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Fly Before You Fall

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Magnus doesn’t really know what he’s doing. But his fingers hit the solid white of piano keys, and when he hears that first dissonant chord, something in his heart slots into place.

It registers to him, that the piano obviously hasn’t been tuned in a while. Yet, in the dim quiet of the church, Magnus doesn’t care. He brings shaky fingers forward, tinkering and slowly but surely fumbling around until he hears something that sounds right.

One shaky chord. Two.

Eventually, a progression. Short, simple, barely there. But there nonetheless.

It takes him a moment to figure out what song he’s naturally playing. But when he does indeed reach the moment of realisation, a small smile comes to his lips. It helps. It makes him forget about an angry father, and angry words, and angry faces. Here, it’s quiet and silent and simple and Magnus revels in it.

The progression flows, smoother every single time Magnus repeats it.

And tentatively, Magnus opens his mouth.

“Blue moon, you saw me standing alone.
Without a dream in my heart.
Without a love of my own.”

Magnus understands the words in a way unique to himself. There’s scope to these lyrics, scope that his youth doesn’t allow him to truly understand, but in his own world, he sees it. He gets it. Funny, how words sung decades ago can still ring true, can still resonate, to a sad lonely kid in an abandoned church all by himself, here and now.

He hadn’t meant to come here. But his dad had been so red-faced, and he’d been screaming so much, that Magnus hadn’t hesitated in running out of his grip, needing to just get away. Any other kid would never risk doing something ridiculous and dangerous like running away from your dad and promptly getting lost in the streets of Brooklyn, but Magnus has been through quite a bit more than the average 8-year-old.

Besides, Magnus has decided that he likes this church. He estimates from the layers of dust and the overgrown lawn out front that no one really uses it anymore, but the stained-glass windows look pristine as ever, shining images hanging high above him, allowing soft sunlight to filter through. It’s large, with a high ceiling, and a little area off to the side, where the small piano sits.

“Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for.
You heard me saying a prayer for,
Someone I really could care for."

Magnus’ singing is hushed, but with every word, each note grows stronger. As he grows more confident in the simple chord progression, and as he truly embraces the anonymity of loneliness in this large space, his volume, and confidence increases. It’s his favourite song, and the words have basically been imprinted into his memory by this point.

“And then there suddenly appeared before me,
The only one my arms will hold.
I heard somebody whisper, ‘Please adore me,’
And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold.”

Now, his words are powerful, echoing in the large space, and Magnus closes his eyes. He feels the song swirl around him, and he embraces it wholeheartedly, so lost in the music.

“Blue moon.
Now I'm no longer alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.”

Magnus has always thought of the blue moon as some sort of guardian angel. He would never tell his father this. Thoughts of guardian angels are far too ridiculous and fanciful for Magnus to focus on, according to his dad. The world is harsh and bitter, just like his father, and the concept of guardians, or anyone looking out for you, has turned into a distant dreary fantasy for Magnus at this point.

These thoughts make Magnus begin to ad-lib, humming and singing and allowing himself to embellish. His notes sweep high, ringing clear and true, and Magnus feels oddly at home like this. As if a part of himself has been missing for all this time, and singing like this is what has brought it back.

A far-off clang has Magnus yelping, practically jumping off the piano in shock as he ducks down behind it, trying to figure out what made that sound as he hides. The silence is deafening, such a sharp contrast to the sound filling the church only a moment ago, and Magnus mourns the loss of music to himself as he peers around cautiously.

“I’m so sorry,” a voice calls out a moment later. It’s quiet, somehow so young yet so remorseful. “I heard the singing from outside, and…” the voice trails off, and Magnus shrinks further behind the piano, only leaning out his head a little to try and see who’s speaking.

The speaker finally walks into view, and Magnus’ eyes widen.

It’s a boy, and honestly, he’s probably Magnus’ age, maybe even younger. How strange. Magnus keeps his position, even though he knows intrinsically that it’s a little ridiculous - if the boy had been listening in before, he surely must’ve seen Magnus sitting at the piano. Besides, it’s not like the boy is any threat to him or anything.

And anyways, Magnus can fill in the blanks. I heard the singing from outside, and it sucks. It’s annoying. Please shut up. I want it to stop.

“And it was amazing,” the boy finishes his sentence, looking dazedly around the church. He’s standing in the centre now, in the middle of one of the aisles formed between two sets of pews, and his words give Magnus pause. “I mean, wow.”

Silence. Magnus tries to process the boy’s words. Complimentary. Nice words. And he sounds genuinely impressed. Not like dad. The total opposite of dad. The few times Magnus has let a tune skitter from his lips has just led to more angry yelling about noise and other choice words that Magnus doesn't like to spend too long thinking about.

“Where'd you learn to play like that?” the boy is inching closer to the front, closer to the piano, and closer to where Magnus is hiding. The question is a bit of a shock, to be frank, and the surprise makes him answer before he has a chance to think about it.

“I didn't learn it anywhere,” Magnus admits, perhaps a touch proudly for a moment, before his hands fly to his mouth with a sharp intake of breath. The sound echoes, reverberating in the large empty space, and Magnus squeezes his eyes shut.

What’s the point in hiding? The boy probably saw him already at the piano. And he seems nice.

And so, slowly, Magnus stands up, opening his eyes properly. Rising up, he realises that the boy has come closer, only a few steps away on the other side of the piano.

The first thing that strikes Magnus is his eyes. They’re this entrancing colour of hazel that immediately arrests Magnus’ attention. The second thing that strikes Magnus is the soft awed smile on the boy’s face. Like he’s heard something amazing.

Like he’s witnessed magic.

“Wait, really?” the boy asks, quirking a brow. His question is short, but it rings throughout the quiet church, and that damned smile is still plastered to his face. Magnus doesn’t know why the guy sounds so shocked, to be honest. It’s not like he’s any virtuoso. Not like he’s ever had the chance to really explore musical interests in the first place.

“Uh, yeah?” Magnus’ tone inflects up in quiet confusion, as he takes in the boy standing before him. Magnus reckons they must be the same age. The boy has this dark messy hair that’s sticking up a little. It’s a sign of outdoor play, though Magnus has to wonder how this boy had ended up close enough to the church to possibly hear him. And those eyes. They’re large, round as they regard Magnus now, and he sees wonder in those eyes now. No one’s ever looked at Magnus like that before.

“That’s so cool,” the boy replies, taking another few steps forward. “I mean, did you teach yourself that?”

Magnus shrugs. “I guess,” he responds, voice soft and unsure. He casts his gaze down to the piano, eying yellowing keys in favour of those soulful eyes and earnest expression. It’s a little disconcerting, honestly.

Magnus doesn’t know what to think when he sees a hand enter his vision, and he sees the other boy’s hand reach out to rest on the other side of the piano. The sight of it brings Magnus’ gaze up to the boy's face, suddenly far closer than before.

“And your voice,” the boy's gaze turns distant, even though he stares at Magnus right in the eye. “It's very pretty.”

“Pretty?” Magnus can't help the way his heart lifts at the praise. He's surprised, more than anything. He's barely known of this person's existence for five minutes and Magnus already can't stop his bashful smile at the compliments. It's unlike anything he's ever really experienced before. The boy just nods resolutely, sensitivity shining through in his expression.

“And the song, it’s one of my favourites,” the boy continues, reaching to scratch the back of his neck with his other hand, eyes glancing down at the keys now. He ducks his head, which just emphasises to Magnus that the boy is a tad bit taller than himself.

“It’s old,” Magnus mumbles, sounding a touch self-deprecating. “Most people don’t know it.”

“Well, I’m not most people,” the boy replies easily, a light chuckle in his words, eyes finally connecting with Magnus’ again. They shine in the filtered sunlight streaming through, and Magnus senses nothing but pure naive authenticity in everything that the boy gives. And something about those words pins Magnus to the moment, almost enchants him. To the point where he finds that he’s seating himself at the piano again.

His hand slowly comes up, fingers resting lightly on the keys.

He hits the chord progression again, closing his eyes as he thinks back to the song. He adds embellished notes and runs, fumbling his way along but enjoying himself nonetheless. And he open his eyes again, looking up at the hazel-eyed boy who looks proud and awestruck at him, a small chuckle escaping him as he smoothly hums along.

Magnus likes making him laugh.

And so, he sings along, mumbling words and trilling along. It makes the boy laugh more.

The moment feels magical.

The boy must feel it too, as his laughter fades. And when he looks at Magnus, with deep imploring eyes that seem far too old to belong to an 8-year-old, Magnus feels like he’s being seen. It’s ridiculous, but it feels like this boy truly sees him.

That soft smile is still on his face, with Magnus’ dawdling singing voice and the music he plays fading to the background as the boy opens his mouth.

“I’m -”

“Magnus!” A loud voice bellows, almost shaking the very foundation of the church, cutting the boy off and making Magnus’ hands freeze on the piano. He recognises the voice immediately, his own voice cutting off with a hoarse gasp as he looks over the boy's shoulder. The boy also whips his head around, until they’re both staring at the same thing.

At the church entrance, in all his terrifying bluster and glory, stands Magnus’ father.

His golden eyes, exactly like Magnus’, now shine with cold fury as he approaches the two of them. He points a shaking finger right at the boy.

“You. Get out,” Asmodeus practically seethes at the boy, glowering as he stomps threateningly closer to the two of them.

And instead of immediately running straight for the hills (which, Magnus has to admit, he’d probably do in his position, with a scary threatening stranger looming ahead), the hazel-eyed boy turns back to face Magnus for a moment.

There’s a myriad of emotions playing within those eyes, and Magnus doesn’t at all know the boy well enough to decipher what they all are. But he sees fear, snuffing out the awe that had once been there. And he sees sadness.

There’s connection.

In that flash of a second, Magnus doesn’t feel so alone.

And then, the hazel-eyed boy mouths something, which Magnus would later come to realise was sorry, before he’s sprinting away. Past Asmodeus, and right out of the church. Right out of Magnus’ life.

He never even got his name.

“What kind of bullshit do you think you can get away with?” Asmodeus is far closer now, almost exactly where the (sadly) nameless boy had been standing before. “How dare you attempt to run away from me.”

He could be whispering, or he could be screaming. Honestly, Magnus doesn’t know.

But his father doesn’t seem nearly as rabid as he had been before, not nearly as volatile as Magnus had assumed he would be. Instead, the man casts a disdainful glance down at the piano, where Magnus is still seated. And against all odds, Asmodeus smirks lowly.

“I will say that you got something. Something we can work with,” Magnus doesn’t truly understand what his father means by that, but before he can question it, Asmodeus comes around, grabbing Magnus roughly by the arm and practically dragging him out of the abandoned church.

The reaction is unexpected, and in his confusion and bewilderment, Magnus’ thoughts drift back to the hazel-eyed boy. He thinks of complimentary words and amazed expressions and connection.

Magnus is young, only 8. But he knows, somehow, on a fundamental level, that this day has changed everything.

And he knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that he’ll never forget the nameless boy with the eyes of hazel, and that smile of awe.