((A.N.: Not too sure why, but took a look at the date I completed chapter 1 today… And it seems this fic has been in the works for slightly more than a year now. Actually, I've never worked on anything for this long before x'D But, just wanna say, it's been amazing sharing this piece of work with all of you. Cheers!))

The evening when Kasamatsu introduced their prospective new member to everyone, the air felt just a little bit chillier beyond the autumn night. Takao especially, upon hearing they would be adding a Cellist to their ranks, had expected… Well, frankly he'd expected to see someone along the lines of Midorima; all stoic and stiff, with a frozen sort of aura around him.

Izuki was hardly that. From the way he talked and behaved (painfully corny jokes aside), Takao had a hard time believing he would be the same sort of musician that Midorima was. Had it been anyone else than Kasamatsu who brought him into the group, he wasn't too sure how much faith he'd have had in the guy. A quick look around the table, and he knew that several others shared his doubts. Even Sakurai, usually offering his desperate best to be agreeable, had trouble appreciating those puns.

Thankfully for him, and his decision to let their music do the talking, practice was the next evening. Imayoshi plonked down his keyboard, smirking at the only other guy in the room with a large instrument. "Finally someone to share my woes." He smiled, sharing a handshake with the Cellist.

Kasamatsu slapped down a printed wad of scores, which had several of the members groaning with just one look at the title (and setting off a torrent of Sakurai's apologies); it was one of their very first commercially successful songs, a gig staple, one everyone had long since burned into their minds and muscle memory. They were then reminded that they'd need to practice all their songs from scratch now, to integrate the new member. Kasamatsu wasn't leaving any room for complaints, though. "Alright… Let's get down to it." Himuro sighed, setting the scores down again. Without batting an eyelid, the bassist picked them back up, placing them into Himuro's hands with a silent air of commandment.

"You're going to need these. All of you."

There was an undertone of absolute authority to Kasamatsu's voice. Himuro shrugged and, with it, head back to his drumset. Takao, upon closer inspection, noticed something was amiss. The scores looked familiar, down to the pauses, rests and exact keys. But at the same time, entirely different. Notes had been lengthened, some shifts had been made, and the interlude had been rewritten from scratch. Imayoshi, unruffled, pulled out his own set of such notes from the front pocket of his keyboard case, calmly setting it on his music stand while whistling to the revised tune.

Plugging his guitar into the amps, Takao couldn't help feeling slightly impressed at the implications. "You guys work fast," he smirked, carefully choosing a guitar pick. Upon hearing this, the rest of the gang turned to the given scores, eyes opening wider and wider as they scrutinized the changes.

The tempo of the song had been slowed; altering the mood and flow more than they'd thought was possible. In practice, rather than calmly taking the song in well versed stride, most of the band seemed to visibly struggle… Perhaps especially Takao, juggling the new mood of the vocals and different 2nd guitar chords.

It was by mercy of familiarity that the song managed to flow reasonably well. All the while, Izuki calmly sat in a chair, observing, listening, soaking up the mood. His bow dangled, fingers of his other hand tapping on the neck of his instrument. It took a moment, a verse or two, till he raised the bow, pulled, and fired into a volley of notes that brought everything else seamlessly together. The intense focus between his brows, each stroke on the strings building up the atmosphere…

Only stopping, with everyone else, when they arrived at the newly written interlude.

First there was a chuckle from Himuro, then a relieved sigh from Takao, followed by an exchanged confident glance between Imayoshi and Kasamatsu.

"Well!" Izuki smirked with a laugh, the rest of the band then remembering the dissociated side of him they'd seen the night before. "Looks like we can Handel this after all! Get it? Handel? Or maybe I should use rockband names next time..."

Sakurai let out an audible grimace, launching immediately after into a flurry of apologies while Kasamatsu muttered at the both of them to just for God's sake be quiet.

"It was a good run." Takao agreed, bad jokes aside. If this guy was going to stick around as a new member, a bit of encouragement wouldn't have been out of place. "Where'd you find a guy like him, Kasamatsu senpai?"

The bassist merely huffed, as if recalling bad memories. "Geidai*, 8 years ago. Bad humour leaves deep impressions, apparently." Izuki's lips curled upwards into a desperately out-of-place looking pout. "Then again so does being the solo lead for a Cello concerto." He added, Izuki's face then going red.

"Alright alright, enough about that," he sighed, near melting under the sudden looks of adoration thrown to him from all around the room.

Another dinner and a good few rounds of drinks later, the group dissipated into the streets, Takao feeling pleasantly buzzed with Kasamatsu by his side. He strolled, a slight dance in his steps, towards the train stations, humming one of the new song renditions till Kasamatsu stopped him. "Say," he began, "how'd you come up with the idea of going alternative?"

Takao's head cocked to a side, almost floppy from the alcohol. "Whaddaya mean?"

"Normally… People would either look to the band manager or try to write more songs, get more gigs and the likes. What made you go straight for this?"

He'd never thought about it explicitly before. But now that the question had been thrown at him point blank, without the defence of stone-cold sobriety, only one person sprang to mind.

He turned away from Kasamatsu, with no explanation other than Midorima. Looking down with a blush tinting his cheeks, he felt suddenly thankful that it wasn't Imayoshi with him at that moment. It would've taken their keyboardist all of one glance to know exactly what was happening, how it had happened, and how it would develop from that point on.

Kasamatsu may not have been the mind-reader Imayoshi was regularly suspicioned of being, but he did recognize that salient silence and those eyes scanning the street. "I didn't know you had a crush, Kazu."

Any other time he may have had been able to pull off a convincing bluff, but the alcohol wasn't helping him that night. Takao shrugged as they entered the station, tapping his train pass with Kasamatsu following behind. "Does it really matter where the idea came from? It's working isn't it?"

While they boarded the train, Kasamatsu gave his vocalist a funny look; as if he'd accidentally stepped on someone's toes. "... I didn't say anything like that. Was just surprised, that's all."

"Yeah well, don't tell Imayoshi. That guy would never let it go if he heard about it."

The two remained in a pleasant and understanding buffer of silence till Kasamatsu turned to the doors. "Well. You might want to give her this then. I'm sure she's a nice person."

Takao bit back the 'it's a guy actually' till Kasamatsu stepped off the train; no sense in revealing his sexuality to a train full of strangers. He didn't need to look at what his bandmate had passed him to know what it is; a ticket for their next gig. Once Kasamatsu was safely out of sight, Takao allowed himself to stare at the ticket in his hand, a little smile on his face.

A quick glance at his watch, and, instead of going home, he headed towards his workplace after exiting the station.

*Geidai: Tokyo University of the Arts.