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The Music of Love

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“And… done!” Mat flopped dramatically on the couch. “We’re officially moved in for the season!”

“We’ve barely unpacked,” Tito noted dryly.

“Oh, hush, you.” Mat grinned up at his boyfriend. “We carried in a whole lot of boxes. It’s a big accomplishment.”

Tito hummed. “I guess, when you put it that way.”

Mat stood up and walked to the corner of the room. “Let me play something for you!”

“Not ‘Wonderwall,’ please!”

Sitting back down with his guitar, Mat glared at Tito. “You hate that song so much I haven’t even bothered learning it.” His face softened as he began to play… something.

Tito had absolutely no idea what the song was supposed to be, but it didn’t sound particularly good. He tried to keep his expression neutral, but apparently failed at doing so, because Mat frowned. “It’s bad, eh?”

“You just need practice, babe,” Tito said, forcing himself to smile.

“I’ve been practicing as much as possible all summer!” Mat groaned. “It’s hopeless. I’ll never be the sexy guitarist of your dreams.”

“Good, because I don’t need you turning into Ebs.”

Mat’s eyes darkened. “I’m not the only man in my boyfriend’s dreams?”

“Oh, like you didn’t get the guitar because of him in the first place.”

“... True.”

Tito chuckled. “Oh, Mat, don’t pout. We can always make a seduction plan and go get our man.”

“Wait, what?” Mat blinked a few times. “Are you serious?”

“We’ve discussed this. More than once. I’ve always been in favor of bringing him in as a third.” Tito rested his hand on Mat’s shoulder. “I thought you were thinking about it?”

“I... well…” Mat gulped. “I don’t want things to be weird if he isn’t interested.”

“That’s a fair thing to worry about. But we’re all adults. I’m confident we can move on maturely if we have to.” Tito kissed his cheek. “And I will never leave you for him. You’re stuck with me.”

This made Mat visibly relax. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

Mat and Tito put their plan into action the following day by asking Ebs to lunch. He said yes, so they went out to one of their favorite spots.

Ebs was the first to speak: “How was your first summer as official lovebirds?”

“Not different from most summers,” Mat laughed. “We spent some time together, but most of it with our families.”

“Mat spent a lot of time playing guitar for me over Facetime,” Tito added, fluttering his eyelashes. “It was quite romantic.”

“Guitar, eh?” Ebs smiled. “You any good?”

“I like to think so,” Mat said, only to jolt when Tito kicked him. “But! I could probably use a few lessons, if you know anyone?”

“Not really, but…” Ebs scrunched his face, presumably in thought. “I guess I could give you a pointer or two?”

“Yeah!” Tito said, perhaps a little too enthusiastically judging by Ebs’ weird look. “A jam session at our new place! It’d be awesome!”

“Okay, let’s do it tomorrow afternoon,” Ebs said decisively.

Sure enough, Ebs came to Mat and Tito’s apartment the following afternoon. “I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me!” Tito informed the two guitarists as he left the den. He supposed Ebs thought he’d be cooking, but he was actually just eavesdropping through the shared wall.

“So, play through your chords,” Ebs said.

There was a pause, then some tentative strumming. “I tend to practice full songs, not chords by themselves,” Mat said.

“You really should practice chords - it’ll make picking up songs easier.” There was some more strumming, far less shaky than Mat’s. “Do that for, like, ten minutes a day, in addition to whatever songs.”

“Okay.” Mat played them again. “Do you want to hear me play a song?”

“Um… sure, unless it’s ‘Wonderwall,’ please.”

Tito held his breath so as not to laugh as Mat groaned. “First Tito, now you, too?!” He played the same song as the day before, which Tito still couldn’t recognize.

“Um…” Ebs said. “I have no idea what song that is, so I can’t offer much of a critique.”

“It’s ‘Baby’ by the Beebs!”

A few seconds of silence. “All I can say is that you need way more practice,” Ebs said solemnly. “And maybe an actually tolerable song.”

“Hey!” Mat squawked.

Tito could hear the couch squeak, so he went back into the den just in time to see Ebs standing up. “Leaving so soon?”

“We have plans for a decent foundation, don’t worry.” Ebs smiled softly. “Want me to come back in a week?”

“Okay,” Mat agreed. “Thanks, man.”

“No problem!” Ebs let Mat and Tito lead him to the door. “Bye!”

“Bye!” After the door closed, Mat sighed loudly. “I don’t like that I’m doing most of the work in this operation.”

“You’re not. You’re just giving us an excuse to hang out with him. I’ll get my flirting game on soon enough.”

“I know. I just hate practicing.”

“Do it for as long as he said and I’ll blow you.”

“... I hate that I’m going to do it.”

The following week, Tito once again excused himself to the kitchen while Mat and Ebs got settled on the couch. He smiled to himself when Mat played the chords with a great deal more confidence than in the previous week. “I’ve been practicing a fair amount,” Mat humble-bragged, prompting Tito to hold back a snort.

“Practice helps with most things,” Ebs said. “But please tell me you’ve been practicing a different song than last time.”

“Of course! I wouldn’t want you to be unhappy.” He began to play a song; Tito only knew what it was because he’d been the one to suggest it.

After Mat finished, there was silence for a few moments. Ebs cleared his throat. “I… have no idea what you just played.”

“It’s ‘New York, New York,’ obviously!” More silence. “Frank Sinatra! Or Liza Minnelli, if you swing that way?”

“Not particularly,” Ebs replied, confusion evident in his voice. “I think you need to practice the songs more, though you should keep practicing the chords just to keep your fingers nimble.”

“I can do that!” Mat said confidently.

Just like the previous week, Tito entered the den as soon as he heard Ebs getting up. “So? What’s the verdict?”

“I don’t understand your guys’ taste in music, but he’s making progress. I’ll come back next week?”

“That’d be awesome!” Tito said as he and Mat led Ebs to the door. “Bye!”

Once Ebs was gone, Mat groaned. “I still have no idea why you suggested that song.”

“Mostly for the ‘swing that way’ joke,” Tito admitted. “We should probably think of a love song for you to work on.”

“Yeah.” Mat paused. “Are you still going to reward me for practicing?”

“Practice and you’ll find out.”

A week later, Ebs arrived right on time. “You can stay in the room if you want,” he told Tito. “I trust you not to distract Mat, and it feels weird to kick you out of your own home.”

“I’ve just been in the kitchen, but I appreciate the thought,” Tito replied. “Mat, promise not to get distracted if I stay?”

“Obviously!” Mat scoffed in mock-annoyance. “I can do it for hockey, so of course I can do it for music!”

They all sat in the den. “Chords, Mat?” Ebs asked, looking a little less calm than usual.

“Chords, Ebs!” Mat began strumming, but stopped partway through when he made a mistake. “Sorry. It’s not Tito, I swear!”

“I believe you,” Ebs said kindly. “Just make sure you practice them some more. What song do you have?”

Mat proceeded to play the song. Tito really didn’t like it, which meant he didn’t mind that Mat wasn’t playing it all that well.

As per usual, Ebs blinked in confusion. “No idea what that was.”

“It’s ‘You Belong with Me’ by Taylor Swift,” Mat sighed. “I should probably start picking easier songs, eh?”

“Probably,” Ebs agreed.

Once Ebs left, Mat groaned. “He’s not getting it.”

“He will, babe,” Tito promised. “We just have to make it a bit more obvious.”

The following week, Mat and Tito made sure to dress up a little for the lesson with Ebs. When he arrived, he blinked in confusion, then asked, “Are you guys treating this as a date?”

“No, but Mat’s been working on a love song!” Tito grinned. “I think you’ll like it.”

Ebs blinked some more. “Um… okay… Are you planning to stay again this time?”

“Only if it’s still okay with you.”

“It’s fine!” Ebs sat down a little abruptly. “So, Mat, chords?”

“Oh, yeah!” Mat sat down next to Ebs and began strumming, noticeably more confident than the previous week. “What do you think?”

“Awesome, man!” Ebs grinned. “But please tell me that your idea of a love song isn’t Bieber.”

“Not for you,” Mat said, fake-pouting just a tad. “I went with something older.” He began to play the song, looking at Ebs a few times throughout.

Once the song was done, Ebs looked at Tito. “I wouldn’t have pegged you as a Beatles fan.”

“I mean, ‘Love Me Do’ is a classic,” Tito shrugged nonchalantly. “The real question is, did you like it?”

Ebs looked even more confused. “Um… the playing was good. I could tell you practiced, just like with the chords.”

Mat groaned. “I don’t have the patience for this!”

“Mat…” Tito warned.

“No! We’re cutting to the chase!” Mat took a deep breath. “Tito and I want to date you, Ebs. I started playing guitar because you can play guitar, and both of us like you a lot, so we decided to go for it gradually, but I don’t like you being so confused.”

Tito blinked. “... Yeah. What he said.”

Ebs blinked a few more times, then cleared his throat. “I’m very flattered, and I like you both a lot, so… yeah. I’ll date you two.”

“Hooray!” Mat set aside his guitar and gave Ebs a big smooch. “You won’t regret this!”

“Promise not to play ‘Wonderwall’ or Beebs and I’m sure of it.”