All The Lights
The last few notes of a tentative song filled the already empty recording studio as nimble fingers traveled over the chords of a simple black acoustic guitar before a palm was pressed above them over the wooden instrument, effectively silencing the musical vibration.
A gentle sigh followed the new quietude as that same palm was lifted to rub the back of a tense neck where strands of golden hair were stuck to the skin there due to a slight perspiration. The hand massaged the spot for a few seconds and then gave up because it was inefficient and unsatisfactory.
The young man removed the guitar from his lap and laid it carefully on the carpeted floor. He then stretched his arms over his head and made himself more comfortable on the wide swivel chair he was sitting on, propelling his sandaled feet on the huge synthesizer in front of him and absently watching all the hundreds of buttons and whatnots that adorned it. Even though he knew that it was thanks to that machine that his voice and music could be recorded, perfected and modified, he had no idea how any of that worked; neither did he want to know.
Honestly, he wished he and the band could just be shoved inside a larger studio and just…straight out play the selected songs for the new album from the first song to the last one. He didn't know if any band had ever done it, but he knew that old bands like The Who and The Beatles used to do it, at least one song at the time. Nowadays, most music was layered – everything was recorded separately and then joined together to create a song.
To him, it was painfully impersonal and way too professional. It lacked passion and the spur of the moment thing.
That was why he enjoyed playing live more than anything else. He loved touring, rock festivals and just randomly playing in his garage like he used to when he was a teenager and could only dream about what today was a very vivid reality.
Bright blue eyes dropped to his wrist to the silvery watch there; it was already 7:45p.m and he'd been there all by himself for two hours already, trying to bring some sonority to the lame lyrics he had come up with the night before - at least he thought they were lame, but the band had thought otherwise. It wasn't that they were in a hurry to turn it into a song, but what the hell; it wasn't like he had anything else to do, or anyone to go home to.
It was ironic, really.
Even if he wanted to do something he couldn't just do it. If he wanted to go somewhere he couldn't just go.
It was odd because his dream had come true and he had the rare luck of actually doing what he loved the most and succeeding at it. He wouldn't trade any of it for the world, and it wasn't because of the money or anything related to it.
He was in love with the life he lead.
But some days were just hard on him.
Thinking about it made him twitch inwardly and caused his body to react rather weirdly and feel as if something was crawling under his skin. It made his breath hitch in his lungs.
He leaned his head back and closed his eyes, arms resting loosely over the chair's armrests, legs spread apart as he slowly forced himself to breathe normally again. However, his chest hurt. It sometimes happened because his life was so hectic that there was literally no time to think or breathe properly until he paled and became breathless. He figured the day would come when he would become asthmatic for not knowing how to do it properly anymore.
Vaguely, he considered not breathing at all until he had to do it out of absolute need.
Stupid, He scolded himself, frowning. How can you sing if you don't breathe?
So just do it.
He opened his mouth slightly.
But the more he did it, the more his own nerves shook with anticipation as if the air he was inhaling wasn't pure enough; fresh enough.
The oxygen in there wasn't enough. That room would swallow him whole. That building, his huge house, his expensive car with his expensively dressed driver…
The world would swallow him whole, but he wanted to be the one swallowing it until he could take no more.
You're still very young. His foster father, Iruka, used to say. The day will come when the public and the media will respect you, but right now, you can't afford to screw up. You slip, they will eat you alive, so whatever you do, do it carefully.
That may be good advice for his band mates, but not for him. Because he had it all, he had nothing at all, not even the chance of 'screwing up'.
Outside of his goal, there was nothing.
His eyes shot open suddenly as his pulse sped up and he was left facing the ceiling that had been painted in dark red like the rest of the surrounding walls.
He had tried to breathe before, but now it was ripped out of him in quick and desperate breaths as his mouth filled with unwanted excess of saliva that almost choked him.
Leaning over he coughed a few times. His eyes began watering just as the door was roughly pushed open until it hit the wall with a loud crashing sound.
The blond patted his own chest a few times and cleared his throat as the person at the threshold stood there, staring.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" It was asked of him in a cold way, as if directed to someone with bad manners.
He straightened his back proudly, managing to regain some sort of composure and as much pride as he could while sitting, eyes rising to meet the tall, elegant figure in front of him.
The other young man was dressed in dark blue jeans and was wearing a white t-shirt under a black blazer jacket. With those dark eyes and dark, stylish hair, he looked like someone who could easily belong directly to the show business but who had, instead, chosen to work in the background.
The raven was just that handsome, but the reproachful expression that marked his features made him look a little too scary for comfort.
Nevertheless, the mere sight of his childhood friend offered him a rather abrupt sense of instant ease and calm that he could never get too accustomed to.
His name was Uchiha Sasuke, and just like that, he made breathing a much easier task.
"Nothing," The blue-eyed one said, shrugging while wiping a little bit of spit from the corner of his mouth with his thumb. "I was just choking, but I fixed it already; thanks for your concern."
"Good," Sasuke said dryly, nodding his approval and crossing his arms over his chest. "Because you can't afford to die on me at this point; least of all from choking on your own tongue."
"It wasn't my tongue." The blond contradicted, frowning heavily.
"Whatever, Naruto," Sasuke sighed, bringing one hand to his face to rub it tiredly. "The receptionist called, saying you were still up here, being a lazy ass, as usual." He eyed him again, his expression a little softer this time and the tanner of the two just had to grin because the lovely Hinata would never say something offensive like that, least of all to him. "It's almost eight, for fuck's sake, everyone else has gone home already."
"I know." Naruto said simply, lowering his head and staring at his joined hands over his lap. "So, how are things going at the Dome?"
Sasuke remained silent for a while, clearly evaluating him before answering.
"Chaotic, obviously," He said, impassively. "The lights were all wrong and the pyrotechnics almost burned half of the stage to the ground. We're short of cameramen and the director was being a fucking Prima Dona."
"Rough day, huh?" Naruto inquired, looking at him again.
"Let's just say I don't think you pay me enough."
Naruto shook his head from one side to the other slowly, still smiling.
"I pay you more than any manager should earn, bastard," He replied, jokingly. "You probably make Britney Spears jealous."
"Well, I do work more than any manager – or human being, really – should be allowed to work," Sasuke protested, sticking his perfect nose up in the air with an arrogant snort. "Come on; let's get you out of here. I'll call the driver to take you home."
Naruto's muscles visibly tensed at that. He didn't want to go home because he didn't really feel like being alone in that place that felt too big and way too small, at least not while he felt so stressed out.
Sasuke must've noticed the body language because one of his eyebrows rose in questioning.
"What?" He asked with something akin to dissimulated worry.
"I don't really…want to go home yet." The blond muttered, almost shyly.
"Where do you want to go, then?"
"Let's go to Pizza Hut."
Once more Sasuke stared at him intensely, but this time he looked at him as if he had said the most absurd thing anyone could ever say. A few expectant seconds later, he let out a curt cackle.
"Idiot," He said, almost condescendingly, a small, sarcastic smile gracing his pretty lips. "Pizza Hut? I'll order a pizza if you want to eat it, but there is no way in hell your feet will be landing anywhere near that dump."
The tanned male had had the slight suspicion that his manager would say that, but still, he had hoped that Sasuke would be perceptive enough to understand how much he craved something 'vulgar' like that.
"Naruto, don't waste my time with pointless conversations we've already had a million times before," The brunet replied, as if scolding a stubborn child. "You'll draw unnecessary attention to yourself and will end up more stressed that you already are, so forget Pizza Hut."
"Somewhere else, then," Naruto said in a way that was meant to be careful and obedient, eying his friend hopefully and causing him to roll his eyes.
"Don't you ever get tired?" Sasuke asked, making an annoyed face. "You do realize that you and the band will be performing at the Tokyo Dome in just a few days, right?"
"Yeah." Naruto nodded.
"And you know it'll be turned it into a DVD, right?" The raven pressed on. "The band's first live DVD? You have to be at your very best."
"You wouldn't let me forget about it for a second," Naruto said softly. "It's just dinner, Sasuke, and I…I really need to get some air."
Sasuke could only blink owlishly at him, lips slightly parted. Naruto smiled at him charmingly, showing all his perfect, white teeth in the process. After what felt like hours of silent consideration, his manager's shoulders slumped in defeat.
"Fine," He agreed, waving his hand in a firm yet aristocratic gesture of dismissal. "But no Pizza Hut. I get to choose where we go and you'll just shut your trap about it, yes?"
The enthusiasm radiating from the artist's whole body was instant and infectious as he got up at once and made an awkward, rather stupid salute gesture.
"Sir, yes, sir!"
The new restaurant Sasuke took them to wasn't all that bad, albeit expensive as fucking hell. It was rather simple, modernly decorated in luxurious tones of grey, pearl and dark blue and cozy enough considering how big the place was, with the jazz band playing at the end of the well lit room. If he took the time to take a look around he would recognize the many faces of various Japanese celebrities – actors, singers, models, fashion designers and more were drinking, having dinner with their friends or family, or just socializing with each other over their meals.
From the outside, no one would guess that that was the place where the rich and famous hung out. Those who were allowed entrance either had a membership card or were friends with someone who did, which was his particular case.
He liked the fact that it was cheerful, elegant, but still discreet and significantly homely, which made it rather pleasant even for him, who preferred simple, more modest places and was yet to grow accustomed to a life of wealth where all his steps had to be calculated.
He sometimes wondered if he ever would.
He supposed that place was kind of like a small piece of quiet heaven for the celebrities, secluded from the eyes and ears of commoners and paparazzi. It was enough to allow him to just chill out in the company of someone he enjoyed having around.
It wasn't what Naruto had in mind, but it was nice enough, lively enough, and it had alcohol. Also, he was thankful that Sasuke had let him go there dressed as he was. Sure, t-shirt, shorts and sandals made him look like a beggar compared to how fashionable everyone there looked, but that only made him feel better.
The table they were sitting at was for two, located near the left side of the stage where the band was playing, allowing him them have a full view of the packed room.
After they both had a long lasting dinner, with many different courses with portions that were horrifyingly small but otherwise satisfactory when it came to the taste, he was now absently scanning the place while the middle finger and thumb of his right hand both tapped lightly on the crystal glass of Jack Daniel's in front of him to the beat of the music. When he turned his head, he noticed Sasuke was sitting quietly in front of him, head bowed down, texting in his huge, expensive-looking mobile phone.
Naruto watched him for a while.
Ever since he could remember, people had always said that the Uchiha was attractive. As a child, in high school, in college, and now as a grown man with a respectable job that he enjoyed and where he made good money. He had always been popular, always surrounded by people, admired and desired for his looks and his superior intelligence – or so they said. If he were to be honest with himself, he genuinely thought Sasuke was the kind of person who could get anything he wanted without having to do much to get it.
He and Sasuke had been friends for longer than he could remember.
Sasuke considered himself someone who had always had perfect control over every aspect of his life and existence, and this was something that made him feel strong, balanced, and allowed him to experience every day without any personal worries on his mind.
Maybe that was the reason why, at almost 25, he was still single and with no prospects of future relationships. This was something that apparently didn't really upset him all that much since he had always been rather lonesome anyway. He wasn't easy to deal with – after all, bad temper ran in his family as strongly as good-looks did and he was a ruthless, merciless manager. Most people he worked with already knew that he was a perfectionist and that screwing up and defying him, or trying to act smart, would get them nowhere.
Naruto smiled to himself, eyes softening up as he looked at the dark haired one.
It was kind of funny thinking that the both of them had been a 'band' back in high school with him singing and Sasuke playing the guitar. In college, however, they had managed to find a few more reasonably talented members to join them and bring some consistency to the dream they both shared. At some point, Sasuke became so focused on finding places for them to perform and producers to listen to their poorly recorded tapes that being part of the band became secondary for him, because he strongly believed Naruto was talented. The others were good, but Naruto was great, he used to say, and he wanted his friend to succeed at all costs, even if he had to watch from the sidelines as it happened.
Somehow, his determination got them where they were today. Naruto sometimes still mourned the fact that he wasn't part of the band, but Sasuke seemed happy with his place in the business, and quite honestly, the blond would have to be seriously demented before trusting someone else to manage his career.
If Sasuke ever thought about quitting his job, Naruto would most definitely quit his as well. Without Sasuke, none of that had been possible, so without him, none of that mattered.
Sasuke was the steady ground underneath his feet when the world seemed to be crumbling down.
"Stop staring, my radiant beauty might just blind you." Sasuke said sarcastically, still texting and without smiling or looking at him.
Naruto had to laugh a bit.
"There's something about you," He teased, tilting his head to the side. "I might just fall under some sort of Uchiha spell."
"God forbid," Sasuke muttered, finally setting his mobile over the table as dark, way too intelligent eyes looked into blue ones. "I wouldn't know what to do with yet another hassle coming from you."
The blond one faked outrage, bringing a hand to his chest.
"Me? A hassle?" He gasped. "You'd die to have me groveling at your feet!"
Sasuke looked amused, picking up his tiny glass of some sort of expensive liquor.
"Is that so?" He asked, sipping the drink. "The last time I checked, I gave out the orders and you obeyed them, so shouldn't it be you who'd wish for something like that?"
"Well, I don't exactly grovel," Naruto defended, frowning thoughtfully. "And I don't obey either unless I know it's for my own good."
"I'm still the one who takes care of you and puts up with your shit every fucking day," Sasuke pointed out. "So, if I want you to grovel, roll over or play dead, you should just do it to show your undying gratitude."
Naruto grinned at that.
"You're better than asking something like that out of me." He muttered, watching Sasuke lick his lips as set the glass down once more.
"Keep telling yourself that," The raven retorted with a lopsided smile. "You looked like you'd seen hell back at the studio. Are you feeling better?"
"Yeah, I guess." Naruto nodded gently. "I was just a bit…"
The singer was interrupted at that moment when one of the many immaculate waitresses approached them with a silver tray and set a tall glass with a bluish beverage in front of Sasuke.
The pale male looked up at her inquisitively and she smiled sweetly, clearly happy for having to talk to him. Naruto knew Sasuke may not be famous, but he sure caught up people's interest.
"The gentleman from table twenty one send it for you." She explained, waving to said table delicately and causing both males' heads to turn to its direction.
In the sea of tables and people, Naruto spotted one with at least six occupants – four of them women and two men. Neither of them were people he recognized, but one of the men was looking towards their table while his friends proceeded their chat. He had probably hit his thirties already and was undeniably attractive, looking pretty confident, smiling at Sasuke in a way that could be considered personal.
Blond eyebrows shot up and he turned to Sasuke to see that his cheeks had turned slightly pink while staring at the glass. He looked like he wanted to throw it against the nearest wall but thought it was impolite to do so.
This kind of scene wasn't new to Naruto, who just knew Sasuke was torn between embarrassment, flattering and humiliation. His manager, however, chose to keep his lips pursed into an angry line and inhaled sharply through his nose.
"Send it back," He said, with cool calm, wiping the smile off the waitress's juvenile face. "I don't want it."
The girl was taken aback for a few seconds but knew better than to ask questions. She nodded, retrieved the glass and left them, her high heels clanking in the marble floor softly.
Sasuke sighed loudly and leaned back further into his chair smoothly as if nothing had happened, but Naruto couldn't help but to notice the sideway glace he threw at the man in the table before dropping his eyes to his mobile phone just as the waitress was approaching his table.
Somehow, the blond knew that man was an acquaintance of Sasuke's. It didn't bother him, he had to be dumb not to have realized Sasuke's tastes by now, but the other man kept quiet about it.
"Why didn't you accept it?" Naruto asked, leaning in casually, resting both his arms over the table.
"It was improper." Was Sasuke's answer, drumming the fingers of his right hand irritably on the table.
"Improper?" Naruto questioned, feigning confusion. "It was just a drink. And a classy one, too."
Sasuke's cool eyes rested on him.
"It wasn't just a drink." He said, in a tone that hoped for finality, but Naruto wasn't willing to leave it at that.
"So the guy is interested in you, big deal," He said, shrugging. "Accepting his drink doesn't mean you're interested."
"You don't know what it would mean."
"And I suppose you do?"
Sasuke's elegant fingers stilled and he frowned.
"What's that supposed to mean?" He hissed, staring straight into Naruto's blue eyes in a way that bordered on menacing.
"I don't know, you tell me." Naruto pressed on, returning the glare without blinking. When Sasuke's eyes narrowed but no answer came, the blond proceeded in a gentler, more cautious tone. "What are you afraid of?"
"I am not afraid of anything," Sasuke groaned. For the tiniest moment, a flick of panic crossed his features but it was gone as quickly as it had appeared. "Whatever conclusions your brain is reaching, they're not true."
"I wish I didn't have to come to conclusions all by myself," Naruto retorted, with a pout. "You could as well just tell me."
"Tell you what, exactly?" Sasuke hissed, and Naruto knew his friend was just on the brink of losing his patience.
They stared at each other for what felt like forever, neither blinking, neither moving.
Finally, Naruto huffed and folded his arms over his chest, sinking further into his seat like a sulking brat.
"Fine, be that way," He muttered, looking away to some random spot near the stage. "Hide things from me all you want."
Sasuke was silent for a while before sighing.
"I'm going to have a smoke." He announced, getting up in his usual agile fashion, way too composed, and walking away. The blond watched him go as he bit his lip, chest heavy with commiseration.
He and Sasuke were very similar in some things, now more than ever. In a way, they were both chained and aiming for freedom, but while Naruto's own freedom would always be restrained – because he had chosen to live that way – Sasuke was trapped inside himself without needing to. He didn't deserve it after all he had achieved.
Naruto tried to calm down his own gentle fury towards his raven friend for a while, giving time for Sasuke to think things through as well, before getting up. The place was huge, so he had to ask one of the waitresses where the smoking area was and follow her directions.
Apparently, the smoking area was nothing but a wide balcony in the back of the restaurant with a few fluffy couches here and there and it offered a nice view of the swimming pool.
There were a few people there, just having a smoke and generally having a good time over drinks, but they paid no attention to him as he got outside and found that Sasuke was at the farthest corner, leaning over the railing and looking up at the night sky, a black cigarette dangling from his lips.
Since it was a bit cold Naruto regretted not having brought his jacket, but it had been incredibly hot when he had left his house that morning.
Slowly, he walked over to his friend until he was standing next to him, at his right. As he turned to Sasuke and placed his elbow over the railing, Sasuke looked at him from the corner of his eye, impassively. Naruto moved a bit closer so that he could catch a bit of his friend's heat, thankful that Sasuke didn't protest.
"I'm not gay." The dark haired male pronounced, before Naruto could say anything.
The blond swallowed hard. The way Sasuke said it held the constricted, harsh forcefulness of someone who was struggling against himself. Gently he removed the cigarette from Sasuke's mouth and brought it to his own lips.
"Why?" He asked cautiously, before taking a drag.
"Why, what?" Sasuke asked dryly, turning his head to him.
"Well, are you not gay because you don't like guys or because you don't want to be gay?" Naruto explained, expelling the smoke casually. "Or maybe you like guys but also like chicks? I mean, sure, if that's the case, then you're not exactly gay."
Sasuke frowned heavily at him but didn't say anything.
"Don't look at me like that," The blue-eyed one reprimanded, poking his shoulder with his free hand. "You don't look gay, if that makes you feel better. It's not like you give out any gay vibes or anything, but I know you. You're so focused on work and all that that you don't really think about yourself. But you have to."
He took another drag in his cigarette before letting it drop to the ground and carelessly stepping on it.
"There are ashtrays everywhere," Sasuke said, his facial muscles relaxing until he was smiling a bit. "That's rude."
"I'm rude, too." Naruto retorted, proudly.
"That you are."
The blond smiled back and rested his head over the Uchiha's shoulder, lacing his arm in his, happy to meet that comfy, familiar warmth.
They watched the pool surrounded by artificial grass for a while, enjoying the chilly breeze as the noises from the restaurant behind them joined the noises from the outside.
"Everything is always black and white with you," Sasuke whispered, more to himself than to his companion. "Things aren't always that simple."
Naruto lifted up his head to look at him and found those black, gorgeous eyes looking back with a troubled expression.
"I don't agree with you." The blond retorted firmly before leaning in and pressing his lips to Sasuke's cold but soft ones. The other male shivered at the contact and was rendered static, but Naruto didn't mind, he just wanted to make a point.
"See?" He grinned, pulling back just a bit to look at Sasuke's surprised expression. "How easy was that?"
Sasuke opened his mouth; then, closed it again in awe.
"Fucking moron, you don't swing that way," He ended up saying, weakly. "You're absolutely crazy."
"No one gives a damn, Sasuke," Naruto offered with confidence. "Even if they did, and this reached the media, I wouldn't really care because I would've been caught doing something like this with someone I care for."
Sasuke's tongue flicked out for a millisecond to moisten his lips and Naruto observed the gesture with interest, secretly enjoying being this close to him. It may not be something entirely sexual or even physical, but he didn't mind kissing him and he did think the Uchiha was beautiful in his very own (menacing) way.
Naruto's hands gained life of their own. Sasuke was very compliant as they reached out to cup face with affection.
"You're lucky this place is safe, you know." The raven whispered, turning slowly to face him.
"I don't give a shit."
Naruto pecked his lips again and laughed when Sasuke quirked an eyebrow at him.
"You did it again." Sasuke accused him, seriously.
"You didn't push me away." Naruto contradicted, moving his fingers to stroke both his cheeks playfully.
"I don't want to hurt your feelings."
Ah, the sarcasm was back.
"Bastard," Naruto hissed, in a low tone. His smile faltered in slow motion as he looked into Sasuke's eyes, that odd kind of connection they sometimes had making its way between them. "You're my best friend. I know I give you a hard time, and that you do almost make me grovel at your feet for it, but you mean the world to me. If we are where we are today, it's all thanks to your hard work and your unwavering faith in me."
"Is this you indirectly telling me that I'm awesome?" Naruto was relieved to see Sasuke give him his very cocky smirk.
"It's me telling you that you can't lie to me," He hissed, pinching his snowy cheeks hard. "So don't try and insist on hiding something that I've known for a long time."
"That hurts, idiot, stop it or I'll break your fingers," Sasuke threatened, grabbing his hands and removing them from his face, but Naruto just stuck out his tongue to him. "Black and white it is with you then, if that is what you want."
"Of course it is," The blond one said, with a vicious nod of his head, hands turning to fists because he needed Sasuk to understand, needed to take him seriously – needed to take himself seriously. "Being yourself isn't something that you should be ashamed of. You're handsome, smart, you make good money. You're doing great. You have the right to live your life the way you want to, be with whomever you want to and no one has the right to open their mouths about it. No one."
With that, Naruto leaned in once more and kissed him again, more intensely this time, lips moving against his friend's securely, feeling happy and relieved when Sasuke's kissed back with initial hesitation, but quickly becoming more secure of himself. He liked him like this, carefree, just going with the flow, going along with whatever Naruto did. Sometimes, he needed it. They both did. They didn't touch, or hug, but when tongues met intimate yet innocently, it felt good in a detached way that wasn't embarrassing.
After not really making out for a while, Sasuke was the one to break the kiss and eye Naruto thoughtfully.
"This is a weird night," He said simply, as if the reality of those last few minutes hadn't quite settled in. "You have a slight nervous breakdown, I am confronted with my sexuality and now we're kissing. Why are we doing this again?"
"Because we are chained," Came Naruto's honest reply. "And we both need to find a way to feel free once in a while." He sighed and absently rubbed his hand on the front of Sasuke's t-shirt in a poor attempt at offering sympathy. "For me, right now, it's being here, with you, and kissing you out here in the open just because I feel like it. For you, is admitting you like cock and are pretty much aroused by this."
Sasuke laughed at that before breathing in.
"I like cock," He blurted out, pinching Naruto'd nose with as much force as Naruto himself had previously pinched his cheeks. "But unfortunately for you, you don't really arouse me at all."
Naruto didn't mind having his nose pinched. He didn't mind the cold, or the emotional exhaustion he felt, or even the badly concealed resignation of Sasuke's acceptance of himself. It was no news that it would take time for his special person to come to terms with how he felt, how he wanted to deal with who and what he was, just like it would need patience for Naruto to get accustomed to his new life, filled with fame, glory and the many rules and restrictions that came along with it.
"That's alright," Naruto said, jokingly. "I wouldn't want you fawning all over my ass anyway."
He'd be fine. They'd be fine. He would lead Sasuke to the right path to take, and Sasuke would be there to make sure he stayed focused and balanced. They were meant for greatness in their own, different ways. They reached the top together, and they would fall together if that day ever came upon them.
And there was no spotlight and no amount of fame and money that could ever compensate for what they had built together throughout the years.
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Story notes: This fic has a special place inside my heart. I hope you enjoy it!
Chapter notes: This is a One-shot and will not be turned into a multi-chapter fic.
Chapter end notes: I hope I did everything well in posting this fic. Let me know what you think, yes? Feedback is much appreciated ;)