[[To Stella and Prompto. Thank you.]]


Another lonely evening, passed with nary a word exchanged betwixt the two.

To the unfriendly rustle of pages turned accompanied a wintry song, a melody of icicles trickling about unrelenting pines and sopranos laughing about a desolate season. A rushing of iridescence battered the windows, pearly white as they were already with condensation and the hope of a warm future. Soft cracklings of a mischievous fireplace punctuated such a disdainfully silent atmosphere, as if tempting those who partook of it unto an unlikely waltz. Hints of the impish flames flitted about the room, throwing the glistening redwood of a voiceless piano into sharp relief for the briefest moments before receding, once more, to linger in the darkness.

To the maiden with eyes of starlight, the drab stories of unmotivated authors could no longer entice her into soundless oblivion. Lifting her gaze from the tome splayed comfortably upon her lap, she instead allowed her attention to fall upon the prince with moderate curiosity, a brushed smile playing at the corner of her lips. How delicately concentrated he appeared, the lonely prince, as if to spare the other the supposed hassle of initiating conversation where it was unwanted. Where it was unwanted.

Her expression flickered. Perplexing it was to have an acquainting such as this be reduced to no more than an ungainly lull. How unseemly for the prince's eyes to glaze over in such a manner where he would obtusely force himself to believe in something that was blatantly untrue, to where his gaze became vaguely centred about the same place in his book for far too long, to train his attention elsewhere, upon anywhere but the chaste princess before him.

She rose abruptly from her seat besides the fireplace, letting her book fall to the ground before she stooped swiftly to pick it up and to lay upon her chair. She could detect the prince's nonchalant gaze, albeit strained so, play across her entity, evidently far more enthralled upon this fragile creature than what mundane ethics were scrawled upon his selection of literature. But shy, he was, and unwilling to betray what little emotion he'd let slip past his masque of indifference. A coquettish smile lit her features, then, delighted she was at her success in claiming the elusive prince's attention, though the other remained stoically passive.

From there, she moved felicitously towards the expectant piano withdrawn in a nondescript corner, to which she extended a finger to ignite a candle. There, she carefully positioned herself upon the bench, articulating her fingers above the esurient arrangement of ebony-and-ivory.

But she did not play. Light-heartedly, she twisted about to face towards the prince, inclining her head in whimsical invitation as she assumed a cordial smile. However, like a star burning out, the curious light in his eyes suddenly died as he turned his gaze downwards sharply, suddenly demure, as if he could not possibly fathom the idea of joining the princess at the dangerous piano!

An escaped huff of childish petulance spilled from her lips as she attempted to recapture her prince's attention. Her hands, still cautiously poised in that of a playing position, moved of their own accord, finding their way upon the prince's visage and diverting it upwards, to face her; he reacted smoothly, stealing a hand forth to take hers, as if anticipating her cool touch. She smiled, and, thus, she leaned forward, golden tresses playing a curtain between her seductive lips and the prince's ear, by which was earnest for what was to come. Come play with me.

His eyes were alarmingly naïve for one who had erected such a wall about his heart, too taken he was by the cruel princess's beguile and lost by her tempting words. But I do not know how. A stout denial. A willful proclamation to attempt and deter those who sought to provoke him from what was known, from what was comfortable. But in close proximity of such a statement, it was surely one of truth, of a genial yearning to venture out into the unknown. She shook her head, as, again, she angled forth to murmur the provocative invitation into his ear, Come play with me, and, tentatively, diffidently, almost reluctantly, the prince conceded to being led by the hand towards the awaiting piano.

Joyously, she let the other's hand drop to his side as they neared the instrument. Setting the prince to the bench close to her, she again composed her fingers over the keys in enchanted anticipation. However, in her excitement, the notes did not speak, but rather tripped over the other in expectancy to please the prince. She lifted her hands, letting a sheepish laugh fall to the exaggerated display of false affection. Besides her, he did not speak, too captivated he was by the princess's ability to elicit voices, to draw life, from what was apparently incomplete. She raised her hands again, positioned them thoughtfully above the keyboard, and played. Truly, a simple etude it was, a short but whimsical piece that most would have mastered within the month, but to the prince it was a masterpiece comprised of years of intensive labour and musical genius. She continued smoothly unto the next piece, skipping her fingers about the octaves, trying the devilish black keys whilst weaving 'cross and from the whites embedded betwixt. The prince's delight followed through, transfixed and motionless he was besides her, even as she reached across him to touch upon the subtle extreme notes. A tuneless melody, it was, such easily-deciphered practice methods that even a beginner would surely pick up, but he did not admire the piece for that of its technical difficulties; the mere touch of the graceful princess besides him, her ability to evoke emotion, to bring forth what would be the very essence of living, was all that he sought. The fragility of the moment, of the two intertwined in a wordless exchange, yet all was expressed in what was purely music.

Almost unwillingly, however, the piece faded to the end. Before she could pull away from the final chord, however, he put out his own and caught her hand in his. There, their connection remained suspended over the piano for a fragile second before the princess, smiling, lifted her free hand to cup the prince's and tipped her head to the side in clear wonder. His gaze was still affixed upon the piano, however, vehemently refusing to meet her gaze out of stubborn embarrassment at acknowledging such a thing. Teach me.

Oh? Another trickle of clear laughter, more light-hearted teasing than anything, to which the other furrowed his brow and adamantly trained his glare elsewhere. There is nothing I can teach you, Prince. Music cannot be taught, but lived.

To which he shook his head and released her hand, instead positioning his own clumsily before the keys. Still, his wounded eyes remained entranced by the piano, this instrument of music. Breathe life into me, then. How pleasingly obstinate this supposedly eloquent prince's demands felt! Breathe music into me. A brief respite. I wish to learn.

And suddenly, she reached upwards to loop a slender arm about him and to pull him downwards for a kiss. She could taste the surprise upon his lips, albeit hopeful it was in that he responded almost immediately, smiling shyly into the contact as he pressed for more, but no, not for the time being. She withdrew as well, albeit as reluctant as the other, who blinked a few times bemusedly at the princess who was not there any more, though far more placated he was now with the vague dusting of scarlet across his features. Mirth twinkling in her eyes, she took ahold of the prince's hand and guided his unlearned fingers about the piano.

What childish wonder shone upon his face when he pressed downwards experimentally to a pure tone! How clever he was to learn so quickly, to begin to play awkwardly such etudes with increasing confidence she had mastered in her youth. He had bit his lower lip in concentration, still refusing to meet her eyes until his mentor could look down upon her disciple and nod in acknowledgement. Slowly and gently, as if approaching a wild beast for the first time, she parted her hand from his to assert his ability to stand alone for the first time. But at the lightened grasp, however, he recoiled sharply, freezing as so the pearly frost upon the window panes. I cannot do this. His lips, then, an obstinate line, and his brow furrowed in frustrated pondering. Not yet. Not yet.

But she moved, nonetheless, drawing her hand next to his, not guiding, but supporting by mere touch alone. Live the music, Prince. A gentle nudge to which a sour note was produced. Come play with me. Her touch was inviting, beguiling, but nevertheless full of hopeful expectation.

And so he began, faltering at first, but slowly gaining assurance once more so that she could divert wholly from him and begin anew a harmony, one that built upon and supported the main theme. A soft piano theme, to which the winter could serenade entirely. His impassive demeanour broke as he, for the first time, smiled at the creation of beauty, the seduction of life and what was music. She lifted her chin to laugh aloud, at the success in introducing this life unto the prince, to which the prince met her lips sincerely, his own jubilation spilling over. I want to learn.

Another lonely evening, passed with nary a word exchanged betwixt the two.