Feste stared at their sleepy reflection, thinking they could probably go back to bed for two more hours, but Nick had already called, and would soon be waiting for them in Snout’s bar, across from the subway station. Feste wondered if they should wear something special for old Robin’s enemies. What would offend them the most? They didn’t know, but they suspected if Robin had called them his enemies, he probably wouldn’t mind if they showed up in a dress, it was Feste themself who didn’t feel like wearing one. Hopefully, the results to their visit to the salon the day before would be outrageous enough.
They’d gotten their hair and nails done at Big Titania’s salon the day before. Feste just loved Big Titania’s vintage gossips that involved the same circles old Robin had run in back in their time, plus all the struggles of being a hot, independent woman fifty years ago.
And there was, of course, Big Titania’s granddaughter, who had all the current gossip. She ran to their arms and kissed them three times, “for good luck,” she always said, something she learned from her grandma. Three was also the number of times Titania mentioned how cute Cesario was, so they raised a newly trimmed and shaped eyebrow, and asked: “Should I be worried that you think he’s so cute?”
She laughed loudly and shook her head. “Cute for you,” she corrected herself, still laughing. “Where did you two go last night?”
“My friend Nick was doing stand up comedy, we went to see him.”
“Oh, yeah, the actor, you told me about him. So you guys had fun?” she insisted.
“Of course we did. What do you think happens on a date with me?” Even though it was obvious she’d never make an exception for them, Feste still checked on her resolve every now and then. “You should’ve said yes when you had the chance.”
She laughed even more. “You mean you’re taken for good? Oh, how am I ever gonna get over it?”
“You know, it’s one thing if you don’t wanna go out with me, but you don’t have to be mean about it,” Feste complained, not entirely sure if they were joking or being serious about it. Titania decided they were joking, and patted their cheek condescendingly. “Darling, I don’t need that hit to my self esteem.”
“I’m not that much hotter than you,” Feste consoled her, going with the joke. Titania’s laugh was so hard she had to take a moment to steady herself. “Seriously, Feste, what makes you think you can handle this?” Her gesture indicated her gym cultivated body.
“What makes you think I can’t?” they challenged, crossing their arms over their chest, and staring at her in defiance. “You’re gay?” she said, like she was reminding them of something obvious, staring back at Feste, looking like she was very interested in the direction their talk had taken.
“So it’s not that you have anything against me, you just think I have something against you? Tania, baby, we should’ve had this talk years ago. My tastes are really versatile,” they informed, still looking in her eyes.
“Is that so?” she sounded skeptical, but never broke eye contact. “I would never have guessed.”
“You see? You shouldn’t guess other people’s preferences, that deprives you of a lot of fun. But hey, run after your hairy mouthbreathers, if that’s what makes you happy. But don’t fool yourself, I’m a lot better than those oversharing exes of yours.”
Titania looked worried for a second: “Oh, my god, what are they saying now?” “They think they’re saying ‘I rock, I did Titania,’ but what they’re really saying is ‘I’m vanilla and proud of it,’” Feste explained.
“Shit!” She shook her head, and rolled her eyes. “I better go with your take, I don’t think I’m gonna like theirs.”
Feste laughed at her doubts. “Don’t worry, no one’s questioning your talents. Except for me, of course.” Titania hit the back of their head softly. “The audacity of this bitch!”
“I’m sorry but they don’t sound like they know what a good time is, and that makes me think maybe you don’t either.” Feste knew nothing they said would change Titania’s mind about going on a date with them, but at least they could annoy her with that talk.
“Girl, you have no idea what’s my body count, I’ve had all kinds of times,” she said, thoroughly annoyed. “And it’s not always with the weight lifters, sometimes I pick them up at pilates class.”
Feste gave her a thumbs up in approval. “I should’ve stayed in that class. I thought that was a rumor, though,” they said. She shrugged, a sly smile on her lips. “Talking about rumors,” they changed the subject, “I heard the weirdest thing the other day. Are you seeing Orsino again?”
Titania tried not laughing about it, which only made it worse. She shook her head and facepalmed slowly and deliberately. “Of course not. He’s all issues.”
“Hairy, mouth breathing, and complicated? Good thing you don’t like that, right?” Feste insisted, just to tease her.
“Honestly? I wouldn’t mind a piece of him on the side, but I can’t be with a bigger diva than me.”
“Really? Not gonna lie, it may put a premature end to our love story. I’m obviously the bigger diva.” “You sure are,” Titania admitted. “But I think our love story was over long before that.”
“I was just kidding, our love’s immortal,” they teased a little more.
“Immortal,” she scoffed. “Sure, it’ll endure wind, weather, and boyfriends.”
“Wait a minute! Who’s your boyfriend?” Feste asked, surprised such news hadn’t found their ears earlier.
“I meant your boyfriend,” she clarified.
Feste was able to conceal their shock when they realized they were so deep in their flirting with Titania, they had completely forgotten the rest of the world was even a thing. Now they felt secretly guilty about it, but no way they would give Titania the pleasure of seeing that.
They’d left the salon with perfectly shaped eyebrows, newly braided pink hair, and matching nails. Feste was never able to keep their nails pretty for long, but they had managed to avoid ruining them so far, which meant they could look their most shocking for Robin’s enemies, even if they felt like wearing pants today. They put some makeup on, a white turtleneck with short sleeves, a purple satin vest, black skinny jeans, the bright white sports sneakers Maria had gifted them (and everyone in her payroll), and the havana hat Robin had given them before their first paying gig. They slung their guitar case over the shoulder, and left.
As they made their way down the hill, a kid approached them. “Why you’re wearing a grandpa hat?” Feste just shrugged in answer, and took it off to examine what was so grandfatherly about it. They didn’t see it. A damn good hat, that’s what it was. “What happened to your hair?”
“Had it dyed, do you like it?”
“No, it’s pink,” the kid said in disgust.
“You don’t like pink?” they pretended to be horrified by the news.
“No, pink’s for dumb girls.”
“Well, I’m a little dumb,” they said, not even a little bit in the mood for lecturing the baby devil.
“But you’re not a girl,” the kid insisted.
“No? What am I?”
“You have a beard,” the little one pointed at their face. Feste just nodded in agreement. “Girls don’t have beards.”
“Oh, yeah, what about that girl everybody calls Mustache?”
The kid made a confused face, and just stood there, glued to that place, thinking about it. Feste thought that was it for their talk, but the little sprinter caught up, and insisted: “Your shoes are for boys.”
“No, they’re for soldiers,” they corrected, not sure why they bothered.
“Can girls be soldiers?” the little monster asked.
“Army soldiers or Toby’s soldiers?” Feste asked, just to have some insight on the kid’s thinking.
“Toby’s,” the future soldier said, like it should be obvious, and Feste was being dense on purpose.
“Girls can work for Toby, don’t you know Maria?”
“Soldier,” the tiny brat corrected.
“Of course they can be soldiers, but then you have to stand in the sun all day, and someone could shoot you.”
“I like the sun,” said the kid, too young to believe they could get shot.
“Good for you, I like the sound of the guitar.”
The kid looked curiously at their guitar case. “I like music, too.”
“Better than the sound of gunshots, isn’t it?”
The kid laughed at the absurdity of Feste’s comparison. “Of course.”
“Then I’ll play something for you,” they said, suddenly stopping in the middle of the alley to get the guitar. “What would you like to hear?” The kid shrugged. “Ok, this song’s called Diarrea.” The child started laughing immediately. It was a short song all kids used to sing when Feste was in elementary school. The kid loved it. “Now go and sing it to your friends,” they said, getting the guitar back in its case.
“I don’t have any friends.”
Feste was hit by an inexplicable wave of discomfort, and looked the kid in the eyes. “Why not?”
“They beat me,” the kid mumbled looking away.
“Fuck!” said Feste, who didn’t want to empathize with the annoying brat who didn’t like their hair, but it was too late now.
“Don’t swear, I’m only eight,” the kid said very seriously.
“Please, I know what you sound like when you play football,” Feste accused, making the kid look guilty. “I know, and don’t care, so you can take it easy on me, too, right?”
“Right,” the kid nodded.
“Listen,” Feste placed a hand on the kid’s shoulder, “I have something to do now, but if you want, I’ll teach you a magic trick next time, ok?”
“I wanna learn magic. Teach me now!”
“I don’t have the time. Here,” Feste pulled a sweet from behind the kid’s ear, and gave it to the wide eyed child. “Bye.”
Nick was waiting at the bar. He knew Feste too well to ask what took them so long, but he noticed the kid following. “You have a fan,” he pointed out.
Feste thought the kid had stayed behind, and turned around to see they were wrong. “You’re still here? Go play.”
“No, you play,” said Feste’s tiny stalker, pointing to the guitar.
Nick laughed loudly at that one, and said: “I agree. Something weird, please.”
“Yes, please,” the pinky sized human cheered.
“Yes, please,” Tom joined in from behind the counter, looking amused by the only interaction happening inside.
“Since there are so many requests.” Feste shrugged, sat down, and got ready to play. “It’s called The Wind And The Rain.” They played it.
When the song was over, Nick applauded enthusiastically, while the kid looked confused, and Tom Snout, the bartender, said: “What the hell was that? Sing it again.”
“That’ll be one beer, any beer’s fine,” Feste said, smiling.
“Do you think I just give stuff away like that?” Tom crossed his arms, and stared at Feste, who just rolled their eyes at him. Then he turned to the kid: “Hey, Willow, where’s your mom?” The kid shrugged. Tom shook his head. “Have a seat.” He pointed to one of the stools by the counter, and once Willow had managed to climb it, he presented the kid with a sandwich that looked nothing like an item of the bar’s menu. His lunch, Feste guessed.
“You sure have a golden heart, Snout,” Feste commented. “You deserve a better song. Ask for anything.”
“No, sing that weird thing again. I wanna make sure I understand it.”
Feste was more than happy to do an encore, their lyrics weren’t nearly as popular as their beats, so it was a rare thing for someone to ask for that song. Even if Tom didn’t exactly like it, he was interested, he listened for the second time, paying a lot of attention. “So it was all a dream?” he asked when it was over.
Feste just shrugged.
“It doesn’t rain everyday,” Willow commented.
“Everyday, it rains somewhere,” Pete argued.
Feste turned to Nick. “Can we go?”
They shouted for Robin at the gate, making a lot of noise as they always did. He walked to the gate in his usual manner, like he was dancing to a never ending tune only he could hear. He wore a white linen suit, a striped shirt, and a havana hat with a red stripe around it. “He’s dressed for business,” Nick observed.
“Gotta look on point for your enemies,” Feste concluded.
“Yes, you do,” said Robin, finally getting to the gate. He walked out, looked Feste up and down, and said: “You get it.” Then he looked at Nick, who wore flowery shorts and white flip flops, and made a face. “You, not so much.”
“Maybe it’s you who don’t get it, ever thought about that?” Nick said, a little angrier than necessary.
“I have thought about that, actually,” Robin told him, his index finger raised for emphasis. “And no, it’s not me. Not this time, at least.”
“Where are we going?” Nick asked, after a calming, deep breath.
“The Backroom,” he said, taking shotgun in Nick’s car.
Feste and Nick exchanged a worried look: the Backroom had been Robin’s original bar, where all rejects would gather and make the music of their generation, which happened somewhere around forty and fifty years ago. “Why you wanna take us to that dead bar?” Feste asked. “You know what century this is, right?”
“Oh, yeah, I’m old, so I must be senile. Hilarious,” Robin sneered. “No, it’s the anniversary, those fuckers are all gonna be there, I can’t let them think I’m dead. I have to show them I can still dance. And you two, as my... heirs,” he chose the word staring at Feste from the rearview mirror, “will be all the more educated after a History lesson.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” Nick said, making a face. “I ran from school, and I’ll run away from you too if you start teaching me History.”
“I never made you learn useless stuff. Have some faith,” Robin said, with an edge to his too calm voice that Feste picked up on immediately, and started wondering what the old man was up to.
During the day, Bohemian Alley was a slow place, and the only bars working were devoted to music from Robin’s generation and older, back when poor people could afford living there. Robin hated gentrified Bohemian Alley, and complained about it the whole climb up the narrow street. “They only kept the name,” he lamented, catching his breath at the door, before Nick slided it open for him. Robin straightened up, let go of Feste’s arm, and entered the bar followed by his pupils.
The old men inside turned to look at the new arrivals. “You still fit that thing, Puck?” shouted an old man wearing a polo shirt, sitting by the counter. That got a laugh from the rest of the bar. “Not all of us went soft and lazy with old age,” he said, walking up to the man.
“I was soft and lazy long before I was old,” the man said, standing up and hugging Robin. “Cobweb, I thought you were dead,” he told the man, sitting next to him. “Any day now, you’ll see,” Cobweb said, like it was a great prospect. Feste and Nick looked at each other, both uncomfortable with the joke.
“These are my children,” Robin told him, pointing at his pupils.
Cobweb shook hands with both. “This one could be yours,” he said, admiring Feste’s looks. “He has your sense of fashion. Nice hat,” he said directly to Feste, who thanked him, while thinking of an old photo of a disturbingly young Robin wearing only feathers, and wondering if Cobweb meant that sense of fashion.
“Not ‘he,’ Cobweb, ‘they,’” Robin corrected, to Feste’s shock. The same man who called them “it” every once in a while suddenly knew their pronouns?
But Cobweb didn’t get it. He pointed at Nick. “No, this one doesn’t dress like you.”
Robin laughed, shaking his head. He looked at Feste with an apology in his eyes, but they just shrugged, too used to being called “he” to care. Even if the stranger had used their pronouns, it would never have compared to Robin’s acknowledgement.
The three of them sat with Cobweb by the counter, and did a shot. As soon as the liquor settled, they each ordered a beer and sipped quietly on them, with their backs turned to the counter, looking for familiar faces. Nick nudged at Feste, and pointed to the stage. The only musicians on the clock were closer to their age, but their repertoire was older than Robin. “You know Frank?” he pointed at the flutist.
“I’ve seen him around. You know him?”
Nick nodded. “We were in a play together.” His tone suggested the memory wasn’t exactly pleasant.
Their talk was interrupted by the approach of a smartly dressed man in his twenties, who looked at the same time friendly and aloof. Feste checked him out in detail when he stood before Robin.
“Excuse me, sir,” he said in a baritone that gave Feste the good kind of chills. Robin looked at the young man’s face as though there was something incomprehensible about it. “My name’s Oberon III, you’re Robin Goodfellow, right?”
“You’re his grandson?” Robin inferred, his face going from confusion to curiosity in seconds. “Nice to meet you.”
“My grandfather sent me here to invite you to sit with us at our table,” the young man said, enunciating every word clearly, looking confident. “Sure.” Robin stood up, and had a smug smile on his face. “These are my bodyguards, they go where I go,” he pointed to his pupils.
“Of course,” Oberon III agreed, nodding, smiling, and being so charming, Feste wanted to stare at him. He turned to them: “Let’s all sit together and get to know each other.” He beckoned them towards the table, and guided Robin with a friendly hand on his shoulder.
Feste had heard about some guy named Oberon from Big Titania years ago, and would’ve forgotten all about it by now, if Robin hadn’t refused to even hear their questions, let alone answer them. They knew there was something else to that story, but they didn’t know what. According to Big Titania, no man had been more desired than Oberon, and of course she was no exception, but the man was trouble, and everyone knew it, so she’d kept away from him, or so she said. But what about Robin?
“That guy’s hot,” Nick whispered, convincing Feste to check out Oberon III’s behind. And it was a nice view, but they were still wondering at Robin’s motivations. “Was his grandpa at Bandolin Mike’s Funeral?”
Nick looked carefully at the old man, who stood up, and held his arms open for their mentor. “I think he’s one of the fancy ones, you know, that they said all those nice things about, in that little man’s club, you remember?” Feste didn’t remember the little man’s club very well after so long, but they did remember Robin and his friends bad mouthing some of the people who’d showed up. “I’m getting the feeling ‘enemy’ wasn’t the word he was looking for,” they said, so low only Nick could hear.
A waiter brought him a chair, and Robin sat next to his old friend at the head of the long table, where many old man were sitting and talking. By the time he waved them over, Oberon had a hand on the back of his neck, and Feste made their assumptions. “These are my heirs,” he told Oberon, and named them.
The old man shook their hands with his left, refusing to let go of Robin. First Nick, then he held Feste’s hand longer than necessary, smiling at them. “You play?” “I do,” they nodded, uncomfortable with the staring, “Robin taught me.”
“You know a little more than what I taught you,” their mentor said, very generously.
“Good music?” Oberon asked, smiling at Robin like he was his favorite sight in creation. “I wouldn’t know, it’s computer music,” he said, stopping his shrug midaction to keep Oberon’s hand where it was.
The old man still held Feste’s hand, and now something changed in his eyes, they wanted to pull their hand free and put some distance between the two of them, but he went on speaking. “Electronic?” They nodded. He looked across the room, and shouted: “Boy!”
“I’m here,” said his grandson, who had been standing behind his chair all along.
“Oh! Good. Feste here makes electronic music,” he said, passing Feste’s hand on to him.
Oberon III shook their hand, and smiled embarrassedly at Feste for a second. He proceeded to guide them and Nick to some empty chairs. When they sat down, the young man asked questions about both of them, keeping them talking, saying only enough about himself to confirm what his clothes and manners had already hinted at: the world he lived in had a very small intersection with Feste and Nick’s, and music and beer were part of it.
At some point, he actually started asking Feste about their music. They ordered more beer, and told him all about it. A few bottles and a lot of talking later, Oberon said he was convinced, and now had to listen to their stuff. He excused himself, and left the bar.
“Dude’s cute but that was weird,” Nick said, still looking at the direction Oberon had disappeared.Feste nodded in agreement. “It probably runs in the family.” They both turned back to the table, then looked at Robin sitting with Oberon, and Nick came to his conclusion: “So Robin and that guy were a thing, right?”
“That’s what it looks like. But I don’t get it, he gives me creeps,” Feste confessed, finishing another bottle.
“I think it’s pretty simple: Robin likes them intimidating, I mean, who doesn’t?”
“I don’t think you’re ok, Nick.”
“When someone finally agrees to be intimidating to me and no one else, I’ll be more than ok, thank you very much.” Feste laughed, not sure what to say to that.
They followed Nick to say hi to Frank, when the musicians took a break. They both told Feste about the disastrous play in which they had worked together. The talk happened right by the stage, so it wasn’t hard to see what had inspired Robin, when he waved them over, and asked them to play something original.
Feste checked with the musicians if that was alright, and got ready. “The Wind and the Rain,” Nick suggested, but they didn’t feel like playing it for a third time, and went for a different one.
They sang Hey, Robin, which got applause from the very critical audience right from the start, and some laughter, but not because it was so good, they took it as their cue to repeat “Hey, Robin,” like they had something to tell him.
When the song was over, Feste finally looked at their teacher to see his reaction, but he was busy, responding to his friends’ teasing. Oberon gave them a thumbs up, and asked for another song the same way one asks for another beer in a noisy room. Feste nodded, and maybe it was just to escape the old man’s stare, but before they could really think about it, they started singing Come Away Death.
The singer didn’t notice how silent the room had become until the song was over. Suddenly, they were made aware of the effect their song had had on the audience. The prolonged silence made everyone uncomfortable, particularly the one standing on the stage alone. That was not how it was supposed to go.
Cobweb solved the problem by shouting for the whole room to hear: “Fuck that, you all better cry when I die!” Everyone laughed, and Feste took that moment to leave the stage. It was better to accept they couldn’t always win.
“Damn, that song’s dark,” Nick commented. “In hindsight, it may have been in poor taste,” they admitted.
“Should’ve gone with The Wind and the Rain.”
They focused very hard on the conversation, to forget the most recent embarrassment. “I’m glad you like it, but you’re the only one,” they told Nick, who had an idea to share: “I wanna make a bit about it, there’s this guy Jake at the club, and everyone loves his bit 7 Ages of Men, I want to do one with your song to respond to his.”
“I don’t think people will laugh.”
“Of course they will. They’ll be expecting a middle aged guy next, but I’ll turn into a woman, that always gets a laugh.”
Oberon III came back to the bar with purpose. He told Nick he needed a moment with Feste, and started telling them he liked the music, giving it adjectives Feste would never have thought of. He started asking where they usually played, and Feste at first thought they had a fan, but then Oberon said: “I’m looking for new artists for the alternative tent in an electronic festival I’m involved in. Ever heard of Faerie Experience?”
Feste just nodded and gave him a closed mouth smile, but internally they were shaken. A festival of that size, no matter how alternative the tent, would certainly be better than the Elephant, where gathering a hundred people presented a fire hazard. “I mean, you’d still have to audition, but I really like the music. You have my vote already.”
“Just to make things clear, this isn’t the kind of gig where I have to pay you to work for you, is it?”
Oberon shook his head. “No, we want to keep it professional, and we can’t yell at you if you’re not getting paid, can we?”
“No way! You won’t be yelling for free, are you?”
“Exactly,” Oberon agreed, smiling with all the humanity his grandfather lacked. He sat back, and placed an arm around Feste’s shoulders. “You know, I thought this place was going to be a waste of my time, good thing I was wrong.”
They left the bar in the evening, driving behind Oberon’s car to a penthouse in a fancy condo. The place was obviously huge, and they didn’t see where the two old men disappeared to, but they didn’t care. Oberon III led the way to his office, poured some scotch for himself and his guests, turned his computer on, opened a drawer, and pulled out a mirror he placed facing up on his desk with a rock hard piece of coke on top of it. “You two go ahead. And leave some for me.”
They couldn’t see what the young man was looking up on his computer, Nick was busy working the rock to dust, so Feste took the time to text Cesario, saying they were still with Robin and Nick. Finally, Oberon looked away from the screen, and told them: “I’m trying to get some people to listen to your stuff, and tell me what they think. Also, when is your next gig? I want to see it.”
“Tomorrow night, I’ll be in Illyria, and saturday at the Elephant.”
“Illyria hill, huh? Is it safe?”
“I don’t know how to answer that,” Feste shrugged. “It’s usually like any other place. Maybe you’ll see something you’re not used to seeing around here, and most of the time that’s it. But sometimes it’s not.”
Nick did a line, and handed the mirror to the host, who passed it to Feste, saying: “Guests first.” When he saw Feste’s line, he added: “That’s too much, do half, and see how it feels,” he advised.
“I like to start big,” they informed, but followed his instructions just to humour the host. “Toby’s is better,” they told him, before snorting the second half.
“Is it? You’ll have to get me some so I believe in you,” he said, and Feste knew that tone, they used it often, it meant “I’m kidding, unless you’re not.”
“It is better,” Feste assured. “But only straight from Toby. Yours is better than the retail quality.”
“If you can get me something purer, I can pay the price.”
“Whenever you want,” Feste promised, shrugging to convey it was no big deal.
“Let’s finish this one first,” he said with a smile, and did a line. He finished his neat scotch next, and poured everyone some more. “You can help yourselves to some more, you don’t have to wait for me.” Nick followed his advice.
At night, they went with Nick to the comedy club where he had a gig. Nick’s hands were shaking from all the coke, and everyone could tell he was way past drunk, but no one in there told him to go home, so Feste and Oberon found themselves a table, and got comfortable to watch the show. Nick was third, just like in audition night.
At first, Nick’s high looked too obvious, but as soon as he started using it to emphasize the eagerness and wide eyed innocence of his stage persona, it worked just fine, the only thing weird was how impatient he looked when he gave the audience a moment to laugh. Also, he was breathing very loudly against the mic, half the people laughed because they knew what Nick was on, the other half laughed at it, thinking it was to highlight how bad an actor he actually was.
“This is so bad, it’s good,” Oberon said, applauding enthusiastically. “If that was on purpose, its pure genius.”
He was ready to leave, when the next comedian was announced. It was that Jake guy Nick had mentioned. They made Oberon stay and watch 7 Ages of Men. Feste thought it was both funny and dark, coming to the conclusion Nick was delusional, The Wind and The Rain was nothing like that.
As soon as they freed Nick from his coworkers, who were teasing him for being so wasted, Oberon took them to an exclusive club that was beyond rich kids level, it was a rich grownups club, and he got them a VIP table, where no one bothered them when they did lines in plain sight. One bottle of vodka later, they went back to Oberon’s.
He showed Nick to a guest bedroom, then guided Feste to his own. “You could sleep here,” Oberon offered. Only now Feste noticed he’d had his arm around their shoulders for a while. Before they could think too much about it, they were kissed to persuasion.
Feste woke up around noon, when Nick shook them up, saying Robin wanted to go home. “So this is where you spent the night,” he said, stretching on his back next to them. “Lucky bastard! That’s what I get for not dressing up.” Feste rolled on their side and tried to go back to sleep. Nick shook them even harder. “Come on, Robin’s been up for hours, he’s getting cranky.”
They didn’t make too much of an effort to really wake up, sleeping in the car would do just fine. In the living room, they found Robin and Oberon III sitting together, having breakfast. Upon seeing them, the old man laughed. “You look like you had a drop too many, just a drop, though,” he said, charging his voice with sarcasm. Feste didn’t even have the energy to tell him to leave them alone.
“Coffee?” young Oberon offered. They whispered a thanks as best as they could manage, and prayed to the hangover gods this was what they needed.
At the moment, Feste hated the sound of everyone’s voice, but they still picked up on the exchange between Robin and their host’s grandson. The young man wanted Robin to stay, saying his grandfather would be up soon, and he would be disappointed if everyone had just left.
“I’m sure he’s counting on me to sneak out,” Robin told him, with a sly smile. “But if you want me to stay,” he said, shrugging, and emphasizing “you.”
“I do, I really do,” the young man said. Then he turned to Feste: “So, how’s that coffee working out for you?”
“It’ll do, just give it time,” they told him, feeling the first stirrings of their spirit.
They sat and had breakfast with the others, their mind still unfocused, and found themself fascinated by Robin’s technique of orange peeling, which left him with a long winding string of orange peel. Nick picked it up and played with it. “Just look at that,” he said, still dangling it in the air. “How do you do it?”
“First you do it, then you do it well, then you do it fast,” Robin said, shrugging, because that’s what he always said about any skills (along with “you do it wrong until you do it right”). Oberon wasn’t in on the joke, but Feste and Nick had heard that pearl of wisdom too many times, not to laugh at it by this point.
“Fake it till you make it,” Nick translated.
Laughing helped Feste feel better. They yawned, and stretched their muscles, standing up, and pacing about the room to accelerate the process of waking up. “I could go for a beer,” they decided.
“Finally!” said Robin, whose hours in the bar usually started at ten in the morning. “I thought you kids wanted to go to church or something.” They laughed.
The beach was literally across the street, and they sat under a parasol, watching the waves, getting dazzled by the bright sunlight reflected on the sand. Most of their words commented on the day and the sea. Oberon’s arm found its way around Feste’s shoulders again, so they enjoyed it, along with some cold beer.
After his second bottle, Oberon asked: “Remember you were telling me about your dealer’s coke, last night?” A question that had Feste texting Maria to ask if she had the stuff, letting her know they were asking for a rich guy.
She answered within minutes, telling them to come over and get it. Oberon agreed, saying they should go immediately. They discussed it over another bottle, and after that, the four of them drove to Illyria.
Oberon couldn’t park right in front of the bar, so they had to walk back for a block before they sat down and had cheap beer (the only kind Tom Snout sold), before going to Maria. Feste was getting ready to leave them waiting and go, when Willow showed up, asking them for magic lessons, as promised. Well, a promise was a promise, especially when the promised one managed to make Feste feel guilty so effortlessly.
They waved a bike over, and sent Nick instead. Feste sat Willow down, showing over and over how to conceal a sweet in their hand, and pretend it was behind someone else’s ear all along. The kid had a real hard time doing it, and practiced it on Pete, while they drank some more with Robin and Oberon. Both staring a lot when Titania came over to greet Feste. She kissed them three times as usual, and they invited her for a glass, just to prove to the others they were in fact friends with that goddess.
Robin had a funny look on his face when he greeted her, calling her honey and introducing himself. Titania, who loved teasing men who had no chance with her, found a golden opportunity on Robin, stroking his face and hands, making those interested eyes, Feste knew were just for show, when he started talking about his youth.
Oberon stared at her shamelessly, but she was having too much fun watching Robin go out of his way trying to charm her. Feste didn’t care that Oberon looked so interested, sure, they’d had some fun together, but neither one had expected it to be anything more than just fun. On a more pressing matter, they had agreed to teach Willow the trick, and the eight-year-old needed all the assistance they could give. Which only left Feste a small part of their brain to notice their surroundings.
Willow had finally got the hang of it, when a flash of light warned them. Feste only had to use their peripheral vision to see the police car. “We’re in trouble,” they whispered to Robin, their back still turned to the street, pretending they hadn’t noticed the car yet.
Robin facepalmed, and agreed: “We’re in trouble.”
“What’s the matter?” Titania asked, turning her attention back to Feste.
“They’ll get Nick,” they told her.
“The boy’s an actor, it’ll ruin his career,” Robin lied.
At first Feste didn’t understand why Robin said that, but within seconds Titania’s facial expression changed, and she decided: “I can distract one.”
“Good! Go,” they said, giving her an encouraging push. There was still a second police officer and Feste could only stare at Robin, hoping some great idea would come to them before Nick did, while Oberon watched their panic with the all the distancing only a rich motherfucker such as himself could afford to show. Feste low-key hated him at the moment.
But before any plan could be conceived, Feste saw little Willow had gone to the officer, and was showing him the magic trick. And it was working. The man looked incredibly bored, but he was looking. And that dumbass Malvolio believed with all his heart Titania wanted to “hold his gun.” There was no one to stop the bike carrying Nick downhill. He looked about to have a heart attack, but the boy driving him was pure poker face, and slowly passed the cops, turning left, going where Oberon’s car was parked.
“Go to your car, we’ll be right there,” they told Oberon.
Feste paid Tom for the beers, offered Robin their arm, and he played the helpless old man marvelously. This unfortunately was a character that took more than five minutes to climb down the bar’s steps and get to the car. But at least it worked.
Titania caught up to them minutes before they made it to the car. “Alright, what’s going on?” she demanded to know.
“Come along to find out,” Robin said, smiling at her like he had a chance.
Feste was beyond amazed when Titania said: “Like you can get rid of me.”
There was one more surprise waiting for them in the car: Willow was on the backseat with Nick, waiting. “What the hell? When did you pass us?” The kid did the same finger snapping Toby’s men used when they meant “a long time ago,” and it looked so out of place in an eight-year-old, everyone started laughing. “You can’t come with us, I’m sorry.”
“But we’re friends!” the little devil argued.
“But you’re eight,” Feste reminded Willow. They really felt they owed the kid something, so they gave Willow their pockett change and said: “Buy yourself some candy,” and sent the little thug away .
Titania sat next to Nick, flirting with him from the first second, still believing what Robin had said about Nick having an acting career. Oberon, who drove the car, was still eyeing Titania in silent approval with some help from the rearview mirror. The girl never asked where they were going, practically throwing herself onto Nick. And everyone else, Oberon included, did all they could not to spoil it for him.
By the time they got back to the penthouse, old Oberon was up, and the sour face he directed to his grandson sweetened immediately when he laid eyes on Robin. He looked at Titania with the same puzzled expression Robin had. “You look familiar,” he told her, and it sounded more or less like an accusation.
Titania, just like Feste knew she would, used her powers on old Oberon. She cocked her head to the side, smiling at him, batting her long eyelashes. “You look too fancy for Illyria,” she said, pretending to admire his designer clothes as an excuse to touch him. “It must have been somewhere else.” The old man looked smug, and the others were watching her all too interested. Feste wanted to burst with laughter, but they didn’t want to break the spell. “Maybe you saw me on Tinder. Would you swipe left or right for me?” she asked, doing a little twirl so the old man got the full picture.
Even if he hadn’t been speechless, Robin started laughing, before he had the time to say anything, which annoyed Titania, because laughter was not the right way to react to her charms. But it wasn’t directed at her. “Right or left, Oberon?” he repeated, before laughing some more.
“Don’t be ridiculous, she’s talking about that thing they have on their phones,” the old man replied, clearly annoyed that Robin was making fun of him. “I’m not,” was all the explanation he gave, leaving whatever he meant in the air.
Feste knew it had to be some kind of inside joke between the two old men, but it didn’t make any sense. They exchanged a look with Nick, just to confirm he didn’t know what their teacher was talking about either.
But Oberon knew what Robin meant. “Boy, show him that guitar of yours,” he told his grandson. And to his visitors: “Let’s have a seat.”
Young Oberon came back from his room, and handed Robin his acoustic guitar. He tried playing a chord, but before he got any sound out of it, he realized: “Oh! I can’t do this.” And returned it to its owner, who explained: “I’m left handed.”
“You see,” old Oberon told Robin, “it’s a world where a young man can just be left handed and he doesn’t have to be fixed.”
“Peak of civilization,” Feste said, shrugging.
Robin was mildly amused by the comment, but his focus was still on Oberon III and his guitar. “Show us what you can do with a lefty guitar,” he asked. But before he could play anything, Robin took one look at how he held the guitar, stared at old Oberon dead serious, and asked: “You sent him to a conservatory?” There was heavy judgement in his tone.
“There’s nothing wrong with formal education,” Oberon shrugged. “Where else was he supposed to learn? In the bar with you?”
“Yes!” said Nick, jumping to Robin’s side, at the same time Feste asked: “Why not?”
The old man smiled, pleasantly surprised his friend had such backup. “It looks like it worked out fine for you,” he said to Feste, who just smiled and shrugged, to break eye contact gently. But Oberon wasn’t having it, he went on with his explanation as if Feste had been the one who asked about it: “You see, the boy has a father, I wasn’t the one who made him learn classical music.” Feste nodded, since the man was looking them in the eye as he spoke. “I’m the one who thinks he was right to leave it behind.” Then he turned to his grandson: “Go ahead.”
He didn’t play a classical piece, he played I’ll See You in My Dreams, making his small audience get bouncy, and at one point getting an “alright, kid,” from Robin, which made Feste slightly jealous even though it was deserved. But when the song was over, all of them applauded the guitarist.
Old Oberon surprised Feste by displaying some human emotion. “Very good,” he said, nodding, and smiling at his grandson, about to burst with pride. Then he turned to Robin, and his smile became smug. “Not too bad for the conservatory, huh?”
“Not bad at all,” Robin had no problem admitting. He addressed the young man: “Seriously, not bad at all. But I think it’s for the best you left that country club. Living, changing music, that’s what you need, not rules.” Feste had to stifle a laugh. They’d grown up on Robin’s advice, but still thought he was a terrible influence on anyone who had a chance of being well adjusted. Oberon III just nodded politely. “It wasn’t a conservatory, it was a left handed tutor,” he explained.
He put down his guitar, and stood up. “Beer anyone? Hey, Nick, can you help me get them?” Feste was surprised he asked Nick and not them. They also noticed he whispered something to Nick, who nodded in response. Old Oberon, on the other hand, wanted to show Robin the old pictures of the Backroom he’d dug up. So the two of them left.
Nick brought Titania a beer, and whispered something that made her leave the room with him. It was only Oberon and Feste. They threw him an awkward smile, and a shrug that was more an attempt to escape the discomfort than to convey any meaning.
Oberon picked up his guitar, played a few chords, then looked at Feste, already amused by the thought he was about to share: “You know, you and I might end up becoming cousins.”
Feste laughed, wondering what Robin would think about that. He had called them his child, so the joke wasn’t too far off, as long as the two old men were together, that is. And Feste suspected Robin and Oberon would burn bright and fast, or whatever the equivalent for old people was. He had refused to hear an ignorant question about Oberon years ago, and hadn’t spoken to him at Bandolin Mike’s funeral, but had flown right into his arms as soon as they saw each other that afternoon. Feste was confident in their guess: something had gone awfully wrong between those two in the past, and their fling would be over as soon as that grudge resurfaced. Until then, they’d enjoy Oberon’s hospitality to the fullest.