By Mary Potts <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted November 2006
Summary: A bittersweet continuation of the author's "Tomorrow Never Comes"; Clark visits the bar where "Bucky" rehearses.
Lack of HEA Warning: This is a continuation of Tomorrow Never Comes, and deals with the aftermath of brain damage. As such, it isn't a comedy, nor is it particularly cheerful. It may not warrant a WHAM warning per se, but you might want a few tissues nearby just in case. A nod goes to my GE Sherry for coining the LoHEA Warning.
The A key is sharp by one eighth of a note.
I'm the only one who seems to notice, though.
I wince a little as I descend the scale and pound that chord, but no one seems to notice that, either. Not even Luella.
I glance up at her, standing downstage in front of a switched-off microphone, singing her heart out as if this were for real. She falters for a bit, and her chest puffs out as she scrambles to take a breath and catch up to the verse.
The note is supposed to be flat. She instinctively hits a neutral. I reach over to the little black key on the keyboard and begin pounding it repeatedly. She breaks and turns to me, barely stifling a giggle, and her cheeks are a light pink. "Sorry. Can we take that from 'I thought I had lost you'?"
I nod, and my hands find the keys for the chords in the twenty-second bar.
Luella rolls through the verse as if she had sung it all her life.
I wince as I hit that sharp A again.
There's very little movement in the bar at this time of day, and it's almost like the world is standing still, just for us. The music is the only sign that time is passing. The key of the song changes, and I smile just a little as I finally leave that A for the better-tuned C's and G's. Then I hit a D that's one fifth of a note flat. It only happens once, though, and I ride the scales back up to the end and hit the closing chord.
There's a clapping coming from one of the tables.
Luella smiles graciously at the man sitting in the old wooden chair. She must have seen him come in.
My eyebrows raise. I didn't.
Mike wipes his hands on a rag and calls out from behind the bar. "Hey, Buddy, we don't start serving drinks until Two."
The man's voice is a little hesitant, but it carries the rich tones of a strong personality. "Oh, that's—okay. I don't want a drink."
I know that voice.
He stands up slowly, and in the light we can all see his face more clearly. Mike is the first to proclaim what we all realize, as he gives an almost sarcastic bark of a laugh. "Well, if it isn't Clark Kent of the Daily Planet."
His eyebrows rise in mild surprise. "Oh? You recognize me?"
Mike says nothing but just shakes his head and continues wiping down the bar.
I slide to the edge of the stool, then stand up and walk to the edge of the stage. "So, what brings you here, Mr. Kent?" I can't help but smile as I say that name.
He pauses. His brow furrows and he frowns a little, giving a light shake of his head. "I don't know, actually."
I lift my eyebrows. "Oh? You don't know why you came in?"
Luella shoots me a reprimanding look for a brief second, then turns to him, the expression gone and her tone sweet. "Are you here to talk to somebody?"
His eyes focus on an invisible dot somewhere in the air, and the lines of his forehead crinkle. "I—maybe…" He tilts his head back up to us, and gives a sheepish smile. "You'll have to forgive me. I've—been having memory problems for the past few months."
I go down the stage steps and walk over to him, looping my arm around his shoulders. I smile. "Hey, that's all right. I understand. Want to go get a drink anyway? I'll buy."
He cocks his head at me slightly as I shepherd him towards the bar. "That's…kind of you, but didn't this man just say that they weren't serving drinks yet?" He waves a hand towards Mike.
"Let me put it this way." We climb onto the bar stools and I lean towards him conspiratorially, my voice a stage-whisper. "Luella and I aren't getting paid in cash."
He turns his head to glance at Luella, who is sitting on the piano stool flipping through my music and mouthing the words to herself. "Ah." He brings himself back around to face me. "So you're working for food and drinks?" He pauses. "Or just drinks?"
It's a valid question. "We're working for exposure, actually. We get paid in beer and sandwiches here, but mostly we're just hoping to be seen. Sometimes some really important people come into this place. You never know, really."
"I see." There's a glint in his eye, and I can't help but smile as he automatically reaches into his jacket's inside pocket and pulls out his notebook and a pen. He clicks the little button with his thumb and moves the point onto the paper. "So, what's it like being a musician?"
I can play this game with him. "You really have to love it. That's all I can say. The pay is squat, and there's a lot of competition, especially for certain instruments and vocal ranges. It's almost like you have a choice between being a musician and eating."
He laughs at that, and his eyes crinkle around the corners. "So—what's your name?"
"I go by Bucky," I say, and watch as he scribbles it down. "It's my stage name, actually. It was my father's nick-name, and since my maternal grandfather would sometimes mistake me for him, I just went ahead and stole it."
He gives no reaction beyond a flicker of a smile. He just nods and continues to write. "So—Bucky—what made you decide to be a musician?"
That's a good question. I lean forward on my elbows. "Good question. I think part of it came from my grandmother; she's always had a talent for singing, even though she never went pro. Mostly, I think I got it from my dad. He used to play in a band."
He smiles at me, his pen moving with every word I say. "So, you're kind of following in your father's footsteps?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
The pen stills for a moment, then he tilts his head towards the stage. "What about your friend, there?"
I grin. In fact, I probably look like a soppy idiot. "My girlfriend. I'm thinking of popping the question, but we've got a lot to talk about, first."
He smiles at that.
"Are you married, Mr. Kent?" I watch him carefully.
He looks off into the distance, and his eyes squint a little, as if all of his answers were floating in the air somewhere. "I…Yes. Yes, I am married." He looks back at me, not needing to search the air for the next part. "Her name is Lois. Lois Lane. You may have heard of her. We're partners at the Daily Planet."
"Yeah, I've heard of her," I say, and I can't stop the grin. I tilt my head. "Can I ask you something?"
He nods. "Sure."
I pause, uncertainly, for a moment, but then forge on. "Is it…difficult? Being you? Having to live with that kind of… problem?"
His eyes cloud over again as he ponders my question. Or his answer. "I don't—yeah—I guess so. Sometimes." He rakes a hand through his hair. "I get…disoriented. I wake up, and it's like…everything's out of place. It takes me a while to catch up." He sighs and gives his head a shake. "It was especially bad in the beginning. All around that time when I collided wi—when I hit my head on something hard… all that time is completely blacked out. Lost. I don't even remember my and Lois's wedding."
I stare at him, unsure of what to say.
He focuses on that invisible spot in the air again, the spot that keeps all of his memories for him. "I think…it was five years before I remembered…us…" He shakes his head.
"But you remember now?" I ask.
He looks at me, and he smiles just a little. "Yes, I do. It sometimes takes me a while, but I do. I even remember the kids."
I raise my eyebrows. "Really."
He nods. "My daughter's childhood is a little fuzzy," he explains, "but I—yes, I remember her, and my son." His eyes go back to the air again, looking for that spot that has the memories. "My son…" he says slowly.
I interrupt him. "Tell me about your daughter. How old is she?"
I see him frown as he tries to force the cogs in his mind to work. "She's…" He searches the air, but finds nothing. His eyes go to the floor, as if checking to see where the answer fell to. "Sixteen," he says, finally. He looks up at me. "Sixteen."
His answer surprises me. "Sixteen?" I echo.
He furrows his brow for a minute, then nods.
I stare at him for a few seconds. It crosses my mind that we still haven't ordered our drinks, but I let the thought pass. Sixteen.
He's staring at me intently, now. His eyes are searching mine. "Bucky?"
I guess the interview game is over, for now.
He stares at the pad in his hand, and then his eyes search the room. "Bucky…" He looks at me. "Do you know how I got here, Bucky?"
I nod. My hand reaches out to his shoulder, to steady him. "It's okay," I tell him.
He smiles at me apologetically. "Sorry, Bucky. I'm just—I'm a little confused. Where's Chelsey?"
"Just relax," I tell him soothingly, "and think carefully. It'll come back to you; it always does."
He closes his eyes.
Something moves behind me, and I turn around. The door to the bar is opening. I watch as my mother and grandmother file into the bar.
My grandfather opens his eyes just in time to see them wave and start directly towards us. He turns to look at me, and it's as if a lightbulb has gone off. "Buck—John!"
I grin. My mother and grandmother sit down at the bar next to us, and they look at my grandfather with concern. He assures them he's all right.
There are only a few minutes left. I excuse myself and walk back to the stage. I climb the steps. I sit at the piano. Luella looks at me questioningly, but I just nod to her and run the last warm-up before we open. From across the room, my grandfather waves to me. I smile. I knew it would all come back to him. It always does.
As Luella sings, more people start to file into the bar. Once again, time is moving.