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Panthera tigris tigris

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Yura watches as the Bengal tiger paces back and forth in its cage. His eyes following the tiger as if trying to read it’s mind. The frown on his face grows as the tiger’s ears begin to pull back and shoulders hunch. That was not a good sign.

This tiger had just joined the circus after the police busted poachers trying to traffic exotic animals to the wealthy of New York. JJ thought it would be great to add a tiger to the lineup of animals they already had, much to Yuri’s displeasure.

‘Like I don’t have enough to do in this shithole!’ he thought, eyes trailing the animal.

“So, do you think he’s ready?” Otabek says, sitting down and putting an arm around Yura’s waist.

“Not even close. I tried to bring Klawdia over so he could get acquainted with her smell. That shit over there went crazy and attacked the cage trying to get her.” Yura says, still watching the tiger. “I don’t think he’s going to work here. Whatever they did to him was really bad and nothing I do will gain his trust.”

“Maybe start by giving him a name.”

“Like what? Lucifer?”

“Maybe not that. How about stripes?” Otabek asks, turning to look at Yura’s unamused face, “Or not.”

“That was horrible. Go away, I can’t look at you,” Yura says, pushing Otabek away. “Stripes, really? Leave me. I need to think.”

Otabek gets up with a chuckle, shaking his head as he walks away. He turns once more to see Yura staring at the tiger deep in thought. The tiger has stopped pacing and his staring right back at him. Otabek recognizes the look in the tiger’s eyes. It’s the same look Yura has. The eyes of a soldier.


 

Yura begins thinking of a name for the Bengal tiger, something strong and powerful. The tiger has stopped pacing, much to Yura’s relief, and is watching him now.

“What to call you?” Yura says, slowly sliding down to his knees. He slowly crawls toward the tiger, watching as the animals tenses up and narrows his yellow eyes. “I’m not going to hurt you,” Yura murmurs softly, creeping closer to the cage. The tiger just watches him and begins to show his teeth. Yura stops moving and sits back on his legs, waiting for a sign.

“I think I’m going to name you Nikita,” Yura says, “it means unconquered. That’s who you are. You need to chill out, Nikita. I want you to stay with me but if you don’t trust me there’s nothing I can do for you.”

Nikita just watches Yura and slowly starts to relax. Yura takes that as a good sign and sits down cross-legged in front of the cage, softly talking to the tiger.  


 

Otabek walks to Yura’s bed area and finding it empty, he turns to Sara asking if she’s seen him. Shaking her head, Otabek begins to worry not seeing Yura for a good part of the day. He makes his way to the last place he saw him. As Otabek approaches, he sees that Yura is asleep in front of the new tiger’s cage. The tiger is awake and stares at him. Otabek reaches down to pick Yura up, when the tiger lunges at the cage, shaking it violently and startling Yura awake.

“What the hell!” Yura yells, looking at Otabek then Nikita.

“I was coming to take to your bed and the tiger went crazy,” Otabek says, “Maybe you’re right about him.”

“His name is Nikita and no I wasn’t”

“Are you sure?” he asks, helping Yura up.

“Don’t doubt me, Beka. I know what I’m doing. Now go, I need to bring Klawdia over again.”

“Okay, Yura. Just be careful,” he says, leaning down for a kiss before walking away.


 

Yura had been working with Nikita and Klawdia for weeks now. The two tigers were getting along and shared the enclosure for a few hours a day. The progress was slow and JJ was beginning to grow impatient.

“Yura, we need these tigers to perform!” JJ hollers.

“When?”

“Tonight.”

“Nikita isn’t ready for the crowds yet,” Yura says, looking JJ in the eye. “I have barely gotten through the full routine with both of them.”

“Yakov and I have watched it. They are ready.”

“JJ, listen to me. I know my animals and he’s not ready.”

“I have to disagree. Have them ready for tonight.” JJ says, turning and walking away.


 

Sara and Michelle had just finished their routine. JJ stands in the middle of the big ring looking at the crowd.

“Is everyone ready for more?” he yells, smiling as a loud cheer feels the building. “Now for something a little more exotic and dangerous. Presenting our amazing animal tamer, Yura Plisetsky, and his cats!”

Yura walks out from the backstage with Klawdia and Nikita follow close behind him. The crowd claps and shouts, as they make their way to the center. Yura turns toward the tigers and begins the show. Klawdia and Nikita jump, pouncing, and growl on cue, just like they have practiced. Yura keeps eyes on both tigers as they continue to run through the performance, almost finished when everything goes to shit.

A man’s voice yells through the crowd, Yura turns to the sounds shocked to see a man running full speed at him. Yura doesn’t have to react as the man pushes him down hard, knocking the breath out of him.

The building is dead quiet as the man begins to yell, “You and your kind need to leave this place! This is our city! These freaks need to leave!”

The intoxicated man notices that Yura isn’t moving and begins to kick him hard in the abdomen. Yura cries out in pain and pulls his body close, trying to protect himself. He can hear shouting from the crew as they run out from backstage.

The next noise he hears is the man screaming bloody murder. Yura looks up in shock to see Nikita has pounced on top of the man, teeth showing and growling loudly in the man’s face. Klawdia comes over and stands in front of Yura, ready to pounce on the man as well.


 

“Yura!” Otabek shouts, running up to him, “Are you okay?”

“Get Nikita now,” Yura answers, rising slowly and putting a hand on Klawdia’s head.

Otabek slowly walks over to Nikita and lowers himself down in front of the tiger, like Yura taught him. Nikita growls and tenses his shoulders more, claws digging deeper into the screaming man beneath him. Otabek quietly talks to the tiger but doesn’t move. JJ and the rest of the crew quickly led the crowds away from the scene. Yura watches all of this in a haze as the pain gets to him. He vision loses focus and all he can hear is the man’s screams growing faint as he falls to the ground.


 

Yura wakes and rises from the bed to quickly. Pain shoots through him and he lets out a cry. Otabek runs over, gently pushes him back down and brings a cup up.

“Drink this,” he says, looking down at Yura.

“What happened?”

“Well, you passed out and I was able to get the tigers away. The police showed up and….well…” he says, running a hand through his hair, “Yura, it’s not good.”

“I know. That asshole attacked me on stage.”

“Not that. Nikita…. They want to kill him.”

“That’s bullshit. He was defending me from the fucker. Everyone saw that.”

“Yeah, well the public is freaking out. JJ and Viktor have been doing damage control.” Otabek says, sitting down next to Yura’s leg. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“This is bullshit,” Yura murmurs, tears softly running down his face. “He didn’t do anything wrong.”


 

 

Yura sits in the tiger enclosure with both of his cats lying next to him. He runs his hand down Nikita's head and thinks about everything that has happened.

“This is a fucked up world, Nikita. Thank you for having my back, both of you. I’m so proud,” Yura says, looking down at the tigers with a smile.

The noise of footsteps make there way to Yura and he looks up to see Viktor standing before the enclosure.

“And?” Yura says.

“I talked to my father and the man who attacked you. It wasn’t easy,” Viktor answers, “but I was able to talk them down. They won't kill Nikita.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I was also able to get higher charges placed on the simpleton as well,” Viktor says, with a smile. “We won’t be seeing him around anymore.”

“Thank you.”

“No problem. We’re family remember,” Viktor says, with a soft smile. “We protect our own.”

Yura just nods, as Viktor walks away.