Harlem Nocturne

By Krystiana

"Zell, honey?"

Seifer watched with some amusement as his lover's face squinched up into grated teeth and narrowed eyes. "What do you want from me, Ma?"

As Zell's mother opened her mouth, Zell shut it by continuing. "You only call me 'honey' when you've managed to volunteer me for something without telling me."

Ma crossed her arms. "You'll get paid for it."

Seifer finally burst out laughing as Zell bounced to his feet. "Paid? Tell me! Tellmetellmetellme!" His enthusiasm kept him hopping from one foot to the other repeatedly.

"Mr. Hagen called -"

"Hagen?" Zell's face fell. "Ma, I gave up doing that a long while ago."

"But Mr. Hagen's desperate! There's no one else in Balamb who could possibly do it" Zell's mother was nearly pleading, but her firm tone remained intact.

"But I don't... I haven't done it in over four years! That's a long time to be out of practice!"

"Who's Hagen, and what haven't you done in over four years?" Seifer interrupted when the curiosity finally got the best of him.

"He's a guy who can't get a hint," Zell said, grating his teeth again.

Seifer resisted the urge to scratch his head. "I-"

"Don't worry about it," the shorter blond cut in, turning away from his mother.

"Zell Dincht!" Ma finally let her "take-charge" tone out. "You don't have to fight all the time! You have other talents that you can focus yourself on!"

"Ma, I like to fight. I'm in SeeD. I get paid to fight."

"And you'll get paid to play."

"Play?" Seifer looked from mother to son, trying to figure their conversation out.

Zell's mother turned to her son's love interest. "Zell never told you? I can't believe that boy!" She threw her arms up in exasperation. "He used to play the saxophone for the Balamb jazz band." She threw an angry look at her son, who was ignoring her. "He quit after Pa passed away."

"Pa wanted me to be in SeeD, not in some small town jazz ensemble." Zell's upper lip was curling back.

"Your Pa loved the big band type of music, and you damn well know it, Zell!" Ma shook her head. "Never mind - I can't force you to. I'll call Mr. Hagen back and tell him that you're done."

"I've been done for a while," Zell said quietly. His mother walked out of his room.

"You never told me you played an instrument," Seifer's voice was soft and thoughtful.

"That's because I don't play anymore."

"I'd like to hear you." Zell turned and stared at Seifer. "And I'm sure your mother would, too," he continued. "Don't you know what next Sunday is?"

"Of course I know!" Zell snapped. Seifer flashed his usual smirk at him. "I just..."

Seifer smiled. "You just what?"

Zell glowered. "You are so damned manipulative, Seifer."

"Am I, chicken?"

"Ass." Zell walked over to the phone that was in his room. He picked it up and heard his mother's voice.

" - he just doesn't want to play anymore, Mr. Hagen."

"That's a damn shame," Mr. Hagen said. "He's a good player. Looks like we won't be able to play this song then. We don't have a sax player that can handle this part."

"I'll still be coming to the concert - they're still plenty good, even without Zell."

Mr. Hagen laughed. "Thank you, Mrs. Dincht. I appreciate your support."

"Good-bye, Mr. Hagen."

"Bye. I'll see you at the concert."

Zell heard a click from his side of the line. "Mr. Hagen?" Zell hissed in a rush, hoping to catch him before he hung up.

"Who's this - Zell? Were you eavesdropping, my boy?"

"Sort of."

"Well, what can I do for you, Zell? I tell you, it's a shame you've given up the sax. You're a good -"

"I'll play the concert, Mr. Hagen."

"You will? That's great! I've been waiting to play 'Harlem Nocturne' for years! I just needed an alto sax player who could handle it!"

"I'm sure there's someone else you could've gotten, Mr. Hagen."

"Nope - we've got plenty of good trombones and trumpets, and our saxes are pretty advanced, but none so much as you."

Zell felt himself blushing. "Thank you, I guess."

"So you'll play? Why did your mother just tell me you wouldn't.?"

"My mind was just... changed." Zell shot a look at Seifer. "And I sort of want it to be a surprise for my mother."

"Ahh." Mr. Hagen's voice sounding knowing. "I understand. Well, the rehearsal is tomorrow afternoon at 3, and the concert is on Sunday at 7 in evening."

"Okay. I'll dust off my saxophone, then."

"Thanks for doing this, kid."

Zell smiled weakly, though Mr. Hagen couldn't see it. "It's not a problem. I'll see you tomorrow." He dropped the phone on the receiver and stared at it for nearly a minute.

Seifer bit his lip. "Chicken?"

"I can't believe I'm doing this."

Seifer smirked again, and then laughed as the shorter blond suddenly kicked his punching bag with a loud "thwack."

"How was the rehearsal?" Seifer said as Zell walked into the kitchen. Zell's mother was out, so there was no need to worry about blowing the cover.

Zell had a bright smile on his face. "It was fun! I think I actually missed playing! It didn't take that long to pick up again... I mean, I have a long way to go before I'm back to where I was before, but it's amazing to make that fricking music!" Zell stretched and smiled again, looking around the kitchen. "What have you been up to?"

"I made you dinner."

Zell blinked in surprise. "You can cook?"

"Yes, I can cook, you moron."

"What did you make?"

"Fried chicken."

Zell narrowed his eyes. "Seifer..."

"Just kidding. It's actually baked."

"You can bake chicken?"

"Never ever cook, Zell. You'd blow up the microwave." Seifer pushed a plate onto the table. "I was just kidding about that, too. It's really just steak. I'd never make you eat chicken. It would be like cannibalism."

"You really aren't funny, Seifer."

"Says you. I happen to think I'm hilarious."

"A fucking riot, you are not."

Seifer sat down next to Zell. "So will your surprise work out, then?"

Zell smiled as he chewed on a piece of the meat. "Mmm. S'good."


"Yeah. It'll go over fine. I'm sort of nervous, though."

Seifer suddenly grabbed the knife and fork out of Zell's hands. "If you're nervous, you shouldn't be playing with sharp object." Seifer grinned, beginning to slice the meat himself. "You might hurt yourself."

"Seifer!" Zell started laughing.

"I thought I wasn't funny. Open up." Seifer held out the fork with a small piece of the steak on it.

"You're not." Zell glared at the steak. "I'm not a little baby, Seifer.

"Humor me. I've wanted to do this for a while."

Zell shot Seifer a smirk of his own. "Feed me, then, mummy."

Seifer slipped into a seat in the back of the hall. He spotted Zell's mother towards the front, laughing with some other women. He didn't want Ma to see him there - she would wonder where Zell was, and that would ruin the surprise.

"We're starting a little behind schedule, but we're finally starting, folks." Seifer saw a bright smile coming from a man standing on the stage. ~That must be Mr. Hagen,~ he thought to himself, relaxing in his seat.

The band filed onto the stage and sat in their seats. Seifer frowned when he didn't see the familiar blond hair. They played through a few songs, none of which were extremely exciting. Finally, Mr. Hagen turned and walked up to the microphone.

"Today, as you all know is Mother's Day. A day where we show our appreciation for not only our own moms, but for other moms as well." Mr. Hagen looked around the hall, a smile clearly evident on his face. "This next song we're playing is going to be played for one specific mom in Balamb, and it will feature the return of one of our most prized soloists after four years." Hr. Hagen looked at Zell's mother. "Mrs. Dincht, being a great mom, raised a superb fighter who is a member of SeeD, and a terrific saxophone player." Seifer saw Ma put her hand over her mouth in surprise, seeing that she already knew what was coming next. "He told me he wanted it to be a surprise for you, Mrs. Dincht, but might I have the pleasure of introducing Zell Dincht on alto saxophone -"

Zell walked onto the stage, and Seifer looked around in amazement as people began standing up and clapping, interrupting Mr. Hagen. He heard someone to his left shout "Welcome back, Zell!"

Was Zell really that amazing on sax? Seifer couldn't believe it - Zell couldn't possibly have had enough patience to learn an instrument that well, could he?

Mr. Hagen waved people to sit back in their seats. "We present to you 'Harlem Nocturne.'" He turned and looked at the band, Zell standing in front. Zell nodded at Mr. Hagen, and the older man gave a wave of his wand - ~baton,~ Seifer thought - and the bass played began playing a slow beat. After a few moments of just bass, Zell put his lips on the mouthpiece and began to play.

Seifer bit his lip and held his breath. Zell was playing something slow and mellow, sounding sad and happy all at the same time. It started low and quickly climbed to a higher register, creating a sound that almost sounded like crying. ~Now I know what they mean by 'wailing' on the sax,~ Seifer thought in amazement. Zell's eyes were closed most of the time, but he finally opened them when he got to the end of one of the phrases. He found Seifer's eyes, and his own were sparkling with mischief. Seifer was caught up in the music, he found himself forgetting that it was supposed to be a song for Zell's mother, not for him. He forget there was anyone else in the hall except him and Zell.

The song finished, and the crowd erupted in cheers, clapping madly. Seifer found himself joining in. He looked around and found Zell's mother in the crowd. She had tears running down her face, joy overcoming her. Seifer smiled, and began pushing his way through the partially insane people.

He finally reached her, and gave a firm hug, and then kissed her on the cheek.

"Seifer! I know you had something to do with convincing him to play!" Ma was ecstatic.

"Not really," Seifer said. He turned and pointed at Zell. "You see him, and you see all these people here that are cheering for HIS music? They're cheering because of you, not me."

"Oh, Seifer, but-"

Seifer raised a hand. "I've been meaning to thank you, Mrs. Dincht-"

"And I know what you're thanking me for, Seifer. And don't you dare start calling me 'Mrs. Dincht.' You'd be better off calling me 'Ma.'"


Seifer looked over and saw Zell had gotten off the stage and reached his mother. Seifer stepped away and watched Zell put his arms around his mother. "Thank you, Ma. Happy Mother's day."

"Thank you, Zell." She gave a side-long glance at the taller blond. "And you, too, Seifer."

"For what?"

Zell's mother smiled. "For bringing him back."


Ma laughed. "You'll figure it out someday, boys." She released her son and pushed him towards Seifer. "I couldn't be happier right now, and it's all because of you two. I don't mind at all having two sons. It's clear that you two are in love."

Seifer caught a blushing Zell in his arms. Seifer felt himself becoming flushed himself.

"Seeing you two together makes me happier than you could ever imagine."

The taller blond tightened his grip around his lover, all bashfulness of showing affection in public suddenly disappearing. If Zell's mother thought SHE was happy, she should've seen inside Seifer's mind.

Seifer had... a family? Maybe not quite, but he was close.

"She's right, you know," Seifer murmured to Zell.

"About what?"

"About us being in love. It's true. I'm clearly in love with you."

Zell smiled. "And we already had this talk about no words at all."


"You make absolutely no sense, Seifer."

"I know. You won't give up the sax, will you?"

"Not after tonight. Music is the international language, after all."


"I'll use music to tell you how I feel."

"I think you already told me tonight."

Zell flashed his canines. "Maybe I did."

In that same hall, on the balcony, someone was watching the happy couple below. They were shaking their head in disbelief.

"I don't believe it... Zell and... Seifer?!"





A few minor explanations:

1. I have an obsession with music. Sax is one of them, and if Zell played any instrument, it would be sax. (Yes, there is a certain amount of characterization involved in what instrument you play. Selphie would most definitely play viola. Can't sit still? Yup, that's a viola player all over.)

2. Harlem Nocturne really is a song. We're playing it in jazz ensemble - I'm play tenor sax, not alto. You can downloaded the MIDI or MP3 at my page. I recommend the MP3 - the MIDI just doesn't capture the feeling.

3. I don't really like this story. It didn't turn out the way I planned it to, and it's mostly rambling. wrote it in one sitting, and it's sort of Joyce-esque, and no one bu Joyce can pull that off. -_-

4. This wasn't a planned story, so it may seem out of context. I'm changing a few things on my planned plot. There's also a story that will chronologically come before this one, so it'll make more sense after I've written it.

5 . Who's the person at the end? That's for me to know and you to find out. :p

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