ArashiForYou (arashiforyou) wrote,
ArashiForYou
arashiforyou

Play By Heart

Title: Play By Heart
By: arashiforyou
Genre: Romance/ Drama/ Angst/ AU/ Music
Rating: R
Pairings: Sakumiya (main)/ Jun x Kiko Mizuhara/ Aiba x Yuka/ Ohno x Minami Hinase (broken)
Summary: Nino is an autistic savant and a brilliant violinist. The only hard part for him and his sister, who takes care of him, is finding a consistent and patient piano accompanist for Nino's solo performances. One day, Nino's sister finds Sakurai Sho, a man with a mysterious past but gifted in music. Together, the two musicians must learn to communicate with other, live with each other, and possible love each other.
Warnings: It's rated R for: sensual scenes (softporn), parenting struggles, sexual assault, divorce, character deaths, and mental disorders/illnesses.



Author Notes: i realized that the first two chapter were kinda like the first 2 chapters from my Hard Shoes story plotwise OTL i swear, the stories are different XD. So for these music videos, they are optional to listen. But i defintely try to find a piece that sets or is similar to the mood of the chapter i wrote out. however, sometimes the music i pick doesn't always set the tone i want on certain minutes. mainly because it's super long and gets weird near the middle, and there's nothing i can do about it because the particular pieces, majority of the time, has the mood that i want. but i hope they won't be a bother :3

Here's is this chapter music reference >> Beethoven - Violin Sonata No. 9 "Kreutzer"

Enjoy!

Chapter 3  - Decrescendo

Sho had no trouble telling his boss about his two-week notice. He was glad he was finally leaving the construction site. It was hard work, especially when the managers worked them like slaves under ridiculous work hours. It wasn't always like this for Sho. He had once worked in a respectable office with a decent job title; his piano teaching used to be his part-time job.

He wouldn't have lost it all if only that one time...

Sho pushed the memories aside as he got ready for his first practice with Nino. Immediately after Nino's first recital, Sachi called Sho in the morning for a background check. He didn't know why she didn't ask him on the day of the recital. He assumed she'll call his former boss or an official assessment proctor to evaluate him, but Sachi wanted to hear it for herself. Still, he never forgot how intense he felt over a simple phone interview. Even while he was on the phone, he sat up straight in his loose pajama pants and messy morning hair. Hopefully, his posture will help him sound more awake.

"Have you committed a felony?"

"Yes, only once."

"How long ago was it?"

"About three years ago," Sho answered. "I've served two years in prison, and I'm registered for fifteen years."

"What was your crime?" Sachi asked without missing a beat.

"...sexual assault."

"Have you committed any felonies since your release?"

"No," Sho answered firmly.

"And do you plan to cause any harm to Nino?"

"Of course not!"

He could almost hear her smiling through the phone. "I just needed to be reassured. Whatever details that happened to you in the past is none of my business. I only need to know that you won't hurt my brother. But I trust you, Sho. Just like Nino does."

And it was over. He officially became Nino's piano accompanist. However, Sho thought it was odd he had to start working right away. Back when Sho was a part-time piano instructor, his students would only start practicing when the day of the concert was only two or three months away. But Nino's concert was a year away, and Sachi requested Sho to be around Nino every day. It was absurd, but Sachi paid him more than the construction company. Sho didn't want to cheat Sachi even though the Ninomiya family was extremely wealthy due to Nino's fame.

But the real reason he decide to come was because someone finally needed his musical talents. Nino needed him. It was almost like dream...

Sho knocked on the door promptly on time, and he waited in his tan linen pants and blue shirt under a checkered pullover. Sachi opened the door and greeted him with a smile.

"Hello, Sho!" She opened the door wider for him. "Nino is in the practice room."

When he entered the threshold, Sho already heard music from the hallway. He found Nino in the middle of the high-ceiling practice room with his back facing the entrance. The genius violinist looked comfortable in his gray cotton pants and dark blue T-shirt, but Sho detected a small trace of sweat building up on the back. Nino continued to play his violin even as Sho entered the room, and Sachi left them alone. Nino was playing a Mozart piece. Sho could tell it was Mozart not only because he used to play the piano accompaniment part, but because Nino's spirited and whimsical playing of the notes fitted the style of the great composer. It almost sounded like a singer. Sho waited until Nino became silent.

"That was lovely," Sho said.

Nino turned around before striking a smug look. "Of course it is. I was playing it."

Sho approached closer. "Who is your favorite composer, Nino?"

"Anyone that makes good music," Nino said. A small smirk appeared on his lips. "They say Chopin was one of the greatest composers, but it really depends on the player. Frankly, I make better music."

"Really? May I hear it?"

"No. I'm playing Mozart right now."

Sho pouted and waved his hands up. "Okay. Whatever pleases you. I'll play the piano part."

At that instant, Nino quickly set his violin down to go scavenging through his music books. He kept all his music books neatly organized on a wide shelf that took up almost the entire length of the wall; a rolling bookcase ladder stationed on the far side of the shelf. Hundreds upon hundreds of books stacked next to each other. When Sho leaned in closer, he saw they were categorized first by instruments. Nino's collection of violins was naturally the largest, but he also had a good amount of music books for piano, guitar, viola, and even Chinese string instruments (though very little). Then, Nino categorized them by composer's last name and their music compilation in numerical order.

"Wow," Sho gasped in awe. "You have a real treasure here, Nino."

Nino pulled out a thin book and placed it on the piano music rack. He turned the pages until he stopped at a certain piece. Sho sat down on the bench and took one glance at the music sheet.

Sho's heart sank. "Oh..."

"We're playing this one," Nino said. "Play it."

"W-wait a minute!"

But Nino already picked up his violin and set it snugly under his chin. Sho panicked and glanced back at the music sheet. He hasn't played this piece before, and the tiny black notes that covered the page looked intimidating. Sho tried to sum up the first key strokes to start them off, but Nino didn't wait and began playing the first down note. Sho's fingers snapped to the piano keys.

It has been awhile since Sho sight-read, but all of his memories of piano lessons crept back to his mind—at a snail's pace. The room temperature suddenly felt a lot hotter, and he began sweating under the collar. Sho spent more time focusing on his part rather than listening to Nino's beautiful performance. In fact, Nino wasn't holding back. Even as Sho fumbled with the staggering amount of notes, Nino continued to play as if he was alone in the practice room. He completely left Sho in the dust.

They weren't playing together at all.

"Wait a minute, Nino," Sho gave up. "We should go back a bit-"

But Nino kept playing.

"Nino? Nino, stop!"

But the man was unresponsive. Without any sheet music, Nino played throughout the entire violin concerto from memory. Sho glanced back at the piano sheet and hoped he could jump in, but he had no idea where Nino was at this point. Sho sat silently on his bench and glanced back every so often to see if Sachi would walk in on his awkwardness. At last, Nino finished playing and grabbed a white cloth to wipe off the rosin on his violin strings. Sho's guilt grew uncomfortably in his stomach along with the awkward silence.

"I'm...I'm sorry, Nino," Sho said shamefully. "I need to study this a little bit more to be on your level. Can we try it again but just the first five measures?"

"No," the violinist answered bitterly. "You were suppose to play the piano while I'm playing the violin."

Nino came back with a new piano book and set it on the piano rack again. "We're playing this now."

"This might not turn out as I thought it would," Sho thought.

*****

"Doctor Aiba," an assistant nurse walked in his office, "the exam results for Chiaki is complete."

"Thank you, Nanami," Aiba smiled and took the file from her. "I'll be sure to check up on her."

She smiled back with a sense of appreciation and closed the door behind as she left.

Aiba made the effort to learn all of the nurses for his patients even if they were from different departments. But memorizing faces was becoming a challenging task, especially in the pediatrics department. With their high turnover of nurses, the stress gradually build up on the staff. He could see the heavy bags under their eyes and their weak smiles on their faces. Aiba tried his best to help lighten the mood in the hospital, especially around the children. He has grown attached to them, particularly the ones suffering from neurological problems.

And so was the case with Chiaki.

She has made numerous visits to the hospital, and no one seemed to know what's wrong. A young ten-year-old keeps turning up in the ER because of falls, unintended injuries, and leg muscle weakness. They turned to Aiba to have a better understanding what was wrong, and Aiba was almost stumped. But after a series of tests and examinations, Aiba was able to come to a conclusion.

The final results he just received confirmed his diagnosis.

Aiba pinched the bridge of his nose before he stood up and headed for Chiaki's room. Her mother was with her, and Aiba could sense a heavy atmosphere looming over them. They, too, knew this was the day they'll finally know what was wrong with Chiaki.

Still, Aiba tried to ease the tension. "Good morning, Chiaki. How are you feeling toda-"

"Please, Doctor," Chiaki interrupted him, her eyes cast down and depressed. "Just tell me what it is."

He hoped to create a better atmosphere before delivering the final diagnosis. He glanced down at her legs covered in the white bed sheets. Her right leg was the one that gave her the most trouble. Aiba heard from her mother that Chiaki worked hard for a dance recital...

Aiba always hated to be the one to give the bad news.

"After the tests results came in, I've been able to narrow your diagnosis," Aiba started, his voice clear and calm. "Chiaki, you have what's called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It is also known as ALS."

At those words, Chiaki's mother brought her hand to her mouth. Chiaki still kept her eyes on her legs, but she tightened her grip on the blankets. Their reaction told Aiba they had the same guess, but Aiba took a deep breath before he continued.

"It's a progressive disease that deteriorates the motor neurons from the brain. Eventually, the brain will lost its ability to control any muscle movement and-"

"And I'll no longer be able to dance," Chiaki ended for him bitterly. "First, it'll be my legs. Then, it'll be my arms, my face, and then my voice, and then my lungs." She glared up at him with angry, red, tearful eyes. "And then I'll die!"

"Chiaki," her mother sobbed to silence her.

"ALS patients can live a long life, Chiaki," Aiba said to reassure her. "We can give you early treatment and plenty of therapy."

"But there is no cure!" Chiaki wailed, her tears already streaming down. "I can have therapy forever, but it's never going to stop this disease, will it?!"

Aiba remained calm and professional as he could throughout the session. It wasn't the first time he had to deal with distressed patients, but he still had to muster all his strength not to cry along with them. After he finally got them on board to sign up for special therapy, Aiba was able to walk out of the room and let out a great big sigh. Seeing Chiaki's mother crying quietly was devastating, but seeing Chiaki slamming hard on her useless leg nearly did it for Aiba. The girl had dreams and hopes for the future. And she was only ten.

When Aiba returned to his office, he found Yuka waiting for him.

"You look like the sun just went down," Yuka teased him. "It's not even lunch time."

Aiba managed to give her a small grin. "I'll manage."

He sat down at his desk, ready to sort through his paperwork for the day. He could hear Yuka fiddling around with his coffee machine and ripping a sugar pack. A few minutes later, Yuka set down a fresh mug of coffee next to Aiba's pencil cup.

"Is it true?" Yuka asked softly. "Does Chiaki have ALS?"

Aiba sighed through his nose, took the warm cup of coffee into his hands, and leaned back in his chair. "I'm afraid she does. All the exams points to it." He gently blew over the rim of the coffee and took a sip.

"She's a lot like Koharu, right?" Yuka said, nonchalantly.

Aiba swallowed without glancing up at his wife.

"She must be about the same age too," Yuka uttered.

"...they both love dancing," Aiba added before setting his coffee down.

"Koharu is more of a baseball fan," Yuka corrected him.

Their eyes met at last, and Aiba was surprised to see her smiling down at him. Even for the tiniest moment, Aiba felt his heart prick with nervousness. Yuka's smile wasn't just a gentle facade, it initiated a challenge. If he dared to look away first, all of his fears and doubts would reveal himself—including his past. All he could do was gaze back at those round motherly eyes. Yet, he blinked once and Yuka ended the mental test.

"When you're on lunch break, let me know," Yuka sighed, cupping his chin with her soft hand before walking out the door.

Aiba's heart was still pounding, but another sip of coffee helped eased his tension. He glanced down at his watch to know when his next appointment starts. At that moment, the assistant nurse returned.

"Doctor Aiba, Ohno Satoshi and his son are here for their appointment."

"Good. Bring them in."

*****

Kenta kept squirming out of Ohno's arms and sliding down from the chair as they waited for their name to be called, but Ohno kept a firm grip on his son. The hospital was close by to Ohno's apartment, so they walked. But Kenta didn't like being touched or held for so long. A few patients passing by gave Ohno weird looks as he tried to wrestle with his son to stay put. Ohno gave them awkward smiles in response before Kenta moaned and complained out loud. Ohno did all he could not to yell at Kenta, but he did hissed harshly at him from time to time. For such a large hospital, they didn't leave out toys for the kids to play while they wait.

Finally, someone called out to him. "Ohno Satoshi?"

Ohno lifted up his fidgety son and followed the nurse to the doctor's office. When the nurse closed the door behind him. Ohno set Kenta down on the padded examination bench. The doctor had light brown hair, and his smile was warm and friendly. The man wore glasses and a freshly pressed shirt while Ohno stood there with his old T-shirt, loose jeans, and sandals.

"Hello, Ohno-san. My name is Aiba Masaki,"

Ohno shook hands. "Pleasure to meet you."

The doctor turned to face the boy. "And you must be Kenta! Hello there!" But Kenta didn't look at the Aiba and turned his attention instead at his hands. Aiba made a kind smile and gestured at the stool chair to Ohno. "Please have a seat."

The man's friendly nature helped Ohno relaxed, and he sat down. The small chair squeaked under his weight.

"So, I've received your call about your concern for your son," Aiba started and pulled out a number of papers. "But tell me about him. Kenta. What made you decided to call the neurology department?"

"Well, I've met with a pediatrician, but she pointed me to come here. Kenta's behavior is rather...odd lately. He would shake his head like...like that! What he's doing now. And he's really sensitive to loud noises."

Aiba already started scribbling notes down. "I see. And how long have you noticed this?"

Ohno clutched at his tattered jeans. "Uh...since I took care him almost three months ago. I've never met him until my ex-wife left him to me." Aiba stopped writing and gazed back at Ohno with utter shock. "I know. But I'm doing all I can to take care of him now! My mother is also helping me. She told me that I am all that Kenta has left. But Kenta cries a lot, I can't help but wonder if what I'm doing is e-enough."

Suddenly, waves of stress and anxiety began swelling up inside him. He dug up some inner strength not to make his voice crack again.

"I haven't slept in a long time, and I don't think Kenta has either. All he ever eats is rice crackers, potatoes, peanut butter, and water. I've even tried force feeding him so that he can stay healthy, but he looks so skinny." Ohno bowed his head down, rubbing his face and frowning. "I tried talking to him and asking what does he want, but he doesn't tell me. I can't even clean the house without him running to the bathroom because he's absolutely terrified of the vacuum, and then he wouldn't stop crying all night. I honestly don't know what to do!"

Aiba set his pen down and placed a warm hand on Ohno's tensed shoulders. "I can only imagine what you've gone through, but I am here to help you with your son now." Aiba glanced at Kenta who was now holding his tiny hands up close to his eyes and waving them back and forth like it was a fun game. "I have some suspicion on what your son has, but I would like to go through some simple tests."

Ohno nodded. He sat back and watched Aiba interacted with Kenta through the majority of the session. The doctor would bring out colorful charts for Kenta to look at, and he would also pull out children books for Kenta to read. Ohno watched hopelessly as Kenta paid little to no attention to Aiba.

Aiba leaned back in his chair and wrote down some more notes.

Ohno gulped. "W-what is your diagnosis?"

The doctor with the warm smile gazed back at Ohno with a serious face. "I suspect your son has autism. I would like to run some more tests on the specific-"

But Aiba's voice and all other noises seemed to drown out with only the ticking sounds of the clock echoing loudly. Ohno sat on the stool while his son innocently played with his hands in his peculiar pattern, and yet Ohno felt the world caved in on him. Somewhere deep in his mind, Ohno thought the same thing. But he refused to believe so. Was this why Minami left Kenta to him? Did she visited the doctor too? Did she got fed up with Kenta's autistic behavior? Why did Ohno had to deal with this...?

"Ohno?"

The former artist snapped out of his thoughts. "Huh?"

"I asked if I could run some brain scans," Aiba repeated. "I would like to know the exact diagnosis before I can start helping Kenta with the proper treatment. The screening room is only down the hallway."

"Oh...of course," Ohno said monotonously and stood up.

Aiba helped Kenta down from the high bench. "Kenta! We're going to take pictures of your brain, okay?" Aiba easily lifted the boy into his arms. Aiba turned back to Ohno. "You don't mind if I carry him, do you?"

"...uh, no. Not at all," Ohno nodded and followed them out the door.

Ohno still felt he was in a daze as he watched his son being carried away into a large white room. Something about watching his son lying down with a huge machine over his head made Ohno choked up. Aiba was too busy clicking away at the computer to notice, but Ohno's eyes felt like they were burning. A lump was stuck in his throat that wouldn't go down no matter how many times Ohno swallowed.

Surely Aiba was wrong. Kenta was not autistic. Not his son...

*****

It was starting to get really cold outside; Jun wouldn't be surprised if it snowed this early in November. But he got the day off and spent his time with his wife indoors. They were watching a movie when Kiko suddenly pushed him off, and he watched his wife dash to the bathroom. She didn't bother closing the door behind her, and Jun could hear her hurling her dinner into the toilet. Jun stood up, turned off the TV, and made his way to the bathroom. He didn't even set foot on the tiled floor when Kiko looked up with hooded eyes.

"Close the door," she groaned.

Instead, Jun took a step closer. "L-let me hold your hair at least." But he already felt rejected by her distressful eyes.

"No, don't! Just get out!"

There was no point in arguing when Kiko was like this, so Jun stepped out and leaned against the wall in the hallway. She was already three months into her pregnancy, and it has been a roller coaster for both of them. His heart wrenched every time Kiko threw up again. It always happened after she finished a meal, and it made Jun feel utterly helpless. At first, Kiko joked that it was the baby being a picky eater already and laughed it off, but it got worse. Jun tried looking up good meals to cook for his pregnant wife, and he made sure he measured the ingredients correctly. Washing, prepping, and checking all the meats with a thermometer. Everything.

But nothing seemed to stay down.

The doctor told them it was completely normal. Kiko also agreed and told him that not all pregnant symptoms were the same, but Jun still felt on edge. He has never seen his wife this sick before. In the mornings, she barely had the strength to get out of bed. Jun even insisted on staying at home with her instead going to work every morning. But Kiko always gave him the "face" until he left with his suit, his briefcase, and his tail between his legs.

Finally, Kiko walked out looking more tired than before. Her eyes looked so heavy, and she dangled her arms up to let Jun hold her. Together, they walked back to the kitchen, and Kiko eased herself on the high bar stool while Jun poured a glass of water for her. He watched her quietly guzzle it down before he refilled it.

"Kiko, I think you should-"

"Don't start," she cut him off with a hoarse voice. "I'm fine, Jun. These morning sickness will soon faded out."

"But it's not even happening in the mornings!" Jun argued back. "You only ate less than thirty minutes ago, and you threw up! It always comes back up after you eat, and it's been going on like this for days! Please, Kiko. See another doctor."

Kiko set her cup down rather harshly. "They'll just say the same thing. Eat in small portions, stay hydrated, blah blah blah!"

Jun placed his hands against the island counter top, his brow pitched tightly. "But Kiko, I can't...I just-"

Kiko reached for his face and pulled him down to plant a kiss on his cheek. Jun's tensed shoulders gradually relaxed, and he rested his elbows on the marble top. Kiko may look tired, but she wasn't finished fighting. He could see it whenever he gazed deeply into her brown eyes. For a little while, the anxious knots in Jun's gut untangled and almost dissolved. They shared another kiss before Jun brought his hand up to touch her hair with a remorseful look.

"I...I know this is all part of the experience," Jun said, his voice low and husky. "But I just feel so useless seeing you like this."

Kiko pouted her full lips at him. "I know you feel that way, and I love you and all the support you're giving me. That is all I need."

Jun quickly leaned in to suck her already pouting lips. They broke off and Kiko waved her empty glass up at him. He smirked at her before playfully snatching it out of her hand and refilled it with water.

But when he turned around, Kiko had her hand to her mouth and ran back to the bathroom again...

*****

Sho knocked listlessly on the door again and waited for Sachi to answer. The dark and gloomy sky matched to Sho's mood. He even woke up late and grabbed a regular pair of jeans and a thin gray sweater under his worn-out parka. When the door opened, Sho quickly pulled on a fake smile and greeted Sachi, but even she looked a little bit peeved.

"Hello, Sho," Sachi said hastily as she fidgeted around inside her large purse. "I'm so sorry, but I have to leave now."

"W-what?" Sho frowned, but she left the door open for him and walked towards the driveway. "You're going somewhere?"


"Yes, but only for a while," Sachi said, already opening her car door. "I have to attend a meeting on behalf of Nino," she glanced at her watch, "and this could last until late at night. If you don't mind, please stay with Nino after practice hours. I already have dinner made so you can heat it up for him, and I'll try to make it back as soon as I can. Thank you!"

Sho didn't even get the chance to reply an answer when she hopped into her car and started the engine. Sho still had his mouth slightly hanging, his arms open and palms up, until she drove away. Sho groaned and walked inside the house. As he hung his coat, he could hear Nino's violin down the hall. Sho slowly rubbed his hands down his face.

It's been a month since Sho started coming to Nino's house for practice, and it has been frustrating. Sho thought working with a prodigy would be amazing, but it was anything but fantastic. No doubt, hearing Nino play live in-person was great. But the man would not listen to Sho one bit. Even when Sho was finally able to memorize the piece, Nino's tempo was different from what's written. He would completely change it, and Sho had to accommodate to him almost every other measure. Sure, Nino was "feeling" the music, and it sounds wonderful. But everything that Sho knew about music might as well be thrown out the window after working together with the autistic savant.

Now, Sho has to babysit him after hours?! He could barely stand to be around Nino for more than thirty minutes. Even Nino acted bitterly whenever Sho was around. So much for being trusted.

The frustrated pianist closed the front door behind him and almost cringed at the sound of Nino's pitch perfect high note. Sweet as it may be, Nino has played the same Tchaikovsky piece for the past two weeks. And Nino doesn't practice music pieces in parts. He would completely memorize the music and play the piece in its full length. Sho practically listened to the same recital over and over until his brain hurt. Even Sho could play the violin part on the piano by now, but he also had a mind to blow up those black and white keys to the pits of hell.

Sho walked into the practice room to find Nino standing in the center in his same gray pants and dark blue T-shirt. Sho used to dress smartly to impress, but the violinist never cared for appearances. When he realized that Nino only wears the same two sets of clothes, Sho's attire became lazy as well. Before, Sho tried to make light conversation during rehearsals, but the genius introvert only cared about music. Sho gave up trying to be friends with Nino.

"I'm back," Sho sighed and sat down on the piano bench, his back to the piano. He continued to talk even though Nino didn't stop playing. "Your sister said she's going to a meeting and won't be back until late. So I'm staying over a bit."

Nino's tempo changed. Before it was lively and animated, but Nino's bow arm slowed down at Sho's words even though the music should be light. Nino's brow pitched tightly at the center, and his tone sounded solemn and heavy. His fingering began to slow down as well, and his strings barely vibrated a sound.

"She won't be gone for long," Sho said, crossing his arms and legs. "She said dinner was already made and I'll reheat it for you."

Suddenly, Nino's piece changed completely. He burst with noise that even Sho jumped in his seat. Nino scrunched his eyes shut; his mouth twisted into a grimace, and his breath came out in quiet pants. His violin was loud, and the pressure he put on his bow was so strong that Sho spotted a bow hair snapping off and flailing about. Sho frowned as he watched Nino's frantic performance from a composer he's never heard. It was Nino original piece.

Nino doesn't like it. He doesn't want Sho after hours as much as Sho doesn't want to stay.

Then, Nino stopped in middle of playing and glared at Sho. "Play the piano!"

Sho snarled back at him, but the man continued to play his violin. Sho turned around in his seat to face the stupid piano, and he opened the cover with a rather grumpy push. He listened to Nino's violin for a bit before Sho slammed his first chord.

Screw playing together. Sho held his patience long enough for Nino. Neither of them listened to each other's music at all. They sounded like a completely mess but why bother. Sho wasn't even playing any particular piece from memory either. It was just them and their instruments making noises. Angry noises at each other for not working together. Frustrated notes because neither of them want to spend any more time with each other. And sad melodies because they had both hoped this combination could have worked out.

"What does Nino want from me?" Sho thought as he continued to play the piano without any sense of direction. "Why doesn't he listen to my harmony? Why can't I be his other hand? Can't he hear that I'm not like him? Why won't he understand how I feel?!"

Why? Why? Why?! Over and over, Sho's fingers rained down on the piano keys. He grew even louder than Nino's violin to the point that Sho became completely absorbed into his piano. All he saw was red and a blur of his own hands. His music was aggressive and rapid. So much has happened these past few years and everything just seemed to pour out of him. Why did he agree to work with some autistic man? Why did he had to lose his comfortable office job and part-time piano teaching? Why did he had to ruin his life by doing...that?!

Sho crashed his hands on top of the piano keys. The ghastly tone echoed throughout the house. His shoulders hunched over and tensed, and there was a light damp of sweat on his brow. As the echo died down, the room was completely silent except for Sho's heavy breathing. As he slowly opened his eyes, Sho's mind became an empty void. What exactly did he play? Bach? Chopin? Was it Sho's own original piece?

Then, a soft hand rested on his shoulders. Sho glanced up and stared back at round, glossy, red eyes. Sho almost gasped. Why was Nino crying? Did he sensed Sho's frustration? Nino pulled his hand away and lifted his violin back to his chin. The next note was a soft and quiet note as if to ease the previous tension. If Sho displayed a performance of fire, Nino was the after rain. Even without any words, Sho could sense Nino's message: things was going to be alright, and the past was behind him now. The practice room felt cooler, and Sho's body gradually relaxed.

When Nino finished, their eyes locked onto each other's. For a brief moment, there was a sense of understanding and Sho almost wanted to hold it a little while longer, but they finally dropped their gaze.

"...I'm sorry, Nino," Sho spoke first in a raspy voice before resting his head in his palm. "I...I don't know what came over me."

"I know."

Sho glanced back up again.

Nino nodded towards the black instrument. "You were playing the piano." And he turned around to set his violin away.

Was that it? Did Nino wanted him to play the piano like before? Sho glanced down at his hands. His fingers were still twitched, and he clasped them tightly into fists. Nino didn't just wanted him to play the piano. He wanted Sho to play while expressing his emotions. That was how Nino played. That was how Nino communicated. Even if a composer noted the music score to be in a lively tempo, Nino will play it sweetly and softly if he was in the mood. Despite how wrong the music was suppose to be performed, Nino's variations always sounded better. And it was only until now did Sho realized why.

Nino plays by heart.

When Sho gazed up, Nino already left the room. He followed Nino where the living room and the kitchen merged as one big open room. Nino plopped himself down on the couch and turned on the television as if practice was nothing special. Sho's heart was still pounding from his earlier rendition, so he helped himself for a drink to calm his nerves. He opened the fridge but found no beer. Sho frowned slightly and settled for juice.

Nino sat in the very middle of the couch with one foot tucked underneath him and his arms between his legs—his eyes never left the television screen. Sho awkwardly sat down at the far end of the couch. Nino held the remote control and flipped channels whenever he pleased. They never said a word to each other, and Sho didn't know if he was suppose to say something or let the awkward silence drag on. Eventually, Sho relaxed and mindlessly watched the television as well. The hours ticked by until Sho felt his stomach rumbling.

"Nino, are you hungry?"

The man didn't answer.

Sho stood up and blocked Nino's view of the television. "Nino? Are you hungry?"

The violinist glanced away, clamping his knees together, and then veered his attention back at the television. "Mmm."

"Was that a yes or no?"

"...I'm hungry."

"Okay then," Sho nodded and went back to the kitchen. "How does Sachi deal with him every day?"

As Sho reheated dinner, he couldn't help but feel hollow. The magic that happened earlier vanished almost as quickly as it came. Sho watched the thirty-year-old man sitting on the couch and rocking back and forth like a silly child. For an autistic man being a year younger than him, Sho thought Nino looked fairly average. His black hair was thick and wavy. It contrasted greatly with his pale skin. Yet it looked so smooth. Sho imagined it being soft...

A loud "ding" startled Sho, but it was just the microwave. They started eating dinner in an awkward silence, or at least for Sho it felt awkward again. After the sudden emotionally hailstorm during practice, a craving sensation kept nagging at Sho to recapture the moment again. He finally got a better understanding of Nino, and grasping onto a deeper knowledge of the genius savant could help Sho with his piano skills. He regretted not putting more effort the last month. He might still make up for it.

"I want to thank you, Nino, for calming me back there."

Nino nibbled on his vegetables.

Sho sighed. "It's just...I've never played like that before. A lot has built up inside me, and I've held it in for so long. As your accompanist, I feel bad for interfering with your practice." Sho lightly bowed his head. "I'm sorry."

"Will you be playing the piano?" Nino asked in a monotonous tone.

"Eh, well, of course," Sho mumbled. "Sachi hired me after all."

"No," Nino pouted. "Will you be playing the piano?"

Sho gulped. "I'll...I'll try."

"Good."

Sho watched Nino continue to eat his vegetables in a slow demeanor. His eyes looked drooped and gloomy. Was he still sad that Sachi wasn't here? If Sho wasn't here, would Nino be even more depressed?

Sho lowered his chopsticks and tilted his head slightly. "Why do you look so sad?" He asked in a mellow tone.

Nino's action seem to grow even slower. Sho watched the man lifted a small bit of rice until his lips clamped down over his utensils. Nino sniffed and chewed slowly. Sho raised his brows when he saw Nino's eyes becoming glossy again.

"What's wrong?" Sho begged softly.

But the man just groaned and shook his head. Suddenly, Nino set his bowl down and dashed away to his room. Sho was left alone in utter shock and confusion. Even after Sho cleared the table, Nino never left his room. There wasn't a single note of music echoing in the house either. Sho thought of going back to the practice room and playing the piano again to lure Nino out, but the hour was growing late. Sho assumed Nino went to sleep, so he passed the time by finally gaining control of the remote and flipping through channels.

Then, Sho heard the front door open, and he went to greet Sachi.

"Hey, welcome back," Sho uttered quietly.

"I'm back," Sachi said, slipping her shoes off. "You sound tired. Everything all right?"

Sho scratched his temple. "Uh, practice was intense, but...Nino suddenly looked upset during dinner. I thought he was going to cry. Maybe he missed you."

Sachi blinked at him. "Really? Nino looked like he was crying?" Sachi frowned and mumbled mostly to herself. "Nino hardly cries anymore. In fact, he rarely shows any emotions other than playing music." She turned her attention back to Sho. "Did something particular happened during practice?"

Sho recalled how Nino was on the verge of tears after Sho's angry performance. Was it still affecting him? Perhaps their little music moment hadn't vanished after all. Nino must still be moved with Sho's music. And Sho had almost thought Nino forgot about it. Perhaps, Nino did cared. It was a small comfort that grew warmly inside Sho's chest.

A small smile spread across Sho's face. "Practice was really good today."

Sachi gave a half-smile. "Well that's good to hear," she inhaled deeply, "but I, on the other hand, have some bad news."

"What is it?"

"The meeting I went to was with my lawyer," Sachi said. "Apparently, someone forged my signature into agreeing Nino to perform in Osaka and almost all the cities in that prefecture."

"My god," Sho frowned slightly. "There are people who would do that?"

"They would do anything to get Nino's publicity," Sachi rolled her eyes. Sho followed her back into the kitchen where they sat down at the table. "These people, however, are clever to think they can fake my signature into a contract. They know that I am Nino's manager and make all the agreements for Nino's performances."

"Nino doesn't get a saying in those things?" Sho asked, curiously.

"He'll always say yes to a performance," Sachi said. "But that's also a problem. If he could, he would continue performing non-stop with no breaks. Can you imagine Nino having concerts and traveling every week without rest? I would not want that to happen to him. He doesn't know his body's limits, so I must look after him."

Sho gave a warm smile. "Nino is very lucky to have you then. I'll bet he wouldn't know what to do without you."

"Well, he's going to find out soon."

Sho's smile slowly faded. "What do you mean?"

"I have to travel to Osaka," Sachi confessed. "I know you have only been with Nino for a month, but will you stay with him longer until I come back?"

-----------------
end of chapter!
To Chapter 4 >> http://arashiforyou.livejournal.com/64225.html

so we have a taste of sho and nino working together. even though with all the music involved, i try not to put too much music terminology that might seem foreign to those who never learned it. i try to keep it in its simplest form. unless majority of you guys do know how to read music, then i can add more terms. (oh, but then it'll lose its poetic-ness XD)

also, i hope the timelines aren't too confusing. everything is happening all in chronological order. so when it's sakumiya jump to aiba, that means time has passed between the sakumiya part and the aiba part. same when we saw ohno's part jump to jun's story. the last time we saw kiko was 2 months pregnant, and now she's 3 months. so time passes (rather significantly) but the important thing to know is that they are events that happen in order. hope that makes sense OTL

basically, everyone somehow or another are connected to the main pairing story. it may not seem like much, but they will. so hang in there!

see you in the next update!

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