Ms. Hellenbrand lives two doors and across the street from the Freelands, apparently moving in right in the middle of the multiple boom. Her house is a bungalow, really and someone moved out after having twins. So the story goes. Stacey Freeland found out that she gave piano lessons and signed both of her young children up at about four years old. Ashley tried but when Cash turned out to be the stronger talent, she quit. Cash stayed and since then the stately Ms. Hellenbrand has just taken the boy under her wing. She's single with no children of her own and when Cash gets a mushy, he calls her his second mother. She taught him piano, guitar and began voice lessons in earnest after his voice changed. Before, she only focused on his technique. Cash would say, in a way, Ms. Hellenbrand got carried away with him and he was just along for the ride. Ms. Hellenbrand would say, "I know a natural when I see it, when I hear it. I know passion too, Cash. You had it all."
Which is her response to Cash's question when he drags Hector over for his lesson. It's to be a short lesson on this Saturday. Originally from Las Vegas, she has to drive up and stay overnight for reasons unknown. She asked Cash to water her plants and feed her cats. She also asked to meet this boy. The boy whom she called 'The Flutist', as she greeted them at the door. Now, as they sit among a jungle's worth of plants, she is pleasantly answering Cash while urging him to warm up. Her attention is on Hector. It's a deeply assessing eye. It's hard to know what she knows. She looks at everyone like that.
Hector brings his flute in it's familiar case, not knowing if she will want to hear him play or not. He's dressed up for the occasion in a black dress shirt, black pleated trousers, and a purple and black vest with matching tie. his hair is perfectly combed and pomaded and his has his polite young man face on, Mohawk or not. "It is good to finally meet you, Ma'am. I know how important you are to Cash."
Ms. Hellenbrand smirked when she saw Hector all cleaned up for her. "Cash is important to me too. He's smart and talented. He might miss the mark when it comes to dealing with his peers but he tries hard. Harder than I think he should but that is just me." She sets her eyes on Cash who looks a bit like a deer in the headlights. He has a can of cola in his hand. Hellenbrand doesn't have to speak. Cash goes back into the little kitchen and comes back with water. She turns back to Hector. She likes long pauses and longer stares. Behind her, Cash is playing scales and warming up. "Why the flute, dear?" and what she says next makes Cash miss his notes. "You can call me Vivian, or Vee, if you like. Cash does when it's just us."
Hector returns her gaze steadily, "He has me now, Ma'am, um... Vivian. With me, he doesn't have to try, he can just be. I think he's just right the way he is." He blinks slowly and says, "I play keyboards and guitar and I can manage on several other wind instruments. Flutes are easily portable, and you can improvise cool descants over other instruments. I want to be a song writer."
Vivian starts to really smile as Hector talks. "Oh, you are smooth. You're a Thistle." Not a question. Statement. She must be getting the vibes. "But since you weren't raised with them you are naturally strange. Like the last one. Cash didn't bring him around." She comments idly. "So multiple instruments and a song writer. Cash is more into composition and arrangement on that front. But I think singing is his real love."
"I'm still here, Ms Vee." Cash says over his shoulder. "And I didn't bring Spear around because he's not into music like Hector is. He's amazing. You should hear him. We play well together. He...get me." Vivian lazily looks to Cash. "Sing. Whatever you want this time. Sing. Play. Hector, accompany him. Let's see you improvise." She stands up, claps her hands together and Cash looks wide-eyed again. "Fuck, what to sing..."
Hector nods, "On my father's side, yes. I'm between James and the triplets." Shrugs, "I don't know about strange. it's all context, isn't it?" He glances cash's way, careful not to meet his eyes, even has he flashes him a sunny smile, "Cash has a beautiful voice. It was his singing that lead to us meeting in the first place. I had to see who was making music like that." He nods to the teacher and snaps open his case, assembling his instrument with practiced speed. He comes to stand next to his boyfriend, poised to start.
"What was he singing?" Vivian asks, taking her place beside the upright piano. Cash responds quickly. "Extreme. More Than Words." Vivian laughs. "That is why I want you to go to USC. They have an excellent contemporary program." She pauses. "Well, I'd rather you go to Boston but..." Cash just shakes his head and idly runs his fingers over the keys. "The east coast isn't as scary as you think it is. You can go and excel if you put your mind to it. Now. Sing before you get me stuck in traffic."
Cash thinks and begins to play the opening of something but changes his mind. "No. This one." He begins the opening of Your Song, by Elton John. Vivian covers her mouth to muffle a giggle and hide a grin.
It's a little bit funny, this feeling inside I'm not one of those who can easily hide I don't have much money, but boy if I did I'd buy a big house where we both could live...
Cash puts a little more power behind the lyrics. He may be showing off a little. By the time he hits the hook, he'll be belting it all out. From the heart.
ROLL: Hector rolls Brains+1 for: : x1 : x1 : x2 (Pair) : x1 -- Match Value: 1 (Raw: 7 6 8 2 7 -- d8)
Hector says, “USC is on my list too. We're both creatures of the sun, after all." But he sobers as Cashstarts playing, and he soon joins in, twining around the melody with playful little trills. he keeps glancing at cash, like he still can't believe his good luck in being with him.”
ROLL: Cash rolls brains+1 for: : x1 : x1 : x1 : x2 (Pair) -- Match Value: 1 (Raw: 2 6 6 1 3 -- d6)
Cash has this ability to stay focused that some might find enviable. Laser focused on the small changes to the lyrics and arrangement. Vivian coaches him throughout. She gives quiet hints, suggestions, and encouragement. As the song ends, she says, simply, "Bring it home, Cash. Don't strain." And he does just that. He's flushed and when it's over and his eyes are down on the keys. Vivian looks to Hector, impressed. "You are very good. Consider Jazz. Cash only hates Jazz though so, it's up to you two." She leans down to kiss the top of Cash's head. "Mm. Nice shampoo." She gives Hector a little air kiss to the cheek. "Talent is the only way to win me over and...I have a soft spot for the woodwinds." She moves to look at them both. "Cash, darling, you know how lonely Rex and Martha get. You should stay in the guest room until I come back. And the plants are a big job too." A glance to Hector. "I don't mind if you have company either. You earned it. You've worked hard this year. So, excuse me for a moment while I finish gather my things for the trip." She catches Hector's eye and winks before gliding into the back rooms.
Hector gives her one of those bright smiles, all teeth a dimples, "Thank you. I enjoy woodwinds too." His eyes go wide at what she's clearly suggesting, and then he is blushing and carefully studying Cash's curls. Once she's out of the room, he says, "Did you want to play together some more while she packs? I have a song in mind."
Cash's face is bright red as Vivian leaves. "She was nicer in front of you." He says with a smile. "She must like you. If I played something that mushy about you and she didn't know you, she'd chide me. She's...she just wants me to toughen up a bit, especially now before graduation. All I've really had was my sister growing up and you see we went in other directions. We still love one another but..." He shrugs. "I'm okay with it. Not having a ton of friends or whatever. This is temporary. School. Youth. These things won't matter in six months." He leans on Hector. "I hope you stay with me though. Pick a song." He says, nuzzling. "I learn well by ear so...pick something, i can wing it.
Hector leans back, smiling softly. "That's the plan. I never want to be without you again." Gently he kisses a crimson cheek, "She's nice. I like that you had her looking after you all this time." He nuzzles him back gently, then lifts his flute to his lips and starts playing "There is a Light that never Goes Out."
"The Smiths? Oh, dude, you ar--" Cash didn't recognize the song at first. Like, something he shoved back into his mind, just waiting for the hurt to go away. Hell, he hasn't played much of anything with a synthesizer since getting back on the air. Rap and Hip Hop has more or less taken its spot. Now, there is that song. And he has time traveled to the previous summer with the noise of the city, the darkness of a bedroom and the warmth of Hector's touch. He turns to the piano and after some off-key starts, he picks it up.
To die by your side Is such a heavenly way to die...
He sings, softly. His voice is wobbly, unwilling to carry. It has weight on it plenty.
And in the darkened underpass I thought oh God, my chance has come at last..."
Cash has to stop singing but his focus won't let him stop playing, he has to conquer the song first.
Hector plays along, passionately. Once Cash picks up the melody, hector starts adding little decorations. When Cash's voice faulters, Hector lowers his flute and picks up where he trailed off.
"...(But then a strange fear gripped me and I Just couldn't ask) Take me out tonight Oh, take me anywhere, I don't care I don't care, I don't care Driving in your car I never never want to go home Because I haven't got one ...Oh, I haven't got one And if a double-decker bus Crashes into us To die by your side Is such a heavenly way to die And if a ten-ton truck Kills the both of us To die by your side Well, the pleasure - the privilege is mine Oh, There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out...." His tenor is beautiful though untrained and he sings it for Cash the ways he's always sung it for Cash, only this time it's truer and more aching because he really can't go home again. Not now his Mother's dead.
Cash pulls his hands off the keys as if they were on fire. He sits for a moment, blinking wildly as he does. "The first time I remember you singing that, we watched the seals at Alcatraz. It was so new, so early...I still wanted to see the tourist traps. And it was me and you and I'd never felt so far from home in my life. I felt really free that day. That night, you sang that. I didn't know The Smiths that well. Only heard it a few times. So, I kinda decided it was for me and just a sweet song." His breath hitches. He hasn't shed a tear but he's done everything else. "Now it's fucked up because..."
Cash gets up and grabs Hector, first by the shoulders. "Don't you push me away again. Don't. You promise." And then he puts his hands on Hector's face and looks him in the eye to say, "You don't leave me either. You understand? You promise me. You. Promise. Me." And shaking and blinking and panting, he stares into Hector's eyes to get his reply. "I trusted you once. I'll break if.." He can't finish. He just begins to cry, covering his face and turning away.
Hector wraps his arms around him presses his nose to his neck, "I liked seeing all the tourist traps with you." He tilts his head up when Cash puts his hands on his face, "I'd rather die than hurt you like that again. I'd rather die than leave you. I promise you, I won't leave." When Cash starts to cry, he wraps his arms around him from behind and presses his cheek to his curls, "I love you. I really do want to be with you forever."
Cash takes a few moments, just breathing slowly. Breathing like he was taught to bring it all back into focus. He turns to face Hector, back to averting watery eyes. "I want to be with you forever too. No one gets me but you. There is no one more kind or cooler or more handsome or more talented than you. People tried to tell me that, it was just your first love and it was never going to last and I have to tell them to fuck themselves because my parents are high school sweethearts. I know how they do it. The secret." He whispers and laughs. "You are so easy to be around. Everyone makes me so tired. But don't. Never."
"Don't ask how much I heard, I am simply going to leave." Vivian bursts out of the bedrooms with an overnight bag on her shoulder. "Hector? Will he be alright?" Vivian says, poorly masking deep concern.
Hector says, “I just want to make you happy and to help you be the best musician you can be, Angel Sweet." Then he's blushing again, ut he doesn't let go. "He'll be fine Ma-Vivian. I'm here."”
Vivian purses her lips and eyes Hector. Cash pipes up. "I'm okay. He just played our song." Vivian's remains stone-faced. She marches over to Hector and Cash and raises her hand and points at Hector. "That boy came home and I spent three hours on a Saturday afternoon, letting him cry in my lap. No talking. That came later. I have never seen the child so sad in life. You better pray that I am not around if it happens again. That is the only time I'm gonna bring this up. Take care of him. The guest room is on the right. Pardon the cat hair. I don't have many overnight guests." And Vivian kisses Cash's head and leaves.
Hector blinks at her, "That's entirely fair. I'm pretty sure I am going to Hell for sending him home the first time. I'm not a Monster. It was a terrible mistake I never plan to repeat. You... can take my fingers if I ever hurt him like that again."
Vivian mutters something about taking the whole hand as she closes the door. Cash is far calmer now but that is only because he's been clinging to Hector. His long fingers gripping his shirt tightly. Tight enough to leave creases when he lets go. "She likes you. She's only like that if she gives a damn. Her words." He sighs. "You can't keep beating yourself up over what happened. I know it keeps coming up but...I just want to put that part behind us. What are the chances that you'd move here? It's like...a 3 hour drive from anywhere interesting and here you are. In my town. It's fate, Hector. Fate. The sun's going to be down and I wanted to get on the air tonight. You can meet my parents briefly. It's almost /their/ time. He shudders slightly. "And then we can come back here...see what happens. Or just jam. Whatever is fine with you."
Hector strokes his hair, not minding the wrinkles, "It feels exactly like fate.... What do you men by 'their time?' Your parents?" He kisses him gently, "I'm happy to be with you whatever we end up doing.... Do you really broad cast naked from the waist down?"
"Where did you hear that?" Cash scoffs. A beat passes. "Yes. Actually. It's half superstition half weirdo sensitivity thing that got out. No pants. Just undies." He adds, as he moves to gather his things. 'their time?' They bogart the living room and turn off the lights and turn on a movie and fuck. Probably."
Hector grins, "Sexy. I really want to watch you broadcast now." He wrinkles his nose, "Not your parents. I do not want to know what they get up to alone."