tonight as planned?"

Yibo hesitates a little too long, which is killer in any scenario; in the span of two heartbeats, the whirlwind of the last 48 hours seems to catch up with him all at once, exhaustion trickling down his spine. His hands suddenly feel as heavy as bowling balls. "Well, maybe not right this minute," he murmurs, faintly aware that he's going beyond even the loosest boundaries that they've laid out as he crawls up Xiao Zhan's bed and faceplants into one of the many pillows stacked by the headboard. "Can we just sleep, actually? I really am tired."

For a moment, silence rings out behind him. Yibo tenses, the back of his neck prickling. He waits for the other shoe to drop, waits for Xiao Zhan to kindly but firmly send him back to his own room, but then Xiao Zhan says, "Yeah, Yibo," warm and comfortable, and every part of Yibo's body seems to relax. There's a click as the main lights go out, leaving only the soft glow of the bedside lamp shimmering through the cracks between Yibo's eyelids. He thinks he feels something brush against his hair as the drowsiness overtakes him, but maybe he's just imagining things. "We can sleep."



He wakes up once in the middle of the night, fuzzy and disoriented, weighed down by a few layers of blanket and a skinny arm tucked over his waist. The room is fully dark, and it takes him a minute to remember where he is. When he eases an eye open, Xiao Zhan's breathing deeply next to him, mouth hanging halfway open, drooling a little into the cotton sham. It's been a while since Yibo shared a bed with someone, a while since he slept in a hotel room without the TV playing white noise on low, so maybe his defenses are down. Maybe that's why he can't help scooting closer beneath the covers, seeking warmth. Regardless, something settles in his chest, thick as the blood pumping through his heart, present and undeniable. I don't want to stop, he hears himself say. It had meant something else in the light, but he thinks, perhaps, that it was truer than he realized.



When Yibo blinks again, it's morning, sun slanting through the curtains. The other side of the bed is empty, though a swipe of Yibo's hand reveals that the sheets are still warm, and he can hear Xiao Zhan puttering around in the bathroom. He's holding his glasses when he reemerges, evidently having just put his contacts in for the day. "Hey," Yibo croaks, pushing himself up with one hand. "Sorry I just passed out on you last night."

"No, it's fine," Xiao Zhan says, waving the apology aside with a quick smile. "You seemed like you needed it."

Yibo digs his knuckles into his eyes and rolls out of bed, morning wood bobbing between his legs. "We should reschedule our next, you know," he says, moving into the bathroom. The shock of cold water in his face wakes him up more and makes him go soft enough that he can take a leak.

"We have a lot of long night shoots over the next few days," Xiao Zhan says. He's tapping his phone and frowning when Yibo steps out again, and he hands over a thermos of tea in his other hand for Yibo to receive. "Here. I prepped one just for you, so you better drink it all. Shriveling up like a withered old prune is not allowed."

The back of Yibo's throat closes a little as he takes it, a sweet ache of longing seizing his chest, and for a moment it takes all his energy to school his expression. He cracks the bottle open for something to do with his hands, takes a gulp large enough to burn through the lump threatening to fill his mouth.

Xiao Zhan's just — so fucking nice. He's been nice this whole time, putting up with Yibo's demands for attention, humoring him on set with stupid hand games, coaching him through weeks of patient handjobs. It would be unbearable if Yibo didn't like it so much, if Yibo didn't like him so much. Yibo should tell him the truth, but he also doesn't want Xiao Zhan to cut him off completely. Yibo doesn't want to stop doing this. The first and only rule Xiao Zhan had was not to fall in love with him and Yibo doesn't know if he's in love, but he definitely has a crush, and isn't that close enough?

"Thanks," Yibo says, screwing the cap back on and clearing his throat.

"How about the eighteenth?" Xiao Zhan says, gnawing on his lower lip. It's so pink. "We're supposed to have a late start the day after, so long as nothing gets pushed around."

"Yeah, that sounds great," Yibo says, which is not what he meant to say at all. He shoves the guilt down into his stomach, where it sloshes around in the green tea and ruins most of his appetite for the rest of the day.



He should've known, he thinks later, when they're getting harnessed up for yet another sword fight, this time through a thick copse of trees. He should've known this would happen the moment he started thinking about Xiao Zhan when he got himself off; it was inevitable for his brain to close that loop for him. And what is Xiao Zhan even getting out of this? Yibo never touches him back. He never even offered to repay Xiao Zhan for the cock ring.

Yibo pushes himself maybe a little too hard during their battle scenes over the next few days, letting the ache sink into his muscles and distract him from anything else he could be dwelling on. When the itch finally gets to be too much, he doesn't linger, jerking off with brutal efficiency in the shower. He still comes to the thought of getting his mouth around Xiao Zhan's dick, of getting his mouth on Xiao Zhan's mouth, because somewhere along the line orgasms have become intimately associated with Xiao Zhan in his head. He lies awake in bed for a long time after, sticky and miserable.

On set, at least, Yibo can redouble his efforts to try and help Xiao Zhan break character, striking ridiculous poses with Bichen and keeping up a steady stream of chatter to make him laugh. Some of the night scenes they're getting into are intense; Xuan Lu and Zhuocheng cry through particularly arduous takes along with Xiao Zhan. When Yibo gets back after a few days away in Beijing, he brings a whole set of newly purchased eye drops with him and keeps some in the sleeves of his hanfu to pull out when Xiao Zhan's eyes get too bloodshot.

"Oh," Xiao Zhan says the first time he offers, sending him a real smile of relief, and Yibo ruthlessly squashes the warm feeling in his chest. "Thanks, Yibo."

"Least I could do," Yibo says, trying to smile back as normally as he can. "What would Xiao-laoshi's fans say if they knew he was bawling his eyes out every night?"

Xiao Zhan huffs as he finishes meticulously administering the drops. "It's part of the role," he says, eyes sliding shut. "You know that."

Yibo wants to say, true, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone throw themselves into this quite like you, but then Director Cheng's calling them into place for the next take, and he loses the chance.



On the eighteenth, they trundle sweaty and tired off the bus after filming. Yibo's keyed up already, and his shoulders wind even tighter when Xiao Zhan sends him off to shower and says, "Bring the cock ring with you," a knowing grin on his face.

Yibo runs into Xuan Lu in the hall on his way to Xiao Zhan's room, which would be trivial under ordinary circumstances but seems strange and a little mortifying with his half-chub tucked in the waistband of his underwear and the tight silicone band already pressed to the base of his dick. "Script review?" she says, tilting her head up to study him.

"Kind of," Yibo hedges, but it must not be very convincing, because Xuan Lu's expression sharpens.

"Set gossip tells me Zhan-zhan's your sex tutor," she says, raising an eyebrow, and Yibo fists his hands at his sides and hopes his face isn't doing anything too wild. He should've known the rumor mill would catch up with them; it's not like Yibo has been particularly subtle. She pats his arm as she passes. "Maybe that's just what the kids are calling it these days, but I hope you two have a good time."

"It isn't like that," Yibo says weakly, but Xuan Lu just waves him off. She stops at a door further down — Haikuan's room this week, maybe — and there's a brief burst of noise as someone lets her in. Then: silence in the hall.

He feels too twitchy when he gets to Xiao Zhan's room, though the pleased look on Xiao Zhan's face when Yibo drops his basketball shorts and boxer-briefs helps smooth over some of Yibo's ruffled feathers. "Your majesty's throne," Xiao Zhan says, gesturing at the towel draped over the seat of the armchair, and Yibo shuffles over to sit down. "I ordered something else that might simulate the feeling of fucking someone a little better than just my hand, so we can try that out if you're good with it."

"Um, sure," Yibo says, voice scraping up his throat.

He watches Xiao Zhan pull a plastic package out of his suitcase, nimble fingers discarding the wrapping. The toy is long and thick and cylindrical, a translucent white color, and the material squishes in Xiao Zhan's hand. "This is a masturbation sleeve," he says, with the air of someone pointing out rain clouds in the distance, and squirts lube into the opening as he sinks onto the desk chair. Just the sound makes Yibo's dick stiffen even more. "It's pretty self-explanatory, I think."

"Zhan-ge," he says, trying to shake his head clear.


Yibo groans as Xiao Zhan starts easing the sleeve down his cock. The enveloping pressure is different from Xiao Zhan's hand, everything wetter and closer and more. His hips twitch, and for a moment he loses the thread of what he was about to say. "Oh, that feels good," he groans, gripping the armrests for dear life when Xiao Zhan starts to move it up and down in earnest.

"You know the drill," Xiao Zhan murmurs. "Tell me if it gets to be too much."

Yibo drifts, struggling to hold it together, deep breaths in and out. "Zhan-ge," he tries again after a minute, meeting Xiao Zhan's even gaze. "What about you?"

"Hm? What about me?"

Yibo tamps down on the pleasure building in his spine and exhales slowly. "You've been helping me get off this whole time, and I just — what about you? What are you getting out of this? I don't—"

Xiao Zhan's hand keeps moving, but a pink flush has crept up his neck to stretch across his face. "It's very sweet of you to ask, but you don't have to worry about that," he says, tongue flicking over his lips.

"It just seems — ah, fuck — selfish," Yibo says, abdomen clenching. "Close, Zhan-ge."

Xiao Zhan eases the sleeve off Yibo's cock and leaves him panting, laid back against the armchair, dick glistening in the cool air. The corner of Xiao Zhan's mouth rises as he gazes at him, bright-eyed. "Isn't it enough of a reward to know that I'm the only one who gets to see Wang-laoshi like this?"

Yibo cracks a smile even as his stomach flips. "What, you don't think I go around asking all the geges to help me?"

"I would be very impressed that you managed to fit everyone into your incredibly busy schedule," Xiao Zhan replies, which is fair. He's always so logical. "Anyway. Don't worry about me." His mouth curves into a wider grin as he resumes fucking the sleeve onto Yibo, forearm flexing as he works it down. "Watching you fall apart is pretty hot, you know?"

"Shut up, you're going to make me come," Yibo moans, and he also means shut up, you're making it harder to stop liking you too much and shut up, you're going to make me think I have a chance, but those words stick in his throat like fish bones, too sharp to come out.

"Let's try to get through another five minutes before that happens," Xiao Zhan says, leaning in, eyes twinkling. Yibo lets out a breath, does what he does best, and gives himself over to pure feeling.



The final part of the month involves a truly hectic series of city-hopping flights that jet Yibo across the country and back again. He grinds through two magazine photoshoots in Beijing, another Day Day Up taping in Changsha, and manages to survive on three hours of sleep heading into more filming on location in Guizhou. They spend most of that last week underground in caves filming the battle with the turtle demon, so at least it's cooler; in between takes, Yibo splashes dirty water in Xiao Zhan's face and attempts not to stare too much when Xiao Zhan's wet layers of hanfu do very little to hide the skinny line of his waist, the rest of his willowy frame. It doesn't work very well.

More importantly, the night before July turns into sweltering August, Yibo lasts over a full half hour of Xiao Zhan fucking him with the sleeve without coming once. He's catching his breath, spiraling down from the intensity of his orgasm, when Xiao Zhan frees him from the sex toys, his customary smile fixed in place, and says, "I think you're ready for your final exam."

It takes a minute for Yibo's brain to come back online and process that statement; when he finally figures out what Xiao Zhan is talking about, his blood seems to run cold, and then misery blooms thick and heavy in his stomach. He's been trying to push the thought out of his mind, but it's impossible to ignore now that Xiao Zhan has brought it up again: this is what they've been working toward all summer. Xiao Zhan is going to see this through to the end, make sure Yibo's learned everything he could, and then sign off with a flourish, like any good teacher. It's hard to keep track of all the reasons Yibo would rather avoid the inevitable: he doesn't want this to end, true, but a deeper part of him really doesn't want to fuck Xiao Zhan when it wouldn't mean the same thing to him. Yibo's been lying by omission about his feelings for weeks; it would be in poor taste to go all the way without coming clean. He's already taken advantage of Xiao Zhan's kindness enough. "I don't think I can," he mutters, hands clenching into fists against his knees.

Xiao Zhan frowns, looking up from his phone. "Thirty minutes is really good, Yibo — and obviously fucking a real person isn't quite the same, but I think you can handle—"

"That's not what I meant," Yibo interrupts, unable to keep his voice from cracking pathetically. Just say it, he thinks, shoulders drooping. Just get it over with. "I don't think it's a good idea for us to sleep together."

Xiao Zhan's face shutters all at once, the smile sliding off it. "Oh," he says, voice stilted, which Yibo hates. He's still holding the used sleeve and the silicone cock ring, but he sets them aside on the coffee table and wipes his hands clean with a tissue, swift and perfunctory. "That's — no, that's fine." He stares at Yibo for a long moment, chewing the inside of his cheek. "Can I ask why?"

Yibo was waiting for the question, but it's too difficult to answer while looking Xiao Zhan straight in the eye, so he glances down at his own lap instead, focusing on the come cooling on his stomach. Xiao Zhan deserves a real answer; Xiao Zhan deserves the truth, and if there's one thing Yibo prides himself at being good at, it's telling the truth. "When we started this, I know you said not to fall in love with you," Yibo mumbles, stumbling over some of the words in his haste to get them out. "And I don't know if this counts, because I don't think I've been in love before, so it's hard to tell, but I know I really like you, Zhan-ge, probably more than I should, and it wouldn't be fair to sleep with you if you didn't know, because it would mean something to me, and I would feel like I tricked you just to get you to—"

"Oh my God," Xiao Zhan says, kind of choked.

Fuck, this is coming out terribly. Yibo's entire head feels like a balloon about to pop. He needs to get out of this room and run as far as he can so he won't ruin this anymore than he already has. "Anyway, it's okay, I'll get over it, don't worry," he says, standing abruptly. Where are his pants? He needs to find his pants.

Before he can get more than a step away, though, one of Xiao Zhan's warm hands catches his wrist and yanks him to a stop. Yibo nearly trips over his own feet, and he shifts his startled gaze to stare at Xiao Zhan, who is still sitting on the desk chair and… laughing? His free hand is draped over his face and he's laughing, high and bright and a little incredulous. Yibo likes it when Xiao Zhan laughs; it's usually a good sign. Some of the creeping tension drains out of Yibo's jaw. "Hey," Xiao Zhan says, squeezing Yibo's wrist. "You're much braver than I am, you know that?"

Yibo blinks at him, uncomprehending. "What?"

Xiao Zhan bites his lip and moves the hand on Yibo's wrist so that their fingers are tangled loosely together. That does nothing to assuage the furious stampede of Yibo's heart. "I'm sorry I told you not to fall in love with me," he says. "That was stupid. I was, ah, maybe projecting a bit. I think I was trying to tell myself more than anything. I thought I'd be able to control it better, but you're just so… yourself." He smiles, shaking his head. "Stubborn, and infuriating, and beautiful."

Yibo blinks again, gazing down at their joined hands. His face feels numb; his blood is thundering through his ears. "What are you saying?"

"You weren't in possession of all the facts," Xiao Zhan says, thumb stroking down the side of Yibo's hand in a way that's honestly maddening. "I like you too, Wang Yibo. More than I should."

"No, you don't," Yibo argues, a little hysterical, flipping through every single one of their interactions in the span of a single exhale and coming up blank. It's easier to focus on how that definitely isn't true, because there's no way Yibo would have missed it. "You've been jerking me off for two months and you never once made it seem like you wanted me to return the favor."

"I thought I was going to die when you started asking me what I got out of it," Xiao Zhan admits, that pink flush crawling up his neck again. "Believe me, Yibo — there's a long list."

"But," Yibo says, grasping Xiao Zhan's hand hard enough that he feels the knuckles crack. "You never even got hard!" It doesn't make sense. Even now, after thirty minutes of edging and an immensely satisfying orgasm, Yibo could definitely go again.

Xiao Zhan sighs, ducking his head, a sheepish look crossing his face. "Yeah, I wouldn't have, because I'd get off before you even got here to tide me over. Usually it worked." He shrugs. "Not everyone's a sexual Energizer bunny like you."

"What the fuck, Zhan-ge," Yibo says, plopping down on the armchair again. He feels like he's just run a marathon, or like he's standing outside with his head turned to the sky, fake rain splattering on his face; he can't suck enough air into his lungs. "I didn't think this meant anything to you. You said you'd done this before, for other people—"

Xiao Zhan winces. "When I said I'd done this before, I meant that I gave them advice. I've never been this hands-on about it with anyone else."

Yibo exhales shortly, eyes trained on Xiao Zhan's face, heart hammering away against his sternum. "And why's that?"

"I didn't like them like I like you," Xiao Zhan says, an insistent edge bleeding into his voice. "You think I would buy sex toys for just anybody?" When Yibo doesn't immediately reply, Xiao Zhan's mouth twists. "Listen, Yibo — I was ready to let you sleep with me and then go on your merry way, because I didn't think you wanted anything more than that."

Yibo's so shocked that he lets out a breathless laugh. "Are you kidding me?"

"You said I was a friend helping out a friend," Xiao Zhan points out, which is true, but Yibo was just following his lead! "You said you wanted to practice for future sexual partners."

"You told me not to fall in love with you!"

Xiao Zhan huffs out another laugh of his own, reaching out to grab Yibo's other hand and tugging so that their heads are bent close together. "And we've established that that was an extremely dumb thing for me to say," he says, too earnest, eyes pleading. Fuck, Yibo just can't stay mad at him. "I guess we could stand to be a little more forthcoming with each other. A little more honest."

"I'm always honest," Yibo says mulishly, but there's no heat to it, his fight-or-flight response painstakingly dismantled. He stares down at their overlapping hands, breathing shallowly, and is suddenly all too aware that he's not wearing any pants. His stomach is still covered with come. It seems unfair that Xiao Zhan is still fully dressed.

"Yibo," Xiao Zhan says, quieter, more serious. When Yibo looks up at him again, his face is so open and so fond that Yibo loses his breath again, rib cage squeezing tight around his lungs. "I really like you. I would really like to sleep with you, not because it's your final exam or whatever, but because I want to. And if you'd like, I would really like to keep doing it." He licks his lips, just a brief flash of tongue. "Do you believe me?"

Yibo manages to unstick his jaw for long enough to say, "Maybe if you kissed me, I'd believe it more," and Xiao Zhan starts chuckling again as he leans in and bridges the gap between them. The first press of his mouth to Yibo's is soft and chaste, but it turns dirty as quickly as Yibo can manage. He slants his head and slides his tongue along the seam of Xiao Zhan's lips, drops Xiao Zhan's hands so he can cup Xiao Zhan's neck and scoot in closer, and then he thinks fuck it and crawls completely into Xiao Zhan's lap, the desk chair creaking beneath their combined weight.

Xiao Zhan's hands flutter to Yibo's waist underneath his flimsy t-shirt, palms hot against Yibo's ribs. Yibo can feel Xiao Zhan's breathing beginning to pick up, which is gratifying, and he winds one hand down between them to palm Xiao Zhan through his shorts. "Shit," Xiao Zhan mumbles into his mouth, jostling a little too much. The next moment, they're tumbling over the edge of the seat and spilling across the floor. "Fucking ouch, Yibo."

"My bad," Yibo says, unrepentant, and kisses him again, reaching down to tug Xiao Zhan's clothes aside. His awareness tunnels down to just this, every point their bodies are touching, making Xiao Zhan gasp underneath him, pressing their tongues together.

"There's a perfectly fine bed," Xiao Zhan gasps when Yibo breaks away to trail his mouth down Xiao Zhan's neck. "Think about my back."

"I'll move if you take the rest of your clothes off," Yibo says hopefully.

"You drive a hard bargain," Xiao Zhan says, but they're naked on the bed before long, every glorious inch of Xiao Zhan's bare skin finally revealed. Yibo's seen him in costume and in casual dress, made up for the cameras and after a shower, glasses chunky and hair unstyled; Xiao Zhan always looks good, but Yibo thinks he likes him best like this, propped up on his elbows and watching Yibo slide down to wrap his arms around Xiao Zhan's thighs.

"Zhan-ge," Yibo says, too desperate to be embarrassed about how threadbare his voice comes out. "I really want to suck you off."

"Fuck," Xiao Zhan croaks, the syllable forcefully expelled from his mouth. He's only half-hard still, but Yibo's fairly confident in his ability to get Xiao Zhan all the way there. "Yeah, okay." His mouth quirks up. "Show me what you got."

Yibo licks his lips and takes him in one hand, jacking him slow and easy. Xiao Zhan's dick is as well-proportioned as the rest of him, nestled in a snarl of dark hair, a shade pinker as he fills out. His skin tastes a little salty when Yibo tongues a solid stripe up the vein, when he fits his mouth against the tip and sucks. He works the head for a while, until he feels Xiao Zhan's hips start to twitch, and then opens his mouth wider and starts sliding down.

Xiao Zhan falls back against the pillows, a long groan flowing out of his mouth. Yibo hums; he can tell when Xiao Zhan gets harder, the firm press of his length against the roof of Yibo's mouth and toward the back of his throat. One of Xiao Zhan's hands flies up to his mouth, teeth sinking into his knuckles, and the other floats down to slide into Yibo's hair, tugging gently as Yibo hollows his cheeks, bobs his head. It's been long enough since Yibo last did this that his jaw starts aching too soon, but he likes that touchpoint, the sting keeping him present. "Of course you're good at this," Xiao Zhan murmurs roughly, nails scratching against Yibo's scalp and sending sparks down his spine. "You're good at everything you do."

He tosses his head back as Yibo's lips meet the edge of his fingers, groaning again as Yibo swallows around him, tightening everything. Yibo humps the bed to take the edge off his own erection, but even that feels secondary to Xiao Zhan's squirming pleasure, his heavy panting, the glistening of his skin as he heats up beneath Yibo's mouth. Xiao Zhan has watched Yibo come so many times over the past two months; Yibo wants to see what Xiao Zhan looks like, too.

Yibo gets his answer soon enough; Xiao Zhan's fingers clench in Yibo's hair in a vain attempt to drag his head away. "I'm — going to come, Yibo, you have to — aah," he says, tensing as Yibo redoubles his efforts. He slams so far down that he chokes a little, eyes watering, tongue swiping firmly up the length of Xiao Zhan's dick, and that's it, game over. Xiao Zhan's spine arches as he comes, thighs spasming in Yibo's grip, his whole body shuddering as his release floods down Yibo's throat.

Yibo pulls off with a loud smack, swallowing thickly, and crawls back up the bed. His hand is already moving against his own dick, but Xiao Zhan turns onto his side and knocks it away to replace it with his own, sweaty grip tight around him. It doesn't take much, Yibo jerking and spilling into Xiao Zhan's hand as he collapses against the pillows.

He comes back into himself to the feeling of Xiao Zhan pressed close, heartbeat thudding against Yibo's cheek, fingers drawing loose circles into his hip. The buzzing in Yibo's ears and the tightness in his chest are finally gone, and everything is quiet. "This isn't how I expected today to go," Xiao Zhan murmurs, brushing his mouth against the crown of Yibo's head. "But I'm not mad about it."

Yibo turns his face, cheek brushing against a perky nipple, which he leans in to nip at it, smiling when it makes Xiao Zhan shiver. "So when's my final?" he says, voice raspy, and he can feel the rumble of Xiao Zhan's chuckle.

"You really never quit, do you?" There's a pause, and then an exhale. "Isn't your birthday coming up soon?"

Yibo pushes himself up so quickly that he nearly slips off the edge of the bed. He overbalances to avoid it, rolling halfway onto Xiao Zhan, who catches him and laughs again. "You'll let me fuck you for my birthday? That's so romantic, Zhan-ge," Yibo says, fluttering his eyelashes just to be a shithead, and gasps when Xiao Zhan yanks him back down and pinches his ass.

"Don't make me regret it," he warns, but he lets Yibo lean down and kiss him again, so Yibo is pretty sure he doesn't mean it.



The only thing Yibo regrets is having to wait that long. At the beginning of this, he'd thought a week of not coming lasted forever, but five days until they fuck would've been nearly insurmountable if he didn't know Xiao Zhan was in the same boat. Now that Yibo isn't busy trying to quell his own emotional responses, the meaning behind Xiao Zhan's consideration is a lot more obvious. Maybe he isn't as loud about it as Yibo is, but it's still there in the extra thermos of green tea Xiao Zhan hands him on the bus, in the hook of his chin over Yibo's shoulder while they're watching something play on Zhuocheng's phone, in his recognition of the newest bruises on Yibo's knees from sliding across the dance floor. He's glad those things don't make him feel terrible anymore, but anticipatory; he's not sure how much more gloominess he would've been able to take.

Yibo makes up for the waiting by being as obnoxious as possible on set, whacking Xiao Zhan with his sleeves and yanking on Xiao Zhan's hair ribbon every time they pass each other. "Zhan-ge, didi loves you," he warbles in the woods, grinning when Xiao Zhan pretends to puke and Ji Li shakes his head.

In the evenings, after long days of filming and the extra hours socializing with their castmates, they're usually too tired to do much more than make out lazily in Xiao Zhan's room. The fact that he's allowed to touch Xiao Zhan now still feels like a revelation; even better is that Xiao Zhan lets him crash in his bed instead of going back to his own room, which means he wakes up to kissing too. It's really nice. Yibo needs to invest in more chapstick.

They're filming schoolyard scenes in the white hanfus on the day before Yibo's birthday; Xiao Zhan chases after him with a caterpillar he found in the bushes, and at midnight he leads a countdown so over-the-top that Yibo slaps him with his sleeves through half of it, laughing so hard his face hurts.

The cast and crew end filming early the next day so that they can throw him a real party for dinner. Yibo does a livestream for his fans, cuts a cake with his sword (definitely the dopest thing he's ever done to a cake), and accepts a litany of gifts that his handlers will have to figure out how to ship back to Beijing. Xiao Zhan grins as he offers a bag of his own; Yibo has a split second premonition of reaching in and pulling out some sex toy, but it turns out to be a sick motorcycle helmet, dark blue with lime green highlights. "Happy birthday, kiddo," Xiao Zhan says, ruffling his hair, and then, later, murmurs it again into his ear at the afterparty in Yu Bin's room.

Someone has carted an entire case of beer up to the second floor, and most of the others are well on their way to truly sloshed, so Yibo doesn't feel bad about leaning over and saying, "When are you gonna give me my real present?" The loose collar of Xiao Zhan's shirt is slipping to reveal a smooth expanse of skin that Yibo really wants to get his mouth on.

"Good point," Xiao Zhan says, mouth rising into a smirk, and hauls Yibo up from the couch. "I'm kidnapping the birthday boy for my own nefarious purposes," he announces to the room at large, voice carrying over the karaoke setup that Ji Li managed to hack together.

"Oh, thank god they're getting a room," Ziyi says, and someone else wolf whistles, and that's all Yibo hears before Xiao Zhan whisks him away with a laugh.

Xiao Zhan's room is exactly how they left it in the morning, Yibo's Adidas jacket flung over the corner of the flatscreen TV, Xiao Zhan's glasses sitting on the bedside table next to the bottle of lube and string of condoms that have been taunting Yibo for days. Xiao Zhan kicks his shoes off, peels his socks off, and sinks down on the edge of the bed, and the reality of the situation hits Yibo like a ton of bricks. Xiao Zhan wants Yibo to fuck him, and that's happening tonight, come hell or high water. Some of Yibo's nervousness must show on his face, because Xiao Zhan's expression softens. He gestures with his hand and says, "C'mere."

Yibo shuffles over. Xiao Zhan reels him in, settling back against the pillows, Yibo sinking over him. They kiss like that, relaxed and unhurried, the minutes slipping by like water, until the rest of their clothing has been discarded and the inside of Yibo's mouth feels hot and tender. Xiao Zhan's hard against Yibo's stomach by then, and his dexterous hands are mapping out the planes of Yibo's back. His fingers dig into Yibo's shoulder blades as Yibo rolls his hips, their erections sliding against each other.

They're both gasping a little when they break apart. Xiao Zhan tips his chin up and presses his mouth to Yibo's cheek, his jaw, the soft skin behind his ear. "Do you need me to talk you through how to finger me open?"

"No, I got it," Yibo says, reaching for the lube on the bedside table. He's done this to himself before, so at least it's familiar. Xiao Zhan eases a fluffy pillow beneath his lower back while Yibo squeezes an ample portion of lube onto his fingers. He dribbles some more along Xiao Zhan's crack and pushes his thumb against the rim, squeezing his other hand around Xiao Zhan's right thigh.

"God, your hands are so big," Xiao Zhan sighs, shifting as Yibo spreads his legs further apart. "You don't even know how much I've thought about—"

He cuts himself off with a loud curse as the tip of Yibo's index finger sinks inside him past the first knuckle. "You can tell me more about that later," Yibo says, wiggling a little. Xiao Zhan's tight, but he loosens up gradually when Yibo slides his finger in deeper, fucking in and out slowly, and then adds another. Yibo can tell exactly when he manages to rub the spot inside Xiao Zhan that makes him light up, because Xiao Zhan hisses and goes rigid, blowing out a big breath.

Xiao Zhan's dick is starting to go soft by the time Yibo eases a third finger in, but Xiao Zhan grabs Yibo's wrist when he reaches for it. "Yibo," he says, another gust of air wheezing out of him. "That's good, that's enough. I'm ready."

"Okay," Yibo says, exhaling quickly. He reaches for one of the condom packets and rips it open, rolling it down his aching cock, and hisses when he slicks himself up. It's almost too much to handle. When he settles back in Xiao Zhan's lap, Yibo is struck anew by every tiny detail of this moment: the gleaming clench of Xiao Zhan's neck as he swallows, the steady press of his thighs along Yibo's sides, the slight tremble of Xiao Zhan's stomach. This whole time, Yibo has been trying to better himself, but here, now, with Xiao Zhan smiling up at him, it all feels too real. Like everything hinges on this one thing. He really, really doesn't want to get this wrong.

"Hey," Xiao Zhan says, reaching out to cup Yibo's face. A fine sheen of sweat has already gathered on his skin; in this light, it looks like he's glowing. "Sweetheart, are you alright?"

"Yeah," Yibo says, letting his hands settle at Xiao Zhan's tiny waist, squeezing gently. "I just don't wanna fuck it up."

"Oh, Yibo," Xiao Zhan says, craning his neck up to kiss him. "You couldn't. Seriously." He stretches his legs out and closes them around Yibo's waist, drawing him in. "And just for the record, it really doesn't matter to me how fast you come. I don't care. We can figure it out as we go."

The knot sitting on top of Yibo's diaphragm untangles, disappears. He ducks to kiss Xiao Zhan again, breath leaving him in a whoosh, and his dick rubs along the damp crack of Xiao Zhan's ass. Xiao Zhan groans into his mouth, arms looping around his neck.

"Come on," he murmurs. "What the hell are you waiting for?"

Yibo pulls his head back for just long enough to line himself up, and Xiao Zhan cries out as the tip slides in. The clutch of his body is so much tighter than the masturbation sleeve, even after being fingered open; Yibo has to grit his teeth halfway through, pausing briefly to catch his breath. "One sec," he says, nails digging into Xiao Zhan's ribs.

"Take as much time as you need," Xiao Zhan murmurs. He kisses Yibo again, which is enough of a distraction for Yibo to slide a little bit deeper, and then a little more. Incremental progress, Yibo thinks, remembering their line graphs, and smiles into the kiss.

Bottoming out is so overwhelming that he has to close his eyes for a moment, burying his face in the crook of Xiao Zhan's neck and panting loudly. He feels Xiao Zhan's hands carding through his hair, the impression of his mouth brushing against Yibo's temple, the heels of his feet digging into Yibo's lower back. It's hard to even make out what Xiao Zhan's murmuring over the roar in his ears, and the words come to an abrupt stop when Yibo experimentally rolls his hips.

"Fuck," Xiao Zhan says, mouth dragging wetly across Yibo's cheek. "That's it, honey."

Yibo manages to keep himself still for another long moment, and then he slides out and back in again, the slap of their bodies coming together ringing through the room. He focuses on the rhythm, rocking in and out, the flex of his thighs and his hips, and it helps take his mind off the tightness in his stomach, at least for a while. He adjusts, changing the angle a bit, until he slides in just so and hears Xiao Zhan's breath hitch, feels him tighten around Yibo. He pushes past the wave of pleasure threatening to tug him under, wedges one hand between them, and wraps it around Xiao Zhan's dick. That feels good too, hearing Xiao Zhan gasp and come alive underneath him. "Zhan-ge," he says, "fuck," and can't help the way he pistons faster, bearing down as he thrusts forward. "I'm close."

"It's okay," Xiao Zhan mumbles, peppering his face with kisses, cradling Yibo's head in his hands. "Come whenever you want, baby."

It's not the endearment that does him in but the long moan that Xiao Zhan lets out when Yibo stops holding back and fucks into him as fast as he can, chasing the heat in his stomach over the edge. He manages to sink into Xiao Zhan two more times before orgasm overtakes him, leaves him buried hilt-deep and collapsed against Xiao Zhan, every muscle in his body vibrating like a plucked guqin string.

When he winds down, still shaking, he's hard enough to keep fucking Xiao Zhan through the stinging sensitivity, and has the presence of mind to keep his hand moving over Xiao Zhan's leaking dick. "Oh, fuck, Yibo," Xiao Zhan groans, nails biting into Yibo's nape, scratching across the top of his spine, and then he's spilling between them, baring his neck as he throws his head back.

Yibo mouths at the slope of Xiao Zhan's Adam's apple as he shudders through it. When he finally relaxes enough for Yibo to slide out of him, Xiao Zhan stretches his legs with a sigh and gathers Yibo in so that they're pressed chest to chest, uncaring of the sweat and jizz sticking between them. "Did I pass?" Yibo asks, voice hoarse, and Xiao Zhan chuckles wetly, nipping at Yibo's nose.

"Mm," he says, eyes sliding shut. "I think I need more data points to be sure. A lot more."

"Should I make another graph?"

"Later," Xiao Zhan says, curling his arm over Yibo's waist, "too fucked out for scientific rigor," and yeah, Yibo feels pretty good about taking that as a sign of a job well done. Maybe he'll be able to coax Xiao Zhan into collecting another data point when they manage to roll themselves into the shower, but for now, he's content to squirm closer and bask in the satisfaction, letting it bear him down to rest.