Lazarus cut through the woods to reach the Emerson estate the next day, despite his father warning him not to ruin his smart clothes. A servant greeted him at the door and Lazarus felt as though he was walking through a dream. One day... today.
"Good morning, Mr. Thorn. Master Gabriel is in the music room. Would you care for a drink before you go up?" Lazarus hesitated, unsure how to handle the situation he found himself in.
"Very good, sir. This way, then," he directed Lazarus up a curving staircase, leading him to the music room. Inside, Gabriel was sitting at a sleek, dark wood grand piano, smiling at the two as they walked inside.
"Hello, Lazarus," he said, waving the servant away. The servant left and Gabriel indicated for him to take a seat with him on the piano stool. "My teacher, Mr. Murphy, will be here soon, you're a little early."
"Oh, right," Lazarus nodded, sitting down.
"You're accent has gone again," Gabriel noted.
"I thought it would be best," he shrugged slightly, "I'm sure your family wouldn't appreciate me showing myself up for what I am."
"My parents are on a hunt, and my brothers moved out long ago - I am the youngest."
"It's strange enough to be here, let alone to talk normally."
"I have to say, you're rather good at changing your accent. You could almost be from a family with higher status; even if your clothes are a little rough," Gabriel smiled, that amused glint in his eyes flickering into life as he scrutinized Lazarus' attire.
"These are my best clothes... Can't afford nothing... I mean, I can't afford anything better," he flushed as he slipped up, hastily correcting himself.
"Even with those concerts you play?" Gabriel asked, an eyebrow quirking up slightly.
"No, my father takes the money I earn and wastes it in the pub. Or the brothel," Lazarus told him in such a matter-of-fact way that Gabriel's eyebrow only lifted further, surprised at the immorality the village boy had to live with.
"That's terrible! Isn't he married?"
"Yeah, he's married, they're still together. It's hardly a secret that he goes where he shouldn't," he shrugged again and looked around as the door opened. Gabriel composed his expression as his piano teacher walked into the room, the servant closing it behind him again with a faint scrape of wood against wood. Gabriel stood and greeted his teacher and then introduced Lazarus.
"The prodigy that appeared from seemingly nowhere. Yes... I've seen one of your shows. Very talented boy. Much better than this little oik," the man rumbled, clipping Gabriel around the ear, "years I've been trying to teach this boy."
"Well that's why Lazarus is here, sir, I thought you may both benefit from working together, rather than insisting on torturing me. Lazarus has never had a lesson before, and he will be much more pleasant to teach than I."
"Damn right, boy," Mr. Murphy growled, taking a seat beside the piano, "Lazarus, show me what you know." Lazarus hesitated a second, before obliging, showing the man as much as he could remember about the theory. Gabriel sat across the room, listening quietly, a small smile pulling at his lips as Mr. Murphy berated Lazarus for his posture and limited knowledge of the theory. "That's not how you play a scale! Where did you learn to play, in a barn? Were you taught by an imbecile?"
"No, sir, no one taught me," Lazarus muttered quietly, flinching ever so slightly when Mr. Murphy raised his voice. Gabriel watched this intently, taking in every wince and cringe Lazarus made, though the teacher didn't seem to notice. He was still wondering why he had let a village boy into his manor house. Lazarus masked his accent well, but he was still rough and common, and there was always such an odd look in his winter eyes. Half animal nervousness, and half tenderness, the kind of tenderness a man shouldn't possess. Not that the boy was feminine in any way. He just couldn't quite put his finger on it.
"Stop, stop, stop!" Mr. Murphy cried, scowling, "stop playing the scales wrong! Look, you play them like this," he leant over and showed Lazarus where he was going and though he tried to mimic the teacher, he kept slipping.
"It feels unnatural playing it that way, sir," he protested, slipping for the hundredth time.
"How long have you been playing?"
"Since I was seven..." he paused, counting the years, "I've been playing seven and a half years."
"No wonder you're finding it hard," the teacher sighed, sitting back in his chair, "at least you're willing, I suppose," he shot Gabriel a hard glance. Lazarus looked around too and Gabriel smiled.
"I told you that you would benefit more from the lessons than I would," he nodded slightly to himself, as if confirming his own opinion as a fact.
"Be that as it may, your father will have a fit when he finds out you've given your lessons to someone else."
"No he won't." Lazarus diverted his gaze, looking back at the ivory keys before him. He kept catching himself staring at Gabriel, and he was beginning to wonder if his experimentation with James had developed into something more than it was ever meant to be. He still felt strange thinking about James in that way, let alone anyone else. Blinking, he pushed the thoughts from his head as he remembered how James had pushed him down on the bed with that lustful shine in his eyes. He coughed slightly, and looked back up at Mr. Murphy expectantly, willing him to return to teaching rather than berating Gabriel.