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Dancing Under The Stars

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Once upon a time. For isn't it how most tales begin? Stories and tales taking place in wonderful, magical kingdoms full of wonder. This one is no exception. It simply is the story of a grumpy little boy, who grew up, polished his skills and became known as the greatest magician of his generation. But his life was not without some trials and tribulations, some failures and most of all, surprises. Where does this tale take place? Well, in some beautiful kingdom by the sea, where magic is as common as poppies. Full of knights, spirits – some good, some not so good – wizards and kings. Full of monsters and curses.

 

This is but a small fragment of the great warlock Yuri Plisetsky's life. A turning point in his life. Yet, before telling you this story, I would like you to keep some words of wisdom in your heart. As the great warlock and the king's personal adviser, Viktor Nikiforov once said in his grimoire :

 

The key to be a perfect magician? There is none. No magic is completely perfect. The key to be a great magician, however, is to stay true to yourself and bare yourself to the magic. Accept your weaknesses, embrace your flaws as you hold your staff. Admit that you're in love. Admit that you're scared.

Admit that you're unsure.

And have faith, because if you believe, miracles are possible. If you love enough, if you believe enough, you'll move mountains and make roses fall from the sky. You'll change lakes into crystal.

 

Most of all, don't be afraid to show your love to the whole world.

 

For magic done out of love is the strongest.

 

  • Viktor Nikiforov, “An introduction to Magic and Chants”.

     

~ ~ ~

 

 

Ever since he was a child, becoming a magician had been his greatest dream. He wanted to make flowers grow with a wink and make the stars themselves fall with a flick of a wrist. He wanted to make his grandpa smile, his master proud and his rivals kneel. He picture himself inside the arena – his staff raised high and light surrounding the entire place – and Viktor smiling proudly at him, saying to all his fellow magicians to look how my student is great, how even greater he can become. He didn't want to disappoint anyone, he didn't want to fail his test, but he knew that his magic was lacking something. It's as if he couldn't understand something, and this something was crucial. Every time Viktor made him learn new spells, he would master them in the blink of an eye, yet he could see that Viktor didn't seem completely satisfied.

 

He didn't know why.

 

His chants were perfect.

 

His staff never wavered, so what was wrong? He couldn't put his finger on it, and it was starting to drive him mad. His final exam was coming soon, and he hoped that he'd learn what his magic lacked before the fateful day. Walking down the castle's main corridor, in the middle of the night, Yuri tried to free his mind. Let his thoughts wander. He had learned to control his anger and frustration with time, so he knew that unlike his fifteen year old self, he would not break an expensive vase this time. Or scream his frustration away and have Viktor coming for him. He had matured a lot in three years, and he genuinely thought that his magic had gotten better, yet there was always something missing. And this not knowing what this something was... god this is so frustrating. I wish Beka was there, but he must be sleeping now. I can't bother him now. As he kept on walking, he noticed that his cat had been following him the whole time.

 

With a smile, he moved his wrist quickly and recited a spell. A quiet breeze kissing his hair – much longer than it was before, a single braid on the side – and light. He always carried his staff with him, ready for an impromptu training session from Viktor or just to defend himself.

 

Surrounded by light, small wings grew on his dear companion as she followed her master. She even nuzzled her little nose on his cheek, hoping that it would comfort him. He wished it could, but unfortunately, his mood was a sour one. He wished he could calm down. So he decided to lose himself in an ocean of thoughts, a sea of memories and stars. Yuri could feel it, he didn't need to open his eyes to know the way. He was everywhere at once. It was as if his body was suddenly gone, replaced by air and smoke. He was walking on glass, mirrors and the sky, his bare feet not making a single sound. He let himself be surrounded by silence and kept on walking. He knew that soon, he would arrive there.

 

'His moves are awkward as hell, but he has a lot of potential. And the results are still so beautiful...' He would never admit it to Viktor nor anyone else, but he had always admired Yuuri as a magician. The guy always thought of himself as some sort of dime a dozen warlock, yet he was by far one of the most skilled of his generation. Yet, he never had faith in himself. Which pissed him oh so bloody much. Ever since he was a child, it had always been Yuuri and Viktor, together showing him the way. They were his idols, and while he would never admit it in front of Viktor – because the latter would never let him hear the end of it – he came to like Yuuri like a member of his own family. He admitted it on certain occasions. Occasions such as Yuuri's birthday or his and Viktor's anniversary. On Viktor's demand mostly.

 

When his grandfather got sick and he thought he wouldn't make it, Yuuri had stayed by his side while Viktor had been closing himself in his laboratory, making a potion to heal him. Yuuri had used a chant to calm him – and despite all the mixed feelings of rivalry and admiration – in this moment, he had felt so grateful to him. He remembered how Yuuri had caressed his hair, trying to reassure him, that it would take more than an illness to kill Nikolai Plisetsky, one of the greatest warlocks of the century. That your grandfather is strong Yura, you don't have to be worried about him. And when his grandpa woke up, in one piece and in good health, he cried once again.

 

He'd never forget their first meeting, a week after he became Viktor's personal apprentice. While he learnt from both Lilya Baranovskaya and Viktor, he had yet to meet the professor in charge of teaching him the art of charms and potions. When he learnt who his professor was and how said professor was not only of his idols, but also ready to retire. Needless to say that he wasn't happy.

 

He was furious.

 

So furious, that as soon as Viktor finished speaking, he ran towards Yuuri's laboratory.

 

Screaming so many profanities that Master Baranovskaya lectured him for hours. Yuuri never forgot that day either.

 

After all, it was pretty hard to forget the day a fifteen year old boy yelled at you, threatened to “cut your body into a thousand pieces and feed them to his precious Mishka for breakfast”, called you the “biggest idiot to have ever walked the kingdom” if you decided to retire and hand your staff back. Especially after said fifteen year old started crying – oh, sobbing would be more accurate – and confessed that he admired you so much, and that you were one of the two persons who motivated him to pursue his studies on magic when he was a child. A memorable day indeed. One he held dear to his heart. Except the sobbing. This tiny little bit was...quite embarrassing.

 

Well, even though he loved Yuuri like a father, he didn't like being reminded of that day.

 

But not as embarrassing as the part where Yuuri embraced him, repeating thank you over and over again. And Viktor surprising them both, saying that he would help both of them improve their magic.

 

He was getting closer, he knew he was.

 

This was the castle he loved. Quiet – moonlight illuminating the chandeliers, no Viktor constantly nagging him with a “watch your tongue, young man” or Yuuri trying to hug him. Or Mira trying to use him again for her archery lessons. But you're such a good target Yurochika! There she was, practically leaping towards him while he tried to escape. Just leave me alone you hag! Until he got pulled by the ear, by Lilya. Her stern face already scaring him and telling him to watch his tongue. God, Viktor and her were the worst. But despite all that, she truly cared about him, and her advice was always valuable. That is, when she wasn't lecturing him on his manners or lack thereof. Sometimes, when Otabek was not busy with training, they would just walk down the main corridor – which was absurdly huge, yet made a pleasant walk for there were mirrors and flowers galore and those glistening chandeliers which Yuri still found to be absolutely too much – in complete silence, save for the occasional sentences, whispered in the quiet night.

 

Viktor didn't know about this little ritual of his, and it was for the best.

 

If he knew, he would probably spend his time smirking whenever he saw him, and never stop talking about how impressive it is that you can actually enjoy being in such a quiet place, my little kitten. He still called him by that embarrassing nickname, even though he was as tall as Viktor, and taller than Otabek. Thinking about his friend never failed to make him a little more peaceful. If he was the sea – always alternating between moody and quiet – then he liked to think of Otabek as the earth. Solid, unwavering. His anchor. His first and dearest friend. Stars all around him and clouds, his faithful companion by his side.

 

He let himself drown in an ocean of thoughts, a sea of memories.

 

A man losing himself for one, tiny, precious moment. And he kept on remembering. Though he had to thank Otabek for reminding him of their first meeting.

 

Ten years old, in Master Yakov's training camp. Magicians and Knights usually trained separately, though they were destined to work together on the battlefield. He was training with some knights, while Otabek was working on his moves. While children were not sent of the battlefield, it was strictly forbidden and only ruthless kings did such a thing, they start their training soon. With wooden swords and shields. Their eyes met briefly – both of them dirty, worn out to the bone and in desperate need of a good, warm bath – and then they resumed their training. Yet Otabek would never forget those eyes. As clear as the most beautiful jewel and focused. Determinate. The eyes of a soldier. Yuri had forgotten about this meeting, but when they met again, five years later, Otabek told him.

 

That day, he had been running away from the castle, desperate to find a quiet place.

 

Somewhere devoid of parties and balls.

 

Of the high pitched screaming of serving girls trying to dress him up.

 

That was when Otabek appeared. He had heard of him of course. The new knight, whose skills were regarded as peerless. He had been intrigued, yet never had the chance to meet this knight. Until now. As he ran, he heard a horse coming his way, Otabek in full armor riding it.

 

'Do you need a hand? Hop on, then.' Calm and composed. A complete contrast with his own, sweating and breathless self.

 

'Huh?'

 

'If you don't make a decision quickly, they'll probably be able to catch you.' He pointed towards the castle, and he could faintly hear the serving girls's voices. Otabek stretched his hand towards him. 'Come on, I'll help you.' He remembered it as if it was yesterday, even though it happened three years ago. They rode until they reached the forest at the capital's border, or the forest of glass, for there were glass flowers that could be found in its midst. If among those flowers you happened to find one made of crystal, this was a sign of good luck. It was a silly old tale, yet one that made every lover dream. Those who were lucky enough to find such a flower were known for having a long, lasting relationship.

 

When Yuuri had proposed to Viktor, in this very forest, they had found a crystal flower.

 

Viktor keeps it in his laboratory, carefully placed next to a letter Yuri wrote him. Not that Yuri knows. Viktor liked to keep things that reminded him of his loved ones.

 

As soon as they arrived, Otabek told him about their first meeting.

 

'That day, I thought that Yuri Plisetsky had the unforgettable eyes of a soldier.' He couldn't help the faint, almost unnoticeable blush at the compliment. He would be lying if he said that he'd never been worried about his looks or the way others perceived him. He was often nicknamed the Kingdom's fairy – affectionately and mockingly – and sometimes he was worried that others would only see his delicate appearance. Not the fire burning deep within, the determination that could move mountains, the strength beneath the delicate frame. For someone to have seen this, with just a look...he couldn't deny he was flattered.

 

After talking, they realized that they had quite a lot in common. And even as they stayed silent, their silence said more than what words could.

 

And then, Otabek asked him to be his friend. While he had his master, he never had any friends. No one had ever asked him to be their friend. Of course, he did talk – well, lashed out and sometimes talked – with other magicians, his master and his master's husband Yuuri, the old Yakov, but that was all. He never had a real friend, someone he could talk to, confide in and simply have fun with. Even he knew that his personality can make it hard for him to make friends. Yet, there was this knight, asking him the one thing no one ever asked him.

 

He shook the hand stretched out towards him with a smile.

 

His dearest friend Otabek. Soon enough, he reached the corridor's end. Pushing the door open, he stepped outside in the royal gardens – roses everywhere and marble statues – and reveled in the cool evening breeze. He noticed that someone was laying on one of the benches, probably sleeping. His cat following suit, he moved closer and sat next to the man.

 

Yet, he couldn't figure out why he felt so flustered when he was with his friend. He wanted nothing more than to hold him in his arms and make him laugh with dumb stories. He wanted to be by his side and never leave him.

 

“Beka, you're going to catch a cold if you stay here. Get up.” He knew that Otabek would sometimes take naps in the gardens and well, no one ever has the heart to wake him up. He worked himself to the bone again, training and training all day. The knight smirked and did not open his eyes, his fingers still entwined on top of his stomach.

 

“Make me, Yura.”

 

You're on.

 

“Sure thing, knight in sour armor.” He started ticking Otabek. The latter opened his eyes, laughing to his heart's content – which was rare, only Yuri got to see it and hear it – “Come on Otabek, out of breath already?” He kept on tickling his friend until he got breathless and begged Yuri to stop it already, I can't breathe. Even though it wasn't unusual for him to find Otabek sleeping in the gardens, he didn't expect to find him here tonight. His tournament was in two days, and he should be resting as much as he could, while still focusing on his training.

 

Otabek sat up, looking at Yuri.

 

“See? I made you get up.” Yuri gave him a smirk, yet it was fond and sweet, playful as a cat's. His own companion was still floating and playing with some roses. Otabek just ruffled his hair, just like he did when Yuri was fifteen, and let out a light chuckle. “But shouldn't be sleeping in your own room? You're going to catch a cold if you stay here.”

 

“Shouldn't you be sleeping now? I am not the one who has to prepare ten potions tomorrow.” At the mention of his duty, Yuri just cringed. Viktor gave him the task to make potions for various clients and castle residents, and they did require a lot of time to make. Fortunately for him, Otabek had agreed to help him collect the ingredients tomorrow.

 

“Don't remind me, this old fart just told me to do it this morning!” He let out a sigh. “But I'm more worried about you. Haven't you been training for days now? I mean, you accepted to help me and I'm glad but you shou-” his friend put his hand on his mouth, shutting him out yet not without a faint smile.

 

Yuri running and yelling profanities so horrible he'd put a sailor to shame.

 

“It's okay Yuri. I am not tired and you know I always take breaks, you know I do.” Yuri took the hand covering his mouth so that he could correctly breath again. “I just wanted to stay here for a while tonight, that's all. I'm a bit...nervous, I guess.” You always come here at night when you're worried Yura, I just wanted to see you. Yet Otabek couldn't bring himself to say it. To say that just seeing Yuri and talking to him was enough to make him feel better and calm him. Foul mouthed, rude, sweet, ambitious, beautiful Yuri.

 

The fact that Yuri was still holding his hand on his lap didn't make things better.

 

He was thankful that Yuri couldn't see the blush on his cheeks.

 

“Don't be nervous, Beka! You're going to knock them' dead!” A bright smile and glistening eyes, as he still held Otabek's hand. Thank the spirits he can't see me blushing. He had never wanted to protect, hold onto someone as much as he did now. Yuri meant the world to him. Beneath the attitude, the pride and arrogance, was a beautiful soul. Someone who gave it his all, who worked hard on his spells – until his throat was sore and his hands red from hitting walls and tree trunks in frustration – and most of all, who loved unconditionally yet didn't realize it.

 

“You will be fine, Otya.” There it was, the way he said his nickname. “By the spirits, you're not convinced are you?” Oh, this was bad. Yuri was irritated. “Close your eyes for a sec.” Otabek hesitated, but did as he was told. His friend's voice – often all too rough and screaming – was clear and soft. Brief but like music to his ears. When he opened his eyes, he found a ring on his finger and a matching one on Yuri's. He didn't understand what it meant.

 

They were younger, sitting on top of the castle's highest tower, watching the world below. Admiring the sun melt into blue, the vast expense of trees. The forest of glass could be seen from there. At the top of the world, they felt like kings. They just talked for hours and hours, sharing food and drinks, telling each other stories. Otabek would tell stories about his own hometown, and Yuri would do the same. When they were together, they just felt at peace – no shouting, no screaming or annoying tasks – just two friends enjoying each other's company.

 

Some times, they would just stay silent.

 

And it was enough, more than enough.

 

“It's a good luck charm. You can't use magic at the tournament, so this is just something that will warn me if something goes wrong, since I won't be able to go.” He had to work on his spells that day, since his own exam was coming up soon. Viktor was going to make him do various spells and chants, correct his mistakes if necessary. Yakov, Viktor's previous mentor would be the one judging Yuri during his exam. And while Master Yakov was known as a kind, compassionate man, he was also known for how strict he was. Yuri had the chance to meet him after the training camp, when he was sixteen, and he'll never forget Master Yakov's words.

 

You have a gift, and if you train well enough, you may even surpass Viktor one day. But while you possess everything you need for that, you fail to realize it.

 

Exactly, almost word for word, what Viktor had told him the other day. Just the thought made him frown.

 

“Yura, are you okay?” I am nervous about my exam and I don't want you to get hurt, and I- I am such a fucking coward. Do I really – I don't know.

 

“Yeah, don't worry about me!” He stood up, flustered. “I ha- have to go now, I just remembered that I can't stay for long, and hum - we'll meet here tomorrow, okay?”

 

“Sure, Yuri-”

 

“See you tomorrow Beka!”

 

God, I can't believe I actually used the spell that old fart taught me. Otabek is my friend, this is nothing more than a good luck charm. He didn't want to think about anything now. He should have expected to meet Otabek at the gardens, but nonetheless, this was too much. Too many thoughts swirling in his head. Maybe he should send a letter to his grandfather, his grandfather always knew what to do.

 

Otabek couldn't even finish his sentence, his friend flew away. And though he couldn't see it, said friend's face was as red as the garden's roses. He stretched out his hand to look at the ring. It was a golden ring, glistening in the moonlight. A good luck charm, huh? He kissed the ring on his finger, as if in a silent prayer to empower it. With this, it was as if Yuri was right beside him. He swore he could hear their heartbeats mingling together. Their hands, their legs, becoming one.

 

Please spirits, even if he doesn't return my feelings, let me stay by his side and never leave him. Even just as a friend. That will be enough for me.

 

*

 

“Don't you think Yuri is strange today?” Yuuri broke the silence inside the room he shared with his husband, as he organized some scrolls. Viktor looked up from his parchment, a bit puzzled.

 

“What do you mean by strange, dear?”

 

“I don't know, he seems...confused about something. And he wasn't hungry this morning. I asked him if everything was okay, and he just screamed before running to the gardens.” He let out a sigh. “Has he told you anything?”

 

Viktor put his quill on the table and took off his glasses. “He hasn't. I told him to collect some plants for me today, and Otabek is helping him out so I thought this would put him in a good mood. I thought that I was too strict with him these days, so this 'assignment' was also a good occasion for him to spend some time with his friend.” He untied his hair, letting the long silver strand fall on his shoulders, and massaged one of them. “I am done, at last!” Yuri kissed his head.

 

“Good job, mister 'I waited until the last minute to write my student's exam' ”.

 

“It's not my fault if I was too tired because someone decided to ravish me until I couldn't walk.” At the mention of this, Yuri blushed slightly, though not without a smile.

 

“Don't tell me you didn't like it. I know you did.” He wrapped his arms around his husband's shoulders, resting his head on top of his. “Even though I am worried, I am sure he's okay. He probably has a lot on his mind at the moment.”

 

Viktor relaxed in his embrace. “I just hope that'll learn to be honest with himself by tomorrow. Magic can tolerate a magician who lies, as long as the magician is honest with himself. Our little kitten hasn't even noticed this. If he keeps denying it, he'll never mature completely, be it as a magician or as a man.” They stayed there, during this silent morning, thinking about their little boy.

Even though they were only Yuri's professors, they almost felt like parents to him. They knew that aside from his grandfather and sickly mother, Yuri had no one else. He wanted to make his family proud, and worked hard to do so, some times neglecting his own health. They tried to watch over him as much as they could, despite Yuri's protests. They cared so much for this boy. He was eighteen now, and had become more mature, yet he hadn't changed at the same time.

 

You stupid little kitten, if there's one thing that hasn't changed with time, it's your stubbornness.

 

I hope you can notice it soon enough, before it's too late.

 

*

 

The forest of glass was as quiet as usual, as Yuri and Otabek walked through it. Even though it was called like this because of its infamous flowers, most of the forest looked normal enough. The glass flowers were scattered all over the forest, but aside from that it looked like any other forests. They were picking up the flowers and plants required for the potions, in complete silence. And despite the awkwardness of the conversation they had, they still felt at ease with the other. They were still looking for a few other plants, when Otabek decided to break the silence.

 

“I didn't thank you for the charm yesterday. Thank you, I appreciate it.” Yuri didn't say anything right away, which was unusual. “I think I'll be able to win the tournament knowing that you're there with me.” I screwed up, it didn't sound as cheesy in my head. “And I am sure that you'll ace your exam. So you don't need to be so worried about that.” Yuri stopped in his tracks, his staff tightly clasped in his hand.

 

 

“Thank you Beka. And you're welcome, you're my best friend after all.” Even though Yuri still felt embarrassed about what happened yesterday, this wasn't the reason why he's been silent. Ever since they stepped into the forest, Yuri's been feeling uneasy. Something was off. The forest was as beautiful as it usually was, yet the air was suffocating. Something is off. What the hell is wrong with the forest today? He knew that curses or random dangerous creatures could pop up from time to time, but he never felt so uneasy.

Instead, he tried to focus on something else. As he looked discreetly at his friend, he couldn't help but admire him. Even though he was slightly taller than him now, Otabek was as grand as ever, a figure so perfect you'd think the spirits themselves had sculpted him from marble. The sun kissed his hair and skin – he was so beautiful in this instant, an angel gracing him – and he was glowing.

 

Otabek turned his head, and they both faced each other, lost in the moment. Time had stopped, they didn't even see where they were going – there among the trees and flowers, everything stopped moving – and they felt like they were lost in each other's eyes.

 

Yuri's eyes were the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. Pure green – shining brighter than the crown's jewels – filled with a fire no one else seemed to notice. The eyes of a soldier, ready to devote his entire soul and body to his work. Would he ever admit that he was in love with his best friend? He didn't even know if Yuri felt the same way. He didn't want to risk losing their friendship. He didn't want to lose what they had now. When he had left his country as a child – stricken by war – this tiny, small memory of a brave green eyed boy was the one thing that kept him alive. This grace he did not possess, and the promise to find it again was what kept him alive all those years. He would be happy beyond compare if Yuri turned out to return his feelings, but if he didn't, he would still stay by his side.

 

They were so close now, Otabek grasping Yuri's free hand.

 

Beauty and bravery were embodied in a grumpy yet strong magician.

 

They both felt as if they were children again.

 

Otabek was everything he aspired to be. Someone who was strong yet maintained a strong, elegant figure. Eyes like the earth itself on which the most beautiful flowers could grow. They were dark, and when they had met again after the camp he had thought that the guy wanted to fight him. Yet now, they were warmer and more radiant than the sun itself. If he was a flower – others compared him a pure, white lily, yet one hiding countless thorns – then Otabek was the sun without which he couldn't grow. Otya probably saw him as nothing more than a close friend, a brother and nothing else. He didn't want to lose Otabek's friendship. He loved him so much it hurt...

 

...yet he denied it. He couldn't bring himself to be true to his heart. He loved him, yet couldn't admit that this was love nor did he know what this love was.

 

He was scared shitless.

 

“Yuri I-” Don't say anything

 

“Yes?” Is he going to-

 

“I promise that I'll do my best tomorrow, so do your best too, okay? And...” By the spirits, I am such a coward. I have fought monsters and ruthless soldiers, and yet I can't say anything because I'm too scared. “And if I win the tournament...” At least say this much. “Will you go to the ball with me?” Yuri was red, as red as the roses Otabek loved so much - though if anyone asked him the most beautiful rose was his best friend – and was speechless. This was no confession under the stars, but this meant something. Maybe Otabek was simply asking him to go as a friend, but either way, it meant something to him.

 

How many times did they run through the forest without a care in the world? Even if Otabek was quiet and reserved, his smiles were devoted to his friend. Yuri couldn't realize, never realized how he inspired others and how much he meant to them.

 

“After you win the tournament, we'll go together. So you better come back to the castle with a big smile and the reward. Knock them dead!” He had stretched out the 'I' so as to make his point clear. A light smirk, mirrored by Otabek. Yuri didn't even doubt it. He was convinced that Otabek would win. Whatever were their feelings towards each other, they would still be best friends. And with this thought in mind, they headed back to the castle, a smile on their lips.

 

Whenever he was with Otabek, he felt a little more at peace.

 

Yet he also realized that this was love. He had tried to deny it for so long, and there it was hitting him in the face.

 

~ ~ ~

 

How many times did they run through the forest without a care in the world? Even if Otabek was quiet and reserved, his smiles were devoted to his friend. Yuri couldn't realize, never realized how he inspired others and how much he meant to them.

 

Yuri was the only person who ever saw him shed tears.

 

Today, he was turning twenty. He didn't ask for anything from the other knights nor did he wish for anything today. He was content to just spend the day with Yuri, like they had planned the day before, in the forest. Maybe Yuri would show him his latest creation. Though he still was inexperienced, Yuri was already a talented magician for this age. He trained hard everyday, trying new chants – new songs, new potions and mixtures – and one day he would be stronger than his master. Some of the chants Yuri could use were complex and required months of practice, yet he mastered them in no time.

 

Viktor, put me down now! I am not a child for fuck's sake!” As he walked, he saw Viktor hugging Yuri tightly and chuckling.

 

You'll always be a child to me, Yu-ri-o!”

 

Don't call me that! I have to meet Otabek today, put me down!” The display wasn't unusual to him. When the king's magician wasn't with his husband, he was pestering and teasing his student.”And stop hugging me! I swear if you keep this up, I'll make you bald!” Viktor kept on laughing but put his student down. When Otabek arrived, he bowed to Viktor and fist bumped his friend, like they always did when they meet. Yuri was still red and his hair a mess, yet he welcomed the knight with a smile. “Damn it, this old geezer. Are you ready Beka?” Yuri picked up his scrolls and staff as he turned back to speak with Viktor, their tone more serious.

 

Don't forget to re-read this chapter on healing techniques. You never know what could happen.” He didn't need to know a thing about magic to understand the hidden meaning behind those words. Ever since Yuri's grandfather had gotten sick, he became more vulnerable and Yuri had to be ready. Magic couldn't cure all illnesses, but it still managed to cure most of them. Yuri simply nodded. Despite his antics and harsh training, Viktor loved Yuri like a son and only wanted the best for him and most of all, to make him strong. So, as he let his student and Otabek talk and mount their horses, he wondered if maybe – just maybe – he wasn't the only one wishing to protect his little kitten.

 

They raced to the forest.

 

As soon as Otabek mounted got off his horse, Yuri grabbed him and started to run towards the lake.

 

Yuri, what are you-”

 

Just follow me and don't say anything!”

 

A confident smile and, as if in response, a fond one.

 

Yuri instructed him to sit while he worked his magic. He was reciting a chant he'd never heard before, but from the sound of it, it had to do with 'time'. Time magic was tricky, from what his friend had told him. Even Viktor, who was seen as a genius and a pioneer could only stop time for a no more than a minute. But there were all kinds of Time magic. Magic to make someone lose their memories – though numerous were the magicians who despised such spells – make to make you remember things you thought forgotten yet were buried deep within. The whole forest was glowing as Yuri moved his staff.

 

And that was when Otabek realized what he was doing.

 

There, Otabek saw memories he didn't think he possessed. He lost his mother when he was a child, too young to remember her face or her laugher. Yet Yuri was showing him scenes he didn't think he'd ever see again. His mother, a young woman with long dark hair and a warm smile, affectionately cradling her son. Another scene, another fragment. His mother singing a lullaby to him, a familiar tune he swore he heard before. And then he realized that the chant Yuri sang was no chant at all, but his mother's lullaby. He saw himself taking his first steps, his mother encouraging him with a smile, her arms opened with the promise of a warm embrace. It was as if he was seeing someone else's memories. Yet he stretched his hand when he saw his younger self do the same towards his mother. He didn't know when he started crying. Yet, his cheeks were wet, and he couldn't believe it. The tears didn't stop, and he was so happy to finally see her.

 

In the midst of this ocean of thoughts, this sea of memories, Yuri was standing there.

 

A bright smile. Messy hair. Light.

 

Happy birthday Beka.”

 

He stood up and embraced Yuri tightly. He could feel Otabek's tears wetting his robes, yet couldn't care less now and let himself be hugged.

 

Thank you, Yura. Thank you so much.”

 

Yuri returned the hug, his staff still clasped in his hand. The spell was suddenly broken. Shards of light fell on them, a rain of light blessing them. And In this moment, neither wanted to let go of the other. They wanted to stay like this for as long as they could. Maybe it was at that moment that Yuri started to feel those butterflies in his stomach, to think that Otabek was only getting more and more beautiful as time passed.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Yuri woke up abruptly, unsure of why he had such a dream. This happened a year ago, so why did he have this dream today? He looked at his bedside table, noticing a piece of paper, recognizing Otabek's handwriting. 'Good luck for today's exam, even if it's not the real thing. Knock them dead, Yura. – Otabek Atlin'. This was a good thing to wake up to. He knew that Otabek's tournament was today and that he'd be leaving early, and they would only see each other tomorrow night. Still, what a weird dream. Well, the dream in itself wasn't weird per say, but did he remember this today? Now that he thought of it, it was the only time he ever saw Otabek cry.

He also noticed the crumbs on the ground, near Miska's pillows. Otabek probably left her something. As usual. The only person who loved Mishka as much as he did was his friend after all. And he was the only one to know that he liked to call her his little piroshki. His grandfather gave him this cat when he was a child, and Miska's been with him since then. When he went to Master Yakov's training camp, when he moved to the castle to train and improve his magic, when he was sad or happy beyond words. She's always been there.

 

Even when he had bad dreams.

 

He remembered what Viktor told him once.

 

Dreams are important Yuri. They have a hidden meaning. Even if a dream doesn't seem to make sense, there's something – a tiny element, a small thing – that will have meaning. So try to understand yours a little. Pay attention to them. He remembered that for the first time, he actually sat quietly and watched with interest his master spout words of wisdom. Viktor was a lovey dovey fool, an idiot and an embarrassing father figure, but when it came to magic, you couldn't help but listen. Whenever he spoke of it, you could see why the man was a prodigy.

 

He still had some time before his exam, or rather 'training session for the exam that might as well be an exam' , so he decided to walk a little to calm down.

 

He couldn't make this feeling disappear. The feeling that something was off, that despite his happiness and confidence that something was wrong. Yet, as he got changed, he tried to ignore this feeling and came to be convinced that it must be his imagination. That nothing was going to happen and everything would be fine.

Not matter how hard he tried, the almost inaudible voice within his head telling him that a catastrophe was about to happen didn't want to leave.

 

Damn it. Can it just stop already? He looked at his ring, identical to Otabek's, and kissed it. It was a silent prayer. He hoped his friend was okay, and wanted nothing more than to hold him once he got back. Maybe this was love. He didn't know, because he knew that Otabek would never feel the same way about him. Otabek sees me as a friend, a brother, but he'd never see me that way. And I don't want to destroy this. But no matter what, I'll stay by your side Beka and I will protect you. I'll always protect you.

 

A sudden realization that what his magic lacked was love. He loved Yuuri, Viktor, his grandfather Nikolai, yet he never had been true to his heart when it came to Otabek. He loved his friend so much and yet, until today, never had the strength to admit it. He was not as much of a crybaby as a certain someone, but now he wanted to cry. Casting one last glance at his room, he headed towards Viktor's laboratory. The corridors were quiet this early in the morning, except for the faint chatter of servants and guards, excited about the upcoming ball. They didn't seem to be paying too much attention to him and he was damn thankful for it.

 

It was as if roses were blooming within him, and he felt filled with a happiness, a joy he hadn't felt in years. Yet, it was also as if his heart was being ripped apart. He wanted to dance, to scream, to cry, to laugh. How could love be such a wonderful feeling yet hurt so much? His love would never fade, and he thought of how he'd have to live by Otabek's side and watch him love someone else – another knight, another magician – while he would stay there, smiling and laughing, yet falling apart on the inside.

 

Love hurt.

 

Yet it was beautiful.

 

He arrived at the laboratory before he knew it.

 

~ ~ ~

 

His first match was going to start soon. He left early this morning – not wanting to be surprised by some foul weather or bandits attacking him – and didn't forget to leave a note for Yuri and some treats for Mishka. He loved the little ball of fur as much as her master did. He couldn't deny he was nervous, but Yuri believed in him. His fellow knights were also rooting for him – he could practically hear Mira and Georgi yelling and cheering him on – and he had Yuri by his side. Before entering the arena, he kissed his ring. Even if Yuri didn't love him the way he did, his support meant the world to him.

 

But once the tournament is over, I'll tell him how I feel. I don't want to lose what we have now, but I can't keep it to myself. I'll tell him how I feel before the ball.

 

And thus, blessed by the light of love, he stepped into the arena. Ready to fight and conquer. And to no one's surprise, he won his first battle, his second battle. He was going to win, he was sure of it. If he won today and kept on doing so tomorrow, he'd be okay.

Maybe I should bring some flowers from the forest for Yuri, on my way back.

 

 

~ ~ ~

 

 

Mythical and magical creatures? Oh, they can appear randomly! While they are usually harmless, they can be quite capricious and most of them have a bad temper. A creature that attacked you one day, can be more than willing to help you the next. Be careful when you go to the forest of glass. While it is a quiet, beautiful forest, there have been cases of people disappearing or even found dead there, mainly because they'd been attacked by a magical creature. Always be careful. They have a bad temper, capricious and some are simply malicious and like to wound, or even kill those who dare wander inside the forest for the hell of it. ” No matter how much he complained about him, as soon as the man opened his mouth to share some of his knowledge with him, he remained quiet.

 

But they never attacked me, and I've gone there a lot of times.” Whenever he went there with Otabek too.

 

That's because you're a magician. Any person who knows how to use magic, even if just a little, is respected by magical creatures. I'm telling you to be careful in case you decide to go there with someone who doesn't know how to use magic.” He'd have to remember to tell Otabek this, if he didn't already know. He didn't want his friend to get hurt or worse.

 

Anything else I should know?”

 

Yes. Whatever you do, if you start to feel strange inside the forest, if you have a bad feeling, trust your instincts. This usually means that a malevolent spirit is going to appear. You know about malevolent spirits, don't you?”

 

Well yeah. When someone can't rest in peace, their spirit usually lingers around the place where they died. But they only appear on the anniversary of their death and disappear right after...though even them can appear at random.” he paused before continuing. “And I know that they can curse you or poison you. Damn spirits.”

 

Excellent. But you should know this too : if a spirit curses you or poisons you, if you don't find a cure within a week, you're dead and gone. I'll teach you some possible cures and Yuuri will show you some potions that can some times give you more time, but know that they don't always work.” Viktor's tone got somber. When he was younger – the great prodigy, the best magician of his generation – he'd seen people die because of malevolent spirits. Yurio had seen him once pray, reciting all the names of those he failed to save. “The problem with those curses and poisons is that they are tricky to cure. Most of time, the victim's life depends on whether or not you can find the ingredients in time or if you can create the right chant.”

 

It's that hard?”

 

It is, Yuri. Though they rarely attack magicians, they will attack others with little to no hesitation. You could work on a cure for entire week and still not succeed. Some times, even for someone of my level or Yuuri's, it can be impossible.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

They started with potions. He had to make ten potions, which sounded simple enough...except that these specific potions were among the hardest to make, requiring tremendous focus, and Yuuri was among the only magicians who knew how to make them quickly. Despite being nervous – and by the spirits, this horrible feeling that didn't want to go away, him being worried about Otabek – his hands remained steady as he cut, boiled, crushed various plants with divine precision.

 

 

One step, two steps, three steps. Spin and strike. Never aim for a vital organ, make sure your foe ends up on his knees. A loud cheer.

 

 

Yuuri complemented him and told him that he did well. For once, Yuri let his professor pet his head without complaining. They left the laboratory to meet Viktor in the courtyard. He realized that he'd been so focused, he didn't realize that time had passed so quickly. It was already mid-afternoon, as all the corridors were illuminated by this orange glow. Even though he still had quite a temper, he had gotten considerably close to Yuuri with time, and talking to him made him feel a bit better. They talked about Otabek's tournament, about the ball, about Yuuri's friend living in another kingdom. Anything and everything, really.

 

“These days, I've been having this weird feeling. As if something bad was going to happen, or that a malevolent spirit is going to come. It's making me sick.” Yuri didn't mean to speak about this and worry Yuri needlessly, but he had to.

 

“I have the same impression, though it seems to take its toll on you. Don't push yourself too hard if you feel tired, okay?” Stop lecturing me, you're not my mom.

 

“Okay, but since yesterday, I can't help but think that something terrible is going to happen.” Yuuri seemed to consider the idea for a moment before speaking again.

 

“Focus on your exam with Viktor, I'll talk to him later, as well as to the guards. We'll tell everyone to be extra cautious when they go to the forest of glass.” Yuri simply nodded and opened the door in front of him. His master was waiting for him, golden staff tightly held in one hand, the other holding some sheets. When he saw them, Viktor beamed. He kissed his husband – after realizing his feelings for Otabek, the display made Yuri envious – and ruffled Yuri's hair, asking him to wait for a minute, I need to talk with Yuuri. While they talked about Yuri's worries, he tried to calm down. Looking at his ring helped. The cool golden ring on his finger was like a reassuring presence. As if Otabek was by his side. Even though they would only be parted for two days, it already felt like a lifetime.

 

He kissed it again, asking his loved one to give him strength, to make him forget about this terrible feeling. He felt more at peace than before. This was when Viktor talked to him.

 

“Are you ready, Yuri? You'll have to show me ten complex chants and execute them perfectly with your staff. Most of all, I want you to give them a personal touch. Make them yours, trust your instincts and change the lyrics accordingly. Think you can do that?” Viktor was teasing him, a hint of defiance on his sweet smile, and was not treating him as if he was made of glass. Despite what Yuuri told him, he wasn't going to go easy on Yuri, because this was exactly what his apprentice wanted.

 

Yuri scoffed.

 

“Bring it on, old man.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

Otabek was exhausted. After a day of enduring match after match, fight after fight, he was glad to find his bed again. Since the tournament was taking place in another kingdom, he had to stay at an inn. The innkeeper was a kind old woman, who complimented him on his looks and prowess, and even gave him another serving of her beef stew. She reminded him of his mother. Lying in his bed, in his breeches and tunic, he couldn't help but think of Yuri. He knew that since they couldn't stay for long, Mira and Georgi had to go back to the castle, which wouldn't take them long. They should reach the kingdom by eleven or midnight, and they knew how to defend themselves in case of an attack. They said that they would tell Yuri about today's victories.

 

Even though they weren't that close, when they learnt that Yuri couldn't make it, they decided to come instead, so that Otabek would have people cheering for him. He kissed his ring, and as he closed his eyes, he could feel Yuri holding his hand and kissing it. He didn't know why love had to hurt so much, yet make him feel blissful at the same time.

 

He was so in love, it was almost embarrassing.

 

Now that he knew what the first prize was, he was going to do everything to win. Not only would the champion receive gold and glory, but also a crystal flower. He couldn't care less about gold or glory. But he was definitely going to come back with this flower for Yuri. And he would stop by the forest of glass to pick up other flowers for him. Such an idea was unbelievably cheesy, but being in love made him want to do such things. He wanted to protect Yuri, to give him presents and make him smile. He wouldn't be able to do this as a lover, but he'll do it as a friend. Crystal flowers were also a sign of good luck and prosperity, and those were the only things he desired for his friend.

 

He loved him more than what words or presents could say. He wanted to give him the world, to see him smile everyday and make him blush. To embrace him and wake up to his smile, more dazzling than the sun itself.

 

His sun.

 

My everything.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Excellent, absolutely perfect Yurio!” Viktor embraced him tightly – despite the fact that they were both sweating like pigs, and in desperate need of a shower – and told him how beautifully, how perfectly he casted his spells. Of course, he didn't forget to point out all his flaws – it was beautiful but Yuri~o, I told you a hundred times to insist more on those syllables, and please don't forget to take a deep breath before long chants, and don't move your staff a second later than you're supposed to – typical Viktor indeed. A warm hug, some heartfelt compliments and a big smile, to end with a long lecture. As soon as he got Viktor to release him, he wanted to go back inside for a good bath.

 

“Ah, Yuri! Before you go, I wanted to tell you that Mira and Georgi should be here soon, and they'll tell you about how it went for Otabek today!” He couldn't see Yuri's face, but he knew that such news would make him happy. Make him forget about any malevolent spirit. His student thanked him, and before he could completely close the door, Viktor continued. “And before I forget, please do get started on those potions tomorrow!” The door was closed with a loud 'bang!'

 

Ah youth. I just hope nothing bad happens to any of them.

 

 

 

As Yuri headed towards his room, he met Mira and Georgi who told him how Otabek “won every single fight, without breaking a sweat”. When he arrived inside his room, he let his staff fall on the ground to catch Mishka with both hands. When he was training with Viktor, Yuuri must have come here to feed her. Once he made sure that his little piroshki was well, he grabbed a robe and went to the baths. He wanted to get cleaned quickly, eat, then go to sleep. He was exhausted, but he knew that he still had a lot of work tomorrow. Master Baranovskaya was also going to keep him company for a while, which made him both happy and exhausted in advance. She loves to lecture me, but she also gives good advice when it comes to charms. Or just good advice in general.

 

The steam and baths' warmth welcomed him as soon as he opened the glass door leading to them. Aside from one or two other magicians, they were empty. They both waved their hands at Yuri, wishing him good luck on his upcoming exam. He nodded and got undressed behind the curtains, wrapped a towel around his waist and let his body sink into the water. His muscles were sore, and so was his throat, from the harsh day of training. Yet, he felt satisfied. From what Viktor and Yuuri told him, he was more than ready for his exam. Afterwards, he would be officially recognized as a full-fledged magician and he wouldn't be an apprentice anymore. Of course, he would still train with Viktor in order to get even better, but they would officially be equals.

 

He undid his hair, which he had braided today, and just sat there alone.

 

He thought about using a spell to let his mind travel for a while, and waited until the two other magicians left the baths. He reached for his staff and whispered the spell quietly. The problem with this kind of magic was that your dreams and memories could some times blend, and it could be hard to distinguish one from the other. He closed his as he recited the spell and opened them again.

 

Otabek training on a quiet summer afternoon, Yuri brushing his cat as he watched him, a tray of tea by his side. The sun giving his friend's skin an ethereal glow, sword glistening as he held it tightly in his hand and eyes focused on some wooden manikin that Yuri enchanted. One carefully chosen step, he advanced and...attacked. Yuri made sure that the wooden manikin wouldn't try anything too dangerous for the knight, but he still wasn't going to go easy on him. As the manikin leaped, Otabek dodged skillfully the attack and stroke. They kept this up for hours before sharing a cup of tea, Yuri eagerly talking about his grandfather and his friend smiling, content to simply hear his friend's voice and be so happy.

 

Some times, Yuri would sing for him. Not a magical chant, but simply songs he learnt on this travels or with Yuuri. Lullabies from time to time. Songs with lyrics, others simply hummed. Those long, summer afternoon spent talking and singing were his favorite. For someone with such a bad temper, he sure loved quiet moments spent with this friend.

 

He relaxed in the water, he let himself be lost in the sea of memories and the ocean of thoughts, of dreams and fantasies. He stood up and let reality and dreams mingle, like they always do.

 

Otabek taking his hand and kissing his ring. They were surrounded by stars, as if they were dancing in the sky. Yuri was convinced that he would never get this, but he could at least dream, even though it would only hurt him more. He let Otabek – an illusion made of smoke and stars – hold him close as they waltzed together. There was no music, no sound save for the water flowing. He was glad no one could see him, dancing alone with an illusion which almost felt as real as the real thing. His friend was smiling at him – spinning him around as Yuri did the same in return – they both lead the dance. Unconditional love and passion meeting and melting... He was lost in it. Maybe he could see why Yuuri and Viktor loved each other so much and weren't scared of showing it.

 

Nothing was more beautiful than the love he felt for Otabek.

 

Unconditional.

 

Passionate.

 

He wanted to kiss him, spend his life with him, stay close to him and never let go. He loved him more than what words or magic could express. He wanted to give him the stars and the moon. Everything.

 

Before he completely lost himself in the magic, he put an end to the spell, Otabek disappearing in a cloud of smoke and stars. He was there, alone in the water once again. He scoffed and wondered why he even had this terrible, terrible idea. It would only wound him more. But it was so beautiful. He didn't know how he was supposed to behave once Otabek came back tomorrow night. He didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to think about anything. Love was too complicated. Way too complicated for him.

 

I am an idiot.

 

~ ~ ~

 

He knew he would win. As soon as he got his prize – surrounded by cheers and screams – he kissed his ring. Thank you Yura, thank you so much. He didn't think that he could have gotten this far without him. Soon, he'd have to head to the forest and go back home. Though he couldn't return to his hometown, wherever Yuri was, this was home. In a chaotic ocean, his friend was his anchor.

 

A dream of them dancing among the waves and stars, spinning and smiling. Never stopping and their laugher echoing. Golden rings illuminated by the moon and lovers waltzing under the moonlight – Yuri's eyes shimmering more than emeralds, Otabek thanking the spirits – time had stopped. They were alone, floating above a sea of stars. This dream felt like a fairytale, one he wished would never end. He kissed Yuri's forehead and Yuri did the same to him.

 

Precious.

 

His everything.

 

He was going to come back to his beloved, even though he was convinced Yuri didn't feel the same way.

 

~ ~ ~

 

As soon as he woke up, he already felt better. Even though he still had to make those potions for Viktor. He went to his laboratory – which was small compared to Viktor's and Yuuri's – and found Master Baranovskaya waiting for him there. She gave him a smile – which was only reserved to him when he did well – and Viktor must have told her about his 'bad feeling' so she probably decided not to be too strict with him today. According to Viktor, she was there to not only keep him company, but also to correct his mistakes if there are any. While Viktor was his master, he also learnt a great deal from her and as much as she annoyed him some times, he respected her greatly.

 

He put Mishka on her pillow, right by the door, before getting started.

 

Anything was good to distract him.

 

“Yura, please be careful. You almost cut your hand.” Lilya's hand took the knife from him and cut the plant instead. She seemed worried about him. “You are distracted. I know you are tired, but always focus on what you're doing, because there are people relying on you and your work has to be perfect. Not only for them, but also for you.” She held his chin, her calm gaze – an ocean that could crush if you dared to anger it – meeting his. And he realized that he was behaving like an idiot. His inner turmoil made him forget about his work, and said work was going to pay for it.

 

He would get over it soon enough. That was what he tried to convince himself of.

 

Even though his ring was slowly starting to hurt...

 

He nodded and continued working, Lilya silently watching him.

 

She found it almost unbelievable how much a boy could grow in three years. He became a beautiful magician, with a strength that could be unrivaled – though her boy still had to work on this foul mouth of his – and bloomed into a gorgeous flower. She believed in him more than anyone – arguably even more so than Viktor who still saw Yuri as a child despite how much much the boy had grown – and knew that whatever ordeal he may face in the future, he'd get through it.

 

He kept on working on those 'bloody potions' all day, only taking breaks when it was time to feed Miska or when he actually had to eat. Lilya stayed with him the whole day and though she denied it, she enjoyed spending some time with a soon-to-be fellow master. At some point he had tied up his hair, rolled up his sleeves and started working again after a while. The smell of plants and flowers boiling was intoxicating. After getting seven potions done, he fell asleep on his desk. Lilya couldn't help but slightly chuckle at this, and put a blanket over his shoulders.

 

He'll wake up when his friend comes back.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Blood. The sound of a man screaming and a horse. He couldn't see clearly what was going on. Red stains on the grass and flowers beds ruined. He didn't know what happened there, and he just wanted to leave the forest as soon as he could. This was a dream, yet he swore he could smell smoke and blood. He could sense a malevolent spirit there. He couldn't hear the man's screams anymore, only his ragged breathing as he laid lifelessly on his horse. Somehow he didn't fall. His sword fell on the ground, and just laid there, abandoned by its owner. The air itself was poisonous, yet soon it would fade and vanish as quickly as the one who caused this mess in the first place. He couldn't see the man's face, no matter how close he was.

 

Another sound, unknown.

 

A branch snapping under some animal's foot. He didn't know where to go and was petrified.

 

The horse just stayed there, its master unable to speak. Complete, eerie silence. Save for the poor man's moans. Flowers – a single one within the bouquet glistening in the moonlight – were crushed under his chest. A golden ring on his finger. He couldn't see his face. Who was he? What was he doing here? Didn't Viktor and the others warn the kingdom? What the hell was going on here? The man was trying to say something. It was taking him all his strength, and the man almost coughed blood. The kingdom's crest on his cape.

 

He was saying someone's name.

 

Yet as his lips moved, no sound came.

 

His face was still hidden.

 

Who was he calling?

 

Yu...ri...

 

Yur...i

 

Yuri...

 

“Yuri! Wake up, please wake up!” He woke up abruptly, sweating and crying. This terrible nightmare, it couldn't be. He saw Viktor and Yuuri look at him with worry, Yuuri still having a hand on his shoulder. He looked around him frantically – like a madman, desperately trying to look for something precious to him - and didn't say anything as his professors kept on watching him. He couldn't breath. He was terrified and felt like he was about to pass out. Deep breath, deep breath, deep breath. In and out, in and out, in and out. Calm down. Calm down. Tears were rolling down his cheeks, he didn't know what was going on himself. Viktor kneeled next to him trying to reassure him. “Yuri what's going on with-”

 

Before Viktor could finish his sentence, Yuri cut him.

 

“Where's Beka?!” Viktor hadn't seen his student like this since his grandfather's illness. Scared and terrified, he looked like a child. “ Where's Otabek? Answer me!”

 

“Yuri, he hasn't come back yet, he might arrive later than planned.” Viktor carefully chose his words so as to not startled nor worsen his student's state. Yuuri grabbed Yuri's blanket and wrapped it around him. They both knew what whatever their student saw, it traumatized him. “Yuri, what did you see?” They both embraced their student, his pained moans and ragged breaths echoing inside the laboratory. I can't breathe. This can't be. Please, not Beka. Not him, not him. He tried to breath correctly again, fighting through the tears and panic. He wished he could erase this horrible image from his mind.

 

“Otabek...he – was bleeding and he couldn't move anymore.” He paused, trying to speak again. “He was inside the forest of glass and he was laying on his horse, and so much blood- ” Another sob. He couldn't speak anymore. He didn't think he could. Viktor seemed to understand what Yuri implied, his face growing somber by the second. Him and Yuuri helped Yuri stand up and let him sit on a nearby chair. Yuri couldn't hear well what they were saying. Yuri stayed with him as Viktor exited the laboratory, panic hiding beneath a calm façade.

 

The door closed loudly.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Yuuri, stay with him here. I'm going to use a spell to call back Otabek's horse.” They knew what was coming. A malevolent spirit. They didn't want Yuri to deal with this. “Damn it, why did it have to happen?” Yuuri only nodded as he stayed next to his student, who was still shaking.

 

Just go Viktor, I'll stay with him here.” Yuuri had seen people die because of malevolent spirits, but as many as Viktor, who was still haunted to this very day by those he failed to save. Including his own mother. He didn't want his student to go through the same thing. He didn't want his student to lose someone dear to him because some spirit decided so. He casted one last glance at his student. If his heart had been made of glass, it would have shattered right on the spot. Since this one winter, when his grandfather got sick, he had never seen Yuri so panicked.

 

He told every magician he met on his way to the courtyard. Georgi, Lilya, their apprentices. He told servants to prepare a warm bed for Otabek in his laboratory.

 

Viktor soon arrived at the castle's gate and quickly explained the situation to the guards. He quickly recited the appropriate spell, hoping that it wasn't too late and whistled. A minute passed. And then another. Each minute feeling like an eternity. Yet, soon enough, he saw Otabek's horse coming towards the castle. The poor thing was carrying the knight's lifeless body, and from what he could see, Otabek was still alive, but he lost a lot of blood. With the help of other knights – who had been alarmed by Viktor's voice – they carried Otabek's body to the warlock's laboratory. Viktor took Otabek's belongings, and couldn't help but notice the glass flower within the bouquet he was carrying. This, and the golden ring the knight was wearing, identical to Yuri's.

 

They were both in love with the other, yet didn't think that the other would love them back.

 

As he followed the knights, he heard Otabek mutter something.

 

Yuri.”

 

The knight was in pain, tears running down his cheek and a thin trail of blood rolling down his chin. His screams echoed in the corridor, mingling with another voice, just as heartbreaking. Yuri – completely disheveled ran down the stairs, desperate to see his friend. Viktor's heart broke at the sight. His proud, foul mouthed and ambitious student was now nothing but a terrified child. He was supposed to rest, yet there he was screaming. Viktor tried to stop Yuri from going into the laboratory – in his state who knew what could happen – and held him against his chest.

 

“Beka! I need to see him Viktor! Let me see him!” He struggled and even tried to punch Viktor at some point. “Let me go!”

 

“Yuri, you need to rest! I have to figure out how to heal him first, go back to your chambers!” Please Yuri, don't make this any harder than it already is.

 

“Let me go, Viktor! He needs me! He's my best friend, I can't lose him!” Yuri had stopped fighting, and was now clinging onto his mentor. Green eyes, usually so full of life, were puffy and red. As he sobbed in his master's arms, Lilya went to the laboratory with Georgi to stop the bleeding with some potions and chants. Yuri progressively stopped fighting, strength leaving his body. Blood, and the suffocating air. Otabek calling out for him. His screams, his moans, his wounds, his tears. This was too much. You couldn't always find a cure for such poisons. He knew that Otabek could die within a week.

 

“Yuri, I'll let you see him later. Please go back to your room, okay?” his student didn't say anything, so he kept going. “We're going to find a cure. Together.” He saw Yuuri arrive and asked him to watch over their student. Viktor quickly kissed his husband and planted a kiss on Yuri's forehand. We'll find a way, please don't cry. I will do whatever it takes to save Otabek. Yuuri held his student close to him, said student didn't have the strength to complain and returned the embrace. He didn't care if his tears left stains on his professor's robe. He cried, and cried until his throat hurt and eyes couldn't take it anymore. It was as if someone took his heart in their hands and was squeezing it, trying to smash it.

 

He was trying to keep it together.

 

He tried. And failed terribly.

 

~ ~ ~

 

He couldn't take it anymore. The pain, Yuri's tears and screams. He wished he could stand up and embrace him, yet his body was too weak. He should have escaped the forest when he saw that spirit. And now, there he was, lying on a bed and fighting for his life. He'd heard stories about people dying after an encounter with malevolent spirits. He never thought that he would ever be attacked by one. He didn't want to die. He didn't want to leave Yuri alone. The poison was burning his body. His whole being was on fire. He didn't want to leave his side. So he decided to fight. He knew that willpower alone wasn't enough to cure this. The cool, golden ring on his finger reminded him that he wasn't fighting alone.

 

And that he had someone to fight for.

 

Yuri was always full of surprises. He was a prodigy and the greatest magician of his generation. He would find a solution.

 

'So please Yura, don't cry. Be strong.' Nothing was strong enough to separate them. He would find a solution.

 

~ ~ ~

 

It was late. Everyone went to sleep, once they made sure Otabek's state was stable. Well, as stable as one could be in his situation.Yuri didn't eat dinner and instead slept for hours. Viktor made sure to write his observations before going to bed. Yet, he couldn't sleep. He didn't know if they would be able to cure Otabek. It seemed strange but if the victim was poisoned, a chant was needed. And if the victim was cursed, a potion was needed. He knew complex healing chants, so did Yuuri and Yuri, but would any of them be enough? He had seen enough people die, and he didn't want to lose someone else. Especially someone dear to his student. Yuri only had Otabek and his grandfather.

 

He tossed and turned, unable to close his eyes without seeing his student's face, broken and sobbing. Yuuri wrapped his arms around him, letting Viktor rest his head on his chest. One heartbeat, two heartbeats. The sound was like music to his ears. They were both shaken and worried for their student, for Otabek, yet they wouldn't be able to do much if they were tired.

 

Yuri, meanwhile, had woken up. A blanket around his shoulder and Mishka in his arms. His little companion licking his neck from time to time, sensing how distressed he was. Good girl. He walked towards Viktor's laboratory, as he always had a spare key. The room was completely dark, save for the moonlight coming from the window. Right on Otabek's body. He put Mishka on the ground and kneeled by Otabek's side. Silently breathing – it was almost unnoticeable – and as pale as a marble statue, the man almost looked dead. He was sweating and his skin was cold to the touch. He was unconscious, so he couldn't hear him. He knew that starting tomorrow, they were going to try different spells, different chants in hopes to heal Otabek.

 

He held his friend's hand and entwined their fingers, planting a kiss on them.

 

'What...

 

...is Yura doing?'

 

“Otya, you idiot. You said you were coming back with a big smile, not half dead.” This wasn't even funny, yet anything was good to distract him from this. “I can't believe you got poisoned b- by a fucking spirit, you moron.” He couldn't believe that his voice was breaking, even now. Once this was all over, Viktor was never going to let him hear the end of it. He didn't know why, but he just went on, even though he knew that his friend wasn't able to hear him. “I can't believe I cried so much today. Even the old geezer and the pork cutlet bowl were shocked. I guess I- I didn't want to lose you. God you even through the trouble of getting me a present, you idiot. When I saw you in that dream, I was terrified.”

 

'Me too, I thought I was going to die without telling you how much I love you. I don't care if you don't return my feelings, I just want you to know and to stay by your side.'

 

“I feel so stupid, why am I even talking, you can't hear me. You better fight Beka. I'll find a way to cure you, I'm not gonna let you die.”

 

'I can hear you, Yura. I can't speak. I wish I could hold you now and I know you'll save me.'

 

“But if I- I mean, if something happens, I guess I wanted you to know this. Damn, this is going to sound so cheesy.” He couldn't see himself right now, but he was sure his face was red. He couldn't believe that he was doing it, even though he told himself that he never would. He was going to do everything in his power to save his friend. There had to be a chant to heal him. He was going to try but...if Otabek doesn't make it, he wanted him to know. Otabek couldn't hear him – or so he thought – but at least, it will be off his chest.

 

“Remember when you told me I had the unforgettable eyes of a soldier? You have no idea how happy it made me that you thought that. No matter how strong I became, people only saw me as 'Yuri the fairy' and I was sick of it. You were the first person to tell me this. And you were the first person who asked me to be their friend. We had so much fun together, I don't think anyone's ever made me as happy as you did.”

 

'You too, Yura. You mean the world to me. I wish I could talk to you know, but I can't. After we met at that camp, the only thing I wanted was to find you again. I wanted to know you better, I wanted to know who you really were.'

 

“But recently, I- I started to feel something stronger than friendship for you. I know you'll never love me like this, but I do.” He planted another kiss on their entwined hands. His face was burning and he still couldn't believe he was actually saying it. “I love you. I love you so much Beka. I want to hold you and kiss you and never let you go. I want to do so many things with you, but I don't want to ruin our friendship. I just want to hear your voice and eat piroshkis with you and just laugh at all the stupid things Viktor does.”

 

'Yura...you're my world. I love you too, I love you more than you can imagine. I never thought you felt the same way about me. I wish I could kiss you now. I can't see you, but I know you're tired and cried. Please don't cry. I love you so much.'

 

“Damn it, you're my world, so please fight. Before anything else, you're my best friend. I'm gonna save you. I'll do whatever it takes.” He let his head rest on Otabek's chest, listening to his beating heart. Even if he got attacked by a spirit, even if he might as well be dying, this was a proof that he was still alive. He felt Miska move closer, to rest near Otabek's head, nuzzling his temple. She missed him too. He let go of his friend's hand to cup his cheek. He was so cold it scared him. He kissed Otabek's forehead before leaving the laboratory and closing the door behind him.

 

'Yura, you're a soldier. Don't forget this, my gold. I trust you.'

 

~ ~ ~

 

Six days later...

 

'Viktor and Yuuri are still trying new chants, but I can't feel a thing. The poison is still burning me. Viktor's throat seems sore and Yuuri sounds tired. Yura's been isolating himself in his laboratory to find a way to cure me. Yura, don't push yourself too hard. Rest please.'

 

Otabek was usually unconscious, save for brief moments of consciousness when he screamed because of the pain. Yuuri and Lilya had done what they could to lesser the pain. And though it became bearable, it was still too painful. Sometimes, Yuri would come out of his laboratory to talk to his friend. Still thinking that he couldn't hear him. He tried to sound optimistic and cheerful, but Otabek's condition – and the fact that they still hadn't found a cure – was taking its toll on him. He was tired all the time, and was losing his temper more and more often. He would snap at Viktor and tell him to leave him alone to work, and the next second he'd let his master comfort him.

 

'If I die, I wonder who'll take care of Mishka when Yura isn't here or has to travel. She would be so lonely. No, I shouldn't think that. Yuri will find a way, I just have to believe in him. My world and gold.'

 

Yet no one was ready to give up.

 

Except that this was how they were the first few days.

 

Viktor had grown as frustrated as his student as the days passed. He couldn't find a solution, and tomorrow Death would come to claim Otabek as her own. It seemed impossible. They had tried everything. They had worked themselves to the bone. Even now, as his throat was dry and he barely could hold his staff in place, he still tried chants. Yuuri lent him a hand, reciting it with him, yet it did nothing to improve the poor knight's state. They didn't want to tell their student that they had failed. They didn't want to lose another life and see one being destroyed. They were ready to give up by the fourth day, yet stopped when they saw Yuri kissing Otabek's hand one night. Viktor wondered how he would have felt if Yuuri had been the one poisoned. Yuuri wondered how he would have felt if Viktor had been in the same state as Otabek.

 

They would do the same thing as their student.

 

They wouldn't give up as their beloved was in danger.

 

They tried healing chants from old, dusty grimoires and chants from Viktor's own grimoire. Yuuri gave it his all to reduce Otabek's pain. Day and Night, they worked on a cure. Lilya took care of the potions Yuri was supposed to finish, while the latter searched and searched and searched again. Even the servants and the king were starting to become worried. Some times, they would find Yuri sleeping in his laboratory, his head laying on some parchment or scroll. His own room was a mess. Books were scattered all over the place, there were sheets of paper and scrolls all over his desk. Splashes of ink and empty cups of tea pilling up. Yuri was growing more and more frustrated each hour that passed. He felt like he knew what to do, that he knew the answer yet couldn't figure out what it was.

 

He wished he could have some sort of clue. I have to find a cure by tomorrow, or else Beka won't make it. He cried out of frustration and ran to the gardens. He couldn't help but sob on his way there. He had tried to be optimistic, to be positive, and yet it was if this mask had fallen. He needed to escape his laboratory for a while.

 

'I don't know a thing about magic. I can use basic spells but I am no magician. Yet, I trust Yura. He'll find a way.'

 

The answer was there.

 

'But please rest, my soldier. If only took the time to rest, maybe you'll find the answer you're looking for.'

 

He just needed to find what it was exactly.

 

~ ~ ~

 

'Yuri always pushes himself too hard, and if the work isn't perfect, it just frustrates him even more. He never gives up, he's a soldier. A beautiful soldier. I don't care if this sounds cheesy, as soon as I can move and wakes up, I'll tell him how beautiful he is every day. I can't believe he loves me back. I want to kiss him so badly.'

 

At such a late hour, the rose garden was empty. Yet, as he stood there, he couldn't help but see Otabek and him sitting there. Just a few days ago, they were happily chatting the night away, blushing and smiling. Happy. He thought how crazy it was that your whole life could change so quickly. He had never seen Death so closely. Viktor saw countless men, women, children, being claimed by Death. Yuri got a taste of it when his grandfather got sick, yet at that time, he'd known that his grandfather would survive deep down, even if at the time he got scared and thought that he wouldn't. This time, he didn't know. He was losing hope, yet at the same time was clinging onto it. He wanted to give up, he was so tired and so were his professors, but couldn't bring himself to do it.

 

Otabek and him dancing at some festival, the usually quiet knight smiling and laughing to his heart's content.

 

It was crazy how you could be smiling one day, and then be mourning the next.

 

A few days ago, the only thing he had to worry about was his exam, and know his friend, the man he loved the most would die if he didn't find a solution by tomorrow. Tomorrow, at midnight, if no solution was found, Otabek would be gone. He knew the solution. It wasn't something that could be found in grimoires, in books, not even the ones Viktor wrote. It was something else. He swore on his life that once he passed his exam, he would do everything in his power to find a way to make sure that malevolent spirits were no more. Be it finding a way a kill them for good or to make them rest in peace and never come back again. He felt lost.

 

I wish none of this was real. It doesn't feel real. Beka...it feels like a nightmare. A terrible dream.

 

He closed his eyes, a knot in his throat.

 

Dreams are important Yuri. They have a hidden meaning. Even if a dream doesn't seem to make sense, there's something – a tiny element, a small thing – that will have meaning ”

 

Hold on a second.

 

A dream.

 

A memory.

 

A birthday spent in the forest, under a rain of light. No chants, no magic spell involved, another kind of music. This was crazy. Why would it even work?

 

'It's so cold, but whenever Yurochka holds my hand, it feels a little bit warmer. And when he sings, the world feels a little bit brighter. Life seems better.'

 

Yet, it was worth a shot.

 

Otabek was his sun, his world – his everything - and he wasn't going to lose him without a fight. This was his last chance. The sweet scent of roses, the glistening evening sky with millions of stars scattered and a faint, cool breeze. He felt calmer somehow. He didn't know if this was going to work. He didn't know if after this Otabek would wake up and hug him like he always did. Despite his worries, how tired he was and this crippling fear, a voice told him that it would be okay. Maybe it would be okay.

 

No.

 

“It's going to be okay. I'm sure of it. Even if it's not a chant, Viktor always said that magic done out of love was the strongest.”

 

 

I hope it's true.

 

There's only one way to know.

 

I am going to save Beka, and this time I'll tell him face to face that I love him. If he lives. Spirits, I don't even care if he doesn't love me back!

 

 

He ran upstairs to get his staff, waking up Viktor and Yuuri in the process. They didn't know what happened, but ever since Otabek got poisoned, they hadn't seen him so motivated. Emerald eyes shining, a true soldier ready to go on the battlefield. Maybe there was some hope. Both professors decided to go with him, none of them exchanging a word to the other. The air was tense. The best way to describe it would be to picture three men walking on a tightrope. A single word, a single misstep and the rope could snap. A single word, a single misstep and you fall and never stand up again. There was a time for words, sentences, long paragraphs and speeches.

 

Now was a time for actions.

 

They would wait for Yuri to break the silence when he wanted to and if he wanted to.

 

As soon as they arrived inside Viktor's laboratory, Yuri did.

 

“Hey Viktor.” Voice almost akin to a whisper. But strong.

 

“Yes, little kitten?” The nickname, usually said to tease him was instead said with fondness, with boundless affection.

 

“You once wrote in one of your books that magic done out of love was the strongest. That I should listen to my dreams and try to understand them. Do you really believe that?” Yuri was rolling up his sleeves, his voice calmer. Out of resignation or out of confidence, Viktor didn't know. “ Do you think it's possible for a song, that isn't even a chant in the first place, to become a spell?” He didn't know what sort of illumination his student had, but it was a good one. By the spirits, he had a hunch that this was a great one. Yuuri smiled, knowing exactly what Viktor was going to say.

 

“Yura, love is the strongest, greatest magic of all. If you do it out of love, if you pour your whole heart into it. Most chants used be lullabies mothers sang to their children, you know? It all starts with a spark. If you're confident enough, if you think you've got the skills, just do it.” Dreams truly can influence you. And his student's words were the proof. “We're right here behind you. And so are the others. You can do this.”

 

“I never created a chant all by myself before. I'm scared that I'll screw up.”

 

“Don't be. Just sing the song, as if we weren't here. Just imagine that you're alone with Otabek. Think of it as an ordinary day.”

 

And as he raised his staff, he did just that.

 

He closed his eyes. He didn't need to see his staff, he knew how to move it. He could feel it deep within his heart.

 

He was singing a lullaby, a familiar tune dear to Otabek.

 

I love you Beka, please don't leave me. Please live.

 

'Yuri...'

 

Light filled the room – light falling like snow, a warm embrace and laugher echoing, boys laughing – and as Yuri sang, the sweet melody was slowly filling the place. A crystalline voice, the kind of voice that could make the spirits cry. Viktor was looking at his student as if he was discovering him again. Yuuri was fighting the urge to cry. Ah, what a beautiful thing Love was. The love you have for your friend, for your parents, for your lover, for your student. He was thinking about how he could make it stronger. Louder, louder – Otabek's smiles, the ones he only showed to his best friend – stars were falling from the ceiling, the whole scene almost fairytale-like. He thought about the love he wanted to convey, the one even a confession couldn't express – the days they spent drinking tea together and laughing the afternoon away – nothing would never be enough.

 

'Yura's voice. He's singing my mother's lullaby...'

 

Fragments of light fell on Otabek's body, on the ground, before fading away.

 

He wasn't done yet. He made the song longer. Damn it, I'm too tired. But Beka can't die, I have to succeed. His beloved's hands, his legs, his laugher, his smile. He wanted to reach Otabek's heart. To see those beautiful eyes open again – dark like coal, yet as warm a summer afternoon – he wanted to be over, to think of this as nothing more than a dream. Live Beka! You asked me to go the ball with you, remember? You said we would both succeed, so please, I beg of you , live! My friend, my love, don't you dare die on me!

 

Beka...

 

He would soon be done with the song. His throat hurt, and he was sweating, his staff was practically burning his hands. He didn't know when he changed the melody, a mother's lullaby changing into a lovers' serenade. Yuri could feel his cheek burning. He forced himself to keep his eyes closed until he was done. The stars in your eyes, together dancing under the moonlight, I'll make it come true. They would dance together at the ball, be it at friends or lovers. They would spin together in a grand ballroom, and the guests' eyes would be glued on them. They would be smiling and laughing without a care in the world, for they still were children deep down inside.

 

Otabek, wake up please.

 

He probably woke up the whole castle and couldn't care less. A word, a plea, a serenade and refusing to say goodbye.

 

A hand that was immobile moving slightly.

 

'Yura.'

 

He could picture, he could hear, he could feel Otabek singing with him.

 

The magic had stopped, yet the light reminded. The notes faded and sweet voice vanished, Viktor and Yuuri said nothing.

 

 

And he opened his eyes, at last.

 

“Yura...” I can't believe it.

 

“B-Beka!” He let his staff fall on the ground, rushing towards his friend's side. He kneeled at his side, holding his hand tightly in his. “You're alive, thank the spirits you're alive!” Otabek tried to sit up - but as he was too weak to do so alone - Yuri's professors helped him, Viktor gently putting a pillow behind his back. As soon as he did so, Yuri sat on the bed and wrapped his arms around his friend's shoulders, the latter weakly returning the embrace.

 

 

Viktor and Yuuri left the room, closing the door behind them so as to not bother the two men.

 

This was their moment and theirs alone.

 

 

The poor magician couldn't take it anymore. He sobbed, wetting Otabek's clothes in the process. He could sense the knight's own tears as his hands stroke Yuri's hair. Yuri knew that his friend was too weak to speak, aside from a word or two, but knowing that he was out of harm's way and in his arms was all he needed. This comforting silence – Otabek's skin warm once more, his heart beating normally, no poison slowly eating him away – was what he needed. Otabek would have to eat a good meal and sleep well for a day or two, and he would be okay. Yuri's song had completely cured him. For now, they simply stayed in each other's arms as the sun rose and a new day began.

 

Their other problem could wait for now.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Hey Beka, how are you feeling today?” Yuri entered Otabek's room while holding a tray of tea, which he put on his friend's bedside table. Otabek put down the book he was reading. Thanks to Yuuri's potion – against the exhaustion mostly – and Viktor's advices, the knight completely recovered, though he was not to resume his training until next week, after the ball. Yuri had received a letter from Yakov, telling him that his exam would take place next month, which gave him more time to spend with Otabek and to train a little before his big day. He still wanted Otabek to take it easy and be careful.

 

They didn't know where to start.

 

“I'm okay, Yura. Thank you.” Yuri poured some tea for both of them, which they drank as they told each other about their day. The conversation was so ordinary, it was as if Otabek had never been on the verge of dying. Yuri told him about Viktor's nagging and teasing. Otabek told him how he won the tournament before his predicament. And how he went to the forest to pick up some flowers for Yuri, without knowing about the spirit that had appeared there.

 

Yet slowly enough, they came to stay in a comfortable silence, drinking tea and enjoying each other's presence.

 

But the silence started to become suffocating. One of them would have to speak sooner or later.

 

“Ah, Yura. I just remembered I wanted to give you something.” Otabek's cheeks were slightly pink. How should I tell him I heard everything he said when I was unconscious? He pulled a crystal flower from under his pillow. He put it in Yuri's hand, letting his own hands hold the magician's for a while. “I don't know where to start...”As he still held Yuri's hand, he took notice of how red his friend was. “Can you just promise not to overreact?” Beka, what the hell are you doing? I must be so red right now. This is too much. Otabek never looked as handsome as he did now. Though he could see something else...his friend seemed so nervous, and yet he couldn't see why.

 

“Y- yeah.” He didn't know what else to say.

 

Otabek took a deep breath.

 

“When I was poisoned and unconscious, even though I couldn't speak or move, I still knew what was going around me.” A ghost of a smile on his lips. “Even when I couldn't see you or touch you, I knew how hard you worked to cure me. And I heard everything you said that day.” Beka, oh spirits no. I can't believe it, he- he's probably embarrassed because he doesn't know how to reject me. He had closed his eyes, not wanting to see what kind of expression Otabek was making. He wanted to go away, yet was petrified. He wanted to go away, yet Otabek's hands firmly held his. “Yuri, open your eyes, please.”

 

“I- I don't want to.”

 

“Oh come on, kitten.”

 

Yuri quickly opened his eyes, turning towards Otabek.

 

“Don't call me...” he stopped. Unable to breathe. “...kitten.”

 

Otabek wasn't one to smile broadly. His smiles were shy, faint, sweet to a fault. Yet, there he was with a broad smile and his cheeks painted pink. A late afternoon, Otabek's face glowing as the sun was setting down. Brighter than thousands of stars. Yuri would cherish this smile for the rest of his life. He wanted to protect this smile, this being. He felt overwhelmed.

 

“You don't know how happy I was when I heard you say that you loved me.” Beka, you're- “Yura, I love you. I want to stay by your side for the rest of my life.” He let go of Yuri's hand to cup his cheeks. He moved closer, their foreheads touching. Their breaths becoming one. “I love you so much.” Yuri could barely believe it. He felt intoxicated. Otabek loved him back. He loved him back. Overcome with happiness, he held Otabek's face between his hands, at last smiling. They both resembled a painting.

 

Two lovers cherishing each other, blessed by the sun.

 

“I love you more, Otabek.” He felt at peace, knowing that his feelings were reciprocated. This silence was almost like a sweet melody of breaths mingling, hands on cheeks and the sound of the wind coming from outside. “Otya...can I kiss you?” His voice was but a whisper.

 

“I thought you'd never ask.”

 

Yuri stopped thinking. Still cupping his lover's face, he planted a kiss on the knight's lips. This was no passionate exchange, but a sweet one. Their first kiss, simply lips meeting and tongues tentatively licking and learning. As soon as they broke the kiss, they both chuckled. Yuri hugged Otabek tightly, smiling as broadly as his lover. He couldn't believe that they were lovers now.

 

In this late summer afternoon, two men had found love in each other.

 

Perhaps it is now time for us to see them dance for the first time as lovers, and afterwards, only after this will we end this story, although this is but a fragment of the great magician Yuri Plisetsky's life. The magician who found a way to make sure that there wouldn't be malevolent spirits anymore. The magician who made sure that thanks to his charms and spells, no one would have to suffer from the loss of a loved one.

 

His life was a series of adventure, this one being the most painful of all and yet, one he held close to his heart.

 

 

~ ~ ~

 

Loud cheers echoing in the ballroom. Glistening chandeliers hanging on the ceiling – adorned with droplets of crystal - the musicians happily playing one waltz after the other. All the women were wearing their best gowns, necklaces made of rubies and emerald and diamonds on their necks. Dresses made with materials of the highest quality, magicians wearing royal robes. This was a night for laugher and love. Long wooden tables with the finest dishes in the kingdom. A certain knight unwittingly bewitching men and women alike with his beauty. A regal figure, all dressed in blue and white, with a hint of gold on his chest. He was wearing immaculate gloves, his golden ring still on his finger. He looked at it with fondness, waiting for his love to arrive.

 

By the spirits their impatience and eagerness. This was their first time, both wanted to ravish the other and worship their lover's body. Otabek was on top of Yuri, tenderly kissing him – a sweet exchange, as their tongues caressed each other. The magician wrapped his arms around his knight's shoulders, deepening the kiss. Passion met fondness and affection. They drank each other's moans of pleasure, trying no to make too much noise. Their love's presence was akin to a sweet poison, intoxicating them. Sweat, roses, a hint of cologne. Skin on skin, lips on lips, tongue on tongue. This was too much.

 

'Ah, Beka...'

 

'Yura...' a breath, a moan. 'You're so beautiful...'

 

A soft whisper escaping Yuri's lips. They had exchanged many kisses, yet this one felt so different from the others. It was marked by the fire of passion and impatience. They wanted more, yet wanted to make this last for as long as possible. Yuri broke the kiss, a thin trail of saliva linking their mouths as their lips no longer touched. After taking his breath, the tables turned. Yuri pined Otabek against the bed, entwining their hands as he planted kisses on his knight's collarbone, his shoulders. He stopped to help Otabek out of his tunic. His lover in return helped him out of his robe. Yuri gently pushed Otabek on the bed once again, kissing and biting his neck, his chest. The knight left scratch marks on Yuri's back, muttering a faint 'sorry...' and the magician couldn't care less, losing himself in the music.

 

Yuri arrived inside the ballroom, making heads turn. Clad in reds and golds, it was as if a divine creature had decided to grace the castle with its presence. A braid on the side, a thin, red ribbon entwined with the blond locks. Even Mishka had a golden ribbon around her neck, almost looking smug. As soon as Yuri saw Otabek, his face instantly lit up. The knight took his lover's hand in his, kissing it. Yuri was still embarrassed by such public displays of affection. Still, it wasn't fair to be the only one flustered. If there was one thing that he learnt, is was that Otabek could be extremely affectionate without batting an eyelash, but couldn't take it when Yuri was the one initiating affectionate gestures. Yuri – not without a smirk, oh the smug bastard – and bowed to take Otabek's hand to return the gesture, kissing the ring on his finger.

 

The moaning mess he became under Yuri's touches. The latter too busy pleasuring his lover to notice how powerful his hold was on his knight – the music they made together sweeter than all the serenades in the world – as he licked and kissed his length, his hands on Otabek's thighs. He couldn't pin point when his lover had taken a hold of his hair to pull it. Although he had read books, this was his first time doing this, and he wanted to get it right. The hold on his hair, the hint of cologne and sweat, his tongue licking this thin, white trail. His fingers moving inside his friend, he couldn't resist teasing him back.

 

He might as well been drinking the nectar of the gods.

 

He let go of Otabek, letting his knight rest for a while as he slowly stretched out his entrance. He did it slowly, not wanting to hurt Otabek, the memory of his cold, unconscious body still fresh in his mind. Seeing his distress, Otabek gently pulled him down, holding his golden locks, planted a kiss on his lips and cheeks. It's going to be okay, I am here now and I know Beka, I just don't want to hurt you. You're so cheesy Yura. A little scoff and a smirk. Speak for yourself. Oil, faintly perfumed on his finger and mixed with a potion. Otabek didn't know when Yuri had coated his fingers with it. The sensation was new, it felt weird at first, yet he progressively relaxed.

 

A turn. A spin and Yuri was on his back, his dearest friend and lover positioning himself on top of him and are you sure about this Beka? You worry too much, Yura, you'll return the favor later. I love you so much Otya. I love you more. His hands, his legs, his lover's hands, his lover's legs. They became one. Their fingers entwined as Yuri was inside his lover. None of them moved, trying to adjust to this abundance of sensations. They let themselves melt in this fire.

 

'Beka...oh, Beka this is amazing.'

 

They both moved faster and faster, yet not to much. This had to last. Illuminated by the moonlight, Otabek didn't seem real at all. He was utterly divine. Yuri felt blessed beyond measure to love and be loved in return by him. He tightened his grip on the knight's hips as they quickened the tempo.

 

Otabek started to move and the music could be heard again.

 

A new song started, upbeat, the guests forgetting about etiquette.

 

At last some fun after all those slow dances and waltzes!

 

They both started to dance practically running towards the center. Yuuri was drunk on champagne and started to dance with Viktor, dragging him into some sort of tango. This reminded Yuri of their first meeting. He looked at Otabek, eyes conveying more than what mouths and words could. Now was the time for some fun! They were swirling around the dance floor, the notes growing louder as a musician's hands glided on the piano. As they danced, all eyes were on them, even Yuri's professors stopped dancing to watch them. They didn't think about the steps at all. Feather steps and turns. No one ever saw the magician as happy and cheerful, dancing the night away.

 

Red, gold, blue, white. Other colors joined them, eager to dance after watching them. Viktor's violet, Yuuri's glistening blue. The king didn't dance, content to be watching his guests from his throne. Yuri imitated some sort of dramatic pose – he had Viktor in mind - a hand on the forehead and the other stretched out. Otabek joined him in this humorous play. The story of the playboy charming women and men alike, bewitching them left and right only to finally fall for the most beautiful knight in town. Otabek grabbed his hand and brought him closer, their chest touching. One step, two steps, three steps, and they lost count. Yuri had matured so much in three years and though he kept his biting wit and foul words, he felt at peace.

 

Nothing is more compelling than a dance that never ends.

 

Yuri was on all fours, Otabek worshipping the magician's body. He was a man adoring his god. He let his hands travel across his love's skin – perfect, almost unreal – and planted kisses all over his back, his legs. Scratch marks and red traces of lips peppered the white canvas. A constellation of red and white.He parted the two soft cheeks carefully, painfully slow. He let his mouth rest between them, his breath teasing Yuri's entrance. A faint, adoring 'may I?' followed by an 'please Beka, please' and the song became louder. As his tongue coaxed sweet, whispered notes from Yuri's mouth. His ragged breath and own moans joined his lover in a song that they would never forget.

 

One, two, three. One, two, three. Heels clicking on the marble floor

 

A halt. He carefully stretched out his lover's entrance, like Yuri did for him. A dance in which there were no static lead, but two. Pleasure followed by pleasure. Men begging for more. The scent of oil, of a potion, as as he positioned himself near Yuri's entrance, went inside him as gently as he could. Warmth surrounding his length, save for their breaths. He started to move at a slow pace, desiring to hear Yuri's voice more. The magician's hair was sticking to his shoulders and neck, his forehead and cheeks. Otabek bent slightly to plant a kiss on his head, still deep within his lover.

 

'Ah- ah, Beka, go faster'

 

They couldn't stop dancing. Viktor discreetly using his magic to make drops of light fall from the ceiling, akin to hundreds of falling stars. Surprised gasps and loud cheers as the guests stopped dancing before resuming their dances. Everyone was overcome with happiness, letting themselves be lost in the ocean of music and stars. The song close to its coda – violins, a piano constellations being drawn on bodies - lovers holding each other close, friends dancing in circles. A ball without etiquette. A celebration of life and love. Some found them in their beloved's embrace, others in a friend's gentle words. Some found them in poetry and beautiful words, others in their family, their work and dreams.

 

A frantic pace as their melody was reaching its end.

 

The second part of the song was gentler, a tender conclusion to the happy melody. Spinning again, come on Beka don't tell me you're already tired? A strong knight like you? Smug smiles and a challenge accepted. Playful banter on the dance floor. Spinning again. A change, Otabek's back against Yuri's chest. The knight sweeping his lover off his feet.

 

'Faster, oh please go faster, I beg of you'

 

Otabek alive and breathing.

 

'You look so beautiful tonight'

 

Yuri finally at peace.

 

'You took my breath away, I love you so much, Beka'

 

'I love you more, Yura'

 

Both of them were close to their end, coming undone at the hands of their beloved.

 

To finally let their voice unite in their release.

 

The violins stopped playing. The piano followed suit. The piano's melody could still be heard. Yuri cupped Otabek's face to kiss him, no longer embarrassed by it. Otabek eagerly returned the kiss. This adventure to find love thus ended, though this was only the beginning of another adventure.

 

Though this was but a fragment of Master Plisetsky's tumultuous life, I can say without hesitation that he had a happy life. And so, let us end this story the way all fairytales end.

 

Otabek and Yuri lived happily ever after.

 

The End.