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Rainy Afternoon Interlude

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It was a day of heavy, very cold rain, typical English winter apart from the deluge. London got rain, they just didn't have to entertain the idea of building an ark and setting sail like Lucky Jack Aubrey.

Richard and James had nothing to do that day, really. The weather was too bad to take out the bikes, nothing needed to be worked on mechanically, no writing to be done. And of course no filming. Today was a completely idle day. So as morning began ticking into the afternoon, they found themselves in the living room. Richard was reading, and James decided to load his CD player with a couple of selections of classical music. To be honest, in spite of endless coaching by James, Richard couldn't keep one composer in his head apart from another. But he knew what he liked. And he simply didn't like as many classical pieces as James did. He enjoyed other forms of music more, and more than the man he loved. Richard loved music, it was very much a part of his life. But there was a connection James had to music, something that made it a part of his very existence. Richard guessed it's what made James such a brilliant pianist, the way he could tap into his soul and make it come out through his hands, and yet make his hands glide across the keyboard with almost no effort. Maybe that was the way he was when he painted, seeing color and light and translating to canvas the same as James seeing the music in his and making the piano sound that way.

Richard glanced up when he heard the sound of a bow skittering across strings, playing the same note in a rapid staccato. "I know that," he told James.

"Do you?" James asked, looking sidelong. He was used to Richard saying he knew the composer of a piece, then finding out Hammond really didn't know at all.

"I do," he answered. "That's Boccherini, right?"

James' blue eyes flew open wide. "You're right," he replied, with not a small degree of surprise in his voice. "How did you know that?"

Richard closed the magazine he'd been reading. "It's the only piece of music you've ever played me that starts out that way," he said. "Or at least what I remember."

James smiled broadly. "See? You're learning!"

"Don't get your hopes up," Richard warned him. "You will never get me to the point where I tell you I'd rather attend a concert of chamber music over tearing a car around the track."

They continued to listen, James waving a hand in the air in beat with the music. In the middle came a section Richard knew well. He'd seen the movie Master and Commander and loved the piece of music they played at the end, as the ship was sailing toward the horizon. James heard something from the other end of the sofa, and realized Richard was actually humming along with the melody. Glancing over, James noticed Richard's feet were in fact tapping to the beat. He was looking straight ahead, a warm glow in his brown eyes, a smile of enjoyment on his face. It was the first time he'd actually noticed true happiness on his love's face when listening to this type of music. More than happiness, actual joy judging from the dancing light in his eyes. James made a mental note to expose Hammond to more Boccherini in the future.

When the CD clicked over to the next selection, Richard got up to make some more tea. It was Bach, and he could only hear small amounts of Bach before it bored him. After the robust, full-bodied rhythm of the last piece, warm and strong like the wine he liked, like the feeling of love and regard he had for James, Bach sounded wimpy. He brought in two cups of tea, then settled down to resume reading. Before long the CD changed again.

"What's this?" He asked James, not looking up from his magazine.

"Chopin," James answered. "First piano concerto." Richard continued to read. A moment later, still listening, he wandered over to the window to watch the rain.


Richard watched as at the beginning of the new movement of the Chopin concerto the rain began to change over to snow, and felt as if that was the perfect moment for it to happen. "James..." He began softly, then turned and stopped. James wasn't looking at him. The look on his face was beatific, an inner light coming through, removing years from his husband's face. James was wandering in some memory, a memory of joy and contentment. Richard didn't dare to break him out of it, like the rain changing to snow it was simply too perfect. Rarely had he seen James look more beautiful to him in their years together. Which was odd, because few people would ever place 'James May' and the word 'beautiful' in the same sentence. But at that moment there was a beauty to James that went beyond reality. Richard had seen this a few times, when James had completely relinquished control of himself and allowed what was below the surface to emerge. The first time he'd done that, Richard understood why he had fallen in love with him, and why he continued to remain, for the next time he'd see it. Slowly Richard sat back down, not wanting to break the spell.

After a moment James came out of it on his own, noticing Richard was staring at him intently. "What are you looking at?" He asked softly.

"You," Richard smiled. "You were having some memory, and the look on your face was a love I've rarely seen."

James smiled, listening to the music continue. "I was remembering the first moment that I realized that I was in love with you," he explained, a little of the light coming through.

"The accident?" Richard frowned.

"No," James answered. "I was already in love with you back then. And you going away to Scotland to recover slapped me in the face with it, made me acknowledge what had already happened with me. But there was a moment a few months before. I don't remember what we were doing that day, just shooting something at the track. I wasn't having a good day for some reason, and I guess that was showing in my voice or whatever, because you came over to me between takes." He held Richard's hand in his. "You said nothing," he continued, "no encouragement, no remark, nothing. You just smiled at me and walked away. Then I felt my heart beat once, and suddenly this warm glow seemed to spread out over my chest and over my whole body. I didn't know what it was at the time, maybe I just didn't want to know. But looking back...I can say that was the exact moment it happened."

"You big girl," Richard couldn't help but gently tease, but deep down he was touched.

"This is my favorite piece by Chopin, my favorite movement," James said. "Because on that day as I was driving home this was playing, and I thought about you, and that same glow happened again. This will always be about you, whenever I hear it...whenever I play it."

"You can play this?" Richard asked. James smiled. "I've never heard you play it before."

"Because I've never felt the need to play it, I guess," James answered. "Somehow, having you with me is like I'm living inside the music every day." Before Richard could respond James reached over and kissed him tenderly, his soft lips easily conquering his love. When the kiss ended Richard pulled away, his dark eyes glowing. He smiled, and once again James felt that warm glow deep inside spreading throughout.

"Let's look at the snow," Richard offered, pulling James up to lead him over to the window. They stood together, James behind Richard, holding him at the waist, listening to Chopin together and watching as the snowflakes silently fell. James kissed the top of Richard's head, pulling him closer. Richard relaxed into him. James kissed the side of Richard's face, then found that space underneath his ear, planting tiny, barely-there kisses at the spot. Richard sighed with contentment and angled his neck for easier access. When he turned around to face James the kiss was now full and deep, locked in an embrace. "I love you, James," he breathed.

James cupped Richard's face in his hands, his thumbs lightly brushing the cheeks. "I love you, Hammond," he whispered back.

"Would you please make love to me, to this?" Richard asked. "I want to know this piece the way you do."

James gave a gentle smile and nod. "With all my heart," he replied.


It was early evening when James came back downstairs. It was still snowing outside, coming down thick and full. It was the first time he'd felt like touching the piano in a couple of weeks, the snow and warm light of the lamps and making love to Richard putting him in the right frame of mind. James pulled out the music he was looking for with a smile. Yes, this was just the right piece for the moment.

Upstairs, Richard awoke from his nap, the drowsiness that normally came when he'd had such a great session of sex with James. It had been more than physical, a true emotional expression that had taken the rest of the afternoon to achieve. The Chopin was still running through his head, enhancing his memories, sweetening them with his understanding of what this music meant to James. It was almost like he could hear it for real.

Wait...he could hear it. It was downstairs, and James was indeed playing it.

Richard dressed and crept downstairs, finding James at the piano. He was playing the Chopin piece from earlier, and he had lost himself in the music. It was coming out of his hands into his fingers and he was leaving it on the keys. Richard didn't dare to disturb him. It wasn't the first time he'd noticed James had a certain intimacy with his piano, but, through Chopin, Richard could almost imagine James making love to his instrument. As deeply loved as he felt from his husband, as deeply as he loved James in return, here was the true coupling in front of him. His touch was light but commanding, the keyboard giving him exactly what he wished, firm when it was right, gentle when it was right, reminding Richard of what this afternoon had been. Only now he was watching. It was erotic. It was an emotional connection. This was a pure love, a love that came along before him and would still be with James should Richard leave first. And if James left, this love would go with him, following him into whatever was next.

The last note was lovingly touched before James opened his eyes. Richard sat beside him. His eyes were welling with tears. "That....was one of the most beautiful moments I've ever seen from you," he whispered.

James blushed. "How much did you hear?" He asked.

"All of it," Richard smiled back.

"Oh....pretty rubbish, my playing, huh?"

"Hardly," Richard told him. Then his face turned serious. "You shouldn't keep surprising me when you reveal the parts you hide of yourself, but you do. There is something in you that's glorious, truly glorious. And every time I get the privilege of seeing it, I fall in love with you even more." Richard caressed James' cheek. James sighed into his touch, his eyes warm and inviting. Leaning in, they shared another kiss, sweet and gentle; neither felt the necessity of making it passionate. "That feels good," Richard sighed as they ended.

"I love you," James said simply, looking at his husband, a warm glow pulsing out of him. A warmth that Richard could feel spread to him and flowed throughout his soul. "Chopin is always here to remind me."

They sat beside each other at the piano. James continued to play for Richard. And the snow continued to fall.