Actions

Work Header

pulses that beat double

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Weeks passed and eventually Yuuri stopped thinking about his encounter with Baron Viktor Nikiforov. He had turned their interaction over and over in his mind, to no avail. He remained mystified and confused by it. In the depths of the night he sometimes allowed himself to imagine what might have happened had he not rejected the man’s overtures. Eventually, however, he decided even an evening of pleasure with the baron was not something in the realm of possibility and resolved to think on it no more.

He was busy enough with his studies between lectures, demonstrations, time spent in laboratories and dissection rooms, and reading as much material as he could in his spare time. In addition to all this, he worked as an assistant to a physician in order to earn enough to pay his living expenses. His family had provided him with the funds to travel and pay university fees, but there wasn’t enough to cover his lodging and board as well.

Yuuri thought of his family’s bemused reactions to his desire to travel so far, and his heart ached to see them again. They hadn’t understood what motivated him, not truly, but had offered him their loving support all the same. He hadn’t anticipated missing his home and his family and friends this intensely. He had been in London for two years, and he valued the friendships he’d made here, but he still felt an echoing loneliness in his heart. He sometimes felt entirely alone, with no connections to the culture of his birth and no one who shared either his looks or his language. At times he spoke Japanese aloud to himself, merely to hear its comforting tones.

And so many of the Englishmen around him viewed him as a curiosity at best, a dangerous foreign heathen at worst. There were times when the stares of strangers overwhelmed him entirely and he hid away in his rooms rather than face the bustling streets. He had considered various ways to cover his face, from impractical masquerade masks to deep, unfashionable hoods. Instead he wore hats with wider than usual brims, bundled himself into thick scarves, and tried to hide behind his spectacles. Phichit laughed at him sometimes, teasing him that he wouldn’t find a lover by hiding himself away. But Yuuri know Phichit understood though the other man rarely let any self-consciousness on account of his own foreign appearance show. Phichit had mastered the art of appearing entirely unaware of any surprised or hostile glances, his manner at all times completely natural. Or perhaps he truly didn’t take note anymore.

Yuuri couldn’t brush off his own anxiety so easily. He tried to emulate his friend, but it all got to be too much for him at times. Many of his fellow students and instructors treated him with respect, once he’d proved himself to be a hard worker and intelligent. But some were openly hostile.

Unfortunately one such fellow student was also employed at the clinic where Yuuri worked as an assistant. His hostility had escalated from mocking looks to subtle jibes to outright bullying. Yuuri tried to grit his teeth and soldier on, ignoring him as much as possible. On one evening, however, Mr. James Witherly turned to outright sabotage of Yuuri’s work. He had followed behind Yuuri, undoing his efforts, contradicting his instructions to the nurses, and then bringing the attention of Dr. Beverton to Yuuri’s failures. Yuuri stood seething under the doctor’s admonishments, the injustice of the situation overcoming his reason. He had finally burst out with accusations against Mr. Witherly, and had perhaps used some immoderate language. He knew better. Dr. Beverton dismissed him on the spot, shocked at his aggression and ungentlemanly behaviour.

Yuuri stormed out in a rage, eager to clear the building before his tears fell. He had let that arrogant bastard Witherly bait him, had proven himself to be the savage foreigner some whispered behind his back that he was. Phichit was in their rooms when Yuuri arrived home, his eyes still red from crying angry tears. His friend met him with sympathy and listened as he ranted at the ignorant prejudices of the English, the injustice of his dismissal, and his despair over his future financial situation.

Once Yuuri had run out of outraged anger, Phichit convinced him to wash and change out of his soiled clothes. He insisted on taking Yuuri out, declaring they needed both a good meal and lots of wine. Yuuri tried to decline, much of him wanting simply to hide in his bedroom feeling sorry for himself. But Phichit did not relent, and Yuuri had to admit there was a certain appeal in drunkenness. So they headed for The Swan.

The Swan was a club that catered to the theatrical crowd. All sorts of men could be found there on any given night, especially in the late hours after the theatres had emptied. Unlike most of the men’s clubs of London, The Swan didn’t entirely forbid women, though only those with thoroughly compromised reputations ever dared cross the threshold. The Swan was Phichit’s home away from home, and Yuuri had grown to feel fairly comfortable there as well. The crowd was diverse and bohemian and they enjoyed having a pet medical student among their number. The worst he’d ever dealt with at The Swan was fending off the unwelcome advances of various men. Very occasionally, he’d allowed himself to be drawn aside by one or the other of them, exploring the possibilities of a liaison. But so far no one had seduced him entirely, and he was now known as a ‘difficult try.’

When Yuuri and Phichit arrived at the Swan it was still early and the club was mostly quiet. The only people already occupying the bar and tables were those currently out of work, and the occasional student. Phichit led Yuuri to the small dining room at the rear of the building and ordered dinner for them both.

“My treat,” he said. Yuuri gave him a strained smile, feeling a little ill about his sudden need to conserve every penny.

They dined on chops and potatoes, simple but filling, and consumed a bottle of claret between them. Yuuri felt himself relax under the influence of the food, wine, and Phichit’s babbling conversation. When they were finished with their meal they moved to the second floor lounge, securing a second bottle of wine. It wasn’t long before the first after-theatre patrons started trickling in. A couple of Phichit’s friends joined them and soon the room was awash in laughter and dramatic conversation.

The wine worked to soothe away the last of Yuuri’s worries. He found himself laughing loudly at a story about the opera’s current primadonna and her backstage antics.

“Mr. Chulanont!” called a deep, rich voice near the entrance.

“Mr. Giacometti!” Phichit greeted the newcomer. Yuuri looked up to see a handsome, well-dressed man standing in the doorway. He had shockingly dyed hair, with blond on top and dark brown underneath. His clothing was extremely well-cut, and showed his figure to great advantage. He presented a dandified air, even in the present company. There was something inherently sensual about him.

Mr. Giacometti moved towards their table and Yuuri’s breath caught in his throat. For behind him, hidden until now, was Viktor Nikiforov. He was attired in immaculate evening dress, with top hat and elegant cane still clutched in one hand. Yuuri’s eyes trailed over his figure, heat blossoming in his belly, the long, graceful limbs reminding him of his nocturnal imaginings. He only had a second to look his fill, however, because almost immediately Nikiforov’s eyes found Yuuri’s, his attention focused entirely on him.

Yuuri trembled under that piercing gaze. He thought he saw heat flare in the baron’s eyes, but dismissed it as doubtless a result of his own sudden arousal. Yuuri jerked his eyes away, looking to Phichit desperately. But Phichit was standing, greeting Mr. Giacometti warmly. He introduced the man to those he didn’t know. They came to Yuuri before long.

“This is my very good friend Yuuri Katsuki,” said Phichit, friendly hand resting on Yuuri’s arm.

“Yuuri, this is Christophe Giacometti. He is here from Switzerland for the season as a soloist. You may remember I mentioned him to you.” Yuuri shook the Swiss man’s hand and greeted him. He did remember Phichit telling him about the gorgeous Swiss dancer, with whom he’d spent a remarkable night of passion a few weeks prior. He recalled that Phichit had been rather effusive in his praise of the man, both professionally and personally. From the sparkling of Phichit’s eyes he could tell his friend was very pleased to see Giacometti again.

“This is my friend, Baron Viktor Nikiforov,” said Giacometti, drawing the baron forward for introductions.

“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Katsuki.” said Nikiforov, taking Yuuri’s hand and bowing over it slightly. Yuuri returned the bow from habit more than anything.

“Oh, you’ve met then?” said Giacometti curiously. Yuuri still couldn’t speak, his eye locked onto the baron’s.

“Yes, we have,” offered Phichit. “Briefly.” Nikiforov finally released Yuuri’s hand and broke their eye contact. He offered his hand to Phichit and they nodded to one another.

“Mr. Chulanont. A pleasure.” Nikiforov’s voice was velvet. Yuuri wanted to drown in it. His legs felt slightly weak, and he sat back in his chair, reaching thirstily for his wine glass. The newcomers settled into chairs pulled around their small, increasingly crowded table. Baron Nikiforov placed his chair directly opposite Yuuri, so Yuuri could not escape seeing him anytime he looked up. He could feel the heat of the baron’s gaze on him, almost making him feel unclothed and exposed. He had no idea what to do with the things the baron was causing him to feel. So he turned his eyes downwards and drank.

Conversation washed over him, and he occasionally answered a direct query or nodded as if he was following along. Their group grew in number rather startlingly after it was noticed that the infamous Baron Nikiforov was present. Young, beautiful men vied to sit next to him, introduced themselves to him in sly, seductive tones. Yuuri tried to watch this activity from the corner of his eye. He thought the baron seemed amused, particularly at the less subtle advances. One young fop in particular almost blatantly offered himself to the baron in a display that made Yuuri wince in embarrassment and turn away. Another man practically hung from Nikiforov’s arm and Yuuri nearly thought he might fall to his knees and start fellating him at any moment. The thought caused a spike of arousal to shoot through him and Yuuri cursed his own imagination.

“We’re commiserating with Yuuri tonight, so everyone should buy him drinks.” Phichit’s voice pierced the fog in Yuuri’s mind. “He was dismissed from his employment today, so he’s going to be begging for the kindness of his friends soon.”

Yuuri flushed and glared at his friend. “Phichit!” he complained. Phichit just smiled at him and pulled him into a one-armed embrace.

“It’s alright, Yuuri, you know I will cover your part of the rent if I have to,” he said. Yuuri’s cheeks continued to burn but he shot his friend a grateful look all the same.

“I’ll...I’ll figure something out,” he said sincerely. “Don’t concern yourself.” Yuuri was swamped with offers of drinks, then, everyone expressing their sympathy. He smiled and laughed a little, finally accepting another glass from a musician he knew slightly.

In the confusion he caught sight of Nikiforov again. He was watching Yuuri and Phichit, his eyes on the casual hand Phichit had placed on Yuuri’s thigh. Yuuri belatedly remembered that he’d led the baron to believe he and Phichit were involved. Well, their current behaviour must appear as confirmation.

He did his best to ignore the distracting presence of the beautiful man across from him. He didn’t quite succeed, his body feeling attuned to him even when Yuuri resolutely refused to look in his direction. He had to look up when he heard the man’s soft voice addressing him, however.

“Champagne, Mr. Katsuki?” Yuuri met those dancing blue eyes. He took the champagne flute Nikiforov held out to him, intensely aware of how close their fingers came to touching as he did so.

“Thank you,” he said, sipping the drink.

“Those are the first words you’ve said to me all night,” murmured the baron lowly. Yuuri sucked in a breath at the intimacy of his tone. He leaned back, away from the baron, too flustered to know how to respond. The baron merely watched him impassively and Yuuri felt exposed to his sight again.

As the hour grew later, their party grew louder and less restrained. A couple of actors kissed passionately in the corner of the room, and flirtations grew bolder everywhere. A gorgeous man with a painted face sat on the arm of Baron Nikiforov’s chair, with the baron’s arm around his waist. And to Yuuri’s right, Christophe Giacometti pulled a giggling Phichit onto his lap. The two seemed entirely wrapped up in one another, not caring about anyone else. Yuuri was glad to see his friend look so happy. But he felt Nikiforov’s heavy gaze on his face and turned to meet his eyes.

Nikiforov looked from Yuuri to Christophe and Phichit and back pointedly. He raised a delicate eyebrow. Yuuri felt panic rise in his throat. He knew Yuuri had lied. Something in Yuuri’s chest squeezed and he felt he couldn’t breathe properly. He dragged his eyes from the baron and stood abruptly.

“Excuse me,” he mumbled, pushing past the crowd and fleeing in the direction of the retiring rooms. He passed through a hall of closed doors which led to small rooms which could be hired for those needing more discreet spaces. The sounds of vigorous lovemaking emanated from behind one of the doors, adding to Yuuri’s flustered and embarrassed state.

Once in the washroom he splashed his face with water, smoothing his hair back from his brow. He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. He told himself that there was no reason to care what Baron Nikiforov thought of him. He had no connection to the man, and if he had misled him, it was his own business. He didn’t know why he seemed so interested in Yuuri, but he could surely find bed partners aplenty if he wished it. Yuuri tried to tamp down his own lust and curiosity about the baron. He could barely be in the man’s presence without falling apart, so surely there was no way he could ever become acquainted with him more intimately.

After some minutes he felt calmer. He had consumed too much wine that evening, and it was eroding his self-control. It was time to leave and return home, whether Phichit joined him or not. (Yuuri would be quite surprised if the Siamese man didn’t spend the night with his Swiss friend.) Yuuri exited the room and started back towards the main area of the club.

After only a couple of steps, however, he looked up and came to a sudden halt. Viktor Nikiforov stood there, leaning casually against the wall. The baron raised his eyebrows at Yuuri in a speculative fashion. The sounds of copulation continued from somewhere to their right, causing Yuuri’s face to burn.

Nikiforov came towards Yuuri, moving slowly. Yuuri remained rooted to the spot. The Russian stopped only inches shy of Yuuri.

“You lied to me,” he said, tone slightly petulant. Yuuri stiffened his spine.

“No,” he said. “I didn’t lie. You made an assumption.” He held the baron’s gaze, his voice remarkably even. “I may have...failed to correct you.” Nikiforov’s eyes sparkled.

“Were you so desperate to be rid of me?” the baron asked, stepping even closer. Yuuri waged a war between the conflicting desire to step back and lean forward. He trembled slightly in place.

“I...” He couldn’t think of what to say. Nikiforov was far too close, his eyes too entrancing. The baron raised a hand and brushed his thumb over Yuuri’s slightly parted lips.

“Do you think one of those rooms is vacant?” whispered the baron, lips so close to Yuuri’s. Yuuri hesitated for the space of one breath, two. Then he shook himself and stepped back.

“I’m sure they’re occupied,” he said flatly, his refusal hopefully clear. “If you’ll excuse me, I must be getting home.” He eased past the larger man and started walking briskly away from him down the hall.

“Yuuri, wait,” Nikiforov called. Yuuri stopped despite himself, part of him wishing he was rude enough to keep walking. Part of him singing that the baron had called to him. He turned slowly around, plastering a polite mask on his face.

Nikiforov approached him, his body language much more casual than it had been a moment ago. “I have a proposition for you” he said. Yuuri blinked at him, confused.

“I thought that was a proposition.” Nikiforov’s face cracked into a wide grin and he laughed.

“Ha! It was, lovely boy.” Yuuri stiffened at the endearment. Nikiforov looked contrite and sobered. “I have a different proposition for you,” he clarified. “If I understood your friend correctly, you are in need of funds.” Yuuri frowned but nodded hesitantly.

“Well, I could help you there,” said Nikiforov easily. “And in exchange-”

“I’m not...” interrupted Yuuri, shocked. “I’m not for sale!” The baron’s eyes widened in reaction.

“I didn’t mean that, precisely,” he began.

“I think you did mean exactly that,” said Yuuri, indignant. “I’m not a whore, no matter what you may think. I’m a medical student. And I can certainly find some other way to earn money than on my back!”

“Yuuri!” Nikiforov extended a hand to him, a silent plea for him to wait. “I truly didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean to insult you. I know you’re not...” He took a breath. “You didn’t let me finish. I was going to ask for your company. I need an escort for a diplomatic function at the embassy next week. Someone respectable.” Yuuri stared at him.

“Me?” he asked, feeling like an idiot even as he spoke.

“Yes, of course. You’re perfect.” Nikiforov smiled at him.

“And you want to pay me.”

“It could be a mutually beneficial arrangement.” Yuuri was still feeling deeply confused. He opened his mouth, but couldn’t find the right words for what he wanted to ask.

“In exchange for...escorting you to a party. Nothing more?” He bit his lip.

Nikiforov looked hesitant for a moment. “No. Not unless...only if you wished. I certainly wouldn’t object to something more. But I’m not asking or expecting it.”

“Only for one night?” Yuuri was still looking for the catch.

“If you prefer...however if all goes well, there are many such events in my calendar.” Yuuri searched the Russian’s face for several long moments. He appeared genuine.

“I’m sure you could have the company of a great number of people without paying them,” he said finally.

Nikiforov sighed. “I’m sure you’re correct. But nothing comes without strings attached in this world, Yuuri. I have no interest in playing by society’s rules regarding with whom I keep company. I prefer things to be clear and any expectations made plain up front.”

Yuuri blinked. “That...makes a deal of sense,” he said, surprised. The baron huffed a laugh.

“Then you’ll assent and save me from the grasping of society’s claws?” he asked dramatically.

“I...I suppose?” Yuuri could hardly believe what he was saying, but it was too late to undo, as was evident from the triumphant expression on the baron’s face.

“Excellent!” He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket, retrieving a delicate silver case. He flipped it open to reveal a small pad of paper and a tiny silver pencil. “Here, write your address and I’ll send you the details tomorrow.”

Yuuri took the small notebook and did as instructed. When he handed it back, his hand brushed Nikiforov’s, the warmth of the other man’s skin feeling like a brand for a moment. After a lingering look into one another’s eyes, Yuuri stepped back. He hesitated, not sure if he should turn to leave or not.

“Oh. It will require full evening dress, of course,” commented Nikiforov, eyeing Yuuri’s dinner jacket. Yuuri flushed. He hadn’t needed to wear full dress since his arrival in London. He was not accustomed to moving in refined society, certainly not any occasion where a well-made dinner jacket was inappropriate. His thoughts raced. He could have a dress jacket made in time, possibly, but he didn’t have the funds.

“I...” he began, suddenly distressed to have to turn the baron’s offer down. For lack of clothing!

“Don’t fret!” interrupted Nikiforov. “It’s no trouble. I will have my tailor manage something for you. I’ll send those details as well.” He shot Yuuri a bright smile.

“Y-your tailor?” Yuuri echoed. He didn’t doubt that any tailor Baron Viktor Nikiforov patronised would be the best (and most expensive) in London. “I...I couldn’t.”

Nikiforov shook his head with a smile. “Please, I insist. I must have you looking your absolute best, after all.” Yuuri smiled, his head spinning.

“This is all...mad.” In fact, Yuuri wouldn’t be surprised to wake up and find this was a wine-induced dream.

“Perhaps,” admitted Nikiforov, his eyes sparkling. “But exciting, isn’t it?” And he did look excited. Excited to be with Yuuri? Yuuri’s heart thumped in his chest. He shook his head in wonder and smiled at the expression on the baron’s face. His incredibly beautiful face. Yuuri suddenly realized he’d turned down his chance to have this man make love to him. If he hadn’t been so terrified, they could already be...he swallowed.

“I should go,” he said finally, looking to the baron as if for permission.

“I look forward to our next meeting,” said Nikiforov with a low bow. Yuuri bowed in the manner of his own people. He turned away. “Do you?” asked the baron in a much less confident voice.

“I’m sorry?”

“Do you look forward to our evening together with pleasant anticipation?” Nikiforov’s mouth was teasing but his eyes looked serious and uncertain.

“Yes,” said Yuuri truthfully. He smiled shyly and then turned again, walking away calmly.

His facade of calm lasted him long enough to get back to the group of loud revellers in the lounge. He approached Phichit, who was locked in a passionate embrace with Giacometti. He tapped awkwardly on his friend’s shoulder, startling him.

“Ah, Yuuri!” he said, face flushed and breathless.

“I’m leaving,” Yuuri told him.

“Oh! Are you well? Do you need me to go with you?” Phichit looked concerned. Yuuri knew his friend was aware of his occasional difficulties with crowds. He’d proven himself a true friend on the occasions he’d cared for Yuuri in his weaker moments.

“No, no, I’m fine. Just tired, and I have a lecture tomorrow.” His lecture wasn’t until the afternoon, but it sounded plausible.

“You’re sure?” Yuuri smiled down at his friend and looked briefly at Giacometti’s face. The dancer smiled and waited patiently to learn his fate.

“I’m sure. You enjoy yourself,” he told Phichit. He allowed himself to smirk at little.

“Alright, but take a cab, Yuuri,” Phichit instructed. “Wait, do you need fare?” He dug in his pocket for coins. Yuuri blinked and tried to demure, but the truth was he didn’t have enough for the cab and he had intended to walk. Walking the dark streets alone was never the best idea, though it wasn’t entirely unusual for him.

“Here,” said Phichit, letting several coins tumble into Yuuri’s hand.

“Thanks,” Yuuri accepted with a sigh. He turned to see Viktor Nikiforov standing in the doorway, watching him impassively. Yuuri coloured in embarrassment, though Nikiforov surely knew about his poverty. He turned to go, waving farewell to Phichit and his paramour.

“I’ll walk you out. I’m leaving as well.” It was Nikiforov’s voice from behind him. Yuuri turned, surprised.

“Viktor!” cried Giacometti. “Leaving already?” He looked between his friend and Yuuri speculatively.

“Yes, Christophe. Goodnight.” His declaration inspired a round of complaints and imprecations from various occupants of the room. He waved them all off and took Yuuri by the elbow to lead him away.

Yuuri’s heart was in his throat, unsure of Nikiforov’s intentions. Did he intend to make another proposition? If he did...Yuuri didn’t think he had the nerve to refuse the man twice in one night. Not to mention how much he was starting to regret not accepting him at once.

They moved down the stairs and out into the cool night air. Nikiforov asked the doorman to call for a cab. He released Yuuri’s arm to reach into his jacket pocket again. He removed a leather wallet and pulled a crisp banknote from it. He extended it to Yuuri, folded in half. Yuuri blinked at him.

“Here,” he insisted. “For your expenses. To last you until we see one another again.” Yuuri didn’t move. There was something...unpleasant about having the man casually thrust money at him in that manner.

“You don’t need...” he started, but Nikiforov huffed in frustration. He folded the note again and tucked it into Yuuri’s breast pocket.

“Don’t be daft,” he said. Yuuri looked away from him as a cab clattered to a stop. He stepped toward it, hesitated and glancing back at the baron. The baron stepped forward and took Yuuri’s hand. He assisted Yuuri into the cab as if he were a delicate woman, encumbered by heavy skirts. Ridiculous as it was it made Yuuri feel warm in a way he didn’t entirely understand.

“Goodnight,” he called to the baron, who had made no attempt to climb after him. Nikiforov smiled at him, his whole face lighting up.

“Goodnight, Yuuri. I’ll see you soon.” Yuuri smiled back at him, still marveling at how beautiful one man could be, as the cab jolted into motion. He covered his face with his hands, pressing against his closed eyes as if he could make himself wake from this dream. But all was the same when he took his hands away. And Yuuri couldn’t stop smiling.

Chapter Text

Yuuri spent a restless night in his narrow bed, tossing and turning, running his conversation with Baron Nikiforov over and over in his mind. His mind also conjured images of an alternate conclusion of their interaction, the two of them entwined, moaning their pleasure in a small room off the corridor where they had stood. It was only after bringing himself to climax to these thoughts that he was able to slip into unconsciousness.

He was still drinking his tea the next morning when Phichit returned to their flat. Phichit looked thoroughly dishevelled, his clothing rumpled, tie askew, and eyes gleaming. Yuuri couldn’t help returning his friend’s wide grin, despite the anxiety rolling in his belly.

“Had a good night?” he teased.

“Mmm,” Phichit made a dramatic sweep of his arm Yuuri took to be an affirmative. “Tired though. Need to sleep before this evening’s rehearsal.”

“Right,” said Yuuri. He hesitated. He had intended to share the events of last night with his friend as soon as he appeared. But he didn’t want to interfere with Phichit’s sleep, and he sensed telling his friend would lead to a lengthy conversation. He also had a lecture to prepare for.

Yuuri waved to Phichit as the other man disappeared into his bedroom. Yuuri remained in his chair for a while, turning over Nikiforov’s proposition. It still didn’t feel real. He had a hard time believing the baron had actually asked such a thing of him, and even more difficulty believing he’d accepted it. Surely there had been some mistake. Had the baron been drunk? Yuuri had been fairly inebriated by that time. Perhaps Nikiforov wouldn’t even remember their conversation. Perhaps he regretted it this morning. In that case surely it would be the correct thing to do for Yuuri not to hold him to their agreement. If the baron even contacted him, he could...what? Say he’d rather not? Pretend to be deathly ill? Plead a previous engagement? Flee the country?

Yuuri took a deep breath. He considered the idea that Nikiforov simply wouldn’t contact him. A cold hand clutched in his chest. If that happened it would be confirmation of all Yuuri’s worst fears: it would imply he wasn’t even worth the trouble remembering for 24 hours. Forcing himself to accept how disappointed he would be if he didn’t hear from the baron made him realise how much he was actually looking forward to seeing the man again. He was also completely terrified of it, of course. A diplomatic party? He had no idea what that even entailed.

The clock on the mantle chimed the hour and Yuuri jerked out of his reverie. His tea was gone cold and he needed to make himself ready for his lecture. Yuuri tried to push all thoughts of Baron Nikiforov from his mind, though he doubted he would be successful.

~~~~~

Yuuri’s afternoon and early evening were taken up by his studies. He missed the evening meal provided by his landlady so he ate standing up at a coffee shop counter, avoiding the stares of the workmen who surrounded him.

When he returned to his rooms he found Phichit newly returned from rehearsal as well. He was preparing for a new ballet which began in a couple of weeks. Yuuri looked to the hall table where their mail was left by the landlady’s girl every day. He saw nothing which looked like it could be from the baron. His heart sank.

“Looking for something?” asked Phichit from where he was stretched out on their sofa. His tone was knowing. Yuuri jerked his head up and shot him a questioning glance. “Are you?” Phichit repeated.

“Phichit,” warned Yuuri.

“Because you received this strange piece of mail,” here Phichit produced a large cream-coloured square from beside him. “And I can’t imagine who would send you such an illustrious-looking letter. See? The seal is an actual crest.” Yuuri rushed forward and tried to snatch the letter, but Phichit twitched it away and pretended to examine it more closely. “And are those Russian characters?”

Yuuri finally succeeded at claiming the letter from between his friend’s fingers. He looked at the seal, which did have a word written in Cyrillic.

“Yuuri,” asked Phichit. “Why is Baron Viktor Nikiforov sending you letters?” He eyed Yuuri expectantly, like a schoolteacher waiting for an explanation from a naughty pupil.

“It’s not letters, it’s only one letter,” mumbled Yuuri as he broke the seal and opened it. Phichit would have to wait, Yuuri couldn’t bear another moment passing without having read what Nikiforov had sent him. He noted absently that the paper was thick and heavy, the writing beautifully formed in heavy strokes. The ink was an unconventional blue colour, almost the colour of Nikiforov’s eyes. Yuuri flushed at that thought, remembering how captivated he’d been by those eyes the night before.

My Dear Mr. Katsuki,

I want to repeat how gratified I am that you have accepted my invitation. I eagerly anticipate spending more time in your company.

The dinner is next Thursday evening at the Russian embassy. I’m sure it will be incredibly dull, as all such gatherings must be, but the food and music will be excellent and I hope that with your delightful presence at my side I will enjoy myself more than I usually do. I will call for you at your address at half past six on Thursday.

I have spoken with my tailor regarding your attire, and he has assured me he can have something suitable ready in time. I have enclosed his direction and beg you to visit him tomorrow if at all possible.

I am reminded that you told me you do not dance. However I believe you also misled me about certain other facts in the same conversation, so you will forgive me if I ask if that was entirely true. If so, I will prepare myself for a sedentary evening, but I must admit I find myself in the strange position of hoping you lied to me. I find myself wanting to see how your graceful figure moves on a dance floor.

If you furnish me with the amount you currently require towards your lodging, I will make arrangements for you to receive it. If you have any further questions or needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me at the above address. Until we meet again,

I am your servant,

Viktor, Baron Nikiforov

Yuuri finished reading the letter, and let himself collapse into the armchair nearby. He could hear his heart thudding in his ears as he reread select sections of the letter.

“Yuuri!” Phichit was eyeing him, desperate for an explanation. Yuuri shook his head and just passed the letter to his friend. Phichit read it wide-eyed, making occasional exclamations under his breath. Yuuri nibbled on the skin around his nails while he waited. Phichit looked up, wide-eyed.

“You’re going to a dinner. With Baron Viktor Nikiforov.”

“Eh, perhaps?”

“What do you mean, perhaps?” Phichit thundered at him. “You are obsessed with the man, you’ve been in love with him for over a year!”

Yuuri winced. “I’m not in love with him! I...I find him attractive. I don’t even know him. I don’t know what to think about this, Phichit! I wasn’t sure if he would even remember or still want me to escort him.”

“Alright, Yuuri. Let’s start at the beginning. What exactly happened between you too?” So Yuuri related the events of last night as well as he could.

“Wait, you’re saying that you refused his advances? Viktor Nikiforov suggested you accompany him into a bedroom and you turned him down.” Phichit shook his head slowly.

“Phichit! I’m not...you know I’ve never...” Yuuri’s face was red, he could feel it.

“Well, yes, but you have vanished for periods of time with attractive men on a few occasions that I remember. And besides, he’s Baron Nikiforov, the man who could have anyone he wanted with a snap of his fingers.”

“Exactly! What does he want with me?” Yuuri threw his hands in the air in frustration. “This doesn’t make any sense.” He belatedly remembered the rest of Phichit’s argument. “And while I have had a kiss here and there…well and perhaps more, that doesn’t mean I’m prepared for someone like...him.”

“Yuuri...I believe you’ve left a string of broken hearts behind you stretching all the way to Japan. Why wouldn’t Nikiforov be interested in you? You’re gorgeous and intelligent and kind. Possibly your refusal is what made him offer you this invitation. Speaking of which, you haven’t explained the nature of this agreement. He’s paying you?”

“That’s...that’s what he said. He offered to pay me in exchange for my company. Since you told everyone how poor I am.” Yuuri glared at his friend, who shrugged. “He wants to pay for my evening dress as well! At his own tailor, Phichit!” Yuuri mentally reviewed his schedule. If he needed to go to the tailor tomorrow, he would have to get up early to ensure he would be finished before his time in the laboratory.

“So what else did you agree to, Yuuri?” Phichit’s tone was careful. Yuuri frowned at him.

“What do you mean?”

“Yuuri, it sounds like...like he expects to receive...full access in exchange for all this.”

Yuuri threw up his hands. “I know! But I told him that wasn’t acceptable. I told him I wasn’t for sale! And he insisted that wasn’t what he meant.”

“Did you believe him? I’ve heard of rich men doing this kind of thing, of course. It’s practically common for dancers and actors to receive these kinds of offers. In those cases, however, everyone understands the nature of the expectation.”

Yuuri sighed. He hadn’t considered that this may be something Nikiforov had done before. He was known to be a patron of the arts, and Yuuri was well acquainted with the rumours regarding the baron’s associations with opera singers and ballet dancers. In that context, perhaps his actions made more sense. He hadn’t succeeded at winning Yuuri over at first try, so he had offered what enticements he could. “So you think I should refuse him?” he asked Phichit.

“Refuse?” Phichit sighed. “Yuuri, what do you want to do?”

Yuuri thought it over. He remembered his distress when he’d decided Nikiforov would forget him. And his excitement at reading the compliments the baron had written to him. The truth was, Yuuri wanted another chance with him, another opportunity to make himself appear worthier of such a man’s admiration. He didn’t know if he was capable of following through and making love to him, though. A significant part of himself wanted to try, however.

“I...I think I want to go,” he said softly.

“Even if he’ll be expecting...physical attention?”

“I...I don’t know.” Yuuri hid his face in his hands. “A man like that, he must expect...a skilled partner, mustn’t he? I don’t even know how...” He peeked at his friend throw his fingers.

“Hmm. If he was looking for someone with lots of experience, I’d guess he knows where to find it.” Phichit looked at him with a critical eye. “You’re pretty, but you don’t usually leave an impression of being worldly. Except occasionally when you’ve imbibed too much.” Yuuri groaned, a couple of nights in the Swan that he’d prefer to forget springing to mind. “Did he say anything to you about why he wanted you? They usually do, you know.”

Yuuri thought back. “He said he...needed someone respectable. He wanted to avoid members of polite society, I believe to avoid matrimonial pursuit, though he didn’t say it in so many words.”

“Well there you go. He needs a respectable escort who won’t expect marriage...you’re fairly perfect, all things considered. I imagine in that case he may view the possibility of a tryst with a beautiful Japanese man as an added course to the buffet, so to speak.” Phichit looked happy to have figured out the puzzle of Baron Viktor Nikiforov.

Yuuri frowned but nodded. He supposed it did make sense. It wasn’t the most flattering interpretation possible, not the secret hope of his heart that whispered that perhaps Nikiforov had fallen completely and deeply in love with him upon first sight for some unknowable reason. He mentally shook himself to chase away that line of thought. Yuuri wasn’t that kind of romantic. He was a man of science, he believed in what he could observe. Emotions had always been a hindrance to him, not something he wanted to experience in greater number.

Still he valued new experiences. It was partly his motivation for travelling so far from home to study. He’d considered his romantic life more and more since arriving in London. He wanted the opportunity to experience a physical connection with another, and he couldn’t think of anyone better for that experiment than someone like Viktor Nikiforov. If he could overcome his own nervous and shy nature long enough, that is.

“I want to go through with it,” he announced.

“Wonderful!” Phichit’s eyes sparkled at him. “So you are going to the fitting at his tailor tomorrow? Ooo, who is it?” Phichit flipped past the letter to the sheet below, where the information regarding the tailor was. “Russell of Savile Row. Hmm, not the most famous...interesting. You have to take me with you!”

“What?”

“I need to go with you, Yuuri. First of all, to make sure you go through with it, because I know you. Second of all, because neither of us is ever going to have the money to get our suits made by a tailor like this ever again. I need to be present to enjoy the experience vicariously. Also to help you select the perfect fabrics.”

“Phichit, I’m just getting evening dress. It will be black, and it will look like every other evening wear at the dinner.” Yuuri wasn’t going to admit aloud that he would be grateful for his friend’s company the next day, to help assuage his nerves.

“Not if Baron Viktor Nikiforov’s tailor is making it!” Yuuri smiled. Phichit had a love of fashion that Yuuri simply didn’t share. He appreciated the strict rules of Western society in the matter of menswear, and had no desire to experiment as Phichit and so many of his artist friends did.

The next day saw the two friends strolling arm in arm down Savile Row to the shop of Mr. George Russell, bespoke tailor. They were greeted by a clerk immediately upon entering.

“Mr. Katsuki?” the young man asked, looking to Yuuri.

“Oh. Yes.” Yuuri was surprised to be greeted by name. He’d imagined he might have to explain his purpose and provide Nikiforov’s name before he would be welcomed.

“Baron Nikiforov informed us you would be coming and acquainted us with your needs. If you’ll follow me?” The well-dressed man led the way to the rear of the shop and through an open doorway to a small lounge area provided with richly tufted leather armchairs and a pair of large standing mirrors.

“If you’ll make yourselves comfortable, gentlemen, I’ll just fetch Mr. Russell. Would you care for something to drink? Whisky or wine, perhaps?”

“Oh,” said Yuuri, startled. “It’s a bit early in the day for me. I have...another appointment this afternoon.”

“Tea, then, perhaps?” offered the clerk.

“No, that’s not...” Yuuri began, not wanting to cause any bother.

“That sounds lovely, thank you,” interrupted Phichit, a hand on Yuuri’s arm. “And maybe a splash of whisky in my cup,” he added with a wink at the clerk. The clerk blushed but bowed his head and left them.

Yuuri glared at Phichit. “Do I offend you?” asked his friend.

“You don’t have to make eyes at every attractive man you see, do you?” Yuuri said in a low whisper.

“Mmm, sometimes I do. Yuuri, you must get more comfortable acting like you belong in your environment. Especially if you’re going to be kept by Viktor Nikiforov.”

“Keep your voice down!” he hissed. “I’m not being kept, Phichit. I’m just escorting him to a function.” Phichit looked like he wanted to argue with Yuuri’s characterisation of the situation, but before he could speak the clerk returned in company with a middle aged man with bushy side-whiskers and golden-framed spectacles perched on his nose.

“Mr. Katsuki?” asked the older man.

“Yes?” Yuuri forced himself to take a step forward. The tailor eyed him, taking in his full figure from head to toe.

“Hmm,” he said, and Yuuri wondered if he should be offended. He knew he wasn’t a man with any particular beauty of form, however. “You’re in need of evening dress by Thursday evening?”

“Yes, sir,” he agreed. He wanted to apologise for the imposition, but didn’t feel it was entirely his place.

“Is there a reason it needs to be fully bespoke?” The man lifted one judgemental eyebrow at Yuuri.

“I…I…” Yuuri couldn’t manage a better response.

“Is that what the Baron requested?” interrupted Phichit. Mr. Russell frowned at him.

“Yes, I informed him it was a remarkably short time frame and that we might have a sample garment that would be suitable, but he wouldn’t hear of it and demanded it be made with his own favoured fabrics.” Yuuri swallowed and bit his lip.

“I…I know it’s an imposition, but I think…if that’s what Baron Nikiforov wants…” He wouldn’t have any problem with a pre-made suit, so long as it fit, but if Nikiforov had preferences about fabrics… Surely he would be able to tell the difference. And it was his money.

The tailor gave him a final severe look down his nose and then tilted his head to one side as if acknowledging the point. Yuuri caught an apologetic look from his assistant. Perhaps the man was always this grumpy, though Yuuri suspected he was being judged as beneath the man’s art.

The next hour was spent being measured and trying various articles on. Yuuri was thankful that the assistant did most of this, as he wasn’t sure he could have tolerated the condescension of the proprietor at length. He was both relieved and a touch affronted that his own opinion was never consulted. Rather the two men referenced “the Baron’s taste” in cut and fabric. Yuuri felt more like a mannequin than a person by the end of the fitting.

He wished he had accepted the offer of alcohol because he was feeling decidedly shaky by the time the fitting came to an end. Phichit, on the other hand, appeared to enjoy the experience immensely, flirting with the assistant and grinning at Yuuri from a chair in the corner. He offered cheeky suggestions which were universally ignored, except when they made the assistant snicker.

Yuuri made an appointment to return on Wednesday for a fitting of his suit so that it would be ready in time and then he parted ways with Phichit so he could make his afternoon lecture.

~~~~~

The days before the embassy dinner passed swiftly. Yuuri always stayed busy with his studies and his shifts in one of the nearby charity hospitals. He tried to avoid thinking of his upcoming evening with Nikiforov as much as possible, though he had limited success. When he had a moment of quiet his thoughts invariably turned to wondering what could have possibly motivated the baron to invite him, of all people. Yuuri could only assume his interest was sexual and he couldn’t decide if the thought repulsed him or excited him. While he found the idea of being paid for physical intimacy offensive to his pride, he couldn’t help from imagining what it might be like to have Nikiforov to himself for a night. He tried to decide how he would act when the moment came to accept or refuse him and suspected he would swallow his pride and give in to his desire.

Thursday arrived at last, and so did his completed suit. Yuuri felt a fraud as he donned it, the lustrous cloth sliding smoothly under his rough fingers, the white silk of the waistcoat and tie shimmering in the gaslight. He had no wish to know how much it had cost for this to be made at such speed. He would probably be unable to wear it if he knew. He slicked his hair back with pomade and decided to leave his spectacles off. He could see well enough to eat and converse without them. And he wanted to look his best for the baron, though he knew he could never do someone that beautiful justice.

When he studied himself in the looking glass he thought the transformation was, indeed, noticeable. Dressed in this finery he looked like someone who might belong among nobility, who perhaps might not be out of place at an embassy. Perhaps his foreign appearance would even assist in that impression for once. He took several deep breaths and forced himself to focus on his goals. He needed to make it through this evening without making a fool of himself or Baron Nikiforov. And then he would have money for his rent, and…whatever happened with Nikiforov would happen and it would be over.

He was grateful Phichit was at rehearsal this evening. For while his friend was a great support to him, his sense of humour would doubtless cause him to make all kinds of insinuations about the coming evening. Yuuri was grateful to be able to sit quietly in the sitting room until he heard footsteps on the stairs which lead to their flat. A brisk knock sounded and Yuuri took one final steadying breath before opening the door.

He jerked backwards in surprise to see Baron Nikiforov himself standing in the doorway. He’d expected one of his landlady’s sons, or perhaps a coachman. Instead Viktor Nikiforov stood there with a wide smile on his face, looking like a work of art incongruously installed in the shabby tenement.

“Yuuri!” the baron exclaimed, clapping his gloved hands together in delight. “You look…exquisite, dorogoy. I shall be the envy of all with you on my arm.” He turned slightly and extended his crooked arm in invitation. Yuuri’s face was hot from the ridiculous flattery and he had a sudden urge to turn and flee to the safety of his room. Of course that wasn’t an option, and the baron would probably take that as a lewd invitation, so he made himself step forward and take his arm.

Nikiforov covered the hand on his arm with his own and froze for a moment, his eyes locking with Yuuri’s. He seemed to be searching for something and Yuuri tensed in fear that he might be disappointed with whatever he saw. But after several seconds Nikiforov’s gaze softened and he gave a small, gentle smile.

“Don’t be afraid, my dear. I’ll take care of you,” he said and Yuuri felt suddenly short of breath. “Shall we go?”

“Alright,” said Yuuri in a small voice he hardly recognised as his own.

Chapter Text

Yuuri spent the ride to the Russian embassy in a haze of nervous anticipation mixed with the tension of sitting so incredibly close to Baron Nikiforov. Only a few inches of air separated them on the seat of the coach. Yuuri could feel the heat of the man’s body, or perhaps he only imagined he could. He sat stiffly, his hands clutched together in his lap as if they might wander if he didn’t concentrate on holding them still.

“Are you always so quiet, or is it that my company fails to stimulate you?” Nikiforov asked. Yuuri jolted from his reverie, his mind snagging on the innuendo underlying the words. He felt an urge to make sure the baron knew his silence wasn’t due to boredom.

“I-I’m quiet a lot of the time. Especially when I’m nervous,” he admitted. He made himself look up at his companion. The baron smiled and it was infectious, bringing a small smile to Yuuri’s lips as well.

“Nervous, mmm? What are you nervous about, my dear?” Yuuri smiled wryly. What wasn’t he nervous about?

“I’ve never been to any event like this. Not in England, at any rate.”

“The good news is you won’t be in England, but Russia, for all intents and purposes,” said Nikiforov with a smile.

Yuuri returned it and asked, “Is there much difference?”

“Hmm, mostly better food.” He winked down at Yuuri.

“Do you miss your homeland, my lord?” he asked, trying to distract himself from the nerves roiling in his belly.

“Oh, Yuuri, no,” said the other man in a disappointed tone. Yuuri frowned up at him, trying to decide if the baron was answering his question or not. “Not ‘my lord,’” the Russian clarified. “Please, you must call me Viktor. At the very least when we are alone. I insist.” Yuuri blushed at the look in the baron’s eyes. The thought of using his given name sent a quiet thrill through him.

“I…very well. Viktor.” His face burned hotter at the familiarity.

“Wonderful. Yuuri,” said the baron with a teasing glint. “Which reminds me, what is the proper way to introduce you, formally? I don’t know anything about Japanese customs.”

“Oh. Er, well, we actually put the family name first, so I would be Katsuki Yuuri at home. Honorifics work different there as well. People here just call me Mr. Katsuki, though. That’s fine.”

“Really? How interesting. What would you be called at home, then?” Viktor looked genuinely interested, rather than asking from politeness, so Yuuri relaxed a little.

“To most people, Katsuki-san. Or my full name if other members of my family were around.”

“What would a…lover call you?” Nikiforov’s— Viktor’s voice was low and Yuuri felt the puff of his breath against his ear. He repressed a shiver.

“Uh. Uh. Just…Yuuri, I guess.” He knew his face was beet red, and he was starting to sweat in his new suit.

“You guess? What did your lovers call you?” Yuuri risked a glance at Viktor but quickly had to look away from the other man’s amused face. Yuuri didn’t like being laughed at and he stiffened. He didn’t respond, but turned to look out of the window of the coach at the blur of passing buildings.

“Yuuri?” asked Viktor. “I’m sorry. Did I offend you?”

Yuuri took a deep breath. Strangely enough his annoyance with the baron made him feel calmer. He had a hard time dealing with the kind but insinuating manner the man had adopted thus far without going weak with attraction. Arrogance and amusement at his expense put him on a much more familiar ground. “You were laughing at me.”

“Was I?” asked the baron, apparently surprised. Yuuri’s frown deepened.

“You looked as if you were.”

“Perhaps…I was teasing a bit. Only because you’re so delightful when you blush.” To Yuuri’s annoyance he felt his face heat once more. “Yes, like that. Yuuri, I was only asking…in case I ever needed to know what was appropriate.” Yuuri couldn’t help looking at the man’s face again. There was heat in his eyes, but also something else, something more hesitant. “I didn’t intend any mockery. I apologise.” The words were said with such sincerity that Yuuri found his annoyance melting away and he was left marvelling at the man’s incandescent beauty in its wake.

After a moment that probably stretched too long, he gave Viktor a small smile. “I’m sorry. I…don’t like being laughed at.” The baron lifted a hand and brushed the back of it lightly against Yuuri’s temple as if brushing hair out of his face, though his was still perfectly coiffed. For a charged moment Yuuri wondered if he was about to be kissed but then the other man let his hand fall. Yuuri cleared his throat awkwardly. “I…I didn’t have any lovers in Japan,” he said quietly.

“No?” Viktor’s voice was gentle.

“No,” he said simply.

“Hmm,” was all the baron said in response. “At any rate, Yuuri, you don’t need to be nervous about tonight. It’s just a dinner with several boring speeches and then dancing. Speaking of which, do you actually dance? Waltz, I mean.”

Yuuri frowned, not sure what other kind of dancing he could have understood Viktor to mean. “I…I know how, but I haven’t actually used it very often.”

“So you were just trying to be rid of me that night at Frederick’s?” asked Viktor with a raised brow. Yuuri flushed hotter and hunched his shoulders as if he could hide between them.

“I…was surprised and didn’t know what to say,” he admitted. “I’m sorry.” Viktor’s teasing expression broke into a wide grin.

“Don’t fret, dorogoy, I won’t hold it against you. So long as you favour me with the dance you owe me tonight.”

Yuuri smiled shyly up at him and nodded. The fluttering feeling that filled him was a combination of nerves over the potential difficulties of the evening and the thrill of having Viktor’s full attention. He felt he existed in a fragile balance between elation and terror, and could only try not to let himself tilt too far either way for fear he would shatter.

With a jerk the coach came to a stop and Yuuri realised they had arrived. He peeked out of the small window but could only see a stone building much like thousands of others in London. The windows were all alight, however, and a phalanx of liveried footmen stood along the iron grating in front of the building. One of them came forward to open the coach door and Viktor exited, reaching a hand back to help Yuuri out.

Once he’d straightened after climbing from the vehicle, Yuuri was surprised to see all the footmen were bowing in their direction. He glanced at Viktor in time to catch a cheeky wink from the other man. Viktor led the way up the stairs, Yuuri’s hand tucked once more into his arm.

“Welcome, your Well-born,” said the older gentleman standing just inside the door, his Russian accent thick. He was wearing what looked to Yuuri like a military uniform, but which might simply be a sign of his position. The dark coat featured quite a bit of gold frogging.

Viktor greeted the man in his native language and they exchanged a few words. Having nothing better to do, Yuuri watched Viktor’s face as he spoke. He was struck all over again by the man’s incredible beauty, the delicacy of his features. Perhaps he needed to avoid looking at Viktor, to keep from being overwhelmed by his looks.

“Yuuri,” said Viktor abruptly, interrupting his reverie. “This is Yakov Feltsman, my father’s majordomo. Yakov, my escort Mr. Yuuri Katsuki. Please take care of him if there’s ever anything he needs.” The thickset man narrowed his eyes, but gave a curt nod in his direction. Yuuri couldn’t help thinking he looked about as unhelpful as it was possible to be, but Viktor didn’t seem to notice. He wondered if there was something about him the older man disliked or if it was a general attitude.

They left the majordomo behind in the antechamber and proceeded through a pair of gilt doors held open for them by still more footmen. Yuuri had been expecting the event to be lavish, but the scene that met his eyes still dazzled him for a moment. The room was filled with people dressed in the very finest clothing, the women’s dresses a whirlwind of colour and shimmer, while the men stood out in their stark black evening dress. Even then, the men showed more variety than was common, with a range of military uniforms of different colours and ranks on display.

As Viktor led him further into the room, Yuuri was able to pick out the staff flitting everywhere: providing drinks, taking away empty glasses, entering and leaving the room in a near constant stream. He was grateful for the champagne flute Viktor handed him, having plucked a pair from a passing tray. He had to be careful not to overindulge, however. The last thing he needed was to embarrass the baron tonight.

Viktor moved through the crowd with practised ease, nodding to people who recognised him and greeting several by name without ever pausing long enough to be engaged in a conversation. Yuuri caught some people staring at him as they passed, their eyes widening in surprise or shock. He tried to avoid hunching his shoulders too much in response. Being on Viktor’s arm made him much more conspicuous than he liked.

They came to a stop in front of a group of people at the far end of the room. Even before their presence registered, Yuuri could tell the man and woman at the centre of the circle were important by the way everyone watched them. The man was dressed in a military uniform of dark blue, with gold braid draped across the front and large fringed epaulettes on both shoulders. He caught sight of Viktor mid-word and turned towards them and it was at that moment that Yuuri saw the family resemblance between the couple and his companion. These were Viktor’s parents and he was about to be introduced to them. He may have tightened his grip on Viktor’s arm in an attempt to steady himself.

“Viktor Aleksandrovitch, there you are!” said Viktor’s father in an exasperated tone. Viktor just gave the man a closed mouth smile.

“Father, mother, this is Mr. Yuuri Katsuki,” said Viktor with a small bow and sweeping gesture of his hand.

Yuuri bowed his head politely at them both. He realised with a sinking feeling in his stomach that he didn’t know the proper form of address to use with a Russian baron, despite the fact that he was holding on to one’s arm. “I-it’s an honour to meet you both,” he tried, hoping it didn’t sound frightfully rude.

“Mr. Katsuki, is it?” said Viktor’s mother. “Is that Japanese?” The woman radiated kindness and Yuuri found himself relaxing immediately.

“Yes, my lady.” He decided the courtesy would be appreciated regardless of its correctness.

“Yuuri is here studying medicine,” Victor informed them.

“Oh, how wonderful!” said the Baroness. “It’s such a joy to see young people travelling in pursuit of knowledge. The world is growing smaller all the time, and it’s so important to encourage the spread of science and ideas.” The baroness’s smile was reflected on Viktor’s face and Yuuri couldn’t help joining them. He thought Viktor looked quite fond of his mother, as well he should given her charm. “I’m sure you and Vitya have much to talk with one another about, given his interest in anatomy.”

Yuuri felt his brows rise at this pronouncement and was even more astounded to see Viktor go rather pink. “Mother!” he chided. His mother gave him an indulgent look.

“Yes, well, I hope you enjoy the evening then,” interrupted the elder Baron, giving Yuuri a nod before turning back to the man at his right. He felt the muscles in Viktor’s arm tighten at the curt dismissal.

“It’s nearly time for the meal. I hope to have an opportunity to talk with you later, Mr. Katsuki.” The baroness smiled at them both, a hint of concern in her glance at Viktor’s face.

“Thank you, Baroness. I would enjoy that.”

“Oh, you must call me Evgenia Ivanovna! I insist.” Yuuri ducked his head in acquiescence before Viktor led him away from his parents. Yuuri took a large sip of his wine, feeling the shaky aftereffects of that meeting. Viktor also drained much of his glass. He looked over and smiled hesitantly at him. Yuuri wondered if he were regretting his invitation already.

Viktor stepped closer to him and spoke quietly. “Don’t judge me by my parents, I beg you.” Yuuri gave him a quizzical look.

“Your mother seems a very kind person,” he said. Viktor’s mouth twisted up ironically.

“Indeed, she is. Hence why you shouldn’t judge me by her behaviour.” He said it like a witticism, but something unpleasant shined in his eyes. Yuuri couldn’t bring himself to smile in return. Luckily the awkward moment was broken by the ringing of a gong to announce dinner.

Viktor led him into the next room, once again charming his way through the crowd. The room was arranged with a number of long dining tables, all elaborately set with crystal and silver. Yuuri wondered at the expense of the table settings and how many times over one could buy his parent’s inn with the wealth in that room.

They were not seated at the head table with Viktor’s parents, to Yuuri’s relief. He was barely coping with the demands of being at such a luxurious affair, much less one with diplomatic consequences. Their table was filled with people who knew Viktor, including two unmarried ladies accompanied by their male relatives. They didn’t seem to like Yuuri’s presence at all. The conversation was stiff and polite, quite unlike the casual English conversation to which he was accustomed. The conversations Yuuri was familiar with were usually about either medicine or the arts. In the first instance, he was liable to get drawn into brisk and sometimes heated debate, while with the second topic he merely listened to the debates of others.

There were no debates at the table tonight. No raised voices or raucous laughter and mockery. Just prim and stilted observations designed not to offend. Viktor maintained a pleasant facade, but Yuuri suspected he was almost as bored as he himself was. The woman to Yuuri’s left asked him question after question about Japan, which Yuuri might have taken kindly had the questions not revealed the depths of her ignorance about the East. Even more irritating was the young man who insisted on correcting her with equally erroneous information. The only reason Yuuri got through the meal without jumping up and excusing himself was that Viktor caught his eye several times with an apologetic look and finally managed to steer the conversation in another direction.

“I apologise on behalf of the English,” said Viktor after the meal when they were once again standing alone together.

“You’re not English, though. Can you actually apologise on their behalf?”

“Well, someone needs to apologise for their ignorance.” Yuuri smiled gratefully. He felt that Viktor was his ally in the face of society, for this evening at least.

“The dancing has begun. Will you join me?” Victor held out his gloved hand to Yuuri, who took a deep breath and took it.

“Truly, I’m not very skilled,” he hedged, his stomach turning over as he envisioned himself causing some hideous injury to his partner.

Viktor only smiled, as if completely unconcerned. “Just follow my lead.” With that, he swept Yuuri onto the dance floor, his arm around his waist steering him. At first, Yuuri felt just as awkward as he had expected, his steps out of sync as he struggled to follow after Viktor. But after several repetitions of the waltz’s pattern, he relaxed somewhat, his feet finding the correct rhythm. He found himself locking eyes with his partner, that stunningly blue gaze filling his world. He had never known anyone with eyes as beautiful, as alive. And just now they were crinkled at the corners, smiling down at Yuuri. He couldn’t help smiling back, and relaxing even further into Viktor’s arms. The dance became thrilling, joyous and free as they twirled around the room.

“You have an incredible natural grace,” murmured Viktor. “To match your natural beauty.” Yuuri’s breath caught and he nearly stumbled. His cheeks burned and he looked away from Viktor’s face for the first time during their dance. He felt he should say something in response but couldn’t decide between a return compliment or a denial of the one he’d received. He bit his lip in frustration, torn between wanting to believe Viktor meant his flattery and a bitter wish the man wouldn’t bother.

“Do you know, when first we met I thought your modesty and blushes were something of an affectation? That you were playing the coquette.” Yuuri looked back up at him in surprise. “I realised fairly quickly I was wrong and you weren’t feigning. Is it possible you don’t know how gorgeous you are?” Yuuri blinked up at him, the words not penetrating his mind clearly. He opened his mouth to respond, to express his disbelief, but just then the music ended and the dancers around them swayed to a standstill.

In the flurry of activity of people leaving and taking up new positions on the dance floor, Yuuri forgot what he had intended to say. He followed Viktor to the side of the room, where no sooner had Viktor opened his mouth to say something to Yuuri than he was interrupted by the ringing tones of the Baroness’s voice. Viktor’s mother was holding the arm of an upright gentleman in the uniform of the British military.

“Vitya, you remember Captain Baker, don’t you?” the baroness asked.

“Of course,” replied Viktor, sounding a touch strained. The smile he turned to the other man looked forced to Yuuri. The captain’s eyes flicked briefly towards him before returning to Viktor, apparently dismissing Yuuri entirely. He started as the baroness placed a hand on his arm.

“Mr. Katsuki, I’m so pleased to have a chance for us to speak,” she said, drawing him a few steps away from Viktor and the captain. “You must tell me, how long have you known my son?”

“Oh,” said Yuuri, blinking. “Not very long.”

“I see. And how did you meet? I don’t believe Vitya spends much time near medical schools.” Yuuri studied her expression, but couldn’t tell if she was making a joking reference to her son’s reputation or if she was oblivious to it.

“I…that is, a friend of mine knows a friend of his. We were introduced at a club.” Not a lie, though it omitted a few details.

“Mother, are you interrogating my escort?” Viktor’s voice came from just behind Yuuri’s shoulder and he startled a bit. Viktor stepped closer and placed a warm hand against his lower back.

“Vitya, I was merely making conversation,” said his mother in a chiding tone. Yuuri glanced around, looking for Viktor’s former conversational partner, but the man was no where in sight. “It’s so rare you bring a friend to see us.” Viktor sighed but didn’t reply. At that moment the music came to an end.

“Excuse us, mother, but I promised Yuuri another dance,” Viktor said, though he’d made no such promise. He steered Yuuri away after he bowed his head hastily at the baroness.

“Are you trying to keep me from speaking to your mother?” asked Yuuri, a trifle offended. They took up places facing one another, Viktor’s arm around his waist, their hands joined.

“No, rather keeping my mother from speaking to you,” corrected Viktor as the dance began. This time Yuuri felt himself swept up in the music’s rhythm easily, following his partner’s lead without having to think overmuch.

“Why? Is there something you fear her telling me?” Yuuri studied the other man’s face closely. Viktor was an enigma to him, so seemingly open and relaxed one moment, and closed off the next. He’d seen how easily he moved through society, an empty smile upon his face. And he’d seen that smile drop the moment they were alone or unobserved. Were the smiles Viktor directed at him any more real? Or was his attentive manner towards Yuuri just another performance? The compliments and flattery just his way of getting what he wanted?

“Oh, she’s just a little too interested in my romantic life,” said Viktor airily. “That’s one of the reasons I brought you. Otherwise she would have spent the entire evening introducing me to potential partners.”

“Like that captain?” asked Yuuri, trying his best not to sound jealous.

“Ha, yes. Though more like the ladies at our table. She wants grandchildren.” They fell silent as they spun through the steps of the dance. Of course the baroness would prefer Viktor marry a woman to secure the line of inheritance. It was common here for men of the aristocracy to find their pleasure with other men in the clubs and brothels, before ultimately marrying a woman of their own class. Some continued to indulge their tastes discreetly after marriage, while some seemingly settled down happily. It was the same in his homeland for men of property. Wealth needed to be passed down, and people seemed to prefer it go to their own biological children. Yuuri was grateful he would likely never be wealthy enough to feel that pressure.

He wanted to ask Viktor if he intended to have children one day. He’d heard the baron’s name linked with women before, so for all Yuuri knew, he liked women as well as men. He wanted to ask that as well, but it all felt far too intrusive, so he remained silent. He focused instead on Viktor’s face, tracing the curves of his lips with his eyes. He wondered how it would feel to kiss them, and then flushed with heat at the thought that he might find out later that night. He might know how many things felt after this night. He couldn’t lie to himself; if Viktor asked him to bed, he would say yes. It would be his one opportunity and he couldn’t pass it up lightly.

Viktor seemed to know some of his thoughts, for he smiled and pulled Yuuri a little closer. Yuuri could feel his hot breath against his cheek, and he was filled with the desire for Viktor to kiss him, right here and now. Of course it was ridiculous. Even Baron Viktor Nikiforov wouldn’t do something so scandalous. Not here.

The dance ended and they parted. Yuuri’s mouth was dry so they sought out more champagne. It seemed any time Viktor stood still others would find their way to him, and Yuuri found himself nodding and smiling politely at a number of people who came and went in a steady stream. Finally Viktor pulled him back into another dance, looking grateful to be away from them himself. After this dance, Viktor found his mother and bade her goodnight. The baroness looked disappointed but simply expressed a wish to see Yuuri again. He repeated the wish back to her, though privately he thought such an event to be quite unlikely, of course.

Once in the coach, Viktor seemed to relax fractionally. As the carriage settled into a smooth movement, Yuuri gazed around the interior. The curtains were drawn over the windows so he had no convenient distraction. A fluttering had started in his stomach, so he tried not to think of what might come next. Viktor sat close beside him and Yuuri imagined he could feel the warmth from his thigh, though they were not quite touching. He felt the weight of Viktor’s eyes on him. Yuuri tugged on his gloves nervously, gaze focused on his hands.

“You look beautiful in that suit,” murmured Viktor, his voice sounding far too close to Yuuri’s ear for comfort.

“Thank you,” said Yuuri, trying to keep his breathing even. “It’s...remarkable. I must thank you for providing it, again.”

Viktor extended his hand carefully and ran two fingers down the fabric covering Yuuri’s thigh. Yuuri trembled, trying to hide his reaction and suspecting he had failed. “You are a magnificent canvas for the tailor’s art, Yuuri. You should wear nothing less than perfection. I must buy you an entire wardrobe.”

This shocked Yuuri into turning and looking at the man next to him. Viktor’s eyes flashed as he did, but the triumph was quickly covered with a bland expression.

“No, you...don’t need to do that,” stammered Yuuri. Viktor raised a hand to Yuuri’s face, taking his chin between his fingers and thumb. Only the presence of his fine white gloves kept the touch from being completely indecent.

“It’s not about what I need do, but what I want to do, my dear.” Viktor’s thumb traced along Yuuri’s bottom lip, moving firmly into scandalous territory. Yuuri couldn’t look away from Viktor’s icy blue eyes, shadowed in the dimness of the carriage.

“I couldn’t accept anything so costly,” he said weakly. Viktor laughed softly.

“I can afford it, Yuuri. I can give you many things. I can give you anything you desire.” Yuuri expected Viktor to kiss him at any moment and though the thought sent quivers of anxiety through him, he also desperately wished he would. But the moment stretched out longer and longer and neither of them moved.

Finally Viktor spoke. “Besides, when I have you by my side I want you to look your best. And as we’ve proved tonight, your best is good enough to have half the diplomatic figures of London dying of envy.”

Yuuri was still lost somewhere between Viktor’s eyes and his hand against his chin. “I thought,” he spoke, shaking himself mentally to catch up to the conversation. “I thought this was only for one night. That’s what you said.” Viktor’s expression shifted, the light fading from his eyes, and he released Yuuri.

“Ah yes, so I did.” He shifted back to lean against the padded rear of the coach. Yuuri also shifted back in his own seat, facing front again. He was more disappointed in the sudden shift in demeanour in his companion than he would have thought. As much as he had bristled at any insinuation that their arrangement included his sexual availability, the truth was he had been able to think of little else all week. And he had longed for Viktor to kiss him just then.

Yuuri stared ahead of him and considered the myriad things he could say to Viktor. Viktor’s words of moments ago echoed in his mind, ‘I can give you anything you desire.’ Yuuri knew what he desired most at this moment, and it had nothing to do with finery or riches. He wanted to taste Viktor’s lips, to know what it felt like to be taken by such a man, a man desired by so many.

“So you have no wish to…extend our arrangement, then?” Viktor’s voice was a little cool, a little too casual. “As I said, I can offer you much. I could give you protection.”

“Protection?” Yuuri echoed. “Protection from what?”

“Ah. It’s a figure of speech, I suppose. Protection from anything. From poverty and need, primarily.” Yuuri glanced at him then, and saw a hint of a smile on his lips.

“Oh,” said Yuuri, thinking furiously. “So that’s the sort of thing you offer to…a certain kind of person.” Yuuri looked at Viktor boldly. “I’m still not for sale. I’m a student of medicine, and that doesn’t require a wardrobe of fine suits. They’d only be ruined.”

To Yuuri’s surprise, Viktor’s face broke into a wide grin. “You are extraordinary,” he said with a look of wonder. Yuuri blushed and looked away.

After a moment of silence, Viktor continued in a more serious tone. “We still both have needs.” Yuuri shot a look at him, trying to gauge where this was heading. Viktor smiled but continued, still businesslike. “You have need of financial support to allow you to live and pursue your studies. I have need of a respectable companion and escort for the myriad balls, functions, and parties my position requires me to attend. If we consider this evening a trial, I consider it a complete success. I enjoy your company and your conversation. You charmed everyone you spoke to tonight. And you look divine on my arm, which is good for my reputation. Was it a success from your point of view?”

Yuuri flushed and looked away, not sure how to respond. He was sure Viktor was heavily exaggerating his success. The most he’d hoped for from this evening was not to embarrass himself or Viktor too badly. It appeared he’d succeeded at that. In fact, he’d even found some portions of the evening enjoyable. He’d also hoped to be able to hold Viktor’s attention for the entire evening and he’d half expected for Viktor to be bored of him by now.

Viktor’s next words interrupted his train of thought. “Oh! Speaking of which, here is what I promised you.” He removed a small purse from his person, the chink of coins sounding in the small space of the carriage. Yuuri flinched away, shame warming his face. It stung his pride to accept this, but he took the purse which Viktor placed into his hands anyway.

“Go ahead, ensure it’s sufficient,” said Viktor, without any self-consciousness at the transaction.

Yuuri shook his head. “No, no, I’m sure it’s fine.”

“Yuuri,” chided the baron. “It won’t help either of us if you discover at a later time it’s not everything you need.” Yuuri swallowed his next protestation and made himself tug open the drawstring. Even in the dim light of the carriage lamp the coins shined gold. He blinked.

“It’s too much,” he said in a whisper, jerking the strings closed and shoving the purse back at the baron. “I…I can’t take this. It’s far too much.” Viktor only smiled at him and pushed his hands away.

“Nonsense,” he said. “You have to live on something.” Yuuri shook his head again.

“But this…it’s so much more than I need for my landlord. I can’t take it, for…this?” Of course, he would have accompanied Viktor anywhere he wished for free, if only he dared.

“I’m not asking for anything more,” said Viktor in a serious tone. Yuuri’s eyes flickered away from the man again. He almost wished he was more demanding. As it was, Viktor had acted the perfect gentleman, and Yuuri found himself torn between appreciation of his manners and regret that he couldn’t live out one of his fantasies. Silence echoed around them, feeling heavy. There was a tension in the air, a sense that either of them might speak at any moment and take the irrevocable step towards a more intimate liaison. But neither of them spoke and finally the moment passed.

Viktor cleared his throat. “If you feel the amount is unfair, you could agree to escort me another evening.”

Yuuri’s heart raced. Yes. Yes. He couldn’t think of any less revealing answer.

“You could even choose where we go. Somewhere more enjoyable than a staid embassy dinner. Unless you have a particular fondness for them, in which case I assure you I can find any number of ceremonial events on my father’s calendar.” His tone was wry and they shared a smile. “You like the theatre, perhaps, judging by your friends?”

“Ballet,” he corrected, without quite meaning to. Viktor’s smile grew until it seemed to light his whole face.

“You like ballet! Oh, so do I! Yuuri, we must go then! Have you seen the Italian production of Giselle at Covent Garden?”

Yuuri couldn’t help smiling in return at Viktor’s sudden enthusiasm. “No, no, I haven’t been able to. Sometimes Mr. Chulanont can sneak me in to a show, but I haven’t been able to see even a rehearsal of that one.”

“Oh, I’ll take you, then. Really, you must see it if you’re a dance enthusiast.” Viktor was looking at him with such excitement and warmth that Yuuri had to suppress a shiver.

“Very well, then,” he agreed with a shy smile. “I…I would enjoy that. Very much.” The happy expression on Viktor’s face at that warmed him down to his toes.

They made light conversation for the remainder of the ride, talking mostly of ballet and various performances they had seen. Yuuri thrilled to hear tales of the Russian ballet, Viktor’s descriptions painting vivid pictures in his mind. He was surprised when the coach jerked to a halt and he realised they were outside his building.

“Oh! So quickly,” he exclaimed, peeking out the curtains to verify their location.

“Yes, the evening is over too soon,” agreed Viktor, tone wistful. Yuuri looked at him, wondering if this was the overture to a proposition. Instead of speaking, however, Viktor raised a hand to Yuuri’s cheek and ran a finger down his cheek lightly. “May I kiss you?” he asked softly and Yuuri sucked in a breath. His mouth worked for a moment but he couldn’t manage any words, so he nodded shakily.

Viktor looked at him with a complicated expression: part confusion, part tenderness, part heat. Yuuri didn’t have time to fully parse the look, however, as the baron leaned forward immediately and his lips were brushing Yuuri’s. They pressed lightly at first, waiting for a response. Yuuri felt for a moment as if he had never been kissed before, though that was hardly true. He didn’t know what to do and felt a moment of panic, but then a heat rose up within him and he was pressing back against Viktor, his whole body moving forward and his hands grasping for a hold in his coat. Viktor made a hungry sound against Yuuri’s lips and then their tongues were touching, exploring, twining together in hunger. Yuuri trembled with longing, feeling it throughout his body. He longed to press himself as tightly as possible against Viktor, to show him the fire his kiss had lit in him.

His good sense held him back, thankfully. He broke away from the other man’s lips with a gasp for air, and immediately his face flushed with embarrassment. His member was stiff in his trousers, and he tried to cover the noticeable bulge with his hands, but the movement only drew the baron’s attention. Viktor’s eyes widened and he smirked. His eyes raked over Yuuri hungrily, boldly taking an accounting of all of him. Yuuri was certain Viktor could see his every reaction: how he flushed and hot he was, the trembling of his hands, and of course the blatant evidence of his arousal.

He was sure Viktor was going to make an invitation to extend the evening, so he was thrown off balance when instead Viktor simply said, “I look forward to our next evening together,” and reached past Yuuri to open the door. “Good night,” he said with a small smile. Yuuri smiled weakly back, his confused desires making him feel shaky.

He exited the coach and took a moment to smooth down his clothing, including trying to conceal his arousal as best he could before entering his building. He made two attempts at unlocking the door before he could fit the key to the lock properly. He stood still in the hall for a few moments, trying to gather his wits. He would see Viktor again, he reminded himself. That steadied him and he climbed the stairs to his rooms in a calmer state.

Chapter Text

Yuuri let himself into his lodging carefully, hoping that Phichit was already in bed. He still felt off balance from the way his evening with Viktor had ended and wasn’t in the mood to answer questions about it. As he moved into the parlour, however, he saw Phichit was stretched out on the sofa, book in hand. His roommate looked up, eyes sparkling.

“I’m a little surprised to see you!” he called out. “I thought you might be in the baron’s bed by now.” Yuuri felt his face redden and he looked away from his friend, trying to exhibit a casual manner.

“He was a perfect gentleman,” he said. “Well, nearly.” He moved towards his bedroom, eager to get out of his formal wear. Naturally, Phichit leapt up and followed him.

“Yuuri!” his friend complained. “You can’t just say that and walk away! I need details.” Yuuri removed his jacket and folded it neatly into the clothes press. He sat on the edge of his bed to remove his shoes.

“There’s not much to say, Phichit. We went to the embassy, ate dinner, danced a little, and then he brought me home.” Yuuri was simplifying things, he knew, but he hadn’t worked out how he felt about the evening yet.

“So…he didn’t even try to get you in bed?” Yuuri winced at his friend’s bluntness. Phichit’s surprised tone echoed his own confusion on that front.

“He didn’t ask.” That didn’t feel entirely truthful either. Viktor hadn’t asked him home with him, or even broached the topic. On the other hand, Yuuri had refused his offer of protection, which he may have taken for refusal. Then there had been that kiss.

“Yuu-ri,” said Phichit, waving a hand before his eyes. “Are you with me? What were you thinking about just then?”

Yuuri smiled sheepishly, realising he’d fallen into a reverie. “He did, er, kiss me.”

“Oh!” Phichit’s eyes widened and he grinned. “How was it? I’d bet he’s a good kisser.” Yuuri bit his lip to keep the smile off his face. He knew Phichit would only tease him if he knew how much the kiss had affected him.

“It was…nice,” he said.

“Just nice?”

“Mmm, good.”

“Good. Yuuri, you’re impossible.” Phichit threw his hands up. Yuuri couldn’t tell his friend the truth: that the kiss had been incredible, the best kiss he’d ever had. That it had made him want to give all of himself over to the baron, that even now he was disappointed that their evening had ended when it did. The kiss had lit a fire in his body that was entirely new to him. He needed some time alone to work through these feelings.

“He’s taking me to the ballet. Or so he said,” he offered. His friend’s eyes lit up again, thrilled with this news.

“Ooo, Giselle?” he asked.

“Mmm-hmm. He’s seen it already, but insisted on taking me.”

“It’s a good production. The Italian troupe is decent, though most dancers in town won’t say so. They feel a British troupe should have the theatre, of course.” Yuuri nodded vaguely at Phichit’s words, afraid his friend might continue to discuss the local theatrical politics, but Phichit shook himself and looked back at him. “So, a kiss and a second invitation?”

“Yes?” he replied, unsure what Phichit was implying.

“Is he paying you?”

“What?”

“For going with him to the ballet. Is he paying you for that?”

“Err, well, in a way…” He pulled the pouch of coins from his pocket. “He gave me far too much tonight. When I said so, he invited me out again. I don’t know what that means.” Phichit took the pouch and opened it. He gave a low whistle.

“Yuuri, this isn’t just a month’s rent. This could almost pay your part for an entire year.”

“I know. You should have seen the opulence at the embassy tonight. My fork was so heavy I think it would support me for at least six months. I don’t think he’s concerned about money in the slightest.”

Phichit frowned. “Do you like him?” Yuuri cocked his head and looked at his friend, puzzled.

“Hmm?” The question seemed to have come from nowhere.

“Do you like him? Did you enjoy the evening? Was he pleasant company?” Phichit asked with exasperation.

“Oh.” Yuuri paused. His first instinct was to answer ‘yes, of course, he’s Baron Viktor Nikiforov.’ That was enough to explain the deep attraction he felt for the man, along with his incredible looks. It was easy to be swept away by a kiss from a man like that, or even by waltzing in his arms. It didn’t, however, automatically mean the man was likeable. Viktor had been extremely solicitous throughout the evening, in a way that had seemed to shift from common politeness to actual kindness. He remembered the way Viktor had interrupted the embarrassing conversation over dinner and steered it in a different direction. Not only that, but apologised to Yuuri for the offence. Yes, he was ready to believe Viktor Nikiforov had a kind heart.

“I think I do like him,” he answered at last. “He was kind, and I don’t think it was only a show.”

“It’s possible he’s waiting to press you for a tumble after the ballet, of course,” observed his roommate.

“So what if he does?” asked Yuuri defensively. Phichit grinned wickedly.

“Oh! Is that what you’re hoping for, Mr. Katsuki?” Yuuri glared at him. “Not going to play the bashful maiden any longer? Frankly, given this purse, I’d recommend you draw things out as long as you can and see what other gifts you get.”

“Phichit!” he objected, genuinely appalled.

“Well, that’s the starving artist in me speaking, of course. As your friend, and someone who once spent two weeks eating nothing but rice with you when we were both skint, I advise you to enjoy the pleasures of your good-fortune as much as possible. Both carnal and more material rewards.” Yuuri sighed heavily and pushed Phichit towards the door of his room.

“I’ll take it under advisement,” he said flatly. “Now leave me in peace. I’m exhausted.” His friend laughed, but let himself be driven from the room. Yuuri carefully removed the rest of his finery and pulled his soft, worn nightshirt over his head. He sat on the edge of his bed for a while, replaying the events of the night in his mind. He couldn’t help dwelling on the kiss, the feel of the baron’s smooth, firm lips against his own. He wondered what might have happened had he followed his instinct and crawled into the man’s lap to press against him. Would he even now be wrapped up with him, overcome with pleasure. He shivered but forced his thoughts away from that image. He crawled between his sheets and turned towards the wall, determined not to picture it further. Still, it was a long time before he fell asleep.

~~~~~

The next day saw Yuuri pulled back into the busy rhythm of a medical student. He tried to put Viktor entirely out of his mind and by the afternoon the previous evening felt like something from a dream. The man who was currently splattered with various unspeakable fluids couldn’t possibly be the same as the one who had danced with a beautiful nobleman at a glittering party the night before, surely. The contrast only served to underline to him the extraordinary and fleeting nature of the baron’s attention.

It wouldn’t be long before the man lost interest in him, found a new companion. If there was one thing that all the rumours and gossip about Viktor agreed on, it was that he never stayed with anyone for long. Most frequently, it seemed, his interest lasted mere hours. Occasionally he was seen with someone for a few weeks, before being spotted with someone new on his arm. Yuuri was one in a long line. It was important he never forget that fact.

When Yuuri returned to his lodging, he found a large arrangement of flowers in a crystal vase standing on the table. The flowers were a wild assortment of types and colours, a riot of summer blooms shoved together without any seeming order or significance. A quickly scrawled note from Phichit explained they’d arrived by messenger from “your baron.” There was also a sealed letter next to the vase.

My Dear Yuuri,

I hope you enjoyed our evening together as much as I, though I fear that is an impossibility. It was hardly the most pleasant event to ask you to attend. I hope Giselle will go some way towards making up for that. Name the evening and I will make the arrangements. Would tomorrow evening be too soon to secure a box? Most likely…yet let me know if you are free and I will do my best. Until we see one another again, I hope these flowers brighten your life, as your presence has brightened mine.

Yours,

Viktor

Yuuri sank into one of the nearby chairs, feeling a bit dizzy. He exhaled the breath he’d inadvertently held while reading the note. His face was flushed with embarrassment. How could the man write such things when they barely knew one another? And how could he be so easily affected by them? He was practically swooning and all he’d done was send flowers. Yuuri took a deep breath and told himself sternly to calm down. He thought over the baron’s request. Much as he was eager to see him again, he wasn’t sure it was a fantastic idea to do so as soon as the following day. Surely if he waited a few days, his head wouldn’t still be spinning from their first evening. Perhaps it would also do what Phichit had recommended, and increase the baron’s desire if he wasn’t quite so easily won.

So he wrote the baron a note to say he wasn’t free until Monday evening, knowing the theatres would be closed. Which meant the soonest he would be seeing Viktor was four days from now. He received Viktor’s reply with Saturday’s morning post, lamenting the delay. Viktor had already contacted the box office, apparently, and secured a box for Tuesday. Yuuri tried to feel happy about the wait, knowing it was his own doing.

He threw himself into his work to pass the time, putting in longer hours than strictly required, staying up late reading. Phichit sent him a lot of knowing looks, but Yuuri refused to engage with him on the topic of the baron. Finally Tuesday arrived. He had a busy schedule that day and thus had little time to grow anxious about the evening ahead. He barely had time to wash up and dress before the appointed hour, and he was still struggling with his bow tie when Viktor arrived in his coach.

“You look radiant, as ever,” the baron said as Yuuri settled next to him on the seat. Yuuri smiled at the unnecessary compliment. He wished he could find the right words to say how gorgeous he found Viktor, but how did you compliment the most beautiful man in London? He must hear his looks praised all day and every night.

“Thank you,” he said instead. On the drive to the theatre Yuuri felt very aware of Viktor’s body next to him, though they weren’t touching at all. After the kiss they’d shared he seemed not to be able to avoid thinking about the physicality of the man. He was aware he wasn’t holding up his end of the conversation, which focused on the ballet they were going to see, but he couldn’t seem to focus.

He startled when a gloved hand closed on his wrist lightly. “Are you well?” asked Viktor, concerned.

“Oh, err, yes,” he managed. “I apologise, I was merely…” Distracted. he thought, but realised that would make him sound uninterested in his company. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “Please forgive me.”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” insisted Viktor with a small frown. “I merely noticed you seem less…lively this evening. But you aren’t ill or overtired? We can go another night if you’d prefer.”

“No, no!” he exclaimed, rather more forcefully than he intended. “I’m looking forward to it so much! My thoughts merely wandered.” Viktor’s expression lightened.

“Well, you are the scholar here,” he said fondly, reached out to brush a stray strand of hair from Yuuri’s forehead. His breath caught at that. “I’m sure your mind is full of fascinating subjects at all times.”

Yuuri blushed, especially since the subject he’d been considering had hardly been scholarly. “I…no…what were you saying about the prima ballerina?” Viktor repeated himself and they chatted amiably the rest of the way.

The coach pulled up under the covered area outside Covent Garden Theatre and they debarked. Yuuri had visited this venue once before for an opera he’d attended with Phichit. In that case, however, they’d been seated at the very rear of the pit and therefore hadn’t needed to wear evening dress. It felt entirely different to enter the theatre on Baron Nikiforov’s arm instead of feeling like an interloper. This time the heads of the attendants bowed to them, and people cleared a path before them, whispers breaking out as they moved through the crowd. The grand staircase still looked imposing, and Yuuri felt almost as if they were ascending to some different world, one of opulence and decadence.

Yuuri followed Viktor into their box and took one of the chairs at the front. Viktor looked around the noisy amphitheatre intently, seemingly studying the occupants of the other boxes. He fetched a pair of opera glasses from his inner pocket and trained them lazily around the semi-circle. Yuuri wished he owned a pair, though only to see the performers closer, not to spy on the members of the audience. After a short time, the baron seemed satisfied with whatever he’d seen and folded the glasses into his lap.

“We must get better acquainted,” he declared without preamble. “Tell me something about yourself I don’t already know.” Yuuri ducked his head and looked at his hands in his lap, mind racing.

“I…I don’t know what…” He looked around, his mind a blank.

“Well, tell me about your family. Oh, that’s so boring, isn’t it?” Viktor bit his lip and looked annoyed.

“Not…really,” Yuuri assured him.

“No? Well, then?”

“Hmm, my parents…they aren’t anyone…important. They own an onsen and ryokan.” He continued with hardly a pause to explain the foreign words. “An onsen is a natural hot spring, people go there to bathe for their health.”

“Like Bath,” interrupted Viktor.

“Yes, very similar,” he agreed. “Though in Japan we actually bathe in the waters. Fully nude.” He shot Viktor a provocative look.

“Hmm,” said Viktor, his eyes sweeping Yuuri’s form, “I could see the appeal in that.” Yuuri coloured, but forged ahead.

“A ryokan is a sort of inn, I suppose. Where people who come to bathe stay. My mother cooks for the guests; she’s a wonderful cook.” He looked up under his lashes at Viktor’s reaction. He was admitting to a Russian nobleman that his mother was essentially a servant, though his parents weren’t poor and worked only for themselves. Viktor caught his gaze and smiled.

“I’m sure she is,” he said. “What is the food like where you come from?” he added with genuine interest.

“Oh, it’s very different from English cooking.” He looked sideways at Viktor. “Better, in my opinion.” Viktor grinned widely.

“Don’t worry, I feel no need to defend English food. I find it incredibly bland myself.”

“I’m not surprised, if the food from the banquet was representative of Russian cooking.” Yuuri hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to the food that night, but he had enjoyed it, especially the unique use of spices in some of the dishes.

“Yes, though not as good as at home, of course,” Viktor said. “But tell me about Japanese food.”

“Oh, well, where I live is on the sea, so we eat a lot of seafood, of course. Raw, sometimes.”

“Like oysters?”

“Yes, we have oysters, but we also eat fish raw, sliced very thin, sometimes with rice or sauce.”

“And it’s good?” Viktor asked, looking only slightly sceptical.

“Mmm-hmm. Very fresh. But we cook fish also different ways. We don’t eat a lot of meat, not in big roasts like people do here. The food is more…delicate. Small amounts with things put together in the perfect combination of flavors. It’s meant to be beautiful as well as delicious.”

Viktor smiled at him. “Like you,” he said and then looked down. Yuuri was amazed to see what looked like a blush across his nose. He was so distracted he didn’t really register what Viktor had said for a moment. When he did he was confused.

“Like me?” Viktor nodded.

“Beautiful and delicious,” he said, looking a bit bashful. This time it was Yuuri whose face flushed and he had no idea how to respond. He was intensely thankful that the orchestra began making the first sounds of readiness just then.

Yuuri was swept away in the ballet, transported by the beauty of the dancers and the music, as he always was. Viktor seemed similarly transfixed, neither of them moving much for the entire first half. The final scene, in which Giselle danced to her death, was stunningly performed by the ballerina in the role. She managed to convey her broken heart and mad self-destruction so eloquently with her body. It was this communication that had stolen his heart when he’d first attended a ballet. When the music finally ceased and the applause faded, Yuuri turned to smile at his companion.

“You were right,” he said. “It’s fantastic.”

“I’m so happy you’re pleased,” replied Viktor. They shared a moment of eye contact where Yuuri enjoyed the sparkling of Viktor’s sea blue eyes. “Come, let’s get some refreshment,” said Viktor, standing and offering his hand to help Yuuri up.

Yuuri’s cheeks heated as he took his hand, despite the fact they were both wearing gloves. Viktor tucked his hand into the crook of his arm and lead him from their box with a confident stride. Once again, being on this man’s arm filled him with a sense of pride. He felt the stares as they emerged, eyes turning to Baron Nikiforov as a matter of course, and then reacting in mild shock to see Yuuri next to him. He knew he stood out in any English crowd, but even more so here, among the wealthy and fashionable. He felt all too conscious of the stares. At the embassy there had been people from many parts of the world, but here everyone was English, or at least European.

Viktor distracted him from the staring by placing a glass of champagne into his hand. “I know you like champagne, my dear,” he murmured, and Yuuri’s attention was once more solely on his eyes. He suddenly wished they were alone, and that he could find the courage to reach up and pull those lips to his own.

“Baron!” boomed a voice from behind Yuuri. He and Viktor turned to the speaker, a young foppish man with an artless smile.

“Hello, Davies,” said Viktor, and Yuuri thought he heard some reserve in his tone. The other man opened his mouth to speak, but then his eyes caught on Yuuri.

“Oh, my, Viktor, is this your latest?” he asked with wide eyes. Yuuri froze, unsure how to react.

“This is Mr. Yuuri Katsuki,” Viktor said politely. “And this is Mr. Edward Davies.” Yuuri reached out to shake the man’s hand, but he turned Yuuri’s hand palm down and placed a rather dainty kiss across his fingers. Yuuri resisted the urge to snatch his hand back and felt grateful for his gloves. He managed a weak smile and took a large sip of his champagne.

“How exotic!” said Davies, his look taking in all of Yuuri. “I say, old chap, does he have all the right bits in the right places?”

Yuuri’s quiet gasp was covered by the man’s snickering. He nearly dropped his champagne flute. Hot anger rushed through him, realising that either the man assumed Yuuri couldn’t understand him or simply didn’t care if he did. He wanted to say something that would show him just how well he could speak English and how very little he thought of him, but the words all stuck in his throat and he gaped open-mouthed. Tears sprang to his eyes at his own sudden inability to defend himself and he jerked away.

He turned his back on Viktor and his friend and stalked off as quickly as possibly through the crowd. He heard Viktor’s voice behind him, raised sharply, but he didn’t catch the words. The blood was pounding in his ears as he struggled to keep the tears of shame from falling. He hurried towards the back of the mezzanine, headed for a blank door. He had no idea where it led, but he just needed to be away from here.

He pushed through the door into a hallway that led around the outside of the building. He followed the corridor thoughtlessly, turning a corner and trying a door at the end. This door was locked, and Yuuri was trapped. He didn’t want to go back the way he’d come, so he leaned against the wall and downed the rest of his drink. He forced himself to breath deeply in order to get himself under control again. He hated showing his weakness like this. He’d thought this kind of overreaction was behind him, but evidently not.

“Yuuri!” called a familiar voice from the other end of the corridor. He sighed, knowing the coming scene was inevitable, but he stayed silent. He didn’t want to face Viktor after embarrassing him so badly in front of the eyes of high society. Still Viktor’s figure appeared around the corner, and he sped up as he spotted Yuuri at the far end.

“There you are!” he said as he approached. “Thank God.” And to Yuuri’s shock Viktor reached for him, pulling him into an embrace. His arms wrapped around him tightly as Yuuri’s palms were pressed to the front of Viktor’s suit-coat.

“Viktor?” he said in a small voice.

“Yuuri, my darling, I’m so sorry for that imbecile! I can’t believe he could be so offensive!” Viktor cupped his face with a hand and tilted his head up. “Are you alright?”

Yuuri couldn’t find the breath to reply for several seconds, so stunned was he by Viktor’s embrace and the concern he saw in his eyes. “I…yes,” he said finally. “I was just…angry. I thought it better to leave than make a scene.” Viktor’s mouth quirked up.

“I rather caused one myself. I could have punched the fellow. How dare he?” Yuuri saw the genuine anger under his concerned expression.

“I’m sorry I caused…a problem with your friend.”

“You? You’re sorry?” Viktor’s grip on his chin became stronger. “Yuuri, no. He’s an ignorant and disgusting fool. And he’s not my friend. Barely an acquaintance, really. It’s I who should apologise to you for…exposing you to that.” Viktor was looking at him intensely and Yuuri suddenly needed to be farther away. He pulled back against the resistance of Viktor’s arms and after a moment his companion released him. Yuuri stepped away and looked down, taking a deep breath.

“It wasn’t your fault, Viktor,” he said after a moment. “I…I should be more used to it by now. I rather thought I was. I simply wasn’t expecting it just then.”

“This kind of thing happens often, then?” asked Viktor quietly after a moment of silence. Yuuri swallowed and nodded. “How terrible.”

Yuuri lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “It’s only to be expected. I’m different. A lot of people dislike that.” Or like it too well, he added silently, thinking of some of the propositions he’d received.

“I still can’t believe…” Viktor sighed and shook his head. “Well, we don’t want to be late for the second half, do we?” He extended a hand to Yuuri. Yuuri nodded and took it. “Do you want another glass? I feel I could rather use one after that.” Yuuri agreed, hoping a second glass would settle his nerves.

When they returned to their box Viktor moved his chair closer to Yuuri’s before sitting in it. Then he placed a hand on Yuuri’s thigh, just above his knee. “Feeling a bit better?” he asked quietly. Yuuri stared at his hand, which felt hot even through his trousers. He reached out and covered Viktor’s hand with his own. He nodded. Viktor’s hand squeezed his leg gently.

Even when the ballet began again, neither of them moved their hands. Yuuri tucked his fingers under the edge of Viktor’s hand and found himself squeezing it when there was a particularly exciting moment in the performance. He was thrilled when Viktor squeezed back.

After the ballet, Viktor took him for dinner at the fanciest restaurant he’d ever seen. Yuuri was intimidated by everything about the place, from the large gilded mirrors to the menu which was given orally in French, to the staff who all seemed to know Viktor. He must have shown how overwhelmed he was because Viktor took his hand under the table and squeezed.

“Don’t worry. I’ll handle everything,” he said. Yuuri was grateful for the arrival of a bottle of champagne, which he began to drink with some speed. They finished a second bottle of wine as well, this one red to go with their meal. The food was very good, more flavourful than most English cooking (probably because it was actually French.)

By the time they returned to Viktor’s coach, Yuuri was feeling the effects of the wine and he leaned against Viktor un-self-consciously. Viktor encircled his waist with one arm and Yuuri hummed happily.

“Did you enjoy the evening, solnyshko?”

“Yes,” he answered, tilting his head further toward Viktor. Viktor’s free hand came up to stroke Yuuri’s hair and he looked up into his blue eyes. “Kiss me,” Yuuri said, before he could stop himself.

Viktor’s lips parted and then he leaned down and gave Yuuri what he’d asked for. The kiss was tender, but Yuuri reached up and gripped the back of the baron’s neck, deepening the kiss. His lips parted and he sucked on Viktor’s bottom lip, which made the other man hiss and press his tongue into his mouth hungrily. They kissed loudly, wetly, teeth getting in the way and hands wrinkling their fine clothes by grasping for purchase. Yuuri moved his mouth sideways and kissed down Viktor’s jaw, licking the skin underneath. Viktor moaned approval and he continued down, tasting his throat until he ran into the barrier of his collar. Yuuri sucked into the skin just over the edge of the collar, while Viktor’ hands slid down his back, one of them curving down to cup his rear. Yuuri groaned and thrust forwards, his fully erect cock rubbing against Viktor’s thigh.

“Yuuri, god…” Viktor murmured, his hands gripping tighter. Yuuri reached up to Viktor’s tie and yanked at the silk, tugging until it came loose and then fumbling with the collar stud. He made a noise of triumph as it came free, and he pushed the collar out of the way so he could reach more of Viktor’s skin. Viktor was making the most wonderful noises in response, whimpers and gasps. Yuuri thrilled with the knowledge that he was causing those sounds, that he was the one pleasuring this man.

As his mouth worked down to the juncture of his shoulder and neck, his hand slid down Viktor’s torso. It trailed over the buttons of his waistcoat and lower, until he felt the hard length jutting up. He pressed his palm to it and Viktor started. Viktor shifted, almost pulling away.

“Need you,” Yuuri whined but then a firm hand gripped his wrist and pulled his hand away. He looked up at Viktor, shocked.

“Yuuri,” breathed Viktor, eyes blown dark and breath ragged. “Wait, darling, slow down.” Yuuri blinked at him, swaying slightly. Viktor sat up, pulling Yuuri into a more upright position as well. “You’ve had a lot to drink tonight,” he continued in a calm tone.

“I thought you wanted…” Yuuri felt confused.

“Yes, yes, I very much want you, my dear.” Viktor snaked his arm around Yuuri waist. “But I couldn’t stand if you hated me in the morning.”

“I won’t,” he insisted a bit petulantly.

“You’re drunk, you drank far more than I did tonight. So this time I’m going to stop this before it goes too far.” Yuuri frowned, feeling the sting of tears at the rejection.

Viktor pressed his lips to the top of Yuuri’s head. “Don’t dream this means I don’t want you. What it means is that I want to spend much, much more time with you than just tonight. I don’t want to jeopardise the chance of that for a quick fumble in a carriage.” Yuuri looked up at him and saw the sincerity in his face.

“It’s alright,” he tried. “I promise, I want this.”

“I’m glad, Yuuri.” Viktor smiled wickedly. “But when I have you I want you to be clear-headed and fully aware…Call me selfish.”

“Hmm,” said Yuuri, resting his head on the strong shoulder next to him. “Soon, though?” He could hear Viktor’s smile in his voice when he replied.

“Very soon. As soon as possible. I’ll plan something…appropriate.” Viktor brought his hand up to stroke Yuuri’s hair. Yuuri let himself relax then, closing his eyes and rocking against Viktor with the movement of the coach. He started awake when Viktor shook him. The movement had stopped. The coach was standing outside his building.

“Oh,” he said.

“Let me help you to your door,” offered Viktor. Yuuri eyed the other man, his eyes widening as he took in the open collar and wrecked tie. He felt belatedly embarrassed at his behaviour.

“No. No, I can make it.”

“Are you sure?” Yuuri nodded, focusing on exiting the coach without falling.

“I’ll send to you tomorrow to arrange our next evening?” called Viktor. Yuuri smiled back at him.

“Yes. Please.” He was rewarded with a dazzling smile. Yuuri swayed for a moment on his feet. How was a man so beautiful? And how had a man that beautiful become interested in him? He shook his head, unable to come up with any answer. He continued up the steps to his door, focusing on not tripping. He wanted to maintain his dignity at least until there was no chance of Viktor seeing.

Phichit looked disappointed when Yuuri stumbled through the door. Then his eyes narrowed. “You look both drunk and rumpled…did the baron have his evil way with you?”

Yuuri sighed, tugging his tie free. “No. Unfortunately.” He tossed the scrap of silk aside and sat heavily in an armchair to remove his shoes. “I practically begged him to take me. In fact, I think I did beg.”

“And he refused?” asked Phichit incredulously.

“Mmm-hmm,” Yuuri agreed. “Said I was too drunk.”

“Well, he probably had a point.”

“I don’t know how to get him to take me to bed, then! How can I throw myself at him if I’m not drunk?”

“Hmm, if you were as blatant as you say perhaps he’s taken the hint that you’re willing?” offered Phichit with some amusement.

“Well, he did promise ‘soon’,” admitted Yuuri sheepishly.

“See? There’s only so long anyone can resist Yuuri Katsuki.”

“Well I certainly hope so,” Yuuri grumbled.

Chapter Text

Yuuri slept in the next day after waking with a terrible headache sometime around dawn. He drank a large amount of water and a headache powder and buried himself back in his quilts to sleep it off. He was deeply thankful his afternoon practical demonstration was not a dissection.

When he returned home, a letter from Viktor awaited him, inviting him out the following evening, without specifying a destination. He knew he would be neglecting his studies to spend another evening out so soon, but he spared only a second in hesitation before writing a note accepting the invitation.

The following day he was surprised by a large package which arrived around lunch time. His landlady brought it up to him, grumbling about how much mail he was receiving recently. He thanked her politely with a bow and took the box, which was wrapped in brown paper.

“What’s that?” called Phichit from the small kitchen where he was brewing some tea.

“I don’t know.” He set the box on the table and began to carefully untie the string.

“Oh just cut it,” said his roommate from over his shoulder, holding out a paring knife. Yuuri sighed but did as instructed. The box gave no indication of it’s contents, so he opened it to see folded tissue paper and a piece of card bearing his name. When he lifted the card, he disturbed the tissue enough to see the box contained folded clothing. He turned the card to read what was written on the reverse.

“Wear this tonight.
-V”

“He sent you another suit?” asked Phichit, already pushing the paper aside to inspect the article inside. Yuuri couldn’t tell if he sounded more jealous or surprised.

“Apparently.” The article in Phichit’s hands was a dinner jacket, similar to the one he had owned since coming to London, except this was a very dark blue rather than black. The fabric was very fine, incredibly smooth against his fingertips despite being woolen. The lapels were a shiny black silk and the trousers also featured a black stripe along the side seam. Yuuri felt somewhat relieved to find the tailor had included a new shirt, waistcoat, and tie as well, as his best shirt was a little the worse for wear after the previous evening out with Viktor.

“Well, try it on!” urged Phichit.

“I don’t need to get dressed for hours yet,” he objected.

“What if it doesn’t fit?” Yuuri had to admit his friend had a point, although he imagined the tailor, Mr. Russell, would be offended by the implication. He allowed Phichit to carry the box into his bedroom and bully him into it. It fit like a glove, the trousers snug and jacket hanging perfectly.

“Incredible, Yuuri! You look almost indecent in that,” enthused his friend, craning to peer at his backside.

“Phichit,” he said in a warning tone.

“Do you think the baron told them to make it that fitted?” he asked with a smirk. Yuuri rolled his eyes and decided to simply turn his back on the Siamese man rather than engage. He carefully removed the jacket and trousers and laid them neatly across his bed in preparation for the evening.

Yuuri forced himself to spend the afternoon reading, trying to focus on chemistry instead of wondering what the evening with Viktor ahead would hold. He was not particularly successful. Finally it was late enough that he allowed himself to start getting ready. He had to admit he liked the suit once it was on and he could see himself partially in the small mirror over the dressing table. Blue was his favourite colour, and the cut was flattering.

When the knock sounded at the door of their rooms, he darted forward but Phichit was faster and opened the door. Viktor was standing there, in a dark grey suit. He looked taken aback to see Phichit, but an instant later his eyes swung over to meet Yuuri’s gaze, as if drawn there by magnetic force. The baron smiled at him, his blue eyes shimmering. He seemed to recall himself after a moment.

“Mr. Chulanont, isn’t it?” he said, extending a hand to Yuuri’s roommate.

“That’s right,” replied Phichit, shaking his hand. He opened his mouth to say something else, but Yuuri bustled forward.

“Well, I’m sure Viktor has plans and we can’t be late. Goodnight, Phichit!” He grasped Viktor’s arm and steered him backwards into the hall. He heard a splutter of laughter from the baron, but he turned dutifully and headed for the stairs. Yuuri looked over his shoulder back at Phichit who mouthed ‘Good luck!’ at him with a grin. Yuuri sighed and hurried out of the building. He didn’t want to think of the kind of embarrassing things Phichit could say to Viktor if given free rein.

“Are you worried about what I might say to him or he to me?” asked Viktor as he handed Yuuri into the carriage.

“Err, definitely him. Or…mostly him.”

When Yuuri had climbed into the coach, Viktor was quick to capture his hand and press a kiss to the back. He then turned the hand over and deftly unbuttoned the glove at the wrist. He lowered his head again, pressing his lips to the sensitive exposed skin. Yuuri gave a soft gasp as his heart rate jumped. As he folded the soft cotton further up Yuuri’s hand, Viktor flicked his eyes upwards to give him an insouciant glance. Then he pressed several more kisses to his hand, moving up to his palm from his wrist.

Yuuri felt frozen, unable to do anything but breathe heavily. Heat flowed along his spine, his clothing feeling stifling, and trousers growing tight. Then Viktor flicked his tongue out to trace along the centre of his palm and he cried out, jerking his hand away. He cradled his hand to his chest as if it had been burned, watching Viktor with wide eyes.

“I’m sorry. Did I go too far?” Viktor’s voice was smooth, but somehow Yuuri thought the question contained a trace of genuine concern.

“I…” He couldn’t find any words. The baron studied him for a moment, then reached a hand slowly towards his face. He took Yuuri’s chin in his gloved fingers gently.

“May I kiss you, Yuuri? I’ve been thinking about it all day.” Yuuri wondered if that were true, if it were possible Viktor had been thinking of him as much as he’d been dreaming of the baron. He felt vaguely that he should refuse, whether to spare himself the awkward arousal or to increase the other man’s desire, but his body was too aflame to be able to. He nodded shakily.

Viktor smiled, a wide and delighted grin at odds with his seductive manner. Then he leaned close until his lips just brushed Yuuri’s. It was Yuuri who pressed forward to deepen the kiss, needing more contact. He expected the baron to take this as encouragement, expected him to part Yuuri’s lips and delve inside, to take hungrily as he had on the last occasion they’d occupied a carriage. But he did not, keeping the kiss something more than chaste and less than obscene. When he pulled back, Yuuri was panting, his self-control held together only by his fear of appearing foolish. His instincts screamed at him to follow Viktor’s lips, to climb into the man’s lap and rut against him until his desire was sated. He was thankful for his sobriety, that kept him from acting.

He glanced down, though, to see the obvious tent in his trousers, his member standing up obscenely. Viktor’s eyes followed his gaze and his face broke into a leer. “Well, well, my darling. Aren’t you determined to tempt me?” Yuuri’s pulse sounded loud in his ears at the sudden thought of what the baron might do next.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri said vaguely, not even sure what he meant by it.

“Don’t apologise, miliy,” said the baron with a grin. “You make me want to tell the driver to circle the park a few times.”

Viktor’s gaze, still focused on his lap, made his face burn even hotter. He crossed his legs and folded his trembling hands in his lap to obscure the embarrassment. The baron looked up at him with a pout. He brought his mouth close to Yuuri’s ear. “Of course, if you prefer, I could show you mine.”

Yuuri’s eyes slammed shut and his chest heaved as he tried to maintain his control. “Oh, you’re so very adorable!” cried Viktor. When Yuuri didn’t respond or open his eyes again, he relented. “Oh, fine, I’ll cease teasing. We have a table waiting for us, after all.” Yuuri sensed Viktor settling back against the seat cushions.

After a few moments he opened his eyes, but avoided looking at his companion. He couldn’t believe how quickly he’d embarrassed himself this evening. And yet, he couldn’t be entirely sorry for it, if Viktor was being sincere. It seemed neither of them had forgotten their last carriage ride, or the promises made about ‘next time.’

The coach pulled to a stop outside the restaurant Viktor had chosen for the evening. It was the Gaiety Restaurant, which Yuuri recognised as being attached to the Gaiety Theatre. Phichit had performed in one of the burlesques at the Gaiety the year before.

“Are we going to the theatre tonight?” Yuuri asked Viktor after they were seated at their table.

“Yes, if that’s acceptable. I hear the show is worthwhile; it’s causing quite the scandal.” Viktor grinned wickedly at him across the small table. “If you’d rather pursue other activities, of course…” He trailed off, leaving the innuendo hanging in the air. Yuuri looked down, his cheeks burning. The truth was, of course, he didn’t really care about the burlesque. If Viktor had taken him straight from Yuuri’s lodging to his own, he would hardly have minded. Yet, he couldn’t imagine having the courage to come out and say so, to ask Viktor now to abandon their evening and make love to him instead.

He reached for his wine glass, inwardly cursing when his hand shook. His trousers had grown tight just from his brief imaginings, he had no idea how he would make it through the night. His idea that perhaps his ardour would have cooled in the days without seeing Viktor was disproved, since no sooner had he seen him than he was desperate once again.

He looked up and saw that Viktor was watching him, his eyes sparkling as if he could read Yuuri’s thoughts. He cleared his throat. “What, err, is so scandalous about the play?”

Viktor gave a half-shrug. “Oh, from what I hear some of the men wear as little as the women. There’s the usual men in female roles and women in male roles, of course. To be honest, I think London’s matrons must not have enough to be shocked by this season, so they settled on this production.”

“Ah,” replied Yuuri. “Have you neglected to provide them enough fodder to be scandalised by recently?” Viktor’s face was blank for a moment, and his stomach dropped, fearing he’d been frightfully rude instead of teasing. Then Viktor’s face cracked into loud laughter, and Yuuri relaxed.

After he caught his breath, Viktor looked around the dining room and then leaned close to Yuuri to whisper in his ear. “I could kiss you right here, if it’s scandal you want.” Yuuri went stock still, the twin emotions of embarrassment and arousal warring within him. A shiver travelled down his spine and he couldn’t quite conceal it.

Once again he felt Viktor’s eyes on him, studying his response. “Would you like that?” Viktor asked in a casual, normal tone. Out of sight under the table Yuuri clenched his hand into a fist, his nails digging painfully into his palm to keep him from making any humiliating squeaking sounds.

“I…I would,” he answered finally, enjoying the way Viktor’s eyes widened. “But I’d hate for it to show up in the gossip pages.”

“Well,” said Viktor, his voice a little thick, “We’ll have to wait until we have a more private setting, then.” Their eyes met, and a current of heat seemed to pass between them. Yuuri shifted in his chair, his erection having become uncomfortable. Viktor’s eyes followed his fidgeting, clearly drawing conclusions from it. “I’m so tempted to seek out a private closet somewhere right now,” continued Viktor, his cheekbones dusted with pink.

Yuuri coughed, looking away to try to maintain his composure. All around them sat respectable diners enjoying a pre-theatre meal, many of them middle-class married couples out for a rare evening’s pleasure. He felt even more like an alien than he normally did, with his louche Russian noble companion, both of them making lewd conversation where anyone could overhear. “Please,” he said to Viktor.

“Please?” The other man laughed a little. “Please take you away somewhere private?” His tone was disbelieving.

“No!” he objected, far more loudly than he’d intended. He winced. “That is, please…can we…change the topic.”

“Oh,” said the baron, only a touch of disappointment in his tone. “Well, then…” He looked around for inspiration. “Why don’t you tell me about your studies. Why medicine?”

“Err, well, I…I wanted to do something that would be a help to my family, and my home. Many ill people come to Hasetsu for the springs, and the sea air, so studying medicine seemed natural when I was able to go away for school. Then I learned of the advancements in science being made, but there wasn’t anyone at home trained in the latest medical knowledge. So I applied to the government for permission to study abroad.” Viktor was listening raptly, eyes smiling. His apparent interest gave Yuuri the confidence to continue. “The truth is I’d always wanted to travel, to see how people lived elsewhere. I read stories about Europe when I was young, and it sounded so exotic.”

Viktor’s mouth formed a heart shape. “How does England measure up to your imagination?” he asked with a wry tone.

“Eh, it’s very different. I imagined England as a place with knights and castles, not modern London, with it’s terrible yellow fog and so many people living so closely.” He blushed. “I suppose that makes me sound foolish.”

“Not at all,” said Viktor with a shake of his head. “I can’t even begin to imagine what Japan would be like. I’ve read a bit about it, and seen some of the art, but I’m sure that’s nothing like the reality.”

“I don’t know. What have you read?”

“Oh, umm,” Viktor’s nose grew a little pink. “I bought a book about Japan the other day. It makes it sound like some kind of paradise, where no one does anything but create beautiful things and everyone is happy.”

Yuuri smiled wryly. “I suppose there are worse ways to be portrayed.”

“I realise how inaccurate and simplified an outsider’s understanding can be of a place. I’ve heard plenty of British opinions on Russia, after all,” said Viktor. “I suppose the British condescension is similar for both countries, since they seem to see both Russia and Japan as having only recently discovered civilisation and forsaken barbarity.” They shared a look.

“Enough about the English, though,” continued the baron. “What I want to know is how you dress at home. Do you wear a kimono? Is that the correct term?”

Yuuri nods. “Sometimes men wear Western suits at home, for government functions, and the very rich and fashionable people. Western clothing is very expensive, though, so mostly we wear traditional styles, especially in places like Hasetsu.”

“So is it a long, silk, decorated kimono, like women sometimes wear here? I’d bet you would look lovely in one.”

Yuuri blushed and looked down for a second before answering. “Hmm, silk, yes, unless it’s summer and a very casual occasion. Long, sometimes. Usually men’s kimono are darker colours and not as embroidered as women’s. Probably much plainer than what you’ve seen.”

“Oh.” Viktor looked a little disappointed. “Did you bring any with you?”

Yuuri looked away from Viktor’s flirtatious gaze. He had brought a formal kimono and hakama as well as a yukata which he sometimes wore in his room. “I did, although I haven’t worn it since I arrived,” he admitted.

“I’d love to see you in it!” enthused Viktor. Yuuri bit his lip in hesitation.

“I…don’t know. Perhaps, one day.” He wouldn’t wear his country’s traditional clothing out here. He nearly shuddered at the thought of the attention that would draw. So if he did show Viktor, it would have to be in private. And they weren’t quite that intimate yet.

For the rest of the meal they talked about their homes and the differences with England. Yuuri found himself relaxing and enjoying the conversation, forgetting the strange and thrilling tension between them for a time. When the meal was done, Viktor led him next door to the theatre.

The theatre was a very large and elegant building, with a curved classical front corner and a dark dome looming above the entrance. Once inside, they proceeded up an octagonal staircase to the private boxes. The mood of the theatre was subtly different from the ballet. People were dressed less elaborately, and didn’t seem to all know one another, as they had on the other occasion. He saw many married couples rather than family groups, and in general far more gentlemen than ladies.

Yuuri tried to focus on the show once it began, but found it somewhat difficult. It seemed to make a lot of allusions to cultural ideas he didn’t recognise. Much of the humour went over his head as well. The jokes he understood tended to be the off-colour ones. He could see why the production was considered mildly scandalous, though. The revealing costumes included form-fitting tights on both female and male performers, as well as some cross-sex casting. This lead to some rather risque scenes of romance between two male actors and even more shockingly, two female actors.

As the show continued, Yuuri’s attention wandered to his more immediate surroundings and he felt Viktor’s eyes on him. He turned to his right and met the baron’s electric gaze. Yuuri held his breath for a moment as something built between them, the heat of earlier rising again. Then one corner of Viktor’s mouth quirked up and he shifted his chair backwards into shadow. He crooked a finger at Yuuri, looking towards the open space next to him. Yuuri looked around and then moved his own chair back until the shadow cast by the curtain at the front of the box covered him as well. Viktor moved his chair again, until it was pressed tight to Yuuri’s.

The baron leaned toward him and whispered directly into his ear, “Now no one can see us.” Yuuri met his eyes again, feeling the weight of implication that statement carried. His breath came fast as Viktor raised a hand to his face. He shivered then and moved forward to meet the baron’s lips with his own.

The kiss was a relief and Yuuri relaxed for what felt like the first time since he’d parted from Viktor on their previous night together. Their mouths opened, tongues meeting as they took turns exploring and pressing. Warmth spread through his body, tingling down to his toes, and he was perfectly content to simply stay in Viktor’s embrace indefinitely. Unlike on the two previous occasions, this kiss was unhurried and luxurious, both of them feeling their way. Viktor’s arms encircled him, his hands slowly trailing down and up Yuuri’s arms, one curving around his waist and then up his spine. It served to remind him of the rest of his body, including his rigid member, but neither of them hurried the encounter.

Yuuri was surprised when the music ended and the gaslights brightened to signal the interval. He broke apart from his companion’s lips to look at him sheepishly. He was in no decent state to stand or walk any time soon. Viktor blinked in the increased light, also looking slightly startled that the first half was over.

“Well,” said the baron. “I can’t say something cool to drink wouldn’t be welcome just now, but…it’s rather an inconvenient moment, wouldn’t you say?” His eyes flicked down to Yuuri’s lap and the obvious tent in the cloth. Yuuri’s face burned and he couldn’t help trying to cover his arousal with a hand. He looked to the other man’s lap, though and saw he was in a similar state. The sight caused a deep throb of desire to pass through him, going directly to his core. Viktor didn’t make any move to cover himself or hide his cockstand, in fact he settled back against his chair as if on display. Yuuri’s mouth went dry and his breathing grew more ragged.

“Viktor,” he said, voice low. The other man held out a hand to him, which Yuuri took. Viktor tugged him forward, off his own chair and into the other man’s lap in a tangle of limbs. When Yuuri sorted himself out, he was straddling the baron, his feet just touching the floor on either side of the man’s chair.

The baron kissed him again, with more heat and intensity this time. Their bodies pressed together, rocking slightly in unconscious movement. Yuuri could feel the other man’s arousal pressing against his own deliciously. He hardly knew where he was, feeling drunk and dazed with Viktor’s kisses, with the desire thrumming through his veins. He took advantage of his position to grind down harder against his companion, earning him a soft groan against his mouth. One of Viktor’s hands slid down his back and cupped his buttock, holding him tight.

Yuuri lost track of time again in the wet heat of Viktor’s mouth and the burning friction of their bodies. The orchestra started up once more and the lights dimmed. They broke apart and stared at one another for a moment. Viktor’s mouth was swollen and red and perspiration beaded along his hairline. He looked to be thinking for another second and then he planted his hands firmly on Yuuri’s hips. He leaned forward to speak directly into Yuuri’s ear. “Turn around, kotenok.

Yuuri didn’t understand what his aim was, but he stood up and let Viktor guide him into turning around and then seating himself back on the taller man’s lap. Viktor drew him back until he slotted tightly against his chest. Viktor’s erection pressed into the valley between his buttocks, causing both of them to gasp. The baron pressed a brief peck to the side of Yuuri’s throat before bringing his hands around him and beginning to unbutton his kid gloves. Yuuri watched as Victor peeled the soft, thin gloves from his hands, not sure what this portended, but sure it meant something profound.

Then Victor’s right hand came to rest high on Yuuri’s thigh, scant inches from his sex. He panted more heavily, his cock twitching at the sensation. He felt Viktor’s breath against his ear. “May I?” he asked. His fingers twitched in the direction of the bulge in his trousers. Yuuri took two ragged breaths, suddenly aware once more of the loud musical production happening so far away on the stage before him. He could just see the stage from where he sat, but none of the other boxes. It was easy to imagine they were alone here, if not for the sounds. Somewhat assured that no one could overlook them, he finally nodded his permission.

The baron’s hand moved, his fingers lightly tracing the shape of his arousal through his clothing. Yuuri shuddered, pressing harder back against Viktor. Another kiss was pressed to the exposed side of his neck. The fingers moved up his ‘stand from base to tip, sending another shiver up his spine. “Tell me you want this,” murmured Viktor, and Yuuri nodded without hesitation this time. “Good,” purred Viktor.

His hand reached for the buttons of Yuuri’s trousers and in the blink of the eye he had a hand inside his clothing and clasped around his cock. Yuuri felt like sobbing at the touch, but bit the noise back. Victor began stroking him, working his length free of the folds of his drawers and trousers. The cool air on his heated flesh made him shiver, but it was just one more movement against the hard body behind him. Viktor’s removed his hand for a moment, bringing it up to his own face. Yuuri realised as it happened that Viktor was licking his palm. Then the moistened hand returned to start stroking him in earnest, the saliva easing the motion.

Yuuri was lost, the sensation so delicious and the setting so thrilling. He rocked forward into the baron’s hand and back to press against his rigid length, a creature of pure desire and instinct. Viktor’s hand was practised and it wasn’t long until he felt himself nearing release. He dug his hand into Viktor’s thigh and whimpered, the best effort he could make to convey his state. Evidently Viktor understood, for he moved his left hand from Yuuri’s waist to dig into his pocket. The hand return with a handkerchief which he draped over the head of Yuuri’s cock.

“Come for me, my darling,” said Viktor, loud against his ear, and Yuuri was gone. He shuddered hard, biting painfully on his bottom lip to keep from crying out as he spent into the handkerchief and Viktor’s hand. The baron wrung every last drop from him as Yuuri vibrated on top of him, afraid he might actually fall from the other man’s lap. Eventually the spasms of pleasure passed and he slumped back bonelessly as Viktor wiped all traces up with the cloth. He secreted the handkerchief back into a pocket and wrapped both arms snugly around Yuuri’s chest, just holding him for a while.

As Yuuri focused once again on the distant stage, where a woman was singing some repetitive song whose words he couldn’t make out, a giggle rose up in his chest. He laughed as silently as possible, the entire situation striking him as amusing. In response Viktor pressed a series of gentle kisses to his throat. Then his grip on Yuuri firmed and he shifted his hips, sliding his arousal against his backside. Yuuri’s breath caught at the reminder. Viktor moved his hands to his hips so he could push and pull Yuuri as he desired. Yuuri’s mind supplied him with an image suddenly, of himself with his trousers around his ankles, the baron thrusting up into his body. He shivered at the thought, no matter how impractical it might be in the circumstances.

But he could do better than this awkward thrusting, he realised. He covered Viktor’s hands with his own and stilled the rocking movements. Viktor made a soft frustrated noise close to his ear but Yuuri squeezed his hand in reassurance. He pulled Viktor’s hands away and then slid down to the floor. He turned around, pressing Victor’s knees apart so he could kneel in between them. For the first time he had a good view of Viktor’s face and he stopped for a moment to stare. He had never seen the baron look so unguarded and open. He looked nearly frenzied with desire, his lips bitten and jaw tense, but his eyes sparkled with eagerness at Yuuri’s obvious intention.

He reached to open the other man’s trousers and pull his member free. He didn’t give himself any time to think about what he was doing or to feel nervous, just bent his head and opened his mouth to take him in. Immediately Viktor’s hands clamped onto Yuuri’s shoulders, the fingers digging in. He took it as encouragement and lowered himself to take as much of the baron’s cockstand in his mouth as he could. Yuuri had done this before, twice to be precise, in rushed encounters in the rooms upstairs at the Swan. He didn’t think he was especially skilled, but he tried his best, moving his tongue against the heavy length and sealing his lips tightly around it.

He could feel the tension running through the baron’s body from where he gripped his thighs, and where the other man’s fingers dug into his shoulders. He increased his speed, willing the other man to his climax, wanting the pride of giving him that pleasure. One of Viktor’s hands moved, sliding up the nape of his neck and gripping at his pomaded hair. The grip stung as Yuuri bobbed his head, but he thrilled to it. Moments later, Viktor’s muscles went rigid under his hands and a hot, salty fluid filled his mouth. Yuuri swallowed it down clumsily, pulling back reluctantly to cough as he did.

Viktor looked at him, concerned, but he shook his head to indicate he was well. He sat back on his heels and looked at the other man for several moments, a smile spread across his face. Yuuri felt strangely like a new, different person. Someone who was on his knees in a box at the theatre, having just sucked off the infamous rake Baron Viktor Nikiforov, the most beautiful man in London. Who was now looking at him with a dazed, happy expression, his eyes shining as he put himself back to rights. When his clothing was somewhat smoothed, Viktor extended a hand down to Yuuri, pulling him back into his lap.

This time Yuuri sat sideways on his thighs, enjoying a deep, messy kiss. A blissful lassitude spread through his body and he broke the kiss to rest his head on Viktor’s shoulder. His eyes drifted closed and he let himself enjoy the warmth and feel of the man’s arms around him, his deep breathing and the musky scent of his sex still in his nostrils.

The next thing Yuuri knew, he was being shaken gently and…he was in Viktor’s lap. The sound of applause rang out seemingly from all around him. He blinked, realising slowly where he was. He flushed as he remembered what he and Viktor had done…or was it possible he’d dreamt it? He looked at Viktor, who smiled warmly at him.

Yuuri swiped at some drool which had escaped his mouth, embarrassed. “Sorry,” he whispered.

“Don’t apologise,” said Viktor. “I assumed you needed the rest. And it’s normal for many after a climax.” Yuuri ducked his head, but relief flooded his veins. He hadn’t imagined it, then, they’d actually…he could hardly believe it.

He shifted his weight and saw Viktor wince slightly. “Oh,” he said, standing quickly and then sitting in his own chair when he felt unsteady on his feet. “I must have been crushing you.”

Viktor smiled and shook his head. “Not at all,” he said, but Yuuri saw him massaging his thighs. Yuuri’s cheeks heated further and he looked out of the box to try to hide his shame. His leg tapped on the floor nervously. The spell he’d felt himself under earlier, that made it seem reasonable and natural to act so shamelessly had shattered. He couldn’t imagine how it had even happened. His stomach turned over with a feeling of dread, of foreboding. What if someone had seen? What if it had been noted that they’d disappeared from view and rumours started. What if Viktor was even now regretting their actions? Surely he could find a better partner than someone who fell asleep on him as soon as they were done.

“Yuuri.” He started as a hand touched his shoulder. He glanced up into Viktor face. “Are you alright?” the baron asked hesitantly. A moment of panic seized Yuuri, a moment where he thought he might break and spill all his fears out. But he pushed it down and forced himself to nod. “Are you sure?” asked Viktor, looking even more concerned.

“Yes. Yes, I’m fine. Just…” Yuuri waved a hand to encompass their environs. His companion searched his face for several seconds but then nodded, apparently satisfied.

“Yuuri,” said Viktor again, leaning forward.

“Hmm?” Yuuri was still trying to pretend calm.

“Will you come home with me tonight?” Viktor’s eyes radiated hopeful sincerity and Yuuri got lost in them for a moment. Then he blinked, his instincts rising up against him and urging him to flee. He looked away, struggling to think of a response. Of course, he wanted to say yes, but he was already nearly panicked from what had passed between them. He couldn’t risk breaking down entirely in front of Viktor, not if he wanted to see him again.

“I…I want to,” he began. “But I’m afraid I’m very tired. And I have a lecture tomorrow, in the morning.” He looked up at the baron, who looked disappointed. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I’d be very good company just now.” Viktor gave him a small smile.

“I doubt that,” he said kindly. “However, I understand. If tonight was inconvenient for you, you could have named another night.” Yuuri winced, already regretting his lie about the lecture.

“I didn’t want to wait,” he admitted with a shy smile.

“Well,” said Viktor. “When will you be free again without commitments the following day?” Viktor leaned closer. “I am determined to get you into my bed,” he said in a low, dangerous tone. As if his voice was directly connected to his spine, Yuuri shivered.

“I…uh…” he stammered, thinking furiously, very nearly changing his mind entirely about going home with him that night. “Saturday?”

Viktor nodded. “Saturday it is, then.” He stood and offered a hand to help Yuuri up. Once back in the carriage Viktor pulled him close, one arm over his shoulders. Yuuri leaned gratefully against the taller man, relaxing again and feeling safe in his arms. When the carriage eventually came to a stop outside Yuuri’s home Viktor turned to him.

“May I kiss you?” he asked, making him smile.

“Of course,” he said. The kiss was brief in comparison to their earlier embraces, and Viktor pulled back before it could grow too heated, for which Yuuri was grateful. He doubted his decision enough already.

Yuuri had difficulty getting to sleep that night, tossing and turning while he alternated between cursing himself for not going home with Viktor and worrying about what Viktor thought of him after their activities in the box. His dreams once he eventually lost consciousness were filled with eroticism and anxiety in equal proportions.

Chapter Text

“So what happened, damn it?” asked Phichit, his frustration evident. Yuuri was seated at the table, working on his breakfast of porridge and tea.

“We went to the Gaiety,” he answered blandly, suppressing a smile.

“And that’s all? He brought you straight back here after?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“You’re not telling me something.” Phichit was pointing a finger at him in accusation. Yuuri tried giving him an innocent look. The look of suspicion in his friend’s eyes intensified. “Out with it! Did he seduce you in the coach?”

Yuuri smile quirked up on one side. “No. It was in the private box.” Phichit’s eyes went wide and he sat in the chair across from Yuuri, leaning forward eagerly.

“Yuuri! Details. Now.”

Yuuri met his friend’s eyes and finally blushed. “He…well he used his hand. And then I…went down on my knees for him.” He ducked his head.

“My goodness! In the theatre?! Were you drunk?”

Yuuri shook his head. “Not at all. But after that I felt flustered so I made an excuse and got him to bring me back here instead of his lodgings.”

“It was good though? I mean, nothing went wrong? Was he…appreciative?”

“He…uh, seemed enthusiastic.” Yuuri narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean by appreciative, anyway? He didn’t pay me for it!”

“Well, alright, but what is your relationship with him? Is he supporting you or is this all…courting?”

“It’s not courting, Phichit. He’s a baron; he made it very clear his parents have specific expectations regarding his marriage. That’s not what’s going on.”

“So?”

“So, I don’t know. We’re…enjoying ourselves together. I’m seeing him on Saturday and I’ve already agreed to spend the night with him. So it’s possible after that…well he’ll probably lose interest.”

“Hmm, I don’t know…one night might not be enough once he gets a taste,” Phichit said with a waggle of his eyebrows.

“Come on, he’s had plenty of tastes. I’m nothing special.” Phichit shrugged in a way that indicated he disagreed.

“Yuuri,” he said after a pause. “I know you’ve never really fucked before.” Yuuri’s face burned and he looked away, wishing his friend would just stop right there. “No, listen, I just wondered if you needed any…advice.”

“I think I understand the general concept,” he said disapprovingly.

“Well…just don’t let him hurt you.” At Yuuri’s frown Phichit held up a hand. “I know you say he’s been very considerate and kind, so he’ll probably take good care of you. But…will you tell him it’s your first time?”

“I…” Yuuri stopped. He didn’t want Viktor to think of him as childish or unworldly. But it was possible Phichit had a point. “Yeah, fine,” he conceded.

~~~~~

Yuuri spied Viktor’s carriage arrive from the window and was out the front door before Viktor could do more than swing open the carriage door. Viktor laughed to see him exit the building and then offered him a hand to assist him to mount the stair. As soon as the door was closed behind him and Yuuri was seated, Viktor had Yuuri in his arms.

“May I kiss you?” he asked, a little breathless.

Yuuri nodded. “Please.” The word was barely past his lips before Viktor closed the distance between them. There was no hesitation in this kiss, no testing. Their mouths opened against one another, tongues sliding together. It was impossible to say that either of them was the more aggressive, the more dominant: Yuuri met Viktor’s passion with his own and they lost themselves in it. Hands traced down bodies, caressing and exploring. One of Viktor’s thighs was between Yuuri’s, and then Yuuri was straddling his lap, his hard sex rutting against him. Viktor’s hands shaped the curve of Yuuri’s arse and pulled him closer. His breath became ragged; he was whimpering into Viktor’s mouth in time with his rocking motions.

Then Viktor broke away from the kiss with a loud gasp, pushing Yuuri back firmly but gently. Yuuri frowned at him, but the baron held up a hand to signal patience. He reached to the side of the compartment to grasp his cane, which he used to knock three times on the roof of the coach. A quick knock came in reply and Viktor smiled as he turned back to Yuuri.

“There,” he said.

“What was that?” Yuuri asked, still feeling dazed.

“He’ll drive us in circles now until I tell him otherwise. Sit back for me,” instructed Viktor, pushing Yuuri the rest of the way off him and back against the seat.

“You have a signal with your coachman in case you want to…” He gestured vaguely. Viktor grinned as he pulled off his gloves, then slid from the seat, coming into a crouch in front of Yuuri. He pressed his knees apart, then reached into an inner pocket to produce a handkerchief, which he spread on the floor.

“In case I want to go on my knees for a beautiful man?” he said, kneeling on the handkerchief and gazing up at Yuuri steadily. Yuuri’s breath caught in his throat at the sight. Viktor smiled and then reached for the button of Yuuri’s trousers. He paused, his hand resting on the closure. “May I?” he asked quietly. Yuuri nodded, not trusting in words at the moment.

Viktor deftly opened his trousers and reached inside to expose his rigid cockstand. He looked at it with something like hunger and excitement for a moment before lowering his head and giving it a long lick from root to tip. Yuuri whimpered, fisting his hands at his sides. The sight before him was utterly unbelievable: Baron Nikiforov on his knees in a moving carriage, Yuuri’s cock disappearing now between his wet lips. He couldn’t decide whether the feel of Viktor’s mouth or the view of it was the better part. Both at once nearly undid him. He bit his bottom lip hard to keep from crying out.

Viktor hummed in pleasure around his cock, making him tingle wonderfully. He was sucking hard, moving up and down his rod with determination, his tongue curling and slithering wherever it could. It was clear Viktor was seeking Yuuri’s release, not teasing him or drawing the act out. And his climax was nearing; in fact, he felt he could spend at any moment and it was almost a surprise each moment he did not.

Viktor bent his head and swallowed Yuuri deeper, into the back of his throat, deeper than Yuuri had known was possible. He made a strangled noise as Viktor swallowed around the head of his cock before pulling completely off, gasping. Yuuri only had a few seconds to catch his breath before Viktor was sucking him again, moving faster now. He felt his climax approaching inevitably and tried to give a warning. “I…I’m…” he managed and then Viktor had taken him into his throat again and Yuuri gasped as he spent. Viktor gagged a bit, struggling to swallow all his spend. When finally every drop was gone and he sat back, Yuuri saw tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. The baron pulled a second handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his mouth and wipe these away.

“I’m sorry,” stammered Yuuri. “Are you alright?”

Viktor chuckled a bit and nodded. “I’m wonderful, darling. How are you?” His eyes crinkled at the corners.

“Oh. Better than wonderful, I suppose,” Yuuri replied with his own smile. Viktor reached out with the cloth and Yuuri began to reach for it, but his hand fell back when the baron began to gently wipe Yuuri’s softening sex clean. It was such an intimate and tender act that something clenched in Yuuri’s chest as he watched. It was a completely unnecessary kindness and made him feel cared for in a way he hadn’t known for a long time. Viktor finished cleaning him and then tucked his cock carefully back into his clothes and buttoned his trousers before he pulled himself back onto the seat.

Yuuri blinked, still stunned in the wake of this care, but he turned toward Viktor. He let the baron pull him into an embrace, a long, slow kiss which tasted of his own bitter spend. The baron kissed him languidly, with no hurry, and Yuuri’s post-climax lassitude spread throughout his body. When at length they parted, Yuuri slid his hand up the other man’s thigh, keen to offer what reciprocation he could. But Viktor caught his hand, and shook his head.

“First, allow me to properly ask you a question,” he said. Yuuri gave him a confused look but nodded. “After our meal, will you come back to my flat with me and let me make love to you?” A smile broke across Yuuri’s face at the sincerity of his tone.

“Yes,” he replied simply. Viktor exhaled.

“Good. Then I’ll wait until then. I want to savour the anticipation.”

Yuuri cocked his head to the side. “If I said no, you would let me suck you off, though?” he teased.

“Well, naturally, in that case I’d take whatever I could get.” After a moment of eye contact, they both burst into laughter. Viktor retrieved his cane from the floor and knocked on the roof again and they continued on to the restaurant.

The restaurant, when the coach stopped in front of it, was not what Yuuri had expected. Rather than one of the fashionable establishments of the West End, where they had dined previously, this was an unassuming shopfront in a decidedly downmarket neighbourhood. Bright light shined from behind the panes of glass at the front, however, and when Viktor opened the door, both a delicious aroma and cheerful voices poured out.

Viktor murmured a few words to a middle-aged man with a brown stain on his white shirtfront. The man nodded eagerly and lead them to a table at the back of the crowded restaurant, in a partially screened enclosure. Heads had turned as they made their way through the room, their dress setting them apart from the rest of the clientele who looked to be both labourers and office workers.

Viktor saw Yuuri looking around curiously. “This place has wonderful fish and seafood. They get it in fresh from the docks every day. I thought you might like it, after what you said about how you eat at home.” Yuuri smiled shyly at him, touched that the baron had troubled to consider his tastes.

“Thank you,” he said. “It’s just not the sort of place I would imagine you…knowing about.”

“Well, I’m used to fresh seafood as well, in St. Petersburg. And the cook here is very talented.”

“So you’ve eaten here before; it’s not just because of me.”

“Yes, I have,” said Viktor with a strange smile. “You know I don’t confine myself to respectable haunts, right?”

“Hmm, true enough, I suppose,” replied Yuuri.

“If I did, we’d never have met,” added Viktor with a sly grin.

“True,” said Yuuri. “I don’t spend much time in fashionable places.”

Viktor was right about the food. It was delicious. On the host’s recommendation they shared a whole roasted turbot with a butter and parsley sauce. The amazing meal nearly succeeded in distracting Yuuri from the anticipation and tension settled low in his belly. But after they were done eating he locked eyes with Viktor and saw something hot lurking behind the sparkling blue. It went straight to his groin and his heart quickened.

“Ready?” asked Viktor. Yuuri swallowed down a wave of fear and nodded with determination.

~~~~~

The coach let them off in front of a nondescript building, and Viktor led the way through the door and up a flight of stairs. He opened another dark door quietly, pulling Yuuri inside after him. Before he had a chance to look around, a man in a plain black suit appeared through an open doorway.

“Your Well-born, welcome back,” he said with fairly thick Russian accent.

“Good evening, Sokolov. This is Yuuri Katsuki. Yuuri, my manservant Sokolov.” Yuuri nodded to him and received a slight bow in return. The manservant turned to Viktor and asked a question in Russian. Viktor answered him briefly in the same language and then turned to Yuuri. “Would you like some port? Brandy? Tea?”

“Uh, tea, actually, would be nice,” Yuuri replied, feeling incredibly awkward. Viktor nodded to the servant, who turned and left. Viktor stripped off his gloves and hat and left them on a low bench along one side of the entry hall, and Yuuri followed his lead.

“Sokolov is the only live-in servant I employ,” Viktor explained as he lead the way into a cosy sitting room. “I prefer living here in this flat rather than maintaining an entire household. This way my privacy is preserved.” They sat in tall armchairs across from one another. Yuuri felt grateful not to be touching the baron, since it gave him the opportunity to think clearly for once. The fluttering feeling in his stomach didn’t quit, however, knowing what was to come.

The door behind them opened again and Sokolov appeared with a tray and went to the sideboard where an elaborately decorated vessel stood amid a number of matching china cups. He poured water from a pitcher into this vessel and added something else using metal tongs. After replacing the lid he measured some tea into a small pot and placed it to the side.

“Will that be all, sir?” he asked.

“Yes, thank you, Sokolov. You may retire for the night,” said the baron, and the servant bowed and let himself out of the room.

“What is that?” asked Yuuri, nodding to the colourful vessel.

“Oh, it’s a samovar. The traditional Russian way to make tea,” Viktor explained. Yuuri nodded, turning his eyes to take in the rest of the room. Two walls were entirely filled with bookcases, some of the books elegant leather-bound volumes, but some cheap yellow-back novels. Somehow it didn’t surprise him that the baron was a reader, or that he enjoyed cheap novels at least some of the time. There were a couple of paintings on the remaining walls, but Yuuri didn’t recognise the subjects or artists. He knew very little about Western art in any event.

After a time steam rose from the top of the samovar and Viktor got up to tend to the device. “How strong do you like your tea?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Err, not terribly strong, but I usually don’t add anything,” he said. Viktor used the tap at the front to dispense hot water into the teapot and then poured two cups, adding more hot water to one from the samovar. He stirred something into the other cup and then brought both over to their chairs, handing one to Yuuri.

Yuuri peered into the cup to see a lovely shade of reddish brown. After blowing on it, he sipped cautiously, noting the tea wasn’t scalding hot. And it was delicious, flavourful but not overly strong. “It’s very good,” he said.

“We almost always sweeten it, either with sugar or jam. The samovar allows you to adjust the strength of the tea for each person, though.”

“That’s very convenient,” he remarked. “We don’t sweeten tea in Japan, although the tea is different, and less bitter. Still, I haven’t gotten used to sweet tea.” Viktor smiled at him over the top of his cup and Yuuri smiled back. They continued to sip their tea in silence, and Yuuri’s thoughts wandered again to what would happen when they’d finished their beverages.

“Are you alright?” asked Viktor, breaking into his thoughts.

“Yes, yes I’m fine,” he replied, feeling his cheeks flush.

“You look…a little anxious?” the baron ventured. The heat in Yuuri’s face increased. Viktor leaned forward slightly. “I…I just want you to know, if you’ve changed your mind…or if you do change your mind, it’s fine. I don’t…well, I don’t want you to feel obligated in any way.” Yuuri looked away from the baron’s sincere expression, looking down into his almost empty cup. “I want it to be clear between us,” continued Viktor, “that our financial arrangement is entirely independent of whatever happens between us here.” Yuuri looked back up at him shyly. “I hope that’s clear,” he repeated.

Yuuri nodded, smiling slightly. He personally felt rather beyond worrying about that aspect of things. If Viktor had been looking to take advantage of him by any means he could have done that a number of times, especially when Yuuri had been intoxicated. He didn’t know what would happen after this night, he hadn’t even bothered to think of it. That was a problem for a future version of himself, one who had experienced a night of passion with Baron Victor Nikiforov.

Viktor was still looking at him with some concern, so Yuuri drained the last of his tea and steadied himself. “I’m a little nervous, yes,” he said at last. “But not because I’ve changed my mind or am…conflicted about what I want.” He saw Viktor draw in a sudden breath and widen his eyes slightly at his words. He reached a hand forward to take Yuuri’s cup and place both it and his own on a small table to the side of his chair. Then he stood and held a hand down to Yuuri. Yuuri took it, standing up so that they were facing one another only inches apart.

Viktor lifted his other hand to cup Yuuri’s cheek, and then leaned in for a kiss. Yuuri trembled slightly, feeling it in his legs as their lips met. Viktor kissed him gently, sliding his hand around to cradle the back of his head as if he were fragile. Then Yuuri opened his mouth and the kiss deepened as he wrapped his arms around Viktor and clutched at him. He felt a bit like he might fall if he let go, but an arm snaking around his waist steadied him. The kiss built in heat until they broke apart with a gasp and Viktor ducked his head to mouth at his jaw and down his throat. Yuuri gave a strangled whine at the sensation, which made Viktor nip him lightly with his teeth.

Yuuri clutched at his shoulders, frozen until Viktor stepped back, breathing heavily. He felt like he was drowning in sensation, in desire already, and they’d barely begun. Viktor reacted to whatever he saw on his face and stepped close again, bringing their foreheads together. They panted into the same space and Yuuri was sure the other man could feel his trembling now.

“Will you come to my bedroom?” asked Viktor in a low voice.

Yuuri gave a shaky nod. “Please.” Viktor smiled at that. Yuuri mostly felt desperate not to be standing, for he wasn’t sure how much longer he could remain upright. Viktor caught his hand and led him eagerly through a second door, not the one they’d used to enter. He led him down a short hallway to another door that opened to his touch.

Yuuri felt far too over whelmed to take in much of the room. He registered that gas-lamps burned on the walls, turned down low. A large fireplace stood to the right, but it was unlit on this summer evening. In the middle of the far wall was a four-poster bed of dark wood, absent its hangings. The coverlet shimmered in the low light, seeming to beckon with luxury.

Viktor released his hand to shut the door behind them and Yuuri continued forward towards the bed, his heart pounding. He’d never been in a man’s bedroom in this way; he didn’t know if there was a way things were done. He reached the bed and stopped, facing it, unsure of the next move. Should he remove his clothes?

Viktor came up behind him and wrapped his arm around his waist, pressing his lips to Yuuri’s hair. Yuuri let himself relax back against him, though he still felt himself trembling slightly. The man behind him ducked his head and pressed his lips to the side of his throat. He tilted his head to give Viktor better access and moaned softly as he worked his way down his neck. When his lips reached the collar of his shirt, Viktor stopped and reached for Yuuri’s jacket to pull it from his shoulders. He folded the jacket neatly and placed it on the wooden chest at the foot of the bed.

Yuuri turned towards him and found himself being kissed passionately while Viktor’s hands went to work on his tie, collar, and shirtfront. When his hand slipped inside Yuuri’s shirt and skin touched skin for the first time he moaned against the baron’s lips. In the fumble to remove his shirt and unfasten his cuffs, they both sat on the edge of the bed. Yuuri pushed the suitcoat from Victor’s shoulders, surprised when the other man just let it fall to the floor. They both worked to rid the baron of his waistcoat and shirt. And then Viktor was pressing him back against the mattress, hands and mouth tracing paths down his bare chest, fingers slipping under the edge of his waistband.

“I need to see you,” moaned Viktor. “All of you.” Yuuri could only nod his permission, words failing him at the moment. The baron crouched down at the side of the bed to remove Yuuri’s shoes and socks, then his own, and then he returned to the bed to unbutton Yuuri’s trousers in a flash. Yuuri breathed heavily as the baron stripped him of trousers and drawers, and then fought the urge to move away or cover himself as the baron stood looking down at him, completely exposed.

“You’re so beautiful,” Viktor breathed. He reached out to trace a hand lightly down Yuuri’s leg. “I must draw you.”

“What?” asked Yuuri, confused.

“I want to sketch you. I like to draw,” explained Viktor.

“Right now?” asked Yuuri, voice plaintive. The baron laughed softly.

“No, my dear,” he said, covering Yuuri’s body with his own and leaning in close. “Not now.” He pressed a needy kiss to his lips as Yuuri arched up into his weight, moaning a little from the feel of Viktor’s wool clothing against his bare and rigid cock. He ran his hands down Viktor’s bare back, delighting in the feel of his skin and the shifting of the muscles under his fingertips. As Viktor moved his mouth to Yuuri’s neck, he let his hands move lower, shaping the other man’s arse and gasping when that made him grind down against his cockstand.

“Viktor!” he gasped, digging his fingers into the other man’s smooth flesh.

“Mmm,” groaned the baron against his throat, and then he reached down to unfasten his own trousers, sitting up enough to push his clothing down so they could press their hard lengths together. It felt heavenly, having so much bare skin pressing against his own, hands sliding and exploring, the friction of their rocking sending sparks up his spine.

Viktor slid a hand down Yuuri’s side to his hip, then down to his thigh, encouraging him to lift his leg and wrap it around him. His hand clenched against his thigh as they rocked, digging in hard. Finally, with a groan, Viktor raised his head and looked into Yuuri’s eyes. “Darling,” he began, “would you let me fuck you?”

Yuuri gave a full-body shudder at the words, but a sudden feeling of fear clenched in his gut as well. It must have shown on his face and in the sudden tension of his body, because Viktor immediately stammered, “O-or we don’t have to. It’s alright. I know some men don’t…”

Yuuri shook his head to stop the babble of words. “I-it’s not that,” he said. “I want to; it’s only that I never have.” He looked at Viktor through his lashes to gauge his reaction to this. “I don’t know…what I’m doing,” he added, his face burning.

“Oh,” said Viktor, face blank. “I see. Well, as I said, we don’t have to, if you’re unsure.” He leaned down and planted a brief kiss on Yuuri’s lips that warmed his heart. “O-or we could try the other way ‘round.” He lifted his eyebrows. “Would you prefer to fuck me?”

Yuuri sucked in a sudden breath. The image those words conjured presented itself fully formed: Viktor spread out below him, writhing and moaning, Yuuri thrusting into his body with powerful strokes. He softly groaned aloud from the powerful wave of desire that imagining caused to shoot through him.

“You like that idea?” asked Viktor with a wicked grin. Yuuri stared at him for a few moments, breath panting out between them. He couldn’t deny it; he wanted it very much. He nodded.

“Then let’s make it happen,” said Viktor in a delighted tone. He sat up, moving to the side of the bed.

“But I still never have…” objected Yuuri, reason reasserting itself.

“Don’t worry, my dear, I’ll guide you,” said Viktor as he stood and moved to fetch something from a dresser drawer. He returned to the bed with a small pot of something in his hand. “It’s simple. I’ll take care of everything.” Yuuri found himself without words to object, not when he wanted it so badly.

Viktor stretched out horizontally on the bed, facing Yuuri. “I’ll prepare myself for you,” he said, opening the jar.

“What is that?” Yuuri didn’t recognise the substance that coated two of Viktor’s fingers.

“Petroleum jelly,” answered Viktor, pulling his knees up and reaching between them to probe at his opening. “It’s the best thing for this.” Yuuri simply nodded, his gaze fixed on Viktor’s hand, the way it spread the glistening jelly around the puckered flesh, and then the way one finger pressed inside as Viktor moaned softly. His eyes rose to take in the baron’s face, the way his lips were slightly parted and his cheeks flushed. The entire picture was the most erotic thing Yuuri had ever seen, or even imagined. He was fascinated as Viktor worked himself open, and he reached a hand down to stroke at his own member slowly. After a brief time, he couldn’t resist anymore, and he sat up and moved to loom over Viktor. He looked down at the beautiful man below him, taking in everything from the way his teeth bit into his bottom lip to the drop of fluid leaking from the head of his flushed cockstand.

Yuuri bent down and took the head of his cock into his mouth, winning a loud groan of pleasure from Viktor. His hand continued to move between his legs, faster now, as Yuuri bobbed, pressing his tongue to his length. Soon Viktor was breathless beneath him and Yuuri felt he might burst if he couldn’t get closer to him immediately. He pulled back, and Viktor pulled his fingers free with a wet sound.

“I need you in me,” said Viktor, his eyes blown dark with frantic desire.

Yuuri took in their relative positions, Victor on his back with knees bent and Yuuri leaning over him. “Like this?” he asked, unsure of the mechanics.

“Mmm, it’s probably best if I turn over,” said Viktor, so Yuuri sat back on his heels, giving him room to move. The baron rolled over and lifted up to his hands and knees, pressing his arse back a little in an incredibly inviting display. “Just get some jelly on your cock and then…” Viktor wiggled his rear a little more and Yuuri smiled. Viktor smiled at him as well, head turned over his shoulder.

Yuuri followed his instruction, coating his member well, and then moved into a kneeling position close behind the other man. “Just go a little slow at first, but I’m ready, don’t worry,” said Viktor encouragingly. Yuuri was grateful for the reassurance, and he used his hand to guide himself to Viktor’s opening and pressed inside. There was a moment he thought it wouldn’t work, but then his body opened to him and he slipped in a ways. The tight clench around the head of his cock was incredible, and he groaned aloud. Viktor echoed him, then gave a whispered, “Yes.”

Yuuri worked his way forward carefully, loving the way Viktor moaned as he did. He began rocking, pulling back and then pressing in, deeper with each thrust. “Yes, like that, just like that,” gasped the baron, pressing back to take more of him. “Oh, Yuuri, so good…more, please,” he begged, and Yuuri responded. The feel of it was incredible, so much better than anything Yuuri had known, tight and hot and slick.

“I’m…not going to last. . . much longer,” he managed apologetically.

“Mmm, that’s ok. Just give me it hard,” called Viktor over his shoulder. Yuuri thrust into him as deep as he could go, hard enough for their bodies to smack together, and Viktor gave an open-throated cry.

“Like that?” Yuuri asked from between his clenched teeth.

“Yes, yes, please.” Yuuri didn’t waste time before driving into Viktor again, and then again, the other man’s cries echoing around the room. He noted distantly that Viktor was pulling on his own cock frantically. Yuuri willed himself to hold off, felt his climax approaching, but bit his lip and tried to focus on getting one more hard thrust into Viktor. And then another.

Finally he lost his battle, one forward movement sending him over the edge, making him press forward hard and spill inside his lover with a strangled cry. Viktor cried out as well, bucking under him to keep up the movement, his hand jerking on his sex. Then he went still and shuddered, driving himself back against Yuuri hard as he spilled over his hand. The hard clench of muscle around him caused Yuuri to cry out in alarm, the sensation nearly painful on his sensitised cock, but he grabbed at Viktor and held him in place, both of them panting and sweating profusely.

After several moments of tensed muscles and panting, Viktor collapsed forward in a sprawl, causing Yuuri to fall as well. He landed half on top of the other man, breath driven from him. His cock was already softening where it rested against Viktor’s back, a sticky trail of fluid leading down to where it had slid free.

“Sorry,” he murmured as he rolled away from the baron.

“Hmm?” asked Viktor vaguely.

“For crushing you,” he clarified with embarrassment. His heart still pounded and his muscles were warm and relaxed.

He heard the smile in the other man’s reply. “I assure you, it’s no problem. You could make it up to me by fetching a wet cloth from the washstand, however, if you’re so inclined.” It was evident the baron was teasing him a bit, but Yuuri pushed himself up to do as he’d asked. He took a moment to wash himself off at the basin and brought a clean, wet cloth back for Viktor.

“Thank you, darling,” he said, taking it. He cleaned himself and pulled back the bedding, gesturing Yuuri to join him under their warmth. Yuuri did, and found himself pulled flush against the other man’s body. “How was that?” asked Viktor, hand stroking down Yuuri’s back.

“Mmm, incredible,” he replied with a self-conscious blush. “It was better than I expected.” Viktor’s hand stilled for a moment and he seemed surprised.

“Oh? You didn’t expect to like it?” he asked.

“No, no, no!” objected Yuuri in a rush. “I didn’t mean that! Only that I didn’t realise how good it would feel…to be inside you.” He saw the baron’s smile flash in the dim light and felt his lips brush his temple.

“It felt very good to have you inside me.”

“Did it?” Yuuri asked timidly.

“Yes,” said Viktor with emphasis. “Very, very good, Yuuri. I want you to do it again as soon as possible, in fact.” Yuuri smiled, pressing his face into the other man’s chest. Happiness filled him at the thought that Viktor wanted him again, that he didn’t sound disappointed in the least. The warmth of the feeling blended with the lingering sensation of pleasure and he felt himself drifting into sleep, Viktor’s arms still tight around him.

Chapter Text

Yuuri awoke feeling wonderfully comfortable. For some reason his bed felt magnificent this morning, even the sheets felt smoother against his skin…and he was entirely nude… His eyes snapped open in alarm as he realised he wasn’t in his own bed after all. He blinked around at the bedroom of Baron Nikiforov, with it’s opulent appointments. The space next to him in the bed was rumpled, but empty. Immediately, a surge of panic settled into his stomach, as his mind invented possible reasons for Viktor to be missing. Most of them were negative, although the logical part of his mind tried to object there were just as many, if not more, neutral reasons for him to be out of the room.

As Yuuri sat there in the bed, arguing with himself, the bedroom door swung open, to reveal his missing companion dressed in a paisley dressing gown. “Oh, you’re awake!” he called out as he spotted Yuuri. “Wonderful! I’ll ring for Sokolov to ready our breakfast.” Yuuri was taken aback by the brightness of Viktor’s tone, which served to shake him from his fears.

“Err, I…” He looked around, at a loss. He pulled the coverlet up to cover himself awkwardly, in case of the servant’s instant appearance. Viktor looked amused.

“Here,” he said, moving to the clothes-press against one wall, taking a second dressing gown, this one dark blue, and bringing it to Yuuri. He took it gratefully, wrapping it around himself and tying the sash. It was a little large on his frame, with the cuffs of the sleeves hanging around the tips of his fingers, but it covered him adequately. The baron also produced a pair of slippers, these too a bit large. At his request, Viktor directed him towards the bath room so he could take care of necessities. When he returned, Viktor led him back into the sitting room where they’d had tea the night before.

The samovar was steaming already, so they both helped themselves to cups of tea. Sokolov entered with a heavily laden tray a few minutes later, depositing its contents on the round table that took up one side of the room. Yuuri tried to act as if this was all normal for him, as if his skin wasn’t tingling with nerves. He almost felt he was in a dream, moving forward as if his environment made sense, when in actuality it was absurd. He tried to mentally reassure himself, but when he tried to explain to himself how it was that he was having breakfast with a Russian noble after a night of passion, with Baron Viktor Nikiforov there was no logical explanation for it. So he fell back on his instincts: be polite and wait for an opportunity to escape.

“Are you alright, my dear?” asked Viktor once his servant had exited.

“Mmm,” he replied with a nod, taking a large bite from a piece of toast. He couldn’t meet Viktor’s eyes for very long, feeling exposed under their bright, dancing shimmer. He didn’t want Viktor to see his struggle, didn’t want him to conclude Yuuri was regretting the night before. It was this morning that was difficult; last night had been far easier than he could have imagined.

The meal was quiet, perhaps because Viktor sensed Yuuri’s reluctance to speak. He ate heartily, though, and refilled his tea several times before he began to feel more himself. He tried to divine the baron’s mood from his expressions and decided he seemed pleased, if a little hesitant.

“There’s something I’d like to show you,” said Viktor when they were both finished. He looked like he wanted to say more, but stopped himself.

“Alright,” Yuuri agreed, his curiosity overcoming his previous resolution to make an escape as quickly as possible. Viktor stood and led him back into the hall, but headed away from the bedroom. He opened the door into a room that was shocking in its difference from the rest of the flat. None of the elegance and style he’d seen elsewhere was in evidence here. The walls were plain, painted a cream colour, and free of ornamentation. The three windows along the far wall had no draperies of any kind, and thus the room was far brighter than the others. Morning sun illuminated the furnishings of the room, which consisted of two tables, several stools, and one chaise longue draped in fabric.

“Welcome to my studio,” said Viktor with a flourish. Yuuri didn’t need the label, however, as artist’s tools cluttered the surfaces. Two wooden easels leaned against one wall, and sheets of paper covered both tables.

“I didn’t know you were an artist,” said Yuuri, sure he would have remembered such a detail if it had ever been part of the rumours about the baron.

“Not many people know,” Viktor replied. “It’s…private.”

Yuuri frowned a little at that, but was drawn forward to the table closest to him, where a black portfolio case was lying open, a stack of loose drawings inside. He looked back over his shoulder for permission. Viktor nodded, his eyes a little unsure. Yuuri carefully began to page through the drawings. They were all pencil or charcoal sketches of figures, most of them nude. Both men and women were featured. They varied in their level of detail, but all looked like accurate renderings of the human form. Yuuri paused as he revealed one drawing of a man stretched out, his hand wrapped around his rigid cock, a strained expression on his face. Viktor stepped forward hastily and reached out a hand as if to snatch the drawing away, but Yuuri’s body was blocking him from doing so.

“Uh, that one was…an experiment,” he said, and his face was red when Yuuri glanced up at him. He was fairly sure his own face was a matching shade, but he just raised an eyebrow at this explanation. He finished paging through the drawings before letting them fall back into a stack.

“They’re good,” he said honestly. “You’re talented.” Viktor glanced down at the praise as if slightly uncomfortable.

“I…work at it. It’s my passion.” Yuuri gazed at him a moment longer, trying to fit this knowledge into his understanding of the baron, who seemed to become more difficult to grasp the more one knew about him. Viktor met his gaze again. “Will you pose for me?” he asked softly. The tone gave Yuuri a thrill. He knew he’d have a difficult time refusing any request the baron made.

“If you want me to,” he replied.

“Yes, very much.” Viktor moved closer and brushed the back of his hand against Yuuri’s cheek. “You’re so lovely.” Yuuri shivered inwardly. For a moment he was sure they were going to kiss, but then the other man simply clasped his hand and pulled him closer to the windows and the chaise.

They both sat on the chaise, and Viktor raised a hand to slowly begin easing the dressing gown open, exposing one of Yuuri’s shoulders. It felt exactly like a seduction, and the heat in the baron’s eyes gave no indication otherwise. As the garment pooled around his waist, he leaned forward and kissed Yuuri, gently at first but then more firmly as he responded. For Yuuri’s part, the kiss inflamed his body, reminding him of everything they’d shared the night before. After a while, though, Viktor pulled back with a hiss.

“Are you trying to get me too distracted to draw you?” he asked in a teasing voice.

“Perhaps.” Viktor smirked at his response, his hand running down Yuuri’s bare spine, sending a noticeable shiver through him.

“You’re wicked,” Viktor said. “Why don’t you lie down on your stomach and let me capture this beautiful back? If you’re good, I’ll reward you when I’m finished.” Yuuri smiled at the challenge, turning to face away from the baron before letting the dressing gown fall away. He lay face down, hiding his arousal, but baring the rest of himself to Viktor’s view. A hand traced down his spine again, all the way from the nape of his neck down to the curve of his buttocks, then further down the back of his legs. Gooseflesh broke out in the wake of the touch, and he couldn’t entirely suppress his reaction. “You’re almost too tempting,” said the baron in a thick voice.

Yuuri looked over his shoulder at him. “So why resist?” For a moment all expression dropped from the other man’s face, mouth open, then he gave a soft moan.

“Incubus!” he cried, and Yuuri laughed. Viktor smacked his hand down lightly on his exposed rump, causing Yuuri’s breath to catch. To his dismay, however, Viktor seemed determined to make him wait. “Lie still and I promise I’ll make it worth the effort,” he said, moving away to set up his easel.

Yuuri lowered his head back down to rest on his folded arms. If he hadn’t been fully hard when he’d removed his robe, he was now, his member pressed between his stomach and the chaise. Despite the long, silent minutes as Viktor sketched, his arousal didn’t subside. It was as if he could feel the other man’s gaze as a physical touch on his skin, tracing long, slow lines down his limbs. In addition, his position, with his back to Viktor and his arse exposed, gave him a feeling that was as titillating as it was vulnerable.

His mind drifted to the sketches he’d seen in the portfolio. So many nude models. Were they all Viktor’s lovers? Would Yuuri’s figure join them soon, merely one in a stack, a memento of a brief passion? His guts twisted at the thought, though he’d tried to remind himself over and over of the transience of the baron’s attention. He was afraid no matter what he told himself the inevitable end would be painful. Yet despite that knowledge he couldn’t say he should have done things differently. Some things were valuable enough to be worth the cost.

“Will you lift your head and look back at me?” asked Viktor, breaking into his thoughts. Yuuri did as instructed. Viktor had positioned himself close to his feet so looking back at him required some effort. “Now can you give me that look you did before? When you were trying to tempt me?” Yuuri felt his face flush and he looked away briefly before forcing his eyes back to Viktor’s. When their eyes met he felt another lance of desire pass through him and his mouth opened slightly. “There! Just like that! Hold it as best you can.” Viktor’s pencil moved quickly over the paper as Yuuri strained not to move. After a few minutes Viktor spent some time flicking his eyes from his drawing to Yuuri, making a couple very brief gestures with his pencil, before finally setting it down.

“There. Done!” he proclaimed with a wide grin. Yuuri felt a moment of curiosity to see the sketch, but Viktor was already moving towards him, and his desire flared into need. He turned stretched his stiff neck out, hesitating over whether to roll over and expose himself entirely. Before he could decide, he felt Viktor kneeling behind him on the chaise, both hands reaching out to touch his back, his arse, his thighs. Fingers traced down his body just as he’d imagined while Viktor was drawing, and Yuuri shivered. Strong hands gripped the back of his thighs just beneath his buttocks, thumbs stroking the soft inner skin. Yuuri had thought his cock was hard before, but now it throbbed almost painfully, aching to be touched.

“Viktor,” he moaned softly, needily, shifting his hips upwards a little. The baron made a low growling noise and dipped his head to place a kiss in the middle of his shoulder blades.

“Yuuri,” he said, lips moving against his skin.

“Please, please.” The movement of his hips continued and he was now rutting against the fabric beneath him, shameless in his overwhelming need. “I waited and now I need…you.” The last word was a breathy moan. Viktor grabbed him by the hip and urged him to roll over, which Yuuri gratefully did. Before he had even settled into place his body was covered with the other man’s, the silk of the dressing gown he still wore sliding against his bare skin deliciously.

Viktor kissed him with hunger and Yuuri couldn’t help but rut up against him, his cock sliding wetly against silk, feeling an answering arousal pressing back to him. Yuuri reached up and grasped the collar of the gown and pulled it down, exposing Viktor’s shoulders and part of his chest. The baron answered the unspoken demand by lifting himself up long enough to free his arms from the sleeves. Once that was done he fell back onto Yuuri, his mouth fastening to his throat. Yuuri continued his quest to expose all of his lover, tugging on the robe until it parted and he was thrusting up against nothing but skin. With a final pull he exposed Viktor’s arse, letting the gown fall to the floor and putting his hands to work exploring the entire surface of his back.

They were both rutting together, small gasps and moans escaping them as they shifted. Yuuri loved the feel of Viktor’s weight on him, loved the frantic way his breath puffed out against his skin, loved the feel of the shifting muscles under his hands. He felt his pleasure mounting, but the friction wasn’t quite enough to bring him to climax and he whined and shifted, looking for a better angle.

“Don’t worry, solnyshko,” murmured Viktor, reaching down to grasp both their cocks together firmly. They moved awkwardly for a moment, until they got the rhythm right. Yuuri panted at the new stimulation, then reached down to add his hand to Viktor’s, partly covering the other man’s hand and adding yet more friction.

It wasn’t long before he shouted, tumbling over the edge to spend messily over their joined hands. Viktor paused to let Yuuri finish, but then resumed his movements with a new desperation. His breath sounded ragged in Yuuri’s ear, his hips jerking hard and thrusting against his sensitive cock.

“That’s it, Viktor. Come on,” he whispered. He dug the fingers of his free hand into the other man’s arse cheek, urging him on. Finally, Viktor gasped loudly, and he felt hot drops against his belly as his lover’s spend painted them both. After the tension of the climax passed, they both went limp, Viktor’s body heavy on him, but Yuuri didn’t mind. This had been desperate and slightly clumsy and messy, but somehow exactly what he’d needed.

After a time, Viktor rolled off him and lifted one corner of the fabric draped over the chaise to clean himself. “I’ll have it laundered,” he said in explanation. Yuuri mentally shrugged and followed his lead, wiping himself as best he could with the sheet. Viktor leaned over and kissed him once more, a long, lazy meeting of lips and tongues. Yuuri sat up to make room, as they wouldn’t easily fit side by side on the chaise.

“Do I get to see my portrait?” he asked with a playful nudge against the other man’s arm. Viktor smiled back and stood to retrieve it from the easel. Yuuri drank in the sight of his naked form, perfect and graceful. Victor should be the one immortalised by an artist. The baron returned and presented the drawing to Yuuri with a flourish, but his eyes betrayed some anxiety. Yuuri looked down at the page, taking in the same bold strokes mixed with soft shading as he’d seen in the other drawings. But this…

“This isn’t me,” he said softly.

Viktor frowned, a look of alarm in his eyes. “You don’t think— ”

“I mean, that’s not…what I look like…is it?” The man pictured in the sketch could indeed have been a mythical incubus. He looked over his shoulder at the viewer in an expression that looked quite clearly like an invitation. The lines of his body were strong and lush, the curve of his buttocks and slightly parted thighs looked far more indecent than Yuuri could have imagined. Yuuri hadn’t missed the eroticism of many of Viktor’s drawings, but this one felt almost incendiary. Though perhaps that impression was a function of his perspective. Regardless, Yuuri had a hard time recognising himself in this seductive figure. “You’ve made me…” Beautiful, sensual, alluring. “…different.”

Viktor looked at him for a few moments with a quizzical expression on his face. “That’s what you look like to me,” he said finally.

“Y-you’re flattering me,” Yuuri insisted.

Viktor shook his head. “I draw what I see.” Yuuri looked away, uncomfortable. His eyes landed on the stack of paper on the desk.

“Do you draw all your lovers?” he couldn’t resist asking, though he wasn’t at all sure he wanted to hear the answer. The baron raised his brows at the question and then followed Yuuri’s line of sight to the portfolio.

“No. Those aren’t lovers, my dear.” He laughed, shaking his head a bit. “Did you imagine I brought you in here and showed you all my past lovers? Why on earth would I do that?”

Yuuri’s face burned. “Well, I don’t know! What should I have thought, when you make love to me and then immediately ask me to pose?” Viktor looked chastened.

“Fair enough. I’m sorry. I didn’t think how it would appear.” Viktor stroked the back of his hand against Yuuri’s hair. “No, I paid them to model. It’s true many of them are prostitutes, but all I asked them to do was pose.” Yuuri relaxed, something settling inside him. Then he stiffened again as a thought occurred to him.

“Wait. So…all those rumours about you? About your trips to brothels? That’s because of art?

Viktor laughed again. “Mmm, yes.”

“You realise the kinds of things people say?” Yuuri was still incredulous.

“I’m aware of my reputation,” said the baron with a smirk. “To tell the truth, that’s a convenient side benefit.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Well…” Viktor sobered. “I’ve mentioned to you that my parents and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on the subject of marriage.” Yuuri nodded. “My father sees it as my duty to wed a wealthy, aristocratic woman and continue the family line. My mother…well, she is a little more open-minded, but she wants me to get married soon as well. Having a reputation as an incurable rake keeps away a good amount of potential brides.”

“I see,” said Yuuri, frowning.

“You don’t approve?”

“I don’t know. It seems dishonest, at the very least.” Viktor shrugged. Yuuri turned this information over in his mind, which circled back to one significant point. “So you don’t sleep with any of them?”

Viktor’s mouth curved up on one side. “Well, hardly any. One or two, maybe. Occasionally. I’m not a monk!” he finished, raising his hands defensively. Yuuri huffed a laugh. “As you well know,” Viktor continued in a low tone. He leaned forward and captured Yuuri’s lips in a kiss. As he pulled back Yuuri reached out and hooked a hand around his neck, holding him close and extending the kiss. Viktor seemed to go limp in his embrace, allowing Yuuri to lead, melting against him.

When they finally parted, Viktor blinked up at him, dazed. Yuuri smiled to see the effect he’d had. “Can you stay?” asked Viktor. “This evening? Tonight?” He looked so hopeful Yuuri hated to admit the truth.

“I…I have work I really should do before tomorrow. I’ve been neglecting my studies these last two weeks,” he said apologetically.

“Of course,” said Viktor, straightening. “That’s more important, of course.” He sounded as if he wasn’t entirely convinced by his own statement. “When can I see you again?” Yuuri found himself captivated by the sea blue stare, so much so he forgot to respond until Viktor raised his eyebrows expectantly.

“Oh! Yes. Err, I’m not sure…” He considered his schedule.

“Tomorrow?” Viktor interrupted his train of thought. His expression was that of a child hoping for a sweet, and Yuuri smiled.

“Perhaps,” he said, unable to refuse in the face of Viktor’s enthusiasm. “I have a meeting with my tutor tomorrow afternoon. I’m afraid he might give me more work if he sees I’ve been falling behind. Can I let you know at the last minute?”

“Of course! Send a telegram if you can. We can have a simple dinner? And come back here? Or tell me what evening would be best. Or what you’d like to do, where you’d like to go. We can do anything you’d like.” Viktor broke off his flurry of words and bent forward to kiss him again and Yuuri suddenly didn’t want to leave at all. He wanted to stay here, whiling away the day in bed, forgetting about the tedium of lectures and exams. He sighed inwardly and pulled back, reaching for the dressing gown to cover himself.

“I’m sorry to go, but I really must,” he said as he stood. Viktor nodded, donning his own gown, and they returned to the bedroom. Yuuri had a little trouble finding all of his clothing where it had been discarded the night before. With some help from Viktor, though, he managed to get dressed again, rumpled and somewhat the worse for wear.

“I’ll have Sokolov get the coachman to drive you home,” said Viktor ducking from the room. He was still in nothing but a dressing gown, but seemed entirely unconcerned by the impropriety. Yuuri hoped no one in his building spotted him arriving home at Sunday lunchtime in evening dress from a nobleman’s carriage. That would inspire some awkward questions.

Viktor returned as Yuuri finished with his shoes. “It will be ready in a few minutes.” There were some moments of silence during which neither of them seemed to know what to say.

“Oh, yes,” said Viktor, as if he’d just remembered something. “I have something for you.” He turned to the dressing table and opened a drawer. He removed from it a small drawstring bag, which he held out to Yuuri. Automatically Yuuri extended his hand and heard a chink as the bag settled onto his palm. The sound and weight left no doubt as to the contents. Coins. His stomach fell.

“Oh,” he said flatly.

“I don’t want you to be in need of anything,” Victor said with a gentle smile. Yuuri nodded woodenly.

“It’s not necessary,” he tried. Viktor stepped closer and closed Yuuri’s fingers over the pouch.

“I want to take care of you,” he said warmly. But Yuuri felt chilled. He gave a weak nod and secreted the bag away in his pocket. He turned away, blinking rapidly to keep Viktor from seeing how this gesture stung. He gathered himself after a moment and was able to respond normally to Viktor’s farewell words and return his kiss. At least, Viktor was smiling when they parted and didn’t seem to suspect there was anything amiss.

In the coach on the way back to his lodgings, Yuuri turned it all over in his mind. The way that Viktor touched him, kissed him, spoke to him when they were alone, it all made him feel treasured. Valued and cared for. However, looking at the situation dispassionately, he was being paid for his company. Viktor had said their intimacy was unrelated to their arrangement, but still he’d watched Viktor place the drawing of him right next to the others, the ones whose time he’d paid for. The ones who evidently meant nothing to him. Anyone who heard about this, who saw Yuuri spend the night in the man’s bed and then leave with a pouch of coins the next day would draw one very simple conclusion.

Yuuri had thought he was prepared for what would come after he slept with the baron. He’d expected the inevitable end, whenever it came, would sting. Yet here he was, without any indication that his time with Viktor was over, and his heart ached more intensely than he’d imagined. He’d thought he’d guarded his heart, and yet it seemed he’d lost part of it anyway. Somehow he’d come to trust the baron’s sweet words and gentle caresses despite knowing they couldn’t mean anything serious. The heavy purse in his pocket served as a reminder that no matter how sweet, he couldn’t fundamentally trust the things Viktor seemed to offer him. He’d known it all along…so why did it hurt so?