The Day After You Said Goodbye
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! This was written for Moon Shadow Magic for Christmas. I hope she likes it! I have never written for Neko-Sensei before and I'm a bit unsure if his characterization looks alright here. This takes place during the series, likely at the beginning of Akt 24, which depicts the day after Autor confessed his feelings to Rue. There are some slight references to my fic Love is Not a Victory March, in which the eleven times Autor played the piano for the ballet class are depicted and he is shown to be forming an unwitting friendship with Ahiru.
The gray-and-white tomcat listened to the final strains of music from the piano in the practice room, a frown pulling his features south. He lingered outside the half-open door, waiting to hear if another piece would be begun once the current one stopped. Instead there was silence. That was not usual, considering the student practicing. Making up his mind he pushed open the door and stepped into the room.
"That was very good as always, Mr. Autor."
The boy at the piano bench gave a start. Even though he was facing the door, he had not been paying attention. Another bad sign. Normally, from what the feline had seen during the past times they had communicated, Autor was attentive to a fault.
"Thank you, Neko-Sensei," he said.
The cat shut the door and walked closer to the piano. "Something is different today," he noted. "Your notes sounded sad. Is something wrong?"
Even though Autor was not in the ballet division, music was a large part of ballet. Due to that, Neko-Sensei likely had more of a connection with the music students than the students in the other divisions, such as art and sculpture. Autor kept to himself, as everyone on campus knew, but he was a diligent and thorough student who strove to please his teacher. Despite his usual seriousness, which made him seem older than his early teenage years, at times he showed an almost boyish excitement for music in general and his work in particular. He only revealed that side of his personality, however, when he felt he was among interested parties.
In response to the query, Autor averted his gaze. "Why would you think something is wrong, Neko-Sensei?" he asked. "I was playing the Clair de Lune. It can be variously interpreted as introspective or melancholy or a great number of other things. The music division is studying it this semester."
The head of the ballet division gave a thoughtful, unconvinced nod. "Yes, I know," he said. "But I will be honest, Mr. Autor—I've noticed your interest in Miss Rue." Autor stared at him, his cheeks going completely red. "She is a wonderful, talented girl. When I've asked you to provide accompaniment for the ballet classes, you've watched her and your notes have sounded happy."
Autor pushed up his glasses. "The music the class dances to is meant to be cheerful," he said. "My personal feelings have nothing to do with it."
The cat had expected this reaction from the outwardly proud but deeply sensitive boy. "May I ask a personal question of you, Mr. Autor?" he said.
"I don't see a reason why it would be necessary," Autor said. He cleared his throat, uncomfortable. "Of course if you feel it's very pertinent, Neko-Sensei . . ."
The instructor could see the flashes of conflict in Autor's eyes. He felt trapped, yet he respected Neko-Sensei's opinion and did not want to show a lack of decorum towards him. In turn, Neko-Sensei did not want to put him in an awkward position. But he was concerned and wanted to offer help if he possibly could. Both from his own observations and his conversations with the head of the music division, he had determined that Autor likely did not have anyone he confided in. Without his parents he was on his own—unless he spoke with the one household servant he had kept on after he had been orphaned.
"Have you told Miss Rue how you feel about her?"
Autor stiffened. With one finger he reached up, tugging at his cravat to loosen it. ". . . Yes," he said at last. "I shouldn't have done it, but I did."
Neko-Sensei frowned. "Why do you say you shouldn't have done it, Mr. Autor?"
"Neko-Sensei. . . ." Autor glanced at the piano keys, running his fingers over their ivory tops. "You know as well as I do that Rue has Mytho. She only has eyes for him."
"That is how it appears to be," Neko-Sensei said, his tone guarded and careful. "But you must remember, Mr. Autor, all of you are very young. In general it isn't wise to limit yourself to one person so early in life."
Autor frowned. "Then you're saying it wasn't wrong of me to confess my feelings for her?" he said. "Even considering Mytho's presence?"
"It is a difficult issue," the ballet teacher said. "Depending on the circumstances, it wasn't necessarily wrong."
"Although I can't pretend that something more noble such as that is my only objection," Autor said. He did not say more, but from Neko-Sensei's own experiences he could imagine that the boy's pride had been damaged.
The feline peered quietly at Autor for a moment. "Am I right that it didn't go well?"
"She laughed at me." Bitterness had slipped into Autor's voice now. "I had previously expected to be rejected, but when she showed interest in me after we encountered each other and had me walk with her across town, I did nurture a weak hope." He looked off at the wall. "I never dreamed that she would mock me, especially then."
"That doesn't sound like Miss Rue," Neko-Sensei said, again frowning in concern.
"I didn't think so either. Obviously we were both wrong." Autor played several chords on the piano. As the conversation continued, the notes went on softly in the background.
"Most people are rejected many times in their lives," Neko-Sensei said. He regarded Autor in sympathy and kindness. "This is not likely to be the only time for you, Mr. Autor. The secret is to never let go of the belief that you will find that someone with whom to share your life. Keep it close in your heart as you look. You do not want to miss out on your chance for marriage. . . ."
"With all due respect, Neko-Sensei, I've never 'looked'," Autor quickly interrupted. "I don't have an interest in actively seeking someone."
Neko-Sensei cleared his throat, willing himself to push thoughts of marriage away. "And that is fine, for now," he said. "When the time is right, I believe you will know."
At this present date, Autor was likely also still trying to get over his rejection from Rue. That should be handled first or he might be attracted to someone else on the rebound—something that would be painful for them both. But that did not mean he should avoid all contact with girls. Some contact could perhaps be healing.
The tomcat hesitated. "I've seen you with Miss Ahiru at times," he said. "She seems to have taken a liking to you."
Autor froze, his expression a mixture of disbelief and defense. "We've only spoken a scant few times," he said. "I can assure you, Neko-Sensei, I do not harbor feelings for her, nor do I think she carries such feelings for me."
"That may be true," Neko-Sensei said. "But then again, it may not be. There are many kinds of 'feelings'. There are even many kinds of love."
Autor stared at him in shock. "Neko-Sensei, I do not love her," he said. "I don't even like . . ." But then he trailed off, his cheeks burning in shame. He switched his attention to the piano keys.
It was clear enough that he had not meant that. Neko-Sensei would ignore it. "Miss Ahiru is a poor student and allows her mind to wander," he told Autor, "but she is also very kind and loves her friends.
"I realize you didn't ask for my advice, Mr. Autor, and it's likely that you don't want it or feel you don't need it, but I feel this is something that must be said." The wise veteran of failed attempts at relationships looked past Autor's glasses and into his brown eyes. "When you let someone special slip away from you, it is something that is always regretted."
Autor held the gaze for only a brief moment before he broke it and looked away. "There are many wolves in sheep's clothing," he said. "It's difficult to tell them apart from those who are truly priceless." He pushed himself up from the piano bench. "I'm sorry, Neko-Sensei; I need to go. I'm going to be late for my next class."
"Of course." Neko-Sensei stepped aside as Autor gathered his books and other materials. The teenager's stiff movements and the inflections in his comments, not to mention his desire to escape the room, bespoke of inner pain he did not want to talk about. Perhaps it was about Rue, perhaps something else. Neko-Sensei would likely never know, albeit he felt all the more that Autor had been deeply hurt by more people than Rue alone.
Autor straightened, his belongings under his arm. "I appreciate that you took the time to speak with me, Neko-Sensei," he said. With a nod and a goodbye he walked briskly to the door and pulled it open, stepping into the hall.
The cat let out a weary sigh as the boy's footsteps echoed and faded down the corridor. "It is indeed difficult to determine who are they who will never betray you," he said, gazing down the hall. "But from what I have seen when you are with her, I believe you already know the truth about Miss Ahiru. You are just afraid, perhaps especially after this rejection by Miss Rue. That is understandable.
"I will have the hope that you will come to acknowledge that truth before it is too late, Mr. Autor."