Disclaimer: The characters, items, places etc of Naruto are property of Masashi Kishimoto. These objects are used without permission for entertainment only, not for making money. No infringement is intended.
AU SasuNaru! That's the homosexual pairing of Sasuke and Naruto (at least, it will be). If you don't like, don't read and click the back button now!
As often with me, here's a warning for occasional swearing.
Andante, Allegro, Al Fine!
By Nanaki Lioness
Naruto hated the rain.
He'd seen it on the forecast before he had left home, frowning in disdain and grabbing his jacket, mentally cursing the fickle weather. He had decided against an umbrella- he knew he'd only leave it behind. He wasn't going to miss this evening because of a little bit of rain.
He'd had no idea a 'little' bit of rain would become a miniature storm, causing him to hurry across the road in front of him almost blindly to reach his destination. An auditorium that, tonight, would be hosting what the posters around town had declared would be the 'Battle of The Era'. There had been a bunch of Italian terms he didn't understand on the poster, but he assumed the duelists would be Italian or something of the like. He'd have to check his ticket later, when he could take it from his pocket without it being swiftly ripped from his hands by the callous winds.
He'd called to reserve his ticket swiftly, not wanting them to sell out of such an epic event, and was surprised to have landed a seat in the second row from the front. He fingered the dog-eared ticket in his pocket gently, checking for the fifth time since he had set out that he hadn't forgotten it.
The double doors were right ahead of him- at least, he assumed they were. He had to lower his head and cover it with his arms to defend himself from the merciless mix of wind and rain.
He jogged for them, hoping he was right, and that they would lead him to the warmth and dryness of the auditorium. He'd never been here before, and had had to plan his journey in advance and leave early to make sure he would find it in time.
The doors gave way under his push, and he practically fell through them, righting himself and catching his breath. His cheeks were flushed red and his fingers were numb, and he blew into his hands to warm them slightly.
"Good evening, Sir."
Naruto shook his head, shaking droplets of moisture out of his hair. He looked down at his knee-length khaki coat, brushing at it slightly, ignoring the man that had addressed him.
"Good evening, Sir," the man repeated.
Naruto looked up at the man, not realizing he had been spoken to. The man was holding a program out to him, giving him a polite smile.
He looked the man addressing him up and down slowly, taking the program with a small nod of thanks and handing over his ticket.
"Is there a required dress code for tonight?" He asked nervously, well aware the man before him was wearing an expensive looking suit, and he was dressed in casual black cargo pants and an obnoxious orange t shirt.
"No, Sir," the man answered politely. "But if I may say so, you don't look the type to enjoy this evening."
"How come?" Naruto asked, grinning. "What's not to enjoy about a fight?!" He took a lot around the auditorium he had entered, frowning slightly. "Though this looks like a pretty dressy place to hold a fight…"
The man thought for a moment, his face lighting up in realization when he thought closely about what Naruto had said.
"Well, Sir," he said, smiling slightly. "I think you're going to be in for a surprise."
Naruto shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Everyone around him was dressed up- men in suits and women in beautiful dresses and even a few children in similar attire. All of them regarded him with a mixture of disdain and flat out disgust.
The seat was comfortable, at least. Red and velvety, and with plenty of leg room. All it needed was a cup holder like a cinema, Naruto had thought, but he doubted that would fit in with the décor.
A surprise, he said…
He looked at the program in his hand, squinting slightly when trying to read the Italian words on it. The man at the door had told him the title of tonight's show held the answer to his surprise, but he didn't understand them.
"Excuse me?" He asked the man sitting next to him. The man turned to him, giving him a look that screamed 'why are you speaking to me, I don't care what you have to say?' He was too polite to voice it, however.
"Yes?" He said expectantly.
"Could you tell me what these words mean?" Naruto asked, holding the program out. The man frowned at him, taking it.
"You don't know?" He asked, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
Naruto continued to look at him, confused.
"'Battle of the Era: Andante, Allegro, Al Fine!'" the man read out. "It means play slow, play fast, and to the end."
Naruto looked even more confused.
You don't know these terms?" The man asked, eyes widening slightly in surprise.
Naruto shook his head dumbly.
"Then what on earth are you doing here?"
"Well, it said a battle," Naruto said slowly.
"It is a battle," the man replied, handing back the program. "A battle of pianists. Two of the greatest pianists this country has seen, playing against each other."
"Eh?" Naruto said dumbly, staring at the program and then at the man.
"You didn't think to inquire about the show's details?" The man asked.
The man shook his head in pity and turned away, ending the conversation.
Naruto slumped in his seat, looking thoroughly disappointed. He'd been looking forward to Italians fighting each other, and instead he was getting some piano players? He was tempted to leave, but remembering the howling storm outside, and the fact he'd paid a fair amount for his ticket kept him in his chair.
I'm here now, I may as well stay...
The lights began to dim slightly, and Naruto looked up at the stage. The red curtains began to open, bearing a stage that was empty of people, holding only a microphone on a stand and two concert grand pianos on opposite ends of the small stage.
A silver-haired man entered the stage from the left, walking to the center of the stage where the microphone stand was, waving as he did so. He was dressed in a black suit that fitted his lithe frame nicely, the lower half of his face covered with a black mask. Naruto supposed it was something to do with helping keep himself slightly shielded from the public, but with that untidy shock of silver hair, he was instantly recognizable anyway.
"Good evening, ladies and gentleman!"
The auditorium hushed completely at the voice, a few murmuring words Naruto couldn't hear.
"Thank you for joining us tonight, everyone! I'm Hatake Kakashi, and it's a pleasure to be here. I won't keep you waiting with long introductions, so I'll get right down to business. I'm sure you all want to see my rival for tonight?"
A few people in the crowd cheered in appreciation, taking Naruto by surprise. He hadn't been expecting any kind of rise from the seemingly stuck-up audience.
"Alright, then. Here he is, please welcome him! Maito Gai!"
Naruto almost fell off of chair when the man in question- he presumed, at least- sprinted onto the stage. He was wearing a suit like Kakashi, but his was pinstriped grey and white, and the shirt he was wearing was a rather bright shade of green. He had black bowl-cut hair, a huge smile, and possibly was the most ridiculous-looking person Naruto had ever seen.
Gai screeched to a halt at the microphone, pushing Kakashi out the way and grabbing it with both hands.
"Good evening, everyone!" He yelled into the microphone, almost deafening Naruto. "Thank you for coming to watch our battle!"
Naruto stared at the two men on stage, trying to get his head around what he was seeing. All these well-dressed, high class people had come to watch a man in a mask and an eccentric weirdo?
"Good luck, Gai-sensei! You can win, Gai-sensei!"
Naruto turned his attention to a young man around his age in the front row ahead of him, who was on his feet, cheering and punching the air. He was the only person in the place who was dressed as casually as he was, wearing army combat pants and a green T-shirt. He had the same hairstyle as Gai, and had he not called the man on stage 'sensei', Naruto would have thought he was his son.
Gai flashed a smile down at the boy, grinning widely and giving the boy a thumbs-up.
"Of course, Lee! I will win this battle!"
"You're amazing, Gai sensei!"
Naruto looked between the man on the stage and the boy in the front line- Lee, as he had been called. He couldn't decide who disturbed him the most.
"Now now, Gai," Kakashi said, taking the microphone. "Let's see some action behind that big talk of yours."
Naruto didn't see what 'action' someone playing the piano could hold.
Gai smiled his huge, teeth-bearing smile and punched the air with a cheer, sprinting to one of the two pianos. Kakashi replaced the microphone, held a hand up to the audience, and walked to the second piano. Seating himself, he gestured across to Gai to begin.
"He's amazing," Naruto held a lady behind him say quietly. "He isn't going to read from a score."
"He never does," someone answered her. "He's called Copycat Kakashi for a reason. He mimics people by ear. I heard a rumour that he can't even read sheet music."
"But he has a pupil, doesn't he? How can he teach someone without being able to read sheet music?"
"He can read it," another person replied, joining the conversation. "But not quickly. He couldn't pick up a high graded piece and play it from the score without studying the notes first and writing them underneath."
"Really? Where did you hear that?"
The lady didn't get her answer, as they were interrupted by a slow, steady stream of notes from the stage.
"The battle has started!" Gai yelled, who was the one currently playing. "Keep up with me, Copycat Kakashi!"
A moment later, Kakashi was playing the same melody as Gai, a soft repeating pattern of simple-sounding notes. He looked bored- or as bored as someone with half their face covered could look, at least.
"Alright!" Gai near-screamed. "Keep up with me, Kakashi!"
He suddenly launched into a new piece of music, much faster than the other one. Within seconds, Kakashi was playing along with him, keeping a perfect harmony between the two of them.
Naruto found himself transfixed as the 'battle' continued. The idea was that Gai would play a piece of music, and then stop, and Kakashi would play the same piece of music again perfectly, from memory. Naruto couldn't fault the man- he didn't miss a single note. He had stayed in the hope the raging storm outside would pass, but he found himself enjoying what was happening on the stage.
He was so caught up in what was happening, he didn't keep track of the time. So, when the two finished a piece and Gai wailed loudly, slamming the piano lid down and standing up, he was confused.
It's over already?
"Nice battle!" He yelled to Kakashi, giving him a thumbs-up and dropping to his knees.
"So you admit defeat?" Kakashi replied, standing up and walking across the stage to the microphone.
"I'll beat you next time!" Gai called from his spot on the floor, head lowered in what seemed like shame.
"There you have it, ladies and gentlemen," Kakashi spoke into the microphone. "Maito Gai admits defeat, so I suppose that makes me the winner."
Gai jumped to his feet, grabbing the microphone from his rival.
"Copycat Kakashi is a great man!" He yelled into the microphone. "He deserves this victory!"
The audience- more of it, this time- cheered at that. Naruto found himself cheering along with them.
Kakashi took the microphone back from him, sighing audibly. "Thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen, and I hope we kept you entertained."
He bowed, Gai following suite quickly, leading to a few more cheers from the audience. Naruto jumped to his feet, punching the air. The man to his side gave him an odd glance.
"You enjoyed yourself in the end, then?" He asked. Naruto turned to him, beaming.
"Yeah, it was really different than I expected, they made it really fun."
"You don't play an instrument, I presume."
"Huh? No, I don't."
The man smiled wistfully. "Playing an instrument is more fun than you would believe, young man."
He stood, giving Naruto a small smile and gathering his things. Naruto reached under his chair and pulled his still-damp coat out, frowning at it. He'd hoped the almost unbearable heat would have dried it out, but it seemed it was too sodden for that.
He shook it out and put it on, shivering slightly. People around him were starting to leave, and he noticed the young boy from before, Lee, clambering up onto the stage.
"I thought you were fantastic, Gai-sensei!" He heard him call, running and hugging Gai tightly.
"That's because you're a wonderful pupil," Gai replied, hugging the boy back tightly. He let the boy go after a moment, turning to Kakashi.
"Speaking of pupils, where is yours tonight?"
"He's here," Kakashi replied. "Probably already out of the auditorium and in the bar."
Gai shook his head, sighing. "These formalities don't hold his attention very well, do they?"
"No. You know what he's like."
Naruto approached the stage slowly, curiosity getting the better of him. He caught the attention of Kakashi, who looked down at him.
"Hello," he called. "You can come closer, we won't bite."
Naruto grinned nervously, scratching the back of his head.
"I just wanted to say thank you," he said, his voice quiet.
"Speak up, I can't hear you."
"I said I wanted to thank you," he said, louder. "I came here expecting something completely different, but I enjoyed tonight."
Kakashi sat on the edge of the stage, indicating Naruto to jump up next to him and sit. Naruto did so, looking nervous.
"This is the first time you've been to one of our shows, then?" He asked.
Naruto nodded. "I didn't even know who you were. I thought I was coming to watch a real fight."
Kakashi chuckled. "Well, I appreciate that you stayed. Are you interested in music?"
Naruto frowned, thinking about that. "I wasn't really," he replied. "But I guess I am now, sorta."
"Are you interested in the piano?" Kakashi asked, standing up. "Here, come over."
He beckoned to the piano behind him, and Naruto stood, looking even more nervous.
"Kakashi, what are you up to?" Gai asked as Kakashi walked to the piano, beckoning to Naruto again.
"Finding my dear pupil something to do," Kakashi replied, indicating Naruto sit on the stall. "What's your name, young man?"
"Naruto. Touch the keys, play around a little bit. See how you like it."
Naruto looked at the instrument in front of him, feeling a little overwhelmed. There were so many keys in front of him, and he didn't know what to press.
He tentatively pressed one of the keys immediately in front of him, and jumped at the sound that echoed softly back.
"You can press the keys harder than that," Kakashi told him. "It won't break."
Naruto hit the key again, harder this time.
"Ah, you found middle C straight away!" Kakashi said, pride in his voice. Naruto looked at him blankly, the statement going straight over his head. "I'm impressed!"
Naruto stared at his hand and then the key he'd pressed. All he'd done was press one key- what was so impressive about that?
"Naruto, would you like to learn to play the piano?" Kakashi asked.
Naruto glanced up at him, eyes wide. "I-I have no idea what I'm doing," he answered. "I've never touched an instrument before in my life other than now."
"We all start somewhere," Kakashi replied. "You see, I have a little problem on my hands."
He indicated to Lee and Gai, who were talking together over by the other piano.
"That boy is Rock Lee, Gai's pupil. I have a pupil, too. We both decided to take an apprentice on, and both were exceptionally talented. Lee still has some learning to do, but I don't think he'll want to leave Gai-sensei even when he is fully taught. My pupil, however…" Kakashi sighed, shaking his head.
"What about him?" Naruto asked.
"Well, he's good. He's very good. And he knows it. He's more than capable of leaving my teachings, and he's tried a couple of times, but he keeps coming back because he's bored. He's… Well, he's a little bit of a loner. He sees his piano as adequate company. And I think it's about time he spread his wings, so to speak, and took an apprentice of his own."
"So you think he should teach me?"
"What better to keep him occupied than a boy who's never touched a piano in his life?" Kakashi responded cheerfully, shrugging.
Naruto thought about it for a moment, before nodding slightly.
"Alright. Will he mind teaching me?"
Kakashi declined to answer, indicating to Gai across at the other piano. He was standing behind Lee, who was seated and playing an upbeat piece on the piano.
"Gai, I'm going to go and find my little prodigy," he called. "I have something for him to do."
Gai glanced between Kakashi and Naruto, before giving them a thumbs-up.
"Alright! I'll see you again soon, Kakashi!"
"Bye, Kakashi-sensei!" Lee called as well.
Kakashi jumped off of the stage, looking up at Naruto. "Come on, Naruto," he called. "Let's head to the bar. I'm willing to bet just about anything that that's where we'll find him."
Author's Note: Coming up- Naruto's meeting with the little 'piano prodigy'. Guess who! ;)