DISCLAIMER: I own absolutely nothing.
Sonata – "Sometimes love is stronger than a man's convictions." Isaac Bashevis.
For Berry-chan. I think my brain died while I wrote this, lol. Happy Birthday!
i. prelude -
The last time he saw her, she was dancing. Underneath the glow of a bright, sparkling chandelier, in the arms of all of her admirers. She was radiant. She was beautiful. But he could never bring himself to tell her that, and he never had.
So as the night waned and the moon rose, he walked away, without a single word. Out of those carved, ornate, mahogany doors, and out of her life, willingly, forever.
The next time he saw her, it was a total accident, at the music store she always frequented. She stood at the opposite end of the store, browsing through the CD collection.
He considered leaving, but pushed the thought quickly out of his head. He is not a coward and certainly won't start being one now, just because of –
"Tsukimori-kun!" she called out to him, a beaming smile on her face. She began crossing over to meet with him, and that was when he knew, that he was trapped, for good.
And when he finally decides to leave the country, to go to Europe to further his study of music, of the violin, a voice in his mind tells him that he's really quite too late, that he's too far gone. But he ignores it. He's there for a solid year and it's a calm life of quiet desperation, but he has no complaints.
Until a classmate of his asks him – him, of all people, Mr. Unapproachable, to take down the notes for their music theory class the next day because he'll be out of town.
"Why would you skip class for a party?" he asks him, disdainfully.
"It's not around here, you know," the boy replies, quite oblivious to the other boy's growing vexation, "it's back in Japan. Engagement party. My friend, Tsuchiura. To this girl, I don't know her, but… oh, what's her name? Hana? No, no. Hino?"
"Oh," Tsukimori says, stiffening almost imperceptibly. He thinks of saying something else, anything to change the subject, a witty comment, maybe? But instead clamps his mouth shut and stares at the notes he has neatly, meticulously taken, that lie on his desk. Eighth notes, sixteenth notes, quarter notes, half notes, scattered among the lines of his college-ruled paper. It's cold, and he feels dizzy, but the teacher walks in and tells them to take out their books and turn to page two-hundred-and-forty-two, and that's that.
The spring recital is coming up and he knows that he will be expected to participate. He always does, after all. But what he doesn't expect is the sudden request from his teacher.
"If you don't mind," she begins, smiling wistfully, "there's a song… Schubert's Ave Maria. It's my favorite. You could play it, couldn't you?"
"No," he answers, after a slight pause, "I've already selected another piece." He puts his violin back in his case. "Sorry."
The spring recital ends, and he's the last to perform, Bach's Violin Solo Sonata, No. 3 in C Major, 2nd Movement. It's slow and mellow and tantalizingly reaches out and then draws back and reaches out again, like it's not quite sure of itself. As the last note echoes in the otherwise silent concert hall, his right hand, clutching the bow, drops down to his side and he lowers his head to acknowledge the tumultuous applause.
He walks backstage and his classmates clap politely, nod their heads, and some even offer smiles. He declines to go to the after-party and instead retreats back to his apartment, a spacious living for a mere student.
"Ave Maria. It's my favorite. You could play it, couldn't you?"
He buries his head underneath the pillows.
The last time she saw him, he was by himself, brooding, silent. He was handsome, not just outwardly so, as many would say, but in the way he carried himself, sophisticated, elegant. She felt like talking to him, but he was too far away, and Tsuchiura-kun, and Yunoki-senpai, and Shimizu-kun, and Hihara-senpai, too, and Fuyuumi-chan, they were all talking to her.
So she resolved to talk to him later, when she had more room and maybe he looked a little happier. But as the moon rose and her companions gradually left, she looked around the room, and saw that he was gone.
The next time she saw him, it was a total accident. She was at the music store, again, browsing through the CD collection, not really looking for anything in particular when that undeniable presence filled the store, filled her mind.
"Tsukimori-kun!" The words had fallen out of her mouth before she'd realized, and she was making her way across the room to talk to him. There was a sort of funny, fuzzy feeling that spread throughout her toes, her belly, her head, but she didn't bother to think about it.
When she finally hears the news, that Tsukimori-kun has left for Europe to study music, she thinks to herself, numbly, that she really shouldn't be surprised. He is, after all, a brilliant violinist, and everyone has always talked of him going to Europe, because that's what prodigies like him do, go off to Europe to really study, the kind of opportunity that can't be given in Japan.
She feels cold and dizzy.
When Tsuchiura-kun asks her out a month later, she says yes, ignoring the coldness and the dizziness surrounding her, convincing herself that he will take the coldness and dizziness away, because Tsuchiura-kun has always brought warmth, and laughter, and unconditional support into her life.
Eleven months later, he asks her to marry him. She says yes, and tries not to wonder why the silver engagement ring feels so cold on her finger.
There's a community performance in a couple of weeks, and Tsuchiura-kun asks her if she would consider playing Ave Maria, with him as accompanist. She's grown to be a good performer, a good violinist, in her own right.
"I – um – what?" Her grip on the violin tightens.
"Ave Maria," he repeats, and with a slight flush, "I always loved hearing you play that, you know…"
"Oh, but…" She forces a laugh, "I'm so tired of that song, though. Couldn't we play something else? What about… what about Spring? By Beethoven? That's a good song, right?"
She ignores the piercing look he shoots her.
"Alright," he concedes, and she tries not to feel like such a horrible person.
Their performance is wonderful, tumultuous applause throughout the entire crowd. As Tsuchiura-kun gets up from the piano and she bows, staring at the pinks of her skirt and the velvet chairs in the audience, she thinks of a moonlit night, long ago, underneath the balcony and the stars.
He never really thought he'd ever be back in this country. It's still the same, narrow sky, dusty air, but as he breathes in, he recognizes that this is his home.
He drops off his luggage at his home and escapes from his mother's knowing looks and conversation, claiming to want to see the city again. He doesn't know how long he's out there, roaming the streets and sidewalks, before he sees that music store again.
It looks slightly different, the walls are painted differently and the carpet is of a different color. He hesitates, not really knowing what he's looking for.
He closes his eyes. And turns. "Hino."
She takes him out for coffee and she feels dizzyingly numb again, that same feeling she's come to associate with Tsukimori-kun for all this time.
"It's been a while," she says conversationally, betraying the butterflies in her stomach and the goosebumps prickling on her flesh.
She almost smiles. She's missed that.
"So, how are you?" she says, after a beat of awkward silence. She takes a sip of her coffee and studies him without making it seem too obvious that that's what she's doing. He's taller, his shoulders are broader, and all in all, he's grown up quite nicely, although everyone could have told her that without her seeing him for herself.
"I'm fine." He, too, takes a drink of his coffee. "And you?"
"I'm fine, too."
His eyes land on the ring adorning her finger. "How's Tsuchiura?"
Her throat is dry. He knows. "He's doing well."
"Right." He stands. "Thanks for the coffee."
Against his wishes, he finds himself dragged off to a gathering of sorts, filled with all sorts of music students, conductors, pianists, violinists, flutists, everything. His mother and father join the older crowd with an annoying ease, and he's left to sit on his own, with a plateful of hors d'oeuvres as his sole companion.
"Well, well. It's Tsukimori-kun, isn't it? You've certainly grown taller since the last time we met."
He looks up and grows wary as he sees Yunoki, still handsome in his own feminine way, strutting towards him.
"But I see your social skills are still the same."
He offers a curt nod to the slightly older man. "Yunoki."
Yunoki laughs. It's not pleasant but it's not unpleasant, either. He can't quite put his finger on it. "She's over there."
He pretends not to know what he's talking about. "Who is?"
"Don't be such a fool." His voice, previously smooth and made to charm, has a new, sharper edge. "Why waste your time moping? If you really want her, then why don't you go and take her from him?"
He simply stands without a word, and he thinks he sees Yunoki shaking his head at him, before he goes out the side door, away from the rest of the crowd.
The noise is too much, and the sight of everybody congratulating her over her engagement is sickening. She's sickening. Every time Tsuchiura-kun shoots her a concerned glance or an affectionate smile, she can't bear it.
When no one is looking, she makes her escape, out the side doors. It's raining, but she doesn't mind. Her dress is dark. Her hair sticks to her face and her neck. She leans back against the side railings of the balcony and closes her eyes. When she opens them again, he's there, staring at her, and she finds that she can't breathe anymore.
He's transfixed by the sight of her, like he can't really believe that she's actually here. It's raining, and the steady beat of the droplets grows stronger and stronger, but he doesn't notice anything anymore, except for her, her, oh, god, it's actually her.
"Tsukimori-kun? What – what are you doing here?" She forces out an awkward laugh. "Your suit, it's getting wet, you really ought to –"
"I love you." The words are out of his mouth before his brain can comprehend, "I – I always have, but I never told you, and I don't know what to do with myself anymore, everything's so cold and I'm so – so dizzy and I – " He abruptly falls silent, looking horrified with himself.
"But I can't," she says, eyes never leaving his, her voice barely above a whisper. "I'm so sorry, Tsukimori-kun, but I can't –"
He's silent, but he can't look away.
"I have – I have – Tsuchiura-kun – and…" She trails off, helplessly.
He takes one, two, three steps closer, a fierce wave of possessiveness rushing through him. She takes a step backwards, her back making a sound thump against the railing, and his arms are on either side of her waist in a protective gesture.
His eyes land on her lips. The raindrops that steadily fall cling to her dress, her skin, her hair, her eyes, her nose, her lips. He moves closer, breathlessly, and he's not sure if he's imagining it when she leans up, closer to him, closer, closer, just a little bit more, and…
He backs away.
"Sorry," he says, hoarsely.
"Have you realized it yet?" Tsuchiura-kun asks her, as he walks her home that night. He hasn't mentioned anything about her dripping her, and for that, she's thankful. He's always been nothing but incredibly sweet to her, and she's a terrible, terrible person…
"Realized what?" she asks him.
"That you're engaged to one man and in love with another."
She opens her mouth, but no sound comes out.
"God, Kahoko." He shakes his head, whether in amusement or in pity or sadness, she can't tell. "Did you really think I wouldn't find out?"
"I didn't know what to think," she mumbles.
"Were you planning on leaving me standing at the altar, then?" He has a slightly accusatory tone now.
"No! But…" She sighs. "I'm so sorry, Tsuchiura-kun. I never – I just –"
He laughs at her, but it's not derogatory at all. "Whatever, whatever. You are hereby free from this commitment."
Her eyes widen. "But –"
He sighs, exasperatedly. "I'm dumping you. But I would hurry up if I were you. Last I heard, he was on the next flight to Paris."
"He – what?"
"Goes to show for your taste in men," he continues, "falling for a coward. Come on. He ran away last time, too. Kind of predictable, really."
"Tsuchiura-kun! I have to go!"
He smiles, cheekily. "What are you waiting for, then? Oh. But give me back the ring, won't you?"
She throws her arms around him in a hug, and hopes that it's enough to convey her gratitude and apologies. And deposits the ring carefully his fingers.
"Go already," he says, both a little more gruffly and gently, "I don't want to deal with you again."
He opens the door after the ninth doorbell, fully intending to give this intruder a piece of his mind. But when he finds her standing there, hair tousled, dress wrinkled, high-heeled shoes clutched in her hand, out of breath, he's at a complete loss for words.
And she's off, she's rambling, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she's standing at his front door, looking like she's been through hell and he's standing inside, too shocked to ask her to come in or offer her a drink.
"I've been so stupid, and I don't know why, and I don't know why you've let me be so stupid, and why in the world are you going back to Paris? I'm not letting you." She glares at him, and she's probably the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. "You're staying here. Because this is where you belong. Here. Okay?"
He thinks of all the packing he's done, the clothes meticulously folded into his suitcase. And throws caution to the wind. "Okay."
She hesitates. "O – Okay?"
He moves aside to let her in. "Okay."
And in the end, that's all there is to it.
- end -
So I'm not really sure how this turned out. :\ Wrote this for Berry-chan as a birthday fic because she demanded Corda fic and I'm not really 'in tune', so to speak with the characters so it was hard, especially because Tsukimori's such an ice cube, I can't crack him (lol) but I TRIED!