Tsumugi smiled as Tasuku entered the stage. It was their last performance for the reruns and with the relief of Azuma rejoining them on the stage after his visit home and subsequent collapse, the entire troupe was giving the performance their all yet again.
“What did I tell you, Michael? You utter fool.”
Tasuku’s acting had always been a thing of beauty, and Tsumugi was left captivated by it every time, but this play seemed to bring out the best in both of them, and he would have been more than happy to just lay there in Tasuku’s arms and watch him act.
“Have you come for me, Raphael?” Tsumugi snapped out of his thoughts and back to the play, letting himself repeat the words that had become second nature to him.
“Yes, I’ve come to ferry your soul.”
“Is her name off the registry?”
“Yes, it’s off, you wretched fool.”
Tsumugi looked up at Tasuku and saw his lips mouth “Tsumu.” The movements were so small that the audience couldn’t have seen it, but Tsumugi could see the little joke leaning into his next line. It was a stark contrast to the heartbroken expression painted on Tasuku’s face and yet, seemed to match the tone of the play so clearly.
“Please, spare me the name-calling, Raphael. And thank you. I’m in your care.”
“You wouldn’t be in this mess at all if you’d just listened to me.”
“No harm has befallen me.”
“You can’t go back to angelhood. You’re going to fade away!”
“Yet my first love is safe, and my dearest friend will carry me away in his arms. What more could I ask for?”
“Michael, you absolute, massive fool.”
This conversation always felt like deja vu to him. The company had called Tsuzuru’s writing uncanny in it’s relatability many times, but this seemed to be the most precise of them all. Tasuku and Tsumugi’s name calling was a common sight and Raphael’s lines seemed to mimic Tasuku’s fond chastising every time Tsumugi dragged them into trouble again, not to mention the fact that the words “my dearest friend” will always ring true.
With one last look up at Tasuku, he shut his eyes and relaxed, letting Michael fade away one last time.
“Michael, I never should’ve called you a fool. You’re a wonderful person who protected the one you loved… unlike me. But loving a human never leads to happiness. Now I’ve lost not only my love, but my dearest friend. Don’t you see, Michael? I-"
That was new. He could hear Tasuku’s heartbeat racing, feel the other man's hand caressing his own limp and supposedly dead body. This was new, and Tsumugi could only brush it off as Tasuku getting too into his role yet again. He waited with baited breath for Tasuku to finish the words he had tacked on to the end of his last line.
At last, Tasuku whispered, "I love you."
Tsumugi froze, and it took all of his efforts not to open his eyes before the curtains came down. That was definitely an ad lib, and one that came out of nowhere. Tsumugi’s head filled with questions as Tasuku’s voice repeated in his head, barely audible by those watching. No one could have heard that, so what was the point?
He felt warm inside at the thought of the words and hope started to creep into him. Hope for what? Did he want that to be a line from Tasuku? Or was it just Micheal’s heartache at Raphael’s words to him?
The moment it was safe to do so, Tsumugi's eyes snapped open. He got up and absentmindedly smoothed out his costume before looking over at Tasuku. "Why-"
The other man raised a hand, his voice a low whisper. "After curtain call."
He could wait for that (he couldn’t but he would always wait for Tasuku).
The other actors quickly joined them on stage. Azuma grabbed his hand and winked at him, and Tsumugi had the sudden realization that maybe the others had heard Tasuku’s words. At least that meant he hadn’t imagined them.
Tasuku grabbed the other hand and squeezed it tight, a gesture that was clearly meant to be comforting but only filled Tsumugi with more questions. Yet, at the same time, it didn’t feel uncomfortable. Tasuku’s hand had always fit perfectly in his own, and a few words couldn’t change that. He looked up at the other man, but Tasuku kept his eyes focused on the crowd as they all said their thanks.
It didn’t take them too long to slip away, still in costume as they found an empty room. Tasuku gently shut the door behind them, before turning to face Tsumugi, the wings attached to his back making him look even larger in the small room.
Tsumugi opened his mouth, questions ready to spill off his tongue. Tasuku just held up a hand. “Can I talk first?”
Tsumugi snapped his mouth shut and nodded.
“I meant what I said there.”
Tsumugi tried to speak again, desperate to respond, but a glance from Tasuku had him relaxing back into his position. He could wait. He promised to wait.
“You know how I went out with Azuma yesterday? We… went to his family’s house.” He wrung his hands, searching for the right words to say. “Watching him mourn his family and regret what he didn’t say made me realize I shouldn’t wait.”
Tsumugi could guess what his next words were going to be, but he waited anyway, his body tense.
Tasuku sighed, a desperate laugh on his lips. “We’ve always communicated better through acting. You know I’m bad with talking about,” he gestured vaguely in the air, “feelings. So I thought, if I confessed on a stage, it would be easier. Guess I have to explain now anyway.”
Tasuku looked down at the floor, looking everywhere besides at Tsumugi. If Tsumugi hadn’t also been part in shock and part eagerly awaiting Tasuku’s next words, he would have laughed. Godza’s prince, Mankai’s stoic actor, reduced to this, a mess of fidgeting hands and awkward words strung together. All because of him.
“You’ve always been so important to me, and I know I can be a little oblivious, but watching the other couples at Mankai made me realize I cared about you a lot. And… I didn’t want to keep going without telling you. Didn’t want to keep pretending that what we had was enough.”
He finally looked up to meet Tsumugi’s eyes again. It took a few seconds for Tsumugi to get out of his shock and realize Tasuku was looking at him with anticipation, clearly waiting for a response.
“Say it again.”
Tasuku’s face scrunched up, full of visible confusion. “What?”
Tsumugi bit his lips and tried to ignore his dry throat as he repeated his statement. “What you said on the stage, say it again.”
Tasuku took a step forward, hesitant and careful not to hit his wings against the objects lying around the room. His face looked like the quiet passion of Raphael, but it felt far more real, more beautiful than his acting. “I love you Tsumugi.”
Tsumugi let out a sigh of relief as he finally pieced together all of his own emotions, finally accepted the hope on the stage for what it was, finally realized the underlying emotions underneath years and years of memories. “I love you too Tasuku.”
Tasuku walked even closer, grabbing Tsumugi’s hand in his own, his eyes a silent question. Tsumugi nodded and tilted his head up, pulling Tasuku into a kiss.
Michael might have died and left Raphael with a broken heart, but Tsumugi wouldn’t let the same happen to Tasuku.