The Twelve Gays of Christmas
On the Eighth Day…
"You coming, Antonio?" Gilbert asked, getting to his feet.
"Umm, I think perhaps I will stay for another coffee," the Spaniard replied.
"Oho, I think that maybe it is not the coffee that keeps you here, mon ami," Francis smirked, "perhaps it is the view, hein?" Antonio glared at his friend but Francis merely winked at him before tilting his head significantly towards the kitchen. "I too saw him come in just now, Antonio, are you sure you don't want me to introduce you? He teased.
Gilbert groaned, "For fuck's sake, Antonio, you're gonna sit here watching lover-boy again? Stop stalking the kid and do something about it, if you're that hung-up on him. Or shall I tell him?" He asked wickedly.
"No!" Antonio exclaimed quickly, "I don't want that, Gil; I need to approach him carefully."
All three men looked over at the counter where Lovino could now be seen, scowling fiercely and slamming things about as he muttered to himself irritably in Italian.
Gilbert laughed, "Yea, I can see that. Looks like hard work to me, Toni, you sure he's worth it?"
"Oh yes," Antonio breathed, his eyes softening as they rested on the angry red face, "and very little worth having is easy to get after all, Gil."
"Hey, it's your funeral," Gilbert shrugged, "I'll see you later." He looked at his watch, "Shit, I'm late. Come on Francis, Roderich will be bitching, no doubt about it." He said the words in an off-hand voice, but he noticeably quickened his pace to the door, and moments later could be seen hurrying past the window.
Francis sighed, "It seems you are not the only one who likes hard work, mon ami," he muttered, raising a hand to Antonio in farewell as he sauntered after Gilbert.
Antonio chuckled quietly to himself as his friends left, but his eyes drifted almost immediately back to the moody Italian who had consumed so much of his thoughts lately.
Lovino shut the cash register with a sharp push and handed the change to the waiting customer. "Grazie," he muttered curtly, looking beneath his lashes at the Spaniard seated in the corner of the café.
He had noticed that bastard here a lot lately, either with his godfather and the other who had just left, or sitting there alone over too many coffees. Did he really think he wasn't being obvious? He plainly had another reason for hanging around this much, someone needed to tell him that Feliciano was in a relationship now.
That thought made Lovino feel even more aggravated, why was Feli so obsessed with that stupid macho-potato Ludwig? It wasn't as though his brother had lacked for admirers after all, everyone liked him… clearly even this idiotic, sappy ('fucking hot', his mind whispered aggravatingly) Spanish bastard.
Glancing over again at this persistent customer, Lovino noticed he was looking at him too. He must be wondering where Feliciano was – after all he'd been here a few times when Lovino himself hadn't been in the best of moods – and no-one ever wanted to get to know him if they'd encountered him like that. Laughing green eyes met stormy hazel and to his further annoyance Lovino felt himself blushing. The customer raised an eyebrow and tilted his head as he raised his coffee cup enquiringly, oh, he only wanted the free re-fill.
After giving an unnecessary swipe with his cloth to the already spotless counter-top while he composed himself; Lovino walked over to fetch the cup.
"Same again, eh?" He asked, trying not to notice how the cheerful smile he wore made this guy's whole face light up as he smiled. He wasn't going to feel jealous over one of Feliciano's conquests, why would he? He never had before after all, so why would he start now?
"Por favour," the man lifted his cup to pass it to Lovino and as their hands brushed, he felt another urge of attraction which finally pushed him into speech.
"Listen, I'm Lovino – Feliciano's brother and I think I should tell you, my brother does really work here anymore – so he won't be in," he said abruptly.
"Doesn't he?" Strange… he didn't seem disappointed, (?) just interested.
"Someone finally listened to him sing and now… well he's had his breakthrough, and he's singing full-time."
"Oh, well that's wonderful," the Spaniard seemed to be carefully considering his next words and Lovino decided to make it easy for him.
"He's in a pretty serious relationship too," he offered briefly and was not surprised when the other seemed a little taken aback. "Listen…?"
"Listen, Antonio," Lovino said tersely, suppressing his fierce wish that it wasn't Feliciano this man had been here for. "I wish it wasn't the case, but it looks as though it might be permanent, and in any case he certainly won't be here often now; so there's not much point you hanging around… shall I forget the coffee?"
"No, Lovino, I really would like another."
Lovino shrugged inwardly as he fetched the re-fill, cheh, he'd told the guy, so if he wanted to waste his time, then that was up to him.
"There you go, bastard," Lovino deposited the cup and turned to move away.
"Lovino, could we talk a moment, if you don't have too much to do?"
Lovino frowned, he really didn't want to rub salt in the wound by listening to Antonio talk wistfully about his brother; but since he was now the only customer, it wasn't as though he could claim to be too busy. "Sure," he grunted unenthusiastically sitting down.
"So Feliciano is singing full-time now…" Here it came, "…how is your dancing going?"
"H-how do you know that I dance?" Lovino stammered.
Antonio smiled warmly at him, "Well I am friends with your godfather," he reminded the younger man, "he has mentioned it.
"Oh," Lovino thought about that and supposed it made sense "Not so great," he finally admitted reluctantly, "and I've been trying for a while longer than Feli now." He looked up and a sudden lump rose in his throat at the understanding in those fucking stunning green eyes that caught and held his own. "My grandfather wants me to give up and get a real job," he added bitterly. Now why had he admitted that?
"But what do you want?"
"I want to dance, but… they don't think I have the right attitude." Shit, he was turning into a fucking blabber-mouth. Lovino rose hurriedly from the table and tried to pass off his admissions, "Hell, maybe they're right!" He flung angrily at the shocked Antonio as he turned towards the kitchen door, "I – I need to check on something…" Pressing his lips tightly together as he felt them tremble, Lovino fought the prickling of tears as he slammed angrily through the door and hastened into the employees bathroom.
Five minutes later when he returned, Antonio was gone.
Bracing his hands on the counter; Lovino wished for the hundredth time that he was better at controlling his emotions, that he didn't get so defensive… and that Antonio had been there for him.
If only he was more like Feli…
The next morning after the early rush had died down, Antonio was back.
"Good morning, Lovino," he smiled at the embarrassed Italian as though their parting yesterday had been quite ordinary. "When you have a moment I have a proposition for you."
Why had the bastard come back, and what did he mean by proposition? Lovino scowled as he hurried to serve another arrival but the blonde guy didn't seem to notice his frown. "Hi dude, can I get a tall full-cream, extra hot split quad-shot latte with whip." The American nodded cheerfully as Lovino glared at him, his cow-lick bouncing and blue eyes full of energy.
"Does this place look like a Starbucks?" Lovino demanded irritably. He really wasn't in the mood for this shit today, and Antonio had made him feel edgy.
"Well no, but…"
"Then order a real drink or go find one, dammit." From the corner of his eye Lovino saw Antonio grin to himself and winced, shit he why did he always show his worst side in these situations.
Once he'd finally sorted out the American, Lovino made his way over to Antonio.
"Listen, Antonio, I'm not interested in being a messenger to my brother…" Lovino stopped as Antonio opened his eyes very wide, clearly shocked.
"That's not why I'm here," he protested, shaking his head in apparent disbelief.
"Then what is it?"
"I had an idea after talking to you yesterday," Antonio explained, "and I went to check it out. Have you been keeping up with the auditions recently?"
The truth was that Lovino hadn't.
The last few rejections, his grandfather's pessimism and the negative comments he had overheard about the difficulty of working with him; had all taken a toll… he'd finally begun to despair.
Antonio looked at him carefully and nodded to himself, "I thought not," he muttered softly. "Well there's one coming up in a few days' time and you'd be perfect for it." Lovino wondered what show was auditioning, but before he could ask Antonio continued, "It's West Side Story."
West Side story! Lovino's heart thumped, he really might have a chance as a backing dancer for that, he was Italian after all – he could easily be 'a Shark'. "But I haven't applied… and there's no way I could get the routine down in that short a time on my own…" He shook his head in regret.
"Lovino, I've been working at the theatre for quite a few months now, do you not have any idea what I do?" Antonio asked, his eyes sparkling excitedly.
Lovino shook his head.
"Well I suppose we haven't had any contact, since you haven't auditioned there for a while." Antonio conceded, "I'm the choreographer."
Lovino looked at him in amazement, "You're kidding, bastard, right?"
Antonio laughed, "No, mi amigo, I assure you I'm not. Now I obviously don't have much say over casting… but I can help you with the routine… and I was able to add your name to the auditions. What do you say?"
"You'd help me?" Lovino breathed, feeling dazed, "but why? Is it for Feli?"
"Lovino, I have no interest in your brother," Oh, so he'd realised that ship had sailed then, Lovino wondered why that felt both so good and bad all at once but he was distracted as Antonio continued. "But I do have an interest in developing talented dancers…"
"You've never seen me dance, how do you know if I'm worth helping?"
"Haven't I?" Antonio murmured under his breath, but to Lovino he only said, "Then allow me to find out?"
Lovino looked at him uncertainly, his emotions raging all over the place… the dread of another failure, the fearful hope that this might be his chance, his longing to dance and to succeed, the unnerving attraction he felt for this man and his wish that he hadn't been here for Feli...
"Yes," he croaked finally, the words leaving his lips almost involuntarily, "yes please, bastard, help me."
"Then find someone to fill in for a few days and let's go."
"Keep those turns crisp, Lovino, they must be snappy," Antonio instructed firmly, "like this." He demonstrated the move briefly, spinning swiftly in place with arms out before moving smoothly into a backward glide and turn, fingers clicking heels tapping sharply on the floor. "The combination of Salsa and Swing is energetic but controlled."
As Lovino repeated the sequence, Antonio watched him closely; in truth he was merely fine-tuning he knew, as Lovino was already beautiful to watch.
Once he had learnt the moves yesterday, he had begun to dance this routine as though it was made for him. He was athletic and managed the more acrobatic movements easily, the leaps and turns graceful, but capturing the action and uneasiness of the storyline with style. Antonio felt his stomach clench as he watched the slim form whirl, muscles flexing smoothly, a fine sheen of sweat dampening his vest and causing it to stick to his body even more closely. How he desired him.
"Good, catch your breath and we will take it from the top, all the way through; I will dance the female part," Antonio instructed as Lovino completed the last move perfectly.
Lovino flashed him a delighted smile and nodded, forgetting to feel self-conscious. His pleasure in doing what he loved erased the habitual moodiness from Lovino's face and Antonio drew in a swift breath at the sight of him like this, fighting the impulse to walk over and throw caution to the winds.
His resolution was tested many times over the few days they trained together.
Holding Lovino as they danced (Antonio taking the female roles), Lovino breathless and exhilarated, laughing or pouting as he concentrated hard, their faces sometimes only inches apart… Antonio yearned to let him know how much more he wanted so desperately.
But he waited. Now was not the time, he was too needy, too vulnerable. Lovino had to find confidence in himself first, perhaps then they would find a future together too.
Had he but known it, Lovino was equally frustrated.
Why, why, why! Could he not have met Antonio like this from the very first? Lovino wasn't stupid and he knew that as a choreographer, the older man would have seen many dancers better than he was, but they still had this in common, right? Antonio didn't seem to find him difficult or unpleasant to work with either – it was like being someone else. Somehow, here like this, with Antonio steadying him, Lovino found he felt more confident, the old frustration and anger (at himself more often than not) seemed to melt away and he felt more relaxed than he could ever remember.
Perhaps, if he had met Antonio this way, it could have been himself the Spaniard desired, instead of his infinitely sweeter and more loveable brother.
Dancing with Antonio, holding him and being held, Lovino longed for more. As the deep green eyes held his own with such confidence in him, he wanted to live up to that – and as he burned to feel those lips against his own, he wished, oh how he wished he was different…
Separate, but filled with such similar emotions, they danced on…
…and when the day of the auditions arrived, Lovino felt that he was ready.
Until that is, the next morning – when he stood alone, the focus of all eyes on the stage.
In the changing rooms beforehand, Lovino had heard all the same mutters among many of his peers, "What's he doing here?" "Haven't they heard about what he's like?" "Don't worry, he'll blow it anyway, throw a tantrum or something, he always does."
By the time he was due to perform, the newfound blaze of his confidence had almost completely died away. The old bitterness and self-doubt smothering him until only a small, feeble flicker remained. As he walked slowly out onto the stage, Antonio, who was one of the watching team, perceived the slump of his shoulders and frowned, he had some idea of what had probably occurred backstage and his lips tightened.
"Un momento," he whispered urgently to the others, before striding quickly forward to stand beneath Lovino's gaze. "Lovi," he called softly to the forlorn figure, "show those bastards how it's done."
Lovino looked down into the face of his mentor, and what he could see there… the belief he could see in his eyes, began to fan the embers of his faith. Antonio! Antonio had helped him and had confidence in him, he was counting on him to show what he could do and Lovino didn't want to let him down. He nodded, and as a smile blazed across Antonio's face, an answering, if more unsure one began to curve Lovino's lips, he would do this!
The music rang out, head high and shoulders back; Lovino threw himself across the floor.
The lists of the performers who had been chosen, both the main cast and the backing dancers were pinned up backstage within the hour.
As the other hopefuls crowded around the board, Lovino felt sick and decided to wait until they were done; what if he still hadn't made it? Antonio would be so disappointed in him, and he'd never have better preparation than this. This was 'make or break' time.
Watching from across the room as some dancers turned sadly away disappointed, while others hugged jubilantly, Lovino noticed a few sidelong glances cast his way – although no-one said anything to him. It seemed a very long time, before at last the board lay deserted.
Taking a deep breath, Lovino walked over and scanned the backing list, then gasping and trembling, he read it once more – this time carefully… but his first glimpse had not deceived him.
His name wasn't there.
Snatching up his things as tears blurred his vision and his throat choked up, Lovino hurtled out of the changing rooms and into the alleyway behind the theatre, sobs crowding his throat. So now he knew, his grandfather and all the others had been right all along. It wasn't going to happen. He just wasn't good enough and didn't have whatever it took.
There was no-one else present in the alley, he wasn't going to make it home… and he couldn't go into the busier street. Dropping his belongings onto the dirty floor, Lovino leant against the old, red bricks of the building in which he had hoped to succeed. Then he covered his face with his hands as he cried out his heartbreak.
"Lovino?" A hand was placed upon his shoulder before another moved to cup his cheek as a concerned face swam into view. Oh no! He just couldn't face Antonio now! Lovino tried to turn away, wanting to hide his weakness and tears.
"Please, Antonio, not now," he managed to whisper in a broken voice all his defences finally broken down. "I'm so sorry that I failed you."
"Failed me, mi amado? How could you possibly have done that?" Antonio asked gently.
"I thought I would make it this time, Antonio." Lovino replied despairingly, missing the endearment. "I really did. The help you gave me was so much more than just the coaching, although that was amazing too. If I didn't make it now then I never will, I'll have to find something else…"
"What are you talking about, Lovi?" Antonio gave him a small shake. "Did you not see the cast lists?"
"I read it twice, bastard," Lovino snapped, finally goaded into a temper, "out of twenty names, I could hardly have missed it if my name was there, dammit."
"Twenty…? Lovino, did you only check the backing dancers?"
It seemed to Lovino that the world lurched and began to spin slowly around him. "What?!" He croaked, as Antonio saw him sway and caught him close.
"They all thought you were stunning, you made the main cast, mi amor," Antonio chuckled, "Chino, second-in-command of the Sharks…the one who kills Tony; he's hot-tempered and fiery too."
"What did you call me?" Lovino gasped, the other news could wait for the moment.
Antonio went to release him as colour rose faintly to his cheeks, "I apologise…" He began awkwardly.
"No wait!" Lovino panted, searching his face. "I thought… I always thought it was Feli you were interested in? I was so bad-tempered in front of you, how could you want me?"
"Feli?!" Antonio looked stunned, "You really believed that for all this time, Lovino? Your brother is very sweet, but it has always been you." He shrugged, looking deeply into the hazel eyes, "Your temper? You have so much passion, Lovino, no; it was you who brought me back for so much coffee. I confess that I had hoped working together to prepare you for this might bring us together, but I had almost given up."
"I wished that it was me though, bastard," Lovino said quietly, dropping his eyes. He no longer sounded angry at all and Antonio raised his chin with one finger, leaning hopefully closer.
"Lovino?" He breathed the name like a question.
Pressed tightly together and lost in one another at this most precious first moment, neither noticed the dinginess of the alleyway behind the theatre, and indeed it didn't matter, as the bright lights within were waiting for both of them.
"He rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, "I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling." The Ugly Duckling, Hans Christian Anderson.
A/N: mi amado – my beloved, mi amor – my love
West Side Story - an American musical with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and conception and choreography by Jerome Robbins. It was inspired by William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.
Well – we're not going to complete before Christmas as we had hoped, RL has just been too busy, though we will get at least one more update posted before the 25th. The remainder will be up before the New Year :)
Huge thanks as ever to all our readers/faves/followers and reviewers – you give us such fabulous support!
In the bad-touch trio's Christmas hamper are: GarryxMrChairFan, Katie-Kat1129, Rarity the Sewaddle, ZanyAnimeGirl, zoewinter1, Decimus Yna, DarkMoon0327, Rey129, Fred and George Weasley Twins, Janders, Israelle ParadiseIsis Hypnosis, Random toria, TheWeaverofWorlds, The Sandman's Daughter and elizabeta H. Austria.
Thanks so much for sticking with us. Happy Christmas (or other holiday) to everyone :)
EvilMidget6 and LieutenantProbable ;)