Lazarus curled himself in James' arms, shuddering pleasantly with the aftershock of what he had just done. He felt abused, in the best way.
"You whine like a little bitch," James half whispered in his ear, laughing softly as he held Lazarus against him. It had hurt, God, it had hurt, but he couldn't help the smile on his face. It had been a good kind of hurt.
"Just as well no one was around to hear," Lazarus shivered again at the thought of them being discovered.
"Mmm," he hummed, kissing Lazarus' cheek sleepily. All thoughts of going home to practice the piano had been erased from his mind, and they didn't return as he closed his eyes, comfortable on the rough bed with James.
"Where were you all night?" Lazarus' father snapped as he walked in through the door.
"Out," he shrugged, suddenly wishing he had gone home when they were done experimenting with each other.
"Out where?" he snarled. Lazarus shrugged again, trying to walk past his father, but a hand reached out and grabbed him, holding him still. Lazarus looked up at his father silently, waiting for the blow. And sure enough, pain flared on the side of his face as his father slapped him. He let go of him, shoving him towards the piano. "You'll not just wander off wherever you please while you live under this roof."
"I'm still workin' on moving out," Lazarus grumbled, taking his seat at the piano sullenly. His night of salvation was pushed to the back of his mind as his father slapped him again, growling at him to practice.
"I look forward to it, boy," he said coldly, listening carefully as Lazarus played. He pressed the keys tiredly, wishing he was back in James' arms again. Fumbling, he cursed and flinched as his father dealt him another harsh blow. "What use do you think you'll be in this state later on? You're s'posed to perform tonight! At this rate you're gonna fall asleep at the piano!"
"I haven't eaten yet," Lazarus mumbled, "but I doubt you would care if your own son was too hungry to concentrate." A bitter edge crept into his voice that went completely ignored by his father.
"Then you shoulda been home, shouldn't you?" he simply nodded and sighed, returning his gaze to the score in front of him.
Lazarus stood and bowed, still unable to smile, even as he was met with loud applause. He walked off stage and sat in the wing on the floor, hugging his knees to his chest. The position made him grimace and he lifted a hand to a fresh bruise on his ribs, wincing as he touched it delicately. He cursed quietly, looking up as his father walked around the corner.
"What the fuck're you doin' down there?" He growled, reaching down and hauling Lazarus up by the front of his shirt.
"Sitting," Lazarus replied irritably, pulling away from the man.
"You're s'posed to talk to the people who came to see you!" he snarled, pushing his son out towards the lobby. He slapped his father's hand away and stalked out into the crowd of rich people hanging around and instantly skulked over to the side, wishing he could become invisible.
"Not trying to hide again, are we?" that same smooth, amused voice met him. He looked up and saw Gabriel standing beside him with a crooked smile. Lazarus fixed his gaze back on the floor, his scowl not lifting.
"Bugger off. I'm not in the mood for rich bastards like you," he muttered, not even attempting to hide his natural dialect this time. Gabriel looked taken aback for a moment, before letting his smile return.
"Oh why would you care?" Lazarus snapped, grimacing as he shifted slightly, upsetting the bruise on his side.
"Your father's a little heavy handed, isn't he?" Gabriel tilted his head a little, realizing why Lazarus looked so sour and as though he was trying to become a part of the wall.
"S'one way of puttin' it," he mumbled quietly, still looking at the floor as his father walked over.
"My son's not being a bother, is he?" he asked with a friendly smile. Gabriel shook his head.
"No, it was I that started the conversation. If anything, I am being a bother to him."
"It's fine," Lazarus murmured, "you're not bothering me at all," he forced himself to look up and smile.
"Good," his father nodded and walked away again, and Lazarus had to resist the urge to stick his middle finger up at the man's back, or run after him and punch him. Gabriel noticed the hostility in the skinny boy's eyes, though and couldn't help but wonder what his father had done.
"So did you have lessons in the piano?" he asked, hoping to take Lazarus' mind off whatever was troubling him.
"No. Couldn't afford no lessons. Just kinda taught myself on an out of tune piano that's fallin' apart."
"You have a natural gift," Gabriel smiled, unable to stop the pang of envy, "I've had lessons since I was a small child and I'm still no good."
"I'm sure that ain't true," Lazarus muttered, wondering where Gabriel was going with this. All he wanted to do was crawl into bed and forget about the day.
"It is. But you can take my lessons for me, if you wish. You're already very good, but your style is probably riddled with bad habits," he wasn't entirely sure why he was offering a village boy his help, let alone the expensive piano lessons. But the boy had talent and he looked like he could do with a break from village life occasionally.
"You'd have to ask my dad," Lazarus shrugged, "he'd laugh if I told him I was going up to the rich kid's house for piano lessons." Gabriel nodded and disappeared into the crowd without another word. Lazarus watched him with an arched eyebrow. Surely the rich kid wasn't being serious. Rich people had a nasty habit of being unnecessarily cruel, and Lazarus wasn't so certain that this wasn't just a prank.
A few minutes later, Gabriel returned with Lazarus' father.
"What do you think, Mr. Thorn?"
"Piano lessons for my son... I s'pose he could benefit from them, yeah. If it's alright with your parents letting him in the house, Mr. Emerson..."
"It'll be fine. Perhaps I shall see you tomorrow," Gabriel smiled at Lazarus and excused himself.
"You better scrub up and wear your smart clothes, kid," his father growled once Gabriel was out of sight.