It’s the second piano Nicolas has seen in his life.
It’s as big as the one he remembers from the mansion, hulking in appearance, and the focus of the room. It’s a dark color, but somehow less so than the other one, which had always seemed almost monstrous back then. Neither can Nicolas recall the sunlight ever reaching it the way it does here, the low sun reaching over the piano's teeth. A grand piano, to be precise--Nicolas remembers Worick detailing the difference to him as some kind of afterthought years ago. That was when Worick would sit at the bench, and when he had both eyes to brighten in amusement when Nicolas had prodded the instrument curiously.
Worick’s not sitting at the bench now, rather still lingering in the doorway of the long since abandoned room. His lips are tilted in a way that tells Nicolas that he’s itching for a cigarette.
"So this is the thing we gotta get back to the lounge, huh?" Worick tells him. “It’s going to cost her extra to get it out of here. That isn’t exactly a small one.”
[I can manage it on my own.]
"And if it gets back damaged, there goes a chunk of our fee."
Nicolas turns away to look back at the piano. He smooths a hand over the top where a patina of dust clings. Neglected, and yet Nicolas thinks it looks better cared for than the one at the estate.
He comes around to look at the keys, reaches out and touches one. He lifts his head in time to see Worick cracking open the piano’s top, where the vibration originates from.
“Looks to be in working order. It’s going to need tuning I bet.”
Nicolas takes his word for it and strikes a black key twice, and now he can see the hammer striking the strings. He does it again with a different key, then grins at the face Worick pulls.
“What are you, Mozart, now?”
[I prefer Bach.]
“Smartass.” But Worick’s smirking, so Nicolas thinks it’s fine to be a smartass. Better than a dumbass, as Worick once told him.
Then Nicolas hefts the piano in his palms, testing its weight, and Worick’s smacking his hands away.
"Hey, hey, you can't just lug it around like any other delivery," Worick is saying, among other things Nicolas misses when his face turns away. He makes rounds around the instrument, analyzing this and that, plucking strings, and muttering to himself. At the end he's facing the bench, staring at it for a moment before gradually lowering himself onto it.
Nicolas takes it in, the way Worick fills out the space in front of the piano now that he's bigger, just shy of twenty. His hair's longer too, and there are piercings Nicolas couldn't have fathomed on him when he first met the boy. None of it strips away how appropriate Nicolas thinks Worick looks.
Nicolas has actually only seen him play once, briefly, and through an ajar door on his third day at the mansion. Though he couldn't make out Worick's hands, he'd been more curious to the way Worick played with both eyes shut and how easily Nicolas could have mistaken him for being asleep. The next day Worick’s face had a fist-sized bruise and four of his fingers sprained. Nicolas never found him in the piano room again.
Worick stares at the keys for several heartbeats. Maybe he’s pulling out the images of the music sheets he’d have in front of him, but never actually looked at, when he played. Or maybe he's remembering the same Nicolas is, when he'd asked Worick if he missed playing the piano. Worick's fingers had healed by then, but he had rubbed them together at the question. With a smile, he'd said he no, because in truth he hated playing the damn thing.
There’s nothing to prompt Worick to play this one now. Nicolas stays still all the same, watching, silent.
Then, Worick’s fingers lift, just one hand, and the tips are pressing down on the piano’s manicured teeth.
Nicolas barely feels the rhythm, as if Worick’s barely ghosting a melody. But it’s there, Nicolas can manage a vague count of it and read it in the pattern of Worick’s left hand joining the right. Nicolas tries to watch them individually, and realizes he can’t, so he takes the full image in. He leans closer into the piano, crossing his arms.
Worick's fingers drift near and far, the skin far tougher with the dirtier work they do but softer than Nicolas’ will ever be, the right in-between for clients. Nicolas doesn’t know about that, but Worick’s mentioned it before, but it’s never what Nicolas thinks about when those fingers are on him.
Like how the pads of each finger have brushed over every slope of his body as they do now along the keys, and Nicolas knows just how light the touch is, as well as he knows Worick seems to like the effect it has when Nicolas loses sight of where they’re venturing to. They've traced the expanse of Nicolas' biggest scar, outlining it and then filling in the rest in circular motions. They've pinched the parts of Nicolas that has him jolt and have Worick steal what must be gasps through kisses. And, almost always, they linger on the new mark on his back that mirrors the one on Worick's.
With the same elegance, they sweep over piano and skin alike, nimble as they are strong. Countless times they’ve visited Nicolas’ chest, danced down his sides, played soundless beats against his low back while Worick’s mouth pressed into his thigh, claimed the stretch of his neck with his teeth.
The tempo picks up. Worick’s fingers press firmer so the vibrations are more noticeable, coming more frequent. His fingers balance pressure effortlessly, and Nicolas lets himself think of putting his mouth to each digit, drawing them in, rubbing his lips quietly against pads and knuckles alike, usually when Worick’s fallen asleep.
Then, sometimes, Worick wakes up and the same fingers are working into him again, never still, always with a rhythm that can begin fast or slow, lazy or hard, but they all end with Nicolas tossing his head back and letting it all pulse through him. It feels like hours long when Worick has him at the whims of a few fingers, conducting a ballad only he can hear. But there are times Worick will engulf his larger body, allow Nicolas to feel the thump of his heart through their touching chests, to feel the groans rocking through Worick as his thrusts quicken or when they drag out into slow, punctuating things that have the vibrations of their moans tangle with one another's.
There's nothing slow about Worick's fingers now. Nicolas can’t pretend to know the song Worick plays is one of strife and loss, or of tragedy and survival, or triumph and adoration. But he feels the power of the keys, sees Worick’s fingers crashing down like each one is a trigger going off and it's not just the ivory he imagines breaking behind his closed lid.
Nicolas wants to sit next to him. Something keeps him rooted, feeling the vibrations bleed into his palm and harmonize with the thrum of his pulse. Though there’s space next to Worick, there really isn’t a space for anyone to share. Worick's body moves, his upper body pushing forward and out like a resistant tide, his head giving a faint jerk as he punctuates the song, the cree, the plea for all it may be, again, again, and again.
But Worick knows his body, tunes it everyday so each smirk is crafted, each wink purposeful, each angle of his hips calculate. If little else, Nicolas knows Worick is as much the instrument as he is the musician. Yet, for an instant, Nicolas lets himself think Worick forgets himself and exists on a plane where he’s neither of those things the longer and harder his fingers strike down.
Just as he may as well forget this moment, though Nicolas won’t. He’ll revisit each impact those fingers left on a piano that hadn’t been tickled in so long. He’ll remember it vividly, with a clarity not unlike Worick’s mental database because it’s Worick’s hands, and he knows them well, down to each digit. He’ll think of the small strokes and the hard ones on the piano in tandem with the way Worick kneads him, tickles his skin with the graze of his fingertips, follows it with the heat of his tongue, lapping up after the melody Nicolas can only feel, and know that’s better than hearing any of it.
It will be much later when that happens, hours after their delivery complete and the fate of the piano is reduced to the wad of bills to cover a fraction of the rent. Nicolas will approach Worick, touch his face without the strength to force their lips to press together, even though Worick’s never turned his mouth away from him the few times it’s his lips reaching out first. And he’ll fumble, as he always does with this, and he’ll feel Worick’s smile or chuckle, and then their tongues are pushing against one another.
Clothing will peel off at the pace of Worick's fingers, methodical to the point of teasing. He'll trek his fingers over Nicolas' pants and then creep in, squeeze, stroke until Nicolas feels the first of many shudders.
And later, when Worick’s rocking into him, his grip in Nicolas' hair a grip that’s easy to break, their gaze will hold longer than it has since the day they began sharing more whatever it is that drops them into Worick's bed, shoves Nicolas up against the wall, bend him over the single desk in the apartment. Nicolas will stare back because of all the oddities that make him uneasy around others, Worick’s not one of them.
He’ll know noises will be falling out of him with each jerk of Worick’s pelvis, and may or may not be aware of the pressure of his own fingers on Worick’s back, where they clamp down and hold whatever deep note is spilling out of the older man. He’ll hold hard, leave the memory of himself that Worick can’t hear or see, just feel the way Nicolas feels.
He’ll feel Worick everywhere, from the smack of his hips, to his chest pressing against his own, mouth wherever it pleases, fingers never finding purchase, staking all it can grab as the rhythm they share travels the spectrum of all the tempos Nicolas doesn’t know but saw them come to life in that dingy room with the sunset streaking colors over Worick’s hands.
And once Worick is deep in the sleep he seems to never really get, Nicolas will once more rub each finger along his lips.
Until then, Nicolas watches as the moment comes to a close. The vibrations peter to nothingness. Worick’s fingers quiet down until it’s just his right hand again, down to three fingers, one for each key he plays, and then it’s over.
Nicolas remains as he is. He can’t see Worick’s face with the young man's head tilted down, his hair obscuring the bulk of his features.
But it’s Worick, so it’s barely a moment later he looks like he’s taken a deep breath for the sake of drama than anything else. He lifts his head and smiles right at Nicolas.
“Yeah,” he says, “I still really hate the piano.”