Chapter 1: Enough
They're not hiding. They just keep their private lives private.
Inspired by the last photoshoot.
It’s been a year now that they exchanged these rings.
Before they film, they put them back into the velvet box. Their private life is private, not for public entertainment.
Before they leave the flat, they put them back into the velvet box. They will get recognized, and it’s impossible to hide their hands from all the prying eyes and phones.
Before they visit their families, they put them back into the velvet box. They didn’t ask anyone’s permission to put a ring on this unlabelled relationship, but they are still afraid of disapproval.
It’s been a year, and this time, Eddy does not put the ring into the velvet box. Instead, he slams it into the floor, slams the door, and screams that he is done being a secret.
Brett gives him an hour to cool off, and then he follows him. He kisses Eddy’s blotchy eyes, and the ring on his finger, and holds him while they both cry for a bit.
And then they stop. Because really, what do they have to cry about? They have “the talk”, again, and they decide, again, that it is too early. Their private life is private.
But three days later, before they start filming, there is another velvet box. Brett opens it, and puts the small, silver rose around Eddy’s neck. Eddy cries for a bit.
He wears it while filming, out and proud and open for everybody to see.
He wears it at home, under his t-shirt, and he can feel the warm metal against his chest when his mum talks to him about grandchildren.
He wears it for their photoshoot, standing out against the dark clothes, in full view of the limelight.
It’s not enough. But it’s enough for now.
Chapter 2: Teeth
How did Eddy, son of a dentist, end up with such an interesting set of teeth?
I think Eddy's teeth are super cute, and I got really upset when someone called them crooked piano keys on the "roast us" video. But then I wondered, didn't he mention that his father was a dentist?
This is a work of fiction. My apologies to the Chen family for dragging them into my strange musings.
Eddy is quiet. Well, he is always quiet, but right now, he is extra quiet. It’s 2 am in the morning, and he should have been sleeping for hours.
He hopes his parents are sleeping already, but no such luck. He can see the light through the gap of the kitchen door, and stops dead as he hears his mum speaking.
“… you finally have to do something about it. What will people say? The son of a dentist, and teeth like that…”
So it’s that again. The braces. Just hearing the word in his head makes him flinch. He is gangly and spotty and nerdy and shy and plays the violin. Isn’t that enough? But then, he gets bullied anyway, so who cares about the reason.
His mum has finally finished, and now it’s his dad speaking.
“…nothing wrong with his teeth. I double-checked. It’s a useless procedure, and it hurts. Every four weeks, when the pain gets better, he’ll be back at the orthodontist, getting the braces adjusted. Three years, maybe four. Three years of pain, for someone’s idea of beauty. And sometimes, the teeth just move back afterwards. It’s not worth it.”
“It is worth it. Even if it is four years, after four years, it is over…”
The voice of his mother is getting very quiet, and he cannot understand his dad's answer at all. So he tiptoes towards the door and peeks through the gap.
His parents are hugging. It’s a strange sight, but Eddy guesses they must do this sometimes. They got married, after all, and two kids, and Eddy does not want to think further in that direction.
Nothing happens for a while, and he considers sneaking back to his room. But this is about his teeth, and he wants to know what they decide. Finally, his mum steps away from his father and sits back down.
“It is right. He needs to learn and work hard, he can not be in pain all the time. No need for pretty teeth to become a doctor.”
His dad is laughing.
“You never know. You got yourself a dentist with your teeth. Maybe Eddy will get me a successor for my practice.”
The conversation seems over, and Eddy slips away before he gets caught. He’s not sure which idea is worse, becoming a dentist or marrying a dentist. On the other hand, having a dad who’s a dentist is pretty good, so maybe they’re good marriage material as well. Able to support a starving artist and such.
But for now, he’s mainly happy that the discussion about braces is done. He gets his earphones and starts the Debussy CD. Maybe he’ll be able to sleep now.
Chapter 3: Pretty Eddy
Pretty, pretty Eddy. A gazillion of fans see it. Brett sees it, for sure. Eddy dosen't.
A piece of sweet, sappy, self-indulgent writing.
Because I hate it when Eddy uses the beauty filters. I mean, he does as he likes, but there is just no need.
The room still stinks of durian as Brett comes back, even so Eddy has opened all the windows and is wildly conducting the air to move outwards.
“Bro, give it up, let’s just leave everything and clean up tomorrow, once the stench’s improved a bit.”
When Eddy steps out of the bathroom, toothbrushed and showered and thoroughly de-duriand, he suddenly rememberers. There was something he needed to ask.
“So why were you crying on Thursday? I hadn’t noticed.”
Eddy shrugs. “Nah, nothing important. Sad storyline in the Chinese drama, you remember?
He sits down on the couch, and Brett can smell the citrus fragrance of their shampoo.
Brett frowns. “But wasn’t that Wednesday, when we were watching the Chinese drama?”
Eddy nods, and snuggles against Brett’s side. “Yeah, but that was after midnight. So technically, it's already Thursday.”
Something is off, Brett can tell. So he puts an arm around Eddy’s shoulders and pulls him close.
“I know it was late on Wednesday, because for once, we went to bed together. I didn’t realize you cried that evening.”
Eddy doesn’t answer for a while.
Now Brett is worrying. “Don’t you wanna tell me?” he asks softly.
He can feel Eddy nodding against his shoulder, but he doesn’t say a word.
“Was it Thursday morning then?”
There is a loud whine. Eddy is crying. It’s ugly, with sobs and tears and snot all over his face. So Brett gets up, turns to Eddy and sits down in his boyfriend's lap. He wraps his arms around him, brushes his hair, and makes soothing noises as he holds Eddy’s head against his shoulder.
“It’s okay,” Brett says. “It’s okay, let it go, I’m here, I’m here, just let it go.”
He lets Eddy cry. Trying to stop the flood of tears will only make it worse, and Eddy will talk once he has calmed down.
Once Eddy’s breathing is even again, he tries.
“What happened on Thursday morning, Eddy?”
Eddy takes a deep breath. “I got up late.”
“Yeah, you did.” Brett smiles. “As always. I take that into account when scheduling. So what went wrong?”
“I got up, and I told you, just a quick shower, 10 minutes, and then I will be ready Eddy.”
Eddy is still hiding his face, speaking against Brett’s shoulder.
“And then you said: “Ready Eddy, pretty Eddy, never gonnna happen. ””
Eddy is crying again.
“You always said that, in my mind, pretty Eddy. And then, then, ...”
Brett keeps stroking Eddy’s hair.
“That’s why it took you so long to finish that morning.”
Eddy nods. “Hey, I know I’m the ugly one. It’s just, if not even your boyfriend thinks you’re pretty, a guy has the right to cry a bit in the shower.”
Brett slowly disentangles them, so he can see Eddy’s face. It’s red and blotchy and tired, and the acne is especially bad right now, and it is the most beautiful thing Brett has ever seen.
“You should have seen yourself that morning, Eddy. Your hair was wild, and your eyes were so soft, and you smiled at me. And I thought that as long as I got to see you like that, I would never mind how late you ended up getting out of bed.”
He carefully wipes away some stray tears from Eddy’s cheeks.
“That’s why I called you pretty Eddy. Not to mock you. My pretty Eddy.”
Eddy groans and closes his eyes.
“I hope you also don’t mind me always being a stupid cry baby”
Brett shakes his head.
“Nah, it’s not stupid to cry. It was a stupid misunderstanding.”
He hesitates for a moment.
“Next time, you know, you can come to me. Instead of the bathroom. If you want to.”
Eddy nods. “I will. Probably.”
He looks into Brett’s eyes. “Will you tell me again?”
Brett puts his hand against Eddy’s cheek and gives him a radiant smile. “I love you, my pretty, pretty Eddy.”
He leans forward against Eddy’s chest, and feels Eddy’s arms around him, holding him tight.
“I love you too.” He hears Eddy whisper. “I love you so much, my Bretty bae.”
Chapter 4: Tuning
Motivated by teacher!Brett tuning the violin of student!Brett in their recent tiktok. Which was just so heart-warming, uwu. Just switching in student!Eddy.
The doorbell rings at three past five, and professor Yang buzzes his student in. Eddy sneaks in on his socks and apologizes for being late. Again. He builds his music stand and hands his violin to professor Yang.
Who does not take it. Instead, he crosses his arms and shakes his head. “No Eddy, you need to tune your violin yourself from now on.”
Eddy is still holding his violin out towards the profesor, as if he hadn’t heard him speak.
“Eddy, what will you do in your FSRM exam next month? Ask the judges to tune for you?”
Saying that, he is suddenly wondering how Eddy managed all this time. Maybe one of his fellow students was tuning for him?
Eddy looks crestfallen. He holds the violin against his neck, but is making no attempt to start tuning.
Professor Yang tries to be encouraging. “It’s ok if it’s difficult in the beginning. You have time to practice.”
He gets out his electric tuner, and sets the A to 441 Hz.
“Here, you can use this for the A-string. You passed all these aural exams, you should easily be able to tune the rest of the strings by ear. Turning the pegs just takes a bit of practice, and you have two fine-tuners anyway.”
Eddy gives his professor a long look. Then he closes his eyes and tunes his violin. It takes barely twenty seconds, and the strings produce a sweet, harmonious chord, with the A perfectly in tune.
Professor Yang isn’t sure what to say. It’s ridiculous. For how long has he been playing personal tuning assistant for Eddy? He takes a deep breath and channels his best “disappointed teacher” voice.
“Well. I see you already know how to tune. That’s all the better, then we have more time for your pieces.”
Eddy is nodding
“And you will tune yourself from now on. Start with the first piece.”
Maybe his voice is sharper than necessary, but Professor Yang does not like being fooled by his students. Not even when they take the FSRM at thirteen. Especially when they take the FSRM at thirteen.
The piece is a mess. No, that’s not true. The piece is fine, it was already fine last week. Eddy is a mess. He is getting sharper and sharper, and soon his right hand is shaking so badly that the professor can barely make out the notes. This is not helpful.
“Okay, stop here for a moment.” Professor Yang interrupts Eddy, who is clearly focusing all his energy on not crying.
He holds out his hand. “There is something off with your intonation, maybe it’s the tuning. Let me check.”
Eddy looks bewildered, but hands the violin over. Professor Yang takes it, turns around and spends two minutes adjusting and re-adjusting the pegs of the perfectly in tune violin. Then he gives it back to Eddy.
“Give it a try now,” he says.
Eddy carefully draws the bow over the strings, and his hand is steady enough so that they can both hear that the violin is still very much in tune.
“Better?” Professor Yang asks.
Eddy nodes. His eyes are blotchy, but his face is relaxed. “Yes. Thank you, Professor Yang.”
“Good. Then let’s start again. From the top.”
One week later, the bell rings at two minutes to five. Eddy sneaks in, in socks, and apologizes for being late. It’s probably a habit, the Professor thinks.
When Eddy starts to set up, he holds out his hands, eyebrows raised in expectation. Eddy seems a bit suspicious, but hands him the violin. It only takes a few seconds to adjust the strings. He gives the instrument back to Eddy and asks him to check if it is fine.
Eddy plays a few notes and his face lights up. He gives the professor a big smile and then plays more chords, getting lost in the music. He looks as if the Professor had swept his barely adequate instrument for a real Stradivarius, instead of making a tiny, really unnecessary adjustment to the G-string.
Professor Yang keeps looking at his student and smiles to himself. Everything to keep them practising.
Chapter 5: Tchaik
Yes, I know, there are already a gazillion of Tchaik!Eddy fics out there. But how can you not write fic about this beautiful, beautiful scene? It had to be done :D
“Let me try something else,” Eddy had said. Such a short, harmless sentence.
“Let me try something else,” when they were finalizing the Tchaik dialogue after the quarantine.
“Let me try something else,” and he had kissed Brett, firmly on the lips, before running away, because this was the nineteenth century.
No matter how many days, and then weeks have passed since they decided against this version (keeping it PG), it’s stuck in Brett’s mind. The kiss. And his own line.
“Everyone deserves an equal opportunity at love.”
This is the twenty-first century, and so one evening he tells Eddy:
“Let me try something.”
He lifts his hand to Eddy’s face and kisses him, firmly, on the lips.
“I think I’m in love,” he says.
Eddy smiles. And kisses him back.
Chapter 6: Quarantine
Not sure why, but Eddy seems especially beautiful at the start of this tiktok: Pretty Eddy
He’s so pretty. With his glasses off and his messy bed hair. With his pink, shiny lips, and such a peaceful expression on his face.
Brett sighs. He has been staring at the still of Eddy’s latest tiktok repeatedly today.
“Only one more week,” he tells himself.
“Half the time’s already over, and then you can see him again. All day, all the time.”
Brett’s finger is hovering over the screen. He wants to touch it, to stroke Eddy’s face. But that would just break the spell and start the video. No more sleeping Eddy.
Annoyed, he throws his phone on the bed. Useless. And even after the quarantine ends, what would he do? Stroke Eddy’s face? Break the spell? At the risk of no more Eddy? No.
Brett sighs again and considers throwing himself on the bed as well, just lying around and wallowing in his misery.
But that won’t help either. He knows that from experience. So instead, he gets his violin. The Mendelssohn won’t practice itself.
When Eddy sees his name, he steps forward immediately. Your name, your turn, that’s how it always is. He steps forward towards the bell, and stops with an audible "Fuck".
Because today it’s a different game, and it’s not his turn. He is up for interpretation, and he stops himself, just in time. What to play? He tilts his head, l thinking whether it would be odd to play Claire de Lune twice in a row, looking at Brett for help, asking him:
“What piece? What piece for me?”
And of course, of course Brett comes through. He smashes the bell, gets his violin and says:
“Oh, but this is a vote”.
It hits Eddy like the hot, moist air when you step out of the plane in Singapore. He knows. Of course, he knows. He tries to make light of it, telling the camera:
“I’m going to vote no”
But Brett puts on his serious face, and the violin to his chin, and Eddy can’t look away. And when g rings out clear and cold but with that sweet vibrato, Brett has tried to copy from Heifetz for more than fifteen years.
He keeps his gaze straight, away from Eddy. And after three bars, he stops and calls for a vote. Because they are in a room full of strangers playing a game, with a camera pointed at them.
So he keeps the show going, maybe a bit too much, because really, will the fans believe that? That it makes him think of Sibelius? What does Eddy think when he hears that G? Tchaikovsky. 3 Mil. Charades. Getting back the Chen swag, putting himself out there, and just playing, because he can.
No one here will get it, not even Zach who charmed Edwina and the fans with his pretty smile and voice and who is, maybe, also their friend by now. They are all good people, and good musicians, but they are so young, and they know so very little.
But that’s okay. They might, with time. Or not. As long as Brett is here, and Brett knows, it’s all fine.
Chapter 8: A ring
Brett's started to wear a ring.
So, Brett is wearing a ring in their new photos. Eddy isn't. (Well at least we don't see)
It's all for esthetic reasons. Fan service. Of course.
Brett can feel it all through the calluses of his fingers. The blue velvet of the box. The cool metal of the ring, and the ridges of the pattern.
“For better, for worse”, he thinks, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.”
He remembers the trite words from all those wedding gig, when they were just filling the gap between canon in D and eine kleine.
But now? They kick off an avalanche of memories.
Eddy holding his hand in the ambulance during their first trip to the hospital, his voice so calm and reassuring, because one of them had to keep it together.
Eddy, coming back from his extended practice break with a massive grin and two massive bubble teas and a massive hole in his wallet because the amazing new bubble tea shop that sold one liter bubble teas was expensive like hell.
Eddy, buying them bubble tea with his share of their first busking money.
Eddy in a wheelchair, telling Brett that this was it, there was nothing left for him, and Brett throwing himself at Eddy and making him promise, promise to hang on, because Brett was there, and what would he do without Eddy?
Eddy getting shit from all their friends for the “haha, look, I can walk” shit Brett made him pull on their friends.
Eddy, pale and exhausted and crying, between the second violin parts and the editing and flying to Brett in Sidney all the time.
Eddy, suddenly looking like a grown man instead of a scrawny boy, thanks to that gym routine he was following for a while.
Eddy, who would finally be able to play his beloved piano in Singapore next year, because Brett had a bank account labeled ‘Eddy’s baby grand’, and the numbers on it started to look pretty decent.
Eddy, hugging him so tightly the night they met their Kickstarter goal.
“I love you.” Eddy had said to him.
“I love you.” In front of everyone in the livestream.
But Brett has places to be, so he puts the ring on his finger, grabs his Jacket and heads out.
“To love and to cherish, until parted by death.”
“It’s done,” Brett thinks. “Now everybody can see.”
For once, Eddy is already there. Dressed up and silhouetted by a blue sky, and looking like he just stepped out of a K-pop video. So incredibly pretty.
“Looking smooth, bro” he greets Brett. “What’s up with the ring?”
Brett bites his lip. He knew the question would come, and he knows what to answer.
“Remember the Jupiter hoodie shots?” he says casually. “The rings went down pretty well, so I thought I’d give it another go.”
Eddy grins. “Twitter’s going to be so chaotic.”
Brett shrugs his shoulders and walks towards the camera people. He has places to be, and there are things to be done.