The stage was practically covered in roses. The audience was giving a standing ovation, their eyes filled with pure appreciation for the music they had just heard. Lovino bowed and bit his lip as he glanced at Feliciano standing next to him. The younger boy's face was sparkling with bliss, if there ever was anything besides that on it in any case; holding a rose he waved his hand at the audience, the other hand gripping his violin in a rather careless manner in Lovi's opinion. Lovino descended from the stage to the safety of the backstage, followed by his younger brother who was still sparkling like a certain movie character, letting out noises of happiness Lovino had grown used to.
"Good job, Feli", Lovino said, trying not to sound too annoyed. "That was beautiful."
"Ve~ Grazie, fratello! You were really good too!" the younger brother beamed, his eyes closed as usual.
"I wonder…" Lovino muttered, and turned around to walk to his dressing room. Feliciano's eyebrows curved in a way that made it clear he was upset about his brother's behaviour, but he had no time to think about it any further as he heard familiar steps behind him, and soon felt his boyfriend's strong hand resting on his shoulder. The worry for Lovino was replaced with happiness as the little Italian cuddled against his boyfriend, listening the most jubilantly as Ludwig praised his playing in his own, rather austere manner.
Lovino made his way to the door of his dressing room just to find out his way was blocked by a handsome blonde man holding out a rose.
"Magnificent, mon cher", Francis said and smiled, but got rewarded with but a glare.
"Piss off, Francis", Lovino gave his most gracious advice and tried to get through the door despite the taller man being on his way. Francis pursed his lips and tapped his cheek with the rose's blossom.
"Rude as always, I see", he said, making no effort whatsoever to move aside. "And I came all the way here just to congratulate you!"
Lovino shot a sullen look at Francis, his hand on the doorknob.
"Why don't you just go to find Feli, I bet he's the one you wanted to see anyway", he spit out, pulling the doorknob with no visible effect as the strength in his fragile arms wasn't enough to move the taller man. Francis shrugged, seemingly annoyed now was well.
"Maybe I will", he said, finally standing up straight from his leaning position against the door, and took a few steps away from Lovino. "Here's your rose, I came here just to deliver it so you'd better take good care of it." With that, he tossed the rose over his shoulder and walked away.
Lovino glared at the rose as if it had just cracked up a joke about his deceased mother, but finally bent down to pick it up and entered his dressing room. He closed the door behind him and threw the flower on the desk before the mirror, sinking to the wooden chair and heaving out a sigh. After that he continued the staring competition with the rose, his eyes mere slits. What did Francis think he'd accomplish by giving him a rose? The man was probably just trying to suck up to him so that he wouldn't kill him if he finally managed to bag his brother. Which wasn't very likely to happen, though, considering Feliciano was happily dating Ludwig. Or if not that, the flower was just given out of pity. Francis must know Feliciano was the one to receive all the glory of the concert they had just held together. And who could blame anyone for that? Feliciano was talented – no, more than that, he was a virtuoso. A natural talent, a genius. A mere look at a music sheet was usually enough for him to play the song with utmost skill. Feliciano was everything Lovino was not. Not only talented, but famous, rich, well-liked by everyone thanks his cute behaviour, and had a loving boyfriend supporting him. Lovino, in contrast, was potty-mouthed, always grumpy, left in his brother's shadow both in music and in social standing, and all the people around him seemed to be there only because of Feli.
The Italian was suddenly brought back to the reality in front of him by a knock on the door. After he grunted a permission to come in, Feliciano's head popped up from the chink of the door.
"Fratello! We're going to have a party at Francis' house, do you want to come with us?"
Lovino smiled tiredly and shook his head. "No thank you, Feli. I want to stay and practise a bit."
Feliciano looked a bit concerned and pouted. "Are you sure, fratello?"
"Si. Now get the hell out of here so that I can practise."
The younger brother seemed happy with this reply, and left after bidding Lovino good night and happy practising.
Lovino sighed again and stretched his fingers. Yes, he'd better practise. After all, he knew the only way he could ever get some recognition was to get skilful enough to rise from Feliciano's shadow. He took his violin and stood up, running the bow through the strings once before starting to play an old song he knew by heart, one that was passionate enough to suit his mood yet beautiful. He closed his eyes, letting the music lead him, feeling more alive than he did while at the stage. Here there was no one to judge him, no one to compare his playing to Feliciano's… As he was getting close to the finale he opened his eyes to deliver it with the intensity it deserved, but almost dropped his violin in shock as he saw a strange man standing at his door. The man had a smile on his round face that was partly hidden behind a long scarf, and was slowly clapping his hands. For some reason it seemed to Lovino that the man wasn't a part of the audience; he was dressed in a smart dark suit, yes, but Lovino wasn't quite sure what it was in him that seemed odd, if not the scarf.
"Splendid, comrade", the blonde man said with a thick accent, keeping the big smile on his face. "You're talented."
"Thank you", Lovino replied hesitantly, noting that there was no way out of the room should the stranger turn out to be dangerous, and no one would probably hear him scream in the empty building. The thought made the boy shiver, but he tried to look brave despite that.
"It must be difficult for you to be the virtuoso Feliciano Vargas' brother, though", the stranger suddenly continued and opened his eyes for the first time during the conversation, looking straight at Lovino. The stare made the boy shudder again.
"What do you know about that?" he said with a tone laced with irritation, biting his lip right after the words had slipped out of his mouth. It wasn't wise to pick fights with strangers bigger than him in a place where no one could save him, should the stranger decide to do something to him. Not that he'd be afraid.
The stranger's smile didn't falter as he continued to talk. "I know a lot of things, comrade. Like for example… the way to make you more talented than your brother."
Lovino blinked, not sure how to react to the blonde man's words. "Make me more talented? Don't fuck with me! It isn't as easy as that! There is nothing like… music steroids that could suddenly make me play the violin better than Feliciano!" he let out, irritated of just the idea of the stranger thinking music was something as simple as that. No, mastering the violin took years, a lifetime in fact, and Lovino knew he wasn't anywhere near perfect yet. In truth, however, should his playing be evaluated as it is he would definitely be considered extremely talented. However, as things were he was always compared to his younger brother, and deemed not as gifted as him.
"I was not suggesting anything like that, comrade. Talent takes hard work. That is why I believe you will be able to go far. But not without the help of this." The stranger placed a small pile of papers on the desk, and then looked at Lovino again. "Go ahead, pick it up. It's not anything dangerous."
Lovino eyed the paper suspiciously before picking the first paper up with the tips of his fingers and bringing it closer to see what it was. As soon as he realized that it was in fact a piece of sheet music, he took a firmer hold of it with both his hands and studied it through with utmost interest, before taking the rest and leafing through them as well. From the first glance he could see it was a very difficult piece, but the more carefully he read the notes the clearer it became that it was an extremely beautiful song.
"The Devil's Trill", the stranger said, and the smile on his face turned into something similar to a small grin. "A highly demanding piece. But you have the technical skills, so does your brother. However, you have something he doesn't – the passion. The emotion, the fury needed to play this song to its full capacity. Go ahead, give it a go. If you master this song, I can assure you you'll be regarded as an equal to Feliciano – no, superior, I should say." the blonde man opened the door and turned away from Lovino. "Well, I guess I should be off now. Da svidanija."
"Wait!" Lovino shouted after him, and managed to make him stop. The small Italian glared the man for a moment before talking. "What do I owe you for this?"
"Oh, nothing", the stranger smiled. "It's enough for me if I get to hear you play it once you have mastered it."
And with that, the man was gone, and Lovino was left alone in the dressing room with the pile of papers. He eyed the papers again before taking the first one with the name of the song written on it with big, curly letters, set it on a note stand, and with the calmness of a professional began to play the first part of the song.