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A Minute in Your Presence is Better than a Present

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It’s Leo’s intention to lay low when he gets into LaLiga Music Academy. He’s here to compose and that’s it. He has no desire to be popular. That can be left to the idols. He’ll be lying if he says he doesn’t want to be the best composer that the school has ever seen but he’ll take just being able to improve his abilities in a world class institution.

Leo arrives to the dorms the day before orientation. The boy’s dorm is nice, all clean and posh. There are carpets covering the floor in the hallways and tables with lush plants in every corner. He wonders if a dorm of boys will be able to maintain this kind of cleanliness.

His room is 107—first floor and on the left once he climbs the stairs with his suitcase. The door is open when he gets there. His roommate must have arrived before him. He had hoped to pick a bed first, probably which ever one was furthest from the door but it looks like he’ll have to give up on that dream.

There’s no one actually in the room when Leo gets in but he finds the rest of his luggage around the bed furthest into the room (thank God) and his roommate’s possessions on the other. There’s a hard white guitar case on the bed and several matching suitcases lined up against the wall.

“Hey!”

The exclamation comes from the doorway and Leo quickly turns toward the owner of the voice. It’s a guy who Leo assumes is probably his roommate. His hair is spiked up with gel and there are diamonds sparkling in his ears. He’s tanned brown from the sun and his clothes are tight on his body and seem a lot trendier than Leo’s own baggy t-shirt and jeans. He screams idol all the way.

“I’m Cristiano Ronaldo but you can call me Cris,” he says, coming further into the room and holding his hand out to Leo.

Leo shakes the offered hand. “Lionel Messi, but my friends call me Leo.”

Cristiano grins brightly. His teeth are white and perfect and it’s like staring into the sun. “Then I guess that makes us friends and roommates. Good to meet you, Leo.”

Leo nods quietly. Cristiano is overwhelming. He never expected to be placed with such a . . . charismatic roommate. He had wanted someone who would leave him alone and let him compose to his heart’s content. Somehow he doesn’t expect that Cristiano will do that.

And he’s correct. Cristiano talks to him through the entirety of his unpacking.

“What class are you in?”

“S-Class.”

“No way! Same. Then we’ll be classmates too.”

Leo stops himself from groaning. He’s going to be stuck with Cristiano in every aspect of his life now. He doesn’t want to believe that it will be as annoying as his mind expects but he doesn’t hold out much hope either.

“Are you going for the idol or the composer track?”

The question makes Leo want to laugh because no one who looks at him would ever think he wants to be an idol. He doesn’t have the right style.

“I’m here to be a composer.”

“Awesome. I’m going to be the most successful idol in the world by the way so maybe we’ll get to work together at some point so I can see what you’ve got.”

Leo chuckles to himself silently, glad that he’s turned toward his closet so that Cristiano can’t see his face. Cristiano was just so full of confidence and it rang true like he actually knew that he would be best in the world.

It continues as they unpack. Leo is a bit annoyed but he can’t bring himself to actually be angry with Cristiano who seems to be genuinely interested in his answers. It’s welcome when Cristiano finally decides that he’s asked enough though. Leo is sitting at his desk attempting to practice composing a new song but it’s not going too well. Maybe all the talking with Cristiano has thrown him off. He glances over to see Cristiano unzip his guitarcase.

“Do you mind if I play?”

Leo shakes his head. They’re going to be living in the same room after all and Leo’s going to need to bother him with his keyboard in the future when composing, so what was a bit of guitar between new (something like) friends.

Cristiano begins to play. It’s a soothing song, not fast like what Leo would expect from someone who has so much energy. He blinks, feeling his eyes get a little heavy, then a yawn. He would have to tell Cristiano to play something more upbeat in the future. For now though, he is willing to go to bed. He puts down his pencil on his desk and stands.

“I think I’m going to sleep,” Leo says yawning again.

Cristiano stops playing but Leo shakes his head. “No. You can continue. It’s your song that’s putting me to sleep anyway.”

Cristiano grins at him. “Glad you like it.”

Leo smiles back briefly and starts to change into pyjamas. Cristiano is looking at him as he plays and it makes Leo self-conscious which wakes him up a bit. He’s shirtless when he looks over to Cristiano who doesn’t even pretend he wasn’t watching.

“Is something wrong?” Leo asks. It seems a lot better question than “why are you staring at me?”

Cristiano cocks his head to the side thoughtfully, still playing the guitar skilfully. “You have a pretty cute body, you know?”

“I what?” Leo wraps his arms around his front instinctively.

Cristiano grins at him and Leo feels himself blushing. He turns around, showing his back to Cristiano. Leo’s never really thought of himself as particularly good-looking before. He’s pretty slim but that’s it. He knows he dresses badly, but it’s comfortable and he’s not trying to be an idol that everyone falls in love with so it’s fine. Maybe Cristiano was joking. Leo turns around slowly again. Cristiano is still smiling at him.

“You shouldn’t tease people you’ve only just met.”

Cristiano blinks looking confused. “I wasn’t teasing.”

Leo groans and turns away once more. “It’s rude to stare, in any case.”

He puts on his pyjama top quickly and then realises that he still has to change his bottoms.

“Sorry. I didn’t think it would make you uncomfortable. I’ll turn away from now on,” Cristiano says.

Leo rolls his eyes. Who wouldn’t be uncomfortable with a guy they just met staring at them and randomly complementing them on their body?

As if in answer, Cristiano says, “You can stare at me too if you like.”

“You’d probably like that.” Leo says it a bit louder than intended so Cristiano hears and starts laughing so hard he stops playing again.

“I have a good body so I don’t mind showing it off.”

Leo makes a disgusted face but when he looks around Cristiano is looking in the opposite direction. He sighs thankful that at least Cristiano’s an asshole who keeps his word and changes into his pyjama bottoms. As he lies down in bed to go to sleep, all he can think is that being Cristiano’s roommate is going to be difficult.

 

The head of LaLiga is the former idol Pichichi, still credited with the highest grossing single of all-time, La Marca from about twenty years ago. He started the academy to funnel out quality idols and composers under his successful Pichichi label. But Leo’s got the say he’s really weird. The orientation takes place outside in the courtyard. President Pichichi comes in dressed in a rainbow suit with fringe so long hang of the sleeves that they touch the ground. To make it even more dramatic, he’s on a jetpack so loud that Leo gets an instant headache. When he lands there are rainbow fireworks that go off all around him. He does a few flips, maybe to show off that that he’s still fit and agile despite retiring from show business and just leaves. That’s it. Leo and everyone around him are looking around confused because isn’t there supposed to be a speech now? Some welcome to the academy maybe?

“You are DIS-MISSED,” a dramatic voice says over loud speakers set up around them then there’s a guitar solo and finally quiet.

Leo blinks confused as the people around him start to stand looking equally as perplexed. They have classes now so Leo gets up and tries to push whatever that just was out of his mind. The school building is impressive. Leo had thought so when he came to take the entrance exams but that impression still hasn’t diminished. It’s like walking in a neoclassical palace. There are pillars along the walls that are probably more decoration than actually structural. The main hall is big and there are comfortable looking seats everywhere in little groups centred around polished wooden tables. Signs point the students to classes S, A and B. Leo follows the signs to S and finds it easily. He’s one of the first to arrive so he takes a seat in the centre of the room so that he’s not too far up front but he doesn’t look like a slacker either.

Cristiano arrives soon after. He had gone before Leo had even woken up, leaving a chocolate and a note saying sorry on Leo’s desk. That had made Leo smile and made him less angry. He enters surrounded by people who Leo assumes are they classmates. Leo has no idea how he is friends with them so quickly. Leo has never even seen them before this moment. That was the charisma of an idol, he supposes.

Their teacher is the idol, Pep Guardiola. He’s pretty sure that everyone’s eyes are sparkling in admiration when he walks in because he is literally the whole package. He started off in a band but mostly acts now and apparently teaches as LaLiga Academy when he’s not doing that. Leo loves his shows. His favourite was probably Tiki-Taka, the slow-burn romance that had the entire country on the edge of their seats.

“Ah man, I never thought I’d get to study under Pep Guardiola,” Leo says dreamily when he’s back in the room. He’s decided to forgive Cristiano for creeping on him since he apologised.

“Is Pep your type?” Cristiano says from his bed. He’s reading the idol bible, H magazine. At least he took his career seriously was all Leo would think when he saw it because he thinks it’s kind of a ridiculous news source. They always make everything more dramatic than it actually is but it was how most people got their idol news.

“My what?” Leo says. Cristiano is always saying things to throw him for a loop.

“Your type. Do you prefer guys like him? Mature guys.”

Leo is blushing now. He’s thankful that he is at his desk facing the wall. “It’s not really your business, but I don’t really have a type.” His voice gets softer with each word until he’s not even sure Cristiano can hear him anymore.

“Hmm. I like cute guys personally.”

Leo’s stomach does a flip remembering Cristiano’s words the night before. He thought Leo was cute. Did that mean that Leo was Cristiano’s type? Leo sneaks a look backward but Cristiano is still just lying on the bed with the H magazine blocking his face from view. Leo doesn’t respond. The only thing he can think to do is to ask whether he specifically is Cristiano’s type and he’s afraid of whatever answer he gets, whether yes, no or maybe. So he stays silent and goes back to some composition exercises and tries to push Cristiano out of his mind.

 

Pep announces their first paired assignment in the third week. They have to work with a person in the opposite track to make a song with the composer creating the music and the idol writing the lyrics and performing the song. They have two weeks until they perform their finished product. Leo wonders if they will have to choose their own partners. He really only knows two people, Cristiano because they’re roommates and the only friend he’s seemed to have made is another composer named Xavi which unfortunately doesn’t help.

“I’ll assign the partners by random,” Pep says from the front of the room.

Leo lets out a relieved sigh. He’ll still have to work with a random person but he won’t have to feel bad about being picked last.

Pep picks names from two hats: one with the composers names inside and the other with the idol names.

“Lionel Messi.”

Leo sits up in attention as Pep dips his hand into the idol hat.

“Cristiano Ronaldo.”

Leo blinks in confusion. He can’t have heard correctly. Did Pep just say, Cristiano’s name? Cristiano looks back from where he’s sitting at the front and gives Leo a huge grin. What a coincidence to be paired with his roommate. Leo nods at Cristiano. At least that would make meeting up easy, all he had to do was look across his room.

Pep dismisses them and everyone moves around the room to speak to their partners for the assignment. Leo hasn’t even packed up yet before Cristiano is in front his desk.

“How lucky is it that we get to work together?” Cristiano says, still grinning.

“Yeah.” Leo isn’t sure whether that’s true. The fact that he’s in S-Class means that Cristiano is a talented idol-in-training but Leo’s not sure whether his playing around with seep into his performance.

Cristiano suggests that they go back to the room together but Leo needs to go to the library so they part ways outside the classroom. There’s a book on composing that he wants to check out to help him with this assignment. He’s never actually composed music for an idol before and he wants some tips to help make his song great.

When he makes it back to the room, Cristiano is sitting on his bed with headphones in and his eyes closed, listening to music. For once, he isn’t grinning but has a serious expression on his face. He’s also shirtless. He doesn’t even notice Leo come in. Leo can’t help but observe how good his body actually is. His tanned skin almost glistens under the light in the room and he’s got such defined abs that Leo wants to touch it to see how they feel under his fingers. Leo swallows. He was no better than Cristiano really. He remembers the first night when Cristiano gave him permission to stare but he turns his face anyway. He touches Cristiano’s shoulder to get his attention. Cristiano opens his eyes slowly. When he sees Leo, he smiles and takes out his headphones.

“Did you get the book you wanted?”

“I did.” Leo lifts up the book in his hand to show him, focusing on Cristiano’s face instead of his chest. “I was wondering if it would be all right if I gave you the sheet music at the end of next week. Will a week be enough time for you to write the lyrics?”

“No problem. Just give them to me whenever you finish, in a week or before or even after. I’ll be fine. The music is important so you shouldn’t rush it.”

Cristiano’s confidence is just like him. Leo shakes his head but says, “Ok.” He doesn’t intend to screw Cristiano over. He’ll finish the song as soon as possible. He sits at his desk and tries to start.

The song doesn’t come to him as easily as he wants. He tries to think about something that will suit Cristiano. Something that will bring out his natural charisma and even arrogance in the best way possible. Maybe he’s asking for too much of himself.

“How’s the composing going?” Cristiano asks a few days later.

Leo groans. “Not so well. I’m trying to come up with something that suits you but it’s harder than it should be.”

“To suit me?” Cristiano comes over to his desk and sits on the edge of it.

Leo looks up at him.

“It doesn’t have to suit me, Leo. Compose whatever you want. I’m an idol. I can handle whatever you throw at me.” Cristiano flexes his muscles dramatically and Leo laughs.

“Are you sure?” he asks when he’s calmed down.

“Of course. I’ve never been surer of anything.”

That makes things easier for Leo. Still not easy. He wants to impress Pep with his composition as well. He goes slowly, repeating each section in his head over and over until he finds it as good as he can make it.

Cristiano brings him sunflowers on the weekend in the middle of their two allotted weeks.

“You’ve been working so hard. I thought these would cheer you up,” Cristiano says as he hands Leo the large yellow blooms.

Leo smiles. It’s a surprising gesture but not unwelcome. He feels a renewed energy to tackle the music.

The song doesn’t get finished until two days into the final week.

“I’m so sorry.” He apologises to Cristiano when he hands him the sheet music. “I know I took longer than I expected but I think you’ll be happy with the song.”

To Leo’s surprise, Cristiano pets him on the head. Leo's stomach flutters. “Good job. I’m sure it’ll be great. I’ll start working on the lyrics right now.”

He takes the sheet music from Leo’s hands and goes straight over to his desk. He sits there as quiet as Leo’s ever seen him but his pencil is all the time scratching over the paper as he writes his words or erases them for new ones. Since there’s nothing for Leo to do, he goes to sleep, leaving Cristiano to work by the light of the lamp on his desk.

Leo finds Cristiano asleep at his desk in the morning. Cristiano wakes up shortly after Leo starts moving about the room. He groans and sits up.

“You should sleep in bed,” Leo points out.

“I’m done.”

“What? With the lyrics? Already?” Leo is surprised that Cristiano could manage that in one night.

Cristiano grins sleepily and waves the paper that was on his desk.

“Can I see it?” Leo asks reaching for the paper in Cristiano’s hand.

“No,” Cristiano moves the paper out of the way quickly, shaking his head. He looks a bit embarrassed. How was he going to sing a song to a group that would embarrass him to Leo?

“You’ll get to hear it on day like everyone else. Just make sure you record the music properly.”

Leo sighs but doesn’t ask again. Cristiano seems adamant about Leo hearing it with the others. He just grabs his shower bag and a towel and heads down the hallway to get cleaned up.

Recording the music to CD is pretty easy for Leo. He knows what sounds he wants in and over the music, can hear it clearly in his mind, and it’s nothing too fancy to give him trouble so he’s able to give Cristiano a CD a day later with the recording just in case the additional sounds change anything for his lyrics. They listen to it together and Cristiano nods to the beat, looking like he’s concentrating, probably singing the lyrics he’s written in his head. Leo can’t help but watch him. Charismatic Cristiano is usually irresistible but he like to see Cristiano serious.

Leo is nervous on the day of the presentation of their collaborative song. Leo is happy they’re not first rather second to last but that means more time with his heart pounding. He should have forced Cristiano to perform the song for him instead of letting him get away with hiding it because not knowing what will actually come makes him very nervous.

Everyone stands outside listening as the idols go into the recording booth one by one to sing into the microphone. He gets a bit of a distraction when Xavi and his partner perform. Xavi’s music is amazing. Leo’s sure his pales in comparison. It’s a ballad, slow and sexy and the lyrics do it justice. It has everyone whispering at the end like they can’t believe how good it was. It was a bold choice to choose a ballad working with an idol that you don’t really know. They had to have an excellent voice or it would fail horribly.

“Wow. They were really good. You better watch out for that Xavi guy, Leo,” Cristiano says as the next team is setting up.

Leo laughs. “You better watch out yourself. Andrés is good too.”

They quiet down when the music starts but Leo’s anxiety comes back instantly and stays until it’s their turn. Leo gives the CD of his music to Pep as Cristiano enters the recording booth. With a thumbs up from Cristiano, Pep presses play.

The intro comes on. It’s a pop song not a ballad but it’s not overly energetic. There’s feeling in there. It’s the kind of music that Leo likes to write. Songs that will make people happy and make them feel something at the same time. He doesn’t hate pop songs that are peppy and lively. They make people happy and that’s important. It’s the main reason he writes after all. But it’s not what Leo really likes.

Why should I be shy about it?
It's all good I'm proud about it,
I like you,
I reckon I like you.

Cristiano’s voice comes through the speakers. His voice is clear and sweet and Leo is instantly impressed. He’s also happy that it’s Cristiano singing over his music. His voice is perfect for it just as Andrés' voice was so good for Xavi’s song.

In this world,
What are all these things,
If there's no one there to share.

The lyrics are sweet like Cristiano’s confessing to a crush he has. It’s nice to listen to and blends well with what Leo's trying to do with his music. He’s probably practiced as much as he could since Leo gave him the CD because he sings confidently and none of the additions to the beat throw him off.

Hello,
Haven't I seen your face before,
Did an angel just walk through the door?
Got me thinking bout – La La La La
Nothing better than – La La.

The anxiety finally leaves Leo’s body and he can nod his head to the beat freely, fully enjoying Cristiano’s singing. He looks about the room and everyone else seems to be doing the same thing. Xavi gives him a thumbs up from where he’s standing across the room. Leo grins and blushes to get praise from someone whose song was so well done. Only Pep has his hands folded over his chest and is listening intently but he’s grading them on this so he needs to pay extra attention.

It's the way you walk,
It's the way you talk,
It's the way you carry yourself.
Got me thinking bout – La La La La,
You know I need that – La La La La.

Leo doesn’t want the song to end but it does. He wonders if Pep will give him a copy of the recording from today if he asks because he wants to hear it a few times more. Cristiano comes out of the recording booth. A few of his friends in the class congratulate him on his performance.

“It’s because I had such a great composer to work with,” Cristiano tells them, grinning.

Leo’s eyes meet Cristiano’s and Cristiano winks at him. Leo laughs.

Cristiano moves back next to him as the last team set up. He seems to open his mouth to say something to Leo but he’s cut off by the music starting. The last team's performance seems good as well but Leo barely hears their song. He knows it’s rude but he’s relieved that the assignment has worked out so well for him and Cristiano.

“Give yourself a round of applause everyone. That was good for the first assignment,” Pep says when they’re done.

Everyone claps willingly. Leo’s sure that everyone is pleased with how their songs went. There were no real messes. Everyone in the S-Class really has talent.

“That was a brave choice choosing a ballad, Xavi and Andrés but it paid off. And Cristiano and Leo. Good job. It was a well-polished performance.”

Leo shares a grin with Cristiano at the praise. Leo is happy to hear that Pep approved of their song. He suddenly feels hungry and is happy when they are dismissed. He can’t remember if he had actually eaten any of him lunch earlier. He looks for Cristiano and finds him surrounded by his friends. They seem to be congratulating him again. Cristiano notices Leo watching and waves at him. A couple of the guys turn around but deem Leo not worth their time and they turn back to Cristiano. That’s fine, Leo thinks. He doesn’t want to be as popular as Cristiano. He just wants to compose and now he just wants to have Cristiano sing over his music. He probably won’t be as lucky as to be matched up with Cristiano again but he knows that Cristiano’s is the voice he wants.

Xavi and Andrés eat dinner with him.

“That composition was great,” Xavi says as they sit down with their trays in the dining hall.

“Not as good as yours,” Leo says. He completely believes that. Xavi’s ballad music is a pure work of art.

Xavi shakes his head. “Ballads don’t have the same replay value but I could listen to your song over and over again, Leo.”

“That’s because Cristiano was so good.”

Xavi groans. “Can’t you just take a complement?”

Andrés laughs.

Leo returns to the room after dinner, parting ways with Xavi and Andrés on the stairs since they’re both on the second floor. Cristiano is there on his bed reading the latest H magazine that’s come out. He looks up when Leo enters.

“Did you listen to my song?” Cristiano asks, sitting up.

“Your singing was amazing. I wish you could sing to all the songs I compose,” Leo says as he takes off his shoes. He hasn’t had a real chance to compliment Cristiano yet.

“Really?” Cristiano looks surprised then embarrassed.

“Yeah.”

Cristiano smiles looking almost bashful. Leo’s never seen that look on his face before. It’s pretty nice, cute even, to see that Cristiano’s not all self-importance. “What did you think of the song?”

“The lyrics? They were good. They really suit the music.”

Cristiano shakes his head. “No. What did you really think? I mean, you listened to them right?”

Leo changes into his pyjama top. He looks to see if Cristiano is staring and he is but it’s more at Leo’s face than his body. It still makes him a bit uncomfortable. And why was Cristiano so hung up about the lyrics? They were good. Leo was happy that they were used for his song.

“I’m not really good at concrit to be honest. Another idol could probably help better than I can.”

Cristiano’s brows furrow and he looks frustrated for a moment then he seems to calm down. “Did you listen to what the lyrics said?”

“Yeah. Of course. I mean, I only heard it once but it was pretty easy to understand.” Leo is looking at Cristiano suspiciously now. Is there something he's missing?

“I wrote them for you,” Cristiano says looking down at his lap.

It takes a minute for the words to sink into Leo’s brain. “For me? But they—” Leo stops talking. Lyrics like a confession he had thought when he had heard them. Cristiano was confessing to him? Leo feels a bit faint. There’s no way Cristiano could like him. Then he remembers all the strange things that Cristiano has said to him about his body and Cristiano’s type being cute guys and then the flowers when he was struggling with the song. Was that all Cristiano liking him? Even back then on that first night?

“But—but I’m so . . . boring. I’m not even good looking.” He’s blushing up to his ears. His face feels like it’s on fire.

Cristiano shakes his head vigorously. “I’ve told you, haven’t I? I think you’re cute Leo, even in your baggy clothes hiding that cute body, I think you’re cute. And I don’t think you’re boring. You’re so passionate about composing. I can’t get enough of watching you work hard at your desk. The way you rub out the wrong notes rapidly and the way you screw up your face when you thinking really hard. I like it all.”

Leo brings his hands up to cover his cheeks as if that will cool them down.

“Sorry if I’m upsetting you,” Cristiano says. He looks at Leo with a pained expression.

Leo looks down away from Cristiano’s gaze. “You're not. I just don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to be worried about hurting me. I’ll accept whatever answer you feel like giving.”

Leo swallows. Does he like Cristiano? There are definitely things he likes about him. He likes that Cristiano is considerate and friendly even if he has been strange at times, though that strangeness can probably be explained now. Cristiano also has a great voice and no matter what, Leo wanted it for his own. But he doesn’t want to accept Cristiano just because of music. But if he doesn’t then will Cristiano leave his room and become roommates with someone else? He has heard that there are some rooms with only one occupant so it probably wouldn’t be that difficult for Cristiano to go somewhere else. He doesn’t want Cristiano to leave when he was becoming comfortable in his presence. He was accustomed now to the questions and talking about his day in the evening. He looks back up at Cristiano to find him staring nervously with wide eyes. He wants suddenly to hold his hand and comfort him. Do these things mean that he likes Cristiano somehow? This wasn’t even taking into account that Leo can never resist a glance as Cristiano changes his clothes.

Leo bites his lip and chews on it slightly before he can respond. “I think I kind of like you too? I don’t know if it’s anything as strong as your feelings but I’m attached to you. I don’t want to lose you.”

Cristiano climbs off his bed and approaches Leo slowly. Leo’s heart speeds up. What was he going to do?

He sits next to Leo on Leo’s bed and hesitantly takes Leo’s hands in his. Cristiano’s hands are big and warm and comforting.

“Can I kiss you?” Cristiano asks.

Leo sucks in a breath as he stares into Cristiano’s eyes. They’re so intense and he feels trapped in his gaze. He hasn’t kissed anyone in a long time but the idea of Cristiano’s lips on his isn’t disgusting. He nods.

Cristiano smiles with relief. He cups Leo’s face gently in his hands and then leans in, closing his eyes. Leo’s eyes close automatically as Cristiano gets close. Their lips press together. Cristiano’s lips are soft yet firm against his. Leo kisses back tentatively. Cristiano deepens the kiss, pressing their lips against each other harder. Leo lets out a little moan and Cristiano pulls away.

Leo takes a deep breath. He feels unsteady. Cristiano’s hands are still on his face so they are staring into each other’s eyes. Leo liked that kiss, liked it a lot. He licks his lips as if he can taste Cristiano on them. Cristiano comes in close and kisses him once more. They somehow end up lying on Leo’s bed facing each other and holding hands, smiling. Leo feels giddy. He never expected something like this to happen. He just wanted to compose music. But maybe now he can want something else a well.