"What's with the 'whoa', huh?" Jiang Xun asked. "Don't pick up Jiang Ying's bad habits."
"It's not the same," Gu Wei retorted. "That was a 'whoa', not an 'oh'. It expresses a totally different emotion. My 'whoa' means I'm… pleasantly surprised."
"The director wants to rope me into doing some work for him," Jiang Xun said, "and you're happy about that?"
"Of course I'm happy, I finally get to leech off your popularity a little," Gu Wei said. "My anti-fans slam me for leeching off you all the time, and I've never even had a chance to really leech anything yet."
Plus, this way, Jiang Xun would be able to stay with him for a little while longer.
"So, did you… agree to it?" Gu Wei asked. The director's request really had been a nice surprise for Gu Wei.
"Weiwei," Jiang Xun countered, "do you want me to agree?"
"Of course I want you to!"
Ning Yao's character appeared in Miao Zihan's life right when he needed her, and Jiang Xun had appeared in Gu Wei's life.
Gu Wei was so elated that he forgot all about the pain in his knees. He tried to stand up in his excitement, but as soon as he leapt to his feet, a sharp burst of pain shot through his legs. They gave out under him, and he started falling towards the floor.
Jiang Xun's reaction was extremely quick; he caught Gu Wei before he could fall, then scolded, "Sit down and behave. You're not being a very good boy today at all."
"It hurts…" Gu Wei whimpered. He hadn't taken the bruises on his knees very seriously at first, but now he had to admit the pain truly was intense.
Could it be that a minor injury could start to hurt more after it was discovered by someone else? Maybe Gu Wei's knees wanted the attention, the sympathy.
"What are you two doing this…"
Jiang Xun had only nudged the door shut earlier, without letting the lock slide into place. Mu Yue pushed open the door and was thoroughly scandalized by what she saw inside, until she spotted the bruises on Gu Wei's knees and realized she'd misunderstood.
"How did this happen?" she demanded. "I'll talk to the crew and get to the bottom of what happened with their landing mats."
"It's my fault," Gu Wei hastily corrected, shaking his head. "It's because I'm so new and haven't really learned how to act or move right yet."
So he'd had to give it his all, even if that meant covering himself in scrapes and bruises.
"Give it here, I'll do it." Jiang Xun held out a hand for the medicinal ointment Mu Yue had brought up.
Mu Yue knew it was rare for these two to get a chance to meet up, so naturally she had no intention of disrupting their time for long. After helping Jiang Xun find some cotton balls and swabs, she headed back downstairs.
Gu Wei had originally planned on treating his injuries himself, but Jiang Xun insistently got him situated on the bed and tended to his wounds. While applying the ointment with the cotton balls, Jiang Xun spoke to Gu Wei as well.
"Do you like acting?" Jiang Xun asked.
It was late autumn, and the ointment felt a little cold as Jiang Xun gently swabbed it over Gu Wei's bruises. The light press of the cotton ball made Gu Wei's skin itch a little as well, and he instinctively squirmed, starting to pull his legs back, only to have them pinned in place by Jiang Xun.
"I like it," Gu Wei answered.
He liked it as much as he liked dancing.
The agency had designated him as a popular internet star, and they hoped he would continue to advance his career as an idol. For the most part, they only accepted variety shows for him. The opportunity to act in Like the Moon was one Gu Wei had fought for and earned for himself. To him, it was an opportunity to experience something fresh and new.
"Acting doesn't work the way you think it does," Jiang Xun continued. "That's not to say your way won't work, but if you keep forcing yourself like that, you'll end up making things very difficult for yourself.
"I'm not a professional actor, so I can't teach you everything." He paused to clean up the cotton balls. "Jiang Ying's no good either. He's a shitty actor, and he doesn't want to work hard to get better. What you did this afternoon was already a hundred times better than what he can do on a set. If you really like acting, I'll find someone to teach you properly."
Gu Wei did listen to Jiang Xun speak, but he was also busy staring at Jiang Xun's gorgeous hands.
"If you want to do a good job at being Miao Zihan, if you become him when you film a scene, that's fine. But when the director yells 'cut', you have to be Gu Wei again." Jiang Xun poured a glass of milk for Gu Wei, but after showing genuine concern for a while, he felt like teasing Gu Wei a little more. So, cheekily, he added, "If you don't come back to being Gu Wei, where am I going to find another fiancé?"
The 'fiancé' didn't react at all. He was too busy staring at Jiang Xun's hands.
"What are you looking at?" Jiang Xun reached out and waved a hand in front of Gu Wei's eyes. "We're having a conversation."
Only then did Gu Wei realize his mind had wandered off.
Jiang Xun recalled the days Gu Wei had spent with him at TMW's club, and he remembered Gu Wei, back then, had also stared raptly at his hands.
"If you like them," Jiang Xun suddenly said, "I'll let you kiss them."
Gu Wei refused to respond to that.
Couldn't Jiang Xun let his private… preferences stay private?
But, seeing as Jiang Xun had been the one to bring it up, Gu Wei didn't let the opportunity pass him by. He grabbed Jiang Xun's hand and turned it this way and that, examining it to his heart's content, before suddenly reaching up and covering Jiang Xun's eyes with one hand. He gripped Jiang Xun's hand in his other, and pressed a kiss to Jiang Xun's knuckles.
"You're a pretty quick learner," Jiang Xun said, with his eyes still covered by Gu Wei's hand. "You've learned to kiss me on the cheek, and you've learned to kiss my fingers. Next time, will you learn how to kiss me somewhere else?"
"Where?" Gu Wei asked, not catching on to Jiang Xun's meaning. "Tell me. You don't have to wait for next time."
Jiang Xun hummed cryptically before he said, "Weiwei has greeted it once before, but he hasn't seen it yet. He'll probably see a lot of it in the future, though."
Gu Wei cocked his head inquisitively.
What the heck could that be?
Jiang Xun, with his eyes still covered, leaned in slowly. Gu Wei suddenly felt a little dizzy and disoriented as the familiar woodsy scent of Jiang Xun's cologne surrounded him. He was left in a daze until Jiang Xun whispered, directly in his ear, exactly what he wanted Gu Wei to kiss.
"Right there," Jiang Xun added. "Wanna try?"
"Pervert," Gu Wei grumbled, hastily pushing Jiang Xun away and climbing under the covers. "You're too much. Go to sleep!"
That really would have to wait until next time. Possibly even next next time.
Jiang Xun, completing his daily task of teasing his little friend a bit, gazed fondly at the ball Gu Wei had curled into under the sheets. Satisfied, he went to turn off the lights before climbing into bed with Gu Wei.
"Weiwei," Jiang Xun called out.
"What?" Gu Wei mumbled. His voice was still muffled by the covers hiding his face.
"No more bullying tonight," Jiang Xun promised. "Last time, you told me you had some trouble with your mood before you entered the entertainment industry. Can you tell me more about that?"
"Actually, I… was planning on telling you everything." Gu Wei released his firm grip on the blankets and turned over to face Jiang Xun. "But I just kept wondering… ge, if I'm not as good as you think I am, will you not want me anymore?"
As soon as the words fell from his lips, Gu Wei could tell Jiang Xun wasn't happy to hear them.
Jiang Xun reached out under the covers and wrapped his arms around Gu Wei, firmly pulling him closer.
Gu Wei knew he had said something wrong. Not only did he not try to escape Jiang Xun's hold, he even voluntarily shifted a little closer, giving himself over to Jiang Xun's embrace. If Jiang Xun wanted to bully him now, then he probably deserved it.
"I'll have to punish you if you ask me a question like that again," Jiang Xun whispered fiercely. "I won't stop wanting you, so when will you say you 'want' me too?"
Gu Wei thought about that for a long moment, taking in the emphasis Jiang Xun put on a certain word, before realizing that Jiang Xun was thinking perverted thoughts again.
But after Jiang Xun messed with him a little, Gu Wei's original worries had all disappeared.
"I was a second-year in high school back then, when I started feeling a little… down," he started, finally recounting the events from back then to Jiang Xun. "I felt like I was worthless, like life was meaningless. I couldn't get interested in anything, and it felt like the whole world just… wasn't even real. Sometimes, my whole body would feel numb, and when I got myself checked out at the hospital, they said it was mild depression."
Jiang Xun had heard from Chu Yi that these were all common symptoms of clinical depression. A sluggishness in the morning, a listlessness in the evening. A sense of surrealness, occasional bouts of dissociation, and feelings of numbness.
"Besides medication, did you ever receive any treatment?" Jiang Xun asked. "Counseling?"
"No, I didn't even take that much medicine. It had some side effects on me. It would make me shake all over, so I stopped taking it." Gu Wei shook his head as he spoke, his hair brushing over the back of Jiang Xun's hand. "My dad said if I found a lot of people to talk to and kept myself busy, then my sleeping problems would just go away."
Jiang Xun was silent.
Keeping oneself busy for a short period of time could temporarily alleviate the symptoms of depression, but it wasn't a long-term solution. And when major events arose in life, the negative emotions would surge back up. Jiang Xun had heard from Song Jingxi that Gu Wei had fallen back into a bad mental state after being attacked so fiercely by the whole internet over the choreography plagiarism scandal.
But even during those times, the little idol had still brought his kindest, warmest smiles to the stage.
How could anyone stand to torment this kind, warm Gu Wei?
"But don't worry, I'm totally fine now," Gu Wei continued. "Recording a variety show with you felt so meaningful to me. Choosing a present for you felt meaningful. Going back on set and filming again tomorrow, that feels meaningful too."
It was Jiang Xun who had told him that he was needed, and that he was loved.
Gu Wei could learn to be loved, and he would learn to love others in return.
Besides the fluctuation in his mood from earlier that afternoon, Gu Wei hadn't experienced a period of depression ever since he met Jiang Xun.
"I got it, I got it. You're doing well now," Jiang Xun said. Gu Wei had sounded like he was waiting for praise and approval, and Jiang Xun couldn't help but give him everything he wanted. He tightened his arms around Gu Wei and pulled him even closer.
"Hm?" Gu Wei hummed.
"A reward for learning how to kiss your fiancé," Jiang Xun murmured. "And a makeup for the hug I couldn't give you earlier."
The shoot that day had been hard. It didn't take long for Gu Wei to fall asleep, comforted by the haze of Jiang Xun's familiar cologne.
Jiang Xun wasn't needed on set for long. Once he agreed to the director's request, the director excitedly scheduled Jiang Xun's scenes to be shot immediately.
Miao Zihan, who had just passed the rookie selection process for an esports team, received another beating at home. During his next training session, he was so woozy that he almost fainted during practice. He was fiercely scolded by the coach, and after being left alone in the training room, where all the lights had already been turned off, Miao Zihan sank into a corner and suffered in silence.
Jiang Xun's appearance in this scene was to be a surprise for the viewers, so at that time, only the cast and crew knew of his involvement in the show.
Gu Wei was in costume, wearing Miao Zihan's team uniform and sitting in front of the hazy glow of a computer screen. He lifted his hands from the keyboard and leaned back in his chair. His lips were a little pale.
"What's the matter with you?" the coach snapped icily. "How can you make this many basic mistakes? Do you think you can slack off now that you're one of our rookies?
"Next time you perform this bad, you're off the team."
The coach was ruthless, and the other players surrounding Miao Zihan were all laughing at him and making fun of him behind their hands. The stubborn Miao Zihan grit his teeth and refused to show any traces of weakness, and he wouldn't open his mouth to make excuses for himself either. It wasn't until everyone else had left the training room that he got up and turned off all the lights, before returning to one corner of the room and burying his head in his arms.
Someone knocked on the door, then pushed it open. "How come there's still a poor kid hanging out in here?"
Gu Wei had been in the dark for too long. When he looked up, he could only see a blinding swath of light. And from that light, a figure wearing the same uniform as Miao Zihan approached.
The light was so bright and harsh that Gu Wei had to blink several times, and those blinks brought tears to his eyes.
Jiang Xun stopped in front of Gu Wei with the team's jacket draped over his shoulders. He leaned down and reached out, gently wiping away those tears. "Don't cry, and go get some rest. I've seen your practice games. One day, you'll be a world champion."
The camera panned over, capturing Jiang Xun's profile.
"Alright, cut!" the director shouted. "That was great, that was perfect! We're all set on this scene, no need to shoot again."
For a moment, Gu Wei wasn't sure if he'd heard that right.
According to the director's original plan, Jiang Xun was supposed to pass by the training room while Miao Zihan was hiding alone in the dark. At that point, Jiang Xun would offer a few words of reassurance.
Gu Wei didn't know why, but in the instant that he saw Jiang Xun, the urge to cry had welled up inside of him. Afterwards, all his actions and expressions had been instinctive, and Jiang Xun had matched him every step of the way.
Gu Wei had thought this part would need another take for sure, yet the director had said it was perfect.
There was one more scene they shot together. Miao Zihan was deeply focused on a training session when someone walked behind him and laid a hand over his, guiding the movements of his mouse to teach him a new trick. In this scene, the camera also only captured Jiang Xun's profile before the shot changed to a close-up of their hands.
"Are you sure you don't want to act? It's such a waste to squander your talent…" The director was a chatterbox. He pulled Jiang Xun aside after those scenes and talked his ear off. "Your talent is just so immense! It would be such a pity if you don't use it."
"I won't act," Jiang Xun stated adamantly. "I haven't studied the craft, I'm not interested in studying it, and I'm not good at it. I only agreed to make a cameo to please my Little Gu, and now that he's satisfied, I'm done."
While Jiang Xun was held up by the chatty director, Gu Wei found a place to sit and wait for him.
"That your sponsor?" He Cheng asked as he passed Gu Wei.
Gu Wei's head was still somewhat trapped in the scene he'd just done. He didn't really care enough to give He Cheng a proper answer, and he certainly didn't care enough to explain that Jiang Xuan was his fiancé, not his sponsor.
"None of your business," Gu Wei said, without bothering to look up at He Cheng. "In any case, he's younger and better looking and richer and nicer than your sponsor."
After thinking about it for a moment, he added, "Oh, and his hands are really good-looking."
Mu Yue, who had been on her way over to Gu Wei, froze in place.
He Cheng didn't seem to be very amused by his inability to provoke Gu Wei, and he quickly left of his own volition.
"He was scolded by the director today," Mu Yue whispered when she finally reached Gu Wei's side. "This afternoon. It was a pretty intense lecture, too. In front of everyone, the director threw the script in He Cheng's face and told him to memorize his lines or get the hell off his set.
"I don't think He Cheng will dare treat you poorly in the future. It can't be denied that you're a better actor than him, and that you work harder."
Mu Yue still got a little angry just thinking about the way He Cheng used to treat Gu Wei.
Gu Wei silently mulled over Mu Yue's report for a moment.
Auntie Song could probably change her blowfish avatar now. It seemed her job was done.
"You have a variety show recording this week," Mu Yue reminded him as they went over the itinerary Manager Zhao had sent them. "We'll leave over the weekend, and we've already cleared your schedule with the cast and crew here."
"Where are we filming the next part?" Gu Wei asked.
"It'll all be on a film set, and everyone will be dressed up in ancient costumes. I've heard there might be a bit of a horror element. Scared?"
"Not scared." Gu Wei was, for the very first time, looking forward to filming a variety show.
Because he would be going with Jiang Xun. There was no way he would find it scary; it would definitely be fun.
"You have a new message," Mu Yue said, pointing to Gu Wei's phone.
Gu Wei looked down and saw the notification—
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Gu Wei, Gu Wei, are you there, are you there.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: CuteBlush.jpg
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Here's my apology—
[Big-Clawed Crab]: 1. FFXW is real, all other ships are fake.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: 2. You stole my blankets that night, so I stole your pillow. We're square.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: 3. If you're engaged, you're engaged. But work is work.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: FriendsForever.jpg
It was more or less the same apology Jiang Xun had received, but Gu Wei, having seen both versions, could see that everything was different except that old-fashioned boomer meme.
So he also left Jiang Ying on read.