It's quiet in the apartment. Florence is out running errands and Anatoly has the house to himself. Not that he minded, an afternoon alone with his chess board was hard to get as of late and Anatoly was determined to enjoy every last moment to himself.

Or at least that's what he told himself before the phone cuts though his concentration, making the game nearly impossible to concentrate. He doesn't like answering the phone; partly because he still doesn't think of this as his home, but mostly because he doesn't have the energy to deal with whatever might be at the other end.

The apartment goes silent for a whole blissful moment before the grating ring echos off the walls again. Anatoly makes a sound of pure exasperation, making his way to the phone fastened to the wall and holding the cold, plastic reciever to his ear.

"Hello?" He murmurs, already having half an idea who it was; of course he could be wrong, but who else could possibly be as irritating and persistant? He's met with silence anyway, but for the sound of light breathing on the other end.

"Hello?" He tries to sound impatient, taking a deep breath and dragging the phone back to the couch with him to stare at his chess game, contemplative.

"Freddie, I know you're there."

The breathing stops for a long moment before the man on the other end clears his throat.

"How'd you know it was me?"

Anatoly sighs, a soft chuckle escaping his throat. "I have call display."

He didn't, but Freddie didn't have to know that he had become accustomed to the sound of his easy breathing.

"Oh."

He wasn't sure when this started, the phone calls late at night, or on afternoons when Freddie couldn't be more sure that Florence wouldn't be home. He was mostly right, too.

It began with Freddie's desperate attempts to lure Florence back to America. There was a fight, (ie. screaming match) once Anatoly finally got tired of the pleading voicemail messages. There was a long conversation in which Freddie spilt his heart out the only way he knew how, to the only person who couldn't give less of a fuck.

Then suddenly the calls came more and more frequently, and none of them were for her.

He didn't know why it was a secret, these conversations discussing their pasts. Their lives and troubles. The entire chess games played over the static noise of the phone line. This... comeradeship that had sprung up between them.

But it was a secret, and Florence couldn't know. Because they weren't friends. They weren't enemies and there was something completely different and unnameable but equally unmistakable between the two now that made Anatoly quite glad they lived half way across the world.

"I wish you were here." Freddie whispers finally, breaking the silence that had settled over the conversation.

"Yeah." Me too, he thinks but can never say. Not now, not ever. Because it isn't real. Freddie is just a voice on the other end of the line and none of this is tangiable. None of what he is feeling means a thing. Nothing.

"You could always come visit-" Freddie offers lamely, already knowing what the answer is going to be- the same as every other time he's asked.

"Maybe, sometime." Anatoly murmurs back, curling into the arm of the couch, allowing the conversation to take on it's normal pattern; theres no point in trying to change that now.

"I'd like that." The voice on the other line wavers tentatively, but Anatoly pretends not to notice.

"I know." He stifles a smile even though nobody's ever there to see it, giving into him if only just the slightest bit. "Is that why you called, to ask me out?"

He's joking, but they can both hear the strain to it and Freddie chuckles good naturedly. "It's just nice to hear your voice."

Anatoly can't bear a response. It's times like this that make him want to give up and fly over the Atlantic if only just to be able to say he'd tried. But he's with Florence. He sacrificed his entire world for Florence. He's supposed to love her.

And there's his wife and children in Russia, dutifully awaiting his return. Everytime he talks to his wife he can hear her hope dwindling and they both know that he's not coming back. She is just an excuse to keep him where he is; without that, he's not sure where he might end up.

During these calls however, all he can think of is his white clad opponent and their soft words, confessions never to be repeated to anyone but themselves, knowing it would never, ever work.

"You, too." He finally replies, clutching the phone with an iron grip. There was always something, a certain thrill to the idea of being unfaithful without actually pursuing the act of adultery. It was a game, and Anatoly knew how to make his moves. But this, this was the first time Anatoly had lost something he had never had to begin with.

Freddie wasn't a game, and they were both going to lose.

The line is quiet and he opens his mouth to say something when Florence enters the apartment, her arms full with grocery bags. He flushes like he's been caught doing something innappropriate. He changes his tone and murmurs into the phone in Russian, prompting her to come up behind him, rubbing his shoulders.

"Svetlana?" She whispers, cocking an eyebrow as she rubs the tension from his shoulders. He nods stiffly ignoring Freddie's sigh of resignation on the other end. Florence busies herself with the groceries, an eager distraction.

"I don't know why you insist on lying to her-" Freddie starts, not afraid to pick an argument like he knows he's going to, even if it is an argument that they've had a million times already.

Anatoly sighs once he is left alone again, running a hand through his curls. "I'm sorry, you know I cant- I will talk to you soon." He knows Florence is still listening from the kitchen, forever intimidated by his ethereal blonde wife. If only she knew to focus her jealousy elsewhere.

"I love you."

He adds it for good measure, but it makes his stomach flip uncomfortably when he realizes it isn't exactly a lie. That everything he is, and everything he stands for is a lie, and this is the only truth. It terrifies him, and he hangs up the phone before he can get a reply.

On the other end of the phone, thousands of miles away, Freddie Trumper is left to return the sentiment to the steady pulse of the dial tone; the man attatched to the emotion once again nothing more than his opponent, and Freddie's never felt more alone.