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The other members had been pretty impressed, at least for a little while. Hearing that Kyungsoo had not only scored a role in a musical, but one in a foreign country in a foreign language, was undeniably awesome. They oohed and aahed at all the right times as the manager explained the situation, explained that the members would be spending the next year and a half minimum on largely solo activities because of Kyungsoo’s absence, explained why Kyungsoo had been travelling to and fro time and time again.
And then he uttered the dreaded words; stage musical adaptation of The Prince of Tennis.
...and the entire group fell about laughing.
“Holy shit,” Baekhyun wheezed, clapping Chanyeol so hard on the back the taller boy was practically winded, “this is amazing. It’s so perfect.”
“You’ll do a great job,” Joonmyun tried and failed to keep a straight face, lips wavering as he spoke, “everyone will be so proud of you.”
“Tennis!” Sehun was doubled over on himself. Kyungsoo just frowned and looked at the floor.
“Now, now, it’s all very funny, but remember that what D.O. is doing is massively important for all of you.” The manager was smirking too and Kyungsoo kind of sort of really wanted to die. “He is building our potential market ahead of EXO’s official Japanese debut - what he does here is laying vital groundwork for everyone else. Yes, it’s musical tennis, we may all laugh about it now, but keep in mind that this role isn’t all fun and games. D.O. returns to Japan this weekend to attend tennis camp with his castmates-”
At the mention of tennis camp, Jongdae started howling to himself in the corner, setting everybody else off all over again.
“I can watch some of your DVDs with you if you want, hyung,” a low, quiet whisper came from Kyungsoo’s side. He leaned into it without really thinking. “To help you prepare.”
Jongin had surprisingly been serious.
Later that week, the pair of them had made themselves comfortable on Kyungsoo’s bed shoulder to shoulder, with snacks and drinks scattered about the sheets, Kyungsoo’s laptop and a pile of DVDs in front of them.
“There aren’t any subtitles.”
“The story might not make any sense to you since you’ve never watched the cartoon or read the comics before.”
“You’re going to be so bored.”
“I- hey, no I won’t! This is really exciting, hyung, and you have to remember that, even if nobody’s really taking it seriously.” Kyungsoo thought back to Baekhyun and Chanyeol miming a tennis match over breakfast that morning and cringed, picking up his water bottle to hide the grimace.
“Okay, okay, I’ll explain anything important as it happens. Should I give you a rundown of the characters first? It’ll be easier than talking over all the intro songs.”
They watched a musical from the previous season, Seigaku vs Saint Rudolph and Yamabuki, Kyungsoo quickly introducing the characters shown on the box to Jongin before pressing play. It was obvious that Jongin didn’t understand most of the musical, but he seemed to feel it instead, reacting to the sound of the music, the way lines were sung and spoken instead of the actual words. He watched the choreography closely, smiling just a little bit.
“It’s dumb, I know.”
“No, no, I think it’s kinda cool. I mean, they’re working stuff like stretches and pushups and their rackets into the dance itself, that’s novel.”
“You can call it dumb, I won’t be offended.”
Jongin didn’t call it dumb, instead flopping onto Kyungsoo’s shoulder and taking a handful of his popcorn. “Which one’s you?”
Kyungsoo paused the DVD just as Kaneda began to sing his solo line in the group song, a strange expression on the actor’s face mid-sentence. “There I am.”
“I’ll watch him.” Kyungsoo wanted to tell Jongin that no, he didn’t have to watch Kaneda, that most of the emotional drama of the arc was centred around everybody else save for a single scene of his own, that Saint Rudolph were only the centre of attention in half of the musical anyway. But the way Jongin kept to his word, searched for Kaneda in every group shot, hummed along to the choruses, and leaned close to whisper in Kyungsoo’s ear about whatever was happening at the moment, had the words dying in his throat every time he tried.
“He’s the little brother, right? What’s happening?”
“It’s a flashback. He’s been lured into transferring to Saint Rudolph to escape his brother’s shadow and develop his own identity.”
“Why is that guy being made to look evil, then? Isn’t that a good thing?”
“It’ll come up in a couple of matches...but he’s not what he appears.”
“Will little brother be alright? The character’s supposed to be only like thirteen, right?”
The genuine worry in Jongin’s voice had Kyungsoo’s heart melting, just a little. “He’ll be fine.”
“Will you be alright?”
It took Kyungsoo a moment to remember that whenever Jongin said you he meant Kaneda. “Yeah, he’s fine too. He’s probably happier than anybody.”
Jongin managed to stay awake all the way to the encore, and despite a sleepy yawn giving him away, he asked if he could watch the musical where Kaneda had a guest role sometime soon.
I’m probably happier than anybody.
☆Catholic School Boys Run Wild☆
‘Hibi-tan: AS YOUR CAPTAIN IT IS MY JOB TO REMIND YOU TO PACK STUFF LIKE UNDERWEAR AND CLEAN SHIRTS FOR TENNIS CAMP’
‘☆Hinata☆: Don’t forget any medication you might be taking, your health is important.’
‘rUirUi: thanks mom, dad’
‘Hibi-tan: YOURE WELCOME SON’
‘♥Wings♥: Kyungsoo, have a safe journey on Friday! Does everyone remember where we’re meeting and when?’
‘Hibi-tan: YEA H’
‘DO.Soo: Thanks, Tsubasa. I’ll see you all there!’
‘Hibi-tan; SIT NEXT TO ME ON THE BUS’
‘Jongin: Have fun at camp, Hyung’
‘Kyungsoo: I will, thanks.’
Sandwiched between a sleeping Hibiki and an incessantly twitching Tsubasa, Kyungsoo leaned back in his seat with a yawn. He’d only landed in Tokyo that morning, and after a catch up with Rikuto over lunch at the Sailor Moon pop-up cafe that had opened a month or so back, he had been dropped off at the bus station to wait for the rest of the cast. The Golden Pair had shown up first, arm in arm in what was either the fastest best-friendship Kyungsoo had ever witnessed or some very solid method acting. At first, Kyungsoo had felt a little guilty, thinking about every member of the cast outside of Saint Rudolph (and Richie) by their character names having no hope of remembering their real ones, until he confided this worry to his captain.
“Eh, we all do it. Our names are the most important for you to remember, anyway.” He grinned, obviously fighting to keep his eyes open despite it being six in the evening and not even having his seatbelt on yet. “Bros before foes.”
It had been a pretty pleasant ride to camp, actually. Hibiki snored, but chatting with Tsubasa and Richie or sharing iPods with them at the very back of the bus helped to drown that out. Hinata clucked his tongue at Rui for wearing his school uniform inappropriately (it’s 6PM!) and Haru, for once, was not making strange faces at Kyungsoo but instead sharing a pile of magazines with Sora beside him. The Yamabuki members quickly began pelting each other with paper balls further ahead in the bus, Seigaku and Fudomine sang increasingly loudly despite shushing from a few older members, and Hyoutei stayed true to character by being surprisingly insular, speaking in hushed tones as if they were planning something.
“Probably a secret handshake,” Rui observed, leaning over Tsubasa to murmur to Kyungsoo. The flinch that ensued from Kyungsoo’s right made it clear that Tsubasa liked his personal space, thanks. “Ours is better.”
Kyungsoo sighed a little. “I always forget what the word was…”
“Don’t worry, only Hibiki has to say that-”
“-yell that. All we have to say is our name. It’ll be drilled into you by the end of camp!”
“I’m bad at sports.” He blurted out suddenly before bringing his hands up to cover his mouth. Cringe. He hadn’t even realised he’d been thinking it. “I’ve never even played tennis before. I know the rules because of, uh, Prince of Tennis, but I don’t know how to play. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
There was a brief silence at the back of the bus. Kyungsoo took a moment to look at his phone, rather than everyone else’s faces, and contemplate the photos he took of his ‘Uranus and Neptune Sweet Love Pancake Set’ earlier in the day.
A soft laugh. “Kyungsoo,” it was Hinata, from over by the other window, “I have only touched a tennis racket once in my life. That day, a boy on the next court over missed a particularly strong serve and hit me in the head with it. I had to go to hospital. I don’t have the most experience with this sport, either.”
“I do track because I have no idea how to control the strength of a shot in ball sports!” Rui piped up. “Last time we did tennis in gym class, I launched the ball into the parking lot!”
“Dance is all I’m good at. Don’t ask me to play an actual sport with an actual score, please.” Tsubasa cringed at the thought.
Haru hadn’t played any kind of sport since leaving high school, Sora broke his leg in his last ever gym class and had the whole ‘physical activity’ thing end on a sour note, Hibiki just snored in such a way it sounded like he was going to choke to death in his sleep, but he probably had some kind of entertaining and relatable anecdote to tell, too.
Richie, seated a row ahead of Kyungsoo next to Tsubasa’s brother, turned back with a smile (and total disregard for seatbelt safety apparently) “‘Soo, we aren’t going to camp to learn to be good at sports. We are here to learn how to become good at pretending to do sports, and make some fun and embarrassing footage for the inevitable backstage DVDs.” Kyungsoo had watched a couple of those, and wondered how many more copies it would shift were he to fall flat on his face or something. Clearly, the best way to escape the perfectionist ideals of SM Entertainment was to get involved with a musical that prized embarrassing moments caught on camera as though they were the purest gold. “I played national level in high school, though. No pressure~!” He practically sang before putting his earbuds back in. Great.
Kyungsoo had fallen asleep a little after that, waking up against Hibiki’s shoulder just as the bus pulled into the parking lot of what appeared to be the camp, surrounded by tennis courts on all sides. Tsubasa, who had gently shaken him awake, motioned for him to do the same to the still sleeping captain before following the rest of the team off the bus.
‘Baekyun: break a leg out there prince of tennis!!!’
‘Kyungsoo: Break a leg yourself, Baekhyun. Preferably both.’
Dinner had been simple, eaten in a large room around several tables around which the crowd broke away from their teams and scattered about to socialise. Bedtime was immediately after, with each team assigned to a tatami room. Kyungsoo, Hinata and Sora set about laying out the futons while the others retrieved the bedding.
“Ever stayed in a place like this, ‘Soo?” Sora flopped onto the last futon after laying it out, immediately muffled by Hibiki putting the blanket on top of him.
“No. It’s definitely interesting, though…”
Hibiki was back over to them in an instant. “‘Soo’s first big Japanese experience! I think this calls for a group photo!!”
The resulting selfie, Kyungsoo squashed in the middle of it all, was a little awkward, but he almost kind of liked it that way, complete with Sora just giving a thumbs up from under the blanket. He sent it to a few people after the lights had gone out and Hibiki’s snoring had resumed from somewhere in the darkness.
‘Tuxedo Rick: Have fun with your tennis friends!!’
‘Rich-E: Boooooo!! We didn’t get a team photo before everyone went to bed :C go to sleep soon ready for me to kick your ass at tennis tomorrow!!’
‘Jongin: That’s a nice photo of you. You’re smiling. You look great.’
‘Kyungsoo: You too.’
‘Jongin: ? I haven’t sent you any photos, hyung.’
‘Kyungsoo: Well maybe you should. Anyway it always applies SO. Goodnight Jongin.’
‘Jongin: Sweet dreams.’
Camp was interesting. It was fun and it was awful and it was a learning experience and it was torture but even at the lowest points, at least eighty percent of the cast were right down there with Kyungsoo. Literally down. On the floor. It happened a lot.
Not everyone could keep up with actors like Richie, Gakuto or Kikumaru, who were effortlessly flipping their way around the court and returning every ball thrown at them by the serving machines. Not everyone had years and years of tennis experience, wielding rackets like they were simply extensions of their arms. Kyungsoo, while not falling on his face like he expected to, did end up in a heap on the floor several times, sometimes with other members of the camp tangled up with him. The cameras seemed to have an innate sense for when someone was about to take a tumble absolutely anywhere in the camp and managed to be there just in time to catch them falling on their asses. It would make for a hilarious, if mortifying, DVD.
“I’m bad at sports.” Hibiki groaned as he tried to unlock he and Kyungsoo’s ankles, scratched up by the rough court.
“We had a big sharing session about this on the bus, actually. It was very touching.”
“Shoulda woken me up,” He helped Kyungsoo to stand, just as Rui tumbled to the ground in pursuit of a tricky serve. “What kind of captain am I if I don’t get to know these things?”
“A captain who’s about to be hit by a-” Hibiki suddenly keeled over again after a ball thumped straight into his back. Hinata just sighed behind them. “-ball.”
On the next court over, Oshitari’s actor grinned sheepishly and called over an apology.
‘Jongin: How’s camp?’
‘Jongin: On a scale from ‘spilled coffee on yourself’ to ‘that time Sehun split his pants open in dance practice’, how embarrassing would you say it is?’
‘Kyungsoo: Worse. At least nobody filmed Sehun splitting his pants in anticipation of selling it on a DVD later.’
‘Jongin: I’m so sorry.’
Kyungsoo ached all over. It had been a long,long day - stretches, warm up laps, grip, swing practice, serves, returns, footwork...fortunately in their free court time at the end of the day, before the cool down stretches and laps, he hadn’t run into Richie, instead having a casual rally with Tsubasa while the more competitive members did their thing, yelling and cursing and apparently having a great time doing so.
“At least we won’t have to actually deal with tennis balls on stage,” Sora shuddered a little, almost visibly flashing back to he and Kyungsoo’s (well, and many other people’s) shared inability to control where the ball would go, “Just a spotlight. I didn’t realise so much tennis was required to know how to pretend to be good at tennis.”
“To think we’ll all be missing this camp soon, when we actually have to make our pathetic attempts at tennis look good. My knees are still bleeding.”
“Hibiki, it’s the middle of the night. Indoor voice.”
“This is my indoor voice.”
“I don’t wanna go to sleep yet,” Rui sat up in the darkness, as if to prove a point, “it’s kind of fun being awake like this. It feels like a sleepover.”
“Ooooh, got the urge to pour out all your biggest secrets? Because I’m totally listening.” A rustle from Kyungsoo’s left - Hibiki was up now too. “Team bonding secret session, anybody? I missed the stuff on the bus.”
“Are we really going to-”
“YES.” Most of the team chorused in what Kyungsoo assumed to be the direction of Hinata’s futon, indoor voices forgotten. A little thump on the wall that they shared with Fudomine’s room. Oops. “Yes.” Whispered this time. “And for being a killjoy, you get to start.”
Hinata was a surprisingly open book, as long as the lights were off and he was hiding under his blanket for good measure. He may not have had the most scandalous history - his most shameful secret was apparently breaking a window as a child and pinning the blame on his younger sister, who was so young at the time that to the present day she believed she had really done it - but he was open to sharing more than one, and Kyungsoo made himself comfortable to listen as they went around the group, swapping stories in the security of darkness. Haru had gotten himself suspended from school once after starting a fight with another student over a girl they both liked, the fact that she’d actually had a boyfriend at the time anyway a whined addendum into Haru’s pillow. Tsubasa had shoplifted once under pressure from a senior at school, met with gasps from around the room.
“I put it back!” He protested, Kyungsoo able to feel the slight breeze from him frantically flapping his hands. “Nobody saw me take it and I put it back afterwards because I felt bad, but I still did it.”
“Keep an eye on your doubles partner, Haru, he’s a dirty criminal.” Hibiki cackled, the pillow Tsubasa threw at him missing entirely and hitting Rui in the face. “You’re a good match for each other, he’s a rotten thug.”
Kyungsoo rolled over and hummed a little, checking his phone under the pillow. “Don’t tell me you’re innocent, captain, because I don’t believe you.”
“Oh! You wound me, ‘Soo. I’ve never done a bad deed in my life, it’s those kinds of morals that make me a captain, but I do have a secret. I’m scared of heights - like, really really scared. We went on vacation to Paris once, and I had a panic attack at the top of the Eiffel Tower and they needed to get police involved to get me down.”
“Got any secrets, Kyungsoo?” Rui threw Tsubasa’s pillow back, just a little short so it landed on Kyungsoo’s back. “I figured an idol isn’t allowed to admit to anything really scandalous, but you’ve got to have something you can tell us.”
“Nothing will leave this room!”
‘Jongin: Are your castmates nice?’
‘Kyungsoo: Right now they’re being really mean. I’m being interrogated. :)’
‘Jongin: Who are you and why do you have Kyungsoo’s phone. He never uses smiley faces in his messages.’
‘Kyungsoo: Relax, the only Korean-speaker I know in Japan is Rikuto, the guy in charge of helping me out, and he’s not even here. I’m just in a smiley face mood.’
‘Jongin: I’m scared.’
“I, uh.” Kyungsoo had a lot of secrets, that was a fact, but he couldn’t think of anything that was both interesting enough to tell and safe enough to admit without anybody signing a contract of secrecy first. “I cried watching Prince of Tennis once. The anime.”
Silence, until it was broken by a sudden, barking laugh. “Oh man! What part?”
“When the Golden Pair broke up in the first Hyoutei arc.” Wait. Too suspect. Shit. “I, uh, I’d had a huge argument with my best friend around the same time I watched that part, so it struck kinda close to home. Nobody ever let me live it down.”
It wouldn’t really have worked for him to admit, as a grown man, that he just didn’t want them to break up. That would have sounded...weird.
‘Jongin: Hyung? You’re not mad at me are you?’
A chorus of shut up from the next room when Saint Rudolph tried and failed to stop laughing, only falling silent after an embarrassed Hinata shushed them all.
“That one’s a doozy, ‘Soo. Talk about cringe - anybody got anything worse?”
‘Kyungsoo: Nah. I really miss you.’
“Alright everybody, we’ll need you back at the usual place next weekend for costume tests and promotional photographs. Seigaku, Fudomine, Saint Rudolph and Yamabuki, we’ll need you Saturday, and Hyoutei will come in on Sunday, as well as anybody who hasn’t finished their Saturday shoots. You’ve worked hard at camp, and practice your racket grip occasionally - it could save you a lot of trouble.”
Goodbyes were waved, man-hugs were given, and a little red car waited near the bus station for Kyungsoo to come out. The radio was squeaking...something. Rikuto had called it Vocaloid. Kyungsoo wasn’t sure what to call it in any language. There weren’t any words. Maybe Baekhyun would like it.
“Congrats on surviving camp, tiger!” Rikuto revved the car with such enthusiasm he earned a honk from the car behind. “You deserve a rest, and you’re getting one somewhere properly private for a change. We finally secured you one of those monthly rental apartments, not far from here! You’ll be able to take the train to rehearsals and stuff, so it’ll be a lot easier on you.” Kyungsoo, too tired from the past two days to really talk much, just hummed in lieu of a response. “You get to be more independent, too. The company will give you a monthly allowance for living expenses like food, and you get to deal with all that stuff yourself. I’m supposed to be watching you, though - if you start gaining weight or breaking out or anything else that suggests you’re not feeding yourself properly, I’ll have to step in and play babysitter, and you don’t want that, do you?”
He yawned. “No…”
“You missed a right turn, dummy!”
“Thanks, Mars, really appreciate it.” Rikuto sighed. “Anyway, I spent the weekend sprucing the place up for you, got all your essentials like food and toilet paper, now it’s all ready to go! It’s a futon on the floor rather than a bed, though, is that okay?”
“I’ve been on one all weekend, I’ll be fine.” He silently decided to never put the futon away since he’d only be unfolding it every night anyway.
“Awesome. It’s pretty barebones, so you can fill it up with all the high school tennis merch you want!”
The apartment was simple, on the sixth floor of a fairly unassuming building a few stops away from the main rehearsal studio. It was clean, it was private, and the futon was already laid out, and that was all that mattered to Kyungsoo, really. He took a few photos around the apartment and sent it to a few friends, as well as uploading it to EXO’s group chat, before flopping onto his futon with a notebook. He had homework to do.
‘Baekhyun: Soo hates us he’s moving out’ Baekhyun added a crying emoji on the end.
‘Chanyeol: Does that mean i can move in with jongin’
‘Kyungsoo: No way, Chanyeol, he’s’ Kyungsoo almost wrote mine, and hurriedly backspaced, ‘my roommate. You have your own.’
‘Chanyeol: Wah’ more crying emojis. Kyungsoo almost preferred the Yu-Gi-Oh! stickers that Sora posted in ☆Catholic School Boys Run Wild☆ on a daily basis.
‘Yixing: It looks nice. Keep it clean!’
‘Jongdae: Minseok is dying without you here. He has to clean up after everybody else all by himself now.’
‘Minseok: KYUNGSOO PLEASE COME BACK I AM ONLY ONE MAN AND CANNOT TIDY UP AFTER JOONMYUN ALONE’
Joonmyun: It isn’t just me!!’
‘Minseok: IT’S MOSTLY YOU’
‘Jongin: Your apartment is nice’ popped up in a private chat window a moment later ‘it must be relaxing having somewhere quiet to go instead of living with us.’
‘Kyungsoo: You should visit.’ Kyungsoo knew that Jongin was probably going to be kept far too busy to visit him, but he did mean it. ‘It’s true what I said. I miss you.’
‘Jongin: I miss you too.’
‘Kyungsoo: Don’t let Chanyeol steal my bed, either.’
A string of laughing emojis. ‘Jongin: I won’t. I’ll put Pikachu in there.’
‘Kyungsoo: I was thinking more along the lines of thumbtacks but whatever you think will work.’
‘Jongin: !!!! Hyung!!’
‘Tuxedo Rick: How’re you settling in champ? Don’t forget to eat! Have you trashed the place? I won’t judge, just don’t let the press see. Invited any tennis buddies over yet?’
‘DO.Soo: *photo attachment*’
‘Tuxedo Rick: Shock. Your sink has ONE DISH in it. ONE WHOLE DISH. Living that wild, bachelor life.’
‘DO.Soo: That photo was from yesterday. Now there is one glass and a pair of chopsticks in the sink instead.’
‘Tuxedo Rick: GASP’
‘Tuxedo Rick: Don’t be late for your costume check tomorrow, okay? No crazy parties until the crack of dawn - those dark circles are a bitch to cover! Think of the makeup team!’
“Holy shit,” Kyungsoo held up the mirror. Kaneda was looking back. “I’m Kaneda now.”
“We’ve been able to use your natural hair for the style, so keep it around this length, okay? We’ve really not had to do much at all, and there aren’t any major blemishes to cover, so it’s more about defining your eyes and getting you the right colour so as not to be washed out by the stage lighting.”
“I still think we should put a little bit of blush on him,” one stylish hummed thoughtfully to the other, “but that will depend on the kind of Kaneda he’s playing. We don’t have to make any big decisions now.”
“Ladies!” A male stylist on the other side of the room called over, “got any more concealer? We have so many high schoolers this season. So much angry skin…”
The stylists went over to their colleague’s assistance, giving Kyungsoo a chance to snap a quick photo in the mirror and send it to Jongin. He was already wearing his team uniform, for which he had been sized while at camp, and it fitted him like he was born to wear it. As he sent the message, a pair of arms flopped loosely around his neck.
“Yo, looking good, partner!”
“You too. Don’t turn my costume orange, though. We have the promo photos to do.”
The laugh that followed startled one of the stylists into winging Haru’s eyeliner up into his hairline. “Who’s orange? This colour is all natural, bro! Probably the main reason they cast me as Akazawa.” Hibiki leaned forward to press his cheek against Kyungsoo’s, raising an arm to take a selfie of his own. “N’aw, aren’t we a handsome pair.”
“I hope you two paid attention while they put you together.” Hinata rested a hand on the side of the dressing table in front of Kyungsoo, clearly a little less comfortable with the idea of smushing his newly made-up face against anything else. His eyeliner had the most fantastic wing to it, though, and Kyungsoo was almost jealous of it. “We’re doing our own hair and makeup for the show proper, and by the sound of it nobody in this god forsaken cast has any experience doing so aside from me.”
“Don’t look at me, my agency don’t trust me with something as important as my appearance. Crooked eyeliner could end my career.”
“And they barely did anything to me.” Hibiki gestured to his face. “Check us out, I think Saint Rudolph is the only all-natural team? No wigs, I mean.”
Hinata tutted. “That’s only because nobody on our team has anything ridiculous like blue hair or orange hair or hair down to their bottoms. Yours is the silliest, and all they had to do was straighten it. Also, Hibiki, isn’t that shirt too tight on you?”
All three of them immediately turned their gazes to Hibiki’s chest, Kyungsoo immediately rolling his eyes away again. He hadn’t meant to do that, but Hinata started it. It was true that the shirt was a little tight, but it didn’t seem to bother the wearer, nor any of the stylists. “They said they’d look into a bigger one, but I kinda like it how it is. It makes me look manly and intimidating without getting actually bulky.”
“Actually, it makes you look like you have. Ah.” Hinata waved his hand a little.
“BOOBS.” Sora yelled from a few seats away, posing with his new, Nomura glasses perched crookedly on his nose. Hinata just slapped his palm against his forehead.
“Yes, those. It’s not flattering at all.”
Hibiki pouted, hands on his hips, but before he could reply, Rui poked his head into the dressing room, having just finished a photo session with a couple of the Seigaku actors. Kyungsoo almost did a double take at the little scar pencilled in on the younger boy’s forehead.
“Hey, is Hinata finished? We’re ahead of schedule, so if you’re ready you can come on out for some shots with the Fuji brothers.”
Hinata left, and Hibiki turned his attention back to Kyungsoo, patting his cheek as an alternative to ruffling his meticulously styled hair. “We’re probably gonna have most of our photos together, though you’ll have a couple with Rui, I guess, since your characters are the same age. Maybe we’ll get the Golden Pair in some of our shots? I have no idea what they want with us.”
It was so weird, looking around the room and seeing Saint Rudolph looking back at him instead of the group of boys he’d somewhat gotten to know over the past few weeks. Haru’s sulky expression had become the trademark duck pout of Yanagisawa, while meticulously applied eyeliner transformed Tsubasa’s wide-eyed, worried look into one calm and a little condescending as he twiddled with the red ribbon now tied around his head. Members of Yamabuki, too, were being made up and styled, Richie’s frazzled orange hair now covered by a much more vivid orange, but not crimped to death, wig.
Today’s photoshoot would be the last time for a while that anybody would get to see Seigaku or Fudomine, the two teams beginning full rehearsals for their show in the autumn very very soon. Other teams would get staggered rehearsals, starting with their team and solo songs before moving onto ensemble numbers, choreo and finally, dialogue and acting. Kyungsoo didn’t envy Seigaku or Fudomine one bit, but actors on both teams stayed chipper throughout the day, Kikumaru yet again pulling Kyungsoo in for a selfie as soon as they met in the green screen room for their rival shoot.
“Aw, you look great! They barely did anything to you, huh? You’re a natural Kaneda.” Kikumaru grinned, dragging his doubles partner by the arm to join the photo too. Both of them were wearing wigs, Oishi’s secured with a frankly painful-looking number of bobby pins, and Kyungsoo silently thanked the casting directors for their choices.
It wasn’t a long shoot, with the two doubles pairs staring each other down on opposite sides of the green screen mat, rackets in hand. The photographers praised Kyungsoo on his serious expression (which his bandmates back home preferred to refer to as Resting Bitch Face) and his ability to switch between that and a softer, more relaxed face when posing with Rui or Hibiki on their own.
“Okay Kaneda, could you bow to Akazawa for us? As low as you comfortably can - you’re supposed to deeply respect your senior, after all.”
“Before he acts like a total ass in our match.” He muttered, before smiling and nodding as politely as he could to the photographers and following their instruction. Hibiki immediately burst out laughing, taking a good five minutes to settle down into the unruffled, captainly expression asked of him for the photo.
“Sorry, it was so weird having you bow to me like that.” He chuckled afterwards, when Kyungsoo was allowed to straighten his back again.
“I think my back died.”
“Alright you two, one more pose! This time, think about your characters after their match - a real doubles pair, equals, maybe even friends? Do whatever feels natural to your characters.”
Kyungsoo turned to Hibiki to ask what he would suggest, but before the words left his mouth he was yanked closer to Hibiki so he was standing on his tiptoes, the taller actor’s arm around his waist.
“Bit of a sudden change, don’t you think?” Kyungsoo was wobbling where he stood, but couldn’t stop a smile anyway.
“Hey, we won a doubles match, that means we’re basically BFF now.” A grin in response.
Kyungsoo’s racket tapped against the side of his leg a little bit, keeping him ever so aware of how long he’d been standing like that, barely able to stay in place. “This is kind of. Difficult.”
“Hey, if you think this is difficult, think of how hard it’s going to be to get me out of this thing. They’ll have to cut me and my fantastic man-boobs free.”
The cameras clicked repeatedly just as the two of them began to laugh.
“Okay boys, team photo time!”
‘Tuxedo Rick: YOU LOOK AMAZING’
‘DO.Soo: They didn’t do much really’
‘Tuxedo Rick: Even better, think of all the merch they’ll sell of your handsome face. I love the team shot the best tho. I can print it for you it you want. You can stick it on the wall.’
‘DO.Soo: I think I will. Thank you.’
A sticker of Sailor Chibi Moon giving a thumbs up in response. Kyungsoo really hadn’t realised how many ‘Sailor’s there were.
‘Jongin: Is that you and your team? Looks about as big as EXO.’
‘Kyungsoo: Yep! The big guy next to me is my doubles partner, he’s pretty awesome. Oh, and the one with the red hairband is a fan of ours! Sweet kid. I think he’s younger than you, maybe around the same age as Sehun? And Rui is sixteen.’
‘Jongin: Whoa, which one is that?’
‘Kyungsoo: Weird little cross on his forehead, in the front.’
‘Jongin: Aw, team baby.’
‘Kyungsoo: We’re not being called together again until the end of the month, so I’m not really sure what to do now…maybe I’ll look around more of Tokyo. I’ll find you something nice.’
‘Jongin: You don’t have to do that!!!’
‘Kyungsoo: Yeah but you know I will.’
‘Jongin: >/////< ♥ hyung.’
It was a relaxing wait until the end of March, Kyungsoo spending quiet days in his apartment, watching DVDs and filling up his ‘homework’ notebook with various thoughts and doodles. Would Kaneda wear this kind of stuff in his free time? How often does he call his parents from the dorms? According to his profile he gets all his homework and class prep done every night, so he must be very organised. His hobby is stamp collecting? Maybe he has some Korean stamps. Where did he get them? Family? Does he have Korean relatives? He’s a Capricorn, too, would having his birthday on New Year’s Eve sour him a little towards the holiday because it overshadows his special day? His non-tennis specialty is crossword puzzles. I should do some of those. Does he get along with his younger brother? What’s the age difference… three pages of wobbly doodles of family members, complete with lists of traits, followed. He was the only member of Saint Rudolph to be attending the school before Mizuki transferred in, aside from Akazawa...did they already kind of know each other? I should really talk to Hibiki about this. And go outside. It’s been a while.
Determinedly leaving the notebook at home, Kyungsoo grabbed a face mask from the small shelf unit by the front door, hid his face, and set out to catch the next train to...somewhere.
He ended up in Shibuya, losing himself in the crowd going over the sprawling, stretching road crossings. It was so busy, where to go first?
A large shopping mall of men’s clothing turned out to be his first destination, close to the train station and of little enough interest to girls that there was a lowered risk of him being recognised while in there. The hours wiled away as Kyungsoo browsed through the racks in each store, on every floor. When had he last bought clothes for himself? What did he even like to wear? It had been nothing but black, black and more black, with the occasional pair of jeans, for a very long time now whenever the SM stylists weren’t dressing him.
Kyungsoo did eventually allow himself one item, a mostly-black t shirt with a few pineapple motifs across the chest. Prickly. Sweet. Sour. written underneath them. Sounds like me.
Tower Records came next, though he didn’t stay there for long, just enough to scope out their K-pop section and see how EXO were doing. On the way out, he passed a small gacha machine.
It was only two hundred yen, so he decided to quickly give it a try, pocketing the plastic capsule that came out and heading out of the store before anybody noticed him there, buying keychains of his own group like a weirdo.
Next, he settled down in a large Starbucks, overlooking the huge crossing. With a slice of blueberry cheesecake and a hot chocolate in front of him (SM didn’t need to know about that) he snapped a photo of his meal and of the view over the zebra crossing before checking his messages.
‘♥Wings♥: Hey, uh, Kyungsoo? Are you busy?’
‘DO.Soo: Not really. Everything okay?’
‘♥Wings♥: Yeah, I’m fine, I’m just...I dunno, worried.’
‘DO.Soo: Worried about what?’
‘♥Wings♥: This sounds really stupid because it’s months away, but uh, the musical. I’ve never really performed before aside from small house shows in my ballet school, and it’ll be my first time singing or acting or any kind of dance that isn’t ballet. I don’t know what to do. What if I mess up Atsushi really bad, and all the fans hate me?’
Kyungsoo took a forkful of cheesecake, pausing in thought. ‘DO.Soo: Do you like Atsushi? Or either of the Kisarazu twins, really.’
‘♥Wings♥: Yes? He’s not my absolute favourite but I always liked Atsushi’s design and when I read his character profile for the first time he seemed really...relatable, especially with all the self esteem issues he probably has after being mistaken for his brother, you know? I was never the male lead in my school productions, so I kind of projected onto Atsushi a lot when I was younger. You know, as the one nobody chose first.’
‘♥Wings♥: That was so TMI oh my gosh.’
‘DO.Soo: Actually, that’s perfect. You like Atsushi, the audience will like Atsushi, so it’s not like they’re waiting for you to fail or something. They want to see you do well. They want to see Atsushi do well, and so do you - keep researching Atsushi and see what you have in common, it’s hard to screw up acting a character when it feels like you’re just acting like yourself.’
‘♥Wings♥: Wow, that sounds like it could work! Thank you so much!!’
‘DO.Soo: No problem. Your first show is always the hardest. At least you’ve been on a stage before.’
‘♥Wings♥: You’re right!! Thank you!!!’ A line of smiley faces followed.
It was a while later, as he contemplated his hot chocolate and the blueberry cheesecake was little more than a delicious memory, that he picked up his phone again.
‘DO.Soo: Hey, feeling confident about playing Akazawa?’
‘Hibi-tan: HELL YEAH HES MY MAN’
‘DO.Soo: Good, just wanted to make sure.’
On his way home that day, Kyungsoo realised he had forgotten to open the plastic capsule he got from the EXO keychain machine. Checking around to make sure nobody was watching him, he opened it, holding the tiny plastic novelty up to his face to get a better look at it.
A familiar smile. KAI.
He put it on his apartment keys.