Imperfect Glory
by HYPERFocused

Bright Abbott is standing outside the Brown house, listening through the open window to Ephram playing the piano. He's been here for the past half hour, too afraid to ring the bell, and interrupt this beauty.

And Ephram is beautiful. Dark head bent low, purple highlights catching the late afternoon sun; pale hands moving in an intricate dance Bright can't begin to follow. He looks intent. He's paying more attention to this than Bright pays to anything.

This is probably a good thing, because if Ephram knew Bright was spying on him, had been crouched outside the window until his knees started locking, he'd be pissed off.

Maybe he shouldn't be, because Bright knows Ephram saw him in the locker room that morning, when Bright was doing something a lot more personal than playing the piano.

Except maybe not. From the look of it, Ephram's hands on the keys are as private to him in this moment as Bright's hand on his cock was supposed to have been. And really, it was his own damn fault he got caught. There's never any guarantee of privacy in a place like that.

Trouble is, there isn't any guarantee of privacy at home, either. Amy thinks every door is open to her; his father doesn't believe in knocking "I own this house, Bright. When you pay rent, you can lock the door. I'll even knock when I come to collect it."


Bright can tell there's something wrong, because Ephram's repeating the same piece, over and over. He can't hear anything that sounds off, but then he knows as much about classical music as he does about neurosurgery.

Possibly less. In the past year, he's learned enough about the human brain, what Ephram's father calls its' "strength and fragility" to both amaze and scare him.

Bright never wanted to be a doctor; with his dad for a role model, it's hardly surprising. Dr Abbott was always telling him "I hope you'll buckle down and learn a useful trade, Bright. It's obvious we won't have that father/son practice I dreamt about when you were a baby."

Bright didn't even pass biology class (and you can bet he'll never live that down in the Abbott house). But when his best friend got smashed - figuratively and literally, through the window of his truck, it became important for Bright to know what was going on. Especially because it was all his fault.

Everything usually is, he thinks. He hates being the family fuck up. Act first think later. That's Bright Abbott, or rather, "Dim" as he was nicknamed when he was held back in grade school. He pretended to laugh it off, but even now it bothers him.

He can't bring home decent grades in anything but gym (and a fluke of an A in Family Living class, because his sack-of- flour baby didn't break.) He's actually pretty good with kids, sometimes when he's bored he keeps them occupied at his dad's office, while their mothers get treated.

He misses Colin-the real Colin. His closest friend, and once upon a time, a little bit more. The only person he'd ever told. Colin had been pretty cool about it, hadn't freaked. It might have been because Bright didn't have an actual guy in mind. Even if he and Colin messed around a little, it's not like he was in love with him. Friends did that, sometimes. Really.

He'd like to be more like Ephram. Ephram walks through the halls at school like he's thinking really deep thoughts, like that Tori Amos song that Amy plays all the time. If he doesn't make straight A's, it's because he's got more important things on his mind than whatever facts their teachers want them to memorize.

Bright imagines the inside of Ephram's mind is colorful, but organized. He likes whatever tiny glimpses he's been allowed to see, but wants to take the whole tour. He wonders what Ephram would think of the chaos inside his head.


Sometimes Ephram wonders what it would be like to be like Colin. To have memories as elusive as and unreachable as the proverbial end of the rainbow. Colin must feel like they're equally mythical. Pictures and other people's descriptions don't make it seem real.

He ponders too, what it would be like to sleep through months of your life. There are months, years even he'd like not to have experienced. Most recently, he'd like not to have experienced about three minutes between third and fourth period.

He's never going to get that picture of Bright out of his mind, even if he wanted to. He really should be honest with himself, he doesn't. Picturing Bright Abbott, head thrown back, hand a blur, water plastering his curls to his head has been distracting Ephram all damn day.

As much as he tries to immerse himself in music and manga, he can't forget himself. The music isn't working. Fifteen repeats of the same piece, and he still flubs up the same part. His concentration is for shit. He shouldn't even be allowed to sit at the piano today.

It's weird. He usually doesn't need mental post-it notes to remind him what's important. He's got the damned Brown brain, If his dad is a Xerox machine, he's a highlighter. Only his dad remembers important things: how to save lives, what to do in an emergency.

He remembers private moments he shouldn't have even witnessed.

Sometimes, too, he thinks it would be nice to be like Bright. Bright never seems to think too deeply about anything, or second-guess himself the way Ephram does. He lives in the moment, and the moment is never awkward or stilted or mortifying, like most of Ephram's are.

Maybe that's not fair, because Ephram can tell the guy's not actually stupid, just not as quick with the trivia as the rest of the Abbotts seem to be. Bright is refreshing. When it came down to it, Eprham would rather be stranded on a desert island with him, than any of the others. Even Amy.

Especially Amy. He doesn't know what he'd been thinking. The crush he had on her was long gone, changed to a mix of sympathy for her situation with Colin and annoyance at the way she'd used him.

Bright was kind of a jerk at times, but it was an endearing kind of jerkiness, like a half trained puppy. You could forgive a lot from him, when he gave you those eyes.

He'd insulted Ephram, called him names, but he'd never lied to him. They'd had some decent talks in the hospital waiting room. He'd even come to Ephram's defense when Colin went all weird and postal.

Ephram thought it was just Bright's newfound decency showing through, like he was trying to distance himself from the person who had nearly gotten his best friend killed - through action or inaction, Ephram wasn't sure, and Bright only said "it was my fault."

What Ephram does know is that it wasn't, not in any real sense. Colin made his own dumb choices, and is dealing with the unfortunate results. Nobody knows yet how well he'll recover from this latest surgery. His father is as hopeful as he can be under such uncertain circumstances.

He can hear Bright's hiking boots crunching the leaves outside the window, and the little huffs of breath he makes when he's trying to be quiet. It's almost as loud as the furtive sounds he was making in the locker room that morning.

He feigns obliviousness, and starts the concerto again. He'll pretend to be surprised when Bright finally gets the courage to knock on his door. He's pretty sure they'll have more to talk about than Colin.


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