It was a night just like any other night; dark, with a fog rolling in from the harbor painting the buildings with a haze of gray, and with just enough streetlights to make the shadows dance upon the pavement. But like always, those shadows too had a story to tell; family men with their coat collars pulled up as they rushed to the safety of their homes, leaving the night to those whose business was conducted in those shadows. Dark alleyways with muffled voices, shadowy figures hoping the darkness of the night hid the darkness of their activities.
“Hey, kid. You wanna buy a unicorn horn?”
Yuuri came to a stop, blinking over at the dinghy man as he held out the horn.
“It’s a real one, but I’ll sell it to ya cheap.”
Lies. Yuuri sighed.
“Or, if you want I’ve got some other items that might interest a man such as yourself…”
He held open his coat, the pockets of it overflowing with all sorts of odds and ends.
“Phoenix feathers.” Lie. “Dragon claws.” Lie. “Some quality watches.” Mostly a lie.
Yuuri didn’t have time for this, so he pulled out his badge and flashed it at the man; the shiny detective badge enough to have him recoiling back into the alley.
“Sorry for troubling you, sir.”
“Get better fakes,” Yuuri called back to him as he continued on his way.
Really, the poor guy probably picked the worst person to try and con.
Yuuri Katsuki had always wanted to go into ballet, training for years with a family friend to get himself to the level needed to make it as a principal in a large company. But with his family’s business suffering and in need of a better source of income than a danseur’s pay, Yuuri reluctantly put his other natural talent to work instead.
The Katsuki family had a secret, something that had been passed down several generations at this point; an innate ability to tell whether or not someone was lying. With that and his own knack for the job, he was now the pride and joy of the police force; Detective Yuuri Katsuki, who’d solved every single case that he’d been given and several of the cold cases they had on file as well.
Honestly, the guy should be lucky Yuuri was in a hurry, because he was pretty sure he was breaking about ten different laws off the top of his head.
But he’d finally, finally , after the show had been sold out since opening night, gotten tickets to The Aviary Theatre’s Swan Lake production. Yuuri had seen a bit of the performers working on it a couple of months ago when he’d been investigating a case that was across the street from the ballet studio, and he’d definitely noticed their principal danseur at that time and his exquisite grace and beauty.
It really was no wonder that aside from trying to do something new with a standard ballet, the troupe had decided to genderflip the roles and gave the lead of Odette to him. Their lead female was good, but nothing compared to him. It was as if he was flying in his leaps, as if he was gliding across the floor.
Yuuri had worried that perhaps bringing gifts for a performer he’d yet to see perform in the role was presumptuous; but as the curtain fell that night, he was glad he had at least some small token to try and convey the impact the danseur’s work had left on him.
The back of the theatre had a large table set out to collect the flowers and gifts that others had brought, but Yuuri had seen a few other attendees sneak past that towards the dressing rooms and followed suit. It was impulsive, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d regret not giving it in person.
And much like his strange power to see the truth or lies, Yuuri knew that those little impulses of his had been his saving grace more than once.
The only question was, why tonight?
“Five minutes to curtain, Victor,” the director’s voice floated through Victor’s dressing room door. Victor didn’t respond, knowing that the man knew he had been heard. Where else would Victor be? Where else could he go?
Victor spared himself a glance in the mirror and nearly sobbed in despair at the sight of his appearance. He was sure to most that come across him he was a spectacular beauty, the epitome of grace and refinement, but all Victor could see was the false plumage glued to his crown and in between the intricate beading of his bodice. These feathers that were not his own weighed heavily on his mind like a pair of shackles.
For a ballet called Swan Lake this place felt like the furthest place from home for Victor. He was a swan maiden that had been lured away from the safety of his home, seduced by the glitz and glamour of human life. He had wrongly assumed he was among friends when he agreed to join this dance company for a short tour of their ridiculous swan ballet, but was utterly crushed when he came back to his dressing room after a performance one night to find that someone had stolen his coat of feathers, the key to his swan form.
He had tried talking to the theatre manager, the director, their illustrious benefactor, the other dancers, anyone who might know what happened to his coat, but alas he never turned up a single lead. They all reassured him that they were trying to help him locate his lost coat, but what motivation did they truly have to help him? They had everything to gain if he was never able to return to his swan form again.
No. Victor had to find it himself. He couldn’t trust anyone in this theatre.
Now trapped in his human form, Victor was devastated. He had to find his feather coat before it was too late.
But finding his coat was a task for another time. For now he had to keep up appearances and perform like he wasn’t being held here against his will.
Victor smoothed down the horrific disarray of feathers on his stiff white tutu before gliding out of his dressing room. As is natural of humankind, the gazes of fellow dancers fell upon Victor’s easy grace as he made his way over to the curtain to wait for his cue.
Victor peeked out from the curtain towards the audience. It was a completely sold out show and by the looks of the people in the first few rows, they were already entranced by his costar’s performance as the prince.
Act one ended and Victor braced himself to perform a part of himself that had been stolen from him. For now he can only pretend to be a swan.
The performance ended with Victor dying in his costar’s arms as his fellow ballerinas impersonating swans descended on the evil wizard in revenge. The curtains closed, they did their final bows and Victor quickly retreated back to the seclusion of his dressing room.
Before Victor could hide himself away, he noticed that there was a man standing outside his door with a large bouquet of flowers clutched nervously in his hands. Victor sighed because he was not really in the mood to deal with adoring fans today, but he puts on a sweet smile anyway.
“Hello there,” Victor greeted kindly. “Did you enjoy the performance?”
“Very much,” the man with the messy crop of dark hair and glasses said. He readjusted said glasses on his nose and cleared his throat nervously. “You were spectacular out there.”
“You are too kind.” Victor smiled. “Are those for me?” He asked gesturing towards the beautiful bouquet of royal blue and frosty white roses. Victor lifted a blue flower loose from the bunch and brought it up to his nose to take in it’s delightful floral scent. The man inexplicably blushed and appeared so adorably nervous to be around Victor.
What a silly human.
“Oh! I got you chocolates too!” the man declared, opening the fold of his long jacket to fish for the box. But chocolates were not what caught Victor’s attention. No, on the man’s belt was a gleaming badge that read Det. Yuuri Katsuki. Victor stared at the badge for far longer than was probably appropriate.
This is it. This is Victor’s chance.
“You’re a detective.” Victor blinked. Yuuri shifted uncomfortably and closed his jacket to conceal his badge from view.
“I am,” Yuuri admitted. “I’m off duty. I simply enjoy the ballet in my spare time.”
Victor looked around the hall for any hint that they would be overheard. There were still a few stagehands and dancers wandering about. They weren’t safe talking outside his dressing room.
“Come inside,” Victor insisted, grabbing Yuuri’s hand and tugging him into his dressing room and locking the door behind him. “Sit down,” Victor commanded, pointing to the seat situated in front of his vanity. Yuuri dutifully sat down, staring curiously up at Victor.
“Is everything alright?” Yuuri asked.
“No, I need your help,” Victor said.
“If I may Mr. Nikiforov, if you have a problem you should file it with the police,” Yuuri said. Victor turned and grabbed Yuuri’s shoulders desperately.
“No! Please! You’re the only the only one who can help me,” Victor insisted. “ I’m being watched, ” he whispered desperately. That seemed to grab hold of Yuuri’s attention. He pulled a notepad and a pen out of his coat pocket and set it on his lap.
“Tell me what’s happening,” Yuuri encouraged.
Victor spilled everything . He told Yuuri about his missing coat, his ballet company forcing him to continue performing, how he wasn’t sure who took it but he was pretty sure it was someone he came into contact with often. Yuuri diligently wrote down everything Victor said and by the time he had said everything he had to say, Victor felt like the world had been lifted off his shoulders.
Yuuri had not expected to find himself pulled into such a complex case at the ballet, but here he was, seated in Victor Nikiforov’s dressing room and taking down all the information that he could provide.
It was definitely quite the extortion case, that was for certain; although Yuuri knew it sadly wasn’t that uncommon when humans found out about anything special about the non-humans around them. As always, humanity would exploit any talents it could; part of why Yuuri had kept his family’s little secret to himself and rarely shared it with anyone else.
Perhaps that was why almost immediately, he felt so drawn to Victor and his situation? That knowledge that he could just as easily find himself entangled in a drama like this, plus the stark realization that the emotional performance Victor just gave was not all acting, tugged right at Yuuri’s heartstrings. Something he usually tried his best to avoid when handling a case, but with Victor, he couldn’t help it.
“I want you to know, I’m taking this matter seriously and I will do whatever is in my power to get that coat returned to you and the person who took it arrested for its theft,” he reassured him, sitting his pen down a moment.
Victor, who had just finished changing behind the dressing screen, returned over to his side at that; if possible seeming all the more graceful and swan-like now that he was free of the costume and clad only in a flowing white shirt and black pants. He knelt in front of him and clutched Yuuri’s hands in his own.
“Thank you. I’m…”
But whatever it was he was going to say was cut off as a sharp knock rapped at the door.
His eyes went wide, the terror apparent in them immediately, and Yuuri’s heart ached for all that this swan had been through.
Quickly, he reached out and slid Yuuri’s glasses off his face, settling them on his vanity before reaching out to tousle his hair.
“I’m terribly sorry, but they can’t know why you’ve really been in here this long.”
Yuuri could feel his face heating up at how close Victor was, his nimble fingers loosening Yuuri’s tie and tugging it down, the top few buttons of Yuuri’s dress shirt being opened. He offered a nod of understanding, unsure if he could find his voice.
Victor gave his shoulder a grateful squeeze, pecking a feather-light kiss to Yuuri’s cheek before he whirled towards the door; leaving Yuuri to try and calm his racing heart.
It was smart of Victor to make it appear if they’d been...well, definitely not talking about his situation. But along with the lingering feeling of lipstick on his cheek, there was also a tingle of something more intangible there with it.
“Victor, is everything okay?” a cheerful girl’s voice called through the door.
Victor quickly pulled it open and forced a smile. “Sorry, everything’s fine. I promise.”
It was his co-star who had played the role of the prince, her golden curls now cascading freely down her back and blending in with the golden hued dress she wore. She pushed her way into the room and closed the door behind her, her smile slowly faltering.
“Miss Volkova was glaring at your door and I got worried,” she whispered quietly. “She’s been overly watchful of you lately.”
Yuuri kept quiet, but so far everything the girl said was true.
Victor frowned. “It’s not like me to have a guest stay this long. She’s probably mad about that.”
The girl’s eyes shifted then to Yuuri and a flicker of surprise crossed her expression before she darted her eyes back to Victor. “Oh. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“But…” She gave him a look and Yuuri could tell something passed unspoken between them.
“We knew each other when we were younger,” Victor lied, “and he recently moved into the area and sought me out.”
Ah, so even she was confused that Victor was being allowed contact with someone outside the company. That wasn’t a good sign.
She offered a smile at that. “I’ll go distract Miss Volkova for you.” True. “It’s the least I can do for disturbing you.” Also true.
“Thank you for worrying about me,” Victor said quietly.
“I just want you to be happy, Victor,” she said reaching out to give his hand a squeeze. True.
And just like that, she was gone. It seemed, at least some of the members of the company weren’t all bad after all.
“I think we’ve run out of time, my dear detective,” Victor sighed sadly, reaching his thumb out to wipe away the smear of lipstick he had left at the corner of Yuuri’s mouth. In another situation he might kiss those full lips for more than just for show, but for now they both had their jobs to do. Yuuri would solve the mystery of Victor’s stolen feather coat, and Victor would do everything in his power to ensure that his detective is successful.
His detective? Victor criticized himself. Since when has Yuuri become his? Victor had only just met the man and yet . . .
“Let me know if you find any leads that might help.” Yuuri encouraged, standing up from the chair and making his leave.
“Wait! I think I might have a place for us to start.” Victor said. Yuuri paused at the door and turned around expectantly at Victor’s confident statement.
“Are you positive that this will work?” Yuuri asked for the millionth time that night. He tugged at the collar of his tie uncomfortably. Victor stepped up to him with a gentle smile and readjusted the man’s crooked tie.
“Darling, would I ever lie to you?” Victor asked with a knowing wink. Yuuri had told the swan of his ‘little secret’ not long after they had set their plan in motion. Afterall, it was important that they trust each other completely if this was going to work.
“No.” Yuuri sighed.
“Would it comfort you if I went over the plan one last time?” Victor asked.
“Please?” Yuuri asked with a nervous quiver in his voice. It must have been a long time since Yuuri has gone into the belly of the beast like this. This plan was dangerous. Really dangerous. If they failed now, not only would Victor lose his feathers forever they might both wind up dead by the end of the night.
“You’re my boyfriend.” Victor started with a reassuring smile. “You’ve been bringing me flowers and chocolates for weeks, you come to all of my performances, slipping ‘secret’ love notes under my dressing room door. You’re the the perfect doting lover.” Victor cooed lovingly, pressing his palm to Yuuri’s cheek. It might seem like Victor was laying on the ‘doting lover’ thing thick but he had grown tender towards Yuuri in the past few weeks. The lines between their boyfriend facade and reality were quickly blurred.
A part of Victor wished that their cover story was true.
“This party in my honor is being hosted by The Fox, the theatre’s most well endowed benefactor and a fan of mine. Everyone who is anyone in the theatre will be here, including whoever might have taken my feathers. Make no mistake this man is dangerous. He may seem like a jolly portly old man but he’s in fact the most dangerous mafia boss in this city’s history who has a history of buying and selling selkie skins on the black market. He’ll likely be jealous of you being my lover but it was the only way I could get you into this party. We’ll have to tread lightly around him but I am almost certain that the person who stole what is rightly mine will be here tonight and their guard will be dropped.” Victor explained.
“Got it.” Yuuri nodded.
“While I charm the room as is expected of me, you’ll be on my arm using that handy gift of yours to scope out our suspects. Just relax, play into our roles, and do what you do best.” Victor smiled playfully poking Yuuri’s nose with his index finger. “Relax Yuuri. You’ll do great. I have the utmost faith in you.”
“What if we don’t find your feathers tonight?” Yuuri worried.
“All we need is to narrow our search down to a key suspect, my dear detective.” Victor reminded. “Are you ready to wow them, darling?” Victor asked.
“As I’ll ever be.” Yuuri said, bracing himself one last time before he would be forced to enter the Fox’s den with a brilliant smile, and a equally brilliant swan maiden hanging off of Yuuri’s elbow.
It wasn’t that Yuuri was nervous about the plan, actually he felt fairly confident considering at least this time when he entered a mafia boss’s place he had been invited through the front door; but it was more that the cover was beginning to be a bit of a problem.
At first he thought perhaps his skill didn’t always work on Victor, little compliments he’d given when he’d dropped by the theatre with flowers not coming up as a lie. In fact, he’d even told Victor before he departed that first night that he had this skill, knowing that after all Victor had been through it was vital that he give Victor an equally big secret in return to reassure him.
But if anything, Victor had been more openly flirtatious and complementary since then. Well, he was an actor; of course he would naturally jump right into the roles they needed for this plan to work.
Yet that was where the biggest problem weighing on Yuuri’s mind originated; every time Victor called him darling, or pecked a kiss to his cheek or held his arm, Yuuri’s heart proceeded to jump just a little in excitement. Then he had to fight back a blush or will his racing heart to calm itself before he could focus on the actual job he was supposed to be doing.
It wasn’t that he was nervous about the plan. No, quite the opposite. He was confident it was going to work, because he was determined to find an answer tonight even if he had to cross a few lines to get them. But this cover was making it incredibly hard to focus, because his traitorous heart had done the one thing they’d been warned never to do in training.
He’d fallen for his client.
“Ah Victor, good evening!” a certain Reynard Bandoni, known to many as simply The Fox, said jovially as he swung open the door to his elaborate home.
As Victor had warned, his eyes narrowed as he noticed Yuuri beside him. “And who might this be?”
Victor gave a brilliant smile. “Oh, this is my boyfriend, Mr. Yuuri Katsuki.”
Mr. Bandoni forced a smile at that. “I see. How lucky of you to find time in your busy schedule for dating.”
Yuuri started to step forward, but he could feel Victor hold him back. It was then he realized Mr. Bandoni still blocked the doorway.
Victor sneezed. Fake, Yuuri noted. “Oh I’d better get inside quick, as you know Mr. Bandoni I still haven’t found my good coat and I can’t seem to get very warm without it.”
The man’s eyes if possible narrowed even more, calculating and piercing all at once.
“Yes, your coat. It’s terrible it hasn’t turned up yet.” Lie. “Miss Volkova really ought to have rooted out its whereabouts by now.” Another lie.
Victor faked another sneeze and apparently that was enough, Mr. Bandoni stepping to the side.
“Well, I hope you can get warmed up inside, I don’t think we’ve got anyone who can perform your role as well as you can after all.” True.
Yuuri gave Victor’s arm a pat, letting him know that he’d gotten what information he needed for now. “Yes, let’s get you warmed up, Victor.”
As they made their way into the room, Yuuri tried to ignore the watchful eyes of the The Fox following them as they greeted the other guests. It wasn’t until they came upon a certain man standing by the fireplace that he finally looked away.
“Victor, what’s this I’m hearing about a boyfriend? I thought you told me you wouldn’t have time for such a thing?” True.
Victor clutched Yuuri’s arm a bit tighter at that and forced a smile. “I guess if you want something bad enough, you find a way to make it work. Yuuri, this is Mr. Fowler. He’s the owner of the The Aviary theatre.”
So yet another obviously jealous person who probably knew something. Yuuri too forced a smile.
“A pleasure to meet you,” Yuuri said, ignoring as his mind noted that it was a lie.
“And the same to you,” Mr. Fowler replied. It too was a lie.
“Mr. Fowler oversees everything that happens at The Aviary,” Victor noted.
“Now now, not everything,” he tried to clarify. But Yuuri’s mind flagged it as a lie as well.
“Still,” Victor continued, “you do such a good job making sure we’re all taken care of there.” Lie. “I’m still very grateful for you giving up some of your time to help me try and find that missing item of mine.”
Mr. Fowler’s eyes flickered with something at that, and he took a second to compose himself again. “Ah yes, have you found that item yet?”
Victor shook his head. “No. Not yet.”
“Ah, that’s too bad.” Lie. “Have you asked Mr. Bandoni about it yet? I know he’s very fond of you and I’m sure he’d have better luck trying to find it.” True.
“I might look into it,” Victor replied. Lie. “Now, I do believe I hear some music starting up, so if you’ll excuse us. I really can’t resist dancing when there’s music around.” Lie.
And as they drifted away, Yuuri could feel now two sets of eyes following their every move.
“Would you like to dance with me, my dear Yuuri?” Victor asked holding his hand out to Yuuri in offer of a dance.
“I thought you didn’t want to dance?” Yuuri whispered under his breath so that only Victor could hear. Victor gave Yuuri a secret smile but didn’t retract his offered hand.
“I have a reputation to protect darling.” Victor winked.
“Of course.” Yuuri agreed, finally sliding his hand into Victor’s waiting hand. Victor led Yuuri out to the dancefloor and pulled him into a close embrace. Fellow dancers and patrons alike waltzed around them and much to Victor’s surprise, Yuuri stepped in line as gracefully as any other seasoned dancer.
Yuuri swept Victor gracefully across the ballroom floor, keeping in step diligently with a certain dedication and grace that only came with years of training.
“I must say you keep surprising me, darling,” Victor laughed as Yuuri gracefully dipped him towards the immaculately waxed dance floor.
“Oh?” Yuuri quirked an eyebrow.
“You’re a dancer. You never mentioned it,” Victor said.
“It never came up.” Yuuri shrugged, curling Victor back upright, their bodies pressed together in such a delightfully comforting way.
“You’re quite good,” Victor complimented. The music slowed and the couples along with it. Victor took that chance to rest his head against Yuuri’s shoulder. Yuuri followed the action in suit. To the guests of the party it looked as if the couple was sharing a tender embrace; whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears, but in reality this gave them the perfect opportunity to talk of their plan.
“How is our progress?” Victor whispered into Yuuri’s ear.
“Everyone at this party is lying. One thing’s for sure: Bandoni and Fowler definitely know something, possibly Volkova too. I’m sorry Victor, but this case probably won’t be solved and shut tonight,” Yuuri said.
“Ah, it was a long shot anyway. The best we can do now is get a sense of who knows the most.” Victor sighed against Yuuri’s shoulder.
“After this dance we can make our rounds through the room again and press our other suspects,” Yuuri suggested. Victor nuzzled his nose comfortably into Yuuri’s neck.
“Just a little while longer,” Victor pleaded. “One more dance.”
“I suppose one more wouldn’t hurt,” Yuuri relented, continuing their slow sway as the song ended and another began.
“You know . . . swans don’t often make a habit of dancing with others,” Victor admitted casually.
“Why is that?” Yuuri asked.
“Well traditionally we save dancing for when we choose our life mate. We have a mating dance that we perform with our partners. Older swans might call dancing outside that a mockery to the sanctity of our rituals,” Victor explained.
Victor distinctly remembered the shock and heartbreak on his mother’s face when he told her that he would be accepting his position as principal dancer at the Aviary theatre. Humans may revel in awe at Victor’s graceful dancing, but in the world that he was raised in dancing as a profession was akin to prostitution in the eyes of conservative swans like his parents.
A part of him wishes he had listened to his mother and stayed in their cozy nest situated on a glacial lake in the mountains. Maybe then none of this would have happened. But then again, if none of this had happened Victor would have never been able to meet Yuuri.
“Does this make you uncomfortable?” Yuuri asked, giving them some separation. Victor shook his head and pulled him back to their original position, resting his head once more on Yuuri’s shoulder.
“No. This is quite nice,” Victor reassured. “Besides this is nothing like my mating dance. You’ll know it when you see it.”
And he did want Yuuri to see his mating dance. He was unsure if Yuuri felt as intensely that Victor knew in his heart that he himself felt, but one day he did see himself dancing his most intimate dance for his sweet adorable detective.
“I’m sure it will be absolutely breathtaking,” Yuuri said, looking down at Victor with a tender glimmer in his eyes.
God, Victor wanted this man more than anything he’d ever wanted in his life. Even if they did find his coat, Victor had half a mind to give it all away to be with Yuuri if he asked him to. He could imagine it now; them living together in a cozy little apartment uptown, a few dogs, no cares in the world and so blissfully in love with each other.
“Yuuri after this is all over . . .” Victor started to confess that thought when he caught sight of Chihoko making her way across the dance floor towards the couple. “Hold that thought. Incoming.” Victor sighed.
“Mind if I cut in?” she cheerily asked, tapping Yuuri on the shoulder.
“Oh Yuuri and I were just about to go get some drinks if you’d like to join us?” Victor suggested, deflecting her invitation to dance. The last thing they needed right now was to be separated. Yuuri could probably make do on his own, but people acted completely different in Victor’s presence than if Yuuri was doing this investigation alone.
“Sure thing. Nothing like a little booze to liven up this party, am I right?” she laughed, nudging Victor in the ribs. He gave her a forced smile and guided Yuuri to the bar with a hand resting on the small of the man’s waist.
“So how long have you been Victor’s costar, Chihoko?” Yuuri asked.
“Oh it’s been a few years now hasn’t it Victor?” she answered, tossing her golden curls over her shoulder.
“Yes. Since I moved to the city when I accepted this job,” Victor said
“It’s a good thing too. The theatre probably would have closed down if you hadn’t come when you did. Victor really breathed life back into the company,” Chihoko said.
“You seem really fond of him,” Yuuri noted.
“Oh yes,” she replied. Yuuri hummed at that. “Everyone at the theatre just loves Victor. How could we not?” she continued. Victor looked over to Yuuri to see that he had that little frown that Victor had come to realize meant that Yuuri had just stumbled upon a very interesting finding.
But asking what Yuuri had found out would have to wait. For now they needed to continue their investigation on real suspects.
Just because you had a hunch didn’t mean you should neglect to look at the rest of the potential suspects. This was something Yuuri had learned and found to be exceptionally true in his experience.
The other he’d found to be strangely true, was that if you weren’t lying about anything, that was very suspicious.
Christophe Giacometti, who played Odile, for example had easily cleared his name from the suspects list in Yuuri’s book. He was overly truthful in terms of his opinions on Yuuri’s looks, and also his not-so feigned jealousy at Victor for having already laid claim; but when asked about what he was drinking and if he was enjoying it, his simple “it’s all right” came up as a lie.
A few little white lies made humans human.
Georgi, who played the villain Von Rothbart, made an offhand comment about how he liked the decor (a lie); and their ballet instructor Miss Baranovskaya claimed she was glad to hear their run of Swan Lake had been extended (she wasn’t).
One by one, every person that approached Victor cleared themselves from Yuuri’s list; but a few questions still lingered in his mind. Thankfully, it seemed one of those questions was about to be answered.
“Victor, here’s where you’ve been hiding,” Miss Volkova said as she approached the pair.
Her expression could barely hide the disdain she had for Yuuri, so he forced an even brighter smile.
“Ah, Victor this is your director, correct?”
“The one and only,” he replied.
The woman forced her own smile, clearly trying hard to seem cordial. “You do know I’ve forbidden dating for my leads?” A lie.
Victor blinked. “Really, I’ve heard no such thing.” True.
“Well, consider yourself warned. If I think it’s remotely impacting your focus, it’ll have to cease.” True.
“I didn’t mean to cause you to break any rules,” Yuuri murmured, feigning worry as he looked up to Victor.
“It’s all right, darling. I’ll just have to make sure my focus doesn’t waver and then all will be fine. Right, Miss Volkova?”
“Of course.” Lie. “But I know you’ve lost your focus before over nothing but a silly coat, so I’ll be watching very closely this time.” True.
“Perhaps I wouldn’t be so worried if you could help me find it,” Victor shot back, far more icily than he probably intended.
“As I’ve told you before. If you have an issue with the theatre, that’s Mr. Fowler’s problem. Not mine. It’s not my job to keep track of your clothing.” True.
Yuuri gave Victor’s arm a gentle pat at that. “Don’t worry, I promise I’ll make sure he keeps his focus. I know how important that is to the show.” Lie.
Miss Volkova quirked an eyebrow at that. “Well, I hope for both of your sakes that his focus doesn’t waver.” Lie. “Good evening.”
And just like that she slunk off back into the crowd.
Yuuri let his eyes glance once more over the gathered people, mentally checking them off as cleared or of note. But there was one suspect he kept coming back to, because unlike everyone else in the room, they’d never lied even once.
He could tell the encounter with the director had upset Victor more than he wanted to let on, so Yuuri leaned in close and whispered to him. “Citing your director’s demand for your focus, I do believe you should excuse yourself for the night.”
He blinked, clearly pleasantly surprised by the suggestion. “You don’t need to stay any longer?”
Yuuri gave a warm smile, moving to rest his head against Victor’s forehead.
“You’ve endured enough tonight. I’ve got what I need. Now I just want to get you home safe.”
Victor leaned closer, almost melting into the embrace. “I don’t deserve you, Yuuri Katsuki.”
Yuuri clutched him closer, hoping that even without any magical powers Victor could understand that every word he now said was absolute the truth.
“You deserve every happiness, Victor. And I’m going to do everything possible to make sure that’s what you get.”
The couple excused themselves from the party earlier than expected, much to the disappointment of many of the party guests, but Yuuri insisted that the star needed his beauty rest. Victor noted that he felt eyes following their every move as they left the opulent mansion.
“Was tonight as productive as you’d thought it be?” Yuuri asked. Victor sighed and hooked his arm through Yuuri’s and leaned his head against his shoulder.
“Let’s not talk about work now,” Victor insisted.
“Ok . . . what do you want to talk about then?” Yuuri inquired. Victor pursed his lips and considered thoughtfully what he wanted to say. There were a great many things he wanted to say, but he wasn’t sure how to voice them.
“Work aside, I had a lot of fun tonight. You should take me dancing more often,” Victor said.
“I thought swans didn’t like to dance with random partners,” Yuuri stated, looking down at Victor with a curious glint in his eye.
“We don’t, but I would like very much if you would be my not-random partner,” Victor confessed. “You make a great dance partner, Yuuri.”
“Thank you.” Yuuri blushed. “I’ll go out dancing any time you want. Just give me a call,” he promised.
Oh. Yuuri really just wants to go out dancing. Victor’s heart deflated because either Yuuri didn’t pick up that Victor was trying to confess, or he was trying to let Victor down easy. Either way it was not the desired reaction that Victor was looking for.
Victor remained quiet the rest of the walk back to his place, not sure what he could say that would get his feelings across. The irony that Yuuri was basically a walking lie detector but still couldn’t detect Victor’s attraction wasn’t lost on him.
Even as they stood at the stoop of Victor’s door they hesitated in parting for the night. There were so many things Victor wanted to tell Yuuri, things he wanted to say but was too afraid to. Victor didn’t want this fantasy to end when Yuuri found his coat.
“Yuuri I-” Victor turned to Yuuri, fully intending to come clean in the most undeniably clear way possible. Before Victor could finish his sentence, Yuuri took Victor’s face between his hands and pressed his lips against Victor’s. Victor blinked in surprise before melting into the kiss.
“I know,” Yuuri whispered against Victor’s lips. “You can dance for me whenever you’d like.”
“Do you know what you’re asking for?” Victor asked, letting his eyes slip closed. Yuuri put his forehead against Victor’s and pecked a small kiss to the tip of his nose.
“I do,” Yuuri reassured.
“I’ll dance for you after we find my coat,” Victor promised.
“I look forward to it.” Yuuri smiled. He gave Victor one last lingering kiss before hesitantly pulling away. “Goodnight, Victor.” Yuuri pressed a tender kiss to Victor’s forehead.
“Sweet dreams, my Yuuri.” Victor bade goodbye before slipping away into his apartment, desperately wishing that Yuuri could follow.
At the very least Victor was comforted in the fact that soon Yuuri would locate his coat, and soon Victor would be able to dance for his chosen mate.
It was raining by the time Yuuri got back to his apartment; the streetlight coming through the Venetian blinds interrupted and it caused an odd array of shadows to spatter across the floor. Yuuri had holed up at his desk, his study in its usual state of disarray; papers and notes scattered here and there, a faded map of the city that had seen its fair share of pins hung on the far wall, and an accumulation of coffee cups that were haphazardly stacked waiting to return to the kitchen. Some weeks he felt like he lived in this room, the wallpaper starting to peel in the left corner by about an inch, something he’d noticed when staring at it in hopes it might magically give him the answers to a case he’d been on.
Tonight though, it was like a war room.
Yuuri’d spent the walk home overanalyzing his own actions; worried that perhaps he shouldn’t have kissed Victor, perhaps he should have continued to act like he didn’t notice the chemistry thick between them like glue that didn’t want to let them part again. But the fact was, he did have a heart; one that had gone out to Victor originally in sympathy and now one that felt a strong protective urge to keep him safe. And despite countless cases with flirtatious men and women practically throwing themselves at him, it was Victor in his desperation and honesty that had pulled all the right heartstrings to entangle Yuuri’s feelings in the picture.
He knew what it felt like to be trapped. Knew the heartache of putting job above what the heart really desired; his own career by no means as hated as Victor’s had become, but it was its own sort of cage at times. One that Yuuri would daydream about slipping out of, even for a day, or a week, just so he could dance again.
But unless he landed the principal role at a prestigious company, dancing didn’t pay the bills.
Something had changed between him and Victor tonight at the party; slowly, surely, just like the steps of a new dance where both partners are unsure but trying to keep things steady. When Victor had confessed that in truth swan maidens usually didn’t dance with others, what little bit of Yuuri that was holding back had crumbled away. As they swayed to the music, his mind had filled with thoughts of how beautiful Victor’s real dance must be and how happy he’d be to see it.
It was really no wonder he’d kissed him. If you took into consideration the traditions of his kind, Victor had done what was tantamount to presenting a wedding ring by asking for Yuuri to be his partner to dance with.
“Focus Yuuri. Focus,” he muttered to himself. As much as he wanted to spend the rest of the night thinking about Victor, he first and foremost had a coat to find.
And from what he’d gathered that evening, this was a rather tangled web that a certain culprit had weaved in hopes Victor would fall right into it.
The first clues came from those that weren’t suspects. The two costars in Christophe and Georgi only lying once, and in both cases it had to do with the location and therefore indirectly, their host.
This meant that the cast was mostly afraid of Bandoni. At least to the point they didn’t even want to be overheard insulting his drinks or decor.
The second was the result of Yuuri’s own research into swan maidens and their culture. In many old folktales, it was depicted that a human could force a swan to marry them if only they could steal that coat from them. The coat, it seemed, was key to the swan’s relationship status and who it was with.
Bandoni definitely wasn’t thrilled to see that Victor had a boyfriend, but he’d been tangled up in a messy case with stolen selkie coats once before. In fact, it was the closest the law had ever come to getting him behind bars; something Yuuri was pretty sure the man wouldn’t want to risk again over nothing.
But the way he’d bristled at the mention of the coat made Yuuri suspect he definitely knew something about where it had gone.
That lead Yuuri to Fowler.
Fowler approached them at the party asking about Victor’s boyfriend, something Yuuri had found odd. He was definitely jealous, and Yuuri had a feeling that he’d probably asked Victor out previously and been shot down. Which gave him motive.
The problem was, he clearly didn’t want to have anything to do with the coat. If someone so jealous of Victor’s boyfriend really wanted to win him over, he wouldn’t be suggesting Victor go to Bandoni because he was fond of him. The fact he suggested Bandoni showed that he had reason to believe that Bandoni knew where the coat was. Subtly, he’d tried to give Victor a hint in telling that truth.
So Bandoni knew where the coat was, but he probably didn’t take it for himself.
Volkova was helpful in a way, the outright hostile comments and her attitude not the type someone hiding something would be wanting to give off. Chihoko had said she’d been watching Victor even closer lately, as if she was afraid that Victor would disappear next. And while Miss Baranovskaya seemed frustrated with the company’s decision to keep performing Swan Lake, Volkova worried instead about Victor’s focus.
Probably because while Miss Baranovskaya could see how the loss of his coat had affected Victor’s dancing and knew it wasn’t acting, Volkova seemed to be bitter about the loss affecting Victor’s focus. Bitter, as if she knew something but wasn’t about to stick her neck any further into the matter.
Volkova suggested Fowler for answers, Fowler suggested Bandoni. None of them lied about those suggestions, which Yuuri realized traced the coat from one to the next.
Volkova knew something, seemed bitter as if she’d somehow helped indirectly. Fowler must have had the coat at some point or Volkova wouldn’t pin it on him, which means it went from Fowler to Bandoni. But why? Why would Fowler steal something he wasn’t going to use himself to win over Victor? Why would Bandoni risk taking yet another stolen coat even though the last incident almost got him locked up for years?
Yuuri glanced back over the playbill from the performance he’d attended, his eyes once more scanning down the names of the cast and crew as if something, anything, might give him an answer.
A single name caught his eye.
And suddenly, all the pieces clicked into place.
He knew who’d taken the coat.
The question now was where had Bandoni put it?
Victor was on cloud nine when he came into the theatre for morning rehearsal. Last night with Yuuri was more than Victor could have ever dreamed would be possible. Yuuri was the love of Victor’s life, he was sure of it, and he couldn’t wait for this whole nightmare to be over so that they could start their lives together.
“You’re in a chipper mood,” Chris noted as he stretched on the studio floor while in a full split. Victor sighed blissfully at the memory of Yuuri’s lips moving against his own.
“Yuuri and I had a really lovely evening last night,” Victor explained vaguely.
“Sex that good, huh?” Chris wagged his eyebrows. Victor rolled his eyes at his incorrigible friend.
“Not everything is about sex, you know,” Victor chastised.
“It is when your boyfriend has a killer ass. Don’t think I haven’t noticed, you dirty birdie.” Chris winked. From across the studio Chihoko and a few of the other ballerinas shot the pair dirty looks.
Chris snickered at the feathers he was ruffling across the room but dropped the subject for now. Madame Volkova called the company’s attention to her spot in the front of the room, and she went over all of the previous day’s performance issues that were not to be repeated. Victor, of course, was flawless but that didn’t mean the others weren’t subject to being torn apart by the she-wolf.
When lunchtime rolled around, Victor found himself with a few hours to spare before curtain call, so he went pack to his dressing room to ready himself for the performance. Victor was quickly stopped in his tracks when he found a slip of paper sitting on the floor of his dressing room just inside the door.
Victor smiled and bent down to pick it up, thinking that perhaps it was a love letter from his Yuuri.
He couldn’t have been further from the truth.
My Dearest Victor,
I implore you to stop looking for your coat. It’s pointless to continue this silly game. Leave the detective, break up with him, tear his heart out of his chest and crush it in your delicate hands, or I’ll destroy your coat. He’s not yours and he never will be.
It’s about time you accept that you’re destined to be with me. I had hoped that you would fall in love with me in your own time but I can see now that I will have to force your hand.
Don’t worry darling, as soon as this whole mess is behind us you’ll learn to love me just as much as you think you love that detective of yours.
It’s the coat or your detective.
Choose wisely, Victor.
Xoxo Your one true love
Victor’s hands started trembling so hard he dropped the letter to the ground. Furious and terrified tears clouded his vision. He felt so helpless and enraged all at the same time.
The only thing he could think to do right then was to contact Yuuri, but even that wasn’t safe any more. Victor was clearly being carefully watched, so leaving to talk to Yuuri at his office was out of the picture.
Unless . . .
Victor wiped away his tears and walked out of his dressing room with his head held high, as if he hadn’t just received a blackmail letter from someone who was clearly unhinged and watching his every move. He walked down the hall and poked his head into Chris’ dressing room where he was lounging on the couch chatting with Chihoko over salads and a colorful array of fruit.
“Chris, can you help me lace up my corset?” Victor asked in a perfectly calm voice.
“Already?” Chris questioned. There was still over an hour before they had to be in costume for the sold out performance.
“I’d rather lace up now than overeat and struggle to get into it later,” Victor explained. Chris narrowed his eyes silently because until now this had never been a problem for Victor. Chris sensed that something was wrong and Victor needed to talk to him alone.
“Sure. Let’s do this in your room. Sorry Chihoko we’ll have to continue this another time,” Chris apologized. Chihoko cheerily waved them off.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll have plenty of time to catch up later,” Chihoko said, “I have a few preparations for tonight that I need to do anyway.”
Victor hastily pulled Chris into his dressing room and immediately locked the door behind them.
“Woah, Victor. Where’s the fire?” he asked.
“I’m being blackmailed, Chris. The person who stole my coat sent me this letter this morning,” Victor said, handing the letter sitting on his vanity to Chris who promptly scanned it with an increasingly worried frown. “They’re going to destroy my coat if I don’t comply with their orders.”
“What are you going to do, Victor? This is some serious shit,” Chris asked.
“I’m pretty sure whoever this person is, they’re a part of the company. As soon as the curtain opens I need you to sneak out the back door of the theatre and take this letter to Yuuri’s agency. He’ll be in his office. If anyone knows how to fix this, it’s him,” Victor explained.
“And if he can’t?” Chris worried.
“I-I don’t know,” Victor admitted, “He’s all I have Chris. I would rather stay in this form the rest of my life than be forced to marry anyone but Yuuri.”
“Don’t worry, Victor,” Chris said, “I’ll find Yuuri. Whatever it takes.”
A knock sounded at the door, startling both of them.
“Odette and Odile are due at makeup and wardrobe in ten. Don’t be late boys,” Volkova scolded through the door. Chris reached over and squeezed Victor’s shoulder comfortingly.
Victor nodded and stepped out of his dressing room as if it were just another day.
It was late afternoon at the police station and Yuuri was once again becoming frustrated by all the red tape that seemed to be keeping the case from moving forward. They could definitely get a search warrant for Bandoni’s place, probable cause with him was easy enough; but Yuuri had a hunch that it wasn’t on any of his properties. That had been his mistake with the selkie coats, and Bandoni never made a mistake twice.
A search warrant for the theatre itself was going to take at least a day, a missing coat not considered urgent enough to expedite the process; and as he’d dealt with countless times, his innate lie detecting ability was still not considered hard enough evidence to do much of anything but hope for some sort of solid clue.
And there certainly wasn’t any chance of arresting the main culprit without a single piece of evidence against them.
“Hey Yuuri, you expecting a dancer for an interview?” Phichit, the force’s police investigative assistant, asked, sticking his head in the office doorway.
Suddenly, Yuuri’s heart began to race. It was either Victor surprising him or something was wrong. Either way, he knew that he’d clear his schedule immediately for whatever it was.
“It’s for this case I’m working on, can you show them in?”
His pulse quickened for another reason entirely when he realized it was Christophe instead of Victor. Not only did it look like he’d come half-prepared to go onstage himself, his makeup already completed and a t-shirt seemingly thrown on with a pair of black tights; but he looked upset and that surely wasn’t a good sign.
“Yuuri, it’s about Victor.”
Yuuri’s heart froze. “What’s wrong?”
Hastily, Christophe pulled out a folded letter and pressed it into his hands. “This was under his dressing room door. He couldn’t risk coming himself, so he asked me to do it when no one would be watching because everyone else was onstage or in the wings.”
Yuuri took it from him, his eyes going wide as he realized exactly what kind of letter it was.
Well, he had wanted a piece of evidence...but not like this. Not at the expense of Victor’s emotional state if at all possible.
“Thank you,” he managed, sitting on the edge of his desk. His mind was a whirl of thoughts, and he was trying to find something amidst them that could fix this now.
DNA or fingerprinting on the letter would take at least 24 hours, if not more.
And if he stormed down to the theatre now, he’d have to completely rely on his theory about the culprit in order to stop them from potentially destroying Victor’s coat.
“Phichit!” he yelled out and the moment he stuck his head back in the door, Yuuri was rattling off instructions. “I’ve got evidence on my case, a blackmail letter with time sensitivity. Tell the chief I need him and as many officers as he can spare, I don’t know how messy this might get. And well, screw the warrant. We’ll have to hope exigent circumstances holds up in court because I’m not waiting on it.”
He nodded, quickly turning to run towards the chief’s office. Yuuri turned back to Christophe and gave him a tense smile.
“I will do everything in my power to help Victor. Please, return immediately to the theatre before anyone notices you missing. We can’t risk that coat being destroyed before I arrive.”
Christophe nodded. “Okay. I’m leaving right now.”
Yuuri watched him go, then hastily turned to his desk and gathered up what he needed; the adrenaline already coursing through his veins like fire. He was going to have to rely on his own intuition and one off-hand tip he’d gotten about Bandoni or this case could become a tragedy in the blink of an eye.
But for Victor, hell, Yuuri would risk anything for his sake.
He clutched his badge tight as he ran out of his office, his thoughts echoing over and over.
“Hang on, Victor. I’m coming.”
“Yuuri,” Victor exclaimed, his heart leaping for joy when he saw that his hopeful soon-to-be mate had come to save him. The program halted when Yuuri barged on stage in the middle of the performance. Theatre security tried to prevent him from interrupting, but one flash of his badge and they backed off.
Victor stepped towards Yuuri with the intention to join him at his side, but before he could register it, Chihoko pulled the sword from the sheath that sat at her hip, restrained Victor, and pressed the very real blade against his neck. Victor hissed as the blade dug into the skin of his neck.
“Don’t move!” Chihoko seethed when Yuuri tried to take as step towards Victor. Yuuri raised his hands cautiously.
“Don’t do this, Chihoko. Put the sword down,” Yuuri cautioned.
“Shut up!” she shouted. Quiet murmurs echoed in the packed theatre. This clearly wasn’t a part of the classic ballet.
“Why Chihoko?” Victor struggled to say. Every word was accented with sharp pain to his neck.
“She’s the one who stole your coat, Victor,” Yuuri revealed. “She blackmailed Fowler into stealing it from your dressing room while you were performing, he handed it off to Bandoni for safe keeping. He too is under her thumb. She’s been manipulating everyone for months.”
Chihoko scoffed bitterly, “Oh honey I’ve been manipulating people for far longer than that. If you think this is my first rodeo you’re sorely wrong. I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for you .”
“Why would you do this? Victor is your friend ,” Yuuri asked. Victor narrowed his eyes. Victor could tell Yuuri was stalling, but stalling for what ?
“Victor was more than just a friend. I love him and I would anything to have him. He would have loved me too until you came and fucked everything up,” Chihoko accused.
“So you stole his coat.”
“Yes, I stole his fucking coat. So fucking what?” she scoffed, “Madame Volkova gave me the idea. She told me this story about how swan maidens fall in love with the one who’s able to take their coat from them. I thought I’d give it a shot. Mr. Fowler stole it for me while Victor was occupied. He was an easy one to convince. He didn’t want my daddy, the police chief, finding out that a gangster funds his little shows. Bandoni naturally wanted to avoid Daddy too so he was even easier to manipulate. He had one of his mistresses sew the feathered monstrosity into the lining of his coat until I was ready for my final play.”
“Which was?” Yuuri asked.
“Marriage.” She smiled sinisterly, “Your coat was going to be my wedding present to you, dearest.” Chihoko purred, running her finger along Victor’s jawline.
“You’re a psychopath.” Victor growled.
“Oh Victor,” she sighed, pressing her lips to the shell of Victor’s ear. His stomach curled in revulsion. “We’ll tell this story to our children in a few years and laugh about this whole thing.”
“Did you get all that,Chief?” Yuuri asked to seemingly no one. Out from behind the curtain stepped the chief of police as well as a number of officers poised to arrest the police chief’s daughter. Bandoni, Fowler and Volkova were already in handcuffs just off stage.
“Every word,” the police chief grumbled gruffly. Chihoko’s face paled and she let go of Victor in her white faced horror. Victor immediately rushed into Yuuri’s waiting arms.
“Daddy?” Chihoko frowned. “What are you doing here?” she asked innocently, despite knowing that the Chief had likely heard every single word.
“Don’t make this any harder than it has to be, Chihoko,” the police chief warned.
“You’re not actually going to arrest me are you, Daddy?” she asked, daring her father to do the hardest thing he’d ever had to do, but to the Chief’s credit, he didn’t hesitate in doing what must be done.
“Chihoko Sha, you are under arrest for extortion and grand theft of a class A magical object. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. If you do not have an attorney . . .” the police chief recited, locking handcuffs around his own daughter’s wrists. She fought and screamed the entire time she was being dragged off stage.
“You did it,” Victor breathed wrapping himself around Yuuri and burying his head in the crook of Yuuri’s neck. Yuuri soothingly rubbed circles on Victor’s back.
A throat cleared from behind them. Victor glanced up to see Phichit standing behind them with his feather coat neatly folded in his arms. Yuuri stepped away from the embrace for a brief moment to take the coat from Phichit and present it to Victor.
“I believe this is yours.” Yuuri smiled gently. Victor ran his hand along the soft white feathers of the coat that had long since been missing. It was a dream to have it in front of him again after all this time.
Victor took the coat and ceremoniously wrapped it around his shoulders. He transformed into his natural form as if he had never left it behind.
But his swan form wasn’t what made him feel complete anymore.
Victor transformed back into his human form, took off his coat, and wrapped it carefully around Yuuri’s shoulders.
“This is yours to protect now.” Victor smiled warmly.
It was quiet as Yuuri set foot into Victor’s townhouse, the lights still out and the moonlight just enough to filter through the windows, painting the floors in a soft blue.
Still rightfully shaken by the whole ordeal, Victor had quietly asked if Yuuri would accompany him back home; a home Yuuri could tell immediately wasn’t really Victor’s home. For outside of a photograph of two swans that Yuuri suspected might be Victor’s parents, the place seemed hardly lived in and more like it was yet another image that Victor had worked to keep pristine.
That’s when he noticed it, an end table on the far edge of the room by the window, that was positively drowning in flowers. And, well, they weren’t just any admirer’s flowers. Yuuri could distinctly pick out all the kinds he’d chosen over the weeks even in the dim light.
It made something pleasant and warm coil in his chest, setting off that same feeling that had wrapped around him when Victor had placed his coat delicately around his shoulders at the theatre. Although not everyone would understand the significance of that action, it wasn’t lost on Yuuri at all. Although he’d given it back to Victor to wear home from the theatre, the familiarity of his feathers something he’d clearly ached for, the weight of it still seemed to linger on his shoulders.
“Did you mean what you said earlier?”
Victor’s hands gently clutched at his coat. “You mean about this?”
“I thought you could tell if if I was lying or not?” Victor teased.
Yuuri bit back a smile. “I could. I’d just like to hear it from you. Without the entire sold out audience there to listen in.”
Victor took a step forward, his blue eyes seeming to brighten even in the darkness of the night.
“I would...very much like it, if you would take care of this coat and the man it belongs to, for as long as we both might live.”
Yuuri walked forward until there was only a sliver of space between them, his hands reaching out to gently hold the coat as he leaned forward to press a kiss to it.
“Nothing would make me happier, Victor.”
There was an air of giddiness upon them at that, both of their cheeks blushing pink, each of them smiling almost shyly at one another. Figuring that it was worth a shot, Yuuri reached out to take Victor’s hand and quietly asked.
“May I have this dance?”
Victor blinked, his eyes wide in surprise.
Yuuri didn’t know exactly what Victor’s dance was like, nor did he want to insult his culture by doing something terribly wrong, but at the same time, he wanted to surprise Victor; for no other reason than he knew how beautiful Victor’s face would be when he realized.
So slowly he started to move, spinning Victor under his arm and then back into his embrace; his hands easily going to settle on Victor’s hips as he expertly twirled them to the left.
Victor’s eyes did go wide, but there was both surprise and something else. After a moment, Yuuri realized it must have been amusement.
“Okay, I’m trying here,” he huffed.
Victor smiled at that, bringing them to a standstill and quietly going about correcting their positions.
“I appreciate it, but right now you’re coming across far more forward than I think you want to. The hips don’t come in until later, my dear detective.”
Yuuri blushed at that, easily catching the implication. Well. It’s not like he hadn’t thought about that aspect of the mating dance.
“First, why don’t you take off your coat and I’ll put on mine?”
Yuuri nodded, sliding the long trench coat from his shoulders and tossing it onto the couch. He could see Victor begin to pull the coat around his shoulders, but instead of transforming back into the swan, the feathers instead cloaked him as he was. A human body, but almost like it was painted on his skin were the white feathers of his coat, caressing each of his curves and trailing far more artfully than Yuuri had ever seen any ballet costume manage.
“Wow,” he gasped out.
Victor, for his part, seemed to blush a little more at the reaction.
“I told you, you’d know it when you saw it.”
He bowed his head a little at the praise. “Swan maidens rarely use this form, but it’s useful if say...a certain swan maiden needs to perform a special dance with a human.”
Yuuri reached out and gently laid a hand over a dusting of feathers that arched over Victor’s shoulder, the downy feeling just what he’d expected.
Victor held out a hand. “Now, may I have this dance?”
He nodded, softly laying his hand in Victor’s and allowing him to arch it up gracefully above him in a mirror of his own arm. “Swans are all about subtlety in their dancing,” Victor said, moving up his other arm slowly and seeming pleased when Yuuri followed suit. “Slow, but graceful movements; dancing with your whole body and not just your feet. And…”
At that he stepped forward until they were only centimeters apart.
“Always stay close to your partner, leave room only for your movements but nothing else.”
As Victor swayed to the left, Yuuri mirrored it by moving to his right.
“I see you’re catching on,” he said quietly.
“I have such a beautiful teacher I can’t look away,” he teased back.
Victor twirled to his left, still slow and almost like ripples on the water from skipping a stone; his movements with his legs and arms slight but meaningful. Step by step, a melody playing between them with only heartbeats as instruments and their bodies as the music, until Victor leaned his head forward and whispered in Yuuri’s ear.
“A wonderful dancer as always, my Yuuri.”
His breath ghosting across Yuuri’s skin, setting his heart aflame in emotion.
“I love you,” he whispered back, knowing without a single word that Victor’s dance was telling him the same.
Victor paused at that, then leaned his forehead down until it bumped against Yuuri’s, his nose nuzzling with Yuuri’s nose.
“I have no words to convey how grateful I am for everything you’ve done, so I hope my dance is enough.”
“Seeing you dance, truly dance, with happiness and joy, is all the repayment I’ll ever need,” he replied, leaning in even closer. “My beautiful swan.”
The events that brought them together seemed like a whirlwind from which they’d only now had the chance to recover from, their hearts at ease finally after what seemed like forever.
Without a word, Victor took a step back and then with a roll of his shoulders, his feathers once more became his coat and his human clothing fell to the floor.
He gave a shy little smile and clutched the coat over his bared skin.
“Would you...stay with me tonight?”
Yuuri stepped forward slowly, reaching up as he got close enough and cradling Victor’s cheek in his hand.
“Can I stay with you forever?”
Victor leaned in, the space between them now gone.
“Forever sounds wonderful, my dear detective.”
And Yuuri decided, pressing a joyful kiss to Victor’s lips, that there couldn’t be anything more truthful than that.