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the fighter

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“Hold still,” Otabek said sharply as Yuri began to squirm in his seat. His hand gripped briefly at Yuri’s chin and gripped it hard. Yuri looked at him, eyes wide. Otabek looked back and then turned his attention back to his neat little rows of stitches that crisscrossed Yuri’s chest. Victor’s knife had done its work well.

Otabek had known that trouble would come to them the moment Yakov announced his intention to step down from the head of the family. Victor, as his oldest and most successful protégé, was expected to take the reins -- but then Victor had lost his head, then Victor had run away to Japan, and then up-and-comers like Yuri and never-had-beens like Georgi had scented blood in the air and moved in.

For himself, Otabek had no opinion who should lead them. He was simply a fighter. Who he fought for depended on who wore the gold ring. Nothing more, nothing less.

But still -- he’d grown up watching over Yuri, at least from afar. It would hurt to see him killed so soon and so pointlessly. “That was stupid, challenging Victor so early on,” he said chidingly. Yuri scowled and pushed him away.

“Don’t,” he said. “I’m not a kid, Otabek --”

You are though. You’re not even eighteen. But Otabek bit back his response and frowned instead.

Yuri went on, saying, “And you know Victor is finished. He lets sentiment cloud his vision. He says he wants to live a peaceful life with his boyfriend and his dog.”

“Ah yes,” Otabek said drily. “That sounds horrible.”

“You know what I mean though.” Yuri’s voice took on a whining edge. “I can’t do with it without you.” Then, more calmly, he said, “Well, I can, but I don’t want to.”

“I’ll do anything to keep you alive,” Otabek said and Yuri surged up to kiss him, hard.

*

The floor of the hall where Yakov and Lilia’s recommitment ceremony was to take place was already slick with blood and Otabek’s ears were ringing. He’d thought he’d been far enough from the blast but apparently not. His heart pounding in his chest, he looked around for Yuri. Was he dead? Had Otabek failed him at last? But suddenly he saw a flash of gold in the corner of his eye and he turned towards Yuri, who was holding up Yakov’s gold ring.

“I have it,” he said, smiling. Otabek bent down to kiss his ring when he felt a sudden, sharp pain in his shoulder. From Yuri’s expression, he knew he’d been shot. They both looked to direction of the bullet to see Katsuki at the door, looking almost apologetic.

“I’m going to kill you,” Yuri said. There was no histrionics in his tone. He meant what he said.

Katsuki shrugged. “You should probably see to him first. By the way, Victor sends his congratulations!”

Then he was gone, like he’d never been.

Otabek began to laugh, even though it hurt to do it.

“Shut up and keep still,” Yuri said, his voice sharp as he dialed Mila’s number on his phone. His fingers kept slipping on the glass. Because of the blood, Otabek realized. His blood.

“I’m just thinking --”

“You don’t have to, remember?”

“I was thinking. Victor’s peaceful boyfriend isn’t very peaceful, is he?”

“I’m going to kill him and make Victor watch,” Yuri said vehemently.

Otabek shook his head. He felt impossibly tired. This endless cycle of revenge -- when did it stop? He’d thought Yuri might have been able to, but instead, Yuri had gotten tied up with the rest. And Otabek -- assuming he survived this -- would only help him travel deeper into darkness.

It was hell, to love a fighter.

But it was a worse hell to love no one at all.