Series: Memento

Title: The Piano Man

Author: LLE


Rating: PG-13, at most.

Story disclaimer: Popular and it characters belongs to Touchstone Television. Least it did last I heard. Not mine, never were. No profit made, no copyright infringement intended.

Musical disclaimer: The first song used in this story is Darling, do You Remember Me? by Lightnin’ Hopkins, the third is The Piano Man by Billy Joel. Both are used without permission, and I’m certainly not trying to claim their material. The second song, Blue is the Color, is my own, you can make up the melody any way you like.

Author’s Notes: This story was, as you might guess form the title, inspired by a Billy Joel song of the same name. Serves me right for listening to that song for 30 minutes non-stop, huh? I’m not gonna bother listing ‘Pairing’ here, because unless you’re completely new to both this place and my stories, you really oughtta know by now. My apologies if the formatting's a bit messed up here and there, hotmail RTF's acting up at the moment.

It was another Saturday night in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The icy November wind was swishing through the near-empty streets, sending the few, scattered dead leaves swirling around in the pale beams of light that lined Tulip Drive.

A lone figure was walking rapidly down the street, her head bowed against the cold wind. Once she reached her destination, a unobtrusive yellow-brick building with The Mirage in neon lights above the entrance, she quickly dodged inside, closing the heavy, wooden door with a solid click.

Once inside, she proceeded through a door vaguely marked Employees Only and placed her heavy coat on the hanger just behind the door. Cupping her hands in front of her mouth, she blew into them several times, rubbing them together fiercely to chase the cold from them. “Goddamn Yankee winters.”

She paused at her own words, a faint smirk overtaking her delicate features. She’d never found out for sure if her birthplace, Southern California, was a real part of the South or not, and thus didn’t know if she qualified as a true Dixiecup. “Ah, screw it.” She straightened and proceeded to change into her work clothes. “Yankee is Yankee.”

Finally fully dressed in the black corduroy pants, the white shirt and the black vest, she stepped in front of the mirror, smiling mildly at her reflection as she ran her hand through her hair. Definitely different from the style I had in High School. More than ten inches had been cut off the previous afternoon, leaving enough that the raven tresses just brushed her shoulders.

High School… A rueful sigh trickled out. God, I was such a putz. The melancholy memories of her senior year returned, and a heavy weight settled on her shoulders once more.

Resolving to grin and bear it for the duration of the evening, as she had done so many times, she took a deep breath, straightened her back and walked out into the main room.

One of the bartenders waved as he spotted her. “Maccy P!” He grinned. “Long time, no see.”

“Up yours, Mechovny.” She returned the easy grin. “We’re both here every night.”

“Ah, but even half a day without your luminous presence is like eons without love, my dear.” The redheaded man kissed her cheek softly.

“Aww, you say the sweetest things.” She leaned on the bar, quickly checking her reflection in the large mirror. “I’d marry you in a heartbeat if your plumbing was reversed.”

“Right back at you, sweets.”

Smiling, she patted the bar and proceeded to her workstation as she spotted the manager entering the room. While Mrs. Gonzales could be nice enough when the mood struck, she was positively anal about certain things. Employees talking amongst themselves was one of them, even if the crowd wouldn’t start coming in for another half hour.

“McPherson!” The shrilly voice rang out through the otherwise quiet room.

And here comes the shrew now. Sam mentally shook her head. I’d like to meet the man who could tame this one. “Yes?”

“Make sure to wipe that piano off before you do anything else.” Mrs. Gonzales gave the brunette a haughty look and turned on her heel, stalking off to annoy another employee.

“Sure thing.” Sam sighed and deftly caught the clean rag one of the bartenders tossed her way. She knew that making sure the piano was shiny enough for her boss’ approval was going to take up most of the 30 minutes, leaving her very little time to check the keys and warm up her hands and voice. Wish she’d at least let me warm up first. She knew better than to suggest that, though.

Eventually, the arduous task was done, and she quickly washed her hands before settling down at the large instrument, nimble fingers running a quick scale of all the notes before settling into a more mournful tune, the sad music reflecting the pianist’s mood perfectly.

Sam absentmindedly hummed along as she played, her thoughts quickly drifting to what was to be her inspiration for the night.

As a teenager, Sam had been blind enough to fall in love with the, to her, most unattainable person at Kennedy High. Not the star quarterback, although that would’ve been bad enough, but rather one of the cheerleaders.

She’d secretly pined away for the beautiful blonde for months when, amazingly, the impossible happened. One day, the blonde had approached her, saying that she had something that Sam probably wasn’t going to like to hear, but would have to listen to regardless.

That something had turned out to be that she was in love with Sam, or at least she’d said so. ‘In love’ had lasted less than three months, and then the brunette had suddenly been kicked to the curb like an unwanted, downtrodden old shoe.

Sam sighed deeply and, seeing people begin to come through the door, quickly started playing a song, her warm, soulful voice following quickly.

Just to say hello, my little darling
Do you remember me?
Now it's been a great long time, I just wanna let you see.

Hello, speak to me
I been wondering, where can my little darling be?
But it's been such a great long time,
Darling, do you remember me?

The regular crowd, which consisted mainly of middle-aged men, had pretty much arrived by now, and they all sat down at each their table in each their uncomfortable wooden chair, and listened to the pretty pianist with the melancholy voice.

I've been places, way over sea
That's why I know you done forgotten all about poor me
But just to say hello,
Darling, do you remember me?

Your face, somethin' I wanna see
Just to know darling, you used to enjoy with me
But hello, hello darling, baby, do you remember me?

Sam softly let the song fade out, her fingers floating over the keys with practiced ease. As the piano quieted, the customers applauded, and she smiled. The job as a pianist wasn’t what she’d ever expected to do with her life, but after leaving Santa Monica to go to college, she’d fallen in love with the instrument, and had soon begun taking lessons.

As it had turned out, she’d had a natural talent for playing, and had quickly taken a shine to playing and writing her own songs. She’d gotten a few pieces done, all written in mol, which was mainly the style of the sadder tunes. College had been rough, but had provided her with enough free time to write her own music, something that her day-time job as a free-lance reporter also left time for.

She reached ahead and carefully adjusted the microphone, making sure that it was aimed more correctly at her mouth. Taking a deep breath of the smoke-scented air, she gave the small audience her most sultry smile. “Ok, ladies and gentlemen. This time, I’d like to sing a song of my own.”

The customers murmured amongst themselves, and, Sam noted with no small amount of glee, Mrs. Gonzales looked as if she was about to explode. The brunette knew that she was safe for now, however, as there was no way the manager would interrupt the show.

Closing her eyes, Sam ‘let her fingers do the walking’, as the old song said, playing her first song by memory.

Saw my lady love in the street today
Saw her walking with some other girl
Yeah, I saw my baby love here in town today
I gotta say she looked outta this world

She quickly glanced around at the customers, thankful to see no appalled expressions. Just one of the perks of working in a gay-friendly bar, I guess. She gave a sad sigh and parted her lips once more.

Her hair was the color of the sun on the clouds
That roll by ‘fore the night comes in
Her eyes were blue like the summer sky
She was young and in love again

Blue is the color of my true love’s eyes
And blue’s the color of my heart
Blue is the color, and none is the number
For as long as we’ll be apart

Unknown to the currently oblivious pianist, the room had gone quiet. Everyone was holding their breath, listening to the girl with the smoky voice as she and the piano told the story of the hurt that still resided deep within her.

Sam went through the chords almost by instinct, the low tones only making her hurt that much stronger, but she bravely played on, hoping that telling her story to the listeners would ease the burden somehow.

I saw my lady love on the street today
I walked over, just to say hi
Yeah, saw my baby girl here in town today
The one I’ll love till the day that I die

I said ‘Hey pretty baby, you’re well, that I’ll bet.
Remember how you made me fall?’
But as far as I saw, and I say with regret
She didn’t remember at all.

Blue is the color of my true love’s eyes
And blue’s the color of my heart
Blue is the color, and none is the number
For as long as we’ll be apart

She slowed the song down, feeling her throat constrict as she whispered the last lines.

Blue is the color, and none is the number
For as long as we’ll be apart.

Surprised, Sam glanced up as the room suddenly exploded with applause. With a shell-shocked look on her face, the touched her cheeks, finding them wet. But, she realized as she looked around, at least she wasn’t the only one. Even Mrs. Gonzales had tears in her eyes.

“Um, thank you.” Sam blushed faintly, ducking her head as she accepted the applause. “Glad you all enjoyed it. ”

“Beautiful, Maccy!” The redheaded bartender called, giving her two thumbs up.

“Thanks Mechovny. Just for that, I’ll let you make a request.” She smiled. “What’ll it be?”

“You know the one I want to hear.” The bartender smiled. “Go on, Sam. Play it again.”

Play it again, Sam. The brunette smiled and touched her fingers to the keys once more. Yeah.

It's nine o'clock on a Saturday
The Regular crowd shuffles in
There's an old man sitting next to me
Makin' love to his tonic and gin

He says, "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 mans clothes"

The regulars started moving gently to the music, singing along to the chorus that they’d heard so often.

Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us feelin' alright

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he's quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there's someplace that he'd rather be

He says, "Bill, I believe this is killing me."
As the smile ran away from his face
"Well I'm sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place"

She glanced at Mechovny, and smiled as she saw him and the other bartender dancing along to the music. This song was just as sad as her previous one, in it’s own way. It was about loss, but more the loss of dreams than the loss of love.

Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he's talkin' with Davy, who's still in the navy
And probably will be for life

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinkin' alone

Sam played the song in perfect remembrance of the first time she’d heard it. Almost as if by magic, her fingers seemed to make the piano send out to the other people in the room the very same feelings that the brunette had felt herself.

Quietly, she wound the song down to a close, and bowed her head in acknowledgement of the applause she received, then stood and walked to the bar, where Mechovny readily handed her a freshly poured Guinness.

As she took her second sip, she felt a hand touch her shoulder, and a voice she knew all to well quietly sang into her ear.

I said, ‘Girl could 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 one’s clothes.

She squeezed her eyes shut to keep the tears at bay, and simply sat there as a pair of familiar arms wound themselves gently around her, holding her close as she whispered out the name she’d banned from speech for so long.



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