The blond hair was fluttering violently in the air on the other side of the window. The hairs on the bow was shredding as it stroked the strings, making the splayed hairs sway uncontrollably. The muffled electronical sound of a warped violin was heard through the insulation, and the accompanying beat shook the floor. The boy who held a dark purple electric violin in his hand wore a playful smile on his sweaty face, like he was enjoying his experiments with systematically stepping on nearly a dozen pedals surrounding him on the floor with different sounds and functions. The pedals were connected to a computer which looped the sounds made with the violin, and by creating several different sounds – warped by the synthesizer in the computer – an edgy song was created.
Slaine’s fingers rushed over the strings, creating a fast paced melody, and at times he slid the fingers over the strings to change a note without breaking the sound for a suitable effect. Slaine had spent the entire day in the studio to experiment with his new gear he had been gifted by a music system company. He had gotten a powerful computer with the accompanying pedals, program and instructions on how to use it. The system was a brand new design and innovative on the market, and Slaine had gotten the honor of promoting it.
An installer had been at the studio to make sure everything functioned, and a representative from the company and Saazbaum were Inaho’s companions in the control room on the other side of the window glass, separating them and Slaine. The representative watched Slaine with excitement, telling whoever wanted to listen what a great choice it had been to choose Slaine for the promotion job, and Saazbaum watched silently but with eyes filled with something Inaho could identify as pride.
Inaho could not argue with neither of the two men; Slaine was a natural with the system due to his passion for music and his well-trained sense of sound. Slaine had – after he found the system comfortable to use – begun to push it, trying to find its limits. As of yet no limitations had shown themselves, and during those long hours of experimenting Slaine had accidentally created an original song. It was a trait Inaho found amusing in Slaine; his musical ability allowed for such pleasant accidents to occur a little now and then, and this song was the second accident within a month’s period.
Inaho had come straight to the studio after his school day had ended; he was supposed to help Slaine catch up with his school work once the boy was finished in the studio, since the blond had been forced to take the day off in order to experiment with the new equipment. It was important for Slaine to take time off from school in order to begin his work as a violinist, since the boy had decided to become a performing professional. Due to that Slaine’s already average grades had begun to drop, and Inaho had jumped in to support him the best he could. This time though was especially important to take a couple of days off from school.
“Inaho! Guess what just happened!?” Slaine had blurted the moment Inaho had answered the phone two weeks ago. Inaho had been on his way home from an errand Yuki had sent him on. When Inaho had asked what Slaine meant Slaine had continued with such an excited voice he barely made any sense, and he had said: “Father called me and told me a company called Orbital Systems Inc. had called him and asked him if I would be interested in promoting their new music system for violins and film a commercial for it and become the face for the system and I’m freaking out because I don’t know if I should accept it and begin such a serious job this early in my career and right now I don’t know what to do because nothing makes sense in my head!”
“Calm down,” Inaho had said calmly. “Nothing of what you said made sense in my head either. Congratulations for the job offer.”
“Should I accept it?”
“Are you confident you can do it?”
“… Y-yes, I think so…”
“Then there is no reason to hesitate,” Inaho had said.
Now, as he watched the blond bounce around with his hair swaying in the air, heard the sounds made with the shredding violin bow in the boy’s hand, and saw him step on the pedals like a step dancer, Inaho knew he had done the right thing to encourage Slaine. Slaine was happy and excited about the new equipment he had gotten. The blond had never seen anything like it since the violin stage he had grown up seeing was the classical one. With this new system he got the chance to explore a new kind of world of violin music; the electric violin scene.
Suddenly the floodgates of sound opened inside the recording studio; Slaine had found a new function in the system and a deep bass shook the floor like a small earth-quake. The bass was made with him stroking the bow on the strings of the violin – which had been specially designed by the company for the system he was experimenting with. Saazbaum knocked on the window into the room but Slaine did not notice him; the boy was too busy having fun. Saazbaum called out to Slaine in the speakers inside the studio and told him to calm down and lower the volume before he would risk his hearing, but Slaine was too emerged in the fun that he did not hear him.
“That boy…” Saazbaum sighed irritably but with a slight smile on his lips.
“He is wearing the headphones,” the company representative said. “They insulate pretty well. They are made for concerts after all.”
Inaho looked at the instrument panel showing the decibel meter; it showed well over the limit of 95dB; the level at which sustained exposure would lead to hearing loss. Inaho hoped the company representative was correct about the headphones since the meter showed 119dB, and Slaine was not far away from the level of when the loudness would begin to induce pain.
The sound did not seem to bother the blond though. He stepped on the pedals by sheer impulse and played with the system, and the energy he emitted was heard in the song he played. It was jumpy and catchy, saturated with techniques of violin play and probably new innovative techniques Slaine had had to improvise throughout the day. The new system truly took the field of violin music to a new level, and therefore a completely new kind of playing had to be constructed, suited for the system. Slaine was the pioneer – an honor Inaho thought was huge and something Slaine deserved.
‘He looks so happy,’ he thought and watched Slaine stroke the strings with such speed and force the hairs on the bow broke and shed rapidly, and soon he would not have any bow hair left to play with. Slaine seemed to notice that and began to wrap up the improvised song, and the bow went faster and faster – fast enough it became a blur, and then with a last stomp on a pedal and a last stroke with the nearly spent bow, he finished the song with a bright smile.
Saazbaum picked up a water bottle from the table nearby and a towel as well, and then walked into the now silent recording room. Slaine’s posture was slumped with exhaustion and sweat dropped from his chin while his entire face was brightly red. Even his t-shirt was soaked with sweat from the intense playing, and he panted with deep breaths.
“How did … it go? Was it enough?” Inaho heard the blond ask his adoptive father with ragged breaths. Saazbaum handed him the towel and bottle and immediately Slaine wiped the sweat away from his face and then took several gulps of water.
“It was more than enough. I am surprised you adjusted yourself to the system as fast as you did, and you did it exquisitely,” Saazbaum answered with pride. “How are your fingers?” the man then asked, and Slaine held up his left hand to look at it and squeezed his fingers tightly into a fist.
“They ache, as usual, but I cannot tell if it is because of the playing or what happened to them – or both,” the blond answered and released the fist and moved his fingers to ease them up.
“You have played for six hours all in all. I am not surprised they ache. You should be careful of not overworking them,” his father said, and Slaine nodded.
The company representative hurried into the recording room with a delighted expression. The man seemed excited and delirious.
“It is such an honor to have you on board, Mr. Troyard,” the man said and gave Slaine a deep bow of respect. “That was amazing. I did not expect that kind of performance from you, and I ask for your forgiveness for not recognizing your talent sooner.”
Slaine stared at the man with an expression mixed with confusion and shock, and he quickly threw a glance at Inaho and shrugged his shoulders. The blond did not seem to know what to do and how to answer such a compliment.
‘Amusing…’ Inaho thought and walked over to the door into the recording room as well to wait for his turn to speak with Slaine.
“Th-thank you. The honor is mine,” Slaine answered awkwardly and gave the man a bow as well.
The company representative raised himself up and offered his right hand to Slaine, and said:
“So you accept the offer?”
Slaine looked up at his adoptive father, who nodded, and then shook the representative’s hand.
“Yes. I would love to,” the blond said smiling and the company representative nodded satisfied.
“Splendid. I will prepare the contract for next week, and then we can begin with the work. I will see both of you on Monday.”
They said their goodbyes and the man disappeared out through the door in a hurry, probably to let his supervisor know about the good news.
“I believe we will have to get you a manager,” Saazbaum said with a small smile on his lips as he turned to look at Slaine again, after following the company representative with his gaze. “You will get a lot of career offers after the commercial for the system launches, and I cannot be here to help you with that due to my own work in the symphony.”
“A manager?” Slaine asked with raised eyebrows. “I have no career yet. Is it time for a manager already?”
There was the humbleness again which Inaho recognized. Slaine did not expect him to get a strong career as fast as both Inaho and Saazbaum knew he would. As late as two days ago Slaine had been thinking on how to best build up a steady and balanced career after the commercial had been made. As he had spoken about those thoughts to Inaho, the blond had shown insecurity in how much his violin skills actually were worth.
“I have to keep my eyes and ears open for new offers so people won’t forget me after the commercial is done,” he had said.
Inaho knew people would not forget about him as fast as Slaine thought, and especially not after today’s incredible performance in the recording studio; once the commercial was to be aired Inaho was sure Slaine’s phone and mailbox would get bombarded by new job offers as well as fan letters. The blond had already gotten a few of the later after his debut concert one month ago, and Slaine had been devastated about them.
“I don’t deserve this! And there’s no contact information of the sender; how am I supposed to be able to thank them for such a nice letter?” the blond had cried, filled with guilt.
It had been a shock for Inaho to hear how affected Slaine had become from getting letters from people who thanked him for his debut concert and wished him good luck in the future, and who also complimented him on his violin play. Slaine had been a complete mess for two days and had resulted in hiding in his bed the moment he got home from school. Why he was so ashamed and felt such guilt was a mystery to Inaho.
‘But then again, he is way too humble,’ he thought and felt a slight worry of how well Slaine would face the fame once it was thrown his way after the commercial.
“Yes, I believe it is time for that,” Saazbaum declared. “Your career will begin with this commercial, and so we have to be ready to face the interest from music companies and symphonies, as well as artists,” the man explained and Slaine knitted his eyebrows out of insecurity. “I will take a look around for a manager. Do not worry about it.”
“Thank you, father,” Slaine said quietly and hugged the electric violin in his arms to find support. His confidence was always wavering like that, and it made him timid.
It was a mystery how Slaine switched so quickly, Inaho had thought many times. When Slaine got to play and release his musical ability – like today – he was bursting with self-assurance and joy, but the moment it came to someone praising him about it he lost all of his confidence and became withdrawn; it looked like he was ashamed of playing as well as he did.
‘A trauma from his time with Cruhteo?’ Inaho thought.
“I take it you wish to stay here for a while longer?” Saazbaum then asked and headed toward the door. Inaho stepped aside to let the man through.
Slaine raised his head and smiled slightly.
“I would want that, yes.”
Saazbaum nodded. “Be sure to turn everything off before you leave. The doors lock automatically so there is no need to worry about locking the studio; just make sure the doors close properly. Get back home safely. Call for a taxi,” Saazbaum said with a fatherly tone, and Slaine nodded. “And be careful with your fingers.”
“I will, father. Thank you for today. I see you tomorrow,” Slaine said and gave the man a slight bow.
“Good night, Kaizuka,” Saazbaum said to the brunet.
“Thank you. Good night, sir,” Inaho answered, and the man left the studio. The boys were finally alone.
The moment Inaho turned to look at Slaine again the blond had already hurried up to him and leaned closer with a smile on his lips. The boy kissed him while still hugging the violin, and as he leaned back again he chuckled.
“I thought they would never leave,” he said with a boyish smile. “The moment I saw you step in through the door I just wanted to put the violin down and kiss you.”
Inaho felt great joy hearing that. For Slaine to want to put the violin down – the single joy the boy had had for many years – for Inaho’s sake meant more to the brunet than he could express. Even if Slaine loved the violin, the boy still loved Inaho enough to notice him step in through the door into the studio and want to kiss him.
Inaho had become unsure of how much Slaine actually loved him. At times Inaho got the feeling the violin was Slaine’s first priority since all Slaine talked about was the violin. It was of no coincidence though; ever since Slaine had been freed from Cruhteo got to play the way he wanted, the boy’s inspiration to play had grown a lot. The blond boy had a need to express the immense inspiration with words and was excited while wording it, and now that he had gotten a job offer Slaine was so happy and nervous at the same time that the excitement and worry about his future career took all his energy.
Then again, during moments like these, when Slaine was willing to put the violin down for Inaho’s sake, that feeling of being second priority disappeared.
“Have you played all day?” Inaho asked and Slaine shook his head.
“No, I have been playing for about six hours in total, but I took several breaks to let my fingers and shoulders rest,” Slaine answered and pulled Inaho deeper into the recording room after placing the electric violin and spent carbon fiber bow onto a table. “Come play with me.”
Inaho succumbed to Slaine’s encouragement and sat down on a chair in the room after making sure he would not step on or tangle his feet in the cables running across the floor from the computer. The blond boy walked over to a large built in closet and opened the sliding door, and took a hold of a cello.
“You know the basics of playing a violin,” Slaine said with a smile and handed the cello to Inaho. “The cello is like a large violin; you play it similarly. Why won’t you try it? I think it suits you better than a violin.”
Inaho held the cello in his hands and looked at it. It was lighter than he expected it to be. Slaine had been teaching Inaho how to play the violin the past month and Inaho had gotten quite good at it on an amateur level. Inaho enjoyed taking lessons from Slaine since the blond was a good teacher and – most importantly – offered such intimate lessons that Inaho had been willingly pulled along to learn how to play. He liked it how close Slaine stood while teaching him.
Slaine handed him the bow to the cello and stepped up behind Inaho to lean over the brunet’s shoulder. He reached out his hands from behind him and placed the cello correctly in Inaho’s arms. Then he took a hold of Inaho’s left hand gently, and raised it to the thick strings.
“Do you remember the chords on the violin?” Slaine asked close to Inaho’s ear and the brunet felt a pleasant shiver run down his neck.
“Yes,” the brunet answered and put the bow against the strings.
“The cello’s strings are in a different order than on the violin,” Slaine instructed. “Instead of a G, D, A and E, the cello has C, G, D and A. You also make larger finger movements on the cello, but other than that it’s almost the same.”
“So the strings’ order is a step higher than on a violin?” Inaho asked and felt Slaine’s cheek brush against his ear when the blond nodded.
“Something like that, but the octave is about two steps lower than on a violin,” Slaine said quietly. “You already know the open string notes. Try a G on the D-string,” he then whispered with a smile, and Inaho thought for a short moment to get the strings in order in his mind, and then did as he was told.
‘G comes right after F,’ Inaho thought. ‘D, E, F… So I should put my fourth finger somewhere here on the D-string,’ Inaho thought and pushed his little finger against the string, and as he stroked the string with the bow a slightly off G-note was heard. Inaho corrected his finger position and managed to find a clean G-note.
“Good,” Slaine said and kissed Inaho’s cheek. “For each successful note you do, I will give you a kiss on your cheek. Now try a B on the A-string.”
Suddenly Inaho found himself enthusiastic about learning on how to play the cello. The cello felt much more comfortable than a violin due to the larger instrument being easier to handle. Inaho had had problems with the small scale of a violin and the sensitivity of it, but he felt much more at home with a cello. Then, the kisses Slaine gave were a great motivational factor. The sound of the instrument was lower than on a violin and for a short moment Inaho thought of the sound as close to that of a human.
‘On the A-string, B should be at the top…’ Inaho recited in his head and placed his index finger on the top of the string. He then pushed his finger against the strings and stroked with the bow, and an off B was heard. Again, Inaho corrected his finger position and soon a clean B resonated from the cello.
A kiss landed on his cheek.
“Good,” Slaine chuckled quietly, and then coiled his arms around Inaho’s neck to lean against him in a hug. “Make an E on the D-string,” he ordered, and Inaho did so. A third kiss. “Then D on the A-string.”
A fourth kiss… A fifth. A sixth.
After something that felt like half an hour, Inaho had found the chords of the instrument. Slaine let go of him and walked over to his Stradivarius violin which was hidden beneath a table, and took the wooden bow and violin from their case. He placed the old violin against his neck, raised his bow and then looked at Inaho with a smile.
“Shall we try an easy duet? I’ll tell you the notes, and just play according to the tempo,” Slaine said and began to play.
Inaho followed Slaine’s quiet instructions when the blond boy softly instructed him on the notes Inaho was to play. The song was slow to give Inaho time to move his fingers, and Slaine played beautifully to fill out the melody from Inaho’s cello.
‘Amazing Grace,’ Inaho thought as he recognized the melody they were playing. The notes Slaine had asked Inaho to try earlier were the notes he now told him to play, with the open strings included.
Inaho had trouble with finding the tempo, though, and Slaine quickly noticed his struggle. The boy began tapping his shoe with even intervals against the floor to help Inaho find the rhythm, and the tapping sound made it easier for the brunet to follow Slaine’s lead. From there on, their duet began to sound smoother for each minute they played. Even if Inaho’s playing was still clearly on an amateur level he did not mind it the least; it was simply too fun for him to care about his mistakes, and Slaine did not mind them either. The soft tunes from the cello reverberated pleasantly in Inaho’s chest, and Slaine’s beautiful violin tunes tugged at his heartstrings – making the moment they shared overwhelmingly touching.
That was when Inaho noticed he had fallen in love with Slaine for the second time. To create tunes with him in a duet was exciting on many levels and that excitement made Inaho want to let go of the cello and touch Slaine instead.
‘But I can’t,’ the brunet reminded himself and for a short moment lost his concentration on playing the cello. A sharp and ugly sound attacked his ears. ’Calm down.’
Slaine chuckled amused and ended the song smoothly, and Inaho followed his instructions till the end.
“That was really good!” Slaine exclaimed while smiling, and blushed with pride after he had lowered the violin. “I was right. The cello suits you much better.”
“I agree,” Inaho said and looked at the cello. “It felt much better to play on it.”
“We have never played a duet before,” Slaine said and moved restlessly like an excited school boy. “Thank you. It was fun.” The boy blushed even more.
Inaho nodded to agree in his usual way, and then threw a glance at the clock on the wall on the other side of the window inside the control room. It showed 19:07 in the evening.
“I think we should head home,” the brunet said. “You have homework to do.”
Slaine’s smile faded and he sighed heavily with shoulders drooping.
“I know. I had forgotten about it,” he said candidly and sighed a second time. “What about you? Do you have homework as well?”
Inaho shook his head and stood up from the chair, and placed the cello back in its stand in the closet – he was careful he would not stumble over all the cables on the floor on his way.
“I did mine during breaks at school,” he answered and turned around to look at Slaine. “You need to keep up with your school work as well. I understand that you have missed a lot in school due to the music.”
Slaine sighed a third time – much heavier than before – and crouched down next to the violin case to put his instrument and its bow inside it. He locked the bow in place with the pivoting security-plate and strapped the Velcro tie-down around the violin neck to secure it. Then he closed the expensive case.
“I know,” Slaine mumbled. “I just can’t seem to find the time for both school and my career. School requires full-time attention, and so does my musical career.” The blond boy got up with the case in his hand and looked somewhat disheartened. “I am greedy and I want both.”
“That is not possible,” Inaho said. “You cannot work full-time at both school and your career, and cutting back on school should not be an option. That’s why I am trying to help you as much as I can to keep up with school because I know how important your career is for you.”
Slaine looked at Inaho like he was about to cry. Inaho wondered for a moment if he had said something bad and hurtful; he knew he could sometimes be too honest and insensitive with the truth without having the intention to hurt someone. That was why Inaho was surprised when Slaine suddenly hurried up to him with long strides and hugged him tightly.
“Thank you…” Slaine whispered with a trembling breath. “Father said the same thing about school, but I get so confused since he also encourages me to work on my career. I really want both but it’s hard to prioritize my time.”
“You need a schedule for every day of the week,” Inaho said after he had thought for a short while. “I can help you with that as well.”
Slaine’s arms around the brunet tightened and the blond buried his face against the crook of Inaho’s neck. His breaths tickled pleasantly.
“Thank you again… What would I do without you?” Slaine whispered and kissed Inaho’s neck out of gratitude.
Before Inaho had had the time to say anything Slaine kissed his neck again, but this time slowly and lovingly. A shiver ran down Inaho’s spine. A second kiss – sultry with passion – made Inaho’s mind go numb. A third – with teeth gently biting the brunet’s neck – kicked Inaho’s mind into a spin. A fourth – with a tongue licking his skin – sent a shockwave of heat through him, and at that moment Inaho pushed Slaine slightly back. The blond boy stared at him with a confused expression due to Inaho’s action but then quickly turned away and headed toward the door to the recording studio, like he had given up on even asking why. Slaine had already asked several times why Inaho rejected him like that throughout the month they had been a couple. Each time he had asked, Inaho had simply answered that he thought they should not get that intimate with each other. Slaine had not kept asking why, and instead simply accepted it. To Inaho that was a sign Slaine knew what Inaho thought, since the blond did not question him any further.
‘Then why do you react like that?’ Inaho thought confused and was about to ask, but he was interrupted by Slaine:
“Shall we go then?” Slaine asked with a weak smile on his lips and Inaho’s question died before he had voice it.
‘I’m sorry,’ Inaho thought before he walked over to the door and Slaine turned the lights off. ‘I’m not rejecting you, but we shouldn’t do things like that.’
Together they left the recording studio and headed out into the snowy evening in the early January. The wind was calm but the snow fell heavily around them and suffocated the natural city sounds around them into muffled noises. Slaine called for a taxi that would take them home, and they waited for the taxi in silence. None of them knew what to say to the other. The air around them was awkward, and even Inaho – who usually did not care about awkwardness since he was used to it – felt it the same way he felt the cold air against his cheeks.