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when the ice melts in the snow (that's when you'll love me)

Chapter Text

Katsuki Yuuri is the worst incubus in the Underworld.

If he isn't lagging at the bottom of his seduction quota every month, then he's wasting his hard-earned energy on pursuing completely wrong clients -- women who pat his cheek for his stuttering smile, men who roll their eyes at his attempted boldness, and far too many people who don't notice him at all. (Why does he always end up targeting asexuals? He should know better by now. They literally don't see him.)

Yuuri wouldn't know eros if it tugged him into a dark corner and had its filthy way with him -- and it has, because Chris found him sulking about last week and decided they both needed to let off some steam.

When Yuuri shows up at work, taking the measly bag of glowing green and yellow crystals with a cringe, he notices that Chris has already picked up his own pay -- an entire chest full of a rainbow of crystals, the colors casting prismatic twinkles on his charming smile. The crystals are a conversion of the energy demons collect every month, and can be used to barter any number of goods and services in the Underworld.

"Yuuri!" Chris greets, winking at him as Yuuri hurriedly shoves his pathetically small bag in his pocket. "Payday is always the greatest, isn't it? Good chat we had last week, by the way." He leans in to slide his hand down Yuuri's hip, a fang catching the edge of Yuuri's pointed ear. "We'll have to do it again sometime. See you later, darling, the rankings are about to be announced. I'm certain I topped the list again."

Chris is out the door before Yuuri can so much as squeak, and as he watches Chris walk away, Yuuri breathes out a frustrated sigh, looking down at his empty hands.

"Yuuri, join me for a moment."

Yuuri jumps and looks up with a gulp. Lilia Baranovskaya is standing in the doorway to her large, opulent office, her long frame draped with golden silk and glittering gems. The Prima of the Mara, the demons of the Underworld who gather energy through sex -- though she prefers Onee-san on most days -- and she wants to speak with him?

Yuuri is doomed.

"Yes, Lilia-neesan," Yuuri murmurs, following Lilia into the office. He takes a seat on the very edge of the single chair in front of the wide desk, folding his black wings carefully to avoid tearing the jacquard cushion, then clasps his hands in his lap and stares at them determinedly.

His nails are getting a bit long. Should he trim them? Some guys like it when he drags his nails down their backs, but most of them complain about the marks they'll have to hide. Women prefer him to have shorter nails, too, but Yuuri likes looking at them, likes the faintly red sheen in the black keratin.

He is definitely going to get fired. His numbers have been dropping for months, and though he's tried -- he just cannot imagine eros as well everybody else in his clan. As Yuuri builds himself up, anxious mutterings turning over in his mind, he realizes he is working himself into a panic.

Calm down. Calm down, me.

Yuuri jumps when the door closes at a wave of Lilia's hand. She doesn't sit, instead walking over to the wide window that overlooks a large courtyard full of mara demons chatting as they wait for this month's numbers to be released. Everybody living in the mara clans tends to gather on this day of the month to await the rankings; Lilia insists that the rankings invoke inclusiveness and healthy competition.

Yuuri has always been last in the rankings. Every single month.

"Yuuri. You studied eros, did you not?"

At the mention of his clan, one of the seven groups that nearly every succubus and incubus belongs to, Yuuri starts, hurriedly nodding. "Yes, Lilia-neesan. I also tested well for philautia, but my great grandmother belonged to eros, so they sent me there instead."

The clan of eros had shaped his life from the time Yuuri had walked into the district. Every mara was tested on how they responded to seven different elements: dominance, submission, sadism, masochism, sensuality, exhibition, and emotion. When tested for eros, upon being asked if he could love his clients, Yuuri had burst into tears, overcome by the very idea. None of the other clans except philautia, the clan of self-love, had even registered for him. His placement had been decided swiftly.

Each clan had their own beliefs and ideas on how mara demons could take energy through pleasure. Yuuri takes it through passion and emotion; he is very selective of his clients and loves each of them in their own way. If his client feels passion for him, to the point of falling in love with him, then he can take even more energy. It need not be love, every time, but it is the emotional connection that sustains Yuuri. He always tries to make sure his clients are happy afterward, whether with a human lover, or with something to fill the void he leaves.

Yuuri has been told more than once that he gives his heart too freely, for a demon.

"Yes, I remember now. You had excellent marks in your classes. Your teachers spoke highly of you."

Yuuri swallows, his throat tightening a little in shame. He had very high marks indeed. Theory, history, body movement -- he had excelled at all of them. In his few practical demonstrations, he had done well enough; all of his clients had been satisfied with him. Even though he belonged to the smallest of the clans, Yuuri had thought highly of himself. He had believed he would rise quickly in the rankings. He had thought he would be swimming in energy by now.

How wrong he was.

"Yes, Lilia-neesan."

Lilia gives a sigh, crossing her arms. "Do you know why sex demons are born, Yuuri?"

Yuuri blinks and looks up at her, thrown by the question. His panic fades a bit, and perhaps that was Lilia's intention -- she is the best of the succubi, after all. "B-because humans need sex?"

Lilia turns to face him, throwing out a hand. "No! It is because humans want sex. They crave it. Some humans exist that do not, of course, and we leave those to other demons for temptation. Whatever their biological needs, it is true that a good portion of humans want to have sex, with no limits, no holds barred, in very specific ways. And what does sex create?"

This, Yuuri knows. "Energy, Lilia-neesan."

"Yes. Energy, which keeps the denizens of this Underworld alive. That is why we exist, Yuuri. Where humans create an excess, so do we exist to feed off that excess. Such is the way of all demons, and succubi and incubi are no different." Lilia strides across the room to the desk and stops beside it, back straight, her stern gaze fixed on Yuuri. "I'm sure you are concerned about your numbers. You have been having trouble with your clients, haven't you?"

Yuuri's eyes fall back to his hands. He should cut his nails after all. "I haven't been doing well lately."

Lilia's voice gentles a bit. "And why is that, do you think?"

Yuuri closes his eyes. "Because I lack confidence."

"Yes. Mara demonstrate, above all demons, beauty. We are a proud race, and demons from far and wide come to our doors to beg for a single touch from one of us. Humans melt in our hands. Yet you stop yourself, Yuuri, when you see that a client might not appreciate you, because you are not confident in yourself. Humans, just as demons, notice confidence. Confidence is sex. Confidence is beauty."

Yuuri shrinks back, knowing that Lilia is correct. He has never been confident in himself, though. He was born to a simple family of water demons, yet unlike his sister and parents, he had been born with red eyes, black nails, and black wings, the marks of a mara demon. His mother had been very proud; his great-grandmother had been a succubus, she had told him, and his father and sister were bewildered but supportive.

Upon turning eight, Yuuri had been whisked away to the clan halls, where he has lived for the majority of his life ever since, and he has always felt inferior. He studied hard, earning top grades in all of his lessons, yet somehow, he had lost a part of himself along the way. Maybe he never had it. He is excellent at the motions of sex -- not so much the seduction.

Compared to the other demons in their district of the Underworld, Yuuri is... somehow less. Less beautiful. Less impressive. Less enticing. Always less, less, less -- it is no wonder that Yuuri is terrible with his clients. Why he was born an incubus is anybody's guess.

"Your skills are at the top of your class," Lilia continues, glancing at a report on the desk. "Glowing remarks from all of your professors when you graduated and began harvesting. Yet you continue to turn in abysmal numbers, and do not think I have not noticed that you are not healthy." At last she sits at the desk, tapping long nails against the folder, her red eyes fixed on him.

Yuuri finds himself unable to think of any response. He is not eating well, and prone to distraction, and unable to sleep. Such is the life for a demon who cannot gather enough energy for himself.

Lilia's next question is unexpected. "Yuuri, do you enjoy sex?"

Yuuri looks up and stares. He doesn't dare ask her to repeat herself, instead turning the question over, confused by the words. "I try to make sure my clients enjoy it," he answers, cautiously, and something in Lilia's face flickers.

"I see." She returns his stare evenly, drawing a slow circle on the desk, then nods. "You will no longer hunt on your own, nor will you be counted in the monthly rankings. Instead, you will take on specific clients that I personally assign to you. These clients are individuals, both human and demon, who have a high volume of sexual energy but have not responded to normal attempts by mara to satisfy them. I will teach you what you need myself. You will report directly to me every month." She smiles, brief and sharp, and a shiver runs down Yuuri's spine. "I have confidence that you will handle these cases with the same expertise you displayed in your lessons. This is not a punishment, Yuuri. I believe you have a very specific eros that can only be drawn out by the right clients. Will you agree?"

Yuuri stares at her, stunned silent by the proposal. He has heard of the scant few who report personally to Lilia Baranovskaya, and all of them are of the highest caliber of the whole population of sex demons. To receive personal lessons from her is the highest honor. He can't believe it.

If Yuuri can find his eros, then nothing will be able to stop him.

"Yes," Yuuri says before his brain catches up with his mouth, and he startles, wings flaring instinctively. He flushes and looks down, then back up again, meeting Lilia's gaze firmly. "I will."

"Very good," Lilia approves, her blood-red lips curling. "Then I will give you your first assignation."

Yuuri nods, thinking a bit longingly of what it might be like if he had joined a family in an apprenticeship instead of a clan. Far less formal and rigid in structure, to be sure. Not that he is ungrateful for his clan, but sometimes the competitiveness wears on him.

Shaking his head, the remnants of his panic hasten to the front of his mind, and he clenches his hands over his knees as he tries to believe in Lilia's words. It is difficult, though. It feels like he is being set up for failure.

"What if I can't do it?" Yuuri asks before he thinks to stop himself, then holds his breath.

Lilia watches him for a long moment. "Then we will try a different client for you. I will not let you suffer, Yuuri. With the low amount of energy you turn in every month, I worry that you will not get enough for good health. If, after training and exploring different types of clients, you still cannot meet your own needs, then we will look at other avenues. A hunting partner, or perhaps a mate if your interests lie that way. Maybe training in a specific sexual activity that humans enjoy. Whatever you need, Yuuri. I am here to help you, to give you back your confidence, and to help you be beautiful. Will you agree?"

Yuuri stares at her, his panic ebbing away with the realization that Lilia will not let him suffer, nor will she abandon him if he does fail. His lips turn up in a small smile, his bright red eyes swimming for a moment. "Thank you, Lilia-neesan.

~*~

"I'm doomed," Yuuri moans into his arms, slumped against the table. Beside him he hears the faint click of a phone button, and he groans again, knowing that Phichit has just taken a picture of him. "Phichit-kun, this is no time to post to Instagram. Why do we even have Instagram, anyway? Isn't it a human invention?"

"Maybe, but it's the best thing to happen to the Underworld since the internet," Phichit beams, snapping another picture of Yuuri, who mutters something rude under his breath. Phichit, the most cheerful yakṣa Yuuri has ever met, only laughs.

"Aren't you happy you get to have as much sex as you want without worrying about rankings?" Phichit asks slyly, making Yuuri rear up with a vivid blush, mortified.

"Phichit-kun!" He looks around wildly to make sure no one has heard, but not a single person is paying attention to their small corner of the restaurant. Abnormal, for him, though Yuuri has made sure to douse himself in concealing oils to hide his incubus scent. The last thing he needs is a lusty demon following him home. He slumps back, staring at the ceiling in dismay. "I really am doomed. I'm sure Chris heard that I got called into Lilia-neesan's office, so everybody knows by now," he sighs.

Across the table, Phichit grins, dragging a piece of food off a thin stick with his teeth. "Ignore Chris. Chris doesn't have his claws in everybody, not for lack of trying. He's trying right now," Phichit remarks offhandedly, and Yuuri jolts upright, following the pointing stick to one of the balconies that overlooks the restaurant, where a tall demon is standing with Chris, smiling as the incubus leans into him flirtatiously.

Yuuri frowns a little, watching them for a long moment. Chris has turned on all of his charms and is nearly oozing with sex appeal; he can smell it now, weaving through the building, beginning to draw attention. Sloppy, he thinks, but then Chris can defend himself if molested, and often welcomes the attention.

His gaze shifts to the ice demon, almost unwillingly. He stands tall and collected, an ease to his posture that few can imitate, long silver hair falling down his back attractively, like a fountain of ice. He wears a glittering cloak flung over one shoulder, white pants and jacket beneath, with the insignia of one of the upper families -- Yuuri can't recognize which one, but he suspects it is far out of his league. Yuuri sighs to himself, briefly caught by the demon's piercing blue eyes, before he notices something.

The demon's mouth is smiling, but his eyes are not. His posture is relaxed, but not intent. Every so often he brushes off Chris' touch, as if batting away a persistent breeze. He has zero interest in Chris' attentions.

Yuuri sits up a bit, looking more closely. Chris' pheromones are rather strong now, yet the other demon shows no signs of noticing, and in fact -- he flicks something off his shirt, and a brief cold spell sends a shiver through Yuuri. A moment later, Chris' scent is gone. Nobody else seems to have noticed -- but then few others have noses that match a mara demon.

"Good to see you, Chris," the demon says with a smile, patting Chris on the shoulder and leaving him blinking, stunned, as he descends from the balcony.

Yuuri is no less surprised. Chris got rejected. He lowers his gaze, a small smile touching his lips. He doesn't dislike Chris, but it gets a little tedious to be at the bottom of the rankings, to the point that Chris seems to take it for granted that Yuuri would want to have sex with him whenever Chris asks. He never does, really -- but he has never turned down someone who wanted sex with him, either, and Chris does seem to enjoy him. It's a little funny that Chris would fail to seduce someone so beautiful.

He wonders what sex with that ice demon would be like.

"Careful, Yuuri, your oils are starting to wear off," Phichit says in an undertone, and Yuuri inhales softly and reigns his scent in. He glances up warily, but the attention that was turning toward him is already drifting away, the other patrons focusing again on their meals. Up on the balcony, Chris has turned his seduction on a tall, dark-haired demon that Yuuri knows by sight but not by name -- likely to make up for his rejection.

Yuuri feels eyes on him and turns. A shock runs up his spine.

The ice demon is staring at him. His interest scorches Yuuri's control and leaves him stiff and flushed. He wets his lips nervously, and the other demon's gaze sharpens, before something outside catches his attention. He gives Yuuri one more considering look before leaving the building, and Yuuri breathes out, a little shakily.

He knows that look. He was raised to recognize it.

Attraction.

Yuuri has never sought intimacy with other demons. Sometimes he will give in to the occasional fumble with another demon when he is desperately weak, and only when they ask first -- but otherwise, he ignores the attentions of other demons, because he already has so little energy from his hunting that he cannot afford to spend it on lovers. Some say that Yuuri, as an eros mara was made to have a demonic lover, even a mate if he were to seek one out, but Yuuri has always shied away from any sort of bonding. He ignores the small urge to go after the demon and turns back to Phichit, shaking his head. "I wonder who that was," he murmurs, picking up his drink and swirling the liquid inside.

Phichit raises an eyebrow at him. "Oh, is our Yuuri actually interested in somebody? That's unlike you! Was it that handsome guy that just left? I don't know his name, but I can find out for you," he sings, waving his phone, and Yuuri rolls his eyes, a blush lighting up his cheeks.

Some incubus he is, afraid to go after a potential lover.

"N-no, that's alright. I just never thought I'd see Chris strike out."

Phichit hums, picking up his glass and sipping thoughtfully, blowing out a small, glittering cloud. "Chris might be popular, but he's not everybody's type. You're definitely someone's type, Yuuri, a very specific type, and I'm happy for you. This is a new start! A toast, to Yuuri's sex life!"

Yuuri groans and hides his face in his arms again, remembering his meeting. "I'm doomed." Phichit just laughs.

~*~

Yuuri's first assignation goes very well. A young human by the name of Minami Kenjirou, who adores Yuuri at first sight and develops a fast bond with his human persona, a graduate assistant working at the same college Minami attends in Fukuoka. The enthusiasm that Minami brings to their relationship surprises Yuuri, and he wonders how anybody could fail to seduce the eager human.

Watching Minami with other humans answers that question. The young man is too eager; most demons would tire of his fannish tendencies quickly. Yuuri chooses to be patient, and he is rewarded by near-stalkerish adoration from the young human.

As it so happens, Minami rather likes figure skating. Yuuri wants to impress him, so he decides to learn the strange human sport. Thankfully he can absorb most of the knowledge, if he can get his hands on an actual figure skater; it will be another matter entirely to ice skate himself.

Well, there is always a first time. Yuuri is very good at learning new moves.

Yuuri dutifully goes to one of the human ice rinks one night to watch. Minami is skating, though Yuuri doesn't call attention to himself, simply observing for today. He has a spell up to keep Minami from seeing him, anyway.

A bit of conversation catches his ear. The group in front of him is talking about how they would love to imitate a famous ice skater's skating program. Skaters, then. Carefully, Yuuri touches each one of them, absorbing as much knowledge about ice skating as he can -- the different jumps and positions, the various competitions, even the effects on the human body. His head swimming, he settles back in his seat to wait, thinking of the glamorous, glittering costumes that the group in front of him liked to see in competitions.

Many of them rather revealing, erotic even. How interesting. He wonders if any mara have ever used ice skating to seduce humans before.

Yuuri waits until Minami leaves, as already the young human has a finely honed radar when it comes to Yuuri and the public arena, then goes to rent some skates. His first time on the ice is so embarrassing that Yuuri immediately abandons the ice rink and goes down to Hasetsu to hide in his family's Overworld inn for the night. The hot spring does wonders for his body, even gives him a little energy boost, so Yuuri forces himself to go back, when no humans will be around, to try again.

He does better the second time.

When Minami finds out, he kisses Yuuri in his excitement, and Yuuri basks in the happiness bubbling up in the human as he wraps his arms around Minami. This is what he lives for -- making his clients happy. The sex that follows is more than enough to last him through the rest of the month, but Yuuri doesn't end the relationship abruptly. He likes Minami, so when Lilia gives him his next assignation, he searches for another human to match him, who will be patient and supportive enough for Minami's desires, and leaves them to it.

Whenever he checks back, Minami looks happy. That is all Yuuri can hope for.

Yuuri fails his second assignation. Seung-gil Lee has no intention of ever having sex with anybody, and the fact that someone thought he was anything other than asexual is frankly a little ridiculous.

His third assignation takes several months. It is the first long-term assignation Yuuri has ever taken, and he is nervous, but in the end it is just as rewarding as Minami. Twin siblings are the target: the sister aches to have a real relationship, and the brother is determined to protect his sister from any suitors. The dance is delicate, every movement choreographed to exact detail, but in the end, Yuuri succeeds where no other mara has. Michele learns that sex is not something to be feared, and Sara is thus freed to have sex with whomever she wants, including Yuuri, several times, and very passionately. Yuuri leaves the twins with a fond heart.

Every assignation gives him a little more confidence, but every one of his successes seems incidental. Each of his lovers seems ready for a new step in their life, and Yuuri is the impetus that breathes resolution into life. Minami had needed someone who would inspire him. Sara and Michele had needed a reason to separate and pursue their own desires. His assignations follow the same routine: meet, change, seduce, go home. The sex is good, and the bonds Yuuri creates with each of his lovers is satisfactory, but at the end of each month, Yuuri still finds himself lacking.

Whatever his eros is, Yuuri can't find it in these humans. He isn't seducing them so much as arranging himself into a pivot for his lovers to turn their lives around. He isn't feeling it.

Yuuri's fourth assignation is someone else entirely, and he changes everything.

~*~

Lilia is very pleased with Yuuri's assignations so far. His monthly meeting with her is nearly at an end, and already Yuuri is thinking of the hot springs at his parents' inn, of falling asleep with a full belly.

Lilia has other plans for him, though. She lifts a hand, a glass device appearing from nothing and settling on her palm. A small amount of glowing red liquid rests at the bottom, sending up tiny bursts of light. It is an energy observer, one that Yuuri has seen several times before. Their race uses it to measure the energy they collect every month. Currently it is a third full, the most Yuuri has collected in over a year.

"This is very good, Yuuri. I believe it is time for something a bit more challenging." The words strike fear into Yuuri's heart. Ignoring his sudden agitation, Lilia leaves the observer to float in the air and opens a folder, holding out it out to Yuuri, who accepts it with hesitance, looking down at the picture inside.

An attractive male human with silvery blond hair and piercing blue eyes smiles charmingly at Yuuri, who would know him anywhere. Most of the Underworld does, at this point -- he is a celebrity across both realms.

He inhales sharply. "Viktor Nikiforov?"

"Indeed. He is famous amongst your peers, is he not? The human with a great well of sexual energy that has resisted all demons of all creeds sent to tempt him. I have the feeling that his tastes run a bit more particular than most humans. I want you to seduce him. Tap into that energy. Gather enough energy to fill this." Lilia motions to the energy observer.

Yuuri blanches. He rarely fills his observer with more than a third of energy every month -- how can he completely fill it with one client? Not to mention Viktor Nikiforov, the most sought after human in the Overworld, and the Underworld, if his peers are to be believed. He himself has never seen the human in person, but he has heard stories. "Lilia-neesan, I mean no disrespect, but I... I don't think I can do that. Not in a month." Maybe not ever!

Lilia's lips curve again. "For now, do not worry about meeting a monthly quota. Consider this assignation to have no deadline. This one will be tricky, but I believe you can do this."

Yuuri looks back at the picture, dreading this assignation more than any other he has been given thus far. Phichit is going to have a field day.