Pompeii, 79 AD
People were screaming.
There was screaming and ash in the air.
There was an immense power surging through his veins, colossal and uncontrollable.
He went down on his knees, screaming, feeling the burn in his chest as if he were being struck by lightning repeatedly—as if his heart was going to explode and spread ashes like the mouth of Vesuvius that loomed like a monster awakened. People were rushing, making their way past him, trying to outrun the snow-like ashes that were falling from the sky.
There was an odd smell in the air.
If he didn’t use all his energy to encase himself in a protective barrier, he too will die. He too, wiill suffocate from the poison in the air.
There was a child, crying. It was near him. So close.
He looked to his side, a young girl in silk clothes, hunched over her mother. He needed to reach her. He needed to protect her. Encase her in the invisible barrier along with him or she’ll die. But there was another child crying in front of him, a boy this time, and he was on his knees. The boy was coughing uncontrollably.
No, he needed to get to them. Both of them.
He needed to reach the children before he lost consciousness.
He tried to get up, forcing himself to, but his knees were weak. The spell was already taking most of his strength. Any more exertion and he was going to explode right then and there. Everyone will burn along with him.
The young boy kept coughing, more violently now, until the coughing stopped. He looked up to the boy, now face down unto the ground, motionless. He noticed that the girl’s cries were inaudible too—and as he looked, he found that she was already dead.
He heaved, breath painful and rushed—and then everything went black.
Moscow, 2016 AD
The Russian winter was truly unforgivable.
Yuuri’s lived a long life to know not to settle in this place if he could help it, preferring the eternal summers and occasional monsoons of the tropics. If it wasn’t for a job, Yuuri would never have gone anywhere near Russia on the winter time.
Barbados seemed like a good idea. Maybe he’ll book a flight as soon as he’s done with his business appointments.
The Twenty-First Century wasn’t so bad, not at all. He rather liked it, to be honest.
The world was still unkind to many, still unbelievably unfair, but the rise in modern philosophy seemed to have driven humanity to protect itself and not opt for such bloody races to power. Don’t get him wrong, the race to power still exists, it’s only that things were taken to politics and wit nowadays—less gore, if you will. Silent rivalries and the frequent showcase of military strength, as opposed to declaring and going to wars. People have also set boundaries across the earth, prohibiting colonisations, frowning at the idea of cruelty to man and animals alike. It was alright.
If there was something Yuuri learned throughout the centuries, it was that times often change, along with the people in it.
Having known this, there didn’t seem to be any point in keeping human connections at all. He always found them to be quite hard to understand, but maybe that was just him.
At least the witch hunts were long over, thank goodness for that.
His phone chimed as he was changing into his coat. He came to get it, checked his e-mail, then threw it back unto the desk where it belonged.
He was getting so many requests lately. You would think that as the world grew more advanced in the field of science and technology, people would eventually stop believing in those lurking amongst the shadows, those who couldn’t be seen—people and creatures like Yuuri.
He wasn’t going to complain, of course. All of the money he’s making came from these particular requests. The jobs were mostly mundane and simple—ranging from site cleansing, summoning guardian spirits, or slightly influencing the trade markets—unless it was something Yuuri declined to take.
For example, the grim request of the businessman knocking on his door.
Yuuri sighed, got up, and welcomed one of his supposed clients for—well, inquiries, since he didn’t know if he’d take the job yet. He’s been rejecting a lot of them lately.
The man behind the door was stocky, in his fifties maybe, looking a bit too stiff and proud. The kind of businessman overwhelmed by new-found wealth, greedy for more.
Oh, Yuuri’s definitely not going to like this one.
“Come on in,” Yuuri said in impeccable Russian.
He might have sworn to never go back there since the American prohibition era, but one who lived forever could only do so much with their free time. Russian was also a beautiful language, and he’s learned Cyrilic when he ran out of crosswords to solve; so Yuuri didn’t mind.
“This will be half of what I’m willing to pay for if you do it in the next week,” the man said, starting with business as soon as he was seated on Yuuri’s old couch. He looked like he was chewing wasps, frowning. “Understand, Mr. Katsuki, that this business is important to me—”
“So I’ve heard,” Yuuri said, sitting opposite the man in his living room, crossed his legs, and stared at the thick bundle of rubles in front of him. The Orlov Enterprises had a tough year since a new rival company came into the market, or so the man in front of him had said in a very short e-mail two days ago. Like it was supposed to be something befitting of sympathy. “Would you want some tea?”
The man huffed in frustration. “Will you do it or not?”
Ah, the rich were always impatient ones, huh?
“I don’t know why you’ve come to me, Mr. Orlov, when you’ve surely heard of the kinds of jobs I exclusively take,” Yuuri said, trying to sound apologetic. He’s done this speech multiple times over the centuries; and surely, he could do it again. “I can offer you a boost in your business ventures, at a much lower price. But that’s it. I can recommend you to someone else if you find that it’s not to your tastes.”
The first unspoken rule amongst the warlocks was simple and blunt: never interfere with human endeavours. Yuuri was supposed to let them die, let them burn, and not bat an eye.
Being a warlock meant he had sold his soul to Hell. He was no longer human, he will never die, and the centuries would pass him by. Though Yuuri may not accept the job, he’d still be interfering in a way that he’s not making something happen—something meant to happen—so he recommends another to do the dirty work instead.
His visitor looked down unto the small coffee table. “But Mr. Katsuki, I’ve heard you’re the best—”
“If that were true, it wouldn’t matter if I’m the best. It’s a job. Someone else could do it, probably more willingly than I.” Yuuri uncrossed his legs and stood, bending over so his eyes were level with the Orlov’s. He looked slightly hesitant, but that was alright, Yuuri could control the situation no matter how it turned out. “Please forget about such atrocious thoughts, my friend. It will not help you in the end. You have a daughter, yes?”
“Two.” The man scrunched up his eyebrows, not understanding the question.
“Think about what you’d feel if someone else had asked me to hex them, and I’d agreed. Wouldn’t that make for such an unfortunate scenario?” Yuuri lifted his finger and tapped the man’s forehead, a surge of energy flowing through his arm. “Think about that all week. If you still want the job, come to me again and I’ll do it. That’s a promise.”
The man looked to Yuuri in horror, his voice very small. “I—Yes. Sure.”
Yuuri smiled, escorted the man out the door, and plopped back unto his sofa with a sigh.
No one ever said it was wrong to plant ideas in their head, so Yuuri does it all the time. He’s been able to get away with it so far, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be discreet about it. Phichit, a very old and reliable friend of his, knew this—and would have done the same thing.
But there are still those who follow the unspoken rule to heart, humanity be damned.
The alarm on his phone went off.
Yuuri groaned and struggled to go back into his room, checking his phone.
St. Petersburg, Saturday @ 10 A.M.; Ms. Baranovskaya.
Right. He almost forgot that one.
What was it again? Some charm ritual for the new ballet studio? He should really stop taking jobs when indisposed. By indisposed, Yuuri meant drunk. Usually, when this happened, Phichit made sure he didn’t take one he was going to regret. There was no harm in the job, none at all, but it did cause his sudden plunge into the Russian winter he hated so much.
Yuuri did have an apartment in Russia, one he vaguely remembered to have purchased because he started living with someone—what was their name again? Anika. He promised to stay with her forever, and by forever, he had meant her whole life; Yuuri was left behind the moment she died.
For what seemed like the hundredth time that morning, Yuuri sighed deeply. He remembered Anika being very fond of ballet, too.
It ought to be a simple ritual, so he’d be in and out of it faster than he usually would, and then he’ll be back home to playing video games with Phichit and rejecting bloodthirsty clients in Detroit again.
He reached for his navy blue scarf, checked his pocket watch, and set off for St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg, 2016 AD
Viktor brought down his short sword in one, swift move.
Dark blood splattered from the creature as soon as he did, staining his dark jacket and trousers; it wailed, an inhuman shriek far too shrilling for anyone not to flinch, before it shrivelled up into itself and turned to ash. Viktor reached for his handkerchief, wiped the disgusting liquid that came on his face, and threw it into the dumpster.
“Damn, I wanted to take that one down.”
Viktor looked to see Yura behind him, covered in black blood, clothes stained, golden hair dishevelled—but he was otherwise fine.
He frowned. “That one was too big for you.”
“Hah, try me.” Yura stared back, lifting his crossbow, most likely aiming the crosshairs at Viktor. “I’m a pretty good shot.”
“Which you so often never fail to announce,” Viktor checked his gloves for any tears, wiped his short sword on his sleeve before he slid it back into the safety of its scabbard. “Where’s Mila?”
“Finishing up,” Yura started moving toward the opposite direction. “She loses this round.”
And then he was off.
Viktor sighed. He had asked Yakov not to involve Yura with the raids at such a young age, knowing how he was and how overconfident he could get.
Younger ones tend to look at what they did as a game—as if it didn’t mean they could die on a mission anytime.
Bravery was one thing, but recklessness was another. However, when he suggested holding off Yura’s first mission, Yakov only snorted at Viktor and said, “You were fourteen and was as just overconfident.”
Yura was far too good for anyone his age, Viktor would give him that, but he just wished Yuri held back sometimes. That way, Viktor wouldn’t have to worry so much when they’re off doing their regular raids around the city. Mila was another one to look out for, although she was mostly old enough to handle herself.
He followed the path that Yura took, almost missing the alley where Mila was hunched over, cradling her left arm.
Viktor went to kneel beside her immediately, looking for more damages. She had a cut on her cheek, a few blood stains here and there, red hair matted with god knows what, and a broken arm. “What happened?”
“Two of them ambushed me out of nowhere,” Mila flinched. Viktor took out his phone and immediately texted Yakov with a request to ready the medical supplies. “Seriously, these warlocks should stop summoning up those freaks already. It’s becoming a pain.”
“It’s good for business,” Yura muttered, pulled out his scarf, and used it as a make-shift sling. “More demons prowling around meant more people need their services. What I don’t understand is how they let these shits run around and devour innocents who couldn’t even see them.”
Viktor’s grown to have disliked them over the years. As much as there was a written truce amongst both sides—mostly comprising clear-cut conditions—it had eventually become nothing but written nonsense on a piece of parchment. Viktor knew warlocks didn’t care for the right or wrong, nor did they have the sense of compassion humanity had, but he still felt guilty thinking about slaughtering each and every one of them so that other people stopped dying.
“Why can’t we just kill them all?” Yura said, echoing Viktor’s thoughts.
“Silence, Yura.” Viktor glared at him.
It would be unfortunate if one of the said warlocks heard him say that and ambush the three of them out of nowhere. It wouldn’t be a problem for Viktor, but he’s more worried about Yura’s lack of self-control. “You know why our people hesitated on waging a full-on war against them.”
“I know, I know,” Yura waved him away. “We need to keep them around just in case the world turns to shit and need their help. Hell, like they aren’t contributing to the shitty things happening already.”
Ah, young and idealistic Yura.
Viktor had been the same when he was much, much younger. He thought he could save the world or something ridiculous like that.
Soon, Yura was going to realize that no matter how good they became at slaying monstrosities in forests and dark alleys, there won’t be any special destiny awaiting them.
They live, they fight, then they die. That’s about it.
“Vitya, let’s go.” Mila snapped her fingers in front of his face, waking him from his sudden trance. “Any more of this and I’m going to get really pissed off.”
Viktor snorted. “As you always are, Mila.”
Mila didn’t need much help as they descended down the underground tunnels, dingy walls and all.
You would think that after two hundred years of existence, the Order would have had enough money to get them a proper dormitory of some kind—but no, there was something charming about living underground, sometimes closer to sewage pipes than they were to clean air.
Viktor didn’t have much of a choice, anyway. His father had fought great wars to protect the city from all the horrible things people cannot see, so had his mother, and it felt wrong not to honour their dying wishes.
What fate to put unto a child’s shoulders, though.
They reached the end of the tunnel, and it started to look slightly better—what he meant by 'better' was that it wasn’t too damp anymore. Viktor stepped in front of Yura, pulled at the steel door as forcefully as he could, the rusted metal grating against concrete as it opened slowly. Inside, was how you might describe an old bunker used for air raids.
Strong, walls made out of metal and concrete greeted them as soon as they stepped in. On one corner, was Yakov, bent over his desk and sorting some papers like an office clerk. Maybe Viktor had opted to become one—was it too late to change jobs yet?
“We’re back,” Yura announced, feet dragging across the white tiles.
“Please wash up and clean after the mess you’re making,” Yakov frowned, staring at the black trail of Yura’s making.
As if their situation underground was anything pleasant to begin with. Perhaps they should just stop with the cleaning and rot with all the urine and shit surrounding them.
“Do you have it?” Viktor approached the desk.
Yakov promptly got up and reached for the top of the bookcase behind him, retrieving a medium-sized metal box. He slid it on the table and Viktor accepted it, quickly hauling Mila off to the clinic.
The said clinic was right down the hall, where a slab befitting a morgue was situated at the centre of it all, and Sara Crispino was seated on the far corner. Sara’s dark hair shot up to see Mila cradling her injured arm. Without even bothering to greet Viktor, Sara rushed to have Mila seated on the table and went on to inspect her injuries.
“Having a great day, Sara?” Viktor asked awkwardly, handing her the box of rationed bandages.
It’s only been about two months since Sara arrived in Russia. For whatever reason she was there and not with the Italian Clan, she never told any of them. She appeared one particularly cold night carrying only a duffel, black hair dusted with white snow. Yakov had offered her shelter and a few missions, but she apparently heard of the St. Petersburg branch lacking a decent physician. Well, they never had a physician at all, so Yakov’s decision came easy.
“I’m extremely bored to be honest,” Sara said, still distracted by her work on Mila’s shoulder. “We need to snap the bone back into place. Lift this for me, yes?”
Mila nodded and quickly obliged, looking pained from having moved at all. “I was looking forward to doing something. But not this. Yura’s come to me for some stiches two days ago and now it’s you.” Sara looked to Mila. “Now, I’m going to do this quickly. Try not to bite your tongue.”
There was a few excruciating moments of Mila’s shrieking cutting across the room, then came a popping sound. Viktor flinched, trying really hard not to look away. Breathless, Mila allowed her shoulders to relax, sweat trickling down her face.
Viktor didn’t know what to do except stand in the corner and wait.
He might sound like a dick thinking about it this way, but Mila knew from the start what she was getting herself into. The ecstatic feeling of adrenaline was fun, sure, but when you’re as old as Viktor it’ll hardly even matter.
“And what might be the cause of Yura’s stitches?” Good. Maybe a conversation to distract him from feeling uncomfortable. “Not that it matters asking about it anymore.”
“He was practicing with knives the other day, I think.” Sara found a sling to keep Mila’s arm in place, whispering a few doctor’s advice on what to do with the injury—including hot compress, avoiding exertion, and having it dressed at least once a day. “He also managed to sprain his foot last week. Did you know he tried to test his pain endurance by walking over broken glass?”
“I don’t see why not, he’s done it before. With nails.” Viktor jerked his chin toward Mila’s direction. “How long would we have to wait?”
“Well, it’s not broken, thank goodness,” Sara shuffled to her cabinets, retrieving some pills. Pain medication. “Just dislocated. About three days, but I highly suggest she gives it at least a week.” She then proceeded to shoot Mila a sour look, handing her the pills and a glass of water. “Although you wouldn’t listen regardless, won’t you?”
Sara turned to Viktor, looking horrified. “Please look after this idiot.”
“I will,” Viktor grinned, although he didn’t feel like doing so. Sara was probably going to do it herself anyway.
Mila was out of commission for a week—three days if they pushed it—and Yura’s not ready for some of the missions Viktor was going to have to do tomorrow night. The kid’s probably going to end up getting his throat slit from not being cautious enough.
He’ll have to go alone, then. It’s not like he couldn’t handle it, but Yakov frequently insisted that he taught the younger ones what to do.
Noticing that his presence wasn't needed anymore, Viktor turned, "I've gotta go change."
“Baby sitting duties?” Sara asked.
“Yeah,” Viktor snorted. “Baby sitting duties.”
"Baby sitting duties" usually meant Viktor watching over Yura in the training room.
He sat on a small, rickety bench at the side with legs crossed, while polishing his short sword.
Though he was in his training clothes—a simple loose shirt and track pants ensemble—he was in no mood for any training at all.
You could say he was a bit tense, but he wouldn’t really know. Yura was at it with his crossbows again, repeatedly hitting targets like the training still mattered at this point. He was already pretty good with quick, moving targets, so he was probably just showing off.
“Viktor!” Yura called over from the corner of the room, grabbing a long sword from the wall. “Duel with me.”
Viktor looked to him blankly, then returned to what he was doing. “Nope.”
Yura marched in toward him, pointing the tip of the blade at Viktor’s throat. “Don’t give me that bullshit,” he snarled. “Train with me right now, you lazy-ass.”
He still didn’t look up to meet Yura’s eyes, sliding his short sword back on its sheath. “You mean I train you, right?”
“Tsk,” Yura looked to him with disdain. “As if. Go and unsheathe your sword. Or are you afraid I might beat you this time?”
“So far, you have not.”
Yura swung back his sword. As it came down, it connected with the metal Viktor’s scabbard, the sheath clattering noisily unto the ground. Viktor stared at the fallen weapon with disinterest.
“I challenge you,” Yura said, more fervently this time. “Pick it up and duel with me.”
Viktor looked up at him, feeling very, very annoyed. He should probably give him what he wanted, then.
He got up to retrieve his fallen short sword and set it aside. Ignoring Yura’s endless mutterings, Viktor went to one of the cabinets and retrieved an old, wooden sword. He pointed the blunt tip at Yura’s direction. “Come.”
He did nothing but frown. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he said. “I haven’t used training swords since I was nine.”
“Then use that. You’ll have the upper hand, won’t you?”
Angrily, he charged at Viktor with his sharp blade. Viktor avoided him swiftly, light feet getting behind him fast, then knocking Yura over with the wooden sword. “How many times did I tell you, Yura?”
“Tell me what?”
Yura charged again, Viktor crouching low and twisting the wooden hilt, making contact with his stomach. “That no matter how sharp the blade—” Yura got back up, swung the long sword, slicing Viktor’s training sword in half. “—it won’t get you anywhere.” Viktor slid to the floor to retrieve the other half of his wooden sword, using them to avoid Yura’s attacks. “Unless.” Contact. “You.” Duck. “Use.” Yura tumbled to the ground. “Your body.”
Viktor dropped the wooden sticks to the floor and held his hand out to him. “And your head, too. Unless you understand that, I am not training you.”
His hand was smacked away. “Show off.”
“And use the room around you, you’re much lighter than I am. If you had climbed a beam, I wouldn’t—”
“Shut up,” Yura spat. “I get it, alright?” He proceeded to finally get up, retied his hair, and picked up his long sword again.
He went back to ignoring Viktor once more, though he did stop showing off—maybe humbled by their earlier encounter.
So Viktor decided to leave, dropping a few advices for knife handling he wasn’t sure Yura listened to. Realizing that his effort to impart wisdom was going up in smoke, Viktor sighed, and went to his bedroom.
Viktor found himself changing into plain clothes again. Something warm for the winter, but he figured it won’t be needed in a few hours. He greeted Yakov by the hallway and went outside, his lungs thankful for the breath of fresh air. Cold, but clean air regardless.
Just above their underground quarters was a small pub. Viktor’s been a frequent costumer of the establishment, especially on particularly bad nights. He went there to either work his nerves or congratulate himself, but lately, he’s been coming there out of boredom too. The chimes by the door announced Viktor’s arrival.
“Viktor!” The bartender greeted him as soon as he slipped inside.
He smiled, dusted the snow off his coat, and went to sit at the bar. He could see that Mila was there as well, too busy with Sara to notice him. That was fine, Viktor wasn’t in the mood anyway. “What do you have, Chris?”
“Well, that’s up to you. Although you usually let me handle it.” Chris grinned. He spoke in a slightly accented Russian, strange but familiar. He knew Chris was Swiss, liked sleeping around, and that his family moved to St. Petersburg about eight years ago. Other than that, he didn’t know much else. However, Viktor was comfortable around Chris, enough to make inside jokes.
Viktor laced his fingers in front of him, elbows on the bar, resting his chin on his joined hands. “The usual, then.”
“The usual?” Chris cocked an eyebrow. “You mean ‘surprise me’, right?”
“Okay,” Chris laughed, briefly serving drinks to a costumer before going back to Viktor. “How do you want to feel in the morning?”
Chris snorted. “You got it, buddy.”
Yuuri wondered where Lilia’s heard of him. He’s made quite a name for himself, but he hasn’t been in Russia since who knows when. Lilia probably wasn’t even born yet when Yuuri packed his bags and left on the day of Anika’s burial.
He tried to look away from the paintings of various girls in the ballet, beautiful as they may be.
There were some portraits of Lilia, too. A much younger version of herself, pretty and statuesque, dressed in what could only be the Black Swan’s costume. Yuuri wondered why anyone would have wanted to divorce her.
He loved the ballet, truly—but they reminded him of Anika too much. It wasn’t just that she was the last of his many lovers; but he had strongly considered asking her to join him in eternity. She had offered and he had almost agreed, but he managed to catch himself before making what could have been the most regrettable decision of his life.
Up to this day, he was thankful he never gave in to his selfishness; otherwise, he would’ve allowed someone he truly loved to be damned as well.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Katsuki.” Lilia sat across from him on an elegant armchair, poised and graceful, waving her fingers to call for a servant. A young maid approached her, bending over to catch something Lilia was whispering, and was off skittering to the other room. “I hope you don’t mind Earl Grey.”
Yuuri nodded with a smile. “Thank you, that would be lovely.”
“How do you find St. Petersburg, Mr. Katsuki?” She asked, eyes steady and calculating.
Oh, wow. Small talk, huh?
Yuuri hated small talks, and yet he smiled. “It’s beautiful, actually. I haven’t been back here in a while, so it’s nice to see it again after so long.”
Business, business. Like the usual.
“A long time could mean rather differently to your lot, though,” she muttered.
He stopped himself just in time before he visibly frowned. He’s met a lot of privy clients before, always genuinely curious about Yuuri’s real age. To be honest, he wasn’t so sure about it himself at this point. After the first two hundred years, a warlock usually stopped counting.
Lilia, however, didn’t look in the least apologetic, so Yuuri waved a hand to dismiss the sudden inquiry. “Well maybe not too long, but you know how it is.” The maid arrived to serve him his tea. Yuuri gladly accepted and took a small sip, resisting the urge to flinch. God, he hated Earl Grey like an actual abomination. “So you wanted a tracking spell?”
Lilia seemed disappointed that the earlier topic didn’t go on much further, but she replied right way. “Yes, for an adoptive child of mine.”
“Hmm,” Yuuri played with the expensive china in front of him, fingers tracing the hand painted details on the delicate cup. “Do you have anything of theirs?”
Lilia called for the maid to bring her something, and she looked to Yuuri again, face blank. “A lock of hair. Will that be enough?”
He didn’t bother asking her whether the child wanted to be found.
If there was something challenging about the otherwise easy jobs Yuuri was getting, it was the fact that he couldn’t impose his own personal virtues upon those who asked. He shouldn’t be doing that in the first place.
No matter how picky he was with his clients, he still tended to miss certain parts of the story that should have mattered. Sure, he never accepted jobs meant to hex or outright kill another party, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t about to send a poor child right back into the arms of an abusive parent.
This, however, cannot be brought up into conversation; so unlike what he did with Orlov that morning, he couldn’t directly reject what seemingly appeared to be a good-natured request.
It could be that the child’s been kidnapped or got lost and went missing for weeks, Lilia might have been worried enough to seek a warlock’s help instead of the police. It sounded better than what he initially suspected it to be, so Yuuri assured himself that it could be very well a possibility.
Not that he should care. He wasn’t supposed to.
The maid came back with a small snuffbox, very similar to what Yuuri once owned. Lilia opened the box and retrieved a small clump of golden hair, yellow like the cornfields. It was tied by a blue ribbon to keep them together, carefully made to look pretty. And again, Yuuri wondered why there was a clump of hair stored in a snuffbox, but he shouldn’t be thinking about that right now, maybe it was just a cultural thing.
“And I take it you didn’t want the spell cast in your house?” Yuuri asked for a confirmation.
A lot of people still believed casting a spell somewhere makes the location prone to bad luck, so he wasn’t surprised when Lilia told him about it. He was tempted to tell her that this wasn’t the case, but he had a strong feeling she’s do as she pleased anyway. Well, at least she’s paying extra for the trouble.
“Yes,” she said, putting the lock of hair back into the snuffbox, closed it, and slid the metal across the coffee table. “I also ask that you personally seek out the child to make sure of his current situation before reporting back to me. A location itself won’t be much help. He could be standing anywhere at anytime, or he could’ve found a warlock to cloak his presence.”
Yuuri couldn’t help but snort, but as silently as he could. He reached for the box and placed it on his lap, feeling the cold metal beneath his fingers. “That will cost you extra, Miss.”
“Whatever the cost, Mr. Katsuki,” she waved a dismissive hand. By the looks of her house alone, it seemed like she very well can. “Besides, I was told you were the best. Skill and efficiency is one thing, but massive spell power...now that’s something one doesn’t just acquire.”
He was silent for a very, very long moment before he grinned. “You flatter me, Madame Baranovskaya, but I beg to differ. I am nothing of that sort after all.”
Why was Viktor not drunk yet?
It was nine o’clock and he wasn’t drunk yet.
“You look really pissed,” Mila slipped unto the barstool beside Viktor, careful not to accidently bump her injured arm unto something, cheeks pink. Her breath smelled of sweet grenadine and something strong, lips coated with a sheer, red tint.
Viktor looked to her, unimpressed. “I didn’t know you borrow Sara’s lipstick, Mila.”
Mila turned redder than she already was, half from embarrassment and maybe the other half was from anger.
Viktor wasn’t sure why she was being so secretive about it, since he’s seen them all over each other constantly. They were drunk, that is true, but still. Viktor didn’t exactly just ravage anyone he found pretty the moment he was delirious.
He fooled around, sure, but he wasn’t about to pick up a guy from a bar he frequented. That would’ve made it all the more weird. No matter how much they flirted with him, Viktor hinted disinterest, but he managed to never sound rude or to give the impression of recoiling.
As a reward for his restraint, he ended up becoming friends with the regulars instead. An example would be Leo, an immigrant from America. Or Seung-Gil, the Korean graduate student. Neither of them were there tonight, so Viktor was stuck with Chris, who was sadly too busy serving other costumers on a busy Saturday night.
Suddenly, Mila was looking at Viktor—well, more like past him—and she quickly slid away, winking before turning around.
She probably saw someone she thought he’d like to take home again. He tried telling her to stop, but he gave up after the fourth time Mila abandoned him to the company of someone else.
“Oh,” Chris’ voice came closer, slightly flirty and melodic. “What might you want tonight, handsome?”
“Bourbon. On the rocks, please.”
Viktor turned and saw—what might have been the most beautiful man he’s ever seen. Was he a Japanese immigrant? An exchange student, maybe? He looked younger than him, maybe between twenty-two to twenty-four, so not too young. His black hair was lightly covered in powder-like snow, so were his blue-framed glasses, and he wore a dark blue pea coat much too loose for him. Viktor would very much like to know exactly how loose it was.
“Is there something you need?”
It took a moment before Viktor noticed that he was staring—and he had been caught.
Holy motherfucking shit.
“Sorry—hah,” he stammered unattractively, scratching the back of his head like an idiot. “It’s just that I’ve never seen you around here before. Not that it’s bad! It’s just that I know most of the regulars and I’m just surprised to finally see a new face.”
Chris snorted. Viktor shot him a look as he was sliding a glass of bourbon on the bar.
“Is that so?” He took the bourbon and nodded at Chris with a smile. He had a pretty smile.
Chris winked at Viktor before moving on to another costumer.
“Yeah, I guess.” Viktor’s face was very hot. Oh god, was he obviously flushed? Perhaps, it could pass for alcohol. Wait, did the guy just speak to him in fluent Russian? “What brings you to these parts, then?”
“Ah, I’m just on a business.” The man said, sipping at his glass gingerly. “I’m from Detroit.”
Viktor felt his eyebrows rising. “You speak excellent Russian, though.”
“European Linguistics,” he replied quickly. “That’s what I took in college, I mean.”
“Hmmm. So that makes you a very good diplomat, then?”
Diplomat? Seriously? Viktor wanted to kick himself.
To his relief, the mysterious man beside him blushed slightly. Viktor wondered if that blush went all the way down to his chest, too.
“That’s a good career path, I guess. But I don’t think I’m fit for it. Needs a little bit of charisma. Charm.” He laughed softly, his fingers moving frantically—endearingly. Sweet gods. “And charm is what I do not have, sadly.”
Viktor found himself leaning closer, only a little. For the first time that night, he was thankful he didn’t get blaringly drunk. “I beg to differ.” He put out his hand and tried to pull of the brightest smile he could manage. “I’m Viktor.”
He looked down at Viktor’s hand for a moment, hesitant, before he reached out to softly enclose Viktor’s palm in his. “Yuuri.”
“That’s a pretty name,” Viktor mused, adding a slight curious lilt to his tone. “Is it Japanese?”
Yuuri practically looked down to hide a blush. It didn’t help. “Ah, yes.”
Viktor was about to ask another question when he felt a hand on his shoulder, then that offending hand pulled him from the barstool. He almost tumbled backwards, but he was able to hold unto the edge of the bar fast enough to keep his balance.
He closed his eyes and sighed. Without turning around, he huffed, “What is it this time, Yura?”
“Yakov needs you.”
Viktor spun around to see Yura, wearing one of his ridiculous leopard-print jackets, scowling at him.
He suddenly remembered that Yuuri was still there, so Viktor faced him, an apology at the tip of his tongue. “Yuuri,” he said. “This is my brother, Yuratchka. Please forgive him for lacking social etiquette.”
Yuuri stared at Yura for a moment, eyes widening to a fraction, and smiled. “Hello. I’m Yuuri.”
“Huh,” Yura huffed, then he pointed at Yuuri. “Were you just flirting with someone who had the same name as me?”
Viktor’s jaw dropped.
How does he recover from this? Shit. Of all the moments for Yura to come in, the little shit. He was so embarrassed—
Yuuri laughed. “I don’t see what’s wrong with that. It’s nice to meet you, Yuri.”
Yura ignored him. He looked to Viktor instead. “We need to go home, now.”
“Tell him I’ll be home much later.”
“He said now.”
Viktor sighed. “Wait for me outside.”
Yura was about to say something again, but Viktor quickly shushed him with a quick, “please”.
He watched as Yura frowned, stomped out, and stood waiting by the door. Viktor turned to Yuuri again, but he didn’t know what to say.
He opened his mouth to ask something, but he ended up closing it again.
What the fuck was he going to say again? Everything was going so smoothly until Yura came, and now this. He couldn’t stay. Yakov would kill him. Jesus. Would it be creepy if he asked Yuuri when he'll come back to the bar? And what specific time? Alright, that was a bit creepy...
He felt Yuuri pressing something into his hand.
Viktor looked down to see a piece of paper, and as he unfolded it, he saw a handwritten phone number.
Yuuri smiled at him, shyly. "I'll be here for another two weeks."
Thank Jesus or whatever controlled the Universe for creating the Earth.