Title: Rumor
Rating: G
Warnings: Can't say there's much of anything, unless you're homophobic. ♥

Daniel laughed softly from behind the open pages of Backstage Weekly, the real amusement in his voice drawing his companion's attention away from the sheet music he was reading.

"Daniel?" The curiosity was plain in Joshu's tone. He knew the composer well enough by now to know that if he had not meant to share whatever was so humorous, he wouldn't have laughed out loud.

"If this paper had a wider circulation, I'd say you were about to become more famous than you could want, but, well." Daniel leaned forward in his chair, folding the pages of the newspaper back and holding it out to the younger man. "Top of the page."

Printed there in the "Personalities" column was a color photo of Daniel and Joshu leaving the Opera House after a performance. They were simply walking together, with no overtly romantic gestures, but whoever had written the caption had drawn their own conclusions.

Famed composer and pianist Daniel Renard, for years thought to be one of the most eligible bachelors in town, was seen Saturday night leaving his latest performance with the rising-star violinist Joshu Laurent. According to our sources, this is not the first time the two musicians have been spotted together. Have these two modern Orpheuses had a meeting of minds?"

Joshu felt faintly horrified for a moment; it wasn't as if he and Daniel were trying to keep their relationship secret, exactly, but this public exposure... what would it mean, if anything? He glanced up at Daniel, who was grinning wryly.

"'Modern Orpheuses', how do you like that?" the composer laughed. "But maybe now I'll finally stop getting love notes in the bouquets people give me..." He looked at Joshu for his opinion on this, and frowned at the expression on the violinist's face. "Does it bother you?" he asked softly, his blue-grey eyes regarding Joshu with sympathetic curiosity.

"Not... not that I'm with you," Joshu stammered, as always, a little dizzied by those eyes. "It's just so..." He struggled to describe why the little paragraph bothered him so much.

"So... exploitative? Sensational? Worthy of being in a tabloid?" Daniel suggested with a gentle smile.

The young man nodded to all of it. "It's like... they want to make someone feel ashamed..." he mused, realizing it only as he said it.

Daniel's answering smile was sad and knowing. "You picked that up, hmm? Yes... It often seems like they want to make something sound absolutely scandalous — even if there's no scandal there at all. After all, that sells papers."

"Do you... end up in these things often?" Joshu asked curiously. The composer's weariness seemed to hint at previous experience.

"Oh, I wouldn't say often, but I've found myself on that page before, and I've seen colleagues mentioned there as well. It's not truly slanderous talk, but it can be... distracting." Daniel shrugged philosophically. "But when you're in the spotlight, these things happen."

Joshu sighed softly. Daniel was right — Joshu just might be dragged into that spotlight now, whether he wanted to be there or not. He took one more long look at the picture. Somehow, he always forgot that he was a couple of inches taller than the slender composer; Daniel had such a presence that his height seemed irrelevant. They were clearly talking to each other when the photo was taken, probably about the music that had been performed, like usual. The violinist wondered what about this image shouted "romance" to the columnist, if anything at all.

"Don't think much on it," Daniel suggested as Joshu handed the paper back to him. "Next week it'll be someone else's picture there, and no one will be dwelling on old news." He smiled reassuringly.

"Right..." Joshu watched the composer for several moments as the older man went back to his reading. He had to know Joshu was watching him, but kindly, he didn't look up to challenge the rapt gaze.

It certainly happened often enough; even after many weeks, the little things that hinted at Daniel's inhuman nature still fascinated the violinist. Unhealthy pallor, jewel-like eyes, movements that were a little too refined... Anyone who spent as much time in Daniel's presence as Joshu did would eventually realize that there was something unsettling about the man besides his musical brilliance. But would they realize he was a vampire? Would Joshu have realized it if he hadn't been pricked with those hidden fangs? Probably not; rationality was too strong, and your average person on the street would rather not believe in true vampires.

Sometimes Joshu wasn't sure he wanted to believe either, but he didn't have much of a choice, unless everything Daniel had told him was a lie... But given the composer's pain at his fate, Joshu didn't find that likely.

Retreating to his own thoughts, the violinist picked up the sheet music again and glanced at it, though his mind was far away. As much as the little blurb in the paper had bothered him, part of what the columnist had implied brought a warm feeling of hope. 

It wasn't very mature, but sometimes Joshu did wonder if he was the only one that Daniel had such a relationship with, or if the vampire had a flock of mortals wrapped around his graceful fingers. Joshu didn't see him every night, and the composer couldn't survive on the small amounts of blood he took now and then from him... Obviously there were other mortals in the picture somewhere, and the young man couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealousy at the thought of someone else sharing this much of Daniel's life.

How twisted was that? Daniel was a monster by conventional definition, a creature that lived on human blood. But... he was very human as well, and Joshu was smitten with the whole of him. A rumor of Daniel and Joshu — did that mean that Daniel wasn't seeing anyone else? Or at least, no one else as frequently? It was stupid, but it raised Joshu's spirits.

He let his eyes focus on the music in his hands again. It was an excerpt from Daniel's newest piece, a rather challenging solo he had written with Joshu in mind. It was definitely going to be a workout, but it would sound like the sorrow of an angel if he played it right.

A small grin came to his lips. What would the Personalities columnist make of that? The composer penning solos for his lover? That did sound a bit scandalous, in a strangely 19th-century way. He supposed it was because people didn't spend much time talking about composers nowadays. Well, that was fine; he'd rather not be news, anyway, and he knew that in the end, Daniel would rather live quietly, as well.

"How does it look? Too insane?" Daniel asked with a slightly sheepish smile.

"No, not at all!" Joshu stammered. "I mean... it's difficult, I think, but not impossible... and it should sound incredible." He smiled shyly; Daniel disliked flattery, but this was honest praise.

The way Daniel's lips curved when he truly smiled always made Joshu's heart catch, every single time. It was unfair, but he loved it anyway.

"Well then. When do I get to hear it?"

2/20/2006: A good example of how a very random blip of a situation can turn into a story in my head. Or at least try. ;P Prompted out of nowhere by the idea of paparazzi/sensational press.