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stranger in the night

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The night of his 21st birthday, Victor took himself out to celebrate late into the night. He danced and drank and sang at the top of his lungs all alone until he couldn’t any longer. He had taken a seat in the back of the club he’d chosen and waited, drink in hand and eyes already tired. It took no more than two minutes for someone to approach him-- a tall man with green eyes and black hair, talking about how he’d seen Victor on tv. “It was the Olympics. You won bronze in skiing!” he asked over the loud music. I won Gold… in Figure Skating, actually, Victor wanted to say. But he didn’t, just danced with him until they decided it was time to leave.

Like so many times before, Victor stumbled out of the club in the heart of St. Petersburg and made his way home on the arm of a man who was almost too old and visibly disinterested in anything but what they were meant to do. The shoes on his feet hurt him as they walked along the streets, faces illuminated by traffic lights and street lamps. Breaths brought alive by the clashing of hot and cold. He was in slight pain, tired, and mentally desolate. Still, he tried to dance with him in the street-- tried to be romantic, entertaining.

Victor took his hands into his own and tried desperately to sway them both. He ended up looking like a fool, the only one of them that was smiling. Eventually, the man held onto his wrists and pulled him to his side, placing a heavy arm around Victor’s waist.

It must have been around 2 or 3 am by the lack of people on the streets. The witching hour. The time he felt most at war with the world.

Victor took a tighter hold on his companion, pushing himself closer to him. It was suffocating even to him, but he didn’t move away. Eyes on the street before them, faking an air of confidence and comfort with every step he took. His apartment was only a few blocks away, and they made it there in under 15 minutes, not waiting until they were inside to start.

The man started kissing him in the elevator, once they had left the lobby. Moving from this lips to his jaw, to his neck and shoulders, he left a trail of saliva exposed to the cold air of the building. Shivers ran up and down his spine as he tried to remind himself that the man was good looking, smart, and wanted him. He wanted to be there with Victor. Out of everyone, he had chosen him. That meant something. It had too. So he let him grip his hair too harshly-- let him rush them down the hall, skin exposed and clothes half undone for all to see.

They made it inside, where things only escalated more from there. Their shirts were off and pants soon to follow. It was dark inside and deathly quiet. Victor almost forgot he didn’t live alone, when, not a moment too soon, Makkachin emerged from her place in his room, happily padding down the hall, ears up and ready to greet their visitor.

Quickly, Victor detached himself from him and ran to greet Makkachin, offering her and oodles of ‘good girls’ and compliments. He looked back up to the man from the floor and asked, “Come say hi, she loves meeting new people.”

The man tilted his head and made a face indifference. “I’m fine. Can we--?” He motioned to the bedroom before moving towards Victor and pulling him back up to him. Reluctantly, he let go of Makkachin, who made a face back at him. She followed them down the hall and tried to make her way into the room as well. The man looked back at her in annoyance as he laid Victor down on the bad. With furrowed brows and tight lips, he looked down at Victor and said. “Can you please put her in her kennel?”

“She doesn’t have a kennel--” Victor started in a small voice. The man groaned, left his side and walked toward Makkachin, where he shooed her out and slammed the door behind him. From his place on the bed, Victor felt his blood run cold. The man assumed his position-- crawled over him and looked at every part of Victor other than in his eyes. He threw pillows and clothes off the bed-- made a clearing for them. Kissed him roughly. Tugged at his clothes. Victor just looked at his own reflection in the mirror. Pale, thin, and dull under the darkness of his room. The way the light hit him illuminated his hands, polished and placed on skin he didn't know. And it was fine… until it wasn’t. Because all Victor could picture or hear was Makkachin’s paws scratching at the door. Whimpers in the quiet of the night. Whose? He couldn’t be sure.

In one sweep, he pushed the man off of him and gets up to let Makkachin back into the room. Before the man could protest, Victor said, “You’re going to have to leave now.”

“What--?”

“My room is dirty and I have to clean it right now,” Victor said, almost sure he was in the middle of a mental break. He looked over to his dresser and knocked over a scented candle near the edge. They all looked down at it, Makkachin included, shocked at what he had done. “You have to go.” He said it once more and then a couple more times to himself.

The man gathered his things and made his way out, looking back at him like he’d lost his mind. Victor didn’t really mind.

Once he was gone, he took a hot shower and dressed in his fuzziest pair of pajamas. He stripped his bed of its sheets and started over with new clean ones. Then he cleaned up the candle and the clothes and fed himself a croissant before taking a seat at the foot of his bed. All of the lights were off. He should have been asleep. But he couldn’t. He wanted to be held.

Victor opened one of the windows in his room, regardless of how cold it was and stood in front of it. He braced the cold. Took it in through his nose and let it leave through his mouth. He did that as long as Makkachin let him, before closing the window again and dragging himself into bed. Victor pulled his girl close to him, burying his hands in her soft fur and letting out hurdled breaths in between sobs.

“We’ll try again tomorrow,” he said more to himself than to her. “And the next day and the next after that until something feels right.” When Makkachin looked back at him with her big brown eyes, he couldn't help but smile. “Until then, I have you.”