Peppy leaned on the wall, watching a complicated move take place. A week ago, Nate had gotten ahold of him and told him after much cajoling and some jewelry, Celeste was letting the baby grand go, which did indeed have a StarFox logo on the soundboard. And furthermore, he'd pay some professional piano movers to ferry it over and put it back in tune.

            Peppy had hung up from that phone call, looked around the apartment, and realized just how empty and stripped it remained. That startling epiphany had produced a several hour trip to a local hardware store, and now the walls were newly painted brilliant blue, the empty nails removed and the pictures he had rearranged. He'd gotten some stuff framed that he'd been meaning to for years, and gotten the carpet cleaned. In a way, it was like healing the last of an old wound.

            Nate was standing off to one side, having gotten a cup of coffee off him, joking with the piano movers. They'd had to move some of his furniture and think about it a while, but now the bulk of the small glossy-white piano was in the room, another mover following with the lid. Erin was sitting at his kitchen table, watching all this curiously. She'd insisted on being present when the piano got moved back.

            The lid back on the piano, the movers dusted off their gloves and looked at him, waiting. Peppy shrugged and stepped forward, gesturing toward the empty space where the piano had sat. They nodded and shifted it into place, spinning until they had it oriented the way he wanted it, one splitting off and returning with the matching bench and the tools needed to tune a piano.

            "Sit down, eh, I need someone to play it while I get it back in shape."

            "Alright." He moved around and sat at the piano, living the key cover up and smiling. "Well, at least someone's been keeping it clean."

            "Celeste pays a housekeeper to come through and dust and such once a week." Nate replied. "I still have no idea why she was so upset at the idea of returning it to you."

            Peppy shrugged, watching the mover prop the lid on the piano and turn some sort of handheld on. "You move them and tune them, eh?"

            The man, an older tabby, grinned at him. "Easier that way. I'm a member of the piano tuner's guild believe it or not." He eyed the strings. "And this hasn't been done in a long time."

            "Probably eight years."

            "Sad. Alright, give me some scales, let's see how bad it is. What temperament do you want the scale tuned to?"

            "Circular, please." Peppy started playing scales, ears folding back as the instrument basically howled, different notes falling strongly sharp or flat, going up the keys until the tuner wove at him to stop and went to work. Much adjustment later, this procedure repeated, and a few rounds later was down to single key adjustment, both watching the handheld's readouts. In the background, the rest of the movers helped themselves to coffee and bullshitted with Nate, who had of all things brought a guitar case and small amplifier up from his car, setting up near the piano and tuning the guitar.

            Eventually the piano tuner shut off the handheld and cheerfully shook Peppy's hand, backing off to stand with the rest of the movers and have the last of the coffee. Realizing everyone was looking at him expectantly, Peppy sighed and cracked his knuckles. "It's been a while."

            "Oh please. Just play." Erin replied, grinning.

            He half smiled at her, settled his hands to the keys, and startled them all when he jumped into a song, eyes closed, fingers working up and down the keys from memory. It had been one of his favorite tunes years ago, a very lovely but very complicated melody, and he was pleased to find he remembered it all.

            The song lasted a little over three minutes, and was applauded cheerfully by the piano movers, who accepted their check from Nate and let themselves out, off to haul something else.

            "Well, that was very classical. What was it?" Erin asked, tilting her head.

            "The Heart asks Pleasure First by Nyman." He smiled and sighed, patting the piano. "It's nice to have this back."

            "Trust me when I say it's better for you to have it. As said, I shall keep to guitars." Nate grinned, fingers tapping the strings. "Know any rock?"

            "Piano and guitar… how about 'I Would do Anything for Love' by Meatloaf?"

            "I know it but we need a lady to sing along as well." He looked at Erin.

            Erin stared back, looked at Peppy, then shook her head. "Uh-uh. No. I can't sing."

            "You couldn't dance, either. Come on, I'll play the notes you need." He replied.

            "Oh, fine. Do you have sheet music?"



This concludes a nearly three year journey, perhaps the longest it's ever taken me to write a fanfiction. Thank you for your patience and your readership, and I hope you liked it.