“I’m telling you,” Theo says, unsuccessfully trying to fumble his key into the apartment door with his frozen fingers, “that’s what she bought it for. Eighty-three thousand.”
Boris scoffs from where he stands right behind Theo. “For an armchair? Chush sobach’ya.”
“It’s not bullshit!”
“Sure it is. No one could be that thick, Potter.”
Theo throws him a look over his shoulder. “You are.” He receives a swift punch to his arm and turns back to the door, grinning.
“And how many lies did you have to tell for the poor woman to take the chair?” Boris asks. Theo blows out a breath with a disastrous expression he’s glad Boris can’t see.
Boris snorts and shuffles his feet impatiently on the hall carpet. “Are you going to open the door or will we be sleeping out here tonight?”
“Would you calm down? I’m working on it, my hands are fucking frozen.” The lock finally clicks and the door swings open to admit them to the dark apartment. Theo shrugs his coat off and drapes it over the couch as he goes around turning on lamps. They fill the apartment with an ambient yellow glow, melting the atmosphere into something warm and cozy and shrouding the corners in shadow.
He and Boris moved in here about nine months ago, four months after he got done buying all the knockoffs back and one month after Hobie decided that he had had enough of Boris’ operatic seven-in-the-morning showers and the combined mess that he and Theo left around the shop. So here they are: a modest apartment in the middle of New York, with dark hardwood floors and thick curtains framing the floor-to-ceiling windows and a kitchen that they only use a third of the time because they’re both so horrendous at cooking. Things that actually mean something to them line the counters and fill the drawers – a soft navy blanket from Mrs. Barbour piled on the sofa, a bookshelf overflowing with Boris’ Russian paperbacks, numerous paintings on the walls that Theo (legally) picks up from flea markets and art sales.
It’s nice. It’s home. And it wouldn’t be anything at all if Boris wasn’t here.
“Are you tired?” Boris asks as he kicks off his shoes. Theo shrugs, collapsing onto the couch.
“Not really. What time is it?” He’s actually kind of wired. He has no idea why, but it just feels like one of those nights where, despite the hour, sleep isn’t inviting.
Boris hums, scanning the shelves in the kitchen. “Midnight. What do you want to drink?”
“Oh. I didn’t know we were out that late.” Their dinner date was fun; they had Chinese and then spent some time – apparently a lot longer than they thought – watching a folksy street band play. He stares at the ceiling, contemplating. “Do we have champagne?”
Boris glances at him with a raised eyebrow. “You want champagne? Not tea or something that will, you know, actually help you sleep?”
Theo considers for about two seconds and then swings his legs off the couch, going to join Boris in the kitchen. “Why not?”
Boris shrugs, already smiling as he rifles around in the cupboard. He pulls out an unopened green bottle from the back and they pop the cork over the sink, filling two flutes to the brim with sparkling golden liquid. Then they slide down the counter wall to sit hip-to-hip on the kitchen floor, legs stretched out in front of them.
“Cheers,” Theo says.
“Cheers,” Boris agrees, clinking their glasses together. The champagne is cold and bubbly on his tongue, and even though he knows it’s going to do absolutely nothing to put him to sleep, it’s nice to just be in this moment, drinking champagne at midnight with the love of his life for no other reason than the fact that they can. His mind swirls languorously, devoid of stress and worry and thoughts in general.
Time silently slips by as snowflakes flutter past the window. After a while, Boris leans over and starts pressing slow, open-mouthed kisses to Theo’s neck. A low moan slips past Theo’s lips and he lets his eyes flicker shut, his head falling back against the counter. This, this freedom they have, this is everything.
“I love you,” he mumbles. His heart skips and stutters when he feels Boris mouth I love you too into his skin.
Their champagne glasses abandoned, he’s about two more kisses away from pulling off Boris’ shirt and turning things towards the bedroom when he realizes Boris is humming. He opens his eyes, and after another moment, he knows exactly what he’s humming.
“You motherfucker!” he yells, shoving Boris away. Boris loses it as he falls onto his back, cackling at the ceiling.
“You should have seen it coming, Potter,” he snickers. Theo glares at him.
“You and that goddamn opera –“
“It’s art!” Boris protests with a grin, propping himself up on an elbow. Theo shakes his head.
“Not when it’s coming out of your mouth.”
Boris raises a challenging eyebrow and shoots to his feet, and then he’s belting the Russian lyrics of Iolanta at the top of his lungs and dancing around the house in exaggerated movements, his eyes closed and arms spread.
“You’re going to wake up the neighbors!” Theo says, unable to stop his ridiculous smile as Boris dances.
“ – I vezde zazvuchit likovan’ye –“ Boris pauses to throw him a haughty look. “I was given a voice to sing with, Potter, so fuck you and fuck your neighbors.” And he goes back to singing, raising his voice even higher.
“They’re our neighbors, you asshole. Boris, I’m serious –“ He’s not really, though, because he’s laughing over his words too hard and he loves it when Boris is carefree and himself like this and Boris knows it. He finally scrambles off the floor towards Boris in an attempt to subdue him, but Boris just grabs his outstretched wrists and pulls him in.
“Sing it with me, Potter, ya vstupala v torzhestvennyy khor!”
“I don’t even know the words!”
They dance, if it can even be called that – it’s more like they drag their feet around the living room and the kitchen while falling into each other, barely managing to stay upright. Boris sings like he had one too many shots and stumbled onto a Broadway stage, and Theo’s unable to do much more than laugh into the crook of his neck, but it’s wonderful and lights up Theo’s heart all the same.
It ends when the sofa trips up their ankles, cutting Boris off mid-chorus as they collapse onto the cushions with a mighty oomph. Neither of them can stop laughing – though at this point it’s devolved into giggles – and Theo gets a mouthful of Boris’ hair as they unsuccessfully try to detangle themselves. “Boris – Boris, your elbow –“
“Is your stupid leg, Potter –“
“No, wait, move your arm –“ And then they’re in a heap on the plush living room rug. Theo finally manages to get his laughter under control – his cheeks hurt from smiling so wide – and he looks up at Boris, eyes bright and inky curls falling into his face.
“Your singing fucking sucks,” he says. Boris rolls his eyes.
“You would not know how to live without my singing.”
Theo huffs, shifting underneath him. “If I didn’t have your singing, I wouldn’t be as deaf as I am.” He throws a laughing Boris off of him and gets to his feet. “You want more champagne, Sinatra?”
“Yah,” Boris says from his spot on the carpet as Theo grabs their glasses off the kitchen floor. “But you know what I really want?”
“Pray do tell.”
Theo throws a suspicious look at him. “You know just as well as I do that we have a bathtub.”
“Yeah, I don’t know about that one.” He pulls open the fridge and frowns. “Okay. So. We have cheesecake. When exactly did we get cheesecake?”
“I bought it yesterday,” Boris says matter-of-factly, coming up behind Theo. He drops a kiss onto the knot at the top of Theo’s spine and reaches over his shoulder to extract the boxes from the fridge. “Just so we could eat cheesecake in the bath.”
Theo turns around, hoping his dubious expression will cover up his lingering shiver from Boris’ kiss. “You’re kidding.”
“Funnily enough, I don’t.”
Boris shrugs. “Then I eat both slices myself and enjoy my bath without you bothering me.”
If Theo’s being honest with himself, it’s not a terrible idea. It actually sounds really, really great when he glances out the window to see snowflakes flickering in the city lights and piling up on the windowsill. A hot bath, good cheesecake, Boris…
“I know you want to,” Boris says, smirking. “You can’t hide from me, Potter. Is in your eyes.”
Theo sighs, but he can feel himself smiling anyways. “Go start the water then, asshole. And give me my slice,” he adds, taking one of the to-go boxes out of Boris’ hands. “I don’t trust you with it.”
In the ten minutes it takes for the tub to fill up, Theo grabs two plastic forks and refills their champagne flutes. At first he thought it would be pushing the dramatics, but then a moment later he realized, who the hell cares? They can eat cheesecake and drink champagne in a bathtub at one in the morning if they want to. Besides, he’s not buzzed enough yet.
He takes everything to the bathroom. The room is warm and hazy, the mirror coated in steam, and a solid third of the tub is filled with bubbles. The tangy scent of oranges and honeysuckle floats around, indicating that Boris has dumped no less than half of Theo’s favorite soap into the water.
Boris slips in past him and shuts off the faucet. They leave their clothes in a pile on the floor and after a bit of maneuvering they’re situated quite nicely, cheesecake in hand and champagne sitting nearby.
“Not bad,” Theo admits as the hot water and citrusy bubbles envelope him. He’s got one foot propped on the edge of the porcelain tub and the other resting on Boris’ hip. Boris nods, popping a bite of strawberry cheesecake into his mouth.
“You should listen to me more often.”
“I listen to you all the time!”
Boris narrows his eyes. “You don’t listen to a single thing I say, Potter.”
“Just because it’s always in Russian or Polish or Estonian or –“ Boris jams his foot into Theo’s stomach and he yelps, holding his cheesecake above the sudden splash of water Boris’ movement makes.
“I do not speak Estonian, you know that,” Boris grumps.
Theo does know that, but it’s fun to mess with him. He shrugs and takes another bite. “I’m just saying. Maybe I’d understand you more if you quit talking like Stalin half the time.”
Boris gapes at him indignantly. “I do not talk like Stalin! And he wasn’t even Russian!”
Theo frowns. “He wasn’t?”
“No, you fuck, he was Georgian.”
Boris huffs, but he’s smiling. They lapse into a comfortable quiet, the air thick with steam and citrus as they slowly eat their cheesecake. The champagne bubbles crisply in the back of his throat and takes the sharp edges off reality.
“What did you do with the money?” Boris asks curiously after a bit, once they’ve finished their cheesecake and discarded the plastic containers on the floor. Theo stares at him.
“The eighty-three thousand from the fake chair and the stupid woman, tupitsa.”
“Oh, most of it went into the shop. Some to jewelry for Kitsey. Some to Popper’s vet bills.”
Boris lets out a wistful sigh. “I miss Popchyk.”
Theo nods, draining the last of his champagne. The glass clinks when he sets it on the tile. “Yeah. Me too. We had to leave someone with Hobie, though.”
“Spunky fluffball,” Boris says fondly. “Wanting to be right in the middle of everything, always. Could not go two steps without tripping over him!”
Theo grins. “I’m surprised we didn’t accidentally starve him to death.”
“He survived on chips and beer only. The vet hates us, I know that for certain.”
Theo runs his finger along the edge of the tub, his brow furrowing as a memory fights its way out of the hazy recesses of his Vegas memories. “Didn’t he throw up on you once? In a bathtub?”
Boris laughs, trailing a hand in a figure-eight through the mountains of bubbles. “We were wasted, you and me. Too much vodka, completely out of it. For some reason we thought the empty bathtub was a good place to pass out and Popchyk found us in the morning. He had too much spilled beer, I think. It took weeks to get the smell out of my jeans.”
Theo remembers now: cold porcelain against his bare skin, his head throbbing, weedy arms wrapped around him, Boris’ black eye from the day before that led to them to the vodka in the first place.
“I loved you back then,” he whispers, looking up and meeting Boris’ eyes across the water. “I didn’t know it yet, not really. Or maybe I just didn’t want to admit it to myself. But I did, so much.”
Boris’ features soften, and he gives Theo a gentle smile. “Is okay, Potter. I knew.”
Everything inside Theo melts into a warm, gooey mess. He lets himself sink deeper into the bath and opens his mouth, ready to say something else to Boris, but he’s gotten too close to the hot water and his glasses start fogging up.
“That’s inconvenient,” he says dryly. Boris laughs and crawls forward through the bubbles, bracketing Theo’s legs with his knees. His fingertips brush Theo’s temples and then the glasses are gone; he sets them down on the tile beside the tub.
“Better, yes?” he asks softly. Theo nods – his words are suddenly stuck in his throat. Boris’ curls are damp and plastered to his forehead and his nape, his cheeks flushed red. It never stops hitting Theo just how beautiful he is. It’s the best word to describe him, and it’s in part because of all the love and happiness he radiates. Everything about him shines, and it’s really, truly beautiful.
Theo slides a bubble-covered hand behind his neck and pulls him in. His lips are chapped like they always are, but they’re also warm and gentle and familiar. Home.
He leans back, dizzy. He has no idea how much time has passed; maybe half a minute, maybe an hour. He opens his eyes to see Boris staring at him, his gaze intense and full of longing. Beautiful.
Boris gently runs his thumb over Theo’s cheekbone, leaving bubbles in its wake. The gesture sends a shiver all the way down Theo’s spine.
“Let’s get married,” he says softly.
Theo feels his lips part ever so slightly, but that’s the extent of his surprise. The corner of Boris’ mouth is slightly upturned, a hint of a smile that says he’s joking and a gleam in his eyes that says he’s not, not really. Is up to you, Potter are the words he doesn’t say. Theo hears them all the same.
There’s nothing else he wants more.
Boris’ face splits into a grin and there’s so much love in his eyes, real and raw and unconditional; Theo’s heart swells painfully against his ribs. God, he’s never loved anyone the way he loves Boris. He loved his mother and he loves Hobie, but those are different kinds of love. He never used to let himself feel this, and now he never wants it to stop.
He knows they won’t bother actually doing anything legal with the marriage. These words, exchanged in a bathtub in the middle of the night, are more than enough for them.
He can’t stop marveling at Boris like an idiot, and then he feels eyelashes flutter against his cheeks and Boris is kissing him. Theo wraps his arms around him to pull him in closer and one of Boris’ hands threads its way into his hair, holding on tight as he kisses Theo to within an inch of his life. His fingernails leave red crescent marks on Theo’s shoulder and Theo knows there’s going to be small bruises where he’s gripping Boris’ hip tomorrow but it doesn’t matter, none of it matters when Boris is sighing into his mouth and his nerves are on fire and there’s no space left between them.
And so down they go, down down down, hands and skin and lips and love, until nothing is left in the world but them.