It starts as a mild inconvenience.
Sapnap's old neighbor was an elderly woman who was nearly deaf. She didn't mind when he practiced late at night -- he doubted that she had even heard him. It was nice to not have to worry about disturbing his neighbors.
When the woman had moved out, Sapnap had thought the worst thing he would have to deal with would be a few noise complaints. He'd handled those before, when he was a student living in the university dorms. Usually, he and his neighbors could work it out -- they would figure out each other's schedules, and Sapnap would do his best to practice at times when he knew that it would disturb the least amount of people.
Sapnap figured, worst comes to worst, he could meet with his new neighbor and figure out something similar.
What he's not expecting is how loud his neighbor is.
The first day, he doesn't fault them for this. Moving in means rearranging furniture, moving heavy boxes, and lots of loud talking with the movers or friends who come to help. Sapnap has been there. Sapnap wakes up to a loud crashing noise, followed by a muffled shout and what sounds like an apology. He's mildly annoyed at the sound, but reasons that it's about time for him to get up anyways. It's about 9:30 AM, and if he hurries, he can grab a breakfast sandwich from the nearby deli before they stop serving breakfast.
On his way out, he notices that his neighbor's door is open. Sapnap peeks into the apartment, and sees a lot of lighting equipment, as well at what looks like a green screen.
"Could you help me move the lights to the bedroom? Just put them with the cameras for now," a voice calls out. Sapnap turns to walk away, but not before catching a glimpse of his new neighbor. He had a boyish look about him, with messy brown hair.
As Sapnap walks into the elevator, he thinks about what had overheard. Cameras? Lighting equipment in a bedroom? He ponders over this for a moment, but then shrugs to himself.
If my new neighbor is a pornstar, it's not my place to judge, he reasons. Wonder what that's like. The elevator stops in the lobby, and Sapnap walks to the nearby deli. The worker there recognizes him, and brightens when he walks to the counter.
"Hey! Breakfast special on an everything bagel, and a medium coffee?" Sapnap nods. As the worker turns to make the coffee, Sapnap speaks up.
"Actually, could you make that two coffees today?" Sapnap asks. The worker gives him a thumbs up, and grabs two cups instead of one. Might as well make a good first impression, Sapnap thinks to himself. He shoves the sandwich into his jacket pocket, and walks back to his apartment building, holding both of the coffees.
His neighbor's door is still open when he returns, but it seems as if the movers had mostly left. Sapnap manages to knock on the door with his knuckles, which are still curled around the coffee cup.
It starts with a cup of coffee.
Karl had been moving boxes all day, and it was hot. He had tied a bandana around his head to keep his sweaty hair out of his eyes. His white shirt was grimy from the dust on the moving boxes, and his arms already felt sore from moving furniture all day. He walks by his mirror, which is leaning precariously against a stack of boxes. Karl makes a face -- he looks like a mess.
He's interrupted from his thoughts when he hears a sharp rap on his door. Karl turns and sees what he thinks must be one of the most handsome men he had ever seen. He feels his heart stop, for a moment.
"Hey," Karl says, after he manages to get his heartbeat under control. He internally winces when he remembers how grimy he looks right now. Figures that I would meet someone so cute when I look like a mess.
"Hey, I live next door," the man explains, holding out a coffee cup to him. "Thought you could use a coffee. I know moving is tough." Karl smiles at the gesture, and reaches out to take the cup.
"Thanks man -- means a lot," he says, taking the cup. He moves the cup to his left hand, and wipes his right hand on his shirt, so it's less clammy. "I'm Karl," he says, holding his hand out.
"Sapnap," the man responds, shaking his hand. "Nice to meet you."
"Sorry, I'm kind of gross and sweaty, I couldn't figure out how to turn the AC on." Karl glances towards the wall, at the thermostat that had, in his opinion, way too many buttons.
"Oh, I can show you that, it's a little tricky when you first do it," Sapnap explains, walking over. "You have to change the settings before it will let you lower the temperature, and then you have to press this so it doesn't stop after an hour."
"Thank you," Karl says, trying to keep track of the buttons Sapnap presses. His gaze lingers for a bit at his hands, but Karl forces himself to look away. "I'm still getting used to everything. Anything else I should know?"
"The walls are really thin," Sapnap says. He talks with his hands, as well. Karl has to will himself not to stare. "You're probably going to be hearing a lot of footsteps."
"How bad is it?" Karl asks.
"I can usually hear talking, but it's not that bad that you can make out what people are saying," Sapnap explains. "We're the only two apartments on this side, so it's not so bad. Just as long as we're mindful of each other."
"I see," Karl says. He thinks about his streams, and frowns slightly. Sapnap seems like a pretty chill guy -- surely, he wouldn't mind if Karl was loud sometimes. He'd just have to be a bit more mindful.
"I'm a violinist," Sapnap says. "I practice at home, so you might hear me from time to time. If it's bothering you just knock on the wall, and I'll try to be quieter."
"Oh I don't mind too much noise," Karl says. "I stream for a living, and I make videos. Those can get noisy as well at times, and you can knock back if it bothers you."
"Yeah uh-" Sapnap's eyes flit over to the open bedroom door, where the film equipment is set around the bed. "I'll be sure to do that." His cheeks are slightly pink.
Karl realizes what this looks like -- all of his lighting equipment had been placed around the bed, with his film camera pointed straight to the middle. He probably thinks I do porn. Being a YouTuber and a Twitch streamer had definitely become more prominent in recent years, but Karl would still occasionally struggle with explaining exactly what he did for a living.
"I mostly play video games for people, stuff like that." There's a brief silence, and Karl can feel his cheeks grow warm. "I also do livestreams."
"Oh, that sounds fun," Sapnap says, his tone polite.
"Yeah, I really enjoy it," Karl responds. Another pause. Karl takes a sip of the coffee. Sapnap clears his throat before speaking again.
"Well Karl," Sapnap says, "it was nice to meet you, but I'll leave you to it."
"See you around," Karl says. "Thanks for stopping by." He watches as Sapnap walks out of his apartment and into his own. Karl walks over to his front door and shuts it. He leans against it for a little bit.
I like the way he says my name, he thinks. Karl smiles, and rolls his eyes at how cheesy he's being. He then turns to the nearest box and opens it, continuing to unpack.
That night, Sapnap can hear Karl talking through the wall. He can't make out exactly what is being said, but the muffled sound is a bit distracting when he's trying to practice. It's not terribly loud -- Karl is speaking at a decent volume -- so Sapnap just pointedly ignores him in favor of practicing.
Karl doesn't seem to mind much either. At each pause in playing, Sapnap listens for the telltale knock on the wall, but it never comes. He's quite relieved -- he's taking care to not play too loudly tonight. Better to ease his new neighbor into the sound and let him get used to the noise before playing louder pieces.
The rest of the night passes with nothing much of note, and Sapnap soon adjusts to the white noise of Karl's muffled speaking.
If this is as loud as he gets, it shouldn't be a problem, Sapnap thinks.
Later on, he would think back to this moment, and realize just how wrong he was.
He runs into Karl the following afternoon on his way to get his mail. Sapnap stands by the elevator, absently scrolling through his phone, when he hears a familiar voice.
"Hey, I heard you practicing last night," Karl says. Sapnap looks at him, searching for any trace of annoyance, but finds none, only a polite smile.
"Yeah, I was just going through my scales," Sapnap says.
"Scales?" Karl asks.
"Like musical scales," Sapnap says. Karl gives him a confused look.
"What does that mean?" Karl asks. Sapnap is a bit puzzled at the question, but does his best to hold back any judgement. Not everyone has been studying music since they were a kid, he reasons to himself.
"Scales are like, sets of notes that you practice," Sapnap explains. "They're in order from ascending pitch or descending pitch," he says. "It's good to practice them, they help with a lot of things, like rhythm, and intonation." He's interrupted by the elevator doors opening. Sapnap walks into the elevator, and Karl follows him.
"It's also just a good warm-up before you start with an actual piece," he continues. "Start with something really familiar, and then move into the newer stuff." Karl hums at this, and Sapnap realizes he's been rambling.
"I heard you stream last night, I think," Sapnap says.
"Oh yeah?" Karl says.
"Couldn't make out what you were saying, but I heard you talking," Sapnap says.
"Yeah, I was streaming," Karl says.
"How did it go?" Sapnap asks.
"It went well," Karl says. "I hit my sub goal." Sapnap doesn't know what this means, but doesn't question it.
"That's cool," Sapnap says. The elevator door opens again, and they step out into the lobby.
"Well, I guess I'll see you," Karl says.
"Yeah, I'll see you," Sapnap replies.
In the mail room, Sapnap pulls out his phone, and looks up what a sub goal is.
Huh, he thinks. Good for him.
Karl doesn't mind listening to Sapnap practice. Really, it's nice most of the time. The muffled music makes for great background noise when he's editing. When Sapnap is playing a piece that he is familiar with, it's incredible: the sound gives him chills.
But when Sapnap is learning a new piece, he has a habit of going over the same parts over, and over again.
This makes sense: working through a piece from the beginning to the end until you are familiar with all of it seems to be a good way to learn. But when it's been the same line, for an hour straight, it's enough to drive anyone crazy.
Karl gives up on doing his work, and decides to start to stream. He says hello to his chat, trying his best to talk over the sound of Sapnap's playing. Thankfully, his mic doesn't pick up the sound, but Sapnap can definitely hear him talk.
When Karl speaks, he notices Sapnap stops playing. Sapnap tries to repeat the same phrase again, and Karl, feeling a bit spiteful at this point, starts to talk louder, more excitedly.
It went on like this for a while: Karl trying to be louder than Sapnap whenever he starts to play the same bar again. He feels a little bad, but he reasons to himself that Sapnap should take a break. He's been practicing the same thing for a while, and it was getting late, after all. Karl glances over to the time. Who practices the violin at 1:30 AM anyways?
Karl supposes he's not one to judge. I'm streaming at 1:30 AM, who streams at that time anyways? He pushes these thoughts away in favor of reading donations, and talking to his chat.
Eventually, the music stops for the night, and Karl knows that he's won this battle.
Sapnap definitely knows that Karl was talking over him playing on purpose. Not that he minded -- he had been stressed over that one section, and taking a break was probably the right move. But now, it was a matter of spite. A few days later, when Karl is streaming and Sapnap needs to practice, he tries a different approach.
He can hear Karl speaking, talking to his stream. Sapnap glances towards his laptop again, where he has sheet music open. The tune is simple enough. He waits for Karl to quiet down a bit, for a lull in the stream.
When it comes, Sapnap raises his bow and starts to play the Mii Shop theme as loud as he possibly can. At the first rest, he pauses, and listens. He smiles at the stunned silence that follows.
He waits until he hears Karl try to speak again, then plays the next phrase. The speed at which Karl stops talking is comedic. Sapnap bites back his laughter. He waits for a bit longer, this time: Karl is speaking for quite a bit before he interrupts him again.
He does this a few more times. Each time, he has to bite his tongue to keep from laughing.
Was it a bit obsessive to play a meme song as loud as possible just to be louder than Karl? Probably.
Was it funny? Absolutely.
Karl is screaming.
Sapnap groans, frustrated. It's the fifth time that he's had to repeat the same bar, because he keeps getting distracted by the noise. The first time, he was mildly concerned, but in-between the screams, he could hear muffled talking. Must be playing some horror game, Sapnap had thought.
He tried to ignore his neighbor's screams, trying to focus on practicing.
Sapnap could go and complain to the building super about the noise, but that would be a bit hypocritical. Sure, it was kind of weird that Karl always decided to stream in the middle of the night, but it was arguably even weirder that Sapnap practiced the violin at the same time. Karl had just as much reason to complain as he did.
Also, it had become a thing between them to see who could be louder. After the stunt he had pulled with the Mii Shop theme, Karl had retaliated by literally buying a metronome, and switching the tempo constantly when Sapnap was practicing. It was quite annoying, but Sapnap had to give him props for creativity.
He's interrupted twice more before he sighs and puts his violin down. Sapnap glances towards the wall. Despite the conversation they had when Karl first moved in, neither of them had ever actually knocked on the wall before. It seemed they were both content with just trying to be louder than the other. But Sapnap knows -- he really needs to have this piece perfect before rehearsal tomorrow.
Sapnap walks over to the wall and knocks on it three times. He holds his breath, baited -- he feels slightly guilty for this. It's a moment before Sapnap hears a quiet knock back -- an acknowledgement. An apology, maybe. He then hears Karl speaking at a much lower volume than before -- he almost has to strain himself to hear. A big improvement from the energetic screaming a few moments ago.
Sapnap picks up his violin and goes over the bar once more.
It becomes something like a routine.
If Karl was being a bit too noisy when Sapnap needed to practice, Sapnap would play louder.
If Sapnap was playing too loudly when Karl was streaming, Karl would do his best to speak over him.
Occasionally, it would escalate, like when Karl had a karaoke stream and sang at the top of his lungs, off-key. Or when Sapnap, out of nowhere, started playing the Psycho theme when Karl was playing Outlast, scaring the shit out of him. He wasn't even sure how Sapnap knew he had been playing a scary game (in hindsight, it was probably the fact that he screamed at every scare).
Of course, if it became too much, they could always just knock on the wall. They had both done it, but not very often -- Karl usually reserved that for when he really needed to concentrate, or when he was doing a particularly important stream.
Neither of them bring it up directly when they see each other. Their conversations are polite, and at times awkward, but neither of them bring up their unspoken competition.
The next time Karl runs into Sapnap, Sapnap is heading out, and Karl has just gotten back home.
"Hey," Karl says, putting his key away, having just unlocked his door.
"Hey there," Sapnap says. He shuts his apartment door behind him.
"Headed out?" Karl asks.
"Yeah, just headed to grab some food, then I'll probably bring it back then practice," Sapnap says. Karl meets his eyes, and there's a certain playfulness in them. Last night, Sapnap had "won" their little passive-aggressive competition by playing the chorus of All-Star by Smash Mouth so loud that Karl actually jumped.
"Sounds like fun," Karl says, his tone light-hearted. "You sounded great last night." This was the closest either of them had come to acknowledging their little noise competition. He can see Sapnap trying to hold back a laugh.
Sapnap diverts the subject by asking a question. "What's that?" Sapnap asks, eying the instrument case Karl is holding.
"Oh, I can show you," Karl says. He unzips the case and pulls out a light blue ukulele. "I want to learn to play ukulele. I got this a few days ago."
"How's it going so far?" Sapnap asks.
"I can play some things, but I can't get the E chord," Karl says. He adjusts his hand on the neck of the ukulele, and tries to play the chord, but to no avail. "I just don't know how I'm supposed to bend my fingers to get it."
"What notes should you be holding?" Sapnap asks. Karl points out the notes on the frets individually.
"I don't think my fingers can bend that way," Karl says. He's sure that Sapnap can hear how frustrated he is, and part of him feels a bit silly for it. But he had been trying to play the chord for so long that he was undoubtedly frustrated.
"Here, let me try." Sapnap reaches for the ukulele, and Karl lets him take it. He places his hand on the neck of the ukulele, and skillfully flexes his hand and plays the chord the first time he tries. "It's easier if you hold it like this, see?" Sapnap explains. He strums each string slowly, deliberately.
"I really don't think I can do that," Karl says. Sapnap hands him the ukulele. Karl tries again, but to no avail. He sighs, about to put the ukulele away, when he feels Sapnap's hand on his.
He looks up, but Sapnap doesn't stare back, instead adjusting Karl's hand on the ukulele. Sapnap's hand is touching Karl's for a bit longer than necessary. Karl can feel his cheeks turn slightly pink.
"Just like that," Sapnap says, meeting Karl's gaze. They hold eye contact for a moment, before Karl looks down and strums. The chord isn't perfect, but it's a big improvement from before.
"Thanks," Karl says. He looks back up, and their eyes meet once more. Sapnap offers a smile, and Karl returns it, feeling the warmth of it in his chest.
"I'll leave you to it," Karl says, opening his apartment door. "Thanks for that, really."
"It's no problem," Sapnap remarks. "See you around." Sapnap walks towards the elevator, and Karl lets himself stare after him for a bit longer, before shutting his apartment door.
That night, Sapnap is practicing. He hears no noise from Karl's room -- he assumes the streamer is taking a break for today. Karl had streamed every night for the past week or so -- Sapnap thinks that he could use a break.
Honestly, it was a bit strange to practice without the background noise of Karl's muffled speaking. He had grown accustomed to the company -- if that were the right word. It wasn't like they were in the same room, but something about knowing that someone was listening to him, and hearing another person nearby was comforting.
Sapnap finishes the piece he is playing, then puts his violin down to sort through his sheet music. He had finally played the piece to the point where he felt quite comfortable with it. I can probably call it a night here, he thinks.
He pauses when hears Karl strum his ukulele. At first, it's a basic tune, cheery and upbeat sounding. Karl somewhat struggles with the rhythm and beat, but those were things that he would develop over time as he kept playing. Also, some of the chords were louder than others -- Sapnap can pick out a C chord and an A chord. Those were easier chords to play on the ukulele, it made sense those were the ones that Karl was most comfortable with.
He smiles to himself when he hears Karl strum the E chord. Sapnap can't help the slight pride he feels when he notices it sounds much better than when Karl first attempted it, outside of their apartments.
Good on you Karl, he thinks, moving to put his violin back in its case. Good on you.
Karl was being too loud.
Part of him knew this, but he didn't think much of it. It was later than he usually streamed -- about 3 AM. Sapnap had stopped practicing hours ago, and Karl assumed he was asleep.
This week, his streams were heavily based around nostalgia -- last night, he had finished up his playthrough of Undertale. Now, he was playing Slender. Admittedly, he didn't find many of the jump-scares in this game to be that frightening, but he played up his reactions for the stream. It was much more entertaining to watch someone scream when they're frightened than it was to watch someone barely react.
At first, he tries to keep himself from screaming too loudly, keeping Sapnap in mind. But after two hours of streaming, this had slipped his mind, and he let himself scream at the next jumpscare.
He's talking to his chat a few seconds later, narrating his gameplay when he hears two loud bangs on the wall. Sapnap had knocked on the wall before -- usually when he was playing something new and needed to fully focus (Karl had listened to Sapnap practice so often that he could tell if a piece was one played before or not). But he had never done it that angrily. Karl feels a pang of guilt -- it is quite late, and Sapnap had been quiet for some time, a dead giveaway that he had been asleep.
"Guys, I don't know if you heard that, but my neighbor just banged on the wall," Karl whispers into his mic. He forces himself to laugh, play it off as a joke to his chat. "It's nearly 3 AM -- I'm going to try to be quieter." He continues playing the game, narrating his movements, but whispering this time -- both for dramatic effect and in a vain effort to keep as quiet as possible.
Karl finishes the game after about another half hour, then ends his stream. He sighs, and feels another pang of guilt -- Sapnap was so kind. Their little competitions to see who could be louder were funny, and Karl oftentimes found himself excited to see what Sapnap would do next.
Plus, Karl had thought about the moment where Sapnap had shown him how to play the ukulele over and over in his head, trying to memorize what it felt like to have Sapnap's fingers brush his own. He often found himself blushing at the thought, then shaking his head at his own antics.
Karl grabs a sticky note from his desk, writing a brief message on it. He heads out of his apartment, and sticks it on Sapnap's door. Hopefully, he doesn't hate me, Karl thinks.
Sapnap is half asleep when he's jolted by a loud scream from next door, followed by a laugh.
He bangs his hand against the wall, probably with more force than is necessary. Usually, he didn't mind so much -- if it ever really got too loud, he could knock on the wall, and it would quiet down. Sometimes, he would even be able to make out a muffled apology.
But tonight was different -- he was having a lot of trouble falling asleep, the anxieties over tomorrow clouding his thoughts. Morning rehearsal, followed almost immediately by playing for two back-to-back ballets, and then a solo performance at the university for prospective students. He had been lying in bed, staring at his ceiling for hours. To say he was annoyed at his neighbor would be an understatement.
For a moment, he feels guilty -- his hand stings a little from how hard he slammed it against the wall. But the sound goes away almost immediately. After another half hour of laying awake, he manages to calm his nerves enough to sleep.
In the morning, when he opens the door to leave his apartment, a pink sticky note flutters to the floor. He picks it up, glancing at the words written on it.
Sorry for the noise last night :( I'll try to keep it down. -- Karl from 610.
Sapnap reads over the note. He feels a pang of guilt -- Karl is sweet. During the few interactions they have had, he's been incredibly kind. Their banter could be considered passive-aggressive at worst, but there was always an underlying playfulness to it. Sapnap glances at his phone, and decides he has a few minutes to make it up to him. He walks back inside and grabs a pen and an orange sticky note from his desk, and writes a message.
It's ok - sorry for banging so hard :( Maybe next time I can text you? -- Sapnap from 611
Underneath the message, he scrawls his number. He hastily sticks the note on Karl's door, then leaves.
thank you for reading :) it's fun to write more light-hearted things, but it definitely takes a lot of getting used to. i'm still not entirely sure how this is turning out, so let me know if you like it!! leave a comment or kudos <3
i always respond to comments, it just might take me a little bit <3 i appreciate all of you!!!
Karl looks over the sticky-note one more time, making sure that he got the number correct.
Hey, this is Karl -- sorry again for being so loud last night :(
He rereads his text after he sends it, then locks his phone and sighs. He still feels bad about last night -- but the only thing that he could do about it now was to apologize.
Karl pushes the thoughts of Sapnap away, forcing himself to focus only on his work -- planning for his next stream, responding to emails, making a thumbnail for next week's video.
A few hours pass by before Karl picks up his phone again. He sits up straight when he realizes that Sapnap has texted him back.
Don't worry about it -- I was just stressed, I had a lot to do today. I shouldn't have banged so hard lmao
Karl releases a breath he didn't realize he had been holding. Sapnap had sent the text about an hour ago -- Karl had been too preoccupied to notice. Quickly, he sends back a text.
Yeah, you scared me!!! >:c
For a moment, Karl doubts himself -- he and Sapnap are friendly, yes, but they are barely even friends. He can count one hand how many times they've actually spoken to each other. Maybe his text was a little too friendly for Sapnap.
His doubts are quickly shaken when Sapnap replies.
You're the one screaming in the middle of the night you know :P
Karl smiles at the text. All of the anxiety and guilt he felt about the night prior dissipated, replaced with light-hearted banter.
I was playing a horror game
It was scary okay
Sapnap responds quickly. Karl rolls his eyes, but feels his ears turn pink when he reads the message.
Next time, I'll go over to protect you.
Rather than respond directly to this, or leave Sapnap on seen, Karl chooses to simply ask about his day.
You said you had a lot to do today -- what have you been up to?
Sapnap goes on a small ramble, telling Karl about rehearsals and performing, complaining about how his desk mate always forgot his sheet music, forcing Sapnap to share his, describing how he almost fell asleep in the middle of playing for a ballet, since the music was so soft. Karl enjoys this small glimpse into Sapnap's life, cutting in every once in a while with a question about his job.
Sorry, I was rambling quite a bit, how was your day Karl?
It's Karl's turn to ramble -- he tells Sapnap about editing, making thumbnails, and streaming. Karl actually ends up trying to explain the YouTube algorithm to Sapnap for a bit -- at the end, he's pretty sure that Sapnap is more confused than when he started. But it's nice, to have someone completely unfamiliar with his work listen to him talk about his passions.
They end up talking for quite a while. It's surprisingly easy to fall into this pattern with Sapnap -- they stay up texting for hours. Karl had meant to stream that night, but he had forgotten, completely absorbed in learning more about his neighbor.
It seemed that Sapnap enjoyed their conversations as well -- that night, for the first time in weeks, Karl did not hear the sound of violin playing through the walls. When he falls asleep, it's not so much a conscious decision as it is an accident -- Karl wanted to keep talking to Sapnap, but he couldn't find it in him to stay up for any longer.
In a state of half-consciousness, he reads the last two texts that Sapnap sends him.
Karl? Did you fall asleep?
Sweet dreams :)
Karl wakes up to the faint sound of music playing through the walls. He sits up, squinting at the sunlight. Karl grabs his phone and frowns when the screen refuses to light up. Figures, he forgot to plug it in last night. He plugs it in, then places it on his bedside table.
The sound of the violin stopped, briefly, then started again. Must be a tricky section, Karl thinks. It was a familiar tune, but he couldn't place the name of it. Karl winces when he hears the violin abruptly stop, followed by a clanging noise, as if Sapnap had kicked his music stand over in frustration. After a moment, the violin started again, slower this time.
Karl walks over to his window and opens it, letting the cool air into his apartment. He stood there for a moment, breathing in the fresh air and listening. The same melody played a few more times, each time more sloppy than the last.
While listening, Karl starts to mentally list all the things he needs to get done today: edit the video for the gaming channel, finish the build for his lore stream in two days, clear out his work email.
His thoughts are interrupted when the music abruptly stops, followed by what sounds like a strangled scream. In spite of himself, Karl can't help but chuckle at the sound.
Sapnap would play well for the first few lines of the piece, which was a moderately paced, upbeat tune. But the next line consisted of many fast-paced, changing notes. Karl flinched when he heard him mess up the section once again and stop abruptly -- he could feel Sapnap's frustration.
Karl thought that he had given up, that he would come back to practicing later. Instead, the music changed -- Sapnap started playing a piece he was more confident with. Karl could tell by the way the music got louder, the notes clearer.
Karl found himself leaning closer to his wall, wanting to hear more. He moved to lean against the wall and closed his eyes, feeling the slight vibrations with every note. The music swelled -- the notes became richer, louder. One particular high note had Karl holding his breath as the musician played, the rich vibrato sending chills down his spine.
There was a rest, then the melody continued, sad and sweet. The sound was beautiful, as expected from a professional musician, but this was something else -- something genuine. There was a certain emotive aspect to the piece; each note was played with strong articulation and feeling. He was pouring a bit of himself into the music. There was passion clearly felt in every note played.
Karl listened as the song ended, as the last few notes faded into silence. Smiling to himself, he clapped loud enough that he knew that Sapnap could hear him. There's quiet, for a moment, and Karl briefly wonders if he made a mistake by letting Sapnap know he was listening in on his practicing session. But then he receives a text.
Thanks Karl <3
Karl lingers on the heart at the end of the message for a moment too long. He feels his cheeks turn slightly pink. Karl pushes the feeling down and sends back a selfie of himself, smiling and holding his thumb up. Sapnap heart-reacts the photo, but doesn't text back.
He starts playing again, the same melody that had been giving him so much trouble. Sapnap still struggles through it, but there is less frustration in his playing. The tempo is more consistent, as Sapnap works it out slowly. Karl smiles to himself, and boots up his computer to get some work done. He picks up his headset reflexively, but stops himself before he puts it on. He puts the headset down, content to do his work while listening to the violin.
Karl had texted him in all caps. Sapnap's brows furrow, and he puts down his violin to respond.
THERE'S A SPIDER IN MY ROOM
Sapnap shakes his head and chuckles at this. Karl had mentioned being afraid of spiders, once.
I freaked out and threw a can of monster at it, but it got away
I needed to do work on my laptop but now I'm too scared to
Not cool man >:C
Sapnap would be fine continuing to text Karl, but he really needed to practice more. He would feel too bad leaving Karl on read, especially since he knows that Karl would be able to hear the sound of him practicing through the wall. Sapnap thinks, for a moment, before responding.
come over, you can do work in my room
Once he sends the message, he turns off his phone and picks up the violin again. If Karl wants to come, here, he's welcome to, Sapnap thinks. We usually hear each other anyways, it won't be that much of a distraction.
It's about twenty minutes before Karl shows up, knocking tentatively at his bedroom door. Sapnap walks over and opens it to find Karl standing there, laptop in hand, looking mildly sheepish. Vaguely, he remembers that Karl has never been in his apartment before.
"You can sit on my bed," Sapnap says, gesturing to the mattress. He's glad he decided to make it today.
"Thanks man," Karl says, taking a seat on the bed. He sits with his legs crossed, balances his laptop on his lap, and gets to work. Sapnap smiles.
"No problem," he says. He picks up the violin and starts playing again.
They don't speak much that afternoon, but something shifts in their dynamic. This was not a generous favor from a neighbor, but rather, a playful offer between friends.
Honestly, Sapnap couldn't pinpoint the moment in which Karl became his best friend. But he could tell you when he realized it.
Sapnap had gone to the nearby deli, as he had done many, many times before. The worker there had brightened when he walked in, as he did every time.
"Two breakfast specials on everything bagels, medium coffee, and a white monster?" Sapnap had been taken slightly aback at the worker reciting his order. It wasn't anything new -- the man was incredibly kind, and always remembered what his regulars would get. But for every time prior to this one, it had been 'breakfast special on an everything bagel, and one medium coffee'.
Sapnap and Karl had taken to having breakfast together on the weekends. One of them would go to the deli and grab food, and then they would both eat, and spend the rest of the morning together, being productive.
They were both night owls, so having a reason to wake up in the morning helped them start the day more productively, rather than waking up at noon. Sapnap would either practice, or annotate his sheet music, while Karl would sit on his laptop, working on his latest project.
"How'd you know?" Sapnap asked.
"Whenever your boyfriend comes in here, he gets the same exact thing," the worker said.
"He's not my boyfriend," Sapnap responded. The worker smiled.
"Best friend, then," the worker corrected. He gave Sapnap no time to respond, instead turning to make the sandwiches.
Huh, Sapnap had thought. I guess he's right.
Sapnap's phone goes off with a text notification.
"Could you see who that was?" Sapnap asks. He's completely absorbed in his sheet music. Sapnap has his left arm on his right shoulder. He was trying to determine the best fingering for the music by drumming his right fingers on his left forearm, a habit that Karl found endearing.
Karl looks away from his laptop, then reaches over and grabs Sapnap's phone from the edge of the table. When he taps the screen, he sees that the text was just spam -- some discount offer for a food delivery app. He's about to put the phone down again when his eyes wander to the notification right below the most recent. It's his own text -- Sapnap hadn't opened his message, which was a simple smile emoji. But it's his contact name that catches Karl's eye.
"Sapnap," Karl says.
"Yeah?" Sapnap responds.
"Do you have me in your phone as 'cute neighbor boy'?" Karl asks.
"Yeah," Sapnap says, nonchalantly. He doesn't even look up from his sheet music.
"Why?" Karl asks.
"Why not?" Sapnap says. At Karl's lack of response, Sapnap looks up from his sheet music. "Does it bother you?"
"No," Karl responds. He barely thinks before responding, surprising himself.
"Alright, then there's no problem," Sapnap says. He returns to his sheet music, picking up his pencil and writing in some fingerings above the bars.
"Yeah, no problem," Karl echoes. He glances over at Sapnap, and feels his heart flutter, slightly. "No problem at all."
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Karl overworks himself sometimes, as Sapnap comes to discover.
It starts off as something small. Karl asks him to get two monsters from the deli instead of one.
"Why two?" Sapnap asks.
"I didn't sleep much last night," Karl responds. Sapnap doesn't question this -- he had fallen asleep to the sound of Karl speaking to his stream, and he could still hear Karl talking to his chat when he woke up in the morning. Sapnap is pretty sure that Karl had been up all night.
"You should sleep," Sapnap says. Karl rolls his eyes and waves him off; Sapnap doesn't push farther, instead pulling his jacket on and going to pick up breakfast.
It's about two hours before Sapnap notices again. Karl had finished both of the drinks much faster than Sapnap would have thought, and he had been on a caffeine-induced work frenzy, typing rapidly on his keyboard, eyes glued to his laptop screen. Sapnap had been absorbed in his work -- he had a solo performance in two weeks, and although he was quite familiar with the piece at this point, he wanted to make sure everything was perfect.
Sapnap is squinting at his sheet music, debating changing the fingerings for a tricky section, when he notices that Karl has been quiet for an unusual amount of time. When he glances over, he realizes that Karl has fallen asleep. He has his head propped up with his left arm, and his right hand still rests on the keyboard.
"Karl?" At the lack of response, Sapnap puts his violin down and walks over, putting a hand on Karl's shoulder. He shakes him, slightly, but Karl doesn't react.
Part of Sapnap wants to wake Karl up by playing some meme song as loud as he possibly can. He knows that Karl would find it funny -- probably be a little bit annoyed, at first, but Karl isn't one to get angry. But Sapnap can see how tired Karl is -- he has bags under his eyes, and he had been unusually quiet this morning, a surefire sign that Karl was exhausted.
Sapnap pushes Karl's elbow off of the table, jolting him awake. Karl might have fallen forward and hit his head, but Sapnap catches him by his shoulder, holding him up.
"You fell asleep," Sapnap points out. He keeps a firm grip on Karl's shoulder. Karl blinks, before moving his hand and returning to his typing.
"Sorry," Karl says. He moves to type again, but Sapnap grabs his hand.
"What are you sorry for?" he asks. His tone is light-hearted, but it masks underlying worry. "You didn't sleep last night."
"I slept a little-"
"I heard you talking to your chat when I woke up this morning," Sapnap says. "You were streaming the whole night." Karl shrugs this off, and attempts to get back to work, but Sapnap moves his hand so that their fingers are intertwined, preventing Karl from typing.
"I need to respond to these emails," Karl says. He looks up at Sapnap with stubborn determination, but Sapnap holds firm.
"You need to go to bed," Sapnap says.
"Let go of my hand," Karl says.
"I like holding your hand," Sapnap says, teasing. Karl rolls his eyes, but Sapnap doesn't miss the pink that dusts his cheeks.
"I need to respond to these today," Karl says. "I've been putting it off." Sapnap ponders this, for a moment. He lets go of Karl's hand.
"Stand up," Sapnap says. "Take your laptop too." Karl looks at him, skeptical.
"Come on," Sapnap urges. Karl closes his laptop and stands. Sapnap takes his hand, and leads Karl to his bedroom.
It's not like Sapnap hasn't been in Karl's bedroom before -- when they were both tired of doing work, or just wanted to hang out, they would sit in there. Karl would show Sapnap the latest song he'd learned on the ukulele, and Sapnap would clap exaggeratingly. But when he leads Karl over to his bed, Sapnap can feel his ears turn slightly red.
"Sit," Sapnap says, gesturing to the bed. Karl, too tired to protest, sits on the bed. Sapnap takes the laptop from him, and walks over to the other side.
"Can I sit?" Sapnap asks.
"Yeah," Karl says, still confused. He blinks at Sapnap, and his voice is sleepy. It makes Sapnap's heart melt, just a little bit. Sapnap moves to sit beside Karl. He places the laptop on his lap, and opens it.
"What do I type?" Sapnap says. "Just tell me what to write, and I'll write it."
"You don't need to do that," Karl says. In spite of himself, he yawns. Sapnap looks at Karl and offers a smile.
"I want to," Sapnap replies. Karl, seemingly accepting this, puts his head on Sapnap's shoulder, idly gesturing to the screen.
"Tell them I'm free to work with them on the 20th," Karl dictates. Sapnap obliges, typing away.
Karl ends up falling asleep on Sapnap's shoulder. For a change, Sapnap tries to be as quiet as possible when he types. A lot of the emails have the same format, but Sapnap saves them as drafts so that Karl can look them over later before he sends them.
Somewhere in the middle of what feels like the twentieth email, Karl wakes up and closes the laptop.
"Thank you," Karl says. He moves the blanket up to cover himself, curling up slightly. He keeps his head on Sapnap's shoulder. "I'll do the rest later." Sapnap moves to put the laptop on the bedside table, moving as carefully as possible as to let Karl keep leaning on him.
"This position can't be comfortable," Sapnap says lightly. Karl, to spite him, moves closer so that their legs are touching.
"It is to me," he says. He yawns again, then sleepily curls into himself. Karl closes his eyes and just barely misses the impossibly fond look Sapnap gives him.
"I'll stay until you fall asleep again," Sapnap says, his voice soft. Karl hums in contentment. Sapnap glances down at Karl's hand. He reaches over to hold it.
"What are you doing?" Karl questions. His tone is heavy with sleep.
"I like holding your hand," Sapnap says simply. The teasing tone he had earlier is gone, replaced with matter-of-fact fondness. "Do you want me to stop?" Karl doesn't verbally respond. He just intertwines their fingers.
After Karl had fallen asleep on Sapnap, he had woken up alone. Sapnap had stayed until Karl had fallen asleep, as promised, and had snuck out some time after. Karl, when thinking back to it, felt mildly embarrassed -- he had practically curled into Sapnap. He reaches for his phone to text an apology, but stops when he sees Sapnap sent him a text.
You look cute when you sleep. Love ya <3
Underneath the text was a selfie that Sapnap had taken while Karl was sleeping. Karl was leaning on Sapnap's shoulder, and Sapnap was smiling straight at the camera. Karl could see their hands at the bottom edge of the photo. Sapnap had kept their fingers interlocked, even as Karl slept.
Karl bit back a smile at the photo. He reread Sapnap's text, and felt his heart skip a beat as he read the last phrase. Before he could fully think about it, he texts Sapnap back.
Just woke up. Thanks for everything <3 Love you too.
He also sends a selfie of himself, bed-head and all, holding a thumbs up. Karl tries not to think about it too much.
They were just neighbors. Neighbors who became friends. Friends who became best friends. Best friends who apparently held hands and told each other they loved each other.
Nothing strange about that at all.
They have grown close over the past few months -- they texted every day, sent each other selfies, and spent Saturday mornings together.
Sometimes, it bordered on what Karl would consider slightly flirtatious. Like last week. He had texted Sapnap about his stream that night, warning him of the noise.
Hey, I'm doing a mediashare stream tonight, which probably means I'll be laughing a lot. Might get a little loud!
Sapnap's response just barely bordered on friendly, teetering into flirtatiousness.
No worries -- you have a cute laugh. Nice to hear darling <3
Karl doesn't know whether he should roll his eyes at the pet name or squeal into his pillow. It's hard to not like Sapnap -- they can always find something to talk about, but they can also sit in silence for hours, each doing their own thing. Enjoying each other's company.
Plus, Sapnap is just so talented and kind. The way that he could play the most complex pieces on his violin without a hitch left Karl speechless. But despite this, Sapnap would still take time to show Karl how to play certain things on the ukulele, teaching him about rhythm, even tuning it occasionally. It made his heart flutter.
His thoughts are interrupted when he hears his phone buzz. Sapnap had texted him.
Hey, do you want to come to my concert next week?
Karl blinks -- they've hung out a lot, admittedly, for the past few months. But they had never done so outside of their apartments. They are, come to think of it, overtly domestic with each other. The other day, Sapnap had even borrowed one of Karl's sweaters, claiming that Karl liked his apartment unreasonably cold. Their banter occasionally could be considered flirty, but it was always done with a teasing tone. It made his head spin.
Karl responds with a simple question, choosing to let Sapnap elaborate.
Yeah, I'm performing and I have a solo :) To make it up for all the times you've listened to me practice the piece.
I'll buy you dinner after <3 Wherever you'd like.
His breath hitches. Karl is sure he could be misinterpreting this -- it is a friendly gesture. He has heard Sapnap play the piece countless times. It would be nice to see it professionally performed. It's something that is to be expected, from a friend.
But at the same time, Sapnap's second text slightly borders on romantic. Offering to buy dinner after? Karl's gaze darts towards the heart in the message.
Part of him wants to deny Sapnap, come up with an excuse. This is too confusing to think about, and Karl is scared he might be looking at it the wrong way. He doesn't want to make a fool of himself. But instead, he finds himself responding with a question.
Is there a dress code?
You should be fine in a dress shirt and nice slacks :)
Karl sighs, then texts him back. There's no way he would be able to say no to him.
Alright then :) Looking forward to it!
Karl types out one more message, and his finger hovers over the send message button, but he backs out at the last second, deleting the message and putting his phone down. The question hangs in the air, unasked.
Is this a date?
Sapnap had met Karl inside the concert hall, and insisted that he be the one to lead Karl to his seat. He had taken his hand and led him to the front of the auditorium, right near the stage.
"You look nice," Sapnap says. Karl was wearing a white button up, and black pants. He had rolled the sleeves up to his elbows, cuffing them. Karl grinned.
"Look who's talking," he says. Sapnap was dressed similarly to Karl, but he had on a black blazer. He smiled at Karl's words, and lightly rubbed his thumb over his knuckles.
That was a thing as well -- they held hands a lot, now. Karl's heart still skips a beat when he thinks of Sapnap's words, the first time it happened -- I like holding your hand.
"Do you get all your friends seats this nice when they come listen to you?" Karl asks.
"I don't really invite friends to watch me perform," Sapnap says. For a moment, he looks somewhat bashful, but his expression is quickly replaced with something teasing.
"Oh, so I'm not your friend now?" Karl asks. His tone is teasing, but when he turns to look at Sapnap, his expression isn't teasing -- it's serious, in a way Karl hasn't seen often from Sapnap. He's about to backtrack, take back whatever he said that erased the light-heartedness from the situation, but Sapnap speaks up.
"You're more than my friend," he says. Before Karl can question this, ask him to elaborate, Sapnap squeezes his hand, then turns to go backstage.
Karl settles in his seat, skimming over the program, trying not to think about what Sapnap had just said. You're more than my friend. There was almost no other way to interpret that -- it made him feel warm on the inside.
You're more than my friend too, Karl thinks. He smiles to himself, then skims the program once more, searching for Sapnap's name. He puts the program away when the performers walk on stage, taking their seats. As the conductor tunes the orchestra, Karl scans the stage, searching for Sapnap.
Karl manages to pick him out, right as the orchestra finishes tuning. If he decides to spend the rest of the concert staring at him -- well, who would know? The orchestra started to play once more, and Karl listened, admiring the performance.
Honestly, he might have found it boring, if he had attended a concert like this before he met Sapnap. But he had spent so many days listening to the man ramble about the intricacies of certain pieces, his favorite composers, and music theory. Granted, Karl barely understood what Sapnap was talking about, most of the time, but the passion he had for music was quite admirable. It had caused Karl to develop an appreciation for this type of music.
Karl listened in earnest, genuinely enjoying the music. He kept his eyes on Sapnap, admiring the way he looked when he was hyper focused. Truly, Sapnap was one of the most passionate people he had ever met.
Nothing could have prepared Karl to watch Sapnap perform his solo.
It's not like Karl had never seen Sapnap play this piece before. Karl must have listened to him practice dozens of times. He would go over each line meticulously, playing it over and over until it sounded perfect. Karl had even listened to Sapnap play the whole piece over, watched as Sapnap would nit pick which parts he needed to work on. Honestly, it had all sounded the same, a lot of the time -- Sapnap would play a line, and Karl would have to judge based on his expression whether or not he had played well.
Karl had heard him play this piece through the walls of his apartment, in his living room, even in Sapnap's bedroom. But nothing could compare to the way it sounded on stage.
First of all, the passion that Sapnap played with -- it was clear to Karl. All of the parts that he had heard Sapnap practicing were there, but they were somehow richer, with meaning in each note. Karl found himself leaning forward, entranced by the playing.
Second of all, Sapnap himself was clearly in his element. His posture exuded a type of confidence that Karl had only gotten glimpses of in Sapnap's practice sessions. When Sapnap moved his bow, his movements were clear, definite, and confident. Sapnap had him transfixed -- Karl wouldn't be able to look away, even if he tried. Karl doesn't mind it. Sapnap has him hooked, and it's addicting.
You are so much more than just my friend, Karl thinks. His heart flutters. So much more.
Sapnap had taken the bus to the concert hall. He needed to be there an hour early -- something about a last-minute rehearsal, helping the concertmaster setup.
Karl had driven to the hall later, and they had agreed that Sapnap would meet him after, to go get dinner.
Sapnap meets Karl outside, after performing. Sapnap has his violin case slung over his shoulders. Karl is holding a bouquet of roses, and is looking quite bashful.
"Where did you get those?" Sapnap asked.
"I bought them earlier," Karl says. He holds them out to Sapnap. "Do people give you flowers after performing? Like after a play? I don't really-"
"I like them," Sapnap says, cutting him off. "That's really sweet of you." He doesn't miss the way that Karl blushes.
"It's no big deal," Karl says. Sapnap offers a grin, which Karl returns in earnest.
"Hey, could you hold this for a second?" Sapnap asks, holding out the flowers. Karl reaches to take them from him, but Sapnap doesn't hand them to him. Instead, he grabs Karl's outstretched hand.
"Thanks," he says. Karl rolls his eyes, but he is smiling. "So, where do you want to eat?"
When they get back after dinner, they stand outside of their apartment doors. They are holding hands -- Sapnap has one hand in Karl's, the other grasping the flowers Karl had given him.
"Will you let me walk you home?" Karl asks. Sapnap furrows his brow.
"What do you mean?" Sapnap questions.
"I mean, I got to make sure you get back to your room safe, right?" Karl sounds a little flustered, at his own antics, but there's something teasing in his voice.
"We're literally standing outside my apartment," Sapnap points out.
"Yeah but, what if when you walk back you trip and break your neck? I'd never be able to forgive myself," he says. Sapnap looks at him skeptically, but eventually shrugs. He lets go of Karl's hand, briefly, to unlock the door.
When he turns back to look at him, Karl is looking back towards his own door, suddenly seeming bashful, shy. Sapnap reaches over and grabs his hand once more, offering a smile when Karl meets his gaze.
"Come on, aren't you going to end this date like a gentleman?" Sapnap places a teasing emphasis on the word date, and Karl flushes, but responds in kind.
"Of course," he says. "I have to keep you safe."
Sapnap leads Karl to his bedroom door, then turns to look at him skeptically.
"Here we are," he says. "We made it in one piece."
Karl isn't looking at him. He's staring off to the side, and his cheeks are pink. Sapnap is about to say something -- lighten the mood, make Karl laugh. He doesn't get a chance.
Karl takes a deep breath and leans in, kissing him. It is brief, barely even a peck, but Sapnap feels his cheeks grow warm. Before he can respond, Karl has pulled away. Sapnap barely has time to process before Karl leaves his apartment, seemingly embarrassed.
Sapnap walks into his room and puts the flowers on his bedside table. He places his violin down as well, then stands, for a moment, processing what just happened. After a few minutes, he walks over to the wall that he and Karl share, and knocks lightly.
It's a few more minutes before Karl texts him.
Sapnap runs a hand through his hair, and ignores how warm his face feels thinking about Karl.
I needed to make sure you got home safe. What if you tripped and broke your neck? I'd never be able to forgive myself.
There's a knock back. Sapnap bites back a grin, and texts Karl again.
Goodnight Karl. I love you.
He feels his cheeks grow warm when Karl responds right away, and he's smiling as he reads the message.
I love you too.
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Karl thinks about Sapnap way more often than what is necessary.
They're not dating. But they're not not dating. See, Sapnap has never called Karl his boyfriend.
You've never called him your boyfriend either, Karl reasons.
Yes, he did call the night that Karl went to go see him in concert a date, but never without that teasing tone. It could have easily been an offhand remark, not meant to be taken seriously. Lighthearted banter between friends.
He held your hand, and said you were more than just a friend, Karl counters.
Sure, they hold hands sometimes (a lot of the time), and Sapnap sends Karl good morning texts (Sapnap calls Karl darling, in these), and they borrow each other's hoodies (he's pretty sure Sapnap still has one of them). Karl can tell Sapnap he loves him, and expect an "I love you" back, and vice versa.
But those could all just be very friendly gestures -- Sapnap is quite affectionate, Karl reminds himself.
Oh, and they kiss sometimes. Well, sometimes is an overstatement. They kissed once.
Karl isn't sure where he summoned the courage to kiss Sapnap, that night. It's not that he regretted it, but it certainly wasn't his initial intention.
When they got to their apartments, Sapnap had turned and looked at him, and Karl could tell he was about to say goodnight -- Sapnap would walk into his apartment, and Karl his own, and that would be the end.
There were two problems with this. The first: Karl didn't want the night to end. It had been so lovely, and although he knew that he would likely see Sapnap again soon, Karl just wanted to keep hanging out with him.
The second: he really didn't want to let go of Sapnap's hand.
Before he can even properly think about it, he's asking Sapnap to walk him to his room. Sapnap looked confused. Rightfully so -- it was a bit of a ridiculous question. Karl had felt himself fluster, but decided to push. Sapnap hadn't questioned him further, and part of him was glad.
But when they reached Sapnap's bedroom, and Sapnap had turned to look at him, Karl couldn't stop thinking about the way that Sapnap's hand felt in his. How nice it felt to fall asleep on his shoulder. The way his laugh sounded. Karl had looked away at this point -- he could feel how red his cheeks were getting, and he's sure that Sapnap could see how flustered he was.
Karl had turned back, and he had met Sapnap's gaze. His heart was pounding, and for a moment, he felt brave.
That's all it took for him to lean in.
So, that was their first and only kiss.
They didn't talk about it after, but they didn't purposefully avoid the question. It simply didn't come up in conversation. Sometimes when they hang out, Karl has the urge to ask him: what are we? Did that kiss mean anything to you?
Usually, something comes up: Sapnap will show him a meme on his phone, start telling a story about something random that had happened to him this week, or ask if Karl wanted to get lunch later. This simple conversation is enough to distract Karl from questioning the nature of their relationship. Karl would respond, and then get absorbed in conversation, and then forget to ask.
It's not confusing, being with Sapnap. It's quite the opposite, really. It's simple.
Sapnap didn't question things that didn't need to be questioned. Like when Karl would reach his hand over when he was annotating music, Sapnap would hold it. Half the time, he wouldn't even look up, just continue writing while running his thumb across Karl's knuckles.
One time, Sapnap came over wearing a hoodie, and he had taken it off at some point whilst practicing. When Karl had reached over and pulled it on, Sapnap didn't ask him why, even though Karl always seemed to feel too warm. He simply glanced over and smiled at him.
He didn't ask Karl for the hoodie back when he left. Karl kept it.
They aren't dating. But if they were, what would really change?
I'd kiss him again, Karl thinks. That's pretty much it.
They'd been mistaken for a couple a few times, actually. The first few times, either he or Sapnap would correct the person. But they started holding hands when they were alone together. Then they started holding hands in public. Sometimes, if the deli was particularly crowded, Karl would put his arm around Sapnap while they waited. If it were too loud, instead of speaking, Sapnap would lean over and whisper in Karl's ear. If Sapnap noticed how this made Karl shiver, he didn't mention it.
They aren't dating, but recently, if someone mistook them as a couple, neither Karl nor Sapnap would correct them. So maybe they were dating, kind of. They're kind of dating.
Karl smiles, and decides to simply not question it further. He opens up Twitch, and starts to stream. As he's talking to his chat, he catches a glimpse of himself -- he hadn't realized he was wearing Sapnap's hoodie. He lets himself linger on the image for a moment longer, before going back to talking to his chat.
It's curiosity that leads Sapnap to try to find Karl's Twitch. It's not like Karl kept it a secret that he streamed for a living -- far from it. He would ramble about new stream or video ideas, asking Sapnap for his opinion. It was clear that Karl enjoyed his work.
But Karl never told Sapnap the name of his channel. Granted, Sapnap had never asked. He's sure that Karl wouldn't mind. Plus, he does wonder at times what causes the terrifying shrieks at ungodly hours.
It is much easier than Sapnap thought it would be to find. He really didn't expect googling "karl twitch" would come up with the right channel, but lo and behold, it was the first link.
He glanced at the available vods -- a lot of them were over three hours long. It was one thing to find Karl's Twitch channel. But sitting through hours of his content at once would feel slightly obsessive.
Instead, Sapnap navigates to YouTube, and looks up "karl stream moments". There, he finds multiple compilation videos, which are each about 15 minutes long. He clicks on the first one, a video titled "Karl Jacobs being adorable for 10 minutes straight."
The video has a few clips of Karl showing off what he is wearing. Sapnap recognizes a few of these outfits -- Karl had taken to sending him fit checks every morning (Sapnap saved these photos, and put them into an album on his phone). There are some clips of Karl just laughing so hard that he can't speak. Sapnap finds himself smiling at these. Karl's laugh is musical, in a way. It made Sapnap feel light inside.
He's so cute, Sapnap thinks. When the video ends, he clicks on one of the recommended videos: "Karl Jacobs being jump-scared for 10 minutes straight."
This is where he learns the truth: Karl scares easily. That explains all of the random screaming in the evening -- Karl jumps at even the most predictable scares, and screams at the more unpredictable ones. Sapnap has to bite back a laugh at one clip of Karl falling out of his chair. The video ends, and he's left smiling.
Sapnap skims over the recommended videos once more. His brows furrow when he sees the title of one of compilations.
"Karl Jacobs simping for his neighbor for 10 minutes straight."
He plays the video.
"Guys my new neighbor is super cute, he gave me a coffee today," he hears Karl say. Sapnap recognizes the outfit Karl's wearing as the one he was wearing when he moved in -- white shirt, with a bandana around his head. "I looked so gross, I was sweaty from the heat," Karl says. "I can't believe that I looked like such a mess when I met the love of my life, chat." Karl holds his hand over his heart in a mock gesture that makes Sapnap grin.
I thought you looked cute, Sapnap thinks. Another clip starts playing.
"He told me that he had been practicing scales, and I asked him what those were. Obviously, I know what scales are -- I just wanted him to keep talking to me." Karl looks mildly flustered, but he breaks into giggles at his own antics. Sapnap thinks that he could listen to him laugh all day.
He remembered that conversation, in the elevator -- Karl had only recently moved in. You could have just asked me to keep talking to you, Sapnap thinks, it's my pleasure. If possible, his grin gets even wider.
"Guys, I don't know if you can hear this, but my neighbor is literally playing the Mii Channel Song through the walls." Karl looks to the wall behind him, the one that he and Sapnap share. "I think he's doing it to spite me for being so loud last stream." He shakes his head and rolls his eyes, but Sapnap can see that he is smiling.
"He plays the violin -- I haven't seen him play, but he has nice hands." Karl seems to say the latter part of that sentence without thinking -- Sapnap can see his cheeks turn slightly pink. He quickly changes the subject, moving on with the stream.
Another clip plays, and this time, Karl is telling a story.
"He invited me to one of his concerts, and I asked him what I should wear, because I've never been to a classical concert before, and he told me I could wear a dress shirt and nice pants -- I literally went out and bought a shirt specifically for this, because I didn't realize I didn't own a dress shirt." He pauses, then looks to his left, where Sapnap assumes he is reading chat.
"Guys I promise I'm not a simp, I just didn't want to show up to a nice concert in my own merch," Karl says. "Plus, it's nice to have if I ever need it." Another voice speaks that Sapnap doesn't recognize -- one of Karl's streamer friends in his voice chat.
"Karl, you literally asked me for advice on what flowers you should get him." Karl's face flushes at this, and Sapnap feels his heart clench when he sees him bury his face in his sweater paws.
"I thought it was a nice gesture," Karl says. His voice is muffled by the fabric of his sweater. "He said he liked them."
I did like them, Sapnap thinks. He looks over at the dried roses on his bedside table. He thinks about that night -- how Karl had kissed him, then left before he could respond. The thought makes Sapnap blush. How can one person be this cute?
The final clip that plays is short. Karl's donation sound plays, and he reads the donation message out loud.
"What's up with you and your neighbor?" Karl giggles at the donation. "I have a massive crush on him, and he barely even knows it." Karl glances at his chat, then shakes his head and smiles. "Guys -- there's no way that he's watching the stream, I promise you. I can gush about him all I want." Sapnap feels himself blush even more at this.
The video ends, and Sapnap closes out of YouTube, trying to give himself time to process these revelations.
I have a massive crush on him. Sapnap grins when he thinks of Karl saying this.
I like you too, Karl, he thinks.
Sapnap picks up his phone, and opens his chat with Karl. He types out a text.
Wdym I barely even know that you have a crush on me?? We went on a date. You kissed me. I told you I love you. You're my boyfriend, dumbass.
It's definitely in character. Not the most eloquent way of making it official, but it's definitely in character.
Sapnap is about to send the text when he hears Karl speaking. He must have just started streaming.
Sapnap could send the text now. Karl has it set up so Sapnap's texts go through 'Do Not Disturb', so that Sapnap could just text him if he were being too loud.
His thumb hovers over the send button. But he glances up at his laptop screen, and looks at the title of the video again. Karl Jacobs simping for his neighbor.
Sure, he could just send Karl a text. But what would be the fun in that? Sapnap navigates to Twitch, onto Karl's channel. Karl is streaming Just Chatting, and his stream is titled just vibes fo tonite!! Sapnap opens Karl's stream, smiling.
The first thing he notices is the hoodie. Honestly, Sapnap had forgotten that Karl had it. But it did suit him quite well.
He's wearing my hoodie on stream, and he thinks I don't know he has a crush on me?
Grinning to himself, he sends Karl a text.
That's a nice hoodie you're wearing. Really suits you, babe.
Sapnap watches as Karl gets the notification, and picks up his phone. He gets to watch the way that Karl blushes in real time.
Are you watching me stream?
Sapnap waits a bit before he texts again. He watches as Karl puts down his phone and talks to his chat more, telling them about his day. Sapnap waits until Karl finishes talking about his day and quiets, reading his chat. He sends another text.
Yup :) You're cute. You really look like mine when you wear that hoodie.
He's flirting unabashedly, at this point. Granted, flirting with Karl isn't anything new. He did it quite often, always enjoying the way Karl would fluster at his antics. But it had never been so direct as to insinuate that Karl was his. Well, he kind of is, Sapnap thinks.
Having definitive proof that Karl liked him back was great. There was hardly any doubt to Sapnap that he did -- Karl had never been the best at hiding his crush.
His point is proven when he sees Karl glance at the notification and stop speaking, mid-sentence. Karl's cheeks turn a brilliant shade of red. Sapnap can tell from the way he plays with his hoodie sleeves that Karl is resisting the urge to bury his face in them, hide his blush.
Unable to resist, he sends another text.
You're so cute when you blush, you know?
Karl, somehow, looks even more flustered when he reads this text. He locks his phone and puts it down, continuing his stream.
Sapnap grins. He glances over at Karl's chat -- they're confused, asking who Karl is texting. Karl is pointedly ignoring this, choosing to read donations and answer different questions. Sapnap glances over to the tabs that he has opened. His gaze lingers on the YouTube tab.
Grinning, he opens the link to the compilation video on his phone and sends it to Karl.
I found this video! I thought you would like it.
Sapnap links the YouTube compilation he had been watching. He watches as Karl gets his text notification, sees the way his brows furrow when he reads the text.
He can tell immediately when Karl opens the link. He can see it in the way that his eyes widen, and how he completely flusters.
"Hey chat, I'll be right back," Karl says, muting his mic and changing his stream so that it shows his "starting soon" screen. It's only a few seconds later that Sapnap's phone starts vibrating, with an incoming call from Karl. Sapnap picks up the phone.
"Hey sweetheart, how are you doing?" Sapnap asks, teasingly. His grin is clear from his tone.
"Sapnap," Karl says. He even sounds flustered, embarrassed that Sapnap had found all of the clips of Karl talking about him.
"You're wearing my hoodie," Sapnap says. "You're so cute." Karl goes quiet at this, seemingly struggling for what to say.
"I didn't want to call you, Karl," Sapnap says.
"I called you, actually," Karl responds. From his tone, it's clear that he is still flustered, but even now, he's cheeky.
"I didn't want to call you Karl," Sapnap says again. "I want to call you mine." Karl lets out a flustered noise, which makes Sapnap grin.
"Be my boyfriend?" Sapnap asks. "Officially?" Karl is quiet, for a second, seemingly in disbelief.
"Yeah," Karl says. He sounds breathless. "Yeah, I'd like that."
"Alright then," Sapnap says. "That's settled. Enjoy your stream, babe."
He hangs up before Karl can say anything else. It's another minute before Karl appears back on his screen, his cheeks pink, smiling wider than Sapnap had ever seen.
"Sorry chat, I had to take a call from my neighbor," Karl says. Sapnap rolls his eyes at this. He gets up, and knocks on the wall. He watches as Karl looks up, confused, then texts him.
Sapnap smiles. He sends Karl a text.
Boyfriend. Not neighbor.
The giggle that Karl lets out after reading his text makes Sapnap melt.
"Sorry chat, I had to take a call from my boyfriend," Karl says, correcting himself. Sapnap grins when he watches the chat fly by, messages going faster than he can read.
Karl giggles once more. "Boyfriend officially, as of one minute ago," he says, answering his chat. Sapnap opens his phone, and sends one more text.
If you ever call me just your neighbor again, I'll file a noise complaint with the building.
He sees Karl roll his eyes before he sends the next message.
You wouldn't. You love me too much.
Don't try me, sweetheart.
I love you. Enjoy your stream <3 Come over when you're done.
Karl doesn't respond to that last text, leaving Sapnap on read. But Sapnap hears his laughter through the wall, and he thinks that there is nothing more musical than that.
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