The Power of Music

Chapter 9

by Josh Chambers


The following story is about the development of a fully consensual and loving relationship between a man and a pre-adolescent boy.  At some point through the story's progression, there will be a graphic display of sexual acts between the man and the boy meant to show the natural progression and development of an intimate and caring relationship.  If the topic of man/boy sex offends you, or if this material is illegal in your place or residence, or if you are under legal age, please leave now.

Any similarities between the characters in this story and any persons living and/or dead is purely a coincidence.

This story is protected under the nifty archives license agreement, and the author (me!) releases the right for nifty and nifty alone to post it on the internet.  Please do not post this story anywhere else without my consent or knowledge. 


Dear reader,


Finally, I have made it to my set piece.  I hope you enjoy this turning point of my story, and are as emotionally effected reading it as I was by writing it.  Please let me know what kind of feelings this chapter invokes in you, whether they be good, bad, or ugly.

            Please let me know what you think at



            Josh Chambers




Steven stared out into the clear blue morning sky.  Without a cloud in sight, and the sun at an angle where it's rays were not pounding on him, he the warmth sink into his skin, and inhaled the crisp morning air, scented with the smell of birch and elm, as it gently breezed past him.  It was going to be a perfect day for a music festival.

Steven intentionally arrived at the amphitheater early, wanting to get a feel for where Josh would shortly be performing.  He also came to hear the tail end of the younger group's performance.  The Mary Rippon Theatre sat there, already with a decent sized crowd, just as he'd remembered it from years ago, when he himself had performed here.  Trees surrounded the stone archways, with stone benches making their way down, row by row, to the circular stage.

Even though the performers were in the 8-10 range, he still enjoyed listening to them play.  Usually they played simpler songs, or arrangements of more difficult pieces.  Having participated in many music festivals, Steven had heard the younger ones play, and even then, he was impressed at the level of music children so young could produce.  Still though, Steven had told Josh that it would be best for him to show up to his own section of the festival only, and not to let himself become distracted.

Steven flipped through the program that he had collected from a boy selling them at the entrance.  He flipped to the mid age range performers, scheduled an hour after the younger performers, looking carefully for one name in particular.  Finally his eyes settled on the name he was looking for.  "Joshua Chambers, Piano."

  Steven felt a shiver of excitement.  Josh was finally going to play in front of a live audience.  Even though he had played in several school band performances, his sound was always obscured.  There were times when Steven wished he could have rewritten a piece to emphasize the French horn, but there were no such compositions.  He simply had to take comfort Josh was in the band he was directing, and listen for his sound wherever he could.  Now, however, Steven was going to hear him loud and clear.  He would hear Josh's sound alone, on an instrument that he knew the boy played far better. 

Steven was also a touch concerned however.  They had practiced so hard the last month, right up until a few nights ago.  Once Josh and his mother had left last Wednesday night, he had felt an incredible pang of guilt shoot though him.  Steven had been the one that had insisted on Josh coming over more frequently.  While his primary goal was to assure that Josh would play the best he could, a large part of him simply wanted the boy close by.  Whenever Josh was around, the world seemed light up and become much happier.  His smile, his laugh, his melodic voice, his beautiful playing, and his beautiful looks...

Now, however, he was worried that he might have pushed the boy too hard.  Even before his mother had come, he had seen signs of Josh's fatigue, and he knew he should have drawn the line earlier.  Steven could only hope that he hadn't pushed him too hard and prayed that Josh wasn't mad at him.  Then, seeing Elizabeth show up at his door like that made him realize how irresponsible he had become.  Steven only hoped that Josh hadn't been punished too badly, and promised himself that he would help the boy so that he would not get into trouble in the future.

Caught up in his thoughts, Steven failed to notice the concluding remarks of the judge as the first segment of the music festival came to a close.  An award was given to the first place winner, a boy who looked about nine years old.  Steven had to agree with the judge's assessment.  Though he hadn't heard all the performers, the boy on stage now, who had played "The Beautiful Blue Danube" had definitely out-played the ones he had heard.

After much applause, the crowd began to thin out.  Steven decided to hang out around at a spot where he could easily watch the entrance.  After what could only have been five minutes or so, Steven heard the unmistakable sound of Josh's voice in the distance.  "Mr. McNealy!" Josh's pure soprano sounded out. 

Josh and his mother were clear on the other side of the amphitheater, and he wouldn't have spotted them if Josh hadn't yelled out.  Deciding it was best to wait where he was, he watched as Josh and his mother made their way over, Josh all the while trying to prod his mother into going faster.

"Hi there Josh.  And Mrs. Chambers, it's nice to see you again," Steven reached out to shake her hand.  "I'm surprised to see you both here so early."

Elizabeth shook his hand without making eye contact.  "Yes.  Josh insisted on getting here early, so he could see where he was performing.  He thinks he will be less nervous if he is more comfortable with his surroundings.  I personally think that it won't make a bit of difference."

Josh didn't say anything to confirm or deny it, though the nasty look he shot at his mother spoke volumes.  Sensing the possibility of fireworks erupting between the two of them, Steven decided to interject.  "I don't think Josh has anything to worry about.  I know he is going to perform fabulously."

With Steven's encouragement, Josh's mood seemed to brighten considerably.  The boy smiled up at him.  "Thank you Mr. McNealy."

"Hey, don't worry.  You're going to completely blow the competition away.  Most adult pianists can't even play your level," Steven said.

"Really?"  Josh looked truly shocked at Steven's words.  Steven grimaced internally.  Sometimes, no matter how much Steven told him his playing was good, it never seemed to sink in.  Josh would simply shrug, and then talk himself down.

"Yes really Josh.  You are playing a very, very difficult piece.  It is usually material that isn't even touched until your junior year in college, and here you are, playing it at the age of eleven.  That, in and of itself, is quite an accomplishment," Steven explained.

Looking out at the stage, then back up at him again, Steven thought that for the first time, Josh might be registering how good he truly was.  Josh stared back out at the stage again, appearing deep in thought.

Steven moved a little closer and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder.  "I think you will begin to understand when you hear what most of the other kids are playing."

Josh turned back and looked up at Steven quizzically.  "What do you mean?"

Steven squeezed Josh's shoulder lightly.  "Let's just say that not every kid in the competition has an equal chance of winning."

Seeing that this conversation wasn't quite having the effect on Josh he desired, he motioned for them both to follow him down the aisle.  "Come on, let me show you where the performers are sitting."

"You mean, I don't have to go back stage or anything?"  Josh asked.

"Oh no.  You sit out here, close to the front, and go up on stage when the judges call your name."

Josh took a long breath, looking relieved, and followed Steven down to an aisle only a few rows back from the stage.  When Josh saw the postings on the aisles, a look of comprehension crossed his face.  Fortunately, since they were amongst the first ones there, Steven picked out seats where he would be able to see the performer's hands on the piano.  After Josh and his mother took their seats, they both took in the scenery of the amphitheater like Steven had.  The theater's acoustics were truly fabulous, and Steven knew just the right place to sit to get the full effect. 

When Steven looked back at Josh, he wasn't so sure it was best for him to have shown up early, just so he could sit around being a nervous wreck for a longer period of time.  He wanted, almost needed, to put his arm around the boy to help ease his fears.  He wanted to tell him over and over that he would do just fine, but he knew that Josh needed to see for himself what the other children were performing.  More and more, he wanted to help Josh feel confident in his abilities, and not so down on himself all the time.  Steven hoped and prayed that this competition would serve to give the boy what he so badly needed.

Fortunately, the time for the middle section of the music festival came upon them quickly.  By the time the judge made his way to the podium at center stage, the amphitheater was nearly full again.  Soon after the judge tapped the microphone a few times, sounding out from speakers adorning poles placed on either side of the stage, the audience grew quiet. 

"Fellow patrons and participants, welcome to the 17th annual Boulder Music Festival."  The judge paused, waiting for the clapping to subside.  "For those of you who are just now joining us, we are happy to announce the second round of the festival, where the children aged eleven though thirteen will be competing.  Every year, I truly grow more and more astounded with the musical caliber children of this age group play at and it is my belief that every year they get better."  The judge moved to pick up a program.  "Twenty six children will be performing in this group.  Something for you all to keep in mind, each one of these performers was auditioned, and chosen from a pool of nearly 200 children around the state.  We will truly be listening to some of the best young talent in Colorado, and I'm sure the entire nation as well.  The winner of this age group will receive a five hundred dollar scholarship, and allowed participation in one symphony performance.  That's something I think any aspiring young musician could be proud of."

Josh nudged Steven.  "Did you hear that?  I can't believe it!  Five hundred dollars and a guest performance with the symphony?  That's so cool!  Why didn't you tell me the prize was so big?"

Steven gave a small chuckle.  "I figured that you had enough pressure without having to worry about winning a large prize.  Besides, the prize isn't what you should be concentrating on, only playing the best that you can."

Josh frowned slightly.  "Still, you should have told me.  Now I'm even more nervous." 

Steven put a hand on Josh's shoulder.  "Don't be.  You have nothing to worry about.  I'm not saying you are assured of a win, but I know you will do just fine."

Josh took a deep breath and nodded.  Steven frowned a little.  For a while now he had debated on telling Josh what it would really mean to win the Boulder Music Festival.  He knew he would be putting too much pressure on the boy if he told him what rode on it.  It was more than just the scholarship.  Winning at the Festival opened many doors.  It served as an inroad into the world of classical music.  In fact, first prize at the Festival was a mandatory for any formal state competitions.  Josh had enough to worry about with his piece.  He did not need the added feeling of his future career in music added to it.  The best thing for Josh now was to remain calm, and Steven would do everything in his power to help the boy keep his head.

 "Now, without any further ado, let us start." 

When the first boy began to play, his piece quickly became familiar.  Josh's eye brows rose almost as fast as Steven's had.  The boy was playing the first movement of the Moonlight, from the very same sonata Josh would be playing only a little bit later.  Though the movement wasn't as fast, it wasn't easy.  The Moonlight's rolling melody epitomized legato playing.  The boy played it very beautifully as well, not too much pedal, just the right amount of legato, and emphasis on all the right notes.  Playing this beautiful, slow movement well served to show that it was not necessary to play a fast song to show great skill with the piano.  This boy defiantly had a good grasp of the musicality of the song. 

When the boy finished, the crowd cheered.  That movement of the Moonlight was always popular, since it stood as the most famous of all Beethoven's sonatas.  Though Josh clapped, Steven could tell the boy's nervousness had not subsided, given away by the telltale fidgeting of his legs. 

The next performer was girl on the piano.  Both Steven and Josh cringed visibly when she started making mistakes.  She was attempting to play Debussy's Clair de Lune, a song they both were intimately familiar with.  Her rhythm was all wrong, and the moment she got to the challenging section, her playing completely fell apart.  First she tried to play it up to tempo, and ended up completely wiping out.  Rather than playing forward, she started a few bars back.  Again she wiped out, though this time she played forward, all-be-it much more slowly. 

"She was the one we heard playing, wasn't it?"  Josh asked.

"Yes.  It seems that she doesn't quite have the knack of the song yet though, doesn't it?"

"Uh, huh," Josh agreed.

Next was another boy, this time only a year older than Josh.  At first, the song he started playing sounded truly difficult, but as he played forward, he realized that the boy had only added some strange improvisation to the beginning of the Maple Leaf Rag.  The boy didn't play it badly, but there were too many times where he speed particular sections up, only to slow others way down.  The boy didn't seem to have a firm handle of the stride base either.  H missed several notes every time his hand went down to hit the bottom chord.

"So, do you feel a little bit more confidant now?"  Steven asked as the boy playing the Maple Leaf finished.

"Yea.  That girl couldn't play Clare de Lune well at all, and that boy kept messing up on the stride bass," Josh remarked, seeming to sit up a bit taller now.

Three more played on the piano, and two on the Violin and Viola.  While none played as badly as the girl who played Clair de Lune, or the boy with the Maple Leaf, their songs seemed rather dull, and were not played as well as the first boy, who played the Moonlight. 

"Our next performer is Joshua Chambers, eleven years old.  He will be playing..."  The judge paused as he flipped over the card.  The judge's eyes rose slightly.  "The third movement of the Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven."  The judge breathed out a sigh.  "Boy, if I had known this, I would have grouped Joshua with Mathew."  In a slightly lower, more playful tone, the judge started flipping though the flashcards.  "There isn't anyone playing the second movement, is there?"  Which earned a laugh from the audience.  "No, it appears not.  Well then, Josh Chambers."

While the audience clapped, Steven clasped Josh's shoulder one last time before he stood.  "You're going to do just fine.  Remember, concentrate on the music.  Nothing else matters.  It's no different than being back at home practicing."

Josh did his best to nod and give Steven a smile, but he could tell the boy was incredibly nervous.  It was finally time.  Time for Josh to show the world how terrific he truly was, and if the rest of the competitors were as mediocre as the previous ones, then they had no worries at all. 

Though he was sure he and Josh were the only ones who noticed, Elizabeth sat silent as he passed her, only offering him a brief nod as he passed.  Steven could only hope that Josh wouldn't let his mother's utter lack of moral support get in the way of his playing. 

The audience grew quiet as Josh approached the stage and ascended the small set of stone steps with his music in hand.  When Josh sat at the piano, he did as he always did, adjusting the height of the seat and its distance from the keyboard.  Almost like a professional would, Josh straightened out his back and closed his eyes, feeling the keys of the piano.  When he was fully prepared, and not a moment before, he started playing.

If anyone had been talking in the audience before Josh began, they had all become suddenly quiet.  Like he had practiced again and again, Josh's fingers tore through the ascending arpeggios at the beginning, landing the chords at the top perfectly.  The boy didn't stop for a second, never letting up from the amazing pace the piece required.  That the piece demanded.  On and on he played, his fingers a blur across the piano.  To the average spectator, his hands might have looked like a humming birds wings, they zipped from one side of the keyboard to the other so quickly. 

Steven became so wrapped up in the boy's playing that he could not keep himself from adding commentary.  "Back straight.  Arms above the keys.  Keep the tremolo even.  Pull with your arm, not your hand.  Soft here.  Good.  Bring out the melody above the tremolo in the base hand.  Quiet, quiet... now pull!  Good!"   And Josh continued, at what seemed to Steven like breakneck speed.  He had never heard Josh play it so fast.

It was also more than just the speed of his playing though.  Josh was bent over the piano, playing the heavy melodies that the song required.  His whole body rocked back and fourth, and his head actually jolted when he hit those powerful top chords.  Though Steven had to look closer, he could swear there were times when the boy actually had his eyes closed.  It truly amazed him that the boy could know the piece so well he didn't even need to look at his fingers.  Steven knew Josh was putting his heart and soul into the piece.  He played with every fiber of his being, banging out intense anger, spattered with what could only be described as sorrow, playing his Beethoven dark and stormy, just as it was meant to be played.

There were those who would argue that a boy as young as Josh could not possibly express these feelings in piece of music.  That while he might be able to play the notes, they would be empty, because a child knows nothing of what the composer truly felt, and intended for the piece.  But, Steven knew that Josh had picked up on all the piece's subtleties.  Steven knew that Josh had the gift of truly being able to breathe his own emotion into the piece, giving it a truly unique sound.  Since the first time Steven had heard the boy play, he knew that the boy and the same feel of music he did.  Like him, he knew the boy lived and breathed music.  It was his way of truly showing the world how he felt.  Now, listening to him play a song so difficult, containing so much raw emotion, all his feelings for the boy were fully reaffirmed. 

Sitting there, listening to Josh's astounding playing, with what felt like a million butterflies in his stomach, several tears began to bead up in his eyes.  He knew then and there that he loved the boy, wholly and completely.  He loved him for the depth of emotion in his playing, for his perseverance, and for his absolute determination.  Listening to his playing now, there was no doubt left in his mind how he felt. 

At the same time, all his desire, his want, and his insurmountable need for the boy came crashing down on him.  It had never been stronger than it was now.  It was almost more than he could bear.  He could feel his desire setting his insides on fire with hot, raging need.  In so many ways, these feelings felt like they conflicted directly with his growing love.  Josh meant so much to him it hurt inside.

For so long these conflicting feelings swirled inside of him, seeming to do battle in his stomach, in his chest, and in his loins every time he saw the boy.  With this constant mix of heavy emotion, it left Steven so confused that most of the time the only thing he could do was set them all aside and concentrate on what was best for Josh, what was best for his development as a truly great pianist.

Now though, with Josh laying his feelings naked out on the piano, he could no longer stifle his emotions.  He had to express his love in some way.  He needed to release the floodgates at some point; else wise the build up, and the pressure would drive him mad.

Josh's conclusion was just as amazing as the beginning.  Steven, remembering how difficult a time the boy had with the rolling arpeggios and the long chromatic progression, sat there with growing pride, despite his other raging emotions.  Josh had done it, he had gotten it right, and when Josh resolved the song with its powerful ending chord, that feeling of pride multiplied tenfold. 

Some of the audience were still sitting there in awe as others were clapping there hearts out.  Some even stood and whistled.  The response was staggering.  When Josh turned around, Steven could see a clear sheen of sweat on his brow.  The boy was still breathing hard as he scanned the audience.  From the look on his face, he himself could scarcely believe the crowd's reaction.  Even the judges were shaking their heads in disbelief.  The clapping persisted, even as Josh made his way back.  When Josh got a little closer, Steven swore that his face was flushed with red.

"Josh.  That was amazing.  I'm so proud of you."  When the urge to hug the boy became too great to bear, Steven drew him in, clasping him tightly.  Josh, in turn, hugged Steven almost equally as tightly. 

"I can't believe it!  I did it!" Josh said, wiping the sweat off his brow.  "I wasn't sure I'd be able to.  I didn't think I'd get past that one section.  I thought for sure I would get stuck on it, and end up wiping out like that girl did," Josh said, only pulling away so he could look Steven in the eye.

"But you didn't, did you?  All that worry for nothing.  I knew you would be able to do it.  You just needed to have faith in yourself."

Josh nodded his head.  "Yea, I know." 

Briefly, both Josh and Steven looked over at Elizabeth.  She was smiling now, the first smile she had really cracked during the whole performance.  Apparently she was as stunned as the audience was.  When Josh pulled away from Steven to sit back down, she squeezed his shoulder.  "I've got to say Josh, that was amazing playing.  I can't believe you were able to get up there and play like that.  You have truly made me proud today."

Steven smiled.  Though Elizabeth's reaction wasn't heart-warming, he was glad that she had finally given Josh some of the congratulation he needed.  Steven could also tell that, although Josh's smile to his mother was hesitant, it was genuine.

Despite his better judgment, as the judge announced the following performer, Steven decided to leave his arm across Josh's back.  After having done so well, he really wanted Josh to know how proud of him he was, and how happy he had made him.

The next performer must have been overwhelmed having to go after Josh's amazing performance, and it really began to show as the thirteen-year-old stumbled along with his song.  When the boy finished, there were of course applause, but not nearly as thunderous as they had been for Josh.   

When the next performer came on stage, Steven drew in his breath.  It was Cody, the boy he and Josh had met while waiting at the audition.  Now he was finally going to find out how the boy could play, and he hope against hope that his suspicions about him were wrong.  When the judge announced what song he was playing, Steven bit his tongue.  He had been right all along in suspecting that Cody was the boy he had heard behind the closed door at the audition.  Cody had been the one he had heard playing Chopin's Fantasy Impromptu.  His suspicions about Cody were the main reason Steven had decided to change Josh's piece.  Now, he could only hope that Josh's playing stacked up well against Cody's.

Cody, unlike the boy before him, was calm and composed as he walked on stage.  If he had been affected by Josh's performance, he wasn't showing it.  Like Josh, he checked the height and distance of the bench before sitting.  He paused for a moment, as if evaluating the piano he was about to play on, then began.  Like Josh, his hands took off at the speed of light right from the beginning and did not let up.  They raced up and down the keyboard in beautiful, rolling processions, with this left hand moving counterpoint to his right.

Chopin's Fantasy Impromptu was every bit as demanding as the Moonlight, requiring intricate finger work for the fast sections, along with a true sense of rhythm and feel for the melody, else wise it would be overpowered by the base and the trills surrounding it.  Cody however, played it beautifully, with all the emphasis in the right places.

The feeling Cody conveyed in his playing was truly astounding.  The way he played the middle section of the song... The subtlety of his melody, his absolute control over the trills, and his precise rhythms, made him sound not like a boy of eleven, but a seasoned professional that had been performing Chopin for a lifetime.  Cody's playing went truly beyond good.  It reached into true genius.

Despite all of that, Steven would still swear by Josh.  He had come so far for a kid that had only been playing anything truly advanced for a little over six months.  Though he might not have had all the technique, he played from the bottom of his heart.  Steven knew that Josh couldn't handle Chopin, and play it at Cody's level, but he knew Josh's character well enough to know that he would fit Beethoven well, and embrace the stormy feeling of its composition.  And with any luck, Josh's raw emotion would win the day.

When Cody let his hands off the piano, the crowd went into a cheer.  Steven could not say for sure who the crowd had cheered louder for.  Steven looked down at Josh, and could tell the boy was as equally troubled by Cody's playing as he was.  Steven tried his best to be comforting, despite the gnawing of his stomach.  "Don't give up hope Josh.  Cody may have played well, but your playing had incredible merit to it as well."

Josh shook his head.  "But, he played his song so much faster than mine.  Did you see how fast his fingers were moving?"  Then Josh added in a much quieter voice, "I wish I would have spent more time trying to make it faster, like in the recording."

Steven took a deep breath.  "Josh, you shouldn't expect yourself to play as fast as the recording.  The fact that you played through the Moonlight as well as you did shows incredible talent.  And Josh," Steven quieted his voice down as well, "when you played, I could feel your emotion.  Don't give up hope yet."

When the judge ascended the stage after the applause for Cody had died down, Josh leaned into Steven and grabbed his knee, as if trying to grab at any source of external strength he could find.  The problem was, Steven wasn't entirely sure of how much strength he could truly provide.

 "Wow!  I, along with the rest of the judges, am very impressed with today's performers.  To the performers, each of you should be proud of yourselves.  It takes a lot of courage to come up and play on stage.  You all played quite remarkably.  But, there can only be one winner for each category."  The judge paused for a moment.  "We now ask that you give us a few moments while we tally up the scores."

Josh did not say a word as he watched the judges gather around their table, writing on paper, and talking amongst themselves in hushed tones.  Steven reached for Josh's hand and clasped it tightly.  Like his own, the boy's palm was all sweaty.  He keenly felt Josh's pulse in that hand, and he could tell the boy's heart was beating as rapidly as his was.  They had worked so hard and Josh had played so well.  There was probably nothing else the boy had worked on so hard in his life as the piece he played today.  Josh deserved to win.  He had poured his soul into that piece. 

Finally, the judges began to straighten themselves out and sit back down, while the head judge walked back on stage.  He tapped the microphone several times to get everyone's attention.  "This group of performers were truly exceptional.  Personally, I don't think I have ever heard playing like this from performers so young.  Some of the pieces chosen by the children in this group usually aren't attempted until college, let alone at the age of eleven.  I, and the rest of the judges truly believe we have witnessed true genius today, and if it were left to the decisions of the judges alone, we would be giving out two scholarships of equal weight to two very talented young boys.  But, alas, there can only be one first prize winner.  But the boy who does not win should not feel cheated, because we truly believe both of these young performers will one day make a significant impact within the world of classical music." 

Even before the judge finished speaking, the audience began clapping, as if already knowing the two boys the judge was referring to.  Steven knew what the Judge had said should have helped soothe his nerves, but he also knew that the cold hard truth of the matter was, when a top notch music school looked for talent around the country, they only looked for the best.  If Josh did not win this year's music festival, it would set him back a whole year.  The last thing Steven wanted was for Josh to feel like he couldn't cut it in the music world, that's why he had expressly chosen not to tell him all the stakes involved in winning.  When the judge started speaking again, Steven had to ratchet himself away from his thoughts.

"As I am sure you are all eager to hear the results, I will not keep you waiting any longer."  The judge picked up a certificate from the podium.  "The third place winner is... Mathew Hershel, for his performance of the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven."

Applause swept the audience, with loud cheering from a particular area, likely from Mathew's family and friends, as the boy weaved his way through the crowd and up to the stage.  Both Steven and Josh gave a collective sigh of relief.  Though Mathew played the first movement well, he knew Josh's performance had demonstrated much more skill and emotion.  As he suspected, the only true contenders for first were Josh and Cody.

"Now comes the moment I'm sure all of you have been anticipating.  As I said before, this was a really difficult choice, as both of these boys played incredibly well.  But, all students must be judged fairly according to the standards and criteria of the festival.  What we are looking for most is musicality, and the only way to make a decision like this is to judge the competitor's ability to play what the composer of piece indented.  With that in mind, we have selected Joshua Chambers as our second place winner."

Though the applause was again thunderous, it was completely dulled out by the impact of the judge's words.  Having heard Cody's playing, and if his opinion hadn't been so bias, he knew he would have selected Cody as well.  But that still did not make it easier even in the slightest.  Josh glanced up at Steven with an expression so pained that Steven had to look away.  The boy's trudge through the crowd and onto the stage seemed almost surreal.  Though Steven saw Josh reach up and shake the judge's hand and accept the 2nd place certificate, his mind violently tried to reject it.  How could he have let the boy down like this?

Steven barely registered when Josh sat back down and Cody was announced as the first place winner.  Steven pushed it all away.  The cheering, the concluding announcement, and all the chatter that followed as people finally got up to leave.  Still, Steven sat there immobilized.

It was Josh that brought him out of his dazed state.  For a long time, the boy had remained still and quiet, with his head bowed down, but at some point, his shoulders began to shake.  As if unable to contain it any more, the boy's small shaking turned into large sobbing gasps.

Seeing Josh like that, completely defeated, almost retching with sadness, drove a white hot spike through Steven's chest.  It felt like the bottom of his stomach had just fallen through to the deepest, darkest abyss, and there was no hope of salvaging it.  Tears began welling up in Steven's own eyes, feeling Josh's pain as sharply as the boy did.  An incredibly strong urge to console the boy to help alleviate some of his pain swept through Steven's whole body.  Powerless to stop it, Steven hugged the boy close.

Almost the second he did, Josh threw himself into Steven's arms, wrapping himself fully around Steven's torso.  If it was at all possible, the boy let his emotions spill further.  Uninhibited, Josh let his tears seep into Steven's shirt as he clutched at his back.  At some point, Josh's shirt had worked itself out of his pants and had become all disheveled, exposing part of his lower back, and his little white briefs.

Despite all the pain Steven felt for the boy, when he noticed that bare skin, all his unwanted emotions came flooding back in.  Feelings he wanted to bury.  Feelings he wanted to ignore.  Feelings that drove him mad with anger, fear and guilt.  It was like a continual struggle to internally, continually repress them.  It was a struggle that he felt like he was loosing more and more frequently, despite the promise he had made to himself months ago, when he had taken Josh swimming.  He had vowed to be completely in control, and never chance again taking some of the risks he had.  But, despite those vows, he had still found himself touching the boy.  Touching him whenever he could, for as long as he could, as much as he could.  He simply couldn't keep his hands off the boy. 

He knew he couldn't keep denying himself much longer.  Having Josh so close to him so often was beginning to drive him completely off the wall.  His lust was beginning to consume him utterly and completely.  Here and now, with Josh crying in his arms, appearing so much like the little eleven-year-old boy he was; deep, dark thoughts clawed their way out of his unconsciousness.  So badly, Steven wanted to run his hands under the boy's shirt and up the tender ridges of his back, feeling the boy's bare skin clear until his fingers reached that tender spot on the back of his neck.  So badly, Steven wanted to feel around the boy's sides around to his stomach, letting a finger gently poke into his soft little belly button.  So badly Steven wanted to reach up even further to feel the boy's sensitive little nipples.  So badly did Steven... so badly... so badly did he want to reach down and unbutton the boy's khaki dress pants, feel his pubis though his underwear, gliding over his baby soft skin, and finally down to grab the object of all his fantasies and every single orgasmic dream he had experienced since they had met. 

He thought those feelings would have lessened over time, as he got to know the boy better, learn who he truly was, and become more comfortable having him around.  As he had really gotten to know him, and truly discover how deep the boy's love for music was, and the way he behaved in general, not only did Steven's desire grow, the seeds for true love and caring began to blossom and grow as well. 

Josh truly had the most kind, gentle, sensitive, demeanor of anyone he had ever met.  There were times when the boy seemed to behave much older than his youthful age.  Not only was his playing like that of someone much older, but it was also the way he talked, and his pristine manor.  Then there were times like Josh behaved like the eleven-year-old he was, playing with this food, running around his house, and at times even running up to hug Steven for reasons he could not divine.

Above all of that however, was one memory that confirmed his feelings.  Right after the Nutcracker, when they had went out for ice cream, the feelings Steven had then... Those had been feelings of love in its purest form.  Why couldn't he continue to feel like that, without all the rest of the horrible overhead that came with it?  Why couldn't his love for the boy be pure and simple?  Why couldn't he just love the boy without all those other feelings getting in the way?

Here and now, with Josh crying into his chest, so vulnerable, he so badly needed Steven's love.  He knew Josh needed love, because of the countless times he had seen the boy's unspoken sadness and loneliness.  It manifested in his music as well, like his playing today.  Josh conveyed such sorrow and longing in his music.  But... Steven knew that the kind of love the boy wanted wasn't the kind the darker side of him wanted to give.  Steven knew what the boy truly needed was something akin to the love of a father, without all of his other feelings getting in the way.  So badly Steven wanted to provide that for him.  Needed to provide that for him; and it was that need that began the never ending spiral downwards. 

  Without even realizing it, Steven's hands had already made it half way up his back, bunching up the boy's shirt even further.  Suddenly he realized how easy it would be to go even further, without even giving it any thought at all.  How easy it would be to take advantage of him, when he was in such a vulnerable state.

Then Josh, though his wails of sadness, began to speak.  "I'm so sorry Steven.  I'm so sorry I lost.  I tried so hard.  I wanted to win.  I wanted to win... for you."

When Josh said those words, the guilt within Steven became overpowering.  Did the boy really care that much for making him happy?  Was that the true reason for Josh's crying, not simply because he had lost what he had worked so hard to achieve?  Were Josh's feelings to please Steven so strong?  Just the thought that they could be terrified Steven right down to the very core of his being.  Even just a few of the ramifications of what that meant could spell true disaster if Steven kept doing such a poor job of controlling himself.   Why couldn't his love for Josh be as pure is Josh's feelings for him?  Why did all those other horrible feelings need to get in the way?

            Steven shook his head in a fit.  No... He couldn't keep doing this.  He couldn't remain as close to Josh as he had become.  He couldn't remain so close without risking loosing all control, doing something he knew he would regret for the rest of his life.  No, sadly, this relationship had to end.  It had to end before he hurt the boy he cared for so very very much.

            Josh continued to clutch Steven tightly, despite the fact that Steven's hands were planted on the boy's bare back.  "I just wanted... I just wanted to make you proud of me," the boy said in a voice barely above a whisper, only loud enough for Steven to hear. 

The pain that tore through Steven's chest from hearing those words was unbearable.  He had to go.  He had to go right now, before he hurt the boy any more.  As gently as he could, Steven smoothed Josh's shirt back down and pushed his body away from his own, forcing the boy to release him from his stranglehold. 

"Josh, I have to go.  I'm sorry you lost.  I'm so sorry.  But I have to go now.  I'm afraid I have done as much as I can for you, and it will be up to you to find your way.  I know you can.  You're such a good, skilled musician; I have faith that you will outperform everyone someday.  But, I can no longer be your teacher."

Josh stared up at Steven for what seemed like an entire life span compressed into a single moment.  "What do you mean?"  Josh shook his head.  "I don't understand."

"I have to go now Josh.  I wish you all the luck in the world."  Steven said, getting onto his feet.

"No..." Josh said softly at first, and then his tears started flowing again even harder. "NO!"  Josh screamed, crumpling into a little ball on the stone bleacher in the space that Steven had only been sitting mere moments ago.  "NOO."  Josh wailed as loudly as he could, sounding almost hysterical.

Steven could no longer bear to look; the pain in him was as white hot and stabbing as ever.  As swiftly as he could he made his way out, running from that intense pain, running from the boy and the agony in his heart in the same set of strides. 

From now forward, Steven had to put his feelings away.  He had to put them in a locked box that could not be broken through or chipped at.  That was the only safe way.  And now, for the boy's own good, he had to keep as far away from Joshua Chambers for as long as possible.