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#34: fic: Music is communism, but you're playing democracy, G

Title: Music is communism, but you're playing democracy
Fandom: Arashi
Rating: G
Summary: Conservatory!AU. "It is one of the great mysteries, actually," said Jun, "what Aiba does in the time when he's supposed to be practising. I mean, when it comes to Nino, we all know he's either trying to level up on the latest version of Biohazard, or stealing milk buns from Ohno instead of working on those Bruch pieces, but Aiba. Nobody knows."
Word count: 5000+
Notes: Many thanks to forochel for looking through this. ♥



Sho began the month of March with a very clear goal in mind: to personally hunt down and murder Matsumoto Jun.

"If I could play I would accompany him myself," Jun told him over the phone, "and Mao-chan wouldn't have pulled out so suddenly if not for all those auditions suddenly cropping up."

"I haven't touched the piano ever since I started university, you know," Sho said exasperatedly. "And I really don't have time."

"Come on, do him - do me a favour," said Jun. "If he fucks up his exam up one more time they're going to make him take an extra year."

"Who is this idiot again?"

"Aiba Masaki. You met at that New Year party, remember?"

"No," said Sho, because the only thing he remembered of the New Year party was this drunk girl coming up to him and telling him just how much she hated sloping shoulders, and some kid attempting to play a violin like it was a guitar.

"Well, he's a nice guy. I like him, and he's talented," Jun told him, and Sho knew that when Jun said talented he meant it, because Jun had made section leaders cry from shame for not being good enough.

"To be honest I don't really care," Sho replied. "And I've really got to dash."

"I'll leave the scores in your letterbox, then," said Jun cheerfully, before hanging up.



Their first practice took place in the smallest music room in the entire conservatory. It smelled strongly of sweat and old rosin. The piano was barely in tune. Aiba was also thirty-five minutes late.

Sho was not at all familiar with the repertoire for the alto saxophone, but a glance at the piano part of the Debussy revealed nonstandard tempo and funny accidentals that he was loath to tackle. He hadn't been lying when he'd said that he had not played since he started university. On one level it was because he simply didn't have the time, but that was not quite the good excuse Sho wanted it to be; high school had been crazy but he had still managed to practice every day.

It was, perhaps, something like the way his teacher had looked at him with such disappointment when he had told her about Economics at Keio, that the choice between studying music in Japan and overseas was somewhat of a false dilemma because he had already found something else he really wanted to do.

He had gone more than a year without practise - and now this. "A favour," he said under his breath, opening the score and sitting down to work through it.

It was a lovely piece, starting with a delicate arrangement of chords that rang out clearly on the higher register. Sho wasn't sure how good Aiba was going to be, but in the right hands the saxophone part looked like it could sound wondrous.

As he progressed with the piece, though, it was like being eighteen all over again: that familiar feeling of having to constantly fight for his notes, the keys hardening against him even has he tried to make his fingers fly over them. He pushed on anyway, trying at least to finish even if he couldn't hit all the notes or make them come alive. It had been this feeling, of having the music sit huge in his mind and his chest and yet not emerge the way he wanted it to, that had convinced Sho two years ago that some things were just not meant for him.

When Aiba finally charged into the room, it took a while for Sho to actually notice that he was there. The song ended in a wash of vibrant chords that his fingers strained to catch; for Sho it felt like defeat even as he played them.

"That was nice," was the first thing Aiba said to him, making him jump.

Sho frowned, half embarrassed and half irritated that Aiba had been listening to those fumbles. "I'm Sakurai Sho," he said, finally, rising from the piano chair.

"Aiba Masaki," said Aiba, nodding energetically. "Let's work together well!"

Aiba had exactly the sort of smile that Sho had always had a thing for - brilliant and rather infectious, and Sho made a mental note to ask Jun why he had neglected to mention that Aiba was also extremely pretty.

And then Aiba discovered, with an almost cartoonish double take, that he had forgotten to bring his saxophone along, and Sho figured that there were a lot of things Jun had neglected to mention.



In the week following their first meeting, Aiba missed two practices because he got the timings wrong, and spent the fourth one disastrously fumbling through the second movement of the Creston Concerto (it had been the only score he'd brought).

"He can't count, he can't tell time, and he obviously isn't taking this seriously," Sho said to Jun.

"I notice you haven't given up yet, though," Jun said wryly as he fitted a new reed into his clarinet.

"I made a commitment," said Sho.

"You like him," said Jun. "That's the only explanation."

"Nonsense," Sho replied. "The man gets on my nerves."

"The man's a genius," said Jun, "and he's also kind of adorable."

"I hate you," Sho told him. "You've introduced me to a monster."

Jun grinned, and put his lips to the mouthpiece, blowing experimentally. The sound that emerged was low and slightly scratchy.

"A moment to warm up," he muttered. He formed a careful embouchure around the mouthpiece, fastidiously wetting the surface with his mouth. After adjusting the ligature, he blew another careful note. It was richer this time, warmer.

"There we go," said Jun with visible satistfaction. He took a deep breath and played a fast B flat major scale; the notes soared like a smoky rush of perfume, not in the least dampened by the soundproofing.

Sho liked the way Jun played the clarinet, had liked it since they had been eleven and thirteen years old and Sho had been asked to accompany his teacher's nephew, a short, scowling boy who had grinned like a little monkey when they had finished the piece. Jun came from a family of musicians, each of them exacting and serious when it came to their craft, and he had grown up no different. If all went well, he'd be overseas the following year, and Sho was quite certain that world domination would feature quite soon in his future.

For now, though, there was this, and the conservatory orchestra, and some recreational bamboozling of long-suffering friends into accompanying allegedly genius saxophonists who appeared unable to even read notes.

Aiba baffled Sho. He was always incredibly apologetic about his general unpreparedness at practice, but at the same time Sho saw in him no real desire to play good music, or any music at all, for that matter. He didn't have that hunger - not like Jun, who couldn't help but keep weighing his talent against others in an endless pursuit of better sound, of perfecting his technique. Aiba didn't seem to bother. It wasn't something Sho could understand; at the height of his fervour Sho's life had been an endless cycle of competitions (which he won, most of the time) and piano lessons.

"How is it?" asked Jun, and Sho realised that he had missed the entire piece.

"Well..." he began.

"All right, I know you've got something else to do," said Jun, sparing Sho the need to explain himself. "You're getting that look again, the one where you're thinking about derivatives or whatever it is that gets you off."

"I do not get off on derivatives, Matsumoto," Sho snapped. "And don't you dare make a smart remark about-"

"Aiba?" Jun interrupted.

"You're a monster," said Sho. "You're both monsters. I'm never coming back."

"I'll see you next week," Jun replied. "And keep me updated on the Aiba status."

"I can summarise that in one word," Sho told him, "disaster."



Sho found himself having to eat his words - or word, in this case - two days later, when Aiba, in some sort of musical miracle, appeared for practice only ten minutes late, armed with both his saxophone and the complete set of scores.

"Creston first movement," said Aiba, balancing the folder rather precariously on the music stand in front of him.

"I think we should actually work on the Debussy-" Sho began, but Aiba shook his head.

"My roommate went through this with me," he told Sho, looking adamant.

"...all right."

Sho began the first series of chords with no hesitation, but when Aiba started to play, his fingers faltered over the keys for just a moment.

Aiba was nothing short of incredible - his first note bloomed and filled the room with seemingly no effort at all, and his subsequent runs took place with absolute control. He filled the pauses in Sho's heavy piano part with an almost gleeful tumble of melody, the notes first creeping along coyly before rushing together like so much liquid and colour. It was all Sho could do to keep up with him now, to prance and pace along with the heady coil of Aiba's music.

A quick glance, and Sho could see that Aiba was not even looking at the music. His eyes were shut as he transitioned into another series of runs, and Sho knew he would lose his notes if he didn't keep his eyes on the score, but Aiba, Aiba was glorious in that moment and it was as if Sho was the only one who could see that right then.

There was nothing trapped or restrained about this; even Sho's notes were becoming lighter, the two of them tripping along in a joyous call-and-answer of harmony and texture. When they got to the part near the end of the movement where Aiba was just repeating the same series of notes over and over again, Sho found himself entirely immersed in the music, throwing himself wholeheartedly into it because this was what he'd been missing, what his respectable stack of certificates and endless technical exercises had failed to reveal to him. Before he knew it, though, Aiba was holding that last high note with smug satisfaction on his face, eyes blinking open when the movement ended.

"Great," said Sho, after a long moment of complete silence. His voice came out a hushed whisper. "That was great."

"Well," Aiba began, fiddling guiltily with the strap of his saxophone, "I haven't actually learnt the rest of the movements yet."

"That's okay," said Sho. "That's completely okay."

"Really?" asked Aiba, beaming widely like his whole day had hinged on Sho's words.

"Hang on for a second, please?" said Sho, getting up from his chair as calmly as he could manage and retrieving his phone from his bag. "I've - ah, I've forgotten to send someone a mail."

To: Matsumoto Jun
YOU WERE RIGHT.
HE IS A GENIUS. HE
IS A GENIUS.
FUCK FUCK FUCK.




"It's not supposed to work that way," said Sho over the phone. "Nobody's that good."

"Aiba is," said Jun. "Disgusting, I know."

"He did say something about his roommate going through it with him," Sho continued, frowning.

"What, you mean Nino stepped in?" asked Jun, laughing. "I bet he was furious."

Sho paused in the middle of emptying a packet of seasoning into his instant ramen. "Nino?"

"Ninomiya Kazunari," said Jun. "Cellist? You attended his recital two years ago."

"That cocky first year student you said was more interested in Super Mario than playing music?" asked Sho. "That's Aiba's roommate?"

"Yes," Jun replied. "Every time I visit them I want to vomit from the amount of wasted talent concentrated in one room."

Sho remembered that recital from two years ago. The reason for Jun's fascination with Nino had become immediately obvious the moment he had begun to play. Sho remembered being surprised by how deftly Nino had navigated the fingerboard with those ridiculously small hands of his - pivoting his thumb just a fraction more than was normally needed so his fingers could comfortably make a stretch; effortlessly changing positions as if those strings had been just another game he had already conquered. And that sound - it was no wonder he was such a smug bastard all the time.

"In times of great need - such as these - Nino has been known to help Aiba out by playing through his pieces for him on the cello," explained Jun.

"So he learns them by ear," said Sho.

"I sense the profound disapproval in your voice," Jun said dryly.

"That's not going to help him," Sho retorted. "They should know that."

"Of course I agree," Jun replied. "But that's how Aiba gets by. Every term Nino refuses, and every term he caves."

"Why?"

Jun's incredulity was unmistakable even over the phone. "Have you not met Aiba?"



They managed, in the following week, to cover the next two movements of the Creston Concerto. The Debussy was subsequently conquered over the weekend (much to Sho's astonishment), which left them ready to perform just three days before the examination.

"Bakery. Now," said Jun. "This deserves some sort of a celebration."

There were at least a dozen things Sho needed to get done that day - there were readings to be finished, as well as that paper on rational choice theory for which he had yet to think of a thesis - but he found himself unable to decline when Aiba offered to buy him a hot drink and a muffin.

"Only for a short while," Sho agreed, trying his best to ignore Jun's pointed eyebrow wriggling.

The bakery opposite the conservatory was a small place best known, according to Jun, for its divine lemon tarts and those raspberry chocolate brownies that were only available on Wednesday afternoons. When the three of them entered they found it empty except for a sleepy-looking man at the counter who was arranging frosted cookies in order of size and colour on a large plate.

"Two Aiba Masaki specials," Aiba said cheerfully, before turning to Sho and tugging lightly on the sleeve of his coat. "Have you met Oh-chan?"

"That's Ohno Satoshi," Jun clarified. "He's an art student but he works part-time here."

"Hello," said Ohno distractedly, still searching for an extra teaspoon that "had been there a minute ago". It was exactly the sort of service Sho disliked, where Ohno fumbled about for the best plate on which to balance two muffins, and spent an inordinate amount of time fiddling around with the coffee. But Aiba's fingers were still clutching the fabric of his sleeve, and the bakery was pleasantly warm and bright, making Sho think why not? when Aiba suggested they take a seat by the window and wait for Ohno to bring them their food.

"Nino says he's coming down, by the way," Jun told Sho, looking up from his phone. "His quartet practice ended early, and... there he is."

They glanced out of the window and saw a familiar figure waiting to cross the street, cello in tow.

"He looks pissed," Jun mused. He was right: Nino appeared positively murderous, tugging the cello along as he stalked viciously towards the bakery. He had one of those huge wheeled cases that resembled a coffin more than anything else, but Sho still feared for the well-being of the instrument within as Nino hauled it up the curb.

"That probably mean's he's discovered the instant ramen," said Aiba.

"Though extreme irritation is, of course, practically a constant state of being for Nino," said Jun.

"What's wrong with instant ramen?" asked Sho.

"Aiba processed it himself," replied Jun

"As an experiment," Aiba protested, but was interrupted by the discordant jangle of Nino storming into the bakery, glasses askew.

"Hello," said Aiba with some trepidation.

There was silence for a moment while Nino wrestled his cello into a safe corner near their table. Then he whipped around.

"Violinists!"

There he goes, Jun mouthed.

"Kamenashi turns up with a flat A and everyone follows him anyway because he's first violin," Nino exploded. "I tell them we're flat, and nobody believes me because Akanishi says it sounds okay and Ueda can't actually tell the difference. We spend two hours tuned to that A. Two hours. I have perfect pitch. Do you have any idea how disorienting it is?"

"You were playing Shostakovich," said Jun. "It's supposed to be disorienting."

"You're incredibly funny," snapped Nino.

"There, there," said Ohno soothingly, appearing with their muffins.

Nino turned to Aiba. "And if you think I haven't noticed the charred mess stuck to my best frying pan, Aiba Masaki, you are mistaken."

"I'm sorry?" said Aiba.

"Try again later," Nino snapped, only suddenly noticing Sho after collapsing into a chair opposite him. "Who's this?"

"He's Aiba's accompanist," said Jun, looking glad to be able to change the subject.

"Right," said Nino, squinting at Sho from across the table with vague recognition. "The moron who gave up Oberlin and a ridiculous number of incredible music schools to study Economics in Keio?"

"Most people just call me Sakurai," Sho told him shortly.

"I might hate you a little bit," said Nino, frowning at Sho. "Maybe a lot."

"He's very straightforward," Jun supplied.

"But at least you're actually making Aiba practice," Nino continued.

"I take it that this isn't a regular occurrence, then," said Sho, treading carefully in the presence of this tiny whirlwind of a man.

"It is one of the great mysteries, actually," said Jun, "what Aiba does in the time when he's supposed to be practising. I mean, when it comes to Nino, we all know he's either trying to level up on the latest version of Biohazard, or stealing milk buns from Ohno instead of working on those Bruch pieces, but Aiba. Nobody knows."

"There was the helium incident," Ohno offered.

"There were many helium incidents," Nino replied shortly, though the glance he directed at Ohno was considerably softer. "You have to be specific."

"Something tells me I don't want to know about this," said Sho. In the meantime, Aiba was sitting with his face buried in his hands.

"If someone inhaled helium," Jun began, in a declamatory voice, "would they sound different when they played the saxophone?"

"Yes, indeed they would," said Nino, nodding exaggeratedly. "Now, how about feeding helium to an entire orchestra?"

"The worst thing is that people actually play along with him," said Jun.

"That's because they find it interesting!" cried Aiba.

"It is, rather," said Sho. "What were the results, then?"

"Don't encourage him," Nino warned. "Don't."

"We've already had one conductor walk out on us," Jun added. "And Aiba's ban hasn't been lifted yet."

"I said I was sorry," said Aiba from behind his palms.

"That's what you always say," Nino replied. "And don't try to justify it by telling me that at least the concert master liked it, because our concert master at that time was also the idiot who interrupted our performance of the Brandenburg Concerto with a rendition of the theme from Jurassic Park and has since graduated to become a hip hop artist."

"You have got to be joking," said Sho.

"No, really," said Jun. "I was there, cringing in the winds section."

"You're always cringing in the winds section," Nino pointed out. "Especially when there's a horn solo."

"Yamashita has issues with rhythm," Jun replied. "Tuplets appear to still be a foreign concept to him."

"What's a tuplet again?" asked Aiba, courting danger at every turn.

Jun and Nino both turned to him, ready to unleash the full weight of their scorn, when Sho's phone rang. It was his mother.

"Your brother needs help with math," she told him, the moment he answered. "You were supposed to be here an hour ago."



Under normal circumstances, Sho would never have forgotten something like that. It wasn't a matter of making time for his family - of course, that was important as well - rather, Sho just never forgot appointments. Until now, that was. There was something about being with this particular group of friends-by-proxy, though, that made him feel somehow drawn to their conversations, somehow keen to catch whatever snatches of their lives he could decipher from their meandering discussions, which were punctuated by the sharp back-and-forth of Nino and Jun's banter and Ohno's serene asides.

This wasn't his world, though; it could have been, but it wasn't. He had other things that required his time. As much as he hated to, he left them in the bakery after hastily making his exit.

He was hurrying down the street when someone called his name. He turned; it was Nino.

"Where are you headed?" asked Nino.

"Train station," said Sho. "Look, I don't have the time-"

"You're going in the wrong direction," Nino called back.

Sho paused midsentence and looked around. "Right," he muttered in embarrassment, walking back up the street towards Nino.

"I'll walk you there," said Nino. It wasn't a question.

"Thanks."

Now that he wasn't carrying his cello Nino walked at a fairly quick pace, shoving his hand deep into the pockets of his jacket as they crossed the road.

"Aiba's a genius," said Nino, abruptly.

"So I gathered," Sho replied. "The rate at which he learnt those pieces-"

"It's not just that," Nino interrupted. "He's very fast, yes, mostly because I go through the pieces with him."

"Yes, I've heard," said Sho, feeling a slight pang of something like jealousy at the thought that he hadn't been the sole reason for Aiba's success.

"He picks up the notes very quickly when he hears them - one of the reasons why his current tutor refuses to let him listen to the pieces. The school's trying to force him to read."

"Well he should; it's important," Sho replied, his voice sharp. "He also needs to learn how to count."

"I can see why you and Jun got on as children," said Nino, eyeing him with mock distaste. "But my point - he's always been good; exceptional, even. But he's never sounded this good."

"You did mention that he's been practising a bit more," said Sho.

"You don't understand, do you?" Nino said, stopping abruptly. "In the past I'd go through his songs with him and he'd know the notes and play them well. Now he's lighting up those phrases without me even telling him how to."

"Lighting... up?"

"If this were one of his experiments there would only be one changed variable," said Nino. "You."



For all their disgust at Aiba's antics, Jun and Nino really did care about how he did in the upcoming examination. During their spare time they turned up at practices, offering more pointers within five minutes than Aiba's tutor had provided in two lessons combined. Their criticism was not limited to Aiba alone, however, and Sho tried his best not to bristle whenever one of them pointed out sloppy semiquavers or "that persistently colourless series of broken chords that you really need to get right", as Nino had snapped, one afternoon.

Sho had welcomed this at first, because all the good advice was helping Aiba's pieces take shape, but when Jun made Aiba repeat the same phrase for the eleventh time that morning it was clear that all the attention was merely making Aiba anxious. He was fumbling up fingering that he'd previously gotten right, wetting his lips nervously as Jun drew yet another angry circle on his score and made him try again. Nino the previous evening had been no better, stopping to correct Aiba before the sound could even properly emerge.

"More expression," said Jun, frowning. "From bar fifteen."

Aiba was blinking rapidly as he turned the page, searching for the bar number. The first note he played was a choked noise.

"Stop," interrupted Sho. "We're done for this practice."

"No we're not," said Jun, glancing at the clock. "There's still half an hour left."

"My arms are about to fall off," said Sho, rising noisily from his seat and beginning to put away his scores. "I need a break."

"You're not serious," said Jun disbelievingly. "His examination's tomorrow."

"It's been a long time - I'm not in very good form at all, I'm afraid," Sho replied. He turned to Aiba, who was staring back in a mixture of relief and gratitude that ought not to make Sho's heart leap like that. "I'm sorry, Masaki-kun. I'll have to rest for tomorrow."

Aiba's eyes darted from Sho to Jun, who appeared very much like he wanted to kick something.

"We can't all be Matsumotos," Sho added placatingly. "Give us the rest of the day off. Shapiro and Stiglitz are crying out for my attention."



Since he had started practising at the conservatory, Sho found himself increasingly inclined towards taking the scenic route to the train station on his way back to school. It was a small park around the back that was only cursorily maintained by the groundskeeper, and as Sho followed the uneven path he could sometimes hear, through a window or two left open by chance, the faint sounds of scales being hurried through or cadenzas being stopped mid-phrase for correction.

Aiba wasn't the sort of person who walked quietly, Sho discovered. He trailed behind Sho in a cheerful shuffle through the damp leaves, his scores in their plastic shopping bag scraping noisily against the hard surface of his saxophone case. Now that they had left Jun behind in the practice room (there was a Brahms recital coming up), Aiba seemed entirely at ease, distracted every now and then by an odd-shaped bush or the random bust of Mozart somebody appeared to have deposited in the garden and forgotten to reclaim.

"I don't think it counts as walking someone out if the person being walked has to stop every five minutes," said Sho, turning around for the fourth time that morning.

"Sorry," said Aiba, looking up from examining the dedication on a weathered park bench to grin sheepishly at Sho.

"And I'll take that," Sho added, indicating the case in Aiba's hand.

"Which?"

"Either one is fine," Sho said shortly, reaching over to take the scores instead. "Can't you find another bag to carry these in?"

"I could," Aiba replied, "but I might just lose it again and then Nino would be mad."

"Nino's always mad, I find," said Sho.

"He works very hard," Aiba told him. "He pretends that he doesn't, because he's proud like that, but every night he puts a big mute on his cello and practices for hours."

"Well, then it's no wonder he's grumpy," said Sho. "And what are you normally doing, when he is practising?"

"Sleeping," Aiba answered, with at least the grace to look slightly embarrassed. "But Nino's different - Nino wants to have a solo career."

"Don't you?" asked Sho, stopping to turn and look at Aiba.

Aiba was silent and suddenly extremely interested in looking at his feet.

"Well?" Sho repeated.

"Don't tell Nino I mentioned that. He doesn't like to talk about it because he thinks he's too old to think about starting," Aiba said finally.

"You're not answering my question," said Sho, but Aiba had already started down the path again, this time moving a little more purposefully than before. "You're pretty good, you know," Sho called after him.

Aiba stopped. "You think so?"

"We all do," said Sho. "I mean, you're terrible with notes and sometimes I wonder how you've managed to actually remain in music school, but - that tone of yours. That vibrato. You can't get sound like that from sheer practise, or from another guy mapping out the notes for you on a cello."

As Sho was speaking Aiba had turned around, and was now looking at Sho with an expression of uncertainty.

"You have good sound," Sho told him. When Aiba still seemed uncomprehending he asked, "Has nobody ever told you?"

"Nobody who mattered," Aiba replied, after a long moment.

It occurred to Sho, just then, that it was entirely possible for Aiba to have gone through three years of music school without properly recognising exactly how talented he was. It didn't help that he fell behind so many of his classmates in terms of theoretical knowledge; his routine of getting through examinations only by the skin of his teeth would have placed him solely in the underachievers' band. Even those who acknowledged his natural ability did so grudgingly, or instinctively translated that into added pressure, as in the case of Nino and Jun. Nobody - nobody who mattered, to use Aiba's words - had ever turned to him and told him that he was clearly and simply good.

"Well, now you know," said Sho, suddenly feeling even more embarrassed than Aiba looked.

They stood there for a while in uneasy silence, Aiba once again studying his feet.

Finally, Sho spoke. "I'll just... go, then," he said, managing a slight nod before ducking his head and hurrying off towards the train station, Aiba's plastic bag of scores still gripped tightly in his left hand.



The following morning saw Jun and Sho meeting a very lost-looking Aiba outside the recital studio, clutching his saxophone with a distinct sense of bewilderment. He barely acknowledged them when they arrived.

"I took your pieces home," said Sho, handing them over to Aiba, who managed to take them without actually looking at Sho. "Sorry about that."

"Are you all right?" asked Jun sharply. "We're to enter in a minute."

"What?" said Aiba, beginning to flip frantically through his scores like there was some lost treasure to be located between their pages. "Oh, I'm fine."

"Aiba?" Jun asked, concerned. "Aiba?"

"Look," said Sho, with sudden resolve, snatching the scores away from him. "You don't need these."

"But-"

"All you need to do at this point," Sho told him, "is to play."

Aiba seemed to still at those words, his expression slightly wild but significantly calmer. Eye contact or actual speech still seemed to be beyond him, however, and they proceeded into the recital studio in silence.

The seats were empty apart from the two examiners somewhere near the front row, and when the three of them stepped onstage they were greeted only by the echos of their own footsteps. It was now Sho's turn to get jittery as he sat down in front of the grand piano, attempting to surreptitiously wipe his palms on his trousers. Only Jun was a steady presence among the three of them, deftly positioning Aiba's music stand and scores before returning to his position close behind Sho, ready to turn the pages.

"When you're ready, then," said the woman in the horn-rimmed glasses, looking expectantly at them.

There was a moment of almost painful tension in which Aiba merely stood there with his eyes closed, while everybody else in the room just waited for something to happen. Sho glanced over at Aiba, fearing that he had somehow lost his nerve, but the moment he caught sight of Aiba's expression he knew there was nothing to worry about. None of the disorientation from before remained on Aiba's face. Instead, he was wearing the same look that he would get during practice before he played a particularly effortless run; like he was listening to something or for something.

Then Aiba took a deep breath, and began.


----------
Notes: Title from something Tablo's violin teacher used to say to him. :D Um, also, I might be writing another part for this. Continues in epilogue.


Youtube links!
Creston Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Band, Op 26 - played by Philip Dobernig
Debussy's Rhapsody for Alto Saxophone and Band - played by Alan Rusconi

Tags: .writing, au: conservatory, fandom: arashi, fic: arashi, rating: g
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