I'm not sure what this fic was born out of, but it was certainly born with a vengeance! Okay, that sounded...odd.

I guess part of it was the fact that I really wanted to write PeinKonan but I was totally blocked with Pretense (yeah, yeah, I'm working on it, sorry!)And I play piano, and I got to thinking that music was probably something that someone like Pein, who is intellectual and capable of listening, could appreciate. So I combined that with a certain someone that we already know he appreciates. :)

Little-to-no plot, but it does follow a logical sequence of events, and that's something, right? Plus, I somehow really like it. Some parts just bled out of my pen (actually, it was a pencil/keyboard most of the time, so that metaphor doesn't quite work out), others were a bit more slow to form, but I finished it and it's my longest one shot so far, by far.

I'm dedicating this to all PeinKonan lovers. I want to show my respect and admiration for everyone who's taken this pairing and run with it, because it totally deserves all the attention it gets, and the wonderful fanfiction devoted to it on this site has played a key role in conceiving my passion and inspiration for it. Whether you've written about it, enthused about it to friends/family/anyone crazy enough to listen, or fallen asleep fantasizing about it (guilty!), you're the best.

Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto, too lazy to come up with a creative disclaimer, all that jazz. :)

Con Fuoco

by LutraShinobi

He couldn't recall, exactly, the first night he'd heard it; a year ago, give or take a few months? By now, he couldn't ever remember going to sleep without its soft background. Every night, the melody was different, and his emotions were the same.

In the beginning, he had stayed awake, propped up on his pillows just to listen to it, the plaintive, soothing rhythm of the songs, the rolling pitches of sound. In the beginning, he had analyzed it, identifying the instrument that played (piano), carefully distinguishing the notes from one another in his mind (low, high, a little lower), considering the technicalities of the steel strings and the small hammers that struck them. He'd figured out where its source must be - the well-kept, gabled house next to his, and he would lean against the windowsill, looking for some sort of sign.

Later, he had allowed it to rock him in a gentle cradle, bask him in lullabies as he descended into slumber, lie in bed with his eyes closed and let it enfold him. Later, he learned to leave it alone and accept it for what he heard and not what he knew. He discovered that seeing music is impossible and pointless, hearing music is important but not imperative, and feeling music is intangible and beautiful.

Sometimes, it would follow him into his doze, and when he woke in the morning, though he had forgotten whatever nightmare or dream that had haunted him, he remembered the music and wondered where it had gone. It became a separate division of reality for him, existing inside him as much as outside him, and at times even only for him, he felt. It was a partition between night and day, and yet it melded them together smoothly so that the transition wasn't rough. It was hard to describe, and as he had no one to explain it to, he didn't spare much effort trying.

One night he was afraid, and it trembled for him, quivering on the high notes like the trill of a newborn bird before flight. One night he was sad, and it cried for him, its sound weepy and soulful, but never empty. One night he was angry, and it shouted for him, crashing and burning in tidal waves of chords. It became an expression of his weakness, and a fortification of his strength; a barrier to protect him from his fears, and an airtight door left slightly ajar to admit his pleasures.

One night, the pills rested there on his desk, their intent clear and non-negotiable, but he couldn't bring himself to do it until the song ended. When it was over, he went outside and buried the bottle as deep as he could burrow, and he prayed among the wilting flowers and midnight shadows, with dirt on his hands and a melody on his soul.

Even on the coldest of winter evenings, he left his window open.

There was a cool, refreshing breeze one autumn day, and he was locked out of the house. He had a key in his pocket, but he didn't want to blame it all on himself, always, so he pretended he didn't. Instead he dumped his books on the front step and walked cautiously to the large side window of the neighbouring house, torn between speculating on why he hadn't done this before and asking himself why he was doing it now. He tried to peek through the cracks in the blinds, but all he could see were thin strips of bluish-grey.

He was very observant when it came to people, though not in the conventional sense, not being either judgmental or nosy, but he was sensitive to noise. As a result he noticed, and was startled by, the sound of sneakers squishing into dewy grass and a fairly loud, feminine voice inquiring, "What are you doing in my yard?"

He turned, simple surprise eclipsing any guilt or embarrassment he might have felt. Standing erect a few feet away, posture slightly aggressive, was a girl with dark indigo-coloured hair, cut jaggedly at the edges, heavy-lidded, perceptive black eyes and generally tough features. He recognized her from school, with a vague intensity stemming from seeing someone many times without ever investing much interest in them. She was popular and athletic, and not particularly distinctive in his opinion, besides being passively attractive and having her own style.

He briefly considered lying, and he probably would have been able to pull it off, but she looked like the kind of girl who had an entire repertoire of judo moves to use on him if she thought he was screwing with her, so he said mildly, "I was looking. I'm sorry for trespassing."

She was still suspicious, but she seemed more civil, and now they were both on guard, him hoping this conversation would end here and her fully intending to pursue the matter. She frowned, and her thinly arched eyebrows bounced towards each other. "What are you looking for? Can I help you find it?" Pretending to helpful while really fishing for information - an effective manipulative technique. Oddly, she seemed to actually mean it.

"I was looking for your piano." He said it without hesitation, fumbling or pauses, as if that would make the admission less bizarrely painful.

Her eyelids slid down further over her deep irises, dragged by her long, curled lashes. She was amused, in a perplexed kind of way. "Well, you're not going to see it from that spot." When he was silent, she continued, "My piano?" Here she stopped, giving him time to deny this. "Why?"

Her expression was pressuring and torturing him, and he doubted that she even knew that. His monotone was strained, and disrupted by emotional discrepancies that he hated. "Somebody plays your piano, in the evenings. I listen, and I just...wanted to see it." He critically examined his answer, as he always did, but in this situation his score depended too much on her reaction.

She was looking at him, forcefully and pensively, but it wasn't an open, questioning stare. He got the feeling that she was thinking about him, and not just about what he'd said. They were two different things, and maybe she understood that. Finally she seemed to reach a conclusion, and she offered, "If you really want to see my piano that badly, come in and I'll show it to you." She waited for him to express disbelief or worry, but as neither was forthcoming, she swung the door in and held it for him.

He entered the home, realizing immediately that its interior was much less starch and spotless than its exterior. It was organized in a haphazard way, with bookshelves and the refrigerator placed side by side in the kitchen, and minuscule thumbtack holes in the wallpaper; it was nice-looking, in a personalized way, with discoloured yellow-white walls, wood-boarded floors and a twisting stairwell (exactly the type that gave kids fantasies about sliding down the banister). It was the kind of house where you could expect to find caring parents, energetic siblings and an innate cosiness, and he had to fight hard to keep something from showing on his face. He wasn't sure if it would be jealousy, longing or merely sorrow, but blankness was far safer in any case.

"You go to my school, right?" It wasn't a habit of hers to ask unnecessary questions, but he was giving away so little that she had absolutely no idea of what he'd be happy to talk about, and for some reason she terribly disliked the concept of causing him discomfort.

"Yes." She noted that he didn't nod at the same time as he voiced the affirmative.

"I see you around a lot," she told him as she led him upstairs. "You're pretty hard to miss." That was certainly true; he didn't attract attention to himself, but other people unwittingly brought notice to him, just by not having that attitude of aloofness, that bold auburn hair and those hypnotic, metamorphosing blue eyes.

She remembered first beginning to notice him in middle school. It had taken her a while to diagnose him as one of those exceptionally gifted students, the type who stumped school counsellors, whom adults expected a lot from and whom kids mostly ignored. She had watched him from afar, eventually deciding that his inapproachability was his own personal decision, and she had chosen to respect that.

They reached the piano room, which her parents often called her 'substitute bedroom'. It was true that she stayed up late practicing, but she could make the music whatever she wanted, including as relaxing as sleep. She could create it and control it, but there was always that element of ambiguity that she treasured.

"Here you go," she said, gesturing toward the large instrument placed against the wall. It wasn't the stereotypical black, but rather a rich mahogany colour, a blend of creamy reds and browns that gave the impression of ancientness. The keys were ivory white with enough undercurrents of yellow to prevent them from being blinding, and the sharp and flat keys were raised in neat, angled rectangles. He took this all in from his position in the doorway, feeling that going any closer would be a violation of the elegant contraption's personal space.

She laughed softly, looking from him to the piano. "You can touch it, you know," she informed him. "Or at least come into the room." She wondered why he hung back; he was quiet, she knew, but she had always refrained from dumping him into the timid category. She doubted, from his character, that he felt bound or limited to not say anything - he just didn't.

He entered further, and she walked ahead of him, faster and more assuredly. She plopped herself down on the piano bench like a not-quite-tame cat jumping into loving, experienced arms, giving him an appraising glance that stopped him in his tracks, then swung her legs around to face the instrument, her fingers dropping into place without a thought. He flinched, not sure what to expect. It seemed preposterous to him that a girl his own age could produce the sounds that consistently awed him. An angel might be capable, but not something so inherently flawed as a human. But her poise was secure, her demeanour collected, and he waited.

As the first succession of intertwined melodies floated up, he knew that she was indeed the artist whose masterpieces could be heard in the fall of the dark. Her hands drifted lightly but purposefully across the keys, the dynamics vigorous and fleeting, leaving their mark on the song. A couple of times she stopped and turned to ask him to sit down, but there was something that just looked okay about him standing by the door, shoulders back and face stoic. It didn't look exactly right, but it was okay. And when she returned her attention to the piano, she left trivial adjectives like 'okay' and 'right' far behind.

She didn't think she'd ever played continually for this long before, but there was something compelling about having someone in the room with you, doing absolutely nothing but listening. Finally, having exhausted her memory, she slid off the bench, stretching her legs and smiling. "Well, I'm done for now. Like it?"

He nodded, adding, "Very much." It wasn't exactly the most outstanding praise she'd ever received, and she was slightly put out after her exertion. By the time she had registered his comment, however, he was down the stairs, smoothly exiting by the front door. It was impossible to tell that his presence had graced the household - no lingering smell, no broken furniture, no shift in the atmosphere remained as a trace of him. But she knew that he'd been there, and so her world, at least, tilted a little on its axis.

She suddenly made a dash for the window, throwing it open and searching for his blurred figure on the sidewalk. "Hey! You!" she shouted, her voice roughening and thawing at once as cool air rushed to the back of her throat. "What's your name?"

He didn't stop moving, a shadowy stick on the road, but then his head rotated. Though he must have yelled for her to hear, his tone sounded no more strained or loud than usual. "Pein."

She smiled, and without missing a beat, retorted, "Cool. Mine's Konan!" She shut the window with the crisp, satisfying snap of a job well done. A glance at the clock told her it was late, but though her bed sheets were soft and downy, they didn't hold her up, support her in a firm posture that affected more than her spine, like that wooden piano bench did.

She took a deep breath, but it wasn't in resignation or preparation; it was just a breath of odourless, invisible, life-giving oxygen. Then she started her scales.

He leaned over to gather up his neglected schoolbooks from the front step, reaching forward to rattle the doorknob - it was locked. Then he heard the gentle, now-familiar tinkling notes, faintly reverberating inside his eardrums, and he remembered his key.

Days of observation passed, followed by days of deliberation. He didn't want to ask, she didn't want to offer - the first felt like begging, the second like charity, and neither of them wanted to accept that. But the nights were no longer enough for him, and the piano was no longer enough for her.

He didn't pretend not to notice when she joined him at his locker on Monday morning, but he didn't react either. He only fastened his padlock, carefully spinning it back to zero, when he could feel her right by his shoulder. She was alive with existence, heavy with a goal, and her weight at his elbow was like a complex tune, using his nerves as keys.

"I've learned a new song." She focused on the back of his neck until he faced her, his gaze falling to her hands. She surreptitiously flipped them over, palms toward him. His brow furrowed as he read between the lines, spotting the tender creases on her skin between the faded green rivers of veins and the crisscrossing prints.

She wanted him to trust her, and she wanted to erase any second thoughts he could be having. But her longing was put to rest when he said, "Thank you."

That night, and for many afterwards, he rang her doorbell as the sky was dusking, dipping in and out of the fading sunlight like a dolphin with an ocean to roam. This was his routine, for time didn't pass in minutes - it flew by in colours, shapes, and feelings. There was no need for her to ask him to meet her; she simply came, and so did he.

He always stood for the first few weeks, and then, at last, he grabbed a chair and set it beside the piano, against the wall. It was turned so that he could watch her as she played if he chose, and he often did, his eyes flickering from her cheeks to her nimble fingers as they danced on a white-and-black stage.

It annoyed her, sometimes, how expressionless he was while she played. It was as if he didn't care, worse, as if he didn't feel. But she could tell, soon enough, that he wasn't detaching himself from her music, but from everything else. When his neck jerked in response to a sudden tempo change, or when his eyes narrowed with an elongated decrescendo, he was more than simply a listener; he was a part of the song, a new movement that the composer hadn't intended but couldn't deny.

The music sounded different when he was with her - as if his presence was a sign to the piano to slightly adjust the octave, or maybe a subconscious indication for her to make subtle changes. His unspoken opinion was the occasional extra sharp here and there, the twitch of his knuckle an unprecedented flat that rang out on its own. He didn't even play the instrument himself, yet somehow he had become her conductor.

She didn't know how it worked, but he never led her wrong.

The clerk stared at him when he chanced to walk into the downtown music store, cementing his suspicion that it was one of those small-business outfits that had a very specific clientele. Obviously he didn't fit the criteria - then again, he never had. He ambled down to the sheet music section and searched for the word 'piano' among them. He found several pieces that looked promising, but he couldn't test them out for himself. He finally picked one out which looked like it might suit her; there was a large variety of notes, some sitting at the very top of the staff and others closer to the bottom, and many curly Fs (forte) and Ps (piano), even some FFs (fortissimo) and one PPP (piano pianissimo). She liked a wide range, he knew.

He looked around, saw no one but the clerk, and walked over to. "Would you mind playing this for me?" he asked blandly, holding up the sheet. The unshaven man behind the desk stroked his stubble, bemused, and said, "What, you mean on a piano?"

"Yes - you seem to have plenty available," he replied, nodding toward the biggest room in the store, where there were pianos of all sizes, shades and conditions.

The clerk's stubble-rubbing movement became faster and more jerky, and his eyes darted from side to side uneasily as if he were about to jaywalk with a police officer in sight. "All right," he agreed, mournfully. He snatched the sheet away before it could become contaminated.

The clerk was a decent player, and the baby grand they were trying out had a full sound and a shiny black exterior - it created a pleasing picture, and the only thing missing was her. He listened to approximately a quarter of the song before politely taking back the music. He hovered over the shelf once more, and desperation flooded the clerk's face. She would have laughed if she could have seen that wrinkled, sagging jowl, and that was enough foundation for his decision.

"I'll buy it."

He didn't wrap it, even though it was essentially a gift. He liked the white of the paper and its smooth, dry texture better than anything else, anyway. He did write Konan at the top, however. He meant to add From Pein at the bottom, but the round bubbles of notes were so much more attractive than his evenly spaced, neat handwriting that he couldn't bring himself to do so.

He walked to her house clutching it to his chest, rechecking the amount of pressure his inner arms were putting on it at every step. When she opened the door to him, he handed it to her without preamble, anxious to get it into her possession before he could crumple it.

Curious, she examined it, then smiled. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail, short strands of indigo casually streaking the fringes of her forehead. She tugged on his shirtsleeve, jogging up to the piano room, and as she ran her hand slipped down into his. His thumb instinctively clenched over her knuckles when her fingernail pressed into the bulge below it, and she looked back at him in surprise before glancing ahead once again, her smile filling out until it touched every muscle in her face.

She played his song every day, again and again, until she had it memorized. Unbeknownst to him, she would lift the sheet of music and blow gently on her name, written so painstakingly in rich black ink, just to make sure that the five letters stayed there, lasting and permanent in that exquisite cursive. When they did, she was content.

Once she could visualize all the musical notations in her mind and her fingers could feel the melody on the keys better than her brain could read it on the page, she took it down from its stand on the piano. She folded it in half, and something flashed in his eyes, like the last shining effort of a sputtering candle. But she was vigilant, meticulously preventing any tears in the flimsy paper, and she bent it malleably into rectangles and triangles. It was unrecognizable before she was practically finished, but in a matter of minutes the lines of harmony had been crinkled into a rounded, sharp-edged white rose.

She reached up and tucked a flap of the origami creation neatly under a layer of hair. Then she sat down and played his song again.

Sometimes, he wasn't the only one who yearned to get away. She didn't normally feel pressured, but she didn't always feel free either. And some nights she just wanted to escape the scope of her life completely, do something so outrageous that she forgot about risks and rationality and about coming back. When she wanted new, she took it in neon lights, flashing and burning her eye sockets, with a dose of irresponsibility to tide her over to the next release.

When he rang her doorbell, she slipped outside and joined him on the step. It wasn't dark out yet, but she could see the waning light of the sun in his eyes, his blue, shadow-ridden, heaven-dappled eyes. "Tonight, we're going out," she told him, and the budding shine of the rising stars was in her eyes. Where he ended, she began, and the cycle repeated itself.

"But, do you..." He didn't know what to say; he knew wrong from right, and he knew she wasn't wrong. And though she saw reluctance in his face, she also saw longing. It was deeper than hers, and she could tell that he had cut it away from himself, irradiated it and disconnected it so that it wouldn't eat him from the inside. It was time for her to reunite him with what he'd always been entitled to anyway.

She didn't even pause to read the name of the place before she entered the dingy, unknown world, rippling within the folds of smoke and time. It smelled of laughter and alcohol, and she could hear stories being told, insults being thrown playfully, companionship ringing with the sounds of fingers tapping on wine glasses. She sat down and ordered something; she wasn't quite sure what, but it tasted strong and fizzy, and it made her teeth buzz. When she'd downed half of it, she pushed it towards him, wondering if just once he could take what was in front of him without looking around the back.

He didn't hesitate, lifting it carefully and closing his lips over the rim, tilting the glass rather than his head. She could see his Adam's apple bob repeatedly as the liquid drained through his oesophagus, and he didn't stop until the last glimmering drop was gone. When he was done, he asked, "Have you ever been drunk before?"

She replied in the negative, with a tinge of rebellious regret. "No."

"Let's not make this the first time." It wasn't a rebuke, and she didn't feel resentful, but she was slightly disappointed; it wasn't what she'd wanted to hear. But he was using that voice of unobtrusive authority that she could never match, and she had a feeling that he knew better than she did. So she said easily, "Sure - I've got somewhere better to go." And suddenly, she did.

It would have been a lie to say that she'd never thought about it, but it was perfectly true that she'd never taken so much as a single physical step towards actually doing it before. A testament to that was the fact that she was now lying back in a leather chair, gripping the folds of her jeans tightly, wondering if walking right into a building labelled 'Piercing Parlour' counted as going overboard.

His face was as expressionless as ever, thought his eyebrows were set just the slightest millimetre above their usual position. He opened his mouth, and she expected him to voice a disapproval, a cautionary word, but all he said was, "Relax."

She tried, but it wasn't really possible - especially not after his hand brushed her wrist as he passed her by.

When the job had been completed, fairly painlessly (and she'd been willing to bear it, because she'd try every route there was, but she wouldn't ever backtrack), she hopped off the chair and checked the mirror. She wouldn't have gone so far as to say that the new metal stud under her lower lip enhanced her allure, but the sight made her smile. She knew that it would stay embedded there, even if she felt the urge to rip it out.

When she turned sassily to display her personal spectacle to him as he emerged from the next room, her jaw dropped.

"Wow," she breathed, crossing over to him in less than a second.

His pale complexion, his delicate features, were peculiarly accompanied by a whole ensemble of piercings. His earlobes, his chin, the bridge of his nose - they were everywhere, jutting out from his skin. She would certainly never underestimate his capacity for recklessness in the future.

Then again, taking chances wasn't strictly reckless. It was life, pure and simple and often explosively reactive. Experiments happened everywhere, and discoveries weren't nearly as rare as they were made out to be.

"You're unbelievable," she told him. He looked dangerous and decisive with his metallic decorations, and she liked it, in a totally unexpected, stupefying kind of way. She could easily picture him in a dark alleyway, backed by a dozen tough gang members, flicking out a switchblade unflinchingly; the thought made her core shiver, though the goose bumps didn't quite reach her flesh. Anyway, it was more desirable, and even easier, to imagine him exactly as he was now: watching her with his customary concentration, watching himself too, but still very close, and letting her be the first to see.

He hesitated, then admitted, "I don't know why I did it."

If he'd been less like Pein, he might have grinned at her expression.

If she'd been less like Konan, she might have kissed him right then and there.

But if they'd been different, they might never have ended up like this at all. And while every new situation had its risks and its unknowns, the science was evolving at a lighting-fast rate, developing something better than a prevention method, better than a cure.

So instead, she reached up tentatively, not invasively, to touch one of the polished black studs by his nostril. "Eureka," she said softly.

She knew she couldn't expect him to confide in her, and sometimes that lack of obligation was exactly what allowed him to open up to her - as far as a door with a brick wedged underneath could open, anyway. Sometimes he talked over the piano, and she'd subtly soften its sound and let the words come out. She understood perfectly the natural, unbreakable fluency of music and the way the things he said didn't seem so isolated and alien when it provided the background.

But there were some conversations he'd never get near, and even when her own observance filled in the blanks, she couldn't violate that precarious treaty she had somehow made with his trust.

One evening the heat was turned on, and he rolled his sleeves up just a bit too far. The fabric was bright and clean, offering a contrast to the dirty purple-black blotch on his skin. Realizing his error, he covered it quickly, but she'd seen, and he knew she'd seen, and their peaceful balance flicked off like a power outage.

What she felt then was so powerful she didn't know how to keep it in, but the chagrined warning in the sudden steel-shine of his eyes weakened her unimaginably. Her steady hands faltered for a moment, and then she started all over again, hitting the keys with a force meant to bruise. But she didn't want to think about that word, not now.

"Slow down," he told her quietly, and she obeyed. It was all she could do for him.

She played the lightest song she'd ever learned, and it still sounded like an unusually vicious funeral march. She didn't bother pretending it was because she was tired; all she saw was that ugly spot on his arm, and in her mind she visualized it spreading, infesting his entire body with festering shades. He never screamed, he simply darkened until the night washed him away like a rotten grain of sand. It seemed like bad luck, it seemed impossible, it seemed like destiny. It was all so wrong.

When he said, "I'll go," she could only hope that whatever had broken tonight would mend itself. It sounded so much like a promise that she was scared, and she stood too. "Pein-"

He ripped his sleeve upwards then, in a brutal gesture that made her stumble involuntarily backwards into the piano bench. The blemish was there for the world to see now, but more pointedly for her to see, and she stared at it, burdened with the knowledge that time would not heal it but simply find more ways to replace it. "This can't change," he told her, and his frankness singed the insides of her heart.

"Do you expect me to forget it?" she demanded, bridling. Did he think she would stop caring just because he asked her to? She didn't work that way.

He let his fingers press into the bruise, resisting the urge to wince. "No - remember it. Leave it alone." He left her with that, just that, as he swept out onto the street. Her last sight of him that night was a perfect view of him tugging his sleeve down once again, hiding everything with hated faithfulness. The only thing worse than being unable to do anything was having him tell her that nothing was the right thing to do.

It was never right.

That night, her tears seeped through the cracks between the white and black keys, ruining the melody.

He'd always spent the customary celebrations alone, in a corner of town where there were no houses, no people, not even any wandering drunks. He would stand in the middle of the abandoned road, feet firmly planted on the yellow line, daring a car to come careening around the bend just a little too fast. But nothing ever happened, and he returned home, a bit later every time, with the emptiness hollowing out his feelings and making room for more pain.

He figured out that this year would be different the moment that she led him out onto the back porch, pulling him down to sit on the steps with her. Her thick winter jacket brushed his bare forearms, warming him by friction.

"I hate the end of Christmas, but I always like the New Year," she said conversationally, the skin puckering around her chin piercing as she smiled. He hunched his shoulders very slightly - he wasn't really cold, but the wind and temperature were doing their best and he thought it appropriate to reward their efforts.

"A new beginning?" he mused, glancing at her.

She laughed. "Clich├ęd crap. No, I just like the fireworks." He nodded, fingers clenching absentmindedly on his knees. The sky was starless tonight, an unfiltered inky mass floating above the rustling earth. The darkness was depressing, but the sense of despair was largely dampened by the anticipation of the sparkling, exploding lights to come.

He felt the chill of vacant air taking her place as soon as she rose, rubbing her thighs and arching her back. "So, do you want to go in for more piano?" He didn't seem much like the fireworks type to her.

He lifted himself gracefully from the step, seeming to levitate for a moment, held up only by a breath of wind that was tickling the hairs on her neck. But instead of heading to the door, he simply moved aside and leaned over onto the porch railing, one leg bent casually, the other straight. "Let's stay out," he said, voice muted. He'd always thought that he was exposed to too much, for too long, beyond saving. But maybe he'd misinterpreted everything - maybe he wasn't exposed enough. He knew he had never seen the night like this, a dark blanket rather than a suffocating cloak, never felt the wind on his face this way, cooling the angry scars under his skin.

"Okay," she said, surprised. One of the reasons she enjoyed playing the piano for him so much was that it was the only time when she really could find out what made him tick - he became activated, stimulated, and she could relate to his energy even with his unpredictability. Out here, away from the rhythm that allowed her to see a bit of who he was, she felt as though she barely knew him.

Reading her mind, he looked in her direction for a minute, then back. If she hadn't been specifically attuned to his quiet tone and the way it played an underlying role to its surroundings, she might have missed his next words; "I don't come just for the music."

She fumbled with her zipper, but it wasn't the cold that made her fingers clumsy. Her music carried over in him, and she wasn't afraid to join him at the railing.

It took twenty more minutes of silence for the fireworks to begin, but they were worth the wait.

She rushed home through the rain, in too much of a hurry to bother pulling out her umbrella. Her feet skidded on the slippery corners, and she could hear the water chime as it drained into manholes, washing away the rubble on the pavement. She unlocked her door and flung herself inside, ready to jump in through the window if her key didn't work on the first try. Every minute she was wasting being late was one less minute with him.

As she stood there, squeezing water out of her hair, something hit the friendly 'welcome' carpet with a soft thud. Bending, she saw that it was a soggy, discoloured version of her white paper rose, wrenched from its proud place on her head by the downpour. She lifted it delicately in one hand disconsolately, staring as a tiny puddle formed in her palm.

She began to mount the stairs, two at a time but slowly now. She stopped completely at the top, however, listening. She recognized that noise - of course she did, it was her favourite in all the world.

The piano, her piano, whose timbre had never been the same since she'd shared its beautiful sound with him, was playing a simple classical melody. She identified it as being an easy yet lovely little song, with deep chords in the left hand and a sweet legato in the right; it was one of the first she'd ever played for him. Its pace was more leisurely and lingering this time, but the beat was strong and the progress smooth. She had always thought of it as a lullaby, but it reminded her of a love song now, played with such pains to reach perfection. Her parents didn't play, and her siblings wouldn't be home for another hour. So it had to be...

She opened the door very gently for fear of disturbing the melody with a hideous creak, and saw what she'd expected, imagined, but still infused her with delighted disbelief. He was sitting on the mahogany bench, back straight but head leaning over the piano, concentrating. His wrists flexed as his fingers stepped over the keys like a toddler who had just risen from a crawl to a steady walk.

She tiptoed closer, depositing the wet rose on top of the piano. It would dry, and she would wear it again tomorrow. She waited for a few seconds to see if her presence disturbed him, but he didn't look up, so she went around to his other side and positioned her hands an octave lower than his, beginning a low, elaborate harmony. When he shifted slightly on the bench, she slid herself in beside him, smiling right next to his cheek.

The rain's subdued bass line accompanied them, pattering quietly during the rests and lulls. The paper rose desiccated gradually, the wood underneath it absorbing the moisture that the air couldn't. And when the sun returned, the brief concert ended.

The song, however, continued, blending two very individual soliloquies into a seamless duet.

The magic's in the music, and the music's in me.
- The Lovin' Spoonful

By the way, con fuoco means "with fire". Italian is so beautiful.

...So are reviews:)