Chapter 13 - Song of Me: Piano Black
"You weren't that bad, Squall. You're being hard on yourself, you were much better than last time."
The boy's eyes remained trained on his Maths homework as he leaned against the piano leg that Rinoa sat at. "I was bad."
She waved a hand dismissively, leaning along the piano stool for a better view of her friend. "But you were so much better by the end of the party; you just need a little more practice. I was really glad that I could dance with you."
"Genesis is a far better dancer than I am."
"I still enjoyed dancing with you though… You will dance with me at the next ball, won't you? Please?"
"If I must."
"Yes, you must." With that decided she sat up straight, turned back to the instrument and resumed her practice as he continued his homework, content to be with her even if it was in silence.
He'd started to become attached to her over the last few months and he'd missed her presence as his friends spent the cold evenings and weekends in the orphanage while she remained in the library. It couldn't be helped though: activities were restricted to the indoors in winter, while the girl's friendship with Genesis grew, encouraging her to spend her free days in the warmth and comfort of the castle. He missed seeing her every week and couldn't deny the fear that they were drifting apart, never to draw close again.
Which was why, when she mentioned that she was spending today in the music rooms, he'd snapped up the chance to spend the afternoon with her, putting off his maths homework as a valid excuse for him not to go to the orphanage to be with his friends. It was nice to see her again like this, just the two of them.
"Have you heard of the weird monsters creeping up around town?" Rinoa didn't stop playing as she started up the conversation.
Squall nodded: it was hard not to, especially with Lord Ansem absent again on another research trip. The combination of the two factors made the townspeople nervous. "Who hasn't?"
"Apparently that's why more guards are patrolling the streets; even Genesis has to help and he doesn't become a full member until Spring."
"They haven't appeared in the city yet, there's no point in worrying."
"I guess… People are saying I should be made a full sorceress sooner, even if I haven't finished my training." There was a small nervous tremor in her voice and she fumbled on a note.
"They're just panicking. The council won't push the matter through until Lord Ansem returns. The only way to change the Lord's decision now is if all of them agree on it, and when to push it forward to. That's not gonna happen."
"Do you think?"
"My father won't agree to it, for a start. If it was up to him, you wouldn't become a sorceress until you turn eighteen."
"Really?" She sounded hopeful.
"Trust me." He could imagine her smiling, and the idea that he had caused that sent butterflies fluttering in his stomach.
"I'm glad. I really don't think I'm ready to become a full sorceress yet, but the appearance of these creatures must mean that sorceress Edea's protection is wearing thin."
"And they only appear outside of the town, it isn't anything the guards can't take care of."
"So, they really do exist?"
"Guess so, otherwise the guards wouldn't be so active." He paused, wondering if it was worth saying the next part or if she'd laugh at him for it. He was eager to see her reaction though. What she would think of his new decision? "I'm thinking about joining the Guard Cadets in September."
"Let's hope your fighting is better than your footwork." The voice that replied wasn't Rinoa's, but distinctly older and more masculine.
Squall gritted his teeth, grounding down his irritation and looked up at Genesis as Rinoa called out his name. "I thought you were patrolling all day?" she exclaimed, her voice sounding bright and happy.
"I managed to escape from pure tedium early." He prowled across the room. "More importantly, I wasn't aware that you could play." He ignored Squall as he stepped beside the piano, as if he were part of the instrument.
"Not much anymore, just every now and then."
"You're not bad, not bad at all."
It seemed as if this was a great thing for the young man to say, judging from Rinoa's enthusiastic reply. "Thank you, but I used to be a lot better. Training to be a sorceress doesn't leave much room for musical hobbies. My mother taught me to play; I used to want to be a musician, like she was."
For one moment Squall feared that she was going to talk about her mother's death, but she stopped before she continued. It was stupid, but he treasured that moment between them. It was precious to him, even if it wasn't to her. It was a unique and private moment between them; it marked the beginnings of a change within him. To share the information with Genesis would violate that. It was stupid and he knew it, but if Genesis could easily outstretch him in everything else, then at least he wanted that moment.
"Do you sing?" the cadet asked.
"Not in front of people."
"That's a shame; I'd like to hear you."
"I'm not very good."
"I'm sure you're fine."
"It's too embarrassing. I've only even sung in front of my mum and dad before."
Genesis slid himself onto the stool next to her. "Then I will just have to persuade you to sing for me one day," and placing his hands on the keys, he began playing a complementary piece to hers.
Squall could sense the way his friend lit up, ceasing her own music to question the older man. "You play?"
"It would seem so."
"You're amazing. How long have you been playing?"
She giggled. "You've been playing for as long as I've been alive. You're not very soldier-like. You're an excellent at music, you can draw, write, dance and you have an in-depth knowledge of literature. Why in Radiant Garden, would you join the guard?"
"To find my very own Goddess."
Squall closed his textbook, trying to push down the stirrings of jealously and hurt: he had appeared to have been completely forgotten. It was nice that Rinoa had someone that she could share her passions with, honestly it was. He just didn't understand why it made him feel so bad.
"Let me guess, a 'Loveless' reference?"
Squall stood, he didn't really fancy sticking around, ignored while they bonded over music and literature that he knew nothing about. "You going to explain?"
"I think it would be better for you wait and read the novel."
As Squall reached the half-way point to the door Rinoa called out to him. "Squall, are you leaving?"
He turned to look over his shoulder. "I've finished."
"Oh," her face fell, looking so disappointed that he nearly changed his mind. "I thought you were staying for the afternoon."
"I have other work to do," he lied.
"I see. Well, I'll see you next week I guess then."
"Yeah," and he quickly turned, avoiding Genesis' gaze as the young man started to play a complicated composition. He quickly disappeared out the door, pushing it to in order to shut out the happy chatting and flawless playing.
"He's showing off again?"
Squall's head snapped up to see Angeal standing to the side, a knowing look in his eyes.
"Does he do anything else?"
The dark-haired man chuckled, looking between the door and the boy. "He scared you away then?"
Squall bristled at the question, his pride stung on top of everything else. "No."
"I wouldn't worry about it; he scares away people twice your age."
"I wasn't scared away." Squall's gaze hardened on the older man.
"Then why did you leave?"
"I finished my homework."
Squall didn't answer, looking away instead.
"Shall I go in and drag him away? It's fun to knock him down a little every now and then; he sometimes forgets that he's not a God."
A smile tugged at his lips at the phrasing. "No, she's happy that she has someone to share her hobbies with."
"Having a lot in common isn't everything. Otherwise Genesis and I wouldn't spend two hours in each others' company. You have a tight friendship that's based on something less … shallow."
Squall shrugged, wondering how Genesis could attract such a good-natured friend. What he said may be true, but over the winter she had spent less time with him and more with Genesis. Friendships constantly grew and wavered, and he was starting to discover how little he wanted to lose Rinoa's friendship, especially because of something so simple as having little in common with her.
"I thought you were spending today in the music room?"
Squall looked up from his dinner to where his father sat opposite the kitchen table from him. "I did."
"Yeah, but you were back a lot earlier than I thought you would be, thought you'd be out until dinner." Squall shrugged and his father continued. "You don't see much of Rinoa these days, do you?"
"It's winter." He looked back down at his plate, stabbing at a bit of pasta, aware of the man watching him. "We don't go out and she spends most of her free time in the library with Genesis."
"Why don't we invite her to have dinner with us on Wednesdays?"
He blinked up at his dad. "What?"
"Dinner, with us. As much as I love you, two people for dinner every day gets boring."
"She always studies until late."
"Not for the whole day though. I'm sure I can talk to Merlin and persuade him to give us his student for an evening in the middle of the week, a small break from her pressure and studies. What do you say?"
Rinoa over once a week? With just him and his father? He'd be guaranteed to see her for at least a couple of hours and with his father there the conversation would never be awkward or stilted. The man could fill any silence with easy conversation. Of course, it also meant that there wouldn't be any uninvited interruptions, no Genesis waltzing in and stealing his time. Yes, that would be… nice. "I could live with that."
For some reason his reply seemed to amuse his father. "What?"
"It's nothing. I just sometimes forget you're a teenager now," but rather than elaborating, he moved on. "Well, that's sorted then. I'll speak to Merlin when I see him next, but there's one more matter I want to talk to you about. From tomorrow, I want you home by dark."
Squall glared up at his dad. This was outrageous, he'd never had any restrictions like this placed on him. Castle Town was safe, beyond safe. "Why?"
"You know the creatures we've spotted on the outskirts?"
"They're started to come into the town at night. I don't want you getting hurt."
"But I can look after myself, I'm old enough to wander around after dark. This way I'll have to come home straight after school."
"That's not fair."
"Maybe, but I still want you back before dark or for you to ask permission before you go anywhere after nightfall."
"I not a kid," Squall objected, not understanding why he had to be put through this.
"Yes, you are," his father sighed before placing his fork down and giving Squall one of his sad-serious looks. "I've lost your mother; I don't want to lose you as well. So, please just behave and do this for me."
Biting his pride, the boy replied, "Fine. I'll be back before dark."
"Thank you," and his father picked up his fork again, continuing in a cheerier tone. "Look at it this way: you'll already be used to it by the time everyone else has to follow the curfew."
The annoyance and injustice melted away at this curious comment. "Will it really come to that?"
"At this rate? By the summer, everyone else will be just like you."
End of Piano Black
Sorry for the long delay, I've been caught up in the Sherlock fandom for a while. My Muse has been attacking me with it since the end of the last series, I highly recommend that anyone who hasn't seen it yet go and check it out (BBC's Sherlock).
Also, I recently took over this challenge (fiction, art, anything you want to do for any fandom) community: http : / / fictunes-lj . livejournal . com/ I'm just plugging for people to check it out and hopefully get some people interested in joining in. Feel free to go back and use earlier entries as well.