The Soprano Ch. 08bybarabajagal001©
Note: Again what has been proven is the infinite patience of my readers. Gratitude for your kind thoughts!
It was late afternoon and Claire was sitting in the front row of the symphony hall, watching Sebastien put the orchestra through its paces with Stravinsky. Her sketchbook was balanced on her knee, but she hadn't drawn so much as one line. She was worried. It wasn't just his demeanor tonight -- he seemed to be in a pretty foul mood and was snapping at his musicians more than usual -- but also the way he had been for the past week or so.
Ever since the night of the costume party, when Claire had felt a separation between them most acutely, she had been noticing it more and more. They spent time together, but it was as if Sebastien was distracted somehow.
Claire had been trying to brush it off, but today watching him berate the string sections until the first cellist was nearly in tears, she decided that enough was enough. He would tell her what was going on, or she wasn't going to leave him alone. She so rarely pressed him on how he was feeling, she thought she should get a free pass just this once.
"Again, again!" he cried. "Let us take it from three after B. Three after B, please, and the cellos need to play out. I cannot hear you over the horns." They began again, but had only gone a few bars before he was shaking his head and waving his arm for silence. Whipping around to face a rather startled Claire, he asked, "How does it sound to you? They still need to play out more, no?"
She bit her lip. Truth be told, she hadn't been listening all that carefully and she suspected Sebastien was nitpicking. She heard the cellos, though it might have been that the balance wasn't exactly perfect. Still, looking up at the first cellist's distraught face, she knew it wasn't the time to encourage his perfectionist tendencies.
"It sounds fine to me, Maestro," she said lightly, trying to tell him with her eyes that he should let it go. He twisted his face up in irritation and she shrugged. "Besides, you've only got them for another fifteen minutes and you should probably run through the last movement." He glared down at her, and she frowned back.
"This is my orchestra and I will keep them here all night if I must in order for them to get it right." She knew she should let it go, but...
"No, you won't. You can't, and you won't, so you should make use of the time you have."
If she'd thought he was glaring before, it was nothing compared to the look he gave her now. She could see he wanted to argue, that he very much did not want to be bested in a contest of wills in front of the orchestra. At the same time she knew he was well aware that she was right, which left him unable to do anything but give in.
They stared at each other for a long moment, and now Claire was getting annoyed. She'd have been willing to look away first, but she could hardly give him a nice, submissive look with the entire symphony watching. And they were, of course watching. Waiting.
Sebastien finally composed his face into his usual non-expression, but his eyes stayed on hers as if he were trying to tell her something. She held his gaze for another moment before shrugging one shoulder and dropping her eyes back to her blank paper. Sebastien turned back around and, to the surprise of the musicians, flipped forward in his score.
"Last movement, please. We will start from the top." When some of the musicians were slow in getting there, their glances still lingering on Claire, he made no more than a token protest. Claire was relieved, but watched him with concern. He had a defeated air about him now, never a good sign. And they both knew what the orchestra was thinking. The lamb had tamed the lion.
Hah. If only they knew.
Even Sebastien's conducting seemed subdued now, as if he were contrite, even regretful of his snappishness. He let a few minor errors go by entirely without comment. When the orchestra got off by a beat, Claire thought he wasn't going to do anything at first. Three bars later he dropped his arms, shook his head briefly, and waited for them to lumber to a halt before raising his arms again resignedly.
"Once more, please, from four after letter F. Four after F." He conducted, but it seemed he was somewhere else, perhaps listening to music none of them could hear. At last feeling he would make no further progress with them that night, he dismissed them early. They shuffled out of the auditorium, looking a little confused, but Claire didn't move until they were all gone.
Sebastien stood alone on stage looking a bit forlorn in the dim stage lights. He wandered off to the side of the stage, straightening a row of chairs absently as Claire mounted the steps. He didn't turn when she touched his arm.
"Maestro, are you feeling all right?"
"It's just that you don't seem quite yourself today."
"Everything is fine."
"I think we both know that's not true. Why won't you talk to me?"
"As I have already said, everything is fine!" he snapped, turning to face her so suddenly that she took a step back in surprise.
"I don't understand why you're so upset."
"Oh, really? Perhaps you recall arguing with me in front of all my musicians tonight," he said, stalking toward her menacingly. She moved back away from him until she suddenly met the wall behind her.
"Th-that's not what I meant, and you know it," she stammered, trying to keep her voice steady.
"Oh?" His voice was low and dangerous, and altogether too steady.
"You've been acting strangely all afternoon. I want to know what the matter is."
"There is nothing," he said in a soft, angry voice.
"There is!" she insisted, just as angrily now. "I know you're hiding something from me, and I want to know what it is." Sebastien jerked back in surprise, a flash of something that might have been guilt crossing his face briefly.
"If you keep harassing me about this, I swear I will --"
"Will what?" she challenged, interrupting him.
"I will make you very sorry," he replied, leaning over again and moving his face inches away from hers heatedly. Claire felt twin spikes of terror and arousal tear through her, and her heart sped up. Her chest was heaving with the emotions flooding through her, and it did not escape her notice when Sebastien's eyes strayed downward for a lingering moment before making heated eye contact with her again. Things were getting intense, quickly.
Just then, they heard the scrape of soft-soled shoes on the stage. Turning as one from the humming energy between them, they saw a little slip of a girl -- one of the youngest in the orchestra, a flautist named Shelby.
"Get out," growled Sebastien, and Claire had the curious experience of watching someone else turn red and quiver under his stare.
"Ohhh," sighed the new arrival in obvious embarrassment, "but I, um, I left my, um..." She trailed off before finishing her thought under Sebastien's withering glare.
"Get it, and then get out," he said bitingly. Shelby scurried over to her music stand and grabbed a little case from underneath it. She turned to leave, but before she walked away she cast a glance over her shoulder. Making wide-eyed eye contact with Claire, she inclined her head slightly. Claire could do nothing but swallow nervously and blink back at her. Apparently deciding there was nothing further she could do, Shelby turned frightened eyes back to Sebastien and then fled for the safety of backstage.
When her clattering footsteps had died away, Claire and Sebastien turned back to each other. The tension had not dissipated; if anything, the brief interruption had increased it. Claire's stomach twisted and she could not quite suppress a shudder from the strain of his hot glare. She wasn't sure what Sebastien was going to do.
He reached out to grip her upper arms tightly and press them into the wall behind her. She made a soft pained noise and he crushed her against the wall, digging his fingertips in and kissing her in a fierce, almost painful way. Claire tried in vain to move away from the wall, but he held her firmly, taking what he wanted from her. She whimpered into his mouth and he drew back to bite her lip. Her body was on fire, her blood heating with every passing second.
"God, please!" she gasped.
"What?" he demanded, before stealing her breath with another kiss. She could feel him, hard and hot, against her hip. Somehow, over the blood rushing through their ears, they heard footsteps again. Sebastien stilled immediately, pressing his face into the side of Claire's neck as if he could hide from whatever was about to enter the room.
"They're probably not even here anymore, but you should have seen them. He had her up against the wall and they were just glaring at each other like you wouldn't believe when I came in." Shelby, sounding like she was trying to keep her voice down.
"What do you think they were fighting about?" Holly. Great, thought Claire.
"That's just it. I'm not sure they were fighting. I mean, they both looked pretty mad, but there was just something about it that seemed..." Their footsteps stopped as she considered her words.
"Seemed what?" A third woman, probably Violet, Shelby's friend. She also played flute.
"I don't know, different from when he looked at me. If they hadn't been glaring, I would have said it looked like he was...was, well, about to kiss her."
"Kiss her?" echoed Holly incredulously, apparently forgetting all pretense of being quiet. The women started to laugh, but softly, as though they weren't sure it was really so ridiculous.
"Look, he was either supremely pissed or he was thinking of doing something extremely dirty to her."
Claire let out a kind of choked laugh as Sebastien shook his head grimly beside her. If she hadn't known better, she'd have thought he was actually embarrassed that his thoughts had shown so plainly on his face. Obviously, he had been both supremely pissed and thinking of extremely dirty things to do to her.
"Did you hear that? Maybe they are still in there!" said Violet in a hushed tone. Claire looked meaningfully at Sebastien, who gave her a pained look as he ground his still-hard cock into her firmly. She rolled her eyes, but the footsteps had begun again. He frowned down at her and took a step back, still looking pretty annoyed.
"And that," he said as the musicians entered the room, "is what will happen to you if you cannot refrain from criticizing me in rehearsal. When I want your opinion, I shall ask you for it, and otherwise I expect you to stay out of my job." The thing about it was, he probably meant it. A flood of renewed anger ran through Claire and she stepped away from the wall, annoyed.
"Don't threaten me, Maestro. I will always tell you when I think you're making a big enough mistake to fuck up your rehearsal." Sebastien started, obviously surprised she was arguing rather than acting the part of a chastened employee.
"I shall threaten as I please, because believe me when I say I will follow through if you cannot respect me." Neither of them remembered that he hadn't even threatened her with anything.
"I respect you," she responded hotly. "It's you that doesn't respect me enough to tell me the truth." She flinched inwardly. She hadn't meant to say that in front of the others, who were exchanging confused glances now. Evidently they were not so afraid of their conductor that they wouldn't risk his wrath for a little workplace gossip.
"I -- of course I respect you," he faltered. "More than...I...well...but there is a time and place for some conversations, and now...now..." He paused, looking a little lost.
Then Violet sneezed. Sebastien turned, his irritation reminding him that they were supposed to be putting on a show, not discussing their relationship. It had gotten way too personal.
"You again," he said, addressing Shelby. "Apparently I cannot even discipline my soprano without prying ears and eyes. Very well, Claire, we will continue this discussion in private. Come."
"I don't have to just do everything you say," she protested, and he closed his eyes briefly.
"You do, or you do not have to return to my symphony hall," he said coldly.
That stung. Claire sensed they were way past playing, and her eyes immediately filled with tears. She was frozen, knowing there was nothing she could do. She wanted to go with pride and leave, but then what would his threat mean when she returned next rehearsal? Maybe she no longer cared. She wasn't his slave -- certainly not here, and he had no right to treat her like one, especially when she hadn't even done anything wrong.
"Fine," she said, setting her jaw and stalking to the side of the stage to grab her bag and sketchbook. "I'll get my things," she said pointedly, letting Sebastien draw his own conclusions as to whether she meant the things she kept at his apartment. For a long moment she heard nothing but her own heartbeat. Sebastien looked at her, clearly upset. Neither of them knew what to say. Things had escalated so quickly. Their salvation came from an unlikely source.
"I'm so sorry, Maestro, Claire," mumbled Shelby, clearly dying of embarrassment.
"This is none of our business," muttered Violet in agreement. Holly could only stare, red-faced and speechless. They backed out of the room and wandered down the hallway, whispering furiously. Claire and Sebastien were alone again. Neither seemed sure what to say or do. Through a haze of unshed tears, Claire could see Sebastien was as upset as she.
"Would you really leave?" he finally asked, his voice cracking slightly with tension.
"I'm tired of this argument," she said softly. "If you can't talk to me, and you want to insist your word is law under this roof, if you really believe you can command me like that...yes, I'd leave."
"Some things are better left unknown."
"Not when they affect you like this, I can't believe that."
"I need you to trust --"
"No, I need you to trust me," she snapped. Sebastien shook his head in frustration.
"It is not about trust."
"But you said --"
"Claire!" he said loudly, startling her into silence. "I do not want to have this conversation here. Others are about."
"I don't care what you want anymore," she heard herself say, surprising them both.
"Is that so?" he asked, firming his jaw in annoyance.
"Yeah, that's so," she said, glaring up at him and trying to ignore the fact that she was still, inexplicably, turned on. She was baiting him and she knew it. From the look on his face, he knew it, too. He took a deep breath, trying to decide what to do. Finally he stalked away behind her, flinging aside the curtain and going backstage. Claire just looked after him, confused.
After a second, he re-emerged and beckoned to her. Hesitantly she approached, until he reached out to grab her wrist and jerk her behind the curtain with him. It was backstage and technically connected with the rest of the symphony hall via a narrow hallway behind the stage, but no one went back there unless they needed to get one of the large instruments they stored in the alcove. It was darker the further Sebastien pulled her, and when he finally stopped, she could no longer see him clearly.
"Mon abeille," he said softly, the endearment catching her off guard, "I repeat, I do respect you. You are an amazing and dedicated singer, passionate and caring in and out of bed, intelligent and adorable -- if impulsive and as quick to anger as I. You are the most incredible woman I have been with, and I mean that in every way you care to take it.
"I wish...I wish very much to have complete honesty with you, if you could but trust me a while longer. I very much regret some of my words to you today, but I am hurt that you think I could mean all of those things. You know I command you only as much as is pleasing to us both." He paused for a moment to let her think about what he had said so far.
She had misgivings, as he had nearly -- but not quite -- admitted he was in fact hiding something. But she did trust him, and more than that she was beginning to wonder if she really wanted to know.
"Claire, I do not want you to leave. If you did, I truly do not know what I would do. You mean so much to me, and I thought we had something special enough to be worth any trouble." At this, Claire burst into tears, throwing her arms around him.
"Maestro...Sebastien, I don't want to leave. Never, never want to," she sobbed into his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her until her crying stopped. Stroking her hair, he made soothing noises over her head. He still felt tense, she thought.
"I think we must...I need to say..." He stopped, frustrated, and then began again. "About correcting me in rehearsals..." Claire couldn't believe it. He was really going to bring this up?
"Are you serious?" she protested, backing away from him abruptly. "You were completely out of control tonight."
"I?" he asked incredulously. "It was you who was out of place."
"It was not! You were making Celeste so upset, and she didn't deserve that at all. Especially not because you've got some private problem that you're letting spill all over rehearsal. You never let personal stuff get in the way of work."
That must have cut too close to the truth as he saw it, because Sebastien drew himself up arrogantly and said, "How I conduct my orchestra is certainly no concern of yours."
"Like Hell it's not!" she said, her vehemence startling him a bit. "I have to work here, too, and unlike you I care about the feelings of the musicians in the orchestra. You know, you might get a better sound out of them if you were nicer to them"
"Oh?" he said icily, and Claire knew she had overstepped. "You think there is a deficiency in the way my orchestra performs?"
"N-no, not exactly," she said uncertainly.
"Then kindly mind your own fucking business."
"I will not," she said, insulted.
"I say you will," he replied, deadly calm.
"Or what?" They were glaring at each other again in the barely lit alcove. Claire's heart was speeding up again. The back and forth was getting exhausting, but her adrenaline was going again.
"Thank God," Sebastien muttered, confusing Claire until she found herself pinned between him and the covered piano behind her. The dusty smell of the space clouded her mind and she yielded to his intense kisses. She moaned softly as all the feelings she'd had pent up all afternoon exploded suddenly. Desire shivered across her skin.
"Tu me rends fou. Vous m'avez enchanté et je ne sera jamais libre. Je ne veux jamas être libre, car c'est moi qui suis esclave par vous," he murmured into her hear. Claire only understood half of the words, but it was enough. Tears slipped from the corners of her eyes even as his kisses enflamed her. He would take her here, where anyone could find them, and she would let him, like she always did. Like she always would. Emotion welled up in her and then words were tumbling incoherently out of her mouth.
"Anything I have, everything I am, is yours to take. Tell me please I can always be here, at your service." Sebastien drew back for a moment in astonishment at her words, and then enfolded her tenderly into his arms.
"Just when I was ready to ravage you, you say something sweet, darling, and I just want to make love to you."
Claire looked up at him with a little smile and asked, "Should I make you mad again?" Sebastien smiled then, too, as much in relief as in amusement.
"I would rather you did not," he said.
"It's just that...of course I adore making love, but right now, I'd, um...I'd kind of rather...the other thing."
"Would you now?"
"As my lady commands," he said with an ironic smile before gripping her waist and pulling her into him, grinding himself against her. She wondered if they could possibly stop now if they wanted to.