Title: The Girl In The Beret (epilogue)
Series: FE10
Character/Pairing: Ike/Soren, Boyd/Mist, Ranulf
Rating: PG-13
Author's note: I didn't intend to continue this one, but I heard this remix of Ellie Goulding's cover of "Your Song" and it sowed the seeds of working on some closing scenes.

I had Jana beta the first chapter and this, so the "final" edition is finally here. I intend to keep doing this for a lot of stuff—if you pointed out anything, I'm not ignoring you, I just have a lot on my plate and so do my betas, so getting back to stuff can take a while.

Happy (belated) birthday, Sule! Without your encouragement, I probably would've never gotten around to finishing this.

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Somewhere along the line, pianos began to be heavily featured in their new songs. It was like they'd become the hipster lovechild of Ben Folds Five and Thriving Ivory. They'd already had the demo tracks for their new album before Ike and Soren even hit the half-year anniversary.

(Of course, Mist reminded him, with a little help from Marcia. Ike never realized you had to keep half anniversaries, let alone anniversaries of first dates and first meetings. It was a good thing that Soren was like a walking notebook of facts, and never seemed to forget anything. Ike could never remember this stuff.)

Ranulf had joked that their latest album should be called The Muse In The Beret, but in the end, everyone settled on Duets because that's what the whole album really was. A lot of feelings and stuff, oh and pianos.

All of this coincided with about the time Soren started showing up wearing Ike's Queen shirt, and his faux leather bomber jacket.

Just wait, one of these days Ike is going to come in wearing girlpants Ranulf had quipped.

Soren had lifted one brow, with a murmur of that'll be the day.

He always loved it when Soren showed he actually had a sense of humor underneath it all.

.

They still weren't making it big, but Ike didn't care. He'd turned down a really good possibility at Royal records just to play the local route. Ranulf sometimes still complained about the loss of all that money–because really, to him hipsterdom was just another way to meet hot guys and girls. His deep dark secret was his 'vintage clothes' were actually designer he'd discreetly put through the wash to make it look more distressed.

Ike offered for him to go solo if he wanted, but unfortunately, a good deal of the cut was the owner's daughter's crush on Ike, so that was out. They did occasional shows, and picked up second jobs to cover the costs. So they weren't the next Death Cab For Cutie, but they didn't really want to be.

Ike was just content to play in smoky bars, in coffee shops and wherever else they'd have him. Parties were annoying, being famous only meant he'd get more stalkers, and he already had a really persistent one, which was more than enough, really.

He played because he liked the feel of his hand on the strings, on the keys, even on Soren which was its own kind of music. Because he didn't talk much, didn't express himself, but when he was singing it was like it was just him and his guitar. He found a sort of peace that made him forget the bad things in the world.

Once from Soren's notes on his next paper on some bard guy, Ike had caught the line If music be the food of love, then play on or something like that. It really stuck with him. He'd scrawled it over his guitar and it reminded him of Soren reading late into the night about ancient legends and myths and heroes.

.

In the end, Ike really did sell out–to Starbucks, as a part-time barista to supplement more funds for their latest equipment alongside his hardware store job. He'd have gone to The Listless Mourning, but he wasn't sure he could withstand slam poetry night on a regular basis. Or, you know, ever again.

Besides, with his employee discount, the coffee became almost reasonably priced, even if it still tasted burnt.

Ranulf, of course, didn't let him live it down for a minute. He strode on up on Ike's first day, a mischievous grin on his face.

"Seriously, Ike? I know you want to impress the hipster boys, but going as far as to work in a coffee shop?"

There was a sigh behind Ranulf before Ike could reply.

"The grammar in that sentence is flawed," Soren said. "There is no plural. It should be boy."

"Oh, hey, I didn't see you there," Ranulf said.

"He's good at that," Ike said.

"I'll take one coffee. Black," Soren said.

"I was kind of in line," Ranulf said, but it was said more with amusement than any real indignation.

"As far as I could tell, you were simply wasting everyone's time with idle chatter as usual," Soren said.

"That's me," Ranulf said, like 'idle chatterer' was a badge of honor.

"I can ring you up together," Ike said.

"I think this could be the start of something. First ringing up coffee together, then marathoning the super bowl. I can pay this round, maybe you can bro me?" Ranulf said. He held his fist up to bump. Soren glared and pointedly refused to bump his fist.

Ike gave him a pity bump, because it sucked to leave a guy hanging.

Soren walked off with his black bitter coffee, and Ranulf took his caramel macchiato. "One day, we'll all be bros and watching manly sports games together," he said.

"Good luck with that," Ike said.

Ike didn't mind the idea, even if Soren brought his book to read and barely paid attention to the great half-time show. Just having him there would be enough.

.

They'd finished the last practice, and were mostly just chilling. Well, Ranulf and Boyd were. Soren was Tolerating, like he usually did when Boyd and Ranulf were around. Ranulf was draped over the back of a folding chair, his chin resting on his hands. Boyd sat nearby, which left Ike with the loveseat they'd found at a thrift. It was painfully plaid, and so ironic no hipster would touch it, which of course meant that Ranulf snatched it right up and moved it in.

Mist sauntered in, her boots clacking on the floor as she did.

"Check out my new ensemble!"

Mist spun around, her white go-go boots matching her new white mini-dress. Unlike Marcia's, this one had a pleated bottom and a belted waist with a yellow applique flower on it.

"That isnice," Boyd said. She giggled and gave another spin just for him.

"You never told me your co-workers were so cool, Soren! Marica says she might even have room for another writer with graduation taking some of the staff away."

"I bet you'd do good at it," Ike said.

"And a pretty funny contrast compared to mister grumpy here," Boyd snickered.

Mist stuck her tongue out at him. He stuck it out back.

"When did we get invaded by five year olds?" Ike said.

They both stuck their tongues out at him in turn.

Mist lifted up the magazine. "Which reminds me—the newest review came out, I haven't read the ones up on Pitchfork yet, but Mia tells me they're almost all positive, except for Hipster Dan, who keeps saying you were better before you went big."

"We haven't gone big," Ike said.

"I think he means before more than two people knew about us," Mist said. "That, and Hipsterella, who said there was a glaring lack of cute girls in your band."

Ranulf snicked in the back, and Soren just rolled his eyes.

Mist puffed out her cheeks. "I'm not a cute girl, now?"

Boyd looked like he was going to make some kind of quip, but Soren interrupted him.

"Will it be worth the pain when she punches you in the stomach?"

Boyd closed his mouth.

"You weren't in the last promotional photos because you were taking the pictures, so maybe she missed you. She was mostly distracted by Cute Gingham last time, so she might not have seen our show much," Ike said.

"She'd better have," Mist said. "Moving on!" She unrolled the latest part of College Beats.

"Today, Soren is sitting out because he feels like his involvement in making this album would bias him, but mostly because Ispoilers/I the CD is all about him."

Ranulf let out a catcall, because it was pretty much the unspoken law that as the laguz guy in here, he had to be the one to do the catcalls.

"Furthermore, this song is all about the singer, Ike and the latest addition, Soren's big, gay, sparkly hipster love."

"...Sparkly?" Ike said.

"Don't ask, she embellishes everything," Soren said.

"If you want to make your big gay hipster love more sparkly, I could always lend you some of Kyza's body glitter for when he does shows," Ranulf said.

"It shows in a definite maturing of lyrics, and the piano adds a whole 'nother dimension to the songs, a softer one. Having a singer fall in–or out—of love certainly has made an effect on classic albums in the past, and this is no exception. They can also fall prey to an excess of saccharine–or so Soren would say here, but nope, this is my review so I have to report that it's all great! Duets is a classic amongst the ranks of Stars's Set Yourself On Fire, a near perfect album for a band which shows more and more promise every day. Will we hear more soon from this rising star of a band? I can only hope so."

"We got compared to Stars!" Ranulf lifted up his arm and Boyd let out a whoop. They high fived and Mist twirled around, the zine thrown up in the air.

Soren picked up the magazine and studied the points on the side. 4 out of 5. Soren himself had never doled out more than three grudging stars for any review, and that was a rare rating as it was.

"Hmmm."

"Something up?" Ike asked.

"I was just wondering what song made her deem it only a 4 out of 5," Soren said.

"Wait, wait, call the presses—Soren actually liked an album for once," Ranulf said. "Now we really do have to party."

"We were going to party?" Boyd said.

"We just got a good review and Soren actually liked something other than Ike. I fully expect to see cows flying soon, and not just because Skrimir is playing with his food again," Ranulf said.

"I'll call the caterer and Marcia!"

"Why Marcia?" Ike said.

"Because she's the reason we're partying, so she should be invited, silly. Besides, she's my friend."

"When did that happen?" Ike said, more than a little perplexed. Last he'd heard, Mist had been ready to throw her tambourine at Marcia for flirting with Boyd.

"Since today, that's when! We bonded over what doofuses our brothers are," Mist said with a bright grin.

Ranulf broke out into laughter behind him. Ike didn't bother to reply to that one, and Mist apparently didn't expect it, as she was already running off. The room had emptied of everyone but Ike and Soren.

"Are you coming with us?" Ike asked.

"I don't party, Ike."

"Well, I don't party much either, but I should make a showing."

Ike basically showed up for the free food, stayed as long as he could stand with horrible club music, grabbed a beer and headed out. To be fair, Vaseline Clubbdid ironically horrible remixes and covers of club music, but it still wasn't his thing.

"Besides, I need to review Cute Gingham's new album."

There was a demo with a printout of the latest cover art on it, which had Hipsterella in cut-off jeans and a flannel shirt tied up at the bottom, high on her waist.

"The next zine isn't due for another month," Ike said.

"I never put anything off," Soren said.

"Do you do your homework before it's assigned?" Ike asked, remembering the macros Ranulf had gleefully sent him last night.

"I'm already working on an outline of my thesis and that isn't due for two more years. Does that answer your question?"

Ike smiled a bit at this, and leaned in to give him a kiss. Soren clutched at his jacket like he might fall over if he didn't. It was brief, considering everyone was waiting, but a promise that he'd be back. Soren seemed reluctant to let go, but Ike knew that if he stayed, Soren would never get to writing his review, because there'd be distractions and stuff.

Besides, there were mini-sausages, cheese slices and pepperoni pizza with his name on it.

Ike pulled off his bomber jacket. "Don't get too cold, okay? It's damp down here."

Soren nodded. "Yes, Ike."

He nearly got lost in the mass of the jacket, and with one last glance, Ike left for up the stairs.

.

Soren nestled deep down in the jacket. He practically swam in it, given the differences in their size. He fingers lingered over the keys. He'd had poor circulation all his life, and was always a little cold. But for the first time in his life, he was starting to be warm. Comfortable, even.

Maybe even happy?

Maybe. It wasn't a feeling he was used to. Like most things, he distrusted this new fragile emotion, thinking it would leave him weak. But Ike kept proving himself, supporting Soren through his fears. Any relationship was fallible, as he all too well knew.

He had fragments of the basis of his thesis in his mind. The Archetype Of The Hero Of Legend And The Historical Basis Of The Hero From Ancient Times To Modern Times.

The title was still being finalized, as it was. The facts got muddled by the over and over repetition of heroes are real, I know this because I met you.

The album was too twangy for his taste, but even Soren had to admit that the folk-country fusion revitalized both genres and dug deep into the roots of bluegrass from bygone eras. The lyrics were simplistic, but catchy and not without their own sort of wit. Most of them were love songs, but that didn't affect his review. Soren didn't roll his eyes whenever a song about love came up anymore.

At least, not unless it was a horrible mainstream trash they purported to be 'music.'

Three stars, none of them grudging. One listen through was all that he needed to know. Fifteen minutes was all he needed to write up his review.

He was growing soft. Somehow he couldn't care that he was letting go of the bitterness that had marked his life.

You're going to ruin my reputation as a ruthless reviewer, you know that?

Oh well, he was assigned to review Brittany Piers's latest album, and that would certainly prove enough vitriol for no one to notice his moment of softness. In a few years he'd be done with College Beats and college itself.

There'd been openings for archivists at libraries in Melior and Sienne, but even the temptation of working in such well-stocked libraries wouldn't make him leave Ike's side.

Soren set his cd player aside. Ranulf and Marcia were endlessly teasing him for having an old-fashioned player which wasn't as ironic as a tape-deck or an 8 track player.

Soren never paid them any mind.

He sat on the piano bench, ignoring the booming sounds of We Make The Hipsters Fall In Love (The Glitter Remix) playing live above with Vaseline Clubb. Soren could tell it from the opening riff because Ranulf played it so much.

Soren was good at tuning out what he didn't want to hear, having plenty of experience from dealing with his mother, his co-workers and the drunken frat boys who clogged up the streets like so much refuse when the weekends rolled around. He started on a new melody he'd been trying out in his mind, note to note of a tune. Nearly every song was now Soren's in some way, a nuance in lyric, or outright. When he'd first met Ike back then, he'd never have figured to take him for a talented lyricist. He wouldn't have taken Ike for a lot of things.

But he'd been proved wrong, hadn't he?

Soren pulled out a notebook from his duffle bag and put it up. A few jots of ink and he had improvised sheet music to work from. It was blank, but he began to fill in the notes as he tested out the keys, forming the melody that had been stuck in his head.

"Something up?" Ike said. He was holding a platter of food from above. Just enough for two. He set it down on one of the tables and sat down on the piano bench with Soren.

"Just thinking," Soren said.

Ike didn't press, didn't ask. He was good about this—letting Soren stew when he needed to, pressing him when he needed someone there. For someone so oblivious, Ike sure was intuitive about feelings. Or Soren's, at least.

Soren couldn't quite put into words what he was feeling. Something soft and warm—a settling. Like he'd found a safe haven, his own place, a real home.

Happiness? No, something more. Calmness? Perhaps. Satisfaction, well, yes, that was a given. But it was something more, something he never knew how to define because he'd never felt it before.

Love?

It was a word he'd hated most of his life, and considered a lie, a myth, a fairytale. And yet, he kept coming back to that cliched word which no longer made him irritated just at the mention. Perhaps that was the word he sought.

"Are you working on lyrics for that one?" Ike asked. He had crumbs on his face. Soren reached up and brushed them away.

"No...I'm thinking about just making it an instrumental."

Something to describe how he felt when Ike was spread out asleep and so calm and the room was quiet with nothing but their breathing, the feeling of Ike's coat around him, the smell of wood and coffee, of how Ike kept trying to find him, even when he was bitter and afraid and pushed him away.

Words couldn't say how thankful he was. But music spoke volumes.

"Like Explosions In The Sky? I think that'd be a great ender for the next album...or we could do an EP," Ike said.

Soren had something of a fondness for Explosions In The Sky. Your Hand In Mine was included on the first mixtape Ike gave him, right after the acoustic live version of Girl In The Beret that Ike had played that concert.

"We could call it 'If Music Be The Food Of Love, Play On," Ike said.

"That's the quote you wrote on your guitar," Soren said.

"Yeah, I liked that one. I don't really get most of those bard quotes, they're too close to the ancient tongue for me, and I never was good at lessons about the ancient tongue. I like the sound of them when you read them aloud, though. They remind me of you," Ike said.

"There's editions translated into modern tongue alongside the original, with plenty of annotations. Would that work better?" Soren said.

"I'd like that," Ike said.

Soren touched a few more keys. The song was coming together in his mind. He wrote in a title at the top Home.

It was all falling into place. Realization, happiness, feelings he couldn't say in words, but could find in song. Soren began to play the melody, a soft and calm piece that spoke of the shift within himself.

He only hoped Ike could listen to the in-between, find him now again as he had so many times before.

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The macro Ike is referring to is hipster cat, of course.

The books Soren is referencing is The Spark's No Fear Shakespeare. I use them because they're the only Shakespeare in my library with annotations, and I love me some footnotes, especially when they're about ye olde ribald sex jokes.

Vaseline Clubb's song We Make The Hipsters Fall In Love is of course, an ironic remix of ke-dollar sign-ha's We R Who We R.