Summary: Natalie plays the piano until she is interrupted by Henry.

Disclaimer: Next to Normal is a Broadway musical with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kit. Major producers for the show are David Stone, James L. Nederlander, Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo, and Second Stage Theater. As of this writing, it is no longer playing on Broadway but the rights to perform this musical are available though MTI. show_ ?showid=000383

This author claims no ownership of the characters or concept.

Warning: Rated T for suggestion of adult situations.

Damn it! That was the third time my fingering fell apart during that melodic run. The way I was playing this piece you'd think the musical notation said whatever " Bull running loose in a china shop" was in Italian instead of the legato andante it was written in. Break the rhythm down, I reassured myself and went to my old piano teacher's tried and true method. First, in staccato. As my finger jump over the keys breaking the notes in to crisp beats like marching soldiers, I reflect on the fact that the best part about my new apartment was having a piano - the kind that you didn't have to have headphones into play. Of course, one in the tiny dorm room I'd had as freshman and sophomore was unthinkable. When I had first started playing the piano at home, we had gotten a pretty little grand piano for all of four weeks before my mother was driven insane by practicing. More insane than she already was, that is. Of course my piano skills had improved since then, and so had my mother though my piano skills would have won the race if there'd been one by about 10 years. I switched to playing in syncopated rhythm, stressed/unstressed first.

" Now that's way more like it," said Henry from behind me. I suppose nobody could sleep through this.

" It's not actually in rhythm yet." If it had been four years ago I would have snapped that comment at him but now I just laughed.

"Oh and I actually thought you were forsaking your classical roots," he said sidling on to the bench. I didn't scoot over half as much as I could have so that he had to squish up right against me. He had his hands on the piano improvising a tune that began with the melody I had been playing before swinging into a more modern style finally reprising in my theme. I was content to just slip my arm around him while he played.

"Your turn to spice it up," he said closing the concerto music and turning expectantly toward me.

"I assume that comment's up to interpretation?" I said and I kissed him. I had always imagined that kissing someone would get old at some point. That's what everyone warns you about when you are a teenager- passion doesn't last. But as Henry's tongue slipped between my lips, I felt as I always did as if were flower opening in the warmth of the sun. I could feel his slightly calloused fingertips brushing the back of my neck and I leaned into him. The kiss deepened. We finally broke away in a series of ever shorter kisses. I opened my eyes, call me prepubescent if you want but I couldn't help closing my eyes when Henry kissed me- no matter how often.

"Well that was….," Henry sounded just a little bit husky as he did whenever we kissed. My legs had somehow found their way onto his lap and my arms were wrapped around his neck.

"Unexpected?" I filled in the blank for him.

"I was thinking sexy" he sounded a little sheepish as he said it. But I learned long ago that rather than getting embarrassed at the word I should just embrace that while I could not figure out what exactly was sexy about a geeky girl with frizzy hair and chewed fingernails that most people probably would never seen Henry the way I did.

" Really?" I did my best to look the sexy he thought I was. It didn't feel as ridiculous as it used to.

"Do you really have to keep on practicing?" Before I could respond, I found myself being carried off to the bedroom. I was protesting about how the rhythms were all wrong and how Debussy was rolling in his grave. He deposited me on the bed and I made a halfhearted attempt toward the outer room.

He caught me easily in his arms and whispered softly into my ear, " Maybe you just need to relieve some tension and then the music will flow from your fingertips."

AN: As per a review's request from ages ago something from Natalie's POV. Written in one sitting in about an hour. Was supposed to be about why Natalie started playing piano in the first place- ended up being something different. I hope this is not overly sappy or graphic. I have never been much for reading this type of romatic stuff and I have never written it until now. Feedback is welcome.