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Under the spotlight

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Donghyuck couldn’t believe his eyes when he stepped into the studio; there, stretching out on the floor was Renjun. He hadn’t seen him since that summer intensive where they had to partner up for lift work.

It had been a disaster: Renjun had insisted on lifting him with his puny arms and they had ended up on the floor more than once, Donghyuck’s weight crushing a groaning Renjun who abided by the rule of never letting one’s partner accidentally touch the floor. They did get the hang of it eventually, as the lifts they practiced weren’t about strength but about coordination and the alignment of bodies.

To tell the truth, Donghyuck had a grand time, particularly during improv sessions, as there seemed to be sparks flying between them and he felt free to let go, his movement taking a life of its own. It was perhaps why they’d often been paired up for pair work. (Also maybe because everyone had been so freakishly tall except for them.)

“Hello Hyuck,” Mina puffed, from her planking as she was also warming up.

“Hey Donghyuck! Meet Renjun, my substitute,” Ten said, his boss, a.k.a. the choreographer of the show as well as one of its three main (and only) dancers. He’d wanted to step down from the show for a while, wishing to give himself more time and energy to other projects. He went on, “Renjun meet Donghyuck, your partner.”

Donghyuck’s gaze fell once again on Renjun, who hadn’t moved from his split, torso against the floor and fingers reaching far. He looked up, head snapping up, and, at the sight of Donghyuck, a frown etched its way between his eyebrows.

“Hey,” Donghyuck muttered in Renjun’s direction before turning back towards Ten. “We kinda know each other.”

“Oh? Not that it’s a surprise. It’s such a small world.”

“Yeah, we met at an intensive last summer.” As Donghyuck talked, his eyes unconsciously followed Renjun’s gracious movement as he sat up and planted his feet onto the floor. His hips went up first, the palms of his hands still touching the floor. He stayed still for a few seconds, deepening the stretch, before he bent his knees and took his time unrolling his back, one vertebra at a time, until he was finally upright and staring at Donghyuck.

“You’re late,” Renjun said finally, looking him up and down in a way that made his pulse accelerate.

 Donghyuck raised an eyebrow at Renjun, “Hi to you too.”

 

Ten sighed. “Okayyy, Hyuck just warm up while Renjun and I go over his solo parts and then we’ll do everything from the top.”

As the music filled the room, Renjun started painting the notes in the space, drawing arcs and lines with his lithe body.

As he stretched next to Mina, Donghyuck couldn’t help but watch how Renjun embodied the music, something heavy falling at the bottom of his stomach.

While the piece was for a family audience (which Donghyuck enjoyed tremendously: he loved hearing the children’s reaction as they danced. Adults were quiet and serious or, even worse, occasionally on their phones), it was poetic, based on Matisse’s most abstract works. Donghyuck had to admit that it suited Renjun with his ballet technique, the way his gracile limbs moved with precision but also a sort of lightness that made him look unreal.

His gaze met Renjun’s, who winked, legs flying into the air. Donghyuck’s stomach twisted.

He was fucked.

 

 

 

He was truly fucked, Donghyuck thought as he stared at the one double bed and its white sheets.

“I’m really sorry but we only have rooms with double beds left.” The receptionist had told them. “There must have been some confusion on our part.”

On tour for the weekend, they’d arrived on Friday evening to a tiny town. After a short visit to the theatre, where their stage technician, Yuta, had stayed to start working on setting the stage, they’d gone to the only hostel there was in that tiny town.

Donghyuck had looked at Mina, who had dared to shrug with a barely concealed smirk. “It’s only for two nights.”

A hand waved too close to his eyes, and Donghyuck jumped back, startled.

“Earth to Donghyuck,” Renjun said, eyeing him with annoyance. “Which side of the bed do you want? Do you mind if I take the right side?”

“It’s fine,” he replied, letting his backpack drop on the floor. “I hope you don’t snore.”

Renjun scoffed. He was already emptying his bag into a tidy pile inside the wardrobe. “And I hope you don’t talk in your sleep.”

Donghyuck grabbed his toiletry bag and pajamas —an old t-shirt and shorts that smelled like home— and headed to the bathroom.

Once under the shower, he closed his eyes and forced himself to relax, but his mind would inevitably return to his current predicament. A lovely predicament though, and a completely terrible idea: it was ill-advised to fuck around people you worked with.

Not that he thought Renjun would want to, with the way he frowned at him. It hadn’t exactly been his fault when he kept stepping on his foot during rehearsal. He’d been a bit distracted by Renjun’s look of concentration as he’d tried to match his movement with Donghyuck.

He groaned and turned the shower knob further into cold territory, the stinging spray of cold water making him shiver.

 

When he stepped out of the bathroom, Renjun was already in bed, sheets carefully tucked around him, clearly engrossed in a novel (Portable Curiosities, the cover said).

Donghyuck reached his side of the bed and sat down, still towelling off his hair. The bed dipped under his weight and he glanced at Renjun, whose gaze flickered on him for a few seconds before resolutely going back to his book.

Elegant fingers turned the page and Donghyuck had to blink a few times to stop staring. Finally, he lay down, sliding under the sheets, and grabbed his phone.

 

donghyuck

 11:11pm: i hate you

mina

11:15pm: 😏

11:15pm: sleep well ❤️

 

Spoiler alert: Donghyuck hadn’t slept well. At some point during the night, Renjun had stolen all the bedsheets and he had to put on his rehearsal hoodie and use his emergency towel to not freeze to death.

That, and the fact that he’d kept dreaming about Renjun in rather suggestive scenarios meant that he was in an extremely foul mood. It didn’t make it any easier to see Renjun looking absolutely well rested while drinking his orange juice.

Donghyuck sipped his coffee, feeling comforted by how the bitter taste matched his state of mind. It was enough and he felt his limbs loosen. He was able not to strangle Renjun and, instead, he politely nodded when Mina suggested going early to the theatre and go over some details together before the rehearsal to assuage Renjun’s nerves.

 

 

Rehearsals went by fast, full of adjustments and last-minute doubts, and then the theatre was full, and they were giving their all to the choreography.

The lights were almost as blinding as Renjun and Donghyuck could feel the way the public became entranced by their show, children “oh” and “ah” ing at their tricks and antics while their parents were transported by the youthful poetry of the colours and music made movement.

It was kinda electrifying and Donghyuck brightly returned Renjun’s smile as they bowed one last time before leaving the stage, only letting go of the other’s hand when they reached the dressing room.

To celebrate Renjun’s successful debut, the four of them went for drinks, nestled in a dark corner of a dingy bar. Donghyuck’s thigh was warm against Renjun’s, contrasting with the cool beer that slid down his parched throat, and he felt himself get sated by both and yet, paradoxically, wanting more.

And there was more.

There were more beers, until things started to get hazy around the edge, but not too much as they had to perform the next day, and so they walked back to the hostel, merry and bouncy from the adrenaline that had faded into a rush of endorphins.

Renjun was still laughing at Donghyuck, who’d almost tripped on his own feet, when they reached their shared room.

Momentarily distracted from inserting the key into the door, the huge wooden keychain dangling from his fingers, Donghyuck couldn’t help staring at Renjun’s rosy features, the way his make-up was smudged around the corners of his eyes.

Most of all, he liked how Renjun looked when he wasn’t frowning at him more than when he was.

He liked when Renjun looked at him with wide eyes and lips upturned into a small smile. It felt warm and meaningful, like what he felt under the stage spotlight. It engulfed him, making everything else fade into the background until he could only feel the present.

And it almost felt choreographed, the way they gravitated towards each other, the brief pause as their lips hovered against one another, the tension building until there was a sigh and the distance was closed, lips crashing against lips, Donghyuck’s back meeting the door as Renjun kept leaning in.

“Donghyuck,” Renjun whispered, putting a sliver of distance between them.

Donghyuck groaned in disapproval, but Renjun’s hand against his chest didn’t let up. “What?”

“Open the door,” Renjun replied. “I don’t want to put on another show today.”

Donghyuck scrambled to slide the key into the door, almost surprised at how easily it turned and clicked open.

He let the key drop to the floor as Renjun pushed him into the room and closed the door behind them.

Donghyuck didn’t feel that tipsy anymore as they lay naked on top of the white sheets, their hips swaying together at the rhythm of their breathing.

Renjun’s touch on his skin made him feel alive, as alive as when his body became one with the music and there was no space left for other thoughts, just pleasure and the feeling of existing.