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Devon loved his dorm-mates. They were his family in a way he’d never thought he’d have without joining a gang. More than that, they were his band. Over the course of the semester he and they had forged friendships that he knew would last for a lifetime. There wasn’t a single one of them that he wouldn’t go to the end of the line for, and he didn’t doubt that they’d do the same for him in a heartbeat. It was more than he’d thought he’d ever have, growing up alone with only his over-worked aunt, practically raising himself because the place where he came from he knew that it would break her heart if he’d ever gotten mixed up with the crowd around his ‘hood.

That being said, his new family was loud. It wasn’t that Devon didn’t love a good party as much as the next guy, or that he was much given to sitting in a corner and having deep thoughts. But growing up the way he had he’d come to value his solitary moments. After a while being a real part of group, something he had always craved being the odd one out back home, he needed some quiet. Just for a little while Devon wanted to just step back, not because he had been forced out or he had no choice, and hear his own thoughts.

The first time the need had come upon him had been after the Classic. After the adrenalin rush and joy of playing at his best had passed and the after party was in full swing Devon had been struck by the urge to be still, to process. That night had been the first time he had been transported to that magical space all musicians dreamed of. the magical moment when he’d felt, for just a single perfect second, like he was greater than himself as if the music was a living breathing thing inside of him. The loud bass and the sounds of drunken mingling suddenly felt discordant with the peace he had achieved on that field and Devon had wanted to savour that gift in silence for a time.

So he had left the party and walked back to the stadium. It was quiet and locked in the early morning hours, but the quietude was what he needed and locked doors were more a suggestion to stay out not an imperative. He’d picked a spot in the stands; a place where he could see the whole field, if there had been light brighter than the faint glow of faraway street lamps and the moon hanging low in the sky. The air had smelled like fresh cut grass and dew and he could still hear the bass beat of the party, but his mind was turned inward, recreating the night’s events, remembering, cataloguing.

How long he’d sat there until he was interrupted by the sound of a throat clearing he wasn’t sure. Somehow Devon had known who he would find when he turned his head so he wasn’t shocked to see Sean sitting there, staring nonchalantly at the field as if he hadn’t made a sound at all. The upper-class man and he had gotten pretty close over the course of the intense two weeks of composition. Closer than he’d ever felt before, wrapped up in the whirlwind of learning and sharing and being on the same mental wave more times than not.

The energy that had always been between the two of them had transmuted over that time. The same intensity and passion that had caused them to clash so fiercely before had become the driving force when they had worked together and even after they had handed their work to Dr. Lee it still hadn’t been over.

Devon turned back to the field without acknowledging the otter’s presence aloud. Between them, in that moment, such acknowledgement was unneeded. He knew; just as if the older boy had spoken aloud, that all he had to do was say the word and Sean would leave him to his thoughts. But even though they had ever done so before, Devon also knew that they could stay and share the silence.

It had been a revelation, sitting there and not speaking, commiserating without a word being shared. That something between them that they had always shared in loudness, fighting and yelling before speaking and making music, adapted easily to the lack of noise there in that giant field that had been a battlefield and the sight of their triumph. Hours had passed unremarked and neither had filled them with any sound at all, and yet Devon could feel Sean there, with him the way he had been with him in the field and the practice room. Nothing had ever felt so natural, except for the first time he’d picked up the drumsticks.

Now, weeks into the new semester, the need was upon him again. His feet lead him down a well-known path through the campus. He smiled and waved to all the people who recognised him on the way. Breaking a four year losing streak and bringing pride back to the school had granted them all more popularity than any of them had probably thought they’d ever had. But he didn’t stop and chat with any of them, the way he might have done at a different time.

Students that held special positions, section leaders, student council members, team captains and so forth, had their own special housing on the far edges of campus. Sean, the lucky bastard, had a room to himself in a considerably quieter dorm. Of course there were plenty of other places on campus Devon could go for some quiet. Even as he rounded the corner and saw the redbrick building coming to view he considered for the thousandth time, the myriad other choices he had. He could go to the library or sit on the green or any one of the various court yards. If it was companionship he wanted he could call Leila or Jay or earnest and they could hang out without the entire rowdy crowd that was his group of friends or heck he could join said group of friends and cut the emo white boy crap.

Even as he thought those things, Devon’s stride never faltered or slowed. His destination was set. He had found over the course of his attendance at college that when he got in these moods there was only one cure. Maybe, in the beginning, if he had spent that first night alone and associated this feeing with his childhood’s loneliness he would have sought a crowd instead or maybe one of his other friends might understand but he’d been hooked from that first night and now, despite what his logical mind tried to convince him, his gut Devon knew he wouldn’t have it any other way. If there was one defining thing about Devon Miles it was that he always followed his gut.

It was telling that the few people he passed in the hallway were familiar enough with him and he with them that they excepted his presence as common place and he could tell the residents from the regular visitors. One of them even stopped to tell him, after the exchange of pleasantries, this was the South after all, that Sean had a class that ended in half an hour. Devon smiled and thanked the girl, one of the band’s dancers who was a long-time girlfriend of one of the other section leaders, and carried on past her.

After the second time Sean had come back to his cramped single bed room to find his lock picked and Devon sprawled cavalierly on the said bed the older boy had sighed exasperatedly and given him the extra key. Devon used it then to let himself into the room he knew almost as well as he knew his own. Even empty, he could feel the other boy’s presence in every nook, cranny and knick knack around the place. With a pleased sigh escaped from his lips as Devon lay on the bed, breathing in deeply and taking in the soothing scent of the other that he had come to associate with peace and something else. It reminded him of watching television when he was younger and seeing scenes of camping trips, the fire had always fascinated him, the merry burning that was the centre of so many pleasant memories and yet the knowledge too that getting too close would burn.

*

Sean Taylor was not what could be considered a softie. He did not take other people’s crap nor did he suffer other people’s foolishness or whims. In fact over the years he had walked in on many people whispering the word hard-ass in conjunction with his name. He wondered what any of those people would have to say if they could see the indulgent look on his face as he looked at the tall lanky freshman taking up most of his bed.

The truth was hard to believe with the boy asleep and looking so innocent and peaceful but Devon Miles was a force of nature. Something big and world changing and inexorable. Looking back at his life before Sean could hardly recognise the person he had been then and he didn’t want to. His life had gotten brighter and better in ways he hadn’t known it had needed to until after the changes had happened. He was like Dorothy, living in a colourless world, unaware of what was missing until he had seen the bright Technicolor of Oz. Although he’d rather die than admit it Devon was certainly gifted enough to be the Wizard, though no curtain would ever hide him for long.

Sean smiled and shook his head, wiping him mind of its fanciful thoughts.

“Are you gonna stand there watching me all creeper-like all night?” Devon mumbled without moving at all.

The large, alder man laughed and entered the room, closing the door behind himself. He didn’t even bother to try to sound mad as he replied, tugging playfully at one of Devon’s sock-clad feet as he moved to sit at the table, “You’re the one who’s going all Goldilocks in my bed, kid.”

They traded a couple more playful barbs back and forth, both them at ease in a way they could only find in each other. Neither of them could have guessed where they would end up at the end of the road, and they were still so young that life could and would take many more unexpected turns before they were done. But in that moment, and in all the moments they curved out for themselves, they were content.