Darren remembers a life he once had.
Disclaimer: I do not own Darren Hayes and/or Daniel Jones, though I have borrowed their names for this piece of fiction. I do not intend to harm anyone or their careers. Please do not sue.
Summary: Darren remembers a life he once had.
Feedback: Yes, please.
Thanks: As usual, to rain. Somehow, it keeps me going.
Warning: Depending on how you interpret this, it could be a death fic.
"Son, can you play me a memory? I'm not really sure how it goes. But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete when I wore a younger man's clothes." Piano Man by Billy Joel
He walked into the cemetary, stepping around grave markings, his body stooped with old age as his grey hair blew in the light breeze. He held a single red rose in his gnarled hands, and he stopped to look at it for a moment, almost as if he hadn't expected it to be there. He took a few more steps and then stopped again before a rather large gravestone. He didn't say a word, simply put the flower down and put his fingers to his lips and then transferred the kiss to the cold stone. Tears fell down his cheeks for a few moments and then he turned and walked away, wondering what he was to do now. He had figured this moment would take much longer, but he did not want to remember his partner today as dirt under a gravestone bearing the man's name. No, that was not fitting for the most beautiful man who had ever lived. Not fitting at all.
He walked along the streets, his hands stuffed deep into his pockets, his head down, thoughts racing through his mind. He could visit his daughter, but she had her own life now, with children and a job. She would not take kindly to him just bursting in. His son had moved to England years before, only coming for his father's funeral, but had not made contact since. He could just go home and sit, watch the videos and listen to the music, but he had done that for a full year now, and he needed to be out of the house they had shared together.
He stopped before the doors of an old-fashioned pub, one of Daniel's favorites. He took a deep breath and then walked in, expecting to immediately start crying but instead found himself smiling. It had been a long time since he had last been in this place, had sat in front of the piano and listened to Daniel play, a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth as he played whatever came to his mind. And yet, now as he came in without Daniel, he suddenly felt as if he had come home. This place held memories of Daniel, yes, but also of laughter and moments of drunken stupidity. "Darren," the bartender came forward, "how are you?"
Darren turned to look at the man. He was tall, around six three, and was in his early fifties, but he knew Daniel. And he knew what today was. Darren shrugged. "I've been better, Jonny. Thanks."
"What can I get you?" Jonny asked, already leading Darren towards his usual table right in front of the piano.
"Some sort of sandwich and a gin and tonic," Darren replied. "And some cigarettes, I've run out."
"But you don't drink or smoke," Jonny stated.
Darren shrugged yet again, not caring what people expected of him. He had found Daniel's cigarettes just an hour after the man had been taken to the funeral home and he had decided they looked rather lonely. Thus began his late-life addiction to nicotine. "It seems fitting today."
Jonny nodded. "Of course it does, Darren. He was a great guy and a fantastic piano man."
Darren nodded as he stared at that old piano. "Yes, Sam, he was the best."
Jonny went to get Darren's drink and cigarettes and the came back, a lighted cigarette in his own mouth. "You know, I've saved this table for you every night for the past year, Darren. People hated it because this is the best seat in the whole damn house, but I kept thinking you'd come back someday. How've you been keeping yourself busy?"
"Gardening," Darren replied. "Planting a rose garden for Daniel. He always said the day he started gardening would be the day he knew he was old. And now here I am, gardening every damn day until my back aches and I feel like I'm going to have a stroke. Fucking hell." He took a drag of the cigarette and blew the smoke out slowly. "Do you have a new piano man?"
The bartender nodded as he tapped his cigarette against the ash tray. "Really good. Paul. He's young, around twenty-five, but he sounds a lot like Daniel. He's playing tonight."
Darren drank some of his gin and tonic and sighed, "How much like Daniel?"
"Almost exactly," Jonny answered and then realized what he was saying. "Oh fuck, Darren, I should have realized. You probably don't want to hear him, do you?"
"No," Darren shook his head. "It will be good for me. I miss hearing piano music. When's he coming on?"
"In about twenty," the man stood up. "I'll go get your sandwich and maybe he can come out a little early. He likes to play around a bit before he gets serious."
Darren watched the man walk away and then turned to stare at the piano. The most magnificent piano in the world, or so Daniel used to say. They used to come every night from the moment they moved back to Brissie, the kids would be in bed and their old next door neighbor would come and stay over, just in case. And Daniel would play. He'd play some of their old stuff, but also anything else. Frank Sinatra. Louis Armstrong. Duke Ellington. Old time classics. Billy Joel, Eric Clapton. New favorites. And he'd play with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, play his heart out, Darren sometimes singing along. And even when he got sick, his heart slowly fading away into nothingness, he had come to play, the cigarette still dangling and the whiskey off to the side, even though the doctor had specifically told him to forgo both. And Darren would stare at him, finding him to be the most beautiful human being on Earth. Daniel would smile and Darren just thought himself lucky. Lucky to have found a perfect person. Lucky to have married him. Lucky to had adopted two children with him. "Our lives were perfect," he murmured now as he finished off his gin and tonic and started another cigarette.
He looked up at that moment when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. A young blond man was sitting at the piano in jeans and a button down blue top with what looked like butterflies on it. His blond hair was spiked up a little bit and he lit a cigarette, staring at the keys for a minute. He let the cigarette just dangle from his lips as he went into a song, his thin fingers running expertly, quickly over the black and white keys. He played only a bit of the song and then stopped, frowning. He looked up and met Darren's eyes and then smiled. "Darren Jones?" he asked.
"Yes," Darren nodded.
"Paul," the young man reached out and shook the older man's hand. "You are an inspiration, sir."
"Don't call me sir," Darren frowned. "It makes me feel damn old."
Paul laughed and then took a drag of his cigarette. "Damn things will kill me, but hell, it helps sometimes, doesn't it?"
"Sometimes, yes," Darren nodded. "You sounded good there, by the way."
"I hate that song," Paul sighed. "Look, I know tonight is probably the wrong time to bring this up, but hell, I've always wanted to say something. Daniel was probably the most amazing piano man in the world. Inspired me to work harder. I was sorry when I heard about his death."
"I'm glad he inspired you, Paul. When did you see him play?"
"Here, almost every night. I would stand in the back and watch as he played and you sometimes sang."
Darren grimaced. "My voice was shot, of course. Couldn't sing to save my life these days. Too old."
"I didn't think so," Paul assured him. "Thought you two were the epitome of musical greatness."
"Thank you," Darren murmured and took a sip of the gin and tonic Jonny had brought him.
"What can I play for you, Darren?" Paul asked as he ran the keys over the piano. "Just for you tonight."
"What can you play?"
"Anything," Paul shrugged. "Every little thing you could ever want."
Darren thought for a moment, "Could you play 'Prelude to a Kiss'?" he asked. "One of mine and Daniel's favorites."
"Of course," Paul nodded and then began playing the old classic, his eyes closed as he went into the beautiful song.
Darren listened, the cigarette smoldering in between his fingers, his other hand grasping his drink. Daniel had often played the song after they had had a fight, attempting to apologize. And the way his eyes would fill with tears and he would look over at his husband mouth, "I love you, I'm sorry", could make Darren swoon in a moment. Good God, those had been fantastic days. Wonderful days. He watched Paul now, wishing it was Daniel playing, wishing it was Daniel's nimble fingers running over the keys, serenading him. His eyes begin to fill with tears and he held his drink a little closer. So many memories had begun to fade into the darkness of old age, but listening to this song, to Paul's beautiful piano playing, brought them all back. The first kiss, the first time they had made love, their marriage. Everything. What a wonderful evening to remember it all.
Paul finished the song and then smiled at Darren. "Was it good enough, Darren?"
"Fantastic, thank you, Paul," Darren stood and put a twenty in the little bowl on top of the piano. "I must love you and leave you now."
"Of course, Darren," Paul stood for a moment, watching the old man walk into the dark night.
Darren walked home in the dark, the tears falling freely now. He came into his house and found the only video he had of Daniel playing at the pub. They had still been young then and the idea of disease was too far off to even consider. He sat and watched it, a cigarette comforting him as Daniel laughed and played to a full house. And then, finally, someone came to him. "Why don't you go back on stage, Daniel?"
And Daniel looked at that person and said, "I'm not a performer. I'm a piano man. That's all that matters."
Darren stopped the video and closed his eyes. "Oh, my piano man," he whispered. "My wonderful fantastic piano man. My love is a prelude to a kiss." He stumped out the cigarette and went to bed, drifting off to a world where he could be with the most amazing piano man in the world, playing a perfect song to greet his lover.