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Silver Winters

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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.”

Ah, warlocks.

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?”

“Nope.”

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.

Viktor sighed.

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?”

“Exactly.”

“Okay,” Chris laughed, briefly serving drinks to a costumer before going back to Viktor. “How do you want to feel in the morning?”

“Like shit.”

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?”

Yuuri nodded.

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.

Viktor sighed.

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.”

Bingo.

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.

Chapter Text

St. Petersburg, 1918 AD

Yuuri sat in the small space of his flat alone, awaiting the impending doom upon those whom he had so wrongfully brought it upon.

Being what he was in a time like so wasn’t particularly ideal, but he had come for a job, and stayed for a woman he loved. She had not cared about Yuuri being technically Japanese to begin with, and even as she knew he was a warlock, she didn’t care about that either.

“You’re Yuuri Katsuki and whatever else about you defines you, too.” She had told him, her whitish blonde hair beautiful as they lay underneath the covers of his bed. Her perfume was the smell of roses, pleasant and dangerous, but so undeniably her regardless. “And all of them, everything about you, I loved those too.”

He wondered if she’d still love him after knowing what he came to Russia for.

But he had done something right, hadn’t it? He has. He needed to think that he had. It needed to be done, it needed to end, the Romanov Dynasty. Years and years of bloodshed had fallen upon Russia and many others all these years, so Yuuri should think about what he could do to help it rise again.

But Yuuri wasn’t a Russian man. He wasn’t born there, a place so beautiful he might as well choose to settle in it for the rest of his unending life, he had no right to meddle with its affairs and ruin what was once it’s former glory.

He clutched at the edge of his armchair with a force that might break it, calming the thumping of his heart. Hot, white energy rushed through him, inexplicable and destructive, with a force to cover a nation in ashes if he wanted it to be.

Someone knocked on his door.

Yuuri got up promptly, straightened his tie, and went to open it.

Standing behind his door, was Phichit, covered in sweat and carrying a leather suitcase. Phichit had been in New Orleans for the better half of the last two decades, writing him letters to make sure everything was fine, and the reason for him being there all of the sudden is nothing but obvious.

“Come on in, Phichit.” Yuuri stepped away from the door, leaving Phichit to come in on his own.

Phichit rushed inside, closed the door as quickly as he could, almost shoving at it as he went. Without even removing his hat, Phichit looked to Yuuri with a glare. “I thought you were done with all this.”

“With what?” Yuuri went to the kitchen, looking for a teapot and scoured the cupboards for some decent green tea. Or camomile. Or thyme. Anything.

“Yuuri.”

“If you don’t say it out loud, Phichit, I won’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The hexing spells,” Phichit followed him to the kitchen, suitcase still in hand, as was his overcoat, gloves, and red scarf. “You said you wanted to change things for the better and you did. You have. You avoided all things related to killing people, to putting them in jeopardy—”

“I have,” Yuuri replied coldly, accidentally knocking the teacups in his frustration. “Tsar Nikolai knew what was coming for him. I didn’t use a killing curse, Phichit. I just made sure he stumbled.”

“By making sure the Russo economy is in shambles,” Phichit replied to him in such a demanding tone, that even Yuuri didn’t recognize it. “Destroying the dynasty is one thing, Yuuri. But to have many other individuals lose jobs? How many do you think are just about ready to give up their daughters to brothels just because this happened?”

Yuuri turned to him, leaning against the table with a steaming cup of tea in hand, eyes blank. “So you prefer that I killed the Tsar directly as opposed to what I have done?”

“Yuuri...”

“Although, to be honest, that would’ve been a bad plan. Someone could just take over and we’d be back to where we were.” Yuuri noted. “You want some tea?”

But Phichit didn’t reply.

Phichit was looking at Yuuri with something—something Yuuri couldn’t explain. It was like meeting someone for the first time, only that Phichit was either extremely angry at him or downright terrified. Phichit had witnessed the many things Katsuki Yuuri had become throughout the years, reacted to them with surprise and worry, but never with animosity. Never with disappointment. Never with fear.

Yuuri clutched at the edge of the table, hard.

“I’ll have you know,” Phichit looked to Yuuri straight in the eye, his knuckles whitening from the strong grip on the handle of his suitcase. “That they’re executing the whole Romanov family tonight.”

Yuuri dropped the tea cup in his hand.

The expensive china shattered on the floor, breaking into a million different pieces, hot water splashing against Yuuri’s old trousers. The boiling water must have burned him at some point, but he didn’t feel it. He felt excruciatingly numb, like something had fallen over his head and he was crushed beneath it.

Yuuri looked up to Phichit again, to say something, anything, but he saw someone else.

Standing behind Phichit, her blue eyes glassy with shock and fear, was Anika.

Phichit saw Yuuri’s eyes and followed the his line of sight. “Anika—”

“What is he saying, Yuratchka?” Anika was still looking to Yuuri, body trembling visibly from where she stood behind Phichit.

“Zolotse, I—” Yuuri stepped forward.

Anika stepped back.

“Anika, please. Please, listen to me.” Yuuri switched to Russian, garbled foreign language coming out of his lips, his voice low.

Phichit stepped aside, suddenly looking rather distressed, but that didn’t matter right now. He can apologize to Phichit later, he would endure a century seeking that apology, and they would be fine. Anika was different, however. Anika didn’t have a century with him, so he stepped out of the kitchen, following her trail until the door to their bedroom was slammed in front of his face.

Silence.

There was a long, unbearable silence.

“I—I’m sorry.” Phichit’s hands shook, eyes cast down.

“Phi—Phichit, would you please leave?” Yuuri brushed his hair away from his eyes in frustration, not even looking toward his friend as he spoke. “I’ll look for somewhere you can stay, just—”

“It’s fine,” Phichit said. “It’s fine, Yuuri. I understand. I can find some place on my own.”

And then he was gone.

Yuuri could hear Anika crying from behind the door, whimpering noises shooting shards of glass through Yuuri’s heart. Other than that, there was nothing else he could hear. Phichit wasn’t there anymore, and he wasn’t sure if Anika was ever going to look at him the same way again. It was as if suddenly the only two people he loved—the two people he held dear—were suddenly so far away.


 St. Petersburg, 2016 AD

There was dust all over Yuuri’s apartment when he arrived.

Well, after almost a century of not inhibiting the place, he knew it was likely to happen. And since Yuuri wasn’t about to leave his neighbours wondering how he could’ve cleaned up all the dust and garbage alone, he called for cleaning services and made sure to leave a hefty tip before he left—his thanks to them cleaning after a hundred year’s worth of dust and to let them know he had enough money to pay for the antiques he owned.

They weren’t antiques when he bought them, but you get the picture.

When he came back from Madame Lilia’s place, the apartment was thoroughly clean, his favourite resting chair looking very welcoming. He immediately crossed the room and plopped unto it, feeling the soft cushions underneath him, relishing in the sent of the room that smelled of Anika’s perfume.

The current name on the deed was addressed to Katsuki Yuuri. He was supposedly the grandson of Daisuke Volkov, born from a Russian father and a woman who came from a line of a Japanese immigrants that came to Russia a few generations prior.

Yuuri has lived many false lives throughout the centuries, for both his protection and to keep the nosy ones away, and it was nice starting introductions with his own name again. Every so often he would change it again and again, moving from one place to another.

Daisuke was not the kind of man that Anika Sokolova’s family liked, mostly because of the implications of Yuuri being Japanese at the time they met, but this never stopped Anika from running away and eloping with him. In retrospect though, that had seemed like what she would’ve done all along.

Snorting at the memory, Yuuri rose from the resting chair and moved his furniture around, making sure that the living room was clear of any obstructions. He rolled the carpets and put them aside, went to get something from his shopping bags, and came back with a jar of salt.

Bending over, he generously poured the salt unto the floor, and began to create a small white circle with it. Yuuri didn’t actually need the protection barrier like most warlocks do, but it did save him some time and energy, so he didn’t mind.

He was about to go get something else when his phone rang. He ran to his satchel and went to grab it from the kitchen counter, smiled as soon as he saw the caller I.D., and answered. “Phichit.”

“How’s my boy doing?”

Yuuri pursed his lips in disgust. “Why do you sound like a teenager?”

“I am a teenager.”

“You’re five hundred years old, Chulanont,” Yuuri muttered, setting the jar of salt on the table. “Besides, you look twenty-one, not eighteen.”

“Christ, thanks for that.” Phichit feigned overdramatic relief. “Otherwise, I’d be trapped in an eternity of trying to get fake I.D.s”

Yuuri smirked. “And that’s what worries you? I can’t believe I’m not surprised.”

“Uh, some party pooper you are. I just wanted to hear myself saying it, okay?" There were shuffling sounds coming from the other line. "Oh, come on. Don’t tell me you never listened to Shaggy a few years back...”

“Who the hell is Shaggy?”

He could hear Phichit take a deep breath, held it, and belted out into a song. “Honey came in and she caught me red-handed creeping with the girl next door...

Oh no.

“Oh my god, shut up!”

...Picture this, we were both butt-naked banging on the bathroom floor...

“Phichit!”

...how could I forget that I had given her an extra key...

“I hated that song!”

...all this time she was standing there she never took her eyes off me.

“Phichit, I swear to god—”

“But you won’t do anything, will you?” Phichit laughed heartily, like the way he always did. Even centuries of war and famine couldn’t put Phichit’s grand mood down. “I liked that song! Makes me feel so young.”

“I know. You were playing it over and over again on the freaking cassette radio,” Yuuri put his head in his hands, thankful that his friend had stopped singing the monstrosity for a song. “I remember you broke my old pen because you kept rewinding the tape. Jesus.”

“Only because your geezer ass didn’t want to buy a VCR.” Phichit said. “And hey, I replaced that fountain pen!”

“VCRs were very expensive back then,” Yuuri frowned. “And yes, you replaced it with a bad quality mechanical one. That was a nice dip pen I brought from Victorian London. It was a dip pen, not a fountain pen.”

“But Yuuri,” Phichit’s voice practically made it obvious how he’s pouting. “Victorian London was a bore.”

“I liked that time, though,” Yuuri sighed. Well, it wasn’t much, but he liked the false glamour about it. Victorian London was a nice time for the arts and literature, but it also smelled of urine, opium, shit, and Syphylis. “Anyway, why are you calling? I’m in the middle of something.”

“Ohhh, is it Madame Baranovskaya’s request? Or Orlov’s?”

“Orlov wanted me to kill someone, so no,” Yuuri leaned back into the old, wooden dining table. “Baranovskaya requested a tracking spell but I had to do it at home. She also served me some Earl Grey.”

“Ew,” Phichit feigned a gagging noise. “Tracking spell for what?”

Yuuri shouldn’t be sharing any of this to anyone else, but it was Phichit, so there was no harm in it.

“For an adopted child,” he said, paused for a long while, and spoke again. “I’m afraid she might be tracking down an abused child, Phichit. She’s rich and looked like she could very well raise the kid, but if someone wanted to run away—”

“Yuuri...”

“I know,” he groaned. “It’s not my problem, I know. It’s going to be the kid’s. But I still can’t help but feel bad about it.”

“She didn’t ask you to murder him so I guess she isn’t all that cruel,” Phichit pointed out, voice steady over the phone. “I know you’re trying hard not to do anything bad, but as long as there is no direct harm done, we can’t do anything but comply. It’s a tracking spell, Yuuri. Just do it, report your progress, and get your ass back in Detroit so we could talk about it over a few glasses of wine.”

Silence.

Phichit cleared his throat. “Are we clear?”

“Crystal.”

A pause.

“Do you,” Phichit exhaled, sounding like he was hesitating. He was probably looking for a new topic to derail them from the sudden nosedive into the glumness. “Do you have an appropriate amulet to cast the spell on?”

Yuuri blinked. “Oh,” he shifted on his feet. “I haven’t checked. I didn’t bring everything from this apartment so there ought to be something.”

“Alright, I’ll be off meeting some clients tonight,” he said. “I better go!”

“Sure,” Yuuri held himself against the table, fingers tracing the intricate carvings on the edge. He remembered having it made to match the coffee table in the drawing room. “Take care of yourself.”

“Yuuri.”

“Yes, Phichit?”

“Careful.”

Yuuri asked him to do the same and ended the call. Yuuri sighed and leaned heavily on the table. It wasn’t so bad, the job. He’ll be getting quite the compensation for it, too.

He thought about it, living a normal life by looking for a decent day job at a book store or something, leave after a decade, start anew somewhere again—but that would have driven him mad. Looking for something inconspicuous of a job was one thing, having to never find anything constant in his life was another.

For those who never actually tasted eternity, it would seem desirable, some sort of power that made him invincible. But Yuuri wasn’t invincible, one wrong step and he could snap, and with the kind of power he bore within him, he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t cause damage to anyone else.

Some warlocks spend their eternities with their hearts growing cold, stirring up chaos to fuel their own boredom, and Yuuri would never forgive himself if he allowed his heart to harden the way the other’s did.

For a few moments, he just stood there, willing his mind to concentrate. No, if this went on even further he was going to lose control—and how pathetic that would be. What kind of warlock loses control over a simple tracking spell?

He took a deep breath, set his phone aside, and straightened his clothes.

He went to the snuffbox and opened it, retrieved the lock of golden hair, and placed it at the center of the protective barrier. Yuuri went to get three fat candles from his grocery bag, positioned them in a triangle around the circle, and lit them with the lighter from his pocket. He raided the drawers for something he might use to cast his enchantment on—a necklace, a pendant, anything at all—and then something fell.

A velvet ring box, untouched by the dust despite the years, and Yuuri stared as it rolled on the floor and stopped at his feet. With shaking hands, he bent down to retrieve it, fumbling as he opened the ring box—and found Anika’s Sapphire ring.

The engagement ring he had given her so many years ago.

Yuuri stared down at it, almost very still and tense as he was hunched over the drawers. He closed his eyes. It was too late to go back to Detroit and have something sent over wasn’t it? He needed a gem, something very much like the amulet now resting on his palm, and it would cost a fortune to get something similar. There hadn’t been anything else in the apartment because Anika had wanted all her jewellery donated to a nearby orphanage—so Daisuke had done as he was asked, gave them all up but one.

He couldn’t give up what little memory she had left.

Yuuri closed his fists around it for a moment, feeling his self-control coming back to him as his fingernails dug into his skin. He could feel his breathing slightly even out, the unthinkable jitters slowly leaving his body. He didn’t know how long it had been, but as soon as he calmed down, he felt sweat dripping down his face.

It was times like those he wondered if it was better to let his heart turn to stone.


Viktor was walking through the streets of the nearby neighbourhood when he felt it.

A strong, almost inexplicable pulse of energy pumping through his chest, like a deep foreboding human instinct to run away. Warlock activity. Nothing too strong to be entirely destructive, but one can never be too cautious about them.

Viktor looked down at himself.

He was covered in grime and black blood, anyone who saw him might take him for a nut job (or worse, a murderer), so it wasn’t the best time to waltz into an apartment complex so early that evening. He fumbled around for his short sword, unlatched the sling of its scabbard, then shed his jacket. He went to look for a face towel and removed whatever dirt was on his face to make himself look at least presentable.

He had a loose grey shirt, dark trousers, and hard shoes. Nothing too suspicious about him, except that he hid a small throwing knife inside his left boot. He found a place to hide his jacket and sword for the mean time, making sure they won’t get stolen.

Viktor exhaled, hoping to calm his nerves. It’s alright, he wasn’t about to barrel into someone’s apartment in the attempt to kill them. He was just there, passing by, making sure that nothing particularly dangerous was happening.

If a warlock was in the business of casting good luck spells or whatever similar, he’ll leave them alone. Warlocks were free to do those. Viktor was there to make sure he didn’t walk into someone casting a hex on somebody else—because that would be pretty unfortunate for them both.

It wasn’t like Viktor hasn’t done it before, killing. He has, more than he ever wanted to, and he always hoped he never had to do it again. 

Viktor got up, brushed off the dirt on his trousers, and went to the front door without thinking. Someone stepped out of the complex, though, his hair a dark shadow in the setting sun.

Yuuri.

“Oh, hello.” Yuuri was looking at him with a smile, and the only thing Viktor could do was to resist turning into a pathetic puddle of nerves.

“Hi,” he said.

What was he supposed to do again?

“Um,” Yuuri looked down with his face slightly flushed and hesitant, but as he looked up to Viktor again, his smile had returned. “Are you busy?”

“Uh—” Viktor stammered uncontrollably, looking up at the apartment where he’s headed.

The spell activity stopped.

“No,” Viktor said. “No, not at all. W-why?”

Yuuri turned to the building behind him. “Did you need to go visit somebody?”

“No,” Viktor responded eloquently. “I was just crossing the road.”

Goddammit.

“Okay,” Yuuri chuckled a little. “Would you want some coffee? I haven’t been to St. Petersburg, so I was thinking you could help me.”

“Sure,” Viktor found himself nodding automatically. Whatever the hell he was in for that evening, he didn’t know, but he sure was aware that he wasn’t prepared for it in the slightest. He just hoped it didn’t turn out to be a disaster. “Sure. Definitely. What kind do you like?”


Yuuri probably shouldn’t be doing this.

He shouldn’t be allowing himself to go get coffee with someone he had just met, someone he was more likely to never see again. Yuuri wasn’t planning on coming back to Russia for a while, the horrible cold winter season not being the only reason, and establishing connections was a waste of time. Sometimes, painful. Most times, frustrating.

But Viktor was beautiful—a tall, young man with hair like spun silk and eyes like the early morning waters of Hasetsu. He was also a bit clumsy, stammering adorably from time to time, despite the air of confidence he so often exuded. And besides—

“What kind of business are you in?” Viktor looked up at him from his coffee. “If you don’t mind me nosing about, I mean.”

Yuuri rubbed the blue gem in his pocket. “I’m an antique collector,” Yuuri answered quickly, making sure his voice was steady but otherwise interested. “I’ve been looking for some furniture or anything alike.”

“I know some thrift shops nearby. I can go with you.” Viktor said to him, looking a bit eager. Then, as if realizing something all of the sudden, he began to wave his hands around, face slightly red. “But you can definitely say no if you want to! I’m not—I’m really not—”

Who could say no to that?

Yuuri chuckled, leaning forward a little so he could see Viktor’s face better. “Yes.”

Viktor went silent for a moment, eyes wide.

“Yes,” Yuuri repeated. “I’d love it if you took me there.”

“Okay,” Viktor muttered, looking for something in his pockets. “Should we go now, or—I mean, the shop closes in three hours, so it’s better if we started walking right now.”

“Well, only if you let me finish my coffee first,” Yuuri teased.

Viktor looked down to their table—two mugs of coffee still half-empty, some desserts untouched, a few biscuits unfinished. “Oh,” Viktor frowned, mostly for himself. “Okay, don’t feel too pressured to finish it, then.”

Yuuri grinned. “You, too.”

The small antique shop turned out to not have been very far, about a few blocks away from the café, sandwiched between two bigger establishments. It looked more similar to a local thrift shop than a dedicated antique establishment, with more common items too new to be considered valuable—but maybe that was just Yuuri.

He was, after all, literally ancient. What does ‘antique’ even mean?

Yuuri went browsing around for a while. Most of the items were women’s clothing and accessories, but there were small furniture pieces such as coffee tables for large drawing rooms and cupboards with beautiful flower carvings.

He stopped when he saw something glint in the far corner of the store. Yuuri walked absentmindedly to see what it was, and saw an old, Polaroid One Step Flash 600. They probably went out of sale years ago.

“Found something you liked?” Viktor approached from behind, footsteps almost inaudible.

Yuuri went to look for the price tag. “Maybe.”

“Do you like photography?”

“It doesn’t like me,” Yuuri chuckled. “But I have a friend who’s good at taking photos.” He beckoned Viktor to follow him to the counter, picking their way through large vases and wooden jewellery boxes. Yuuri was greeted by a lady with a warm smile, which he returned. “Do you have any film packs for this camera?”

The lady went on to look for something behind the counter, rummaging through some really weird items that had Yuuri wondering why they were there. As he looked to Viktor, he found that the other had been staring at Yuuri, almost unbeknownst to himself and it was…well, it was adorable.

“How about you?” Yuuri asked.

Viktor, who had apparently been caught staring again, finally snapped out of his trance. “Oh, um—what do you mean?”

“Don’t you want anything?”

Viktor looked to one corner of the room again, eyes darting across the shelves on the right. “I’m waiting for the new books to come in,” he said. “Well, new stocks of old books, that is.”

“You like collecting books?”

“Old books,” Viktor smiled, looking a bit embarrassed. “Some of the first edition copies are printed in the original language. I have tons in French, but I don’t know what to do with the ones I have in German.”

The lady at the counter found a few packs of film, but she warned him that they were already expired. That wasn’t too bad. Phichit’s inner artist would probably like the unexpected ways the photos are going to turn out. So he paid for the camera and the whole stock of films, looking to Viktor again as the lady was packing the items for him.

“I can read one for you,” Yuuri said, almost offhandedly. “In Russian, I mean.”

A smile slowly formed on Viktor’s pretty face. “You can do it in English if you want to.”

“Ah, trust me,” Yuuri said. “I’m actually great with translations. At least I try to, nothing’s gone horribly wrong so far, so I guess I’m fine.”

If there was something wonderful about learning so many languages, it was that one could explore as many wonderful pieces of literature as they could and be able to read them as they are.

Mistranslations are one thing, but there are so many things—feelings, context, expressions—that can only be expressed in the way the author intended them to. Books were written with words and formed a sense of art through them, translating half-heartedly would’ve stripped them of those, and it was slightly saddening.

“That would be wonderful,” Viktor smiled, looking down at himself.

“What do you have?”

“Rilke.”

“Lovely,” he looked up at the ceiling, already imagining how he was going to enjoy it.

Viktor’s eyes suddenly looked like they gleamed, delighted by the silent promise of a next meeting.

-

Lilia Baranovskaya’s drawing room looked a lot more different than when Yuuri first came. The rugs have been changed out and the busts and figurines that littered the placed looked very new. He wondered if she just liked changing things very often or just had too much money in her hands.

Yuuri waited while seated on the armchair, his legs crossed, dressed in a fine set of suit and trousers. Phichit had insisted he tried to look presentable for his meetings, otherwise he wouldn’t get as many clients.

Yuuri had only snorted, because that certainly wasn’t the case for a very long time.

He wondered what would happen if he showed up at Lilia’s in nothing but some loose jeans and a t-shirt, and whether she’d still want him to do the job.

Lilia arrived shortly, maids trailing behind her like poor little ducklings, and as she sat, she had asked one of them to serve them some tea. Personally, Yuuri would have wanted some coffee to start the conversation, but it was not the position of the guest to demand.

Earl Grey, it is.

“I didn’t know you’d be back so soon, Mr. Katsuki.” Lilia started without a greeting.

Yuuri was beginning to wonder if she liked warlocks at all. “I find that it’s best to keep my clients posted on the current status of the job. A lot of them do like to change their minds after knowing a thing or two.”

“That makes sense.” Lilia was watching him with close observation, eyes sharp and attentive. He wondered what sort of slip-up she was waiting for him to make, and for what purpose. “But wouldn’t that mean you’ll have to continue tracking him after reporting to me? Isn’t there supposed to be an extra charge?”

“Let’s just say I have my ways of contacting him without the use of spells,” He smiled, bowing his head a little. Yuuri produced a pen and a notepad from his satchel, placed it against his thigh, and began scribbling a few notes. “May I know how long the boy’s been missing?”

“Twelve years.”

A maid carrying a silver tray came into the drawing room, the awful smell of Earl Grey already very noticeable from where Yuuri was seated. “It’s a boy, yes? He should have turned fifteen this year.”

“Yes.”

Yuuri removed his attention from the notepad and looked to Lilia, who hadn’t dropped her gaze since it landed on him. He leaned forward to take the cup of tea in front of him, blowing at the hot steam before he began sipping at it.

Ugh.

“You don’t seem to like Earl Grey very much, Mr. Katsuki,” Lilia observed.

“No, I do not.” He set the cup down gently. “But I’m not here for the tea, Madame.” We went back to look at his notes again, the tip of his pen hovering over the paper. “Does he have green eyes?”

“Yes,” she smiled slyly, looking rather amused. “Your lot’s a weird bunch, isn't it? I mean no offense.”

"None taken." Yuuri finished off writing the last notes in silence, and when that was done, he set his fountain pen aside. “I think that’s just me, Madame.”

Lilia shifted in her seat, but only very slightly, still poised and graceful as ever. “Since we’re talking about clients changing their minds, I do have something I’d like to ask of you again.”

He raised his eyebrows.

“You will be compensated for the extra trouble, of course,” she added.

“Alright,” Yuuri leaned back unto the armchair, swinging his leg absentmindedly. He wasn’t really interested on doing anything else, but since he was already there, he might as well do it. Extra money didn’t cause anyone harm. “I’m listening.”

With the snap of her delicate fingers, all the other servants left the room, leaving only the two of them. “To be honest, Mr. Katsuki, I’d really much rather avoid telling anyone why my son’s gone missing. You’ve heard of warlocks kidnapping babies and young children to take their inner spell power, right?”

Yuuri's whole body stilled as a shiver ran down his spine. “Yes.”

“That’s how it was. I hired a young warlock a few years after the child went missing and requested the same tracking spell, but he could only offer me information on whether the child was dead or alive. He couldn’t track him, not like you, so there must have been an extremely strong cloaking spell.” She sat back unto the chair. “I hired a few others through the years and nothing turned up. Not until now, that is. So the cloaking spell must be strong enough that only you could break through it.”

“What exactly are you asking me, Madame?” Yuuri asked, tone clipped.

“I’ve heard news that the same warlock had returned to Russia. In St. Petersburg—”

“I can cast a protection spell on your house and the people in it, then.” Yuuri cut her off, none too apologetic. “Whoever this culprit is, they haven’t killed the child, but they may come back. The protection spell will be enough.”

Lilia looked to him, her voice suddenly a bit firmer than before. “I want to be rid of them.”

There was silence for a long, long moment. They stared at each other, almost as if their eyes were conveying what they wanted to say in lieu of words, and then, Yuuri decided to break the silence. “If this is revenge, I am not doing it.”

“I know how you practice your profession, Mr. Katsuki. I’ve been told about it before, the noble warlock Yuuri Katsuki, who denies requests causing anything that meant direct harm,” her hand was on one of her knees, fingers digging into her skin. “Don’t think about this as my revenge but the protection of the many other children in the future.”

“That is none of my concern but the council’s,” Yuuri stared back. “You should go and report to them, Madame. Let them take action. I have long disassociated myself with the organization of warlocks and any move I make without their knowledge might displease them.”

“And if I did,” Lilia taunted. “If I did that and they responded months too late, who do you think they’ll come to?”

Yuuri resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

“It’s going to have to come down to you again, won’t it? I doubt any of the members can actually take this one on, not like you.” She smirked. “Speaking of responding months too late, how do you think you’ll feel when several hundreds of children go missing by then, Mr. Katsuki?”


Viktor clutched the hilt of his short sword firmly, black blood dripping at the tip of the blade. He was soaked to the bone by blood that wasn’t his, soaked by blood of something inhuman.

He sensed spell activity down that particular alley that night, and before he could even reach halfway through the dead end, he was already assaulted by four medium-sized demons about his size. So the warlock responsible for the spell was here, then—and none too friendly, too.

He looked around, feet soundless and ears attentive in the darkness, seeking for any sign of anyone who was there.

“Don’t come any closer,” the voice came from the far end of the alley, on the dead-end. Whoever it was, they were comfortable enough to stand there without any other way to run.

That’s alright. Warlocks have underestimated Viktor before, and they regretted it.

“Come out,” Viktor called out from where he stood in the darkness. “You know the killing spell is illegal.”

“Says who?” The voice wasn’t sarcastic—just flat.

Viktor tried squinting, wondering if there was a way for him to see the face of the man in front of him. He was cloaked by shadows, far too dark for Viktor to recognize him—unless he came closer. “The Warlock Council.”

The man snorted. "To hell with those fucks."

“You know that if they don’t apprehend you, we have the right to step in.” Viktor warned, moving his feet even closer.

Flames began to appear in front of Viktor, swelling red in a semi-circle in front of him. “What did I tell you? Don’t come any closer.”

“That’s never stopped me before.”

The flames grew, momentarily rising to Viktor’s height, hot and red and blinding. Then the flames receded again, flickering slightly from the cold wind.

“That’s my last warning.” The man said. “I’ve killed before.”

Without hesitation, Viktor stepped through the barrier of flames and ran as fast as he could, closely avoiding the fires successively shooting through the air.

When he was close, Viktor brought up his short sword, ready to strike—but the warlock had chosen to use his flames on the metal itself, searing Viktor’s palms.

The sword clattered to the ground, smoke billowing from it’s hilt.

The warlock sent flames his way, but Viktor had rolled to the side just in time to avoid it. He tried to get up, but he heard something clatter from above him. As he looked up, he saw a burning piece of metal, glowing orange from the heat. He moved away quickly, his agile body allowing him to slide on the snow-covered ground.

He wasn’t going to win like this.

Viktor found his short sword lying on the corner. Throwing a knife as a distraction, ran to reach for his sword, but the warlock had already been aiming at his direction.

In a race of who attacked first, time slowed. Viktor ran with all he could muster, orange flames began to form in the palm of the warlock’s hand, and then—

Lightning.

There was a bolt of lightning that passed between him and the warlock with a bang, knocking Viktor back a few feet away. It was so bright, blinding Viktor for a few seconds, static echoing harshly in his ears—and then, silence. Coughing, he pulled himself up into a sitting position, but he couldn’t hear himself. He couldn’t hear anything.

Oh god, was he deaf?

Before he could recover from the shock, there were cold hands on his ears, covering them gently. Viktor felt a surge of energy rush through his head, dizzying and abrupt. He jerked away, and then suddenly, the sounds came back—crisp and clear—like he hadn’t gone deaf shortly before that.

Viktor panted for a while, not knowing what to do or think, shock and adrenaline still coursing through him at full speed.

“Lightning, huh.” The warlock in front him seemed dumbfounded, voice cracking a little, and hint of realization dawning on his face. And then he laughed, coughing in between, but delighted nonetheless. He smiled towards Viktor’s direction, sly and exaggerated. “What a way to meet the strongest of us all.”

“That’s enough.” The voice behind Viktor was firm, voice stiff and calm.

Viktor didn’t turn, the hairs on his body suddenly rising.

"Please leave, my friend," the voice said, deeper and a lot more tense, but familiar regardless. "Please leave or you're going to regret it."

Viktor couldn’t exactly put what he suddenly felt in his chest, maybe it was recognition or a sense of dread, but knew for certain that the man behind him was Yuuri.

Yuuri was a warlock.

Chapter Text

St. Petersburg, 2016 AD

Viktor’s head was throbbing. So many things were happening all at once in such a short period of time that he wasn’t sure whether he should believe his own eyes—or his own ears. Both seemed to be very unreliable right about now.

Maybe he had died when the lightning struck, maybe he was stuck somewhere between life and death, because there was no possibility that the blushing young man he’s met at the bar two days ago was the same man who stood behind him.

When his pulse had settled, Viktor had allowed himself to look behind him, and what he saw was astounding—it was Yuuri, but instead of the usual jeans and sweaters, he wore a dark business suit and tie. His hair was pushed back nicely, accentuating the sharp lines of his delicate jaw, his glasses framing his handsome face.

But Viktor shouldn’t be thinking about that right now, should he?

“What brings you to Russia, oh, Eldest One?” The man at the end of the alley was still there. Now that Viktor had a glimpse of him, he could see that he looked a bit obnoxious in a three-piece suit and a fedora. He had a long ponytail going on, but that certainly didn’t add to whatever charm he might have thought he had. “The legendary warlock of lightning, huh? I thought I’d never see the day!”

“And you might never see the next if you keep blabbering like that, child.” Yuuri said, dark as the moonless sky. And oh, how strangely beautiful he was, despite the situation they were in. “You heard what he said, if you’d kept on doing what you did, you would have been apprehended.”

“I’ve heard a lot about you...”

“I’m guessing you might have,” Yuuri replied, very calm and still, hands pushed into the pockets of his trousers. He had a dominant predisposition Viktor hasn’t seen before, something dark and plotting and dangerous.

“I never guessed one with power like yours to be...” the man looked up unto the sky, thinking. “...compliant.”

Yuuri raised his chin. “You’d rather I intentionally struck and stopped your heart while I’m at it?”

"That would have been more exciting, but then again..." The man looked to Viktor again, rather amused this time, staring at him with delighted eyes. “So the rumours are true, then?”

“What rumours?” Viktor spat before he could even think. He was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to be joining the conversation, but he couldn’t help it if he was being stared down like that.

Like he was a dirty secret uncovered.

“Why, you haven’t heard, young man?” The warlock shrugged, dusted something off of his jacket, and smiled slyly. “That the Eldest One was fond of pretty things.”

There was a hand on Viktor’s shoulder, the touch faint as a whisper, and then came Yuuri’s soft voice near his ear. “Cover your ears and close your eyes.”

Without further warning, Yuuri’s arm shot out, a blue shock of electricity sparking from his fingertips. Viktor could do nothing but to follow as instructed, lowering his head between his knees. There was a really loud crack very similar to the sound of thunder, familiar now, static floating through the air as it struck the wall.

As Viktor raised his head, he found that the warlock was already gone.

Did all of that just happen?

He blinked at the scorch marks on the wall. “Where—”

“He escaped,” Yuuri informed him, tone strangely too formal. “I’ll report him to the Council so he could be dealt with immediately.” There was a pause, the sound of crickets filling the air, and then Yuuri spoke again. “What’s gotten into you, facing a fire-wielding one alone like that?”

Instead of actually answering the question, Viktor listened to his instincts and moved away, hand reaching for his sword—but it wasn’t there. He looked around furiously, racking his brain for where it might have fallen, but he couldn’t see where it was.

“Viktor,” Yuuri said, voice a bit gentler now. “I need to finish healing your ears before they get permanently damaged.”

Yuuri stepped closer, but Viktor recoiled instinctively, his shoulder blades hitting the wall behind him. It wasn’t until then that he felt the sudden sharp sting of something painful on his lower back, throbbing dreadfully.

Viktor clutched at his waist, gasping, the pain almost evident now that the adrenaline has left his system. “Move any closer or I’ll—”

“Or what?” Yuuri’s lip curled impatiently. “Your sword’s damaged, and so is your body. You can’t navigate in the dark with your hearing compromised and you can’t win a fist fight with burned hands. Whatever you do, you can’t win. So do not make threats you cannot back up.”

He frowned, finding himself rising to the unspoken challenge. “Try me.”

Yuuri stepped closer.

Viktor moved back, stupidly forgetting about the wall behind him. He lost his balance, legs buckling, and then he slid unto the dirty ground with a thump. Yuuri did have a point—Viktor was an idiot. If the fire warlock didn’t do anything but flee in the presence of Yuuri, what more could have Viktor done? Stupid.

Yuuri reached out to him, pale hand extended. “Let me—”

Viktor kicked at the ground helplessly, dust flying. “No!”

Yuuri stopped approaching, stared at Viktor for a long while, and sighed. He stepped closer, then closer, hand hovering over Viktor’s head. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry, but this is for your own good.”

Static, then blue sparks.

And after that, everything went black.

-

Viktor woke up to the sound of porcelain clinking. His vision was hazy at first, not registering the unfamiliar ceiling over his head, and then—is that tea? Was Mila finally coming to her senses and was helping him out in the morning?

But then again, this wasn’t his bedroom.

He shot up into a sitting position, but his back throbbed. Wincing, he reluctantly laid back down unto the sheets. He was wearing the same hunting clothes he wore the night before, save for his jacket, which would’ve stained the sheets he was lying on. And oh, they were extremely comfortable sheets, if only Viktor know where the hell he was.

“You’re up early,” A voice came from the far corner of the room, the smell of camomile tea a lot stronger now. He recognized that voice. Why was he there again?

Viktor peered at the person on the doorway.

Yuuri.

He was holding a steaming cup in his hands, hair now dishevelled from sleep, wearing a loose pair of sweatpants and a black t-shirt. Viktor tried to get up as abruptly as he could again, but the pain came back as soon as he moved. He struggled for a while, groaning, probably looking like a helpless moron by the way he was squirming.

Yuuri snorted. “If I had wanted to do anything with you, I would have done it already,” he said, walking across the room the put the cup and saucer on the nightstand beside the bed. His voice was casual, unperturbed, and most likely unthreatened. “If I’m being honest with you, the couch really isn’t the place I wanted to sleep in, not when I spent a lot of money on this bed. Then again, I was never known to be rude to my guests.”

“Who are you?” Viktor glared at him.

Yuuri blinked at him like Viktor was an imbecile. “I believe we’ve already met,” he said. “And your short sword is on the other night stand. Its edges were damaged, but you could probably get a nice blacksmith around these parts to sharpen them at least. How are you feeling?”

Viktor opened his mouth to say something, but the words didn’t come.

“Viktor,” Yuuri sighed, dragging the syllables of Viktor’s name with as much exasperation manageable. Viktor would have liked the sound of it if he wasn’t so confused. “I did just saved you back there and you still think I have other plans?”

“Why?”

“Do I need a reason?”

“But—” Viktor swallowed, his words hardly coming out the way he wanted them too. “But aren’t warlocks supposed to be...detached? Didn’t you just save me back there because you thought there would be merit in doing so?”

Yuuri frowned at him, looking rather genuinely offended by Viktor’s sudden honesty. But wasn’t that true, though? Weren’t warlocks supposed to act on logic as opposed to instinct? On merit and politics as opposed to emotions and human connections. Whatever this was, Viktor truly did not understand.

Lost in his own thoughts, Viktor started when he felt something being handed to him. He looked down and found his phone, the screen sporting an awful crack, but it started up when he turned it on. Yuuri wordlessly handed him one end of a charger, plugging the other into a socket near the nightstand. “If you’ve got people waiting for you, it’s best that you call or text them,” Yuuri said. “I’ll finish up healing you this morning. It’s not much, so maybe you could go home this afternoon.”

Viktor’s jaw went slack. “But I don’t have money.”

And yet again, Yuuri looked at him incredulously. He waved his hand at Viktor dismissively and sighed. “I told you, I’m healing you because I want to,” he moved away from the bed and toward the door. “I’ll be making breakfast. If you feel like you could stand, you’re welcome to the dining room. I’ll be bringing some food in here if you can’t.”

And then he was out of the door.

Viktor browsed through his phone, quickly assaulted by several angry texts from Yura and a few winky faces from Mila. So Yura was channelling Yakov and Mila thought he might have hooked up with someone. What a great set of friends Viktor had.

Still, if he wasn’t going to return by tomorrow, they were going to assume that he had died somewhere. They’d probably try to look for him, but that was it.

First, he was going to have to prove to Yuuri that he was fine and hardly needed any help. It didn’t look like he was being held prisoner, so an escape wasn’t necessary—or was it? Despite those, he wasn’t getting anything by just lying around, so he tried to get up. He managed to sit up this time, felt something snug around his hips (bandages, he noticed), and was able to slowly stand.

Wincing, Viktor made his way out of the bedroom, and found what looked to be a nice apartment.

It was clean and devoid of clutter, decorated with a few paintings here and there. It was like stepping into a time capsule, all things kept simple, no sign of a television or anything alike. The furniture looked old but gleaming, made of varnished wood that had intricate carvings. Two large shelves of books stood proudly on one corner, and next to them was a phonograph situated on top of a tall metal table painted gold.

What caught his eye, however, was a stack of vinyl records neatly stacked near the gramophone. Taking advantage of the fact that Yuuri was still in the kitchen, Viktor went to it and went browsing about mindlessly. He found out that it was a rather old collection, mostly classical Western and Russian music no later than the 1920s.

“Found something you might like?” Yuuri was standing by the door to the kitchen, his arms folded in front of his chest, relaxed and welcoming. He was smiling, Viktor noticed.

Viktor stared at him, though he wasn’t thinking too cryptically. “You have an old collection.”

Yuuri waved a dismissive hand. “Yeah, sorry about that. I haven’t been in town since the 20s.”

Viktor was struck by the sheer casualness Yuuri made it sound, like it was no big deal that he’s been in Russia far longer than any currently living human being has.

It must be the lack of barriers now that they both knew what each other was, but Viktor can’t help but feel that there bloomed a sudden level of unease between the both of them. They were fine yesterday, when Yuuri had asked him to grab coffee, because then Viktor hasn’t seen how Yuuri can be. Maybe Viktor was afraid.

“Are you afraid?” Yuuri asked, somehow managing to echo Viktor’s thoughts.

“No,” He replied stiffly.

Mind reading?

“But you look uneasy.”

Maybe not.

He wondered how many times Yuuri had done this, trying to make someone comfortable with the idea that he was something inhuman. Someone who couldn’t age or die. Someone who cannot be touched by time.

“It’s just that I have never met a warlock I never needed to kill.”

So much for being cautious.

Yuuri raised his eyebrows, but he didn’t look angry or offended. “How many?”

He wondered if he should have avoided saying anything altogether. His chest constricting, Viktor exhaled. “Six.”

Yuuri made a move to go back to the kitchen. “Okay.”

Okay?”

The other paused, head swivelling back to Viktor’s direction. “What?”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Nothing,” Yuuri blinked, looking like he wondered why Viktor was asking in the first place. “It’s not a big number, is all.”

Viktor’s hands went very, very still. What was he saying? Was it supposed to mean anything? Was Yuuri testing him? Was he supposed to react in a certain appropriate manner?

“The Clan in Milan are far more strict,” Yuuri said, voice still steady. “Most of them would have killed ten warlocks by the age of eighteen.”

“So you’d rather I’ve killed more?”

“I don’t know. But you seemed to have expected me to recoil as soon I knew about how much blood is in your hands,” Yuuri shrugged. “Not that you can. Kill me, that is.”

Not giving Viktor the time to react, Yuuri retreated back into the kitchen. Was that supposed to be a threat? Or a challenge? Did he know Viktor suspected he was being held up and wanted to leave as soon as he could?

Before he could even do much else, Yuuri was already back, plates in hand. He set them on a table near the large windows, the dining table, and gestured for Viktor to come closer.

Viktor kept his feet planted on the floor.

Seeing this, Yuuri sighed. “Would you prefer that we have some food delivered?”

“No,” Viktor answered thoughtlessly. “I’m just—”

“Uncomfortable,” Yuuri finished the sentence for him. “If you insist that I’m doing this out of merit, Viktor, then you should know that poisoning you wouldn’t have made sense. If I wanted to kill you, I would already have, what with the opportunity I’ve had for the last twelve hours.”

“I—”

“You can also check if there’s spell activity happening, and if you’re still unconvinced by then, you’re free to scour the apartment for some residue.” Yuuri looked rather defeated, but never irritated. He must have done this a few times, but for whom? “So do you want me to call the nearest restaurant or not?”

“No, it’s fine,” Viktor sputtered. “I—do you mind?”

The fuck.

Finally, Yuuri laughed, the tension suddenly leaving his face. He had a beautiful face. “Of course, I don’t.” He shook his head. “Do you like coffee?”

And as if there was something else the bloomed inside of Viktor, his lips curled into a smile. “Black, thank you.”

If it were a mistake, he didn’t know. If it were a dangerous one, then...he was used to that, wasn’t he?


 Paris, 1745

Yuuri was fascinated by the idea of war.

Not the bloodshed, no—that would’ve been extremely cruel, even for him. However, he never found anything to be relatively exciting since Bach’s first cantata in 1707. So naturally, upon hearing about such ridiculous things happening over in England, Yuuri packed his backs and left Prussia to witness the this so called fight for the throne.

He’s been lurking around London for three years before he came to Paris, mostly just sharing gossip and getting his hands on better information by taking a few courtiers to bed—Frankly, it was too easy, what with Englishmen not knowing what a tongue is for.

And that, was what Yuuri loved about the war. It’s intricacies, its betrayals, its ability to ruin both parties regardless if they come out as victors or not. He revelled in knowing secrets even without the purpose of doing so, just pure entertainment.

Later on, he found England to be quite a bore. George II was mostly unaware of the Scots slowly defecting, gathering as much money for the enemy’s return, and yet Yuuri wasn’t seeing anything close to tension. He could go to Edinburgh, maybe uncover a few secrets along the way, but even thinking about riding a horse for days started to wear him down.

Besides, he didn’t want to waste some spell power on highway men looking to rob him. That would have been extremely unfortunate for them, and exhausting for him.

So he took the next ship to Paris and went about meeting a few dukes and ladies in support of the Bonnie Prince, finding the cheap wine in the regular grandiose parties more interesting than the woman speaking to him at the moment.

“My sweet, would you care for some more wine?” She asked, her French drawl slightly tinged with obvious foreign accent. It was as if she wasn’t even trying to hide that she was British, mocking the beautiful language with her unpleasant lack of proper diction.

He wasn’t drunk yet, but Yuuri had already forgotten her name.

But he smiled, rather charmingly, because that was how these parties worked. “Of course, mon chou.” She didn’t bother to hide her blush as Yuuri spoke. “But I believe your husband is looking for you.”

She looked up and followed Yuuri’s gaze, toward a hideous man amidst the sea of skirts and wigs, looking around the crowd of pretentious people.

Instead of backing away, she looked to Yuuri again, and smiled. “He’s currently inebriated, I’m afraid. Oh, what a thing to deal with at the moment, don’t you think?” Her voice dropped down to a whisper, hands snaking around Yuuri’s arm. “Would you mind taking me for a walk in the gardens, my darling?”

This so called walk to the gardens was obviously not an invitation for just that. The bushes were actually commonplace for doing unspeakable things, and as he stared at the woman beside him—still young for a bride—he thought it couldn't be a bad idea.

The room was already filing with mutterings about the arrival of Prince Charlie, but Yuuri could get back to that as soon as he’s made the woman beside him sore. Besides, though the Bonnie Prince was pretty, he didn’t seem all that interested in men.

He smiled faintly, understanding the true intent of the offer. “It would be my pleasure.”

Yuuri’s suspicions were confirmed as soon as he was being shoved unto the grass, the woman trapping him between her thighs. She leaned close, kissing him hotly, all teeth and spit and revolting wine. He responded by reaching underneath her skirts, feeling the smooth skin there, running his hands in places that made her squirm.

She pulled back to look at Yuuri, her fingers running down his cheek, eyes hungry and wanting. “How are you this beautiful, mon ange?”

“Not as beautiful as you, Madame,” he smiled.

Upon hearing the compliment, she was back to kissing Yuuri again, harder this time. Her hands worked down his breeches, looking to undo it—

And she froze.

Not that she paused momentarily, but it was as if she had stopped moving completely. Like a rock.

Startled, Yuuri looked up to see a man shamelessly standing a few steps away from where they were. He had dark skin, well-dressed for a man of his kind, leaning on a walking stick in his hand. He seemed to be smiling, not bothering to hide the amusement on his face.

“Is there something you need?” Yuuri asked, frowning.

The man shrugged and snapped his fingers. As soon as he did so, the woman on top of Yuuri moved, buckling forwards and inhaling deeply. Yuuri had almost forgotten freezing someone like that for a long time was enough to suffocate them. If the new face released her any longer than he did, she would have turned blue and fainted.

The woman, however, didn’t know what was happening. She looked confused, head darting toward the nameless man, on her lips a bewildered question. “Phichit! How—how did you—”

“As much as I’d love to stand here and watch, dear Madame,” he cut her off, lifting his walking cane and appeared to be pointing at something with it. “I must sadly inform you that your husband is walking this way. If you don’t collect yourselves, it’s going to such be an—”

Without another word, the woman got off of Yuuri, bounding off elsewhere in embarrassment.

Yuuri stayed where he was.

“Maybe try the unmarried ones next time?” The man grinned.

“Who wants that?” Yuuri snorted. Because who would want to fuck inexperienced women far too reserved to open their mouths for a man’s cock?

“Someone who was about to find himself in an illegal duel.”

Yuuri turned his head to squint at the man, thinking back on the woman’s husband. The said husband was old and inebriated, short and most likely to fumble with a training sword. “I think I can manage cutting him open.” Yuuri snorted, beginning to feel slightly irritated. “I’m actually quite good with a sword.”

“Ah, yes.” The man laughed. “And it’s going to send you to prison, too.”

“Please go away,” Yuuri huffed, annoyed and in need of more wine. “If you think I’m afraid of you warlock, then know that I can be a bit reckless sometimes.”

“Of course, you’re not. Afraid, that is.” The man started walking away, whistling a soft tune that resembled Bach’s first cantata. “A man with recklessness such as yours could mean that he is a warlock as well. And a strong one, to challenge a wind-wielder.”

“I—” Yuuri opened his mouth, then shut it again.

“I find this party to be quite a bore,” the man mused, awfully nonchalant of the situation they were in, as if it was something he was used to. He turned to face Yuuri again, smile bright and welcoming. “Would you care to scour the Parisian streets for better wine with me, my friend?”


 St. Petersburg, 2016 AD

“Have you heard of the Eldest One before, Mila?” Viktor asked casually, kicking a punching bag without putting much thought into it.

As promised, Yuuri finished healing him before night fell. As soon as he was making his way down the underground chambers, he was already good as new, no sign of pain or damaged hearing. It was as if nothing had changed, save for the fact that his short sword now had a jagged blade and needed to be tempered again. Even Yuuri seemed to be strangely casual about it, like he had just told Viktor his favourite colour and not much else.

Mila was sitting on the rickety bench where Viktor usually sat, munching on some crackers. Her arm didn’t need that much care anymore, but Sara insisted on keeping it on a sling for another three days, just in case Mila was thinking about running out into the night or went to train again.

“You mean the mythical warlock?” Mila asked, eyes trailed on the floor. “It’s all over our history books, why?”

“Mythical?”

“Uh, yes?” Mila shrugged. “No one’s actually mentioned them since ages ago, so we all kind of assumed they never really existed. Like an all-powerful mythical hero.”

Viktor drove his fist harder than he should have. “How powerful?”

“You don’t know?”

“Not a lot,” He twisted around to kick at the punching bag, ducked when it swung back, and grabbed it to make contact with his knee. “It’s been years since I had any tutoring.”

“I can imagine,” Mila snorted. He waited for a joke to come, something related to him overworking or growing too old. Learning about their histories was something Viktor did when he was ten, something required of him, and as soon he was done he’s never visited the library again. “But they’re not supposed to be the first warlock or something like that, just the oldest living one since no one could ever seem to kill them.”

“And this power comes from?”

“Vesuvius.”

Viktor stopped for a moment, suddenly feeling very, very weary. He was going at it for hours now, training to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with him. A recalibration, nothing more. “The volcano?”

“The eruption,” Mila leaned back against the wall, crackers forgotten on the bench. “There’s still a debate on whether the warlock actually caused the eruption or not, but the common conclusion was that they absorbed the spell power from those who perished in Pompeii and Herculaneum. That alone makes for a very devastating power, plus, it was said that the Eldest One’s the only warlock capable of wielding lightning.”

“Huh,” Viktor stepped away from the punching bag, knuckles now reddening from what he was doing. Though he still felt like that wasn’t enough, so he went on to scour the collection of knives hidden in the wooden cabinets. Maybe throwing something was going to lessen the way his head was spinning. “What do we think about them, then?”

“You meant the Clans?” Mila began to walk over to Viktor, sifting through the knives with him. When he gave her a dirty look, she grinned and backed away. “If there’s an opportunity, kill them, of course. We don’t want a war starting up, but we most definitely do not want an enemy like that.”

“So they think he’s real?”

Mila raised her eyebrows. “He?”

“Just an assumption,” Viktor answered quickly. He didn’t know exactly why he was protecting Yuuri. Maybe he was just being dumb, maybe he was still trying to understand, but it felt right to lie at the moment. “Don’t all old books depict strong characters to be mostly male?”

“I guess so,” Mila shrugged, but looking a bit curious. “I don’t know why you’re suddenly asking about this, but allow me to tell you something, okay?”

Viktor’s hands stiffened around the hilt of a rusty throwing knife. “Yes?”

“If you ever come across the Eldest One, please do everything you can to run and report back, alright?” She sighed. “We don’t know what the Clans will think if they ever found out we’re hiding valuable information, or you getting killed on the spot.”

“You think I already met them.” Viktor deadpanned.

“I’m not sure,” Mila muttered. “But whatever the situation, it is dangerous no matter. I don’t want to see you hurt—from the Eldest One or the Clans in general. So, please—”

“I am careful,” he asserted. “I am the most cautious of us three, remember?”

Mila snorted. “Yeah, sure. But you’re forgetting Georgi. Georgi’s the most careful.”

“Georgi’s just a coward,” Viktor winced. He didn’t mean to put too much venom in his words, but there it was. “He’s just the guy who went all the way to America just because Anya wanted to move there. The Americans best have better facilities than we do, or he’ll just graduate from a coward to a love-struck idiot."

Mila laughed, patting him on the shoulder. “Whatever you say, Vitya.”

-

Viktor, as it turned out, was the idiot.

To be fair, he did want a few questions answered, so when Yuuri texted him about making dinner at his apartment, Viktor agreed.

So he found himself wandering around Yuuri’s apartment again, sifting through the records for some ragtime and Joe Turner. Some of Yuuri’s collection even went further back, but familiar at least.

He felt Yuuri coming toward him, a lot more cautious than he had been, and cleared his throat. “Do you want to eat?”

“Sure,” Viktor eyed the stack of vinyl one last time before turning to Yuuri. “What’s for dinner?”

“Thai cuisine,” Yuuri looked down sheepishly. “Or I try to. I’m still working on it.”

If Yuuri thought he was still trying to perfect making dinner, then Viktor must be a very, very bad cook. Viktor wasn’t a spectacular chef-in-the-making, but he did most of the kitchen duties himself, so he was experienced.

Yuuri even made an effort to throw in a variety of sauces that were delectable and spicy and just the right amount of sour, enough to make bland vegetables taste better than any kind of smoked meat.

They ate in silence for a while, sometimes Yuuri asked him how his injuries were, but that was all it was. The silence stretched, uncomfortable and unending, the sound of silverware ringing through Viktor’s ears.

Finally, Yuuri cleared his throat. “You wanted to ask me something.”

It was not a question, but an observation.

“Why do you think that I might?”

“Because you wouldn’t have come here otherwise,” Yuuri leaned over to set his elbows on the table, eyes cautious but relaxed. “Because someone would have already burned down my apartment had you reported me to your Clans. Or tried to drive me away, at least.”

Viktor almost dropped his spoon.

“You can ask away, if you’re wondering.”

Yuuri didn’t make a move to continue eating. In fact, he looked like he was waiting for Viktor to say something, dinner left forgotten in front of him.

Viktor set his spoon down, tried hard not to choke, and swallowed the last piece of vegetable in his mouth. “How—why did you come to Russia?”

“Because someone commissioned a tracking spell.” Yuuri answered directly.

Wow.

“Oh, I also had another client who wanted me to hex a rival in some kind of business,” Yuuri shrugged. “but I didn’t accept it.”

Viktor wondered if Yuuri understood the graveness of the situation they were in. For one, Yuuri was a legend even amongst the Clans, someone powerful enough to cause destruction, and not to mention he was a threat to all of them. Secondly, with Yuuri’s identity confirmed, Viktor was supposed to report him—that is, if he followed by principle. Lastly, Viktor guessed Yuuri was smart enough to know that his people wanted the Eldest One dead for security purposes.

“I didn’t expect you to be so honest about it,” Viktor frowned.

Or perhaps, they couldn’t kill him even if they tried.

“You’re right, I could have lied to you about the businessman so I wouldn’t look too suspicious,” He was very still, dark brown eyes looking into Viktor’s own, and what a lovely sight that was—no matter the circumstances. “But then again, you suspect me either way.”

There was a long stretch of silence once again. They both stared at each other, wary of any change in expression or movement, the room awfully quiet save for the faint tune of piano notes playing from the gramophone.

“Alright,” Viktor’s heart fluttered, too inexplicable to describe at the moment. “What was your favourite time period?”

And finally, Yuuri’s eyes went wide, shocked by the question. He must have expected something a lot more personal, like his actual age or why he was called the Eldest One—Viktor thought about it, wanted to ask, but he felt like it would be a form of intrusion.

A silly way to think, to be honest, but Viktor was most likely stupid enough to throw all caution out of the window.

“The Victorian Era in London,” Yuuri huffed a reply, breathless, eyes gleaming. For a second, it looked like Yuuri’s mind wandered, back to an older time where all things were different from what it was now. “It’s dank and dirty and interesting.”

“I was expecting you’d say ‘classy’,” Viktor snorted.

“I wouldn’t say that. London was a pretty bad place to be honest. People mistook me for a Chinese man who sold matchsticks on the prostitution districts,” he shrugged. “They even asked me if Shanghai was somewhere in India.”

Viktor laughed, all the tension moving away like theatre curtains opening up for the second act, his rigidness mostly gone. God, Viktor did love talking to Yuuri. No matter what they talked about, it was interesting. Yuuri made it interesting, and he wondered—

“How many languages do you speak?”

“Do I speak, or I spoke?”

“Um,” Viktor shrugged. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

“I forget some of them over time,” Yuuri was smiling now, eyes fond. “But I am fluent in six, textbook in three, and tourist-level in seven. How about you?”

Viktor blinked. Why was he being asked this question in the first place? “Huh?”

“I know you people do travels once you reach eighteen,” Yuuri was starting to pick up his cutlery again, nibbling at his food. “So I wondered what languages you learned.”

“I—I speak two quite fluently. Went to France but never went anywhere else,” Viktor replied, almost hesitantly. Wait, was he embarrassed? “Then the rest I could only read, not construct full conversational sentences like that.”

“You mean Latin?”

“Uh, yes?”

“I could practice it with you if you like.”

And just like that. Yuuri was offering to talk to him in Latin, in a dead language, in something that could very well take a long time before he mastered it. Maybe Viktor was the love-sick idiot among them, because he couldn’t help but find it irresistible.

“Is it your mother tongue?”

Stupid question.

“My mother tongue is long dead,” Yuuri answered smoothly, and if he were offended as Viktor assumed, he didn’t show it. His expression, however, softened. “Frankly, I don’t quite remember it as well as I should be.”

“That’s—sad.” Viktor’s heart dropped. For whatever reason, he did feel like it was a loss. He imagined himself in Yuuri’s place, always moving, always pretending, always learning new things to cope with the changes of time and age.

“It is,” Yuuri agreed, though a small smile formed on his lips, lovely and tentative. “It’s a bit gloomy, isn’t it? Would you want to dance instead?”

“That—” Viktor looked up at him from across the table, surprised. “That, would be lovely.”

Without another word, Yuuri got up and rounded the table, offering his had to Viktor. When Viktor accepted, he was led to the living room, closer to the phonograph, ragtime music playing softly.

Yuuri led him into a slow dance, nothing too intimate, their hands only lightly touching, but the whole context of it was frying Viktor’s brain. He hadn’t stood this close to Yuuri before, and he felt—

Well, he didn’t know what he felt. Not at the moment, at least.

“I’d like it if we went out for coffee again sometime,” Yuuri whispered. “I liked that place you showed me.”

Viktor let out a nervous laughter. How he managed to speak again, he didn’t know, but he smiled when he whispered back, “Tomorrow, then. Any day at all, actually.”

-

Viktor walked home with a stupid, inexplicable feeling in his chest. They hadn’t done much, he and Yuuri. They opened an old wine bottle after dancing, talked about mundane things, then danced again. When that had been over, Yuuri had seen him out of the apartment, telling Viktor to take care of himself.

And that he was excited to get coffee the next day.

If it were dangerous lines he was threading, Viktor still didn’t know. He didn’t know where this was going, how long it would be, and what would become of them.

But because Viktor is an idiot, he’s rather excited about it, most of the time forgetting what Yuuri was. That Yuuri was a warlock, powerful, and a threat. He might regret it at one point, but Viktor wasn’t known for his self-control.

He’ll think about the consequences later.

As he walked a few streets past Yuuri’s apartment complex, Viktor received at text from Yura:

Pick me up at the new cafe

Upon reading, Viktor grunted impatiently. He texted back with a quick, why do I have to pick you up?

Yura, however, was the blunt kid that he is. So it didn’t surprise Viktor when he received a text that said, Because Yakov won’t shut up unless you came back. This is my way of making sure.

Still annoyed, Viktor turned to the other street, walked a few blocks, and found a small little cafe that opened a few weeks ago. Viktor hasn’t been there before, so he guessed it was a good time to check it out.

When Viktor came in to find Yura, however, he wasn’t there. He checked his phone to make sure he didn’t go to the wrong place, looked around some more, and checked the restroom only to find it empty.

Viktor texted with an impatient “where are you?”, but didn’t get a reply.

He knew he should stay calm, Yura usually pulled stunts like this to piss him off, but he did feel uneasy. He fumbled with his phone some more, tried calling Yura, but he didn’t pick up. The fourth time Viktor called, the call got ended intentionally.

That was strange. Even for Yura.

Yura at least knew that he should pick up his phone immediately in case of emergencies, so he wouldn’t just end the call just because he wanted to spite Viktor. It was either Yura didn’t care, or someone else ended the call for him.

Viktor rushed to the counter, asking the startled barista whether he’s seen a teenager that fit Yura’s descriptions. The bartender had blinked at him, but as his shock receded, he looked to the door and said, “I think I saw a young man outside, he didn’t come in though, just left after a few minutes.”

“Where?” Viktor asked, almost rudely.

“I don’t know, he went on to the direction of the apartment buildings two streets down, but I’m not—”

That was enough. Viktor waved his thanks and was out of the door quickly, turning to his right toward the cluster of cheap apartments nearby. He didn’t know where Yura could be, possibly spotted a demon and went to slay it, but Viktor needed to find him.

Viktor practically ran down the sidewalk, glancing at the alleyways he passed through to make sure he didn’t miss anything. It was so cold that he was huffing mist out of his mouth, chilly air circuiting his lungs, exposed neck and ears beginning to become numb.

That didn’t matter. He needed to find Yura, needed to pick him up, needed to make sure they got home safely—

“Looking for something?”

Viktor almost barrelled into a nearby wall as soon as he heard the voice. It sounded strange, like it was very near his ear, but as he looked around, no one was there. Idiot, of course no one was there. No one could have whispered to him like that when he was running at full speed.

“I’m at the alley to your right,” the voice said again, ever closer to his ear now.

A wind-wielder.

Viktor reached behind him, but only to find out that his short sword wasn’t there.

Dammit, what a time to be unarmed.

He reached down to his boot, retrieved a throwing knife, and then the voice came back. “I’d rather you came unarmed, young man,” It sounded like a young woman, coaxing and sweet and dangerous. “It will not be good for your little friend if you did.”

He froze.

That’s alright, this happened before, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Viktor can manage if he chose his words and actions correctly. He needed to collect himself, keep calm, and the next thing he knows, he’ll be walking away with Yura to safety.

With a shaky breath, Viktor straightened up, pulled himself to his full height, and went to alley nearest him.

At first it was dark, thanks to the moonless sky. It smelled of something moist and rotting, probably coming from the stack of garbage left lying around. As Viktor’s eyes adjusted, he could make out the shapes in front of him, and then, he stiffened in horror.

Yura was on his knees, unbound and free to walk away if he wanted to, only that he was breathing quite rapidly—like there wasn’t enough oxygen in the air.

Without thinking, Viktor bounded for Yura—only to be blown away, a strong wind knocking him backwards a few feet, Viktor striking the ground quite painfully. He coughed, feeling the air being knocked out of his lungs, his sides hurting from the impact.

It was a dead end ahead, so it didn’t come from anywhere except the man who stood behind Yura. Viktor tried to get up and flinched, his lower back protesting, but he was able to pull himself up.

The man behind Yura looked young, older than Mila, but definitely no older than Viktor. He had tanned skin, a familiar black hunting jacket, and on his hand, was glowing red amulet. Viktor stared in shock for a long time, one part of his brain trying to remember who the man was and the other trying to concoct ways to save Yura.

A ruby? Wasn’t that for—

Then suddenly, a few things clicked into place, Viktor suddenly reeling from his own realization. “You’re not a warlock.”

“That, my friend, was rather obvious,” the man grinned. He held up the glowing amulet in his hand, showing it off. “But when you have a nice and powerful fiancée, there’s no trouble borrowing a bit more boost in fighting power.”

He waved the little necklace around, and as he did, Yura started to heave.

“I have no time for this,” Viktor snarled. “What do you want, Leroy?”

“Nothing,” he blinked at Viktor like he heard something stupid being said. “I’m just doing my lovely fiancée a favour, that’s all.”

Viktor could feel his blood boiling as he stepped closer, undaunted. “Let him go,” Viktor growled. “He’s been drained of spell power once, there’s nothing you can get from him. So let him go.”

Looking amused, Leroy lifted his finger, and suddenly, Yura was hunched over suffocating, air forcefully being drained out of him.

Viktor stepped back in horror. He couldn’t do just nothing, he had to do something about it, something—

Then suddenly, Leroy was in front of him, smirking, holding the amulet close to Viktor.

Before Viktor could react, before Viktor could do much else, Leroy snapped his fingers, and everything went black.

Chapter Text

St. Petersburg, 2016 AD

Viktor woke up not knowing where he was, the colours of his vision blurring harshly, like diluted paint on clear water. His head felt like it was going to explode, throbbing horribly, his body inexplicably tired. He moved a little, hoping to find out where he was, but he could only see bright light against brown colours and not much else.

“Oh, you’re awake,” a voice said.

Viktor blinked multiple times, hoping to steady his vision but to no avail. He did see a shock of flaming red hair beside him, or much rather, a red streak coming through the haze in his vision. “Mila,” Viktor muttered, his mouth scathing dry. “Where am I?”

“You were found passed out in an alley,” Mila said, her voice slightly strained, like she was holding back. Viktor very much wanted to know why, but he wasn’t too capable of extensive speech at the moment.

His head was hurting again, mind foggy, until images of the night before flashed behind his eyes. Viktor shot up, head spinning so fast, so he was forced to lie back down again. “Yura,” Viktor muttered, remembering the horrid memories like a movie played a hundred times faster than it should be. “Oh god, Yura. Where is he, Mila?”

Mila was silent for a while, hovering over Viktor with an air of hesitation. “He still hasn’t woken up, but he’s fine now. He sustained injuries.”

“What kind?”

“From channelling too much spell power,” Mila replied. This time, the volume of her voice was much louder, albeit harsher if Viktor read it right. “You know his body couldn’t handle much, so it slowly ripped him apart.”

“Is that—” Viktor opened his eyes, finding that his vision was slowly starting to get better. He lifted his head a little, a sudden feeling of foreboding coming from deep within his chest. “Is that and accusation, Mila?”

Mila was silent, unmoving, and stayed like that for a while. Viktor closed his eyes, waiting for his vision to slowly get better, wanting to see the expression on her face. She still hadn’t answered his question.

“Mila, I don’t know what it is that you think I’ve done, but I—”

“They found an element harnessing gem in your pocket,” Mila cut him off, her voice strangely steady and unfamiliar. It was not the way she talked to Viktor. Never like that. He and Mila were great friends, looked out for each other, but at the moment she seemed like she had just been betrayed. “It’s filled with your spell power, too.”

Viktor opened his eyes, and blinked. “You think I was trying to steal his spell power?” Viktor blanched, lifting his head to look at her blurry face, head ache and tiredness forgotten. “Mila, you wouldn’t think I’d be capable of doing that?”

“I don’t know what to think, Viktor,” Mila rubbed her palms on her face. “We—when you and Yura were brought into the clinic, his heartbeat was already growing faint. Sara had to usher us out of the room so to avoid causing panic. I’m tired, Viktor.”

“But Mila, I—”

The door to Viktor’s room opened, the wood screeching against the metal floors. The lack of prior knowledge about Viktor’s faulty door meant that the person who had just made their entrance didn’t live there. They were unwelcome and unfamiliar, someone whom Viktor never gave permission to enter in the first place.

“Is he awake?”

It was a man, someone familiar, but Viktor couldn’t tell who.

Mila, close enough that Viktor could see her clearly, turned away from him and nodded silently at the nameless person at the door.

“Can he talk?”

“I don’t think he could think clearly,” Mila said, her voice a lot softer now.

“Doesn’t matter,” the man said, rather bluntly. “I’ll ask the others to bring him to the conference room.”

Viktor didn’t like it when people talked about him like he wasn’t in the room. Even more so when he was being talked about like he had done atrocious things. Frowning, he huffed, “I think I can manage going to the conference hall by myself, thank you very much.”

The man cleared his throat, but did not say more. Viktor wanted to get up and take a better look at him, but as soon as he tried to lift his hands, he found that they were bound to the headboard.

Viktor blinked at the chains binding his wrists, covered in protective spells to make sure they couldn’t be broken by sheer force. “I’m sure this should be exciting, but I’m not in the mood.”

Mila looked at the way Viktor was struggling, biting her lower lip. “I can usher him to—”

“That’s non-negotiable,” the man said. “He’s under investigation and so is the St. Petersburg Clan. So, please...” The man approached the bed, pulling out something from his pocket. As he drew closer, Viktor recognized him. Tanned skin, dark hair, and strange violet eyes like Sara’s—Michele Crispino. “This should make him feel better.”

Viktor noticed that Michele had pulled out a syringe, filled with clear liquid. He didn’t even want to think about what it was. Still, he allowed Michele to inject whatever was in the suspicious syringe anyway, though it wasn’t like he could do anything.

He closed his eyes, feeling the substance flow through his veins like liquid fire, wincing as he waited for it to be over. Viktor could feel something change, like his head was suddenly cooling down, his muscles were beginning to numb a little, and the throbbing in his head slowly disappearing.

“I’ll be back,” Michele stood straight, tucking the used syringe into his pocket, watching Mila with a deliberate stern expression. 

They both watched as Michele stepped away, suspicious and on guard, out into the hallway.

Silence filled Viktor’s room once again. He waited for Mila to say something, mostly because he didn’t know what he was supposed to say at all. He didn’t look at her, in fact.

“Mila,” Viktor croaked, his mouth still feeling a bit foamy, but it wasn’t as hard to speak as it initially had been. “What do they think I did?”

“You’re under investigation for using warlock magic, Vitya,” Mila muttered, voice low and unsure. “They’ve been tracing the spell in the gem and it was only yours and Yura’s. You weren’t injured, just knocked out. Like you’d harnessed too much and fainted, but there’s no sign of loss in your spell power.”

“I wouldn’t—”

“I know,” Mila put her face down the mattress, her voice muffled. She looked to be rather conflicted, in the midst of trying to understand so many things at once as well. “I know you wouldn’t do that, Vitya. And god, I wish I could do something about it.”

“You don’t have to.”

The silence came again, and this time, stretching much longer than it had ever been.

Slowly, Mila straightened up, though still uncomfortable and unsure. The look of distrust on her face was starting to fade, replaced by eagerness, the cogs in her mind moving at lightning speed. “Do you have somewhere to go?”

Viktor blinked at her, confused. “I—I don’t understand.”

But Mila was already on her feet, grabbing a backpack and shoving some clothes from Viktor’s drawer. She found weapons scattered on the floor and packed those too.

“Mila,” Viktor frowned. He watched her scurrying about, hurried but planned. “What are you doing?”

“Do you have somewhere to go?” Mila asked again, throwing the bag on the bed and crouched down, retrieving another backpack from behind the headboard. “Although that doesn’t really matter right now. We have to leave.”

Viktor’s eyes widened. “Mila we can’t.”

Mila defiantly came up to him, his short sword in hand, and hacked at the wooden headboard. It took a few moments before Viktor realized she had freed him. The metal chains were still attached to his wrists, but with the headboard gone, he was free to move as he wished.

“I already made sure to remove any tracking spells on that thing,” Mila quickly slid the short sword in its scabbard, shoved Viktor’s bag in his hands, and took the other one and slung it over her shoulder. “We’ll need a warlock to free you from it, though. But that’s the least of our problems. We need to get away, and fast.”

As if in a daze, Viktor looked up at her, not knowing what to do. He considered so many things that he didn’t even know what he should deal with first. However, he didn’t even have enough time to think. The sound of footsteps echoed from the hallway outside, slow but steady, coming for Viktor’s room.

Frustrated, Mila grabbed Viktor by the arm, and hauled him out of the bed. “That way,” she pointed at the vents. “It’s a bit of a squeeze. But you can manage, yes?”


London, 1881 AD

It’s been a century since Yuuri returned to England. To be honest, he always did like the tropics, with the wind cool and the summers wonderful, but it was time to move yet again. What better way to start anew, he thought, than to be in one of the most prosperous cities at the time.

He’s seen far too many things of the unsavoury kind lately, and with the Queen enacting laws on education, child labour, and capital punishment, it seemed like a good change for once. Yuuri never did understand what was so great about the public hangings and the use of guillotines, but he must admit he had his fair share of watching people’s heads roll whenever he had the chance.

The trains were very convenient too. Although the railroads were mostly still in the works, it was enough that he had visited Wales for the first time since the last three hundred years.

He was reading the daily newspaper when there was a knock on the door.

Yuuri blinked, checked his pocket watch, and frowned. Another walk-in client who didn’t have the courtesy to respect times of rest, then. It was almost midnight, far too late for any consultation, but Yuuri was bored. The last client who came to him wanted a boost in a brothel business, which had been too easy. Clients who came in this late meant that they were distraught or desperate—in other words, fun.

So he stood, went to get the door, and opened it.

Beyond the threshold to his flat was a young man, maybe about twenty-four. He was skin and bones, pale, with dark half-moons underneath his eyes. His dark brown eyes were troubled, the rims swollen, like he had been crying.

“Good evening,” Yuuri greeted.

The man looked up, trembling from the tips of his toes to every strand of dark hair, bewildered and lost.

Still, Yuuri kept a cool demeanour, stepped aside, and gestured for the drawing room.

Do come in.” He turned on his heel, leaving the man to decide whether or not he should enter. As Yuuri turned to look, he was still hovering at the door, looking anywhere but at Yuuri’s direction. He was hesitant, but not entirely opposed to the idea. “What’s your name?”

“B-Benedict,” the man stepped forward, into the red carpet of Yuuri’s apartment. Little by little, he approached the armchair where Yuuri gestured for him to sit, still hovering about.

“Alright,” Yuuri raised his eyebrows, but silently went back to the door to close it. “What brings you to me at this late hour, Benedict?”

Benedict was still standing around, looking at the armchair like it would explode upon the slightest touch. “I—I need your help.”

Yuuri crossed the room and sat on the opposite armchair, nodding. “Well, you need to tell me first. Would you want tea?”

He responded with a shake of his head.

“Please have a seat, Benedict,” Yuuri smiled a little, trying his hardest to look as unthreatening as he can. “I don’t know what you’ve heard about me, but I don’t bite.”

Benedict looked to him with apparent distress, but seeing Yuuri smile seemed to have done the trick. His shoulders relaxed a little, eyes slowly finding its way to Yuuri’s. He  slowly lowered himself on the armchair, still tense.

Yuuri nodded, not speaking, waiting for him to break the silence.

“I need you to take my memories away.”

Yuuri’s eyes widened, interest peaked. “I believe I can’t do that.”

Upon hearing this, Benedict visibly deflated, slouching even further as if to fuse himself with the armchair he was sitting on.

“You know that we humans are built on memories,” Yuuri informed, calm and professional. “If I take them away, you’ll become nothing but an empty shell. You wouldn’t even know how to communicate or hold a spoon and fork properly. Like a child.”

“I really haven’t thought about that,” Benedict declared sheepishly, head bowing so low Yuuri was afraid he might fall over. He stood up, scrambling, his knees far too weak to carry him. “I’m sorry—I—I shouldn’t have awoken you for nothing—”

“But I am inclined to believe that there is a particular reason why you want your memories removed,” Yuuri shifted in his seat, crossing his legs in front of him. This apparently caught Benedict’s attention, who slowly, lowered himself back down unto the chair. “If you don’t mind telling me what it is, then maybe I can find a way around it.”

Hearing this, Benedict’s eyes lit up a little, looking a lot more tense than he was. Still nervous, but now with a slight air of anticipation.

“You know, Benedict,” Yuuri picked at the silk surface of the padded armchair, drawing small circles with his fingers. “Our memories may bring us pain, which I guess, is the reason why you’re here.”

Silence.

“I won’t take away the memories for your own good, but I may remove all feeling related to it,” Yuuri’s hands stilled, the spell already forming in his mind. He could do it right then and there, and he knew, that Benedict would agree to it in a heartbeat. “You will remember all the misfortune you’ve ever gone through, but you’ll never feel anything about it. Sounds like a proper compromise, yes?”

Benedict looked up to Yuuri, eyes glassy and tired. He would have been beautiful if he weren’t so distraught and miserable, with large eyes and messy hair. From the way he was dressed, Yuuri could tell that he was a proper London gentleman, probably schooled and wealthy, and maybe just a tad too addicted to wine.

Yuuri did always like the broken ones.

“Please,” Benedict spoke finally, fingers trembling. “Please rid me of all this. In any way you can.”


St. Petersburg, 2016 AD

“Mila, this is a bad idea,” Viktor landed on his feet silently, finding it easier to run around the rooftops instead of squeezing into tight, dank spaces. He was pretty sure the bad smell he caught earlier was a that of a dead rat. Thank god they weren’t anywhere near those vents now. He was never doing that again.

The twilight breeze was slightly cool, turning their noses and ears pink, biting through their jackets and coursing through their exerting lungs. It was getting dark, with the remaining sunlight peaking through the indigo veils hardly helping them navigate their way.

Viktor was doing a swift inventory in his mind—what he had was a backpack of random clothes, the jacket and jeans he slipped on, his short sword, a couple of daggers, and his phone. Mila was the same, her long sword strapped close to her body, leading the way.

“I know,” she turned her head to look at him, stopping at the edge of another building’s roof, feet ready to jump to the next one. “But we’ve come this far to just surrender. Besides, I already told Yakov I’d do something like this, so I fed Michele some lies about me thinking the quarters was a shitty place to be.”

“It is shitty, though,” Viktor fell a step beside her, panting a little. They’ve been running for a while, no time to stop, and definitely no time to look back. “And I’m surprised Yakov heard all that and didn’t lock you up or something.”

“You’re the one who’s getting locked up regardless of what turns out in the investigation,” Mila tucked a stray strand of red hair, her face dripping in sweat. “So I threw in some rants about not liking Yakov or something like that. Made sure the Italians heard it. He’ll understand.”

“Mila.”

“Please don’t make me regret a decision I can’t walk away from.” Mila muttered, looking to Viktor sternly. “I’ve had many, joining this Clan included, and I’m not about to wallow in some cold prison cell. The Italian underground quarters have been there for two hundred years. Can you imagine how bad that's going to be?”

It’d be a lie to say that he hadn’t thought about that. He knew what the Italian cells looked like, knew that they were hardly cleaned or maintained, it smelled of blood and untreated disease, sometimes that of torture.

When he didn’t reply fast enough, Mila grabbed the collar of his jacket and began hauling him forward, Viktor almost tripping from the sheer force. “I’ll regret it if I didn’t do this anyway, so I thought I’d gamble it all on this one. Besides, the Ukrainian Clan hates Michele. The Spanish, too. Maybe we can easily find help there.”

Viktor had no choice but to follow suit. His mind was reeling so fast he wasn’t even thinking up coherent things anymore.

He didn’t want to think about what this might mean for the both of them. Had Mila ever thought about how they both couldn’t hide forever? That the Clans would eventually find them and punish them both instead of just him? He’s never been sent to prison before, but he’s heard many stories, enough to encourage him and many others not to go rogue.

And god, Mila was only eighteen, she had a whole life ahead of her, so why was she betting it all on Viktor?

“Do you know a warlock in St. Petersburg?” Mila asked.

Still dazed and confused, Viktor answered without thinking. “Yes,” he said. Then, realizing what he had just said, he tried to take it back. “I—I mean, no. We need to—”

“There’s no time, Viktor,” Mila turned so fast Viktor almost barrelled into her. Her face was almost ghostly in the receding light, moonlight so very faint, it turned Mila’s fair skin paper white. It had him wondering whether she ate in the last twelve hours. “If you know someone, we have got to get there fast. If we keep running like this out in the open, the tracking spells are going to get to us.”

Viktor put his face in his hands. Was he just about to make this decision? Was he about to come knocking on Yuuri’s door and say that he was in danger of getting thrown into prison? Was he even allowed to ask something like that?

Oh god, was he trembling violently?

But then Viktor saw Mila, looking desperately for answers. This wasn’t about Viktor and whatever is was that he hoped to share with Yuuri, this was about protecting Mila the same way she had protected him. And for Mila and Yura, Viktor would do anything.

He grabbed her elbow and steered her to the right. “This way,” he said. “It’s not too far from here.”


London, 1888 AD

There were things he found wonderful about London, like the high-quality cigar from Madame Lacroix’s tobacco shop. He did personally prefer the cheroot, but Yuuri was seated inside the halls of one of the most exclusive gentlemen’s club, and there should be nothing but prestige if he wanted to stay.

Yuuri, however, was most interested in the man sitting from across him, on his hands were cards neatly arranged.

“Feeling a bit drunk today, Benedict?” Yuuri asked.

Benedict looked up at him. He looked better than he had been years ago, when he first came to Yuuri in apparent desperation, his face full and his hair combed. He was wearing a nice ensemble from the best tailor downtown, his smile wicked and fascinating.

He was beautiful.

“You’re only saying that so I would think you’re winning,” Benedict looked to him with a familiar smirk, the curve of his mouth gorgeous and intriguing. A butler came to their table bringing two fresh pitchers of wine, Benedict took one and asked to bring the other to the next table.

Yuuri looked behind him curiously, only to find the butler setting the pitcher on Mr. Fowler’s table, who was also immersed in his own card game. Mr. Fowler looked to them and waved, his smile a bit hesitant if not crude and judgemental.

“That was a perfectly good waste of expensive wine,” he frowned, facing Benedict. “Care to explain to motive behind that?”

Yuuri was well-aware that he had no care for benevolent acts or deliberate friendliness, knew from the moment he took all emotions that it was going to happen, but it was fascinating—watching how Benedict thought, how he reacted to certain situations, how he resolved problems without thinking twice about who got hurt or who bore the unfortunate repercussions.

“I wanted to get invited to one of his card games again,” Benedict said. “He rather likes me.”

“That’s because he kept losing to you,” Yuuri sighed, setting a Knave down on the table as he waited for Benedict’s turn, reached for his cigar and puffed casually. “Keep winning like that and he’s going to flip the table and yell at you, refined sense of control be damned.”

“I doubt that,” Benedict shrugged. “This is a gentleman’s club, after all. Sending henchmen to scare me while I walk alone at night, however, seems to be the most plausible option.”

Yuuri laughed. “And you think you can fend them off if they come for you?”

“Well, I can easily do that if you’re around.”

“If I’m around?” Yuuri raised his eyebrows. “What if I suddenly preferred to just watch?”

“It would take me just a little longer to get out of there, I guess,” Benedict’s hand went to his walking cane beside him, lifting it a little so Yuuri saw what he meant. “I wasn’t carrying around a concealed blade for nothing.”

Yuuri sat back and hummed, watching Benedict’s mind work. “You meant to defend yourself with it or did you expect to use it on me?”

“Nonsense,” Benedict snorted. “That wouldn’t do any good for myself, truly. As long as you’re there, I believe I can be a bit safer. You don’t like being held responsible, after all.”

“Benedict, you wound me,” Yuuri dropped a Queen, winning. “Thinking I was some kind of weakling susceptible to your charms.”

-

Yuuri, however cautious, was indeed susceptible.

There was nothing more difficult than to watch a man smile without a care in the world, lovely brown eyes bright, with a face that could coax a woman to drop all sensibilities. Benedict, as Yuuri found out years after their first encounter, was not very fond of women. He mostly preferred men.

Benedict never got out of his way to take the said men to his bed all this time, always afraid that he might catch syphilis, a disease much too common in England at the time.

In their spare time, they fell into the same bed, drunk and giddy, sometimes wound up and angry—and dangerously, Yuuri started to feel something else blooming from deep within his chest.

He looked at Benedict’s naked body, sleeping peacefully beside him. His face softened whenever he was asleep, no sign of a man who was both ruthless and scheming.

Yuuri was careful not to show the overwhelming feeling of dread he was carrying around, careful not to bare his soul to a man who could easily use it against him if he had the chance.

And if Benedict knew that Yuuri had began to care about him, it would be the end of it all.

Lost in his own thoughts, Yuuri got up from the bed, not bothering to put anything on. It was about five in the morning, too late to go back to sleep and too early to do anything.

He was deciding on reading something written by Victor Hugo when a knock came on the door.

Yuuri groaned. He’s never had a walk-in client in a long time, not since Benedict came to his door, but what a way to start a day.

Regrettably, he walked back into his room and found a silk robe, wrapped himself in it, and went for the door. He had no qualms of receiving someone looking like that for now. Surely, they’ll understand? Hopefully apologize, too.

What—or who waited for him outside the door wasn’t who he was expecting.

“Did you miss me?” The woman smiled.

Yuuri stared at her in surprise.

Isabella Yang. It’s been centuries since he last saw her, spent all that time trying to put the memory of her at the back of his mind. She was, however, as lovely as Yuuri remembered her to be, skin pale and smooth, lips the colour of rich blood, hair as black as the night sky.

The kind of beautiful that was both devastating and dangerous.

Noticing his apparent confusion, Isabella reached for Yuuri’s face, fingers touching his cheek very lightly. Yuuri reeled back, caught off guard.

“What do you want?” Yuuri croaked out, managing a faint whisper, his blood boiling.

“Nothing,” Isabella blinked, expression nonchalant. “I just heard you’ve come to London and I figured I’d see you again.”

“Leave,” Yuuri demanded, teeth clenched. “Leave or I’ll—”

“Oh?” Isabella stepped inside his flat, feet soundless. Yuuri raised his hand defensively, but Isabella put a finger out and wiggled it in front of him. “I wouldn’t do that. Doesn’t seem very wise, Yuuri.”

Defiantly, Yuuri raised an arm anyway. Yuuri has killed before, and he’ll do it again—but this time, he won’t even have second thoughts about it. He was sure, for the first time in his life, that this one particular murder will allow him to sleep at night.

One kill, swift as lightning, and her heart stops.

Isabella raised a finger lazily, but before Yuuri could fire, she pointed toward his left.

There was a loud crash, something hitting Yuuri’s wall quite harshly.

“My, what a lovely one you have over there, Yuuri,” Isabelle mused in Cantonese, lip curling in satisfaction. “Is that why you don’t want me here?”

Realization poured through Yuuri’s every vein, his heart pounding, and stupidly, he turned to look.

Benedict was on the floor, unconscious, but—

But he couldn’t remember anything else. There was a gap between that moment and the next. Like a book with a few pages torn in the middle. The next thing he knew, he was on the floor, and on the far corner, Benedict was already awake.

Yuuri turned to look at the door, but Isabella was no longer there.

-

Months passed after Isabella’s sudden appearance, but nothing has changed. Nothing, as Yuuri hoped.

He remembered how distraught he had been, how painfully worried he was when he saw Benedict lying on the floor, his eyes shocked and dazed from the force of the impact.

After which, they’ began to forget about it. They went on talking, playing card games at the gentlemen’s club, sometimes joining the parties all the while sharing jokes about snagging the ladies.

Months passed and they began to succumb to a pattern, one would come over and they’d have dinner, fuck at night, and either of them cooked in the morning.

Yuuri knew what they had was an illusion, something one-sided to begin with, but he had never felt love in a while—and what torture that is, to love Benedict of all the people he could possibly love. 

-

Yuuri woke up with the morning sunlight in his eyes. Nothing particularly annoying, but he hadn’t slept enough to even consider getting up yet. Benedict, however, was already hovering over him, dressed and ready to leave.

“Isn’t it too early to leave for the fish ports?” Yuuri asked groggily, looking up at him through hazy eyes.

Benedict hummed, bent down, and kissed Yuuri on the cheek. His hair was combed and in place, hat already in his hand. “Yes, but I’ve got work to do,” he said. “I’ll leave the flat to you, then? I’ll get the keys at dinner?”

“Maybe,” Yuuri muttered.

“Please don’t destroy the paintings.”

“I could be convinced to hold back if you’ll bring me meat pies tonight,” Yuuri smiled.

This is what they had when no one was looking. A change of pace, of tone, of the inhibition to control the urge to touch. It’s still probably one-sided, but Yuuri didn’t care.

He revelled in the lies just so he could make himself believe that Benedict might one day love him too.

Benedict left not too long after. Yuuri, who still had hours before his next meeting with a client, went back to sleep. The short nap, however, didn’t last long. Soon, he was already wide awake, the autumn wind blowing against his naked shoulders.

It was already noon, and his meeting was going to be in three hours. Groaning, Yuuri went to wash himself up, scoured Benedict’s drawers for clothes he had left there (which had seemed to have grown in number), and went on to dress himself.

As he stepped out into the drawing room, he found that there was a small little paper bag on the dining table, with a small, ripped out page of a notebook lying beside it.

Yuuri picked up the paper and saw that it was a note, written in Benedict’s fine cursive, that said, “For you. I know you would not wake until past noon. Please make time to find proper lunch after your consultation.

Yuuri's heart was racing, undecided but hopeful, tortured but rejoicing, delusional but nevertheless glad.

Tears streamed from his eyes, and hoped—fervently—that all this was true.


St. Petersburg, 2016 AD

Yuuri was reading Les Miserables when there came a fervent rapping on his door.

It was quick, hesitant, the recognizable signs of desperation audible in each and every knock. He used a piece of paper in lieu of a bookmark, straightened his clothes, and went to open the door.

It was Viktor.

He was pale, ears and nose pink from the cold, his arms wrapped around himself as he shivered. His hair was dishevelled, matted by sweat, his eyes desperate. On his wrists, Yuuri noticed, were enchanted chains.

Behind Viktor was a girl, who looked to be very young, red hair bright and flowing in wonderful waves. As soon as Yuuri met her eyes, though, she gasped in surprise. He didn’t know what elicited this reaction, as if she’d seen him before, but Yuuri ignored it.

His eyes went to Viktor’s again, stepped back, and said, “Hurry, before the tracking spells get to you.”

Viktor, who seemed to be thoroughly perturbed, didn’t move. He had to be shoved by the girl into the doorway, almost tripping over his feet as he went.

“You have protective spells?” She asked Yuuri, gasping. They must have been running, he could tell, what with the sweat glistening their faces.

Yuuri nodded in reply. He led them to his drawing room, gesturing for them to sit on his couch. Had it been a different person, had it been a client, Yuuri would’ve sat down and talked to them first. He had to negotiate things, after all. It would have been the right thing to do, the professional way to do it. Instead, as if by instinct, he moved to scour his cabinets for salt and candles.

Why he had acted promptly at the sight of Viktor’s distress was something of a mystery. Maybe the fire-wielder was right—maybe Yuuri did have a weakness for pretty things.

Yuuri looked at Viktor’s wrists, inspected the enchantment embossed on the chains, and stared at the herbs and candles on the coffee table. “How much spell power do you have left?”

Viktor looked up at him, bewildered.

Viktor,” Yuuri tightened his grip on the other’s wrist. “If you won’t tell me, we’d risk exposing you to spell power you can’t handle. How much do you have left?”

“I—” Viktor muttered helplessly, his lips trembling. “I think they took a bit from me while I was unconscious.”

Why he never bothered asking further, that was a mystery too.

Wordlessly, Yuuri began working. He spread the salt, thickly, creating a circle on the floor. He arranged the herbs and the candles around it, making sure he was quick and precise, careful not to lose time or to fumble.

Yuuri had so much spell power stored in him that he could kill Viktor instantly without the protective barrier. A simple spell could turn fatal, something he had struggled with for a long time—a reason why Yuuri avoided requests that required him to touch another living being.

It was different than handling a precious gem, or meddling with the weather—gems break and storms begin to form, but they can be replaced or remedied.

Human life, however, was fragile.

“I think we need to remove the chains first,” the girl said, politely, careful not to make her voice sound too harsh. “If—uh, if you don’t mind getting to it first.”

“Right,” Yuuri frowned.

He went to Viktor and touched the chains on each of Viktor’s wrists, turned around immediately without checking to see what happened, and went back to work on the protective barrier.

There was a sound of metal clattering to the floor, Viktor murmuring something in thanks, but Yuuri was too absorbed in his work to pay much attention.

The girl, however, sounded aghast. Yuuri raised his head curiously, only to find her with her mouth open, eyes trailing from Viktor’s wrist to the chains on the floor. “Did—did you just—?”

Oh. Right. Most warlocks would take a lot longer to undo a strong spell like that.

Yuuri didn’t care. He went back to his work silently, planning out the sequence of the cloaking spell, remembering the exact words in Aramaic.

When he was done, he got up promptly, and asked for them to come closer, “Stick your hands out,” Yuuri huffed, a little nervous. “You have got to trust me, alright? The protective barrier filters out all excess spell power and only caters what you can take. We might need to go over it again tomorrow if you can’t handle it until completion.”


 London, 1888 AD

“You like that a lot,” Benedict looked over Yuuri’s shoulder, nose adorably scrunching, trying to read the small printed text on his copy of Victor Hugo’s Les Misarables.

He had two copies of the book, in fact. One was neatly arranged in between his other prized books in his flat, the other, on Benedict’s coffee table.

“Don’t you?”

Benedict was still looking over Yuuri’s shoulder, eyes seeking an appropriate answer. “Who goes to such lengths to enact benevolence like that?”

“Those who seek redemption, I guess,” Yuuri muttered, eyes drawn to the pages of the old book, its words familiar to him now. “Don’t you think our actions affect those around us?”

“I do,” Benedict answered quickly. “But shouldn’t we worry about those who only matter to us?”

“Valjean didn’t think so,” Yuuri kept looking at the same page, though he wasn’t reading it anymore, distracted by the different direction his mind was taking. “He was saved from being thrown into prison by a bishop, realized that it had affected him greatly, and went on with his life with the goal to help as many people as he could.”

“Javert didn’t seem to have seen it the same way,” Benedict noted.

"It's because his life had lost all meaning,” Yuuri closed the book, leaning into Benedict’s touch. “Nothing is more devastating than to realize you’ve done everything you could for nothing. That you were the antagonist in another hero’s story, when you thought you’ve always done the right thing.”

Yuuri felt Benedict kiss his forehead, quick and barely touching, but electric no matter. “Have you ever—” Benedict paused, cleared his throat, and began to speak again. “Did you ever regret taking my emotions?”

In that moment, every bone, every muscle in Yuuri’s body went very, very still.

It was a dangerous question, one he didn’t want to hear because he hadn’t known how to answer it. Had Benedict asked if Yuuri suspected him of scheming for an ulterior goal, there would have been an answer. Had Benedict asked if Yuuri loved him, there would have been an answer.

Nothing—absolutely nothing had prepared him for this.

“Benedict...”

Benedict stilled. “Do you—Do you think that maybe—they could come back someday?”

Yuuri’s heart sank.

That was a question he didn’t know the answer to, not yet, unless he saw through the end of what Benedict would become. Perhaps he hadn’t thought about it before. He had been careful, making sure he wasn’t going to kill Benedict as he swiftly performed the spell, but he didn’t know the repercussions.

He hadn’t thought of other problems possibly arising right after.

He hadn’t known he was ever going to fall in love with him.

“Do you think it’s coming back?” Yuuri asked.

“I—I’m not really sure since I don’t remember ever feeling anything anymore,” Benedict frowned, his jaw set, puzzled. “I know I couldn’t bear thinking about you in another’s arms. There’s not much else.”

Yuuri closed his eyes and sighed. “That would do, wouldn’t it?”

“I hate it when women come to you and try to take you away,” Benedict kissed Yuuri’s hair again, his breath hot and comforting. “I know I really shouldn’t be, but I can’t help but feel just a bit—”

“Jealous?”

Benedict nuzzled his nose into Yuuri’s hair. “Maybe. I really won’t know, would I?”

He felt Benedict’s fingers running through his hair, gentle, coaxing him to sleep. Yuuri’s consciousness started to recede, sleep coming fast. The last thing he remembered was Benedict standing up. Slowly, he took Yuuri into his arms, and carried him to the bedroom.

-

Yuuri woke up alone.

That’s alright. Benedict sometimes left in the middle of the night if there was something urgent to be done at the fish ports. Rich businessmen like him normally wouldn’t bother, but since Benedict wanted to see how the trade worked himself, he usually went anyway.

It was two hours past midnight and Yuuri was a bit hungry. So he got up, not feeling all that sleepy anymore, and went to the kitchen. Benedict usually kept biscuits or something alike inside the drawers, so he went through them, but only to find nothing.

There were some fruits, but Yuuri was in no mood for apples. He continued on searching, until one particular thing caught his attention.

It was a small cardboard box, haplessly shoved underneath the oven, with no label to indicate what it was. Benedict was usually forgetful, sometimes shoving his packages in strange places, so Yuuri bent down and retrieved it.

Without thinking, he opened the box and—

Yuuri dropped it.

Inside, was a kidney.

And with it, in Benedict’s beautiful handwriting, was a letter written in blood.


St. Petersburg, 2016 AD

Mila was sleeping on the couch—on Yuuri’s couch, to be exact.

Neither she nor Viktor could handle the cloaking spell to completion, which was understandable, since they were both tired and frustrated, lacking enough spell power to handle much else.

Yuuri had told him to rest as well, laying a futon on the floor beside the couch where Mila was, but Viktor couldn’t stop his thoughts from running. He tried, truly, but it was futile.

Viktor was sitting on one of the chairs by the dining table, looking out into the night sky through the window. It was two in the morning. He had tried to sleep for about three hours now, but to no luck at all.

There was rustling coming from inside Yuuri’s bedroom.

Viktor turned to check, and saw Yuuri standing by the open door, looking like he hadn’t been sleeping as well. Silently, Yuuri walked over to Viktor, careful not to wake Mila as he went.

As he neared, Viktor could see that Yuuri was wearing sweatpants again, a black shirt, and a blue overcoat thrown over his shoulders. “Care to come up the roof?”

Viktor opened his mouth, hesitating on his answer.

“As long as you stay by me, they won’t be able to find you.”

And that’s all Viktor needed to hear before he slowly got up as well, followed Yuuri to the door, only to pause and turn back. He took a small piece of paper and wrote something down, neatly tucking it in Mila’s hand.

When Yuuri was looking at him with curiosity, Viktor shrugged and said, “She worries. At least she’ll know where we are.”

“Now I know how you could manage living so recklessly,” Yuuri said, as he waited for Viktor before closing the door, and led him to the elevator.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Yuuri pressed the button to the rooftop, rubbing his hands together for more warmth. “I meant that someone must be taking care of you if you’re brave enough to face warlocks on your own. Otherwise, you would have died a long time ago.”

“That’s true.”

“She’s even younger than you are.”

Viktor snorted. “Wait ‘til you’ve met Yura,” he paused, remembered that Yura was still unconscious, and winced. But he continued on talking anyway. It wasn’t like Yura was dead. That, Viktor won’t be able to handle. “He runs at the first sight of danger and slays everything he thinks he could.”

Yuuri was already very much aware of what had transpired since yesterday. Viktor had told him, with no details left out.

Mila had seemed wary, hesitating on doing it so haplessly, but Viktor figured that the both of them had nowhere to go anyway. If Yuuri was their lifeline, he might as well know everything.

“Sounds just like you,” Yuuri smiled.

Before Viktor could say much else, the elevator doors opened, a gust of cold with coming through. Yuuri stepped outside, and inhaled deeply, closing his eyes as he went.

And as he looked at Yuuri, bathing in silver moonlight, he realized his heart would never be the same again.

Viktor licked his lips. “Yuuri, can I ask you something?”

“Go ahead,” Yuuri said, eyes forward, lost in the dark void in front of them.

“I know you told Mila we could pay you later, but why is it that I feel like you did this just because you wanted to?”

Yuuri’s face was still serene, calm, unperturbed. “I told you, it’s because I want to. I’m free to do as I wish, after all.”

A cold gust of wind passed and Yuuri shivered. Viktor, who seemed out of his mind, came closer. And closer—and wrapped an arm around him.

Yuuri stilled at the sudden touch, but made no move to push Viktor away. They stood like that, for what felt like hours, warmed up from the heat of each other. Unlike before, the silence was comforting. There was no need for words or more action, just what they had.

“Promise me something?”

Viktor almost jumped in surprise, tightened his grip on Yuuri’s shoulders, and asked him to go on.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Yuuri muttered. “I know running might be your best option at the moment, but please, don’t face that warlock you spoke of alone, it won’t do you any good.”

He looked to Yuuri, who was a bit worried. His eyes were on Viktor’s now, concern eminent in his brown eyes.

Viktor always thought that Yuuri was lovely, fumbled at the sight of him, always wondering what to do to keep him on his toes. But as it turned out, Viktor was the one who’s always thoroughly surprised, a thing Yuuri manages even without trying to.

In that moment, however, Viktor had surprised them both.

He wasn’t thinking straight, wasn’t thinking of the consequences too much. He was reckless in all ways possible, so it made sense that he was stupid enough to break down and finally kiss Yuuri.

For a moment, it was just their lips touching, both of them going very still from the first unexpected contact.

Realizing what he had just done, Viktor tried pulling away, but Yuuri caught him by the temples, and kissed him back.

It was long, lingering, but no too desperate. It was tentative and sweet, like it should have happened long before Viktor found himself in a situation like this. Long before he had to face apparent distress and come to Yuuri not looking like his best self.

It was glorious nonetheless, the thrumming of the blood in his veins told him as much.

Viktor had to pull away to catch his breath, steadying himself by holding unto Yuuri like a lifeline, his forehead laying on the other’s.

“You are cruel, Viktor Nikiforov,” Yuuri said, voice breathy. “How could you kiss me like this?”

He had to pull away, his hands instinctively retreating, a sharp pain piercing his heart like a thousand needles. Yuuri stood there, eyes still on his, and a single tear streamed down his face.

Viktor panicked. “I—I’m sorry...”

“How? How could you steal my heart just like that, when you know you needed to run and never return the next day?”


London, 1888 AD

Yuuri ran through the streets of Whitechapel with nothing but an old dressing gown underneath a thick winter coat.

He was running with his heart pounding, his blood coursing through him faster than it should be. What was he looking for again?

Why was he in Whitechapel of all places?

Frankly, Yuuri did already know the answer to that. What he didn’t know was what he was going to find out, and if he did, what decision was he going to make.

Benedict would have left for the fish ports at least an hour ago, he would’ve have been on his way home if Yuuri waited. But Yuuri couldn’t wait, he couldn’t keep still and do nothing.

He ran through the dirty streets of the East End, the foul-smelling district mostly deserted due to the recent Ripper murders. Yuuri tripped on his own feet several times, scraping his palms, his face. He ran and ran and ran, in circles and back again.

His mind reeled faster, faster, until he heard a faint sound coming from a dark alley.

Yuuri stopped.

He was breathing fast, his hands were cold, his heart was going to explode—but he needed answers. He needed to save someone. He needed to know that he was wrong.

Yuuri came closer, walked as silently as he could, and as he was near, the sharp smell of iron assaulted him.

Blood.

With frantic feet, he moved as fast as he could, he found his way into the alley, and stopped in horror.

On the ground, was a woman—or what used to be. The body was mutilated, blood spilled like black oil, her face unrecognizable. Hunched over her, was a man. It could be any man, but Yuuri would recognize that coat and hat anywhere.

Yuuri’s heart might have stopped right then and there.

Slowly, Benedict looked up, face murderous. But as he saw Yuuri standing there, his features softened, skin paling.

“What—Benedict, what have you done?” Yuuri shook, he felt himself trembling, and it took all he could not to collapse right then and there.

Benedict got up immediately, his clothes, hands, and face stained with another’s blood. Yuuri could only look at him in horror, in disbelief, because this was not Benedict.

No, Benedict was logical. He wouldn’t do anything that didn’t earn him anything in return. There was no reason for him to kill someone just because he wanted to—

“She was looking at you today,” Benedict croaked, eyes pleading. “She touched you like you belonged to her. She came up to you like she had the right to...”

Yuuri stepped back, his balance tipping, his head swirling.

“Benedict, she’s a prostitute!” Yuuri hissed. “She does that for a living!”

“But she shouldn’t have touched you. I’m sorry Yuuri, I can’t control what I feel. I can’t—”

But Yuuri hadn’t heard the end of the explanation. It was drowned out by a loud crack, the sound of an enormous thunder, light exploding in sparks.

By then, Yuuri had completely collapsed on the ground, his body weak from releasing so much spell power at once.

And as tears fell from Yuuri's eyes, surrounded by the smell of blood and murder, he watched as Benedict laid lifeless on the ground.

Chapter Text

Manila, 1583

Perhaps, it wasn’t the smartest idea for Yuuri to be enjoying a nice walk by the River Pasig when all else happening around him was unbearably unpleasant. The age of exploration, was in fact, a rather unfortunate time for many.

However, Yuuri happened to stay far too long in Macao and worried that people were going start getting suspicious of him. He mostly avoided staying in a one place for longer than a decade, and he has in fact, been enjoying his residence in China far too much to have been distracted for twenty years.

Not to mention, the fight for trading rights between the Spanish and the Portuguese was beginning to annoy him.

All that considered, he took all the silvers he could find and charm his way into one of the ships that traded goods to the Las Islas Filipinas (as the Spanish might call it).

Yuuri has never arrived in a new place feeling this heavy before.

The Spanish had no right to lay claim on something this beautiful, ruin it for their own pleasure, take away what wasn’t theirs. But no matter, that was one of the many mysteries of human beings—they knew what love was but ruthless to those they considered irrelevant, they were beautiful on the outside as they were horrendous within, they had the capacity to create but an innate nature to destroy.

It was Yuuri’s first time to live in a colony, it hadn’t been at the beginning of China’s trade relations with it. That was an inconvenience of sorts, what with the Spanish thinking themselves high and mighty.

It didn’t help that everyone classified Yuuri to be Chinese, whom in turn, was marked by a certain stigma most of the Chinese merchants carried as they went about with their lives in Manila.

One could say that they’re as discriminated by the colonizers as much as the natives, driving them to live with their own communities in the shabbier parts of the newly-established city. Yuuri lived among them, already fluent in Spanish and Cantonese, and now, Yuuri was learning the tongue of the natives as well.

“Mister Lau!”

It took a second before he turned. Yuuri had to remind himself that he’s adapted a different name, Lau Ginyu, in order to perfectly play the role of a Chinese merchant looking for find business in Spain’s brutal capitalistic ideals.

He turned to see a boy running toward him. He was young, sixteen in the next two months, wearing dirty slippers and a soaked white shirt. “Ah, Arturo,” Yuuri smiled. “Magandang umaga!

“You’re getting better at it,” Arturo smiled, speaking in his native tongue. He was carrying a small bag made of woven dried leaves, a bayong, most likely containing fish he caught for the day. “Maybe if we keep speaking like this, you’ll get good enough tell my sisters some stories of your time in China.”

And oh, did Yuuri’s heart constrict.

In two months, the boy would turn sixteen. In two months, he was going to be forced into labour by the colonizers. All males from the age of sixteen to sixty, after all, were supposed to work for the Spanish—building ships, churches, digging their own gold mines for people who didn’t pay them right nor treated them well.

Yuuri tried swallowing that feeling down. It would be best to prepare the boy for what was inevitable, then. “How is your Spanish?”

The boy fumbled at the handles of his bayong, looking up to Yuuri with a hesitant grin. “Uh, ?”

Yuuri laughed. “Come, we’ll learn to write some Spanish words while you teach me Tagalog again,” he jerked his head to the direction of the nearby street. His Tagalog wasn’t too bad, albeit having a strange accent and poor grammar, but understandable at least. “Would you want some steamed buns? Mr. Ke has given me some this morning. Far too many, I’m afraid.”

Arturo grinned, happily trotting alongside Yuuri, as they left for his boarding house.

-

Yuuri’s landlady was a flighty twenty-one-year-old woman named Josephina, who married a Spanish soldier a few years ago. His boarding house was a small, two storey structure that was previously a house with many rooms.

Needless to say, Yuuri was actually renting a room, all the while given access to the kitchen and the dining area. There was a nice lady who came in to get his laundry on Fridays. She’d wash them in the river, dry and fold Yuuri’s clothes, and came back to deliver them on Mondays.

Most of the tenants are Chinese merchants, and most share a room. Yuuri, however, didn’t want to share what little privacy he had, so he chose to pay for four people and had a tiny room for himself.

“Wait here? I’ll get you a dip pen and paper,” Yuuri gestured for Arturo to sit on one of the bamboo benches in the sala.

“Oh, before I forget!” The boy raised his bayong, handing it Yuuri. “My father says it’s for you. It’s not much, but—”

Yuuri stared at the him. “Arturo, you don’t have to.”

“Yes, but my father’s not going to like it if I returned home without giving it to you,” the boy smiled shyly. “He said it was to thank you for always helping us.”

He met Arturo one morning as Yuuri was out for a nice walk. The boy had been distraught, crying, and as he saw Yuuri, he threw himself on the ground, begging for him to help his sister. Yuuri had come immediately, led to a small hut made of bamboo by the riverside, and saw a young girl in the midst of a seizure.

Yuuri didn’t want to expose himself as a warlock at first, but as it turned out, the natives were the kind of people who believed in supernatural beings—in the unknown. So when he relieved the seizure with a simple spell, the family had thanked him greatly, and called him the most-skilled albulario in Manila.

They promised to never mention it to anyone else, as per Yuuri’s request, but that didn’t mean Yuuri wasn’t getting regular gifts such as a basket of fruits or a small portion of a day’s catch.

Yuuri was still getting requests for spells quite regularly, but he only catered to the natives, careful not to let the Spanish know about him.

After all, if the Conquistadors knew, they’d most probably excommunicate Yuuri, punish those who ever made contact with him, and call his actions an offense to the Lord Almighty.

Catholicism was one of the many things the Spaniards brought to the Filipinas, a wonderful religion in its most objective form, but its interpretation laced with an attempt to subdue and control. Yuuri heard that somewhere in the Visayas, mem were required to bring eggs and limestone everyday—for the construction of a church, they said—and if they couldn’t, the Spanish whipped them bloody.

“You know that was a long time ago, right?” Yuuri insisted. But as Arturo pleaded for him to take it, Yuuri sighed and gave in. “Well, I’m feasting today, I guess. You’re having lunch with me, yes?”

Arturo shrugged.

Quickly going to the kitchen to have the fish cooked, Yuuri went straight to his bedroom right after, retrieving a pen, paper, and some ink. He found the steamed buns on the desk, still wrapped in a small paper bag, and took those as well.

As soon as Yuuri was out of the door, he found that Arturo wasn’t alone in the sala anymore. Beside him, was a young woman Yuuri’s never seen before. She was pretty, with long black hair and deep red lips, her skin pale as paper. As he neared, the woman looked up, smiling.

She had a beautiful smile, Yuuri thought.

“This is Mr. Lau,” Arturo looked to Yuuri again, flashing his usual boyish smile. “And this is, uh—”

“Isabella,” she said, hands daintily placed on her skirts. “Isabella Yang.”

Yuuri raised his eyebrows, slightly curious.

Isabella seemed to have understood his curiosity, laughed a bit, and said, “My mother is French.”

“It’s also a Portuguese name,” Yuuri shrugged, setting the pen and paper on the table.

To Yuuri’s surprise, she rolled her eyes. “I’ve been told. Not that it matters what the Spanish thinks, they’re only here to exploit resources that aren’t theirs.”

Yuuri bit his lip and cleared his throat.

Isabella, however, didn’t seem to understand him this time. “Oh, you meant that Arturo might hear? I’m sure he already knows,” she looked to the boy again, throwing in the same enchanting smile Yuuri’s seen a few minutes ago. “If they cause you any trouble, don’t hesitate to tell me, alright?”

Arturo nodded, cheeks pinking.

“And ah, here’s something for your family.” Yuuri handed over the bag of steamed buns, which Arturo gratefully accepted. “Do tell your father that he could stop giving me gifts. Or if he insists, just something small would do.”

“But he thinks it’s payment for when you teach me Spanish!”

“I wasn’t asking for payment,” Yuuri smiled. Then, as he looked to Isabella again, he noticed that she was watching him. “Would you want to help? If you have time, I mean.”

Isabella shrugged. “I’m actually no good writing it, to be honest.”

“Ah, one more student it is!” Yuuri grinned, inexplicably glad. With one look at Isabella’s beautiful face, though, he knew where that gladness came from.

He’d loved to see her again soon.


 St. Petersburg, 2016 AD

Viktor was sitting on the couch of Yuuri’s flat, Mila beside him. Yuuri was perched on the arm chair in front of them, silent and tentative. Viktor always did like how Yuuri’s expressions were soft and welcoming, smiling and teasing, but now, it felt different.

As Yuuri sat across from them, dressed in a pressed button-down and black trousers, he looked...distant. As if to him, Viktor and Mila were clients, a problem to be solved.

He shouldn’t have kissed Yuuri last night.

Viktor hadn’t known that his lack of self-control was something that brought tactical mistakes. It was fine if he were mid-battle, with no weapons but his fists, broken bones and all—but this, this had something to do with feeling.

It was a long time since he thought about what it is to actually feel, to look at someone beyond the want to touch them or to take them to bed. Viktor might have wanted to sleep with Yuuri at first sight, but as they exchanged conversations, as he watched him laugh and talk about his favourite books, that intent faded away, replaced by wanting of what was not physical.

Had Viktor been a bigger idiot than Georgi, after all?

“Do you have somewhere to run to?” Yuuri asked, addressing them both, sounding a bit detached.

Mila looked up, eyes curious. “I thought your involvement usually didn’t include helping your clients out to that extent.”

“No, but they’d trace my spell power on you if either of you gets caught,” Yuuri crossed his legs, the leg of the trousers hiking up a little. He was barefoot, Viktor had noticed, but that didn’t mean it made him any less intimidating. Yuuri could have fired thunderbolts out of his fingers and they’d be both dead in an instant, faster than fire and more efficient than suffocation. “I don’t like loose ends.”

Wow. That stung.

“We could leave for Norway this afternoon,” Viktor said, voice unsteady. “We have our passports—”

“I think the airport’s going to be the first place they’d wait for you,” Yuuri produced a folded piece of paper from his pocket, laid it out on the coffee table, making sure that the right side faced Viktor and Mila.

It was a map, a rather large one, of St. Petersburg. There were red circles drawn in different locations, including the Pulkovo International Airport.

“These are the locations where I sensed extreme spell power activity, they’re either warlocks or your people, I haven’t had the time to filter it out,” Yuuri muttered, eyes on the map, then he looked up at them. “There aren’t that many warlocks in St. Petersburg, and I think you could manage killing them anyway.”

Viktor winced. “So you think we should stay in St. Petersburg?

“I don’t know, Viktor. You have a head. Use it.”

Silence.

Mila, however, exploded. “Okay! Don’t you—” she pointed a finger at Viktor, then at Yuuri. “Don’t you get me caught up in your unresolved sexual tension. I am not involved in it and but you’re making it painfully uncomfortable just—”

“I wouldn’t exactly call it unresolved sexual tension,” Yuuri said.

“What is it then?”

“Something like one of the us made a move on the other,” Viktor snorted. “And backfired into an instant recoil.”

Mila stood, raising her hands in mock surrender, then went to the door. “I’ll be on the roof.”

Then she was gone.

Well, that made it all the more uncomfortable.

“I didn’t exactly recoil,” Yuuri spoke first, breaking the silence.

Viktor’s mouth opened, shocked. Just when he thought he was being funny, it comes boomeranging back into his face. “What—then—how would you describe your reaction last night, then?”

“Pathetic pining,” Yuuri replied. “I did kiss you back.”

How is this guy serious?

“Yuuri,” Viktor sighed, dragging the first syllable of Yuuri’s name, throat closing up inexplicably. “I don’t understand. If you wanted me to apologize, I will. If you want me to forget about it, I will. I simply don’t see the point as to why you’re treating me like this.”

“Like what?”

He bit his lip. “Like a client.”

“Well, aren’t you?”

The silence came back again. It was uncomfortable. It was torturous. Viktor wanted the carpet to swallow him whole and spit him out into a different dimension.

“Don’t get me wrong, Viktor Nikiforov,” Yuuri smiled, although it didn’t last very long. “You are very pretty. I’d very much want to get to know you if I could, but it’s best that you do not associate yourself with me. For your safety, Mila’s, and your little brother’s.”

“I—” Do I get an explanation at least? He wanted to ask, but he wasn't entitled to that, was he? So, instead, Viktor cleared his throat, and spoke again, “What do you suggest we do?”

Yuuri looked up at the ceiling for a while, Adam’s apple bobbing as he contemplated. “If you could get your hands on a harnessing gem, I can use it to conjure a portal. That saves time and definitely won’t get you into too much trouble compared to getting through a guarded airport.”

Viktor stared at him in disbelief. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Something wrong?”

“No, I—I don’t know,” Viktor muttered uselessly.

Truth be told, though Viktor spent at least eight years of his life getting lectures and studying the histories of the Hidden World, he never really knew much about it. The Clans were still considerably new even at its two hundredth year, with not much records to go on, not to mention that Warlocks often kept to themselves.

People like Viktor harnessed spell power for a little boost in fighting strength, but not to a point that they could make it tangible, not in the same advanced way Warlocks are able to convert their spell powers into elements—like fire, wind, water, or (in the most special case) lightning.

To his people , Yuuri was nothing more than a legend passed down from one creative generation to another. To Viktor, a portal was something of a fantasy, something he’s heard people talk about, and something the Clans shrugged off as ridiculous rumours. Warlocks, after all, did encourage the gossips to make themselves harder to understand.

Nonetheless, Viktor has read books. He knew little bits of information, no matter how vague. “Doesn’t that require too much spell power?”

“No, not with a harnessing gem to assist the ritual,” Yuuri replied coolly, eyes steady on him. “Even I couldn’t handle that much.”

Silence.

Viktor was about to say something, midway through opening his mouth, when Yuuri’s eyes shot up. “There’s spell activity,” he said. “On the roof.”

Yuuri stood, but Viktor was already on his feet.

He was on his way to the door before he remembered something, went back to retrieve Mila’s long sword, and ran as fast as he could. He didn’t take the elevators, no, not when he was in a rush like this. Instead, he took the stairs, two at a time, until he was practically tripping towards the doors to the roof.

He didn’t see anything at first. He was panting, all sweat and heavy breaths, eyes vigilant. Viktor looked around, searching for wherever Mila might be, it’s not a huge space, goddammit—

Something pierced him.

It was swift, the blow fast and almost painless. It took seconds before he realized that he was bleeding, and that there was a steel arrow protruding from his shoulder. In his shock, Viktor’s knees buckled, collapsing on the cold concrete.

“Enough running, Nikiforov.”

Viktor looked up to where the voice came from. Behind him, was Michele Crispino, a wooden longbow in hand.

“Vitya, run!” Mila was shouting. She was being held by some guy Viktor didn’t recognize, her feet thrashing about, wrists secured in chains, and as Viktor looked closer, the back of her ankles bled.

He twisted fast enough to face them, managed to stand at his full height, ignoring the burning pain on his shoulders. “Did you hurt her?”

Michele’s eyes twitched, voice cold as ice. “She’s strong,” he looked down at Mila’s slashed ankles, the ligament probably in ribbons, no way for her to move. “It’s only to make sure she doesn’t run.”

Something was boiling deep within Viktor’s gut. Something hateful. Something stupidly reckless but understandably vengeful. His fingers tightened at the scabbard, knuckles turning white, hands sweaty but nonetheless determined.

He drew out the sword.

“Careful,” Michele raised his eyebrows. “That’s dangerous.”

“You might have killed ten Warlocks to date, or was it twelve? I remember you’ve been so proud,” Viktor spat the blood in his mouth. “But I’ve made kills two at a time.”

“Is that supposed to be a challenge?”

“Crispino,” Viktor sneered. “Let. Her. Go.”

Michele released an arrow once again.

Viktor, however, was used to this. There was no battle that he lost. There was no circumstance that he would lose, as long as he was able to move, all wounds and broken bones be damned. As if time seemed to slow, he moved away from the path of the arrow, barrelled forwards, retrieved a throwing knife from his waistband.

The knife sailed through the cold air, planted itself on the hands of the man restraining Mila, sending him staggering back in pain and shock. Michele made a move to grab Mila by the arm, but Viktor was upon him, pinning him unto the ground.

Michele’s companion came to his rescue, but Viktor was already swinging his sword behind him, the tip stopping dangerously close to the man’s neck.

“Make any move on Mila and you’re dead.”

Checkmate.

Viktor steadied his breath. One. Two.

Michele laughed bitterly. “I knew I couldn’t take you down even if I tried.”

“Then why,” Viktor pressed his forearm harder across Michele’s throat, eliciting a coughing fit. “Why provoke me, you little shit?”

“To slow you down, of course,” Michele smirked.

Viktor blinked at him.

“Viktor!” Mila called from behind him. “Viktor, he’s—”

“Any moment now...”

As if on signal, two more men in hunting gear appeared on the roof. Viktor recognized Emil Nikola, which was ridiculous since he wasn’t Italian, and another that he didn’t give two shits about.

Three. Four.

Easy.

“Viktor, just go!” Mila screamed at him.

Gripping the hilt of the sword tight, Viktor made a quick slashing motion. The man behind him croaked, the last sound he’ll ever make, before he was crumpling to the ground.

Four.”

Silence.

Emil and his other companion went to his direction, but weren’t fast enough. He grabbed the fallen throwing knife behind him and buried it straight into the unnamed clan member’s skull. “Three.”

There was no going back now.

Viktor replaced his arm on Michele with the sharp edge of Mila’s sword. He looked to remaining two, both frozen and eyes stunned, their gazes filled with horror as they looked at Viktor. No matter, Viktor was used to that. He’s killed innocent Warlocks under the orders of the Clans before, he could do it again to the people he won’t miss.

Jerking his chin at Emil, he said, “Aren’t you going to run? Look for back-up? I’m right here.”

“Go!” Michele screeched.

Mila might have said something, shouted it, he wasn’t too sure. She’d been shouting for a while now, in fact. She’s been shouting since he first killed someone on that roof. But no matter, it was either he annihilated all of them or someone was going to report back with reinforcements.

Two.”

He lifted his arm, the sharp tip of the metal blade catching light, aiming for the jugular—an instant kill.

“Viktor, no!”

Viktor stopped. He was distracted, his mind set suddenly interrupted. His head whipped to the direction of the voice to his left and—

That was a mistake.

In his distraction, Michele was able to move, retrieved an arrow from his quiver, and buried the point straight into Viktor’s chest. Viktor fell back, dropping Mila’s long sword. Michele quickly got up to take the blade, swung it upwards, it’s sharp edges coming down Viktor’s way—

Static.

A thin, ray of light passed between them, not too strong but potent enough to send electric shocks from the metal to Michele’s hand. He dropped it, wincing, and as his eyes turned, they were of disbelief.

And so were Viktor’s.

Standing before them, was Yuuri. Barefoot and dishevelled, but most intimidating in the way that he carried himself, along with a glowing orb of electricity starting to form on his left hand.

“What—” Michele blanched.

“Stay where you are,” Yuuri commanded.

Michele made a pathetic move to load his longbow, as did Emil, who pulled out a throwing knife.

As Yuuri walked closer, all of them were still frozen, afraid to be the subject of the Eldest One’s wrath. As he neared, Yuuri looked over to Viktor, then to Mila, and bit his lip.

What was he thinking?

Soon, he knelt beside Viktor, looked to Mila, and produced something from his pocket.

Without warning, without further explanation, something happened. That something was quick, dizzying, incomprehensible. At first, Viktor saw the skies of St. Petersburg, then that image morphed—like a kaleidoscope turned multiple times. A quick flash of light burst through the undiscernible images, then it rearranged itself into a whole different image altogether.


 Viktor blinked.

Once.

Twice.

Three times.

Where was he?

It was slightly warmer, not the usual temperature in the Russian winter, and the view was different too. They were still on the rooftop, not the same one they were in, and definitely no sign of Emil or Michele.

Wait, why was the sun high up like it’s noon?

There was rustling behind him. Viktor turned to see Mila shocked as well, her eyes wandering everywhere. Blood pooled from where her ankles were, an ugly gash more noticeable now that she was lying on the ground. “Where—where are we?”

Someone was heaving beside Viktor, breath laboured and erratic, as if they’d been running a marathon. Viktor looked to Yuuri, already seated on the concrete, sweat dripping from his forehead. He was clutching something on one hand, not a sphere of potent electricity, but a blue crystal.

It was sapphire, Viktor realized, now shattered into a hundred pieces.

“Welcome to Almaty,” Yuuri said.


Manila, 1583

It would be deemed scandalous for Yuuri to be seen walking along the River while he was carrying a drunk Isabella home. He did not, for the life of him, even know where she lived. Worries aside, if he did allow her to sleep in his room that night, she wouldn’t care.

The Conquistadors often scolded her for petty things like murmuring Spanish curses in their midst, sometimes she’d casually criticize the deluded values of Catholic practices, all for them to hear.

If it were any other woman—no, if it were anyone else—it wouldn’t have ended well for her. But Isabella knew she was beautiful, used that to the fullest extent, led men on and have them bend to her will. She may be the most beautiful in the islands of Filipinas, but she was also the cruellest.

They’ve become friends, Yuuri admits. He found her to be fascinating in the way that she was an endless paradox. She was both protective and ruthless, reckless and scheming, graceful and foul-mouthed.

“Lau Ginyu,” She said in a slur of incoherent Cantonese, her mouth curling into a smile. “Take me home.”

“That, I cannot do, Ms. Yang,” he found a large rock and deposited her there, hoping that the effects of fermented wine dissolved while they waited. “What I can do is show you the sunset from my favourite spot.”

Yuuri always did like the sunsets in Manila. The wind was cool and the skies beautiful red and orange, like runny paint on papyrus. Sometimes, there were neighbourhood dogs who went around, walking on their own, playing with the others before they returned home for dinner with their families.

He looked up at the skies, savouring the view of wonderful colours blending into the oncoming indigo sky. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Isabella was looking up as well, her eyes a bit distant, thinking. Distracted. “I saw them whip Arturo this morning.”

And suddenly, as if the world sympathized, the dark twilight engulfed them both. Her skin glowed bright even in the dimness, and as Yuuri looked closer, he saw that there were tears in her eyes. “Why—why would anyone do that, Ginyu?”

Yuuri was silent. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t find the right words that might comfort her, and if he did, there was nothing he could do to ease the Arturo’s pain, wherever he was.

“I went down the river to visit him today,” Isabella sniffed, her tears coming faster. “He still wasn’t home. His father wasn’t home either, so that meant the Conquistadors are overworking him again! He’s sixteen, Ginyu! The boy doesn’t even have the right body to carry all the wood they’re making him carry!”

“Isabella I—”

“Why?” She was looking at him now, expression a combination of both anger and pain. “Why can’t you just kill them all? You can do that, can’t you? You could kill every single one of them so things like that don’t happen.”

Yuuri almost stepped away. Yes, Isabella knew what he was capable of. She knew that he could wield elements and could perform rituals that saved lives. She knew that much from the many times he brought her to Arturo’s sisters and he couldn’t stop the girls from praising him.

“If I did that...” He stepped back a little, finding the strength to speak. If I did that, I’d kill everyone else.

She was inebriated, Yuuri understood. But one’s drunkenness brought out what they felt, and Isabella, now raw and brutally honest, was blaming him. She blamed him for not taking action, for not doing anything. She blamed him for turning a blind eye, for teaching Arturo the tongue of his abusers instead of fighting back.

He tried to calm himself down.

It would not end well for anyone if he started to lose control and wreak havoc to those who had nothing to do with his anxiousness. He balled his fists, feeling his fingernails cut through skin, trying to hold himself down.

When he was beginning to feel more in control of himself, he reached out to Isabella, hand lightly touching her shoulder. “Come, let’s get you some water, alright?” He said, feeling the sweat dripping down his face. “My boarding house is near. When you can remember where you lived, I’ll walk you all the way there.”

Struggling to wipe her tears away, Isabella got up, recoiling from Yuuri’s attempt to assist her.

That’s alright. They weren’t going to walk that far. He was going to have to remedy this tomorrow, then. If this was something like the usual Isabella, she’d probably wake up the next day and ask Yuuri to forget about it. She’d apologize for mouthing senselessness, and would do it again the next time someone offered her wine.

And the cycle would repeat itself endlessly.

However, they didn’t reach halfway through their destination when they heard someone calling from behind them. Isabella reacted first, turning fast, toward a girl all too familiar to them both. Across the street, was little Amihan, Arturo’s youngest sister. She was breathing hard, crying, and trembling.

Yuuri felt his heart sink. “What is—”

But Isabella was already shoving him aside, her face adamant and angry. “Where?”

Amihan looked up at Isabella, refusing to speak, and turned quickly and ran.

Isabella followed.

Whatever it was, Isabella had already understood, but from the look on her face, it didn’t seem pleasant. Yuuri followed her anyway. This was not the kind of place women run around half-inebriated, after all. They ran across the dirt roads, dust flying as their feet pounded on the ground—and Isabella stopped.

Yuuri crashed unto her, almost completely tackling the other to the ground. He didn’t understand at first, because it was too dark. However, as his eyes adjusted to the harsh light of gas lamps and bamboo torches, he stiffened.

There was a small crowd surrounding two men, one was labourer, on his knees and bleeding—the other, was a Spanish Conquistador, a whip gripped tightly in his fists, coming down repeatedly on the native’s bare back.

If the sight of it wasn’t horrifying enough, the sounds of it were—the crack each time the whip landed on skin, the broken cries that followed right after, and the sound of shuffling feet of those trying to retreat from the atrocious scenery.

Isabella’s eyes, however, were somewhere else. Not too far away from the grotesque whipping, was a boy, his body limp and lifeless. A Conquistador picked the body up, carrying it without much care, and that’s when Isabella lost it.

Arturo.

Yuuri barely had the time to hold her down when she went running to the direction of the Spanish Conquistador, yelling, cursing through gritted teeth. He held her by the waist, but she thrashed about, kicking Yuuri several times in the process.

Déjalo irse!” She snarled, Spanish words flowing out of her lips, voice broken and laced with rage. “Release him, you monster. I demand it!”

“Isabella—”

The soldier dropped the boy’s body, like a sack of bones with little to no value. The man looked to Isabella, unimpressed and disgusted, and gestured at Arturo’s lifeless form. “Would you want to have him buried yourself, miss? Because we can do it in the mass graves—”

Isabella’s loosed an arm from Yuuri’s grasp, reaching toward the guard. “Hijo de puta!”

And then, flames shot out into the air.

Yuuri stood still, so did everyone else, as they watched Isabella thrash about, flames flickering out of her fingers. “Let me go, Ginyu.”

He stared at her, unmoving.

“Let me go!” Flames burst out around her, burning Yuuri, causing him to step back.

The soldier bringing down the punishment had stopped, as did the native being punished, as did the crowd gathered around them. It was as if the world had become frozen, as if the winds and time stopped completely—except for Isabella.

She made way to Arturo, tears streaming from her eyes. The soldier who held Arturo, whose face was now burnt, stepped away in horror. She didn’t care, she didn’t pause, Isabella did all she could to check for any signs of life in Arturo—checking his wrists for a pulse, feeling his chest for his heart, calling his name repeatedly as if he would wake.

It was no use.

He was dead.

They were too late.

Beside Yuuri, Amihan was crying. All he could do was to reach for her, held her close, and willed that she didn’t hear more. Yuuri has never, in the many years of his life, had felt this hateful.

Isabella wailed, her voice filled with sorrow and hate, reverberating through the dark, open space.

And on that day, Isabella Yang’s flames engulfed Manila as fast as her tears came. Burning, melting, killing everything in its wake.

On that day, like Rome, the whole city became an inferno.


 Almaty, 2016 AD

“So are you saying Otabek Altin is actually two hundred years old?” Viktor was looking at Otabek incredulously, blinking.

“I think he’s answered that question three times.” Yuuri was leaning against one of Otabek’s armchairs, eyes closed, his whole body extremely tired. A sapphire was a pretty strong harnessing gem in itself, but it shattered half way, so Yuuri had to take over, driving him to the point of exhaustion.

Otabek looked rather unimpressed, going back to making coffee on the counter top.

“Does Yura know?”

“He doesn’t,” Otabek was retrieving some cups, as to which Mila stood to help him. “If I didn’t tell him, well, he’ll notice in the next ten years anyway.”

Viktor still looked rather shocked, even as their cups of coffee were being pushed in front of them. Yuuri didn’t know if caffeine was supposed to be a solution of some sorts. It’s been a long time since he’d conjured a portal—a very, very long time. He wasn’t even able to wield lightning at the time.

“I’m assuming Mila has more pressing questions,” Yuuri said, trying to keep Viktor from asking the same question over and over again.

Mila settled close to Viktor, the leg of her pants still soaked in blood, but without any signs of injury now.

Yuuri had been too tired to fully execute a healing spell, so he closed their wounds and brought them to a friend he could trust. The main reason why he brought them to Almaty was mostly because of Otabek anyway, who wordlessly finished the healing as soon as they came knocking.

Not to mention Kazakhstan was much closer to Russia than America, so if he’d brought them to Detroit, Yuuri might have lost all control as he did in Pompeii.

Or as Isabella lost control in Manila.

“I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this already,” Mila cleared her throat. “But how can you wield lightning?”

He opened his eyes to meet Mila’s, already predicting how the conversation would go. “Do you want the simple answer or the complicated one?”

“Whichever is easier to understand.”

-

By the end of it all, Yuuri was more tired than he had been. He did the best he could to explain their situation, some vague things alluding himself as the Eldest One, although he never did like being called that. Mila was already resting in Otabek’s guest room, Viktor was on the couch, and Yuuri—well, though exhausted, he couldn’t sleep.

Instead, he sought Otabek’s company in the kitchen, sitting on the barstool next to a very tempting bottle of Bourbon.

“You said that she was back?” Otabek was leaning against the kitchen counter, fiddling with his tea cup. Yuuri didn’t want to disturb him like this, but Otabek was a friend who offered his help whenever Yuuri needed it, so there he was. “I thought that was the Clan’s problem, not yours.”

“I might have been commissioned to eliminate her.”

Otabek stilled. “You can’t be serious?”

“I wasn’t,” he said. “But I didn’t think she would make a move on St. Petersburg. If she’s gone on to steal people’s spell power again, it could only mean she hasn’t given up on it.”

“But that’s not possible.”

“Yeah, but no one’s been able to wield lightning before,” Yuuri muttered bitterly. “I’m sure raising the dead is entirely possible.”

There it was. Yuuri, Phichit, and Otabek usually avoided the topic of Necromancy. It was a fascinating urban legend, sometimes people would believe in it due to circumstantial evidence, but it was only in theory that it existed. No one’s actually done it before, and if they did, there was no knowing what the repercussions were.

Several Warlocks have attempted it in the centuries, but none has ever come close to it. Not even a little. If Yuuri had to accidentally commit mass genocide to acquire what power he had, surely, something as impossible as Necromancy would need even more spell power.

“She’s targeting children for spell power,” Yuuri sighed. “She doesn’t have to, but she thinks those of the young ones’ are especially more potent because...it’s untouched.”

Otabek contemplated for a while, staring down at his cup. “Does the Warlock Council know?”

“They’re aware of her,” he said. “I don’t know about the recent attack. It’s been tactfully set up so Viktor was the one to take the blame. Not to mention, he told me the Warlock he encountered a few nights ago was actually a wind-wielder. So it wasn’t her.”

“Are you saying some other Warlocks are helping her?” Otabek leaned back, pushed himself up, and sat on the counter. “And they said the spell power was untraceable?”

Yuuri rubbed his eyes. “Yes, and yes. Even Isabella Yang can’t wield two elements at a time.”

“She could have done what you—uh, accidentally did.”

“I made sure to check she didn’t,” Yuuri replied dryly. “I checked the labour camps in Germany and the Chinese labourers under Mao Zedong. I made sure those who died under Stalin didn’t die from what I suspected they did. I checked what remained of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the day after the bombs fell.”

He couldn’t help the images flooding his vision. Of the many atrocities done by humans over the years. Yuuri could do little to stop them, couldn’t have done anything to save anyone. Yuuri wasn’t sure which would have been more horrifying—Isabella annihilating them for spell power or abusive men who tortured and killed their own people.

Otabek stared at Yuuri sympathetically. He hasn’t lived long, not for as long Yuuri had, but he’s seen the same things played out in the last two centuries that he was alive. He understood the way Yuuri felt uncomfortable at the sight of tanks and guns and weaponry.

Whether it was a pointed spear or a nuclear bomb, man has always created to destroy.

“You need sleep,” Otabek said.

“I'll do that,” Yuuri said, mostly to himself. “Maybe another five minutes.”

Otabek excused himself after that, leaving the apartment to Yuuri for the grocery store nearby. Great. Now he was about to be bothered with cooking, too.

Yuuri fell back into the edge of the counter, feeling a bit better than he was earlier. Perhaps, the little superstition of not coming to Russia in the winter had been true, because this was his worst in a long time so far.

He was about to get up when someone was by the door, clearing their throat.

“Oh,” Yuuri felt slightly relieved. “How’s your chest?”

Viktor looked a bit sheepish this time, so unlike his expression earlier that Yuuri almost forgot about it. “I’m sorry.”

Yuuri perked up. “For what?”

“That you had to see that.”

“See what?”

The other seemed the crumple in front of Yuuri, guilt crashing over him in one, swift blow. “To see me kill my own people.”

Why it became so unbearably heart breaking all of the sudden, Yuuri refused to even think about it.

“I told you,” he said, feeling his heart knotting and breaking and pounding. “It’s nothing to worry about.”

“But, you stopped me,” Viktor said. “You must think I’m a monster—”

“I accidentally killed thousands of people,” Yuuri felt like he said something he shouldn’t have, but no matter, he was far too impatient and wound up anyway. “Two cities, in fact. Adults, children, slaves, and gladiators. Don’t you ever think I’ll look at you the way you look at yourself, Viktor.”

Viktor stepped into the kitchen, still a bit hesitant. “How do you look at me, then?”

“Someone who’s unfortunate enough to be involved in the Hidden World,” he said, voice softening a little. “If they had thrown you in prison, we would never have known that some Warlock is running around doing this, all the while covering her tracks.”

“Someone you know?”

“An assumption,” Yuuri said.

Viktor’s expression, however, told Yuuri that it was an excuse he’s heard before. “What would happen to Yura?”

Ah.

“Otabek’s already working on it,” he said. “As far as the others know, he’s not a Warlock. He’s been keeping to himself most of the time, so it’ll be easy if he could get in somehow.”

“I can give him Sara’s phone number,” Viktor said eagerly, pulling out his phone from his pocket, the screen cracked. “She’s our physician. Very close to all three of us.”

“That would do.”

And there was that uncomfortable silence again. It was happening quite often.

Viktor turned away. “I should go—”

Yuuri was probably delirious.

He was probably too tired to think.

Maybe he was starting become reckless again.

All that didn’t matter, all caution wasn’t heeded—because in that moment, he knew he was plunging into dangerous lines again. He’s never taken so much risk before, not until then.

Because as he stood, as he made way to stop Viktor, he felt like it was the right thing to do. Because as he pulled Viktor into a kiss, shocked as he may be, he felt like it was the best decision he could have ever made.

Because as Viktor began to kiss him back, no matter how he protested internally, it felt like he could never want anything more than he ever had.

Yuuri was the first to pull away, vision slightly hazy from his dizzying thoughts, greeted by eyes that could rival even the brightest spring skies. “If—” He stammered. “If you don’t want to—”

“Promise me something,” Viktor said, peppering Yuuri’s jaw with light kisses.

“What is it?”

“Please give me a chance, Yuuri Katsuki,” He said, voice soft, face warm. “Please give me a chance to prove myself worthy before you start running away.”

"It's just Yuuri," he said, breathless.

Viktor frowned, unable to understand. "What?"

"I don't actually have a last name," Yuuri said. "I don't know why, but I guess it's good for you to know that."

Chapter Text

Ipswich, 1692 AD

If there were blander things than living in a sleepy superstitious town, in the middle of uneventfulness and boring people, Yuuri wouldn’t know. It’s been long before he’s gone anywhere relatively interesting, somehow landing in colonial Massachusetts as he went. Not one of the most memorable places he’s went to, but nonetheless, he needed to stay and maybe hop on a boat back to Europe when the time comes.

This apparent thoughtlessness in choosing his next home was more or less inspired by the need to forget. He couldn’t stand looking at the aftermath of what had transpired in Manila several decades ago, so he vowed to never return until wounds healed—his wounds, the people’s, the beautiful city’s, and Isabella’s.

Oh, right. Isabella Yang.

Yuuri, despite being great friends with her at that point in time, knew so little about her at all. She was a young warlock when they first met, lived for only a couple of decades past the point where she stopped aging, and that she usually lost control when she got too emotional.

That’s about it.

Losing control was normal for new warlocks. It was something that came with unlocking something and leaving the doors ready to open when needed, sometimes they even involuntarily open, like it was aware of the havoc it caused. It was just like that. It is what separated them from the normal people. A small thing, if you think about it, a simple tweak at a certain unknown part of their bodies that held spell power. Some people might call it chi, chakra, whatever—it’s the same thing—though some people are more informed than others.

“Don’t you think it’s time that we move to another place?” Isabella was seated on the far corner of the room, a bowl of crushed, dried wolf’s bane in her hands. She’s been spending most of her time learning natural medicine, or something of that sorts, anything she could do to avoid ever using her spell power again. “I’ve heard news from Salem earlier this morning.”

Yuuri looked up from where he was reading her notes on medicinal herbs. He had taken interest in them as well, but he had been far too lazy to put them into practice (so learning them in theory would have to do). “You mean the woman they hanged for witchcraft?” Yuuri scanned the notes absentmindedly, fond of the little illustrations Isabella made on the pages. “Does it worry you?”

Isabella looked rather uncomfortable, rising from the chair to set the wooden bowl on the table. “No,” she said. “Maybe. We’ve been taking a lot of requests lately, haven’t we? What if they found out?”

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Yuuri muttered, moved away from the dining table, and began to check the various herbs displayed on the shelves. “We haven’t stayed long. It’s been, what, twelve years? A strange, married couple who migrated from the east doesn’t seem threatening, does it?”

Isabella didn’t look too convinced.

Yuuri shook his head and thought of something a little more reassuring than their pathetic disguise. “Don’t worry, I’ve been supplying Eustace Blake enough opium to convince him he had a beautiful wife. As long as we keep him happy, we’re safe.”

“Eustace isn’t the only one we’ve been taking requests from.”

“Well, Eustace does run the town, and if that plan fails we do have Cassava Roots to eliminate anyone if we need to,” Yuuri said, almost unthinkingly. “And if we run out of that, I heard apricot seeds can bring about the same effect, though it has to be processed before it could be deadly.”

Isabella didn’t answer. Couldn’t, in fact.

As Yuuri turned, he could see that she was trembling, visibly. Hey eyes were wide, lips open, as if she had just walked in on a scene were Yuuri was hacking someone to death.

“I meant to never hurt anyone, Yuuri,” she said, still trembling. “Not at all. Not with spell power. Not with poisoned food. None of that. No more magic for me.”

Yuuri frowned. He’s made to believe that people like them—beings like them—were beasts, awful and unmerciful. Yuuri hadn’t thought about the right and wrong, not for a long time, and he hoped

Isabella would be the same soon enough.

“You know the first unspoken rule of warlocks, don’t you?”

She closed her mouth, shook her head, her expression ever so horrified. Isabella usually wasn’t one to look this afraid, not her, not the woman whom Yuuri found to be extraordinary in many ways. But at that moment, in that excruciatingly silent moment, she was weak.

Isabella did speak, however, though slightly confused. “We must never interfere with human endeavours.”

“And the other one?”

“We—” She looked down to her empty hands. Isabella had elegant hands. “We must preserve ourselves for the good of mankind at—”

Yuuri urged her to continue. “At?”

“—at all costs.” There was no finality in the way she spoke it. It was common for young warlocks to think that life would be easy for them, that they could help the world by doing things no common human being could, that humans would accept them.

They were so often wrong.

“That’s right.”

A single tear ran down Isabella’s pale cheek.

She was lovely from the moment Yuuri first met her, she was beautiful still, and he knew he was weak for lovely things.

In those years he had mentored her, Yuuri had grown fond of Isabella, amused and enchanted by whatever she did. That feeling of fondness, however, was not that of physical attraction, something abstract, something that didn’t involve wanting to have her in ways men would the body of a woman.

“What if—” He heard her sniffle, as she lowered herself down on the wooden chair. “What if that were wrong? What if our existence shouldn’t have—what if we’re the ones who shouldn’t be here?”
Yuuri stepped toward her, willing his resolve to stay grounded and steady. Yuuri, in all of his existence, knew that love was defined by many things.

He loved his mother, his father, his sister. He loved a man named Francois and a woman named Hana, loved their bodies as much as he loved their smiles. He loved a dog who once accompanied him to the night markets of Lancaster. He loved a child named Sarai, who was abandoned by her mother, took care of her until she married. He loved Isabella regardless of how she looked, loved her spirit most of all.

Yuuri had loved many, humans and sunsets and music and places, all the definitions of how he did changed from one person to another.

“Isabella,” Yuuri spoke, her name very familiar on his tongue after all those years. “Never think of yourself unworthy of existence, do you understand? Self-worth is the only thing that keeps us alive, and if we lose that too, along with the capability to love, we will go mad.”

She looked up to him, cheeks tear-stained. “Go mad?”

“Never harden your heart,” Yuuri said, reaching to touch her chin lightly, urging her to look at him in the eye when she looked away. “Do not let it turn to stone. Isn’t that our third unspoken rule?”

“We must never lose the humanity in our hearts,” Isabella recited, something she had spoken again and again in times where she was most troubled. In times when she was so close to shutting the world away. In times when she felt hatred was going to consume her from within. “We are not gods. We are guardians. We protect, we do not destroy.”

“That’s it,” Yuuri smiled, almost involuntarily, the weight on his chest lifted. “Other warlocks would say otherwise, but you agree to that, don’t you? You know that we’ve lasted for as long as we have because of that?”

And in that moment, in that peaceful moment, Yuuri was staggering back. He hadn’t realized what happened, up until Isabella had pulled away from the kiss.

“I have wanted to do that,” she said to him, though her eyes were sad. “But I guess, it will remain that way and nothing more.”


Almaty, 2016 AD

The strangest thing that had happened in the last two weeks since their escape occurred in the midst of a cold afternoon.

Viktor was sitting on the ledge by the kitchen window, eyes steady on the oncoming sunset. He had tried to find ways to distract himself, like asking to help with the cleaning and the occasional preparations for the herbs Otabek used for spells. After the first few days, though, he began to run out of things to do real fast.

So when Yuuri appeared behind him, Viktor had never been more glad.

“I always did love the sunsets,” Yuuri said to him, his tone most casual and yet sincere, his eyes far away into a memory Viktor wanted to see. He wondered how much there was in Yuuri that he could unravel, beautiful things surely, and whether Yuuri was going to allow it. “Manila had the best ones.”

“Not even Paris?”

Yuuri made a face. “Paris was too busy to deal with any of those,” he said. “Although they did start the sky balloon craze back in...well, I can’t remember, but that was a thing.”

“I’m guessing you’re one of the few who could afford it?”

“Yeah. I wore breeches, too. They’re hot and uncomfortable and itchy, but what is a Parisian if not one for fashion?” Yuuri shook his head, humoured, but his eyes were now trailed on Viktor’s.

Sometimes, an indiscernible accent slipped out whenever Yuuri spoke. It was rare, something that doesn’t happen too often, mostly when he’s not thinking. Viktor found it endearing.

“Walk with me?”

“Now?”

Yuuri looked at him like he said something strange. Perhaps, he did. “Yes, now.”

Ah, perhaps a little more distraction wouldn’t hurt. So Viktor got up, grabbed his jacket from where it was deposited on the couch, and followed suit.

They found their way into an old bookstore, the kind that sold used ones. Viktor couldn’t have been more happier about it.

“I thought you might like it,” Yuuri smiled as he was skimming through some kind of philosophical textbook. “They restock quite often, but the books are regularly shipped off to other branches so there’s space for new ones.”

“I like it,” Viktor found an old copy of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s book of poems. He was carrying it around as he was looking through the other books, well-aware of the fact that he didn’t have a single—ruble?—on him. He wasn’t even sure what currency Kazakhstan used.

Yuuri was quick to notice this. “You can get whatever you want. I’ll buy it for you.”

“You don’t have—”

“Otabek’s been passing on some of his clients to me,” he said quickly. “Not that I needed it, but I didn’t want to use my credit card just in case...” Yuuri trailed off, thinking, like he had caught himself just in time before he could have said something wrong. “Well, credit cards are traceable.”

Viktor blinked at him for a long while. “I can come back next time.”

“No, don’t worry,” Yuuri waved at him, smiling. “I imagine you’re bored. Go get something you can read. Mila, too.”

And that was it. Viktor would have liked to argue, but he had the slightest feeling he wasn’t going to win if he tried. So he looked for something Mila might want, added that to his book of poems, and handed them to Yuuri.

As soon as the books were paid for (and Viktor insisting that he was going to pay Yuuri back one way or another), they found themselves walking around the streets of Almaty in silence, without a proper destination or an agreement to do anything.

Viktor was beginning to feel slightly awkward, was about to tell a joke or something like that, but he couldn’t remember anymore.

He couldn’t because Yuuri brushed his knuckles against Viktor’s almost intentionally. Viktor took this as an invitation and as he slipped his hand into Yuuri’s, his heart speeding at what seemed to be a very, very unhealthy rate.

Yuuri didn’t seem fazed at all, lacing his finger’s with Viktor’s with as much suave as any sane man could manage.

They continued to walk in silence for a little longer.

“You have more questions?” Yuuri asked, eyes still looking unto darkening sidewalk ahead, seemingly oblivious to their intertwined hands.

How dare he look so cool and casual like that, when Viktor was close to getting a heart attack.

“Why do you think so?”

Yuuri shrugged. “I’ve had friends who aren’t warlocks. They liked asking about random things,” he said. “There’s something about immortality that makes someone interesting.”

“I think you’re interesting even if you’ve been born two decades ago,” Viktor mumbled, unable to help himself.

He looked to Yuuri, slightly panicked by his lack of filter, but was both relieved and overwhelmed to see the other blush. Ah, that doesn’t get old, does it? He should try to be honest more often.

If he could manage doing so without dying of shame first.

“That’s—well, you can tell me that once we’ve known each other for much longer,” Yuuri smiled, just a little, but sadness overtook the smile almost instantaneously. Viktor wondered why that was. “I really don’t mind.”

“Okay, so, have you met any historical figures?”

Yuuri looked up, thinking. “Let’s see, Bonnie Prince Charlie? His jokes were a bore, though. I think he’s just a pretty face,” he chuckled. “And then there’s Marie Antoinette, the French did like magic tricks and stuff, so I found my way into the courts sometimes.” Yuuri paused for a bit, eyes fond and distant, and said, “I don’t know if Jack the Ripper counts, but there’s that, too.”

“Jack the Ripper?”

He felt Yuuri’s fingers twitch in his hands. “A client gone mad,” he smiled, though he still looked a bit sad. Yuuri always looked sad reminiscing. “I wasn’t able to track him up until the last few years of the incidents—the murders, I mean, but that’s another story for another time. How about you? What did you like about France?”

“Uh, the language? I did love the people, too.” Viktor recalled, though his memories were vague and...well, bloody. “Not the Clan members, of course. The French Clansmen were a bit too rowdy for my liking.”

“By rowdy you meant that they killed ruthlessly.”

Viktor almost drew back in shock, but he didn’t. Instead, he tried masking his discomfort with humourless laugh. “Let’s just say they took their oaths seriously. Sometimes we’d get orders to kill warlocks...and we don’t even know why.”

“How many have you gotten?”

“All six of them were orders to indiscriminately kill,” Viktor felt like there was acid in his tongue, but there was no use lying to Yuuri right now. “There was one who’s really young. She looked fifteen, lived for about twenty years, and went rogue. I think she lost her sanity in the process of the Turning Ritual.”

“She must have been forced into it.”

Viktor wanted to know more about that. There was so little that he knew about warlocks, some of the things he knew were bound to be speculations, and he never cared to confirm them up until...well, up until Yuuri. There was something about him that didn’t spell threat at all, none of the usual ones he’s heard of.

Yuuri was kind and compassionate, powerful yet restrained, and behind his sad eyes Viktor knew it was a time capsule of human history—written or not, known or unknown.

“What do you get from forcing someone into it?” Viktor asked instead, something rather impersonal. Something casual, not at all privy to what Yuuri might want to keep hidden.

“Oh, a lot of things,” Yuuri said, his voice steady and soft. “Sometimes people decide on a young child, someone they chose at a random, then they use the newly-turned warlock’s abilities whichever way they pleased. Happened a lot in Scotland a few centuries back. They didn’t have great doctors back then—using horse dung for medicine and all that?—and they found that magic was a lot more real, and effective.”

“And what happens to the kid after?”

“They’re usually put in cages. They’ll be of use up until they go insane, which takes long enough before needing a replacement,” Yuuri shrugged. “The perks of immortality and all.”

Yuuri didn’t look too happy about saying this, but his face still looked serene, like remembering a bad memory but have long accepted it as in irrevocable fact.

Viktor’s never thought about wasting his time before, he’s never lived in ways that many would. He might have, if he were still young and hopeful, but he was not. Viktor was twenty-seven, had killed demons and warlocks and humans alike, had grown numb to the guilt of killing and unknown to the pleasures in life. He didn’t find pleasure in alcohol, not at all, but if he had enough, he’d forget. He’d magically wake up at a later time, with no need to mull over what he was going to do next, up until he woke, that is.

“Why did you help me?” Viktor asked.

Yuuri looked to him again, knowingly, an answer at the ready. “Because I want to,” he said. “And because none of that was your fault. It’s about time that this had to stop, anyway.”

“So you do know who’s behind all this, then?”

“Yes, I do,” Yuuri said. “More than I wanted to, but yes, I do.”

“I’m guessing I wouldn’t know who they are.”

“Definitely not,” Yuuri sighed.

He looked rather tired that night.

Viktor and Mila hadn’t done much in their untimely escape and eventual hiding, Yuuri stayed to answer questions or told them vague news, but he wasn’t at Otabek’s apartment most of the time. It felt slightly intrusive of Viktor to ask where Yuuri’s been, though it would have been a valid question.

Nonetheless, Viktor didn’t understand much of what was happening, so sometimes he didn’t bother wondering about it.

“Once this is sorted out,” Yuuri said, holding Viktor’s hand tightly. “I’ll send you home immediately. Your brother must be waiting for you by now.”

“Is Yura—” Viktor stuttered, unable to process information like a normal person.

“Yes,” Yuuri smiled. “He’s okay.”

Viktor looked down and sighed. He wouldn’t be able to forgive himself if anything happened to Yura. He promised to protect him—at all costs—and there was no way he was going back on that promise now. Now when Yura’s safety has been compromised.

“Yura’s not really my little brother,” Viktor noted. “Well, not in blood, anyway. I just trained him and ended up looking after him as he grew up.”

“I know.”

“You knew?”

Yuuri grasped his hands even tighter, his palms a bit moist. “I was commissioned to look for Lilia Baranovskaya’s adoptive son, remember? I later found out it was Yuri,” he looked to Viktor, his long, dark lashes fluttering. “It was a coincidence that you happen to know him, of course.” And, as if sensing a question that came with it, Yuuri added, “I would have wanted to talk to you again regardless.”

Oh.

That answered Viktor’s worries quicker than it had fully formed. He didn’t even realize insecurity was starting to creep up to him when up until the other mentioned it. Yuuri must be used to clearing up situations even before they began to become a problem. And again, Viktor wondered, for whom did he do that for?

“I would have stupidly come to you even if I’d found you striking someone with lightning bolts,” Viktor said, almost hastily. Stupidly. Ignorantly. Recklessly. However you wanted to define it. “Do you think I might be insane for thinking that way?”

Yuuri hummed. “Not at all. Though it would have been dangerous had I’ve been different.”

“Have you ever been different?” He tried.

“Maybe,” Yuuri replied. “I have killed people, too, you know. Not intentionally. I used to accept requests to eliminate someone, given that there were reasonable grounds. I try looking into it before accepting, then the assassination happens—swiftly, of course.”

Viktor had no idea why he was hearing this, why Yuuri was telling him this. Was Yuuri testing him? Did Yuuri want to know whether Viktor recoiled at the idea of this? “And what changed?”

“I don’t know,” Yuuri rubbed the back of Viktor’s hand with his thumb, his skin cold. “If you’ve lived for as long as I have, you might start to forget quite a few things, even the important ones,” Yuuri looked up to Viktor and planted a chaste kiss on his jaw. “Even the ones you swore to never forget.”

“Would you allow me then,” Viktor whispered, feeling his chest swelling in ways it had never been before. “Would you allow me to leave even the slightest memory with you?”

And so, as the moonlight began to shower them both, Yuuri kissed him. It was soft, lingering, none too demanding or hungry. It was the very definition of what first kisses should have been—tentative, sweet, and hopeful. “I wouldn’t call it ‘slight’ at this point, Viktor Nikiforov.”


 Salem Town, 1692 AD

Yuuri has done nothing but watch over Isabella for weeks.

The news of the witch trials have circulated throughout Massachusetts it was getting harder and harder to keep her ears away from the gossips. Yuuri had known Isabella had a kind heart, a brave one, but stubbornly kind and forgiving nonetheless.

One of the things he struggled with when he took her under his wing was the fact that she got attached to the people and the places they went to. She grew attached to a group of street children once, taught them how to read and write, and worked day and night to earn some money for their schooling. Even warlocks had trouble looking for work, considering that they mostly chose to live in the outskirts of town, where more of the struggling poor are and requests for anything rarely came in.

But that didn’t matter to her.

He had thought that as time went on, she was going to start to get used to the fact that for the rest of their lives, there was nothing that was constant. People died. Kings fell. Cities burned. Flesh turned to ashes. Flowers withered.

Isabella Yang, however, did not like to believe in this.

She gave her services to those in dire need of it for free, only charging the richer clients (sometimes more than she needed to), and gave most of the money she earned to those who needed it more. She contributed to their expenses (hers and Yuuri’s), more than enough to be honest, so whatever she did with the rest was all up to her.

If anything, a compassionate heart was one of things that made Isabella so beautiful, but it was a weakness—and they cannot afford to be weak. Not them. Not those who have turned away from the natural order of the world. Not those who were constantly hunted down by those who cannot possibly understand.

And then that weakness, eventually reared its ugly head.

The news for new trials and hangings had spread like wild fire that day, so when Yuuri came back to their small cottage one afternoon and saw that she wasn’t there, he had known where to find her. It had taken less than a few seconds for him to lock down the cottage and mounted one of the horses, heading straight for Salem.

He hadn’t known what he was going to do when he got there—hadn’t known how to find her in a sea of fanatics, let alone convince her to come home. From their conversations in the past weeks, however, Yuuri knew there was no way Isabella was going to sit still and let the others hang innocent women before her very eyes.

Yuuri’s heart calmed down a little, though, when he saw a very distraught Isabella walking down a secluded path. There weren’t very many people walking around the heart of the town, which meant two things—the hangings haven’t happened yet, or they were long over.

From the look on Isabella’s face, however, he already knew what the answer was.

Unthinkingly, he dismounted his horse, and ran to her, enclosing her in a crushing embrace. “You’re alright,” Yuuri exhaled. “Dear god, you’re alright.”

But Isabella wasn’t alright. She was sniffling, gentle tears streaming down her cheeks, eyes already very red from the crying.

Oh dear.

“Did they hurt you?” Yuuri pulled away, his hands on her shoulders, looking at her straight in the eye. “Isabella, tell me. Did they threaten you? Hurt you? Did they attempt to capture you?”

Tears still falling, she shook her head lightly, breathing unsteady. “I was too late.”

“What?”

“Yuuri, I was too late. The girl—she was fifteen, she was denying everything they’re accusing her of to the very end,” Isabella put her face in her hands, coughing up and sobbing. “She had a sister, they think she might be a witch, too. We can take her, get her out of here—Yuuri—”

Yuuri’s fingers dug deep into her shoulders, mind racing and sputtering and inexplicably panicking. “Isabella, we can’t,” he said, lips trembling. “If we rode horses and took her with us, they’ll come after us,” he looked up to check if there was someone listening, eyes and ears vigilant. God, he didn’t even have money with him, either. “And even if we did save one girl, they are going to find another one, send them to trial, and it will be the same—”

“You wouldn’t save her?” Isabella looked to him, eyes sad and...disappointed. “Her mother’s sick, Yuuri. Her sister’s barely old enough to take care of their mother...please.”

He wanted to agree. He wanted to say yes. He wanted to bend and give her what she wanted.

“We can’t take her with us.”

For a very long moment, there was silence, only Isabella’s sobs audible despite the sounds of daily life around them. Life had seemed to continue on, without a clue or a care to the recent events that have just happened. The people of Salem Town were becoming used to it.

Like everyone else, they would soon forget.

Isabella looked up to him, a determined look in her eyes. “Then help me.”

Yuuri’s eyebrows furrowed. “With what?”

“Help me dig her up, her body must have been buried in a mass grave somewhere—they wouldn’t have dug very deep—”

His jaw went slack. “Are you—”

“We could change her face, make her look different,” Isabella said. “Please. You can do it, can you? With the spell power you have? I can’t bear to think that her sick mother’s alone with her six-year-old sister. Yuuri, please.”

Yuuri pulled her close to him, close enough that he could feel her ragged breaths caress his face, afraid that someone might have heard them. “Do you—do you know what you’re talking about?”

“Necromancy,” Isabella said, her eyes glinting in sadness and determination, her heart broken and beyond repair. He heart’s been broken before, but in that moment, he knew it had shattered completely. “I’ve read it in some of the scrolls they kept back at the Shrine. Back at home. It’s possible—”

“No,” Yuuri said, firm and final.

She looked helpless. “But...”

“I’m sorry.”

Yuuri reached up behind her head, focusing as much energy as he could on his hand, and then, Isabella’s eyes rolled back, her knees buckled, and she collapsed in his arms. It would be easier to ask for forgiveness later, for now, he was going to take her far away—and hope, that she would learn to forget.

Like everyone in that town.

Like everyone in Manila.

Like everyone Yuuri’s ever met.

Forgetting was the only thing constant in this wretched life of theirs.


Almaty, 2016 AD

Yuuri couldn’t have been happier with Phichit’s arrival. Although, that didn’t mean Phichit liked it at all.

“You should’ve told me about Isabella as soon as you suspected something,” Phichit muttered, his winter coat thick and crumpled, fresh from the airport. He walked stiffly, possibly uncomfortable and barely-rested from his flight. Phichit hated planes. “Had I known about it much earlier, I would’ve had the time to pack up and stuff. Did you know I had to leave the apartment to old man Ricky? Do you know how awful he can be?”

“That’s because you chose a pretty shady neighbourhood,” Otabek sipped at his tea, eyes fluttering close from time to time due to the exhaustion. Phichit had arrived pretty late, but none of that was unusual, considering he did make entrances at such ungodly hours. “I told you to move five months ago.”

Phichit pouted. “But that’s where most of the customers are,” he said. “Besides, if we stayed in an expensive complex, we would have drawn attention to ourselves.”

“It’s your fault you look like you’re still in college.”

Yuuri sighed and pushed a tea cup across the table, offering it to Phichit. “I did tell you I can handle this myself.”

Phichit snorted. “Of course, you can. You probably plan on wearing that shirt for two months until this is sorted out,” he looked at Yuuri’s shirt—or Otabek’s—and it hung on him like a strange poncho. Phichit shoved a duffel into Yuuri’s hands and sighed. “Here’s a change of clothes, at least. I don’t know Mila’s and your boyfriend’s size—”

“Phichit—”

“And don’t even tell me the boy’s not your boyfriend, because I know you wouldn’t have bothered with saving them if he weren’t someone special,” he said, sighing deeply. “I’ll buy something for them tomorrow. Mila is gorgeous and the ill-fitting clothes are making her look homeless.”

“We are technically homeless at this point,” Yuuri muttered.

“Yes, because you had to make plans without telling me—oh wait, scratch that, you had no plans! Did you think you could just wing this and come out of it unscathed?” Phichit threw his hands up in exasperation. “Well, at least he’s not eighteen. You know what happens when you snag someone that young.”

Yuuri frowned. “It was an emergency, Phichit!”

“Sure, sure.” Phichit snorted. “Anyway, I’ve made sure to cast a strong cloaking spell on me before I came here, and managed to get someone’s credit card info—don’t ask who I hacked into, this is an emergency.”

Yuuri hid his face behind his hands, and groaned.

Phichit might keep his virtue most of the time, but it wasn’t beyond him to steal or to break the law in case of emergencies.

At least he hasn’t killed anyone yet.

Otabek was fiddling with his phone absentmindedly while all this was happening. Yuuri saw an opportunity to derail the conversation, so he looked to Otabek and said, “Does the boy know?”

The other looked up at him without any hint of interest. “You mean Yura? He doesn’t. I sent Sara Crispino a package—potions—and told her not to tell anyone.” Yuuri had meant to ask more questions, but Otabek cleared his throat. “He also doesn’t recall much from the—uh—incident. So Viktor’s still not in the clear.”

“Wonderful,” Phichit muttered, shaking his head. “Do you have any idea where Isabella might be?”

Silence.

Phichit blinked, disbelief filling his eyes. “No? No idea?”

“We couldn’t track her,” Yuuri replied, defeated. “We’ve exhausted our spell powers for tracking spells, tried to detect spell power activity, tried to trace fire and wind magic, and found nothing that matches hers.”

To be honest, Yuuri was hoping he could just give up and live in Kazakhstan for another hundred years. He’ll have enough money to afford an apartment of his own soon, but the concern wasn’t him.

For so many years, he tried to avoid Isabella as much as he could. He had been avoiding her for so long that whatever affection he felt before had turned toxic and hateful.

He hasn’t even spoken to her in the last hundred years.

“Is it wrong...” Yuuri took a deep breath, his heart heavy. “Is it wrong for me to think that I could still change her mind?”

Two sets of eyes looked to him sympathetically. It’s been long since all three of them have spoken about the subject of Isabella Yang.

Phichit had met her once, instantly liked her, even pampered her with Parisian clothes all the while criticizing Yuuri’s lack of appropriate fashion sense. Otabek hasn’t met her, coming into Yuuri’s life much later, but that did not mean he wasn’t witness to a drunken Yuuri endlessly muttering on the subject of Isabella Yang’s demise.

Phichit stepped closer to him, his hand going to Yuuri’s shoulder. “Yuuri,” he said, eyes downcast and confused. “Otabek and I could handle it if you don’t want to. You could keep Mila and Viktor safe while we try to fix this—”

“It’s my fault she’s like this, Phichit,” Yuuri muttered, eyes fluttering closed as images of a smiling Isabella flooded his mind. “I shouldn’t have tried to be a hero—I shouldn’t have tried to save her. I should’ve taught her to survive on her own instead of making promises I couldn’t keep. She should’ve just allowed her heart to harden.”

“Yuuri...”

“People have died,” Yuuri said, almost a whisper. “People have died because I couldn’t kill her.”

The silence came back again, more awfully uncomfortable than the last one. Yuuri had long wanted to say it out loud—to say that he was at fault. He thought about it, many times, too many to even count.

No one ever mentioned the subject of her, tried to forget her as if she never existed, but he never forgot.

Yuuri, unlike most, never forgot.

“If it’s Isabella Yang, I can help.”

The voice came from the door to the kitchen, and there, stood Viktor. His hair was rumpled, there were dark circles under his eyes, and if Yuuri thought right, he looked like he hadn’t slept in days.

“Mila hasn’t been idle these past few weeks,” Viktor said, leaning against the door frame. “If you could specifically track Leroy’s spell power, then you might be led straight to her. He’s a bit of a love-struck idiot, engaged to her, in fact.”

All three of them blinked, still unable to recover from the surprise—but unfortunately, it was Phichit who snapped out of it first.

“Wow,” he said. “Never mind what I told you about getting a young boyfriend, Yuuri. He’s sexy.”


Viktor didn’t know why Phichit even bothered giving him the shovel talk—it wasn’t as if Yuuri couldn’t reduce him into a pile of ash in seconds—but it happened anyway.

“I know what you’re thinking, he could kill you in a millisecond and you’ll be nothing but dirt in no time,” Phichit had said to him, eyes rather amused, but the threat in his voice was still there. “That’s only because Yuuri’s kind. I, however, resort to suffocation. It’s very, very slow and painful. Pretty cruel if you ask me, though it’s not like I could wield other elements. Otabek’s a fire wielder, not lightning. Burning to death doesn’t seem like a good way to go, does it?”

Oh boy.

Other than that, he could say that he’s grown quite comfortable in Otabek’s apartment (or Kazakhstan in general), Yura was alright and things were slowly falling into place.

He was helping out as much as he could, even offering himself to one of the spell tracking rituals just in case Leroy left any residue on him. Yuuri still refused to talk about the progress they were making on that matter, which Viktor wasn’t sure how to feel about.

Instead, Yuuri brought him some books to read, classics like Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens, all of which were Yuuri’s favourites, apparently.

“I heard you like poetry,” Yuuri handed him an old, battered up copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem collection, and the first thing he did was to skim the pages for his favourite one. Yuuri seemed to notice, and smiled. “Ah, Anabelle Lee, huh?”

“Cliché, I know.”

“Nonsense, I think it’s beautiful.” Yuuri smiled at him, his coffee gone cold in front of him.

Almaty had an impressive number of coffee shops. Viktor initially rejected Yuuri’s offer to pay for whatever they got whenever they went out (which wasn’t much, considering how busy the warlocks had been), but he eventually gave up and enjoyed having to be taken to different places.

At least, for once, Viktor forgets of the unfortunate situation he was in.

Enough that he wasn’t tempted to go into the underground club where Otabek worked as a DJ when he felt like it.

“Yuuri,” Viktor looked to him with as much fondness he could no longer hide. He still wasn’t sure if he felt affection because he had no one else, because he felt lonely, but in that moment, he chose not to entertain those thoughts. “You said you were going to send me home after this is all over, right?”

Yuuri was taken-aback. “Yes?”

“But we’ll see each other, won’t we? You don’t have to stay in St. Petersburg if you don’t have to—but I—but it would be nice if I get to talk to you regularly. Maybe see you from time to time,” Viktor’s heart was banging against his ribs, nervous and vulnerable for the first time in a long time. “I know it sounds selfish, and uh—it seems like I’m demanding too much from you, considering we’re not even...”

“What?”

“I don’t know, I—”

“Ah, it’s a millennial thing, isn’t it?” Yuuri looked to him knowingly, his eyes amused and fond. “Do you want me to define the relationship or something like that? Send you a relationship request on Facebook?”

Viktor felt slightly annoyed, eyebrows furrowing. “Don’t call me that.”

“A what?”

“A millennial.”

Yuuri leaned against his chair and laughed. He had a wonderful laugh. “Alright,” he reached across the table and found Viktor’s hand, entwining their fingers as he went. He did it regularly, sometimes absentmindedly, but that didn’t mean Viktor had gotten used to it. Not yet. Maybe not ever. “I wasn’t born in a time where the word ‘boyfriend’ existed, so you’ll have to settle with the idea that I am yours. Is that okay?”

He didn’t know how to explain it coherently, but Viktor was pretty sure he combusted internally.

“Viktor?”

“Yes, that would be lovely,” Viktor smiled. “I would love that, Yuuri.”

-

In days where the three warlocks were too busy with whatever the hell they’d been working on, Viktor and Mila were permitted to go and explore the outside world on their own. But of course, Yuuri worried a bit too much, so now Viktor carried around Phichit’s phone and was required to text him every thirty minutes.

“Are you sure it’s okay for me to use your boyfriend’s money on food?” Mila asked.

“He threatened to feed me cabbages for a week if I didn’t buy you what you wanted,” Viktor said, typing up an update on his phone that read ‘still at the resto I told you we were going to’.

Yuuri didn’t pretend that he wasn’t busy, replying with a quick, ‘Okay’.

“Ah, so boyfriend then,” Mila smiled up at him, her lips dry and peeling. “I’m honestly offended you didn’t tell me sooner.”

“He likes you, you know,” Viktor said, putting the phone down. “Phichit and Otabek, too. You should—I don’t know, ask them the dinner or something. You keep hiding in that guest room too often I’m starting to think you regret coming with me.”

“What the fuck—seriously?” She laughed a little, her eyes crinkling. “I basically freed you and help out with the investigation as much as I could and you still think I’m miserable?”

“You look miserable.”

She had gotten a lot paler. Mila spent most of her time cooped up inside the guest room and reading, growing a bit thin, and the lines under her eyes told Viktor she wasn’t getting much sleep at all. He felt slightly guilty for it, seeing that Mila was troubled and caged in while he enjoyed his little dates out in the open.

“Nonsense,” she waved at him dismissively. “I’m worried about Yura, that’s all. You, too. God knows what they’ve been feeding the kid in hopes of turning him against you. Against us.”

Viktor swallowed, feeling absolutely terrified at the idea.

For most of his life, he had managed to attach himself to as little people as possible. Viktor knew that he could die at any unexpected moment, that other people could fall victim to either fate or cruelty, and that some would grow distant toward him as time went on—but he couldn’t imagine Yura growing distant toward him, let alone hate him.

Mila seemed to notice Viktor’s discomfort, and as if reading his mind, she said, “Yura could never hate you, of course.”

“I hope so.”

“Vitya, he’s a kid, not an idiot,” she sighed and shook her head. Before Viktor could say more, she beamed at him and asked, “What do you want for lunch? I’ll order for us.”

Viktor looked to the menu written on the wall in white chalk, chose something at random, and nodded as Mila got up to fall in line.

He was beginning to feel rather bad again when his phone—Phichit’s phone—rang. Viktor picked it up and saw that Yuuri had texted him.

Do you like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or no?

Viktor smiled and replied with, ‘He’s okay, I guess.

Seconds later, another message popped up. ‘Never mind, I’m getting it for you anyway. I hope you’ll enjoy Osamu Dazai.

Are you shopping?

No, Phichit decided to bring some books and I thought you might need them.

Ah, at least it wasn’t so bad in Almaty, after all.

Maybe he could set up that little dinner he was thinking about so Mila could warm up to the rest of them. That’d be a great idea, wouldn’t it? It wasn’t like they were trying to brush off the situation they were in—

Someone pulled the chair in front of him and sat.

Viktor looked up in surprise, and blinked. “That seat’s—”

“Taken, I know. I won’t stay too long,” the woman said. She reached out her hand to him, as if to touch him, but it stopped close to Viktor’s face. When she snapped her finger, a gentle breeze came out of nowhere, blowing at Viktor’s face. “That should do.”

A warlock?

“Are you—”

“I thought it was pretty obvious what I am,” she said, leaning against the table, her thin arms folded in front of her. “I don’t mean any harm, don’t worry. I love this city and I would do nothing to expose myself.”

“I—”

“Even if I wanted to hurt you, what good would it do if we were in the middle of a fairly-crowded place?”

Viktor stared.

She was...well, she was lovely. In his many years of encounters with warlocks, he always thought that there was some kind of requirement to become one—like being extremely beautiful. He’s seen many, raven-haired and blonde, tall and petite, pale and dark-skinned; all of them attractive and graceful regardless of shape and colour.

But this woman, she was perfection.

Her skin was pale and luminescent, flawless and gleaming like porcelain. She had wonderful eyes, blue like the deep waters, a few shades darker than Viktor’s own. Those eyes looked equally kind as they could be demanding, her smile loop-sided but bright and soft. Her hair, much like Viktor’s own, was pale and silvery, long and flowing like the waters of a river.

“I was expecting that you’d recognize me,” she said to him, her voice breathy and seductive, her eyes looking straight at Viktor. “But I guess he wouldn’t bother to mention ever marrying anyone to his new lover.”

She was Russian.

“Huh?”

“You can call me Anika Volkova,” she said to him, with a beautiful, wretched smile. She was watching him, her eyes wandering to his face, his hands. “I see that Daisuke still prefers the same colouring.”

Viktor cleared his throat before speaking, fearing that it may come out uneven. “Excuse me? I don’t believe I know any Daisuke.”

“Oh, I apologize,” she waved a hand, her head dipping slightly. “I forget to call him by his real name, happens all the time. I meant Yuuri.”

Something in him broke.

He didn’t know what it was, it’s just that it felt uncomfortable. Silence enveloped the table as an odd, ugly feeling started to creep up Viktor’s spine. He didn’t like it. Not at all.

And it must have shown on his face.

“Why? You didn’t think you were the first, did you?” Anika kept smiling, her eyes somewhat conniving. If she were trying to get to him, Viktor wouldn’t know. “If it makes you feel better, neither was I. The difference is that he married me.”

Viktor couldn’t think. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t manage to open his mouth to stutter something incoherent.

“Yuuri is a wonderful man, truly. I hope you know that,” she said to him, reaching from across the table to take Viktor’s hand in hers. He didn’t pull away. Couldn’t. “But two things happen to those who ever loved him, you either die of old age and become a forgettable memory, or you self-destruct.”

Unable to reply, Viktor watched as she let go of his hand and moved to get up.

And then she was out the door.

Moments, minutes passed, and Viktor could still hear her voice ringing in his ears.

He could still feel her touching him, could see her walk out of the establishment with grace that even he couldn’t manage.

"Was she hitting on you?" Mila appeared beside him, balancing their food on a plastic tray.

"Yeah," Viktor managed to speak, throwing in an amused laugh for good measure. "Yeah, she was."

Chapter Text

Almaty, 2016 AD

It was seven in the morning.

Instead of waking from deep sleep and planning the day ahead, Yuuri sat on the kitchen floor with Otabek and Phichit, yet to finish yesterday’s works. It was a pristine kitchen, regularly cleaned by Otabek’s meticulous hands, but it didn’t matter where they were when all three of them were miserable and in grave need of rest.

This, however, didn’t mean that Yuuri was in any mood to sleep. Not at all. Not when he’s been troubled since yesterday afternoon, thinking he was going a bit mad, worked his friends to the bone, and found nothing despite their endless efforts. All three of them were beyond exhausted, expending too much spell power in the last few hours they might as well have bought a New York skyscraper had they offered their services to a rich businessman.

Phichit leaned back against the foot of Otabek’s kitchen counter, his eyes drooping. “You better reschedule that meeting for tomorrow.”

“It’s just a meeting,” Otabek wasn’t sitting in a way that he always had, slouching a little, and had busied himself by playing with the sleeves of his pullover. “I can rest and do the spells tonight.”

They’ve allowed themselves a fifteen-minute break, and swore they’d be back to work as soon as the time was up.

Yuuri should probably tell them to go and get some sleep, which he had done two hours before, but they refused to leave the matter alone. When he broached the topic yet again, Otabek had just snorted and said, “shut up and work. You want to know if it is Isabella, don’t you?”

That had shut him up.

“Yuuri, are you sure you felt it? It could be anyone—”

“I’m sure,” Yuuri said, heaving, sweat trickling down his forehead. He’s never expended this much spell power before. He was never sloppy nor careless, and he knew it was due to his own emotions at work. “I’ve lived with the woman for a hundred years and I know it when I sense it.”

It was true. Yuuri could sense Phichit’s spell power from a mile away, and they’ve never stayed in the same country together for more than a decade.

“Oh dear,” Phichit was looking at him with what seemed to be of pity. He knew Phichit long enough to know that it was an expression he wore when he suspected something wasn’t quite right. Yuuri never did manage to lie to his face. “Yuuri, she can’t have followed you here. Isabella’s not that powerful yet.”

“We think she’s not that powerful.”

“Yuuri, if this is about her kidnapping children again—”

“You don’t understand.”

“We do understand,” Phichit said, tone a little insistent—or offended. He was sporting that frown again, the kind of expression Yuuri has sure seen quite often. Phichit never did like it when Yuuri excluded him from matters he think are important. “We know you’re anxious because we’re all in danger and you think yourself responsible. You are not. No one’s told us to clean up after Isabella’s mess and no one is responsible for her madness. I’m repeating myself when I say this, Yuuri, but it is not your fault.”

“It’s not that...” He swallowed.

“Then what is it?”

“I sensed my wife’s spell power.” Yuuri said, quickly, almost quietly. He had been afraid to broach the topic, afraid that saying it out loud made something tangible.

That hearing it coming out of his lips made it true.

Otabek’s eyes widened to a fraction, though he didn’t offer any verbal response. And as per usual, it was Phichit who reacted, and quite dramatically so.

“What?”

“I know,” Yuuri dropped his hands on the floor. And on his hand, clutching it like it would mean losing his life to let go, were the shattered pieces of sapphire. He must have looked all too pathetic. “I wouldn’t care if it’s just Isabella, we could relocate somewhere and continue on hiding at the mean time, but I know it’s Anika’s. Even if it’s been ninety six years since I last sensed it, I know it is her’s.”

“Yuuri—”

“And yes, I suspect that I might be turning mad, but I am in no mood to do anything out of the ordinary besides wonder if I am.”

There was an excruciating pause to the conversation. Phichit, who so often knew what to do or say, kept silent. Yuuri was still confused as to what this meant, what it implied for Anika’s spell power to start being actively traceable once again, but he couldn’t have been wrong.

He knew Anika from the inside and out, knew every single thing about her, loved her through the years they were together—and there was simply no way Yuuri was just mistaken.

Although he wished he was, mistaken that is. How exceedingly tragic would that be if Yuuri’s wife had been alive this whole time and he didn’t even know.

“Even if it’s her’s, it could be that someone’s trying to derail us,” Otabek offered, popping his knuckles. It was a habit of his, Yuuri knew, that usually manifested itself when he was thinking too deeply. “I’ve taken spell power residue from the deceased before. It can be used like a cloaking spell.”

“If it were that, which I’m sure it is,” Phichit pointed a finger at him. “It would be used up in a few days or so. We’ll wait, Yuuri. We’ll keep tracking it and see if it goes away. For now, it’s best that we start packing and leave Kazakhstan. Maybe tomorrow. We can’t stay here too long or Otabek’s going to get roped into it.”

“I don’t mind,” Otabek frowned.

“No, he’s right,” Yuuri rubbed his eyes until they felt sore. Maybe if he did long enough things were going to start making sense again. “You could be of help if something happened. If we move in a group it wouldn’t do much if we get cornered,” Phichit twitched at the mention of Yuuri’s apparent pessimism. “And no, I haven’t thought about the worst case, not yet. But it’s best to be safe than sorry.”

“Well, I can’t help you if I’m stuck here,” Otabek argued.

Yuuri was about to reply when someone knocked. Phichit, who seemed to be the only one capable of moving, went to get the door, which would soon reveal Viktor.

He was dressed in a new sweater Phichit had gotten him the other day. For the first time, his clothes fit better, with hair moussed and tangled, eyes rather swollen from either the lack of sleep or crying.

And Christ, did he look lovely despite all that.

Viktor blinked at them at first, and then his eyes shifted to the salts and gems scattered on the floor. “Oh,” he uttered. “Should I come back a bit later?”

“Nope,” Phichit grinned. “Something you needed?”

“I needed some water,” he looked to Yuuri with what seemed to be a contemplative expression—not suspicion—like he was trying to mull over something in his head.

Yuuri wondered what that is. “Something on your mind?”

“I—” Viktor paused, and then, as if pulling himself together, he shook his head. “Not really. It’s just that Mila’s growing a bit thin.”

“We could fix that,” Yuuri sighed. “Maybe she’ll like Detroit better? How do you feel about America? We need to move.”

Viktor wasn’t at all shocked. It was either he had grown compliant from the fruitlessness of Yuuri’s efforts or he’d been expecting it. Sighing, he leaned against the doorframe, heavy set and tired. “When?”

“Tomorrow morning,” Phichit said, tone final. “We’ll wrap up here and leave Otabek with the strongest gems to keep the tracking spell going for at least two days,” he looked to Otabek. “And don’t complain about staying here, you can always follow us as soon as the situation is clear.”

“What situation?” Viktor’s eyes perked up a little.

For some unknown reason, Yuuri felt a bit nervous. “Nothing,” Yuuri got out, despite Phichit’s disapproving stare. “We were just making sure no one’s tracked us yet. But we’re leaving tomorrow, just to be safe.”

“Okay.”

“Are we good?”

“Yeah.”

Then there was a terribly awkward pause.

“Okay!” Phichit gathered up some salt and threw it over their heads like confetti. He looked like an idiot. “We clean up then we all go grab breakfast. Sounds nice, yeah?”

Yuuri’s never been more glad he met the said idiot.


 St. Petersburg, 1917 AD

Yuuri watched as Anika was shuffling through the kitchen, beautiful hair swaying and catching light. It was twisted into a tight bun, secured by one of her pencils, light turning it silvery and pale.

Ash blonde, Yuuri reminded himself, although it was nice to think it was silver. She was making some tea in a small, cheap kettle they found at the flea market, which she had insisted on getting.

“Darling, I know you don’t like buying new things very often, but your teapot is in a sorry state,” she had said. “I wouldn’t make tea in it for fear of poisoning.”

That wasn’t true. In reality, Yuuri’s life had always involved buying new things—a new apartment, new house, new furniture, new cups, new cutlery, new music—and then he would be giving them away or selling them when it was time to move on.

What he wasn’t used to doing, in fact, was replacing household items that have been worn with age. He only had two real properties to date, a small flat in London and then the one he owned in St. Petersburg. He had kept the one in London for fear that someone might find traces of Benedict there, and he’d much rather keep the identity of the Ripper a secret. How heart-breaking that would be, for Benedict’s identity to be linked to a series of gruesome things he didn’t even understand.

“I made special tea!” Anika hummed, the words lengthened to an adorable sing-song.

Yuuri smiled. If he had kept his London property for someone he once loved, he might as well keep the one in St. Petersburg, too. Maybe he’ll buy a new resting chair or get someone to reupholster the velvet cushions.

It was a simple thing, almost petty, but he’s never thought about it too much up until Anika mentioned it.

What good would it do to buy new furniture when he’d leave to never return for several decades, anyway?

And now, it was different. He’s never made a promise or a commitment or anything that had a potential to last for many years. He had told himself not to far too many times, for commitments were bothersome to an immortal man—and yet, his heart betrayed him.

His future might outlast her, but he was ready to spend every second of hers by being in it.

“What’s the celebration today, Zolotse?” Yuuri asked, shifting a little in his chair as he watched Anika set the tea cups on the table.

He had just woken up, hair ruffled and undoubtedly messy, yet Anika looked at him like he was the most wonderful thing she’d ever seen.

Love, was in fact, a strange phenomenon.

“I sold a painting!” Anika smiled sweetly, all white teeth and pale skin. She was excited and beautiful and young and perfect in every sense of the word.

He might not find anyone quite like her.

Yuuri’s lips broke into a grin, and he reached out, held her by the chin, and kissed her. “That’s wonderful! Anya, I am so proud!”

“You know I’ve been rather fond of painting portraits of girls in the ballet? Well, it turned out that Madame Baranovskaya are both fond of ballet and paintings.” She was shuffling about in her chair, excitement well-shown in the way that he hands were flailing around. “I’ve also been commissioned to make a portrait of their girls! Wouldn’t that be nice, Zolotse?”

His heart pounded with pride and joy. Yuuri knew what love did to people. He was happy so long as the one he cherished the most was happy, all the poems and love letters ever written be damned. There was nothing quite like hearing Anika Sokolova laugh. None was quite like witnessing the lines form on her face, ones brought on by years and years of smiles.

“I love you,” Yuuri said to her, quite off-handed, but sincere otherwise.

He marvelled at the way her eyes widened, not of surprise, but of confirmation. A validation of a feeling they both knew existed between them. A repetition of the same words said over and over and over again.

Anika held his hands, she had elegant hands, pale and unmarred. “Can you say it again for me, Zolotse?”

And he would. A thousand times over. “I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could ever be,” he kissed each of her cold knuckles, lived for moments in which both of them are in a trance, as if the world around them no longer existed. “Once and for all; I loved her none the less because I knew it, and it had no more influence in restraining me than if I had devoutly believed her to be human perfection.”

Yuuri’s lips lingered on her skin, the warmth familiar and comforting. Her scent a permanent fix he needed to sustain himself. The sight of her alone an invaluable help to his existence.

Maybe he was just riding on the excitement of having her to himself.

Maybe he liked the fact that the Sokolovs didn’t like him one bit and there was nothing quite like the forbidden acts of love.

And yet, she was Anika, one who knew every single thing about him and loved him still. Knew that he was damned and knew that she wouldn’t be the first nor the last, but was willing to give all that she had anyway.

She was willing to give him all that she was and will ever become.

The Great Expectations,” she said, her English halting and strained. “Did you always find yourself sympathizing with Pip, Zolotse?”

“Not Pip,” he whispered to her hand, kissing it over and over. “I think it has come to a point that I think myself to be Miss Havisham, that I will become nothing but a ghost existing for vengeance and caught up in the past. I have made an Estella, because I thought it would be best to teach someone to be heartless and numb...”

Anika’s lips quirked to a smile fondly, eyes bright like twilight.

“But then I met you,” he said, his heart pounding so fast he might faint. “And I would, in every way that I can, show you that my world had always revolved around you.”

And then, as quietly as he could, he added, “I wish I could marry you. I wish you’d let me.”

Her eyes were glassy for a moment, wide from shock, and then, she kissed him. Repeatedly. Lovingly.

“I would. God, I would,” Anika said, kissing the dampness on Yuuri’s cheek.

Oh, he had been crying.

“Yes, Zolotse. I’d marry you even it’s the last thing I’ll ever do,” she said, holding his face, dark blue eyes on him. “My family can go impale themselves on a kitchen knife. I’ll be damned if I ever said no to that.”

Love, was in fact, the strangest thing.

It didn’t matter that he was currently hell-bent on sending mother Russia to her knees. He hadn’t thought about the best way to deal with the Tsar, never considered what it would mean for its future if he destroyed what sanity its leader had and have him make the worst decisions.

It didn’t matter that he initially thought marrying Anika would grant him a secure status and residence in his base of operations, where he was close enough to do his job.

He’d used people before, toyed with their feelings—and sometimes, out of pity, he’d make them believe he loved them.

The only thing that he never anticipated, that he never thought was possible, was Anika Sokolova stealing his heart like it was the easiest thing to do.

Slowly, he pulled away, and reached for something in his pocket.

“I’ll ask again,” he said, pulling out a velvet box, opened it, and revealed a large, blue stone. “Would you marry me, Anika Sokolova?”

For a moment, Yuuri thought that what they had was going to last forever, hoped that one day he could follow where she went. Dangerously, he thought about asking her to be in eternity with him.

But in the mean time, there was no point in searching for answers to the future when all he could do was look into the present—and know that he would have a few lovely, precious years ahead of him—and nothing would come between them regardless of the decisions they made.


Almaty, 2016 AD

“Maybe we could find a blacksmith before we leave,” Viktor was seated on the bed to the guestroom, cradling his short sword.

Or,” Mila shoved the new clothes into a small duffel Otabek had lent her. “You could always ask your cute boyfriend to fix it for you.”

Viktor frowned. “He’s a warlock who casts spells,” he informed her. “He doesn’t shape metal or something ridiculous like that.”

“I doubt it, isn’t he like the strongest of them all?”

“Mila—”

She raised her hands in mock surrender. “I know, I know. We don’t talk about that. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, honestly.” She went to the corner of the room to retrieve her long sword, blade now dangerously naked without its scabbard. “But he’s a fire-wielder, right? I mean, he could use lightning and does it out of instinct, but he could technically still use fire?”

“And where might you suggest he’d pound the thing to sharpen it?”

“Fine,” she shrugged, lowering her weapon. “Stupid idea.”

“It was.”

Mila rolled her eyes, dramatically so, and went to the bed and sat next to him.

It pained him to see her up-close. That way, Viktor could practically trace the lines forming on her cheeks, could see how her collarbones were more prominent, notice the dark half-moons under her eyes.

“I know we’re kind of safe now that we’ve got three super powerful people protecting us, but I don’t want you randomly walking around the dark streets and end up empty-handed when the unfortunate happens.”

“I know,” Viktor said, hold tightening around the hilt of his weapon.

He hadn’t actually brought it to the roof with him. It was damaged and he instinctively guessed someone would be using ranged weapons at them. He didn’t like to brag, but the Clans knew better than to fight Viktor head-on. So he got Mila’s long sword instead. It didn’t give him enough reach but it was sharp and undamaged.

Yuuri had been the one to bring him his short sword.

“Did he know?” Mila asked.

“Know what?”

“That your short sword could nullify his lightning?”

Viktor found himself frowning. “We don’t actually know if that’s true, you know.”

“I heard stories.”

These stories do actually exist, however, their being true was yet to be proven.

Some say that the said weapon was tempered from a special metal, one that could conduct spell power if used right, and with practice, it could absorb such as well. Viktor wasn’t trained to use it, frankly he thought himself unworthy of it—the thing being passed on to him by virtue of being his mother’s son.

No one knew about the said sword except the warlock who was commissioned to enchant it and the people at the St. Petersburg branch.

“They’re ridiculous stories,” Viktor muttered, rising to his feet. “I’ll go pack up, too.”

-

“Are you done packing?” Yuuri asked Viktor as he reappeared from the bathroom, his hair slightly damp, and had a jacket over his shoulders.

Viktor hadn’t mentioned his encounter with Yuuri’s wife yet.

He didn’t know if it were a safety hazard to keep it hidden, but it didn’t feel right to ask something quite personal when everyone else was listening.

He knew he was being an idiot, of course. Viktor could have very well pulled Yuuri somewhere discreet and said something, there were a lot of moments where he could, and yet it didn’t happen. He could have told him that morning, but he thought it would spoil the mood and they wouldn’t have enjoyed breakfast. He could have said it right after, but he had distracted himself by talking to Phichit instead. He could have told him at noon, and after that, and the after noon that followed.

Maybe he could ask him later that night, seeing that Yuuri was dressed to go out.

“Are you asking me if we could go somewhere?” Viktor asked, pretending that he didn’t sound all too eager.

He wasn’t, was he? An acceptable question. Nothing too suspicious or too vague. Nothing too shady. Maybe it even sounded witty.

Wait, was Viktor frowning?

“You’re an open book, you know,” Yuuri smiled at him, his face a bit fond rather than nervous. He must have been used to this, trying to read people. “If you wanted to tell me something, you could do it tonight. Do you mind walking with me?”

“No,” he said. Because he truly doesn’t. “Not at all.”

The said walk had apparently led them to a small, little establishment a few kilometres from the city centre. Viktor would describe his artistic senses to be similar to that of a lump of cheese, but he could appreciate creativity when he saw it.

The place was a mix between a lounge-slash-bar and a coffee shop, lights dim, with weird decorative items like old car plates, old rolls of film, and vinyl records. He doubted there was any gramophone somewhere, nor did the vintage cameras hanging from the ceiling were actually functional, but it was nice.

It was soothing.

It was taking his mind away from the night’s worries, if not for a little while.

There was a small, elevated platform up front, where a band was doing their preparations. From what Viktor observed, he could already guess what kind of music they were playing that night—a saxophone, a violin, trumpets, drums, a keyboard—

“Tonight’s what they call ‘throwback night’, whatever that means,” Yuuri snorted into his glass, helping himself to an inexplicably expensive brand of whiskey.

“You meant hipster night,” Viktor shrugged.

He wasn’t too familiar with what encompassed ‘being hipster’ was, but it would normally mean either being fond of things before they were cool or bringing out some trends or music or whatever it is that have long been forgotten by the change of times.

“I do own a gramophone, so I might actually be a ‘hipster’ by definition,” Yuuri continued to sip on his drink. The lines under his eyes were more evident in the dim lights, tired and weary, but never less attractive. “It was a thing back then to get one, so I really don’t know if I qualify.”

“You’re centuries old,” Viktor muttered. “I think an exception is fine.”

Someone was tapping on the drums lightly, testing, followed by the bassist plucking random chords on his guitar. Someone was in front of the microphone stand, speaking in a mix of Kazakh and Russian, Viktor only managing to understand a few words but filled them in through context.

“Oh, wonderful,” Yuuri smiled. “Tonight’s 1920s jazz.”

Viktor’s never been one for music before. He was never one to bother what they meant or what was new. However, looking at Yuuri, he knew it must have been something quite important. It should have been important.

For people like Yuuri, music was the only thing that survived the years. The radios might stop playing them after a while, but the notes will survive, the records will—and as long as there was a musician willing to play them, they will never truly die. Like Yuuri.

And unlike Viktor, Yuuri was going to live on and never die.

He’s never thought about it before, that one day this would all come to an end and Viktor wouldn’t even know it. It was also a curious thing that Yuuri knew that if he ever invested anything more, that if he invested years, it was going to hurt more.

How many times had his heart been broken because of death?

The piano started, fast and cheery, the melody wonderfully aided by a solo saxophone.

You Drink Too Much,” Yuuri said.

“What?”

“That’s what the song is called,” he said. “Funny isn’t it? The prohibition made alcohol illegal, but there are songs like these.”

Almost out of instinct, Viktor leaned over the table, eyes trailed on Yuuri’s. The lights were reflected against his dark irises, yellow lights like small flames on a candle’s wick. He shouldn’t allow himself to get too attached, not like this. Not when there were so many questions rather than answers. Not when there were questions he’d rather stay unasked.

Instead, he found something a little more casual to talk about. “Where were you during the American Prohibition?”

Yuuri looked up to think. Viktor realized asking him to remember a certain page in the long years of his existence was like asking him to search for an unfamiliar line in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

Bad question.

He was about to retract the said inquiry when Yuuri raised a finger, eyes glinting. “Ah! New Orleans. Wonderful city,” he smiled. “I think you’ll like the festivals.”

Viktor blinked. Ah, but then again, immortality was a tad bit interesting no matter the consequences.

“I always wanted to go there,” he admitted stupidly.

He always knew there was no point in dreaming of things like so, of wishing he could travel the world and leave St. Petersburg one day. Viktor had dedicated his whole life in service of those who are ignorant and helpless, of those who couldn’t see what he could and incapable of doing the things he can.

He always believed that he was going to live and die without truly living, and it had seemed strange that he was getting such ideas before.

And they stayed like that—ideas—they stayed as dreams that have been filed away at the farthest part of his mind. He’s never thought, up until that moment, that he would ever want something and would act on it if he could.

Maybe he could leave the Clans and run away, never show his face again, and he wouldn’t mind.

He was not like Yura, he wasn’t angry at the world or the warlocks or the evil that existed. He thought nothing of hate before, maybe a little of love, but he had never considered living for the sake of experiencing life itself.

And his heart, which he thought to be made of stone, had begun beating once more.

His thoughts took a turn when he felt Yuuri enclosing Viktor’s hands in his, warm and welcoming, a thing Viktor seemed to miss every time. He looked up to see that smile again, one that could melt his heart.

“Dance with me,” Yuuri said.

It wasn’t a question, but it wasn’t a demand either.

How could Viktor say no to that?

“Sure,” he responded, a little nervous, and found himself adding a quick, “I have zero dancing experience whatsoever, though. I might embarrass you.”

“Believe me when I say there’s no one quite as graceful as you,” Yuuri stood, pulling Viktor to his feet.

Right. That was probably an outright lie, something one might say when they flirted. Yuuri must have been with very good dancers before—danseurs—and there was no way Viktor was the most graceful of them all.

Such thoughts have brought on the image of Anika Volkova again, but he tried hard to shove it deep down.

This wasn’t the time.

Viktor was being led in front of the band, so he focused on that.

There was enough space for at least a few people to stand in, so Viktor guessed it was the dancefloor. There were others already swinging to the sound of windpipe instruments, hips swaying to the energetic sound of piano keys.

For a moment, the nervousness was back again, but Yuuri held Viktor close.

“I bet you’ve never thought about what a trained fighter could do on the dancefloor,” Yuuri whispered to him, his lips close to Viktor’s ear. “Let me lead?”

Viktor didn’t know why Yuuri had to ask this when it was obviously how it should be, but he nodded anyway, tentatively following the set rhythm that Yuuri moved.

Yuuri was, as expected, a marvellous dancer. Sometimes, Viktor messed up and accidentally stepped with the wrong foot or went the wrong way, he might have dirtied Yuuri’s loafers from the many times he stepped on them, but soon, all that didn’t seem to matter.

He found himself swinging to the music, getting much better at matching Yuuri’s pace, laughing when he occasionally did something wrong. It was wonderful, it was electric, it was something new.

Maybe that’s what living felt like.

“See? You aren’t so bad,” Yuuri laughed.

After a while, Yuuri allowed Viktor to lead them. He was hesitant at first, repeatedly explaining how he wasn’t made to dance, but Yuuri shook his head and said. “Just let your instincts take you, yeah? I’ll meet you where you are.”

And so he did.

Viktor hadn’t understood what Yuuri meant—once when he said a trained fighter was as graceful a dancer as any normal man—but as Viktor relied on his reflexes, his ability to think fast, to predict where Yuuri’s next step was going to be, he found that he made for an excellent lead.

He pulled Yuuri close to his chest, feeling the heat of him wonderfully pleasing, knowing that he could hold him like this. There was a time that Viktor feared he might not be able to and nothing had made him sadder.

Viktor had wanted nothing than to touch Yuuri, than to feel his skin, to feel his warmth.

He wanted Yuuri to himself, the past and the future can go screw themselves.

“You wanted to ask me something?” Yuuri asked, breath hot against Viktor’s ear.

Viktor practically walked into him.

What, right now?

They were having such a great time, a great night, there was no way he was ever going to spoil it. The world could be burning at the moment and he would do nothing other than hold Yuuri like this.

He shook his head.

“Is it because you found out I’ve been married before?”

Viktor stilled. He felt—well, he didn’t know what he felt.

He knew that he had stopped breathing, that he might also be shaking, and that his heart might have ceased to function. He had tried to shove the thoughts away the whole time, and now—

“Viktor, if being the first is what you want, then know that it is sadly what I am incapable of giving,” he said, voice soft and careful, like Viktor might break if he said something too brash. “There is simply no way I could erase my past, even if I tried...”

Maybe Viktor was going to break.

He wanted to say that it was alright, that he didn’t mind.

He wanted Yuuri to stop speaking, to save Viktor from the embarrassment of being told that he could never be loved by Yuuri the same way he did his wife.

That he was here, he was safe, he was someone who needed to be protected—

“It may be incredibly unfair to you...”

“Yuuri.”

“But know that even if I’ve met you at a different time, a different place, I would still adore you the way that I do now,” Yuuri said to him.

Viktor paused, but managing an unintelligible, “Huh?”

“There was a time that I’d feel this way for a man and I’d risked getting us in prison. There was even a time we could have gotten ourselves persecuted and hanged or burned simply because we are both men and I had wanted to touch you like this. There was a time when—” Yuuri kissed him deeply, in the middle of a crowd, in the midst of dancing people. “that when I’d do that, we’d be stoned to death.”

Viktor’s heart was beating so hard the thought he might damage a rib.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’d still want you even if it meant getting stoned to death. Or burned at the stake. Or be sent to labour camps.” Yuuri looked at him, eyes steady and sincere. “But don’t you think time is just kind to us? That it would let us meet in a time where it is safer? In a century where we are free to do as we please?”

“I—” Viktor’s mouth went inexplicably dry. His words had suddenly left him, his heart racing in light-years.

“I don’t want you just because it is easy,” he said, kissing Viktor on the lips, then his jaw, his neck. “I am thankful, however, that I am able to show the world how I feel about you. Without endangering you. That I could freely touch you without thinking about what was going to happen the next day.”

And, as if the chains that held him broke, Viktor pulled Yuuri closer. He kissed him like it was both the first and the last, he pulled him close like someone was going to take Yuuri away if he didn’t, he pressed his mouth like he could say what he felt without saying anything at all.

Yuuri grinned against the kiss, raised one hand, and flicked his fingers.

Blue sparks showered the dancefloor, like fireworks.

Some people were staring in awe and puzzlement, asking questions as to whom might have done it, others overwhelmed and amazed.

Viktor pulled away to look up, his mouth open. Yuuri raised his fingers again, and this time, orange sparks rained down, harmless and breath-taking.

Who knew that lightning, destructive as it may be, could be beautiful, too?

“Are you even allowed to do that?” Viktor laughed, lowering his voice so only Yuuri could hear.

“What? They’ll think it’s the club’s gimmick, not mine,” Yuuri pulled him close again, eyes on Viktor’s. “What do you think?”

“I think I love you,” he said, thoughtlessly.

Realizing what he had just done, Viktor began to panic, stammering repeatedly like a radio gone awry—

Yuuri laughed, pulling Viktor close to him, his nose buried unto the crook of the other’s neck. “You love me or you don’t,” he said. “I know labels are kind of your generation’s thing, but—”

“I love you,” Viktor said again, breathless. “And I believe it. It’s only been a few months and I haven’t felt this way before, but know that I feel it.”

“And then I’ll believe it,” Yuuri chuckled into his clothes, shoulders vibrating. “And I hope you’ll believe that I love you too.”

And that was all he needed to hear. All he needed to say.

There were so many questions left, so many blank spaces in his understanding of the man in his arms, but he’d take that leap. He’d leap at it blindly, if you will.

Because Viktor was stupid.

Because he’s never truly lived before.

Because if living meant that he was going to have to face pain and danger head-on, he was going to do it.

And softly, tender as the cold morning breeze, Viktor murmured, “You are my Estella Havisham.”

-

Viktor couldn’t have wished for a better night. It was past two in the morning when they found themselves walking out of the bar, hands in each other’s, laughing at things that were nothing too serious to be of significance.

“So tell me,” he leaned against Yuuri, his face hot from the alcohol and the dancing. “Was Marie Antoinette really as beautiful as they said she was?”

Yuuri hummed. “She looked fine, I guess,” he said, looking up unto the starry skies of the Kazakh winter. “I mean, you could never really tell with the make-up. The Parisians did always like following ridiculous trends. Did you know some would show up at a party with headdresses that had a miniature boat on it? Back in the time of the Bonnie Prince, nipple piercings were a thing, and women showed them off.”

“You mean?”

“Yeah,” he chuckled. “I mean that they had dresses that fully exposed the chest. A fashion statement for the bold, I think.”

“Oh, so in that case, Lady Gaga has brought that fashion trend back.”

“True,” Yuuri rubbed his nose against Viktor’s shoulder, an achingly affectionate gesture. “You should have seen Phichit in colourful Parisian breeches, too. He liked lemon yellow and—don’t tell him I said this—it was an eyesore. Even for Paris.”

Viktor found himself laughing again.

He had always wondered, whether in any human connection, that there’d by a definite limit to what two people could talk about.

If friends or lovers ever come to a point where all experiences and secrets and dreams have been shared and exhausted that there was nothing left to talk about. But with Yuuri, he wouldn’t have to trouble himself with the thought. He knew that if he asked or if the other broached the topic, there would always be something new to talk about.

There were so many things that he still hadn’t known, asked about, so many things he hadn’t been told.

It was exciting.

“Why do you like Annabel Lee?” Yuuri asked.

He blinked. "Um."

Viktor never thought himself interesting before. He didn’t see the point as to why Yuuri would ask someone like him, someone who’s never been in the Romantic era or went to a decent university, for an opinion on Edgar Allan Poe’s masterpieces. Yuuri must have read it a thousand times more than he had, thought about, discussed it with more credible people.

“You know,” Yuuri said. “If you think you’re opinions do not matter, know that you are extremely wrong.”

“What?”

“Why do you like Annabel Lee?” He asked again.

Biting his lip, Viktor tried to piece his thoughts together. “I was never one for tragedy or overly-romantic prose,” he sputtered. “But I like the way Poe carefully put words together, if that made any sense? I feel like if one word was changed or omitted, or if someone had tried to add something to it, it wouldn’t be quite as beautiful—you know what, I’m babbling. Forget what I said.”

“That’s the first time I heard an explanation like that.”

He groaned in embarrassment. “Probably because it’s stupid.”

“No,” Yuuri frowned. “You think yourself stupid, Viktor, but I don’t. I love the way your mind works. Please don’t shut me out.”

“I am not shutting you out.”

“You are,” Yuuri said calmly. “You think that I have seen far too many things to be interested in how you see the world. I have, but I’ve never met someone like you.”

Viktor felt something twinge in his chest. Calm down. “Do you want me to be honest?”

“That’s what I’ve been telling you.”

“Well, sometimes I find it hard to believe that you’ve never met someone like me,” Viktor said. “You know how I am. I fight, I clean up, I go home. There’s nothing more to that. Sometimes I read, sometimes I buy things. I don’t even understand the discourses on art or anything fancy or smart like that.”

Viktor’s eyes, once trained on the concrete, found Yuuri staring at him as he turned.

“You don’t like too much sugar in your coffee, despise the taste of Bergamot, and you tuck the laces of your shoes in,” Yuuri smiled at him, hands coming up to brush Viktor’s hair away from his face. “You speak French, English, and Russian fluently. You wouldn’t admit it, but you’re trying to learn German on your free time. You love Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens. You worship Pablo Neruda. You like being kissed here,” Yuuri’s fingers brushed the vulnerable line of Viktor’s throat. “Your favourite colour is red and gold. Your mother’s name was Katerina and your father’s Anton. You are fiercely protective Yuri and Mila.”

And if this had been a dream, Viktor wouldn’t have known what he’d do if he woke up.

“Viktor Nikiforov, if you think yourself unworthy, then you’d be breaking my heart,” he said. “If you think your presence will only be with me in the time that you are alive, then you are very wrong.”

And if this had been a dream, Viktor knew he wouldn’t be the same in the unfortunate moment he wakes.

They continued to walk hand in hand, the topic of their conversation straying to more mundane things, Viktor answering questions about himself from time to time. Soon, they were standing in front of Otabek’s apartment complex, their noses reddening from the cold.

“Let’s make sure we don’t wake anyone,” Yuuri found a key to Otabek’s front door, slipped it inside the keyhole, and twisted.

Instead of pushing the door immediately, Yuuri visibly frowned.

“What is it?”

“It’s unlocked.”

Viktor didn’t understand why that was supposedly alarming. “They could still be talking in the living room.”

“No,” Yuuri muttered. “Otabek doesn’t leave his front door open even if he was expecting me or Phichit.”

Silence, save for the soft clicks of Yuuri’s pocket watch.

One.

Two.

“Do you have a weapon on you?”

Viktor’s eyes widened. “N-no.”

Three.

Four.

“Alright,” Yuuri sighed. “It could be a mistake, but stay close to me.”

Still helplessly confused, Viktor nodded.

“Behind me, Viktor.”

Yuuri pushed the door open, with a cautious effort to do so with as little noise possible. The fluorescents were turned off, Viktor noticed, but the moon was bright enough to cast enough light into the living room. For a moment, Viktor wanted to shrug it off, tell Yuuri it was nothing, and that Otabek had just forgotten about the lock.

But then he noticed, almost surprisingly, that Yuuri had gone still.

Viktor caught himself before he could say anything, and as his eyes followed the direction to where Yuuri looked, he almost found himself collapsing.

On the velvet couch, sat Anika Volkova.

“T-this—” Yuuri stammered uncontrollably, taking a step back, his shoulders accidentally hitting Viktor’s chest. “You’re—This isn’t real.”

Half of her was cloaked in shadows, the other half seemingly a marble statue under the moonlight. Her eyes looked dark, almost black in the deceptive lack of lighting, her face calm like this was a thing that happened every day.

“My, ninety-six years and that’s the first thing you say to me?”

Viktor’s hand went to Yuuri’s lower back instinctively. Protectively. Yuuri was trembling bone-deep.

Anika’s eyes shifted to Viktor’s direction, studying him, smiling wretchedly in such sweetness it almost felt like she was touching him. “I wouldn’t blame you for choosing him, Zolotse,” she said. “He is very pretty.”

Yuuri heaved like it was difficult for him to breathe, his body shuddering underneath Viktor’s hands. “What—how?”

She raised her eyebrows. “Oh, it doesn’t matter how, I’m just here to see how my husband’s doing,” she offered him a smile again, and this time, it was noticeably forced. “Although considering that I do have a legal death certificate, I assume you could wed as you please.”

“Isabella, if you’re masquerading as my dead wife heaven help you—”

“Isabella Yang isn’t here,” she said, effectively silencing him. “She’s all the way back in St. Petersburg, kidnapping children. An atrocious woman, to be honest.”

She reached for something on the table, and held it up. Viktor couldn’t see exactly what it was, but it glinted slightly in the moonlight. Not powder, but a small cluster of gems maybe?

“You finally used a portal,” she said.

Yuuri did not answer.

“With my sapphire ring. My engagement ring.” She looked at Viktor again, eyes amused and calculating. “You risked killing everyone in Almaty for him.”

There was a very, very long and tense silence.

Anika and Yuuri were looking at each other, unmoving, communicating in ways that couldn’t be heard—in ways that Viktor couldn’t understand.

And then, suddenly, both of them raised an arm.

But the standoff was quick.

Viktor felt his chest constrict, air suddenly being dragged out of him. He stepped back, shocked by the pain that ran down all the way from his throat to his lungs, his knees giving out.

Fuck, this is bad.

“What? You could always kill me right away.” He heard Anika snort, her tone taunting and confident. “Nothing is faster than lightning. Or as powerful.”

Black spots were forming in Viktor’s vision, the lack of oxygen making him dizzy.

He was suffocating.

“Anya,” Yuuri’s voice was quiet. “Anika, stop!”

“Kill. Me.”

Whatever happened next, Viktor didn’t know.

Yuuri’s voice was the last thing he heard before everything went black.

Chapter Text

Almaty, 2016 AD

In the many centuries of his life, there are two things the warlocks taught him: First, was that warlocks must never meddle with human endeavours; they should let them be, consider the requests for spells as nothing more than a usual paid job, and let the world burn. The second, and quite contradictory to the virtues of the first, was that they should learn to protect themselves at all costs, for humanity and it’s future.

Yuuri never did take these rules to heart, for they were subjective at best, losing their once honourable meaning through time. It was arrogant for warlocks to think themselves high and mighty, despite being at the mercy of the wealthy or the desperate. They shouldn’t think themselves important to humanity, not when they’ve forgotten the true purpose of why they came to be.

Before humans had handed themselves over to their evil whims—before anyone had ever forced a child into a ritual or have used warlocks as an instrument of terror—most of them have become what they are at their own accord. To be immortal and to be bestowed the power of the elements seemed rather appealing, many have considered turning into one of them because of those, but it was a commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Half of those people who had wanted to live forever eventually found reasons not to consider it much further.

Back in those days, Yuuri remembered, they were nothing more than spell casters who studied products of nature or the functions of the human body. They studied herbs, contributed to medicine and science, healed the sick and the wounded, assisted village leaders with the protection of its people. They were scholars—honourable, self-sacrificing, and compassionate.

In times of war, the said rules might have made sense. Emperors and Kings and whomever had enough power weaponized warlocks, used them for the destruction of one or many, using their wretched abilities all the while never treating them as proper human beings. It made sense for them to detach themselves, protect themselves, thinking humans as murderers and heartless monsters.

What didn’t make sense was how it was no different from doing the same atrocious things when money or gold or special favours were involved.

If someone asked them the kill a man, then why wouldn’t they think themselves responsible for it? How was it possible that they thought humans who made grim requests were no better than those who executed it?

In his own time, he managed to make up a rule for himself: never harden your heart.

He may not be a mortal anymore, but it felt comforting to know that he was still human through the actions he’s made. How glad he was to know that he was still kind and compassionate in his own way, despite the many he’s killed, hexed, and tortured for money.

But what an inconvenient thing that was, for his heart not to harden.

Because each and every kill, no matter how reasonable, still seemed wrong.

Because each and every request to find something made him slightly suspicious of the requesting party’s intentions.

Because as he stared down at Viktor, lying on the bed, eyes closed and breath steady—he felt as if his heart would shatter, as if its shards would come out of his own skin, and he wouldn’t care if it broke and impaled him a million times over.

Perhaps warlocks like him did seek the pain, for it was a reminder that his own humanity was not lost, but it was almost too much no matter.

He could always turn away, right at that very moment, maybe find something else to do as a distraction—so why was he still there?

Someone tapped on the door gently.

It was Phichit, Yuuri realized. He was peering from the small crack where light poured into the dark guest room, his expression unreadable.

“Can I talk to you for a moment?” Phichit whispered into the room, as if he were addressing the darkness itself and not Yuuri. When Yuuri hesitated to get up from where he sat, Phichit cleared his throat and said, “Mila will watch over him while we speak. It won’t take too long, I promise.”

“Can’t we talk about it here?”

Phichit shook his head. “Give me five minutes. That’s it. You can come back by his side and do whatever you want.”

Sighing, Yuuri got up, legs suddenly weak.

He knew that tone. It was the tone Phichit used when he was about to give out a warning or start a lecture, a sensible one at that, for Phichit never really cared what Yuuri did for as long as it wasn’t detrimental to himself or to other people.

Phichit retreated from the door and could be heard calling for Mila moments later. Not long after that, he was back inside the room again, Mila following closely behind him.
She shuffled inside quietly, sleep deprived but alert, and offered Yuuri a smile.

It was a strange thing, human kindness.

How could she offer a smile like that when Viktor had almost died because of him? because Yuuri couldn’t kill Anika? He wasn’t even sure if it were Anika in the first place, but the woman had his wife’s face—the face of a person he had loved and had continued to love so dearly despite the years. He never did stop loving her, not at all.

Phichit led him to Otabek’s kitchen, which was the only place secluded enough to hold a private conversation. Otabek was out on the roof, checking for anything suspicious about the wards that had allowed Anika—the unknown warlock—to slip through.

That was the thing: Otabek Altin was rather obsessed with security.

No one had attempted on his life or held any strong grudge against him, but he was the kind to never let anything slip past him. He cast strong spells to create the wards in his apartment complex and cast even stronger ones when Yuuri arrived with his company.

The fact that someone managed to walk in like it was nothing was rather alarming, and had sent everyone on edge since the earlier attack.

“I’ve made contacts with the warlock council in Detroit,” Phichit said, opening Otabek’s fridge and retrieved some juice. “They said Viktor’s people had been patrolling the perimeter around our neighbourhood, said that some of them even went as far as to try to get through your wards.”

He grit his teeth. “They can’t.”

“Obviously,” Phichit snorted. “They could drop an atomic bomb over the street and our building would stay standing.”

Yuuri winced. “If you say it like that—”

“Nevertheless, now they know Viktor’s under your protection—the Eldest One’s protection—goodness mother nature,” Phichit was beginning to pace about, like a mechanical soldier guarding Otabek’s holy kitchen counter. “Which, I might add, was a thing those idiots didn’t even believe up until you showed off your lightning bolts.”

Sighing, Yuuri rubbed his temples with the heels of his palms. What did he expect Yuuri to do? Just watch Viktor slaughter his own people and watch him plummet into endless guilt afterwards? He’d already made two necessary kills that day, and that alone had taken him a long time to get over.

Viktor’s mentioned it before, the life he’s lived. He never looked at it as a lifetime of fighting, of defending, but it was nothing more than a continuous occurrence that’ll go on after he died. The first time Yuuri asked about the numbers, Viktor hesitated. It was like he didn’t want to remember how many have died by his hand, how many had to suffer loss and pain because of him. Yuuri felt the same, but the centuries and the fleeting nature of memories seemed to have washed the guilty away, if only slightly.

“I—I got carried away, okay?” Yuuri’s voice betrayed him, guilt and alarm spilling out like a rushing river. Still, it wasn’t as if it were a conversation he didn’t expect—and frankly, he did wonder why it took Phichit this long to scold him about it. “It’s not like I could use fire without concentrating, and trust me, concentration wasn’t something I had in mind mid-panic.”

“I didn’t say it was a mistake to jump in when you did,” Phichit frowned, pouring himself a glass of grape juice, although making no move to pick it up. He had this weird habit of trying to find things to do with his hands when he was thinking, like he was restless and needed to divert the tension kept hidden in his own thoughts. “Could it have been handled better? Yes. Was there a way to intervene without threatening to fry someone? Definitely.”

Yuuri grimaced. “People rarely die from lightning strikes. I wouldn’t have killed them even if I decided to land a hit.”

“Yes, but you could have struck someone's heart and the death would not have been painful. And I know you never wanted to do that, kill someone...but considering your situation then, maybe you should have,” Phichit looked to him with a soft expression—pity, maybe? “I know killing is something you avoid at all cost, Yuuri, but it was the wrong move to let witnesses go.”

Of course it had been a bad decision.

He thought about it even as he was running up to the roof of his apartment building in St. Petersburg,  was thinking about it still in the split second before the Clansman began to bring the longsword down. Several hours letter, when his own mind started harassing his peaceful thoughts again, he realized he could have planned things out a little better. He could have stopped them by using his fire. Or just jump straight into the centre of the encounter. Or he could have pushed Viktor out of the way and used the portal immediately.

It was a bad decision to even get involved in the first place, but it wasn’t as if Yuuri cared.

“Oh, and here’s the other thing,” Phichit dug through his pockets for his handkerchief. Using the thing as if to protect his hand, he went to retrieve something from the floor, previously obscured from Yuuri’s line of sight up until Phichit held it up. “You know what it is, don’t you?”

Of course, Yuuri knew what it was. He had recognized it at soon as he saw Viktor wielding it.

The sword didn’t look all too noticeable with its metal sheathe and hilt lacking any intricate designs, only very delicate ridges cut into the hilt to grasp it better, and even those were covered in carefully wound fabric to avoid hands from slipping.

“A shashka,” Yuuri obeserved.

“I know that,” Phichit’s frown deepened. “The same one I enchanted. You know what it could do, don’t you?”

And yes, he did.

Some years ago, Phichit had agreed to have the sword enchanted on the condition that it be returned to him after it served its purpose. It was a terrible time considering the number of rogue warlocks running around what was then called Leningrad,  with the war redirecting the attention of everyone else, it had allowed for murders and abductions to go unnoticed. It was reasonable for the Clan to make such request, and his friend wasn't one to deny help when he's capable of it, so Phichit had allowed it. However, despite swearing to, the Russian Clans never returned it.

Phichit had been in search of it ever since.

“Yuuri, this thing—it could absorb spell power. I’m not mad that it’s here, maybe not yet, it saved us from...that warlock, after all,” he said, still holding the thing away as if it might burn him. “But it’s dangerous. I tried to revoke the spell I cast on it but to no success. Not even a little bit—”

“At least there’s something we could use when the time comes.” Yuuri offered.

“You don’t get it, do you? Yuuri, this sword could kill you. If it can do that, let alone what happens to the rest of us,” Phichit gently placed it on the counter, more from fear of making too much noise than being delicate with it. “Viktor’s killed warlocks. How many?”

“Six.”

“Then he has six warlocks worth of spell power in him,” Phichit groaned. “No wonder he could fight the way you said he could.”

“I know.”

“You ‘know’?”

“What did you want me to say?”

Phichit pointed at the weapon in disgust. “This needs to be destroyed. Now. By all means. Or at least we try to strip the spell off of it—I don’t know, Yuuri, think of something!” he raised his hands in exasperation. “You’ll never know when Isabella or whomever had the wrong intentions get to him and convince him to—”

“He wouldn’t do that.”

“You’re oddly too trusting.”

The tension in the air had become thick after that. They were looking at each other, reading one another, most likely searching the right words to say in the moment. Yuuri had done idiotic things for the people he had come to have affections for, but considering the circumstances, this one might have been the most idiotic he’s ever been.

“You said you couldn’t undo the spell.”

Phichit inhaled sharply, although his face remained blank and immovable. “Yes.”

“And if we can’t do that, the best thing we could do is to make sure Isabella doesn’t get to him,” Yuuri continued on, despite Phichit’s protests. “He and Mila are currently the only ones who could use it. Viktor makes sure it doesn’t leave his side at all costs. I’m not even sure if he knows what happens after he’s used the shashka. What we need to do is protect them from Isabella and make sure she doesn’t do anything to them at all. Does that makes sense, Phichit?”

“You just sounded a bit biased.”

“Maybe.”

He was.

“But we don’t have any other options now, do we? She’d prefer to get to Viktor since there’s more spell power in him. I don’t know if she’s aware of how many kills he’s made, but if she knew Leroy, then she’s probably heard talks of Viktor being the best of his generation.”

“You sound obscenely proud.”

Extremely worried,” Yuuri frowned.

Although in fact, he was—proud, that is—and strangely so.

“That’s about it, Phichit.” Yuuri leaned against the counter, suddenly feeling as if he might fall over, wrung out and exhausted. “We grant them refuge and then we deal with Isabella Yang. If she doesn’t get to the wielder of this shashka then there’d be less trouble.”

Less trouble,” Phichit repeated the words through gritted teeth. He laughed a little, though it was strained and hysterical. “Fine. Have it your way, but don’t say I never warned you.”

Yuuri smiled. “As you always do, my friend.”


The first thing Viktor saw as he woke was Yuuri, who was hunched over him, gently caressing the knuckles of his right hand.

“You know,” Viktor tried for a laugh, but it came out as a pathetic croak. “If you were someone else, I’d think you’re creepy.”

Yuuri looked up, most likely surprised that Viktor had so suddenly stirred. And then, as if began to sink in, a smile started to form.

They were on a bed in the guest room, Viktor noticed. It was mostly dark, save for the thin strip of sunlight escaping through the gaps of the curtains, the only indication that it was daytime. He didn’t remember much about what had happened the night before, just broken images, a distant memory of something painful—

“I always did like your hands,” Yuuri hummed.

“It’s a killer’s hand.”

Yuuri’s grip tightened a little, but few moments after, he was gently rubbing his thumb over Viktor’s skin again. He ran his fingers through the rough skin, calloused and scarred and perpetually dry.

“It’s a warrior’s hand, Viktor.”

Viktor, however, never thought of himself a warrior.

There was nothing beautiful about what he did, it was all killing and hunting, and he almost always never came back to the headquarters without blood on him. He trained until he couldn’t stand anymore, skin becoming thick and strong and used to the perpetual injuries. Yuuri could call him something noble or admirable, but he wouldn’t believe it one bit.

“How—” He tried to sit up, but suddenly felt numbness in his head, dizzying. He was ultimately forced to lie back down, for it wasn’t as if he had any choice. “How long was I out?”

“Twelve hours,” Yuuri replied, reaching out to brush his hair away. “Here, hold still.”

Yuuri’s hands went to his temples, and from where they touched, a strange, pulsating feeling passed through. “Better?”

Realizing what the other had meant, Viktor tried to sit up again, and this time, he didn’t feel dizzy anymore. Yuuri helped him with the pillows, arranging them so it supported his lower back, and moments later Yuuri was pressing a glass of water to his hand.

“Now, that—” He couldn’t help but laugh, brokenly, but delighted. “Now that was awesome.”

Yuuri kept brushing his hair away from his face while Viktor was sipping at the water, eyes looking rather fond, though there were dark circles underneath them.

“You know,” Yuuri spoke, almost a whisper. “People used to welcome warlocks into their villages, like normal people. They knew what we were, of course, but they didn’t ask us to kill someone or cause anyone misfortune. And before all the great wars that came to be, we weren’t weapons.”

There was a certain sadness in the way the Yuuri said it, enough that it tugged at Viktor’s chest in a simultaneously pathetic and poetic way. “What did you do when...when you were still—one with the community?”

So much for his assumed poeticism.

“We used to be doctors. Healers.” He shrugged, his hand moving down to caress Viktor’s face. It was pleasant. It was electric. Those hands were better than Viktor’s. “People would help one another to bring someone to us, someone who’s fainted or was having a seizure...” His hand continued to move down, finding Viktor’s, and laced their fingers together. “People couldn’t explain how we did it, of course. They’d think an epileptic was possessed or something like that, so they thought we were powerful gods or whatever.”

“Well,” Viktor shrugged. “Isn’t that what you are?”

“I wish I could say I was flattered, but—well, not too soon they began to realize we could do more than just heal. They figured we could kill, too. Some of us refused to do it at first, but then people offered to pay.” His smile faded, eyes downcast, a certain page of his long life replaying somewhere at the back of his mind. “It wasn’t long until people became afraid of us, calling us murderers, and eventually chasing us out of the villages. Those who weren’t so afraid used us, knowing fully well that we needed gold or silver or any kind form of currency in order to survive.”

No matter how grim Yuuri’s past could be, Viktor liked hearing them. Not for the sake of it being fun or interesting, which they were, but it was precisely that they were very dark stories that Yuuri could’ve kept to himself—and yet had allowed Viktor to hear them anyway.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri said, rather sheepishly, guiltily. Sometimes Viktor forgot how soft-spoken he could be.

“For what?”

“That I wasn’t able to defend you though I am capable.”

“I didn’t think—” Viktor frowned. “I didn’t think it was like that.”

“You don’t understand—”

Viktor’s hand tightened around Yuuri’s. “I know you couldn’t kill her because you loved her.”

Normally, Viktor would have thought Yuuri had chosen Anika over him—and it had looked like that—but he came into Yuuri’s life long after the many other people he loved and the many things he’s done. Even if he had chosen Anika, it wasn’t in his place to complain or demand. “You couldn’t chose between the two of us, so it happened. I am not mad.”

“But you could have died!”

He wasn’t able to stop himself from laughing. “Now, that’s something that isn’t new to me. Trust me, either lady luck’s on my side or I’m just a bad seed, but I know I wouldn’t go down so easily.”

There was a pause, a hesitation, and then Yuuri bent down to retrieve something from the floor. He held it out to Viktor, and even without much light, Viktor already knew what it was.

“My short sword.”

“I think it has a name,” Yuuri laid it on his lap, the metal heavy and cold. “Reaper.”

Viktor’s mouth went slack. “How did you know?”

“Phichit’s the one who enchanted it,” Yuuri replied quickly, his voice certain. “Mila managed to stop the warlock from killing you by using it. She sustained minimal injuries from where she touched it, though. So I guess it rightfully belongs to you.”

“I—that’s—I thought it was a stupid story—”

“The first time we went out to get coffee together, why did you think I was there the moment you were in front of my apartment?”

Viktor racked his brain. “Warlocks can detect spell power. That’s normal.”

“Normal, yes, but all human beings possess spell power,” Yuuri said. “But why did you think I knew it was you?”

“I—”

“You have the strength of six warlocks, Viktor Nikiforov, and you didn’t even know it.”

That was not possible.

His mother, who had previously owned the sword before he did, was indeed quite strong. Viktor could very well have inherited that trait, as she did from her father or whomever used his shashka before. He hadn’t become great because of a spell, he came to be what he was because he dedicated his life to training. That’s it. Because none of it would make sense to him otherwise.

With shaking hands, Viktor reached for the blade, unsheathing it—and found no sign of damage.

“I had the blade fixed,” Yuuri smiled up at him again. “I find that you needed something on you at all times, and...well, a throwing knife wouldn’t do much, don’t you think?”

“Well, I’m fine without it. You should see me fight without weapons.” he said. “You don’t have to return this to me just to prove that you can trust me. You can take it away—”

“I’ll teach you how to properly use it.” Yuuri had looked down upon saying this, fingers brushing the scabbard. “We suspect Isabella’s after your shaska—and you—so I decided that it’s best that you knew how to defend yourself.”

He reached out to run his fingers through Viktor’s hair again, gentle and calm. Yuuri must have known he was threading dangerous lines, he must have known that it was risky to have the blade fixed. And for some strange reason, it made Viktor nervous.

"This is not a test, Viktor," he said. "It's just that I trust you enough to have it."

Viktor looked up again, searching Yuuri’s eyes for a discernible answer. A purpose. A reason. “Why?”

“Because I want to,” Yuuri had said.


 London, 1888 AD

Yuuri had a history of making rather impulsive and careless decisions. It could be anything from trying out food that didn’t agree with him to taking up jobs like guarding the transport of opium and illegal merchandise.

Phichit had once told him that if no other man or warlock could kill him, his idiocy would. He was nice to Yuuri, because Phichit can never be horrible even if he tried, but he wasn’t one to lie when he knew things were turning for the ugly.

Which was why Yuuri never mentioned Benedict at all in the letters he’s written to Phichit.

It was best that the other didn’t know about it, otherwise he’d have someone kicking his door down and inevitably lecture him for whatever he’s done in the last eight years. Maybe the said lecture would be in Portuguese, too—or was it French?

In retrospect, it wasn’t like Yuuri didn’t know he was making stupid decisions, which all the more made it worse.

The incident with Benedict Layton should have already prompted him to pack his bags and leave England, take advantage of the mess the Ripper stories have been making, and maybe find himself a nice town to live in for another decade—somewhere in sunny Peru, perhaps. He was told that it was a nice place to be in, fiestas and all, and maybe there would be enough drinks to drown out his thoughts for once.

In the past weeks since Benedict died, he’s already managed to fill a trunk of necessities and a suitcase with clothes and some money to pay for a trip across the ocean. He had the flat cleaned up and had taken note of the establishments that might want to buy some of his furniture. He had written letters to the friends he made at the gentlemen’s club, had arranged the paperwork to sell the flat, and had taken the liberty of donating some of his books to a local library.

And yet...well, he still hasn’t left, has he?

And to make matters worse, he had suddenly decided that it was alright to meet Isabella again, and had responded to her letter quickly when it came. There was nothing wrong about wanting to see her again, wasn’t it? Maybe he could manage to kick some sanity in her; for as much as he denied it, he had hoped that one day she would come back to him somehow—that she would suddenly revert to the woman she once was.

“You look like you haven’t slept,” she was grinning at him from across the dinner table, sipping at the small cup Yuuri had served black tea in, lips red and full. She was dressed in a beautiful shade of dark blue, probably made by one of the best tailors in London. Her hat, which matched the colour of her dress, was decorated with delicate white flowers that was in contrast with the dark fabric.

Isabella knew Yuuri had always liked the colour blue.

“I had to bury a man’s singed body at two in the morning,” Yuuri responded, his voice a low growl. He was seated firmly on the wooden chair, the farthest from the one she occupied, hands casually tapping at the table. “And then I had to spend weeks wondering if someone would find it and trace it all back to me. How do you think I’ve been doing?”

“Terribly, I suppose.” She set the cup back down and stood, wandering about in his flat for a while before she decided to speak again. “I’m surprised you managed to keep this place in order after all that’s happened. You were never really one who handled grief all that well.”

Yuuri hummed. “And that’s why you offered to visit me, perhaps? To see if I am as miserable as you suspected?”

Isabella charmingly placed a hand on her chin, feigning to be thinking deeply. “Miserable wasn’t the word for it, I guess. I mean, it’s not like there’s ever a moment you’re not.” She turned to him, her skirts fluttering around her feet. “I was rather hoping you’d be desperate—”

“I am not like you,” Yuuri cut her off. “I can’t handle grief and guilt all that well, but I am not like you.”

Something flashed in her eyes, a terrible something, but it was gone in a blink of an eye.

“Yuuri, darling,” she dragged the first syllable of his name, making it sound as if she were singing it. It was something she used to do, back in the days when they were close enough to be teasing one another.

How strange to be remembering the good things about her, feel slightly fond whenever he did, only to be reminded that it was something long gone.

“You didn’t think I caused his madness, did you?”

Yuuri’s hands had turned to fists, but he stayed silent.

“I was only here for a visit, but you were threatening to kill me right at your doorstep. I only did what I can do, cause a distraction, and be on my way out.” She walked closer to where he sat, leaning against the table, bending over a little so she caught his eyes. “And I hope you know that, for I am only here to offer a solution. Nothing more. You could take it if you want to, but I won’t force you.”

“You wouldn’t make it obvious, you mean,” Yuuri responded through gritted teeth. “What are you going to do next? Follow where I’ll go, try to find out if I’ve found someone else, maybe make sure I’d be stupid enough to do anything at all for them? And then perhaps do something to coincidentally cause their death?”

Isabella gasped, mockingly. “Are you accusing me of something, Yuuri?”

“You thought—you thought that if someone I loved died at my own hands, that I’d become desperate enough to bring them back,” he laughed, rather hysterically. Frankly, Yuuri wasn’t sure if he were still sane. “You wanted me to kill him. You gave me reason to. But no, I have no plans to bring him back from the dead as you would have hoped.”

Isabella’s expression didn’t falter, didn’t change. She still looked amused and fond, pretending to listen to every word he said. Or perhaps, she was truly delighted about him expressing his contempt. Yuuri didn’t really know anymore.

She smirked, beautiful face devious and cunning. Her hand reached out, fingers finding his chin, and she lifted his face so he had no other choice but to look her in the eye. “If you’re so adamant about this strange hypothesis, then why aren’t you yelling at me right now?” He felt her thumb brush his face, gently, her fingers cold. “Why aren’t you threatening to kill me as you did before?”

“I make mistakes,” Yuuri smiled, amused—and not for reasons that were pretty. “But if I can manage it, I am never going to be like you, Isabella Yang.”

“You said I was always too kind,” she said. “You made it sound like it wasn’t a good thing.”

“Exactly. The kindest hearts are the easiest to shatter, after all.”


Brooklyn, 2016 AD

It didn’t take long before Phichit decided it was time for them to leave. Yuuri had argued against it initially, reiterating that Viktor hadn’t been well enough when Phichit made the proposal, but was quickly shut down with a quick, “It’s better that we leave while he’s weak rather than to pick up the pieces later.”

Otabek, at Phichit’s unwavering commands, had stayed at a hotel in Almaty. He had promised to follow them to America as soon as he knew something about the strange series of events that had led Viktor and Mila to the current predicament they were in—although it really was all Viktor’s problem, Mila just happened to like him enough to free him.

It hadn’t been pleasant, the move to America.

Yuuri had insisted that it was best to cast another cloaking spell, had a friend of Phichit double-check the apartment they were going to stay in, cast spells on as many gems he could find, and then offered to work with the wards in Otabek’s hotel room.

Phichit had been in contact with a few warlock friends over in Detroit, and had suggested they went to New York as soon as he knew the American Clans have been staking out at their place.

Other than the fact that Phichit owned a rather nice apartment in Brooklyn, they decided on it because they thought it was best to hide themselves amongst the crowd, where they could easily move or go out for some nice fried food if they felt hungry. Viktor was being optimistic at the idea of course, because really, they were on the run and were being hunted down by two parties at once—and unless he resolved things with the Clans, there was nothing for him to return to.

“I feel horrible,”Yuuri said from behind him, his breath warm against the tiny bit of exposed skin on the back of Viktor’s neck, lying heavily on a bed in one of the four bedrooms.

He had come into the room a few minutes ago, plopped down in exhaustion, his chest pressing against Viktor.

“Why is that?”

“It’s only been a week since we’re here and I’m starting to forget to worry about the important things.”

In the last three days, they somehow ended up sleeping in the same bed at night. They never talked about it—no one asked if it were fine or just weird—but by the time he woke up to seeing Yuuri sleeping beside him, he knew that he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

He revelled in it, the feeling of a warm body beside him, Yuuri’s arm across his waist.

“If you think you should feel that way, then I guess I’m supposed to feel a lot worse.” He found Yuuri’s hand and brought it to his lips, eyes still closed shut. “I have people waiting for me...Yura, Yakov. Mila has Sara to think about. And yet sometimes I feel like it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t return. Like I could just hide forever and hope that the Clans would eventually stop looking for me.”

But that wasn’t all, was it? They still thought Viktor was guilty, of course, but now they’ve become more determined to find him in hopes that they’d get to Yuuri too.

It wasn’t like they’d stand a chance against him, as they’d probably get electrocuted long before they even came close enough to touch him, but it’s an image Viktor didn’t want to think about at the moment. He fervently hoped that it wasn’t going to come to that, otherwise he wouldn’t know how he’ll live with the nightmares it will surely bring him.

Yuuri must know that as well, must know how easy his life would be if he just left Viktor to his own demise, and yet there they were.

“It would be much easier if you let me be, don’t you think?” He said, without much thinking.

Yuuri, however, had stilled behind him.

Realizing his mistake, Viktor tried to apologize, but Yuuri had shut him up by bringing his lips against Viktor’s own.

“I’m not sure if you believe it yet, Viktor Nikiforov,” he spoke against Viktor’s cheek, voice languid and soft and careful. “But there is no one quite like you. I could have chosen someone else—it would be much easier to—and yet I’ve done everything I could to keep you by my side. Isn’t that enough?” Yuuri kissed him again, only pulling away to catch his breath. “My concern is whether or not you regret making the same stupid decisions as I have.”

“No,” Viktor replied quickly. “Not at all.”

Silence fell upon them after that, a comfortable one. One where they just stayed in each other’s arms, as if all their problems would somehow disappear if they stayed in that room for much longer. Yuuri was playing with his hair, fingers running through the blonde strands, gently massaging his scalp.

“Did always have a thing for ash blondes?”

Yuuri’s hand ceased moving for a moment, but it was quick, and he continued to play with Viktor's hair again. “They said I have a thing for pretty things.”

He couldn’t deny that there was something painfully uncomfortable welling up inside him. He wouldn’t have thought about it at all, not until his brain decided it was the right time to remember petty things.

The same colouring.

Anika—or whoever that was—had said the same words before. It couldn’t have been a mistake, or a deliberate attempt to taunt Viktor, for Yuuri had recognized her at the first glance.

Did Yuuri became fond of him, because he brought back wonderful memories of someone else? Was he the object of Yuuri's affection because he was currently miserable and in need of saving?

He cursed himself.

Jealously wasn’t going to help him at the moment. He had no right to it, didn’t he? He had no right to demand that Yuuri stopped loving the people dear to him, because it’d be like asking Viktor to denounce Yura in front of everyone else. He had no right to say such things when he’s come into Yuuri’s life only just recently, enjoying the present warmth of the company, and grateful for making him feel like he wasn’t alone.

Thinking that Yuuri had somehow been drawn to him out of pity wasn’t going to do any good either.

Thinking that as soon as all excitement waned down, Viktor would become nothing more than a distant, forgettable memory.

"Promise me something," Viktor croaked, keeping his eyes closed.

"Hmmm?"

Taking a deep breath, he spoke before he stopped himself. "Don't forget about me," he said. "I could love you more than you'll be able to and I wouldn't mind. Indulge me for a bit. I won't live that long."

Yuuri pressed closer to him, his nose nuzzling the back of Viktor's neck. "I would never dare."

Chapter Text

Brooklyn, 2016 AD

It was December 24th.

Viktor woke up to the very loud sounds of screeching cars, inelegant cursing, and the general mishmash of noise that one would experience in a place like New York.

For a moment, he wondered why Phichit ever suggested going there when he had a perfectly nice place in New Orleans; which also happened to be one of the places Viktor wanted to visit if not live in. He wanted to go visit the French Quarter and maybe drop by one of those little shops that sold witchcraft items, join the street festivals, indulge in bourbon or some kind of cocktail to add to the haze.

But no, he was stuck in someone else’s apartment in New York, and wasn’t doing much except read or train inside the limiting confines of a bedroom.

Everything else was the same in his room (his room for three weeks, that is), except for the fact that he was alone in the bed. The feeling was not quite unfamiliar, not yet, but also a bit...disappointing. Viktor had become so used to have a warm body beside him upon waking up that he felt like something was a bit wrong.

He shouldn’t be this attached, otherwise Yuuri was going to think he was clingy.

Besides, considering the situation he was in, he knew for a fact that many things were uncertain. Every day, Viktor woke to wondering whether he’d see the next sunrise, whether they were going to drop everything and move to another place again, whether it would come to a point where Mila was going to finally give up on him. So many things could and couldn’t happen, depending on what came next or what decisions he found himself making.

The door to his room swung open, and to his relief, revealed Yuuri.

Viktor couldn’t help but smile as soon as his eyes went to the silver tray Yuuri was carrying; which had a glass of milk and some food on it. Yuuri was smiling at him, adorable with his usual bed hair.

There was nothing that compared to how he felt in that moment, of how much he wished this was something that could happen every day. It had him hoping he’d see Yuuri walk in so casually, in clothes he had slept in, like it was a normal thing for them to spend lazy mornings together.

“I made you breakfast,” Yuuri settled at the foot of the bed, motioned Viktor to sit up, and gently placed the tray in front of him when he did. “I just thought you had enough take-out food lately. It’s just bacon and stuff, but I don’t normally use a lot of oil, so at least it’s healthier.”

Yuuri handed him the utensils, with which Viktor gleefully took and began dig in. “Do you want some?”

“I’ve had coffee,” Yuuri was looking at him quite fondly, mostly silent through the whole thing, but never awkward or hesitant.

In fact, Viktor started to like these silent moments they shared together, he loved it when they talked, but there was something about being comfortable enough with one another that the silence itself would speak volumes. There was no need to make small talk, if all Viktor needed was to look at his beautiful face and wonder why the world, cruel as it might be, had blessed him with someone he didn’t quite deserve.

When he was done, Viktor made to get up and do the dishes, but instead, Yuuri shook his head and said, “why don’t you shower while I do that.”

“Why?”

“Well, we’ve got somewhere to go,” he placed a finger to his lips, and in a hushed voice, he added, “don’t tell Phichit.”

Viktor was curious as the what was the reason for Yuuri’s dramatic declaration to sneak about, but did not question it. It was still early in the morning, so they wouldn’t be going to somewhere fancy, would they? This was definitely a date, although Yuuri was never one to define anything at all. Viktor had unthinkingly asked him whether he was taking him on a date once, and Yuuri had just stared with a wondering expression.

“What qualifies as a ‘date’?” He had asked.

Viktor decided to dismiss the topic with a wave of his hand. He wasn’t quite sure how to define the thing himself.

There was this one time at the thrift shop where he was sorting through books, and almost out of the blue, someone had asked him to go get coffee with them. The guy (who was objectively attractive) had a faint indiscernible accent that had Viktor concluding he was foreigner. Somehow he assumed the said guy needed a tour guide, so he agreed quite distractedly.

He found himself talking about St. Petersburg, went on to answer some questions about the nicest tourist spots, slightly energized by all the caffeine he had. And hour later, the guy paid for everything, and asked for Viktor’s number.

He was not dense, not at all, but then again that afternoon went by without him knowing what it was. His said ‘date’ wasn’t even flirting all that much, to which Viktor was actually used to, since a lot of people—attracted as they may be to Viktor—were often intimidated by him. He didn’t even know why.

He mentioned this embarrassing story to Yuuri once, along with the detail about people going quiet around him, and all he got was a short laugh and, “well, if you make people speechless, I don’t think that’s a thing you should worry about.”

So Viktor dressed up as he would when he was about to go out on a date—sweater and jeans, then a rather nice pair of sneakers Phichit got him a week ago—and fixed his hair a bit.

Surely, dates were meant to be nicer occasions compared to the usual day, weren’t they? It wasn’t like Yuuri hadn’t seen him horrendously dressed or swaying from the lack of sleep, but at least it was nice to feel good about himself for once.

“Look at you,” Yuuri came in while Viktor was hopelessly trying to fix his hair. “I always wondered what you looked like if you had long hair.”

Viktor shrugged, still focused on trying to tame the annoying strands of hair that brushed the back of his neck. “I used to wear it really long,” he said, feeling a little itch where the hairs touched his skin. “Tried to grow it out again but it was hard to manage when it grew to this length. I gave up eventually.”

“Why’d you cut it?”

“Um—” Viktor stopped for what seemed to be an excruciatingly long while, before huffing out a brief answer. “I got my mother’s blood on it.”

The fondness on Yuuri’s face fell, his smile retreating slowly. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Viktor smiled at Yuuri’s reflection on the mirror. “Mila knows it. I talk to her about it sometimes. I guess some wounds do heal with time.”

“Yes,” Yuuri managed, smile coming back to his face, though hesitant. “Yes, they do.”

-

Viktor has gone on to many dates—ranging from spectacular ones in expensive food places and downright awful ones that involved trying to catch fish—he wasn’t too picky, but there’s only so many things you could do when you’re in St. Petersburg. Plus, he wasn’t likely to give out a free pass for date number two, so he really never expected much.

On that day, he had expected them to go for either a nice walk down the avenue, find a nice pizza place, or step into one of those hole-in-wall coffee places that did slam poetry or something. What he hadn’t thought about was the fact that New York had large amusement parks.

“Luna Park?” Viktor looked up to a particularly intimidating roller coaster ride, which featured the voices of many overly-excited people. Although they could be in pain, but he'll never know.

“Ever been to an amusement park?”

“No, actually.”

Viktor was still looking around, like a child. He never did had the chance to enjoy these things before. While most children (or the ones he read about in books or seen in television anyway) did things like ride merry-go-rounds and Ferris wheels, Viktor was reading about demonic histories, ran around the dark alleys to find something to kill, and swung a heavy blade with as much expertise as a trained soldier.

“What do you want to try first, hmm?” Yuuri looked up to him, hand squeezing Viktor’s, eyes lighting up with excitement. “How about we try something a little tame? Something you can stomach.”

Hearing the accusation laced in that sentence, Viktor raised his eyebrows indignantly. “Oooh, Yuuri. Is that a challenge? Are you questioning my impeccable grace and bravery right now?”

A playful smile crept up to Yuuri’s lips. “Maybe.”

“I’ve been training rigorously all my life,” Viktor snorted. “A roller coaster is hardly gut-wrenching.”

“Sure.”

“You don’t appear to believe me in the slightest.”

“Roller coaster?”

“Roller coaster.”

Apparently, no life of killing was ever going to prepare Viktor for the evil thing that is the roller coaster ride. He practically had seven heart-attacks while his face was turning into a block of ice from the cold wind wheezing past him. By the end of it, although he never said anything to Yuuri, he felt like he might vomit.

Regardless of the danger of projectile vomiting, he had to admit it was fun. That and he got to see Yuuri laughing with the corner of his eyes crinkling so wonderfully. He was laughing at Viktor, yes, but none of that mattered as long as he could see that face again.

“I was afraid you’d lose your breakfast in a toilet bowl,” Yuuri continued on laughing, even as they were passing by a few more rides and occasionally bumped into overly-hyped children running about.

“Not a chance,” Viktor frowned. “In fact, I wouldn’t mind another go at it just to prove you wrong.”

“You’re going to regret that.”

“Not at all.”

It was nearing lunch when Yuuri decided it was time to go. Viktor hardly argued with him, internally grateful that Yuuri didn’t challenge him to go try some more of the rides, because he was sure he’d either puke or pass out from trying not to. A few were enough for that day, and maybe, they could come back sometime and bring up how utterly hilarious Viktor’s face had been.

They found themselves inside a rather eccentric cafe slash art place somewhere nearby. It was the type of place where either hipsters, underpaid artists, or frustrated musicians sick of living went to. It was the type of place that served stir-fried pan pizzas and fried Kool-aids. And yes, the said pizza and fried Kool-aids were exactly as they sound like.

Viktor ordered something more reasonable, like a burger, and as did Yuuri.

“How’d you even find this place?” Viktor asked him in Russian, just in case the hipster owner was around the corner and caught what Viktor said.

“I don’t know,” Yuuri shrugged. “But it’s the New York experience, I guess. Walk into some random place in Brooklyn and you’ll find something cool or just downright weird.”

“I’d call it extremely overpriced.”

“Well, everyone except us are whipping out Macbooks, so I guess we just have to try to fit in.”

The conversation went on like that for a while—mostly involving questions on what type of music they listened to, what sort of books they’ve read, what kinds of food that they couldn’t live without—it was so casual and carefree that Viktor couldn’t help but forget the predicament he was in. It’s been a long time, if not never, has he ever experienced normality in his life.

“So you think Pip was being unreasonable?” Yuuri stared up at Viktor in horror, face so thoroughly harassed one might think he was just about to spew a full thesis in defence of a fictional character

“I’m just saying Pip was being an idiot,” Viktor snorted. “And fortunately for him, he was a lucky idiot.”

“Please do elaborate.”

Viktor looked up, letting his mind wander. He’s read The Great Expectations too many times to even hesitate on an answer. “Well, I think he’d always known Estella was heartless—”

“She was not.”

“—fine, she was playing at being heartless because her mother raised her to be like that. I mean, I’m no psychologist but imprisoning a young girl in an old, desiccating mansion all the while reinforcing twisted ideas is sure to fuck someone up.” He shrugged, shadowy figures of imagined characters coming to life flashed behind his eyelids. “Even if Pip were aware, he was stupid enough to give his heart away and had basically allowed her to stomp all over it. Bless the mad horse who somehow managed to kill her husband, otherwise Pirrip would have wallowed in misery forever.”

“So you thought their happy ending was brought on by circumstantial luck?”

“Brought on by an angry horse, that’s what it is.”

“But isn’t that—” Yuuri’s eyes flicked to side for a moment, as if his thoughts were halting quite suddenly, before he spoke again. “But aren’t we all, at some point in our lives, been just like Pip?”

Viktor already knew the answer to that. “Absolutely,” he said. “But we should know better. We’re not characters in an old novel written in the romantic period.”

Inexplicable silence befell them after that. It was, as Viktor had been with Yuuri for a while now, one of those moments where individual thoughts were running through their heads. They still haven’t crossed the line of speaking freely in their relationship, not one where they’re fully comfortable to bring up anything that crossed their minds—but like Pip, Viktor was nothing more than a careless, unthinking idiot.

“Was she beautiful?” Viktor asked, surprised that he had even managed to get it out.

“Who?”

“Isabella Yang.”

Yuuri’s eyes turned fond, the usual expression he wore when he found something to be endearing. Had it been for him or the memory of her, he wasn’t certain. “She was,” he said, soft and careful and tentative. “And if you asked if I ever loved her, then the answer is that I did, and I still do.”

Viktor looked up, but didn’t dare to say a word.

“But then, people forget how love comes in many forms,” Yuuri smiled, reaching a hand over to take Viktor’s, thumb gently caressing the scars on his knuckles. “Did I ever want her the same way I’ve wanted you? No, I didn’t. I loved her like a sister, a friend. I loved her like how I love Phichit or how you love Yura and Mila. But I love her nonetheless.”

“Is that why you defend Pirrip so much?” Viktor asked. “Because you knew it was pointless to care about her the same way you do and yet you do it anyway?”

“Pretty much,” Yuuri smiled up at him, eyes lovely under the gleam of afternoon sunlight. “One day, when all of this has been resolved—when you are safe from harm and we’re free to do as we wish, would you allow me to tell you everything from my past?”

And with a stuttering heart, Viktor had said, “Yes. Anything you are willing to give. It’s always a yes.”

No matter how much he loved the story, Viktor had been clamouring about Pirrip Pip’s stupidity for most of his life. But in that moment, in that dingy, over-priced cafe slash bar, he realized he had come to swallow his own words without him noticing.


Detroit, 1922

It was hard for Yuuri to understand as to why someone with enough authority would ever think himself credible to deem his virtues to be the right one above others. Yuuri has lived long enough to know that such thinking started either wars, genocides, or riots. Had the official responsible for the liquor ban spent more of his time reading history books rather than deluded and self-absorbed philosophies on how to live one’s life, he might have had the idea as to how wrong he was.

What the said official who started it all didn’t know, however, was that mankind always did have a innate sense of curiosity, creativity, and had natural tendencies towards a more hedonistic lifestyle. If not for crippling poverty or the unfortunate circumstances about which one is born into, every single man and woman would’ve have opted to borrow happiness from a bottle of brandy.

The American Prohibition, ironically, has brought about two things: smuggling and an obscene amount of cheap liquor.

Taxes, that drastically raised the prices, used to put a stop to anyone who sought a night of debauchery. What the government didn’t know was that banning something didn’t fully eradicate it, but traders and patrons would just have to turn to the black markets instead. Smuggled goods didn’t have taxes on top of the retail pricing, so they’ve become much cheaper, enabling a simple man to purchase as much gin as he wanted.

And as Phichit predicted, it was going to cause the rise of private, albeit illegal, establishments that hid themselves from the law and avoided hefty taxes of all things. Quite a black-lash, if you think about it, but it wasn’t like anyone was complaining.

Yuuri was never a man of propriety himself, so he wouldn’t put it beneath him to visit speakeasies on the weekends. One of his favourites was one that masqueraded as a barber shop by morning, and if you’re important enough, you’ll know that there’s a secret password that’ll lead you to a secret door near the bathrooms. The whole place was mostly dim, with three to four exits to allow convenient escapes in a possible police raid, and featured quite a wonderful set of artists who had great taste in music.

That’s where he and Phichit normally found themselves on Saturdays nights. Phichit has gone on to plan setting up his own speakeasy in the next few months, figuring it was nice to have a little fun in the midst of police regularly breaking into hidden breweries and what little source of fun was left.

“Someone’s invited me to a game,” Phichit sat on the chair beside him, holding what looked to be his seventh glass of brandy, his shirt dishevelled and his jacket gone. His voice was slightly drowned out by the music blaring over their heads, face half-hidden in shadows, although he did sound awfully cheery. “Think I should rig the dice or?”

“Please don’t,” Yuuri frowned. “You could do that somewhere else but not here. I’ve gone through hell getting a table reserved for us permanently and would much rather avoid getting kicked out, thank you.”

Phichit laughed, casually waving at a few patrons who just arrived. Yuuri couldn’t recognize half of the men who just came waltzing in, not even their faces.

“Seeing that you’re the one who offered to magically sound-proof the whole place—and without payment, too!—I think Mr. Braun is more likely to forgive us should they find out.”

“Oh no, I’m sure they won’t kick me out,” Yuuri snorted into his glass. “I’m just worried I’ll have to come here alone on the weekends. I’ll die of boredom.”

Phichit shot him an incredulous glare, but was distracted as soon as he spotted someone from across the room—and acquaintance, probably—who seemed important enough for Phichit to leave his seat without a second look at Yuuri’s direction.

The said acquaintance spotted Yuuri sitting about on the table alone, waving at him. He figured it must have been an invitation to talk, but Yuuri didn’t do much other than wave back, smile warmly, and brought his attention back to his drink .

Yuuri wasn’t one who appreciated social encounters. Not at all. The only reason he was comfortable enough to sit around in an establishment full of people was that everyone else seemed to have their own business they attended to. You could easily find friends, sure, but that only happens when you’ve got time to visit someone else’s table and make small talk.

He loathed small talk. Yuuri managed it in front of clients, but he’d mostly avoid it outside of that. Phichit, however, was the kind of person one couldn’t help but like. With him dropping flattery in sea of pretentious, self-important crowd, it was almost too easy.

“Ah, Mr. Shepard!” A man, who looked to be in an age where he was tired of his miserable, married life, approached his table. Yuuri still didn’t know the gentleman’s name, although that didn’t matter. “Still very much a regular, I see.”

Yuuri shot a glance at him and smiled. It wasn’t going to hurt to be a bit friendly sometimes, especially when big-mouthed men like these offer him the most interesting gossips around town. “I don’t see why not. Mr. Braun’s shipment has arrived two days ago, or so I heard.”

He knew the shipments arrived, of course. He was there.

Out of the blue, the man laughed, as if Yuuri had said something hilarious as opposed to his intended bland and generic reply. “I’ve told my daughter about you. Quite a lot, actually.” He grinned. “It wouldn’t be too much of a bother if you come visit for some friendly Sunday lunch, would it?”

Ah.

“I never knew you were a matchmaker,” Yuuri commented, his attention to the lively musician playing the saxophone.

“Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but she is lovely,” the man said, still very much insistent and still very much annoying. “I think it’s best that you see for yourself. I’m not pushing or anything, but don’t blame me if you come to regret it one day.”

“I’m married, actually.”

The smile started to retreat from the man’s face. It was then Yuuri’s turn to smile.

“You seem oddly young to be married.”

“Well, I was,” Yuuri shrugged. Getting married at twenty-three wasn’t too bad, in fact, someone’s told him that he was too old to still be bachelor. “But I don’t think your daughter, pretty as she may be, is going to appreciate a man who just happened to be a widower just recently.”

Confused, the man shook his head. “Was she sick?”

Yuuri hummed. Nonchalant, bland, and disinterested. “She killed herself.”

That alone had put a halt to the conversation. The gentleman in front of him was staring at Yuuri with wide eyes, thinking, suspecting, trying to piece out the circumstances that have driven Yuuri’s life to such a tragedy.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Shepard,” he said, although it didn’t sound all too sincere, but much rather suspicious.

It was likely that he thought Yuuri had driven his wife to it, or had killed her himself, either way, the intent to marry his daughter off to a man like Yuuri had dissipated into nothing.

Yuuri brought the glass of liquor to his lips, calm and calculating. “I’m sorry, too.”


Brooklyn, 2016 AD

New York was so busy that night.

Viktor, having been raised as a non-believer of all things religious, has never thought of Christmas as global celebration. Unlike other countries, Russia didn’t have a dominant religion where most of the populace was a part of, so common traditions on holidays aren’t practiced the same way as places like Spain or the United States.

He did spend some time in France, but most people would stay with family and friends on such a day, the celebration a lot more intimate in the privacy of their households. Or in Viktor’s experience, staying in one of the dingy bunkers that was the French Headquarters, it was a drunken event that had ended up with ruined furniture and sweaters smelling of alcohol. It was nice, but hardly something that was worth remembering, if he remembered anything at all the next morning.

It was likely that it was never this grand in other states, but New York is a place where everything’s fast, large businesses stayed open, and had too many people living by themselves or away from family. So Christmas eve has turned into somewhat of a festival, with bright lights gleaming and flickering, lonely people seeking company in the crowds, the streets filled with inebriated twenty-somethings who didn’t know what to do with their lives, and the noise was ten times as loud compared to that of an ordinary day.

If it’s any consolation, it wasn’t too cold. People still wore coats of course, for it was still winter, but it wasn’t as freezing as it would be had he been in Russia.

“I hate Russian winters,” Yuuri said to him, as they passed by a very drunk couple stumbling about in the street corner. “I once swore I’ll never go back there during the cold season.”

“But you did.”

“Ah, that’s a funny story, actually.” Yuuri smiled, eyes forward, but his gloved hand was warm in Viktor’s. He had a dark blue scarf wrapped around his delicate neck, the colour in beautiful contrast with his pale face, eyes bright and wandering. “I got really drunk and stupidly accepted a request for a job. Not that I mind, but had I been sober, I would have postponed it.”

Viktor laughed, his chest giddy with excitement. “Well, you wouldn’t have met me if you hadn’t gotten so sloshed. Thank goodness for alcohol.”

Yuuri bumped into him playfully. “Don’t say that,” he said. “You make our first meeting seem less romantic.”

“I beg to disagree,” Viktor pouted. “Wouldn’t that be a great script for a Rom Com?” He cleared his throat, intentionally speaking in a pitch much higher than usual, trying his best the copy that guy who did narrations on movie trailers. “Yuuri gets so drunk it inevitably sends him to Russia, where he meets a dashing young man, whose face half-concealed in the dim light of a local bar—”

Viktor heard him snort. Yuuri continued on, with the same melodic voice, only a little worse in the attempt at the impression. “Whom Yuuri then noticed to have been staring at him, which had turned quite awkward after he pointed it out.

“Oh my god,” Viktor slapped his forehead. “Do not remind me, please.”

“What? I find it rather adorable.”

They’ve spent the afternoon walking around aimlessly, visiting Gingerbread street, looking up movies without actually deciding to watch them, and occasionally dropping by some of the stores to purchase small gifts for Mila and Phichit.

Viktor had asked whether they should head back to the apartment after, wondering if Phichit might want to celebrate, but Yuuri had only shrugged and said, “We don’t really celebrate Christmas anymore.”

“Oh,” Viktor had said.

“You could call Mila if you want.”

He did send a text to Mila shortly after, but all he got was a quick reply that read: Don’t let me get in the way of your date. ;)

Despite Viktor’s insistence, she had firmly decided to stay in for the evening and would much rather watch something from Phichit’s collection of bad Christmas movies instead of third-wheeling. Mila really wasn’t the celebratory kind either. She’d stay inside all the time if it were possible, bury herself in books or train with swords until her feet were unsteady.

Although he was admittedly sad that he couldn’t share the fun he was having, he felt that being alone with Yuuri—walking around amongst a sea of people and stepping into shops to look at random things—made him feel normal. This wasn’t a part of his normal life of course, but it was nice to be without worry for once. To think the same way a normal man in his late twenties would. To hold someone’s hand and pull that certain someone into random places. To enjoy Christmas the same way people to.

To set aside his worries and pretend he’s never known about the things he knew.

“What did you normally do on Christmas eve?” Viktor had asked as soon as they stepped into one of the restaurants a few blocks away from Phichit’s apartment. It wasn’t in anyway fancy, but at least it wasn’t a run-down hole-in-the-wall cafe that served weird things. It was what you’d call a sports bar slash restaurant, but instead of the usual ESPN channel on the large flat screen, it featured the movie A Chrismas Carole.

The establishment was almost full, mostly by clumps of young people, hunched over Champagne, beer, and traditional greasy holiday dinner. It was slightly noisy, what with so many already half-drunk and talking excitedly with one another, but it was nice. It wasn’t the annoying noise he’d associated with the fast life of the city, but something more relaxed, nothing rushed or busy, a lot friendlier and laid-back. It was like how the New Year’s parties he’d seen in movies went.

Yuuri found them a table on the corner, recently vacated by a couple spending the evening in each other’s company. “There’s not much,” he said, carrying on with the conversation. “It depends if Phichit’s with me—usually we’ll go out, but there are times where he’s not feeling up to it, like tonight. If I’m by myself, I don’t really bother anymore.”

Viktor sat himself down, calling for a waiter to come clean up their table. “That’s basically what I’d do.”

“No celebration at all?”

“Sometimes,” Viktor smiled as soon as a young waiter came by and went to gather to used plates. “When Yura was a lot younger, Mila insisted on preparing something at least. Nothing special—just dinner, and maybe a few gifts. Yakov gave each of us little trinkets sometimes. Although if it’s...well, if it’s busy, we’d sleep it off or go patrol the streets.”

“I’m sorry.”

Viktor looked up. “For what?”

“That Yura couldn’t be with you both tonight.”

There was an inexplicably warm feeling welling up inside Viktor’s chest—something like endearment or adoration—something he must have felt for another person before, but it’s been a long time since.

“It’s alright,” he smiled.

Viktor was not, by any means, without experience with relationships. He had several, maybe loved a few, but once he got older he decided not to get anyone involved with his own troubles. It was hard enough that he couldn’t tell someone he loved why he had to leave or why he couldn’t stay for night, it was harder still when he had to finally let them go.
It’s been such a long time ago that everything he shared with Yuuri felt new.

And most days he wondered: had Yuuri been someone else entirely—had Yuuri been a normal human being—would he still be so adamant to keep him by his side? Viktor wasn’t one to believe in the idea of soulmates or fate, not at all, because if he believed in it he would have spent his life thinking about how unfair it was. It was not fate that led him to Yuuri, nothing that grand, but it was brought about by circumstance.

And that was okay.

Fate suggested predestination, that their beginnings and ends were already planned out by some unknown force. Viktor didn’t want that. If something went wrong, if something had somehow come in between them, he would have wanted to have a fighting chance to fix it.

Suddenly, someone came up to their table.

It was a girl, who was noticeably drunk, and looked to be holding something over their heads. Viktor would soon realize that people from the other tables were turned towards them, clapping, urging them on. It was confusing, since he didn’t even recognize any of them.

Yuuri looked up, and flushed.

Curious, Viktor followed where his eyes had been, and saw what the girl was holding.

A mistletoe.

“Come on, lovebirds!” The girl smiled at them cheerily, wiggling the mistletoe over their heads.

Viktor laughed, shaking his head. He could feel his face grow hot, suddenly overwhelmed by the attention. What should he do?

Ah, to hell with it.

Without much thought, Viktor reached for Yuuri from across the table, and kissed him.

The clapping grew louder, as did the cheering.

-

They found themselves walking back to Phichit’s apartment a few minutes before midnight. Viktor was in high spirits, grinning like an idiot as he replayed the memorable events of the day.

The restaurant they went to was also one of the highlights of that night. Everyone seemed to have had the same reasons to be there; they were lonely or living away from their families, so they decided to accompany each other. People bought drinks, even for the ones they just met that night, and even for the ones they knew they’d never see again. Viktor enjoyed speaking to the others, who seemed welcoming and fun, although polite enough to respect boundaries.

That didn’t mean some young ones never asked about his boyfriend, where they met, and how long they’ve been together. They seemed awfully interested, and it was adorable. He didn’t mind answering, although heavily filtering out the weird parts, but couldn’t himself but show Yuuri off. Because let’s be honest, he’d probably the luckiest man to have ever lived.

When they arrived home, the apartment was silent.

Phichit’s door was locked and there was no light leaking through the small gaps of the doorframe. The television was on, but it was one mute. When he looked closer, he saw that Mila was curled up on the couch, sleeping soundlessly.

Viktor looked to Yuuri. “Why don’t you take a shower first?”

Understanding, Yuuri stepped back and retreated into Viktor’s bedroom, turning the lights on as he went.

Viktor brought his attention back to Mila, smiled fondly as he watched her sleep, and went to carry her into her own room. He tucked her back into the sheets, much like he did with a ten-year-old Yura not too long ago, and left a little gift bag by the nightstand.

“And here I was, excited to see you open your present,” Viktor whispered, smiling whilst thinking out loud.

After that, he went on to turn the television off, arranged the magazines Mila had strewn across the sofa, and checked the kitchen. There were a couple of used plates stacked up on the sink, so he removed his gloves and did the dishes. He was guilty about being away for a whole day, so he might as well do something to make up for it.

When he was done, he wiped his hands clean and went for his room, only to find Yuuri leaning against the doorframe, watching Viktor with a smile on his face. He was already in his pyjamas, with hair still dripping, his shirt loose, and he was barefoot.

Viktor raised his eyebrows. “What is it?”

“The civilian life suits you,” Yuuri said, and as Viktor came closer, he stepped back into the bedroom. “You’re like Phichit.”

“You think so?”

“That, and I saw how you were with people earlier.”

Viktor hummed in agreement. He slipped off his shoes, his socks, and then Yuuri helped him out of his coat. “I guess I’ve always been friendly.”

“Yes, but you love people, Viktor. And they love you. Although, that’s kind of a given considering how pretty you are,” he grinned. “What did you think about today?”

“Wonderful,” Viktor caught his lips, kissing him gently. “Although I need to work on getting used to riding a roller coaster. That was embarrassing.”

“You were drooling,” Yuuri laughed. “No wonder the poor kid behind us looked terribly sweaty.”

“Hey!” Viktor frowned. “You must admit, it wasn’t bad for a first time.”

Yuuri didn’t reply right away.

He hummed, almost subconsciously, as if buying time before he spoke. “Tell me, Viktor—although you really don’t have to answer if you don’t want to but...before all of this—what you were doing for the Clans...” His eyes were on Viktor’s, but they looked a bit hesitant. “Were you happy?”

That question had somehow put a stop to Viktor’s breathing.

He made jokes about changing jobs or becoming a cashier in some old, shitty convenience store before. He’s imagined himself doing something else, like going to university, or finding a job in New Orleans. Mila had mentioned something about a online course on Literary Theory once, and he found himself wanting to enrol in it.

Viktor never wondered what brought those thoughts on. He had always attributed them to his curiosity, sometimes jealousy. He was jealous of Chris’ easy-going life outside of his job as a bartender. He had found himself asking Seung-Gil too many questions about what it’s like to go to class at shitty hours in the morning. He enjoyed telling his past lovers a cover-up story of how he used to work for a publishing firm.

It never occurred to him that he was simply unhappy.

After a few moments of silence, Yuuri began to panic, like he was regretting ever asking the question. “I...I—I’m sorry—”

“No.”

Yuuri blinked. “Huh?”

“No,” Viktor sighed. “I wasn’t happy.”

There.

He said it.

“Yuuri, I’ve never wanted anything like I wanted a normal life,” he found himself speaking so softly, one he couldn’t explain himself.

Over the years, his thoughts were flooded by possibilities, by things he imagined himself to be but could never become. He had imagined himself publishing a book, earning enough to purchase a humble town house somewhere peaceful, and then becoming a father to two wonderful children. He had longed to raise them in a normal household, read to them at night, drop them off at school. He had dreamed of having children who would never have to learn how to fight, or risk their lives, or lose their parents.

All that and more were things he wished for, but knew was impossible.

Slowly, Yuuri stepped close, closer, until he was a breath away.

“But you know why I sometimes think it was alright?”

Yuuri held his face with a shaking hand. “Why?”

“Because if I ever left—or ran away before, I wouldn’t have met you.”

And whatever he thought about circumstances, it all rang true in that moment.

Viktor made decisions that led him there. No one asked him to, no higher power pushed him to. It was his decision to stay for as long as he did, to stay unhappy for as long as he did, and therefore it was his willpower to wait for the day he’d meet the man now in front of him.

“You can ask me anything and will give it to you,” Yuuri said, gravely. Committedly. Passionately. He kissed Viktor’s jaw, his neck, his lips. His hands moved to the hem of Viktor’s sweater, hovering, asking for permission. Viktor understood immediately, and rid of his sweater as fast as he could.

“Anything at all,” Yuuri whispered his words the crook of Viktor’s neck, the warmth of his breath familiar and calming. “Give me more time to clean this up. Just a bit more. And I will do what I can to make you happy.”

If it were physically possible to, Viktor was sure that his heart might explode. He stayed quiet for a long while, and instead of speaking, he returned Yuuri’s kisses, hands touching every inch of Yuuri as he could manage—with reverence, with love.

He felt Yuuri’s thumb gently brush his cheek, and it came away wet.

Had he been crying?

“I love you,” Viktor said, voice low.

“I love you, too.” Yuuri’s words were steady, certain, and sincere. He kissed him again, deeply, breathing the same air as Viktor did. “Happy Birthday, Viktor Nikiforov.”

Chapter Text

Brooklyn, 2016 AD

There were times, especially in moments like these, that it felt like time had stopped.

It was an odd thought.

If one would ask any warlock older than three centuries—if they asked if what Yuuri thought was true—they’d probably deny it. Unlike humans, warlocks have decades for every man’s year. Sometimes they loved a person, time caught up with their mortal lovers, and then they were alone again. A lot of things pass them by, important ones. They’ve seen many wars that shape history, met men and women whose names will be immortalized in books and marble plaques, watched mankind rise and fall and rise again.

Time was a fleeting thing, happy moments most of all.

But in moments like these, when Yuuri opened his eyes to see Viktor first and foremost, he felt like all the clocks in world would malfunction, the earth would cease to move, the air would become still as an undisturbed lake. Or perhaps, it was brought by the tingling feeling of witnessing something so beautiful.

Viktor was not, in the most literal sense, perfect in any way. Yuuri could see the jagged lines of old scars on his bare shoulder, burn marks on his palms, chipped teeth, lines at the corners of eyes. They don’t so much as make him any less lovely, rather than to tell a story that made him much more beautiful than the surface. Each and every scar was a reminder of a hard-fought battle, each burn a sign of bravery, each imperfect tooth an indicator of his humanity, each line on his face brought upon by years and years of laughter. They amplified the charm of his blue eyes, full lips, delicate skin, silvery hair.

It was odd thing, love.

Yuuri had been staring mindlessly, too focused revering each and every part of him, that he didn’t notice Viktor had already opened his eyes.

“Caught you.” He said, his voice hoarse yet playful from sleep, eyes like the deep oceans.

“Are you used to people staring at you?”

“And if I was?”

Yuuri wouldn’t be surprised.

“Merry Christmas,” he whispered, planting a soft kiss on his cheek. His fingers traced a mostly-faded scar that ran from his temple to the corner of his left eye, paler than his already fair skin. “I better see to giving Phichit his present. Otherwise he’ll never forgive us.”

Viktor groaned. “Ew, morning person.”

With a laugh, Yuuri quickly got up and dressed himself. He willed to fix his hair in front of the mirror, making sure it didn’t look too obvious that someone had been running their fingers through them all night, before he stepped out into the living room.

Phichit was already by the kitchen counter, the smell of coffee strong and pleasant, the morning light bright and yellowish. Mila had taken over the couch, hand on the remote, as she was surfing through cooking and lifestyle shows on the television. It looked to be a fairly normal day, not the kind that involved far too many complications that came with who they were, but the kind that Yuuri had always wanted his mornings to be. It was oddly normal, the air around them light and positive, no signs of danger or the need to flee.

“Merry Christmas!” Phichit greeted from the counter, his smile unwavering and familiar. He appeared to wearing what looked like Santa hat. “How was the date, you two? I sure hope it was worth abandoning us to eat pizza in tears all night.”

“Well, at least I got you a gift.” Yuuri threw the paper bag in Phichit’s general direction, which had landed on his face.

Phichit caught it awkwardly, inspected it as if he could smell the thing and guess what it was. “Look Mila! They’ve transformed into that weird relationship thingy where they give out joint gifts! How cheaply you dismiss our friendship! It stood the test of times...”

Mila shot up, leaning forward against the back of the couch. Yuuri couldn’t help but smile as he noticed her wearing the pale green sweater Viktor had picked out. It suited the fiery colour of her hair, her blue eyes impossibly brighter than it had ever been. Viktor had chosen the colour because he knew she’d look gorgeous in it. Not that Mila wasn’t gorgeous in her own right, that is.

“Ah, the next thing we know, they’re using the same perfume and soap.” She snorted. “You’ll eventually smell the same, ugh.”

“Merry Christmas to you, too.” Yuuri greeted, placing a small little box beside her. “And you get two gifts, this one’s from me. Phichit will have to go back to eating his pizza in tears.”

“Hey!” Phichit whined. “We’ve known each other how long?”

“Three centuries, unfortunately.”

A smile formed on Mila’s face, knowing and subtly teasing. “Should I ask Viktor about the birthday sex or—”

He raised a hand. “You really shouldn’t.”

Phichit, like the friend that he always was, feigned gagging. “On the contrary, I really wouldn’t want to hear it, Mila. But what about this?” He went to open the refrigerator to procure a dressed chicken, looking smug. “Let’s not torture the poor delivery boy at the nearby Chinese take-out today and make meals like proper adults for once.”

Yuuri felt his face scrunching. “Don’t tell me it’s one of your weird recipes again.”

“Excuse you,” Phichit gasped, indignant. “I’m an experimental cook.”

“Yeah,” Yuuri rolled his eyes. He went to Phichit, took the ingredients, and shooed his friend away. “Out of my kitchen.”

“This is my kitchen.”

“Which you’ll eventually set on fire unless you allowed me to help,” Yuuri found some vegetables and shoved them unto Phichit’s hand. “If you insist, go cut these up. In thin strips, please. And no, please don’t carve a smiley face on the carrots.”

Phichit didn’t move.

“I’m serious, Phichit. The last time you tried using an oven ended up with us having to stay in a hotel for a week.”

Mila laughed. “Actually, I can help out.”

“There we go,” Yuuri smiled at his friend. “Nothing for you to worry about, then. Go watch T.V. or something.”

After Phichit annoyed him enough by whining about being useless, Yuuri eventually relegated him to simpler tasks—ones that didn’t involve fire, stove gas, or the knife. He knew for a fact that the said friend of his was the kind to sleep in the mornings and drown himself in Gin and Brandy and useless conversation at night, so Phichit had always been hopeless when it came to taking care of himself.

Yuuri had once visited him sometime after the Cold War, back when Phichit had managed to procure a ginormous house in Vietnam, only to find nothing but several packs of pre-mixed soup and instant noodles in his kitchen cabinets.

“You’re good at this,” Mila told him as she was helping with the marinade mixture, eyes following Yuuri’s practiced hands.

By that time, Phichit had indeed given up and took over Mila’s place on the couch, surfing through Netflix’s weird Christmas movies. He appeared to be pouting but Yuuri chose to ignore it.

Yuuri smiled. “I’ve lived in many places,” he said, checking to see if the marinade was adequate. “There are times when I don’t feel like accepting jobs for a while, and instead I’d go work in a restaurant or inn. They usually put me in the kitchen so I know quite a bit.”

Mila hummed. “Why is that? That you don’t feel like it, I mean.”

“I don’t know.” Yuuri shrugged. “I just do. Sometimes people come to me crying, asking me to contact the spirit of a dead child or try to cure cancer. It’s emotionally taxing.”

“Wait, you can’t cure cancer?”

“Some diseases, I can. Most physical injuries are the easiest. You know how you get a really nasty wound and it would heal overtime as long as you don’t get an infection?”

Mila nodded.

“Well, all we do is to speed up the healing process. That’s why we couldn’t fix a broken spine or cancer.”

“That’s—wow, I didn’t know that,” she said, looking genuinely interested.

Yuuri had taken a liking to her as time went on. In the last two hundred years since the Clans first appeared, he had always tried to avoid the lot as much as he could. They were fighters, fierce ones at that, living in an delusional fantasy that they are somehow the ones who could and are allowed to enact judgement on all things. They were the kind of people who saw warlocks as nothing but abominations, as irregularities in the universe, that needed to be neutralised for the good of all.

Warlocks weren’t so different, he thought. In fact, anyone with enough power to build or destroy are often so obsessed with their own righteousness.

“I know I haven’t spoken to you much since we first came to you,” Mila began to speak again, but her eyes were focused on the onion bulbs she was chopping up. “But I’m really grateful for everything you’ve done so far—you and Otabek and Phichit.”

“I help because I want to, Mila.”

“I’m aware. I also happen to know that most of it was because of Vitya—and believe me, I’ve never been so grateful for it. Before all of this happened...he was the one who did everything and all that. He cooked for us, and when he knew he’d be away, he’d make sure to leave something ready before he left. Before Sara came to us, it was him who did that bandaging and bone realigning. When we lost our tutor, he took it upon himself to watch over Yura’s study and training, mine too.”

Finally, she set the kitchen knife down, and looked up at Yuuri with a smile. “But he needs someone to watch over him, too.”

“I know,” Yuuri replied. He knew that. He tried telling Viktor that.

Sometimes it was easy to forget that Mila was much younger than Viktor, almost ten years to be exact, for she had an air about her that seemed wise and understanding. It was easy to shrug off the idea of Viktor possibly taking care of her and Yura, both of whom didn’t have any parents in the picture and have called the Headquarters their home for years.

People like her did grow up too fast, facing death before they could even turn into proper teenagers, so it didn’t come as a surprise.

She leaned in, just a little, and whispered, “Do me a favour, will you?”

“What’s that?”

“When all of this is over with, set him free.” Mila murmured, eyes sincere and soft. Reflective of all the love a sister might have for an older brother. “Take him away. It might be too much to ask, but at least make sure the Clans don’t get to him. Vitya doesn’t say it because he’s too afraid to leave us behind but—but Yura and I are old enough to take care of ourselves. I know he wanted to leave. He’s the best fighter we’ve ever seen, but he’s—”

“Unhappy,” Yuuri finished for her.

“I’ve always loved fighting,” she looked to Yuuri again, with a bit of sadness in her voice. “I was sure I was born for it. I know what you think of us, but Vitya made sure to remind me that not all warlocks are what the Clans tell us. So I don’t normally k—eliminate warlocks if I could help it. Vitya was born for it, too.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

Yuuri thought of the way Viktor brandished Reaper, how easily he fought despite being outnumbered, how light a longsword could be in his hand. He thought of the way he could move around a room silently, like a prowling cat, and how he always landed on his feet no matter how high the fall. He had not only the body of a warrior, but the sharp mind of a tactician, careful hands of a physician, and a commanding presence of a war general. If there was anyone who was truly born and bred to fight for the rest of his life, it was him.

And yet, Yuuri thought about how gentle and clumsy and breathless he could be, how adorably flustered he was whenever he felt embarrassed, how late he slept to finish a book he’s read a million times—and Yuuri knew, it wasn’t what he wanted.

He was born for it, true, but it never dictated what he felt.

“They’re afraid of him, you know? I don’t know how much of it you’ve seen, but Michele had taken extreme precautions before he faced him.” Mila smiled weakly, a faint trace of pride despite the subject of their conversation. “And even if we do manage to clear up his name, they’d still put him on trial for killing fellow Clansmen. Vitya is a terrifyingly skilled fighter that could easily switch sides if he wanted to, and I’m pretty sure they’ll neutralise him before any of that happened.”

“They think I might be manipulating him.”

“Yes,” she replied, voice steady. “They were afraid it was going to happen eventually. If it did, a warlock wouldn’t even have to be there to fight the Clans, just him. It’s impossible for him to eradicate all of us at once but the Clans do live separately from one another—and with what we’ve seen him do, he could very well massacre Clans one by one. Not that Vitya’s ever going to do that, but they planned out contingencies to make sure they knew what to do when it happens.”

Yuuri felt like he wanted to heave acid out of his chest. “That’s—terrible.”

“I’m not sure how many of them caught wind of what Reaper could do, but they’ve most likely interrogated Yakov and—I don’t know, I’m not sure what to think...but if they knew about it, then they’re coming for him.”

They went silent after that. The world was a dangerous place, no matter where you went or how much you anticipate danger. It was more dangerous still, to trust the wrong people.

“And what about you?” Yuuri had noticed that they both have ceased to do what they were supposed to, the cutlery and the vegetables forgotten on the counter. If Phichit heard something or wanted to comment, he hadn’t shown that much interest yet. “You said you loved doing what you do...”

“Oh that?” Mila smiled fondly. “I’m still hoping I could return, for several reasons.”

“Despite the danger.”

“Despite the danger,” she said. “It’s more like I hope to return to someone than to something, if that makes sense?”

Yuuri couldn’t help but smile. “It does.”


 St. Petersburg, 1920

It was an odd thing, love.

There was no way he could eloquently explain how it is and what it does. It was different for everyone, Yuuri thought.

Humans live for less than a century, beautiful for never more than three decades, and cautious for most of their life. They think romantic love can only be given to a single person, and that a person’s heart can only give portions of affection for each and every individual that become important in their lives. They think they love one person most of all, and love the others a little less.

Warlocks, on the other hand, lived for as long as they are lucky, beautiful no matter centuries, and their hearts shaped in the passing of time and the creation of new human traditions. Any warlock who’s ever known love acknowledged how quickly human life ended, knew that if were true it would stand the test of time. They knew that it was possible to love another and that they could love several people equally. It didn’t matter what they were to them, it was love and that was it. They believed affection to be a bottomless well, one they could always reach for and hand over as much as they wish. But the more people they loved, all the more were they likely to suffer. Each and every death is an excruciating pain, and with each new-found love their heart swelled.

Yuuri always wondered how it was possible for him to have contained it for this long.

And yet he knew that affection or fondness wasn’t immortal nor indestructible. It could easily turn to hate, faster than friendship turning sour, and sometimes it just fades for reasons left unspoken.

As he laid on his side, eyes trailing on Anika’s glowing skin, her eyes closed in deep sleep—he knew something had happened. It wasn’t that they loved each other any less—no, Yuuri couldn’t bear the thought—but there was this distance between them that had somehow made things a little uneasy.

She told him she’d forgiven him for what happened to the Romanovs. It wasn’t his fault, she said, and that something needed to happen in order for things to become right again. It had taken him days before he had convinced her to finally talk to him, weeks to see her smile once more, months to touch her again.

It was uneasy and excruciating, most taxing to the soul, and the hardest part of it was remembering how it never used to be like that. They were happy before she knew what he was and happier when he told her, they were hopelessly in love before marrying and undeniably so when they did. They had years together, a long time of peace with nothing to bother them, and Yuuri never thought there would be a time where they started to fall apart.

Anika was quiet all the time, responding to him only when necessary, laughing at a joke he just made but it never really reached her eyes. Something was consuming her from the inside, and Yuuri didn’t know what it was.

He brushed her hair away from her face, more out of habit than having any real purpose for it, and her eyes opened. In the darkness of their room, and with the moonlight reflecting against them, her eyes looked violet.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri whispered. He had meant to say it for waking her, but as the seconds passed, he might as well have meant it for something else.

He brushed her pale cheekbones, tentative and gentle, and she leaned into the touch. Her eyes closed momentarily as she took a deep breath, her expression sad and lonesome.

“It’s alright,” she whispered back.

Sometimes Yuuri blamed himself for ruining what was already beautiful

Sometimes he wondered how easy it would have been for her if he hadn’t stepped into her life at all.

Sometimes he imagined she’d be happier then.

“Zolotse, you know I love you. Don’t you?” Anika’s voice was very small, hoarse from sleep but heavy no matter. It tugged at Yuuri’s heart, and painfully so. “That no matter what I say or what I do, deep inside, I really do love you.”

I’m not sure.

“I know,” Yuuri lied. “And I am the same.”

And she smiled, still breath-taking despite the lack of glimmer in it. Sometimes he wondered how it would have been to love her from a distance, and if it was possible for him to stay away. Maybe he would still have loved her then, and maybe they wouldn’t be too unhappy like they were at that moment.

“You know I always have—and you know that there are things...well, you know how I sometimes can’t control how I feel.”

“I know.”

“Sometimes I’m too happy, sometimes I’m too sad. I don’t know what it is, Zolotse. Sometimes I think I could conquer the world, and then at times I feel worthless. I always wondered why that is.”

Yuuri ran his thumb over her cheek, her skin cold to the touch.

“When I cry, it is for no reason at all,” she said. “Don’t you ever think that it is because of you. You make me happy, and I feel as if you don’t think the same.”

And finally, after the months of keeping himself away, of trying to avoid any possible contact that might start up a fight or misunderstanding, he kissed her.

He missed it.

He missed the way her lips felt.

He missed the way she tasted.

He missed the way she smelled.

He could kiss her for a lifetime and he wouldn’t regret ever doing so.

“I love you,” she said, and his reply came easily.

And then, moments after that, sleep overtook him.

Yuuri had many regrets in his lifetime. Many of them were because he didn’t do something while he still could. He should’ve kissed her like his life and soul and existence depended upon it, but how was he going to know?

At the time, Yuuri didn’t know what went on or what would happen next. He didn’t know what she was thinking, what she felt, what she had wanted to do. He didn’t know she was lonely and hopeless and irreparably sad.

He didn’t know that the kiss they shared that night would become their last.


Brooklyn, 2016 AD

“1920.”

Yuuri lifted his head from Viktor’s chest, fingers still tracing abstract shapes on his scarred shoulders. “You want to know about the American Prohibition.”

Viktor shrugged. “I really liked the movies about them.”

“It’s really not that much,” Yuuri laughed, returning to his previous position against the warmth of Viktor’s skin. “There were speakeasies, well, we called them speakeasies because it was the only place where people could do immoral things. The prohibition was some form of, uh...cleansing—I don’t know, people were oddly self-righteous. There were wars over liquor supply, though, black markets. Sometimes there’d be a shoot out and Phichit and I had to basically crawl our way out of the damn place.”

“It’s not like you couldn’t shield yourself,” Viktor huffed.

“True,” Yuuri’s fingers ghosted along the line of a raised scar that ran from Viktor’s collarbone down to his chest, it was bigger than the most that he had, and Yuuri could only imagine what that had been like when it was new. “Where did you get this one?”

Viktor sighed, paused for a moment, as if thinking. “It’s from a demon with fangs, I think? Those that look like a sabretooth? Tried to bite my head off when I was otherwise preoccupied. Moved away just in time to keep my face but not fast enough not to get skewered by it.” He laughed, finding the horrible moment funny now that it was over. “Yakov had to send me to an actual hospital and left Georgi to babysit Mila and Yura. God, how old was Yura again? Four?”

“Did the hospital ask about it?”

“Well, Yakov’s scary, so I didn’t think they bothered.” Viktor smiled fondly at the memory.

Surely, there must have been a time where he loved what he did. To Yuuri’s knowledge, Viktor had spoken against unnecessary cruelty and unfounded hate towards the warlocks. Mila had suspected that the Clans had grown a lot more worried when Viktor started to talk about amending the peace agreements with the warlocks, proposed contacting the Warlock Council several times, and retorted during meetings when things got a bit unreasonable. Viktor didn’t like the unjust killings per se, but he had participated in Clan gatherings enough that it would seem he actually cared.

“Yuuri,” Viktor rubbed the small of his back.

“Hmmm?”

“Are you alright?”

Yuuri shook his thoughts away, suddenly realizing that he had been distracted. “Yes, I am. Sorry, what did you say?”

There was a pause, and then, “I said 1850.”

-

Yuuri woke in the middle of the night.

It always happened since Almaty, his nerves mostly intruding his sleep, slipping through his dreams. He dreamt of horrible things, the events that happened in his life that he thought he had long forgotten, but it was also strangely filled with flashbacks of happy memories—as if mocking the quiet of his present. Having lived for a long time, he was prone to these dreams. It was the subconscious mind at work, after all.

Usually, his dreams involved the many people in his life—meeting his friends Phichit and Otabek, Isabella and the Great Fire in Manila, Benedict Layton’s pleading eyes. Sometimes he wondered if his subconscious stocked a limited number of images, ones that are played back repeatedly through the course of time.

That night, however, was different.

He was not only awoken by a particular bad dream he couldn’t quite remember in wakefulness, but he had responded to a sound coming from the glass window.

Viktor’s delicate arms and long legs were tangled with his, sleeping peacefully despite the cold. Yuuri managed to carefully move them, slipping out of Viktor’s warm grasp, and swung his legs to the side of the bed.

Barefoot and mostly naked, he padded toward the window, his curiosity peaked. Dangerous alarm bells were going off inside his head, but it didn’t stop him as he approached the frost covered glass, silver moonlight leaking through.

The first thing that Yuuri noticed was the blasting cold, the winter wind rushing inside as soon as he opened the window, but the next thing that caught his attention made him gasp.

On the window sill, was a crow. A rather harmless one, if you take it into consideration that Yuuri’s never seen one in a long time. It looked a bit out of place perched by the window, its black feathers reflecting light like furnished steel, its talons dangerous and threatening.

As Yuuri looked closer, he saw something wrapped around its leg—a small piece of paper, he noticed.

Carefully reaching out, Yuuri undid the red string securing the piece of paper. As if it knew what it was meant to do, the crow flapped its wings as soon as Yuuri got what he needed, its black silhouette beautiful against the dim street lights.

If Yuuri hadn’t remembered how warlocks used familiars such as birds to deliver messages, he would have been a lot more alarmed. However, that didn’t mean that the whole thing wasn’t strange. The only other warlocks he trusted were either living with him or back in Almaty; and deep inside he already knew who the sender was.

With shaking hands, Yuuri unrolled the note, and his breathing stopped.

He’d recognized that fluid writing anywhere, pointed and sharp, letters elongated and elegant.

Anika makes for a great friend, did you know that?

-

Yuuri had many regrets in his lifetime, one of which is acting on instinct without thinking things through.

It wasn’t the first time, probably won’t be the last if something didn’t happen to him, so it wasn’t a surprise for him to end up walking along Highland Park hours before dawn. Whatever was waiting for him was sure to be dangerous, enough that the sender had dared to challenge Yuuri of all people.

It had been the most reasonable decision, he thought, Phichit didn’t deserve to be put in danger and neither did Mila and Viktor.

This had nothing to do with them. This was his fight, his fault. If there was anything that he should have done so they weren’t being haunted by problems that they had now, it was because he couldn’t bear the thought of killing Isabella Yang when he had the chance.

Isabella didn’t have to write down the location on the piece of paper she sent him. She knew that Yuuri had enough power to cast a tracking spell on it without a protective circle or herbs or incense. He was more than sure that he’d be walking into a trap, but knowing Isabella, this could only be a mind game and then she’ll be gone in a blink of an eye.

It had always been like that with her—she’ll show up, talk to him, and then she’ll leave. She knew he couldn’t lift a finger at her, that his threats were empty, and that even though his logical mind urged him to do something his conscience would win over quickly.

So he stubbornly walked down the concrete path, ignoring the cold biting through his coat, the air smelling of smoke and all things nasty despite the many trees surrounding him. He felt like several centuries worth of memories were catching up to him, blinding him, playing at the back of his mind like a broken VHS record.

And as if his mind were playing tricks on him, as if the world suddenly shifted into a different realm where his reality melded with his past—he saw her.

She was sitting on the grass, hair pale and silvery against the moonlight, wearing nothing but a long white dress that pooled around her. Anika was staring up the sky, her long neck elegant, her jaw sharp but delicate, and her eyes a strange shade of violet in the dark.

She was, as she had always been, devastating.

Yuuri found his body going very, very still. It was the second time, in the last ninety-six years, that he saw her again. She hadn’t changed at all since he left for Detroit, since he attended her funeral, since he watched her wooden casket lowered—

“It is you, Yuratchka,” she said.

For some inexplicable reason, Yuuri felt as if the Anika he had come to know so many years ago had returned. There was no sly undertone to the way she spoke, her voice not heavily-laced with malice or contempt. Her face was soft, fond. Her voice was softer, endearing, loving, as if she hadn’t walked into Otabek’s apartment weeks ago and had threatened to end Viktor right then and there.

This was an illusion, isn’t it? Or he was going crazy. None of it is real, none of it.

“Anika died years ago,” he snarled. “Who are you?”

And she looked—hurt.

Why?

Was Isabella taunting him from a distance? Was this some kind of cruel trick to distract him? Was he going to be attacked from behind?

He looked around furiously, trying to find someone who might be pulling the strings, but her voice caught his attention once more.

“I don’t know what you mean,” she replied, voice soft.

“What?”

Zolotse, did I do something wrong?”

Why was this happening? His Anika—this woman was pleading. Yuuri planted his feet firmly on the ground, his mind working at full speed, but it was stuttering. Sparks of ideas and pitiful thoughts shot out like fireworks in his head, questions and possible answers kept coming, solutions and escape routes quickly calculated in the midst of his confusing situation.

And even as she stood, even as she approached him, he didn’t move.

“Is there something wrong, Zolotse?” She asked, her steps tentative and slow. She looked around, arms coming to wrap around herself, shivering. “Where are we? We should be in St. Petersburg. This—place. I don’t know where we are.”

She stepped closer. He didn’t step back.

“Where are we?” She asked again, insistent this time. “It should be night by now. You were sleeping—”

Don’t touch me,” Yuuri snapped.

Anika’s eyes were wide as saucers, confused and hurt and everything Yuuri lovedr. “What is it? I don’t understand, Yuratchka. What did I do wrong?”

“Anika killed herself,” Yuuri spoke, his breathing uneven. “I took her cold body down, removed the noose around her neck with my own hands—” his voice began to break. “—You...are not her. She was dead. Long ago. Whatever this is, Isabella should know that I couldn’t be so easily tricked.”

A look of horror passed her face. She was still, as if the cold had frozen her, eyes wide in utter shock and dismay. “I—”

“You are not her,” he repeated, but it was weak.

It was as if the world had stopped.

Yuuri couldn’t hear the sound of the cars from afar, nor could he feel the wind moving against his skin. It was a terrible feeling indeed, like he was falling into a dark pit of misery he couldn’t return from.

Anika spoke again, and this time, tears streamed down her face. “I’m—I’m sorry, Zolotse.”

What was happening?

His heart pounded painfully against his ribs, but he still didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t. He felt like if he moved, something awful was going to happen.

“Whatever I did,” she sniffled, beautiful face marred by tears. “You know I love you, don’t you? That no matter what I say or what I do, deep inside, I really do love you?”

Yuuri’s knees grew weak. They buckled under him, as he collapsed on the cold concrete, oblivious to the pain stinging his knees. “Why—who are you?”

“Zolotse, you know I love you. Don’t you?” Anika’s voice was very small, hoarse from sleep but heavy no matter. It tugged at Yuuri’s heart, and painfully so. “That no matter what I say or what I do, deep inside, I really do love you.”

“I am your wife,” she said to him. “And I have hurt you.”

She reached a hand to him, and he didn’t shrink away. As her palm touched his face, it was cold as ice.


Vitya!

Viktor’s eyes opened, expecting Yuuri to be beside him, but he wasn’t there.

Instead, it was Mila, her red hair faintly visible in the dark room. She was hunched over him, blue eyes wide in panic but alert, her hands on his shoulders as she shook him awake.

“Get up,” she whispered, although there was an urgency to her tone. “Get dressed, we need to get out of here. They found us.”

Viktor blinked as the gravity of the situation dawned on him. “Yuuri—”

“We don’t know where he is,” Mila moved about around the room, hastily opening the drawers and throwing items of clothing towards Viktor’s general direction. “I sent Phichit off. He didn’t like it, but I’ve seen them come through the front doors. If Phichit tried to help us, he’d be overwhelmed.”

He got up as quickly as he could, slipping on whatever Mila was throwing at him. He didn’t have the time to worry about Yuuri, and even if he did, it would have been a little silly. Yuuri was strong enough to defend himself, and it was best that the Clans didn’t see him at all.

“What happened to the Wards?” he asked.

“They got taken down. Phichit didn’t know how, either.”

Viktor tried to assess the situation. They were high up the seventh floor, a long way before they could get to the roof, but then it could be a trap. There was a fairly large window for them to climb through, but the ledges along the building weren’t wide enough for them the break out into a run, and even if they managed it was highly possible to be rained with arrows before they could safely take cover. Fighting their way out would be the last resort, but for now, they had to move—

The bedroom door fell—kicked open by sheer force.

Mila reached for her longsword, brandishing its glimmering blade fiercely. Viktor’s hand closed tightly on Reapers hilt, ready to draw.

But none of them moved.

Behind the door, was Yura, his crossbow aimed and ready to shoot.

“Keep still, both of you,” he commanded.

Chapter Text

Brooklyn, 2016 AD

“Yura,” Viktor whispered, voice low and strained, more from his shock than anything else.

“I said,” Yura said, gritting his teeth, crossbow steady on his hand. “Keep still.”

“I never took you for someone who didn’t trust me,” Viktor said, although it didn’t come out as carefree as he thought it would.

Because right up until that moment, Viktor had hoped Yura would understand—expected him to clear Mila and Viktor’s name, fight the Clans off of their backs and argued that the St. Petersburg Clan would have been better off without Milan rushing in to meddle with things. Up until that moment, Viktor had hoped Yura wouldn’t turn his back against them.

But that’s okay, Viktor could talk to him. He would try, and then he’d succeed, like he always did. Yura loved him and Mila both, even if he didn’t say it too often.

He stepped forward, unafraid.

This only led to Yura growling at him, saying, “You’re in the way.”

Viktor blinked, confused. “What?”

Before Viktor could say more, he felt himself being knocked off his feet—Mila had tackled him to the ground—and then he heard the sound of the crossbow firing, not his way, but over their heads. What followed was the sound of someone choking, in pain and struggling for breath, and then a loud thump of a body falling on the floor.

Yura lowered his crossbrow, the look of concentration gone from his face, and then he sighed.

It took moments before Viktor was able to collect himself, to make sense of what was actually happening. He turned his head and saw a man with an arrow buried in his throat, blood spilling from where Yura had aimed. Behind the corpse, was an open window. How the hell Viktor missed something as obvious as someone coming through the window, he didn't know.

"Idiot," Yura muttered. "You could've at least checked that first. What would you have done without me?"

It was as if the world went silent after that.

Adrenaline was still coursing through Viktor, his heart racing like there was no tomorrow, and his hands were shaking visibly. With much of the stress since the day he ran, to waking up to news of being surrounded by people who wanted to take them away, and to seeing Yura for the first time in weeks—Viktor was nonetheless confused.

Yuratchka!” Mila was the first to break the silence, the first to move, her sword tucked away safely back into its sheathe. She ran, toward Yura, hands wide open to wrap them around him as tightly as she could. She was sniffling, face buried on Yura’s shoulder. “Thank goodness, you’re alive.”

“Shut up,” Yura snorted, though weakly. “You should worry about yourselves. We need to get you out of here.”

"Aw, but I missed you!"

That alone had diffused the situation.

The tight knot in Viktor’s chest had unwound, though he still felt a little dizzy. So many things were happening, as there were so many things that he wanted to do. Right about now, he should be thinking about nothing else other than to escape, but things happened so quickly he didn’t know where to start.

“How did you get here?” Mila asked.

“I tried to talk to them,” he said, eyes on Viktor. “They didn’t believe me.”

That made sense.

If there was one thing the St. Petersburg Clan was notorious for, it was that they didn’t care too much about the others and usually preferred to fix things by themselves. They were known to be tightly knit and extremely secretive, and even in the most dangerous situations, they would cover for each other when need be. Viktor wouldn’t want to change a thing.

He finally stood up, feeling a little steadier than he was a few moments before. “Where are they?”

“Up until the third floor,” Yura said, reloading his crossbow. “I messed up the elevators, so they’re taking the stairs. All exits are swarming with clansmen. And what were you idiots thinking, running like that?”

“They were going to put him on trial!” Mila shot him a glare.

“Save that for later,” Viktor stepped in, unsheathing Reaper, the blade heavy but reassuring in his hand. He looked to Mila, “We’re swarmed. Get ready to fight,” and then he proceeded to step away and pulled out the bolt protruding from the fallen man’s neck, making sure to tug it sideways so it looked like someone had cut his throat instead of using an arrow. “Yura, get out of here. Make sure you don’t look suspicious.”

What, now?”

“Or you could pretend you fainted, that works too.” Viktor started to walk toward the living room, hands unconsciously patting his pockets to make sure he didn’t leave anything too important.

Yura followed suit, stepped in front of Viktor, and shook his head irritably. “I don’t understand.”

“You’re going to stay,” Viktor said “Make sure they didn’t know you helped us, I don’t want you to get in trouble.”

Yura stared at him, and then his eyes lit up in understanding. “What are you talking about? I’m coming with you!”

“Yura—”

All arguments against letting Yura come with them were swiftly shot down as soon as people burst through the door.

“Oh shit,” Viktor muttered.

They’ve probably heard them talking from the outside, so there was no use pretending they were fighting now.

“Nikiforov!” A clansman’s voice thundered as they he stepped inside, a long sword gripped tightly in his hand. “Surrender now and no one has to get hurt.”

Shit.

What was he going to do?

“You expect us,” Mila spoke, almost solemnly. She was standing beside Viktor, the hilt of her sheathed long sword grasped tightly in her hand, ready to strike. “To just come with you and get ourselves thrown into prison.”

“If you didn’t want this much trouble, you should have stayed where you are and did what was asked.”

“There was no way you’d believe them,” Yura spoke through gritting teeth, standing firmly on Viktor's other side. “You were going to incarcerate him for things he didn’t do. How did you expect him to react?”

The still unfamiliar man lifted his face, his voice dropping a little. “You will be given fair trial. If found innocent, you—”

Mila snorted. “Bullshit.”

A moment passed.

Another.

Then came the sound of Mila’s sword coming free from its sheathe.

And before the fighting even began, a flash of light came, and then there was nothing.


 St. Petersburg, 1920 AD

Isabella Yang thought about many things. She thought about where to go next, which name she was going to use, which city she was going to spend her unending days in. All these were the same questions she’s asked herself whenever it was time to leave.

Some she’d taken a while to think about, some quickly or impulsively, but she’s found answers to all of them.

When all else fails, she’d go to London, the city she loved most. If she felt like doing something more adventurous, she’d go to Shanghai. If she wanted peace and quiet, she’ll pack all she had and sail for Brazil. Things like these were the same things Warlocks thought about, they’d all forget it as soon as they settle into a new place, and then it’ll never come back up until the next twenty or thirty years.

There is, however, one thought she’s never forgotten.

There was one thing that she always thought about, one memory that plays back and forth inside her head, one that doesn’t allow her to go to bed as peacefully as she wanted.

It was Arturo—sweet, young Arturo—who did not deserve to die the way he did.

She’s never read anything about Necromancy. The Council prohibited even thinking about it. It had grave punishments, and those who ever tried studying it were pursued to the ends of the world and killed instantly.

Warlocks must never interfere with human endeavors, they said.

Everything she knew about it were acquired from various sources like old scrolls, aged Warlocks, crazed fanatics, and some cleverly written history books. Necromancy was a craft—a dangerous one—but can be done if done right.

Are you sure about this?” A Warlock friend of hers, Lucho, was sitting on the ottoman right across her. He was young, as young as Warlocks could be, not having been alive for more than three decades.The reason why Isabella immediately brought him into it was mostly because he was young and open-minded, more likely to take risks and stupid enough to do rebellious things.“You know it needs a tremendous amount of spell power to revive someone. You know what an incomplete spell looks like.”

I don’t,” Isabella sipped at her wine, barrel aged and expensive. “I’ve heard about it, though. Weaker idiots who’ve done it actually ended up with walking skeletons.”

And you think you’re strong enough.”

A hundred and fifty-seven people,” Isabella counted. “Not the best but enough.”

And you think it’s worth it?” Lucho raised his eyebrows, green eyes pretty and bright.  “Killing a hundred and fifty-seven people to revive one person.”

I did not kill them,” Isabella frowned, her voice dropping a little out of defensiveness. “Not all of them, at least. I told you, it’s the perfect time to be in Russia for this.”

A perfect time for murder and suicides, you mean,” he said, leaning back a little. “Their whole person could change, you know. They might look the same, but what’s inside might not.”

That’s a possibility, yes.”

A certain thing at this point, but he didn't need to know that.

And you couldn’t wait more years? Gather a few more spell power and make sure you have enough?”

The corpse will turn to bone if I wait any longer,” she said. “The more I have to restore the more likely I’ll end up with a walking skeleton.”

Lucho shrugged. “And you think that’s worth it?”

If it’s her, then it is,” Isabella replied, gazing at the corpse of Anika Volkova lying pale and cold on the wooden table across the room. “I may not be as powerful, but he is. If I brought him the right proof, then I might be able to convince him. Think about all the great people we could bring back, Lucho. What a great world it would become if all good men lived and the bad ones die.”

And you’re certain he won’t kill her as soon as he sees?”

He cant,” Isabella shook her head and smiled to herself. “What’s a man who felt responsible for someone’s death be thinking?”

They'll take everything back if they could,” Lucho said, almost carelessly, said the same way as someone who’s never lost anything or anyone in their lives before.

Isabella hoped he learned his lesson soon.

Now, you understand,” she said, watching as the red liquid swirl inside her wine glass. “With his power, we might even be able to bring back someone we’ve lost four hundred years ago.”

Lucho’s eyes turned to slits, curious. “A lover, maybe?”

She had to stop herself from laughing. Oh, dear, young, innocent Lucho. So naive.

I take it that it’s not?” he looked mildly offended, although he wasn’t the kind to say that out loud. “And who might this be, I wonder?”

Someone who did not deserve to die.”


Unknown, 2016 AD

When Yuuri opened his eyes it was all a blur.

Not only did his head feel heavy, but as did his whole body. He tried lifting an arm, and he could, although it felt like the ground was pulling it back down. His throat was dry, his chest throbbing quite painfully, and it felt as if all the energy had drained out of him.

At first, his mind was blank, like he had just come into existence out of nowhere and now he was unable to tell where he was and what he should do—all that changed when he saw her.

It was Anika.

She was seated quietly on wooden stool by an unfamiliar window, hands delicately placed on her lap, hair the color of ash, her face turned to the moonlit sky beyond the snow-frosted glass.

Yuuri could almost hear the white noise that began to plague him as soon as he saw her.

How?

What?

Why?

He didn’t know for sure if it was her, didn’t trust her enough to think that it might have been his deceased wife, but sometimes he forgets. On the rare occasions that he’s seen her, he had to remind himself that it isn’t her. That it wasn’t his sweet Anika. That his Anika would never come to haunt him like this despite what he’s done.

If this were Anika, she would leave him be. She would have regretted killing herself because she knew he would blame himself. She would have left him alone and forgave him.

He didn’t deserve it, but she would.

“Anika,” Yuuri whispered, although he wasn’t too sure if she could hear him or not.

It seemed that she didn’t, staying still and continuing to watch the skies.

Yuuri slowly pulled himself up, fought the heaviness he felt in his bones, and dragged his feet on carpeted floor.

He felt like he was about to explode, if not expecting the world to shatter. He expected everything around him to fade into darkness, that soon enough she was going to disappear and he might realize that he was either dreaming or dead.

When he came a little closer, he swallowed to make sure his mouth wasn’t as dry and unusable, and said her name.

Anika, however, didn’t turn. She continued to gaze out the window, but she did speak.

“This world is strange,” she said, the voice clearly hers, one Yuuri would never forget. “It’s been explained to me, but I’m not too sure I understand. Sometimes she leads me, I think she could see what I see when she wills it.”

“Who?”

“Isabella.”

It felt like someone stabbed him in the chest.

“Anika, look at me.”

He had to see her. He had to know.

“I can’t,” Anika replied, still unmoving. “I was ordered to sit here until morning.”

Confused, Yuuri asked, “What?”

“I can’t do anything since I've been told not to,” Anika explained. “Sometimes she’ll control me completely, and I wouldn’t be able to stop what it is that she wanted me to say or do.”

It’s not often that Yuuri felt horrified. He had lasted so long surrounded by immense power that he knew for a fact that no one was going to get to him. He had, for so long, gotten used to being an invincible force, a legend, the most powerful being to have ever existed.

He could have protected Anika from anyone, but he had forgotten to protect her from himself.

“Does she—Are you—?”

“She finally left my thoughts alone, if that’s what you’ve been wondering,” she said, her voice steady though defeated. “I understand that it’s hard to believe, but this is me, Yuratchka. Although I’ve been told not to tell you a few things.”

“Like what?”

“Where we are.”

Mustering all the courage he could, he went to her, crouched by her side, and touched her face. Her skin was still cold as ice—not warm, not as if she were alive. He slowly turned her face toward him, his heart heavy in his chest, all the bones in his body suddenly fragile and vulnerable.

“You haven’t aged a day,” she said, a smile forming on her lips.

“You, too.” Yuuri fought back his tears, but his voice came out thin and weak. “You can move, if I helped you.”

Not like a block of ice. Not like a corpse.

“Yes,” she said. “But the door and windows are locked from the outside, and I’ve been told the glass cannot be pierced by bullets.”

“And you really can’t tell me where we are?”

“I can’t,” a tear slowly rolled down her cheek. “I’m sorry. I tried, I tried fighting the pain but my voice simply won’t come.”

Yuuri felt the stabbing pain in his chest again. He couldn’t tell what it was that he felt, not right at that moment, but he knew it wasn’t hate. And it was stupid, because he thought that after all those years, he’d find it in his heart to hate Isabella with all the reasons that he had.

He lifted his arm, still painfully weak, and pointed at the door. He tried concentrating on releasing as much spell power as he could, but all that came was a quick flame that got snuffed out as fast as it appeared.

He felt his knees growing weak again, his body almost caving in from that one insignificant use of spell power.

“She took your spell power,” Anika told him, eyes looking at him with worry. “I think you should rest. It will not be good for you to exert as much energy.”

“But we need to—”

“Get away, I know,” she said. “But you need to rest, Yuratchka. She did tell me she was going somewhere far away and wasn’t going to come back. She might have known that you were going to grow strong enough to kick the door down even if you didn’t use any of the Magic you have.”

And though he didn’t want to, though he wanted to muster as much strength that was left of him, Yuuri collapsed on the ground. Falling on his side unto Anika’s legs, she was the only one keeping him upright.

They stayed like that, in silence and stillness, as if the world had ceased moving and time itself had slowed to the outmost minimum.

“What’s his name?” Anika asked.

Yuuri sighed. “Viktor.”

“He is beautiful.”

“He is.”

"And I had the feeling he might be a wonderful person."

"He is."

He looked up to see her smile. “I know it’s bothering you. I could hear the defeat in your voice when you say it to me,” her face was soft, gentle. “It’s like you’re admitting things to me because you had no other choice.”

“I—”

“The heart cannot determine how much or how little love you give to one person, Yuratchka,” she said. “I know you love me, with all your heart. And I know you love him the same way. Had I been much younger, if I hadn’t met you, I wouldn’t have understood. But I do. I’m glad that he makes you happy, and that’s because I love you.”

“You don’t—but I promised—”

“That as long as I am alive I would be your only one,” she said. “Mortal marriages are like that because it is simply impossible to love so many people with what little time humans have. My Yuratchka, it’s been a hundred years, and I’m glad it didn’t take any longer before you found happiness again.”

Yuuri felt chills creeping from under his skin.

And he was right. Anika was forgiving, Anika was kind. He did not deserve her, but she loved him anyway.

“And now he is in danger,” he said, his mind wandering. He knew the wards he cast around the apartment were going to collapse as soon as he lost his spell power. “I have failed the two people that I love.”

“And you will help him,” she said. “We will help him. I’m not sure if I should trust Isabella, but come morning, I will be free to move. And so will you, if you rest.”

Yuuri felt his tears, cold as her breath caressed his damp skin. “I really don’t deserve you.”

“And I don’t deserve someone as wonderful as you, either,” she said, tears streaming down her beautiful face. “But the heart doesn’t usually have the power over itself.”

“Yes,” Yuuri found himself chuckling, weakly. “And I right now, I feel like an idiot. I know I shouldn’t love Isabella as much as I do but she’s always been my sister and I—I didn’t guide her properly. I always wondered how she would have turned out if I handled things a little better.”

“Isabella is hard to love, that is true,” Anika said. “But she is not evil.”

“I know.”

“She’s doing these things because one day she hopes something good will come out of it. I don’t agree with it, but I know she is kind.”

“But at what cost?”

Lives. Many of them.

Anika’s eyes were sad, distant, and contemplating. “I never said her methods were right, but her motives are surprisingly honorable.”

“She thinks I’m a coward.”

“Maybe she does,” she chuckled, the amusement probably coming from some level of discomfort or frustration misfiring into something else. “But it’s not too late for you, isn’t it? Maybe you can still save her.”

Yuuri found himself chuckling, too. “I don’t think Isabella Yang is the kind of person who appreciates being saved.”


 Almaty, 2016 AD

“What were you thinking?!”

Viktor marched around Otabek’s hotel room like a madman.

He was still filled to brim with adrenaline, frustration, and fear for Mila and Yura’s life. If Phichit and Otabek hadn’t gathered whatever strength they had left to open up a portal and brought them somewhere safe, they would have been either dead, in bad shape, or in prison. He swore he could have just thrown it all away and fought his way out, and if he did die, he would die in peace knowing he’d taken a few of his enemies with him.

But that wasn’t the case, was it? If he died, who was going to protect Mila and Yura? He knew those two would have been stupid enough to do the same things he was thinking about.

But still.

“You could have stayed there, kept your mouth shut, and then maybe you wouldn’t be here hiding like a damn criminal!” He turned to Yuratchka, who was lazily lounging on the sofa near the TV.

Viktor always felt stupid to be the one who got riled up and raised his voice whenever Yura did something dangerous. Viktor would have to correct him, mostly because Yura hardly ever listened to anyone.

That didn’t matter now. This was a screw up—an irreversible one—and it would be hell for Yura from here on out.

“Were you even thinking about it?”

“I told you, they didn’t believe me when I said you didn’t do anything douchebaggy and it was Leroy who did it. They think I’m trying to protect you.”

“And why did they let you come with them in the first place?” Viktor huffed.

“Because they were holding me hostage and were going to use me to threaten you,” Yura said, his voice tired.

That silenced Viktor.

“They clearly underestimated me, too. Leaving me with one idiot guard who just so happened to carry a crossbow he didn’t know how to use. What a tool,” Yura got up and reached for the remote, turned the TV on, and browsed the available channels without paying much attention to them. “I liked my old crossbow better, too. I’ll guess this will have to do for now.”

And Yura sounded...defeated.

He wasn’t playing it cool or was trying to shrug it off. He sounded like Viktor when he knew he couldn’t change anything anymore even if he tried.

Viktor's heart sank.

Despite their situation, despite everything that had happened since he was on the run, Viktor was happy. Truly, truly happy.

He was running for his life but he had spent his days with Yuuri like there was nothing else in the world that mattered. They had no permanent home address but he spent the best Christmas Eve and Birthday he ever had with the one person he loved. He had slept in multiple places in the last few weeks but he had someone he came home to, and Yuuri welcomed him warmly, made him feel safe.

He hadn’t thought about Mila, or Yura. He hadn’t thought much about what Mila felt leaving Sara behind or what Yura, Sara, and Yakov went through when he ran.

Viktor felt the sudden need to take a deep breath, his throat tightening momentarily. “Sara and Yakov?”

“They don’t suspect them,” Yura muttered, his voice a lot deeper now, calmer. “Yakov was never allowed to come near you and Sara was being watched the whole time we were out cold. Hell, even if she did I think Michele was going to do something about it anyway.”

“I’m sorry,” was all Viktor managed to say.

Because what else could he have said?

That everything was fine?

Yura knew it wasn’t going to be fine, none of them were, and Viktor was sure he was going to be called out for it immediately.

“I didn’t like that you two morons ran, but I understand.” Yura’s green eyes slid to Mila, then to Viktor. “It would have been impossible to be found innocent on a fucking trial.”

“And what are you going to do, clear your name?” Otabek was the one who spoke, stirring his cup of coffee. He’s definitely seen better days.

Yura snorted. “Are you kidding me? That’s not even close to possible.”

Sometimes Viktor forgot that Yura was going to be a man soon.

He wasn’t the helpless child Viktor had practically raised, had watched over, had seen grow. Much was the same with Mila, but she did her thing and was forced to take care of Yuratcka even at a young age. So when she was a little older, Viktor allowed her to do what she wanted, since he knew he was still there to watch Yura when she wasn’t around.

Yura was the youngest of them all, and Mila is probably thinking the same.

“And so you plan to hide forever,” Otabek said flatly. “Run around like fugitives.”

“We don’t have much of a choice,” Mila was lying on the bed right across them, looking extremely frustrated. But to be fair, all of them were. Viktor couldn’t blame her if she decided not to put effort in pretending she was alright. “Where’s Phichit, by the way?”

“Boarding a plane in Mexico,” Otabek replied. “He’s used up too much spell power to portal any further than that.”

“And Yuuri?” Mila asked the question Viktor avoided. And to be honest, he wished no one asked.

He didn’t know why that was.

“We still don’t know,” Otabek sighed. “And considering your wards went down...” a pause. “Never mind.”

“Something happened to him,” Viktor finally spoke, the first time he’s ever spoken his thoughts out loud. And maybe the first time any of their suspicions were said out loud. “The wards relied on his spell power, so that only means—”

“He’s lived a thousand years without anyone coming close enough to scratch him,” Otabek spoke firmly, as if to forcibly quiet down all the toxic thoughts running through Viktor’s head. “If something did happen to him, I’m sure he’ll find his way out of it.”

“And we’re sure he’s not hurt?” Mila asked worriedly.

“I’m not sure,” Otabek said, face still and blank. Viktor didn’t know if it was intentional or not. “But I know he’s not dead, at least. Phichit would know, too.”

Viktor didn’t rely on that, but he supposed things came true if you believed them enough.

-

The first thing Phichit did as soon as he arrived was to immediately get to work, and no one argued. Otabek had looked like he wanted to tell him to rest, but Viktor had a guess as to what reply Otabek was going to get.

So that was it. Calm down. Yuuri’s not dead. Get to work.

If only that was so easy.

“Just how did they manage to surround us without anyone noticing?” Mila wondered as she watched Otabek and Phichit sift through maps, weird concoctions, a ton of salts, and gems.

“That was my fault,” Phichit looked up to Mila, setting aside some blue gem he deemed useless, eyes guilty. “I relied on Yuuri’s warding spell too much that I unconsciously began slacking.”

“Anyone would have done the same,” Otabek murmured.

Because of course, no one was going to talk about it.

It’s been eighteen hours.

All the questions that ever came up was ‘where’ Yuuri was and not ‘what’ had happened.

At this point, Viktor was starting to think that all of them were hoping for the best. They were just going to find him, Yuuri would explain himself, and then everything was going to make sense.

And yet.

What happened to him?

What had happened to the most powerful Warlock who ever lived? What had made him weak or distracted enough to lose control over his spells?

Viktor knew Warlocks didn’t have to die to break the spell they cast, so did that mean Yuuri was still alive? That he had to take care of something first, had come back for them and saw the wreckage, and was now figuring out where they’d escaped to?

The clansmen wouldn’t be able to touch him, that’s for sure. They might have sworn to kill Yuuri upon discovery, but that didn’t mean they could do it. If it came down to fighting, Yuuri would have annihilated the lot of them just by lifting a finger.

He’d fight, wouldn’t he? He’d try to save himself?

“Viktor,” Phichit said, voice firm and reassuring. “He’ll come back.”

There was no other choice but to agree.

-

“I can tell he’s nearby,” Phichit squeezed out his words in between a very exhausted yawn, the bags under his eyes darkening. “Europe, maybe? Wherever he is, there’s a mild cloaking spell or something. Did he not want us to know where he is?”

“Or he doesn’t want Isabella to know,” Otabek commented. Viktor couldn’t tell if he was saying it just for reassurance. “You know how he is, he overdoes the spell sometimes and he doesn’t even notice it.”

“That’s nice to hear.” Phichit muttered. Viktor wasn’t sure about that tone either.

Suddenly, as if an outburst came out of nowhere, someone slammed their fist against wood.

It was Yura, Viktor discovered, hand balled up against the oak table. “So, are we going to dance around the harsh facts and make fools out of ourselves, or do we talk real and do something about it?”

“What do you mean?” Phichit shifted his gaze over to Yura, looking irritated.

“I don’t know,” Yura began scratching at his scalp in his frustration, golden hair sticking out in different directions. “I don’t know what’s happening at all, but I do know there’s something you guys aren’t talking about. It’s annoying.”

“Yuuri is alive,” Viktor frowned.

“Okay? So we know he’s alive, now what?” Yura put out his hands as if to show them how obvious it was. “Was he abducted? Was there a way for someone to capture him? Take his spell power enough to fuck up the wards? I don’t know, maybe you should start with that.”

“We are thinking that,” Phichit huffed.

“Then fucking talk about it!”

An incredible amount of relief washed through Viktor after that. Not enough to take his mind off of things, but at least someone was saying the truth out loud. No one was ready to face the ugly because they all have, to some degree, cared about Yuuri deeply.

Except Yura, that is.

Yura didn’t know him at all, saw him once and that wouldn’t count for anything. But because of that he would be able to look at the worst possibility, and would be more prepared than any of them were if the worst did happen.

Phichit finally broke the suffocating silence, voice a tad bit steadier than before. “Otabek, has he told you anything?”

“No.”

“Viktor?”

“No,” Viktor replied. “But I...”

“What?”

“I just—okay, I need to know...” Viktor found himself sighing, too. “Did something terrible happen between him and Anika Volkova?”

Yura perked up at the unfamiliar name. “Who’s that?”

“Yuuri’s wife,” Viktor replied without thinking, and when he saw the weird expression forming on Yura’s face, he added, “She’s dead.”

Which apparently didn’t help, because Yura looked more confused. “What?”

“Well, at least we thought she was dead,” Phichit explained. “Yuuri looked genuinely shocked.”

“Could be just Isabella masquerading as her,” Otabek suggested.

“Isabella or not, if it’s wearing Anika’s face, Yuuri would at the very least by temporarily affected by it,” Viktor said, his thoughts pouring out of him. He realized he’s been thinking about all that the whole time, just too scared to even begin to admit to himself that Yuuri was in danger. “And if something terrible really did happen between them, it would have been more than enough to keep him from looking the other way.

“If he stops paying attention even just a little, Isabella would have seen an opening and went for it,” Otabek added helpfully.

There. That’s it. They all were probably suspecting it but hadn’t been brave enough to suggest it.

“Okay, so what do we do?” Mila thumbed an old spellbook, though her eyes were glazed over, mind distant and somewhere else.

Phichit put his face in hands. “We wait.”

“But—”

“I expected you to protest, Viktor, and I know the waiting’s the hardest part,” he said. “But all three of you are already being hunted down and if we tried to make several guesses and randomly go from one place to another, then, well...”

“I could fight my way out of trouble if you send me,” Viktor announced confidently.

At this, Yura snorted. “Idiot.”

“What else was I—?”

“Which is why you should stay here,” Phichit explained with as much patience as he could, although the slowness of his tone was more of a reprimand than anything. “We don’t know the extent of Isabella’s operations and if it came down to retrieving Yuuri, we’ll have to need as many people to help out as we could. Get yourself caught or stabbed to death and our chances of getting Yuuri back safely drops. Do you understand?”

Viktor bit his lip.

“Viktor,” Phichit said, firmly now. “Do you understand?”

He didn’t. “Yes. Yes, I understand.”


Unknown, 2016 AD

Yuuri dreamt of warm sunsets and happy endings.

But unlike most of his dreams, he knew right away that it wasn’t his reality. Warlocks thought little of the sun and only met their end when someone killed them.

A thousand years of going through what he had taught him as much.

Yuratchka,” Anika’s voice carried through his hazy dreams, it’s familiarity bringing him back to what’s real. “It’s morning.”

When he opened his eyes, the first that he saw was Anika—in her white dress, her eyes bright, and her hands moving to cup his face.

Yuuri didn’t know why it felt wrong to feel love when things were uncertain. “You can move.”

“Yes, I can,” she smiled, tears rolling down her face like silver rain.

And you’re real.

To be fair, Yuuri did understand the danger in being so vulnerable and trusting like that. He knew for a fact that Isabella could easily have given her orders to deceive him, could have very well told her to manipulate him, could have made sure his Anika was going to break him.

But Yuuri was broken too many times to care.

As long as it was him and no one else that was put in danger, he would be fine with it.

“Can you tell me where we are?” Yuuri asked, very much tempted to lean unto Anika’s gentle touch.

Anika’s face turned a little guilty, a little sad. “She told me not to tell, so I can’t. Not at all.”

“Alright,” Yuuri caught her hand, still ice cold. “So what can you tell me?”

She looked to the door. “She told me there were no guards or anything like that. I’m not sure I trust her, but that’s what she said. There are wards around this room though, not enough to completely erase you but enough so Phichit couldn’t pinpoint where you are.”

Yuuri felt anxiousness creep up to him again, a series of fast, flashing thoughts of all the faces of the people he had left behind. “And did she do something about Phichit? Did you see him?”

“I don’t know,” Anika shrugged, still looking guilty. “But she never mentioned him. She looked to be in a hurry to leave.”

That...wasn’t reassuring at all.

Yuuri could feel his spell power at the bare minimum, less than what he had when he first became a Warlock. He tried to channel some of it into the palm of him hand, only managing to conjure fire the size of a candle flame.

He put it out before Anika saw.

“And has she mentioned anyone besides me?”

“You, Phichit, and Otabek,” she replied. “She was telling me about her life with you three and nothing more. She did mention Viktor, but the only reason she ever mentioned him was so she could think about ways of getting to you.”

Yuuri wondered how easy it would be, for him to just run away and pretend to live with Anika in unending bliss. They could run away from Isabella for as long as he was alive, make sure to make himself scarce and protect the people important to him from the shadows.

How easy it would be, if he didn’t care.

How easy it would have been, if he didn’t selfishly want to live a life where he could spend the rest of his days with the people he loved.

“You need to find them,” she said to him, her fingers brushings his cheeks. “Even if we ran, she could easily change her mind and take any one of them hostage to draw you out. I’ll do what I can, Yuratchka. You don’t have to trust me with anything.”

Of course, she’d know what he was thinking.

She’d know exactly how his mind worked, how he’d panic and unconsciously think of the worst, and how he had the tendency to give himself up when necessary.

But so did Isabella.

“And are you a Warlock, too?”

Anika shook her head. “No, she gave me harnessing gems so I could do what I did at...what I did at Almaty. I didn't even know how to use them before that.”

“How long have you been alive?”

“I’m not sure? A hundred years?” She bit her lip. “I lose consciousness a lot when she takes over.”

It was confusing. It was suspicious. He had to do something about it, to make sure it wasn’t going to be dangerous for not only him, but for the people who cared for him enough to stick by him. And if this were his real Anika, it would hurt her.

And if this was one of Isabella’s tricks, it would destroy him.

“Anika,” Yuuri pushed himself up, balancing his weight on his elbows. “I know this must be hard for you...all this—but, do you know what she’s planning? Is there something you could tell me?”

She did not say anything. She didn’t have to. Tears fell in copious amounts from the silver of her eyes, beautiful and broken and breathtaking at the same time.

Yuuri was an idiot.

His gut told him to be cautious, not to be too trusting, to have a feel for things before he did anything remotely close to opening himself up.

But he was an idiot.

And so, Yuuri did what he normally would have done. What he should have done more.

He took her into his arms, held her tight, and willed all the pain to go away.

“Shhh,” he said, his own tears dangerously close to falling. “I know, I understand. We’ll get out of here and try do something about this, alright? Please stop crying, Zolotse.”

-

Yuuri found out that Anika did not eat. At all.

Whatever Isabella did, it was enough to bring Anika back, but not enough to restore all the things that made her human.

He almost cried as soon as he knew.

There were several other things Yuuri found out that day—Isabella did not bother to leave the small apartment Yuuri was in guarded, the wards expanded to a half mile radius, and that he was somehow in Barcelona.

He wasn’t sure if bringing him to that place had any significance at all or he was just reading too much into it. But he had to admit that it was beautiful, and had he been a normal person, he would have decided to spend all his life in that city.

Yuuri might not be very familiar with Barcelona, but he is with the human mind. A city this progressive simply cannot exist without gas stations, which had convenience stores that sold cheap cellphones carrying prepaid cards.

He brought the phone to his ear, suddenly very, very nervous.

Who’s this?

“Phichit!” Yuuri almost screamed in relief. Thankful that—despite his carelessness—Phichit was alright.

Yuuri?” Phichit’s voice came over the phone, somewhat understandably shocked. “Oh heavens! You’re okay! Where are you?

“Barcelona.”

Oh dear, thank you. We’ll go conjure a portal right away to—

“No,” Yuuri cut him off.

Phichit sounded scandalized. “What?!

“You can’t come here. Not yet...it’s—” Yuuri swallowed before his anxiousness choked him. “I’m with Anika.”

A pause.

So?

“I’m not sure if we could trust her,” Yuuri looked to where Anika was seated, a few feet away from him by one of the public benches. “I don’t want to cause you any trouble.”

Yuuri, listen to me. If this was one of Isabella’s stupid tricks, you already know what to do—I know it’ll be hard for you to just...ditch her, but you know she’ll understand, right? If this was really Anika?

“She’s not asking me to bring her or anything like that,” Yuuri answered swiftly, unsure but determined. “In fact, she’s asking me not to trust her. She insisted I made the call far away enough so she wouldn’t hear any of it.”

And you think,” Phichit huffed. “That it automatically qualifies her of your trust.

Yuuri expected this. He knew Phichit was so close to calling him an idiot without saying it out loud.

“I know I’m being stupid,” he said, sighing. “I know it’s not an illusion. It’s an incomplete Necromancy ritual that’s—well, left her susceptible to Isabella’s control.”

That might as well be an illusion.

That hit home nicely.

“But if we do something about it, we might be able to find out what Isabella is planning,” he said. “Where she’s going next, at least. Phichit, she has all of my spell power. She’d have enough strength to erase whole cities from the map. Please, trust me.”

I do trust you,” Phichit said firmly. “It’s Isabella I don’t trust, but I trust you.

“I know.”

With my life.

Yuuri swallowed. “I know.”

There was silence on the other line after that.

Phichit was thinking, deliberating, so Yuuri let him. He might have doubts with the plan still not fully disclosed, but he would trust Yuuri to pull through.

What do you want me to do?” Phichit finally asked.


Almaty, 2016 AD

When Phichit told them they had an hour to get ready to leave, Viktor realized how laughable it was that they were given so much time to prepare. The only thing he had on him was Reaper, and maybe his dignity if there was any left of it.

He had lived almost three decades in security. He knew he had the filthy St. Petersburg Headquarters to go to after a long days work and had enough money to pay for new clothes when they got ruined on his regular missions. He knew he had a bedroom, he had his books, and a whole training room where he could express whatever frustrations he had for the day. Not to mention, there was a perfectly good bar nearby he could go to whenever hurting himself training wasn’t going to be enough.

All that sense of security had been thrown out the window the moment Viktor and Mila ran, relying on others whenever anything at all happened to them. He wouldn’t say he wasn’t grateful for it, in fact he felt tremendously so that he swore he wouldn’t stop at anything to repay the three Warlocks that have helped them without question.

“This crossbow sucks,” Yura muttered from across the room, seemingly rubbing at the thing with a cloth soaked in oil. “Who makes this sort of thing?”

“Milan,” Viktor replied.

Yura looked to him in wonder, back to his usual expression yet again. “Oh? I thought Milan was supposedly the best. Well-funded, too.”

“Blood-thirst doesn’t make you the best,” Viktor felt himself wrinkling his nose, an understandable reaction to any sort of thing Milan did.

“Do you want me to be honest about something?” Yura set his crossbow down, eyes trailed on it instead of Viktor. “I always did want get transferred to Milan. When I turn eighteen.”

“Sounds like you.”

“But they’re dicks,” he said.

Viktor raised his eyebrows. “I thought you swore to kill off all the Warlocks you came by? Isn’t Milan filled with people who shared that idea?”

“That—If I was serious about that, Otabek wouldn’t be alive,” he huffed. “Look, I know you’re in some terrible shit right now, and I don’t like the decisions you’ve made.”

“Okay?”

Viktor wondered where this conversation was going.

“But if they caught you and put you on trial, I would have broken you two idiots out of prison myself,” Yura sighed, rubbing his face with his rough palms. “You were clearly framed for something we all know you wouldn’t be brave enough to do and I won’t let those self-righteous idiots do what they want with our Clan. You shouldn’t feel bad about killing those two, they had it coming.”

Viktor almost joked, almost feigned gratefulness at how caring Yura sounded. But in that moment, he knew it wouldn’t be proper to joke about it. Yura almost never did tell him what he truly felt, he almost always avoided the conversations that got Viktor into his personal space.

And funnily enough, Viktor almost wanted to cry.

“They didn’t know I was innocent, Yura,” Viktor shook his head. “They thought they were doing the right thing by arresting me.”

“But they know who you are,” Yura snorted. “They knew they’ll lose their heads trying to fight you. They knew they were done for the moment they taunted you.”

But still, that hadn’t sat well with Viktor.

He was happy, yes, but that didn’t mean it ever left his mind. He had killed two people who would have been his comrades in battle. They looked young, so they probably had families of their own. Did it destroy their mothers? Their fathers? Did they have someone they loved waiting for them in Milan? Did they have children?

Viktor had forced himself to focus by not thinking about those things, but they plagued him all the same.

“I know you’ll give me shit for this but—” Yura fell back on the bed, exhaustion radiating off him like heat. “I wanted to go to Milan because I wanted to become good. To be great. I’ve heard about how they trained people there, and knew that didn’t care much about morals and age and all that shit.” He kicked at his crossbow and sent it clattering to the ground. “But I knew that was pathetic. Because I know they can’t teach me how to be like you.”

Something hard and unsettling pounded against Viktor’s chest.

“You know, I’ve never really understood why you’re—well, you’re you,” Yura continued. “I always wondered why someone with your skill level would ever insist on staying in a rotting place like St. Petersburg, why you’d ever put yourself in danger by hesitating to make the first move, or why you never really mentioned how you’re best fighter that the Clans ever had.”

“I am not—”

“But then I thought about it. Why you wouldn’t attack fucking JJ. Why you’d stupidly stand up in the meetings in order to give them shit about their indiscriminate kill orders,” he snorted, almost as if he found Viktor’s actions pathetic. “It’s because you’re trying to protect us, aren’t you? Me and Mila. Sara and Yakov, too. I’m starting to think you’d be trying to protect fucking Georgi’s ass if he wasn’t safe in America with his hag of a girlfriend.”

Silence.

And then, “Oh, Yuratchka! That is the most touching thing I’ve ever heard from you!”

Mila.

She sauntered off to where Yura was, plopped down the bed, and hugged him tight. And in the usual Yura fashion, he struggled against it, called her names and told her to get off. But that was futile, Viktor’s finally heard it from him, and there was no taking it back.

He couldn’t help but smile.

“That’s true, though.” Mila looked to Viktor from across the room, her eyes soft and happy. Despite the situation. “We’re thankful that you’ve spent your life taking care of us and wouldn’t want you any other way, but now’s the time for you to think about what you want.”

“What?” Viktor had to step back a little. He didn’t understand.

Mila stood from where she was, went to him, and hugged him tight.

“We know that you wanted to stop fighting,” she whispered. “And I’m guessing Yura’s probably thinking that’s ridiculous, considering how much of a waste that would be.”

Yura frowned. “I never said—”

“But I know it’s been torturing you. You don’t want to fight. But you keep doing it because you’re worried we’ll get into trouble,” she pulled away, looking to him with hopeful eyes. “You saw, didn’t you? That we can take care of ourselves? Once this business with Isabella is dealt with, we could probably figure out something to get to JJ and clear your name..ours too. They’ll come looking for you, of course.” Her gaze shifted from Viktor out the door, where Phichit and Otabek were discussing plans. “But I know you’re in good hands.”

“Mila, what are you saying?”

“If we need you, we’ll come to you,” Mila tightened her grasp on his shoulders. “If we get into any sort of trouble, no matter how small, we’ll tell you right away. We promise.”

Viktor’s hands were shaking. He couldn’t believe people like them, despite all that Viktor was, loved him the way they did.

“You don’t have to be around us all the time to keep us safe,” she said. “We want you to be happy, too.”

He embraced her, then Yura.

There was a lot of fighting against the hug, as anyone would expect of Yuri Plisetsky, but that was alright. He was, despite who he was and what he’s done, grateful for the wonderful people he hardly deserved.

It was, like most of his thoughts, one that he never did say out loud—and for that, he was relieved to have heard it. And even more so when he was told that it was alright, that what he wanted was something that they wanted for him too.

That despite being selfish, he somehow deserved to do what he wanted to.

Just minutes after that, Phichit came knocking on the door, asking, “Are you ready?”

“What’s the plan?” Yura asked.

“Yuuri has an idea where Isabella might go next, but if we came too close to where she is, she might be able to track us and, well—” He shrugged. They could already fill in the rest. “Anyway, Otabek and I only have enough spell power to bring us to the closest we could go to, and we’ll have to rely on Yuuri to take it from there.”

Viktor nodded. “Where are we going?”

“Japan.”


Fukuoka, 2016 AD

“Have you ever been on a plane before?” Yuuri asked Anika as they made their way out of the train station, eager to settle in whatever apartment he’s made calls to early that day. The landlord was hesitant at first, but Yuuri immediately wired in a year’s worth of rent plus deposit to keep him quiet.

“I’ve never been,” she said, walking alongside him while chewing gum. Yuuri had given it to her when the change in altitude was messing with her ears. “Isabella preferred to travel through portals.”

Yuuri had felt uncomfortable from the sheer amount of times Anika has mentioned Isabella in the past twelve hours.

It was a reminder that despite being alive all this time, Anika never really had a life of her own. It was always controlled by someone else, whose reasons were tightly kept silent about. He eventally found that Anika was brought back a few days after Yuuri left St. Petersburg, and considering his distress back then, it had been very soon after Anika was buried.

It made him wonder what would have happened if he came back sooner than he did

Would he have seen Anika then? Would Isabella have found him and talked to him about it at a much earlier time? Would Reaper have been created and would Viktor eventually wield it?

For one thing, Yuuri has always been fascinated by how humans thought about the world—The red string of fate, the wheel of life, heaven and hell, Karma. And most especially, Chaos theory.

Now, time travel was impossible for eveb Warlocks to do. There was no way it could be done, but the human mind is inquisitive, always wondering about “what ifs” and “what happens then”.

Maybe if things hadn’t gone the way they have, he wouldn’t be standing in the train station right at that moment. He wouldn’t have been suffering from not bringing himself to kill Isabella when he needed to. Maybe Adolf Hitler found his way. Maybe the Nazis surged through Soviet Union’s defenses and eventually won the war.

Maybe Viktor hadn’t been born.

Maybe.

So now all he told himself to think about was to work his way into the present, and though it might hurt him several times over, he was going to face the fact that Isabella always had Anika’s life. Had the power to change the course of it and had most likely done something to her.

As heavy as it made his heart, he chose to consider any mention of Isabella as part of the past, and may very well be something that they could forget. Or Yuuri will forget, depending on what happens next.

“Are they mad?”

Yuuri blinked and took his mind off of his spiraling thoughts before looking at Anika again, who seemed rather nervous.

She wore a thick, brown coat over a newly-bought dress. Her hair safely tucked under a wide-rimmed hat to keep people from prying. All thanks to the fact that Yuuri memorized his credit card number, as well as his security pin. Technology may very well be his ally now.

“They’re suspicious, but not mad,” he replied honestly. “They’ll want you to be in the other room when discussing plans, though. I hope you understand.”

“I do,” she smiled weakly. “I told you, you don’t have to trust me. But I will help you when I can.”

And as if it was going to be the last, Yuuri smiled.


Hasetsu, 2016 AD

Forty hours.

That’s how long Viktor had last seen Yuuri.

Forty hours had passed and now he’s standing in the middle of an unfamiliar town, hearing people talk in a language he didn’t understand, and was mindlessly following Phichit wherever he turned. It wasn’t like it was the first time Viktor has ever travelled—hell, if he looked back on the last two weeks, he could definitely say he’s been traveling far too much.

What’s bugging him was something far more mundane, and really, it wasn’t supposed to be a big deal.

And it’s because he didn’t know how to act around Yuuri’s wife.

Phichit did explain quite a bit, and when he saw Viktor react subtly, he had pulled Viktor aside and told him that things will work out. Now, you might think Viktor was feeling either jealous or insecure—and maybe he was and he just didn’t know. But for the most part, what’s bugging him was the fact that he didn’t understand what he was feeling.

Viktor had long accepted that there are other people in Yuuri’s life that he loved so dearly. It simply cannot be avoided. He’s fine with Yuuri loving them both at the same time, and in fact, he found it to be endearing.

What he worried about was that he really didn’t know the boundaries of this sort of thing. How would that work? Is he only allowed to touch him like he normally would when they’re alone? Was it okay for him to be in the same room as them when they’re discussing personal things?

“Viktor,” Mila pulled at his sleeve. “You’re going the wrong way.”

He blinked at her, and saw that Phichit and the rest had made a turn to the left. Yura seemed distracted enough while he was talking to Otabek.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Let’s go.”

They eventually found their way into a small building, maybe four stories tall, somewhere a little more secluded and far away from the more populous part of town. It took a while for them to take the stairs, not wanting their party to draw more attention by crowding the elevators. Yura had complained that it wasn’t necessary, but Phichit kindly shot him down with a “You wanted to be on the run, this is it.”

They were on the third floor.

A step.

A step closer.

Viktor could almost hear the blood rushing through his head. He felt like he needed more air. He needed to breathe. He needed to run away.

“Are you okay?” Milas whispered to him. “You look bit pale.”

“I’m alright.”

She gave him a look that could very well be translated to “I doubt that”, but she didn’t say another word.

When they found what they’ve been looking for, Phichit rapped on the door gently, after which, the rest of them waited in silence.

The first thing that happened when the doors opened was Phichit basically throwing himself at Yuuri.

He seemed rather relieved, all the stiffness around his shoulders instantly gone in those few moments. Viktor hadn’t noticed how wound out Phichit had been in the last two days, despite acting calm about it.

He wondered if that’s how he looked like the first time he saw Yura again.

Yuuri let Phichit go, and then his eyes—beautiful as they’ve always been—found Viktor.

A moment passed.

And the next thing Viktor knew, he was also being pulled into an embrace, warm and tight and very, very familiar. He hadn’t realized he could miss someone this much. That he couldn’t go two days without someone. Hadn’t realized that after all this time, he was never really at peace.

“Should you be hugging him like that when your wife’s watching?” Yura glared

And like all good things, the moment was broken.

Yuuri had the slightest bit of hesitation when he pulled away, almost as if he was torn between letting Viktor go and pulling him closer.

A very, very uncomfortable silence followed, caused by Yura’s whole detachment to most of them. Except maybe Otabek. He looked like he cared when it came to him, at least. That is to say, Viktor wasn't sure if he should be angry or not. Harsh as it may be, Viktor had been thinking that too, and Yuuri looked like he was the same.

“She’s in the other room,” Yuuri spoke softly, still hesitant. “Do come in.”

They followed him inside the apartment. It was on the smaller side, compared to Phichit or Otabek’s anyway, but it was enough for all of them. For how long that was going to be, that’s still uncertain.

“I looked for availability on a hurry and I only found this,” Yuuri explained. “There’s only three rooms, but I think we can make do.”

Yura snorted. “So are you sleeping with him or her? How does that work?”

“Yura!” Viktor scolded.

“I—There’s a plan, and I want you to hear it after you’ve settled,” Yuuri visibly swallowed. “Please. I brought food and whatever. You can shower if you want, there’s a bathroom in each bedroom and one by the kitchen. I’d like us to start in an hour at the latest.”

Phichit smiled a little, for reassurance. He reached over to Yuuri and squeezed his shoulder. “Thanks. We’ll be fine.”

Yuuri looked over to Viktor again, and smiled. A hesitant smile, but Viktor would take anything he was allowed to at this point.

Chapter Text

Hasetsu, 2016 AD

Planning their next move was a long, frustrating, and almost discouragingly hard thing to do.

They were running around in circles, forming strategies lightning fast and then trashing ideas just as quickly. There wasn’t even any sort of confirmation in regards to where Isabella was, except that it had been a hunch, which in itself felt like pulling at straws.

“Are you telling me,” Yura glared at the three warlocks from across the coffee table. “That you’re still not sure where she is?”

“Not a hundred percent, no,” Yuuri cut in as soon as he saw the offended look on Phichit’s face, effectively stopping what could have been a showdown of who could throw the better insult at the other. “But I know Isabella enough.”

He was responded with a bitter laugh. “Sure. If that’s true and you just let her run around like this, what does that make you?”

What does that make him, indeed.

Phichit’s eyes turned to slits. “Watch your tongue.”

“Why? Are you used to these two listening to every word you’re saying?” Yura gestured at Mila and Viktor, both of whom managed to keep their talking to a minimum. “That’s unfortunate, because I’m not sugarcoating this shit we’re in for you.”

Yura.”

“Don’t use that tone on me, old man,” Yura looked to Viktor with an intense scowl. “I’m just trying to point out what’s wrong here. What if we did teleport or portal or whatever to some random place and find nothing?”

“Then we choose the second best guess,” Viktor replied. “Now’s not the time to complain about what we don’t have, Yura. If you can’t accept that like a proper adult, feel free to take a nap.”

Anger flashed in Yura’s eyes, his hands turning to fists, feet firmly planted on the carpeted floor. Viktor braced himself, already well-practiced in these kinds of outbursts. “What do you think—”

“Please don’t,” Otabek stopped Yura before he even got to his feet, which of course, had turned things for the worst.

Yura basically turned on Otabek, eyes glinting like he had been betrayed in the worst way possible. “Don’t tell me what to do!”

“I didn’t,” Otabek said, and the turned to look at his side silently, as if he were searching for any clue that indicated Yuuri was offended in any way. After which, his eyes went back to Yura again, composure controlled and calm. “But we’re not going to achieve anything if we’re fighting.”

They stared at each other for a moment, very much like the way Viktor and Yura did whenever they faced off, but then the impossible happened—Yura actually sat back down, muttered something probably foul, and kept his mouth shut.

Viktor was beginning to suspect a lot of things from just that. He almost laughed.

Yuuri sighed deeply, rubbing at his eyes and skewing his glasses. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Viktor couldn’t help but ask.

“It would have been—” Yuuri shook his head in defeat. “It would have been so much easier if I hadn’t been dumb enough to get caught.”

No one spoke after that.

Viktor had known this was what everyone thought. He knew they were all just being kind to Yuuri about it, avoided the topic as much as possible, and never really asked for details. But everyone was reminded of this very fact repeatedly when Otabek or Phichit forgot to take such important detail into account, that Yuuri had to shake his head and say, “I can’t do that anymore.”

Maybe Phichit and Otabek, like the rest of them, had gotten used to Yuuri’s invincibility.

Maybe, like Viktor and Mila, they never had to deal with the idea of Yuuri being powerless before. That there are things Yuuri cannot do. Hell, Phichit had been so confident in Yuuri’s spells, he forgot to regularly monitor the area around their Brooklyn hideout.

And now, they didn’t have that anymore.

Viktor was sure Yuuri wouldn’t mind losing all his magic, but right now just happened to be an unfortunate time.

“Don’t say that,” Phichit frowned. “You’ve done so much lately and I think it’s unfair for us to even ask you anything right now.”

“You’re basically telling him to sit around and be useless.”

Yura!” Viktor raised his voice, almost an inevitable thing to do, but pulled back before he could say something he’d regret. “Please.”

Yura snorted. “I’m just saying we don’t have to make him feel useless,” he said. “If he wants to do something, let him.”

Viktor was almost certain he saw Otabek smile. It was also almost certain he looked a little proud.

Phichit was looking at Yura curiously as well, albeit more interested now and less irritated. “Alright, there’s that,” he said. “Yuuri, you said there’s somewhere in Manila she could possibly go to...”

“It’s just a guess, but I can point out a very specific location,” he said. “If she’s not there then...well, at least we know she’s going to Salem.”

“You never said why.” Yura commented.

Viktor tried to say that Yuuri didn’t need to, but Yuuri shook his head and told Viktor that it was alright. Maybe it wasn’t, but Yuuri was awfully kind. “Isabella’s asked me to perform a Necromancy ritual on two people and those two alone,” he said. “If there’s anyone she’ll bring back first it’s Arturo...uh, the boy from Manila.”

Luckily, Yura had the decency not to ask any further, which was a relief, because Viktor could almost see how uncomfortable it was making Yuuri and practically everyone else. But as Yura usually would have done, he thought it appropriate to speak his mind. “And you think it wouldn’t be too late.”

“Necromancy takes some time to complete,” Yuuri said. “It’s intricate and needs a lot of spell power. She’ll need herbs and salts so she doesn’t kill herself from overexerting. As long as we leave for wherever she is in no less than three days, it’ll be enough.”

“And how sure are you about that?”

It was almost a surprise when Yuuri laughed, bitterly. “I’m guessing you haven’t read your history books very well,” he said. “Or the authors were mistaken.”

Yura frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m the first one to have ever done it, is all,” Yuuri said.


Pompeii, 78 AD

It had been several seasons since Yuuri stopped ageing.

Where he came from, there were no words to describe what he was. His people heard something about men who could do the impossible, who could heal the sick and perform miracles, but they never really did believe it was something plausible. They believed in things that couldn’t be seen or proven true, but nothing seemed to match the stories they heard from travellers—how this time, there are people like that who existed, and that they have proof.

The people in his village ignored those travellers, since most people who had enough resources to wander the earth were boastful and narcissistic, over-exaggerating the stories of their travels to either seduce women or to gain respect.

It wasn’t an idea they seriously entertained until the village chief accepted a gift from a strange man.

The said man didn’t look like them, he had yellow hair and orange eyes, his skin was white and face more angular. They never saw a man who looked like him, and that alone had the whole village curious. He spoke a language they all didn’t understand, but he did try to tell them through his actions or drawings on the soil, though it did not always work. The only things they knew about him was that he called himself Sverir, he lived somewhere cold, and that he was older than most of the elders.

And when they learned he could perform miracles, truly perform them, the village chief was eager to know his secrets.

Yuuri!” A small little girl approached him, her eyes the colour of the earth, happy and young. “I made these for you!”

He looked to see that it was a flower crown, white petals adorning the wreath of freshly-picked leaves.

Yuuri smiled and bent down, allowing her to slip it unto his head. “Thank you.”

His Latin was not in any way perfect, but he’s lived long enough among them that he could very well hold a conversation inebriated.

You never did tell me where you’re from,” the girl looked to him with hopeful eyes, interested and adventurous. Yuuri imagined she would become a traveller one day, a merchant—her father’s wishes for her to be married to a rich man be damned. “I’ve asked father if I could go with him on his travels before, but he wouldn’t let me. I was thinking I would ask you where you’re from, so I’ll know where to look when he does allow me to come.”

I used to live somewhere far away,” Yuuri said. “I don’t think a horse could get you there in months.”

The girl tilted her head to the side, nose pinched. “Did you walk all the way here?”

I had a little help,” Yuuri smiled. “Although they didn’t come with me.”

They got left behind?”

It took a few moments before Yuuri replied, “Yes. Yes, they were a little late.”

And do you think they’ll come find you?”

Well, I think they would if it were easy,” Yuuri kelt down, holding the flower crown in place when it slipped off. “But the world is very big.”

And do you think I’ll get to see it?”

Of course,” Yuuri lied. “When you’re older, you will.”


Hasetsu, 2016 AD

Maybe Viktor should have left Yura alone when he confronted Yuuri.

They were set to leave in two days, which meant that he had to live through being in the same house as his boyfriend’s wife. Not an overly-scandalous scenario, with Yuuri saying that Anika was alright with it, but it didn’t bode well with him when it came to discussions of their future together.

Not that a future for them both was certain, Viktor and Yuuri—in the state that they were in—could die at any time. But on the off-chance that they could live through all the horrible things they were currently in, what then? It may sound stupid for him to worry about something superficial rather than his own survival, but he hadn’t slept well that night.

Speaking of superficial, the first order of business after a rather stressful planning session was sleeping arrangements.

Yura had reacted first, of course—saying that they could all share the bedrooms and Yuuri should stay with Anika (with a courteous nod to Viktor, as if to tell him there was really no harm in doing so). Which, honestly, had been fine. Except that Phichit came in to deliberately express how he didn’t trust Anika just yet, and that she should have a room to herself.

So sleeping arrangements, though superficial, had been sorted out to Phichit, Yuuri, and Otabek in one room and Yura, Mila, and Viktor on the remaining one.

Considering they were safe for the first time in a long time, and that Viktor didn’t mind taking the floor, he should have been able to sleep—but he wasn’t. He felt stupid to be up so late (or early, depending on what you thought of being awake at three in the morning), but he needed some air. So he got up and went up to the roof, a habit he had apparently developed from living with Yuuri a long enough time.

So he stood there for a while, finding his peace and fresh air, until it went differently.

“You forgot this,” someone spoke behind him.

Viktor stiffened. He knew all too well that Mila wasn’t awake, and even if she were, she wouldn’t follow him to the roof. She would know that he did this to clear his mind, so she’d leave him alone.

That’s how he knew from the very moment she spoke that it was Anika.

Nothing to be done about it now, then. He turned his head to find her standing just outside the door, thickly wrapped up in several layers of clothing, and clutched on her hand was Yuuri’s jacket. She smiled up at him when their eyes made contact, walking over to where Viktor was, and handed him the garment.

He stared at it stupidly. “Uh—”

“It’s cold,” she nodded at him, as if to say he should take it. “You need more than that if you want to stay up here for longer.”

“Thank you,” he said.

And dear heavens, she was beautiful. Whoever said that Yuuri didn’t deserve her was an absolute fool. And stupidly, because he was the kind to mull over trivial things, Viktor began to wonder about how he was ever going to compete.

“Well,” Anika raised her eyebrows, perfectly-arched and delicate, her face soft but expressive. “Will you put it on?”

Viktor stared back and blinked, realizing how he had just thanked her and hadn’t moved a muscle. “Oh,” he said. “Oh, yeah. Thank you.”

Shrugging it on had apparently turned out to be a mistake, as he was hit with a very strong and familiar scent that was achingly familiar to him by that point. Viktor had missed Yuuri deeply, and to be given a piece of garment by Yuuri’s legitimate spouse, and it being the closest thing he could have of the other was unhinging.

“I would assume you want to be alone,” she said. “And I wouldn’t dare to assume that I know what had you coming up here...I...I shouldn’t have invaded you’re privacy—”

“It’s alright,” Viktor said. “Some things do rub off.”

He had meant it as a joke, but then he realized too late that it may have been offensive—

But the next thing that happened was unexpected. Anika laughed.

Even her laugh was perfect. How was Viktor ever going to compete with that?

“I guess, but it is pretty useful, isn’t it?” she sighed. “These apartments. The only way to get fresh air is to come up here.”

“Yes, it is,” Viktor said, and as if something had pushed him to, he asked, “Did you want to talk to me?”

Her grey eyes widened, now the colour of iron under the moonlit skies. “I do, actually.”

He had to hold his breath for a second there. “What about?”

Anika waited for a second, looking a bit confused or hesitant. “I really don’t know how I should say this—”

At this point, Viktor wasn’t breathing. Maybe he was officially being told to stay away? Was that what was about to happen? He was sure that everything that troubled him was circumstantial at best. Circumstantial, but complicated. Who would have known Anika was alive all this time? It wasn’t Yuuri’s fault to have—

“I’m not sure how I should start, but the best way to go would be the simplest, I guess,” she looked up the skies, up toward the bright moon. “My time with Yuuri was long over.”

Viktor didn’t know how he should react.

“W—what?”

“Like I said, I should have been dead—I was dead years ago. I shouldn’t be walking the Earth like this. I have no right to.”

“That—” Viktor blanched. How did she expect him to react? “That is not true. Everyone has the right to exist.”

“I know,” she smiled. “And I have. It was a wonderful life before Isabella, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I had my regrets, sure, but so does every human being. Do you know why I think bringing back the dead is something warlocks are banned from ever doing?”

“Why?”

“Because it goes against the laws of nature,” she said. “We all live as much as we can because we know one day we will die. And death isn’t so bad, I guess. It makes you value what life you’re given,” she looked to him and nodded. “What chances you have to live another day.”

“You deserve to live another day,” Viktor said, with all honesty. “You deserve a second chance.”

“I had my second chance,” she said. “I’ve seen the one person dear to me and I’ve apologized to him. I was given the chance to do the things I wasn’t able to do and I took it. I don’t need to be here anymore, Viktor. That’s just what it is.”

“Are you—” Viktor swallowed. “What do you mean?”

“I’ve been brought back by an enormous amount of spell power. It’s not enough,” she reached over to him and touched his hand. Her skin was ice cold, like a corpse. “But it allowed me to function the way that I do now.”

“Not enough?”

“I’m not complaining, but...I don’t eat. Don’t need to. I’m not warm. My memories are muddled—” She retracted her hand and tucked it back into her coat. “Spell power is...energy, isn’t it? It can’t be created nor destroyed,” she sighed heavily. “A hundred and fifty-seven people.”

There was no way Viktor could pretend he didn’t understand what she had meant.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright,” she smiled up at him, though sadly. “I may not have been conscious of what I was doing the whole time, but there are still moments when I am...awake. And I knew more than a hundred lives were lost in giving back mine. And I wondered—what I could do to give it back.”

“You don’t have to,” Viktor said. She can’t.

“I do, actually. I’ve always waited for a moment to make this...this stolen life of mine worth something, and now I know.” Anika freed her hands from where they were hidden beneath her coat, and Viktor saw that she held something.

It caught light, as she handed it to him hilt first, Viktor was sure he hadn’t been mistaken.

Reaper.

“What’s it called again? Reaper?” She laughed. “I always thought it was an appropriate name.”

Viktor stared at it like it was poison. “No,” he said, though his voice coming out thin and afraid. “I can’t.”

“Viktor, please.”

“I can’t—” He stepped away abruptly. “I can’t do it—I can’t do that to him.”

“You know it’s the best option. Yuuri’s lost his spell power and this is the only way he could fight Isabella—”

“I will not make the decision for him,” Viktor said.

An abrupt pause, the both of them as still as frozen snow.

Anika’s eyes went soft, her expression inexplicable as she lowered her hand. She looked away, toward the skies once again, her eyes suddenly glassy.

The night had turned silent after that, very much like the strange, hesitant feeling right after an intense encounter. It was neither uncomfortable nor offensive, just the both of them thinking, realizing, considering the words said.

“I always knew you were a good man, and now I see you and I could never be more happy.” Tears began to roll down her beautiful face, though her expression was strangely glad. “You are what I wasn’t—and Yuuri deserves you. I’m glad he’s found you.”

And yet again, Viktor didn’t know where his boundaries were. He didn’t know what he should say, what he was allowed to say. He wasn’t even sure if he could claim Yuuri as his when someone far better than he will ever become was within Yuuri’s reach.

So instead, he said, “He wouldn’t want to lose you.”

“I know,” she said. “You think that he’s better off with me, and I think he’s better with you. But you should trust me when I say that I’m not asking this from you to make his options easier. You are not an option just because it’s easy, Viktor. Neither of us are.”

Viktor had wanted to cry. Close to, in fact.

Why was she being so kind? How was she this reckless—this selfless—in offering her own life for something that may or may not work out? A warlock once said, almost mockingly, that the Eldest One liked pretty things—and Anika was pretty, that was true, but Viktor was fairly certain it wasn’t the only reason why Yuuri loved her.

“It’s not—”

“But if we kept thinking about how Yuuri should choose one over the other, it’s not going anywhere,” she said, her eyes finding Viktor’s once more. “He will always love me, and he will always love you. You know that. There is no less in the love that he has for either of us, or for Phichit and Otabek or Isabella.”

“And he deserves to keep us both,” Viktor managed to say, truthfully now.

Because that was one of the things about love. He knew it did not only apply to Warlocks or those who can never die. Viktor didn’t love Yura and Mila and Yakov any less than he loved Yuuri. He would die for any of them, all of them, if that was the only way to keep them safe. He would do anything, in fact—and if he were in Anika’s place, he would have done the same.

But he was not in her place.

Yuuri could have all the people he loved because he deserved it, and if there was any future for any of them, Viktor would take anything he was allowed to. Would give up anything he was told to.

“Anika,” Viktor shook his head. “Please, for his sake, don’t ask this from me or him.”

“There are more important things,” she said. “And there are things that shouldn’t be here. I should be dead, and it is unfair that I rob you all from a chance of beating whatever enemy you have in front of you. This is not just about us. Isabella might unleash something dangerous and it will be at the cost of the many lives.”

And despite all that he was feeling, Viktor couldn’t help but admire her.

There might have been, once upon a time, where Viktor had been like Anika or Yura. There might have been a time where he thought less about himself and more about others—thought about saving the world.

What Anika had said made him wonder if he was better off if he stayed that way. She was a hero, admirable, and nothing less than extraordinary.

“I know this isn’t just about us,” Viktor said. “But I am not an honourable person. I am not like you. The only reason why I wanted to pursue Isabella was because it would clear Mila and Yura’s name if we got to Leroy.”

Anika laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“I found that absolutely endearing about you,” she stepped closer to him, her hand coming up to touch his face. “You are honourable. He wouldn’t have chosen you if you weren’t a good man.”

“You overestimate me.”

“And that’s why I knew you wouldn’t agree to it,” she said. “You’re lying, aren’t you? You know the people you care about are safe and yet you chose to come with him anyway. Deep inside that heart of yours, you wanted to do what’s right.”

Viktor swallowed.

“Don’t worry, you will not make the decision. Yuuri will know. I made sure of it.”

And then, things happened so fast.

Viktor had been so focused on the conversation that he failed to notice Anika retrieving the short sword from beneath her brown coat, and when he did, it was too late.

The cold metal of Repear’s hilt connected with the palm of Viktor’s hand, and that’s when he felt it.

A hot, searing pain shot from where the metal touched him, creeping under his skin, down to the tips of his toes. He could feel his heart racing, faster than he’s ever felt before. His chest was constricting, as if becoming dense, as if becoming a black hole right where his heart was.

And then he could see rather than feel, bolts of electricity shooting from out of his fingers.

He could feel everything, could see everything.

He saw Anika as a child, young and smart, a wonderful artist who liked drawing women in their recital clothes. He saw her picking up old records, listening to them on a gramophone Viktor’s seen before. He saw Yuuri through her eyes, felt his chest throb with all the love in the world. He saw other things, memories from other people. Images from the fall of an empire, fond memories of men and women Viktor didn’t know—all their fears, all their hate and affection, he felt it too.

“Yuuri, you need to do something!”

Who was that? Was that Phichit? Was he hearing it from Anika’s memories, or was he really there on the roof with them?

“His body can’t handle all that spell power,” Phichit’s voice came through again. “Yuuri, his heart could stop. You need to do something!”

What was Phichit saying? Did he mean Viktor?

Viktor couldn’t tell at this point. There was so much he was feeling and so much he was seeing. His hands turned to fists and bolts of lightning shot out from it, loud and painful and dangerously powerful.

He can’t breathe—he can’t—

A sign of warmth came upon his shoulder. Viktor turned to look and saw that it was Yuuri’s hand. If it were just one of the many memories he was seeing, he didn’t really know, but he found comfort in it.

It made the pain bearable, his heart constricting less. He felt that his hands had stopped shaking even before he noticed that they had.

Viktor reached over to where Yuuri touched him, even when in doubt if any of it was real—and Yuuri caught his, laced their fingers together, and Viktor knew from then on that he was safe.

And then, something else.

Viktor didn’t know how much he was seeing were memories and which ones were illusions. He was seeing Yuuri again, bare of all clothing, nothing to hide his beautiful skin. His hair was a lot longer, too. Viktor couldn’t see where they were—everything was shrouded in darkness, save for a dim lamp, an uncomfortable bed, and a stone wall.

His vision shifted, off to a different time, a different memory. Yuuri wore a tunic made from dark wool, sitting amongst the grass.

Yuuri in well-tailored Victorian clothes, his face grim and restless.

“Viktor,” Yuuri’s voice cut through the vision, his hand tightening its grasp on Viktor’s shoulder, grounding him to reality. “Viktor, breathe.”

Slowly, he felt the surge of energy leave him, the pain receding, his heart slowing to a much lighter pace. And when he felt the pain coming to a full stop, he felt arms wrapping around him—Yuuri’s—and in front of him, lay Anika, unmoving.


Pompeii, 79 AD

Since the fateful day Vesuvius erupted, you would have thought Pompeii would be filled with bandits scouring for what was left, but it was silent and devoid of any signs of life. It was one thing for common thieves to come and desecrate a whole destroyed city for what scraps they could find, and it was another for one to carelessly step unto cursed soil.

That’s what is was. Or what everyone now thought it was.

Merchants who have come to see if any of their friends and patrons were there (though mostly for the money) have all turned tail and never came back. They might have conveniently informed quite a lot of people as well, since no one else had come after the last merchant scurried away in horror.

Ashes covered the ground, thickened and compact, and as the wind blew, a foggy, grey cloud hovered over the city. Something poisonous can be smelled half a mile away from where the ashes stopped, and if someone had come and stayed any longer than a few moments, they would have fatally damaged their lungs.

No one else was stupid enough to come and see the ruins themselves. Maybe except Yuuri.

All of the people he’s ever known were now dead, so there was no one who could’ve advised against it.

So it came a surprise when he saw someone else standing amongst the ashes, a tall figure strangely recognisable despite the haze of grey surrounding him. Yuuri could have sworn there was an appropriate word for what he felt the moment he saw him, a rather distinct feeling of seeing someone familiar again after a century, but there were no words in Latin or Greek, in his mother tongue or the language of his newfound home could explain how light Yuuri felt.

What are you doing here?” Yuuri stammered.

Sverir’s eyes lit up, but for what reason, that was still unknown. “You have a fine grasp of Latin.”

Finally, you mean,” Yuuri said. “Although I did much better than you when you first came to us.”

That is true,” Sverir chuckled, though his face sullen. His eyes went back to were they were before, on the ground, where the body of a girl laid. “You’re trying to bring her back.”

Something awful lodged itself at the back of Yuuri’s throat, as if it wouldn’t let him speak. He did not want to, in fact. His feelings of elatedness had now morphed into something else—fear, shame, or regret—something he could not quite place.

I’ve heard of it before,” Sverir continued. “But I’ve never seen it done.”

Neither do I,” Yuuri walked over to the little girl’s body, dropping a few herbs next to her cold corpse. “But there’s no harm in trying, is there?”

Sverir cleared his throat, as if hesitant—or disapproving. “You know what can happen if it doesn’t turn out right,” he said. “She might go mad. She might not be the same.”

I know.”

And you are not afraid?”

Afraid of what?”

That this might go horribly wrong?”

Maybe I am,” Yuuri said. “But I am much more afraid of my conscience.”

And suddenly, the look on Sverir’s eyes changed. It’s become a lot softer, compassionate and pitying. Yuuri did not like it.

Why don’t we find you somewhere else to stay?” Yuuri suggested. “I’ve moved to somewhere far from here—”

And you’re using a portal back and forth.”

That—was not a lie. “I am.”

Yuuri could tell that Sverir was trying to be the voice of reason. He knew the costs to what he was attempting to do—if it could even be done at all. What he knew about bringing the dead back to life were from stories, from little journals he’s bought from merchants, from very old scrolls that did not promise reliability. But Yuuri was being kept awake far too long, was being haunted by the memories of the children he couldn’t save.

Sverir sighed heavily, his breath blowing the falling ashes in different directions. “There is...I’m guessing all you’re doing is follow what the stories told you to do, and that’s alright—” he said. “But there’s another way, if you really want it.”

Is there?” Yuuri asked.

The soul of a man can neither be created nor destroyed. We die and we are reborn again. All you have to do is wait.”

My mind cannot wait in peace.”

Then we will force it to be born again soon,” Sverir said softly, almost too carefully. “In a different body, but it’s the same soul. She will live again, but will not remember you. Is that enough?”

Of course, that was not enough.

Yuuri knew somehow, somewhere, the soul of a poor girl was in peace and it will come back to the land of the living to start anew. But it wasn’t about that. The soul may be immortal but the body is what made the person beautiful. The body had a mind, it had a heart. Immortal souls are just vengeful.

Tell me, Sverir,” Yuuri said. “If I were to die, and live again as someone horrible and spiteful, would you seek me out then?”

Sverir avoided his eyes. “Warlocks do not have souls.”

If I did,” he insisted. “Would that seem fair to you? Would you take me under your wing again and tell me I was beautiful?”

Silence.

That’s what I thought, too.” Yuuri muttered. “This girl, was wonderful. She was kind.”

Man becomes what he is through the things that come his way,” Sverir replied. “Through their memories. It could make them either bitter or kind or hateful. The only thing you could do about it is guide them through and create better experiences, memories. You do not have to try to restore a broken body and risk a broken mind, it will be torture for them.”

Sverir might have as well slapped Yuuri in the face.

All his work, all the energy he poured into finding and making the appropriate concoctions, all the nights he spent awake as he tried contemplating his actions—have become pointless in a span of a quick conversation.

Of course, it was idiocy. Of course, it was the worst decision he could have ever made. Why would he, a lowly Warlock damned for eternity, ever make the decision for something as large and invincible as the order of nature? How dare he think that he could sleep peacefully at night, when his motives were purely selfish.

But that does not mean I won’t help you,” Sverir said, almost as if he was admitting defeat. “If you really think this little girl deserves another chance at life, then I will help you restore it.”


Hasetsu, 2016 AD

Viktor awoke to what might be the most delirious he’s ever been.

There was no pain at all, not of the physical kind, but he kept seeing visions of people he’s never seen before. He woke in haze one moment, and then saw something else the next. He would see images of happiness so rooted in what he saw that he could feel it and forget who he was, and then there are times when a memory is associated with so much hate that it almost taunted him to get up and seek vengeance.

It was strange.

It was confusing.

It was absolutely torturous.

He felt a warm hand touch him, fingers combing through his sweaty hair. Viktor was delirious still, but he could hold unto reality if he tried.

“You’ll be alright.”

Viktor looked up and was instantly filled with warmth and comfort, which made him certain that this vision—this memory—was his. “Does it ever go away?”

“No, they don’t,” Yuuri whispered. “There will come a time when it’s only going to come up in your dreams, but no, you could never get rid of them.”

He willed his eyes open, afraid that he might see and feel something else if he closed them. A few hours of going through what he had wasn’t enough to make him question who he was, but he wondered what would happen to him if this kept up for longer. Maybe this was what drove Isabella Yang to become mad.

And was Viktor going through that too? The path to madness?

“Your person will not change,” Yuuri said. “I will not let that happen.”

And for once, Viktor thought it was nice not to be selfish. “And does it happen to you too?”

“It does,” Yuuri said. “A lot more intense, but I’m used to it.”

“Going through it twice won’t make you used to it,” Viktor replied, although there was no bitterness and accusation in his tone. He figured Yuuri knew that too, since he didn’t flinch at all. “It’s alright to tell me you’ve had it worse, you know.”

Viktor knew that somehow, it has come to a point where they knew each other well enough to understand their actions, Yuuri more than he but they understood each other nonetheless. He might have doubted a real future with Yuuri, but that didn’t mean he did not know what was going to happen if that fragile little dream of his shattered.

He might grow old and forget about Yuuri, that is true—but at the moment he felt like it was impossible.

“I’m sorry you had to go through all that,” Yuuri said.

Because of course, Yuuri was the one who would apologize first.

Of course, Yuuri would feel bad about any given situation regardless.

“Sverir,” Viktor said. “It’s a name I’ve been getting a lot.”

A pause.

“He died at Isabella’s hand, didn’t he?” Viktor continued on. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to see his memories.”

“Could be anything,” Yuuri said. “Maybe he’s been killed by someone else and Isabella killed that person. There’s really no proper way to trace those memories back.”

And oddly enough, stupidly enough, that’s what Viktor had been thinking about the whole time. Was that what their lives were worth? Several years of hate and happiness and struggle, all reduced to a handful of moments played sparingly inside of someone’s head? Was he, after all, just a memory and nothing more?

Was he eventually going to turn to ashes and become nothing but a figment of someone else’s dream? And if that someone else dies, what would he become then?

Viktor could laugh, and he did, however weakly. “We’re only ever immortal in remembrance, huh?”

“That is true,” Yuuri said. Viktor could almost hear the smile in his voice. “But had it gone differently, had the spell power of these people hadn’t been disturbed, their memories would have stayed with them even in death. Their loved ones would forever be remembered by their bones, by the earth that surrounds them, but the energy that once fuelled them.”

“Doesn’t sound too bad.”

“I know,” Yuuri said. “You’re not blaming yourself, are you? You’re not about to—”

“I’m sorry,” Viktor gritted out. “I know you meant to tell me not to, but I’m saying it anyway. I’m really, really sorry.”

“You make it sound like you did something wrong.”

And again, it was not an accusation, not a way of comfort, but not an accusation. Sometimes it surprised Viktor how much he’s changed in the last few months. How Yuuri had pushed him toward the right direction, how he was becoming a better person.

Maybe Viktor still believed that his life had no meaning to the general existence of the world. But if it meant something to someone, he might just pretend that it was actually significant to the people who mattered.

“Maybe it’s because I just I love you that much,” Viktor said. “Maybe it’s because I wanted you to have and keep as many people you love.”

Yuuri’s response was immediate, in the form of his thumb running down Viktor’s cheek, his touch warm and gentle.

“You’ve met the Ripper?” Viktor asked.

“Benedict Layton,” Yuuri said. “Fell in love with him, in fact.”

“Well, it’s good to know there’s good in the people we conceive to be the worst.”

And that was his response. It would have been strange for anyone else, because they haven’t gone through and felt what he had. But to Viktor, it was never strange. It was endearing and heartbreaking at the same time. And among the many things Yuuri’s taught him, it would be that the heart cannot chose who or what it wanted, and it could love more than one at a time.

“You don’t want to kill her, do you? Isabella, I mean.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Promise me something, Yuuri?”

Yuuri continued to run his fingers through Viktor’s hair, something he’s grown used to in their time together. “Anything you ask.”

“You can try to save her if you want to, I know it would be hard for you. In fact, right now I don’t think you’ll find it in you to draw first,” Viktor said. “But when it comes down to you or her, please choose to protect yourself. For Anika.”

And for me, too, Viktor wanted to add, but he couldn’t say that without sounding too self-centred.

“I don’t want to put this on your shoulders too much, and I really don’t want to be the one to kill her if you wanted her alive, but please,” Viktor pushed himself up, putting all the weight of his upper body on his elbows. It was dizzying and painful to do so, but it felt right to say what he had wanted to say while looking at Yuuri in the eye. “Please forgive me if I ever end up doing it to protect any of you—or if I hurt her in any way, or—”

Yuuri shushed by kissing him softly, tenderly. The kind of kiss that wasn’t all too fuelled by want but much rather with endearment. The kind of kiss that had long surpassed the physical touch.

“You don’t have to apologize in advance, Vitya.”

-

It’s past dawn, and Yuuri was still awake.

So was Otabek and Phichit. Mila and Yura must be raiding the kitchen, since Yuuri could hear all the sounds of clinking glass and porcelain from where he sat inside the room. Outside, the world was starting to buzz with life, a new dawn, and the town began to wake.

Yuuri was witness to the many times the sun rose, it looked slightly different depending on where he was. It changed colour sometimes, most especially in the winter, where the sun itself may or may not show.

Many times he’d seen the sun rise, yet he didn’t remember each one but rather the general feel of them. Enough that he’d know if it were winter or summer, if the world was at war or in times of peace, if it was going to rain or stay bright and warm.

This sunrise, however, might be the one he’ll remember in particular.

It was yet another dawn that Anika was gone. She died on a winter in 1920, and it seemed like the winter had come for her again. Yuuri didn’t let it take her the first time, it was an unexpected suicide that he had failed to notice until it was too late.

This time, however, had been different.

“You found the letter before it was too late, didn’t you?” Otabek said, his back leaning against the door, arms crossed in front of him. “And you didn’t wake Phichit until it was time.”

“Yes.”

“Yuuri, you did the right thing,” Phichit looked at him, and then at Otabek, nodding as he continued to speak. Yuuri had the slightest feeling that that two had spoken when he was out of the room. “She wouldn’t—she’d never be at peace had you stopped her. You know she would.”

“I know that,” Yuuri said, chuckling. “The woman couldn’t live with ignoring the beggars if we passed them on the street, what did you expect?”

And then as if it were taunting him, memories of Anika flashed before his eyes, so vivid and colourful Yuuri could almost get lost in them.

“I just wish she never went through what she had.”

The sky was turning from deep blue to iridescent orange, like the world was lit by a very dim light bulb. A memorable sunrise, indeed.

Otabek removed himself from the door and went to where Yuuri sat. He picked up the hastily written note off the nightstand, eyes soft and compassionate. “At least she got a chance to see you again,” he said. “I would imagine the last time was a bit...abrupt.”

And now she was nothing but ashes.

Not even Isabella or a deranged warlock would have enough time to bring her back and make her suffer again. Maybe that was a good thing, after all. Maybe he should stop thinking and being confused as to how he should actually feel.

“Is Viktor awake?”

Trust Phichit to change the subject when needed.

“Delirious, but he’s alright,” Yuuri said. “His mind will clear maybe tomorrow morning.”

“But hasn’t he killed six warlocks?” Otabek asked, although not at all bitter or dreadful. It was a statement of fact. Yuuri could imagine he wouldn’t be as close to Yura if Otabek was in any way bitter or hateful. “Shouldn’t he have experienced something like this at least once?”

“He was only ordered to kill them. And those were just really inexperienced ones who couldn’t handle their magic,” Yuuri said. “I think one of them was a young warlock no older than twelve. I’m not sure how young.”

And then, Phichit asked, “How much?”

“A hundred and fifty-seven, I think.”

“And is that—” Phichit cut himself off before he could finish his sentence. “Never mind.”

“Did you mean to ask if it’s enough?”

“You don’t have the answer the question—”

“Yes, it is,” Yuuri said. “Sverir’s spell power alone makes up for a few thousands that I got from Pompeii. On a strategic point, I’d be just a few hundreds away from Isabella.”

That was it, a strategic point.

Yuuri found out that it was the only way he was ever going to keep himself sane. Think of what he was about to do as nothing but a problem to be solved. He should think of it as pieces of a larger puzzle. Otherwise, he’s going to have to live with the fact that the strength he had was from unwilling sacrifices.

“Yuuri, we could back down if need be, you know that?” Phichit said. “We could just focus on getting Arturo’s or whoever’s bones and make sure she doesn’t get to them. Then that’s it. You know that sounds like the better plan.”

“With the power she has, I think she could bring anyone back from nothing,” Otabek said. Always honest, never harsh. “If not, she’ll need just a few thousands more and she’d be able to do it.”

“That’s not going to happen.” Yuuri replied.

Otabek carefully placed Anika’s note back on the nightstand. “How do you know that?”

“Her mistake...was that she didn’t just wait to have enough spell power to bring Arturo back instead of doing an incomplete spell on Anika. You know what I usually go through when I’m suddenly stressed out or emotional?”

Otabek’s eyebrows furrowed. “You think her magic is unstable?”

“I don’t just think, I know it,” Yuuri said, firmly. “Sverir’s spell power is somehow stabilizing everyone else’s. When it comes down to who could effectively draw first, that would be me.”

“And would you?” Phichit looked to him. “Be able to draw first?”

“And that is why,” Yuuri said. “I need the both of you there with me.”

-

Yura was making it a habit to browse through random TV channels when he was bored. Or anxious. Yuuri doubted there was any room for boredom with all the things that has happened to them so far. They could all do with a little rest, and even this pitstop to Japan wasn’t making anyone feel relaxed or calm at all.

It took him a while to sum up the courage to go to where Yura was, a single piece of paper in his hand.

“Can I talk to you, Yura?”

“Is it about Viktor?” Yura responded lazily, slumped against the back of the sofa. “If that’s what it is, don’t bother. He’s old enough to make his own decisions.”

If the way Yura was talking to him didn’t confirm his suspicions, then Yuuri didn’t know what else would. He was used to an attitude like this, and though he’s tired and frustrated, Yuuri was still a warlock who could handle business talk. He could handle most people—from the extremely hesitant to the extremely insane—and Yura’s disposition was not new territory.

So Yuuri went on to sit on the ratty living chair a few feet away, and carefully, slowly placed the piece of paper on the wobbly table.

“I need to tell you something,” he said. “I might also ask a few questions, but you don’t have to answer them if you’re not comfortable.”

He could tell Yura’s interest was piqued, eyes observing Yuuri carefully, his thumb on the remote hovering over the buttons. He looked down toward the piece of paper on the table, eyebrows scrunching into a confused scowl, as if he were trying to figure something out but not quite arriving at a proper conclusion. “What’s that?”

“It’s a request,” Yuuri explained. “Sent to me about seven, eight months ago.”

“And what does that have to do with me?”

“Your adoptive mother was looking for you,” he replied.

In all his years of being a part of a trade—a business—Yuuri’s never disclosed information like that before. It was much easier that way, especially when he had spouses coming to him separately with requests that involved either infidelity, rage, or revenge.

As much as he tried denying requests that were either morally wrong or impeded privacy, there were still loopholes he couldn’t argue against—like how Lilia Baranovskaya suddenly wanted to have her lost son tracked down.

Yura was looking at the piece of paper intently, all of a sudden very, very still. In his expression were a mix of emotions Yuuri could not quite place, as if he didn’t know how to react to the new revelation. “Did she tell you she missed me?”

“She’s not very open about the details.”

“I guess I shouldn’t have asked,” Yura sighed. “Why did you tell me?”

“Is it right for me to give away someone’s location without their permission?”

“I don’t know. Don’t you guys do that all the time?” he said, then cleared his throat. “Sorry. Didn’t mean it like that.”

“It’s alright.”

“Do what you want,” he shrugged. “The deal doesn’t require you to drag me back to her, does it?”

“No, it does not.”

“Then you can tell her whatever you want. She just probably wants to know if I’m alive or not.”

“And you’re not going to visit her?”

Yuuri almost took it back.

It was not his place to discuss those sort of things, especially to someone unfamiliar like Yura. But before he could apologize and ask that the question be ignored, Yura had responded to him.

“I’m not sure. To be frank, I really don’t know her that well,” he said. “Maybe I’ll show up and say thanks or something, and then I’ll disappear. Yakov’s put a lot of money to make sure the cloaking spell around me’s working fine. It’s not like I have a lot of spell power left, though.”

“I can restore your spell power, if you want.”

Yura’s reaction was instantaneous. “You don’t have to do that.”

“I know, but I can.” Yuuri smiled. “Just let me deal with this—this business and then I’ll arrange it.”

There was a moment of hesitation before Yura was able to come up with a reply—a question. “Is there something I have to do in return?”

“Nothing,” Yuuri said. “I do it because I can, and I want to. And since Isabella was the one who stole it from you, it’s only right that you get it back.”

One thing most didn’t know about warriors who fought the unseen—like Yura and Viktor and Mila—was that spell power was an advantage in every battle. The more you had, the more likely you were going to win a fight against a warlock or a demon they summoned. Viktor said Yura became great because of his efforts and not just because of an inborn strength, but what a promising fighter would he be, if he hadn’t been so unfortunately robbed of his spell power years ago.

“I’ll think about it,” Yura finally spoke, and then he added, “Thank you.”


Manila, 2016 AD

It’s been five hundred years since Yuuri last walked on this very soil—or concrete, because Manila appeared to have greatly progressed in the centuries that he was gone. The once clean air has now been laced with smog, it smelled like burning plastic and rubber wherever he turned, and garbage littered the streets.

The city that once had beauty in its peaceful simplicity was now filled with cars, trees replaced with phone lines, and buildings that covered his favourite view of the sunset.

Despite those things, despite the drastic shock of seeing something change so much, Yuuri could not help but feel a sense of familiarity to the place. It was almost like stepping into a someone’s bedroom right after they died, feeling their presence in the misplaced hair brushes or the unfinished book laying open on the nightstand.

In his case, it felt like Yuuri had stepped into a time warp, where he couldn’t see the tall buildings or the electrical wires chaotically bundled up near the transformers. No, all Yuuri could see was an inferno, flames licking up anything it could touch, leaving ashes and burnt bodies in its path. Most of all, he could hear Isabella crying, her kind soul broken and devastated, her beautiful heart forever changed.

“Here we are,” Phichit came up to put his hand on Yuuri’s shoulder, tense but otherwise optimistic. “Shall we get to work?”