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The music brought me to you.

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Ash sighs, pulling his hands away from the piano keys in the practice room. This isn’t going well. Nothing is going well. Nothing ever fucking does.

It’s been a year since he became Aslan Glenreed, but even that doesn’t feel right. Who is he to join a real family? Who is he to ... anything ... ?

It’s the move in date for the university. Freshmen are required to live on campus even if they already live in the area, so Ash will be stuck living in the dorms. Not that he necessarily minds the chance to stop taking Max and Jess away from Michael, but it’s much more expensive to live on campus, and Max is insisting on helping pay for Ash’s education.

In music, of all things. Music education, at least, so he should hopefully have a job lined up for after graduation. But Max and Jess are so endlessly supportive that they even encouraged him to pursue music as a career.

If he’s being honest, he just wants to teach, but he got really into music in the last year. It’s been ... an escape, in a way. From life. From his past.

So Ash is skipping out on move in day. It’s not like he has a ton of shit to put in the dorm anyway. Max hasn’t taken him shopping yet, and Ash is trying to put off the trip for as long as he can, kind of hoping it doesn’t happen. It’s not like he needs anything. He can get bedding on his own, and he already has a laptop for his schoolwork and his oboe for his music concentration.

And the dorms ... Moving in with a man he doesn’t know isn’t exactly something he’s looking forward to.

So he’ll move in later, when he needs to.

Taking a breath, Ash plays a simple major chord on the piano, but it doesn’t feel right. He tries a minor chord. Then a minor 7th. A jazz chord? ... Anything?

Nothing feels right.

There’s a knock at the door to the practice room. Ash startles. The performing arts building is pretty empty right now, since classes haven’t started yet. And there are plenty of practice rooms available. Who would be ... ?

He opens the door.

“Hello!” the young man—boy?—declares. He doesn’t step into the room; doesn’t intrude on Ash’s space at all.

Ash blinks at him, caught off guard.

“I am sorry to intrude. The music brought me to you.”

“The ... music?” Ash wasn’t playing anything particularly interesting. In fact, he’s not exactly a piano player at all. Dino had him take piano lessons, of course, but only for a few months before everything went to shit, and he’s rarely played in the last year. The memories ... the memories.

Ash’s focus since being adopted by Max has been more on woodwinds, mainly oboe.

“Yes, the music!” the kid says again. “I hope that isn’t too odd to say.”

Ash shakes his head. “No, it’s fine. But I’m not exactly ...”

“You play well! My focus is flute. Would you ever be interested in playing a duet?”

“Between ... us?” Ash asks, bewildered. “We just met.”

The boy smiles. “That is okay! I don’t mind if you don’t. I am Eiji!”

“I don’t—I mean, I don’t mind, but I’m not a piano player. I’m on oboe.”

The—Eiji—looks taken aback. “You’re not a piano major?”

Ash shakes his head.

“You play so well!”

Glancing at the piano, Ash responds, “Thank ... you?”

“I would still like to duet, if you would.”

“I guess that would be okay ... ?”

Eiji smiles. “Do you move in today, too?”


“Why are you avoiding moving in?”

Damn. He saw right through Ash, didn’t he? “I’m just ... not ready.”

“That makes sense!”

Does it? Oh. Oh well. “What about you?”

Eiji laughs. “I’m just not looking forward to unpacking.”

That makes Ash smile, despite everything.

Eiji claps his hands. “Wait! If I am flute and you are oboe, is that not two fifths of a wind quintet?”

“I—I mean, it is, but—”

“Would you like to form a quintet with me?”

Staring at the piano keys now, Ash takes a breath. “We’re missing the other three fifths.”

“We’ll find them.” Ash glances up at Eiji, only to see him smiling enthusiastically. “Or they’ll find us!”

Ash breathes out a laugh, looking up at Eiji from his seat on the piano bench. “Sure. If you can happen to find three others who are willing to work with us, I’ll try to join your quintet.” The problem, of course, isn’t finding people who are willing to work with Eiji. The problem is finding people who are willing to even be near Ash.

“Wonderful!” Eiji’s smile grows even brighter, if that’s possible. The shitty practice room lights seem a little less dim. “What is your name, oboe?”

“Ash. Ash Lynx.”

“Eiji Okumura. I am happy to meet you.”

“Yeah,” Ash whispers. “Likewise.”