★Length: 4035 words
★Authors note: Opera is something I know next to nothing about, so the amount of research I had to dive into for this story was quite the challenge. I really fell for the imagery though, and I hope you find the story interesting!
★Summary: Kyungsoo is the lead tenor in the Palais Garnier production of The Magic Flute, and Jongin, the house répétiteur, is set on making him a star.
The morning rush hour was silent save the monotonous hum of line 12 gliding through the underground. Kyungsoo stood shoulder to shoulder in the crowd, trapped with the rest of the passengers on their commute. Everyone was dressed in dark layers and Kyungsoo was no exception with black skinny jeans, a navy knit sweater, and a black peacoat.
He stared out the window, looking into the dark as the train passed between stations. As the train stopped, the passengers swayed, and Kyungsoo was swept along, forced to join the motion. Each station was tiled, beautiful mosaic work spelling out names and locations Kyungsoo only vaguely knew. Despite being employed in the care of Opera Bastille for two seasons now, he was still far from learning all the stops along the metro lines.
When they trudged ahead, cast back into the dark, Kyungsoo's eyes focused on the glass and he caught sight of his own reflection. He smiled only for his image to be broken by the entrance of his stop: Madeleine.
Kyungsoo squeezed out onto the platform, taking long strides toward the exit and out into the streets. Snow crunched underfoot and the air was cold enough to catch his breath, trapping it in thin white clouds of vapor.
He approached the Palais Granier from the front and drank in the opulence. This was where he would make himself known the world over. He was no longer part of the choir. He was a tenor leading the production of The Magic Flue at the home of opera.
Looking up, Kyungsoo's eyes fell on the gilded muses and Gods standing stark against the winter's grey skies. They stared down, hollow eyes judging.
He swallowed and moved forward anyway, passing under the magnificent columned entrance.
"Kyungsoo, go ahead, from the departure of the Queen's assistants." The house répétiteur, Jongin Kim, sat behind a grand piano, black pressed shirt tucked into black pressed slacks. He wore Italian shoes that shined even in the shadow of his piano. He ran rehearsal with quiet focus, pausing progression with precise words of advice. His French was so much more natural than Kyungsoo's, and he wondered if Jongin was born here versus being a Korean transplant.
Jongin looked up from the sheet music in front of him. His eyes were heavy, beautiful and dark.
Startled, Kyungsoo jumped, only to look down and away in an attempt to shield his embarrassment. He could feel his face heat anyway. Clearing his throat, he looked back up to find Jongin smiling, lips tilted off center.
The piano played, and Kyungsoo turned toward the front of the stage, singing memorized lines to a red velvet audience—to empty chairs and gold leafed columns. He projected into Baroque decadence, walking across the stage with soft steps and a powerful voice. He was skilled, if small, but when he finished, smiling into the dim lights of an empty auditorium, no one clapped.
He looked to the others waiting in the wings for their turn. Their voices carried to break the silence as vocals worked to remain loose. No one was watching him, and Kyungsoo felt childish, young and naïve. Of course, an up and comer like him wouldn't have the draw or the respect of the more veteran cast.
Head turned down, his eyebrows dipped. Then, a sharp sound drew his attention. One clap that was slowly followed by another and another. Jongin turned on his piano bench, smile lazy.
Butterflies fluttered up from Kyungsoo's core, and he bit his bottom lip to keep his own smile in check.
Spinning back around to face ivory carved keys, Jongin's back straightened and he strung together a dramatic chord. "The Queen of the Night enters." A woman stepped forward, grace etched into her the soft wrinkles around her eyes. She took center stage, and Kyungsoo tried to focus on her form, on her light, agile voice. But, his eyes wandered back to the répétiteur.
A shoulder bumped into his, and then one of the choir members was leaning to whisper in his ear. "He's pretty, but he's trouble."
Kyungsoo forced his gaze off Jongin and onto the young woman next to him, but she was already gone. Kyungsoo's lips pressed flat as he watched the Queen of the Night finish her aria. In the end, everyone clapped for her.
Paris in the winter was beauty in monochrome. Shades of grey shifted from cold buildings blanketed in history and snow, to soft lights reflected in wet concrete. Flurries drifted in the air, catching on the wind to flirt with the people walking on the street. Kyungsoo watched them from one of the narrow windows along the Palais Granier's backstage walls.
"Kyungsoo?" Jongin's voice carried a smile and Kyungsoo pressed a hand down his shirt to flatten out invisible wrinkles.
Weeks of rehearsal had progressed smoothly, and now they found themselves already to the second act. The cast was talented, and Kyungsoo was sure the production would be as beautiful as the venue. But, he still felt like he was just part of a crowd—just one of the many performers rather than a lead.
"Jongin, hi." Nerves were on the edge of Kyungsoo's voice. This was the first time he had spoken to the pianist alone.
"What are you still doing here? Did the others already leave?" Jongin stood with his coat tucked under one arm. His cashmere crewneck was loose on his frame. More skin was on display than usual.
"Yes, it's just me left." Kyungsoo tried to smile, but it came out a little awkward. "I was wondering if you had some time this week for extra rehearsal." Jongin raised an eyebrow and Kyungsoo was compelled to explain. "I think vocally, everything is okay, but I don't seem to be drawing in the…" he tried to think of the right word, "…the awe and the stage presence the others possess."
"That's something you build, Kyungsoo. That's the result of experience."
"I know, I know." Kyungsoo pressed. "That's why I want the extra hours. I need more time to reach that level." With a deep breath at the end, he confessed. "I need you to help me."
The grin that split Jongin's face was as brilliant as the stage lights. "I have time now."
Kyungsoo stood there, staring before stuttering out an, "okay."
With a grand gesture, Jongin extended his arm, motioning for Kyungsoo to lead the way back to the stage.
"Let's start from the beginning, with Tamino falling in love with the image of Pamina." Jongin instructed from his piano bench, jacket left at his side and fingers on the keys.
Kyungsoo sang to an imaginary painting in his hand. He let the foreign words, project. His voice brushed against the empty seats of a dark audience, and then grew to fill every ornate inch. When he finished, the piano accompaniment died, and under the few remaining lights, silence blanketed.
When Jongin spoke, it was soft. "Your voice is beautiful. You have all the skills."
"Then what is it?"
"The Magic Flute," he began, "is a piece that has spoken dialogue. That's unique for an opera." Jongin turned on his piano bench, holding Kyungsoo's gaze. "In order for the spoken and sung dialogue to be of equal impact, it's not a special tone or pitch that's needed. It's passion. It's acting. You are a singer, yes, but you're also an actor."
"Passion." Kyungsoo raked a hand through his hair. "But, I have passion. I want this. I want to be Tamino, and to perform here," Kyungsoo turned toward the auditorium, "is my dream."
Jongin left his piano to take to the stage next to Kyungsoo. They stared out into the dark together. "Dedication and passion are not one in the same. Passion, emotion, feeling; those are what sell a performance, what makes people stop and take notice. It's what makes stars."
Kyungsoo closed his eyes. Feeling. He wasn't tapping into his emotions and feelings. He had been so caught up in being technically perfect that his performance had gone sterile. Eyes opened and he turned to see Jongin watching him. He really was beautiful. "So, I need to be more passionate?"
Jongin moved in, impossibly close, and he was a good deal taller than Kyungsoo. "Tamino is a prince in love, he bleeds passion."
"Right." Kyungsoo's heart stuttered as he looked up into Jongin's eyes. He couldn't read them, but his lips looked so tempting. Not letting himself think, Kyungsoo acted on his gut, on his raw want. He kissed Jongin on tiptoe, hand lifting to grip the cashmere on Jongin's arm for support. It was fleeting, a soft, short press of lips, but it was enough to make Kyungsoo's heart race.
When he pulled back, Jongin was smirking down at him. "That's more like it."
They took a cab back to Jongin's apartment. It was small, dark and bare, squeezed between two other rustic buildings on the hill of Montmartre. There was an air of romance to it, that old Parisian bohemian kind that was laced with lust. A reading chair rested by a thick glass window, a spotless kitchenette was tucked into a corner, and a wired-frame bed wrapped in silk sheets acted as the room's focal point.
Kyungsoo had little time to see the rest, pressed up against a locked front door with Jongin's lips on his ear.
"Clothes." It was all he said, and Kyungsoo didn't need anything else. They stripped, denim, wool, and leather spread across the hardwood floor. Kyungsoo was kissed back against the bed, knees hitting the edge of the mattress and buckling. The silk was cold against his skin and he gasped. Jongin drank in the quiet sound, mouth covering Kyungsoo's and tongue exploring.
Hands raked up, then down Kyungsoo's sides, blunt nails dragging over the soft dips between his ribs. Fingers trialed down, running over his cock to pull lightly at the skin. They were warm, moving over to press into his thigh and spread him open.
Lips moved down his neck, and drag of Jongin's tongue had Kyungsoo breathing out a moan. He arched, gripping at Jongin's arms to feel the way they flex as he moved down, down, down.
Jongin reached for the bedside table and rubbed his nose over Kyungsoo's hip, kissing the soft, pale surface. He seemed so practiced at this.
A slick finger worked Kyungsoo's entrance, playing with the outside before dipping in. He tensed, a broken sigh spilling into the dark. Looking down, he found Jongin looking up. His bottom lip pressed and dragged against the crown of Kyungsoo's dick. Tongue slipping out, Jongin licked the bread of pre-cum.
Kyungsoo fisted the sheets.
"You're holding back." Jongin's words were warm, and God, Kyungsoo was aching. A second finger was added to the stretch. "Feel the music, Kyungsoo." On the next breath, Jongin was bobbing down, mouth wet and suction tight over Kyungsoo's cock.
Air was stuck in Kyungsoo's chest, and he gasped out a moan. Head falling back, he closed his eyes. He felt overheated, heart racing as long, elegant fingers fucked him open further. Three deep, they pumped, and Jongin sucked him harder and faster.
It was wet, dirty, and Kyungsoo let himself enjoy it. He let go of the sheets and threaded his fingers through Jongin's hair, gripping. The hum of approval around his dick had him panting out moans. He rocked, lifting his hips to fuck Jongin's mouth, until digits were pulled.
There was the sound of foil tearing, and Jongin was lifting up, hovering over Kyungsoo with swollen, wet lips. Kyungsoo initiated the kiss, tongue running along Jongin's to taste himself. It was heady, heat pulsing in his veins and he wanted more.
They shifted, Kyungsoo changing their positions until he was straddling Jongin. Working lube over Jongin's wrapped cock, he pumped in a tight ring, watching the way Jongin's eyes fluttered.
With a hand on Jongin's chest and thighs pressing around his hips, Kyungsoo worked down thecock under him. He sank slowly, eyes closed and teeth on his lip to bite back a hiss. It was a tight fit, an amazing one, and settled in, Kyungsoo just breathed. Hands moved up his waist, and he looked down into Jongin's heavy lidded eyes. His hair was a mess against the pillow, and it might have been impossible for him to look more perfect.
Kyungsoo took the lead, hips lifting and dropping, and legs strained. It was slow at first, with Jongin's hands helping him roll up and down, up and down, until he was loose enough to take a pounding.
Sweat beaded on their skin, making contact slick as Kyungsoo started to bounce. His nails dug into Jongin's chest when hips snapped up to meet his drop downs. He fucked himself on Jongin's cock, finding that perfect angle. Back arched, he gasped through the thrust up.
"Fuck." Kyungsoo breathed the word, and he couldn't remember the last time he felt this good. He let his head fall back, let the heat build, legs burning and stomach tense. "Fuck, Jongin." It came out as a needy moan. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
He could feel Jongin tensing under him, could feel his hips start to falter, rhythm lost. Fingers wrapped around Kyungsoo's cock, jerking him off in quick strokes. It was enough to have him falling forward, hands slipping up Jongin's chest to sink into the sheets by his head. Kyungsoo's hips rocked back, desperate as Jongin fucked him through his orgasm. He came with stuttered moans, deep, low notes pressed into the base of Jongin's neck. Jongin was coming right after him, sinking deep with his head pressed back into the pillow. Everything was tense, tight, as Jongin breathed out a, "Shit." He moaned through his orgasm, fingers digging into Kyungsoo's hip until he finally melted.
They laid panting in their afterglow, bodies slick and spent. It was fucked out bliss, and Kyungsoo swam in it, rolling off of Jongin and onto his back. Limbs splayed, he refused to move. At his side, Jongin sat up. His legs swung over the bed to carry him into the bathroom, steps a little off.
Alone in the bare apartment, Kyungsoo stared up at the fine cracks in the ceiling. This wasn't like him.
He let his head fall to the side, and looked out the window. The city lights shown like stars in the dark, and snow-dusted rooftops stretched down the hill of Montmartre like clouds in the urban sky. At that moment, Paris looked like heaven on earth, a dream in the night.
Kyungsoo didn't feel like himself. No. He felt so much more alive.
Painted landscapes graced the stage to depict a beautiful temple fit for the Gods. It was a brassy gold backdrop casted in warm tinted lights. Kyungsoo stood in the middle of Act 2, Scene 7, with a frail and beautiful soprano at his side—the Pamina to his Tamino.
Love and devotion carried on their songs, and they performed for an enraptured cast. Kyungsoo let the emotion of the scene come through his voice and shine in his eyes. The scene held a sort of beauty Kyungsoo had been missing before he learned to let go. Jongin had told him that a raw heart on stage was more captivating than technical perfection.
It was proven correct in the way the cast clapped at the end of their scene.
Kyungsoo smiled, eyes falling on Jongin behind the grand piano. The répétiteur had a light smirk and a heavy stare.
"Perfect. Now," Jongin leaned back on his bench, suit jacket at his side and crisp white shirt form fitting, "how about we break for lunch? We'll pick back up with the final scenes after that."
Everyone was fairly quick to nod their approval and retire through the wings, leaving Kyungsoo and Jongin alone on the stage.
"You hungry?" Jongin stood, pulling at his tie.
"Want the usual?"
Kyungsoo paused, looking over his shoulder to check that they really were alone, and then grinned.
They kissed behind thick velvet curtains—lips meeting in a fleeting affair—before exiting backstage. They passed by staff, other cast members, and a flock of tourists following around a woman with an upheld umbrella, before finally slipping into and an office converted for prop storage.
There was a moment where neither of them moved. Jongin stood still a few feet into the room, next a rack of animal suits, and Kyungsoo remained leaning against the closed door, fingers slowly turning the lock. Then, they were on each other, hands pulling at clothes and lips pressed and parted as they kissed deep.
They fucked with their dress shirts on, Kyungsoo's bowtie was tight around his neck and Jongin's tie was flipped over his shoulder. Slacks pooled at their feet as Kyungsoo was pressed over a box labeled Armes and fucked from behind. It was quick and dirty.
Kyungsoo came first, fisting his dick as Jongin fucked him into the cardboard. Cum covering his hand, he brought it to his lips, lapping it up to hide the evidence. He kept sucking on his own fingers, as Jongin reached his own peak with a drawn hiss.
In the end, they simply breathed, letting the feeling settle in before returning to reality. With slow, lazy movements, they righted themselves. Clothes were tucked back into place, and Kyungsoo helped Jongin right his tie.
"Did you have enough to eat?" Jongin spoke in whisper. Kyungsoo made a face that was something close to a smile and pushed at the other's shoulder. Jongin pressed, face blank. "Do you want to get dinner later?"
"Oh." Kyungsoo's hands fell to his side. "Like a date?"
"Yeah, like a date."
Something warm and wonderful sat anchored in Kyungsoo's chest. "Okay."
Kyungsoo smiled to himself and it was reflected back at him three times over. The costume department was filled for final fittings. Most of the cast was rotated through the room, elevated on pedestals as rich materials were draped over their bodies. Costumes were pinned and stitched onto each singer, ensuring that every piece is a custom fit.
Seamstresses worked him like a doll, moving this arm and that leg to make sure Tamino would hold together on stage. Kyungsoo stood through it patiently, his mind wandering back to the night before in Jongin's bed and the night before that.
Ever since he met Jongin, his life had been a rush of bare skin against silk sheets and Baroque excess. It was a taste of what fame could be. He wasn't the shy, starry-eyed boy breaking out from the choir. He was in line to be a star, and Jongin was there to make him shine as bright as possible.
"Jongin's taste has really changed."
Kyungsoo's ears perked up at the name, but wrapped in thick layers he wasn't allowed to turn and see whose talking. It was a woman's voice and the words were spoken low, carrying from one of the pedestals nearby.
"It always changes to fit the bill, you know that." The response came from a male.
"I just thought his newest pet would be a little more attractive." She sounded so disappointed. "Or at least a woman."
"Jongin's always been an equal opportunity guy. But the younger and fresher, the better. They're the ones stupid enough to let him ride their coattails through their 15 minutes of fame. This isn't his first starlet, after all."
The words sat heavy on Kyungsoo's chest, making it hard to breath. He felt lightheaded, and stared into the mirror. He wanted to spin around, to tell them to shut the fuck up. They didn't know him, and they didn't know Jongin like he did. They were dating now. It would be made public after opening night. They had talked about this at dinner. They had planned it.
After opening night.
Kyungsoo looked in the mirror and all he saw was Tamino. He couldn't recognize himself.
It was a cold morning, one with heavy snow. Kyungsoo watched it drop from the sky, eyes tired and body sore. A kiss was pressed into his shoulder, chapped lips rough on his skin.
"Morning." Jongin's voice was rough. "Today's the big day."
Paris was a whitewash, a pale mosaic through the wet beads sticking to the window. Even without the sun, the snow made everything painfully bright.
"I'm going to shower." Kyungsoo escaped to the bathroom and didn't bother shutting the door behind him. His hands wrapped around the edges of the small porcelain sink, squeezing. He felt sick.
Water sprayed from the showerhead, hitting the clawed-foot tub without Kyungsoo touching it. His shoulders tensed as Jongin pressed up against him, chest folding over Kyungsoo's back. In the mirror, it looked like Jongin's body was about to swallow Kyungsoo's whole.
"What's wrong?" It was a heated whisper on Kyungsoo's skin.
"I don't feel right."
Jongin's hands ran up and down Kyungsoo's arms. "You'll be brilliant."
"I don't think I want this."
"What are you talking about?" Long fingers squeezed, but Jongin's voice stayed light.
"I don't know if I want fame." Kyungsoo pulled away, toward the shower. He could feel Jongin at his back, looming.
"Of course you do. We've worked too hard to back out now. You're just nervous."
"I don't want people talking about me."
"People will always talk. People will always be jealous of the lead." Jongin sounded rehearsed, like he had thought of an answer for everything.
Kyungsoo retreated under the water, closing the shower curtain behind him. Thankfully, Jongin didn't follow him. The sound of the door clicking shut let him know he was alone.
Standing under the warm pray, Kyungsoo didn't feel like himself. No. He felt so much emptier. He was so naïve to think he could waltz into the spotlight unchanged.
Turning brass knobs, he cut the water. Kyungsoo stepped out in nothing but a towel to find Jongin waiting for him. He was in a suit and tie, finely polished from his styled hair to his Italian shoes. He looked painfully beautiful, like a rose with too many thorns.
"I have a surprise for you." He smiled and Kyungsoo blinked. "I was going to save the reveal until we arrived at the opera, but since you're down…" A playbill was pulled from Jongin's inside pocket and presented with a proud ta-da.
"The Magic Flute's playbill?" Kyungsoo took it, unsure.
"Look at the cast list."
Kyungsoo didn't understand what he was supposed to be seeing. He read it aloud, a question in his voice. "Tamino…D.O. What is this? Who is D.O.?"
"It's you." Jongin was close, hand lifting to cup Kyungsoo's cheek. "A stage name."
His thumb trailed down over Kyungsoo's lips, and his eyes were heavy. "You're a performer now. An idol. A stage name will help you shape that image, while keeping your real identity honest."
Kyungsoo snorted. "Honest."
"You don't like it?"
Kyungsoo pulled away, looking down at the playbill again. "D.O." It was sharp, powerful. It didn't have the soft edges of Kyungsoo. "I like it, actually." He said it again and he could taste himself on it. "D.O."
He sat in his private dressing room, costume on and makeup set. The lights around the mirror glowed in his eyes, and this was it. A knock on his door was followed by the Jongin's entrance. He had a bouquet of roses in hand.
"How are you feeling?" Jongin kissed his neck, careful not to touch the makeup.
"Good. Much better."
Another knock against the door broke the moment. This time, it came with a five-minute curtain call warning.
"Well," Jongin kissed him again, "I should get to my seat. You'll be perfect." Then, he was gone.
Kyungsoo stared ahead, eyes lined with black and skin flawless. In the mirror, D.O. smiled back.
"Time for my debut."
Standing, D.O. took the stage, and he left the audience breathless. He was more perfect than Jongin could have ever hoped. So perfect, in fact, that there was no need for him to ever return to Kyungsoo.