Vaughan – Etude

“What does the music tell you?”

It was late and the halls of the college of music were mostly deserted. The school kept odd hours, the current dean thinking it supportive to allow students more access to the practice rooms when they felt like using them. Vaughan Williams had stayed late, grading papers. He found it easier to read them in his comfortable little office, rather than taking them home.

He’d packed up the last of his things and was heading out, when he heard the sound of a piano floating down the hall. That wasn’t unusual, but he knew this music well, having heard and played it many times before. It struck a chord, since it was exactly the kind of music he couldn’t play anymore. Curiosity got the better of him, and he followed it, peeking his head in one of the classrooms. A tall young man sat at the piano, with his back to the door.

Even without being able to see the face, Vaughan had no trouble identifying Michael Shaw. He was the only student of his who looked as if he belonged more on the football team than in a music hall. But though he might look like a jock, Vaughan had quickly learned he was a gifted, if still budding, young musician. He’d rather taken a liking to him.

He must have made a sound, as the music suddenly stopped and Michael turned to him with wide eyes. “Professors Williams! I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you. I didn’t realize anyone else was here.”

Vaughan waved a hand. “It’s no bother, Mr. Shaw. You have every right to be here.” The young man bobbed his head in understanding, though he didn’t say more. Vaughan cleared his throat softly, feeling a bit awkward. Michael shifted nervously on the bench. It was a bit comical, in a dark sort of way, given the young man was probably half a foot taller, and twice as heavy, as he was. There was something about Michael, something gentle, and he felt bad for making him anxious.

“That was Blumenfeld, wasn’t it?” He asked quickly, hoping to diffuse some of the tension.

“O-oh yes. I looked up his music after the etudes we listened to in your lecture on Monday. I was… entranced by them.” He voice was almost shy, as if he were speaking of something taboo.

“He’s one of my favorite composers. You have very good taste, Mr. Shaw.” He offered a genuine little smile, one he would not have given any of his other students, Michael looked down a moment, seeming embarrassed. He moved on quickly, lest the young man flee the room. “Every piece Blumenfeld wrote tells a story. You close your eyes and see the pictures flowing through your mind. It’s glorious. Everyone takes away something different.”

Michael seemed bolstered and looked at him, piercing him with those earnest brown eyes of his. “What does the music tell you, Professor?”

“Oh, well-” The rather sudden question caught him off guard, and he froze. It wasn’t that it was inappropriate, but that he’d asked that same question to another, in another time, and another place.

It had been one of his finest debut nights. He’d picked a series of spectacular pieces that had showed off his range and skill. It had been fun, though the meet and greet afterward had been dull. At least, until he’d been approached by a grinning, and frankly beautiful, young man around his own age. He was not the sort of stuck-up, fussy patron one usually found at these events. He’d been charming, full of light, and chatted with him as if they’d been in a pub, rather than a concert hall. Instead of offense he’d been intrigued, curiosity having gotten the better of him eventually.

“I can’t help but wonder why you chose to attend. You don’t- well, you don’t strike me as the type.” He realized that probably sounded terribly rude, and gave the other man an apologetic look. “Forgive me, I meant no offense.”

The man laughed, not seeming bothered, and it put him at ease. “To be completely honest, my mother won tickets in a contest. My father’s out of town, so I’m the lucky winner. I don’t have a musical bone in my body. Give me maths all day long, but I can’t tell Mozart from Beethoven. But, watching you play, I rather want to.” Vaughan couldn’t help but grin. There was something about this man he liked very much.

“You don’t have to bother with all that in order to enjoy it. You just have to relax and it tells a story all its own.” He felt bold, and fixed the other man with a slightly playful look. “What does the music tell you, Mr. Suave?” His question drew a hearty laugh.

“I have no bloody idea, but I know what it tells me about you.” The man’s smile was very attractive, and Vaughan couldn’t help momentarily letting his eyes trace the curve of his thick brow, the way his throat moved under his umber skin. “It tells me you’re daring, graceful, good with your hands. And that I’d very much like to ask for your phone number.”

Vaughan felt heat come to his cheeks but was pleased by the praise. He rather liked this forward young man. “You are bold, Mr. Jahani,” he said, giving the other man a mock offended look for a moment, before it broke apart into a laugh. “But you’re also very right. I think you’ve earned my number, provided you do one little thing for me.”

“And what would that be, Mr. Williams?”

“Give me yours in return.”

“Professor? Professor Williams?” The voice cut through his mind, in the same moment he felt a pressure on his shoulder, and a hand gently shaking him. He blinked, the world coming back into focus and he looked up into the concerned face of Michael Shaw, hovering over him. He looked concerned.

“Oh, I, uh- Mr. Shaw, forgive me.” It was his turn to stammer, feeling very out of place. The memory had swallowed him whole, and he must have looked a right fool standing there, slack jawed. He paled a bit. He shouldn’t have stopped in. “My mind left left me there for a moment. It’s nothing to worry yourself over.”

Michael seemed to realize his hand was still on his shoulder and he practically jumped back, stammering his own apology. “Please forgive me Professor, I didn’t mean to invade your personal space.”

Vaughan drew in a soft breath. Despite his discomfort he felt bad for Michael. He’d asked a perfectly innocent question. It hadn’t been his fault his memories wouldn’t let him be. “It’s all right. I appreciate your concern. It’s late, and I think your question deserves a proper answer. Why don’t you stop by during my office hours, the next time you’re free? I’d love to talk to you about it.”

Michael’s worry seemed to fade, and he smiled. It was a rare sight, but a welcome one. “I-I will. Thank you.”

Vaughan offered him a smile in return, and gathered himself up. “Good night, Mr. Shaw.”

“Good night, Professor.”

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