Pairing: Gian Carlo Menotti and Samuel Barber (because OMG SO TOTALLY MARRIED YEEE!)
Rating: G. Very, very G. Sorry.
Summary: Set in 1935 during the start of their years in Italy, just after meeting with the Duchess that inspired Amelia e ballo and before the completion of that and the "Adagio for Strings." AKA, about one or two years post-college. Enjoy?
"Stringiamoci a corte, siam pronti alla morte…"
"Shhh! You’ll wake someone!"
The peaceful, secluded cottage by the lake was silent in the moonlight as the two figures staggered towards it. It was a very good thing that there was a path leading to the front door: it was obvious that without it, they very well might have fallen into the lake and drowned by mistake.
The shorter figure suddenly let out a snort. "Like the rabbits. You're disturbing the rabbits, how about that!"
The tall, thin singer broke into a fit of laughter, attempted to bow, and fell heavily against his companion instead. "Viva Italia," he muttered as he spread his arms wide and righted himself with only a little difficulty. "Here, even the rabbits sing."
"You should most certainly not," his friend chided with a lopsided grin. "Stick to composing, Gian Carlo."
"I hardly ever sing," the Italian retorted. "You should encourage me in this newfound interest."
"I seem," the other man commented mildly, "to have lost my keys!"
This struck Gian Carlo as infinitely hilarious and he leaned against the walls of the cottage, laughing hysterically. His friend continued to search his pockets with a look of confusion on his handsome face until Gian Carlo managed to stop laughing long enough to gasp, "Is the door even locked, Sam?"
Samuel pushed against the door ineffectively. "It won't open," he complained, and Gian Carlo collapsed in laughter again.
It took some time before the two young composers managed to remember which way the door handle turned, and the moment the door swung open they all but fell into the tiny cottage. Gian Carlo managed to drape himself over the arm of one of the armchairs on his way down, and pulled himself to light the table lamp beside it. It took a supreme amount of focus and he relaxed gratefully down into the embrace of the worn chair immediately afterward. "I think," he pronounced carefully, "that I may be more than a little bit drunk."
"You are completely drunk," Samuel corrected as he sank into the accompanying armchair only a bit crookedly. "I can barely understand you through the accent."
"Va a cagare, Sam."
"Stop that. You know I only speak a little Italian, and you won't teach me any of the fun words."
"And now you know why," Gian Carlo replied absently as he studied the room around them. "Sam?"
"Why don't we have a dressing table?"
"A dressing table." The lanky Italian's gaze was slightly unfocused. "Like the one at the Duchess's. A big, fantastic dressing table covered in jewels and music boxes and tiaras and…and…things. You know. We should have one."
Samuel let out a short laugh. "Why in the world would we need one? You don't have any jewelry that I'm aware of!"
"I liked her," Gian Carlo mused. "Fantastic. Dramatic. Everything."
"She certainly knew how to throw a party," Samuel agreed. "But I think I liked tonight's even more. Everyone was very…" He waved a hand artfully. "Friendly."
"Italy is for lovers," the other man responded with a sage nod.
"I thought that was France?"
"They only wish that were true. Italians are by far the mot romantic people on earth." With a noise of contentment, Gian Carlo folded his hands on the arm of his chair and rested his head on them as he stared at nothing in particular. "I wonder if she was really as beautiful and desired as she told us she was. I think so."
Silence met this statement, and Gian Carlo shifted his gaze upward to stare at his companion looking down at him. "What?"
The older man was frowning and his expression was almost pained before he shook his head. "Nothing. You're just proving yourself right is all."
Samuel shrugged and waved a hand expressively in the air, nearly hitting himself in the face as he did so. "Imagining what sort of a past the Duchess might have had. Romance and scandal and beauty and all that. It's a romantic notion."
Gian Carlo studied him thoughtfully for a long moment. Samuel kept his gaze trained on the ceiling as if he had forgotten his friend was even there, and they sat in silence for several moments before a wicked grin spread across the Italian's face.
"Vide 'o mare quante bello, spira tantu sentimento…"
Samuel groaned and shoved his friend out of the chair. "Oh, not again!"
Gian Carlo merely continued to grin at him from the floor as he sang. "Comme tu a chi tiene mente…"
"If all Italians insist on singing when they get drunk," Samuel said to no one in particular, "it's a wonder any of them ever breed!"
"Now that's just unfair. 'Torna a surriento' is a national treasure. We even studied it at Curtis."
"Maybe," Samuel continued as he pretended to ignore the other man as he got to his feet, "it's better if you just stick with opera after all. You're too dramatic for motets and madrigals."
Gian Carlo managed to stand with a minimum of swaying. "In that case," he replied innocently, "I suppose it's perfectly fine if I throw myself across the entire bed in a fit of dramatic sorrow at having my abilities so insulted by the master composer, isn't it?"
It was quite remarkable, he thought to himself as he dashed for the bedroom, how quickly Samuel could move when properly motivated, even when he was well and truly knackered.
Still, Gian Carlo managed to reach the large bed a mere seconds before his friend and proceeded to throw his arms out across the covers as far as they would go. Samuel skidded to a halt and glared. "Now this really is unfair. Once I'm through being sloshed, the floor is going to be freezing."
"Haven't you heard how proud we Italian men are?" Gian Carlo sternly wagged a finger in the air. "It's hereditary. Apologize for the insult and you can have your half of the bed back."
Samuel held up his hands in defeat and then hesitated. "What insult?"
"I cannot remember." Gian Carlo frowned. "You still need to apologize, though."
Samuel flashed a charming grin and bowed as deeply as he could without losing his balance again. "Mister Menotti, I beg your indulgence and hope that you can forgive the offense I have caused you…and, ah, even though neither of us can recall what that exactly was, I apologize nonetheless."
Gian Carlo raised an eyebrow and rolled sideways to free up the other half of the bed. "You could charm a rhubarb plant if you wanted to. I don't think you'll be sober again any time soon, with all the wine the hostess insisted on giving you."
"I noticed she offered you plenty as well," the other man commented as he sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled off his shoes. "We were honored guests of sorts, remember? The new American musicians and all that."
"You were the new American musician," Gian Carlo corrected. "I was the prodigal son. I'm afraid I may have to compose Amelia in Italian just so I don't lose my citizenship now."
"Compose it whichever way you like. You'll always have time to write more later."
"You're assuming I'm going to stick with opera."
"Why not? You're talented enough at it." Samuel stretched out on the coverlet and turned onto his side to study his friend. "Gian Carlo, you sound almost morose."
"I'm only agreeable when I'm completely drunk," he muttered. "You should know that by now."
"Yes, but you can't be sobering up already. I know you too well." Samuel reached out to grasp the Italian's shoulder and Gian Carlo obliged by turning to face him completely.
"What brought this about so suddenly?"
"They did pay more attention you tonight than me," he replied. "You know it, too."
"And that means what exactly? For God's sake, Gian Carlo, I'm the foreigner. Of course I'm going to attract a lot of attention!"
"Mostly from the ladies."
"As if I wanted it." Samuel shuddered. "Vicious little harpies. They were probably trying to get me drunk so that they could laugh and gossip about how terribly I speak their language."
"Or they were trying to get a marriage proposal out of you," Gian Carlo pointed out. "With the state of things in Europe right now, everyone is trying to find a way to get to America, you realize. And you would be a very attractive way to do so."
"Really, Gian Carlo, give me some credit! I'm not going to get shackled into some false pretense of a relationship that easily."
"If you say so."
"I do. And at any rate, I don't see why you'd be jealous of all those girls hanging off of me. It isn't as if you'd want them, after all. Besides, you're plenty handsome yourself." Samuel reached out to playful flick the tip of the younger man's nose. "Once you grew into that impressive beak of yours."
"If you’re trying to compliment me, you’ve failed," Gian Carlo complained as he pushed the hand away.
"And your hands and feet. Tall, dark, and European is all the rage, and you definitely have the advantage over me there in at least two areas." Samuel propped himself up on one elbow and studied his companion more closely. "Though you could stand to smile more."
"Why? Yours is far more attractive. It's no wonder everyone flocks to you."
"You are jealous!" the older man exclaimed. "I can't believe it. You're only ever jealous of other people's work!"
"I'm not jealous," Gian Carlo shot back hotly.
"I've known you for nearly seven years now, don't try to lie to me. You're jealous." Samuel lifted his head from his hand and looked down at Gian Carlo with concern. "You do know there's nothing to be jealous about, though, don't you? I admire you too much for you to be jealous of me of all people."
"I am not," the Italian retorted shortly, "jealous of you! Stop looking at me like that, it's true."
"Well, what is it? Don’t you even try to tell me you wanted the ladies were swarming over you, there isn’t enough alcohol in the world to make me believe that."
The two men stared at each other for a long moment as the clock on the dresser ticked away the seconds of silence. Even the insect buzzing around the lake had faded away into silence. At long last, Gian Carlo rolled onto his back and closed his eyes. "It’s nothing. I’m sorry for upsetting you. May we change the subject, please?”
For a moment it seemed as though the other man would protest, but instead he nodded and let his head fall back onto the pillows again. “Fine. I suppose if you’re too embarrassed to admit how much you admire and envy me, I shouldn’t force you to.”
“I do admire you,” came the serious reply. “I looked at your adagio earlier in the week. Even on the piano, it’s stunning. It makes my breath stop.”
Samuel let his head fall to the side and stared at his companion’s profile. Gian Carlo’s eyes were still closed and his hair had come loose of the pomade so that a few strands fell over his forehead. He could have been sleeping, except for those unexpected words. “You looked at my adagio?”
“Will it be for full orchestra, or a string quartet?”
“Neither. It’s arranged for any number of strings. Why did you look at my adagio?”
“As I said, I admire you. I have ever since I first came to Curtis.” Gian Carlo rolled onto his side without opening his eyes and nestled more comfortably into the old mattress. “I wanted to hear what you were working on now, so I looked for myself, that is all.”
The bed shifted beneath him and Gian Carlo smiled to himself. “Don’t tell me you’re embarrassed now, S-“
Lips brushed lightly over his own and rested there for a heartbeat…two…three. Gian Carlo’s eyes opened and met Samuel’s as the older man broke away and slowly sat up straight again. He waited a moment before speaking and then rolled onto his back. “Balle.”
“That one’s too easy. Even I know what that means.” Samuel sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “What did I do now?”
The Italian closed his eyes again. “Sam.”
A wry smile crossed Samuel’s face. “We’ve established that fact, yes.”
“You are extremely impaired. Neither of us is in any condition to-“
“Gian Carlo,” the older man interrupted suddenly, “if you tell me that I am too drunk to realize what I just did, I swear I will haul you out of this cottage and throw you into the lake.”
Gian Carlo looked back at him in surprise, and his jaw clenched. “You know perfectly well that I…you said it yourself earlier. Sam, I have been waiting for you to do that for years, and this is simply cruel to-“
“Oh, for God’s sake!” Samuel cried out in exasperation, and kissed him again.
This time the two men did not pull away so quickly. Gian Carlo did not move, but only stared with open eyes at Samuel’s closed ones, and Samuel did not show any inclination to move himself until he was finished. Seconds ticked by. Gian Carlo’s eyelids lowered until they were nearly closed, a small sound escaped him, and he let himself be drawn in. Samuel slowly lay back down on the bed so that they faced each other side by side, refusing to break their kiss all the while, and the younger man curved his long, lanky body against his companion’s as if it were always meant to fit just there.
At last, Samuel moved back by a mere hair and when he spoke, his lips moved lightly against Gian Carlo’s with each word. “I have wanted to do that long before tonight, long before the party tonight, even before we left for Vienna. This is not some drunken impulse, Gian Carlo, so stop questioning me and take what I’ve offered, you stubborn idiot.”
Gian Carlo blinked once deliberately, and a small smile pulled at the corners of his lips. “If you insist,” he replied wryly, pressing a short, chaste kiss against the corner of Samuel’s mouth. “I believe I already have.”