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Play it Again in G

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Yuuri sat at the bar, picking up one of his small finger sandwiches as he listened to the murmur of the patrons behind him. He smiled as he took a bite out of the triangle as he raised an eyebrow at Minako, “Out of all the sandwiches you’ve made this one is the best.”

Phichit leans over the bar snatching the other triangle as he studied it and looked to the owner of the cafe, “What is it?”

Minako grinned as she cleaned a drinking glass and set it to the side to dry, “It’s just a test sandwich, your participation in this endeavor has been appreciated.”

Yuuri hummed thoughtfully as he popped the rest into his mouth and picked up his water glass. The ice cubes inside clinked almost musically as he tipped the glass to his lips washing away the lemon from the sandwich. It was good. Maybe it would make it on the menu.

Of course, that meant that it would have to go through a couple more patrons.

“If you don’t end up using it, can you give me the recipe?” Yuuri asked over the rim of his glass.

“Sure, why not?” Minako winked at him tossing the rag over her shoulder as she turned and started to arrange the bottles on the shelf behind her.

“Hey Phichit?” An older man called from the dining area, raising his glass up with a grin.

Phichit brightened and laughed, the sound of it was lilting and bright like sunshine. Yuuri couldn’t help but smile as his best friend grabbed a full pitcher of water and hurried from behind the counter, “Sorry! I was just trying one of Minako’s creations.”

Several chuckles sounded out around the dining room. Minako’s creations were either super great, or so terrible they had gained notoriety as mythical punishments for any slights that may have been levelled at her or those she took care of.

“Is Yuuri going to play today? We saw the schedule was free.” Another woman with bright blue eyes and blonde hair asked. Her friends giggled around her as her cheeks flushed a bright red.

Yuuri’s cheeks heated up as he saw Phichit grin at her and throw a conspiratorial glance his way. “I’m not sure. Maybe if Minako asks him nicely enough he might.”

Minako turned to look back over her shoulder, “What do you think Yuuri? Do you want to get the tip jar and make some easy money?”

Yuuri looked down at the food on his plate, and then back at Minako, “I’m still trying your experimental sandwiches.”

“You know I will feed you something real later, not just finger sandwiches. What kind of boss and mother hen would I be if I didn’t?” She winked at him and tipped her head towards the empty tip jar.

It was sitting there waiting to be filled.

That familiar itch sparked in his fingertips as Yuuri turned to look at the piano bench.

It did look a little empty.

He sighed, a small smile pulling at his lips. “Okay. Yeah, I don’t have anything I’m doing anyway.”

Shrugging off his coat, he walked behind the bar and tucked it away, before grabbing the tip jar. He put it on the small table that Minako had set up just for the tip jar. The table was not to be moved under penalty of death or something close to it. Yuuri had never witnessed what happened when it was moved, but he had heard stories.

Several patrons clapped for Yuuri and he raised a hand to them with an easy smile before sliding into the seat and stretching his arms over his head.

It was silent as Yuuri put his hands to the keys.

He took in a deep breath and pressed his fingers down to begin. The notes floated from the strings as he moved his hands across the keyboard, creating music as he focused in. The only things that mattered were his fingers moving on the keys, his breathing, and the beautiful landscapes he could weave with his emotions into the music he made. No matter how long he played, to Yuuri the beautiful music he could create was better than any drug.

Phichit paused to listen and most of the patrons had turned to watch him as he played. Finished with his water rounds, Phichit returned to the bar sliding onto a bar stool, grabbing another one of the sandwiches from the plate. Taking a bite, he turned to watch Yuuri’s back as his shoulders flexed as he played. Turning to Minako he leaned over the bar whispering, “Even after everything he went through, Yuuri still loves music so much.”

He pushed the rest of the sandwich into his mouth, as Minako looked up from washing a few more glasses and plates. Her lips turned up into a quiet smile as her eyes flicked over to a woman who approached the tip jar putting a few dollars before she headed out into the cold Detroit night. “He’s always been like that. Even at his worst.”

One piece faded out, and another took its place as Yuuri transitioned between the pieces.

Most of the residual noise of the cafe had been reduced as people quietly turned their attention to Yuuri and relaxed, enjoying the music for what it was.

The smile on Yuuri’s lips as he played definitely didn’t hurt matters either.

Minako smiled, “He creates a safe space where he can be free inside the music. I wish he would spread his wings a little more though.”

------

Victor looked at his watch as he swayed back and forth in the elevator. He looked up and narrowed his eyes at the glowing light on the floor buttons as they highlighted and dimmed methodically, way too slow for his tastes.

It had been a long flight and an even longer cab ride to the hotel he would be using for his long term stay.

The elevator dinged and after a pause the door slid open.

Stepping out into the lobby of the hotel, Victor nodded to the front desk associate as he stepped through the automatic doors and onto the street. Taking in a deep breath, the air smelled of earth and rain.

Had it rained? Or was it about to? He really couldn’t be sure. It kind of seemed damp everywhere.

A cold wind swept past the musician as he bundled his scarf around his neck just a bit tighter. There was a bite in the air that Russia also had in January and for a split second Victor hesitated as he looked down the slowly darkening street. It was late.

But a thrill ran up his spine and he turned to the north and started up the street.

It’s my first night here. I don’t have that much time to get acquainted with this city. The a majority of what I want to see is probably closed already.

Detroit wouldn’t have been his first choice, but Yakov had steered him here. He had a fair amount of colleagues who ended up in the area. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he looked at the people wandering around the streets and the sheer amount of traffic passing by him on the the road.

“Let’s see what trouble I can get into.” Victor hummed to himself, a small smile on his lips.

As if sensing his intentions, the phone in his pocket buzzed.
Victor quietly fished it out and chuckled shaking his head as he swiped his finger across the screen. “Hello Yakov.”

“I thought I told you to check in with me when you got into town and checked into the hotel.” Yakov’s gruff voice barked at him through the speaker phone.

“You worry too much. I made it in just fine.” Victor laughed as he brushed his free hand through his hair. It bounced back into his face as he continued his slow trek, weaving in and out around strangers.

“If I didn’t call, you would have forgotten to.” Yakov grumbled.

“I typically forget.” Victor agreed.

“I wanted to make sure you were behaving yourself.” Yakov continued.

Victor couldn’t help the warmth that spread through his chest. This man was like his father, and whether or not he acknowledged it, Yakov was worrying in his own way. “It’s so sweet that you’re calling to check in on me. I’m so touched Yakov! You are such a great mentor.”

“I know this is hard for you to grasp Vitya, but do not cause any trouble there. I have many connections I can’t afford to lose because you’ve done something stupid. Just stay out of trouble until I get my flight settled. There is still so much work to be done.” Yakov gritted out, voice gruff in Victor’s ear.

“I’ve got it. I was just heading out to see if I could find a good place to sit down, listen to music and relax.” Victor told the older man as he shrugged his shoulder. The movement jostled the satchel against his side making him jump a bit.

Yakov gave a soft grunt in acknowledgement. “Don’t burn yourself out.”

Victor hummed and tapped his pointer finger to his lips, “I think we both know it’s too late for that warning.”

“I hope this project works out for you. If not, then we really have nothing to stand with for this season.” Yakov sighed.

A silence filled the space between them. Victor bit the inside of his cheek and shrugged to himself. “I’ll make it work. I’ve done harder things than this.”

“I hope you’re right.” Yakov told the other.

“I promise I’m on my best behavior. I really want this to work just as much as you do.” Victor promised.

“Be safe. I’ll see you soon. I’m sending the itinerary to your email. Make sure you meet with the contacts and send out the invites.” Yakov ordered.

“Yes sir.” Victor answered before he pulled the cell phone from his ear and tapped the red phone. Tucking the phone back into his pocket, he continued to wander down the street. After about ten minutes of walking, he finally paused in the dim glow of a store front window. He looked down the street.

All the lights that had been so inviting and seemed safe started to become more spaced out and the streets didn’t look as friendly.

Victor frowned and looked back at the way he had come.

He took back out his cellphone and opened up the browser. Just as he was about to start a search, he noticed two women laughing and talking to each other. Putting on his friendliest smile, he stepped up to them. “Excuse me?”

The girls both paused and turned to look at him. The taller one, blonde, raised an eyebrow and gave him a hesitant smile, “Yes?”

“I just got into town, and I was just looking for a place with good coffee. Some place that isn’t a Starbucks or major chain. Do you know of any place?”

Both girls exchanged glances, before the brunette motioned down the street behind them, “Actually, you’re not far from a great place. We were just in there to grab a coffee and listen to the live show.”

Victor brightened, “What kind of show?”

His attitude must have either been disarming enough, but both women relaxed and the first spoke up again, “They do a lot of piano music, sometimes they have little groups that play. It’s pretty cool.”

“You just mean Yuuri is cool.” The other girl grinned nudging her friend. The blonde blushed and elbowed her friend.

Victor smiled, “With a reaction like that it must be good.”

“It is!” The brunette piped up.

“It’s called Fleur.” The blonde adds.

Victor nodded and punched in the name of the cafe. True to their word it was about half a mile walk down the street. While he didn’t like how dim the street was, he would most definitely have to go now.

“Sounds good. Thank you so much for your help!” Victor waved to the women as they both smiled at him and proceeded back down the street on their way to wherever they may have been going.

Victor held his phone in his hand and made his way down the street, wind pushing against his advancement ever so often. But, finally the little blue dot on his map had made it to the destination. In front of him was a small store front with dimly lit windows and curtains. The name of the cafe Fleur was written in an elegant cursive script in gold on the window.

Pulling his satchel from his side to where he could dig through it. He located his ear buds and smiled as he slid the top of it closed once more.

Never know if the music is as good as they said it is. I guess I’ll have to check it out for myself right now.

Taking a deep breath, Victor pulled open the door and stepped inside.

Immediately after stepping in Victor relaxed. The inside of the cafe smelled wonderful. It was a combination of coffee and chai, both of which made his mouth instantly water.

The space was very nicely light up by the contemporary lights hanging from the metal criss cross grading hanging over the entire restaurant. The storefront made the space look deceptively small, but as he let his eyes scan the inside of the cafe, it was longer than it was wide, stretching further back than he expected.

The tables were made of a dark wood, which seemed to absorb the light into it so the light wasn’t too harsh on the eyes. Instead of uncomfortable metal or normal confining chairs, the regular seats were replaced with plush leather seats with cushioned bottoms that looked too inviting to turn down. The interior made use of the brick and the curtains hung in the windows contrasted the dark wooden shades that blocked eyes from peeping in from the outside.

At the back was a small bar and a miniscule selection of alcohol behind the counter. Towards the front was a beautiful piano. Without getting close to inspect it, the piano was probably a Steinway.

Without knowing anything else about Fleur, the atmosphere and the sheer amount of people packed into the space spoke volumes about the authenticity and popularity of the place.

Thank you music gods for guiding me here.

“Excuse me?” Victor was pulled out of his thoughts by a cheerful voice to his right. The young man was young probably just out of high school or first year of college.

“Oh. Sorry. I was just taking in the sights.” Victor answered as he put on his best smile. He had promised Yakov he would behave after all and he wasn’t in the market of alienating himself from such a great potential hang out space.

The young man nodded and looked around, “I was a little overwhelmed coming in here my first time too.”

“Oh I wasn’t-”

Victor started but the young man waved him off. “No worries. Follow me. Do you want a table or booth?”

“A booth please. Somewhere where I can see the pianist.” Victor requested. The young man gave him a curious look and a small smirk broke out on his features. Immediately the smirk threw Victor out of his element since the other had already jumped to conclusions of some sort.

But before things could get awkward, the young man brightened and moved over towards a booth that was the side of the piano. “This is probably the best seat in the house.”

Victor slid into the booth and the young waiter adjusted the nearest table so Victor could have an unobstructed view of the piano.

No one was at the piano now, but maybe they would come soon?

“My name is Phichit and I’ll be helping you tonight.” The young man, Phichit, greeted him formally.

He set the first menu down and motioned to it, “This is our food menu. This has our lighter soups, sandwiches, and salads on it.”

Next to that menu, he sat a larger booklet down, “This is our coffee and tea menu. When you’re ready just flag me down and I will be more than happy to put in an order for you. Yuuri is just taking a break right now, but he should be back on to play for a while longer.”

“Thank you Phichit.” Victor called as the young man waved and bounced off grabbing a water pitcher as someone called out to him.

Yuuri huh? How funny.

Victor spared a thought to the small angry pianist that he had left back in Russia before coming here to take care of all the arrangements for the orchestra. The young teen had been filled with rage as Victor had been loading up his bags into the taxi. He had been told he would not be coming to help.

It had taken a lot of screaming and arguing between the young blonde and Yakov before Yuri had finally given up and gone to practice with Lilia a couple of hours before Victor had to be to the airport.

Flipping through the drink menu, Victor smiled to himself as he perused the different drink choices.

Perfect. I’ll get the caramel macchiato, and have a ham and cheese sandwich with a small glass of water will be just what I need.

Shutting the menu, Victor turned and waited to get Phichit’s attention. Remembering his satchel, he slid it off his shoulder and opened up pulling out the book he had started on the plane and opened it up.

----

“Phichit come here.” Minako hissed at the other flagging down the young college student as he passed by.

Stopping mid-stride, Phichit turned back to her and leaned over the bar, “Is something wrong?”

“No. Nothing’s wrong, I just wanted to say the man over by the piano is hot. Did you grab his name? Number? Anything?” Minako asked as she leaned forward using her hand to obscure her words from the nearby patrons.

“No, but I did notice that he was very pretty.” Phichit copied her motion as he winked at her from behind the menu he was using.

“What do I employ you for if you don’t get the good information?” Minako teased as she leaned back grabbing another glass, buffing it free of water spots. Phichit rolled his eyes and snorted as he glanced over his shoulder towards Victor.

“I’ll see what I can figure out when I go get his order.” Phichit promised.

“Good boy. He really looks familiar though, maybe he’s famous.” Minako hummed thoughtfully to herself.

“Famous? Who?” Yuuri said as he sat at the bar, and Minako filled up the glass she had buffed with water, sliding it to him.

Yuuri gratefully accepted it and took a long sip.

“The hot guy. Over there by the piano.” Minako muttered under her breath.

Phichit grinned at his best friend, “I can’t believe you didn’t notice him the moment he walked in.”

Yuuri turned to look back towards where Phichit tipped his head to make his point. His breath caught in his throat as his eyes wandered over the man sitting down reading. He was beautiful.

Phichit cleared his throat, “What do you think?”

Yuuri felt his face heat up and he shrugged turning quickly. He pushed his glasses up his nose and ducked his head, “Yeah, I wasn’t paying attention, so I’m not sure.”

“Oh! One thing I notice is that he has a Russian accent. He’s definitely not from around here, or if he is, then he’s just moved here.” Phichit tells Minako in a stage whisper. Minako turns and studied the man once more.

“Fair skin, good looks, Russian accent. Sounds like the perfect type of man for me.”

“If you weren’t dating Celestino. Who is bronze, buff, and sports an italian accent.” Yuuri answers primly taking a sip of water.

“Hey, I like to look. You can’t begrude me that. Besides, I think that sounds like someone else’s preferences anyway.” Minako threw a pointed look at Yuuri.

Yuuri ducked his head again and cleared his throat as he finished drinking the water and stiffly sat the drink down on the bar. “Well, on that note, I should get back to playing.”

------

Sometimes when Phichit and Minako played off of each other they could become an overwhelming force. Yuuri sighed and settled himself on the piano bench and let the tension leave his body. But before he could start playing a soft cough came from beside the piano that faced towards the cafe.

Turning around, Yuuri was greeted by the sight of a older woman, hands clasped in front of her as she smiled patiently at him. Yuuri smiled back and shifted towards her, “Is there something I can do for you Ma’am?”

The woman brightens as Yuuri speaks to her and she steps forward, gripping her hands in front of her as she ducks her head slightly. “I don’t know if it’s okay or not to request something, but I was hoping that you would play something for my husband and I. We are celebrating our anniversary tonight.”

Yuuri smiled, “Of course. How many years?”

“Thirty.” The older woman, tucked a long strand of grey hair behind her ear.

“I’d be honored to play for you. I have just the piece.” Yuuri nodded to her and before he could turn around the woman reached out and touched his arm.

“Let me pay you something for this.”

Yuuri shook his head, “Consider it a gift from myself and the management at Fleur.”

The woman beamed, nodded and stepped away moving back to the table where her husband, equally grey, was waiting. Yuuri sucked in a breath and slowly let it out as he rolled his shoulders and shook out his hands.

A woman and man celebrating thirty years of marriage.

A long lasting love that few ever really found in their life.

Yuuri shut his eyes and put his fingers to the keys. It was time to paint a beautiful picture that celebrated them. Yuuri let his fingers press lightly into the keyboard as he began to play one of his favorite pieces.

This Joy.

It was a playful piece whose notes were uplifting and happy. Yuuri’s fingers skipped over the keys as he let them work, giving himself over to the music. It was almost as if he could feel himself travelling down a bright sunlight path framed by beautiful shade trees. If he walked far enough, he knew someone would be standing at the end waiting for him.

He pulled himself back as the music slowed and he hit the last two notes as the sound tapered off.

Once again he was sitting at the piano, taking in a deep breath as his eyes focused in on the keys at his fingertips. There was a round of applause from some of the patrons, which startled him and he looked up. Most of the patrons were watching him, smiling and happy.

Yuuri felt his cheeks flush as he nodded his head and gave the crowd a small embarrassed smile.

The woman wandered back up, a small smile on her lips, “That was wonderful. I had heard from my daughter and some of her friends that there was an exceptional talent who played here.”

Yuuri cleared his throat and shook his head, “You’re giving me too much credit. Everyone that performs here is very good at what they do.”

“If they are as half as good as you, then I think that my husband and I have found our new favorite place.” The elderly woman confided quietly. The warmth those words gave Yuuri were immeasurable.

This was why he played.

Before he could stop her, the woman quietly opened up her purse and took out a twenty dollar bill. She showed it to Yuuri and then put it in his tip jar.

“You can’t give back a tip. That’s against the rules.” The woman winked at him and Yuuri felt his whole face light on fire.

“That is very generous, thank you so much!” Minako called out as she wandered over, slinging the bar rag onto her shoulder as she reached out and shook the other woman’s hand.

The elderly lady squeezed her hand. “Yes, I think my husband and I will have to come back soon, and often.”

Minako beamed at Yuuri and then gently guided the older woman away from him, “I think I have just the thing for you. We have a schedule up of who is playing when.”

Yuuri huffed softly, and relaxed himself for a second as he tried to figure out what he wanted to play next.

It doesn’t take him long before his fingers push at the keys once again to create another melody. This one just as relaxing and happy as the first.

-----

The book wasn’t the best that Victor had read. No, it was just something that he had picked up to pass the time between flights and layovers. It had cost him about ten dollars and had been on sale.

Spectacular! the critics promised.

He was still waiting for the spectacular part to come in. The characters weren’t bad, but there were other tropes he liked better in a book. But, once Victor started a book he didn’t give up on it.

A small smile curled on his lips as he hummed softly, turning another page.

The music that accompanied his reading was soothing as usual and relaxed him even more so he could concentrate on the words on the page. Piano music was always a surprise. It could be soothing, but always beautifully powerful. He reached down and pressed the up volume on the side of his phone.

The music didn’t grow louder.

Victor frowned.

He tried to tap the volume button. Again it stayed the same volume.

Blinking, he reached up to toy with his headphones and his fingers stopped at the shell of his ear.

That’s right, he wasn’t wearing his headphones.

After the ending note of the piece he had been listening to faded out to another more subdued lyrical piece. It’s a slow ballad sounding peace, something more suited to the background of a romantic scene in a movie.

If he hadn’t of noticed his headphones were not in his ears, Victor would have sworn he was listening to a professional piece of music from a movie soundtrack.

It was like taking a breath of fresh air.

I’ve never been so glad to forget to put my headphones in.

Placing his book down lightly on the table in front of him, Victor tipped his head up and took in the sight of the person sitting on the piano bench.

Phichit had said his name was Yuuri, hadn’t he?

But unlike the powerful strikes of sound and Yuri’s crazy classical runs, this Yuuri played with careful presses on the keys, caressing the sound from them. It was a tentative yet joyful sound that wrapped around Victor’s heart in a vice and stole the breath from his lungs.

Beautiful.

Leaning back against the cushion of the booth, Victor tipped his head to the side as he watched the pianist sway left and right as he moved his hands with such care as if the music was coming from inside himself rather than from the instrument.

“Here is your food.” Phichit’s voice startled him from his listening, a weight settling down on him as he turned to look at the sandwich he had ordered along with the coffee. The cheese on the sandwich was just right and made it’s slow descent from the sides of the sandwich towards the stark white plate.

“Oh. Um, thanks. I was a little distracted.” Victor mumbled absently, as he leaned back where he had the best view to watch Yuuri.

“No problem. He’s awesome, right?” Phichit whispers, before he nods and waves to Victor moving to help someone else a few booths over.

Victor wasn’t sad to see him go.

Jolted out of his listening stupor, Victor turned to look at the rest of the patrons in Fleur. It was unusually quiet and what he saw didn’t surprise him. The people talking as Yuuri played had their heads close together and were whispering, but almost everyone else had stopped what they were doing and listened as Yuuri played.

Yuuri was able to command attention and entertain the room without having to be flashy and play attention grabbing pieces. That was no easy feat to do. No, everyone that was there was there to listen to what he had to offer.

This was what music was supposed to be and what Victor wanted so desperately to grasp in his own playing.

Yuuri was wonderful.

Victor picked up his coffee and lifted it to his lips.

Hot coffee greeted him and made him flinch, pulling the cup back from his mouth with a grimace. He hadn’t expected it to be that hot. Had time really crawled along that slowly? Looking at his cup steam wafted off the surface of the cream colored liquid. He looked back at his sandwich and licked his lips, gently placing the cup back on its coaster.

Maybe the sandwich first.

The finally faded out and there are a few tentative claps, but no one around him seemed to want to break the spell that had been cast over everyone back making themselves loud. There was a pause before the next song started up.

This one was as careful and quiet as the last until past about a minute and a half. Victor reached down to grab his sandwich and take a bite while he listened. The piece was different from the first in that the other had been carefree and sunny through the entire piece. This traded off a careful darkness for a tentative light.

The music wound around Victor and wrapped around his heart almost making it hard for him to draw a breath. He didn’t want to breathe, let alone take his eyes off of Yuuri as he played.

It was simultaneously the most beautiful and difficult thing to listen to as the pianist opened himself up and embedded his soul into the music. It was almost like looking into Yuuri himself and laying bare everything that made him.

The screen of his phone lit up, breaking Victor from his trance as he frowned when he saw the screaming picture of his father figure he had lovingly placed as his contact picture.

This is no place to take a call.

Catching Phichit’s eye, Victor waved to his phone and to outside. The young man nodded and motioned for him to go out. Nodding his thanks, Victor made a hasty retreat outside.

“Are you not sleeping?” Yakov’s gruff voice greeted him as soon as he picked up the line.

“If you thought that I might be would you have called?” Victor asked, taking a deep breath of the chilled air instantly wishing he was already back inside enjoying his dinner.

Yakov grunted in amusement, “Are you staying out of trouble?”

“I was trying to have dinner and listen to some local talent when you called. I had to step outside so I wouldn’t be seen as rude.” Victor tells him.

“I wanted to let you know that there will be some delays. Lilia and I will be in a day later, and Mila’s flight will be on schedule. Make sure she doesn’t get into trouble.” Yakov orders.

“Da. I’ll make sure. She’s fine if it’s just her without Yura.” Victor agrees.

“That’s it. I’ll see you soon.” With that, Yakov disconnected the call.

Victor shook his head and sighed as he jammed the phone back into his pocket, “You could have just emailed me.”

Of course, Yakov had his own way of worrying for others.

Stepping back inside, Victor looks towards the piano expecting to see Yuuri, but is greeted by an empty piano bench and a missing pianist. Light pop music floods the cafe, as Victor wandered back over to his table.

Noticing the tip jar, he stopped and pulled out his wallet from his pocket pulling out a hundred dollar bill. He stuffs it into the jar just as the woman behind the bar called out, “Ladies and Gentlemen please be ready to cash out. We close in ten!”

Victor grimaced and sat down to stuff his face so he didn’t end up staying over, washing it down with his sufficiently cooled coffee.

----

The rest of the evening flew by like the blink of an eye for Yuuri.

He had been so wrapped up that when Minako called 10 minutes, he hadn’t realized that it had been that long at all. He played one more song, and then had stood to the applause of the patrons before excusing himself back to the back room while Minako and Phichit took care of getting everything wrapped up.

Settling down on the couch, he pushed his hair off his slightly damp forehead, slumping back against the worn cushions, letting a slow sigh out.

Even with how distracted he had been by playing, he had noticed that the man that Phichit and Minako had honed in on. He felt the weight of his gaze as he continued to play. Then he had simply picked up and left after a few moments.
But, it hadn’t been for long.

He had seen the other come back and settle back in after the last ten minutes were called. He had practically shoved his sandwich into his mouth and chased it with whatever coffee he had ordered.

The silver haired stranger had been the second to last patron to leave.

Who exactly was he? Maybe Phichit knew a little more. After all his friend had waited on the stranger and with how friendly Phichit was it was almost certain he knew something.

Shaking out his arms, Yuuri stood back up and peeked into the restaurant.

Minako turned and grinned, “You can come out now. Everyone is gone, and Phichit and I are finishing up. Come count your tips so we can go grab a real dinner.”

“Do you want to bet on how much he got tonight?” Phichit called out as he wiped down one of the table tops with a rag, a spray bottle of disinfectant clenched in his other hand.

“Hmm. You’re on! I’m going to say, one hundred fifty.” Minako offered.

Yuuri rolled his eyes, “My, you’re being generous tonight.”

He had never broken one hundred twenty five. Not even on one of his best nights. Thankfully he had what he needed and the tips went to cushioning what his scholarships already covered to live there. It was a nice padding that he definitely would miss if Minako ever closed up shop.

“That old woman seemed to really appreciate you, also there were more than a few people that came up and tipped you while you were playing.” Minako hummed as Yuuri settled at the bar.

“I’ll say two hundred!” Phichit called back to them as he wiped down the table next to the other, taking his time.

“Really?” Yuuri snorted.

That was going a little overboard. There was no way he would have made that much.

Minako turned and placed the large jar in front of him and swept her hands out and shrugged, “Well, we won’t know until you count it, will we?”

Yuuri rolled his eyes and picked up the jar, placing it between his thighs as he reached in pulling out several dollar bills. “Okay let me get this all in order and we can count better that way.”

True to Minako’s word, there seemed to be a lot of money in there.

More than usual.

“Huh. Did we have a larger turn out today?” Yuuri asked faintly.

“Mmhmm. Though you only played half as much as what you normally would. A lot of people waited until you were on break or not paying attention to put in their tips.” Minako grinned as she held her clipboard, tapping the tip of the pen on the paper beside Yuuri’s name.

“Oh. Well.” Yuuri huffed softly, a small smile on his lips.

Putting the bills in a stack, he looked over them. He took a deep breath and shuffled through them. He took out his phone and brought up his calculator, as he counted the money.

As expected there was about twenty in ones, thirty five in fives, and then, surprisingly a couple twenties. But, he wasn’t done yet. He continued to punch in the numbers on his calculator as he stopped to look at the amount. His heart stuttered in his chest.

Minako raised an eyebrow at him, “Well? What’s the total.”

“I’m not done yet, but...Maybe I should recount once I’m done.” Yuuri mumbled.

“Oh? Why?” Minako leaned over the bar to look at the calculator.

“No way! That’s wonderful.” Minako gasped.

The total on the calculator read one hundred and forty five.

“Wow! That’s great.” Phichit cried out as he threw his hands up in the air, spinning to stare at his best friend and his boss.

“He’s not done.” Minako answered.

Yuuri looked down at a few of the other bills clenched in his palm. Uncrumpling them, it turned out there was another five dollars in ones. And then the next bill was a fifty.

A fifty.

“Two hundred. Unbelievable!” Minako muttered as she chewed on the tip of her nail, eyes on the stack of money in front of her young charge.

“I’m a little surprised myself. I’ve never made anything bigger than a twenty. A fifty. Wow.” Yuuri admitted breathlessly.

“No. Yuuri. Look at the bill in your hand.”

Yuuri looked down, and immediately the color drained from his face. He had been so surprised at the fifty he hadn’t exactly finished counting. He had been shocked at that, but the bill clenched in his hand threatened to knock him out.

“One hundred…” Yuuri whispered in awe as he looked at the slightly crumpled bill.

He looked up at Minako and she stared hard at him. “With that the total of your tips is?”

Yuuri took a recount and looked at Minako, “Three hundred and two dollars and some change.”

“Incredible.”

Phichit smiled as he slid onto the barstool near Yuuri. “Well, since I was closer than Minako then that means I won the bet.”

“I’m kind of glad we never settled on terms.” Minako admitted as she scrubbed at a few spots behind the bar, as Yuuri sat there and stared dumbly down at the money in neat little rows in front of him.

“Three hundred and two dollars.” Yuuri whispered.

Phichit grinned, “Well we knew you were talented. It’s just people catching up to what we already knew.”

“Exactly. Listen to Phichit.” Minako agreed.

With the temporary shock having worn off, Minako motioned to the doors as she pulled her keys from the keyring on her hip. “Tonight I promised you I would take you to grab real dinner. Also, this is something to celebrate. You two game still?”

Phichit whooped and bounced off the stool, “Of course we are! We have to celebrate Yuuri’s big success!”

Even though it was a lot of money, Yuuri couldn’t help the faint dread that settled itself at the lower part of his spine.

-----

It took Victor no time at all to go back to his large suite and fall into a restful sleep with the jet lag catching up to him. Though it feels like he’s just shut his eyes when his alarm sounds out, the weariness is nothing he hasn’t felt before.

He goes through the motions of getting a shower, getting dressed, and getting down to the lobby in the restaurant where they have a complimentary buffet.

As he grabs a few eggs, a croissant, and cup of coffee, his thoughts wandered towards Fleur and to the easy atmosphere of the cafe. Part of him wants to go again, but as he studies the itinerary that Yakov had revised and sent to him, he frowns.

There is violin practice built in for the morning. He had been expecting that and probably would have squeezed in some time himself, but Yakov had specified a four hours minimum after breakfast.

He sighed and shoved a piece of egg in his mouth.

Victor didn’t need to practice that much did he?

He could almost hear Yakov gruff voice in the back of his head.

You need to practice that much Vitya to make sure that the practice sticks and that you polish every single note. You won’t put your best performance out if you don’t do that.

It was the same argument he had heard from his teachers and private instructors growing up.

Practice, practice, practice.

Practice slow. Practice fast. Use different bow patterns for the scales. Metronome practice, practice with the recorded piano part. Practice with a the actual pianist.

He chomped on the end of the croissant, chewing on it as he frowned.

If Yakov had really wanted to keep him out of trouble, the things he had lined up for the day certainly would.

After the four hours of practice, with adequate breaks in between each hour, he would have about an hour and a half for lunch. Then he had to go meet with Celestino Cialdini to tour the space for the auditions. Then he had to go ahead and confirm travel for the instrumentalists coming in from out of country and make sure the hotel rooms were booked.

Then he was to start calling and confirming all the venues for the tour and also work with the sponsors and make sure that all the pay cards were good for the symphony and chorus they would have. After all, if expenses weren’t at least supplemented for some of the travel then most of the musicians couldn’t take that time.

That would take almost all his time and would require lots of e-mails and desk time.

“Ahh, and here I wanted to go back to Fleur.” Victor lamented to himself. He pulled up the hours for the cafe and blinked as a small smile spread across his features.

There was wifi there. All Victor had to do was make sure his Mac was charged up and ready to go. He could take a early lunch, settle in and listen to the wonderful music that would come his way.

Perfect.

After shoveling another two plates of food into his mouth, Victor finally wandered back into his suite and grabbed his violin from its case. Practice goes pretty much how he expected. He worked the first hour on all of his scales before he pulled out the tentative music repertoire that he and Yakov were still hashing out and started to slowly work his way through the notes.

A few of the pieces he makes notes on and some he strikes completely after making a few notes for Yakov on why the pieces won’t work.

It’s a labor of love and by the time the four hours are up, Victor grins satisfied at himself. He had skipped two of the breaks and extended out the other two which gave him a little less than two hours for lunch.

He slowly loosens the hair on his bow and tuck both it and the violin back into his case as he zips the case up and settles it on the cushioned piano bench in the sun room. Without so much as a glance back at the two instruments, he grabs his Macbook and stuffs it into his satchel checking his phones time.

“Two hours to eat, thirty to forty five minutes of travel time and then I’ll have the meeting with Celestino.” He mutters to himself, satisfied.

After that it was back to Fleur.

Victor felt a pull to the man that had played so wonderfully. He wanted, no needed, to hear him again.

There was something there for him, Victor just wasn’t sure what exactly it was yet, but he wasn’t going to wait to lose sight of whatever it was.

Stepping out into the hotel hallway, Victor listened to the door shut and the electronic lock whirr into place before he moved down the hall to the elevator.

----

Lunch was a very boring affair. Victor had made the mistake of going into a packed restaurant. He had snagged a small two person table to himself, when a young woman shyly asked to share the spot with him.

Things like this happened in larger cities with busy restaurants.

He hadn’t really paid attention to the gleam in her eye, his thoughts back in a certain cafe shop. She had tried to get him to talk, and when he had pulled himself mentally away, she had huffed and gotten up from the table flouncing out.

She had also left her check, which the waiter made Victor cover.

Fun.

He had very little time to come back and pep himself up into the bubbly and perfect Victor Nikiforov that no doubt Celestino would expect. Part of him didn’t have the energy.

When I told Yakov I wanted something different for this, why is it still so similar to being front and center stage?

Victor watched as the buildings flew by as the driver wove in and out of the traffic like an expert. Thankfully his cab driver hadn’t been the talkative type, if he had then Victor would have had to try and be chatty even sooner.

The cab driver didn’t say two words to him and for Victor that was okay with that.

Feeling more charitable Victor gave the man a good tip for being anti-social, even though the man didn’t know that’s what he was being paid for. The man wordlessly gave Victor his card with a written number on it.

“Call me. I’ll be here in ten and take you anywhere.” The man promised him in a gruff clipped voice.

Victor managed a smile and tucked the number into his coat pocket for safe keeping.

----

“Ah Victor! I am so glad you found our building. It wasn’t too much trouble was it?” An older man greeted the violin prodigy as he walked in.

Victor smiled, “Ah, you must be Celestino. It was very easy to find. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. Yakov sends his regrets that he was stuck another day in Russia. I know that you both wanted to catch up before getting down to business.”

Celestino gripped his hand and chuckled. “Yes, it was a long time ago when we still traveled enough to sit on a stage together. But, as you get older you just don’t like to travel as much anymore.”

“So I’ve heard. You and your community orchestra are exactly why Yakov has agreed to travel at all. He said you have a lot of talent that we will be able to tap into.” Celestino puffs up his chest and stands just a little taller.

“I can’t take all the credit for the talent we have here. The students themselves are talented, but the drive here is good because most of them are from the local college.” Celestino tells him as they walk towards a reception desk.

A women sat behind the desk and smiled up at him. Celestino motioned to her as she stood up and brushed her hands over her skirt, smoothing it out. “Victor, this is my secretary and assistant Francesca.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Victor reached over and grasped her hand in his shaking it briefly.

“It’s not every day we have such a highly esteemed visitor. I hope you find our facilities to your liking.” Celestino chuckled and steered Victor down past the front desk. Francesca smiled and settled herself back into her chair as she shifted herself closer to the computer.

With one last wave, Victor turned and let himself be guided towards a door at the end of the hall. “So this is where the practice room is. We don’t really use the stage unless it’s for a performance. We have our dress rehearsal on it the night before and then the performance.”

Celestino opened the door, reached to the wall and flicked on the light.

The lights came to life with a hum and Victor smiled. The room was large enough to hold a decent sized orchestra. Theirs would definitely be below the full capacity. The room was cold, which was also a good thing. Around the room there were cubbies for violins and violas, and larger storage for the cellos and bases. At the other side of the room there was a practice piano.
“This is just what we were looking for.” Victor turned to grin at the retired musician.

Celestino gave him a thumbs up, “Good. I have some price sheets for the practice room and the stage.”

“Before we agree, I’ll take a few pictures and then we can look at the stage. If that’s okay?” Celestino nodded and motioned as if to release him. Victor stepped into the room and pulled out his phone.

After he had taken more than a handful of pictures for Yakov, Victor let himself be led down the hall once again to a door, this time at the front of the hallway. He opened it up and Celestino flicked on the lights. The stage lights lit up the stage but the rest of the auditorium stayed dark.
It was a medium sized auditorium, something that wouldn’t be amiss in a school, but it was big enough for the auditions.

“What do you think?”

“I think it’ll work. I know that Yakov will definitely want to sign the contract.” Victor tapped his pointer finger against his lips as he stared at the seats.

He turned to look at Celestino, “Do you have enough stands for at least twenty people? Also we will need two tables that we can sit at the front over here.”

Celestino hummed in agreement, “Yes, we have at least thirty stands also the two tables will be no problem. To help with the auditions it might be easier if you give times and stagger them out.”

“That’s a really good idea. Let’s go get those price sheets.” Victor trailed after Celestino as the elder musician led him off stage.

Even though he was supposed to be totally immersed in his work, thoughts of Fleur were not far off the front of his mind.

They stopped by the front desk. Celestino grabbed a few pricing guides and a pen as he scribbled on them, “I know that I could just give you the regular prices, but because I own the space and Yakov is an old friend he gets a good discount.”

Victor looked down at the sheet and the discount prices that Celestino had written, lips curling into a small hesitant smile. “That’s almost a fifty percent discount.”

“Just let Yakov know I expect him to take care of my kids that you all take from my orchestra.”

“Definitely.” Victor assured him.

-----

It had been a long afternoon for Celestino.

He had a lot of things to take care of. They were in the middle of a website redesign for the orchestra and the building itself. Francesca could do only so much on her own, but together they managed to make it work. Minako had been able to help with some more of the items that they needed like stands and rental instruments, but there was still a lot of paperwork.

Too much paperwork sometimes for the easiness of the actual work day.

It was later, much later than he wanted it to be, but he was just wrapping up when his phone rang. Reaching over he picked up the wireless phone off the desk and hit answer.

“Ciao ciao!”

“Celestino. Good morning.” Yakov’s rough voice greeted him.

Celestino checked his watch, and frowned, “Early morning flight?”

Yakov grunted in agreement and Celestino chuckled, “We used to be young enough to go out after a concert and make it to the airport and get on the plane.”

“That was a more than a couple of years ago.” Yakov grumbled.

“True.”

“So what time should you be in?”

Yakov paused and barked something at someone, then sighed. “Apparently this is the shortest flight. It’s about thirteen hours.”

Celestino whistled softly and shook his head.

“Lilia will get in a little later than I will, but not so far that we will have to leave the airport before having to come back for her.”

“Don’t you want to get to the hotel and get some rest?”

Yakov sighed, “I can sleep when Lilia and I are both picked up. Do you mind?”

“I thought it was a given that either myself of Francesca would pick you up.” Francesca had already offered to open and watch the practice rooms and check people in and out that day, so Celestino had assumed he would be on ambassador duty.

Of course, Celestino had a soft spot for his old friend and would play his part happily.

“Good. Did Victor come and visit you? He was supposed to on his list of things I gave him to do today.” Yakov asked.

“Ah, yes he did. I gave him the prices, he took pictures, and he said that you would sign the contract. He seems a little different than the man you described on the phone.” Celestino answered.

Yakov humphed. “He has his moments.”

“Don’t they all?” Celestino sits back in his chair, stretching his arms over his head. He balanced the phone between the side of his face and his neck.

“I’m sure you have some problem children of your own.”

Celestino thinks on the faces in the small city orchestra and hums in agreement. “Not problem children just anxious ones.”

“Anxiousness never mixes well with sitting on a stage for a living.” Yakov bites out.

Someone, probably an attendant or person at the gate speaks up on the other side of the line. Yakov growls out something in short clipped Russian. “Anyway, we will be in sooner than it feels.”

“I wish I were young enough to travel and play like we used to.”

Yakov snorts and mutters, “We will talk more when Lilia and I arrive.”

“You will take me out for drinks, right? It’s the least you can do since you’ll be stealing away some of my best instrumentalists for a season.” Celestino teases the older man.

“Da. I will even pay for more than one drink.” Yakov chuckles softly, a sound that not many people usually hear. It’s one that brings a small smile to Celestino’s lips.

“See you soon.”

------

It was supposed to be an easy evening.

Victor was just supposed to pop into his suite after visiting with Celestino Cialdini, and then he wanted to load up his laptop and finish the rest of his busy work while listening to good music at Fleur. He wanted to run into Yuuri and see if they could at least talk to each other this time before the other took off with his heart again.

But, all thoughts of leaving had been dashed when he opened up his email and saw over thirty new emails waiting for his attention.

Damn.

Victor tapped the keys on his laptop without his usual enthusiasm as he opened the first of several spreadsheets. He checked the names and e-mails, resent invitations that he had new contact information for, and let his mind wander as he put in a few more addresses off a list that Yakov had compiled.

What about Yuuri?

What about him? Victor curled his fingers into fists over his keyboard for a second, a frown sliding onto his features. The other was a wonderful pianist, but what about Lina? She was the pianist that Lilia and Yakov would want him to work with.

They had a close working relationship and no one could work with him as well as she could. She was even tempered and fair, and there had been many times she had stood up for him when Yakov swore he had gone to far.

She was his partner.

She was also a mother and had decided it would be good for her to take time and be at home with her son. Victor couldn’t begrudge her that. She was happy.

He thought about her sleepy smile from the hospital bed as she sat there, covered in sweat in the sterile room, a small bundle in her arms. Nicholai fussed softly and finally relaxed on her as she stared up at Victor with a tired smile, but that same spark in her eye.

Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Victor tapped his pointer fingers on the keys gently as he sighed to himself, slumped back in the desk chair.

Was it fair to her?

Was it fair to him to replace her with someone he had only heard once? He didn’t even have the information to formally invite Yuuri to try out.

Also, Lina had told him she might come.

Even for as well as they knew each other-

“She’s not Yuuri.” Victor spoke the words out loud, almost startling himself with the realization. He pressed the palm of his hand to his forehead and laughed, though there was no real humor in it.

He wanted to play with Yuuri. The other could create music with his body.

Even Lina would understand if she heard him play. She had to.

Victor shut the laptop and stood up, brushing both of his hands through his hair as he turned away from the desk. He feet sunk into the carpet as he wandered slowly over to the luggage rack where his violin case was situated. Unzipping it, Victor pulled apart the velcro handle that kept the straps together and opened up his case.

Nestled in the blue velvet insides was his violin.

Picking it up, he held it against his stomach and gently ran his thumb over each string.

E...A...D...G…

He set the violin back down inside the case for a second before gently removing the bow from the case. He tightened the bow, and once he was satisfied, he pulled out the dampener and placed it on the bridge. It would be bad manners to practice with full sound in a hotel room.

All he wanted to do was to relieve a little stress anyway.

Picking up his violin, he placed it onto his shoulder and drug his bow across the strings. The buzzing quieted sound made his lips turn upward. It sounded so ridiculous practicing any song like this.

The second to last piece that Yuuri had played the evening before still remained in his head. Probably because it was the most familiar to him. One of his old friends at the conservatory used to play it when he was messing around after a long day of practicing. Pietro had gone on to quit music a few years later after he had found the love of his life and they had both moved to Germany for her job.

What a waste.

But, it wasn’t Pietro’s playing that he heard. It was Yuuri’s now. The beautiful notes took hold of his heart and refused to give it back. Victor shut his eyes and took a deep breath as he started to play the melody, dutifully following the rise and fall of the notes. He could almost see Yuuri startle, his playing coming to a halt.

Victor could feel those wide eyes on him as he played back in his own version of an answer to the inherent melody inside Yuuri.

That’s right. Keep your eyes on me. Let me show you how much you’ve captivated me.

A smiled played on Victor’s lips as he continued to play, the buzzing as loud as he could possibly make it now as he reached the crescendo of the piece. It was almost easier to breathe just then. It was almost easier to let the music fill him up until it was brimming inside and threatening to spill over out of him and let it touch everyone around him.

Come play with me, Yuuri.

Before he had a chance to play the ending notes of the piece there was a knock at the door of his room. Victor let out a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding. Frowning, he moved toward the luggage rack and set his violin back down inside.

There was another few knocks.

“Coming!” Victor called out as he loosened his bow and pushed it into the case. Shutting the case, he headed towards the door. Checking through the peephole, Victor was greeted by the sight of Mila Babicheva standing in front of his door.

Victor opened the door slightly, peeking his head out, “Was I being too loud? I was even playing with a dampener.”

“I knew it was you. Also, even if I hadn’t Yakov gave me your room number.” Mila answered simply as she clasped her hands in front of her, grinning.

“Aren’t you tired?” Victor opened the door and stepped back to allow her to enter.

“Wow this room is way bigger than mine! How unfair.” Mila teased him as she looked around and took her time scanning the room. Victor shut the door behind her and leaned back against it with a sigh.

“If I interrupted your practice, I can wait for you to finish. I figured we could go get dinner together.” Mila stretched her arms over her head, toed off her slip ons, and pulled her legs up onto the couch.

Victor walked over to his case, and opened it back up staring down at his violin. The feeling had left him and so had the want to pick up the violin. He picked it up, took off the dampener, and placed everything back just so in his case. “How can I practice when I have a visitor?”

“But I’m not really a visitor that you need to impress. Oh. To answer your question, I just made it in maybe two hours ago. Yakov told me to call you and have you pick me up, but I wanted to find my own way.” Mila added, refusing to meet Victor’s eye.

Victor frowned, “Not only must you be tired, but if something had happened because you were stubborn I would never have forgiven myself. For once, could you have chosen to listen to Yakov?”

“It was no trouble to get here. I just got a taxi and put it on the card that my mama gave me for travel.” Mila waved him off her cheeks flushing in embarrassment. Victor sighed and plopped down next to her on the couch.

“No one is saying you can’t do it yourself, but there is only one person here that can look out for you right now.” Victor reached out tapping the tip of his finger onto the tip of Mila’s nose.

“Vitya….Sorry. I should have called.” Mila sighed as she leaned against his shoulder.

Even for someone who was years behind him Mila was very mature for her age. Sometimes it was hard for him to remember that she was a young girl who had just turned eighteen. Because her mother and father had high expectations of her, Mila always keep nearly the same practice hours as Victor.

She had never really hung out with others outside of their musical group in Russia.

“Well, what’s done is done. It’s good you made it and now that you’re here we should go grab dinner and celebrate.” Victor nudged her gently with his shoulder.

Mila rolled her eyes and tipped her head up to look at him. “Are you buying?”

Victor grinned, “Only if I get to pick the place.”

-----

 

Minako sighed gently as she brushed her hand over the top of the bar. Phichit sat on the corner stool as he waited for the general rush to start. That wouldn’t happen for another two hours at least. There were only a few people here and there around the restaurant, and he’d checked on everyone at least twice.

The bells on the door jingled, and Minako looked up. She sucked in a breath as she stared right at the silver haired patron from the night before. A young woman with bright red hair followed him in, looking around curiously.

“Phichit.” Minako hissed. Phichit turned and looked back at Minako from his cell phone.

“That man from last night is back and this time he has company.” She leaned over the bar and grabbed two menus shoving them towards her volunteer server.

“Do you think she’s competition?” Phichit asked, brows knitting as he turned to look over his shoulder, and then back towards Minako. She shook her head slightly and stood back up with a grim smile plastered on her face.

Phichit stood and turned to take the menu, only to find himself toe to toe with the man himself.

The silver haired stranger gently grabbed the menus from Phichit’s hands, “Thanks Phichit. I’m glad I came in a bit earlier today.”

“I noticed. Well, we all noticed.” Phichit finished with a small smile.

“Oh, well I’m sorry to have cut you off at the pass.”

Turning towards Minako, she watched as the man stepped between barstools, leaning on the bar offering his hand to her. “You must be the owner of this nice establishment. I have to say that I really enjoy what I heard last night, your pianist is amazing.”

Minako reached out grabbing his hand, “I’m glad you enjoyed Yuuri’s playing. He’s definitely one of several amazing people that comes to play.”

Phichit watched surprise flit over the patrons face, as he shook her hand, “Is that right? Then there is something I would like to discuss with you. If you have the time?”

Minako blinked and tipped her head to the side, curiously watching Victor. “Oh? What would that be?”

Phichit shook his head and grabbed the water pitcher as he held it up, “I think I’m going to top off everyone’s water and get your guest a glass. Do you want one?”

The older man, looked away from Minako and smiled, “Yes please. I’m sure that Mila would be happy to have water. She just came in on an international flight. Oh. Here.”

Without missing a beat he held out the menus to Phichit, who took them back.

“Tell her she can have anything she wants off the menu. She must be a bit tired, so I think it would be nice for her to have something good to eat.”

With those instructions in mind, Phichit made his hasty retreat from the bar.

“Before you get started on whatever proposition or idea you have. Why don’t you and I become better acquainted?” Minako suggested softly as she narrowed her eyes on the young man in front of her.

“Oh. Where are my manners. My name is Victor Nikiforov. I’m a musician myself. I’ve been playing violin for a while with Yakov Feltsman’s orchestra in Russia.” The man, now Victor, declared as he smiled at her.

Victor Nikiforov.

Victor Nikoforov??

Minako gasped and stared at him, mouth agape. Victor smiled at her and it clicked. The silver hair while not as long as it was when Victor was younger, was a surprise. It had been a long time since she had looked past everything that had gone on with Yuuri and stopped focusing on anyone besides her friend’s son. He had needed the attention and everything else could wait.

It wasn’t a surprise that hehad grown up and actually become a handsome man.

“I know your name. In fact, I have CDs of you from when you were just starting out.” Minako sighed, standing up properly behind the bar. She could feel the weight of his eyes on her as she quietly grabbed a glass and filled it with water, taking a few sips from it.

Setting the glass under the lip of the bar, she frowned, “What brings you to Detroit of all places? A new concert or are you recording another album?”

“Actually, no. I’m here to help Yakov audition and pick out enough people to play in a traveling symphony. I wanted to do something for my last year of playing with him. After this I will retire and do something else.” Victor tapped his fingers on the bar as he spoke.

Minako could hear her heart in her ears and she shook her head, “There will be a lot of people that are upset to hear you’re retiring.”

“But it’s for the best. Trust me.” Victor assured her.

“So what does this have to do with Yuuri?” Minako asked as she let her eyes wander to where Phichit was perched by Victor’s companion, pointing out things to her on the menu. She smiled up at him and responded to Phichit’s question and the young man laughed.

“His piano playing is some of the most beautiful I have ever heard. I wanted to invite him to come audition to play with us as the main pianist for the tour.”

Minako let her eyes be drawn back to Victor. The young musician had his hands clasped on the bar. His eyes were wide and trained on her, a small smile on his lips. She bit back a sigh and folded her arms over her chest.

Of course it would be something like that.

“I think that even the name Victor Nikiforov won’t make it easy for Yuuri to play with you. He’s not the type to like playing in front of large audiences. In fact, it completely turns him off.”

Victor frowned, “Why?”

Minako shrugged and picked up her water taking a careful sip. She let the silence hang between them for a second, and sat the glass down with a soft thunk. “That’s not my story to tell. You’ll have to get to know him better before you hear about all that. You might not have that kind of time.”

“I’ll make that time for him.” Victor promised.

“With the way you are, you’ll push him away in zero flat. He’s very private Victor...and not even someone he looks up to will have enough pull to make him say yes to you.” Minako warned.

“I just need a chance. I won’t force him, but I want to try. I want to play with him.”

“Well, then I guess you should check the schedule for the next time he’s going to come in.” Minako motioned over to a wall with several flyers. In the middle was a dry erase board on it with a large piece of paper over it and the words ‘Playing Schedule’ written on top.

Victor’s face brightened as he reached out and grabbed one of Minako’s fist, squeezing it gently. “Thank you. I promise I’m going to try my best.”

With that, the whirlwind that was Victor Nikiforov was gone, bouncing first to check out the schedule and then back to his table with the red headed girl. Minako sighed and quietly chewed on the tip of her thumbnail as she watched him go.

This was definitely going to shake things up for a while.

------

Yuuri’s fingers flew over the keys of the piano as he listened to the music. Finally his hands slowed down and struck the ending chord. Then there was silence.

Before he had even relaxed, Ketty reached out and grabbed the piece of music growling under her breath. She sat the piece of paper down on the top of the piano, bit the end of the pen pulling it free from the cap, and drew a red x through the whole page.

“Ketty! You worked really hard on that.” Yuuri reached out to grab the music page back, but Ketty pulled it out of his reach again.

“Well it doesn’t sound quite right. I want it to be perfect.” Ketty huffed as she waved the paper around and moved back towards where she had tossed all her paper and books. She plopped down and grabbed her backpack as she tugged it open and pulled out some blank clef paper.

Tossing the items down in front of her, she pulled her ponytail holder off her left wrist, gathering her long black hair up she placed it up on the top of her head in a ponytail. “Okay Yuuri start from the top and stop when you get to the page I cut. Don’t try and stumble though it.”

Yuuri couldn’t help but sigh, put his hands on the keys again, starting from the top.

Ketty watched him, clapping her hands with the beat as he makes it through the first couple of measures, keeping time with him.

It’s measure thirty before she claps her hands and calls out, “Stop! Stop! It’s still not right.”

Yuuri smashed his hands into the keys, stopping himself and causing the piano to let out a discordant ring. Ketty made a face and flopped back lying down on the stage as she pressed her hands over her face. “UGH!”

As she rolled around, Yuuri gently nudged at her leg with his foot. “Come on it’s not that bad.”

“Not that bad? It’s terrible!” Ketty mumbled, peeking up at him.

“Have you ever stopped to think that maybe it’s not the music, but the musician that might be the wrong fit here?” Yuuri asked her quietly.

Sitting up, Ketty pointed an accusing finger at him, “Absolutely not. Do we need to talk about this again? Don’t let your anxiety tell you stupid lies.”

Yuuri held up both hands, smiling at his close friend. “But maybe if you heard it from someone else you could-”

“Enough!” Ketty raised her hands and cut him off as if she were conducting a large amount of people. Yuuri automatically shut his mouth.

Gathering up her things she shoved it all into her backpack, “You are the only one I want to work with and you can’t leave me hanging now. Anyway, isn’t it time for you to be somewhere else?”

Yuuri pulled out his phone and checked the time. Groaning, he tipped his head back, “I have to play tonight. I don’t have enough time to make there before I’m scheduled to start.”

“The story of your life. We lost track of time. Again.” Ketty grumbled as she hefted her backpack onto her shoulder.

“We can try and get together in two or three days depending on your schedule.” Yuuri promised her as he stood up and stretched his arms over his head. He already felt tired, but now he would have to hold himself together for another three hours.

“What? Did you think I would leave you to try and uber over to Fleur? I’ll take you and help out so I can listen to your awesome music. It’ll be inspirational.” Ketty tugged her keys out of her back pocket and dangled them over her head.

Yuuri hid a smile and wandered out after her, “Sure, Minako likes you enough I know she would love the help.”

He hadn’t brought anything himself because he knew he would be going to play afterward. Normally he had enough time to make it if he left half an hour early from the studio and walked, but having Ketty offer to drive him he might be five minutes late.

“Come on Yuuri!” Ketty called as she held the backstage door open. He picked up the pace and followed her out, the door slamming shut behind them.

The drive over to Fleur was normally about fifteen minutes, but the traffic gods must have been smiling at them. They hit every green light and traffic wasn’t so terrible that they came to a stand still. They made it to the front of the shop with two minutes to spare.

“Hop out and I’ll go find parking and come in after you.” Ketty nods to the side walk.

“Thank you Ketty. What would I do without you?”

“Probably drive yourself crazy!” Ketty called after him as Yuuri hopped out and slammed the door shut. Ketty pulled back out into traffic and towards public parking down the way. Yuuri turned and stepped into Fleur.

-------

Victor shifted in his seat, checked his watch and looked towards the door again. Mila watched him, finger tracing the lip of her glass as she smiled slightly. Victor turned to look at her, “Trust me Mila, when you hear Yuuri play you will be so surprised.”

The door opened and Yuuri entered the small cafe restaurant. Victor brightened and motioned at Yuuri, “There he is! That’s him Mila.”

“Are you sure this isn’t a booty call.” Mila asked, both brows raised.

“What? Of course not! This is not about a booty call, Mila. Why would you even think that?” Victor hissed at her, voice quiet so as not to draw attention to himself. Mila grinned back at him, and hummed to herself, eyes going to Yuuri once more.

“Yakov is going to be so mad at you.” Mila whispered to him.

“Not if he hears Yuuri play. He’s incredible.” Victor sighs and let his gaze trail after Yuuri.

Minako smiled and called out from behind the bar, “Hey Ketty! Thanks for getting Yuuri here on time.”

Victor frowned and looked back to Mila, before looking back at the young woman who had just come in, shedding her coat as she walked. Phichit took it from her and tossed it to Yuuri who tucked it behind the bar. Ketty smiled and accepted her apron from Minako as she pulled the strap over her head and tied it around her waist.

Mila looked back at Victor raising an eyebrow at him as if to say, really?

“Girlfriend you think?” Mila finally prods at Victor a little.

Victor’s frown deepened as he tapped his fingers on the table. “Maybe? I don’t know to be honest.”

Part of him wondered exactly why he even felt disappointed, but he would be lying to himself if he ignored the tiny tug at his heart. He hadn’t felt that in so long he had almost forgotten what it felt like to actually be interested in someone.

Before he could examine his feelings further, said reason for his turmoil walked over with a water pitcher and topped off the glasses for him and Mila. “Hello! I’m Ketty and I’ll be helping Phichit take care of you two. If you need anything please let me know.”

“We already ate, but maybe we can look at getting some different types of coffee?” Mila asked.

Ketty nodded, “Did you want a suggestion or did you want to look at the menu.”

“Can we-”

“Why don’t you surprise us? Victor is all about surprises and I need caffeine to keep myself awake.” Mila cut off Victor, elbowing him gently in the side.

Ketty grinned and clapped her hands together, “Wonderful!.”

Victor watched her bounce off, her long hair swishing after her. He couldn’t help the slight annoyance at her that sprang up at her cheerfulness. It wasn’t even her fault! She hadn’t done anything to deserve any dislike from him.

But, again, he knew better. He hadn’t been jealous since he was very young. Yuuri was bringing out things in him he was surprised hadn’t disappeared completely.

“Are you okay?” Mila asked quietly.

Victor smiled and reached over ruffling her hair, “Just fine Mila. Don’t worry about me.”

In no time Ketty is back with two cold coffees placing both glasses before them, “Thank you for your patience! I picked a iced white chocolate mocha for you, and a iced americano for you.”

Victor put on his best smile, “Thank you, they look wonderful. Did you make them yourself?”

“Not this time, Minako wanted to do them for you.” Ketty smiled at him. She really did have a pretty smile.

“Are you a friend of Minako’s?” Victor asked.

Ketty laughs and shrugs slightly, “I’m friends with Yuuri and Phichit, so it was just natural that I became friends with Minako too. We all go to school together after all. Are you new in town? I don’t recognize you and I am pretty sure I know a majority of our regulars.”

“I’m actually in town for a music project.” Victor picked up his drink and took a sip.

The overwhelming sweetness makes him blink, but it’s delicious. He smiles at her, and she beams at him. “So you’re into music? That’s great! You’ve come to the right place. There are lots of music students who come here and either play, work, or listen to others play. It’s an easy way to make a couple bucks.”

“I gathered that from finding this place last night.” Victor agreed as he looks over at Mila. She had been listening quietly to their conversation. Her eyes stayed on Ketty, only cutting to Victor when she felt him look at her.

Victor grinned and Mila rolled her eyes, quietly sipping on her own coffee.

“What do you play?” Mila asked.

Ketty smiled and shifted a little closer to their booth, “I play the English Horn and a little piano. That’s something all music majors have to do for at least two years. Phichit actually plays several instruments, but he loves percussion the most. Minako is the odd one out, but no less impressive. She did ballet and taught Yuuri a thing or two.”

Victor felt his smile widen more and more as he heard about the people who worked and lived together day in and day out.

These are the people that nurture and care for Yuuri. He’s surrounded with people that all seem so interesting!

“Well, I need to go check on a few other tables, but just flag me down or get a hold of Phichit and we will take care of you.” Ketty grinned and waved her hand as she turned moving on to another table.

Mila laughed and elbowed Victor gently and waited until Ketty was out of earshot before she elbowed Victor, “Definitely not the girlfriend. Trust me.”

Victor rolled his eyes and almost said something, but his words stopped dead when he saw Yuuri approach the piano and sit down.

----

 

“How are the VIPS?” Minako asked Ketty as she stood by the side of the bar, resting between rushes.

Ketty turned towards her, tipping her head in confusion. “Who?”

Minako motioned over to where Mila and Victor were seated. “Them.”

“They didn’t seem like VIPs. They did ask a lot of questions about all of us and seemed to be really interested in Yuuri. Should we be worried?” Ketty frowned and turned to watch the two at the booth. Mila sat on the opposite side of Victor now, on her phone.

Victor however was watching Yuuri with such rapt attention that it made her breath catch.

She hadn’t seen anyone look at Yuuri like that ever.

Ketty turned to look at Minako. Minako crooked her finger and leaned over, “You can’t tell Yuuri, but that man is Victor Nikiforov. He’s in town to hand pick a travelling symphony and chorus. If you tell that to Yuuri he will implode. He needs those tips.”

A shiver ran down her spine at that name. She bit the inside of her cheek.

Victor Nikiforov was here. Sitting in Fleur. Watching his biggest fan play the piano.

Yuuri had no idea.

And the look on Nikiforov’s face was like a young boy who had fallen in love for the first time. That had to be the weirdest thing she had encountered so far that week, no that month.

“Are you kidding me?” She hissed back.

“Keep it under wraps for now. I’m serious Ketty.” Minako warned her quietly nodding towards Yuuri’s back. Ketty sighed and bit her lip, nodding in agreement. This isn’t what Yuuri needed right now, but it was everything Yuuri had wanted.

It was just crappy timing.

Yuuri would have to grasp the opportunity if his demons let him. She hoped he would recognize what was going on around him when it was time.

Phichit, just done having made his rounds, sat himself at the edge of the bar. Ketty smiled and nudged his shoulder with her hand slightly, “I thought you were supposed to be working tonight.”

“I am, but I have a right to a break and so I’m taking that now to listen to Yuuri.” Phichit grinned at her, turning his full attention to his best friend. Yuuri looked over his shoulder and winked at Phichit, before turning back forward and placing his hands on the keys.

“How dreamy.” Phichit gushed, his voice going into a high falsetto.

Ketty cringed, “Stop it. You sound just like those girls that come around and hit on Yuuri.”

“Like Yuuri understands why those girls come around so often? Please. He’s a pure cinnamon roll.” Phichit snarked at Ketty.

“You’re not wrong.”

Phichit turns towards the bar and taps his fingers as he waits for Yuuri to start. “So how is your senior composition going?”

“There is something missing in it. Yuuri told me that it sounds okay, but I don’t know. I marked out a whole page today, so either way it’s back to the drawing board.” Ketty stepped away from the table. “I’ll go make a round or two. After that we’ll take turns.”

“Sounds good.” Phichit waved her off.

Minako watched both Phichit and Ketty, arms crossed over her chest. “The only thing that really catches Yuuri’s eye are his fingers on the keyboard and the music in his head.”

She flicked her eyes over to Victor, who sat eagerly at attention waiting for Yuuri to start. Her eyes barely darted over to the door as she recognized the last patron to enter.

Celestino waved as he wandered over to the bar, a big grin plastered onto his face, “Minako! Phichit!”

“I’m glad you made it Celestino. I thought you would be stuck until we closed again.” Minako offered him a glass of water, which he accepted gratefully. Minako wandered around the bar, to press a kiss to his cheek.

“Well I did. I’m glad to be here.” Celestino wrapped his arm around her waist.

“Gross.” Phichit teased.

----

Yuuri placed his hands on the keys, took a breath, and began to play. As his fingers pressed the keys, the melody came to life and everything around Yuuri faded into the background.

The talking around him and all noise died down as people stop and pay attention to Yuuri. Victor watched as all activity paused as Yuuri started to play. The song is beautiful no doubt, but to be able to pull a crowd like this? It’s amazing.

Victor let out a shaky breath, hand bunched up into the material of his shirt to keep him ground as each note plucks at something inside of himself.

“Are you okay?” Mila placed a gentle hand on his arm to catch his attention.

He forced his eyes away from Yuuri and back onto her. “The way he plays is--”

“It’s really good. I haven’t heard anyone play so well and capture attention like this since Yura started to play.” Mila whispered.

Yura. His little Yura who had taken the music scene in Russia by storm. He sighed and let his eyes flick back over to Yuuri. “Yura has the talent but lacks this depth.”

This was Yuuri’s favorite time.

Yuuri continued to play, his hands wandering over the keys as he continues. His eyes slid shut as his hands pushed out the ascending steps of notes over and over again. It’s almost as if he can picture himself standing on the shore as the waves crash upon it. The notes were like a gentle rain that makes itself known, falling upon the tumultuous waves and the sand. As the notes continued to come down faster and faster, Yuuri could almost feel the cold air sticking to his wet clothing as he watched the rain strike the sea and the shore.

It’s beautiful. It took his breath away.

But, there are only so many notes to the song. Right before the end he shook himself aware again as his finger plucked the last note.

There was silence.

Then there was the soft clapping of the patrons in the cafe. Yuuri blinked owlishly and flushed as he turned and nodded towards the audience in thanks. They didn’t have to be here to listen to his mediocre playing after all. Most of the patrons are doing other things on their phones or having a conversation with friends, but Yuuri felt someone watching him intently.

He turned around and his eyes sought out who had been staring at him.

There. At the same booth as the previous night sat the same man with silver hair. This time there was a woman that sat beside him, blocked to the inside of the booth. The man, upon being caught turned his eyes away and Yuuri felt his heart clench in his chest.

He had forced himself to not really study the stranger the night before because of Phichit’s teasing, but Minako and Phichit had been right. The man was beautiful. The woman by his side with fiery red hair was equally so.

Even though the man accompanying her had looked away, she continued to watch him with a small smile played out on her lips. She waved slightly to him and nudged her companions arm, and the man turned back around and gave him a careful smile and a nod. Yuuri felt the heat on his cheeks and he nodded silently back towards them and then quickly turned around.

Having someone watch him so intently, Yuuri almost felt knocked out of the place he normally enjoyed when he played. But, it wasn’t as bad as he thought.

Yuuri took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he rolled his shoulders. They were already a little stiff from playing for so long and hashing out things with Ketty on her piece. He needed to take it easy.

Nothing too big. Keep to mostly slow pieces then.

Beautiful blue green eyes were stuck in the back of his mind.

Yuuri rolled his shoulders once more and studied the thought, turning it over in his mind for a moment before he banished anything else that could come along with it.

Who are you? Is it just a coincidence you came back? If you’re here for a show, I’ll give you one.

Mentally, Yuuri goes through all the songs he remembers without sheet music and settles on one that is in the same vein as the last. It’s darker and slower with good build towards the end. He hadn’t played it before at the cafe restaurant, but what would stop him from doing so now?

He could feel that weight on his back.

This was his place to be safe and to play, so why not play a bit and push himself from his comfort zone. It almost felt expected at this point anyway.

Without further hesitation, Yuuri started to play the selected piece. Where the other was restless movement and rain, this one was a dark forest in the middle of the night. No danger, no creatures in the blackness to get you. Just a calm where the forest was asleep and the moon and stars light the tree branches from above and cast shadows.

The music slowly gained more life to it as the piece went. It was almost as if there was an explorer in the darkness using the slivers of light to guide their exploration.

“I really like this piece. It’s like he paints a story with the way he plays.” Mila smiled, her hand squeezing Victor’s forearm.

Victor smiled, pleased. “I want him.”

Mila blinked and scrunched up her nose as she narrowed her eyes on him, “I thought you said this wasn’t a booty call.”

“No, no, no...I want him to play with me. I want him to be my accompanist and I want him to play with the symphony.” Victor insisted.

“But you have Lina, Madame Baranovskaya’s granddaughter. Unless she decided to stop touring?” Mila frowned and grabbed her glass of coffee taking another sip.

“It would be a waste for him to stay here and not get the experience. We should at least have him try out.” Victor told her, his eyes tracked back to the pianist as he played.

He wanted him. It was like a small beacon of light in an otherwise grey world.

As Yuuri finished the piece up, two hands slapped down on his shoulders. He jumped and narrowed his eyes at Ketty. She grinned and shook him lightly, “Come on Mr. Pianist. Come take a break. I could tell your shoulders were stiff and you can vacate long enough for people to come leave tips.”

Yuuri opened his mouth to protest, but he could feel the tightness between his shoulders and a weariness settling in on top of him.

“Okay.” he muttered begrudgingly.

“That’s a good boy.” Ketty teased as she stepped back enough for him to wiggle out from the piano bench and stand up.

“Phichit can you help Yuuri stretch out his shoulders a little bit?”

Phichit nodded and followed Yuuri into the back employees only area.

-----

Ketty looked at the clock on the wall. It was only fifteen minutes of playing, but already there are people lining up to give Yuuri tips.

That was normal.

What wasn’t normal was the big sad face that Victor Nikiforov was making. He stared at the piano and then craned his neck. Looking back towards the employees only door, pining for Yuuri, or at least his music.

Instead of leaving well enough alone, Ketty put on her best smile and approached the table. “Is something wrong, Sir?”

“Victor. My name is Victor.” Victor craned his head around her to check and see if Yuuri had come back yet. Ketty couldn’t help but bite down on a smile that was threatening to form.

“You really like Yuuri, don’t you?”

Ketty shifted just so to block his view again and Victor looked up at her with a small frown. “His playing is amazing.”

“Well, he’s pretty popular and famous in his own right, Mister Victor Nikiforov.”

Victor shot straight up, hands flat on the table as he stared at Ketty, eyebrows almost up to his hairline. Ketty shrugged folding her arms over her chest, “Who doesn’t know about Victor Nikiforov if they love classical music? A virtuoso violinist from a young age that constantly surprises his audiences is hard to ignore.”

“If he’s popular, how come we haven’t heard of Yuuri before?” Mila asked as she shifted around and pressed her back against the wall of the booth to regard both Victor and Ketty.

“I don’t think I’ve asked your name.” Ketty smiled at Mila.

“I’m Mila Babicheva.” Mila offered with a nod.

“Well Mila, I will give you a cookie for asking the right question. If you want to know more about Yuuri there are two crucial pieces of information you need.” Ketty informed both Mila and Victor.

Victor stared at her and Mila rolled her eyes at the serious look on Victor’s face. She looked back to Ketty, “What pieces of information do we need?”

Even if she didn’t ask, Victor would have. Ketty was obviously having too much fun and Victor was taking it much too seriously. Someone had to help Victor out somehow.

Ketty held up her pointer finger, “The first piece of information is Yuuri’s full name.”

Victor curled his hands on the table, looking up at Ketty as if she had the answer to the question of life. “What’s his last name?”

“I feel that as Yuuri’s friend it is my duty not to give into demands so easily. Even for someone as powerful as you, Victor.” Ketty giggled and tossed her ponytail back behind her shoulder.

“Ketty! Can I have some water?” One of the patrons called out to her.

Turning around, she held up her pitcher, “I’m on my way!”

Pausing briefly she looked over her shoulder to Victor and gave him a large smile, “On Yuuri’s next break we can go another twenty questions. Until then relax and enjoy the atmosphere and the music.”

With that, Ketty was gone once again waltzing off towards another table leaving a bewildered Victor in her wake. Mila couldn’t help but smile, “She is going to make this really hard on you.”

Victor let his head hit that table with a thump. Mila placed her hand on his back soothingly.

Minako watched Ketty make her rounds before coming back to the table. She had taken up a seat next to Celestino. Ketty finally made her way back to the bar after cashing out a few older couples that had come in together.

“Having fun?” Minako asked, one brow raised at the younger woman.

Ketty smiled and shook her head in wonder, “He is totally gone. Like, head over heels gone for Yuuri.”

Minako sighed and pressed the heel of her hand to her forehead, “What are we going to do about this?”

“Just let it take its course. This too is a part of growing up. It may change Yuuri for the better.” Celestino advised both women softly.

------

The rest of the evening flew by for Yuuri. He had let Phichit help him stretch out his shoulders and then it was back to the piano. Instead of playing for an hour and a half like he had scheduled, Yuuri ended up playing another hour and a half after that.

Needless to say, he was exhausted.

As the patrons were ushered out by Phichit, Ketty motioned for Yuuri to settle down at the bar. Once he was seated she handed him back the tip jar. “It looks like you made quite a bit tonight.”

“It can’t be as much as last night.” Yuuri sighed and pulled fist after fist of money out of the jar. He straightened the bills and got down to counting.

Minako waited patiently so she could mark the numbers down and they could be done for the night. Yuuri counted once, twice, three times, and a final fourth.

“Well?” Minako asked.

“Ah, it’s 300.00 tonight.” Yuuri squeaked out breathlessly. Minako narrowed her eyes and picked up the money to count it. When she was done she whistled and shook her head marking down the number.

“If you start making that much money we are going to have to actually report your earnings at some point.” Teased Minako.

“That’s wonderful Yuuri. That should hold you over for a couple of weeks for food and transportation.” Celestino patted the other on his back, nearly knocking Yuuri off his stool.

Ketty noticed Victor and Mila moving slowly towards the bar. Victor’s spine was ramrod straight, far from the usually relaxed way she had seen Victor when he was younger on videos. This Victor wasn’t as graceful or untouchable. That would work in his favor later if Yuuri figured everything out.

Yuuri hadn’t noticed him yet, but Victor hadn’t made himself known just yet. It was only when Mila elbowed him gently, that he cleared his throat. Minako, Celestino, and Yuuri all stopped talking and turned towards him. Minako handed Yuuri an envelope to put all the money in.

“I just wanted to say that I thought your playing was amazing.” Victor managed to choke out.

Ketty almost felt sorry for him.

Almost.

“Ketty can you help Phichit finish, and then we can all go to Banjo’s?” Minako asked politely, even though her eyes never left Yuuri and Victor.

“Oh. Uh, thanks? I hope you enjoyed it as much as your visit last night.” Yuuri managed to stutter out, his cheeks flushed a dark red.

Ketty hide a grin behind her hand and nodded. She passed Phichit on her way to start on the back section of the cafe. “It’s happening.”

Phichit perked up and turned around looking towards the bar. His eyes widened and he pushed more dishes into the dish tub and whined, “I want to hear them be awkward and talk to each other for the first time. It’s not fair!”

“Let’s finish so we can go watch them fall over each other. Oh, and Phichit? Don’t tell Yuuri Victor’s last name okay? Or vice versa. Victor needs to work for it.” She hummed starting to clear plates and glasses off the tables.

“If you say so.” Phichit called back as he finished working on the section he was on.

Between Phichit and Ketty they were able to do all the side work and make sure things were ready for the breakfast crowd in the morning. They hadn’t really ever met the other servers, but they wouldn’t want to make a mess for them when they were always so courteous to leave things clean for the evening shift.

Ketty bounced back over to the bar, and to her delight Victor and Mila were still hanging around. Victor seemed to be hesitating though and Celestino had his arm thrown around his shoulder. “The food here is good, but you need a proper meal.”

“I would hate to impose. It seems like there are so many people going already.” Victor shifted under Celestino’s arm as he smiled hesitantly at the other man.

Ketty took off her apron and went to hang it behind the bar, “What’s going on? Are you bullying Victor, Celestino?”

“Hardly! I told him he should come to Banjo’s with us.” Celestino laughed.

Yuuri looked at her for help and Mila also looked at her with a raised eyebrow. Ketty smiled reassuringly at Mila.

Sorry Yuuri. This is for your own good.

Ketty approached Mila, throwing her arm over her shoulder. “Come on, you’re all about to be really busy right? We should all go out and take some time to know each other better. Especially since you’re already regulars.”

Mila smiled at Ketty, her eyes lighting up, “That’s true! We should definitely go.”

“Wait. I’m really tired! I probably should go rest. I have class in the morning.” Yuuri protested.

Minako shook her head, “You would go even if you had class in the morning. This is no different. I owe you at least two drinks for the amount of people you’ve brought in.”

“I’ll go only if Yuuri goes. I want to talk to him more about his music.” Victor agreed quietly.

Phichit grabbed his coat and tugged it on, “Great we’re all going then. Nothing wrong with that. Besides, Minako is right, you never turn down a good drink Yuuri.”

Yuuri made a soft warbling sound at the back of his throat. He looked like he was dying and no one besides Victor seemed to notice. He studied Yuuri and then looked back at Ketty eyebrows raised. She waved him off and grabbed her own coat. “Come on before it gets any later. Even I can stay out past nine these days.”

“Also, Yakov would probably feel better if I can vouch for where you and Mila went to dinner.” Celestino offered to Victor.

Yuuri frowned and looked to Celestino and then back to Victor, “Yakov? Yakov Feltsman?”

Celestino nodded clapping his hand on Victor’s shoulder, “Yes, that’s right! Victor here is Yakov’s protege. He’s in town to do some different things for him.”

“Oh? That’s wonderful. It must be great to work with someone that high caliber.” Yuuri smiled at Victor, and the other nodded.

“Have you two been introduced? This is Victor. Victor, this is Yuuri.” Celestino nudged Victor closer to Yuuri. The two stood there, stiffly the closest they had been since they had started talking.

“Okay, before everyone forgets that some of us are hungry, why don’t we get to Banjos and then you two can talk more?” Phichit called out, clapping his hands to grab everyone’s attention.

“It’s nice to meet you Victor, but let’s not stand in the way of Phichit and his empty stomach.” Yuuri smiled and motioned for the others to go outside.

Victor watched him for a few more seconds before he nodded and looked towards Celestino, “Going out for a while wouldn’t hurt.”

“No.” Agreed Celestino amicably.

Once everyone was outside, Mila grabbed onto Ketty’s arm, pulling her close to ask. “What was the second part of looking up how famous Yuuri is?”

Ketty grinned and ducked her head, “Youtube.”

------

It’s a quick, brisque walk down a couple blocks to get to Banjos. It was a bar and restaurant that another musician owned. They had some of the best burgers that Victor has ever tasted. The drinks were cheap too, which was always a plus. He might have had one or two more than he normally would as he matched Minako drink for drink. At the end of the evening it was nearly eleven o’clock and no one had moved.

The company was great, but the one person that Victor wanted to hear more about was strangely silent. He had exchanged words with Phichit, Celestino, Ketty, Mila, and Minako more than Yuuri had even talked.

No, Yuuri had stared at him the whole time, eyes flicking back and forth between Victor and the people conversing. He would offer his piece here and there, but he was strangely silent. Even when Minako insisted he drink a few glasses of beer, Yuuri stayed quiet.

“Hey Victor? It’s a bit late, so I think I’ll head back to the hotel.” Mila stood up from the table.

Victor frowned and started to stand, “Yes, I’m sure you must be tired. I can take you to the hotel.

Mila shook her head, “Don’t worry it’s not that far.”

“I told you to be more careful, remember? It’s dark and it’s late.” Victor pushed.

“Phichit and I are going too, so why don’t we to take Mila to the hotel that way you adults can keep talking?” Ketty cut in on his protest.

Mila smiled and shrugged at Victor, “I have not just one chaperone but two. That should be okay. Right Vitya?”

Victor studied Phichit and Ketty before he nodded and settled back into his seat, “Straight to the hotel.”

“Promise.” Mila agreed.

Victor turned and watched, as Ketty nodded to Celestino, hugged Minako and patted Yuuri on the shoulder.

Phichit smiled and leaned over Yuuri’s shoulder kissing his cheek. “Don’t stay out super late, and if you do just text me so I know, okay?”

Yuuri batted at the other playfully, “Phichit, in public? I’m blushing!”

Phichit grinned and shrugged his shoulders.

Victor turned to Mila who nodded at him and smiled, “Don’t worry Vitya I have my phone on me. I think Ketty and Phichit are quite capable of getting me home safe and sound.”

“Just text me when you get to your room. I’ll be at breakfast around 8 o’clock okay?” Victor reached over, ruffling Mila’s hair. She laughed and shoved his hand away dancing out of reach before he could do any real damage.

Ketty and Phichit took up spots on each side of Mila as they waved and headed out the front.

“It’ll be time for both of us to head home soon anyway.” Minako yawned and Celestino stretched his arms over his head.

“That’s true. I have to go get Yakov and Lilia tomorrow morning.” Celestino informed Victor as he pulled out his billfold and dropped his card on the check that the waitress had brought them.

“Oh Celestino, don’t worry about it.” Victor reached into his pocket, but the older man shook his head.

“Let me get this. Just think of it as a thank you and a bribe to make sure you further treat my orchestra members right.”

Victor settled back into his chair with a stiff nod.

Yuuri turned looking at Celestino first, and then back at Victor, tipping his head to the side curiously. Minako stood and Celestino held her coat for her to slip on her shoulders as he nodded to both men that were still left at the table.

“You two don’t stay out too late. Yuuri, text me your schedule for the next couple of days. We can work some time to have you practice at the auditorium.” Yuuri nodded and waved after them as they too disappeared out the door.

Victor felt his breath catch in his throat.

There were alone. Just he and Yuuri.

What was he going to do about this?

Yuuri cleared his throat and finished the little bit of beer in his glass, setting it down on the table. “I hate to cut this short, but I think it’s probably time for me to-”

Before he even realized what he was doing, Victor reached out grabbing Yuuri’s wrist, “I want you to come back with me to my room.”

Yuuri’s eyes widened as he stopped mid sentence, “Excuse me?”

“Please. Just come with me.” Victor gently pulled the other up and behind him exiting the restaurant. Yuuri moved behind him, until the other finally dropped his hand when the other relaxed and settled in beside him as they walked in silence.

The walk is fairly quiet even as they move into the lobby and then to the elevator. Victor takes out his card and uses it on the card reader punching the suite number towards the top of the buttons. The door slid shut behind them and the elevator climbs quickly.

Yuuri was distracted looking out the glass as they rose higher and higher. That was fine, because it let Victor actually look at him with a little elevator music for accompaniment. If he had to think on what his usual lovers looked like, Yuuri is outside what he normally would find appealing. But, the more he looks at Yuuri the more he finds himself drawn to his features just as much as the musical talent.

The elevator jerked to a stop and Victor turned away before Yuuri turned to look back at him. He led the other out of the elevator and moved towards the door on the opposite side of the hall. The place that Yakov had rented for him had only one other door on the opposite side of the hall where someone else was staying, otherwise it was just him and Yuuri on his side of the hall. He opened the door and stepped inside holding the door open for Yuuri.

Yuuri stepped through, his hands fisted in the bottom of the jacket he was wearing. Victor smiled as the other gasped, “Victor this place is huge!”

Victor touched the other on his lower back as he guided him past the living area and down the small hallway to a larger room with the piano. Yuuri stumbles to a stop as he looks out at the large windows. It was a very romantic view of the city at night with the lights of all the shops visible. It’s a floor to ceiling window with the curtains drawn for now.

“I thought I might shut the curtain at night, but no one is looking in and it’s up high enough no one will bother me.” Yuuri hummed and passed Victor as he moved around the piano and to the window, standing next to it as he placed his hand on the surface and leaned forward.

Victor stepped around the piano bench, his hands resting on Yuuri’s shoulders. “You can take in the sights all you want later. For now, let’s talk about why you are here.”

Yuuri shuddered beneath his hands, making Victor hold onto him a little tighter, “Are you okay?”

“Your hotel room is huge.” Yuuri whispers.

Victor hummed and shrugged, “Yakov wanted me to be comfortable, also if I needed to have extra people over for whatever reason he wanted us to have room to move.”

“I didn’t realize how close you must have been with Yakov.” Victor couldn’t help but bite back on a smile.

“You said you wanted to tell me why, right?” Yuuri turned and stepped back away from the window and in turn away from Victor. Victor let him go, his hands dropping to his sides.

Victor took his time. He pulled out the bench and motioned to the piano. “I want you to play for me.”

Yuuri blinked and narrowed his eyes at Victor. He turned towards the piano, dragging the tips of his fingers over the side of the large instrument, smiling ruefully. “Oh. I see…”

The young pianist seemed to hesitate as he looked over towards the door and back at Victor, “I don’t know. It’s late.”

It was late, nearly midnight now, but Victor didn’t want to let him go just yet. Reaching into his pocket, Victor pulled out his wallet and quietly thumbed through his bills fishing out 200.00. He offered it to Yuuri, “Please. Just one song will work.”

Yuuri frowned and reached out, pushing the money back at Victor, “I don’t need you to pay me.”

Victor felt a jolt of excitement race down his spine.

“So, what am I going to play?” Yuuri asked quietly.

“This.” Victor moved to a box of music and fished out the piano accompaniment for Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major.

Yuuri flipped to the first page and tracked the notes. Victor turned on the lamp to the side of the piano to give Yuuri more light than just the moon inside the room.

“Mozart. Really?” Yuuri turned and smiled up at Victor, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Not just any piece. Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major.” Victor answered as he tapped his pointer finger against his bottom lip.

“Too hard?” Victor teased.

Yuuri rolled his eyes, “I could play this in my sleep.”

“Show me.” Victor commanded softly. He took a few steps back and waited.

Yuuri turned the music back to the first page, and he placed his hands on the keyboard and began. The piece was something he had played before. It was one of the easier pieces to play starting out when you had to play with a novice violinist. He let out a shaky breath and continued to play.

Victor listened as he felt his fingers itch and his chest tightened. He wanted to play with Yuuri, not just listen to him play. Even without having his violin there he could hear the violin part in tandem with the easy way that Yuuri played. Not even ten measures in, Victor turned and headed out of the room to grab his violin.

Yuuri had been aware of the eyes on him as Victor listened to him play the music. He reached out quickly and turned the page to the next measure and continued to play. Yuuri could see Victor out of the corner of his eye as the other left the room and he frowned.

Was his playing that bad?

Where did he go.

Before he was about to stop and call after Victor, he heard heavy steps scampering back. Victor stepped in the room in time for the piece to go into a leisurely andante. In his arms he carried a violin and a bow.

Victor put the violin up and placed the bow on the strings as he counted with his foot on the carpet to four and started in on the measure that Yuuri was on. It was correct, and the music that floated from Victor nearly had Yuuri mess up his fingers on the keys.

That sound.

He knew that sound.

His breath hitched and he turned to stare at Victor, whose eyes were closed. He nearly stopped.

Victor Nikiforov.

Victor Nikiforov was standing there. Victor Nikiforov was playing with him.

“Keep going Yuuri.” Victor urged him softly as he kept playing. Yuuri turned back to the music and flipped to the next page, his heart beating in his ears. He felt as if he had gone completely numb. He tried to focus on the music notes and also keeping up with Victor as he continued to play the violin part flawlessly.

How had this even happened?

The violin dropped out for a few measures and then it mimicked the piano, sounding as if the music was playing tag with itself between the instruments. The higher notes and trills sounded so well placed with his own playing. Before he could even react or make a mistake the piece came to an end.

“Yuuri that was amazing! I knew I was right about you. I want to play with you even more now!! Please say you will!” Victor turned holding his violin down by his side, his bow resting on his fingers as he cradled his precious violin to himself.

Yuuri took a deep breath, his vision starting to swim. “I um. Excuse me…”

Yuuri stiffly rose from the piano bench and staggered past Victor.

“Yuuri!” Victor called after him in surprise.

But Yuuri didn’t stop. He didn’t take another breath until he was out of the lobby of the hotel. He didn’t stop until he made it back to his apartment and into his room, pressing his back to the door his hands clapped over his mouth.

-----

Yakov wrestled with his suitcase as he exited the front of the busy airport terminal. There were countless people hustling and bustling around him. Cars pulled up, let people out and some were picked up. There were meetings and partings and all that culminated into a nightmare of trying to find Celestino.

After about ten minutes, he spotted the Italian as he stepped out of the car and waved from the driver side, “Ciao Ciao, Yakov!”

Yakov grabbed his suitcase and rolled over to the car. Celestino popped the trunk and grabbed his bag fitting it in the back. Yakov opened the back door and slid into the backseat. Lilia had been quicker to find Celestino even though her flight was supposed to be in after Yakov’s. The woman had always had the devil’s luck.

“It is good of you to finally join us, Yasha.” Lilia nodded at him and turned herself back to look out the front window.

“I am not surprised that you beat me in, Lilia.” Yakov nodded at her and reached out to pat the back of her hand. She turned her hand up to him and he squeezed it briefly. Even though their marriage had ended in divorce, the time and distance had repaired it enough for them to raise a child and for their child to grow up and have a child of his own. They were still family even if they were no longer married.

Celestino slammed the door shut and pulled out into the busy airport traffic. “I’m sure you must be tired and hungry. I told Victor that I would bring you both to the hotel so that you can freshen up and meet him and Mila for breakfast.”

“Thank you for taking care of us and for the prices you’ve offered for Victor’s project.” Yakov muttered as Lilia nodded in agreement.

“He’s a good kid. Everyone has moments like these in their careers and either this will give him some room to breathe and create something that will help him out of his funk or it will be a hell of a way to end his career.” Celestino chatted as they finally made it out from the airport and into moderate traffic.

It was too early to check into the hotel, so Lilia and Yakov left their baggage with the front desk before Celestino guided them to the restaurant. “Well, I’ll leave you two in Victor’s capable hands. If you need anything before the auditions please let me know and I’ll be right over to help.”

“Thank you for everything Celestino.” Yakov watched as the other retired musician left the restaurant.

“Yakov! Lilia, you made it!” Victor’s chipper voice greeted him as Yakov turned and looked at him.

“Where is Miss Babicheva?” Lilia asked, taking a seat at the table sitting across from Victor. Yakov sat down at the table as well, looking at the blank seat.

“She was just coming down. She wanted to make sure she looked presentable to be in public.” Victor explained as he grabbed a little jelly on the flat part of a butter knife, stirring it into the tea cup in front of him.

The waiter moved over and poured tea for both Lilia and Yakov. He left menus on the table and wandered off to take care of more guests.

“Good. Her mother would be displeased if she let herself go when travelling. Mila has a reputation to upkeep after all.” Lilia nodded primly. Victor smiled and picked up his cup of tea sipping on it quietly.

Mila finally slid into her seat, but not before giving Lilia a quiet hug.”Sorry I’m late! My alarm didn’t go off.”

Lilia watched the young woman sit down and partake in her own tea and jam like Victor. Victor smiled at her, “It’s good to see you finally Milotchka.”

“I wanted to make sure I was truly ready to be down. Since we are all here, I also wanted to ask what the plan is for today.” Mila answered as she peeked over the top of her cup, eyes sparkling with curiosity.

“You will practice for at least four hours before you are able to do anything remotely outside your room.” Lilia answered.

Mila frowned but nodded, “Yes Lilia.”

Victor laughed, “Oh come on Lilia, she shouldn’t have to practice that much when there is so much she can be doing to explore and help! Let’s just have her practice for two.”

“Do not neglect your own practice Vitya.” Yakov grumbled as he grabbed a scone from a platter that had multiple types on it that the waiter had delivered without being asked.

“I have been practicing diligently in your absence.” Victor smiled placatingly at his own teacher.

Lilia seemed to consider it, as she took a quiet sip of her own tea, “Very well. Two hours Mila. After breakfast. I’ll accompany you.”

Mila brightened and nodded enthusiastically, “Yes Lilia. I promise I will practice hard for the two hours.”

“Lilia. I’ve been meaning to ask, but how is Lina doing? How is the little one?” Victor picked up his own scone and spread some of the clotted cream onto the top of it. It had to be one of his favorite things to eat when he could find it. Victor had been so happy when he had spotted it on the menu.

He took a bite out of it, and hummed, “Vkusno!”

Lilia paused after she picked up one of the scones, setting it down on the small plate. “I know you were waiting for good news, but Lina decided to sit out for at minimum one season from playing. She and her husband will have to discuss how she’s feeling and see if its feasible at that time for her to come back.”

Victor frowned, “I see.”

“It is not a waste, if that was what you were thinking. Lina did not make that decision lightly.” Lilia quietly spoke as she cut the scone in half and put butter on it.

“I never said it was.” Victor sighed, brushing a hand through his hair.

“You didn’t have to. You two have been inseparable since you started playing together so young. Even her husband would not fight her if she chose to continue.” Lilia informed him, quietly using her fork to break off a piece of the scone.

“I will miss her it’s true.” Victor hummed and leaned back in his chair.

“Posture, Vitya.” Lilia reminded him.

He sat up a little straighter, but didn’t move to sitting up straight like he knew she wanted. She frowned at him, but didn’t say anything else about it.

“Since Lina will not be coming to play piano for the symphony I have invited Yuri Plisetsky to come and join us for the auditions. Obviously the tryouts for him are more of a formality as we have no other prospects for pianist that would work on such short notice.” She continued on.

“Actually. I know someone I want to extend an invitation to try out to.” Victor cut in.

Lilia and Yakov exchanged looks, “Do you now?”

Mila’s smile widens as she looks at Victor, “Are you talking about Yuuri?”

Yakov narrowed his eyes, “Is this a different Yuuri than our Yuri?”

“Yes. I found him my first night here. I’ve listened to him twice and his playing is amazing. I had him come to the room last night and he played with me Yakov! He was so great!” Victor gushed, leaning over the table.

Yakov’s frown grew more pronounced. “Are you sure? You’ve only heard him twice. Plisetsky is growing into the best orchestra pianist I have seen since he was young.”

Mila took a sip of her tea, “I think Victor is right. I think he should invite Yuuri. We went and listened to him last night and he has a very nice sound.”

Yakov and Lilia exchanged glances and both frowned, “We would still like you to use Yuri Plisetsky. You know him. His name is enough to sell more tickets alone with yours Victor.”

“But I’m not doing this for ticket sales.” Victor protested.

“Vitya.” Yakov narrows his eyes.

Mila pulls out her phone, ignoring the narrowed eyes of her own teacher as she pulls up the Youtube app and searches something. “Here. Don’t take our word for it. Listen to this.”

“Mila, is that-” Victor started.

“Yuuri Katsuki. He was a famous pianist that actually kind of disappeared at some point. So if you’re worried about what he can and can’t do, watch that clip.” Mila offered with a smile.

Victor’s eyes widened as he stood up and settled between Lilia and Yakov. The clip was of younger Yuuri, but still the same Yuuri from Fleur. He sat at a piano in a concert hall, and he started to play a song that Victor couldn’t recognize. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t amazing.

He looked so happy as he played and the person he accompanied bounced the melody off of him. Both were young but no less bright and joyful.

“I think we’ve seen enough. Do what you want Vitya.” Yakov sighed and passed back Mila’s phone to her.

Victor smiled and Mila tucked away her phone. “Let’s order breakfast and then go practice.”

Breakfast was quick and quiet. Yakov nearly fell asleep twice and Lilia even seemed to have a hard time maintaining her posture the longer breakfast went. After they had all promised to let Yakov rest while Lilia went to listen to Mila’s practice.

“How did you figure it out?” Victor asked Mila.

“Ketty gave me Yuuri’s last name when she dropped me off last night. She wanted to make sure that we had that information for being good sports on her teasing.” Mila explained.

Victor smiled and whispered, “Thank you Mila.”

She waved him off as they broke off to go do their respective practice.

 

----

Yuuri sat at the bar in Fleur with his head in his hands. Minako stared at him, her eyes wide and jaw nearly to the floor, “You ran away after he asked you to play with him?!”

“Victor Nikiforov.” Yuuri grumbled quietly, peeking at her between his fingers. Phichit sighed and patted Yuuri on the back. He knew exactly why Yuuri was having a hard time with that information about the Victor who had told him his playing was amazing.

After all, he was someone that Yuuri had looked up to.

“Victor Nikiforov. The same Victor Nikiforov who likes you. The same Victor Nikiforov who wants to practice and play with you.” Minako agrees.

“He only likes me for my playing.” Yuuri whispers as he lets his head hit the top of the bar.

Phichit looked up at Minako with a frown and she returned it, brow furrowed as she looked at the young pianist. He didn’t have a reason to really be that upset about this. “He’s the one you’ve wanted to play with since you were younger.”

“I gave up that dream a long time ago.” Yuuri huffed, as he pressed his cheek to the cold wood of the bar.

“He’s right there Yuuri. You’ve wanted this for so long! You won’t fool anyone by saying you gave up on that dream. Are you going to let your past keep dictating your future?! Grow up a little more.” Minako snapped at him, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“One, two punch. There it is.” Phichit gasped as he looked at Minako with a frown.

Yuuri sat up, eyes wide as if he had just been struck. Minako stared back at him, arms crossed over her chest, thin lipped. It might have been a hard truth for Yuuri to hear instead Minako hadn’t spared him at all.

“No.” Yuuri whispers.

“No? No what?” Minako asked.

Yuuri stood up, and wobbled towards the exit shoving the door open and disappearing out onto the street. The door closed shut behind him leaving both Minako and Phichit in an uncomfortable silence.

Phichit hopped up, “Yuuri!”

“Don’t go after him. He needs to figure this out for himself.” Minako told the young musician. Phichit stared at the door and turned away from it a frown on his face and shoulders slumped.

-----

”Sensational!”

“Up and coming!”

“Genius!”

The words echo in the back of his head as Yuuri stumbled down the street. He at least had the presence of mind to dodge the people around him on the sidewalk. There were a few close calls, but it was hard for him to focus. Everything Yuuri was used to felt changed and turned on its head.

Victor being in town, the increase in notoriety and tips, and even the people at Fleur had him feeling more and more anxious. Victor wanting to play with him and ripped open a wound that he thought he had enough time to heal, but he was wrong.

The violinist’s presence had shaken him so thoroughly with a want that he had shoved down as much as he could when he had made his decision to quit playing professionally.

It was hard not to want to say yes and to take Victor’s hand.

”Wonderful!”

“Get him in the National Junior Symphony!”

No.

No.

Yuuri reached out gripping the side of one of the buildings he had been passing. The brick bit into his palm, but this did nothing to slow his racing heart or relieve the tightness in his chest. His vision began to fade in and out as he took a few deep breaths and tried to get control back over himself.

He didn’t need to have a panic attack. There was no reason for him to have one. His world wasn’t exploding. No matter how much he wanted to believe that, his brain and body locked up and refused to cooperate.

“Hey are you okay?” A man off to his left asked him. Yuuri nodded and waved the man off, or at least he tried to.

Why was he like this?

”He’s replacing Taka?”

“No way!”

“Have you heard him? He sucks!”

Even though he knew that it wasn’t real. Yuuri could hear the paper ripping in his head. He could almost see the other teenagers standing on stage, as he watched the pieces of score flutter around his piano bench, torn up by the principal violin.

”Garbage.”

“You are utterly garbage!”

“Yuuri Katsuki walks off the stage and disappears from a promising career in music.”

“Yuuri Katsuki.”

“Yuuri Katsuki-” “Yuuri Katsuki---!!!”

Yuuri felt his knees hit the concrete below him as he clamped his hands over his eyes and slammed his eyes shut. His breath came in ragged gasps as he leaned against the side of the building. At least he had the wherewithal to pull himself off the main street and have the breakdown on the side of the building, though that thought really didn’t offer him any solace and comfort.

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri gasped and tried to focus on the person who had called to him. Of course the universe was not so kind. The person who had found him freaking out in the alley was none other than Victor Nikiforov. Yuuri opened his mouth and tried to reassure the other that he was okay, but before he could get one word out, his vision went black.

-----

Victor had been on his way back to Fluer after his own practice to talk to Minako. As he had been just down a block or so, he noticed a crowd standing around the side of one of the buildings.

“I hope that young man is okay.” A couple moving in the opposite direction whispered to each other.

“Me too.” Her partner murmured, looking back over his shoulder.

Several other people dispersed and Victor continued walking. He chanced a look at the person, and was surprised when he recognized Yuuri Katsuki kneeling on the ground, hands in his hair, eyes shut tight. He was trembling like a leaf and Victor felt as if his stomach dropped out of his body onto the floor.

“Yuuri?”

The other didn’t answer. Victor knelt down and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. “Yuuri?”

The other gasped, and his eyes shot open as he turned and looked toward Victor. His lips worked up and down, but the only thing that came out was a soft squeak. Yuuri’s eyes rolled back into his head and he passed out. Victor had been able to catch him and pick him up holding him close as he staggered down the street.

I’m glad I was the one to find him.

It’s a slow trip to Fleur after that, but once he gets the door open he called out, “Hey, can I have a little help here. I need help!”

“Victor?! Yuuri? What happened?” Phichit helped to support Victor as Minako motioned them towards the employees only back room. She opened the door and motioned to the couch.

“He looked so scared. I didn’t know what to do so I brought him here after he passed out.” Victor offered numbly.

With a little maneuvering, Yuuri is laid out and Phichit gently tugs Victor out of the room. “Come on. Let’s let Minako tend to Yuuri. You probably need some water, coffee, or something. I’ll get it for you.”

Victor sat himself at the bar, staring back towards the black door that he had taken Yuuri through. Phichit, however was like a well oiled machine. He moved around as he started the coffee, cell phone tucked between his ear and shoulder. “Hey Ketty, it’s me. Do you think you can let Yuuri’s teachers know he will be out today? Yeah. This time it looked pretty bad. Minako’s taking care of him. Okay, yeah, thanks. Bye.” Phichit tucked his phone away as he prepares a small cup of something for Victor.

Victor stared down at the white creamy looking coffee.

“It’s sweet and warm. It’ll help.” Phichit offered with a small smile.

Victor pulled the drink towards him, a frown etched onto his face. “Is he going to be okay?”

Phichit took his time, moving to the door and swapping the open sign to closed. He moved back towards the bar and settled down with his own identical cup of coffee, sipping on it as he shrugged his shoulders. “It’s Yuuri’s normal.”

Victor felt his heart sink. “What do you mean it’s his normal? Is it always like that?”

Phichit seemed so used to it that Victor almost felt resentful. He had just seen Yuuri do this once and already he was more worried than the other’s best friend. Phichit perked up and turned towards him, “No! Wait, that’s not what I meant. I just think Yuuri has had a hard couple of days. Normally his panic attacks aren’t that intense.”

Victor sighed, “You mean since I showed up.”

Great. He was the reason for the panic attack.

Phichit took a drink and played with the handle on his cup as he shrugged and didn’t quite meet Victor’s eyes, “Well, you are a big part of Yuuri’s past. It can’t be easy to have you here. After all you represent pain in some ways.”

“What do you mean?” Victor looked down at his cup and back towards Phichit.

“Well, Yuuri grew up hearing you play. When he was younger he wanted to play on the same stage as you, and he was talented enough he could have made it happen, but…”

Victor felt his heart pound hard in his chest. Not many people had heard of him outside of the classical music scene, but Yuuri had heard him. Not only had he heard him, and heard of him, but Yuuri had wanted to play with him.

“Yuuri had a lot of free time and his family and Minako encouraged him to play and practice as much as he wanted. He saw you playing with one of the pianists he was studying at the time.” Phichit continued as he drew his fingers along the rim of his cup.

“I think storytime is over for today.” Minako interrupted Phichit as she walked out of the back room, shutting the door behind her. Victor looked up at her and she gave him a small tired smile.

She turned to Phichit and frowned, “I think Yuuri would be pretty upset if he heard you talking about his own experiences Phichit. Especially to someone he admires as much as he does Victor.”

Phichit smiled and shrugged his shoulder, “I didn’t think it was fair after he brought Yuuri here to just give him coffee. But as for the rest?”

Phichit shut his mouth and made the zipping motion over his lips.

-----

When Yuuri finally came to, he was on his back in the dark back office of Fleur. It could have been worse, way worse. He could have passed out and had someone call an ambulance. That was another bill he didn’t want or need.

He couldn’t let everything come down around his ears after he held everything up for so long.

That was the worst panic attack I’ve had in a long time.

Before he could process anything further, Yuuri heard the door to the office squeak open and slam shut. Minako wandered over towards the couch, grabbing her chair as she sat down. “How are you feeling?”

“Tired. My chest is really tight.” Yuuri rasped. She offered him the bottle of water she brought with her.

“I thought we agreed that you would let me know if the panic attacks got bad again. You need more rest and to watch yourself more carefully.” Minako sighed leaning back into the chair, hand pressed up against the side of her neck as she carefully looked him over.

“That was the first one I’ve had in a long time. Normally I can control it better.” Yuuri mumbled, turning his face away from her.

“We need to reduce your stress. We can’t have you passing out like that when things get tough. I think you need to stick to your schedule here instead of taking more shifts. Next, you need to reduce your time with Ketty and I know you hate going to bed early, but I think it might help.” Minako suggests as she reaches out, pushing Yuuri’s bangs off his forehead.

Yuuri scrunched up his face in distaste. “I don’t have time to relax. There is so much going on right now. I don’t want to miss it.”

“But, if you don’t at least compromise, then it could get worse.” Minako pointed out.

Yuuri knew she was right. Minako knew what he needed sometimes before he even understood what he did. She had been like a second mother to him and she was saying this for his own good.

“I’ll rest for now, play my set tonight, and then rest for the next two days.” Yuuri conceded, as he shifted onto his side, back to Minako.

“Deal, but after you play tonight you are banned from Fleur for two days.”

Yuuri nodded and shut his eyes, pulling up his knees and tucking them close to his stomach. He sighed and murmured, “I’ll just rest a little more and leave with Phichit tonight.”

“Good. You know you’re like my son. I would hate if anything happened to you, and I would never forgive myself.” Minako patted his back gently.

“How was Victor? I bet he doesn’t want to play with me now.”

Minako chuckled and shook her head, relaxing back into her chair. “He actually is still out there waiting for you to be up and about. I tried to get him to leave, but he wants to see you.”

Embarrassment flushed through his whole body. “Oh no. Can you kick him out? I don’t want to see him right now.”

Minako smiled, “Celestino would be put in a tough spot with the collaborative project that he is working with Yakov Feltsman and Lilia Baranovskaya on if I did that.”

“Oh.” Yuuri whispered.

“Oh indeed.” Minako agreed.

Minako stood up and put the chair back at her desk, “Also, for what it’s worth, I think that Victor wants to play with you way longer than he will be in town.”

Yuuri shifted over onto his side, facing her as he squinted at her in the dim light, “What makes you say that?”

Minako opened the door and smiled, “Just a hunch.”

-----

“I can’t believe she told you to stop talking to me.” Victor lamented as he took another few sips of his coffee. The sweetness and heat had done wonders just like Phichit said they would.

Phichit smiled and shook his head, “She didn’t say I had to stop talking to you, just not to give you any more information on Yuuri. There’s a big difference. I’d like to think I’m great at holding conversations.”

“You’re also good at making coffee.” Victor nods his head towards the mug in his hands.

“Why thank you Mr. Nikiforov.” Phichit grinned and took another sip of his sweet blend coffee.

A comfortable silence fell between them, and Victor was just glad that Yuuri’s friends liked him enough to open up and meet him where Yuuri couldn’t at the moment. He wanted that connection with Yuuri, but if he had learned anything this afternoon is that there were things about Yuuri, painful things, that the other kept to himself.

Victor sagged against the bar with a sigh.

It was hard to stay still, and Victor had never been the type to really stay still when something was bothering him. Abandoning the coffee mug to the bar, he stood up and moved towards the piano. His fingers brushed over the key, pressing down at the far right of the keyboard a few times as he listened to the silver note ping in response at each press.

Taking a deep breath, Victor looked back at Phichit. “Yuuri is amazing. His playing is so sincere and pure that it’s almost as if he creates the music with his body instead of with the piano.”

Phichit sighed and stood up, mug firmly in his hands as he moved to stand closer to Victor, “I’ve told him that his playing is amazing and that he’s special, but he doesn’t believe me.”

Victor quietly listened to Phichit as he plunked the key again.

How could he convince Yuuri to let him in? How could he get Yuuri to audition and to come along with him?

What could Victor really do about any of this?

After several moments, Victor felt the realization dawn over him as he gasped and straightened up startling Phichit with his quick movement. “I just thought of a perfect way to reach him!”

Phichit blinked, “What?”

“Yuuri! I’m going to reach out to him in the only manner I think will work without complications!” Victor elaborated.

Without really elaborating on anything, Victor turned and with a renewed energy, he opened the door. “When does Yuuri play next?”

“He’s supposed to tonight, but I don’t know if Minako will let him.” Phichit nodded toward the schedule.

“Perfect. That gives me a little time. When I come back will you let me in?” Victor asked, tapping his finger over his lips with his free hand.

Phichit shrugged, “Minako hasn’t kicked you out or banned you, so yes?”

“Great! See you later Phichit.” With that Victor hopped outside and let the door slam shut behind him.

Phichit watched him go with a small shake of his head, “That guy is crazy, but he’s perfect for Yuuri.”

-----

Mila hated airports. Well, to be fair she had done more travelling with her parents and in her short career than she wanted to admit. Even though she was very travelled, she was also still young so everyone was always worried she would lose her way or end up kidnapped.

She leaned up against the wall by baggage claim as Yakov stood next to her his scowl becoming more and more pronounced by the minute. Instead of bothering his friend, Yakov had asked her to come with him to go back to the airport. The look on his face was one of thinly controlled annoyance.

“Yura’s plane landed. Early. Without giving us his trip itinerary.” Yakov had groused at her.

Mila hadn’t had anything better to do, so she had agreed to go along with Yakov to pick Yuri up. Of course, with the announcement that Lilia had made at breakfast that morning it was hardly a surprise that Yuri couldn’t sit still long enough for the trip details to be hashed out. Though, it was evident that he had decided long before Lilia had told them he would try out that he would come to detroit.

Yakov growled under his breath and Mila held a smile as she spotted a familiar mop of blonde. There was no mistaking Yuri Plisetsky. He was dressed in a pair of sweatpants, a hoodie with his favorite tiger print backpack on his shoulders.

“Yura!” Mila called out as she jogged over and threw her arms around him in a tight hug.

“Get off hag! I’ve had to deal with stupidity the entire flight over and I’m tired. I don’t need you leeching off any more of my energy.” Yuri shoved at her and only because she was a good friend did Mila let go of him with a smile.

“If you had waited and set your plans with me and Lilia you wouldn’t have had so much trouble. But you decided to be selfish and come when you wanted.” Yakov snapped at his young pianist.

“I couldn’t sit still and just let Victor think I wasn’t ready to play in a major concert season. I came here to make him listen to me.” Yuri gritted out through his clenched teeth.

Mila rolled her eyes. She never understood why Yakov and Yuri were so prickly, but it was amusing to watch.

“You don’t just have to convince Victor, you have to convince me.” Yakov told the young blond.

“Also you’ll have to try out like the rest of us. So there isn’t a guarantee that you’ll make it.” Mila warned him, a small teasing smile played upon her lips.

She spotted Yuri’s matching tiger bag and grabbed it off the carousel for him. Yuri yanked it out of her hands without so much as a thank you. Mila rolled her eyes, “Is that everything?”

“Da.”

“Also, I’m a sure bet. Who else can play as well as I that Victor could choose from? Lina’s on break anyway.” Yuri taunted.

Yakov didn’t say anything, but Mila grinned and pulled out her cell phone. “Actually, there is something I should show you.”

-----

“Are you sure you want to perform tonight. I have a few others I know who could make it here on short notice.” Minako asked softly. Yuuri leaned back into the dark cushions of the couch his hands wrapped around a bottle of water.

“I can do it. It’s only three hours.” He told her softly, as he looked over towards the door.

He could hear the quiet chaos brimming behind the door of people coming in and out and he could hear Phichit’s friendly voice muffled but enthusiastic as he spoke to the customers and helped them.

Yuuri had hidden in the back office for most of the afternoon, napping on and off. Minako hadn’t complained about it and had probably been thankful that he had decided to rest closer to her where she could keep her eye on him. He sighed and nodded, “I can do this. I need to at least have one part of today that’s normal.”

“You don’t have to rush yourself after a panic attack. I know that you normally feel very tired after them.” Minako hummed as she sat on the edge of her computer desk, balancing just so with her arms folded as she surveyed how Yuuri was acting.

Yuuri stared back at her, lips pressed into a fine line. “I took a nap all afternoon.”

The tension between them broke when Yuuri’s stomach chimed in with a slow steady growl. Instantly Yuuri’s cheeks flushed and he coughed. Minako giggled and shook her head, “Okay, you can play but remember, two days away from here resting. Before you play we should put something in your stomach.”

“I wouldn’t say not to soup and a sandwich.” Yuuri agreed, pressing his hand hard against his belly.

“All right. I’ll have that at the bar for you, give me about fifteen.” Minako tells him as she follows him out of the office.

With the way that Minako had been talking earlier, Yuuri had been half expecting for Victor to be there, worried and crowding the bar waiting for him to come out. But to his relief, and disappointment, the violinist was nowhere to be found. Instead there were just the concerned faces of his friends.

“Yuuri! There you are. How are you feeling?” Ketty asked as she approached him, keeping her distance. For that Yuuri would be ever thankful that she understood what he needed after one of his bad attacks.

“I’m okay. Sorry that I didn’t get to help you with the piece today.” Yuuri focused his eyes on the floor. He knew she was probably having a hard time and not having someone to play for her could make things go slower.

She tapped his shoulder, “Why are you apologizing? We’ve been pushing so hard lately, I should have made sure we were not pushing each other past exhaustion.”

“Also, I came in to make you feel better. Not worse.” She added as she gave him a small smile. Yuuri couldn’t help but return it, with a small nod.

“Yuuri! Thank goodness.” Phichit called out at him as he whisked by with a pitcher of water.

Slowly, the tension that Yuuri felt melted as he settled in his usual seat at the bar. Everything almost felt normal, but then again the one person he wanted to see right now was absent. Minako had assured him the other hadn’t been scared off, but he couldn’t help the creeping self doubt that was slowly crawling up his spine and into his brain.

“Yuuri. Eat.” Minako called to him as she presented his plate and Yuuri’s stomach grumbled again as the smell of cheddar and broccoli soup and ham and cheese made its way into his nose.

“Can I have a glass of water too?” Yuuri asked as he grabbed one triangle of the sandwich dipping it into his soup and biting off the corner of it. The warmth of the soup and melted cheese made him groan in appreciation.

“Save it for the bedroom Romeo.” Teased Minako handing him a glass of water.

“I can’t help the way good food makes me sound.” Yuuri tells her as he take another bite of the sandwich. Minako rolled her eyes and relaxed behind the bar as she watched over him and idly washed more dishes than anything.

“What time is it?” Yuuri asked.

Minako snorted. “Just finish your sandwich.”

She did check the time and before Yuuri could protest she motioned Ketty and Phichit over to the bar.

“What’s up?” Phichit asked as he wiped his hands on his apron.

“Tonight, run more interference between Yuuri and the clients if you wouldn’t mind? I doubt anyone will kick up that much of a fuss, but it never hurts to be careful.” Minako tells them, much to Yuuri’s horror.

“You got it!” Phichit saluted Minako before heading back onto the floor. Ketty smiled and waved at Yuuri as she followed Phichit back onto the floor.

“Minako!” Yuuri turned around, more embarrassed than anything.

“Humor me, okay? You might be okay to play, but you still don’t need everyone coming up to pester you tonight.”

-----

Dinner service had just started, and Yuuri had finally finished his delicious soup and sandwich. He had downed another glass of water before he felt like he was ready enough to sit down and play. It didn’t take him long to get himself up and out of his seat and over to the piano, and he could feel Minako’s eyes on his back the entire seven steps it took to reach the instrument.

He pulled out the bench and settled down.

I know just the song I want to play.

Before he could press down on the keys and make it happen, someone else decided that they wanted to play before him. The door of the restaurant opened and in stepped Victor, violin up in position as he strolled in. People around the restaurant gasped and others cheered as he made his way carefully inside, playing the same song they had played the night before.

A shiver ran down Yuuri’s spine as Victor turned while he continued to play the bright cheerful notes. Each one plucked at him and made him want to join in.

But that was probably the point.

Victor turned to wink at Yuuri before he started to stroll around the booths and between tables, artfully missing Phichit and Ketty as they kept up their rounds. Both paused as Victor even enchanted them.

It was great to hear students play and enjoy a meal, but hearing a true virtuoso violin player was something precious that others would guard in their memories.

“Yuuri, play with him!” Minako called out.

Yuuri jolted back into his present mind and shook his head out. He listened to where Victor was, took a breath, and began. Victor continued to play, but when Yuuri joined him, Yuuri watched the other musician moving back towards him, eyes bright and a large smile plastered on his face. He reached the piano and bowed slightly to Yuuri as their notes intertwined.

It was almost as if the music had opened up for the both of them and a new world was showing itself to Yuuri. But he felt in the notes that Victor added that he wasn’t alone. Victor really did mean what he said, and he could tell by the joy that fused itself into the violinists playing.

Even as they shared quiet looks and make sure the timing was right between them, Victor didn’t have to say anything to him for Yuuri to hear the message.

Play with me.

It was a plea that Yuuri hadn’t heard anyone ever make to him. But, there he is, Victor Nikiforov. He was making that plea right now.

It was easier to respond to than to anything that might have been said with words. The song finished without any more surprises. Yuuri sat there almost numb with anticipation as he looked up at Victor shyly.

Victor looked down at him with a small tender smile.

Thunderous applause erupted around them, ripping Yuuri’s attention from Victor. Victor turned and blinked as he looked up, and then back to Yuuri with a small smile, “Yuuri...That was amazing. Do you want to play something else?”

The people around them in the restaurant still hadn't settled down.

This was what he always wanted to do. Victor understood exactly what Yuuri wanted. Not only did he add to the music, he opened it up for others to be affected and pulled in.

Yuuri bit his bottom lip and nodded, “Yes. Please.”

Phichit stood over to the side as Victor turned to Yuuri and uttered a few brief words he couldn’t make out. Yuuri had understood him perfectly. With a nod the pianist started another song, and Victor immediately joined in this time.

“They are so cute together.” Phichit whispered to Ketty.

Ketty nodded, her eyes never leaving Victor and Yuuri. Then she perked up and grabbed Phichit by the arm. “Phichit. That’s it! I know exactly what I can do for my senior piece!”

-----

 

“Yura! You can’t just barge into Fleur and demand that Yuuri play for you.” Mila protested as she tried to grab a hold of his arm.

Yuri jerked out of her hand and spun around, growling at her and stepping into her space, “I want to see him for myself. You can’t do anything to stop me. Besides, I couldn’t find Victor to ask him, so I might as well do it myself.”

He jerked open the door, and immediately the hair on the back of his neck stood up.

For as large as the shop looked and how many people were inside, they were all silent. Mila peeked over his shoulder, leaning against his back, “Well, go inside then.”

Yuri stepped inside and Mila closed the door behind them. Once the door was shut the gentle notes floated up and made Yuri hold his breath. The piano played alone for a few measures before violin joined it.

The violin, that specific timbre….

Victor.

It was Victor.

Anger sparked in him as he stomped across the restaurant between two servers stopping in front of Victor as the piece finished. Of course he was never anywhere that Yuri needed him to be, but here he was goofing off.

“So this is where you’ve been.” Yuri snarled as he stepped into Victor’s personal space.

Instead of being intimidated, Victor smiled at him making Yuri want to throw something to wipe that smile off his face, “Yuri! You came in early.”

“When Yakov told me that I could try out for your project, I couldn’t just stay in Russia and wait. I also heard you think I will have competition.” Yuri groused as he shoved his hands into his jacket pockets.

Mila moved over and smiled, “Evening Victor. I tried to keep him away but you know Yura.”

Victor laughed and reached out, ruffling Yuri’s hair. The teenager shoved his hand away, careful not to knock against the violin. Not even Victor could keep a smile on his face if Yuri were to damage his instrument.

Yuri turned around to the other Yuuri, the inferior Yuuri, and he felt nothing but frustration. He had been there before this Yuuri, but here Victor was playing with this Yuuri.

He stepped towards the other man, sizing him up. “And you! Do you really think you can just seduce Victor with your music? I heard you play just now and it’s nothing special. Listen to me at the audition and just figure out how shitty you are.”

Turning back to Victor, Yuri tipped his chin up defiantly. “I’ll be at the hotel practicing for what really counts.”

Yuri stomped his foot on the ground and turned around, storming out the door without stopping to listen to anyone or anything. Victor, Yuuri and Mila watched him leave.

Once he was gone, Mila turned to Yuuri with a small smirk. “You have him nervous. Yuri never talks like that unless he nervous and he definitely doesn’t practice either. Keep it up!”

------

The rest of the night went easier than the first half had gone. More and more people ended up coming into Fleur by word of mouth about how great the music and atmosphere was there. They had filled every table and bar stool. No one was willing to move and they kept buying more and more food and drink, enough that both Ketty and Phichit were running around non-stop.

At the end of the night, the tip jar was stuffed full and took both Yuuri and Victor to count the amount of bills. Between them the tips were nearly six hundred dollars. They split the tips evenly and after they were done Minako ran them off.

“You promised me you would take things easy, remember? Get to your apartment and get some rest.” Minako poked Yuuri in the chest hard enough it made him take a step back. Victor caught Yuuri before he backed into him and took them both down.

“I’ll make sure he gets to his apartment. We have a few things we need to talk about first.” Victor assured her with an easy smile. Yuuri spared a glance at him as he turned and looked back at Victor with a small hesitant smile.

“He promised me he would rest. If he doesn’t because of you Nikiforov, not even Yakov Feltsman will be able to protect you.” Minako warned.

“Of course. I would willingly let you hang me if I was detrimental to Yuuri in any way.” Victor promised as he gently guided Yuuri out of the entrance, Minako watching them as they disappeared outside.

“You wanted to talk to me?”

Victor gently pressed his hand against Yuuri’s lower back guiding him down the street, “Are you hungry? Thirsty?”

“Minako fed me before I played.”

Victor hummed, “Even if she did feed you, after a concert or playing for more than an hour I’m normally ravenous.”

“We could go to the restaurant at your hotel? They’re probably still open.” Yuuri suggested.

Victor pulled out his phone and with a few presses held ot to Yuuri for him to see what he was doing, “That’s a great idea! I went ahead and ordered an uber ride to come pick us up.”

Yuuri was weary enough from the panic attack earlier that he doesn’t protest. Instead he lets himself be corralled into the car that comes from them. His eyes droop as he pressed himself back into the seat as Victor distracted the driver with idle chatter.

He let the cadence of Victor’s voice lull him into a light doze.

“Yuuri? We’re here.” Victor shook his shoulder gently, drawing Yuuri with him and out of the car and inside the hotel lobby.

“Thanks,” Yuuri whispered as he leaned into Victor as they walked through the lobby to the small restaurant.

“Tea and water please.” Victor called to the waiter on duty. The young man took one look at them and immediately hopped to get them what they wanted. Yuuri watched after him and then settled at their small table without much fuss.

“This is my treat so get whatever you want.” Victor picked up the limited menu looking over the appetizers as he settled on calamari and some mozzarella sticks.

“You don’t have to do that.” Yuuri squeaked out softly.

“But I want to. I love playing with you.” Victor told him, finally looking up for the menu.

“Why me though? You could literally play with anyone you want and you chose me.” Yuuri asked finally. When the waiter came back he waited for Victor to answer after he ordered the food they had settled on.

“Because for the first time in a long time, your music reached me and made me want to play again.” Victor admitted quietly. Yuuri blinked and stared at him, unable to really say anything more to that. If that was how Victor felt about his playing, he couldn’t argue no matter how much he wanted to.

“What is this project you’re here for? Really?”

“Yakov and I are working on gathering a small symphony and chorale to perform on a tour around the world. It’ll go quick. We’ll practice here for two weeks and then start the tour and hit as many places as we can sell out.” Victor brushed his fingers over the side of his teacup.

Yuuri held his breath and pulled the glass of water closer to himself as he thought about it. Would he be able to keep to a schedule like that? What would his teachers say if he did get picked to go?

You can figure that out. If you truly want this, then do this.

The waiter brought their plates and Victor grabbed one of the lemons and squeezed it over the calamari. Yuuri raised an eyebrow at him and Victor smiled, “What? I like to have lemon on the calamari. Try some.”

Yuuri picked up his fork and speared a piece of calamari taking a bite. The acidity and breaded calamari match perfectly. He nodded. “Yeah, okay that’s not that bad.”

Victor picked up another piece and dunked it into marinara sauce, popping the small piece into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. “The try outs are by invitation only, by the way. You’re my invite.”

Yuuri stopped mid chew and stared at him, swallowing. “Are you sure you want to waste your invite on me?”

“It’s not a waste! I genuinely enjoy playing with you.” Victor insisted as he reached out, his hand covering Yuuri’s. Yuuri sighed and looked at their joined hands. Warmth seeped into his hand and spread up his forearm as he bit the inside of his cheek.

He wanted more of this. He wanted to stay with Victor and play the piano with him.

“What about the kid that came in to Fleur tonight and yelled at me? He’s pretty good to be here and trying out too, right?” Yuuri asked.

“Yura? He’s fine. He has more bark than bite, trust me. He’s also very honorable and if you’re picked he’ll swallow that and do what’s asked of him.” Victor squeezed Yuuri’s hand once before he pulled away.

“Oh.”

Yuuri took a deep breath and nodded to himself. He could do this. If, and it was a big if, he was picked, he could hash out the details then. For now, he would just have to survive the try outs and hope for the best.

“Yuuri?” Victor murmured at him, giving him a small hesitant smile as if he expected to be turned down flat. Yuuri relaxed his shoulders and licked his lips nervously.

“Yeah. Okay. I’ll do it.”

-----

Yuuri felt as if he were at a disadvantage.

Once he committed to the try outs, he threw himself into practicing. He practiced at the auditorium, he practiced for Ketty, and he practiced by playing out different pieces at Fleur. It had been a long time since he had dedicated it to practicing and pushing himself until his fingers were stumbling over the keys instead of making proper music.

But he didn’t have time to worry about being tired or worried. Yuuri needed all the time he could get in order to get ready.

The four days that he had before the auditions were the hardest four days he had in a long time. Celestino, Phichit, Ketty and Minako all made sure that he was resting enough. Victor had been so wrapped up in preparations he had only received a few texts from the violinist. Thankfully because Victor had been scarce, that meant that he didn’t see Yuri or Mila or any of the others that were in town to try out.

It was great for his focus and drive.

Even though he had listened to some of Yuri’s clips on Youtube, Yuuri had brushed off the initial shock and worry. They were both good pianists. Whoever Victor and the others chose would be the right fit. He just had to keep telling himself that.

Before Yuuri realized it, the day of the auditions was finally there. Minako had picked him and Phichit up at the apartment and had ferried them to Celestino’s practice space and the small auditorium.

“Thanks for the ride.” Yuuri smiled at Minako as Phichit pulled himself out of the car holding a pair of drumsticks not long after.

“You both will be fine. Do your best and we’ll celebrate tonight.” Minako called to them both.

Yuuri nodded and watched as she pulled out into traffic and disappeared down the block. Letting out a huff of breath, Yuuri turned to Phichit. “I’m not ready.”

Phichit snorted, “Of course you say that, but we both know different. You’re going to knock them dead!”

Wandering down the hall, the noise escalated as they stepped into the practice hall. There were way more people than he thought there would be. Then again this was a symphony and chorale being hand picked by Victor Nikiforov, Yakov Feltsman and Lilia Baranovskaya. Anyone who was worth their salt had been invited and would have been stupid not to attend.

“I’m going to go find a practice drum.” Phichit called out waving to his friend as he wandered into the other side of the medium sized practice room.

There were people playing all sorts of instruments. Most of them were working slowly through their audition pieces, or they were doing scales and bow work. Yuuri sat down in the corner by himself and pulled out his headphones. He pressed them into his ears and connected them to his cell.

Immediately the loud noise was muffled, and then the piece he planned to play filtered through the headphones. Yuuri quietly tapped out the keys on his knees as he let his eyes fall shut. ‘A Quiet Peace’ wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice as a piece that would make you stand out in any competition or audition, but for Yuuri it was perfect.

He wanted to prove that even someone like him could draw out the potential to draw out the character of the music.

Once the piece was over, he placed it on repeat.

He felt someone sit down next to him, and paused the music, taking out one of his head phones. Mila smiled at him as she sat cross legged next to him, her viola in her hands as she plucked the strings. Attached to the bridge was her tuner as she adjusted the pitch of her c string.

“Hello Mila.” Yuuri smiled at the young violist.

“Hey Yuuri. How are you feeling today? Nervous?” She smiled and turned more towards him to talk, her eyes never leaving the small tuner perched on her knee. She moved from the c string to the g string.

“I am. But that’s nothing new.” Really it wasn’t. He was nervous at every audition. It was like he was sitting on a roller coaster waiting for the ride to take off. Once it started there was no stopping it until the cart was back at the station. Auditions were always thrilling like that.

When did I stop feeling this? When did it start again?

The realization hit him belatedly and caught him by surprise. Mila must have interpreted his nervousness to be more than he was actually letting on to her because she smiled at him and reached out to pat his knee. “We all get nervous. But I really want to do this, don’t you? Also, Ketty told me you don’t like to lose.”

It was true. Yuuri was a terrible loser.

“Ketty is just very chatty isn’t she.” Yuuri teased as Mila went back to tuning her instrument. Now it was the d strings turn, then the a string. She made quick work of each as she hummed thoughtfully.

Yuuri took his time letting his eyes wander around the room. Phichit stood off to the side using a practice pad as he thumped the drum sticks on it, his own headphones plugged in. Not three feet away from him was Otabek drawing his bow over the strings of his bass as he adjusted from sharp to just the perfect sound of the note.

Ketty wandered in and sat down on Yuuri’s other side. “Hey.”

“Hey Ketty, I’m glad to see you here.” Yuuri smiled at her. Even though he was annoyed that she was telling personal things about him to Mila, seeing her there was nice. In fact, there were a lot of familiar faces which helped Yuuri to relax. She had her french horn out of its case already as she settled her back against one of the bass lockers.

“Celestino was allowed to let some of his orchestra try out.” Ketty explained with a grin.

“That’s really nice.” Yuuri leaned against her shoulder.

Ketty reached out and hugged him with her free arm, “Are you going to be okay?”

“Yeah. With you and a few others here, I think I’ll be just fine. I thought it would be a lot of unfamiliar faces, but it’s really not. I mean there are some people I don’t recognize, but that’s just how it is.” Yuuri rambled.

Ketty and Mila exchanged looks and knowing smiles with each other, before both looked back to Yuuri.

“Really. I’ll be okay.” Yuuri insisted.

“Okay, just go back to practicing.” Ketty tells him as she nudged at him. Yuuri nodded and turned away from them. He slipped his headphones on and went back to tapping the notes out on his knees.

Mila also gave a cursory glance as she looked around at all the people trying out. On the opposite side of the room were where there were a few people talking to each other and looking through music. One of them was a beautiful woman with long black hair. The sight of her took Mila’s breath away.

The other woman must have felt Mila’s eyes on her because she turned and met her gaze. Mila felt the heat travel up her neck into her cheeks as she nodded her head towards her.

She had the prettiest eyes that Mila had ever seen.

The other girl graced her with a small smile and slight wave of her own before she turned around, talking to one of the men beside her. Mila blushed and bit her lower lip, turning back to Ketty, “Did she just wave at me? Should I go talk to her?”

“Maybe you should wait after auditions just to be safe.” Ketty told her quietly.

-----

As was normal with most auditions, they took forever. Yuuri was one of the last ones that was scheduled to go on stage. So he watched with growing dread as one by one everyone around him went on stage and came back a little more energized or a little more grim.

It did nothing to settle the nerves that had started to creep up on Yuuri.

At midday the judges took a break to grab food and get up and go over the notes they had so far. Ketty had been a trooper and had offered to go get Mila, Yuuri and Phichit some food. Her audition had been one of the first ones in the morning.

Some people had decided to go get their own food, but Yuuri appreciated not having to have the stress of going out somewhere and getting stuck in traffic. When he had offered his own card to pay for the food Ketty waved him off. “Nikiforov gave me a little cash and said to take care of everyone.”

With that she disappeared with their subway orders in hand.

Yuuri would probably eat at least one third of his sandwich. He never did like eating before an audition because he was afraid he would get sick on stage. The thought made him feel sick already and a shiver ran down his spine.

You’re fine. Don’t do this to yourself now. You need to be one hundred percent in this.

“Yuuri!” Victor’s voice cut through all of the slowly rising panic in one go.

“Victor?!” Yuuri blinked as he dragged him up, hands clamped down onto his shoulders.

“You’re doing so well! I don’t know if I could be this patient myself. Everything is almost winding up for today and then we’ll deliberate and know exactly who we’re picking.” Victor talked more at him then to him, but Yuuri appreciated the distraction all the same.

“I am worried I won’t be able to do this.” Yuuri admitted breathlessly.

“You at least need to try. You’d be surprised as what happens on the stage sometimes during auditions.” Victor squeezed his shoulders and stepped back to watch him for a second. Yuuri felt his face heat up as he pointedly looked away from him.

“I know that. That’s why I’m going to try my best. But don’t expect much.” Yuuri warned him.

Victor smiled and shook his head, “Eat something and relax until they call you. I can’t stay but you’re in capable hands. I can’t wait for your try out.”

With that Victor was gone just as quick as he appeared, back out into the auditorium and out of sight. Yuuri felt his chest relax just a little, until Yuri brushed past him and looked over his shoulder, “Someone that’s worried about this kind of audition will never be able to play with Victor. Get ready to lose.”

Yuuri watched as Yuri strolled out onto the stage right after, already ready for his audition. It took everything in Yuuri not to bite back at the snide comment. Instead of staying back, where he had been, he forced himself to step behind the shell and listen.

He had looked up Yuri Plisetsky and listened, but nothing compared to hearing the teen in person.

Yuri had a lot of power in his playing. He played up and down the piano as if it was a waterfall of notes interspersed between beautiful langid spots. But everything fit and nothing was out of place.

It captured Yuuri and made his chest hurt.

Yuri was really good. He knew that, but now he was proving it. He hit a triplet pattern of notes and slammed his hands down on the ending chord with a flourish. There was very little noise and then applause erupted from the judges.

“As always that was wonderful Yura!” Victor called out.

Hearing Victor cheer for Yuri was the last nail in the coffin. Yuuri took a deep breath and shook his head sneaking back into the audition room.

“You can leave now Yura.” Lilia tells him.

Instead of leaving, Yuri hopped off the stage and sat below the judges table, kicking his feet up on the chairs in front of him.

“Yura.” Growled Yakov.

“What? I just want to hear what the pig plays that has Victor so in love with him.”

“Let him stay.” Victor shrugged, a small smirk on his face.

“Vitya. You don’t mean that.” Yakov turned and scoffed at him.

“I do.”

“If you stay be ready to accept what you hear and what decision is handed down.” Lilia folded her hands on the table, and pursed her lips primly.

Yuri rolled his eyes, “Whatever.”

-----

Finally it was Yuuri’s turn.

The glare of the lights over head and the feedback buzz on the system behind him made him feel more at ease. He shifted himself into his favorite position on the bench and looked out at where the judges sat. He had decided to leave his glasses off instead of being half blind.

Yuuri needed every single advantage if he wanted to show the difference between the younger Yuri and himself.

He expected to see Yakov, Lilia and Victor, but he had not expected to see Yuri sitting down, sprawled out and watching him below the judges table.

“Yuuri Katsuki. Would you like us to ask Yuri to leave? You are well within your rights to.” Yakov called out to him, pen tapping on the table and onto the paper.

Yuri tipped his chin up defiantly. Of course he was daring him to kick him out. It would only give the young blond more ammo to use on him later if things really went sideways. Yuuri took a breath, tipped his own chin up in answer and narrowed his eyes, “No. Let him stay.”

“Then you may play when you are ready.” Lilia answered as she nodded at him.

Turning back to the piano, Yuuri took another breath and let it out slowly. He couldn’t play ‘A Quiet Peace’ anymore. He couldn’t take the chance with Yuri sitting there, so he rolled his shoulders back, sat up straighter and started to play ‘Rain.’

As his fingers danced over the keys once again, he could almost hear his own hesitation in his playing. He gritted his teeth and leaned forward a little more into the keys and closer to the piano. As soon as the first minute was over and done with, the music began to build, and Yuuri started to paint a picture with his playing.

He was standing back on that shore again as the rain pelted the sand leaving small divots in its wake. Yuuri felt the rain as it soaked through his clothes making it hard to move. The rain continued to fall harder and harder as the piece carried over and the clouds darkened as the sea turned into large unsatisfied waves that struck the sand and washed up the shore.

The water was normally a beautiful color awash with dark blues and greys when it was calm, but for now it was dark and murky. Even though it’s so harsh, the music shielded from most of the fear that would have been associated by being so close to the raging waters and dark skies.

Yuuri’s eyes slid shut as he let the notes pelt around him, sometimes catching him, and sometimes not. He kept going like that until the end of the piece as it starts to even out, the storm slowly starting to clear and the rain going from pelting to a gentle tickle eventually stopping as the clouds started to clear.

It was easy for Yuuri to convey what he wanted here.

He wanted to be with Victor and watch his project come to fruition. It was done. It was over now, and as he struck the last notes, he let out a quiet breath.

Thank goodness.

----

Yuri had been hoping that Yuuri Katsuki was as weak as he looked off stage. But as he had sat on stage eyes on Yuri, it was very evident that they were both evenly matched.

No, Yuuri Katsuki was the clear winner.

Where Yuri’s own playing was normally powerful enough to cut through people’s perceptions of him, Yuuri Katsuki could paint goddamn pictures with his music. He could feel what he wanted clear as day as he stood on that same beach under the harsh gale and rain.

It was unreal.

That was what talent did to people. The Yuuri Katsuki who had started the piece on stage was not the same one that finished it. The man who sat on stage was straight backed, chin held high and staring down at Yuri after finishing.

Yuri almost felt like cowering a little under that steady gaze.

“Yuuri! That was wonderful!” Victor broke the silent tension between the two as he leapt up from his chair and clapped wildly. Yakov and Lilia both also stood clapping, albeit a little less enthusiastic than Victor.

Yuri winced.

The Yuuri that had been so confident on stage disappeared once again as Yuuri’s cheeks flushed and he bowed slightly, “Thank you.”

Without sticking around, he carried himself stiffly off stage.

“Not bad.” Yakov muttered under his breath to Victor. The violin player beamed as he craned his neck to follow off his friend? Boyfriend? Did it matter at this point?

It was clear who had won. Yakov had never said anything near praise to him or Victor, so for Yuuri Katsuki to get it was as good as giving him his endorsement.

“He has a very unique musicality indeed.” Lilia agreed.

Yuri frowned, and Victor seemed to realize he was there. As if it wasn’t bad enough he could see the gap between his playing and the other Yuuri’s, Victor smiled down at him and made Yuri want to punch the grin off his face. “So that’s how it is Yura.”

So that’s how it is.

-----

As soon as he was off stage, Yuuri took a few deep breaths and leaned over, bracing his hands on his thighs, his head down low.

Immediately Ketty and Phichit were by his side and Mila was hovering just a few feet away.
Someone had probably told her about the panic attacks, because while she looked concerned, she definitely had hung back and let Phichit and Ketty get near him.

“I’m okay. Not having a panic attack.” Yuuri uttered softly.

“Good. That’s good Yuuri. How did it go?” Phichit asked softly, his hand rubbing up and down the expanse of his roommates back.

Yuuri relaxed under the touch, “I don’t know. I don’t think my playing is the type of playing they’re going to want. If you could have heard Yuri play-”

Before Yuuri could say anything more, strong arms enveloped him and he was hauled up off the ground in a bear hug. “Yuuri! You were wonderful!!!”

Yuuri squirmed in surprise as Ketty and Phichit stared at both men with wide eyes. Victor shook him just a little as he laughed, “You did spectacular! I could tell at the beginning that having Yuri watch you made you nervous, but you played through it like a true performer!”

“So does that mean you know who your new accompanist is?” Teased Ketty.

Finally, Victor put Yuuri back onto his feet and tapped his fingers over his lips as he gave them a secretive smile, “Of course it doesn’t. We heard some amazing talent, though we pretty much will be able to decide with just about an hour or so of deliberation. We’ll be posting the lists in the main office here in just a while.”

“Then we should get everyone that is able and go celebrate!” Ketty clapped her hands together excitedly.

Yuuri frowned and looked at everyone around them. Most looked tired, but satisfied, and others looked eager at the prospect of going out. “I might just go home.”

“Nonsense! I’m sure everyone who tried out and worked hard would like to go out. That includes you Yuuri. Why don’t you all decide what we will do to celebrate, hm?” Victor nudged Yuuri towards Ketty and Phichit.

“Vitya.” Yakov called for him and Victor waved towards the other and turned back to the group still hanging around.

“Just wait a little more, I promise it won’t be long!” With that Victor was again headed off to deliberate on who exactly they would use, and who they would thank and send home.

----

The deliberations don’t take that long. What took the most time was the posting of the lists which caught the attention of the instrumentalists and chorale hopefuls. While everyone was mature enough to take turns looking at the list, Yuuri waited until everyone had disbanded and approached the list separately.

He checked over the list and was surprised to see that about ninety percent of the people that tried out were approved. But that made sense. If you were hand picking invites for auditions then that meant unless everyone bombed their auditions then they were going to be approved.

When he got to the piano auditions, there had been one other person who had auditioned besides he and Yuri. They weren’t picked at all, one of the unlucky few.

Yuuri adjusted his glasses and looked at the list:

Yuuri Katsuki - Principal
Yuri Plisetsky - Secondary

He squinted at the results again as if they might change or were some type of cruel trick. But there it was, in black and white.

Wow.

He made it. Not only had he made it, he was the principal pianist for the symphony that was picked by some of the most important musical figures of their time. Yuuri felt a weight off his shoulders he hadn’t known had been there, but apparently it had been all along.

Yuri leaned against the wall looking at the list, arms crossed and brow furrowed. He narrowed his eyes at the list, and then looked at Yuuri and grumbled, “I don’t understand how someone who can create music like you do can act like such a kicked puppy. But, whatever.”

It was a congratulations in what Yuuri had come to think of as a prickly sort of speech the younger pianist was comfortable with. He hadn’t been that standoffish when he was that age, but he could see where it came from.

“Thanks Yuri.” Yuuri murmured.

Yuri narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth, only to shut it as someone approached them. Yuuri turned to see Otabek, the younger bass player having become a recent addition to the community orchestra that Celestino led. He smiled, “Hey. Congratulations.”

“Same to you.” Otabek added as he turned his lips up just slightly. Yuuri and Otabek had become fast friends because of how quiet and easy it was just stay in each other’s presence. So, this was nice.

“Who do you think you are?” Yuri gritted through his teeth as he turned his anger towards an easy target. However, when Yuri turned, he was almost nose to nose with Otabek. He wasn’t like anyone else that Yuuri kept around him. He was darker. Different.

“Oh. Yuri, this is Otabek Altin. Otabek, this is Yuri Plisetsky.” Yuuri introduced them.

“It’s nice to meet you Yuri. You have a wonderful playing style.” Otabek reached his hand out waiting for him to grab it.

Yuri studied him with narrowed eyes before he reached out and grasped his hand, “Yeah? How would you know?”

Otabek’s small grin widened just a fraction more. “A few of us snuck up to the balcony and listened to the rest of the auditions. It was nice.”

Yuri snorted and Yuuri made a strangled noise at the back of his throat, “Oh? Well that’s cool. I’ll be sure to not rat you out for that.”

“Thanks.” Otabek murmured as he let go of Yuri’s hand.

“Yuuri! Yura!” Mila’s voice called fromt heir other side. Yuuri turned to see Mila walking with another young woman about her age arm in arm.

“What do you want, hag?” Yuri growled at her as Mila tugged the girl beside her forward.

Otabek stepped to the side, head cocked thoughtfully as the red head motioned to the girl her arm was linked with. “This is Sara. That’s her twin brother Michele and their chorale friend Emil. They are all going to go on tour with us, isn’t that wonderful?”

“That is good news.” Yuuri agreed.

Yuri sized up Sara, who smiled and winked at him. He peered over her shoulder at her brother and frowned, “Do you have something stuck up your ass? That look on your face is weird.”

Mila gasped, “Yura!”

Yuuri choked, and Otabek smiled. Sara looked amused and giggled behind her hand. Michele stepped out to the side, puffing his chest out slightly. “Who the hell do you think you are, huh?”

“Now Micky, this kid was just reacting to your charm.” Emil chuckled and patted him on the arm.

“We wanted to see if you two wanted to go with us to get something to eat. You could bring your other friend along too, Yuuri.” Mila suggested.

“Actually, Victor, Phichit and I are going to Phichit’s favorite club. If Yuuri doesn’t come with us I’m sure Victor would be devastated.” Ketty spoke up as she and Phichit wandered up.

“A club, cool!” Yuri eagerly turned towards Ketty and Phichit who stared at him and then back at the others.

“It’s an eighteen plus club Yura. You can’t go, so you might as well go to dinner with us.” Mila informed him.

“Are you coming?” He looked to Otabek for confirmation.

“Actually, if it’s the club Phichit goes to, I have a set I’m doing in a bit so I’ll have to pass.” Otabek nodded to Yuuri who smiled. Otabek’s mixes were wonderful to listen to and even more fun to dance to.

“You DJ? That’s so cool.” Yuri whispered under his breath.

Yuuri hid his smile from the young man, not wanting to call attention to his admiration for Otabek.

-----

The club had been fun. They had all drank a lot, danced a lot and Victor had been all over the place as he had kept up with Yuuri at the club. Otabek’s DJing hadn’t disappointed either. Victor had babbled drunkenly at their table about trying to do something and mix it with him at a later date. Otabek had been surprised but no less enthusiastic about it.

It took about three days for the contracts to be e-mailed out. Yuuri and Phichit both printed theirs and signed them. Most of the other musicians had gone back home temporarily for a few days to settle matters. They were expected to send back their contracts via e-mail, however the people that were based in Detroit were asked to deliver them to Victor at Fleur.

That hadn’t been hard for Yuuri, Ketty, and Phichit as they hung around there almost daily. Otabek had started showing up more, and Yuuri had also noticed a certain blond pianist had started to show up to keep Otabek company as he settled down to order food and eat.

Minako had always liked Otabek, so most of the time his meal was free. He had also offered to do a set for her in the future.

It was all coming together.

It was Saturday Morning when everyone is settled back in and the whole symphony and chorale are herded into their practice space at Celestino’s.

“I do not care what you do when you are not in this building.” Yakov growled out gruffly.

“Lies!” called out Victor from his seat as concertmaster. Everyone chuckled, and Yakov’s face turned a brilliant red.

Yakov cleared his throat again, “I do care that you not drag our name or this project through the mud. If there is a scandal you will be removed. If you argue or embarrass us in any way, you will be removed. If you are late I will punish you and dock your pay. Is that understood?”

Everyone wanted to be paid and they were all professionals. Hopefully.

The first rehearsal was more about seeing how they fit together and sounded. So the first hour had been sectionals for the strings and various band parts. Yuuri had enjoyed getting to help with the first violins and second violins going between both practice spaces to play parts for them on a keyboard.

Then when they had joined together it was definitely a bright and strong sound that Yuuri had not expected. Yakov tapped his baton on the stand in front of him eyes narrowed on the group, “Not bad, but not good either. Let’s take it from the top.”

As part of their contract, Yuuri knew that Yakov was just their stand-in conductor.

“Yakov refused to be the actual conductor for the whole series because he said he’s too old. But that’s not without its merits.” Victor explained over coffee.

“What merit is that?” Yuuri asked.

Victor grinned, “We get to have guest conductors of all types.”

As the week drug on, the practices got longer and longer. The last week resembled an intensive camp with hardly anything else going on.

“Thank goodness we had the foresight to go ahead and contact our professors. Otherwise there would be more of a problem.” Phichit muttered as the symphony was split up again to work on parts before lunch.

Yuuri nodded, “Thank you for having such a good idea.”

Phichit laughed and waved him off. “I want to make sure we reduce our stress as much as possible.”

They already had enough to deal with without having to worry about trying to convince their professors to let them take incompletes or modify their course. Most were understanding since they were performers themselves in the off season, so it wasn’t as hard as it otherwise might be in a core subject or business course.

By the time they had finished for the day, Yuuri let his tired feet move him back towards Fleur. He honestly didn’t remember even sitting down.

“Yakov is such a slave driver.” Yuuri sighed, pressing his stomach against the side of the bar.

Minako grinned, “Tired you two?”

Phichit slumped down in the seat next to him, “Tired? No. This isn’t tired. This is exhausted.”

Celestino chuckled good naturedly as he passed, patting both boys on the shoulders. “It’ll get easier. By the end of it you’ll have so much energy you won’t know what to do with yourselves!”

Yuuri perked up, “Really?”

Celestino shook his head and settled next to him, “No, but I thought I would lie for a moment to help you.”

Yuuri slumped back against the bar and whined.

“I’m suffering too you know. I’m losing all my free labor at night. I’m going to actually have to hire dedicated staff.” Minako lamented with a hum as she moved around back behind the bar.

“She won’t. There are plenty of part time music students that said they would help out while you all were gone.” Celestino offered.

Already they were talking as if they were gone. It was surreal and odd at the same to for him. He could feel the homesickness already taking root in his chest, unfurling like a poisonous flower ready to blossom and send its pollen out into him.

But Yuuri knew how to combat homesickness. He had been doing it for over five years now and hadn’t cracked once yet. There was too much to do, so he shoved down the feeling in order to make a mental checklist.

He still needed to pack, help find Phichit a hamster sitter, and go to have his own performance clothes fit on him and tailored. Thankfully Victor had great connections and a lot of friends who wanted to help out.

“It’s all happening so fast.” Yuuri whispered to himself more than anyone else.

And it did go by fast. Each day went faster than the rehearsal before it, but it was fulfilling in a way that Yuuri wouldn’t be able to describe to someone who had not experienced anything like it.

-----

“By the way, how are things with you and Victor?” Phichit asked as they carried their laundry baskets down to the basement to do laundry. Normally they were more on top of their chores, but the busy nature of their schedules had pushed off doing laundry for a few more days than they should have.

Yuuri sat his basket down on the folding table, pulling out his laundry detergent and eyeing the bottle. They would need some more when they got back.

Maybe I should just get some before and save myself the hassle.

“Yuuri?” Phichit tried again.

Yuuri stood up and blinked at his friend, “Oh. Sorry. Um, I’m not sure what you’re talking about?”

“The sexual tension that is deep enough to cut like a knife.” Phichit rolled his eyes and motioned to the ceiling flippantly as if it was common knowledge.

Wait. Was it common knowledge?

“What are you talking about?” Yuuri separated his darks from his colors and moved towards one of the four machines in the small laundry room. At least the good part about having a busy schedule is no one else was down there to bother them past midnight. That meant they could use all four washers and get everything done super quick.

“That man is head over heels for you.” Phichit grabbed a load of his own laundry and pitched it into the third washer. He picked up the detergent, poured it in, and looked around.

“I don’t think you know what you’re talking about?” Yuuri deflected as he offered the large sack of quarters to Phichit.

“Thanks-- Ask anyone who spends enough time around you both. You should probably quit underestimating your sex appeal.” Phichit scooped out a handful of the quarters sliding them into the required slots, shoving the small tray inside the washer.

After a moment, the sound of water filling the washer started.

Phichit tossed the bag of coins back to Yuuri who took his own handful of coins. “I think you’re wrong. We just like playing our music together.”

“Oh? Is that all?” Phichit rolled his eyes and placed his second load into the last washer.

“Yes. That’s all.” Yuuri told him.

No amount of flirting, drinks, playing music, and spending time together could make that true. Yuuri just didn’t see it.

------

After the try outs, Yuri, Mila and Victor had been shoved together in Victor’s large suite. Yuuri had just assumed the others could take care of themselves if they were all together. It didn’t take long for him to realize how wrong he was.

He had been finishing up another reflection paper when his phone light up.

With some wheedling he had caved and given Victor his number. He normally just sent texts, but it must have been something important if Victor was trying to get in touch with him.

“Hello?”

“Yuuri!! I need your help.” Victor whined on the other side of the line.

Yuuri’s heart leapt into his throat at the other’s tone. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt? Do you need me to get Celestino to take you to the Emergency Room?”

“No, nothing like that. I’m tired of eating out.” Victor groaned.

“Don’t you have a kitchenette in your suite?” Yuri sat back against the headboard of his bed as he looked at the opposite wall.

“I burn water, Mila refuses to cook saying it’s too much work, and Yura is too young to operate a stove without burning the entire place down.” Victor continued on, whimpering pitifully.

Yuuri tried to hide the amusement in his voice, “I think if Yuri heard you say that you’d be in big trouble.”

“I’m too hungry to care.” Victor sighed listlessly into the phone.

Yuuri checked the time. It was only about 7:15. They hadn’t eaten yet, so maybe…

“Would you like it if Phichit and I came over to help you cook something?” Yuuri offered.

“Eh? You’d do that for us?” Victor sounded shocked.

“Well, it beats hearing you complain about not having a home cooked meal, but really, I’m worried about Yuri and Mila not eating right.” Yuuri teased him quietly.

“What? You’re worried about them, and not about me?” Victor whined at him. Yuuri chuckled and shook his head, sliding off his bed as he grabbed a hoodie and tugged it on.

Placing his phone between his cheek and shoulder he tugged on his shoes. “Any requests?”

“Just something you two cook well.” Victor suggested hopefully.

“We’ll see.” Yuuri answered.

Yuuri shut the door to his room and knocked on Phichit’s door. The younger instrumentalist peeked out at him, “Are you finally hungry?”

“Actually, I am now on a rescue mission. Want to join me?” Yuuri asked tipping his head towards the front door.

“Is there food involved?” Phichit asked.

“Yes, we’re going to be cooking for us and three others.” Phichit’s eyes light up. He always loved cooking for a large crowd of people.

“I know just the thing. Let’s get groceries.”

They had carefully decided on what to make, grabbed the groceries on their way and ended up in the hotel. Victor ushered them inside the room and into the kitchen.

“I can’t wait to taste what you both make.” Victor gushed.

Yuuri felt heat in his cheeks as he looked at the ground between them. “Let’s not make this a habit okay? You really need to start cooking in more.”

Victor made a cross mark over his chest, “I promise.”

Of course, that didn’t stop Victor from taking turns cooking and inviting both Yuuri and Phichit over every night after practice. It became their nightly tradition, and it was a tradition that brought more and more people closer together.

-------

“Ugh. Yuuri. How can you stand working with the violins for each sectional rehearsal?” Yuri complained as he fell in step beside Yuuri. On Yuri’s other side, Otabek held a cold drink in his hands as they walked back to Celestino’s venue.

They had just enough time to get a couple of cold drinks from the nearest McDonald’s. Yuuri had ended up buying, but it was a small price to pay to make Yuri happy.

Because they spent enough of their day together going over their pieces and helping the others practice, it was easier to keep on Yuri’s side then make him a grumbling combative force. Yuuri smiled indulgently at him. “What do you mean?”

“I just mean, sure we help them practice but they don’t need to be obnoxious about it. I saw how that prick JJ was treating you.” Yuri gripped the plastic cup just a little harder sealing his mouth around the straw as he took a drink of the caramel macchiato that he got with extra caramel.

“Yura.” Otabek warned him softly.

Yuri rolled his eyes, “What? JJ is a prick. He is like every other violinist. He wants to be the fancy peacock that stands out.”

Yuuri nearly choked on his drink. He covered his mouth with his hand and coughed. Otabek and Yuri exchanged looks and Yuri reached out and tapped him on the back a few times.

“You know it’s true.” Yuri spoke sagely.

“Yes, but I didn’t think anyone would say that out loud though.” Yuuri wheezed and shook his head with a smile.

“See, I told you!” Yuri pumped his free fist up into the air.

If there had been a fast friends duo to come up in the last week of rehearsal it was Yuri and Otabek. Though Yuri was just a couple years younger than Otabek, he took it in stride and stuck to him like a quiet shadow when they weren’t at rehearsal.

Otabek had started to make an appearance at Victor’s too. He sometimes slid into the kitchen to help with the prep before setting the large table for everyone.

It was probably the reason that Yuri had pulled back on his venom a little. Otabek was a good influence for him.

“Hey. If JJ keeps bothering you, don’t be afraid to tell him to fuck off.” Yuri insisted.

“Yura.” Otabek sighed.

“What? He deserves it.” Yuri shrugged.

“Thank you.” Yuuri told him, earning him a rare smirk of approval from the young pianist. He would have to tell Victor that the blond was making more progress.

------

“Hey Yuuri, do you mind if I invite some other people to our apartment to play games tonight?” Phichit asked as they finished washing and drying the sink. The kitchen was spotless for the first time in two weeks. Everything was put up in anticipation for their departure.

There were no more clothes to fold and pack, their performance suits were hung on the clothing rack by the door along with their suitcases.

“How many people?” Yuuri slipped the last bowl into the top cabinet.

“Just thinking about Leo, Guang Hong Ji, Seung Gil and maybe Mila?” Phichit counted each person out.

“If you invite Mila, then prepare for Sara, Michele and Emil.” Yuuri sighed.

So many people. All he wanted was to rest that evening and get up early for their flight. He was always so nervous on flights it was hard for him to settle down and sleep. They were going from Detroit to Perth and the flight was hellish. They only had one stop and the flight was nearly a day long to get there.

Great.

“I don’t have to have them over?” Phichit offered.

“No, it would probably be better. Let Victor know you’re having a sleepover with the others so we have enough transportation for in the morning.”

Phichit bounced and clapped his hands together. “You got it!”

Yuuri rubbed at his eyes and motioned back to his room, “I’m think I’m going to get a nap. Knowing you and that crew you won’t let me get too much rest, will you?”

“Nope! This is our last night home and we should enjoy it together with our friends and performance buddies.” Phichit leaned over giving Yuuri a hug.

“Okay. Wake me up when everyone is here.”

“You’ll probably wake up anyway.” Phichit laughed.

That was probably true.

-----

No matter what season it was, getting up before the sun had risen did no one any favors. It was cold enough that Yuuri was thankful he had left his navy blue jacket, a beanie, and a scarf on top of his suitcase.

The small get together had started at ten and had gone until about three o’clock in the morning. There had been alcohol and bad decisions involved, but it had done what it was designed to do: it had brought everyone that had come closer together.

Yuuri stumbled around the apartment half dressed as Phichit made coffee for Leo and Guang Hong Ji. Seung Gil was currently in their shower and Mila and Sarah had kicked Yuuri out of his room so they could dress.

Emil had opted to sleep in a little later, but now he was up, his hair sticking up every which way. Otabek and Yuri had ended up coming at the tail end, and Yuri was helping coordinate all the rides they needed with Victor.

Yuuri wandered into the kitchen.

“Good Morning Yuuri.” Leo greeted with a wide smile.

Guang Hong Ji was not like his friend. He had a teddy bear in his arms, his face buried into the top of its head. Yuuri understood how Guang Hong felt.

“I would advise against talking to Yuuri until he’s had a pot of coffee.” Phichit warned Leo.

Everyone was up and about finally and all of the musicians filed down with their performance attire bags, luggage and backpacks. Emil had woken up enough as they all tucked the bags into the back of the shuttle that came for them to take out a small camera and started taking pictures.
“For posterity sake.” Emil had answered with a wink as he took one of Michele with him growling not that far away from the lense.

“Pure gold.” Emil laughed.

Yuuri shook his head slowly and curled into the seat trying to keep warm as Yuri slid into the shuttle next to him and Otabek pressed himself onto the end of their seat, clicking on his seat belt.

They were ushered through security, checked out, and let go to their gate.

Victor fell in step beside Yuuri, his hand reaching down to grab the pianists and squeeze. “Hey.”

Yuuri buried his nose into the scarf wound around his neck. “Hey yourself.”

“Do you already have a seat partner, or do you want to share with me?” Victor wiggled his eyebrows comically at Yuuri.

“I’ll share a seat with you Victor.”

Maybe he could believe a little of what Phichit thought he was seeing. But really, there wasn’t much more to it. It was natural for Victor to feel comfortable with him since they spent a ton of time practicing the duet that would go at the end of the program.

True to his word, Victor gently guided Yuuri into their seats.

“I’m surprised we aren’t in first class knowing you.” Yuuri poked at Victor gentle.

“I did try to get us first class seats but Yakov put his foot down and said no. So we will be nice and cozy for the entire flight.” Victor smiled and waited for Yuuri to settle down next to the window before he sat himself down.

The chatter around them died down as everyone relaxed and waited for the plane to take off.

Yuuri let out a soft breath, and turned away from the window, sliding the small blind shut as he wrapped his arms around himself. Even though he always had trouble falling asleep, for some reason he couldn’t keep his eyes open.

“Get some rest. I’m going to read for a little.” Victor patted his shoulder.

Gratefully, Yuuri slumped over and buried his face into Victor’s sweater covered shoulder. He didn’t even remember the plane leaving the ground.

-------

Of course, the first concert they were set to perform was not in any familiar city to Yuuri or to a majority of the people who were in the symphony and chorale. It was in Australia at the Perth Concert Hall. The timeline was tight for them.

They arrived, got through customs and then shuttled to the hotel. They all met in a small dining area, ate and then travelled to the concert hall.

Even though he had never heard of it, that didn’t mean the venue itself wasn’t amazing. From the outside it looked like a museum. It was all stone and large pillars, but inside was breathtaking. As they stepped onto the stage and looked out towards the audience seats, the interior colors immediately stood out.

The seats were a bright red and the shells for the boxes were a gradient of beige to dark brown. The shells of the lights matched the dark brown and the acoustic paneling on the walls was a deep grey.

This was a big time concert, not just a small concert a few people would come to see because they were bored.

No, this was people who loved music and had money would come to say they had seen a concert that was curated by Victor Nikiforov, Russia’s own darling violinist.

Dread filled Yuuri’s stomach and chest as he bit down on his lip.

“Wow Yuuri take a look at this! I swiped a brochure from the front area. There are one thousand seven hundred and thirty one seats in here. Isn’t that crazy? It looks like way less.” Phichit shoved the brochure into his face.

Seung Gil shrugged and leaned in to take a look at it, “Of course our first concert would be some place like this.”

“I think I remember my mom looking at the itinerary and saying she and papa had played here once before.” Mila hummed and moved around the chairs, sitting down in her principal viola seat.

Could they really do this? This was a big deal for just a week’s worth of practice.

Yuuri looked around and frowned. Everyone else seemed to go to work as normal. They settled into their seats in various ragged states of dress and got ready to meet the conductor.

“Everyone listen up! Our conductor should be here in the next few minutes. Remember what Yakov told you about our guest conductors, the markings, the notes that Yakov gave to you are guidelines. If the conductor tells you to change something or interprets the music differently than you are used to you go along with the conductor, after all if we don’t follow him then we can’t stick together. Let’s have a good first concert!” Victor spoke from the stage, just off of the podium.

They didn’t have to wait much longer for the guest conductor to come on stage. The man was famous in the orchestra circles in Australia. Yuuri had never heard of Richard Tongnetti, but the first impression wasn’t much. He had come in a pair of sweats, his hair swept every which way.

He opened up the score in front of him, smiled humorlessly at the orchestra and called out, “Let’s begin with Russian Easter Overture. We’ll take it nice and slow.”

They took the piece at a little faster pace than they normally would.

After he heard it once, Mr. Tongetti nodded to himself and lifted his arms, “Let’s run through the program once.”

Yuuri balked. He hadn’t given them any direction.

Are we going to be okay?!

------

They practiced going through it once with the guest conductor, and then released for the afternoon to get concert ready. Their call time at the concert hall was 5:30 P.M. sharp. They would go through practice spots and then put on the real concert.

Having Phichit and Ketty as his suitemates meant Ketty had already made sure that their suits and her dress were hung up and she had ironed everything in the morning. No matter how many times Yuuri or Phichit tried to offer, she waved them off.

“Just make sure you thank me properly later. I want a drink after the concert. Otabek told me he was able to get booked for a show at the Villa Nightclub.” Ketty grinned.

Well, it wasn’t like they didn’t have time after to go get her a drink. They had a couple of days after the concert to sightsee and look around.

“What is the age on the nightclub?” Phichit asked quietly.

“It’s eighteen I think. We can look it up on the way back to the concert hall.” Ketty grabbed her dress and moved towards the bathroom waving a hand at them.

“Don’t take too long we need to get ready too!” Phichit joked as he grabbed his suit and started to unbutton the vest. Yuuri did the same. It was easier for them to share the bedroom to get ready and for Ketty to get the bathroom. They had discussed concert days beforehand to make sure no one stepped on each others toes.

“How do you feel?” Phichit asked him as Yuuri pulled up his pants, zipped them up, and tucked in his shirt.

“I feel nervous.” Yuuri mumbled.

“How nervous?” Phichit paused mid button on his vest, eyes on Yuuri.

“I don’t know, honestly.” Yuuri turned away so he didn’t have to look at his best friend. He was already worried about him, he really needed to let Phichit focus on himself.

“If it gets bad get Ketty or myself, okay? We’ll try and help.” Phichit went back to buttoning up the small buttons on his vest.

“I’ll remember that.” Yuuri felt warmth and affection flood his chest. It was just enough to chase the uneasiness away, but there was no telling when it would be back.

------

Once they were at the space, practice had gone pretty much how Yuuri had expected. They spot checked a few pieces and then ushered everyone to the VIP room to put their cases and bags away.

The room was spacious enough and overlooked a river. The gesture would have been nice had Yuuri not already started panicking. On the way to the venue the combination of wariness, excited chatter, and being in close quarters with everyone for so long wore Yuuri down mentally and emotionally.

“Yuuri! Are you ready for the concert?” Victor greeted him with a big hug.

Yuuri patted the musician on the shoulder and smiled uneasily, “I’m not sure.”

NO! I’m not ready!

He wouldn't exactly say what he was thinking. If he did, that would cause everyone problems. It would worry Victor. So it was better for him to stay silent and hold in the rising wave of panic. Even though Yuuri was slowly losing the battle, he wanted to try and keep it together for everyone, especially for the man in front of him.

“I wanted more time to ease everyone into it, but Yakov said that it would be best to get the first concert done and get everyone settled. We will have two days to sightsee after.” Victor told Yuuri.

“I think everyone is going out after the concert tonight. Otabek’s going to be playing at the Villa Nightclub.” Yuuri managed to stop the trembling in his voice to continue their normal conversation. It was a wonder he sounded calm to his own ears.

Victor perked up. “Really? That would be great! We could dance some more together.”

Yuuri thought back to the club in Detroit after the auditions. He had always had a picture of what Victor Nikiforov should be like in the back of his head. It had taken actually meeting him and seeing him on the dance floor for Yuuri to start knocking the pedestal down that he had been keeping Victor up on for such a long time.

He had looked so free that night that Yuuri had his breath taken away by the zest for life the musician had displayed as he gave himself over to dancing and having a good time.

It had been infectious that Yuuri had given in and enjoyed himself in the moment for once.

It would be nice to feel that way again.

“Vitya. I spoke with the ticketmaster for the event and he said that there is such a demand that they want us to add another concert for tomorrow at the same time.” Yakov sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

The older man, Yuuri had noticed had a disdain for quickly changing plans. Probably due to Victor’s unpredictable nature.

Victor smiled and patted Yakov’s shoulder. “Well, who are we to deny an audience? That also means more money can go on the cards for everyone. That’s never a bad thing. I’m going to go negotiate with the owner and see what we can do.”

“We’ll still go out tonight and have some fun, so wait on me afterward Yuuri!” Victor called over his shoulder with Yakov not far behind. Yuuri looked around at the empty lounge and let out a slow breath.

He needed to get to his position and be ready for the concert to start.

Is this really going to be okay?

Yuuri knew the answer. While he was among people who had proven themselves to be friends, or at least extremely harmless in JJ’s case, he still couldn’t shake the dread curling inside his stomach.

Garbage. You are utter garbage.

Not again.

Why couldn’t the past stay the past?

Yuuri winced and held his breath as he quietly focused his eyes on the piano and the stage. The others were milling about checking their music. He forced himself onto the stage. Yuuri moved towards the piano. He sat down on the bench and looked at the black folder full of music and his notes for that specific concert.

It was there. Intact.

No one was going to shred up the music he had painstakingly marked and made sure it was perfect for their first concert. Everyone wanted to work together to make this concert series a success.

This was not the Japanese Youth Orchestra.

This was a safe space.

Everyone had always been so kind to him. Ketty, Phichit and the others wouldn’t let anything happen to him.

Rationally he knew that, but his body locked up on him and started to shut down. Yuuri bit his lower lip trying to suppress the shudder that ran through him.

He could do this.

He wanted to do this.

Yuuri’s vision started to swim. He wiggled himself to the end of the piano bench and nearly ran into Ketty. He looked up at her, and she grabbed his wrist, “Yuuri? What’s wrong?”

“I can’t do this.” Yuuri whispered, choked as his chest locked and it felt like there was weight pressing down on him.

Ketty’s face went pale, “Is it a panic attack? Let’s get you somewhere quieter.”

Yuuri’s ducked his head, as tears gathered in his eyes. “Ketty. Please. I can’t do this. I can’t. They are going to think I’m utter garbage.”

“You’re just tired Yuuri. We just have to make it through this first concert. Do you have anything with you that you can take?” Ketty guided him backstage.

“Hey. Is everything okay?”

Yuri. The last person he wanted to see right now.

Yuuri hiccuped and tried to take in a breath and assure him he was fine. But all that came out was a wheezing sound. Yuri took a step back, his eyes wide. “Yuuri?”

The off balance look on the teenagers face made him feel even worse.

“Don’t be scared.” Yuuri tried to push out. It didn’t come out exactly the way he wanted as he watched Yuri’s features harden and his lips pull down at their corners.

“What can I do to help?” The blond asked softly, eyes hardening on Yuuri.

“Do you think you can start warming up, just in case?” Ketty asked, resting her hand on the small of Yuuri’s back. It was almost as if he was outside his body at this point. Everything had been fine until it wasn’t and now he was a mess.

“I’m going to mess this up for everyone.” Yuuri whimpered and pressed his hands against his face, his glasses prodding the bridge of his nose as he refused to look at Yuri.

The other pianist cursed under his breath, “He has to go on. We are sharing the concert, remember?”

That was something Yuuri had been adamant about when he had started rehearsing with Victor. Yuri had every right to share the stage. He remembered the teen’s look as he had asked Victor to include pieces that Yuri could play that would showcase his talent.

He hadn’t needed to do that, but Yuri deserved it and it had been the right choice all along.

Even Lilia hadn’t fought when Victor had brought it up. They’d added at least two pieces that Yuri would be able to play.

“He might not be able to.” Ketty hissed softly.

Yuuri didn’t look up at Yuri. He heard him sigh and he stomped of., “I’ll do one better for you. Wait here.”

“He’s going to hate me now.” Yuuri whispered.

“He’s not angry at you. He hates the situation.” Ketty told him firmly.

“I can’t. This is too much. I knew it was going to be too much.” He told her softly through the tears that were no longer just threatening to spill. They were a torrent spilling down his cheeks.

“You can, you just need to take a minute and calm down. We have time.” Ketty brushed a hand over his back, holding him close to her chest. Her scent and the calming words helped Yuuri start feeling like he could breathe again.

-----

They sat there for several moments in silence. Yuuri focused on the hand on his back as Ketty drew patterns into his skin. It was grounding for him. She hadn’t said anything else about the concert which was supposed to start any time now.

Yuuri tensed as he heard footsteps behind them.

“Ketty what’s going on? What happened to Yuuri? Yura told me he’s sick?” Yuuri felt as if the air he had struggled to hard to maintain in his body had just been punched out of his gut.

Of course Yuri would think it would help if he went to Victor.

Anyone but Victor.

This was the second time this had happened and he had seen Yuuri like this. Yuuri squeezed his eyes shut tightly as he tucked his chin into the his friend’s shoulder as he held onto Ketty.

“He’s just tired, and well...He needs to relax. When he’s tired he has anxiety attacks a lot easier and he needs his medicine, but it’s at the hotel.”

“Give me a minute.” Victor tells Ketty.

He listened to step away. “Hey it’s okay. Victor is going to get you help. He’s probably getting someone to go to our rooms and get the medicine. It’s just in the bathroom stuff, right?”

Yuuri nodded, not trusting his voice at the moment.

Sooner than expected Victor was back and with a water bottle in hand from the concession that was set up in the lounge. “How else can I help?”

Ketty pursed her lips and gently nudged Yuuri to sit back up. She took his glasses and grabbed Victor’s handkerchief from the pocket of his suit. Using it, she dried and cleaned his glasses and placed them back on his nose. “There.”

Victor shifted restlessly. Ketty handed him back the pocket square and gently helped Yuuri to stand up. “I was hoping to not have to talk about this, but maybe you can help him if he can’t exactly do it himself. Yuuri was bullied the first time he was supposed to play at a major concert. They beat him down so badly that he walked off stage and swore off music until he came to college in the U.S.”

Yuuri felt his heart as it dropped to the bottom of his stomach. “Ketty!”

He knows? He’s going to think your weak. He’s going to pity you.

“What? He wants to help, so he needs to know. Now, I need to go on stage and make sure my instrument is still there and tuned properly. Yuuri, I know you can do this. Take some deep breaths and talk to Victor.” With that, Ketty gave him a reassuring squeeze on the arm before she wandered off.

“So that’s it. I wondered if it was something like that.” Victor gently pulled him closer and led him back to the VIP lounge. He guided Yuuri to one of the couches lining the walls.

“Sit.” Victor ordered.

Yuuri sat. Victor handed him a small bottle of water, “Drink.”

Automatically, Yuuri obeyed as he knocked back the water. The shock from the coldness, helped bring him back into himself. Victor watched over him, checking his watch every so often, but also he made sure that Yuuri drank the whole bottle.

“Yuri. He’s warming up, right?” Yuuri squeaks.

Victor sat on the arm of the couch folding his arms over his chest. He clenched his jaw and looks at his shoes.

“Victor. Yuri is going to be ready in case I can’t, right?” Yuuri asked again, breathlessly.

Victor grabbed both of Yuuri’s hands in his own. “He won’t do the whole concert. He’s counting on you. I’m counting on you.”

Yuuri made a strangled sound, “But Victor-”

Victor squeezed his hands and shook his head, “We can do this. You can do this. Trust me. I know that this might be quick, and it might not make sense, but I can’t play if it’s not with you.”

“What?”

“It’s true. You are the one that I want to play with. That’s what I decided.” Victor told him, holding onto Yuuri quietly. Yuuri held his breath and looked at their combined hands, and then back up at Victor.

The look he had on his face was calm, matter of fact, and definitely not the look that Yuuri was used to seeing on Victor’s face. There was an intensity that he had seen in all the pictures and videos he had found of Victor. This wasn’t the Victor he was used to.

This was Victor the performer.

“You can’t say that.” Yuuri whispered squirming uncomfortably under that hard gaze.

“I can because I mean it.”

“Victor…”

“This is us. If you’re there with me, then we can really pull out what music should be. The others and you are all important for this to work. I want to bring the type of music to everyone and open their ears and their hearts.” Victor confessed.

Yuuri took a deep breath and shut his eyes.

He couldn’t let this man down. If that was actually what he was feeling, then maybe he needed to try and pull himself together and be there for Victor. Taking another deep shuddering breath, he let it out slowly and opened his eyes.

Snap out of it. You never got your chance, so now it’s time to try.

This was a different time.

He had walked off stage once.

Even Yuri had stepped back to give him another shot at this when he could have picked at his weakness and left him out to dry. Ketty and Phichit were there and he had made a lot of new friendships during practice that he was still trying to feel out.

He needed to do this if not for Victor, for himself.

Surging forward, Yuuri wrapped his arms around Victor’s shoulders, burying his face into his neck. Part of him needed the comfort, the other was just happy that Victor had said what he had.

“Yuuri!”

Victor tensed, and slowly wound his arms around the pianist. Yuuri pulled back after a second and adjusted his glasses and nodded slightly, “Okay. We can do this.”

“Yeah. We can do this.” Victor echoed.

Yuuri took a deep breath and stood up, tossing the small bottle into the trash by the door. He reached down and gently tugged on the vest he wore, smoothing his hands over his chest.

“Don’t worry. You look great.” Victor assured him.

“I look like I’ve been crying.” Yuuri pointed out.

“No one will see that in the audience. You’ll be fine.” Victor reached out and squeezed his arm gently.

“There you are!” Yakov barked at both of them.

“Oh Yakov, you made it!” Victor stood up and hugged the older man. Yuuri felt the tightness in his chest loosen just a little bit more at the display.

“Both of you need to be in your places. Yuuri. I had Lilia turn us around and we got your medication. Next time I want you to bring some with you to the venue when we play. Understood?” Yakov held out a baggy with two pills in it.

Yuuri accepted it with shaking hands. “Thank you, Yakov. I promise this won’t happen again.”

“You aren’t the first musician with a glass heart and you won’t be the last.” He nodded and headed out of the room. .

“Yuuri. I’ll be out on stage with you soon. You’ll be great.”

Yuuri nodded and went to look for a water fountain to take his medicine. It took him less than a minute to find one and swallow down one of the pills. Thankfully when he had gone on the medication, Celestino had helped him find a medication that worked well with him and didn’t make him drowsy. It had been important at that point to make sure he had something if he decided he wanted to play again.

He hadn’t thought that part would ever be relevant, but here he was walking onto the stage to applause. He turned towards the audience, bowed and settled down on the bench.

Not long after Victor stepped out and onto the podium to thunderous applause.
He raised his hands and everyone brought their instruments up. He motioned to the clarinet and she started to play the A to tune the symphony. The band instruments started to play and made sure they were at the right pitch. Then the lower strings and last the upper strings.

Victor stepped off of the podium and quietly took up his instrument and sat down in the first chair at the edge of the stage.

Not long after the guest conductor they had practiced with earlier that afternoon walked out on stage. He was dressed in a coat with tails, and his hands were adorned in white. It was far removed from the man who had conducted them in a ragged t-shirt and torn jeans. His hair was done and he had shaved and looked less like a beggar off the street.

In no time at all, he raised his baton and the audience went silent.

Then the baton fell and Yuuri began to play, blocking out everything else.

The entire first half of the concert went by in a rush. The first three songs they played are striking symphony pieces that were increasingly heavy in their delivery. They started off with Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Russian Easter Overture’. Yuuri didn’t actually have a part in that song, but he did play softly as requested to back the main melody.

The first part of the piece, Victor had a stand alone solo at the beginning, and then the cello had a solo right after.

Yuuri had been allowed to work with Yuri and they had decided to have an interlude of piano after the piece to let the orchestra get ready. It was a surprise for the audience since they had been expecting a very traditional symphonic concert.

He had chosen ‘Primavera’ by Ludovico Einauldi. It was a very beautiful piece that had orchestral accompaniment and didn’t need the whole orchestra, which fell perfectly with what the others needed. The first two stands of the strings and Otabek accompanied Yuuri as he played.

After the first half of the concert there was a fifteen minute break, and then the chorale was invited onto the stage.

Yuuri and Yuri switched out for one piece that showed off his easy runs and long languid playing as Yuri accompanied the symphony and chorale. He then finished up his appearance on stage by doing a highlight piece of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

It was perfect in his usual style.

The last part of the concert was Yuuri’s favorite though. Yuuri had almost forgotten about this one important piece, the conductor turned to the crowd and motioned for the microphone. When the man spoke, it was still in a very calm voice.

“Thank you for coming out tonight. We hope you have enjoyed this evening and will have fond memories of this concert. The last piece is a duet between our pianist Yuuri Katsuki, and our concertmaster Victor Nikiforov. Please enjoy Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major.”

There was a polite applause as Victor stood up and moved to stand next to him as he played. Victor caught his eye, grinned and Yuuri turned the page in his music and nodded. Victor quietly moved the scroll of his instrument to count them off.

One, two, three and go.

------

They received a standing ovation. Everyone’s hard work had paid off. They all stood to the sound of loud applause ringing out in the performance hall. Everyone stood and bowed together and finally it was time to go.

“Thank goodness that’s over. Good concert.” Leo patted Yuuri’s shoulder as he and Guang Hong passed on their way to go put their instruments in their cases.

Seung Gil and Phichit filtered out together.

“Come with us to the club?” Phichit asked the cellist.

Seung Gil pressed his lips together, “Pass.”

“Aww come on, how often do you get out and go to the club?” Phichit argued.

Phichit winked at Yuuri as he brushed past him and back towards the VIP lounge. Yuuri shook his head. Seung Gil had definitely taken up a large portion of Phichit’s radar at the moment. He was quiet and prickly, and Phichit seemed to do best in bringing people like that outside their shells.

Several other people passed him on their way off stage. Yuuri was practically buzzing as he watched the people in the audience start filing out as soon as the house lights came on. He could hear the noise in the foyer from where everyone had gone to talk and relax until they were forced to leave for home.

Victor was last to come off the stage, but as soon as he saw his concertmaster, he brightened up and smiled, “We did it Victor!”

Victor blinked owlishly at him.

It was as if something snapped in the man as he approached Yuuri quietly. “Victor?”

Victor grabbed Yuuri by the wrist and pulled him behind the blackout curtain. Before Yuuri could ask what was wrong, the other stifled him with a kiss.

Victor Nikiforov was kissing him.

The kiss wasn’t a long one at all and it was surprisingly chaste. It had been a brief touch of lips and nowhere near what Yuuri had expected. But the feel of Victor’s soft lips against his was a pleasant shock to his system.

He wanted to feel that same sensation over and over again.

“I’ve been waiting to do that you know. It was the only thing I could think of after how beautifully you played out there. We did it Yuuri. Together.”

The words melted his heart. Yuuri couldn’t stop the goofy smile that came over his face. “Yeah, we did it together.”

Victor laughed, “Is that all the response my surprising kiss gets me?”

Was that the response Victor deserved? Yuuri stared up at Victor’s face, cupping his cheek with trembling fingers. He was rewarded with a tiny smile. With his free hand he grabbed Victor’s tie, winding it up slowly around his fist.

“No. You get this.” Yuuri slotted their mouths together in a gentle kiss.

------

“Are you sure you don’t want to go to the club with us?” Phichit asked as he checked his outfit out in the full length mirror.

“I’m still a little tired from my panic attack earlier.” Yuuri smiled from their shared bed in his pajamas.

“I think this is a good idea. I think you should just relax and stay in. There will be plenty of other times for him to go to a club with us.” Ketty called out from the bathroom, as she stretched close to the mirror to finish off her eyeliner.

“If you’re sure.” Phichit shrugged.

“Besides, I promised Victor that I’d rest. If not, he threatened to call Minako and tell her I had another panic attack. I told him that wasn’t necessary.” Yuuri added quietly.

“So you’ll listen to Victor, huh?” Phichit feigned surprise.

“At least he’s listening to someone, right?” Ketty added in.

“Guys.” Yuuri rolled his eyes.

“You know, you and Victor weren’t as hidden as you thought you were. We saw you.” Phichit turned to Yuuri with a grin.

Yuuri’s heart stopped as he leaned back against the wall and covered his face with his hands. “Seriously?”

“Don’t worry about it. We support you two no matter what.” Ketty soothed him as she grabbed her purse and nodded to Phichit.

“Don’t wait up, we’ll try not to be loud when we come in. Oh, and if you end up somewhere else for the night just text us. That way we won’t send out a search party to come get you.” Phichit added as Ketty grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him out of the room.

“Tell the others I said hi!” Yuuri called out after them.

He really hadn’t expected anyone to see, but at least it was just Phichit and Ketty. When he was sure they were gone, he pulled his hands away from his face and tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling.

Yuuri knew he should rest, but he wasn’t exactly ready to.

The feel of Victor’s lips on his was a phantom sensation he felt ever since Yuuri had left the older musician’s side. He wanted to feel those lips again, and he wanted to feel Victor put his hands on him, but that didn’t have to happen now.

That didn’t mean he couldn’t see him now. Victor had politely declined going to the club citing that he had more paperwork and negotiations for their second concert that he’d agreed they would do.

What’s stopping me from keeping him company?

Standing up, Yuuri wandered over to where his shoes were. He quietly slipped them on and grabbed the handle of the hotel door. Pulling it open, Yuuri stared at Victor who had his hand up about to knock on his door.

“I came to surprise you?” Victor smiled awkwardly.

Yuuri couldn’t help but smile. Victor had the same idea he did and had chosen to act upon it sooner. “This is nice. I was just about to come see you.”

Victor’s smile widened as he allowed Yuuri to pull him inside the room.

“How are you feeling?” Victor asked him as Yuuri slipped his shoes off and put them back in the bottom of the closet.

“I’m okay. How about you?” Yuuri asked.

“Good. I just finished the paperwork and wanted to see you. I hope that’s not too forward of me.” Victor looked around the double room and back at Yuuri, his hands gripped in front of him as he stood between both beds.

“Why don’t you come sit next to me. I’ll grab my laptop and we can watch something?” Yuuri suggested. Victor slipped off his house shoes and climbed onto the bed next to him. Here they were sharing space on a queen sized bed with no one around for the next couple of hours.

Yuuri suddenly felt very self-conscious with Victor beside him.

“What kind of things do you like to watch?” Yuuri asked, voice barely above a whisper.

“Something magical maybe. With good music.” Victor smiled at him as he pressed his hip to Yuuri’s. That single point of contact sent another jolt of want through him. Judging by the careful way Victor slid into his person space, he wasn’t the only one affected by their close proximity either.

“How about the original Fantasia?” Yuuri suggested as he opened up Netflix.

“That sounds nice.”

After Yuuri found the movie, he let it sit there and load for a few minutes, just enjoying the silence between them. Victor reached over, quietly grabbing Yuuri’s hand, slipping his fingers between his own. “You know Yuuri. If you just wanted me to come to you you could have asked me to.”

“I know now.” Yuuri squeezed his hand as he leaned against Victor’s shoulder and pressed play with his free hand.

About half an hour in, Yuuri exhaustion finally got the best of him as fell into a light doze.

“Shhh. Phichit. Don’t.” Ketty whispered. Yuuri winced and cracked open one of his eyes. There was a warmth at his side and Phichit stood at the edge of the bed, phone up as he smiled at Yuuri.

“Mm. What time is it?” Yuuri slurred as he winced and rubbed at the back of his neck.

“Three nineteen.” Ketty whispered.

“Oh.”

Oh. He had been watching a movie with Victor when they had dozed off. Apparently Victor had dozed off not long after he had. His laptop sat on the bed between them, screen black, their hands entwined as Victor curled up against his side, head on Yuuri’s shoulder.

“This is so cute. I have to send it to Guang Hong and Leo.” Whispered Phichit.

“Don’t you dare. Let’s get to bed. Phichit share with me tonight.” Ketty ordered as she shut herself into the bathroom with her pajamas for the night.

Yuuri nudged at Victor, and whispered, “Hey.”

Victor shifted and opened his eye. “What time is it?”

“Does it matter? Let’s just get comfy and go back to bed.” Yuuri groaned as he wiggled down and pulled Victor with him.

“Yeah okay…” Victor hummed as he scooted down to lay his head on the pillows he had used to prop himself up. Yuuri smiled and turned tucking, himself up under Victor’s jaw, immediately falling back into a peaceful sleep.

------
After all the travelling they put in, Yuuri had been to several places he had never thought he would be able to see. They had traveled to Australia, Russia, Greece, Italy, and even made it back for a few shows in the U.S..

But the biggest show on their tour to Yuuri was the show that they were doing in Tokyo at Suntory Hall with guest conductor Tomomi Nishimoto.

At the first of the season Yuuri wouldn’t have been able to go back to Japan and play confidently. But with each concert they played, he found himself more and more ready to go back to the country that he called home and show them that they could still be proud of the man he had come to be.

It was personal. It was something that he wanted to settle for himself.

Yuuri looked at himself in the mirror of their hotel room, water dripping down his face and back into the sink. He narrowed his eyes, challenging himself.

If I can do this, then I won’t feel so worthless.

The air in their shared room was thick with unspoken tension. Ketty and Phichit knew how big of a deal this was for him. Victor had sat beside him on the plane ride, his hand holding his tighter than he normally did.

It had done a lot for his confidence to have someone that silently and willingly supporting him. They hadn’t discussed everything, but they had talked at length about the bullying. It had brought them closer together. So close Victor had stolen Yuuri away more than once from his shared room with the others.

“Tell me about Hasetsu.” Victor asked him quietly one night.

“It’s a small sleepy resort town. There aren’t many people there anymore, and most of the hostprings have closed down, but my family runs one of the last two.” Yuuri told him as his fingers traced over Victor’s palm as he talked.

Victor hummed and let his eyes slide shut as he nuzzled his face against the side of Yuuri’s neck. “I’d like to see it someday.”

“One day I’ll take you.” Yuuri promised quietly.

Over the season they had slowly gravitated towards each other. Something that had started so suddenly had built itself up. They still went out and had fun with everyone, but a majority of their nights were spent in either his or Victor’s room quietly cuddled up, just being in each other’s company.

“I’d like that.” Victor rasped.

------

Tokyo was so far, yet so close to home that Yuuri had been almost worried that he would break and take off by himself to visit Hasetsu.

“Mom, I’m sorry I haven’t come back to visit. Especially since I’m so close.” Yuuri apologized softly as he looked at his mother’s smiling face over skype the night before the concert. Ketty and Phichit had been dragged out once again, and Yuuri had been a bad friend and had decided to stay in instead of being their guide around Tokyo.

He wasn’t sorry he had stayed in. Not when it meant he got to talk to his mother.

She smiled at him and shook her head, “It’s okay. I understand how demanding your schedule is.”

“I wish you and dad could come to the concert tomorrow night. It would be so nice to see you both again.”

His mother adjusted her glasses and smiled at him. “I wish we could too, but we have a large group of businessmen staying right now. However, we’re sending Mari, and Minako will be with her. She’ll give you extra love for us since we can’t e with you. They’re planning to come get you for breakfast.”

He smiled at her and rubbed at his eyes.

He did miss Hasetsu. He had stayed away too long, and now the short distance pulled on his conscious and on his heart. He really wanted to go home.

“Make sure you take care of yourself, and the next time you have a break come home. I’ll fix you katsudon.” His mother promised.

“Yeah.” Yuuri whispered to her.

-------

The day of the concert Yuuri wasn’t surprised when there was a knock at the door of the hotel room. In fact he had expected it after talking to his mother. There in the hallway was his big sister and Minako holding a bouquet of flowers each.

“Mari! Minako!” Yuuri felt his eyes tear up as he tugged them inside.

Mari grabbed him in her arms and hugged him tightly. “It’s been too damn long little brother.”

He nuzzled close to her and just breathed her in. She was so familiar and smelled of home. It was a smell that made that small hole in his heart ache. “I’m sorry. It’s been too long. I’m so happy to see you. How are mom and dad.”

Mari chuckled, “They’re fine. But enough with chatting in here. Let’s go out and grab some food and catch up, yeah?”

“Sure. Let me tell Phichit.”

Yuri had been on his way to talk with Yuuri about their last concert when he saw him with the lady from Fleur and another Japanese woman he didn’t recognize. He was about to call out when two hands clamped down on his shoulders.

“Yuri! Just the person I was looking for.” Ketty smiled at him.

Yuri tried to shrug her off. Ketty had obviously been taking lessons from Mila, “What? What do you want?”

“I need a favor.” Ketty tugged him down the hall and away from the direction Yuuri had gone.

“I wanted to talk to Katsuki about the last concert and bounce ideas off of him.” Yuri protested as he was drug along.

Ketty laughed, “You’ll have time to do that later.”

 

-----
“When you asked for a favor I didn’t think you meant something like this.” Yuri sighed and looked at the music on the stand in front of his face.

Ketty pointed to the first measure. “Shut up and play. It makes you useful.”

Yuri rolled his eyes at her and placed his hands to the keys, “Whatever. You’re just as bad a Mila.”

Ketty waved him off and turned towards Phichit and motioned to the violin in his hands, “We don’t have long to do this, so lets make this practice count. If everything goes well then the next thing I’ll do is hit record.”

Yuri started the piece as requested. It seemed simple enough, and after a little bit of playing the piano goes into a crescendo up the keys and back down as it continued to the complex trills and notes. It’s almost dizzying but just slow enough that he is able to follow the music.

Then Phichit joined in with the violin which is also rather simple, but together with the piano made a striking melody between them. They interplay so well that Yuri nearly stumbled a few times as the music passed by. Then the violin dropped out again and the music slows down, the piece going quiet and languid.

After a moment though the piano music started to build and builds back up to the energy it had previously had. The violin eventually joined in as they both rushed to the end together and joined up, making the melody full of joyful sound until the last keys were played.

After a beat of silence Phichit squirmed and threw his arms up, careful not to throw the violin in the process. “KETTY THAT WAS WONDERFUL!”

Yuri blinked and stared hard at the music, and back at Ketty. “Did you compose this yourself?”

Ketty smiled and nodded as she moved forward, “It’s my senior project.”

“But you did it for those idiots didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Are you going to give it to them?” Yuri pressed.

“It might not be good enough yet.” Ketty confessed.

Yuri tapped his fingers on the pages of the music. He could just hear both Yuuri and Victor in the piece. It amazed and pissed him off at the same time. “Don’t be an idiot. It’s good enough.”

Ketty’s smile widened as she launched herself at him and hugged him tight to her. “Thank you!”

“One more time so you can record it?” Phichit suggested.

“One more time.” Yuri agreed, nodding.

It only took about five more minutes and one partial restart for them to be done. Phichit then had to run the violin back to his friend and Ketty went to listen to the piece again to make sure it really was done to her liking.

Yuri wound his way outside of the auditorium and made his way back stage. He hadn’t been paying attention, and nearly ran into Otabek as he stood just back behind the curtains.

“Beka. What the hell are you doing hiding in the dark?” Yuri complained at his friend.

Otabek couldn’t hide the smile on his face, “That's pretty cool how you helped Ketty out. She’s been really nervous about that project even before I knew her. Thanks for being there for her.”

It was awkward having someone who thought so highly of him. It always kept Yuri off balance. He rolled his eyes and walked past him, tapping his hand to Otabek’s chest. “Since we have free time, do you want to explore? I heard there are all sorts of interesting things to see.”

“Sure.” Otabek turned to follow him out of the practice space.

“Maybe later we can drag the old man and Yuuri along.” Yuri muttered more as an afterthought.

-----

As usual they ended up up at Suntory earlier in the afternoon. He had made his way from where he had left Mari and Minako enjoying their coffee to make it in time for the rehearsal. He had stepped on stage, but before he was able to sit down Victor grabbed him, “Come with me.”

Yuuri let Victor drag him off stage for a second as he stood face to face with Tomomi Nishimoto.

“Nishimoto-san, this is Yuuri Katsuki.” Victor introduced them.

He knew who she was. Of course everyone in the orchestral circle in Japan did. She smiled at him, offering her hand. Yuuri took it and shook it, bowing his head slightly. “It’s nice to meet you Nishimoto-san.”

“It is nice to meet you as well Katsuki-san. I wanted to tell you that I look forward to hearing you play again. I know that there were some circumstances that led you to leave music in Japan, but I am glad you did not let them keep you down.” Nishimoto spoke imperiously.

She knew about what had happened.

Everyone in Japan knew. That was what made it so damn hard to come back. But Yuuri flicked his eyes back up to her face as he dropped her hand, “That is high praise coming from you Nishimoto-san.”

He would do fine. He knew that he could do this now. With Victor behind him he felt like he could do anything.

“Let’s get this rehearsal started shall we?” Nishimoto nodded her head to the stage.

Yuuri smiled and nodded. “Yes!”

Practice had been rigorous and quick. The concert flew by and was well received by the Japanese music community. There had been a large turn out as usual, but more people stuck around after the concert requesting to talk to Yuuri. Thankfully Victor had made sure that he had a way to leave in case things got overwhelming.

However, Yuuri had walked out and met as many people as he could until he got tired. He had been glad he did. He had met with so many supportive people that had given him a warm welcome back.

It was more than Yuuri could have hoped for to be honest, and everything he needed.

--------

 

It was hard going back to Detroit. All the travelling, the concerts, the precious few moments of alone time he had managed with Victor are about to be over. Yuuri had purposely not thought of how quick the time flew by. He didn’t want to see the concerts end, but they really did have to sometime.

They couldn’t sustain travelling like this.

It was always going to be just for a small season and a small run of shows. That didn’t make it any less hard when the plane touched down in Detroit.

If Victor had noticed Yuuri’s uneasiness, he didn’t let on.

“The next show is the last one everyone. After that we will all go our separate ways, but I hope that you take the friendships that you have made and continue to bring a more open and live music to those around you. I’ll see you in two days for our last rehearsal.”

That was it. There were just two days left. Two days until they were completely done and Victor would head back to Russia with Mila, Yakov, Lilia and Yuri.

The thought of that made Yuuri’s heart sick.

“Yuuri. I was just thinking I could come over to your house and we could order out and relax for the evening.” Victor broke through the haze that had settled around Yuuri. They only had a little bit of time, so they needed to spend it together and make the most of it.

Yuuri could hardly even muster a smile.

In two days was the last concert. In three Victor would be on a plane back to Russia.

What was there to smile about?

Victor’s hand slipped into his own and Yuuri squeezed his fingers gently. The tour had done a lot to rejuvenate Victor. It would be so simple to just let him go, even if it would break his heart in the process.

“Yuuri? What’s wrong?” Victor tugged him to his side quietly as they made it out of the main part of the terminal.

Yuuri squeezed his eyes shut, and turned his face away from Victor, “After the last concert. Let’s end this.”

It was the right thing to do.

-----

Ketty struggled her french horn case and her dress bag into the living room of Phichit and Yuuri’s apartment. Phichit held the door open for her and motioned tight lipped at Yuuri who had made himself into a small burrito blanket, only his eyes peeking out at this point.

“How long has he been like this?” Ketty asked.

Phichit sighed, “Since Victor dropped him off after we got back. Apparently from what I gather, Yuuri decided that instead of listening to Victor he would just break them up so Victor could continue his music career.”

Ketty shook her head and hung the dress up on one of the hooks they had for their own bags and sat down on the couch, leaning against Yuuri’s side. “Do you want to talk about it.”

“What else is there to talk about?” Yuuri asked.

Ketty quietly fished into her back, and brought a CD out and handed it to Phichit. “Will you play it for Yuuri please?”

Phichit smiled and turned over to their old CD player that Yuuri had brought with him from Japan. At least it would make itself useful for a couple of minutes instead of just collecting dust on a shelf.

The music started and Ketty wrapped her arms around Yuuri as they listened.

The piece wound around Yuuri and he let his eyes slide shut as he listened. He was tired, and bone weary from worrying and traveling, but the piece was fresh and bright slowly coaxing him back into himself again as he listened to the piano and violin entwine.

“That was beautiful.” Yuuri whispered into Ketty’s shoulder.

“I know. I wrote this piece for you and Victor. You opened up so much during the tour with him, and I know you’re scared, but don’t give up on it because it seems like it’s hard. It would be the biggest mistake you make.” She told him softly.

Yuuri stayed silent. He stays like that until it’s time to get ready.

----

They all leave from Yuuri and Phichit’s apartment after having scraped Yuuri into the last performance uniform that Victor had surprised everyone with. Yuuri had been surprised when Victor had showed him their outfits. They were almost like ice skating costumes all showy and flashy where they had worn nothing but tux and black dresses so people would focus on the music.

His own costume was blue, gold and silver where Victor’s was a bright fuschia and gold. They were perfect complements down to the fingerless gloved undershirts they wore.

Ketty wore a beautiful fuschia dress with gold trim, and some of the other women wore the same type of dress with silver trim. Their last concert was set to be a bang.

Even though it was nearly time for the concert to begin, Yuuri pulled Yuri to the side. “Can you replace the duet that we normally play at the end with this?”

Yuri looked at the music and squinted at Yuuri suspiciously. “If you are trying to make things up to him, this might not be the best way.”

“You’re right. But it’s a start.” Yuuri told the young blond.

“You two are so stupid.” Yuri muttered, tucking the piece of music into his folder for the second part of the show.

Celestino was their last conductor and he came out on stage beaming at them all. There was something strangely calming about the other man standing on the podium. Yuuri felt almost grateful that this was happening here. If it weren’t Detroit or their last concert he would not be doing this. The rest of the concert went on as planned until the last song.

Celestino introduced their normal duet piece and Victor stepped up beside him getting ready to play. Thankfully Yuri had listened and replaced the piece.

Here goes nothing.

Yuuri tapped on the piece first to get Victor’s attention. Yuuri began to play. A murmur cut through the people on stage and others in the audience that knew this wasn’t he piece they had introduced. Yuuri almost wished he could take his eyes off the music and find Ketty.

She must have looked like a deer in the headlights right then. He’s was sure of it. Victor stood next to him, trembling as Yuuri continued to play and he tried to count the measures.

Three, two, one.

On cue, Victor came in with the violin. The sound is purely Victor. It was amazing how much detail Ketty was able to place into the notes on the page. This was them, and if he could sense it then Victor definitely could.

Please understand me. I want to try but I’m afraid. I’m sorry for hurting you. Forgive me.

The piece slowed and they are met with silence.

Then there was slow applause. Soon more and more people joined in until everyone was on their feet. Yuuri was stunned at the reception. Out of all their concerts this was the one that was the best received.

He turned to look at Victor, and the other beamed at him wrapping his arms around his shoulders. Yuuri leaned into Victor’s arms careful not to jostle his violin.

No matter what happens. We will do this together.