Title: Music Memory
Verse: None (DCU/pre-reboot)
Summary: The piano was bought for Damian, but ends up suiting a different Wayne son far better. This is a gift for Cr1mson5.
It beckoned to him.
The gorgeous Steinway grand piano had been set up in the study, right on the opposite side of the secret entrance to the Batcave behind the grandfather clock. It was the first thing Tim saw as he limped through the hidden doorway, and if he’d believed in it, he would’ve sworn up and down it was love at first sight.
“Alfred?” Tim asked as he stared at the beautiful instrument. The old grandfatherly butler had been following him out of the cave, where he had treated Tim for a concussion he’d received earlier while on patrol. “When did Bruce get this?”
“It was moved out of storage about a month ago,” Alfred replied as he paused in shutting the door completely behind him. “After seeing how Damian had taken to drawing, Master Bruce was wanting to see about expanding Damian’s world to include more finer arts in his studies, including music.”
“Does Damian play?”
“Not in the least,” Alfred said with a shrug of his shoulders. “Music does not come easily to him, and his lack of patience with the exercises his instructor assigns him has made this entire endeavor seem rather futile at this point.” He sighed. “I will admit, Timothy, that I am a little disappointed.”
“Why is that?’
Alfred regarded the old piano with a nostalgic fondness. “This piano used to belong to Master Bruce’s mother. Before she married Thomas Wayne, Martha had been a concert pianist. Even after Bruce was born, she used to fill this house with music she wrote and played with this very piano. I had been hoping that perhaps it could finally do so once more.”
When Alfred turned his attention back to Tim, the old man noticed something was off about the young man. Tim’s face was a mask of longing and indecision as he stared at the piano, his fingers seeming to want to flex outward toward the instrument before being consciously brought back and curled tightly into fists at his sides. “Is something the matter, Timothy?”
“Huh?” Tim seemed to be startled out of his thoughts, and he looked at Alfred sheepishly before casting another furtive glance at the piano. “Well… Ummm…”
Alfred tilted his head slightly to one side. “Yes?”
Tim took a deep breath. “Would… you… really like to hear the piano?” The last few words escaped his lips in a rush, and Tim winced as if even just saying them was like pulling his own teeth out.
The old man looked at Tim in surprise. “Do you know how to play?”
“My grandmother on my mom’s side was a piano teacher,” Tim admitted quietly. “Before she died when I was eight, I used to be left with her when my parents went out of town. She taught me how to play.” He drew in another measured breath. “If you have some sheet music, I can play some for you.”
Tim’s voice was hesitant, and seemed to go softer towards the end. Alfred didn’t quite understand why offering to play was something the young man was so hesitant to voice, but for all the trouble Tim went through just to make the reluctant but heartfelt offer, he wasn’t going to be so rude as to refuse.
“I would love that,” he said.
Tim sat on the bench before the now open piano. Though Alfred had offered to turn on more light for him to read by, Tim insisted that the moonlight was fine. The music Tim had read over and memorized was one of the last pieces that Martha Wayne had written, and he knew he would be able to play it just fine. Though it had been years since he’d played the piano, his grandmother had been a very good teacher and her lessons had always stayed with him.
As Alfred sat on a chair by the fireplace, Tim rested his fingertips upon the white keys.
It started with a hesitant chord.
As hesitant chord met hesitant chord, Tim swallowed hard. It had been years since he’d played, and he was initially worried about making a mistake, especially playing for Alfred. However, as his hands moved upon the keys, Tim found himself slowly relaxing into the music. In the back of his mind, he could almost feel his beloved grandmother’s hands upon his shoulders, encouraging him with her kind words.
“There you go, Timmy. Not so stiff. That’s right. Just like that, sweety. Don’t just play the notes. Feel them out.”
“Like this, Grandma?”
“Oh that’s perfect, love.”
The tension seemed to bleed slowly out of Tim’s frame, and for the first time in what felt like forever he felt a growing sense of peace. As his eyes gradually slid shut, he wasn’t in Wayne Manor anymore, playing by moonlight on the outskirts of Gotham City. He was in a sun-filled villa in northern New York State, playing upon a white baby grand in a parlor surrounded by windows that were open to let in the warm summer breeze. The memory of the light floral perfume that had been his grandmother’s favorite wafted in the air around him and surrounded him with a memory of an unconditional love he hadn’t felt so long.
“You are such a natural, Timmy. I am so proud of you! Oh you’re going to be a virtuoso one day, I just know it.”
“What’s a fur-chew-oh-so?”
“Heh. Nothing you need to worry about yet. Now, don’t think about the notes written on the pages. Close your eyes and let your fingers fly. They already know where they need to go.”
As the melody began to move faster, his fingers dancing nimbly over the ivory keys, Tim couldn’t help the smile that crept upon his face. It just felt so good to play after so long. It was like taking that first drink of water after very nearly dying of thirst. So many emotions that Tim had thought were long since dead and buried, the kinds that he could never really articulate anymore these days, not since joining his adopted father’s war and losing so many loved ones in his short life, came flowing out in the music.
At the same time, Alfred’s own eyes had slid closed, and in his own mind’s eye, where Tim sat, he could see dear Martha Wayne. Her long elegant fingers moved effortlessly over the keys of her beloved piano as her son sat drawing on the coffee table with his crayons and her husband sat in his favorite chair opposite the butler, smoking his pipe as he listened to his wife play.
“So, what do you think Alfred?”
“I think she’s more than ready to return to the music hall, Master Thomas. The Gotham Symphony has yet to find a pianist of her quality in the years since she began her sabbatical. Her skills have not faded in the least.”
“Oh I can hardly wait, Thomas! I’ve so missed the stage.”
“Is it different playing on stage, Mom?”
“Oh yes, Brucie. Very different. It’s like playing on a whole ‘nother world.”
“Does that mean you won’t be playing at home anymore?”
“Silly. Of course I’ll still play at home. Of all the people I could play for, I love playing for you and your father and Alfred the most.”
Once the music had come to its inevitable end, both Tim and Alfred sat there in the study, eyes closed as the echoes of the piano’s song gradually faded back into silence. Slowly, the two of them returned to the present with contented sighs before finally opening their eyes.
“That was wonderful, Timothy,” Alfred said with a kind smile. “With a talent like that, even after not playing for such a long time, you could be a virtuoso if you wished.”
Tim smiled, both fondly and a little sadly. “I haven’t played anything like that since my grandmother died. I think… I really missed it.”
“Playing the piano?”
“Playing for people I care about… who care about me…” He shook his head. “I really never liked playing for anyone else back then.” Tim’s fingers smoothed over the keys once more before turning back to Alfred. “Would you like to hear something else?”
As a second piece of music began to rise up from the piano, this time one from Tim’s childhood memory, from the stairwell to the Batcave a father and son were listening in stunned silence to the melody that slipped through the door that had been left ajar.