Filled as a part of a Prompt Fest in tumblr.
Tardis in Wonderland Prompted: If someone could may, possibly, pretty please… write a story in which the main theme is music? I don't mean like Song!Fic, I mean like centered around playing instruments… such as Belle is a Clarinetist and Gold is the conductor? Please?
I would love that. I play clarinet. It's like a fantasy of mine to ave this fic. Please respond and let me know if you plan to fill the prompt!
Disclaimer: I am not a musician and know very little about the inner workings of orchestras, so please forgive any mistakes made. I had no time to research properly.
I hope you like it, Tardis. I adored your fill!
The Storybrooke philharmonic was renowned throughout the world. It seemed incongruous that such a small town would have such a big claim to fame, but it had been so for years, and people flocked from all over the world to attend their local concerts whenever they were not touring the world. The musicians came from all over the world but, as a general rule, made the little town in Maine their home the moment they were accepted into the ensemble. Some others were local talents, like Archie Hopper, who as timid and as stuttery as he was had no match when it came to percussion or James Charming, who was more than a decent pianist.
But diversity was the rule, from the Arabian second violin, Sydney Glass (a name that did not quite fit with his exotic looks) to the quiet, taciturn Irish French Horn, Humbert Graham,
Life for the people of the orchestra was not always perfect. The music world was not known to bring together the easiest people to deal with, and being in an orchestra was in many ways like joining the mafia: the orchestra was your life, the people in it your family and power struggles and vicious behaviour was the rule on any given day. Storybrooke was ruled with an iron fist and that fist belonged to the famous Nicholas Gold, infamous virtuoso of the piano and once a great composer, though he had stopped writing music years ago. As a conductor Gold was merciless as he was brilliant, a true leader who seemed to know more about playing any instrument than the actual musician playing. He had a pitch-perfect ear and an uncanny ability to detect with exact precision what violin was jumping his cue by a millisecond or what key of the piano needed adjusting.
His genius was only surpassed by his cruel streak. The man, to put it simply, seemed to not to have a compassionate bone in his body. He usually worked the musicians ragged, having no patience for personal problems, rookie mistakes or even days when the player alleged to simply feel "off". Whoever dared contradict him was out of the rehearsal room before the other players could even blink. He was immune to any and all excuses, short of serious illness or actual death, and allowed little room for suggestions.
The orchestra's first violin, Regina Mills, was the only one who ever dared contradict him and got away with it. She was form a long line of violinist and her grandfather had help create the Storybrooke Philharmonic so many saw her as untouchable. She had, in the past, been the de facto leader, the previous conductors too cowed by her to really challenge her. Even though she had been young she had had total control. She had married the last conductor, Leopold Snow and thus had cemented her position, or so she had thought. Leopold had died shortly after of a heart attack and Gold had been approach to take his place. He had already refused two times in the past, concentrated as he had been on his music, but after coming to terms with the fact that he couldn't write music anymore he had accepted, moving from Glasgow to Storybrooke and taking control of the orchestra, quickly putting Mills in place. Truth be told he itched to get rid of her, but her legacy and her talent made her irreplaceable, even though he hated the controlled way in which she approached a piece. She was all technique and no passion.
In the night, long after rehearsals were done and whatever auditorium they were practising in was deserted Gold liked to breathe in the solitude and focus on his music. He hadn't been able to write anything decent in a long time, not since his precious Benjamin had died in a car accident years ago, barely a teenager, but he still felt the need to compose. He knew there was something extraordinary in him, itching to take form in paper and later on in music, but he couldn't for the life of him get it out. He did not want people to know he still tried to write, but he couldn't deny the urge so he snuck in around midnight to use the concert piano.
One day he snuck in half an hour early and was greeted by the sight of one of the newest members of the orchestra, woodwind wonder Isabelle Marie French. Unlike some of the other musicians, whose entire families were in some way dedicated to the craft, Belle was the daughter of a mechanic from Melbourne who had, according to rumour, self-taught herself after receiving a clarinet as a birthday present from an elderly aunt. By the time she had turned 12 she had been the talk of the music world, and one of the great Australian masters had taken her under his wing. She had dabbled on any and all woodwind instruments, including some very obscure ones. She had gotten a scholarship to Julliard, which she had eagerly accepted and, at twenty-four, had decided to audition for what she had always dreamed of: a spot at the Storybrooke Philharmonic, ecstatic when she had been given accepted as replacement for Johannes Midas, known for his golden touch with the clarinet.
She was standing in the middle of the stage, her concert flute in hand, reading a sheet of music attentively, slightly biting her lower lip. She was a sight, really, and it always made his heart stutter to see her, no matter how used he should already be to her. She was innately good and extraordinarily observant, picking up on little details and thinking before acting. She had a lovely smile as well, one she was prone to direct his way and that made his own lips twitch in similar response. Belle treated him with warmth and affection, and genuine curiosity, being both respectful but never aloof. Little by little she had done away with the barriers he put up in front of everyone and had become, quite soon, his favourite person in the world. Too young for him, he knew, and too good, but he got to watch her from a distance, and coax some of the most beautiful music from her, and he was satisfied with that.
His wondering thoughts came back to the present when Belle started playing, putting her whole body into the performance, which tended to earn her more than a few raised eyebrows. Belle's music did not come from her lips or hands, it came from every part of her and it was difficult for her to contain her movements, though she tried when he pointed out what she was doing. She'd blush and nod and say "Of course, Mr Gold" and he'd feel like the luckiest bastard in the world cause she had talked to him.
She didn't even realize he treated her different than the rest, which he supposed was good. He thought him a kind man, a good man, a man worthy of some of her smiles and occasional touches. She loved discussing music with her and would be the only musician seeking him out during breaks, talking about music, which was the only topic he'd discuss. If he didn't put barriers he'd end up doing foolish, foolish things.
It took him a while to recognize the piece and when he did he inhaled sharply. It was one of his, from his earlier work, a piano concerto. As in, not written for a flautist. Somehow made had adjusted the piece to play it, and it flowed beautifully, gaining a sort of fantasy overtone that he found mesmerizing. To see her swaying in tune with his music robbed him of what little breath he had. When she finished he couldn't keep himself from applauding.
"Miss French" he greeted, his voice rough "Fiddling with a masterpiece, I see"
The brunette blushed to the roots of her hair, almost dropping her instrument.
"Mr Gold! I'm so sorry if I offended you, I just love this piece and I just thought that with one or two tweaks it could be fantastic for a flute" she hurried to explain, stepping off the stage to come near him. She looked lovely in the faint light, and it was harder to keep his distance from her.
"Nonsense, dear, no need to apologize. It was lovely"
He could still hear the music in his head, but soon the music changed. It was still a flute in his head, but the melody was new, some sort of slow, blooming lullaby.
"Miss French, could you, perhaps, play for me again?" he asked her, stopping her rambling apologies. She seemed confused but easily complied, going back up stage and playing a bit of everything while Gold, eyes closed and reclining in his seat, took the notes she gave him and rearranged him, as clear in his head as if on paper. By the time it was one am and Belle paused, exhausted, he had already written an entire concerto in his mind, a warm, majestic little thing.
A flute concerto. No, clarinet. She always sounded best with the clarinet.
He dismissed the tired musician after that. She looked flushed and happy, but utterly exhausted and she lightly touched his arm before passing beside him. When she was almost at the door he spoke.
"Might I see you here some other night, Miss French? There are one or two things I'd like to correct from your little performance"
He didn't turn to look but Belle beamed as she acquiesced to his request.
To write again felt wonderful. It set him free, it filled him with boundless energy. He felt years younger, he felt powerful and giddy and exhilarated. He swore his knee even hurt less, and he did not snap as much at people as he used to. The whole place was abuzz with what could have possibly caused such a change, but no one really knew. And he was still strict as ever, and still fought for dominance with Miss Mills whenever possible.
Only Belle knew and she was not telling. Every night, around midnight, she'd go to the stage where he'd already laid out music for her to play. At first she recognized all of the pieces, some for clarinet and others for flute. Sometimes she'd bring exotic woodwind instruments, some African and some Asian. She'd play strange melodies she had picked up here and there, from listening to the strangest ethnic music and he'd listen to her for hours, enraptured by her obvious joy.
He had caught the fact that she liked to play from memory so he'd change some parts of classical pieces to see if she read the music as she should, and then, very reluctantly, introduced new pieces.
"Did you… write these?" she questioned the moment she saw the fresh ink on the sheets, quickly scanning her eyes over the notes "It looks like your work, but I know all your work and I've never seen this. This has been written originally for clarinet"
He smiled, a genuine smile, and motioned for her to play.
"It's a new thing I'm trying, dearie, and dreadfully unfinished. Let's see what it sounds like right now"
Belle bit her lip.
"It's more complicated than anything I've ever seen" she cautiously pronounced "I don't know how much justice I'll be able to do to it"
When he insisted she played she did so, fumbling very quickly over some complex movement.
"This is impossible" she exclaimed after the fifth try, lowering her clarinet and looking incredibly frustrated "It cannot be played"
Taking care of his leg Nicholas climbed onto the stage, giving the musician an exasperated look.
"You're not trying hard enough, dearie" he admonished, going around her till he was directly behind her "A little guidance will help, perhaps"
"You played the clarinet?" she asked aloud, turning to look at him, though he turned her head back to the music.
"I played a bit of everything. They don't call me genius for nothing, dearie"
She chuckled but allowed him to place his hands against hers and guide her through the trickier parts. He was quite good but also very distracting, a warm body against her back, his Scottish brogue muttering instructions against her ear. Belle was pretty sure she made more mistakes with his help than without it, but couldn't bring herself to tell him so. It was difficult to block him out but eventually, when the music begun to take shape Belle lost herself in it, her fingers finally hitting the correct combination of notes, her body beginning to sway like it usually did, only to feel a hand on her hip, stilling her movements.
"Ah, ah, none of that now, love" Gold chided her, rather breathlessly "It's a bad habit you ought to break"
For a moment she contemplated the idea of pressing her back against his chest, accidentally of course, and letting her head fall over his shoulder. It was silly, to let her crush on Mr Gold show so openly, but she couldn't help it when she was playing his music, feeling her hands tangled in his over her clarinet, her breathing in synch with his. Finally, after the piece was over, he let her go, stepping back.
"That'll be all for today, dearie"
His dismissal hurt, unlike other times, because she felt he was denying the intimacy of the moment. What a silly girl she was, with her silly feelings over a man so above her that…
"Perhaps, Miss French, a cup of tea before bed?"
Isabel smiled, finishing taking apart her Buffet R13 wooden clarinet before turning back to look at her conductor.
"Tea would be lovely" she replied, a smile on her face.
Belle took of her scarf and gloves, apologizing profusely.
"I bunk with Mary Margaret and she would not got to sleep today. I was almost tempted to drug her glass of milk"
She flexed some sense back into her fingers before stepping into the stage, clarinet case in hand. She smiled at Mr Gold, who was as usual already sitting down, scribbling some changes into a music sheet with a pencil.
"Yes, well, I'd prefer if you'd refrain from drugging my musicians, my dear. Though I do love how your mind works"
He gave her a wolfish grin and she chuckled, shaking her head as she assembled her instrument.
"New music today?" she asked, hopeful. New music meant she'd likely fumble over some notes, or a particular movement, and he'd be there, his arms around her and his solid presence behind her, breathing into the nape of her neck while they made music together. This marked the sixth month since they'd begun their strange midnight encounters and she was ashamed to admit she lived for them, arranging her day around those two hours where she'd have Gold exclusively to herself. It had started at first as a great opportunity to know more about one of the great musicians of her time, a fascinating figure draped in mystery to her young eyes.
The figure had given way to the man, much more complex and a thousand times more endearing, a vulnerable soul, lonely and sensitive and capable of tugging at her heartstrings like nothing else. Over tea he'd open up to her, telling stories of his childhood in Glasgow, of his travels over the world, and most of all of his son, Benjamin, and how he'd lost the ability to compose after he'd died.
"Well, you're composing now, so the gift was never gone. Only misplaced"
And though she loved those talks, it was when they played music together that she felt closest to him. Sometimes, when he was flush against her back with his arms around her, it felt like he was playing her, and she finished her sessions with them both panting for breath, feeling like she had all but had sex with him on stage. It was the music, she thought, it had to be. It was wonderful, and passionate and it demanded everything from her, much like its composer.
Sometimes, in order to make sure she was playing right, he'd wrap a hand around her throat to feel the vibrations from the mouthpiece of the clarinet, trying to see if she made any small mistakes. Without realizing it he's start stroking her skin and her concentration would be shot to Hell, so he'd go back to guiding her hands.
After playing together she'd fall back against him, bone-tired and feeling strangely satisfied and empty at the same time. He'd catch her reassuringly, even though she imagined his leg was bound to be hurting, and muttered how good she'd been, and then made cracks about her body movement. Finally they'd both fall silent, she resting her head against his shoulder, the clarinet between both their hands and the urge to turn her head and kiss his neck would be overwhelming.
They stayed like that for a while, trying to catch their breath.
"That was magnificent" he'd whisper into her ear before letting her go and the spell would be broken instantly.
"Tea, dearie?" he'd prompt, and she'd always accept.
Regina Mills sometimes looked at her funny during rehearsals but, otherwise, no one seemed to suspect anything. She wasn't even sure they were doing anything wrong, but whatever they had felt too private to divulge openly.
The day he announced he had finished composing his masterpiece she felt elated and scared at the same time. No new music meant no strange, close guidance, and without it her days would get a whole lot duller.
"We'll start rehearsals on Monday. I know you know the piece, but you'll have to pay as close attention as everyone else"
She startled, finishing swabbing her clarinet, puzzled.
"Rehearsals?" she asked "You mean, you're having us play your concerto?"
"Well, the entire orchestra, yes, but mostly you, dearie" he clarified, titling his head to a side "After all you're a veritable marvel with the clarinet. It's about time we showcase some of our more obscure talent"
He ushered her out of the room soon after that, not giving her enough time to process everything properly.
A solo. She was to have a solo. In a brand new work of Nicholas Gold.
… Regina Mills would go ballistic.
She certainly did, and to Gold it was a glorious sight when she saw the new sheet music, his great comeback. She was displeased at first because he had managed to compose again, which, if the music was a hit, would tip the scales in his favour and maybe finally get her fired. The second problem was that the music was a Clarinet concerto instead of a piece that would enable her to showcase her talent. Even the cellist, Jefferson Madden, seemed to have more of a part than her.
"This is rubbish, Gold, and you know it!" she spat at him, flinging her copy of the concerto at him "No one pays money to see someone play a glorified recorder" the entire woodwind section gave her the evil eye, but she disregarded them. Belle stood silent, seeing how it'd play out. She was not about to lose her temper and foolishly miss out on such an opportunity.
"I'm sure your father would disagree, dearie. Didn't he play the basset-horn?" the conductor mocked her "Now, dearie, I've had enough of your attitude. This is my orchestra and I get to decide what we play. It's been decided that Vienna is the perfect place to present new music, and it'll give us plenty of time to rehearse. Now sit, please"
It was not an ending, but a temporary cease-fire, and everyone in the orchestra knew it. Belle pretended to be unaffected by it all, figuring that by doing the brave thing bravery would follow. It helped that she was already very familiar with the music and could put most of her efforts in quelling her nerves. As she usually did she gave herself to the directions of Gold, whose unaffected, cavalier attitude helped her gain confidence.
By the end of the day, however, the fighting started again, growing in volume and anger on Regina's part. Gold was enviably calm and collected, and rebuffed Regina like she was a small child. She accused him of having lost his talent for composing and wanting to drag the reputation of the orchestra through the mud in a pathetic attempt to resurrect his dead career, of being delusional and a tyrant, of selfishly imposing his whims and desires on the entire group. Finally, when everyone thought she'd had enough of Gold's glacial demeanour, she landed a final blow:
"What is that woodwind floozy giving you that you decided to give her more of a spotlight? Really, Nicholas, it's not necessary to compose a concerto to whatever flavour of the month you're screwing, and certainly no need to force her on the rest of us"
For a second Nicholas seemed about to raise his cane in response to Regina's taunt, and Belle paled from her spot amongst the other orchestra members spying on the confrontation. Several heads turned her way so she forced herself to remain calm, to give away nothing. It was not true after all. The fact that she wanted it to be was of no importance.
"Now listen, dearie, and listen carefully: Miss French is, without a doubt, one of the most talented musicians of her generation, and I merely look to capitalize on our bests assets. The piece is great, and she will be great in it. And when all is said and done you'll see I was right, and that it had nothing to do with the pernicious lies you just spewed out"
Regina scowled storming out of rehearsal with a few parting words:
"We shall see"
Belle adjusted her dress with care, knowing the pale blue fabric was delicate. She took a last look at her make-up and hair, checking everything still looked like it ought to. She had privacy enough to sit and dwell on the last months of her life, which was not necessarily a good thing. It hurt, to remember the day after the big fight between Gold and Regina, running to the rehearsal room at midnight to find Gold nowhere in sight, waiting for him in vain that day, and the next, and the one after that. She'd eventually understood he was not coming back, but seeking him out to force some sort of explanation out of him proved to be a futile endeavour. Outside rehearsals he'd refuse to talk to her, dismissing her quickly, eager to get on to more important things, it seemed. She'd tried to talk to him as long as her pride had allowed her, but had given up eventually.
On rehearsals he'd treat her like any other musician. A bit less brusque, perhaps, but every bit as impersonal, like she didn't know him any more than Sydney Glass did. It'd stung, especially when she'd be forced to play his music and pretend he hadn't taught it to her from the inside out. Whatever connection she'd had with Gold, which he refused to acknowledge, lived on in the music, taunting her with what she'd lost.
She'd begun to hate the piece, but the more she hated it the better she played it, the more passionate she made it sound. It took everything from her, and gave her nothing in return but an acute sense of loss. She'd begun to lose sleep, and eat less. The music was doing it to her, feeding off of her, but she was no wilting flower so she forced herself to eat when she didn't want to, to rest when she didn't feel the need to and move on, get as far away from the music on her free hours as possible.
She'd lost some weight, and she could do with a few hours under the sun, but she had persevered. She'd stopped looking for Gold outside rehearsals. She'd even gone out on a few dates, nothing serious, but she'd enjoyed herself. A bit, not much, but a bit was a fine start.
"Come on, Belle, or you're gonna be late" Mary Margaret urged, smiling in her black dress. Together they made their way to the stage, the adrenaline high and the drawn curtain seeming ominous.
"You're gonna be great" the black-haired violinist assured her friend, squeezing her hand before taking her proper place in the string section. Belle took a deep breath, wondering if she could do it. Maybe she was in way over her head, maybe this was a mistake, maybe they'd hate her and…
She decided her fate. She didn't waver, she didn't doubt. She was born for that piece, for that moment and she'd own it.
She didn't remember most of the concert after it was over and done. She remembered applauses, and curtsying, and receiving flowers. She remembered the cellist, Jefferson, escorting her off stage when she couldn't figure out how to walk by herself, calling her a "silly little rabbit" with a sort of detached affection, and James patting her on the back like she was a guy and they'd just watched their football team win and Mary Margaret chiding him. Someone had escorted her back to her dressing room and sat her down and only then had she regained some semblance of feeling, mainly elation and relief.
It had been a success, she was pretty sure of it. It had felt right and magical and a bit like her whole life had been a prelude to it. Her limbs still shook with leftover adrenaline, and her lips hurt from smiling, but she felt nothing but utter happiness.
"Might I come in?"
His voice broke through her giddiness, vanishing it like it'd never been there. She turned to see him, tuxedo jacket open and bowtie undone, leaning against the door, looking at her in a way he hadn't in months, his eyes soft and shining with adoration.
"I'm rather tired" she replied, pulling some hairpins out of her hair and shaking it out "Can't this wait till rehearsals tomorrow?"
He stepped into the room, shutting the door behind him and, against her will, Belle felt her heart stutter. She took a deep breath and stood up, going to put the pins away and grab her brush, half-expecting to end up clobbering him with it if he got any closer.
"You were magnificent" he croaked out, looking a bit dazed and out of sorts "Everything I ever hoped for and more"
Belle looked at him strangely, tilting her head to a side.
"Thank you, I suppose" she finally replied "But I'm sure this can keep till tomorrow. I'm rather exhausted"
His expression became suddenly grim, like he was contemplating something unpleasant.
"Maybe you should date less and rest more, dearie" he quipped, not sounding amused at all. She stopped fiddling with the brush, locking eyes with him, fury apparent in hers.
"No. You don't get to do this. Not after you…" she took a deep breath, unwilling to let him see how he'd affected her "Not after everything. You have no right to come here and…"
He surprised her by quickly crossing the room to take her shoulders and push her, gently but firmly, against a wall. His hands travelled down her arms around her waist, up her back and into her hair, a desperate, fumbling touch that made her shudder.
"No right?" he said, his Scottish brogue thick as he whispered into her ear "No right? After nights playing together, after months of hearing music in my head that you helped put there?" he grabbed her by the waist, pulling her flush against him, and his tone was feverish as he whispered of his claim over her against the skin of her throat "We made music together. I have every right, you're mine"
Belle shoved him away, slapping him when he was far enough for her to do so.
"Excuse me?" she spat, angry beyond belief. He touched his bruised cheek with mild interest before turning her attention to her.
"You're mine" he said again, possessiveness coating every single one of his words. Then his expression softened "And I'm yours, if you'll have me"
He sounded and looked so vulnerable, so open and raw, that it have her pause. He was not just saying it, he meant it.
"But…" she was confused and utterly exhausted all of a sudden "You… You've been avoiding me. You barely talk to me anymore"
Slowly, tentatively, he invaded her personal space again, going back to nuzzle against her throat when he saw she was not going to push him away.
"I had to" he said and his voice was pained "Regina threatened you by implying what she did. I had to let the music speak for itself so people would see you deserved the lead. Couldn't let her get rid of you"
With hesitant movements she raised a hand, carding her fingers through his hair. He sounded apologetic and tired and it broke her heart a little.
"But we weren't really doing anything wrong" she reminded him softly, tugging absentmindedly on a lock of his hair. He raised his head, his lips pressing against her forehead.
"Even the appearance of impropriety would've been enough for that bitch" Gold seldom swore but more of the four letter words he seemed to reserve for the First Violin "I couldn't risk it, risk you. And everyday contact… It was difficult, so I had to cut that too. I'm sorry. I took the easy road"
Belle tried to process everything as quickly as possible, feeling like her world had spun on its axis and she couldn't decide if she was incredibly angry and Nicholas high-handed attitude or incredibly happy to be back in his arms. She knew then this was no crush, this was forever and not just for head. But she didn't know if she could trust him to take a leap of faith.
"And what's your plan now?" she enquired, honestly curious.
"Well, the first step includes me showering you in apologies, I expect" he replied, trying for a bit of levity "The second step, ideally, would involve a close room, a bit of alcohol and not a stitch of clothing"
She gave him a considering look.
"And what about the rest of the orchestra? Will they be kept out of the loop?" she pressed. He rolled his eyes, now clearly impatient when it was quite obvious that she was seriously considering his proposal.
"I'll shag you on stage in front of all of them if that's what it takes, dearie" he warned her, and Belle was ashamed to admit the idea made her blood raise.
"Really?" she didn't know how they'd managed to go from wariness and angst to light-hearted banter. Belle tried one last time to grasp at the anger and betrayal she'd felt for the past months, if only to make a point.
"You had no right to decide my fate for me, to make a choice and leave me in the dark" she chose her words carefully, glad to see him sober up and listen carefully "If you ever do that again, it's over. Those are my terms. Do we have a deal?"
She thought she saw a proud look cross his face before he practically pounced on her, his lips finally on hers.
"Yes, we do"