|Golden Sun: The Piano Man
Author: Triad Orion PM
AU. Isaac is a piano player who brings ease to many with his soulful music in the Tavern of the Golden Sun. Times are tough for everyone at the bar, but the appearance of a stranger may very well change their lives forever. Chapter 8 now available.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Chapters: 9 - Words: 42,292 - Reviews: 221 - Favs: 69 - Follows: 19 - Updated: 08-21-06 - Published: 04-19-03 - id: 1312689
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"What are you doing, rookie?" Alex demanded, looking over Picard's shoulder.
"Nothing," exclaimed Picard, slipping the papers he was studying into his desk.
"That's a lot of nothing." Alex frowned, shoving Picard aside to see what he was reading.
"What is with you today!" The younger officer demanded as he tried to restrain Alex from looking at what he had hidden. Alex resisted and overcame Picard with little trouble, forcing open the drawer and removing the contents forcibly.
Alex's eyes darted all over the paper. It looked like a coroner's report, signed and dated by the city's investigative department. Apparently a bunch of gumshoes wanted in on whatever happened on this case. Searching for a name, he flipped through a few pages before he finally discovered it.
"Autopsy papers?" Alex demanded, looking at his friend. "Who authorized this procedure?"
"…I requested it." Picard replied.
"On James Calvin! I'm surprised this isn't all over the papers!" Alex hissed. "Didn't I tell you to just put this case behind you!"
"You did. And I didn't listen. And I won't listen now."
"What good would an autopsy do, you fool? You know as well as I do those medical idiots couldn't figure out what killed him even if it hit them in the face! An autopsy is only effective if our victim was shot. There is no way an autopsy will show up anything else!" Alex slammed the papers down on the desk. Thankfully, it was late at night and nobody was actively manning the offices and cubicles nearby. Alex and Picard were the only two officers left in this area of the building, so the older Adept's frustrated voice didn't carry to the ears of eavesdroppers. "Calvin did not die of anything unnatural. I'm quite sure of that!"
It had now been a couple of months since the death of James Calvin, and he had been long since buried. However, Picard had only recently gotten hold of the reports issued by the coroner. The report was only about ten pages long, but Picard had been studying it meticulously since he got it. This affected his behavior at work, causing him to be more quiet and withdrawn than usual. Alex was not slow in picking up this sudden change, and his instincts quickly made him act. His gut had been right; the younger officer was indeed working on something under the table.
"Actually, Alex… I think we may have discovered something with that report."
"It's probably nonsense." He snorted. Alex crossed his arms and frowned down at Picard. "I told you that this obsession would affect you. What if the other officers find out? You'll get in some serious trouble trying to open a case when there's not one to be found. Leave the detective work to the gumshoes."
"I'm flattered that you're worried about me, but…"
"I'm not worried about you. I just don't want to be an accessory to this!"
"My, aren't we animated tonight?"
"Of course I'm animated. You've succeeded in pissing me off!" Alex fumed at him, resisting the urge to throttle him.
"Well, calm down." Picard said, rising from his seat. "And let me show you what the coroners found." The detective picked up the report from his desk, and flipped it to the third page. "Alex," he stated, "take a look at paragraph two. I think you might find something interesting."
With a grimace, the skeptical officer took the report and did as told.
"The subject did not die of any external injuries. There were no bruises, lacerations, or fractures present anywhere. Subject's skeletal structure remained stable and was normal. Subject's brain, aorta, and lungs all were nominal. The stomach, small intestine, and esophagus all were abnormal, each appearing unusually eroded. Subject's cause of death remains unknown, however the unusual damage to the subject's digestive tract could have been a factor." Alex's eyes widened slightly as he read.
"We may have to talk to Miss Calvin again to see if her father had any unusual eating habits."
"Hm." Alex nodded. His face had paled, and his heart began to beat a little faster. A distinct possibility now existed that Picard may have in fact been correct when he guessed the death wasn't natural. "But are you sure you're not jumping to conclusions?"
"I knew you'd say something like that, Alex," stated Picard, waving a finger. "All the docs down there tell me that in typical 'healthy' dead people those injuries aren't present. Not only that, the doctors hinted at things to me in Calvin's medical records; the guy was hardly ever sick in his life, much less with an illness that could cause that kind of damage. That means something must've caused them, right?"
Alex folded his arms, his eyes turning back to the cold, calculating spheres they normally were. "How long after Calvin's death was the autopsy done?"
"It took a little doing, but fairly shortly after."
"And it took two months to get these results?"
"Hey, those hospital folks are always busy. It's not like we have our own guys doing it, you know. I'm amazed they got around to getting me the report at all. There was a lot of red tape and loopholes we had to look for to get these reports to me legally."
"Hm." Alex muttered, leaning against another desk. The frantic and angered man was gone, leaving behind the original calm and collected Mercury Adept. Picard suppressed a smile, seeing Alex's coldness return. This meant that he was definitely on the right track; he always got like that whenever something piqued his interest. "Are you still intent on figuring out this case?"
"Yes, of course."
"And why are you doing it?" Alex asked, his voice chilling Picard to the bone.
"I… want to do it for his daughter. I still can't put her crying eyes out of my mind. She deserves justice for her father, don't you think?"
Alex paused, cocking his head slightly. His mind briefly crossed back to his own loss, and how it still weighted on him so. Turning his back to Picard, he muttered his answer in a more gruff than cold manner. "She does."
A soft wind blew through the bar, rustling the newspaper in his hands. The chill of autumn was in the air through the streets, but he didn't care. It was a nice reprieve from the painful, often unbearable heat of summer. Even though he didn't care about the weather, the piano player was surprised just how fast this year had gone by. Or rather, how much it all ran together.
He took a sip from a cup of tea that he had made earlier. It was getting cool and was growing distasteful, but he dealt with it. Ignoring the unpleasant aftertaste, Isaac turned to the next part of the newspaper. Even the small, three page sports section was filled with bad news, mostly about how the local baseball team was starting to go bankrupt with the lack of attendance. It came as no surprise, as tickets were only growing more expensive. Even admission to motion pictures was getting pricy, so his whole family made even less of an effort to go see one on a weekly basis.
Nothing at all seemed to be getting done about fixing the depression. The mayor of Tolbi was proving all but useless in that regard. Even the national level legislative bodies were doing an unsatisfactory job at best. The country needed leadership, someone who could take charge and fix everything. Lack of initiative seemed to be required to get into those positions, however. This disgusted Isaac to no end.
Growing weary of reading the rather discouraging paper, Isaac set it aside. Closing his eyes, he tried to feel out piano keys on the bar in front of him, ghosting out what might be a new melody for the future.
It was times like these he could actually relax. Thinking about music normally put his mind at ease. Better yet with everyone gone, he had no one to distract him. Garet was out delivering the mail, while the rest of the household went to market to fetch anything they might be able to afford. They had actually left Isaac behind without asking if he wanted to go. But that suited him just fine. He disliked shopping, and he rarely went to market with them anyway. Besides, he got peace and quiet this way, and he got to enjoy it alone.
Or, at least he thought he would. There came a knock on the door as he entered into a refrain of his work in progress. He scratched the top of his head out of frustration messing up his already unkempt mane. Isaac looked to the door dismissively. Through the window next to it, he could see a familiar blue-haired woman in an equally familiar blue dress.
"Mia." He muttered, irritated. She probably wanted to talk to Jenna, and of course, she had to show up when she wasn't there. Annoyed by the unnecessary interruption, he rose from his stool to answer the knock. With a quick turn of the bolt and knob, he opened the door.
"Oh, good afternoon Isaac." Mia said, smiling slightly. She looked at him intently, and her smile seemed sincere.
"Did you come to see Jenna?"
"Yes. Is she not home?"
"She's off with her brother and the Jupiter Adepts," replied Isaac. He watched as he saw a growing disappointment in Mia's eyes. She was about to turn away when he continued, albeit reluctantly. "Why don't you come in and wait for her?"
"I wouldn't want to bother you, Isaac."
"Don't worry about me." The blonde Adept stepped aside, motioning for her to come in. She did so, stepping in cautiously.
"Don't worry about it." He muttered, walking back to the bar to pick up the newspaper again, considering he wouldn't be able to think on his composing. He flipped to a random story after he sat down, pretending to be interested in it. Ignoring Mia who took the stool right next to him, he continued to read.
She was silent for quite some time. This wasn't unusual between the two of them to sit around in awkward silence. She had been coming to the bar much more frequently as of late, and she often ended up spending time around Isaac. Most of the time, it was because he was around while she was talking to Jenna and Garet. He kept silent most of the time, but his presence was always announced by it, oddly enough. It was odd; his silence was always louder than his voice. There had only been one other time when she came to the bar when Jenna wasn't home, and she was let in by Isaac. They kept virtually silent the entire time; it was only broken when Jenna returned. It seemed like today was going to be a repeat of that day.
The daughter of the late tycoon studied the Adept carefully as he read the paper. He was definitely focused on not paying any attention to her. This wasn't what bothered her, of course. Mia could see latent frustration on his brow. She held in a sigh. When she first met him, she found him handsome and almost attractive; oddly charming. After he was willing to give up his room, he made a good impression, but since then, he had proven to be nothing but spiky and unpleasant. Jenna constantly reminded her that Isaac was a good person and actually friendly, but she had since come to debate that. Not one to normally give up, she wasn't quite ready to let go of that hope just yet.
Debating whether or not to speak, she watched his expression intently, but turned away the moment his eyes darted to glare at her. His expression soured when he turned back to his paper, but it quickly leveled out. The glare was unusually cold, and it sent a chill up her spine, but what really upset her was his dour look. That angry stare resembled the same ones she received at work.
Every day it was the same. She would walk in, seeing many of the executives and desk workers glower at her, as if she was never good enough to fill her father's shoes. Very few looked at her with a smile, save for a few secretaries and John Morris. Oddly enough, some of the women working as assistants weren't happy to see her work in the highest position in the company. Many others were actually pleased, but held their tongues out of fear of losing their positions. Regardless, the vicious looks still hadn't stopped and neither had the passive resistance against her. Frustration welled up in her quickly, reaching the boiling point almost instantly. She came here to relax and be with friends; to be treated equally, not to be looked down upon as a nuisance. This was the final straw.
"Isaac, does my presence really bother you so much that you always have to be so sour!" She demanded, her voice high in volume and unusually powerful.
The piano player nearly fell out of his chair. He hadn't expected the sudden outburst and barely managed to catch onto the edge of the bar. "What!" He asked, still flustered from the stumble.
"You heard me." She stated, folding her arms after turning to directly face him.
Isaac raised an eyebrow. Where did this come from! He thought.
"Every single time I come here, you're always like this. The only time you seemed at all sociable was when Felix's friends were visiting. Now I'm beginning to think you only offered hospitality because you were required to," Mia fumed. Her voice kept getting louder. "Would it kill you to be nicer now and then Maybe if you actually tried to make friends you'd be happier!" She turned away before Isaac could say anything.
"Now, wait… listen." Isaac tried to cut in, his voice ripe with annoyance. He raised a finger as he spoke; a gesture he made more out of reaction than intent.
"No, you listen to me!" She said, spinning back around. "You just don't care about others. You may care some for your family, but for anyone else… nothing. Even then, you still care more about advancing yourself than their well-being! Maybe if you learned to actually give a damn about other people you might become happier!"
"You're full of it!" He shouted back.
"I know times have been tough for you. But you're not the only one who has problems! Everyone in this damn city does! You know that! Stop being so morose when you have everything you need to be happy! You're a lot luckier than most of the people in this city, Isaac! I'm tired of you being so blinded by self-pity that you can't so much as be thankful for what you have!"
"Since when do you think you know me!" He demanded back, getting off his stool. "You've 'socialized' with me not even a dozen times in the past couple of months. Since when does that make you an expert on how I think!"
"Your actions are a pretty clear indicator!" She retorted. "You're always moping about like a fool. I know you're angry about not being employed. Jenna's told me all about it. Felix and Ivan haven't had any luck finding a job either, yet I see Ivan constantly smiling and Felix hasn't let failure sap away his kindness. You? You're a nothing but a bitter husk of a man!"
"Husk! I'll have you know…"
"Shut up!" She snapped. "I'm not finished yet!"
"I don't care if you're finished or not!"
"You don't get it, do you? Have you ever really looked at yourself!"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Look in your eyes, Isaac." She said, her voice lowering from her yell. "My father… once told me that the eyes are the window to the soul. All I see in your eyes is constant frustration and cold depression. You may very well be kind, but you don't act like it and your eyes certainly aren't inviting."
"Why should you care about me?" Isaac asked, his volume decreasing, but his tone just as cold and distant.
"It's not just about you, Isaac. This is about your family too. Did you ever stop to think how much you hurt them by being so unpleasant? Jenna is always worried about you. You're like a second brother to her. How about Felix? He always is worried about others, and I can only imagine how much he's concerned over you. What about Garet? He's your best friend, and he's always been around for when you need him. Yet since he was hired for that postman's job, I see more and more frustration in you every day. You're jealous of his success. You're jealous of your best friend."
All the color in Isaac's face bled away in an instant.
"You didn't even realize it, did you?" She asked quietly.
"I did realize it." Isaac admitted, looking away from her.
"Don't you understand now? It doesn't matter that Garet 'beat' you to a job. Your family cares about you. More than they care about themselves."
Isaac did not reply. He merely turned away and walked to his piano, where he rested a hand on its top. A long silence between them ensued, but it was a peaceful silence rather than an awkward or angry one.
"Are you okay, Isaac?"
"Yes. I'm fine." He replied, quietly. His voice actually wasn't irritated; rather, it was much as pensive.
"I… think I'd better leave." Mia said, taking a step toward the door.
"No, you shouldn't." Isaac stated. "You came here to see Jenna, didn't you? So wait for her. She'll be… glad to see you." He stood up straight and turned for the front door, taking his hat and coat from the rack. "Excuse me. I'll be back later." He then slipped out and walked off, looking much more ashamed than angry.
Mia was still thinking about leaving, but she sighed heavily. Half of her felt bad about yelling at Isaac and losing her temper, but the other half told her that the oft bitter piano player deserved it. Well, it was too late to take it all back now. She rested her head in her hands until she finally picked up the newspaper Isaac had left behind to see if it could provide any relief.
"Isaac? Are you okay?" Came a relatively small voice from the stairwell.
"Hm? Who's there?" He asked, looking over slightly from his piano. He recognized the shorter figure of Ivan at the base of the stairs. Ivan was dressed for bed, and Isaac had thought he had long since turned in. It was well late into the night, after all. He turned his eyes back to what he was doing before Ivan arrived. "What are you doing still up? It's not like you."
"I should say the same for you." The Jupiter Adept replied, walking closer. The lid over the keys was closed down and Isaac was resting his chin on a hand. "It's quite rare you're ever up like this. Not to mention you've been acting rather strangely most of the evening. Are you well?"
"I don't know." He replied, his voice distant. His gaze didn't turn toward the Jupiter Adept. They were firmly trained on the wall in front of him. His normally sharp eyes had been dulled into a flat shadow of their usual selves.
Ivan raised an eyebrow, scrutinizing the Venus Adept from head to toe with his keen purple eyes. Isaac was always confident of himself, but here he was, saying he didn't know about how he felt. Something was definitely troubling him. Not only were his eyes distant and weary, but his hair was more unkempt than ever and there were very dark, noticeable circles under his eyes. No, tonight he was a wreck. But why?
"Don't know? That's… even more unusual." Ivan quietly stated, pulling up a chair. He puzzled through his mind what could be the issue at hand. All he knew that was unusual about today was that Mia came for one of her visits. She had told them that Isaac let her in, but left on an errand shortly after he arrived. If Ivan was a gambler, he would have to put something happened on the errand. "Want to talk about it?"
Isaac gave no immediate reply, but rather shifted the weight on his hand. He narrowed his eyes tiredly and gave off a slight sigh.
"I'll take that as a no?" Ivan asked, trying not to sound disappointed.
"It's… difficult to explain," came Isaac's reply several seconds later. His voice tired, not exasperated like Ivan had expected.
He's willing to talk about it! Ivan nearly fell out of his chair when he heard his reply. Isaac never talked about himself. What on earth could've happened to you, Isaac?
"I've got all night." Ivan replied, trying to look nonchalant.
"I'm sure." Isaac muttered, suppressing a glare. For a brief moment, his eyes flashed back to the icy feel they usually had, but quickly melted back. "Ivan, have you ever… not known yourself?"
"What do you mean?"
"Have you ever felt like you don't know who you really are?" His tone was quiet, barely above a whisper.
"What, like amnesia?" Ivan asked, confused.
"No!" Isaac snapped, putting a hand to his face and furrowing his brow. He paused a minute, and shook his head. "I… really don't think I know what I've become. Who I am. What I stand for."
"You!" Ivan blurted out. Isaac shot him another chilly stare, which quickly helped hold Ivan's tongue. "But… why?"
"Something happened that made me realize a few things about myself today. Ivan, I've been… well… a jerk for the longest time." Ivan didn't reply immediately, but he did appear to be trying to drink in what Isaac was saying, so the Venus Adept continued. "I haven't exactly been kind to everyone here, and yet… everyone else has been so patient in dealing with me. I've been moody, frustrating, and well… unpleasant."
This was indeed a change. Isaac was regretful, and not in things he could have done, but rather in things he actually had done. He was actually being open. Ivan had to work hard to suppress the urge to have a heart attack.
"And… well, all of it's kind of hitting me all at once." Isaac said.
"Well, it is true that you were often about as easy to talk to as a rock." Ivan said, keeping his tone serious, but being careful not to be condescending. "But from what you're saying, I can kind of understand why you are acting like this."
"Yeah. It's been… quite a wake up call." The piano player sighed.
"If I may, what caused this sudden epiphany?"
"Epiphany?" Isaac asked, incredulously. "You've been spending too much time with Sheba. You're picking up her ridiculous vocabulary."
"Maybe so. But what caused you to have sudden change of heart?"
Isaac shifted in his chair, and looked worriedly to the stairwell. When he was quite sure no one else was listening, he replied. "What I tell you stays between you and me. I don't want anyone else hearing about this, got it?"
"You can count on me, Isaac." Ivan put a hand over his heart and then saluted with the other. "I won't say anything to anyone."
"When Mia arrived today, I was the only one here. You probably guessed that when she was here while I wasn't."
"Yeah, we all had assumed you went for a walk alone or something."
"I did. But that's not really important right now. I'm still not entirely sure how it all happened… or at least how it started. It all happened pretty quickly."
Ivan turned his head slightly, his ears almost twitching like a cat's. He opened his ears and allowed himself to listen to each word, each syllable, of Isaac's speech carefully.
"I let her in, of course… and we sat down at the bar. I read the paper, and she just waited. And I really don't know what triggered it, but then she just flies off the handle and starts yelling at me." His eyebrows arched as he spoke, his voice getting a little irritated, but Ivan could tell it wasn't directed at anyone.
"About a lot of things… mostly in how I've been acting." Isaac scratched the top of his head idly, ruffling his hair further. Oddly, it seemed to give more order to the chaotic mess. "And well, most of that hit home, I think."
"I see," Ivan replied. "So she just told you how she felt about your behavior?"
"That's a polite way to put it," Isaac said, sounding just a tad sardonic.
"So that's what you're thinking about?"
"Yes," he nodded once, slowly. "It is."
"Well, I don't know what to tell you. Though, I do have something to say for you to think about."
"What's that, then?" He asked, trying not to sound impatient, but failing.
"Just what do you intend to do about it? About what she said? And about your attitude?" Ivan asked, looking at him with his eyes steeled. "What do you intend to do with what you've learned?"
The piano man paused for several moments before answering. "I don't know yet. I'm not sure."
"I don't believe you. What do you intend to do?" Ivan pressed. Again, Isaac hesitated. "If someone's words have affected you this obviously, you must act on them, one way or another. You can either dismiss what she told you, or you can listen to her and change. That is a decision you have to make on your own, but one that must be made sooner rather than later." Ivan rose from his stool and headed back for the stairwell. "Though, if you want to know what I think, I'll tell you," he paused, turning his head around to lock an eye with Isaac. "Personally, I think it is the weaker man who hides behind his pride and refuses to change. It takes a strong individual to stand up and admit he's done wrong, own up to it, and change himself accordingly."
With those soft words, the little Jupiter Adept walked upstairs, leaving the piano man alone in the bar.