AN: I should be doing my homework right now. So what am I doing? I'm typing up a new fanfic. Maybe I should do something radical…like prioritize? …nah, too much work. Besides, this is much more fun! And hey, take a gander—this is my 61st ficcie!!! counting …thirty-nine more, and I'll have a hundred. Well, it's nice to dream, ne?
Okay, most people know that I am the songfic queen. And it occurred to me that I had yet to do a real CCS fanfiction. Homework doesn't count! So here's a real songfic for you. This is to one of my favorite songs, "Piano Man," by Billy Joel. Anyone who doesn't like this song, see me. glares menacingly I really stick to the song here. Oh yeah, I don't own the song and I don't own CCS or any of the characters used below. I'm just borrowing them.
Piano ManThe snow fell peacefully from the night sky; there was no wind to blow it around. It just fell slowly and evenly, creating a blanket on roads, rooftops, and trees. The sidewalks were slippery, as several pedestrians learned the hard way. It was a quiet night, serene and calm. Not even the sound of a car broke the peaceful silence.
At a lonely intersection on the very edge of the downtown area, it was even more quiet outside. But a pale yellow glow came from inside a small building. It wasn't really much to look at, but through the window, one could see that there were quite a few people inside. They were sitting around; many of them had glasses in their hands, and were sipping at their drinks slowly.
Though the sign was covered beneath the snow, the view through the front window proved the building to be a bar. It was a Saturday night, and the usual Saturday night crowd had slowly trickled in for their usual Saturday night activities.When the door swung open, a small bell sounded to alert those within that someone else had arrived. Those already seated around the bar would turn and look at the newcomer, just long enough to size him up, then return to their drinks and whatever thoughts they had. Just one more in a sea of customers, all men, all there with the same general idea.
The bar itself was stretched along a far wall, lined with stools. Behind the bar, a man in a white shirt, black vest, and an apron moved back and forth, keeping his patrons well supplied. Occasionally, when his customers were momentarily satisfied, he would pause, pull out a towel, and clean a few glasses before his attention was once again grabbed by the needs of his customers.
The patrons were scattered around, sitting maybe one or two to a table. A few were engaged in lifeless conversation, but the rest were silent, staring out the window, off into space, or at the surface of their drinks. None of them looked even the least bit happy.
A small stage was set up against a wall. It was just barely big enough to hold the grand piano, stool, and microphone. On occasion, entertainers would go up on the stage and sing or play, but thus far tonight, no one had ventured towards the stage.
With the darkness, the quiet, and the current lack of entertainment, it was indeed a melancholy night for the patrons of the little bar on the corner.The door swung open suddenly, sending the bell ringing, and a young man strolled in. Everyone lifted their eyes from their drinks long enough to give him an appraising look before returning to their depressed yet studious examinations of the tabletops.
The young man paused in the doorway to shed his coat and brush the snow from it before depositing it on the rack beside the door. He was a good-looking kid, probably about twenty-five, give or take. Dark hair, dark eyes, a face that probably belonged on magazine covers, and a physique that probably made the ladies swoon. He was dressed conservatively—khakis and a blue button-up, open at the color.
He glanced around the room; a few barely visible frown lines crossed his forehead. Then he sighed and easily made his way to the bar. With a fluid grace, he slid onto a bar stool and propped his head up against one hand, leaning his elbow heavily on the bar. His pale face was pink from the chill in the air outside. He looked as bored and tired as everyone else there, even though he was a great deal younger than the majority of the other patrons of the bar.
Once settled on the bar stool, he glanced around again. He peered at the other people through the thin-rimmed glasses settled comfortably on his nose. Once he had taken a seat, no one really seemed to take any further notice of him. It was as though he had vanished into thin air, become invisible to them. He was a ghost amidst ghosts. Society's ghosts.
There was an old man sitting beside him at the bar, starring into the shallow recesses of the drink he had cupped in both hand. He was muttering something to himself, though it wasn't quite clear what.
Suddenly, he looked up and shot a surprisingly piercing gaze at the newcomer. "You're that kid, aren't ya? The one that plays the piano?"
"Yes, I am."
"What's your name, son?"
"Hiiragiziwa. Eriol Hiiragiziwa."
"That's one hell of a name."
"It's Japanese, sir."
"Well, son, I think you need to get up there and do some of that piano playing. Make it something good, okay? It's been a long week and a long life. Do this old man a favor, and play me a memory."
"A good one?" Eriol asked with a half-smile.
"A good one.""What'll it be tonight?" the bartender asked in a bored voice. Then he seemed to notice exactly who his newcomer was, and the boredom vanished to be replaced by moderate cheerfulness. "Hey, Eriol. Has it been a week already?"
"Yes, John, it's Saturday again," Eriol replied casually. "I'm here to do my thing."
"Where would we be without you?" John asked in a melodramatic voice, leaning his elbows on the bar and resting his chin in his hands. "Honestly, sometimes I think you're the only reason some of these guys come here on Saturdays."
"I don't know about that," Eriol shook his head.
"Why else would they come here?"
"Drinks. The company," Eriol tallied them off on his fingers. They were speaking in hushed voices so no one else would hear them. Not that any of the bar's patrons would care to listen, anyway, but it was a precaution they would just rather take. "Get out of the house for a while. Honestly, John. Most of these guys are miserable. And misery loves company."
"Are you among the hopeless?"
"Don't ask. Don't even ask."
The barkeep sighed and closed his eyes. "Well, play a good one tonight. I think everyone needs it. It's almost Christmas already, if you can believe it. A lot of people here need some cheering up."
The magician (though this fact was unknown to his friend) raised a questioning eyebrow. John was being unusually somber tonight. "Are you one of those people?"
John sighed unhappily and set something amber-colored on the bar in front of Eriol—the usual. "I want out of here. Sometimes I hate this place so much I can't even stand to come in to work. But if I don't, who will? I'm stuck here. I'll be stuck here forever." He shot a very specific look at his friend. "So make it a really good one."
"I'll do my best, as always," Eriol shrugged, taking a drink. He wasn't usually much of a drinker, but sometimes he just needed that little something to help him relax.Eriol turned around in his seat and surveyed the other patrons. He saw quite a few faces that he recognized. There were even a few people with whom he had names to go with the faces.
The ones he knew were the most constant regulars, though. They were the men in here every single Saturday, nursing a drink, and wallowing in misery and self pity. He knew them too well, he sometimes feared. Even at his age, he knew what they were going through.
There was Paul. A businessman. He had devoted most of his life to climbing up the ranks, to making it to the top of the corporate ladder. So intent on his economic aspirations was he that he never had time for anything else. And then one day, he had woken up and discovered that he had everything he could ever want…and no one to share it with. He didn't have a wife or a family. He was alone with his money, his career, and his possessions. And none of it made him happy.
Eriol understood Paul quite well, better than he would admit.
David. Sitting there in his uniform. He was off-duty, or so it appeared. He was nearing middle age, and yet he was still a man in uniform. He had been in the Navy for years, and no one could recall him doing anything else or having ambitions to do anything else with his life. And once again, no family to speak of. Another lonely soul.
There was one waitress in the bar. A surly, middle-aged woman who had been there as long as anyone could remember. She knew each of the customers by name, as well as their preferred beverage, and anything else they might have while they were there. She was tired and usually cranky, but she took good care of her patrons, keeping them well supplied with whatever it was they needed to drown their sorrows, and they showed appreciation in tips.
Another table was full of men in suits. Glasses were literally piling up at their elbows as they each nursed yet another drink. They didn't speak much to each other, though; there wasn't even any sign that they all knew each other. It could have been that they were just sitting together because it was convenient. One of them hiccupped; if they weren't all drunk, Eriol would have been surprised.
How such a place like this could exist was beyond Eriol. Were there other places like this in the world? Were there other places where society's discards could gather and talk with those who had no one else to talk to? Or did such places only exist in England?Eriol turned around, back to the bar and his drink. He took a long sip; it burned his throat, but he ignored it. He was miserable, as miserable as those other men.
Maybe it was the time of year—nearly Christmas. Or maybe it was the mood of this place—melancholy, laced with remembrances of past mistakes that could never be fixed. Hell, maybe it was even the booze. He didn't know what it was that made him think of her again.
It had been quite some time since he had dreamed of her, and not quite so long since he had thought about her in this way. Remembering the last time they had spoken, the last time they had seen each other…his heart clenched. Even after so long, it still hurt as much as it had on the day they had said such unkind goodbyes.
He kept his expression neutral, his eyes focused on the amber liquid in the glass in front of him, in a pose not unlike that of his neighbor, the old man seated beside him at the bar.
He saw his reflection on the surface of the drink, and he was startled. He looked exactly the same as he did every other time he looked in the mirror, except…he couldn't quite put his finger on it, but something about him looked different.
He looked sad, somehow. Depressed, almost.
A sigh blew past Eriol's lips, and he slouched forward, leaning his elbows heavily on the bar and putting his all his weight on them. It was quite a sight, considering how poised and collected he was the rest of the time. What specifically was it about this place that brought him down like this?
Maybe it was because everything here suggested loneliness. The kind of loneliness he had felt ever since he had made the biggest mistake possible—the day he had let her walk out of his life. And then he had been left alone.
Oh, he had Ruby Moon and Spinel Sun. They were his creations, his brother and sister, of sorts, and he loved them both dearly as family. But there was only so much they could do. There were other things he needed that they couldn't give him.
His eyes fell closed, and he wallowed in the bleak abyss behind his eyelids. The darkness was his friend. It was a very comforting companion. If he closed his eyes, he didn't have to see the rest of the world. And sometimes, it was just easier that way."Hey, piano man!" someone called.
Eriol actually jumped, snapping out of his reverie. He spun around and saw a few of the bar's patrons chuckling at his surprise. He smiled at them. "Yes?"
"Don't ya think it's time you got started?" the same voice said—it came from a middle aged man. A nondescript person, the kind of guy you wouldn't look twice at in a crowd. He had what one of his old teachers had once called 'a face-shaped face.'
"You want me to play?" he repeated slowly, feeling a little stupid. Wasn't he supposed to be intelligent or something? It wasn't showing at all.
The mood of the bar momentarily lightened as the crowd cheered, encouraging him to get up on the small stage and do what he had come there to do. They all knew him, though few knew his name. He was the piano man. That was all.
Slowly, he rose from his seat and moved to the small set of stairs that led up to the stage. He climbed the steps slowly, and crossed the stage to the piano even more slowly. He dropped onto the bench and stared out at the audience. They were all watching him expectantly.
He turned back to the piano—a worn out, much used piece of workmanship, but still quite playable. He paused for a moment to unbutton his cuffs and roll his sleeves up to his elbows. Then he laid his fingers down onto the keys, and closed his eyes.
The bar fell silent as he began to play.The piano keys were chipped and worn beneath Eriol's fingers as he pounded on them with all the anger and emotion he had managed to accumulate in the hour since he had walked through that door.
He didn't even know what he was playing; his eyes weren't even open. He simply let his fingers do the walking, picking whichever keys they desired, and it sounded surprisingly good.
The rest of the bar was silent. Even the waitress stopped dead in her tracks, loaded tray balanced on one hand. Her tired eyes were wide, and somehow, she suddenly looked a decade younger.
The song was of anger; of love found, and of love lost. Of misery, depression, moments of happiness—or at least less misery—and then back into the bleakness of life. The piano sang of forbidden kisses, of hidden embraces, of young love, and of forces determined to pull them forever apart. Then it droned a tune of broken promises, of angry words, of apologies and more angry words.
It was a story of lovers, and the tumultuous road that led to them parting ways forever. It was a tale of broken hearts never to be healed, and anger that had given way to sorrow.
And throughout the whole performance, he never once opened his eyes.
Eriol was a musician; he played from his soul.When his hands left the keys, there was a moment of dead silence in the room as the last notes hung over the patrons, dying away like the last flutter of an angel's wings.
Then the room burst into applause.
Eriol jumped a mile. He himself had been so swept up into the music that he had all but forgotten where he was. He had been swept away into his own memories, back into his own losses and regrets, and had ceased to remember that he was on a stage.
He rose shakily to his feet and took a bow to his audience. Then he all but stumbled from the stage and back over to his seat at the bar. He dropped back into his chair and sighed. Suddenly, he felt ready to cry. But fortunately, John already had another drink ready for him.
John passed him the jar, nearly overflowing with dollar bills and quarters. "That was really good tonight, Eriol. Got something on your mind to make you play like that?"
"You could say that," Eriol replied softly. He dug the money out of the jar and pocketed it. It was a pretty good take for a night's work. The patrons of this bar were quite generous to their entertainment. Then he grabbed the fresh drink and downed it in one gulp. It burned his throat, and as he slammed the drink back down, he coughed and sputtered.
John's eyes widened. "You okay?"
"Hai," Eriol muttered; then he realized he was speaking Japanese again, and smiled apologetically. "Sorry. Yes, I'm fine. Just got a little carried away."
"If you say so. But I hope everything works out for you," the bartender said sympathetically as he took the glass away; it probably wasn't wise to let Eriol have anything more to drink tonight. But then a thought struck the barkeep, and his eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Is this about a girl?"
The old man, currently staring into his now-empty glass, looked up at them. Suddenly, this had become a very interesting conversation. And after that performance, the old man wanted to know exactly what was going on in that boy's head.
"You could say that," Eriol said in a repetion of his earlier statement.
"Come on, how can the ladies resist you?" John teased gently, watching for a reaction.
He got one. Eriol looked down at the bar, his expression melancholy. He didn't say anything.
"You let her go, didn't you?"
Eriol's head snapped around to stare at the old man, the one who had asked him to play a memory. He almost started sputtering Japanese, but he caught himself. "Excuse me?" was about all he could manage in English at that moment.
"You let her go," the old man repeated. "Stupid boy. And here I always thought you were so damn smart, too. You young kids…when are you gonna figure out that life's not worth a goddamn if you don't have someone to share it with?"
Eriol's eyes were wide behind his glasses as he stared at this old-timer. How on earth could this guy possibly know? His reaction must have said a lot, because the oldster smiled.
"Well, you're still young," he sighed. "You may be able to still do something about it."
The meaning behind those words wasn't lost on Eriol; he thought about them for a minute, then returned the man's smile with one of his own. "Thank you. I'll have to do that." Then he rose from his seat. "Well, it's been fun, but I should probably get going. It's getting late. Have a good night."
"Take care of yourself," John called after him before picking up a towel. Now with no one really to talk to, since the old man had returned to his usual pose of staring into his glass, the bartender began drying some glasses.
At the door, Eriol picked up his coat and pulled it on. He fixed the muffler around his neck and put one hand on the door to leave. But then he stopped.
His other hand slipped into his pocket and withdrew a piece of paper with a series of numbers written on it. It was worn and creased, as though it had been handled many times, but always returned to the pocket, out of sight.
He studied it for a moment, then smiled. He didn't know if she still lived there, but it was worth a try. And if she didn't, well, he was the reincarnation of Clow Reed. He could track her down, no problem. The paper returned to the pocket, as it had so many other times, but he resolved that this time, it was not going to stay there.
Eriol pushed open the door to the bar and stepped outside into the still-falling snow. There was no sound, save for the soft crunching of the already-gathered snow beneath his feet. He looked up; several snowflakes fell on his glasses, and he easily brushed them away.
It really was a beautiful night.
With a sigh, he began heading home. A single figure, walking alone, as the snow continued to fall.
AN: This didn't turn out exactly like I thought it would, but I'm overall pretty happy with it. I love this song, anyway, so…yeah! Hope you liked it. In case you couldn't tell ('cause I didn't come right out and say it), he was thinking about Tomoyo. They're so cute together!!!! Ta-ta!
PS. This is a ONE-SHOT!!!! I purposely left the ending open like that. There will be NO second chapter or second part or anything of the sort. So please don't ask. I hate to disappoint.