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He was an interminable ass with a much more famous girlfriend and she couldn't stand to look at him sometimes.

She was a brat trying to act like a grown-up but failing badly at it and he wished to God they'd cast a woman instead of a girl.

He treated her like she was twelve.

She acted like she was twelve.

He knew she was sixteen. And he hated himself for it and she hated him for hating himself, but that didn't keep it from happening.

He was in costume, in the shiny faux-chainmail with the too-long sleeves that he complained about constantly and she was wearing a headset that kept slipping down too low. She was clearly irritable and his voice was breaking and one of the straps of her dress kept dropping off her shoulder, drawing his eye. Garou was talking loudly in the second row, doing it on purpose to try to lighten the mood but it just made Julie scowl and that did nothing for her voice. Patrick sighed and rubbed his eyes. They broke off mid-song and they tried again.

It was better the second time but his voice wasn't going to hold up for much longer. He'd got into the show without really understanding what it was going to mean in terms of commitment, what it was going to mean physically, and deep into rehearsals he was paying the price. Julie kept looking at him like he'd committed some kind of unforgivable sin, as though she weren't swallowing syllables left and right like she'd forgotten what enunciation was. But she was good, and he was good, and the songs were good and the show would be good, and he kept going because of that.

"You were terrible,” she told him, afterwards.

He was walking away but he stopped, turned abruptly. There were things he wanted to say but every time he looked at her it was like every bit of wit eluded him. She was practically glaring. He couldn't think of a damn thing to say except, "You weren't exactly Maria Callas out there yourself, princess.”

She laughed. He turned and walked away, and she followed him. She followed him right into his dressing room and she stood there in the doorway while people bustled up and down the corridor behind her, occasionally jostling her in the narrow hallway though she stood her ground despite it. He had no idea what she wanted, and so he started to undress right there in front of her. He wasn't exactly shy; she'd turn away first, he thought.

She did. She looked flustered for once, her cheeks flushed and when she turned away and stalked out of the doorway, Patrick caught a flash of something there in her expression. It wasn't exactly foreign to him, given his particular occupation, given the fact that nature hadn't exactly been unkind to him as far as his looks were concerned. His bratty, impossible co-worker wanted him.

He meant to use it against her, at least to make her shut up and act like a professional for once since they'd met. The only problem there was that he couldn't think how, and she was actually the picture of professionalism with everyone else but him. Bruno and Daniel had nothing but good things to say about her, she was forever practicing and whenever Patrick said anything against her, someone jumped on him immediately with genuine praise for their Fleur de Lys. And so, when she lurked there in his dressing room door again, it was hard to think of any way to angle that knowledge to hurt her. And when he looked at her, he wasn't sure he even wanted to.

She leaned against the door frame with her hands crossed under her bust though he tried hard not to notice, telling him exactly what was wrong with his voice. He took off his fake chainmail and laid it over the back of a chair, pulled off his black shirt and laid it over the top. She was still talking but at nowhere near the same rate and so he toed off his shoes, balanced surprisingly well to pull off his socks, and then looked at her.

"I know I'm pretty but are you going to stand there until I'm naked?" he asked.

She went red and went quiet and she tried to retort but clearly couldn't find the words, and suddenly he felt terrible. But she hadn't left. He tilted his head.

"If you're not leaving, come in and close the door."

She just stood there for a second like she wasn't sure what she was really meant to do next, then she came in and she nudged the door closed the door behind her. Her arms dropped from her chest and she stood there, looking lost, looking embarrassed, looking at him. She looked uncomfortable, and she looked just a little turned on. Frankly, he was surprised she hadn't left.

He moved closer, and her eyes widened just a little. He stopped, suddenly unsure and hating himself for it when this had been his plan, his game, sure she'd flinch first. And then, she moved, stepped right in and leaned up quickly, up on tiptoe and she kissed him, quickly, awkwardly. It was a peck on the lips that didn't really work and as she took a step back, he had to fight down the urge to laugh at the absurdity of it. He was under no illusions that she completely lacked experience, he'd heard her talk about a boyfriend or two, but that didn't mean she wasn't young. Probably too young for all of this, considering that a whole person close to as old as she was could fit between their two ages. But it gave him back his confidence in spite of that fact.

"Come here," he said, the volume of his voice dropping a fraction, though his tone didn't soften. She came closer, looking sceptical. He stepped in and closed the gap she'd left and he supposed it should have been awkward, just as awkward as that first moment, because they'd been this close a hundred times in rehearsals but never like this, not really like this. And, of course, he'd been much closer to fully clothed on all of those prior occasions.

He slipped an arm around her waist, his palm pressing flat to the small of her back over the thin fabric of her pink dress. Her hands went to his bare shoulders. And he kissed her, slowly, firmly, like he meant it and he guessed he did. She wanted him and he wanted her despite himself, in spite of everything. Déchiré didn't even begin to cover it.

There was a knock on the door and they sprang apart almost comically, her eyes wide and him filled with disgust entirely pointed at himself. He told himself it was for the best as she vanished from the room like he'd struck her, and she fled down the corridor as the wardrobe tech came in, looking at him quizzically for a moment before it seemed to occur to her that she actually didn't care about the performers' private lives. He told himself it would never happen again, and he believed it right up until the moment that it happened again.

She was back again after the next rehearsal, and they kissed again once he'd mostly undressed again, his hand at the small of her back again, her hands at his bare chest. Her lips were soft, she didn't complain about the stubble that covered his jaw, and once the kiss ended she left, leaving him at least a little confused. It was the same the next time and the next after that, it was the same for months, when the show started it was the same, she'd be there after every performance and it would happen the exact same way, over and over.

He started stripping down to his briefs, a relief after the heat of the stage lights and a vague attempt to make her stop, make her think twice, make her decide this was going too far, but it didn't work like that at all. Another week of that, kissing her there in his dressing room in his underwear like an oversexed pervert pushing thirty when she was still in her teens, and then he took it further again; he hesitated just for a moment, looking at himself in the wide mirror there on the wall, looking at her, and then he pulled off his briefs, too. But she didn't leave, they kissed just like they always did though her face seemed a little more flushed and her dress against his bare skin seemed electric. Before she left, her eyes lingered. He resisted the urge to cover up. And he expected a witty insult to his manhood, but none actually came. All she did was smile at him before she left, and he had the feeling his plan had backfired.

It went on like that for another month and it was torture. He couldn't let himself go any further, that was obvious, but nothing he'd done to try to push her away had worked at all and in the end he guessed he hadn't done much, or hadn't done enough. His hands tried to stray, to find the curve of a breast or move down, gather her long dress and find their way beneath. He found himself wondering about her at the oddest of times, wondering obscenely over coffee in the morning or in the middle of a conversation with her or someone else, wondering on stage while she was singing or afterwards when they kissed, wondering about the exact shade of her nipples, if she shaved or if she waxed or if she was natural down there between her thighs, what he'd find if he lifted her dress. He wondered about her sex, if her labia were thick and long and he'd need to part them with his fingers before he entered her or if they'd be smaller, almost parting themselves as he spread her legs with his palms. He imagined every option, disgusted with himself even as he closed his eyes and asked himself how it would feel to push inside her if she were this way or that way and she'd probably still be sniping at him as he did it, critiquing his technique. He jerked himself off to the idea of her, ashamed but not ashamed enough to stop.

The weather turned hotter. He was sweaty and uncomfortable by the time they left the stage, his hair a mess, his costume in need of a thorough washing. Maybe the last thing he wanted was for her to slip into his room and close the door behind her, turn the latch and wait the way she always did. He wanted to leave, get home, take a shower and sleep and not have to worry at all about the way he was thinking of his teenaged co-worker, though she was 17 by then but that hardly seemed to matter. But he took off his shirts, his shoes, every last item he'd worn throughout the show, stripped bare and then looked up at her in the mirror, over-warm and irritated. She'd been needling him again, about the way sometimes he didn't really attack the high notes or some such idiotic crap he wasn't convinced was true. He was practically scowling.

Then she pushed the straps of her dress down over her shoulders. She pushed it down, frowning a little as it clung to her damp skin but she persevered. She bared her breasts, her stomach, bared her sex and her legs and stepped out of the pool of pink fabric as she looked at him in the mirror like she was daring him to make the next move because she couldn't stand that he was holding back, or couldn't stand that they were at this impasse. He hated that he couldn't turn down a bet. He hated that his cock was already stiffening.

He moved. He pushed her back against the wall and he kissed her; it was rougher than it had ever been before, he was too hot and so was she and this was the last thing he needed. His hands moved over her bare skin, sticky, pinched one nipple and made her gasp against his mouth. He dipped down, his lips at the crook of her neck, his hands following the curve of her waist, the curve of her backside, and his mouth trailed down lower, between her breasts, sucking briefly, roughly at one nipple and then the other before he finally came down to his knees on the floor at her feet.

He looked up at her. She wasn't looking at him, her eyes were closed and that made it easier somehow as his gaze came down. Her sex was waxed in its entirety, quite recently, probably earlier that day if the slightly reddened tint to the skin was anything to judge by. She'd planned this, perhaps, thought about the way she'd drop her dress and expose herself to him and maybe she'd thought that would put a stop to the polite kissing, maybe she'd thought he'd balk at the idea and she'd win their strange little game of chicken or he'd finally take it further and he realised he'd had no idea all along what exactly it was that she wanted except for him, in some ill-defined way. He could give her that.

After a moment he shuffled in closer, changed his mind and moved for a moment to drag a chair across the room; he guided one of her feet up onto it, watching her face flush red as he exposed her completely. He leaned in, let his fingertips brush her lips that were partially parted so prettily and he turned his head just a fraction to run his tongue across them. He ran his hands over her thighs, the fingers of one hand coming up between her legs, one fingertip teasing her little inner lips, dipping inside just a fraction. He wondered for the briefest of moments if by some odd chance she was still a virgin, though he dismissed that thought immediately; he slipped one thumb inside her, finding her so wet already that there was no real resistance and she tightened around it. His tongue found her clitoris, started teasing at it with short licks, little swirls. She sighed, the sound so close to a moan. He didn't stop for a second after that until she came.

She left immediately after, pulling on her dress as she watched him there on his knees on the floor, flushed and hard for her, because of her. He found himself laughing once she'd gone, chuckling to himself as he jerked himself off. She'd won again.

The next night, she didn't come to his room. She was there somewhere in the theatre; as he changed to leave for the night he could hear her laughing somewhere down the corridor and he cursed himself soundly, not sure if he'd been used or if she'd just had enough of this, if she'd decided she'd teased him enough or found someone else to play with.

She didn't come to his room the night after that, or for the next three shows. He hated that he was already hard by the time that he got back to his dressing room and closed the door, hated that he was thinking about all the things he wanted to do, thinking about the way she tasted, thinking about kissing her as himself after they'd spent a night on stage as lovers. She didn't come in the show after that, or the show after that. He was starting to think he'd do himself irreparable damage if he jerked off to thoughts of her even a couple more times, though that didn't actually stop him doing it.

Two more weeks had passed by the time he confronted her. He'd been out of sorts to say the least since she'd stopped coming to his room, he'd been agitated, getting worse and worse each time she didn't show, his imagination more vivid every time he had to conjure her image to get himself off to. He was past caring that she was twelve years his junior because she was a woman in every way that mattered. He had to confront her. He needed to know what exactly she thought was happening here.

He came off stage after Déchiré and between scenes he pulled her aside backstage, while Daniel and Bruno were on stage, Anarkia, literally took her by the wrist and marched her away into a quiet corner, made sure their headsets were firmly turned off, and looked at her. She was smiling, he could see that even in the relative dark there in the secluded little backstage corner. She was practically smug.

"I knew you'd come looking for me sooner or later,” she said.

He glared. He hit the wall beside her head with the heel of his hand. He'd been played and he was angry and she was still smiling that smug smile because he wanted her and she'd made that happen, looking up at him there in the near dark. He should've walked away. He should've made her walk away. He kissed her instead. She didn't protest. She welcomed it.

There was time, he thought, just> enough time, before he was next due on. He pulled up her dress, gathered it at her waist, ran one hand down between her thighs despite the trailing cuff of his chainmail costume and slid his fingers straight up inside her, knuckle deep as she wrapped one leg over the back of his and tugged him in closer, urging him on. He pulled them out, fumbled at his fly, ended up shoving his trousers down over his hips to free his cock and he pushed into her quickly, deeply, feeling her tighten hard around him as she buried her face in the crook of his neck. It didn't last long and it didn't need to, it would've been noticed soon enough with the way she was gasping in breaths as her hips shifted against him, hands gripping tight at his neck and his shoulders.

And then after, he strode back out on stage and he sang. Belle. The song wasn't for her but it might as well have been. He didn't want to stop, and she didn't want him to. The only question would be how they'd keep it a secret.

She didn't stop teasing him after that, but he stopped resenting her for it. He found his words and he gave as good as he got every time she sniped at him, much to the rest of the cast and crew's amusement.

What he'd had with Lara necessarily came to an end. When Julie turned 18, it was easier for them to date out in the open. No one was exactly surprised, at least not those who knew them; they'd been dancing around it for far too long, keeping a polite distance, to be in any way shocked. It was a relief to admit it.

And maybe it wouldn't last, maybe they were just too different and maybe that was just the way things were. But they'd always have their duets. They'd always have the show. They'd have the memory of a beginning when everything seemed wrong, forbidden, shameful, when she was too young and he was too old but they fit together anyway. They'd always have the secret of how it began, the private story they shared.

He'd look back on it for the rest of his life and feel it just as keenly as he ever had, how the forbidden had become permissible with her.

And she'd always be the smiling girl in the pink dress who drove him mad and stole his heart despite it.