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Behind these Locked Doors

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The ground was itchy and Yuuri stirred.

He woke up slowly. He had an irritating itch on his face and his right arm was dead. He flexed his fingers, checking if he had any feeling there. His entire arm was numb. His nose twitched and he let out an exasperated sigh, groaning as he rolled onto his back. He noticed how hard his bed was and it wasn’t until his brain slowly woke up that he became aware of the ground he slept on, and his brows hung low as he groaned, rubbing the morning sleep from his eyes.

His eyes then opened. He couldn’t think of why his heart was pounding so hard. He felt tired but high on adrenaline, like his anxiety had just peaked. He strained to see in the sunlight that blinded him. He raised his hand, shielding his eyes from the light that flowed through the window above him. He groaned and rolled back onto his side when his dead arm regained feeling, deciding that sleep was more important than finding out where he was.

He then woke up faster than a cat in water. He sat up quick and his eyes shot around the room, taking in his new surroundings. His heart raced in his chest. He had never seen this place before. Four white walls surrounded him and he was sat on a carpeted ground. He saw a small kitchen in one corner of the room and a desk with an old TV in the other. There was a small bed next to the desk and across from him was a bookshelf that had far too many books. And sat right in front of him was one of two doors. The one beside him was slightly ajar and inside, Yuuri could see the porcelain white of a toilet. The other was made of a solid metal. The surface was flat and there was no handle, lock, hinges, or anything he could get a grip on. No bright light came through the sides and there wasn’t even a gap Yuuri could try and pry it open. Nothing was going to budge it.

There was no way out.

Yuuri pushed himself to his feet. He stalked towards the door and pressed his hands against it. He pushed with all his might to try and open it but to his despair, it didn’t dislodge. His hands trembled as a ringing scream vibrated in his ear. The pounding of his heart thumped in his head. He needed to get out. His fingers curled into fists and he banged them against the door, yelling for help between his rapid breathing as he banged it repeatedly. He couldn’t hear his screaming or the loud rapping of his fist against the door, but he could feel the lack of oxygen in his lungs. He could feel the stinging pain in his knuckles and throat – his screaming strained his voice and his knuckles hit too hard.

In a desperate attempt, he hit the door as hard as he could as a noise of rage burned the back of his throat. Then suddenly, everything came to a quiet stop. Yuuri stared at the unmoving door. And a cry so raw fell from his lips as emotional pain flowed out of his every pore. He collapsed to his knees. His tears fell but no sob quaked his body. He wept silently, unable to properly process coherent thoughts as he sat there trembling.

“This isn’t happening,” Yuuri muttered through his fast breathing. He sucked in a desperate breath and rapidly shook his head. “This isn’t happening. This isn’t real. This – this isn’t real.” His breaths came out in quick gasps. He was lightheaded yet the heavy sick feeling in his mind didn’t shift. He didn’t know if he wanted to vomit or faint, but he knew he needed to calm his heart before it broke through his chest.

But Yuuri knew no matter how many times he lied to himself that this was real. He really had been taken. He had been locked away. And no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t remember how he had been taken or when it had happened. He tried to remember but the room was the only thing on his mind. He was alone, missing, and secluded from the world.

This didn’t happen to people like Yuuri. He was the person who saw other people disappear, not be the person that does. He’s the bystander who heard how rich kid Tommy was taken for a ransom or how popular Jenny from school disappeared one day. Yuuri wasn’t like them. He wasn’t supposed to be the one to be taken. He was just Katsuki Yuuri, a dime-a-dozen ballet dancer – nothing more and nothing less.

He needed to get out. He had to find a way to escape.

He jumped to his feet and frantically searched the room, looking for something to use on the door. He needed to find something to pry it open or break it down but as he looked, he saw nothing he could use. What he did find would only break against the heaviness of the door. And he didn’t even see a clock anywhere. He had no way to mark the time. It might be early morning or late afternoon, but he couldn’t know and he couldn’t guess. He could have been banging on that door, calling for help for just a few minutes or even hours – he would never know.

It took Yuuri longer than he would admit that his search was useless. He huffed and stared at the door. The outside world was beyond it. Everyone and everything that meant something to him was outside of that door that kept him trapped like an animal. It was what forced him into imprisonment – his separation between his freedom and captivity.

He sat down. He made his mind focus and assess the situation. He had to clear his head and think thoroughly, noting every possibility and dead end. He focused on the door. He eyed every corner and crack, searching for something he might have missed. If he couldn’t pry the door open, there had to be another way to open it. Even with a crowbar, it wouldn’t open. But there were no hinges he could unscrew, no lock he could pick – nothing other than a solid metal door that forced him to remain trapped.

He was then on his feet and pacing. It was to distract his mind once again but to also help him focus on his breathing. He inhaled a deep breath, holding it for a moment before exhaling and repeating himself, gradually easing his pounding heart. He continued to breathe. It calmed him for a moment but it did nothing to stop the pull in his chest that threatened to choke out a sob. He suddenly found himself back at the door. His hands pressed against the flat metal, unable to stop his trembling as his nails dug into the surface. He prayed to receive the strength to break it down and destroy every last inch of it before running back to the safety of his family home. He wanted nothing more than to see his family again.

A creak to his right alerted him. His head snapped up. His heart raced as his eyes fell on another person. They stood at the doorway of the bathroom, staring at Yuuri like they’d never seen another person before. Yuuri held his breath and stepped back. He didn’t know who they were but he decided quickly not to trust them. He didn’t know their motive or their reason for being there with him, but if they needed Yuuri’s help too, they would have to gain Yuuri’s trust before they received it.

There were many things about them that caught Yuuri’s eye. His hair was a light silver, almost platinum blond and it fell to his shoulders. The ends appeared like they had been hacked off by something dull. It was untidy and messy; even with a hairpin keeping it from his face, it didn’t help it look tidier. His clothes were worn and old. They had burn marks to pen marks, rips, and snags all up his pants and shirt. His shirt clung where it shouldn’t and hanged where it shouldn’t, and the tears in his pants had a bad attempt at being repaired.

Whoever the man was, he was clearly unable to care for himself properly. The thought didn’t sit well in Yuuri’s stomach.

The man said nothing. His blue eyes stared bug-eyed at Yuuri. Yuuri’s heart pounded but he stood his ground, refusing to let the man see his fear. If he was the man was who had taken him, Yuuri would fight until his dying breath to escape. The man then slowly stepped forward. Fear shivered up Yuuri’s spine but he fought the urge to move back. The man raised his hand and Yuuri still kept his ground, but he wasn’t going to let the man touch him. He then stepped closer, and closer, until he got too close and Yuuri had no choice but to react.

He stepped back and slapped the man’s hand away. The man retracted it fast, keeping it close to his chest as he stared at Yuuri with his mouth now agape. Yuuri frowned at the man. “Don’t you dare touch me,” He threatened with a finger pointed towards the man. His threats didn’t intimidate them. “I won’t hesitate to hurt you.”  

Yuuri wouldn’t hesitate but he couldn’t promise he could hurt the man badly. And he wasn’t going to let them know that.

“You’re real,” The man whispered. He stared down at the hand Yuuri slapped away, blinking rapidly before glancing up at Yuuri in awe. “You’re – you’re actually real.”

Yuuri didn’t blink for a minute – at least. The man made him feel illusive. He flexed his fingers just to be certain, but then fear spiked his chest and he moved back.

A sudden pain shot up Yuuri’s hip and he couldn’t bite back his cry. He looked down and moved away from the small table he bumped into; then quicker than he looked down, his head shot back up again. The man hadn’t moved. But to Yuuri’s confusion, he showed concern on his face.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

It was the most baffling question Yuuri had ever heard.

As much as Yuuri’s hands were shaking and his heart was pounding, he swallowed it back with a determined stand. He breathed in a deep breath and stood tall. He wanted the man to know that he wasn’t going to be afraid to talk back. “Who are you?” He demanded, keeping the tremble in his voice back.

The man was stunned. His eyes went wide while Yuuri’s held a glare, silently telling the man that he wanted an answer. The man’s composure then went stiff. His shoulders tensed and he shifted on his feet. “I’m sorry,” He murmured while playing with his hands. “I probably should have introduced myself first.”

Yuuri didn’t doubt anymore. He was certain the man had kidnapped him. And he wondered why he was chosen – why he was the one the man decided to take. Yuuri had been kidnapped for every reason that was unknown to him, but he was determined to find out why.

The man held a stare that was incapable of looking away. It made Yuuri uncomfortable but he couldn’t look away either. He didn’t dare to. He feared the man making a move if he lost focus for even a second. He was cautious. If the man had any intention of hurting him, he couldn’t risk missing a thing.

But then the man moved. Yuuri bit back the lump in his throat as he stalked around him, keeping their distance with caution. He watched as the man sat down on the bed. He then looked up at Yuuri and smiled, almost as if to say everything was alright.

“My name is Victor Nikiforov,” The man – Victor – greeted. The name rang a bell in Yuuri’s mind but he didn’t have time to focus on that. He had other questions he needed answering – other things he should be more concerned about.

Yuuri stepped back. He stopped when he hit the kitchen counter and ignored the pain in his lower back. He crossed his arms and stood tall, keeping his guard up as he demanded, “Why am I here?”

Victor sighed heavily. His gaze dropped to the floor. “I – I don’t know,” He said quietly. As he glanced up, Yuuri saw nothing but defeat in Victor’s eyes – a sorrow that had given up its fight long ago. He didn’t understand the look but he held no sympathy for him. “If I knew, I’d tell you.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?” Yuuri’s brows hung low. He wondered why he was now being lied to. He didn’t see a point in Victor lying so he tried figuring out what game he was playing, but he couldn’t work it out. His head was a mess of panic, fear, and uncertainty that accumulated into anxiety. He tried to swallow it back but he was unable to stop his trembling and racing heart. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t appear confident and unafraid. He was good at hiding his emotions.

“I – I don’t…” Victor blinked, stunned. He shook his head when his words fell silent. He looked away to clear his throat and when their eyes met again, Yuuri narrowed his as Victor said, “I’d… I’d like to be able to call you something. Can I ask for your name?”

His first assumption of Victor suddenly swayed with uncertainty. “Why – shouldn’t you know my name?” He asked. “You were the one who kidnapped me after all.” He had to know. He was certain Victor was the one who had taken him. It was the only thing that made sense to Yuuri and it answered why Victor was in the room too.

Again, Victor blinked. His brows dropped as he shook his head, looking at Yuuri with hurt and confusion as he said, “I wasn’t the one who kidnapped you.”

Yuuri’s mind stopped. He didn’t know what was the truth and what was a lie anymore. But as Yuuri stared into the blues of Victor’s eyes, he saw a light that was fading – a hollowness that didn’t end. There was a profound sadness and fatigue engraved on his face, as if years of sadness and loneliness was finally beginning to show. If Victor really was the person who had taken Yuuri, he would pity him.

“Then… what are you doing here?”

But Yuuri feared hearing Victor had been taken too.

“I was kidnapped too,” Victor spoke hopelessly. He stared at Yuuri with an understanding and suddenly, as everything fit into place, Yuuri felt just a little less alone in all this.

“Y – you mean… you’re trapped here too?” As he watched Victor take a deep breath and nod, dread crept down his spine like a spider. He could feel her feet on his skin, descending further down his back until his stomach locked tight and his entire body froze.

There was hope before. It was more than just a tiny flicker. It was a burst of a flame that blazed high in Yuuri’s mind. But as he stared into Victor’s eyes, he saw Victor’s own hope dying, suffering. It was breaking apart against the despair that plagued him, struggling to keep his flame going. And suddenly, Yuuri felt like a child reaching out, fingers extended for something he knew was just out of reach.

Everything was out of reach – the world beyond those four walls, their escape, and their futures that seemed so uncertain that Yuuri wasn’t sure if his own existed anymore.

The realization of everything hit harder than Yuuri thought. His legs went weak. His knees hit the floor hard and knocked every breath out of him, refusing to let him take one in while he found it too easy to release it. And in between his rapid breathing, his heart hammered against his chest. His head went hazy with dread and despair. He could only shake it, as if it was the only thing he knew how to do. His mind didn’t feel connected to his body anymore and it only encouraged even more of a panic. It was working on its own. It moved Yuuri in ways it wanted to, rocking him back and forth because it’s all it knew what to do anymore.

“Oh, god.” Yuuri choked out a weak sob. He sucked in a shaky breath before forcing in another. He was desperate to try and refill his lungs with the breath he needed so badly. “I – I can’t breathe,” He gasped. There was no room to breathe. No room to think. He needed the air – the sun. He needed to feel the world beyond that room. “I need – I need to get out.”

“We – we can’t,” He heard Victor say but he frantically shook his head, refusing to believe Victor’s words.

A hand gently touched his shoulder but Yuuri didn’t need that. He stumbled back, pushing himself away from Victor as he yelled, “Don’t touch me!” His throat stung with a burn. He trembled and gasped hard as he turned to the door – the solid metal door that refused to open. He fell towards it and clawed at the door in desperation. If he had to claw his way out of that room, he would do it. But he barely scratched the metal as his nails clawed again, dragging them along the door in an attempt to break through it. He needed to get out. He needed to breathe.

“Please,” Victor’s voice whimper behind him. “I – I can’t do anything to help, I’m sorry.” He couldn’t focus on Victor. He could only focus on escaping. He needed to grab that breath of oxygen that was beyond that door. His heart pounded, his throat stung, and his tears didn’t stop as they slipped down his cheeks.

“I – I can’t breathe!” Yuuri cried at Victor. His tears blurred his vision but he made no move to wipe them away. He couldn’t stop clawing at the door for a single second – not until it was open and he was free. “I – I need to get out – I – let me out!”

He couldn’t concentrate on anything. His breathing came out in pants and his sobs broke past his lips. He pounded on the door. He didn’t stop and as everything became too real, his vocals strained – burning his throat until nothing came out, still he screamed, hoping someone would hear him. His body jumped hard with a sob and he trembled like a leaf. He wasn’t going to stop. He couldn’t stop, not until he was free from that room.

But as his hope faded, his fight slowed. He didn’t want to believe it but he couldn’t lie to himself any longer. The door was never going to open. No matter how hard he screamed, cried, and begged for it to open, it wasn’t going to budge. It was all a useless attempt and as his fingers weaved through his hair, he curled into a tight ball and rocked back and forth, desperate to forget.

He was mumbling something. His words didn’t make sense as they bounced around in no order or sentence. He was probably speaking in Japanese but he wasn’t certain. All he could focus on was his fingers that gripped his hair and tugged with force, making himself focus on that rather than the panic that made him so frantic. He couldn’t believe this was happening to him.

This shouldn’t happen to people like Yuuri.

His heart gradually settled. His mind calmed with an ease that brought him peace, but panic was still there, pushed to the back of his mind and ready to return when Yuuri found a new terror. He released his hair from his grasp and lowered his hands to his face, rubbing his eyes and nose to clear the wetness he felt. He took a long deep breath. His lungs finally felt satisfied. His mind had cleared and as he pushed himself to sit up, he saw Victor sat beside him.

This shouldn’t happen to anyone.

Victor was sat on his knees, playing with his hands as he eyed Yuuri with concern. “Hey,” He began and Yuuri stared back. “… Do you feel better?”

Yuuri sniffed hard and shook his head. His panic had calmed but he was so emotionally drained. His mind felt drained and he wanted nothing more than to lie in bed and sleep. Then he noticed the sudden lack of sunlight shining through the window and instead, it came from an overhead light that dimly lit up the room. He wondered how long he had been on the ground for.

He moved back. He sat against the door, wiping his tears away. Victor was still sat in front of him, eyes downcast on the floor with uncertainty. Yuuri eyed him curiously and when Victor eventually glanced up, he asked, “May I sit with you?”

Yuuri looked at the space beside him. He didn’t want to be near anyone but as much as he was uncertain about Victor, they were in this together. He saw no reason not to let him sit beside him. “If we’re both stuck here, I can’t keep you away from me forever,” He said and gestured to the space beside him. “Go ahead.”

Victor’s eyes brightened as he smiled and moved. They sat there in silence. Neither knew what to say and Yuuri wasn’t certain there was anything they could say. There was too much panic in his own mind. He wondered how Victor was handling it, but he never saw panic or fear in his eyes – nothing like what Yuuri was feeling. He was too hard to read, or even too easy.

There was something Yuuri was misreading but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

“You know…” Victor’s voice filled the silence and startled Yuuri out of his thoughts. “You still haven’t told me your name.”

Yuuri swallowed hard. “It’s… Yuuri,” He said with a sigh. “Katsuki Yuuri.”

“I wish we could have met under better circumstances,” Victor said and smiled weakly. Yuuri appreciated the attempt. He wanted to return it but he wasn’t certain that he could smile. The pure heartache of knowing he couldn’t escape that room stung more than any pain he ever felt.

He wanted to cry again but he sucked in a deep breath and forced it back. There was more they had to talk about. And questions Yuuri needed to ask.

“We get a restock of food once a week,” Victor suddenly said and Yuuri looked at him. “If we eat all our food, we don’t get any more until the week is up so… try not to eat it all, please.” Then Yuuri’s brows arched, uncertain his sudden assumption was correct.

And his heart quickened once again. He had to ask. His assumption couldn’t be true. “You’ve… been here longer than today?” He asked with a trembling voice. Victor nodded and grief swept through Yuuri with a sudden flood of tears. It explained the sadness in Victor’s eyes and the lack of panic and fear. He was used to living in that room. Yuuri couldn’t imagine how lonely it’s been for him.

“If it makes you feel any better, it isn’t all bad,” Victor said with a shrug. It didn’t make Yuuri feel better – not even the slightest. “If you find a routine and learn to keep yourself busy, it’s easy to live comfortably here.”

“I don’t want to live comfortably here,” Yuuri muttered child-like. He wiped his eyes and pulled his legs up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them. He couldn’t help but sulk. “I don’t want to be here.”

Victor sighed heavily and muttered, “I don’t either but we don’t have a choice.”

Yuuri’s fists curled tightly. He gritted his teeth in an effort to remain silent – to not yell at Victor and scream at him for even suggesting there was no choice. He kept his eyes down, focusing on the material of his pants rather than the words that made him feel so angry. He did have a choice in this. And his choice was to find an escape.

“If you want to find an escape, I’m not going to stop you. Maybe you can be more successful than I was,” Victor’s voice startled Yuuri from his frustrated thoughts. His ears perked as he listened carefully, but kept his gaze away in fear that he’d lose it. “But I will tell you that you can cry as much as you want – scream and yell at the top of your lungs and beg so hard for that man you let you out, it won’t help you escape. I learned that the hard way. I don’t want you to have false hope in something that won’t work.”

He knew begging that man to let them out was pointless. He didn’t need Victor to tell him that. And the thought of that man seeing his tears and hearing his begging made Yuuri come to a sudden decision that the man was never going to see him like that. He didn’t want them to look at him and see a weak, pathetic victim. Yuuri could already imagine the smirk on their blank face, staring down at him and laughing at his attempts at escaping. And the rage inside of Yuuri burned as he refused to become a victim.

He was fuelled with strength. And as long as he had that in him, he was ready to fight back. He had to be strong, otherwise, he may never escape. He wasn’t looking to be free of fear. Fearlessness wasn’t what he should rely on. He had to be smart. He had to see the issues and problems and know what the right choices are. He had to stay strong but not only to protect himself, but for others who needed it too.

Victor needed his strength, but more than that, Victor needed his hope too.

“I will find a way out of here,” Yuuri stated firmly, full of confidence and determination. Victor’s expression never faltered. His face was stone cold – frozen like ice. “I know it might take a while but… I have to try.”

Victor let out a breath, shaking his head as he smiled. “I said the exact same thing when I arrived.”

And with rage came sympathy. Victor had lost all hope of escaping. Yuuri could see it in the sadness that flooded his eyes with sorrow and despair. It was made him doubt. But Yuuri knew no matter how long it took or how hopeless he felt, he was never going to quit. There were too many reasons not to. He had too many people he had to get back to.

If Victor wasn’t going to try and escape, Yuuri would have to do it for himself.

They stayed on the floor for a while. It was almost comforting. The thought of knowing he was not alone in this made Yuuri feel better. It was selfish of him to think so but he couldn’t bear the thought of being alone. The thought of knowing that Victor had been alone made Yuuri’s chest hurt with a heart-breaking ache. But Yuuri was there now and with Victor sat by him, the situation felt that little more bearable.

It was still a struggle, but it was bearable.

What could have been minutes felt like hours. Time passed weirdly when there was no way of knowing it. But when Yuuri’s eyes felt heavy and he yawned loudly, he decided that he’d rather just sleep away the horrifying day he had like a bad dream. When he announced that he wanted to sleep, Victor did too. But when they stood up and stared down at the bed, they came to a stop when they realized something.

“…It’s a single bed,” Yuuri commented and Victor nodded. He had a finger pressed to his lips, thinking hard to himself. Yuuri didn’t know why he was thinking so much because he knew he couldn’t take Victor’s bed. There was no other way to solve it. “If there are any blankets, I’ll just sleep on the floor.”

He was so tired that even on the floor, he’d sleep like a baby. He looked up at Victor who was shaking his head. “I won’t have you sleep on the floor.” Yuuri stared bug-eyed and blinked when Victor turned to him, smiling with a heart-shaped grin, and said, “I guess we’ll have to sleep together.”

Yuuri’s face warmed in an instant – his cheeks turning rosy red with a burning blush. He was perfectly fine sleeping on the floor. He didn’t need to share a bed with anyone. The floor was reasonably doable. He quickly shook his head. “Uh, no. No, that’s – uh – that’s not necessary,” He raised his hands as he took a few steps back. “I’m perfectly fine on the floor.”

“There’s enough room for both of us,” Victor said as he faced Yuuri. Yuuri knew Victor was right but he didn’t feel it was right of him to sleep there too. “It’s not fair for me to make you sleep on the floor. And I know if I suggest the floor, you wouldn’t let me either.”

Yuuri thought about it. He knew Victor was right but he didn’t want to admit that just yet. They would only be sleeping. He still felt embarrassed that he was forced to sleep in a too small bed with a man he just met, but out of everything that happened to him that day, it wasn’t the worst. At least Victor was offering him to sleep in the bed too.

“Okay, fine,” Yuuri raised his hands in defeat. Victor smiled and pulled his shirt over his head, throwing it to the side. Yuuri couldn’t help but stare. He watched as Victor then moved to unbutton his pants and the sudden flush in his cheeks had Yuuri need to stop him. “U-uh – Victor! Wait, what – what are you doing?”

Victor stopped and stared at Yuuri, brows arched and eyes wide. “I’m getting ready for bed?”

“But you’re stripping,”

Victor shook his head and chuckled. “These are the only clothes I have and I don’t like to sleep in them.” Yuuri’s brows dropped. He didn’t realize Victor only had one set of clothes, but then it made sense why they were so rough and old and he immediately felt bad. He should have known that. Victor’s head then cocked to the side as he said, “I do usually sleep naked unless you’re comfortable with –”

“No!” Yuuri quickly stopped him. “No, no. Uh – no, just your underwear is fine.” He cleared his throat to distract himself from how awkward he felt saying that. His blush still burned away as he turned around, waiting for Victor to undress and get into bed. But while he did, he undressed too.

Victor let Yuuri into bed first. Yuuri pulled the sheets over him and pressed himself as close to the wall as he could. And just as he noticed a small metal hatch on the wall, the room plunged into darkness. Yuuri’s heart raced for a reason unknown to him. The bed then shifted as Victor got in behind him. Yuuri tried to ignore the lack of room between them, especially the way Victor’s bare back pressed against his own.

As tired as Yuuri felt, sleep wasn’t coming to him. His eyes stayed wide open, staring into the darkness as the day replayed in his mind. This was real. He really was trapped there. And the worst thing about it was knowing nothing. He didn’t know what the next day would bring him. He didn’t know what was happening beyond the four falls that confined him. Were the police searching for him? How was his family handling his disappearance? Was he even going to survive to ever see his family again?

The sudden thought that he might never see them again forced him to grip the sheets hard and bite back the cry in his throat. He wasn’t ready for his life to come to a sudden stop. It had only just begun.

And that night, as Yuuri silently let his tears slip down his cheeks, he dreamed of his family and freedom.

 

Chapter Text

 

Yuuri didn’t sleep.

The weight of everything hung heavy in his head, keeping his eyes open and his mind wide awake. He was unable to switch off as he tossed and turned in the sheets. He knew it was going to be a long night.

His family never left his mind. If he stopped to dwell for even a second, his face was wet with tears. They’d roll silently down his cheeks while he wondered why this had to happen to him. He couldn’t fathom why someone would tear him away from his life – why someone would trap him in a room with no escape. It was cruel. And Yuuri wanted nothing more than to be in his family’s arms. He’d give up so much if it meant having them in reach again. He’d tell them how much he loves them; how he missed their voices and their warmth.

He wished he told them more. He regretted not visiting more often. But Yuuri was still certain and determined to find his escape. If not for himself – or for Victor – then for them.

There was an eerie silence as the sun rose. Everything around him was still; the air did not move. The sky was empty of the birds’ song and through the small window, Yuuri could see not a cloud in the sky. There was no weather at all; even the sunlight felt cold. That kind of silence used to calm him and engulf him in a sense of serenity. It used to work with him. It would help him think and breathe and relax. Now the silence was his enemy. It went against him in a battle that had not long begun, and Yuuri was already losing.

In the silence, he began to reflect. He wasn’t the only one in that room. Victor was there too and had been for much longer. How long was uncertain. And Yuuri wasn’t sure if he wanted to know. But what he did know was that he was not alone. He was not without help. He and Victor were in this together and if Yuuri wanted to get anywhere near an escape, he would need Victor’s help.

He knew Victor had lost hope. He couldn’t lie to himself about that anymore. Yuuri thought long about Victor overnight and knew the man’s hope was long gone. Yuuri could see it every time he spoke about escaping. There was a pity in Victor’s eyes – a glare that asked, ‘why bother’? And as much as Yuuri wanted to yell, scream, and beg for him to find hope and help Yuuri find an escape, he knew it wouldn’t help. It wouldn’t encourage Victor.

Yuuri had to find freedom by himself. He had no choice. But he hoped that maybe if he came close to getting out, Victor would begin to help.

He was still awake when Victor woke up. He kept his eyes fixed on the wall as he felt Victor sit up. He heard a quiet yawn and a crack of a bone before the weight was lifted and the bed suddenly felt cold. Yuuri didn’t get up. He wasn’t ready to face the cold hard reality of the room. If he could live in blissful ignorance for just a few moments, he would. But Yuuri couldn’t keep his back turned forever. He eventually forced himself out of bed. He wasn’t aware of how sore and dry his throat was until he said a good morning to Victor. His voice was hoarse and rough. It scratched uncomfortably as he spoke. Victor was kind enough to get him a glass of water but one wasn’t enough. It quenched his thirst but didn’t ease the pain. He only had himself to blame. If he hadn’t screamed and cried so much, he wouldn’t have hurt his voice.

A cold draft that sent shivers down his arms had Yuuri decide to get changed. He wasn’t looking forward to wearing already worn clothes but he had no other choice. He stepped into the bathroom. He closed the door behind him, locked it shut, and let out a breath. Even with the forced isolation, he needed to get away. He needed time to himself. And he allowed himself to breathe as he let his mind ease into a bittersweet calm. He then turned and what he saw surprised him. He expected to see a room bigger than the small-closet sized one he was actually stood in. All he saw was a toilet to his right and a shower to his left. He looked around. There was nothing else in the room, only a small window that was too high for him to reach.

Yuuri dressed quickly. He slipped on his pants then moved to his shirt, but as his hands touched the material and he stared at the navy-blue shirt in his hands, a thought went through his mind. He was in his gym clothes. And the longer he stared at his shirt, the more his mind questioned his disappearance.

He still couldn’t remember how he was taken. His assumption was some kind of drug had knocked him out and disrupted his memory of that day. He could piece together some moments. His last memory was leaving his hotel room to jog. He had a few days before his recital and he remembered stressing about it. He ate stupidly that night. He had to work it off. But anything further than that was still a blur. There was a memory there but he couldn’t pick it out from behind the distorted wall that stood in the way.

What annoyed him most was even if he did figure out how he was taken, it wouldn’t help him get out.

He put his shirt on and breathed. He turned and stared at the door with a heavy heart. He wondered if Victor went through the same thing – that when he woke up in that room for the first time, his memory of his kidnapping was gone. Yuuri’s heart tugged harder at the thought.

He was enjoying the solitude but the room was too small. The walls were beginning to close in and his breath ran short. He had to leave. He could feel his anxiety beginning to sit heavy in his head – weighing down his mind and tensing his shoulders. He didn’t want to find himself how he was yesterday. He couldn’t let it take control and bring a panic that wasn’t needed. He had to ease it. He had to calm it.

He forced himself out of the bathroom. He took no notice of Victor – wherever he was – and strode towards the bookshelf. He needed to read something. He had to focus on something other than the rapid beating in his chest and the desperate breaths he couldn’t gasp for. His clammy hands grasped the first book he saw. He opened it on a random page and forced himself to focus on the first paragraph. He read it on repeat, over and over again. He focused on the words rather than his fear. He remembered to breathe. He remembered to read.

He had been through this before. He could get through it. He had no choice but to.

He stopped when the heaviness in his mind faded. He was still trembling and he squeezed his eyes shut, forcing himself to focus on breathing. He held in a breath, and let it out, and repeated until his chest hurt a little less. He got through it. He calmed it before he got worse. And as he blindly put the book back on to the bookshelf, a hand on his shoulder made his heart race all over again. He yelped and jumped back against the bookshelf as he spun. He stared bug-eyed at Victor, who shared an equally startled look. Victor’s mouth opened and closed, hesitating to speak before he swallowed hard eventually asked, “Are you alright?”

Yuuri took a deep breath and nodded. “Yeah, Yeah I just…” He didn’t know how to explain it. He wasn’t sure if he had any reason to tell Victor about his anxiety. But as he momentarily looked around the room and remembered that he was trapped there – stuck until he found a way to escape, it would be pointless for him to keep it to himself. He sighed hard. “It’s just anxiety.”

Victor’s eyes fell to the ground. He played with his hands and shifted on his feet for a moment before he glanced back up at Yuuri and asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Yuuri let out a breath and smiled warmly. He appreciated that Victor wanted to help him but he wasn’t sure himself if Victor could do anything. He was used to dealing with it by himself. He knew how he could help it, but not how someone else could. He shrugged. “I guess… just let me ease it by myself unless I ask for your help.”

Victor nodded mutely. Then there was a silence as they stared at each other, unblinking and unsure what to say to the other. It was a staring match that held no emotion or meaning, but lasted longer than expected and Yuuri found he couldn’t look away. It was then he noticed that Victor had blue eyes. They were a blue that froze you in place, captivating you in every moment. His eyes were the ocean, only without life or beauty in his vast seas. His oceans were empty – void of what he needed.

A sudden soft bang by their side alerted them both. They tore their gaze away. Yuuri didn’t know what the noise was but as he watched Victor cheerfully skip over to the bed, he assumed Victor did. Whatever it was had to be good. Victor sat on the bed in front of the metal hatch Yuuri noticed that night. He became curious.

“What was that?” Yuuri asked as he peered over Victor’s shoulder. He opened the hatch door and inside was a brown paper bag. He pulled it out and Yuuri first noticed the food sat inside it. Victor closed the hatch behind him and skipped over to the kitchen.

“It’s our food!” Victor cheered happily as he began unpacking everything. Yuuri watched him, curious what food they were given. It was nothing too luxurious. There were cans of soup, bread, milk, and cereal, as well as other foods to do them for a while. Victor gave a pleasant laugh as he picked up a can of soup and hugged it close to his chest. “I’m so happy. I couldn’t eat anything yesterday because I ran out of food, but we can eat well today.”

Yuuri’s heart tugged and his stomach did flips. The man didn’t care if Victor went a day without food. He let him starve. And just the thought of the man sitting there, knowing he was letting Victor starve had Yuuri growl with rage. It was cruel. It was inhumane. Yuuri did more than just despise the man who took them. They disgusted him. Why didn’t they listen to that little voice of repulsion? Maybe there was a reason. But whatever the reason, Yuuri wouldn’t forgive and forget. He could never forgive.

He noticed Victor started counting. His finger pointed at each individual item, counting how many slices of bread there were, and cans, and how much cereal was in the box. He then put them in an order; a row of seven in groups of three. Yuuri realized he was planning their meals day by day. He picked up a can of soup and looked over it. He already missed his mother’s cooking.

“He likes to give us soup,” He commented as he put the can back down. He wondered if their weekly food drop-off was different each time. He would like a change from soup and bread but as he eyed some meats, he guessed it couldn’t be too bad. “It’s nice to know we have meat and vegetables. At least malnutrition isn’t a worry.”

Victor didn’t reply. Yuuri grew worried as he glanced at Victor. His eyes stared at the food in front of them, unblinking as his mouth hung open. His brows were low and sharp. Then his lips pressed tightly together as he swallowed. He closed his eyes, sighed heavily, and muttered, “There’s only enough food for one of us.”

Yuuri heart stopped. He blinked. “What?”

“This is my usual bag of food,” Victor said as he looked over the food, his eyes frantically moved from one item to another. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed heavily. “I – I get this every week. It does me just enough if I plan it well. It won’t last between the two of us, Yuuri. We – we don’t have enough for a week.”

Yuuri couldn’t stop his own heart from racing. The idea that he would have to go hungry most days just so they don’t starve to death made him tremble as his mind came up with horrifying scenarios. What if they got so desperate for food that they’d do anything to get it? Victor could easily just kill him in his sleep. It’ll be one less person to worry about. He wouldn’t have to starve again. And Yuuri instinctively took a step back. It was all preposterous but his fears were too true. They made him paranoid.

“Maybe we can have just breakfast and dinner?” Yuuri suggested, hoping that maybe they could find a way to make it work. He then counted it quickly in his mind. Two meals for seven days, between the two of them, left them going hungry for three days – maybe more. He sighed hard. “There has to be some way we can make this work.”

Victor didn’t speak. His mouth stayed closed as he stepped away. His back hit the counter as his trembling hands ran through his tangled hair. He breathed in a shaky breath. His fingers clasped his hair as his whole body shook. He held on tight – his knuckles turned white from his grasp.

“Oh, god,” Victor choked out a near sob. His hands tore from his hair and pressed them against his face. His head shook almost to convince himself otherwise. Yuuri knew how Victor felt. He knew too well how dread could creep over like an icy chill, numbing his brain from any rational thought. It had no mercy. Its intention was to hurt, and Victor was hurting more than Yuuri knew.

He needed to calm Victor down. He had to find a way to help ease his dread and frustration. Yuuri could see how short his breath was; his shoulders tensed and every gasp was uneven and quick. Only Yuuri didn’t know the right way to help him. He knew how to help himself when he panicked, but Victor could be different. He might want to be alone. He might want a solution where there isn’t one. But Yuuri had to try. He couldn’t let Victor fall further into his pit of despair.

He didn’t know why he grabbed the bag. He wondered maybe he didn’t believe Victor when he said there was no food left, but as he looked inside the bag he confirmed the obvious. He then thought about what Victor said. He always had just enough food to get through the week. If that was true, then Yuuri should too. He should have food for himself. He picked up the bag, looking at it to be certain nothing was missed. He turned it, eyeing every side but there was nothing different about it. He then looked at the bottom and nearly missed the faint words written on the base. He squinted his eyes, trying to read it.

“More is to come…?” He said out loud. He nodded to himself. That was definitely what it said and he turned to Victor, who hadn’t looked up from his hands. He tried again. “Victor, more is coming.”

Victor slowly came to as he moved his hands away. He stared at Yuuri. His brows knitted together as his eyes held a stare. Yuuri could see the doubt in them as he glanced from the bag to Yuuri. “What do you mean more is coming?”

Yuuri stayed silent as he passed the bag to Victor. He took it and stared at it. Yuuri sighed and moved the bag, showing him that it was written beneath the bag. Victor narrowed his eyes as he tried to read the words, and when he finally understood them, his shoulders dropped as he sighed hard. He pressed a hand to his chest, relief sweeping over him. “Oh, thank god,” He wheezed out. He swallowed thickly. “I thought – I honestly thought he… God, I hate how vulnerable I feel when he does that…”

Yuuri went to reply but Victor’s words stopped him. The man had done this before. He forced Victor to wait for food and had taken it away from him once before. Yuuri wasn’t aware that he was capable of hate until that man took him. He would call him a monster, but even a monster had more human decency than that man. The man was cruel. What he did was inhumane. It was sick and wrong and Yuuri couldn’t stand the thought of him.

If he had the chance, he’d hurt him. He’d kill him if given a shot.

“Do you want something to eat?” Victor asked. Yuuri snapped out of his thoughts and nodded mutely. His stomach grumbled but he couldn’t tell if it was from hunger or nausea. He ignored it as he helped Victor put away the food first. If he were going to be there for a while, he might as well help Victor with his own routines. When they were finished, Yuuri moved to the table as Victor poured out a cup full of cereal. Yuuri’s stomach suddenly churned at the sight. He turned his nose up at it.

“Cereal?” He asked.

Victor stared wide-eyed. “Uh – yeah. There isn’t much else for us to eat and it’s good since it’s morning… at least, I think it’s morning…” His eyes landed on the high window beside Yuuri. He then shook his head and turned back to the food. He walked over with two bowls of cereal and placed one in front of Yuuri. “I know it isn’t a lot right now. I’m sorry.”

Yuuri didn’t want Victor to apologize. He couldn’t control this and it wasn’t his fault. He then looked down at his food and still wasn’t certain if he wanted to eat it or vomit. If there wasn’t enough food for them, he didn’t mind turning his nose up if it gave Victor an extra meal. He pushed it forward. “You can have it,” He said. “I’m not hungry.

“I think it’s best you eat, Yuuri,” Victor replied and Yuuri gave a blank stare. Victor quickly turned his gaze away and focused on the food instead. A few moments later, he sighed heavily and looked back at Yuuri. “Look, I just – I know you probably don’t feel like eating but not doing so isn’t going to help you get out of here. Trust me on that.”

Yuuri pondered if Victor had done something similar. Perhaps he went against eating when he arrived too. He knew he should eat and while he didn’t feel like it, Victor was right. He sighed with defeat and picked up the spoon, deciding even if he did vomit, at least he filled his stomach.

He noticed Victor didn’t waste a moment to dig in. Yuuri watched as he dug into his food, taking one spoonful after another without a pause in between. While he was eating quick and hungrily, Yuuri was eating his own like he thought it was poisoned. Each spoonful was smaller than what a baby would eat. He couldn’t help it. He just didn’t have the appetite to eat as much as Victor did.

Victor was definitely hungry. Yuuri didn’t even realize that Victor didn’t eat anything the day before. He had been in such a state of panic that he even forgot to eat. He looked down at his own food. As much as he wanted to give Victor the rest of it, he needed to eat. He would feel no better if he didn’t, so he took another mouthful and forced it down his throat for his own sake.

He distracted himself from the disgust of eating by looking around the room. It was a rather small room. There wasn’t much room to move around, but Yuuri was used to that. It was then that he noticed a couple of movies sat on the bookshelf. He glanced behind, staring at the TV that sat on the desk and faced the bed. He wondered how many times Victor forced himself to watch the same movie over again just to keep himself entertained, or how often he read the same book because he had nothing else to do.

He then saw a red light in the corner of his eye. He looked towards the kitchen and saw in the corner of the room a small camera. He wasn’t sure how he missed that. A small red light was on the side, gleaming against Yuuri’s eyes mockingly. He couldn’t look away.

“Victor?” Yuuri said as he tapped Victor’s arm. He saw Victor look up and Yuuri pointed towards the camera. “What is that?”

“Uh,” Victor said with a mouthful of food. He swallowed hard and stuttered, “It’s – it’s just… try and ignore it.”

He couldn’t ignore it no matter how hard he tried. He could feel its eyes watching him. It eyed every movement – ever sound. And although Yuuri’s heart ran haywire, he moved closer to Victor and asked with heavy nerves, “Is he watching us?”

The man could either be watching them and they’d know, or he wasn’t and they didn’t know. Yuuri wasn’t sure which answer he’d prefer. He could see Victor kept his head bowed. He didn’t look up once. “At the moment he is,” He replied.

Yuuri tore his stare away to look at Victor, brows dropped and his fists clenched. “What do you mean at the moment?” He asked and looked back at the camera. The man was on the other side. He was watching them, spying on them for whatever reason Yuuri did not know. But what Yuuri did know what that he detested being watched.

“Sometimes he watches, sometimes he doesn’t,” Victor replied. His voice sounded weak and frail – almost helpless as he explained. “If he's watching, the red light comes on. If he doesn’t, then it’s off. It’s the only way to know if he’s watching.”

The light burned in Yuuri’s eyes. He couldn’t look away from it for even a second. If he could project his anger through just his looks, he would do so. He wanted the man to know that his panic didn’t make him weak. If the man watched him yesterday, he wanted them to know that wasn’t the case anymore. He wasn’t weak, nor a victim. He was strong – a survivor.

A tap on his arm nearly made him look away. He then felt it again and Yuuri glanced at Victor, wondering what he wanted. Victor leaned close and spoke in a low voice, “Don’t look at it for too long,” He said. “He doesn’t like it when you look for too long.”

Yuuri blinked once. “I don’t care what he likes,” He growled a reply and scowled. He watched Victor fall back in his seat. “What he’s doing is sick and – and wrong and –”

“And we just have to let it be,” Victor spoke over him. Yuuri’s words fell silent. His mouth hung open in disbelief. He couldn’t believe Victor would say that to him – that they had no choice but to let that happen. There was something he could do to stop it. He was sure of it. “What can you do, Yuuri?”

Yuuri’s face fell fast. In an instant, his mind stopped. His mouth hung open and his eyes stared wide. He couldn’t properly process what Victor had said. But then he could. And his fists curled tightly as his lip twisted into a scowl. Any rational thought left his mind – replaced with recklessness and fury as he stormed to his feet and walked up to the camera. He stared at it. He wanted to project his anger through his glare and meet the man’s eye. The man was going to know that he wasn’t afraid – that he was going to fight back.

And as Yuuri watched, the red light stayed on.

“Yuuri!” He heard Victor’s voice snap at him. He didn’t look away. “Yuuri, don’t do that. You’ll make him mad!

Yuuri let out a bitter laugh. “And what will he do? Come into this room?” He dared the man too. He dared him to walk in and try to stop Yuuri by himself. He’d show the man his fight and his strength. He shook his head and smiled to himself. This was too reckless, but it felt so good to do.

Yuuri looked away for the first time. He met Victor’s eyes. And for the first time, he saw a hurt that paralyzed him – a fear that glazed over his eyes and filled the emptiness within. Victor truly feared the man. He feared what was to come and it should have been enough to stop Yuuri. He should have hesitated. He should have thought through what he was doing but instead, he chose to continue. He had to fight. Not just for him, but for Victor too.

“If he wants me to stop, he has to come in here and make me,” Yuuri stated firmly. He ignored the distress in Victor’s face and turned back to the camera, resuming his staring match with it.

“It isn’t that simple, Yuuri,” Victor replied and Yuuri huffed, already sick of the red light staring at him. He had enough of this. If the man wasn’t going to move, he was going to force him to move.

He glanced at his side. Beside the sink, he saw a dish towel and an idea came to mind. He grasped for it and turned back to the camera. He could feel Victor’s eyes staring at him, watching as Yuuri threw it towards the camera. It missed. He grabbed it and tried again, only to receive the same results. He huffed to himself and tried a third time. He just needed to get it over the camera. He had to block the view. He raised it one more time, eyed the camera and readied himself.

But his arm was forced back and Yuuri spun. His heart raced, expecting to see the man but instead stared into Victor’s blue eyes. Tears filled them but none fell as Victor stared back at Yuuri. Yuuri’s heart tugged in his chest. He should have stopped when Victor asked him.

He watched as Victor breathed in a shaky breath. He disapprovingly shook his head at Yuuri as he said, “I know you’re trying to help but you’re making this worse.” His voice trembled and his hand was shaking. “Just listen to me, please.”

Victor let go of his wrist. Yuuri pulled his hand close to his chest and stepped back. He knew somewhere in his mind that he was making it worse. He should have stopped. But the chaotic thought that maybe he could frustrate the man enough made him forget. He wasn’t the only one in here. He was with someone who knew better – who knew the man’s tricks and schemes. He should have listened to Victor.

But as much as he should have, he didn’t know how he was making it worse. He couldn’t imagine what else the man could do. “How am I making this worse?” He asked calmly.

Victor didn’t speak as he moved. He walked towards the sink and Yuuri didn’t understand what he was doing. He watched as Victor’s hands grasped the tap, then froze. He closed his eyes and forced in a deep breath, then spun the tap. Yuuri waited, but nothing happened. Victor turned it some more and Yuuri didn’t understand. He didn’t know how the water not working related to the man who took them.

Then suddenly, he did.

“He… he turned the water off?”

Victor nodded mutely. “He does it if he’s pissed off.” His voice was weak. His shaky fingers ran through his messed-up hair and he bit down on his lip. He then breathed in hard and said, “Sometimes it’s only a few hours he turns it off. And sometimes it’s days.”

Yuuri pressed his hand to his mouth, trying to stifle the sob that threatened to break past his lips. He refused to cry, especially with the camera’s light still on. He swallowed back his tears but could do nothing with the guilt that squeezed his brain and obliterated his fight. He should have listened to Victor. But it was too late. He had done it and now both himself and Victor had to suffer from his stupidly reckless decision. He had to make it up to Victor.

“Victor, I’m –”

“I’m taking a shower,” Victor spoke fast, silencing Yuuri’s words. Yuuri wanted to speak but there was nothing he could say. He knew as he watched Victor storm towards the bathroom that he just needed to be alone for a while. The door slammed shut and lock behind him. Then Yuuri was left alone with his own thoughts and a camera that stayed watching.

And suddenly, everything became too real.

He knew he’d done something awful. He didn’t need Victor’s hiding to justify that. But the guilt sat not in his mind, but in his chest. It weighed heavy against his heart as he knew he couldn’t undo what he did. He should make amends. He should explain himself and apologize to Victor, but it wasn’t going to turn the water back on. He could do nothing to help no matter how badly he wanted to.

He messed up. He messed up so bad.

So Yuuri sat by the bathroom door and waited. He waited to hear Victor move or say something, or even to unlock the door and come out. But everything was silent. Victor made no sound. He did not move. And Yuuri began to worry. If he wanted to make amends or even help Victor feel somewhat better, he had to try. And try he will.

“Victor,” Yuuri called out after some time. He stayed silent and waited for even the smallest noise, but heard nothing. He sighed and knocked on the door. “Victor, I didn’t… I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what is right of me to do and what might make things worse for us. I should have listened to you, but I just wanted to help. I didn’t mean to make this any harder on you. If there’s a chance to make it easier, I would.”

He stayed quiet. Victor was still silent and Yuuri couldn’t help but sigh. It was expected but he had hoped for something to be said.

“Victor…” He leaned his head against the door. He had to offer him something – some kind of reassuring thought that he would try and listen to Victor in the future. “I want to offer you something but I can’t. The only thing I can offer you is my trust.”

He needed Victor’s trust. He needed him to believe him when he says he would listen, that he would try hard to make this as easy as possible. He would still search for his escape – he had to look – but he would do it with caution. He would do it with Victor in mind. He had to be less selfish and think of others just as much as himself.

The silence hung and Yuuri was certain Victor wasn’t going to reply. He went to move when he heard a faint sigh on the other side of the door, and Yuuri strained his ears to listen. “I don’t need just your trust,” Victor replied – his voice muffled through the door. “I need your cooperation too.”

Trust. Cooperation. He’d do anything to make sure they could escape alive and well. It may take time, but Yuuri was certain he could make it work. “Okay, deal,” He said and waited for Victor to leave the room. He hadn’t but that didn’t worry Yuuri so much anymore. They talked. They found a level for each other that was comfortable. Yuuri would try to help. He would try to escape.

He’d try his best. That was a promise.

 

Chapter Text

 

It didn’t get easier.

Yuuri tried to make it work. He tried so hard but it was too much. His first mistake not only angered their kidnapper, but made life harder for both himself and Victor too. He was a horrible person. He made Victor go through his own punishment because he didn’t listen and Yuuri had nobody to blame but himself. He understood why Victor wanted to hide in the bathroom until sunset, but even when he left, the water still hadn’t turned back on. It was a cruel and inhumane punishment but they had no choice but to wait.

Yuuri didn’t sleep well that night. His throat was dry, his head hurt, and he was restless yet again.

The water was back on by morning. He enjoyed a cold glass and took pleasure in having a shower. There was no hot water but Yuuri didn’t care. He felt clean. He even got his clothes washed to add to the comfort. It was just what he needed. And Victor needed it too. He was delighted to have the water back on. He spoke more and even made a joke, so Yuuri made a mental reminder to be cautious of the camera - to be wary of what he says and does. He had agreed to cooperate with Victor. He made a promise.

While it didn’t get easier, it didn’t get that much harder either. Yuuri could avoid looking at the camera - that was easy - but it was harder for him to not notice it. He knew it was there. He’d catch the red light in the corner of his eye or just know it was there, staring at him and waiting to be turned on by the man on the other side. He feared to look its way. He didn’t want to anger his kidnapper again with just the wrong look but sometimes, he had to check. He had to make sure it was turned off before he did anything. And after a while, Yuuri noticed that the man never had a regular routine when watching them. It was random. He sometimes watched for hours or just a few minutes, and on other days he didn’t watch them at all. Yuuri never saw the red light appear for even a second on those days. However, he knew the man never watched them at night. Yuuri eyed the camera through the dark, waiting for the red light to gleam against the emptiness of night. But it never came.

Yuuri took pleasure in that privacy. However, it wasn’t completely private. He and Victor still shared a bed but when he found himself comparing one to another, it wasn’t bad. He’d rather have another person by his side than have that creep watch him while he slept. He was thankful he wasn’t alone. Victor’s deep breathing in the darkness reminded Yuuri that he was there. When the nights were too cold and the silence became unbearable, he’d listen to Victor’s breathing. It brought him peace. It reminded him he wasn’t alone and helped him think. He had too many questions and so few answers that he found himself asking even more questions. It was a particularly cold night when Yuuri felt the light breeze from a heater and he laid there and questioned why the man even bothered to care for them. After a while, he wondered if their motive was less sinister than he thought. Yuuri assumed they didn’t hate them completely. If he did, he would throw them in a situation where they were far more vulnerable and fearful. They’d be more scared and desperate than they already were. It didn’t make sense to Yuuri. But for the first time, he thought back to what Victor told him his first day and found himself agreeing with him. It wasn’t all bad. He had to think himself lucky.

There was so little to distract Yuuri that on the ninth day, he noticed Victor talked a lot. He found it too easy to start a conversation where Yuuri thought it was too hard. Victor spoke as if his words struggled to stay back and throw them at full force, needing for a conversation. Yuuri wanted to reply back. He wanted to get to know Victor but he struggled to reply. It was like his brain feared to say anything. And in many ways, that was true. He didn’t want to say something that could upset Victor or their kidnapper. He didn’t want Victor to gradually dislike him. His words could be used against him and everything felt like small talk if he initiated it. So he’d stay silent. Sometimes, he’d find himself having an unintentional staring match with Victor. Their eyes would meet and they wouldn’t turn away – at least not for a while.

His own fears weren’t the only thing he struggled with. There were others too. He was desperate for sunshine. He was cooped up in there for so long, he even missed hearing the light ticking of the clock. Victor’s voice was the only thing that filled the silence. And without it, he drifted into an unpleasant daydream or paranoid fantasy that peaked his anxiety and weight his mind. There were only so many games he could invest before his boredom returned and made the day drag. The movies they had did nothing to entertain him and soon became a muffled noise in the background as his mind wandered. Reading was a tedious task. Talking made him anxious. And he couldn’t even binge eat because he’d eat all the food and they’d have nothing for days. There was so much going on that he wasn’t surprised when his anxiety worsened.

It all became too much too fast. He could once handle it, but now it was an attack nearly every day.  The room felt smaller than what it was and Yuuri couldn’t find the air to breathe. And the claustrophobia and boredom made it worse. He was able to calm it down most days - he was used to doing that - but he could feel it lying heavy in the back of his mind. It weighed him down and tensed his shoulders. It was a toxin in his head - a negativity that he wanted to cleanse. When his attacks hit, his mind would search for ways to escape with the method of a bouncing ball. His eyes jump from one place to another, desperately trying to find something he might have missed. All he wanted to do was curl his hand into a fist and punch through the wall. If he had to break his way out, he would do it with swinging fists and a determination to keep going. He debated doing so more than once, but the idea of possibly breaking his hand and not receiving proper treatment had him turn away. He was stumped with ideas. He could feel his escape was somewhere, he just had to find it.

He wanted to focus on the positives. He sat down with himself one night and thought of all the positives he could find. He was gradually getting used to ignoring the camera. They ate enough to only just satisfy their hunger, so at least they weren’t going to starve. When he did have an anxiety attack, Victor respected his space enough to let him get through it himself like he wanted. He didn’t push himself onto Yuuri or get up in his space, which was all Yuuri needed. He couldn’t think of any more positives after that, but few were better than none.

He tried for what it was worth.

On the twelfth day, Yuuri had his second worst anxiety attack. It wasn’t as bad as his first one in that room, but he called it his second because he didn’t know what set it off. He remembered looking for a book to read when suddenly his vision faded, his heart raced, and his clammy hands gripped his hair with a desperate need to catch his breath. It was as if his mind stopped working and forgot everything. He forgot how to breathe. He didn’t exist in the present. And his entire body and mind froze up.

His head shook like a tremor - rapid and fast to wake himself up. His vision blurred and the back of his head felt so tense, he fixated on it. It wasn’t right. He shouldn’t feel that way. And as every worst scenario plagued his mind, he fell back against the wall. He needed to ground himself. He needed a distraction.

“Yuuri?” He heard Victor speak.  His trembling hands pressed against his eyes, trying to stop his tears as he slid down to the ground. He rocked back and forth. His head shook but he couldn’t stop it – not until the heaviness was gone and his mind was clear from it. Even the desperation in Victor’s voice didn’t help. “Yuuri, I – I don’t know what to… please, Yuuri?”

“Tell me something,” Yuuri gasped. He sucked in a breath and shook his head, trying to ease the tight tension in the back of his head. It didn’t ease his thoughts. Nor did it stop him from fearing his death was moments away. He needed to stop his head shake but he couldn’t – it was the only thing keeping him alive. He swallowed hard and breathed in short, quick breaths. He needed help. “Just – just tell me something. Anything. I – I don’t care just…”

“Okay, I will,” Victor said and moved. Yuuri could hear him but he didn’t look up. His hands weaved through his hair and gripped tight, hoping he could force himself to stop shaking his head. Only the tension grew and he convinced himself if he didn’t do it, the worst would happen. “Just – just remember to breathe, alright?”

“I am breathing!” Yuuri shouted, frantic and desperate. His head snapped up to glare at Victor and he wheezed in a breath. He knew he had to breathe – he wasn’t stupid. But as his heart hammered against his chest, he sucked in a deep lungful and held it before letting it out. He did it on repeat. He tried to calm his heart the best he could but his lungs didn’t feel satisfied and his head wouldn’t stop shaking. He needed to hear words. He had to focus on something that can fill his mind with wonders and adventures. “I just – I need to hear a story, or – or anything. Just tell me something.”

He watched Victor’s every move. He was hyper-focused, eyes catching every small twitch and move Victor made. He saw the way Victor struggled to find words to speak and Yuuri found that ironic. For a man who talked a lot, only when Yuuri needed him to speak did he struggle. Victor anxiously chewed on his lip. His eyes jumped from the ground to Yuuri, checking him every so often. Yuuri waited for his words and focused on his lips. He had to make sure they were real.

“I never told you what I did for a living, did I?” Victor suddenly said. If Victor had, Yuuri doubted he’d remember from how anxious his mind was. He could think of nothing but his fears; every twitch and ache inside his body. But he found his words. He found the head shake he needed.

“No. Never.”

“I have plenty of stories I could tell you from that but I can also tell you everything about my career. There’s a lot to it.” Yuuri focused his eyes on Victor’s words, never turning away from staring at his lips. His mouth moved with his accent. “Which would you like to hear, the stories, or would you like to learn more about me?”

“I – I don’t care,” Yuuri gasped. The lump in his throat threatened to hold his voice back. He swallowed hard but it didn’t shift. The walls around him felt smaller – suffocating. They were closing in and Yuuri’s heart pounded erratically again. “Just – just tell me about yourself.”

Even if it didn’t help distract Yuuri’s mind, at least he could learn more about the man he was trapped with. He never asked before. And now was better than never. He watched Victor as he moved from his knees to sit cross-legged. He gave Yuuri a smile that was supposed to reassure him. But it didn’t. He saw the lie in his eyes – the fake attempt at trying to be happy himself. Yuuri needed reality. He needed the truth.

“I’m a figure skater. Or at least, I was before all this happened,” Victor began and Yuuri couldn’t help but stare. He hadn’t expected that. And for the moment, he forgot his extreme panic. He gasped in a breath as his hands played with his fingers. He had to remember he could move them. He had full control. He was fine. “I’ve skated my whole life. I’ve had so many wins and success that they call me a living legend in figure skating. I don’t know if they still do, but… I’m also an Olympic champion and five-time Grand Prix gold medallist.”

And for a small moment, Yuuri’s panic was forgotten. He stared bug-eyed, mouth agape as he tried to process everything. Victor was an athlete. He was a famous athlete who was so good at his career, they deemed him a living legend. Yuuri’s first thought was how could he have possibly been kidnapped, then his mind shifted and his chest ached as it raced. He breathed in a heavy breath. He needed to continue the conversation. “S-so, you’re an athlete?”

Victor nodded happily. It was the first time Yuuri saw a proper smile on Victor’s face – not forced or fake, but genuine. “Yes! I was at the Olympics and won gold. It was very fun.”

Yuuri swallowed hard and diverted his gaze. His heart still hammered against his chest and the trembling in his hands continued, but he calmed. His breathing was even – inhale in and exhale out. His lungs weren’t so desperate anymore but the tension in his head remained. It sat heavy in his mind but he no longer fixated on it. His mind was diverted. He could focus on Victor and his career rather than the panic.

He couldn’t help but compare. Victor was an athlete and Yuuri was just a ballet dancer. He was a dime-a-dozen. He was nothing special like Victor, neither an athlete or living legend. Then his mind stopped to think that perhaps that was what influenced the man to kidnap Victor. He was an athlete. He was famous. There were hundreds of reasons why someone might want to take Victor, but only so little for them to take Yuuri. He wasn’t an athlete nor a gold medallist. He was just Katsuki Yuuri.

He couldn’t help but let out a bitter laugh. It was so pathetic of him. “And here I am, just a ballet dancer.”

He didn’t expect to see a reaction out of Victor but as he watched the man’s brows arch high, he blinked. “Oh!” Victor gasped with delight. “You do ballet!”

It wasn’t the reaction he expected from Victor. He didn’t expect any reaction and yet, he was pleased to have seen it. “Yeah, I’ve danced since I was a child. It helped me think.” He watched as Victor leaned forward, intrigued by Yuuri’s words. He ignored it. It wasn’t that interesting. “My teacher helped me turn it into a career and, well, it happened. I do enjoy it.”

Victor smiled and shifted a little closer. Yuuri didn’t move back. He didn’t have the energy to. “It looks like we’re both dancers in a way,” He said and Yuuri agreed.

“It looks like it,” He smiled. But then his mind paused and he stopped to think. His brows hung low, thinking to himself as he muttered under his breath, “That’s… strange.” He had to think about that. There was something that didn’t feel right about it but he couldn’t work it out just yet. His mind was still so heavy and his thoughts were jumbled together. He let it slide for the moment.

“I assume you’re a talented ballet dancer then?” Victor said, distracting Yuuri’s thinking. He then thought back to the day he was kidnapped – his last day of freedom – and as he looked up and met Victor’s eyes, he had the sudden need to tell Victor his own story.

“I had my recital before this happened,” He began and breathed in a deep breath. “I finally got a leading role. I had worked so hard for that. I was excited and nervous and scared but I was going to do it because it was what I worked hard for. They picked me out of everyone else and I didn’t want to let them down. But… this happened. It’s been taken away from me and I - I…”

He had to stop. He could feel himself becoming emotional and he didn’t want to let any tears fall. He looked away and cleared his throat, hoping that Victor didn’t notice. But then he felt a hand on his arm and it gripped tightly to comfort him. He glanced down then at Victor. He saw an understanding in Victor’s eyes - a pain he knew all too well.

“I’m sorry, Yuuri,” Victor said before letting go of his arm. “I understand how you feel.”

Yuuri didn’t entirely believe that. He couldn’t see how Victor understood how he felt. He had his success. He lived his career without fail and nobody took it away from him – not like Yuuri’s had. He just started his. He was on the edge of success, near the beginning of his career. That lead role was supposed to be his big break. But instead, he was trapped. And everything was forced to be put on hold.

Yuuri shook his head. There was no way Victor understood how he felt. “You’ve already had your success. You’ve had your career and mine… it barely even started yet. It was taken away from me.” His eyes dropped to his lap and played with his fingers. “How could you understand that?”

There was a silence that hung heavy and Yuuri didn’t dare look up. He knew from the silence alone he upset Victor. But he had to face him. When he glanced up, the silence thickened as Victor’s brows dropped. “My future was taken away from me too, Yuuri,” Victor growled. “I hadn’t even retired yet. I still had many more years. Yuuri, you’re not the only one who was taken from something.”

And Yuuri realized just how selfish he was being. Victor was right, he wasn’t the only one who was taken from something. He shouldn’t have assumed Victor had it all. He closed his eyes and sighed hard. He should apologize. “You’re right,” He began, turning his head away. “I’m sorry.” He didn’t hear a reply but as he peeked his eyes open, he saw a stoic expression – uncaring as he stared back at Yuuri.

It was neither good nor bad, but Yuuri was pleased there was no anger in them. There was a silence which followed that had Yuuri think. He reminded himself they had to cooperate. He and Victor were in this together. And that cooperation went as far as understanding Victor was in this too. Yuuri should know that. He shouldn’t have been so selfish to think Victor didn’t feel the same. Victor knew better than he did how hard it was. He had been living there for a lot longer than Yuuri, and then a thought went through his mind. As he kept his eyes on Victor, he knew had to ask.

“Victor,” He began, catching Victor’s attention with a quick glance. “There’s something that’s been bugging me. It’s something I’ve been too afraid to ask, but I also don’t think I want to hear the answer.”

Victor’s face softened. He then moved around and sat beside Yuuri, coming closer to him before saying, “Don’t be afraid to ask me anything, Yuuri. I don’t want us to feel uncomfortable around each other.”

Yuuri wanted the same. Any discomfort in that room would help neither of them and he was pleased Victor felt the same. He took a long deep breath, preparing himself as he asked, “I just need to know…” He swallowed hard. It was now or never. “How long have you been here, exactly?”

Victor looked away and pursed his lips, thinking hard about Yuuri’s question. He then sighed and shook his head. “I stopped counting the days long ago.” He glanced up at the window. An icy frost sat on the glass, hiding whatever was beyond that view. “There’s frost, so this is the second winter I’ve seen.”

And like the window, dread crept over Yuuri like an icy chill, numbing his brain. His frozen state offered him only one thought and he wasn’t aware of the words he spoke until they fell from his lips. “You’ve been here for a year.” Victor’s second winter meant a year. He had been missing for a year and Yuuri’s heart hung heavy in his chest.

“So, that’s how long it’s been.”

Victor didn’t show a single ounce of emotion and that had Yuuri fear the room even more. His face was stoic. His eyes were dull. And Yuuri needed to know more. If this was how Victor had lost hope, he needed to know before he fell into that pit of despair. He was going to get Victor out of it, even if he had to climb in himself.

“When were you taken?” Yuuri asked with a shaky breath.

He watched as Victor pulled his legs to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. He thought back. “I last remember it being my birthday. Christmas Day was when I was taken – I think…” He paused for a moment then shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s been a while. I usually struggle to get a grasp on the days so I just guess what month it is by the seasons.”

And just like that, Yuuri found a connection. “I last remember it being Christmas Day too,” He said with a smile on his face. It was less sinister than it looked. He made a discovery and he wanted to laugh – to smile and cheer that he found something new. It didn’t help him escape. It only gave him a solid connection between the two. “I had a recital for Christmas. I was supposed to… it doesn’t matter. What matters is it’s been exactly a year since your kidnapping?”

Victor shrugged and nodded. “It seems it,” He said. His eyes then downcast to the ground as a weak smile played his lips. He let out a breath. “I hadn’t realized it’s been a year. Time moves really strangely in here.”

It was Yuuri’s turn to comfort Victor. He put his hand softly on his shoulder as a token of his sympathy – his compassion. “I’m sorry.” Instead of thinking of himself, he was going to try and think for Victor too.

“Don’t be,” Victor shrugged. “I guess it’s okay. I am alive after all.”

Victor was right but it didn’t mean Yuuri had to agree with it.

Yuuri became aware of a few things. The first was that they were both taken on the same day, a year apart. They shared similarities in that aspect. He still wondered why they were taken but he was now optimistic. By now, the police should be aware he was missing. And if the police were aware of that, they should also see the similarities in their kidnappings. They were a paired case. And Yuuri didn’t see himself being trapped there for long. If he couldn’t find a way out, they would find a way in. He was certain of it.

But he also had to admit that their careers were similar in certain aspects. They were both dancers. Victor danced on the ice and Yuuri danced on stage. He didn’t see the connection before. He ignored that they were both dancers from his own insecurities and he had no reason to do so. They were connected somewhere. While they could work out themselves a reason why they were the ones to be taken, they couldn’t yet figure out exactly why they were taken. And Yuuri had a feeling that wasn’t going to be answered for a while.

It had Yuuri realize why Victor had given up hope. He had been alone in the room for a year. He thought nobody was ever coming to save him – that help was lost and he was trapped there forever. His eyes had frozen over like a lake, their warmth long gone. But Victor was in there, Yuuri knew it. He wanted to reach in and tell him it wasn’t hopeless, that he could find a way to escape, but Victor wouldn’t believe him. That didn’t matter to him anymore. Yuuri didn’t want Victor to believe his words, but his actions. He was going to find a way out of there. He was going to show Victor that he could find an escape, and in the moment where they get out, Victor’s hope would shine brightly.

But for now, all Yuuri could do was hope himself that Victor could find his own.

“You shouldn’t have given up hope,” Yuuri spoke without realizing. His lips slapped shut but by then it was too late.

However, Victor wasn’t angry at him. His gaze dropped, eyes staring at his pants as he sighed hard. “It’s easy when it’s been so long,” He murmured. Yuuri could hear in it in his voice. He wasn’t even denying his loss of hope. He was confident in his thought and Yuuri was determined to change that.

He moved to his knees and sat in front of Victor. His hands grabbed his shoulders and Victor looked up, meeting Yuuri’s stare. Victor was going to listen to him. It didn’t matter if he believed him or not, as long as he heard his words, Yuuri could say he achieved something. He stared Victor in the eyes, a fiery blaze burned within them as Victor stared back bug-eyed and startled. “I will get us out of here. I promise you that, Victor.” Victor looked away. Yuuri had expected that but it didn’t mean he wasn’t listening. “When I work out how to escape, you’ll join me. We’re going to get out someday.”

But when Victor glanced up, he smiled weakly and Yuuri saw nothing but pity. He felt sorry for Yuuri. And Yuuri would have been furious if not for his will to prove Victor wrong – to prove their kidnapper wrong. Victor’s hope didn’t exist in his eyes. Only the despair that plagued him made him say, “I’m sure you will.”

But it wasn’t convincing.

If Yuuri allowed himself to get mad at Victor, he would scream and shout at him. He’d beg him to try at least one more time. But he knew it wouldn’t help. He forced himself to breathe in and calm himself. Yelling would get them nowhere. He had to calm himself down, much like how Victor calmed him from his attack.

And Yuuri’s heart tugged at the thought. Victor still helped Yuuri, even with his loss of hope. He should thank him. “Thank you for the help before, by the way,” He began and met Victor’s eyes. He moved back, letting go of his shoulders as his hands dropped to his lap. “I’m sorry about that attack. I just – I don’t know why it hit.”

“It does that sometimes. I used to get them when I wanted to sleep.” Victor shrugged. His eyes fell to his lap as Yuuri wondered why Victor never told him. Yuuri would have tried to help. “It was… it was horrible back then. I think I used to just piss him off so much that he kept the lights off during the night. All I remember was being sat in the dark, unable to sleep, and panicking because I just… I hated it. But it isn’t so bad now.”

Yuuri saw the way Victor’s hand twitched. He wanted to reach out and Yuuri was sick of keeping himself away. He wanted to show Victor support through more than just his words, but his actions too. He was tired of being scared – tired of fearing everything around him. Victor was his only safety. He was someone who needed support just as much as Yuuri did.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that by yourself,” Yuuri said as he reached out. His hand found Victor’s and laced his fingers between his, tightened his grip. Victor’s skin was soft against his own. He fought the urge to stroke his thumb across it as he smiled at Victor, hoping to see a little ounce of hope.

But at Yuuri’s attempt at support, Victor pulled a face and shrugged. “Don’t be.”

He was dismissing his own emotions and Yuuri wasn’t having that. Victor was being too hard on himself. He didn’t let himself feel emotion and Yuuri knew that was neither healthy nor right. He reached out, took his other hand and held them tightly as he met Victor’s icy blue eyes. Victor had to learn too that cooperation was something he had to return. Without cooperation, they had no trust.

Victor helped him. It was his turn to help Victor.

“Don’t do that,” He began. Victor’s brows hung low, confused by the sudden force in Yuuri’s voice. “I need you to just listen to me right now. I want you to understand what I’m about to say. Can you do that for me?”

Victor swallowed hard and nodded. “Yes. I – I’ll try.”

“I just – I want you to know that you don’t always have to help me,” He began. He wasn’t sure if it was exactly where he wanted to start but it had Victor’s face soften. He must have done something right. “I want to help you in any way that I can too. I will look for an escape myself but it isn’t just for me. I’m doing this for you too. I will help you if you need me to because this is a vulnerable situation we’re in. This is something that shouldn’t have happened to us and you’ve been stuck here for far too long. If there is anything you need, just tell me. You said it yourself that you wanted cooperation. Here is me trying to cooperate. So, tell me, Victor. Is there anything you want?”

Victor didn’t react at first. He held his stare, unblinking and mouth slightly agape. Then a single tear fell from his eye and Yuuri’s chest pounded. He made things worse. He made Victor cry. But as Victor sucked in a deep breath and let another tear fall, Yuuri wondered that perhaps Victor bottled up his emotions for longer than he thought.

“It’s just… It’s been so long since I’ve…” He chewed his lip and turned his eyes to the ceiling, letting more tears fall and squeezed his eyes shut. He sucked in a deep breath before they opened and fell back to Yuuri as he mumbled, “Can – can I just ask for…”

Yuuri waited for him to speak but he said nothing. Instead, he stood to his feet. He kept his grip on Yuuri’s hands and guided him to stand up. They moved towards the bed. Yuuri sat on the side and waited for Victor to down too but he didn’t. His hand gently pressed Yuuri’s shoulder, guiding him to lie down and Yuuri’s heart hammered hard when Victor hovered over him. And it didn’t settle when Victor’s arms curled around his waist. He pressed his face into the crook of Yuuri’s neck and his touch sent sparks across Yuuri’s skin. He didn’t understand what Victor wanted.

But then he did.

“You just want a… hug?” He had to ask. His hands didn’t touch Victor, just in case it wasn’t what he wanted. But as Victor nodded, Yuuri let his hands touch, tightening the embrace as his arms went around Victor.

“I want to cuddle,” Victor mumbled against his shirt. “Like you said, you wanted to try and help me. This is you helping me.” They both fell silent. Yuuri didn’t know what to say but the words were stuck inside his mind. Victor had gone for too long without speaking to someone – too long without someone’s touch. That wasn’t fair.

But it explained a lot. It explained why Victor had to find a reason to say something to Yuuri – even if it sparked small talk, he had to speak. It was why Victor found a reason to touch Yuuri when he could. His hands would twitch with a want – a need to feel contact. He saw it when his hand would come close to Yuuri before pulling it away and diverting their conversation to distract Yuuri. But he noticed. He saw how much Victor needed to feel someone and now he understood why. Victor had been starved from human interaction for too long.

And a morbid thought went through Yuuri’s mind. Perhaps that was why he was taken – to give Victor someone to use.

But Yuuri shook his head at the thought. For the twelve days they had known each other, Victor respected his boundaries. He didn’t touch Yuuri when he had an anxiety attack and kept his distance when he slept. He didn’t overstep nor push. He listened to Yuuri and he understood. And it was that moment when Yuuri realized that he did trust Victor. He trusted him more than he thought. He had every reason to do so.

“I just – I want to go home, Yuuri,” He heard Victor mutter against his shirt. Victor’s gripped his shirt tightly as he trembled. “I miss home so much.”

Yuuri couldn’t hold back his own tears. He let one silently slip down his cheek as he nodded. “Yeah,” He said. “Me too.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Yuuri couldn’t sleep. But that was just a normal night for him now. And it definitely wasn’t because he had Victor sleeping so close beside him.

He was used to having Victor there. He had Victor sleep beside him since the day he arrived. What he wasn’t used to was having Victor curled up to him, arms circled around him and pressed so close that Yuuri could feel his breath ghost over his skin. He was warm and with every movement, Yuuri feared waking him up. He had never slept with another person like this before. It was new.

But he couldn’t say he hated it.

The next morning, Victor woke up refreshed with warm smiles and ready to face the day with an energy Yuuri hadn’t seen before. And Yuuri thought he did well. He helped Victor feel better and he took pride in that. But as night fell once again and Victor asked to cuddle, he wondered perhaps he didn’t help Victor as much as he thought he did. Victor still held onto his demons. He needed to find comfort and support like he had that night. So, when Victor asked to cuddle, Yuuri couldn’t say no.

He didn’t mind. There was more room in the bed and Victor was warm. It made those cold nights feel that little bit warmer. And after a while, it became second nature to have Victor so close that he stopped asking Yuuri if they could cuddle. They’d get ready for bed, lie down, and Victor would automatically curl towards Yuuri – and Yuuri the same. His arms went around Victor, wanting to feel his body and warmth like all those other nights. It comforted Yuuri too. It helped his mind wander away from his anxious and fearful thoughts as he focused on Victor instead. He’d watch him some nights, intrigued and curious.

Victor was peaceful when he slept. In the early morning when Yuuri was the first one to wake up, (or when his sleepless nights had him awake until sunrise) he’d look at Victor. His features were much softer in his sleep, the lines of pain and loneliness that usually creased his brows were replaced by a youthful sleep. His chest would rise and fall at a steady pace that sometimes helped Yuuri to keep his own breathing at bay. If his anxiety peaked or panic settled in his mind, he’d listen to Victor’s breathing. It comforted him. And his hair would slip over his face, encouraging Yuuri to brush it back so gently that Victor didn’t wake up. He wants to see Victor’s face clearly when he looked at him.

Victor didn’t do much in his sleep, but when he did, it never failed to make Yuuri smile. He found that when Victor’s nose twitched, he would soon wake up. If Yuuri moved too far away from Victor in his sleep, he’d grumble with discontent and subconsciously shuffle forward to be closer again. And on the rare morning where they both were awake but the day had yet to begin, they’d talk. It was mindless rambling about their lives and interest. It was strange sometimes. Yuuri found it hard to imagine who Victor was outside of that room. Yuuri only knew the Victor who had been trapped there for a year – the Victor who lost hope and let his sorrow consume him. But as he listened to Victor talk about his life, Yuuri became more and more intrigued.

He wished he met Victor before everything happened. It wasn’t for the sake of knowing him before the room – not entirely. If he had the chance to go back and fix everything, he’d help Victor before he’d help himself. Victor deserved more than to be kidnapped and trapped alone inside that room for over a year. When Yuuri had been selfish in the beginning and searched for an escape only for himself, Victor still helped him with his attacks. He cared when Yuuri turned away. He showed kindness when Yuuri was cruel. He met Yuuri on the same level and Yuuri wasn’t even certain if Victor knew he was doing so.

He thought a lot about it. And about Victor too. He stayed on his mind just as much as his family did, and maybe a little more. He assumed it was the constant reminder that he was there. He especially knew Victor was there when it was dark and all he could feel was Victor’s body and his breath tickle his ear. It was hard for him to forget Victor – not that he wanted to. He liked Victor.

He especially stayed on Yuuri’s mind on nights when Yuuri couldn’t sleep. But that was most nights for him. Sleep began to feel like a chore – another fight he didn’t have the energy for. He didn’t even try to fight it anymore and became content with his sleepless nights instead. He found comfort in his thoughts and memories of his past. Thinking back to his family and friends made him happy and warm. His sorrow remained, still missing them terribly; but his memories were something their kidnapper could never take away. He preferred those memories to sleep.

Then one night came where Yuuri was thankful for his insomnia. He was lying in bed with Victor by his side – like most nights – and stared into the darkness that enveloped his sight, deep in thought. It was a quiet night. He heard no birds singing or wind whistling against the small window. The night was silent. It was still. All he could hear was Victor’s gentle breathing in his ear. Yuuri took comfort in the noise, listening to it as it eased him into a hypnotic state.

But then something was off and his brows creased. Victor became restless. His breathing quickened and his hands gripped the sheets. Yuuri wanted to check on him but he could see nothing through the darkness. He had to rely on noise and touch. He could feel Victor trembling against him and Yuuri gripped his arms, encouraging him to wrap them around him instead. Victor went in for the embrace but as a weak cry echoed throughout the room and he choked a breath, Yuuri had to act.

“Victor, what’s wrong?” He tried asking. He waited but Victor neither answered or loosened his grip. He didn’t even attempt to take a breath, only continuing to wheeze and gasp. Yuuri shook his shoulder. “Victor?”

But he didn’t shift. Yuuri moved to sit up but Victor latched himself onto him with a tight grip, refusing to let go. A complaint was on the tip of Yuuri’s tongue but it fell silent when he heard faint sobbing. A prickle of tears fell onto his chest and as Yuuri looked down through the darkness, he continued to shake Victor awake. It didn’t stop his distress. Yuuri wasn’t completely sure if Victor was having an attack or if it was a nightmare but as he heard Victor trying to speak, he listened closely. His words were mumbled and weak. Yuuri couldn’t understand him and went back to shaking his shoulder. He needed his attention.

“P-please!” Victor cried out loud and clear. Yuuri tensed and froze. Victor choked out another breath and cried again, begging another plea. Yuuri didn’t know what to do. He pressed his hand to Victor’s shoulder to shake him again but then he noticed Victor wasn’t in an embrace anymore. Yuuri thought he came to his senses until strong hands pushed him back, forcing him against the wall as Victor cried out, “J-just let me out! I just – I – Please!”

“Victor!” Yuuri shouted. He needed Victor to stop. He fumbled in the darkness until his hands grabbed Victor’s wrists and pulled them away. Victor fought against his grip. He struggled and thrashed but Yuuri was able to push him back onto the bed, pinning him down as he yelled, “Victor! W-what are you – Victor?!”

There was a sudden gasp and an unexpected silence that followed. Yuuri stayed silent. He listened for Victor beneath him. He could hear him gasping for breaths but his weeping had stopped, no longer crying out the pleas he did before. Yuuri opened his mouth to speak but his words got stuck in his throat, unable to find the right ones to say. He didn’t know what to say.

“Y-Yuuri?” Victor’s voice trembled. Yuuri felt his wrists move beneath his grip. “What – what are you doing?”

Yuuri sucked in a breath and tore his hands back. Victor pulled his wrists away and Yuuri moved, shifting on the bed to give Victor some space. In the darkness, Yuuri felt the bed shift and heard movement around the room. There was a click of the light switch and a dull light illuminated the room. It stung Yuuri’s eyes and burned his head. He had to rub his eyes to ease the ache before blindly reaching for his glasses. He reached for them, slipped them on, and looked at Victor.

By appearance, he wasn’t going well. His hair was disheveled, poking in all directions and his eyes were red from crying. A few still fell down his wet cheeks but Victor wiped them away as he moved back to the bed. Yuuri watched him, concern filling his every thought as Victor sat beside him. He leaned against the wall and let his head fall back, closing his eyes and breathing hard.

And Yuuri had to ask, “Are you alright.”

Victor bit his lip and nodded. He sniffed hard. “Yeah, yeah, I just…” He let a hand rub his eyes and kept it there for a moment before it dropped to his lap. He sighed and turned to face Yuuri. “It was just a bad dream.”

Yuuri knew it wasn’t just a bad dream. Victor had a nightmare. And whatever the nightmare was about, he didn’t doubt it was about the room. Victor’s cries and pleas only suggested one thing but he wasn’t going to ask. It wasn’t his business. But he couldn’t have Victor dismiss his own emotions. He had to say something. He had to make sure Victor was okay.

“I think it was more than just a bad dream, Victor,” He began. He watched as Victor turned his eyes to the ground. He didn’t mind because at least Victor was still listening to him. He moved forward. “You don’t have to tell me what happened or what it was about. But if you need something or someone, I’m here.”

In a spike of confidence, Yuuri took Victor’s hand. He hadn’t known where it came from but he knew it felt right. And as Victor looked back, Yuuri saw the pain in his eyes. It had been there since the moment Yuuri met him but never had he seen it burn as hard as it did now. It seeped out of his every wound – every scar that pained his face with sadness and heartache. The pain troubled him. But Yuuri wasn’t going to let it win. He refused to.

He brought Victor in for an embrace. It was the only antidote Yuuri had to help ease his pain and help him forget about the room for a while. And as Victor delved in without hesitating, wrapping his arms around Yuuri and hugging him close. Victor did not cry. He did not let himself fall back to that emotional state. He remained silent as they stayed clasped in each other’s warmth until the sun rose and they had no choice but to get up.

The nightmare was none of Yuuri’s business, so he didn’t ask, even the next day. But he did know for certain what helped Victor when he needed it. While Yuuri needed to be alone, Victor needed someone. And Yuuri was going to be that someone. He made that promise to himself.

 


 

 

It was day twenty-one when Yuuri wondered if there was any point in counting.

His days moved slower than a snail. When day twenty-one ended, it was day twenty-two, then twenty-three, and time slowed to a trickle as one day turned into another. It was draining the life out of him being so aware of the days he was missing – the hours that he didn’t know. And sometimes he didn’t want to know. He didn’t want to be reminded of what holiday or event he was forced to miss. It brought back his sadness and made his expression dry. All he’d want to do from sunrise to sunset was sit with his forehead against the door and think of ways to escape. It was mostly a bother to him. And he decided on day Twenty-something that it was a waste of time.

He began doing what Victor did and only cared about what month it could be. He was certain it was still January. The nights were cold and long; and frost still stained the window, casting their room in a dull grey. Yuuri had no sense of time without there being a clock but he noticed little things – like routines – that helped him have an idea. He knew he woke up roughly the same time every morning and just when the sun began to set would he get hungry for dinner. It was things his body knew but his mind didn’t. But he was slowly growing accustomed to living in that room. He still struggled and had incidences where he upset Victor or angered their kidnapper but he was slowly getting there.

He didn’t know how he felt about that. But Yuuri was certain of something. He knew exactly how he felt about the room.

“I hate it here,” He grumbled during breakfast one morning. He looked at Victor, waiting for a response out of him but he stayed silent. He continued to eat his cereal. Yuuri frowned and huffed, then repeated himself. “I hate it in here.”

“There’s nothing I can do about that, Yuuri,” Victor replied as he took a spoonful of cereal. Yuuri hated to admit but Victor was right – there was nothing he could do about it – but Yuuri just wanted to wallow in self-pity. He wanted to lie down and do nothing because he didn’t see a point anymore. His life was at a standstill, his career was possibly over, and Yuuri just wanted to wear a different set of clothes than ones he’s been wearing day after day.

He hated it. He wanted to go home. He’d give anything to feel the sun on his skin, the rain against his face, and see the beauty of a world he was once so free in. He should have appreciated it more. And as he pushed his cereal away from him, he pressed his forehead against the table and laid his arms around his head. He needed to get himself grounded. He had to remind himself of his goal, his reason, and find the strength to move forward.

It was hard. He didn’t want to find himself losing hope like Victor had but it was easy to do so. It was easy for him to give up. He could live in that room and still be fed, washed, and alive for years to come. But that didn’t appeal to him. The idea of his potential future still being trapped in that room locked his stomach tight and sent his heart racing. He refused to let that happen.

His head tremor began. The occasional rapid shaking of his head tensed his neck and that only made it worse. He could feel a lump in his throat – thick and heavy, stopping him from swallowing. His mind was beginning to focus too much on his growing anxiety that as he raised his head and looked at Victor, his words slipped from his mouth before he was aware.

“You don’t tell me much about your time here, you know,” Yuuri said and cleared his throat. He knew he just needed to talk to get his mind off his growing anxiety but his mind working on autopilot made him feel illusive. He breathed in a shaky breath and pulled his bowl back towards him. He had to do something with his hands. They were clamming up.

“You know as much as you’ve already seen,” Victor replied. Yuuri met his eyes and raised a brow. It wasn’t the answer he had expected to hear and as he forced down a mouthful of soggy cereal, he shook his head.

“No, I mean before I arrived,” He corrected. He forced down some more cereal, reminding himself that soggy cereal was better than nothing. And although some bites almost got stuck in his throat, causing his heart to race and his anxiety to peak, he forced through it and focused back on talking. “I’m just curious. You spent so long without someone and I just… I – I shouldn’t have asked. I’m sorry.”

He didn’t realize how rude he was being. He shouldn’t have asked such a personal question that he could see it in Victor’s face how uncomfortable it was making him. He bit his lip and forced in a deep breath. While his focus was on talking, he should have been more cautious with the words he spewed out. He should have been thoughtful.

But then Victor leaned forward and Yuuri watched him. His eyes stayed on Yuuri and Yuuri’s never left Victor's – he was unable to. “How about we make this fair,” Victor began. “I’ll tell you something you don’t know about my time alone if you tell me what’s been on your mind.”

Yuuri knew he got stuck in his own mind sometimes but he didn’t realize Victor noticed. He wondered if Victor meant his anxieties that caused the head tremor or his grief and sadness that seemed to hit him hard the past few days. But as he thought about it, it didn’t matter which one it was. Victor was concerned. And Yuuri’s heart burned with a warm desire.

“That sounds fair,” Yuuri nodded. His lips pursed as he thought to himself. He didn’t know which he’d rather talk about – his growing anxieties that scared him daily or his longing to see his family again. But then he wondered how much Victor really knew about him that he didn’t know himself. Did he have nightmares too that he wasn’t aware of? Did he black out some days and act recklessly and Victor just didn’t tell him? Or did Victor even know of his worsening anxiety? He didn’t know. But then something else came to mind – something that he thought about for a while now.

“I still look back and wonder how I got here,” He began. While it wasn’t his main concerns, it was something he wanted to talk about to Victor. He needed to get it out. “I don’t remember when he took me. That moment is still a blur. All I remember is jogging then waking up in here. There’s no memory of any attack or abduction, just… a missing puzzle piece inside my mind.”

The memories were somewhere in his mind. They were hidden but long forgotten in the echoes of his anguish and heartache. He expected forgotten memories to be like a tidal wave, coming and going from time to time but never staying completely clear. The memory was gone. It was forgotten – absent from his mind when all he wanted was to remember.

“Do you remember how you got here?” Yuuri asked as he met Victor’s eyes. He hoped if Victor knew, it could spark a thought – a sudden revelation that can help him remember.

Victor met his eyes. “Vaguely,” He said. Yuuri leaned forward, absorbed with the idea that if Victor had some memories, maybe he could spark one in Yuuri. And Victor knew more. He could remember something and Yuuri was optimistic that they could work something out – if not for their escape, then for themselves. “I assumed he drugged me. I just remember everything being so hazy and confusing. But I know that I woke up a few times between my transport from there to here. I woke up in darkness but everything around me was moving while I was lying still, so I guess I have to assume what that could be.”

“The trunk of a car,” Yuuri answered and Victor nodded. Yuuri tried to think back but he couldn’t remember being transported. It was a complete blank between jogging and waking up. He huffed a breath. While he was somewhat pleased he didn’t remember, he wished he had an idea of what happened.

“I couldn’t move either,” Victor let out a breath. Yuuri’s heart ached for Victor. He could only imagine how terrifying it could have been for him – if only he could remember himself. “It might have been the drugs or maybe he blindfolded and tied me up. I don’t know. It was just… scary. I remember being terrified.”

And suddenly Yuuri was thankful he didn’t remember. But his heart went out to Victor. What he had gone through was something he should have never been subjected to and Yuuri reached out, gently lacing his fingers between Victor’s and squeezing with reassurance. He wanted to show his comfort even without words. And when Victor returned it, Yuuri knew it was what Victor needed.

“The second was still in darkness but I wasn’t in the vehicle anymore,” Victor continued. He paused for a moment, chewing on his lip before turning diverting his gaze to the ground. “I could hear his voice. He spoke to me. And they weren’t kind words, Yuuri.”

Yuuri’s heart raced. He sucked in a heavy breath and asked, “What – what did he say?”

“I heard it in stages. I was swimming in and out of consciousness – I think. But none of it made sense…” He paused again and breathing in. As he met Yuuri’s stare, tears glazed his eyes and Yuuri squeezed his hand again, reassuring Victor that everything was alright – and gave Victor the courage to continue. “He sounded bitter. I heard a few words he said and he spoke about life in this angry tone. I heard words like ‘humiliated’ and ‘powerless’. I don’t know if he was talking about me or himself but I guess I’ll never find that out.”

Victor paused and Yuuri let him take his time. He didn’t want to push with too many questions so he waited for Victor to find his words. Victor then breathed in a shaky breath and met Yuuri’s stare. The profound sorrow that killed his eyes had Yuuri wonder if asking was even worth it. He didn’t want to see Victor in that state. Not anymore.

He didn’t know when he began to care more about Victor’s happiness than his own, but in many ways, he didn’t mind. It gave him strength. It gave him the fight he needed – the courage to continue his search for an escape. There was too much pain in that room and Yuuri couldn’t not notice it. There were many people outside of the room that gave him the fight to escape, but inside the room, Victor gave him a reason to keep trying.

“I heard him say that I asked for this,” Victor’s voice trembled. He bit his lip, hiding behind a defensive wall. And Yuuri squeezed his hand and met his stare with strength in his eyes. He wanted to remind Victor that he was there – that he was not alone. “It was the only thing I heard clearly. I – I don’t know how I asked for this but I’m certain I didn’t. Why would I ask for this?”

Yuuri reached for Victor’s other hand, holding them both as he looked up and met Victor’s eyes. “You didn’t ask for this, Victor,” Yuuri replied. He caught a hint of tears in Victor’s eyes – from his grief or Yuuri’s support, he did not know. “That man put us in here for his own selfish reasons. I don’t know why, but I know for certain you did nothing to encourage that.”

Victor’s gaze dropped as he let out a bitter laugh. “Of course, I encouraged it,” He said. His voice was hoarse and shaky. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

Yuuri frowned. “Don’t start blaming yourself.”

“Even if it’s true?”

It was easy for Victor to blame himself. Yuuri felt that too sometimes. If he hadn’t gone out that day he could have avoided this. If he hadn’t been so ambitious for the lead role in his recital, he could have been less of a target. There were many if’s and but’s. But Yuuri reminded himself that no matter what, he could never have known this would happen. It wasn’t his fault and Victor shouldn’t think so either.

But it was hard. It was easy to tell Victor not to think that, but hard to convince Victor otherwise. If he could hardly believe it himself, Victor would be just as difficult. He wanted to help Victor. He really did. But when he couldn’t work out the right words to say to himself, he didn’t know how he could say the right words to Victor.

“You know, I did the same as you when I arrived here.” Victor’s voice tore Yuuri from his thoughts. He focused on Victor who was smiling weakly, thinking back to his memories. “I cried at that door too. I think I actually screamed more than you. Now that I think about it, maybe it was just to fill the silence that surrounded me. I – I tend to do that when it’s too quiet. It’s painful to hear nothing.”

There was always a light at the end of the tunnel. And Yuuri knew their sorrows were only temporary. But it felt a million miles away. He felt like every time he threw the rope to Victor and prayed that he caught it, Victor falls further into his pit – slowly burying himself under his own grief and agony. Yuuri was trying to pull him out. He wanted to stop the crushing pain but he was beginning to feel it himself. He was slowly sinking in – falling into the hole Victor too found himself in.

But Victor had given up because he thought there was nothing else for him to do. And dare Yuuri say it, but he wouldn’t mind if he fell in Victor’s hole with him. Their tears would run together and their pain would be shared, but Yuuri would get him out. He’d get Victor out if it was the last thing he ever had to do. Because with Victor by his side, he was never truly empty. He would never lose his hope. The longer Yuuri stayed there with Victor, the more determined he was – the more their trust is built.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri said because it was all he could say. He tightened his grip on Victor’s hands and let the gesture to the talking. Victor didn’t have to deal with this alone anymore and Yuuri wanted him to know that. And as Victor met Yuuri’s eyes with a faint smile on his lips, Yuuri returned one just as wide. If he had to do the smiling for the both of them, he would.

But then in the corner of his eye, he saw the small red gleam of a light. Yuuri caught himself and forced his eyes to stay on Victor. He didn’t need to look to know what it was, but the temptation to look was always there.

“He’s watching us.”

Victor moved his head to the side, not looking at the camera but turning enough to see it at the side of his own sight. Victor looked back and nodded. “He is.”

Yuuri wanted to speak. He opened his mouth but hesitated his words. But when Victor noticed his uncertainty, he said, “He can’t hear you,” And Yuuri let out a breath. It was just what he needed. He needed the privacy of his voice to express how he felt. “I’ve tested it before. I’m certain he can’t hear us.”

But the thought of the man watching them made Yuuri’s blood boil and his jaw tense. It didn’t matter if the man could hear them or not, he was still watching them. He was still spying on them, waiting for one mistake so he could make their lives harder and Yuuri was pleased the man couldn’t hear him. “I hate that man.” Yuuri had a lot to say, but only so much he could express. Victor stayed silent. He only held a stare as Yuuri scowled hard and growled, “I have never hated somebody more than I do now. I don’t know this man and I don’t want to. I hate him. I hate him so, so much.”

“How do you know you’ve never met him?” Victor asked and it took Yuuri off guard. He moved back, thinking to himself for the moment. He hadn’t thought of that. But the more he thought about it, he began to ponder that perhaps he might know the man. “We are both dancers after all. We could have once met him and left a bad mark on him.”

“This could be personal to him,” Yuuri said. His thoughts and ideas rattled through his brain like a train that had no intention of stopping. “We do share a lot of similarities. We’re dancers in our respective careers. We were taken the same day a year apart. There’s a possibility that we do know him. There’s a motive there. There’s always a motive.”

“I’ve thought about why he took me for a long time Yuuri,” Victor said as he grabbed their bowls and stood up. “If I knew, I doubt I’d still be here.” He moved to the sink and began to wash up their dishes. Yuuri stayed sat down, unable to find the energy to get up and help. He had a lot on his mind. And he could still feel the red eye watching him.

“I hate this,” Yuuri grumbled as if it wasn’t the hundredth time he said it.

And Victor stopped. The bowls clanged together as he dropped them and with wet hands, they gripped the counter tightly. Victor bowed his head, breathing in hard for a moment and keeping his gaze away. Yuuri watched him, concerned. And when Victor took a final deep breath, he muttered, “You don’t know how hard it was.”

Yuuri wasn’t stupid. He wasn’t naïve or selfish – not anymore. He was aware that Victor had it hard before he arrived. He spent a year confined inside a small room, forced to be starved from human interaction and not given any information on the outside world. And it was all for a reason that was still unknown to him. Victor had it hard. Yuuri knew that. But Victor had only ever told him so much.

“Then tell me.”

Victor raised his head and spun. His arms crossed over his chest and Yuuri was met with an intense stare, but he wasn’t one to look away. “I thought I completely lost it when I saw you. I thought you didn’t exist – that you were a figment of my imagination until you slapped my hand away and I realized how real you were.” Yuuri still remembered the day. It was his most vivid memory. But hearing Victor talk about it explained his reaction and Yuuri felt that little less confused. “I don’t know how you got in here. I remember feeling drowsy the night before so I assume the man drugged me. He could have spiked my food or put something in the air. I don’t know. But I remember waking up and you were just there. And I remember being so angry at myself that he did it without me knowing and I just…”

His words fell silent. He pressed his hand to his mouth, looking away as he breathed in a deep breath. Yuuri let him take a moment. What Victor had gone through was a lot – Yuuri knew that – and all he could offer was to let Victor take his time and show comfort when he needed it. He was opening up to Yuuri and he wanted to try and help Victor in any way he needed. He was vulnerable too. He needed support just as much as Yuuri did. And when Victor glanced back, ready to continue, Yuuri stayed silent.

“I’ve been trapped in here by myself for over a year. I’ve been forced into a secluded room and starved of everything I knew and it’s… it’s so hard, Yuuri.” Victor’s voice cracked as tears slipped down his cheeks. He wiped them away and sucked in a breath. “And suddenly I had someone in front of me. I didn’t think it was real. I couldn’t believe that somebody was in this room too. After all that time of being alone, you came out of nowhere and I just… I sometimes think this is a dream. I sometimes think that you don’t exist and one day, I’ll wake up and be alone or forgotten again.”

Yuuri stood to his feet and strode towards Victor. His hands fell to his shoulders, gripping tightly as his eyes gave a firm stare. “That won’t ever happen, Victor. Do you understand?” He knew those words could mean very little to Victor, but as long as he heard them, it had to count towards something. His hands slipped up to Victor’s cheeks, cupping them as his thumb gently wiped away a few stray tears. “And nobody has forgotten you, Victor.”

Victor didn’t say anything. His eyes stayed low as he chewed on his lip and Yuuri let him take his time. But just like that, he changed. His face fell dry as he slapped Yuuri’s hands away, glaring at Yuuri who took a step back. “It’s been a year, Yuuri. Can’t you understand that?” Victor snapped. His brows hung low as he shook his head. “When people go missing for a year, they give up. They stop looking. I’m just a lost cause because if they couldn’t find me this whole year, how do you think they’ll find you?”

“They’ll see the connection between us,” Yuuri replied. He was trying to stay positive – trying . Victor’s words stayed in his mind, replaying like an echo and Yuuri was ignoring it. He couldn’t let it get to him. “If everyone outside can’t find us, then it’s up to us to get ourselves out.”

“I’ve tried, Yuuri,” Victor breathed with no energy left. His shoulders fell and his gaze dropped to the ground. “I’ve tried this entire year to get out. What makes you think you can find an escape that I couldn’t?”

Victor’s message was clear as day. But as much as Yuuri could just give up, he didn’t want to. He couldn’t. If he lost hope then their kidnapper had won. He couldn’t stop fighting because then his hope would be gone and neither would ever escape that room. His hope and determination were the only things keeping him from falling into his own hole of sorrow and grief. Yuuri could easily give up. But he had too many people to return back to. He had a reason to help Victor. And he wasn’t going to give up his fight.

“I’m trying,” Yuuri said. There was nothing else he could say.

Victor’s gaze met Yuuri’s. “I’d give up.”

A heavy silence followed.

Yuuri would have once been mad at Victor. He would want to yell but he learned long ago that it wouldn’t help. And he didn’t have the energy to be mad at Victor anymore. His anger helped nobody – not himself and most definitely not Victor. There was no room for anger - only strength and fight that would one day help them escape. Yuuri didn’t doubt that. Their escape was with each other and with that came their cooperation.

They were in this together. They live together – they escape together.

Yuuri stepped forward. Victor turned his eyes away but Yuuri could see the reluctance to look up. But Yuuri didn’t mind that because he didn’t need Victor to look at him. Victor had felt enough sorrow for too long and as he wrapped his arms around Victor to pull him close, he felt Victor flinch. He didn’t react to the embrace at first, but then he relaxed and his arms circled around Yuuri, tugging their embrace closer as neither thought to pull away.

And when Yuuri heard Victor’s faint sobs escape his lips, he hushed his cries with words of encouragement. It was more than sobbing. It was an aching cry that came from someone drained of all hope. It was hard for Yuuri to hold onto his own hope but he was going to try, not just for himself but for Victor too. Victor had felt too much misery. He had been through enough and Yuuri was going to do something about it.

Victor was beginning to open up to Yuuri. And that was only the beginning.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Victor’s words replayed in Yuuri’s mind. It was the way he told Yuuri to just give up – that if he couldn’t escape, how could Yuuri? – that made Yuuri shake his head and deny every word. But after what might have been a few days or weeks, he began to wonder perhaps Victor was right.

His ideas were stale and his plans were weak. Yuuri knew that. He was still waking up in that same room every morning, stuck behind the same bolted door, feeling the same dread day after day the longer he continued without an idea to escape. He wished he could run away from that life but he couldn’t. He could feel invisible chains keeping him stuck. A locked door stood in his way. And a man who had every intention of keeping them confined within those four plain walls held little mercy for them. All Yuuri wanted was an idea but his options were limited.

But although Yuuri didn’t have ideas, he still made sure he looked. Every morning, he’d let his eyes roam around the room, hoping to catch something he might have missed or find an idea that could help him break them out of there. And with every day, he was able to narrow down the possibilities.

The door was out of the question. He gave up on it long ago. With no handle, he couldn’t even call it a door. It was just another wall to him – another problem he couldn’t solve. He couldn’t budge it. He pushed it and tried prying it open with the hope that one day, he might make it, but the door didn’t move an inch. And Yuuri almost gave up looking completely when he gave up on the door but he still had two more ideas in mind.

He was left with the walls and the window – Another problem he couldn’t solve.

He didn’t know what to think with the walls. He did nothing but stare at them, looking at the paint that started to chip off as time passed – or peeled off by Victor when he was alone, just to pass the time as he slowly lost hope as the days went on. Yuuri had run his hands over every inch of the wall, knocked on the surface, and prayed he could find a weak spot to strike at. He found nothing weak and their kidnapper had done well. The walls were strong. They were thick, their focus to keep their voices silent and incapable of breaking out.

It didn’t take Yuuri long to realize the walls were a waste of his time too. And it left him with the window. It was weaker than the walls and doors but also his only connection to the outside world. Without it, the room would feel more like a tomb than a prison that kept them trapped. But it was just as difficult to escape from. The rectangular window was small and high up, Yuuri couldn’t reach it. He pulled up a chair and tried reaching for it but his fingers only grazed the window ledge. But Yuuri didn’t let that stop him. He had hope that perhaps the window was their easiest escape route. And he had an idea.

“So, Victor,” Yuuri said one morning while Victor was doing his exercises. Victor paused mid sit-up and glanced towards Yuuri. He had an idea. If Victor once had enough hope to try and escape, he would know more about the window Yuuri was staring at. “You said before that you’ve tried to escape.”

“Yes, I did,” He heard Victor say. Yuuri hummed and turned to Victor, who moved to sit crossed-legged. His brows were knitted in a frown as his head cocked to one side. “Why do you ask?”

Yuuri glanced from the window to Victor. “Had you ever tried the window?”

“Yes.”

The feeling that tugged in Yuuri’s gut left him with more questions than he bargained for. He expected it. He knew the outcome of Victor’s attempts but knowing Victor knew more about the window than Yuuri currently did gave him the energy to ask.

“I know it didn’t work out, but I have to ask…” He paused for a moment and let his eyes turn towards the window. It wasn’t like his windows at home where he’d watch the silhouettes of seagulls fly across the pale blue sky. It was cold and silent – lifeless. It made him miss home. “Why did it not work?”

Victor exhaled a deep breath before pushing himself to his feet. He joined Yuuri on the bed, propping an elbow on his knee and thought to himself. “At first it was hard to reach. I had to pile books on a chair just so I could see outside,” He began. “Then I found that it was locked. But even if we did open it, there’s a chain keeping it closed too.”

Yuuri’s brows dropped. “Can’t we just break the glass?”

But Victor shook his head. “I can tell you something now, Yuuri. Escaping from that window is just as hard as the door. It’s a useless attempt.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m certain the glass is bulletproof.”

Yuuri pulled a face and looked at the window. He should have guessed it wouldn’t be as easy as smashing the glass. Their kidnapper made certain their escape wouldn’t be easy but it didn’t mean it was impossible. Yuuri got in there somehow. If there was a way in, there was always a way out. But as Yuuri turned to the door, he wondered perhaps the door was their only means of escape after all. He sighed heavily and shook his head. It wasn’t easy.

He believed Victor when he said the glass was impossible to break but he wondered how impossible it was to break the locks. They could be weak and Yuuri wouldn’t know. He needed to know its limitations. He wanted to find a way to pick or break the locks open. But as he stared up at the small rectangular window, he couldn’t be certain if he could fit through it. But then he had an idea. If they saved up some butter overtime, he could slather himself in it so when it does open, he could slip through it. But he wouldn’t know unless he tried. It was all theory at the moment, but theories were better than no ideas.

He had to look for himself. And as he stood to his feet, he stared with curious eyes. “Victor!” Yuuri gasped as he spun, an idea suddenly came to mind. If he wanted to get a good look, Victor would have to help him. “Can you lift me up so I can get a better look?”

Victor neither spoke or moved at first. But then his brows dropped and his head shook. “I told you. It’s a useless attempt, Yuuri.”

Yuuri was about to say, ‘I know’ but caught his words before he did. He wasn’t prepared to agree with Victor that one potential escape could be useless. Yuuri was determined to try and give it a go.  Then he wondered if he was beginning to lose hope in escaping too. He was low on ideas but he didn’t feel like he was losing hope. He was just as determined and ready as ever. He wasn’t going to give up – not yet.

“I just want to have a look myself,” Yuuri said and when Victor didn’t shift, he sighed. “I just want to know it’s limitations and – and I wouldn’t mind being able to see the outside world again. It would be nice seeing something other than these four walls.”

Victor still didn’t move. He held his stare and when Yuuri opened his mouth to speak again, it fell shut as Victor moved. He moved to his knees beside the bed and Yuuri watched him, curious what he had planned. He gestured Yuuri to come over and said, “Get on the bed and sit on my shoulders.”

He smiled and jumped on the bed. With Victor helping him, he would get an even better view. He stood behind Victor but before he thought of moving, he glanced at the camera. He saw no red light shining, watching them stay trapped in that room. It was turned off – what Yuuri wished it would always be. But it was confirmed to be off and Yuuri was prepared to move. His legs went over Victor’s shoulders and he felt Victor’s hands holding them, helping him keep balance as he sat somewhat comfortably.

“Are you ready?” Victor then asked and Yuuri took a deep breath. He was as ready as ever.

“Yes.”

And Victor moved.

The world around him moved and Yuuri’s heart leaped to his throat. His arms flailed and circled around the first thing he found. He held on tight, desperate to keep his balance that when Victor chuckled and his shoulders shook, Yuuri was quick to decide he wasn’t going to let go. He didn’t dare to. “Yuuri,” He heard Victor say beneath him but Yuuri didn’t look. He’d fall if he looked down. “If you’d like to move your hands, I’d be able to see where I’m going.”

“But I’ll fall,” Yuuri argued, shaking his head. If he let go, he’d fall backward and break or bruise his back. And when Victor gave another light laugh, Yuuri didn’t see what was so funny.

“It’s okay,” Victor spoke softly. “I’ve got you.” When Yuuri felt warm soft hands circle around his own, holding them in a tight grasp, he didn’t let go. His hands were moved away from Victor’s head but to his side instead. His heart raced for reasons other than fear.

Yuuri trusted Victor had him and fear no longer settled in his heart, but a warm feeling that embraced him surrounded his chest instead. He found the courage to look down as he focused on the warm feeling. Victor moved towards the window. They came near the wall and Yuuri grabbed hold of the window ledge, holding it tightly as he turned to the window. But when he looked up, he inhaled a sharp breath and his mouth hung agape. For the first time since he arrived, he was staring at the outside world.

His heart longed to be beyond that window. His freedom seemed so far away and yet, it was on the other side of the glass. Victor was right when he said they were in the middle of nowhere. Beyond the line of trees that littered the scenery beyond their confinement, he saw no homes, cities, or life outside the glass pane. He only saw a forest that hid them away, and the sun that shined brightly, casting an everlasting hue of oranges and pinks as it was rising along the horizon.

But when Yuuri caught sight of the ground, his brows dropped. “We’re in a basement?” He said aloud and he felt Victor nod his head. He hadn’t even realized. He thought he was in a room above ground, or even a few floors high. His perspective on the room suddenly shifted and his head went hazy. He forced himself to focus again. The ground was close to the window – so close that if Yuuri could get it open, he’d be able to touch the floor.

As much as he wanted to watch the outside world for a little while longer, he was at that window for a reason. His eyes focused on the glass. He knew Victor said it was hard to break but Yuuri wondered how long ago that was and if the glass was still the same quality. It could be easily breakable now and Yuuri wouldn’t know unless he tried. He had to test it. He pressed his hands against the cold glass, feeling the icy surface beneath his fingertips as he pushed against it. He hoped he could push it enough to budge it but the glass didn’t shift. Yuuri huffed and with a sudden fit of frustration, he hit his fist against the window. It didn’t break – as expected.

“I told you. It’s bulletproof,” Victor spoke but Yuuri chose to ignore him. He turned back to the window, prodding each corner of the panel and wondering if it would come loose at all. It was fixed tight. The glass was thick and near-impossible for them to escape out of.

But then Yuuri’s eyes fell onto something else and he stopped. He strained to see what it was. He peered higher and realized it was a metal chain. It was attached to the window and the wall, and keeping it locked together was a heavy metal padlock. He tried opening the window but it remained shut and locked. His brows dropped. He wondered why the man would chain the window closed if it was already locked.

“Hey, Victor?” Yuuri said as he tried jiggling the handle on the window. Perhaps it was jammed? “Does the window open at all?”

“Oh, fuck!” Victor suddenly gasped. He tensed and Yuuri nearly fell back, barely catching himself when Victor was moving fast. He strode away from the window and Yuuri held his shoulders tightly, careful not to let go and fall. Victor then crouched and Yuuri was ready to protest. He wasn’t finished looking yet. But Victor shook his head and Yuuri’s heart began to race. “He’s watching us, Yuuri. Get off!”

And that was the moment the little red light in the corner of his eye caught his attention. His heart thumped and he jumped from Victor’s shoulders, moving away to get some space. His head spun from the window, the camera, and to Victor, all on repeat. He had to do something to stop the man from punishing them. He couldn’t let himself and Victor go another day without a drink of water and in a sudden move, he strode towards the sink. His shaky hands grasped for the tap and as water came rushing out, relief swept over him. He then plugged the sink, letting it fill before spinning the tap off and finally letting himself breathe.

A hand landed on his arm and Yuuri jumped. He spun and was met with Victor’s eyes. “What are you doing?” He asked, glancing from the water and Yuuri with a raised brow.

The silence that followed left a feeling of dread and Yuuri turned back to the sink. His hands grasped the counter as he sighed heavily to himself. “If he turns off the water, at least we’ll still have something to drink.”

But Victor shook his head. “He doesn’t – he won’t like that.” And suddenly, vulnerability struck him like a knife. He chewed his lip. He had to let Victor do what he needed to do and watched as Victor reached forward and sunk his hand into the water, pulling the plug and letting the water drain. Yuuri watched it disappear. He then glanced at Victor who was already looking at him. “I’ve tried that before. He just – he keeps it off for longer.”

Yuuri nodded mutely. He didn’t have the energy to say anything anymore. He turned and moved to sit on the bed, pressing his back against the wall as he exhaled a deep breath. For now, he had to wait. He had to wait if he had yet again made his and Victor’s life harder. A punishment was on their way. And as Yuuri brought his knees up, he curled into a ball. He was powerless to stop it.

Even when Victor’s arms went around him, it didn’t help. But where Yuuri would have turned away, he took pleasure in the comfort Victor was giving him and circled his arms around Victor. The embrace was what he needed – even if it didn’t stop their kidnapper from hurting them in some way, it was enough to ease him.

For now.

 


 

 

They waited. But nothing had happened.

It was strange. They waited with anxiety gnawing the back of their mind, reminding them of their fears and making them read too far into things. Yuuri came up with a million reasons why their kidnapper was waiting to punish them but not once did he wonder if their kidnapper just hadn’t seen them. He couldn’t imagine that was an option. And so, they waited, wondering what they would be forced to live without for a while. It could be light, water, heat, anything to make their lives harder.

And so, they waited, fearing the unknown.

Victor began to pace at some point in the day. He moved up and down, eyes down to the ground as he chewed on his nails. He was just as anxious as Yuuri was. But Yuuri was different. He didn’t dare move from his spot on the bed. He feared moving a muscle would trigger anger out of their kidnapper and while nothing was going wrong, he wasn’t going to move. He let his breathing be rapid, coming out in shallow breaths because while he was like that, he wasn’t able to move.

“This isn’t right,” Victor muttered to himself, shaking his head as he continued to pace. Yuuri didn’t look up but he listened. “He should have done something by now. We were caught at the window. It looked like we were trying to escape. He wouldn’t let something like that go.”

Yuuri went against every thought in his head that told him to stay still as he looked up. Victor was now in front of him with his hands on his hips and his brows hung low. Yuuri saw nothing but fear in Victor’s eyes but he could say nothing to help him feel better. His own were just as frightened. And in the corner of his sight, he could still see the red light shining – watching.

“He’s still watching us,” Yuuri said. He didn’t understand it either, nor why the man was continuing to watch them. He didn’t know what was ahead of them or what could be done to them and he didn’t know which terrified him the most.

Victor turned then in a split second, he spun back. He squeezed his eyes shut and crossed his arms, shaking his head as he said, “I don’t understand this.” His eyes then opened and they met with Yuuri’s. “He’s never done anything like this. If I got caught even looking at that camera for too long, I’d go a day without water and yet, we looked like we’re trying to escape and he does nothing? It isn’t right.”

Yuuri knew this wasn’t right. And it only led him to believe that their punishment would be worse than no heat or water. He wondered if the man would refuse them food for a few days longer. The man could finally make an appearance only to hurt them. He could move one to a new location while leaving the other there, both alone and forgotten. The man could do anything to them – anything he wanted.

And yet, he did nothing, which only struck an even worse fear in their hearts.

The day went by with no incident and the tense atmosphere did nothing to help Yuuri’s growing anxiety. He didn’t have the appetite to eat, but neither minded that because they’d be able to save up a little extra food. And neither had the energy to speak either. They stayed silent, sitting around as they waited for something – anything – to happen. And the longer the man did nothing, the more Yuuri’s nerves tugged and pulled inside his gut.

And when the sun set and night fell through the room, the camera still watched them. It wasn’t until they both decided they should try and sleep off their fear that they noticed the camera was finally turned off. They didn’t notice when it turned off but neither complained about that, finally enjoying their privacy once again. But it was hard for them to enjoy anything with the fearful wait. And even more so trying to sleep. Yuuri eyed the camera through the darkness, just waiting for the little red light to blink awake and continue to watch them, but even as dawn came, the light didn’t switch back on. It only had them more anxious for the day to come.

The camera didn’t turn back on during the new day, which was both a relief and fear. Yuuri was pleased for their privacy to be returned but knowing that could be their kidnapper planning their punishment had Yuuri on the edge of his seat the entire the day, nervously waiting for anything to happen. And still, they waited.

It wasn’t until Yuuri decided to take a shower that something eventually did happen. He wanted to take advantage of the water while they still had it and had a shower to clean and freshen himself up. When he dried and dressed and left the bathroom, it was then he knew something had happened. Victor said nothing but that was what gave it away. Victor was stood frozen. He stared at the metal hatch on the wall, silent, and as Yuuri glanced towards it, his stomach tugged uneasily.

“What happened?” He asked. If they had received a delivery, Yuuri knew it wouldn’t be food. They still had too much left over and it was too early in the week to receive a delivery. Whatever was inside it had Victor struck with terror.

But then Victor slowly stepped forward. He moved onto the bed and sat in front of the hatch, but didn’t make a move to open it just yet. He turned and glanced behind. His eyes didn’t meet Yuuri’s at first, but he glanced above Yuuri then at him. “He’s watching us,” Victor muttered and Yuuri breathed shakily. “I just got a delivery. I think whatever is inside here is our punishment.”

He chewed on his lip and shifted on his feet. Whatever was ahead of them, Yuuri reminded himself to look on the lighter side – the positives – because it was all he could do to ease the ache and fear that jabbed his heart. And Yuuri watched as Victor’s shaky hand reached for the hatch. He took a deep breath, preparing himself and Yuuri held his own as Victor paused before pulling the door open.

Yuuri saw nothing inside at first. It was when he peered over Victor’s shoulder that he saw what was inside and his brows dropped. “Is that a new movie?” He asked, wondering why a disk sat inside rather than some form of their punishment. He expected something much worse. But then his mind quickly found reasons why this could be their punishment, and his heart was on edge.

“I… I don’t know,” Victor said as he picked up the disk. Yuuri didn’t think much of it. He thought it was a stupid thing to scare them with but it wasn’t until he saw the words watch me written on it that he realized it wasn’t stupid, but he was. It was ominous and scary and Yuuri’s heart raced when Victor asked, “Shall we watch it?”

Yuuri didn’t want to. He wanted to pretend that it didn’t exist – that it wasn’t a form of their punishment but he couldn’t escape reality. He had to face it. As much as he wanted to act like it wasn’t there, he couldn’t. His only options were to watch it and face their punishment head-on, or ignore it and risk making everything much harder than it could be. And as much as Yuuri wanted to ignore it, he couldn’t make Victor’s life in that room any harder than it already had been.

Yuuri took the disk from Victor’s hands and with a heavy heart, he played it on the TV. He sat back, moving to be beside Victor as they waited for something to happen. It was just a black screen. Yuuri wasn’t aware of the moment Victor took Yuuri’s hand in his own, but Yuuri wasn’t ready to pull away. He squeezed tighter, waiting fearfully for something to happen – then suddenly, a clip began to play.

It was a news report. He knew that much. But the language they spoke was foreign to him, unknown as all he knew was Japanese and English. The man on screen continued to speak and regardless of Yuuri not understanding him, he paid close attention. Their kidnapper sent it to them for a reason and although Yuuri dreaded the reason why, he was going to listen. Whether this was their punishment or not, he was going to try and understand. It was their first welcome to the outside world. He didn’t want to miss a thing.

When a picture of Victor appeared on screen, followed by a clip of him skating, Yuuri’s heart raced from the dread that shivered down his spine. His breathing stopped completely. He could only stare until his mind asked himself how Victor was, and he turned. But Victor stared too – cold and emotionless. His eyes were empty, vacant of the life Yuuri so desperately wanted to see. And Yuuri gently pressed his hand on Victor’s arm, reminding Victor that he was there and he wouldn’t go away. Victor tensed beneath his touch but Yuuri still held on as he turned back to the TV.

When the news report ended, Yuuri didn’t let go. The screen turned black and he turned to Victor. His lips were pressed into a thin line, his hands clenched tightly in a fist, and Yuuri didn’t know what was the right move to make. His touch could only do so much. But he had to try something.

“What did they say?” He asked, but the question was forgotten when a language too familiar played in his ears. He turned and on screen was another news report, only in the language he knew. His hands trembled.

He could hear them talking about him but it came in phases. He couldn’t focus. Only his name and the words of his kidnapping went through his ear. They said he was missing. They said he had been gone since December 25th. They said he had a recital in the states where he had the lead role. It was everything Yuuri knew, only he didn’t know if there was a search happening. He didn’t know if they were looking for him. And he waited, praying to hear the words so his hope could strengthen.

Then everything came to a stop when he saw his families face on the screen, and a cry so raw fell from his lips. Tears stained their cheeks too. It hurt Yuuri to see them like this. They missed him too. And Yuuri’s heart tugged so painfully that he couldn’t contain it. He let out his cries shamelessly, breaking forth with force and he couldn’t stop them. He crawled forward, closer to the TV. He had to be near them. He had to see their faces and remember them. He couldn’t stand to see them crying and begging for his return because Yuuri never wanted them to go through that kind of pain. He never wanted to hurt them. And as Yuuri’s fingertips touched the television screen, he forced his eyes to stay open and watch. When the screen turned black and the recording ended, his eyes remained open – unblinking.

It hurt him to see them like that, he couldn’t stand the thought of knowing how much pain they were going through themselves. His heart felt broken. It hurt to breathe and think, and even the sobs that tore through his body tugged his stomach and made his chest ache uncomfortably. It hurt too much and he couldn’t stand it. He never doubted his family missed him but watching it was so much different. It made it all too real. And he wished for so much – to tell them how he was and that he was okay – but there was nothing he could do. He was powerless. And as everything around Yuuri’s crying fell silent, he was aware of Victor’s hand rubbing his back, attempting to sooth his tears the best he could. It hardly helped, but the thought was appreciated.

“What-?” Yuuri tried speaking but his voice broke and quivered. He breathed in a shaky breath then cleared his throat, trying to ease the tears that still fell down his cheeks before trying again. “What did they say about you?”

“They said there isn’t enough evidence to find me,” Victor answered. His voice sounded weak and frail and as Yuuri turned to Victor, he looked it too. His legs were pulled to his chest, his arms wrapped around them defensively. And then Victor sighed heavily. “They said they would try but they fear from the lack of evidence, they might not find me.”

Yuuri knew how famous Victor is outside of that room. He knows Victor’s a living legend in his career – an athlete to be remembered in history. If they were going to stop their search for Victor, Yuuri saw no hope in himself being found too. He was no rarity. His talent was to be forgotten – like an outcast. They wouldn’t put in the time and effort like they would with Victor’s search and as Yuuri wiped away his tears, he wondered what was the point.

There was hope before. He just didn’t know how long he could keep it.

“What – what did they say about you?” Victor asked and Yuuri glanced up. Victor had moved forward, closer to Yuuri but he kept their distance. “And that was your family, wasn’t it?”

The reminder of his family sent a crushing wave of sorrow through him. He blinked his tears back. “It was just about my kidnapping at first,” He began. It wasn’t the same as Victor’s. They didn’t mention any search or evidence they had to find him. It was like he went missing and his family was the ones begging for somebody to do something. “And then my family asking for me back, praying that I’m alright and… alive.”

“And they said nothing about not being able to find you?” Victor asked and Yuuri thought back. They said nothing about his search. He shook his head and to Yuuri’s surprise, Victor smiled. “That’s good. That’s – yeah, that’s good. It means they’re looking for you. If they’re trying to find you, they’ll find me too.”

Yuuri had to pity Victor. “They’re not looking for me, Victor,” He said, shaking his head. Victor’s smile dropped and his mouth hung open, hesitating to reply back but Yuuri didn’t want him to. There was nothing for him to say. “They said nothing. And I’m nothing special so they won’t worry so much about my search. Why would they waste time searching for someone like me?”

Victor’s hands swiftly landed on Yuuri’s shoulders – strong and stern. Yuuri stared bug-eyed into Victor’s blues. And for the first time, Yuuri saw something in his eyes, an unreadable expression Victor had never shown to Yuuri before, but whatever it was had Yuuri wonder perhaps he was letting his emotions take control of his words.

“You always tell me to look on the positive side of things and yet, you cannot do that yourself? Don’t be a hypocrite, Yuuri,” Victor began and Yuuri stayed silent. There was nothing for him to say – nothing he could do to contribute or argue back. Victor was right. It was hypocritical of him. “If you’ve lost hope, I hope you find it soon because I see this as a new step for us. Think about it for me and tell me when you have a less ridiculous answer.”

When Victor’s hands fell to grip his arms instead, Yuuri couldn’t help but smile weakly. “You see hope in me.”

“I look up to you. You’re determined and strong. I aspire to be like you,” Victor answered and a sudden warmth spread through Yuuri’s chest. It didn’t ease the emotional pain but it sure made him feel that little bit better. “So please, don’t disappoint me.”

Yuuri stroked his long silver hair back. “I’ll try, Victor,” He promised.

When Victor’s arms went around Yuuri, he didn’t hesitate to fall into the embrace and sink into Victor’s warmth. They hugged before, but never like this. There was something so warm, something so right being in Victor’s arms. The hug was a simple gesture – affectionate, warm, and perhaps the beginnings of love – but the feeling of his body so close soothed Yuuri and he never wanted that moment to end.

“I hope so,” Victor whispered in his ear. “Don’t give up now, Yuuri.”

 

Chapter Text

 

There was something about Victor being disappointed that made Yuuri want to prove him otherwise. He wanted to prove to Victor that he had a reason not to be – that he could make it up to him. Yuuri never wanted to disappoint Victor, but as he thought back to the events of that day, Yuuri realized he disappointed himself too.

He was in bed, hours after watching that tape that changed so much for him, and thought to himself. His mind was buzzing and he couldn’t sleep. His family’s crying faces still pained his chest and all he wanted to do was find a way to let them know he was alright. He missed them so much. Seeing them again brought back a pain he hadn’t felt since he arrived here. But his family wasn’t the only thing on his mind. Victor’s words replayed too. His disappointment in Yuuri for being so hypocritical – to claim positivity when he couldn’t feel it himself – had Yuuri want nothing more than to yell at himself. He should have known better. He shouldn’t have let the man’s punishment twist his mind like that, but he couldn’t help it. He struggled to see any light through the darkness that plagued him.

Yuuri knew he was slipping. His hope was hard to grasp when his anxious mind convinced him the worst. The clip alone was enough to persuade Yuuri that nobody was looking for him. It mentioned nothing of his search – no police involved, evidence, nothing – but only his family begging for his return and Yuuri saw that as their final attempts to bring him home. If his family was asking for his return, who was searching for him? And while he knew he was being irrational, he constantly questioned himself, coming to stupid conclusions that had no logic to its conclusion. He’s making himself fall back into hopelessness. And by the time the moon was high in the sky, Yuuri had given up on sleep and he was fed up.

While Victor slept curled up on his lap, Yuuri sat down with himself, scolding himself for being so stupid. The man had sent those tapes for a reason. Yuuri knew that. But the reason was what Yuuri struggled to understand. It wasn’t to show them a little information on the outside world. He didn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart. It was used to hurt them. It was their punishment. And the more Yuuri thought about it, the more he wondered what the man's intention was. What did he want them to feel and in what way was it supposed to hurt them?

He watched the video again. It hurt just as much as the first time but he knew what to expect. He could prepare himself. He couldn’t watch his own – not yet – so he watched Victor’s first instead. It was all in Russian. It didn’t matter how many times he replayed it, he wouldn’t understand it. He went by Victor’s words on that they said. Victor told him they claimed there was a lack of evidence to find him and said they might not be able to find him. It was Victor’s worst nightmare. And when Yuuri watched the clip for the fifth time, he wondered how long ago it had been filmed.

He eventually convinced himself to watch his own. He had been avoiding it but he knew he couldn’t do that forever. He gradually gathered enough courage to watch past Victor’s clip, and watch his own with his teeth biting his lip and his hands grasping the bed sheets. It took him a couple of tries to concentrate but when he finally did, he was able to compare the two. Unlike Victor’s, his said nothing of his own search. Victor’s mentioned evidence, Yuuri’s showed his family. And Yuuri wondered if the man wanted them to see those specific clips. The video had been edited. The man had wanted them to see it for a reason and the reason was not light-hearted. When the sun began to rise, Yuuri finally came to an answer.

It was used to manipulate them.

Yuuri couldn’t believe he didn’t see it until now. It was obvious – so glaringly obvious that when Yuuri caught the red light of the camera watching them before Victor had even woken up, it only confirmed his discovery. The man used those clips to purposefully sway their thoughts and fear future punishments. It was used to make them feel powerless, so that the man could control them without even uttering a word. His silence was deadly and he was turning their own thoughts against them. It was what the man had wanted.

But no more was Yuuri going to fall for that. He refused to fall under the man’s control. He was under only one influence and that was himself. He swore justice. He swore revenge against the man willing to hurt them. And as Yuuri glanced down at Victor’s sleeping form, he hated to know what kind of hell that man had put Victor through before he arrived.

Yuuri watched Victor as he slept. There was something so peaceful about the way he slept that the world fell to peace too as everything fell still. His eyelids stayed closed against the dim light of dawn. His breathing was deep and relaxed. And his muscles were at ease, as was the rise and fall of his chest. Yuuri couldn’t understand how anyone would want to hurt Victor. He couldn’t comprehend why they’d want to see him go through pain rather than see the kind, heart-shaped smile he'd bared in his happiest moments. Yuuri gently tucked Victor’s hair behind his ear and reminded himself that it was okay. Victor wasn’t alone in this anymore.

When Victor murmured and shifted, Yuuri’s hand tore away as his heart pounded. Victor lazily raised his head, staring up at Yuuri through heavy-lidded eyes and Yuuri mentally scolded himself for waking Victor up. “…Yuuri?” He murmured through his thick accent. He looked towards the TV, squinting his eyes at the bright light and turned back to Yuuri. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” Yuuri shook his head. He weaved his fingers through Victor’s hair before freezing. He hadn’t meant to do that but seeing the relaxed smile on Victor’s lips encouraged him to continue. “Just go back to sleep. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

But Victor didn’t settle down. He curled his hand around Yuuri’s and gently pulled it away. Yuuri went to protest as Victor sat up but chose to say nothing. Victor was awake now. Yuuri watched him as he stretched and yawned loudly before he turned his eyes back to the TV. It was paused on Yuuri’s family and Victor shook his head.

“It’s not good for you to torture yourself like this,” Victor muttered as he rubbed his eyes. He looked back at Yuuri and Yuuri didn’t know what to say. He knew it didn’t look good. “I know you miss your family but don’t do this to yourself, Yuuri.”

“I’m not,” Yuuri defended with a shake of his head. Yuuri could see in Victor’s eyes that he didn’t believe him. They held disbelief. “I – I thought about what you said yesterday, when you told me to look for my hope. I think I found it, and you’re right when you say this is a new step for us.”

When Victor’s eyes widened, Yuuri knew he believed him. “You do?”

“I see it now. He’s playing a game,” Yuuri began and Victor’s curiosity peaked. He moved closer, their bare legs gently touched under the sheets and Yuuri forced himself to ignore it. But he couldn’t ignore how warm Victor felt. He was close – too close – but Yuuri didn’t feel the need to complain. He cleared his throat to distract himself and continued. “He used this to manipulate us. It makes sense. I couldn’t stop wondering why he chose to send us this instead of cutting off the water like he usually does and I asked myself the reason behind it.”

“It was to punish us,” Victor answered.

“Yes, but in what way?” Victor’s silence said it all and Yuuri inhaled a deep breath. “His punishments are usually just punishments. This was something else. It was used to hurt us and trick us.”

Victor swallowed hard. “So, do you think they might have more evidence after all?”

“I don’t know,” Yuuri answered honestly. He wanted to say yes but he didn’t know and while he didn’t, he wasn’t prepared to lie to Victor just to make him feel better. “All I know is that it was used to trick us. It was supposed to make you feel like you have no hope of being found, and make me begin to lose my own. And to think, I nearly let him win…”

When a warm hand weaved between his fingers, he didn’t need to look to know it was Victor. And Yuuri didn’t hesitate to hold back. He took comfort in it. “But you didn’t,” Victor said, his voice stern but soft. Yuuri smiled softly at Victor’s words and looked up. “You saw past his manipulation. You didn’t let him get to you and you should be proud of that.”

And Yuuri was. It was the only strength he had left in that room – the only way he could fight against the man who was trying so hard to fight back. The man could throw anything at them, Yuuri knew it would only make them stronger. It would make him more determined to escape. He was going to come out on top with Victor by his side, hand in hand, and a victorious stride against the man who held them captive. Yuuri refused to let him win, and he hoped Victor would soon feel the same.

“I won’t ever let him win, Victor,” Yuuri stated firmly. He gripped Victor’s hand harder, broadcasting his fight without saying a word. “I know he’s watching us right now, but I don’t care. He isn’t going to stop me from finding a way out of here. He isn’t going to make me lose my hope.” His free hand reached for Victor’s cheek, gently cupping it. “And he will not turn me away from you.”

Victor moved in with Yuuri’s touch, smiling softly as his eyes gleamed. His eyes held the stars and his lips were like soft petals. He wished he could see Victor smile more often. He admired everything about Victor from the way his disheveled hair splayed over his face in the morning to the soft Russian accent in his voice. He could hang onto every word Victor had to say and never grow tired of hearing him speak.

“Yuuri, there’s something I want to show you,” Victor’s voice filled the silence and Yuuri focused on his lips. They were so soft and pink. He couldn’t help but stare. “It’s important to me and I want to share it with you.”

“It would be an honor,” Yuuri said. His lips stretched into a grin and his heart warmed at Victor’s words. Victor trusted him enough to share something important to him and Yuuri couldn’t help but smile. He wondered what Victor had to show him and watched as Victor moved from the bed and towards the bookshelf. His curiosity peaked.

Victor moved aside a few books before he pulled out one that was different from the rest. Victor walked over and threw the sheets back. He made himself comfortable beside Yuuri before throwing the sheets over his lap and held up the spiral bound notebook in hand. Yuuri eyed it, wondering why the book was important to Victor.

“This is my journal,” He began. His fingers played with the corners as Yuuri stared down at the book, silently wondering if he was going to receive permission to look inside. “When I woke up in here, the man let me ask if I wanted something. He suggested a coloring book or an old magazine to read, but I asked for a journal instead.”

“Why a journal?” Yuuri asked as Victor passed it to him. It sat heavy in his palms. It was a rather large book with many pages, but what sat inside was an even heavier story. He hesitated to open it, unsure if he was allowed to intrude just yet. He kept it closed.

“So I could write everything that’s happening to me.”

Yuuri’s heart stopped and his mind froze, unable to find the right words to speak. He didn’t know what to say. He stared down at the book. It had everything that had happened to Victor before he arrived. It told the story Yuuri knew so little about and his heart raced with anticipation. He was willing to share that story with Yuuri and let him know what he had gone through before his own arrival. It meant a lot to Yuuri that Victor trusted him that much, but he couldn’t help but wonder more about the book.

“Why did you start writing it?” He asked as he turned to Victor. He handed the book back and Victor took it. He flipped through the pages. Yuuri tried keeping his eyes away but the eagerness to read had him glance down. He could see the words written inside but he didn’t read any. However, he did notice that it was all written in English. Yuuri expected it to be in Russian.

“I had a few reasons,” Victor began and breathed in a deep breath. He stopped on a page but Yuuri didn’t read it. “At first, it was so people knew my story when I was found. I want people to know my story and know what I had gone through. This situation, it’s… not something people get subjected to so I thought if I could write what happened to me, maybe it could help those people who went through the same as me – as us?”

“Help other people who were held captive?” Yuuri confirmed and Victor nodded. Yuuri gave a small smile. “I think it could. They could look up to you if you did that.”

“Exactly. I can help those people in some way,” Victor said, nodding to himself. Yuuri thought it was courageous of him to share his story. And not for his own sake, but to help other people too. “But after a while, it started to feel less… hopeful. And I started to write it for my loved ones.”

“Your loved ones?”

“If I’m ever found, I want them to know what happened to me.” Yuuri swallowed hard and stayed silent. He had so many questions but it wasn’t time to ask them. He let Victor speak. “If I’m not able to talk about it or if I’m not found… alive, if they do find me, at least they’d be able to know what happened. And I can still help people even if my voice is gone.” Victor then paused to take a deep breath. Yuuri fought the urge to reach for his hand, taking it in his own and never letting go. “I-I mostly want my coach to know. I knew out of everyone, he’d be the first to know.”

“But you’re telling me now, aren’t you?” He had to ask. If Victor wanted to show this to his loved ones, he didn’t know why Victor was showing him. But then his chest skipped a beat when he wondered if Victor considered him a ‘loved one’. It made him giddy and excited. He bit back his smile.

“I am,” Victor agreed and Yuuri couldn’t hold back his grin any longer. “But I want you to do the same thing.”

And then it dropped. Yuuri didn’t blink for ten seconds – at least. “…What?”

“I want you to write in this journal with me,” Victor said as he put the book in Yuuri’s hand. It was open to a page but Yuuri didn’t look down. He couldn’t. His eyes were on Victor and he couldn’t look away – not even for a second. Victor smiled sheepishly when he noticed Yuuri’s stare, but he didn’t turn away either. “You have a story too. You belong in this book with me. Tell your story and let the world know what you’re going through too. Show them how strong you are.”

Yuuri didn’t know what to say. He did have a story but his own was nothing compared to Victor’s. If he wrote in the book, he’d ruin it with his own story that nobody would want to hear. But while Yuuri thought of a hundred reasons not to write in the book, Victor was right. His story was just as important. Victor trusted him enough to share it and Yuuri decided to write. He wanted to let people know that he didn’t become a victim in this. He wanted them to know how determined he was to escape, and how hard he was trying to help Victor find that strength too.

“I will,” Yuuri said, nodding as he finally looked down at the open page. His eyes didn’t focus on the words but he did notice a few doodles of flowers and sparkles in the corner of the page. He then looked up. “Does that mean I can read some of it?”

Victor chewed his lip as he nodded. “Like I said, I want people to know my story.”

Yuuri took it as a confirmation. He looked down, reading a couple of pages that didn’t reassure Yuuri that Victor did okay when he was alone. Victor poured everything into the notebook, expressing feelings he had never told Yuuri before. His words bounced off the page and hit Yuuri with a force that pained his chest and stung his eyes with tears. He could only read a few more pages before he had to stop. It hurt to read it, but he was going to continue some other time. It was like his own video clip – he had to be prepared.

He went to close the book but paused in his tracks. His eyes fell on a word that looked like code. It didn’t make sense. It was out of place compared to the words around it and stood out on the page. His brows dropped. “Victor?” Yuuri asked. Victor moved beside him and Yuuri didn’t look up when he felt Victor’s breath tickle his ear. He was close and Yuuri’s heart warmed and tugged. He cleared his throat and tried to ignore it. “Uh – what does SFCC mean?”

“Oh… Yeah.” Victor mumbled and Yuuri looked up. Victor’s eyes were low and his head bowed, unable to meet Yuuri’s stare. He scratched his neck. “Uh… It was really hard back then. It was possibly my sixth month in here when I started to… I – I didn’t do too well in the silence. It was completely silent all the time and I couldn’t stand it and after a while I just…” He trailed off, squeezing his eyes shut as his hand ran over his face.

Yuuri hesitated but he asked, “What happened?”

Victor took a deep breath. “I couldn’t handle it,” He breathed and dropped his hand. He turned, finally meeting Yuuri’s stare. “I started having these screaming fits that I couldn’t control. I would just… scream. I’d scream and I couldn’t stop.”

Yuuri recalled a few times he heard Victor scream, and each was when he had a nightmare. No matter what Yuuri did, it didn’t stop his screams and with a heavy heart, Yuuri commented, “You do that when you have a nightmare sometimes.” Victor looked away. Yuuri didn’t want that. He didn’t want Victor to be shameful of something he couldn’t help and Yuuri cupped his cheek, encouraging him to look back when he asked, “That’s what SFCC stands for?”

“Screaming fit I can’t control. That’s what it stands for,” Victor answered as Yuuri’s hand moved to thread between Victor’s fingers, and held tightly as Victor continued. “I explained that in the book but after that, I didn’t want to repeat myself, so I shortened it. And I-I also didn’t want to write it again. I don’t like thinking back to it and remembering how much it… hurts.”

If Yuuri could take away Victor’s pain, he’d do it without a second hesitation. As much as Yuuri wanted to do something, there was nothing that could be done, so Yuuri squeezed Victor’s hand reassuringly, in hopes that maybe that would be enough to show Victor that he cared for him – that he knew Victor deserved more than to be held in captivity. And when Victor laid his head on Yuuri’s shoulder, Yuuri knew Victor cherished his attempt.

“I needed to hear a voice. And the echoes of my screams replicated that,” Victor muttered shakily. “But when I had them, I stop. I can’t move, think, or do anything other than lie with my arms around my head and scream until my voice is hoarse and I’m desperate to breathe. I think one time, I had a screaming fit when the man turned off the water. I lost my voice for a few days because of that.”

At Victor’s words, Yuuri’s heart tugged with a pain that didn’t go away so easily. It was just the thought of Victor screaming because of the silence, alone and desperate to hear something other than his own cries, that had Yuuri vow to fight against the man. A rage boiled, growing with a hunger to hurt the man who did this to them. He had never hated a person this much, he wasn’t aware he was capable of such hatred.

But with his hatred came a deep need to help the one he cared about. His arms went around Victor, pulling him in for an embrace that Victor willingly went into. He always did. The embrace was warm and Yuuri wished for the moment to last so he could stay close to Victor for longer, safe in each other’s embrace. When Victor tugged the embrace tighter, Yuuri knew it was something Victor needed to help the memories that hurt him. It may not stop them, but it was enough to bring him peace.

When Victor eventually pulled back, Yuuri fought the urge to keep him close. He smiled at Victor and when Victor returned it, Yuuri’s stomach fluttered softly. He looked away, putting his focus back on the book in hand. It held so much of Victor’s pain. It was his story. And Victor had given him permission to read through and write his own. He just didn’t know what he’d write about. He had nothing yet to say.

He skimmed over a few pages. He couldn’t read it properly just yet, but skimming gave him enough information. Victor wrote a lot when he first started writing but the further along he got, the fewer words were written. His writing became lazy and sloppy, and Yuuri assumed that was him beginning to not care anymore. He wondered if that was when Victor got used to everything and found no need to write anymore.

Yuuri sighed hard as he continued through the pages. He stopped on one that was different to the rest. The writing didn’t follow the lines and a drawing took up most of the page. Yuuri paused, staring at it with a soft smile on his face. “Who is this?” Yuuri asked, pointing to the drawing of a poodle. It reminded him of his own dog back home, who he missed so much.

A smile stretched across Victor’s lips. “That’s Makkachin!” He exclaimed happily. Yuuri remembered when Victor told him about Makkachin. It was one of the nights were neither could sleep and they walked until the early hours of the morning. Victor began talking about his companion, telling Yuuri their tales together and it brought a smile to Yuuri’s face. Victor grew excited when he spoke about his dog, but it did make Yuuri miss his own. “I was certain it was her birthday that day. I just had this feeling, so I dedicated a page to her. I really miss her…”

Yuuri chewed his lip and nodded. “I miss my dog too,” He said as sorrow washed over him. But he tried to look on the brighter side. When he and Victor escape, Vicchan would be there when he returns home, as would Makkachin for Victor. “And they probably miss us too, but we’ll see them again someday.”

“I hope she’s alright,” Victor said as he took the book from Yuuri’s hand. He stared with grief at the drawing of his companion, and let his fingertip trail over the lines. “I left her with my dog sitter before I left. Yakov is probably caring for her now but I just… I can’t imagine her wondering if I abandoned her because I never came home.”

Yuuri inhaled a sharp breath and blinked back his tears. He couldn’t imagine Vicchan doing the same, waiting for him to come back home and wondering why he didn’t when he promised. Nobody could tell Vicchan what had happened to him. It hurt to even think about it. And as he wiped his eyes dry, he had to change the subject.

“Do you think when we escape, you’ll go back to skating?” Yuuri asked, certain that his eyes were dry. It had been a question on his mind for a while now. While he knew his own answer, he was curious what Victor had to say.

“I don’t know,” Victor shrugged lazily. “I stopped thinking about that long ago.”

“Well, did you used to think you’d go back?” Yuuri asked. He didn’t care if Victor didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t have to. But it sounded like Victor once had an answer and Yuuri was curious.

Victor went silent, thinking to himself before he spoke. “Before I was taken, I was in this slump. I had no ideas or inspiration and my skating was… I knew I couldn’t do another year.” He shook his head as he fell silent. Yuuri didn’t press for more answers. He let Victor take his time. “I took a year off after my fifth Grand Prix win. But now that I think about it, if I had chosen to continue skating, I’d still be in Russia. I would be at home and not held captive in another country.”

Yuuri thought that too. If he just controlled his nerves that night, he could have avoided being taken. If he didn’t overeat or decide to go for a run, he might still be around. But Yuuri knew no matter what happened, this was unseen. He never expected this to happen to him – and it shouldn’t have – but there were no signs. He didn’t notice anyone stalking him, nor were any threats made. He was taken without a hint or a clue. And there was nothing Yuuri could have done to prevent it.

Yuuri knew the man watched him for a while before he took him. He thought about it and concluded that the man had to have stalked him. He followed, waiting for his opportunity to strike and Yuuri wondered if there was anything he could have done to stop it. If he had just noticed the same person watching him, or was more careful when he stepped outside, maybe it could have been avoided.

“Will you still do ballet if we escape?” Victor then asked, startling Yuuri out of his thoughts. He took a moment to process Victor’s question before nodding fast – no hesitation.

“Definitely,” Yuuri said confidently. He knew what he wanted and he wasn’t going to let this ruin it for him. “I won’t go back immediately but I will at some point. I worked hard for the lead role and I’m not going to let this take that away from me. I refuse to let it control me outside of this room. I won’t let it.” He didn’t know if it was the pity in Victor’s eyes or the way he masked his sorrows with a fake smile that had Yuuri need to express that determination some more, but he had fight and Victor needed to see it. “I will go back to dancing and I will show everyone that regardless of what happened to me, I’m dedicated to my career. I spent too long working for this, I won’t let it end before it’s begun. I just can’t.”

Victor was quiet at first. He took the journal from Yuuri’s hands, putting it to the side and Yuuri was going to argue that he wasn’t finished. But his words fell silent when Victor weaved his fingers between Yuuri’s. His heart raced. They often held hands but Yuuri never got used to the warmth of Victor’s palm against his own.

“You are a lot stronger than me, Yuuri,” Victor spoke and Yuuri’s brows dropped. He didn’t like that Victor thought of himself that way – weak and powerless. Victor was more than that. Yuuri shook his head.

“You have strength, Victor,” He began, squeezing Victor’s hand as their eyes met. “You got through an entire year by yourself. You fought in your own way to help make this easier on yourself and you’ve been trying. You’re trying to find hope, I know you are. You have strength, Victor. But just remember you’ve been through this longer than I have. You’ve struggled and had setbacks, but you fought back and you are strong. I don’t doubt that.”

Victor dropped his gaze as a soft smile played his lips. There was something about the way he smiled; the way butterflies fluttered in the pit of Yuuri’s stomach that encouraged his thumb to gently caress the back of Victor’s hand, promising him that everything was alright. Victor inhaled a sharp breath. He lifted Yuuri’s hand to his lips and pressed a gentle kiss to Yuuri’s fingers, prompting Yuuri’s cheeks to burn with a soft pink. And when his eyes met the blues of Victor’s, his heart raced. A warmth enveloped his chest and he couldn’t hold back his smile.

“Will you dance for me, Yuuri?”

And Yuuri’s smile dropped. “You – you want me to dance?” He asked. When Victor nodded, he blinked rapidly. “Why?”

“I’d show you my skating if I could, but unless the ground turns into ice and I find some skates, I can’t.” Yuuri knew he was staring but he couldn’t turn away. “But you can show me some ballet, yes? I’d love to see you dance, Yuuri.”

Yuuri wanted to, he really did, but his eyes quickly glanced at the camera. The red light was still shining brightly, showing that the man was still watching them and Yuuri sighed heavily. He would dance for Victor, but not while the man was looking. “One day I will,” Yuuri said and looked back at Victor. “When he isn’t watching us, I’ll dance for you.”

Victor turned his head, discreetly looking at the camera without facing it. He then glanced back at Yuuri and sighed heavily. “I completely forgot he was watching us,” He frowned. “I’ve probably just gotten used to him watching us.”

Yuuri wished Victor didn’t think like that but there wasn’t much he could do. However, he could help distract Victor’s mind. He gently cupped Victor’s cheek and let his thumb caress his soft skin. “Why don’t we have some breakfast?” Yuuri suggested just as his stomach growled. And when he became aware of his dry mouth, he added, “And a drink, too?” Victor smiled and nodded happily.

They both got themselves ready for the morning – teeth brushed, hair combed, and dressed – before moving to the kitchen. They knew their roles when they had to prepare the food. Victor handled their food. He knew the correct portions to make sure they had enough to last the week while Yuuri handled everything else. He’d sometimes help Victor cook but his main role was cutlery and drinks.

As Victor reached for the box of cereal, Yuuri handed him two bowls and spoons before reaching back up to grab two glass cups. He needed a drink first. He moved to the sink and when he turned the handle, his heart stopped.

Not a single drop of water fell from the tap.

Yuuri tried again. His heart now pounded as he twisted the handle, praying for the sink to have temporarily blocked up. But he received the same results. He inhaled a shaky breath and stepped back. His back knocked into the table, stopping him in his tracks and when he felt Victor’s hand gently touch his back, he turned. Victor was already sharing the same wide-eyed stare. And without words, they both knew what this meant.

“The water…” Victor swallowed thickly. “It’s actually off?”

This was another form of their punishment. This was to hurt them. And neither knew was the reason behind it.

“I-I don’t understand. It…” He could still see the camera staring at them, and Yuuri could imagine the man on the other side watching and smiling at their suffering. Yuuri’s trembling hand pressed to his mouth, stifling any heartwrenching cry that threatened to escape and muttered, “What did we do wrong?”

“I-I don’t know, Yuuri,” Victor breathed. He reached forward and circled his hand around Yuuri's, moving it away from his lips. Yuuri complied, letting Victor take his hand as he guided Yuuri forward. He pulled out a chair. “Let’s just eat. At least we have food for now.”

Yuuri didn’t have the appetite to eat anymore but Victor was right. And at least they were having cereal. The little milk he had at the bottom was enough to quench his thirst for the morning. He just prayed that the man would turn the water back on soon – then explain the reason why.

He didn’t know what they had done wrong. And that part was what scared Yuuri the most.

 

Chapter Text

 

They knew the first day would be hard.

The man turned the water off once before. They both knew what to expect and while they were prepared for the day ahead of them, neither wanted to go through it. It was going to be a hard day. Yuuri knew that. It was going to be irritating, stressful, and completely horrible but he had to keep his mind focused. He wanted to work out why the man had done it. He wanted to try and understand him from Yuuri’s own perspective. The man knew too much about them but they knew so little about him, and Yuuri wanted to change that.

He pondered a few ideas. It could have been their sly glances and discreet conversation that could have angered the man. They were talking about the man and the camera that morning while taking sneaky glances at the camera to not notify the man that they were actually looking. Yuuri could see how the man would pick at it. He saw their conversation as suspicious. But the more Yuuri thought about it, he wondered if it was just an extended punishment for them looking out the window. The video was something the man had never done before, and Yuuri thought perhaps it was to make up for that. That was Yuuri’s assumption.

What he didn’t understand was why the man was so against them going to the window. Yuuri’s guess was that it was possibly harder to break out of than the door. And even if the window were to ever open, Yuuri doubted he’d be able to reach the lock or even pick it. He did wonder if the man just didn’t want them looking outside, which was entirely possible – and cruel. And that thought left a morbid question in Yuuri’s mind: what if the man turned the water off for fun? He could be making them suffer for his own entertainment, laughing at them as they beg for water and freedom. Yuuri tried hard not to think of that.

He wanted to be free. He wanted to escape their captivity with Victor by his side and run back to civilization where they’d be safe and protected. Their freedom was beyond those four walls, but their tomb did well keeping them trapped. They were powerless to fight back. They couldn’t find their escape. They couldn’t stop the man from switching off their water, or heating, or anything that they needed to live with. They could do nothing, only wait for mercy.

As the day progressed, Yuuri struggled to focus on anything other than his growing thirst. A headache began to sit in his mind, bothering him and his thoughts. He wanted to focus. He had to keep his concentration but the pain worsened and by the end of the day, he was worse. His mouth was dry and his tongue was like sandpaper. He had never been so desperate for a drink.

Yuuri wasn’t doing okay. He could think of nothing but his dry mouth and that frustrated him. The time he usually spends looking for an escape, narrowing down the possibilities, was wasted on his desperation. His headache didn’t ease and his thirst was making him lose concentration, by the end of the day he was irritable and annoyed.

He and Victor decided that they’d rather sleep away the rest of the day than deal with their dehydration any longer. Yuuri was sat on their bed, waiting for Victor to get ready when a thought went through his mind. He knew how he felt, but Victor hadn’t expressed his own experience. Yuuri wondered how he was handling it.

Victor was stripping off his shirt when Yuuri asked, “How are you feeling?” Yuuri let his eyes linger for a moment before they glanced up, meeting Victor’s eyes. He had a raised brow, staring at Yuuri with his head to the side and Yuuri began picking at his nails when his nerves settled. “The water, I mean. How are you handling it?”

“Oh,” Victor’s hoarse voice cracked and he quickly cleared his throat. “Uh, yeah, I’m fine.” He threw his shirt to the side before moving to his pants. Yuuri watched him with narrowed eyes. He wasn’t convinced.

“You didn’t sound fine,” He commented, eyeing Victor as he stripped off his pants before throwing them aside with his shirt. Now stood in his underwear, he kept his eyes down as he moved to the bed. Yuuri noticed his bowed head. He couldn’t look Yuuri in the eye. He couldn’t believe that Victor was fine and Victor’s incapability to look at him only proved so.

Victor laid down and Yuuri followed him. They didn’t move closer to each other – not yet. Instead, Victor exhaled a heavy breath and turned to his side to face Yuuri. Yuuri searched his eyes, trying to look for the truth behind the blues that hid so much. “I will be fine, Yuuri,” Victor finished. And as much as Yuuri wanted to argue back, he doubted Victor’s reply would change.

But he was right, they would be fine. It didn’t reassure Yuuri that Victor was alright but he hung onto his words. He reminded himself that they will be okay and repeated it in his mind until he believed it to be true. He kept his ground, even when Victor curled up to his side, he didn’t stop reminding himself that they would be alright. Victor pressed himself close and Yuuri encouraged it, circling his arms around Victor and taking comfort in the embrace he was looking forward to.

The embrace was always to help Victor, but it helped Yuuri in times that were tough.

“The water should be back on in the morning,” Victor muttered, letting his warm breath dance over Yuuri’s skin. Although he was warm, Yuuri shivered at the touch. “He doesn’t leave it off for too long. It won’t be too bad.”

They woke up with anticipation. Victor said the water should be back on in the morning and Yuuri couldn’t wait. Victor had jumped out of bed, waking Yuuri up in the process as he strode towards the sink. Yuuri sat up and watched him, his prayers still in mind. He needed the water to be back on. His dry throat and headache didn’t improve with the little sleep he got but worsened as morning arrived. He watched nervously as Victor spun the faucet.

Dread returned, nestling itself along their spines with a fearful shiver. The water was not back on.

It had been a full twenty-four hours since they last had water. Yuuri had hoped the man would switch it back on by now, but he was clearly wrong. He didn’t know what bothered him more; the man continuing to torture them with no water, or the fact that Yuuri didn’t know why he was doing so. But even if Yuuri did know why, it did nothing to help them.

Yuuri was still having trouble with his own desperate thirst. His skin was cool and dry but he could feel little beads of sweat gloss his forehead. He knew he wasn’t in trouble unless the sweating stopped, then he had to find water from somewhere unless he wanted to face the worst of dehydration. He wasn’t handling it well and he could see Victor was the same. Sweat glossed his own forehead, his lips were dried - cracked from his dehydration, and Yuuri knew if the water wasn’t turned on any time that day, they’d be in trouble.

They had to be smart about their next step. If they were to make it another day without one of them fainting, they had to find something in their cupboards that could temporarily hydrate them. If it were just an apple or a bowl of soup, it might be enough to help them last. Yuuri had got up by that point and was following Victor around their small kitchen. He was searching their cupboards for something to eat. Yuuri eyed fresh fruits, their juicy centers had his mouth want to water at the sight. He wanted to take a bite and enjoy its pleasure, but as Victor grabbed two slices of bread instead, Yuuri’s brows hung low.

“What are you doing?” Yuuri asked. His eyes glancing from the fridge then to Victor. If he was thinking about keeping up with their routine and have toast, he was mad. “We could have cereal today. I know it’s for tomorrow but we could swap. Maybe the man will turn the water on soon so we might as well take advantage of swapping?”

But Victor shook his head. “We shouldn’t mess up the routine, Yuuri.”

Yuuri didn’t want to argue back but Victor’s reason didn’t make sense. His suggestion was a perfect reason for them to change the routine. They’d have something small to drink that could help his thirst, he didn’t understand why Victor wouldn’t take advantage of that. He watched Victor move away again, ready to prepare their food and Yuuri couldn’t let him do this.

“We’ll struggle to eat it,” He said and ignored the way Victor sighed. He had to find a way to convince Victor otherwise. They couldn’t sit there and eat something as dry as toast, they wouldn’t be able to cope. “I know you’re thirsty, Victor. You should try having something less dry. It will help.”

“I’m fine, Yuuri,” Victor spoke with force, his frustration grew by the minute. Yuuri ignored it. Victor was temporarily distracted from getting their food ready, glaring at Yuuri instead with the worry that Yuuri wouldn’t stop. But he would be right to assume so. Yuuri was going to keep it up until Victor changed their routine. It wouldn’t hurt them. They wouldn’t mess anything up. It would help.

“I just think we shouldn’t have something so dry,” Yuuri continued. He hoped he could sway Victor’s choice enough for him to change the routine, but Victor was stubborn. Yuuri knew it would take a while to change his mind. “We can move cereal to today and have toast tomorrow. If we change the routine just this one time –”

“We are not changing the routine, Yuuri,” Victor snapped. He glared at Yuuri with a fire in his eye but Yuuri didn’t fret. He didn’t know why Victor was refusing to change the routine but he knew if Victor didn’t change his mind, he’d rather starve than eat something he’d struggle to swallow. “We just – we just need to keep with the routine and get the day over and done with.”

“That doesn’t make any sense, why not try and help yourself?” Yuuri asked and ignored the heavy sigh Victor exhaled. He turned away, concentrating on their breakfast again but Yuuri wasn’t finished. “We should go for something that can help us survive another day. The apple we’d have for lunch would help us right now. A bowl of cereal would help too. If we just change the routine a little bit, it wouldn’t hurt us.”

“I said no, Yuuri.”

Yuuri brows hung low. “But –”

Yuuri jolted as Victor’s hand slapped the counter hard. Yuuri barely had enough time to comprehend what was happening before he noticed Victor’s glare. He finally snapped. “And piss him off even more?” He yelled, pointing towards the camera with heavy brows and a scowl on his lip. “I’ve tried that before, Yuuri. I tried helping myself when he turned off the water but he knew I changed my routine and he just left the water off for longer. He’s not an idiot. He knows how to hurt us and I won’t risk changing the routine because he might keep the water off for longer, so just – just stop trying to help!”

And suddenly, every word, every movement, and breath Victor performed seemed to infuriate him. He had only tried to help. He knew the man was capable of a lot of things, but he never expected him to do that. He didn’t know. Victor didn’t let him know either, and that had Yuuri scowl back and grit his teeth. “I was just trying to help,” Yuuri stated. He tried to ignore Victor turning his back on him but it had Yuuri want to yell. He wasn’t going to remain silent. “I didn’t know. You didn’t have to snap at me like that, I was just trying to help.”

“I don’t need your help,” Victor growled. Yuuri exhaled a breath as he leaned against the counter with crossed his arms. “I’m not fragile, Yuuri.”

“I never said you were.”

Their dehydration didn’t help. It had them more frustrated and didn’t help either not want to snap at each other. Yuuri couldn’t help but want to yell at Victor. He was furious, angry that Victor had shouted at him like that. They promised communication. They made a promise to cooperate and help each other and Yuuri couldn’t say this was helping each other. Victor should have told him – he should have let Yuuri know before he started to push his suggestions.

“You should have just said,” Yuuri commented. He knew it wasn’t the best thing he could have said but it was all that came to mind. He wasn’t surprised when he earned a glare from Victor. “I just wanted to suggest something that could have helped you.”

“But I’m not asking for your help,” Victor argued. Yuuri didn’t know what else to say.

The silence that followed hung heavy. It weighed down on Yuuri’s shoulders, reminding him of every word Victor said. Neither moved or tore their glares away, afraid that anything they do could cause another argument. Their frustration was so brittle it could snap any moment, but Yuuri wanted it to. He wanted to yell at Victor and tell him that he had been inconsiderate. Yuuri just wanted to help. He was trying to make it easier for them both and yet, he got yelled at for his attempts.

Yuuri knew he shouldn’t let his frustration snap but he was growing closer to doing so. And before he knew it, he couldn’t stop the words that suddenly fell from his lips.

“We promised to cooperate and this is how you treat me?” Yuuri spat. His mind told him to stop but his mouth continued to run, aimlessly barking words at Victor. “How thoughtless were you to not tell me that the man could do that? I had no idea and you knew that, yet you yelled at me for something I didn’t know. You should have just told me!”

“Yuuri, can you just…” Victor inhaled a breath, pausing for a moment. His eyes squeezed closed and his hand ran over his face, exhaling a long deep breath. Yuuri waited with a scowl, expecting Victor to rile him up again and encourage an argument he didn’t want. He was surprised to see Victor’s expression eased. His shoulders were still tense, but his face had eased, calming down from its frustration. “You’re right. I should have just said, but we’re both not in the right mind. We’re thirsty and hungry and we're not dealing with this well. I think we should just… save our voices for when the water is back on.”

What Yuuri heard was Victor telling him to shut up. It had Yuuri’s rage burn deeper inside before he realized Victor admitted Yuuri was right – he should have told him. And suddenly, arguing was useless and Yuuri wasn’t in the mood for it either. His headache pulsed and thumped harshly, reminding him of the absence of water. He was still desperate for a drink. The smell of toast cooking beside him had his stomach pull with a hunger and Yuuri knew no matter how thirsty he was, he couldn’t avoid eating.

“You know, you don’t have to pretend everything is alright.” Yuuri’s own voice startled himself but it was the last thing he had to say. He glanced up at Victor. He held two plates with a slice of toast on them, staring at Yuuri with a stoic expression.

“Who said I was pretending?”

Yuuri couldn’t reply. When Victor sat at the table with their food in place, he looked at Yuuri and waited. And Yuuri sat down, silently staring back at Victor for a moment before they began trying to eat their food. Yuuri was right, they did struggle, but it wouldn’t encourage the man to keep the water off any longer.

Maybe Yuuri should have asked why he didn’t change the routine instead of push. They were both in the wrong.

The rest of the day was silent. They rested their throats as they went another day without water.

Yuuri was certain they reached their thirty-sixth hour without water when the sky turned gray and rain pattered against their window. The world was torturing them too. The rain fell like it was meant to wash the world away into a darkened abyss as the heavens knocked on their window. Yuuri watched from their table, wondering if it was the first sign of spring. The thought didn’t comfort him as much as he hoped.

He tried distracting himself by pacing around the room but everything began to spin and he had to sit down again. On the end of his bed, he sat and watched the downpour. Droplets raced down the window pane, teasing him with its delicious taste. He never thought he’d be so thirsty when it rained and the irony had him want to laugh, but his dry lips forced his mouth still, fearing he’d crack his lips. The water outside could help his thirst if he could open the window. He wanted the moisture back in his mouth. He wanted the water to fill his taste buds as its cool droplets softened his lips and replenished his mouth with moisture. He was daydreaming of a world in water now, praying that the window had a weak spot so the water droplets could slip through.

But none came.

Victor announced he was going to sleep not long Yuuri began to daydream. He complained about a growing headache, much like Yuuri’s, and decided he’d rather sleep it off than deal with it. Yuuri would have joined him if he had the energy to. He just wanted to sit at the end of their bed and watch the rain as it fell. He had seen rainy days in that room before but it felt different that day. It had a meaning to him – a sort of nostalgia that didn’t make sense.

Yuuri was aware that the man was still watching them. He stayed on the camera more often than usual, watching them as they begged for water. He knew what he was doing. He was happy to let them dehydrate and Yuuri could imagine him sitting there, smiling at their suffering. It had Yuuri want to glare at the camera, projecting his anger towards the man but he knew not to do that. He couldn’t defy the man because of the fear of receiving a worse punishment. He kept his head up and his mind focused. He wasn’t going to let the man get to him.

Yuuri couldn’t understand why he was doing this. It wasn’t why the man continued to keep them trapped, Yuuri stopped asking himself that. What he couldn’t understand was why the man continued punishing them for a reason that was unknown to them. Yuuri couldn’t understand why the man would go to these lengths. He could only control them so much. What reason did the man have to turn off the water? The tape had been their punishment for the window, but was the water punishment for the tape or for the window?

Yuuri didn’t know. But what he did know was that although the water was turned off, it would be back on soon. The man didn’t want them to die. He wanted control, which meant keeping them alive. And Yuuri decided that he was going to check to see if the water was still off.

He stood up and moved to the sink. He didn’t catch sight of the red light, notifying Yuuri that the man had stopped watching. Yuuri eyed the camera safely, wondering why the man had stopped now. If the man was watching them this late, he wouldn’t stop until they were both in bed. That was if he was watching them. Yuuri wondered why he stopped so early, but it didn’t matter anymore. He was pleased to have his privacy back.

He was at the sink. The thirst in his mouth told him to try. He knew there was still a high chance that the water was off but he would never know unless he didn’t try. He feared not testing it and finding that the water was on. And if it was, he’d rejoice and celebrate with a cold glass of water. He couldn’t wait.

He expected nothing to happen when he turned the faucet, but as water spluttered and shot out, he jumped. He didn’t believe it was real. It couldn’t be. He doubted his own mind until he regained his senses and an indescribable relief swept over him. He wheezed out a cry and didn’t waste a moment to dunk his lips under the water, drinking from the tap – one mouthful after another. Water had never tasted so good. When a hand grabbed his shoulder and tried to move him aside, Yuuri refused to move. He was desperate. He needed this.

“Yuuri!” He heard Victor’s voice speak behind him, desperate and in need. Yuuri pulled back when he needed a breath and watched Victor surge forward, dunking himself under the faucet and drinking from it without caring about the water that slipped down his cheek. Yuuri wiped his chin and neck dry, using the excess water to clean his face to freshen himself up. He was definitely going to take a shower after this.

They didn’t stay at the sink for too long. When their desperation subsided, they moved to having a glass of water, enjoying the sweet taste of hydration. They didn’t overload themselves immediately. They didn’t want to make themselves sick and neither wanted to deal with anything else. They made sure to take small sips every so often, gradually quenching their thirst as the night went on.

After a drink and a shower, they slept well that night. Yuuri was certain that for the first time, he fell asleep before Victor did. He was exhausted. It was a night sleep he needed, possibly more than the water.

When he woke up, something wasn’t right. It didn’t scare him. It only confused him as his eyes blinked open and he became aware of Victor’s body beside him. He’d usually have Victor clinging to his side, or Yuuri’s arms would be circled around Victor and holding him close. That morning as Yuuri woke up, he found himself in Victor’s place. Victor laid behind him, his face buried in Yuuri’s hair as he nestled himself close. Yuuri felt his breath ghost down his neck, sending shivers down his spine that warmed Yuuri's chest with his touch. His heart raced, warmed, and fluttered so fast, Yuuri wondered how it didn’t burst from his chest.

Yuuri wanted to take the silence as his advantage to think but he couldn’t focus. His mind was too aware of Victor behind him, holding him so close that his warmth seeped into Yuuri’s being, comforting him without words. Yuuri liked to touch Victor and liked it when Victor touched him. It was never in a sexual way. It was the hand holding, the occasional kiss on the hand, and his hand in Victor’s tousled locks that made Yuuri want to feel it often, to feel it more. He liked having Victor close.

He shouldn’t be thinking this. He should focus on their escape, not his feelings for Victor but Yuuri couldn’t help it. He couldn’t stop his lingering stares, his racing heart, or the butterflies that fluttered in his stomach when Victor did something he found so endearing. Maybe he was crazy. Or maybe he was falling for something he shouldn’t be falling for.

“Good morning, Yuuri,” Victor’s light and cheerful voice startled Yuuri from his thoughts. He jolted in shock and spun, laying on his back as his eyes fell on Victor above him. Even with everything they had gone through – the dehydration, their near argument – Victor still looked radiant in the morning. Yuuri’s breath escaped him. “How are you feeling today?”

“Oh, uh… good, I think,” Yuuri said before clearing his throat. He grasped his thoughts before giving a proper answer. “My headache has gone and I feel less thirsty, so I think I’m getting there. How about you?”

Victor moved down, snuggling up to Yuuri’s side as he rested his head on Yuuri’s shoulder. Yuuri fought the urge to look at Victor, knowing how close their faces would be. It had his cheeks flush a warm pink. “I’m good,” Victor said, his breath tickling Yuuri’s neck. “I’m just so pleased that’s over.”

Yuuri hummed and nodded. “Me too,” He murmured before turning his face slightly, nuzzling close to Victor’s hair. He smelled cleaner now. His skin was much softer and smoother, Yuuri couldn’t help but run his hand over his arm. He missed feeling okay. He missed being able to talk freely without worrying about their thirst. That was over now and while they were both lying there, Yuuri would take advantage of his wellness. “I’ve been trying to work out why the man did that, but it’s been so hard to think.”

“Me too,” Victor muttered. It took Yuuri back. He didn’t expect Victor to have been thinking the same thing. He assumed Victor thought he knew the man well enough that he didn’t need to think, but clearly Yuuri was wrong. “I think he was just having one of his tantrums. He did that sometimes when I was alone.”

“What do you mean?”

“There were a few times where he did something for no reason, like switch off the electricity or turn off the water. Even if I did nothing, he’d do it.” Victor paused and Yuuri felt how tense he was. He moved his hand, letting it comb through Victor’s hair that he relaxed under Yuuri’s touch. “I know I did nothing wrong. I had followed his rules and did nothing that could have upset him and yet, he did it. I think sometimes it’s a reminder that he was there, that he has this hold on me.”

“You know he doesn’t,” Yuuri replied, hoping Victor didn’t believe that. Victor only gave a sigh “So, you think this was one of his tantrums?”

“I don’t know,” Victor muttered. “It doesn’t feel like a tantrum. They don’t last this long.”

“It must be a punishment then?” Yuuri replied. Victor nodded against his chest as Yuuri sighed, thinking to himself. “The water was turned off after we spoke that morning, when I mentioned he was manipulating us. Maybe he has a microphone on the camera and he can hear us?”

“I’ve tested it a hundred times, Yuuri. He can’t hear us,” Victor said as he moved to sit back. Yuuri fought the urge to pull him back down but when Victor raised his head and met Yuuri’s stare, he searched his eyes. “I’ve sat facing away from the camera and called him horrible names. I’ve told him I knew ways to escape and I’d be gone when the camera was off. I’ve tried saying so many things, convincing him that I would escape and he had done nothing to fight against my words. He can’t hear us, Yuuri.”

“That’s… good,” He chewed his lip and nodded. “At least we have privacy.”

They were silent for a moment. Victor moved back down, resting his head on Yuuri’s chest again. He was certain Victor was listening to the beat of his heart. “I think we might have to settle with an extended punishment for the window,” Victor suggested and Yuuri nodded. It seemed most likely.

Yuuri’s mind began to ponder. “Maybe he doesn’t want us looking outside for too long,” He said as his eyes fell on the window. Maybe it was more than just them not being allowed to look outside. He wondered if there was a potential escape from the window – a weak spot the man didn’t want them to find. Yuuri narrowed his eyes and stared at the window, humming as he thought.

“Something on your mind?” Victor asked.

“I’m just thinking…” Yuuri trailed off. He knew he was thinking too hopefully, but he had to wonder. “There must be a weak spot on the window. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t want us looking there?”

Victor chuckled and Yuuri didn’t know what was so funny. He turned just as Victor moved close. The press of Victor’s lips gently touching his forehead stunned him into a frozen state, unable to move as his heart raced. “Never give up your strength, Yuuri,” Victor mumbled and kissed Yuuri’s cheek. He nestled himself back into the crook of Yuuri’s neck, exhaling a long breath while Yuuri struggled to find his own.

He could still feel little tingles of electricity left behind where Victor kissed him; his touch lingered. Yuuri’s heart pounded freely, thumping rapidly against his chest and he could do nothing to ease it, so he pulled Victor close because he could. He tightened the embrace because he wanted to. And Yuuri let his hand freely lace through Victor’s hair, taking pleasure in the experience because he had never felt this way before. Victor made him feel something real - something he suspected could become something more.

And soon they forced themselves out of bed. They had a light spring to their steps, knowing that after two days of torture everything was back to normal. They were free to not worry about another punishment and to their relief, the day went uneventfully. Victor went back to his routine, doing his morning exercises that Yuuri decided to join in. They wrote in Victor’s journal, wanting to document their experience and explain what the man had done. It helped pass the time until dinner, where they ate their food with light chatter keeping them entertained. Yuuri had missed being able to talk so freely. And with the new delivery of food the next day, things seemed to lighten up.

When the day ended, they slept soundly by each other’s side, knowing that for now, nothing else will go wrong. Yuuri struggled to sleep, as usual, but knowing everything was back to normal helped him relax that night. When morning arrived, Yuuri accompanied Victor while he exercised and waited for their food to arrive, which didn’t take long. The sound of the hatch alerting them of a delivery had Yuuri’s stomach growl with hunger.

He helped Victor pack everything away and to their surprises, they found two muffins inside the bag. They had never received a luxury like a muffin before. Yuuri wondered if it was the man’s way of treating them after the punishment they went through but he didn’t care for the reason. Neither had wanted to miss out on eating it that morning so they had it alongside their toast. They ate with delight, enjoying the sweet taste of blueberries inside. And once their food was eaten, they continued the day as usual.

But Yuuri couldn’t continue the day as normal. He started to feel strange. He knew he was coming down with something when his mind went hazy and he began to feel a warm tingling feeling in the back of his neck. He hoped he wasn’t coming down with a fever. The last thing he wanted was to fall ill. But as Yuuri stood in the center of the room and tried to think what was wrong with him, he decided he was fine.

Yuuri was fine. He was sure of it.

 

Chapter Text

 

Yuuri was fine.

In fact, Yuuri was so fine that he was laughing. He didn’t know what was so funny, but being sat on the ground and giggling to himself had a type of humor to it. His amusement jumped through him, jerking his stomach with each laugh that his gut began to hurt and his cheeks burned from his smile, but he continued to laugh. He couldn’t stop.

His mind was buzzing with pure joy. He could feel his soul shining so brightly that his skin should start to glow, like his aura would become visible. He stared at his hands, waiting to see his aura with his own two eyes. He was floating higher, so high that his body felt light and his mind was dreaming. He was grinning like an idiot but he didn’t care. He never felt so alive.

Everything felt different to him. He could feel his own heartbeat, every pound in his chest. It was racing, each beat was drumming inside and Yuuri was certain he could hear it. It encouraged his laughter – the pure bliss of happiness and joy that when his fingertips stroked along the smooth thin fabric of his pants, he couldn’t help but laugh. They were so soft. It was silk against his fingers. He wanted to feel it all over his body, caressing every inch of him in a gentle cocoon of addiction.

And then Victor was in front of him, staring at him with his soft blue eyes. His pants became a distant memory, now completely captivated by Victor’s eyes. His mind became nothing but the thought of Victor. He was saying something to Yuuri – he asked a question. Yuuri tried to answer but he couldn’t. He didn’t want to ruin Victor’s voice with his own. Victor’s voice was soft, smooth, and so clear that Yuuri could listen to him speak all day. He sounded so beautiful – like music, his voice flowed through him like a fluid that warmed his body. It was so beautiful, and he wished that Victor would never stop speaking.

“Yuuri, are you alright?”

He was perfect.

Victor touched his arm. His warm hand pressed against his skin, leaving a scolding imprint that lingered and consumed Yuuri’s mind. He lost all rational thoughts and soon, Yuuri craved to feel his touch. He wanted to feel Victor’s warm hands over his body, caressing his soft skin with electrical touches that would make him shiver and moan. And then Victor’s hand was in Yuuri’s own, held up as his thumb gently caressed along Victor’s soft palm. His breath escaped him, but his heart pounded hard and Yuuri gently kissed Victor’s palm. His head was spinning. Yuuri moved Victor’s hand to cup his face, waiting for Victor to give what he wanted. He was so warm – so soft. It was an intense pleasure, so intoxicating that Yuuri wanted nothing more than to feel Victor inside and out.

And when everything went black, he heard a yell. He heard the cry and wail of his name. A forceful hand shook his shoulder, shaking him and Yuuri couldn’t comprehend why.

Then when the light burned his eyes, a sharp pain stabbed his gut. It tore through him as he groaned and gasped in pain, bawling out a cry that ripped and burned his throat. The pain owned him. It dominated his every thought, controlling every action as his body curled into something fetal. His hands pressed against his gut, desperate to stop the grueling and intense pain that was making his insides hurt. It felt like it was dissolving inside him, like the searing pain was eating him alive. His tears slipped down his cheeks and the fast, rapid beating of his heart told him that this wasn’t good. This wasn’t right.

The room began to shake. It moved with his sight and no matter how often Yuuri blinked, he couldn’t stop it from doing so. Everything was moving uncontrollably fast and there was nausea too. It was just enough to make his breathing more rapid, more shallow. They rasped out of him, desperate to breathe as the room continued to spin. He didn’t know what was happening to him and it soon became impossible to make out anything in the room. He was losing sight of his vision, mind, and body. Yuuri cried, not just from the pain anymore.

He could feel Victor shaking him. There was a voice above his cries but Yuuri couldn’t focus. The pain that pulled his gut was so intense that when he felt himself being moved, he didn’t want to change position. He felt like it was helping him. It was easing the pain – or so he convinced himself. His shoulder was being shaken again and Yuuri finally looked up. The world was moving up and down and Yuuri struggled to see but his eyes gradually focused on Victor. He was talking to Yuuri. His mouth was moving but he heard no words. The world fell silent and it only made his heart pound harder. He was scared – terrified.

He was certain he was dying. He had never felt pain like this before.

He didn’t register when he moved. He last recalled the itchy carpet against his skin and now it was cold, replaced by a hard floor and he wasn’t comfortable. He knew he was in the bathroom when his head rested on the toilet seat and he wondered how he got there. He could feel Victor beside him. His body was warm and Yuuri’s own was sweating. He was so hot. His hair clung to his forehead, stuck by the little beads of sweat that slipped down his face. His limbs hung heavy by his side and he struggled to move. He was so weak.

He couldn’t feel the pain in his gut anymore. It was like the heat masked his pain, distracting his mind to focus on his scolding hot skin instead. It burned and he flushed in an uncomfortable warmth, drenching his shirt in his own sweat as he gasped out breaths. He was struggling to breathe, or maybe he was just panicking? He didn’t know. A sudden coldness touched his forehead and cool droplets slip down his skin, sending shivers over his arms. He took pleasure in the cold, letting it ease his mind and soothe his skin, cooling him enough that he didn’t feel so hot anymore.

Yuuri knew this wasn’t right. He knew he shouldn’t be feeling this way after eating and while he was frightened of what could happen to him, he was unaware that there was anything wrong with him. Alongside his terror was joy, a happiness that made Yuuri want to laugh again. He was a little too ecstatic for it to be normal, and he knew that. He told himself multiple times. And it wasn’t until he shoved his fingers down his throat, forcing himself to gag and retch up whatever was inside his stomach, that he snapped back into reality. He realized what was going on.

This was definitely not normal – he was not fine. It was real. And he was fully aware of the pain again, and confident he was in serious danger of dying. He forced himself to throw up again, surging up the remains in his stomach into the waiting toilet bowl.

He shivered violently. His body was now frozen instead of burning with the heat he once felt. His hands were trembling as they grasped the toilet seat. His nails dug into the porcelain when his stomach churned again, heaving into the bowl to temporarily stop the pain that tugged inside. And then he gasped for a breath, letting the last of it dribble from his lips until the stench filled his nostrils and he was dry-heaving again.

When he gasped for a breath and wiped away the water from his eyes and vomit on his lips, he felt a hand touch his shoulder. He didn’t look, not until he was confident he wasn’t going to vomit again and then he glanced up. Victor sat beside him with an apple in hand. There was a piece cut off and Victor was handing it to him, encouraging him to take it. Yuuri shook his head. He didn’t want it.

“Eat it, Yuuri,” He heard Victor say. He could hear him now; the volume of the world became louder. “It’ll make the pain go away. It’ll stop you from hurting. Eat it, Yuuri.”

Yuuri believed him.

He grabbed the slice and forced it into his mouth, making himself to chew it and swallow. He didn’t have the appetite but Victor said it would help him. He believed Victor. He trusted him, even though the apple didn’t sit well in his stomach. The pain returned and Yuuri’s stomach churned and gurgled. He was suddenly spraying chunks into the toilet bowl again, heavily heaving up the apple he just ate. But when Victor handed him another, Yuuri ate it. It would make him feel better. It would make the pain go away.

He was certain he had eaten six apples when a glass of water was in front of him. Victor handed it to him and Yuuri took it, trusting that whatever Victor was giving him would help. He gulped it down, ignoring the acid taste in the back of his throat. The cool liquid slipped down his throat and into his empty stomach, filling him with something that didn’t upset his stomach. There was another glass in front of him. It was empty before it got to his lips.

There was fearing the unknown of the outside world. There were hearing bumps in the night that couldn’t be explained. But then there was staring at the person who was trying to help and seeing none of their features. Yuuri had handed back the glass cup to Victor and when he looked up, their eyes should have met but they didn’t. Yuuri couldn’t see Victor’s face. He was vacant of his features, holding no eyes, nose, or mouth and yet, Yuuri could still hear him. He could hear Victor talking to him and he was aware that Victor was looking at him but he could see nothing that proved it.

Yuuri wanted to scream but it was stuck. He wanted to cry but no tears fell. All he could do was shake, terrified of what he was staring at until his face was pressed against Victor’s chest. Warm arms were around him, holding him so close that Yuuri felt safe and protected in the tight embrace. He could hear a heartbeat in his ear, the soft thump of Victor’s heart in his chest. Yuuri focused on it. He started to feel like he wasn’t going to die anymore.

“Keep talking to me,” Yuuri wheezed barely above a whisper. He could hear Victor talking, his soft voice soothing his fears and he didn’t want Victor to stop. He had to stay grounded. He needed to focus on something and Victor’s voice did more than just help him, it distracted him.

“I’ve been talking for ages,” He heard Victor reply. He wasn’t aware that Victor had been speaking for so long, he thought he had just started. He didn’t even remember when Victor began talking, it was all just a blur.

But he needed Victor to keep going. “Keep talking,” He says, and Victor does.

He stopped feeling scared once his fear subsided, calming to nothing more than a slight shiver up his spine. His heart still raced, his body continued to tremble, but he was alright. He only didn’t have the guts to look up at Victor, even when Victor pulled him back, he couldn’t meet his eyes. The image of Victor without his face singed Yuuri’s mind like a burn, leaving a scar that would never heal – and he would never forget. Then Victor’s hand gently stroked back Yuuri’s hair, tucking the strands behind his ear and he couldn’t help but look up. To his relief, his features returned.

Victor helped him up after that, pulling Yuuri to his feet but he had no energy to keep himself up. He weighed them down, forcing Victor to use his strength as he moved from the bathroom and towards the bed, lying Yuuri down in a heavy heap. Yuuri was aware of Victor attempting to pull his damp shirt off his body, as well as the soft sheets draped over him. Then Victor got under the sheets too, pulling Yuuri into his arms and whispered soft words in his ear.

“It’s all over now,” He heard Victor murmur. His hand returned to Yuuri’s hair, stroking back the damp strands and hushing the words Yuuri tried to say. “Don’t talk, just try and sleep for me, okay?”

But Yuuri couldn’t sleep. It was impossible when his eyes were so wide and he wasn’t tired at all. He didn’t know when Victor had turned off the lights, nor when it had turned dark outside. The day had disappeared from him, hidden behind a fog in Yuuri’s mind where he struggled to recall most of it. He remembered the best bits, but he also remembered the worst.

The night passed quickly and Yuuri was mindful that Victor didn’t sleep either. He stayed awake by Yuuri’s side, holding him close until light suddenly streamed through their window and blinded Yuuri’s eyes. He wondered if he did manage to fall asleep. He couldn’t remember the sun beginning to rise. He felt Victor shift beside him and tenderly shake Yuuri’s shoulder, getting his attention. Yuuri had no energy to move so he only turned his head, glancing Victor’s way.

“How are you feeling?” Victor asked as he pressed his hand to Yuuri’s forehead. His hand was warm but Yuuri gave no effort to complain when Victor held it there. “Do you know what happened, Yuuri?”

Yuuri wanted to talk but his words were trapped in the back of his throat. It was like his brain had shut down, his words forced into silence by his own fear. A drowsiness washed over him and for the first time, his eyes struggled to stay open. They were once open wide, unable to close and now it was all they knew, but Yuuri didn’t want them to shut. He wanted to talk, to explain what he felt, and ask Victor what had happened. When his eyes closed and darkness invaded his sight, he decided to let it be. He had no energy to fight anymore.

The distinct smell of a sweet aroma filled his nostrils, but waking up was no longer a pleasure it used to be. As Yuuri rouse from his heavy slumber, he was first aware of the smell of food before he noticed the cold piece of fabric on his forehead. He gave a soft groan and wondered if he was still dreaming as he sat up. Rubbing his eyes to rid of the blur in them, he took in his surroundings. He first noticed Victor moving around in the kitchen, standing by their small cooker and cooking something that smelled so delicious, Yuuri’s stomach grumbled with a need.

“Victor?” Yuuri spoke then cleared his throat. He didn’t realize how hoarse his voice sounded, it took him by surprise. Victor spun at the sound, turning to Yuuri fast. He dropped everything on the kitchen counter and strode towards Yuuri with wide eyes.

“Oh my god, Yuuri, are you alright?” Victor asked fast. He sat on the side of the bed and pressed his hand to Yuuri’s forehead, then his cheek, checking on Yuuri’s temperature but Yuuri felt fine. Well, not fine, but better. “You really scared me yesterday, don’t ever do that again, alright?”

“…Yesterday?” Yuuri felt like he missed a day and by the sounds of it, he had.

“You were so out of it, Yuuri, I didn’t know if you were…” He trailed off, diverting his eyes to the ground as he inhaled a deep breath. Yuuri was aware something had happened to him, something that he feared at the time could have killed him, but his memories of the day didn’t feel complete. Suddenly, Victor asked, “Do you know what happened?”

He tried thinking back but he could only remember very little. “I remember…” He didn’t know where to begin. He shook his head and rubbed his hand over his face, sighing hard as he tried to regain memories that wanted to be hidden. “I remember feeling weird and laughing, then there was pain and I just – I remember those apples.”

It was a strange thing for him to remember clearly, even Victor gave him an odd look. “The apples?” He asked, “What about them?”

“Why did you feed me six apples?” Yuuri asked, recalling the six apples Victor had given him. His eyes glanced towards the kitchen, eyeing only one apple left on the side. It confused him even more. They only ever received two in their food package. “Where did you even get six apples from?”

“I didn’t,” Victor said, shaking his head. “I only fed you one.”

Yuuri almost didn’t believe him. He vividly remembered six apples being handed to him, each cut up into little pieces but as Yuuri thought back to it, he began to doubt himself. He remembered six apples. He remembered Victor feeding them to him and he would vomit afterwards, but it helped the pain in his stomach. There were six apples, he was sure of it, and yet he doubted his own memories. There couldn’t have been six apples if they only received two.

“I fed you one and told you it would make you feel better,” Victor said as Yuuri’s hand weaved through his hair, gently tugging the strands as if it would help his memories correct themselves. “I thought if you were that out of it, you might believe me and start feeling better. And it did help, in a way. It made you sick which I think helped you.”

As embarrassing as it was, Yuuri didn’t have the energy to dwell on it. He didn’t have the energy at all, even sitting there talking to Victor felt like such a challenge. He moved his hand from his hair to run across his face as he fell backward, lying down on the bed once again. A tiredness enclosed him like a veil over his skin, submerging his mind in a cold gray. He wanted to do nothing. He wanted to be nothing but a mindless body under the sheets, undisturbed and hidden away from the world.

But although he was already hidden, it just wasn’t enough.

“He drugged you, Yuuri,” Victor’s voice made Yuuri move his hand. They searched each other’s eyes, ensuring the other was okay. “He spiked your food. I don’t doubt he did.”

“Why…?” It was all Yuuri could ask. He thought their punishment was over, that the two days without water was enough to hurt them. The more Yuuri thought about it, he realized it couldn’t be their punishment. It was over, that was done. The water was one thing, but this was something else – this was too much.

“So, you think so too?” Victor asked and Yuuri blinked. “You think this is something more too?”

Yuuri didn’t realize he spoke out loud. He must still be out of it, or he had meant to say it but he forgot he spoke. Either one, Yuuri didn’t remember saying it. “Turning off the water was easy,” He began, knowing he had a point somewhere that he wanted to tell Victor. “This was harder. He had to put effort…” He trailed off, his mind falling elsewhere as his vision temporarily blurred.

“Yuuri?” And it snapped back as he stared at Victor. His worried eyes bored into Yuuri’s, making his heart race and wonder what he had done to worry Victor. “You’re still out of it, aren’t you?”

He wanted to say yes but his mind forgot the words. He recalled something else instead, a memory that made his hand flinch to his stomach and remember the pain he felt – the grueling and intense pain that convinced him one thing: “I nearly died.”

Victor neither denying or agreeing with him only made the situation far too real. And suddenly, Yuuri felt like he was back at the beginning, terrified of his uncertain future and completely defenseless. The man was acting differently. He was more chaotic, treating them with the least ounce of dignity and Yuuri couldn’t predict his next move. The water was one thing. He could see that coming and know what to do.

But being drugged was something else. Yuuri nearly lost his life and the thought itself had his heart race and body tremble. He was so scared.

“Yuuri, stop doing that,” Victor said as his hand circled around Yuuri’s wrist, gently pulling his hand from his hair. Yuuri’s hand unclenched, letting his hair slip between his fingers as Victor took his hands in his own. He pressed a kiss to them. “You keep tugging your hair.”

“I didn’t realize,” Yuuri muttered. He wasn’t aware that he was moving without thinking and it didn’t help the fear beginning to settle heavily in his chest. He was more than just out of it, he wasn’t even aware of his own movements, but having Victor hold his hands and help him take control eased him that little bit. It settled his mind. He helped Yuuri feel safe and protected.

“Do you want some food, Yuuri?” Victor asked when his hand reached forward, cupping Yuuri’s cheek. An action that would have once made Yuuri blush only had his stomach flutter before it growled angrily, and he nodded. “I’ll make you something light since you were sick. It’s best not to overload your stomach just yet.”

Victor moved back to the kitchen, moving his own food aside while he got Yuuri’s ready. Yuuri didn’t want him to ignore his own needs for Yuuri but the thought of having to complain already drained him. Before he even found the energy to do so, Victor was back with a piece of toast on a plate. Yuuri wanted to turn his nose up at it. He was so sick of toast.

But he ate because he was hungry. He ate because Victor asked him to. He ate because he knew if he didn’t, he wouldn’t help himself. He’d stay weak, unable to regain his energy when it was the only thing he wanted to do. While Yuuri ate his food, Victor resumed his own cooking, filling the room with a sweet smell that didn’t make the toast taste any more satisfying. He wanted what Victor was having.

They ate in silence. Victor finished his food before Yuuri did, but Yuuri struggled to eat as much as usual. There was the fear of throwing up again and making his stomach worse that made him take smaller bites, nibbling on his toast to be certain he would still be alright.

Victor returned to Yuuri’s side after putting a movie on. Yuuri was still eating his toast, trying to force himself to finish it as Victor also got under the sheets and settled beside Yuuri. And again, they were silent. Neither made conversation as they watched the film. For Yuuri, he guessed it was his hundredth time watching it. He couldn’t imagine how many times Victor forced himself to watch it.

“You’re not aware of yesterday, are you?” Victor suddenly said, distracting Yuuri from his daydream. He moved his plate to the side, deciding he shouldn’t force himself to eat and turned to Victor, brow raised with question.

“You mean what happened?” He asked and Victor gave a single nod. “I remember some things, I told you. I remember the pain in my stomach, throwing up, and thinking to myself that I was dying… I remember enough to want to forget it.”

Victor inhaled a long breath. “But do you remember the start?” He asked and Yuuri thought back. Victor was talking about his happiness, when he was sat on the floor laughing. He shrugged in response.

“Everything felt different,” He said, staring ahead as he tried thinking back. His memories were vague but there was enough for him to make out certain scenes. “My pants were really soft, I remember that. And I remember you being there and you felt really soft too, it was kind of weird… You were also talking to me but I couldn’t hear you. I couldn’t hear anything.” The world tuned out for him, silencing when Victor was talking to him. He wondered why that happened, then pondered why Victor was asking him. “Did I say anything?”

There was a second of silence – just one. “You were very forward about your feelings, Yuuri.”

His nerves frayed quick, coming apart with each heavy beat in his chest. He didn’t dare ask what he said but the thought of not knowing was just as worse than knowing. His curiosity won. “What – what did I say?”

“You said a lot,” Victor began. His eyes didn’t meet Yuuri’s. They stayed low, staring at his hands as his fingers played with his nails. Yuuri wondered if Victor was nervous too. “I didn’t understand what you were saying at first. It came out in the occasional word, but then I heard you clearly.”

The pause had Yuuri need to continue the discussion. “What did I say?” He repeated.

“You said I was pretty,” Victor beamed, his lips twitched upwards as his eyes stared ahead. Yuuri was thankful Victor wasn’t looking because the immediate blush on his cheeks burned, tinting a rosy red. “You were just sitting there, kissing my palm, and telling me how beautiful I was. It was shocking, I won’t lie, but I couldn’t find a reason to stop you. But I have to ask… is it true?”

When Victor finally turned, his eyes searched Yuuri’s. His nerves continued to unravel with every beat of his heart. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know how to say it. His drugged mind had spoken for him, expressing his deepest desires about Victor, to Victor. Yuuri couldn’t do the same. He couldn’t let his sober mind speak the same words, expressing how he truly felt without messing up what he wanted to say.

Of course he found Victor pretty, and beautiful. Saying anything else would be an understatement. He couldn’t exactly pinpoint when he started thinking this but somewhere along that line, Yuuri started to think more of Victor – more than just friends. His stares lingered and his heart raced when Victor kissed him in some way, or held his hand. Even being pulled into an embrace had his heart hammer with adrenaline and nerves. But they were good nerves. It made him giddy and excited for more.

But Yuuri wasn’t ready to admit any of that. He was confident in the way he felt, but his mind still argued against him – conflicted because of the circumstances. His heart raced around Victor, but the fear and terror of the situation could have encouraged that. He could be mistaking his feelings with fear. But then he wondered why his eyes lingered for longer, or why he wanted to kiss Victor himself, to hug him and do the same that Victor did to him. He had crushes, but never to this extent. It had Yuuri conflicted. Confused.

His confusion didn’t matter because Victor wasn’t asking for a love confession. He was asking if Yuuri thought he was beautiful, which he did. Yuuri’s drugged mind had spoken the truth. But could he admit that?

“Yes,” He breathed.

It was just that simple.

There was a prolonged silence and their eyes locked. There were no words to be said but their soft expressions said it all. Victor held his gaze, a soft smile played his lips as he inched forward, and Yuuri’s heart froze. He held a breath, waiting for the inevitable and closed his eyes. But his lips stayed cold as Victor’s own gently pressed to his cheek, holding it for a moment before his arms circled around Yuuri for a warm embrace. Yuuri went in and squeezed tightly, needing the embrace just as much.

As Yuuri’s eyes glanced over Victor’s shoulder, staring at the room behind him, his eyes fell on the red light. And in a sudden, Yuuri had an epiphany.

“You know why he did that, Victor?” Yuuri muttered against his shoulder. He was getting sick of the camera but he knew the man’s game. He figured it out. “It’s the window. I don’t doubt he doesn’t want us to look at it or even take a glance at the outside world.”

He doubted it was because of the video. They pondered if the man disliked their reaction but the retaliation was too much for it to be. The water had been turned off and he was drugged, all to punish them and Yuuri couldn’t imagine it being because of the video. It was for the window. It was the man sternly telling them that they shouldn’t have done that. They shouldn’t have looked out the window, that the world was not for them to see. The man was regaining control, inflicting fear into their hearts to remind them who was in charge. And Yuuri would be lying if he said it wasn’t working.

He wanted to go back to the window. He wasn’t finished looking but if it meant being drugged again – or worse – he’d rather stay away. He couldn’t bear another punishment. It was hard. It was so, so hard.

“This… this isn’t good,” Victor muttered back and there was a pause. Yuuri couldn’t hold back his fear when he inhaled shakily. He couldn’t mask it – not anymore. “He’s done bad things to me when I upset him but this… he nearly killed you, Yuuri. It scared me, it really scared me. I-I can’t lose you, Yuuri.”

“You’d be alone,” Yuuri replied but the shake of Victor’s head made his brows drop. Then Victor moved back, his hands cupped Yuuri’s cheeks as their eyes locked once again. The tears in Victor’s eyes had Yuuri nearly let his own fall, but he was too tired to let them spill.

“I don’t care about that,” Victor muttered. He gritted his teeth, desperately trying to keep his tears at bay. He sucked in a deep breath, sniffing hard as his trembling hand weaved through Yuuri’s hair. “If I had to choose between seeing you hurt or being alone to protect you, I’d take loneliness in a heartbeat. I can’t see you getting hurt again, Yuuri. I just can’t.”

He didn’t know who moved first but it didn’t matter. The sudden embrace was needed, desperate. There was something about Victor’s embrace that made Yuuri feel safe and secure, but also loved and cared for. And as it tightened, Yuuri was certain that the situation couldn’t have influenced his feelings. Their touches, perhaps, but not the way Yuuri felt about Victor.

Yuuri didn’t know where the energy came from but it finally encouraged his tears to fall. He wanted to be protected. He wanted to feel safe again. He was so scared of what the man will do next, terrified of their next punishment. They became more dangerous, more chaotic, and Yuuri feared to be in the same situation again. He feared being stuck in a moment where he didn’t know if he would die or not. And the realization that the man could easily kill them stuck a terror so hard that Yuuri’s sobbing worsened, tearing through his stomach and tugging so harshly, he might be sick again.

It was stressful. He was so scared. And suddenly, Yuuri found himself back where he began – back to when he first arrived in that room, desperate for his freedom and scared for his uncertain future. He wanted his life back. He wanted to see his family. But above all else, he wanted to escape.

And he was going to escape, no matter what.

 

Chapter Text

There was a time where Yuuri thought he’d never get better.

The first couple of days were a struggle. They went by like a blur, jumping in and out of focus that Yuuri forgot most of what he did. It was like his mind had selective amnesia, choosing to remember the most smallest details, like Victor cooking, or himself staring at his own fingers because he could move them – the thought itself baffled him. And that wasn’t all. His head was still hazy, he had no appetite, and all his energy was gone. He was completely shattered, weak, and left in a heavy pit of despair from the memories that slowly reoccurred.

They were the easy symptoms, so Yuuri called them. But he had much worse symptoms that he struggled with – the ones which made his speech slur and his mind go blank. His sentences trailed off, coming to a stop as he’d unknowingly stare ahead. He was completely unaware that he was doing it and it wasn’t until Victor snapped him out of it that he’d realize. His left hand continued to tremble, like the fear still consumed his body. He wasn’t as scared, but he couldn’t stop the shaking, no matter how hard he tried. And none of it helped his sudden need to tug his hair. It was like a tick; his hand would shoot to his head and he’d pull at the strands. He thought it helped him until he realized how stupid it was, but he couldn’t convince himself not to do it. It was automatic. Yuuri couldn’t stop it.

He slowly bounced back to health. It would have been quicker if he wasn’t so afraid of eating. The thought of the food being drugged again, feeling that intense pain that ripped through his gut and not be certain if he was dying… he just couldn’t do it. Victor had to taste test everything, which Yuuri was completely against. Victor assured him he was alright. Yuuri had to wait an hour after every meal just to check.

But day by day, Victor cared for him and helped him regain his strength and energy. Yuuri was thankful for his help. He wasn’t sure if he could have done it without Victor. And although his hand still trembled, unable to stop even after a few days, Yuuri felt much better. They could do nothing with his hand other than wait out the trembling.

The days passed with little incidences. The man didn’t throw any punishments their way. He didn’t hurt or mess with them. He left them alone, so much that he had stopped watching them completely after Yuuri got better. For a few days, the camera didn’t turn on once and they prayed that was the end of it, but the camera always turned back on. The man soon returned. He slipped back into his old routine, watching them without order or schedule, but they didn’t mind. Everything was back to normal. They didn’t face punishments or were hurt by the man, time just moved by uneventfully and they hoped it was the end of it.

Yuuri was nearing a breaking point. He feared another inhumane act could drive him insane. He wanted to believe that the man was done, he really did, but Yuuri didn’t trust him. He didn’t believe that the man wasn’t planning their next punishment, ready for when one of them messes up again. The man was cruel, evil. He didn’t even pretend to be anything else. He enjoyed it, watching them suffer daily through the protective lens of his camera. Their punishment may be over, but how long could they avoid being hurt again?

Yuuri couldn’t answer that.

He soon began asking himself a lot of questions. Why the man did this, who he was, what will he get out of this, but of all those questions, many were about Victor. He had been in the room for a year before Yuuri arrived. He suffered through trial and error, learning what was wrong through horrible ways of punishments and what was right just from his own judgment. He knew silence was good and an act was bad. But Yuuri already knew that. He knew the basics of Victor’s captivity, but not the details.

There was a long period of Victor’s time alone that hadn’t been mentioned, punishments which were unspoken, and Yuuri had a gut feeling that convinced him they weren’t as severe as they are now. It sat uncomfortably in his gut and his mind, making him question every action he made. Was he making this worse for Victor? Was he the reason why the man was being so cruel to them?

Yuuri didn’t know if he had always been like that and while Yuuri feared to learn the answer, he needed to know. He needed to know. If he was making things worse, he had to find a way to stop it. And the moment his eyes fell on their journal that sat on the bookshelf, he knew what he needed to do.

Writing his own experience of being drugged was his priority. He knew Victor had already written what it was like for him, it was Yuuri’s turn to do the same. Out of everything that had happened, he knew that was important for him to write. He wanted people to know what the man had done to him; that the man could have killed him that day if Victor hadn’t been there. The thought itself still sent a fearful shiver down his spine, trembling his body in utter despair. But he had to write it.

But while that was a priority, it wasn’t what he wanted to do first. If he wanted to ease the tugging in his gut and his anxieties telling him he was at fault, he was the reason this had gotten so bad, he knew he had to read through Victor’s entries. He wanted to start from the beginning, relearn everything and try and distinguish the man’s punishments back then until now. He had to know if he was making things worse. He had to.

He needed privacy when reading it. He didn’t want Victor looming over his shoulder, watching his reactions while commenting on everything. Yuuri wanted to read it alone and told himself not to feel bad about doing so. He felt he was invading Victor’s privacy and in many ways, he was, but he had permission to read it. Victor said he could look and Yuuri told himself to stop worrying so much. It didn’t help.

When Victor announced he was having a shower, Yuuri ignored the nerves that pulled his stomach and continued on with his plan. When the bathroom door closed and Yuuri heard the shower patter to life, he bounced off their bed and grabbed the book. It was now or never. He exhaled a deep breath before he sat back on the bed and opened the book.

He should read the first page. He had it open but his eyes refused to focus – his mind came to a halt. His fingers curled around the book tightly, creasing the pages against his grip. He should read it but the sudden memories that came back overwhelmed him, weighing heavily on his heart and Yuuri couldn’t will himself to do it. Then in a sudden, he moved, slamming the book shut as he choked out the breath he was holding. He couldn’t read from the beginning. It wouldn’t happen.

He took a moment. He inhaled a long breath then exhaled, calming his chest and grounding himself. The first page wasn’t going to be read, no matter what he did to calm himself. But he had gotten so far and he didn’t want to quit without reading one page. Instead, he opened it to a random entry further in the book. He was able to read that one.

He fell on a page that was addressed to his coach, Yakov. Yuuri knew Victor began writing for his loved ones but didn’t realize he began to address them. He pushed aside his uneasy feeling and began to read.

 

Yakov,

I’ve lost count of the days. Before I had a rough idea but now, I don’t know. I last remember it being day 49, but that could have been 10 days ago. I don’t remember. Perhaps it’s day 62? Or day 79? Maybe it’s been a year and I don’t know? I don’t like to think about how long I’ve been in here. My perception of time has gone strange.

I’ve been trying to think what you would do, but all I can imagine is you finding a way to get out. I want to do the same.

I know you’ll probably yell at me for saying this, but I’m starting to doubt if anyone will find me. Are people searching? I’m sure they are. I have popularity that should help them. I have fame and my career to convince them to keep going. They should do. I hope they do. But I won’t lie, at this point, I feel like I’m more trying to convince myself that… This isn’t supposed to happen to someone like me. This isn’t supposed to happen, right? See, this is where you would say no. Then I’d ask why it did. You can’t come up with an answer.

I can’t stop thinking about other people who have been taken too. I know some go through worse. They get hurt in physical ways, and even worse. I want to say I have it lucky, but he’s hurting me mentally. He’s messing with my head, controlling me like a lab rat. I’ve stopped feeling like a person. I feel more… I don’t really know.

You know, some of those people who were taken don’t make it. They’re gone, finally at peace and free from their captivity. I sometimes envy them.

Life in this room isn’t easy. It’s just enough for me to survive, but horrible enough for me to not want to be here. That’s something I don’t understand. He’s controlling me like I’m a dog, scolding me for doing something I don’t know is wrong, but he praises me when I do something right. He lets me have a request if I’ve been good. If he hates me as much as I thought, he’d put me in a more fearful situation but he hasn’t. He’s giving me ‘comfort’ alongside the torture. Maybe he’s an obsessed fan? Or maybe it’s for control?

But why me?

It’s getting harder. It’s harder to care. Harder to give myself the courage to find an escape. Harder to stop the crying and the screaming…

Is this what isolation does to a person? I feel like I’m going insane. In fact, I am. This is how crazy I’ve gotten: I heard ducks today. Yeah, ducks. You’re probably thinking that’s normal, but I haven’t heard ducks while I’ve been in here. I didn’t think much of it either until I was certain they were coming from below me. I spent most of my day on my hands and knees, listening to ducks that don’t exist under the floorboards.

Yakov, I’m going insane and I’m scared. The silence is painful and I’m afraid it might drive me to complete insanity that if I do ever escape, I won’t be the same. I don’t want to change. I want to go back to skating. I want to hear things around me and live my life without fear. I need human interaction and to just get out of this room. I’m struggling to tell the difference between reality and my imagination. It’s like my perception of things has just… messed up.

I asked the man for some music when I was allowed a request but he instead took away a meal. Apparently, music is a luxury.

People are nice. I keep trying to tell myself that, but what person would do this to me?

I need help.

 

Yuuri finished reading, struggling to fight back his tears.

It never occurred to him how easy he had it. He arrived in the room with somebody else already there, someone to help him keep himself grounded. He had support from the very beginning. He had someone who helped him. Yuuri had it easy while Victor didn’t. He had been alone for an entire year, lonely, lost, and fearful of his mind turning against him. And it had done. He began to hallucinate. It made him delusional. And Yuuri wondered how long it would be before his own mind does the same.

He had to move to another page. He hoped to find a more light-hearted entry but he knew his attempts would be frail. He didn’t doubt most entries would be similar, all filled with despair and heartache. But he moved on with determination in his heart. He had to learn about the man and he couldn’t do that if he didn’t read. He had to read on.

The entry he saw wasn’t addressed to Yakov that time. He wondered why.

 

I hung around the door for too long today and the man thought I was trying to escape. At least, that’s my assumption. But I wasn’t. I just heard humming coming from the other side. It was like somebody was singing to me. It was comforting and I just wanted to listen to it, but he didn’t know that. So, he punished me for it.

He usually just turns off the water, starves me for a few days, or forces me to live without something like heat or electricity. It’s always the room he changes to make me suffer, but he did something different this time. He did something that makes me wonder if he’s trying to break me – if he’s trying to make me live like an animal too.

I thought it would be easier to write down but it isn’t. I don’t want to write it. I’m sorry.

 

Yuuri’s brows dropped as he flipped through the pages, wondering why the entry was so short. He knew Victor said he didn’t want to write about it, but it stopped abruptly. It didn’t follow onto the next page or continue further down the page at a later date. He stopped writing and didn’t explain why. Yuuri pondered a few ideas but he didn’t want to think about it. All he could imagine was Victor crying too hard to continue.

He flipped through a few pages, hoping to find a continuation of the unfinished page. It wasn’t until the fourth page that he stopped. It was addressed to Yakov again, and as Yuuri quickly scanned the page, it seemed to relate to the unfinished page. He read on.

 

Yakov,

I don’t know how to start these anymore. I know I just spill my deepest thoughts and mention what’s happening to me, but I’m at this point where I wonder if there’s any reason to keep doing so. I started this to let people know what happened to me if I don’t make it, but I keep asking myself would anyone ever see it? If I do die, will they ever find me and the man who had done it?

But I’m going to keep on writing even if nobody sees it. It helps me get out those emotions. It’s better than talking to myself, which I seem to do a lot now. I always feel crazy when I do that. But who else can I speak to? It’s just me…

I’d give anything to escape here.

I never mentioned what he did to me this week. I couldn’t say last time. I felt too embarrassed and emotional. I just couldn’t say it. But now it’s over, I feel like I can maybe write about it better than before. But I want you to understand something first. I need you to know how desperate I am to avoid being punished. If he told me to do something to avoid being hurt, I’d do it. I wouldn’t argue back. I’d just get it over with so I wouldn’t have to suffer from whatever he’ll do to me. It’s about survival, right? I’ll do it if it helps me survive another day. I know you’d want me to fight and while I am still trying to get the motivation to do so, I think you’d want me to try and survive too. One out of two isn’t that bad.

Right?

He sent me a note. He told me I had to give up my clothes and my bedding for a week to avoid having the water turned off. I did it. My clothes and bed sheets were gone. They went in the hatch, gone to the floor above me where the man took them. I thought it was a good bargain. I don’t mind my own nudity, so I thought it wouldn’t be that bad. Only it was. It’s always bad.

I didn’t realize how stupid my choice was until I noticed he turned off the heating.

A day without water is awful, but a week without warmth is worse. I was so cold. I was constantly shivering, and tired, and so confused that I think I forgot why I didn’t have anything to keep me warm. The warmth is back now and I remember how sick I was of being so cold. I’m certain if the weather had gotten slightly colder, or if the man made the room colder too, I could have died. I probably experienced hypothermia. I can’t be certain, but I don’t doubt if that room was colder, it could have killed me.

You know, I could have accepted all of that if I didn’t catch him watching me. I felt so… humiliated. Disgusting. Used and abused; treated like nothing while he’s living a life of luxury above me. He could have recorded me. He could have done anything on the other side of that camera. But I definitely don’t want to think about that. I just…

What can I do to fight back? I was naked, cold, and had nothing to keep myself warm. Was there even a point in trying?

This is the part where you’d say yes. And it’s also the part where I’d struggle to believe you.

But there was a positive from it. He did repair the rips in my clothes, not that it could make up for what he had done. It was just nice, I guess.

This is all psychological. He’s messing with my mentality, humiliating me, and treating me like nothing more than a caged animal. He’s degrading me. I’m nothing more than his toy, someone he can experiment on to see how far he can push me before I go insane. I constantly wonder and fear what his next step could be. Would it finally break me? Would he come into my room one day and hurt me in person? What if he throws another person in this room with me?

I won’t lie. If he throws another person in here, I think I’d be able to make it. It doesn’t matter who it is or if I get along with them, they’d help me even without trying. I can’t say it would help me find the energy to try and escape, but I’d feel less crazy than I do now. It would be nice to hear another person’s voice. But I can’t think of that. I can’t imagine another person being forced to deal with this too. One person is enough. Two is just sick.

I know you want me to fight but it’s hard. I don’t want to give up but…

I just want to escape. I miss you all. Would you believe I miss Yuri yelling at me? I miss you yelling at me for not listening. I miss skating, Makkachin, my life… I promise, if I do escape, I will listen to you. I’ll listen and do as you say because I keep thinking of how much stress I put you through and I can’t die knowing that I never got the chance to say sorry. I can’t forgive myself if I did.

I think that thought is helping me hold on. It seems like I’ve already started listening to you.

 

Yuuri slammed the book shut and choked on his own breath. His hands covered his mouth, refusing to let his sobs break free. Tears stained his cheeks as he cried silently, unable to read another page. The pain was too much, leaving an everlasting ache in his chest which he couldn’t subside. He wanted to believe there wasn’t evil in this world, but he could no longer believe that. He once did, but how naïve he was.

He had to take a moment before he could think and when his mind eased, he couldn’t come to a complete conclusion on his findings. The entries he had read featured punishments that were awful, something short of a nightmare, and Yuuri wanted to say that the man didn’t change. He wanted to believe he wasn’t making this worse but his gut feeling didn’t shift. Whether the punishments changed over time or not, he was at fault for the last two times they suffered. When he went to cover the camera, he made the man switch off their water. When he looked outside, the water turned off for two days and he was drugged. They were his fault. Yuuri could easily confirm that.

But what Yuuri read let him understand something else. He learned more about Victor. There were thoughts and emotions written in the journal that he never told Yuuri before. Yuuri didn’t know that the man made him feel like an animal. Victor never mentioned how badly he hallucinated while being alone. The man degraded Victor, made him feel so worthless that he felt like nothing more than a caged pet. Yuuri wanted to rip the camera off the wall. He’d trash their room just to piss the man off if he could. He wanted to fight back and show the man that he could put him near death and he wouldn’t stop fighting, but he couldn’t. The punishment he’d face for his actions would hurt Victor too, and Yuuri wasn’t prepared to hurt Victor anymore.

He pushed his anger aside, saving it for when he needed it the most. He forced back his tears and sat up straight, taking a deep breath to ease the burn in his throat that threatened to break into a sob. He was done with crying. He was sick of letting his tears make him feel hopeless. He was stronger than that.

Three words came to Yuuri’s mind: Humiliation. Fear. And control. And although it didn’t answer everything, it was a good place to start.

“Yuuri?” Victor’s voice alerted him, setting his heart to race as his head shot up. He was still wet from his shower. His hair was still wet, water dripped down his hair softly before the droplets fell on his shoulders. He was dressed in his clothes, the same ones the man forced him to give up for a week. Yuuri inhaled a shaky breath. “Are you alright?”

He was far from alright. His chest hurt with a sharp ache, a pain that magnified as his eyes stayed on Victor. The words written in that journal told Victor’s pain and suffering. His agony flowed through his words that only explained so much of what he had gone through. And Yuuri was terrified. He was scared for Victor, for himself, and their futures that seemed so uncertain.

His heart yearned to comfort, distressed because he didn’t know what he could do to stop it. Yuuri was suddenly on his feet and moving towards Victor, one thought in his mind. His arms wrapped tightly around him and made no attempt to let go, especially when Victor’s arms went around him too. He wanted to calm the storm in Victor’s heart. He wanted to give him hope for the future and help him believe that there is nothing out there to fear. He couldn’t believe that himself, but he hoped he could convince Victor otherwise.

“You read the journal, didn’t you?” Victor asked and Yuuri nodded against his shoulder, tightening his grip on Victor’s shirt to bring the embrace closer. Victor’s hand weaved through Yuuri’s hair and Yuuri exhaled a long sigh, easing himself into Victor’s arms. “I don’t know which part you read but I honestly don’t want to know either. Why did you choose to read it now?”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Not the book, but whether I’m…” He had to stop. He breathed in a shaky breath, desperate to control the tears that threatened to fall. He reminded himself of his own word: he was not going to cry. And he didn’t. It took him a while, the need for repetitive breaths and the thought of puppies to help, but he kept control. “Whether I’m making this worse. I needed to know if he’s changed, if he’s crueler now I’m here, or if I made it worse.”

When he felt Victor shake his head, he didn’t expect himself to not believe him. “You didn’t change anything, Yuuri,” Victor spoke. Yuuri told himself to believe him but he couldn’t convince himself to do so. “You’re not doing anything to make this worse. He’s always been like this.”

“Spontaneous with his punishments?” Yuuri asked, his question being confirmed as Victor nodded. Yuuri couldn’t believe him. It still wasn’t enough. “Why do you think they’re as bad as they are?”

“It’s keeping us in fear,” Victor spoke when he moved back. His eyes met Yuuri’s but his arms stayed holding onto him, protecting him with just his touch. Yuuri felt nothing but comfort. “He’s using that to his power, making us scared to do something he doesn’t want us to do, making us scared of his retaliation.” There was a pause. Victor raised his hand, brushing it through Yuuri’s hair. His nails gently scratched Yuuri’s scalp and he exhaled a breath, letting his eyes close as it eased his mind. “That’s why you haven’t been back at the window again, isn’t it?”

Yuuri chewed the inside of his lip as he nodded. His eyes opened and met with Victor’s. “This is definitely control, isn’t it?”

In the corner of his eye, he could see the window. The light that poured through reminded them that there was an entirely different world outside – a world that held less horrors and fears than the world inside their room. Outside that window was their freedom. It was their sanctuary. And Yuuri’s motivation to keep on fighting. He’ll be outside in that world soon, he was certain of it.

Victor sighed, shaking his head. “And we can’t even fight against him…”

Yuuri’s entire body jolted, like Victor’s words stabbed through his chest and he froze stiff. Victor’s words left him startled, lost for a breath. He didn’t expect those words to come from Victor, especially so soon after the comfort he gave. Yuuri wanted to give him encouragement and strength. He wanted Victor to feel the same Yuuri did when Victor helped him through his own sorrows. And the realization that Victor’s hope was still gone – that even after his many attempts trying to show Victor that there is an escape somewhere in that room – had Yuuri quickly shake his head and grab Victor’s shoulders tightly, startling him that he stared back at Yuuri.

He refused to see any more sadness in Victor’s eyes. The man had put him through enough, torturing him for a year and a half and forcing him to suffer from the pain of his punishments alone. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. And Yuuri wanted him to stop thinking there was nothing left to do. He had to stop giving up hope because while Yuuri still felt hope, he was going to share it with Victor. He will always help Victor see the light, even if Victor never believed him.

“We may not be able to fight against it but we have our own ways of fighting back,” Yuuri stated firmly, loud and true. Victor held his stare, silent as Yuuri continued. “I will never let him take away the last ounce of my hope. It wouldn’t matter how long I have been here for, I will still hold onto that hope. There are too many people I have to get back to. I keep them in mind and you should too. I won’t ever stop fighting to try and escape and all I want is for you to feel the same.”

Victor’s face fell, the grief and pain of the last year forced him to struggle to understand. “I’ve tried, Yuuri,” Victor argued. “I-I wanted to keep it. I tried but everything he did to me and everything he made me feel, I wonder constantly if there’s any hope of escaping at all. I don’t see it. I don’t know if I can keep hold of my hope because I can’t escape and he hurts me because of it.”

“He doesn’t want us to escape. That’s why he’s making us feel like this. That’s why he’s hurting us.” The sadness in Victor’s eyes didn’t fade and Yuuri cupped his cheek, gently raising his head for their eyes to meet. Victor moved with the touch, but his frown remained. “I wish you didn’t have to spend a year alone in this room. You didn’t deserve that. You spent a year alone, dealing with this all by yourself and I-I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been and how scared you were. You didn’t deserve any of this, Victor.”

Yuuri didn’t want that. He didn’t want any more sorrow from Victor - no more tears of sadness. The man put him through enough. He tortured Victor for a year. He forced him to suffer from the pain of his punishments alone and controlled him so much that Victor saw no way out. That wasn’t fair. The man was evil. He was evil in its truest form. He didn’t pretend to care or show them remorse. He was sick, twisted, and everything they feared in a person.

“I just wish I knew why he chose me. Why-why I was the one he decided to kidnap and hold captive.” His eyes closed and his lips pressed together, squeezing them shut to hide away whatever emotion was threatening to escape. When a single tear fell from his eyes, Yuuri wiped it away with his thumb. Victor took a moment before his eyes opened again. “I’m just a figure skater. I’m just… I know I get called a living legend but I never thought that would mean this would be possible. This isn’t supposed to happen. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Then Victor pulled away completely and Yuuri felt cold without him. He watched Victor move to the bed. He sat on the side with his fists clenched in his lap and his eyes glaring at the ground, an anger settling inside. Yuuri wanted to help but he didn’t know what to say. There were no words he could say to make Victor feel better. All he could offer was his support, but he hoped it would be enough.

“He ripped me away from my life,” Victor growled through gritted teeth. His knuckles turned white. “He forced me into this room with little care, kept me isolated from the world for a reason he’s refusing to explain.” His eyes suddenly met Yuuri’s and a rage burned within. “Is it because I’m a living legend? Was the man jealous of my success that he took me away from it? Or – or is this all random and he’s doing it because he’s a sick and twisted monster, getting off on our misery because he just loves it?”

There was nothing Yuuri could say – nothing he could do which would help Victor. He could let Victor express his pain, but that only did so much before everything came rushing back because of the unanswered questions plaguing his mind. But Yuuri would always show his support, and in a sudden spontaneous move, he moved forward. His hands cupped Victor’s cheeks and Victor stayed frozen in place, still as Yuuri pressed a tender kiss on Victor’s forehead. His thumb stroked his cheek as he whispered, “It’s been hard for you, hasn’t it?”

Victor said nothing. His lips pressed together and his eyes squeezed shut as he nodded. And suddenly, when a sob broke free from his lips, Yuuri didn’t need to be asked to return the hug Victor delved in for. He held Victor tight, keeping him close as he hushed his tears and rocked him side to side. He let his fingers gently brush through Victor’s hair, knowing it soothed him when he needed it. There was no intention of letting go.

Yuuri didn’t want the tears, but he felt they were long overdue.

 

Chapter Text

The crying helped. It didn’t make everything better, but it helped.

Victor’s pain gradually eased and calmed enough for him to soon stop crying. It had taken a while, Victor’s tears unable to stop as his heartache tore through him, shaking his shoulders with each sob, but he pulled through. He always did. Yuuri waited until his tears stopped completely before he had Victor start talking. It wasn’t to say what was wrong. They both already knew that. It was to keep his mind occupied and divert his attention away from what hurt. Yuuri knew the frustration of his mind thinking too much, unable to stop and turn away. He knew it, and Victor needed that distraction too.

They sat down and talked for what might have been hours. It was silly things like Yuuri’s favorite color or Victor’s favorite movie, and sometimes Yuuri brought up topics about Victor that he already knew, like his career or his dog. He asked about everything and it didn’t matter what he mentioned. If it helped distract Victor’s mind, Yuuri would talk about it. He even mentioned his own dog, Vicchan. He told Victor stories that made him smile and out of everything Yuuri mentioned, Victor laughed that he and Vicchan shared the same name. It was the first time Yuuri heard Victor’s laugh in a long while.

They talked until the sun rose in the early hours of dawn. Yuuri could say Victor was better. He was emotionally drained and tired from talking all night, but better. He relaxed into a sense of serenity and Yuuri soon persuaded him to go to sleep. He pulled the sheets over them and pressed close together, finding comfort and warmth in the embrace. Yuuri’s hand found Victor’s hair – it always did – and he brushed his fingers through the strands, easing the tension in Victor’s shoulders as they slept while the morning sun began to rise.

And suddenly, everything was back to normal. It was a shift, like a change in the tide as a bad day became an okay day, followed by another, and another, until the bad day felt like a distant memory. Yuuri always found it strange. It was too easy to move on from a bad day – too easy to live while it still stayed inside their minds, reminding them what happened as they cook their breakfast or read a book. They just move on.

What scared Yuuri the most was how easy it was to pretend everything was okay. But they had to move on with their lives, regardless how scared they were. They knew better than to let the fear affect their survival, so they bounced back to their routines because they had no choice.

Yuuri joined Victor in his morning exercises, even asking to do more to regain his strength. They wrote in their journal when they had nothing else to do, reliving the horrors as they put it in writing. Yuuri even read a few more of Victor’s entries, only shedding a few tears and feeling proud of how much he read. And Victor taught Yuuri how to cook using correct portions. Everything had to be counted or thought ahead and it gave Yuuri a headache after a while. He had to remember even the littlest things like if a cup full of cereal was too much, or if they’d have enough bread before it goes off. It was a lot but he was getting used to life in that room. He felt more confident he wouldn’t mess up again.

Everything was alright.

But sometimes, Victor had bad days where he’d let it accumulate in his mind - days where the horror and pain of their abduction plagued his mind with memories that he’d rather forget.

Yuuri wanted Victor to start asking for help on those specific bad days. He wished Victor would open up and explain what was hurting him, but he’d rather forget. And Victor’s way of forgetting was to not talk about his problems. He instead asked for comfort, which was necessary, but Yuuri wanted him to ask for communication too.

But it didn’t mean that Victor didn’t talk to Yuuri on his bad days. The truth was that Victor spoke too much, bringing up every topic that came to mind, only to never mention what was wrong with him. He’d avoid it with a discussion of his favorite food or a story about his dog. Yuuri noticed it rather easily, the quick diversion of another topic or dismissing Yuuri’s question when he did ask if Victor was alright. Victor was good at not talking about his problems, but he wasn’t very good at hiding them.

Victor was needy. His neediness made him desperate for Yuuri to reply and keep the conversation going. It was enough of a distraction to keep his mind occupied and forget whatever was hurting him. His neediness made him touchy too. It was like a twitch, a sudden want for his hand to feel Yuuri’s arm or touch the low of his back. His hands would always find Yuuri, whether it was in a hug he’d casually ask for or a request to hold his hand, Victor would find Yuuri.

And while those touches helped, it wasn’t enough. Yuuri could see the despair in his eyes, how it washed away his blues to become a dull grey. He let that sadness consume him. It ate away at his happiness, hidden in Victor’s fake smile and lifeless eyes. Yuuri didn’t want to see it but he knew it was there. It mocked him as it made Victor push his worries away and store them deep in the back of his mind while topic after topic fell from his lips, but none that explained why Victor was so down.

Yuuri wanted to help but he knew Victor wouldn’t spill everything that easily. As much as he wanted Victor to communicate with him and say what was wrong, Victor would say he’s fine or dismiss the question, asking if Yuuri was alright instead and turning his attention to him. It annoyed Yuuri every time. He wished Victor would open up more, but he couldn’t force it out of him. So, Yuuri told himself to wait and let Victor come to him in his own time.

But that still didn’t mean Yuuri didn’t try something to help.

He knew Victor liked distraction so he put on a movie. There wasn’t much else to do given the lack of things they had in the room so he settled on a movie for them to watch. It was a musical. It gave Victor music, songs, and sweet scenes that should be enough to keep Victor occupied.

But Yuuri didn’t put it on to listen to the music or watch the same scenes on repeat. They were both too used to it. Instead, Yuuri had another idea. He flipped through the settings, deciding that it was time for a change to help distract Victor.

“I’m going to play this in Japanese,” Yuuri said as he changed the settings. He saw Victor give him a look and as his mouth opened to reply, Yuuri spoke before he could. “I could teach you some Japanese if you’d like?”

Victor’s smile grew bright. It stretched across his lips, genuine happiness coming through as he nodded. “That would be lovely,” He said and Yuuri smiled back. “Then we could watch it in Russian and I could teach you some Russian too!”

Yuuri nodded, excited for the plans. He was pleased he could get Victor to focus on something else. He knew it went against what he wanted but if he could get Victor to feel better before he does eventually talk to Victor about communicating, he’d have a better chance of Victor listening to him. Victor remembered his routine well, but his memory itself wasn’t the best.

That was how they spent the rest of their day. They sat on the bed, teaching each other their native language while the movie played in the background. Their attention diverted, turning to each other as Yuuri tried teaching Victor some Japanese. He didn’t pick up on it as quickly as Yuuri wanted but by the time they were ready to cook dinner, he could remember a few words. He liked to think he did well learning Russian but the language was too confusing and by the end of the day, he could only remember a couple of words - one being Vkusno, which meant delicious. Yuuri learned it was something Victor liked to exclaim when he enjoyed a meal. Yuuri had yet to hear him say it.

Yuuri believed he had done well helping Victor. He wasn’t so touchy and he quietened down, his conversation slowly coming to a silent stop. Yuuri was certain Victor was better and didn’t worry when he announced he was going to have a shower. Victor seemed fine as he nodded and Yuuri trusted Victor would be okay. He was better than he was in the morning. There wasn’t much that could go wrong.

Yuuri entered the bathroom, closing the door behind him. He exhaled a long breath. It wasn’t often he got time to himself anymore so he took bliss in those rare moments. His showers were his only privacy from Victor and from the man. It was the break he needed, but the loneliness and unfamiliarity of the room still had him uneasy. He wished he could bathe in the hot springs back home.

He shook his head, willing the memories to not bother him now. He reached for the shower faucet but stopped when a chill rushed down his spine. He paused for a moment to feel the chill again. It was in the air – a gentle draft that came from above him. He stepped back and looked up. A small air vent was above him, no bigger than his hand but Yuuri never knew it was opened. It was the first time he felt a draft come from it; but then his eyes landed on the window above the sink. He stared and began to ponder possibilities.

His eyes glanced to each corner of the room, searching for a hidden camera or anything that’ll alert the man of his intentions. The more he searched, it became easier to confirm that he truly had privacy in the bathroom. There was no camera, and Yuuri held a mischievous smile. He was able to act without the man seeing and that had him giddy and excited.

Climbing onto the sink was harder than he thought. He imagined it being easy, just stepping up and standing tall to look through the window. It was supposed to be that easy, but Yuuri held fears. He was too afraid to put too much weight on the sink, scared that it would break beneath him. Even him slowly standing up had his heart pound. The thought of himself losing his balance and falling stayed in his mind, replaying scenes of him hurting himself made him grab hold of the window ledge to keep balance. Then he stood straight, just a little shorter than the window that he had to stand on his tip-toes as he peered at the outside world once again.

He couldn’t see anything. It was too dark outside, the shadow of night consuming everything beyond him. His heart sank. Even with the new view, he saw no signs of life anywhere. There were no homes nearby or a town in the distance, nothing other than what he assumed was the forest that surrounded the place that kept them captive. It didn’t reassure Yuuri that he’d be found, but only strengthened his willpower to escape himself.

He checked the window like he did the one in the main room. He tested the glass, checking it was just as strong – which it was. He felt around the sides, hoping for a weak spot he could aim a hit at but he had no luck. He tried opening it, knowing the results already but he had to try. The window was much like the other, locked with no chance of opening. Yuuri peered higher, checking to see if the window was exactly like the other. He saw one difference. That window didn’t have a chain keeping it locked together.

He pondered a few possibilities. Either the window was shut more securely, unable to ever open even with the man’s attempt, or there was a way to break it open and he could do it without the man knowing or seeing.

As much as Yuuri wanted his second guess to be true, he held doubts. The man wouldn’t leave the window defenseless and unattended. The other window, if opened, could only go so far. The window in the bathroom could not. Yuuri couldn’t even see a lock he could try to pick. He had no doubt that the window was bolted shut somehow, incapable of opening even by the man’s hands. It would explain why there was an air vent.

But he wondered if he tried to open it, when could he do it and how could he avoid the man becoming suspicious. There wasn’t anything he could use, no hammer or a sharp knife that he could attempt to break it open with. If he wanted to spend time assessing the window, he’d have to do it late when the man doesn’t watch them. He’d notice Yuuri’s long disappearance during the day, but not at night when he didn’t watch them. Then Yuuri turned, eyes staring at the door and knowing what was on the other side. If he wanted to check that window too, he’d have to do it when it was late.

But was the effort worth it when he had nothing to open it with? The only lock he could attempt to pick was on the outside, out of reach and Yuuri couldn’t even open that window to get to it. If he did spend the night trying to open it, surely the man would notice him sleeping in late and begin to be suspicious. His sleep was important, as was avoiding the man’s suspicion.

He decided he would check it for an hour or so at night, attempt to crack it open, then return to Victor’s side in bed. It was his best bet – his safest option.

He climbed down just as carefully as before, slowly as he made sure not to lose his balance. He kept his mind focused on not falling backward rather than the sink breaking beneath him. Neither thoughts helped but he eventually got his two feet firmly on the ground, unhurt and triumphant as he stood tall. He was proud of himself. He did it without needing help. It made him smile and he caught his reflection in the mirror. His eyes glanced for a second before they jumped back, bug-eyed as he stared at his own face. A gasp escaped him.

He hardly recognized who stared back. He knew it was him, but he’d never seen himself like this before. His hair was longer and his fingers ran through his untamed strands, pushing it away from his eyes. His skin was pale like fragile porcelain, ready to break under too much pressure. His face was so thin. His hand tenderly stroked his cheek, feeling his more defined cheekbones beneath his palm as they stuck out against his pale skin. His eyes were frozen like a winter lake, robbed from their usual warmth. They were tired, drained from the emotional trauma and Yuuri’s heart fell to his stomach. It tugged mercilessly, reminding him of his desperation to escape.

If the man wasn’t slowly killing him, he didn’t know what the man was doing.

The sound of an intense scream replaced the silence. It tore through Yuuri like shards of glass. His body jolted and his pulse quickened, his heart thudding as the blood drained from his face. The scream came again, desperate, terrified, and before Yuuri was even aware that he was making a conscious decision, his legs were moving.

“Victor?!” He called and barged through the door.

Victor was on the ground, sat on his knees and curled up in a ball with his hands over his head. He rocked back and forth, his screaming tearing through him. It was so different to the screams he’d hear Victor release during a nightmare – so different. It was raw and real. It was the sound of a person consumed by so much pain that it knew no end or limit.

Yuuri trembled, suddenly completely unaware of what he could do to help. He could help Victor’s nightmares, but this was new. This was the first time he’s seen Victor’s screaming fit in person. It was the first time Victor screamed for a reason other than his nightmares. The screams hurt his chest, each just as painful as the last, and Yuuri had a desperate need to help.

“Victor?” Yuuri tried as he gingerly stepped forward. Victor suddenly went quiet, just panting as Yuuri sat beside him. He was still reluctant to touch Victor, afraid that he would make things worse. Then a piercing scream rang in his ears and his hand was on Victor’s back, gently stroking circles to help soothe his cries. He shouldn’t hold back because of his fear. Victor needed him.

“Victor, it’s me,” Yuuri said softly, hushing Victor’s screams as he constantly spoke in his ear. “It’s me, Yuuri. I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m right here. You’re not alone in this, okay? I’m here for you. I’m here…”

But he didn’t stop. His screams echo throughout the room, endless and loud until he needed a breath. He’d then stop and pant for a while, catching his breath until his screams started once again. Yuuri didn’t stop speaking – didn’t stop reassuring Victor that he was there and he wasn’t going anywhere. He didn’t know if it was what Victor needed to hear or if it was even helping him, but Yuuri wasn’t going to give up on his attempts. He would never stop trying to help.

Victor began panting again, fast and desperate as he choked out a sob between each breath. Yuuri’s mind frantically searched for a way to help him or what to do to get him grounded again. He remembered Victor’s journal. He explained his fits, what he did when he screamed and how he felt when he couldn’t stop. It gave Yuuri an idea.

He moved closer to Victor’s ear, making sure he could hear him above his panting. “Victor, this is real,” He reassured, speaking loud enough so he would hear. If Victor’s hallucinations were the reason why his screaming began, he needed to make sure Victor didn’t think he was a figment of his imagination. He needed to reassure Victor that he was real. “This voice that you are hearing is real, okay? It belongs to Katsuki Yuuri, the person you’ve been trapped with for a few months. I really am here, Victor.”

He kept speaking those words in a loop, constant until Victor did nothing else but pant. He breathed hard, inhaling a heavy breath and releasing it before sucking in another. Yuuri’s hand stayed on his back, soothing his pain as he spoke softly in Victor’s ear.

He took a moment to get a glass of water, knowing that when Victor eventually snaps back, his voice would be hoarse and sore. He put it to his side as he sat back down. When his hand gently touched Victor’s back, he suddenly gasped and shot up. His wide-eyed stare never left Yuuri’s, unblinking as Yuuri shared the same expression. He hadn’t expected Victor’s sudden change but he was finally up and moving. He was more relieved than anything.

Yuuri pulled Victor into an embrace. He wrapped his arm around Victor, reminding him that he was safe and protected - that nothing was going to hurt him. Yuuri began humming to him as his hand found Victor’s hair, silently singing the lullaby his mother used to sing to him. His fingers caressed through Victor’s hair, helping his breathing ease and encouraging his body to relax.

They stayed like that for a while, locked in an embrace that brought peace and calmed the storms in their hearts. Yuuri still wasn’t sure what triggered Victor’s screaming fit. He thought about it but he couldn’t focus. His mind was on Victor, making sure he was okay as he rocked him side to side and continued to hum. His priority was making sure Victor was okay.

“Tell me what’s real,” Victor then whispered, making Yuuri perk up at the sound of his voice. It strained as he spoke, rough from his constant screaming but he was talking. He was making progress. “I need to know what’s real. Tell me what’s real.”

Yuuri didn’t know exactly what Victor was asking for, but he knew something he could say.

“Your name is Victor Nikiforov. My name is Katsuki Yuuri,” He began, starting with something that was easy to believe. “You live in Saint Petersburg, Russia. I live in Hasetsu, Japan. You’re a figure skater, I’m a ballet dancer.” He paused for a moment, listening for Victor. His grip tightened on Yuuri’s shirt and he took it as a silent request to continue. “We have both been kidnapped by the same man. We’ve been trapped in a room. You’ve been here for over a year. I’ve been here for a few months.”

“Keep going,” Victor begged.

“You have a dog called Makkachin and I have a dog called Vicchan. He shares the same name as you, completely coincidental. It made you laugh when I told you. Do you remember?” He felt Victor nod against his shoulder. He wondered what to say next. Victor asked for reality and Yuuri only wanted to say so much. There was themselves, the room, and the man, but Yuuri didn’t want to bring him up. Victor asked for reality. And Yuuri knew only one more thing to say.

“You’re scared and I’m scared too,” He began. Victor’s nails dug into his back as he silently begged for Yuuri to be closer. “But we can get through this. You can get through this.”

And when Victor nodded against his shoulder, Yuuri bit back his proud smile as Victor said, “I can get through this.”

They stayed in their embrace a little while longer before moving to the bed. It was Victor who wanted to move. The ground was becoming too uncomfortable for him and his knees were beginning to hurt. Yuuri didn’t protest. The bed was much comfortable than the floor and as Victor laid down, Yuuri was by his side – arms around him.

It was time for them to talk.

“You don’t always have to tell me what’s wrong.” Yuuri paused, trying to find the right words to say as Victor rested his head against his chest. “You know that, right?”

Victor hummed. “I can hear your heartbeat.”

“Victor…” Victor’s words prompted his cheeks to blush and his heart to pound. Yuuri willed his heart to ease. He took a deep breath, but it didn’t settle and hoped Victor didn’t notice as he continued. “Look, you don’t always have to say what’s wrong, but I think we should start letting each other know if something is wrong.”

“It was stupid,” Victor said, dismissing his own problem. He pressed himself closer and Yuuri guessed it was to continue listening to his heart. “I just overthink sometimes and exaggerate the smallest things… You don’t need to worry.”

Yuuri sighed. “This is why I want us to talk,” He said as his hand brushed through Victor’s hair, pushing it away from his face. “Whatever was on your mind caused a trigger. I’ve never seen you have a screaming fit like that before. It – It scared me, Victor. I didn’t know what to do to help and you just…”

“I’m sorry,” Victor muttered, nuzzling his face against Yuuri’s chest.

“Don’t apologize for something like that.”

Through the heavy silence where the world hung still, Yuuri knew nothing but Victor. He could hear his breathing, slow and steady as it disrupted the quietness. He could feel Victor’s warm body against his own and his strong arms that wrapped around him. He could even feel the steady beat of Victor’s heart. He became aware of the soft thumping as Victor listened to his own. He closed his eyes and focused on it, counting the beats he could feel one after the other.

“I drove myself insane because you weren’t in the room.” Victor’s voice disturbed the silence and Yuuri opened his eyes. He looked down, eyeing the mop of silver hair that weaved between his fingers. He stopped brushing them through Victor’s hair, now choosing to let them rest there to keep him close. “I should have heard the shower but I didn’t. The longer I went without hearing it, I started to believe that you didn’t exist and I made you up. But then I suddenly knew you did exist. I knew you were in there but because I couldn’t hear the shower, I just… fell, I guess. The silence took over and I was so desperate to hear the shower that hearing anything would have helped.”

“And then you started screaming?” Yuuri finished and Victor nodded, exhaling a heavy breath as he did so. Yuuri chewed the inside of his cheek and soon, the taste of blood filled his mouth.

“I’m so afraid, Yuuri,” Victor said just above a whisper. He then shifted, moving himself up so he could see Yuuri face to face. His mouth hung open, his words stuck in his throat until Yuuri’s hand fell on his arm and his thumb gently caressed his skin. “It’s been over a year. I shouldn’t be so afraid, yet I am. I’m still scared like I was my first day here. I still don’t know what might happen to me or if I’ll ever be found. I’m still desperate to escape yet I don’t have the willpower to keep trying. I feel like I have no control over my own life and it’s terrifying me. I-I know I’m just being stupid but…”

Yuuri shook his head fast, his hand on his arm moving to cup his cheek instead. He wanted Victor’s eyes to stay on only him. “Don’t say that, Victor. Don’t ever say how you feel is stupid, okay?” He watched as Victor nodded, pleased with the response. His hand brushed Victor’s hair from his face, noticing he didn’t look himself at all. “You look tired.”

“It’s been keeping me up,” He admitted. Yuuri’s mind quickly recalled the past few nights. He would have known if Victor was awake, he hardly slept himself too. He would remember if Victor was awake unless he pretended? Yuuri wasn’t sure but it didn’t completely matter.  

“We need to start talking again,” Yuuri said. He needed to bring the conversation up. Victor sometimes talked if something was on his mind, but he wasn’t always completely honest. “I know sometimes it’s easier to just keep it to yourself but I don’t want to see you like that again. You were having a bad day in general and that didn’t help. If there’s something on your mind, it’s okay to say it.”

“Then I want you to do the same,” Victor replied. Yuuri blinked, unsure what Victor meant by that. “You do the same sometimes. When you feel anxious, you prefer to sort it out yourself rather than ask me for help.”

Yuuri knew he did that. It was automatic, something he taught himself to do because he never liked to bother everyone with his anxious worries. If his anxiety peaked, he had to find a way to help himself. Outside of that room, there wasn’t always someone there that could help him. But now, he had Victor. He was always with Victor for every minute of every day. He could turn to him for help like he wanted Victor to do as well.

Perhaps Yuuri was being selfish in his request, but at least he was thinking more of Victor’s wellbeing than his own. Then he wondered if ignoring his own was a good thing. “It seems we both need to start communicating more.”

Victor nodded as he sighed, his breath trembling as he did so. Yuuri caught his lip wobbling. It threatened to let out a sob that he was biting back. Yuuri didn’t want to see Victor’s tears anymore, but when he watched one fall from Victor’s eyes, he wiped it away with his palm and pulled Victor back into an embrace. He fell into Yuuri’s chest, his hands gripped Yuuri’s shirt tightly as he muttered, “I’m just so afraid, Yuuri.”

“Me too,” He muttered honestly. It was time he started being truthful about his emotions too. Yuuri didn’t think when he kissed the crown of Victor’s head, but he had no reason to regret the action. His eyes fell shut as he nestled his face into Victor’s hair, smelling his recognizable scent.

“I don’t say this as often as I should, but thank you,” Victor said and Yuuri didn’t open his eyes. He listened as his trembling hand laced through Victor’s hair, listening to him speak. “You’ve helped me so much since you’ve arrived and I don’t tell you that enough.”

“And you’ve helped me too,” Yuuri replied lazily. He was growing more tired by the minute, but he’d always stay awake to hear Victor speak. “When I find a way out of here, I’m making sure you’ll follow right behind me. You’ll get out too. I won’t ever leave you.”

“I don’t doubt you’ll find a way out of here,” Victor said and Yuuri nodded mutely, confident he’d be able to do it. A silence followed and Yuuri listened. Victor’s breathing trembled and suddenly, his chest heaved with a quiet sob. “I wish you didn’t have to go through this too.” Another sob wracked through him, his shoulders shaking with grief as a thin wail followed.

It had been an emotional few days for Victor. When he started to cry, Yuuri didn’t fret. Victor would always pull through because he was strong. He still had some fight in him, enough to let Yuuri keep him close and soothe him when he needed it. He stroked a hand through Victor’s hair until his breathing slowed. He hummed the lullaby he sang to Victor after his fit, remembering how it helped ease him then. And now, Victor’s cries had stopped, leaving only his wet tears down his cheeks as he slept silently, undisturbed even in his dreams.

As Yuuri held on to Victor tightly, he fell into his own blissful sleep. His dreams were safe. They took him back home, back to the onsen with his family and friends surrounding him. Dreaming was a sanctuary - an escape from the horrors of the room.

 

Chapter Text

 

The home had been left untouched, memories of a past that happened so long ago were left on the shelves and walls. They collected dust over the years and cobwebs took the home for themselves. It was strange being back after so long. Despite how long Yakov Feltsman had been away from his students’ home, he still remembered everything about the place.

Yakov could say a lot about his students. Each left a lasting memory in his aging mind, achievements, and success that he’s so proud of, but not one left such a mark on him like Victor Nikiforov.

He had talent, there was no denying that. He was never arrogant about his gift, never boasted that he was the best and would always win. He simply knew he was good and he didn’t deny that to himself. He was smarter than people thought. He was kinder than they assumed. Victor was many things people never expected and he surprised them like that.

But Victor was the reason for a lot of Yakov’s stress. He never listened, no matter how loud Yakov yelled and demanded for the boy to pay attention, he never did. He always thought he knew what was best. He took risks he shouldn’t and was completely selfish and thoughtless towards anyone but himself. Victor caused a lot of his stress and he didn’t doubt he was the reason for his excessive hair loss.

Yet, Victor reminded Yakov of himself in his youth. He was once the same, and perhaps that was why he saw Victor like the son he never had. He practically raised him, after all. He watched him grow from a little boy who didn’t know how to skate into a man with success, achievements, and a cabinet full of medals. He was Yakov’s pride – the first student he’d mention if anyone asked. Victor was many things, selfish, thoughtless, a little airheaded, but he was courageous, kind, and observant.  He had perseverance, intelligence, and charisma. Yakov may be playing favorites, but Victor knew how to be remembered.

Even when he went missing, he could never be forgotten.

Yakov closed the door behind him and walked further inside. The home hadn’t changed in the year, but nobody had been there since Victor disappeared. Yakov knew that one day, he’d go inside the home and clean up the dust that had been collecting, but he didn’t expect to do it after so long. He held hope in the early months of Victor’s disappearance that he’d hear good news, that they found Victor, and he would go inside to clean for him. But instead, he was there a year after Victor went missing, on his birthday with a bouquet of blue roses in hand.

He scrubbed a hand over his face. Dread tugged mercilessly at his chest and he sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm the ache. Victor’s bag was by the door, the one he always took to training. His skates leaned against it. The once black shoes were now light grey, coated in the dust that had collected over the year. Yakov sighed and put the bouquet of roses to the side. He picked up the skates and wiped away the dust, cleaning the year away.

“Yakov, now don’t be mad… but I’m going to take a break from skating for a while.”

Yakov stared ahead, his phone nearly slipped from his hands. A sudden rage burned within, a fury that had him tense his shoulders and grit his teeth. It was a week before Nationals. What a stupid boy he was for announcing that now.

“And why did you decide to tell me this now?” He demanded, tightening his grip on his phone to keep it from slipping. He needed an answer to explain his irresponsible decision, but he already knew no excuse would be valid.

“I want to experience life. I want to see what the world has to offer me outside of skating,” Victor answered. While it wasn’t the answer Yakov wanted, he knew it wasn’t a complete lie nor the full truth either. “It’s a break I need.”

Yakov wasn’t a stupid man. He knew Victor didn’t feel the same about his Grand Prix win as the previous years. There was a type of sorrow in his eyes, a sadness he hid as he smiled and waved at the cameras. He wasn’t proud of his win. Yakov knew Victor was losing his inspiration but he didn’t want to believe that was what encouraged this choice. It was stupid and reckless, completely irresponsible.

If he wanted to take a break, he could do it after Nationals. Yakov was putting his foot down.

“But you have Nationals in a week and you know you’re set for gold. Why are you making this choice now?” He asked, trying desperately to make Victor think through his idea properly. “What about your career? Where do you even plan to go? What about money, sponsors, and everything you worked so hard for?”

“They’ll still be there when I return!” Yakov could hear the smile in his voice. He was cheery, too positive for such an irresponsible choice. Yakov ran a hand down his face and sighed hard. “And I don’t know where I’m going but that’s the exciting part. I’m going to take the first flight I can and see where it takes me!”

Yakov didn’t know what to say. It was a stupid, reckless, and completely illogical decision. Victor hadn’t thought it out properly and Yakov was ready to continue arguing against the idea, but instead, he somehow found himself in the car with Victor, driving him to the airport.

He was an idiot too.

He put the skates down and moved onwards.

There were many times Yakov wished he could go back and stop Victor getting on that plane. He thought perhaps if he was stricter with Victor, he could have convinced him to say. He could have stopped Victor from going but instead, he was the idiot. He drove Victor to the airport. If he hadn’t done that, Victor would still be here.

Yakov had many regrets in his life, but letting Victor leave that day is his biggest.

His eyes searched the room. Victor’s home didn’t feel like him anymore, but with his year long absence, Yakov feared that was the reason why. But he’d always find something that reminded him of Victor. There were a few pictures hung on the walls. One was of Victor as a child with his parents, another was a nice picture of Makkachin. His medals were proudly hung in his medal cabinet, gleaming against the rays of sunlight that cast the room in a dull orange. It all helped Yakov remember Victor, but without them, the home would feel like just another home.

He sighed heavily and moved into the kitchen. He grabbed an empty vase that sat on the windowsill, filled it with water before moving into the main room. He sat on the couch and sank into its comfort, enjoying that silent moment as he put the vase on the coffee table in front of him. He placed the roses in the vase and admired them.

They were blue roses, Victor’s favorite. It was a gift Yakov gave him every year because it was all he asked for. And although Victor wasn’t there, he wasn’t going to stop the tradition. He took out his phone and snapped a picture, sending it to Victor because it was what he did last year.

The message failed to send.

“It’s my birthday tomorrow!” Victor sang down the phone to him. Yakov was ready to complain that Victor still hadn’t come home yet, but he let him be. “And you know what the best part about taking a break is? I can spend my birthday however I like!”

“Or you could have spent it with a gold medal in hand and a fanbase still happy with your choice,” Yakov replied bitterly. He was trying hard not to be but the reaction from everybody else was very similar to his own. Victor was the only one who thought this was a good idea. And still, he stuck by his decision. Yakov sighed hard and shook his head. “What are you going to do anyway? It’s Christmas day. Everywhere will be closed in America.”

He traveled to the states because apparently, it was the first flight he caught. Yakov didn’t believe that. He pondered if Victor had been planning this in advance, but he was already there, he couldn’t tell him to come back now.

“Like I said, however I like,” Victor replied happily. It had been a while since Yakov heard Victor be this excited for his birthday. He wondered if this really was a choice Victor needed to take. But still, what stupid timing it was. “Did you get me my present?”

“I did.”

“Be sure to take a picture and send them to me,” Victor said, his smile still in his voice. “I still want my blue birthday roses and you singing me happy birthday when I call you tomorrow. I know I’m 8 hours behind so I’ll call sometime in the evening for you, yes?”

“Fine,” Yakov grumbled. He’d send the picture but he was definitely not going to sing happy birthday. “I’ll send the picture in the morning. I expect you to remember to call me in the evening.”

“I won’t forget, I promise!”

That was the last time Yakov spoke to Victor.

He didn’t bother trying to resend the text. He knew it was about as useful as calling him. He’d never get a response. He exhaled a breath as he pocketed his phone.

He still remembered the last time he spoke to Victor. The promise of a phone call stayed in his mind. He thought Victor had forgotten to ring back at the time. He sent the text that morning and waited for the call, but it never came. He remembered being angry, but he was at Nationals and he had other students who needed him. He assumed Victor was just enjoying his day, he would call back eventually. It wasn’t until nightfall that Yakov finally tried calling Victor. He never answered his calls.

Yakov was so mad that when he grew tired, he stopped trying to call. He gave up, deciding to let Victor enjoy his day. He recalled somewhere in his mind telling him it wasn’t right. He knew something was wrong, but he told himself not to worry. Victor would call back eventually. He had a sleepless night, waking up every hour to check if Victor called back.

And a year later, he was still waiting for that call.

If Yakov had known the seriousness of the situation, he would have called the police sooner. He wished he had. Maybe that would have made a difference and Victor would be home again, but he had no idea. He thought it was just Victor being Victor, the forgetful skater he remembered him being. But how wrong he was.

The stress was unbearable. He knew stress like an old friend but never had it made him so anxious and tense. His anger made everything harder to do to the point where simple tasks became impossible, but he forced himself to keep going. He had to know if Victor was okay.

He called the hotel first. If Victor had just lost his phone, they would have seen him hanging around or coming and going from his room. He asked but nobody had seen Victor on the premises. Yakov groaned loudly as he hung up the call, rubbing his eyes with his hands to ease the thumping tension behind them. This was all an annoying headache but something he needed to do.

His next call was one he hoped he didn’t have to make, but it wasn’t the worst call – not yet. He called up the nearest hospital, praying that Victor was there and just had a minor accident. Out of the last two options he had left, he’d rather Victor be in the hospital than missing. He called, asked if Victor was there, and waited with a held breath as they gave him an answer.

Nothing could describe the dread he felt when he knew he had to contact the police. It locked his stomach tight, pushing every breath he had out of him as his entire being became numb. He still held on to the idea that Victor just being forgetful. It was the only thing keeping him stable.

He soon realized how biased he was when he yelled at Victor for making such a spontaneous choice in leaving. He was ready to do the same, but his reasons were more valid. He put his coaching on a temporary hold, informing his skaters that something had happened to Victor and he needed to be in the states. When he left, it was just local police searching for Victor. When he arrived, it was more.

Yakov still wished that they found more than what they did. Victor’s disappearance was so quick that even now, they couldn’t identify exactly how he was taken. They knew exactly the time he left his hotel that Christmas morning. They knew what street he walked down and which route he took. But then there was a gap, a blind spot that took ten minutes to walk where no cameras had their eye on him. And in that ten-minute gap, Victor disappeared. There was no evidence of a struggle, no eyewitnesses that could say they knew what happened to him, only a few cars that drove past roughly around the time Victor went missing.

They were each interviewed. They each had a valid alibi that could be proven true. When the police finished interviewing them, they no longer had any suspects.

Yakov still couldn’t understand it. Victor couldn’t just disappear, people don’t do that. There was always a hint, a clue that revealed the smallest ounce of the truth. But a year later, they hardly progressed further than they did when they first started their search. Yakov was still angry. The police didn’t search hard enough. They didn’t ask enough people. Surely there was someone, anyone out there who knew the truth.

But what could Yakov do? He was just Victor’s coach. All he could do was sit back, wait, and pray they their search doesn’t end with a dead body. They told him to wait. They told him they would find Victor, but a year was a long time. Time was going against them and the wall clock ticked like a timer on a bomb. He couldn’t stop it, reverse it, or slow it down. Each tick sent a shockwave through him, one after another that thumped against his chest and reminded him of the time that was being wasted – the time that should be spent finding Victor.

Returning to Russia was a slap in the face.

He promised himself he’d be back with Victor dragging behind him and forcing the boy to never step foot out of the country again for the stress he put him through. Instead, Yakov returned with bad news.

He first told his skaters. There was a mix of reactions – shock, dread, grief, and anger. The anger was mostly from Yuri. He shouted at Yakov, yelling at him that he didn’t try hard enough or the police searching for him weren’t good enough. Yakov tried to reassure him, but it went as well as telling himself he was okay. It didn’t.

Yakov was angry too, but he was mostly angry at himself. There was self-blame, what-ifs, and should have’s that went through his mind. If he had just stopped Victor, he would still be here. If he had called the police sooner rather than let himself grow angrier, perhaps Victor would have been found by now. He could think of a thousand ways he could have stopped this, but not one way he could resolve it.

When the press found out about Victor’s disappearance, they wanted to know every detail that Yakov couldn’t answer. No, he didn’t know where Victor was. Yes, he was certain he was missing. No, they weren’t just hiding Victor so he could take his break in peace. They were stupid questions, some too personal that Yakov found himself yelling in front of the cameras, but he mostly stayed silent. It wasn’t their story to tell.

But they already knew the story. The simple truth was that Victor was missing, and nobody knew what had happened to him.

He got to his feet and paced. The ticking was becoming too much, an annoyance in the silence and he had to move. His feet moved by themselves, walking towards Victor’s bedroom without question. The door clicked open and Yakov gingerly made his way inside.

He paused to look around the bedroom. There was a thick layer of pristine dust everywhere, reminding Yakov how long it had been since anyone stepped foot in that home. The last time was to collect Makkachin. He cared for the dog himself now, promising to look after her until Victor was found. He exhaled a heavy breath as he stepped inside, closing the door behind him. His eyes scanned the room.

There was a messy pile of clothes on his bed, left behind when he was packing his suitcase to leave. A couple of books sat on his nightstand, untouched after a year. His curtains were still drawn, blocking out any light that came into the room. Yakov moved towards them, undrawing the curtains in a sudden swift move. Dust flew in the air, landing on his clothes and tickling his nose.

He went to turn but stopped when his eyes fell on a photograph. It sat on the wall and seemed to stand out to him. He stepped closer. When he focused on the picture, his heart stopped as it fell to his stomach. It was a photo of himself and Victor, except Victor was sixteen and won his first gold medal at the Grand Prix Finals.

And suddenly, all that was left was an ache in his chest. Victor was always there in Yakov’s mind, laughing at something Yuri said or excitedly talking about a new routine idea, but he now felt like a silhouette. It was as if he walked out of a photograph and left behind a blackness that resembled his body. The ache came and went, but it always returned in the quietest moments. If Yakov stopped to dwell on it for even a second, the pain would remain.

Yakov’s anger soon turned into silence. It hit the four-month mark of Victor’s disappearance and he wasn’t the only one not dealing with his grief well. Yuri wasn’t doing well either. In fact, out of all his students, Yuri was doing the worst.

He pushed himself very far into isolation, hiding away unless he had training, in which he’d then push himself too far. He went beyond what he was capable of and Yakov feared he’d push himself too much that he’d injure himself. He didn’t talk to anyone anymore, but Yuri didn’t have many friends to begin with. Skating was his friend. Victor was too. But with Victor gone, he threw himself into skating and didn’t let anyone get in his way, not even Yakov.

Yakov’s own grief was to forget about the pain. He’d drink more than he should, a bottle of vodka now sat beside his bed to help him sleep away the heartache. But no matter how much he wanted to stop the hurt, he couldn’t drink when he coached. He kept that away from his job. He wasn’t irresponsible like that, his skaters needed him more than his drinking did. But it was hard. He couldn’t stop himself from losing focus, his mind drifting to the thought of Victor and the same questions replaying in his mind. Is he okay? Is he waiting for somebody to find him? Is he alive?

The worst part was not knowing.

It was a sick thing to happen to Victor. Yakov wished he could trade places so Victor didn’t have to go through this. He was young and only just started his break. He was supposed to be enjoying himself. He just started a new adventure, one where he should be traveling the world and enjoying his time. Instead, it was taken away from him. A sick person in another country took that away from him, deciding that Victor didn’t deserve happiness. Yakov’s anger was at them. His fury was towards the person who took Victor away from him. Whoever they were, Yakov wished them an eternity in hell for what they had done to his son.

He didn’t dare think what they were doing to Victor. He couldn’t, but his mind would unwillingly come up with scenarios that had his heart drop to his stomach and his hand fall to his mouth, muffling the cry that would threaten to escape. If that person was hurting Victor, Yakov would hurt them too. He’d hurt them and never show a single ounce of remorse.

Yakov still had a lot of anger, but his grieving was beginning to fade. He was becoming accustomed to Victor’s absence. As much as he hated the thought, he couldn’t lie to himself. It was beginning to be normal for Victor to not be around.

“Stupid boy,” Yakov said out loud, but no matter what he said, it wouldn’t bring Victor back.

He soon moved back into the living room. He had to leave soon but he wanted to spend as much time in Victor’s home as he could, reminding himself what the place looked like and what Victor did when he wasn’t skating. He could never forget someone as memorable as Victor, but he didn’t dare let Victor slip from his mind.

Yakov stopped in his tracks. A figure stood in the doorway and his heart leaped to his throat, his mind instantly thinking it was Victor. Then his eyes focused on the blond hair before he realized it was just Yuri. His heart eased, but his brows creased as he stared. Yuri stared back, sharing the same expression.

“I thought you’d be here,” Yuri said as he closed the door behind him. He walked further into the room, a small gift in hand. Yakov eyed it. Yuri answered before he could ask. “It’s just the skate I did. I thought maybe when he comes back, he could watch it.”

Yakov said nothing as he watched Yuri place the wrapped gift on the coffee table, next to the bouquet of roses. Yakov didn’t expect to see anyone else, especially not Yuri with a birthday gift. He had ways of surprising him too. They stayed silent as they sat down on the couch, staring at the gifts with little conversation in mind.

Ten months went by too quickly. Ten months since Victor was last seen. He seemed like a distant memory now, but a memory that refused to be forgotten. His disappearance eventually faded from the media, nobody caring to write about it anymore as there was no updated news about it. He was still missing, they still lacked evidence to find him, but they were beginning to suspect this was more than a kidnapping. That was all the media covered anymore. Now, it was tributes acknowledging his achievements and letting everyone remember who he once was.

They acted as if he had died. That was far from the truth, but it was one that others were beginning to believe too.

His students were beginning to move on too. Their thoughts strayed away from him being found, now hardly ever mentioning his name as they moved on with their lives. Yakov was glad to see them no longer grieving but he wished it would have happened when Victor returned, not while he was still missing. They treated it like Victor had died too, gone from their lives and now they were moving on from it. Yakov wished it wasn’t like this, but at least they weren’t letting their grief swallow them anymore.

The police were beginning to suspect murder. There was no evidence to prove it, only hypothesis that because of his fame and popularity, somebody might want him gone. There were two possible outcomes to his disappearance: just a kidnapping or a murder. The length of his kidnapping had gone for longer than they hoped. They were beginning to believe they’d find a dead body before they find the person who did it.

But Yakov had hope. He refused to give up. Victor was out there somewhere, still alive and begging for someone to find him. He was still alive. Yakov could feel it.

“So, you got him a gift too?” Yuri said as he eyed the roses. Yakov gave a single nod and Yuri huffed. “If only he was here to see it. He’s still an idiot for leaving, but I guess he couldn’t help what happened, could he?”

“No,” Yakov shook his head. The clock ticked away to his left, reminding him of the seconds that Victor wasn’t there. He had to speak to distract himself. “A few fans made him a nice tribute today. They still miss him. They want him to watch it if he returns home.”

“They talk about him like he’s already dead,” Yuri growled, his teeth gritted as his fists clenched tightly. Yakov said nothing as he watched Yuri shake his head to himself. “But I refuse to believe it. Not until I see a dead body.”

“It’s just a possibility,” Yakov replied, hoping it was a vague enough answer to leave Yuri thinking rather than angry. He hoped it was enough but as he turned, he was met with a frustrated glare, eyes that shot daggers at him. Yakov sighed hard. He wished he knew the right words to say to Yuri.

“You’re beginning to think so too.” Yakov chose not to reply for Yuri's sake. He didn't want to make the boy more angry but regardless, Yuri continued. “And don’t lie to me. I see it all over your face. You’re beginning to think he’s dead too.”

The hardest part was admitting it to himself. A few months ago, he could have easily held onto his hope. He knew Victor was alive. He could feel it. He was out there, waiting for that fateful day where someone would find him and bring him home. But the more people spoke about him being gone, the harder it became. That feeling began to fade. He was losing his hope. The longer they went without Victor being found, the more Yakov began to wonder if that will ever happen.

“It’s been a year, Yuri. I’m trying to hold onto my hope but…” He paused, pressing his lips together as he shook his head. It was harder to believe. “Maybe I need to start accepting that I might never see him again.”

Yuri said nothing. He only stared, scowling harshly as he shook his head. Yakov knew he was trying to stay strong but it was a battle that Yakov himself was beginning to lose. And as Yakov got to his feet and looked around Victor’s home one last time, he wondered perhaps it really was time he started moving on.

 


 

 

“Do you ever look at the moon and wonder if a loved one is looking back?”

Yuuri rolled onto his back. He looked through the window, towards the moon that shone dimly in the night sky. It was barely enough to light up their room, but the light blur in the sky was somewhat comforting to Yuuri, even if he couldn’t see it properly. “I’d like to,” He answered. “But with the time zone differences, it kind of changes that…”

Victor hummed before rolling onto his side, facing Yuuri in their small bed. Yuuri glanced his way. He couldn’t see through the darkness but he knew Victor was there, trying to see him too. He felt Victor’s hand through his hair, weaving his fingers through the thick locks to brush his hair away from his face. It was such a soft touch within the darkness of their room, gentle as Victor let his fingers play through Yuuri’s hair.

Their nights were often like this, careful touches in the dark to remind each other that they were there – that they wanted to feel for the other. Yuuri enjoyed nights like that. He felt less alone not being the only one awake. It made the night pass by faster and help him get used to Victor’s touches. He didn’t blush anymore, but his heart still raced and his breath still escaped him. He still let his own hands find Victor too, either stroking his hair or feeling the soft curve of his body. They were definitely his favorite nights.

But what he liked most was when they kissed. It was never on the lips. They hadn’t reached that form of intimacy yet. It was tender touches of their lips against each other’s palms, cheeks, or forehead. It was the lasting warm touch left behind on his skin, the reminder where Victor’s lips once were, and the everlasting feel of Victor’s skin against his own lips that made him love those nights even more.

How he wished for them to go further. The thought rushed through his mind multiple times, telling himself to just do it but he could never bring himself to do so. There were the fears, the doubts, and the uncertainty of the room that made him unsure if it was appropriate for him to make that move. He could say for certain that Victor would return the feeling. He didn’t doubt that. But whether Victor wanted that to happen or not was completely different. Then there was the room, the fear he felt every day that made him wonder if he was just confusing that for his feelings. And what would happen when they escape? Would everything they did in the room suddenly become meaningless, a memory they’d both want to forget? He wasn’t certain, nor was he convinced if it was a risk he was free to take. But the worst fear of all, the one that always stopped him before he went too far, was the man using that against him. The man could use their profound feelings against each other, manipulate it to turn something so beautiful into something ugly. Yuuri could never do that to Victor. He held himself back.

But it was hard when Victor kissed his cheek a little too close to his lips. It was hard when Victor held Yuuri’s still trembling hand in his own, pressing his soft lips against Yuuri’s palm to help calm the rapid shaking. It was so hard when he could feel Victor’s warm breath ghost across his own lips, knowing how close Victor was to him in the darkness. He could take the risk right now, have it be over in seconds, and the man would never know.

“Have you ever made a choice that you look back on and regret?” Victor asked another question, pulling Yuuri out of his thoughts. His mind was distracted, but he was still aware of how close Victor was to him.

He exhaled a breath to calm his heart. It wasn’t the time for that. He cleared his throat and forced his mind to focus, thinking about his past regrets. “There’s a few,” He answered, remembering a few choices he regretted making. His brows then dropped. “Why do you ask?”

Victor was silent for a moment. Just one. “My biggest regret is choosing to leave.”

Yuuri waited for Victor to explain his response but he stayed silent. Yuuri’s brows creased, wondering what it was Victor meant by that. “What do you mean?” He asked. Victor wanted to tell him something and Yuuri tried but he couldn’t work it out.

Victor exhaled a heavy sigh as his head fell forward, resting his forehead against Yuuri’s chest. “Before I was taken, I made the decision to take a break from skating,” Victor admitted and Yuuri realized what this was. It was a confession; a deep secret Victor probably hadn’t even mentioned in their journal. “I lost a lot of inspiration and people were beginning to notice. They knew I was losing it, regardless that I won gold at the Grand Prix. I had to do something to help myself get back into skating or else, it’d be over.”

“So, you left?” Yuuri asked. His brows hung low with question. He felt Victor nod his head.

“I planned the trip for a while,” Victor admitted. “I told everyone I was leaving but to me, I was running.” He fell silent for a moment. The only noise between them was their gentle breathing, and Yuuri focused on Victor’s, counting each breath as the came and went. “I told my coach I wanted to travel and find my inspiration, but what he didn’t know was that I was running. I was escaping those problems with the hope that I’d get my inspiration back. It was such a cowardly move but I didn’t know what else to do. I thought a break would help. Traveling sounded better than watching my own career fail.”

Yuuri chewed his lip. His hand moved up, reaching for Victor’s hair as he brushed his fingers through the soft strands. “So, you left for the states?”

“I did,” Victor nodded. “I thought it was a good idea at the time. It was to begin with. I didn’t have to worry about any competitions or surprising my audience anymore. I didn’t have to worry about perfecting a routine or looking picture perfect for the cameras. I was free for the first time in a long while, and I was happy to have that freedom.” He then let out a weak laugh, a poor attempt at humor, but Yuuri would rather hear him attempt to laugh than let out his cries. “My coach absolutely hated that I was leaving. He told me it was a stupid idea but I didn’t listen to him. It was something I needed to do and at the time, it was all I had.”

“And that was what you regret?” Yuuri asked, recalling the beginning of their conversation. He didn’t need Victor to explain it anymore. He could already guess from his explanation what it was. “You regret taking that break?”

“Yes,” Victor nodded. His breath trembled as his hands clenched behind Yuuri’s back, forcing himself to hold in whatever emotion was threatening to escape. Yuuri pulled him closer. “You don’t understand how much I wish I could go back. I’d tell myself to just listen to Yakov for once and stay in Russia. I’d still be there. I’d still be skating, thankful that nothing like this would ever happen to me.”

The tension in Victor’s shoulders was enough to tell Yuuri that he was struggling through his explanation. He pressed a soft kiss to the crown of Victor’s head, easing his pain one touch at a time. “Don’t force yourself to talk about it if you can’t,” Yuuri murmured softly. “I’m always here to listen when you are ready.”

Victor nodded against his chest. Yuuri let his hand glide along Victor’s arm, trying to help calm the storm in his heart. Yuuri hummed quietly – the same lullaby he sung to Victor during his screaming fit. And Victor soon calmed, his shoulders slowly relaxed as his breathing deepened. Yuuri thought he fell asleep until he heard Victor’s quiet voice murmur, “Do you regret your recital?” Yuuri brows dropped, wondering why Victor brought that up. “It’s the reason why you’re here, isn’t it?”

“I don’t regret taking the lead role they offered me. I worked hard for it,” Yuuri answered. It was a lot for him to think about. There were many things in life he regretted doing, but the recital wasn’t one of them. He just wished the outcome was far better than it is. “I know it brought me here but I had no idea this would happen. So, no, I don’t regret my recital.”

But that didn’t mean there wasn’t something Yuuri regretted. He thought back to his last day of freedom, that morning he was taken. He let his nerves get out of control, forcing him to eat comfort food to help calm it. Yuuri couldn’t justify his actions anymore because it was a selfish choice he made that put him in that situation. If he could go back too, he’d stop himself from eating so much the night before his performance. He’d tell himself to use the hotel gym instead. He’d tell himself to do anything other than step foot outside because that was where evil laid, waiting for Yuuri to be vulnerable and unprepared.

“My own choice.” That was what Yuuri regrets.

Victor hummed in question. “What do you mean?” He raised his head but neither could see each other through the darkness. Yet, Yuuri knew they faced each other. He could feel Victor’s breath across his lips.

“It was my own choice that put me here,” Yuuri began. His eyes stared into the darkness and it envelops his sight. “I let my nerves get in the way and I ate too much the night before my performance. I didn’t have to do that, I have other ways of controlling my nerves but I chose to eat. I chose to make that stupid mistake, then I chose to jog outside rather than use the gym like I should have done.” He paused to take a deep breath. It trembled as he inhaled deep and he squeezed his eyes shut. He wasn’t going to cry.

“Yuuri…”

“I chose to jog down that street where the man took me. I made all those choices and I could have stopped it if I had just thought about what I was doing.” His lips pressed together tightly and he shook his head. “Your choice was to benefit yourself. Mine was a selfish act that even if I hadn’t been taken, it could have ruined the whole show. There’s so much I regret that day and it’s all my fault. I let myself get into this situation.”

“Hey.” He felt the warmth of Victor’s hand cup his cheek as his thumb tenderly stroked away the tears Yuuri didn’t realize had fallen. He sucked in a breath. He wasn’t going to cry. “Hey, stop with those tears, okay? That’s my job.” Yuuri laughed weakly, shaking his head at Victor’s attempt to make him feel a little better. He curled his hand around Victor’s and moved it away from his face. He kept hold of it, in need of that small touch as Victor continued. “You should know better than to blame yourself for something you didn’t know would happen.”

“Then you should know the same.” Yuuri wasn’t the only one who didn’t know this would happen, Victor didn’t either. He had no idea too and yet, he still blamed himself for leaving. Yuuri breathed hard, keeping his emotions back for the moment because he had so much more to say. “You shouldn’t regret leaving.”

“But…”

“No, don’t try and tell me otherwise.” Yuuri stopped him, shaking his head. “You shouldn’t regret leaving because you made that choice to benefit yourself. You did it to help yourself and you shouldn’t think it was the wrong choice.”

Then Yuuri realized what they were doing wrong. They were directing their blame to themselves, telling themselves that it was their fault for being kidnapped when it wasn’t. They didn’t know this would happen. They shouldn’t have to fear this happening in the first place because it shouldn’t have done. Neither of them was to blame, but as Yuuri stared where he knew the camera sat, he knew exactly who was.

“This is all the man’s fault.” He was to blame – not Yuuri, not Victor, nobody but the man who kidnapped them. “He was the one who took you from your freedom. He was the one who forced you into isolation for a year. He’s the one who’s punished us for things we shouldn’t be punished for, because why should we be afraid to go near the door or look out the window? We shouldn’t.”

His sorrows were replaced by a rage that had him grit his teeth as he clenched his fist. He had so much to let out, a rant Yuuri wasn’t sure he could stop. “We shouldn’t regret anything because we’ve done nothing wrong. We shouldn’t regret going outside or making choices for ourselves. He should regret taking us.” Yuuri felt a sudden triumph, a strength he hadn’t felt in a while. “We should make him regret choosing us as his victims. We should make him regret everything he’s done to us because there is no way I’m going to let him control me anymore. It’s only delaying our escape and I’m sick of it.”

Victor remained silent as he listened to Yuuri’s words. He didn’t say a word but Yuuri didn’t mind. Victor was listening and that was all he’d ask for. If Yuuri’s speech wasn’t enough to give him the strength to fight, he wouldn’t mind. He would make the man regret taking him himself. He’d get back at the man, show him that he wasn’t someone to be messed with either. If he alone could make the man regret taking him, he’d accomplish so much. He just wished Victor would do the same.

“I’m going to go back to that window,” Yuuri stared and ignored Victor shaking his head. He knew he was still afraid to go back, but Yuuri had an idea – a plan Victor should be willing to join. “He doesn’t watch us at night, so when the lights are out I’m going to spend a while and see if I can open it. And the bathroom window too. There must be a weak spot somewhere. I don’t mind if you don’t help me, but just know that I’m doing this with or without your help. But without it would take longer.”

Victor was still silent. His words muted and Yuuri didn’t know what to say. He took the silence as a no, which he wasn’t that surprised by. He knew Victor was still scared, terrified by what the man had done to them the last time they checked the window. But Yuuri wasn’t going to let that fear stop him from escaping – not anymore. The man would have to put him through hell and back before he even considered stopping.

“Okay.”

And Yuuri blinked, unsure if he heard Victor right. “Okay?”

He felt Victor nod. “Okay,” He repeated. “I’ll help you.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Okay, I’ll help you.”

They were big words – words Yuuri had been so desperate to hear.

He almost didn’t believe his own ears. Hearing them had him hold a wide-eyed stare, unblinking as he tried to process what he just heard. And then he smiled, completely ecstatic that Victor truly said that. It was huge. Yuuri was certain this was the first time Victor was choosing to help. He wasn’t going along with it because Yuuri asked for his help. He wasn’t standing by and watching Yuuri look for a way out. He said yes. He would help.

He said yes !

Victor may have once given up hope. He once doubted he’d ever escape but that had changed. He was trying and beginning to believe. It may not be entirely convincing - Yuuri was certain Victor struggled to believe it himself - but his actions and his eyes revealed the truth. He was starting to believe. And Yuuri was so proud of him.

During the day, they came up with their plan. Then late at night, they tricked the man into thinking they were sleeping before they made their move through the darkness. They weren’t yet prepared to switch the lights on. There was the fear that it would alert the man somehow. The darkness was like a veil of protection. They were hidden behind a dark curtain as they moved freely, secretly working on the window with nothing but the TV offering a small ounce of light.

Yuuri checked the windows the first few nights, observing the difference between them. They were like any other. The one in the bathroom was fixed, unable to open because it wasn’t designed to. But the window in the main room could be opened. If it wasn’t locked, Yuuri could push it open and if the chain wasn’t there, he’d be able to escape easily.

If only it was that easy.

After the first week of trying, Yuuri couldn’t say it was going well. It was taking him longer than he hoped and there were too many problems – too many things that stopped them.

There was little they could use to escape the room. The man had clearly thought about everything he gave them. There was nothing strong to break the window. They had nothing sharp they could use. There was nothing that would benefit their escape. Yuuri thought back to the door a lot, wondering if that was their only escape route after all but he knew it was a lost cause. The window was an opportunity – a possible escape that was so close yet so far. It was their only view of the outside world and yet, Yuuri didn’t have any ideas on how to escape from it.

There were a few things they could use but nothing was as good as using a knife they use for eating. It was blunt, worn down from its use but it was sturdy and wouldn’t break so easily. It was their best choice – their only option. But it could only do so much against the window, especially when neither had an idea on how to use it.

When their second week arrived, Victor stayed true to his word and asked Yuuri if he could try himself. Yuuri wasn’t going to deny him that. He was so pleased to see Victor wanting to try himself because it showed Yuuri he still held on to some hope. He still believed the window was their chance while Yuuri was beginning to doubt. The longer he went without an idea – without a clear sign that his attempts were working – the quicker his hope began to disperse. It felt like a wave washing over him, the tide pulling him under and Yuuri knew he couldn’t fight against it. But when he began to doubt, Victor pulled through. He showed his own strength and that alone helped Yuuri with his own.

They swapped for a few nights. Victor now sat on Yuuri’s shoulders instead as he used the knife on the window. Yuuri expected Victor to be heavier but he was far lighter than he should be. It didn’t sit too well in his chest. He knew the reasons; starvation, malnutrition, and being underfed after a year… Yuuri didn’t want to think about it.

And suddenly they were on their third week. Victor stopped helping.

Yuuri wasn’t surprised. While Victor tried escaping himself, Yuuri could tell he struggled with ideas too. He grew frustrated. His impatience with the window had him lose hope quicker than Yuuri did, but Yuuri didn’t blame him. They were supposed to be out by now. They both know the window is their escape and yet, they’re still trapped inside that room with their freedom right in front of their eyes. They were so set on the window being their beacon of hope that when it didn’t happen, it was hard for them to not want to quit.

They soon stopped trying. There came a night where both laid in bed, staring at the window and knowing they should get up and keep trying but neither had the energy to continue anymore. They didn’t speak. Not a word was uttered about the window. They closed their eyes and let sleep cradle them to rest.

Yuuri could never stray away from hope for too long. He dreamed of his family that night. They were all there, waving at him from afar but he couldn’t reach them. He wanted to move forward. He was desperate to hug them and promise he’d never leave again but invisible chains held him back. Any progress he made, he was tugged back. He missed them so much. He wanted to be back in their arms – their warm embraces that were so secure and safe.

He was shaken awake by Victor. He became aware of the hope that filled his being before he noticed the tears down his cheeks, but the tears didn’t matter. What mattered was his realization - how stupid they were for stopping. They wasted that night sleeping. They wasted it and let their hope fade, pushing them back into the room like the man would want it to.

And Yuuri thought no more of despair. He refused to let himself be consumed by it, not while his family was waiting for his return. He promised he’d get back to them. He promised he’d help Victor escape. He can’t let them down.

Then came the determination that had him back at the window with the knife in hand, and a recklessness that had him throw it against the window with a rage. He was going to get out of there. He was going to escape. No matter what.

“Slow down, Yuuri,” Victor told Yuuri as he let out a raged cry, throwing the knife with all his might. “You could hurt yourself if it slips. Take your time, I don’t want you to get hurt.”

But it was taking too long. Yuuri was certain it was their fourth week using the knife on the window and they made no progress. Not a single thing had changed and Yuuri didn’t want to fall back under. He had to keep himself hopeful, reminding himself that his family was waiting for him and that his promises weren’t a waste. He had to keep going.

“I can’t,” He protested and threw the knife forward. “I have to get out. I have to keep going.”

He could hear Victor continuing to argue back but Yuuri stopped listening. He threw the knife forward repeatedly but nothing changed. He was getting frustrated. And with a final throw, he hit as hard as he could when a sudden force made him drop the knife. Yuuri looked down. He felt the force before he felt the pain.

He suddenly found himself standing by the sink and as Victor forced his hand to dunk under cold water, he yelled out a cry.

He never knew pain like it. His pulse rang in his ears and a screaming agony throbbed through his hand. He didn’t have the guts to look at his wound. Not yet. All he knew was how painful it felt. It was worse than a papercut, deeper than any injury he’s ever had. He wanted to desperately pull his hand away from the water – away from the pain that pulsed– but Victor’s strong grip held his wrist, knowing the wound needed to be cleaned.

“I’m sorry, Yuuri,” He heard Victor apologize. His voice was shaking. Was he scared too? “I’m so sorry but I have to clean it. I know it hurts but just… try to pull through, okay?”

As Yuuri’s vision began to blur, he wasn’t sure if he could.

The water stopped running but there was no relief to the pain. Victor let go of Yuuri’s wrist, moving somewhere to his left but Yuuri didn’t pay attention. All he knew was pain. It was all he could feel. And as he sucked in a breath, he came to the decision to look. He had to know what the damage was. He forced himself to look up.

The blood didn’t startle Yuuri, but the wound itself had him whimper in fear.

He had a deep tear over the back of his hand – a harsh gash that let out too much blood. The pain throbbed in his hand, deep and warm but not in a nice way. There was a constant pressure in his hand, like a squeezing that refused to ease as blood flowed between the space of his fingers, covering his pale white skin in scarlet. He refrained from touching it, knowing the pain would make him wince but it didn’t seem real. He couldn’t have caused that much damage – this much pain. But the wound was too real. It was pure pain. And he couldn’t stand it.

His stomach gurgled as nausea washed over his body. There was pain and now he wanted to vomit. His legs trembled beneath him and his whole body was doing so too. It knew nothing but pain, that’s all it knew – pain. His legs gave out beneath him. He slumped to the floor, unable to keep himself standing any longer.

“Yuuri!” Victor came back to Yuuri’s side with something in hand. It was a towel and as Yuuri met Victor’s eyes, he knew what had to be done. “We need to keep this around your hand. We need to stop the bleeding.”

Yuuri nodded mutely and held out his trembling hand. He watched intently as Victor gently pressed the towel to Yuuri’s wound. A sudden pain rushed through him and a strangled cry escaped from his lips. “Don’t-!” He cried out. His hand seized Victor’s, forcing him to stop as his nails dug into Victor’s skin. He didn’t mean to but it was too much pain. “D-Don’t touch it, p-please.”

Even the slightest touch hurt. He wasn’t aware he was still crying until he heard his own gasping wails echo in the room. He knew he should let Victor put pressure on it. It would help stop the bleeding but it was too much. The pain was intense. He didn’t care if he bled out. In the end, it wasn’t dying that scared him but the pain. He’d do anything to stop it.

“I-I need to, Yuuri,” Victor replied softly. He gently curled his fingers around Yuuri’s wrist, encouraging him to let him poorly bandage the wound. Yuuri was reluctant but he knew he couldn’t fight it. He bit the inside of his cheek and forced himself to deal with it. He had no choice. “I don’t want to hurt you but I need to put pressure on it. It’ll stop the bleeding.”

Then Yuuri was suddenly lying on their bed with Victor pressed to his side. He didn’t remember moving, but he could recollect one memory. Agony. That was all he remembered as Victor wrapped the towel around his hand – the brutal agony of pressure against his wound.

His eyes fell to his hand. It laid unmoving on the bed. The white towel wrapped around it slowly turned red as his blood seeped through. It was heavy and he felt lightheaded, but he didn’t mind because the wound wasn’t being touched anymore. The pain had eased but still pulsed in a never-ending ache.

“We’re taking a break from the window for a while,” Victor whispered to him and Yuuri nodded. He didn’t have the energy to protest. “You’re going to let your hand heal before we try again, okay?”

He let his quiet sobs break through his lips as he nodded. Tears slipped down his cheeks. A break sounded rather nice for now.

The bleeding stopped by morning. Victor removed the towel when he woke up and washed Yuuri’s hand again, bringing back another throbbing pain that made him cry out. It didn’t hurt as bad as before, his wound now slowly healing but the reminder was still there. They then dunked the towel in water to wash it, but both knew it would always be stained in Yuuri’s blood, reminding them of what happened. Yuuri didn’t need the stain to remind him. The pain was enough.

Then began a search for a better material to use as a bandage. Victor offered to rip off a strip of his shirt but Yuuri quickly denied. His shirt was bad enough. He had too many rips and tears in it already, Yuuri didn’t want to make it worse. Yuuri then suggested his own, but Victor refused to let him tear up his own shirt. Then during their debate about ripping their bed sheets, a delivery arrived.

“Bandages?” Yuuri asked as he watched Victor pull them out, eyeing them just as curiously as Victor did. It was a strange random act of kindness and Yuuri didn’t feel comfortable about that fact. The man wasn’t mad. They knew that much. They just didn’t know why the man had given Yuuri bandages. “Maybe he’s just trying to be nice?”

“Or maybe he’s using this to put us in a false sense of security,” Victor muttered as he turned. Yuuri’s stomach did slips of terror. The part that scared him the most was that it made more sense than the man just being nice. He didn’t like to think about that.

They sat face to face on the bed as Yuuri let Victor bandage his hand. The pain remained, burning when Victor pulled a little too tightly and prompting Yuuri to hiss, but the material felt much better against his wound than the towel. And although it still hurt and continued to sting, it eased the throbbing. It helped his wound feel better.

Yuuri hoped that his wound wouldn’t take long to heal. He wanted to be back at the window soon. He wanted to try again and keep fighting against it. The wind howled loudly outside, drowning out the noise of life and Yuuri looked up. He still had no ideas how they break out of it but Yuuri wouldn’t let that stop him. He’d find a way. Whether that was in a few days or even months from now, he’d keep trying.

“I thought this might have been a request. It would have been nice it if was,” Victor spoke, startling Yuuri from his thoughts as he glanced back. Victor’s eyes stayed focused on his bandage. “If he let you ask for something, what would you ask for?”

When Victor met Yuuri’s eyes, there was a look in them that Yuuri couldn’t identify. It was almost a sorrow, but he couldn’t be certain. Yuuri wondered perhaps there was something he wanted to talk about.

“If anything, my freedom,” Yuuri answered. Victor only smiled. The sadness grew in his eyes but his smile hid it well. Yuuri felt the same because they both knew they’d never get that from the man. He then pondered something more realistic. “But he couldn’t give me that.”

“Sadly, no.”

Then Yuuri knew exactly what he’d as for. “I’d ask him to let my family know that I’m okay.”

And suddenly, Victor paused. His entire body froze to a halt as his wide eyes stared through Yuuri’s. His grip tightened around Yuuri’s hand and he bit back a hiss. His own pain didn’t matter. He only cared if Victor was okay.

“Well…” Victor said slowly. He breathed a heavy sigh. “I guess that’s better than them thinking you’re…”

“Dead.” Yuuri didn’t need Victor to say it to know what he meant. Victor bowed his head and nodded. Yuuri’s eyes unwillingly watered but he sucked back a cry as he said, “I can’t stand the thought. Just thinking that they think I’m dead and they’d never see me again… I can’t handle that.” Yuuri could ask for anything to benefit himself if given the choice, but his family was more important.

Victor was silent for a moment. He finished wrapping the bandage but his hands still held onto Yuuri’s. He didn’t pull away. The wind whistled loudly behind them “I think the worst part is there really is no way to let them know we’re alive, is there?” He asked, meeting Yuuri’s eyes.

It sounded like a challenge that Yuuri was willing to take. He decided not to reply, only so he could think of ways to prove him wrong. If they could just let somebody know they were still alive, perhaps that could help them escape. It would be another idea and perhaps a better one than the window if it worked. But as he looked around the room, he wasn’t sure how he could do so.

There had to be a way to let someone outside know they were there, whether it was calling out for help at the right time or leaving a trail of clues; there had to be a way. If there was a way inside the room, there had to be a way out. There was no debate about it. As much as the room felt like a tomb, it wasn’t. A tomb had no way in or out while the room only kept them trapped. Things could still get in like air, light, and warmth on a warm day. The room wasn’t completely sealed off.

And then Yuuri’s brows dropped. They could still get air, even with the windows closed. His eyes searched the room. He got to his feet, his eyes glued to the ceiling and walls, searching for something he must have missed. There had to be a way for air to get in the room.

“Yuuri?” He heard Victor say to him. “What are you doing?”

And then it clicked.

“The air vent,” He said out loud. The air vent in the bathroom was open. Yuuri remembered the draft he felt, meaning that air was coming through it. It was open. Yuuri pressed his hand to his mouth to hide away his sudden laughter. He couldn’t believe it. He finally found another idea. He spun, turning to Victor with a need to tell him his idea. “Victor, the air vent!”

But Victor didn’t share his excitement. He crossed his arms, raising a brow as he asked, “What about it?”

“The air vent in the bathroom is open. If air is coming through one way, then it must mean air from inside here is going outside too, right?” Victor only stared. Yuuri couldn’t understand how he wasn’t happier about this, especially since his own smile didn’t fade. “Things can come in and things can get out.”

Victor sighed heavily as he shook his head. “If you’re trying to suggest we can fit through that vent…”

“No, no. Not us.” Yuuri turned, his mind coming up with another plan and he strode towards the bookshelf. “But something small can.”

He grabbed the journal from the shelf, turning to drop it on the table. He opened it to the last paged and ripped it out. He then ripped the page into a few strips and sat down in the chair with a pencil in hand. He looked over at Victor who was still eyeing him curiously. Yuuri smiled.

“We can write notes and send them through the air vent. It’s windy today. The wind will pick it up and hopefully, somebody will find it and notify the police!”

Victor continued to stare. Then he blinked rapidly, his mouth dropping open as he quickly stood to his feet. “That’s… we can do that,” He said, nodding to himself before his eyes turned to Yuuri. Yuuri smiled and nodded, pleased he finally understood. Victor sat at the table. “Okay, but we need to make sure nobody thinks it’s a joke.”

“We could write something simple, like…” He paused for a moment to think. They needed to notify someone of their names, their situation, and that they’re alive. “Katsuki Yuuri and Victor Nikiforov are still alive. We’re desperate for help. Please keep searching, we can’t escape our captivity. How is that?”

Victor nodded happily. “That’s good, write it down.” Yuuri quickly scribbled it down on one of the strips as Victor suggested another idea. “We could also write this. Keep searching for Katsuki Yuuri and Victor Nikiforov. We are still alive. We have been kidnapped. We don’t know where we are but we need help. Notify the police.”

“Yeah,” Yuuri smiled. “That’s good too.”

They wrote down different notes on the pages they had, hoping that their message was enough for someone to take seriously. They checked if the man was watching them before they moved and to their luck, the camera was off. They went to the bathroom with eight notes in total in their hands – their calls for help. Victor helped Yuuri onto his shoulders and passed the notes up to him. He slipped the notes through the small gaps in the air vent and one by one, Yuuri watched them disappear. As he put the last note through, triumph filled his being. He felt just a little more hopeful.

“Do you think it’s enough for someone to find us?” Victor asked as he helped Yuuri off his shoulders. His feet touched the floor safely and he looked up, wondering himself if it was enough.

“I hope so.”

And like a shift in the tide, the atmosphere changed. There was a tension that weighed heavily on Yuuri’s back which had him chew his nails. He didn’t know what to expect now - the police to barge through their door? The man punishing them for trying? He didn’t know, but the wait was already killing him.

Victor had moved into the main room. Yuuri soon followed behind and saw his figure sitting on the bed. His face was in his hands and he breathed deeply to himself, thinking back to their triumphant discovery.

Yuuri knew this was an emotional moment for him. It was a step – a discovery he didn’t think about when he was alone. It was a potential way to remind someone out there that he was still alive and in need of help. It was the small ounce of hope Victor had been searching for and Yuuri was pleased he was able to give it to him. It may not help them be found but it could be the clue the police need. It’ll tell them that yes, they are together and yes, they’re alive and in need of being rescued.

But Victor wasn’t as happy as Yuuri was. He almost looked sad, maybe even frustrated with himself and Yuuri didn’t want that. He wished Victor happiness. He wanted to see Victor happy and ecstatic that they found a way to go against the man, not sad or stressed that the man could hurt them. It was possible but they had to keep fighting. Victor needed happiness and Yuuri wasn’t going to let Victor stay so low.

He moved to grab a movie from the bookshelf. It wasn’t his favorite movie but it was the only one he liked in the room. It was a musical. He enjoyed listening to the music and wished to dance along on multiple occasions, but he always refrained himself. He wasn’t going to do that anymore. He put the movie on and skipped to the first song, pausing it before it played. He moved to Victor.

“May I take your hand?” Yuuri asked, trying to sound formal but lighthearted as he smiled. Victor slowly looked up. He stared at Yuuri’s hands with dropped brows but he took it regardless. Yuuri kept his grin as he guided them to the center of the room. Victor’s confusion remained.

“What are you doing?” He asked as Yuuri put himself into position. He kept the remote in hand, ready to play the movie while his other held on to Victor’s – his good hand grasping tight.

“Right now is a time for celebration,” Yuuri said as he pressed play on the remote. He threw it on the bed as a song filled the room. He turned to Victor, smiling brightly. “We found a way to help ourselves escape here. I say this calls for a dance, don’t you think?”

Victor didn’t react at first. He held his stare, disbelief keeping his expression stale until his lips cracked into a smile. He exhaled a laugh, shaking his head as he said, “You really want to dance?”

Yuuri was certain. He kept hold of Victor’s hand as he danced to the music. Victor didn’t join in just yet. He stood there, watching Yuuri as he swayed his hips and waved his arms from side to side with the smallest hint of a grin on his face. Yuuri then moved around him, kicking his legs forward with pointed toes as he moved. Even when dancing for fun, he always slipped into ballet. He whirled around Victor with sharp precision and grace, his poise stride guiding Victor around with him too as he moved. And soon, Victor joined in too.

Their smiles grew wider and their joyful laughter filled the room. The music continued on and they continued their dance, enjoying themselves because why shouldn’t they? For the first time since they arrived in the room, they were having fun. They were laughing with no fear, smiling because they wanted to, and they were enjoying their time while they still had it.

A soft guitar soon filled the room and a gentle voice accompanied it. Yuuri remembered the scene well. It was where the main character sang about their love to another who loved them back. It was a sweet moment, one that had Yuuri nearly shed a tear. And suddenly, Yuuri was aware of how close they were. When did they get so close?

“Dance with me,” Yuuri spoke above a whisper. He saw Victor hesitate but when Yuuri’s hand curled around Victor’s waist, Victor’s hand drifted to his shoulder. It sent shivers down Yuuri’s spine – the touch causing his breath to tremble. Should they be doing this?

And then they moved. They twirled, dancing in circles as they waltzed to the music, but then they grew closer. Yuuri’s hands held Victor’s waist as his linked behind Yuuri’s neck, both now dancing so close that their foreheads nearly touched.

It was strange, so Yuuri thought.

They moved in sync. Their bodies followed each other naturally, as if they instinctively understood how the other moved. Music continued to fill the room as they swayed side to side in a gentle embrace. The moment still took Yuuri by surprise. He never expected it to happen – he wasn’t certain how it happened, but he had no reason to complain.

There was tension inside. It had been too long since either danced – they both yearned to dance freely. This was once their careers. Their bodies endured years of bruises, falls, and punishments to dance and yet, there they were using it to dance with each other. They used it to help themselves cope. They used it because it was all they had left in the world.

To dance was freedom, and in that moment, they were free.

How strange.

Their lives were at a standstill, forced to stop by a man who held them to himself. Yet out of all the fear and heartache he made them feel, he could never take that moment away from them. It was theirs to keep, a memory they’d forever cherish. They may be held captive, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t dance. It didn’t mean they couldn’t have those fun moments where their kidnapping was shortly forgotten. The man had taken enough away from them. They refused to let him take any more.

And in a blink of an eye, that fear was gone.

“Thank you,” Victor said and met Yuuri’s eyes. When he leaned forward, Yuuri’s heart pounded fast in his chest. He pressed a gentle kiss to Yuuri’s cheek but his lips were too close to Yuuri’s own. They nearly touched. Victor’s lips nearly touched Yuuri’s and his breath hitched as he pulled back, staring wide eyed at Victor who shared the same expression. He couldn’t believe it.

But how Yuuri desperately wanted to feel them against his own. They appeared so soft, almost like silk and he yearned to feel them. He desired to kiss Victor for a while now and the moment Yuuri saw Victor’s eyes glance to his lips, Yuuri did the same. Both knew what was coming, but Yuuri still felt completely unprepared the moment their lips finally touched. It was neither fiery nor innocent, but almost delicate as that one single kiss determined whether they’d go in for another.

And they did.

There was a sudden desperation. Their lips pressed hard against each other’s, needing to feel the other as their arms locked around each other, pulling the other closer. Yuuri tilted his head to the side, asking for a better position as both took their time savoring the moment. Victor’s touch lingered. Their mouths stayed locked. Even when Victor drew back for a breath, neither dared pull away.

In that pause, Yuuri’s palm guided to Victor’s chest. It rested over his heart. He could feel it beating just as fast as his own and without a second thought, Yuuri kissed him again – fast but sweet. And in that moment, nothing else existed. The room, the man, their fear, it was all gone. Yuuri’s heart still raced in his chest, pounding hard and fast and Yuuri wondered to himself if he was mistaking it for fear. But Yuuri didn’t fear Victor. He didn’t fear them becoming something more. And he could say with certainty that no, what he was feeling, it was not fear.

“Y-Yuuri,” Victor muttered through his breath as he drew back. Yuuri raised a hand to Victor’s face, cupping his cheek as he moved forward for another kiss but when his lips didn’t touch Victor’s, he pulled back to meet his stare. He didn't understand it. Did Victor pull away? “Yuuri, I-I…”

And immediately, Yuuri knew something was wrong. He dropped his hands to give Victor space he clearly needed. He didn’t realize he read this wrong. He thought Victor wanted this, especially since he kissed back. He should have known. He pushed Victor into an action that must have confused him and made him uncomfortable. He should have read him better. He shouldn’t have pushed him.

“Victor…” He drew in a shaky breath. “I-I’m sorry, I…”

“No.” Victor reached up and cupped Yuuri’s cheeks, guiding his gaze to meet his eyes. Yuuri didn’t know what Victor wanted, but as they kissed again - slow and sweet as it lingered longer than any other - Yuuri knew it was going to be okay. “Don’t be sorry about this, Yuuri. I just… I just got scared.”

His eyes quickly glanced up, staring at the camera in the corner. It was turned off to his relief. As Yuuri looked back, he wondered where Victor’s fear was coming from. “Is this about the man?”

Victor chewed his lip and nodded. “And more,” He said and Yuuri’s heart dropped. He placed his hands on Victor’s cheeks, cradling his head as he gently touched his forehead against Victor’s. He hoped it was enough to ease the fear in Victor’s heart. “I’m just afraid of my own feelings. I’ve been alone for so long but what if this room influenced this?”

“I trust you know how you feel,” Yuuri replied. He knew the fear. He knew it was completely possible but he didn’t doubt Victor wouldn’t have kissed back if he didn’t feel something for Yuuri. Whether the room encouraged this or not, Yuuri knew his own feelings for Victor were real. “This room can make us feel a lot of things, but I know for certain it didn’t encourage this. We made this choice by ourselves.”

Victor chewed on his lip before he moved to wrap his arms around Yuuri’s neck. Yuuri moved with him, circling his arms around his waist for an embrace as Victor’s head buried into his neck. His muffled voice then asked, “Is this stupid for us to make this choice?”

Yuuri thought about it. “Realistically, yes.” He didn’t want to lie. He exhaled a shaky breath and Victor somehow found more room to pull Yuuri closer. His hand clutched the back of Yuuri’s shirt.  “But that’s only because of him .”

“This would be a lot simpler without him, wouldn’t it?” Victor asked and Yuuri nodded his head. Without the man, there would be no questions or confusion. They’d be free to make their own choices without fear. Yuuri pulled back and searched Victor’s eyes, looking for an answer he desperately needed. Should they continue this? And as he brushed Victor’s hair away from his face, in that moment, he came to a decision.

“We keep this a secret from the man, okay?” He said and kept his eyes on Victor. He needed to see his response – needed to see whether this was what Victor wanted too, or whether he wanted this to stop. “He will use this against us if he finds out. We keep it a secret and he’ll never know.”

And the moment Victor nodded his head, Yuuri couldn’t help but go back in for another kiss. “Okay,” Victor muttered against his lips and suddenly, Yuuri knew he needed Victor. He needed him in more ways he could ever imagine.

 

Chapter Text

 

They were stupid for making the choice.

They were stupid, reckless, and irresponsible because they know they shouldn’t be doing this while stuck in their current situation. They shouldn’t continue to kiss and touch each other because if the man ever found out, it could ruin so much for them. He could use it against them. He could separate them. He could do anything if he disagrees with their new found feelings and that had Yuuri completely terrified.

It was stupid.

But with every kiss and every  touch, they couldn’t resist.

They wanted to start off slow. And it was at first. It was only soft kisses under the covers, late in the night when they knew they were safe. Their lips would brush, their foreheads touch, and neither could resist the urge to kiss the other. Each kiss was slow and soft, comforting in ways that words would never be. It made the world fall away.

But then it became more. It was discreet touches during the day and Yuuri noticed every single one. He’d still feel Victor’s hand on the low of his back long after his touch was gone – and the shivers up his spine and a warmth in his chest. His own touch on Victor was electric. It left an everlasting tingling on his fingertips that lingered longer than their stares. They had to fight the urge to touch one another but their silent requests for more had them struggle to keep things slow. The temptation was always there, but their fear was too.

Fear was always there. It hid in the back of their minds, waiting to pounce on the smallest issue. Their only safety in the darkness didn’t help stop their fears. Even their own comfort didn’t help. They could be curled up to each other, hands locked and heads so close but it wouldn’t stop them from wondering; what if the man was slowly realizing that they were something more? He could begin to suspect they were together and he could completely disagree with it, even begin to use it against them…

Yuuri didn’t dare think about it.

They kept it a secret the best they could. They left everything for the safety of darkness, hidden behind that veil of secrecy rather than the light of day where he could see them. He’d be awake. He could catch them at any moment. If the man ever became suspicious, he would never catch them in the act. They knew how to hide. They learned how to do so.

Yuuri began to watch the camera more than he did when he arrived. He kept his eye on it. He needed to know when the man was watching, what he had seen, and what he hadn’t. Yuuri wanted to learn if there were any changes to his routine, but nothing had changed. In a way, that was a good thing. It meant the man was still random with his spying, that he would sometimes not watch them at all. Yuuri was thankful the man didn’t watch them that day. He didn’t see them dance, or kiss, or start something that was perhaps wrong for them to start. He was thankful, but still scared.

Yuuri liked Victor. He knew it was more than just the room influencing his feelings because his desires weren’t desperation. He didn’t need to be with Victor. He wanted to be with him. Yuuri’s feelings for him were true. They were honest. The more Yuuri continued to think what they were to each other, the more he became certain that although it wasn’t an appropriate choice, it was the right one. He was pleased he didn’t pull away. He liked Victor and more than just a friend – more than just another victim.

But did Victor feel the same way?

Victor expressed his fears. Yuuri knew he was scared that the room could have influenced his feelings and Yuuri wasn’t stupid to think otherwise. It was entirely possible. He had been alone in the room for over a year, Yuuri wouldn’t be surprised if it was the reason. While Yuuri was certain of his feelings, Victor wasn’t, and Yuuri wanted to help him find that answer. It wasn’t for his own selfish need, but to help Victor find some order and control in his life. If Victor could find an answer to his worry, perhaps it could help him in the future too.

Yuuri hoped the end result wasn’t the room. While Victor wasn’t certain the room had influenced his feelings, Yuuri was certain that it didn’t his own. The room didn’t make that choice for him. It didn’t sway him into falling for Victor because the room had nothing to do with it. The room was just a room. It was their prison. Victor may be the only person he’s had contact with for months but he could have seen Victor as anything. They could have been enemies, friends, acquaintances – anything.

Yuuri’s feelings came slowly. They crept up on him, silently waiting until he was completely certain before they made their move. Yuuri held no doubt that the room didn’t influence his feelings because why would it? A relationship was the last thing on Yuuri’s mind. It was the last thing he ever expected to happen. The fear the room made him feel and the doubt it put in his mind, none of that could have ever influenced his desire for Victor. He was certain of that. And Yuuri was glad he took the chance. After everything the man had done to them, they deserved a little happiness.

But none of that let Yuuri help Victor. He could explain his feelings in detail and it could still not help Victor come to his own conclusion. Yuuri knew Victor was beginning to think about it too. His kisses sometimes felt forced or his touches were tense, and Yuuri could see the discomfort on his face. Victor was trapped in his own mind, struggling to come to terms with something that Yuuri was confident in and Yuuri wasn’t going to leave him like that.

But Yuuri knew no matter what Victor’s answer would be – if he chooses to stay with Yuuri or leave him – he wouldn’t be mad. He’d be upset but honored to have held Victor’s heart while he could. It was beautiful and Victor deserved so much love.

They needed to talk. Yuuri wanted to help Victor and he wanted to help himself too. He wasn’t exactly sure what they were to each other. Victor could see them as friends with benefits and he’d have no idea, not until he asked. Yuuri liked calling Victor his lover. He hoped Victor did too.

He knew he had to wait until nightfall. They’d have that veil of protection to talk freely about their feelings, but it was the only time they’d be able to touch and kiss. Yuuri wanted to take advantage of that. He didn’t want to ruin it with a conversation that could potentially end it.

But then came a night where it wouldn’t leave his mind. They were lying in bed with each other, side to side as they shared gentle kisses. He could feel how relaxed Victor was – how calm he was to Yuuri’s touches and kisses. He was enjoying himself and as much as Yuuri didn’t want to bring up the talk, he couldn’t wait any longer. He had to do it, no matter what.

“I wonder if anyone has found our notes yet.”

It wasn’t exactly what Yuuri wanted to begin with but it was certainly a start. It had been something else on his mind.

He heard the pillow rustle as Victor nodded his head, humming in response before he replied, “Yeah, me too.” Victor’s hand was on Yuuri’s arm, softly stroking his fingertips over his skin and Yuuri fought the urge to kiss him again. He couldn’t get distracted. “It’s been hard to think about, really.”

Yuuri’s brows dropped. He tried staring at Victor through the darkness but even with the dim moonlight, he couldn’t see well – only his outline. “What do you mean.”

“I just keep thinking what if someone looked at it and didn’t think to contact the police?” Victor asked, knowing Yuuri wouldn’t give him an answer. “But also, what if the rain destroyed them, or if the man found them? What do we do then?”

It was a worry Yuuri had too. It was completely possible that their cries for help were destroyed, or even ignored by people who had the chance to see them. It was just as possible that nobody had seen it – that civilization was further away than they hoped. But Yuuri would take the notes being destroyed than he would the man finding them. That meant punishment. It meant the man would know they’re trying to escape and Yuuri couldn’t have that happen.

He knew it was possible, but they had to take the risk. Otherwise, they may never escape their captivity.

“We could send a few more notes if you want?” Yuuri asked and the pillow shifted again, Victor shaking his head instead.

“No. I don’t think we should risk it. What if the man finds them?” Victor’s concern was completely rational and Yuuri was rather pleased that he chose not to send more instead. “When your hand heals, we can go back to the window, yes?”

Yuuri nodded. He was ready to go back now but his wound was still so tender. Too much pressure on his hand was enough to hurt it. He could neither hold Victor up or be forceful on the window. They tried before but it didn’t go well for Yuuri. It reopened his wound, blood spilling free yet again and they decided to let it heal completely, not partially.

But Yuuri couldn’t stand another day in the room. The desperation to escape was back, as was his need to return to the window. He had to play it safe. He had to be cautious of his injury.

When Yuuri felt his lips press against his, he moved back. It was what he wanted but he knew if he continued, their discussion would be forgotten. He sat up and reached over Victor, blindly searching for the remote to the TV. When he found it, he switched it on to give them the small ounce of light which still kept them hidden. A movie began to play.

When Yuuri turned, Victor was sat up too, eyeing Yuuri with concern. “Are you alright?”

He hoped he would be.

“I want to talk to you about something,” Yuuri began. His eyes fell to his lap, unable to meet Victor’s and he didn’t know why. His heart was in his throat and his stomach tugged with nerves. Why was he so scared?

“Okay…” Victor trailed off. “What about?”

“It’s about… us.”

Victor suddenly tensed. His shoulders went stuff, his eyes stared sharply, and Yuuri nearly regretted bringing it up. He wished he thought about the talk before he mentioned it, but it was out now. He couldn’t turn back, so he continued.

“I think even without me saying, you know what I want to talk about,” Yuuri said, holding his stare as Victor sighed heavily. It was enough to confirm that Victor knew. “I just want you to know that I’m okay with us continuing this, and I know how I feel is true, but you don’t know yourself, do you?”

Yuuri couldn’t look away. Although he was prepared for Victor to shake his head, it didn’t help stop his heart from falling to his stomach as he did.

“There are quite a few things I feel… uncertain about,” Victor said. His eyes fell to his lap and he played with his hands, nervous for their talk. The temptation to reach out and take them in Yuuri’s own was hard to fight against, so he crossed his arms to keep them to himself. “It’s my feelings, the situation, who we are to each other and… everything after this.”

“Then let’s begin with one thing and move onto another?” Yuuri suggested and Victor nodded, his eyes still staying down. “I think the first thing I’d like to establish is whether you still want to continue this?”

It was then that Victor finally looked up. “Yes, I do,” He said confidently and Yuuri had to bite back his grin. “I’m just… at a battle with myself. I’m constantly questioning my own feelings and whether it’s okay for me to see you as this or call you that and I just…”

“What do you mean by that?”

“What we are to each other,” Victor answered and Yuuri’s heart raced. His eyes widened. This was the confirmation he had been hoping for. “I want to call you something but I don’t know what you want us to be.”

Yuuri knew what he wanted them to be. He’s known for a while now. His time with Victor could be limited. When they find their escape, and they get out of the room and back to their normal lives, they will be separated. They will return home and Yuuri might never get this chance again. He is Victor’s, Victor is his, and Yuuri can declare that. He wants to call Victor his lover while he still could, because anything could happen when they escape. They could call it off. They could end things. And while Yuuri is hopeful that won’t happen, he couldn’t be certain.

“Lovers,” Yuuri answered. He paused for a second, double checking with himself before he nodded. “Yeah. I would like us to be lovers.”

And when Yuuri saw Victor smile, he let his own show. “Me too.”

There was relief but fear too. Yuuri was scared for their futures beyond the room – scared that everything he felt had really been influenced by the room. There was no such thing as a complete relief. Yuuri always found some sort of fear, no matter how much he tried to think positively. But he looked on the bright side. He found a lover. He found someone he knew he felt something for.

“May I ask you something?” Victor suddenly asked. Yuuri stared, unblinking until he processed the question and he began to chew the inside of his cheek. He then nodded. Victor hesitated for a moment, his mouth opening and closing with uncertainty until he eventually asked, “How do you know you’re confident in how you feel about me?”

“Oh!” Yuuri gaped. The question surprised him. He paused for a moment, trying to think of the best place to start. This was where he could help Victor come to terms with his own feelings. He wanted to say the right thing. “Well, it feels right.”

Victor didn’t look convinced. “But that could have been the room doing that.”

“I know, I know. But this feels…” He trailed off. He was aware the room could be the reason behind his feelings but he was so certain it wasn’t. He knew it wasn’t. It was just trying to explain how he knew. “I’ve liked people before. I’ve wanted to date them and be with them and how I felt towards them is how I feel towards you. I want to… be with you, really, and I know I do.”

Victor didn’t react. He didn’t perk up or smile, he only held a blank stare that read no emotions. Yuuri waited with anticipation as he waited for Victor to react. His brows then dropped and out of his mouth came one word: “Why?”

And that baffled Yuuri.

“Why?” Yuuri had to ask. He definitely heard it right? And as Victor nodded, Yuuri remained stunned. “Because you’re beautiful and kind and you don’t give yourself enough credit for surviving in this room.”

And suddenly, Yuuri had the urge to tell Victor exactly what he thought. Although Victor had given up hope, Yuuri looked to Victor to regain his own hope. Yuuri looked up to him.

“You gave up hope but you held on to enough to keep yourself going,” Yuuri stated. He watched Victor divert his gaze and Yuuri wasn’t having that. He reached forward and grasped Victor’s hand as his other cupped Victor’s cheek, encouraging him to look Yuuri’s way. He didn’t want Victor to ever take his eyes off him. “You kept yourself as healthy as you could. You still bathed and exercised, so you must have believed that one day you would be found. And given everything you’ve gone through, you still had the fight in you to keep going, and I look up to that.”

Seeing Victor smile made his world brighter. Hearing Victor’s laugh was music to his ears. And when Yuuri heard both in a matter of seconds, he refused to hold back his own smile.

“I guess I must have had some hope,” Victor said and Yuuri agreed with him. Then Victor’s smile dropped, his gleaming eyes faded, and Yuuri searched Victor’s eyes. Whatever had gone through his mind wasn’t helping him and Yuuri needed to reassure him before he fell. “I just… I can’t figure anything out. I don’t know anything. I’m even scared that my own feelings have been manipulated by this room and I just…”

Victor tried turning his eyes away but Yuuri didn’t let him. He didn’t use force, only gentle encouragement as he touched his forehead to Victor’s. “I know you’re confused,” Yuuri began. He breathed slowly as his thumb caressed Victor’s cheekbone. “But let me try to explain this better. There is no way this room made me feel what I feel. Our captivity did not encourage this and you want to know how I know that?”

Victor’s eyes remained on Yuuri’s, even with their heads so close. He searched Yuuri’s eyes. “How?”

“Because how could this situation do that?” He asked, not expecting to receive an answer. He wanted Victor to sit there and think of the question. “This room is designed to scare us and that man is trying to control us. We’re supposed to be scared and afraid, not… this . I wouldn’t have fallen for anyone in this situation You gave me a reason to.”

Victor moved back, their gazes still locked. Yuuri watched Victor gnaw his lip, chewing nervously as he thought about what Yuuri had said. Whether the outcome was what Yuuri wanted to hear or not, he wouldn’t mind. At least he knew Victor thought about it. He waited patiently, hoping his words were enough to help Victor understand his own confusion.

And then Victor exhaled a long breath, closed his eyes and he shook his head. “I really don’t want to hurt you, Yuuri.”

“You won’t hurt me.”

“But what if I do?” He asked desperately. “What if this was all just the room and I call it off? What If I can’t be with you because all I remember is this room? And what if I-?”

“Then I will understand your reason for ending it,” Yuuri said as his hands dropped to Victor’s, curling around them as he tightened his grip. He wanted Victor to understand him – that Yuuri meant every word he spoke.

Victor shook his head. “But…”

“I will understand, Victor,” He interrupted, stopping Victor before he could argue back. There was no room for arguing because Yuuri wouldn’t change his mind. “Yes, it will hurt but if it’ll help you get better or understand yourself, then I won’t be mad at you for that. I will understand, okay?”

Victor said nothing at first. He held his stare, unable to look away until his brows knitted in a frown and his eyes squeezed shut. His arms wrapped around Yuuri, desperate for a comforting embrace as he pulled Yuuri close. He pressed his face into Yuuri’s neck, breathing heavily as he muttered against Yuuri’s skin, “What did I do to deserve you?”

Yuuri didn’t hold back as he went into the embrace too. He gripped the back of Victor’s shirt, holding the embrace tighter. His fingers brushed through Victor’s hair – brushing the loose strands away from his face. “I’ve been asking myself the same thing,” Yuuri said and heard Victor hum in content. His shoulders relaxed as the embrace continued and Yuuri smiled as he kissed the crown of Victor’s head. Yuuri hoped he understood better.

“Will we continue to be lovers after today?” Yuuri asked, hopeful and certain that Victor would nod. And when he did, Yuuri hadn’t felt relief like it in a long time.

“Yes,” Victor nodded. “And when we escape, I want us to still be lovers.”

And Yuuri focused on Victor’s use of when . He didn’t say if nor doubted their freedom. He finally showed he believed they could one day escape and Yuuri forced back his happiness. It was a new step – an improvement and Yuuri was so proud of him for believing.

And then their relationship continued.

As hard as it was, they hid it well. They held themselves back, keeping their hands to themselves even when the camera was off. They couldn’t risk the man catching them in the act. They couldn’t give him ammunition. They held it back until nightfall when they knew they’d be safe. They’d then kiss because they want to. Their hands find each other because they craved the touch. But no matter how badly they wanted to, they refused to go further. Not while Victor was still unsure about his feelings.

Not yet, but someday they might.

A normality followed. The days passed peacefully but no matter how hard Yuuri tried, he couldn’t shift his anxiety. The days were too calm and their nights were too silent, and Yuuri waited for the man to react – to punish them for something . It was too quiet. It didn’t feel right.

He was expecting something bad to happen. It’s gone too well for too long and Yuuri’s terrified of what’s to come. The constant fear struck his heart and his stomach tugged at just the thought. Even by Victor’s side, cuddled together as they to try to sleep, the fear remained. It made sure it was never forgotten, no matter what Yuuri did to distract himself.

He tried occupying his mind with reading or excessively exercising just to do something. It only did so much before Yuuri grew tired of his own mind and he’d suddenly be back to where he began – fearing the future and the complete unknown. It was tiring, exhausting, and all Yuuri wanted to do was sleep but even that didn’t help. It only prolonged his fear because in the few moments where he’d wake up, the fear returns.

He wished he could sleep. If he could sleep his days away until his destined rescue, he’d do it. His dreams were a sanctuary. The were his escape away from the room where nothing hurt and he’d see his family again. He would sleep more if he could but it was harder to come by. He never found it so difficult to sleep until he arrived in the room. It was like it stole more than just his life, but his sleep too.

If Yuuri was given a choice, he’d stay awake until his rescue. He couldn’t sleep forever. He had too much to do. He had someone he had to help and his family to get back to.

He knew the fear stole his sleep. The constant worry of a new day had his insomnia worsen and his mind hyper-focus on everything. And when Yuuri had a sense of uncertainty, he needed to work it out. He needed to find out as much as he could before his mind drives him insane.

Yuuri needed to know the man’s next move. The silence was frightening and Yuuri had to prepare himself for a punishment - if one was coming. He knew how to find his answer. He could ask Victor or look through their journal to work it out himself. And for many reasons, Yuuri chose not to ask.

The journal was full of Victor’s entries. Most were written when he was alone just to occupy himself, but others were to explain what happened. It helped him make sense of things and now, it helped Yuuri answer his own worries too. It gave him a clear look into the man and helped him wonder what his plans might be. Yuuri used the book to help himself and as he searched through the pages, he hoped he’d find what he needed.

He found pages that made him question if the man really did give him the bandage out of kindness. The man didn’t ask how he did it. He… trusted them enough not to ask. Yuuri didn’t like the thought but he couldn’t deny himself when he read the evidence. If Victor got sick, the man gave him medicine. If Victor hurt himself, the man would give him what he needed. He didn’t do it to trick or manipulate them. He just did it, and Yuuri hated that.

Yuuri noticed how similar Victor’s worries were to his own. He held the same fears, waiting for the man to punish him because he hadn’t for so long. The more Yuuri read, he began to wonder if nothing really would happen – that maybe the man didn’t have a reason to punish them. Yuuri doubted that. The man wouldn’t be so kind. A punishment will happen soon and it’ll push them both into complete fear, only he didn’t know when.

It wasn’t the answer he was looking for. He was ready to give up but he couldn’t just yet. He had too many pages to check. He reached the point where he had arrived and although he already knew what happened after that, he kept searching. He was hopeful he might find something else – something believable.

He then came across an entry that caught his eye and he stopped. It wasn’t what he was looking for, but as his eyes fell on the drawing of Makkachin, he found no reason to skip past it. He didn’t remember seeing Victor draw it. When did he do it? He shook his head to himself. It didn’t matter. He decided to read it.

 

This is for my dog, Makkachin.

I think it’s your birthday today. Happy birthday, Makkachin! I miss you so much and I promise that when I come home, I’ll give you so much love and attention that you won’t even remember I was gone. I’ll be home soon, I promise. I’m sorry I missed another birthday but I’ll make sure I’m there for the next one, I promise. I know I said the same last year but this year is different. I have my Yuuri here who will help me get out. He’ll bring me back home to you.

I hope whoever has you is treating you well. It’s probably Yakov caring for you, yes? I know he’s busy like I was but I don’t doubt he’s caring for you properly. I trust him to look after you. And I know how much you love to jump on him and lick his face so keep that up. I want to see that again when I get home. It’ll be a nice ‘welcome home’ present. But then again, just being home would be enough.

I want you to meet Yuuri one day. You’ll love him! Maybe not as much as me (I hope!) but you’ll still love him. He has his own dog too who shares my name and I absolutely love that. When you meet Yuuri, you can meet Vicchan too! I don’t doubt you’ll all get along just fine. He’ll give you just as much love as I do.

You’ll meet him. I’m certain of it.

 

Yuuri laughed out loud. “I would love to meet Makkachin too,” He smiled and glanced towards Victor. He was on their bed, lying on his back with a book held above him. He stared at Yuuri, unblinking until his brows dropped in question. Yuuri raised the journal. “I just read about Makkachin.”

“Oh.” Victor dropped his book to the side and moved to sit up. Yuuri hoped it was okay for him to have read it. Uncertainty tugged his chest as he watched Victor play with his hands. “Uh, yeah. I was certain it was her birthday a while back. It’s weird, I know, but I just had a feeling.”

“It’s sweet,” Yuuri grinned as he looked back at the page. He hoped he’d know when Vicchan’s birthday was when the time comes, but he also hoped he’d be out by then. He cleared his throat and looked over at Victor. “I would like to meet Makkachin when we get out. You could meet Vicchan too.”

Victor smiled and nodded. “I would like that too.”

Neither spoke a word. A silence followed as their stares lingered and all Yuuri could think about was how badly he wanted to kiss Victor. The desire was there, but the fear was too. It was too bright outside – too exposed. If he wanted to move, he had to check. He discreetly peeked at the camera and to his despair, it was on.

“He’s watching,” Yuuri muttered. He looked back just as Victor looked away.

“He is,” Victor commented, holding his gaze on his lap as he began picking at his nails. “I’ve been wondering if he’ll ever let us have a request. It’s been a while since I last had one. I don’t think he’s given us one since you arrived.”

Yuuri had been wondering that too and had mixed feelings towards it. He liked that they hadn’t had a request. The man wouldn’t be manipulating them with goods and treats. They wouldn’t fall for his ‘kindness’. But Yuuri also didn’t like it because he wanted goods and treats. He would enjoy being able to ask for something without the fear of being punished. It would be ideal.

He wished he could easily accept the man’s request. He would like to have the freedom to ask for something but he didn’t dare to. He couldn’t fall for the man’s manipulation so easily. He wanted the request but he couldn’t and it was nothing but a frustration.

“That’s probably my fault,” Yuuri commented with a weak laugh. He wouldn’t be surprised if that was the reason. He had been going against the man quite often since arriving, if there were any reason for them not to receive a request, that was presumably it.

“Don’t blame yourself for that,” Victor voiced. Yuuri wanted to argue back but he didn’t have the effort to do so. He looked back at the journal, closing it as Victor said, “I just hoped we’d get one soon.”

Yuuri glanced up. “How come?”

Victor exhaled a long sigh and before he said anything, Yuuri was on his feet. He moved to sit beside Victor, wanting to be close to him. He caught the small grin on Victor’s face and Yuuri reached out for his hand, taking it in his own and hoping it would keep his smile.

“It’s just been a while…” Victor trailed off. His head bowed as his eyes closed and he took a moment to take a deep breath. “It’s just becoming harder to remember everyone’s faces. What I would like to ask for is to get a picture.”

“A picture?” Yuuri asked and Victor nodded.

“Yeah,” He said as he looked up again. His smile was gone. “I wouldn’t mind a picture of myself and my parents, or Yakov, or even everyone at the rink. But preferably, I’d like one of Makkachin. I think that would be nice.”

Yuuri wondered to himself who he’d like a picture of too. He knew for certain he’d want one of his family. He wanted a picture to remember their happy faces rather than their crying ones he saw in the video. He’d take that over anything. But he wondered who else he would ask a picture of.

But would the man be so generous to give them that?

“Hopefully we’ll get one soon,” Yuuri said, tightening his grip on Victor’s hand. He never received a request yet and he didn’t know how they worked, but he wondered if they were only allowed one between them. And if that were the case… “If we’re only allowed one, I’ll let you have it.”

Victor didn’t speak at first. He held his stare and his lips pressed tightly together, staying silent. His shoulders then relaxed and he sighed heavily, giving in to Yuuri’s offer. He bowed his head and muttered, “I just don’t want you to forget anyone.”

“I won’t ever forget them,” Yuuri smiled softly. He could never forget the most important people in his life, no matter what situation he was in.

He raised his hand to cup Victor’s cheek. Suddenly his breath hitched and he stopped in an instant, frozen as fear rushed through his blood. The man was watching. He couldn’t do this. They were too exposed to him and it was a dangerous move. He shouldn’t do this. He swallowed hard and slowly dropped his hand, curling it back around Victor’s. That move was safe. He was allowed to do that.

“But you take the next request, okay?” Victor said, distracting Yuuri from his fears for just a moment. “And you never know, he might let us both ask for something.”

While Yuuri wasn’t certain if he should accept, he agreed anyway. It would be nice to ask for something.

 

Chapter Text

 

Before the day had even started, Yuuri was awake – not prepared to face the day, but awake.

There was something about his sleeplessness that had his mind switch on and work like a machine on its last endless cycle. Yuuri would try so hard to settle down, only for sleep to never come.

His sleeplessness was torture. While the rest of the world slept and embraced their dreams with eight hours of rest, Yuuri would have already given up trying. Sleep hardly came anymore but when it did, he enjoyed those few hours of rest where he’d see his family and freedom again. It was the only sanctuary he had – a memory from the real world.

The warmth of the early morning was deceptive. The sun had barely risen yet it was already so hot, stifling even. The uncomfortable heat had Yuuri pull the blankets off his body but it still wasn’t enough to cool him. Victor’s warm body didn’t help. He pressed up against Yuuri and tangled himself in an embrace that usually brought a loving warmth instead of the inferno he was feeling. He was hot, sweaty, and hated summer more than ever.

Yuuri wished the seasons stopped changing. He wanted time to stop so when he escaped, he could catch up on lost time. He was still trapped in winter, back to the last season he felt – the last season where he was free and his future was something he was certain on. He had missed spring. He couldn’t feel the April showers or see the vast green fields covered in a cluster of color. He missed an entire season and now it was summer – another season he desperately didn’t want to miss.

Time was moving onwards and passing by without him, progressing while he was still stuck in winter. He never realized how precious time was, not until he became trapped. It moved too quickly as it passed through his timeline, unwavering and endless. But he still had time. His life still existed beyond his captivity, waiting for his return. He had so much time and yet, so little that he didn’t want to waste it dreaming and wondering. He had to act. He had to hold onto it as well as he could because time was like sand and he refused to let it slip between his fingers.

Time was precious to him. He couldn’t waste it than he already had.

He eventually pulled himself away from Victor’s grasp. He sat there with his arms around his tucked legs, waiting for Victor to wake up so they could begin yet another day of captivity. And it was the same every morning; he’d be up long before Victor and sit there, waiting for him to wake up. Although those mornings were slow, he never minded. It let him marvel at Victor and appreciate the man he was falling for.

He wondered if Victor used to be just as sleepless as he is. He never read in their journal that he couldn’t sleep, but he knew Victor didn’t write everything down. He wrote what was important – what he wanted people to know. He hoped Victor was able to sleep. If Yuuri had the choice, he’d rather sleep away the days that stay awake, waiting impatiently for his rescue. But Yuuri wasn’t so lucky.

Amongst the silence, there was a sudden sound. Yuuri’s breath hitched as he looked towards the window, listening intently while he doubted himself. Then he heard it again; footsteps approached the window and Yuuri held his breath, daring not to make a sound. He hesitated for just a moment but moved to his feet, gingerly stepping closer to the window as he stared – waiting.

The footsteps came like thunder and soon, a heavy boot came into view, followed by another. Yuuri’s heart pulsed in fear. His blood froze and his body went stiff, unable to do anything other than stare at the person who stood by the window – unmoving and waiting.

He was tempted to yell. He wanted to yell so badly but his voice was trapped, stuck in his throat that he could only make a weak choked sound. He believed it was their rescuer and he nearly begged them for help, but a sudden realization stopped him. Their rescuer would have come through the door if they were there to save him. They wouldn’t stand by the window, knowing Yuuri and Victor were in there and do nothing or say anything. They weren’t there to help him and his heart sank, fighting the urge to cry because he knew exactly who it was.

It was the man. He knew it was.

He watched with his pulse in his throat. The man got to his knees and Yuuri saw a collection of keys in his hand, bound together by string. Yuuri watched him pick a specific one and move towards their window. He didn’t understand what was happening at first, not until the window was pulled ajar and Yuuri’s heart rapidly jumped in his chest. The window was… open? It was still forced to stay closed by the chain binding it to the wall, but it was open. It was truly open!

If one of those keys opened their window, another would open their door. And if Yuuri’s assumption was right, his escape was in the man’s hand. He had never been so close to his freedom before; he needed it. He needed to get hold of those keys and show Victor that he did more than just break them out. If he could trick the man into giving them to him, he’d achieve the impossible.

“H-hey,” Yuuri’s trembling voice yelled out to the man. He caught his words with his hands pressed against his mouth, stifling anything else he had to say.

He shouldn’t attempt to grab the man’s keys. He had no way of tricking him into giving them away either, but there was an opportunity there, something he hadn’t had since he arrived. It was a long shot and an attempt that had little chance of working, but Yuuri needed to try.

When the man got to his feet, Yuuri shot forward. “Hey, wait!” He called out, silent enough to not wake up Victor. “I-I just want to ask you something!” The man turned and everything inside of Yuuri moved without him thinking. He grabbed a chair, moving it to the wall beneath the window. He stepped on it and stood on his tiptoes, peering through the window and towards the man who was walking away. Yuuri’s breath hitched. He had to be quick.

“Can-can I….” He didn’t know what to say. There were words in his mind but they couldn’t form sentences. There was nothing he could say that could trick the man in any way, but he knew something he could say – something that’ll stop the man in his tracks. “Can I ask for something in return for a punishment!”

And the man stopped. Yuuri held his breath, anticipating the moment where the man would turn but he didn’t. He remained facing away, hiding his face from his own captive. While Yuuri wished he could see the face of his kidnapper, there was bliss in not knowing. He wouldn’t have a face to the one he despised the most. It was a way of coping, somehow.

The sudden pause gave Yuuri time to look at the man properly. He could finally put an image to the man who kidnapped him. He was… much stronger than Yuuri expected. His upper-body was broad, strong with muscles that strained the seams of his shirt. His hair was a dirty blond dashed with grey hairs, tamed with a combed back look. His big boots weighed heavily on his feet but he had walked with ease, solid and regular like a soldier. Yuuri caught a tattoo on his bicep: a bulldog that he wondered the meaning behind.

The man looked… normal. His strength was certainly an eye-opener, but he wasn’t scruffy and he didn’t look creepy. He looked nothing like Yuuri imagined. If Yuuri saw him on the street, he would hardly remember the man and that thought scared him the most. The man wasn’t just another person. He was a monster – a monster that needed to be stopped.

When Yuuri’s eyes landed on the muzzle of a gun that peaked below his shirt line, his heart tugged as fear pumped through his veins. He had a gun. The man was armed, ready to hurt them if he ever caught them escaping. Yuuri nearly receded back into the safety of the room where the gun didn’t threaten to hurt him, but he stood his ground. The sight of a gun wasn’t going to stop him. Nothing will.

Yuuri knew any attempt at grabbing the keys were pointless. If the man refused to show his face, there was no way Yuuri could get near his keys. He was too far away and Yuuri hated to admit this, but he was too smart to fall for Yuuri’s silly trick. He hadn’t even completely worked out his plan. The attempt wasn’t worth the effort, but something else came to mind which was.

The man was standing right there. He was there, listening to what Yuuri had to say and there was another opportunity. It may not help them escape, but it might help someone else in the room.

“V-Victor has a dog.” He shouldn’t tell him this. The man could do anything to Makkachin if Yuuri told him enough, but he might do nothing too. He might comply. He could agree to Yuuri’s terms and punish him while Victor got what Yuuri asked for. He hoped for that outcome. “She’s a poodle called Makkachin.”

He expected the man to turn but he didn’t. He remained staring forward and Yuuri wondered if he was even listening. He could easily be choosing to ignore Yuuri and give him that false sense of hope Victor mentioned once before. But Yuuri had already started asking; he might as well continue.

“We’ve, uh… we’ve been talking about what we’d ask for if you let us have a request. He said he just wanted a picture of Makkachin. It’s not a lot. Even if it’s just a quick picture off the internet, he wants a photo and I just…” He swallowed hard and reminded himself that this was or Victor. He’s doing this for Victor. “Can I ask you to deliver one to him? I’ll take whatever punishment you give me for it, I just – please?”

The wait was agonizingly long and Yuuri’s chest tugged with anticipation. So many questions rushed through his mind, but so little answers accompanied them that Yuuri wished the man would just say something – anything.

“…We’ll see.”

Yuuri’s breath escaped his body, coming out in a small gasp as he stared wide-eyed. It was a potential agreement – a possibility that the man might give Yuuri what he asked for. He couldn’t help the small smile on his face as he watched the man walk away, leaving Yuuri with excitement and fear bursting inside of him.

It was a sacrifice he was willing to take. He knew his punishment would mean a horrible time for himself, but the man wouldn’t do anything to Victor. He’d leave him alone and aim for Yuuri, which he was fine with. Whatever the punishment could be, he feared it. He was completely terrified of what might come but if it meant helping Victor, he’d do it in a heartbeat.

He decided to not tell Victor his plans. He couldn’t, not until the gift arrived. Yuuri didn’t worry about Victor learning of the gift as much as he did his punishment. Victor could easily deny the gift or argue that he shouldn’t have done that. Yuuri could already hear Victor telling him off. The gift wasn’t much of a worry, but Victor learning about his punishment would crush him. He’d outright refuse the gift. He’d stop the man from continuing their agreement.

He wasn’t going to tell Victor of his plans. If Victor knew, he’d only argue against him. He might even go as far as to stop the man from continuing their agreement or even outright refusing Yuuri’s gift. He’d especially refuse it when he learns Yuuri will be punished for it. Yuuri was going to keep it a secret for as long as he could. He might just get away with it. He’d do everything in his power to stop the agreement.

But when the gift arrives, it would be too late. Yuuri will keep it a secret until then.

Yuuri found it strange how hours ago, he was talking to the man who had kidnapped them. He saw the man in the flesh, spoke to him and even heard his voice. And all that happened while Victor slept – still completely unaware of it now he was awake.

It was so strange. He was the person putting them through so much pain and heartache and Yuuri could have said anything to the man. He had the chance to express his hatred. He could have told the man he would never give up hope. He had the opportunity to say and do so much more but he used that moment to help Victor.

When Yuuri looked back on that moment, he didn’t regret his choice. He wanted to help Victor in any way that he could. The picture wouldn’t help their escape, but he hoped it would make Victor smile.

“Yuuri” Victor’s voice snapped him from his thoughts. His gaze shot up, meeting Victor’s worried stare as he asked, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” He lied. He turned back to his cereal but his appetite suddenly dispersed. Fear tugged on his gut and played images in his mind, reminding him that his punishment could arrive any moment of any day. Would today be the day?

He forced himself to eat as they sat in silence. There was no sound beyond their cutlery clanging against their dishes as neither said a word. Yuuri couldn’t think of a topic to bring up, nothing that didn’t tell Victor of his agreement. Too much was going through his mind – so much that Yuuri couldn’t focus on a single thought. His punishment was soon. The man might not even agree to his request. The window was open. Did Victor notice it was open yet?

He was surprised Victor hadn’t mentioned the window yet. There was a slight breeze coming through it, cooling their room to a comfortable temperature that even if Yuuri hadn’t seen the man, he would have noticed already. He was ready to just tell Victor until he looked up and Victor was already staring at the window.

Yuuri wondered how happy he was – how ecstatic he’d be now the window was open. Yuuri waited with a smile ready to break free, but Victor’s face remained completely still. He hardly reacted as all he said was, “Oh. It’s open.”

Yuuri stared hard and his chest pounded, fearing the worst already. If this was Victor losing hope again, he’d need to know. His reaction was disappointing. It was hardly a reaction that even as Yuuri glared, Victor didn’t react any further. He hoped for something happier – something positive because the window was finally open. How could he not be happier about this?

“You don’t sound as surprised as I was,” Yuuri said, hoping to get more information out of him.

Victor spooned a mouthful of cereal and shrugged lazily. “He did the same thing last summer.”

Yuuri’s spoon slipped from his grasp. His mouth hung open and he held a bug-eyed stare, completely stunned as his mind went blank. His words were chaotic, unable to create sentences because all Yuuri could think of was Victor’s response – his own words. Victor… knew this would happen again?

“I – I… you…?” His words were a mess. He couldn’t believe it. Then suddenly, he found exactly the words he wanted to say. “What do you mean he did this last summer?” Yuuri asked, his words coming out fast as he began to ramble. “We’ve spent so long trying to escape that window when it was shut, using that knife just to try and get it open when you knew all this time it would soon be opened anyway? I mean this-this is great but I just… why didn’t you mention this sooner?”

He desperately hoped Victor realized how incredible this was. One obstacle they were stuck on was finally over, achieved because of the man himself. They didn’t have to break the window open anymore and now they could work on the chain or lock instead. They were one step closer to their freedom but Victor didn’t share the same excitement Yuuri had. He held his frown and Yuuri noticed he didn’t look himself.

“I didn’t think it mattered much,” Victor muttered as he crossed his arms and receded back into his chair. “I thought we’d be out by now so I just… I didn’t realize how close summer was. I’m sorry.”

Yuuri wasn’t going to blame Victor. He wasn’t aware how close summer was too, but he had been avoiding it. It meant he was nearing a six-month mark of his disappearance – six months since he’s been taken from the world. Yuuri couldn’t blame Victor and he wasn’t going to. But a thought went through his mind and he wondered if Victor was doing the same. He hadn’t been himself for a little while now. He looked tired, pale, almost out of it for most of the days.

“This is good, you know,” Yuuri assured him. He reached out for his hand, taking it in his grasp and giving it a tight squeeze. If Victor had lost his hope, Yuuri would sway his thoughts. They could escape an open window better than a closed one. “We don’t have to break it open anymore. We only have one thing to focus on. That lock shouldn’t be too hard to open. We should be out soon, okay?”

“Do you think it’ll be easier?” Victor asked and Yuuri didn’t hesitate to nod. Victor didn’t say anything but instead took a quick glance towards the camera. Yuuri looked too. It was turned off. Victor then abandoned his breakfast as he got to his feet. He moved towards the window, staring up at it while Yuuri’s eyes followed his every step.

“What’s wrong?” Yuuri asked.

“It’s not open far,” Victor commented, staring at the window above him. “What if we can’t fit the lock through the gap?”

“We’ll have to try the best we can,” Yuuri replied. He worried about that himself. While the window was open, the gap was only small. The man wasn’t generous when giving them air, but it was enough to cool the room slightly. “I can get a better look when we get back to the window. And even if we can’t fit the lock through the gap, I don’t doubt we could break it somehow. It must be old by now, it shouldn’t take too long to break. Think about it.”

And Victor did. There was a sudden light in his eyes – a glimmer that reflected in his soft blues. He finally saw the same hope Yuuri did too and when Yuuri smiled at him, Victor returned it with one just as big and bright. Yuuri’s heart did flips.

“But your hand needs to heal first,” Victor stated and Yuuri agreed. He already knew not to try again, not until his hand was completely healed. He didn’t want to reopen his wound, especially with how close it was to healing.

And then they were waiting again but this time, it was different. It seemed that neither was in a rush to get back to the window, not like they were before. Yuuri didn’t mind that the wait because while he was desperate to escape, he didn’t feel like they had to get back to the window. Their escape wasn’t going anywhere. And dare Yuuri say it, but he felt almost careless towards it.

The days went by with little incidences. The open window offered very little but it still helped the room cool down during the night. Yuuri didn’t wake up feeling so sweaty anymore. He could enjoy Victor’s cuddles again. They were still so warm, but not as stifling like before and Yuuri was pleased with that. He missed Victor’s embrace.

Yuuri thought the open window would be bliss but it seemed he was wrong. There came days where Yuuri would sit on their bed, staring through the window. He’d watch the tops of trees sway in the breeze while not a single gust slipped through the crack. The room was awful. He was sweaty, hot, and constantly tired but out there, he’d be able to cool down. He wanted to feel the wind so desperately. He wanted to be outside again and feel it dance along his skin. He wanted to relax under the shade, bathe in an ice-cold bath, or lay on the dry grass and watch the clouds fly by, surrounded by nothing but fresh air.

He didn’t know if the open window was a blessing or a curse, but he kept his mind set on his goal. It was better opened. It was always better opened.

Alongside the torturous desire to feel the wind, he waited for his request. Each day was a waiting game – waiting for the hatch to alert him of the arrival of Victor’s gift and Yuuri’s punishment along with it. His paranoia soon kicked in, but acceptance did too. It was mostly annoying. On some days, he was a jittering mess. He’d drop everything and stumble around because he was so scared that the day will be the day. And when his paranoia worsened, he’d want to cry because he’d believe the man will kill Makkachin. He’d cry because Victor would get home and find his dog isn’t with him anymore. And if he wasn’t crying, he was deep inside his own mind. He’d wonder if the man would take Makkachin too and take Yuuri’s request too seriously. He could drop Makkachin in the room with them. He could keep Makkachin for himself. The man could do anything to them and they’d have no way to fight back. His paranoia made everything worse than it already was and Yuuri loathed it.

But some days, he accepted his potential punishment. It wasn’t as easy as telling himself to get over it because he was the one who requested it. He’d just feel calmer on certain days. Between his paranoid days came breaks where his punishment didn’t come to mind so often. His head would feel less heavy and his thoughts strayed away from his fears, his doubts. Those days were the easiest.

But what mostly kept Yuuri going was Victor. He was always there - every day where his paranoia would hit, he’d help Yuuri through it. He never pushed Yuuri into telling him what was wrong. He tried asking but Yuuri refused to say because he couldn’t yet and Victor respected that. He’d then offer Yuuri as much help as he could. He’d read to him to distract his mind. He’d tell him a story to make him laugh. He’d do as much as he could to keep Yuuri’s mind busy.

Even when night falls, he’d help Yuuri’s mind relax. He’d kiss Yuuri until his thoughts become nothing but the feeling of Victor’s lips. They’d kiss to help each other. They’d kiss because they want to. And one night, Victor asked for something more.

It was just like any other night. They were cuddled close to one another, Yuuri on his back with Victor’s head resting on his chest. He’d listen to Yuuri’s heartbeat, finding that it brought him peace hearing the rhythmic beat. Yuuri’s hand always found Victor’s hair, combing it away from his face because he loved doing so.

“Can I ask you something?” Victor asked unexpectedly. Yuuri didn’t know what he wanted to ask so he hummed, granting Victor permission to ask away. “Do you ever think one day, we’ll go further?”

His brows dropped, curious what Victor meant by that. Did he mean to go further beyond their room? Was this even about their escape? “What do you mean?” He asked, his hand pausing combing Victor’s hair.

“I mean like…” Victor paused. “Touching me.”

Yuuri still didn’t understand. His brows stayed low and he tried to think what Victor meant by touching. He repeated it in his head, over and over until suddenly, he knew exactly what he meant. His body involuntarily tensed, nerves freezing his muscles as his cheeks burned a bright pink.

“…Oh.”

He didn’t know what else to say. He couldn’t even lie and say he hadn’t because he had, more often than he’d like to admit. There were so many times he thought about touching Victor – so many times he could have let his hands roam further and find the places that made Victor shudder and moan. He could have done so much but he always stopped himself. He held back.  He didn’t know if Victor wanted to go that far in the past, but now it was clear. Victor’s been thinking about it too and now was a better time to ask than never. He could admit his desires, confess certain thoughts and needs to him.

“I have, uh… quite often,” He admitted. His mind was screaming at him to stop talking but his mouth was ignoring him, continuing their discussion no matter how embarrassed he was. But more than his embarrassment, it was the perfect time to learn what was going through Victor’s mind too. “I never knew if you wanted to go further so I sort of… didn’t.”

Victor raised his head and their eyes met, searching and wondering what the other was thinking. “I want to go further,” He confessed confidently. Not a single ounce of nerves showed on his face while Yuuri’s entire being felt it. His chest pounded, his eyes were wide, and his mind pondered every possibility. Was Victor asking for them to…?

“You want to?”

“Yeah,” Victor nodded, knowing exactly what Yuuri couldn’t say. “I want to touch you and have you touch me. But I just… want to know if you think this is appropriate for us to do.”

It wasn’t that it was inappropriate for them to go further. They already took that risk just being in a relationship with each other. It was whether it was safe for them to do anything more – if it was safe for them to take that step without the man knowing. It would certainly be left until nightfall when the camera was off and they could do what they pleased, but so much made Yuuri question if it was the right choice.

Nightfall was their time. It was when they’d kiss and hug and do everything they feared showing the man. It was when they’d try to escape – the only time they could do it because it was when they were safe to act. If they added another wish to their list of things to do at night, would it make their escape move further away from them and disappear into the distant future while they waited for next summer to arrive?

Yuuri wanted to touch Victor. He wanted to move onto a new step in their relationship but everything about their captivity was an uncertain blur. It didn’t have to be wrong for them to take that step, but was it safe for them to do anything now?

A quick glance at the camera answered his question. It was switched off. And suddenly, there was no holding back.

“So…?”

Yuuri blinked, coming back out of his thoughts, and focused on Victor. “So, what?”

“Do you… can we, uh…” Victor’s dropped his gaze, his own nerves finally coming into view and Yuuri knew what he was asking for. His cheeks burned hotter and his heart raced wildly, jumping around in his chest. Victor then gave an awkward laugh. “God, that was awkward. I haven’t really… it’s been a while since I’ve been with anyone other than myself and I just-just forgot how to approach this and –”

Victor’s sentence was cut off by Yuuri’s kiss. He knew it wasn’t the best choice for them to make but he couldn’t resist. The hard press of Victor’s lips against his own had him demand another and he knew he couldn’t fight against the thoughts going through him. His mind told him to stop but his body chose to continue. When their tongues met and Victor moaned, Yuuri knew he was gone. There was no turning back, but he didn’t want to.

He pulled back, breathing hard from the kiss as he hovered over Victor, gazing down with admiration. He didn’t know exactly when they swapped places but he didn’t care to figure that out. Victor was beautiful. His hair was a mess – a mop of silver splayed over the pillow as his chest rose up and down with each heavy breath and Yuuri fought the urge to plant kisses along his neck and chest.

He was too aware of Victor’s hands on his body gently stroking along every curve. His hand slipped under Yuuri’s shirt and traced his fingers down Yuuri’s spine, prompting tingles of electricity that had Yuuri shiver and delve in for another kiss. He couldn’t hold back. Not anymore.

But then his thoughts came barging in and disrupted the pleasure. He was too aware that they were kissing, touching, and with every intention to go further. He knew where to put his hands but it didn’t feel right. What else should he do with them? They were beginning to feel clammy. His shoulders were tense too. He wanted this so badly but his mind was going against him. He was thinking too hard but his mind couldn’t settle. He should calm down. He should enjoy this moment with Victor. He should –

“You’re tense,” Victor noted, pulling back from the kiss. Yuuri sighed hard as his head pressed against Victor’s chest. He was being so stupid. “Do you know what to do?”

Yuuri looked up. “I do know how a dick works, Victor,” He argued. It upset him that Victor thought he was that inexperienced. He may have never done this to another person but he wasn’t unaware of what happens in the bedroom. He wasn’t unaware of how to touch someone.

Victor smiled and laughed softly, shaking his head as he said, “I don’t doubt you do.” His hands glided to Yuuri’s cheeks, cupping them to press a gentle kiss to Yuuri’s lips before he whispered, “Just let your desires take over. Do what you want. Do what you think I’ll like.”

But what did Victor like?

Victor was granting him the lead. He was letting Yuuri do as he wished and touch Victor the way that he wanted to. Yuuri was ready. He would show Victor that he could do more than just kiss him but bring him pleasure that nobody else will give him. He would find all those places that could make Victor gasp, moan, and shudder with pleasures that only Yuuri could give. He would fulfill all of Victor’s desires the best he could

But first, he wanted to kiss Victor.

Kissing was simple, easy, and Yuuri knew how to kiss Victor the way he liked. Victor liked their kisses to linger – to stay together and forever lost in the touch. It didn’t matter what desires Yuuri had because he loved to kiss Victor too. He loved the way their lips locked perfectly together, the way Victor’s thumb would gently caress his cheek or arm – wherever he was touching. He knew exactly where to begin, but where should he go from there?

Suddenly, Victor arched his back and pressed himself forward into Yuuri, grinding himself so perfectly that a sudden warmth exploded inside of him. It burned so pleasantly that a strong moan fell from Yuuri’s lips – one he couldn’t contain. He inhaled a shaky breath and met Victor’s eyes. He saw a spark in them – a mischief that had a smile play on Victor’s lips and Yuuri narrowed his eyes. Victor was teasing him. If Victor wanted to play that game, Yuuri would retaliate.

And with a playful smile, Yuuri pressed his own hips forward and met Victor’s with an uneven thrust. Victor’s mouth fell open, gasping a moan that filled their room and Yuuri muffled it with a hard kiss. Their tongues met, dancing around each other’s as Yuuri pressed further forward, desperate for more. He couldn’t contain his own sounds of pleasure anymore. It was so pleasing – so alluring to feel Victor against him like this. He wanted more.

He circled his hands around Victor’s hips. His fingers gripped the fabric of his underwear as he pulled Victor up with his grinds, pressing harder and evening their rhythm. Their kiss broke apart as Victor’s head fell back, gasping loud and moaning with each thrust that met perfectly. Yuuri was panting along with him. He couldn’t contain his own groaned as he trembled with pleasure.

He couldn’t believe they were doing this. They were truly doing this and it was no dream or fantasy. They were grinding against each other, pressing themselves into one another to bring themselves to pleasure. Yuuri had wanted more – he wanted Victor’s hand, Victor’s mouth… but this was enough. It was enough to satisfy Yuuri and he hoped he could satisfy Victor too. He did initiate this after all. He started grinding first, Yuuri followed along with what he wanted – but he wasn’t complaining. Not at all.

Victor’s head stayed back, exposing his neck and Yuuri’s mouth watered. He pressed open-mouthed kisses to the base of Victor’s throat and worked his way up to his jawline. Victor’s mouth hung open. His hot breath caressed Yuuri’s skin as he panted hard, desperate for a breath but his grinding didn’t falter. His hands found Yuuri’s hips too as he tugged, pulling himself closer and with every thrust that was met prompted them both to become trembling, moaning messes.

Yuuri,” Victor gasped against his skin. He weaved his hand through Yuuri’s hair, gently tugging to encourage him to look up. As their eyes met, Yuuri felt a burn in his gut – building and fluttering as he continued to roll his hips into Victor’s, earning gasps and whimpers. “Ah – Yuuri.

Their foreheads touched. He could feel Victor’s hot breath on his skin as he quivered beneath him. He was panting hard, gasping and moaning Yuuri’s name on repeat as he rocked his hips faster – harder. He was close. He was so close and Yuuri was too. He could feel it. Then Victor choked out a groan and his grip on Yuuri tightened, tugging him in a tight embrace as he reached his climax. He moaned loud in Yuuri’s ear, twitching and trembling. Yuuri pressed his hips hard against him, rocking Victor through his high. And in a sudden release, Yuuri let go too – toes curling and spilling his own heat inside his underwear, trembling and moaning too.

And then they collapsed. Exhaustion took over as they swallowed hard and breathed heavily, trying to catch their breath. Yuuri could feel Victor’s heart pounding hard and his own did the same. He had to take a moment to breathe. That felt good. It felt so, so good.

“That was…” Victor swallowed hard, panting.

“Yeah,” Yuuri nodded.

He hadn’t done anything like that in such a long time – and never with someone other than himself. He’s touched himself but never grinded against anyone. He never watched someone seek pleasure just like he did. It was new – his desires to touch someone, his need to watch them come apart, it was something he’d never seen with anyone other than Victor. And with Victor it was different. He wanted it all.

As Victor kissed Yuuri’s cheek and tightened their embrace, Yuuri didn’t care for the shower he wanted anymore. Not yet. He closed his eyes and enjoyed their embrace. He may be new to sharing his desires with someone, but he was glad he could share it with Victor. He was excited to explore more.

 

Chapter Text

Yuuri stopped expecting after a while.

He was waiting for the worst. With every new day, he sat there and feared so many things that may never come that he decided he had enough of waiting. He was sick of it. He decided to let whatever happens in that room happen, because how else was he supposed to keep himself sane?

And it worked for a short while. He stopped waiting for his own punishment from the man because he soon realized the man wasn’t going ahead with their agreement. He stopped wondering if anyone had found the notes they sent out. He stopped waiting for someone to come rushing through the door with the intention of saving them. Yuuri stopped wondering, dreaming, hoping… But it worked.

It worked until his fear came rushing back to him with the sound of a clanging hatch, and he was instantly back to where he began. His fear of his punishment awoke and startled him into nothing but pure terror. The realization hit and he couldn’t move, breathe, or think – completely frozen in fear. And all that went through Yuuri’s mind was that it was his punishment. He will be hurt and he will wish he never made the agreement with the man.

But it was never his punishment. It was always just a delivery of food.

The first time this happened Yuuri found it hard to snap back into his previous state – his ignorance of anything happening. He wanted to pretend but his punishment could still happen. The man could agree and Yuuri would be subjected to horrors he’d wish he never agreed to. It was selfish of him to think so but he couldn’t help it. While he wanted to give Victor the gift, he was thankful that the punishment hadn’t happened yet. It had utter relief sweep over him. It gave him breaks from his paranoia that made his days harder to live with. He felt he could finally breathe – finally think.

But he wanted Victor to have the picture. He wanted to give Victor something he couldn’t have – something that would make him smile because that was all Yuuri wanted to see. If he could see Victor’s happiness and help him show a smile without fear, Yuuri would achieve his own joy.

But if the man denied his request then there was nothing he could do. They’d have to wait until they were allowed one. Perhaps then, Yuuri wouldn’t have the crippling fear of being punished hanging on his shoulders, nor the paranoia that accompanied it. He’d like that. He’d like to give Victor something but by then he hoped they were out of the room.

Yuuri told himself to relax. He told himself he was fine. And for a short while, that worked too.

Yuuri found the second time they received a delivery that he feared the hatch more than the camera. The camera wasn’t hidden or unknown, but whatever was inside the hatch was. It could be something fine, or something awful, and they’d never know unless they opened it.

But the second time they received a delivery, Yuuri knew it wasn’t good. It was too early for their weekly delivery. It couldn't be nothing. It was unknown but a delivery that was expected. There was only one possibility left and Yuuri knew without looking inside that this was it. This was his punishment.

He was stupid to think the man wouldn’t take the offer. He volunteered himself to be hurt, why wouldn’t the man take that offer? Yuuri should have known it was always coming. He should have prepared himself because his hands were shaking, his heart hammered in his chest, and he was struggling to breathe without it shaking. He was scared. He was so, so scared.

He wished he wasn’t alone but he couldn’t bother Victor while he was in the shower. He had to face this. He had to move. He stood up but his legs felt like jelly and threatened to collapse at any moment. He gripped the bed for support, stumbling alongside it before dragging himself onto the bed. He moved to sit properly, trying to get comfortable until his eyes landed on the hatch and his entire being froze stiff.

This was it. His punishment and Victor’s gift was inside. He couldn’t ignore it. He had to do this. He couldn’t fight against it any longer.

His hand was trembling as he reached for the handle. He forced in a breath, trying to will his hand to stop shaking but it didn’t ease it. He swallowed thickly. He had to keep going and as his hand grasped the handle, he paused to breathe in deeply. It didn’t sooth his chest but it was enough to calm the ache. And again, he reminded himself that he had to do this. He couldn’t back out.

He held his breath and in a swift move, the hatch door flung open.

What had his heart jump to his throat settled within seconds, calming to more than nothing but a light thumping as he looked inside. His brows dropped. He didn’t blink for what felt like a minute – at least - unable to look away from the envelope that sat inside.

It could be a number of things. It could be Victor’s picture, Yuuri’s punishment written inside, or even a request they had been waiting for. It could even be nothing more than an empty envelope, used to provoke more fear into Yuuri’s mind. Whatever it was, Yuuri didn’t like it but he was left with one thing to do: open it. And as much as Yuuri didn’t want to do that, he had to. There was no way out of this.

He held his breath and closed his eyes. His hand delved into the envelope, begging for it to be empty of a punishment. He felt something inside – a piece of paper between his fingertips. He pulled it out from hiding and let free his held breath before inhaling another one to prepare himself.

He counted down from three.

Two.

One.

And when Yuuri opened his eyes, he was smiling.

In his hand was a picture of Victor. He had long hair – much longer than it was now – and he was smiling at the camera with a fluffy poodle by his side, hugging the dog while the picture was being taken. It was Victor and Makkachin. It was such a sweet photo too, one Yuuri was pleased to give to Victor and hoped it would be enough to ease his worries towards his companion. As far as Yuuri knew, Makkachin was still okay. She was fine.

The picture had arrived and Yuuri knew his punishment was next. He closed the hatch and when he heard it begin to move, Yuuri didn’t doubt the man was preparing to send down his punishment. And it didn’t matter what it was or how much it hurt Yuuri, he had to take it. He had no choice.

“Yuuri?”

He jolted at the sound of the voice. His breath hitches and he spun, eyes landing on Victor with nothing but a towel wrapped around his hips. Yuuri didn’t doubt he was wearing nothing underneath and that thought alone temporarily distracted him from his terrors.

“Victor,” Yuuri said below a whisper. He quickly hid the picture behind his back and stood to his feet, heart pumping in his chest. His eyes quickly glanced at the camera then back to Victor. It was on. “I was - I was just…”

His lips pressed together tightly, forcing his words to remain silent. He didn’t know what to say. He should stop talking.

Victor narrowed his eyes but he didn’t press. He turned his back, disappearing into the bathroom for a few moments before returning with his shirt and pants on. Yuuri hadn’t realized he didn’t move from his spot, not until Victor shot him a curious stare again and tried searching around Yuuri, knowing he was hiding something behind his back.

A lopsided smile played on his lips as he asked, “What are you hiding behind there?”

Yuuri shook his head. “Nothing.”

Victor hummed and his eyes narrowed. He stepped forward, more concerned now than playful. Yuuri’s breath was shaking with each he took. His heart was beginning to race because this was it. Another step closer to being punished.

“Yuuri?” Victor asked lowly. Yuuri swallowed thickly. “What’s wrong?

Was he that obvious to read?

Yuuri didn’t say anything. It wouldn’t be worth the attempt because Victor was catching onto him. He knew Yuuri was hiding something. He took a deep breath and met Victor’s eyes. He should give Victor his gift before the man ruined it with the arrival of his punishment. Just the thought sent shivers down his spine.

“Don’t be mad at me,” Yuuri began. It was… somewhere to start. It was the last thing he wanted Victor to feel. “But I have something for you.”

Yuuri held his breath and revealed the picture from behind his back, giving it to Victor. Victor didn’t react at first. He stared bug-eyed, unmoving and Yuuri feared rejection, but Victor soon took it. He picked it up, letting his eyes roam freely over the image of himself and his beloved dog. A prickle of tears sat in the corner of his eyes and his mouth hung open but no words came out. Then his eyes squeezed shut as a single tear fell and he pressed the picture to his chest, close to his heart. A loving smile was on his lips and Yuuri smiled back. Perhaps his punishment was worth it after all.

Victor’s eyes then raised to Yuuri, gawking in silence and before Yuuri could speak, Victor raised a hand to Yuuri’s face, cupping his cheek lightly and tilting his head up a little.

“Yuuri, I…” He tightly pressed his lips together, stifling his cries and as another tear fell, he moved closer and wrapped his arms around Yuuri. Despite the heaviness in Yuuri’s stomach – the fear that still remained – his heart fluttered lightly and he sunk into Victor’s warmth. He was so safe in Victor’s embrace - temporarily protected from the punishment that was soon on its way. Yuuri could feel it coming. His body was shaking. He couldn’t stop.

“Yuuri?” Victor pulled back. He searched Yuuri’s eyes, wanting to find what was wrong but no matter how badly Yuuri wanted to look away, he couldn’t. He couldn’t face the reality surrounding him and Victor. He couldn’t handle the pain he will soon feel. He couldn’t…

“Yuuri.”

Yuuri was sitting on the bed. When did he move? And Victor was beside him too, holding his hands tightly and squeezing in a way that should comfort him but it didn’t. There was a look in Victor’s eyes - one that demanded answers that Yuuri didn’t want to give. If he could just stay in that moment where Victor had his picture and Yuuri hadn’t received his punishment yet, he’d stay there forever.

But life didn’t work like that. There was a cold hard truth coming.

“How did you get this picture?”

A hard truth that came because of that picture.

“I spoke to him.”

Victor’s breath hitched as his eyes grew wide. He stiffened and Yuuri noticed how his grip tightened with something more than comfort, but a sudden fear that rushed through him. He swallowed hard and through a stutter in his voice, he asked, “How – I… when-when did you s-speak to him?”

“The morning he opened the window,” Yuuri answered. He was surprised he kept his own voice so calm, but with every breath he took, it shook, revealing the fear he was trying to mask. He could try so hard to hide his fear but his body always betrayed him with every tremble and shake. “I-I was awake when he opened it so I went up to him and spoke to him. I asked him for the picture of Makkachin.”

Victor blinked only once. “And he gave it to you without a consequence?”

The hatch echoed throughout the room, booming in Yuuri’s ears. He jolted in surprise but tensed within moments as fear traveled through his veins. His heart hammered hard but he kept his gaze, unable to look away from Victor because they both knew what this was. He didn’t need to answer Victor’s question to know that yes, there will be a consequence and that was it.

When their eyes met, the heartache and remorse in Victor’s eyes had Yuuri bite back a cry that was so close to breaking free. He didn’t want to cry. Not now.

“Yuuri…” and Yuuri’s tears spilled.

His violent sobbing wrecked his body, merciless and harsh as it tugged at his stomach and throat. He wanted to stop but no matter how hard he pressed his hand to his mouth or how positive his thoughts tried to be, he couldn’t stop. It was an unstoppable force, reckless as Yuuri wept.

“Yuuri,” Victor sighed, shaking his head. “Why did you do this?”

“I just…” He choked a sob, crying and hurting and he couldn’t stop his tears because god, he was so scared. There were breaks in between - breaks where he could take a breath and get out a sentence before he broke again, “You deserved one good thing, Victor.”

“But not at the cost of it hurting you.”

Whether it hurt Yuuri or not, it was happening. It had to be. His punishment sat inside that hatch. He’d do anything to stop it but no matter how many tears fell, how hard he begged, pleaded, and wished for a miracle, it would never happen. Nobody would come to save him from this. Nobody was able to stop his punishment from happening. There was nothing he could do – nothing he could say that made this any easier.

All he could do was accept it. He asked for it. If he had anyone to blame for how he was feeling, he could only blame himself. He chose this. He had to face his fear.

He sucked in a breath and turned, facing the hatch with nothing but despair in mind. He had to do this. Victor stood up and moved around him as he watched, possibly just as scared. Yuuri soon stopped trying to hide his cries. There was no point and any attempt would be wasting his time. He just had to get this over with.

But then came the hard part.

Everything inside Yuuri told him not to open the hatch. If he didn’t open it, there would be no punishment. There would be no pain or suffering because he hadn’t accepted it yet. He could just ignore it – pretend it wasn’t there and live the rest of his days knowing it was there, but never accepting his end of their deal. It was so easy to do that but he couldn’t. The man would retaliate. He’d turn off their water until Yuuri accepts it, or stop their food from arriving, or constantly watch them that he’d soon drive them insane. He’d do so much to force him into accepting the offer that Yuuri didn’t have a choice. He never had a choice.

He had to open it. He had to face it. And with a held breath, he raised his trembling hand and with a swift, forceful move, he opened the hatch door.

What sat inside was a paper bag. Yuuri didn’t understand what it meant at first, not until he saw words written on the front. His eyes glossed over the writing and the moment the words hit, a hoarse and raw cry fell from his mouth.

Yuuri - Your punishment is to watch Victor suffer from your choice.

Yuuri couldn’t stop shaking his head. His entire body trembled, unable to stop bedside the fear that ran through him repeated their never-ending course. He… he couldn’t believe this. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. It was him who had to be punished, not Victor. He should be the one subjected to whatever Victor will have to go through - whatever was inside that bag. He asked for it. He asked the man for that but he turned it around. This wasn’t a part of their agreement. His own request had backfired.

He tried so hard to help Victor. He was trying but every attempt only hurt Victor more, and now he will suffer from a punishment because of Yuuri.

Yuuri hated himself for doing this.

The sudden sound of violent purging had him turn. He looked and saw Victor with his head in the sink, choking up what was inside his stomach with heavy heaving and gags. His hair was held up with one hand while the other gripped the counter, keeping himself up. His legs trembled with every purge and Yuuri couldn’t stop his tears. This was all his fault.

And then he was by Victor’s side. He rubbed circles on Victor’s back, soothing his nausea and cries the best he could. He knew it didn’t solve everything, but it was a start. Victor’s legs suddenly gave out and he collapsed to the ground, pulling Yuuri down with him as Yuuri tried keeping him up. He didn’t move from his protective hold around Victor. Yuuri kept Victor in his arms, holding him close as Victor trembled uncontrollably and his shallow breaths came out too fast.

Yuuri knew Victor was thinking too much. He was trapped in his head, plummeting further into his own mind that it was causing his panic. His wide eyes were glazed and unfocused as they stared ahead. He wheezed for a breath, desperate to fill his lungs but he was struggling to do so. He was so scared. And when Yuuri heard the faintest scream nearly bawl from Victor’s lips, he pulled Victor into a tight embrace, promising all his protection.

Victor was shaking all over but so was Yuuri. He couldn’t stop. Victor choked with each breath, desperately trying to stifle his screams with heavy pants and heaving. He was trying so hard to bite it back – so hard but his attempts weren’t enough. In their embrace, Victor began to scream. It pierced through Yuuri’s ears, the excruciating cry tearing through him like shards of glass that even with his attempts to comfort Victor – to hold him so tightly and remind him that he’d be alright – he still screamed, cried, and begged for someone to help him.

Yuuri tried so hard to be that person, yet he was the one who made Victor like this. He held him close and tightened his grip as Victor’s arms squeezed around him. His hands grasped the back of Yuuri’s shirt tightly, refusing to let Yuuri go but he wasn’t going anywhere. He wouldn’t leave Victor’s side. No matter how loud he screamed or how hard he cried, Yuuri would never leave him.

And Yuuri sat there on the ground, Victor held in his arms while Victor screamed for his life, and they cried together. They cried and hurt because this was all too much. They didn’t know what else to do. They didn’t know what to say.

Then the room soon fell silent. Still. Nothing around the moved, not even themselves as they stayed locked in their embrace. Their screams and cries fell silent, no longer filling the room with a deathly sound that ached and hurt. Even with their tears still falling, nothing was heard above the dripping water from the faucet and the light breeze rustling the leaves outside their room.

Yuuri didn’t have the energy to cry anymore. He didn’t have the strength to move or even speak. He stayed silent. His anguish and regret still filled his being and encouraged his tears to fall but there was nothing left for him to release. There was no reason to cry loudly anymore.

He didn’t dare leave Victor’s arms. Not yet. It was the only thing keeping him sane - the only thing keeping them protected from what was to come. It was their relief. It was their freedom. And if this prolonged Victor’s freedom, he’d stay there for as long as he could.

Yuuri could honestly say he didn’t hate anyone. He never had. But until that moment - until the day Yuuri arrived in that room - he found a person to despise. He had never loathed a person as much as he did the man. Everything he did, everything he is and was, it was excruciatingly painful to sit back and accept that from someone like him. Yuuri never wanted to submit. Especially not to a man like him.

And yet despite everything that happened to them, his mind sought to understand his behavior. Why did he do this to them? What was his motive behind all of this? Was there or will there ever be a valid reason for everything he did? It had gone through Yuuri’s mind multiple times if there was something he did that angered the man. He wondered if he knew the man or met him once before and left a lasting mark on his mind that encouraged all of this. He wondered if that was why he took Victor, or if the motive for them both were completely different. He tried to understand, he really did, but nothing could answer why this was happening - nothing other than the man's own explanation.

The man knew what he was doing and he didn’t pretend to hide that. He didn’t pretend or act innocently. He showed his hatred towards them - his force and control. He knew what he was doing to them and he knew exactly how to hurt them both. Whatever his motive was, it would never excuse the pain he put them through. And Yuuri knew he would never forgive the man for what he was doing.

The man knew Yuuri’s worst fear. He knew exactly how to hurt him and he was doing exactly that. He was forcing Yuuri to live through that nightmare and watch his fears come to life. He couldn’t stand it. He had to watch Victor suffer – watch him hurt from a choice Yuuri had made to try to help Victor. Yuuri could deal with his mistakes reflecting on himself, but when they hurt Victor, he couldn’t stand it. He just wanted to help.

But… what could he do to stop this?

“Shall we just… get this over with?” Victor muttered against his shoulder. His voice still shook and his body was trembling too, but not uncontrollable like before.

Yuuri wanted to say no. This shouldn’t be happening, Victor shouldn’t have to accept this. It was himself who should be punished, not Victor. Yuuri wanted to do something – anything that’ll stop this from happening and save Victor from this cruel twist but there was nothing he could do which wouldn’t make this worse. He couldn’t change the man’s mind or say anything because what could stop the man turning those words against him too?

He was trapped and he hated it so much. It was his fault. He just wanted to help.

But Yuuri had to agree with Victor. It was best they just get this over with as soon as they could. He nodded and they stood up. Yuuri’s legs were numb from sitting on them for so long and tingles erupted through his foot, but the annoyance of it didn’t bother him. He got lost in Victor’s eyes, searching them because neither wanted to turn and face this new reality. And neither wanted to take the next step in looking inside the bag, but one of them had to do it. One of them needed to pick up the bag and look at what was inside it.

No matter how hard Yuuri tried, he couldn’t move. He couldn’t think. His body refused to turn. If he stayed facing Victor, that reality didn’t exist for him. He didn’t have to look at it. He could look at the one that kept him going – that gave him a reason to escape for everyone else.

When Victor moved, Yuuri’s breath hitched as he watched. He couldn’t run from the pain any longer. The more they waited, the angrier the man would get and Yuuri didn’t dare anger him more than he already had. If there was even the slightest chance he could make this any easier on Victor, he would do anything to help.

As Victor picked up the bag, he met Yuuri’s eyes, as if he was asking permission to open it. Unable to look away, Yuuri swallowed hard and nodded. They had to do this, no matter what. He held his breath while Victor inhaled a long one, preparing himself before he gave Yuuri one last look and opened the bag.

The moment Victor’s eyes landed inside the bag, his entire body began to tremble – reckless and violent. He gasped for a breath and Yuuri heard it tremble. He saw the pain in Victor’s eyes and the sorrow of learning the truth of his punishment. Whatever was inside that bag, Yuuri didn’t doubt it would hurt.

“This is for you,” Victor mumbled as he gave Yuuri a folded piece of paper. Yuuri took it with shaking hands and looked over it, catching his name written on the front in messy handwriting. His heart pulsed in his ears and with a tugging in his chest, he began to read.

I don’t know where you thought you had the audacity to speak to me but you did. And to make that worse, you asked me for something. You’re not in the right place to ask me for that. You don’t have that freedom. If you think to speak to me again, I’ll consider drugging your food again and this time, I might just add a little too much. You’ll never know when it’s coming. I was kind enough to give you those bandages when you hurt your hand without questioning you and this is how you repay me?

Pathetic.

Your punishment is to watch Victor suffer from your request. What you have to do is handcuff his hands behind his back and you best do it tightly. If it falls off, I’ll be prolonging your punishment. You have to blindfold him too and I want that tight as well. Nothing will fall off, got it? You have to help him with everything. You help him eat, use the bathroom, drink, whatever he needs and all while this is happening, you can’t hug him. He has to learn too.

He will be released when I think you’ve learned your lesson. I will send the key to the handcuffs down and you have to return both the cuffs and blindfold when he’s free. This should teach you not to talk to me.

You better be good or else Victor will suffer.

Just remember this is your fault, Yuuri. You wanted to help him but instead, you’ve hurt him more than you wanted. You have no one else to blame but yourself. Don’t you ever forget that.

Yuuri’s hands clenched around the paper, scrunching it in his tight grasp. His teeth gritted to hold back the rage that quickly grew inside, desperate to purge from his lips and spew words of hatred and rage.

Even in writing, the man was controlling. He didn’t hide how sadistic he was or pretend to be nice. He hid nothing – too confident that the two already knew how he was to even hide it. Yuuri didn’t know if he’d rather have the man pretend to be nice or hide nothing from the two, but that contributed towards nothing. It didn’t matter what Yuuri would rather have because he realized something. The man sounded just as Yuuri imagined.

Again, it didn’t help Victor, but it helped Yuuri understand the man just that little bit better.

But Victor… god, this was all his fault. He should have thought about his plan before he acted recklessly and went along with it. He should have just stayed silent that morning and watch the man open the window without saying a word. There was so much regret. He shouldn’t have tried to trick a man who had so much control and power over them because look what happened. He put himself and Victor in more danger. He made this punishment – no, this torture – happen.

The man was right. Yuuri had nobody else to blame but himself.

“What do you have to do to me?” Victor asked. His voice shook as he spoke and that seemed to make everything more real.

Yuuri swallowed thickly. He didn’t want to say it but his freedom was gone. He had no choice.

“I have to handcuff and blindfold you.”

“Oh, god,” Victor cried. He sounded so fragile. He spun on his heel, turning away from Yuuri with his arms around himself like he was trying to protect himself. It had Yuuri’s chest jolt with a regretful pain. This was his fault. “And what else?”

“I can’t hug you either,” Yuuri answered. He tried hard to ignore Victor’s quiet sobbing. “I can only help you.”

Victor breathed in hard, his breath trembling with fear. He stayed facing away, keeping his eyes on everything else other than Yuuri. He wished for Victor to turn but he didn’t blame him for not wanting to look back. He’d probably feel sick looking at the one who hurt him.

“And I assume it’s until he’s happy?” Victor asked.

“It’s until I’ve learned my lesson.”

Then there was a prolonged silence – one where all Yuuri could hear was his own heartbeat. He couldn’t mask his fear no matter how hard he tried. He knew it showed on his face, his body, and everything Yuuri was. He revealed so much of his terror and nothing could stop it.

“I wish this wasn’t happening.”

And it was at those words, Yuuri broke. His tears spilled free, aimlessly falling down his cheeks and unable to stop because even Victor knew this was his fault. Victor blamed him too. He now hated Yuuri. He hated him just like the man hated Yuuri and he could do nothing to make it up to Victor. He could do nothing to stop this. He was powerless, lost, and so helpless that he couldn’t do anything right. This was his fault. It was always his fault.

“I-I’m so sorry, Victor,” Yuuri wept. He could do nothing but plead for Victor’s forgiveness. He couldn’t stand the thought of Victor hating him. He tried so, so hard but he constantly failed him. His sobs wracked through his body, merciless as it ripped his throat with every cry. “I-I didn’t think he’d – I didn’t – I…”

He had to stop. He couldn’t continue. He gasped for a breath between his screaming sobs, panting desperately because he couldn’t stop this and it was all too much. He’d beg for Victor’s forgiveness, for the torture to disappear and for everything to go back to how it was but he knew it was pointless. He messed up and no amount of crying or begging would stop this. He couldn’t stand this. He needed to take a moment to focus on his breathing but he couldn’t. It was too much. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think and oh, god. He couldn’t control his body, his emotions, his –

“Yuuri!”

And suddenly, warm hands were on his cheeks and Victor was in front of him. He was sat on the ground, panting and desperate to fill his lungs with a breath. But aside from his starving lungs, Victor’s hands were so soft and warm. They were so comforting that they were all Yuuri could think about as he closed his eyes and nuzzled his face into the warm hands. He needed this.

“Yuuri,” Victor’s voice spoke again. It was softer this time, much calmer than before and Yuuri opened his eyes. “Yuuri, look and listen to me, okay?”

Yuuri nodded mutely. He watched as Victor inhaled a long breath before releasing it, then nod at Yuuri as if to ask Yuuri to copy him. He then did the same, inhaling hard and Yuuri did too, knowing exactly what Victor was asking. Yuuri replicated every breath Victor did repetitively until his own became even and he felt he could breathe a little better – not completely, but better.

“How are you doing now?” Victor asked and Yuuri nodded. He wasn’t confident that he was doing okay but at least Victor was looking at him and still helping him when he needed it. Maybe Victor didn’t hate him after all. “Can you tell me what you were trying to say before?”

Yuuri thought back and nodded. He wasn’t sure if he could explain it completely but he wanted to say something. He had to explain himself. If he could just tell Victor how everything happened and why the man was punishing him, perhaps he could justify his choice. Maybe he could help Victor understand this and help him know why the man was punishing him. If he could make this any easier for Victor, he’d do anything.

“I wanted to give you something so I asked him for the picture of Makkachin,” He began explaining. Victor held a concerned stare, but sorrow filled his eyes and Yuuri fought the urge to look away. He had to keep going. “I told him I’d accept any punishment if it meant you could get it. I thought he’d punish me but he used my words against me. He – he’s hurting you because he knows it’ll hurt me. I didn’t mean for this to happen Victor. I’m so sorry, I’m…”

“Yuuri, remember to breathe, okay?” Victor reminded him and he nodded. He hadn’t even realized he was breathing so heavily, not until Victor said so and he took control of his breathing again. He inhaled through his mouth and exhaled through his nose, continuing doing so as Victor continued, “I wish you didn’t do that for me. I appreciate it but don’t think you have to put yourself through torture to help me, okay?”

“But…”

“No, Yuuri.” Victor stopped him. He moved a hand from Yuuri’s cheek to his shoulder while Victor’s other hand brushed Yuuri’s hair away from his eyes. He leaned forward, pressing their foreheads together as he said, “I’m sorry I made you think that I wasn’t happy with your help.”

Yuuri shook his head. “No, don’t say that Victor.”

“Then don’t blame yourself.” Yuuri held his breath. He wanted to believe Victor but he couldn’t no matter how hard he tried. He couldn’t stop blaming himself for this. “I’m angry that this happened. I’m upset that you did this for me. I appreciate it but I wish you didn’t sacrifice yourself for it. But I just… I can’t blame you. I can’t. You’re not the one who chose to do this, it was the man. He’s the one I’m blaming and you’re the one who told me to do that, remember?”

Yuuri remembered. He recalled that night where they spoke and helped Victor to stop blaming himself for his kidnapping. If he could help Victor not blame himself, why couldn’t he do the same?

“I just wish it wasn’t like this.”

Victor nodded. “Me too.”

When Yuuri expected Victor to turn away, he didn’t. He moved his hands to Yuuri’s cheeks, cupping them as his thumb gently caressed his skin – wiping away the tear that fell. Through the blurry glaze in his eyes, he searched over Yuuri’s face, eyes, everything that was in front of him. Yuuri’s heart raced, tugging with a feeling that wasn’t nerves or fear, but a warmth that spread from his chest to his cheeks. And as Victor carefully stroked his thumb along Yuuri’s bottom lip, his brows dropped and he asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m remembering your face,” Victor said. He held his gaze, eyes looking over every flaw and feature. Yuuri did the same – not for the same reason as Victor, but because he wanted to. Victor was so beautiful. It hurt him that Victor’s beauty was being tarnished by the man – abused by the sorrows that weighed down his face and bruised by the marks of despair that hurt his mind and soul. “If I’m doing this, I want to remember your face.”

“If I can’t make up my apology in words, I’ll do it in another way. I’ll make the next few days as easy for you as I can,” Yuuri promised. There was a smile on Victor’s lips, not one of happiness or even sadness, but from appreciation and gratitude. “It’s not much but it’s the best I can do.”

“Thank you, Yuuri.” And with that came their last hug – a hug that was so desperate and needed, begging to happen because they both knew they couldn’t cope without this one final embrace. If they couldn’t do this for however many days, they wanted to make sure their final one would be remembered. Yuuri wanted to make sure Victor felt this hug over the course of his punishment and reminding him that he will never be alone. He tightened his grip, squeezing with hopes that it will help Victor through the days to come.

And when Victor squeezed back, Yuuri planted kisses to the crook of his neck – a place where he could give them and hide the act from the man. He prayed the punishment wouldn’t last long, but an unsettling feeling in his gut told him that might not happen.

He could pray, but his continued captivity proved that praying wasn’t working. And yet, he still tried. It was all he had left.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Yuuri didn’t want to do this. He didn’t want to be the one to put Victor in his bindings but he had no other choice.

He held the handcuffs in his palms. They weighed heavily in his hand but not from the metal - from the mental trauma and torture they’ll put Victor through. He knew how much they’ll hurt Victor and the pain they’ll put him through, but the handcuffs weren’t the worst part of all this. It was blindfold. It will be the reason for his struggling. It’ll stop him from caring for himself, forcing him to have limited control. Victor would be unable to do anything.

His life was in Yuuri’s hands. He had to rely on Yuuri and trust him to keep him going, and Yuuri would do it in a heartbeat. He’d try his hardest to keep Victor going. Yuuri refused to let the man get to Victor. He knew he was the reason this punishment was happening, but he’d make sure Victor would get through this the best he can. He didn’t know how long Victor would be like that – unable to move and see without help – but Yuuri refused to let the man win.

“Are you ready?” Yuuri asked when he met Victor’s eyes. There was a pain in them – one that tugged at Yuuri’s chest and threatened to spill tears. He didn’t dare look away for even a second. He wouldn’t see Victor’s eyes for a while. He wanted to remember.

Victor raised a wrist and sighed, “Let’s just get this over with.”

It wasn’t the ‘yes’ Yuuri was hoping for, but Victor was right. They should get this over with.

Yuuri went to put on the first cuff but stopped before he did. The handcuff would bite into his skin and cut him while he wore them. They’d hurt him if he pulled too hard. Yuuri had to make this as easy for Victor as possible and he wasn’t going to put them on without something to protect Victor’s skin. He glanced around the room, wondering if they could rip the bed sheets until caught the bandage still wrapped around his hand and Yuuri nodded to himself.

He would use the bandage. Victor needed it more than he did.

He unwound the bandage but as he caught the sight of his wound, his heart skipped a beat. He inspected his now healed injury, noting it was more of a scar that’ll never disappear than a wound. Yuuri didn’t mind the scar, but what still bothered him was the unstoppable trembling. It hasn’t eased since the man drugged him, and Yuuri didn’t doubt whatever the man gave him caused this. He wasn’t certain the shaking would ever stop.

“Yuuri?” Victor’s voice snapped Yuuri from his gaze. His head jerked to Victor who was eyeing the bandages in Yuuri’s hand. “You’re… you’re not using that instead of…?”

“No,” Yuuri shook his head. He pulled at the bandage, ripping it into two before using it to wrap around Victor’s wrist, covering as much skin as possible. “I don’t want the cuffs hurting your wrists.”

Yuuri read Victor’s eyes and as he nodded, Yuuri held his gaze a moment longer before working on the other wrist. The bandage wrapped snugly against Victor’s skin. He was pleased with his handiwork and now both wrists were protected, he picked up the handcuffs. It was time.

Yuuri never turned away from Victor’s stare as he locked the cuff around his wrist, closing it until it pressed against Victor’s protected skin. As Yuuri breathed in a shaky breath, he asked, “How does it feel?”

Victor pulled a face and shrugged. “It’s fine.”

Yuuri didn’t completely believe him.

Victor turned but Yuuri stopped him with a hand on his arm. He couldn’t begin this just yet. He had too much he wanted to say to Victor – words to voice and reassurance to give. Victor needed to believe in himself and know he could get through this. Yuuri refused to let Victor begin this without him being certain of that. It wouldn’t stop the punishment from happening, but it could help.

He cupped Victor’s cheeks, tilting his head to look at Yuuri and never look away. Victor shouldn’t take his eyes off him – not until the blindfold was on. Yuuri wanted to be the last thing Victor sees and the first when this is all over. Yuuri held his gaze, trying so hard to appear strong for Victor. If Victor couldn’t find faith in himself, he would look to Yuuri for that.

“You will get through this, Victor,” Yuuri began. He was stern, his voice hard but he had to be. He needed Victor to believe him. He wanted Victor to remember his words. “I know you won’t be able to see me but I will always be there, okay?” Victor nodded. Yuuri exhaled a breath. “If you don’t know what’s real, just ask me. If you’re confused or lost or scared, talk to me. You trust me, don’t you?”

“I do,” Victor replied without hesitation.

“The make sure you talk to me,” Yuuri demanded. “Even if it’s something you think is stupid or dumb, make sure you talk to me. I don’t know how this will affect you but I don’t want you to sit there and think you have to through this alone. You’re not alone anymore, and I will never leave you.”

As Victor nodded, Yuuri was confident Victor got the message. He took a deep breath, dropped his hands, and stepped back so Victor could turn around. His hands were trembling as they closed the second cuff around Victor’s wrist, successfully restraining Victor’s hands behind his back.

When Victor turned back, the expression on his face was a stab in Yuuri’s heart. He didn’t want to do this. He didn’t want Victor to be forced into this torture. Yuuri wanted none of this but it was all his own fault. He gave the man this power. He put them in this position.

But Yuuri refused to let the man drag them down. The man was manipulating them with fear, using this to make them follow him. And while it may work, Yuuri wouldn’t let the man control their every move. Otherwise, they’d never escape.

He had something to say - something he wanted to tell Victor.

He brushed Victor’s hair away from his face before touching their foreheads together. He resisted the urge to kiss him. He’d never pull away if he did, and Yuuri couldn’t do that just yet. He had too much to say.

“You are so strong, Victor,” He began. Victor’s gaze dropped but Yuuri didn’t want that. He tilted Victor’s head back up, urging him to hold his stare and as he did, Yuuri continued. “You are strong, incredible, and so, so brave because even after everything you’ve gone through, you still have the energy to keep going. You still have that fight inside of you. You are one of the reasons I have my own strength and a reason why I’m fighting so hard to escape. I look up to you, Victor, I think so highly of you and I want you to remember that you can get through this. You can get through this.”

And as a single tear fell down Victor's cheek, he nodded and repeated, “I can get through this.” He inhaled a shaky breath, a cry threatening to break free but he held it back. Yuuri wiped away his tear.

Yuuri reluctantly pulled back. He didn’t want to move away but he couldn’t postpone this any longer. It was time to begin what they wanted to end so badly, and as Yuuri turned, he eyed the blindfold on the bed. He had no choice.

It weighed heavier than the handcuffs did. His thumb stroked along the material and noted that it was softer and stretchier than he thought. He was pleased by that, happy that it wasn’t some rough material or something itchy. It was soft and smooth on his own skin. It should feel comfortable over Victor's eyes.

He turned back to Victor. As their eyes met, Yuuri saw nothing but dread and he really didn’t want to do this. He didn’t want to be the one to put Victor into his bindings but he had no other choice. This was his own fault, after all.

“Are you ready?” Yuuri asked as he stepped forward. Victor squeezed his eyes shut and began chewing on his lower lip, reluctantly nodding. He was scared, but Yuuri wasn’t going to continue until Victor was ready - until Victor looked back at him.

He should never take his eyes off him, not even for a moment. “Look at me, Victor.”

When Victor opened his eyes, Yuuri cupped his cheeks. His thumb caressed his skin before brushing his fingers through Victor’s hair, pushing it away from his face. He hoped it was enough. God, he hoped he could help Victor through this.

“If I can get through this, you can too,” Victor suddenly spoke and Yuuri held his breath, his heart racing and his eyes growing wide. Did he say all that out loud? “I’ll get through this for you because when this is over, we’re going back to that window and we’re going to escape.”

Yuuri held his startled stare, still shocked that Victor read him so well. And when that surprise died down, Yuuri couldn’t hold back his smile as he nodded.

How strange that was. In the mix of all this hurt and suffering, Yuuri found a reason to smile.

He wanted to cry but he couldn’t let Victor see that. He needed to be strong. He had to keep himself grounded. Yuuri sniffed back his cry, knowing he had to keep going. He raised the blindfold and as they shared one final look of determination, Yuuri sat the blindfold over Victor’s eyes and tied a knot behind his head, careful not to catch his hair.

The blindfold was in place. The handcuffs were on Victor’s wrists. And began his first day of torture.

There was an unexpected calm that followed throughout the day. Yuuri didn’t know what to expect. He imagined Victor already needing his help or Yuuri himself struggling to keep Victor well, but everything was… fine. He wasn’t going to complain about it. He’d rather have this punishment go smoothly than have something happen, especially while Victor was in the state he was in.

It was just strange. Yuuri couldn’t shake his bad feeling.

He did what he could to make Victor comfortable. Yuuri had him sit on their bed with a pillow behind his back, knowing the bed was the best place for him to sit. It was better than him sitting on the chair. Yuuri put a movie on too. He didn’t want Victor to be surrounded by silence when he had nothing else to say. The room wouldn’t feel so quiet. And if Victor asked for something, like a glass of water or to readjust his pillow, Yuuri would do it without question. He wanted Victor to be as comfortable as he could be. Yuuri hoped it was enough.

But Yuuri could do nothing to stop Victor’s boredom. Victor was growing sick of having the blindfold on. He slouched back on the bed, aimlessly staring at the ceiling while caught in his own daydreams. Yuuri wasn’t surprised that Victor was bored. All he could do was stare into the darkness and get lost in his mind, but Yuuri wanted to help.

“You’re bored, aren’t you?” Yuuri asked just after they ate dinner. He tried avoiding asking. Victor promised if anything was wrong, he’d talk to Yuuri but after a while, he had to. He was growing paranoid that Victor’s boredom was pulling him into his own distressing daydreams that had him refuse to talk about them. Yuuri couldn’t help it. He needed to ask.

Victor gave an exasperated sigh. “Of course I’m bored,” He snapped, turning his head towards where Yuuri spoke. He didn’t look directly at Yuuri – but it was close enough. “All I can do is sit here and daydream about things I really don’t care about. There’s nothing I can do while like this.”

Victor wasn’t just bored but frustrated too. Yuuri would’ve asked more but he couldn’t irritate Victor more than he already had. Victor was right after all - there was nothing he could do while he was like that. He could only sit there in his own mind, entertaining himself when Yuuri couldn’t, and wait for the day the man releases him from his bindings. And god, did Yuuri hate waiting.

When the sun was beginning to set and Yuuri began to wonder the time, Victor declared that he wanted to sleep. Yuuri stared at him with dropped brows before turning to the window, eyeing the amber rays that painted the clouds in pinks and blues. It wasn’t night yet. Yuuri pulled a face.

“Are you sure?” Yuuri asked when he looked back at Victor. He was shifting on the bed, trying to move himself forward. “It’s still light out.”

“...Really?” Victor paused moving as he asked, genuinely surprised by Yuuri’s comment. He swallowed thickly. “I didn’t realize it was still light out… but I’d still like to try and sleep.”

Yuuri didn’t want to argue. He wasn’t going to stop Victor from sleeping. It would make his day seem shorter. He could sleep through the night and wake up in the morning, hopeful that it was the day the man would release him. He wouldn’t have to wait any longer for the inevitable.

If Yuuri could fast forward time, skip through the days to Victor’s freedom, he’d do it in a heartbeat. Yuuri would do anything to bring the end of their punishment. He’d take one himself if it meant freeing Victor from his own, but Yuuri had done that and made this happen. He wasn’t going to try again. All he could do was hope they’d wake up with the end of their punishment, or a day closer to it.

Neither could sleep that night. In the darkness of their room, they lay together in an embrace hidden beneath the sheets. The camera long switched off and Yuuri didn’t hesitate to pull Victor close the second he got the chance. Although Victor couldn’t return the embrace, it was enough now he could feel Victor’s body back in his arms.

He wasn’t afraid to cuddle Victor, especially when it was dark. He could hide it well beneath the sheets. He could play it off if the camera did switch on. Yuuri could cuddle Victor and he was so tempted to pull his blindfold off too but he didn’t dare. He had visions – predictions he feared coming true. He couldn’t risk taking it off and falling asleep, just to wake up with the man watching them and plotting another punishment. Yuuri couldn’t take the risk. He couldn’t hurt Victor again.

But Yuuri could hug Victor. Nothing stopped him from keeping the sheets over their heads and wrapping his arms around Victor, pulling him into an embrace he so desperately wanted to give. He could hug Victor. He could remind him that while it was forbidden, they could hide it. And Yuuri could kiss Victor too. Yuuri could kiss him, touch him, and help him cope with this torture.

They talked throughout the night. It wasn’t often that Victor was awake that late. In between their kisses, they spoke words that admitted their deepest thoughts and secrets. There was something about the night that had Yuuri feel almost invulnerable, where he’d find a confidence he didn’t know existed. He could touch and kiss Victor. He could say whatever he wished. He could do anything because during the night, there was no fear. There was nothing to be afraid of. In the darkness, he couldn’t be seen. It was a time he wished could last forever because that break away from the man was something he wished for so badly.

Victor did the same too. He spoke words to Yuuri that he’d never say during the day and soon, they began to share more than they intended.

It was Victor who started it. Sometimes when they were both awake late in the night, Victor would admit a secret in Russian, prompting Yuuri to question what he said. If Victor wanted to admit his secret, he’d translate it to English. Yuuri soon began to do the same, confessing his secrets in Japanese then translating it if he wanted Victor to know.

And sometimes, when Victor was asleep and Yuuri couldn’t settle down, he’d tell Victor his secrets anyway. It was nice to get them off his chest, even if Victor didn’t know.

That night in their sleepless embrace, Victor said something to Yuuri in Russia. When Yuuri asked what it meant, Victor repeated the words in English and said, “When this punishment is over, we will escape here.”

Yuuri couldn’t help but smile as he repeated those words in Japanese. And although Victor didn’t understand the language well, he knew what Yuuri said. He nuzzled forward and pressed his nose into the crook of Yuuri’s neck. Yuuri kept him close with his arms wrapped around Victor and promising to himself that yes, they will escape. He didn’t doubt that any longer. They will escape. They will get out. Yuuri knew he’s just repeating himself but this time, he’d find a way. They still had yet to escape from the open window. This could be their moment – their chance.

Yuuri did eventually sleep that night. He couldn’t say it was a well-rested sleep but something was better than nothing. He was still awake before Victor, but that was normal.

He got out of bed, did his normal routine of using the bathroom and brushing his teeth before doing his exercises. Victor was still asleep and Yuuri decided to let him be. It was a long night for him. He didn’t want to cut Victor’s sleep short because he knew how quickly time passed when he slept. He couldn’t do that to Victor.

Yuuri had breakfast by himself, wrote in their journal in silence, and paced the room alone. He never realized how lonely the room felt without Victor being awake. It was too isolated. It was almost suffocating, like the room was sucking the life out of him. He was so tempted to wake Victor up on too many occasions, but he told himself to wait. Victor needed his sleep.

And after he ate his lunch, Victor finally awoke from his slumber with a kick at the sheets and a struggle to push himself up. His head looked around the area as if he was searching for something before he called out, “Yuuri?”

Yuuri was immediately by his side. He cupped Victor’s cheek, letting him know that Yuuri was still there and by Victor’s side as he tenderly said, “I’m here, Victor.” Victor nuzzled his face into Yuuri’s hand, sighing softly and enjoying the touch. Yuuri smiled “Are you okay?”

Victor breathed hard and nodded. “Yeah, just tired,” He muttered. Yuuri dropped his hand as Victor began rolling his shoulders, stretching his back, and groaned, “My back hurts.”

Yuuri told Victor to move forward. He didn’t question Yuuri as he shuffled and waited for Yuuri to move, and as he sat behind Victor, he still didn’t question Yuuri as he began to massage Victor’s back. He kneaded his hand along Victor’s shoulders and back, trying to ease the tension with every click of a bone and loosened knot. And even better, it was calming Victor into more than just a sense of relaxation, but peace and ease as his head lolled back and Yuuri continued until Victor told him to stop.

And then the day continued. Yuuri fed Victor lunch instead of breakfast, knowing they were low on their food for breakfast – which also had Victor to ask how late in the day it was. He didn’t seem to mind that it was so late. Yuuri wasn’t certain if that was because he missed out most of the day, or that he was so unaware of the time that in his mind, it was still early morning.

Then it was growing later in the day. Victor was back on the bed and Yuuri was cleaning their dishes, but he couldn’t concentrate on them. He couldn’t look away from Victor. Every moment he glanced at the dishes, his eyes would fall back to Victor, needing to know if he was alright. He was too quiet. Too still. Yuuri was growing concerned.

“Is…” He began, unsure how to bring up the conversation. He cleared his throat and shook his head, clearing the worry in his mind. “Are you… okay?”

Victor was silent for a moment. He chewed on his lip as he inhaled a harsh breath. He shook his head. “I’m seeing flashing lights,” Victor admitted and Yuuri dropped the dishes in the sink, ignoring that one chore because Victor needed him more. “Are they real?”

Yuuri didn’t need to look around to know nothing was causing Victor to see flashing lights. “No,” He said and as Victor breathed out a shaky breath, Yuuri moved to sit by Victor’s side.

Victor didn’t reply. He stayed silent, trapping himself in his mind and Yuuri knew his blindfold was beginning to make him hallucinate. If he was seeing things, Victor wasn’t going mentally okay. Yuuri didn’t need to be an expert to know that. But what Yuuri didn’t know was how to stop this – how to help Victor stop seeing things. And he wondered perhaps he couldn’t stop Victor’s visions, but he could help him make sense of reality.

“Talk to me, Victor.”

And Victor did.

Everything came out in a moment of truth. Victor told Yuuri what he was seeing and how he was feeling – explaining how unnerving it was having no idea whether it was day or night. He wanted to sleep all the time but he forced his eyes to stay open, knowing if Yuuri wasn’t sleeping, he wasn’t either, but his mind constantly felt like it should be asleep. The meals they had didn’t help him understand what time it was and he felt completely out of touch with everything.

And then came the visions – the hallucinations. He’d see shapes and images that formed in his sight. He’d see clear pictures of places he’d been to and sometimes, he’d feel like he’s actually there. Victor liked those visions. They were an escape from the room, especially when he’d finally see Saint Petersburg again. They made him want to cry sometimes.

But those were the good hallucinations.

“At least they’re good,” Yuuri smiled fondly. He was thankful that Victor was seeing some good during his torture.

“Y-yeah,” Victor nodded. “But they’re not always good. It’s like… it’s like I can see what’s going on in my mind. The images in my mind project in my sight and they’re not always good.”

Yuuri wanted to take Victor’s hand in his own and squeeze with the intention to show comfort, but he couldn’t – not while his hands were behind his back. But Yuuri didn’t know what to say either. He didn’t know what to do.

“Have you ever been so tired that when you close your eyes, everything is so loud but you’re still awake and aware of everything?” Victor asked. Yuuri stopped for a moment to think. “It’s like that. It’s as if I’m trapped in another world. I’m seeing things I know aren’t real. I’m feeling completely separated from my own body. I’m… I’m going crazy, Yuuri. I’m losing my mind. What’s happening to me?”

Yuuri moved forward, arms open and ready to pull Victor in an embrace when his blood ran cold and froze his entire being. His heart hammered in his chest and his eyes stared wide and unblinking. He couldn’t believe how close he was. He was inches away from breaking a rule. He nearly hugged Victor and the man’s threats replayed in his mind, reminding him that he couldn’t do that – he shouldn’t do that. He was so close to hurting Victor again. He was so, so close.

Yuuri wanted to cry. This was so hard. It was too difficult to hold Victor in his arms and pray that the man couldn’t see him. He wanted to so badly but he could see the camera gleaming in his sight. It was watching them, waiting for Yuuri to mess up but he refused. He’d never give the man another reason to punish them.

But when Victor began to sob, Yuuri knew he had to do something. If he couldn’t hug Victor, there were many other touches he could give that could help Victor, and as he cupped Victor’s cheeks, Yuuri knew what to do. As he leaned forward, their foreheads touched – a small, simple touch of affection that wasn’t quite a hug, nor a kiss. It was something that could help Victor.

Then Yuuri had an idea.

“Shall we go for a shower?” He asked and as Victor nodded mutely, he helped him off the bed and guided him into the bathroom.

There was safety in the bathroom. There was no camera and no man to judge their actions. Inside that small cramped room was their freedom. Nothing could stop them sharing a hidden hug or a kiss or removing the blindfold because the man would never catch them. He’d never see.

Yuuri switched on the shower and stripped off his shirt before turning to help Victor out of his. They became aware in that moment that Victor couldn’t take his off. The handcuffs blocked him. They had to leave his shirt hanging around Victor’s wrists, deciding it was better to have it off than to make him wear a wet shirt. When Yuuri went to remove his pants, he stopped as a thought ran through his mind. He could do anything he wanted. He could make any move, any choice – anything because the man couldn’t see them. He wouldn’t catch them.

The temptation to touch Victor had Yuuri’s fingers twitch and his gut warm but he didn’t want to turn this into a desperate need for release. He just wanted to touch Victor and feel him in his arms. That would be enough to satisfy Yuuri for now.

Yuuri rested his hands on Victor’s waist and let his fingers trace over Victor’s curves, gently stroking over his skin and rousing Victor to tremble from his touch. His arms circled around Victor’s hips, pulling him into his arms with the intention to hug him but instead, they met halfway as Yuuri’s lips found Victor’s in a desperate and hard kiss. And god, did Yuuri want to kiss Victor so badly. It was hard and fast, desperate as that one single kiss blurred into many more. Yuuri wanted to touch Victor, keep him in his arms, and kiss him until he forgot the torture that was happening – the pain he was going through.

“Please…” Victor moaned as he pulled back for a breath. Yuuri could hear metal rattling, chains that clinked together as Victor tugged at his bindings. Yuuri pulled back, releasing a shaky breath as he met Victor’s gaze.

“I-I…” He couldn’t explain himself. He pushed Victor too far. He let his own needs take over, knowing Victor couldn’t return the same want. He could feel his tears beginning to swell and he had to apologize. “Victor, I’m so sorry, I–”

“No Yuuri, don’t,” Victor shook his head. He leaned forward to kiss Yuuri, only he missed and touched the corner of Yuuri’s lips instead. “I just wanted to return the touch.”

It hurt to hear those words. Victor could never return the touch until the man gave them the key to the handcuffs. Even when they’re hidden, the man still had a way to limit them. He still controlled them even beyond his sight. Yuuri hated it so much, but they weren’t incapable of touching each other.

Yuuri cupped Victor’s cheek, gently caressing his cheekbones before carefully slipping his fingers under the blindfold. He raised it up, settling it just above Victor’s eyebrows and allowing him to see for the first time in a day. Victor opened his eyes but began to blink rapidly, desperately trying to adjust his eyes to the light. Yuuri could see how much it was hurting him. He let Victor take his time and kept his forehead pressed to Victor’s, whispering soft words of encouragement.

“Take your time,” Yuuri said, “It’ll stop hurting soon.”

And it did. His eyes adjusted to the light quicker than they did the darkness. When Victor could keep his eyes open without squinting hard. They stripped off the rest of their clothes and together, they stepped into the shower.

Not much time was spent washing as it was sharing long and deep kisses – sharing hidden touches and hugs that Yuuri desperately wanting to give. And while Victor wished he could return the touch, Yuuri’s own was enough to satisfy him. Yuuri’s own was enough to convince him that he could get through this. It helped him come to his senses again and remember what was real.

“I’m afraid he’ll keep me like this forever,” Victor admitted in between their kisses. “And even if he doesn’t, what if this drives me insane?”

Yuuri pressed a soft lingering kiss to Victor’s lips before pulling back and searching Victor’s eyes, looking for truth and trust. He could always find it in Victor’s eyes. He hoped Victor could say the same.

“I won’t let that happen, Victor,” Yuuri assured and sealed the promise with a kiss.

Then on the third day, Yuuri realized that he was counting the days again.

Victor slept through the morning again and Yuuri let him. Yuuri ate his breakfast alone and when he was thinking about having lunch, Victor still hadn’t woken from his slumber. He debated that he should try waking Victor up and force him to stay awake but Victor couldn’t help it. It was the blindfold. Victor’s body had no idea when it was daytime, only knowing a permanent night that made him far more tired than normal. The blindfold was having a strange effect on Victor’s body clock. He wasn’t aware of the time.

When Yuuri finished his lunch, he decided to wait for Victor. He sat at the table with his plate pushed aside, discarded while he held a glass of water in hand. He wasn’t drinking it. Yuuri was growing sick of water. He wanted a drink of soda. He wanted chocolate cake. He had a sweet tooth that demanded satisfaction that he could never give, not while he was still inside the room. The man would never give them such a luxury.

It was lonely without Victor being awake. There was an emptiness in the room. There was a silence that felt void of another human being. Yuuri knew Victor was asleep behind him, that Victor was there and breathing and very real, but nothing felt true. It didn’t fulfill his need to talk to someone and assure himself that he wasn’t alone. It didn’t convince him otherwise that he had gone crazy – that Victor was a figment of his stress-induced imagination. What if he couldn’t accept his captivity the moment he arrived and just to cope, he created Victor in his mind? What if Yuuri was slowly slipping from his insanity and this was just the beginning? What if–?

A sudden scream erupted behind him. Yuuri jumped out of his seat and didn’t waste a second to rush by Victor’s side. His desperate panting came out hard and he tugged at his bindings, arms pulling with all their strength to release himself while he screamed for his life.

“Victor!” Yuuri yelled, grabbing Victor’s shoulders with a tight grasp as he shook him. If Victor was awake, it would grab his attention. He needed Victor to say something – anything other than his endless screaming that pained Yuuri’s chest. “Victor! Please, I’m here!”

“Yuuri,” Victor panted. His breathing was heavy, deep and shaky as a frantic cry broke past his lips and he wailed, “Yuuri!”

“I’m here, Victor. I’m here,” Yuuri tried to assure him. He ran his fingers through Victor’s hair, hoping to ease his mind with the gentle touch of his fingers but Victor’s screaming and crying continued.

Yuuri didn’t know what else he could to do stop this. He knew keeping Victor in his arms sometimes helped but Yuuri couldn’t do that. The man was watching them. He became aware of that the moment he woke up. He couldn’t say anything because Victor’s screaming would drown out his voice. He didn’t know what else to do and as Victor gave another shrilling scream that echoed through their room and bounced off the walls, Yuuri suddenly had an idea.

If Victor was going to remain stuck in his screaming fit, then Yuuri would move him into the bathroom. He could do what he needed to do. He could keep Victor in his arms and never let go – not until his screaming stops and his tears disappear.

His arms went around Victor’s waist – not for a hug, but to help him off the bed. Yuuri needed to move him. He needed to get him to the bathroom and as Victor stood on his two feet, he stumbled and fell from Yuuri’s grasp and onto his knees. Yuuri went down with him, unable to let Victor go. Victor’s forehead pressed to the ground, crying and screamed, breaking down into tears that stained his blindfold.

Yuuri was trembling and his fingers twitched with a desperation to ignore the man’s threats and go ahead with his usual support. If Yuuri could do it, he would, but he can’t make this any worse for Victor. Instead, he moved closer to Victor’s ear, speaking words of encouragement as his hand rested on Victor’s back. He ignored the sharp piercing in his ears from Victor’s screams, continuing to help the one who needed it the most.

Victor still tugged at his bindings, crying hard and begging Yuuri to let him go. He pulled at the cuffs so hard, the bandages around his wrists slipped away and beneath were red bands of sore skin. Yuuri’s breath escaped his lungs. He had to stop Victor soon or else he’d break the skin. He’d hurt his arms. He’d do something he’d regret when he snaps out of it. And as Yuuri gently began massaging Victor’s shoulders, he kept reminding Victor how strong he is and how proud Yuuri was of him. He may not be listening, but when he comes to, Victor will hear those words.

In the corner of his eye, Yuuri saw movement. He looked up and the moment he saw those two heavy boots back at the window, Yuuri’s breathing stopped. It was the man. He was standing there, watching the two and listening to Victor’s screaming. Yuuri was shaking. He couldn’t stop.

Yuuri couldn’t find any reason for the man to be there, not unless he wanted to watch this in person or he was there to close the window. Whatever the reason, Yuuri was so afraid.

But the man didn’t move. Victor continued to scream and the man remained standing there, watching, waiting… Yuuri didn’t understand anything anymore, but there was another chance. He could ask the man - beg and plead for him to grant Yuuri the chance to remove Victor’s blindfold that one time. He could ask the man if he could comfort Victor this once with an embrace. He could do it, but the man’s threats… What if he didn’t accept it? The man did say Yuuri not to speak to him. Was this all a trick?

Then Yuuri knew exactly why the man was standing there.

He was being tested. Yuuri didn’t doubt that. The man was expecting Yuuri to go running up and beg for help, then he’d punish Yuuri too and make them both suffer from a torture so cruel. Yuuri wasn’t going to fall for this trick. He refused to succumb to any more of the man’s punishments. He tore his stare away and focused on Victor. For as long as Victor needed his help, Yuuri’s focus was on him. It will always be on Victor.

“Please…” Victor begged. He gulped for a breath, trying to ease the cries that wrecked through his body but nothing seemed to stop it. Yuuri continued talking, speaking soft words. Victor can get through this. Yuuri believed in him. “Yuuri, please…!”

But there was nothing Yuuri could do. Whatever Victor was begging for, Yuuri couldn’t give him. He couldn’t remove the blindfold. He couldn’t remove the handcuffs. He couldn’t give Victor the comfort he deserved. He couldn’t do what Victor might be begging for him to do and as Yuuri glanced to the window, he still saw the man watching them.

But Victor’s screamed gradually stopped. He was just crying now – begging, pleading, wishing…

Victor became more cooperative to move. Yuuri would have moved him into the bathroom but with the man watching them, he couldn’t risk anything. It would be too suspicious. The man could see them if they tried to do anything they shouldn’t. Yuuri couldn’t make this worse. He moved Victor back to the bed instead, urging him to sit there rather than the floor.

Yuuri left Victor for only a moment, running to grab a glass to fill it up with water. “Victor, I have a drink for you,” Yuuri said as he sat by Victor’s side. He reached a hand out, wanting to comfort Victor but as his fingertips touched his arm, Victor jolted away from the touch. He scrambled back, breathing a heavy and shaky breath as he stared towards Yuuri’s way.

Yuuri couldn’t stop his hands from shaking. Why did Victor… Did Victor fear his touch?

“I-I’m sorry.” Yuuri’s voice was shaking. He couldn’t believe Victor jumped away from him. He thought Victor trusted him. “Can… Can I touch you?”

“Y-Yeah,” Victor nodded. Yuuri raised an unsteady hand, wrapping it around Victor’s shoulder and squeezing lightly. He then raised the cup to Victor’s lips, tilting it back and letting Victor drink what he needed. When the glass was half empty, Victor pulled back and Yuuri put the glass cup to the side.

“I didn’t mean to… when you scared me just then, I was being stupid,” Victor muttered and Yuuri looked back. “I’m sorry, Yuuri.”

“Don’t apologize, Victor,” Yuuri said, shaking his head. Victor didn’t reply. He remained silent and Yuuri didn’t know what else to say. He looked away.

He could feel the man's eyes still staring at him and Yuuri had to check if he was still there. As he looked, he noticed the man was gone. He then glanced towards the camera, eyeing it to see if the man was back there, but it was switched off. Yuuri stared at it for a moment and within a few seconds, the camera flicked to life. The man was back remaining anonymous, hidden behind his camera and unseen to the two.

Yuuri hated this. The man, the punishment, the room – everything. He truly despised this.

Victor was quiet the rest of the day. He didn’t speak or even move from the bed, only staying on his side and facing away from the room. Yuuri still fed him. He helped Victor use the bathroom when he needed, but other than Victor asking for help, that was all he said – all he wanted.

Yuuri knew Victor wasn’t in the best state of mind, but he didn’t expect it to be worse than he imagined. When Yuuri suggested they’d go to the bathroom and remove the blindfold for a while, Victor neither replied or moved. He stayed on the bed, facing away from Yuuri and ignoring his every attempt to help.

They ended the day in silence. Yuuri didn’t sleep a wink that night but he refused to let Victor suffer any longer. As Yuuri stayed awake, he rested Victor’s head on his lap, stroking his fingers through his hair until he woke up. He’d be there when Victor sleeps, and there when Victor wakes up.

Yuuri would never leave Victor’s side, no matter what.

 

Chapter Text

 

The early morning sun broke through the window, casting rays of light ambers that painted the room a warm glow. In its way sat Yuuri, his back against the wall and tired from the lack of sleep. Although his dry, heavy eyes begged for sleep and he had to squint at the sun, he ignored it because if he did, he was actually quite comfortable.

He could have been more comfortable. If he had chosen, he would be lying on the bed with Victor in his arms, sharing soft kisses while he was awake and prepared to face the day. He would have liked that but he didn’t mind how he was. He had Victor’s head resting on his lap, fast asleep while he combed his hand through Victor’s hair.

It was bliss, but it could have been perfect.

Yuuri could think of many ways to make that morning better. He’d have been able to sleep that night and there would be no man watching them. Victor wouldn’t be trapped in his bindings, but free and able to smile without fear. There could have been so much that could have made that morning better, but as a Yuuri sat there and waited, he wondered if he’d ever get that perfect morning with Victor.

Yuuri was growing tired of waiting. It was all he ever did. He waited for their rescue, their escape, and Victor’s freedom he hoped would come soon. And dare Yuuri say it, but he was waiting for the day the man might eventually end their lives. That had his spine shiver with a chill. He didn’t like to think about that but it was entirely possible. The man could decide to get two new captives to add to his game of torture and end his and Victor’s life in the process.

So, Yuuri continued to wait. But god, did he hate waiting.

To ease the ache in his heart - the fearful beat that tugged and pulled - he continued to repetitively brush his fingers through Victor’s hair. He combed and scratched his nails along Victor’s scalp, keeping him in a blissful sleep while Yuuri struggled to fall for his own. There was something so addictive about the action. He loved to bury his fingers in Victor’s locks. It seemed to ease his mind and calms his fear, and as Yuuri began to breathe steadily once more, he got lost in his own thoughts.

Yuuri liked to think about the world this early in the morning. There was a serenity that surrounded him - a calm he didn’t often experience. It made him wonder what the world was doing beyond his captivity. He questioned how much life changed while he was gone, what news he was missing, or how outdated his phone was. He liked to think that the world hadn’t changed much but he knew that wasn’t likely. There was ignorance, but it was bliss and it kept Yuuri hopeful that perhaps the world would welcome him when he returns.

He wondered many things, but he was curious whether anything changed while he was gone or now. How important was his absence?

He felt homesick just thinking about it but it helped him remember there was a life out there. He had something to return to. Yuuri never wanted to forget that life he once lived, the freedom he felt, or the sense of accomplishment that didn’t stand the threat of hurting him. He never wanted to forget but he couldn’t stop it slowly slipping from his mind. He was falling further into the depths of the room – further into the isolation, pain, and the suffering of not knowing what was real or not. He was starting to doubt reality. That scared Yuuri the most.

While he knew everything was real, he would admit it felt easier to not accept that fact and pretend everything wasn’t real. He could act like it was a false perception of reality or just a vivid dream. It was easy, but Yuuri would be lying to himself. He had to accept that this is happening - this is real. He couldn’t lie to himself about that. It didn’t help when his mind went against him. He began to hear voices that didn’t exist and doubted any of this was real, but Yuuri was beginning to doubt a lot of things.

He could distinguish certain tricks his mind played on him. He knew Victor’s snoring wasn’t real because Victor didn’t snore, and when Yuuri became aware of that, the noise stopped. He knew the camera didn’t follow him around the room because the camera didn’t move. It stayed facing forward, exposing the entirety of the room. Yuuri could help himself determine reality and fiction, but he struggled. He didn’t know if he was reading what was actually happening correctly.

The doubt didn’t help. He’d constantly ask himself if he truly knew what was happening and Yuuri could never answer confidently. What if he couldn’t handle the circumstances that his mind created Victor as a way to cope? Was anything even real? What if he was slowly convincing himself to stay inside the room and escape reality beyond his captivity?

But this wasn’t an escape. It was imprisonment, a captivity, a constant stream of torture and mental abuse…

Yuuri wasn’t surprised that all this was messing with his head and within the silence of the room, he began to hear a soft voice talking to him. He couldn’t understand what it was saying, its voice too silent to listen but Yuuri could hear it. He could hear the occasion utter of his name - a whisper of a word. He knew it wasn’t real. It was just a trick in his mind, but when a light ringing began to tune out his hearing, he wasn’t so sure anymore. He held his breath, trying desperately to calm his heart because the more it pounded, the louder the ringing became - so loud that it screamed in his ears. It was so painful. It was frightening and Yuuri didn’t know what to do. He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his hands to his ears, desperate to stop the blaring alarm. But even with the ringing, it barely muted the voice in his head.

Yuuri couldn’t stop trembling. He was gasping for shaky breaths, frantically trying to stop the ringing but nothing was easing it. He tried telling himself that it wasn’t real, that the voices were fake and the ringing accompanied it but he struggled to believe himself. He knew it wasn’t real, but nothing could stop the non-existent noises. He couldn’t stop it. He could do nothing.

“Yuuri.”

Yuuri was too far into his head. He was so deep he couldn’t get out, not if he did something to pull himself out. He gasped as his hand twitched to his hair, grabbing a handful and tugging at his strands, repeating to himself that the voices didn’t exist. They weren’t real. He had to do something - anything to stop the ringing and the voices. He couldn’t handle this. It was too much. He couldn’t -

“Yuuri?”

And as Yuuri’s eyes snapped open, he gasped for a breath. He was panting hard and his heart pounded, the constant beat punched his chest and didn’t help his breathlessness. His wide eyes shot around the room, searching for something to distract himself until he looked down at Victor. He was lying on his back now, his head still on Yuuri’s lap and looking his direction, concern spread across his face.

“Yuuri...?” Victor asked as Yuuri continued to breathe heavily. His heart still raced and he still tugged his hair with a trembling grasp. He couldn’t stop. “Are you okay?”

“Y-yeah,” Yuuri lied. He tried hard to stop his panic but nothing could ease it no matter how many deep breaths he took. His head pulsed with a heavy thump and Yuuri forced his hand to release his hair, dropping his hand to his mouth instead as he stifled the cries that threatened to break free. He shouldn’t be worrying Victor. He was still trapped in his bindings. Victor needed comfort more than he did.

He sucked in a breath. He forced his tears to stay back and his voice to remain calm as he found himself repeating, “Yeah, I’m fine.”

But Yuuri wasn’t. He was never fine and knowing that tugged his chest with a fresh set of tears. He pressed his hand harder against his mouth, frantic to stop his cries but he couldn’t stop his rapid sniffing. He couldn’t stop each breath that tugged his gut with a hiccup. He tried so hard not to cry but his heart was running haywire and Yuuri couldn’t hold it back any longer.

And with that, his eyes squeezed shut as a sob broke past his uncovered lips.

“Yuuri,” He heard Victor say and he ignored him until he heard shuffling. He didn’t open his eyes immediately, not until the bed beside him shifted that Yuuri peeked an eye open. Victor was sat up straight, looking ahead but not directly at Yuuri as he said, “Yuuri, talk to me.”

But Yuuri didn’t want to. It was easier to just sit there and cry it all out, but the crushing weight on his shoulders weighed heavier than before. It pushed down on his chest, forcing him to gasp for breaths between his cries and Yuuri couldn't do this anymore. He already felt insane. He couldn’t convince himself that all of this was real – that Victor’s voice was true and not in his mind. He couldn’t help himself and stop his crying. He could do nothing.

He let his cries wreck his body and tug at his stomach, prompting more tears to fall which he couldn’t stop. He didn’t want to cry. He wrapped his arms around his legs, pulling them in as he curled into a tight ball. He hid his head away from the world, letting his tears fall and allowing his loud cries to be heard. He couldn’t do this anymore.

“Yuuri, please…” He could hear Victor plead and whether that was just the voice in his head or a real living being, it didn’t help stop himself from crying. “Yuuri, I – I don’t know what to do. Please, just…”

“I-I’ll stop,” Yuuri stuttered between breaths. He sniffed hard and raised his head, eyeing Victor who was looking his way but their eyes couldn’t meet. That alone was enough to set Yuuri’s tears falling faster than before again. “I-I just… I’ll, I…”

He couldn’t explain himself. He couldn’t stop his tears. Yuuri gave up and rested his head back down, resuming his crying. He shouldn’t be this pathetic. He was crying over something he was possibly causing himself. It was his own mind doing this yet Yuuri couldn’t stop it. He shouldn’t be the one needing comfort anyway. Victor needed it more than him. Yuuri should be there for him, to comfort him through another day of isolation and yet, Yuuri was asking for comfort himself.

It was pathetic of him. Yuuri could do nothing but blame himself if Victor had a bad day today.

Something pressing against his shoulder startled him enough to stop crying momentarily while he pondered what was touching him. He wheezed in a breath as he looked up and eyed Victor who was sat beside him. He had his head pressed to Yuuri’s shoulder, nuzzling his face closer to Yuuri’s neck until his nose pressed into the crook of it. He stayed there, unmoving and unspeaking and Yuuri didn’t understand.

“W-what are you doing?”

“I’m comforting you,” Victor said as he pressed closer - so close that Yuuri wondered how he found more room. He wiped away his tears and focused on the pleasant feel of Victor’s breath tickling his skin. He’d rather feel that than the pain and hurt that pulled and tugged his chest. “I can’t do much but this is the best I can do. I don’t want you struggling through this alone.”

And suddenly, Yuuri huffed out a single laugh as a weak smile stretched on his lips. There was something so amusing about the way Victor approached this – how he had to find Yuuri’s shoulder before searching for his neck. He knew it was the blindfold and Yuuri shouldn’t be smiling at that, but the thought of Victor wanting to help him gave him no reason not to smile.

“T-Thank you,” Yuuri grinned. His voice still trembled but his tears had stopped. He wiped the last of them away before turning his head to press a soft kiss to Victor’s hair. He raised his hands, cupping Victor’s cheeks and gently moved Victor’s head back and away from him.

He wished Victor could see his smile.

“What’s bothering you, Yuuri?” Victor then asked. His voice sounded frail and quiet, almost as if he was nervous to ask. Yuuri bit down on his bottom lip to hide his need to cry again. There was so much bothering him – too much.

“It’s just…” He inhaled a sharp breath and turned his gaze away. “It’s a lot to explain.”

“It’s better to talk about it than to keep it trapped inside your mind, I should know,” Victor explained. Yuuri already knew that, but there was a difference between wanting to talk and needing to talk. Yuuri just didn’t want to. “I spent a year talking to a drawing of my dog just to keep me sane so trust me when I say I know.”

Yuuri’s gaze shot back to Victor. His eyes gaped wide as he blinked rapidly, his mind piecing the words together before he gasped, “You… did?”

Victor nodded. “It wasn’t that I thought she was actually there. It was just a way to cope, really,” He explained and Yuuri listened intently. He was curious if he’d do the same thing if he were alone, but he didn’t want to know the answer. “After a while, she developed this personality in my mind and I found it easier to talk to that picture. I’d say something and she’d reply back in my mind. It helped at the time.”

Yuuri paused. “And now?”

“Well, I have somebody I can talk to,” Victor replied. Yuuri wasn’t certain how he felt about that. While he was pleased Victor would turn to him rather than a picture of his dog for answers, he wondered if his help did any better than the picture. “So, trust me when I say talking to someone helps, especially in this kind of isolation.”

And as Yuuri looked up, meeting the blindfolded stare from Victor, talking to him was suddenly all he wanted to do.

His words fell from his lips without a single breath. He admitted to every single one of his fears, thoughts, and doubts. He told Victor everything that came to mind, starting with the noises he was hearing then to his doubts - to the fears that his perception was altered and nothing was real. He told Victor everything he could. He expressed every single one of his fears. Yuuri even went as far as to tell Victor he sometimes doubted he existed, which Victor replied with the same. It seemed they both were struggling with that.

Victor remained silent throughout Yuuri’s rambling. He only spoke when he needed, offering advice when Yuuri wanted it and answered questions when Yuuri asked. He listened to Yuuri. He understood him and the more Yuuri talked, the less insane he felt. The weight on his shoulders eased, relaxing with every word that he began to understand himself a little better. He was starting to realize while he had these struggles, neither of them helped themselves by not talking about it.

Only Victor did talk about it. Victor spoke to Yuuri and told him nearly everything that was bothering him – or at least, the things he needed help with. Victor did as Yuuri asked but Yuuri didn’t return the favor. He didn’t talk to Victor too when he promised he would. Yuuri couldn’t help but blame himself for how he was feeling. If he had just talked like he promised, perhaps this could have been sorted sooner.

But Yuuri felt better. His mind had eased and his doubts began to fade. They still remained biting the back of his mind in a constant annoyance, but they didn’t bother him as much. Yuuri felt he finally had control. When Yuuri finished saying what had to be said, he exhaled a long breath of exhaustion. His mind was so drained, but not enough to forget his manners.

“Thank you, Victor.”

“That’s okay, Yuuri,” Victor replied with a small smile on his lips. Yuuri returned it with the wish that Victor could see.

Then the two fell silent, neither knowing how to continue on with such a topic. Everything had been said and feelings were expressed. Yuuri had nothing more to say of his own but as he glanced to Victor, he knew it was Victor’s time to talk. He was still sat there with his hands behind his back and a blindfold wrapped around his eyes. He was still going through his own struggle.

“You’re up early,” He commented and Victor looked his way, brow raised behind the material. “Is everything alright?”

“It’s nothing that’s any different,” Victor answered. Yuuri wasn’t certain if he could believe that, but when a smile grew on Victor’s lips, Yuuri changed his mind. “I can see flowers today.”

“Flowers?”

Victor nodded. “They seem to be taking shape of your face,” He said while moving a little closer to Yuuri – a little too close and Yuuri’s heart thumped. “It’s… a little weird, but I swear I can see the outline of your face. I can see your features too.”

Yuuri couldn’t help but smile and as Victor smiled back, he questioned if Victor really could see his outline through the blindfold. It fascinated Yuuri. What a strange effect the blindfold had on Victor if it allowed him to see what he couldn’t.

“At least it’s something nice today,” Yuuri commented. He’d rather have Victor see flowers and soft things rather than his horrors and fears – something short of a nightmare that only he can see. The events of the day before suddenly replayed in Yuuri’s mind and he had to release a heavy breath to ease the ache in his chest. “But you’re feeling better today, yeah? You don’t… need to scream or…?”

“Not yet,” Victor answered with a shake of his head. His expression dropped, as did his smile, and Yuuri nearly regretted asking. “I just… I don’t remember much of yesterday if I’m honest. I remember screaming and the things I saw and… and heard… but I-I don’t remember anything after that. I feel like I fell asleep or something but I really don’t know.”

Yuuri had no idea. Victor had gone through worse than he imagined and while Yuuri didn’t understand yesterday, it all made sense now. It explained why Victor was so jumpy and quiet. It answered Yuuri’s fear with a relief, knowing he hadn’t done anything wrong to Victor. Yuuri gave a hearty sigh. It was just what he needed to hear.

But it didn’t make Yuuri feel any better knowing that Victor couldn’t remember anything after his screaming fit. That wasn’t a good sign.

“You went… very quiet,” Yuuri told him. Victor’s brows raised as he sat up straight, startled by the new information. “I really didn’t know what to do but when you jumped away from my touch… I didn’t know what to think. I even suggested going for a shower to remove your blindfold but you ignored me. I knew you were out of it but I didn’t expect it to be that bad.”

Victor didn’t speak, to begin with. His face fell still and emotionless, staring ahead as he went silent. He then inhaled a long deep breath, helping himself step away from his mind as he pauses to breathe for a moment. His head bowed and under his breath, Yuuri heard Victor mutter, “I really don’t remember.”

“It’s okay,” Yuuri assured him as he reached forward. His hand stroked along Victor’s cheek, gently cupping it and tilting his head up. Victor moved in with the touch. He fell into Yuuri’s touch and sighed out a soft breath. Yuuri couldn’t help his smile. “I think it’s better this way,”

Victor swallowed thickly and nodded. Yuuri let out his own breath, sighing hard as he looked away and searched the room. He didn’t know what he was searching for - whether it was a potential escape or something to help them - he didn’t know, but he was searching for something. Anything.

The day then progressed onwards with little trouble, to both their relives. Victor had an easier day with his hallucinations. He saw nice images and sceneries that made him want to stay awake longer, but the noises he heard pulled him back. They tore him down and ripped away the kindness of his hallucinations that by the end of the day, his cries filled the room with a heartbreaking wail.

But he didn’t scream again - not until the sixth day.

Yuuri was growing concerned that the man might never release Victor. His screaming fit lasted for hours on the sixth day. Yuuri did what he could to help. He held Victor’s head in his hands, pressed their foreheads together, and spoke words of encouragement hoping that it was enough to ease his terrified screams and cries. He did what he could and he hoped it was enough, but that was the second screaming fit he had - the second time the man was aware it was happening, and that didn’t ease Yuuri’s concern.

When the seventh day arrived - a week Victor had been trapped in his bindings - Yuuri found new ways to keep Victor’s mind busy. He had been telling Victor stories for most days, but the second Victor woke up, Yuuri had him thinking. When they had breakfast, Yuuri asked Victor to make up stories with him. During lunch, Victor had to figure out riddles, simple math, puzzles, anything that had him thinking. The day went by smoothly without a scream or a cry.

Then the eighth day came and Yuuri truly was terrified the man might never let Victor go.

He wasn’t surprised if anything, but furious nonetheless. Terrified, angry, expected… he wasn’t at all surprised that the man would keep him like that. It stopped them from trying to escape. It stopped them from getting to the window and perhaps the man knew that. Perhaps the man would keep Victor like that all summer, then the last day where he’s ready to close it, Victor would finally be set free and they’d have to fight a closed window yet again.

Yuuri prayed every day. He prayed to whoever was listening, begging them and hoping for Victor’s freedom from his bindings and their own freedom from the room. He didn’t ask for much. If not a miracle, then just an answer. If not a solution, then a clue. He just needed a hint that guided him in the right direction. He needed something they would help them.

Victor’s freedom first, then his own.

But the alert of the hatch on the eighth day had Yuuri hopeful. It startled them from their lunch, Yuuri pausing feeding Victor a slice of an apple as they both turned and stared.

He knew it couldn’t be food. He doubted it was a request. He didn’t expect to receive one for a long time. He could only conclude one thing and Yuuri was on his feet and at the hatch without any hesitation.

“Yuuri?” Victor asked, “Is that a food delivery?”

“I hope not,” Yuuri muttered mostly to himself, but when he heard Victor give a heavy sigh, he knew Victor heard him too - and wished for the same thing.

“Please tell me it’s an end to this.” Victor’s voice was so weak and frail, Yuuri had to look back. Victor moved in his seat, changing position so he faced where Yuuri sat - where the hatch was. Yuuri’s heart was pounding. “Do you think he’ll ever let me out?”

“If he doesn’t, I’ll find a way to free you,” Yuuri replied. He was certain Victor didn’t completely believe him when he saw a doubtful smile on his lips. Victor shook his head to himself but Yuuri was completely serious. If the man refused to let Victor go, Yuuri would do it himself. He’d do anything he can to free Victor from this torture.

But there was nothing he could do for now. He had two locks to pick and no ideas on how to open either of them. Yuuri could only do what he can. He will help Victor when he needed it.

Yuuri turned back to the hatch. His heart was pounding with what might have been fear, excitement, nerves, or even a mixture of all three. He wasn’t sure but as his hand reached for the handle, he forced in a deep breath and held it. There was no time to waste. It was time.

Yuuri flung the door open. His prayed were fresh in his mind, repeating what he hoped so desperately for. His eyes fell to the center of the hatch and the moment he caught the sight of something small, he knew his prayers had been answered.

A small key was sat inside, attached to a small note with tape. Yuuri blinked rapidly, staring at the paper for just a moment before his mind yelled at him - finally processing that this was it. This was the end.

“Victor…”

It was all Yuuri could utter - all he could say. He heard Victor say something but Yuuri couldn’t speak back. His focus was solely on the key and stuck only on the small object that would free Victor from his torture.

Finally. It was over.

The key didn’t feel real. Even in his hand, he couldn’t believe he was actually touching it. Yuuri looked at every inch of it. He couldn’t say that the key wasn’t real because it was too real. It was definitely in his hand, pressed against his fingertips, and would soon be unlocking Victor’s handcuffs. Yuuri was so happy, it was hard not to smile.

“...Is it the end?”

Yuuri jumped out of focus. He turned to the voice and looked towards Victor. He had more plead in his face than curiosity, desperate that this was his freedom.

And it was. It was finally the end of his eight long days of punishments and Yuuri decided not to say anything. He wanted this to be another surprise - one that wouldn’t start another punishment but rather end another.

Yuuri bit his lip to force back his smile. Victor could hear it in his voice if he didn’t, spoiling the surprise Yuuri had for him. When it was held back, Yuuri inhaled a long breath before replying with a simple, “It’s nothing.”

This would surprise Victor more than anything else.

Yuuri had to ignore the way Victor’s head bowed, distraught that it wasn’t his freedom. Yuuri nearly went over and freed him within seconds but the note caught his eye and Yuuri had to check it first. He had to be certain there was no tricks or punishments waiting to happen. He inhaled a sharp breath and held it, taking the note in hand and finally reading what might end his happiness.

Eight days this punishment lasted. Did you enjoy the way he screamed? I know I did.

That was your fault. If you hadn’t spoken to me and requested a gift, this wouldn’t have happened. Never forget that, Yuuri.

But like all punishments, it ends with a learned lesson. Just remember to never defy me again. Don’t think you have any power over me. And don’t ever think you can trick me. I’m the one in charge here and I will hurt you both if necessary. This was your fault if you remember.

Return everything to the hatch when you are done. I should expect the key, handcuff, and blindfold back to me. The longer you wait, the more tempted it’ll make me switch off your water.

Yuuri didn’t waste another second.

He strode towards Victor and before he could even ask, Yuuri already had the key in the lock and the handcuffs removed. He heard Victor gasp when they fell free and Yuuri couldn’t bite back his smile. He massaged Victor’s back while he slowly moved his arms in front of him for the first time in eight days. Yuuri watched intently. He hated to know how cramped Victor’s back was.

Victor brought his hands up to the blindfold, slipping his fingers beneath the fabric and lifting it away. He squinted at the light and raised his hand, shielding his eyes as they squeezed closed. Yuuri helped remove the blindfold completely. He threw it to the side along with the handcuffs and keys, discarding them without a second thought.

As he looked at Victor, Yuuri didn’t doubt this wasn’t the end of his struggles. The blindfold may have messed with his mentality, but the after effect would certainly haunt Victor for a while. His light-sensitive eyes were the first sign. Yuuri feared how else this will hurt Victor, even with his punishment ending.

Victor was visibly in pain. His eyes struggled to open at the ligh t and Yuuri didn’t want any more of that. He knew what he wanted to do and for the first time in eight days, he was free to do it without the threat of a punishment looming over his shoulders. His arms went around Victor, bringing him into the embrace they so desperately needed and Victor delved in. His head pressed into Yuuri’s shoulder, both to shield his eyes and tighten the embrace with his strong arms.

“It’ll ease soon, I promise,” Yuuri whispered and pressed a soft, lingering kiss on Victor’s head. “It’s over now.”

Yuuri didn’t move from his spot. He remained standing there, holding Victor in a tight embrace until Victor eventually pulled back from it. His eyes were still squinting - still struggling to open his eyes properly but they were improving.

“Just give me a minute,” Victor said and Yuuri nodded. He’d give Victor all the time he needed to help his sight get better, and during that time, he took the chance to put everything back in the hatch.

The hardest part was pulling away from Victor. The second was remembering the man’s threats - the warning that he’d turn off the water if Yuuri took to long to return the items. The last thing Yuuri wanted was another punishment. He grabbed the blindfold, handcuffs, and key, shoved them in the hatch and disposed of such torture. He was too excited for that part, and especially the moment when the hatch closed and they were gone from sight.

This was the end of Victor’s torture - an end to a punishment Yuuri should have gone through. It was the end. Yuuri was nothing but relieved.

When something wrapped around his waist, something warm and strong, Yuuri smiled and glanced over his shoulder. He didn’t need to look to know who it was but the sight itself was enough to brighten his day. Victor was hugging him from behind, arms wrapped around him and his forehead pressed against his back. The sight itself warmed Yuuri’s heart so pleasantly, he let out a faint laugh.

“What are you doing?”

“I’ve wanted to do this for so long,” Victor muttered and inhaled a long, shaky breath. “My back hurts and I can’t open my eyes yet but this-this is what I want to do. I just – I just need this, Yuuri.”

Yuuri wasn’t going to deny him that. He smiled softly and turned in Victor’s embrace to circle his own arms around him, tugging Victor into his arms with just as much strength as Victor gave. In each other's embrace, they felt safe. They felt warm. And it was all they needed to help themselves cope.

Yuuri breathed him in, taking in Victor’s scent and reminded himself how this felt. He never wanted to go so long without Victor in his arms. He couldn’t help himself. He brushed Victor’s hair back and pressed a long and lingering kiss on the crown of Victor’s head. He wanted this so much.

“You know,” Yuuri muttered against his head. “The window is still open. We now have our chance to try and escape here.”

“Not today,” Victor said, shaking his head. Yuuri could feel his breath tickling his skin as Victor’s nose pressed close to his neck. “I need this. I need this right now and I don’t want you to let me go, okay?”

Yuuri wasn’t going to argue. He’d never argue against this.

They stayed locked in each other’s arms for most of the day but long moved to lay on the bed instead. It helped ease the pain in Victor’s back. The only time they moved was when their stomachs growled and protested. Even when they ate, they returned back to the bed and wrapped themselves in each other’s arms, munching happily and pleased they could do this again.

The day ended with Victor holding a picture of Makkachin, telling Yuuri stories he already heard before. Victor told him all the mischief and shenanigans she got up to during her life but also how much he loved and missed her. Yuuri did the same about Vicchan, but if only he had a picture to show too.

Then began a new day - a day where Victor didn’t wake up with the fear of not knowing or seeing. They were back into their old routine, back to trying to get through the day and finding ways to pass the time until night. They could finally act against the man again. They could find ways to escape.

They were back to the window as soon as they could. It was no different to the last time they were there, except that it was open now and they had more opportunities to escape - opportunities that Yuuri struggled to find.

Yuuri took the chance to look at the lock properly that night. He could only just fit it through the gap in the window and with the surrounding darkness, he couldn’t see much but he got enough to get a somewhat good look on it. It appeared to be old, worn down over time and perhaps easier to break. Yuuri pleaded in his prayers that night, begging for the lock to be weak and easy to break.

He tried pulling it but he had no strength to break it with his bare hands. He tried cutting the chain with the knife but stopped when he nearly hurt his hand again. He even tried picking the lock with it, trying to wiggle the end inside to twist it but the knife was too big. His ideas were useless and nothing made even a scratch. He was growing less confident that they’d be out soon and Yuuri didn’t like that.

He knew what he needed. If he were to pick the lock, he needed something small and sturdy to twist it. He needed something that’ll fit inside and not break against its pressure, but as Yuuri looked around the room during both days and nights, he couldn’t find anything to use.

Every night ended in disappointment and Yuuri couldn’t sleep because of it. It seemed with each day that passed, he could focus on nothing but their potential freedom. He kept his eyes on the window, certain that there was something he could use to open it. It stayed in his mind, keeping him alert and awake throughout the nights and into the very early hours of the morning.

Yuuri was too focused on their escape. He was sure he could find something to use - anything that’ll break or unpick the lock. He knew he needed something small. He had ideas too. He could use a paper clip, a hairpin, even a toothpick or a small enough twig might do, but Yuuri had no way of getting those objects. He had to find something else. He had to find something in the room.

But the more Yuuri looked, the stronger his frustration became.

There was a morning where Yuuri didn’t sleep, but that was nothing new. Not a minute went into sleeping and Yuuri gave up on it long ago. He was sat up on their bed, rubbing his tired eyes then looking around the room for the thousandth time, certain their potential escape was somewhere in that room. He just didn’t know where.

He sighed heavily. It was hard searching for something he knew was there. It was like a word he knew that sat on the tip of his tongue, only he couldn’t remember what it was. It was the same frustration in himself for not knowing. It was like a game Yuuri didn’t want to play.

His eyes fell on their journal left on the table. He wrote in it that night, explaining every thought that went through his mind and every possibility he had for an escape. He should put it back. It was beginning to bother him it being there, out of place and not in its rightful spot. But that could also just be Yuuri needed to find something to do.

He wanted to ignore it but he couldn’t turn away from it. He tore his state away only to find it back on the book, away from his escape and Yuuri was already wasting enough time.

He got up and dressed before he did anything. He slipped in his pants and shirt before picking it up. He held it in hand, staring at the journal he knew too well. For something that held so much pain and misery, it was lighter in hand than it should be. He expected their fears to weigh it down like the handcuffs did, pulling Yuuri down into a pit of despair as he remembered every little torture and punishment the man did to him and Victor. Yuuri inhaled a breath, reminding himself that their escape is soon. He wouldn’t have to deal with this any longer.

He walked over to the bookshelf, slipping it back into place until he stopped in his tracks. His brows dropped as he stared at the book and pulled it back out of its place. His eyes roamed over it. The cover hadn’t changed, still the same plain black book he always knew. The pages were crinkled and used. The spirals kept the book together and protected, safely hiding their words behind covers. Yuuri trailed his fingertips along the pages, moving over to the spirals that pressed hard against his hand.

Yuuri’s brows hung low. He looked up to the window then back to their journal.

Their spiral bound journal...

The instant Yuuri’s heart raced with anticipation, an idea came to mind - a big idea - and he rushed over to Victor. His hand was on his shoulder, shaking him awake because Yuuri finally had another idea. He finally had something he could use. It might even be successful this time.

This is it. He knew what to do.

 

Chapter Text

 

Yuuri never had an easy time waking Victor up.

Even in an emergency like right now, Victor slowly woke up with a grumble and mutter, staring at Yuuri through heavy-lidded eyes while Yuuri’s own were wide and awake. Yuuri couldn’t help but smile. He was so close to getting them out of that room, he could feel it.

But they’d be out sooner if Victor woke up.

Yuuri was ecstatic. He couldn’t believe he figured out a new plan and he took pride in his discovery. He might even be a little smug about it. He just needed Victor’s help. He had to get to the window soon, otherwise, he’d feel he let an opportunity slip from his fingers. He should wait until nightfall but the darkness would be their weakness. They’d be surrounded by it, unable to see the lock and Yuuri needed to see it. If now wasn’t the perfect time to try, Yuuri might never get this chance again.

This chance would arise again - Yuuri didn’t doubt that - but sooner was better than later. And in their captivity, they couldn't afford to waste time.

“...Yuuri?” Victor asked through his slur. He glanced at the window then back at Yuuri who held their journal in both hands, pressed to his chest with a smile on his face. Victor’s brows dropped. “What’s wrong?”

“The journal, Victor,” Yuuri smiled. When Victor stared at the book but didn’t say a word, Yuuri rolled his eyes. “Don’t you get it? This can help us get out of the room!”

Victor didn’t reply. He held his stare, blinking slowly before his head dropped back into the pillow, choosing to ignore a Yuuri and fall back asleep. Yuuri huffed and shook Victor’s shoulder again and he heard a groan before Victor turned his back to Yuuri. He pressed his lips together tightly. He should find a way to explain this to Victor, even if he didn’t look, he’d listen.

Yuuri moved to the table and sat down. He dropped the book in front of him and pulled out the thin wire, unbinding the book before carefully moving it aside. He didn’t want to mess up the pages. When their book is found after their escape, their story should still be intact. When the wire sat in hand, Yuuri looked over it. It was amazing how something so small could help them escape - something that has been with them for so long, Yuuri almost felt stupid for not discovering this sooner. But he found it now. He was confident he could escape with this. He might struggle a little but he was prepared for that. He folded the pieces together, knowing it should be stronger and doing so made it feel sturdier in hand. Yuuri smiled at it.

He moved back to Victor’s side. This should convince him and as Yuuri shook his shoulder again, he wasn’t going to let Victor ignore him. He just needed to get Victor’s attention and he knew one way of doing so.

“I know a way to escape.”

And with that, Victor turned. His eyes were wide awake and staring. His gaze switched from Yuuri to the wire in hand and the longer he stared at it, the quicker realization hit and Victor shot up.

“Where…” He paused and swallowed hard. He took the wire from Yuuri’s hands and he let Victor have it. His eyes roamed every inch of it. “Where did you find it?”

“It’s from the journal,” Yuuri said. There was a look in Victor’s eyes, one Yuuri couldn’t describe as he released an exasperated breath. His eyes squeezed shut, he shook his head, and he rubbed a hand over his face. Yuuri gripped his shoulder and squeezed tightly. “It’s okay. We can get out soon.”

“I’ve had this journal for over a year and I…” His hand dropped. His eyes glazed over with tears and he looked away, sniffing hard before muttering, “I could have gotten out a long time ago.”

Yuuri moved to sit on the bed in front of Victor. “You didn’t know,” Yuuri assured him. His gaze fell and Yuuri cupped his cheek, gently tilting his head to meet his eyes. Yuuri smiled reassuringly at him. Victor didn’t return it. “We can get out, Victor. If this works, we can escape today but I need your help for that. Can you do that?”

Yuuri expected the nod and soon, he was sat on Victor’s shoulders and at the window once again – this time with more than just hopes and prayers in mind but with a racing heart and their potential escape in hand. He had a plan. He had an idea that came in the small form of a piece of wire, stolen from the journal that held their story.

The easy part should have been fitting the wire into the lock, but Yuuri’s hands were shaking so much. He couldn’t stay calm. He tried settling his heart with many deep breaths but he was too ecstatic and nervous. He couldn’t calm down but he soon got it into the lock with a few wiggles and some luck.

And now for the hard part.

There was the struggle of not knowing exactly how to twist the wire correctly. He could move it around all he liked but that wouldn’t help him in this case. He had to know what to do. He had to stick with one idea and keep it up until he got them out. If he could keep his concentration, that would help.

His eyes often jumped to the sky. The smudge of stars he once saw slowly vanished in the morning mist. The sun rose higher, slowly lighting the sky in a clear blue. The early orange and pinks that painted the clouds began to ease with every minute the sun rose higher. Yuuri was losing time. The longer he wasted unable to crack the lock open, the sooner the man would be awake; the sooner he’ll turn on the camera and catch them in the act.

Yuuri had to be quick, but he had to take his time too.

“How is it going?” Victor soon asked.

“I can fit it in,” He answered, twisting the wire to move the lock around. It was moving but only by a little. Yuuri couldn’t nudge it any further without hurting his fingers. He let go and hissed, shaking his hand to ease the digging pain in his thumb before trying again. “I can move the lock. I just need to keep trying. I’m sure I can do this, I just…”

He just needed some luck. He needed that moment where he went against all odds and cracked the lock open. He could do it. He knew he could.

He pulled the wire out and pushed it in again, twisting hard with an attempt to use it like a key. He twisted and pushed but rather than moving the lock around, the wire went misshapen instead. Yuuri huffed a sigh and tugged the wire out, reshaping it before trying again.

Yuuri knew what he was doing wrong. He needed to use more strength. He had to push at the right angle. He couldn’t make any more mistakes because if the wire bent too much, it’ll snap and break, leaving him with an aching heart and another search for something small. He had to get them out and as he twisted the wire with force, it dug into his fingers with a sharp ache. He gritted his teeth and hissed at the pain but he forced himself to keep going. He didn’t care. He couldn’t stop now. He pushed, nearly getting it and then –

Click!

Yuuri’s heart stopped as a single breath jumped out of him. He froze – stunned into complete silence as he stared bug-eyed. He breathed in a trembling breath before he let out a near wail but silenced it by his shaking hands pressed against his mouth. It muffled his cry of relief because he did it. In that heart-stopping moment, right there – right in front of him – the lock had clicked open.

He finally did it. He got the window open.

“V-Victor…” Yuuri stuttered. His voice shaking and his heart was pounding in his ears. He saw Victor look up at him and Yuuri swallowed back the lump in his throat. “I-I got it open.”

Victor didn’t say anything for a minute – at least. “…What?”

“It’s open,” Yuuri said with a laugh in his voice. His lips stretched into a grin and a breathless laugh fell from his lips, followed by another that made his shoulders bounce. He couldn’t believe it. He just had to laugh because he finally did it and as he pushed the window wider than it had ever been, he let out a loud laugh and cried with joy, “I got it open!”

There was another long waited pause and as Yuuri looked down, Victor moved. He got close to the ground, silently asking Yuuri to get off his shoulders and Yuuri slipped off, landing on his feet with a thump. He watched Victor who glanced from the window to Yuuri, eyes wide with near disbelief. Then, he stared at Yuuri. He held his gaze and Yuuri didn’t try to hide his smile as he nodded as if to say yes, this was real. This was very real.

Then soft hands grabbed his face. Yuuri’s mind didn’t catch up until his lips were captured in a strong, desperate kiss. He closed his eyes and delved in, kissing Victor back with a long and lingering touch. That one kiss blurred into many more. Yuuri couldn’t believe this either and he didn’t need Victor’s kiss to know how grateful he is – how ecstatic that something finally worked – but he took the kiss. He had no reason not to.

Victor pulled back with a smile on his face that he couldn’t contain. “You did it! My Yuuri did it!” He cheered. His smile reached his eyes and they beamed with such intensity; Yuuri had never seen them sparkle so brightly before. He got lost in their trance, incapable of looking away. “I – I knew you could do it. I knew it. Now, let’s get out of here.”

Yuuri glanced to the window and back at Victor’s eyes. He pressed his lips together and with a triumphant stare, he nodded.

When they returned to the window, it was different this time. There was fear. There was always fear, but hope was there too. It filled their beings as Yuuri removed the chain and pushed the window further open, finally gaining access to the outside world. Yuuri found himself in awe. He was no longer looking at the world through a thick glass, but with his own eyes and Yuuri could feel it – the sun on his face, the cool morning breeze, he felt it all. It danced over his skin, basking him in a chill he hadn’t felt in such a long time and Yuuri had to close his eyes to just take a moment to breathe. He could smell the fresh air. It had been so long.

But Yuuri couldn’t stay there for too long. This was their time to escape. Not a second should go to waste.

“Okay, Victor,” Yuuri began as he grabbed the window frame. “I need you to help push me up, okay?” He looked down when Victor nodded. Yuuri gripped the frame tighter when he felt Victor’s hands grasp his legs firmly. He counted down from three and he was pushed up closer to his escape than ever before.

He pulled himself up. Victor’s support was strong and Yuuri felt safe to be a little reckless as he wriggled around. His arms and head went through with ease, but the squeeze was tight when he reached his shoulders. The frame dug into his skin, pressing so hard that Yuuri bit back his cry from the burn and ache in his shoulder. The fear of getting stuck had him nearly retreat back but he refused to stop. He had to keep going. He squirmed around, shifting his upper body until the pain suddenly eased and Yuuri’s shoulders were through the window. He grabbed hold of the ground, digging his nails into the dirt to pull himself through and out of the room completely.

He fell to the ground in a heap. His shoulders ached and he could feel dirt beneath his fingernails but that was the least of Yuuri’s concern. He was lost in a trance staring up at the clear blue sky above him. There were no clouds in sight. The ground was moist with a morning dew, dampening his back and pants as he stayed laying on the ground.

He could feel the world around him. The grass tickled his arms as it swayed in the breeze. The wind was bitter against his skin, persuading goose bumps to cover his arms as he shivered from the chill. The tall trees shielded his eyes from the morning sun but where it touched his legs, he could feel its warmth. This was the world he missed. This was what Yuuri hadn’t touched in so long. He wished he could stay there until it was all he could feel, until the room became a distant memory, but he couldn’t. He remembered Victor who was still trapped inside – Victor who hadn’t felt this yet.

Yuuri was back at the window. He knelt outside of it and stared at the room behind Victor. It was a strange viewpoint. He had never seen it from the outside before. He thought about the man being on his side, looking within the room at the two trapped inside. A shiver raced up his spine.

Victor was staring up at him with a look that asked what to do next. Yuuri had gotten through the window. He was outside. It was Victor’s turn but without a second person inside the room, Yuuri wouldn’t be able to reach him. His eyes searched around the room. Their fight wasn’t over just yet and as Yuuri’s eyes fell on the chair sat behind Victor, he had another idea.

“Grab the chair,” Yuuri told him. Victor turned and grabbed the chair from behind, pushing it to the wall before he stepped on it. Yuuri ducked his head back through the window and slipped his arm through, holding out his hand for Victor to grab. Victor’s soft hand curled around his own and Yuuri breathed heavily to ease his thumping heart. It was time. “I’m going to pull you up now, okay?”

Yuuri then pulled. He lifted Victor with as much strength as he could. He reached for Victor’s other hand, grasping it tightly and pulling Victor further up. His arms were through the window, then his head, but then they came to a stop. Yuuri knew the squeeze was tight but Victor wouldn’t shift any further. They met each other’s eyes and Yuuri hesitated to pull, but Victor gave him a nod and Yuuri tugged. He watched Victor’s face for any discomfort or pain. He didn’t want to hurt him. Yuuri pulled until Victor cried out in pain and he stopped immediately. Against everything he wanted, he let Victor fall back into the room.

Yuuri panted hard. He had to catch his breath before he tried again and when he was ready, he stuck his head back through the window and asked, “Shall we try that again?”

He waited for Victor to reply. He was rubbing his shoulders, trying to ease the pain. Yuuri let him take a moment but his jittery nerves had him impatient. He’d look behind him, scared the man would appear and throw him back in the room. He’d glance over at the camera, still switched off but the fear of it turning on any moment had Yuuri wish Victor would hurry.

When he was eventually ready, Yuuri reached his arm down and grabbed Victor’s hand again. “I’m going to try just one arm this time. If we can get one shoulder through, perhaps we can fit the other?”

When Victor nodded, they tried again. Yuuri pulled him up and successfully got one shoulder through, but his other remained stuck behind the frame. It pressed hard and Yuuri told Victor to move it at an angle, but even that didn’t help slip his shoulder through. They had to stop again when Victor asked for a break. They tried again a third time and the same result happened. And the fourth, too. When they were on their fifth attempt, Victor tried so hard to ignore the pain but Yuuri couldn’t stand watching him suffer. He had to let Victor go. He told him to take a break while they thought of another way.

Victor took a break to massage his shoulder while Yuuri searched the room. He didn’t know what he was looking for exactly, but he knew he needed something to help Victor through. He wondered if he could break the window out completely, but that idea was absurd. He thought about the butter they had. He was sure they had some left, it could help Victor slip through easier but Yuuri dropped his hand anyway. He wanted to try again.

When Victor didn’t take his hand, Yuuri waved it around a little. “Come on, Victor,” He urged. He poked his head through the window and was met with Victor staring at his hand. “Let’s try again. You’ll fit through eventually.”

Victor breathed out a shaky breath as he shook his head. Yuuri’s brows dropped. He desperately hoped this wasn’t Victor giving up.

“You and I both know I can’t fit through this window,” Victor spoke weakly. Yuuri’s pulse thumped in his ears. He pressed his lips together and shook his head. He couldn’t believe that. He refused to accept it as an answer because it was Victor who should be out. Victor was supposed to be free, not Yuuri.

“D-Don’t say that.” Yuuri’s voice was shaking. His tears slowly built in his eyes but he wouldn’t let them fall just yet. He inhaled a sharp breath. “I promised I would get you out. I’m not leaving until you’re out here with me too.”

“But I can’t fit through,” Victor argued and Yuuri continued to shake his head. He wasn’t accepting that. Victor sighed heavily then glanced to his left, then back at Yuuri. “Yuuri, don’t make this harder than it has to be. Please…”

Yuuri couldn’t just give up that easily. There had to be a way to get Victor out. He had to help him. They were both supposed to escape and if Yuuri couldn’t get Victor out, he would have failed. He’d have disappointed more than just himself but Victor too. Victor relied on him. Victor trusted him to not let him down, yet, Yuuri was doing exactly that.

He couldn’t just give up. He had to try one more time.

“Please,” Yuuri begged. He threw his hand back down, desperate to feel the moment where Victor would take his hand. Yuuri wouldn’t stop until there was nothing else he could do. “Just one more try for me, please?”

Victor sighed hard but when Yuuri felt Victor’s soft hand around his own, he squeezed tightly and pulled Victor up with all the strength he had left. He didn’t let Victor help himself through the gap. He kept hold of both hands, pulling Victor up himself because they hadn’t tried this yet. His arms were through and then his head, but they came to a stop at his shoulders. They dug into the frame, pressing hard against it and Yuuri tried to ignore the way Victor hissed in pain. He really tried to ignore it but when Victor cried out and begged for Yuuri to stop, he had no choice. He couldn’t hurt Victor.

He let go.

Victor fell back inside the room. He disappeared from the outside world, falling into his prison and Yuuri peered back inside. Victor stood on the chair, staring at Yuuri who was outside and free. He had his freedom. He had the world around him while Victor remained trapped. He couldn’t get out like Yuuri had. He couldn’t be free.

And just like that, the truth hit Yuuri harder than a ton of bricks. Victor couldn’t escape. He couldn’t get out the room.

Yuuri was shaking his head. The rapid side to side motion had his head spin and his neck cramp but Yuuri couldn’t stop. He couldn’t accept this. He refused to believe there was no way to help Victor but he couldn’t think of anything else. He couldn’t pull Victor free. Yuuri wasn’t aware he was muttering no on repeat, not until Victor spoke above his pleas.

“Yuuri, you have to get help.”

But knew that but he didn’t know what to do. He made a promise. He would get Victor out if it was the last thing he’d do, but how could he if Victor couldn’t fit through the window?

It wasn’t until his eyes stared past Victor and towards the door that an idea came to mind. It was a possibility. He could sneak into the man’s home and open the door from the other side. If he was quiet enough, he could be in and out before the man even realized but turning towards the sun, he noticed it was growing later in the morning. The man would be awake. The man could catch Yuuri in the act. He still had a chance to try it, Yuuri didn’t doubt that.

“You know I can’t fit through there,” He heard Victor’s voice speak. He swallowed hard and met his gaze. “You need to run and get help. You can get me out that way.”

But a possibility where he could get recaptured; Yuuri couldn’t risk it.

“But…” Yuuri couldn’t just leave Victor. It was his freedom before his own. It was Victor who had to get out because Victor had been there the longest. Victor deserved that chance to escape. It wasn’t supposed to go this way. It was supposed to be Victor running for help, not Yuuri. “You have to get out too.”

The shake of Victor’s head broke Yuuri’s heart just a little more – a single shatter through the middle. He hated to admit that perhaps Victor was right, running was the only way he'd find help for Victor. It was a safe and reliable plan but the idea of leaving Victor… Yuuri couldn’t cope.

There was nothing else he could do. He had to leave without Victor.

“Fuck,” Yuuri swore under his breath. His tears began to fall. They slipped down his cheeks, dropping to his legs and staining them with his own tears. He clenched his fists so tightly that his nails dug into his palms but he focused on that pain rather than the one in his chest. It was easier that way. “Fuck. Victor, this… this isn’t fair.”

“I know.”

And as they searched each other’s eyes, Yuuri’s heart ripped into two. One piece left inside that room – left by Victor’s side while he was still trapped in there. The other stayed inside his own chest, pounding harder than before because Yuuri was so scared of what could happen next. This was supposed to be their escape. They were supposed to be out together.

Yuuri didn’t know what he could say to make this any easier. He didn’t know what to do to get Victor out. He was lost for ideas again. He was stumped. And Yuuri never hated himself as much as he did at that moment.

He searched his surroundings. His previous assumption that a forest surrounded them was right. It stood between them and civilization, keeping them just as isolated as the room had. Yuuri couldn’t see any neighbors. There were no buildings or houses anywhere in sight. If he ran, he couldn’t be certain he’d find help before the man realizes he’s gone. He’d have to run the right way. He had to do everything correctly – not a single mistake to be made.

“Do you see anything that might help?” He heard Victor ask and Yuuri shook his head. He saw nothing but a surrounding forest. He wondered how far it stretched. “Try looking around the other side of the house. He isn’t watching us yet. We still have time.”

He completely forgot about the camera and that had him up to his feet in seconds. He spun on the spot, unsure where to begin. Victor told him to look on the other side and Yuuri took a few steps away from Victor, walking alongside the home. He didn’t dare stray too far. He had to be close to Victor while he still could.

He took in the new sight. The forest circled around the home in an isolated dome, hiding any signs of life beyond their concealed prison, but there was a road. It was paved in gravel and to Yuuri’s right, he saw a car parked outside the man’s home. Yuuri’s instant debate to steal it and escape in there quickly became a fantasy when he realized without a key, he’d get nowhere. He stared back at the road. It was a direction he could run. It was a way to civilization.

He ran back to Victor. “There’s a road,” He said while dropping to his knees. He glanced inside the room at Victor who stared back at him. “If I follow it, I could find a town or someone who could help us.”

“That’s good,” Victor nodded and smiled weakly. Yuuri chewed his lip as his beating heart ached, wishing it would ease because it wasn’t making this any better.

There was a long pause – a silence that weighed heavily between them. They both knew what was to come next. It was unavoidable. It was Victor’s only chance of escaping. If he were to ever get out of the room, Yuuri had to find help. Yuuri had to leave. It was easier said than done, but just the thought of leaving Victor in that room, alone and waiting for the inevitable once again… he wasn’t sure he could do it.

“You have to go now.”

Yuuri couldn’t argue. He couldn’t suggest another way around this. There was nothing he could do. He knew he had to run but he couldn’t. His legs refused to move and his heart ached to stay with Victor, but his mind argued how stupid he was being. He should be running. Right now, he was Victor’s last hope.

“I-I know…” He wiped away the tears that began to fall. It was agonizing to tear himself away. He had to leave Victor with the man who could do anything to him. He could hurt or kill Victor. The man could do anything worse than their punishments combined – worse than the blindfold, the drugging, or the mental torture they’ve gone through.

And Yuuri’s break came with a loud wail. His sobs wracked through him, spilling his tears down his face as emotional pain jerked his heart in ways so agonizing. His hands grabbed the window frame, a pitiful attempt to stop his violent shaking but nothing could do so. Yuuri never knew pain like this – pain so excruciating and heart-breaking. He’d take a punishment over this any day.

“Yuuri…” When Yuuri looked down, Victor had his own tears spilling but he wiped his away. His raised a hand, silently asking Yuuri to take it and he reached his hand down. Victor’s warm grasp held his own tightly but even the gentlest touch wouldn’t ease his pain. “You have to run as far as you can. Run and find someone who can help me because even… even if I don’t survive this, I still want to be found. You’ll save me no matter how far you are. Do you understand me?”

Yuuri understood, but doing it was far different to understanding. He was aware of the risks. He knew Victor could be killed by this choice. It was a decision that if it ever went wrong, and Victor didn’t come back alive, Yuuri would never forgive himself. He’d live with it for the rest of his life but Yuuri knew he’d find help. Victor would be found no matter what.

It was hard. The gut-wrenching pain didn’t ease and his heart refused to settle. This was the hardest decision he ever had to make. And once, he thought choosing the lead role for his recital was the hardest. He never realized how easy it was back then.

Yuuri’s broken sobs were so loud outside the room. There was no echo. There were no four walls to silence his voice. There was room for it to be heard and the idea was now so alien to Yuuri. He pressed his free hand to his mouth, muffling his cries because he was so loud now. What if the man heard him?

“Yuuri, I…” He heard Victor speak but his words fell silent. Another hand then wrapped around his and Yuuri met Victor’s eyes once again. He squeezed tightly. “You mean so much to me, Yuuri. You did everything you could to help me and I’m forever grateful.” Victor’s words didn’t help Yuuri’s crying. If anything, they made it harder to bite back. “Just think of what will happen when this is over. We-we won’t have to be afraid anymore. We can be with each other without fearing anyone will hurt us. We’ll stay in touch, I promise. I can’t turn away from you, Yuuri. You mean too much for me to ever do that.”

Yuuri would remember his promise. Even if they’re far apart, they’d find each other again. Yuuri didn’t doubt that.

He should run. He should leave but he couldn’t leave it at that. If he could give Victor one final kiss, he would, but words would have to do. He held Victor’s gaze when he found a moment his crying paused and said to him, “You mean so much to me too. I-I hate that it’s like this. I don’t want to leave you…” And when he felt Victor’s grip tighten, Yuuri had one last thing to say. “If the man comes in here, you fight. You show him you’re not his to control anymore.”

When Victor nodded, Yuuri had a little more faith in his escape. If Victor fought back, that could buy him some time as Yuuri searched for help.

He watched as Victor bit his lip, hiding what appeared to be his crying but that didn’t stop his tears. He pulled a hand back to wipe his cheeks and looked to his left, turning towards the camera they both forgot was there.

When a single breath escaped him in a gasp, Yuuri’s hands began to shake. Victor’s grip tightened harshly as his eyes bulged wide, staring to his left until his head whipped back to Yuuri. The look on his face was enough for Yuuri to know Victor’s next few words, but he didn’t need to say it for Yuuri to understand.

“He’s watching,” Victor spoke fast. His words were frantic and desperate to tell Yuuri. He should start running. He should be leaving but his legs refused to move. He could only sit and stare bug-eyed, heart racing and his entire body frozen in fear. “You need to run, Yuuri. He’ll come out here if you don’t.”

But Yuuri was still hesitating. His feet needed to move but his mind was forcing himself to remain seated. He told himself not to run, not without Victor. His trembling body was going against him. He needed to run. He had to run fast and get help but Yuuri just couldn’t. He couldn’t…

“I…” His words got stuck in his throat. He shouldn’t protest. He needed to run.

“Run,” Victor urged. Yuuri’s heart was racing, it wouldn’t stop. “Don’t let him bring you back here. You have to run, Yuuri. RUN!”

If he had any chance of saving Victor, this was it. He had to run. And as his mind finally let go, he was on his feet and running. He sprinted past the house. He ran from Victor – escaping further than he’d been in such a long time.

His feet stomped against the grass. He felt every thump through his body until he heard the crunch of pebbles beneath his feet. He ran with only one goal in mind and he was going to achieve it. If he couldn’t keep his promise to get Victor out himself, he’d do it this way. He was going to run until his feet bled because there was no way Yuuri would ever stop.

“YUURI!”

And just like that, Yuuri did exactly that.

The voice that boomed behind him made him skid to a stop. It wasn’t Victor’s voice. His blood ran cold and froze his entire body. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t do anything but he knew exactly who was behind him. He knew who yelled his name and Yuuri’s breaths came out in rapid, desperate pants - needy gasps to catch a breath.

He slowly turned. If his assumption was right, he would be met with the one he despised the most - the one who put him and Victor through so much pain and torture. And as Yuuri was met with the sight of a man he only ever seen once, standing by the doorway of the house he had been trapped inside, he knew he was right.

It was the man. It was their kidnapper.

Yuuri’s mind tried to recognize his face. If he knew the man from somewhere, he might be able to talk some sense into him but nobody was coming to mind. He didn’t know who this man was. He’d never seen his face before. He wished he could remember the man from somewhere but there was bliss in his ignorance. If he didn’t know the man, he had no memories to repress.

Every single thought was screaming at him to run and get help but this was good. He had the man’s attention. It was focused on him and not Victor. If this kept the man away from him, Yuuri would stay in this staring match for the rest of his life. They glared at each other, the man holding his with a harsh scowl. He was shaking his head. Yuuri had disobeyed him and he was making that perfectly clear to him – that Yuuri shouldn’t have done that.

“Come back here, Yuuri,” The man’s voice growled. He sounded just as rough as Yuuri remembered – more threatening this time. He sucked in a shaky breath. There were words sat on the tip of his tongue but he didn’t dare speak. He remembered what the man did last time he did that. He’d hurt Victor. When the man took a step forward, Yuuri begged his body to let him step back. “You know you shouldn’t have done that.”

Yuuri knew that, but every fiber of his being told him that he should. He needed to run and escape, find Victor the help he needed and get him out. It didn’t matter whether the man was there. Yuuri would fight until his last breath if it meant helping Victor out of that room. Yuuri didn’t change his mind, even when the man placed his hands on his hips, pushing back his jacket to show his pistol that was so close to his hand. Yuuri stood his ground.

They met each other’s stare. The man glared back, holding a smirk on his lips as he said to Yuuri, “You know if you run, you leave him in my hands, right?”

Yuuri knew that too well and he wished it didn’t have to be that way. Victor should have been out there with him, by his side and staring down the man in a conversation that brought fear and anguish. If it went his way, Victor wouldn’t be left behind. Leaving Victor was the hardest thing he ever had to do. He hated himself for doing it. But no matter what he thought of himself, Victor was right. He had to find help. He was Victor’s last hope and as his words replayed in Yuuri’s mind, he took a step back.

Don’t let him bring you back here.

“Come back home, Yuuri.”

But Yuuri refused.

That place wasn’t his home. No. His home was Hasetsu. His home was with his family. Home was anywhere but that confined tomb and as Yuuri’s breath jumped out of him – in and out fast, desperately filling his lungs – he remembered who he was fighting for. He was closer to being in his family’s arms. He was closer to his freedom than he ever had been. His mind and body filled with the adrenaline he needed and in a sudden burst of confidence, Yuuri shook his head and yelled out a single word, “No!”

He was never going back.

A silence followed and nothing moved around them. The wind fell still and the birds went silent, no longer singing their songs that used to sooth Yuuri in the early mornings. Nothing was heard above Yuuri’s desperate plea for a breath. It came out ragged through his nose, tugging his chest and suffocating his lungs from the sweet breath he urgently needed.

But Yuuri stood his ground and the man didn’t like that. Yuuri waited for a move. He waited for the man to do something. He had to be certain he wouldn’t turn back to Victor. He had to keep the man’s attention for as long as possible, until he found help and the man was left with nothing but retreat.

The second the man took a step forward, Yuuri didn’t hold back any longer. He spun on his heel and ran, sprinting away from his captivity and towards his freedom. He ran for his life and for Victor’s too. He ran for his family, friends, and everything that was taken away from him because Yuuri refused to be taken back. He refused to be a captive again.

This was his freedom. This was his time.

The sudden crack in the air was loud as thunder and a whiz of air flew past his ear. Yuuri yelped as he threw his arms over his head, protecting himself from the gunshot and ducking to his left. He turned towards where the forest began. The road wouldn’t help him anymore. He needed cover. He needed protection, especially now the man had every intention of hurting him.

His heart was pounding in his head. The world was spinning around him but he forced himself to keep going. He couldn’t stop, not even for a rest or to grab a breath. His lungs begged for relief and desired just a moment of a break but Yuuri could never stop, not while the loud footsteps behind him were still heard – not while a bullet shot past his head and punched the tree to his left.

Yuuri heard the repetitive scream of his name. It was the cry of a man terrified to lose something he once held onto. Yuuri kept his pace. He wouldn’t stop because he wasn’t there for the man to keep. He wasn’t his to control. Yuuri had a life, and now a lover, and he was going to return to them. He would escape because it’s what they’d want him to do.

Yuuri couldn’t hear the man’s footsteps anymore. He hadn’t heard a shot fired from his gun either. There was a sudden silence and Yuuri had to check if the man was still there. He glanced over his shoulder, searching behind him and saw the man still chasing him. He was further than before, dragging behind and giving a distance between them. Yuuri looked forward, continuing to run. Although he had a distance, he wasn’t going to slow down, not until he found a place to get help. He still couldn’t see any homes around him and his heart sank. There was no sign of life anywhere but that only encouraged him to keep going. It had his blood race with adrenaline. It had his mind focus on only one goal.

He was going to escape. He refused to believe otherwise.

Yuuri felt the pain before the gunshot reached his ear. His hand clamped over his shoulder as he propelled forward, tripping over his own feet and landing on the ground with a hard thump. His entire body was trembling. There was a hot wet pain in his shoulder and he whimpered in agony. He pulled his hand back, staring at his shaking fingers covered in a warm crimson – his own blood – and a terrified cry broke past his lips. He stared at the thick liquid that covered his pale skin, wishing it wasn’t real but the hard beat of his heart and blistering ache in his shoulder was too intense to imagine. He never felt pain like it.

Don’t let him bring you back here.

But Yuuri’s mind bounced back quickly. Victor’s voice filled his every thought, reminding him the promise he made. Victor told him to run. He told him to bolt and escape before the man caught up with him and as Yuuri sucked in a harsh breath and held it, he pushed himself up.

But something forced him down – a strength Yuuri couldn’t fight against. He heard heavy breathing looming above him as a hard shove of a boot pressed down on his back. Yuuri didn’t need to look to know who this was. His racing heart answered that question, as did his desperate need to claw his way out. He dug his fingers into the ground, trying to pull himself out from under the weight but Yuuri couldn’t get the strength to move. He only pulled up the earth, unsuccessful with every attempt.

Fingers suddenly delved into his hair and grasped a handful of his locks. The strong tug forced him to move as he was dragged up and Yuuri had to move with it. The throbbing pain that burned through his scalp had him hiss and cry in pain, unable to stop it as he was yanked to his knees. He wrapped his fingers around the wrist and clawed at the hand with his other, but the grip didn’t loosen. He couldn’t pull free.

When a hand grabbed his face – fingers and nails dug into his skin – his head was forced up. He squeezed his eyes shut until he heard the low growl that spoke, “Look at me,” and Yuuri opened his eyes to meet the face of his kidnapper.

Fear traveled through Yuuri’s veins but it never reached his face. He held a stale expression, showing nothing to the man. He held back his fear, his anger, and everything that built up but he couldn’t control his glare. He couldn’t stop his body from betraying him as it trembled in fear. He stared into the eyes of his kidnapper – the eyes of the man he despised the most and he pressed his lips together tightly, holding back his cries of pain. He refused to let the man see any more of his suffering.

When the man let out a low and throaty chuckle, Yuuri’s brows dropped. “Did you honestly believe you could escape from me?” He asked, his lips twisting into a smirk while Yuuri held a scowl. He didn’t just believe he could escape. He knew he could – and he did it. “You can’t fight me, Yuuri.”

“I can and I will,” Yuuri growled in return. He pulled against the grip, struggling to pull himself away but the grasp was too tight. It didn’t even loosen. It only encouraged the man to laugh at him again and shake his head with a pitying stare. Yuuri hated that look.

“I don’t know how you always kept your fight,” The man commented and Yuuri continued his struggle. The attempt itself was worthless, but he couldn’t show the man that he won. Yuuri would fight until his last breath. “Victor lost his long ago. It was certainly something to watch as he slowly lost his mind. I knew what to expect with him but I didn’t with you…” He paused for a moment, looking to the side to think to himself. He then met Yuuri’s stare again. “I’ve debated about killing you quite often.”

There was a certain type of fear Yuuri never experienced until that very moment. It tortured his gut with intense cramps and engulfed his every thought. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. And yet, he was too aware of both as his mind rapidly searched for freedom and his breathing became rapid, pushing his lungs to work too hard. He didn’t know what to do. He had nowhere to go.

“You can’t fight against me, Yuuri,” The man growled, snapping Yuuri from his mind as his wide eyes met the man’s. “If Victor couldn’t, how do you ever expect yourself to do the same?”

But no matter what, Yuuri would never quit fighting.

He couldn’t work out what the man wanted from him. There was a look in his eyes, an unreadable expression that answered none of his questions. Whether the man did this out of pure spite or he had a reason behind everything, Yuuri didn’t know it. He couldn’t work it out. But Yuuri did know one thing: where Yuuri hated the man, the feeling was mutual. The man returned the spite with a sharp glare and hateful grin, despising Yuuri just as much as Yuuri returned. He knew he should be scared by that, and he was, but he also loved every second of it.

Yuuri couldn’t help the moment where he laughed bitterly. “I think you’re forgetting that I found a way out of that hell hole you shoved me in,” He growled through gritted teeth. The man’s narrow stare harshened and Yuuri let a smirk play on his lips. He leaned in as close as he could and spoke in just above a whisper, “I’ve given Victor the strength to fight. If you go back there, he’ll try to escape too. And I think you know that.”

And then there was a pause. Yuuri threw a smile in before he was suddenly thrown forward and hit the forest ground hard. His mind went hazy and his vision glazed over, unable to process anything until an instant pain snapped him from his daze with a raw scream. It shocked through his wound, shooting down his spine as he trembled and panted hard. He pressed his head against the ground and bit his lip so hard, he cut through the skin. He had to hold back the pain. Blood soon filled his mouth.

He was then thrown sideways, rolled onto his back. The man loomed above him. He stared down, shaking his head as if to tell him off like a child and Yuuri wanted to swear at him. He wished to throw every curse word he knew, hoping to insult him in the worst way but he knew it wouldn’t help.

“I’m taking you back,” The man snarled.

And although Yuuri knew the swear wouldn’t stop this, he just had to say it. He had to get it out and when he met the man’s eyes once more, he spat out a simple, “Fuck you.”

The man held a silent glare. It spoke no words and Yuuri didn’t know what to expect next until he suddenly moved. He grabbed Yuuri’s shirt tightly, lifting him up as he raised a fist and Yuuri had no time to prepare for the punch that swung. It hit his jaw with such force, more blood pooled into his mouth as a pain blazed through his tender skin.

And suddenly, the earth was moving beneath him. Yuuri was panting hard as he searched around him, desperate to find something to grab. He had to find something, anything that’ll stop the man from pulling him away from his freedom. He began to grasp for what he could – grass, twigs he unearthed from the ground, anything that’ll stop the man from dragging him along the ground. He couldn’t be pulled back. He got so far. He had to pull himself from the man’s grip but there was nothing that could help.

It was like his mind ran on autopilot when he began kicking his own ankle. He ignored the pain and kicked as hard as he could, hoping to dislodge the man’s hand where it held him tightly. He kicked hard, screamed for someone to hear him, and begged for his life but the man was unphased by it all. Yuuri’s heart was in his throat. He couldn’t go back. He could never go back.

Don’t let him bring you back here.

There was a tree coming up to his left. His heart jumped and Yuuri grasped for it, wrapping his arms around the trunk securely as he held on with all the strength he had left. He felt the man stumble and swear before he began to tug but Yuuri didn’t let go. He refused to release his grip and took that advantage to start kicking. He aimed for the man’s hand, kicking and fighting and doing everything he could because Yuuri was never going back.

“Let go!” The man screamed at him. He reached forward, grabbing Yuuri’s shirt with an added attempt to pull him away.

“No!” Yuuri yelled back and in his struggle, he threw a swift kick. The second he heard a grunt and his legs were free to move, Yuuri scrambled to his feet and bolted into a run, stumbling a little but he caught himself before he fell again. He bolted through the forest. He ran for his life, running with all the strength he had left because he was finally free again. He was out of the man’s grasp. He just needed to escape.

A gunshot cracked through the air but it didn’t startle Yuuri – not anymore. He kept his eyes focused because up ahead, he could see a few homes coming into view and his heart soared. He smiled behind his gasping breath. The forest was coming to an end. There were homes which meant people who could help him. Another shot fired just to his right. It hit the tree beside him. Then a third shot is aimed but Yuuri didn’t know where that hit.

But he ran. He ran with a gasping breath and burning muscles but Yuuri couldn’t stop. His blood pumped through his veins as he sprinted forward, panic shaking his exhausted limbs and yet, Yuuri didn’t stop. His heart was begging for a rest but there was hope up ahead. There was a road. There were homes. Yuuri could find someone to help and they could contact the police. His heart yearned for it and stopped protesting and instead, encouraged Yuuri to keep going.

He pushed back his fear and glanced over his shoulder. He slowed down for a moment as he searched between the trees, unable to see the man anywhere. He didn’t stop moving. There was the fear he’d be hit with an unexpected attack and stayed in an exhausted light jog, but he couldn’t see the man anywhere. He disappeared, no longer following behind and Yuuri swallowed hard. If the man stopped chasing him, the man had lost interest. And that only meant one thing.

He’s gone back.

Yuuri’s fingers curled through his already sensitive scalp and gripped the strands tightly. He nearly sprinted back to the house but Victor’s voice stopped him and Yuuri froze entirely. His breath jumped out of him in a single gasp. He was shaking in his bones but stayed perfectly still as he listened. He heard something. Yuuri spun, searching the forest because he swore he heard Victor’s voice. And then he heard it again, the loud call of his name. It was Victor’s voice. It had to be.

He stumbled a little before his run. His legs protested but his mind forced him to move, urging his legs to carry him onwards. He didn’t go to the houses or back to his captivity, but he ran to his right where he believed Victor’s voice was. It had to be Victor. It was so loud and clear, Yuuri didn’t believe it was a trick of his mind. Victor must have escaped. He must have found a way through the window or ran past the man when he went back. Victor had to be safe. He just had to be.

He came across the gravel road again. His heart thumped heavily in his chest as he glanced left, then to his right. He didn’t see Victor either side of him. He searched around the area, spinning on the spot just to be certain. He couldn’t miss the sight of his lover. He’d see him if he were there, but he remained hidden. All that was left was his voice – his sweet and gentle voice that spoke in Yuuri’s left ear. He turned.

There was no sign of Victor. There was nothing that proved to him that Victor was there and Yuuri realized the mistake he made. It wasn’t Victor. It wasn’t anyone but a figment of his imagination – a trick of his mind. Yuuri squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his hands to his ears, blocking out the sounds of life because he had to focus and concentrate.

And in that single moment, Yuuri remembered.

He turned to his right, staring at the end of the man’s road that leads onto another. And just beyond that road sat a home. There was life inside. There was help. And there were two people sat out on their porch, their eyes focused on one another while deep in conversation and Yuuri’s legs stopped protesting as he ran. They could help him. They could contact the police and help him save Victor. They could –

A loud screech alerted him. His head shot to the sound and yelped out a strangled gasp. He jumped back, distancing himself from the car that nearly hit him. He held his hands forward as if to stop the car and. Yuuri noticed his blood covered fingers, staring at them while they continued to shake. They couldn’t stop. The strong trembling had him breathe out a heavy breath, but he held it when he met the eyes of the man who stepped out of their car.

It was help. It was someone who could save Victor.

His legs gave out on him. He fell to the floor and onto his knees, dropping with such force his legs ached and his heart hammered so hard, the tugging was impossible to handle. All he could do was sit there, trembling as he curled up into a ball and let out every single emotion he pushed back – every cry he held back, the pain he felt, the heartache and agony that made him want to do nothing but give up and let his emotions control his mind, but Yuuri needed to take control. He had to tell the person where to find Victor.

When he looked up, there were more people surrounding him than before. There were four – perhaps five people around him. They sat at his level, some with their hands on his back and others with phones pressed to their ears. He prayed that they were contacting the police. He didn’t realize he was begging for them to until he heard one of them ask, “Katsuki Yuuri?”

Yuuri met their eyes. It was the man in the car. He nodded frantically, unable to hold back his cries because the man knew who he was. The man was aware that he had been missing and Yuuri needed to let him know about Victor, too.

“Yes, yes!” He wept and continued to nod. He swallowed down the lump in his throat. “I-I went missing a while ago and – and you need to tell them there’s someone else with me. They’re still back there. His-his name is Victor Nikiforov. He needs help. Please, you need to-to…”

He couldn’t get the rest of his words out. They got caught, trapped behind the harsh sob that tore through his throat. He heard a woman ask about Victor and Yuuri’s head shot up. She had her head turned to the man on the phone. He heard his reply. They thought he was dead and Yuuri shook his head. He wasn’t dead. He couldn’t be dead.

And then the phone was in front of him. Yuuri eyed it before looking up at the man who gestured Yuuri to take it. “I have the police on the line,” He said and Yuuri took the phone. “If you can, tell them what you can. They know where to go. They’ll be here soon, okay?”

“They’ll be able to take you home,” Another man spoke and Yuuri’s chest pounded.

“You’re safe now,” A woman said. Yuuri’s lip trembled. “Just tell them what you can and they’ll keep you safe.”

The supportive grip on his shoulder had him feel a little better, but he’d never be fine until he saw Victor. He breathed in a shaky breath and pressed the phone to his ear. He almost forgot how to make a phone call. It had been so long.

“My-my name is Katsuki Yuuri and I-I went missing a while ago but I escaped, I’m free now,” He said, letting out a weak laugh because he finally did it. It was almost too good to be true. “I-I don’t know how long I’ve been gone for but I’ve been trapped with Victor Nikiforov and he’s been there for over a year and – and you need to get him out. The man will hurt him. He needs your help, please!”

“It’s okay, Yuuri,” He finally heard their voice. It was a woman. She sounded calm and sweet, and all Yuuri could think was how safe she sounded. “We have police on their way. Can you tell me who had taken you?”

“I-I don’t know,” Yuuri breathed. He could feel his tears beginning to fall again but Yuuri sucked them back with a strong gasp. He had more to say. “I don’t know who he is but he didn’t show his face to us for – for so long. Today was the first time I had seen it and I-I don’t know who he is. I wish I did but…”

He didn’t hear the ambulance arriving. He could only make out the flashing lights through his glazed eyes. His help was here, as was Victor’s too. Police surrounded the area but made no move to find Victor, not until Yuuri pointed down the gravel roadway and half of them made a quick move. A few came over, along with some paramedics and Yuuri couldn’t hold back the screaming sob that poured from his lips. His trembling hand pressed against his mouth, covering his face with his own blood but Yuuri didn’t care.

He did it. He finally did it.

“It’s August 24th.”

Yuuri tore his gaze away for just a moment, looking at the man who just took the phone away from Yuuri.

“…What?”

“It’s August 24th,” He repeated. “You’ve been gone for eight months.”

And just like that, everything he knew became too real. He stared at the blue and red flashing lights. They were like fireworks in his eyes. It was a vibrancy he hadn’t seen in so long and Yuuri got lost in a trance – lost until he noticed more people were around him. There were too many, he was feeling suffocated but protected too. There were some saying words to him but Yuuri couldn’t hear them. Everything became muffled. The world had fallen silent around him. He couldn’t process the truth of his disappearance, it was too much.

He had been gone for… eight months?

Time no longer felt real. He knew how strange it moved inside the room but he didn’t ever expect to have been gone for so long. He thought at least five months, or even six was pushing it. Everything felt like some strange, vivid dream that Yuuri was certain he’d wake up from.

He brought his knees to his chest and weaved his fingers through his hair. He tugged and began to rock back and forth, unsure what he could do anymore. There was nothing he could do. He couldn’t go and help get Victor. He might not even see Victor because he knew the paramedics around him were trying to move him. He could feel their hands on him and their gentle voices talk to him, telling him they needed to treat his wounds. Yuuri didn’t want to go. He wanted to stay there and wait for Victor. He needed to see if he was alright and safe. He had to know.

And in a blink of an eye, he was somewhere else. He was somewhere small and confining, just like the room had been only smaller. He was surrounded by white and people he’d never seen before, but he trusted them to look over him and go near his wounds. They were there to help him. They were safe to trust, and Yuuri confirmed that to himself when he realized he was sat inside an ambulance.

For the first time in eight months, he was finally out of the room.

But for the first time in a year and eight months, Victor would be out of the room too. He’d feel the breeze again and touch the grass once more. He’d be able to feel the earth, remember how it felt and experience life for what it should have been. Victor was out, or even, he should be out. He should be safe. He should be fine.

A hand gently moved him to lie down and Yuuri went back, resting on something just as uncomfortable as their bed. He looked to his side. There was a woman standing there and Yuuri couldn’t stop his words as he met her blue eyes and asked, “Where’s Victor?”

Her eyes reminded him of Victor, only his were softer. She didn’t answer him but nobody around him did when he asked. They remained silent, only fussing with Yuuri more than he’d like. He didn’t want to be looked over. He just wanted to know if Victor was safe.

He had to see Victor as soon as possible. It would be soon, Yuuri made that promise to himself.

 

Chapter Text

 

Yakov knew when he received the call during practice hours that it was about Victor. He made certain nobody contacted him while he was coaching, in case this moment occurred. And whether the news was bad or good, he made sure he answered it.

And much like any news he received about Victor, it always ended with him needing to step out for a few minutes. He’d lock himself in his office, allow himself to breathe for just a few moments, then return to his skaters as if he was perfectly fine.

But this news was different. This news had him locked in his office for what might have been hours, sat in his chair and quietly staring out the window in disbelief. However long he was away for, it was long enough for Yuri to come barging at his door, knocking furiously with a demand that he explains his absence.

Yakov had a lot on his mind, but also a lot to say. He told Yuri to gather the other skaters. He had news to tell them.

When Yakov received any news about Victor, his skaters were the first to know. He wanted them to hear the truth. It had to be his own words. He couldn’t let them take their own assumption through the media or hear the truth from the news. They deserved to know the full truth first. Even if it hurt, they had to know.

When they were all stood inside his office, each with a demand to know why they were called, Yakov inhaled a deep breath and told them the news.

“They found Victor.”

It was just that simple.

Yuri was quick to demand more and ask how he was, where he was kept, and more questions Yakov couldn’t answer. If he knew more, he’d tell them, but all Yakov knew was he had to get to his son as soon as he could. Victor needed him. He had to bring Victor home.

And just like that, Yakov was on the next flight he could get.

It had been so long. He’ll finally see Victor again.

 


 

When the phone rang, Mari was the one to answer.

She didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t unusual for them to receive calls that late in the evening. She didn’t think much of it when the phone rang and when she answered with the assumption it was nothing important, she soon realized how wrong she was.

The number was international. Their voice held an American accent. And as she listened to them explain what had just happened and why they were calling, their words hit her harder than she expected.

Mari was never one to cry. She could only ever recall crying three times. There was the time when her first boyfriend broke up with her, then when her favorite band split up, and when she eventually accepted that Yuuri had gone missing. She’d rather isolate herself than let anyone see her tears. That day, she couldn’t hold them back any longer. The phone fell from her grasp and as she turned to meet the curious stares from her family, she cried for the fourth time.

“Mari?”

Her hands were shaking. She didn’t know what to say or do. They had been waiting to receive the call for eight months and it… it finally happened. This was it.

“They…” Her words got caught and she cleared her throat. She forced in a deep shaky breath, needing to prepare herself because they had to know. They needed to. “They found Yuuri.”

And as they delved into a three-way embrace, Mari continued to let her tears spill as she cried alongside her family.

It had been a long eight months, but they’ll finally have Yuuri back home.

 


 

 

It never occurred to Yuuri how used to isolation he was until he found himself sat in that hospital room.

There were too many people surrounding him. There were more than he was used to and he couldn’t remember any of their faces. They all seemed like new people, but he recognized little details about them. He remembered the nurses’ hairpin and the doctor with a small tattoo behind his ear, but their faces didn’t stick. He could only remember what they had, but not who they were.

They surrounded him for longer than he liked. They cleaned his wounds and bandaged them, not that it annoyed Yuuri but the constant bother did. There were too many people touching and looking at him; he couldn’t meet their stares. He kept his eyes focused on his lap, chewing on his already broken lip nervously and reopening those wounds. Although it was cut with harsh bite marks, the pain took his mind off their stares.

They looked over his wounds. He wasn’t aware of the harsh scrapes on his knees and elbows or the purple bruise along his jawline where the man punched him until they told him so. They looked at the scar on his hand but there was nothing they could do with that. Their only concern was the bullet wound but they told him it had gone straight through his shoulder. It narrowly missed his bones. Yuuri didn’t feel as lucky as they said he was.

The clean-up was nothing compared to his examinations. He was poked with too many needles, told to take medicine he couldn’t swallow and had bright lights shine in his eyes. It was all an annoying headache. Yuuri just wanted to be left alone after a while, but the thought of being alone made him silently beg for them to stay. He just wanted someone to be there with him. He wanted Victor.

They told Yuuri everything he already knew when they finished. He was underweight, had minor malnutrition from the diet he was on, and pulled muscles from the chase. His heart tugged when they told him the last one. He didn’t want to think about it.

He thought they were finished when they stopped checking on him, but then it was the police’s turn to speak to him. He tried hard not to be annoyed. His words would be used against the man and the idea of that putting him away forever made Yuuri want to spill every little detail, but they asked him more questions than he was willing to give. It was hard to relive the past eight months. There were things he’d rather not talk about and didn’t want to remember. He just wanted to see Victor and go home. He wanted to scream and shout at them to just read their journal. They wrote it for a reason. They could find his story there.

There was only so much he could avoid saying but the chase he had to mention. He had hoped he could easily talk about his captivity now he was out, but he didn’t realize how wrong he was. He couldn’t will his body to stop shaking. His words were jumbled and his story was a mess. He couldn’t explain everything without needing to take breaks to calm down and he had to stop when he mentioned being shot. The memory itself sent shockwaves of terror through his gut and he had to stop before his heart ripped from his chest.

The power the man held over him was distressing. He was aware that the man could have killed him and just knowing that made it harder to talk about. It could have ended there. It could have been the last time he took a breath and knowing how close he was to leaving Victor alone, or how close he was to never see his family again… he didn’t want to ever remember that memory.

But thankfully, it was enough for the police and Yuuri only had to answer the occasional question. They were in and out after that.Yuuri found moments where the sudden silence set his heart racing and his mind in an instant panic. He’d search the room for a camera. He’d wait for something bad to happen because it always did when everything was too good and quiet. He knew nothing would happen, that he was safe, but he couldn’t help his doubt. It all felt too good to be true.

The longer he looked around the unfamiliar environment, the more he became aware of where he was. His panic turned into peace. His mind calmed and stopped searching, instead choosing to stare at the large window to his right. He wished he could find the energy to get up and look outside but the burn in his legs and the thought of moving had him want to sink further into his pillow. Instead, he allowed himself to be proud of what he had done.

He escaped the room. He was free for the first time in eight months and he made it. He finally made it.

He could already say the best part was being in new clothes. He didn’t care that it was a hospital gown. It was better than having to wear the same clothes every day and knowing he could change into whatever he wanted had him bite back his tearful smile. He enjoyed being clean again. He felt stupid for wanting to cry over clean clothes but he was so emotional.

He wanted to say he was happy, but he didn’t feel it. It was the happiest he felt in a long time and where there was happiness, there was the reminder of Victor. He saw Victor’s eyes, his heart-shaped smile, and his laughter that made Yuuri feel like everything would be okay. It had him turn to the window and finally push himself up. It gave him the strength to get out of the hospital bed and bite back his wincing as he gingerly made his way over to the window.

For the first time in eight months, he had a different view.

There was a type of beauty Yuuri couldn’t explain in just words as he stared beyond. The darkness swallowed up the world but the gathering of stars and the moon shone brightly in the sky. His eyes drifted from the sky to the world that sat beneath – the world he hadn’t seen in so long. There was much more to look at than there ever was in that room. It was so beautiful and busy even in the late evening, and he couldn’t believe he had been taken away from this.

He never walked down those streets. He didn’t recognize where he was and yet, he was okay with that. It didn’t scare him nor did it strike fear into his heart. He knew he was free and he allowed himself to take everything in and look. Every color was brighter, every noise louder, and Yuuri’s heart wanted out of his chest. He wasn’t sure if it was from the fear of the open space and a large number of people that walked the streets, or whether it was his excitement to get back out there. All he knew was that his heart hammered hard. The world was so strange – so beautiful.

Yuuri didn’t notice he was crying until he sniffed his tears back. He pressed his hand to his mouth, muffling his already silent cries because he didn’t want to cry. He was tired of it. He didn’t have the energy to sob anymore. He wanted to gaze upon the incredible sight in front of him and take in the world he had missed. There was sorrow in his tears, but relief, happiness, and complete satisfaction knowing he’ll be going home soon. He’ll see his family again and he couldn’t wait.

But then there was Victor. Yuuri knew what he wanted to do first.

Victor never left his mind. He hadn’t seen him since he arrived and Yuuri was growing anxious by the minute. They told him nothing of Victor’s whereabouts or his condition and that didn’t leave Yuuri in a position where he felt everything was okay. He just wanted answers. He wanted someone to tell him how Victor was doing, but nobody told him. He didn’t know and that was the worst part. He could still be trapped in that room. He could be held hostage by the man, threatened with his life while Yuuri was out and free. He could be… gone.

The thought itself spilled a fresh set of tears down his cheeks. He couldn’t think about that. Victor got out , he repeated to himself. Victor got out…

“Excuse me?”

A new voice spoke behind and Yuuri held back his startled gasp as he spun. There was a man standing by the entrance to his room, a cop he had never seen before – or perhaps he had met them, he just didn’t remember. He quickly wiped his cheeks dry.

“Is everything alright?” The cop asked and Yuuri nodded, still wiping his tears away. The man had a kind face to him, one which showed sympathy more than pity. Yuuri was already growing tired of those looks. “I just have a few more questions I’d like to ask, if that’s alright with you?”

“Do I have to?” He asked as he turned back to the window. He could feel the cops eyes on his back. He tried distracting his mind by looking outside, but the crowd of people he saw by the hospital entrance made him want to step away. They had cameras. Yuuri’s arms wrapped around himself as he took a deep breath. “I’ve… I’ve spoken to so many people already and I just…”

It was so strange to say that now. He wasn’t sure he could ever get used to saying he’s spoken to many people. It had only been Victor he communicated with for eight months. He was there the moment Yuuri woke up to the second he fell asleep. It was strange to think that it would all change now.

“It’s not necessary,” He heard the cop say and Yuuri turned again. They met eyes for a moment until Yuuri’s fell to the floor. “It’s more for your statement, but there’s enough evidence to put him behind bars for a while and once we get our statement from Mr. Nikiforov, I’m sure he won’t be leaving his prison cell ever again.”

Yuuri knew what that was like. He knew how it felt being trapped in a room he was forced to call ‘home’ for eight months. He wasn’t sure how he felt knowing the man would be subjected to the same thing, but in many ways, it was different. He’d get good food. He’d be able to walk around and leave his cell. He wouldn’t be punished for looking out the window or talking to anyone. Even in his own imprisonment, he’d still have more freedom that Yuuri and Victor ever had.

And suddenly, Yuuri knew exactly how he felt.

It wasn’t fair. He wanted that man to suffer the same way he did. A prison cell wasn’t enough to satisfy Yuuri’s need for justice. He wished for the man to hurt. He wanted the man to suffer. He’d give anything to have the man feel what he and Victor did because it wasn’t fair that even in jail, he’d still have it easy. His life would be no different and Yuuri was furious . His fists clenched tightly, digging his nails into his already cut palms. He had to hold back his screams. He shouldn’t let out his anger.

Did he wish for the man to experience the same as he did? Yes. Yuuri had no doubt about that. But did he wish to be a part of that?

He wasn’t entirely sure.

With a heavy sigh and a painful ache in his legs, he bit through his pain and made his way back over to the bed. The cop moved with him as he pulled up a chair and sat by Yuuri’s bed. A notepad and pen sat in his hand, ready to write. It reminded Yuuri of his and Victor’s journal. He wondered where it was.

“I don’t have much to ask you,” The cop began and Yuuri doubted his words with a narrow stare. They all said the same thing. It was all lies. And when the cop met Yuuri’s stare, Yuuri quickly looked away. “I just want you to know what your plans are outside of your… captivity. What to do next and where to go from here.”

It took Yuuri by surprise. He had expected more questions about the man or to retell what happened inside the room and during his escape. He grew tired of answering those and each time, his chest ached that little bit more. He just wanted to begin moving on. He wanted to see Victor and to see his family again.

But knowing what he’d do next gave him a sense of security and it was just what he needed. “Okay,” He nodded. He’ll be willing to talk.

“First of all, we need to establish where you’d like to go from here and what your options are,” The cop began. Yuuri kept his focus on the notepad, waiting for the cop to begin writing. “You can either speak up in court or return home to your family.”

Yuuri already knew which he’d choose but he had to ask first; “Am I needed in court?”

“Not desperately,” The cop shook his head. Yuuri couldn’t help his sigh of relief. The idea of standing in front of the man again and being face to face with the one who once thought about killing him… he wasn’t sure if he could do it again. “Even if you both choose to go home, there’s enough evidence against him. He was caught in the act after all. He has no defense.”

“That’s good,” Yuuri nodded and in that pause, he knew what his choice would be. “I want to go home.”

He wasn’t needed. There was enough evidence and he’d rather go home. He had no reason to stay near that man any longer and Yuuri wished to reunite with his family again. He’d see Vicchan again. He’d see Yuko and her family. He’d see his loved ones and Yuuri couldn’t postpone that any longer. The sooner he got home, the quicker he’d be in their arms.

But then Yuuri remembered what the cop just said and his brows dropped in thought. He came to an assumption - one that had his heart begin to pound hard in his chest. He didn’t like his assumption, but he had to ask.

“What do you mean they caught him in the act?”

The prolonged silence didn’t encourage Yuuri’s chest to calm.

“What do you know about Victor’s own escape?” The cop eventually asked. Yuuri thought back but there was nothing to remember.

“Nothing,” He said with a shake of his head. “I’ve asked everyone I see where he is or if he’s okay but nobody will tell me. I just need to know if he’s okay and… and see him if I can. Is he here?”

The cop nodded. “He is.”

Yuuri was silent for a moment. He wasn’t entirely sure if he could ask this. He wasn’t even certain if he was allowed to do such a thing, but he’d never know unless he asked.

“Can I see him?”

The cop looked away before meeting Yuuri’s stare, as if a silent debate went through his mind. Yuuri’s stare fell to the ground as nerves wracked his body and when he heard the cop sigh, he still didn’t look up. “It’s not appropriate for me to do so…” He paused. Yuuri’s heart sank. “but I do believe you deserve to see him.”

And suddenly, Yuuri was smiling. He excitedly stood to his feet but forgot how painful his legs were. He yelped out a cry and fell back down onto the bed, hissing as he grabbed his legs and quickly massaged them to ease the pain. It had been a long time since he pulled his muscles, but never had he pulled them this badly before.

“Are you sure you can walk?” He heard the cop ask when a strong grip squeezed his good shoulder. Yuuri didn’t doubt himself as he nodded and let the cop help him to his feet while he said, “Then it’ll have to be a short visit. He has his own examinations to go through and we still have more to discuss. Is that okay?”

As he was guided to the door, Yuuri nodded. “As long as I get to see him, that’s fine.”

Yuuri didn’t need the cops’ assistance to help him walk, but it did make moving easier. The ache in his legs pulled his muscles with every step, but the pain meant nothing to him if it meant he could see Victor. He couldn’t wait. It was all he wanted since he stepped foot in the ambulance and now it was finally happening. He would see his Victor once again.

The hallways were louder than he expected. It was so much noise and yet, there were fewer people than he thought. A few cops stood outside his room. Nurses and doctors walked past without noticing him. He even saw a few patients too. He accidentally met eyes with an old woman sat on a wheelchair and Yuuri looked away. He could see her staring at him in the corner of his eye. He kept his eyes down. The discomfort was like an itch and Yuuri could still feel her stare on his back as he walked past her. He didn’t feel safe until they rounded the corner.

As they stepped into an elevator, Yuuri looked around as the doors closed with dropped brows. “He’s on a different floor?” He asked.

The cop nodded. “There’s a reason.”

Yuuri started chewing his lip again. Blood filled his mouth. He had a nasty suspicion that the reason was not good, but he kept his hopes up. Victor would have fought back. He would have defended himself the best he could. He should be fine.

They went up a floor. When the elevator doors opened, he was helped down a hallway and around a corner. At the end of the hall, Yuuri saw a cop standing outside a door. His heart tugged as a breath escaped him. It was Victor’s room. Yuuri didn’t doubt his assumption and the closer they got, the harder his heart pounded. It was so hard, it began to thump in his ears and Yuuri could hear nothing above the rapid beating. He’ll see Victor again. He’ll learn the truth of how he escaped and finally reunite with his lover once again.

A strong hand squeezed his shoulder. It dragged him from his thoughts as he met the eyes of the cop. Yuuri was panting hard. The pull of his lungs forced him to gasp for each breath, unable to calm himself down. He hadn’t realized he fell to the floor, not until he was guided back to his feet by supportive hands.

“Just try and breathe, okay?” He heard and Yuuri did. He knew how to calm himself down. He slowed his breathing until his lungs were satisfied and his heart calmed a little. He could breathe better once again. He couldn’t say he was fine. His chest still thumped and tugged with little mercy, but he could breathe again.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” He heard the cop ask and Yuuri nodded.

“More than anything in the world.”

He had to see Victor. He had to make sure he was okay.

And when they were stood outside Victor’s door, he couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t look away from the door. On the other side was his lover. This was it. This was the moment of truth and as the cop opened the door for him, he didn’t hesitate to step inside.

Yuuri had prepared himself to see a few cuts and bruises on Victor, but nothing major like his own injuries. He expected to see him sitting up in the bed, baring a heart-shaped smile and arms outstretched, inviting Yuuri in so they could hold each other in an embrace that’ll last a lifetime. He anticipated kisses and cuddles and the promise to never be apart from each other ever again.

But what Yuuri saw had him grow numb. He couldn’t react with words or even the slightest noise as he dropped to his knees. His trembling fingers pressed against his mouth as his wide eyes stared ahead. He couldn’t look away. He couldn’t breathe. He could do nothing other than stare at Victor’s lifeless form in the hospital bed, covered in bruises and bandages from a fight for his life.

And Yuuri could do nothing but blame himself. This was his fault.

“Come on, son,” The cop's voice spoke behind him. He could feel arms around him, pulling him to his feet but Yuuri made no effort to help himself up. “If it’s too much for you…”

“No,” Yuuri disrupted him as he shook his head. He pulled himself from the grasp and unsteadily made his way over to Victor. He needed to be closer. He had to see the damage up close.

He sat on the side of Victor’s bed. The sheets were warm and soft, nothing like the bed back in the room. He let his hands roam over the material. At least Victor should be comfortable. His eyes traveled over the bed to Victor’s body, taking in a sight that broke his heart all over again. The pain in his chest didn’t stop.

There were bandages covering most of his injuries. They wrapped around his wrists and one was on his forearm, protecting his wounds from whatever the man had done to him. He had a bandage on his forehead too, just above his left eye that was bruised and swollen. His eye wasn’t the only bruise Yuuri could see. There were splashes of purple all over him, on his face, arms, neck – rough bruises and handprints left behind on his delicate skin. His knuckles were hurt too. They held their own cuts and bruises, left behind from a fight and Yuuri held Victor’s hand. His thumb carefully stroked over the injured skin, trying so hard not to start crying. He wished it didn’t end like this.

But as he pressed his lips to Victor’s knuckles, he couldn’t hold back an aching sob. This was his fault. If he had just held the man's attention for a little longer, he might have been able to contact the police before the man even got to Victor. He could have kept the man away but he didn’t. He let the man return to Victor. He let the man hurt him and Yuuri could never forgive himself for that. Victor was wounded, injured, and left lifeless in a hospital bed. It was all his fault.

He squeezed Victor’s hand and begged under his breath, “Please wake up.” His hands were shaking as he whispered his pleas, wishing for Victor to open his eyes and look into his own. He didn’t know the extent of Victor’s injuries or how serious they were. He didn’t know if Victor was unconscious, asleep, or in a coma, but however he was, it shouldn’t have been like this.

“He put up a fight,” The cop said behind him. Yuuri glanced over his shoulder, eyeing the cop for only a second before turning back to Victor. He couldn’t look away.

He wiped his cheeks clean from the tears that fell and cleared his throat. He needed to know more. “W-what happened?”

He wasn’t prepared to hear the truth but he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be prepared. He needed to hear it now.

“He wasn’t in a good state when we found him,” The cop began and Yuuri squeezed his eyes shut. He let out a desperate breath, trying hard to even his breathing. “Victor’s injuries are enough to prove there was some sort of fight between them. He’s been swimming in and out of consciousness since then.”

Just knowing Victor might wake up at any moment left Yuuri with the need to never leave his side. If he could sit by that bed forever and wait for Victor to wake up, he’d do it. He’d stay there until Victor’s eyes opened and he’d look into them once again, but there was no way he could do that. He’ll have to return to his room. He’ll be going home soon.

“What did the man do to him?” Yuuri asked.

“I’m technically not supposed to tell you that, but…” There was a pause. Yuuri looked back, watching the cop as he thought hard to himself. He turned back to Victor when the cop replied. “I think you should know. He… are you sure you want to know?”

“Yes,” He nodded. He was certain.

And the silence that followed felt like it lasted a lifetime.

“We believe Mr. Bryceson was attempting to move him.” The name, his words, it sent shockwaves of grief through Yuuri’s chest. He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his enclosed hand to his forehead. Victor’s fingers were cold against his skin. “We found Victor over his shoulder, unconscious with his hands bound with zip ties. They were… cut rather badly.”

“Fuck,” Yuuri swore under his breath. He wept silently, quietly letting his tears slip down his cheeks while pressing soft kisses to Victor’s fingers.

“He’s received some head injuries but nothing that’s a threat. Other than the bruises on his body, his ribs are bruised too. The cut on his arm isn’t as bad as it seems. His injuries might have been worse if we got there any later.” There was a pause and Yuuri prayed that it was the last of Victor’s injuries, until the cop spoke again. “But he – he also has a broken leg, too.”

Yuuri didn’t know much about figure skating, but if it were anything like ballet, Victor would have a hard time returning to it. He couldn’t say it would be impossible, but hard. He knew returning to ballet himself would be a struggle. If his hand stopped trembling and his shoulder healed fine, he’d be able to continue what he didn’t finish. Victor might be a different story and he hoped for the best.

But anger surged through his veins and he couldn’t help but huff. The man had not only taken him away from his life, career, and everything he knew, but he’s essentially ended Victor’s career too. He’s ruined his life. He destroyed every last ounce of hope he had all before taking more away from him and Yuuri had never felt the deep hatred he had that very moment.

He wasn’t a vengeful person. He always saw himself as a pacifist, but that was before his captivity. That was before he met a man truly worth despising. That was before he discovered evil in person.

“This Mr. Bryceson…” The name itself made Yuuri shudder and scowl. He knew who it was. He just needed to confirm it. “He’s the man who took us, isn’t he?”

“Yes. His name is Zach Bryceson.”

Yuuri didn’t know what else to say. He didn’t feel any different knowing the name of the man he despised the most. He still hated him. He still loathed him with every ounce of his being. He just didn’t know what to do with that information now he had it. He wasn’t certain there was anything he could do with it and that had Yuuri feel… inadequate.

“Victor put up a good fight,” The cop said as he moved to the other side of Victor’s bed. Yuuri glanced at him. “He broke Mr. Bryceson’s nose.”

Yuuri couldn’t help the weak laugh he let out – his weak, but slightly amused laugh. He was proud of Victor for fighting and proud that he was able to hurt the man. Yuuri remembered when he kicked the man during his chase. He didn’t know if he hurt him but he hoped he had.

“I do think we should head back.”

Yuuri shook his head to the cop but kept his eyes on Victor. “I want to spend more time with him. What if he wakes up?”

“Mr. Katsuki, we made a deal.”

Yuuri couldn’t deny that but the hardest part was pulling away from Victor. This could be the last time he sees Victor in person and Yuuri… he wasn’t sure if he could handle that. The last eight months with Victor had been terrifying and completely torturous and yet, Yuuri never regretted meeting Victor. He hated the situation, not the person he was with. He could never feel that way about Victor.

He leaned forward and where there was no cut or wound, he pressed a soft, gentle kiss on Victor’s forehead. He touched their foreheads together and fought the urge to let his tears spill. If this was the last time, Yuuri had some final words he had to say. Although Victor couldn’t hear them, Yuuri wanted to say it – just in case.

“I am so proud of you, Victor,” He began. “You fought back. You got yourself out. I knew you could do it and I am so, so proud. You proved him wrong. You did it.”

And with that, Yuuri pulled back. He stood at the side of the bed and let his eyes linger for a moment longer before turning to the cop. He eyed the small notepad in his front pocket, along with a pen that was slowly leaking ink onto his shirt. Yuuri had an idea.

“Can I borrow a pen and paper?”

The cop reached into his pocket, completely unaware of the blue ink on his shirt as he handed the notepad and pen to Yuuri. He quickly scribbled down his phone number and was ready to leave it at that until he remembered he didn’t have his phone. It might not be returned either. He chewed his lip and thought for a moment before writing his email down too, just in case.

When the paper was folded, he wrote Victor’s name before putting it aside, hoping he’d see it when he wakes up. He really hoped Victor would notice it. He wanted to stay in touch.

And then Yuuri returned to his room with the cop by his side and a few more questions to answer. He knew what he wanted to happen after this. He wanted to go home, return to his family, and remember what it was like to feel safe again. He just wanted to see his family again. He was close to their arms. He was closer to being home.

But then there were other questions like therapy and seeing what they could do about his trembling hand, but that would all have to be planned when he returned to Japan. It was just discussion for now. Yuuri didn’t like the idea of therapy. He still just wanted to be back home.

And soon, Yuuri grew tired of the questions and with a heavy sigh asked, “When will I be going home?”

“We believe somebody is on their way to pick you up,” The cop said. Yuuri’s heart raced with anticipation. He wondered who it was and how they’d react to seeing him again. Yuuri already knew he’d hug them. “I suspect sometime in the morning they’ll be here, and then you’re free to be discharged and ready to go home.”

“… Just like that?”

“One of us will guide you to the airport,” The cop informed and Yuuri nodded. He wasn’t sure why the cop had to go with him but he felt safer knowing so. “There are a lot of press outside. They’re desperate to hear from you and Mr. Nikiforov, but we don’t want anyone knowing anything until the court case.”

“That’s fair,” Yuuri nodded. He was pleased to hear.

The cop soon left as it grew later in the night. Yuuri was left to himself and for the first time in a long while, he was alone. As he laid in his hospital bed with a soft pillow beneath his head and warm sheets over his body, all he wanted to do was cry. He knew he was safe. He knew he’d be alright but the crippling fear that there was a camera in his room had him search every corner he could see. There were no cameras in his room. He confirmed that for the tenth time, yet his mind couldn’t settle. It couldn’t stop questioning, wondering…

He wondered if Victor had woken up. He wondered if he had read Yuuri’s note yet and wanted to get in contact as soon as possible. Sleeping wasn’t the same without Victor in his arms. There was an absence by his side – a missing warmth that came in the shape of his lover.

He couldn’t sleep. He gave up on it soon after and dressed in some fresh clothes he was given. The pants were a little too big but his shirt fit okay. It was comfortable enough for him to deal with. He sat on the window ledge and stared out into the empty void of night and drew pictures on the window were his breath misted the glass. He smiled.

He paced the room out of boredom. His legs didn’t hurt as bad anymore and he didn’t know exactly when he started lurking through the hospital hallways, but he became aware of that when he found himself stood in front of the elevator he was at only hours ago. He stepped inside before he was seen and clicked the floor above his own. The wait for the doors to close had him tap his foot impatiently, waiting until they finally shut and he let out the breath he was holding.

He couldn’t believe he was doing this. He shouldn’t be doing this.

The ding of the elevator made him jump. Yuuri stared ahead as the doors open and not a soul was in sight. He stuck his head out, looking side to side to check it was clear. He saw a couple of nurses far to his left, both lost in their own conversation that they didn’t notice Yuuri’s figure tiptoeing past them and further down the hall. He kept his eyes open both behind him and in front, checking that he wouldn’t be caught. He had gotten so far, he couldn’t be caught now.

He turned the corner and stared down the hallway. Where he expected there to be a cop standing outside Victor’s room, there wasn’t one anymore and Yuuri’s heart soared. He couldn’t stop his feet from moving as he began speed walking to his door. He had to get there quick. He couldn’t waste a moment. And when he was stood in front of Victor’s door, he held his breath when his hand touched the handle.

And slowly, he opened the door.

The room was dimly lit, absent of any life other than Victor and Yuuri stared at his figure. His eyes were still closed and Yuuri hoped it was just Victor sleeping. He slipped inside, shutting the door behind him and as he turned to Victor, he let out a breath. He could have his last moments with him. He could finally give the goodbye he wanted to give.

Yuuri wasn’t stupid to think they weren’t going to be separated after this. He’d be returning to Japan while Victor will go back home to Russia. They’ll live their lives like before, away from each other and back with the people they love, but it would be different this time. There would be trauma, flashbacks, and many more mental struggles that’ll push them back. Yuuri knew this wasn’t it for their fight. He knew they had many more struggles to come but if they could just stay in contact with each other, they might find it a little easier to cope.

When he was by Victor’s side, he gently shook his shoulders and hoped to wake him up. “Victor,” Yuuri whispered loudly. Victor didn’t move. “Victor, wake up, please.”

But Victor’s eyes stayed closed. He remained lost in his subconscious, completely unaware that he had escaped Zach’s grasp. Yuuri felt his stomach churn and his chest stop. He glanced behind him, feeling eyes watching him but nobody was there. He was alone and he let out a breath. The man’s real name affected him more than he thought. He wasn’t sure he could ever call the man by his real name.

The man was easy to say. He always knew the man by that name and it kept him anonymous. It kept that wall between them - that wall that made Yuuri feel somewhat safe and secure. But his real name was too… too real. It gave the man an identity, a life, a name behind the one who hurt him the most and he didn’t want to know.

Yuuri pulled back the sheets. He moved Victor’s arm, adjusting it so he didn’t lie on it as Yuuri slipped under the covers. He carefully put his arm over Victor’s chest and rested his head on his shoulder, careful of his injuries as he snuggled by Victor’s side. He closed his eyes and breathed him in. He’ll miss this when he goes home.

No embrace was returned but that was okay. Victor was next to him. Victor’s warmth was back and Yuuri could already feel himself slowly falling into a blissful sleep, but he fought against his closing eyes. He wanted to be awake for a little while longer. He wanted to enjoy this for as long as he could.

“I’m going home soon,” Yuuri spoke. He knew Victor couldn’t hear but he wanted to talk to him. He wanted to pretend that Victor was awake and listening, just unable to talk. “I left a note here for you. I really hope you’ll see it before you go home too.”

Victor stayed silent. Yuuri moved his head, looking up at Victor’s. He brought a hand up and cupped Victor’s cheek, gently stroking his thumb along the bruise around his swollen eye. It looked painful and Yuuri felt himself wince as he carefully touched it. He dropped his hand.

“They caught him,” He said. He figured out of everything he’d say to Victor, that would be one. “He’s been arrested. They say there’s plenty of evidence to put him away for a long while so I guess we got our justice after all.” Yuuri stayed silent for a moment. He sighed hard. “I just feel like this isn’t enough.”

If Victor was listening, Yuuri was sure he’d ask, “Why?” and Yuuri had an answer for that.

“Everything he’s done to us – to you… is jail enough?” He asked, not expecting to hear a response. “It doesn’t answer why he did this or what motive he had for torturing us. It answers nothing, but it hides them away inside a cell where I can’t find them out or ever ask him my questions. I… I want to know why he did this. I want to be there for the court case but I just want to go home. I can live without those answers for a little while if it meant seeing my family, but… I’ll find out the answers one day. I promise.”

Victor didn’t reply. He wouldn’t. And as Yuuri pressed his face against Victor’s and breathed him in, he fell into a deep, blissful sleep, by his lovers’ side for the last time.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Yuuri?”

The mumble of his name slowly woke Yuuri from his slumber. He exhaled a breath and groaned with a need to stretch his muscles. There was a dull ache in his neck and his arm was numb with a light tingling coursing through it. He couldn’t feel his fingers.

“…Yuuri?”

And the moment he became aware of the voice, his eyes snapped open.

Although his sight was blurred from his glasses falling off during his sleep, he didn’t need them to recognize who he was staring at. He knew it was Victor. It was Victor who was staring back at him too. It was Victor who made his heart jump in his chest as he exhaled a single gasp. He was awake.

He patted around the bed for his glasses, searching for them and didn’t hesitate to slip them on. Yuuri’s assumption was true. Victor really was awake. He was lying there, staring back at Yuuri through heavy-lidded eyes and Yuuri couldn’t help the smile that grew on his lips. He was so pleased Victor woke up before he left – so, so pleased.

“Hey,” He spoke softly as he gently cupped Victor’s cheek. He was careful not to touch his bad eye as he let his thumb stroke over his skin. Victor’s breathing was faster than usual, near desperate pants. His eyes were nearly closed and yet, Yuuri could still see the fear in them. He was panicking. “Hey, you’re okay. You’re safe now, okay?”

Victor didn’t nod. He didn’t agree with Yuuri, but he listened as Yuuri continued to reassure him. He told Victor that he was safe and they had got out, repeating his words until Victor’s breathing eased a little. He didn’t take his hand away from Victor’s cheek and he kept the soft touch. Victor needed to know that this was real – that his touch was there and that he truly was safe.

And eventually, Victor calmed down enough that Yuuri didn’t feel the pounding beat of his heart anymore. Their eyes stayed locked in a trance, unable to look away and Yuuri didn’t want to. He never wanted Victor to take his eyes off him. Their gaze stayed, their hearts stopped, and Yuuri didn’t think to stop himself as he leaned forward and captured Victor’s lips on his own. It was a kiss that was returned. It was one that hurt from Yuuri’s constant chewing on his own lip but he looked past the pain. It was what he needed to reassure himself that they’ll be alright, that they’d be fine after today.

He wasn’t entirely confident in that thought. He knew they’d have many more troubles beyond that moment, but it helped ease his worries.

“My Yuuri did it,” Victor wheezed. Regardless of how harsh his voice was, he still found a reason to smile at Yuuri. “You got us out.”

Yuuri’s eyes fell on the bruises around Victor’s neck. He squeezed his eyes shut to force back the tears and opened them again when he was confident they wouldn’t fall. “Yes,” He nodded and just like that, a tear fell. “We got out.”

Victor’s eyes slowly closed. A weak smile stretched across his lips as he fell back into a deep sleep. Yuuri wished he could have said more. He wanted to tell Victor of the note he left behind, or that he was leaving to go back home that day, but he was pleased to have said something to Victor. When he next wakes up, he shouldn’t be so scared.

Regardless, he was pleased to have at least had a discussion. He was finally able to speak to Victor and that was enough to help him feel a little better about his departure. He wasn’t entirely ready to go but knowing Victor should remember their talk made it a little easier.

He wasn’t sure if Victor was conscious for his next move, but Yuuri had to give him one last kiss. He knew it wouldn’t be returned, but as he pressed his lips to Victor’s once again, he found he didn’t mind. He pulled back and smiled. He liked to imagine Victor felt it.

“Uh,” A voice tore him from Victor and he looked up. Standing in the doorway was a doctor, staring at the two with wide eyes and a mouth hung open. Yuuri’s heart pounded as he asked, “Who are you and how did you get in here?”

Yuuri didn’t know what to say. He moved to sit up on the bed and sheepishly looked away from the doctor. He couldn’t explain his actions. He wasn’t even entirely certain if he was allowed in the room, but he wondered perhaps his name was enough to tell the doctor that he had a reason for being in there. He didn’t want to be seen as a creep.

“My name is Katsuki Yuuri,” He began and glanced up. There was a knowing look in the doctor’s eyes and it helped calm his chest. “I was with Victor while we were…”

“It’s okay, I know who you are,” The doctor answered as he stepped inside. The door clicked shut behind him and Yuuri couldn’t stop staring at it. His heart raced with fear. He wasn’t entirely sure why. “But I do have to ask why you’re not in your own room?”

“I had to see him again,” Yuuri answered. There was no other way to explain it. He simply had to see Victor again. “I think I leave today and I just…”

The sudden bang of the door bursting open startled Yuuri. He jolted from the sudden noise and his hands trembled along with his pounding heart. He didn’t notice it was the cop who ran through the room until he heard his voice. He was exhausted from a run. His hair was ruffled and he panted hard.

“Oh, thank god you’re here,” He panted. He took a second to breathe and Yuuri didn’t know why he was in such a rush to find him. “When we couldn’t find you in your room, we assumed the worst when we couldn’t find you elsewhere and just – just don’t do that again, Mr. Katsuki.”

His gaze fell as he played with his fingers. He hadn’t meant to scare anyone, especially when he just wanted to see Victor. He then looked to his right where the window sat. The sun was up and high in the sky. He hadn’t realized he slept so long. It was possibly the longest night sleep he had in a long while and yet, he still didn’t feel refreshed.

“I-I didn’t realize I had slept for so long,” He said before getting up from the bed. His bare feet touched the cold tile floor. It sent chills through his body but it was still much nicer than the carpet in the room. He sighed heavily and kept his eyes on the floor. “I just needed to see him.”

“I understand that,” The cop replied and Yuuri wasn’t sure how truthful his words were. Did anyone understand what he was going through? When he felt a reassuring grasp on his shoulder, he knew he had to leave. “Come on, you’ll be going home soon.”

Home…

It was hard. It was hard knowing that for a second time, he’ll be leaving Victor alone in a room. This one was safer for him, but he wasn’t prepared to do that again. He wasn’t prepared to leave Victor because the constant fear and worry that he wouldn’t be fine made Yuuri want to stay by his side until he was. He wanted to protect Victor from all the evil and heartache in the world. He wanted to keep Victor in his arms and kiss him until his lips were numb and all he could think about was Victor.

And as he stood to his feet and followed the cop, he couldn’t turn his eyes away from Victor for even a second – not until the door closed behind him and he was left with just the memory of him.

He knew it would be tough living without Victor anymore. He was excited to go home. He couldn’t wait to see his family again but having to leave Victor was hard. It almost felt like a breakup. He knew it wasn’t. It was far from it, but it still hurt the same. It still tore at his chest and left him nothing but the thought of Victor as he walked further away from his room. He wanted to cry but he didn’t have the energy to do so anymore.

He wanted to get better already. He wanted a day where he didn’t feel like crying or feared to do the smallest thing. He wanted his escape to not be so fresh in his mind, or the man’s face to be forgotten, or the pain in his shoulder to stop hurting him and remind him what had happened because all Yuuri wanted was to move on. He wanted to find his bravery and courage again. He just wanted to be alright.

But more than that, he wanted to be certain he’ll be able to see Victor again.

They were to be separated today. They’ll go back to their countries, return to their lives, and Yuuri wanted to be sure that he’ll see Victor again. He’d make certain of it. There was a future for them and it was his encouragement to get better. It was his motivation to one day leave his country and step foot in the big wide world again. Their first meeting after their separation would be worth the wait. It would be worth the healing. It gave Yuuri something to work towards and he kept that in mind as he walked alongside the cop and back to his room.

But with healing came heartache. As he stepped inside and saw a navy-blue suitcase laid out on his bed, he stopped when his heart wanted to burst from his chest. It was his suitcase. It had the clothes he had before he was taken. He didn’t need to be told it was his because he recognized all his things – all the old clothes and ballet shoes that were tucked inside it.

“We had this in evidence to try and help us find you,” He heard the officer say as he began to search through his suitcase. He hoped his favorite jacket was inside. “It was only fair that we return it to you when we could.

And as Yuuri found his jacket stuffed at the bottom of the suitcase, he wiped away the tears that fell. “Thank you,” He wept. He then searched through his bag a little more before needing to ask, “What about everything else?”

“If you’re asking about your phone, we couldn’t find it,” The cop answered and Yuuri’s head dropped. He had hoped to get it back. He wanted to be certain that Victor could easily contact him, but his email would have to do. “We put the rest in your suitcase, your wallet, keys, and everything else left behind in your room.”

That was when his eyes fell on his wallet and he let out a breath. At least he had that.

He thanked the cop and waited for him to leave before venturing further into his suitcase. As the door clicked shut, Yuuri exhaled a shaky breath to console himself. He hadn’t realized how hard his heart was pounding, not until he was alone with his old clothes that brought back memories. He found a reason to smile.

His favorite shirt sat at the bottom of the bag, scrunched up from the last time he wore it and shoved into his suitcase. The crinkled material held a musky smell that filled Yuuri’s nose and regardless of that, he was tempted to put it on. He wanted to wear whatever he wanted like he used to and not be forced to ever wear the same dirty clothes ever again. Eight months of the same gym clothes were enough, but he didn’t need to do that anymore.

He put the shirt back in the suitcase and grabbed his favorite jacket instead. It held a fresher smell to it, much cleaner than his shirt and he put it on. It hugged him like a soft blanket. It was much looser than he last remembered but just as comfortable as always. He snuggled further into the jacket and hugged his arms around himself, feeling so comfortable and warm. He never wanted to wear dirty clothes ever again.

His legs nearly gave out as his eyes fell on his ballet shoes sat in his suitcase. He sat down before reaching out and taking them in hand. He had forgotten they were the reason he was in the states. His thumb stroked over the soft material, reminding Yuuri of all the aches and pains his career has given him - all the bruises and stumped toes from his dancing. He wished it was the only pain he ever felt, but he couldn’t say that anymore.

He wasn’t sure if he’d ever go back to ballet. He’d like to, but knowing it was the beginning of his disappearance made it harder to return to. Ballet was the reason he was in the states. Being there was what had him get taken. It was the start of eight months of pain and suffering and Yuuri wasn’t sure he could ever go back to that - not because ballet caused his kidnapping, but because what if it happened again?

He wondered for a while now if he went down a different career path, perhaps this would have all been different. He might not have become a target. He could have avoided being kidnapped and somebody else might have taken his place instead. He would have been the one on the outside, wondering if that person was alive rather than himself be there. And more than just himself, he wondered if Victor could have had it differently too. If he had become a figure skater too, perhaps this would have been different for both of them. Their paths could have met again, but vastly different to how it had.

And God, did Yuuri wish it had gone differently.

The click of the door startled him and his stare shot up. The door squeaked open. He was met with the cop walking back in the room and Yuuri was about to turn his stare away until he saw who was walking behind him and -

“... Minako-sensei?”

She smiled the best she could. It was forceful and full of sorrow, but Yuuri appreciated the attempt. He needed to see her face. He needed to see a person he recognized – someone he trusted and was so relieved to see. Her eyes were rimmed with a sore red, but Yuuri couldn’t believe that she been crying. He’d never known her to do so.

But still, he was shocked into complete silence. Minako was here – the one who introduced him to ballet and encouraged him to audition for that lead role, and Yuuri wasn’t certain how he felt. There was a hint of anger. If she hadn’t done so, he could have avoided this. He could have been safe and back in Japan long ago, but he couldn’t blame her for that. He could be angry, but never could he blame her.

She opened her arms, waiting for Yuuri to delve into them, and said with a shaky voice, “Is this really the hello I get after eight months?”

And suddenly, Yuuri wasn’t angry anymore.

He thought he’d be more prepared for this moment but as his chest tugged with heartache and sorrow, he could do nothing to hold it back as tears spilled down his cheeks. He pressed his trembling hands against his mouth, desperate to hold back his sobs but with every wail that wrecked his body released all his pain and agony, but his complete relief too.

He threw himself into Minako’s arms. He didn’t feel the same in her arms as he did Victor’s. He didn’t feel as safe or as comforted, but it was enough. It was enough to encourage Yuuri to continue crying. His wound ached and he had a new pain in his mouth, but he didn’t care. He thought he’d never be able to do this again.

This was real. This was truly happening and Yuuri was finally going home. He’ll finally see his family again.

“It’s okay now,” He heard her say but it didn’t reassure Yuuri to stop crying. It made it harder to stop the tears because she was right. It really was okay now. That thought alone was so baffling to Yuuri, he wasn’t completely certain he could believe it.

But as Minako pulled back and met Yuuri’s eyes, he knew he could believe it. There was truth in her eyes. There was trust.

He was going home. He was finally going home.

 


 

Going home wasn’t as quick as Yuuri had hoped.

Minako had to speak with a few doctors and police. Yuuri knew it was about him but he’d rather not hear them talk about his situation. He didn’t need to be reminded of what was possibly wrong with him or how bad his mental health had become. He got stuck in his own mind instead – stuck in something nobody could take from him.

Where there was relief that he was going home and anger that this happened to him, there was panic too. There was the rapid beat of his heart where he knew he had to leave the safety of the hospital. The tremble in his voice knew he’d be leaving, venturing further than his current comfort zone and Yuuri wasn’t certain he could do it. He’d be out on the streets. He’d be open and defenseless, unaware of the dangers that were ahead. That’s how it happened last time. He couldn’t let it happen again.

When Yuuri had to leave the hospital, he found it easier than expected. He thought he’d be unable to step outside again, but when the warm sun touched his skin and a light breeze danced through his hair, he found himself to be calm. He found himself to be numb.

He was snuck out the back to avoid the media. They wanted to get him out as quickly as possible, hoping to avoid questions and demands. Yuuri didn’t care what they had to ask. He was happy he didn’t have a camera in his face anymore. He never wanted to be behind the lens of one ever again.

And then he was being taken away from the hospital. He looked back, watching it disappear from view as he was taken further away from Victor – further from his lover, still injured and in that hospital bed. Yuuri wished he could take Victor home with him. He didn’t want this period of separation but he couldn’t postpone seeing his own family either. He didn’t want to make them wait any longer, no matter how badly he wished to stay with Victor.

But before Yuuri knew it, he was at the airport with Minako with the cop by his side. He couldn’t turn back now.

The walk through the airport was something Yuuri didn’t want to do again. There were eyes staring at him, cameras watching him, and Yuuri’s chest tightened with every step he took. There were too many people. There were so many looks, glances, and points of fingers that Yuuri couldn’t stand it. They all knew who he was. They knew he was that ballet dancer who went missing and Yuuri kept his head down. He put up his hood, his eyes down, and hid his face from the surrounding world.

Even on the plane, Yuuri couldn’t find the courage to look up. The cop had gone, leaving just himself and Minako sat on the plane, waiting to go back to Japan. He didn’t know what to do with himself. He chewed his lip, making it worse than before. He bit his nails, nervous and unsure what to do with his hands. He turned his stare to the window, watching the world outside. He needed to distract his beating heart. He needed to keep his mind focused on something other than the growing panic.

But where he tried to focus, Victor remained in his every thought.

He had left Victor all over again. He said his goodbyes without the promise that he’d be back and left Victor alone while he returned home. He reminded himself that Victor was safe. He’d go home too. He’d get better and live his life like before, free and unafraid of being punished or hurt for doing so, but Yuuri couldn’t shake away the regret.

He left so soon. He said his goodbyes while Victor was half conscious. He should have stayed longer. He wished he waited until Victor was completely awake so he could explain everything that was going to happen and how safe Victor would be now. He didn’t think about Victor in this. He made a selfish choice and Victor could easily suffer from that.

And with a sudden pull of his chest, Yuuri knew exactly what he had done.

He hurt Victor again. He made a choice and Victor could be hurt by it. He shouldn’t have been so selfish to think he could just leave like that without it backfiring on Victor. That’s what happened before. That could happen again. He could get hurt and Yuuri couldn’t be there to stop it. He couldn’t protect Victor from that pain. He might need Yuuri and he can’t be there for him. He had to get off the plane. He had to get to Victor – to his lover. He needed to see him again, to protect him and keep him safe and -

And hands were on him. The comforting squeeze on his arm snapped him from his panic and his eyes found Minako’s mouth. She was saying something to him. Her voice was muted behind a blaring ring in his ears and he focused on the words she was saying, trying to read her lips and understand her words. His chest ached and his lungs begged for a breath but he couldn’t shake the fear. He couldn’t convince himself that Victor was fine. He could do nothing other than panic about the unknown.

He wished he didn’t have to put Minako through this.

He eventually calmed down. Her reassuring eyes helped but what really did it was when he realized he had no choice but to stay on the plane. It didn’t ease the panic, but it calmed him down enough to hear Minako’s words.

“You’ll be home soon,” was the first words he heard Minako say. He repeated that in his mind, keeping it on a constant loop until it was all he could think about. “Just try and sleep, okay? We’ll be back sooner than you think.”

But the loud hum of the plane did nothing to help ease Yuuri to sleep. He couldn’t get his mind to settle. He turned to the window but he could feel Minako’s glances – her secret looks to check on him and he grew increasingly agitated with each look. She wanted to talk, Yuuri could tell, but he had no interest in talking. He just wanted to sleep off the twelve-hour flight. He wanted time to speed up, but those eight months trapped in that room proved to him that it could never happen.

Instead, he stared out the window and watched the sea below and the clouds fly by. It had been a long time since he last saw this view. He wished to have seen it sooner.

When the flight landed, Yuuri couldn’t believe it. He was back in his home country – back where he should have been long ago and just the smell of the fresh air outside had him grow tearful. He was back in Japan. He was back home.

There were more police who met him. They introduced themselves and Yuuri hid behind Minako, preferring that she’d deal with talking to them than himself. He couldn’t find the confidence to utter a word at them. He just wanted to get through the airport and go back home – which was his next problem.

The walk through the airport was no different to before. People stared at him and knew who he was. He heard the occasional utter of his name and the whisper of what happened. Yuuri kept his head down and stayed close to Minako’s side. She’d protect him. She wouldn’t hurt him.

The suffocating grasp around his chest didn’t ease until he was sat in Minako’s car. They drove away from the airport and Yuuri was washed in a sense of relief. His chest had eased. His mind somewhat cleared. He felt comfortable enough that although his kidnapping and escape was still fresh in his mind, he didn’t fret. Nobody would hurt him. Nobody could grab him. He was safe and as Yuuri exhaled a long breath, he stared dreamily out the window.

He was back in Japan. He was nearly home.

A light patter began to beat against the window. Yuuri stared at the glass, watching it slowly collect tiny drops of rain. He would have been disappointed if not for his newfound freedom. He could touch it. He could feel it. He could stand out in the rain and feel it tickle his skin with each drop. It had been eight months since he last felt the rain on his skin and Yuuri had an urge. He wanted to remember.

“Can you pull over, please?” He found himself asking. He didn’t look away but he could feel Minako’s eyes on his back, staring at him with confusion.

“…What?” She asked. “Is everything alright?”

“Yeah,” Yuuri nodded. That was the strangest part. Everything was alright – for now. He found the confidence to ask Minako to pull over. He found the courage to take this next step.

And as the car slowly came to a halt, he waited for just a moment. He listened to the rain. It pounded against the car roof, each heavy pat filling his ears with a soothing noise and he smiled softly to himself. He could do this.

“I’ll be back in a minute.”

And with a pull of the car handle, the door clicked open.

The rain that washed the streets clean fell down on the blades of grass and onto the already wet soil. The field ahead was already muddy and filled with deep puddles, tempting Yuuri to run forward and jump in them. They called for him, but Yuuri couldn’t take that step forward. He couldn’t stray too far away from Minako. He turned his head to the gray layered sky instead, lifting his gaze as he watched the pouring rain come down on him. He wanted to get lost in the ambiance and feel it kiss his skin with memories and recollections.

His isolation stole this from him. For eight months, he couldn’t feel the trickle of rain on his skin, not even when the window was open, and Yuuri needed to do this. This was what he wanted. If Minako didn’t understand, he didn’t mind. He knew what he wanted.

His jacket grew heavier and wet. His glasses collected little droplets of water, but Yuuri didn’t mind that. He enjoyed that part of life. He loved feeling each drop that slipped from his hair and soaked his eyelashes. The beads that trickled down his cheeks and joined numerous droplets cooled his skin and soaked his clothes. He closed his eyes and as each patter kissed his skin, he allowed himself time to feel.

He needed to be in this. He needed to feel the chaos of weather – the heavy spill of rain that chilled his bones and made him shiver. It touched his mind and his soul. It eased his fears. And as Yuuri let his tears mix with the rain, he had to remind himself that this was real. He couldn’t believe he was finally free to do this. He could feel the weather again. He could do as he pleased with no consequence and no punishment.

Victor would have loved this. He hoped when it rained where ever Victor was that he’d enjoy it too.

Minako said nothing as Yuuri got back in the car. She neither ask why or question him about his actions and Yuuri was relieved she didn’t. He’d explain it if she had but he knew she wouldn’t understand. She might try to, but nobody could understand that need other than Victor.

They were moving again. Yuuri wanted to watch the world outside but he noticed Minako’s glances again. He caught her stare at the corner of his eye but he kept his own ahead. He still didn’t want to talk but she had something on her mind. She had words to say and Yuuri dropped his gaze, silently wishing for her to stop as he played with his fingers. It bothered him. And he let it agitate him until that one final glance pushed him over the edge.

“If you want to say something to me, just say it,” He snapped. He hadn’t meant for it to sound so harsh but he was getting sick of her looks. He didn’t want her to be scared to talk to him. He didn't want her to fear to ask him about anything. He wasn’t fragile. He wasn’t weak. He didn’t want her to believe that either. “I’m not going to break if you talk to me. Just get it out and over with.”

When her eyes turned back to the road, Yuuri swallowed hard. He may have wanted her to just talk, but he didn’t realize how scared he was of her doing so.

“Yuuri…” She began but paused, her mouth held open as she hesitated to speak. “I have to be honest, there’s so much I want to say but I don’t really know what to say either.”

“Then let me try and make this easier for you,” Yuuri began. He sucked in a deep breath, preparing himself before saying, “If this is about what happened, I’ll try my best to talk about it. I’ll tell you what I can but a lot of it I won’t be able to. So, just ask me and I’ll let you know if I can talk.”

She stayed quiet for a moment. Yuuri glanced at her. Her grasp tightened and her knuckles turned white from her grip. If Yuuri were to ever see Minako be angry, this was it. He didn’t know how to react. It was unexpected. He was scared to ask how she was doing, but she seemed to have answered that before he could even say a word.

“This… this monster who took you…” Her lips pressed tightly together as she exhaled a sharp breath. Yuuri held his own. “Did he take you because you’re a dancer?”

“I… I don’t know,” He admitted. He recalled himself and Victor suspecting that was the case, but he couldn’t give Minako the confident answer that she was looking for. It was only assumptions he could give and he didn’t want to give her assumptions. “I never… we didn’t… he hadn’t told us why he took us. I mean, he didn’t even show his face until…”

Until he was chasing Yuuri. Until he was firing gunshot after gunshot, desperate to stop him from running to get help. Until he was staring at Yuuri with his hand through his hair and a grip that didn’t loosen, no matter how much he struggled and fought back. Until he was –

“I can’t help but blame myself for this.”

His heart was set alight with a torturous beat and yet, he didn’t think to calm it as he shook his head. Minako wasn’t to blame for anything that happened. She wasn’t the reason he was taken. He was angry at the events that led up to his kidnapping. He was angry that he didn’t think of his own danger. There were many things Yuuri was angry at, but Minako wasn’t one of them.

“Don’t…” It was all he could think to say.

“I recommended you audition for that role. I pushed you into doing it, if you remember.” He did remember. He could still recall the day she approached him with a ‘lifetime opportunity’. If only he knew that it would lead to. “If I hadn’t, you wouldn’t have been taken. You would have been home a long time ago and I can’t help but just…”

“I don’t blame you,” Yuuri said as she paused. The last thing he ever wanted her to do was to blame herself. “I’m… angry that it happened. I’m angry at what happened, but you didn’t know and I can’t say you are to blame. It was nobody’s fault. It was nobody but… but him.”

He was the one who caused this. He was the one who hurt Yuuri and Victor and took them away from their lives. He trapped them in that isolated room. He didn’t care what happened to them. He didn’t care how much it mentally scarred them. He did it because… well, Yuuri couldn’t answer why he did it. He still didn’t know, but Yuuri knew he was to blame. The man caused this heartache. The man hurt his family.

“It’s just hard knowing it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t suggested it in the first place,” Minako sighed. Yuuri continued to shake his head.

“And if I hadn’t gone jogging that morning, I could have avoided it. If I hadn’t eaten bad, I could have stopped it. If I hadn’t accepted the role, I could have been safe.” He watched her face for changes. He only saw grief in her eyes – regret that Yuuri wanted to help stop. “You know none of those reasons are why I was taken, so don’t blame yourself for it either.”

“It’s hard not to do so.”

“I know,” Yuuri nodded. His eyes found the outside world again. He was in a place he recognized – a place he called home. He was back in Hasetsu and Yuuri couldn’t help his weak smile. “But I’ve had eight months to tell myself it wasn’t my fault. I hope it’ll take you quicker to realize that.”

Minako didn’t reply. She held a stale expression as she stared ahead and Yuuri couldn’t help his sigh. He tried. He really did, but if Minako blamed herself then Yuuri couldn’t change her mind in an instant. He just hoped his words were enough to help her think about it.

When he felt something warm wrap around his hand – something small and soft – he glanced down. Minako’s hand had taken his own. Her grip squeezed lightly and Yuuri glanced back up. Her eyes fixed ahead, but her face had softened. “We all love you,” She began and Yuuri bit his lip to hide his tearful smile. “You do know that, right?”

Yuuri knew that too well but being told so was much more different. It pulled his chest with a loving warmth and his throat tightened as tears slipped from his eyes. He loved them too. He loved them all so much and his heart began to beat with excitement. He was nearly home.

Pulling up to Yu-topia felt like a dream come true. He returned to the same streets, returned to the same home that hardly moved during his absence. Despite how long he had been away for, he still remembered everything about the place. Nothing had changed and that was nothing but a relief to him. If his own home had changed while he was gone, he wouldn’t know what to think.

He stepped out of the car. He grabbed his suitcase from the trunk. He stood in silence for a moment, gazing upon his home he missed so much and wondered how he’d react to seeing his family again. He knew what he’d do, but the nervous tug at his chest and excitement that churned his stomach had him a jittering mess. Even when Minako gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze, it didn’t help. He watched Minako walk ahead and Yuuri inhaled a breath. This was it.

He followed behind. He walked up to the door, dragging his luggage behind him. The second he stepped inside, his eyes searched for his family. They were nowhere to be seen – nowhere in Yuuri’s sight and he began to bite his nails. They should have known he was coming home. They should have been there, waiting for his return because he was finally back. He was home again.

“Yuuri.”

A familiar voice had Yuuri come to a complete stop. When his eyes fell on the warm and loving face of his mother – Hiroko – his hand dropped and hung by his side. He couldn’t say anything. His words were on his tongue but he couldn’t spill any. He couldn’t even utter a sound. He could only stare at her, eyes so wide and unable to inhale a single breath.

But then Mari appeared behind her. His father, Toshiya, was there too. They were all there with tearful smiles on their faces and as Hiroko stepped forward, Yuuri pressed his trembling hands against his mouth. He wanted to speak but he feared he’d break if he did. He couldn’t move his legs. He couldn’t take that step he desperately wanted to take. He couldn’t meet her halfway, but she came to Yuuri. She gently took his hands away from his mouth and held them in her own. She smiled softly at Yuuri and as a tear slipped down her cheek, Yuuri couldn’t stop himself as he delved forward and into his mother’s arms.

He went without her comfort for eight months. This was long overdue.

His gasping wails filled his ears as he cried so hard – harder than ever before. It mercilessly tugged his stomach with every gasp, every sob, and the pain that flowed through him didn’t end. It could never end. Even when he felt more pairs of arms wrap around him – the arms of Mari and Toshiya – it didn’t ease his eight-month agony. It didn’t calm his tears.

He was home again. He was safe, protected, and surrounded by the people he loved the most.

Safety was the protective embrace of his family. Safety was knowing he’d never see the one who hurt him ever again. He’d never be face to face with that man again. He was safe, protected, and Victor would be too when he returned home. He’d see his loved ones again. He’d be free to hug them and feel safe in their own embraces because Victor deserved that ending. He deserved all the happiness in the world.

Yuuri wept into Hiroko’s shoulder. He could hear her hushing his cries – a supportive hand brushed through his hair but Yuuri wanted to crawl away from it. He wanted the hand to leave as memories of the man flashed through his mind. The hand could grab him. The hand could tug him and drag him away from his family but he knew it was safe. He knew their touches meant no harm, so he bit back his fear and allowed himself to bask in the comforting hug from his family.

“I’m sorry,” He cried. He wasn’t entirely sure why he was apologizing. Perhaps it was for letting himself get taken, or not getting out of the room sooner than he wished. It might have been the horrible grief that tugged his insides with an agonizing pain, and knowing they went through that for eight months made him want to apologize for putting them through it. He wasn’t entirely certain, but he couldn’t find a reason to stop as he cried out another apology, “I’m so, so sorry…”

And none of them spoke a word. They only tightened the embrace, pulling Yuuri further into their arms that only made him feel safe and loved. He missed his family. He missed them so much.

He wasn’t certain how long he stayed in their arms but it was long enough for his trembling legs to hurt and his wound to sting from the pressure of the hug. His tears didn’t stop but his sobbing quietened to rapid sniffs. They silently slipped down his cheeks, staining Hiroko’s shoulder with an endless stream of tears. He wanted to stop them. He wanted to show them he was strong and could keep a smile for them, but it was so hard to do so. He couldn’t find the energy.

But soon, he didn’t have the energy to cry anymore. His mind eased and his breathing settled, calming the fog in his mind. It faded enough for Yuuri to pull back and notice something was missing. There was an absence of another form – not Minako, nor Yuko and her family, but in the shape of his pet.

He searched around his feet but there was no dog in sight. He met Hiroko’s eyes and although the sorrow in them jabbed his chest like a sharp sting, he swallowed back the sob that threatened to escape and asked, “Where’s Vicchan?”

The second they gave each other a glance, Yuuri didn’t need to be told anymore. He didn’t need them to say a word. The silent break of his heart was not heard but felt as pain snapped through it. His heart was broken. The beat in his chest was nothing but a mass of anger, fury, and pain that accumulated into nothing but mindless rage and grief.

“Yuuri… I am so sorry…”

And if Yuuri wasn’t angry before, he certainly was now.

 

Chapter Text

 

Yuuri knew he would have to say goodbye to Vicchan eventually. It was inevitable.

But never had he prepared himself to lose Vicchan while he was gone.

He wished it never went that way.

He long left the comforting embrace of his family. He hadn’t wanted to but he needed to see Vicchan and they understood. They guided him to the shrine and left Yuuri alone for him to grieve in peace. He was thankful for their support.

He knelt in front of Vicchan’s shrine, fists clenched on his lap and his heart pounding dreadfully hard. His throat was tight; the threaten of a sob held back as he kept his lips shut. He didn’t want to begin crying again but it was so difficult to hold it back, especially while staring at a picture of Vicchan sat on the shrine. It was Yuuri’s favorite picture too. He’d smile if not for the grief that mercilessly tugged his heart.

It wasn’t fair. He should have been back home long ago – back with his family to see Vicchan’s last days before he died. He deserved better than to die wondering where his owner was and why he hadn’t been home for so long. Yuuri squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn’t think about that. It hurt too much but no matter how hard he wished, prayed, and begged to go back and change his choices, he could do nothing about the outcome.

He could never forgive himself, but he couldn’t blame himself. That was aimed at only one.

The man had taken Yuuri away from his life, forced him into isolation and distress while subjecting him to tortures that were inhumane and hard to move on from. He mentally hurt Yuuri but he did more than that. He was the reason for the ache in his heart, the grieving he was faced with during his return. He hurt Yuuri, but he hurt his family, his friends, Victor, and now his pet. The man was the cause of every misfortune and tear, but what could Yuuri do to recover from this?

He should have been there for Vicchan when he needed him the most. He should have seen Vicchan during his last days and stay by his side like he wanted, but where the man had taken him, that was forced out of his hands. It was taken away from him. It was pushed aside while Yuuri was uncertain what had changed beyond his captivity and he was furious.

He’d never known anger like it. There was the rage he held towards the kidnapping, the anger towards Minako for blaming herself, and the annoyance at himself leaving Victor so soon, but this was different. It held a scowl on his trembling lips. It filled him with a burning inferno that dug his nails into his palms and gritted his teeth, forcing back the yell and temptation to throw something – the need to release that anger.

He ran a hand over his face, sighing heavily just to take a moment. It was a lot to bear.

He raised his hand, holding it in front of him as he stared at the scar. It meant nothing to him. It was only a wound left behind from his first attempt at escaping. It was his own fault. What really made him huff was the shake. It was the loss of control in his own finger – something the man had caused – that did nothing to ease his fury. He knew if he couldn’t stop the shake now, it could hold him back even further.

It was the man’s fault – the scar, the trembling hand, Vicchan’s death… It was all his fault and as Yuuri stared daggers at his own hand, he scowled and was unable to bite back his own words as he spat, “Stop it.”

His hand continued to shake, going against Yuuri’s mind and demand as if he couldn’t control it anymore.

He recalled back to when it started. He knew exactly when it started, just after he was drugged. He couldn’t stop the tremor since then but he wasn’t certain what exactly caused it. It could easily have been the drug itself, but Yuuri wondered if it was the fear of it nearly killing him that began it all. He wasn’t certain, but whatever had done it, he needed it to stop.

“Stop it,” He forced through gritted teeth. It didn’t stop. No demand could stop it – no willpower, drive, or force would ever keep his hand from shaking and Yuuri wanted to scream.

The need to scream was too much. He wanted to yell and cry and beg for release but the temptation held him back. The thought of his family rushing in, scared that Yuuri was hurt or afraid kept his voice silent.

He glared at his hand. He watched it shake until he could no longer hear his own breathing hidden behind the muffling in his ears. Nothing was heard other than a heavy beating pulse through his ears. It built up a burning rage within. He wanted to throw something. He wanted to hit something to stop his hand from going against him. He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs and release all the pent-up anger and frustration and rage and -

And he wanted payback.

“Yuuri?”

He wanted the man to suffer just as much as he had.

He exhaled a heavy breath and dropped his hand. He glanced over his shoulder. As his eyes fell on Mari, his anger subsided. She held a cigarette in her mouth, deeply inhaling it before exhaling a puff of smoke from her lips. Yuuri could taste the bitter smoke in his throat but did everything he could to hold back a cough.

“I’m fine,” He muttered. She didn’t need to know the anger he held. He didn’t want her help either. Nobody could ease his rage against the man, nothing but his own pain and suffering would satisfy Yuuri.

“Of course, you’re not,” She replied. Yuuri couldn’t even argue with her. She was right, he wasn’t, but she still didn’t need to know and Yuuri turned back. He was here for Vicchan. “You’ve been gone for so long, hurt, and you just found out Vicchan died. You’re not fine. You don’t have to lie to me.”

Yuuri huffed and rolled his eyes. “But what if I don’t want to talk?”

“Then don’t,” She told. He could feel her shrug, her stare, and her confidence to say whatever she needed to say. She wasn’t scared to upset him. She wasn’t scared to say the wrong thing. She faced Yuuri with a confidence and it was just what he needed. He was growing sick of everyone being so skittish around him. Her confidence was refreshing. “You don’t have to talk, so all I’ll ask for you to do is to listen.”

He did that often in the room. He listened for the birds in the morning. He listened out for Victor while he slept, making certain his heavy panting was from a bad dream and not the start of a screaming fit. He listened for the hatch to receive their weekly rations of food. There was a lot to listen for, but in the room, he had no choice but to do so.

As Yuuri shifted, turning to face Mari, he found he couldn’t meet her eyes. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t hold his stare and watch her expression. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but he just couldn’t look.

“I’m listening.”

His eyes were down, gaze fixed on his lap, but he was listening.

“We’re all scared for you,” She began. Yuuri bit the inside of his cheek, choosing something other than his broken lip to chew at. “We don’t know what happened to you while you were gone. We’ve had assumptions and… and have been told a few things, but we don’t know how far it went. All we know is that he hurt you.”

Subconsciously, Yuuri’s hand reached for his shoulder. The wound still ached – a low thump pulsed through – but it felt better than before. He knew she might have been talking mental abuse than the damage caused on his body, but it was a wound that showed. It was a mark left behind by the man. He’d scrub away the scar if he could, but the attempt would be useless.

“And let me guess. You want me to know that you’re here to listen if I want to talk about it?” He asked. He glanced up for only a moment to catch Mari simply staring back. He looked away. “I heard it from Minako-sensei already. I don’t need to hear it from you.”

“I know,” She stated. Yuuri began to pick at his nails. “But I don’t doubt you can pull through this.”

And with that, Yuuri found he couldn’t look away from her. His wide-eyed stare couldn’t turn away, unable to look elsewhere as he watched her take a slow drag from her cigarette. He wasn’t entirely certain himself if he’d pull through as easily as Mari seems to think, but he felt better knowing she believed in him.

“That’s… a relief to hear.”

Mari smiled. It wasn’t as joyful as he wished for it to be, but there was a kindness that made Yuuri feel it was okay to look at her. She wouldn’t hurt him if he stared for too long. She wouldn’t punish him if he kept his eyes ahead.

But he couldn’t convince himself to do so, and as his gaze fell to his lap, he heard her ask, “So you’ll let me know how the hospital goes tomorrow, yeah?”

Yuuri’s brows dropped. “Hospital?”

She paused for a moment. “Did they not tell you what to do when you got back home?” She asked. Yuuri wondered if they had done. There were so many faces talking to him, he hardly remembered anything other than the overwhelming feeling and visiting Victor. His hospital visit was mostly a blur. He just shrugged and that was enough for her to tell him more. “It’s just what happens now – where to go and who to talk to, diagnose disorders and problems… Really, they want to discuss your mental health with a professional.”

“Oh. Great.” He wasn’t looking forward to it. He didn’t need to be told what he already knew about himself. He didn’t want to talk about himself and the situation. He’d rather just sleep in his bed and hide away from a world that hurt. “So, I’ll be seeing a therapist?”

“And a psychologist, too,” she added. “You’re not the only one they want to speak to. The rest of us will have to go sometimes too.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. I imagine so we know how to help but don’t hold my word for that,” She answered. He glanced up at her for a second, catching her eyes still on him and he turned away. There was a look that wanted to ask more – a look that Yuuri didn’t want to meet because this discussion felt too long already. He just wanted to stay silent. It was safe that way. “You… you do want to go, right?”

Yuuri sighed heavily. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go. He had mixed feelings about discussing his situation with someone and their journal was written for this reason. He’d rather avoid bringing up the pain and suffering again.

“If I could forget it ever happened or even refuse to believe it, I’d do it.” He’d do it in a heartbeat if it meant forgetting that man’s face, but he wasn’t going to tell Mari that. “It feels easier that way, but that won’t help me. I’d like to get better for you guys and for… for Victor.”

She didn’t speak immediately. She stayed silent until Yuuri eventually heard her say, “Good,” and he released a long breath. “At least you want to get better.” He caught her feet turning, disappearing around the corner as she walked out of the room and Yuuri turned back to Vicchan’s shrine. He still had his goodbyes to say.

“Oh,” Her voice was back. Yuuri glanced over his shoulder, watching the clock tick behind her than staring at her own two eyes. “And it’s good to have you back.”

And for the first time since he escaped, Yuuri’s smile was big and real. It warmed his chest and it thrilled him to know how pleased they were for his return. He didn’t doubt they’d feel anything other than happy, but the fear sat in his mind – the doubt did what it did best.

“It’s good to be back,” He replied and caught Mari’s own smile before she turned and left the room once again, leaving Yuuri alone with his pet’s shrine and grieving to do.

 


 

 

When Yuuri found himself back in his childhood bedroom, he touched everything.

He was like a child again. He was touching things he knew he’d be annoyed by if they moved out of place. He was prodding at what he could, picking things up and wiping off the dust that collected during his time away. He needed to investigate. He wanted to remember everything inside his room – everything that hadn’t moved an inch.

The memories were sweet. They filled his heart with warmth and love from a past that felt so long ago. He felt a tingle grow in his fingers and toes, much like when he was anxious but instead of worry, it was warm. The memories of old photographs had him smile and his favorite games he played during his free time called his name, but he wished to dwell on the finer details. He savored every inch of the room, taking in its memories with gentle touches and smiles.

He hadn’t felt happiness like that in a while. The joy of knowing he was home had him want to tuck himself under the bed sheets and bask in the softness and comfort of his bed, but where happiness laid, his fears remained somewhere within that joy. No matter how much he laughed, smiled, and enjoyed his freedom, he could never find happiness like he used to be.

His feet began to drag along the floor as exhaustion took over, but he stayed awake a little while longer. He wasn’t finished remembering. There was a type of tired that needed a good night sleep, but then there was Yuuri’s tired – the one which needed so much more. His bones were heavy, his mind was hazy, and Yuuri knew he should sleep when he found himself lying on his bed.

He prayed for a good night sleep now he was home but he suspected otherwise. He was completely exhausted but it didn’t encourage his eyes to close. It didn’t sweep him into a blissful sleep. His eyes remained unfocused and blurred, even with his glasses still on.

He noticed the door. It was open wide, welcoming any stranger into his room and Yuuri knew he should close it. He’d rather do so but he could neither find the energy or courage to do so. If he closed it, he’d trap himself. He’d be locked behind yet another door and he needed to see that freedom to feel safe. He needed that door to be open, so if that escape was needed, he had it. He couldn’t close it. He didn’t want to.

He had another idea.

He heavily pushed himself to his feet and lazily moved to the door. His limbs protested with a soft burn made his legs ache, but Yuuri ignored the pain just so he could put a shoe by the door. He closed it and watched as the shoe blocked the door from closing completely. He exhaled a breath and nodded to himself. It was enough for him to feel comfortable. He could get out if he wanted and he had the privacy he needed.

He reached for the light switch but froze up. His hand was shaking, quaking in fear as Yuuri’s blood ran cold. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t breathe. All that went through his mind was an instant fear – a terror towards the darkness. The idea of sitting in complete darkness, unable to see his surroundings and no be completely certain where he was made him pull his hand back. He’d feel like he was back in the room again. That fear was still fresh in his mind, reminding Yuuri what it was like and he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t go through that again.

He sucked in a breath and turned. The overhead light was too bright – much brighter than the one in the room and he couldn’t sleep in that brightness. He needed something dim. He needed something that’ll give the room some light but not so much that it hurt his eyes, and as his eyes fell on the lamp on his desk, he switched that on instead.

The room was dimly lit, the door slightly open, and Yuuri looked around. He couldn’t say he felt completely fine but it was the best he felt in a while. He was home, safe, and as he dragged himself back to the bed and fell on the comforter, resting his weary feet, he could finally snuggle up in his own bed.

He pressed his cheek to the cold side of his pillow, pulled the thick and irresistibly soft comforter over his body, and he laid in his own bed for the first time in too long. A warmth surrounded him, protecting him from the scary world outside and Yuuri smiled to himself as he closed his eyes, waiting to succumb to sleep. He still couldn’t believe he was here.

But his mind refused to settle. His eyes snapped open when fear struck his heart or a bump was heard in the night. It was making sleep harder to grasp, but more than that, it was becoming much harder to stay calm. It was so quiet –peaceful. It was easy for his mind to get lost in his emotions and pull him into a sense of dread and despair, making him sit up in his bed and remember all the hurt and pain he endured.

The long list of emotions had him mumble and whine, but nothing set his tears free until he succumbed to a feeling of regret. He couldn’t calm his mind – his body, and Yuuri’s hand pressed against his mouth to silence his sobbing from his family as he cried.

He hated himself for leaving Victor so soon. His choice was selfish and thoughtless that he didn’t even think for a second what Victor would need from him. He left Victor to wake up alone in that hospital room, wondering where he was while Yuuri was back home and safe. He should have waited. He should have made sure somebody would be there for Victor before he even thought of leaving, but he hadn’t. He left so soon. He hurt Victor in more ways than he ever wanted.

The last time he made a selfish choice, Victor endured days of immobility and blindness. This time, he’d wake up alone in yet another room, uncertain of his safety and wondering where Yuuri went.

The man had told him that first choice was his fault. He caused Victor to go through that pain and it seemed he had done it again. He hurt Victor more than he ever wanted. He left him alone when Victor needed him the most.

The man was right.

Yuuri could hear his voice in his mind. The man scolded him for what he had done and threatened him with the same torture he suffered with before. His voice was loud and his face refused to leave Yuuri’s mind. He wanted it to stop and forget those eyes of evil but he couldn’t. His scars were enough of a reminder. The mental trauma did enough to bring back memories he wanted to forget – flashbacks that hit him with a force like lightning that shocked his chest and made him hate himself more than he already did.

Yuuri could hear his voice in his mind, scolding him for what he had done and threatening him with the same threats he suffered with before. His voice was loud, his face refused to leave Yuuri’s mind.

He couldn’t hold back. A loud, heartbreaking cry fell from his lips, one he couldn’t hide behind his hands as he wept loudly into his pillow. He hurt Victor again. He didn’t help him in the way he should have done and Yuuri couldn’t keep that regret bottled up any longer.

He hated himself. He hated what he had done. He hated everything and more as he cried that night – longer than he did his first day in the room.

 

Chapter Text

 

“How have you been since you’ve came back home?”

Yuuri’s nerves had him want to laugh, but the churning in his gut and rapid shake of his leg made his brain stutter and forget words. He didn’t know how to respond.

“Uh…” He swallowed thickly. He should tell the truth. He should admit his anger, fear, and insecurities he’s suddenly felt since arriving. “F-Fine.”

Yuuri wanted to slap himself.

The psychologist gave a polite smile. It didn’t help Yuuri feel less nervous, and neither did the doubt in his psychologist’s eyes. Yuuri gaze dropped to his desk, eyeing the pot of pens that sat by a picture frame. He couldn’t see the photograph.

“I understand that you might be nervous or scared right now.” Yuuri looked up. He wasn’t looking back, but his eyes were down at a file sat in front of him. Yuuri could breathe a little easier knowing the psychologist’s eyes weren’t on him anymore. “But let me assure you this will give you the help you’ll need to come back into society.”

“Okay,” Yuuri nodded as he exhaled a breath. His mind cleared up and words could make sense to him now, he just wasn’t entirely certain where to begin. “Well, I’ve been… scared. I couldn’t sleep well last night and every little noise I heard scared me. I’ve been feeling regretful, but that ones a lot more complicated…” He thought hard about everything else. He didn’t want to talk about his anger, but that was one emotion that seemed to take control. He exhaled a long breath. “And I’ve been angry. I’ve been really angry, quite a lot too. And at everything, really.”

“Even at your family?” The psychologist asked, meeting Yuuri’s stare and Yuuri turned his away in an instant, choosing to stare intently at the ground.

“Sometimes?” He questioned. He wasn’t even sure himself. “They can say something to me and I know they’re trying to help but it just… isn’t. That mostly annoys me, really. I get annoyed at them then at myself for feeling that way.”

“It’s easy to grow frustrated with your loved ones when they try to help, but we can help you overcome that,” The psychologist assured but Yuuri didn’t feel any better knowing so. If anything, he was more annoyed that he let himself get to that stage. “Are they the only cause of your anger?”

Yuuri shook his head. “It’s mostly everything else,” He said and in the corner of his eye, he saw the psychologist lean forward. His gaze was closer and Yuuri refused to look up. His heart was pounding. “It’s my regret, what happened, and who did this to me that’s making me angry. It’s everything over the last eight months and it’s all just… hit me. It’s piled on top of me and I hate every moment of it.”

He was trembling. His fingers dug into the arms of the chair and his mouth held a harsh scowl. If he had explained it in further detail, he couldn’t be certain he could stop himself from yelling. All that anger and rage didn’t just build up inside of him. It set alight like a rapid fire, unstoppable and burning ever higher.

“It’s quite overwhelming returning back to society after what you’ve been through.” Yuuri heard his voice speak. He looked up. Eyes met and Yuuri wanted to hold it, but the pounding of his heart and inability to hold the stare had him look away. He just couldn’t. “But just remember that you survived this. You got out. You’re strong and walking around as a free man. That’s all because of you.”

And with a deep breath, Yuuri’s rage eased. He was right, Yuuri had survived it. He was the one who helped himself and Victor escape, even if it ended with injuries. The outcome was far greater than it could have been. He could have failed. He could have gotten caught and dragged back into that room, or even killed, but he hadn’t. He escaped.

He’d smile if not for the sudden sorrow that washed through him. He was a free man now, that was true, but he didn’t feel it. His idea of freedom was returning home and going back to his life like before, dancing for fun and laughing without fear. His idea of freedom was fearlessness and yet, fear succumbed him into a state of terror and rage.

He may be out of the room, but he couldn’t say he was completely free from the man’s grasp.

“I feel like I’ve lost my voice,” He frowned, staring aimlessly at the pot of pens without focus or interest. He was lost in his thoughts – lost in everything that hurt. “I’m free but I don’t feel like it. I’m scared of so much. I’m scared to make my own choices because they were always punished and I…”

His free will was controlled, used, and manipulated. It was used against him if the man didn’t like what he did or chose to do, and that alone was enough to push Yuuri back into submission – back to how life was like in the room. If he didn’t make a mistake, he didn’t get hurt. If he followed the rules, Victor would be okay.

He inhaled a shaky breath and pressed his palms to his eyes, holding back the tears that threatened to spill. He was already so tired of feeling this way. He was free now. He just wanted to be back to who he used to be.

“Our number one goal will be to help you find your voice,” He heard the psychologist say. He breathed in heavily and nodded, hands still over his eyes because he could feel the tears coming. He wanted them to stop. “So much of your world had been about having your choices made for you, but we’ll look on helping you learn otherwise, and that you can make your choices yourself without consequence or fear.”

He dropped his hands and turned his eyes to the window by his right. Not long ago, he had seen nothing for a forest for eight months – a view from a small rectangular window, too high to see without the help of Victor. It was amazing how even the smallest details were enough to remind Yuuri of his freedom.

“So, we don’t have to talk about what happened?” He asked.

“Not to me,” The psychologist said and Yuuri turned. His eyes were down on the file again and Yuuri crossed his arms to hide his crossed fingers, silently praying that his gaze wouldn’t look up. “Unless you feel comfortable enough to do so?”

As his eyes looked up to meet Yuuri’s, his own unconsciously dropped. “No,” He said, shaking his head. He wasn’t ready to do that.

“I’m here to help you improve your life,” He continued and Yuuri inhaled hard and nodded. He’d like for that to happen. He wanted to get better. “I’ll help determine what is the next best step for you and your recovery, diagnose any conditions, and help you break past the barriers that’ll hold you back. But the question I have is are you ready to take those steps?”

Yuuri didn’t need to think about it. He nodded fast, completely ready to get better. He wanted to do this for himself, for his family, and for Victor. If he could get better, he’d have his freedom back. He’d be free. He’d be out of the man’s shackles, away from his control and living life like he should have.

He had his life to get back and as Yuuri met the eyes of the psychologist, he smiled and gave a definite nod. “I’m ready,” He said.

 


 

“So, how was it?”

Yuuri looked away from the car window and towards Mari. “Oh, it was good,” He nodded. “Insightful mostly, but it did help me know what to do next so it’s nice to know where I’m heading.”

“That’s good,” She said and paused. Silence filled the car, not even the radio was on and the temptation to fill the void with a noise was inviting. He eyed the radio hoping to convince himself to just switch it on. He can listen to music now. He was allowed to. “Are you going to see a therapist or something?”

“Yeah, twice a week starting tomorrow,” He replied and she nodded. He looked back outside, thinking back to the session. “It’s called cognitive therapy. Ever heard of it?”

She shook her head. “Sounds a little weird to me.” Yuuri gave a breathy chuckle and shook his head. “Why not just therapy?”

“It technically is, but it’s for a certain treatment,” He replied. “It’s supposed to help me view myself in a better way, help certain thoughts and change the way I think. It’s my mentality they’re worried by and with my anxiety history, they’re more concerned about that than anything.”

Mari nodded along, listening to every word and Yuuri appreciated it. He was pleased she was trying to understand. “But your anxiety is okay… right?”

His heart skipped a beat, jolting in sudden shock of the question. He chewed his lip in thought. “It’s… tricky,” He sighed. “I won’t lie, Mari. I feel anxious all the time. It might just be fear but it’s sitting in my mind and it won’t go away. I question everything I do and I’m scared it’ll hurt me or someone else I care about.”

“You know that won’t happen, right?” Mari asked as if it was the easiest thing to say. He knew that. He knew it too well but knowing so and doing so were two separate things – two things he was struggling with.

“Yeah,” He sighed. “I know.”

There was a pause again and Yuuri couldn’t handle it any longer. His hand shot out, turning on the radio and changing channels until he found one he liked. A song filled the car and Yuuri’s heart raced. He wasn’t sure why he was so nervous.

“Are they going to do anything about your hand?”

“What?” He asked but then he remembered. The tremor in his hand. The shake that couldn’t stop and Yuuri looked down. It was still going. “Oh, yeah. Uh, he prescribed me with some medication to see if it’ll help, otherwise, we’ll go from there.”

“So, it’s possible to stop it?” She asked and Yuuri nodded.

“Yeah, thankfully,” He smiled. He was pleased himself to know there was a way to stop it. “I don’t think I can be that graceful of a ballet dancer with a shaking hand.” He laughed to lighten the mood, but it came out more nervous than humorous and Mari didn’t laugh along with him. He cleared his throat and looked away. He felt stupid.

He noticed Mari’s eyes glancing to his hand. It was just like Minako again and Yuuri put his hands in his jacket pocket. He didn’t want to be secretly looked at again. He just wanted them to ask.

But unlike Minako, Mari did ask.

“He didn’t just hurt you with that gunshot, did he?”

Yuuri looked up. He had Deja vu, back to when Minako had a very similar talk with him. Their reactions were similar too – hands tightly grasping the wheel, lips pressed together tight. Her eyes held rage as they stared ahead but Yuuri didn’t want to see her angry. He didn’t want her to let the man get to her too.

He turned away, stared through the window, and muttered, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

He really, really didn’t want to tell her the pain the man put him through. He’d rather her not know the truth. He’d rather her stop her guesses and just accept that he was back home. He was safe. He didn’t need to be taken back to that room through memories just to let his curious family know truths they’ll regret hearing afterwards.

Even in his freedom, the man was there. He was in Yuuri’s mind, in the thoughts of his family as they wondered what he did to him, and in his every word and action. The man never left. The man had made his mark, and Yuuri wished he could forget.

He suddenly heard his name and it wasn’t Mari who said it. His eyes shot to the radio, listening to it mention his own captivity. They spoke about him and Victor, repeating the story that he knew too well for news purposes, but the second Yuuri heard them mention the man with the use of his real name, Yuuri stopped breathing. His heart raced and his hands grew clammy, shaking in the pockets of his jacket. He couldn’t move. He was frozen, stuck as he stared ahead.

The world fell silent. A booming thump pulsed through his ears, muting Mari’s voice as she spoke to him. He watched her lips, noting that she was saying something but he couldn’t hear her. He couldn’t focus. He fell into a blank state, consumed by the man’s name that replayed in his mind.

Zach Bryceson.

If a name could cause that much terror, the man himself would strike fear in Yuuri’s heart that would last a lifetime.

“Yuuri, we’re home.”

They were the first words Yuuri heard. He was home. He was safe.

He was too concerned of his own safety to hear what else Mari had to say and he shot out of the car. He didn’t look back. He needed to get to safety and away from what reminded him of the man, but too much was a reminder. Everything brought him back to Yuuri’s mind and all he knew was to get out. He needed to find safety, get away from his fears, and be with the people who protected him. Nobody would grab him here. He was safe.

“Yuuri?” Hiroko was suddenly there. She was holding his hands, staring at him like the camera once did. Yuuri’s hands trembled in her grasp. “Are you alright?”

Her eyes never looked away and Yuuri wanted to turn back. He couldn’t meet her stare, but the longer he did, the harder his chest pounded. It ached and burned. His head was thumping. He couldn’t stay there and he didn’t stop his legs as he pulled himself away, striding away to safety – to the protection of his room.

He didn’t think as he slammed the door shut. The action itself startled him and snapped him from his daze as he realized what he had just done. He slapped his hands against his mouth, stifling the terrified scream that nearly slipped from his lips. He had locked himself in. He was trapped inside. He was stuck with no way out and Yuuri’s breathing didn’t ease. His chest was tightening. The walls were closing in on him and Yuuri gasped for each breath.

He couldn’t escape. He couldn’t breathe.

There were hands on his back. Yuuri gradually came to again, lifting his head from the ground as he looked around him. He hadn’t realized he dropped to the floor. His family were around him, helping him up to his legs and guiding him to his bed. His face was still wet with tears and his heart pounded so hard, it ached. He slowly eased back into reality as he felt the support and love surrounding him. His family was there. The door was open. Yuuri exhaled a relieved breath.

He was with his family and they wouldn’t hurt him. They wouldn’t lock him away.

He was fine. He was safe.

 


 

Yuuri wasn’t entirely certain what to do with himself anymore.

His newfound freedom was great. He wouldn’t trade it for the world. Yuuri’s only problem was that he had so much he could do, he wasn’t certain exactly what he should do.

He was free to do whatever he liked. He could walk outside along the beach, enjoy the sunset in the open and appreciate life for what it was worth. He could use his laptop, look on the internet and catch up with everything he missed. He could even eat whenever he wanted. There was no strict diet to follow - no rations of food he had to be cautious about. He could eat and eat and nobody could stop him.

Nobody but himself, anyway.

Yuuri thought knowing he could do more would help him fall back into old routines, but he wasn’t even certain one existed. He used to do what he liked, when he needed to, without any order or control. That was too spontaneous and he couldn’t do it anymore. He needed a guideline. He had to make certain his living outside of the room didn’t differ too much to how it was inside. He was free, yes, but he couldn’t upset his family by being careless. He couldn’t hurt them by making a mistake. If he was good, nothing went wrong. They’d be safe.

What was truly hard was keeping control of time. He was too aware it existed – too cautious of the moments wasted. He’d watch the clock like a hawk, causing his days to drastically slow as he counted down the minutes until his next meal. He had to watch it. He needed to prepare for each and every day.

It was so strange. Even after his escape, he couldn’t bounce back into reality as easily as he hoped. He couldn’t treat his home like home, but another room he was living in – another place he had to be good and follow the rules. The worst part was he did all this without even thinking.

He first noticed it after his panic attack. Hiroko made him katsudon to feel better and to give him a treat. Yuuri had eaten it but he couldn’t finish. His stomach protested after eating half, declining any more food to go in and Yuuri’s first thought was to put it away as leftovers for another day. He could eat it again instead of wasting it and starving. He hadn’t even realised he was doing so until Hiroko called him out in it.

“Where you not hungry?” She had asked, eyeing the unfinished katsudon in Yuuri’s hand. Yuuri shrugged in response.

“I couldn’t finish it,” He replied. “I can eat some tomorrow. At least I won’t be wasting it and go hungry again.”

A pain flashed through her face and Yuuri’s chest aches with the realisation of what he said. He caught his tongue and kept his lips shut, opting to stay silent than explain himself.

But he didn’t need to say anything. She already knew. Yuuri’s words were enough to tell her another pain he went through and her list was growing. She was slowly learning the tortures he went through during his captivity, and now starvation was on the list.

“You won’t ever have to go hungry again, you know that, yes?” She asked him as she took his hands in her own. Yuuri bit his lip and nodded. He knew. He truly did, he just didn’t realize what he had said… or done. “You won’t be wasting it if you don’t eat it. I can always make some more. You’ll always have food Yuuri, okay?”

Yuuri smiled and nodded. He believed her words. She gave him a final look before turning, leaving the kitchen and Yuuri to be alone.

He kept the leftover katsudon. He couldn’t bring himself to waste food. It was too precious - too valued.

And then it was a new day - his first therapy session. By the time he finished, he wasn’t sure what to make of it.

He wasn’t expecting a miracle more than he was hoping for one. He prayed that the one session would be enough to help him recover quickly and gain the strength to say a temporary farewell to his family and see Victor, but it was never that easy. His recovery was a long and tedious process, and Yuuri was determined to see it through until the end.

His therapist was a nice lady with a name he couldn’t remember. She used the first session to get to know him, asking him about himself, what his hobbies were and what he liked to do during his free time. He didn’t realize how hard it was to answer those questions until he couldn’t think of anything other than his free time in the room. In there, he’d read a book or talk to Victor. He’d watch the same movie on repeat or daydream about his escape. That was his free time for eight months. That was all he knew. He couldn’t remember what he used to do before he was taken. He tried, he just couldn’t remember.

She said she understood. She didn’t rush him or force him into finding an answer. If he couldn’t, she’d try to help him conclude one. She’d ask him how he felt about it. She’d do what she could to help Yuuri feel somewhat satisfied with the answer he gave, but sometimes, it brought back memories and anger he didn’t want to feel.

“What do you do with yourself now you’re back home?” She had asked, causing Yuuri to stop and think for a moment.

“I just… hang around my family,” He answered, holding his stare to the ground. Even with a woman he knew would help him, he couldn’t look her way. “If I can’t stand the silence or loneliness, I watch them. It’s nice to see them do what they want without being scared of doing so. It helps me feel a sense of… satisfaction, if that makes sense?”

Just like in the room, he’d spend his free time watching Victor – sometimes where they talked, others in silence. Yuuri was finding it hard to separate his captivity from his freedom and he hated it. He despised every second of it. Where he watched someone, another watched him. Another held him captive, forced him away from his family, and kept his voice silent from the world.

But Yuuri would rather be watched by another than feel the heartache from his nightmares.

His nightmares never ended. They were vivid, too intense to forget and plagued Yuuri’s mind for days. He’d see Victor and the man. He’d see the man with Vicchan. He’d be alone with the man, trapped in a small room that was closing in on him with no way out, and a gun pointing at him that struck Yuuri’s chest with such a pain, he’d snap awake, panting heavily with his face wet with tears.

They never ended. He had yet to have a night without a nightmare.

He had some nights where he could cope. If he didn’t sleep, it helped. He’d sometimes wake up and cry for a while to get it out of his system, then mess around on his phone until morning came. He could handle it that way, but when the nightmares were too harsh, he couldn’t cope. He’d wake up with his family around him, hushing his cries and reassuring him he was safe and nobody would hurt him anymore.

But in the mix of terror and hurt, he never believed them.

He didn’t want to worry them. He could handle his nightmares by himself but those that were just that little too much were out of his control. He couldn’t stop them. He couldn’t keep himself from screaming and alerting his family, scaring them with the thought he was having a nightmare or a breakdown. He hated it. He really wished he could control it.

But while his days started with tears, others continued on to be a little better. It had been a week since he returned home when he was given a new phone. His day had gotten better already.

“We know they couldn’t find your old one,” Hiroko told him while he was sat eating breakfast. “So, we didn’t want you to go without one.”

Yuuri wanted to cry. It was a sweet gift and the phone was better than his last. He didn’t cry, but he made sure to give his family a hug they deserve and a thousand ‘thank you’s’ for the gift. He couldn’t believe they had done this for him, but while he wanted to stay for a little longer with them, he didn’t want to waste setting it up, either.

His original plan was to back up all his music and photos from his laptop to his phone. He could relive old memories with his friends and Vicchan that would make him smile, but he had an opportunity in his hands. He could search online for Victor, see where he was and if he was okay.

He knew he shouldn’t be doing so. He had been avoiding the news since he came back home, afraid to hear or see the man be mentioned and have another attack again, but where they spoke about the man, Victor would be mentioned too. He could look and find his answers, but just the thought itself made his heart race and his hands grow clammy with nerves. He wanted to do it. He needed to do it, but the fear and the agony that struck his gut… he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t gain the courage to do so.

But intrigue always pulled him in. His curiosity was trying to get the better of him. He was getting closer with each time he picked up his phone, slowly getting closer until he was nearly there. He had Victor’s name written out, he just had to press ‘search’. He had one last step to do.

He prepared himself with sharp intakes of breaths. He had to calm his heart. He had to clear his mind and be certain on what he’d do if the worst happened. He made a vow to just read the first headline he saw. His temptation to find out more wouldn’t be worth the panic it could cause. He had to think of himself too. He had to play it safe.

His heart jolted as he clicked search, but the first headline he saw washed him in a wave of relief.

Victor Nikiforov returns home after kidnapping.

It was simple. It was what Yuuri wanted to hear. It answered one of his questions, but not all of them. It didn’t explain if he was okay or how serious his injuries were. It was vague, but enough for Yuuri to feel a little better. It wasn’t exactly what he was hoping for, but he could accept it. He could leave it at that.

A video caught his eye. It didn’t seem to be a news clip or anything to do with their kidnapping, but Yuuri’s assumption was Victor’s skating. His head tilted, eyeing the video for a few moments just to be certain. It seemed safe. He found himself becoming tempted again and as he clicked the video, his assumption was confirmed to be true. It was Victor skating.

Yuuri watched it. It didn’t take him long to get completely lost in Victor’s dancing and found himself watching another video, and then another. It made Yuuri smile. He enjoyed watching them and he soon moved on to watching interviews with him too, just to feel closer to him. It filled the void in his chest. It gave him a temporary feeling of fulfilment and comfort, just what Yuuri needed to help himself cope.

Victor was more famous than he expected. He was aware he was a popular athlete, but he didn’t realize how big Victor’s fame was. He shouldn’t be surprised. He had heard Victor’s name before – a brief mention somewhere along his timeline. He was aware of Victor’s existence before he met him in the room, but he hadn’t remembered him as well as he wished he did.

Victor was more than just an incredible skater, but he was beautiful when dancing too. Yuuri was mesmerized by who he saw skating on the ice. He enjoyed watching Victor’s routines, but the sorrow that weighed heavily in his chest brought up thoughts he didn’t want to question.

The Victor he saw on the ice was different to the Victor he met in captivity. He met the Victor who knew nothing but isolation, loneliness, and craved human interaction so desperately that it seemed hard to believe they were the same person. The Victor he knew was hurt and lost, left to his own mind for over a year and it broke Yuuri’s heart that little bit more.

But as Yuuri watched more videos, he began to wonder how true that was.

Yuuri might just know the Victor who had been through nothing but pain and heartache, but that didn’t shape him as a person. Victor was still there – still beneath that wave of sorrow and Yuuri was determined to discover the rest of him. He had seen Victor be vulnerable. He had seen Victor through his sorrows and grieving, sadness and pain. He knew a side of Victor nobody else had seen, and while he refused to take pride in that, it only made him grow excited for their future.

Yuuri had yet to meet a happy Victor – one who was carefree and confident, whose smile was shaped like a heart and joked with people. The careless and free to say what he thought Victor, the one who was unafraid and thriving. There was an entire side of Victor he had yet to meet, a side he wanted to know. There was more of Victor to discover and Yuuri couldn’t wait to speak to him again.

But Yuuri had to see him again. He had to speak to him again, which brought Yuuri back to square one: lost for ideas on how to actually get in contact with Victor.

It was hard to think of ideas when all Yuuri to think of was Victor. He hardly left his mind. He knew Victor was home and safe and he was so pleased to know that. He had kept his promise to Victor. He got him home, and Yuuri was proud of himself for that.

What he wasn’t proud of was his quick departure. If he stayed for a little longer, he could have made sure Victor found his note. He could have been certain that they’d establish a way to keep in touch with each other, but he hadn’t. He left so soon. He didn’t play it safe. He missed Victor, more than ever.

Vicchan’s death caused grief that kept him up late, crying from loss and wishing his pet was there to hug. Victor brought an even harsher pain in his chest – a piece that was missing which hurt and ached with every second he wasn’t there. Yuuri was an emotional mess. He wanted to eat for comfort, but that was how it went wrong last time. He wanted to get in contact with Victor, to speak to him and see him and tell him how much he missed him during his absence, but he couldn’t do that, not until he found a way to do so.

His ideas were useless, his planning was poor, and Yuuri just wanted to wallow in self-pity and hope his problems fixed themselves.

But for Yuuri, wallowing in self-pity meant complaining to Mari, whether she wanted to hear his problems or not. He had always done this when there was nobody else to talk to. He had yet to still visit Yuko. He couldn’t talk to his parents about this. Mari was his last hope – one he prayed had his answers.

He knew how to grab her attention. He’d say he wanted to talk about something and she’d become alert, awake, and ready to listen to whatever he had to say. She’d expect him to admit his fears or discuss his disappearance, but that wasn’t quite what he had in mind.

He spent the morning talking to her about it over breakfast. He noticed midway through his explanation that she realized it wasn’t what she expected. Her face slowly dropped, her cigarette burned out, and she held a face that silently asked if he was really being serious and he was. Every word was serious.

“So…” She began as he finished talking. He waited with anticipation. “You wanted to talk to me about… boyfriend problems?”

“I’m being serious!” He argued. It wasn’t quite boyfriend problems, but just problems. “I don’t know what to do. I need to speak to him again and see if he’s alright, but I don’t know how to contact him. I haven’t heard back from him and I don’t know if he wants to speak to me anymore. I just need answers. I just need to know if he’s okay.”

“He’s not long got home,” Mari said, not that it helped Yuuri feel better but it was a nice reminder. “He’s probably spending his time with his family, just like you are.”

It didn’t answer his questions. Victor was with his family but that didn’t mean he was okay. He could be going through the same as Yuuri – surrounded by people who cared and supported him, but who couldn’t stop his nightmares in the dead of night. He could be struggling to adjust his mind outside of the room, finding it difficult to believe he was free and safe. Victor was surrounded by his family. They’d make him feel love and protected, but they couldn’t stop his suffering. Yuuri’s own couldn’t help his nightmares or ease his sudden panic. Their help was limited, and Victor’s help was too.

He groaned aloud and pressed his hands to his face. He really didn’t know what to do. He needed to be there for Victor. He wanted to help Victor, to hug and kiss him like before and reassure each other of their strengths. They were both safe. They were free from the man, but Yuuri still felt empty. He missed Victor, and more than he let himself believe.

His head fell into his arms as he laid them on the table, uninterested in Mari’s help. He heard her sigh as she moved away but Yuuri didn’t look up. He didn’t care for what went on around him anymore. He was miserable. He just wanted to see Victor.

The room grew loud with chatter, but Yuuri’s ears perked at a few conversations. He could hear the TV in the background, Hiroko speaking on the phone, and Toshia speaking with a guest. He listened in, hearing someone reply back in English. Their voice held an accent and Yuuri’s brows dropped. It wasn’t often they had English guests in Hasetsu, but he didn’t care enough to look. If it wasn’t Victor, then it wasn’t worth his worry.

“Uh, hi.” That voice… It was Russian. “Is Katsuki Yuuri here?”

And then it hit him.

Their voice, the Russian accent, it was unmistakable to the person who owned it. It was the only voice Yuuri heard for eight months – the voice that warmed his heart and made it race with life. He slowly raised his head, eyes wide and breath held as he stared ahead. He couldn’t believe his assumption. He couldn’t be right.

His head slowly turned, and as blue eyes met brown, Yuuri couldn’t hold back his loud gasp. He knew exactly who it was. His hands were trembling as one rested over his lips, hiding the shake in his breath. He couldn’t speak, but only utter as he exhaled a single name.

“Victor?”

 

Chapter Text

Victor’s fingers twitched; a wave of nausea swept him in and out from his senses, slowly bringing him forth with a groan. He was lying on something soft. His fingertips stroked along what he was on, feeling something that was soft as silk. He was so comfortable. It was a cloud of warmth surrounding him, snuggling him into a sense of security as he slowly opened his eyes.

His eyes stung at the light and he squeezed them shut again, shielding them from the brightness that was around him. He raised his hand to rub his eyes but as his fingers touched his skin, a tender ache rushed through his face. He groaned loudly but the pain helped him slowly become aware of himself and his surroundings. Through squinted eyes, he raised his head and took in the unfamiliar environment.

He wasn’t in the room anymore. It was an entirely new place, one he’d never been to before and he laid his head back on his pillow, sighing delightfully.

The realization hit him with a force of thunder. His eyes shot open and his heart raced. He sat up fast; the rush causing his head to spin and an agonizing ache to shock through his entire body. He hurt so much. He exhaled a desperate, weak groan and breathed heavily for a moment, adjusting to the pain and panic that once it subsided, he allowed his eyes to search around the room.

It wasn’t his prison anymore. It was too colorful with the light blue walls and his bed was much softer than before. A large window sat to his right but it was just too far for him to see anything more than the clear blue sky and building tops. He looked down at his arms, finding tubes connected to himself and to machinery around him. The room was unfamiliar to him – brand new and so different to his old one. It was open, spacious and… and bright.

It was a hospital room he was sat inside; a hospital meant safety. It meant comfort.

His heart refused to settle as it pounded against his aching chest. His frantic eyes searched over his body, but the warm blush on his cheek pulled his mind away from the aches and pains. He touched his cheek – touching where he still felt Yuuri’s soft hand on his skin. His fingertip traced away from his cheek, moving to feel his chapped lips. Yuuri’s kiss lingered, leaving behind a tingling sensation that even when Victor licked his dry lips, it remained.

“Yuuri?” He called out but the sudden sting made him stop. His voice was so hoarse. His throat was dry, desperate for a drink of water. He touched his neck but the tender skin made him shudder with a memory – a flashback that made him gasp a trembling breath and become desperate to distract his mind.

He gasped for a breath, choking for oxygen that he couldn’t breathe in. There was a tightness around his throat. The grip squeezed, keeping his lungs devoid of air as the hand continued to hold him hostage for a breath. He scrambled under the grip, desperate to pull his hands free and grasp at the hand holding him and force it away.

He couldn’t get out. He couldn’t fight back when a dizziness overcame him and his vision saw black spots. His breath was short, his muscles were ready to give up the fight, and all he could do was hang on.

He threw back the sheets and sat on the side of his bed. His fingers dug into the mattress, gripping tightly as he breathed long, heavy breaths. His heart refused to calm down. He couldn’t stop panting and gasping for each breath, unable to calm himself down. He reminded himself that he’s had worse. He’s had days where he couldn’t remember a thing because of his panic. This was only a minor setback – an inconvenience that had to stop before he was hurt.

But his breathing was rapid, there was a lump in his throat, and as his eyes fell on the cast wrapped around his right leg, nothing could hold back his agonizing cry of Yuuri’s name.

He cried for Yuuri. Victor begged for him to come back so he could be held in his arms, all while Yuuri told him that everything would be alright. He’d believe Yuuri’s words. He remembered what Yuuri said to him that time he woke up. He remembered seeing his warm eyes and bright smile, but the memory wasn’t enough. It didn’t reassure Victor’s tears to stop, nor his desperate begging because he needed Yuuri here. He needed to know where he was.

You’re okay. You’re safe now.

“He can’t help you anymore,” His voice growled low and menacing, striking fear into Victor’s already pounding heart. “You might as well just give up.”

He pulled his legs up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, curling himself into a protective ball. He was shaking all over. His heart pounded in his head and there was a building in his throat – a fear that came in the form of a lump, ready to release his agonizing terror. He whimpered and bit down on his lip. He started to rock back and forth. He can’t start screaming. He can’t make a sound.

But he hadn’t realized he did until he felt soft hands on his face. There were people surrounding him – too many eyes staring his way that Victor wanted to cower back into his protective stance and never look at their faces. The medics cared for him and spoke to him, but he couldn’t hear a word they were saying. The loud ringing in his ears muted their voices. He was too aware of his rapid panting, the thump in his chest, and the ache in his throat from his screaming. He couldn’t calm down. He couldn’t breathe.

“Okay, Victor, I just need you to take deep breaths for me, okay?” He heard someone say – a woman. She was standing in front of him, holding his hand tightly. “Just follow what I’m doing and try to breathe along with me. Can you do that?”

He nodded but he couldn’t keep up with her. She breathed slowly, inhaling long breaths where Victor needed to take a quick one. His heart was thumping so hard, each slow breath made it skip and encouraged him to gasp for another. He couldn’t calm down. He couldn’t breathe along with her. He didn’t know if this would even help him.

Yuuri knew how to help. Yuuri could always calm him after his screaming fit that even in the most fearful moments, he’d help Victor feel protected and safe. He needed Yuuri to be here. He needed Yuuri to help him calm down.

“I want Yuuri,” He gasped between breaths. She didn’t look away but the change in her face – the sudden drop of her eyes – had him question Yuuri’s whereabouts. “I need Yuuri. I need Yuuri to help me calm down. Where is he?”

“He’s not able to come in here while you’re in this state,” A man answered. He was stood beside Victor, looking over the machinery by his bed. “You just need to calm down, otherwise we can’t help you the way we want to. Just keep breathing for us, okay?”

If calming down meant seeing Yuuri, he’d do his best to be as calm as he can be. Yuuri wouldn’t want him to be like this during his absence either. He’d want Victor to be alright. He’d want him to feel fine. It was the encouragement he needed to take deep breaths and follow what the lady was doing, calming his gasps until he’d feel better.

You’re okay. You’re safe now.

“I’m okay,” He breathed in response to Yuuri’s voice in his head as he nodded to himself. “I’m okay. I’m okay.”

He assured himself of his safety. There was no hand around this throat or danger putting his life at risk. He was in a hospital and much like Yuuri had told him, he was safe. He was, well and truly, safe.

Everything became a blur after that. Life moved so fast around him, he couldn’t keep up. There was a number of people who came in and out of his room, all with a different reason for being there and Victor was starting to feel overwhelmed. He couldn’t prepare himself because never had he imagined seeing so many different faces again. It was so alien to him. The world was alive, thriving and bustling with life all while he was gone. He had missed this for so long. He had forgotten what it was like, but he couldn’t accept it as quickly as he wanted.

Each new person struck fear in his chest. He doubted their sincerity. He couldn’t understand how so many people wanted to help him that he suspected their intentions, questioned every cop that walked in or doctor who had to check on his wounds and injuries. He had to be certain that they wouldn’t hurt him, but he could never be confident in his answer. He could easily be hurt by a cop or killed by the doctor. If nothing could stop the man, nothing could stop them either.

The man was hard to forget. His face shot fear down his spine. It made his heart pound. He could never forget the face of evil, no matter how hard he tried, but learning that the man had been caught assured Victor that he’d be okay. He was gone from his life. He was locked away in his own prison cell, trapped behind bars and Victor wanted to smile. This was his justice. This was his revenge for what the man had put him through for too long. If he could, he’d watch him for the joy of seeing the one he despised so much suffer, but that was exactly what the man had done to him. He refused to think like that. He’d never want to be anything like that disgusting monster.

But being told he was gone was a huge weight off his chest. Yuuri had got them out. They were free, and the thought itself brought on tears of joy.

His freedom brought on thoughts and realizations. He’d no longer have to ration his food to be certain he wouldn’t starve or be forced to eat the same meals every week. He’d be able to drink without the fear of it being taken away from him. He could sleep knowing every new day wouldn’t be his last. He wouldn’t have to listen to the endless days of silence, by himself or with Yuuri, wondering how the day would turn out and bite back every need to scream just to fill it with something other than nothing. He could do so much. He could be who he once was.

And knowing he’d soon return home made his heart race with nerves and excitement. He’d be back at St. Petersburg where his Makkachin sat waiting for him, where his coach would be by his side and his life would accept his return without question or concern. He could do what he wanted and without the fear of being punished for doing so.

But none of that felt important. Those were the certainties – the things he knew would happen no matter what. He didn’t question them, but what he didn’t know was where his Yuuri was. He should still be in the hospital, in his own room or waiting to be allowed in to see him. Victor wondered if that was the case but he found himself too nervous to ask.

A kind doctor told him told him where Yuuri was and he didn’t even need to ask. He found Yuuri in bed with Victor that day and Victor smiled at the memory, but it dropped as he was told Yuuri had left not long after. He was already back home. Yuuri had left him.

Victor understood why and didn’t blame Yuuri for wanting to leave, but he couldn’t stop his tears. It tugged his heart knowing he wouldn’t see Yuuri again. His choked sobs broke past his lips, mercilessly and harsh as it tugged his stomach with grief. His Yuuri was gone. He was already so far away and Victor desperately wished it had gone differently. If he had just stayed awake for longer or fought back against the man better than he had, he’d have found time to say goodbye.

What hurt the most wasn’t that Yuuri went back home, but that it could have gone better if the man hadn’t hurt him. The man had taken Yuuri away from him again, even without him being present. The man ripped him away from his lover. He made Victor miss an important farewell.

The hole in his heart would be hard to fill, but he knew where Yuuri was and that meant Yuuri was safe. He was fine, too. He had minimal injuries – a gunshot wound that wasn’t fatal and Victor was relieved by that. It could have gone much worse. Yuuri could have been as injured as he was and Victor was thankful that wasn’t the outcome. They were free. They were going home.

He found some courage to ask about the journal. The cop told him that they found it and collected it for evidence, ready to go against the man during his court case. Victor breathed shakily as he nodded, pleased to hear the news even if fear struck his chest with a sudden rapid beat. This was one reason why he wrote it and yet, he felt frightened that people would learn what the man had done to him. It became personal the further he wrote. It revealed all the truths and torture – thoughts and feelings he felt since his first day in that room. It revealed everything without him uttering a word, but Victor wasn’t entirely sure if he was prepared to show that to everyone.

But if it put the man behind bars, he’d accept it.

His heart ached with a need to cry every moment he was alone. It was so hard to believe that this was real. It was overwhelming. The sudden spike of life, the people, and the active noise around him felt like some strange, vivid dream. He’d known nothing but silence for so long. Isolation and loneliness were familiar to him. He knew fear and terror like an old friend. What he had to do just to survive that room and all the manipulation and torture just to keep him in order replayed in his mind, resurfacing memories he wanted to forget. It made him so cautious and skittish of each person who walked into his room and he couldn’t help it. The terror never ended.

The click of the door alerted him to another visitor and his heart jolted. He stared at the door and played with his hands to calm their trembling as he watched it slowly ease open. He first saw a doctor walk in and he released a breath. He learned to cope with their presence. They were easy to give his trust.

But never had he prepared himself for the moment Yakov walked in.

The beat of silence that followed pulled every breath out of him. Their eyes met, wide and unable to turn away. It had been so long. Victor thought he forgot what Yakov looked like but staring the man eye to eye made him realize that he could never forget. It was impossible to do so.

But Yakov looked different. He seemed tired, his eyes heavy as a tight frown was on his lips, yet Victor caught the tears in his eyes. They didn’t fall. He held them back with his controlled stare, keeping them hidden while Victor struggled to bite back his own. His chest throbbed with an ache – a longing to feel Yakov’s protective hug and never leave it.

“Vitya?”

Victor’s lips trembled as he nodded. He was here. This was real.

Yakov stepped forward and no matter how hard he tried, Victor couldn’t contain his tears. He choked out a heart-wrenching sob and gasped each shaky breath as Yakov pulled him into a tight embrace. Victor locked his arms around him. His sobs tore through his body as he cried in Yakov’s shoulder. He felt like a child again, scared and frightened of the world.

His cries were heavy and his body ached in pain, but it was ignored. This was a moment Victor thought he’d never see happen. He was convinced he’d never escape that room for so long. He thought he’d never see Yakov’s face again and yet, he was doing exactly so. He was sat in a hospital room with a broken leg and multiple bandages around his aching body, in the arms of someone he trusted with freedom by his side. It was almost too good to be true. He gripped the back of Yakov’s coat, clutching tightly in fear he’d disappear. Victor couldn’t lose him. Not again.

A year and eight months he had been taken away from his life, held captive in a room and starved from his most basic human needs. It wasn’t some long and horrible nightmare. It was real. It happened, it was real, and yet, being in Yakov’s arms once again made it all seem like one prolonged, horrible nightmare.

But it was real. It was very real, and no amount of wishing or praying would ever stop it from being so.

“I’m so sorry,” Victor wept loudly. He wasn't certain exactly what he was apologizing for, but the lump in his throat and the sobs that tore through him had him blurt out words he didn’t realize he needed to say.

“You stupid boy, Vitya,” Yakov replied and Victor nodded. He really was stupid. “Don’t ever apologize for this.”

But Victor had to. He needed to let Yakov know. If he had died that day in the room, he’d never get the chance to apologize for the stress he put his coach through. He annoyed him, irritated him, refused to ever listen to him and now added onto that was grief from his disappearance – sorrows of his absence. He put Yakov through enough. He had to say something to console himself and make up for the hurt he put his coach through. He’d regret it if he never did.

“I should have listened to you,” Victor cried against his shoulder. The embrace tightened and Victor’s tender ribs stung, prompting an aching gasp but between his sobs, the pain was hardly noticed. “I-I shouldn’t have left. You told me not to and I ignored you and - and I was gone for so long and I – I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

Vitya.” Yakov’s voice was stern and in demand for him to stop rambling. Victor fell silent. He inhaled a shaky breath, terrified to know why Yakov had to raise his voice. “Vitya, I don’t care about that. It’s the last thing I’m concerned about. You’re… back. You’re back and that’s all that matters.”

Victor’s chest ached heavily with heartache. He let loose his tears, unstable and desperate as he let out a gut-wrenching cry against Yakov’s shoulder. He released his pain and agony in that embrace, knowing that no longer would somebody hurt him. No longer would his loved ones feel the pain of his absence. It was over. Victor was free, and soon, he’ll be returning home.

And how strange it was to think so. The relief of knowing this was all over was indescribable. He could shout it on a mountaintop, cheer for his freedom, and cry because he didn’t know how else to react.

He was free.

He was finally free.

 

Chapter Text

 

“So…” Yakov trailed off. Victor diverted his gaze to his window, watching a world he hadn’t seen in so long fly by. He didn’t care for awkward conversations. “Are you okay?”

But it seemed Yakov did care and Victor had no choice but to reply.

He turned to Yakov and nodded. Surprisingly, he was okay. He was returning home sooner than expected and with every second they drove closer to his home filled Victor with anticipation. His return to Russia wasn’t as scary as he thought it’d be, but exciting because he was finally back on Russian soil. The air was colder, fresher, and the hint of frost was in the air. It smelled like Russia. It smelled like home.

“I had Yura clean up your home,” Yakov spoke and Victor looked back at him again; his heart began to thump. “It was a little dusty but I’m sure he’s cleaned up well. It should be better than… better than…”

Victor knew what he wanted to say. “It should be better than where I’ve been,” He answered. Yakov sighed heavily as he nodded and Victor turned his eyes back to the road. He didn’t care if his home was covered in dust from top to bottom, invaded by cobwebs, and vandalized from his absence; anywhere was better than there. It was still his home.

But knowing Yuri had cleaned his home for him tugged his heart and encouraged a weak smile on his lips. “Thank you,” He grinned. His smile was pathetic, but it was enough to discourage Yakov from asking more questions. Victor knew he was itching to ask more, but Victor didn’t want to talk about it. He just wanted to get home.

And home welcomed him with more than just open arms. It welcomed him with the cheerful boof from his companion, the hurried patter of paws scratching the floor, and a ball of fluff jumping on him before he’d even stepped out of the car.

Makkachin hadn’t changed a bit. She was still the cutest dog in the world. She was still a ball of hyperactive fluff – far too excited for Victor’s return that she was panting heavily as she jumped on him, demanding love, and whining over his absence. Victor petted her fur and hugged her, making a clear promise to never be separated from her ever again. Her tail wagged in response. She knew.

A figure was stood in his doorway and Victor eventually took notice. He met Yuri’s stare. He had his arms crossed and his brows hung low, making Victor worry for what he had to say as he stepped forward. Victor stood up tall, his hand still on Makkachin as Yuri came over. His expression was stoic – still as his stare never shifted.

“I’m home,” Victor began. He wasn’t sure what else to say but Yuri didn’t reply.

Victor pulled him in for a hug. He expected Yuri to yell out in disgust, call him an old man, or squirm his way out of the embrace but he did none of that. He delved in instead, holding on tighter than Yakov did. Victor heard a light sniffing and he glanced down at Yuri. His chest pulled with tenderness.

“Are you crying?”

“No,” Yuri muttered. “I’m just…”

He never answered what he was doing but Victor didn’t doubt he was crying. It hurt to know so, but Victor wouldn’t have his reunion any other way. He was surrounded by the people he trusted – people he loved and were ready to help support him through what he already knew would be a difficult time and yet, Victor was completely unprepared for it.

He investigated his home for a while now he was back, checking for changes or anything new that was added to his home. Nothing had changed during his absence, but two bouquets of blue roses sat in his sitting room which Victor had to ask about.

“I had to make up for two birthdays I’ve missed,” Yakov answered. A lump settled in Victor’s throat and tears threatened to spill. He held them back. “I still brought them here for your birthday, but it felt right giving them to you in person.”

Victor couldn’t express how thankful he was for the gifts, but a hug was all he could give in return as his tears silently slipped down his cheeks.

His evening was then spent with Yakov, Yuri, and Makkachin on his lap, discussing skating and sharing gossip of what he missed while he was gone. It was a calm evening, one where Victor quite enjoyed the solitude beyond their conversation. His home felt safe. The atmosphere eased his worries, settled his heart, and calmed his mind as he listened to the two ramble on about a story he wished he could carelessly smile at.

But their topics often avoided him. He noticed their scared glances when they’d say something close to heart – something that mentioned his disappearance or happened near the time he was taken. They were afraid to speak about it. They were afraid to talk openly to Victor and he wished they would just mention it. He wanted to shout at them that he wasn’t weak and scream that his kidnapping happened and they shouldn’t avoid it. He wanted to tell them. He needed to speak up.

He never got the chance to express himself. Yuri soon left and Yakov ordered Victor to get some rest that he wasn’t looking forward to. He knew what sleep meant. He was too vulnerable – helpless against his screaming fits or nightmares. The silence always got to him. The loneliness was too much. Yakov promised to stay the night, which helped, but Victor couldn’t just settle down and sleep like Yakov expected him to.

And against Yakov’s request, which he felt horribly uncomfortable with and a little mad at himself for doing so, he sat on his bed and let his eyes search his bedroom.

He forgot how soft his bed was. It was far comfier than the bed in the room. Its springs didn’t dig into his back. His sheets were warm and comforting, not itchy or irritating like the others were. The best part about it was Makkachin’s warm body lying beside him. It wasn’t quite the replacement for Yuuri – but nothing could ever replace his Yuuri – it was enough to help him feel less alone. He missed his bed. It was a luxury he never had back in that room – a luxury he wasn’t sure he deserved. He didn’t do anything to receive such a treat. He couldn’t indulge in the comfort and enjoy his bed while his mind told him he did nothing to earn it.

He knew he didn’t have to earn his luxuries anymore, but he couldn’t sleep in his bed. The panic that settled made him cautious and tightened his chest. His mind refused to shut down. He couldn’t do it, so he settled himself on the floor instead. It was uncomfortable and it wasn’t good for his broken leg, but he had to. He hadn’t earned his bed.

The heavy sigh of his name had his heart race as he looked up. His coach was stood in the doorway, shaking his head and Victor didn’t know how to explain himself.

“What are you doing?” Yakov asked as Victor carefully moved to sit up. His ribs still hurt if he moved too quickly. He still wasn’t entirely sure what to reply with so he pulled his leg up to his chest and gave a lazy shrug.

“I was just… sleeping,” He answered. He wasn’t lying, but it didn’t answer the rest of Yakov’s unasked questions. Victor sighed as he turned his head and under his breath, he muttered the words, “I haven’t earned my bed yet.”

He didn’t expect Yakov to hear him, but he wasn’t prepared when Yakov stormed over to him. His heart raced as he was lifted in Yakov’s arms and put on his own bed. He fell with a soft thump and bounced a little as pillows and sheets were thrown around him. He grabbed a pillow and hugged it to his pounding chest. He knew Yakov was mad, but he was too afraid to say anything.

Yakov pointed a finger at him and Victor held his breath. “This isn’t where you were,” He began, growling lowly as Victor dug his nails into his pillow. He shuffled until his back hit the headboard. He looked away. “This isn’t the god damn place you were kept for over a year, Vitya. This is your home. You don’t have to earn anything while under your own roof, okay?”

Victor wanted to nod but memories flashed through his mind – the tortures and pain he went through for disrespecting the man. His luxuries were rare. He had to take the risk of being hurt just to ask if he could have a new book. The request itself sometimes hurt him and he couldn’t take that risk again. He couldn’t make that choice himself. He slept in his own bed only because Yakov told him to. It wasn’t for himself and it could never be for himself anymore. It was for Yakov. It was for his demand.

His first night was nothing but nightmares. His terror came back in the form of an exaggerated dream, making it far worse than it should have been. He saw Yuuri. He was there but the man was too, standing behind him with the threat to hurt him. His dream was a nightmare and Victor couldn’t handle it. He woke up paralyzed, shaken with fear as sweat trickled down his frozen skin. He couldn’t come too, not until Makkachin whined and nuzzled herself against Victor’s side, helping him regain his senses. He’d hold her close and weep into her fur, crying and silently begging for Yuuri. He needed his Yuuri.

But Yuuri wasn’t there. His Yuuri was far away from him, elsewhere in the world. Victor missed him. He missed him so much.

There was suddenly a strong, comforting grip on his shoulder. Victor released a sudden breath and panted heavily as his thumping heart raced in his chest. His throat was sore, his mind came to, and he hadn’t realized he’d been screaming until he gasped a near shriek.

Yakov was there. He was gripping Victor’s shoulder, comforting him without words as he met Victor’s eyes with fear in his own. “He’s – he’s gone home, Vitya,” He spoke. His voice was shaking. “I can wake him up and bring him here if that’s what you…?”

“No!” Victor cried as he shook his head. Yakov didn’t get it. “No, I don’t need Yuri. I – I need my Yuuri. I need my Yuuri…” He didn’t know how else to explain it. He couldn’t say anything else, he just needed his Yuuri, but as he glanced up at Yakov he seemed to understand. He didn’t question further or demand what he meant. He stayed with Victor until he cried himself out and fell back on his bed, exhausted and emotionally drained.

And suddenly it was a new day – another day added on to his freedom.

It became apparent to him that he couldn’t slip out of his routine as easily as he’d like. He’d do his exercises if not for his broken leg and found himself planning his meals. He needed to know exactly how much to have for each meal, plan each portion, and count what he had. He could eat what he wanted but his body refused to let him. He couldn’t stray away from his meal plans, no matter how much he wished he could.

Yakov noticed and took over cooking in the end. “That’s not enough for you to feel full on,” He told Victor as he added more to his plate. Victor’s stomach growled with a need, but his mind protested eating more. “Eat up. You won’t look like skin and bones anymore.”

Victor self-consciously turned away but it didn’t encourage him to eat the extra food he was given. He wasn’t severely underweight, but enough for Yakov to notice how different his figure was and Victor hated knowing so. He wanted to build his weight and muscle back, but he couldn’t eat more. He was too accustomed to smaller meals.

Yuri was back later in the day and Victor was thankful for his appearance. He didn’t know what to do with his time. He’d look over at the clock every minute, too aware that it existed – too aware of the minutes that ticked by. Yuri being there meant someone could keep him busy. He could talk with Yuri, keep his mind occupied and stop bothering Yakov by silently hanging around him.

He spoke about his skating and Yakov often joined in the conversation. It was more catch-up talk and Victor was happier to hear it that day. They were less afraid to talk, confident to speak about things that happened near his disappearance and Victor didn’t see a single fearful glance. He was pleased they finally understood he wanted them to talk. He didn’t have to ask them.

As Yuri rambled on about a story, something to do with his adventures with Otabek, Victor stared at his broken leg. He often thought about skating. He’d like to go back, but his broken leg held him back until it was completely healed and even then, Victor couldn’t be confident he could return to competitive skating.

It was yet another thing the man had stolen from Victor. If his career ended from this injury, he couldn’t be certain what he’d do. All he knew was the rage he’d feel would never ease, not until the man felt the same pain as he did.

A hand clamped over his mouth, muffling his screaming cries for help. An arm wrapped around him, strong and firm as it pinned his arms to his sides and kept his back against the man. He was being dragged out of the room, up the stairs beyond their door, and pulled further than he’d been in such a long time.

His heart was pounding and his blood washed in nothing but fear that raced through his body. He was shaking. He couldn’t get out of the man’s grip. He couldn’t escape, but a swift kick at the man’s ankle did enough to release the hand over his mouth. Victor screamed for his life. He begged and cried until he was thrown against the wall, his calls for help muted by a gasp of pain. He didn’t process the punch until his eye stung with a searing pain.

“You’re not going back,” He heard the man growl in his ear. He was too strong and powerful to fight against but Victor refused to give up. Yuuri would never want him to quit. “I’ve held onto you for too long to give you up that easily.”

And then he’s shoved to the side and he’s falling. He had nothing to grab onto. The stairs are coming closer to his face, his heart’s in his throat, and –

And strong hands sat on his shoulders. Victor’s fingers dug into the couch arms, gripping so tightly he could feel the fabric break under his fingernails. Yakov stood in front of him, staring Victor eye to eye as Victor panted heavily. His cheeks were wet with tears and his chest hammered so hard, he feared his heart would burst.

“Vitya?” He blinked when Yakov spoke. He inhaled a shaky breath to calm his hearts rapid breathing but he struggled to ease it. “Vitya, just breathe for me, okay?”

“I need my Yuuri,” He found himself gasping, but the sudden realization that hit made everything around him stop.

His Yuuri was gone.

“Me?” He heard Yuri asked. Victor wanted to shake his head but he was frozen – still.

“No,” Yakov replied to him. “No, the – the other person he was with. The other one who was taken.”

It was his Yuuri and he was gone. Yuuri was far away from him, back home in his own country and no amount of wishing or begging would bring him here. Yuuri was with his family. He was safe. And he was in Japan while Victor was in Russia, so far apart and separated so soon.

Victor was crying in Yakov’s shoulder again. He released his hurt with each wail, letting out his pain because he didn’t know what would happen now. He still needed Yuuri but he had no way of contacting him. He wanted to be with Yuuri again, stay in touch and never be separated from him ever again. He had been taken away from his family during his kidnapping, and now he’d been taken from his lover during his rescue.

Victor still couldn’t be certain the room influenced his feelings, but he knew that it didn’t matter much if it had. His feelings didn’t falter – his desires remained the same, missing his lover now he was gone and feeling a sense of absence without him. He wished to be back in Yuuri’s arms, to feel his kisses and stay with him where they both felt safe and protected. They were beyond their captivity. They were away from those fears and Victor knew he still felt the same about Yuuri like he had before.

In fact, he desired Yuuri even more. He yearned to be with him and to feel his touch again, to kiss him freely and do what lovers do. They never got the chance to truly flourish while they were trapped and this should be their time to adventure even further. This should be their time together, but they were apart. They were separated and Victor wanted to see him again.

“And do you think those feelings are what’s causing your flashbacks to happen?” His psychologist asked him during their first meeting. Victor was quick to deny the suggestion and had an answer out before he could even think what he said.

“No,” Victor began. “The flashbacks are when… when he hurt me. Yuuri never hurt me. I trust him more than I trust my own coach and… and I trust Yakov a lot. Yuuri never caused one of my flashbacks. It’s always something he did or something he said to me that just…”

He couldn’t finish explaining himself, but the psychologist seemed to understand. He asked to see Victor again by the end of the week and planned his therapy sessions for the week. Victor felt rather pleased with how it went. He even had a slight bounce in his steps as he and Yakov went back home.

But it wasn’t until he stepped through the front door that everything hit him with a single punch.

He collapsed to his knees in the doorway. His broken leg screamed in agony at the pressure but Victor couldn’t find the will to move. He had spoken so much about his captivity, more than he ever did with Yakov that he had yet to realize the true extent of his fears. His lover was so far away from him, living in another country and he had no way of contacting him. The media held a demand, desperate to receive a statement from him and learn how he was doing. He wanted nothing more than to hide away, but that meant being alone and hidden and he could never go back to that.

It all hit him in a single breath, overwhelming him and washing him under a tidal wave of questions he didn’t want to be asked, and answers he was scared to give. It was too much. His stomach pulled with each tugging sob and he didn’t realize how nauseous he was until he was vomiting over the floor.

That was how Yakov found him – on his knees at the doorway, curled up into a ball as he released his heart-breaking wails. He was a mess. He felt disgusting, but a bath was ordered and Victor couldn’t defy Yakov’s words.

He cleaned up but he never left the bathroom when he wanted. He was staring at his reflection in the mirror – staring at the changes he’d gone through. He hardly recognized the person who stared back, but it had been like that for a long time now. His eyes had lost their color. They held a paler gray than the vivid blues they once were. His cheekbones were too prominent and stood out – a clear sign of his weight loss. His hair was too long. It hung down to his shoulders, the ends uneven and broken from the time he spent an entire day slowly breaking the strands to give himself a haircut. It no longer held the same style it once did.

Victor hated it. It was too much of a reminder that brought back memories he didn’t want. He’d think of the man when he’d look at himself in the mirror. He’d think of his captivity, his terror and the pain he felt while in that room. It was still the man’s hold on him. It was his mark – his brand on Victor. His wounds were enough of a reminder. His hair shouldn’t be one of them.

You deserve what’s coming to you.

“Shut up,” Victor whispered to himself. And again, “Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.”

He couldn’t stand looking at it. He hated knowing he’d have to care for something that was the man’s mark. He hated looking at it. It was nothing but a reminder of his horrid past, a reminder of what was once taken away from him and Victor needed it gone. He wanted his life back. He wanted his freedom, his hair, and his confidence.

It wasn’t fair. You don’t understand how humiliating it’s been for me, but you’ll soon learn.

His hair was too much of a reminder. It had to go.

His hands trembled as he pulled open the medicine cabinet. He just needed something sharp to cut it – preferably a pair of scissors. He searched through the cabinet, pushing aside the hair products and medicine that was safely inside. Victor ignored the bottle he dropped and chose to not worry about the clutter of pills that filled the sink and disappeared down the drain. His mind was on one thing.

And as his eyes fell onto a sharp razor that sat hidden away, Victor didn’t hesitate.

His hand curled around the razor and held it in his tight grip. He slammed the cabinet door shut and stared at his reflection. His hair had done nothing but remind him of the hurt and pain he went through. It was too long and easy to grab. It was too much to deal with. The man never let him cut his hair and the one time he asked, he lost two meals.

It had to go. He had enough.

He didn’t think as he aggressively bunched all of his thick overgrown hair in one hand. He raised the razor to where he held it and didn’t tell himself to stop as he started hacking away. He bit his lip to keep back his sobs and watched as strands of silver hair fell around the sink and to the cool tiled ground.

Victor didn’t stop when the tears fell down his cheeks and his sob broke free from his lips. He pressed the razor harder, desperately chopping through his hair. It wasn’t enough. He tugged what he cut off and let it fall to the floor. He then grabbed a smaller bunch of hair instead and resumed sawing it off with the razor. He cut it off piece by piece until the sink was full of hair and none was left falling over his shoulder.

He never came to his senses until he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder and Victor looked up, eyes meeting Yakov’s. Victor was losing his mind. He could feel it unraveling bit by bit as his hands clawed at Yakov’s shirt and a wailed cry fell from Victor’s mouth. He tried to ignore his own pain that stabbed him deep inside but the more he felt it, the more it hurt.

Yakov pulled him in, keeping him close. With every sniff and sob, Victor let out everything that hurt – every emotion he held back and every cry he feared to let them see. Victor was finally free from the man and he had to remind himself that, but he wasn’t yet free from the memories. He wasn’t free from the burning ache inside that reminded him how scared he was or his desperate need to just scream all day.

He was completely exhausted and as Yakov helped Victor back into his bed, he still struggled to fall into a deep sleep. When he did manage to sleep, nightmares and vivid dreams awoke him. His heart raced at the nightmares. His body was wet with sweat and his bones were hurting him. He had never felt so anxious before. It was killing him.

He had his hair cut the next day. A hairdresser came over and Yakov assured him that he would be safe with the stranger in his home. Victor only agreed because he trusted Yakov. His hair wasn’t as badly damaged as he thought it could be, and even better was that he could have the hairstyle he used to have. He could be the Victor he wanted to be.

And once it was done and he looked at himself in the mirror, he saw his short hair. He saw the old Victor that was unafraid and living, free to be who he wanted and confident. He was happy with who he saw looking back. It didn’t remind him anymore.

It was the start of his constant stream of breakdowns. Just the thought of his freedom had his tears fall. He’d struggle to turn away from his routine, following it too much that he even refused to set an alarm on his new phone because he didn’t have one in the room. He couldn’t change his mindset as easily as he wanted. He’d often get lost in his thoughts because he did that when he was alone and imagine a world that was perfect.

In that world, he’d often see Yuuri. Yuuri gave him a reason to smile.

His nightmares were the main cause for his screaming fits, alongside the ones he'd have during the day. He’d often have nightmares of darkness – nightmares that resurfaced repressed memories and forgotten situations that he wished stayed hidden.

They included moments where he was alone. Memories of his first day in the room would replay in his mind. He’d remember how he screamed and cried at that door for hours only to collapse from exhaustion when he realized nobody would open it. There were his moments of pure desperation when the water was turned off and he found himself sucking the juice from an apple just to moisten his mouth, or debate whether the toilet water was appropriate to drink. Then there was the man’s voice – his words that struck a terror so fearful into Victor’s chest, he wouldn’t wake up screaming, but paralyzed in absolute fear.

It isn’t fair,” He’d hear the man’s voice in his ear – the growling whisper of his threats and hatred towards him. He’d remember them even when he was awake, sometimes hearing them so clearly it was as if the man was in his room with him. “You deserve what’s coming to you.”

He’d tremble in fear. Even Makkachin’s own whining didn’t help snap him from his mind.

It’s been so humiliating,” He’d say. “It’s not fair. I spent all those years trying and for what?”

It’s your turn now. It’s your fucking turn.”

It wasn’t just the man’s words that terrified Victor. It was the tone in his voice – the pure hatred he’d feel when those words played in his mind. The man truly despised him for a reason Victor didn’t know, but the feeling was mutual. Victor hated him too.

He wouldn’t just remember words he once hardly knew. There was the moving vehicle, the damp smell that surrounded him and a stickiness he couldn’t wipe away. He couldn’t figure out the scene. He tried so hard to remember but all he could recall was being in a car. He was confident in that assumption. The rest were blurred memories, unknown to his own mind and impossible to remember, but even those woke him up in a screaming fit before he’d break down into tears.

He was frightened of everything. He was terrified to leave his home alone, change his routine, or even go to sleep and face those nightmares once again. He was struggling to cope. He’d try to help himself and remember what his therapist suggested to help him calm down, but once his screams began or his tears fell, nothing could work to stop them.

His flashbacks were the worst. They’d come in vivid shocks – a sudden memory that flashes through his mind as he remembered situations and events he wished he could forget. Things could trigger it, like a noise or an image and other times, it would just be an innocent thought. But sometimes, they’d hit without warning. They’d arise without him even knowing so, not until the memory was remembered and Victor was on the floor, screaming and crying at what he saw.

Yakov was always there for him. He’d always be by Victor’s side, day or night, but he couldn’t keep Yakov there forever. He had to return to coaching soon. He had his own career to care for and Victor was just being selfish by keeping him away, but he needed someone. He had to have somebody who could help him, otherwise, he couldn’t be certain what he’d do if he were alone.

It terrified him. It truly scared him, but what else could Victor do?

 


 

 

“So, I’ve been thinking…” His psychologist began during their second meeting. Victor shifted in his seat. “I believe it’s in my best interest to send Victor to Japan with Yuuri.”

Victor raised his head, his wide-eyed stare unable to turn away. The news hit him with a startled gasp; his mouth hung open and words ready to speak but he couldn’t utter a sound. He was frozen in complete shock, but Yakov was there to speak for him.

“… What?”

“As you know, Victor, I’ve been working with your therapist during your therapy sessions and there was something that really stood out to us,” He continued and Victor nodded along. While he knew nothing worse could be said, he couldn’t help the anxious jump of his heart. “It appeared to us that Yuuri is your safe zone. He’s somebody you trust completely.”

“He trusts a few people,” Yakov jumped in for defense. Victor sighed, wishing he’d just listen instead of making a comment. “He trusts me and Yura and…”

“I completely understand that,” The psychologist interrupted, raising his hand to stop Yakov continuing. “But this is an entirely different situation. Victor trusts you because he did before his kidnapping. Yuuri has gained Victor’s trust during it and he still holds it now they’ve both escaped. But I believe we’ve made a mistake.”

“A mistake?” Victor asked. He raised a brow in question, curious what the mistake was and how badly it affected him or Yuuri.

“Yuuri is your safe zone. I believe separating you so soon has done worse than better.” His psychologist glanced at them both and Victor held his breath. “Victor’s struggling with his screaming fits. His breakdowns seemed to have worsened, but I believe he could cope and recover better if he was to be with Yuuri.”

Victor didn’t know how to react at first but he was afraid to just in case his response was too much. While he wasn’t fine with the reason why they wanted to return him to Yuuri, he was so delighted to hear he could be back by his side. He wanted to jump for joy. He could smile with glee. He’d quickly agree to see Yuuri again without a second thought or hesitation, but as he glanced over to Yakov, he second-guessed his decision.

He didn’t hold the same excitement. His face was stale as he stared at the psychologist, eyes unblinking and brows hung heavily. His arms were crossed and if Victor knew Yakov, that meant he wasn’t happy with that he was hearing.

And his assumption was proven true when Yakov eventually leaned forward and asked, “So, you’re going to send him away to Japan without getting him another therapist or giving him the choice to do this?”

“Victor always has a choice,” He told Yakov who fell silent. Victor’s gaze dropped to the floor as he fell back in his seat, feeling invisible as the two conversed with each other. “Everything will be sorted out. He’ll get a therapist who speaks his language and a place to stay with Yuuri. It’ll be sorted if he takes the decision to go.”

Victor wanted to agree to go, but he couldn’t make the choice just yet without voicing a problem he had with the way his psychologist was explaining it. “I’m not incapable of coping without Yuuri,” Victor muttered as he crossed his arms. He didn’t want to be seen as weak.

“I know you’re not.” Victor wasn’t certain if he could believe him. “You’re perfectly capable of your own recovery, but how we do it determines whether it’ll be effective or not. I believe with Yuuri, you’ll feel enough safety to focus on your own recovery.”

“But what if it brings back memories?” Yakov quickly asked.

“Perhaps it’s wise for him to face those memories and tell them he’s not in their control anymore?” He suggested and Victor nodded. He liked the idea. If he could control those memories and know they wouldn’t emotionally hurt him anymore, he imagined his recovery would run smoothly.

“I’d like that,” Victor commented as he looked over at Yakov, expecting the coach to be ready to argue back but to his surprise, he remained silent. There was a debate on his face – an uncertainty towards Victor’s decision but he kept his lips sealed.

“It’s common for kidnap victims to experience repressed emotions and pretend the situation didn’t happen,” His psychologist continued and Victor turned, putting all focus on him. “In those cases, it makes recovery far more difficult. While I don’t believe you’re repressing everything, but you’re certainly holding back some emotions, but more on that later. Right now, we know that you can talk to Yuuri about your captivity, so perhaps it’s wise for you to go and face your fears with him?”

Victor couldn’t respond with anything other than a slow blink. He didn’t feel like he was repressing anything. He was rather open with how he was feeling, perhaps not enough to talk about it but he showed his breakdowns. He never hid away when they hit with full force, but then he wondered if that was what caused them – if he was holding back more than he thought, only to be released when they built up and hit hard.

Perhaps he couldn’t read his own emotions as well as he thought, and that struck a sudden fear in his chest. If he didn’t even know he was holding emotions back, what else could he be hiding from himself?

“But I just got him back,” Yakov spoke and Victor looked up, anxiously chewing his lip. “It feels like you’re taking him away from me again.”

Victor dropped his gaze. His sudden enthusiasm to leave had now faltered as his heart mercilessly tugged at Yakov’s words. He hadn’t been back home for long and there were already plans for him to leave again. He’d be gone, off in another country and that was exactly how it happened last time. He knew he’d be safer, and he knew what not to do to have that happen again, but he couldn’t be certain he could leave Yakov again.

“You’re more than welcome to accompany him,” The psychologist spoke and Victor prayed to see Yakov nod, but he didn’t.

“I can’t,” He said. “I have students I need to coach. They have competitions and they’ll need my help. I just… I just don’t want Vitya to be gone again.”

Victor wanted to cry. He knew how much Yakov cared for him, but it was a rare occasion he’d ever hear the coach voice it. He wanted to return his own care – show Yakov that he appreciated everything he had done for him, and Victor hadn’t realized he moved until his hand gripped Yakov’s arm and squeezed, showing the same comfort he often gave Victor. They shared a look as Victor showed a weak smile. It wasn’t enough, but it was a start.

“This is Victor’s choice,” The psychologists' voice tore their eyes away as they looked over. “If he decides to leave, he’ll need your full support in his choice.”

“He’ll always have my support, but I just…” He was ready to argue back, Victor could tell, but his words fell silent as he shook his head to himself and released a heavy breath. He looked back at Victor, and asked, “Vitya, what do you want to do?”

And suddenly, the decision was on him. He was given a choice, one that both struck fear in his chest and filled his being with excitement. He wasn’t entirely sure what to do, but he knew what was best for himself. He knew what he wanted, he just felt awful for making the choice.

“I can’t keep putting you through sleepless nights because of my screaming,” Victor began. He figured if he could explain himself, perhaps Yakov would understand just a little better. “I know I do the same with Yuuri, but he knows how to help when it happens. I just… I don’t want to leave but I can’t keep putting myself through this. I want to get better, Yakov, and if he believes I’ll be better with Yuuri, then I should go to Yuuri.”

Yakov sighed hard. “That doesn’t make this hurt any less.”

“I’ll be back, Yakov,” He replied.

“But you said that last time.”

And the sudden stab in his heart burned and tugged mercilessly, aching his chest with each beating throb that tears spilled from his eyes. He wiped his cheeks clean, but they fell too fast and he couldn’t keep up.

“I-I know,” He muttered through a shaky breath. His grip tightened on the chair, desperately trying to hold back the tears that threatened to spill. “I know. I-I know, I…” But nothing he did could stop them. His tears were unstoppable – endless as they slipped down his cheeks. His throat tightened with a need to sob but he kept his lips sealed and pressed his hands to his face. He didn’t want to begin crying. He just wanted this to end.

He heard Yakov swear under his breath. “Vitya, I didn’t…” Yakov fell silent, unable to explain his words but he was right. He did say that last time. He left and that was the start of everything. He knew it was something he needed to do but knowing how heartbroken Yakov was made him uncertain if he should do it.

He was so afraid to take this step. He was terrified of leaving because nothing could stop it from happening again. He knew what he wanted, and his psychologist knew it was something he should do too, but he wasn’t certain he could leave so soon. He couldn’t put Yakov through that again, even if he was still there and able to answer his phone calls. He had to see Yuuri again, but he couldn’t accept it if Yakov couldn’t handle it.

He sucked in a breath to calm the ache in his chest. His tears had settled, but the lump in his throat remained as he dropped his hands. He breathed in again. He knew what he had to say, even if it went against the psychologists and his own plans.

“I… I don’t think I can…”

There was a prolonged silence – one where Victor was certain everyone could hear his heartbeat. He watched their faces, waiting for someone to reply and although he was expecting a response, he wasn’t prepared for Yakov’s sudden decision as he said, “I think you should go.”

He didn’t react at first. He could only stare at Yakov, stunned to complete silence and unable to tear his gaze away. His mouth hung open, ready to speak but he couldn’t find the right words. He wasn’t sure what he could say, but he soon found himself only able to mutter out the word, “… What?”

“I think you should go,” He repeated himself. Victor’s heart was racing. “I shouldn’t be selfish and hold you back from getting better. If this will help your recovery, then you take that step and get better. You need to do this for yourself. I shouldn’t keep you from that.”

Victor pressed his lips together and nodded. His recovery was important and now having Yakov’s approval made it easier to accept. His future relied on him getting better and being with Yuuri would help. He’d make the process faster. He’d give Victor the comfort and strength he needed to succeed.

“Okay,” He exhaled a breath and nodded. “I’ll do it. I’ll go to Yuuri.”

 

Chapter Text


A stunned silence hung around them. It was so quiet, Yuuri was certain everyone could hear his pounding heartbeat. He could hear it himself. The rapid beat thumped in his ears, beat after beat as he became too aware of more than just his drumming heart.
It was the questions that raced through his mind and the confusion that struck, but more specifically, who it was who stood in front of him.

His lungs were vacant of the breath he needed, unable to comprehend that this was happening. He stared at the one he spent eight months in captivity with – who held him when he needed comfort and supported his chaotic and selfish decisions, even when he knew it could hurt them in the worst ways, for the sake of their escape. It was the one he called his lover, who had a haircut and looked healthier than the last days Yuuri saw it. It was Victor. He was back.

“Hi, Yuuri,” Victor said softly as he gave a weak wave to Yuuri. There was a sheepish smile on his face, one that struck a missed beat in Yuuri’s heart. It swelled with warmth, tenderness, and he was unable to contain himself anymore.

Yuuri strode forward with one goal in mind. Victor didn’t step back or recoil in terror, but he met Yuuri halfway as their arms wrapped around each other and held on tightly, silently pleading the other to never let go. The warm embrace surrounded Yuuri’s being, comforting him as tears rolled down his cheeks. It was just what he needed. It was enough to tell the other that everything was alright, and in Victor’s arms, Yuuri truly believed that.

It was their first free embrace that didn’t stand the threat of hurting them. They wouldn’t be punished for doing so, nor would it take something away from them. It was their right, their freedom, and Yuuri buried his face further into Victor’s chest. It’s been so long since he was able to do this. Their last embrace was before everything happened, back when they escaped and found their freedom. He thought he’d never be able to do this so soon.

He lost Victor once. He refused to lose him again.

“You were stupidly selfless, you know that?” Yuuri muttered against Victor’s shoulder. His fingers grasped the back of his shirt, needing to tighten the embrace and he could feel Victor doing the same. He nodded in response, words muted by the sob that broke past his lips. Yuuri’s heart ached and broke, but he had more to say. “You didn’t have to risk your life for me to run. He could have done anything to you while I was gone. He could have killed you, Victor. He could have…”

Yuuri had to stop. The pain that ripped through his chest and stabbed his heart threatened to release a heart-breaking wail that he had to force back. He couldn’t show his pain, not while they were in the eyes of the public. A burst of chills descended down his spine, knowing that they were being watched by eyes that felt no different to the camera. He kept his head against Victor’s shoulders with his eyes squeezed shut. If he couldn’t see, it hurt less.

“I know,” He heard Victor reply. There were tears in his voice and Yuuri’s lip wobbled. His hand moved to Victor’s hair, weaving his fingers through the short strands as he gently stroked his nails along his scalp. Even now, the action still calmed both himself and Victor.

“You really didn’t have to do that,” Yuuri repeated. He didn’t know what else to say but he wasn’t certain there was anything else he could say, at least not outside the private comfort of Yuuri’s bedroom. He’d take Victor there soon, but that had to wait. “You didn’t have to risk your life for me. You didn’t have to be so selfless. Why – why did you do that?”

Yuuri’s glassy eyes met Victor’s tearful blues as he pulled back. Warm hands cupped Yuuri’s cheeks and his fingers twitched with a need to feel them in his own. They were still so close but it wasn’t enough. He needed to feel Victor’s heart against his chest, his arms around him, and his skin pressed against his own. Yuuri needed more of Victor. This wasn’t enough.

“I couldn’t let him bring you back, but I knew you’d get out,” Victor answered. Yuuri’s tears silently slipped down his cheek and the feeling of Victor’s thump wiping them away did nothing to encourage them to stop. “I believed you could do it and you did. I knew you’d find help. I knew I’d be safe, even with you gone, and that’s why I did it.”

Yuuri wanted to argue back. Victor wasn’t safe during his absence. He was hurt, broken, and bruised by the man while Yuuri was safe and away from his harm, but his words failed to reach his lips. He couldn’t react. His heart raced as his mind fell silent and his breathing stopped, unable to focus on anything other than Victor’s soft touch. It set his skin alight – It warmed his cheeks while the rest of him was so cold without Victor’s touch. He thought he was ready to accept Victor back into his life, but his craving need to keep Victor close was torment that he was unprepared for, yet willing to accept without question.

Yuuri did more than just miss Victor. He longed for him to return back to his side. He wished for nothing more than to see Victor again - to bring him into his arms and feel his breath against his skin. His absence left a longing ache in his chest – a hole in his heart that he couldn’t fill. It didn’t feel right without Victor there, but his return eased the ache. It refilled the emptiness left inside. It left Yuuri feeling weightless and as he met Victor’s eyes, it hit him his real this was. This was no hallucination or dream. It was real.

His lip wobbled with the threat of tears but he pressed his lips together tightly, holding them back. He had been so scared for this reunion. He didn’t know how this would turn out and the terror of not knowing was heartbreaking, but nothing hurt more than the silence during their time apart. The absence left Yuuri with thoughts and questions, ones he couldn’t answer without Victor, but that could all change. He was here and Yuuri wanted to know more.

He wrapped his arms around Victor’s waist and pulled him back in, resting his chin on his shoulder as Yuuri breathed him in. His scent never changed. He was cleaner and Yuuri noticed the slightest fragrance from  his cologne, but he still smelled like Victor. Yuuri closed his eyes and smiled softly to himself. He needed this so much, his heart yearned to never pull away.

As he opened his eyes and met the stare of Victor’s coach, Yuuri knew he had to pull back. He couldn’t keep Victor there forever. There was a reason for him being here. A suitcase sat by Yakov’s side while Makkachin was on his other. Yuuri’s heart raced as he stared at the suitcase, not needing Victor to explain why it was there because it answered enough, but he needed Victor to confirm it.

“You’re… staying?” Yuuri asked as he pulled back.

Victor nodding was the simplest action he could give, yet it filled Yuuri with surprise and absolute joy. There were words on the tip of his tongue and an excitement he needed to release, but he was stunned into complete silence. He couldn’t utter a word or express how excited he was. He could only stare dumbfounded.

“It’s already been discussed with your parents,” A voice spoke behind Victor and Yuuri glanced over his shoulder, eyeing his coach who stepped forward. Yuuri’s heart raced. He turned and stared at his parents who smiled innocently and waved at him. He had no idea. “We have a lot to discuss with you. Is there anywhere we can talk in private?”

“The banquet room is empty,” Another voice piped in – the voice of Hiroko. Yuuri couldn’t turn his expression from anything other than astonishment. He couldn’t believe nobody told him Victor was coming. “Nobody will disturb you in there. Yuuri can show you the way.”

Content with Hiroko’s suggestion, they turned away from Yuuri to grab Victor’s things. Yakov took hold of his suitcase while Victor turned to Makkachin, petting the overactive dog who was excited for the new adventure she was on. Yuuri would have watched the sight if not for his surprise and he turned to Hiroko instead, eyes wide and unable to process what was happening. He couldn’t believe this was all planned behind his back, but he had no reason to argue against it. It was the best news he’s received in a while.

“But… how…?”

“We wanted to surprise you,” Hiroko answered, smiling softly at Yuuri. She gripped his arm and gave a comforting squeeze, making sure not to hurt his wound in the process. Yuuri didn’t feel pain, but love and support and complete joy that they would surprise him like this. “We weren’t entirely certain on your relationship with him, but I know when someone means something to you. I hope this was alright?”

It was more than alright. If Yuuri had to express how happy he was in words, he’d have to create a new language with new meanings, just to get even close. He couldn’t do it, but he could show his gratitude. He delved in for a hug and Hiroko saw it coming as her arms went around him and held him so close, Yuuri felt nothing but her comfort and warmth. His heart could burst with joy. He was so, so happy.

“This is perfect,” Yuuri smiled as he pulled back. She returned the grin, brightening up Yuuri’s day more than she already had. It never occurred to him that his own happiness felt alien to him, not until that very moment. It was strange to feel. His fear and anxieties were almost forgotten as he smiled gleefully, and while realizing that struck him with sorrow, his grin remained. “I’m so thankful for this. I just – I just don’t know what to say and I…”

He shook his head to himself. There was no way he could say it, but he hoped she knew.

“Yuuri?” He heard Victor call him and he turned. The two were waiting for him to guide them, but an impatience in Yakov’s face had Yuuri’s heart jolt with fear. He still didn’t understand why. “Shall we go?”

He nodded fast and gave Hiroko a final ‘thank you’ before jogging over to catch up with them. He met eyes with Victor for just a moment, not to check he was alright, but to let him know that he was fine before continuing on to guide them through his childhood home. He showed them away from the business and further into the place he found comfort. His shoulders eased with each step but his heart thumped harder the closer he got He was terrified for the conversation they’d soon have. He tried reassuring himself it would be alright, but it did nothing to ease the fear.

Stepping into the banquet room washed Yuuri in nostalgia. He hadn’t seen it since before he left for America, back when everything was alright and the world didn’t scare him. It was strange to see how little had changed. The room was just as empty as before, only storing a few boxes of junk but memories of his younger self were remembered as he looked around. He used to come in here when the world was too much and he needed someplace open and quiet to just sit down and think. He doubted he could do that anymore.

The echo of Victor’s crutches patting against the floor hit Yuuri’s heart with a punching reminder. He remained trapped in that cast, his leg hurt and broken from Yuuri’s choice to run. He was beaten and bruised with marks that still lingered over his body, each purple and yellow bruise reminding Yuuri that the man had touched him – that the man hurt him and left his mark for Yuuri to see. They were his fault. Each and every one of them.

“Yuuri?” His name snapped Yuuri from his thoughts, eyes jumping to Victor who was staring back. Yuuri let out a breath, easing his shoulders and unclenched his fists. He hadn’t realized how angry he got, not until he noticed the fury that had just shot through him. He cleared his throat as Victor asked, “Can you leave the door open, please?”

He was going to anyway, but it felt strangely comforting knowing Victor couldn’t close doors either. He pushed it to, leaving it ajar and checked Victor to see if it was okay. He nodded and Yuuri stepped back, moving towards the two who wanted to speak with him. His curiosity peaked but fear rattled his bones.

“So…” Yuuri began, crossing his arms as he kept his eyes down. He wasn’t sure how to begin this discussion but he couldn’t look into Yakov’s eyes either. There was something about the coach that frightened him and it didn’t make sense. He cleared his throat. “What – what is it you’d like to discuss?”

Yuuri would be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous. Not knowing what they wanted to talk to him about had him completely petrified, and not knowing if it was bad had him a trembling mess. He hoped it was good news. He silently begged and pleaded for it to be good, but he couldn’t be certain.

“We need to talk to you about Victor’s recovery,” Yakov spoke and Yuuri’s mind came to a halt. He wasn’t sure what to think anymore. He didn’t expect that. “He’s been struggling. His psychologist looked into ways to help and he believes that Victor might be able to do better if he spent his recovery alongside you.”

Yuuri’s entire being froze. His heart pounded and his breathing stopped, stunned into a complete standstill as he stared at Victor and waited for a reaction. He couldn’t believe it. He almost refused to believe it, but as Victor met his stare and nodded, it hit him how real this was. Victor was going to stay with him. He was going to be by Yuuri’s side, recovering with him and getting better alongside each other.

Yuuri would have smiled but he questioned everything with a drop of his brows. It didn’t make sense. “But why with me?” He asked. “I’m not a professional and I can’t help Victor the same way they can. Are you sure this was what they recommended?”

“He doesn’t want you to help me like a therapist does, Yuuri,” Victor replied as he pulled up a box to sit down on it, resting his leg. Makkachin settled her head on his lap and was content with Victor petting her. “He wants me to face my fears alongside you.”

It still didn’t make any sense.

“...What?”

“I feel safer with you,” Victor continued and Yuuri blinked, unsure how to reply to that statement. It lifted his spirit and eased the tension in his mind, but he was still so terrified to hear everything else. “And because I feel safer with you, my psychologist believes that I’ll be able to focus on my own recovery if I’m with someone who I can fully trust and someone who understands what I’m going through. We were both held captive, so you understand me better than anyone.”

Yuuri caught the flash of hurt that shot through Yakov’s face. He turned his gaze away, dropping it to the ground as he crossed his arms. Yuuri’s chest tugged and ached. He may understand Victor, but he couldn’t describe how this was for Yakov to hear. He couldn’t imagine how much he was hurting just hearing Victor mention their captivity. He wondered if it was the same for his family. He didn’t like to think about that.

“I was worried, to begin with,” Yakov spoke. There was a little force in his voice, enough to startle Yuuri to take a step back. He didn’t know why he was being so jittery around the man. “I wasn’t sure if you’d bring up any flashbacks or memories, but he seems to be okay so far.”

“I haven’t done that, have I?” Yuuri gasped, terrified to know if he already gave Victor a worse time than better. He never intended to hurt him that way, but as Victor shook his head, relief swept through Yuuri and he sighed hard to regain himself.

“No. Not at all,” Victor said, “But even if you had, they think it might help me too.

Before Yuuri could even ask, Yakov had already stepped forward and answered his unheard question.

“His psychologist hopes that having Victor face his fears with you might do him better than him running away from them.”

Victor nodded and turned to Yuuri. “He’s scared I have repressed emotions, which… I do, apparently.” Victor’s eyes dropped to his companion instead and he began petted her head for comfort. The dog snuggled closer and Yuuri’s chest ached with anguish. It reminded him of how Vicchan used to do that to him. “But he believes that being with you will help me express them better. You know what I’ve been through. You know more than anyone else. He thinks it’ll help me, especially since you don’t need to ask.”

“And I hope it works well too,” Yakov joined in, nodding as he said so.

Yuuri was willing to accept the other without a shred of doubt. He’d help Victor the best he can. He just hoped he could do him justice. He wanted to be the person to help Victor get better but if he wasn’t, he could accept that if it meant helping him. If he wasn’t, he’d let Victor go, but that hadn’t happened yet. Yuuri was there to help and he was willing to try his hardest.

“I can’t promise that I’d help a great deal since I’ve been struggling a little myself,” Yuuri answered honestly. He noticed the look Victor gave him – a glance that said so little but showed so much. “But I will do what I can.”

“I’m not asking you to ignore your own recovery for me,” Victor began as he turned to face Yuuri. He reached his hand out, offering it to Yuuri who raised his own trembling one and laced his fingers between Victor’s own. Victor squeezed tightly, reassuring him what he didn’t need to do. “We’re in this together. It’s our recovery and your needs are just as important as my own, okay?”

Yuuri nodded mutely. This was their recovery, not just Victor’s or his own, and Yuuri was so relieved to be going through it with Victor. It felt a little easier knowing he’d be there, helping Yuuri when he needed it. He could talk openly to Victor about their captivity too. He didn’t have to avoid the topic or hold back certain details. He could express himself the way he needed and knowing so lifted the weight off his shoulders and filled the empty hole in his chest. He needed to see Victor again. He wanted to be back with him since he left and he had so many questions too.

But his questions had to wait. Victor was here and Yuuri was excited to show him his home. He hoped Makkachin was staying too. It would feel like home again having another dog running around, even if it wasn’t Vicchan. He turned his back away from the two, keeping his face hidden as he wiped his eyes to stop the tears from falling. He couldn’t cry just yet. Not now.

His tears were soon distracted when Yakov announced he needed to catch his next flight and then came a farewell. Yuuri accompanied them to show them the way out and gave them enough space to talk privately. He watched from afar but listened to hear what they had to say. It was still a private discussion, Yuuri was just being nosy.

“Be sure to call me twice a day and I mean that, Vitya,” Yakov said in their heartfelt embrace. Neither showed any signs of moving away and Yuuri smiled at the sight. Yakov really was like a father figure to Victor. “And please don’t forget. I mean it. Don’t ever forget to call me, okay?”

“I promise,” Victor answered as he nodded. His eyes opened as he peeked over Yakov’s shoulder, eyes meeting Yuuri’s. He gave Victor a supportive smile and Victor returned it. “I’ll make sure Yuuri reminds me too just so I don’t forget.”

“Good,” Yakov said as he pulled away from the hug. His hands stayed on Victor’s shoulders, holding him still as he took him in. His eyes threatened to spill tears but he held them back with the hard press of his lips. He was trying hard not to cry and Yuuri recognized that look too well. “I don’t want to leave you again but I trust you know what you’re doing. If you don’t think it’s working or you want to come home, don’t hesitate to ring, yes?”

“Okay,” Victor nodded. He inhaled a long, deep breath. “I’ll call you and keep you updated. I promise I won’t forget either. I don’t think I can ever forget to call you anymore.”

Yakov said nothing as he pulled Victor back in for one last hug. It lingered for a moment, Yakov holding on for longer than Victor expected and he sent Yuuri a confused look when he hadn’t pulled away from the embrace yet, but it was soon explained when Yakov said to Victor, “Goodbye, Vitya. I’ll call you when I land, yes?”

Then the hug was finished, Victor agreed to call, and they were saying their last goodbyes. Victor waved until the coach was out of sight, disappearing from Yuuri’s home and further from Victor once again. Yuuri kept his eyes on Victor. He needed to be sure he was okay and he appeared to be calm. He wasn’t panicking. He wasn’t crying or begging for Yakov not to leave. He was… at ease, and Yuuri was pleased to see.

“Hey,” He said as he walked over. Victor jumped back, startled by Yuuri’s sudden appearance, but there was no fear when their eyes met. Yuuri took his hand and squeezed gently. He hadn’t meant to scare him. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Victor nodded and swallowed hard. “It’s just… strange to say goodbye to him again.”

Yuuri squeezed his hand a little tighter, hoping the action would reassure Victor that he’d be okay. He was safe. Yuuri already made the promise to himself to help Victor feel as safe as possible. He knew too well the feeling of fear in his own home, but this was an entirely new environment for Victor. It was another country that spoke another language; Victor was completely out of his comfort zone.

“It’ll be okay this time,” Yuuri encouraged him, reminding Victor that this wouldn’t be like the last time he left. Nobody would hurt him here.

Victor didn’t respond immediately. He took a deep breath and turned his eyes to his companion, running his fingers through her fur instead as he took a moment to breathe. “It’s hard not to think it might turn out the same way as last time,” Victor sighed, and kept his eyes down. Yuuri didn’t know what to say to convince him otherwise but he wasn’t certain there was any way. If Victor told him the same, Yuuri would struggle to believe it too. “But I know I’m safe here.”

When their eyes met, Yuuri saw trust. He saw a glimmer of confidence that spoke the truth as Victor let a small grin stretch across his lips. It took Yuuri a lot not to pull him forward and kiss him there and then, desire rushing through him to feel Victor’s touch once again. He couldn’t do that just yet, not until they were away from watching eyes and alone with each other.

“Can we…” Victor paused to glance over his shoulder. Yuuri looked too, watching the bustle of life continue on behind them. Yuuri felt Victor’s hand tense around his own. “Can we go somewhere alone? I just… I feel a little overwhelmed and everything is so new…”

Yuuri didn’t need him to continue. He was beginning to feel the same, but for a different reason. Victor’s sudden appearance made him think, his plans for recovering had changed, and a sudden weight had been lifted from his shoulders that Yuuri felt alive and free. He felt a little better, but he couldn’t imagine how terrifying this was for Victor. He was in a new country, away from his home and everything he wanted to return to. It was brave of him to come to Japan, Yuuri didn’t doubt that, and he wasn’t certain if he could ever do the same. He’d like to travel to Russia when the time comes, but for now, he doubted it would be soon.

Yuuri kept hold of Victor’s hand as he guided him through his home once again. He heard the tap of Makkachin’s paws following behind, a sound he missed from his own companion but he held back his grieving. He had Victor here.

He wasn’t entirely sure how he felt having Victor see his childhood bedroom. There was a twinge of excitement and fear as he wondered how Victor would react to seeing his life beyond the room. This was new to them. It was a side of Yuuri Victor never met before, and Yuuri would be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous.

And he was standing in front of his door before he could prepare himself. He took a deep breath, pushed the door open and announced, “And this is my bedroom.”

Yuuri let Victor adventure by himself as he stepped inside. Yuuri made sure his shoe was in the way of the door closing completely before pushing it to, leaving it slightly ajar. He turned and was met Victor’s eyes staring past him – towards the door. Yuuri double checked it was shut, and it was still open, but Victor’s eyes didn’t shift. They stared wide, almost as if fear washed through them and Yuuri opened the door further to see if it helped. Victor’s shoulders then eased and he turned away, his eyes scanning Yuuri’s room instead. Yuuri made a mental note of that.

“Your room is nice,” Victor commented with a smile on his face. He picked up a picture frame from Yuuri’s desk. Yuuri came up behind him, eyeing the photo from over his shoulder as Victor asked, “Are these your friends?”

Yuuri nodded as he took the picture. “It’s Yuko and Nishigori,” He answered, smiling fondly at the photo. He still had to see them. They’d been sending texts back and forth but it wasn’t the same. He missed them. “I think I need to see them soon. I haven’t since I arrived.”

Victor looked at him. “Why not?”

Yuuri released a heavy breath and shrugged, placing the photo back on his desk. “I think I’m just scared.” He hadn’t realized how honest his answer was until his words left his mouth. It tugged his stomach, aching from loss and Yuuri looked away from the picture. “I don’t want them to be so… careful around me. I think I’m just scared things might change between us because of what happened.”

Victor neither denied Yuuri’s fear or reassured him that it would be okay. There was an understanding in his eyes as he stared at the photo and released a heavy breath. Yuuri wondered if he felt the same way, and he wanted to ask, but Victor turned away to look around the rest of Yuuri’s room.

Makkachin had settled herself on Yuuri’s bed while Victor looked. He admired Yuuri’s ballet posters, laughed at the heap of mess Yuuri had pushed into the corners of his room, and questioned if Yuuri used to play the piano after finding a keyboard amongst the mess. There was a small smile on Victor’s face, a twinkle in his eyes, and Yuuri realized he never had the change to appreciate how beautiful Victor was.

He watched him fondly, smiling at how Victor’s eyes widened with awe and grow fascinated in learning more about Yuuri’s life. Yuuri was excited for the days to come. He knew they’d be filled with troubles and comfort, but they’d learn a side of each other they couldn’t show in the room. They’d reveal a side that neither had seen before and while Yuuri couldn’t wait, he had to admit, he was scared too.

“How have you been?” Yuuri found himself asking when his rapidly beating heart refused to settle. He took a deep breath to ease it and crossed his arms. It was pounding so hard, Yuuri was certain Victor could hear it if he listened hard enough.

Victor sat by Makkachin on Yuuri’s bed as he began petting his companion. “Not great, if I’m honest,” Victor answered and it did nothing to ease Yuuri’s heart. He swallowed hard. “I’ve been… anxious and scared. It’s been hard to convince myself I’ll get better when all I feel like doing is screaming.”

“Yeah, I… I get that,” Yuuri sighed. The worst part about his response was that he understood it too well. He knew how Victor’s screaming fits were like and how bad they hit him. He knew fear and anxiety like an old friend. He knew how difficult it was to see a positive future for himself when the thought of it terrified him.

“The screaming got worse,” Victor began. Yuuri wanted to say something but he wasn’t certain there was anything he could say. “I’ve been screaming and breaking down and I just… feel like they hit if anything happens. I’d have a flashback and I scream. I hear the tap running and I want to cry because it would never get switched off to punish me and knowing that… it’s strange. Then I’d breakdown because of how overwhelming this all is and I just…”

His head pressed against his hands as he sighed hard. He took a moment to compose himself, easing the terror inside him. Yuuri wanted to help him. He wanted to go up to him and take him in his arms, but Yuuri held back. He let Victor take that moment to calm himself but if it got worse, he’d step in.

But Victor soon dropped his hands and exhaled another breath, calming himself without Yuuri’s help. Yuuri was proud of him. He then met Yuuri’s eyes, gave a weak smile and asked, “So, how have you been?”

“Well, not fantastic,” Yuuri answered honestly. He couldn’t lie to Victor and say he had been fine because he hadn’t, and far from it too. “I’ve been struggling to get out of the room routine, you know? It’s like I’m scared to do anything that’ll change it because…”

They could get hurt. It could reflect on Victor. It could pull them apart, force them into pain and suffering all because he did something to change that routine and Yuuri couldn’t risk doing so. Even in the safety of his family home, he couldn’t do it. His heart, mind, and body refused to let him.

“Yeah,” Victor nodded and Yuuri’s chest ached. “Me too.”

It wasn’t right that this was the aftermath of their kidnapping. They shouldn’t be so scared to do what they used to, be who they once were, and live their lives the way they wanted. Their terror was a curse. It was the invisible chains still holding them captive, tugging them back every time they progressed forward. It held them in fear. It imprisoned their free will. It kept them in that room, long after they’ve escaped, and reminded them the rights and wrongs they no longer had to live by.

It wasn’t right, but there was nothing they could do to stop it as quickly as they wanted. The journey would be treacherous, but Yuuri knew a good place to start.

“I’ve been really, really angry,” He began as he hugged his arms around himself. He knew nothing he could say would stop them from being in the state they were, but he figured talking about it would do him some justice. “I just think back to everything he’s done to us and what he’s done to you and I grow hateful every time I do. I…I heard about the things he said during his court case and I just feel so angry at him. I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Victor sat up straight, worried eyes staring at Yuuri. His petting stopped but his hand stayed in Makkachin’s fur, unmoving and still as he swallowed thickly and asked, “What… did he say?”

“Nothing,” Yuuri huffed. He tried to bite back his scowl for Victor but nothing could hide his fury. “He said nothing. He stayed silent. He didn’t confess or admit that he had done all this. He didn’t say a word.”

Yuuri didn’t hear much of the man’s court case. He was told very little when he asked and he knew information was being hidden from him, but he didn’t mind after what they had told him. The man had been a coward. He was too afraid to admit what he’d done to them and chose to not say a word throughout his court case. There was something about it that made Yuuri furious. He wanted answers. He wanted the man to get taken down in tears, thrown in a prison cell and treated the way he treated them. Yuuri wanted vengeance and payback, but more importantly, he wanted answers.

But Yuuri got none of that. It left him feeling empty, lost, and uncertain where to go next. He didn’t get his answers. He didn’t get the revenge he wanted. He was left with his captor in prison, his lover so afraid that he had to return back to Yuuri’s side, and a sea of mental health to cope with.

“Yuuri,” He heard Victor speak and Yuuri looked up. Victor was standing in front of him, no longer by Makkachin’s side. The companion was staring at Victor but had no energy to join him. She rested her head down on the bed, leaving the two alone as Victor continued, “I… I don’t really know how to react to that. I feel more… numb.”

Yuuri could understand that. He wanted to give Victor the answers he deserved too but there was only so much Yuuri could tell him. Their gaze lingered for a moment, neither finding a reason to turn away and Yuuri hadn’t realized the extent of how much he missed Victor. He was there in arms reach and Yuuri could touch him. He could feel his skin beneath his fingertips, touch him without fear and finally progress what they were so afraid to reveal once before. This was their time and Yuuri wasn’t going to hold back.

Yuuri reached up and cupped Victor’s cheek, gently stroking his thumb across the soft skin. He smiled when Victor nuzzled his face into his hand and his heart felt like it was about to burst. He wasn’t entirely certain when he last touched Victor this way but that thought only encouraged him to move onwards. He ran his fingers through Victor’s locks, slowly easing his hand down. He raised his other, ready to wrap them around Victor’s neck to pull him into an embrace Yuuri desperately needed when –

His hand never reached Victor’s neck. A tight grip clutched his wrists tightly and he didn’t realize it was Victor’s until his startled mind caught up. His hands were inches away from Victor’s neck, held back by a trembling grasp that didn’t loosen. Yuuri’s heart raced. Victor’s eyes bulged wide with terror and his desperate panting came out fast as he stared at Yuuri with nothing but fear in his face. Yuuri didn’t know what happened or what to say or do. He just wanted to be in Victor’s arms, but not like this.

“I…” He wanted to explain himself, he really did, but no words came to mind. He stayed silent and let Victor take his time to calm down. Whatever was going through his mind was scaring him and Yuuri couldn’t push him into talking.

He soon came around. His expression eased and his breathing calmed, but his mouth hung open as he muttered an apology, “I-I’m sorry.” His gaze fell to the ground, unable to meet Yuuri’s stare. He dropped Yuuri’s hands as his own hugged himself. “I just… I just don’t want anyone touching my neck.”

Yuuri stared at the faint purple bruises that still lingered on his skin. The bands wrapped around his neck, imprints of fingers that held no mercy and Yuuri breathing in a harsh breath to ease the burning inferno in his gut. It ached with a pain that tugged at his heart, leaving an everlasting agony that twisted into something more sinister. He didn’t want to feel fury. He wanted to feel Victor’s touch, but knowing the man left behind such a trauma had him clench his fists tightly and grit his teeth to hold back his rant.

If he expressed his hatred for the man in nothing but words, he’d be there until the day he died. He hated that man. He hated him so much.

And before he knew it, Victor had him in his arms. Yuuri delved into the tight embrace, circling his arms around Victor, and holding him close. This was just the comfort he needed. It eased his rage and calmed his chest but did nothing to stop the argument he was having with himself in his mind. One side told him to stop being so angry, but the other told him he had every right to. He didn’t know which way to think, but in Victor’s arms, he found it didn’t matter much anymore. His mind was nothing but the thought of Victor – the thought of their relationship that could finally flourish and grow.

“We’re still lovers, right?” Yuuri had to ask. They were lovers in his mind, but he had to be certain Victor thought the same thing, and as he nodded, a weight lifted off Yuuri’s aching heart. He needed to hear that.

“Yes, we’re still lovers,” Victor said as Yuuri pulled back to meet his gaze. “I just… can’t have anyone touching there. It just takes me back and – and I’m scared I’ll start screaming if I do and I don’t want to put you through that or…”

“You don’t have to explain yourself, Victor,” Yuuri stopped him, hushing Victor’s explanation with his own words. He fell silent. Yuuri would have said more and explained how he knew, but he suspected Victor didn’t want to talk about it. Instead, he watched Victor closely. He closed his eyes and inhaled a deep breath through his nose, and Yuuri took that as his opportunity to do what he wanted to do since Victor arrived.

He leaned forward and captured Victor’s lips between his own. Victor’s breath hitched against his lips and he pulled back, staring wide-eyed at Yuuri until his mind caught up. His shoulders eased, he let out a breath and returned a lingering kiss to Yuuri’s lips. Yuuri knew he should pull away before he lost himself in the touch but he couldn’t find the will to do so. At that moment, he realized exactly how much Victor meant to him – how much he wished for Victor’s return since their departure. It was almost childish of him to want to keep Victor all to himself, but in a moment like this, he couldn’t help himself. He has Victor back. He wanted to take advantage of that moment while he still could.

“I missed you,” Yuuri breathed through a shaky breath. Their foreheads touched and their hearts combined to beat as one, pounding so hard against each other’s that Yuuri thought his heart was going to burst.

“I missed you too,” Victor whispered back and gently kissed Yuuri’s lips. It was all he needed to hear to confirm his worries were nothing to fear. Victor still wanted him. He still wished to be lovers and that was enough to stop Yuuri’s mind from searching for questions he couldn’t yet answer.

He may not know why Victor never contacted him, but he’d soon ask. He didn’t know what happened during Victor’s last fight with the man, but he didn’t doubt Victor would soon tell him, just like Yuuri would tell his own story. There was still so much Yuuri didn’t know, but he was content in not knowing. He didn’t need to know to feel happy with where they were. Victor was back and that was all that mattered.

He wasn’t certain how their recovery would go with each other, but Yuuri didn’t doubt that it would be easier with Victor by his side. They would help each other. They’d support and comfort the other when needed. They’d do better. Yuuri was sure of it.

 

Chapter Text

 

If Yuuri were to describe that first night with Victor, he couldn’t put it into words to explain what it was like.

It had its goods. He could never describe the warmth that rushed through him when he woke up to Victor’s soft hair in his face and Makkachin lying over his legs. It brought a joy that Yuuri wished to cherish. Victor was back and Yuuri could hold him in his arms, brush his hand through his silver hair, and kiss Victor as often as he wanted. There was no fear, nor pain, but warmth and love because they were finally back together. He missed holding Victor like this.

That was the best part of their first night, but the worst was indescribable. The worst was exactly what he expected, but it was also knowing exactly how much Victor was suffering from the aftermath of his captivity.

Victor tossed and turned in his sleep quite often and while it worried Yuuri, he never made a move until Victor whimpered in fear. His suffering didn’t stop when he slept, but it heightened as his dreams became nightmares that washed Victor in a sea of pure terror. He couldn’t escape in his dreams. Yuuri knew just how hard it was to do so, but he also knew how to help.

He’d been through this before. Victor had night terrors in the room too, but not the ones that had him wake up screaming. They held him hostage, keeping him trapped in his mind while Yuuri did all he could to help. He’d talk Victor through it. He’d whisper words of encouragement that always calmed him down. He never knew if Victor woke up at all or subconsciously heard Yuuri’s words, but it always worked. It always calmed him down.

But it didn’t always keep him calm. It didn’t help Victor feel constantly safe and Yuuri learned that when he was startled awake by a piercing scream.

Victor was in Yuuri’s arms before another could fall from his lips. He held Victor close, hushing away his screams as he gently rocked Victor side to side and brushed his fingers through his hair. Yuuri knew it wasn’t enough to stop his terror. It didn’t calm his screams or encourage his family – who soon after came barging through his door, eyes wide and scared – that Victor would be okay, but it was the beginning. It helped reassure Victor that he was in safe arms, even if his screaming didn’t stop.

Yuuri was shaking all over. He almost forgot how scary it was to hear Victor like this. It struck fear in his bones, rattling his body as he gripped Victor tightly and refused to let go. He knew his family was still standing there, unsure what to say or do. He could feel their eyes watching and it didn’t help ease the blush of embarrassment along his cheeks. He and Victor were both topless, locked in a tight embrace and his family saw it all, but Yuuri wasn’t going to shy away because of his own embarrassment. Victor needed him more. He was important.

And like always, Victor’s screaming slowly came to a stop. It settled to nothing but weak cries as he clung onto Yuuri, releasing the last of his pain before exhaustion took over and he fell asleep in Yuuri’s arms. Yuuri’s family had long disappeared by now. They knew there was nothing they could do to help with this. Yuuri had to do it alone. He had to be there for Victor while he could – while he still knew how to help.

That was the last time Victor woke up that night, but not the last for Yuuri.

It was his own fault the third time. He slept on his wounded shoulder and woke up with a dull, tingling ache pinching at his injury. He readjusted himself to keep Victor close and to let his shoulder settle, but it refused to ease as quickly as he would have liked. He stopped trying to sleep in the end, and instead, chose to watch Victor.

It was so strange, so Yuuri thought. Even in their sleep where they should be free and safe from the man’s grasp, he still found a way to hold them back. He still found a way to keep them hostage, whether it was in life, thoughts, or in their sleep, the man kept a tight grasp on them. Every single cut, bruise, and scar was a reminder of the man and what he had done. Yuuri saw too many injuries on Victor’s body – too many wounds that shouldn’t have been, but none of them held Yuuri’s gaze longer Victor himself did.

There was something so beautiful about Victor. It was more than how soft he looked when he slept, or the way the warm glow of the morning sun touched his skin like a gentle kiss, captivating Yuuri in an everlasting stare. Victor was more than that. He was beautiful in the way he told stories – how he could capture Yuuri in a trance and distract his mind from his own pain while he laughed for the first time in a while. It was how brave he was for taking this step, something Yuuri was certain he couldn’t do for a long time. It was how - despite the torture and anguish Victor had to deal with for nearly two years - he could still pull through and find his own bravery. He could help himself in ways Yuuri couldn’t, look past his own self-doubt, and believe Yuuri’s words when Yuuri couldn’t believe his own.

Victor was more than just beautiful. He was captivating, admirable, and everything Yuuri looked up to.

Yuuri pushed himself up with a heavy sigh. His body protested as he moved and Yuuri stretched, clicking his bones and easing his tight muscles. He knew he should get up soon. He wasn’t entirely sure of the time but he didn’t doubt it was nearing time for breakfast, yet, he made no move to get up. It had been a long night for them both. Yuuri neither wanted to wake Victor up or leave him alone, so he stayed in bed, waiting.

His shoulder still ached, his bones felt stiff, and his muscles tensed like they were squeezing his wound, protesting at Yuuri’s carelessness to care for it. He tried massaging the pain away. He curled his hand around his shoulder, avoiding touching his wound with his fingers as he gently rubbed and rolled his shoulder, but the pain didn’t ease. It refused to calm and Yuuri swore it was getting worse the more he touched it.

It hurt so much. The pain was bearable but stupidly uncomfortable that Yuuri wanted to cry. He wanted it to stop, but thinking back to how it happened, he’d rather feel this than the pain he felt receiving it. He’d rather be left with a permanent ache than a scorching throb, but he didn’t like to think about that.

“Did you honestly believe you could escape from me?”

Yuuri’s hand curled through his hair. He tugged at the strands, desperate to distract himself from the memories which jolted his chest with pain as terror washed through his shaking body. If he could, he’d beg for the memories to disappear, but he knew better than anyone it wouldn’t help him. No amount of pleading or begging would ever stop those memories from continuing to strike, surprising him in the worst ways.

He wanted nothing more than to forget the words the man spoke to him. It wasn’t always the scene, but his voice, words, and the way he spoke to Yuuri that often hit him. It was the tone of his voice and his terrifying threats that constantly left Yuuri in a state of fear.

The man may be gone from their lives, but he stayed in their minds. He made sure he was remembered, whether it was from the scars on their bodies, their inability to stop their room routine, or the memories that left them with trauma and flashbacks. He made himself known. He kept himself remembered long after he was gone and Yuuri hated it so much.

“I’ve debated about killing you quite often.”

His fingers gripped tighter, pulling his hair so harshly that any more strength would rip the strands from his skull. The memories never stopped. They never gave Yuuri a break, especially in the silence where he wanted to think for himself and figure out how to get help. It was as if the memories refused to let him do so. It stopped him from trying to get better, bringing back those moments when he didn’t want them to and reminding him what he wished to forget.

Yuuri wanted to get better. He wanted to recover so badly, and yet, his own mind refused to do so. It went against him. It laughed at his attempts, spiting Yuuri with more memories to keep him held back. He hated it so much. He was at war with himself – an endless battle to remember and forget.

When he felt a hand touch his shoulder, his breath hitched and his heart raced, but Yuuri knew it was Victor. The caress was too soft to be anyone else – too gentle as Victor’s hand gently rested on his shoulder. Yuuri let him do as he pleased. He didn’t fear Victor hurting him and Yuuri let himself ease, allowing Victor to discover his wound.

His touch was gentle. He was careful of Yuuri’s wound, moving his fingers lightly when he met the bandage so he didn’t hurt Yuuri. He stroked along the curve of his shoulder, down Yuuri’s arm and across his back, easing his tight muscles with just the simple embrace of his fingers. Yuuri fell into serenity. His mind eased and his body relaxed, eyes closing as his head lolled back to focus on Victor’s touch.

Yuuri released a breath as he looked behind him. Victor was on his back, hand still on his shoulder as Yuuri lost focus in the touch. Victor was tired. His heavy eyes were dark, clouded with exhaustion and Yuuri wanted to tell him to go back to sleep, but a thought stopped him. There was something going through Victor’s mind – something that made Victor curious to notice his wound and Yuuri let him adventure for a little while longer.

If Victor wanted to talk, Yuuri would wait. He couldn’t push or pressure him into talking. Victor had just discovered his injury and he couldn’t be certain how he’d react to the truth.

“Did it hurt?”

Yuuri met his eyes. Victor’s hand fell still and his touch tensed, but nothing could describe the heartache he saw in Victor’s eyes – the pain that tugged and pulled Yuuri’s chest. He swallowed hard.

He should tell Victor the truth; Yuuri knew that better than anyone. He should admit his deepest thoughts and let Victor know because he deserved to know, but the reveal would hurt. It was the worst pain he ever felt – worse than when he was drugged. It was the most terrifying moment of his life and a near-death experience he never wanted to be in again. It was the reason for his night terrors, his fear, and inability to forget the man who did that to him.

“Yes,” Yuuri nodded without realizing. The word slipped from his lips before he could stop himself, but it was out. He couldn’t turn back now. “It… it hurt. It hurt more than when he drugged me and that… you know how painful that was for me. I don’t want to explain it to you.”

Yuuri wasn’t certain what exactly went through Victor’s mind, but whatever it was, encouraged him to sit up and bring Yuuri into his arms. His embrace was tight, startling Yuuri so much he couldn’t return it immediately but once the surprise ended and Yuuri realized what was happening, he delved in. He felt safe in Victor’s arms. It eased his troubles as they melted away into nothing but useless thoughts that hardly hurt. In Victor’s embrace, his pain felt so far away, his fears seemed non-existent, and everything felt a little bit better.

He knew it couldn’t last forever. The pain always returned, so Yuuri cherished that moment for as long as he could. It pulled his heart in such a pleasing way, he could say at that moment, he was happy. His pain meant nothing to him because he was happy, and that’s exactly what he needed.

And that was what began the first day of their reunion.

Yuuri found he couldn’t turn away from Victor for too long. It was as if he feared Victor would disappear if he looked away long enough. He still couldn’t believe Victor was here. It was Christmas all over again, and Yuuri received more than just a present. He got a gift he would cherish for as long as he lived – a gift he swore he would care for the best he could.

Victor eventually met Yuuri’s family. They did it gradually as Yuuri introduced everyone one at a time, not wanting to overwhelm Victor with too many people. Hiroko and Toshia were first and their meeting went as well as Yuuri expected. He was quickly accepted into the family after trying Hiroko’s Katsudon for the first time. Yuuri was thankful to see they got along so well.

His worry had been Mari. His nerves quaked his bones because he knew how protective she could be and while he didn’t doubt she’d accept Victor, he feared she’d think he was worse for Yuuri than better. Her introduction he feared the most, but she accepted Victor with a wider smile than Hiroko’s and welcomed him to the family.

Overall, it went well. Even with the screaming fit midway through their day, Yuuri’s family understood enough to give the two space and let them handle it together. Hiroko found it hard to keep herself back, staying close enough that if Yuuri needed her, he could call her, but they have them privacy. They let them work through it and Yuuri couldn’t express how thankful he was for that.

But Victor somehow found a way to express his own thankfulness. He pulled everyone aside one at a time, thanking them for their support and accepting him into their home, even with his trauma and troubles following behind.

It was going good… too good, so Yuuri thought. There was doubt beginning to settle – caution as he looked around. Things never stayed good for too long and Yuuri had to prepare himself for the worst. It was coming. It always did, no matter where they were.

He pushed the caution aside for now. Yuuri wanted to introduce Victor to Yuko and Nishigori – who he had yet to reunite with himself. He wasn’t entirely certain why he waited so long to see them because once he had, he couldn’t bite back his cries as they had their own tearful reunion. He missed them so much. He wished he saw them as soon as he could.

They had a long catch up and told Victor many stories of their mischiefs when they were young. Yuuri hadn’t laughed and smiled that much in such a long time, it felt good to do it again. He missed this. He felt back to how everything was before, back when he was carefree and enjoyed a talk with his friends, much like that one. They talked for most of the evening and long into the night, even when his family turned in for the night, their conversations kept on going.

Victor fell asleep at some point, his head on the table and light snores pulling them from their conversation. Yuuri didn’t blame him. He was exhausted himself but he was too used to that. He smiled fondly at Victor and brushed his hair from his face, deciding to leave him be. He needed the sleep.

“So…” Nishigori’s voice pulled him from his gaze. “You two met while you were…?”

His finger pointed at Yuuri, and Victor, who was unaware of the question. Yuuri couldn’t help his heavy sigh.

That was one thing he didn’t like about his reunions. Everyone was so afraid to use the words to describe what they were. They were hostages. They were held captive. They were victims of a crime that shouldn’t have happened and the words didn’t strike fear in Yuuri’s chest, not like the man did, or how the memories would. They were just words to him - meaningless, harmless words.

“Yes,” He nodded.

Yuuri hoped that one day people wouldn’t be so afraid to ask about his captivity or avoiding using the word. It wasn’t something he wanted to hold back with gentle words and half the truth. It was a horrible thing and his words would be harsh. The truth would hurt but he wanted the people he trusted to start learning it. He wanted them to ask about it and learn that Yuuri wasn’t going to let it fight him any longer.

He was fighting back. He had no choice but to.

“And now you’re… lovers?” Nishigori then asked, and Yuuri’s brows dropped. Yuko elbowed him in his side, scolding him for his question and Yuuri didn’t get enough time to tell her it was okay before Nishigori raised his hands in defense. “Look, I’m sorry but I’m just saying, it’s a little weird. How can you know you’re certain about it?”

“Because I am,” Yuuri answered without a beat of hesitation. He saw the looks in their eyes – the doubt that made Yuuri huff. He was going to change that. “It’s… easy for me and him to understand so I’ll try and help you understand it too. We had no choice but to rely on each other. We had to… fight our way through and help each other while we could, but I can tell you it wasn’t a situation that pushed us together that way. I think, really, if we were caught we could have… been pulled apart. If that man found out we were lovers, I don’t know what he would have done to us.”

It never occurred to Yuuri how much hurt was in their eyes while he was talking, not until he stopped. There was a pain in Nishigori’s face and tears in Yuko’s eyes, her cries hidden away by her hands pressed against her mouth. He didn’t want to soften his captivity, but he wondered perhaps he should have done so for their sake, but they had asked. He wanted them to know.

“So, you… had to fight to be with each other?” Nishigori then asked, and Yuuri nodded, because that was exactly how it felt like. He couldn’t say for certain the man’s intentions would have fought against them being lovers, but the fact it was a risk they had to take was enough for Yuuri to say that yes, they had to fight to be lovers.

“We had to do more than just fight,” Yuuri answered, his unfocused stare lost in the distance. He could feel the strong tremble in his hand – the reminder of what the drug did to him. His shoulder ached, bringing back the sound of a gunshot that caused it. He inhaled a sharp breath and swallowed hard. “We had to survive just to be here.”

Yuuri would have liked for that discussion to have ended just then, but Yuko found a moment to pull her hand away from her lips as she wept through her tears, “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”

But Yuuri didn’t want her apologies, or Nishigori’s, or anyone who he cared about. There was no reason for them to apologize when they had done nothing to say sorry for. There was only one he wanted an apology out of and Yuuri would refuse to accept it if it was given. He would take the apology, trap it in a room, and hold it there until he felt it meant something to him – until it meant more than just a pathetic word that did nothing to make up for the months of pain he went through.

If the man were to come up to him and apologize for what he had done, Yuuri wouldn’t accept it, but why did everyone, other than the man, feel the need to apologize for him?

He wasn’t sure, but when that night ended and the Nishigori’s left, Yuuri made another promise to himself. He would make certain nobody would ever apologize for what the man had done to them. It wasn’t their responsibility to apologize for him. He didn’t want them to do so.

 


 

 

Their story didn’t end, now they had escaped. If anything, it had only just begun.

It was something Yuuri had been avoiding since he returned home. He knew the media wanted a statement out of him, especially now they found out Victor was with him. He wasn’t entirely certain how that news came out, but somebody found out and they had to suffer from the storm of questions people wanted to ask.

He wanted people to know but not yet. This was their story to tell for people they trusted, not strangers who could judge their actions and make comments on that they should have done. Yuuri wanted to keep it in the small privacy of his loved ones, but the more demand for a statement he got, the less he was willing to give one.

Victor was very opinionated on the subject and rightfully so too. He especially came out with his true thoughts on it while on the phone to Yakov one afternoon. It was their usual afternoon calls, but this one had Yakov bring up the statement. He was the one to bring up what they wanted to ignore and Victor hadn’t taken that well.

“We wrote that journal for a reason,” He growled down the phone. His fingers turned white from his tight grasp around his phone. Even with Yuuri holding his other hand, stroking his thumb along his skin, it did nothing to calm that anger. “We wrote it so people can find out the truth that way, so we don’t have to talk about it. Why do we have to tell them when it’s in that?”

“Because the police still have it in evidence and they’ll promise to return it to you once they’re finished with it,” Yakov replied, and Victor huffed in response. Yuuri could only shake his head to himself. The court case ended, the man was in prison, so Yuuri couldn’t understand what else they needed to do with it. “But that’s not what the media is asking for.”

Victor was silent for a moment and Yuuri watched his face. There was something going through his mind, a thought that he was trying to work out with an unfocused stare and uncertain response as he eventually asked, “Then what do they want?”

“They just want to know how you’re both doing,” He answered. Neither said a word but they didn’t know what to say. Yuuri felt a little different about it now he knew what they wanted, but he couldn’t be certain how Victor felt. “Vitya, you were gone for nearly two years. This is something that doesn’t happen to people like you and they just want to know if you’re dealing with it.”

“But it did happen to me…”

Victor’s voice sounded so broken – so lost and afraid as his gaze dropped to the ground. Yuuri moved a hand to Victor’s back, rubbing soft circles to ease his pain as Victor leaned against Yuuri, silently asking to be closer. Yuuri planted a soft kiss on the side of Victor’s head. He’d argue what Victor said was wrong, but he couldn’t. He was right. It was something that didn’t happen to people like Victor, or himself, but it did. They couldn’t deny that truth.

“Vitya…” Yakov trailed off. Yuuri could hear him struggling to find the right words to help, muttering the occasional stutter of an unheard word. “Just-Just… I just… can you at least think about giving a statement? Even if it’s just thanking people for their support, it’ll be something.”

Yuuri stopped to think. He’d like to thank the people who helped him. He wanted to show his appreciation to the ones who found him and called the police. He never had the chance to thank them, especially after what he just ran away from. He wanted to thank the police too for keeping him safe, and everyone in the hospital for dealing with him constantly asking for Victor.

The media wanted something out of him, but that didn’t mean details they didn’t want to give. Yakov was right to suggest they could thank people because they could. That was easy, safe for them to play and it didn’t bring up memories that hurt him. It was everything after their escape – everything that confirmed their safety, and Yuuri suddenly knew what he wanted to do.

“I think it’ll be good,” He said, startling Victor enough for him to turn and shoot a confused and surprised stare at Yuuri.

“You do?”

Yuuri nodded. “There’s a lot of people I want to thank,” He began, and thought back to their names and faces. There were only a few names he could remember. He wished he knew them all. “I feel it would be rude of me to not at least say thank you to them. I don’t have to talk about what happened, but I can show my gratitude. I’d like to do that.”

“It might even pull the media away from you for a while too,” Yakov chimed in, giving Yuuri yet another reason why he wanted to do it.

He knew the media were outside his home, desperate to get inside and ask questions, but his family did well keeping them out. If the statement helped get them to leave or distract them long enough for Yuuri to finally leave his home in peace and go to Minako’s ballet studio, like he’s wanted to do since coming back home, he’d do it. He’d keep them distracted for as long as he could. He just wanted his privacy back – the quietness of his home to return.

“I’ll do it if you do it,” Victor said to Yuuri.

“But you need to do it for yourself too.”

Yuuri couldn’t do or confirm anything until Victor was certain he would say his statement for himself. Yuuri shouldn’t help him through that. He shouldn’t let Victor hide behind his own statement because it wouldn’t be genuine. He had to find that bravery to speak up for himself. He had to say it in his own words, thank the people he wanted to thank and feel peace knowing he revealed his own gratitude, not Yuuri’s

“I think it’ll be good for you both to say something,” Yakov spoke up and Yuuri nodded. Victor chewed his lip and sighed heavily, unsure what to decide as he stared at his phone. “I know how to set it up. I can sort this out for you both and make sure you feel safe. If you just have your statements ready for when the time comes, say what you have to say, and that’ll be it.”

“That’s all?” Victor asked.

“They… might try to ask you questions but you don’t have to answer them,” Yakov answered honestly. Yuuri could tell he didn’t want to say that in fear Victor would change his mind, but he was glad he did. He could prepare himself to ignore them. “You say your statement then you can walk away. That’s all you need to do.”

“I’d like to do it,” Yuuri nodded. Although fear struck his heart, knowing he’d be in front of people who wanted to know more than just who he was thankful for, he was ready to do it. He felt confident in himself, but he wondered if Victor was ready too. “How about you, Victor?”

Yuuri watched Victor’s face for changes. It was unreadable and distant, Yuuri didn’t know what he was thinking or feeling. He stroked circles along Victor’s back again and squeezed his hand with comfort, hoping to reassure Victor that this would be alright. He’d be fine if he said yes, and it would be okay if he said no. Victor had a choice in this and Yuuri wanted to remind him that.

And with a long, heavy sigh, Victor closed his eyes and nodded. “Okay,” He said. “I’ll do it.”

Yuuri smiled and as Victor met his eyes, it stretched wider as he nodded. He was so proud of him for taking this next step – for fighting for himself and finding the courage to agree to do so.

“That’s… that’s a relief,” Yuuri heard Yakov say and they both looked down at the phone, curious what he had to say next. “I’m glad you’ve made this choice, Vitya.”

“I just hope it turns out well,” Victor replied. Yuuri did too. The fear that something bad will happen soon was still stuck in his mind, keeping him feeling distressed with every new day that came. He was just waiting for it – expecting it to happen and the longer nothing went wrong, the worse the feeling became.

“It will,” Yakov reassured him, and Yuuri did too with a proud kiss on Victor’s cheek. “I’ll keep you updated on the details. All I just ask of you both is to not back out of it. If you do, it could make things worse for their demands. Just say what you need to say and get it over and done with, okay?”

“Okay,” They both agreed.

And then the call ended, leaving the two cuddled close together with a lot on their minds. Yuuri was already wondering how to begin his statement, but Victor had something on his mind. Yuuri could see it and he was tempted to ask, but Victor had already beat him to it by the time he opened his mouth.

“Do you really think this will stop the media from bothering us?”

Yuuri swallowed hard as he stayed silent. He liked to think so, but he couldn’t be certain.

“I’m not sure,” He replied. “I think they want to know what happened and how we’re doing, but I also think if we just show our faces, that might make them believe that we are okay. It might be enough for them, but I can’t be certain…”

Victor turned away and nodded. He was disappointed but Yuuri was too. He wished it would be enough but he’d be lying to himself if he said so. With a heavy heart and a need for comfort, he wrapped his arms around Victor and brought him in for a hug. Victor returned it, circling his own around Yuuri. It didn’t convince them that everything would be fine. That was far from the truth. But for now, it helped ease their worries.

Yuuri was scared to speak up in public, but it needed to be done. He had to say something.

 

Chapter Text

 

It wasn’t easy taking a step forward when Yuuri didn’t know if he would fall.

Their statement was due to be spoken that day and while Yuuri was prepared with his notes in hand, he wasn’t nervous. He was completely and utterly petrified.

He stood outside the media conference room with Victor by his side, peeking through the window on the door. He let his heart race freely. There were too many people for him to count. They were talking amongst themselves, completely unaware that Yuuri was watching them and his hands began to tremble. They were talking about him, Yuuri could tell. He was beginning to regret taking this step.

It wasn’t the crowd that terrified him. He was often in front of one when he danced, but never a crowd like this. They were hungry reporters with a demand for more, wanting too much out of Yuuri when he’d only give the minimal. They’d feed off his misery and heartache without a care. They’d ask for more than Yuuri was willing to give, and Yuuri was beginning to doubt he’d be okay doing this.

He quickly decided he wasn’t ready. He couldn’t do it. He thought he was but he realized now how stupid he was.

“Yuuri, stop looking,” He heard Victor tell him, but Yuuri couldn’t help himself. He needed to prepare, otherwise, he feared their eyes would push him back into hibernation.

“I… I don’t know if I can do this,” Yuuri said, his voice shaking as he spoke. He cleared his throat. “I just… if I know who I’m talking to, I might be fine. I just need to look.”

He heard Victor sigh and Yuuri chose to ignore him. If he didn’t understand, it didn’t matter. This was what Yuuri needed to do. It would help him prepare for the best and perhaps the worst too.

He saw Victor move in the corner of his eye. Yuuri continued to ignore him until he came up beside him. He peeked through the window too, eyes searching the crowds and Yuuri wondered if Victor did understand after all.

“… There’s a lot.”

Yuuri gulped. “I know.”

He exhaled a long breath and turned to meet Victor’s eyes. His wide eyes shot to every inch of the room. His hand was shaking, trembling against his lips as he continued to bite and gnaw at his nails. He was just as nervous too, but that was expected.

Yuuri reached out, taking both of Victor’s hands in his own. He squeezed them tightly, encouraging Victor to take a deep breath. He didn’t say anything, but he nodded as their eyes met, confirming Yuuri’s silent question that asked if he was okay.

“I’ll be alright to talk,” Victor said, and Yuuri pulled him forward to bring him closer. “I… I spoke to my therapist before we came here. She told me to remember to pause and breathe. She even told me a quote a psychiatrist said. ‘Fear is excitement without the breath’. That… somehow made me feel a little better.”

Yuuri would admit, he felt a little better hearing that too. It was a little confidence boost – a small reminder that doing one simple thing could help. He inhaled a deep breath. It felt right doing so.

“As long as you feel okay to do this, we should be fine,” Yuuri said, cupping Victor’s cheek as he smiled warmly. “You’re so brave for doing this.”

“I guess,” Victor shrugged. His gaze fell to the ground, unable to meet Yuuri’s eyes. He wished his words were enough but it was never that easy. He could tell Victor his truths, but it was up to Victor if he could believe them. “I don’t think I could have done this without you here.”

“With or without me, you’re still here,” Yuuri reminded, and it seemed to do the trick. Victor gave him smile, one that wasn’t completely honest, but Yuuri was still so pleased to see it. He leaned forward to plant a soft kiss on Victor’s lips and returned the grin. “After all this is over, we can stay in bed for the rest of the day and talk it out, like we used to.”

His wording hit him with a sudden tugging in his chest. He… referred back to the room. It was something they did while they were trapped, but the words came out of his mouth before he could bite his tongue. He pressed his lips together, hoping Victor didn’t notice, but he didn’t seem to. His smile widened as he nodded and Yuuri couldn’t help but let out a breath, relieved it went better than expected.

“I’d like that,” Victor beamed.

Yuuri was pleased. It helped ease his own nerves too. He had been afraid of this. He was terrified of what was to come, but knowing Victor was by his side made it feel a little easier. He didn’t doubt he could do it anymore, but whether it would remain okay was completely out of his control.

The door opened behind them and both looked back. There was a cop stood behind them, someone to make sure they were safe during their statement, but he didn’t stop Yuuri’s heart drumming faster. This was it.

“Boys, it’s time.”

His nerves hit him like an oncoming train. It jolted his chest and stabbed his gut, churning deep inside as his hands began to shake along with Victor’s. They met each other’s eyes. Yuuri wasn’t sure he could do this anymore, and by the look on Victor’s face, he didn’t either. It didn’t encourage the other that they could do this, but they knew they couldn’t back out now. This needs to be done. They need to overcome this fear.

The first step forward was the easiest. It was the moment of freedom – a second where neither were faced with the crowd. It was the breath of fresh air and a single moment of peace before the storm. It was where Yuuri could take a breath and tell himself he could do this.

But the second was the hardest. It was when a thousand eyes turned to him, each glare hitting a combined strike at Yuuri’s chest, knocking every breath out of him. His body shook with sudden terror, clouding his mind in nothing but their stares and Yuuri couldn’t breathe or think. He felt Victor squeeze his hand tightly. He was trembling, just as scared as Yuuri.

A hand touched his shoulder. He tensed but let it guide him over to a chair that sat by his left. Another was beside him, one for Victor but he never sat down with Yuuri. He was stuck by the door, trembling hands holding his crutches in a grasp so tight, his knuckles turned white. His wide eyes stayed glued to the crowd in front of him, unable to look away as desperate pants fell from his lips.

Yuuri didn’t need to be told that Victor couldn’t do this. It wasn’t a matter of debate anymore. Victor needed to step out and leave this room before he fell. Yuuri jumped to his feet as Victor spun, already leaving the room in a hurry. Yuuri strode forward, ready to chase after him, but Victor didn’t go far.

Yuuri found him sat against the wall, knees to his chest and his hands over his head. Victor didn’t look up. He hadn’t moved a muscle, but Yuuri could hear him saying something. He was mumbling words under his breath but Yuuri couldn’t make out what he was saying. It didn’t matter. As long as Victor knew it was him who was by him, Victor should be okay.

“Victor, it’s me,” Yuuri told him. He didn’t look up, but his whispering fell silent.

Yuuri sat beside Victor as he rubbed supportive circles on his back. Victor didn’t flinch at his touch or turn away from him, but he didn’t look up either. Yuuri hoped his comfort would be enough to help him through this.

“You don’t have to do this,” Yuuri reminded him. “I know how overwhelming that was, but you don’t have to do it.”

As Victor raised his head, Yuuri’s heart yearned to pull him in his arms and never let go. His tears stained his cheeks and his glazy eyes held an unfocused stare, lost in his anguish as everything weighed down on him. Yuuri’s chest continued to tug mercilessly, reminding him that even with his efforts, there was only so much he could do for Victor. There was only so much that would help him.

“I can’t do it,” Victor cried. Yuuri cupped his cheek, wiping away the tears that fell. “I was… I was just so scared I was about to scream in front of them and there were just… so many eyes and cameras and…” He swallowed thickly, squeezing his eyes shut as he ran his fingers through his hair, gripping a handful. “It felt no different to when the man did the same thing. It was exactly the same. It was… God, I just can’t do it.”

Yuuri’s heart dropped to his stomach. He took a deep breath to ease the rapid thumping in his chest but it did nothing to help. Victor was right. It did feel exactly the same and he couldn’t deny that. He couldn’t say it wasn’t when they both knew that was a lie.

But Yuuri wasn’t going to let that be it.

“You tried, and that matters the most,” Yuuri told him as he gently moved Victor’s hand away from his hair, no longer tugging the strands. “Do you remember what we’ll do when we get home?”

Victor swallowed hard as he nodded, and answered, “We’ll stay in bed and talk it out.”

“Just like the therapist suggested,” Yuuri reminded him. They had already been doing so, but their therapist advised them both to mention talking things through, so they’d be aware of a talk and prepare for it rather than let it be random and messy. “It’s already been helping you. We’ll go home, talk it out, and see if it’ll help you again.”

“Okay, Victor nodded as he smiled weakly at Yuuri. It wasn’t quite the grin Yuuri had wanted, but it was enough to reassure him that Victor would be okay.

“Mr. Katsuki?” A voice disturbed them and he looked up. It was the cop from before. “Is this still happening?”

Yuuri took a heavy breath and nodded. He couldn’t just do this for himself anymore. This was for Victor, too. He stood to his feet, taking a second glance at Victor but stopped before he entered the room again. He had more to tell him.

“I’ll say to them that we’re okay,” He said, and Victor met his gaze. “I’ll say something that’ll make them believe we’re okay. I promise. I’ll try to get them to leave us alone.”

He didn’t need Victor to reply to know he was happy to let Yuuri do that, but he nodded, and that gave Yuuri the confidence boost he needed. He turned to the door. He inhaled a long breath, held it, and prepared himself as he stepped back into the room.

If Yuuri had to explain his nerves at that moment, he’d say his entire being stopped. The same fear struck his chest, jolting his heart and upsetting his stomach. He wanted to vomit out of pure terror, but he swallowed back the bile in his throat. He kept his fear hidden behind a stale expression, keeping his emotions concealed as he stepped towards the podium.

He was the focus in the room, and looking down at the crowd was a view he hadn’t seen in so long. There were so many eyes staring at him, it did more than just send shivers down his spine, but it froze his body and stop his breathing entirely.

His words had to be right. He had to watch what he’d say, otherwise, it could backfire. It had to be perfect. He was terrified to make a mistake.

He inhaled a shaky breath and cleared his throat. His eyes dropped to his notes, but any attempt to read them went horribly. His cards shook rapidly in his trembling grasp and Yuuri was quick to abandon them, ignoring his notes with the hope he could remember his words.

He raised his head, stood up tall, and when he was met with each piercing stare, he froze.

“Uh… Hi?”

If he could slap himself, he would have done so.

He cleared his throat again and paused to recover. He remembered what Victor told him, his own suggestion to help himself. If fear was excitement without the breath, he just had to breathe. He needed to refill his lungs and remember to keep doing so.

“I’d like to thank you all for coming,” He continued, feeling a little better after breathing for a moment. “I know most of you are here to… learn more about what happened, but I’ll have to disappoint those who wanted that. I’m not here to answer questions or reveal more than I am comfortable. This is me announcing my gratitude to those who deserve it.”

The chatter that followed had Yuuri gulp back the lump in his throat. He could breathe a little easier knowing they were aware he didn’t want to answer any questions, but he couldn’t be certain they’d follow through with his request.

There were some questions he could answer, but he’d rather avoid the ones that struck him with memories. He’d tell them all the good things like how he was sleeping better, that eating didn’t scare him with the fear it was drugged, or that the outside world was beginning to look appealing. He’d let them know of his recovery, but none of the bad things. That wasn’t theirs to know.

“I’d first like to thank the people who found me after I escaped,” He began. His voice nearly broke with a tremble; the memory of that moment flashed through his mind and hit with a fearful shudder. “I don’t know their names but I wish I do. I cannot express how thankful I am that they were there. They helped me and made me feel safe after everything that I had been through. I know I was a mess and I doubt I made any sense, but they stayed with me and waited for the police to arrive.”

His heart was pounding and his hands were clammy. He didn’t know how he was doing so well talking, but the forceful bite to hold back his fears and his intense concentration was doing him justice. “I don’t know who you are…” He raised his head and regretted it immediately. His heart came to an instant stop. “… but… but t-thank you. Thank you s-so much for being there.”

An applause erupted throughout the room and Yuuri jumped. The sudden noise took him back, but he told himself to breathe and calm down. He let his fear get to him, jabbing his gut with yet another intense ache. He reminded himself to focus. He told himself to breathe, like Victor had told him to. He had more to say.

“I’d also like to thank the police,” He continued and was proud of himself for keeping his voice still. He regained his concentration. He held back his terror. “They helped me and I knew I was safe when they arrived. I knew I’d be free. They helped me, but they also helped Victor too. They saved Victor too and I am forever grateful for that.”

A thousand eyes stared and only one he was comfortable with. He glanced over his shoulder, finding Victor watching him through the window on the door. Their eyes met and when Yuuri gave a small smile, Victor returned it. A warmth spread through his chest as his grin slowly grew wider. Yuuri was truly grateful they saved Victor. He couldn’t imagine life without him.

His eyes snapped back to the crowd as a snap of a photo jolted his gaze away. He inhaled a shaky breath. He wished it was over but there was more he had to say and he couldn’t stop now. There were people who deserved to be mentioned.

“I’d also like to thank the paramedics who took care of me in the hospital. You had to deal with me…” He paused with the bite of his tongue. They didn’t need to know about that time when they just got out and Yuuri didn’t know if Victor was okay. That was his own secret. “… With me and my injuries.” He thought it was a nice save, but he couldn’t be confident it worked. “You helped me shape my future and helped it feel a little brighter. You were there to offer me help and advice through the many troubles I have, and I’m thankful you were there to help. Thank you for what you’ve done for us.”

Another applause filled the room, jolting Yuuri’s heart again. He couldn’t get used to the sudden noises. His heart continued to pound and his hands still shook, uncontrollable and numb. He was getting worse as the statement went on – his fears tugging uncontrollably and Yuuri was so afraid he’d break, but he wasn’t finished yet.

He made a promise to Victor, and he’d be damned if he wouldn’t do this for him.

“I’m sure you’ve all been wondering how we’ve been,” He began, knowing exactly what white lie he’d say. He almost felt he couldn’t breathe properly. Why was his heart racing so hard? “We’ve… been okay.”

And like a breath of fresh air, he could breathe again. The lie was out, spoken, and told to a crowd who wanted to know more. It wasn’t even a complete lie. He had been okay, for some parts, but they didn’t need to know the details.

“Returning home has helped me more than enough. I feel confident in myself that my recovery will be successful, and I’ll be back to my old self in no time.” It was all lies. Lies, lies, lies. If he was so confident he’d recover, he would have the guts to leave his home. He’d no longer look at himself and hate the person who looked back, because his reflection was nothing a scarred and damaged person, changed by a situation that shouldn’t have happened. He hated it so much, but nothing could change the past. “We escaped, we’re healing, and all I ask is for our privacy. We’re where we belong, but we need time to adjust to life outside of our captivity. I hope you understand; thank you.”

Yuuri expected the applause and he was prepared for it that time. His speech was over. It should have been the end, but Yuuri never expected the stream of questions that headed his way. Their voices pushed him back like a gust of wind – a force so strong, Yuuri had to fight against it, but he couldn’t. He froze up completely. His bug eyes stared at them, his heart hammering in his ears, and he couldn’t move an inch.

He didn’t expect this. He thought he was prepared but he wasn’t, and he was so terrified.

A hand on his shoulder guided him away. Yuuri couldn’t hear the cops voice behind him, but all he knew was that he wanted them to stop touching him. He’d yell if he hadn’t met eyes with a blonde-haired woman, pointing a microphone his way and asking a question he heard clear as day. It met his ears and struck his chest with an intense burn – not from fear, but from anger. Rage.

He didn’t know where the sudden confidence came from, but his fears vanished within seconds. He wasn’t scared anymore. He didn’t need to get out. He had something else he needed to do – something he wanted to say to that woman.

Yuuri pulled his shoulder back and returned to the podium. He raised his hand to quieten their voices. The room fell silent as anticipation filled the air, and Yuuri pointed to the woman who spoke to him – his dark eyes burning into hers.

“What did you just say?”

She cleared her throat, clearly nervous to ask again. “If you were to say anything to the man who took you, what would you say to him?”

Yuuri’s fists trembled with rage. His jaw tensed as he gritted his teeth, desperate to bite back his fury. There was so much he’d say to the man – too much, he wasn’t certain he could do it in one sitting. It was a question that struck him with a reckless rage and an anger that was growing, quickly filling him with nothing but a desperate need to spill his hatred. He lied to them about how he was doing, but he refused to lie and say he didn’t care about the man.

He cared too much. There were too many questions he’d ask, each one that questioned why the man took them and what possessed him to continue his plan. Yuuri had too many questions left unanswered and he was sick of it. He was done.

He knew Victor was shaking his head at him. He could see him in the corner of his eye, back inside the room and silently pleading Yuuri not to answer, but he was too far gone. They wanted to know what he’d say to the man and Yuuri wasn’t going to hold back.

He was a volcano. He was ready to erupt, and Victor’s pleading couldn’t stop him – not anymore. He was gone.

“What would I say to him?” He asked, less of a question than a statement but she still nodded. His fist clenched so tightly, his nails dug into his trembling palms. He had to bite back his pure rage, otherwise, he’d break something. He wanted to throw a fit and smash something, but rather than that, he let himself rant than have a breakdown.

“I’d first ask him why,” He began. It was the first question he’d ask – the main question that could lead to so much. “I’d ask him what possessed him to do what he did, and why he wanted to hurt us. I’d ask him his reason for taking Victor, leaving him alone for a year before bringing me into that mess. I’d ask him his reason for doing all this, then tell him exactly what I think.” Yuuri’s eyes met a camera and he couldn’t hold back his scowl. “And I hope he finds out what’s been said here. I want him to read every word I say because he needs to know exactly what I think.”

“Yuuri!” He heard Victor whisper loudly, his voice demanding and needy. “Don’t you dare.”

But Yuuri was too far gone.

“Although he tried to keep me and Victor trapped, I’d like to remind him that he failed.” The thought alone left Yuuri with a smirk on his face – a sneer left on his lips that took pride in the man’s failure. “I’d like to laugh in his face, tell him we got out, and remind him that he failed to contain me. He failed to move Victor when he realized he messed up. Everything he had done was all worthless because, in the end, we won. We’re out and we have our freedom back while he’d trapped in his own cell. I hope he rots for it. It’s what he deserves, and I… I…”

His eyes squeezed shut and his lips pressed tightly together. He had to stop. He was shaking in rage and Yuuri knew if he didn’t get out, he’d break down. His breath was growing short with every second that ticked. The walls were closing in on him and Yuuri had to get out. He couldn’t breathe.

He never finished what he had to say. He could hear the demand for more questions but he was done. He was out of the door before one could reach his ears, panting desperately as fast eyes searched for somewhere private and safe. There were too many people. He just wanted Victor. He needed Victor, but although Yuuri could hear him calling Yuuri’s name, he didn’t stop. He couldn’t, not until he was safe and somewhere he won’t be hurt or disturbed.

He’d leave the building but that was too dangerous. It was how it went wrong last time and Yuuri couldn’t put himself or Victor through that again. He didn’t doubt he’d break down if he stepped foot outside. His tears were streaming down his face. He needed somewhere private. If he couldn’t get air, he could get privacy.

He strode down the hallways and followed the signs that lead him to a bathroom. He fell through the door, gasping for air as he collapsed onto the tiled ground. He wasn’t certain he was alone, but all he knew was his inability to breathe. His heart pounded, burning his lungs with wailing cries that screamed from his lips – and Yuuri broke all over again.

He couldn’t stop thinking about what he said or the fury that built inside. There was so much rage and aggression, it couldn’t all fit inside his body. The desire to break something was unbearable and as Yuuri stormed to his feet, he began to pace. His rage needed release. It needed a way out.

His fingers curled through his hair and his feet stomped the ground. He needed to do something – anything to release the burning inferno inside. He grabbed the sink, clawing at the porcelain as he released a cry of rage. He felt uncontrollable. His body had taken control, moving Yuuri without his consent that fear and worry began to crawl its way through his mind too. He wanted to cry but even that was out of his control.

But then he looked up.

His reflection struck his chest like a gunshot. He was a mess. His eyes were red and puffy from crying. His tears stained his cheeks and his mouth hung open, his desperate pants unable to exhale through his stuffed nose. His hair stuck out all over the place, completely untamed from his previous tugging. He hadn’t had a haircut since he was taken, back when he went missing and everything was as bad as he imagined.

There was nothing but hatred at the person who stared back. He saw nothing but a broken and damaged object. Yuuri couldn’t see an end to this. He couldn’t imagine a future where he’s better and he wondered what was the point? His anger would only worsen. He’d one day lose control and do something he’d regret, and it’ll be his own fault. He’ll be to blame for letting himself get to that point.

And Yuuri would have to accept that end. It would be his fault. He deserved it.

He was nothing but a victim. He wasn’t Katsuki Yuuri anymore. He wasn’t a dime-a-dozen ballet dancer, but a victim of a crime he’d never forget. He’d remember it for the rest of his life, reminded by his scars, wounds, and his own reflection that resurfaced so much hatred inside of him, he’d lose control.

And as Yuuri raised a trembling fist, he threw it at the mirror. It cracked on impact, but Yuuri didn’t feel better. It wasn’t enough. He threw another, and another, aiming his punches at the cracked mirror until it shattered and fell around him, cluttering around his feet and sink.

It glimmered in the light, sparkling like precious diamonds. The focus on that helped calm his rage. It eased his fury until Yuuri noticed the blood mixed in with the glass, and an intense pain in his hand grew. He exhaled a cry and stared at his bloodied hand. It trembled in agony, broken and wounded just like himself and he fell to his knees, cutting his legs on shattered glass. He wanted to cry but nothing came out. He swallowed hard as a numbness washed over his body. The pain was there, yet it didn’t bother him.

This wasn’t right. He wasn’t okay, not one bit.

“Yuuri?”

His head shot up at the voice. It was Victor. His eyes scanned the area, staring at the mess surrounding Yuuri with tears in his eyes. Yuuri’s numbness faded, but all that came back was a torturous tugging in his chest – an agonizing cry that needed release. He wanted to apologize, cry, or do something to stop the ache in his chest, but he couldn’t. He was frozen in place.

“I…”

He needed to say something. He needed to tell Victor everything and explain what was going through his head, but he couldn’t. He stuttered through unspoken words, uncertain what to say or do.

He looked around himself. There was blood on the floor that soaked his hand, painting his skin in a color he didn’t wish to see. He broke the glass, influenced by his uncontrollable rage and aggression that needed to be released, yet, he could do nothing to stop it from happening. He had lost control. He let his rage get to him, and Yuuri swallowed thickly to stop his tears.

He didn’t have the energy to cry, but his sobs broke past his lips, releasing his heart-breaking pleas and agony and he wept through a desperate gasp, “I need help.

And that was the end. He finally broke.

He looked up at Victor. He didn’t need anything else. He didn’t want words of encouragement or touches that made him feel better. He needed help.

But Victor seemed to already know that. He guided Yuuri to his feet, a handful of tissues already gently wrapped around Yuuri’s wound and they were moving. He didn’t know where he was being taken or what would happen next, but he was by Victor’s side. That’s all that mattered. It’s all he cared about.

 


 

The remainder of the day continued as a blur.

Yuuri couldn’t remember anything after the breakdown, but he could recall colors. He saw lots of white, red, and the occasional blue before it was replaced with the familiar colors of him home. He wasn’t entirely sure where he was before, but it didn’t matter. He gradually came back to reality by the smell of katsudon and the soft comfort of his bed.

And that was when everything hit him like a train at full force.

The breakdown, his rage, and the broken mirror; it all came back to him in one punching moment. He remembered being taken to the hospital and getting his wound checked. He looked down at his hand. A bandage wrapped around it, confirming his memory to be true. He remembered Victor and Mari both sat in the car with him. He never said a word. He stared out the window and watched the world fly by. He remembered their worried faces.

But that was the calm after the storm. That was when Yuuri didn’t feel rage, or pain, but contentment as Victor laid him in bed and joined his side, holding Yuuri close. He never returned the touch. He couldn’t while he was trapped in his head, aimlessly staring ahead, and lost in the everlasting numbness.

But Yuuri was out. He was back in reality, aware of Victor bringing over a bowl of katsudon. He wanted to apologize but there was something else he wanted first.

Yuuri needed comfort. He needed Victor’s soft touch to ease his woes that painfully tugged his chest. He’d cry if he had the energy to, but he was tired of crying and hugs never hurt anyone.

Victor handed him the katsudon but he never ate it. He moved it aside instead before circling his arms around Victor’s waist, silently requested a hug in return. Victor gave him what he wanted. He held Yuuri close, hands pressed against his back with his thumb stroking soft circles to comfort him.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri muttered almost child-like. Victor didn’t reply and that didn’t help convince Yuuri that he wasn’t mad at him. He inhaled a shaky breath, “I… messed it all up, didn’t I?”

He didn’t ruin the statement. That wasn’t the problem. He messed up helping them get their privacy. He broke down in front of the press in anger, revealing his true feelings and showing them that he had lied when he said they were okay. He ruined it for them both. He broke his promise.

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

Yuuri sighed. “I know.”

“You… provoked him,” Victor said as he pulled back, holding a harsh stare. Yuuri wanted to look away but he had to face this. “You’re pushing him again and it – it never goes well when you do that. You know what he’d do if he ever gets his hands on us again. You – you know that and yet, you still…”

Victor stopped and turned away. His hand stroked over his face as he sighed heavily, shaking his head to himself. Yuuri began to nervously chew on his lip. He thought Victor’s anger was his broken promise, but the truth was unexpected.

He was still terrified of the man. He feared Yuuri’s words would hurt them again, encouraging the man to find them and punish them for what he had done. Yuuri knew that wouldn’t happen. The man was gone, completely out of their lives inside a prison cell, but he could admit the fear was valid. He had every right to be scared.

“I…” He wanted to apologize, but it wouldn’t be enough.

Victor’s hand dropped to his lap. “You don’t always have to be brave for me, Yuuri.” Yuuri swallowed hard and turned away. He knew he didn’t, but it wouldn’t feel right otherwise. “That scared me so much. I was just… so terrified that if you intimidated him, he’d try to… he’d try…”

He never finished his sentence. He turned away, eyes falling to the ground as he exhaled a heavy breath. Yuuri scolded himself for not thinking of Victor. He let his anger take control, provoking and intimidating the man in ways that would have gotten them hurt back in the room. He did this all without thinking how it was like for Victor to hear, and Yuuri was so selfish for doing so.

He didn’t need to ask if Victor was mad. He knew, but it didn’t give Yuuri a reason to not apologize.

“I’m sorry, Victor.”

Victor didn’t reply right away. He crossed his arms and kept his eyes down, but with a heavy sigh, they returned to meet Yuuri’s. “I’m not mad at you,” He said, and it was nothing but a relief. “I know how the press can be. They’re… merciless and greedy. They hold most of my anger. This was the first time you truly faced their wrath, wasn’t it?”

Mutely, Yuuri nodded. He’d spoken with the press before went missing when his future was ahead of him and he finally achieved that lead role he worked so hard towards. He spoke to them back then, but never like that; never in a moment where he was so scared and afraid of their questions.

“I’m not angry at the things you said, either,” Victor answered honestly, turning his gaze away. “I… shouldn’t still be scared of the man. He’s in prison and we’re free. There’s no way he can hurt us anymore and I keep trying to remind myself that, but it’s hard.”

Yuuri wasn’t sure if he was reading Victor right, but it sounded like he was apologizing too. Yuuri shook his head, quickly denying any reason for Victor to say sorry. He had nothing to be sorry for. His reasons were valid, expected, and very much real in Yuuri’s own mind too.

“I shouldn’t have let my anger get to me like I had,” Yuuri told him as he reached out. His trembling hand took Victor’s own – fingers linked as his thumb stroked the back of his hand, easing Victor’s anguish. “I lost control and that wasn’t fair on you. I don’t want you to think you have to apologize or find excuses to explain yourself. You had every right to feel scared and I should have thought of you before I let my mouth speak for itself.”

The smile Victor gave was warm and inviting, so when Victor raised his arms for a hug, Yuuri didn’t think twice as he delved in.

“You promised cuddles and a talk if you remember?” Victor reminded him, his voice muffled by his hair. “I think you need it more than I do.”

Yuuri really did, but he wanted the cuddles first.

While still holding Victor, he moved them until they were lying down on his bed, their legs tangled and their bodies so close, Yuuri could feel Victor’s breath touch his skin. They stayed silent for a moment, lost in each other’s eyes as they laid unspeaking and quiet. They didn’t always need to fill the silence anymore. Sometimes, when wrapped in each other’s arms, the silence was welcomed with peace and tranquillity. Yuuri loved moments like this.

He raised his hand to brush his fingers through Victor’s hair, but he didn’t get far. Victor lightly took hold of his wrist and brought it down to his lips, but Yuuri couldn’t focus when he saw the bandage on his hand. He still couldn’t completely remember getting it cleaned, but as Victor pressed a soft kiss to his fingers, he found he didn’t mind.

“I think you need to talk about what happened.”

Yuuri knew that. He wanted to talk but recollecting those memories left him with a problem.

He was too afraid to do so. He was terrified to remember, scared that he’d get angry and lose control again. It could get to him, remind him of that anger that was truly unstoppable, and he’d break more than just a mirror. He could break something he treasured or hurt someone he loved. He couldn’t do that. He’d never let himself sink that low.

But Victor was right. If he kept it bottled up, the damage would be far worse. He’d lose control again and he’d only have himself to blame for not listening to Victor. He’d never get better if he didn’t talk, and while that fear was still there, he knew what he needed to do.

“I just… lost control,” Yuuri admitted. He moved until he was on his back, but still in Victor’s arms as one rested across Yuuri’s stomach. Yuuri fought the urge to look back. He had to concentrate.

“It was strange, that moment where I knew I was gone,” He continued. “I heard her question so clearly and it just… hit me hard, and next thing I know, I’m back on that podium, spitting words of hatred that I’d only like for you to hear. N-Now all these strangers know how much I despise that man and – and…”

“Take your time,” Victor reminded him as Yuuri pressed his hands to his face, stifling his audible groan that threatened to grow into rage. Victor’s hand moved to his chest, resting just above his beating heart. His anger was still there, but he had control over it. He could calm it with Victor’s touch and a few deep breaths.

“I don’t remember much after that either,” Yuuri said, exhaling a long shaky breath as his hands moved away from his face. “I knew I needed to get out. It was hard to breathe and my heart was pounding so hard… I remember just thinking to myself that I needed some privacy.”

“And that’s when you went to the bathroom?” Victor asked, and Yuuri nodded.

“That’s when I left,” He answered. His unfocused eyes stayed glued to the ceiling. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, reminding himself what Victor told him to do. “As soon as I stepped foot in that bathroom, I broke. I was just so, so angry that I…”

His anger was something he couldn’t explain to someone who didn’t understand. He hardly understood it himself, but he knew enough to expect Victor to as well. He trusted he didn’t have to explain what it was like and hoped Victor knew too. He hoped he understood, even if it was a little.

“Can I ask you something?” Yuuri suddenly asked, turning his head. He watched Victor nod and Yuuri chewed his lips in nerves. “Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and hated who looked back?”

Victor recoiled back slightly, struck with a sudden memory that hit Yuuri’s chest. Victor inhaled a shaky breath and the look in his eyes answered Yuuri’s question before he even spoke.

“Yes,” Victor nodded. “It was what made me cut my hair.”

Victor never told Yuuri the reason why he cut it. He had asked, but Victor avoided the conversation with another topic or a wave of his hand. This was an insight Yuuri never knew before – an answer that ripped his chest apart.

He exhaled a sigh, and asked, “Was that on purpose, or impulsive?”

“…Impulsive.”

“Then you must know what I mean when I say I had no control over what happened next,” Yuuri said, and as Victor nodded, Yuuri realized how much he wished Victor didn’t understand him, especially on this topic. “It was like I had no way to stop myself. I looked at myself and saw someone who was nothing but a damaged object, or a victim, and I hated seeing myself that way. I can’t stand it. So, I guess my mind found a way to cope with that.”

“It’s… possible,” Victor answered, lowering his gaze. “I just needed my hair gone. I used to have long hair but it didn’t remind me of my youth. It reminded me of the time I spent in the room. It made me remember everything I wanted to move on from. I guess your need to smash that mirror was to stop you from looking at yourself, because you can’t change the way you look like I could.”

Yuuri wished he could, but only to stop the reminder. He’d have to avoid looking at himself if he wanted to start forgetting, but neither was a healthy coping mechanism and Yuuri didn’t need an expert to tell him that. He just didn’t know how else to move on.

He let out a sigh. “I think if you didn’t arrive when you did, it could have ended much worse for me.”

Victor moved forward, gently touching their foreheads together as he exhaled a shaky breath. He brought his hands up, curling them around the back of Yuuri’s neck as he played with the tips of his hair. Yuuri closed his eyes, letting the touch ease his mind and calm himself down.

“You asked me for my help,” Victor said, and Yuuri nodded. He remembered that. Victor then pulled back. “I’ve done what I can.”

“You’ve done enough.”

But Victor shook his head. “No. I’ve done more,” He corrected. Yuuri’s brows dropped. “I called up your therapists and told them what had happened, so they’ve rearranged your sessions for tomorrow instead. They need you to talk to them as soon as possible.”

Yuuri blinked. “You… did?”

“There was only so much I could do to help you. I’m not a professional and I couldn’t give you the help you needed…” He paused. “But I knew who could. I knew people who could help you in the ways that I can’t, and if I could do that much, I’d be helping.”

Yuuri held his stare. He was grateful to those who helped him, but his gratitude towards Victor could never be rivaled with. Victor took the prize, helping Yuuri in more ways than he could have ever asked for and as a wide smile grew on his lips, he found no reason to hold it back. Even when everything felt lost and he saw no escape, Victor was always there to help.

And Yuuri kissed him. Their lips met in a soft touch, sharing kiss after kiss until their mouths opened, desperate to feel the other. He couldn’t remember the last time he truly got lost in Victor’s touch, but it had been long – so long, he desired more.

But Victor pulled back before he could delve deeper. He gasped for a breath, their noses touching as they stayed close, unable to move too far away. “We haven’t kissed enough since we got free,” Victor commented. “You know that, right?”

Yuuri’s smile felt real. “We should make up for lost time.”

Although the day hadn’t been the best, it ended in a way neither had expected – a thousand kisses shared under the starlight, hidden from a world they had returned to, and Yuuri cherished that moment of intimacy and trust. They were right, it had been too long.

They were free to let themselves be careless. They could kiss and touch without fear, unafraid that anyone would hurt them and that didn’t hold them back, not like it used to. They could be free, but they had to remind themselves they can afford to be.

Their freedom was still very new, but they were getting there. Slowly, but surely.

 

Chapter Text

 

It wasn’t that Victor couldn’t handle being alone. He just preferred not to be.

And it wasn’t often he found himself alone either. He usually had Yuuri by his side, but there were times where Yuuri had to leave him. There were times where Victor needed to go somewhere without Yuuri.

Sometimes, he had to be alone and when he did, he needed to find a way to cope with the missing presence of his lover. He had to find ways to console himself from his memories and fears. He needed to hold back his desperate need to scream because the lump in his throat wouldn’t leave unless he did. It sometimes suffocated him, running his breath short and he’d always come so, so close to screaming.

But he could hold it back. He could keep it swallowed down, hidden behind a façade that made people believe he was okay. He was good at that, but he had always been good at pretending.

He did it for Yuuri’s family. He didn’t want to scare them with his inability to bite back his trauma. They had their own problems outside of him and he wasn’t always sure how to explain it to them. He wasn’t sure how to tell Hiroko and Toshia that his night terrors didn’t always include the man hurting him, but their son instead. He couldn’t explain to Mari why he liked to sit out in the gardens. He wasn’t certain if she’d ever understand his need to be outside in private, away from the four walls that trapped and closed him in.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want or need their help. It was always taken with appreciation when they gave it to him; he just wanted to start learning to cope alone. He didn't want to become dependant on their or Yuuri's help to keep him stable.

They did enough, and that alone helped Victor feel safe when Yuuri wasn’t there with him.

It didn’t help ease the loneliness that weighed heavily on his chest. It didn’t stop his constant need to be aware of himself just so he didn’t scream. It didn’t keep his mind occupied and away from the flashbacks and memories. It didn’t help, but it was enough to keep him fighting. It helped Victor learn that he had to help himself.

He sat out in the gardens while he waited for Yuuri. He knew it would be a long session – a few hours at most – but Yuuri would be back. He’d always returned by his side. Victor laid down on the dry grass with Makkachin by his side, staring at the clouds as he watched them fly by. The clouds were so free, so Victor thought. He made out shapes with them, playing a game with himself to occupy his mind.

Victor liked being outdoors. He wasn't quite ready to go further than the garden or beyond the gate that separated the outside world from his private, safe sanctuary, but he liked where he could sit in silence and breathe in the fresh air. He enjoyed listening to the seagull's cry around him, reminding him of both his freedom and Saint Petersburg. Reminding himself that he was free always brought joy to his heart. Nothing could stop him from basking in the warm sunlight, feeling the wind kiss his skin, or touching the seasons with his own two hands. Nobody could take that away from him, not anymore.

The man lost his control over Victor. He often told himself that. It gave Victor the courage to take steps he needed to take. It helped to remind him of his freedom, the possibilities he has, and his free will to just be who he once was and who he could be. Nobody could take that away from him or stop him from doing so. The only one was himself and Victor refused to let that happen.

This was freedom. This was his chance to get better, much like his Yuuri was doing.

He anticipated this therapy session should help Yuuri begin to control his anger, but he didn’t want to give himself false hope. Yuuri had been struggling with it since their freedom. He noticed the fury that would quake Yuuri’s bones, clenching his fist in his lap and gritting his teeth to hide his anger away, but Victor always caught it. It showed in Yuuri’s face, body, and eyes. It showed when they spoke about their captivity to each other. It showed when Yuuri slept, his dreams making him scowl and frown as those memories returned to him.

But after what he saw, he failed to realize the true extent of Yuuri’s rage.

Yuuri needed to talk to a professional. It ended in a complete breakdown and Victor knew those signs too well. Yuuri couldn’t cope. He couldn’t help himself, so when Victor walked into that bathroom to see him lose control like that, repetitively throwing his fury at a mirror, uncaring for his cut hand and letting out that rage in a moment of pure, unstoppable anger…

Victor had to help him.

He received enough help from Yuuri that it was his turn to return it. Yuuri needed help more than Victor needed it. His screaming fits were the worst of his trauma, but Yuuri’s anger was growing rapidly, causing chaos and destruction in his way. This wasn’t something Victor could help him with. This was above his help, to Victor's despair. He couldn’t stop Yuuri's anger, especially when it scared him to see it, but he could do something about it. He could help.

That rage Victor knew too well. It wasn’t from Yuuri. He’d never be on the opposing end of Yuuri’s anger, but he had been on the man’s. He felt the man’s punches, his fingers bruising his skin with nothing but fury in his eyes. It was the look the man gave that didn’t convince Victor he wasn’t going to die that day.

Tight fingers wrapped around his wrists, binding them to the ground as Victor struggled beneath the grasp. His panting breath came out short and desperate. His rapid heart punched his chest with each fearful beat. The knife he used to defend himself was far out of reach, long lost in the fight for his life, but it wasn’t the only thing he lost.

The battle was over. He was defeated. And now, Victor was met with more than just the man who stole him, but his fury, his rage, and everything Victor had avoided since he arrived in this room.

“It’s over Victor,” The man growled; his voice low and menacing. “Nobody will be here in time to save you. You’ll be gone before they arrive."

Victor pressed his trembling hands to his eyes, breathing in a deep shaky breath. He was so convinced the man meant he’d kill him. In that moment of pure terror, it was all Victor knew. It was all Victor expected the man to do, but what he did was far worse.

If Victor hadn’t escaped, he’d choose death over what could have been.

He didn’t like to think that way but he could never forget what he asked. He was so desperate to free himself from the man’s grasp, Victor begged the man to kill him. He pleaded for him to end his life. It was his last resort and Victor knew he couldn’t escape. He’d rather take death than another year trapped in isolation and fear. He couldn't handle that again.

The man didn’t give Victor what he asked for, but he never really did.

“I thought I’d find you out here.”

A voice pulled him from his thoughts and Victor’s head fell back, catching an upside-down Mari who was walking over. He moved until he sat up straight as Mari stood by his side with a cigarette in hand and a question in her eyes. Victor inhaled a heavy breath.

“Hello, Mari,” He smiled, remembering his manners. “Did you need me for something?”

She didn’t reply at first. She held her head down and kicked her foot around, moving the grass with it as she hesitated to reply.

“I just…” She began, but sooner than she spoke, she fell silent. “I just want to thank you for what you’ve done for Yuuri.”

Her words took Victor back. He hadn’t thought he’d done anything major to help Yuuri during his recovery, but he wondered if he might’ve been unaware that he had. He couldn’t think of anything. Even with his recent breakdown, Victor didn’t think he did much for Yuuri. If he had, he wouldn’t have had the breakdown to begin with.

“What I’ve done?” He asked, brow raised in question.

She nodded, taking a deep inhale from her cigarette, and exhaling a puff of smoke that left an unpleasant burn in Victor’s throat. “Yuuri’s not someone who’s open with many people,” She began, and Victor would never have guessed. He saw the way Yuuri spoke to his family and friends. It surprised him to hear that Yuuri wasn’t open. “He’s… quite hard to get through to, but whatever happened while you two were… gone, you’ve clearly done something for him since he trusts you wholeheartedly, and I’ve been trying to work out what it could be. I’ve been thinking what you could have done and all I can think of is that you helped him.”

Victor’s gaze dropped as a smile formed on his lips. It hurt to hear Yuuri wasn’t as open as he thought. Yuuri was someone who should be heard by everyone because Yuuri was wonderful to listen to. He had an entire world inside his mind – a way of thinking that inspired people around him to see light in their life. His Yuuri was a beacon of hope and Victor wanted more people to see that.

But he was proud to have met that Yuuri. He was honored to be so close to him that Victor both met and saw the Yuuri not many others knew.

“You were there for him while that… that monster was hurting my little brother…” She paused as her eyes squeezed shut. Her cigarette burned too low, dropping ash to the ground as the smoke extinguished. She took a deep breath. “So, I just wanted to thank you for looking out for him.”

Victor didn’t want her to thank him for that. He would have done it even if it meant nothing in return. He’d do it because Yuuri did it for him and that was how their relationship worked. They’d meet each other halfway. Where Yuuri gives, Victor gives too. If Yuuri opens up, then so does Victor, and he meets Yuuri where he wants Victor to be. It was how they were and it worked well for them. It kept their relationship healthy and Victor wouldn't have it any other way.

“I don’t think we had much of a choice, but… I’d help him regardless. We were there for each other,” He told Mari, and she stayed silent, listening. “He helped me and I helped him. It’s… how we survived, really.”

“And you’re still doing so,” Mari continued. Victor nodded as he began running his fingers through Makkachin’s fur. The action soothed him. He already knew what she was going to ask next. “I don’t know what happened yesterday, but I know Yuuri did enough to cause property damage and that… says a lot. He lost control, didn’t he?”

If Victor was honest, he’d say Yuuri did more than lose control. His mind was completely vacant, but all he knew was fury. His anger screamed out of him with frightful punches to a mirror, unaware he was causing his own pain before he finally snapped back and realized what he had done – and begged Victor for help.

But he couldn’t tell Mari that. It would crush her.

He couldn’t pretend it didn’t happen or try to fix it himself. It was beyond him. It was something Victor had never witnessed from Yuuri before and he felt like he made the right choice. He wasn’t able to help Yuuri with this, but he knew someone who could. He knew someone who could assist Victor in keeping Yuuri’s anger under control, and he could learn to help Yuuri cope with it too. He was certain he made the right decision. Victor just hated not knowing how to help him.

“He’s been hiding his anger from us,” Victor found himself saying as his eyes starred off in the distance.

“Yuuri had always been a silent thinker,” Mari said, but Victor wasn’t certain if it was towards him or to herself. “He’d talk to you, but I can guarantee he’s not telling you everything, especially when it’s how he’s feeling. It’s sometimes good for him to do that. It helps him figure things out, but not like this… not when it makes him worse than better.”

Victor nodded, agreeing with her. “If I’m honest, I’m not surprised it happened yesterday,” He found himself admitting. “He was so persistent to do this statement with me that I think he didn’t completely think it out for himself. He didn’t think how it would be for him, and when they asked him that question about the man… that was his last push.”

Mari moved to sit beside Victor.

“You helped him, right?”

Victor didn’t hesitate as he nodded. “Always,” He replied. Mari exhaled a long breath and Victor wondered what went through her mind, but before he could ask, she was already talking.

“This is something I don’t think I can help completely,” She admitted, dropping her gaze to the ground. Victor’s heart pained him, sad to see Mari believe she couldn't help. “I’ll give him my support and be there when he wants me to be, but this whole ordeal is something you understand better than anyone. He needs someone to talk to who can understand him, who can help him think things out and understand himself. You’re the only one, Victor.”

He’d be lying if he said the weight of responsibility didn’t push on his shoulders because it did, painfully so, but it was for Yuuri and Victor would take that any day. He’d do everything in his power to help Yuuri, but from experience, he reminded himself that self-care was important too. Yuuri was met with the worst of ignoring his own care. Victor knew he couldn’t afford another setback himself.

“I’ll try my best,” He told Mari. It was the honest truth, one Victor would never hesitate to say. “I can’t promise I’ll do the best job in the world, but…”

“You’ll try, and that’s what matters,” Mari finished his sentence. Victor nodded, agreeing with her words as a silence fell between them. Victor played with his fingers. He could see Mari was still looking at him, but he couldn’t find the courage to look back.

“Have you been okay?” She then asked, and Victor could finally meet her stare.

“… Peachy,” He shrugged. He’s answered that question so much, he was surprised he could still find new ways to answer it. “There are some days I feel like I’m getting better, but then other days are an instant drop where I just want to… scream and cry all day.” He looked away. It was hard to admit, even if Yuuri’s family already knew. He took a deep breath. “But I’ve been okay, for now. I’m getting this stupid cast taken off in a few days, so that’s exciting.”

He couldn't wait for the cast to be removed. Moving around was such a struggle and getting up the stairs to Yuuri’s room was a hassle. He’d stay in Yuuri’s room if it meant making his life easier, but the thought of staying in yet another room for longer than a day left Victor feeling breathless and confined. He couldn’t do it. Not anymore.

"That's good," Mari commented with a smile, "Your screaming’s seemed to ease."

“It has!” Victor beamed. He liked to remember the good things in life and one of them was his screaming starting to calm. He had a few days where it didn’t hit him. The need was there, but he held it back. He kept it under control, and he was so proud of himself. “My therapist says it’s a good sign. It’s the first step towards my recovery, so I try to remind myself that on the bad days. It doesn’t always help, but it’s a nice reminder.”

Mari smiled as she fell silent for a moment.

“I know I say a lot that my brother didn’t deserve what happened, but you didn’t either,” She said, and Victor swallowed hard. He wanted to begin opening up, but he hadn’t realized how unprepared he was. His heart began to race. “You were there for so long and I just… how did – how did you cope?”

And Victor was met with a decision. He could be honest with Mari like he wanted, or he could lie. He could make the situation feel less terrifying just to calm her fears that Yuuri was met with the same fate.

But lying was shameful. It dismissed the true terrors they were faced with, shoving them aside while making the situation seem easy to cope with. Victor couldn’t do that. He didn’t want Yuuri’s family to hurt, but as he met Mari’s curious but scared eyes, he knew he couldn’t lie.

“I didn’t,” He began; his heart began to pound and a lump formed in his throat. He tried to swallow it back but his mouth was too dry. “I just… had to take each day as it was. It was either do as I was told and let the isolation get to me, or go against the man and let him hurt me, all while waiting for the day someone saves me. I didn’t like either option, but at least doing as I was told gave me food and water.”

He saw the anguish that flooded Mari’s face, leaving behind tears in her eyes and a trembling lip, bitten to hold back her sobs. Victor didn’t wish to see her tears. She had asked and she knew what she’d hear wouldn’t be nice, and yet, it still got to her.

Victor had to admit it annoyed him, especially when they asked while being so unprepared for the answer, but he understood curiosity. It left the ignorant needing more, then regretful after hearing the truth. Mari just wanted to know if he handled it. She asked because she cared, not because she wanted to gossip.

Victor wanted to start talking about the bad parts of his captivity, but sometimes, the good parts were worth mentioning.

“But I did get saved in the end,” Victor said, reminding himself of that day that left him in both terror and pride. “Yuuri arrived and he was my savior. He was the one to get us out. I honestly believe if he wasn’t there, I might not be here… but he saved me. He did what I couldn’t."

Mari’s anguish was replaced with a tearful smile, but the pain remained in her eyes as the truth continued to torment her mind.

“I’m so proud of Yuuri,” She said through a weepy voice, and Victor agreed. “It wasn’t rude of me to ask that, was it?”

“No,” Victor answered with the shake of his head. “It feels… refreshing talking to someone else. I’m actually a little glad you’re willing to ask. It’s nice knowing you’re not scared to.”

“It is?”

Victor nodded. “I don’t want people to be scared that they might trigger something… well, they can, but if people are afraid to ask, it feels like they don’t care.” It wasn’t easy to admit that. He didn’t want to sound needy, but sometimes, he needed that reassurance. “When people avoid it, it feels like they’re pretending it never happened and while I’d like for myself to forget too, I can’t. I can never forget all that time I spent away from everything I knew, so I might as well learn to accept it and discuss it with people. It’s one reason why I wrote that journal.”

Mari blinked. “A journal?”

“The man let me have this journal, so I began writing things that happened,” He told Mari, who began chewing her lip with worry. “It was my daily diary that soon became letters to people I missed and… stupid conversations I’d have with myself. I needed to stay sane, so some of it was embarrassing but it helped against the man’s case. It told them everything. He’s not getting out any time soon.”

“Good. I’m glad,” Mari nodded, releasing a frustrated huff. Her eyes turned away as she shook her head, lost in her own thoughts that Victor decided to leave her. It seemed Yuuri wasn’t the only one who was angry. “Did Yuuri write in it?”

Victor looked back.

“I made sure he did,” He told her. She released a breath, calming whatever was going through her mind. “I knew what it was like, being in that room and not knowing how to help myself. I made sure he did everything I wished I did when I first arrived.”

Mari’s hand gripped Victor’s arm, squeezing with reassurance. There were tears in her eyes. She didn’t say anything, but Victor knew without words what she was projecting. It was her thankfulness. Her appreciation towards Victor for helping Yuuri and he returned the smile to her. He’d do it again if he must, but he prayed so desperately that it didn’t have to happen again.

He watched Mari as she got to her feet. She pulled out another cigarette from her pocket, but she didn’t light it. She held it between her fingers as her eyes stayed on Victor, silently playing with the cigarette in hand.

“I hope everything turns out okay,” She said, and before Victor could get a word in, she was already walking away and gone from view.

Victor stared behind him, heart pounding as he finally released the long, deep sigh he needed to calm his chest. He scrubbed his hand down his face, taking a moment to ground himself from the anxious lump in his throat. He wasn’t entirely sure why he felt so overwhelmed, but with each deep breath it calmed and eased, settling to nothing more than a minor annoyance.

The lump was still there. It was always there, waiting for him to scream and let it loose, but Victor wasn’t going to fall today. He was going to hold himself up with his head high and himself ready for Yuuri’s return. He should be back soon. Victor couldn’t wait.

 


 

 

Victor heard Yuuri’s voice before he saw him.

He spoke in Japanese but his voice was unmistakable to Victor’s ears. His heart soared with eagerness, excited that his lover was back that he stared at Yuuri’s open bedroom door, impatiently waiting for Yuuri to arrive.

And then he heard footsteps. The gentle pat of Yuuri’s feet struck excitement in his chest, prompting his heart to pound harder. He was so excited, but a little scared too. He didn’t know how this therapy session had gone. It could have been bad. It could have made Yuuri worse and now he’s angrier than before and –

“Hey.”

And a soft voice pulled Victor from his growing panic, easing it within seconds because it was Yuuri and he appeared to be fine. There was a small grin on his face and a gentle spark in his eyes, one that told Victor he was doing okay. He was so relieved to see that.

“Yuuri,” Victor beamed. “How was therapy?”

But Yuuri said nothing. He moved into the room until he was sat in front of Victor, fingers playing with his nails as he stared down at them. Victor’s head cocked to the side, curious what was going through his mind. Perhaps he wasn’t as okay as Victor had assumed.

“Yuuri?” He questioned, more concerned than before. He leaned forward and rested his hand on Yuuri’s forearm. “Are you okay?”

Yuuri’s eyes squeezed shut, but quicker than they closed, he moved forward and captured Victor’s lips with his own. The kiss took him back. He gasped against Yuuri’s lips but quickly fell into the touch as he returned it, one kiss after another, until their lips opened and Victor felt the push of Yuuri’s tongue into his mouth, prompting a weak moan.

Victor wasn’t sure what to think. It was so sudden and he couldn’t understand Yuuri’s quick need to do this, but Victor didn’t complain. In fact, he delved further in as he laced his arms around the back of Yuuri’s neck, pulling him closer to deepen the kiss. It had been so long since their lips met with such desperation; it was nice knowing it would end with enjoyment and pleasure, and nothing more.

Yuuri,” Victor gasped as he pulled back. Yuuri didn’t move forward for another, but their foreheads touched as their panting breaths mingled.

“Don’t say anything,” Yuuri whispered. He raised a hand, resting it below Victor’s ear and let his thumb caress his cheek. Victor stayed silent upon Yuuri’s request, but let his lips playfully linger close to Yuuri’s own, teasing him with a kiss he couldn’t quite reach.

He was riling him up, teasing him until Yuuri adjusted their position, moving Victor until he was sat on Yuuri’s lap. Victor found no need to ask Yuuri for his sudden desire, but it didn’t stop his curiosity from pondering what could have triggered this. Whatever it was, he was sure Yuuri would tell him, but that was for after. He wanted to let this run its course and enjoy himself. They hadn’t done anything like this in so long.

They kissed and the world fell away. Their lips touched – slow and sweet, lingering as one kiss blurred into another. Victor savored the taste of Yuuri’s lips. He wanted to memorize him for everything he was, running his hands along Yuuri’s curves and feeling his warmth under his fingertips.

Yuuri was truly mesmerizing, and Victor couldn’t believe this was real.

Victor’s hand stroked down Yuuri’s back and along the curve of his waist, allowing his hands to venture below Yuuri’s shirt. His fingertips trailed up Yuuri’s spine, earning a soft gasp against his lips. Victor couldn’t help his smile.

He instinctively moved closer, allowing Yuuri to touch him too. He loved the way Yuuri’s hand roamed over his skin, leaving little tingles of electric that had Victor crave more. It was addictive, Yuuri’s touch. It left Victor with a need for more – to feel their skin touch and their hearts beat as one, so close that neither knew who’s was beating the hardest. He needed more than just touch, but he could easily settle for this alone.

Victor cupped Yuuri’s cheeks, tilting his head to gain a better position for their soft, lingering kisses. He felt Yuuri’s hand move up from his hips, gently stroking along his stomach until he came up to his chest and rested his hand above Victor’s pounding heart. Victor smiled along with the kiss until Yuuri suddenly pulled away. He held back the temptation to whine, already missing Yuuri’s touch.

“I…” Yuuri stuttered; his mouth hung open as his eyes stared wide. His hand lingered over Victor’s chest, pulled back only slightly as he hesitated to touch there. Their eyes locked and Victor watched Yuuri gulp. “Is this okay?”

Victor gave a lighthearted chuckle. “Yeah,” He exhaled, gently taking Yuuri’s hand to place it back on his chest. “I like being touched here.”

His heart was thumping so hard, it felt like it was going to burst. He was certain Yuuri could feel it too.

He laced his arms around Yuuri’s neck, bringing him close like before. He didn’t say a word but Yuuri seemed to understand, and reassured by Victor’s expression, he delved forward to capture Victor’s lips once again but it didn’t last as long as before. Yuuri’s impatience began to show as his fingers fumbled with Victor’s belt. Victor couldn’t help his whimper. He was desperate for this too, growing impatient himself that taking his time felt meaningless, but the feel of Yuuri’s lips always kept him wanting more.

But Yuuri stopped. He paused, uncertain if he should move onwards and Victor pulled away from Yuuri’s lips, his gaze jumping from his eyes to his mouth. Yuuri was hesitating again.

“May I touch you?” Yuuri asked, his voice low and raspy.

Victor didn’t need to think as he nodded. He had wanted– no, he needed this. He needed this so badly and his silent plea was enough to encourage Yuuri to continue fumbling with his belt. He pulled and tugged but struggled to remove it completely. Victor heard the occasional hiss of pain. Yuuri’s hand was still hurting him and Victor sighed, carefully taking hold of Yuuri’s wrists, already deciding to take charge.

“Let me do the work,” He told Yuuri, moving his hands to rest on his hips instead. He’d rather have Yuuri feel comfortable than bite through his pain, all just for Victor’s pleasure.

Yuuri didn’t argue. Victor could see how frustrated he was in himself, but that was soon replaced by a wave of desire as Victor worked to unbutton Yuuri’s pants instead. He moved back to his own, fumbling with the button and pulled down the zip. Victor met Yuuri’s eyes. They shuffled closer.

When their lips met again, Victor didn’t waste time. He reached his hand inside Yuuri’s underwear, gently curling his fingers around Yuuri’s length before taking it out of hiding. He listened to Yuuri’s sounds – the soft hitch of his breath, the light moan against Victor’s lips. It was truly intoxicating, and enough to encourage Victor to quickly pull out his own.

“Touch me,” Yuuri spoke against his lips, and Victor was happy to indulge Yuuri with his request.

He circled his hand around both their lengths, taking them in a light grasp. Yuuri sighed at the touch but Victor back held his own. He wanted to admire Yuuri for a