The Overture (Part IV)
Warnings: Angst. =o
Joshu woke slowly, feeling unpleasantly groggy. He sat up in the bed and pawed at himself in the dark room, wondering why he had fallen asleep with his clothes on. After a moment, he realized this was not his room — and then he remembered whose room it must have been.
Oh my God, what happened? he thought, panicking for a minute when he couldn't remember. Daniel — Daniel... the composer had invited him to stay and sleep off his drunkenness, but then... what?
He looked around for a clock. Red digital numbers winked at him from what must have been a nightstand: 3:49. So he had been asleep for several hours, probably...
A strain of familiar music caught his ear; in his dreamy state, it took him several measures to recognize the one of the violin solos he had played earlier that night. But... on the piano? No one could hope to play that hummingbird-wandering on a keyboard...
But Daniel was, regardless.
Pulled by the song, Joshu rose quietly and blindly made his way to the door. As he opened it, the mad melody hit him fully, and he shivered, leaning against the door jamb.
A happy, well-centered person could not write such a song. A sane person could not write such a song. It was beautiful, and dizzying, but it felt so very wrong, especially on a piano. On a violin, it sounded perhaps like some improvised lament from the player's soul, but on the stark reality of a piano, it rang out clearly, cleanly, a carefully scripted tale of spiraling despair.
What was Daniel Renard, really? How could he hide this... darkness... behind a gentle, absently cheerful mask?
The droning notes were like a drill into Joshu's brain, digging deeper and deeper into his awareness. What was he? What was he? Why did that question seem so important?
He hesitantly began to walk into the living room, but the composer gave no sign that he was aware of Joshu's presence. The disturbing melody continued, making Joshu want to grind his teeth. How had he never truly heard this before...?
The room was only dimly lit by those candles on the coffee table, and a few other votives tucked away here and there. In the golden half-light, it took the violinist a moment to comprehend the long, dark streaks down Daniel's face.
Tears of... blood?
The music suddenly ended with a discordant bang of keys, and Daniel looked up at him slowly, his light-colored eyes almost glowing in the low light.
"You..." The music, the blood, that dead expression — they all struck Joshu like hammerblows, and finally he remembered. "What are you?"
"What on earth do you mean?" Daniel asked, the earlier warm amusement gone from his voice, now replaced with a kind of pained black humor.
"You... bit me..." Joshu said slowly, trying to reconcile these two very different Renards.
The composer looked back down at his keys, a bitter smile turning up the corners of his mouth. "You remember? I suppose you weren't as drunk as I thought..."
Somehow that simple admission made it all a bit more frightening. "What are you? A vampire...?" It was almost too fantastical, but... it made sense, too damned much sense...
"Of course." Daniel rose from his bench and now approached Joshu slowly.
Trying not to shiver, Joshu stood his ground, though what purpose that really served, he didn't know. "And I'm not supposed to know, am I...?" Would the man kill him to protect his secret? Finish off his earlier "snack"? Turn him into a vampire, too? Put a spell on him to make him forget...?
"Correct..." Now standing right in front of him, Daniel regarded him with a sad, tired look that reminded the violinist of portraits of the saints.
"Do you... kill people?" he asked very quietly, not sure he wanted the answer, but at the same time, needing desperately to know.
"Not if I can help it." The man's voice was remote. "I don't wish to."
And that seemed borne out by the fact that Joshu was still alive and in fact, feeling generally well, except for a bit of lingering vertigo. But was that even blood loss, or just the beginnings of a hangover? "Then I..." Joshu swallowed hard. Even with this sense of wrongness coming from him, the composer was still fascinating — maybe even more so than before. "I won't tell anyone..."
Daniel smiled, and while the expression was reminiscent of his amused grin from earlier, the light did not reach his eyes. "And why on earth should I believe you?"
"...You have to keep it secret so people won't try to come after you, right?" the violinist asked quietly.
"More or less," Daniel agreed, looking at Joshu in curiosity, like a lion listening to a mouse.
"If... If something happened to you..." I couldn't forgive myself... "...that would be the end of your music... and I think that would be... regrettable..." Was that the real reason? Well, it was a large part of it, at least, but... how could he knowingly guarantee someone's death by letting such a secret slip?
Daniel looked at him searchingly for a long moment, almost as if trying to look right through him, and then laughed, the sound tinged with resignation. "No... I suppose the world needs a bit of madness to stay balanced, hmm?" He looked at Joshu again, fresh blood-tears triggered by his laughter. "After hearing the truth in the music, you still enjoy it?"
Joshu sensed that this was a double-pronged question, but his answer to both halves was the same. "Y-yes... I just... understand it a little better now, I think..."
The composer looked at him incredulously, then turned back towards his piano, his shoulders shaking. After a moment, Joshu heard the quiet laughter; it sounded perilously close to sobbing, but he didn't dare move closer to find out which of the two it truly was.
"Get out," came the soft warning.
"Daniel..." Joshu did make his way to the door, scooping up his coat, but paused as his hand alighted on the doorknob, looking back.
"Get out." Stronger this time, but there was an unsteady quaver in the man's voice. "And if I find out you've said anything, I will come for you." He looked up at Joshu, his bright eyes dulled by the sheen of red tears.
That martyr's stare chilled Joshu to the bone, and he quickly opened the door, stepped outside, and shut it again. As he walked to the elevator, he heard the faint strains of the overture resuming.
Another night, another flawless performance. Daniel sighed silently and rolled his shoulders in a stretch as he headed for the performers' exit. Performing by oneself was so much less stressful than trying to front for an entire orchestra; he felt much less tired afterwards, even though the playing had been more demanding. Perhaps the fatigue was entirely mental, and simply came from trying to conduct the orchestra in his head...
It had been two weeks since his last non-solo performance, that ill-starred night with Joshu. The boy's aura had gleamed a vivid pink-into-red as he was leaving... compassion and affection... perhaps infatuation... Daniel wanted to believe that he had kept the secret, and he certainly hadn't had any reason to doubt Joshu's sincerity so far, but...
It was almost criminally stupid to get that involved with a mortal. No good would come of it in the end; Daniel himself was a testament to that, a bit of fascination turned terribly wrong. Then again, his music had had something to do with that, too. Was he some sort of siren, then, with a magnetic song?
He snorted quietly as he opened the heavy exterior door. All of this heavy thinking as of late was going to make him even crazier than he already was...
He looked up sharply. Trained as his ear was, he never forgot a voice...
"Daniel," Joshu called again, softly, tensely. His nervousness was clear in his posture, but his aura shone a deep rose. Why, why had he come back?
"... How can I help you, Joshu?" Daniel asked quietly, stilling his racing thoughts.
"I was wondering," the boy said, with a surprisingly daring smile, "if you might like to go out for a drink..."
6/22/2005: hmm.. had a hard time ending it. I guess this means more will be coming sometime.. but I need to get back to Deprivation so Devin doesn't kill me. ^__^;;