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The ride home had been quiet. That wasn't particularly abnormal by any stretch of imagination, Wang Yibo usually had very little to say to those he shared a professional relationship with. This silence, however, seemed to emphasize the yawning chasm created by the absence of anyone else, and, therefore, any distractions, within the vehicle.

As the quiet ride continued, the silence seemed to press on his eardrums even more and he couldn't stop the replay of the flat look in Xiao Zhan’s eyes as he left the studio with a professionally cold bow. Every time Yibo thought of it he grew restless, fighting back the urge to take some kind of action, as if he could somehow find the other man and shake him until the answer as to why Yibo had been subjected to that look had fallen out of him.

There hadn't even been a twitch on Xiao Zhan’s end during the entire interview to indicate where something had gone wrong, but, at a certain point, his smiles had become more forced, not quite reaching his eyes. The more Yibo thought about it, the more he was certain that the cold look had been related to that question.

He leaned his elbow further into the armrest on the right, staring avidly out the window with his thumb pressed under his chin and a finger covering his mouth. His left hand curled into a tight fitst on his thigh, knuckles sharp and white with the strength of the tension he felt.

He could only guess that Xiao Zhan hadn't appreciated the question regarding their relationship. What kind of reporter asks stupid stuff like that, anyway? He felt a sudden flare of irritation pass through him quickly before he repressed it.

He pressed his lips together as he thought. Yes, it was definitely after that when Xiao Zhan had begun to operate with a strangely detached attitude. Yibo guessed it was likely that not many people would pick up on such a minute change in character as the changes were so subtle, but he knew. He knew because he’d spent so much time observing Xiao Zhan.

At first, he’d spent time with the other man because he’d known he needed to get comfortable with him so they could play their parts together well. After that, it grew into an easy friendship. Being familiar with Xiao Zhan had been effortless and their friendship had developed at a rate and to a depth he normally found impossible to achieve with people.

Before he’d truly realized what was happening, there had been a prickling at the edges of his mind that eased him gradually into becoming even closer to the other man. Shortly after, the unexpected, and strange by any Chinese standard, stray thoughts had flitted across his mind. Thoughts like he’s amazing, looks so good even without makeup, and I want to be around him always.

But even those weren't really enough to tip Wang Yibo’s scales into awareness. No, that didn't come until the thoughts started permeating his dreams in the most unexpected and, at first, unwelcome ways.

He’d tried to write the dreams off as hormones, needing to get laid, and spending so much time with the other man. But the dreams were persistent and he quickly became embarrassed at how often he woke to sticky sheets and vague images of a debauched Xiao Zhan lingering in his mind.

After quite a few weeks of wrestling with this newfound anomaly, (during which, if he spent time on set with Xiao Zhan, he would end up smacking him with the nearest prop or his robe sleeves every time a thought of him invaded Yibo’s consciousness) he eventually had been forced to acknowledge his growing attraction to and feelings for the other man. Thereafter, he began dropping hints, just to see how Xiao Zhan would respond, but either Xiao Zhan was completely oblivious or silently rejecting him in hopes of avoiding the awkward confrontation that might inevitably ensue.

So, seeing that this was the case, Yibo quietly packed away his feelings and acted every day as if their relationship was just that of two really close friends in hopes that, over time, this would truly become the case as the sting of unrequited love faded on his end. Therefore, when the reporter this time around had asked, it had already been a foregone conclusion for Yibo that a relationship between them was impossible. He’d not only said the right thing (he was a professional idol, after all), but also believed in his heart that he was correct. Their relationship was impossible, because Xiao Zhan simply did not have that kind of interest towards him.

His fingers tightened over his mouth, brow furrowing as he stared out the window. So why had Xiao Zhan gone from his usual warm and honest friend, to a coldly professional colleague from the precise time in which the interviewer had asked about their relationship being deeper and Yibo had rejected the concept out of hand?

It couldn't be because the interviewer had asked. Xiao Zhan wasn't like Yibo; he didn't become bothered when reporters asked things that were too intimate or questions that if they answered honestly might lose them fans. He took it all in stride, a true open book, as it were. But, if it wasn't the question then could it be…could it be the response?

Yibo felt the first flares of hope in his gut but he tried to push them down. Impossible! There was no way that, after all this time, Xiao Zhan would choose now to reveal any modicum of affection beyond the norm towards him. And, in fact, he hadn't. He’d closed down towards the younger, which, incidentally, was far more telling than if he had carried on as normal.

The hand fisted on his thigh loosened and he began to rap his fingertips sharply over the tight fabric encasing his leg. No. He wouldn't let himself think it. He didn't need to wind himself up only to be devastated when the inevitable rumors about Xiao Zhan and his other co-stars began based on his other drama rolls.

The women in his other projects were far more likely to be the target of Xiao Zhan’s affections than Wang Yibo, being a younger male, could bear to even dream about.

There wasn't a way in Hell he'd analyzed the situation correctly. He needed to stop the false starts of hope that kept welling up in his chest every time any sort of easily misconstrued “sign” seemed to come from the older man.

His fingers stopped tapping, curling loosely into his palm as his unseeing eyes continued to stare out the window. His heart gave a familiar pained squeeze as he forced himself to give up again. The corners of his lips twitched into the barest of frowns as he felt the also familiar wave of hopelessness crash over him.

His manager didn't look back and Yibo kept his expression smoothly composed. It didn't matter what the look Xiao Zhan had pinned him with might mean. Next time he saw the man, they'd be back to normal and that would be that. He’d have the other man’s friendship, which was all he dared ask for.