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Étude Op. 25, No. 2 in F minor

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Prelude in G major (Op. 28, no. 3, "Thou Art Like a Flower", Vivace)

It had been clear from a young age that Gob Bluth was a disappointment.

It was hard not to be when you were the cause of a shotgun wedding. While there was genuine love—or, at the very least, genuine attraction—between George and Lucille Bluth, their relationship was already complicated enough without adding a wedding band. But the two eloped instead of having the big wedding Lucille always dreamed of, and Lucille hid her pregnancy by remaining at the Bluth beach cottage. She didn’t even go to the hospital in order to keep his birthdate, which would reveal the real reason for the elopement, a secret.

Being shrouded in lies and shame from conception didn’t really lead to great expectations. Even if he hadn’t been born in secrecy, Gob probably would’ve ended up being a disappointment. Even as a toddler he seemed extra wild and loud. Maybe he seemed that way because Lucille had no previous experience with babies. Maybe it was because he was trapped in an apartment every day with no way to burn off his energy. Maybe it was just Lucille’s resentment.

Whatever the case, Gob as a toddler was a menace compared to the twins. That was probably unfair to say seeing as Michael seemed almost weirdly quiet for a child of any age and Nellie—Lindsay—was actually slightly older than Gob, but still. Even having a nanny didn’t help with Lucille’s exhaustion with Gob. George Sr. was exhausted by the kid as well, even if he didn't see him as much as his wife did. There was a reason why Gob was called “Gob” instead of “George”.

And it became clearer with every passing day that there was no way that Gob was fit to be president of the prospering Bluth company.

Of course, this might have seemed harsh to some, seeing as Gob was just a toddler, but they felt confident with that decision. Michael would eventually take over, and Gob…well, they’d find something for him to do. Hopefully.

When Gob was four years old, his family moved from their old apartment into a house. There wasn’t any sort of real yard, since Lucille had no interest in having to deal with dirt or a garden or whatever mess Gob would most likely make if they had either of those things, but the house was large and ornate. It was fit with a marble entry way, a living room and a great room, a granite kitchen, two sets of stairs, an office for George, and way too many features to list. It was probably definitely too much, but it was definitely a statement about their wealth.

At first, Gob really loved the new place, because he could actually run around and have fun versus their cramped, old apartment. He especially loved at first how all the boxes made everything so chaotic; it was fun zigging around them like he was in a maze. But then those boxes slowly went away and there was furniture put in, none of which was as much fun to play around with. There was still plenty of space to run, but it wasn’t as fun without having boxes to use as toys.

But one day, everything changed. He had been running around the house while his nanny was busy trying to calm a crying Lindsay. His sister was crying because she thought she lost her stuffed animal, a dove, but Gob had actually stolen it. It was just really pretty and he liked birds and why did she get one when he didn’t? And, okay, maybe he just liked causing trouble, because trouble led to attention and he just wanted to be noticed sometimes (often).

He ran down the stairs—he loved having stairs—and moved the bird around like it was flying above his head, making his own sound effects. They sounded more like airplane noises than a dove, but he was only four and it was entertaining to him so that was good enough. He only stopped when he nearly ran into his mother, who was standing at the living room door. Gob immediately hid the bird behind his back so he wouldn’t get in trouble, but his mom was too busy instructing the moving men to notice him anyways.

Lucille directed the movers to place the large, black object in the corner, and Gob watched with curiosity as she monologued. She had taken lessons as a kid, she said, but, more importantly, it was a beautiful item that went so well with the rest of their house. Once it was set, she went over and opened it up, and Gob could see a glint of color inside all the shiny black object.

Once Lucille sent the movers away (with no tip), she turned to Gob. He made sure to face her, still hiding the bird behind his back. “That is not a toy,” Lucille warned, “so don’t touch it.” Lucille gave him a strict look at that before she was called away by the sound of Michael’s crying joining Lindsay’s. Gob watched her walk away as she called out for their nanny.

Hadn’t she learned that when she said things like that, it only made Gob more likely to do the opposite?

Gob ran over to the instrument and inspected it up close, the stuffed dove held limply at his side. It was so shiny, obviously polished, and there were letters painted on the side. While Gob couldn’t read yet, he could recognize some letters that his nanny had taught him. She had written down his name and tried teaching him the letters, but she was obviously confused, because she said she had written George Oscar Bluth II, and his name was Gob. That, thankfully, was a lot easier to spell since it only had three letters, unlike whatever unlucky person had that other name. That person would always have to be reminded that he was second. That sucked for him.

He lightly traced over the letters he recognized, whispering them out loud. “S…E…S…O…S…” Was that how you spelled piano? He knew that this was a piano, obviously; he had seen them fall on a lot of cartoon character’s heads. Thankfully he wasn’t a cartoon, and people who weren’t in cartoons tended to just sit in front of them and play them.

He tilted his head to look inside the lid and his eyes widened. There were a whole bunch of silver wires inside, all different lengths. He stood on his tip toes and reached inside, lightly running his fingers over them. They made a creepy sound that made his skin crawl, but in a good way. “Cool,” Gob whispered.

After a moment Gob moved to the front of it. Where were the white button things? He put his hand on the shiny black object in front of him and soon found out it opened to reveal a row of what seemed like a million white rectangles interspersed with tiny black ones.

If anyone had been watching the boy, they definitely would’ve noted how strange the scene was. It was strange since Gob was always loud. He was always breaking things, hitting things, tearing things apart, and making a mess. But something about this intimidating but beautiful instrument was making him gentle. He wanted to be gentle. He never wanted to be gentle with anyone, even his baby brother—you try to throw your brother one time and everyone freaks out—but the piano was so shiny and pretty and special.

Gob sat on the cushioned bench that was in front of it and placed the dove next to him. With wide eyes, he gently ran his hand over the keys. They were glossy and smooth under his palm, kind of like the marble floor outside the living room. He looked over all of it up close, briefly noticing that the same letters were written on the front of the piano, too. That had to be its name. He didn’t know pianos had names, but it made sense. After a few moments of looking around, Gob’s eyes landed on a key, the key at the first letter of whatever the piano’s name was, and, with great precision, he finally pressed down.

The note rang for a few moments and Gob lifted up his finger. Forgetting how his mom had told him not to touch and how she could surely hear him at this point, he played that note again, this time holding his finger down a bit heavier. Then he tried hitting the note next to it at the same time, but he immediately lifted up his fingers after that. That sounded so mean. So, then he tried the original note and the one below it; that wasn’t any better…Oh, maybe one of the black keys right next to it?

—Oh, no, that was even worse. Gob frowned; he had heard pretty music before, so it had to be possible, right? He pressed the note again and, more on a whim than anything, he played the second white key above that.

Gob smiled. Hey, that sounded right! Good, even. He hit the notes again at the same time (well, he tried to, but he wasn’t quite coordinated enough since, again, he was four) and they still sounded good together. He played it a few more times before taking his fingers off. That was so cool—

“Gob?” Lucille called out. Gob heard the tell-tale sound of his mom’s heels making her way down the stairs. Uh-oh. Gob suddenly remembered what she had said and how, as usual, he did the opposite. He quickly grabbed the dove, but the only way out was through the door she was getting closer to. He had to hide—or at least hide the bird before she yelled at him over two things.

Gob threw the bird under the piano and then, in a panic, climbed under himself right before Lucille entered the room.

From under the piano, Gob could see her legs and the nice shoes she was wearing, but that was about it. “Gob?” Lucille asked, sounding a bit confused. He said nothing. And for a few seconds, he thought he was in the clear, but then she said, “Gob, come back up from under there.”

“Gob’s not here!” he tried since, again, he was four. Surely that would convince her, right?

Gob,” she said in her warning tone. Gob knew she had gotten him and, with a sigh, he crawled back out from under the piano and stood up with the dove in his hand. He lowered his head and prepared himself for whatever punishment he was going to get—why was he the only one who got punished? It really wasn’t fair.

“Show me what you were playing,” Lucille said.

Gob lifted his head. She wasn’t yelling or anything, and she didn’t even sound angry. He looked at her and must have seemed confused since she repeated, “Show me what you were playing. On the piano.” Lucille moved out of the way and lightly pat the bench.

Figuring it was better to not disobey her again, he sat down on the bench. “Uh…” Oh, right, it had been at the S. Gob moved his pointer finger there, and then he moved his middle finger to the other key he had been on and then pressed down.

“Just what I thought,” Lucille said, “Your fingering’s all wrong.” He didn’t know what that meant, but it probably wasn’t good. Before he could put his hand back on his lap, his mom sat down next to him. “Let me show you.”

Lucille took his right hand and moved it into a correct position, putting his thumb on the first note, his index finger on the white key above it, and continuing in that fashion with the rest of his fingers. She adjusted his hand so he rounded his fingers more while keeping his thumb straight. “Now try,” Lucille said.

Gob did what he was told and pressed down his thumb and middle finger at the same time. It did feel a bit better. “Now try it with your pinky, too,” Lucille said. When Gob did that, he looked back up at his mom and, much to the four-year old’s surprise, she was smiling at him. “If you play it all like that, it’s a chord. That one’s major—G major.”

“Like Gob!” he said excitedly, since he could recognize that letter. He didn’t know piano buttons had letters, too. “Is the whole alphabet on here?”

For the next hour, Lucille explained the most basic fundamentals about music and piano. He learned that the buttons were called keys, how they only used the letters A through G (G like Gob!), how there were major and minor scales and chords (minor sounded sad, but major was happy), what scales and chords were…And for that whole hour, Gob was still, did what his mother asked, and ready to learn more.

That night at dinner, Lucille announced that she was going to get Gob a piano teacher. Gob’s dad looked less than impressed at the idea, but he knew better than to argue with his wife. Gob just smiled and kicked his legs happily while Lucille studied him over her glass of wine. Maybe there was some hope for him yet.

Of course, that hope was soon dashed as he and Lindsay got into a fight because she found out he was the one who stole her stuffed animal. The fight turned into screaming and pushing and Gob was sent to his room earlier than usual and he stomped his way up the stairs and slammed his door dramatically. But if Lucille could get him to just sit down at the piano a bit more, at least it would be time out of her day she didn’t have to spend getting him to behave. And that would really be a miracle.

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"Bittendes Kind (Pleading Child)", Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood)

It had taken a while for Lucille to find a teacher for him since he had been so young at the time, but eventually a sweet, young graduate student, Nancy Griffin, offered to meet with him for a trial lesson. Gob, despite having stained his shirt with juice right before the lesson started, had managed to win her over. It was probably a combination of Gob’s cute smile, his eagerness to learn, and Lucille’s rather large check. Regardless, Miss Griffin, as Gob called her, had been teaching Gob every week for half an hour since.

At first, he had been a bit disappointed since she made him learn all the technical things first, like good form and posture and scales. But when she promised they could start learning songs once those were mastered, Gob quickly got into the spirit. He practiced and practiced and practiced, often for hours throughout the day. It was odd to watch this hyperactive kid suddenly focused on something besides chaos. He’d be running around one minute, and then he’d suddenly get inspired, sit at the piano, and practice his scales and arpeggios, quickly getting the hang of it and starting to understand how each note sounded. Each key, each scale, each chord had a different feeling that rang through in his body, a way for him to recognize what note he was playing. It was hypnotizing in a way he couldn’t explain. He just didn’t have the right words for it yet. He was learning to read and learning new words all the time, but so far, none of them were special enough for music.

There were other great parts about playing piano, though, things that had nothing to do with the sounds it made. One of the best parts was that it seemed to be the only time he wasn’t getting yelled at. It wasn’t like he didn’t deserve it most of the time; Gob naturally was a troublemaker who wanted to find out if his sister’s Barbie’s hair would grow back if he cut it. He didn’t really get how he was supposed to calm down his impulsive nature; how was he supposed to resist destroying Michael’s Lego buildings? It wasn’t like he wanted to make his brother cry, but it was too tempting to stop himself from knocking over a Lego building or two.

But when Gob was at the piano, everything else seemed to disappear. There were times when he’d get so wrapped up in just trying a new piece that he wouldn’t realize he was being called to dinner until someone was forced to come get him.

His siblings, particularly Michael, loved when he played, too. Michael—who just seemed to take so much longer than Lindsay to grow up—would sometimes wobble into the room when he was a toddler. He’d sit down and watch his older brother play for long stretches of time. One time, when Michael was three, Gob sat him down next to him on the piano bench and tried to teach Michael like their mom had done years ago.

He told him the letters that were on the piano, the ones he finally learned, spelled Steinway and Sons. It wasn’t the piano’s name, but the name of the people who made the piano. Michael had nodded like he understood. Gob explained the keys and how they each had a letter. There was no “M” for “Michael” and “B” for “Bluth” was a bit more complicated of a chord to play, so he started Michael on C. But Michael just didn’t get how to work his fingers like that and kept hitting the piano with his flat palm and it hurt Gob’s ears too much and he just couldn’t handle it and he ended up pushing Michael off the bench and made Michael cry. Again.

It was totally unfair that he got sent to his room for that.

School, Gob decided, was not for him. At least first grade wasn’t. There were parts of it that were okay; he liked getting to talk to kids his age instead of being stuck with the twins and his baby brother, and recess and lunch were pretty cool. Besides that, school kinda sucked.

Gob didn’t like to write or read that much. He didn’t care about math. And ever since he wrote his name in paint on the walls in art class, he wasn’t allowed to do anything but sketch in a note pad while the other kids got to use water colors and clay.

But that particular day had just been bad. Gob had honestly looked forward to finally doing music classes at school. In kindergarten, since they only met for a half day, they didn’t get to study music at all. He was sure that, for once, he’d actually be good at something they did in class. He’d possibly be better than other people.

And maybe he would’ve enjoyed it if the class wasn’t so boring.

Apparently, most of the kids had never even seen sheet music before. A lot of them were excited when they were handed the book of songs they were going to sing in class. They found it cool that they got to sing. Some of the guys looked as bored as Gob felt, but he soon realized it was because they just didn’t care about the class, not because they were already more advanced than their classmates. God, how did the smart kids do it? Sometimes the world seemed to move so slow to him, but it had never been this bad.

The music class turned out to be the longest forty-five minutes of his life. He wanted to believe it would get better, but he doubted it would.

When Gob got home that afternoon, his new baby brother, Byron, was taking a nap, so he wasn’t allowed to play piano. It didn’t help his mood. But, instead of throwing a fit, Gob sighed, grabbed an apple for a snack, and went to the living room. He took a pillow off the couch and then crawled under the piano, his favorite hiding place. While under there, Gob put his head on the pillow and ate his apple as he stared up at the instrument above him. Someday he’d be able to play the piano whenever he wanted. Someday he’d be able to play all the songs he wanted without having to deal with younger kids holding him back. Someday, maybe, there’d be a way for him to play instead of going to reading and math and Spanish classes.

Gob took a bite of his apple and waited to hear the sound of Byron waking up so he could play. Until then, Gob imagined a school where he could just make music all day. It was a pretty neat idea; he’d get good grades if there was a school like that.

Eventually the twins were allowed to take lessons along with Gob. Miss Griffin would come over for an hour and a half every Sunday and spend half an hour each with each of the Bluth children. Well, not counting little baby Byron, now called Buster, of course, but that was different. Anyways, the two who weren’t having the lesson would normally sit on the couch and watch the other one. Gob loved it. He always loved having an audience and to have all eyes on him. But sometimes watching his younger siblings struggle was kind of painful.

“That was…very good, Michael,” Miss Griffin said, her smile a bit strained. “Let’s try F Major again, just…a bit smoother. Let’s try the right hand alone this time.”

Gob grimaced as his younger brother repeated the scale. While he was hitting every note correctly, he could practically hear his brother think through the proper fingering, all mechanical like some sort of computer. Or a robot. Gob looked over at Lindsay to see if she could tell how painful it was, but she was too busy looking for split ends in her hair to apparently notice what was happening. How was she not cringing at that?

…1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4, 3 2 1 4 3 2 1…1 2 3 5 3 2 1…

Miss Griffin still smiled kindly before dismissing the six-year-old, telling him to focus on legato—playing it smoothly. Gob sat up a bit straighter as he realized it meant his lesson was next. Lindsay had already struggled through her half-hour lesson before Michael, and it was finally Gob’s turn to do something, something besides listening to his siblings stumble through things he had learned when he was younger than the both of them.

Gob went over to the piano and adjusted the bench to a more proper height for his longer legs. Even at the age of eight, Gob was taller than most people in his grade. “So, what have you been working on this week?” Miss Griffin asked, a bit of excitement clear in her tone. Miss Griffin was always excited to teach him. She was definitely more excited to teach him than either of the twins. It wasn’t clear if the twins noticed that or not, but Gob definitely did. It was the only time someone preferred him to any of his siblings, so it was hard to ignore.

Gob opened up his book to the proper page and started to play the simple setting of a lullaby. She had told him to pick any song in the book, and after playing through a couple of them, he decided he liked this one best. Gob had snuck down to play it and, before his mom could yell at him for playing while she was trying to get Buster to sleep, his two-year-old brother had fallen asleep in her arms.

His mom had never looked so grateful because of something he did.

Lindsay quit taking lessons after the first year. She said it was because it chipped her nails, but Gob was pretty sure she just didn’t like it. Either way, it was fine with Gob, because it meant he only had to sit through Michael’s half-hour lessons before he’d have his own.

Michael’s lessons, by the way, still weren’t going legato at all.

There was no doubt that Michael practiced. He practiced and practiced and practiced, sometimes as much as Gob did. Of course, the difference was that Gob just wanted to play and practice. Michael, on the other hand, had to practice that much just to barely get by.

He was methodical and worked over his fingerings on each piece of music he got, writing in some of them just to be safe. He stumbled through the melodies and really did try his best, until Gob kicked him off the piano so he could actually finally get a chance to practice. Michael would scowl at him, but he’d relent. Hearing Gob play was at least kind of nice, and even Gob managed to mess up a bit on the songs he was playing. The difference was that Gob was playing songs by actual composers with famous, fancy, foreign names. Clementi. Beethoven. Mozart. Still, it was nice hearing him struggle a little, since Gob never seemed to struggle over anything else.

Well, not when it came to the piano.

If Michael had been a bit older than the age of seven, he probably would’ve realized that this was a humbling experience for him. Ever since he was a kid, Michael had been better behaved than Gob, calmer than Gob, and probably smarter than Gob. He at least got better grades than Gob ever did. Gob was older, but he still looked to his little brother when he didn’t recognize a word in his schoolbooks. Michael could still walk by and see his brother working on math and correct him on a simple addition problem. Gob was more sociable and creative, but Michael was the one who George Sr. would try to explain mortgages to.

Gob would look at the two of them talking and the look of pride on their father’s face and feel some sort of emotion build up inside of him, a feeling he couldn't quite identify. Envy? Hungry? Both? Gob wasn’t sure, but he didn’t like it. He’d go to the living room, the piano’s room. George and Michael’s words would echo in his ears, and Gob would have no choice but to play and play and play until he drowned them out, until he couldn’t hear them anymore, until he couldn’t remember what had made him so upset. Sometimes it seemed like playing the music and letting it come out of his fingers was the only way to get bad thoughts from sticking in his head.

Michael wasn’t the only one who noticed how much better Gob was than him. It didn't take a genius to figure that out, so of course Gob knew it as well as he did. He definitely teased Michael for it, since that’s what older brothers did, and Michael hated it, because he really had no defense against it. It was true, and he couldn’t deny it.

Sometimes when Gob would practice, Michael would sit and watch him, much like he used to do as a toddler. Gob’s fingers moved so smoothly over the keys, and his whole body seemed to move with him, but not in a bad way. It was like everything was connected, everything flowed together, everything worked. He was obviously working hard, but he still looked so natural at it. It didn't make sense.

One day, Michael finally asked him, “How do you do that?”

Gob looked up at him and kept playing that “Für Elise” song he had just been assigned. “Do what?”

Michael, who was never lost for words, pursed his lips in thought. He didn't know how to put into words what he was asking. Finally, he said, “Play like that.”

Gob looked back at his sheet music for a moment and then shrugged. He played the final chord and let it spin for a moment before pulling his hands off the piano and taking his foot off the pedal - he had just started working with the pedal and was experimenting with it a lot. “I don’t know. I just do what Miss Griffin says and I practice. Then I just…play it,” Gob said simply. Michael could tell he wasn’t trying to be mean or taunt him or anything, he just didn’t know how he did it.

And it totally wasn’t fair that he could work so hard and still not be good at something that his brother managed so easily.

It didn’t take many more lessons after that for Michael to reach his breaking point. He was trying to play some simple song, a piece that he knew Gob had played before. Gob was doodling in his music book and trying not to cringe as his brother attempted to go through the piece in his lesson, but he seemed to have to stop every time he changed chords. He just didn’t trust himself to play the right notes he had practiced or something. Or maybe he was too worried about playing it perfectly. Gob didn’t know what his deal was, just that Michael really wasn’t good at this stuff.

Miss Griffin finally felt like she had to do what she had been avoiding doing since day one. “That was great, Michael,” she said as kindly as possible. “Just…Gob, can you come over here, please?”

Gob looked up and, as usual, did what she asked. She was the only person Gob seemed to listen to about, well, anything.

“Gob, why don’t you show Michael how it’s done? Then, Michael, you can try to imitate it,” Miss Griffin suggested with a smile on her face.

For whatever reason, that finally set Michael off.

“I’m out of here,” Michael said. “I quit, I quit—I’m done with these lessons.” He stood up and walked out, leaving a confused Miss Griffin and a slightly amused Gob.

They both were silent for a minute before Miss Griffin looked at her watch. They had barely made it five minutes into Michael’s lesson time, and Lucille had already paid her for both lessons…

“Well…maybe we can see if you like having an hour lesson,” Miss Griffin suggested.

Gob smiled and adjusted the bench as he told her he was memorized on the Schumann piece already. He started to play it and his teacher watched with a smile. She had a feeling they'd be doing hour long lessons from then on out. 

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Prelude et Nocturne pour la main gauche seule (Prelude and Nocturne for the Left Hand) 

The Bluth family’s yard was small and kind of pointless. That had been part of Lucille’s wants, anyways. She wanted to avoid dirt getting into the house and having such a boring backyard definitely helped with that. There were a couple of small, skinny trees, strong enough the smaller kids could hang off of them, but too weak to put treehouses in or anything. Besides that, it was just some grass and a tall, wooden fence around the whole thing.

Still, sometimes the family, or at least the kids, would sit outside on the patio furniture. Lindsay was often found sunbathing in her swimsuit (though she’d eventually put on a T-shirt after her mom’s words started to echo in her head) and Buster, after being covered in layers of sunscreen, liked to read out in the sunlight. Michael would come out every once in a while, when he wasn’t too busy with the banana stand or reading some book and wanting “no distractions”.

Gob, like Lindsay, took whatever chance he could to sit outside. During the summer months, if Gob wasn’t practicing, he was often sitting outside and soaking up all the sun’s rays. He always got more freckles he when he stayed outside too long, and he really hated those freckles, but he wasn’t ready to give up his time in the sun, either. The sun made him feel good, and not just in, like, a warm way. Plus, he hoped one day he could tan like Lindsay did; how she managed to tan so evenly while all her brothers just got freckles and burns was beyond him. Maybe it was a girl thing? Whatever.

One summer day, everyone was outside, barring Michael and George. Gob was just sitting on the grass in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, laying back on his forearms with his eyes closed. He’d probably go back inside soon enough to practice for as long as he could.

That was something Gob loved about summer. He didn’t have a job (his dad would never let him run the banana stand or, you know, have any responsibilities whatsoever, and he didn’t really mind), and since he had no school, all he had to do was sit in the sun and practice piano whenever he wanted. Sometimes he’d go to the beach or hang out with some friends or whatever, but he spent most of his days getting covered with freckles and playing études. He had a competition coming up that he had been practicing for, but he felt pretty confident about his abilities. After all, it was for the State Solo and Ensemble Festival, and he already passed through the district round.

The District Solo and Ensemble Festival had been fun, but also kind of awful, too. In an effort to look supportive, without necessarily actually being supportive, the whole family was forced to come, even his father and Michael. Michael, though he hadn’t played piano in almost five years, still seemed to be bitter about his lack of ability—either that or he just thought it was a pointless hobby. Whichever the answer was, he had made a few cracks over it with their dad. Gob had gotten used to his dad’s lack of enthusiasm about Gob’s playing, but it hurt seeing his brother rolling his eyes at him. It also sucked that he had to go by “George” at the competition to be “professional”, since he hated his name, but that was a story for another time.

Anyways, once the state competition was over, Gob was going to start working on some Bach, which was awesome, since his fugues were intense. He had already looked over a few of his pieces in preparation. Then he was going to start high school that fall and…god, he was just so excited for the next few months.

That obviously meant something had to ruin those plans.

So, the thing was, Michael and Gob didn’t always get along. They loved each other deep down, of course; that’s what brothers did. But there was definitely a lot of animosity and jealousy between the two of them. Their father easily pitted them against each other whenever he wanted to be entertained, or sometimes to “teach them a lesson” or something, but he was only able to do that because they were able to fall for it in the first place.

George Sr., who was always willing to do something to make a buck, had been eying the home video market. Figuring he could make some money off of videos of his older boys’ fighting—he found their fights entertaining, so maybe strangers would, too—George promised to grab his camera every time he felt a fight brewing between the two of them. And if he had to egg them on a little…well, what harm would it really do?

Ironically, his luck seemed to kick in when Michael lost his good luck charm. Michael had just finished reading a book when he noticed it was missing. He looked all around his room for it and still couldn’t find the little rabbit’s foot he had for years. He asked his father if he had seen it, and George, sensing a way to get a boyfight going, said, “No, not since Gob had it.”

“What?” Michael asked, his eyes narrowing.

“Yeah, Gob had it at that…that piano thing. The competition. I figured you gave it to him for good luck,” George said with a shrug. “It served him well, I guess. He probably wants to keep it for that next round he keeps talking about.” Michael’s mouth opened a little in shock and George said, “I guess you should talk to your brother…” He clapped his son on the shoulder sympathetically and said, “Let me get my camera.”

George quickly grabbed his camera from his office, but Michael didn’t wait for him. Michael turned around and ran out of the house, glaring even more as he saw Gob just sitting there in the sunlight. He wasn’t even doing anything!

“Gob, where is it?” Michael asked, standing right next to him. With Gob sitting on the grass, it meant Michael was, for once, towering over him.

Gob looked at him with confusion, squinting a little because of the sun. “What?”

“Where is it?” Michael repeated.

“Where’s what?”

Michael scoffed. “Don’t play dumb with me. Where’s my lucky rabbit’s foot?”

Gob rolled his eyes and stood up. Michael, who was normally so calm and logical, was so weird about his good luck charms. It was weird, since he was the one who had to tell Gob that Santa wasn’t real, yet he still seemed to believe some 99-cent fake rabbit’s foot would grant him good luck. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Gob answered, wiping his hands on his backside to knock off any grass that was left on his shorts.

“God, can’t you guys go fight somewhere else?” Lindsay asked, used to but annoyed by the common occurrence. “Some of us are trying to relax.”

Some of us have relaxed a bit too much,” Lucille noted with a pointed look at Lindsay’s stomach, making Lindsay cross her arms.

Just then, their father came out with the camera. Both Michael and Gob hadn’t realized what his purpose was with those videos yet, so they just ignored him as they carried on, moving a bit farther from the rest of their family as per Lindsay’s request.

“Like I said, I didn’t take your dumb stuffed foot. I don’t know why you think I would—”

“Because you always take my things! Everyone knows that!” Michael said.

“I told you I didn’t take it!” Gob said, starting to actually get a bit angry.

“You’re lying! I know you are!”

“He’s calling you a liar,” George said from behind the camera as Gob looked his way.

Gob looked back at his brother. “I didn’t steal your stuff, Michael,” Gob said aggressively. “Why would I even want it?”

“You probably wanted it for your dumb piano thing—”

“It’s not dumb. Just because you suck at piano doesn’t mean it’s dumb!”

Their dad didn’t need to provoke them anymore after that. Michael launched himself at Gob and the two of them started to push each other around. There wasn’t really much finesse or form to their moves, but there was definitely a lot of anger, even more so than their past fights, much to George’s pleasure. Their father kept following them as they ran around, practically seeing dollar bills fall in front of him.

Michael eventually climbed up into one of the trees, but Gob grabbed him and got him in a chokehold. Michael did his best to break out of it as he had his feet on the trunk and held on to two of the small, skinny branches. While the branches used to hold his weight well enough, he had grown a few inches and was getting too old to hang off of them. There was a snapping sound from the small branches as Gob tried to pull Michael back down, and soon the two boys were falling down and another snapping sound came out, this one ringing louder in Gob’s ears.

Gob cried out in pain and Michael jumped at the sound. In all their fights, neither of them had ever actually hurt the other enough to make that kind of sound. Michael quickly got off of him and got on his knees with his arms up, just in case he had to defend himself again. Maybe Gob was just trying to trick him?

But, no, he definitely wasn’t. Gob slowly sat up with his left hand holding onto his right wrist. He tried moving his fingers and winced loudly, closing his eyes at the pain. Michael could see his wrist had already started to swell and seemed to be folded at an unnatural angle. Oh god, did he—did he do that?

“He’s fine, he’s fine,” George tried to say, but the rest of the family was coming over to see what happened. “It’s just a small bruise.”

“There was a crack,” Gob said, feeling a bit nauseous. “I heard it, I…”

Michael’s face paled. “What happened?” Lucille asked.

“I was trying to catch myself, and Michael…” Gob brought his good hand to his mouth, afraid he was going to be sick as the pain started to really hit him.

“I…the branches—I fell and landed on his wrist—The branches gave out, I…” Michael looked at his mother and then back at his older brother. “I didn’t mean to, I—” Michael reached forward to try to see Gob’s wrist, as if he could somehow help, but Gob jerked out of his way as he glared at his brother.

“Don’t touch me!”

With some help from Lindsay and not Michael, since Gob would not let him help, Gob managed to get on his two feet. He still felt like throwing up but somehow stopped himself as his mom gave him some ice for his wrist, ice he knew she’d normally be putting in a drink at that moment. It was almost kind of nice of her in her weird way. After some debate over who was going to do what, Lucille shoved Gob into the car and drove him to the ER. Her driving did not help his nausea. At all. He may or may not have ended up throwing up once she parked, much to Lucille’s disgust.

A few hours and an X-ray later, Gob was put into a cast for his broken wrist. “But I have a piano competition, state finals—it’s next week,” Gob stuttered out when the doctor told him the news.

His doctor frowned. “I’m sorry, kid, but unless there’s a song you can play with just your left hand, it’s not going to happen. You’re going to be in a cast for at least a month. And then it’s going to take physical therapy to get it back to its full strength.”

Gob fell silent and stayed that way as his mom drove him home, muttering to herself about what she was going to do to George when she got home. Gob just stared out the window without really looking at what was happening or even hearing what his mom was saying. The doctor had given him a pain pill, which was making everything a bit woozy and made his mouth taste funny. He just wanted to sleep for the rest of the day, even though the sun was still high in the sky, and he couldn’t tell if that was because of the medicine or because of why he needed the medicine. He didn’t really care what the answer was.

When he got home, he started heading upstairs right away, ignoring his parents’ fighting. Or trying to, at least.

“Don’t you ever try to make those Boyfights things again!” Lucille told her husband, her voice hissing. “Now he can’t even play piano and that’s the one thing he’s good at!” Gob stopped on the steps, not noticing that Michael was at the top of the stairs and had heard what their mother had said. His dad started to apologize and Gob’s left hand balled into a fist, his eyes unfocused as he looked towards the next step on the staircase. “And it could take months to get him to play again once he’s out of that cast! What are we supposed to do with him this summer?”

Gob unclenched his fist and looked back up at the top of the stairs, finally noticing Michael. They locked eyes for a moment before Gob just continued up the stairs, his shoulder hitting his brother’s as he walked past him and into his room, slamming it shut as Michael attempted to apologize. Michael sighed and sat down at the top of the steps, still able to hear his parents talking about Gob.

“You know, it figures it’d be him to break something. He’s so…artistic,” George muttered, that word dripping with a meaning Michael didn’t quite recognize. “Of course he’d be the one to have a limp wrist.”

The next few days, Gob tried half-heartedly to play through his scales and arpeggios, but the lack of actual music to play just depressed him. Gob also tried to practice the left hand of some of his pieces again, even some of the more involved ones, but it sounded nothing like actual music. It just sounded like stacked chords and arpeggiations…nothing real. That wasn’t something that would help distract him from the pressure building inside of him. Instead of spending hours in the sun and at the piano bench, Gob usually found himself turning up some tape on his boombox as loud as possible in his room and locking his door. At least Michael couldn’t try to talk to him when he did that. Gob still wasn’t ready to talk to his little brother, even if he knew he didn’t do it on purpose.

That Monday, during what was normally Gob’s lesson time, he heard the doorbell ring. He had assumed his mom would’ve called and told Miss Griffin about not being able to play, so he was confused. It couldn’t be her, right? Gob went to the door and opened it like usual, telling himself it had to be someone else, only to find his teacher there with a book of sheet music.

Miss Griffin looked over at the cast and, before Gob could say anything, she said, “Your mom told me about that, yes.” She walked into the living room and Gob followed her to the piano, frowning. Miss Griffin sat in the usual chair she used and Gob followed suit by sitting on the piano bench.

“Then why did you come?” Gob asked. He muttered, “I can’t play. Not anything real.”

Miss Griffin shook her head, and Gob finally noticed the sheet music was a book he’d never seen before. “You can’t play for the competition, true, but we always have next year,” she said. “And there are a lot of pieces for left hand only.” Before Gob could say anything in reply, she added, “Real pieces. By amazing composers.” Gob looked at her with apprehension, but she simply opened up to a page of complex music in two staves.

“I thought you’d like this one by Scriabin,” she said proudly. Gob looked at it blankly; it looked like a lot of other music he had seen before. Noticing his confusion, she said, “He wrote this after injuring his right hand from over-practicing. You play it all on left hand.”

Gob blinked a few times before finally realizing what she was saying. He felt a million things at once. He was confused, since how the fuck did you play that with one hand? He was amazed that pieces for just the left hand existed. But, most importantly, he felt a bit hopeful that maybe his summer wouldn’t be wasted after all.

“I’d normally never assign this to someone your age,” Miss Griffin said, hesitating a little. “It’s complex. But I never thought I’d teach a four-year-old, either, let alone for ten years.” Miss Griffin smiled warmly at him. “And I think your hands might be large enough to play some of the bigger intervals. It’s complex and will take a lot of work, but if you’re up for a summer project…”

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, Gob didn’t speak for a moment. Finally, he nodded in response, a true smile crossing his face for the first time in days.

Miss Griffin, of course, had turned out to be right about it being a very complex, difficult song. It wasn’t like Gob was so great that he could sight read every single piece he’d ever done, but this…this was something else. He hadn’t realized how dependent he had been on his right hand for creating the atmosphere of the piece. Between that and the large intervals that took a lot of accuracy and balancing all of that with more pedal than he usually worked with…it was a challenge.

But here was the thing: Gob didn’t do challenges. He did the bare minimum at best. He was a C student who skated by on copying answers and showing up to class enough times to pass. Gob wasn’t someone who actually worked on things once they turned into a real challenge. He had hard songs on the piano, of course he did, but being cut down to only one hand and having to make a whole piece work with just one…it was hard. And having to work on something that challenged him for the first time was scary.

One day, before anyone else was up, Gob snuck out of his room and went to the living room to sit at the piano. For years, the one thing that always made him feel better was when he got to play. Ever since he had first sat there at the tender age of four, Gob had been amazed by everything the piano gave him. He had his bad practice sessions and his shitty lessons, sure, but playing music, even scales, was all he needed to calm down the noise in his head.

Over the last few years, Gob had felt like there was a whole bunch of noise growing in his head. It was something he did his best to shut out, something he tried to let out through his fingers on the piano instead of letting it stay stuck inside his head. Sometimes it got so loud in there that he felt like he was going to explode, and now that he lacked a proper way to release it into the world, Gob wasn’t sure what he was going to do.

Gob put his left hand on the keys and started the Prelude—he hadn’t even started to look at the Nocturne part yet, that was how difficult the piece was—using the soft pedal to help keep the noise down. After making it through the first bars easily, the piece kept going and he started to stumble. He played a few wrong notes in a row and felt his chest start to tighten. He pulled his hand off of the piano and ran it through his hair as he tried to breathe, everything starting to build up in his head in a way he couldn’t drown out, definitely not with just one hand on the piano.

All of his thoughts hit him at full force. Even if he mastered this piece, what if his right wrist never healed? What if he could never play again? What if he lost his one purpose—not the purpose his parents had for him, but the purpose he had for himself? He didn’t have anything going for him besides piano, not really, and what was he supposed to do without it? But if he couldn’t play this piece, could he really be that good at piano at all? Had the whole past ten years just been a waste on something he was never good at? Was he really just not good at anything? Gob felt like he couldn’t breathe, like every thought was just hitting him hard in the head and the chest at the same time, and he sunk down to the floor as he struggled to get air inside his lungs.

Gob brought a hand to his mouth to try to muffle his gasps. God, he didn’t want to think about what his parents would say if they saw him like this. Buster had moments like these, Gob had seen them, but Buster was the baby and that behavior was allowed from a baby. Gob was the oldest and he had already been called dramatic so many times. He couldn’t let anyone see this. He couldn't let anyone know he was upset.

Doing what he always did when he needed to hide, Gob carefully made his way around the piano and slid under it. It was harder than usual since he couldn’t use one of his hands, but through a lot of determination, Gob managed to situate himself on the pillow he had bought to keep under there. He put his left hand between the pillow and his head and kept his injured right wrist on his chest as he stared up at the piano, the solid ground underneath him helping his breaths slow down. After some time, Gob was breathing normally and his eyes started to become unfocused as he kept looking up at the piano’s wood paneling.

It felt like days, but it really could’ve only been an hour at most, before he felt someone come join him, and his eyes slowly started to focus again. He didn’t look over since he already knew who it was; Michael was the only one who’d look for him if he went missing. It had been a couple of weeks since Gob had said more than a few passing words to his brother, so it was probably time for them to actually talk.

Michael was also blocking his escape route, so he was stuck anyways.

For a long time, both of them laid there in silence. Finally, Michael said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it…but I’m still sorry.”

Gob stayed silent for a while, trying to wrap his head around everything he needed to say. He eventually said, “I know.” He took a deep breath and continued, “I didn’t steal your rabbit’s foot.”

“I know,” Michael said quietly. He had no idea what had happened to it, but he knew his dad had been lying.

The two were silent for a little while again before Michael said, “You know…what mom said that day wasn’t true. You’re good at more than piano.”

Gob just snorted. “I don’t care about that,” he said, which, okay, was a lie. It sucked that his parents thought that about him, but that wasn’t really the bad part; he’d told himself worse things before. “I just wanted to play this summer. That state competition…I’ve never won anything…” Gob sighed and added, “Plus I was going to start some Bach. All his fugues and stuff. There are so many runs and voices going on, it’s so…cool.”

God, it was so crazy how everyone at school thought Gob was so cool, yet he was calling Bach "cool" and raving on about him, just like he had so many other times. He smiled a little at that, since his older brother being a bigger dork than him was funny, but then what Gob said really started to sink in. Gob didn’t want to play piano to impress their parents or anyone else. Gob just…liked it. Loved it, even. And their mom being impressed by it was just a nice side effect.

Well, yes, Michael always figured that Gob liked it, but something about it really just hit him that time. Part of him had always assumed it was kind of like how Michael was trying to learn about the family business from his dad, not necessarily because he really wanted to sell houses or anything. Their mom liked it and it was something "respectable", and Michael had mostly been playing himself as a kid for those same reasons. But Gob was actually good at something and loved doing it, and Michael had been such a jerk about it. He joked about it with his dad and acted like it wasn’t an important thing and made fun of his brother for having to go by “George” at that competition and all of that. God, how would he have felt if Gob had made fun of something he genuinely loved?

…Michael realized he may not have even had something he loved as much as Gob loved piano. And maybe that was the problem all along. But he also knew he couldn’t focus on that at the moment.

“I’m sorry,” Michael said, his words more genuine than ever. Gob just blinked a few times but didn’t acknowledge what his brother had said. “At least you have that left-hand piece for now. So you don't have to stop playing or anything.”

Gob blinked a few more times, his breathing a bit more ragged. “Yeah,” he said at first, pausing for a while again. “Yeah, but it’s hard. I don’t…I don’t know. I think I can learn it, I just…” Gob took a few more breaths, trying to control himself. Crying in front of his brother? Could there be anything more embarrassing?

“…What if my wrist never heals and I can never play again?” Gob finally whispered. It was the first time he had spoken that fear out loud.

Michael looked at his brother and frowned. “You’re going to be fine,” Michael said calmly, rationally, like he approached almost everything. It was something that always annoyed Gob; Michael was so serious and mature and didn’t seem to get worked up in a frenzy like he always did. It was honestly annoying at times, but Gob had needed someone to tell him that. “It’s going to take some time to get your strength back, but not that much.”

Gob nodded slowly and closed his eyes. He knew it was going to be work, but, well, for once he actually really wanted to do it. No offense to all the left-handed pieces, but he didn’t want to be limited to just them forever.

“And, hey, until then, I could be your right hand if you want,” Michael offered. He was mostly joking, of course. “I was always better at the right-hand parts.”

“Thanks, but you still kinda suck at piano,” Gob said, the corners of his lips twitching up a bit.

“Well, not everyone can be as artistic as you.” Gob stiffened a bit at the word, having heard that used disdainfully by both of his parents before. “I mean that in a good way,” Michael rushed out. “I know I’m not good at this stuff, but you are. Really good. And that’s awesome.” Gob relaxed again and then, with a bit of effort, finally smiled a little.

They stayed there for a while longer, only getting up when Gob’s stomach growled loudly. Michael helped his injured brother get out from under the piano and together they went to the kitchen to have some breakfast, Gob saying he was done with the piano for a day, apparently needing a breather. Michael doubted it but chose not to voice those doubts.

Sure enough, once they finished their cereal, Gob’s fingers started to move over the table as he looked out in front of him, his eyes focused on something Michael couldn’t see. It was a scene Michael had gotten used to over the years, since Gob did that pretty often. After a few moments, Gob suddenly blinked himself out of his daze and excused himself. Seconds later, Michael heard the opening measures of that piece Gob had been working on.

Then a not so usual addition happened to that scene. A few minutes later, Michael, with a new library book in hand, went into the living room and sat down on the living room couch. While Gob worked through the complicated rhythms that stretched his hand, Michael read and gave him silent company, which seemed to help motivate him.

Michael really didn't get why his dad had used the word "artistic" like that, like it was something dirty. As far as he could tell, at least now, having an artistic older brother was pretty cool.

Chapter Text

Orphée Suite: III. Journey to the Underworld

“How was the party last night?”

Gob, who had just finished practicing one of his newer pieces, lightly circled his wrists before he turned to face his brother. It had become a pretty common thing for Michael to do homework or read while Gob practiced, the two of them making some conversation whenever Gob paused for one reason or another. It was actually pretty nice. Sometimes Gob liked to be left alone to the music, and Michael could normally tell those times apart from the other ones. But sometimes it was nice to have someone there to talk to instead of being completely isolated from everyone.

It was especially nice since it had brought the two of them closer together over the past months. Gob knew it was lame to admit it, but he loved his brother, and having him around was just nice. He didn’t have much to offer Gob in terms of comments on his playing, but it was nice to have an audience every now and then.  

“It was cool,” Gob said with a shrug. He opened up his water bottle and took a long gulp from it. Wiping his mouth, he said, “Remember Meghan Chatswin?”

Michael sat up a bit straighter, “You mean Melissa Chatswin?”

“Oh, yeah, right, that was it. I knew it was Meghan or Melissa,” Gob said, shrugging it off. She was very popular, mostly because she was very pretty; he figured Michael would remember her. Gob had another gulp of water and then shrugged again. “Anyways, we hooked up last night,” he said nonchalantly.

Michael gaped at him. “What? No way!” As mature as Michael could be, he still wasn’t very mature when it came to things like this. He was always in awe of the fact that Gob could even just talk to girls, seeing as he could barely open his mouth around them. He was definitely less of an expert than Gob—not that Gob was really as much of an expert as he let on to the guys at school or to his younger brother.

“Just second base. No biggie,” Gob said. And it really wasn’t a “biggie”, and not just because she was only a B cup at best. Gob just didn’t get the big deal surrounding boobs. Kissing was nice enough, but he didn’t get why all the guys at school were obsessed with getting to second base with every girl possible.

See, Gob knew they were obsessed with it because they all talked about it. Constantly. All the popular guys talked about it constantly at least, and Gob knew that first hand.

Gob, despite how insecure he could feel, had an air of self-confidence and bravado around him. He was charming. He was funny. And, yeah, his smile was a little crooked, but it was cute. That combined with his parents’ money made him ridiculously popular early into his freshman year of high school. Gob was always willing to throw in some money for the post-football game parties, and the guys he gave money to would go off with their fake IDs to get some booze, and, in turn, they’d help him try to land a girl for the night, or at least give him some pointers. That’s what they thought was a fair trade off, not that Gob necessarily asked for it, but he figured it was nice of them. And kissing was fun, as it turned out. But, really, just getting the chance to sit with the guys at lunch and hang out with them and stuff was really all the payment he needed in return.

So, he heard all the guys talking about chicks, ranking who was hotter and who was sluttier and who was the best lay. He heard about the best kissers in every grade. He heard them talk about struggling to unhook bras for the first time, like their fingers weren't steady enough.

And that was just one struggle he didn’t understand. 

Gob spent a great chunk of the summer before his freshman year working on his fingers. He worked on his left-handed piece, which was a lot of work, and then he got his cast off his right wrist and had to build his strength back up on that hand. He spent a lot of time in physical therapy once his cast was off, and his physical therapist, Tyler, was really cool about making sure Gob could play piano as soon as Gob told him that was what he was most worried about.

Well, Tyler was also just cool about a lot of things—he kind of looked like he could be in Dynasty or something, he was that cool (and Gob had only seen Dynasty because of his mom, okay, it wasn't like he looked forward to watching it). He was always asking Gob about his day and actually listened when he talked about musicians and composers, since Gob had been reading actual books on them. Michael had taken him to the library a few times, which was a bit confusing, since Gob had thought libraries only existed in school, and Michael encouraged him to check out biographies and stuff. Tyler seemed to like listening to Gob go on about how Robert Schumann went insane from syphilis. He seemed to like it more than Michael, who got annoyed after the eighteenth fun fact Gob told him about Brahms' possible relationship with Clara Schumann. But Tyler was just cool like that. 

But, no, okay, Tyler wasn’t the point. Who even brought him up? Tyler was just a cool dude who helped Gob get used to using his right hand again. And, yeah, Gob hugged him at his last session because he had gotten emotional, but he had seriously been afraid he was never going to play piano again, and then Tyler, like, fixed his fingers.

Yes, that was the point. His fingers. Gob worked a lot on his fingers and, even before that summer, Gob considered himself to have pretty nimble fingers due to years of piano playing. He had even learned a small sleight of hand trick once, an illusion where he could pretend to pull a quarter from behind someone’s ear. So, yes, Gob was good with his fingers.

So, maybe that was why he didn’t get why every guy struggled so much with unhooking bras. When he first encountered one with Meghan—Melissa—it didn’t seem too difficult to undo. Maybe it was just because her bra was smaller or something compared to older girls.

Then again, the other guys seemed to enjoy kissing more, too. And Gob liked it, honestly. It was fun. Lots of fun. But how the other guys talked about it, they sounded so much more into it than he was. Maybe it was just the alcohol making them sound like that.

Maybe Gob just had to start drinking more to enjoy things. He'd have to try that out next time.

It turned out that those parties did become more fun the more Gob drank. It was just too bad drinking wasn't really something he could do on dates.

Gob had tried with that Melissa girl. They got along alright, she wasn't completely boring, and she even sang in choir, so she kind of got Gob's love of all kinds of music. They were even the freshman representatives at Homecoming. But every time they did anything more than just hangout, Gob just...he wasn't really into it. Kissing was fun, but every time she tried to push him farther, he lost interest. Well, except for that one time she managed to jerk him off after Homecoming. That was fun. Everything else, from second base to her trying to get him to use those amazing fingers of his on her just didn't do it for him. 

Maybe she just wasn't sexy. She was blonde and pretty, Gob knew that, but she just didn't get him going. That obviously had to be a her-problem. It had to be a her-problem, or else it would mean he was messed up or something, which he wasn't. It was definitely a her-problem. 

"Melissa called while you were practicing," Lindsay said one day at dinner.

Gob made a face. Thank god they had all seemed to agree it was best not to interrupt him when he was working on music. "What did she want?"

"She just wants you to call her back. She left her number, and I quote, 'in case you forgot it'." Gob rolled his eyes. And people called him dramatic. Lindsay shook her head, "Look, just end it with her now before she gets even more clingy and you look like an even bigger jerk than you are."

"I'm not a jerk just because I'm not interested in her," Gob said. Unnoticed by their children, George raised his eyebrows at Lucille, and Lucille just pursed her lips in response.

"So you're just going to hit it and quit it on her?" Lindsay asked bluntly.

Buster winced, Michael's eyes widened, and Gob nearly dropped his fork. Did she really think that they had actually, like, had sex? Really? He almost corrected her right then, but then he saw his dad looking at him in a way he had never looked at him before. It was a good look, which was why it was so strange seeing it from him. Gob kind of liked it. 

Drawing himself up taller in his chair, Gob said, "No reason to get tied down my freshman year." He lightly his his dad on his arm and asked, "Right, Dad?"

George started to agree with him when Lucille gave him a look. He quickly cleared his throat and mumbled something about how he needed to break up with her gently. 

Later, however, his dad stopped by his bedroom and told Gob how proud he was of him. "You're turning into a heartbreaker just like your dad, eh?" Gob laughed and accepted the supposed compliment. If it mean his dad was actually proud about him for something, Gob was more than willing to lie about his virginity.

It turned out alcohol made all kinds of parties a lot more fun, and not just the high school ones. Gob found that out when he stole some peppermint schnapps from one of the high school parties—could you really call it stealing when he had provided the money for it?—and spiked his hot chocolate at the Bluth Company Christmas Party.

Gob always hated the Bluth Company gatherings. Michael was well known around the office, even though he was younger. Michael was already on course for taking over the company one day, and, okay, Gob didn’t really want to take it over one day, not really, but being asked would’ve been nice. Being considered would’ve been nice. The position seemed to pass over him before he even knew what his real name was. Like…come on. As much as he loved Michael and was glad people at the company already knew and liked him, it was embarrassing not having any recognition when he was the older one. And what was he even supposed to do with his life if he didn’t have the company to inherit?

But the alcohol was making it a bit easier. It was easier to just be proud of his brother as their dad introduced them to his workers when he had a slight buzz going. He wasn’t drunk, mind you—he was a Bluth and, no matter how young he was, it was going to take a lot to get him truly drunk—but he was pretty pleasantly buzzed as he drank his spiked hot chocolate. Gob sat in a spinning chair near a corner, Buster standing next to him as he attempted to hide from all the strangers in the crowd. Gob saw Lindsay trying to flirt with some kid who also happened to be there—he needed to put a stop to that like big brothers did, right? He turned to Buster to see what he thought, but Buster seemed to have disappeared. He did that. A lot.

Before Gob could even try to find him, his mom was swooping down on him. And maybe he had more alcohol than he thought, because he really didn’t understand what was happening, but he was being pushed out of his chair and Lucille was muttering something. Gob couldn’t really follow what she was saying, but maybe she found out about his drink and now he was in trouble which wouldn’t be fair since it wasn’t like she could give any speech about how drinking was wrong or whatever since it was her favorite pastime. But before he could voice that thought, she was sitting him back down and he was at some electric keyboard with a small, plastic jar on it and he looked up at her with confusion.

“What?” Gob asked.

Lucille sighed. “Honestly, you’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached to your abnormally long neck.” Gob brought a hand to his neck self-consciously; was it that bad? Realizing he was zoning out again, he snapped back to look at his mom. Okay, so, she was saying there was some pianist they hired to play who either wasn’t there yet or wasn’t coming or something, and she needed him to provide some music. Oh. Yeah, that made sense. He had wondered why the party was so much quieter than usual.

“Okay,” Gob said. “…What should I play?”

“Just play some background music or something,” Lucille said. “Don’t embarrass me.”

Gob almost wanted to embarrass her just because she said that, but he figured it would end up embarrassing him, too, and that wasn’t fun. So, instead, he closed his eyes, centered himself, and then opened his eyes as he put his hands on the keys. Gob wasn’t used to a keyboard versus a piano, so it took a little bit to get into the Chopin he was playing—it was one he knew he could play completely from memory no matter how much alcohol he had—but he started to get the hang of it soon enough.

Gob continued to play some pieces as the party went on, his spiked hot chocolate getting cold as it laid untouched. However, he had still had enough alcohol in his system that he felt a bit daring. Then again, he was Gob, so he was normally pretty reckless without alcohol being involved anyways. So, in between some classical pieces he had practiced for hours and could play more or less flawlessly, Gob tried out a few songs by ear.

Really, they were nothing fancy, just some Christmas standards he figured people would want to hear. It wasn’t really a big deal, since most of those songs had the same progressions that pretty much every song in the world had, and once he got started on the right pitch, playing the melody was pretty simple as well. Not all of them were perfect at first by any means, but he was pretty proud of himself.

He was even more proud of himself when he looked up and noticed that the small jar wasn’t empty anymore—there was money in it. Gob’s mouth opened a little and he looked at the jar; there was a small label that said “tips” on it. Those were tips. For him. For playing piano.

Gob knew people made money from playing piano. He had always known that had been a thing, and sometimes he thought about, you know, what if he could do it? But to actually do it, to have his first paying job being playing piano…god. Gob hadn’t really thought it would be possible to pursue piano as a paying job. He figured his dad would be against it for being artistic, whatever problem his dad had with that, or something would stop him in some way or another. Gob hadn’t been sure this was something that could actually make him money.

Could he really do this sort of thing? Make a living out of something he loved?

Gob laughed quietly to himself and put the jar back down to get back to playing. If he could make money off of a tipsy performance at his dad’s office, maybe he really could make it as a professional.

And when he heard some of his dad’s employees tell his parents that they had a talented son, well, that was almost as great as the thirty bucks he had in his pocket.

“No, no, no—no drinks on her, no!” Gob rushed out. As the gaggle of girls stared at him, Gob quickly used his napkin to clean up the small rings the red solo cups had left on his piano.

That had been his only concern with throwing a party while his parents were away. Gob could easily hire someone to help clean up any huge messes, but people were going to get into the living room and possibly trash his baby. Despite the fact that his parents finally put a door on the living room to help reduce the noise of Gob’s practicing, despite the fact he put up signs, despite the fact that there were plenty of other open rooms, he was sure people were going to keep sneaking inside for no reason. He hadn’t been able to enjoy the party all night since he kept checking back in to make sure no one had spilled anything on her.

“Why are you even in here?” Gob asked loudly, trying to make it sound like a joke instead of showing how angry he was. “The fun’s out there, come on,” Gob said, flashing his charming smile and escorting the girls back out to the hallway, where the stereo was so loud it was nearly deafening.

Once they were out, Gob immediately closed the door and went back to the piano just to make sure no damage had been done. Damn it. He had even tried putting Buster in charge of keeping people out, but he had, of course, seemed to disappear. Lindsay definitely was no help, either, seeing as she was trying to flirt with all his friends—not that she was getting far, since Gob had told all of them that she was off limits if they ever wanted him to help buy booze for another party. Michael, of course, was so against the party that he was never going to help in any way.

“It’s a beautiful piano.”

Gob turned around suddenly, only just then remembering that, oh yeah, he had brought a girl in with him. She was a bit older and was about to be a senior to Gob’s soon-to-be-sophomore status, and, apparently, she was really into him, since she kept flirting and twirling her hair and all of that shit. Kaleigh? Katie? Kacey? Stacey? …Yeah, that sounded right. Stacey.

“Yeah. She’s a beaut, isn’t she?” Gob said proudly, running a hand over her.

“Mhmm,” Stacey said, walking over to his side. “Do you play?”

“Yeah. Almost twelve years now,” Gob said proudly as he sat at the bench.

Stacey sat down next to him. “Could you play something for me?” She batted her eyelashes and Gob, always a fan of an audience, grinned.

“Sure. What do you wanna hear?”

“Whatever you wanna play,” she said back.

Gob had put his sheet music away safely for the night, so he’d have to play something from memory. At first, he thought he could do some Liszt—there was some sexy stuff in there, and it was super flashy—but then he figured that probably would seem really lame to, well, all of the guests. Gob shook out his fingers and then gently placed them on the piano and started the intro to one of his favorite rock songs, one that he loved so much he used part of his thirty bucks from the Bluth Company Christmas party to buy the sheet music for to learn properly. Stacey squealed in delight, and he grinned; it was obviously a good choice on his part.

She got even more excited as Gob started to sing as he kept playing; that was something he’d been working on a little himself. Yeah, Liszt was the rockstar of his time (as he had told Tyler repeatedly during physical therapy), but Gob wouldn't mind knowing how to be a rockstar of his time, too. He liked all kinds of music, after all.

The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves…" Gob sang softly in his voice that had just finally changed. "Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays Roy Orbison singing for the lonely. Hey, that’s me, and I want you only—don’t turn me home again, I just can’t face myself alone again…

He continued playing and singing until the final line, “So Mary, climb in...It’s a town full of losers, I’m pulling out of here to win…” Gob then simply wrapped it up with a simple cadence and a rolling chord for some flourish instead of trying to play the instrumental postlude. It was only then that he realized he should’ve tried to fit her name in the song instead of keeping it as "Mary". That would’ve been smooth and definitely would've gotten her going—

Suddenly Stacey was kissing him hard, and Gob froze for a moment, his eyes wide, before he started to kiss her back. Damn, she really loved it. Maybe her name was actually Mary?

“Do you have a bedroom?” Stacey/Mary asked when she pulled away, her lip gloss smeared on her chin and her breaths coming out as pants.

“Well, it’s my house, so yeah,” Gob said, not getting what was happening right away.

She raised her eyebrows at Gob. “Can I see it?” Mary/Stacey asked.

Gob’s eyes widened again for a moment before he went back to his flirty grin. “Yeah, yeah…yeah, let me show you,” he said. He took her hand and led her out of the room, turning off the lights and firmly closing the door behind him. On his way to his room, he saw Michael and he quickly shoved the girl into his room and then grabbed his brother by the shoulders.

“Watch the piano,” Gob told him quickly. “Please, please, please – I’ll pay you!” Gob spun Michael around and pushed him towards the direction of the stairs. Michael hadn’t even had time to open his mouth to protest before Gob had closed the door to his room.

Stacey (he was pretty sure it was Stacey and she just liked the song) looked around his room for a moment before going back over to him. “Musicians are so hot,” she purred. She took one of his hands and murmured, “You have such talented fingers, don’t you? And nice hands…”

Gob shrugged with a small grin. “They say you need big hands to play Liszt.”

“And you know what they say about big hands,” she giggled.

Despite having only a few sips of alcohol in his system, Gob could barely follow what happened next. One minute she was sucking at his fingers (he was pretty sure that was supposed to be hot, but she was really sloppy), then the next thing Gob knew, she was pushing him onto the bed. Clothes came off quickly after that, and Gob reached into his bedside drawer to pull out the box of condoms he had proudly bought at the drugstore almost a year ago. Could condoms expire? He didn't think so...He was brought back to reality as Stacey rolled one onto him with practiced ease. Then she brought his fingers in between her legs and guided him through some rubs and thrusts, since he barely seemed able to move anymore, and then she climbed on top of him. Gob tried to concentrate on how it felt, tried to memorize the experience his family thought he had already had, but he was too stunned to really understand or process any of it and, before he knew it, he had apparently become a man as he came with a long, low groan.

Thankfully she wasn’t really interested in staying to cuddle or anything; Gob wasn’t even sure if she came, but he couldn’t really bring himself to ask as his thoughts raced a million miles a second. She just got off of him and got back into her short-shorts and low-cut top before leaning down to kiss his cheek and then Gob was alone again.

Gob slowly sat up and tried to breathe, but his heart was pumping fast and his brain wouldn’t stop screaming at him, and he felt like…he felt like crying. Why did he feel like that? Was he just overwhelmed from the new experience? Shouldn’t he have felt proud and accomplished and…and good? Why couldn’t he just have a normal response? There was no way this was normal, was it? Everyone else always looked so smug and content afterwards; why didn’t he feel that way?

Gob ran his hands through his hair and swallowed as he tried to get himself to breathe, breathe properly, at least, not like how he was breathing at the moment, all fast and jittery. This is a good thing. You had sex. You did something right. As he kept repeating those thoughts, the bass of the rock song they were pumping out on the speakers downstairs started to reach his ears again. After a few more minutes, he finally trashed the condom and got back into his clothes. With a splash of water on his face, he went back downstairs to continue the party he had started.

Word seemed to have spread to his friends since they all clapped him on the back and offered him drinks. And, okay, yeah, that felt awesome. He liked having all these guys congratulating him and wanting to give details. He liked how they laughed and gave him high fives when he claimed “a gentleman never fucks and tells”. He liked having everyone’s attention on him.

He just wished he felt as proud of himself as they did instead of feeling a sense of shame creep up his spine.

Gob took every drink handed to him, though. Each shot, each beer chugged, each drop of alcohol made that shame start to fade away. Between the warmth of the alcohol and the guys all throwing their arms around his shoulders in their "bro" way, Gob thought he could get used to this.

Gob barely slept that night, and not just because of the party. The party faded early enough, but he found himself just sitting in his bed, unable to sleep. To be fair, he didn’t know if that was because of a sex thing or if it was just a Gob thing. It happened a lot, these weeks at a time where Gob barely slept. He had gotten in trouble more times than he could count for just playing piano at three in the morning because he couldn’t sleep and just seemed to assume no one else could, either.

By six-thirty, Gob gave up on sleeping and went downstairs to the living room, ignoring the littering of plastic cups and beer cans he’d have to pick up soon enough. He checked on the piano, relieved to find no signs of damage. Gob sighed in relief and got out his sheet music. He had barely sat down before his fingers were on the keys and he let himself get lost to the music.

“Well, was it worth it?”

Gob jumped at the sound of his brother’s voice. “Was what worth it?” he asked, turning around to face him.

“The party? Was it worth the money you owe me? The clean-up you have to do? And don’t expect me to clean up after you—”

“I got laid,” Gob said, forcing on a smile. Michael stopped talking mid-sentence and looked at Gob with an unreadable expression. Michael was the only person in his family who knew Gob was still a virgin. Well, you know, until the party. “So, yeah, worth it.”

“…Oh,” Michael finally said.

“Yeah,” Gob replied.

The two of them remained silent for a while. Eventually, Michael’s curiosity got the better of him and he finally asked, “So…how was it?”

For a moment, Gob considered telling him the truth. Telling him about the shame he felt, how it wasn't as great as he expected, how he felt like something was wrong and he didn't know why, because it had felt good and he came, but something was just off. But then he looked at Michael's face. Again, despite Michael's maturity, he was still a teenager, and he was interested in girls and he was so curious and really wanted all those details so he could live through his brother. Gob knew that. He could see the hopefulness in his eyes.

Gob paused for a bit before turning back to the piano. "It was great," Gob said simply. He kept his smile on and repeated, "Just great. She was hot and so tight...god, I can't describe it. Can't wait to do it again." He paused again and then added, "Someone different, though. I'm definitely not interested in settling down with any girl right now." He nodded and grinned genuinely at that. At least that part was true.

Chapter Text

Mephisto Waltz No. 1: Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke (The Dance in the Village Inn)

Gob was pressed tight against the window in the backseat of his dad’s car. Michael was pressed next to him, Buster next to him, and then Lindsay had the other window seat. Their mom had the passenger’s seat and their dad was, of course, driving. Gob, upon seeing the slight grimace on both of his brothers’ faces, opened the window slightly to let it some air. Michael and Buster had a tendency to get a bit nauseous on the highway, but the fresh air normally helped them settle their stomachs a little, which was obviously needed. Gob didn’t really want to get on an airplane with vomit on his clothes.

Oh, yeah, that was why they were in the car. Gob was going to go on a flight and while he still didn’t get why they all had to take him to the airport, but at least it was a short drive to the Orange County Airport. But, anyways, he was getting on a flight in order to go to the Summer Arts Academy, or something like that. After a mandatory meeting with his counselor his junior year, Gob said he wanted to be a pianist and was given all the usual advice for college applications. One thing his counselor suggested was to apply for some of the summer programs out there, and even though Gob wasn’t really sure college was a thing he needed to do, he auditioned and got into SAA, one of the most competitive programs out there.

So, Gob was about to fly out to middle of nowhere Michigan for six weeks. Putting it like that made it sound like he wasn’t excited, but he was. Six weeks learning music, playing all day, doing recitals? Gob was ecstatic. Sure, he was sad to be leaving his friends behind and bummed to be missing parties—and the sex that came with them, obviously, which was a lot because, well, he was popular and hot and good at it—and he’d miss hanging out with Michael, as well as teasing Michael with Lindsay when their brother got too serious. But he was looking forward to going.

“You’ll have to tell me all about it when you get back,” Michael said seriously to his brother, finally feeling safe to open his mouth now that the window was open. While Gob could always call, they both knew it wasn’t likely they could talk much with how busy the both of them would be.

Gob smiled and ruffled his little brother’s hair. “Don’t worry. I'll tell you everything that happens,” he replied.

When Gob landed, there was a staff member from SAA who showed up and drove him and several other kids who had landed around the same time to the camp site. The campus was beautiful with large trees and a lake and an atmosphere so different from Newport. Gob was actually silent on most of the drive through the campus as he just tried to take in the sight of a completely new place. If he ever wanted an escape, well, he managed that now, didn’t he?

Once they were parked and Gob had his bags, he checked in with another staff member and was led to his room. There was already another guy in there who was unpacking his stuff. Gob had known he would have to share a room with another guy, but he hadn’t realized it was going to be that tight of a space. There was only a couple of feet in between two extra-long twin beds, and then they each had a small closet and some dressers. He hadn’t had to share a room since they moved into the house when he was four, and that room had been around that size, but Gob himself had been much smaller.

Still, he nodded at the guy and put his stuff down on his bed before shaking his hand. “Seth Evans,” the guy introduced himself. “I’m a cellist. You must be…George, right? I think that’s who they said I was sharing with.”

“No…well, sorta. That’s my professional name and everything, but I go by Gob.” Seth raised his eyebrows, but he just nodded in response. “Oh, and I play piano.”

“Oh, nice,” Seth said, going back to unpacking. “I’m guessing this is your first year here?”

Both boys unpacked as they kept talking. Gob learned it was Seth’s third year in the program, so he really knew the whole situation well. He was also from Ann Arbor, Michigan, which was only a few hours away, so he was pretty familiar with a lot of the scenery already. Gob, of course, told him that he was from California and how he couldn’t remember the last time he wore closed-toe shoes during a summer day. Seth had laughed and once the two were completely unpacked, they ended up sitting on their beds facing each other, just talking about music and their favorite composers and all these things Gob had never gotten a chance to talk about with anyone his age ever. While he’d chatter about it with Michael (or really anyone who’d listen), no one else got it. It was exciting to know someone else who liked Bach as much as him, someone who wanted to talk to him about composers, someone who actually wanted to hear his ideas about music.

By the time they went to dinner, Seth was enthusiastically introducing Gob to his friends from previous years at camp. He promised he’d show Gob all the ropes and Gob just smiled.

Seth, as it turned out, looked a lot like every cellist ever. Gob had never gotten to pick up on instrumental stereotypes, since he didn’t really perform in an orchestra or anything, but Seth’s whole “look” was pretty much the “look” of every male cellist he met at camp. Brown hair (though Seth’s was darker than most of the others), glasses, and a just-woke-up sense of style seemed to make up every cellist in the program. Seriously, even though they had uniforms (the camp was kinda weird, honestly), each cellist’s outfit seemed to be a bit wrinkled, like they had just gotten out of bed, their polo shirts with the SAA logo less crisp than their classmates. Despite how Seth blended in with every cellist ever, Gob almost always managed to spot him easily in the crowd, and if he didn’t, Seth could easily find Gob due to his height. Because of that, they ended up sitting together at every meal as well as during every class they had together.

Because, yes, Gob had classes now. During summer. But seeing as they were all about music, he actually was enjoying them. He was learning music theory (hard, but fun) and sight singing/dictation (actually easy for him) and music history (too much reading), taking two lessons a week, and practicing at least three hours a day—that was seriously the minimum amount of time the pianists were given each day. And he honestly had to say he loved every second of it.

He also got to work with all kinds of instrumentalists and vocalists so he could experience collaborative piano. Some of the music was written specifically for piano and strings, some of it was Gob playing piano reductions of full symphonic scores, some of it was Gob playing the piano parts on art songs for singers. It was challenging, since he wasn’t used to being a part of an ensemble, but it was actually kind of fun, too. He even had a chance to learn organ, which involved these crazy shoes to work the foot pedals, so his whole body was really involved in it.

So much information seemed to be pounded into his head every single hour of every day, yet Gob had never been happier. It was strange, actually enjoying something so academic, but Gob was already in love with the camp. He wished he had discovered it years ago. 

The only thing he didn’t care for was the weather.

It wasn’t freezing by any means, at least not to most people, but to someone who had grown up his whole life in a desert, it was pretty hard to get used to, well, everything. The humidity, the random changes of temperature, and, of course, the rain.

One evening, it started raining in the middle of nowhere. Well, maybe not the complete middle of nowhere, but Gob hadn’t noticed how the clouds were dark and stormy that day. To be honest, spending hours upon hours in a practice room made him forget a lot about the outside world. So, obviously it had to start pouring almost as soon as Gob left his post-dinner practice session. Thankfully his music was in a binder so it wouldn’t get too wet, but he still ended up tucking it under his shirt to help protect it, hugging himself tight as he got drenched in more water than he had ever felt in his life. Seriously, there had to be more rain in that first five minutes of his walk than Gob had ever experienced during his whole life in Newport. And, despite the sneakers and rainboots Gob had specifically brought for the camp, he had decided on flip-flops that day out of instinct. The feeling of mud and dirt washing around his feet just made him feel even worse.

He was only half-way back to his dorm when he heard someone call out his name. Gob whipped around and soon saw Seth running up after him, wearing a rain jacket and using an umbrella.

Jesus, California,” Seth said, using his nickname for Gob while somehow sounding both amused and concerned at once. “Don’t you have an umbrella? Or jacket?”

“I’m not used to grabbing one,” Gob muttered, his teeth starting to chatter a bit. While it was only in the 60s, which he had pointed out was about how cold winter months were in Newport Beach, the rain was definitely making him feel a lot colder.

“You’re such a baby,” Seth joked, making Gob roll his eyes.

“You’re the one with a jacket and an umbrella,” Gob pointed out. He wouldn’t be cold if he had even one of those things.

“And rainboots,” Seth pointed out cheekily. Gob rolled his eyes and Seth laughed a bit more. “Come on; you’re a giant, but you can fit under here, too.”

It took some maneuvering, but with Gob holding the umbrella and slouching a little, they managed to both be covered for the rest of the walk back. Gob couldn’t help but notice the smell of Seth’s shampoo, just because his nose was so close to Seth’s head. Irish Springs. He always liked that stuff.

They stayed close together until they were inside their building. Gob definitely missed the warmth from the closeness, but he said nothing as he let Seth close the umbrella.

“You should go take a warm shower and get out of those clothes before you catch a cold,” Seth said once they were back in their dorm. He hung up his jacket and wrinkled his nose. “God, I sound like my mother.”

“Really?” Gob asked. “I think the only advice my mom’s ever given me is that it’s better to be alive in California than dead in Arizona.”

“Your mom sounds awesome,” Seth said with a laugh. It was Gob’s turn to wrinkle his nose at that. “Now go on, seriously, before you freeze to death.”

Gob grabbed his pajamas and shower supplies and made his way to the community showers down the hall. He stayed in the hot spray a bit longer than he initially planned since it felt so good after a long day, but he still was back in his pajamas and in his room in less than half an hour. Seth greeted him with a mug of hot tea and a small grin.

“Leave it to one of the vocalists to have an electric tea kettle in their room,” Seth explained, handing it over to Gob.

That was one of many stereotypes Seth had taught him about musicians, that singers were always drinking tea with honey and lemon. “Ha, yeah. Thanks, man,” Gob said, sitting down on his bed. Seth sat down next to him and put a blanket over his shoulders, and while Gob wanted to say he didn’t need to do any of that, it felt nice to have someone looking out for him. And having another person sitting next to him made him warm up faster. And that was definitely the reason why his cheeks turned a little red.

The first symphony concert that summer was one of Gob’s favorite things in the whole world. He had been to professional performances before, but he had never heard kids his own age and younger actually make music like that. Hearing Mozart and Mendelssohn live and played so beautifully was absolutely amazing. He couldn’t wait until he got to finally perform in public himself.

After the concert, he saw Seth and made eye contact. His roommate waved him over, and soon he was being introduced to his parents who had driven up for the performance.

“Hey, this is my roommate, Gob,” Seth said to his parents.

“Like the Bible?” Mrs. Evans asked.

“What?” Gob said, wrinkling his eyebrows. What did the Bible have to do with anything? “No, like my initials. G.O.B.” Did people not get that?

“Ohhh,” Seth said, laughing in realization. “I honestly didn’t get why you went by that until now. That makes so much more sense.”

“It’s my family’s name for me,” Gob said with a small shrug. It wasn’t like he ever chose to be George or Gob. “’Cause my dad’s name is George, I guess they thought I’d get confused or something, so George Oscar Bluth II…Gob Bluth…” He trailed off there and rubbed the back of his neck. He never really thought about his nickname that much before; he just knew he preferred being called “Gob” to “George”, even though he had to be “George” for concerts because it was "professional".

“Bluth?” Seth’s father asked. “Like the Bluth Company? Out in Newport?”

Gob hesitated as he saw Seth look at him funny, obviously hearing the respect in his dad’s voice. His family’s name wasn’t really well-known outside of the OC, and he kind of didn’t mind not being a Bluth for once. Being a Bluth meant having all these expectations put on him, both positive and negative, and he never felt like he matched up with them.

Still, Gob answered, “Uh, yeah. That’s my dad.”

Thankfully they didn’t ask anything else about his dad’s company. Seth’s parents were actually really nice. They even invited him out for dinner with them, and, since Seth seemed to want him there, Gob went ahead and took them on the offer. They ended up at some small little Midwestern chain restaurant, the kind with plastic menus and pictures of the food. The kind of restaurant his mother would never be caught dead in.

That was probably why he liked it so much.

And if Seth’s leg bumping against his under the table made his heart skip a beat or if he straight out giggled laughed while splitting a sundae with him after dinner, well…it was just a fun night.

The following week, they had the official auditions for the concerto competition. Gob, as part of his coursework, was already working on a piano concerto piece while one of the collaborative pianist staff members played an orchestral reduction, so it just made sense to audition. He didn’t think much of it and he had almost forgotten he had even done it when the list of winners was put on the bulletin board sometime after dinner.

Gob finally took a look after he came back from practicing and scanned through each category. Seth hadn’t auditioned because he was focusing on string quartet stuff instead; Gob had been bummed they weren’t paired together for any of his collaborative piano stuff, but oh well. He recognized a few people on the sheet, though, like their friend who played clarinet, and that guy who was first chair violin. He made it down to the bottom of the sheet, and then—

            Piano: Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, movement 3 – George Bluth II

Gob’s face burst into a smile. No way. He had actually won something? Well, duh, he should’ve known he would. God, he had to celebrate—he had to tell people. Who could he tell?

Gob ran over to the phone station and, using the calling card he was given, he quickly dialed his home’s number. Unfortunately, Michael wasn’t home (Gob was bad at remembering the time difference and didn’t think about the fact that Michael would still be working), but he did excitedly tell his mom and dad. His mom showed a vague interest in it, but his dad didn’t even know what a concerto was.

“It’s, like, a solo with a whole orchestra as back-up,” Gob explained quickly. “And they only chose one winner per category, and I beat out all the other pianists!” Even his dad’s characteristic lack of enthusiasm failed to affect his excitement. He just told them to tell Michael and then hung up. Did Seth know yet? Seth would be excited for him. He needed to find Seth.

Gob ran up to his room, but Seth wasn’t back yet. He waited a bit for him, but eventually he sighed and went to go take a shower. A few people he saw as he went there and back congratulated him and he grinned proudly. The only time he got congratulated like this was when he got laid by a particularly hot girl at school, but this was even better than that. Hopefully Seth would congratulate him, too.

When he got back from the shower, Seth was back, and Seth immediately got off his bed when he saw him. “Woah, woah, woah! When were you going to tell me that I was sharing a room with the best pianist in this place?” Seth asked with a broad grin.

Gob played it cool, because he was obviously very cool. Obviously. “You know, I don’t like to brag.”

Of course, he couldn’t keep up that act for long and he soon was basically bouncing over their room as he gushed about how excited he was. It was a big deal because while he had smaller scale performances, this was one of the major orchestral events in their largest theater. He raved about how he loved the piece because it moved so fast, and how he had to work forever on just saying the guy’s name right (why had he taken Spanish instead of French or German?) and how it was all like a full circle moment, because he remembered how the first note he had ever played on the piano was G, because it was like his name and he was learning how to spell back then and he knew the letter G from his nanny at the time because that was how his own name started, and since the piece was in G minor, it was like it was made for him, and G minor chords also had B-flats in them, which he had just learned were call Bs in Germany and they called B-naturals “H” for whatever reason, so he still had a G and a B for Gob Bluth

“You are so adorable,” Seth said with a small laugh as Gob finally sat next to him on his bed, still bouncing a little in excitement. Seth had been watching him pace and talk for quite some time.

“Shut up,” Gob said immediately with a frown.

“I didn’t mean it as an insult,” Seth said reassuringly. “It’s nice seeing someone so into music and so happy about this stuff. Really. A lot of people seem to forget that this is stuff we should enjoy doing and talking about. And you won! You should be excited! You should be proud of that. I’m proud of that. I’m rooming with Concerto California.”

Gob laughed as Seth nudged him. “Is that the new nickname?”

“It’s one of them,” Seth teased. They both laughed.

It was only then that Gob calmed down enough to realize how close they were. Their shoulders and knees were touching, and when he looked up, he could see every eyelash around Seth’s eyes. They were green—his eyes, not his eyelashes, that would be weird—and bright, and suddenly they were too much to look at and Gob’s eyes darted down, landing on Seth’s lips. He had a bit of stubble on his chin and Gob’s stomach felt kind of funny and he didn’t know why, so he looked back up at Seth’s eyes, feeling something building up around them and inside of him and maybe Seth knew what was going on, since he knew all these things about how camp worked and classical music, he was just so smart—and then Seth leaned forward and pressed his lips on Gob’s.


Seth’s lips were actually softer than he expected—well, he hadn’t really thought of them, but if he had, he wouldn’t have expected them to be that soft—and his stubble kind of tickled, but not enough to make him laugh or anything. Gob’s heart was hammering in his chest in a way it never had before, and his stomach was fluttering, and fireworks went off behind his closed lids—but this was a guy, this was a guy, what the fuck was he doing??

Gob opened his eyes and pulled away to break the kiss, ignoring the fact that his whole body was telling him not to. The two boys stared at each other for a moment before Seth said, “I…I should get ready for bed.” Gob nodded quickly and watched with wide eyes as Seth got up and grabbed some clothes and his toothbrush before going to the bathroom.

Once the door was shut, Gob got under his covers, turned to face the wall, and closed his eyes, trying to force himself to fall asleep. When Seth came back, he pretended to be asleep, but it still took several hours for his brain to finally shut up enough for him to do so.

The next day, Seth was already up by the time Gob’s alarm went off and Gob ate with some of the pianists during breakfast. They sat in their usual spots in their morning classes but worked hard at ignoring each other. Gob ate with those other pianists again during lunch and dinner, but he let them do most of the talking. He really didn’t feel like talking. If he talked, he’d probably say something about what happened and he still hadn’t really wrapped his hand around what actually had happened—oh god, he meant his head, not his hand, nothing like that had happened.

Seth had kissed him. He was the one who kissed him. Not the other way around. Gob didn’t do anything, he didn’t initiate it—

But Gob did kiss him back—

But that was probably just instinct, since he made out with a lot of girls—

And he had never enjoyed a kiss as much as that one.

Gob came to that realization in an after-dinner practice session. Gob stopped mid-note and slowly brought his hands off the keys. He had liked it more. But…but why had he liked it more?

He brought his hands to his face. Why did he like it? Why did it make his stomach flutter? Why did it seem like he finally understood what all those guys at school talked about when it came to making out when it wasn’t even that long of a kiss?

Why did he wish it had been longer?

He knew some guys were like that. Like, they liked to be with, you know, not girls. It wasn’t like he hadn’t heard of that. But Gob wasn’t like that. He made music, yeah, and he liked to wear bright colors and stuff, but he wasn’t—he couldn’t. No, he was a Bluth, he was his father’s son. If he was, uh, not straight, he wouldn’t be able to fuck all the women he did. He had a reputation at school for a reason.

…Well, okay, he had said a few times he had sex with some girls who he didn’t actually sleep with, but, like…he slept with a lot of girls, okay? Could some homo do that? No way. Exactly. So, he wasn’t a homo. At all.

Gob nodded to himself. Okay, and those weird feelings were because he was confused and because he liked Seth—as a friend and only as a friend—and that was that. And, hey, he couldn’t blame the guy for being interested because, c’mon, he was Gob Bluth and he was attractive and he knew that. He’d just tell him that, sorry, he wasn’t one of the gays, but it was cool if he—as in Seth—was one or whatever, he—as in Gob—wasn’t one and he wasn’t interested in him and he was flattered but he wasn’t gay and maybe he’d find some girl who was interested in a hook-up to help remind himself of that. Gob hadn’t talked to many girls at the camp, but he could charm someone at their next social or something.

With that in mind, Gob made it back to his room, walking in just in time to find Seth changing, wearing his pajama pants and no shirt. The door closed behind Gob and, for a few moments, they both looked at each other. Gob looked at Seth’s eyes, but then got scared and let his eyes dart away, only to land on Seth’s naked torso. Gob had been avoiding looking at him changing since day one. He had always done that in every situation like this, like in gym class or anything, even though a lot of his friends liked messing around and like slapping other guys with towels, which Gob never liked, so he normally changed in a bathroom stall for some reason...

Gob thought he might have found out the reason why as he forced his eyes back up to Seth’s.

Gob took a few steps to close the gap between the two of them. They looked at each other for a few more seconds, Seth eyes questioning and a bit concerned at Gob’s unreadable expression. Finally, ignoring everything he had planned to say, Gob wrapped his arms around Seth and kissed him hard on the lips.

Gob was never particularly good at following through on plans. Even his own.

After that, somehow camp was even more fun. Sure, a lot of the fun was making out in the safety of their dorm, but there was a lot more to it than that. They’d press their legs against each other during meals. They’d hold hands under the tables. Gob would put his arm around Seth’s shoulders in a brotherly fashion, though the two of them knew it was something different.

They also talked. You know, in between kisses. They talked about the same things they had before, just in a closer proximity. Seth also told Gob about composers that had been gay or had at least dated guys. Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti were partners for most of Barber’s life, and Menotti was actually still alive. Schubert probably was gay. Handel. Poulenc. Tchaikovsky. 

“It must be something with artistic types,” Seth had said. Gob started to stutter at that the use of that word, but Seth managed to calm him down and Gob pressed that word and the fears that came with it to the back of his head.

See, Gob was doing his best to forget about the outside world, which was pretty easy to do. Between all the work he had anyways, it was easy to let himself forget about his parents and his family. He had only called home once since the concerto call, and it was only to briefly talk to Michael about how he’d get him a recording of the performance. Besides that, Gob had taken to ignoring any thoughts about how his family would react.

But if his mind ever ran in that direction, Seth’s mouth was a great distraction.

After another symphony concert, and another dinner with Seth’s parents at another restaurant, the two of them joined some of their friends in another dorm room. One of the guys, Mark, had gotten his brother to sneak in a large bottle of tequila, and he and his roommate invited their whole little gang over. Gob and Seth were sitting on the floor as all the chairs and beds were already taken. Due to the small space they had to squish a bit together.

Gob totally didn’t mind, though.

When the bottle was passed to him, Gob obviously took a large sip of it, but he almost spat it out immediately afterwards. “Jesus Christ, this is terrible,” he said. Tequila shots were normally his specialty, what the fuck was this?

“It’s tequila, what did you expect?” Mark said with a laugh.

“It’s not really tequila,” Gob corrected him when he took a look at the label. “If it’s not 100% agave, it’s not tequila. It’s mixto tequila. Real tequila is much smoother.” While he had been taught a few incorrect things about alcohol, like that vodka went bad once it was opened, Gob also knew what good alcohol was. “Añejo is the best, but you don’t do shots of that, you have to sip it and enjoy it, so I normally get silver for parties—”  

“Shut up, rich kid,” Seth joked, taking the bottle from him for a sip. He wrinkled his nose and Gob rolled his eyes. He had tried telling him it was bad.

“I’m just trying to educate,” Gob said. After a moment he added to Mark, “Thanks for getting it.”

“You’re welcome,” Mark said with a bit of a laugh. Most of the guys had gotten used to Gob not always understanding if he was being a bit rude. “You’ve got an impressive knowledge there.”

“When you had to make your mother’s breakfast martini before your baby brother was old enough to do it, you learn a thing or two,” he said simply, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

Seth gave a look to everyone else in the room that made it clear that they weren’t allowed to let him know how not normal that was.

The group of guys kept talking and drinking for most of the night. Eventually some “Never Have I Ever” game started, which Gob easily lost or won depending on how you saw the situation. He ended up drinking the most alcohol—he had one-night stands, various different kinds of sex, been drunk, been high, skipped school, and had done a multitude of things everyone asked about in those type of games. 

Someone who barely got any alcohol during that game? Seth. He apparently wasn’t super popular which made no sense to Gob since he was the coolest guy Gob had ever met, but it also made sense because a lot of popular people weren’t actually that cool at all. Seth’s dating experience had been limited (which made sense because, you know), he didn’t drink much, he never smoked, and he was a straight A student.

Eventually they went back to their dorm, and Gob was a lot steadier on his feet than Seth expected after all he had to drink (“It’s the Bluth tolerance,” Gob tried to explain, but Seth just didn’t understand it). The privacy of their dorm combined with a lack of an early start for the next day meant they were soon kissing, and kissing led to them making out on Gob’s bed and making out on Gob’s bed led to their shirts coming off and their shirts coming off led to them both getting hard. It was like a very dirty version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

They had both always stopped there, mostly out of trepidation and fear of going any farther, at least on Gob’s end. He didn’t really know how long Seth had known that he was the way he was, but Gob couldn’t even think the possible word yet. The idea of actually getting a guy off and confirming all of this was more than just wanting to kiss someone scared him shitless—because, yes, part of him clung onto the belief and hope that maybe it was just a Seth thing or because he had no other real prospects or there was something in the water or something. But either Gob had consumed the right amount of alcohol to be that daring or he had just become ready, but he wanted Seth to have something he could drink to next time he played that dumb game.

So, Gob palmed over Seth’s erection before fumbling with his zipper, and he added yet another fun activity to his summer.

One of many things Gob ended up learning about the music world was that he actually really did have to go to college. Some classical musicians—AKA a lot of musicians—actually went to graduate school, too. Gob had always thought grad school was for, like, doctors and lawyers, but apparently there was grad degrees for all kinds of studies. He hoped to God he didn’t have to do that stuff, but, well, apparently Gob now had to actually think about school.

There was a college fair at SAA one day, and Seth persuaded him to go when they could’ve been doing something a lot more fun, but whatever. There were about 100 colleges there, from regular colleges to conservatories. Gob had obviously heard about conservatories, but he had never really thought about that life for himself, since he assumed college wasn’t in his future. Ever since he started school, he had dreamt of a place where he could just do music things all day. So, Gob hit up all those tables and got brochures and actually listened as the representatives told him about their programs. Some colleges had conservatories inside of them, so he did look at some of those, but his real interest were the ones in big cities. San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Curtis, Boston Conservatory, Juilliard…That’s where all the artistic people were, right?

Seth, however, was looking more at the public universities with good music programs. He explained that his parents wanted him to have a well-rounded education, and his family wasn’t the richest anyways.

“I’ve tried to pay for my food every time,” Gob said quickly at the mention of money. He had brought out his wallet every time his parents had taken them out for a post-concert meal, but they had shaken it away. He’d feel bad if his meals were costing them that much.

“You know that some value meal isn’t the same price as a year in college, right?” Seth asked.


Seth just stared at him for a moment and then shook his head with a small laugh before continuing. “Besides, they have the money to send me here, since my scholarship doesn’t cover everything. But if I want a masters, I might as well save up by going to UMich if they’ll even take me. They have one of the top music schools and since it’s in Ann Arbor, I could stay at home and commute to save even more money.”

Gob really assumed the best part of college would be, you know, not living at home. Then again, Seth’s parents seemed cool enough, and he knew he had a younger sister around Buster’s age that he raved about almost as much as Gob had raved about Michael.

So, they stopped by some state schools and a few liberal arts colleges. Indiana, Ohio State, Nebraska, Oberlin (that had to be the nerdiest school he had ever seen), Northwestern, and even UCLA and USC.

“You just wanna be able to call yourself California,” Gob joked.

“We could be California-Squared,” Seth said with a laugh as Gob was handed a brochure for USC. It made Gob briefly wonder what it would be like to go to the same school as Seth, maybe share a dorm with him, perform with him…

When they got to the University of Michigan table, Gob took a pamphlet. It was at least worth a look, right?

So, uh, Seth managed to get a hold of condoms and lube.

Gob had been surprised when Seth pulled them out of his jacket pockets one night during their last full week. Seth blushed a little when he put those items on his dresser, which was honestly super cute, but, okay, not the point. The real point was that it was kind of weird that Gob wasn’t the one trying to make it happen. Because he did want it to happen, but he was kind of scared of how much.

When he would do things with Seth, sometimes he’d feel this internal panic or disgust or something building up inside of him. Not because he didn’t like it, but because he really fucking liked it. Thankfully before he could ever start freaking out too much over how hot it was to make Seth come, or how much he loved the feel of him in his hand or how, wow, he really liked giving head, Seth would return the favor or would kiss him and hold him and keep him grounded. While they hadn’t spoken about it much, Gob knew Seth had realized his sexuality a while ago and had mostly made his peace with it, so he seemed to know what Gob was feeling. Surprisingly the whole panic thing was becoming less and less frequent, but he still hadn’t thought about approaching the whole big thing they hadn’t done yet.

And, well, Gob kind of did want to try that, but despite how he definitely got the whole wanting to do things with guys aspect, he didn’t quite get the whole wanting to do that part. You know, unless you were the guy doing the thing, not the guy getting the thing done to you. But then Seth explained that there was this thing inside men, something up there that could make guys come with enough stimulation.

“Are you sure you’re a virgin?” Gob asked. How else would he know that stuff?

“Yeah, pretty sure,” Seth replied dryly.

Then came the discussion of who was going to do what. Gob assumed he’d top because, come on, he had helped plenty of girls get off that way. Plus, Seth was shorter so, like, that meant something, right? Seth, however, assumed Gob might want to try something different and was pretty sure height wasn’t involved in that at all.

“I have to sit to play,” Gob pointed out in his defense.

“So do I!” 

After a few rounds back and forth, they decided to play rock, paper, scissors, best two out of three. Seth ended up getting the bottom slot and they made plans for it after the concerto performance. 

Gob felt weird being in just a polo shirt, navy pants, and a belt before going on a stage for the biggest performance of his life, but that was apparently just how SAA worked for whatever reason. Even in their fancy, large, outdoor theater, everyone wore their uniforms. He really didn’t get it, but at least he didn’t have to pack up one of his suits. They all cost at least a grand.

After warming up, Gob watched the other performers go before him from backstage. It was programmed in chronological order of the pieces, so he was closer towards the end after all the Handel and Mozart and Beethoven stuff and before the Strauss and Debussy pieces.

The closer it got to his turn, the more nervous Gob got. He had never performed for a crowd that big, but that wasn’t really the nerve-wracking part. Gob was natural showman who thrived off of an audience. The thing making him nervous was that all the campers were there for the final performance, even the ones who hadn’t seen the smaller scale stuff he had been in. Despite loving the program, Gob felt a bit like an outsider in a lot of ways. He didn’t perform in a ton of youth orchestras (not that many pianists really did since there wasn’t a lot of need for pianists in orchestras in general), he only had a basic knowledge of music theory when he came into the program (he didn’t know modes were a thing), and while he had read up on composers, he didn’t get some of the jokes people made about people like John Cage. While he was undeniably good at piano, he felt really dumb around these people. He wanted to impress them, he had to impress them.

But once the person before him finished and the piano was put in place, Gob walked on stage. Immediately, as was custom, there was applause, which brought a nice sense of comfort to the whole thing. He liked applause. A lot. Half the fun of doing Miss Griffin’s recitals was the applause he got. He had this.

Gob, as he had practiced, bowed, then shook the conductor’s hand, then sat down at the piano. Briefly, he caught Seth looking at him from his second chair cello position and he sat up a bit straighter. He did belong there. He did, and he was going to prove it.

After a couple of seconds of centering himself, Gob put his hands on the keys and after a brief look at the conductor to let him know he was ready, Gob took a breath and started the crazy piece.

The movement wasn’t very long at only eight or so minutes. After months of practice and taking apart every single section, after hours of rehearsals coordinating with the conductor and the orchestra, after several minutes of slamming on the keys in frustration in the practice rooms, it was over in an instant. But he slowly recognized that people were clapping, genuinely clapping and cheering for him, for Gob, and he felt more powerful than he ever had before. He stood up as the orchestra tapped the stage with their feet—apparently that’s how they clapped—and bowed to the audience. Again, he shook the conductor’s hand and then the hand of the first violin (the concertmaster), and then bowed again before leaving.

Honestly, Gob was proud of himself. He did what he did best, even if his performance was one of the shorter ones; he had trusted himself and just let it go. He had been told that was his strength, his ability to just perform and not get caught up in overthinking, not just making sounds, but making music. While he wasn’t as technical as some, he had the ability to really put on a show and really make art.

After all, he was artistic.

“You were killer, California!”

Beautiful playing!”

“That was incredible.”

Gob was overwhelmed by all the people who threw compliments his way. He just ended up wandering around in a daze, smiling and thanking people for their compliments as he passed them by and doing his best to compliment the other concerto players. Finally, he managed to find Seth, whose parents had come up yet again, this time bringing his little sister along. Mrs. Evans actually hugged him, which confused Gob for a moment since he was the only one in his family who really hugged anyone ever, and Mr. Evans shook his hand and Seth’s sister Rebecca said he was amazing.

Again, they invited him out to dinner, and Gob really couldn’t say no. Seth just needed to drop his cello off at the dorm, so Gob accompanied him. Families weren’t allowed in dorms for whatever reason, which Seth and Gob took advantage of for some excited, breathless kisses that just made Gob even giddier.

“Ready for tonight?” Seth asked as he put on his jacket.

Gob nodded. “Yeah…yeah, I think I am.” He bit his lips for a moment before saying, “I realized something tonight.” Seth raised his eyebrows and Gob said, “I think I’m gay.”

Seth paused before saying, “I kinda figured that.”

Gob shrugged. It was his first time admitting it out loud or even to himself, but it didn’t feel as serious as it should’ve, probably because he was admitting it to the guy he’d been hooking up with for over a month now. “Yeah, but I figured I should say it.”

“Well, I’m proud of you,” Seth said genuinely, taking his hand and giving it a small squeeze. Seth moved towards the door, intending on leaving, but Gob pulled him back in.

“I also realized something else,” Gob said slowly. Seth looked at him curiously, Gob’s face as unreadable as it had been that night he kissed him. “...I don’t have to sit tomorrow…”

Seth, who was usually so polite and patient and enjoyed spending time with his family, really tried to rush things along. Gob had to fight off a smirk when his mom asked what he was in such a hurry for. Seth tried to make up a story about a party he wanted to go to, plus how it was getting late and they had a long drive home, but he seemed to be a bit distracted by Gob’s hand resting on his thigh.

Eventually, of course, the dinner ended. Gob hugged Seth’s mom again and shook his dad’s hand, feeling a slight, bittersweet sting at the idea that he probably wasn’t going to see them again.

But there was no time to think about that.

He and Seth ran back up to their room, and Seth pressed Gob against the wall for a passionate kiss with an amount of desire and force that Gob hadn’t expected. An amount of force he hadn’t expected to like, either. Gob found himself melting a little and, wow, okay, he had never thought he’d like someone manhandling him a little, but it was actually hot. Like, really hot.

Of course, once they were naked and opening up the condom box and the lube, they slowed down. Both of them were nervous. “Are you sure you want me to—”

“Yeah,” Gob interrupted breathlessly, his face determined, if a bit nervous. He hadn't felt like this his first time, partly because he was barely aware of what was happening and partly because he didn't really care about the girl, and partly because the whole probably gay thing. This, though, he really, really cared. And not just because of himself, but because he wanted Seth to have a good time, too.

“Okay,” Seth whispered leaning over to kiss Gob on the lips. And eventually, after slow, steady movements of Seth’s fingers (cellists had pretty good fingers, too, at least on their left hand) and lots of lube and reassuring kisses along the way, Seth was sliding into him and Gob was gripping onto his shoulders with both hands. There was some pain, a bit of a sting, but Gob told him to keep going. Soon enough, the slight sting turned to pleasure, the thrusts grew faster, and a slight change in angle made Gob bite hard on his fist to keep from screaming his release. 

And there was no panic, no shame, no regret, nothing like he had ever felt after sex. All he felt was...well, happy. Giddy. 


After weeks in the woods mostly wearing the same set of polo shirts and pants and shorts, stepping into his usual clothes for his flight home was quite strange for Gob. His usual clothes were much lighter in material than anything he had worn for the camp, since it was all suited for the California sun. His friends even commented at breakfast how he truly looked like “California” now, complete with his sunglasses and Nike pool sandals.

Gob had an earlier flight and was only running on a couple hours of sleep. He and Seth had spent the last two days staying up late together, trying out new things, repeating some of the old things. It had been fun and hot and definitely the best way he had ever lost sleep, which he did quite often.

After a more private goodbye, Seth walked with Gob to the van that was going to take him and some other campers to the airport. Still uncertain and unsure of what they could even express publicly, they didn’t say much; they just let their knuckles lightly brush each other’s every now and then as they walked.

Gob stalled getting in the van, not sure what to say. He still wasn’t quite sure what they meant to each other, if they were just hooking up or if there was something more. No matter what it was, they both knew it was something that obviously couldn’t continue past the confines of the camp.

Finally, Gob managed to quietly say, “It’s been fun.”

Seth smiled and nodded. “Lots.”

When the staff member told Gob they needed to get going, the two finally hugged, Gob squeezing him tightly. “See ya, California,” Seth whispered in his ear before they pulled away. Gob didn’t reply verbally, but he discreetly grabbed his hand for a few fleeting moments and gave it a squeeze. 


Gob really wasn’t ready to get back to his reality. Thankfully he didn’t have much time to think about it on the plane, since he was exhausted enough he fell asleep right away. And when he first got off the plane at the OC Airport, he just thought about how he really loved the weather so much in Newport, and thankfully he had a bit of time to enjoy it before his senior year started. And, weirdly, it was nice to see his family again, and not just Michael. He had missed Lindsay’s laugh and even, though he hated to admit it, Buster’s shy greetings. Maybe he even sort of missed his mom and dad, but he just gave them verbal greetings before hugging his siblings.

After a quick stop at baggage claim, all the Bluth children were all piled in the back of George Sr’s car, as per usual, Lindsay at one end, Buster next to her, then Michael, and then himself. At least Buster didn’t complain when Gob shoved his backpack onto his lap. Gob opened his window slightly in anticipation of his brothers’ possible nausea. While some things, like Michael's voice and Lindsay's haircut and his mom's face, had slightly changed, some things were just exactly the same as he left them.

He wondered if he looked as different as he felt.

When they got home, Gob grabbed the VHS he had of the concerto concert and put it in the VCR of the great room's TV for him and Michael to watch. They talked a bit about their summers as the first performers went, Gob pointing out a few things in the performances he liked every now and then. Eventually Lindsay came in to watch, seeming a bit interested, and Buster did as well, sitting obnoxiously close to Gob. But Gob didn't complain, because he was walking on stage on the recording. Gob opened up his sheet music to the movement and laid down on his stomach. He hadn't heard himself play before, and he wanted to make notes.

He circled a few notes he held too long and a few passages he needed to clean up, but he really thought he did a damn good job. His siblings seemed to as well, which was nice. He felt a warmth towards them as they clapped for him. Gob smiled to himself as he sat up, his sheet music still open in his lap. 

"Ooooo, who's that from? Is it your giiiirlfriend?" Buster asked. He was pointing at a note that was in his binder, a note Gob hadn't noticed before. It just had a phone number and an address—an address in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Gob stared at it, feeling a wave of relief. They could still talk and maybe see each other again.

And then reality hit.

"Come on, Buster, do you really thing Gob's not going to come home with a girlfriend? Or at least someone who thinks she's his girlfriend?" Lindsay asked with a smirk. She sat down on the floor with them and looked at the note. "Oh, you have her number and her address? Sounds serious."

Gob grew tense and Michael, sensing that, said, "Hey guys, cut it out."

"What? We're just trying to make conversation," Lindsay said faux-innocently. "Maybe Gob finally met someone he'll actually be serious with. Artistic geeks of a leather—"



Gob swallowed. This was a time when he could be open and honest. Or he could even be partially honest and admit that, yes, he had met someone he could be serious with, someone he could settle down with.

But as the Debussy piece finished on the tape and the audience applauded, Gob looked up. It finally hit him that Summer Arts Academy was just a memory now. His safe space, his happy place, his magical place, it wasn't real anymore. He couldn't be himself. He couldn't talk to his family about anything he experienced there. It was over, and this was Newport, and this was over.

"She's not a girlfriend," Gob suddenly said, his voice a bit steely. "Just...just some girl who I f-fucked with a few times. You know h-how attached they get, even if we don't live in the same time zone." While no one questioned him, Gob felt like they could see through him, that they knew something was wrong, that they knew he was a freak and disgusting and wrong, and he didn't have Seth there to calm him down or distract him or keep him grounded, and he never could have him there, because there was camp Gob and real life Gob, and the real life Gob couldn't be gay and no one could think that he was, not ever, and he had to be willing to prove that.

Gob took the small piece of paper out of his binder and, in a panic, tore it up into several small pieces. He threw them in the air and watched them fall as a sickening feeling grew in his stomach. Lindsay rolled her eyes and left, Buster following after her, and Michael just looked at him with concern, a look that made Gob get up and leave.

Michael had a feeling Gob's promise of telling him everything that happened wasn't being kept.

Chapter Text

Fugue in B minor from Das wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier)

For the past few years, Gob and Lucille had a little tradition.

That was odd in and of itself, since the two weren’t particularly close. They were closer than George was to Gob, sure, but that wasn’t saying much. There were only so many times Gob could handle his dad making fun of his hopeful future career before Gob just gave up trying to talk or bond with him.

So, he was closer-ish to his mom, but they still weren’t, like…close. His mom had been the one to teach him about piano and stuff, but they stopped talking about it as much once Gob’s knowledge outgrew hers. She took him to symphonies and operas, but it wasn’t because she was particularly interested in him. It was because Gob was the child who appreciated it the most and could give her feedback on the music she could repeat to her rich friends. And showing off that your son was an amazing pianist was always fun, so sometimes he’d get forced into playing piano at one party or another, and then his mom would fawn over him in public. But at home, they didn’t really talk much.

Wednesday nights were different, though. Because Wednesday night was Dynasty night.

Dynasty, a primetime soap opera, was about the Carringtons, a rich family in the oil business. There was a ton of money, fabulous outfits, catfights, and, of course, Alexis Carrington as played by Joan Collins. It was basically a show tailor-made for Lucille, and she dutifully watched it every week.

Gob, being the oldest, was the only kid who could stay up until ten o’clock to watch Dynasty when it first aired. And he’d pretend like he didn’t like it, because guys didn’t like soap operas, but whenever ten o’clock approached, he just “happened” to be in the great room or he’d “coincidentally” be watching something else on TV. He eventually gave up that act, and they settled into a routine. Gob would make his mom a vodka martini (because it meant he got some sips of vodka and vermouth) and he’d excitedly sit on the couch and she’d sit in her chair, and the two of them would watch the dumb soap opera together. They’d discuss plot details, they’d come up with theories, and they’d laugh over the bad stunt doubles.

Some of his siblings had tried to join in over time, but they could never keep up with all the little plots and characters like Gob and Lucille could. Both of them got annoyed at all the questions and eventually the rest of the Bluths just learned not to bother. It was just a Gob and Lucille thing.

About a week after Gob got back from camp, his mom had told him there was a rerun of Dynasty on that night. Gob had barely left his room or the living room since he had gotten back; he was completely miserable over how he had so stupidly torn up Seth’s contact information. He kept hoping against all hope that somehow Seth would call or mail him, that somehow, he’d find him, but Gob knew he had majorly blown it. That combined with being back in his real world where artistic was an insult and not a compliment had been ruining the last few days of his summer. Lucille mentioning a Dynasty night was the first time he felt good about being back in his reality.

That night he dutifully made her a drink and, after a bit of debate, he poured himself a glass of whiskey before settling on the couch. His mom didn’t comment on the glass as she got the TV on the appropriate channel, so he figured that could be a new part of their tradition. And even with that new addition, it was kind of comforting to be back in his old routine.

Well, it was until it became clear it was a re-run of one of Rock Hudson’s episodes.

“Ugh. It’s such a shame that he died,” Lucille said, frowning over her drink.

“How did he die again?” Gob asked, bringing a pillow to his lap. He remembered it happening and how there was some big thing about it and how his mom made them watch all his cheesy Doris Day movies afterwards, but that was it. Gob never kept up with the news; it was kind of a miracle he knew Reagan was president.

Lucille pursed her lips. “The homosexuals got him,” she said, causing Gob to nearly choke on his drink. “AIDS.” Gob was silent for a moment before humming a bit, as if he, too, thought it was a shame that he was gay.

“He looked so bad in his last days. It’s no wonder they wrote him off the show,” Lucille said, not even really paying attention to her son or the re-run. She frowned at the screen. “It’s hard seeing him like that—God, I still can’t believe he let himself be gay.”

Gob made another noise like he was agreeing with her as he gripped at the fringed edges of the throw pillow in his lap. He felt a sick feeling burning in his stomach as his mom kept talking about it.

“And now you never know which one of them is sick,” Lucille continued. “If Rock Hudson can be sick, well…who knows. Any gay could be.”

Gob’s eyes widened as he looked back at the screen. Yeah, Rock Hudson had to be, like, sixty or something when he was filming that stuff, but he looked so decrepit in comparison to his Doris Day films. So…sick.

And even after the episode ended and Gob went to his room, his mom’s words kept echoing in his head. If Rock Hudson can be sick…

It took a while for Gob to actually build up the courage to walk inside the building. He had walked around it several times, each time telling himself that he’d go in, but then someone would go in or walk out, and he’d chicken out and walk around the block again.

God, he hated being a chicken.

But finally, he got himself in there and he checked in at the front desk. He had specifically worn a pair of dark sunglasses and a baseball cap along with jean shorts and a T-shirt he’d never worn before. It was all a plan to not be recognized in case anyone he knew stopped in. Of course, that was unlikely, seeing as he had driven a couple of towns over for an extra precaution.

A woman at the front desk checked him in and he sat in the waiting room and kept fidgeting nervously. It seemed like he wasn’t the only one fidgeting, really. Finally, someone called out, “George!” and, after he remembered he had stuck to his real name, Gob shot out of his seat and followed the woman to a room in the back.

HIV was supposed to be like an STD, right? That’s what Gob assumed, but he didn’t have any information on it. For all he knew, some gay men just already had it in them, and what if he did? What if Seth did? He was terrified and he panicked and he knew just asking someone about it, like his doctor or the school nurse or anyone, they would know what he did and they would know he was gay and they would tell his parents and his family and he’d be a bigger shame and disappointment than he was already and he couldn’t handle that, he just couldn’t. It was better to find a cheap clinic where no one knew him and get tested than ask around.

So, Gob did exactly that. A week before he started high school, and there he was, sitting in a free clinic as fear coursed through him.

The nurse started talking him through the process of the HIV blood test and she explained it would take a few days to get his results. He nodded numbly in response and she asked if there was a phone number that they could call for his results or if he wanted to receive them in person.

The possibility of someone else answering the phone and hearing that he got tested at all made his chest feel tight. “I’m new in town,” Gob lied. And it wasn’t actually a complete lie, seeing as he had never been to this town before. “I don’t have my landline set up yet. So, yeah, coming back would be a better option for me.” She made a note of that on his chart and they set up a time for him to come back at the end of the week.

He squeezed his eyes tightly shut as soon as he saw the needle—he had always been terrified of them—and he winced loudly as she pushed it into his arm. He felt dizzy as she pulled it out, but he didn’t know if it was because of the knowledge of what that test could hold or because she took a lot of blood.

After a few minutes, he was bandaged up and sent on his way. All there was left to do was wait.

Of course, waiting was the hard part. Waiting to find out if you had something was going to kill you wasn’t particularly easy. He spent as much of his time as he could practicing and getting all his college audition materials ready. But then he’d be fingering through a tough section of his Bach and a voice would ask him why he was bothering, because what if he was got sick and never even got to perform those pieces? He'd get through the chromatic, crunchy, minor sections and feel a sense of hopelessness that made the major final chord (a Picardy third, as they were called) seem so fake and overly bright.

He was on edge until that following Wednesday, when he finally got to go back to that clinic. Again, he went as incognito as possible, and he squirmed in the waiting room until his name was called.

“You’re HIV-negative,” the nurse eventually told him. Gob stared at her, not understanding what that meant until she clarified, “It means you don’t have HIV.”

Gob nearly burst into tears. And, okay, maybe he did cry a little, but shut up, he was allowed to cry over this. The nurse went on about being safe and gave him some free condoms and a pamphlet about HIV he knew he’d have to trash before he got home.

Gob stopped at an In-N-Out and ate in the car as he read over the information in the pamphlet. And then he found out he had wasted a whole freaking week because there was no way he could’ve had it anyways. Unless Seth was lying about being a virgin which he probably wasn’t, because why would he lie about that? 

Too bad he couldn't ask him about that...

Gob threw out the rest of his cheeseburger and the pamphlet before driving home.

Getting back into the swing of school was difficult for Gob. Granted, it was never particularly easy for him, seeing as he wasn’t that great at the whole school part of school, but even in the social world, where he was always a master, he started to feel like an outsider. He felt different from the other guys, marked in some way. He started second guessing every decision he made; would giving one of his friends a bro-hug be read as coming onto them? If he wasn’t constantly hitting on chicks, would they think he was hiding something? And, god, what was he supposed to do about the locker room?

The locker room had always been a problem before anyways, all in ways that became clearer once the whole thing happened that summer. Gob liked joking around in the locker room before and after gym, but he had always felt weird about everyone being naked in a way he hadn’t understood. Now that he knew why, he was afraid someone was going to spot him looking or he’d mess up in some way and, god, he was terrified.

It took one gym class to make him realize he needed to get out.

He was minding his own fucking business, just trying to get out of his gym clothes as fast as possible so he could get out of there. He was staring straight ahead of himself, refusing to look anywhere else as he quickly slipped out of his shorts.

“What? No shower today, Bluth?” One of his friends asked.

“Nah,” Gob mumbled. “Didn’t sweat much.” It was only the first day; the teachers weren’t being too hard on them yet.

“Suit yourself.” The guy playfully whipped him with a towel which made his whole body stiffen, but that was that.

Gob thought that was the end of that, but once he got his pants on, he heard one of the guys in the show start teasing another for one thing or another. He wasn’t really paying attention to what until he heard the guy joking say the other was acting “like a faggot.”

Gob’s hands went to his locker to help steady himself, his breathing starting to become shallow and fast. It wasn’t until the guys started laughing about something else that he managed to breathe properly. They weren't talking about him. It was fine. It was fine. He was fine.

Right after school ended that day, Gob went to his guidance counselor. With a bit of his Bluth persuasion abilities, he managed to convince him that he was better spending that gym time preparing for his auditions through an independent study. Besides, he wouldn’t want to accidentally damage his fingers playing some dumb game, would he?

A few weeks into the school year, the drama club announced auditions for their production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was definitely an improvement from when they did their original musical that Michael got roped into and mocked for ever since. Like, a huge improvement. Gob didn’t know the show that well, but he knew there was rock music and stuff, which was much cooler than anything involving Peter Pan.

Gob also knew first-hand how bad the show was because, as the resident Bluth pianist, Michael got Gob to help him learn the music. He knew that whole dumb Captain Hook song backwards and forwards. Unfortunately. Gob had sworn off helping with any and all musicals after that experience. But, well, this one actually sounded cool, and having another musical activity, this one a lot more legitimate, to add to his resume seemed smart. Plus Mrs. Williams, the music director, was pretty cool. She was the supervisor for his independent study and she also taught the music theory class he was taking and she seemed to like him. 

And maybe he needed an excuse to not be stuck at home and staring at the ceiling or the discarded scraps of paper he could never fit back together to make into a phone number or address.

A few days into the audition process, the drama director, Miss V, called him in for a meeting with Mrs. Williams. He assumed they just wanted to discuss the piano, but they had something else in mind.

Apparently one of the small parts was hard to cast, because Miss V wanted someone who could sing his song and play piano at the same time. All of those signs pointed to Gob and he was hesitant. After all, being in the pit was bad enough—gay enough—but being in the show? That would make a lot of people assume things.

Still, Gob was never one to turn down the spotlight, and when Mrs. Williams promised him a college recommendation letter, he ended up agreeing.

A few nights after the cast list was posted, Lindsay brought up the show during dinner, since a few of her cheerleader friends were in it. “I didn’t know you were actually going to be in it; I thought you were just playing in the pit,” Lindsay say incredulously.

“Woah, woah, woah—you’re actually in this thing?” their father asked.

Gob hadn’t been looking forward to this part. “I’m just playing King Herod and I’m in the pit the rest of the time. They wanted someone who could play piano and sing at the same time. It’s, like, three minutes,” Gob said, running his fork through his mashed potatoes.

“It’s super weird, though,” Lindsay said. “Didn’t you see the movie version? He’s like, half-naked and kinda looks like Richard Simmons. And he’s kinda flirty with Jesus. It’s weird.”

Gob felt the blood drain out of his face before it all came rushing back. “God, are you serious?” Gob stabbed his steak rather violently with his fork. “I should’ve known it would be the one lame part in the whole show.”

“Hopefully you don’t have to dance. And at least the Jesus you’ll flirt with is cute—he’s that new guy, Tommy,” Lindsay said with a dreamy smile.

“Gross,” Gob said, his heart beating so hard and fast it seemed to be thumping inside his ear drums. “I don’t wanna…I don’t wanna do that.” He started cutting up his meat, just glad to have an excuse to avoid eye contact with anyone.

“It’s called acting,” Michael said.

“Oh, right, because you’re such an expert on acting,” Lindsay teased.

“An expert on acting and the law,” Lucille said, joining in on the fun. Everyone but Michael and Gob laughed at that; Gob was too panicked to join in.

Michael rolled his eyes at them and looked back at Gob. “Look, they probably won’t even make you do that. It’s a school production; they aren’t going to make it…like that.” Michael said. The fact his brother couldn’t even say “gay” didn’t really make Gob feel any better.

Lindsay nodded. “Right. And if they do, just pretend it’s some girl. Like…that Stephanie girl every guy is after. Or that girl you hooked up with at camp.”

Gob jerked his hand so hard he accidentally knocked over his water glass.

Gob went into the theater on the first day of rehearsals. He greeted the few kids he already knew, and then a guy he hadn’t seen before came up to him. He had dark hair, blue eyes—yeah, he looked a lot like one of those stained-glass pictures of Jesus, so Gob wasn’t surprised when he introduced himself as Tommy. “Nice to meet you, Mr. President,” Tommy said with a laugh.

“I thought I was a king?” Gob said.

“Oh. I, uh—aren’t you the student body president?”

“Oh. Right,” Gob said. “I always forget that’s a thing.” Gob laughed and Tommy did after a moment as well, his smile revealing that he had major dimples.

Okay, Gob kinda got what Lindsay meant about him being cute.

They stood there mostly silent for a bit before Gob said, “So, uh, you’re a senior?”


“It’s gotta suck moving for your senior year.”

Tommy nodded but said something about how he liked being near the beach at least. They talked a little more about the musical, but they didn’t really have much to say until rehearsal started.

...Still, he was pretty cute…

Not that Gob really could see himself doing anything with anyone ever again. It had been a couple months since he had gotten home from SAA, and Gob still felt heartbroken over a guy he had known for less than two months. 

After Gob had shredded up Seth’s contact information, Gob went back and picked up every shred he could find, but he couldn’t find a way to salvage it. He still kept the shreds in a small pile next to his alarm clock, unable to make himself get rid of the only thing that connected him to the amazing summer he had and the amazing person he had met. The amazing person he could’ve had something with. The amazing person he missed so much he ached.

If he hadn’t had to go back to California, Gob was sure they’d still be together, whatever “together” was for them. He still wasn’t sure what he felt for Seth, but he knew it was some feeling he had never felt before. And he knew that being near his family, near his parents, that was what had caused him to be so stupid.

So, Gob knew he had to get out of southern California for college. He didn’t care where at that point, but he applied to what felt like every school possible, from the big names he saw at camp to some state schools. Gob had Michael help him choose the audition dates so he didn’t overbook himself. He ended up applying for at least twelve schools once everything was said and done, and it had to be the first time he was done with anything early. All of them, except for USC, were at least seven hours of driving time away, and most of them were across the country, basically a whole world away.

Gob would miss Michael and Lindsay and, hell, even Buster and Dynasty Days with his mom, but he knew it was better for him to be away. It was the only way he’d be able to be who he really was, and maybe they’d be better off without him.

But, then again, maybe those schools wouldn’t even want him anyways, and maybe he’d be stuck in Newport.

All he could do was wait. Which, again, was the hardest part.

Once winter break ended, rehearsals for the musical got even more intense. Gob wasn’t just at every staging rehearsal to provided accompaniment, but he had started doing orchestra rehearsals as well. He was just thankful he had already gotten most of his auditions done. A few places offered regional auditions where he could audition for multiple schools at once, and he had flown out to New York City briefly over break to audition for some of the conservatories out there. He thought he did a damn good job, but, you know, waiting.

Anyways, it was nice to know he was basically done with the auditioning stuff. He also was feeling better about the music for the musical itself, which was good, because it had been a huge struggle to get used to this completely new style. Gob had played rock music before, but it was still hard getting used to playing syncopated rhythms and, at one point, Gob was told to do some improvisation and may have panicked a little and been…not…too…great. But he was starting to get the hang of it.

The main thing distracting him was, well, Tommy. Tommy, with his dumb (cute) smile and his stupid (cute) face and his naked (hot) torso for most of the second act…Gob was just glad he didn’t have to be shirtless in the scene they shared.

That scene where, despite what Michael had said, Gob was told to be a little bit flirty.

That scene was actually irritating him a lot. Not because he didn’t like it—it was campy and over-the-top and all, but Gob kind of liked that stuff, and he liked being the center of attention for a whole scene—but because it was hard to flirt with a guy while you were struggling with accepting the fact that you were gay.

And, really, Gob wasn’t necessarily that into Tommy. They had barely talked, and when they had, it was awkward and weird and not that great. They didn’t have, like, anything in common. But Gob was just really attracted to him and thought he was cute and that almost made it worse.

At least with Seth, he could try to tell himself that maybe he was only into him because they also had stuff in common and could talk so easily and they were friends and everything. He thought Seth was cute, but he could almost convince himself he only thought so because Seth was Seth, but now he was realizing that Tommy was cute and that other guys were cute and he was attracted to guys and it wasn’t just a one-time thing and he had only just started to realize that what he felt towards a lot of guys in the past wasn’t entirely heterosexual. Memories of his physical therapist and some of the older guys who got him into partying and even that one judge at one of his piano competitions and—god, he was really, really into all of them.

It was all a bit overwhelming.

But, hey, at least he still had Dynasty Days with his mom…Which, okay, had to be the gayest thing he had ever thought.

For one episode of Dynasty, Gob made a martini for his mom as well as one for himself before he sat down on the couch. He lightly clinked glasses with his mom, which made her actually laugh a little, and not unkindly, before the opening credits started.

That episode happened to feature a lot of Steven Carrington. Steven was the only openly gay character Gob really knew of and seeing as he was the son of a rich, asshole dad who didn’t accept him…yeah, Gob might have seen some similarities. The weird thing was that, despite the fact he was gay, Steven still had a son with his stepmother’s niece, Sammy Jo, played by Heather Locklear. There was currently some arc with Steven and Sammy Jo trying to live together, and in that episode, they ended up sleeping together again.

Gob took a drink of his martini thoughtfully. If Steven Carrington could be straight, or at least pretend to be, why couldn’t he?

“Heather Locklear’s so hot,” Gob said, selling it with all the bravado he could as a plan started to form in his head. 

The plan was going to be tricky, but Gob was sure he’d make it work.

See, Gob was popular. And, like, he was even class president and shit—he always forgot that—so getting a chick interested in him was never a big deal. The main issue was finding the right one.

First of all, it couldn’t be someone who he had hooked up with before, which eliminated, well, a lot of the girls out there. Second of all, she needed to be hot, so no one would doubt that the relationship was anything less than a normal hetero one. Third of all, it had to be someone who’d be interested in the long-term, preferably without expecting or wanting too much sex.

Gob recruited Lindsay into The Plan™ without telling her, of course, all the details of The Plan™. See, Lindsay was a cheerleader and popular and knew all the gossip Gob could never really remember. She could totally help him find the perfect girl for The Plan™. Every time Gob thought a girl had potential, he’d ask Lindsay about her and get the scoop. Some girls that looked sweet were actually secretly huge sluts, and some of them had been girls he forgotten he’d already slept with.

Finally, Gob took notice of a girl on the varsity squad. She had dark hair, a nice body, and she had a little necklace with a gold “T” on it. He knew he had seen her before, but he couldn’t remember where. “Who’s that?” Gob asked Lindsay one day at lunch, pointing to that girl.

Lindsay squinted over where Gob pointed before rolling her eyes, “That’s Eve, you dumbass. She’s in you’re year and she’s even in Jesus Christ Superstar. Like, she’s the lead.”

“Hey, I’m only in one scene; I haven’t learned everyone’s name yet,” Gob said in his defense. Plus, it was hard to notice anyone else when he was trying to focus on music and focus on not staring too much at Tommy.

Lindsay rolled her eyes at her brother. Still, Gob didn’t even have to prompt his sister before she continued, “She’s okay. Kinda ditzy.” Gob knew that really meant something coming from Lindsay. “Kinda religious—Catholic, I think?”


“What’s she into? Besides God and stuff.”

“I don’t know everyone’s personal life,” Lindsay scoffed. Then, after a moment, she said, “Just play piano for her. She loves artists and she’s not that smart.” Gob thought he was probably supposed to be offended by that, but he didn’t want to give his sister the satisfaction. Lindsay got up to throw away her half-eaten lunch and Gob looked over at that girl—Eve, apparently—with a smile on his face.


Gob was charming, and he knew that. Getting people, especially girls, to like him, had never been hard. At least in the past. Now that he was dealing with his inner gayness or whatever the fuck it was, Gob wasn’t sure anymore. Could he still charm a girl after spending a weekend getting repeatedly fucked in the ass?

He was going to try, god damn it.

Gob got to the theater early that day and started to practice. Eve, as usual, got there early as well. “Hey,” Gob said, putting on his charming smile. She smiled back innocently and walked over as he kept playing. After finishing off with a rolled chord for flair, he lifted his hands off the keys. “I don’t think I’ve properly introduced myself. I’m Gob Bluth,” he said as smoothly as possible, offering her his hand.

“Eve Holt,” she said excitedly, a bit too much enthusiasm loaded in those two words.

“Nice to meet you, Eve,” Gob said with a smile. He took her hand and gave it a kiss like it was some old romance novel with a knight and a princess on the cover. She seemed flattered. “So, Lady Eve is playing Mary, huh? The Virgin Mother…that’s gotta be quite the acting challenge.”

“…Mary Magdalene wasn't Jesus’ mother,” Eve said slowly, giving Gob a look.

Gob just kept smiling since, after all, Lindsay had warned him that Eve wasn’t smart. “Regardless, you’re doing a great job,” Gob said. He started playing the piano again, well aware that girls found that hot, and continued, “You’re definitely one of the more talented cast members. You sing your song so well.”

She looked flattered again and took a step forward as Gob started to play a Chopin étude he had played for his Juilliard audition. Eve watched him in awe and looked up at him through her eyelashes, which he supposed was a hot enough look. Briefly, he noted that with her dark hair that waved ever so slightly, she almost passed for a female version of Seth, but he shoved that thought, like he did with all sexual thoughts of Seth, to the farthest corner of his mind.

Apparently, Lindsay was right about Eve, since, despite his pretty terrible job at flirting, she agreed to go out with him before rehearsal had even officially started.


The actual production of Jesus Christ Superstar went as well as any high school musical could. Gob, as part of the pit, was actually on stage for the whole thing, just in the back with the rest of the band. Since it was just some high schoolers, they didn’t do a full pit, but they had Gob on piano, a couple of guitars, an electric bass, a drum set, and a few orchestra instruments. All of them got to wear some pretty cool outfits, with Gob in a slightly toned-down version of Elton John’s suit.

Thankfully he only had to wear the Elton-style glasses for the King Herod number.

On closing night, he spotted Michael in the crowd right before the number. He hadn’t wanted his family to show up because he knew they’d just make fun of it, but he knew if Michael was there, he probably managed to drag everyone. He almost wanted to refuse to go on, but then the chorus girls were rolling in the grand piano for the scene and the band paused like they had to and, okay, Gob could never turn down the spotlight.

He stepped away from the band, put on his glasses, and walked over to the piano, a cocky grin on his face as he looked over Tommy. Another girl rolled out a chair, and Gob sat at the piano and rolled the opening chord.

Accompanying himself, Gob sang into the mic on the piano as he played the piano at his own speed, a group of chorus girls fawning over him. Jesus, I am overjoyed to see you face-to-face. You’ve been making quite a name all around the place—healing cripples, raising from the dead. And now I understand you’re God—” the girls around him gasped and Gob then teasingly sang, “At least that’s what you’ve said…

Thankfully, though he had to be a bit flirty, Gob mainly got to focus on singing and playing at first. During the little instrumental break, the girls did a little dance and pushed Tommy around a little, but he just had to keep playing the piano part from memory. It wasn’t a big deal.

It was only after that, when the guitar took over, that Gob finally had to even stand up, after the chorus girls pushed Tommy over towards him. Gob grabbed the mic and leered over Tommy’s shoulder as he sang, “I only ask what I’d ask any superstar. What is it that you have got that puts you where you are?” Tommy spun to face him and Gob backed him into the crook of the piano. “Oh, I am waiting, yes I’m a captive fan.” Gob trailed his finger up Tommy’s neck and leaned in close (his own heart racing fast at being so close to a guy that handsome, honestly) as he sang, “I’m dying to be shown that you are not just any man…

Gob went back to the piano to play just the right hand of the piano as he sang the next verse. Tommy had to stand there and act solemn and all Jesus-like which, admittedly, he did well, even with Gob "mocking" him.

And then Gob had to do his least favorite thing ever. Gob, who never so much as put a water bottle on a piano, stood up on his chair and then stepped onto the closed piano lid. In boots that had the slightest bit of a heel. “Hey, aren’t you scared of me Christ? Mr. Wonderful Christ?” He let out a hallow laugh and sang, “You’re a joke, you’re not the Lord.” With a smirk he lightly pushed Tommy with his foot (Gob hadn’t quite mastered stage combat, but Tommy played it off well), “You are nothing but a fraud. Take him away, he’s got nothing to say! Get out you King of the—Get out, King of the—” Gob jumped off the piano—again, something he hated because that poor piano—and stood up in front of the keys as he sang, “Get out you King of the Jews!” He put the mic back on the piano and played the postlude, adding one last “Get out of my life!” before ending the piece himself.

The audience clapped, and while Gob wanted to soak up that moment, he only had the chance to give Tommy one last look before going back to his spot in the pit. 

Gob took his time getting out of his costume and make-up after the show. He hoped if he waited long enough he could avoid seeing his family. But, unfortunately, they had waited for him.

Buster was, of course, the most impressed, and had nothing bad to say. Lindsay quickly told him he did a good job before making her way over to Tommy, pulling down her shirt a bit to show off more cleavage. Gross.

“That was…great,” Michael said, grinning a bit. "Perfect."

“It’s better than playing Peter Pan,” Gob fired back.

“…Is it?” Michael asked, still grinning.

“At least I sang in tune,” Gob said, smirking a little. After that, Michael laughed, told him he did a good job, and gave him a hug.

See, that was the difference between his relationship with Michael and his relationship with his parents. With Michael, while he was honest about it being a bit embarrassing and over-the-top, he at least acknowledged that Gob did a good job. He’d tease the hell out of him, but he was impressed by him.

His parents, however, looked extremely embarrassed. “So tacky. Gaudy,” his mom criticized, shaking her head. “I don’t see why you had to be in that outfit.”

Gob sighed. “It wasn’t my choice, mother,” he said. 

“I hope the college recommendations are worth it,” George said.

“I’m glad we didn’t advertise this at the club like we have the recitals,” Lucille added.

“I can’t imagine this helped you with the ladies.”

Thankfully, Eve happened to walk by right then.

Gob pulled her in by the hand and said, “Actually, dad, this is Eve; she’s my girlfriend.” Gob hadn’t used that title with her yet, but Eve didn’t seem to mind. She also didn’t mind when Gob made sure to kiss her while his father was still there, which Gob greatly appreciated.

So, Gob knew Lindsay was her own person or whatever, but the idea of any guy going out with her made Gob’s blood boil. He knew how bad guys could be—he knew how bad he had been just a year ago—and he didn’t want her getting hurt. So, it was bad enough when Lindsay got invited to prom, because that meant the guy was around Gob’s age which made the whole thing so much worse. But when the guy in question turned out to be the guy who Gob kinda sorta maybe had a tiny little sorta crush on? That just made the situation much more painful.

It wasn’t like Gob really thought something was going to happen with Tommy, because Gob was pretty sure Tommy was straight. And, really, he didn’t particularly like anything about Tommy but how cute he was, but the idea of having to watch his sister and a guy he was kind of into slow dancing and shit? It really made Gob want to skip his own senior prom. Which sucked, since he really had always wanted to go.

Of course, there was no way to explain that to Lindsay or Eve or anyone without revealing what he had been hiding for almost a year. Instead, Gob just let Lindsay gab on about their plans with their parents. He let her persuade their dad to let them rent a limo. He let her go shopping with Eve to choose a dress. He let her help coordinate the corsage or whatever he had to get his date.

His lack of enthusiasm must have been apparent, because Lindsay started to lecture him during one dinner. Lindsay asked, “Why aren’t you more excited?”

“I just don’t see the point of big dances,” Gob mumbled. Plus, he had already gotten a few rejection letters from some of the more academically inclined schools he had applied for—Indiana, Oberlin (he had no idea why he had even tried there), and Michigan…That one hurt a lot.

“Come on! It’s going to be fun!” Lindsay said. She narrowed her eyes a little as a thought crossed her mind, “You aren’t trying to break up with Eve, right? I swear to God if you break up with her before prom—”

“I’m not breaking up with her,” Gob said, trying not to clench his jaw. Could he get through one family dinner without someone trying to criticize him?

“Good. She’s so excited.”

“She’s a nice girl,” Michael said with a nod. “I’m glad you’re seeing her.” Honestly, he was just glad that his brother was finally seeing just one person for once. Michael hadn’t been a big fan of Gob sleeping around with a ton of girls.

Their father nodded in agreement. “You should hold onto anyone who doesn’t mind you prancing around on stage like Liberace.”

Oh, now that was a sensitive subject. Gob had loved Liberace since he was a kid. A classically trained pianist playing rock music? Gob had been sold from the first time he ever heard him play. He liked someone dressing flamboyantly and living how he wanted and making music and just living an extravagant lifestyle. Gob loved Liberace. And when he died, Gob had felt a strange pang in his chest he hadn’t expected to feel. Buster made one mention of him on the day of his death, and Gob had pushed him hard before going to the piano and just staring at it for a long time. It had actually felt a bit wrong to play so soon after one of his favorite artist’s death.

So, hearing his idol used as some insult? It made Gob see red. Gob knew it was just another way for his dad to try to make some joke about him, a way for him to mock his son for something that Gob hadn’t even said was true, something Gob didn’t want to be true. He knew his dad didn’t even really know if he was gay, but he just assumed because, what, he liked classical music? Wearing colors? Having fun?

Gob threw his fork down on his plate with a bit more force than necessary. Buster jumped a little in his seat, Lindsay’s eyes widened while Lucille’s eyes narrowed, and Michael braced himself as he saw his brother’s glare at his father. Michael knew that some show down between Gob and their dad was bound to happen at some point in their lives, but he hadn’t been prepared for it to possibly happen right then.

“You know what, Dad?” Gob said quietly, almost calmly. “Some people actually like artistic people, so maybe shut the fuck up about me, okay?"

With that, Gob left the table and went up to his room, his whole body shaking with rage and frustration and fear.

For prom, Gob took the required photos with Eve, and the group shots that involved Lindsay and Tommy. He put the corsage on Eve’s wrist. They took a limo to a restaurant and then to the hotel the prom was at. They danced together. He even won Prom King. It should’ve been some sort of magical night, but the only reason Gob was even keeping it together was the flask he had tucked away in his pocket.

All the conflicting emotions he had felt all year seemed to boil up during the dance. Part of him wanted to just give up the act and stop trying to be something he wasn’t. Another part of him wanted to just force himself to enjoy the night and be proud of the beautiful girl on his arm. One part of him wanted to tell his dad to fuck off by letting him know that all of his cracks were true, and another part of him wanted to tell his dad to fuck off by scoring with a girl and proving him wrong.

He was getting pretty close to drunk when he saw Lindsay and Tommy sneak out of the ballroom, presumably to get a hotel room to themselves. Gob downed the rest of his flask and sat down as the room started to get a bit hazy.

Suddenly Eve was sitting next to him, putting a hand on his knee, asking him what was wrong. He mumbled something about a hotel room, barely aware of what he was saying at all, and then Eve was pulling out a hotel room key from her clutch bag.

Gob looked at the card and then back up at her, a million emotions and thoughts running through his head at once, before he took the key in his hand and offered her a charming smile.

The two stumbled up to the room and then Eve was kissing him and they were getting undressed, and he was commenting on how he was deflowering the Virgin Mary and she was explaining, yet again, that the Mary she played in the musical was not the same Mary Gob was referring to, and, also, she wasn’t a virgin—but Gob wasn’t listening because it was the first time he had seen a girl naked since he had been with Seth and he didn’t know what he was supposed to do and how was he supposed to even get hard with a girl and—oh god.

As if sensing that he needed help, Eve started to stroke him and told him how she didn't believe in using condoms and Gob just wanted her to stop talking. He closed his eyes and buried his face in her neck in hopes that not looking at her would help, because he just wanted to believe, for just one night, that he could do this. If he did this, if he managed just one night, maybe he wouldn’t have to be the freak his dad kept calling him, the joke, the disappointment. Gob took a deep breath through his nose and nearly gasped.

It was in that moment that Gob realized that Eve used Irish Springs shampoo, too. Just like Seth did.

His mind was flooded with memories of Seth, of how he felt, of his calloused fingers and soft lips and the gentle curl of his hair. He thought of his laugh, his arms, his smile, his talent, the way he made Gob feel like the most important person in the world…

Gob pulled back and Eve laid down and he quickly thrust inside of her, his eyes unfocused as he finally let himself get lost in those memories he had been avoiding since he tore up that paper. Every small touch of Seth’s hand, every thrust of his hips, every single kiss seemed to flash through Gob’s mind as he thrust in and out until he finally came, shaking from the effort and the memories and the alcohol coursing through his veins.

Once he was done, he laid down facing away from Eve. At some point he felt her get off the bed and he said nothing. He stared at the wall as he heard the shower start. His drunk brain was barely able to keep up with his emotions, as it kept trying to understand what had happened, his stomach churning and his head spinning.

It was only when the shower turned off that Gob sat up, put his tux back on, and wiped the tears off his face.

Gob knew he wasn’t as knowledgeable as some about music schools, but he was pretty sure getting into Juilliard was a pretty big fucking deal. Hell, even his family knew that. His siblings had all attacked him with hugs when he opened up his acceptance letter, his mom actually cheered, and even his dad looked impressed when he found out.

After discussing the details with his parents and contacting the school, they decided he should fly out for a long weekend. One of the students would house him and show him around, and he could have a sample lesson and sit in on classes and decide if the school was right for him. Gob immediately started packing his bags; getting the break from his dad and Eve, who he had just broken up with, and Lindsay’s burgeoning relationship with Tommy was exactly what Gob needed.

Gob’s plane landed in New York City around nine o’clock at night. Despite the late arrival, the guy who was taking him in for the weekend, Greg, was there to pick him up. Thankfully he got them a cab, because Gob wasn’t sure he wanted to take the subway for the first time in the middle of the night. As they drove to a cheaper part of town—Gob didn’t really follow where exactly Greg lived since the city was just too confusing for him to understand—Greg explained that he was a piano performance major and that he worked for the admissions office and a whole bunch of other things Gob didn’t really pay attention to. What? It was hard to focus when there were all the bright lights and famous tourist stops all around him.

Finally, they arrived at Greg’s place. It was definitely not a nice building or a completely safe area, but that was kind of what Gob liked about it. Greg scanned them into the building and then they had to walk up a couple flights of stairs since the elevator didn’t work. Greg warned him on the walk that he’d be sharing the living room with another guy, since that guy’s original guide had flaked on him for one reason or another.

Gob followed Greg into the apartment and looked around. It was exactly what you would expect for a cheap apartment that a poor artist would have in New York, including the cheap, upright piano in the corner. It was small, cramped, and not too clean, and it was so different from everything that Gob had ever experienced.

He was about to tell Greg that he loved the place when he noticed the other guy in the apartment, a guy who stared at him and called him California.

Gob’s bag fell out of his hand.

When Greg went to bed, he expected Seth to be angry, to yell at him, to tell him to go to hell. Gob prepared to explain himself, but Seth, a hormonal teenager himself, had his mouth on Gob’s within seconds and while Gob knew they should talk, he couldn’t stop himself from melting against Seth’s lips again. He still couldn’t believe this was real, and a major part of him was sure he was going to wake up at any moment, but, no, that hand wrapped around him was real and what he had in his own hand was very, very real and all Seth, and he almost wanted to cry for a good reason after they were done.

Gob nuzzled Seth’s cheek, which made the other man laugh a little. “God, I missed your laugh,” Gob said without thinking.

Seth shifted a little before asking, “Then why didn’t you call?”

Gob sighed and closed his eyes before launching into the story of how he found the sheet and how he had panicked. “When I realized what I did, I tried to fix it. I got all the pieces and tried to rearrange them and get your number, but it just didn’t work. And…I still don’t really know how to explain it. I just realized that…that with my parents being who they are, and with what my life is like, I just…” Gob sighed and shook his head. “I didn’t think anything could happen. Not in my real world. I mean, my parents hate me enough as is,” Gob whispered.

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Seth said reassuringly. 

Gob snorted and added, “Well, at least my dad does. My mom likes me when I can show off to her friends. Or when we watch Dynasty together—but those are both things that my dad mocks me for.” His hand clenched in a fist for a moment before he relaxed it. “He basically does all he can to call me gay without saying the word. And it’s not a good thing.”

They were silent for a while before Gob said, “I’m so sorry.” He took Seth’s hand and kissed it like he had kissed Eve’s, but this time actually wanting to, just to feel close to him. He quietly continued, “I wanted to find a way to contact you, to at least let you know what happened and let you know I missed you. I…god, I’m so, so sorry.”

Seth watched him for a few moments. “It’s okay.” Gob looked up at him and Seth sighed. “I mean, it hurt. A lot. I told myself you probably just didn’t see the note or it got lost or something, but…” He trailed off for a moment before continuing, “I understand…Sort of.”

They both laid there in silence for a moment. Then Seth quietly murmured, “And I missed you, too.”

Gob moved in closer, pressing their bodies together and burying his head in Seth’s chest as he wrapped himself around him, making himself smaller than usual. Seth wrapped his arms back around him and Gob couldn’t stop himself from smiling.

It was the first time he had felt safe in months.

Greg took them to school the next day. Together, Seth and Gob went to a music theory class, a history class, and then, after lunch, they talked to different students in their respective instruments and took sample lessons with the professors they’d study with if they chose Juilliard.

It was obvious to Gob that this was the school for him. He hadn’t been this happy in months, and he loved the teachers and the students and the whole atmosphere. Gob couldn’t imagine himself going anywhere else, and, really, how was he going to turn down Juilliard? It was freaking Juilliard. Like, the best music school in the fucking world.

“I can’t wait to be here for real,” Gob said that night. He looked over at Seth, and coyly suggested, “Maybe we can even, you know, request each other as roommates?”

“I’d love that,” Seth said. Gob smiled until Seth continued, “…I just don’t think I’m going to go here.”

Gob sat up, but he winced a bit since he might’ve been a bit sore after he and Seth got a little bit too excited to stretch as much as he should’ve. “What? You’re going to turn down Juilliard?”

Sighing, Seth sat up as well. “My parents wanted me to check it out, because I mean it's Juilliard, and they gave me a good scholarship, and, yeah, I love the city and the name would give me a lot…”


“But I got a full ride at Michigan. And I like the teacher I’d study with better there, and maybe I’ll come here for grad school or something, but right now…” Seth trailed off and looked up at Gob, “Right now I think I need to stay home."

“But…I…” Gob didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t understand how anyone could turn down Juilliard, not to mention how anyone could choose to stay with their parents.

He didn’t understand how he could finally see Seth again, only to have him yanked away from him once again.

“I didn’t get into Michigan,” Gob said quietly.

Seth nodded and they were silent for a little while. “You should go here,” Seth replied just as quietly. Gob looked at him and Seth gave him a small smile. “You love the school. You’d have to remember to carry an umbrella and wear actual, non-flip-flop footwear, but you’d get the hang of it eventually.”

Gob smiled slightly, but he still looked pretty upset. Seth rubbed Gob’s arm. “Let’s at least enjoy this weekend together, California.”

Gob bit his lips as he thought it over. Finally, he nodded and leaned over to kiss Seth hungrily.

They had several months to make up for.

Gob woke up before Seth the next day. He stumbled to the bathroom and then went into the kitchen, where Greg was up with some coffee. Gob hated coffee, but he felt like he needed it after the long night he had spent with Seth.

“Coffee and a cigarette are the best post-hook-up treats,” Greg said wisely as he pulled out a carton. "You’re really not great at keeping it down."

“Yeah, well…” Gob blushed a little and shifted uncomfortably. “Sorry.”

“Nah, it’s cool,” Greg said, lighting up a cigarette for Gob, too. Gob awkwardly took it since it seemed rude to turn it down. “If you’re interested, I can take you guys to one of the gay clubs nearby before you leave.”

Gob took a drag and thought about it. It definitely sounded like fun. “How many are there around here?”

“Tons,” Greg said. “It’s pretty easy to find a hook-up around here.”

“Aren’t you worried?” Gob asked. “You know, about getting sick?” It was a thought that had popped back up into his mind after being with Seth again.

Greg paused for a moment. “I guess,” he said. “But I don’t plan on stopping my life because of it.”

Gob nodded and looked around Greg’s apartment again. “I really do love it here,” Gob said. “I wish I didn’t have to go home.”

After another puff, Greg said, “Well, if you want to stay here a bit before school starts, I’m still looking for a subletter in July. I’m doing a program in Austria.” Before Gob could think it over, Seth finally woke up and Gob got distracted.


The rest of the school year went by in a blur. Gob accepted his Juilliard offer and managed to graduate. He had to give some speech at graduation because, oh yeah, class president or whatever, and Michael helped him write something that wasn’t too offensive or dumb.

Gob couldn’t help but notice that Eve looked a little bigger at graduation. Maybe she was more upset about the break-up than she had let on and was eating her feelings? Gob figured it was better to leave her alone.

As soon as Gob could, he started packing for New York. He organized his clothes, sorted out sheet music, and mentally planned out all the things he could do while he subletted Greg’s place. And, of course, he practiced. A lot. Gob wanted to be prepared for school and, anyways, what else could he do while he waited for the freedom New York would bring?

After all, waiting was the hardest part. 

Chapter Text

Lyriske stykker (Lyric pieces), Book VI, no. 6: "Heimweh (Homesickness)" (Op. 57)

Gob ordered a tequila shot as his eyes scanned around the club. The bass was pounding as hard as it had every night this week, something Gob knew from being there, well, every night that week. He could never really tell what songs were playing, seeing as the clubs were loud and overstuffed and the bass was so loud it rumbled in his chest, but part of that was because he also wore ear plugs.

What? He wanted to protect his hearing and the volume of the rave music hurt his ears the first time he went into a club back when he visited Juilliard all those months ago. He and Seth had awkwardly tried to blend in with Greg and the other gay men in the club with their cheap, fake IDs hidden in their back pockets. It had been scary but enticing, and Gob knew even back then that he would be hitting it up as soon as he got back to New York.

Now it was July, late July, and Gob was starting to feel more comfortable in places like this. While school hadn’t started yet, he had learned a lot already. Greg managed to get Gob in contact with some friends who were in the area, friends who gave him a crash course in the gay lifestyle. The terms, the scene, the clubs around town, all of it. One of them even helped him learn a few new moves that Gob had never tried with Seth. All of them helped him pick out much more appropriate club wear. Apparently, the preppy look wasn’t really en vogue in New York City.

He gave the bartender a five for the shot, depositing the change in the guy’s tip jar (another thing he had learned) before looking over the club again. His eyes locked on a guy looking his way and a smirk slowly stretched across Gob’s face. He cocked an eyebrow at the guy and broke the eye contact only to take the shot straight, no salt or lime to aid him with the disgusting, bottom-shelf liquor he had ordered.

Thank god he was getting better at swallowing things with no complaints.

Though Gob had been going to clubs almost every day since he moved to New York, he hadn’t always hooked up with someone. He was still new at this thing. With girls, he had to chat them up, flash his pearly whites, drop his name into conversation. The anonymity a lot of the guys craved out in the city was new to him, the forwardness scared him, and, every now and then, flashes of Rock Hudson or Liberace would flash in his mind and scare him away. It took him a while to finally understand how it worked with guys, and then a bit longer to let him actually do anything with anyone. Part of it was fear of getting sick, but another part of it was fear of doing something with someone besides Seth.

It wasn’t a cheating thing or anything. They had talked about it, both in New York and through letters and finally phone calls when Gob was in the city and didn’t have to worry about his mom eavesdropping. They were just friends. Maybe, you know, one day it could be something, and that something made Gob’s heart beat inside his throat and nearly choke him, but for now they were friends with some occasional benefits. And that was really awesome.

So, no, it wasn’t a cheating thing Gob was worried about. It was an experience thing. He had learned how to please girls, and even thinking about those times now made him want to both laugh and cry for various reasons, but he had learned. And he learned what Seth liked, what made him moan and what made him whine. But would all guys like the same things? Was he expected to “top” or “bottom”? Would he look really inexperienced if he gagged a little? Would he look dumb? Gob didn’t want either of those things to happen.

So, yeah, it took a while. And it still didn’t happen every night or anything, but as Gob looked back at the guy across the bar, he knew that this was going to be one of those nights where it happened. He licked his lips in excitement and started making his way over.

Moving out of Greg’s apartment into the residence hall kind of sucked. He was pretty sure he wouldn’t have the freedom he had back at the apartment now that there was an RA and a roommate and all, but he was excited to meet his classmates and, for the first time ever, was excited to actually start classes.

How messed up was that?

Gob checked in with an RA or staff member or whoever was helping check students in and then was led to his room. It almost felt like SAA again. Just, you know, Seth wasn’t going to be behind the door with his name on it.

He was going to have to cross out the “eorge” and write “ob” on the little cut out later.

One wall had two desks against it, and the other wall had two beds in a bunk bed situation. His roommate wasn’t there yet, so the RA said he got his choice of top or bottom, which just made him Gob laugh. He knew which one he preferred to be in other situations, though he hadn’t really done it much since Seth and all, since he could be versatile if need be. So, Gob started setting up the bottom bunk, but he’d switch with his roommate if he asked.

Gob set up his bed and hung up his nicest suits in the closet. Most every other item of clothing went into one of the dressers rather quickly. He had brought only the most important sheet music he had, since he knew the library would have anything he got assigned in his lessons, and all of that went on the bookshelf. On the desk he put up an extremely awkward Sears photo of him and his siblings that Buster had framed as a graduation gift.

Lindsay and Michael had done a much better job by getting Gob a vinyl of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". They knew that Gob loved Freddie Mercury and it may have been his favorite graduation gift. While he didn’t bring a record player with him, he hung the cover up on the wall; it made for a nice decoration. And, finally, right next to it, Gob put up a poster he had found of Franz Liszt at a thrift store during his adventures earlier in the summer. 

After that, Gob explored the building. He met a few people along the way, but he mainly just made sure he knew where things were. There were a couple practice rooms they could check out, there was a lounge with a TV and VHS player, communal bathrooms, kitchens, and there was a phone on each floor. Gob went ahead and called his family to let him know he had gotten checked in and everything. Michael wrote down the phone number as well as Gob’s room number, and they talked for a little bit before Michael had to go to work.

Gob sighed and went back to his room only to find a blonde boy putting up his clothes.

“Hi,” the guy offered his hand, “I’m Keith.” Gob smiled and shook his hand. Maybe he and Keith could have a good time.

...Unfortunately, Keith turned out to be straight.

It was tragic, really. He ended up bringing up his girlfriend pretty early into their conversation and Gob almost lost interest right then and there, but he made himself keep talking to him. It was probably a good thing he couldn’t just develop some boarding school romance all over again, anyways.

Keith was a composition major from Chicago. Gob had heard that a lot of composition majors didn’t shut up, and Keith definitely fit that stereotype to the letter. He had a lot of opinions and a lot to say, including opinions on Gob’s Liszt poster. He thought Liszt was flashy and banal. Gob had to restrain himself from calling Keith banal right back.

Gob didn’t know what it meant, but he figured it wasn’t good.

After a few days, Gob started getting along okay enough with Keith, or at least as okay as he needed to room with him. Gob mainly hung out with other people in his studio plus a few other instrumentalists. They went to orientation events together and hung out a lot. Once classes actually started, Gob normally sat with them and they did their homework together.

Gob really loved most of the classes he was in. Music theory was starting to make more sense than it did at SAA, and he eagerly wrote down notes on Roman numeral analysis. Keith would sometimes whine about how "slow" they were moving, and Gob would just roll his eyes, but at least it meant he could help when Gob struggled with anything in the future.

You know what wasn't a struggle? His ear-training class. Gob had known he was good at sight-singing after SAA, and he knew he could dictate a melody or figure out some simple songs by ear, but he had never really got to put it into a class. The teacher told him he had near-perfect pitch, or maybe just perfect pitch, and Gob was a bit surprised. He was pretty sure he had never been called perfect on anything before. He also hadn't realized that other people couldn't tell what notes were being played just by how they sounded. That explained why some of his friends were struggling so early on.

There were some boring classes, though, like his history class. It was a lot of reading and a lot of listening to really old stuff, like pre-Bach. It was boring and difficult to tell all those dumb Gregorian chants apart, especially since they all used like the same words and were just used in Catholic masses or whatever. They apparently didn’t even use instruments in churches back then, so what was the point and why did he have to know the pieces? Hopefully when he got to Baroque stuff his sophomore year, he'd start to like the class more.

It was still better than the liberal arts class he had to take. Despite being a conservatory, they wanted them to have some sort of education outside of music, so they were all required to take a certain amount of humanities credits. All the freshmen were shoved into the beginning level class. Thank god his friends actually took some notes, since Gob could sit still to learn about theory or (some) music history or ear-training or to practice or even watch other people perform, but this stuff? Gob was not interested at all.

There was one other part of his education, though, that really interested him. Obviously, it had to do with sex.

See, Gob had heard that gay people were supposed to have “gaydar”, but he was never confident in guessing who was or wasn’t gay. Unless he was in one of the gay bars, he didn’t assume any guy he met was gay. Even then, he sometimes second guessed himself until he felt the guy’s dick grinding against him while they danced. And while most of the guys at school seemed pretty cool with gay people, or he at least assumed they were, he didn’t want to come onto a guy who wasn’t cool with it.

Surprising even himself, Gob managed to tell his closest friends that he was gay when the subject of dating came up a few weeks into the school year. Thankfully, they were all cool about it, even though they were all straight. Kind of a bummer, but also, it was actually kind of nice. Because, while the Bluth Company name kept growing and spreading around the country, either his friends didn’t know it or they didn’t make the connection to the fact that he was that Bluth. He wasn’t making friends because he was rich or anything; he was making friends because they just liked him. Even if he was gay.

It was nice.

But, anyways, they also started putting out some feelers for him. Really, not so much subtle feelers as much as them telling him that they heard such and such was gay and did he want them to try to hook them up because they could totally be his wingman. It was...nice of them? Yeah, he figured that was the right response, but it seemed kind of weird. Maybe he just wasn't used to people knowing about his sexuality or whatever. 

He quickly discovered that most of the gay guys were singers which, yeah, made sense. Most of them were tenors which, yeah, also made sense. And most of them, because they were Juilliard approved and all, had big mouths, great control of their tongues, and seemed to be able to open their throats pretty easily, which definitely made sense.

So, yeah, it wasn’t the worst deal. It was fun, even. There was just something not quite right. Maybe it was how he couldn't talk to them like he could talk to other people.

A couple of weeks into October, Gob was at the JFK airport eagerly awaiting a flight from the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. Gob had known he’d miss his brother, but it wasn’t until he saw his dumb, floppy haircut get off the plane that he realized just how much he had. Once Michael found him, Gob wrapped him up in one of his tight, bone-crushing hugs. Michael winced a little, but he had learned there was no point stopping Gob's hugs once he got going, so Michael just patted him on the back until Gob pulled away.

“Welcome to the City,” Gob said with a broad grin, one arm still around his brother’s shoulders as the other gestured around him.

“This is just the airport,” Michael pointed out. Gob rolled his eyes and they went to find baggage claim.

Michael was mainly in town for his fall break in order to visit Columbia University and NYU, but since it coincided with part of Gob’s fall break, and because Keith (blissfully) had left early, it just made sense for Michael to stay with Gob. His older brother could easily show him around so Michael could get an idea of what life in New York City would be like.

Of course, Gob immediately spread the word to his friends and hook-ups there that there was no way, under any circumstances, that they could tell Michael about any of the gay stuff. Gob was not ready for Michael to know anything, and if that meant a weekend without sex or dancing in some club—yes, sometimes Gob would go just to dance—so be it. He’d save it up for Halloween. That was basically like the gay community's Christmas, right?

Gob hailed them a cab once they were ready and got them to his residence hall as quickly as possible. There they ordered in some pizza and hung out in his dorm room. Gob still had one day left of classes before his break, and then Thursday they’d see NYU and Friday they’d see Columbia, and then Gob was going to take Michael out to the tourist-y places he pretended he was too cool for now that he had been in New York for three whole months now and maybe convince him to break the rules and go to some bar.

Just obviously not a gay one.

Michael had actually been interested in going to Gob’s classes, which he hadn’t expected, but he eagerly took him and introduced him to everyone because he loved his brother and was so excited to have him around. It actually turned out to be pretty nice that he came that day, because Gob got back his ear training midterm with a fucking one hundred percent on it—holy shit. He had never done so well on a test in his whole life. Well, accept his last test he took, except that was a HIV test because one of his friends had asked if he had done that and, oh yeah, he needed to do that, it wasn't like he had been avoiding it on purpose and it wasn't like it was still terrifying and he nearly ran out of the testing clinic as soon as they pulled the needle out of his arm, but the results were super fast there and they told him that same day that he was still HIV-negative—but, okay, that wasn't the point.

"An A-plus?" Michael said, looking at Gob with pride. Michael had always known that Gob was obviously musically talented, but he had never realized there could be some way to grade his abilities outside of competitions and stuff. "We need a fridge for you to hang that on." They had both heard that other families did that, but neither of them had ever experienced that in their house.

Gob did his best to play it cool, but it was difficult when Michael was looking so impressed and he was actually getting an A in something—hadn’t he said years ago he’d be great at a school if he just got to study music all day?

Later that night, the Bluth boys joined some of Gob’s friends in the TV lounge to watch a tape of Amadeus. Michael watched Gob and the others debate the value of Mozart’s music with amusement. It was such a specific, long, in-depth argument full of knowledge that went way over his head. That combined with the 100% on that test and all of the years of watching his brother get weirdly excited about classical music just made Michael smile.

“So, Gob’s kind of a geek, huh?” Michael asked them after his brother finished ranting about one thing or another that Michael couldn’t follow.

“What, was he ever cool or something?” one of his friends joked. Gob rolled his eyes and hit him on the arm.

Gob dutifully took Michael to his school visits. While he didn’t get why Michael got so excited over economics and business and pre-law classes—all of which he was considering doing—he knew Michael hadn’t really understood any of his own enthusiasm for classical music, either, so Gob couldn’t really make fun of him for it.

He also didn’t make fun of him for it because he liked seeing his brother so excited about the schools in New York. Having Michael around the last few days had been a lot more fun than he expected. Gob had always loved hanging out with Michael, of course he had, and he had known he’d miss him, but it really wasn’t until he had him around again than he realized how much he had missed him. And hanging out with him outside of their parents’—or at least their dad’s—judgment made his visit even more fun. Gob was feeling closer to him than ever.

And Michael was enjoying New York enough that, well, maybe Gob could tell him about the whole gay thing.

On Saturday, the last night of Michael’s visit, Gob pulled out an outfit from his closet to show off to his brother. He figured he could ease his way into the conversation as he showed him the leather jacket and pants. “There’s a bar I like doing a Halloween costume contest, and I think my hair’s long enough to pull off an early era Freddie Mercury,” Gob said. “I already learned some of his piano parts, too, in case people wanna challenge me on it.”

Michael nodded in approval. “That can’t be too comfortable.”

Gob shrugged. “There are less comfortable things.” Getting out of them quickly for whoever he ended up with would suck, but he’d make it work. "Plus, I look hot in the pants."

Michael made a face and didn't respond.

"And, you know, Freddie's a hero of mine," Gob said, trying to work up the courage to say how he looked up to a guy who was unabashedly gay. He was gay, right? He wasn't, like, out-out, but he was totally gay. There was no way a straight guy acted like he did on stage.

Unfortunately, he paused long enough that Michael didn't get the memo that he was trying to say something. “I guess Halloween’s a big thing here,” Michael said. “Every place we’ve been seems to already be celebrating it. No wonder you love this place.”

Halloween had always been one of Gob’s favorite holidays. How could anyone resist wearing some ridiculous costume and free candy? Gob had continued trick-or-treating long after Michael had stopped. “Yeah, too bad you won’t be here to take any candy beans I get,” Gob joked. That was always their trade. “But maybe in a couple of years, right? You can be at Columbia or wherever, I’ll be here…”

Michael gave him a look that was almost eerily similar to the one Seth had given him months ago. “I don’t know…I think this city’s just a bit too much for me.”

Gob’s smile fell. “Oh.” He paused for a moment before putting his outfit away, facing away from Michael for a moment. He couldn't tell his brother now about being gay, could he? If he thought the city was "too much", did that mean he thought Gob was "too much"? Michael definitely would think that if he knew his brother was gay.

Michael continued, “Yeah, I just think it’s a little too…wild, I guess? And it’s already getting kind of cold and it’s only October.”

“Yeah,” Gob said. He had been missing the warm weather a lot, too. He finally moved to sit down on his bed as Michael continued to sit in one of the desk chairs. “Not all of it is that wild, though. And I thought you liked the schools.”

“I do. But…” Michael sighed. “…I think if I stay closer to home, I can start working for dad for real during school. And…you know, get the CEO job sooner.”

Gob stared at Michael for a while. Though it had been obvious for years at this point that Michael was going to take over, they had never really talked about it. Despite not having an interest in running it, they both knew that Gob would, traditionally, be expected to take it over, and they both knew Gob still felt a bit bitter about not even being given the chance.

“…Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. Total sense,” Gob said after a moment. “Do you think you’ll even apply out here?”

“Maybe,” Michael said. “It can’t hurt, you know, but…yeah. Unless I get a great offer, I’ll probably stay out in California." He laughed a little and said, "I'm not sure I could stay away from In-N-Out for a whole semester."

When Michael left the next day, Gob felt such a sense of homesickness he hadn’t felt in quite some time. Maybe ever. Gob just ignored it. He had so much going on in New York, there was no way the homesickness would stay.

The homesickness didn’t go away.

Gob was woken up in the middle of the night one day in November by a knock on the door. Gob looked at the clock; it was nearly 2:30 in the morning. While he often stayed up that late any day of the week, he had been forced to adjust to Keith’s sleep schedule and he sighed dramatically at being awoken. With a grumble he got out of bed and answered the door, where the front desk attendant told him there was a phone call for him.

Gob grabbed his keys and went downstairs to take his phone call.

“’ello?” Gob muttered into the phone, still barely awake. As soon as he recognized his mom’s voice, Gob sighed. “It’s almost three, mom, what do you want?” He couldn’t imagine anything that would make his mom want to talk to him this late.

“It’s only 11:30 here,” she said, as if that explained everything and how dare he be upset about her calling so late. “I need to know: did you watch the new episode of Dynasty?”

Gob paused and almost hung up. Did his mom seriously just wake him up to talk about a TV show? But his mom continued, “I still can’t believe they premiered the new season this late; you know that means they’re cancelling it. Buster tried watching it with me and couldn’t keep up, unsurprisingly. Couldn’t even make my martini as well as you do, but you’re the only other person in the family who understands how to mix drinks, so that’s not a surprise, either.”

A warmth grew in Gob’s chest and he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He had watched it earlier that night and had missed her presence (and her alcohol) in all honesty, but he hadn’t thought she’d think the same. His mom actually missed him, didn’t she? That was…that was kind of sweet of her.

Even if he had a quiz in music theory in less than six hours.

“I watched it. Of course, I did. I can't believe you think I wouldn't,” Gob said, relaxing against the wall next to the phone. “I also can’t believe I actually feel bad for Sammy Jo.”

They ended up talking for about half an hour before the front desk attendant started giving him looks. He promised her that next week he’d call her the next day to discuss it since he really did need to sleep.

It took him a while to get back to sleep once he was back in his bed. Gob had known he’d miss Michael and even Lindsay and Buster, but his mom? He turned on his side and frowned at the pang in his stomach he hadn’t expected grew.

It was only a few days later when Gob experienced his first snowfall.

It technically wasn’t his first time in snow, just his first time actually seeing it fall and accumulate on the street and sidewalks and stuff. His family, like all rich families, took some vacations to ski lodges and the like, but Gob had been prepared for those. And while he had bought winter clothes for Juilliard, he hadn’t been prepared for it to start snowing before Thanksgiving even rolled around.

When snow started falling, he was entranced. It fell down so much more gracefully than he imagined. He reached his tongue out to taste them like he saw in the movies; he put on gloves and made a snow ball when enough of it had accumulated; he let his friends tease him for being like a wide-eyed child as he had this new experience at 18. Even though it got a bit tiring to put on so many layers, he really genuinely liked the snow at first.

But then he went home for Thanksgiving break. Gob had the full week off, so he got to go home on Saturday morning and would fly back over a week later on the following Sunday. He was hopeful that being around his family for that long would help remind him why he had wanted to get away so badly.

The first thing Gob realized as he got off the plane was just how pale he had gotten. While he normally freckled or burned, he also normally had at least some sense of sun. Now he looked almost as pale as Buster did, which was not his style at all.

The next thing Gob noticed was, wow, he had really missed the sun. It wasn’t like it was always cloudy in New York or something, but it definitely wasn’t as sunny Newport Beach was. His dad had to yell at him to get in the car after he spent a full minute just standing in the sun outside with his arms wide open.

Gob sat out in the yard, went to the beach, visited Michael at the banana stand, wore his light linens and shorts and sandals. It felt so nice to be back in the sun. It seemed to energize him in this way he couldn’t understand.

“It’s like photography,” Gob told Michael. “You know, not the camera thing, but the thing plants need to grow.”

Photosynthesis,” Michael corrected.

Gob laughed. “Yeah, I’m sure that’s the word,” he said sarcastically. “Come on, I’m not gonna fall for that like some geo-bead.”


“You know, that word Dad uses to mean something’s dumb?” Gob said. “Look who’s the geo-bead now.” Michael just looked at his brother for a moment before shaking his head. He wasn’t going to correct him that time.


Despite how stressful family dinners could be, Gob enjoyed every aspect of Thanksgiving. Not only had he missed the sun, but he realized he had missed, well…everyone. Even his dad, in a weird, messed up way that probably needed thousands of dollars in therapists bills to explain. But he had missed more than that. He had missed having a maid doing his laundry. He had missed his Dynasty watches with his mom. He had missed Lindsay blasting crappy pop music—and the few times he and Michael and Buster would let themselves admit they liked the music enough to dance around with her in the privacy of her room. He had missed Bluth Bananas and his bed.

He had missed his piano, and he even crawled under it for old time’s sake. It was still as comforting as it was back when he was smaller. He had missed playing for Michael and his family. He had missed the little mark on that G3, the first note he had ever played.

He had missed California.

When he returned to New York, the snow had turned a black-ish gray from the dirty streets, the slush froze his toes through his boots, and he fell on a patch of ice on the way back from the airport.

No, no. It wasn’t worth staying out there. Juilliard’s name recognition wasn’t worth the freezing cold, the lack of sunshine, the falls on ice that nearly sprained his wrists, the snow that froze his fingers so much he was terrified they were permanently injured. It wasn't worth how much he was missing California, and not just his home and the sunshine, but the relaxed attitude and lifestyle that he loved and craved and was used to.

He tried to remind himself that it was just homesickness and it would go away. He tried to remind himself that being back in the sun wouldn’t be worth giving up Juilliard’s name-brand recognition or his ability to hook-up thousands of miles away from his family’s watchful gaze—not that he was hooking up as much as he had expected. Gob tried to remind himself of his friends he had made and his teachers he liked and the culture he got to soak up in the city.

But over the next few weeks, even as he watched the beautiful Christmas lights shine in the snow, Gob realized he wasn’t happy there. He liked his classes and most of his classmates, but it didn’t feel as right as it had back when he had visited. Maybe seeing Seth again had made it seem brighter, maybe staying off-campus had clouded his judgment, maybe he was just being dumb. He didn’t know, but he knew that, for him, the west coast was the best coast.

Gob talked to his piano teacher about it, and, while disappointed, he seemed to understand that Gob needed to be elsewhere. He suggested looking at USC and, yeah, Gob had applied and gotten in, and he could get a sample lesson over Christmas break with a guy his teacher knew, and if he liked it, he could transfer for his sophomore year.

Gob figured it was at least worth a visit.

As soon as Gob stepped into the music building on USC’s campus, he realized he had made a huge mistake. Not because he was taking a sample lesson or thinking about transferring, no.

He had made a huge mistake trying to go anywhere that wasn’t this school.

This…this was the right place for him. He had no idea how he knew that, but something just clicked as he stepped into the Thornton School of Music. Gob remembered how people said you would just know, and he thought he had that feeling with Juilliard, but it had to be seeing Seth again and getting wrapped up in his fantasies of living with him far away from his parents and Eve and all the bullshit he was dealing with in high school.

The teacher he met with was great, the admissions staff was great, the whole building was…great. So, without telling anyone at home, Gob quickly applied and auditioned to transfer before Christmas.

He tried to carefully broach the subject of transferring for his sophomore year with his parents afterwards. However, Gob, no matter what age, was not good at carefully broaching any subject. He lacked subtlety and nuance in anything that wasn’t music. And, at first, the subject didn’t go over well. If any of their kids was going to pursue something so artistic, the kid needed to at least go to a name-brand school. After hours of fighting, Gob managed to convince them that USC was just as good of a school as Juilliard. It was in the top ten music schools in the country! His piano professor was a big name in the music community! It cost less money!

Thankfully, that finally got his parents to agree.

After Gob was accepted at USC, he continued to debate with himself over whether it was the right move or not. The main thing he worried about was being watched by his family because, again, New York City meant more freedom. Then again, he’d get the same freedom living in the dorms at USC as well; his parents weren’t going to make him drive up to LA from Newport every day, after all.

He eventually accepted USC’s offer and went through the whole process of transferring. Gob did his best to enjoy his last few months in New York and all the privacy it gave him. He spent time with his friends, snuck into a few more bars, blew a few more vocalists. You know, the usual. 

When he took the taxi to JFK that last day, he couldn’t help but look around the rest of the city. Gob knew he’d be back some day, maybe more permanently, maybe just to perform in one of the big halls. But, for now, it was right for him to be back home.

He finally understood what Seth had meant.

Gob slid up to the bar and slipped a five to the bartender for a shot of tequila. His eyes scanned the bar as he waited for the drink. It was his first night out in LA, almost exactly a year after he had first moved into Juilliard’s residence hall. He had just moved into one of USC’s earlier that week, and any lingering doubts about his decision had been immediately erased.

He had signed up to be in the dorm closest to the music building, so most of the people on his floor were also music majors. At first, he had assumed their interest in him had been because his last name, since it was definitely known in LA, but it turned out word had spread that he had left Juilliard and they were intrigued by that. They all had agreed that the west coast was the best coast.

Orientation proved that his teachers were all going to be great. It sucked that he had to take more non-music credits, but he figured he could struggle through them. There was an activity fair that Gob's new friends took him to since apparently they gave out free things there. Gob wasn't sure he had the time or interest in most of them, but he took home a lot of pointless free shit and discreetly grabbed the information about a gay/lesbian society on campus. He wasn't sure putting the name "Bluth" on the sign up sheet was a good idea, but maybe he'd give it a try sometime.

But the ultimate test was going out to one of the clubs in town. He needed to know that he still had a great club scene in LA.

Really, the scene was almost the same as it was in New York. Same thumping bass, same sort of outfits, the same earplugs were still in Gob’s ears. The only difference was that a few guys on his floor were there with him.

Gob grinned as he locked eyes with a guy in the crowd. He took the shot handed to him—the cheap stuff in California was much better than the cheap stuff in New York—and gave the guy a wink.

Yeah, he was pretty sure he could get used to this.

Chapter Text

Prélude in C-sharp Minor from Morceaux de fantaisie (Fantasy pieces) (Op. 3, no. 2)

The University of Southern California had turned out to be a perfect match for Gob, at least socially. Gob quickly found himself a group of friends, including the boys of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. PMA was a music fraternity made up of all kinds of male music majors and minors. Initially, when Gob realized they didn’t have a house or anything, he hadn’t wanted to join. What was the point of being in an organization with a Greek name when they weren’t even really Greek?

Eventually, Gob realized that they were the guys who threw the best parties. Most of the guys were marching band kids, which Gob had always assumed was lame because, you know, marching band. But it turned out the guys really knew how to party. House parties would be full of loud music, plenty of alcohol, and all kinds of people from the music building. It was always a fun time. And, unlike other frats, they seemed pretty cool with gay kids in general so, yeah, another plus. Gob had to join.

It also meant he actually had female friends for the first time since…well, ever. His relationships with women had always been less than great, but PMA did a lot of work with the women’s music sorority, Sigma Alpha Iota. They even did a formal his sophomore year, which was his first year at USC of course, and he ended up bringing a girl as a date. A girl who knew it wasn’t a real date, of course, and had no problem with it, and they actually ended up having a good time.

USC, unlike Juilliard, had a nice mix of taking music extremely seriously while still having a lot of fun when allowed. Vocalists, for example, would be on vocal rest and refuse alcohol for weeks leading up to operas, and then they’d let it loose as soon as it was over. Instrumentalists would train hard every day and then enjoy themselves on the weekend. And the marching band kids had hours of work a week to create their shows, but then would always leave the stadium singing “In Heaven There Is No Beer”.

These were Gob’s people.

Academically, it was more of a challenge. Not in the music classes; they were about the same level as Juilliard, really. But he had more core requirements to get through, all of these boring gen ed classes he had zero interest in.

However, that’s where one of the many advantages of living so close to home came in. Sometimes Gob would drop by to just “do some laundry”, meaning he’d just dump a bunch of clothes for Rosa to wash for him, and then he’d get help from Michael on something. Sometimes he’d get Buster or Lindsay in a pinch, since at least Buster would just straight up do the assignment for him, whereas Michael would just provide him with “helpful” suggestions and edits. With Buster, Gob would just copy it down in his own handwriting. He normally pulled off a C, maybe a B+.

Going home every now and then was nice. Sadly, Dynasty had indeed been cancelled on a damn cliffhanger, but sometimes he'd visit and have a drink with his mom while she watched something else; one time they even found West Side Story playing on PBS and got completely wasted since, c'mon, Gob couldn't resist Lenny Bernstein and Lucille couldn't resist a musical. That had been a fun night.

Of course, getting to play his piano was a major reason to go home, because he didn't have to wait for a practice room to open up. Sometimes he’d show up at home unannounced and no one would be around, so he’d go straight for the piano, greeting his family to the sound of his latest assignments when they came through the door. Or sometimes a Foreigner song. You know, depending on the mood.

Being close to home did have some disadvantages, of course. There was still a creeping fear that he would be found out by his family at some point. It was especially difficult when Lindsay kept asking about and coming to parties. Not only did the whole you aren’t allowed to date my sister feelings come up whenever Lindsay tried to hit on his friends, but, you know, it meant he couldn’t hook-up with anyone himself. Sometimes one of his girl friends would dance with him to help him keep up the act, and while that could be fun, it wasn’t as fun as getting with a guy. Obviously.

But, all together, Gob knew he made the right decision by going to USC.

For his junior year, Lucille and George told Gob he was allowed to rent a small house near USC instead of living in the dorms. This was the best news ever to Gob, since, okay, yes, having a place to move the piano to gave him unlimited practice time. But also, having no RA meant he could have alcohol at his disposal and not worry about sneaking guys back to his place and maybe even host some parties—

Well, that was the plan for a split-second. Then they added that Michael would live there, too. Michael was going to Occidental College, a school so close to USC that it just made sense for him to live there.

Gob tried to convince Michael to live on campus—think of all the friends he’d miss out on, the girls he wouldn’t meet, the girls he wouldn’t fuck. The last one almost got Michael to change his mind, but, much like Gob had been thinking himself, Michael already knew dealing with an RA in that situation would be difficult.

Michael was always too smart for his own good.

So, the two of them (and the piano) moved in together. And Michael did manage to get a girl or two over, and he’d shoot his brother a thumbs-up when the girls nervously left the next morning. Gob, however, initially hooked up outside of the house, terrified at the idea of Michael running into one of his conquests like he had run into those girls, terrified that Michael would learn his secret, terrified of his brother losing his respect for him.

But Michael—smug, responsible Michael—followed a schedule, a strict sleep schedule, even during his “craziest” nights. He was always out by 1:00, 1:30 at the latest, which gave Gob plenty of time to find someone and bring them back. Then he’d make sure the coast was clear that night (or the next morning, if he let anyone stay that long) before hurrying the guy out before Michael could catch him.

It wasn’t a perfect system, but it was better than trying to hook up in a public space where they could get arrested or going back to a dorm room. His place had more privacy than most (sort of) and a comfortable bed and all the necessary things, and it meant he got to sleep in his own bed. It was a bit of an effort, but it was worth the risk.

Until one morning when it wasn’t.

Gob woke up to his usual Sunday alarm in a bit of a daze. After he rubbed his eyes, his adrenaline kicked in like it always did on days like this, days when he woke up with a guy still in his bed. That particular guy had been in his bed more and more lately; Gob may have been developing some sort of fondness for him, but that wasn’t something he could explore at the moment. Or ever, really. Not with his family being his family.

Anyways, the guy, Dave, had been over enough to know the situation. He slipped back into his clothes as Gob got ready for the day; it was a Sunday, so Gob had his church gig. He had to get into his suit and make himself look presentable, which, yeah, he probably could’ve waited to do until after he got Dave out, but it was still early, and Dave was being slow that morning.

Once Gob was presentable enough, he stepped out to make sure Michael wasn’t awake. The house was still semi-dark from how early it was and from lack of lights on. That meant no Michael. Gob silently motioned for Dave to follow him and quietly led him towards the front door. Gob tried to avoid the spaces on the wood that squeaked the most, but Dave still hit a few along the way. It made Gob a little nervous, but he told himself it was dumb to freak out about that.

Dave whispered, “I had fun last night.”

Gob couldn’t help but smile his crooked smile. “Yeah. Me, too.” Gob looked back around the room again, still not spotting Michael. Assuming he was all in the clear, Gob leaned forward and pressed his lips to Dave’s, the kiss lasting longer than necessary as the two got a little carried away, their arms wrapped around each other. They only stopped when Gob heard a sharp gasp and a creak of wood

Gob pulled back immediately, his heart stopping for a moment as the blood ran out of his face. Michael was in his robe, his own face pale and his eyes wide as they darted between his brother and the man who had just been making out with his brother, the man whose arms were still wrapped around his brother, the man whose hands were in the back pockets of Gob’s pants.

“Shit,” Dave said before pulling out of the hold. Gob reflexively tried to grab after him, needing something to keep him standing. But Dave quickly left the house, and all that Gob could do was turn back to his brother.

Gob opened his mouth once, twice, trying to get himself to say something, anything; it was a joke, it was a misunderstanding, it wasn’t what it looked like. But after a few moments that felt like hours, Gob just grabbed his keys and walked out the door Dave had left not even a minute earlier.

All of Gob’s friends had found it so funny that he worked at a church. First of all, Gob knew next to nothing about religion—he still hadn’t figured out who the other Gob in the Bible was—and, second of all, he was the biggest partier they knew. Yeah, he was good at what he did, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t funny that he spent his Fridays and Saturdays sinning it up, only to get up early on Sundays and play hymns. Gob, too, had always found it funny.

It just wasn’t quite as funny to him this week.

His church gig didn’t go as well as it usually did. It was fine, since, really, he probably sounded the same to most everyone, but everything sounded so off to him, like his mind was just completely out of tune or something, each note he played sounding off and every chord sounded like a scream and his mind just wouldn’t shut up. He felt shaky and nervous the whole time he was there, afraid he was going to be sick or start crying at any moment. Maybe both. That feeling only increased when, as per usual, a few of the little old church ladies stayed after the service to thank him and promised to set him up with their granddaughters. Gob had always laughed playfully at that, but on that particular day, the laugh probably sounded more hysterical than flattered.

He was always too sensitive, always feeling things too much, always ready to start freaking out at the slightest challenge. His parents had criticized that from day one, using the word dramatic the same way his dad said artistic. Everyone told him he panicked over things that didn’t matter.

But this time he had reason to panic. This time it did matter. The person he trusted the most in his family now knew his biggest secret, and there was no way that person was taking it well. Michael was so straight-laced and such a rule follower, there was no way he could handle having a gay brother.

Gob stayed out for the rest of the day. He had always been a bit of a social smoker, lighting a cigarette or three during some parties, but that day he found himself smoking through what was left of his barely used pack. He practiced at school in between smoking breaks, since focusing on music was the only thing that ever made his brain stop screaming whenever it got too loud. Pounding some Rachmaninoff was particularly satisfying that day.

Some of his friends were there and they joked about how it had to be the first time Gob had used a practice room in over a year, while Gob tried to laugh along. After all, Gob had a piano in his house and would practice there. Why try to fight for a practice room when they were so limited and you could easily practice at home? Besides, Michael liked to hear him play and he said it helped him study.

Gob lit another cigarette outside of the music building as he tried to ignore that thought.

He didn’t go back home until his fingers were sore and the sun had started to set. While he briefly considered running away, he didn’t even have anything besides his sheet music and a couple of bucks. He didn’t even have enough money on his person to buy some cheap six-pack of beer to help clear his mind.

Running away was still tempting, since he could easily make some money at a piano bar and make his way across the states…but he liked California. And he liked his friends. And he loved his school, which was a thought he never expected to have ever in his life, but it was the truth. He wanted to keep going and actually graduate.

Gob sat in his car for a while, bracing himself. He wasn’t even sure what he was going to say. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to say anything. But he also knew he couldn’t stay in his car forever and he couldn’t avoid Michael as much as he wanted to. Maybe Michael would just ignore it; it wasn’t like his family ever really talked about anything real ever.

…Except Michael. Michael tried to talk to him about real things. A lot. And it had been years since Gob had let that happen, all because he was afraid of Michael finding out about, well, this.

Gob let out a shaky breath and climbed out of his car before making his way to the back door—he was sure there was a joke there somewhere. He sat on the back patio and pulled out the last cigarette, lighting it with shaky hands before storing his lighter back in his pocket.

It wasn’t long before he heard the door creak open and close. Gob didn’t even look over as he felt his brother sit down next to him. He wasn’t ready to see his face. Not yet.

“Don’t tell mom and dad,” Gob whispered, his voice scratchier than usual after all the smoking he had done that day. Though he hadn’t said please, it wasn’t a demand; his voice was pleading, desperate, and had none of the cockiness Gob usually had in his every word.

“I won’t,” Michael said, his voice also quiet. Gob didn’t respond as he kept staring ahead, but Michael could tell his brother relaxed a bit. After a long silence, Michael asked, “Have you always…?”

Gob wasn’t sure if Michael meant if he always knew he was gay or if he just always had been gay or something else entirely, but after a moment, he nodded. It seemed like the right response. Because, well, he had always been gay, and even though Gob hadn’t realized until a few years ago, he had always known something was different about him. He just didn’t quite have the words or understanding for it.

Michael hesitated, his words so slow it was hard for Gob to even process his question. “…So…have all those…dates and everything...have they all been…guys?”

Once he really understood the question, Gob took in a sharp breath, almost choking on the smoke around him. He was pretty sure Michael just meant from the hook-ups he’d had since they lived together, since Michael had been well aware that Gob was having a lot of sex. Michael would roll his eyes when Gob came back in the morning wearing the same outfit he had been wearing the night before. He had given nods of understanding when Gob would be lounging in his robe in the morning after clearly getting some the night before. He’d shake his head at his brother when the sound of one of Gob’s hook-ups leaving in the morning woke him up.

Despite all of his judgmental reactions, Gob had been sure that Michael was impressed by this. Proud, maybe. Definitely a bit jealous of his brother’s abilities, even when he went on about this Tracey girl he had been dating—was it was possible Tracey had been one of those girls? Maybe even both? Gob was bad with faces. Regardless, Gob had assumed Michael respected his sexual prowess. 

He hated having to disappoint his favorite family member.

Gob took in a deep drag of his cigarette and slowly let it out. He wanted—needed—another moment before he could talk again, so he finally just shrugged a little. Gob wasn’t sure Michael really would want to know the details of when it started or how Eve had slipped in after Seth and all of that mess.

Though he still hadn’t looked over at Michael, Gob could tell Michael was nodding in response as he tried to think of something else to say. He was trying to be patient since he knew his brother was just trying to understand, but Gob felt trapped under a spotlight he never wanted on him. After a whole lifetime of craving attention, demanding attention, Gob would’ve done anything to get out of this close inspection.

The fingers on his left hand itched and he started to lightly move his fingers on his leg like he was playing a scale. It was a habit he had developed over the years, something to keep him occupied when all he wanted to do was bolt. He started with C Major, then C minor...C#...C# minor...

Michael took in a shaky, nervous breath, his eyes locked on his brother’s anxious, nicotine-stained fingers. Gob took in another drag of his cigarette as a wave of irritation hit him. It seemed pretty unfair for Michael to be nervous when he was the one with all the power in this situation.

“Are you being safe? You know, with…everything?” Michael finally asked.

Oh. Gob stopped his fingers midair. The nervous energy kind of made sense, though the question still made Gob feel on edge. Gob looked out the corner of his eyes, still not looking Michael in the face. Michael’s hands were in his lap, twisting around themselves. He couldn’t tell if it was genuine and Michael was nervous for his brother’s health, or if he was just assuming that Gob was too dumb to think about using a condom. Which, okay, fair, seeing as Gob didn’t make the best decisions, and he had thought he had gotten sick from sleeping with a virgin, but still. It wasn’t like Michael cared when he thought Gob was hooking up with a new girl every week—he could’ve gotten something from them, too. Why was he suddenly caring about his safety now?

 “Yeah,” Gob said, finally speaking again. “Condoms…blood tests…” He swallowed as he thought about how scary those had been…

“Good,” Michael said. “And you’re all...clean?”

Yes,” Gob said through gritted teeth. He knew Michael wasn’t the first to use the word "clean" or anything, but it still bugged him. He also knew he really needed to get another test to know for sure that he was “clean”, but the idea of having to get another test made his breath catch in his throat every time.

Michael breathed a sigh of relief, but Gob shook his head. He felt irritation from the high anxiety of his day start to press into him as he finally put out his cigarette, his shoe crushing the fire and the ash. He ground it into the patio’s step much longer than necessary, getting ash on the tip of his nice dress shoes. He was still in his church gig clothing, and the suit was starting to itch at his skin. Gob loosened his tie and reached for his cigarette pack, forgetting it was empty for a moment. With a sigh, he threw it off to the side and stood up. “I need a drink,” he muttered, more to himself than anything.

He went back inside, well aware that his brother was following him. Michael was giving off a very uneasy energy, which wasn’t helping Gob’s irritation or anxiety or his “dramatic” nature. He easily found his whiskey decanter and poured some for himself, filling up the glass more than the usual, proper amount he had been trained to pour. After a moment’s thought, he poured a glass for Michael, since it was clear that his little brother wasn’t leaving anytime soon. He slid the glass over at Michael, who stood at the other side of the kitchen island. He just stared at the glass questioningly, which made Gob’s skin feel even more prickly.

Gob wasn’t sure what else needed to be said or what Michael was expecting. He certainly didn’t know why Michael would expect him to even offer anything when he obviously had wanted it to be a secret. Of course, Michael also probably knew the silence would get to Gob and force him to speak at some point.

In that moment, Gob hated his brother for knowing him so well.

Gob took a sip of whiskey and let it burn down his throat, the burn much more intense as usual after all the smoke he had pumped into his body. Maybe that intensity was what caused him to finally get to the point. “Look, if you want to tell me I’m disgusting or whatever, can we get it over with?” Gob asked, his voice slightly louder than it had been before, but still barely above a whisper. He finally looked at his brother’s face, expecting to see the disgust or hate in his eyes, but much to Gob’s surprise, Michael was looking at him with confusion.

“I don’t think you’re disgusting,” Michael said. “…Well, not any more than I did when I thought they were girls,” he added, trying to force out a laugh. Gob couldn’t tell why that was supposed to be funny, so he just looked back at his drink with a small scoff. He found it hard to believe that Michael didn’t hate him now, even if the small part of his brain that still had some rationality left told him that Michael was at least asking him questions and listening. That probably wasn’t something he’d do if he was really disgusted with him.

“...Why aren’t you drinking?” Gob asked after a moment. “I told you I’m ‘clean’. You’re not gonna catch anything.”

Michael couldn’t stop himself from raising an eyebrow. “I’m not drinking because it’s a school night,” he said in his usual matter-of-fact voice.

Gob stared at him for a moment before letting out a puff of laughter. “Typical Michael,” he said, smiling ever so slightly. It was the first time he had genuinely smiled since before he kissed Dave that morning…

God, he did not want to think about what was happening there.

The two were both silent for a moment and Michael finally picked up his glass and had a sip. Seeing his brother break a rule made Gob relax a little bit, and he let out a small breath. Gob put his glass back down on the counter and rested his hands on either side of it, leaning his weight onto the space.

“So…” Michael started quietly, “All those girls…? Did they ever happen?”

Gob sighed a little. “All the ones in high school that I told you about,” he said honestly. “Those happened. That girl last year was a friend who agreed to cover for me. I haven’t been with a girl since Eve.”

“But…okay, if you can be with girls, why—how are you gay?” Michael asked, though he almost took it back when he saw his brother’s face.

“Because…Jesus,” Gob finished off his whiskey and poured himself some more. He was going to need alcohol to get through this conversation. After a few more sips, Gob said, “It just never felt right. Every fucking time, I kept hoping I’d like it more, that one girl would actually interest me—the only reason I managed one time with Eve was because I was thinking about Seth the whole time.”

“Seth?” Michael asked.

“My roommate from camp,” Gob said, the words falling out a bit easier than he expected. “He was my first…my first guy.” He couldn’t help but smile as he thought about him; they didn’t talk as much as he liked, but they still wrote some letters, mainly just life updates. It wasn’t anything special, but he still looked forward to hearing from him. He was still a good friend. “First lot of things,” Gob said quietly without even realizing it.

Michael watched his brother curiously; he was pretty sure he had a good idea for why Gob was smiling like that. Gob had definitely never had that look when talking about any girl ever.

As Gob had more of his drink, Michael started to connect some dots in his head. Gob being so sensitive whenever dating was brought up, why he never seemed to settle down, why he took their father’s “jokes” so hard…

God, the thought of those insults made Michael’s stomach turn. Once he realized what things like “limp wrist” and all of that meant, he thought their dad was just being an asshole over Gob doing something that wasn’t “manly”. Knowing that Gob had to hear all of that, had to know what they meant, had to listen to their father insult who he actually was…

“I’m so sorry,” Michael said suddenly.

Gob looked up at him. “For what?”

Michael paused. “For…” God, he didn’t even know what to say. He shook his head and then looked his brother right in the eye. “I’m sorry if I ever made you think I wouldn’t be okay with this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m confused, but…” Michael took a breath and continued, “I’m not mad or upset or anything.” Gob looked down at his now empty glass and Michael insisted, “You know that, right?”

The two of them were silent for a little while. Finally, Gob shifted a little and whispered, “…You really don’t think I’m…you don' don't hate me?” He chanced a look at his brother again who, with a very serious expression, shook his head.

“I don’t,” Michael said softly, but firmly. "Gob, I—"

Michael was cut off because, embarrassingly enough, that made Gob start to cry. Like, tears running down his cheeks and stuttering breaths cry. After years of keeping this thing a secret, after thousands of hours wasted worrying about how people would react to it, how Michael would react, being so sure his brother would hate him...just hearing that he didn’t think badly of him was a sense of relief Gob had never thought he’d feel. All of these emotions just spilled out of him and he was almost terrified by what he was feeling.

Michael immediately went around the counter and, with only a slight amount of hesitation, wrapped his arms around his older brother. Michael wasn’t a hugger in any way; it might have been the first time he had ever initiated a hug between the two of them.

Of course, that just made Gob cry harder.

As Michael gently shushed his brother, something else started to make sense to him. After Gob broke his wrist, the two of them had gotten so close, but at some point, Michael couldn’t really remember when, Gob had started to put up a wall. They still talked, but Michael could tell that Gob wasn’t telling him everything. He had thought it was because they were just growing older and Gob was getting into things Michael wasn’t into, like all of his music things, things that, at times still made Michael a little jealous.

But now he realized there was something else there. Knowing that he wasn’t the one who put up the wall, that his slight envy of Gob’s abilities didn’t ruin their relationship, was good, but knowing that Gob had hidden who he was out of fear of him hating him somehow? That still hurt. He had no idea what he did to make Gob think that and knowing how hurt his brother had been…well, Michael felt a few tears of his own. And Michael never cried.

When Gob finally calmed down enough, Michael pulled away and looked over his older brother. “I…” Michael started, not sure what to say. No, he didn’t think Gob was disgusting, but he was still a bit confused about, well, all of it. Part of him wanted to keep talking about it, but Gob looked so tired and so much younger than usual with his red eyes and his hair flopping into his face...

Michael clapped a hand on Gob’s shoulder and said, “You smell like tobacco factory.” Gob laughed a little and wiped his eyes. “Why don’t you clean up a little. Have you eaten?”

“Donuts—they had some at church,” Gob muttered. That had been it, hadn’t it? No wonder he felt lightheaded.

“…How about I order in something,” Michael suggested. “Chinese sound good?” Gob nodded and Michael pat his shoulder a few times before going to the phone as Gob went to the bathroom. Michael heard the shower turning on as he dialed up one of the local places and put in their usual orders.

Well, he thought he ordered in Gob’s usual. Now he wasn’t so sure he knew what that was anymore.

Michael hung up and, grabbing his glass, slammed back the rest of his whiskey.

Despite it being a Sunday night and despite the fact that Michael had an eight AM stats class the next day, Michael dutifully sat in the living room with his brother, sharing some whiskey and keeping an eye on him, like he was afraid he’d break. They turned the TV on to some sitcom or another, both of them not really paying attention as Michael kept looking at his brother and Gob kept fidgeting with his hands in between sips.

Once their food was there, Michael kept glancing at Gob in between bites. While Gob seemed too overwhelmed to want to eat, he also seemed too hungry to stop himself. Michael hoped he still liked sesame chicken. He wouldn’t have lied to him about that for years, right?

Obviously not. He rolled his eyes to himself and kept on eating.

“Have you dated any guy?” Michael asked. It seemed better to try to understand than just sit in silence.

“No,” Gob said. “I mean…I don’t know. At camp, I guess Seth and I kinda were. Then I got back home and…”

Suddenly, Michael remembered Gob panicking over a phone number and address they found in his binder. He remembered Gob tearing up the pieces—

He remembered seeing Gob collect all the scraps later that day.

“Oh,” Michael said. “Have you talked to him since?”

Gob nodded, not looking at his brother. “When I visited Juilliard, he was there, too. He didn’t end up going, but I got his address and phone number and all of that. We still talk.”

After a moment, Michael asked, “So that guy from earlier? He’s not your…boyfriend?” That would be the word, right?

Gob paused, almost as if he had forgotten about that. He finished up his bite of chicken and swallowed slowly. “No,” Gob said after a moment. “He’s one of the guys from PMA—a non-music major. Just a friend. We’ve hooked up a couple of times, but…” Neither of them were out to anyone outside of their circle of friends. Well, until that morning.

“So, your music brothers already know,” Michael said, trying not to be bitter that Gob’s non-blood relative brothers knew before him. He was trying to remind himself that this wasn’t about him.

It apparently was still obvious. “Mikey…” Gob sighed, pressing his hands to his temples.

“No, no, it’s fine,” Michael said, shaking his head. “Just…who else knows?”

Gob gave Michael a look, since he was sure it wasn’t really fine, but he also didn’t want to talk about it. He sighed and dropped his hands, “PMA guys, the SAI girls…maybe some people have seen me with guys a few times. I don’t know. You’re the only one in our family who knows, though.”

Michael did feel a bit better about that.

“Anyways, I don’t think you’ll be seeing Dave around much,” Gob said. “He’s more closeted than I am.”

“Do you want him around?”

“No,” Gob said much too quickly to be true. Michael gave him a look and Gob sighed, a bit buzzed enough to honestly say, “I’m not ready to talk about this stuff with you.” While Michael wanted to argue that it was fine and he should talk to him, he closed his mouth and nodded. Again, it wasn’t about him.

They fell silent again as they watched whatever was on TV. Gob was too worn out to really know what was going on. Once the credits rolled, he muttered, “I’m gonna go to bed.” Michael nodded and they both stood up. Michael put away their leftovers while Gob went to brush his teeth and wash his face. He felt both like he had been run over by a truck and like a huge weight had been lifted off his chest. It had been such a tiring, stressful, long day, but, on the other hand, he felt…good. Like he was slightly hungover but drunk at the same time.

It was an odd feeling, but not the worst one.

The two brothers ran into each other in the hallway. After a moment, Gob wrapped his arms around Michael and hugged him tightly. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“You’re welcome,” Michael said immediately.

Gob kept hugging him and, after a small pause, he added, “Love you.”

Michael squeezed Gob a bit tighter and said, “Love you, too, Gob.”

They pulled apart and Gob, being Gob, had to add, “You know I mean that in a not gay way, right?” Michael rolled his eyes and told him he knew that. Gob smiled and clapped Michael on the shoulder before going to the bedroom. He knew that things were still going to be weird for a while. He knew Michael would still need time to really understand and he knew that he needed time before he’d feel comfortable talking about guys or anything. But, hey, it was progress. And it was progress he definitely never expected.

Gob turned off his lights and got under his covers. Yeah, going to USC really had been the right move.

Chapter Text

Scherzo Humoristique: The Cat and the Mouse

Despite the fact that the two of them had talked it over, Gob and Michael were a bit awkward around one another after Gob was outed. While part of it was probably just based on Michael’s confusion over the whole gay thing—he still didn’t quite get it—but most of it was definitely because of how they had expressed a lot of emotions that night, emotions that weren’t commonly talked about in the Bluth family. Neither of them could remember the last time their parents ever said something about loving them, if ever.

So, they avoided each other a little the first few days after the event. Gob would walk into the kitchen when Michael was in there, and Michael would quickly finish up eating before working on his homework in his bedroom. Michael would come home to Gob hanging out in the living room, and Gob would suddenly have to run an errand.

They finally ended up relaxing again over, of all things, Gob practicing. Michael had gotten so used to doing his homework while Gob played through études that it was almost hard for him to concentrate without the sounds of the piano in the background. He had even bought some tapes and CDs of piano performances his last two years of high school, because he was so used to the sound. He had brought out the tapes again after the incident, since Gob seemed to have stop playing, at least at home.

Gob had been avoiding practicing at home over the week or so following that fateful Sunday, but Gob hated having to be locked up in a practice room every damn day. Even when he got one with a window, the rooms were claustrophobic and stifling and awful, and Gob just gave in and started practicing at home again. Plus, preparing for his upcoming recital was more important than avoiding awkward moments with his brother.

When Gob finally practiced at home again, Michael carefully came out of his room with his textbooks and moved to the living room. He sat on the floor and used the coffee table as his desk. As Gob worked on Mozart, Michael worked on math. Liszt worked well with literature. And Bach paired nicely with economics.

What? Not all of them could be alliterated.

But when Gob played through those pieces and Michael worked on homework, it was just like the old days. It made them both more comfortable around each other until, after just a few more days, things were back to normal.

Of course, they didn’t talk about any of Gob’s whole thing for a while. Michael had noticed that Gob wasn’t going out as much and, when he did go out, he was home before Michael even went to bed, which wasn’t like him. He reasoned that maybe Gob was just focusing so much on his junior recital that he hadn’t had time to think about getting some action, though part of Michael was worried that Gob was upset over something. Or maybe Gob thought that he was uncomfortable with him having guys over. And while, yeah, it was still a little weird to him, Michael still would’ve been okay with Gob bringing over dates or whatever.

Still, Michael didn’t say anything since he really didn’t know what to say. Then one day, Gob sat down at the piano and started playing all of these disjunct, harsh melodies with chromatic passages that almost gave Michael a headache. It sounded a lot like just angry, loud banging of notes, which was puzzling, since Michael could still remember how Gob had hated the sound of banging like that. Buster, when he was very young, tried to imitate his oldest brother by sitting on the piano bench and banging out notes. Gob had closed the piano case on him so hard that Buster nearly lost a hand.

He had never tried to play the piano in Gob’s presence ever since.

Michael knew Gob had to be upset if he was playing something like that. So, finally, Michael asked, “Is everything alright?”

It took Gob a second to realize Michael had even asked anything; he got like that a lot when he played piano, like he was in some other place where no one else was around him. Gob finally looked over his shoulder and furrowed his brow. “Yeah. Why?”

“You seem upset,” Michael said. For a moment, he wondered if he had caused something. Maybe Gob just wanted to be alone. “Did I do something?”

“I’m not upset about anything,” Gob said, thoroughly confused as to why Michael was asking. He didn’t think he had done anything to indicate that he was upset, even if he kind of was. After a moment, he relented, “Well, not with you.”

“Oh,” Michael said, a bit confused himself. “So…what are you upset about?”

Gob rolled his eyes a little and turned to face his brother instead of just looking over his shoulder. Michael was probably the only person he could really discuss this with anyways, seeing as everyone else he could turn to would have a biased opinion, but he wasn’t sure they were ready to discuss these sorts of things.

“It’s a guy thing,” Gob said. Michael nodded and Gob shook his head, since he knew his brother didn’t get what he meant. “Not like a guy thing but like a Guy thing.” At Michael’s confused look, Gob finally just said, “It’s a gay thing.”

“Oh,” Michael said, trying to think of what to say. They were both awkwardly silent for a moment before Michael started, “Well, maybe—”  

“It’s fine, it’s fine. We don’t have to talk about it,” Gob started to say at the same time, turning to face the piano again.

“No,” Michael said. Then, in a firmer voice, he said, “No. We should talk about it.” Gob stayed facing the piano, and Michael, in a quieter, gentler voice, said, “I want to understand. And maybe help?” And, really, he did. He didn’t want Gob to feel ashamed over this stuff, and he didn’t want there to be a wall between the two of them just because of who Gob happened to be attracted to.

Michael was about to say please when Gob finally sighed and turned back around.

“Dave’s been avoiding me,” Gob said. “We’ve had some PMA meetings and he’ll barely look at me. And it’s not even like he was the one with a brother who saw…well, what you saw.”

Michael nodded with a grimace. He was pretty sure he’d never forget the image of some guy groping his brother’s ass while making out with him. He was pretty sure he wouldn’t want to see a girl with Gob in that situation, either, by the way.

“It just pisses me off, you know? Like…he just left me there. For all he knew, you didn’t even take it well,” Gob said. Michael felt a little good that Gob seemed to think he took it well. “He made sure I was okay when we saw each other again, but he hasn’t said more than a few words to me since.”

“And you’ve tried talking to him alone?” Michael asked.

“He keeps leaving meetings as soon as he can, and he’s only in the music building for those meetings this semester. He finished all his music minor credits already,” Gob said. He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. Despite saying he was angry, Michael thought he looked more dejected than anything else. Lonely. Scared.

Michael tilted his head a little. “You really like him, don’t you?”

Much like the last time, Gob immediately denied it, even scoffing a little. But Michael kept looking at him with that sympathetic look on his face and Gob sighed. “…Yeah. I do,” he admitted softly, looking down at his lap. And it was scary, really, to feel something like that. Last time he had let this happen, it was Seth. While Gob loved having Seth as a friend, it still had hurt having to let him go twice. He didn’t want to have to do that again with someone else.

“Maybe it’s a good thing,” Gob said after a moment. “You know…It’s not like—it’s not like we can be anything. Not with mom and dad.” Gob swallowed and added, “Same with his family. His dad runs this big law firm. Dave is just…you know, he’s d-destined to be a partner or w-whatever there someday. He-he sh-shouldn’t, he c-can’t…”

Michael could tell his brother was getting close to one of his stuttering states, those moments where Gob would struggle to get out full sentences as he just kept repeating the same words and syllables. Michael moved to sit onto the couch and he put a hand on Gob’s knee, quietly and gently shushing him before he could work himself up. Gob nodded and worked on breathing evenly.

“I’m sure he’s just scared. You were scared, too, remember?” Michael said. He didn’t think he needed to point out how they barely talked for a few weeks, either, and they had known each other for much longer.

Besides that, Michael didn’t really know what else to say. How did you talk to your gay brother about a guy he wanted to date? Or at least the guy your brother obviously had a huge crush on. Well, Michael tried to think about what he always wanted to talk about when he got interested in a girl. With Tracey, he had been telling all of his friends and Gob about how pretty she was, all the stuff she liked, all the things they had in common, but Gob didn’t seem interested in talking about that stuff.

But then Michael realized that Gob probably never had the opportunity to gush about someone he liked. He had bragged about various girls, but it had always been obvious he didn’t really care about them past sex—which, yes, made a lot more sense in retrospect. But just talking about someone he liked? That was definitely a part of dating that Gob never really got to experience, did he? And maybe he’d like to have a chance.

“So,” Michael said softly, “What do you like about him?” Gob looked up at his brother questioningly and Michael shrugged as he removed his hand from Gob’s knee and repeated the question.

“Don’t you have eyes?” Gob asked. “I know you’re straight but come on.” Dave was hot. Light, brown hair, blue eyes, and a nice smile. Dave was just an inch or two shorter than him, but really, really built. Gob was pretty sure Dave could actually pick him up if he tried—and maybe part of him wanted him to try at some point. He had always wondered what it would be like up against a wall…

“There’s got to be more than that,” Michael said. "And it's hard to judge when his face was attached to yours."

Gob sighed and rolled his eyes. After a few moments, he said, “He’s smart.” Michael just nodded for Gob to continue and Gob elaborated, “Really smart. Like, he got a huge scholarship here all because of how smart he is, not that he needed one. But he’s not a dick about it. Like, he doesn’t make anyone feel dumb for not knowing things he does.” Gob paused, and for a moment, Michael thought maybe that was all he was going to say.

Then Gob continued, “He’s really talented, too. He plays trumpet and he could go pro, but he’s not, of course. He still got into the highest-level jazz band last year, and he was the only non-major in it. He’s a senior now, so he wanted to focus on his law school test thing, or else he’d probably be in it again. He actually helped me with this one piece that’s…that’s kinda how we first got talking. I want to play it someday but I don’t know jazz as well as him, so he just kinda helped me with the swing of it…” Gob was smiling at the memory, how a late-night practice session at school turned into talking at a bar and that turned into kissing in his car. “And he’s funny. Really funny…”

A big grin spread across Gob’s face and Michael couldn’t help but smile, too. It was still totally weird to be talking to his brother about a guy, but it was nice seeing someone making him smile that goofy smile. “And he gets it. Like, the whole thing with having a known last name and a father who…” Gob trailed off for a moment, his face a bit colder as he thought about their father. “…A father like that.”

After another moment, Gob smiled again. “You’d like him. He’s kind of a bit of a dork like you, but cool like me.”

Michael smiled at Gob. “Yeah. I’d love to meet him sometime.” Gob then frowned as he remembered the whole issue and Michael said, “Maybe try to get to your next meeting early? Or write him a note?” Gob looked doubtful and Michael added, “If you like him, you should at least try. Even if only you two and I know about it for now. It could be worth it.”

Gob nodded. He knew Michael was right, though he felt a lot of conflicting emotions about, well, all of it. After a moment he smiled up at Michael. It was nicer than he had expected to talk about all of this stuff. “Thanks, Mikey.”

“No problem,” Michael said, feeling very good about himself. “So, was all of that why you were banging the piano earlier? All the Dave stuff?”

“Huh?” Gob looked at Michael for a moment before he slowly started to laugh. “Michael, that was an actual piece.” He frowned and then added, “I guess I wasn’t playing it well if you thought I was just banging random notes…” To be fair, he probably wanted to play with it partly because it was loud and chromatic and all, but he obviously wasn't playing it perfectly well yet.

That was a song?”

“Yeah, just some Schoenberg,” Gob said. Michael looked at him blankly. “You know, twelve-tone music?” Michael continued to stare. “Serialism?” Michael blinked. “Seriously? Never heard of it?”

“Gob. I’m not a music major,” Michael said. Gob seemed to forget that sometimes. “Besides, I thought you hated that stuff. The, uh…distance stuff.”

Dissonance,” Gob corrected.

Though Gob was able to correct people more and more on musical terms and the like as he furthered his studies, it still always surprised Michael. Gob really didn’t have the ability to accurately correct people on anything else. “Uh. Right.”

“It’s not my favorite,” Gob admitted. “But, I don’t know, playing it is cool. Twelve-tone music was invented by Schoenberg. It uses all twelve tones in an octave—”

“Octaves are eight notes,” Michael said. He remembered that much from his attempts at piano and all those weeks of scales. Besides, the prefix of the word meant eight.

“There are twelve half-steps in an octave, so an octave has twelve tones inside of it,” Gob said with a slightly condescending look and tone. “Anyways, they put them in tone rows where there’s this specific order they go in, and then…”

Michael started to zone out as his brother brought up things like tone rows and pitch classes and all these things that went over his head. Sometimes he wondered if his jealousy of Gob’s musical abilities was also related to him being jealous over Gob actually knowing things he didn’t know. It just seemed so fucked up and unlike the natural order of things.

While Michael knew logically that it was Gob’s passion and talent and he was allowed to have at least one, Michael still couldn’t help but feel a bit of a selfish want to be better than Gob at it. Or at least just as good. It didn’t help that this talent Gob had was much cooler than Michael’s talents involving school and business and all of that stuff.

For a while back in high school, Michael had tried to learn guitar. It seemed like even the dumbest people could play that, so he could do it, right? He used money from the banana stand job to buy one and got a book on teaching himself. He slaved over it and managed to learn a few chords. Then Michael came home one day to find Gob playing from the book with an ease Michael hadn’t managed yet. He told Michael he had always wanted to give guitar a try, plus Michael wasn’t tuning it right and it had been bugging Gob’s ears—

Michael threw him out of his room and didn’t speak to him for a week.

He tried bringing out the guitar again when his first college girlfriend dumped him, but as he heard Gob playing Queen by ear out on the piano, Michael just ended up putting it back away with a sigh. He knew it wasn’t like Gob would mock him and he’d probably even try to help if Michael asked, but Michael was just too proud to do that. He loved his brother and would never want him to not play piano, but, well, Michael was just a bit jealous sometimes. Jealous of Gob for being good at something he couldn’t even begin to understand. Jealous of having something that made him so passionate. Jealous of something that made him stand out of a crowd.

It was just a brother thing, he supposed, being jealous and proud of your sibling at the same time.

“…I want to play this stuff, you know? There’s all this cool, modern classical music that no one plays in recitals, like, ever. I just wanna play it all,” Gob said as Michael started to tune back into a conversation he could actually follow. “Like, John Cage stuff—and not 4’33”. I don’t wanna sit still at a piano for that long,” Gob said with a laugh. Michael didn’t get the joke, but Gob didn’t notice. “But I have all these requirements for my recital, so I have to wait until next year to even think about playing this stuff. But I figured it was worth looking at it, since it’s going to take a while to memorized something that doesn’t really have a melody.” Gob sighed and looked back at the piano. “I should go back to my recital music, though. That’s coming up soon.”

Michael nodded. He still didn’t quite get how that Schoenberg guy counted as music or why Gob wanted to play it, but at least it got them talking again. Like, really talking.

Gob had scheduled his junior recital for a Friday night in February; he had decided the pieces he would do with his teacher’s approval at the end of his sophomore year, so he knew he’d be ready by then, whereas a lot of students waited until the last minute. Friday night was also optimal since he could party all night afterwards and not worry about having to get up early for church or school the next day.

Gob paced a little as he waited in the wings of the recital hall. He still got a little nervous before every performance, and this one was particularly stressful, given how it was about forty-five minutes of Gob performing alone. He had never done that before.

A lot of the nerves were more excitement than anxiety, though. Gob loved performing and loved being the center of attention, so this was fun for him, and he had spent the whole day feeling that way. With his teacher’s permission and guidance, Gob had gladly skipped his classes that day and spent the day running pieces in his mind, not even touching a piano until he was warming up in the recital hall before they opened the doors. These were pieces he felt great about, and he couldn’t wait to show off his stuff.

Finally, a few minutes after the 7:00 posted start time (nothing in music ever started on time, especially not in California), Gob adjusted his suit and tie, took a deep breath, and walked onto stage. He smiled as he was greeted with applause and, as practiced, he bowed before sitting down at the piano, starting with a short, simple piece by Bernstein.

After each set, as per tradition, Gob walked off stage for a minute or two before going back on for the next one. The guidelines for the junior recital were pretty strict, so his program wasn’t as original as he wanted, which kind of sucked, but he got to fit in some fun pieces. Gob had always been a big fan of Bach, so getting to play one of his favorite Prelude and Fugues was great. He wasn’t the biggest Mozart fan, but he liked the Fantasy No. 3 in D minor; there was a Liszt set where someone—Gob assumed Buster—tried to clap in between movements; and, of course, there was what was probably Rachmaninoff's most beloved piece, which he didn't have the heart to take out, despite it being unnecessary requirements-wise. Then he played his Copland piece was over. He just let the music flow through him, trusted his technique, and did a damn good job.

As he took his final bow, he smiled broadly. Yeah, he could definitely get used to this.


Gob’s PMA brothers surprised him by throwing him a post-recital reception. Gob had told them his parents weren’t going to set anything up and he thought they could just go to a bar or something, but, nope. They put together the whole traditional punch and snacks reception in one of the empty classrooms, and he was honestly really touched when their president, Danny, announced it after he took his last bow.

Once he made his way to the room, Gob greeted his family first. He hugged his siblings and his mother and shook his dad’s hand. Even if they were putting on a show for all the people watching them, his dad wasn’t going to hug him. But it was fine with Gob. Truly.

Then Gob hugged his piano teacher and took pictures with him to hang in his office. Miss Griffin—well, technically now Mrs. Nelson—had come, much to Gob’s surprise, and Gob definitely wrapped her up in a big hug. God, he owed her, like, his whole life. He introduced his two teachers and, as much as he wanted to keep talking to them, he had more people to greet.

He was actually amazed by how many people had shown up.

His parents had invited some of their club friends. After all, Gob was best used to charm the older ladies and show off his piano skills. Lucille 2 in particular raved about him which was nice. That made his mom dote on him even more, since she loved upstaging Lucille at every turn. There were also a few people from his church gig, including a couple of the old ladies who found him charming and told his parents how much he adored him. That was nice.

Finally, Gob got to talk to his friends. He hugged some of the PMA brothers and the SAI girls that came (well aware that his father was there). He talked to a few other studio mates who came and some other friends who had made it out. They all told Gob he did a great job, and Gob felt brighter than ever. All of this attention and praise thrown at him was the best feeling in the world. Well, it was at least up there with sex.

Speaking of, it was only when Gob was introducing Michael to one of his friends that he saw that Dave was there. He was standing off to the sides with a plastic cup of punch in his hand, looking a bit lost. Dave looked over at Gob and they locked eyes for a moment, and Gob could tell Dave was willing to talk.

Gob looked back towards the other members of his family. Thankfully his parents were engaged with some conversation with some club members, Buster was hiding behind their mom (as per usual), and Lindsay was trying to flirt with one of the PMA guys (unfortunately also as per usual). Even if they looked over, it seemed unlikely they’d notice anything was going on; it wasn’t like they were doing anything that weird. Gob wasn’t even sure he could get himself to hug him at the moment, since it would feel too intimate for the public setting. Gob excused himself and walked over to him. “Hey,” Gob said quietly. Dave greeted him back and Gob said, “I’m glad you came.”

“You were amazing. Really. I’m not just saying that,” Dave told him. Gob thanked him and they were quiet for a little moment. “…I made the cookies, you know.”

“Really?” Gob asked.

“Yeah, that’s why no one’s eating them,” Dave said with a grin. Gob laughed quietly and relaxed a little. “So, are you still planning on the bar after this?”

“Yeah,” Gob said, not adding anything else.

Dave looked down at his feet and then back at Gob. “Can we talk there? You know, if I’m still invited?”

Gob looked back at his parents again. He was pretty sure they weren’t going to come out for that, and if they did, maybe the two of them could sneak out to talk somewhere or wait until they inevitably went home. As he started to turn back to Dave, he locked eyes with Michael for a moment, who had clearly been watching the two of them talk. Michael raised his eyebrows and nodded at him, as if trying to say he should go for it. That made Gob smile the same smile he had given Michael when he gushed about Dave; knowing his brother supported him was almost as great as getting all the applause he had gotten earlier.

Finally, Gob looked back at Dave and nodded. “Yeah. Sounds great.”

“I really liked that Copland piece,” Dave said after the bartender handed him a beer.

“Yeah, it’s a good one,” Gob agreed, taking his own bottle of beer from the bartender as well. It was getting pretty late and most of the PMA guys and SAI girls had already left his post-recital-reception hangout at the bar, but Dave was still there. They hadn’t had a chance to talk alone yet. “It’s a really cool piece and fulfills the whole 20th century requirement. Kind of a weird ending piece, though it's a bit flashy. Just...chromatic.”

“Knowing you, I would’ve thought you’d end with Liszt,” Dave said.

“Man, you go as Liszt to one Halloween party,” he said with a chuckle and a roll of his eyes. Dave laughed, too, and Gob took a swig of his beer. “Nah, I normally would’ve, but I wanted to bookend with the Bernstein and Copland pieces.”

Dave nodded with a frown. “Yeah, RIP, man,” he said and they both clinked their beers together. 1990 had come to a tough end after Leonard Bernstein died in October and one of his closest friends, Aaron Copland, who was the epitome of American music, died a bit shy of two months later. It was a hard time for American music. PMA and SAI had put on a joint memorial concert a month or so before Gob’s recital, and Gob had performed the Bernstein piece, Seven Anniversaries: No. 1 for Aaron Copland, there, which was what he opened his recital with, since it was a short piece and quick to learn.

“Yeah, and if I had more time I would’ve learned another Bernstein, but it was a nice opener, I think. I guess I could’ve been really flashy and end with that piece I accompanied Gretchen on for the concert, but…” Gob shook his head.

“You wouldn’t want to end with someone else in the spotlight,” Dave said.

“Exactly. Plus…” Gob made a face, since he knew this would probably force them to actually talk about the issue at hand. “There was no way I could accompany ‘Glitter and Be Gay’ in front of my dad. I love Candide, but...” He had accompanied Gretchen on that piece partly for the joke of it all, which all of his friends also found amusing, but he was definitely not performing that in front of his parents. There was no need to give his dad that ammo.

Dave nodded in understanding and he started to pick at the label of his beer bottle. Gob just took another sip of his and watched him. As much as he had missed Dave, he figured it was Dave’s turn to take initiative and actually talk.

It didn’t take much longer for Dave to finally say, “I’m really sorry. About avoiding you. And leaving you there. I was scared having someone I don’t know seeing me like that, so I just had to leave there, and I feel bad about that.” Gob nodded in understanding. It sucked to be left alone, but he probably would’ve done the same if the situation was flipped.

“And I was avoiding you because…I…I needed to think some things over.” Dave paused and looked down at his beer, fixated on the label. “…Things about…us.”

“Like what?” Gob asked. He didn’t know if that was implying something good or something bad. He was nervous either way.

There was a small pause before Dave looked up at him. Gob felt his stomach leap at the look in his eyes.

“This is scary for me,” Dave admitted quietly. “I’ve never…I’ve been with guys but I’ve never…felt like this with one.”

Gob pressed his lips together as his heart started to beat a little faster. “…Like what?”

Dave definitely looked as nervous as Gob felt. “Like…like this could be something.” Gob let out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding and Dave quickly added, “N-not like I want to you know come out to my parents or anything—”

God, no,” Gob agreed just as quickly.

“No, no, of course not,” Dave agreed, nodding fast. “But, like…maybe something where it’s just us two…and we’re only with each other?”

Gob dared to continue, “…And we do more than just…have sex?” Dave nodded. “And maybe…maybe a few of our friends can know?”

“Yeah…yeah, like the brothers,” Dave said.

“And my actual brother?” Gob asked. Noticing Dave’s nervous look, Gob said, “We’ve talked about…about you, actually. And he’s supportive in his weird, Michael way. I think you’d like him. He’s a nerd, but he’s alright.” He took another drink of his beer and added, “Oh, and if he knows, that means my place is free for things. Like hanging out. And fucking. And without sneaking around and having to wake up early.”

Though he still looked a bit nervous about someone he didn’t know knowing about his sexuality, Dave nodded in agreement. “So…are we doing this?”

Gob felt his heart jump into his throat and blood rush to his ears. “I think so?” Gob said. “I mean, i-if you want to.”

“Yeah,” Dave said eagerly before clearing his throat. In a calmer voice, he said, “Uh, yeah. I want to. I really do.”

Gob grinned so wide it almost hurt. “Then, yeah. I guess we are.”

The two of them looked at each other for a long time, not really sure what to do. Did they hold hands? Kiss on it? Did they want to do that stuff in public? Could they do that stuff in public? The bar was a pretty chill one, but still it seemed dangerous.

Finally, Gob lightly knocked his knee against Dave’s and they both laughed nervously. “This is gonna take some getting used to,” Gob admitted.

“Yeah,” Dave said, “No kidding. I don’t even know who pays for shit in this situation.”

God, I didn’t even think about that,” Gob said. Who did pay for drinks and food and stuff when it was two guys?

“I guess I should cover for tonight, seeing as it was your big day,” Dave said, giving Gob a smile.

Gob wanted to argue that he should pay because, c’mon, he wasn’t some chick who need a guy to buy him a drink, but, well, he wasn’t completely against it. There was something nice about someone actually wanting to pay for him. He hadn’t experienced that since, well, again, Seth and his family. “Okay,” Gob agreed.

“Man,” Dave said with a slight shake of his head, “I can’t believe one practice session turned into this.”

“I can,” Gob said. “It’s something that’s gonna get artistic people like us going, right?” Gob said at first and Dave nodded a little in agreement. “But, uh, I may have been lying about how much help I needed,” Gob admitted with a sly smile. Had he set up the whole thing just to get some alone time with a guy he thought was hot and fun and possibly gay? Why yes. Yes, he did.

Dave grinned and leaned in a little closer. “I may have lied about knowing the piece well; I don’t think I heard it until you played it.”

The two looked at each other and softly laughed. Then, throwing caution to the wind, Gob leaned forward and softly kissed him on the lips.

It was a couple hours later when Gob and Dave made it back to Gob's place. Despite how much Gob had been drinking, he drove. What? He was a Bluth, and he wasn’t even really drunk by the time he sat behind the wheel of the car, despite all the alcohol he had. Really, the alcohol’s main effect on him was somehow making him even more turned on than usual as Dave ran his hand over his thigh, and the fact that he laughed as they stumbled into the dark house. He shushed himself which made Dave laugh, too. Thankfully, Michael seemed to already be asleep.

God bless his sleep schedule.

Soon after they closed the door, Dave had pinned Gob to the wall, and Gob stopped laughing as Dave kissed him fiercely on the lips. As they kissed, they both worked to get Gob’s suit jacket off, any complaints Gob would’ve had about Dave messing with his expensive suit completely forgotten. He stepped away from the wall so the jacket could fall to the floor moments later, not thinking about how much his mom had paid for that jacket. It was worth it to step in closer to Dave's body.

Plus, it gave Dave the opportunity to move his hands down the back of Gob’s pants, which was truly his favorite place to put them. Actually, both men liked when his hands were there. A lot.

“What do you want to do tonight, Gob?” Dave asked. The alcohol was making him a bit louder than necessary, so it wasn't his usual whisper. “How do you want it?” As he let Gob think it over, he squeezed his ass and started to suck and nibble against his pulse point. Fuck, Gob hoped he left a mark.

Gob’s thoughts went back to how he wanted to see if Dave could fuck him against a wall…Then again, they had time to test that theory other nights. And tonight, he wanted to do something he knew he’d like. He deserved a reward after playing so well, right? He knew Dave was open to other things, but Gob hadn’t gotten any since their last time together, and fuck, he just needed him.

“Want you to fuck me,” Gob said, rolling his hips a little. “Need you to. Hard. Just bend me o—”

“Can you finish this conversation in your room?”

Gob and Dave both whipped their heads around to find Michael. He was in almost the exact same place as when he had caught them last time, and they were in almost the same exact same position. Gob was even wearing the same shoes.

But this time, even though Dave stiffened a little, he didn’t leave Gob behind.

Michael, being Michael, looked more exasperated than awkward as he stood there with a glass of water he had just got from the kitchen. “Just please keep the dirty talk to your room. And keep it down.” After a moment he also added to Dave, “Also maybe stop feeling up my brother while I’m in the same room?” Dave pulled his hands out of Gob’s pants and Michael nodded before telling them goodnight and going back to his room.

After brushing his teeth and washing his face, Gob stepped into the kitchen in his pajama pants and a tank top. The smell of bacon Michael was frying filled the air and made Gob’s stomach growl. “Mmm, can I have some?” Gob asked, his voice a bit rough since he just woke up. Gob was too content after the previous day (and some more fun just half an hour or so earlier) to be too embarrassed about the night before.

Plus, something about not hiding it made it not nearly as shameful as before. And that was a nice feeling.

“Already planned on it,” Michael said. “Is Dave going to be joining us?” Michael looked over his shoulder at his brother and, ignoring the large hickey on his neck, noticed his rather giddy grin. Gob’s smile was infectious as he nodded in confirmation.

Once Michael turned back to the frying pan, Gob gingerly sat down at the kitchen table and he heard the bathroom door close again. Michael put some more bacon on the stove and Gob stretched his arms above his head. After a few minutes, he heard the bathroom door open, and he stopped himself from turning around to look at Dave. He didn't want to look desperate. 

“Hey,” Dave said quietly, pulling a chair up next to Gob. He looked around the kitchen and nodded. “Nice place. It’s cool actually seeing it in daylight." He laughed a little until he caught Michael’s eye.

Gob looked between the two of them and felt a slight bubbling of anxiety in his chest. He realized that these were two of the most important people in his life in a weird way, and he really needed them to get along, but Michael wasn’t saying anything. Why wasn’t he saying anything? Did he suddenly not approve of Gob being gay now that it was really in front of him? Did he not like Dave? Was he mad about what he heard last night? Did he hear them in his room? Did something happen? Why was no one talking??

“Gob, aren’t you going to introduce us?” Michael asked,

Oh. Right. Michael would want a proper introduction. Duh.

“Dave, this is my little brother, Michael,” Gob said. “Michael, this is Dave…my boyfriend.” The word sounded so weird coming out of his mouth, but also magical and sweet and musical in its own way. Boyfriend. It had a nice ring to it.

Michael smiled and shook Dave’s hand over the table. “Nice to meet you. At least when your hands aren’t attached to my brother.”

Dave laughed a little nervously and moved his hand to the back of his neck. “Uh, yeah…yeah,” he said, not sure what else he could or should say. Gob, who was used to Michael's snarky responses, didn't even notice anything.

Michael just ignored him and said, “I hope you like bacon.”

Soon enough the three of them were sitting around the table eating breakfast and talking about various things, like Dave's LSAT experience and Michael's studies. They had a lot in common there, since Michael still had an interest in maritime law. 

"So, do you play anything like your brother?" Dave asked at one point.

Thankfully, Gob's mouth was too full of food to make a joke, so Michael just replied, "Nope. That's just...Gob's thing." Before Dave could recognize the tone of what Michael said or Gob could start singing about Captain Hook, Michael rushed out, "And he's great at it, too. Isn't he?"

"Yeah," Dave sighed wistfully. "He's amazing at it. That recital was something magical, wasn't it? I don't know how pianists memorize all that stuff so quickly."

They talked about the recital some more and the subject naturally changed as they kept talking. Eventually, Gob's hand found Dave's under the table and, with slight hesitation, he intertwined their fingers in a way that made him grin that dumb, stupid grin Dave kept causing. Michael noticed and smiled himself.

Hopefully this meant he wouldn't be hearing Schoenberg again for a long, long time.

Chapter Text

"Danse Infernale" from L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird)

Gob and Michael’s house had started to become a bit more crowded, at least during the weekends. Not only was there Dave, but Michael had finally gotten Tracey to stay over, too.

Gob had only found out about this when he had woken up one day way before he had intended. He had stumbled into the kitchen to find a short, skinny, red-headed girl wearing one of Michael’s old, yellow banana-stand shirts. It had clashed horribly with her skin tone which, yes, Gob knew had to be the gayest thought he ever had, especially considering how much leg she was showing off and how she clearly wasn’t wearing a bra.

Yeah, it was a little awkward.

Since then, things had gotten a bit more comfortable. The two brothers set up some ground rules—shorts/pants and a shirt were required, no dirty talk or foreplay, and if someone started coffee, they should make enough for everyone. It seemed to be a good system for all involved.

After that, Gob decided he liked Tracey. She was one of those girl-next-door types, a complete sweetheart. She was cute, but not necessarily smoking hot, which honestly seemed right up Michael’s lane. And, most importantly, she actually liked to cook homemade breakfasts and would make food for everyone, at least if Dave was staying for breakfast before work and if Gob got up.

See, Gob had a weird sleep schedule and always had. He had no idea how Michael managed to consistently fall asleep and wake up at a certain time. Gob had to set an alarm to make sure he didn’t sleep until three in the afternoon, even if he went to bed at a decent hour. Then, sometimes his body would just wake him up in the middle of nowhere, causing him to be fully awake an hour before his alarm went off for no reason. Sometimes he’d have weeks of time where he barely slept, where he tried and it just didn't happen.

Thankfully, that hadn’t happened since Dave started spending more nights over. He assumed having a boyfriend—boyfriend! What a nice word—helped a lot with that.

One day Gob found himself up a bit before Dave had to be up to get ready. He considered waking up his boyfriend to have some fun before work, but he looked so peaceful that Gob didn’t want to wake him up.

It was so weird feeling like that for someone else. 

So, Gob got out of bed and stepped into some athletic shorts and a T-shirt before heading out to get ready. Tracey was already in the kitchen in what looked like borrowed pajama pants from Michael along with one of his old shirts. “Hi!” she greeted, pouring him a mug of coffee before he could even ask.

“Thanks,” Gob said. He still didn’t particularly like coffee, but it helped him get focused in the morning. He poured in some sugar and cream and chugged about half of it as Tracey started assembling things for cooking.

“Nice shirt,” Tracey said with a small, somewhat teasing smile. “Never took you for a Stanford kind of guy.”

Gob looked down at the shirt, surprised to see that it wasn’t his own. “Oh, no, I’m not. This is Dave’s…He got accepted a couple months ago. Stanford Law.” He hadn’t realized he’d grabbed it, but he had to admit he kind of liked wearing his boyfriend’s shirt. Now that he noticed, it kind of smelled like him and it felt really comfy.

God, he was really turning into some kind of girl.

Tracey started up the stove. “Are you going to visit him there?”

Gob looked at her for a moment. “We haven’t really talked about it,” he said. It was only May, and he wouldn’t have to move out there until August or something, and it was only, like, five hours away. They had plenty of time to work out how they’d work by then. Until then, he really didn’t want to think about it.

Thankfully, Tracey seemed to realize that or she needed to concentrate on cooking. Either way, Gob ignored the question and started to look over his music history final study guide.

By the time Tracey had given him the first few pancakes (there was an advantage to being the first one up), Gob’s alarm went off in his room and he heard Dave rustling around to turn it off. Once he was mostly done getting ready, he joined Gob at the kitchen table, pressing a kiss to his cheek before pouring himself some coffee in a mug that was already on the table for him.

“Nice shirt,” he commented.

"I didn’t mean to steal it, I just picked up the first thing I saw,” Gob said honestly. His boyfriend had gone with an undershirt and Gob had to say, though he didn’t plan it, he definitely didn’t mind how that worked out. It was a nice view.

“You should keep it,” Dave said with a sly smile. “It looks better on you than it ever did on me.”

“I know,” Gob said calmly, though his insides felt all fluttery and weird like all that gross shit songs talked about.

Tracey put a plate of pancakes in front of Dave, but he said, “Let me take over cooking. You eat.” After a bit of back and forth, Tracey agreed and sat down while Dave took over pancake flipping duty.

“You know I’d help if Michael allowed me to use the stove,” Gob said, though he wasn’t sure if he would. He liked just sitting and being fed.

“How did that ban even start?” Tracey asked. 

“Michael completely overreacted to a party trick,” Gob said, just in time for Michael to come join them.

“You mean that time you almost set the place on fire when trying to make flaming vodka shots and the whole house smelled like smoke for a week?” Michael asked dryly.

“Hey, it was more like five days. And the firefighters said there was no damage,” Gob said defensively. Dave gave Gob a small look at that, but no one seemed to notice.

Michael scoffed and sat down across from Gob and next to Tracey. “Nice shirt.”


Once they finished breakfast, Dave changed into the extra clothes he had brought in Gob’s room. Gob started to take off Dave’s shirt to give it back to him, but Dave said, “No, really, you should keep it; I like how it looks on you.” Gob grinned that same dumb grin Dave kept causing and nodded before walking his boyfriend to the door.

He was never going to get tired of that word.

Of course, being boyfriends wasn’t always easy (or worthy of emphasis, come to think of it). For one, the whole semi-secret thing was hard to deal with. At least their PMA brothers knew, and if any of them had a problem with it, they were good at hiding it. The closest they got to being dicks about it was when Gob had first shown up with that hickey on his neck post-recital, and that was more friendly teasing than anything. 

Dave was particularly nervous about anyone else knowing. It was like his instinct to hide it was too strong to let it go. Sure, every music-major based party tended to end with them making out in the corner, but Gob couldn’t help but notice how much easier the straight couples at school acted around each other in public. He noticed how Dave didn't want to hold his hand or even give him a small kiss goodbye. And Gob usually never noticed things.

The protocol for dates was also hard to figure out. Paying was an issue, with a whole mixture of male-pride and rich upbringings and being young and confused about things really messing with those dynamics. 

The biggest issue, though, was trying to make dates look like not-dates just in case they got caught. Most nice restaurants were out of the question, obviously, and, unless the movie theater was really crowded, they normally tried to leave a seat open in between them. That particularly sucked, since Gob didn’t have the attention span for movies most of the time and he just wanted to make out with his boyfriend, but, nope. While Gob was sure other couples were making out during some dumb rom-com or another, Gob was watching The Silence of the Lambs through his fingers with his boyfriend a seat away.

God, that movie was fucked up.

It wasn’t like their fears were unfounded. Sometimes, they’d get a bit risky and let go of those fears and hold hands or even—gasp!—kiss in public, and most of the time, nothing really happened. There would be a few looks, maybe, and maybe some strangers were uncomfortable, but they did live in LA. It wasn't as bad as it could be.

There were a few times when they relaxed a bit too much and things got bad, though. One time they almost kissed before Dave saw his boss. Thankfully he didn’t see anything unusual, but Dave kept his distance from Gob for the rest of the night. One time they were out to dinner and someone from Gob’s church had come over to talk to him, and Gob ended up giving awkward, short answers during their brief conversation. The worst was definitely when they were holding hands and walking back to Gob's car one night. Some guy shouted "Hey, faggots!" and the two of them stopped holding hands and started moving a lot faster.

Gob had tried saying that word a few times to try to make it less painful, but he wasn't sure it helped.

On top of all of this, Dave learned that while it was very easy to appreciate and even adore some of Gob’s idiosyncrasies as a friend, as a boyfriend, some of them were kind of worrisome. And maddening.

There was the sleeping thing. There was the whole thing about how he wasn’t allowed to and couldn’t cook—one time Dave came over to find Gob snacking on uncooked spaghetti. While he could practice for hours at a time—which Dave understood, because that’s what all pianists did—Gob seemed to struggle to focus on anything else. Dave was also pretty sure Gob didn’t know how to do laundry, since he seemed to always visit his house when his laundry hamper got full, and he wasn't sure Gob even understood what The Bluth Company even did—

But Dave was doing his best to ignore it.

One day leading up to finals week, Gob felt too good to be stuck in some classroom studying when he could at least be playing piano and learning new music. So, while Michael shook his head at him all Michael-like, Gob skipped his classes (none of them were music ones anyways) and spent hours on his piano bench learning a new Chopin piece.

Eventually he heard the unlocked front door open, but Gob kept on playing. He soon felt arms wrapping around his waist and lips pressing against the back of his neck, which made it clear who it was. Gob smiled as Dave placed his chin on his shoulder. After months of similar moments, Dave was able to follow along not just with the sheet music, but with the nod of Gob’s head that meant he wanted him to turn the page. 

Finally, Gob made it to the end of the piece and he turned to kiss Dave on the lips. The kiss was probably a bit longer than the approved kissing time they normally aimed for, but Michael wasn’t in the living room to yell at them. And that just made Gob want to do other things they could do without being yelled at, but before he could propose that, Dave asked, “When did you start that piece? I don’t think I’ve heard it yet…but some of the pieces blend together to me.”

Gob’s eyes narrowed slightly. Was he joking? How could he not tell pieces apart? But he said, “I got assigned it yesterday and started working on it earlier today.”

“Really?” Dave asked, his eyebrows raised. “You’ve made a lot of progress for just one day.”

“Is that so hard to believe?” Gob asked.

“No,” Dave said. “I guess that means you haven’t done any studying for your finals, though. And that you skipped your classes.”

Gob rolled his eyes. Why did his boyfriend have to be so responsible? It used to be the voice in his head telling him to behave—his impulse control or conscience or some combination of the two—had a voice like Michael’s. Now it was starting to sound like Dave’s.

Still, Gob didn’t feel the need to study, and he was a little annoyed at being told he needed to. “I’m fine on my finals. All the four hand and collab class juries are covered and I know my music history forwards and backwards. Twentieth century music is only ninety years of music. And we don’t even have a full ninety, it stops in, like, 1972. With ‘Clapping Music’ by Steve Reich,” Gob said. He started clapping the one-measure long rhythm and said the facts he’d have to write on it if asked, “For two performers, clapping in phase. Minimalism is when someone repeats a short phrase over and over which creates a hypnotic effect.”

Gob continued to clap the rhythm until Dave finally grabbed his hands. “Okay. You know that one.”

“I know the others, too!” Gob insisted quickly. “The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky, 1913, Russian pagan ballet, caused a riot—1912, Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, not twelve-tone, but atonal, for piano, violin, voice, cello, clarinet, and flute—”

“Gob, okay, I got it,” Dave said.

“See? See, I’m fine,” Gob said.

“What about your other classes? Your communications class?”

Gob laughed. “I just have to give a persuasive speech,” he said. “Even if I fail it I get a C in the class, and I’m not gonna fail it. I’m a Bluth—the most charming Bluth! I can give a persuasive speech.”

“So…have you worked on it at all?” Dave asked, his eyebrows raised. “You told me you were going to do that.”

“I figured I’d wing it,” Gob said, not seeing the big deal.

“Gob, you need statistics and facts to back you up,” Dave pointed out, obviously starting to get a bit agitated.

“My speech is on how we should teach children music. Fact: all that shit about test scores improving. Fact: social skills or whatever. Fact: my life’s awesome and I started playing piano when I was four,” Gob listed off with his fingers with a shrug. “Sounds like a speech to me.”


“Have you had lunch yet?” Gob asked, assuming the other subject was over.

“…Gob, it’s four-thirty."

Gob looked at the clock on the VCR. “That explains why I’m so hungry.”

It took a moment for Dave to comprehend how little Gob was connected to the outside world. After a moment, he sighed. “Gob, I need to study,” Dave said. “And you do, too. Let’s go to the library, okay? We'll get some food on the way there.”

After helping Gob find the sources he needed and then doing his own studying, Dave took them back to Gob’s place. As Gob practiced before bed, Dave asked Michael, “Do you ever worry about him just…surviving?”

Michael looked thoughtful. After a few moments, he said, “He’s lasted this long, hasn’t he?”

Ever since her senior year of high school, Lindsay had gotten super into causes of all kinds. Focusing on one was never her specialty, but she devoted her time to charity fundraisers and events pretty often. Michael would often try to support her in all of those things, just like he did his best to support Gob’s passions.

So, after Gob’s last final, the two of them went up to support one cause or another. She just said she had signed them up to work for a few hours and gave them an address. They had no idea what it was until they pulled into the parking lot and saw the banners.

Red Cross Blood Drive

Gob’s own blood—his gay, gay blood he wasn’t allowed to donate—ran cold. He knew that once they were done volunteering, Lindsay would ask him to donate. “What am I going to do?” Gob asked Michael as he sat in the car, paralyzed.

“Well,” Michael said calmly, “You could always tell her the truth?” He had been suggesting that Gob come out to Lindsay for a while now; it just made sense for Gob to come out to their family over time now that he had a boyfriend. “She’d be supportive. Probably start a whole fundraiser for you."

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I need,” Gob replied.

“Maybe she won’t even ask you to donate,” Michael said. “If she does, just tell her that you’re afraid of needles.”

“I’m not!” Gob said, even as Michael rolled his eyes; it was a well-known fact that Gob was terrified of needles. He nearly fainted when Lindsay got her ears pierced, and he had been a teenager at the time.

“Then 'lie' about being afraid of needles,” Michael said. Gob frowned; he didn’t want to admit some totally bogus phobia that he definitely did not have—and even if he did have, it seemed fair for a gay man who had to get tested for HIV to be afraid of needles, okay—but it seemed to be the only option. With a sigh, he finally unbuckled his seatbelt and the two of them got out of the car.

Lindsay excitedly greeted them and gave them their assigned jobs. Gob handed out stickers and cookies and juice to people who had given blood, and Michael was assigned to help them fill out the donation forms.

Once their assigned shifts were done, Lindsay thanked them. Gob did his best to get away before she could ask, but Lindsay was too fast for him. “You two are going to donate, right? I already did it yesterday; it’s a piece of cake.”

Michael and Gob exchanged a look. “I’ll do it,” Michael said, taking one of the blank forms he had been handing out all day.

Lindsay looked at Gob expectedly, and Gob shook his head. At Lindsay’s look, he explained, “I drove Michael here; I shouldn’t compromise our safety by donating and then driving.”

“Come on, Gob. It’s for a good cause,” Lindsay pleaded. “And you’ll get a cookie afterwards. You’ll be totally safe to drive.”

“Michael’s blood will have to do,” Gob said.

“It’s your thing with needles, isn’t it?” Lindsay scoffed. “You’re such a chicken!”

“I am not!” Gob said, already forgetting that a phobia was at least an excuse. He had his pride, okay, and didn’t need his sister taunting him about a fear that, again, he totally didn’t have.

“Uh huh? Then why else won’t you donate?” Lindsay asked, her face full of glee. She so had him.

Gob started to stutter as he panicked, trying to think up an answer that didn’t involve him coming out. “Wh-wh-why sh-sh-sh-should I—” 

“Actually,” Michael interrupted, “He just got a tattoo. And you can’t donate within six months of getting one.” He had read through that form with so many people that day that he knew all the reasons why someone couldn’t donate, and if Gob really wasn’t ready to come out or admit he had a fear of needles, he might as well help.

Gob stood up a bit straighter and nodded with fake confidence. “Yep, that’s right.”  

"Really?” Lindsay asked, her eyes widening with excitement. “What is it? Can I see?”

Gob took a moment before replying, “It’s not in a place I really want my sister looking."

Lindsay wrinkled her nose. “Gross,” she said before rolling her eyes. “Whatever. I’ll get you next time.” Then, suddenly switching modes, she added, “Oh, Michael said you’re having a party next weekend and I’m so there; I’ll bring some of mom’s good vodka.” Before Gob could say anything, Lindsay turned her attention to someone else who had shown up.

Gob turned to Michael with a glare. “You invited her?” Parties with Lindsay meant watching her flirt with his friends and meant he couldn’t properly flirt with his own boyfriend.

“Hey, at least I got you out of giving blood,” Michael said. Gob rolled his eyes but thanked him.

After dropping Michael off at the library, Gob went home to wait for Dave. The two of them had plans to go to one of the local bars where some of their friends were going to celebrate the end of the school year which was also Dave's graduation weekend. Of course, the real celebration would be the party he had at his house, and he had told them all that. He couldn’t wait for them to see how fucking great Gob Bluth Parties™ were.

When Dave got there, Gob nearly dragged him right back out. They could discuss how his speech went well and how he had totally aced his music history test and how Lindsay was coming to the party so they couldn't be handsy at it later; Gob needed some drinks.

But Dave had a weird look on his face. He sat Gob down on the piano bench and quietly said, “We need to talk…”

“Where have you been?”

Gob blinked sluggishly at Michael, who seemed to have fallen asleep on the couch waiting up for him. “What?”

“You were supposed to pick me up from the library hours ago. I had to call Tracey to get me,” Michael said. “I know you had your bar party tonight, but you promised.”

“Sorry,” Gob slurred.

Michael’s eyes narrowed. “Please tell me Dave drove you back and you didn’t drive home drunk.”

“Dave didn’t,” Gob said, his balance unsteady. “He’s gone. Broke up—we broke up.” Michael’s face suddenly softened. “Besides, I’ve droved drunker.” That didn't sound right. Gob shrugged.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“You wanna know how drunk I’ve droven?”

Michael took a deep breath; dealing with his drunk brother was never easy. “No. I meant, do you want to talk about you and Dave?”

“He’s going to Stanford early. Knew it would end. No biggie,” Gob said, a line that he had practiced to himself at the bar he had gone to, unable to show his face at Mickey’s. “G'night.”

With that, Gob went into his room and collapsed onto his bed, his eyes staring up at the ceiling for hours.

Suddenly, Gob had no school, no homework, and no boyfriend boyfriend to occupy his time. That was fine with him. It meant he had more time to plan an epic party.

He spent hours creating the perfect mix tapes. He knew how music kids rolled; they liked their pop and rock as much as anyone, but they also loved to listen to the first few minutes of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, so he knew to throw in some bops from his classical music collection as well.

Dave probably couldn’t even tell Mahler’s Fifth apart from his Ninth.

He experimented with new drinks he could serve, trying to make punch recipes that were fun and full of high proof vodka and rum that you couldn’t taste. It was too bad he kept drinking all of it and forgetting the recipes, since he had come up with some good ones. He was sure he’d be able to wing it again on the night of the party.

Dave probably wouldn’t even like it, since he mainly drank beer.

Gob returned to one of his old gay clubs, one he hadn’t stepped foot in for months. He hadn’t planned on going, but he suddenly got the urge after they did the ceremony for graduating members of PMA, so he wasn’t in his best clubbing clothes, but he still managed to find someone. His ears hurt from going into the club without any ear plugs and he was dizzy from the alcohol and the dancing and the spinning, but god it was more fun than anything he had done in the longest time. 

Dave probably just pretended to know how to have fun.

Gob managed to avoid Michael as much as possible. Michael had his own finals week to worry about, which was why the party was the week after USC’s finals week ended. Michael had his own responsibilities. Gob just had to get ready for the Best Gob Bluth Party he’d ever thrown and practice, practice, practice. As per usual.

Also as per usual was Gob's awful sleeping habits. Gob only got a few hours’ sleep the night before the party. He laid agitated in bed for quite some time after he woke up until he gave in and got ready for the day. He made himself cereal and toast, since he, again, wasn't allowed to use the stove. Then, just using the routine he normally followed, Gob went over to the piano. A voice, that impulse control/conscience voice that sounded so much like Dave, said it was too early and he should wait to start practicing. 

Gob decided he wasn't going to listen to anything Dave or his dumb voice had to say, so it was a perfect time to start playing.

But the notes sounded wrong. Everything sounded off, wrong, bad. He started playing scales, just to get his fingers warmed up, but that C…that C sounded off. Gob knew a C. Gob could sing a C off the top of his head. That wasn’t a C. That was…god, almost a C-flat at that point? Getting there. Getting close. Too close. A quarter-tone away, at least. He was sure of it.

When had he last gotten it tuned? It had only been nine months, max, and he only needed to tune it once a year…

Well, no time like the present. It was the responsible thing to do, and he was responsible. 

Gob opened up the piano and started playing the A above middle C. Concert A. A4. A440. Normally Gob would use a tuning fork just to make sure he was doing it right, but, come on, he was Gob. He had perfect pitch. He didn’t need a fork. He didn’t need any help. He could do everything and anything alone. 

“Gob, what are you doing?” Michael asked as he walked into the living room.

“Tuning the piano,” Gob said simply.

“Yeah, I can see that,” Michael said dryly. “Come on, it’s not even six in the morning. Can’t you wait?”

“Nope,” Gob said. “Party’s tonight. Gotta make sure the piano’s in tune.”

“What? Are you going to perform or something?” Michael asked.

“We’re music performance majors.”

Michael rolled his eyes. “Yeah, well, I think waiting a few hours won’t hurt your plans.”

“Well, it’s hurting my ears,” Gob said as he continued to mess around with small little tuning adjustments, now onto B-flat.

“Then sleep now and play later?” Michael suggested.

“Can’t sleep,” Gob said simply.

“Then let me sleep.” Gob just kept tuning and Michael sighed. “Shouldn’t you be using that tuning fork thing to make sure you got the note right?”

“Why use it when you have perfect pitch?” Gob asked. “Not that you would know anything about that.”

Michael rolled his eyes as Gob continued to mess around with the piano in a way he couldn’t even understand. “Yeah. Most people don’t have it,” he said. 

“Yeah, and most people can also learn to tune a guitar right,” Gob said snidely.

Michael’s body stiffened. At that moment, he felt a strong urge to recreate their only attempt at a Boyfights video. But, somehow, he managed to stop himself. Gob wouldn’t admit it, but Michael knew he was hurt.

...Still, Michael couldn't resist saying, “At least I’m good at practical things.”

“Yeah, I’m sure being practical gets Tracey nice and wet,” Gob said. He started playing A and B together, adjusting them to make sure they were the right distance apart.

“Don't talk about her like that," Michael said darkly.

"What? Do you not fuck her?" Gob asked. "I guess you really don't get her wet, Mr. Practical."

"Since being good at piano got Dave so hard, huh?” Michael replied, knowing it was a low blow. But Gob started it.

“Hard enough to fuck me on your bed.” At Michael's silence, Gob grinned; he knew that lie would piss him off. 

“You’re kidding.” Gob didn’t answer as he kept messing around with the inside of the piano. “You were just trying to piss me off, right?” Gob still said nothing. Michael shook his head, his jaw tight. It was too damn early and he was too damn stressed for his last final to handle all of this. 

“Have fun living alone next year, because I'm done dealing with your messes and your piano tuning and having to make you breakfast, all of it,” Michael said. “I wonder how long it’ll take before you burn the place down.”

He turned and left, the large book of sheet music Gob threw his direction just barely missing him.

Despite how angry Michael was at Gob that morning, he managed to cool down by the time he had his final. He still had no plans of staying for the party, but Tracey came over before he had a chance to tell her not to bother, and she convinced him to attend instead of trying to hide out elsewhere for a few hours. At least Gob was acting more like his usual self by then, too psyched up by the party to be a dick, though he blatantly ignored all of Tracey’s attempts to say how sorry she was that he and Dave had broken up.

As people started to come, Gob started to dim the lights in the living room and started to play music through their stereo speakers. Gob was in his element, easily greeting people, laughing at their jokes, refilling drinks, and taking several shots along his way.

Michael did his best to just enjoy himself, though parties weren't really his thing. Especially parties where he only knew a handful of people from meeting them once, in this case, Gob's recital. He stuck close to Tracey and, thankfully, Lindsay made her way through the door and over to Michael after a while. 

"Hey," Michael greeted her before Gob swooped in. 

“Linds!” Gob greeted, obviously already drunk. He hugged her, and she hugged him back with a big smile. “Hey, hey, hey you’re here now—that means—I have song for you. Song for you to play for you.”

“Okay,” Lindsay said with a laugh, her side-ponytail who bouncing as she bounced on the balls of her feet.

“…Is he normally this drunk so early on?” Michael asked Lindsay as Gob went over to the speakers to change to a CD. Unlike Michael, Lindsay had experienced a lot of Gob at parties, even at a college level.

Lindsay tilted her head in thought. “He might be a bit farther along than usual, but it’s the end of the year. He’s allowed to go a bit crazy.” She looked behind Michael as the music stopped, noticing a girl she had never seen before holding his hand. “And you are…?”

As Lindsay and Tracey met each other, Gob flipped through his CDs and finally found the right one. He put it on his boombox and started blasting the right track as soon as he could. Lindsay stopped mid-conversation to squeal a little at the opening chords of a song. Michael sighed heavily and brought a hand to his forehead. He knew what was about to happen.

Lindsay grabbed Michael’s hand and dragged him into the center of the room and Gob met them there. Michael sent Tracey an apologetic look and then, knowing he couldn’t fight it, Michael half-heartedly joined them in the little dance they had created years ago when the song came out. He couldn't deny his siblings one of their traditions. 

After all, “Material Girl” was basically a Bluth motto.

As they danced, Gob managed to make eye contact with this cute guy from school, Derrick. They had never hooked up, but Gob knew he was gay. And when he saw how Derrick was looking at him, he raised an eyebrow and smirked before going back to dancing.

Lindsay also noticed the guy staring and smiled. She wasn’t one to flirt with the first guy who looked her way, but at least this one was cute. She went back to dancing, glancing over at that cute guy every now and then just to make sure he was still watching.

Gob was getting progressively drunker with each passing minute. He was living it up, laughing loudly, and balancing a red solo cup in his hand as he danced. He had joined in on cheering what sounded like some orchestral piece that started off pretty quiet. Michael hoped that meant the party was winding down, but soon the piece got fast and dissonant and people were jumping and fist pumping on the accented beats and laughing, some of Gob's drink spilling on the floor as he jumped.

“Only Stravinsky would make me spill my drink!” Gob laughed. He took a shot to make up for his party foul, his friends cheering him on while Michael just watched, his concern mounting.

It got worse when Michael spotted Lindsay talking to a guy Gob had been flirting with earlier. Well, Michael assumed they had been flirting, since after he put the mix tape back on post-Madonna, Gob had made a beeline for him and kept touching his arm and laughing and standing much closer to him than he did any other guys.

Gob spotted Lindsay as well. He shook his head as he walked past Michael, only pausing when he heard the tell-tale signs of a Queen song starting.

An idea formed in his head for how he could get attention and Gob ran over to the piano. He started playing it in time with the recording of Freddie, singing along once he had settled into the piano part, "I’m floating around in ecstasy, so don't stop me now…Don’t stop me, ‘cause I’m having a good time—having a good time!

As he picked up the tempo, one of his friends started tapping the drum beat on the piano. Michael expected Gob to stop him, but he barely seemed to notice. Gob kept singing and playing, and, no, he was no Freddie Mercury, and his voice was straining to hit some of the notes, but he was a great showman anyways, even when drunk off his ass and playing along with a recording to amuse his drunk friends. Michael looked over to Tracey briefly and immediately wished he hadn't, since she looked rather impressed.

"...I am a sex machine ready to reload, like an atom bomb about to oh oh oh oh oh explode..."

During the chanting break of the song, Gob stood up and took off his shirt, since he was getting sweaty and hot and, besides, he saw a video of Freddie Mercury singing the same song live without a shirt on. Made sense to him. He threw it towards Derrick, though he missed him by a few feet. What? It wasn’t like his dad had ever taught him how to throw a ball, much less a shirt. To help at least get the point across, Gob looked right at Derrick during some key lyrics, standing up as he continued to play to the track and sing.

"...If you wanna have a good time, just give me a call..." 

Michael just watched all the chaos uneasily. Gob had this energy around him that was unnerving, basically pleading throughout what was supposed to be a fun song, pleading for things to not stop. He looked over at Tracey again as the song started to wrap up, and she looked worried as well. Even Lindsay had a bit of a confused look on her face from across the room, but maybe that was just from the looks Gob kept sending Derrick.

When the performance finally ended, everyone clapped for him and Derrick left Lindsay to bring Gob his discarded shirt. “You don’t have to hurry to put it back on if you don’t want,” he said. "You look pretty hot right now."

Gob grinned and threw the shirt behind him. It landed on Michael, who quickly threw it in the kitchen with a wrinkled nose as his brother started to dance with that guy rather suggestively...

Michael knew Gob didn’t want Lindsay to know about his sexuality. Michael had tried to be respectful of this, and he was going to do his best to help hide it now, seeing as Gob wasn’t in his right mind. 

“Can I steal my brother for a second?” Michael asked Derrick over the loud music. Not even waiting for an answer, Michael started to drag Gob off to the quiet of their kitchen, now lined with a mix of both completely and partially empty bottles of liquor all around the counters. 

Tracey, loyal as ever, had followed them, her eyes concerned as she ran a hand over Gob’s bare arm. Gob flinched, like her touch was burning him, and focused his eyes on his brother. “Michael,” he said in that way only he could. “I was about to get myself laid out there.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” Michael said. “It was also right in front of Lindsay. She could’ve seen.”

Gob laughed a humorless laugh. “Oh, Michael. Stupid, straight Michael. Always pretended you were so cool with me being gay. You wanted me to believe it. Yet you didn’t even tell your girlfriend. You ignored me for weeks after you found out. You didn’t even like to see me kiss my boyfriend—” The word echoed in his head and Gob briefly brought his hands to his eyes, pressing hard on them with the heels of his palms. 

“Hey,” Michael said, his voice a bit softer, calmer than before. “It wasn’t my secret to tell—”

“And now you don’t even want Lindsay to know,” Gob interrupted, clearly not listening to anything Michael had said.

“What? Gob, I’ve been telling you for weeks that you should tell Lindsay—”

“Tell me what?” They all turned to the kitchen door where Lindsay walked in, her eyes concerned and intrigued all at once. 

Gob laughed again. “Oh, Lindsay. Linds, Linds, Linds...You want the biggest gossip? The biggest, raunchiest secret to tell all your friends? To tell mom and dad?” Lindsay’s concerned look grew at Gob’s drunken state, her eyes darting to Michael before going back to Gob’s as he moved closer to her.

“Your brother,” Gob said slowly, pointing at himself and smiling, “Your brother as in me…is a big, fucking faggot.” He waved his hands as if to say tada and, with that, slipped past her back into the living room.

Lindsay remained silent as she tried to process the new information. Michael could see her quickly—well, as quickly as her tipsy brain could manage—connect all the dots he had when Gob had first told him. He could practically see her understand Gob’s dating history and his reactions to their dad’s jokes and everything in between.

“…Oh my god..."

Then, after a few blinks of her eyes, she looked at Michael. “What’s wrong with him?”

Michael relaxed a little; he really didn’t want to rehash how he had figured it out or anything right then. “He broke up with his boyfriend. And I think he…he doesn’t know how to handle it.”

“We need to shut down this party, which means we have to get him out of there…” Lindsay said as she looked back over her shoulder, her nose wrinkling as Gob started dancing very suggestively with that guy. She suddenly understood why Gob hated the idea of guys dating her, because if they looked at her the same way that guy was looking at her brother...She didn't like how his eyes were tracing over Gob's bare torso.

Lindsay turned back around. “God, don’t you have some rule about clothing or something? It’s seriously disturbing.”

Soon, Michael went back into the living room and tapped Gob’s shoulder. Gob immediately rolled his eyes when he saw his little brother stopping him from getting laid. Again. Gob followed him yet again to the kitchen.


“Can you please put on a shirt?” Michael asked. “It’s weird, okay?”

Gob rolled his eyes, but then noticed Michael looking over at Tracey nervously. He smirked. “Oh, I see. You’re afraid your girl’s gonna want this, huh?” Gob said with a grin and a gesture to himself. “I thought she realized I don’t go that way, but if her staring is distractin’ you, I guess I’ll find a clean shirt.”

It took all of Michael's strength not to roll his eyes.

Gob went back to his room and searched for a shirt, Michael right behind him. Lindsay and Tracey went to work turning off the music and getting everyone out of the house as quickly as possible, but Gob didn’t notice.

It was hard for him to notice anything else when, while digging around for another shirt, he found that dark T-shirt with the word Stanford on it. He froze as he held it in his hands, his heart pounding in his chest and his jaw tight.

“Gob…” After some hesitation, Michael put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay,” he said softly.

“I know it’s okay,” Gob said. “Just gotta destroy this shirt.”

Gob sprung up and got past Michael quickly. Michael followed, hoping against all hope that Gob was just going to throw it away or tear it up. But by the time he got into the kitchen, Michael found Gob pouring what was left of a vodka bottle on the shirt and putting it in the sink.

Then he pulled out a lighter from his pocket.

“Jesus, Gob!” Michael yelled as he ran over. He grabbed his wrist firmly and pulled his arm back behind him, Gob kept struggling against the hold. Lindsay and Tracey rushed in and watched with wide eyes as Gob struggled.

“Gob, you’re going to set the whole house on fire!” Michael rushed out. “Drop it.”

“Let me go. I want it gone.”

“We can throw it out, Gob. Or even light it on fire somewhere else, just—” Michael pulled a bit harder on Gob’s squirming wrist, the same wrist Gob had broken years ago. “Gob, you’re going to break your wrist again if you keep fighting!”

Gob suddenly stopped struggling and Tracey ran up and grabbed the vodka-soaked T-shirt. She stepped back to stand next to Lindsay as Gob finally dropped the lighter, his face blank.

Michael breathed a sigh of relief and finally let go of his brother’s wrist. “That’s better,” he said breathlessly. It had been more of a physical struggle than he wanted to admit.

“Yeah,” Gob said. “Don’t wanna break my wrist again.” He lifted up his arm, his eyes staring at his wrist. He could still remember the pain that had coursed through him when Michael had fallen on it, the panic attacks he had as he waited for it to heal…the words his mom said about him. “Then I couldn’t play.”

“Right,” Michael said, not noticing the dangerous tone in his brother’s voice.

“And that’s all I’m good for,” Gob said.

“What?” Michael said. “No, Gob, I—” Michael cut himself off as he remembered what his parents had said way back then, what he had said that morning... “Gob…you’re good at more than that.”

“Yeah,” Gob said, still staring at his wrist. “I’m good at sight-reading. Tuning. Throwing parties. Sex.” Gob nodded. “Yep, that’s about it.”

“You can do more than that—”

“Can I, Michael?” Gob asked, suddenly turning to his brother. "I'm not even allowed to use the stove. What can I do?"

Michael stood there silently, unsure of what to say. He valued his brother as more than a musician, of course he did, but as he tried to think of what his brother did well besides that, he drew a bit of a blank.

“I love playing piano,” Gob said quietly. “It’s all I want to do. But the fact that it’s the only thing I can do…”

“Is this what this has been about?” Michael asked. “This whole…” he wasn’t sure if breakdown was the right word or not, but he decided not to use it, “…thing was about not being able to cook? Gob, I could teach you that.”

Gob shook his head, his lips pressed tight. “God, Michael, it’s not that, it’s…” With a frustrated groan, Gob said, "He dumped me, okay?"

Michael looked at Gob in confusion. "He's just moving, Gob. That's all."

"No, Michael. I lied. He dumped me." Gob's voice was low and angry and a little shaky. "He said it wasn't working out. I said I didn't know what he meant. I was happy. We were happy. And he..." Gob's jaw tightened as he swallowed. "He said he was tired of having to babysit me. That I couldn't just play piano all day, that I didn't know how to take care of myself...And he's right." 


“Everyone out there thinks I'm some diseased freak, I can't even donate blood, and I couldn't even hold Dave's hand without someone looking at us weird or calling us faggots and now I'm too much of some sort of freak to my own fucking boyfriend, and I've always been a freak in my own f-fucking family and just a disappointment to mom and dad—to you." Gob blinked a few times, the anger starting to turn to tears as he continued, "I thought I had finally found someone who knew what it was like to be a disappointment, to be gay, be the same as me. And I was just a disappointment to him. Because I can't do anything right..." A few tears started rolling down Gob's cheeks and he choked out, "I can't keep a boyfriend. I can’t even be gay right. I'm doing that wrong...And I miss him so much."

Before anyone could try to say anything else, Gob sunk down to the ground and sobbed into his hands. Gob hadn't let himself cry about any of it, about Dave or how alienated he felt or how scary it had been to almost get caught but how part of him just wanted to be caught at this point, about how he felt worthless and pointless and bad at everything. He wanted to push through, to never stop, to live it up, he didn't want to have to feel this pain, but even as he felt Michael crouch down next to him and try to shush him, he just kept crying. It hurt so much more than he had expected, and he didn't know if it was purely because he had been blindsided and so hurt, or because Dave had made a fair point. Probably both.

It took a while, but Gob seemed to finally calm down a little, his breaths a bit steadier and quieter. Much to everyone’s surprise, Lindsay suddenly stepped forward and pushed Michael out of the way as she got down in front of Gob.

“I’ve got this from here,” Lindsay said. As Michael started to protest, Lindsay said, “No offense, Michael, but you’ve never broken up with a guy, have you? It’s different than being dumped by a girl.”

Michael frowned. “I don’t think it is. Besides, you’re aware Gob’s a guy, too, right?”

“Yeah, but trust me, I know what I’m doing here.” Before Michael could protest anymore, Lindsay gently moved Gob’s hands away from his face.

“Hey, it’s okay. You don’t know how this breaking up stuff works; it’s new for you,” Lindsay said soothingly enough that Gob looked up at her. “First, you’ve got to cry it out…which I think you’ve done now,” she said as she looked over Gob’s tear-stained cheeks and runny nose. “Then, you watch movies, eat ice cream, cry some more, and then trash the guy for being dumb enough to break up with you. And, trust me, he’s really dumb for thinking he can do better than Gob Bluth.”

There was a small silence and Michael was about to tell Lindsay that wasn’t going to work, but, much to his surprise, Gob tiredly wiped his eyes as he let out a small, quiet laugh. “Ice cream does sound good…”       

Without even being asked, Tracey dug in the freezer to find an old, iced-over gallon of vanilla ice cream as Lindsay helped Gob stand up. “Make yourself useful, Michael, and get some more ice cream. There’s got to be some place open,” Lindsay said before tugging her oldest brother into the living room.

Michael woke up with a slight pain in his neck and sat up. It took him a moment to realize where he was, but he soon realized he had fallen asleep on the living room floor. It took his eyes a little while to adjust before he could read the time on the VCR: 5:30.

It took another moment for him to remember how he had gotten there. At some point, after he got back with more ice cream, alcohol had gotten involved yet again, since what kind of Bluth Family Moment could it be without alcohol? It probably wasn’t wise after everything Gob had already had to drink that night, but, again, Bluth Family Bonding required booze. Then the “crappy movie” suggestion from Lindsay turned into a VHS of the Met's production of Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) because, well, of course it did. To be fair, they didn’t own a lot of tapes; it had been a choice between that or a terribly out of season Christmas movie.

Michael looked over at the chair Tracey was asleep on and smiled. She nobly fought to keep up, but she ended up falling asleep first.

“She’s great. I hope you keep her around.”

Michael whipped his head around, wincing at the pain in his neck; that was what sleeping on the floor with no pillow did for him. After rubbing the spot, he looked over at Lindsay on the couch. At some point, Gob had fallen asleep, and his head rested on a pillow in her lap. Despite the length of the couch, Gob still had to curl up a bit to fit all of his long limbs on it, and he had wrapped himself up in a throw blanket, his chin and mouth covered by the fabric. Michael was just glad to see him sleeping.

“Yeah, I’m planning on it.”

“Good. Not many people could handle a night like this," Lindsay whispered, her hands lightly petting Gob's hair absent mindedly.

“Yeah…Are you handling it okay?” Michael asked.

Lindsay sighed. “I’m fine. I just feel stupid for not realizing it before. A lot of things are finally making sense…though it’s weird. I had so many nights like this in high school with other cheerleaders, nights that he caused.” She tilted her head and reasoned, “Though it also helps explain the multiple stories I heard about how he’d just lay there during sex. Or cry afterwards—three different girls told me that one.”

That wasn’t funny. It wasn’t funny. Not funny. It was tragic that Gob felt the need to sleep with women for that long when he clearly didn’t like it at all. It. Wasn’t. Funny. Michael kept trying to tell himself that, but when he made eye contact with Lindsay again, they both ended up covering their mouths to try to keep their laughter down. Something about it was just so absurd.

Finally, the two calmed down and they both looked back at the screen. The Magic Flute was one of the few operas their mom had taken all the kids to before Gob became the only child she brought to operas and symphonies. Gob loved to play the tape when he was younger, so they all knew it well. Michael never really understood it, since the plot was pretty crazy, but Gob loved the bird-man, Papageno. The ending always confused him the most, where Papageno almost kills himself over losing his love and then the three spirits bring in said love, Papagena, who's basically the female version of Papageno, and then they sing a duet about all the children they'd have.

See? Weird opera.

After the final scene they rewound the tape. Lindsay carefully got out from under Gob so she could sleep in his bed. Both of them knew how much trouble Gob had with sleeping, so waking him up to get him into his bed was a bad idea. Michael put away the tape and Tracey woke up in the process. Michael took her back to his room so she could get some rest on a horizontal surface versus the chair.

Michael was sure she was already asleep by the time he climbed next to her in bed, but she soon moved in closer as he wrapped his arms around her. “Thanks for helping tonight,” Michael murmured. “I’m sorry it got so crazy.”

“It’s fine,” Tracey replied sleepily. “I love how much you care about your brother. And I loved your guys' little dance." Michael laughed softly and smiled. "You guys are sweet together; I’ve always thought family was the most important thing.”

Michael pulled her in even tighter. He really had found the perfect girl for him.

Gob finally woke up in a daze around 11:30. As a Bluth, he never really got hungover, but he had definitely gone too hard the night before. He felt a little dizzy and he had a dull headache and his mouth was as dry as sandpaper.


He got off the couch and went straight to the bathroom to brush his teeth and take a shower. He stayed in there for longer than normal as he thought over everything that happened the previous night and felt various amounts of embarrassment and regret. Shame. He just wished he could forget everything that had happened from the moment he had woken up the day before.

But Gob eventually got out of the hot shower and changed into pajamas in his room before finally joining his sister at the kitchen table.

“Michael took Tracey out for brunch,” Lindsay explained. Gob nodded in acknowledgment and Lindsay nudged over the milk and cereal she still had out from her own breakfast. She wasn’t much of a cook, either. Someone had saved him some coffee in his usual mug and he quickly downed it before pouring out some Cap’n Crunch.

To Lindsay’s credit, she waited until he had finished about half of his cereal before asking, “Do you normally call yourself that word?”

It took Gob a moment to remember what she was even talking about. He shook his head. “No.” He still couldn't really explain why he had used it that night, mainly because he couldn't really explain why he had said anything.

“Good. I don’t like hearing you talk about yourself like that,” Lindsay said. Gob didn’t really know what to say in response, so he just kept eating. “How are you feeling?”

“My head hurts,” Gob said honestly. He definitely didn’t want to delve into how he felt emotionally until he had finished his breakfast at least.

“Not surprising. I’m amazed you’re alive. I know you’re a Bluth, but still…” Gob shrugged at that and went back to eating. She waited a few more minutes before saying, “You know I'm not going to tell our parents, right?”

Gob had some coffee before answering, trying to delay having to respond. "You and mom are always gossiping about stuff…”

“Gossip is about scandalous things,” Lindsay said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Like, how the Taylor twins dated the same guy and he didn’t know it, or how Mrs. Meyers is cheating on her husband with her pool boy. You liking guys?” Lindsay shrugged. “It’s not really scandalous. If anything, it makes you cooler.” Gob smiled and she added, “I should’ve known since you were always more fun to shop with than Michael. Plus, you actually own Madonna albums.”

Gob could tell she was just teasing and, honestly, he really appreciated that. He really didn’t want his sexuality to always be some serious thing. “What can I say? Madonna’s fun and I like to actually wear colors.”

They both laughed a little at that and Gob finished his cereal. As he put the bowl in the dishwasher, Lindsay said, “I’m sorry about that Dave guy.”

Gob paused for a moment, another wave of pain hitting him in his chest as he thought about it. As much as Lindsay had helped the previous night, he knew it was going to take some time before that wound really healed. “Yeah…” Gob awkwardly shifted a little on his feet and said, “Thanks for last night. It helped.”

“You’re welcome. I know some day you'll find the Papageno to your Papageno,” Lindsay said, giving her brother a little smile as she stood up. He raised an eyebrow at her reference. "Please, you made me and Michael and Buster watch that like twenty times one year. I still have nightmares about the Queen of the Night turning into mom."

"She's basically already mom," Gob agreed.

“Exactly." Lindsay said. She smiled and said, "If you ever want to do it again, just let me know. I’m not that far away, you know.” Gob nodded and Lindsay sighed. “I should probably head home now; hopefully mom hasn't noticed the good vodka's gone yet.”

Lindsay gathered her things and Gob watched her curiously. He had never really thought about how his sister could understand a lot of what he was feeling, particularly the whole not being up to their parents' standards. It was really only then that he realized how much he had missed her.

“Hey, Linds?” She turned around to face Gob and he continued, “Do you wanna come up again next weekend? We can catch a movie or something?”

Lindsay slowly smiled. “I’d like that.”

Gob was practicing a new piece when Michael came back from his date with Tracey. That little voice in Gob’s head that, thankfully, was starting to sound more like Michael again, told him he should talk to his brother and apologize to him, but the idea of having to talk more about everything that happened sounded exhausting. Thankfully, Michael seemed to agree, since he kept walking past him and went into his room.

A few minutes later, Michael came back out while Gob was writing a note in his music. “I had an idea.” Gob looked up at him, squinting a little when he saw the guitar case in his hands. “I figure that this summer, I can try to teach you some practical things. Like how to cook eggs and how taxes work,” Michael said. “And then you could…help me with music.”

“…What?” Gob asked.

Michael sighed and sat down on the couch, Gob turning to keep looking at him. “Look, we both know it’s something I’m not good at. But I’d like to try…again. And you learn instruments pretty fast,” Michael said. It was true; while Gob mainly played piano, he had learned a few other instruments. Not only had Michael seen him play the guitar after what could only have been a few hours with it, but he was the only kid in elementary school who actually sounded good on the recorder, and he briefly played bass in sixth grade orchestra until he got tired of having to stand during the whole concert. All of those things were half of the reason why Michael hadn’t tried to play anything in between his disastrous attempts at piano and before he bought the guitar. “I know piano’s not my thing, but maybe you can help me with guitar. Or at least teach me how to tune it right?”

Gob looked at Michael for a long moment. He knew his brother was really offering up something big here, since he didn’t like having to be corrected and he didn’t like being bad at things. And music? That was something he was really bad at. And Gob...Gob didn't want to learn this stuff, but it seemed pretty necessary

“…You promise you won’t laugh at me if I ask something stupid?” Gob asked.

“As long as you don’t laugh at me for not remembering the orders of the strings,” Michael replied. He offered his hand. "Deal?"

Gob looked at it warily for a moment before gripping it with his own hand with a small smile. "Deal."

Chapter Text

Ellens dritter Gesang (Ave Maria) (Arrangement of Ave Maria, D.839), S.558/12 

“I came as soon as I heard,” Lindsay said breathlessly when Michael opened the door. She barreled in past Michael with a bag on her shoulder and a bottle in her hand.

“Heard what?” Michael asked, still half-asleep. It was much too early to be up on a day when he finally didn’t have school, wasn’t it? He checked his watch and frowned when he realized it was actually 9:30 and a perfectly reasonable time to be up.

Apparently, he had been enjoying his Thanksgiving break too much already, if he was barely awake at 9:30 on a Monday. He had heard Gob showering but seeing as it was Gob, Michael wouldn’t say he was exactly the best judge of when it was time to be awake. Even with the whole trying to teach Gob how to be responsible thing, Gob couldn’t figure out how to make a consistent sleep schedule, no matter what Michael did to try to help. Ever since they lived together, Michael had to tell Gob to stop playing Mozart at five in the morning too many times to count.

Of course, then Gob just started to play Chopin instead before Michael made it clear that it was the piano that he didn’t want to hear, not the composer.

“You mean you haven’t heard?”

“Heard what?” Michael rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and finally looked at what his twin sister was holding. Suddenly, he was wide awake. “Is that…?” He turned the bottle in her hand, his mouth opening up a little in wonder. Lindsay had brought over their parents’ best whiskey. And Lindsay, while she liked to push her limits, would never have taken that if it wasn’t serious, especially not so early in the morning.

“Oh my god, what happened?”

Lindsay pulled a newspaper out of her bag and into Michael’s hands. He had to blink a few times to focus on it before finally reading the headline. His heart sunk in his chest as he scanned through the article for details.


“Yeah. Exactly,” Lindsay said. She moved in a bit closer to her brother and whispered, “We have to tell him. I was afraid he might already know—”

Their heads snapped up at the same time as they heard the shower turn off. Lindsay quickly shoved the newspaper back into her bag and put the whiskey bottle on the coffee table before going into the kitchen with Michael. Lindsay posed casually next to the table as Michael put some bread in the toaster, started his coffee, and got the eggs out. He’d need to eat before the day that he knew was coming.

Gob came out of the bathroom a few minutes later in a pair of pajama pants and T-shirt. “Hey, Linds,” he said as he walked into the kitchen.

“Hi, Gob,” she said with a very unnatural tone. Gob’s eyebrows pressed together in confusion, but he shrugged it off.

“Hey, buddy. Want any breakfast?” Michael asked, the name making Gob’s eyebrows raise again.

“Nah, I ate and had coffee, like, an hour ago,” Gob said. He stood up straighter and said, “I made scrambled eggs. And they were actually good.” Michael nodded at Gob’s proud smile. Gob had definitely made a lot of progress in the cooking department over the past six months, even if he still thought spaghetti tasted better before it was cooked. “Now that you’re up, I’m allowed to practice, right?” After months of waking Michael up when he couldn’t sleep, Gob was told that he could practice as long as Michael was awake and/or during the hours of 10 AM to 10 PM. Michael had even made him sign and initial the rules to make sure he understood them and would follow them. Remembering the rule about guests having to be okay with it, Gob looked at Lindsay and added, “You’re okay with it, right?”

Michael and Lindsay both looked at each other and then at Gob. “Uh, yeah. Sure thing,” Michael said, figuring it would buy him time to eat breakfast before having to tell him the news.

“Fine with me,” Lindsay agreed.

“Cool,” Gob said, going back into the living room. Lindsay started to relax her fake smile, only for Gob to march back in a second later, the bottle of whiskey in his hand.

“Why is there Dalmore?” Gob asked. Even Gob, who wasn’t the greatest at picking up social cues, knew something was wrong if Dalmore whiskey was in the house. Even the cheapest bottle of it was above most college students’ means, and this stuff had to be a few hundred at least. And Gob knew it was only there if something bad had happened.

Lindsay and Michael looked at each other again. Gob watched them with concern before Michael sighed and Lindsay took the bottle away. She put it safely on the table and then reached into her bag to grab the newspaper again. “This was in the paper this morning.”

Gob took it from her and quickly straightened out the paper. He read the headline and felt all the blood drain out of his face as his heart sunk into his stomach. Unable to read any further, Gob handed the paper to Lindsay, and they were all silent for a moment.

“…Excuse me,” Gob said tightly. He cleared his throat and walked back into the living room right before Michael’s coffeemaker dinged.

Lindsay sighed and looked down at the paper, still unable to believe the headline: Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury dies of AIDS

 I go out to work on Monday morning
Tuesday I go off to honeymoon...

“It’s just not fair, you know?”

Lindsay and Michael agreed as they sat down around the coffee table, Gob still sitting on the piano bench. He had attempted practicing, but the only thing that came out of his fingertips was something that sounded a lot like a Simon and Garfunkel song. He couldn’t bring himself to play Queen, not yet, and he couldn’t make himself practice anything else, even though he really wanted to.

Music always distracted him, always gave him something to focus on that wasn’t the real world. Sometimes, when he was practicing a piece he really knew, it would let his mind slip away, like he wasn’t even there, like he wasn’t even Gob, like the only thing that existed was music. Sometimes, when he was learning a piece, it was a way for him to focus on his favorite thing, on making something more beautiful than anything else that existed in that moment, on making real art. Sometimes he only felt grounded when he had a pedal under his foot and his fingers on the keys. He loved that about music. He loved it so much. There could be frustrating lessons, weeks of awful practice sessions where he’d slam his hands on the keys and not know how to fix his work, but it was always worth it in the end. Music was the only thing that made sense in his life.

But today it seemed that he needed a break. Music was dead, at least temporarily. “American Pie” had nothing on this.

“I was just born in the wrong era,” Gob said as Michael started to pour whiskey into their rocks glasses. It wasn’t even 10:30, but he knew better than to argue that they should wait until later to start drinking. “Too young to have seen Freddie live whenever he was here. That’s fucked up. Shoulda been born like…ten years earlier or something. That’s the dream era.”

“I thought your dream era was the 1800s so you could see Liszt live,” Lindsay said.

Gob paused. “Either way, I was born at a dumb time. Whenever that actually was anyways.” Gob knew his birth certificate had the wrong date on it, seeing as his parents hid his birth for a few months to avoid controversy. Whenever he asked his parents about it, he never got a clear answer; he was pretty sure they didn’t remember the actual date.

Gob sighed and slid down onto the floor to sit next to his siblings, taking the glass that Michael handed him. They all took their glasses and clinked them together before taking their first sips. After a beat, all three of them spoke at once.




That was some damn fine whiskey.

Surprisingly, out of all three of them, Michael was the one to say, “We’re drinking this whole thing, right?”

“At least for starters,” Gob said with a grin. The three of them clinked their glasses again and had more to drink.

It was going to be a good bad weird day.

...I'll be back again before it's time for sunny-down,
I'll be lazing on a Sunday afternoon

Goodbye everybody, I've got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth...

Gob sang along to the record they were blasting, his voice straining to try to hit those high notes. A sober Gob refused to accept he couldn’t hit all of Freddie’s notes, and three-drinks-in Gob refused it even more so. It normally took five drinks or so before he started to sing down the octave.

Mama, oooo—anyway the wind blows,” he sang. Lindsay joined him loudly to sing, “I don’t wanna die!” Michael joined in just as loudly for, “Sometimes I wish I’d never been born at all!

Fuck, that’s depressing now,” Michael muttered, enough alcohol in his system to make him swear like that so casually. Despite being bigger than Lindsay, Michael was the lightweight of the family. Of course, his tolerance was still higher than most people, seeing as low tolerance for a Bluth was much different than most people’s definition of a lightweight, but, you know, he was still the closest to tipsy at that point.

Lindsay nodded. “God yeah…at least he really lived, you know? Most people don’t live as much in their whole lives as he probably lived in, like, one day.”

“Who the fuck would think of putting a full on operatic section in a rock song?” Gob asked, ignoring his siblings and pouring himself another drink as the song kept playing. “Oh, yeah, the same guy who named a whole album A Night at the Opera. The same guy who did a whole fucking album with fucking Montserrat Caballé just because he fucking could. He’s so fucking unreal.”


Gob looked at Michael like he was crazy. “Famous Spanish opera singer? That 'Barcelona' song? Seriously?”

“Guys, shut up, I love this part,” Lindsay said before Michael could inform Gob yet again that he was not a music major and he didn’t know many opera singers.

They started singing along again since, really, it was too much fun to pass up. Thankfully, Gob let Lindsay take the high notes in that section; Freddie sang the middle part on those vocals anyways.

“Did you ever think of being a singer, Linds?” Gob asked when the song finished. He remembered her singing in choir and she constantly sang to her CDs and to the radio. She was actually pretty good and she definitely had more talent than the average person.

“What?” Lindsay asked, laughing a little. She shook her head, her blonde hair bouncing a bit with her. “No.”

Before Gob could ask why, the doorbell rang. “PIZZA!” He yelled before getting up and answering the door. Gob took the pizza and shoved a twenty in the guy’s hand. “Keep the change. You shouldn’t have to work on such a tragic day.”

“Wha—” Gob closed the door before the guy could finish asking what Gob was talking about.

...Nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me
Anyway the wind blows

This is a tricky situation -
I've only got myself to blame...

“I didn’t even know he had AIDS,” Gob said quietly from the couch he was splayed across. “It makes it so much more personal.”

Michael and Lindsay looked at each other as an obscure Queen song played in the background. They both knew the subject had to come up at some point, and, if it wasn’t for the whiskey, they probably would’ve brought it up sooner. “Yeah,” Lindsay said. “I think he only announced it yesterday, but he’d been sick for a while. I mean, he looked so frail in their last video, and he'd been hiding from the press…”

“If he could get it, if he could die from it…” Gob muttered, running a hand over his eyes for a moment, his mind briefly flashing the memory of his mother saying that same thing about Rock Hudson. Remembering how weak Rock Hudson had been at the end and imagining Freddie like that…Gob quickly downed the rest of his glass. He took a breath and then put his glass on the table with his other hand. “Pour me ‘nother.”

Michael did just that and Gob thanked him before having a sip. Taking advantage of Gob’s silence, Lindsay asked, “You’ve…you’ve gotten tested, right?” Gob nodded and she breathed a sigh of relief.

“How recently?” Michael asked. As Gob took a long, slow sip, Michael’s eyebrows rose. “Gob, when did you last get tested?”

“I’m thinking.”

“If it’s taking you that long, it hasn’t been recent enough!” Michael said, his words slurring enough to slightly undermine his serious tone. “Gay men are supposed to go every three to six months if they’re having casual sex.” At his siblings’ looks, Michael said, “After you came out, I read up on this stuff. I was worried, okay?”

Gob ran his thumb along his glass, not really wanting to talk about it. It was something Michael could never understand, the feeling of something chasing after him, knowing that, even if he was careful, he could still get something that would kill him. Something that seemed to be targeting him just because of who he was attracted to.

Neither of them would understand what it was like to feel like they were waiting for the inevitable.

It wasn’t like Gob wanted it. He was terrified of getting it. If he was going to die—and, yes, he considered it an if and not a when—he wanted to go out with a bang, like in flames or something, not from some disease that would make him slowly waste away until he couldn’t fight off pneumonia or something. But sometimes it just seemed inevitable that he’d get it, and sometimes he just wanted to get it over with.

But, again, that was something neither of them would understand.

“You’re at least using condoms, right?” Michael asked, not letting the subject drop.

Gob smirked and joked, “I’m not always the one who has to wear one.” It was true, after all, and he laughed as his siblings rolled their eyes.

“God, why are you making this so difficult?” Michael asked. Gob shrugged with a grin and sat up a little. “Fine. One of you is always wearing a condom when you hook up, right?”

Gob avoided Michael’s eyes as he finished off his drink.

“Gob!” Michael and Lindsay exclaimed at the same time.

“What are you thinking?” Lindsay asked.

“Not only could you get HIV, but there are other STDs out there!” Michael interjected.

“You’ve got to be careful with all of that stuff! Even I use a condom every time, and I’m on the pill!”

“I use them most of the time, just not for everything, okay?” Gob sighed.

“Why would you not use one?” Michael asked.

Gob slowly looked between the two of his siblings and rolled his eyes. Very bluntly, Gob said, “Because I don’t like the taste of latex.”

It took a moment for the twins to understand what he was saying, but once they did, their reactions were priceless, at least in Gob’s opinion. Michael brought his hand to his face and muttered about how much he hated Gob at that moment. Lindsay’s face screwed up in disgust and she said, “It’s not like cock tastes any better.” It was Gob’s turn let out a disgusted groan alongside Michael. Lindsay rolled her eyes. “What? You can talk about it but I can’t?”

“I don’t want to hear about straight sex!” Gob exclaimed. “Or my sister having sex, just…” Gob fought the urge to gag. He had always had a strong, visceral reaction to the idea of his parents having sex, and it seemed he had the same one with Lindsay as well.

“Do you think we want to hear about our brother having sex?” Michael shot back.

“Wow, way to be homophobic, Michael,” Gob said, pouring himself more whiskey.

“Oh my god,” Michael said. It wasn’t homophobic to not want to hear about his brother sucking some guy off, right? He was sure it wasn’t, but part of him was always worried his reactions were homophobic.

“We’re getting you tested, like, ASAP…” Lindsay looked thoughtful before saying, “Tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow. You don’t have to make an appointment, do you?” She looked at Michael as if he would know; Michael shrugged and looked at Gob.

With a groan, Gob shook his head. “No, there are walk-ins.” He took a sip of his drink and added, “I’ll go, but don’t…you guys don’t have to go with me. It’s fine. Those places are depressing; you don’t wanna be there.” Gob didn’t want to have some sort of sibling bonding moment at an HIV testing clinic and he didn't want them there if he did end up testing positive.

Gob stood up suddenly and said, “I need another drink.”

He made it all the way to the kitchen before remembering there was still whiskey left on the table. Michael and Lindsay laughed at him as he stumbled back over to the table and poured himself another glass.

...It's just a simple fact of life
It can happen to anyone

Talk like a big business tycoon,
You're just a hot air balloon,
So no one gives you a damn...

“We probably shouldn’t’ve drunk all of this,” Michael said, looking over the now empty Dalmore bottle they had just finished off. To be fair, it wasn’t that big of a bottle and their Bluth tolerance was only just now truly being tested.

Lindsay just pushed over a glass of vodka on the rocks to him in response. Normally Michael would’ve said he didn’t need more alcohol, but Gob had opened it earlier and it was going to go bad if they didn’t finish it off.

Plus, it was kind of nice not being the only sober one for once. He had spent a lot of the summer watching Gob and Lindsay either get drunk at the house or come back from parties completely wasted. Michael was glad that at least Lindsay would convince Gob to call a taxi instead of trying to drive home himself. Sometimes he’d get annoyed about having to deal with his drunk siblings, but sometimes he just felt a little left out of their cool little club, even if he wouldn’t admit it.

“It was so good, though,” Lindsay said, leaning her head against the arm of the couch. She closed her eyes and hummed to the live Queen album playing on Gob’s boombox.

Gob nodded from where he laid on his stomach across the piano bench, over half of his body unable to fit on it. He tended to get in weird positions when he was drunk. “So smooth...smoky…mmm…”

“Totally worth it.” Lindsay agreed.

“Yeah, but mom and dad are gonna get so pissed once they realize it’s all gone,” Michael said.

If they even notice,” Lindsay snorted. “And if they notice, mom’s gonna assume daddy drank it all and vice versa. Then they’ll yell at each other and just buy some more. They have the money to replace it and then some, you know that.”

“Yeah, yeah. That’s true,” Michael mumbled before taking a sip of the vodka. It was not nearly as smooth or good as the whiskey, but his tongue was numb enough that he didn’t really notice.

“That’s why I don’t get why you guys even have jobs,” Lindsay said. “Our parents have enough money to pay for everything. Why work?”

“Résumé building, for one,” Michael said with a frown. He and Lindsay had discussed this sort of thing many times, seeing as she had never worked a day in her life.

“Whatever. You know you’re gonna take over for daddy one day. You don’t need a job right now,” Lindsay said, closing her eyes. “They’re paying rent here, aren’t they? And for your food and stuff? I don’t see the point in making your own money.”

“I don’t want to live off mom and dad forever,” Michael said. He never got how Lindsay was just so okay with coasting on their parents’ money. “…And there’s something important I wanna buy—”

“And dad’s gonna cut me off when he finds out I’m gay,” Gob interrupted calmly, not realizing Michael had even said anything else. At his siblings’ sudden silence, he looked over at them. “What? You didn’t think about that?” Gob laughed a little, since, well, of course they hadn’t; why would they? He wouldn’t if he was them. 

Gob wasn’t always smart, but he had realized long ago that one day, he’d have to say goodbye to the family money. And Gob wasn’t always responsible—hell, he never was—but in this one case, he was. It was why he had applied for that church job in the first place and dutifully woke up every Sunday morning and went to practice every Wednesday. It was why he was taking organ lessons, so he could have another way to make money at bigger churches in the future. It was why he had gladly taken on a job at some dumb bar with a Thirsty Thursday karaoke night where he played for too many drunk, out-of-tune 20-somethings who had nothing better to do, instead of being one of those drunk 20-somethings who had nothing better to do (he wouldn’t be out-of-tune, thank you very much). It was why he had put all his earnings in his savings account and hadn’t touched any of it as much as he had wanted to. It was why he used his parents’ money for everything while he could. Gob knew he’d be disowned from his family someday, and, for once, he was prepared for his future.

Michael and Lindsay looked at each other darkly. They previously had a few conversations about what they thought would happen once Gob actually came out, and neither of them really knew what to expect. They also weren’t even sure how much of a secret it was anymore.

Lindsay asked, “Don’t you think mom and dad probably know?” Gob looked over at her and she explained, “You know, with all the…stuff daddy says?”

Gob snorted and shook his head. “He doesn’t know. He’s just an asshole who thinks calling his son a fairy is the worst thing he could call someone. There’s a difference. And he hates me enough as is; can’t wait to see what he says when he finds out I take it up the ass,” Gob said before swallowing down some vodka straight from the bottle.

“I’m sure he’d love it if you told him like that,” Michael muttered to himself.

“You know, Gob, I don’t think he’s gonna cut you off,” Lindsay said after a moment. Gob rolled his eyes and scoffed and she continued, “No, seriously. Mom controls what he does, and she’d never let that happen.”

Michael agreed, but Gob just looked at the two of them like they were insane. Which they clearly were if they were saying that. “What are you talking about? Mom hates me.”

The two of them gave him the same incredulous look back. “What are you talking about? You’re mom’s favorite,” Lindsay said.

“Well, Busty,” Michael added.

“Right, right, yeah, after Buster,” Lindsay agreed with a nod. “It’s Buster, you, Michael, then me.” Michael shook his head and started to say it was flipped the other way around, but Gob didn’t care about their order.

“How could you think that I’m her second favorite?” Gob asked. His childhood memories were a little fuzzy, but he could never forget how she reprimanded him at every turn. He’d never forget how he was the reason why his parents were even married in the first place, how he didn’t even know his real birth date, like they wanted to pretend he hadn’t even been born.

“You’re the only one she takes to the symphony or the opera,” Michael pointed out.

Gob rolled his eyes. They had been a couple of times since Gob had come back, but he hardly thought that meant anything. “Just ‘cause I’m the only one who wants to go or understands anything. And because I can impress her friends when I talk about the music.” It wasn’t like they would know what happened there and just how wrong they were.

“When you were at Juilliard, she still didn’t take anyone else, not even Buster. She either skipped or took a friend.”

“Yeah, well, Buster shouldn’t be taken most places,” Gob muttered.

“Every time we’d go to the club, she’d brag about you.”

“Oh, she still does that,” Lindsay said dryly. “She just basically pretends I’m not there so she can rave on about her ‘little Mozart’.”

Michael turned to his sister, “And, god, all those times she’d make him play for parties and stuff and brag about him.” Michael looked back at Gob, “You even got tips from half of those parties on top of it.”

“Yeah, and it was like we had nothing to offer,” Lindsay whined. “Every time I was at some party, I just got comments about my weight. You got to be shown off.”

“Me being used as some sort of party trick isn’t really proof she likes me most,” Gob said.

“Don’t forget Dynasty,” Michael said, looking back at Gob.

“God, motherfucking Dynasty,” Lindsay agreed. She looked at Michael, “Even that fucking reunion special.” Michael rolled his eyes.

After Dynasty had been canceled on a cliffhanger, Aaron Spelling, the producer, finally got to do a reunion special—he said something about how Beethoven could leave a symphony unfinished, but they couldn’t do that with a soap opera which, okay Gob didn’t quite agree with…but, hey, it meant two more nights of the Carringtons and Colbys. 

It had been a ton of fun. The two of them discussed the over-the-top plot that involved things like brainwashing and some sort of secret society in between sips of alcohol and critiques of outfits and acting choices and laughs. He ended up spending the night both of those nights that week because he had gotten so drunk. He had to keep up with his mom, after all, and she was the only person who could drink him under a table. He was pretty sure even his dad couldn’t do that.

“One TV show doesn’t mean anything,” Gob said slowly.

“It’s more than she’s ever given us,” Lindsay said and Michael agreed.

“You know how mom is,” Michael said, “she loves people who are useful. And you impressing her friends? That’s useful to her.”

Gob frowned a bit in thought; he wasn’t sure he really believed it, but maybe his mom actually liked him a bit more than he thought. She was overly critical, but it wasn’t like she wasn’t that way to everyone. And she definitely wasn’t as critical of him as she was of Lindsay…But, then again, it really didn’t matter what she thought, since that would probably change after he came out. He moved himself to lay on his back on the piano bench so he could look up at the ceiling, some vodka spilling onto his hand and the floor as he did so.

“Well, I’m definitely dad’s least favorite,” Gob said after a moment.

Lindsay and Michael’s silence spoke volumes on that subject. 

...You're just an overgrown school boy
Let me tan your hide

You say smile I say cheese
Cartier I say please
Income tax I say Jesus...

They weren’t really listening to the albums in any particular order. Gob would just put one in and then put in another, and, eventually, he put in their first Greatest Hits CD. After another loud sing-along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” (it might’ve been the third time they listened to it that day), with Gob finally singing in his own proper octave, the question he asked Lindsay before came back.

“Why did you stop singing?” Gob asked Lindsay. She had, even while drunk, managed a pretty good high B.

She shrugged, “I don’t think I would’ve wanted to actually take lessons or practice or anything. I love music, but…I don’t know. It’s not my thing. It’s your thing, not mine.”

Gob blinked a few times before shaking his head. “I don’t get it. Like…” He crawled up onto his forearms to better look at his sister. “Music is like…everything.”

“Different folks for different strokes,” Lindsay said.

That just confused Gob even more, and not just because the phrase was backwards. “But how could…how could you make music and not want to…?” Gob shook his head. He’d never really understood the idea of people not wanting to do music for a living. “How could you not want to do it forever?” Lindsay simply shrugged again and Gob sat up again to get a better look at her.

“Like, when I have a bad day, all I wanna do…is sit there,” Gob said, pointing at the piano behind him. “All I wanna do is make music. Sometimes I…I just can’t. Like today. And…and it makes things so much harder. But, like…” He didn’t even know how to describe what music was to him when he was sober, so finally being in the drunk category wasn’t helping much.

“Whenever I play, I…when I get a hard passage right, when I master a new piece, when I learn a new piece…” Gob licked over his lips as he tried to think of the right words. “…It’s just beautiful. It’s me doing something right for once. It’s me learning things. It’s…it’s just me. But a better me. Because I’m making something. And if I'm better, everything's...everything else is better. Right?

“God…I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t…why you wouldn’t wanna do it forever,” Gob said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s…it’s the best thing in the world.”

Lindsay tilted her head a little. “I can’t tell if I’m just reaaaally drunk or if you were actually saying some beautiful things there.” She shrugged and said, “It’s just not my passion. I like helping people, not making music. How you feel about music…that’s how I feel about my causes. And fashion, of course, but that’s another subject.” Lindsay waved her hands to dismiss that part of her sentence.

“At least you guys have one,” Michael said, his head resting on the ottoman to their chair. The two of them looked over at him. “I like business and stuff, but I don’t wanna do it like that much. Nothing…nothing makes me feel like that.” After a moment he said, “Well, Tracey makes me feel like that—”

Before anyone could say anything else, “Bicycle Race” started and Michael groaned as Gob and Lindsay laughed. Michael had taught himself how to ride a bike when he was younger and normally used it for transportation whenever possible, since it was cheap and effective. At one point, Gob had declared "Bicycle Race" was Michael's theme song, blasting it at every birthday and humming the tune whenever Michael went on one of his Saturday bike rides. Lindsay had joined in, then Buster, and soon even their parents could hum the chorus. 

“See, you have a thing, Bikey,” Gob joked, making Michael roll his eyes while Lindsay laughed.

Gob also liked to call him things like “Bichael” since it annoyed him; Michael would normally then point out that Gob didn’t even know how to ride a bike, which would make Gob sulk for the rest of the day.

“Shut up,” Michael said. “Shut up or I’m gonna leave—”

“Oh please, Michael—”


“You’re not going to leave,” Lindsay continued. “You say that all the time, but you never do.”

“You never do,” Gob agreed.

“And you never will,” Lindsay said.

"Never will."

“You like us too much.”

“Michael love family,” Gob said wisely.

Lindsay suddenly gasped and sat up straight. “Oh my god—Michael, that’s your thing! Your passion or whatever; it’s family.”

Michael looked over at her and squinted his eyes. “What do you mean?”

“It’s that thing you’d do anything for,” Lindsay said excitedly. “Like how I like to help people and Gob can’t live without piano—yours is family!”

Though Michael looked less than convinced, Gob’s eyes widened a little. “Oh yeah, you’re right,” Gob said.

“Right?!” Lindsay said, her face lit up. “Like, you keep us together. You keep the peace when we’re all together—you make sure Gob and daddy don’t kill each other, you make conversations with Buster so he’s not completely left out, you hang out with all of us. You don’t have to do that, but you want to do that.”

“Yeah, but—” Michael cut himself off, his drunken brain slowly adding more evidence. He taught Gob how to cook and clean up after himself; he taught Buster how to ride a bike after he taught himself; he was the one who comforted Lindsay about her insecurities growing up (and sometimes he still had to do it when their mom got particularly nasty). And he already knew if Gob did get cut off from their parents, he’d do whatever he had to do to keep him going. He'd complain about being put upon, but when he wasn't, like when Gob was pulling away from him for all those years, he wasn't happy. He loved being needed. He loved helping his family.

Those words Tracey had said months ago rang in his head, the same words he had been thinking about a lot ever since. “…Family's the most important thing…”

“Exactly!” Gob said. “I think the most important thing is music, Lindsay thinks the most important thing is…” Gob trailed off, since Lindsay’s causes varied so widely, “…protesting everything. And for you, it’s family!”

“…Oh my God.” Michael’s eyes widened and he whispered, “That’s so lame.”

“Not as lame as bicycles.” Gob grinned and nudged Michael with his foot. Michael groaned loudly and collapsed forward onto a pillow face first. “Hey, at least it’s something.” Michael remained motionless and, after a while, Gob shrugged and looked back at Lindsay.

They both were silent for a moment until Lindsay asked Gob, “Which Queen song is your theme song?”

“‘Don’t Stop Me Now.’ Duh,” Gob said, making both of his siblings groan. Ever since that party and Gob’s emotional meltdown, that song had been a bit soured for the both of them.

“Pick ‘nother one,” Michael slurred, his voice barely audible as he had his face planted in a pillow, still apparently not over the realization that his “thing” was family.

“Mine’s ‘Killer Queen’,” Lindsay said proudly. Both her brothers were pretty sure she didn’t quite understand the song if she was saying it proudly, but they decided to let it go. “But, c’mon, Gob. What’s yours? C’mooooon.”

Gob thought over Queen’s discography, his mind slow and stumbling after all the alcohol. He thought of some of the best piano parts, like “Seaside Rendezvous” and “Seven Seas of Rhye”. “Somebody to Love” could hit him hard—but he’d probably need at least one more shot to admit it.

“‘My Fairy King’,” Gob said after a moment. He liked the creative nature, the piano part, the layered vocals, and, of course, the shout-out to honeybees in the very first verse. “I know because of the layers and stuff it's impossible, but I wanna play it someday.”

“That’d be one way to come out to dad,” Michael said.

Lindsay snorted and giggled. Gob just rolled his eyes and huffed, "Stay out of it, Bike."  

...I don't wanna be a candidate
For Vietnam or Watergate
'Cause all I want to do is
Bicycle bicycle bicycle   

It was the first time that we met

There were half-eaten Chinese food boxes all around the living room. While neither Lindsay or Gob had felt like eating, Michael said they needed to after all they had to drink that day, especially since they hadn’t eaten for several hours and the pizza was all gone.

See? He was responsible and family-oriented like that.

The food seemed to help him sober up just a bit more, or at least Gob thought so. But then Michael randomly announced, “I’m gonna marry Tracey.”

Okay, maybe he hadn't completely sobered up. 

Gob laughed quietly. “Sure you are, little buddy,” he said. "Sure you are."

“No, really, I am,” Michael insisted. Lindsay snorted but seemed slightly incapable of words, her eyes closed as she laid on the couch. “I am!”

“Does she know this?” Gob asked doubtfully.

Michael was silent for a moment. “…We’ve talked about it a bit.” Gob sat up a bit straighter; okay, this sounded, like, really serious. “And I’ve been saving up. For a ring.” Lindsay lifted up her head and blinked at her twin blearily. “If things go well this week, at Thanksgiving, when she meets mom and dad and Buster and everything…I’m gonna ask her at Christmas.”

All three of them were silent for a while.

“…You’re not even twenty,” Gob said.

“I will be soon. And maybe we’ll wait a little before having the wedding, I don’t know, but when you know, you know, so why wait?”

Gob and Lindsay looked at each other then looked over at their brother. “Well, good thing you're waiting until she meets mom and dad; she may not survive that,” Lindsay said haughtily. “That’s why I didn’t invite Tobias over for Thanksgiving. And, of course, because he’s giving a talk in Europe right now doing some medical work.” Lindsay paused, obviously waiting for someone to ask why he as over there.

After a small silence, Michael sighed and asked, just to humor her, “What’s he doing in Europe?” 

“He’s at some convention for some new mental disorder they want to add to the DSM,” Lindsay answered smugly. “He helped discover it or something,” she said, sitting up proudly. “But, whatever, the point is, I don’t plan on scaring him away by making him meet our parents right away.”

“Tracey and I have been dating for longer than you and Tobias,” Michael said with a slight sigh. Both Michael and Gob hadn't even met the guy yet, so it probably wasn't even as serious as Lindsay was making it sound. “And, besides, like I said, when you know, you know.” 

"Whatever," Lindsay scoffed. "It's still happening too soon. Right, Gob?" She looked over at her older brother and frowned when he didn't back her up right away.

“…How do you know?” Gob asked quietly. "How do you know she's the right one?"

Michael looked at Gob thoughtfully. “I don’t know…we just understand each other well. We have the same values. I love her…” Michael shrugged. “I don’t know how I know it, I just know she’s the one.”

Gob wondered if he could ever find someone who he felt that way about, so certain that he could be with them forever. He wondered if anyone would ever feel that way about him.

Lindsay, however, just rolled her eyes. "It won't be that nice of a ring if you've only been saving for a few months."

...How can I forget
The moment that you stepped into the room
You took my breath away

Empty spaces, what are we living for
Abandoned places, I guess we know the score
On and on, does anybody know what we are looking for...

After playing through most of every Queen album Gob had, which was most of them, and listening to A Night at the Opera about five times, Gob finally had to put on Queen’s last album.

He had listened to Innuendo a few times since it had come out that past year and he loved it, just like he loved every Queen album, but he had been avoiding listening to it all day. It was a good album—though A Night at the Opera would always be his favorite, of course—but knowing now that it was the last he’d hear from Freddie…he hesitated even putting it in his boombox.

But Gob managed to put it in and press play.

While Lindsay and Michael, now closer to sober than Gob was, talked a little during the tracks, Gob sat silently, drank, and listened to each song again, as if hoping he could hear something he hadn’t heard before, as if hoping it wasn’t really over. He didn’t move until the twelfth and final track started. Once he realized that this was the end, this was the last Queen song, this was it…Gob cranked up the volume to make it clear Lindsay and Michael weren’t allowed to talk during it. Yes, he had heard it before, yes, it wasn’t new, but, no, he had to listen to it, to the last of his Queen collection, without any interruptions.

And this time, this time knowing that this was the end of the final Queen album he’d ever get, that this was the last song Freddie gave the world, this time every word cut deep inside Gob’s chest.

The show must go on
The show must go on
Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on

Freddie’s voice was powerful, soaring, full of pain and emotion that Gob hadn’t even noticed before. Chills ran up his spine as he truly absorbed the meaning he hadn’t realized, a meaning that he never thought about, a meaning that made the song more powerful than he could ever imagine.

Whatever happens, I’ll leave it all to chance
Another heartache, another failed romance
On and on, does anybody know what we are living for?

Gob’s eyes started to burn. He closed them and tried to take a deep breath, but even with the loud music, he could hear how stuttered it was, even though he could barely feel it, how it got caught in his throat. He swallowed roughly and brought his hands to his face; it was going to happen and happen soon.

I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
On with the show

It had taken over twelve hours, lots of alcohol, and so much singing and talking that his throat ached, but Gob had finally made it. He started sobbing into his hands at the loss of his idol, his hero, the most important person he never met.

The most important man he'd never meet. 

It didn't make sense. It didn't make sense that someone he had never met had made such an impact on him. It didn't make sense that he was so upset over someone he didn't know personally. It didn't make sense and he knew that. But, god, it didn't make sense that Freddie Mercury had to die in his 40s, not when he was someone who was so full of life and passion and fucking talent

Gob wasn't sure when the song ended. He wasn't sure how long he sat there before Michael and Lindsay came over, neither of them great at hugging or physical comfort, but both of them trying their best. He wasn't sure how long they sat there before Michael gently got him to his feet. He wasn't sure what time it was when Michael and Lindsay put him in his bed and told him to sleep. He definitely wasn't sure how long it was before the effects of the day finally hit him and he fell asleep.

...I'll top the bill,
I'll overkill.
I have to find the will to carry on with the show.
On with the show.

 I was told a million times
Of all the troubles in my way
Mind you grow a little wiser
Little better every day...

The next morning, Michael and Lindsay woke up to the doorbell ringing followed by several knocks on the front door. Lindsay struggled to actually sit up, but Michael managed to make his way over and open the door. Though he wasn't sure what he expected, he definitely didn't expect to open the door to Gob holding a box of donuts and a drink carrier of coffee.

"Wha?" Michael asked sleepily.

"Couldn't get my keys out," Gob said as if that explained everything. He walked in past Michael and put the food and drinks on the coffee table. As Gob straightened out his arms, Michael could see the band aid on his arm right under his bicep. Michael raised his eyebrows and looked back up at Gob as he walked over to the table.

Noticing Michael's look, Gob said, "I woke up early and figured I'd get it done before you guys tried to go with me." He raised his right hand and the okay symbol, his fingers slightly stained with some residue from several cigarettes; he always became a chain smoker leading up to his clinic visits. "I'm still negative—that's a good thing."

"Oh, thank god," Lindsay and Michael sighed in relief.

"Yeah," Gob said, picking up his coffee. "And this should heal by Thursday so mom and dad won't see it. You should see the scars some of those people have all over their arms." Gob frowned and looked down at his bandage; the nurses always took his blood from the same place, so he didn't get why those guys were covered with tons of needle marks. "I guess it's better than doing a finger prick, though," Gob said. "Don't wanna fuck with that shit."

"You know the nurses won't paralyze your fingers or anything, right?" Michael asked.

Gob looked at him darkly, "I'm not taking my chances."

As Michael and Lindsay started to take donuts, Gob sat down at the piano and took a moment to breathe. When he had gotten up that morning, he had realized that he needed to keep going. He needed to keep making music and living his life and enjoying every second of it. That last song, as devastating as it was, was still a message, a positive one, a message telling him that he had to keep going on. 

After all, it's what Freddie would've wanted.

...God, that was corny and he knew it.

Gob rolled his eyes at himself, but he smiled anyways. He opened his sheet music binder to one of his current pieces. Then, after a deep breath, he placed his fingers on the keys and started playing. And with that, the world started to slip away and he felt a peace that was badly needed.

...Keep yourself alive
Keep yourself alive
It'll take you all your time and a money
Honey you'll survive. 

Chapter Text

La cathédrale engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral), Préludes, Premier Livre (First Book), L.117/10

“Oh, wow, that’s so…pretty.” Lindsay forced on a smile as she looked over the ring on Tracey’s finger. It wasn’t clear if Lindsay just didn’t like the ring or if she was just jealous of her having one before she did. Either way, Tracey either didn’t notice her tone or she didn’t care.

“Thanks!” Tracey beamed and looked over her shoulder at Michael, who had his arm wrapped around her shoulders as they sat on the couch.

Once Lindsay let go of Tracey’s hand, Tracey moved it over to show Gob. Gob thought it was nice enough, and definitely fitting for both Tracey and Michael’s simpler tastes. Tracey would never be the type of person who’d want a huge-ass rock on her finger, and Michael would never be the type of guy who’d want that, either. He nodded in approval and Tracey brought her hand back to her lap, staring at the ring herself.

“You did such a good job, babe,” Tracey said before pressing a kiss to his cheek. “I love it so much.”

Gob and Lindsay rolled their eyes at each other as Michael and Tracey exchanged some murmurs of I love you and whatnot. Ever since they had gotten engaged a few weeks ago—Michael had to delay the question until Valentine’s Day instead of the original plan for Christmas—they had been grosser than ever. They had been happy for them at first, but it was just starting to get ridiculous at that point.

“I guess it’s a good prize for surviving Thanksgiving dinner with our family,” Lindsay said, trying to break up the lovefest happening not even a foot away from her.

Thanksgiving had been...interesting. Between their father making a crack about Freddie’s death (Michael had to hold Gob back from physically attacking their father at that) to Buster surprising Tracey with a shoulder massage to Lucille’s comments about how so few people could pull off red hair, it was a miracle that Tracey still wanted to keep seeing Michael. Between that and the fact she seemed to actually like Gob and Lindsay, it was probably a good thing that Michael already wanted to marry her; he needed to lock that down.

Tracey laughed a little. “It really wasn’t that bad. And, besides, it's Michael; I knew I'd say yes no matter what. When you know, you know.” Gob frowned at that expression since he still didn’t get it.

"So, have you set a date? Or have any themes in mind?” Lindsay asked, since she was a bit behind on the gossip.

“Oh, no date,” Tracey said. “We’re going to do a long engagement. We need to finish school first.” Michael nodded next to her. “…But I do have some themes in mind. I have a little scrapbook of ideas I like, gowns I’m interested in…Do you want to see?”

Despite her jealousy, Lindsay couldn’t hold back her excitement at seeing wedding planning. The two girls got up and ran over to Michael’s room, where Tracey had hidden her book. Once Gob heard them giggling in the bedroom, he looked over at his brother.

“So,” he said with a grin, “You locked her down.” While he had known this for weeks, seeing the resized ring on her finger made it a lot more real. “Congrats, Mike.”

“Thanks,” Michael said back, a dopey grin on his face. Gob still didn’t get why he’d want to get engaged so early, especially if they wanted to wait until they finished school, but, as long as Michael was happy, that was all that mattered.

“You know, even though it’s far off, I’ve been thinking about some stuff I want for the wedding, too,” Michael said slowly.

Gob raised his eyebrows. “That’s pretty gay, Mikey.”

Michael stared at him for a minute before shaking his head. “Whatever. Anyways, I was thinking…” He shrugged a little and gave Gob a small smile. “You’ll be my best man, right?”

It took a moment for Gob to react. When he really realized what was happening, he smiled broadly. “Do you even have to ask? Come on!” Gob said. He stood up and Michael did as well, letting his brother pull him into a tight hug.

“I figured I needed to make it official,” Michael said with a shrug once they pulled away.

“Yeah, yeah,” Gob nodded, still grinning.

“But, yeah, it was a given,” Michael admitted. “You’ve always been the best man. And whenever you get married, I’ll be yours.”

They both smiled for a second, but then those smiles quickly dropped from their faces as reality set in. Right. The whole gay thing…

“…I mean…you can still have a ceremony,” Michael said awkwardly.

“Yeah…yeah, totally,” Gob said with a nod. He cleared his throat and said, “And I mean…you know me. It’s not gonna happen for a long time. Maybe things will change by then.” They both nodded awkwardly at each other.

“Yeah. Definitely…”

“But, hey, I might be gay, but I’ll throw you a kickass bachelor party,” Gob said with a grin. “I’ll get you all the strippers you could ever want—girl ones, too, not the Hot Cops or anything—not that I…not that I know who those guys are.”

Michael laughed nervously. “I…I really don’t know if I want strippers—”

“Come on, Mikey, live a little!”

“It’s not really my thing,” Michael said. “But it’s fine; we have two years to worry about all of that.”

“Hello?” Gob answered the phone.


Gob smiled as he recognized the voice. “Seth? Hey!” While they had mainly been mailing back and forth to stay in contact with each other, every now and then they’d call each other to catch up. They just couldn’t do it as much because, you know, money; out-of-state phone calls weren’t very cheap. “How’s it going?”

“Not too bad,” Seth said, a smile evident in his voice. “I actually just got some acceptance letters for grad school.”

“Congrats,” Gob said. “Where to?”

“Well, Michigan,” Seth started. Gob knew he had applied there mainly as a safety. “But I got into some other places, like San Francisco Conservatory and UCLA.”

“Pssh. Like you’d want to go there,” Gob said. As a USC man, there was no way he could ever be nice about UCLA.

Seth laughed. “Well, anyways, I’m planning some visits just to meet with some teachers again, and I thought…well, maybe we can actually hang out while I’m in town this time?.”

When Seth had been briefly in town for his UCLA audition, Gob had been out of California for the first time in years for a competition. It had been super disappointing. So getting a second chance to see him made Gob nearly yell. “Dude, of course I wanna see you.” He smiled broadly and continued, “You can even stay here! You don’t need a hotel; we have a couch, or we could get an air mattress…” After a moment he smirked a little and added in a low voice, “…I have a king size bed we could share…”

Seth laughed softly. “Uh, yeah, I think that last one sounds good. Let me check the date…” Once Seth told him the date, Gob groaned. “Oh, no, are you going to be gone again?” Seth asked.

“No, no, I’ll be here,” Gob said. “It’s just…you get in the day after my recital..."

“Ah man, that sucks. I would’ve loved to see it,” Seth sighed. “You’ll have to get me a recording. And I’ll have to help you celebrate getting it done.”

Gob smirked. “I mean, if you’re staying in my bed, I think you’ll be able to help with that just fine.” 

Gob had never been more excited for a performance than he had been for his senior recital. And that included his concerto competitions he had done, all the cool chamber music, and even his junior recital. This one was going to be the best recital ever.

The senior recital had a lot less specific requirements than the junior one, so he got to choose a lot of weird pieces that weren’t as big in the canon. Gob had a bunch of classic, nice pieces, of course; he had some Beethoven for his first set and his second set was made up of a few Debussy preludes. He got a bit more creative and did some Scriabin for his third set, including that piece for left hand he first learned all those years ago. He really got to get creative with his twentieth century set; well, Debussy was technically twentieth century, but whatever, he didn’t count for that requirement because he was an impressionist.

Gob decided against any Schoenberg, since he was pretty sure his family would all hate it and Buster would probably cry or something. He decided to fuck around with some Ives’ piano music—though not the one with the two pianos tuned a quarter tone apart, because, dude, what the fuck was that? And for his last song—well, before his unlisted encore—he pulled out one of Henry Cowell’s pieces, “The Banshee”, where something would hold down the pedal while he bent over the open lid of the piano to play the strings inside of it, not the keys. The effect made it really sound like screams and scratching of some Irish she-demon.

It was a lot like when his mom ran out of vodka.

“I also really wanted to do some of Cage’s prepared piano stuff, but it would’ve been too complicated to wheel in a different piano,” Gob sighed.

“What’s prepared piano?” Michael asked as he looked up from Gob’s program notes. Gob had already run over them with one of the music history GTAs, but he wanted Michael to look over it for any other typos.

“Oh, it’s this really neat but kinda freaky thing. You put things on the strings or sometimes even re-tune some of them, so it kinda…clangs more. It makes the piano, like, more of a percussion instrument than it already is.”

“Piano’s a percussion instrument?”

“Yep. You hit it and it makes noise,” Gob said simply. Michael hummed; he had never thought of it like that before. “It’s a cool way to work in Cage, since he’s, like, the last good American composer left.” Gob laughed and joked, “It’s better than doing 4’33”.”

“Okay, seriously, what is that?” Michael asked. Gob made that joke all the time and Michael still didn’t get it.

Gob stared at him for a minute. Had he seriously never gotten the joke? “Oh. It’s a piece he wrote for any instrument, but originally done by a pianist, where you just, like…sit.”

“Sit and do what?”

“You just sit and indicate the beginnings and ends of the three movements. And the original performance was four minutes and thirty-three seconds all together,” Gob explained. “It’s supposed to be, like, a commentary, because every performance is different just by the background noise and stuff. People coughing. Shuffling papers. When we talked about it in theory, our teacher performed it and the A/C made the window blinds jingle a little. Cage said there was no such thing as true silence, so…” Gob shrugged.

Michael looked blankly at Gob for a moment before shaking his head. That Cage guy sounded like he was just messing around with everyone for the hell of it. “Well, I think it’s all good program notes wise,” Michael said, handing the program back. “That Banshee one sounds…interesting. You haven’t played that here.”

“I want it to be a surprise,” Gob said excitedly. “It’s so cool, you’re gonna freak over it.”

Michael couldn’t help but chuckle a little. “You are such a nerd.”

Much like the year before, Gob skipped all his Friday classes to get in the zone for his recital that night. Really, the only major change was that it was in March instead of February. Gob planned it right before spring break so he could spend the next week partying and enjoying his last big vacation before graduation. The fact that Seth was coming down during his own spring break was just a nice bonus. Besides that, most everything had stayed the same. He had the same time, the same format for the program, and, unfortunately, he still had the name George Bluth II on his program. He had gotten used to it being his "professional" or "stage" name or whatever, but it didn't mean that he liked it any better than he did growing up. but, whatever, it was a done deal after entering competitions with it and all.

He felt a little nervous, mostly due to his song choices, but he was warmed up, well-rehearsed, and excited. So, yet again starting at 7:05, Gob walked onto the stage, took his bow, and started with his Beethoven. 

About an hour after that, he walked on stage for his encore. He wanted to end on a bang, and few things banged as much as Liszt did. And, of course, Liszt was kind of his signature. In fact, a few of his PMA brothers whooped when he announced he was doing Liszt’s setting of Schubert’s “Der Erlkönig”.

Gob had always loved that art song, not just because it was a turning point in German Lieder, but because it was so virtuosic and creepy. He basically died when he found out that Liszt had transcribed a piano version of it. It was an exhausting piece, since he basically had a hand doing a tremolo the whole time, but it was so fun.

He pounded away at the keys, his whole mind wrapped up in the story of the legendary Erlkönig chasing the father and child on the horse. He loved how the piano represented the horse, how the key changed to the Neapolitan during the Erlkönig’s verses to make him sound sickly sweet, how the piece was so dramatic and flashy, how the boy repeatedly called out for his father dramatically while his father seemed almost indifferent to his child's suffering at the hands of a monster he couldn't see…It was an amazing piece and Liszt set it so well as a piano solo.

It was the perfect ending for his final recital at USC, including the simple little cadence at the end, and the applause he got after it made it clear the audience agreed.

Like the year before, Gob greeted his family first at the post-recital reception, partly just to get it out of the way. His siblings all gave him hugs and said they really loved it, especially “The Banshee”. Buster said it had actually scared him a bit, which Gob took as a compliment even though Buster was scared by, like, everything. Tracey was also very complimentary, but she turned down a hug since apparently she had been feeling pretty nauseous all day, and Gob didn't hug lightly. Ever.

Much like he thought, his parents weren’t too impressed with the twentieth century set, but his mom seemed to enjoy everything else. Or she at least raved about it to Lucille Austero and other club members she was showing him off to. Lucille 2 was very intrigued by the Ives, though, and she even asked a question about it when Gob saw someone out of the corner of his eye.

He looked over and then looked back at Lucille 2, about to answer, when he did a double take, his eyes widening. “Holy shit, you fucking son of a bitch,” Gob laughed loudly. His mom glared and Lucille 2 jumped and his friends laughed, but Gob didn’t notice as he ran over to greet the guy in the corner with a big hug. “You fucking bastard!”

“Don’t sound so happy to see me, California,” Seth laughed.

“You told me you weren’t going to get here until tomorrow!”

“I managed to move my flight,” Seth said. “I really wanted to see your performance, and I could miss a day of school.”

Gob pulled back and looked him straight in the eye, his hands still on Seth's shoulders. “You saw it?? What did you think?”

“It was incredible,” Seth said genuinely.

Gob wanted to ask for more details, he was nearly jumping with excitement at the idea of hearing more details, but he was suddenly struck by how different Seth looked. The four years had done him good; his shoulders were broader, he’d grown a couple of inches, his jaw was more defined…he looked older but in a good way. A handsome way. A sexy way.

“Wow,” Gob said, his throat suddenly feeling a bit dry. “Four years, man.”

“Yeah,” Seth replied, his eyes scanning Gob’s body briefly. Then he twisted his torso a little to crack it and said, “I forgot how tightly you hug.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sure you’ll get to feel something even tighter tonight,” Gob teased quietly with a grin. Seth grinned back, and then Gob brought him over to Michael.

“So, you must be the Seth guy who’s staying with us,” Michael said before Gob could even introduce him.

“Uh, yeah. That’d be me,” Seth said, shaking his hand. “You must be Michael; I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Same here,” Michael said, giving a brief look to Gob before introducing Seth to Tracey.

Gob excused himself to greet the rest of his guests, being sure to get some pictures with his teacher and PMA brothers along the way. Thankfully, every time he looked over, Seth was just chilling out with his siblings; they seemed to be getting along well. It was kind of nice seeing him naturally slide into conversation with Michael and Lindsay and Tracey.

Finally, Gob got to make his way back over to Seth and he hugged him again. “God, I can’t believe you made it down in time,” he said excitedly. He pulled back and looked him over again. “And god, it’s still so weird seeing you in real clothes.”

Gob!” Michael reprimanded in a whisper-yell; their parents were in hearing distance and he really didn’t need to know any more about Gob’s sex life than he already did.

“We had uniforms at camp,” Seth told Michael.

“Yeah, these ugly polo shirt things,” Gob said, not getting why Michael freaked out over what he said.

“And those belts and pants…I love SAA, but god, I do not miss wearing those clothes every summer,” Seth laughed. “That suit is a lot better for performances than those uniforms were.”

“It better be; it cost five hundred dollars,” Gob said, showing off his suit with some flourish.

“Does that include the belt?” Seth teased.

Gob looked down at his belt marked with a large G on the buckle. “It’s G for Gob,” he said with a slight pout.

“It’s G for Gucci,” Lindsay corrected with a roll of her eyes.

“…My name’s Gob.”

Before Lindsay could call him an idiot, their mom walked over, George following her reluctantly. “I was waiting to be introduced to your…friend, but it seems you’ve forgotten your manners,” she told Gob pointedly.

“Oh. Yeah,” Gob said. He had kind of forgotten his parents were even there. “Um, this is Seth. He was my roommate at SAA. Seth, this is my mom and my dad.”

Seth smiled warmly at them and shook their hands politely. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Bluth.”

If he was waiting for an invitation to call them by their first names, it never came. Instead, Lucille gave him a once over with her judgmental gaze, and George studied him with vague curiosity.

“He’s a, uh, cello player,” Gob said, trying to fill up the silence. “He’s studying at Michigan but he got into some grad schools here and he’s checking them out. I thought I’d let him crash at our place so he could save some money.” He laughed nervously, “You know. Starving artist life.”

“Right,” Seth said, smiling nervously himself under their gaze.

“Yes, of course,” Lucille said. “Well, it was nice to meet you. Hopefully next time we meet, my son won’t cause a scene.” Gob looked down at his feet, but then his mom said they were heading off. He lifted up his head to do her air kisses she did as her goodbye, let Buster hug him one last time, and then nodded at his dad.

He relaxed immediately after they left the room and Seth whistled. “Yeah, you were not kidding; she’s terrifying.”

“You should see her when she’s sober,” Michael said.

If it was up to Gob, he would’ve spent the next few days in his bed. While Seth hadn’t been quite as "active" as Gob since they’d been apart, he definitely had picked up some new moves that Gob was appreciative of. Very appreciative. So appreciative that Michael may have awkwardly yelled for them to keep it down at one point.

Seth was so embarrassed he almost didn't want to leave Gob's room, either.

But while Seth was enjoying being in California, as in Gob, he also wanted to enjoy being in California, as in the state. Gob also wanted to show him around, anyways. After all, the poor kid had been living in the freaking Midwest his whole life; Gob felt kind of bad for him. Gob had briefly been in Ann Arbor for his college audition, and while it was beautiful, it definitely wasn’t as cool as LA.

And maybe he could at least convince him to go to UCLA. Gob would make fun of him for life, because UCLA? Come on. But, hey, at least he’d be in the same town.

So, Gob took him everywhere. He took him out to one of his favorite gay clubs that weekend. Seth wasn’t much of a partier, at least not compared to Gob, but, then again, everyone looked a lot more introverted next to Gob. Seth still seemed to have a good time regardless.

Gob took him to the beach. Seth brought sunscreen, which Gob initially rolled his eyes at, until he realized he got to rub it in on Seth's back. Then he decided he could use some, too.

He took him to his favorite restaurants and bars. He made sure Seth got to try real tequila, not that shitty stuff they had at camp. He even took him down to Newport to try a Bluth Banana, possibly being a bit more suggestive with it than necessary just to make him laugh. He took him to a party one of his PMA brothers threw, though he sadly hadn't been able to put together a Gob Bluth Party, mostly because Gob was too busy showing him a damn good time.

Still, on his last night, Gob was strangely not surprised to hear that Seth was leaning towards the San Francisco Conservatory of Music instead. It was really just his luck, but he also wasn't that upset about it. He just would've liked having his friend (was that what they were?) in the same town.

“Well, yeah, and UCLA sucks, so that makes sense,” Gob said with a sigh.

“Yeah, yeah,” Seth said with a roll of his eyes and a smirk. “I still need to know my financial aid package before I accept, but I really love the program at SFCM. I was already leaning that way, but, well…” he smiled a little and shrugged, “I wanted to see you.”

Gob grinned wider than he had in a long time. “Yeah, well…it’s been good having you around.”

Seth smiled back and then sighed. “So, not to ask the dreaded question, but what are you going to do after you graduate?”  

Ugh,” Gob groaned loudly. “I hate that question.”

“I know, we all do. I think that’s the reason why so many of us get master degrees,” Seth joked.

“Yeah, but I could not handle two more years of school.”

Seth shrugged. “You’d probably like most of the grad programs out there. You mainly take lessons and ensembles. Normally some music history and some electives and stuff, but none of the gen ed stuff.”

“But papers and shit would still be involved, right?” Seth nodded and Gob shook his head. “Nah. Not for me. And I just want to wait any longer to perform.”

"I get it," Seth said. "...So you want to stay here, then?"

The two of them were silent for a little while before Gob spoke again. “…I love it here, I really do. And I love Michael and Linds and Tracey…Buster, too, I guess...but with my parents…” Seth looked at him carefully, sympathetically, and Gob sighed. He didn’t know if he’d ever be able to tell them about himself. After years of being a disappointment, or at least feeling like one since he wasn’t special like Michael was, adding that he was gay on top of it? He didn’t want to have to face those reactions. He didn’t want his dad to know those jokes were true.

Gob sighed yet again, unable to voice those thoughts. “And I didn’t even make it at Juilliard for a full year; how could I make it outside of the area when I’m not even going to school?”

“Well, you’ve grown a lot since you were at Juilliard,” Seth reasoned. Gob nodded reluctantly. “I’m sure you could handle a different city now. And you could always come back if you don’t.” Gob nodded again, but he still was silent.

“…But if you change your mind…” Seth smiled as Gob looked over at him. “I could always use a roommate in San Francisco." Gob raised his eyebrows and Seth added, "And imagine how gay it would be if I was in California while in San Francisco, California." Seth nudged him a little and they both laughed.

"That'd be pretty fucking gay," Gob admitted. 

There was a slight pause before Seth said, "You know, I told my family."

"About fucking me in San Francisco?"

"No," Seth said, rolling his eyes a little. "About me being gay. I came out a couple weeks ago."

Gob sat up a little straighter. He had written before about Michael and Lindsay knowing (though he didn't get into the details with Lindsay), and he knew Seth had been trying to tell his family for a long time. "Shit, really? How'd it go?"

"...Okay," Seth said. "Becks was pretty chill and didn't seem too surprised. Then I told my mom...and she told my dad." Gob winced; he was most terrified of telling his dad out of his whole family. "Honestly, I think he took it better than her. She wasn't, like, hateful, she was just...such a mom about it."

"Isn't being a mom pretty hateful already?" Gob asked. He didn't want to imagine his mom being extra hateful if he came out to her.

Seth stared at him blankly for a few moments. "...I'm sorry, I forgot how your parents are—no offense." Gob shrugged; he felt no need to get offended over that. "She just got all worried. You know, 'What about grandchildren? What about AIDS?' All of that stuff. But she calmed down and she's more or less okay with it now. And I think my dad sort of like figured it out beforehand and just like...made his peace with it before I said anything."

Gob nodded and wondered, just for a brief moment, what it would be like to have parents who acted like that.

"Anyways, I'm glad they're cool with it, but my mom's been a bit weirder about my curfew and stuff since then," Seth sighed. "So having the freedom of being away is gonna be sweet."

"Yeah..." Gob said. "Freedom's definitely a good thing."

One night near the end of April, about a month after Seth's visit, Gob came back from school to find Michael sitting on the couch, his eyes staring straight ahead and his shoulders tense. At first Gob thought nothing of it; Michael was probably just stressed about finals, even though they were a couple weeks away. He did that sometimes.

“Hey, Mikey,” Gob said. Normally that snapped him out of it, but Michael was still looking in front of him without seeing anything. “…Mike?” Gob lightly pushed his shoulder. “Michael?” Michael remained still, but his eyes were wide with a panic Gob had never seen before.

Okay, it was time for a different tactic. A more Bluth-esque tactic.

Gob went into the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of tequila, and went back to the couch. “Mikey,” Gob said softly as he sat next to him. He put the bottle in Michael’s hand and, for a moment, he thought he’d have to hold the bottle to his lips or something, but, finally, Michael brought it to his lips and took several gulps of it.

“Wow,” Gob whispered. He’d never seen Michael drink that much in one sip. “Is econ that bad?”

Michael wiped his mouth and shook his head. “No…” He brought a hand to his forehead. “I think Tracey and I are going to have to change the…change the wedding date.”

Gob hadn't realized they had set a date at all, past sometime after they graduated school. He shrugged. “I’m sure you can find a different date this far in advance.”

Michael shook his head. “No. We’re gonna have to move it up.”

“By how much?”

“…Two years,” Michael said, his eyes still wide and panicked. He still hadn’t looked Gob in the eye since he’d gotten home.

“…What? Why?” Gob asked.

Michael nervously opened and closed his mouth a few times. Finally, after another swig of tequila, he looked over at Gob, locked eyes with him, and said, “…Tracey’s pregnant.”

They sat in a stunned silence. Gob watched Michael’s face, waiting for some joke or anything to come out, but he looked sick and terrified and panicked…

“And you yelled at me about not using condoms?”

“We did!” Michael exclaimed as Gob took the bottle from him. “We did use them! We do! But…but I guess it broke or something, I…I don’t know!” Michael brought his fists to his head and knocked himself repeatedly, “Stupid jerk, dumb—dumb Michael, dumb—”

“Hey, hey,” Gob said. He hated when Michael got like that. “Stop that.” He grabbed one of Michael’s fists. “Dude, it’s fine. Are you sure she’s even pregnant? Maybe she’s just getting fat or something.”

Michael glared at him. “She’s not getting—no! She’s late a-and she took a test and it was positive! She has a doctor’s appointment to make sure, but…”

“Michael,” Gob said with a slight smile. “Even if she is, she doesn’t have to stay that way. Rose v. Dwayne, right?”


“She can get an abortion,” Gob said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

 Michael shook his head. “She’s wouldn’t…she won’t do that.”

“…Give it up for adoption?”

“And have her just walk around pregnant for nine months and not even have the baby?” Michael’s face softened a little. “…Could you imagine having a kid out there and not knowing them?”

"...Not really, no," Gob shrugged. It seemed pretty unlikely because, you know, gay. 

“I want to be a dad,” Michael said softly. “I always have. We…we talked about having kids once we were married and everything. I just…we still have two years left, but…but how can we do that and have a kid? Gob, I’m only twenty! If…if she’s pregnant, if she’s a month or two along…God, Gob, I may not even be twenty-one when I have my first kid!” Michael brought his hands to his forehead again and he muttered, “I can’t do this I can’t do this I can’t do this I can’t do this—”

“Hey, hey,” Gob said softly. “Hey, Michael, come on…” Gob put down the bottle on the coffee table and took Michael’s hands in his. “Hey. It’s gonna be okay. Mom and dad will help. They have money. You’ll get cribs and all of that stuff from them, maybe even a nanny. You guys will be fine.”

“Dad’s gonna be so mad at me.”

“If he is, he can shut the fuck up,” Gob said. He gestured to himself, “I mean…he did the same thing with mom.” After a moment, Gob added, “Just…don’t lie about when your kid’s birthday is.” Gob laughed and added, “He should at least know what zodiac sign he is. It’s a damn good pick up line that I never get to use.”

Michael couldn’t help but laugh a little at that.

So, Tracey was pregnant. Very much so. Like, at the mid-point of her first trimester pregnant.

As soon as Michael and Tracey told their parents, Lucille made it her mission to throw together a wedding as quickly as possible so they could save face before Tracey started to show. Lindsay volunteered to help and, between the two of them, the wedding venue was booked for the weekend after their finals, the theme was planned, and the tuxes and bridesmaids’ dresses were bought in just a few days' time. They at least let Tracey have a say in her wedding gown, but her morning sickness was so bad she nearly threw up all over the dress and she was told she couldn't wear it again until the actual wedding day where, hopefully, her bump wouldn't be visible. 

Michael was stressing himself out more than ever. He was studying for finals, signing up for summer classes so he could graduate faster, reading pregnancy and child-raising books, and still doing his best to be there to hold back Tracey’s hair when she was sick and talk to her stomach—or, well, to the baby fetus or whatever—every day.

“It’s supposed to be good to talk to them,” Michael said. Tracey tried to say she was pretty sure their child didn’t even have ears yet, but Michael was insistent.  

“Gob? Why don’t you play something instead?” Tracey suggested at one point when Michael was kneeling in front of the couch she was sitting on as he tried to talk to her stomach. Michael looked insulted and she said, “Honey, you’re wearing yourself out. And I don’t think our baby needs to hear about tax write-offs.”

Michael was struggling a little with what to say during these sessions and mostly resorted to things he was reviewing for his finals.

“Music is a great thing for kids to listen to,” Tracey continued. “You should go take a nap; it’ll be fine.”

“…Okay,” Michael sighed. He got up and, after kissing Tracey’s forehead, went to his room—well, really their room at that point, since Tracey was moving in—and Tracey breathed a sigh of relief as Gob started to play a Mozart piece.

Once he finished, Tracey said, “He should be asleep by now; you can stop.” Gob nodded and turned around on the bench; as much as he would’ve liked to keep playing, he had already practiced at school that day. He had been doing that as much as possible, seeing as his house was constantly a zoo of wedding preparations and baby books.

“I’m honestly more worried about him than I am about the baby,” Tracey told Gob. “He’s wound up so tight…you’ll make sure you throw him a big bachelor party, right? Please? He needs to relax.”

Gob nodded. “I’m always trying to get him to have fun; you know that.”

Tracey smiled. “Yeah.” She sighed and said, “I’m so sorry that all of this is kind of overshadowing your graduation. No one’s really talked about it or anything. It’s a really big deal and I’m excited to go!” She frowned and added, “Well, as long as I’m not too sick that day.”

“Oh. Yeah. I mean, I’m excited to,” Gob said. “It’s gonna be amazing. Music school is better than, like, regular school of fucking course, but I still can't wait to be done."

“Yeah,” Tracey said. She laughed a little and admitted, “I’m kind of okay with not being able to take classes next semester. Don’t get me wrong, I want to graduate, but a little break from school sounds nice. It's like...a sense of freedom, you know?"

Gob nodded, a small smile on his face. "Freedom's nice."

Graduation was really a rather dull event. Gob went and wore the dumb robe and hat, and he got his diploma, but he really didn’t care about it all. Really, the only thing he cared about was the PMA ceremony, which, okay, actually made him cry but shut up, the music was beautiful.

But, anyways, he had more pressing things to worry about, including throwing what had to be the best party he ever threw. Michael's bachelor party had to be the Best Gob Bluth Party™ ever.

Just like Tracey had asked, Gob had done everything to make sure it would be a way for Michael to let loose. There were three stages of Michael’s bachelor party. First, they were going to have a steak dinner at one of the best places in town. Second, Gob had supplies for poker—cards, chips, tables, the whole nine yards—and had them set up at a strip bar Gob had rented out for some pre-stripping entertainment. And then, of course, there was the stripping part to wrap up the night, a night which would hopefully end with Michael completely smashed. To avoid the whole issue of Michael and most of his friends being under 21, Gob got the managers to agree not to check IDs by sliding a bit of money under the table—he actually did that literally at first but the hundred-dollar bill fell on the floor and it was very ineffective, so he actually ended up sliding them money over the table. They agreed to it, so that was all that mattered.

Gob couldn’t take all the credit, because some of it was their father’s plan. Honestly, most of it was their father’s plan, especially the bribe thing, and Gob just did what he was told while trying to throw in some of his own touches, like the restaurant he knew Michael loved. So, yeah, of course strippers had to be involved; there was no way they wouldn’t have strippers if George Sr was coming. And at least that meant if Michael really got upset because he had said he didn’t want strippers, Gob could just blame it on their dad. But he had a feeling Michael really did want them, but just didn’t want to admit it.

So, finally, Michael had his last of his finals, and while Lindsay and the rest of Tracey’s friends went out for her bachelorette party, Gob took Michael over to the restaurant for the start of his bachelor party.

The party started out great. The dinner was delicious, and once they got to the bar, Michael very wisely divided the poker tables so that his college friends played each other and didn’t have to go against his high-bidding father. Gob and Michael played against their father with a few Bluth employees, and Gob managed to bluff his way into some major winnings.

Strangely enough, Gob and his father were getting along. Maybe planning the event together made George Sr a bit more forgiving, maybe it convinced him Gob was straight, or maybe he was just in a good mood. Gob didn’t know, but he knew that his dad was actually laughing with him and congratulating him on some good hands and not insulting him for once. George even brought three fancy cigars to share with his sons while they played. Gob and George laughed and teased Michael together for choking on his and Gob felt better than he had around his father in years.

Then the main event started.

Despite all his protests before about not wanting strippers, when it was time for his first lap dance, Michael had a sheepish smile on his face and he sat down a bit more eagerly than necessary. Of course, he blushed hot red while she writhed in his lap, but he definitely seemed to enjoy himself and was grinning like an idiot.

Then everyone else started to clamber to get a lap dance and offer singles to the strippers and all of that, and Gob let himself fall into the background. He obviously had no interest in getting any of them on his lap, and he figured it would be best for him to just let the straight guys enjoy themselves. He could just drink instead.

So, Gob slid up to the bar, had some more whiskey, and watched the other guys for a while before getting a bit too overwhelmed by, well, boobs. Gob looked back towards the bartender and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Gob asked for another whiskey and the guy started right on it.

"Not enjoying the show?" 

Gob snorted. "It's definitely not my thing."

"Not mine, either," the bartender admitted.

As that thought sunk in, Gob raised an eyebrow in intrigue. The night was definitely starting to look up for him, which was needed after hours of being surrounded by drunk straight guys.

So, Gob started to casually chat with him. He wasn’t even necessarily flirting, not really, but if the guy started tilting his body towards him and if Gob’s hand possibly lingered a bit against his for just a second, it was no big deal.

Well, no big deal until his father's head turned his way and his eyes locked in on Gob's hand brushing against another man's and a sly grin gracing his lips.

“Hey, hey, hey!" George announced suddenly. Gob immediately jumped back from the bartender at the sound of his dad's voice. He looked over at him and felt his blood rush cold as he saw his father was looking his way. "Time for the best man to get a lap dance, don’t you think?” A few guys clapped and cheered the idea on and Gob's eyes worryingly went to Michael's for a brief moment of panic. Had his dad seen what he was doing? 

Gob looked back at his dad and shook his head. “You really don’t have to do that,” Gob said. “You know, buy me a dance. It’s fine.” He took a drink to try to keep himself from fidgeting nervously as his dad stared him down.

“Come on; if I didn’t buy dances for both of my boys, what kind of father would I be?” Michael looked about ready to say something sarcastic about that, but he decided against it.

Gob frowned and was about to protest again. But when he looked at his dad, he saw the challenging look in his eyes. It was a look that sent fear coursing up his spine. His dad had made jokes and comments that were heavily coded with the belief that his oldest son was gay, but they had just been that: jokes. Nothing serious, nothing actually flat-out calling him out on his sexuality, just half-baked insults he mostly made to try to fuck around with Gob’s mind or get him to behave one way or another.

This look, though, was direct, an invitation to a challenge to prove him wrong. Take the lap dance, show how straight he was, get his dad’s approval.

It was fucked up and Gob knew that. It was fucked up that his father of all people was trying to force him into a lap dance. It was fucked up that his dad was looking at him like that, egging him on, seemingly knowing but not knowing at the same time that his son was gay. And it was fucked up that Gob still, to some degree, wanted his dad’s approval.

Gob locked eyes with him, his face just as challenging back, like some game of straight chicken. He slowly nodded and a few of the Bluth Company guys whooped, obviously not sensing the thick amount of tension in the air between the Bluth men. Gob swallowed the rest of his whiskey before all but slamming it onto the bar. It was just a lap dance; it wasn’t like he couldn’t handle that.

With a determined look on his face, Gob sat down in the chair Michael had previously been in, and one of the scantily clad women came over to him after his father gave her some cash. His jaw clenched as she leaned in and started to dance, climbing all over him and writhing to the song. Gob had no idea how she could even hear the beat with how loud the guys around him where hollering; for a second, he wished he had brought his ear plugs he used when he went clubbing since they were so loud and it was making his ears hurt and his head spin. Gob couldn’t even tell if the dancer was good or not, because his eyes were going in and out of focus, a stony look on his face as he tried to keep himself from panicking.

He kept telling himself it was stupid to be freaking out. He just had to sit there and let it happen; no matter how gay he was, he could handle that. He had to handle that. But images kept rushing through his head, memories of his attempts at being with women. Melissa Chatswin and his attempts at trying to find enjoyment in fondling her; Stacey/Mary taking his virginity; countless of women he had fooled around with and fucked in an effort to feel good, to prove himself; and, finally, Eve Holt and the last, desperate gambit he made to try to be “normal”.

Gob had spent years acting. Even before he had realized he was gay, he had played up every aspect of his supposed heterosexuality in an effort to prove himself. He felt as empty as after his first time, as confused as his lack of interest in Melissa, as lost as when he had fucked Eve and could only think of Seth. He was tired of acting, he was tired of having to be something he wasn’t, he was tired of everything. And if he kept this act up longer, the act of enjoying the lap dance, the act of being straight, he’d just have to keep doing it even longer. His dad would never be satisfied, he’d never let it go, he’d always be pushing Gob to act one way, to act the “right” way, to act the straight way. One lap dance would lead to another, because his dad would need constant reassurance that his son wasn’t some sort of fairy. He’d have to keep bringing "dates", make up stories about girls, feign an interest in his dad’s secretaries, he’d never get to stop, not while he was still around his dad. He had to end the cycle, he had to get out, he had to do something to make it stop.

He had to escape.

Gob suddenly pushed himself out of the chair, the stripper catching herself from falling just in time. He felt dizzy from the headrush of standing up so fast, and possibly from what he was sure was about to happen. Without looking at anyone, he ran outside to get some fresh air, his chest heaving as he leaned against the wall and tried to collect himself. He vaguely heard the door open, and he tensed up as he realized it was his father, not Michael, who got to him first.

“What’s the matter, Gob?” his dad asked, his voice far more serious than his words warranted. “Aren’t you enjoying yourself?”

Dad,” Gob pleaded. He didn’t want to have to say it. Gob brought his hands to his tightly clenched eyes as he heard the door open again. He was sure that was Michael joining them now.

“What is it?” George asked, stepping a bit closer with a menacing look on his face. “Can’t enjoy a girl’s attention?”

“Dad…” Michael said, though he seemed just as helpless. “Dad, stop—”

“Why aren’t you enjoying yourself?” George asked, ignoring Michael. Gob’s heart was hammering inside his chest. “It’s a party. I thought you loved parties.”  

"Dad, please," Gob said desperately, finally opening his eyes and looking at his father. Why did it have to happen right now? Why tonight? Why ever? "It's Michael's night—"

"Answer the question."

Gob literally bit his tongue. If he said anything, or even tried to say anything, he’d probably cry or yell or do something incriminating.

But apparently his silence was just as incriminating as anything he could've said.

George scoffed. “I knew it. Always knew it. You and your…your outfits.” George lightly pushed at Gob’s shoulders, and Gob stepped back a little, his jaw starting to tense. “And your tears.” Push. “Your artistic bullshit.” Push. George shook his head. “I always knew you had to be some limp-wristed, little queer—”

George didn’t get to finish that statement, as Gob saw red and punched his father square in the face at full force.

All three men were frozen in shock. George was apparently too stunned by his son’s punch to attack or even say anything back. Gob was trying to understand what he had even done. And Michael...Michael had always known some fight would happen between his father and his older brother, but he realized he had never really prepared himself for that day. What was he supposed to do as the glue that held his family together? What was he supposed to do when his older brother, his best friend, his Best Man, was hurting?

What was he supposed to do when his dad was the key to his future employment and he was about to have a family of his own to support?

Gob was the first to move. He slowly moved his fingers and wrist, just to make sure he hadn’t hurt himself. He always assumed he would if he ever tried to punch someone again, after what happened with Michael. But he was fine. Then he chuckled darkly, a grim sense of satisfaction washing over him as he saw his dad's pained expression. “For being a limp-wristed fag, I think I got you pretty good,” Gob said, his voice eerily calm.

He looked over at Michael and said, “I’m going home. Enjoy the rest of your party, Michael.” It was probably a bit dick-ish to leave his brother after that, but he also knew him staying around wasn’t going to help anyone, least of all Michael. Michael had to stay and help their dad. Michael had to be on his good side. And Gob realized that; asking him to follow him, to be around him more, it wasn't going to do him any good.

Gob also truly realized what he had done as he started to drive home. He had punched his dad. His biggest tormentor, his least favorite family member, the man he always wanted to impress...

He felt sick to his stomach. His dad’s suspicions were confirmed. Gob’s suspicions were confirmed; his dad hated him. He was truly disgusted by him. And as much as Gob wanted to just say he didn’t care and shake it off, under all the resentment and bitterness he had towards his dad, he was still his dad. All Gob had ever wanted from him was some respect, some acceptance, and just some love.  

But on the other hand, he felt good. Really good. He had stood up for himself, he hadn't taken his dad's hatred lying down, and he was weirdly proud of himself. He felt kind of liberated. He was scared and angry and just so sad, but he felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of him, like he had nothing holding him back.

It was like a taste of freedom.

When he finally pulled into his driveway, Gob knew what he needed to do. First, he found the tequila and drank some straight from the bottle.

Second, forgetting about time zones existing, he made a phone call.

Michael told Lucille that George got his nasty bruise after he got too fresh with a dancer. Apparently George was too prideful to admit that he had gotten hit by his son, especially the gay one, since he never tried to correct Michael, even as his wife started to glare him down. Lucille fussed and complained because the pictures were going to be ruined now, so he better stay out of as many of them as possible and, god, what were the people at the club going to think? She spent a good portion of the rehearsal dinner the next night complaining about it.

On the bright side, it meant his dad was too busy being yelled at to try to yell at Gob. In fact, even when he wasn't being yelled at, George more or less ignored Gob and, honestly, Gob wished it had happened years ago. If he had known his dad would finally shut up if he came out, he would've announced it all the way back in his senior year of high school. It made the rehearsal dinner that much more bearable. 

It also seemed not talking to him included not talking about him. Gob assumed so, at least, seeing as his mom wasn't yelling at him about being gay. In fact, when they were practicing at the wedding venue, Gob messed around on the piano as they waited to start and eventually started playing that one song his mom loved. He had caught her humming "Downtown" a few times, and as he played it, she gave him a rare smile.

He still didn't buy that he was her second favorite, but he was pretty sure his dad hadn't said anything about him if she was still willing to smile at him.

But, of course, that day ended and that meant it was officially Michael's wedding day. Gob was nervous, nervous about a lot of things, about all these things that were about to change. But Michael was calm and collected and not anxious at all.

The wedding itself was a simple event. The guest list was minimal, the ceremony was intimate, and the vows were short but sweet. Even the wedding party was rather small. Tracey’s bridesmaids consisted of her sister and Lindsay, and Gob was Michael’s best man while Buster was...something. Their mom hadn't been ready to let him be a full groomsman, but no one actually trusted him with the rings, either, so he was just sort of there.

Tracey, whether it was the pregnancy (that thankfully still wasn’t showing) or the make-up artist Lindsay had hired, glowed in her flowing, white dress, and Michael beamed during the whole ceremony. Gob did his best not to tear up, but he saw Lindsay actually having to wipe under her eyes at one point.

Well, she might’ve also been doing that to show off the new rock she had on her ring finger. It seemed they would all be attending a winter wedding later that year, though Gob had barely said more than a word to that Tobias guy. But, hey, Lindsay was happy.

And Michael was happy. Like smiling so much his face was hurting happy.

Once they took the pictures and made sure Tracey had a snack because, you know, pregnancy, they went to the country club for the reception. It was a truly beautiful venue with a clear view of the ocean right outside, and the room full of candles and flowers and gorgeous decorations. Michael was smiling and laughing during the big entrance announcing Mr. and Mrs. Michael and Tracey Bluth in a way Gob had never seen before. And when they reached the dance floor for their first dance, Gob was smiling at them from the mic’ed up piano.

Tracey and Michael had wanted a band, but with the whole rush to get married thing, the best bands were already booked. Still, they wanted their first dance at least to be live. Tracey had a friend from back in Arizona who was a singer, so Tracey figured she could sing something and Gob could accompany her and maybe add some harmonies if he so chose. Tracey’s friend wasn’t amazing, but she was fine and she actually seemed to know how to keep in time with Gob during the short practice time they had.

Regardless, Gob was honored that Michael would actually let him do something like that at his wedding, since he knew how weird Michael got about his abilities or whatever. He understood that this was, in a strange way, kind of like Michael making peace with it. And he understood that Tracey was trying to find a way to incorporate a friend who couldn’t be in the bridal party.

Gob just didn’t understand why they chose to use “Faithfully” for their first dance. Well, past the fact that Michael had lame taste in music. But at least it had a strong piano part, so doing a stripped-down version wasn’t too bad.

And at least focusing on playing made it hard for him to get too teary-eyed...though, okay, he couldn't look up at all when he played since just seeing them dance together made his eyes start to sting and maybe he had to stop singing the small bit of harmony he had practiced because of it but he made it out just fine, okay?

But the real hard part was his toast.

After Tracey’s Maid of Honor gave the first toast, Gob was handed the mic. He cleared his throat as he pulled out his cards for the speech he wrote and he put on a smile. “Hey,” Gob said. “Thanks to everyone who came out here tonight. And thanks for that killer opening speech over there. That’s a tough act to follow.” 

Gob looked down at his first card and then back up. “For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Gob, Michael’s older brother. The Best Man." He grinned; he was still proud to have that title. "I normally don’t get to do the public speech sort of thing; last time I did one was four years ago at my high school graduation, and Mikey actually wrote that one for me. I guess you could say speeches aren’t my forte.” With a grin, he joked, “You might say they aren’t my pianoforte.” Gob laughed at that, but the crowd didn’t. Really? That was funny. They even saw him play piano earlier, which was what a pianoforte was!

It didn’t get much better from there. Gob did the generic roasts of Michael and compliments to Tracey and, yes, that all went over with polite laughter, but when he tried to talk about how much Michael meant to him, his voice cracked. He cleared his throat, took a breath, and tried again. But try as he might, he kept stumbling over himself, his voice wavering, until, finally, he started to cry. Which, really, he had been due for that all day.

Well, actually, he had been due for that since he made his phone call.

Not wanting to keep on attempting to talk in public, Gob just ended it, tears in his eyes, with a raise of his glass. "To Michael and Tracey: the best couple I know." The crowd raised their glasses and Gob gladly sat back down.

Michael pat him on the back and told him he did a good job. Michael was always doing that, telling Gob he was worth it and everything. Making him feel worth it. Even after his bachelor party, he had immediately apologized for not standing up for him better, which Gob immediately brushed off. He had other things to worry about now, things that weren't his older brother and whether or not he got any sleep or could tell if the milk had spoiled. Gob couldn't be as big of a part of his life now, and Gob knew that. 

...Gob was just going to miss him so much.

After dinner, Gob snuck outside while the DJ played generic pop songs. He needed a small break from the crowd. And, well, the idea of a bit of a smoke felt good.

Gob went over to the edge of the large balcony area of the country club. With a lit cigarette between his finger tips, he looked out on the ocean water and enjoyed the silence.

Well, not that true silence ever existed. John Cage was right about that. Gob heard the waves crashing, the seagulls cawing, and, eventually, the sound of feet walking towards him.

“So, where are you going to go?”

Gob looked over his shoulder at his brother’s voice. His married brother’s voice. God, that was going to take some getting used to. He looked back out at the ocean as Michael came in closer.

“How do you know I’m going anywhere?” Gob asked, flicking his cigarette’s ashes off the balcony. He hadn't told anyone in his family about it yet.

Michael shrugged. “I just can,” he said simply.

The two of them looked towards the water and Gob sighed. “I didn’t want to ruin your wedding. Especially after the bachelor party...” he said. “Didn’t want to take attention away from you.”

“It’s fine. Lindsay’s doing enough of that anyways,” Michael said lightly. They both shared a small, short laugh; Lindsay had been showing off her ring to everyone, no matter how little they were intersted. “So, where are you going?”

Gob took a drag of his cigarette and sighed it out. “San Francisco. With Seth.” At Michael’s raised eyebrows, Gob chuckled. “I don’t know if we’re…anything. I think we might just be friends who have a really good time together." And that was the truth; he really didn't know if romance was in the cards for them, but he also wasn't ruling it out. "But we're gonna find a place and I'm going to stay least for a little bit. Then maybe Las Vegas. Chicago. New York…” He shrugged a little. “I’m gonna go wherever the road takes me. Play in piano bars. Teach lessons. Go on auditions. Enter competitions. Build my name up…” He had big dreams for his future, but he knew it was going to take some time before he was going to be able to play to sold out audiences at Carnegie Hall or get invited to play concertos for the LA Philharmonic. Which was dumb since, really, he should’ve already been performing there. But for now, his only plans were to do whatever it took to make his favorite thing the way he made money and to let himself run free.

“Do you think you’ll ever come back?” Michael asked quietly.

“Maybe,” Gob said. “I don’t have a good track record with staying away, do I?” At Michael’s nod, Gob added, “I’ll at least visit. I gotta make sure any niece or nephew of mine gets some actual musical talent.” Michael shook his head a bit at that, though he smiled a little in spite of himself. “You’re paying me for any lessons I give them, too, Uncle Gob or not.”

“Of course,” Michael joked back, letting out a small air of laughter. They both looked out at the ocean for a little while, just taking in the view in silence.

“…Are you sure you’re ready?” Michael asked quietly.

Gob smiled sadly and took a deep breath. “When you know, you know.”

Gob ordered a whiskey at the bar as the DJ started to play some slow song or another. He had been having fun, dancing with his siblings and Tracey to various pop and rock songs since, come on, no one could resist some Madonna or WHAM or, of course, "The Final Countdown", the best non-Queen rock song ever. But the night was winding down and it was time to start playing the slow jams more often. Unfortunately.

As he grabbed his drink and turned around, he smiled a little. He saw Tracey and Michael happily taking a break from dancing at the head table, Michael’s hand briefly touching Tracey’s stomach with the brightest smile on his face. It seemed that, now that he was married, he was much more excited for their child. It was nice seeing his brother so happy and just enjoying himself. He never let himself do that enough; Gob would have to remind Tracey to make sure he did that more often.

Gob’s eyes wandered and soon found Lindsay dancing with her fiancé. Tobias was…strange. But Lindsay’s eyes lit up as she talked about the protests they had gone to together, the career path he was on, and the fancy ring he had gotten her. Apparently, he was also a bit musical himself and he was encouraging her to sing some songs he had written about some medicine Gob couldn’t pronounce. Gob was just glad to know his sister was singing again and apparently even learning the autoharp. Maybe she was more of a hippie than he gave her credit for.

As the music kept playing, more and more couples started to dance together. Each couple had some different story and each couple had different comfort levels with each other, but they still danced with each other. They still held hands, held each other, without any fear. They still got to love each other publicly. They all looked so happy. Like his engaged sister. His married brother. 

He wondered what it was like to be so open like that. Even if his whole family knew, he wasn't sure he could bring himself to dance with another guy in front of them, let alone all those country club people. He definitely couldn't imagine being engaged or married either. Not just because of the gay thing, but just...spending his whole life with just one person? He was pretty sure one person would never be enough.

He was pretty sure he was a bit too much for one person, anyways.

Gob’s eyes wandered down to his whiskey. He lightly swirled the glass a few times before bringing it to his lips and swallowing half of the glass in one go. 

"Don't you have better things to do than stand at the bar all night?"

Gob looked at his mom and said, "I could ask you the same thing."

Lucille rolled her eyes at him and looked out at the crowded dance floor. Her eyes found Lindsay and her fiancé and she frowned heavily. "That Tobias guy..." she pursed her lips, "he might be an even worse choice than her haircut."

"Mom," Gob sighed. He didn't like hearing her being so hard on Lindsay, at least he felt that way ever since he realized how insecure Lindsay felt in her relationship with their mother.

"I said he might be," Lucille said in her defense and Gob rolled his eyes.

One song ended and then the DJ started playing some other slow song. Gob just took another sip of his whiskey, but his mom finished off her martini.

“Come on,” Lucille said primly, resting her empty martini glass on the bar. “Come dance with your mother.”

Gob raised his eyebrows. “Isn’t that Buster’s job?”

“Buster can't dance for too long; you know how his asthma gets,” Lucille said simply. She gave him an expectant look and, with a sigh, Gob took his mom’s hand to lead her to the dance floor.

“Michael says you’re moving,” Lucille said after they had danced for a bit. “San Francisco?”

Gob took a pause before nodding. “Yeah. I figured I should try a new place,” Gob said. “I was talking to my friend who’s going there for grad school and there’s a lot of places where I can play and start to make connections. And we can split rent on a place.”

“Which friend is this?”


“The friend from your recital?” Lucille asked, an eyebrow raised. It was less of a question and more of a statement, but Gob still nodded as an answer. She nodded back and they went back to dancing.

“I’m sure you’ll love it up there,” Lucille said with a small sigh. “It seems like a good city for you." Gob nodded, not really paying much attention to what she was saying. "It’s full of all kinds of…artistic people.”

Gob froze. It wasn't just the use of the word that time, but how she said it. It still had a lot of meaning behind it, but it didn’t have the venom and disgust that it did when his father used it. Well, at least not quite as much.

Gob looked down at his mom. She looked him right back in the eye. There wasn’t a challenge or hatred or anything there he would’ve expected. True, she wasn’t warm or smiling or anything, but there was a look of, if not acceptance, at least tolerance.

After a breath, Gob lifted his head and started to move them again. “Yeah…yeah. You’re right.” 

“You’ll take care of her, right?”

“You know I will.”

“You’re sure you’re ready for the responsibility?”

“Yes, I am.”

“You’ll schedule her check-ups?”


“Check her humidifier?”


“Cover her up so she doesn’t get too cold?”

God—Gob, the piano’s going to be fine, alright?” Michael said exasperatedly.

Gob frowned and ran his hands over the case. “I’m sorry, I just…I’m going to miss her so much,” he said. He lifted the lid one more time to run his fingers over the keys. He had played on several pianos, but none of them as much as this one. This was his first one, his baby, and if he had a way to bring her to San Francisco safely, he would do it in a heartbeat. But he wasn’t one-hundred percent sure where he was going to live in the Bay Area. The plan was to find a hostel to live in until they could find their own place.

He didn’t know how long he was going to stay there, either. Musicians always had to be ready to travel, and, for all he knew, he’d have to move in a month to do some gig in Ohio or something.

Ugh, god forbid he got stuck in the Midwest.

So, for now, his baby girl was going to stay with Michael and Tracey. Someday, once Gob got a more permanent place, he’d move her in with him, but it was time to say goodbye.

Over the last few weeks since the wedding, Gob had been doing everything he could to get ready for the move. He packed up everything he could, sold everything he didn’t need—even his car—and played all he could while he still had a great piano readily available. He knew he’d probably have to settle for practicing on an electric keyboard for a while, but hopefully he’d find some place to practice on real keys at some point. Maybe he could get a cheap upright somewhere; he didn’t know. Gob didn’t always make plans.

Michael checked his watch. “Gob, we better get going if you’re going to make your plane.” Gob nodded and, after one last gentle press of that G3 where it all began, Gob closed the piano lid and grabbed his bags.

“I’ll see you soon, baby,” Gob whispered to the piano before he headed out the door and into Michael's car.

Gob watched his surroundings in the back of the car as Michael drove, Tracey sitting in the passenger’s seat. He noticed Tracey gently putting her hand on Michael’s at a stoplight and he noticed how that touch helped the tension leave his brother’s shoulders.

The ride to LAX took longer than expected—which, really, they should’ve expected since it was LA and the traffic was always awful. Once they were parked at the airport, Michael quickly helped Gob check his bags and made sure he had everything he needed in one last check.



“Driver’s license?”



“I’ve got everything, Mikey. I’m fine,” Gob said calmly.

“Oh—there’s Lindsay!” Tracey said, waving her over. Thankfully, Lindsay hadn’t brought Tobias with her for their big goodbye. It was hard enough having to awkwardly say official goodbyes to Buster and his parents the night before; he didn’t want to have to say goodbye to some guy he barely knew.

“I’m so glad I made it; traffic was so bad coming from Newport,” Lindsay said breathlessly.

Before they could say anything else, they announced that his flight was starting to board. "Shit," Gob said, his heart starting to speed in his chest. He couldn't believe he was already saying goodbye.

Tracey went first, giving her brother-in-law a tight squeeze. Her slight belly bump made it a bit difficult, but he hugged her back firmly as well. “Make sure Mikey relaxes every now and then,” Gob whispered in her ear.

“I will,” she whispered back. “And you stay safe.” After a few more seconds, they broke apart and Tracey stepped back and wiped underneath her eyes. “God, these hormones aren’t helping,” she said with a slight laugh.

Lindsay went next, handing her brother a paper lunch bag.


"No, you do not want to eat that. We just didn't have any gift bags at home." Gob opened it up and looked inside, his eyebrows raising as he saw her old, stuffed dove.

"...I don't know what I expected."

"You always stole it from me when we were little; I thought you might like it now," Lindsay said with a small smile and a shrug. "Every Papageno needs a bird, right?"

Gob nodded with a smile. It was a much sweeter gift than he ever could've expected or hoped for, honestly. He pulled her into a tight hug and she hugged tightly back. “I’m going to miss you so much,” she said genuinely. “And I don’t care what sort of fancy gigs you get, you better be at my wedding." 

“Wouldn’t miss it, Linds,” he said softly, laughing just a little.

“And if you ever make it over to the northeast, you’ll visit us, right?” Lindsay asked. She was moving out to Boston with Tobias for his fellowship in a few weeks’ time.

“Definitely.” He murmured a soft, “Love you, Linds.”

“Love you, too.”

Once they pulled apart, Lindsay, too, wiped under her eyes. “I wish I could blame baby hormones,” she said with a slight laugh and sniff.

Finally, Gob turned to Michael. The two of them just looked at each other for a while, unsure of what to even say.

“...I’ll be back before you know it,” Gob said. He wasn’t sure if he was saying that more for Michael’s comfort or his own. “Gotta meet that kid of yours.”

“Yeah,” Michael said, smiling sadly. “And we’ll visit, too.”

“And Lindsay’s wedding.”

“Yeah, yeah…”

The two looked at each other for a little longer before Gob finally wrapped his arms tight around Michael. He didn’t even know what to say; he owed Michael so much, too much to really ever put into words or thank yous, and, to quote Dorothy to the Scarecrow, he was going to miss him most of all.

Okay, that was officially the actual gayest thought he ever had.

Finally, Gob managed to say, “Love you, Mikey.”

“Love you, too, Gob.”

Once they finally pulled apart, Michael, his eyes a little watery, sternly said, “Call me when you get there, okay? I’ll accept any collect charges.”

“Got it,” Gob said.

They walked him to the gate and he handed his ticket to the flight attendant. Then, with one last wave, Gob walked through the door and got onto the plane.

Once he found his seat, he pulled out his Walkman and loaded up with one of his favorite CDs. And, after a moment of thought, Gob kept the stuffed dove in his lap as they prepared for take-off. As the flight attendants went through the safety speech, Gob lightly pet the fake bird's head. He remembered how much he loved stealing it as a kid, sometimes just to piss of Lindsay, but sometimes just because he liked it. He remembered when he’d steal the bird, raise it up over his head, and make sounds like a plane as he ran around their house, completely free to do whatever he wanted to do.

And once he was looking out over the California landscape thousands of feet in the air, he flapped the birds’ wings like he had back then and felt that freedom he hadn’t known since he was a little kid.

This was only the beginning.