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Yuuri's shoulders ache. He's been preparing for multiple recitals with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra this year. Since most of his performances for the next two years are contracted with them, he decides to get an apartment on the cusp of Midtown. It's a nice place, fairly well-insulated, and the view doesn't have much to offer, but he doesn't care.

All he cares about is that he can get a studio piano into the massive freight elevator, and that the owners of the apartment complex have explicitly stated that he's free to practice, so long as his neighbors do not raise a complaint. They have lots of musicians in their building because it's only two stops away from the Symphony, and a couple more to the universities.

Most of his things won't be coming for a few days. He'd signed the lease when he'd stopped in town for business, in between guest bookings at the Sydney Symphony, the Basel Sinfonietta, and the Stabile Orchestrale Fiorentina. It's honestly sort of overwhelming to him that he's fought for this sort of position - that people will pay him to fly to their countries, where he can't speak a lick of their languages, but his piano skills do all the talking.

As it stands, he has multiple concerts coming up for the summer, and a lot of work to do. The ASO wants to do performances focusing on the Classic era, which he's truly not fond of. Haydn could choke on dirt as far as Yuuri was concerned. He thrives off of the passionate lilts of the lesser-known Romantics and the Russians, but a job is a job, and damned if Yuuri isn’t good at this one.

He slips into the apartment, which is empty except for the piano he'd sent express from Michigan. Immediately, Yuuri kicks off his shoes, lets go of his bag, and heads to the bench. He checks the tuning of the instrument first, tickling the keys gently. 

For a precious few minutes, he plays whatever he likes. Yuuri is especially fond of playing things in minor key, and G-minor is a fanciful favorite. The quiet rush quickly descends into a bastardized mixture of Benoit and Bach and Mendelssohn. It's feverish and loud, makes him want to roll up his sleeves and curl himself into the keys, and then, just as it reaches the height of the crescendo, he lets the freeform piece shift into something gentle and aching. 

It's a good warm up, as far as those go. Once Yuuri has come down from his high, he sighs. He still has to unpack his suitcase and he doesn't have any food. The sheet music for the concert he'll be performing at in two weeks weighs heavily on his conscious, so he hurries to drag his bag into the empty bedroom. 

He doesn't know when he's going to shop for furniture outside of a mattress and bedsprings. It's not a priority. 

Yuuri will really only use this apartment to sleep and to practice.

// 

Most days, Yuuri exchanges pleasantries with his fellows at the symphony. There are few other pianists tenured here, but not for lack of trying. The Atlanta Symphony pays pretty well, all things considered, but the musical industry is ruthless. He's been involved with the community since he was fourteen years old, and honestly, Yuuri's just numb to all of it. The petty whispering. The auditions. The judges. Everybody sleeping together and then slamming each other on social media. 

His colleagues often reek of perfume or cologne, dressed in their jeans for daytime performances; they put on their finest suits and dresses for evening shows. Atlanta is much the same as Detroit, as Tokyo, as Dublin - he's thirty, and he's lived a lot of places now. The culture of professional musicians remains quietly chaotic. 

He spends his days drinking water, wandering the city for new places to eat and marveling at the mess of public transportation in this city. There's plenty of activity in the town, what with the thriving lbgtq+ community, theatre scene, comedy clubs, and ragged college students stumbling out of bars. When he walks out of his apartment, ears ringing from pounding at the keys for hours, there is always something to do or see. Yuuri's eyes often wander to an art supply store just for the hell of it. He'd never been very good at art, but he thinks, maybe, it would just give him something else to do with his hands. 

After a while, he heads back to his apartment, to the familiar instrument waiting for him. Yuuri's been in Atlanta for three weeks, played seven shows, and he has to fly to Berlin in ten days. He has a bed now, and a freezer full of ready-made meals. The cabinets are still pretty pitiful, but he truly can't be bothered to deal with it at the moment. His mother would click her tongue if she could see, but luckily for him, she lives in southern California - too far away to chide him for his life choices and force him to eat proper food. He swivels the fall-board so that the keys are uncovered once more, and toes at the pedals lightly.

It's too easy for him to fall into Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1, and he's played it at many recitals. The lilt of the other instruments behind him is often a comfort, because they'd help him focus on uniting the orchestral sound. Right now, in his apartment alone, the piece is incomplete, but it gives him a sense of satisfaction to hammer out the crescendos and tread carefully when the piece is supposed to be pianissimo, soft and delicate and ginger. 

About an hour into practice, a note slips under the door and disturbs his concentration. Yuuri's hands still on the keys, suddenly terrified that it's a notice from a neighbor, or worse, from his landlord, that he needs to cease playing at ten p.m. He's had the warning many times, but has almost always evaded reprimand by explaining that he is a professional pianist.

Instead, the note is pleasantly surprising.

If it's not too terribly forward of me to ask, the looping script reads, I would like to humbly request Tchaikovsky's Dumka Op. 59. 

The request is so obscure that Yuuri actually has to look up sheet music and performances online to recall the piece. It's quick-paced and whimsical. 

Yuuri’s neighbor is no slouch, at least in regards to classical music. Yuuri toys with the unfamiliar piece for a time, ordering the sheet music online and printing the pages off at a local office supply store. He practices it as softly as he can manage, so as not to ruin the surprise. Then, at around the same time the message had been delivered to him the week prior, Yuuri opens his windows.

He plays as loudly as he can, as soulfully as he can manage. Yuuri's not really sure his work has ever been appreciated in this way, with a method so absurd that all he can do is laugh. This feels like a tale one could find in old fantasies, passed down through generations by elders. A neighbor in his apartment complex, asking for a beautiful piano piece from a stranger. Yuuri would be flying out to play something he'd played hundreds of times before, getting paid thousands of dollars for it, and yet. This is what holds his attention. This moment.

The keys are dancing in front of him, and the sleeves of his shirt are stained with sweat by the time he brings the piece to conclusion. It's a rousing performance, perhaps one of the best recitals of his life, and thunderous applause meets his ears. Yuuri's breath comes short as he pulls his toes off of the pedals, leaning back on the bench.

Suddenly, his trip doesn't seem quite so daunting or pointless. This is what he lives for - to thrill an audience with his music.

All he'd needed was a fresh, earnest reminder.

// 

The Hartsfield-Jackson airport is spacious and ruthlessly efficient. The international terminal is fairly empty when he lands on a Wednesday, hopping on MARTA back to his apartment, tired down to his bones from having to sit ramrod straight and dress in his finest suits for four days. He slumps on the train, nearly dozing off until a tinny voice announces that he's arrived at Midtown station.

When he opens the door to the apartment, a note is lying on the floor. Yuuri hadn't supposed that his appreciative neighbor would send another message, so the hand-written note is a pleasant surprise for the weary man. That was beautiful, thank you. I admit to being quite fond of the Russian classics, but you are superbly talented. I'll be listening for your work in the future. - V

It warms Yuuri, who pads over to his bed and stares at the words fondly for hours.

He sleeps with the note curled in his hand, smudging the ink with his thumb.

//

Some evenings, Yuuri plays solemnly, trying to get into the moods of Saint-Saëns and Prokofiev. Other days, he lazily waltzes through feel-good numbers by Beethoven and Scriabin. The atmosphere at work is fairly pleasant, all things considered, for all that judges are continually bored by auditions and the managers of the Woodruff Arts Center are busy chatting about getting ready for Christmas performances already . Yuuri's not terribly fond of Winter in terms of work - there are far too many holiday shows to attend. Those gigs are for the fresh-spirited, who have the energy to sit and wait their turns for hours while actors sang above them, or while ballet dancers enchanted the audience, the music a convenient backdrop for their sweeping limbs.

He'd always had the utmost respect for ballet dancers. He'd studied ballet alongside piano once, in a forgotten time, and his instructor had been the one to nudge him further towards piano. He hadn’t felt comfortable in leotards. Yuuri is most at home in front of the keys, which could never betray him, and would welcome his silence.

For months, he goes through his routine, but there is one new addition.

Yuuri's mysterious neighbor, whose only initial he knows to be "V", keeps sending requests and polite messages of thanks when Yuuri plays for them. They've been making this exchange for so long that Yuuri honestly just wants to catch a glimpse of them, see if it's anyone he's ever run into at the hall. He's never heard anybody playing instruments in his part of the building, but nobody's complained about his noise level either. Yuuri's starting to understand just how much he lucked out in choosing a place to stay.

Yuuri's getting ready for an autumn tribute to 80s pop, knowing well that Jazz stylings  are difficult for him. He slumps out of his apartment groggily, walking to the elevator with a yawn and waiting to go from the sixth floor to the lobby. Before the doors can fully close, an arm slips in.

"Terribly sorry," the stranger says to Yuuri, who has one hand on his chest and another on his bag, tense with panic. "I rushed down from the eighth floor because I'm running behind. Pardon." 

"It's fine," Yuuri replies softly, too shocked to say anything else. His eyes sweep over a sharp jawline, roaming over blue eyes with the barest of crow's feet lining them, and lovely silvery hair windswept by the man's jaunt down to the sixth floor.

The stranger doesn't continue the conversation. Instead, he digs in a briefcase for a notebook, squinting slightly, flipping through the pages hurriedly. Yuuri doesn't mean to pry, but the lettering is quite large, and the man pauses on a page that lets Yuuri read his handwriting very well.

Meeting @ 8 AM in the Lobby Conference room of the High. It's far more business-oriented than any other exchange Yuuri's had with this stranger, but the looping handwriting, which tilts heavily to the right, is unmistakable. Noticing the stare, the man turns to Yuuri.

"Something wrong?"

After a beat, both of them step off of the elevator and Yuuri coughs awkwardly. "Um, maybe sort of a strange question to ask," Yuuri hums, voice very low in case he's wrong, "You wouldn't happen to be V , would you?"

Recognition dawns on the man's face and his lips quickly curl into a smile. "Are you the wonderful pianist who's charmed me for so long?" His eyes roam over Yuuri, taking him in properly. Immediately after this comment, he remembers that he's running behind and he clicks his tongue at himself. "I have to go, but it was lovely to finally meet you." 

"Wait!" Yuuri yells, trying to catch V before he turns for the garage. "What's your apartment number?"

"Eight-ten," V replies breathlessly. "Come visit me sometime!"

It makes sense. Yuuri's in room 610, which means the stranger - or acquaintance now, he supposes - would be close enough to hear all of his practices and private recitals. He's exactly two floors above Yuuri, which means he has a room with a balcony, and the man, V, would have been able to follow the prominent noise of the piano to leave him notes frequently.

Yuuri works very hard to focus for the rest of the day, ignoring the throng of people at the above-ground metro station, but it proves difficult.

For some reason, Yuuri hadn't imagined that his secret admirer would be so. ..handsome .

// 

Yuuri doesn't visit V, but it's not his fault, exactly.

He gets a cold on an off day, dabbling out a couple of shitty original pieces between his sneezes. He feels a bit guilty when he goes out grocery shopping, and his heart almost gives out when he spots the silver-haired man standing in line at Publix. Before Yuuri can duck down and get out of sight, he realizes that he had sneeze-gasped and V had heard him.

V turns at the sound, probably opening his mouth to say, bless you , and instead he gapes at the sight of the pianist. His lips curl upwards and he waves, stepping out of the line to meet Yuuri, who is standing around the produce section of the store. "Hello!" V wears pleasure easily on his reddish lips, and Yuuri flushes. After sputtering and coughing for a few minutes, he wheezes out a greeting in response. V pouts, looking sad at the sight of the pianist's visible illness. "Are you unwell?"

The silver-haired man has a deep voice, slightly clipped, as though English is not his first language. Yuuri refuses to be enchanted by a man he's met an overwhelming one time. Well. Twice, now. "It's just a cold. I'll be alright." V stares at him for a long moment and Yuuri looks down bashfully. "Sorry. About not coming to see you right away. I got sort of busy, too."

"That's alright," V hums slowly. "These things do happen. Do you have enough to eat?"

"If I did," Yuuri starts with a rasp, "Do you think I would be at the grocery store?" Immediately, Yuuri realizes that he's being a little bit too quippy with someone he's not close to, and is a moment away from apologizing for being mouthy when V laughs loudly.

"That's very true," V responds, shifting his hand basket on his hip. "Here, let's get a cart. Can I shop with you for a bit?"

This is stupid. Yuuri is very aware that this is stupid, because V had been ready to check out not five minutes ago, but he's probably offering because Yuuri looks like he could fall asleep at any time. How chivalrous. "You don't have to," Yuuri protests weakly, his voice cut off by another heavy sneeze.

"I want to," the other man says, putting his basket on the lower rack of the cart, and wheeling it around so that they don't bump into anyone in the narrow aisles of the supermarket. "Lead the way."

That's how Yuuri, a thirty year old internationally acclaimed pianist, winds up with his neighbor pushing a cart around while he wobbles down the aisles of his local grocery store. They don't make a lot of conversation, mostly because Yuuri's throat is killing him, but he does manage to ask the one thing that's been bugging him since their elevator ride.

"So," Yuuri hedges, putting his fruit on the conveyor belt with his breath rattling in his lungs. "Is V your name?"

His silver-haired music-admirer blinks rapidly, taken off-guard by the question. He'd checked out ahead of Yuuri, and he smiles softly. "It's Victor. I've never asked yours, which is terribly rude of me."

"I'm Yuuri," the pianist answers, sticking out his hand before remembering that he's sick. "Thanks, Victor. It’s nice to finally meet you."

Victor adjusts the groceries in his hand. "Likewise." The two of them walk back to the apartment in relative silence, parting ways after the elevator stops at the sixth floor.

Yuuri waves feebly, hurrying into his apartment to put his things away. The moment he's finished, he goes the hell to sleep because he's had a busy day.

He doesn't even bother to practice that night. That’s how terrible his cold is.

//

Chopin is hell on Yuuri's mind with a fever, and Mozart is absolutely impossible. It's not that the chords themselves are remarkable - Yuuri's at the level that he could belt out a movement of a concerto in his sleep. But he's in no mood to sway from the lows to the highs, to convey peaceful emotions and keep good posture.

Yuuri doesn't have any friends in this town. There's a pretty cool guy that plays flute in second or third chair; Yuuri's memory is foggy and he can't recall which, but they've never exchanged phone numbers. Only some nice tips about how best to wear a cummerbund over one's head. Dark-skinned, clear-eyed, funny. His name slips from Yuuri's mind as well. 

God, he's sweating out of his skin. It's still sweltering outside in Atlanta in September, but he pads over to the balcony to feel the sun on his skin, totally miserable. He leans against the railing and just sighs, wishing that he could get over his illness. The worst part is, he's not even sure how he got the cold. He's constantly surrounded by people, audiences and fellows alike. He's in and out of airports a couple times a month. There are so many options that it's absurd, but Yuuri doesn't remember anyone around him coughing last week. This cold had taken him by surprise and he just wants to be free of it.

He sighs, watching cars drive by. Before he can get too lost in his thoughts, a voice sounds distantly. Yuuri looks around at the noise, dark eyes eventually squinting at his upstairs neighbor as he leans precariously over the guardrail.

"Hungry?" Victor yells, his voice carrying amongst all the grimy city noise.

Maybe it's because Yuuri is weak and ill and frustrated with his inability to make any headway with piano practice, but he tugs on a pair of shoes, ignores the fact that he'd called out of work that morning, and makes his way to apartment 810. He knocks feebly, and almost raps his knuckles over Victor's nose as the door swings open.

"Hi," the silver-haired man breathes out the greeting, smiling when Yuuri warily steps in. "I hope you like borscht."

// 

Victor likes to fill the silence with idle chatter, which is fine with Yuuri. He scoops the soup into bowls, rambling about how a family friend had made him a pot of the stuff and dropped it off the night previous. Apparently, he has another family friend, a teenager, that likes to amble around his place when he doesn't feel like being at home, but he hadn't been interested in eating soup when it was deathly hot outside.

Yuuri is happy with the teenager's choice, because it means he gets to see Victor study him while he speaks, blue eyes flinty while he shovels in mouthfuls of soup. Yuuri nods at his words, comments when he feels it is time, and watches Victor slowly wind down once he feels comfortable. "Thanks for having me," the pianist says when he's finished, truly grateful for the meal and the company. He hadn't realized exactly how ravished he had become while lying around in bed all day. "I think I'm gonna head out now. Any requests?"

"Mm," Victor says, his tone implying that his mind is far off. "Nothing in particular tonight. Do you have a stylistic preference?"

There is a pause and a quick cough before Yuuri answers. "As long as it's not from the actual classic era, we're solid."

"No Haydn, then," Victor comments and Yuuri motions retching. It makes Victor smile. "I'm not overly fond of him myself, but you know how concerts go. The people expect Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, and Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach is baroque, I'm aware, but you get my drift."

Yuuri laughs as well as he can at that. "Yeah. It gets old." After a pause, Yuuri asks, "What do you do, anyways? Do you play something? I've never seen you at the Symphony."

"Mm, I work just next door, at the High," Victor answers easily, standing up and taking the dishes to the sink. "I'm the museum director."

Yuuri gapes for a minute. "Woah, shit, that's cool."

Victor rolls his eyes. "Is it? I suppose so. It certainly keeps me busy." He pauses for a minute, then continues. "I used to be a model, you know. A professional one, with the magazines and everything, but it's really an awful job. Terribly overrated." Yuuri just gapes at the other man, who is still a vision. "I traveled the world for a while, trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. More money than I could ever conceivably use, and not a degree to my name. So I started over. I learned to invest. I went back to school, so no one could call me brainless and pretty anymore. I found a cause, and here I am." Yuuri is aware that he's staring, and Victor huffs lightly out of his nose. "Sorry, that's a bit heavy, isn't it?"

"No, it was nice," Yuuri says, being totally honest, "That you told me about that." With a hand on the doorknob, feeling a little hesitant about leaving now, but he is sick, and he has to make up for lost time with practice. "I'll return the favor pretty soon. Next time, you can just knock, if there's something you'd like me to play."

Yuuri waves goodbye, holds in a sneeze, and heads back to his room, feeling warm.

An ex-model turned museum director is his upstairs neighbor.

"What on earth is he doing here ?" Yuuri shook his head. He made enough money to stay downtown, and more than enough to splurge, but he just doesn’t have anything he wants . He sends his mom souvenirs. He occasionally donates to charities for animals and young musicians, and his savings account fills up every time he gets a bonus, or a specialty booking.

It dawns on him that he lives a somewhat sad life.

He has no friends, no pets, and nothing to do with his time except practice, and he only uses his personal money to buy groceries. 

Yuuri sits on the bench and sighs.

It's sort of pathetic.

//

By the time Yuuri's head is clear, he's moved onto Liszt's Christmas pieces, already preparing for the single holiday performance he's put on his calendar. He's ready to choke with the sounds of it, having played this song at least one hundred times in his twelve-year career. By the time he's ready to slam his hands on the keys and switch songs, a knock comes on his door.

It's Victor. 

"Hey," Yuuri murmurs, letting him in with a soft sigh. "If you ask me to play Liszt today, I'm sorry, but I think I'll have to punch you."

By some miracle, Victor takes his sarcasm as-is and he chortles. "Would I be remiss in asking for Robert Schumann's concerto in A-minor, opus fifty-four?"

"Technically, it's not a concerto, since there's no orchestra. It's just a solo." Victor rolls his eyes, but he's smiling, so Yuuri laughs at his own comment. The piece Victor had chosen was emotional and thoughtful; it's certainly different from the happy, fast-paced dances of the Hungarian composer. Yuuri quickly agrees. "Did you want coffee or tea?"

Victor puts a finger to his chin, thinking for a moment. "I think I'll have a coffee, thanks." It's still early in the day, so Yuuri figures that Victor doesn't have work. He turns on the pot swiftly, letting it brew for a while and scrounging for mugs. None of them are decorated, so he picks two blue ones, giving Victor the one that doesn't have a chip on the bottom. Yuuri digs around for cream and sugar, watching Victor carefully sweeten his beverage. After taking a sip of his own drink, Yuuri pads to the piano, putting his mug on a short table. His fingers rest on the keys while he draws in a shaky breath, his chest clear of congestion for the first time in days. 

It's a song that he loves, truthfully. It's not the same without the flutes soulfully playing in the middle, or the crash of violins thrumming in his ears, but Yuuri delves into the piece with wonderful form, fingers curved over the black and white keys like the professional he truly is.

He can't even hear Victor sipping his coffee, if he's doing that at all. The only sounds in the apartment he catches are the sounds of the thunk of the pedals, the echoing reverberation of the strings inside of the massive instrument. He could've gone digital, but the sound isn't the same, and maybe it's prudish of him, but Yuuri is something of a purist. He would've preferred to have a baby grand, but there had been no feasible way to bring one into public housing, and he was still frugal enough to realize that it was reasonable to stay in an apartment, since he works contract-to-contract.

When the movement comes to a close, Yuuri's chest is heaving. There is a long period of silence before Victor stands up and claps. Yuuri turns around, catching his breath, going through the motions of bowing three times, exiting the room, coming back, and bowing again. Victor snickers at the formality, especially since both of them are dressed in sweatpants and t-shirts. 

Yuuri follows by laughing as well. He notes that his own drink is cold now, and Victor's isn't much better. The cup looks untouched.

When his stomach rumbles, Yuuri rubs the back of his neck. "Wanna grab a sandwich or something?"

Victor curls his fingers around the mug, dutifully taking it to the sink. "Yes. That sounds nice." 

They head out, and as soon as Yuuri pulls the fall-board down, running his hand over the wood, they slip out of the apartment and he locks the door, already opening his big mouth and murmuring about his history. 

//

Victor bursts out laughing when Yuuri talks about how he and his family had wound up in America. "I mean, nobody expects to get that kind of offer at age fourteen, right?" Yuuri snorts as he leans on the table. "I was trained under a stodgy old man, but he told me how to approach the concours. The judges at that level are already batshit, and serious instructors start teaching everybody mind games. Play it nice at the beginning. Slam it out on the keyboard. Destroy the competition. I was tired by that point. I knew, sure as hell, that I didn't want to go to Europe, even though I know I'd do better there. I had a relative who lived in California at the time, and when the orchestra official said, your ass would look great on our symphony's bench , or something like that, I thought it was a good prank, but it turned out that that email was pretty official." Victor is nearly in tears. "I knew a fair bit of English and they were offering me a check with a lot of zeros. I was a kid, and it turned out alright, so I can't even be mad about how I wound up here."

"God," Victor wipes tears out of his eyes. "That story is too good to be fake."

Yuuri chews on his sandwich with a chuckle. "My family and I talked it over. There were months of deliberation and apologies and all sorts of stuff before we actually headed over to the states, and I wound up working for another symphony once we got here. It was just part time, and I was sixteen, but I made a break pretty quickly." 

The two of them finish up eating, walking back to the apartment swiftly. It's November and the wind in the city bites like hell, even though winter is not harsh in Georgia. Victor grumbles that he's become weak to the chill after so many years in the south. Russia had been far worse on his bones, but now his pale skin has acclimatized to blistering summers and suffocating humidity. It makes the cool months that much crueler.

"What brought you to the states?" 

"Work, mostly," Victor answers swiftly, stepping onto the elevator as the doors slide open. "My manager booked me all sorts of places, and when I decided that I was through with modeling, I'd made quite a few friends in LA. I stayed with one of them while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I wound up going to school at UCLA, but found that the culture was a bit too drab. I went to Seattle, Portland, New York, and Nashville before I realized that nothing just. Clicked." He takes a look around the mess of a city, which can't be called massively metropolitan by any means. There are people shuffling around the streets, broken sidewalks, and awkwardly placed street lamps, but just a few blocks down the way, there are lights flashing. "How I wound up in Atlanta is a long story, but I love it here."

They'd ambled to Yuuri's doorstep, and had been standing in front of the door for a few minutes, so when his voice trails off, both of them smile quietly, waiting for someone to break the awkward silence. 

Yuuri looks up to say something, but finds his voice trapped in his throat. Victor is looking at him with one brow quirked, his smile soft. Immediately, Yuuri is aware that he's been staring. Victor just cuts such a striking image, with his long limbs and sweeping silver fringe. It's no wonder he had once been a professional model. As soon as he can pull his eyes away, horrified that he's blushing, Yuuri mutters, "See you later," and fumbles to unlock the door to his apartment.

Victor's hand rests on his back just before Yuuri steps inside, and when the shorter man risks a look over his shoulder, he finds that Victor looks unbearably pleased. "Later," the taller man replies, pulling his hand away and wiggling his fingers amicably.

When the door swings closed, Yuuri hurries over to the piano, trying to get lost in the notes instead of inside of his head. He refuses to think about what Victor's sweet expressions could mean.

//

Yuuri exchanges contact information with Victor just before he flies to California for the holidays. It means that the two of them can send little messages about nothing in particular. Victor's gripes and happy emojis make Yuuri snort when he's supposed to be helping his mother decorate. His week off is a blur, mostly, except for when he bends over the precious piano he learned to play on as a child. Nowadays, his family doesn't keep the tuning up as well as they should, so some of the higher notes are sour.

Still. It's easy to close his eyes, swaying softly with contemporaries. Yiruma pieces drift into Yann Tiersen, then slowly become strains that belong to nobody but Yuuri. His mother, sister, and father always drift by when Yuuri starts to practice, buried in the feeling of the music. He'd always taken to passionate pieces, so this sudden shift, this graceful lilt, this confidence in another style - this is new.

When he breaks for dinner, Mari folds her arms over chest. "What happened to you?" Yuuri doesn't really know how to answer that.

Something has changed, yes. 

But it's not so monumental that he has to tell his sister . "Mm. This and that." 

She doesn't press for answers, but her narrowed eyes say it all. Worse than that, Hiroko gives him the look - the one that says she can read Yuuri better than Yuuri can read himself, and it makes him squirm. The women in his household have good intuition.

There's no way in hell he's going to tell them that he's slowly becoming friends his drop-dead gorgeous neighbor.

//

Yuuri answers the knock on his door with a yawn, already aware of who's going to be on the other side. There's nobody else who would come over to his place at seven on a Thursday, unless the building was on fire, and he doesn't smell smoke yet . "Mornin'," Yuuri greets his neighbor. It's still a little chilly in the corridor, so he hurriedly pulls Victor into the living room.

"Good morning!" Unfortunately for Yuuri, Victor is a morning person, often coming back from a jog when he stops by Yuuri's place. They had settled into this routine at the start of the year, so Victor steps into the apartment with confidence and he makes another obscure song request. "How do you feel about The Lark , by Glinka and Balakirev?" 

"Where on earth do you even find all this stuff?" Yuuri starts the coffee maker with a snort, taking a moment to yawn and scratch his sides. When he turns to the sink, filling up a cup with water for the machine, he is joined by Victor in close quarters, helping him tidy up the kitchen and getting his mug down from the cabinets. It makes him smile to see the museum curator pattering around comfortably, and the pianist watches him huff and pout for a moment. 

Victor catches him and forms an o with his thin lips. "Something on my face?"

Yuuri coughs and sputters. "Nope, nothing." He reaches for a granola bar in one of his drawers and grabs an apple out of a bowl on the counter. While the coffee brews, he and Victor sit at the table and argue about banal things, like whether strawberry jam was worthy of being on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and about which barbecue place had the best wings in town. Yuuri is starting to realize that Victor gets pouty over things easily, that he likes absently touching the table, and toying with his own hair in quiet moments. 

It's long past time for Yuuri to sit down on the piano bench and do something - he has work in the evening, and Debussy isn't going to wait forever. Yuuri stands to grab their mugs of coffee, and he stalls for just a minute. With an impulsive movement that he immediately considers a mistake, he reaches towards Victor, fingers curling on the back of Victor's neck.

He jerks his hand away as if he's been burned, flushing hot when he sees that Victor's wide blue eyes are studying him. "I was just! Wondering if your hair was soft. This isn't your natural color, is it?" 

Victor's voice feels distant, and his lips beginning to quirk into a grin. "No, it's not. But I've been taking very good care of it for a long time. Does it feel nice?" Yuuri doesn't answer, but it's because he's still so shocked that he'd reached out and touched Victor without permission or reason . The silence gives Victor the wrong impression and he suddenly pouts. "Or were my ends dry? Does my dye job look patchy? I'll have to call my stylist."

"It's, uh, it's fine! Totally fine, sorry, I just zoned out." Yuuri almost drops their drinks before scrambling over to the piano. There's no reason for his fingers to miss the correct keys, but he finds himself slipping from playing a piece where the piano is the background instrument to something both excited and monumental. Vivace is the tempo of this original piece, and he can hear Victor giggling over his fumbling in the background.

Still, it doesn't deter Yuuri. He pushes through whatever fog is over his mind to create something he's rather proud of, and once he's done, he moves on to proper practice. Every time his arms come down and Yuuri takes a break, Victor's hands are gathered for applause and he smiles.

Yuuri swivels around on the bench to look at Victor, noting that the other man's eyes are glued to the piano. Before he can lower the fall-board, Yuuri raises an eyebrow and Victor laughs breathlessly.

"It's such a beautiful instrument," Victor remarks softly, coming behind Yuuri and standing so closely that the pianist can feel the curator's body warmth. It makes him flustered. "Could I touch it?" 

It isn't an unusual request for people to make. "Mm, go ahead." Yuuri doesn't polish the wood as often as he should, and it's almost due for a tuning. He decides to put his book of sheet music away for the program, preferring to watch Victor touch his studio piano with childlike wonder. "Did you want to play?"

Victor inhales sharply. "Oh no, I'm awful with my hands. I couldn't." 

"Everyone starts somewhere," Yuuri says, patting the bench, which is absolutely too small for two grown men to comfortably sit on, but he doesn't care. He loves sharing the joy of playing the piano with people, and Victor looks so eager that he could vibrate out of his skin as well. "I can teach you the basics. You already love music a lot. That's the best way to start."

The two of them sit pressed close, thighs touching, unable to keep from giggling as they bump elbows.

Yuuri slowly runs through the keys and basic chords, talking about reading music in the future. "You can't look at my stuff. It'll just seem like gibberish. I'll go to the music store close to Woodruff and pick up a beginner's theory book for you."

"You have work to do," Victor says, putting a hand over Yuuri's softly on the keys, trying not to disturb them and make a noise. Yuuri jolts at the sensation, heart racing. "I'm just being silly."

"It'll be a nice break for me," Yuuri assures him softly, voice barely above a whisper. "I can teach you something easy."

"Easy for you ," the silver-haired man huffs. "Mister concert pianist."

They both chuckle at that, but Yuuri just says, "I promise, it really will be."

Eventually, Victor sighs and smiles, giving in. "Alright. If you insist." He pulls away after a long moment. Yuuri watches him move for a while, just entranced to see the taller man move. "Thank you, Yuuri."

"No problem," Yuuri absently replies, wondering why he feels like he's currently having an out of body experience.

//

Yuuri has formal practice with the symphony, listening to the conductor and the producers before the orchestra gets to practice. It's honestly a bit much on a Friday morning, when all he really wants to do is rush over to the grand piano and get his hands on it. It's a 2003 Steinway Model A, worth thousands of dollars, and a true beauty. Just touching it feels like an honor.

But listening to the words of the sponsors and everyone else is making Yuuri want to sleep. He daydreams about what Victor would be saying, if he were in charge of the meeting, wearing his sharply cut vests and tasteful jeans, rolled up to the cuffs. It's starting to get warm now in March, and Victor is not an intuitive piano player, but his sarcasm is always biting. Yuuri has to fight down a private chuckle, sure that Victor would sweep into the room, regale the orchestra briefly, and then walk off on the phone, too busy with appointments and figuring out what was happening in the art world to bother with lecturing his audience for hours.

The flautist Yuuri has a tentative companionship with smiles. "I've never seen you crack a smile at these things, and nothing they're saying is funny," the dark-eyed man says with a grin. Yuuri promptly flushes a bit, embarrassed that someone else had caught him daydreaming. "It's Yuuri, right?"

"Mmhmm," Yuuri says, immediately guilty that he's forgotten his name. "Sorry, and you're..."

"It's Phichit," Phichit replies easily. "The orchestra is big and a lot of people travel. Heck, you're not gonna be here for most of the summer season. I don't blame you."

Speakers change on the stage, so they stop whispering for a moment. There are no cell phones allowed in the hall, so Yuuri and Phichit just giggle a bit, trying not to talk too much in their boredom. Once the conference breaks, the two of them hurry to their respective places in the hall. Yuuri has to wait for the handlers to wheel the gorgeous piano onto the stage, and Phichit cackles at his reverie once they lock the wheels.

"Don't drool on the piano - that thing is expensive!" Phichit snaps the case of his flute open, carefully adjusting the pieces to put it together. He messes with the head joint for a moment and Yuuri snorts at his words. As soon as the conductor steps on stage, all of them stop ambling and take their places, tuning to the oboe player's A-note and shuffling for a moment. They don't waste time with the applause and the bowing for their pianist today - it's not a dress rehearsal; it's a final check for harmonious sound.

Pages are turned for the string instruments. The conductor lifts his arms, swiftly sweeping his wrists, turning to separate parts of the orchestra when the time comes, leaving Yuuri to breathe softly until it is his turn.

His hands are folded in his lap until the rest comes. Then, he schools himself, blinks behind his glasses, and begins to play.

Every time, the performance is different. Every time, he presses down on the keys and the pedals in a slightly different way, unsure what he's doing or why, other than that the sound is beautiful and sitting at a piano feels like home.

As the movement winds down, the conductor makes remarks for every section, Yuuri included. Each movement is dissected, and after the four hour session comes to a close, everyone is dead tired. Phichit waves goodbye to Yuuri, and Yuuri finds himself so refreshed by the session that he stops the taller man.

"Hey," Yuuri reaches out awkwardly, shuffling in place. "Did you wanna, I dunno. Exchange numbers or something? Maybe we could hang out." He's not sure why he's asking. Victor's the best company Yuuri could ask for, but it wouldn't hurt to have another friend in Atlanta.

Phichit agrees eagerly, tapping things out on his phone at a speed so rapid that it makes Yuuri dizzy. "Do you like to eat out? I know this really good place for ice cream in West Midtown, and there's a cool market on Ponce!"

"Yeah, I do," Yuuri answers absently, letting Phichit type contact info into his phone. "I don't get out much, so you'll have to show me around, sorry."

"No need to apologize," Phichit happily chirps, pocketing his phone with a grin. "We can always stay in and have a drink too. I'll text you. Later, Yuuri!"

Yuuri stands on the stage in a daze for a long moment.

He hadn't known that making friends was so. Easy .

//

Victor jaunts into the apartment for his usual Thursday practice session and Yuuri closes the door. By this point, they've gotten over snorting about treble clef and bass clef, talked about different kinds of notes and tempos, and are just sort of fooling around. Victor gets the hang of playing by ear - the notes are swimming on the page for him, so Yuuri gives him a theory practice book for home, and they just play by ear when they're together.

After weeks of cramming together on his tiny bench, he buys a longer one with a cushion, tired of hearing Victor complain about the wood killing his back and his ass. The two of them have a lot of fun hammering out bad melodies on the keys. On this Thursday, Yuuri suggests an easy duet. His studio piano isn't designed for that, but he figures it will be fun.

Judging by the happy flush on Victor's cheeks, the silver-haired curator agrees.

"It's just Heart and Soul , you know," Yuuri says, pausing to flex his fingers. "Jazz isn't really my specialty, but I'm sure we can figure something out. Just follow after me, and I'll play the more difficult chords."

"This is just another opportunity for you to flaunt your talents in front of me, isn't it?" Victor huffs and Yuuri barks out a laugh.

"Sure," the pianist replies dryly, elbowing his friend in the side. After about an hour of teaching Victor the basics of the song, breaking it down into small sections, the two of them start to play together. Yuuri goes at Victor's pace, making space for a couple of fumbling notes to land and smiling when it all starts to come together. "See," Yuuri says, still playing softly, "You're very talented. You have a good ear."

Victor rolls his eyes, but he doesn't stop playing, even when Yuuri laughs and their knees bump. Once they stop playing, the sun is high in the sky and they both lean back on their palms, tired, but in a good way. "You don't have to flatter me. I play like a child. I am much more suited to organizing functions for gallery artists."

"Give it time, Victor," Yuuri says, poking him in the shoulder. "These things take practice."

After a long moment of silence, Victor reaches for Yuuri's hand, marveling at it. "How do you get your fingers to do this?" Yuuri, who has been seated in front of pianos since he was three years old, has no idea how to reply. His breath is coming in shallow gasps now, trapped in disbelief that Victor is staring at him like he's a marvel, when his blue eyes are half-mast, studying Yuuri. Victor brings them close to his face and Yuuri flushes hot, unsure of whether he wants to pull away or lean further into the touch. "Your hands are beautiful."

Before he can stop himself, Yuuri is blurting out, "Not as beautiful as you," and Victor's face has shock painted all over it in response. "I mean, um. You're, um. You were a model, of course you know how...handsome you are, ha, ha, oh geez."

"You know," Victor murmurs, long fingers moving to cup Yuuri's jaw, "It never hurts to hear. Flattery will get you everywhere with me."

Yuuri finally wheels back, cheeks hot. "O-Oh yeah?" He fidgets in his own apartment, forcing himself to look away from Victor sitting at the piano, staring at him with a goofy smile. He could be reading this all wrong.

"You're very good-looking yourself," Victor says, winking at Yuuri.

Hell . There are very few ways to misinterpret that , so Yuuri flushes and curls on the floor.

"What are you hiding for? It's true, Yuuri. When you're caught up with the piano, you're truly a sight to behold. You always look like you belong up on a stage, which, I suppose, is true, since your job puts you on a stage all the time." Victor comes over and squats next to Yuuri, who would willingly welcome the floor opening up and swallowing him any time soon. "Sorry. Do you not like it when I talk like this?"

Yuuri shakes his head, looking up shyly. "I've just. Never had anybody say that kind of stuff to me. It's a little strange. You're so...bold."

"Well," Victor hums, reaching out for Yuuri's hand with pink cheeks. "I like you. You wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been so bold , as you say."

"You can't just say stuff like that," Yuuri grumbles lowly, taking Victor's hand in wonder, noting that Victor's palms are cool, but he's shaking. In that moment, he realizes that, regardless of his claims of being bold, Victor is nervous . Yuuri stumbles over his words and murmurs, "I like you too, you know."

"As a friend?" Victor's voice is low and soft, so sweet that Yuuri's lower lip wobbles.

"We could, um, try being more," Yuuri mumbles, ears furiously hot as he stares at the ground. "I've never dated anyone before."

" Never ?" The museum curator gasps, giddy with excitement. "That's so cute."

"S'not funny." Yuuri collapses on the floor with a groan. "I'm too old for all this."

"Wait, so you don't want to date me? Yuuri? Yuuri ."

The brown-eyed man closes his eyes. "I do , but just. Give me some time to get used to the idea, okay? It takes me a while to get close to people."

"Mm," Victor says, sitting on the floor beside Yuuri. "I've noticed."

There is a long pause before Yuuri opens his eyes and studies Victor. "You really do like me. Why?"

Victor stares out of the sunny windows, adjusting his fingers where their hands are joined. "You're intelligent, patient, and beautiful. Not to mention, you play me romantic piano music at odd hours of the day. Honestly, did you want a list ?"

Yuuri bursts out laughing at that, finding humor in the absurdity of their situation.

//

The two of them meet for coffee and practice on Thursdays. Victor doesn't have any meetings scheduled, Yuuri is free, and the two of them can chat before sitting down on the bench. Yuuri learns that Victor is meticulous about his nails, that his best friend's name is Chris, and that he's massively in love with poodles. This makes Yuuri swoon, because he too fervently adores the breed.

Victor sometimes has to break from practice to answer phone calls about adjusting displays after hours and children attempting to break the glass in the souvenir shop, but for the most part, Victor shelves his work on Thursdays and dedicates his time to piano practice and Yuuri's lilting commentary during lessons.

The biggest change in their routine is their greeting. Whereas previously, Victor had simply ambled into the apartment like it was his own, now he opens his arms at the door and Yuuri nervously steps into his embraces. The two of them hug, hands roaming over warm backs, breaths coming in short bursts. Yuuri always giggles when Victor happily sighs at the contact. "Did you miss me?" Yuuri asks after they pull out of the hug, tugging Victor into the kitchen.

"Mm," Victor hums a reply, toeing off his shoes before heading to the fridge and reaching for the cream. "A week is a long time to wait. You text me when we're apart, so it seems silly to say this, but it feels like we're so far away."

Yuuri snorts. Victor only lives two floors away. In terms of distances between partners in a relationship, this one is incredibly manageable. "You don't only have to come over on Thursdays. Why don't you just text me when you want to stop by?"

"You don't have practice with the symphony in the evenings?" Victor blinks. "I thought you practiced at home most mornings, since that's when I heard you most often, before we formally met."

"I'm always practicing," Yuuri comments with a little chuckle. "Orchestra rehearsals are usually from eleven to five. I mean, I'm going to be traveling quite a bit for the next few months, but you're welcome to stop by whenever I'm home. You'll have to settle with listening to me play though, because I have two new pieces to learn before I leave."

Suddenly, Victor's arms are around Yuuri, nearly suffocating him when he grabs the mugs for coffee. "Oh, really? I'd love that." Yuuri flushes at the heat of Victor's breath on his ears. Victor continues to chat about work, about new art venues he's going to visit for ideas about how to spruce up museum tours. There are always schools in the surrounding area vying to come in and roam the halls, and maybe they aren't going to judge his ability to light a series of ceramic pots from a renowned craftswoman in South Korea, but he still has a dedication to a wonderful presentation.

He keeps his hands wandering towards Yuuri's waist while he rambles, changing his position at the table so that their legs are brushing. Yuuri doesn't jump at the sensation so much as he keeps his eyes trained on Victor's moving jaw, focusing on the angle of Victor's nose.

When Victor notices him staring, he pecks Yuuri on the cheek. "Something wrong?"

Yuuri flushes hot to the back of his neck, suddenly embarrassed to admit that he'd been thinking about kissing Victor. He's even more embarrassed to ask, are we actually dating? Can I do that? "Nope." He stands up on wobbly legs, downing his coffee before heading to the piano. Victor hums when Yuuri almost trips, casually assessing the shorter man's backside. "You ready?"

"Mmhm," Victor replies quickly, sauntering over to the bench. He takes care to run his fingers down Yuuri's spine before sitting on the bench, smiling proudly. "Do I make you nervous?"

Yuuri tries to think about Russian composers instead of the handsome man sitting thigh-to-thigh with him. Shostakovich. Borodin. Arensky.

Then his hands brush over Victor's, guiding him in the instruction of flats and sharps, and he jolts. There's only one name he can fully concentrate on. Victor Nikiforov . Victor wears a flush so well, damn it, and Yuuri can hardly focus on the craft he makes a living off of. What are keys, really, when Victor is right here, staring at him, bashfully murmuring a question about the sheet music while they're crammed together in front of the piano?

"Oh, Yuuri," Victor breathes the words, leaning his head on Yuuri's shoulder. "I don't think I'm meant for this. I just want to listen to you . I just want to watch you move ."

Yuuri feels like he's about to collapse. "S-Sure. I can, um. I can do that. Any requests?"

Victor presses his lips together, suddenly standing up. The force almost knocks Yuuri into the keys and he winces. "Tell you what. Are you busy tomorrow evening?"

"No." This Friday evening, he has the night off, because there are two performances scheduled on Saturday. Not to mention, it's his last weekend in town, so the Symphony has rightly adjusted his schedule to give Yuuri time to rest.

Victor taps the pads of his fingers over Yuuri's shoulders. "I'm in the mood for something romantic . Not the era, necessarily, but anything you find dear and charming. I don't want you to learn anything new for my sake, so you're welcome to pick anything you like."

Yuuri's heart races at the implication, but he nods anyways. "Alright. What time are you thinking about coming over?"

"Around seven or so," Victor replies, smiling when Yuuri turns in his seat to hug Victor goodbye. "I'll see you then."

Since the session gets interrupted, and their piano lessons are quite possibly being discontinued, Yuuri gulps. "You're leaving already?"

Victor gives Yuuri a soft, coy look. "I have to get started on my work a bit early if I want to enjoy our evening together tomorrow. Weekends at the museum are quite busy, Yuuri." With that, he turns on his heel and sweeps out of the apartment, leaving Yuuri to gape and pull himself together for the afternoon.

//

Yuuri calls Phichit early on Friday morning. "Look, man, I'm really sorry to ask this, but I have a favor to ask you."

They meet up at Perimeter Mall at twelve p.m. after a disastrous fight through traffic and Yuuri shuffles in front Chick-fil-A. The dark-skinned man greets him with a wave, wearing faded shorts and a loose button-down shirt. Phichit comes to a stop in front of Yuuri, who mostly looks like he hasn't slept in three days. (It's very close to the reality of the situation.)

He assesses Yuuri's outfit, his nervous disposition, and cackles. "Date night?" Yuuri yelps at his accurate assumption, averting his eyes. "Aww man, no need to be nervous. You didn't tell me you were seeing anybody." Phichit politely refuses to prod, simply beginning to walk around the mall and chattering about things he sees. "Anything you're looking for in particular?"

Privately, the pianist thinks that it should be something bold and daring, but he doesn't have nearly enough courage to tell his new friend the reason behind that, nor does he want to shop for something like that with the flautist. Most importantly, his new outfit has to suit the mood for the date - if Yuuri can even call it that - and the music he's decided to play. "I dunno. I like dark colors, but I don't really care about clothes."

"Mmkay," Phichit replies easily, dragging Yuuri into a few stores to see what catches his eye. It's obvious that Yuuri is uncomfortable, but he swallows his discomfort to try on clothes, finally deciding on something that makes him feel a lot younger than his thirty years. "Here, I took a pic of you in the outfit. Wanna see?"

Yuuri wants to be mad about the picture's existence, but he actually looks pretty good. He nods his approval at the outfit, begrudgingly pulls out his debit card, and checks out. They head to grab coffee, trawling around the mall lazily before parting ways. Yuuri pauses to thank the flautist, who simply shrugs him off.

"Any time you need help," Phichit assures him, "Just say the word, dude. I'll be there." Then they dash off to their separate parts of the parking lot and Yuuri goes home to drown in the piano, desperately hoping that Victor isn't home yet so that the surprise isn't ruined.

He takes a shower at six, gets dressed at six-thirty, and ambles around his apartment restlessly once he gets dressed.

The knock comes at six fifty-two and Yuuri jumps, even though he's been expecting the sound for ages. He opens the door to find Victor in khaki capris, a white button down, blue eyes wide at the sight of Yuuri.

He's wearing a baby-blue button-down with a gray shawl-lapeled jacket over it, sandy shorts resting at mid-thigh. All of it is fairly form-fitting, so it's a drastic change from his usual combinations of sweatpants and t-shirts. Victor is staring and it makes Yuuri smile. Yuuri coughs to force Victor's eyes back up to his face, laughing when Victor just continues gaping at him. "Hi," Yuuri greets Victor, initiating the hug for once. "You gonna stop looking at me and come in any time soon?"

Victor hugs Yuuri tightly enough to squeeze a squeak out of the shorter man. "This is a fantastic look. Who picked it out for you?"

"Hey now," Yuuri grumbles, sidling over to the kitchen counter. "Are you saying that I don't have any taste?"

"I'm saying that this seems like quite a leap from your usual state of attire, and it certainly isn't something you would wear on stage. Did you pick it out?"

Yuuri rolls his eyes. "No."

"Then I'm right, and therefor I win." Victor forms a v with his fingers and Yuuri snickers. "What are you looking for, by the way?"

"Mm," Yuuri absently replies, fishing through his messy cabinets to find a bottle, huffing when he finally unearths it. "Something to drink. Do you like whiskey?"

"I'm more of a wine fan myself," Victor replies with a knowing look, "but I suppose I'm open to trying something new."

The pianist takes out two snifters, fills them with a small amount of ice, and pours whiskey into them. They clink glasses before taking sips, and once that exchange is finished, Yuuri heads over to the piano. The rush of the moment washes over him for a moment, but he forces himself to relax. It's just a date with Victor - art nerd extraordinaire, purveyor of classical music, and he's playing a song that most of the world would probably think of as amorous. It helps that Yuuri himself finds the song heartbreakingly gorgeous.

Victor has half a mind to ask what Yuuri's going to play, but instead he pulls his chair very close and watches Yuuri take a seat at the bench with a determined expression. Yuuri takes one more gulp of whiskey before setting his fingers over the keys, and for a long moment, the room is dreadfully still.

The song is immediately recognizable, and Victor becomes entranced by the picture Yuuri paints, dabbling over the keys with quiet passion, his nose scrunched up and eyes half-closed behind his glasses.

Beethoven's Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor. The Moonlight Sonata . Victor's lips rest on his glass, watching Yuuri's head bob up and down, hitting every key in smooth transition. When Yuuri's foot presses down on the damper pedal, the soft click of the sound is arresting.

Honestly, the music alone is captivating, but the man playing it truly makes the performance. In Victor's opinion, many artists don't take their time with this piece, but here, with Yuuri’s fingers lovingly dancing over the keys, he knows that the pianist has spent a lot of time with this piece of music.

He plays the most famous movement, the arc that is around five minutes long from start to conclusion, and when the keys softly fade in a decrescendo, Victor is truthfully too stunned to even clap.

Yuuri waits for a moment before turning around with a loose smile. "Romantic enough for you?" Victor stands up on unsteady feet, padding over to Yuuri and reaching for his hands.

When the pianist stands up, the curator puts a finger over Yuuri's lips. "Romantic enough to make a man ask for a kiss, absolutely."

"Permission granted," Yuuri smiles at Victor's touch, closing his eyes and trying not to overthink things when Victor leans in and chastely kisses him. Yuuri dreadfully wonders what else he's supposed to do, panicked and ready to pull away. Victor senses his nervous energy and leans out of the kiss, keeping a hand gently at the small of Yuuri's back. He quickly presses himself to Victor and murmurs, "Sorry. Sorry, god. I'm just. Really new to this, I swear. Your lips are really nice."

"I take special care of them," Victor laughs softly, bringing his hands up so that they are resting just below Yuuri's shoulder blades. "We don't have to kiss right now."

"No," Yuuri says, shaking his head and looking at the taller man with determination. "It really was nice. Let's try again."

"Mm," Victor agrees easily, fingers resting on the cusp of Yuuri's ear. He waits for Yuuri to flick out his tongue before gently tugging at Yuuri's lower lip, huffing happily as the brunette closes his eyes and groans. A moment later, Yuuri opens his mouth for Victor, blunt nails scrabbling at Victor's nape.

Both of their nostrils flare out as they get more and more swept up in the kiss, slowly angling themselves against each other's bodies and breaking away infrequently, flushed and desperate for more friction. Yuuri wonders if maybe he's moving too fast, if dragging Victor to his bedroom and humping the ever living daylights out of the museum curator would be in poor form.

While he's wondering, Victor just pecks his forehead and Yuuri feels his lips curl up, puffy and sensitive, still damp from the kisses. "You wanna chill out in my room for a bit?"

"Yuuri," Victor replies quickly, reaching to kiss Yuuri's arm like he can't help himself, "If we take this to your bedroom, I'm afraid chilling out isn't what we'll be doing at all. I should go home for the night."

Yuuri whines. "You're sure?" Now that he's had a taste of what could be, Yuuri is eager to do more. Victor pulls away and Yuuri smiles. "Alright. Well, did you want to finish your drink? I finished memorizing my new pieces, so I have time to just mess around and do whatever."

"Yeah," Victor says, cheeks still rosy. "I'd like that."

He stays and listens to Yuuri talk to himself while he plays, taking breaks at intervals to drink some more, making Victor laugh at his tipsy antics. When the night creeps into a sleepy hour, Victor kisses Yuuri good night for a few minutes, finally breaking away to go back to his own bed. "I'll see you later, Yuuri."

Yuuri wiggles his fingers drowsily, smiling at Victor, who is - whatever he is to Yuuri right now. "Mmhmm. I'll be back late on Tuesday. You wanna come over?"

Victor hangs in the doorway for a moment. "Yes, that sounds nice. Shoot me a text when you're on your way home."

When the silver-haired man is gone, Yuuri dreamily heads over to the piano, playing jaunty chords that are in no way a formal composition. Victor can hear Yuuri's playing softly from his apartment when he opens the windows, so steps out on the balcony and listens until the notes drift off, presumably because the pianist has gone to bed.

//

"I've been telling you," Victor coolly taps his finger on the desk, "There's an event for rising artists in Decatur next month. We've been thinking about meeting up with new talent in the area for a showcase next year. We have our film exhibitions, too, so there's no time like the present."

His phone partner balks at the plan. It's too much trouble to have someone as important as Victor do this at a busy time of year, especially when they're a step away from winning an auction on a traveling exhibition of famous guitars.

"At the end of the day, it's up to me, isn't it?" Victor keeps his voice polite through sheer force of will, exhausted by how long this conversation has gone on, not to mention how many times he's had to have it with the business department. "I can manage it, Steven. Trust me on this. Showing my face at this event is good for PR."

"If you screw this up," Steven warns Victor, "I'll make life hell for you."

With that, the conversation comes to an end, and Victor sighs. There is a whole slough of paperwork to do regarding art customs and travel, contractual leasing of displays and so forth. Not to mention the curators' conference coming up in the fall. He'll have to fly to Chicago, which isn't far, all things considered, but it's going to be exhausting. He'll be coming back from Prague three days before the convention.

The week has only just begun and the museum curator is already tired. He trawls through an array of emails, answering each one quickly and professionally, and after two hours of the monotony, he stands up to stretch and absently checks his phone.

It's ten a.m. He has one message from Yuuri, and it immediately improves his mood. I leave Amsterdam in a few minutes, so I should be home around 8 your time. Did you still want to meet up tonight?

Thinking about the possibility of snuggling up with the pianist and flopping around laughing at silly videos with him makes Victor smile like a fool. He quickly types back, Yes, absolutely , unsure if Yuuri will be able to read it before he takes off. I can pick you up from the airport, if you like.

He sees the bubbles for Yuuri typing and snorts. That would be cool. Call you when I land, then.

Victor quickly types, Alright. Until later, darling. Safe travels. ♥ A moment later, he wonders if perhaps this is too forward of him. Yuuri's a bit shy, and Victor's never called him pet names before. He presses his thumb to the text bar, ready to come up with some sort of excuse for his silly text, but he sees that Yuuri is texting too, so he stops.

See you soon, V.

Victor collapses in his chair with a flustered smile.

He breezes through his work for the rest of the day, his flattering tone coming more easily when has to make phone calls.

//

When Victor picks Yuuri up from the airport, he has black slacks on and a blue hoodie over them. He giggles at the combination and Yuuri glares at him, sliding into his flaring red sports car. "I don't even want to know how much this car costs."

"I have another car in California," Victor airily says, "It's a hot pink convertible and my best friend takes care of it for me. She's a true beauty and I miss her desperately."

Yuuri rolls his eyes, unable to fight back a smile as he settles into the front seat. "God, that sounds like a sight."

"It could have cost me eight million dollars." Yuuri immediately seizes up at the number, but Victor waves his hand with a small smile. "Relax. I bought it at an auction from some foolish appraiser. It's a classic, but it was in poor condition, so it only cost me a little under one million. Fixing it up was no easy task, but I saved loads on the price."

"One million is no joke, Victor, damn," Yuuri remarks. "That's a pretty wild purchase for you. What made you get it?"

"Mmm," the silver-haired curator hums for a moment, thinking. "I'd always dreamed of having a car like that, and I so rarely buy things for myself other than clothes. I'd just moved to the states and I wanted to splurge. I had the money, and I figured, why not ? Sometimes, you have to treat yourself." After a pause, he makes his exit on the highway and flicks his blue eyes over to Yuuri. "You've never done anything like that?"

"Nah," Yuuri mumbles softly. "Not really. There's just never really been a point , you know? What would I do with something like that? Where would I go? I guess I've just never had the drive. Or the self-esteem, ha."

"Oh, Yuuri," Victor reaches for Yuuri's hand and beams when the shorter man accepts the gesture. "There must be something you've always wanted."

He stares at Victor, studying the older man's expression before closing his eyes. "I guess there's just one thing."

"What it is it?"

Memories of a long-forgotten time flash in his head and Yuuri quietly answers, "A dog."

They pull into the garage after Victor sadly lets go of Yuuri's hand, putting his car in park. Yuuri wrestles his bag out of the trunk and they chat aimlessly until they make it back to apartment 610. Yuuri grabs his keys and Victor holds the handle of his suitcase when they step inside. Both of them hurry to shuck off their shoes and Yuuri ambles towards his bedroom. "Jet-lag is the worst. I'm exhausted. You wanna stay for a bit?"

Victor nods. "If you're sure."

"I mean, I'll probably be asleep in ten minutes, but we could catch up." He flicks dark eyes up at Victor with a somewhat sad expression. "I missed you more than I thought I would over the weekend."

Suddenly, pale arms are wrapped around Yuuri's shoulders and the shorter man nearly chokes. "Oh, Yuuri. I missed you too." Yuuri chuckles, laughing when Victor nuzzles against his neck. "This weekend was so dreadful . I wish I had texted more often. I would've loved to hear from you."

"It's okay. I was busy too. You know, the receptions and meetings are more trouble than they're worth. Guest performances are always so hit or miss, and unfortunately, I have another one in two weeks." Yuuri pecks Victor on the cheek before heading to the bedroom, shrugging out of his hoodie to slip on a t-shirt because it's so warm in the apartment. Victor slumps down on the mattress first, sighing as he adjusts blankets and pillows and waits for Yuuri to lie beside him. "You staying all night?"

"I'd like to," Victor replies softly, kissing Yuuri's crown when he finally settles.

"Nice," Yuuri says, closing his eyes. "Tell me what else you did this weekend."

Victor rambles until he's yawning too frequently to talk, falling asleep next to Yuuri.

//

After that, things get simpler. Victor officially decrees them boyfriends , which makes Yuuri exceedingly happy. Yuuri buys at television at Victor's insistence, hooking it up in bedroom so they can watch videos together on a larger screen. Victor pads down to Yuuri's apartment most evenings, delighted to listen to Yuuri practice or to chat about how strong collections of digital art are really taking off in the high art community these days.

Yuuri comments that most of his performances are fun for the summer. Lots of pieces from movies and a couple of piano solos. It means Victor gets to look at Yuuri scrunch up his nose and lean over the keys in his boxers and t-shirts, staying over more and more frequently.

It also means that the two of them get to kiss and fool around more often. Victor is always nervous that he's pushing Yuuri too far, fully aware that Yuuri is a bit wary of physical contact, but when he initiates, Yuuri always meets him, smiling and reciprocating. Touching Yuuri is a joyous experience and Victor knows that he can be patient.

He knows, on a Thursday morning, when he touches Yuuri's naked back out of the shower and kisses the brunette's shoulders, that he should be careful.

He knows, when he sleeps with Yuuri on nights before one of them has to fly out of the country, that he should cut off their anxious rutting and resign himself to hurrying to the restroom. When he breaks off the motions, Yuuri looks equal parts relieved and infuriated as Victor dashes off.

As the dead heat of summer emerges in June, Victor knows that they need to talk .

He decides to do it in typical Victor-fashion, dashing down to Yuuri's apartment on a Thursday morning in yoga pants and a loose beige linen shirt. When Yuuri blearily lets him in, grumbling about giving Victor a key one of these days, he smiles. Before Yuuri can get a word in edgewise, Victor suddenly grips him by the shoulders.

"Yuuri," Victor says, keeping his tone level, "I care for you no matter what, and you know that, but I have to know. Do you want to take things further than heavy petting? I couldn't sleep for thinking about it, so I'm a little earlier than usual, sorry." Yuuri suddenly bursts out laughing and Victor pouts. "It wasn't meant to be funny, darling."

"I mean, yeah, sure," Yuuri answers him with a light blush, lips quirking upwards. "You were seriously that concerned about it? Why didn't you just ask me when we were making out?"

"Oh, goodness," Victor groans, slumping into Yuuri's arms with a sigh. "I just want to do things right with you, Yuuri. What about sex?"

Victor can feel Yuuri getting warmer in their embrace, and he flicks blue eyes to the side to look at Yuuri's cheeks grow pink. "I mean. I'm interested. We could try it. I'm new to all this." Victor shifts so he can lift a hand to Yuuri's face, running a pale thumb across Yuuri's lips. Yuuri cheekily flicks his tongue out and Victor grins widely. "Don't look at me like that. I didn't mean right now . The sun's out."

"We can make love in full daylight," Victor purrs against Yuuri's neck, keeping his lips pressed there until Yuuri hums.

"Cheesy asshole," Yuuri murmurs, finally pulling away from Victor with a brief kiss to the top of Victor's head. "Maybe later."

"Later when?"

"When the mood is right," the brunette replies slyly, leaving Victor in the kitchen as he lifts up the fall-board of the piano.

Victor licks his lips. Those words are reason enough to step up his game.

//

As a couple, Victor and Yuuri are mostly just big lazy saps that like to sit around and discuss concerts and contemporary artists while sipping coffee, or dozing off while dog videos play on the smart TV.

After their discussion about physical policy, Victor decides to glue himself to Yuuri as often as he can when he stops by. Georgian summers are balmy enough without the tall man clamoring all over Yuuri, Victor's kisses growing deep and breathy moans escaping after Yuuri's fingers scrabble in his hair.

Victor's hands cup Yuuri's ass one evening and Yuuri yelps, back arching so that he's pressed flush against his boyfriend on the wall. "Victor," Yuuri gasps, "Victor, c'mon. If we're gonna do this, we need to go to my bed."

The taller man nods breathlessly, trailing behind Yuuri in a haze. "Do you have lube? Condoms?"

"Yeah," Yuuri quietly replies, the tips of his ears red. "I bought some a while ago, after our talk. I figured, better safe than sorry, right?"

Victor tackles Yuuri to the bed, kissing him sloppily and almost knocking knees with Yuuri as they fall. They're both laughing through the kisses, and Victor sits up after a minute to shrug out of his shorts. Below him, Yuuri fidgets with his pants, unable to truly take them down while Victor's legs are bridged over his waist. "Here," Victor finally says, dizzy with emotion, "I'll do it." He digs his fingers into the waistband of the jeans, unbuttoning them with sharp awareness of Yuuri's every heavy breath below him. Once he shifts a few times, angling his legs and finally moving Yuuri's bottoms to his knees, Victor pants at the sight of his boyfriend's tented underwear.

If there had been any question of Yuuri's interest , there certainly isn't any room for doubt now. Yuuri smiles at Victor, reaching his arms up. "What, so you get me all worked up, and then you only want to stare?"

"Sorry," Victor says in wonder, dipping down to press his nose to Yuuri's clothed cock. Yuuri jolts below him, fingers digging into the back of Victor's shirt. He opens his mouth wide, cupping his lips to trap the heat, and breathes out slowly, proud of the way Yuuri groans in response and bucks up for more contact. "Would you let me suck you off?"

"What about you?" Yuuri asks softly, words muted with adoration and arousal. "I want you to get off too."

"I will," Victor assures him. "So?"

"I mean, if you want to, sure." Yuuri nods, chest heaving already.

He absolutely wants to. Victor takes Yuuri's hands - his precious career summed up, blunt-nailed and well-moisturized, and kisses them before he changes his angle and slowly slides Yuuri's boxer-briefs down, watching his cock spring free. He flicks blue eyes up to Yuuri, who is flushed with embarrassment, but he looks entranced by what's happening, so Victor stays the course.

Victor flicks his tongue out and Yuuri tenses below him. He smartly moves his fingers to Yuuri's balls as he brings the tip of Yuuri's dick into his mouth and the brunette makes a guttural sound so sweet that Yuuri’s pleasure can't be misinterpreted. Yuuri moves his left hand from Victor's back to his head, just in case the sensation gets to be too much and he has to gently push the silver-haired man off of him.

Then, all at once, both of them stop thinking and they fall into the motions. Victor moves his tongue around Yuuri and relaxes his throat to take him in, humming around the girth of the pianist. Yuuri moans as Victor bobs, hands falling uselessly to his sides as Victor's fingers tease him as well, on the edge of orgasm after sixty seconds of sensation. He could cry, it feels so good, but that would be silly, so he just babbles Victor's name. Just before he comes, Yuuri warns Victor both verbally and also by tugging at his hair, so Victor carefully removes his mouth, lips slick and red.

Both of them are panting and Victor asks, "Lube?" Yuuri nods shakily, almost slipping when he turns on his side and reaches in the drawers of his nightstand. He hands it to Victor, who is pulling his briefs down and opening his palms. "Together?" Victor breathes the question and Yuuri nods eagerly.

"Lie on your side," Yuuri murmurs, helping Victor over. They smile at each other. Victor's hands are shaking a bit as he puts lubricant on their fingers and Yuuri giggles at the sensation. "This is kinda weird, huh."

"Sex is awkward, yes," Victor rasps, voice still a little raw from his earlier actions. "Ready?"

"Yes," Yuuri answers him, touching Victor's dick for the first time and marveling at the weight of it. It's just a bit shorter than his own, but it's narrower, proportionate to the thick trawling of hair at the base. Victor takes things one step further, their slick hands joining, the two of them pressed together. Yuuri and Victor both groan when Yuuri squeezes his fingers lightly.

"Gonna move," Victor whispers, pre-come already beading at the head of his penis. "How does it feel?"

"Damn good," Yuuri says, adjusting his legs so that they can be even closer, trading chaste kisses as they keep moving, flushed and sweating. Both of them come pretty quickly - Yuuri while biting his lips, Victor while tipping his head to his chest and moaning lowly. Once they're finished, they laugh and kiss through the high.

Both of them are too boneless to do move for a while. Yuuri is the first to break the silence.

"Is it weird to say that I'm still horny, but I'm too tired to do anything about it?"

Victor guffaws at that, sitting up. "No, it's not strange. Maybe next time we'll have the energy to do more."

Yuuri puts a hand on Victor's thigh before heading to the bathroom to wipe his hands and grab a damp towel. He cleans up the light mess on the sheets and pulls a fresh blanket out of the closet to toss on the bed. Victor shrugs out of his clothes entirely, which makes Yuuri stare at him for a long moment. The silver-haired man shrugs. "What? I like to sleep commando."

"You didn't take off your clothes all those other times you stayed over."

"I didn't want to scare you off before," Victor hums while Yuuri tosses his dirty clothes in a hamper and shrugs on a clean pair of boxer-briefs and a loose t-shirt. "I have been informed that sleeping in the buff is not typical behavior. I can put something on, if you like."

"S'fine," Yuuri says, climbing into bed with Victor. He relaxes with a sigh, tapping out an absent beat. "That was really nice, Victor. Thank you."

"Mm," Victor replies, "Thank you , Yuuri."

Before Yuuri falls asleep, he thinks that he hasn't been this at peace in years. Being in front of a keyboard always calms his thoughts, yes, but not in the bone-weary way being kissed breathless does. Snuggling into Victor's embrace is different.

Being physically comfortable enough with his boyfriend to want to have sex with Victor is very different.

//

Yuuri goes through warm ups by practicing modern pieces. Einaudi's Le Onde . Chad Lawson's Nocturne in A Minor . His hands tickle the keys for an extended period of time before he realizes that he just doesn’t have the heart for these pieces right now.

Most of the summer, in between jetting off to different corners of Europe and Asia, Yuuri had been fooling around with his boyfriend in his apartment. Victor requested high classics, pieces from the most well-known musical movements of history. The great composers. The rollicking concertos. The timeless solos. The pieces are beautiful of course, but the success of every great musician is dependent one thing, and it is currently driving Yuuri up a wall - repetition.

He's just bored . After playing so much of the same-old, same-old, smashing new renditions of chords in different tempos hundreds of times, there's just nothing exciting about his job any more. His greatest joys come from meeting with Phichit for pizza at brick oven restaurants and enchanting Victor with a song before rolling around in bed with him.

Therein lies part of the problem.

Victor's been gone for four days and Yuuri is restless . Sitting in front of the keys and hoping for answers isn't working any more. All he can think about is the sharp cut of Victor's teeth, his bangs falling gently in his eyes, slowly letting Yuuri's fingers creep over him. Their latest tryst had involved intercrural sex. Victor's thighs had been tight and warm and god , the song is an absolute mess now. Yuuri, a renowned concert pianist, doesn't have a damn clue what he's been playing for over ten minutes.

When he gets lost in his thoughts yet again, Yuuri realizes that the freeform piece isn’t terrible.

He rushes to grab his laptop and record his absent stylings. His hands are shaking. Yuuri's never been good at jazz, or winging any sort of recital. Yuuri had been classically trained, and sought after for his talents in the craft. Yet this. This feels like something new, feels like energy directly created by passion, and although it no substitute for the man himself, the music feels like a tribute to Victor.

Victor, smiling softly at him from bed. Sitting on the counter. Sharing stories with him on the balcony.

The music just flows from a quiet place in Yuuri. The work’s not perfect. It's nothing that Yuuri would ever play for a competition, but it feels more powerful than anything he's ever played in his life.

Yuuri decides that the piece is worth polishing later.

//

Victor's flight lands in the morning, so the two of them decide to meet up after Yuuri gets out of practice. The silver-haired man murmurs that at this point, he ought to just move in with Yuuri. Yuuri laughs and tells Victor that he wouldn't mind that. He's been meaning to speak to the symphony about extending his stay in Atlanta as well, so if Victor wouldn't mind the loss of his own place, he could move into 610 whenever he's ready. They've only been dating a few months, but Yuuri doesn't see the point in Victor paying rent for an apartment he never spends any time in.

At the words, Victor hugs Yuuri for a length of time, peppering his face with kisses. Yuuri parts with Victor for a few minutes in front of Victor's place. Victor looks at him longingly. "Meet you for dinner in a few?"

"Mmhmm," Victor hums, watching Yuuri leave with a forlorn expression. Yuuri rolls his eyes. Victor is always so melodramatic .

He can't complain, though. Yuuri had missed Victor terribly over the past week. He wants to spend every moment that they can together.

When the tall man makes his way to Yuuri's apartment, he's immediately impressed by the lengths Yuuri has gone to in order to welcome him home. There are tea candles strategically placed on the counters with splash plates beneath them, a bouquet of roses in a vase on the small table in the dining area, and the piano is softly lit by a new lamp. Dinner is on the table, but it's nothing fancy - just fish, steamed veggies, and rice - but Victor feels moved.

"Hey," Yuuri says, pecking Victor on the cheek as he closes the door. "Welcome back."

Victor eats and chats with his mind far away, too busy marveling at the sight of Yuuri's rosy cheeks and slicked-back bangs to form fully coherent sentences. When he finally gathers his wits, Yuuri opens the windows, just like he used to when he was playing for Victor from two stories away. The melody is soft, and Victor is fairly sure that he's never heard the song before.

The performance lasts for three minutes. The pianist turns when he's finished, but Victor can't be bothered to stand and clap; he heads straight over to the long bench and sags so that his weight rests on Yuuri's narrow shoulders. "What was that?"

Yuuri waits for Victor to give him a little space, then he stands up. "Something new. I'm still tweaking it, but you get the idea." He stands with a grin. "You wanna go outside and have a drink? It's still pretty warm."

Victor nods excitedly. "Did you get any white wine?"

"Yeah," the dark-haired man replies while pushing his glasses up absently. "I've got Riesling and Chardonnay. Preference?"

"Chardonnay, please," Victor answers, heading outside to the balcony landing to sit on one of the small patio chair. Yuuri joins him with two glasses and the uncorked bottle, taking a seat with a soft sigh. The wine makes a soft sloshing sound as it swirls in the slim-width glass and they toast before taking deep drinks, sharing a happy look. "This is nice."

"Mm," Yuuri agrees, switching the placement of his glass so he can reach for Victor's hand.

The first round goes down in comfortable silence. By the time Victor pours the second, both of their limbs and lips are loose. Victor swallows a heavy sip of wine before saying, "You want to hear something funny?"

Yuuri flicks dark eyes over Victor, giggling at the little flush over Victor's sharp nose. "Sure."

Blue eyes roam over Yuuri's legs, spread wide as he slumps in the chair and balances the glass of wine by the globe. Horribly improper for cold wines, but what does Victor care at the moment? Yuuri's body language is open and pleased, and Victor couldn't feel more sentimental if he tried. "I've always thought about, y'know, those silly scenes in movies that are like this. Kissing on the balcony on a summer evening. Ridiculous, surely, but I'm aware that I'm a sap."

Loud laughter bursts from Yuuri's lips. "What the fuck, that's so cute."

Victor colors deeply, chuckling softly. "Ha, ha. Laugh it up."

"What, no," Yuuri assures him, leaning on his elbow so that he's closer to Victor. "I wasn't making fun of you, babe. That's seriously adorable. I can totally kiss you over the railing like they did in the old movies. That's gotta be super uncomfortable on your back, but I'd do it for you."

Victor giggles, leaning closely enough to Yuuri that their noses touch. The smell of wine isn't heavy on their breaths - just slightly floral and vaguely alcoholic. "Don't tease me, Yuuri. I really would like that."

"Yeah?" Yuuri pecks him quickly, moving so that he can put his glass down on the concrete. "Alright, let's stand up then. Wouldn't want it to be anything less than the melodramatic masterpiece you deserve."

"This is called making fun of me ," Victor murmurs, stepping into Yuuri's arms once he puts his drink away, letting the shorter man angle him against the railing, forearms bracing his back as he leans Victor's hips on the guardrail. A moment later, Yuuri asks for Victor to push his glasses up and he opens his mouth against Victor's, quickly flicking his tongue out. They kiss in the awkward position for about twenty seconds before Yuuri nudges Victor to the outside wall of the apartment, rolling his hips and almost jostling all of the wine when they move. Victor tugs Yuuri closer, groaning as Yuuri nips at the underside of his jaw, growing warm and eager to feel more of Yuuri's skin against his own.

"We should go inside," Yuuri insists, fingers already toying with Victor's loose waistband.

"Or we could stay out here," Victor murmurs, hands slipping under Yuuri's shirt and making the shorter man shiver. Yuuri jumps in place, reflexively arching against Victor when the silver-haired curator pinches the soft skin at Yuuri's waist. "You know what they don't do in those movies? Fool around." Yuuri snorts at him, the laugh getting cut off into a hitching moan when Victor traces his fingernails over Yuuri's spine, finally landing on Yuuri's soft ass and pulling the pianist even closer. "If they did, it certainly wasn't shown on screen."

Yuuri groans. "You serious?"

"Absolutely."

Yuuri laughs, swallowing a shriek when Victor tries to pull his pants down. "Victor!! Hang on, I've gotta go get stuff. Will you put the wine away, please?"

Victor scrambles over himself to carefully pick everything up and take it to the kitchen. He quickly meets Yuuri back on the balcony, where the shorter man is fidgeting. Sensing his anxiety, Victor kisses Yuuri gently on the cheek. "I don't want to go all the way. I'm just looking for a little titillation." As he says those words, he turns the guard rail and puts his palms on the metal. "I'll be quiet, make sure none of our neighbors notice."

"Damn," Yuuri whistles, thoughts racing. "You're keyed up. You really have been thinking about this."

Truthfully, Victor's been thinking about a lot . The air is slightly humid, but it's not disastrously hot outside. He burns with the desire to showcase his relationship and eagerness to the whole world. He'd scream if he thought Yuuri would like it, and that it wouldn't get them reported to the police. For now, being outside, thinking about Yuuri's hands on him, in him , is enough to make Victor's pulse drum loudly. He wiggles his hips and gives Yuuri a heated look beneath the curtain of his bangs. "More than you can imagine."

Yuuri helps Victor lower his pants, inhaling sharply as he flicks his eyes up, thankful for the busted bulb in the lamp post closest to his apartment. Below them, the few people mingling around on the streets are too far away to see clearly, and the loudest thing Yuuri can hear is Victor whining at the feeling of cloth against his freshly-bared ass. "You know I've never done anything like this. Tell me what to do?"

"Do you have wipes?" Yuuri replies that he does, so Victor continues, "I'll clean up quickly, then you can finger me." Yuuri watches in fascination as Victor leans even further over the banister, exhaling heavily. He makes quick work of the action, tossing dirty wipes to the side and pursing his lips when he's finished. "Alright. One finger at a time, slowly. Make sure you have plenty of lube."

Scrambling to put the gel on his fingers, the pianist nods, squinting as he parts Victor's cheeks. As soon as he pushes in, Victor curls in on the banister and Yuuri panics. "Ah fuck, sorry! Did I do something wrong?"

"It's good," Victor breathes out slowly, adjusting his posture so that his legs are further apart. "Always a bit of an adjustment for this sort of thing. Keep going, please." Yuuri plunges his finger further, anchoring his other hand on Victor's shoulder. He crooks it a bit with bated breath, and giggles when Victor dryly moans. "I'm ready for another one."

"Yeah?" Yuuri reaches for lube again, bringing his middle finger beside his index, testing the stretch of Victor's ass and smiling when the silver-haired man curls further in on himself, biting his lips to keep from howling. "Does this really feel good?" Yuuri's hard in his own pants, but the experience of seeing the pale skin of Victor's backside under the moonlight is intoxicating. He could watch Victor come apart while using his fingers for the entire evening.

It's strange, to see that he's having this sort of effect on Victor, who is usually calm and sweet. In a way, it's a little bit like playing an instrument.

Sharing that sentiment with his boyfriend feels a little ridiculous when he's exploring to find Victor's prostate, though, so he keeps the thought to himself.

"Am I close?" Yuuri asks, pulling his fingers close together, shaking with nerves. "Are you still okay?"

"A bit to the left," Victor instructs lowly, his voice getting raspy with urgency. "Very close." Yuuri carefully moves the pad of his finger to the side and his dark eyes widen as Victor gasps, burying his face in his arms. "Yes, that's it. One more time?" Yuuri brushes over the gland and Victor's knees bow.

The rush makes both of them moan, so Yuuri keeps scrabbling to rub the same spot, drinking in Victor's whines and quiet curses. "Could I make you come like this?" It makes Yuuri realize that he hasn't touched Victor's front side at all, and that feels like both a success and a loss. "Would you come even if I didn't touch your dick?"

"I didn't know you could talk like this, love." Victor's voice is patchy from drinking, and he continues, "You want me to suffer like this? I'm close. Very close."

"Let's go inside," Yuuri finally insists, spreading his fingers one last time, kissing Victor over his spine and pulling up his pants after a moment. "You need help walking?"

"Please," Victor whispers, leaning his weight on Yuuri's shoulder with wobbly legs.

//

The moment they make it to the bedroom, the saga continues. Victor drags Yuuri into a sensual kiss, weak legs barely keeping him arched over his dark-haired boyfriend. Before they can shed all of their clothes, Yuuri runs back to the balcony for lubricant, then giggles as he takes off his clothes and bounces on the mattress.

Victor tosses an arm over Yuuri, long fingers toying over Yuuri's chest, marveling at the peak of his nipples. "You want to make love?" His blue eyes are full of wonder as he shimmies downwards and drags his tongue down Yuuri's abdomen.

"You can call it sex, Victor," Yuuri teases, murmuring as he helps Victor out of his garments. "Or fucking. I had my fingers in your ass five minutes ago."

"Not a romantic bone in your body," Victor says, taking Yuuri's penis in his hand and marveling at the girth of it, as he often does. "You hear this? My boyfriend can't even be nice to me in the bedroom. Do you deserve this ass?"

"Please stop talking to my dick," Yuuri groans, fingers resting on Victor's chin. "That's how you want to do it? I'm fine on the bottom."

Victor shakes his head, lying down on the pillows, hair flaring around him as he smiles. "This is my preference. Besides, you've never done this before, right? I'll be your first time."

Yuuri gives his boyfriend a wobbly smile. "You're trusting a virgin? That's pretty bold of you."

"I trust you , Yuuri," Victor insists, pulling the brunette down for a hug and a quick peck on the lips. "It's going to be good, because I'm having sex with you . Do you want to?"

Looking at the delicious sight of Victor's chest heaving for him, the silver haired man dangerously flipping over and grinding back into Yuuri, the pianist's eyes roll back and he draws in a sharp breath. "Yeah, I want to. I really want to. Please."

"It's my pleasure," Victor whispers, waiting for Yuuri to respond. Victor is met instead with quick kisses to both sides of his hips before Yuuri slides off of the bed one last time to grab a condom. When Yuuri comes back, his fingers are slick with gel and warm as well, an extra step of care that Victor truly loves his partner for.

"I'm not gonna last very long," Yuuri says, thrilled by the sight of Victor's thighs flexing despite his oversensitivity. "Just in case you were expecting anything else. I really want this to be good for you."

"This is fantastic, Yuuri. I promise."

Then, the flurry of movement begins.

They exchange a wide array of moans as Yuuri pulls Victor open, fingering him for a minute or two, spreading his fingers wider inside of Victor's ass and making the older man bend forward to drool on the pillows. Yuuri whispers questions and comments to Victor, thumb teasing the slit of Victor's cock-head while he moves, motions rhythmic as he explores. When he rolls the condom on and asks for permission, Victor is eager to agree, almost yelling his consent.

Yuuri enters slowly, leaning over Victor with a deep grunt, sinking his teeth into Victor's nape and making Victor moan softly, warbling words to get Yuuri to pick up the pace and stop edging him, to just fuck Victor until he’s sore. Yuuri keeps sucking on Victor's nape, bracing one hand on Victor's thighs and trying to keep the other one working on Victor's front side.

When he pulls back snaps forward again, Victor shouts, clenching his fists and almost biting his tongue. " Yuuri ," Victor shudders as Yuuri drives ever-deeper, his left hand tacky with Victor's pre-come. The rush is heady and Yuuri closes his eyes to focus on the sensations alone. "Yuuri!"

"More?" Yuuri finally whispers, steadily pushing Victor to orgasm, sure that he's near the angle he'd hit with his fingers, trying to make sure Victor is pleasured. "Good?"

"Yes, yes, yes ," Victor pleas, leaning back on his knees to encourage Yuuri to keep going. "I want it. I want this. This is everything , Yuuri."

"Mm," Yuuri hums happily, thrusting into Victor again, smiling when the taller man keens, almost losing his balance on his elbows. "You look like it feels really good. Are you close?"

"Do it faster, for goodness sake," Victor begs in a gravelly tone, near to tears in overstimulation. "You're having way too much fun with this."

"It is fun," Yuuri says, kissing his back with a chuckle. "You feel fucking incredible. I just want to make sure it feels as good for you as it does for me, Victor."

"It does," the older man assures him with a strung-out moan as Yuuri snaps his hips again, coming as soon as Yuuri picks up the pace. "It does, oh Yuuri, god, it really does."

"I'm glad," Yuuri exhales slowly, pulling out of Victor with relief, coming against Victor's thighs with his pulse pounding in his ears. "Because that? Was amazing."

When they're done, condom tied and disposed of, they fall on the covers, chests still heaving. They lie face to face and kiss breathlessly until Victor chuckles. "You want to go again?" Yuuri can't help laughing in response, almost embarrassed by how good the idea sounds.

"Yeah," Yuuri answers quickly, rutting against Victor, grinning as the silver-haired man moans.

//

Life doesn't change much after they start having sex.

Honestly, most times, Yuuri still winds up going through the motions. If anything, the only thing that does change is that he gets fidgety while he plays piano, dabbling between his original piece and his least favorite composer's sonatas. Haydn is the bane of his existence, honestly, and the fall is full of tributes to the Austrian at the ASO, which just makes him miserable.

On afternoons when Victor is gone, Yuuri allows himself to get drawn into the music anyways. The piano will always feel like home to him, so moving through new pieces, flipping through sheet music for studies, is a comfort. He can jiggle his leg and listen to other performances on his computer before he slams out notes himself.

It's just that, after five minutes of yawning at the classics, Yuuri's mind starts to drift. He knows he'll have to speak with his supervisor about extending his contract with the ASO, if they'll have him, but more than that, he's starting to realize that this relationship isn't like, a passing thing. Victor's thinking about moving his things, he pecks Yuuri on the lips when he grabs coffee and runs off to the museum, and they go out for dinner on the rare evenings both of them can get away from work.

The true gravity of the nature of his relationship hits him in two ways.

Yuuri realizes that he has over twenty minutes of stupidly emotional pieces dedicated to Victor's shimmering blue eyes, to his soft lips and sweet touches. And then he realizes that Victor's going to have to meet his family one day, and the holidays are coming up, but he'd been so caught up in his traveling performances and rushing home to have sex with his boyfriend that he'd forgotten that crucial step in the process.

Yuuri sits on the bench, absently flicking over the keys, his mind removed. What am I even supposed to do? Yuuri normally goes home for Christmas, but Victor's birthday is Christmas, and they're serious.

His hands still.

Fuck.

This is serious.

Yuuri could stay home and play stupid shit like Haydn for Victor , if Victor asked, because Victor would look so damn pleased about it. What a new low. He's made it through three movements without grumbling, Yuuri's contemplating asking whether Victor can come home with him for Christmas, and he's making roots.

Yuuri puts his head on the keys and groans.

"I love him," he thinks to himself, flushing terribly. "God, I'm a disaster. I can't believe this."

He trembles on top the keys, unable to move at the realization.

//

Phichit slaps him on the shoulder when Yuuri shares his anxiety. "Buddy. Dude. It's gonna be fine. They're gonna renew your contract and Victor's head over heels for you. Have you even seen his Instagram? It's filled with pictures of your place and all the places you guys eat in town. As long as he's not busy, he'll come home with you for the holidays."

"But it's his birthday," Yuuri insists, apologizing when another flautist comes into the section for rehearsal, brushing past him. "I should do something special, not cram him onto a plane and ship him off to California with me to get prodded by my family. That's miserable."

"Yuuri," Phichit chides his friend as the conductor comes in to organize practice, "Just talk to him. You can thank me later. Everything's going to be fine."

As it turns out, Phichit is absolutely correct.

Victor is delighted by the prospect. "I clear my calendar around Christmas, you know, because I'm usually celebrating. If we're going to the west coast, we could stop at my best friend's place as well. Really make a vacation of it."

Yuuri heaves one of the heaviest sighs of relief in he's ever had in his life. "Oh, great. Yeah, that sounds like fun." Once the two of them get to planning, they can go through their usual routine of checking emails and playing piano, Victor humming with delight when Yuuri finishes, always trying to clap at the end of each movement.

The trip plan is fairly straightforward. Both of them get shoddily packed, mostly because Victor is still in the middle of moving all his stuff down from his own apartment, and when they land, Mari coming to pick them up in her car, they are truthfully too exhausted to talk to her. They sit together in the backseat, murmuring to themselves like giddy children, and she just rolls her eyes.

It goes about as well as Yuuri expects. Once Victor and Yuuri get settled in Yuuri's old room, Hiroko, Toshiya, and Mari swamp Victor with questions. They marvel over Victor's beautiful face for an inordinate period of time, trying to stuff him full of authentic Japanese dishes for the holidays, Yuuri eventually corrals them with a scowl.

His mother is their biggest supporter, however. She squeezes Toshiya's shoulders with pride, eventually pulling Yuuri to the side to say her piece. 

"I've never seen you so happy," Hiroko murmurs to her son, who is close to crying at the words. "You've never brought anyone home, so I guess I thought you weren't interested. It's silly to say, but as a parent, I'm glad that you have someone who loves you." Her words imply that she and Toshiya won't be around forever, which finally does move Yuuri to tears. "I'm proud of you, baby."

"Mom, geez," Yuuri laughs through the pain, pulling the soft woman to him and heaving sobs. "You know I can't handle that kind of talk. It's the holidays. And it's Victor's birthday! We're going to laugh and pretend this talk never happened."

Hiroko wipes a tear off of his face with a sweet look. "Okay, sweetie. If you say so. We'll make him feel right at home."

"And we'll fatten that boy up," Toshiya says with a huff from the distance. "Too skinny, that one!! Ask him if he likes cake."

"Ask him yourself," Yuuri grumbles into his mother's shoulder.

Late at night, Mari corners him out on the porch. Yuuri had left Victor reading in his room to enjoy the outside air, and when his sister comes outside, Yuuri prepares himself to get accosted for not telling anyone that he's been seeing Victor.

Mari pulls out a cigarette and Yuuri scowls. "Thought you were trying to quit?"

"Tried," she replies quickly, tapping her fingers on the armrest of the patio chair. "Wasn't happy, so I stopped trying." For a long moment, the sound of birds and cicadas fills the air, and after she exhales slowly, she speaks again. "So, Victor, huh?" 

Yuuri pauses, sighing as he puts his hands on his knees. "It just sort of. Happened. I didn't really think to tell anyone because, you know. Dating isn't usually my thing. Victor's different."

Smoke hangs in the air as Mari breathes and she snorts. "You think so? The dude could barely get off your back the whole night. I've never seen you so willing to let somebody be all over you like that, so he's gotta be really special. Is he good in bed?" 

"We are absolutely not talking about this," Yuuri groans, burying his face with his palms. "You don't even want to, you're just trying to humiliate me."

"Caught me," Mari says with a grin, cackling as her baby brother leans on the armrest dramatically and groans again. "If he's good to you, that's all that matters. You love him?"

For a beat, silence falls between them. Then, Yuuri sits up, face somber. "Yeah. I love him."

Mari taps her cigarette over an ashtray. "Then it’s all good."

For a moment, Yuuri is startled by how straightforward the exchange is. There are so many moments nowadays that he's just floored by how easy it is to be himself, and he wonders why it took him so long to do that.

//

When Victor and Yuuri pile into a rental car to meet Chris, Victor rambles on and on about all the crazy things they had gotten into in his twenties. "Chris is the type of person every impulsive teenager wants to meet. He spurred me on, our modeling shoots were fantastic, and then we wound up in trouble all over the globe. He's calmed down now, but I tell you. We could've wound up in jail multiple times." Yuuri snickers at that, finding it easy to think of his boyfriend fooling around and drinking until he passed out with a friend, among many other unscrupulous ventures. 

Chris's place in LA is pretty simple - just a nice condo a few minutes outside of the downtown area. He has a cat, a quiet boyfriend, and designer shades, so Yuuri immediately rolls his eyes. Of course Victor and Chris are friends. They are both ridiculous, and they pose to take pictures together in the doorway for an absurd amount of time. Yuuri indulges them because Victor is having so much fun.

Most of the time they spend there is relaxing. Victor says hello to his hot pink convertible in Chris’s garage and Yuuri groans. Chris chats with them over dinner, marveling when Yuuri says that he plays piano for a living, then demanding to see him play. Victor chides him for being too forceful, but Yuuri just gracefully says that he's willing to play if they can find a venue. The turns into an exploration of the town for a studio or a mall that has a public piano.

When they finally do find a school with a display instrument, it takes some convincing to let Yuuri play, but he offers them a link to his website and they accept his proposal with wide eyes, corralling students to the side so that Chris and Victor can lean on the glass walls to watch him. 

The blonde smiles at his friend's forlorn expression. Yuuri is checking the piano for sound quality and taking a seat, testing out the keys. "You get to watch him play pretty often?" 

"Mmhm," Victor hums softly, folding his arms over his chest and smiling softly. "Yuuri is incredible, you know." Chris flicks his green eyes over to Victor, elbowing his friend in the side. Victor wheezes and scowls in return. "What was that for?"

"You're smitten."

Victor softly corrects him. "I'm enamored."

Yuuri draws in a deep breath, stills his hands, and begins to play.

Everyone in the lobby is immediately enchanted. It's one of Yuuri's favorite classical pieces - the first movement of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C-Minor, Op. 18 . It isn't the same without the lilt of a full orchestra around him, but it is fast-paced and soulful. He plays while rocking across the bench, his posture breaking a few times as he gets carried away in the performance. 

In Yuuri's mind, the drums carry him and the clarinets keep him balanced. He plays the instrumental part holding everything together, dictating whether the piece is gearing up to a climax or cradling the audience gently. Somber. Sweet. Andante. Fortissimo. His fingers move quickly through every portion, and when his ten minute performance comes to a conclusion, thunderous applause flies through the hall.

Victor's is the loudest of all, hurrying over to the bench to hug his breathless boyfriend, endlessly charmed by Yuuri's talent.

Chris whistles when they kiss, and the applause in the hall gets even louder, joined by cheers.

//

When their vacation finally winds down, Chris and his boyfriend cuddling on one couch while Victor and Yuuri cuddle on the other, Victor murmurs that he has a surprise for the pianist when they return.

Yuuri snorts at that, momentarily drawing the other couple's attention. "If you're still trying to buy me a new suit for your art galas, I still refuse." Victor rolls his eyes at that.

They return to Atlanta and pile on the bed in a heap. Yuuri is nervous to know what the surprise is, so he prods Victor into giving up the information. Victor excitedly draws up his phone despite his exhaustion, showing Yuuri pictures of a silver-beige standard poodle. Yuuri gasps at the sight, always pleased by the sight of his favorite breed of dog. "Aww," Yuuri coos, happily flicking through the pictures. "Whose dog is this?"

"Ours now," Victor tells him with a quick peck to Yuuri's nose. "If you like." Yuuri gapes at the news, sitting up in bed and dropping the phone. "You wanted a dog, right? I thought poodles were your favorite." Yuuri is tearing up. "She's fifty-three pounds, 17 inches high, and a true beauty. Her name's a bit silly, though, so I'm sure we can call her something else."

"This isn't even fair," Yuuri sniffles, crying into Victor's shoulder. "It was your birthday." 

"Well, I didn't get to do anything for your birthday. Consider this a combination birthday and Christmas present," Victor says with a smile, kissing Yuuri's forehead. Before he can pull Yuuri in for a tighter hug, the pianist storms off of the bed to tear through his bag. "Yuuri! If you're upset, we don't have to get her. I've only paid the adoption deposit."

Before he responds, Yuuri angrily thrusts a small black box in Victor's face, making the silver-haired curator blink in shock. "I do. I want the dog, but I have a more important question for you first." Yuuri shakily gets down on one knee, watches as Victor slowly realizes what's going on and starts crying as well. "Victor, will you marry me?" 

Victor's breath hitches and he chokes back a sob. "Seriously? You’re asking now ?"

"You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, you bought me a poodle , and you're asking me about timing?" Yuuri blinks through hot tears, fighting to get all of his words out.

"Yes. Yes, god yes, of course I'll marry you," Victor finally replies, joining Yuuri on the floor in tears. "In terms of surprises, I think yours wins."

Yuuri kisses him with a breathless laugh. "I'm good at keeping secrets."

The two of them kiss and giggle for the rest of the night, eventually falling asleep with the crash of exhaustion making them fall down with entangled limbs. 

// 

On Valentine's Day, Victor rushes out of the High Museum to head to the Symphony. It's only a dash through the courtyard, but his heart trills. He has a band around his finger and a bundle of roses in his hand, but most importantly, he's going to do something new. 

He's been together with his boyfriend for just shy of a year, but Victor's never seen Yuuri perform publicly, and it feels like this has been a long time coming. Yuuri had complained about having work on a day for lovers, but truthfully, Victor is excited to see Yuuri get up on stage in a formal coat.

Yuuri had snorted at him that morning. You've heard me play this song for the last two weeks. It's not even exciting.  

And yet, Victor's heart soars at the idea, just like it had when he'd first heard Yuuri playing from two stories away. 

The concert lasts just over two hours, including the intermission. When it's over, Victor hurries to the stage exit with his bundle, waiting for Yuuri with a bashful smile, clapping loudly for the pianist, just as he had in his standing ovation. Just as he had on his balcony so many months ago.

Yuuri unbuttons his collar and slips into Victor's arms, matching engagement ring glinting under the low lights of the hallway. "So," Yuuri lilts his voice as he gives Victor a kiss, happily accepting his bouquet. "Now that that's done, any requests?" 

"You aren't tired?" Victor holds his free hand as they walk to the garage, chuckling. 

"That was just another day. I'm talking about something special, for you ."

Victor thinks back through all of his favorites and hums. "I dunno babe. You play me a lot of songs. I can't think of anything you haven't played yet." After a pause, he says, "What about Tchaikovsky's Dumka Opus Fifty-nine? " Yuuri laughs boisterously at that and Victor frowns. "Sorry. Was that a bad choice?"

"No, I love that song," Yuuri assures him as they slide into the car. "It's just, you know, that was the first thing you asked me to play, back when you were first listening to me practice. You slipped the note under my door, remember?"

The taller man colors at that, hands gripping the steering wheel as his cheeks turn red. "I had forgotten. Rather embarrassing, now that I think about it. It is my favorite song." 

"Then I'll play it," Yuuri replies easily, leaning over the car's console to kiss Victor.

When Victor puts his key in the door of apartment 610, they are happily greeted by Makkachin, their beautiful poodle, and Yuuri plays Victor's request and his own jazzy renditions to accompany his fiancé's chirpy laughter and their dog's soft barks.

They laugh the way through the night around the piano, enjoying life as it stands, and Yuuri closes the fall-board of the piano just before bed, cuddling with Victor and Makkachin until he falls asleep.