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Death Becomes Him

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     “Hold!” Taekwoon can hear the director sigh from all the way across the rehearsal space, though he takes his time getting to the feedback. Taekwoon knows he’s probably trying to choose his words carefully.

     “Taekwoon-sshi…please try it one more time.”

     “Of course,” he responds quietly, drawing away from his colleague. “From the same place?”

     “Yes, please.” Taekwoon backs away upstage, wetting his lips quickly. He closes his eyes briefly to pull in a large breath, straightening his posture. He is Der Todd, Death. He is not a human man. He is taking his victim at last, getting revenge on his precious Elisabeth who has wounded him so badly by snatching away her son.

     That’s how he needs to think of it.

     When he’s ready, Taekwoon takes a breath, singing the end of the reprise and approaching Rudolf with the gun at last. Taekwoon’s voice remains steady, but his heart is pounding out of his ribs.

      Focus, Taekwoon, focus.

      He hands over the gun and leans over Rudolf, trying to portray hunger as he watches the man raise it to his temple.

      And 3…2…1…

      Taekwoon swoops in but their eyes meet and he freezes awkwardly, half bent over and hovering just centimeters from the other actor’s face.

      “All right, all right, stop. Relax, guys.” Taekwoon feels his face burn as he straightens up, knowing he’s the reason they’ve paused.

     “Okay, let’s just…” The director sighs and looks at his notes, rubbing a hand over his face. “Let’s just move on for today, okay? Taekwoon, you really need to be less robotic about this. Work on it the next couple days.”

     “Of course. I apologize,” Taekwoon murmurs, bowing to the director and the rest of the cast, wishing he could curl up and melt into the ground and never return. The director was being kind, but this week had been the deadline to start moving into full physicality – stage kisses and all. But Taekwoon was causing his rehearsals to lag behind, all because he couldn’t make Death’s kiss natural enough in Rudolf’s death scene.

     He knew he was awkward and wooden in his first kiss of Death scene, too (also another male castmate, notably), but it was short and he would be high up at the back of the stage, so it wasn’t as big of an issue.

      Granted, he had been awkward with his female castmates, too. The first time he’d had to slide pelvis first in between Elisabeth’s legs during “The Last Dance“, he’d made it about half a second before squeaking and scrambling backward, apologizing profusely to the actress across from him that day. He’d apologized to all three of them, in fact, for the full first week he’d worked on that staging.

     They were all very kind of course, and very experienced, so they assured him not to worry about it. And his other castmates were the same, joking with Taekwoon about their imminent kiss scenes and generally being very nonchalant about the whole thing.

     Taekwoon was the only one who couldn’t get out of his head.

      He’s deep in his own chastising thoughts as he leaves the building later that afternoon, so much so that he only notices who’s coming toward him in the nick of time to bow.

      “Hello, sunbaenim.”

     Kim Junsu slides his sunglasses off after returning the bow, his bright smile landing on Taekwoon.

     “Hyung is fine, Taekwoon-sshi. It’s good to see you. Have you finished your rehearsals for today?”

      “Yes. And you can just call me Taekwoon, really,” he murmurs quietly. “Are you officially joining the cast, sunbaenim?”

     “Yes, just signed the paperwork today! I’m a little nervous after all this time away, to be honest,” Junsu says, and Taekwoon can hardly believe that. In fact he’s jealous of how at ease Junsu looks in the building, already familiar with it and the people inside as well.

     “You already know the show, though, I’m sure your performances will be the best. Please take care of me,” Taekwoon murmurs with another bow and Junsu scoffs lightly, waving him off.

     “Please, I should be the one saying that. Performing in a conscripted unit is hardly the same as being back up on stage, and I’m joining in late, too. I’ll need all the help I can get. I need to go, but let’s talk soon, get some coffee together. Good work today, Taekwoon-ah~” And with a cute wave and a laugh, Junsu passes him by.

     Shit. If Taekwoon has any hope of living up to this role, he needs to work on those scenes until they’re perfect. Even then they’ll only be half as good as Junsu’s, but that’s a standard Taekwoon will take if he can get it.

 

     Taekwoon actually runs into Junsu quite quickly, when he’s taking a break from his choreography rehearsal the next day. He finds Junsu getting a drink from the vending machine, eyes skimming over a sheaf of sheet music held in his other hand. The man looks up as he senses the other presence and his face immediately lights up with a smile.

     “Taegunie!” The man immediately exclaims, and Taekwoon tries not to trip in surprise at the cute nickname while he greets the other. They exchange some small talk as Taekwoon gets his own drink. He has a little time, so Junsu starts asking him what he thinks of the role. Taekwoon is a little nervous to talk about it in front of someone who’s played the role so flawlessly already, but Junsu only listens attentively, humming and nodding as Taekwoon slowly explains his interpretation of the character.

      Despite the way Taekwoon’s approach differs from Junsu’s own, the older man seems to consider all of it seriously, finding it interesting, and even a valuable perspective.

     “I think it suits you, Taekwoon-ah. None of us will have the same approach to our characters. And don’t feel like you’re going to be locked into what you’ve figured out right now. It’s natural for you to grow as you perform the role, so if it needs to change later, then let it,” Junsu counsels him. Taekwoon finds that he falls into shop talk with Junsu quite easily despite the man’s intimidating credentials, and a few of their coaches come looking for them when their conversation accidentally runs long.

     “I’ve delayed him, it’s my fault,” Junsu says to the staff member, even as Taekwoon protests. “I’m afraid I’m rambling lately, now that I’m having too much fun talking with like-minded people again. Taekwoon-ah, don’t let me keep you. Let’s get dinner when we’re done if you have time. We can continue our conversation then.”

     Taekwoon manages to cough out an “of course,” in his surprise, and quickly texts his manager to make sure he has no important schedules after rehearsals. Thankfully the musical is his main commitment right now, so anything else he needs to take care of that night can be shuffled around a bit. There’s no way he could pass up an opportunity like this, anyway.

     His nerves come back full force when he meets up with Junsu again at the restaurant, but their conversation easily returns to its former relaxed tone. They stick to mostly talking about Elisabeth, though Taekwoon could probably think of a million things to ask his senior. The lack of alcohol makes for a nice change of pace, too. Taekwoon does enjoy drinking, of course, though he knows he tends to embarrass himself when drunk and relaxed, but dinners with industry seniors tend to involve a lot of shots and egging each other on. Junsu rarely drinks, though, and it relieves them of traditions that might have made things more formal between them.

     It’s as they’re finally winding down, sitting back from their filling meal that Junsu asks him, “So, is there anything in the show you’re having trouble with?”

     Taekwoon can feel his face flush a little as his continued stiffness in Rudolf’s scene immediately springs to mind. He wants to tell Junsu, but he feels embarrassed. Not because of the nature of the problem, of course, but because he worries he’ll sound childish. What if Junsu thinks he’s immature or unprofessional because of it?    

     Junsu picks up on it immediately though, keen eyes searching Taekwoon’s face.

     “It’s okay, Taekwoon, talk to me. I’d be happy to help if I can.” Taekwoon looks down at his lap and fidgets a bit as he mumbles, trying to work up the courage to say it.

     “I, uh…I’m having some trouble with one scene,” he finally admits, his pulse picking up. Junsu nods and makes an encouraging sound.

     “Uh…well…Rudolf’s death scene,” he confesses suddenly. “I can’t make it look…quite right.” His face feels warm and he hopes Junsu will get what he means. He dats his glance up quickly and thankfully the older man seems to have understood exactly, perking up as he processes what Taekwoon just said.

     “Ahhh, yes, that scene,” Junsu says knowingly. Taekwoon squirms a bit.

      “Yeah…the director says I look too…robotic? I just…it always looks awkward no matter what I do,” he admits. “I don’t know how to quite…fix it.”

       “Well I can help you take care of that!” Junsu says breezily, leaving Taekwoon to blink at him in surprise, taken aback.

      “Uh…huh?” he asks, very intelligently he might add.

     “I’ll help you, of course,” Junsu replies with a patient smile. “We can find a time to meet and use one of the rehearsal rooms. Taekwoon sits up with a jolt.

     “Sunbaenim, no, you don’t have to, you must be so busy, I can’t possibly make you waste time trying to-“ 

     “Taekwoon,” Junsu says calmly, voice cutting through Taekwoon’s rambling easily, his eyes locked on his junior.

     “I have plenty of room in my schedule. Helping you is what I want to do, so you don’t need to worry about it. I’d be happy to do it. Now, when are you at rehearsals next?”

     And just like that, it’s settled, Junsu comparing their schedules side by side and marking down the date and time they can meet on both of them.

     “Perfect. Don’t worry about a thing, Taegunie, hyung will make sure you have the best kiss of death scene out of any of us,” Junsu says happily once he’s through, patting Taekwoon’s shoulder as he also snatches up the bill. Taekwoon, slightly shell-shocked, can only watch how pleased with himself Junsu looks as the other walks him outside and shoos him home with a doting smile. 

     Taekwoon finds himself wishing Death personified were real, because he would happily go with him right now.

 

     It’s about a week later that Taekwoon trudges to the rehearsal room to meet Junsu. The show’s opening is looming closer, as Taekwoon will start performing before Junsu because of their staggered start dates. Even now, Taekwoon’s scene with Rudolf is rough, despite his best efforts and every calming exercise he could find on the Internet. Nerve-wracking as this is going to be, Taekwoon needs all the help he can possibly get at this point.

     Maybe Junsu can somehow work a miracle on him.

     He finds the blond haired man scrolling on his phone just outside the door of one of the rehearsal rooms. He looks up at Taekwoon’s approaching footsteps, breaking into a beam when he sees Taekwoon. 

     “You made it, good! How have your rehearsals been?” Junsu chatters to him as he leads Taekwoon inside.

     “For this scene? Not much better than before,” Taekwoon replies glumly. “Everything else I feel okay about, all things considered.”  He's still a nervous wreck, but well, relatively speaking he's fairly sure he won't bomb.  Hopefully.

     “Well, let’s see what we can do,” Junsu says as he enters the large room, drawing curtains across the mirrors that span one wall.

     “Thank you again for doing this, sunbaenim. I appreciate it.” Taekwoon trails after him absently, not entirely sure what he should do right now.

     “It’s hyung, remember? You can stay there, Taegunie, I’ll be right over,” Junsu calls over his shoulder as he gets some chairs out of the way and slides off his sweater, tossing his phone on top of it.

     “Now, let’s get started,” Junsu says as he approaches Taekwoon. Taekwoon takes a breath to agree, but before he can say a word Junsu is suddenly in his personal space. Their eyes meet briefly and Taekwoon swears he can see the other man smirk before he suddenly leans in close, mouth headed for Taekwoon’s own with no other warning. 

     “W-wait, sunb- I mean hyung. What are you doing?” Taekwoon asks, leaning back a little with wide eyes. Junsu gives him a patient look, but his smile is sharp. 

     “If you’ve never kissed a man before, Taekwoonie, then doing it on stage is going to increase the pressure and make it even stranger for you. So we’re starting without any of the acting. I’m going to kiss you so you can get used to it.”

     Taekwoon can only stare in shock. Junsu’s smile fades slightly and he looks concerned.

     “Is that okay?” he asks softly, eyes on Taekwoon. Taekwoon can feel his face must be tomato red right now. Oh god, why couldn’t they just do it with the stage directions? But Taekwoon recognized the truth in Junsu’s words as soon as they came out. He already has so much to think of in the scene – can he really hope to make it natural if he just keeps rigidly repeating the same blocking and hoping something will click?

     “It’s okay, hyung,” he whispers out, eyes locked onto Junsu’s, who gives a satisfied smile.

     “Good. Now sit down, you’re annoyingly tall.” Taekwoon’s grateful for the seat, anyway, as he lowers himself onto a block, legs feeling they’d probably give out soon on their own. 

     Junsu approaches him slowly, his expression changing to one of concentration, eyes always on Taekwoon.

     “Close your eyes,” Junsu says, voice gentle but expectant. Taekwoon feels stupid, but does so anyway, body tight and rigid as he feels Junsu’s presence grow closer. He looks up instinctively, almost opening his eyes to ask Junsu…something, he doesn’t know what.

     But then there’s a soft press of smooth lips to his own, warm and chaste. They linger there for a minute, never pushing harder, before they pull away slowly. 

     “See? You survived. You didn’t die, or burst into flames and plummet straight to hell,” Junsu says with an amused grin on his face. Taekwoon stammers out something he thinks might be an affirmation of that. Junsu doesn’t move away from him.

     “Of course, that’s the bare minimum. You need a little more, even for a stage kiss and that’s what I promised you, right?” Taekwoon can’t even find a few words to say before Junsu is leaning in again, a hand moving up to rest lightly on his cheek. 

     Taekwoon can’t decide if he should lean up or lean away, ask for more time, or run out the door and go hide in Hakyeon’s bed while the other clucks at him for being such a failure of a human being, so he just goes for hiding – in this case shutting his eyes again. It’s not happening if he can’t see it right? 

     Those lips are back, softened from chapstick, but not sticky. This time Junsu angles his head a little more, and Taekwoon’s bottom lip slots between Junsu’s own nicely. Junsu parts his own lips just a little to improve on that, puts a little more pressure into the kiss, communicates his intent. Taekwoon finds himself leaning up after all, pressing back into the kiss.

     Junsu draws away just marginally, their lips still touching, to readjust his position and then return, lips moving slowly against Taekwoon’s.

     Taekwoon is dead, he’s pretty sure. He isn’t even trying to respond in a certain way, just letting Junsu take the lead and guide him,; not thinking about anything, just floating off on the clouds the seem to be bubbling up inside his chest. It’s so…nice. It feels…it feels like what being kissed always looked like in the movies.

     It takes him a minute to blink his eyes open when Junsu draws back up to take a breather. The man’s slightly smug face meets him.

     “Yeah, I’ve still got it,” he grins, looking down at Taekwoon, who groans in embarrassment and buries his face in his hands.

     “Hey now,” Junsu laughs. “You can’t tell me it was bad! I know it wasn’t.”

     “That’s the problem, hyung,” Taekwoon complains, still hiding in his hands. “Also, you’re embarrassing.” 

     “Okay, now you just sound like my friends,” Junsu replies, moving a chair closer to sit across from Taekwoon. “Are you okay? Are you having a crisis? Do I need to play therapist about your repressed homoerotic desires?”

     “Hyung!” Taekwoon just about shrieks, sitting bolt upright. Junsu is laughing that loud, distinctive laugh, leaning back in his chair from the force of it. Taekwoon deflates and slumps back on his seat. “I really don’t understand how you can just say stuff like that.”

     Junsu shrugs a shoulder at him, grin unrepentant as his eyes sparkle.

     “But seriously, are you okay?” the older man asks, and Taekwoon’s nod is immediate.

     “Yeah,” he sighs. “Don’t worry, I’m not going into a gay panic. I’m just not good at…this,” he waves a hand vaguely between them, “In general. No matter who it is.”

     “Oh, a shy young ingénue,” Junsu says fondly, tilting his head to the side teasingly, eyes never losing their mirth.

     “Hyung-“ Taekwoon starts, cheeks flushing, and Junsu sees his bashfulness and runs with it.

     “A blushing young maiden, I mean man! An unbroken colt, running free through the fields! A delicate flower with quivering petals! What beauty! What naïve allure!” Junsu shouts, voice rising as he straightens up to pose as he soliloquizes. Taekwoon lunges for him and hangs onto the raised arm he’s dramatically flourishing around. 

     “Please stop, oh my god, please, please stop,” Taekwoon croaks in embarrassment between his nervous laughter. “I’m going to die and then you’re going to have to explain to the director why and I’ll have the most embarrassing obituary ever.”

     Junsu’s loud laugh rings out, and he reaches down to poke Taekwoon’s cheek.

      “Oh, you really are a lot of fun,” the other man grins, the sentence somehow inspiring both dread and elation in Taekwoon “But okay, okay. We have more to do anyway.”

     “Wait, more? Really?” Taekwoon asks, stopping a whine from edging into his voice as he slips back onto his seat. This day is so embarrassing.

     “Of course! You really think one little kiss is going to cure you of your weirdness about this? We have to practice,” Junsu says with a determined gleam in his eye.

     “H-hyung…is that really necessary?” Junsu leans forward with an intense look.

      “Taegunie…are you questioning your sunbae? About the best technique to improve your scene?” Taekwoon tries to lean away, gulping.

      “N-no, Junsu-hyung. Sorry….” Junsu stays in that position, a grin returning to his face.

      “Good.” He drags the folding chair closer and seats himself right across from Taekwoon, looking at ease. “Then let’s keep going.” Junsu’s hands land on Taekwoon’s knees and before Taekwoon can blink, the blond is leaning in and pressing their lips together again.

     Taekwoon makes a startled, embarrassed noise and Junsu laughs softly against his lips, eyes flicking open and up to Taekwoon’s.

     “Come on, dongsaeng. Focus. We’re working,” he says with a mischievous smile. Taekwoon makes another distressed noise but Junsu just tugs him closer by the knees, fingers digging into his legs lightly, and resumes the kiss. And Taekwoon can’t help it, as Junsu is an excellent kisser, because his eyes drift closed and he gives in to his hyung’s charms.

     Junsu, despite his teasing and his manner, remains professional. Well, as professional as one can probably be in this situation. He never pushes the line, never tries to make this something personal. The kisses stay light, soft, the kind that will look satisfactory on stage without making it into something it’s not supposed to be.

     Junsu kisses him and kisses him, changing the angles, tilting his head, touching Taekwoon’s cheek. Taekwoon follows his lead, his discomfort slowly easing off like a cloak. Their lips fit together nicely, and the tips of Taekwoon’s ears burn when he hears the soft noises of their lips parting and reconnecting. He’s not sure how much time passes before they slow, their lips separating sooner and the pauses growing longer, turning into almost sweet pecks until they’ve stopped completely.

     Taekwoon blinks several times, feeling all dreamy and hazy. Junsu is smiling back at him, looking more collected than Taekwoon, but softer than before with shining lips and his own cheeks slightly flushed from the exertion 

     “Well, I’d say you’ve got that part down.” Junsu moves his chair back slightly. “Now that you’re comfortable with that, we can move on to the next part. “ Taekwoon just nods mutely, resigned to Junsu’s plan, whatever it is.

      “Oh, don’t give me that look. I’m not going to make you do a lot more today,” Junsu scolds lightly while he pushes their seats to the side again.

     “Okay, come here,” Junsu says, motioning Taekwoon over to him in the middle of the room. “We won’t do the actual blocking today, but we’ll start something else. You initiate everything during the scene so I will stand here. You’re going to walk across the space and kiss me.” 

     Taekwoon just stares. He has no words left. Junsu arches a brow.

     “You were kissing me back just fine a minute ago. What’s the problem?” Taekwoon keeps opening and closing his mouth.

     “I don’t know,” he finally admits, flushing slightly. “It’s just different.” Junsu snaps his fingers and points at Taekwoon with a grin.

     “Exactly. Which is why we’re doing it.” Junsu beams, looking proud of himself, while Taekwoon is still bewildered that there was apparently a correct answer.

     “It’s baby steps, Taekwoon-ah. We’re building up to all the blocking. If you can do it naturally in regular situations, it will help you keep from freezing up when you’re doing it in a scripted scenario.”

      That…actually makes a lot of sense. Damn it. Taekwoon mumbles something about understanding before he drags himself off to several paces away. Junsu waits for him, looking over with a bright grin on his face.

     And Taekwoon thought that his groupmates aged him. They’re nothing compared to this guy. 

     With a steadying breath Taekwoon crosses the floor, trying to keep his pace an average one. He tries to imagine himself just a guy on the street, going to meet his girlfr- boyfriend. How is his heart pounding this much, he just kissed the other man for a good fifteen minutes at least.

     Apparently Taekwoon is in better control than he thought, because his hand isn’t shaking when he raises it to Junsu’s face as he comes to a stop and, without another thought, leans in to press a kiss to Junsu’s mouth. The feeling of it is sweeter than Taekwoon meant to make it.

     Junsu is appraising Taekwoon with a curious smile on his lips when Taekwoon pulls away. 

    “Good. Do it four more times like that and we can call it a day.”

     Of course Taekwoon’s luck doesn’t hold, and his nerves show through a couple times, causing him to stumble or chicken out at the last second when Junsu’s eyes meet his own. Taekwoon is almost ready to accuse Junsu of knowing this would happen, counting on it even, just to steal more kisses from Taekwoon, but he eventually gets another four takes like the first one.

     The last kiss actually lingers a little, and Junsu’s hands are on Taekwoon’s hips when they finally pull away. But then Junsu is smiling at him and applauding lightly.

     “You’re already making progress. When are you here next?” They talk scheduling details as they leave the rehearsal room, and manage to find a date and time a few more days from now for another session. Junsu behaves as if everything is completely normal, and to him maybe it is, but it actually keeps Taekwoon from feeling like he wants to die when he replays everything in his head.

     They part ways, and when Taekwoon is accosted at the dorm by Hakyeon’s questions about his rehearsal, he bites his tongue about his little bit of extra studying. He’d normally never hesitate to tell his leader and friend everything and moan about his overthinking to him, but for some reason he just doesn’t this time.

      The memory of the moment makes Taekwoon feel warm and surprisingly happy, and he wants to keep it close to his chest, at least for now.

 

     The next time they meet, Junsu and Taekwoon slip away at the end of rehearsals and return to the same rehearsal room. Junsu had even penciled their names into the schedule outside the door. To anyone else, it would just seem like a senior helping coach his junior on the role they now share. Well, no, that really is what’s happening, Taekwoon just has a hard time thinking of it that way. 

     The sun has already set, and the darkness outside makes the whole thing feel more intimate now, really driving home that it’s just the two of them, alone. They’d gotten the small talk out of the way as they walked over, so Taekwoon shouldn’t be surprised when Junsu is in his space almost immediately.

     “Let’s warm up,” the man murmurs, and then Junsu’s hands are on Taekwoon’s face, pulling him down slightly for their first kiss of the evening.

     And that feeling is back again. The warm, soft one, where this is just so nice. Junsu had caught him off guard, honestly, so Taekwoon reacts much more naturally this time, his hands settling on Junsu’s waist as he tilts his head and leans into the kiss.

     To be honest, he’d do this regularly if his hyung wanted to. He can’t keep from admitting it to himself at this point. And Hakyeon is definitely going to skin him alive when he finds out that Taekwoon is nursing this little crush, never mind keeping it a secret.

     He and Junsu share a few more kisses until (it seems) the other man is satisfied.

     “Very good. I’d say we’re ready to start tonight’s lesson.”

     “And just what is that?” Taekwoon asks dryly, something fluttering in his chest with anticipation.

     “We’ll start on the blocking,” Junsu replies as if it’s obvious. “But I’m going to have you take Rudolf’s role first. You can see how it is from the other side, then see if it improves your own approach as Death.”

     “Oh…okay,” Taekwoon murmurs. He sinks to his knees slowly, feeling slightly awkward as he wets his lips without noticing. Being down here feels vulnerable, especially knowing what’s to come. And maybe he’s trying to ignore the fact that it feels a little sexual, down on his knees just waiting like a good boy- Ho Jesus, nope, stop that train of thought right now.

     Thankfully Junsu tosses Taekwoon a prop gun at that minute and he snaps out of his reverie, fumbling slightly but catching it. Just keep breathing Taekwoon, keep breathing. He’s supposed to be here to learn.

     “Ready?” Junsu asks, taking up his position. Taekwoon just nods. “All right, we’ll start then.” Junsu starts singing the reprise as he approaches, and Taekwoon does his best to mimic Rudolf’s blocking, fighting not to look at Junsu since he knows what’s coming.

     He thinks he does a pretty good job mimicking what he knows of the role’s blocking, and they get up to the point where Rudolf is supposed to pull the trigger when Junsu swoops down on the correct beat, lips pressing to Taekwoon’s firmly. Taekwoon doesn’t even have the time to flinch in surprise. Junsu pulls away slowly and Taekwoon just hovers there, unsure if he should continue the blocking or not.

     “And there it is,” Junsu says as he straightens up, so Taekwoon relaxes, too. “It’s awkward blocking no matter what, since you have to bend down like that, but how does it feel now?”

     “It does seem less awkward to do,” Taekwoon admits.

     “Are you up to trying it then?” Junsu asks, expression curious. “Or do you want to try it this way one more time?” Taekwoon opens his mouth to say “one more time” when Junsu gives him a flirty little wink and Taekwoon’s voice squeaks awkwardly on the words.

     “Hyung,” Taekwoon protests when Junsu starts laughing at him. “You did that on purpose!"

     “Of course I did, Taekwoonie. But since you asked so nicely, I’d be happy to do it again.” Taekwoon huffs all he likes but they reset for the scene and go through it once more. By that point Taekwoon feels confident enough to try it himself, and it goes off without a hitch, slightly to Taekwoon’s surprise.

     “You’re getting better,” Junsu says approvingly as he makes Taekwoon run it a few more times. “Think you’ll be able to do it with just anyone now?”

     “I think so,” Taekwoon sighs. “It should definitely be better than before, at least.

     “Now you won’t need me any more,” Junsu sighs forlornly, playing it up as he pouts over to Taekwoon, reminding Taekwoon of Jaehwan’s similar tendencies. “My poor heart!" 

     It does make Taekwoon laugh, though, patting Junsu’s shoulder. The more he thinks about it, Junsu is somewhat similar to Jaehwan, the way he can go from cute and angelic to smouldering sex appeal in the blink of an eye. But Taekwoon should definitely stop thinking about that because he likes kissing Junsu and if Junsu and Jaehwan are similar does he want to….ew. Definitely not.

     “Before I know it, you’ll be billed above me in musicals!” Junsu is continuing with his fake sniffling. “You won’t even have time for your old, washed-up hyung anymore!” 

     “Hyung, please,” Taekwoon says, his ears burning as he lends his hand for Junsu to haul himself to his, only to end up with an armful of Junsu pretend-wailing about his future loneliness.

     “It will take me years to get to your level, if I ever do. I’d never be able to do something like Dorian Grey. Not the way you did.”

     Junsu finally steps back as he reins himself in again, though his eyes dart up to Taekwoon’s when the man mentions another one of Junsu’s. Something flashes across his gaze, but Taekwoon can’t decipher it so quickly.

     “You know, you’d actually probably make a pretty good Dorian yourself,” Junsu replies, a little overly casually, fixing the clasp on his watch nonchalantly. Taekwoon tries to breathe calmly, but the force of the implied compliment nearly bowls him over. “And Dracula, too, in fact,” he says, looking up to scrutinize Taekwoon a bit. “Yes, actually, I could see you coming for quite a few of my roles in the future. If I’m not careful you’ll boot me out of a job entirely soon, never mind get more ticket sales than me.” Junsu laughs while Taekwoon stammers at him frantically, unable to take so many compliments, as usual.

     “Junsu-hyung, no, I mean, you’re a legend you’re going to get all kinds of amazing roles, I mean probably create them even-“ Junsu waves him off with a grin.

     “Take it easy. You are way too fun to tease, Taeguni. But really, you would suit a lot of the roles I’ve played. You have the vocal chops, as long as you keep your voice healthy and keep training. Your acting is good, and of course your face isn’t hurting you at all. So if you ever wanted to learn how to do a kiss scene like Dorian’s, it would actually be a good skill.”

     Taekwoon notices the way that Junsu’s eyes seem to darken a little when he mentions the kiss scene. That kiss scene. That scene wasn’t just a tantalizing little plot device – it was a real kiss, a romantic one, between two men, out in the open in the middle of the stage. Taekwoon had seen the fancams – had, actually, seen the performance himself, once, wrapped in a hat and glasses, too intimidated to tell the man he looked up to that he was coming to his musical, even though he knows Junsu would have welcomed him and greeted him kindly after the show." 

     Taekwoon might be shy and painfully awkward, but he was far from stupid. He knew what that look in Junsu’s eyes meant. The offer wasn’t just a professional one.

     “I-I’ll-“ Taekwoon starts, although he doesn’t actually have an answer for the other. Junsu shakes his head with a small smile.

     “Actually, now that I think about it…you’d make a great Basil,” he says, coming closer. “Kind, good, pure….yes. A perfect Basil,” Junsu murmurs, and Taekwoon has to swallow down the heart in his throat as he imagines playing that role unbidden. Junsu as Dorian singing across from him, kissing him, seducing him-

   “It’s almost time for our call. Come on.” Junsu breaks the spell like that and leads him out. Taekwoon snaps into his work mode as fast as he can. He’ll be able to agonize over his legendary senior wanting to make out with him later.

 

     Junsu doesn’t bring it up again, though. Their schedules diverge more, of course, both of them getting busy with the other schedules they’re balancing outside of the musical. But every so often Taekwoon will catch a glimpse of Junsu as he passes by one rehearsal for his own, and whenever he’s singing to someone else, the intense, burning look in his eyes cause Taekwon’s daydream to flash back into his mind.

     Nothing has changed around their castmates or in their short interactions when they cross paths, so Taekwoon has no real reason to be hesitant about it. He likes the other man, likes kissing him, can’t stop thinking about getting more, and there’s no pressure between them. Whatever this is, they both know the constraints of their lives, and Junsu doesn’t seem to be looking for something Taekwoon can’t give.

     So Taekwoon decides to do his least favorite thing in the world – ask for what he wants.

     

     Taekwoon debates just sending Junsu a text, but he knows he’ll overthink every single message between the two of them, and it’s probably better not to leave any evidence behind. So he manages to find Junsu after Taekwoon’s finished his final costume fitting adjustments and Junsu is just getting out of a full run-through of the show.

     “Junsu-hyung,” Taekwoon calls softly as he murmurs “good work” and “you worked hard today” to the other cast members exiting the room. The man in question turns, looking interested when he spots Taekwoon hovering nearby.

     “Taegunie, not headed home yet? You should get as much rest as you can now.” Taekwoon can’t help the shy smile that makes its way onto his face, momentarily forgetting what he’s about to ask.

     “I’m heading out in a minute. I just had something to ask you.” Taekwoon’s eyes slide over to where there are a few staff members clustered nearby discussing things and it all seems to click into place in Junsu’s brain.

     “I’m going to pack up for the night anyway, why don’t I walk you out?” Junsu says goodbye to everyone and Taekwoon follows the man to his dressing room. Junsu rubs a towel over his face and one of his assistants is already putting things in the man’s bag. Junsu does a last check to make sure he has what he needs before he turns and starts heading for the exit with Taekwoon.

     “I wanted to ask about your offer from before,” Taekwoon murmurs quietly as they pull slightly ahead of the trailing managers. “The um…” He clears his throat. “The Dorian Gray scene.”

     Junsu turns his head just slightly, eyes twinkling as he smiles.

     “You’re interested in learning the blocking then?” he asks, sounding very pleased indeed. 

     “Um, yes. If you have the time,” Taekwoon adds hastily.

      “I always have time for a dongsaeng in need,” Junsu says, pausing as the reach the doors. “Especially you, Taegunie~” Taekwoon huffs a little, knowing he’s flushing already from the teasing. Junsu’s smile turns to a delighted grin at the sight.

     “Meet me in the same rehearsal room as before. Tomorrow at – when do you finish?”

     “I have a break at 3, and then I have to come back for the full run through at 6,” Taekwoon replies

     “3:30 then. I’ll be waiting.” And with a last smirk and a light touch to Taekwoon’s cheek, Junsu is out the door.

 

     Taekwoon slips into the sunny rehearsal room five minutes early, but Junsu is already there. He turns from his spot at the window and smiles. He doesn’t say anything, just points to the middle of the room.

     “Stand there.” Taekwoon does as he’s asked and then Junsu presses the screen of his phone and the song from the scene they’re supposed to be emulating begins.   Taekwoon inhales air that seems almost heavy. 

     Junsu doesn’t sing along, nor does he perform the dance that went with it. Instead he just holds Taekwoon’s gaze, approaching slowly. One foot in front of the other, without any rush at all, focused solely on Taekwoon.

     Taekwoon swallows, opening his fists when he realizes he’s been balling them up. He tries to focus on his breathing, resisting the urge to tense up as Junsu makes his way over. It’s little use, though, Taekwoon’s breath gone immediately when Junsu looks up at him with a gaze that pins him to the wall. He’s going to be eaten alive, no doubt.

     Junsu stays there for a moment, allowing the tension to persist. Taekwoon blinks and Junsu suddenly moves all at once. His hand curls around the back of Taekwoon’s neck and his other holds on to Taekwoon’s shoulder, drawing him in swiflty.

     Taekwoon is able to breathe again, gasping into the kiss in surprise. It’s so much more forceful this time, and Junsu just keeps Taekwoon close until the taller man has gotten over his shock.

     Junsu’s lips press against his, insistent now, lustful even. Taekwoon can’t resist, he lets Junsu turn the kiss into something hot and open-mouthed easily. Taekwoon moans softly as Junsu pulls away for just a quick breath of air before he’s moving back, kissing Taekwoon again like he actually wants him.

   “Now you do it,” Junsu says, a breathless edge to his voice, his eyes still locked on Taekwoon’s. When he hears how he sounds, it seems to bring Junsu back to himself for a moment. 

     “I mean, now you should do it as Dorian,” he corrects, his eyes flicking between Taekwoon’s. “To practice.”

      Taekwoon puts up maybe the least resistance yet, just giving the other man a nod and slowly pulling away from him, arms dropping to his sides.

     He moves once more to the other end of the room, the motion now familiar. Neither of them really need the flimsy excuse any longer, but Taekwoon still finds himself overcome by the sudden desire to surprise Junsu. So he centers himself the same way he would for a role.

     He takes a few deep breaths and looks across to Junsu. He doesn’t move right away, keeping the power now that he has it. His tongue flickers out to wet his lips and he can see Junsu’s gaze following its path. Taekwoon doesn’t do it on purpose, but it only adds to the atmosphere around them.

     When it feels right, he steps forward and moves to Junsu at his own pace. He can’t quite saunter as his hyung does, but he lets his walk flow slightly, leading with the confident feeling in his chest as Junsu’s eyes stay locked on him.

     When they’re just inches apart, Taekwoon only pauses for a brief second, staring into Junsu’s eyes before he wraps one large hand around the back of Junsu’s neck and tugs him forward into a deep kiss. Taekwoon’s free arm slides naturally around Junsu’s waist, holding him close as if the other man’s a damsel he’s courting in some movie.

     He finds Junsu’s mouth opening willingly under his, and so he presses his tongue inside slowly, following his urge to claim the other man with this kiss. He presses forward, bringing Junsu into the slightest dip as they continue the kiss, Junsu’s hands gripping onto his shirt tightly. Junsu actually lets out a soft moan as they part, leaning back toward Taekwoon for another, which Taekwoon grants him.

     Taekwoon finds himself savoring the deep kiss, holding Junsu securely in his grip as they refuse to part, continuing what is essentially now just a makeout session. Taekwoon may actually be reveling in having control for once, a pleased grin finding its way onto his own face when they finally break apart for air and he finds Junsu’s fists clenched desperately in Taekwoon’s shirt.

     Too lost in noticing that, Taekwoon only sees the glint in Junsu’s eyes at the last moment. And it’s hungry. That’s all the warning has as Junsu reaches up and cups Taekwoon’s cheeks before yanking him back into another kiss, hotter and messier than before. He starts moving, quickly regaining the upper hand as he pushes Taekwoon backward until he runs into one of the black blocks scattered around the edges of the studio. 

     He takes the hint and sits down, gasping as Junsu puts a knee on top of the block and looms over Taekwoon, still kissing him as he boxes Taekwoon in, the space between their bodies rapidly decreasing

     “Stupidly tall,” he thinks he hears the other mutter into his lips, but then Taekwoon’s head is hitting the wall with a loud thunk as Junsu deviates from their previous pattern and ducks down, attaching his lips to Taekwoon’s neck.

     Oh fuck. 

     Taekwoon can’t help the whimper that escapes as Junsu plays with his neck, leaving hot, open-mouthed kisses against the skin, turning more feral, more intent with his dominating presence, even as he's careful not to leave marks. The noise makes Junsu smirk against the skin and Taekwoon jolts as he licks a long stripe along the column of it.

     Taekwoon actually curses out loud this time and grabs Junsu when Taekwoon’s unexpected jerk unseats him. They both end up on the floor, Taekwoon over Junsu now, panting, their eyes locked together as they try to catch their breaths.

     Taekwoon dips in for another kiss, keeping it slow and sensual this time, and he’s about to lower himself down for good, press their bodies together- 

     -when they both jerk apart as something bangs in the hallway. They both freeze, suddenly remembering where and who they are, listening closely. Did someone see?

     But then they hear laughter and voices, and it’s just some of the stagehands trying to move something. Taekwoon lets out a breath and sits back, offering a hand to help Junsu up into a sitting position.

   The other man looks disheveled in a way that Taewoon has never seen before, lips swollen and face glowing as he tries to tame his hair back into place. Taekwoon knows he must look much the same, his lips tingling while he feels the heat of the blush staining his cheeks. They both just sit there quietly as the broken mood settles.

     “Well then,” Junsu says, and Taekwoon realizes with a small pang that this is it. This was their final reason to meet outside of press calls and matching schedules at the theatre, and now it’s over.

     Taekwoon has to admit finally that he’ll miss kissing the other man. He’ll miss him in general, as Junsu has become a valued senior to him in the same way as other cast members. They’ll get to see each other when they cross paths between performances now and then for the rest of the run, and at the closing dinner, of course, but besides that, who knows when they’ll meet again? Junsu doesn’t do TV appearances – well, can’t, actually – and soon enough Taekwoon won’t even be in Seoul, so- 

     “We should get back,” Junsu murmurs quietly, breaking Taekwoon from his thoughts.. “We both have things to take care of.” Taekwoon nods quietly. It’s a bit of a cruel reminder, no matter how much he loves doing this musical, that the two of them are people who can only rarely make time for things that bring them pure pleasure in quick snatches, other responsibilities and watchful eyes always weighing them down. It’s the price they pay, he knows that, and Taekwoon still wouldn’t give this up for anything, but sometimes…sometimes it would just be nice to get away for a little longer than he can afford.

     Taekwoon gets up, offering Junsu a hand one last time before he adjusts his clothes. They both gather their things and as they head to the door, Taekwoon glances over at Junsu with a wistful smile.

     “Guess this is it, then.” Junsu looks back and tilts his head, almost looking curious for a moment before his gaze turns soft again and he cups Taekwoon’s cheek. He leans in for a kiss, one that’s sweet and soft and a little sentimental. Well, that last part is new, but Taekwoon returns it without hesitation, and he’s smiling down at Junsu when they part.

     And then Junsu breaks the moment with his loud laugh.

     “You make it sound like we’re going off to die, Taegunie," Junsu tells him. "And we’ll never see each other again. You have my number. Use it.” Taekwoon shares in his laughter, his cheeks pink, but Junsu insists as they leave the studio.

     “Really, text me. This old man gets bored all alone. Even if we can’t meet up, it’s nice to know I’m not being left to collect dust in some corner.” 

     “Hyung, you’re not even that old,” Taekwoon says, brave enough now to even roll his eyes at Junsu. “Even for a musical actor, you’re very dramatic." 

     “Hey!” 

~

      The Elisabeth cast really is huge, Taekwoon thinks to himself as he sees them all gathered in one place. The whole restaurant was basically theirs for the night. Between the cast and the crew, the place couldn’t have fit anyone else, anyway. But Taekwoon is not left to his ruminating long as he’s tugged along to a seat, side dishes and alcohol already set out for their end-of-run dinner.

     He can’t believe it’s finally over. The show, the press junket, the tour, everything. It had been a great success for all of them, and Taekwoon had learned so much along the way. Now he can take a little bit of time to really enjoy being with all his castmates in one place. And, of course, Junsu is there, too.

     They’ve texted here and there and indeed seen each other at the changing of casts on two-show days sometimes, and they were all at the final curtain call, but they haven’t had the chance for any longer meet-ups. 

     Taekwoon isn’t near him at first, but as the night goes on and the alcohol flows, people switch seats and swap stories, and Taekwoon ends up near Junsu at last, who greets him enthusiastically. Taekwoon has definitely had quite a bit to drink, knowing that he’s flushed with it, as are most of the others, but Junsu looks calm, only a slight smattering of pink across his cheekbones, a glass of wine firmly in one hand.

     “There’s my favorite Death,” Junsu jokes while Hyungsik whines playfully on the other side about unfair treatment. Taekwoon ends up with Junsu’s arm slung around him as the three Deaths pose for a picture together, and Taekwoon doesn’t realize he’s leaning into Junsu’s side after they finish until their Elisabeths giggle about it across from them.

     “It’s so nice to see how close you’ve gotten,” Sohyun teases them. “I think Junsu got closer to Taekwoon-ah than any of the Elisabeths even!” Taekwoon promptly turns bright red and tries to hide in his hands, especially since they have no idea how true that is. Junsu joins in the teasing and only adds to it, trying to pinch Taekwoon’s cheeks. Taekwoon is in a very happy sort of a hell with all of the chaos, to be honest. 

     By the end of dinner, Taekwoon is very full, very drunk, and very content. He’s about ready to go home and sleep now, and Junsu is already making his final goodbyes before leaving. He comes to Taekwoon as the other is putting on his coat and speaking with Ok Juhyeon, the Elisabeth of all Elisabeths and someone Taekwoon can still hardly believe he worked with.

     “Taegunie, I’m going now,” the blond men chirps at him, taking Taekwoon’s hand in his. “It was a pleasure to work with you, truly. I know who I’ll call if we ever remount Dorian Grey, for sure. And I’ll be watching you now, so make sure to invite me to your next musical, okay~?” Taekwoon assures the man that of course he will, stumbling over his words more because of the alcohol than nerves now.

     Junsu pulls Taekwoon into a hug that the tall man is happy to return. And then there comes a whisper in his ear.

     “And if you ever want to learn how to do that bed scene from Dorian…you know how to find me.” 

     Taekwoon feels his jaw drop and he’s still standing there, mouth open, as Junsu finishes his goodbyes with Juhyeon and is out the door in a flurry of smiles and seal laughs. Juhyeon has an interested eye on Taekwoon, a slight gleam in it, but there’s no way she could have heard.

     And then Taekwoon remembers, as she pats his shoulder with a mirthful grin, his stomach sinking every second, that she’s been in every Elisabeth that Junsu has and she must know him well. Very well.

      And she looks like she’s seen this happen before.

     He has no doubt she’ll keep secret her guesses or her knowledge, but now she seems to know nonetheless, and looks very tickled by the idea.

     Taekwoon is clearly doomed forever.