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The New Guy

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Maria was showing something on her computer to Toby, when Feste got home. “Hey guys, what’s up?” Even though he looked at the screen like he was trying to read a foreign language, Toby was the one who told them: “This genius, right here, has just come up with the solution for our problems.”

“It’s called a Google search,” Maria said, rolling up her eyes.

Feste was quick to turn it into a joke. “One solution to all our problems? Sounds suspicious. Are we joining a cult?”

Maria rolled her eyes even more. “The problem with landslides,” she clarified, guiding Feste to stand in front of the screen next to Toby.

They only looked at the pictures. “So a wall? If it’s so simple, why didn’t they build one long ago?” “They who?” Maria’s rhetorical question reminded Feste there had never been anyone who cared about Illyria and its people before Toby came along with his boys and his “we are politicians” speech.

“It’s a lot of money, baby,” Toby said, scrolling through the page, giving up on reading it. “Of course it is. But it’s a lot of people to employ, too, and if we hire our own people, where do you think they’ll spend the money? It’s simple economics,” Maria explained, shrugging again.

“So you’re saying we’ll get our money back in the long run?” Toby asked, sounding confused.

“No. I never said we’re paying for it. But we can raise funds,” she went on. Then to Feste: “You’re friends with famous people, you think you can get them to help? Not with money, with publicity.”

“What do you have in mind?”

Maria wanted to organize a fundraiser, a much more ambitious project than the previous one, which had been a simple question of paying Fabian’s fines and reopening the club. This time she was thinking of an urban music festival, so Feste’s contacts were vital for it to be a success.

They had one week to make it happen, so Feste started small, inviting the local kids for a rap battle, and the guys who played at the square on saturday mornings. Which reminded them that maybe old Robin could make an appearance.

Obviously Robin never remembered to charge the phone they’d given him, so Feste borrowed one of Toby’s bikes, and went to check on the old man. He didn’t answer when they stopped by his house, and he wasn’t in his usual bar, where no one had seen him in days. They started worrying, and called Nick, who just laughed, and said: “I’d check with Oberon.”

And so they did. Unlike Nick, Oberon III wasn’t used to getting actual phone calls from them, which was probably why he sounded so confused. “Feste?” he asked, instead of saying hello. “Have you seen Robin?” The question was too important to be delayed with manners.

Oberon laughed. “Actually, you’re interrupting a very heated rant on The Girl of Ipanema,” he said, to Feste’s relief. “Why don’t you come over?” And so they did. Not for the rant, they had listened to it a few times over the years, and despite being very educational, it was old news. But they wanted to talk to their teacher, and it always worked better in person.

When they got there, Robin and both Oberons were in the living room. The old man put his guitar down, and stood up to give Feste a hug. “Miss me already?” he teased. “I’m here to prove The Girl from Ipanema is actually good,” they said, going with Robin’s tone, but it was too much for either of them, they just started laughing at the very idea.

“Good to see you,” Robin added, going back to his seat, and picking up his guitar (not the one he took to bars, Feste noticed, but the one that never left his house under any amount of begging), and went on to play one of his own songs, which he rarely did.

“You’re looking good, Robin,” they said, taking a seat next to Oberon III. Not only was Feste's teacher wearing a bathrobe made of purple silk, but he was very well shaved, and his hair looked gray rather than yellow. The old man smiled, but said nothing, and kept playing.

“What have you been up to?” Oberon senior asked, smiling at Feste like he knew the kind of things they were usually involved in. They guessed Robin had been telling stories, and answered his question: “Last night’s rain hit hard in Illyria, so I had to help some,” they said, being reminded of the most disturbing part of that help, and wincing at the thought.

“Heavy rain is never good in those places,” Robin commented, leaving the guitar aside. “How bad was it?”

“Could’ve been worse, I guess.” Feste shook their head, trying not to think too much about it. “But there’s a whole bunch of people who lost their houses. It’s a mess,” they concluded.

There was some silence after their news, which Robin broke with an assumption: “You need a place to stay?”

“No, I’m still living with Toby and Maria. But we’re doing this fundraiser, and I was thinking maybe you and your friends could show up, maybe play something? You know, lend it some credibility.”

“Of course I can do that, I just don’t see how that’s gonna help things.” But Oberon disagreed: “Getting the boys back together for a good cause sounds like a great plan. We’ll make a day of it.” “A day? We need to rehearse.” And that began a secondary conversation between the two old men.

Oberon III asked more details about the fundraiser, and Feste told him what little they had planned so far, hoping the argument between Robin and the host would be over soon, but those two were simply having too much fun with that. So they followed Oberon III to his office.

“You know, I had no idea why Titania said she was busy because of the rain until you told us what happened,” he commented, taking his seat behind the desk, and going for his computer. “So she was helping those people?”

“More than me, for sure. Her grandma’s kind of the head of all charity work that goes around in Illyria.”

“So she’s gonna be involved in this fundraiser you’re talking about?” He served them both some scotch, and smiled when Feste nodded a “yes” to his question. “I think I know some people who could help out of the kindness of their hearts… and clout. Let’s see what we can find.”

Feste doubted even Titania was worth so much trouble, but they weren’t about to refuse help, especially the kind of help that would make Toby and Maria grateful for having them around (which was vital to maintain the pampered lifestyle they had at the moment). Oberon III spent the next hour messaging people, and making sure the event got all the visibility he could give it. Feste was really impressed at the kind of favors people would grant him. Some agreed to sing or play for free, some promised donations of food, bottled water, or clothes. And he got many people to promote the event.

They texted Maria about it, and she informed Big Titania’s people were volunteering to help at the festival, which Feste knew Oberon was counting on, and let him know about it. The young man smiled, and ran his hand through his hair: “Instant karma.”

Things were looking pretty good, when they heard old Oberon call out. “Boy?” Feste knew he meant his grandson, but still hated that. “Coming!” the young man answered with a resigned twitch to his lips. Feste followed.

In the living-room, the old man announced: “We’re going to Dodo’s, you kids want to come?” “Hell, yeah!” Feste said, though the question was mostly directed at his grandson, who chuckled at their enthusiasm.

“Of course,” Oberon III agreed.

Dodo and Harry, who had missed the Backroom’s anniversary, were clearly surprised to see Robin and Oberon together, but the surprise didn’t last longer than Robin’s explanation that the two of them were “cacthing up.”

They were both very nice to Feste, mentioning the last time they’d seen each other, saying how well they’d played. But in the middle of that, Harry asked: “How’s that charming friend of yours? Cesario, is it?”

Before Feste could answer him with “It’s complicated,” Robin stared at them and crossed his arms. “Who is Harry talking about? Why he knows him and I don’t?” Everyone else laughed, but Feste knew Robin well enough to tell his jealousy wasn’t performatic.

“There’s nothing to know,” they said, urgently. “If you had been to Joe’s, you would’ve met them. It might be too late now.” Robin still stared at them. “I promise, if I ever go steady with anyone, you’ll get to pass judgement on their character, don’t worry.” The others laughed even harder, but Robin nodded, looking them in the eye very seriously, and Feste knew he would hold them to that promise.

Robin, then, started telling Dodo about the event Feste was putting together, and told them to explain the rest of it. They told him what had happened in Illyria, and their plans. Oberon III, who already felt like a part of the crew, went on to list all they had managed to organize so far.

“You could try Joe,” Harry told Dodo, who nodded, but looked in doubt. “It does sound like his kind of thing.” He considered it for a little while, and finally decided: “Let’s see what he has to say.”

Of course, Tambourine Joe was a busy man, and only promised to get back to Dodo with an answer, nothing else. But he agreed to tweet about the event, and some of his millions of followers lived in the city, which gave it more visibility within minutes than Oberon’s hours of contacting people.

When they told Maria about all that had been arranged for the festival, she was delighted, saying it was perfect, and calling them a genius. Feste enjoyed some pride in that compliment, and put the phone away when Robin and Dodo started playing.

Now, that’s why they’d been so eager to come, not for Dodo’s contacts, but to listen to those two playing together. Between songs, Feste pointed at the duo, and said: “I wanna be just like you when I grow up.”

Robin smiled, nudged at Dodo with his elbow, and shared his idea: “You know, it’s not like Peaseblossom is gonna complain, why don’t we let Feste take his place?”

Dodo eyed Feste up and down, and shrugged. “I hope Mustardseed is rolling in his grave,” he added, shaking his head. And to Feste: “Show what you got.”

On one hand, there was a sense of pride in getting that level of trust from Robin, which meant they played, rehearsing to do the same on the day of the festival, which meant they had to show up and rehearse, all through the week. On the other hand, however, they wished they hadn’t said anything, because Robin turned to them after the rehearsal, and asked: “Do you have a white linen suit?”

“I’m not dressing like you!” they were quick to inform him.

“It’s not dressing like me, it’s keeping with the tradition.”

“‘Tradition is peer pressure from dead people,’” they quoted, to Robin, who had no idea what a meme was.

“It’s going to look like we just picked up anyone to fill in,” the old man argued.

“But I don’t want to wear a suit!” Feste whined. “I look terrible in boy’s clothes.”

“Men’s clothes,” Robin corrected, while the others laughed.

“Even worse!”

“Enough of that,” Oberon senior commanded, sounding annoyed. Both Feste and Robin stared at him, making clear he hadn’t been invited to the discussion but it didn’t intimidate him. “I know just the person to solve this problem, trust me.”

So Feste ended up getting their measurements taken at eleven in the evening, and their first tailored suit happened to be a stylized version of the classic linen suit that had become a symbol of Bohemian Alley in its prime.

*

On monday, Tambourine Joe showed up in Illyria, giving Feste nothing but an hour’s notice. He got there with his own crew to record him doing charity, which Feste knew Big Titania would condemn as soon as he turned his back, but he had one whole truck packed up with food and water, so the criticism just had to wait.

Maria sent some of the boys to help unload, and some more to make sure everyone was in their best behaviour. Big Titania also got some of her people to lend a hand. The crew took shots of the truck being unloaded, of Feste greeting Joe, and showing him around. But then his eyes found Titania, and from then on, Joe and his crew followed her around.

Feste could still be seen in the final video published in Joe’s official Twitter account the next day, but it was only for a second, and not even a consecutive second. Feste wasn’t too offended about it, however. After all, lots of people followed Joe’s example, and that meant more donations, and more attention for the event.

*

Friday was all about preparing for the next day, when the festival would take place. Feste and Oberon guided the team to Illyria, to set up a real stage at Fabian’s. It didn’t take long for Titania to find out about it, using it as an excuse to see Oberon, which of course was what he wanted. Along with her, came some people to help unload the equipment.

All day people called them about the event, some to confirm their presences, some to cancel. Some wanted to discuss donations, and Feste simply handed Titania the phone in those situations. There was a lot of excitement in those preparations, but also the constant fear that nothing would work out, and it would be a disaster. Balancing those feelings was exhausting, and Feste couldn’t wait to get some rest.

Maria, however, followed them around the house, going on and on about the next day. Even when Feste went to the bedroom, and fell on their bed, she sat on the edge of the mattress, and kept talking. Before they could decide whether they should just fall asleep as she spoke, Maria said something that had their full attention: “I think it may be the perfect day for Lieutenant Malvolio to find out Titania’s not the one texting him.”

“I forgot about that!” they said, sitting up. “You kept texting him?”

“Not just texting. I had to become Titania’s patron to make this good.” Feste couldn’t contain that laugh. “Now you have to show me what he said,” they demanded.

Maria handed them the phone, and for a moment they were distracted by the quality material Titania put out there, but then they noticed some texts in which “Titania” told Malvolio she was all about mature men, but at the same time she liked men with blond hair, and added: “It doesn’t have to be natural blond.” To which Malvolio responded: “Do you think I’ll look good with blond hair?”

Feste started laughing right then and there, it was too good, but there was more. “Titania” was telling him how she would love to see him at Fabian’s saturday night, saying she’d welcome being spared of the clueless, little boys that pestered her on such events.

“This can easily get out of hand,” Feste told her, slightly worried about Titania. But Maria just shrugged and promised the boys would keep an eye on her and swoop in if Malvolio touched her. So they kept scrolling through that A+ material, and the disgusting stuff Malvolio promised to do to her, and found a few more requests from “Titania”. She asked him to wear something that showed off his strong arms, and when he agreed to it, added: “Those boys think they’re so hot when they take their shirts off in the club, I can’t wait to see a real man do it.”

Feste had another fit of laughter, while Maria just watched it, very proud of herself. They went on reading, and found a particularly great moment when “Titania” asked if he was allowed to use his handcuffs on her when he was off-duty, which Malvolio responded to with a blushing emoji, and the words: “I’ll bring them.”

“But I need to know I can trust you,” she wrote, about to make his life more difficult. “I need to know for sure that you like me as much as I like you. If you’re not ready to say to the whole world we’re together, you better tell me now.”

Feste wasn’t surprised Malvolio would promise anything as long as he thought he would get to do some kinky stuff with Titania. But they didn’t expect Maria to suggest he got a tattoo. “That’s so evil! I love it,” they hugged Maria, who reminded them there was more.

“A tattoo of your name?” Malvolio asked. “No, that’s so trashy.” Disgusted emoji. “How about something deep?” Her suggestion was: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” “That’s very deep, I like it. You’re so beautiful, and so smart,” Malvolio answered.

Feste laughed some more. “That’s gonna hurt a lot more than just ‘Titania.’” Maria nodded. “You have to tell everyone to have their phones ready,” they thought out loud, imagining the scene.

“If I get the word out too soon, Titania might hear about it. Tomorrow night we’ll tell people we’ll give a prize for the best video of the event, or something.” Feste loved the idea.

*

Saturday was a long day that started way earlier than Feste would’ve liked. They put on the nice clothes Oberon senior had gifted them, made sure they had their phone, and headed to Fabian’s, where they met with some of Big Titania’s people, and Oberon’s crew. There was a smaller stage in the square, for the daytime presentations, starting with the guys who always played there on saturday mornings.

Nick got there early, eager to participate. He brought some canned goods, gave them to the volunteers collecting donations, and started telling Feste he was ready to try his number for The Wind and The Rain that afternoon.

“I don’t know,” said the author of the song. “Wind and rain got us in this mess, in the first place. Don’t you think that’s a little distasteful?”

Nick performatically placed a hand on their forehead. “Are you feeling well? Did you just say distasteful?” Feste rolled their eyes at him, but Nick wasn’t finished: “I think this leadership position they put you is clouding your vision. No one knows better than them that the rain rains everyday.”

“‘Raineth,’” Feste corrected, but Nick just shrugged. Later that evening, to Feste’s great relief, the crowd would actually deem Nick’s performance funny, no one too hung upon the mention of wind and rain, all too busy laughing.

*

Around the time Robin got there with both Oberons, the square was as crowded as the club on a great Friday night. Feste thought about the time Titania had said Oberon senior was too fancy for Illyria, and she was right, the old man looked ready for the country club, maybe a regatta, but not rubbing elbows with the working class. They quickly made eye-contact with Tie-dye, and hostensively gestured towards the new arrivals and themself, making clear they were guests, and should be treated accordingly. Tie-dye nodded, and gave them a thumbs up.

They couldn’t, however, stay with them for long. Feste kept getting texts and calls from people whose instruments broke at the last minute, others who couldn’t find the address, and those with questions about the kind of donations they were looking for. Dodo and Harry were among the ones having trouble getting there, so they had to borrow a bike, and guide them to Illyria.

By the time Feste got back, with Dodo and Harry in tow, Titania had already found Oberon, and was sitting with them, talking about the charity work the event would raise funds for. Feste agreed she should work hard selling the event to Oberon senior, after all, they knew for a fact he could do a sweet donation if he felt inclined to, and it would do no harm if the hottest girl around was the one to tell him all about it.

Feste called for applause to the quartet, and introduced Robin and Dodo. They were really excited about playing with their teacher on a stage for all those people. Nick, who was so easily impressed, watched the trio with wide eyes. Robin even invited him to the stage to sing the last song.

Only when they had finished, Feste noticed that the crowd had aged a lot. Not because the show was boring, but because their music catered to an older audience than Feste and Nick. Those people applauded with a lot of enthusiasm, which was of course one thing the four of them loved too much not to do an encore.

Dodo and Nick left the stage, and Feste read the announcements they were told to, which included the times for the next musical attractions, as well as advertising the stands that didn’t get a spot on the main street.

When they were ready to leave, however, Feste noticed Robin hadn’t left the stage, he stood at the top of the stairs, not moving. “Wanna play some more?” they asked, one hand going to his elbow just in case. “I'm gonna pull a magic trick here," the old man told them, "and for that to work, you're gonna have to do something for me no questions asked."

Feste wanted nothing more than to ask questions, but they'd do that later. "What's my part?"

"Get Oberon's kid, the girl and Nick somewhere else, and don't worry if you can't find us."

"Magic trick, huh?" Feste said, nodding in concurrence. They noticed, of course, the quick, worried way Robin glanced at Dodo, who was being hugged and kissed by Big Titania. Jumping up to conclusions was easy after that.

Feste ran to the table, and started telling Oberon III he needed to come and see some great stuff in the upper alleys. It wasn’t hard to find something that caught his attention, because they knew Oberon III was very much a tourist in Illyria. Within minutes, they found a capoeira circle which they knew would get his interest.

As expected, Oberon started making a video immediately, and watched the game for long enough to give Feste the chance to cut in line and play some. Nick joined too, in his usual style, always low, always grounded. It was efficient, but Feste was the opposite, touching the ground as little as possible, enjoying too much the illusion of a short flight to play like Nick.

They went on to show Oberon some drinks he would never find in the fancy clubs he was used to going tô. He tried those in a mix of fear and curiosity. They couldn’t find the older half of the group, when they got back to the main street, but there was much to see and do, and Feste was confident no one would mess with their guests (no matter how much Oberon senior looked like fair game for pick pocketing).

*

Once Fabian's club was open, it didn't take long for the place to get crowded. Oberon had promoted the event, and many of his friends had found him. Nick was particularly excited about this one guy called Peter Quince, a director Feste had never heard of but their friend had. And after Nick and they did The Wind And The Rain, Peter Quince was very excited about him too.

Feste was convinced they could've won the rap battle if the host was allowed to participate but they weren't, so the world would never know. During the battle, they got a text from Maria, reminding them to announce there would be a prize for the best video made in the event. They did that, and reminded the boys to keep an eye on Malvolio in case he showed up, and have their phones ready too.

Before Feste took over the club’s music for good, there was a band made of some hipster friends of Oberon, who had rather long beards and whose music sounded nostalgic for The Beatles. After that, a rapper, who had been inspired by Tambourine Joe’s video and volunteered.

Finally, Feste had the stage all to themself, and played the song that opened every twerk battle. They'd never seen the club so packed up. It was the best! As the girls approached the stage, Feste beckoned them to come up. There were of course some new contestants, a few of them wearing designer clothes and looking more fit for ballet than twerking. And they guessed pretty soon the boys would be comparing guns for the chance of impressing a rich girl.

They let the girls introduce themselves one by one, leaving Titania for the last so she could remind everyone of the charity they were raising funds for. She was already a favorite without that, and her association to a good cause only gave the crowd more reason to root for her. Titania got more cheers and howling than any other, which was no surprise, but it was always fun to get to that result.

When the contest was finished, people spread more evenly over the club, and Feste was able to see Big Hair waving at them and pointing. It was Malvolio. They started laughing, fortunately they weren't so noticeable behind the equipment.