Title: The Girl In The Beret (or: Gay Hipster Love) (1 of probably 2 or 3, depending.)
Series: FE10 (au)
Character/Pairing: Ike/Soren main, background Boyd/Mist, Ranulf/everyone
Summary: Soren doesn't like labels, Ike's never liked anyone, at least not like that until he sees the pretty 'girl' at the gig they're playing. Slowly they start a tentative friendship and figure out this thing between them along the way. Hipster AU. Ike/Soren, Boyd/Mist.

Author's note: split into between 2-3 parts depending on how long it gets, due to comment restrictions.

Some of the band names come from Cooleh's awesome indie band generator, while some are real indie bands. Have fun guessing which are and aren't :D

This is a (very, but look how it grew!) late birthday present for In Rain.


Soren stopped by a little thrift shop on the way home. This shop made the Salvation Army look like a designer store by comparison. People liked to throw around labels, but really Soren was just into pissing off his mother and saving money.

He was small enough that he had to dress in women's medium, which was in itself humiliating, without having to browse through clothes emblazoned with glitter and sequins around messages like Princess and Boy Candy—and that was nothing to say of how traumatic shopping for a proper set of jeans was in the women's section.

He always expected to be challenged when he went there, but then Soren was cynical about such things–and everything–by nature. Mostly, no one asked because he looked the part. His ancestors were monstrous, and with six foot parents, he was a complete anomaly of genetics.

He'd let his hair grow to save the money on haircuts. The first time he'd tried to simply cut it himself, he'd looked like a mess and even worse he'd started a fad.

Soren spent most of his time in libraries, reading large tomes of existential philosophy, but when he wasn't doing that, he'd hit the local concerts. Some of the local bands were passable, most weren't but when his mother would inevitably call and nag at him, he'd have a convenient excuse.

His iPod was the most expensive thing he owned, save his laptop and assorted rare tomes he'd gotten at rock bottom prices by fools who didn't even know what they were worth. It'd been a gift from his brother, Pelleas, who had more money than brains, and assumed since he went to so many concerts, he'd love it.

A girl Pelleas was currently hung up on had filled it with MP3s of bands like Blur and Page France.Soren tended to wear it wherever he went because it kept people away. People would still bug him if he was at his laptop, but with an MP3 player, they'd usually leave him alone.

Besides, the music wasn't too bad.


Soren stopped by The Listless Mourning coffeehouse, which frequented some horrifically bad poetry readings, but good prices on tea and coffee, and unlike Starbucks, they didn't have overpriced burnt coffee. It was more packed than usual, but no matter what, Soren needed his caffeine if he was going to get his studying done.

Steal This Band was playing tonight. Soren rolled his eyes, wondering who would be so idiotic as to name their band that.He was answered a moment later when a blue-haired punkish looking boy with heterochromia came on the stage.

"Hey you cool cats, I'm Ranulf, the awesome bassist, and in case you're wondering-that name? All my doing. If my bro Ike here had his doing, we'd be called liiiiike The Ribs or something."

All the hipster girls were staring now, save for the blonde in the rainbow Kiss Me, I'm A Lesbian camisole, who seemed there merely to hit on other hipster girls.

Soren only showed marginal interest at the singer, who every other girl in the room seemed to deem utterly dreamy. He looked...like a football player, to sum it up. Blue hair, though it didn't look dyed like the bassist's. He had a strong jaw, a too-tight white shirt that showed off his physique in a distracting way, and intense blue eyes. Regardless of this, Soren did not allow himself to linger on the singer, and drew his attention back to his book of Sartre, which was suddenly far less interesting than it had been.

The band, inane title aside, wasn't too bad. The singer had a husky voice, and for all his idiocy, the bassist knew what he was doing. The drummer however, with his headband and hair that looked like a green shrub, had no real skill and might as well have been hitting pots and pans in the kitchen.

He left at the first intermission, allowing himself only one glance back towards the band. He didn't meet the gaze of the singer, and he didn't want to.

That night, he could barely focus on his books.

He blamed too much caffeine.


Ike never would sing on game days. In fact, the main reason Ike seemed to be in the band at all was to keep Boyd from getting into his little sister's pants.

"What was up back there, man? You just froze out there, and you never freeze up."

"I saw someone," Ike said.

"Oho? Does that mean you're finally showing interest in someone? Who was she? Was she cute?" Ranulf said eagerly. He threw his arm over Ike's shoulders.

"A girl in a beret," Ike said thoughtfully.

"Ike, my man, you'll have to be more specific than that. Half the crowd was wearing berets."

"Uh, dark long hair?" Ike supplied.

"Mmm. That narrows it down a little. Anyways, we'll go find her, right after we all go have a 'let's get shitfaced' toast."


"Because you showed interest! Now we can finally go clubbing and pick up girls together!" Ranulf said triumphantly.

"Uh, I don't think so," Ike said.

"Yes, but you might meet the girl again," Ranulf said teasingly. "And while you're hoping to meet her and true love and all, you can enjoy the beautiful college girls! I love you man, really, but as much as I enjoy picking up the girls that you fail to notice are shoving their breasts in your face, I'm only one man. I can only bang so many beauties at once."

"I think I'll pass," Ike said.

"You're killin' me, Ike. Killin' me," Ranulf said.

"You'll live," Ike said.

"Yeah, I've got to comfort all those girls whose hearts you've broken," Ranulf said. "It's my calling in life, apparently."

"Everyone needs a hobby," Ike replied.


Somehow, the job of music critic landed at Soren's feet. He was convinced that no one read the college paper except the journalist set, most of which worked for it, but he thought at the very least, it might be something to put on his resume.

The magazine was called 'College Beats' but most preferred to call it 'College Bites'. They of course thought this utterly witty and brilliant, no matter how many times the joke repeated. 'They' of course, being the usual frat boys set who spent their time being inebriated, trying to sleep with drunk girls, and trying to light farts.

Besides, if he was going to the concerts anyway, he might as well be able to publicly bitch at them, other than on his blog.


"'Banging pots and pans in the kitchen? Really?" Boyd said. Ranulf plucked the article up from his hands.

"Sounds like this chick has a thing for you, Ike. 'The singer has a husky and sensual voice, though the lyrics hardly match his quality, and the band would be best advised to stick to covers',"Ranulf said.

"'The bassist is passable, a rarity in most bands these days, though his endless chatter detracted from the experience'," Ike read aloud.

"Seriously, who writes like this? I bet it's really a guy with a giant stick up his ass," Ranulf said.

"I thought you said it was a cute chick?" Ike said.

"He lost his cute chickdom with that comment. I totally revoke it, he's no longer hittable," Ranulf said.


The next day, a chatty girl with a bob and pink hair interviewed them. She wore a short white dress and gogo boots, and proudly showed off the pegasus tattooed on her thigh.

"So like, you guys must be loving all the success you've been recently having," she said. "Right? A talented band like you guys really deserves it, especially with someone with a voice like yours, handsome."

"You're the same person who wrote the article?" Ike said in incredulity, apparently completely missing the come-on.

"Oh that? Crackers, no. Soren's all doom and gloom. I thought he was a goth at first, but actually he's just naturally doomy and gothy. He looks just like a vampire, you know."

She snapped her pink bubblegum and grinned up at him.

"Huh," Ike said eloquently. He bent down to test the mike.

"K, gimme five minutes," Ranulf said. He pulled Ike away to a corner.

"Hello, Ike at five o clock cute girl hitting on you. In case you might not have noticed."

Ike looked back. The girl was now amiably chatting with Boyd. Mist was glaring from the back, her tambourine making little rattles from the sheer force of her full-body arms-crossed jealous huff.

"She doesn't seem too heartbroken," he said dryly.

"Obviously she is doing a subtle ploy to make you jealous," Ranulf said. "It's really quite brilliant."

"Well, she failed," Ike said.

Ranulf sighed. "I finally get some interest out of you for some girl, and you don't get anything more than 'she had on a beret."

"It was dark green," Ike offered.

Ranulf just shook his head. "That's no help at all."

"Oh, and her eyes were red," Ike said.

"...you're after an albino and you mention the beret? Maybe you are a lot gayer than I thought," Ranulf said.

"Albino people have white hair," Ike corrected.

"Same difference," Ranulf said.


Marcia went on for what seemed like hours about how dreamy the lead singer for Steal This Band was. Soren fought back his urge to storm out and quit, because he was getting free passes, and Soren had a miser nature to an extent that no one would believe he came from a rich family.

As it was he just drank his black coffee in the most contemptuous manner possible and ignored his co-journalists, who happily ignored him back and continued their chatter about Ike's abs and Ike's thighs and Ike this and Ike that.

If they had it their way, his whole article would be glowing praise of what Ike must look like shirtless.

But then, not even Soren could find something bad to say about Ike's abs.


They were on the couch. No games this week, which meant that Ike could actually be bothered to come in for practice. The rest of the band (and family) was still out buying supplies.

"Listen up, you've got to write this," Ranulf said.

"This what?" Mist said cheerily. Boyd had a handprint shaped bruise on his face. Apparently the girl from College Beats had come back.

"Ike's love at first sight with this hipster girl," Ranulf explained.

"Oh! That's so romantic!" Mist said. She clasped her hands dreamily and rocked from side to side, humming something from a musical.

"You should give her mixtapes too. They're like the highest form of affection between hipster girls. They value mixtapes above jewelry. In fact, you could propose with a Bowie meets Beatles mix, true fact," Ranulf said.

"I don't know what bands she likes," Ike said.

"Ike, she was at our concert. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out," Ranulf said. "Or returning to the music thing, we'll write a song, cut a demo. Get a hit and woo the girl all in one. Question marks, profits!"

Ike shrugged. His drew his fingers over the guitar.

"Dude, I can't believe you just did a meme in real life," Boyd said.

"That's just how I roll, my friend," Ranulf said. He slid across the wood floor into the kitchen.

Mist began to sing a bar from The Sound Of Music, which Boyd had to suffer through at least monthly.

Amidst this, Ike picked out the first chords of The Girl In The Beret.


They were playing a bigger crowd this time. Some festival or something. They were playing just before Defenestration and Vaseline Clubb which was Ranulf's friend's band (he affectionately referred to it as "Kyza's Big Gay Band.") Militant Disco was there (not to be mistaken with Panic! At The Disco which around here would be lambasted with withering scorn at any mention) as was Cute Gingham, a folksy duo who played in pastoral clothes and had a distinctly lesbian vibe.

The blonde from before was there holding a I love you Nepheneee sign. Today she wore a camisole with a rainbow I Kiss Girls logo, and a heart.

Canadian Christopher Columbus and Gates of Guest were scheduled, as well as Penis Ukelele and Ground Zero Penis(no relation.) All in all, it was looking to be a great crowd.

They bided their time and listened to the shows from behind the stage. There was some good stuff, like Penis Ukelele's catchy beats, and Cute Gingham's folksy twang. But before long, it was their turn. They loaded up on stage, and Ike stared into the crowd. He never got stage fright like some did, it'd just never happened to him. Not even in front of this crowd did he feel bad. Boyd had the jitters so badly, Mist had been forced to kick him to get him to go out. Ranulf never feared a crowd, obviously.

Ike took a deep breath and did their introduction.

"Hi everyone, we're Steal This Band." Applause. Cheers. Whistles. He recognized some faces in the crowd from previous gigs.

"We're gonna do an old favorite... Egg Roll, Ham Radio," Ike said. It was then that the girl came into focus. It was a navy beret that was over her dark hair this time. Her gaze was intense as she looked up. She looked cynical, utterly unimpressed, and all it made him want to do is prove her wrong.

"It's her," Ike said.

The crowd looked around, from one to another, and onto the stage for the 'her.'

Ranulf leaned in and stole the mike, as he was wont to do.

"Scratch that, we've got a new debut called The Girl In The Beret–based on a true story, guys!"

Parts of the group passed Ike his acoustic guitar. He started on the opening chords, never taking his eyes off the girl.


Ranulf clapped him on the shoulder when they finished and packed up their things. "That was amazing, Ike. Seriously. I didn't know you had it in you."

Someone came in a lot of black wearing a large press necklace. A second glance made him realize that this was her–the girl in the beret.

"I'm Soren Nevassa from College Beats," Soren said. "You scheduled an interview. I'm filling in for Marcia."

"Waaaait," Ranulf said incredulously. "You're the one who ripped us a new one?"

"The review for Steal This Band was one of the least harsh I've given, and hardly as you put it 'ripping you a new one'," Soren said icily.

"I figured you'd be older. And like, not with the muscle structure of a twelve-year-old girl," Ranulf said. He poked at Soren's ribs. Soren glared.

"Are you finished?" Soren said coldly.

"Nope. I could go all day. I didn't expect you to have Rapunzel hair, or wear girlpants. Seriously, I've seen Ike's sisterwearing that brand, and I didn't expect you to look like a vampire, and I didn't expect you to be a guy–"

"That's enough, Ranulf," Ike said.

"But I had at least three more from the list. Do you think he'd go all Hadoken on me? Maybe he's got this secret well of lost arts of martial arts..."

Soren rolled his eyes. "If you'll excuse me, I didn't come for puerile exploits of college boys. I experience enough of those on campus."

"Jeez man, you really were gayer than I thought," Ranulf said. He patted Ike on the shoulder before he left.

"I guess I was," Ike said.

Soren made no comment to this exchange. Instead he clung tight to his notebook and bag of implements, looking either like a crack junkie or someone with a severe social phobia–or perhaps, a crack junkie with a social phobia.

"Uh...let's go get something to eat. I can't think when I'm hungry."

"All right," Soren said.

"There's this place down the street or so, called Barbie's Barbeque. Ever been there?" Ike asked.

"No," Soren replied.

Ike was already putting on his vintage bomber jacket.

"You should try it, they're great," Ike said.

"If you say so," Sore replied. "I'll have to inform you that this won't affect my review of the show, in any way, shape or form."

"I'm not trying to. Who have you got to interview next?" Ike asked.

"Jungle Dishwasher" Soren replied.

"They're good. Ever heard Red Right Return Jamboree?"

"The singer is sub-par, the lyrics are creative and I don't say that as a compliment," Soren said.

"It never is with you, huh?" Ike said.


"A compliment."

"I don't sugarcoat things," Soren said.

"Obviously. We're playing with The Stripper's Leggings next round," Ike said causally.

"Oh, them." Soren said derisively. "They remind me of Kris Pine but with less talent. The only thing they seem to do effectively is scream like a tortured cat and display creative usage of eyeliner."

Ike didn't have to guess that Kris Pine of Vizor Penance–who surely according to him, had never been good, not even before he went big with his hit Absolved that played on some super hero movie.

"I was just listening to the newest Jesus Stole My Sailboat album the other day. Ranulf swears they're amazing."

"The title is entirely illogical. Why would a man who can walk on water need a sailboat?"

"He got tired of walking and wanted to sail instead?" Ike said.

"I assume most of these band names were made over hallucinogenic drugs," Soren said.

"That's how Ranulf got ours," Ike said. "Or so he claims."

"Somehow, I'm not surprised," Soren replied.

There were band guys all over. Moving speakers, instruments, whatever. Ike waved to a few, Soren ignored them all.

They walked the few blocks to Barbie's trading more musical history. Soren didn't have much of anything good to say about the music, but that seemed par for the course.

He set the recorder down on the table between them. It was pretty quiet for a Wednesday. Barbie's was in a Western theme, with barbed wire, and faux leather seats with a cowhide pattern on the front. It was not for the vegan at heart.

Soren didn't even open the menu.

"Aren't you going to order anything?" Ike said.

"Black coffee," Soren responded.

"But seriously, this place is amazing. And you must be starved after a long day. I know I sure am."

Soren finally picked up the menu as if he deeply loathed it and looked through with much disdain. When the waitress came, Ike ordered a steak so large the plate could barely contain it. Soren almost said the word salad but the look Ike gave him made him reconsider and try some grilled chicken instead.

There wasn't a lot of talking while their mouths were busy eating, of course. They didn't make conversation. Ike ate fast, as if he was half-starved, while Soren cut his meat into tiny pieces and ate each piece with much prejudice. By the time they finished, Barbie's was filling with the midnight crowd. Soren looked out like he hated each and every one of them personally, simply for existing.

Ike stretched, full of that post-meal euphoria which Ranulf swore he described in post-coital terms.

"The pie here is amazing," Ike said. "Key lime, and the chocolate creme pudding is not to be missed."

"I'll take your word on it," Soren said evenly.

"You haven't lived until you've tried a slice or two. Or three," Ike said.

Soren sighed. "I suppose."

They split an order of several pieces of pie, and by 'split' he meant 'Soren got a bite out of each while Ike polished off the rest in a quiet, sullen manner.

Usually when Ike was eating, his whole mind was focused on whatever food was in front of him. It'd become a family joke, in fact. Never ask Ike a question when he's eating. However, Ike had only been half attentive to his food this time. Soren wasn't particularly talkative at the table either, and yet Ike kept finding himself drawn. Sometimes Soren would push those dark tresses from his face, or turn his pale lips in a downwards grimace and Ike would just find himself fascinated without knowing why.

It was weird. Ike had never had the awakening most boys got around their mid-teens. He had never really gone through the 'girls are icky' stage, but he never progressed into 'girls are hot' stage either. They just...were. They were friends and family members, and occasionally annoyances, in the case of Aimee. Ranulf was always pointing out girls and Ike was never really seeing the appeal.

On the other hand, he'd never really had a thing for guys either. He'd never really worried about it, actually. It'd just been one of those things he didn't understand, like Quantum Physics, that he was ok with not getting.

But being here with Soren felt nice. Warm, and good and interesting. Like a favorite meal, with a nice big mug of beer. In fact, he didn't want it to end yet. The interview hadn't even technically started, but there were some noisy patrons around this hour, and he figured it'd be for the best to leave sooner rather than later.

"Want to go out for coffee?" Ike said.

Soren looked down at the cup he'd already had.

"Since we didn't get much interviewing here, I suppose so," he replied.

"I'm sure there's a Starbucks around the corner, there always seems to be."

Soren's left eye began to twitch at the mention of the name Starbucks but he didn't raise a complaint. Ike rose to pay. Soren started to go for his wallet, but Ike gave him a lopsided smile.

"My treat."


This Starbucks stayed open late, and Soren picked up some of the non-fancy yuppie coffee and some of the overpriced treats, some tart or something. At this rate, he'd be up all night.

Soren set the recorder between them again.

"I should apologize in advance for such an inane question set, but Marcia was slated to make the interview," Soren said, not lifting his eyes from his college rule notebook.

"Mmmhmmm," Ike said and took a sip of his coffee.

"What drew you into the world of music?" Soren read off.

"A friend of Ranulf's started a band, and he thought it would be a good idea to 'get chicks' I think was his exact wording."

"So you started your band to...'get chicks'?" Soren asked.

"No, Ranulf did. I sort of just...came along," Ike said. He took a bite of his tart, and failed to wipe the purple smear from his cheek. Soren stared at it several long moments, OCDness raging inside him. Finally, in the war of cleanliness versus touch aversion, hygiene won over and Soren took a napkin and wiped Ike's face.

Ike blinked, and touched his cheek.

"You had something on your face," Soren murmured, despite it being patently obvious.

"Oh, thanks. This is good, you should try some," Ike said.

Soren looked down at the tart as if he found it personally offensive.

"Do you see yourself doing this professionally?" Soren said.

"Not really, it's just a weekend thing when there's no football," Ike said.

"Alright then... Is there any 'lucky lady' in your life. Tee hee," Soren read off blandly.

"It honestly says 'tee hee' on there, or did you laugh for real?" Ike asked.

"It honestly says 'tee hee'," Soren replied. He looked like he wanted to take a lighter to the paper.

"Uhh, well. The song The Girl In The Beret was written about someone, so I guess you could say that there's someone in my life, even if I don't really know them yet. I want to, though...the opportunity just hasn't presented itself until really recently."

"Hmm. It was a well-written song," Soren replied quietly.

"Coming from you, that must be some compliment," Ike said, with a smile.

"Moving on," Soren said quickly. "Who would you say are your musical influences?"

"I don't know, I guess the stuff I listen to might have shaped how we play. I never set out to emulate anyone, really. It was really just this thing we did when we weren't tossing around footballs, playing street basketball or hockey when it got cold."

"You've been compared to The Kydds, the Radioactive Such And Suches and Fahrenheit.69. Would you say they're your influences?" Soren asked.

"Maybe, the same as above, really," Ike said.

"What do you see in your future? More concerts? Perhaps the chance of cutting a record deal?"

"More pastries," Ike said.

"...More pastries?" Soren asked.

"Yup. Want one?"

"No," Soren said.

"You sure?" Ike said.

"...you're going to just keep on until I eat more, aren't you?" Soren said.

"You're catching on fast," Ike said.

Soren sighed. "Fine. Give me the receipt afterwards. I'll refund you the difference."

"Nope," Ike said. "My treat."

Soren narrowed his eyes, but Ike didn't see or didn't care, and left anyways. He returned in a moment with some Chai tea and some other pastry.

Soren turned off the recorder. "I'll send you a copy once it's printed, if you wish."

"Hey, wait a minute, I have a few questions," Ike said.

"Yes? I'll try to answer whatever questions you have, but I don't do printing," Soren said.

"Not printing. Not about magazine," Ike said.


"What's your major? Minor? Something journalism, I guess?"

"Hardly," Soren scoffed. "I'm taking many classes on history, literature and I'm minoring in Genetics."

"Huh," Ike said. "It sounds like you're taking them for fun at this rate."

"I do enjoy the courses," Soren said. "Is that a crime now?"

"No, not at all," Ike said. "I went the community college route for a while...I ran out of money after the first year and had to take a job in a store."

"I see," Soren replied.

Ike took a sip of coffee. "Yeah, it's a hardware store. Nice place."

"Quite, well–"

"Why don't you stay a while?" Ike said, interrupting his hasty departure.

Soren blinked at him. Ike had reached out, and now gently gripped his wrist. Soren didn't immediately draw away, as he usually would have. Ike's hand was warm, and a bit rough against him. Soren gave him a wary glance, but began to sit down again.

"What was it you needed?"

"Just wanted to talk," Ike said. He had a foam moustache, and Soren found it... no, endearing isn't a word he'd apply, ever. Amusing, perhaps?


"Anything," Ike said.

Soren tried to read Ike, to see what he was trying to accomplish by these gestures. However he only saw kindness there, and that same intense look he always seemed to have. It fitted him, a gaze like fire...

Soren backtracked immediately from that train of thought. It sounded like one of those horrendous romances his mother would read with the woman in a loose dress with lots of cleavage embraced by a buff shirtless men. The type called IThe Dark Falcon Of Passion/I or some other ridiculous title.

But Soren stayed, regardless of the fact that it was impeding on his precious study time.


Soren started out withdrawn and terse, but the more they talked, the more he began to relax and come out of his shell. Actually relaxing seemed beyond him, however. He'd look to the door like hunted prey, and was always aware of his surroundings.

They talked until the Starbucks closed, and then they talked a little more on the stoop, finishing their last coffees–decaf, this time. They mentioned family (both had lost their father, though Soren at a young age and Ike just recently.) And took a detour to making fun of popular culture. He was surprised and pleased to find that Soren and he had a lot of the same opinions on things. The Establishment (as Ranulf put it) especially. Soren was cynical and wry, tossing his head in irritation when things were mentioned he particularly decried, which made his hair even more alluring, more catching to the eye.

Ike had this thought, a fantasy maybe, of reaching out and undoing Soren's complex pigtails-to-ponytail, letting it fall free and running his fingers through the thick, sleek black hair with its green undertones.

More than once he'd just blanked out and had to ask Soren to repeat, because Soren tucked a loose hair behind his ear or shifted in a way that was just distracting.He'd rolled his eyes along with Mist the time Boyd had been so distracted by that woman with the low neckline when they were out for a football game, but now he was feeling some sympathy for Boyd's plight and bruises for that matter. His sister had left Boyd with a shiner that lasted two weeks, which technically hadn't been her fault. She'd pushed Boyd so hard when they were bickering that he'd falling straight into one of those giant mascots, which got him punched by the angry guy in a baseball bat outfit. She'd felt bad afterwards, though Boyd learned to be more discreet in his 'appreciating the ladies' as Ranulf put it.

They were shoulder to shoulder on the steps, with Soren looking up for stars he couldn't see through the lights. Ike looked at Soren in profile and thought that he'd never really felt like kissing anyone before, or felt the draw of putting his lips on another's. He'd been caught by girls under the mistletoe, or that one party Ranulf had managed to drag him to where a drunk girl had all but thrown herself at him, but they'd been sloppy and he'd felt nothing except mild disgust.

He didn't say I want to kiss you though it took every ounce of self-control he had (and which Mist and Titania claimed he didn't have.)

"So, that Brittany Piers, awful music, huh?" Ike said instead.

Soren snorted. "As if I have to elaborate. She obviously got her job by fellatio. Or perhaps a pact with the underworld."

Ike grinned at that. Soren had seemed entirely dour at first meeting, but he actually had a sense of humor under it all. A very, very, very dry one, but it was still there, if you dug deep enough.

"So, would you like to come listen to us practice sometime? Strictly off-business," Ike said.

Soren gave him a cynical sideways glance.

"I suppose, but it will not affect—"

"I know, I know, won't affect the reviews. That's why I said strictly off-business."

"I suppose next you'll want to walk me home," Soren said sardonically.

"Unless you really do have some secret well of martial arts moves, yeah," Ike said. "I don't have your number, so I can't exactly call to make sure you're ok, now can I?"

"I see...you're one of those 'hero' types," Soren murmured.

"Weird, Ranulf said the same thing. Do you share a D and D club or something?" Ike said.

"Archetypes of Arthurian legends and beyond: the beginnings of the hero by Lehran Scribner," Soren said, as if he were mentally reciting a library list.


"It's what I'm studying this semester," Soren said. "According to him, the main characteristics of a hero is a selfless nature, a rash nature of taking on larger foes for the sake of a country, populace or lover–or perhaps God, depending on the focus of the story."

"Oh," Ike said.

"A protectiveness usually focused on women..." Soren said thoughtfully. "You do realize I'm a male, right?"

"Yeah, despite the girlpants, I got that," Ike said. "But if you got attacked in an alley, you'd be pretty much toast. Unless you really do have secret powers which aren't related to brainy, snarky things."

"I don't," Soren said. "However Crimea's crime rate it negligible at best in this part of town. I checked the statistics personally, and mapped out the best possible residence with respect to position nearest my campus, location of needed suppliers and stores, as well as pricing and other considerations."

"Still, there's no reason to tempt fate and be the one percent or something, right?" Ike said.

"Think more far less than zero. Think .0 001 percent, and you'd be closer," Soren said. "More crimes happen in senior citizen complexes."

"Senior citizens complexes can be dangerous places. Once, Ranulf took me to visit a relative of his. I nearly got crushed between the weekly wrestling match with his nephew," Ike said.

Soren sighed. He'd been doing a lot of that lately. The look he gave Ike wasn't complete irritation, there even seemed a hint of grudging acceptance to him.

"All right. If it'll make you feel better, then do so."

"It will," Ike assured him.

They walked on, barely talking. If they talked anymore Ike's voice would start sounding like Bright Eyes.It wasn't uncomfortable silence, though. Soren wasn't in his I Hate Everyone mood, and had simmered down to a calmer state of mild sullenness. Still he had one burning question he couldn't get through the night without asking.

"So, Sartre," Ike said.

"What about him?"

"Is it good? Whatever the book you had the first time I saw you. You seemed pretty intent on it."

"It was Being and Nothingness. I took a detour and decided to take on his works even if my oh so qualified teacher believes we can do without existentialism, which is unacceptable, as most of his cuts are."

"So wait, it wasn't for college, and you were reading that book for fun? It was like eight-hundred pages long," Ike said with incredulity.

"Eight-hundred and eleven to be exact. And?" Soren said, as if he read eight-hundred books on complex philosophy every weekend.

"Just...whoa. Intense," Ike said, his mind still trying to comprehend this. The last book he'd read had been something or other in school, and certainly not a giant essay by an existential philosopher done for entertainment.

"He did include Sisyphus and the Prophet for our classes, amazingly," Soren said with scorn. "It never fails to surprise me when my teachers manage to be competent."

Somehow, Ike found Soren's scorn amusing. He sort of wanted to ask Soren about something that would make him rant, just to listen to the way he would mercilessly argue things. He bet that Soren was on the debate team during his teen years, and that he viciously won every argument, and probably left some members in tears afterwards.

But that'd have to be for another day, because he was already at his apartment complex.

"So, wanna watch us practice sometime? You could give us crit or something," Ike said.

"If you believe you can handle it, then perhaps, depending on my schedule. However, I will be brutal."

"I don't know about the others, but I can handle it," Ike said. "Besides, I knew you'd be brutal, but I wouldn't ask you if you'd just be all 'oh you guys are great' when you thought we were shit. If we suck, then I trust you to tell us in the most blunt way possible."

Was that the hint of a smile? In the light of the flickering street lamp, he couldn't tell.


"So how was finding out your first love was a dude go?" Ranulf asked. He was leaning just in on the door as Ike came in and hung up his bomber jacket.

"Actually, it didn't really affect anything," Ike said. "And it went fine."

Mist and Boyd couldn't have looked more riveted to his story if they'd had popcorn.

"What happened? What happened?" Mist asked.

"We talked, interview and stuff," Ike said. "Ate. Stuff like that. It wasn't really a date, just an interview with food involved."

"Oh cut it out. It was a man date," Ranulf said.

"Well, we did go out for coffee afterwards because I was too busy eating to really do much interviewing," Ike said. "Concerts always tire me out and make me hungry."

"Total man date," Ranulf said. "Though this would explain why you never go out and pick up chicks we me. Heyy, maybe we can go out with Kyza and pick up dudes together!"

"Not a chance, Ranulf," Ike said.