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The New Guy

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They had a party to celebrate Andrew’s release, of course. Feste took care of the beats, Toby was in charge of the guest list, and Maria arranged everything else, as usual. By the time Andrew got to Toby’s, late in the afternoon, accompanied by Balthazar, his lawyer, there was steak being grilled, music playing, topless girls in the swimming pool, whisky and beer for everyone.

“Hey, everyone,” Toby shouted, getting up on a chair. “Our guest of honor is here. A big round of applause for Andrew.” Everyone cheered and clapped hands on command. Andrew opened a big smile, waving at them. When the cheering died down, Toby went on: “And let’s not forget Balthazar here, who always gets us out, sooner or later. Show him some love.” They cheered for him. From atop his chair, Toby called: “Andrew, come here, I need to give you a hug. Guys, now Andrew is here, we can really get this party started. Beast, hand over the plate. Feste, music!”

They each did their part, and the party went on. Feste only got hold of the plate when Andrew himself came over to say hello, carrying it wherever he went, which really made him the most sought after person in the place.

“Welcome back, man,” Feste said, giving him a hug. “It’s good to be back.” “What? You didn’t like your vacation?”

Andrew laughed, and then shrugged. “The guys were ok, but the food was shit.”

Feste laughed. “I’ll use that in a song.”

He handed them the plate, and while Feste did a line, said: “People were telling me this weird story about you and I being a couple.” His voice raised in the end, like a question.

Feste had to turn their face quickly, lest they would start laughing directly onto the plate and ruin everyone else’s fun. “I thought people would let it die! So much stuff went down since. Did they show you the cartoons?” Andrew shook his head. “No? That’s my favorite part. Let me find one.”

Andrew was worried about the wrong kind of thing: finding out who had started the trend, and if people believed that was true. Feste shrugged. “Who knows? But don’t you think I make for a hot princess?” They showed him the cartoon again.

“That’s a weird armor I’m wearing,” Andrew observed. “Why is it shaped like that?”

Feste had never paid attention to the rest of the art before, and looked at it to conclude: “You’re a spaniard.” That’s when Feste realized: “You’re Don Quijote!” They couldn’t control the new round of laughter.

Andrew just pressed his eyebrows together, looking confused. “Who?”

Feste didn’t bother with explanations. “You see? This person doesn’t think it’s true.” Andrew's forehead wrinkled even more, as he narrowed his eyes. “Never mind,” they said, noticing some girls coming towards Andrew (or the plate), and made a final line.

By eleven o’clock, Toby asked Feste if they had the mic ready for a big announcement he wanted to make at midnight. They assured him whenever he needed it, it would be ready. A minute begofe midnight, Toby was there. Feste stopped the music, and gave him the mic.

“Good night, everyone. Thank you all for coming. I have a few words I’d like to tell you. Where’s Andrew?” He waved from the swimming pool. “Andrew, now it’s past midnight, so your release was yesterday. Today is about something else.” There was silence from everyone. Toby looked at the crowd. “Where’s Maria?”

She had the plate in her hand, and a straw up one nostril when she noticed everyone was looking at her.

“I’m making a big speech here, and you don’t listen?” Toby complained, sounding just a little too offended for it to be honest.

“You’re always making some big speech.”

He looked away for a moment. “Is that true?” he mumbled, and the mic picked it up, making people laugh. “The speech!” Feste reminded him, in a loud whisper.

“Yeah! Yeah! We’re getting off topic here. So… Maria… will you marry me?” People cheered and howled. All she did was stare at him. “I’m serious!” said Toby, who knew what her looks meant.

Her face became one huge smile. “Yes! Of course!” she shouted, hugging whoever was closest. The people cheered even louder, and Toby went to her.

Feste selected an upbeat song to go with the celebration, and the party went on until sunrise.

They checked their phone in the afternoon, still in bed, to discover that Oberon was looking for them. He had met with the other organizers of Faerie Experience, and they had agreed Feste was in. All they needed to do to make it official was to sign the contract. Feste didn’t like bureaucracy, and didn’t know why those guys needed a contract for a one time gig, but they remembered Oberon saying they liked keeping things professional, and figured that was it.

“Should I come over?” they texted. Oberon didn’t read it immediately, so Feste left the phone there, and went to the bathroom to get ready for the day.

When they came out, they put on black tights, a plaid skirt, and black t-shirt with short sleeves, which they shortened even more by folding them, so the entirety of their arms showed. The look asked for some make-up, so Feste was taking care of that, when their phone buzzed.

Oberon’s reply read: “I don’t have the contract, that’s with Phil. Come over whenever you feel like.” And there was Phil’s contact, so Feste texted him. He gave them an address, so Feste put on their combat boots, and left the room. Before they got outside, however, they met Maria.

“Look, it’s an engaged woman!” they said to no one.

A smile came to her face immediately. “Look what this engaged woman got,” she told them, showing off her brand-new diamond ring. Feste was impressed. That talk about Maria’s wedding reminded them of an old request: “Will you let me officiate your marriage? I promise I won’t try to outshine you.”

“Don’t be silly!” She waved a dismissive hand in the air. “I was thinking of asking Big Titania to do it. Toby and I both like her. But after what I did, I don’t think I have the nerve to ask.”

Feste bounced their head right and left considering the idea. “Now that you mention it, Big Titania does sound like a more respectable choice. Does she know it was you?”

Maria shrugged. “I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, or Toby. Things never stay secret.”

“Why don’t you pay someone to take the blame?” Feste threw the idea out there for Maria’s consideration.

“I don’t like it. I may have to do that, but I don’t like it.”

“Well, I could try to find out how mad Titania really is about it. If it’s not too bad, then you can come clean about it,” they suggested.

Maria considered it. “Ok, let’s try that. If it doesn’t work, you could take the blame for me.”

“Oh, come on, not me! Can’t we blame it on someone else? How about one of those kids who make gifs and cartoons?”

“Don’t be so low, Feste. I can’t trust any of those kids not to babble when Titania gets mad at them.”

“And you trust me?” they scoffed.

“I wouldn’t choose a bridesmaid I don’t trust.”

She waited for Feste to realize what she had just said with a smug smile on her lips. “Me?” She confirmed it with a nod. “Thanks!” Feste hugged her. “This is going to be the best wedding ever!”

*

When Feste borrowed one of Toby’s bikes, and set out to find the address Phil had sent them, they didn’t realize it was the same beach house they’d been to a few days earlier. There, they found Phil sitting alone on the porch, ignoring a beautiful sunset in favor of the book in his hand.

“Yo, Phil.” The guy looked up, and put his book down when he saw Feste, standing up next, and walking towards them.

“Good afternoon,” he said in a calm voice, that was nothing like the last time they’d seen him. “Let’s go inside, and get those papers signed. Feste nodded, and followed him into the house.

“I didn’t realize this place was yours. I thought it was Theseus’ for some reason,” Feste commented to fill the silence.

“It is Theseus’, I’m just staying here until we’re done with the Faerie business,” Phil explained.

They got to the living-room, where the contract waited for Feste on the coffee table. Phil went through the papers with them, explaining what it said, and showing Feste where to sign.

When that was done with, Phil changed the subject. “I want to ask you something. I was listening to your music the other day, and I got to this.” He hit play during a five second guitar solo in the middle of an electronic remix they’d done for a friend’s funk song. “Why isn’t this its own song?”

Feste laughed. “It is.” There was a guitar hanging on the wall, so they took it. “Let me show you.” They had to tune in the guitar, which delayed the demonstration. “Just a moment.” When it was finally done, they started playing. At first, Phil looked curious, but a minute or so into the song, he opened a big smile and started bouncing his head. Feste rather enjoyed being responsible for the change in his demeanor . “Love in Idleness, by Robin Goodfellow,” they informed, putting the guitar down.

“It’s great. Why haven’t I heard this before?”

Feste snickered at the hint of outrage they could detect in his voice. “Copyright issues,” they told him, certain he wouldn’t care for the long version of the story.

He looked up the song. “Is this the one?” Feste nodded. It was an almost fifty year-old recording, and it showed, which bothered Phil. “This was taken from a vinyl,” he observed. “Why isn’t there a remastered version?”

“Copyright issues,” Feste repeated. Phil kept looking at them with his brow creased in doubt. “You look like you want to know the story behind it,” Feste observed, already amused just by thinking about it. Phil just nodded, saying nothing. “Fine, fine, here’s some ancient gossip. So, there was this trio made of Robin, Dodo, and Mustardseed. Now, I never met this Mustardseed, but he was the rhythmic guitar, and I took his place last week when we played. So, I only know the version of the story that Robin told me, but the guy went mainstream, and took the credit for all the work in most partnerships he had been in before he got famous. They had more than one fight about that. According to Robin, it was really about honor, not royalties. I’m not entirely sure what that’s an euphemism for, but I do know they put Peaseblossom in his place, but I never met him, either. I think what they did was they kicked his ass, and never took the legal route. And that’s why there isn’t a remastered version of Love in Idleness.” Phil stared at them, with his brow still furrowed, and his mouth slightly open, which made Feste realize they’d been talking for too long. “Hum, can I have some water?”

“Sure.” Phil composed his face, and led the way to the kitchen. “You said you played with these guys?”

Feste told him about the music festival in Illyria, in the kitchen, and when they were done telling him about it, he asked another question: “How do you know those guys?” The answer to that question invited another, and then another. A mood that was only intensified when they started blazing. They smoked and talked for a long time.

It was nighttime when Feste started feeling too tired to go on with the conversation. “I’m so hungry,” Phil complained, while going through his phone. Feste didn’t notice what he was doing, until Phil stood up, and told them to come along. “Our car is here.”

“Car? Where are we going?” they asked, standing up. “Eating,” Phil said, with a shrug, leading the way outside.

Once they were in the car, Phil became quiet and serious again, which Feste suspected was because he didn’t want the driver to hear their conversation, for whatever reason. “Where are we eating?”

“Athens,” Phil said. “That far?” Feste asked, misunderstanding it on purpose. It took the guy a second. “No, Athens, the restaurant.”

“And what kind of food do they serve in Athens, the restaurant?”

Phil gave them a smug grin. “The best kind of food: free.”

Feste laughed. “Man, I already like that place.”

Athens was a small place with subtle lighting and an indoor garden. The kind of place in which the staff had to dress up. The best dressed one even came to their table to act all obliging to Phil. When the two of them were alone again, Feste asked: “Does your family own this place?”

Phil laughed. “My family? No. He’s a friend, the owner, I mean. Anyway, what do you want to drink?”

They were both very drunk by the time they got back to Phil’s, and ended up sleeping on the same bed.

When they woke up, in the afternoon, Phil had the idea that the ocean would help cure their hangover. So the two of them took a swim.

Feste figured it was time to leave after they had a shower to get rid of the salt. But they found Phil in the kitchen, cooking for both of them, which convinced Feste to stay and eat with him.

“Can you play that song again?” he asked, when they had finished their food.

Feste played Love in Idleness again, and when the song was over they were right back at the same conversation as the night before, which mostly revolved around their relationship with Robin and how he had decided to make them his pupil.

Feste and Phil kept talking into the night, and when the two of them realized how late it was, he suggested: “We should do something.” So they took him to the comedy club where Nick would present that night.

After the show, they hung out with Nick for a little, and he was still in the company of Peter Quince, with whom he had the weirdest talks that not even Feste could follow, and that was saying a lot, considering how well they knew each other. The four of them had drinks for about an hour and then parted ways.

“I choose our next stop,” Phil said, as he got them a car.

The place was a hybrid of bookstore and burger joint, that Feste thought tried a little too hard to look underground in a wealthy neighborhood, but the burgers were really fine, and they found out in the end that it was another one of those places where Phil ate for free. “You’re full of connections, aren’t you?” they observed.

Phil shrugged. “Don’t you have friends that don’t charge you for what they do?”

Now that he mentioned it, they realized it wasn’t so different from their own experience. “Well, there’s Toby and Maria, real patrons of the art, those two.” They told him a little about the parties in Illyria, which got Phil curious, so he started asking many follow-up questions, and they unsurprisingly led him to the conclusion: “I want to go to one of those parties.”

They ended the second night like they had the first, on Phil’s bed, but only for sleep. He woke them up at the end of the next morning, to say he had to leave for a meeting. Feste decided to go back to Illyria, before Maria started making wedding plans without them.

There was a lot of bustle going on in the mainstreet, so Feste went to Monkey to see what was going on.

“Hardware for Maria’s wall, they’re all helping to get it up there,” the boy explained. Feste nodded, glad to see things were happening. “Have you heard? Malvolio was officially removed to another precinct. Duke called Toby and everything.”

Feste loved the news. “Toby must be so happy! I hope the next guy is more easy-going.”

They decided it was a good time to check on Titania. Fortunately, it was a slow hour in the salon, so it was simply a matter of getting Titania to do their nails, which always involved a lot of talking.They brought up Malvolio’s removal, and commented: “I know you must be pissed at what happened. But at least we don’t have to deal with him anymore.”

Maya, who was sitting by, waiting for a client to show up, rolled up her eyes and shook her head. “I don’t think you’re upset enough about this,” she told her friend, clearly in reference to some earlier conversation Feste had missed.

“I was,” Titania told her, and Feste could infer from her tone, she wasn’t explaining that to Maya for the first time. “I wanted to find who started this. But now…”

“What happened?” Feste was curious.

Before Titania even answered, Maya, who already knew what her friend was going to say, was already rolling her eyes up again. “You know how that video was all over Twitter the other day? Do you have any idea how many new subscribers that got me? I’m not mad anymore. If only that happened every time I have to put up with some crazy guy!”

Maria was very relieved when Feste reported to her what they’d heard. The two of them spent the next few hours looking up wedding dresses. It was a difficult quest. By the time Feste got a text from Oberon, asking if they were going to Tambourine Joe’s party that night, the dress hunting had only decided on what was an absolute no, and hardly touched the maybes. Maria, however, said she would keep them informed.

The party at Joe’s was the same as usual: people playing and singing around the big table, and some more sitting by the small ones. Feste had considered inviting Cesario, because they’d had fun last time, but they postponed the task of calling them, already suspecting a no, but what they got in response was a little more elaborate than a simple no: Cesario's new relationship status was interesting, to say the least. And that meant they arrived at the party alone.

They looked around, wondering if Oberon was there, or maybe Dodo, and found an unexpected sight: Dodo and Harry were sitting with Robin and Oberon Senior.

Feste walked up to them and was invited to sit, after some hugs. “I thought your grandson would come,” they told Oberon senior, escaping the hand the old man brought to one of their braids.

“He is, but he said he has to pick up a friend first.”

Feste nodded in understanding, figuring he was bringing Titania along. “You’re the last person I expected to see here,” they told Robin.

The old man gave them a twitch of his lips that didn’t really pass for a smile. “I agree with every word you just said, kid.” And shook his head.

“I see you brought your baby,” Feste pointed out Robin’s guitar, which was sitting there. “Are you here for business?” They checked him out again to make sure he wasn’t wearing his white linen suit. No, Robin wore a simple navy-blue and white striped t-shirt that fit him surprisingly well, and a new corduroy.

The rest of the table chuckled at their question, so their assumption was probably way off. “I’m here attending to countless requests,” Robin said, in grumpy evasion, as he sometimes did. “By which he means one,” Dodo said, eyeing Oberon for a moment. Feste chuckled.

Robin interrupted Feste’s nodding to add: “Also, Joe’s recording tonight, so we,” he pointed to himself and Dodo, “agreed to celebrate that Mustardseed won’t see a cent no matter what we play.” Feste laughed, and nodded with even more concurrance than before.

“It’s not the only reason,” Oberon senior said, with a note of disapproval in his voice. “Tell Feste why you’re really here.”

They would have laughed at Robin’s grimace, but his words implied they had something to do with the answer, so Feste simply stared at their teacher expectantly. Robin sighed, and rolled up his eyes. “The word out there is that Joe wants to record with you tonight.” He sounded particularly annoyed at having to explain that, to the point that he didn’t notice how worried Feste got at the news, and just went on. His next sentence came out a lot more angry than its content: “My pupil is not going mainstream without my witnessing.”

The other three laughed, and applauded Robin sarcastically. “You know what this is? Emotional maturity,” Dodo made fun of Robin to Harry, who wasted no time continuing it: “Yes, sometimes he even sounds like an adult.”

They all laughed, except for Feste, who was still processing the news. “Wait, wait, wait.” They grabbed their teacher’s wrist. “Record? But we didn’t rehearse.”

Robin scoffed. “Joe’s more about quantity than quality.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s how you make the kid feel better,” Harry said, throwing Robin an angry look. And then to Feste: “Don’t worry, you did great last time. Just try not to get as drunk.”

“Thanks, Harry,” Feste said, pouring themself some whisky.

Robin dragged them along to the big table, when Joe invited him and Dodo. He told the host Feste was an official member of the trio, and their music would sound off without them.

“Perfect,” he said, before giving Feste that fake hand-kissing he did to women, that they had absolutely no idea how to respond to, and started giggling. “I was going to ask you to join us, anyway. I like what you did in Illyria.”

“Thanks,” they said, having a hard time keeping their drink down.

“Now, take a seat.” Feste obeyed, taking their good guitar out of the case.

“We did rehearse, didn’t we?” Robin reminded them, in a voice that was beyond performance jitters. “Why you’re looking so stiff? I know you’re nervous, but this is not the time to hope no one pays attention to you.” Feste nodded, aware that Robin was right. “Let’s have some fun.” And so they did.

They took a break after a few songs. “Can you get me a real drink?” Robin asked them.

By “real drink” he meant hard liquor, not beer, Feste already knew that. So they found some whisky for the two of them, and returned to their seat. “Cheers," they said. "To you," Robin drank.

Feste hadn't even put their glass down yet, when Robin, without any warning, started leaning over them, in an unusual invasion of their personal space, that made Feste back away. Finally, they realized Robin wanted to shake hands with the singer who had just taken the chair next to Feste. “Hello, darling. Robin Goodfellow, big fan.”

Feste forgot how to breathe when they realized it was a performer they had grown up listening to, and whom they had admired for years. They wanted to reprimand Robin for being so familiar to her, but to their surprise, despite Kay C’s tough looks and deep singing voice, she giggled like a little girl. “It’s the other way around,” she told him. All the while Feste was dying of jealousy.

Robin made them switch chairs with him, so he would sit next to Kay. They wanted very much to be included in the conversation, but the two of them were too busy discussing the song they’d do together. Feste, who refused to get over the fact they were being ignored, didn’t even have to think consciously about it, they started playing. The song also came to them without deliberation. It was already in their mind after having played it recently.

Love in Idleness got a reaction from its author. But not a positive one. “That’s too busy for idleness," he said, clearly offended at the misrepresentation of his song. "Keep it mellow.”

“My mind is very busy in idleness,” they replied, insisting on the faster tempo. Feste didn’t look up, but they could guess their teacher was shaking his head at the answer.

He waited until they were done to tell them: “It doesn’t serve its intended purpose when you play it like that.” “It kind of does,” Kay C defended them.

“No, no, no, I’m not saying it doesn’t sound good. I’m saying it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.”

“Which is?” she asked, very curious.

Robin smiled. “Seduction,” he said simply, but his hands were a lot more eloquent now his “real drink” was over. And to Feste: “You can’t rush seduction. I have never played that song looking at someone’s eyes and didn’t get laid. I’m serious, that one never failed me.”

“It didn’t work for me,” Feste shared, before realizing what Robin was so obviously going to say. “That’s because you’re playing it wrong. Don’t roll your eyes at me, I’m offering you gold here.”

Before Feste could roll their eyes at Robin again, Joe was back to the head of the table, saying intermission was over. Kay C sang with him, and they played. Robin’s solo made them want to stop playing, and just listen to him, but they kept going for the sake of the show. Everyone cheered him on, and applauded loudly when the song was over.

Robin took a bow, and told Joe: “Feste will take it from here.” And the host agreed, beckoning them over. They played a few songs, and when Joe asked them to sing with him, another took their place, playing the guitar.

When they left the table, feeling somewhat lost, Oberon III came over, and walked them to the smaller table. There, they saw he had brought Titania along, as expected, and also a face they didn’t expect: Phil’s.

He waited until the old men had said their well-meaning compliments to Feste’s performance, and shook their hand. “You did great,” he said. “Why don’t you have that kind of thing on your page?”

Feste laughed at the idea. “Because no one cares.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” he disagreed. Feste shrugged at a loss for words.

When Phil said he was going to step outside to have a smoke, Feste went with him. “I was talking to your teacher while you were playing,” he said, as the two of them crossed the gate. “He’s very interesting.”

“Well, I think so,” Feste agreed.

“He said I should play as your partner while I can, because you’re about to get very popular.”

Feste shook their head, amused. It sounded like Robin was trying to sell them to him, and they weren’t about to object. “What do you play?” they asked instead.

“I don’t. But he gave me that advice anyway.” They both laughed.

As they got high, the two of them talked about things to do, when the party was over. They went back inside for a while, where Feste was surprised to find Kay C sitting at their table, laughing at whatever those guys were telling her.

"There you are," she said, when Feste got there. "Can I have your number?"

"Sure," they said, and typed it on the phone she handed them.

"Are you free on tuesday? You could come rehearse with me."

"Of course," they agreed, nodding emphatically, stunned at the invitation.

"Great, I'll see you soon." She kissed Feste's cheek, and waved goodbye to the rest of the table.

The guys applauded Feste and started making predictions about their future as a mainstream artist, which was in part fun, but mostly it was disturbing, because they couldn't differentiate what was exaggeration and what was actually likely to happen at some point. So they poured some alcohol over those doubts, and felt a lot better.

When Phil went out for another smoke, Feste followed, and the two of them decided not to go back to the party. Instead they found a fast-food place, where they spent a good part of an hour doing art with ketchup and fries on their plates instead of eating.

Feste went home with Phil. They watched a horror movie together, making fun of it the entire time. It was almost morning when the credits rolled up. “One more before we call it a night,” Phil suggested, rolling another joint. Feste nodded, and picked up their guitar to make the process more pleasant.

As they strummed a few warm-up chords, Love in Idleness came back to their mind, which should be no surprise, after all, Phil had liked it so much. They were reminded of Robin’s words, and tried to keep it mellow. Their friend lifted his head from his work. “It sounds different tonight,” he observed.

“Robin said I was playing it wrong,” Feste explained, without stopping. That’s when the rest of their teacher’s words came back to them. As they played in a mellow tempo, looking back at Phil, who watched intently, Feste was reminded that the purpose of playing the song in that fashion was seduction.

Sure, they could stop making eye-contact with Phil, they could go back to playing the song at a faster tempo, but they just kept going. Neither one looked away. Beginning to enjoy the slower rhythm, Feste had no control over the smile that grew upon their face. Phil managed to roll the joint without looking at it, and his whole frame bounced subtly to the music, as he returned Feste’s smile.

“I like it better this way,” he said, once the song was over.

Yes, but are you seduced? Feste thought to themself. “Robin said I wasn’t playing it idle enough,” they told him instead.

Phil shrugged. “Makes sense.” After a moment of awkward silence, he looked away, and lit up the joint. He took a few drags, and passed it on to Feste without looking at their eyes. “You know what we should do?” He still didn’t look at Feste when he asked.

“What?” Phil looked at them with a smile that suggested something fun was on his mind. “What?” they asked again, when he kept smiling and said nothing.

“I’m going to kiss you now, ok?”

“Ok,” they agreed, amused that he was announcing it like that.

Their kiss had a spark that kept it going for much longer than most first kisses. They didn’t sleep together that night. They stayed awake, in each other’s company, instead.

For the next two weeks, Feste was back and forth from Illyria to Phil's, and sometimes rehearsing with Kay C and her band. By the end of those two weeks, Feste wished they had more time with Phil, but he had to follow Theseus to the south and help him with a club he was opening in a border city. He invited Feste to come along, and they would have, under different circumstances, but they had business to see to, not to mention Maria wedding.