A/N: This is something that was rolling around in my head after I saw a Glee secret on tumblr about Brad. And so this sort of dribbled out. It's not much, and it's probably not even all that interesting, but if you're reading this, then maybe there are others out there like me who want to know the inner mindset of the quiet piano player.
Not beta'd because I don't really care for it to be. She'll probably hate me for it though (and review this with some "changes" I should make, if I know her).
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee, nor do I own Billy Joel's "Piano Man."
"Son, can you play me a memory
I'm not really sure how it goes
But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man's clothes."
Every meeting was the same.
All the kids would file in one or two at a time, sweep right past him without a second glance, and sit down on one of the chairs on the risers. They would either have their faces turned toward each other as they talked about something or other, or else would be looking intently at their phones as they texted someone fervently. Then, once they were all settled, William would swagger in, clap his hands together, and say, "Alright, guys…"
This would usually either conclude in a word being written squeakily on the white board or someone jumping (usually Rachel) to his or her feet to start singing a song.
This was his cue. They would look at him, and he would plunk down his fingers on the keys and start playing the piano.
He didn't know how he was able to do it. Most of the time, the kids would find him sometime during the morning, hand him some music sheets, and say, "Can you have this down by the Glee Club meeting today? Oh, and tell the rest of the Jazz Band, too."
And then off they would go.
Not one of them ever said "Thank you."
But he couldn't complain. He was being paid a small amount to just sit there a play whenever one of them needed him to. It wasn't much – Figgins said he could barely afford the Glee Club as it was – but it was just the bit extra on his normal pay that he needed to allow him to keep his electricity on at home.
So after he received the music sheets, he would head to the choir room where he would practice the song once, and then leave the music sheets on top of the piano for the jazz band players to use when they came in during their free periods. He never bothered to double check that they had learned the music – he just knew they would.
Then he would head to the teacher's lounge and sit down at the broken corner table that no one ever went near. There, he would take out his lunch – leftovers from last night's dinner – and eat it silently. He never looked up at the rest of the room. No one ever looked at him.
After lunch he would head to the auditorium which was never allowed to be used during that time of day, and for a specific reason.
That was when he would give a private lesson to Becky, the girl with downs syndrome. She had come to him one day asking to learn how to play piano because she heard him once and thought it was very pretty. She even told him that her mother would pay him to teach her.
He refused the money.
Finally, he would head back to the choir room and sit down at the piano. The kids would come in and so would Will, and then that day's drama would be put into song. Brad didn't particularly care for any of the kids. Well, that Latina girl from Lima Heights Adjacent was starting to grow on him, and he did have a soft spot for Rachel Berry and Kurt Hummel. Not because they were any better than any of the other kids, but because back when he used to teach private piano lessons to young children, those two were a couple of his students. So every time they looked at him while they sang, he would smile at them, hoping they would remember his face from their childhood days sitting at his old wooden piano learning their scales.
They never did.
It must have been the beard, he thought one time. He never had a beard back in those days. It hid half his face now, but he couldn't bring himself to shave it off. It was comforting having the beard for some reason.
Or maybe it was because he had stopped smiling with his teeth.
Either way, he always felt slight disappointment whenever they glanced over him – whenever any of the kids glanced over him – like he was just another piece of furniture in the room.
After Will dismissed the kids and headed to his office – or most often, Ms. Pillsbury's office – Brad would wait for the jazz band kids to put their instruments in their cases and head out the door. He would wait until the door shut behind him and the room grew silent. For five minutes he would sit there, hands on the white piano keys, poised and waiting.
But he never played.
With a sigh, he would reach up and close the lid before standing up and leaving. He would head to the library after this, where he would continue to read whichever book he was currently on for about an hour. Then, around one thirty he taught the band elective, which consisted of all the kids in the jazz and marching bands. Silently he would hand out sheet music and they would practice the piece over and over until each section could play their part perfectly. He never had to say anything to them – they understood his gestures well – and for that he was grateful.
After band, if there was a Glee rehearsal after school, then he would stay in the library until then. If not he would head out to his beaten up grey Sedan, slide in, and head home.
To get into his apartment, he had to turn the key twice before the door unlocked, and then he would have to forcibly shove the door open. Once he was in, he pushed the door back into its place, and set his keys down on the small table next to the entrance.
Dinner was always the same. He would pull out the meatloaf from the refrigerator, cut off two slices, and put them on plates. Then, while the instant mashed potatoes were cooking in the microwave, he pulled out a bag of frozen peas. Digging his hand in, he would put one handful on each plate and wait patiently for the microwave to beep. Then, one plate at a time, he would warm up the meal until the temperature was just right, and scoop the potatoes onto the plates. He would then set them down on the small square table – right across from each other. He would place the forks and knives at their settings, fold a napkin for each plate, and then sit down and start eating.
Every night it was the same. He would cook a meal for two, even thought she wasn't there any more to share it with him. But he always made up the plate and the place setting out of habit.
And every night he could hear her voice asking those questions she used to ask.
"How was your day?"
"Anything interesting happen?"
"Well, tomorrow will be better. Always think positively, Brad."
Every time he imagined her sitting there, smiling at him and talking to him in that melodic voice of hers. At times he would open his mouth to answer her unspoken questions, only to have his throat close on him.
It made eating difficult.
Once he finished his meal, he would scrape off his dish into the sink, scrub it down with an old sponge, dry it off and put it away in the cupboard. Then he would take the other plate, place the food into a plastic container, and put it away in the fridge to take in for lunch the next day.
Afterwards, he would go to sleep.
The next day the routine was the same. He woke up, drove to the school, and performed his duties mechanically. Everything was just as it had been for the past two years at the school.
Except for lunch.
He was in the middle of eating his leftover meatloaf when he sensed a figure standing in front of him. Pausing with his fork hovering near his mouth, he glanced up at the tall imposing figure.
He recognized her immediately. The female football coach was a difficult woman not to notice. Shannon Beiste.
"Brad Ellis, right?" she asked in a surprisingly soft voice. He slowly lowered the fork from his face before nodding.
"May I sit down?"
With a squeak from the chair as it slid across the linoleum floor, Coach Beiste sat down across from him.
"I've noticed you sitting here, Brad. You're always alone and you never talk to any of the other teachers. Why not?"
He shrugged, picked up his fork, and continued eating.
Coach Beiste sighed. "Brad?"
He looked back up at her, chewing the piece of ground meat. It was dry.
"I know what it's like feeling like an outcast. I don't think you used to be an outcast, but that's what you've become. You stopped talking to people. I don't know why, but you did. And that – that just pushed people away."
He stopped chewing.
"Now look at you," she added with a gesture in his direction. "You sit here all alone, you don't interact, and you don't even try. You play the piano for the one club in this school that is trying to show that nobody's an outcast, and yet, you refuse to stand up for yourself and show people that you're more than just a guy who plays piano."
He swallowed the dry lump of meat and looked down at the table as the sting of truth blurred his vision.
"Now," she said, standing up, "I have a meeting with Principal Figgins about next year's football budget, but I would really like it if I could join you for lunch again tomorrow. I would really like to get to know you, Brad. Not just the piano man."
With that, Shannon Beiste began to turn away from him. He opened his mouth, and for the first time in a very long time, Brad Ellis spoke.
Shannon smiled at him and with a slight nod, continued on her way.
That night, he only made dinner for one.
Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us feelin' alright