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For such a small thing, it shouldn’t hurt as much as it does. Yuuri holds his breath, tense and sweaty, as the aesthetician presses the silver applicator up to the soft skin of his neck. First there’s heat, radiating from the needle point, chased by pain, sharp and bright. Then the metal barbs engage, fanning out at the base, securing the jewel to his flesh.

He’s been strong for what feels like hours, the skin of his shoulders and back dotted with tiny, sparkling white gems. When it heals, it’ll be beautiful, like a starfield, the aesthetician had explained to Yuuri’s guard. Right now each “star” is circled by angry, red flesh and even Yuuri’s shallow breathing hurts. Yuuri bites his lip, jaw tight, and doesn’t make a sound as the applicator is refilled and pressed near the sensitive join of his shoulder and neck.

“How much longer is this going to take?” The guard asks, glancing up from his phone.

“You can’t rush art. Rurik said he wants a masterpiece.” The aesthetician sniffs and affixes another jewel.

It’s always more difficult, keeping track of planet-based nightcycles in space, but Yuuri thinks it’s been a few days now. A few years, maybe, in this chair alone, each barbed star another blow.

Yuuri’s not a fighter, but he’s an athletic dancer capable of defending himself. He clenches and unclenches his fists, thinking through escape plans and coming up frustratingly blank. There’s nowhere to run to, that’s the problem; no friend in sight.

Yuuri dodges his reflection in the wall’s full-length mirror. It’s probably an enjoyable addition for most of the clients, who come to get a hair mod or a body sculpt. For Yuuri, this is not a voluntary procedure.

He’d danced, like always. His parent’s resort is famous for its hospitality: good food, pristine hot springs, and lately quality entertainment, courtesy of Yuuri’s dancer training. It had been a good life, competing in local dance competitions, working his way up the ranks and even traveling far abroad when he could. Yuuri knows he’s just an average dancer but with work and effort he could be, would be more.

Except... that’s not the case anymore. Kidnapped, on a ship far from home, they don’t even have to tie him down to keep him here. Beneath a small, shaved patch of skin on the back of his skull rests a command chip. Highly illegal, banned on every modern planet, the chip ensures that obedience is absolute. Even if it wasn’t, there isn’t anywhere to run to. Space is unforgiving like that.

Yuuri tries to breathe shallowly, moving his chest as little as possible to avoid further stoking the flames on his back.

“Jamon, I was under the impression that this would be complete two hours ago.” Yuuri startles at the sound of Rurik’s deep voice. He hadn’t even noticed him enter the room.

“Rurik, sir!” The aesthetician, Jamon apparently, jumps up and stands at attention, gem-applicator still in hand. Yuuri can see both of their reflections. Rurik’s handsome face is set in a deep scowl, but his posture oozes confidence: shoulders back, head tall, one hand casually resting in a pocket of his starsilk suit.

“How much longer?” Rurik eyes Yuuri up and down.

“It shouldn’t be more than a few hours, sir. The process is delicate, you see-”

“His back looks hideous. I wanted him to dance tonight.” Yuuri images dancing, through the agony of his back. Impossible. Breathing hurts.

“The gems are a fairly… invasive process, sir. It should be healed in a few days-” Rurik cuts him off with a raised palm.

“Unacceptable. I need him tomorrow, Jamon. Do whatever needs to be done. Don’t disappoint me.”

“Yes, sir.”

Tattoos and piercings are a sign of underworld activity and are forbidden at Yu-Topia, Yuuri thinks absently. What will his mother say?

Jamon picks up his pace, placing the gems with barely a pause in-between. Another reason the gems aren’t popular is because they really hurt to apply, even with painkillers. Not that Yuuri has painkillers. Before today, he’s never seen someone more than a few gems at a time.

When the guard finally drags him back to his cell, limp and drifting, it’s all he can do to accept the hypospray for pain and collapse on his bunk.

If only he’d been faster, or shouted louder, or had his stungun on him-

Yuuri dreams of home.

When he wakes, Yuuri can see Rurik’s blurry form in the room with him.

“I could have made the whole procedure much more painless, you know.” Yuuri can’t lift his head up enough to see him, but he’s sure Rurik’s has that same expression on his face, looking down his nose at everything considered lesser than himself. “But I wanted to make your position crystal clear to you, Yuuri.”

Yuuri shifts, painfully, so he’s angled away from the door and Rurik. It’s all the defiance he can muster up right now.

Rurik laughs. “Enough of that. Let me just say, though, once your back heals it’ll be the talk of the town.”

Yuuri’s throat feels tight with anger. “I’m not an object,” he says.

“Now, now, that’s simply not true. Yuuri, look at me.”

He tries to fight it. Tenses the muscles in his neck. Grits his teeth.

His back screams agony as he turns to look Rurik in the eye.

“That’s it.” Rurik praises, then pulls out his phone to check a message. Yuuri can’t look away, the command chip overriding his desires. There’s a reason these chips are illegal everywhere civilized.

“Fuck you,” Yuuri says. He isn’t someone prone to anger or even someone who’s good at expressing emotions outside of dance, but this loss of agency is infuriating. Why does he think he has the right to do this to people? What did I even do to catch his attention?

“That’s not very nice.” Rurik says mildly. “Let me remind you of your situation. Yuuri, stop breathing.”

It isn’t that his throat closes shut or anything. He simply can’t take a breath in our out. Mouth moving on a silent protest, Yuuri clutches at his chest, horrified and feeling the brush of true panic as the seconds tick by.

He’s still looking at Rurik through it all, the man’s bored face glowing slightly in reflected light from his phone. Lungs burning, deprived of air, it’s hard to pull a coherent thought together past why? What’s the point of all this, suffocating him here?

It’s only after the edges of his vision start to darken and panic has set in fully that Yuuri’s able to take one short, stifled breath, then another, then another, throat burning. Tears have collected in the corners of his eyes and he desperately wants to look away.

Rurik eyes his tears and harsh breathing, then smiles thinly. “As you can see, I have complete control here. The chip will have you do anything I say. Don’t worry, it only works from your owner, and the chip’s safety will kick in before you can permanently harm yourself.”

Yuuri bits his lip and blinks away the wetness in his eyes. Each breath still burns, from the inside and outside.

“I’m not a sadist. Just making things clear right from the start.” Rurik says, back to looking at his phone. “And I don’t like boy whores, you’re here for dancing and that’s all from me. You can look away now.”

Yuuri shuts his eyes and tries to get his breathing under control.

--

Gold. Everywhere. The floors, the walls, the ceiling. It’s glittering and ostentatious. Viktor Nikiforov sips vodka from his (gold) chalice and wishes he’s sent someone else in his stead. Chris would’ve gotten a kick out of the ridiculous DJ if nothing else; wearing a (gold) hat bedazzled with hundreds of lights that flash in time to the pulsing beat.

If this wasn’t such a good cover for their presence on the planet, he’d have declined the invitation without a second thought. At their last performance, Rurik Visconti had gotten a little too close, a little too friendly. His self-assured pompousness makes Viktor’s skin crawl.

“I thought you said this was going to be fun,” Yuri says, tapping at his phone with a scowl. His tigerprint hoodie hangs loose over thin shoulders. “This is garbage. These people are stupid-”

“I thought this place would be just your taste, Yura.” Viktor says mildly.

Georgi pulls up between them before Yuri can snap back, eyes bright. “I got it.” He gives a thumbs up sign. Georgi’s dressed in enough metallic gold to blend in with the scenery, always one to get into a role.

The pulsing beat of the music is far past the point of being merely annoying. “Have any trouble?” Viktor says, hiding his lips behind his glass for privacy.

Georgi taps his nose, still grinning. “This party is perfect.”

“Good.” Viktor downs the rest of his glass. With Georgi’s confirmation that the negotiations went well, it’s time to make an exit. “Wanna take a picture?” He pulls out his phone.

They all pose, Yuri still scowling with all he has. Viktor holds up bunny ears behind his head. It’ll look perfect on SMS, the elite Nikiforov troupe, having fun at a glitzy party. #TheGlamLife #YOLO

It provides a perfect cover for their real business, a grateful government official just signed a deal with Georgi for an order of 500 Nikiforov Souvenir Matryoshka. Inside the smallest doll of each is a hard-to-transport medicine, which Viktor has agreed to smuggle through a blockade to Seran’s smallest moon colony. It isn’t the colony’s fault the Seran government has banned out-system imports, even needed medical ones.

Giving medicine to the needy. A very saintly (and profitable) excursion.

Viktor texts Mila and scans the room for Rurik himself, to pay his thanks before their exit. Just as he spots the man, accompanied by some very beautiful eye candy, the lights of the club dim. The music switches to a more seductive tone and the chatter of the crowd falls down to a hush.

Of course Rurik would hire entertainment for his fancy party. All eyes in the room turn to the small, raised platform on the left.

Without the flashing lights and grating music, the gold tones of the room are warmer, muted.

Rurik reveres dancers and Viktor is certain that’s the type of entertainment he’s booked. Viktor, a dancer himself, tries to pull up some of the excitement he knows he used to feel before a performance, the joy of seeing new choreography, and comes up blank.

Inspiration is hard to come by, these days.

Oh well. He can’t say goodbye during this.

Viktor turns to watch the stage like the others, pulling on a smile.

The golden curtain rises and the shape of a man appears. It’s too dim to see more than a silhouette: petite, thin waist, powerful thighs. A dancer. The lights rise to reveal more of his form and catch hundreds of little sparkles on his skin, like a field of stars, down the back of each arm and spilling over his neck and shoulders.

Viktor’s breath catches in his throat when he first starts to move.

It takes a certain level of skill to command a room like the dancer does. The music is rhythmic and slow, seeming to flow over his limbs and wrap him in up in it, an invisible cloak that he moves with and embodies. The black-edged-with-gold shorts he wears aren’t as gaudy as the rest of the flashy party, allowing his movements to be the central focus as he does powerful leaps and turns to the seductive beat. They also accent his rather impressive ass and thighs.

He’s beautiful in the low light. Viktor catches a glimpse of companion bands around his thin wrists and the reason a dancer of this quality is working for Rurik of all people becomes clear. He isn’t a dancer, although he certainly can dance. The companion bands declare that he’s no more than a dolled-up prostitute, body sculpted to some patron’s taste. Rurik’s.

Well, there goes that. Viktor’s interest in talking to him evaporates. Anyone willingly going into Rurik’s employ as a companion doesn’t have Viktor’s respect. He’s pretty and talented, but his performance still has an unpolished form to it.

Disappointed, Viktor taps Yuri on the shoulder. “Head back to the ship. I’ll catch up with you.”

Yuri tears his eyes away from the performance and nods, face impassive. As he and Georgi retreat, Viktor makes his way over the dancefloor to Rurik, who’s still watching the show with a smug grin.

The last few beats of the song play and that’s his cue. Pulling up a blinding smile, Viktor claps Rurik on the shoulder like an old friend. “Thank you so much for inviting us!”

“Viktor!” Rurik’s handsome face pulls into an even more pleased expression. He reaches out jovially and claps Viktor on the back in return, then lets his hand rest down at the small of Viktor’s back, just above where it would be indecent to do so. Viktor pointedly doesn’t flinch. “I’m so glad you could come.”

Rurik had sent him an honest-to-god gold-embossed physical card through a mail carrier. Its envelope had been filled with holographic glitter, which Viktor was still finding bits of in his quarters. “It’s been a pleasure,” Viktor lies. “Great time. You sure know how the throw a party!”

“Did you see my newest prize?” Rurik gestures to the stage, where the curtains are now closed. The lights and music have raised back up to their previous frenetic pace.

“Ah, yes,” Viktor says. “He was lovely. Charming.”

Rurik turns to the young lady on his other arm with flowing pink hair, big blue eyes, a quite impressive bust. “Yalla, darling, go get Yuuri for me?”

As she walks off he sees the glint of a companion cuff on her wrist as well. It makes sense; a man like Rurik must rely heavily on paying people to stay close, because of his singular unpleasantness.

“So, Viktor, I heard you were going to be touring the Seran system next?” Rurik asks. “Seems like an odd place to go. Political turmoil and all.”

“All the better to cheer them up with a dance,” Viktor says. It is an odd choice of a place for a dance troupe to visit, enough that even Rurik has caught on. “Art always flourishes where things are a bit… dramatic.”

“Ah, yes,” Rurik agrees. “You know, after your tour, I’d love to book you-”

Rurik’s going to ask to be his patron again. Viktor sidesteps. “I’ll keep you updated on our troupe’s plans. Thank you for your interest.”

Rurik’s about to respond when the dancer arrives with quiet grace. Up close and without the benefit of a spotlight, he is less impressive. A few inches shorter than Viktor, with slicked-back black hair and brown eyes. Average. Off the stage his presence is bland, stiff as he comes to stand by Rurik. His ass is still fantastic, though.

“Yuuri!” Rurik wraps a possessive hand around Yuuri’s bare waist, so he has Viktor on one arm and Yuuri on the other. “This is Viktor Nikiforov. Greet him properly, now.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Nikiforov.” Yuuri bows his head, revealing the pale line of his neck.

“Charmed to meet you, Yuuri.” Viktor reaches out and brushes an almost-kiss against the back of Yuuri’s hand, for the show of it. It’s best that Rurik thinks he’s silly and fanciful.

“Yuuri here can dance almost as well as you, Viktor,” Rurik boasts. “I’ve already had a few friends ask if they can borrow him for the night.”

Rurik probably shares him out, too. Viktor looks at the companion with a small amount of pity. Any friend of Rurik’s is guaranteed to be unpleasant.

“I can see why,” Viktor says, tracing the outline of his phone through his pocket and considering faking an incoming message to expedite his escape. “The jewels--It’s like you have a galaxy on your back, Yuuri.”

Yuuri runs a hand through his hair, swiping back a few loose strands, and tilts his chin up to meet Viktor. “I’d like to show you a lot of things… on my back.”

His eyes are prettier up close, big and brown, beneath heavy black lashes. Ah. There’s the skills of a companion.

“Wow,” Viktor says.

“I was thinking, Viktor,” Rurik starts. “I know you’ve said that you’re not interested, but is there any way after your tour on Seran-“

“Unfortunately, Rurik, I prefer to be a free agent.” Viktor smiles and pulls out his phone. “Actually, we have to be heading out soon if we’re going to make it in time! Intersystem travel is such a timesuck, you know?”

Rurik looks disappointed but not surprised. “Of course, of course. Just know that my offer still stands!”

“Thank you so much for inviting us to your party. It was,” gold, he desperately wants to say, it was really gold, “charming. Good to see you again.”

“Always a pleasure to be around the greatest dancer of all time,” Rurik says, grabbing Viktor’s arm before he can fully turn away. “As a token of my affection, I would be honored if you would accept a gift from me before you leave.”

“Oh, that’s much too kind of you.” Viktor doesn’t want to be in this man’s debt at all. “You don’t need to give me anything.”

Rurik presses Yuuri forward into Viktor’s space. Yuuri looks down.

“Please, I must insist. If you aren’t satisfied, you can give him back to me, or even sell his contract. He’s a dancer, you see, so I’m sure spending time with you would be most… instructive.” Rurik playfully slaps Yuuri’s plush ass.

Viktor’s eyebrows raise, both at the blatant insinuation and at how Yuuri’s bland expression doesn’t flicker. Companions trained in dance and with as much bodywork as Yuuri are definitely not cheap. People in that trade are licensed and choose their own contracts, so Viktor wonders just how down on his luck Yuuri had been to accept this one with Rurik, with the ability to be sold.

“If you’d like to try him out, there are a few private rooms--“ Rurik continues.

“There’s no need. You’ve convinced me. I’ll take him,” Viktor says, impulsive. Yuuri’s not on Viktor’s level but he’s no amateur dancer and shouldn’t be passed around like this. He could even prove a valuable and sparkly distraction as they pull of their gig at Seran, and his return to Rurik could camouflage a second deal if the moon colony needs more medicine. “On our tour at the very least. Thank you.”

“You won’t regret it, Viktor!” Rurik’s the kind of man who bribes his way into connections. He probably thinks he’s made quite a big one, but Viktor doesn’t intend to let him collect.

Viktor wraps his hand around Yuuri’s upper arm and pull him to his side. “I really do have to be going, now!”

“Wonderful. Let’s just make this official, then,” Rurik says, smiling like a shark, prideful. “Yuuri, give me your hand.”

Yuuri’s hand is immediately offered.
“Viktor, if I could have yours?” Rurik says. “I’m sure you understand how complicated companion laws are.”

Viktor offers his hand and suffers through Rurik pressing the pad of his index finger to an indent on Yuuri’s golden bracelet. There’s the faintest of pricks–a microdrop of blood sampled–and his biometric data is catalogued.

“Yuuri, you are now working for Viktor Nikiforov. Treat him with all the respect we talked about, understood?”

“Understood,” Yuuri answers.

This is new. Then again, Viktor has never had a companion’s exclusive contract before, just had a few arranged, casual, lovely excursions.

“Have fun!” Rurik says, as Viktor makes his thanks and goodbyes again.

Yuuri stays close, quiet and blank, as Viktor exits the glittering party hall and into the nightcycle-dimmed hallway of the Mirimar space station. How to spin this for the others…?

Yura greets him at the airlock. “You’re late, old man. Why’d you bring a whore along?”

Outside of the glitz of the party, Yuuri’s insubstantial shorts stand out even more among the reasonably-dressed travelers in the space station corridor. Even without the companion bracelets, his job is easy to deduce. Yuuri doesn’t react.

“I got held up,” Viktor says, then gestures to Yuuri. “He’s a dancer who’s visiting from Rurik and I think it will help to have him along.”

“Viktor, what the fuck. This isn’t like you. We don’t have time for complications-“

“I know, I know. It’ll be okay. He’s coming with us.” Viktor’s tone allows no arguments as he herds them both through the airlock and into their ship. “Time’s a ’wasting, Yura.”

-----

It’s Viktor. Viktor Nikiforov.

He looks every bit as beautiful as he did in the farewell performance Yuuri watched only a few months ago. A perfectly-proportioned face with kind, bright eyes, smart silver hair, and a confidence and poise befitting a star.

Yuuri’s had a serious crush on Viktor since he was twelve. Hell, his first, awkward orgasm came after watching a recording of 16-year-old Viktor on stage in black, formfitting starsilk, his long hair flowing in a banner behind him as he dipped and twirled.

Meeting like this—given over like a slave—leaves his dreams of one day dancing in the same troupe as Viktor ripped to shreds with the other plans he had for his life. Rurik told him to dance at his party, to seduce the whole room, and Yuuri didn’t have a choice but obedience.

Viktor leads him down the short corridors of the Nikiforov troupe’s ship. It’s surprisingly modest, with cool grays and blues throughout. They stop in front of a door at the end of the hall and enter into a room that is probably the biggest this size ship can offer. The first large open area is all rich brown hardwood flooring, very very expensive, and a floor to ceiling viewport of the starscape outside. This is where he dances, Yuuri thinks with certainty, and forgets his position for a moment in wonder. Viktor Nikiforov’s private practice room.

There’s a half-wall of separation and then a large bed, the sight of which brings Yuuri back to reality. Seduce him, Rurik had ordered. Get in his bed. Let him fuck you. Hell, fuck him! Make it good. He likes men. Suck his cock, make sure he’s satisfied. I want him to like you. Rurik had been very explicit about the myriad ways he was supposed to make himself available to Viktor, his new owner.

I’d like to show you a lot of things… on my back. He really said that, coerced as it may have been

“This is my room,” Viktor says breezily. “I’d love to give you your own space, but, well, the ship isn’t very big, and I imagine we’re going to be spending a lot of time together.”

Viktor’s not even looking at him, instead going over messages on his phone. Yuuri feels more like an object than a person, reminded of Rurik. Yuuri clenches his hands into fists. Since childhood, Viktor had been a dream to reach for, someone Yuuri aspired to meet one day, to dance on the same level with. Now he’s here to be his obedient, bedazzled whore; a decoration in this empty room.

“I have some things to take care of,” Viktor continues, finally looking up at him with a polite smile. “Stay in here while I explain things to the troupe, all right?”

Yuuri nods.

Viktor looks him up and down. “And get rid of that ridiculous outfit.”

It’s lucky Viktor turns to leave right after dropping that order, because Yuuri has no choice but to take off his shorts and dance belt and place them in the refuse hatch. Frustration reaching a boiling point, Yuuri stalks over to the closet inset in the wall and pulls out some of Viktor’s clothes. There aren’t as many different outfits as Yuuri expected there to be, but he selects a simple sweater that’s only a little too big in the shoulders and a pair of utilitarian athletic pants that have a tie so they can sinch at his hips. Viktor’s underwear drawer is filled with nothing but black bikini briefs, which Yuuri reluctantly puts on, telling the voice of his teenage self to calm down, this isn’t the time.

It feels good to be covered up, even in stolen clothing. A few of the gems peek out of the sweater, curling up his neck, but this is the closest Yuuri has come to feeling like himself since Rurik grabbed him a few weeks ago. He found a way around a direct order. Maybe he can do that again, with something bigger.

There’s nothing to else to do. Viktor’s suite is minimalist. Yuuri tries the small entertainment console in the corner but is completely uninterested in any of the programs in the library. Clenching and unclenching his hands,Yuuri eyes the flat dance area in the center suite and decides to work out his frustration in the only way he really knows.

First, he stretches thoroughly, relieved at how the motion no longer pulls at the jewels in his back. There isn’t music, but that has never stopped Yuuri before. Calling up his most recent dance program in his mind’s eye, Yuuri closes his eyes and moves full-speed into the opening sequence. It opens with a quick step sequence and transitions between floor poses and rolls at a speed that has awarded him a lot of difficulty points in competitions.

After running through the full sequence three times, sweat dripping down his face and back, Yuuri doesn’t feel an ounce more calm.

Viktor comes back before he can start something else.

“Wow! Amazing!” Viktor says, startling Yuuri out of his ending pose. “I didn’t know you were that much of a fan, Yuuri.” Viktor’s eyes sparkle and he puts a finger to his lip. Yuuri flushes to the tips of his ears, Viktor obviously having noticed exactly what inspired Yuuri’s performance. There are dark circles under Viktor’s eyes, but all of his attention is fixed on Yuuri. God, he’s dreamed of Viktor’s eyes on him so many times. Just not like this. A wave of the frustration flows over him.

Spine straight, Yuuri asks, “May I go take a shower?”

“By all means,” Viktor says, gesturing to the bathroom. “Would you like some of my pajamas, too?”

“Yes,” Yuuri says, tilting his chin up. “I would.”

“Anything you like, Yuuri.”

Yuuri gets into the steaming spray of the shower and clutches his cheeks, mortified and delighted at the same time.