Kyle's fingers flew gracefully across the keys of the piano. It wasn't his favorite piece, but it was easy enough if you knew what you were doing. And Kyle knew what he was doing. He was doing as Ephram told him, because Ephram was in charge.
"Stop," Ephram demanded of him just a page from the end of the piece, if he were going from pages, rather than memory. "You always go a beat too fast right there."
"And I told you," Kyle retorted. "It sounds fine without you correcting my every move."
"Well, fine's just that. Fine," Ephram told him. "Fine isn't great. Fine won't get you into Julliard."
"You got in," Kyle reminded Ephram with his usual lack of respect for a man older and more learned than himself. "There's no way you surpassed fine."
"Move over," Ephram instructed, and as he often did during their lessons, took a seat on the piano bench, right next to Kyle.
Kyle's stomach always lurched whenever Ephram did this. Ephram's body heat seeped into him, and he tried not to think about them touching, even as Ephram's elbow's occasionally bumped his own arms as he demonstrated the correct way to play the song.
Ephram always asked Kyle why he never seemed to learn from his examples, but the truth was, even if Kyle could hear the difference in one beat of a song, he'd have been too distracted by his proximity to Ephram to notice anyway.
Instead of listening or concentrating like he'd done hundreds of times with past instructors, Kyle instead found himself fantasizing about what it would be like to make a simple gesture, like placing his hand on Ephram's thigh as he played. Kyle never dared to dream farther, as just considering making that one move terrified him.
Kyle's stomach was in knots as he came back to reality, thanks to the sudden silence of Ephram finishing the piece.
"Well…?" Ephram asked, not noticing that Kyle had been zoned out.
"Sure," Kyle nodded. He needed to recenter himself at the piano, but Ephram hadn't moved, and while Kyle wasn't the politely asking type, he couldn't bring himself to physically move over in attempt to force Ephram out of the way, for fear of what extensive contact would make him feel.
Kyle began to play again, until his fingers slipped. His palms had managed to get sweaty at some point, probably thinking about putting his hand on… DAMMIT! He was doing it again. He couldn't think like this. His piano lessons with Ephram were the only thing he looked forward to in his life.
He tried to convince himself that it was more than just the brown locks and blue eyes he showed up for. At first, it had been. He'd really wanted to do this thing right, from lessons to Julliard. But then… what had happened?
Kyle didn't know. He'd just developed these feelings for Ephram. He'd known he was gay for a while, but when he'd met Ephram, he almost hated him. Kyle hated that Ephram didn't take his crap, he hated that he told him what to do. He had finally met his match, and Kyle supposed that was initially what had drawn him to Ephram.
But this was just getting ridiculous.
"Something wrong?" Ephram asked when Kyle had stopped playing.
"Nothing," Kyle insisted. "I suppose you want me to start over?" He tried to keep his usual sneer in tact.
"You can start where you left off," Ephram replied. "That's not the part you were having trouble with."
Kyle resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Ephram's attention to detail was so annoying sometimes. Kyle wiped his palms on his old faded jeans, then began to play once more. He got to his so-called trouble spot and was once again stopped by the older boy.
"You don't listen to me at all, do you?" Ephram asked.
"Like it would do me any good," Kyle countered.
Ephram gave an exasperated sigh. "Pay attention this time," he instructed, reaching across Kyle and playing the part that he kept messing up.
Kyle's eyes could have burned a hole in the back of Ephram's hand, watching him play. He had such strong, skilled hands. Before he could stop himself, Kyle imagined those hands caressing his check, the nimble fingers unbuttoning his shirt…
Despite knowing he was gay for a while, Kyle had never had feeling for another man before. He just knew he would if he met the right one. He didn't want Ephram to be the right one, but it felt right to him. If he could just do this without ruining their lessons, the relationship they'd already built as student and teacher, mentor and mentored, as friends. Their relationship already meant so much to Kyle. He wanted more, but feared losing it all.
As Ephram's hand withdrew from the piano once again, Kyle reached for it, stopping him by clasping his hand around the other's finger. While the look Ephram gave him wasn't encouraging, he figured that since he'd taken the first step, he might as well push it. No going back.
Kyle forcefully entwined his fingers through Ephram's. It felt awkward, but he didn't care. He could feel Ephram attempt to withdraw his hand, but there was no real force behind it.
Kyle's other hand brushed some of Ephram's bangs back out of his face. He had such nice eyes, but they were always hidden. Then Kyle leaned in and brushed his lips against Ephram's. His lips felt rough on his own, but pleasant.
Ephram withdrew at this point, as though the kiss had awoken him from a stupor. "What the hell?" Ephram asked, scooting back off the piano bench and standing.
Looking up at Ephram, Kyle was suddenly terrified. He felt lost, scared, betrayed.
"I… I… I just…" Kyle stammered, wishing he knew what was going on in Ephram's head.
Ephram hadn't stuck around the other day to hear anything else Kyle had to say. He had froze initially, because Kyle had taken him by surprise.
It figured, Ephram thought as he sat in the dark in the apartment he shared with Bright and Reid, that his protégé would turn out to be into him. He should have known things were going too well in his life to have it continue on that way.
He seriously considered canceling the next lesson with lies of a flu or cough, but he figured he was already teaching this kid for free anyway. Because Kyle had talent. If that was Ephram's only reason for teaching him (and considering he wasn't being paid for it), then what did the attempted kiss matter?
Ephram saw himself in the younger boy. Shut off, reserved, loner, obsessed with the piano… He was angry, sarcastic, and disrespectful. Ephram had never thought that he himself was and of those things until he met Kyle and saw what everyone around him had to deal with. He was amazing he hadn't had his neck wrung, because sometimes, that's all he wanted to do to Kyle.
Ephram showed up late to the following practice session. This wasn't unusual. What was unusual was Kyle not making a snide remark when he walked in five minutes after the starting time.
"Okay," Ephram instructed awkwardly. "I assume you've practiced the last couple days?"
Kyle launched right into the piece with no remarks, no arguments, no complaints. Clearly, they were supposed to be doing this without speaking to one another. Ephram listened with his trained ear as Kyle played.
Once again, Kyle was just a beat off on the same part. "There," Ephram said, pointing at the piano as he spoke. "Just a lighter touch and it would all line up perfect."
"It's fine," Kyle insisted as he did every time.
"No, it's not, so stop saying it is." Ephram was tired of having this same argument every lesson. "Play it again, from the top of the 4th page."
He could see Kyle wanting to defy him, but thankfully he played the piece from where he was told. As that single second approached, Ephram neared the piano, leaning in closer, his hand hovering just of out the way of Kyle's. He felt Kyle tense up a bit.
"Keep on," Ephram encouraged. He didn't like all the tension in the room, and dammit, it wasn't his fault, either.
As Kyle got to his usual trouble spot, Ephram's hand went down on Kyle's, guiding him and perfecting it. "See?" he told the younger boy.
The perfection didn't last long, but this time it was Ephram's hand that slipped. And it wasn't so much a slip as an involuntary reaction to touching Kyle. Damned kid had put ideas in his head. He laced his fingers through Kyle's.