Mr. Yuuri Katsuki watched wide eyed as his best friend and roommate danced around the small open space in the middle of the club. He was partnered by a smiling and friendly older man he’d just met. This man pushed the bounds of propriety with the placement of his hand rather low on Phichit’s back and the way he leaned his head close to Phichit’s to speak to him. Phichit didn’t seem disturbed by the impertinence, however, so Yuuri merely kept an eye on them.
The club they were in was a respectable establishment where men who preferred men gathered for conversation, relaxation, and introductions. It didn’t require membership like some of the higher class establishments, but a certain filtering occurred at the door. Yuuri and Phichit had to dress in their very best evening wear to be allowed inside. The prices of the drinks were such that they didn’t come here often, but Phichit had begged Yuuri to come out with him this evening.
More often, when they felt themselves in need of society they frequented a much rowdier establishment beloved of the bohemian class: artists, theatricals, and students. They hadn’t ventured to The Swan in almost two weeks, however, due to Phichit’s recent falling out with one of his lovers, an actor of the most dramatic sort. Yuuri had never felt truly comfortable with the man, but Phichit had fancied himself in love. Yuuri had been left drying his friend’s tears when the actor had moved on to a singer in the opera chorus.
Phichit Chulanont was a dancer, still working his way up through the corps. He seemed to know everyone in London who worked on the stage, from the ballet, opera, orchestra, and even theatrical circles.
Yuuri Katsuki, in contrast, was a student of medicine at the University of London. He’d traveled to London from his home in distant Japan to receive the best medical education he could. He dreamed of taking his knowledge of the latest cutting edge breakthroughs home and making a name for himself, helping those who suffered. He was serious and quiet, or so most thought him upon casual acquaintance. He had only become friends with Phichit through a coincidence of their mutual need for housing. Phichit had adopted him as a brother, however, and saw it as his duty to seduce Yuuri away from his books and into the whirl of public life.
In truth, Yuuri enjoyed their evenings out. He was still a bit in awe of the wild freedom of London, the spectacle of its wealth, the gaudiness of the people, and the openness of its pleasures. At the highest levels of society London maintained a pretense of dignity and decorum, but at the level of the student or artist it was a whirl of licentious behavior.
Yuuri heard the ringing tones of laughter from the next room. Then there were those who straddled the divide between high society and bohemian debauchery, he reflected. Yuuri turned his head to catch of glimpse of the man whose laughter he recognized: Baron Viktor Nikiforov, the son of the Russian ambassador. Baron Nikiforov the elder was a man with an esteemed position, but his son was better known for his escapades in London’s nightclubs and houses of ill repute. His name was frequently mentioned in all the gossip columns, his many liaisons and trysts only hinted at in the most roundabout language.
He was well known among Phichit’s friends, though mostly only through second-hand stories and backstage gossip. Baron Viktor Nikiforov’s name was frequently associated with the rising stars of the stage: the most beautiful and accomplished. The word was that he also possessed a ravenous appetite for those who exchanged their favors for coin. Some of the stories Yuuri had heard strained his belief, but the tellers had sworn to their authenticity. Tales of orgies, marathon sexual sessions with a string of partners, and some even more outre whispers were common.
Yuuri found himself captivated by these tales. He had seen the baron from time to time over the last two years and from the first glimpse he was fascinated. Viktor Nikiforov was the most beautiful man Yuuri had ever seen. He found himself spellbound by his luminous, delicate beauty. He hadn’t expected to hear such a man was capable of the basest depravity. He had been shocked to learn of the rumors.
And yet, Baron Nikiforov wasn’t disliked. The rent boys Yuuri had encountered from time to time at the Swan all aspired to one day attract the attention of the baron. They spoke of him as the ideal client. The same was true of many of the more superficial dancers and actors. The baron was extremely wealthy, as well as being noble and influential. Moreover, he was seen as one of the most eligible bachelors in London. The sons and daughters of the great and good vied for his attention as desperately, if not more so, than any prostitute or chorus girl. Whoever finally won his hand would gain a title, wealth, and status, for the small sacrifice of being married to an unfaithful Russian.
Yuuri leaned back in his chair, trying to catch a glimpse of Nikiforov’s silvered hair. The room through the doorway was crowded, and he could only see a wall of black-clad backs. And then a large man moved to the side, and there he was. Baron Nikiforov was slim and tall, with broad shoulders. His evening suit was immaculately tailored, the white of his shirtfront outshone only by the fall of his silver hair, unfashionably long and covering one side of his face.
As he watched, Nikiforov turned and his eyes swept over Yuuri as he spoke to one of the men at his elbow. And then his eyes tracked back, coming to rest directly on Yuuri, who sucked in a breath in shock. The baron’s eyes locked onto his own and then he smiled at Yuuri, an almost predatory expression. He looked away again after only a few seconds, speaking to the men next to him and moving to the bar a few steps away.
Yuuri moved his eyes to the surface of the table at which he sat, working on catching his breath. The power of Nikiforov’s smile and beauty was truly devastating to have this kind of effect on him in only a few seconds. Of course, Yuuri had spent many lonely nights imagining significantly more intimate interactions with the disreputable baron. He collected mentions of him in the press pasted into a neat clipping book. Phichit knew of his fascination and always related the latest story he’d heard from his many acquaintances.
“May I join you?” a smooth voice said from directly behind Yuuri. He started, almost knocking over the drink by his hand.
Yuuri couldn’t believe what he thought he had heard, and he looked around, sure to find he was mistaken as to the owner of the voice, or perhaps to find he was not the one addressed. But no. There, standing only a foot behind his shoulder, was Baron Viktor Nikiforov, his gloved hand holding a glass of clear liquid. He was looking down at Yuuri intently, a small smile playing on his lips.
Yuuri started to stand but tripped over his own feet and fell back into his chair. “I—I…”
“Excellent,” said Nikiforov, as if Yuuri had offered him a gracious invitation. The baron placed his drink on the table and leaned back in his chair, tenting his fingers in front of his face. He looked at Yuuri speculatively, but there was something like hunger in his eyes. Yuuri’s face burned, still feeling himself overcome with the urge to look behind him to see if there was someone else Nikiforov could be looking at.
“Am I intruding?” asked the baron after a moment more of silence. Yuuri mentally shook himself, realizing he was staring and that he should have definitely said something by now.
“Uh...my friend...should be back soon,” he said, gesturing vaguely to the chair the baron had taken, which had been Phichit’s. Yuuri flicked his eyes toward the dance floor, where Phichit still waltzed with his overly friendly suitor. When he looked back to Nikiforov he saw the other man looking to Phichit as well, watching him for a moment before looking back to Yuuri.
“Your friend is it?” he asked, eyebrows raised. Yuuri swallowed, knowing what he was asking, and he nodded, despite the fact that he and Phichit were nothing more than friends. “It seems your friend is neglecting you for another,” commented Nikiforov. “You could retaliate by joining me on the dance floor?” The baron extended a hand in Yuuri’s direction, already beginning to rise from his chair.
“I don’t dance,” said Yuuri bluntly. He swallowed, panic threatening to wash over him. Baron Nikiforov looked stunned and he sank back into the plush chair heavily.
“You don’t.” His voice was flat.
“No,” Yuuri smiled nervously. “I’m sorry.” He wondered if he should make something up about not knowing western dance styles or dancing being against his religion. He’d learned in his two years in London that Englishmen would believe just about any excuse if blamed on his foreign birth. Phichit was the one who had taught him that, the Siamese man having longer experience living on English soil.
But Yuuri couldn’t find his voice at all, and just continued staring dumbly at the man he’d long admired from afar. For his part, the baron was staring back at him, eyes curious. He looked about to speak when Yuuri heard a welcome voice call to him.
“Yuuri!” It was Phichit, returned from his dance, his partner nowhere in evidence. He was looking at Yuuri with wide eyes, flicking between Yuuri and Nikiforov.
“Phichit!” Yuuri greeted his friend, trying to telegraph a request for assistance. When Yuuri looked back to the baron, the Russian was standing, and Yuuri stood as well.
“Pardon me,” said Nikiforov smoothly, extending a hand to Phichit. “Baron Viktor Nikiforov, I’m afraid I intruded on your friend’s solitude, not realizing he was accompanied.”
“Oh!” said Phichit, still looking between them curiously. Yuuri frantically but silently begged his friend to play along. “Phichit Chulanont,” he introduced himself, shaking Nikiforov’s hand. He turned to Yuuri. “Yuuri?”
“We should really be leaving,” said Yuuri, grasping Phichit by the arm. “You’ll excuse us,” he said to the baron.
Baron Nikiforov bowed his head. “Of course. Perhaps we’ll meet again.” Yuuri locked eyes with him again. He had never realized how blue they were. He almost got lost in those eyes, but shook himself and pulled away with a bow.
He tugged Phichit towards the door, his friend starting to whisper urgently at him to ask what was going on, but Yuuri cut him off with a look. At the door Yuuri couldn’t help but turn around and look back in Nikiforov’s direction. He stumbled when he saw the baron was still watching him, eyes looking dark, all friendliness gone from his expression. Yuuri gasped and then spun to exit as quickly as possible.
Once they were outside Phichit spun and pulled his arm from Yuuri’s grip. “Yuuri! What in blazes are you doing, man?”
“Phichit, come on, please?” Phichit glared at him.
“What happened in there? What did the baron say to you?” Yuuri shrugged, walking down the street, forcing Phichit to hurry to catch up to him. “Did he insult you or something? Proposition you for something terribly filthy?”
Yuuri’s face burned and he shook his head. “No, no. He just asked me to dance.”
“So why didn’t you? You’ve been lusting for him for ages!”
“I...I just couldn’t Phichit. He...I don’t know what made him talk to me. I...you know how I get. I couldn’t do it.”
“Did you tell him we were a couple?” Yuuri shrugged.
“Not in so many words. He may have guessed and I let him think that. I didn’t know how else to...what else to do.”
“Yuuri, you’re utterly hopeless. The man of your dreams, literally, if I’m any judge, comes up to you and asks you to dance and you turn him down flat.” Phichit shook Yuuri by the shoulder.
“He’s not the man of my dreams, alright?” Yuuri hunched into himself. “Yes, he’s beautiful and interesting. But he’s nobility, and a playboy. There’s only one thing he would want me for, and it would only last a night. If that long. I’m not interested in that.”
“Yuuri, why not?” Phichit was grinning at him. “You know Nikiforov is probably a skilled lover, and he could teach you a thing or two. Or twelve.”
“Phichit! You know I’ve never...I couldn’t be with someone like him, with no idea what I’m doing! He’d laugh me out of bed.” Yuuri sighed. “Not that it would have ever gone that far. He was probably just curious because he’s never seen a Japanese man before. Or he heard some terrible lie about us that made him want to sleep with one.”
“Hmm, isn’t there a Japanese rent boy over at The Orient?” Phichit looked at Yuuri as if he would know.
“Which obviously means Viktor Nikiforov has slept with him,” said Yuuri acidly.
“Well, probably,” said Phichit and Yuuri found himself laughing despite himself.
“You’re terrible,” he told his friend, but they headed for home in a slightly better mood.