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Tadd has been waiting all season to dance with him. The weeks went by and he almost left the competition a few times, but the judges saved him. America saved him. Marko saved him.

It was in those secret practice sessions that Tadd yearned to dance with him. Not even close – the show would never allow that – but just sharing a stage with him, just Tadd and Marko, moving fluidly together. Feeling the same feeling, sharing the beautiful emotion that dance gives them. The beautiful emotion that Marko had taught him along with proper lines and steps.

Jordan had figured it out first. For as slow as she was to catch onto most things, she had quickly grown curious about Tadd’s technical progress when they were partners. After he’d stammered sheepishly that Marko had been helping him out, Jordan had just smiled and said they’d be cute together.

As he watches the playback from the Top 6 results show, with Marko standing next to him, he’s inclined to agree. Tadd has never even thought about guys like that before, but Marko is different. Marko is patient and gentle and his voice is soothing, not to mention talented. Just watching him dance inspires Tadd to be a better person. In his personal life up until now, there had just been women who were fun and careless, but no one serious. He wonders if this is what it feels like to be in love.

The entire Top 20 reunite for Finale Week and Tadd’s schedule is a whirlwind of rehearsals. There are three Top 20 routines in addition to his three competition routines, which are posted on the main board the morning after the Top 4 are announced.

Tadd is a late sleeper and wakes up with Jordan in his face. It’s not the first time, so he’s only shocked a little as he grabs her by the waist and rolls her into his bed. She shrieks and giggles and Tadd wonders why he’s never been attracted to her, at least until she reminds him.

“Did you see the board yet?” she asks excitedly, play-punching him as he tries to make her into a Jordan Bear. “You’re dancing contemporary with Marko.”

Tadd freezes. “Stop lying.”

“I would never lie about this,” she says, now in a whisper. “This is your last chance.”

It really wasn’t, because they’d all be going on tour this summer and it’s not like Tadd would ever cross that bromance line anyway, but this is what he’s wanted since the first time Marko touched him and he’s finally gotten it.

He runs out into the main room in just basketball shorts and bed hair, but the others were used to this and before he can focus on the dance assignments, Marko’s jumping on his back.

Marko’s cheer is right in his ear, nearly deafening him, but Tadd could care less. He’s a performer and this is his spotlight, reaching behind him to hook his arms around Marko’s legs and spin him around the room. Marko’s wearing a T-shirt, but Tadd can feel those chest muscles against his bare back and it turns him on in a brand new way, one that has nothing to do with sex.

Rehearsals are brutal, in particular the one with Marko. It’s not so much that Tadd is distracted by his partner as they’re just not blending very well. Sonya built a gorgeous male/male routine for them, something about two brothers who rely on each other to live, and the whole point of it is being in sync. Which they are not.

After four hours of watching each other in the mirror and getting frustrated, Sonya rubs her eyes and calls a break until morning. Early morning. Before the sun rises morning. And in the meantime, Tadd and Marko are to do everything together, paying attention to the other’s movements and matching them. Sonya says that this will make them more in tune to each other’s bodies and they will naturally fall in sync.

Tadd wonders if Sonya has been talking to Jordan. Marko looks happy about it, as he does about nearly everything, and Tadd can’t help but emulate the emotion. They make a big show out of their “homework,” both of them marching in time to the dorms. It’s unspoken that Tadd would fall into step with Marko, since Marko is the contemporary dancer and Tadd’s used to watching him. Although Marko probably doesn’t know that last part.

It’s like a game of Monkey See, Monkey Do, Tadd imitating Marko completely from posture to hand motions. Jordan especially is amused at the copycat way they’re sitting, shifting at the same time, and she comments on Tadd’s quick reflexes. After only an hour of just socializing, Tadd becomes accustomed to how Marko works and can almost predict his next move.

“This is awkward,” Marko begins as they head off to their respective rooms, “but do you think we should share a bed? I mean, it might help.”

“That’s cool,” Tadd says casually. He would shrug, except he’s still following Marko’s lead and Marko isn’t shrugging. “I don’t know if I can sleep, though. I’m too nervous.”

Marko smiles at him and Tadd almost melts. “You have no reason to be nervous. You’re awesome. Everyone likes you.”

Tadd feels himself turning red; for as much of a show-off as he is, compliments still embarrass him. Especially when given in private, by someone for whom he may have feelings. Marko looks like he wants to tease him, but all he does is open the door to his room and invite Tadd in.

Once the door is closed, Marko’s standing in front of him. “I have an idea,” he says cheerfully. “Look into my eyes and try to follow my moves.”

Few things are harder than this one simple request. Tadd’s certain that Marko can see straight into his soul as they lock eyes, Tadd setting his face in determination as Marko starts out with slow, easy movements. He stands on one foot, then the other. He brings his arms over his head and back down. He does a single spin en pointe, and somehow Tadd knows to stop after one.

“That’s good,” Marko says quietly, just like when they were training before. “Why do you look so scared?”

“Just nervous,” Tadd answers quickly. He’s not exactly lying. “I want to get this right.”

Marko puts both of his hands on Tadd’s shoulders, and automatically Tadd does the same. Laughing, Marko leans their foreheads together. “Remember what I told you in the very beginning? One of the most important parts of dancing is breath control. Breathe with me, okay?”

Tadd closes his eyes and mimics Marko’s inhales and exhales. Instantly he feels relaxed, calm, and when he opens his eyes again, Marko’s looking at him differently. Tadd tenses again, surreptitiously licking his lips, and both of their left hands slide up to the other’s jaw at the exact same time.

“This is working,” Marko says, sounding surprised. “Tadd, I don’t… I haven’t… but if it’s helping, we shouldn’t stop, right?”

“Shh,” Tadd hisses softly, his heart thumping in his chest. Marko has to hear it, he has to know, especially now when they’re so close in a private room with the perfect excuse. “It’ll be okay.”

Marko nods, which means Tadd nods, and Tadd’s not sure which one of them leans in first. Marko’s lips are unnaturally soft, both sets of arms slowly wrapping around the other to pull them even closer as they kiss. Tadd’s leading it now, but Marko’s still in the game and keeping up, meeting Tadd’s tongue with his and moving his mouth just as heatedly as Tadd’s moving his. Tadd doesn’t know if Marko is just following him or acting on his own instinct, but either way they’re moving in sync and it doesn’t take long for Tadd to be able to tell for sure that Marko really wants him.

The first one to moan is Marko, deep and tingling on Tadd’s tongue and Tadd feels a soft rock of Marko’s body against his. Something hard digs into his thigh and Tadd shifts them, letting out a groan of his own when he feels Marko against his own erection and maneuvering them towards Marko’s bed.

It’s not at all graceful or synchronous, but they pick up right where they left off once Marko’s on his back with Tadd grinding down. Marko’s pushing right back, in spirit with the dance as well as his own need as his hands make fists on the back of Tadd’s wifebeater. They break their kiss just long enough to pull each other’s shirts over their heads, returning to each other’s mouths as soon as possible, and Tadd realizes they’re both reaching down at the same time.

The back of their hands bump and Marko laughs into their kiss. “Tadd.”

“Hmm?”

Marko pulls back enough to speak. “Knowing what we know now, our lessons could have been a lot different.”

A vision of Marko rewarding Tadd for being a good student with sexual favors crosses his mind, and Tadd wants to kick himself for waiting so long. “I think I really like you,” he blurts out, because he figures it’s okay to confess when they’re grinding like this. “I can’t take my eyes off of you, and more than anything I wanted to dance with you.”

Marko doesn’t respond verbally, just pulls Tadd back into his mouth and stretches out underneath him. His legs spread to allow Tadd to fall between them and this is a whole new feeling, abandoning the movement copying for another kind of rhythm. Tadd gasps from the force of his stimulation, snapping his hips like he’s fucking but rubbing against Marko instead.

“I-I want,” Marko sputters out, pushing up against Tadd just as hard as Tadd’s pushing down. “I want more.”

“More,” Tadd repeats, and his mind spins at what that means. Obviously he’s never had sex with a guy before, but it’s not too hard to figure out how it works and Tadd breaks into a sweat at the thought of touching Marko like that. “Do you want me to..?”

“I don’t know,” Marko replies, breathless. He sounds nervous and turned on and scared and excited all at the same time, and Tadd wants nothing more than to make him come. “Won’t it hurt? I can’t be sore tomorrow.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Tadd says automatically, his heart exploding at Marko’s resulting smile, and it gives Tadd the courage to hook his fingers under the waist band of Marko’s pants. With a fraction of a second delay, Marko does the same.

Their mouths collide again, fiercely as their remaining clothes are kicked off and they move together with no barriers, skin to skin. Tadd wraps his fingers around Marko’s cock and Marko copies him, the two of them still practicing even during this. Marko is very vocal and Tadd swallows his moans, naturally developing a rhythm as their wrists move together and even their bodies jerk simultaneously.

“Like this,” Marko whispers as he opens his hand and pokes Tadd to do the same, pushing their erections together and Tadd groans at the feeling. He uses his hips to add to the friction and realizes Marko’s doing the same, lacing his fingers though Tadd’s upside-down to stroke them in tandem to their thrusts, and somehow this feels better than sex with a girl.

“I’m gonna come,” he gets out, tearing his mouth away from Marko’s and latching onto his neck, planting wet kisses on his skin as he feels himself get close.

Marko leans his head back, stretching his neck to give Tadd better access and arching at his own pleasure. “Wait for me. I’m almost there.”

Nails dig into Tadd’s shoulder blade and Tadd loses it, pulsing in their hands with a long groan. Marko’s cock twitches against his, both of them spurting at the same time, and Marko covers his face with his pillow in time to muffle his cry.

Hot, sweaty, and sticky, Tadd can feel Marko’s heartbeat fall even with his as he rolls off of him, but he doesn’t go far. He’s an unashamed cuddler after orgasm and he doesn’t think Marko will push him away, not after what they just did and how it started. Sure enough, Marko turns towards him and slides his arm up Tadd’s, guiding him in for another kiss that is much slower and sensual.

In the morning, they perform the routine perfectly and declare Sonya a genius.