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05 July 2011 @ 07:06 pm
In Need Of Fine Tuning ~ Track Three  
In Need Of Fine Tuning [FF.NET]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in Axis Powers Hetalia, nor do I own Nodame Cantabile, from which this was inspired.

Summary: When Arthur woke in a room that was definitely not his own he was struck by two thoughts - one, that he’d never heard the flute solo from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe played quite like that before; and two, how on Earth could anyone live in such a pigsty?

| Prologue | Track One | Track Two | Track Three |

Track Three
In Which Arthur Thinks Things Can't Get Much Worse. And Then Of Course, They Do.

The Royal Academy of Music was the most prestigious conservatoire Britain had to offer. As such, the audition process was rigorous, and only the best were given the opportunity to study there.

Arthur had to remind himself of this repeatedly as he stood outside the door to the practice room he was scheduled to enter. It didn’t do much for the feeling of horror that was swelling inside of him.

Not that his brilliant morning had given him high hopes for how well the rest of the day would turn out.

The beeping of his phone receiving an e-mail had awoken him at the ungodly hour of 4am – he'd reached for it blindly, eyes still shut tight, managing to grab it from his bedside table long enough to silence it before slipping back into sleep. This had caused him to sleep through his three morning alarms, only returning to the waking world to the sound of a car door slamming somewhere in the street below.

Arthur had sat up, eyes wide, before his senses returned long enough to check the time. Shit; if he wasn't out of the house and on the way to the tube station in the next twenty minutes he'd have to try and take the next train – one that was decidedly more packed with less chances of there being enough space on there for him to be able to squeeze onto. Which would make him miss his first class.
He tore into the bathroom and was out again in record time, dressing as fast as he could before a frantic search for his keys; how on Earth had they ended up in the laundry basket? He hadn't time to ponder the matter though, forgoing morning practice and breakfast in favour of rushing out of the flat and barely remembering to lock the door behind him before he sprinted to the station.

By some miracle he'd managed to just catch his usual ride. He sank into a seat with a sigh of relief, pulling his mobile out to read the message that had thrown his entire morning off course. It turned out to be one from Amazon's electronics department detailing various offers that he had absolutely no interest in; he'd browsed the site six months ago to find some headphones. He hadn't even made the purchase having found the ones he'd wanted elsewhere for far cheaper but he still received those damn emails.


Another email had arrived while he had been running to the station, and he had just enough time to scan it before the tube began to slow down at his stop.

It was an email from his university notifying him that he would be expected to attend his practical lesson in another practice room due to a change in tutor; the name was not one that he recognised though he could tell that the practice room was a bigger one than the one he'd previously had his lesson in. Arthur scowled, shoving the phone into his pocket and grabbing his bag as the vehicle neared the platform.

Thankfully, none of the lecturers in his morning seminars had decided to pick on him that morning, but that didn't mean that his luck had turned. He'd picked a seat slap bang in the middle of the lecture theatre as he usually did – it meant the least strain on his neck and the best view of the board, along with the fact that he wasn't so close to the front that he had to help hand out work sheets or too far back where he would have regularly got picked on to answer questions to check he was still awake.

A group of other students filed into the row behind him, chattering as they settled and waited for the lecturer to turn up. Only, the chattering didn't stop when the seminar began.

Arthur had really tried; he'd ignored the incessant noise, choosing to try his best to listen to what was being said at the front of the room. Even as they twittered away and made him miss a sentence he steeled himself. Idiots would litter his life whether he got worked up or not; it was better not to waste his energy on them.

His resolve had stayed firm for the first hour.

By the time the professor had called for a ten minute break to allow students to stretch their legs, Arthur had had quite enough. They were at just gone half way through the second hour with students resettling themselves to listen to the remainder of the seminar when Arthur twisted around to address the group.

"If you can't shut the fuck up and listen, then get out so that the rest of us can," he hissed, before turning to face the front again.

They stared at his back in shock; while he wasn't exactly a celebrity, he was known for his technical skill with a piano. He was at every lecture, taking notes; he didn't volunteer himself at all, but he probably paid the most attention out of everybody.

He didn't usually bother talking to anyone else.

Probably cowed by the outburst, he heard not a word from them in the final ninety minutes. It was just as well, he probably would have bludgeoned them all with his folder at the very least if they had started up again.

Apparently even after all of that he couldn't catch a break.
The only sandwiches left in the Student Union shop were ones he wouldn't touch with a bargepole, and he didn't fancy anything from the cafeteria… He'd ended up at the Wetherspoons on Baker Street instead; while he certainly couldn't complain about the food's quality – All Day Brunch? Yes please! – it was more money than he had planned to spend, and meant that he'd had to sprint back to campus to make sure that he was back in time for his practical lesson.
It was as he had stood outside the practice room he was to enter, trying to catch his breath, that he'd peered through the small window in the door. He prayed to any god who would listen (despite the fact that he'd ignored him or her for so many years) that this was all a very, very bad (if elaborate) joke.

Who should be inside but his very own neighbour, Gilbert, flute to his lips poised to play. If that wasn't bad enough he was playing the Super Mario Brothers theme. On his flute. At the Royal Academy of Music. A Conservatoire.

While beatboxing.

What had happened to the performance of Daphnis et Chloé that he had just about managed to whip back into shape the previous evening?

Arthur had spent at least three hours (if not more) with Gilbert correcting the way he'd been playing. There had been a fair amount of frustration on both musicians' parts, with Gilbert barely realising the little tweaks he'd unconsciously been making to pieces and Arthur having to point out each and every mistake to the other and prove that each indeed was a mistake through his mounting exasperation.

And Arthur may have just chalked it up to Gilbert arriving at the practice room early and messing around in the meantime, except for the fact that there was clearly a professor present in the room.

"Oh well done," he was saying as Gilbert practically preened from the praise. "It's certainly sounding better than Mary Had A Little Lamb did when you first attempted that. I suppose you've been practicing?"

Oh dear God, the professor was encouraging it.
It was then that the man turned around and caught sight of Arthur through the window. He had a kind smile that reached his eyes but something about him made Arthur think that he could be quite firm if required.

Deciding that no amount of mental preparation would do him any good at this point, Arthur gave a small sigh of resignation before pushing the door open. "Arthur Kirkland," he said curtly in introduction. "I'm supposed to have a lesson here with Professor William?"

"It's Wilhelm, actually." Gilbert's interjection was followed by a slow smirk and a mutter of, "Gott, why can the English never pronounce anything properly?" He was awarded an unimpressed look from Arthur and a stern one from the tutor.

While Gilbert pouted to himself, the room's other occupant turned to Arthur. "Yes, we've been expecting you. I'm Professor Friedrich Wilhelm, or Frederick William; whichever you are more comfortable with using is fine. I've spoken to Ms Héderváry concerning your technical skill, and from what I've heard you've already done a commendable job in showing Gilbert the merit of disciplined performance; I'm most impressed."
By now Arthur had given up hoping he had the wrong room and had made his way over to the piano and sank into the stool beside it, setting his bag down. "So why are there two of us here?" And why was Gilbert not opposed to this? The paler of the two just stood there looking completely at ease, flute now on a stand as he leant against a wall.

"Well, it would be rather hard to play a duet with only one of you, would it not?"

There was a moment of silence.

"You expect me to be able to play a duet with him and his completely haphazard style?"

"What, can't keep up with me?"

"It's nothing to do with keeping up; you just don't play properly so how can you expect to be accompanied?"

"What did yo-"

"Boys! Gilbert, you do need more discipline in your playing." The interruption brought Arthur back to himself; he couldn't quite believe he'd managed to be pulled into a silly argument so quickly. He felt like he was a child being scolded for trying to steal the last cookie from the jar. The steady gaze that the elder man turned onto him as he ignored Gilbert's outcry of 'Alte Fritz!' did nothing to help matters. "Arthur, this will be learning experience for both of you; you're aware of the areas you need to make improvements in as well are you not?"

The two students were quiet for a moment, brooding as though they actually were two five year olds being told to apologise to each other and make up after a fight. Professor Wilhelm shook his head in fond exasperation at the two of them. "We'll make another Arthur-and-Gilbert pair of you yet. And this time the university will be able to take full credit for you both, too."

Gilbert didn't seem to have picked up on the reference, still too busy glaring sulkily at his music stand. Arthur rolled his eyes. "Which piece will we be working on?"

Professor Wilhelm handed them both a booklet each. Arthur scanned the cover, reading the title of "Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen from Die schöne Mullerin, Op.160, D.802". It wasn't one he was familiar with, and by the look on Gilbert's face the albino hadn't seen the piece before either. "I think you should perhaps just start with the Introduction, the Theme and the first variation for now. You'll both be learning the piece together under my supervision though I will not be actively helping you with it as I might usually. So take your time with it."

Flicking through the booklet Arthur frowned. He didn't want to take his time with it; the sooner they finished this nonsense the sooner he would presumably be allowed to continue with his one-on-one tutoring. "Alright, let's take five minutes to read through those sections."

Arthur didn't notice Gilbert visibly pale at that, his nose already buried in the booklet as he read the notation. It was Professor Wilhelm's voice that tugged him out again for a moment. "Arthur, those three parts actually take about six and a half to seven minutes to play."

"Fine, seven minutes then," the blond allowed impatiently.

And it was almost exactly seven minutes later that Arthur had turned back to the piano and started to go through a quick warm up to wake his fingers up. It gave Gilbert a couple more minutes, but when he finally set the music on the stand and picked up his flute he did not look particularly confident.

"This piece starts of slow but does pick up and has some very interesting passages; there are some very emotional parts, but focus on learning it before you add the expression if that is easier for you. Start when you're ready."

Arthur turned his head slightly, not quite looking at Gilbert (and so completely missing the look on his face) as he spoke. "We'll start off slowly."

Arthur set the pace as he began, Gilbert coming in hesitantly but at the right moment but slipping only a few bars in. They both continued on though; it was their first attempt after all, there were bound to be mistakes.

They managed to keep it together until the pace of the piece briefly picked up, the melody becoming more powerful as it built to a peak. Or that was the effect it was supposed to have; as soon as the tone had changed they seemed to fall out of sync, and Arthur noticed a reappearance of Gilbert's habit of sticking in notes wherever he felt like it.

He peered over his shoulder; perhaps he could take cues from Gilbert's playing if they couldn't work the other way around..?

What he saw made him stop and scowl; he had to restrain the instinct to throw something at the albino who lowered his flute sheepishly when he noticed Arthur had stopped playing.

"Gilbert. What were you looking at? Because the sheet music definitely isn't on the wall." And that was exactly where Gilbert's eyes had been when Arthur had glanced over; in hindsight he was probably lucky his eyes had been open at all, but considering it was their first time with the piece playing blind wouldn't be conducive to their progress.


"Actually," Professor Wilhelm cut in helpfully, "Gilbert tends to learn and remember most things by ear, so he doesn't really have as much practice with sight reading."

Well that certainly explained why his playing was all over the place. In any case, it seemed that the next forty minutes were going to be very long.

Just brilliant.

x X x

Saturday rolled around fairly quickly despite how agonizingly slow Monday had been. He'd had joint lessons with Gilbert on Wednesday and again on Friday, but progress had been pretty slow. At times, it had felt as though there was no rhyme or reason to the way that Gilbert played, though other times he managed to play sections note perfect even with his extra additions.

Still, Arthur was growing impatient. The piece in its entirety was made up of the Introduction, Theme and then seven variations; six of which they had yet to even look at.

It was this thought that had brought him to his neighbour's front door once again, though this time there was no hesitation before he jabbed the doorbell. It was about ten past four, and it didn't even occur to Arthur that the other may be busy or have plans. He just wanted to at least get this section of the piece sorted so that they could move onto the next.

When Gilbert finally did open the door, he just kind of raised a brow at Arthur but didn't bother moving aside to let the blond in. Mobile held to his ear, his eyes rolled. "Ja, ja, ja. You worry too much. Are you still going to be in the area next month? I know I hardly need to say this, but drop by. Ja. Okay, bye." He hung up, sliding the phone into a pocket as he surveyed Arthur. "Just couldn't stay away from me, eh, Kaninchen?"

Arthur ignored the leer; he knew by now that Gilbert was actually pretty harmless. "Yeah, whatever. I'm here to practice."

"Well good for you; if you hadn't noticed I don't have a piano."

Arthur tutted. Now he was just being difficult for the sake of it. "Yes, I'm aware of that," he replied, as though speaking to someone especially slow. "That's why we'll practice in my room. I don't particularly fancy trying to move the piano here when you can just grab your flute."

Gilbert's eyes narrowed; he didn't take kindly to being ordered around in his own flat and Arthur's tone just rubbed him the wrong way. "Actually, I've just started making dinner. So no."

"How long will it take?"

"About three hours."

"About thr- three hours? Are you planning to feed an army or something? Bloody hell!"

Gilbert just looked at the blond as though he were a completely uncultured Neanderthal. Which he may well have been in matters pertaining to food, but he still didn't appreciate being looked down on.

"I'm making Steak and Guinness Pie. The meat has to be cooked for about two hours."

Arthur pursed his lips. "Well, why don't you just make it at mine? We can practice for the two hours that the meat is cooking for, at least."

Gilbert looked at the other suspiciously. "You're just saying that so that you get to have some."

Arthur shrugged. He couldn't say that the suggestion was altogether devoid of ulterior motives, but they really did need to practice. And Gilbert knew it.

"Alright, alright fine. You can help bring stuff over though." The albino finally stepped aside and let the door swing shut behind them as Arthur stepped inside. The blond's mouth hung open when he did get inside.

It hadn't even been a week since he'd helped clean the place up and there was already stuff littering the floor; books and pens, a towel, clothes, empty packets of crisps and bottles. Gilbert did at least have the grace to look a little guilty. "I was trying to memorise the Theme and first variation. If you give me another week I should be able to remember it…"

Arthur sighed. It was true, from the looks of it Gilbert had been trying hard; his reading glasses had been left atop the sheet music on the coffee table and it was surrounded by unwashed glasses and mugs. "We don't have another week. Just bring it with you; once we've got the food cooking we'll see what we can do."

x X x

"Mein Gott," was Gilbert's reaction as he and Arthur lugged in his cooking supplies, flute and music stand. Arthur's flat was like a sparkling, disinfected mirror image of Gilbert's. As they dumped the ingredients of the pie into Arthur's alcove kitchen, Gilbert let out a low whistle. "Dude, it looks like this place has been professionally cleaned or something!"

Grumbling as he set down his own bags, Arthur muttered, "It was. Or the kitchen was anyway."

Knowing better than to press the details of that out of him, Gilbert sorted through the groceries and had a quick look through Arthur's cupboards to retrieve the various pots and pans he'd need. Just as Arthur was about to leave, Gilbert caught the back of his collar's shirt and tugged back sharply. "Where do you think you're going? You can help cut vegetables."

Touched that he would still be entrusted with something culinary after the disaster the day before, Arthur took the offered vegetables without complaint. Gilbert showed him the size he wanted each and made sure that he wouldn't need to be washing them again for a second time to get rid of blood, before turning his attention to other preparations. It meant that Arthur gave them special attention, trying especially hard not to mess them up and taking longer than strictly necessary but seeing as it had kept him occupied while Gilbert cut and boiled the potatoes, emptied the oven (as it was full of baking trays and casserole dishes) and seasoned the meat.

Arthur passed him the vegetables with a look of trepidation, and Gilbert had to restrain himself to keep from laughing. He took the full chopping board with a nod as serious as he could manage before turning back to his casserole dish so that he could fry the meat and make the sauce.

As they let the meat simmer, they entered the front room again where Gilbert assembled his flute and warmed up, Arthur reading through the sheet music as he waited. Once the flautist was done, they turned their full attention to the piece at hand.

As they started playing, Arthur could tell that they were synchronising far better than they had at the beginning of the week, and indeed Gilbert seemed to be adding less of his own random flair into the mix than before… but something didn't sound right. He couldn't quite put his finger on what was going wrong though.

They played the Introduction a few more times before Gilbert stopped halfway through with his brows furrowed. Arthur stopped as well, frowning.

"You're playing that far too loudly. It's supposed to be soft and gentle until here," Arthur said, walking over so that he could tap the appropriate section on Gilbert's score.

"Yeah? Well you need to learn the meaning of Adagio because you seem to be in some sort of rush," was Gilbert's blunt retort.

"It doesn't help when you make it sound so cheerful." Arthur knew he was just being petulant now, but he didn't want to admit that maybe he was rushing – maybe he was wrong, and maybe it would be educational for both of them rather than just Gilbert as Professor Wilhelm had said. It would mean that perhaps Ms Héderváry had been right to wash her hands of him and that he would actually learn something from Professor Wilhelm after all.

His reasons didn't matter to Gilbert. He merely raised a brow at him as though to say he was being absolutely ridiculous. "Yeah, well. At least I can derive some enjoyment from playing. Doesn't look like you do the same."

Gilbert set his flute down and went into the kitchen to put the pie in the oven and mash the potatoes he'd set to boil.

Arthur continued to frown; it wasn't as though he didn't enjoy playing the piano at all… it was just that he'd not felt much motivation recently. Tripping over himself to please teachers had never been his idea of fun, but he felt that a lot of university – and education in general – was just that. And usually teacher's approval was met by high grades and good exam results… This hadn't been the case with Ms Héderváry which had earned his respect, but not being able to deliver was frustrating.

Not that any of that was Gilbert's fault, so he should probably stop taking it out on him. Especially since Gilbert was going to be feeding him.


Arthur had been pensive a moment, before calling out to Gilbert; "So is it true you can learn things by ear?"

Gilbert's head popped around the arch leading to the tiny kitchen to eye him for a moment before nodding. Arthur nodded back once in response before going into his bedroom and bringing out his laptop.

As Gilbert lowered full plates onto the table, Arthur had managed to find the file he'd been looking for and hit play. "I downloaded this the other day; it should give you an idea of how it's supposed to sound and I'll try and be more careful about the tempo. And we could give playing it another shot after dinner?"

It took a moment for the tension that had gripped them earlier to fade completely, but it dispersed when Gilbert gave a small grin and said "Yeah sure; next time you act like an ass you don't get any dinner though."


Adagio – A tempo marking indicating that music should be played slowly.

Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen from Die schöne Mullerin, Op.160, D.802 is by Schubert

A/N: It's funny; every time I reread the bit about the useless emails my phone would go off. Lo and behold, it would be an email about something I really didn't care about at the time =.= (The IMechE send a lot of emails about events I can't get to orz)

On pronunciation. It's a bit of a bug bear for me, and possibly others whose mother tongue is not English, is when things are taken from a language and it is standard for the word to be pronounced with extra letters (or incorrect letters) when spoken in English. It's kind of like the way Gilbert plays his flute, now that I think about it XD A few examples for me would be the 'Gujarati' itself, since when you say it in Gujarati it's pronounced 'Gujrati'; there's also 'Diwali', which okay I can understand putting an 'l' in as the letter there doesn't exist in the English language but why a 'w' when it's pronounced with a 'v'? Another is my name XD It's not a huge deal for me anymore, but I figure it'd be something that would bug Gilbert as well XD

Arthur-and-Gilbert pair (more often known as Gilbert and Sullivan) refers to Sir Arthur Sullivan ('Gilbert's other half' as said on one website which made me double take immediately XD) and W. S. Gilbert. Apparently Gilbert was actually a news correspondent during the Franco-Prussia war, which I thought was pretty interesting ^^
Current Location: LRC
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: Date Rape - Sublime
naevainaevai on January 9th, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
So... will this story update again? I often muse on it and check back to see if there's a new chapter. I'm not even much of a Prussia/England shipper but their interactions in this are just brilliant and I'd like to see more.
hollyrose_hime: PruEng Dancehollyrose_hime on January 10th, 2012 01:19 pm (UTC)
Hey there, thanks for commenting ^^ To answer your question, yeah it definitely will be updated though I'm not sure when yet; I've had a lot of stuff going on at uni and have wanted to sit down and finish the next chapter when I can concentrate on it properly rather than just throwing something together and posting it =3 (The next chapter's one I've been looking forward to writing so I don't want to mess it up ^^' ) I've got exams at the moment but I'll try to crack on with it after they're done orz

Sorry for the wait, and thanks for reading it~ I'm really glad that you're enjoying it so far!
naevainaevai on January 10th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Ohh I know that feel bro, I have college exams looming and other commitments/hobbies have fallen by the wayside (it must be even harder with uni!) Brilliant to hear you're still working on this though, I've seen way too many great stories go stagnant. Many excites for the next chapter then, I bet you'll make it awesome! /bated breath