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My Delicious Katsudon

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“He’s beautiful, isn’t he?” Victor sighed, not taking his eyes off the handsome skater who was stretching against a wall. He was hardly to be seen as he disappeared in the crowd around him and yet he had something that caught Victor’s attention.

“Who exactly? I mean, it’s not as if there aren’t several good-looking people around here,” Chris pointed at somebody. “Have you seen him? Or her?” He pointed somewhere else. “This is a skating competition. There are a bunch of hot people here. If you want my opinion on somebody, you need to be a little more specific about it. Not like anyone in here could meet your demands anyways.” He smirked and turned towards his friend. Victor, however, hadn’t moved his gaze even for a second. The young man, nearly a boy with the raven-black hair had finished stretching. Another man with long brown-taupe hair, probably his coach, carrying his skates, ran up to him and talked intensely to him. While the coach seemed pretty exasperated, his gestures forcing the people around him to dodge, the boy didn’t move one muscle. Instead, he submitted to his coach quietly, put on his skates and walked to the rink.

Victor didn’t know what it was exactly what made him follow the boy’s every movement. It was his whole appearance, the energy he emitted. While all his fellow skaters were yearning for the crowd’s attention, he seemed as he wanted to hide behind them. Although he wore his skates, his steps were cautious. If he would walk without any shoes, he probably wouldn’t make a single sound. Instead of facing the cameras, his eyes were fixed on the floor, avoiding any kind of contact. Victor wondered what emotion would be reflected in them. Would it be nervousness? Or competitive spirit? Or could it be…? Victor took a closer look at his neck. The muscles at his throat, the sternocleidomastoid muscles, was greatly exposed. The V-shape they formed on his pale skin, letting their shadows enhance its colour even more, pleased Victor’s eyes. The boy’s whole body must be tensing a lot if this muscle was to be seen to this extent. Victor’s followed his body. From the distance he couldn’t see too well, but either the boy was playing nervously with his outfit or his fingers were trembling. He didn’t move an inch, but he emitted the aura of somebody who wanted to run away as fast as they could.

When his name was called by the commentator, he raised his head and Victor smiled when he saw it written all over his face. It was fear. Nothing but blank horror. His beautiful, round brown eyes were widened and he reminded Victor of an innocent fawn, scared by a crackling sound. The boy didn’t move until his coach, heavily gesturing, told him to do so. His whole body seemed to be filled with reluctance as he slowly stepped onto the ice. With small, insecure steps he glided towards the middle of the rink and assumed his starting pose. His arms were wrapped around his body as he wanted to shelter himself from the world outside. When the lights were shut down and the spotlight focused on him, he closed his eyes.

At first, Victor heard only the organ. It took a while for him to make out the plunking of the strings. The young mang slowly began to loosen his arms. He stretched them out, following his left hand with his eyes. His movements were small and soft, his fingers delicately extending the motion of his arms. If one could hear air flowing, the whole world would be silent if this boy was to only one move. His moved were proud and graceful, yet at the same time, he didn’t lose his shy appearance. Nobody should notice him as elegantly gliding over the ice. Everyone around him should turn away, so he could skate in piece. The rest of the strings came in and although his steps largened, he still seemed lost. His technique wasn’t flawless. Here and there, he slipped, putting too much or not enough energy in his jumps. In general, his performance was unbalanced. He wasn’t in balance. There was something bothering him. Not an actual incident. Nothing that could be put aside. It was like a shadow guiding his movements, hovering over him like a nimbus. Aside from his difficulties with the technique, however, his expression and the interpretation was stunning. The way he slid over the ice, being one with the first violin, touched Victor’s heart. The boy wasn’t a skater anymore, he was the violinist himself. The skates were his bow and the frozen water the strings, emitting the most beautiful sound as continued his performance.

In the back of his mind, Victor noticed that he must have picked the music by himself. Nobody else could have chosen a piece that depicted his twisted character so well. He must be full of pain. Every inch of his body, every movement of his fingertips was covered by a hidden heaviness. Usually, Victor would love to think about what must have happened to him, to make him this anguished at such a young age. He would have analysed him. Reading him like an open book as he did with other people, but he was too captivated. The only thing that was allowed in his mind was the music and the beautiful skater in front of him. His whole attention, his whole being was pulled towards the young man. Nothing else existed anymore. Nothing was important. All that Victor needed to live was to continue watching this twisted soul glide over the ice, spinning and turning, jumping and dancing along with the music as this was the only chance for him to express not even half of the emotions that seethed inside him.

It was the applause that rouse Victor from his rigidity. For a moment, he was confused by his surroundings. Watching the skater felt like a dream. A dream that was going to slip away from him as the young man left the ice.

“Vic? Are you alright?” Victor turned to his side. Chris was looking at him a little concerned.

“Yeah, I guess…”

“So what do you think about him? I really wonder how he made it to the finals. His skating is not bad, but he really has to work on his technique.”

“I think, he was just beautiful,” Victor whispered. He was still caught up by the memory of what he had just witnessed. In a long time, nothing had touched him as much as this performance. For a moment, he wondered what had drawn him so much to this boy, but then he shook his head. It must just have been his beauty, no doubt.

Chris still looked confused, but he didn’t ask any further questions and changed the topic. Although Victor wasn’t sure sometimes if his friend owned something like a sense of tact or shame, or empathy in general, he gave him credit for learning how to handle him over the last years.

“After they handed out the medals, I’ll meet some people I want to introduce to you.”

“Not any potential patients, I hope.”
Victor loved his job. He enjoyed invading other people’s minds, digging up their deepest and darkest secrets. He had always been attracted by the weird, the sick and the twisted. For a few years now, he had his own office and every single day, he was thankful that he was his own boss. His income was to his utmost satisfaction, allowing him to keep up all of his selected hobbies. But as a harpsichord didn’t keep its good condition on its own, he also had to treat patients that were rather boring. Victor wasn’t interested in the daily lament of a rich housewife. He didn’t care about burned out company owners and yet he needed them as they were willing to pay horrendous prices just to chew his ear off.

“No, no. Don’t worry. They are just friends, people I know from work. Some of them are quite boring, but I’m sure you will find some of them amusing. And they have contacts that could be of use to you.” He smiled knowingly.

Victor sighed. Most of Chris’s associates he had met in the past had been pretty uninteresting. At least, the ones of his past career. Chris was Victor’s oldest friend. Thinking about it, he was the only one Victor would consider a  real friend. Like his hobbies, his taste and his clients, he was quite picky when it came to the people he cultivated with. Not many fulfilled his standards. Even Christophe kept dancing on the edge of his good will, but he valued him as a companion who had followed him through darker times.

“I see. And I guess you already invited them over for dinner.”

“How could I not? When I told them I knew the famous Victor Nikiforov, they begged me to get invited to one of your dinner parties. But don’t worry, I told them you needed time to prepare everything so they will come over tomorrow night. And there will be just two of them, so it’s not a big deal at all.”

If Victor wouldn’t have liked Chris so much, he would have killed him. Not only that he had to meet and talk to those insincere, plastic folks, he also had to welcome them in his house. It would take him hours to clean up after they had left, to get out the smell of their cheap perfume and their superficiality. Victor preferred to watch people from a little distance. Humans were weird creatures to him, so he rather observed them than to interact with them. Only if he got the chance to lay his fingers on a special specimen, someone who caught his interest and woke his intrinsic curiosity, that he usually hid behind his professional façade, he dared to move a step closer to peek into their psyche. Teasing out their darkest secrets was already fun, but holding their pathetic existence in his hands, entrusted with the decision to raise them up to the light again or to toss them back into the wicked claws of their minds, gave him an incredible feeling of power.

Hopefully, one of them was useful to Victor to recompense him for his expenses. Over the years, he had learnt that a wide network of people was the key – to a flourishing office and to get in contact with people who knew to satisfy any need he might feel.

 

During the award ceremony, Victor didn’t pay attention to what was happening at the rink. He had never been in favour of the idea to honour a certain selection of people, in sports or in other disciplines. Who were the judges of any jury in the world to gauge a piece of art, no matter of its nature? Was it their experience that allowed them to divide the world in good, bad and in need of improvement? Was it their knowledge of the subject? Was a former artist in the position to judge a new, unknow type of painting? Can they evaluate the brush stroke if they had never held this new brush in their hands? Can they assess the yet unknown technique they had never tried before? Can writers judge a poem of a language they had never read before? Can a musician judge the sound of an instrument they had never heard before? Probably not. So why did artists of any kind keep on insisting on being evaluated by people who are the most oblivious to true beauty as they are stuck in their traditional and their probably outdated way to see things? Why did they allow them to judge their piece of art that is not made in the past where the rules the jury had learnt still applied, but in the present were laws are written in the second as the brush touches the canvas, as the bow touches the string, as the skater touches the ice?

Instead of listening to the commentators voice shouting unimportant numbers and scores through the speakers, Victor returned to watch the young skater with the black hair again. He was standing far away from the others as if he wanted to make them forget he was even there. He nearly faded into the wall he was leaning against. If somebody had turned their gaze away from the winner’s podium, they probably wouldn’t have noticed him. His aura was aloof,  blending in with his surroundings. Even if somebody would notice him, they would be repulsed by the grey cloud that was hovering over him, cloaking him in a dark shadow which ate up any happiness and any joy.

Yet, Victor was strangely drawn to him. He was the only person to really see him. He would have loved to step a little closer to him in order to read he expression of his face. He urged to see every muscle-contraction, every flutter of his eyelids, every tremble of his fingers. Following his gaze, Victor looked up to the big screen displaying the scores as they were announced. He smirked. The boy had placed second. Normal people would pity the skater as he was supposed to present himself in front of the crowd once again. But Victor wasn’t normal. He delighted in his widened eyes, in his expression of pure panic. Now that he was forced to step into the middle of attention while he wasn’t able to hide behind his skating and the music, Victor would hopefully see his true face.

Although his name had been shouted through the speakers, the young man didn’t move an inch. Instead, he seemed to tried fading into the wall even more. Victor observed with a smirk on his face how his coach came running towards him, dragging him forcefully to the winner’s podium. With all his might, the boy was trying to free himself, probably in order to run away, but his coach didn’t let go of him. He even nudged his trainee into the commentators arms who led the boy to his position on the podium. Now that the spot light was on him again, Victor had the opportunity to examine him. When he had been skating, Victor had only been able to watch his graceful movements and his expression, but now he could examine his features in detail.

In contrast to his dark hair, his skin was pretty light, even slightly pale. His features, his eyes and his nose were shaped in an Asian optic. Probably Japanese as Victor assumed, assured from the sound of the boy’s name. As he had combed his hair back, he revealed his light forehand that make his beautiful brown eyes stand out. They were big and around and Victor loved the shimmer of fear and their constant movement to look around. His body was tensed to the max. Every muscle contracted, revealing his beautiful, well-trained shape. He reminded Victor a little of a painting by Gericault. A young man, trained, every muscle, every vein exposed to the viewer. A beautiful sight to the eye, the picture and the skater. Victor was sure that below his shimmering blue outfit he was hiding a similar beauty. For a moment, he allowed himself to be swept away by the imagination of what kind of sensation his skin would leave under his touch. How would it feel like tracing the outlines of his muscles, from his upper body to the defined butt, Victor could already see, covered by the black fabric? How would his skin beautiful his skin if a red strain from his own blood would run down his pale back? If his insides were as mesmerizing as his outer appearance? They probably were unharmed, innocent like the rest of him, never touched by filthy, dirty hands. Closing his eyes, Victor imagined how he would taste, who he would make Victor’s tongue melt in pleasure.

The man in the picture by Gericault was obviously appealing yet his face was turned away as if he wanted to hide his true nature from the public, maybe even from the artist. Had the man been ashamed? Was shame a well-hidden cause for the skater’s behaviour? On the first sight, the only emotion he emitted was fear. If something would scare him, like the sound of a shot, he would run away like a fawn. In general, he reminded Victor of an anxious animal, maybe a rabbit or a mouse, that was surrounded by predators, ogling at him not hiding their desire to eat him alive. The predators in his case, were the crowd that kept on applauding as the commentator bestowed the silver medal on him. There was only a short moment when he touched the young man’s skin, but that was enough to sent a shiver through his body, like a lightning had struck him. His lips trembled and Victor was sure that his eyes watered. So he wasn’t only afraid of being watched by other people, he was also not able to touch them.

When he had first seen him, his experience had told him that this was an interesting person, but seeing him so fragile, allowing himself to be honest with his feelings for just a few moments, awakened the interest of the psychiatrist in him. What must have happened to him to be so afraid of social encounters? What trauma had corrupted his pure soul so much he couldn’t stand the slightest accidental touch? Oh, Victor would love to invade his mind, uncover his dark past and his well-kept secrets. How would he react when Victor drowned him in his past, bringing up every single painful memory? How would his face convulse? Would his eyes look even more beautiful when they were filled with tears of horror?

“Hey, Vic, are you still here or have you already lost yourself in this skater’s ass?”

Victor shook his head, letting the stunning pictures in his mind slowly dash away. “Um?”

“If I didn’t know better, I would assume that you were eating him up in your mind,” Chris laughed.

“And what makes you assume I’m not doing this?” Victor examined his friend curiously, his left eyebrow lifted.

“You’re not interested in young boys. He might be handsome, but look at him. A personality like yours would outshine him. He lives in the shadows. No, he is a shadow. All the people I’ve seen you with in the past had had more… charisma, you know? They were more, how can I say that, present. How could you make use of such a timid and weak person?” He laughed and got up. “But enough talking about him. Let me introduce you to some people.”

Victor sighed, but followed his friends down the podium to a group of people that was gathering at the boards.

“You have no idea, Chris. You have no idea,” he murmured to himself.

 

 

The next day, Victor wasn’t in the mood at all to welcome guests. Especially those guests. Meeting Chris’s acquaintances had been tiresome. As he had predicted, they were just superficial folks, talking a lot of nonsense. Their stupidity had caused him physical pain and yet, he had invited two of them over for dinner. Mostly, because Christ hadn’t left him a choice. Victor knew he was right, he had to keep up his charming and polite façade and what could increase his desirability more than presenting a perfect dinner on a perfect table in a perfect house to tattling fools, searching for attention wherever they could get them. Victor was well aware of the perception of his dinner parties in the high society. Most people would cut their leg off just to be welcomed in his home. Although he looked down on the majority of his guests, he enjoyed their naïve conversations. It was amusing to see how blunt they were. So in hope to be at least entertained tonight, Victor got up from his bed and stepped into his ground-level rainforest-shower.

While the warm water was pattering on his shoulders, Victor thought about the dream he had had last night. Usually, he didn’t dream. The last time something like this had happened was already more than 15 years ago. So just the fact that an event had affected him so much that he needed to process it in his sleep was already extraordinary enough. It hadn’t been a bad dream, probably the most far away from a nightmare as possible. Still, it was it was more the dream itself that bothered Victor than its actual content. Dreaming was an activity that was mostly related, but not exclusive to REM sleep. In these phases, the brain was quite active, especially in the visual and limbic areas of the brain. The reason why people dreamt, however, was still to be discovered. Several hypotheses were made. Dome more, some less based on biological explanations. From his scientific point of view, Victor understood that either incidental activation of memories could have evoked a dream. Alternatively, it could have been caused by the coordinated activation of higher processing areas. But that didn’t explain, why would this happen just now? For years, no such “incident” had taken place. The other side in him, the therapist awakened and reminded him of what he used to say to his clients. Dreams could be the window to our deepest wishes. In an environment where nothing was impossible, people were able to substitute the desires that couldn’t be realized in the real world. But what desire could have been awakened by the skater who had caught his attention yesterday.

He and the young man had been sitting in a void, around them only endless white. Both of them sat on wing chairs, covered in red velvet. Facing each other, they had just been looking at each other. Neither of them had talked. Much to his nuisance, Victor didn’t remember whether there had been a situational context, he didn’t even know whether he had thought anything. He only remembered a connection between them. Like the pole of a magnet, he had been pulled towards the skater and somehow he had known that the latter had felt the same. At the same time, he had been pushed back and kept on a distance. So eventually, both of them had been forced to stay where they were, too far separated, but at the same time way too close.

Trying not to give this dream too much thought, Victor stepped out of the shower and towelled himself. A look into the mirror made him flinch. Most people wouldn’t notice anything as they were superficial and only interested in themselves. Victor, however, who was looking at this face for so many years, remarked the change instantly. He had light shadows under his eyes. Hardly visible to an unfamiliar, but Chris would surely become aware of them. Nothing about this dream had been causing him to wake up unrefreshed, so why did he look like as if he had only slept for 4 hours? Throwing some cold water in his face, Victor just begged that his friend wouldn’t interrogate him tonight and walked towards his dressing room. Today, he decided on a dark grey three-piece suit combined with a dark purple dressing shirt and shoes in the same colour. If there was something more important to Victor than to treat his palate, it was his appearance. He loved to wear suits. He felt comfortable in them and he was well aware of the fact that he looked irresistible in them. People were so easy to be deceived by clothing. Just dressing like an authority made them act correspondingly to their believe. Of course, Victor prided himself in being the most sophisticated person he knew, but amplifying his excellent traits with a neat and fashionable look had never been to his detriment. Swallowing down the last memory of his dream, he left his house, got into his car and drove to his office.

 

Victor was relieved when his last client had left his office. Today, the most exhausting patients had cumulated as if they had conspired to make him loose his patience. Victor had stayed professional all the time, although he had wished to wring one or two people’s necks. Instead, he had had to smile and act like he understood them, like he acknowledged their problems to be valid and reason enough to bother him. Of course, not all his clients there like that. All sorts of people came to him and as different as their characters were their troubles. Victor loved to dig into people’s minds, especially when they owned a certain type of personality, but there were also clients he was dedicated to help. Patients suffering from all sorts of diseases and disorders – anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia – visited his office and some of them really deserved to be cured. Yet the clients that had consulted him today where nothing like that. People from the upper class, their world circling around themselves, enough money to live a comfortable life and too much time to spent, but not interesting in doing something useful. Victor had wished for a glass of his 2016 Domina from Franconia as soon as the third client had stepped through his door. Just a sip of its dry yet fruity taste touched by the memory of wild berries would have made him forget about the irritation that had built up inside. His client had been a well-situated house wife, her only job to look good next to her husband when they attended the gatherings of the high-society. If he would have been forced to hear the constant lament about her increasing fear that her husband would cheat on her for one minute more, he would have pulled the horrendous bodkin out of her hair and stabbed her. If she talked to her husband the same self-pitying way she did in her sessions, Victor would be totally understanding if he was to consider divorce. Instead of trying to find a sense in her life, something useful she could put her energy into, she preferred to complain how boring her life was.

Closing the door behind his last patient, a manager in his forties, had been the moment, Victor had waited for the whole day. He wasn’t particularly looking forward to the guests who would infiltrate his home, but he couldn’t wait to return home after his grocery shopping and to finally start cooking. Preparing the most delicious dishes was his way to true inner peace. There was no other place he could let his mind go and give himself up to a mediation like state like his kitchen. Already buying the ingredients eased his thoughts and filled him with calmness. Victor was a picky person, but whenever it came to cooking, he only chose the best of the best. He could spent hours in the small store that sold only organic vegetable and fruit, choosing the perfect condiments. For tonight’s dinner, he had chosen a relatively basic garnish, due to the great meat he had been able to acquire. He also had already decided on the wine he would serve today. A dry Italian red wine would complement the main course perfectly.

When he came home, Victor placed his shopping bags on the worktop. Rolling up his sleeves and putting on his apron, he went through the checklist in his mind. He knew exactly when he had to take care of what. His plan was flawless as usual. Only one step was missing before he could begin his piece of art. Music. Victor needed music to be fully able to give himself into the beauty of cooking. He looked up and down his enormous collection of records. After turning it over in his mind, he chose the “An Alpine Symphony” by Richard Strauss. The programme of a day in the alpine mountains, following a mountain climber starting at night right before dawn up to the summit and back down again, fitted the idea he had in mind when he had planned this evening. He took out the record, put it into his phonograph and returned to the kitchen.

At first, he prepared the dessert as it needed to be cooled for a while until it was ready to be served. He had decided on homemade yoghurt sorbet topped with freshls picked wild berries in a sauce made of blackberries and a glug of fruity dessert wine, a leaf of lemon balm perfecting the composition. He had picked the berries himself a few days ago in the piece of forest that abutted on his house. Their shining colours of red and blue would make a delicious contrast to the white sorbet. After he had put the yoghurt sorbet in the freezer, he took care of the decoration and set the table. Four guests would be arriving today, two of Victor’s own friends and two of Chris acquaintances, joined by his friend himself who never let a chance slip to eat with Victor, making it six people in total, including Victor. Carefully, Victor placed each plate, each piece of silverware until it was perfectly in place, using his polishing cloth where it was necessary. As for the decoration, he had chosen red napkins that fitted perfectly to the white bouquet of flowers on the side board and the pine cone arrangement on his dinner table. In addition, he started a fire in his fireplace on the other end of the room opposite of a huge window. When the dining room was ready, he had enough time to prepare the dressing for the starter, rocket salad with caramelized and roasted walnuts, before he could concentrate on the main course – the part of the evening Victor had been looking forward to the most. Only thinking about the juicy, red meat that felt so soft under his fingers was watering his mouth. But at first he had to take care of the side dish. Victor melted a piece of butter in a pan while cutting shallots, sweating them for a few minutes. The splutter and the scent of heated butter filled the room, making him even more excited. He added some risotto rice and cooked it for a while before he poured water over it, seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it simmer. In the meantime, he reamed the parmesan to put it into the risotto later. Now it was time for the marinade. Whisking brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt, Victor followed the climber in the symphony over the flowing meadows. When he closed his eyes, he could see the beautiful flowers, perfectly arranged on the grass by the arbitrariness of nature. In blue and white, they formed colourful dots on a green carpet. Mincing some garlic, he imagined the cloves to be wild flowers of whose petals would stunningly contrast to the meat he would prepare later. He cooked the garlic until the room was filled with its characteristic scent. It would be a shock for all the people that believed he was vampire to find out that he loved garlic. It didn’t only add a special taste to every dish, it was also ascribed the ability to reduce cardiovascular diseases. He mixed it with the rest of the sauce and put it to the side. After adding the parmesan and a tablespoon of walnut oil to the risotto, the side dish was ready to be served and Victor’s favourite part was finally there. Followed by the sound of dozens of violins, he stepped down the stairs to his own cold room and there it was. Beautifully hanging from the black ceiling, the red and white marbled star of his dinner. Softy, as if he could hurt the meat, Victor took it down and returned to the kitchen. In his hands, it felt like an innocent child, so soft, so untouched. From his knife block, he chose his favourite knife, a present of a very thankful client of his. It had been hand-crafted by an old Japanese blacksmith known for his exquisite work and Victor valued it with all his heart. He loved the weight of the knife in his hand. It made him feel powerful and yet, its sharp blade reminded him of how deadly it was. This was the only knife that was worthy of being used on such a precious gift. Holding onto the rips, he slowly cut along the bone to separate the meat from it.

“Hey boy, can you come here for a second?”

Every inch the knife cut through, the meat melted away like it was soft butter. Positioning it at the top, letting it slide it down in a continuous movement again and again calmed Victor down like a mantra.

The street was dark. The lamp lights that were supposed to illuminate the alley were broken. The area was deserted. Nobody came here without a good reason, so it was a good place for young folks to hide when they ran away from home. The boy he had called was alone, his skin dirty. He had probably slept in this alley for at least one or two nights. Maybe he had ran away from home, maybe he had been thrown out. Not a bit suspicious, he stepped towards the dark figure that had called out to him.

Piece by piece, chop by chop was separated from the skeleton. Victor let them rest and breathe for a moment until he had cut the final piece off.

“Sorry to bother you. I hope you can help me.” The boy came closer.

Treasuring the chops like there were his own children, Victor seasoned them with sea salt and pepper and placed them in a heated pan to sear them. The scent that overshadowed all the other smells in his kitchen, kissed his nose and wandered directly to his stomach. Just watching it fry, as mall bubbles of oil were wandering up from the ground of the pan to the sides of the slowly browning meat, made Victor’s heart skip a beat. If it already smelled so savory, how delicious would it taste later?

“It’s pretty embarrassing. I think I got lost and…” Crack! The boy had no time to realize what was happening when his neck had been broken by a skilled and fast movement.

Victor removed the chops from the pan and placed them into a large trey. With a soft brush, he brushed the marinade he had prepared on every single piece like they were paintings. Now, they had time to rest until his guests had finished the starter. Only then he would put them back into the pan and cook them until they were ready, constantly watched by his careful eyes.

The boy sank into his arms. He pulled him to his car, threw him into the trunk and drove away from the alley, without leaving the smallest evidence of his short visit there behind.

 

“Mesdames, Messieurs, your main course. Balsamic lamb chops with parmesan risotto, a pinch of rosemary and garlic.”

Victor placed the plates in front his guests. He loved the moment when they were confronted with one of the most outright forms of beauty. In contrary to art or music, food addressed all senses at the same time. The way that Victor had arranged it pleased the eye. The chops were placed in the middle of the white plates while the risotto had been formed into a half-bowl, a stem of rosemary on top. Its aroma filled the whole room, caressing the olfactory system. Once one had taken a bite, not only the taste, but also the texture could be perceived. And last, but not least, the sound of chewing that differed according to the texture completed the experience. Eating was a pure pleasure for the whole body. It wasn’t only a necessity to stay alive, but also a way of cherishing it.

After he had served everyone, he opened the bottle of red wine that had been waiting on the sideboard for its appearance. He unstopped it skilfully, smelling at the cork to make sure it didn’t have any kind of taint. The fruity yet dry scent that ascended from the cork and the bottle mixed excellently with the scent of the balsamic marinade.

“A 2016 Merlot della Provincia di Verona.” He poured wine in every of his guests glasses before he sat down himself.

“Victor, you have outdone yourself! This looks so delicious I’m not sure if I can dare eating it,” the woman on his right side praised him ecstatically.

“Oh my dear Lilia, I would be a waist if you wouldn’t.” Victor smiled at her charmingly. Lilia Baranovskaya and her ex-husband Vakov Feltsman weren’t his guests for the first time. She was a former prima ballerina in Russia, but known all over the world. Victor had seen her perform in Russia when he had been about 5 years old. Since then, a lot of time had passed and she had retired, thought he still thought hopeful young talents the true meaning of grace. Victor enjoyed her company, especially when they visited the ballet together. Her trained eye made it real pleasure to discuss the performance afterwards.

On her opposite, her ex-husband was obviously enjoying the dinner. Yakov didn’t show a lot of emotions aside from shouting at his students, but Victor knew he had nice soul. He did everything in his might to make his students shine and perform at their best. Talking to him with a good glass of wine or vodka, was welcomed pastime to Victor as he was unexpectedly interested in opera and theatre. On his right side, Chris had taken a seat, opposite to a man around their age who had been introduced to Victor as Manuel Dilietta. If he remembered correctly, he was working as a designer for skating outfits. He really wasn’t a conversationalist as he rather spend his time flirting with Chris than to join the conversations. Victor didn’t give him a lot of attention since had obviously invited him for his own enjoyment. The woman who was sitting opposite to Victor was a young woman called Alena Bloom. She appeared to be a regular as Chris’s bar and they started talking after discovering their common interest in ice skating. When she wasn’t searching for husband at night, she worked as a psychology professor at the local university. Talking to her hadn’t been as exhausting as Victor had predicted. She was more intelligent than her desperate way to get married gave him reason to expect.

“Ah Victor, before I forget,” Yakov suddenly addressed him, “a colleague of mine told me about one of his students yesterday. He said that he is really troublesome. A fine and talented young man, but his issued prevent him from giving his best performance. They will be staying here for quite a while and he asked me if I knew somebody who might be able to help him. I know that you have a lot of clients already, but I thought this could be interesting to you.”

Victor deliberated for a second. A burdensome skater could indeed be a fascinating challenge. Usually, Victor’s clients were above 35 or even older, so working with somebody young would require completely different techniques and strategies. This could finally give fresh impetus to his monotonous work.  At least, he could look at them to decide whether the case was engaging enough to take on the extra hours.

“Sure, I’ll see when I can make some time for them. Please, pass him the number of my office. He can leave a message on the answering machine. I will call him back as soon as I can.”

“Thank you, Vitya. He’ be very relieved. It seems as things got even worse lately and he was pretty desperate when he talked to be the other day.”

If Yakov assessed someone to be desperate, he must be in real trouble. Victor trusted his friend’s judgement. The coach knew that he mostly took cases that interested him, so referring somebody to him must signify that he was the person’s last resort. The more he thought about it, the more Victor’s interest grew and by the end of the evening, he couldn’t wait to welcome that troublemaker in his office.

 

 For two long days he had had to wait. Of course, the coach who had introduced himself on the phone as Celestino Cialdini had called him first thing the following day and they had made an appointment for Wednesday evening after Victor’s last client had already left. Cialdini had already put him the picture, probably to gain Victor’s interest. In general, his student was a nice and talented young man, but he seemed to have troubles in interacting with people and engaging in social situations. When he was on the ice during practise, the boy didn’t have any problems to skate worthy of a Olympic gold medal, but as soon as strangers watched him, he completely changed. Nobody knew why he acted that way and he refused to talk about it. Not even his only friend had any idea what had happened to him. Victor was already the sixth therapist, Cialdini had send him to, but the boy hadn’t said a word during his sessions. This would be his last attempt to help his student to get over his anxiety. If he didn’t improve, Cialdini would give up on training him. He knew that this boy could achieve a lot, but he was tired of training him and seeing him fail due to his issues every time.

Everything he had said, reminded Victor of that very skater he had noticed during the last competition. It fitted his own impression too well, but he didn’t dare to hope that it was this skater, Cialdini had talked about. He didn’t want to get his hoped high, although he yearned for the chance to talk to this boy who had hunted him the last nights as well. Victor did his best throughout the day and focus on his regular patients, yet as soon as the image of that skater popped up in his head, he got uneasy in excitement. His feet were bobbing up and down nervously and his fingers were tingling. Only turning his pen in his fingers from time to time helped him to make them stop. Victor knew that this behaviour was unprofessional and totally not like him at all. He had strict standards he had committed himself to and creating an atmosphere of trust and mindful listening was one of his main requirements. Not knowing, however, if the skater he would meet later that day really would be the one he hoped for, made Victor even more nervous. He was quite concerned about his reaction towards him after only seeing him from afar, but for now, he tried to ignore it or label it as professional interest. Yet, he couldn’t stop himself from counting the hours until the appointment.

It was already twenty past 8 pm. For twenty minutes, Victor had been agitatedly waiting for Cialdini and his student to arrive. No. Actually, he had been waiting for an hour and twenty minutes. The coach had asked him to definitely make sure that his last patient had left his office before they would arrive. He feared that if somebody could see or even recognize this student, the latter would run away instantly. Victor had reluctantly agreed to work an hour longer, noting deep inside that he had never done such a thing before. If patients insisted on seeing him, they had to keep to his working schedule. Five minutes after they should have arrived, Victor started getting uneasy. Punctuality was one of his greatest values, so being unpunctual to an appointment that had been set outside his office hours was a sign of disrespect. To calm himself and to do something useful while waiting, Victor took the violin which was hanging on the wall behind his desk. He positioned it on his collarbone, took a deep breath, closed his eyes and started playing.

A loud knock on the door, that was exclusive to his clients, rouse him from his meditation-like state. He hung back the violin and walked towards the door. A look on his watch told him that it was a quarter to 9. Swallowing down his anger, he opened the door. In front of him a tall man with long brown haired, pulled back into a pony tail, was standing, a wide smile on his face. He offered him his hand. “Celestino Cialdini. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Nikiforov.”

Victor didn’t answer, but took his hand and forced himself to smile. He recognized the coach from the day of the competition. It had been the person to drag that beautiful skater to the rink and who had forced him to take part in the award ceremony. From the first moment, Victor cordially disliked him.

“I’m sorry we are late, but my student wasn’t too happy about coming here.”

“You didn’t obtain his approval first?” Victor was filled with indignation. How did this impertinent person believe that he could help somebody who didn’t want to be helped?

“I expected him to refuse your polite offer to take a look at him, so I thought it was better not to tell him. But you should talk to him and not me.” He laughed. “I don’t need a psychiatrist.”

‘Oh, I bet you do,’ Victor thought.

“I guess I should finally introduce you. Yuuri! Come here. Yuuri, this is Dr. Nikiforov who kindly agreed on working with you. Dr. Nikiforov, this is my student, Yuuri Katsuki.”

Victor hadn’t seen him at first, because he had been hiding in the shadows down the hallway, but when his coach called out for him, he slowly came nearer. There he was. In all his beauty. Victor offered him his hand, curious if he would take it. Much to his surprise, the boy took it and when their hands touched, a stroke of lighting shot through Victor. Pretty fast, he skater pulled his hand back, looking at the floor the whole time. Victor smirked.

 “Welcome, Mr. Katsuki. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Please come in.”

This was going to be really interesting.

Chapter Text

Victor had taken a seat in his armchair, his legs crossed, smiling at Yuuri Katsuki. He had decided not to take his notebook with him. Usually, Victor took notes of his patients or at least he pretended to do so while he was sketching the monsters he really saw inside his clients. Yet, regarding scared and intimidated boy in front of him, he would probably feel even more watched which would make him distrust Victor. Already his current expression told the psychiatrist that he felt uncomfortable what was probably more than an understatement. The boy was still standing in the middle of his office. His arms were wrapped around his body, his eyes were quickly fluttering from side to side, giving Victor the impression of an intimidated rabbit. Like pray he was presented to him, nowhere to hide, nowhere to run.

“Please, sit down.” Victor pointed to the armchair in front his own.

The skater, however, didn’t react to Victor’s words. Instead, he took a step back, closer to the door. The psychiatrist followed Katsuki’s movements with his eyes. Every muscle was tensed, his legs ready to run away any second. If Victor would make one unexpected move, he would the leave the office in the blink of an eye. How should he get closer to him? Cialdini had already told him that he had sent his skater to several therapists before. So he probably knew all their attempts to approach him. If he wanted to gain his trust, he had to try something different.

“If I may introduce myself. My name is Victor Nikiforov, but you can call me Victor. I’m a psychiatrist and psychotherapist and I specialized in treating all kinds of mood disorders and trauma as well as personality disorders. I hope you are alright with me talking to you in English. I had the pleasure to learn Japanese once in the past, but I'm afraid my poor skills would only insult the ears of somebody how grew up with his beautiful language. Your coach didn’t tell me too much about you, so if you’re afraid that I intruded your personal space, please be assured that I know nothing more about you than your name and your difficulties to perform in front of people. I’m here to help you, but if you don’t want me to, that’s fine by me. You decide if you want to talk to me or not. You decide what’s going to happen in this office.”

Curiously, Victor was watching the skater who had thrown a short gaze at him while he had been talking. There was fear in his narrowed eyes and uncertainty. He was obviously unsure of what to think of Victor. Although he would have loved to examine him, Victor turned his gaze towards the window. Watching him would only push him away, making him feel even more on show. Victor pricked up his ears. At first he only heard his own breath. He wondered how the boy had managed to not let out the slightest sounds. If he hadn’t seen him, Victor wouldn’t even know he was there. Like anticipating a scared lamp sniffing on his outreached hand, he patiently waited. Maybe it only took seconds, maybe he waited for minutes, but finally he heard a silent step on the floor. Then, he heard another. The sounds, however, weren’t approaching him. Several more where following until a louder sound signified that the skater had sat down. Victor carefully threw a gaze over his shoulder. The Japanese had sat down next to the door. Victor smirked. Could he interpret his gesture as a sign of superficial acceptance? Of course, he didn’t trust him. He would need weeks or months to confide in Victor, but the fact that he sat down, giving up a piece of his shelter, was more than Victor had hoped for. Sitting down meant that he willingly let go of ability to instantly run away. Getting up again would cost him precious time in his flight. It wasn’t trust nor was it acceptance, yet he felt safe enough to let his guard down, even if it was just for him to examine Victor from this safe place. This was first step.

Victor took a look at his watch. Half an hour had already passed. He was sure that talking would help him to get closer to the skater who had pulled his knees to his chest, his chin resting on his knees, his watchful eyes observing Victor. The psychiatrist tried to recall the competition where he had seen him the first time. Off the ice, he emitted the same atmosphere. The same shadows surrounded him and crept across the floor. Like the legs of a spider, they crawled over the carpet, reaching out for the next victim to grab and pull into their dark net from where they would never escape. There was this aura of fear and avoidance, though Victor didn’t fathom yet what he was trying to evade. Was it body contact? Was it being close to people in general? What kind of experience must have overshadowed his life to force him to hide his beauty and his grace, his elegance and his talent from the world? In his daily life, he disguised as a ghost, a shadow of a existence, hoping that no one would pay too much attention.

Yet as soon as he had stepped into the rink, his mask had fallen off and revealed a piece of his dignity and his divineness, just as much as he half-unconsciously dared to share with the savage beasts that kept watching him as their prey delightfully glided over the ice. Victor wasn’t sure whether the boy had realized that he allowed himself this small perforation of the wall he had build around him, yet he had been enchanted when the tiny and weak ray of light, that his soul emitted, broke through the fortress made out of black diamond – too dark to make an outsider assume that there was still life inside and too hard to be shattered by human hands. This memory of the hidden glimmer was only a fragile witness of the true character, of the true mind that kept itself well hidden, but just this reflection had been sufficient to awake Victor’s interest. The aura that had been swirling around him, however, had still been full of darkness and despair, retelling the tale of how the flame of his beautiful soul had been blown out, rashly, by human hands. The undertone of the cloud surrounding him had carried softer shades. A breeze of melancholy had stirred up the shadows around him, letting them dance like waves in a glass of water after a drop had dared to touch the surface. If that boy had given up on his life, accepting that he would never experience joy or happiness, skating was his remedy. An ointment, trying to make the cracks and ruptures in his heart hurt less.

Victor deliberated how he could awake the same atmosphere, leading the boy to change his aura, because judging from what he had seen so far, this would be his the only chance to get closer to him. They couldn’t surely relocate their sessions to the rink. At first, it wouldn’t be private enough anymore, and secondly, Victor feared that the boy would slip away from his grasp. In his office, Victor ruled the setting. Of course, his clients set the tone, but it was his decision whether to follow their wishes or not. On the ice, the boy would be in his element, wrapping himself into his palace of glass. Victor would be able to see what was happening inside, forced to sit and watch the transformation, yet not allowed to add his own magic. No, he needed a way to set the skater into the same state of mind, staying inside the sheltering walls of his office.

Closing his eyes, he relived the moments when he had this witnessed true beauty for the first time in his life. Every movement, every expression was playing back and forth in his mind. From the second he had noticed him to the blink of an eye to when he had vanished from the scene. Victor needed some time to realize that it hadn’t been when the boy had stepped on the ice, but the first note of his music when his metamorphosis had begun. Maybe music was the key to unlock the first barrier on the way to his mind.

“We have about half an hour left. I don’t want to pressure you, but let me make this suggestion: I was playing on my violin when you and your coach came here. I would love to continue playing if you don’t mind. Just to make the air a little lighter. Silence carries such a heavy weight.”

From the corner of his eye, Victor watched the young skater. He didn’t seem like he had heard the psychiatrist. His hands were tightly wrapped around his knees. His eyes were still fluttering up and down the room. Just for a second, he focused on Victor and just for a millisecond, his eyes closed accompanied with a movement of his head. He agreed. Slowly, Victor got up and made sure he stayed away from the door, and therefore the boy on the floor, as much as possible. He didn’t want to scare him nor did he want to act in any way that could offend him or lead him to distrust him. In addition, he commented his actions, to make his movements predictable.

“I’m going to get my violin which you can see behind my desk. Therefore, I’m getting up now. I’ll walk past the staircase to my private library and retrieve it from the wall. While playing, I’ll be standing right next to my desk. I tend to walk up and down when I loose myself in the music, but I’ll do my best to refrain from doing so today.”

With slow movements, he positioned the instrument on his collarbone and let the bow gently glide over the strings, checking if the tune was correct. Then, he closed his eyes to keep himself from watching the skater. Examining his features from such a close distance was too tempting and Victor wanted to avoid making him feel uncomfortable with all costs.

For his first piece to play, Victor decided on a modern piece which exactly absorbed the atmosphere in the office and transformed it into waves of notes, swashing over the floor, flooding the desk and the armchairs. The melancholy that had surrounded the boy during his performance was mirrored by the minor key, reflecting his aura and appearance. Usually, this piece was played on piano, but such things had never stopped Victor from adapting them to his instrument. Moving his bow up and down with the waves, Victor felt like the moon, controlling the movements of the sea, pulling and pushing the water at his leisure. They came back and forth, touched the skater’s feet and drew back before approaching him once more. It was only Victor’s will that kept the boy from being washed over and drowned by the force of the water. But Victor didn’t want him to be exposed to the brute force of nature. As the song got slower for a few beats, he let the waves rest at the boy’s feet, signalizing him that there was nothing to fear. He wanted him to trust him, to follow the light notes on his own free will. He should take the steps himself, closer to Victor, being attracted by the presence that controlled the water he waded through. He would remain calm until the skater was close to him, nearly touching him, reaching out his hand and then, Victor would take his hand allowing all the waves that had been towering up beside them to crash into them, all at once, drowning them together.

Victor dared to open his eyes for a second to look at the boy. Not much had changed about him. His knees were stilled pulled to his chest, his chin resting on them. Yet a small detail was different. While before, his eyes had been constantly wandering around, searching for predators and enemies all around him, not missing the smallest shadow, they were resting now. He was gazing out of the window, but not to explore it. He was just gazing through the glass as if it didn’t exist. His eyebrows that had been narrowed the whole time, were relaxed and Victor noticed once more how beautifully they frame his face. He wished he could examine him longer, counting his long, curly lashes, searching for the smallest flaw in his perfect skin, yet he knew that if he didn’t continue playing soon, the boy would get suspicious and Victor wanted to keep him in his current state.

He put positioned his bow and closed his eyes again. Victor had decided on a lighter sounding piece now, yet the lyrics that originally accompanied this motet from the Baroque were full of pain and grief. In his mind, the beautiful voice of a countertenor expressed his lament with every coloratura. Soon, the angelic voice was accompanied by the young skater dancing on the ice. How precise his movements would fit the music. How graceful his motions would draw all attention to him. His arms stretching out, his shoulders up right, his fingers splaying out, the middle one a bit lower than the others. Every gesture, every expression would closely resemble a young prima ballerina. Beautiful, delicate and balletic. Well aware of her effect on the crowd watching, gasping in awe of her elegance. Yet innocent, untouched and unaware of all the shadows the world accommodated. If Victor could only bring this side of him up the surface. If only he could take all the darkness in him away. If only he could erase the frightful memories from his mind that bound him to the ground, chaining his butterfly-like wings to the ceiling of a dark underground prison. His head bent down, arms and legs held captive by heavy metallic shackles, he was waiting, his true beauty hidden from everyone’s sight, for somebody to free him. And this someone could only be Victor. From the moment that boy had entered his office he had known that it would only be him to uncover his true nature and once he had witnessed his divine face, finally being free, he would make him his own. Never should anybody see this side of him. Never would Victor allow anyone unworthy to lay their filthy, dirty eyes on the mirror of absolute perfection. Perfection that he had created, that he had brought to life. The only thing that was missing was trust. They boy needed to trust him in order to open up to Victor and the latter would do everything in his power to gain this trust. Truly everything.

Like in rush, Victor played piece after piece, song after song, nearly forgetting that he wasn’t alone. He surrendered himself to his mind and the images of the skater, only fed by the one time he had seen him perform. Only marginally, he noted that all his imaginations were tinted in black and white. Not the slightest hint of coloured was hiding behind a shadow. Different shades of light and darkness wandered over the skater and his body. The contrast of his black hair and his porcelain skin just originated from the mind of a true artist. Yet it was a shame that the warm brown of his eyes that usually hid behind the fog of fear, didn’t shine out as much as Victor would have predicted. Maybe his creativity wasn’t able to make up something so beautiful. Maybe he had to witness it at first to integrate it into his imagination. How long would it take to see the boy in his full colours?

 

A knock on the door interrupted Victor’s play. Instantly, the Japanese boy had jumped up, taking a step away from the door, looking at it frightfully. Victor took down the violin, placed in on the table and went to open the door.

“Mr. Cialdini? How can I help you?” Victor tried to keep up his polite attitude, yet he was furious, because the tall man in front of him had disturbed his play.

“I wanted to pick Yuuri up. It’s already way past your time.”

Victor took a look at his watch. The coach was right. It was already quarter past 10.

“I apologize for making you wait.” Examining the skater from the corner of his eye, Victor noticed that the slight shadow of relaxation had vanished and fear was filling his eyes again. Was he afraid of his coach or just surprised by his sudden knock? No matter what it was, he wouldn’t let Cialdini break the thin line of relationship between them. “But I must ask you to wait outside until we are finished. It is really important for my clients to keep up the atmosphere of trust and confidentiality. After our next meeting, I will see your student out as soon as we have finished.”

“Sure, sure. I’m sorry for interrupting you. Yuuri? You can go to the car. I want to have a short chat with Mr. Nikiforov.”

The look the boy threw at Victor when he passed by him confused the psychiatrist. Had he interpreted it correctly? The usually overflowing shadow of fear was back, but there was something more. His eyes had been slightly watering, the hint of a tear had shimmered in the corner of his eye, reflecting the light of the lamp in the tiny hallway. His eyes were widened like they did when he was afraid, but different from this state, his eyebrows had been raised, like he was begging. But what would he have to beg for from Victor?

“So, how as working like with him? I bet he didn’t say anything, did he?” Cialdini sighed. “He acted like this towards all the other therapists before. He refuses to talk to them. He always says he doesn’t need help, but even a blind person would see that there’s something off with him. I guess there’s no other way. I can’t keep on training him like this.”

The coach obviously believed that the skater had left the house and was patiently waiting in the car or he wouldn’t talk like that. Yet from his point of view, Victor could see that the boy was hiding in the shadows next to the front door.

Suddenly, Victor realized what the boy was asking of him. Skating was his life. The only way to sense freedom. The ice was the only place he could shake off all the fear and thoughts that hunted him and dance without the heavy weight on his shoulders. If his coach took this away from him, the only ray of sunlight would be stolen from him, leaving him, as the delicate flower that he was, in complete darkness where he would wilt after a short period of time. There was no way Victor would allow this and if only a small lie could make this boy happy, it shouldn’t fail because of him. Victor had to suppress a sudden smirk. If this wasn’t a good opportunity to ground a foundation of trust, he would never get another chance.

“On the contrary, Mr. Cialdini. I really believe we have a connection.”

“What?” The coach was obviously confused. He shook his head in disbelief.

“Mr. Katsuki and I had a nice chat. Well, of course it was me who talked most of the time and when he decided to answer me, only one or two words left his lips, but I think that this is a good basis to work on. It would be irresponsible to make a decision this early. My expertise tells me that there is something inside him that wants to open up, he just needs more time. I’m willing to give him that and I ask you do to the same.”

The coach was still looking at him mesmerized and Victor could still see the disbelief in his eyes, so he gave him that one look that nobody dared to turn against. The gaze Victor gave everybody who dared talking against him, to make them fall silent in a second. Cialdini did the same and nodded slowly. The millisecond his head was bend down, Victor turned to the boy who was still standing in the back of the hallway. He smiled at him and raised his eyebrows while nodding towards to door, signalizing him that this was the time for him to get out in time or his coach would noticed that he had eavesdropped on them. More silent than a summer breeze, he had opened the door and vanished within the blink of an eye.

“Oh, and I would like you to tell him that he should make his mind up if there’s something he wants to talk about next week. It can be something quite simple. I just want us to continue our conversation. I will fix our appointment at the same time. I bid you a good night, Mr. Cialdini.”

“Sure. Good night Mr. Nikiforov. And thank you.”

“It was my pleasure. A true pleasure,” Victor murmured to himself as soon as the coach had closed the door behind him.

 

 

“Vic? Did you listen to me?”

“Uhm?” His best friend’s voice had roused him from his thoughts.

“What’s wrong with you? This is the first time in ages, I’ve seen you so absent.”

“I’m truly sorry,” Victor massaged his forehead, “What did you talk about?”

“Nothing too interesting as it seems. Usually, you’re better in hiding your disinterest. So tell me, what’s keeping your mind so busy?”

Three days had passed since his first appointment with Yuuri Katsuki, but the skater didn’t want to leave Victor’s mind. Constantly, he was appearing in his thoughts. Victor hadn’t still made out why he was so drawn to this boy, but he was sure he would find out as their relationship grew closer. The first step of lying the foundation had been made. Victor just had to wait if the skater accepted his offering. Only four more days and he would see him again.

“Vitya? Still here?”

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re not going to tell me what’s bothering you, will you?” Chris sighed. “You know that you don’t have to handle everything on your own. Share your burden with me. That’s what friends are for.”

Victor just smiled apologetically and Chris shook his head.

“You’ll never change, will you?”

“You know me for more than half of my life. You tell me.”

“You can be so stubborn, Victor. But it’s alright if you don’t want to tell me. But, if you want to, you know you can tell me everything.”

“Thank you.” Victor lifted his glass of a 2015 Trapletti Culdrée Merlot from Ticino and drank a toast to his friend. Chris had brought the bottle from his home country. The fruity taste with a hint of vanilla perfectly matched the dinner Victor had planned for tonight.

“I should go and get our dinner ready.” Victor got up and walked towards the kitchen.

“Shall I help you?” Chris had also lifted from his seat, but Victor just shook his head.

“I don’t want to insult you, but you’re as talented in handling a knife as a new-born elephant, Christophe. I would prefer not to root out my stiff surgeon skills. This could leave stains on my counter. Just make yourself comfortable. I got a new illustrated book that might be of interest to you. You find it on the coffee table in the living room.”

“Charming as ever, Vic, charming as ever.” His friend smiled and left the room through a door to his right.

Chris was the only person who was allowed to see something different from his house than the kitchen and the dining room. There weren’t many things in general that Chris didn’t know about him. He had already seen so many faces of Victor, endured so many chapters of his life with him. The only secrets Victor kept from him were things that could cause him trouble, put him in danger and maybe cost his life and although Victor knew that Chris was the most loyal person, he wanted to keep him safe. Because he needed Chris. There had already been at enough points in his life when he would have lost his mind if his friend hadn’t been with him. Christophe was his mental support, the only person in the whole world he could trust and he would rather die than risk his safety.

Before he entered the kitchen, Victor pulled out a record from his shelf and placed in on the phonograph. Soon the mighty sound of two hunting horns, the precise sound of a cembalo and the breath-taking sound of a highly-trained soprano filled the room and Victor closed his eyes for a second to take in this mesmerizing composition of Baroque perfection. Bach’s ‘Hunting Cantata’ purely captured the joy of hunting as well as the beauty of nature. It was more than fitting for tonight’s dinner. He had been planning it for days.

When he had returned home after his session with Yuuri Katsuki, he had still been out of his mind. This boy had moved him into a state of not being himself that made Victor feel uncomfortable. He needed control. He was always in control. Victor hated the feeling of his mind going its own ways. Too often, it had slipped from his grip and when he had come back to his senses, Victor somehow had to handle the oceans of blood and tears he had shed. Now, being close to losing his reason once more, or at least being afraid of doing so, he had texted Chris immediately, inviting him over for dinner on the weekend. Right that night, Victor had taken a delicious piece of wild boar leg from his cooling chamber.

“Good evening, Sir? Isn’t it a little late to go hunting?”

The recipe he had had in mind took days to prepare and it would only be ready on time if he started preparing it right now. So after rubbing it all over in salt and pepper, he put it in the refrigerator to retrieve it again one and a half days later. He had brought red wine, cloves and bay leaves to a boil, whisking in vinegar as soon as it had cooled down. With the marinade he had rinsed some of the salt and pepper from the wild boar and put it in the refrigerator again to rest until tonight, turning it over several times.

It was dark in the forest, the last rays of sunlight hardly fighting through the trees and branches. He had followed the small, chunky man all the way from the city to this remote place. Normally, such scum, unkempt, his greasy hair stuffed under a dirty baseball cap, his fingers still carrying the witnesses of his lunch, wouldn’t have caught his attention. Yet, something had been odd with the pig, hastily parking in front of the gun shop, hopping into the shop and out again in no time, reloading his rifle still standing in the lot and driving away within the blink of an eye.

One hour before Chris had arrived, Victor had taken the meat out again. Patting it dry from the marinade, he had been able to feel the rough texture. Once the dirty skin was removed, meat in all different kinds and appearances had a finesse, a beauty that couldn’t be described. Every time, Victor was mesmerized by the different types, the different characters the distinctive animals had imprinted in their flesh. Every piece of meat felt different, smelled different. They all told their own story.

Following the man over several deserted streets, he asked himself why this pig had caught his interest him so much, yet his instinct had never failed him. So when the porkily ball with legs got off his car and walked into the forest, he followed him silently.

Carefully, he cut several tiny slits into the wild boar, placing a cover into every slit he had made. Interesting that even a heavy and huge animal like a boar was weak and submissive once it was dead. Victor’s knife cut through it like it was nothing more than a piece of lava cake, not showing any hint of its former thick skin. Once one had taken away the life, all creatures became nearly disgustingly frail. What might have happened if the butcher hadn’t taken the whole animal but just the leg? Had the boar run for his life?

“Excuse me, this is private ground, haven’t you seen the signs?”

“I did, but isn’t it a little irresponsible to go hunting at this time? You might accidently shoot something or someone.”

“That’s none of your concern!”

“I don’t see any night sight adjustments on your rifle, so what were you planning on doing? Shooting into the darkness, hoping that some deer would be stupid enough to walk right into your bullet?”

“As I said, this is none of your concern!” the man shouted angrily.

“But you might wound an animal. Looking at you, I don’t even attribute you good shooting skills during the day.” He knew that he would bring the pig to a boil this way, but it was way too fun teasing him.

“Let them bleed to death. I don’t care!”

He could see the little vein on the man’s temple pulsing. He smirked.

“That’s not a nice way to let such a beautiful animal die.”

“The fuck do I care about them? I give a fuck how they die if I can eat them afterwards.”

“So, you say it doesn’t matter how painful those graceful creatures give their lives?” His voice was calm, waiting for the right answer.

“What do you want from me? Are you one of those stupid animal activist?”

He smiled and stayed silent, making the man get even more angry. He walked towards him, his rifle raised in a threatening gesture.

“If you don’t leave my property soon, I….Hey… what’s up with that axe?”

His smile widened and he walked closer to that man whose face had turned from red to white. He tried to aim with his gun, but his hands were trembling so much he let it fall down. Stepping closer and closer, the pig backed down, turning around and started running away, if one could call this running. He laughed. Hunting was so much fun.

If Chris had one quality, Victor could place his bets on, besides his loyalty, it was his punctuality. So in just enough time, before their appointment, Victor had gotten all kinds of vegetable from the basement where he had put them after buying them at the farmer’s market today. He had cut sweet potatoes, onions and carrots into chunks after peeling them. He had gotten a baking sheet, spreading the vegetable in one layer and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and mixed them with a tablespoon of oil. Then, he had placed them in the oven right above the wild boar. When he had opened the door, the delicious smell of the roasting meat, mixed with notes of clove and red wine filled the kitchen. Victor had allowed himself to close his eyes and let his nose be surrounded by the roasting flavour. He smiled. Not matter how repelling animals might look, covered in mud and dirt, they all had the same delicacy hidden behind their scruffy façade.

Like a pig the man had squealed when he had caught him, shoved him to the ground and cut off his left leg. Praying and begging as the disgusting mess that he was, he kept on wailing, loosing limb after limb until he had passed out from blood loss.

“Told you, dying this way isn’t nice, didn’t I?” he whispered while packing the extremities into the big plastic bag he had gotten from his trunk. Carrying his quarry to the car, his back aching from its weight, he swore himself to only hunt smaller prey in the future.

When Victor walked into his kitchen, the boar had already been in the oven for about two hours, beautifully bronzing in the heat. Putting on his apron, rolling up the sleeves of his dark orange shirt, he retrieved it from the heat and placed it onto a warming plate. He filled the cooking juice that had gathered on the baking sheet into a small saucepan. Adding veal stock, he brought it to a boil on the stove, reducing it a little. His kitchen was already overflowing with the flavours of clove, bay leaf and wine when he added a few tablespoons of currant jelly, whisking it in until the sauce was smooth and satiny. Then, the best part of tonight’s dinner was coming up. Carefully, Victor took one of the largest knifes he owned, just huge enough to fit the width of the leg, and positioned it on the crackling on top of it. Taking all the time he needed, he cut the boar into slices, it’s delicious scent mixing with the sauce’s, encasing Victor while the second soprano sang her beautiful aria, accompanied by the oboes which softly embraced and carried her voice into the kitchen. It was a feast of his senses as Victor continued slicing the roast, his knife cutting through the meat like butter. When he was ready, he also got the vegetables from the oven and arranged them on the plates. He put two slices of the roast on top of the layer of deliciously bronzed carrots, onions and potatoes. Finally, he poured the sauce over the meat, letting it drip onto the vegetables. Victor took off his apron and carried the two plates into the dining room, where Chris was interestedly skimming the book Victor had recommended to him.

“God, Vic, if you ever want to torture someone, just chain them next to your kitchen and wait for them to die from hunger.”

“Well, now that you say it, I have some clients I…”

“Victor!” Chris shouted indignantly, “Don’t smile like that when your say such things! One day I might believe you. You can be really scary, you know.” He closed the book and sighed, letting his fingers stroke through his golden blond hair.

“I’m sorry. You know I would never harm a fly.” Victor smiled and put down the plates and poured some of the Merlot in both their glasses. Then, he sat down, not able to wait until he could finally taste this deliciously looking, delicately pink piece of meat in front of him.

“Sure thing, but only because cooking flies is not your thing.” Chris laughed and raised his glass, saying cheers to Victor.

“As if you had problem with me cooking meat and fish.” Victor raised his glass, too, and took a sip. The fruitiness of the wild berries and the pinch of vanilla that ran down his throat made his anticipation grow even more. Gently, he cut off on piece and brought it to his mouth with the fork. Keeping himself from biting right into it was one of the greatest challenges, but at first, he wanted his nose to take in the scent of the final composition. Putting a lot of effort in preparing the meat was one thing, but only combined with the sauce and the vegetable, dishes was able to reach true perfection.

“So tell me, have you seen that skater Yakov has told you about last time?” Chris suddenly asked him, picking up a piece of roasted sweet potato with his fork.

“Yes I did. Pretty interesting case.” Victor didn’t want to deepen that topic at all. Not only that he wasn’t allowed to give his friend a lot of information about his clients in general due to this professional confidentiality, yet he already tried to push the memory of this session into the depths of his head as much as he could. The skater, however, managed to glide his way out of this area of repression right into his consciousness. Just the imagination of his eyes falling shut, his breath-taking long lashes kissing the skin above his cheekbone, made Victor’s heart skip a beat.

Suddenly, Chris laughed and Victor shook his head vigorously, freeing himself from the pictures that started popping up in his mind. Confused and cocking his head, he watched his friend who tried to gain control over himself.

“What’s so funny?” he asked, trying to hide the pinch of indignation in his voice.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Chris wiped away a tear with his napkin, “it’s just… Seeing you so out of yourself…”

“What do you mean?” Victor felt his throat tense, pressing out the words.

“It’s him, isn’t it? I mean the skater. It’s the boy who caought your eye at the competition.”

His fork nearly fell down, when Victor stopped bringing it to his mouth in shock. How did Chris know? What did this skater do to him to make him readable? As fast as he could, Victor got back to his usual self. “I’m sorry. But I’m not allowed to tell you.”

“I know, I know. But I’m right, ain’t I? At least it must have something to do with him. It’s already uncommon to see you so much in thought once, but two times in a row? That’s nearly impossible. The only way to explain this, is that it must be the same boy you’re thinking about.”

Victor didn’t reply anything. He did his best to keep up his poker face, but his mind was running wild. Chris’s derivation was absolutely plausible and it shocked him that he had drawn this conclusion so easily.

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to tell anyone that you have a weak spot for that kid.” Chris took up his glass and brought it to his lips, taking a huge spit from it. “It amazes me, you know. You hate people, you just like their messed up, twisted brains. But from the first moment you saw him, you were drawn to him, without even talking to him. I just wonder what it is that fascinates you so much.”

‘And so do I. So do I,’ Victor thought.

Chapter Text

„Hello Yurio, how are you feeling today?”

Victor stepped to the side, letting the boy on front of him enter his office. Like usual, the blond boy was wearing his hair open, probably in order to hide his turquoise coloured eyes.

“How many times have I told you not to call me like that,” he mumbled with an angry undertone.

Victor smiled. “Ah I see. You seem to be as lively as ever. That’s great.”

He sat down on his arm chair and invited the boy to take a seat in front of him. Instead of sitting down like normal people would do, however, Yurio was turning to the side, resting his head on one arm and hanging his legs over the other arm of the chair. His eyes were fixed on the ceiling. Just from time to time, they switched towards Victor, examining him like a cat on guard.

“How’s your week been like?”

Yurio shrugged his shoulders.

“How’s school? Did you visit you family last weekend?”

“They’re not my family. My family’s dead.”

Victor sighed. “But they want to be your family. That’s why they’ve taken you in. They’ve been taking good care of you. They still do, even though they’re not supposed to do anymore since you turned 18.”

“They just want the money I inherited.”

“Do you really think they are like that? When I met them, I thought they were nice.”

“Being nice has nothing to do with your real intentions. It’s rather a way of getting what you want.”

Victor tried not to be too impressed about how fast this boy had learnt about how reality was working during the last months and years. In general, Yurio had changed a lot since they had met for the first time.

“It seems like you’re implying that there is no genuine good in this world.”

The boy of Russian origin turned his head towards Victor, his green eyes piercing through his chest.

“Oh please, don’t tell me that they took me in out of good will. You won’t tell me that there are people who only want the best for others. Who act out of nothing but brotherly love. Not you.”

“Just because I might think this way, you don’t need to think the same way. We have a lot of different opinions about things. For example, I think that those games you’re playing the whole day are dull and nothing but a waste of time.”

“And I think you talk shit most of the time. Are we even now?”

Victor sighed. “I’m sure you didn’t come here to argue. So what’s the reason for this unexpected pleasure?”

“There a stupid sports festival at my school next week. I don’t see any reason why I should go there.”

“So you want me to give you a sick note.”

“Well spotted, detective.”

“Why don’t you just call in and tell them you’re sick? I thought you were old enough to do so yourself.”

“Did that too often and now they get suspicious. Come on, Victor, you know how annoying these festivals are. There will be a lot of people. It will be loud and everyone is in a good mood.”

It was usual for patients to talk to Victor like that. Never would he allow anybody who came to him for professional reasons to call him by his first name. Yurio, whoever, was different. He was allowed to call Victor by his first name and to talk to him that way as he wasn’t a patient in the usual meaning. He didn’t have weekly appointments. He came to visit Victor whenever he felt like. Sometimes, the psychiatrist visited him in his new home and they would talk there. Their relationship had been different from the start, the cause of their first meeting a true tragedy. Victor had soon understood that this boy didn’t need a psychotherapist. He wouldn’t talk about his thoughts and feeling anyways, especially not to someone he was supposed to see as an authority. Why Yurio had chosen him to talk to out of all people, Victor didn’t understand until now. As he had been involved in the incident that had made the boy an orphan, Victor had thought that Yurio would behave towards him like he did in front of everyone else, but he had been the first person he had talked to after staying silent for three months. Since then, they cultivated a more amicable relationship, although Victor tried to be a father substitute for him. In a disaccustomed way, he felt some affection towards the boy who had so brutally lost his family. Although he had been living with a foster family and was now able to live on his own, Victor felt the urge to support him, to teach him what his father should have taught him and to be an institution of advice and wisdom. Victor has never liked children. They were loud, unmannered and indolent, yet somehow the innocent child of 15 years had been differed from his peers. Victor had seen a glimpse of himself in Yurio he had wanted to nourish and cherish. Now that he was three years older, he had changed a lot, but deep inside, there still was the side that Victor had liked about him from the first second.

“I’m sorry, but I won’t fake a note. Just go there, I bet it will be fun. Just give it a try,” Victor answered.

Yurio grumped and started starring at the ceiling again. For a while, both of them stayed silent. Victor noticed how he had a hard time focusing on the boy in front of him. No matter how hard he tried to forget about him, this Japanese skater kept on stealing into his mind. Everything could possibly trigger a thought of him. The brown wood of his desk that had the same colour as his eyes. A butterfly outside the window that moved just as gracefully as the boy on the ice. A piece of music that he had played in one of their sessions.

Four weeks ago, Victor had started playing all different kinds of music on his violin when Yuuri Katsuki came to his office. Just as he had predicted, the music made him relax and with every week, he opened himself up a little more. He still hasn’t been talking to Victor yet, but the psychiatrist knew that he was on a good way.

On his second appointment, the skater had arrived on his own, shyly waiting in front of the door. Victor had been waiting for him for a few minutes, until he had realized that the boy would probably not knock and he had been right. His head ducked, his arms crossed in front of his chest, he had been standing in the hallway. When Victor smiled at him and greeted him, he raised his head a little to look into his eyes for a moment, but just a second later, he was starring at the floor again while his eyes were darting from side to side. Victor took a step to the side, allowing him enter the office and closed the door behind him.

“If you don’t have any objections, I would continue where he have left off last week,” Victor proposed.

A hinted nod was the only reaction he got from the boy. At least, that was more than last week. ‘Slow steps,’ Victor thought, ‘slow and small steps will lead to success someday.’

“You can sit down if you want to, I will get my violin and then we can start.”

He had already made his first step, when Victor paused. The skater hadn’t moved an inch. Not that he had assumed that he would sit down next to the door right away like he had done last week, but there was something different that made him wait.

“Is there anything I can do for you, Mr. Katsuki?” he asked in a calm and deep voice. He did his best not to examine the boy not too closely in order not to scare him off, but his expression and his posture were just too interesting. His hands folded in front of his chest, staring at his feet, the skater was kneading something between his hands. It was pure torture for Victor to wait until the boy was willing to present that thing on his own, but he was excited to know what it would be. Suddenly, the skater stretched out his right hand, holing a piece of paper in it.

“For me?” Victor asked.

The boy nodded and as soon as Victor had taken the paper, utterly taking care not to accidently touch his client, the skater ran to the other side of the room and sat down right next to the door. Victor opened up the wrinkled note. On there, two lines were written in a narrow and tiny handwriting. Victor smiled. Even in his writing, his personality was mirrored. Just as himself it was hard to read, easy to be overlooked and hiding somewhere in the corner. Victor took a closer look at what the note was saying. There weren’t complete sentences written on the paper. It was only a name and three more words. ‘Adagio for Strings’ Then, Victor suddenly realised. The skater had understood the message his coach had been supposed to bring him word of. He had understood the meaning being this simple phrase.

‘I want to continue our conversation. He should make up his mind if there’s something he wants to talk about.’

As Victor had intended him to do, the skater had asked for a piece he wanted Victor to play for him. It was a beautiful piece. Calm and sad. The strings were crying in a constant lament. The piece wasn’t unknown to the public as it was used in several popular movies. It had also been used to accompany the funeral of some well-known personalities. If Victor remembered correctly, there even existed an electro remix, but he refused to expose his well-trained ears to such noise. In general, he preferred the version Samuel Barber had arranged for chorus. The resulting ‘Agnus Dei’ was so full of sound as eight voices were laying above another. They supported each other, they mixed and mingled together, creating a carpet of tones which reached out for the whole room. As the singing or the strings started quietly and softly, the sonority rose up like fog from a river. Then, it continued to rise, spreading until the last centimetre was covered by the cloudy blanket. The same would happen to the listener. When Victor closed his eyes, his loved ones, that had left him years ago, appeared in front of his inner eye. Translucent, made of light grey smoke, they reached out for him, trying to touch him in order to comfort him, but all there attempts melted into the air.

Victor looked up from the piece of paper and examined the skater who hugged his knees and stared outside the window. Why had he chosen this piece? Was it just something he like or was there a deeper meaning to his decision? Did he identify with this piece? Was he filled with the same feeling of grief as the one that flooded over Victor when he listened to it? Had he heard this song at a funeral of a dear person? Was part of his behaviour caused by loss? Victor would love to find out, but now wasn’t the time to ask such question. It wasn’t even time to ask any question at all. Instead, he smiled gently, as he walked around his desk and retrieved his violin from the wall.

“What a great choice, Mr. Katsuki. I’ll do my best to do this masterful piece justice.”

Just for a second, the skater lifted his head from his knees and looked up to Victor. Then, he turned his head around again and continued to stare outside. Victor placed his violin on his shoulder and started playing. Instantly, the grey shadows of his ancestors rose up from the ground and manifested in the swirling fog of reminiscence. The moonlight that managed to slip through the edges of the curtains touched their faces and conjured a sparkle in their eyes that mirrored in the tears they shed. More and more figures evolved around Victor, showing him more and more acquaintances of his past.

Victor closed his eyes, concentrating on his play. It wasn’t time to let his past take over his mind. He needed to focus on the only person in front of him who was really there. If he wanted to find out more about him, if he wanted to learn how to read him, he needed to examine every little movement, every small chance of his expression. When Victor opened his eyes again, the shadows around him had vanished and the only one left in the room was the skater next to the door. Now his eyes were closed as he rested his forehead on his knees. His arms were hugging his legs and his fingernails were buried into the opposite underarm. His whole body was still in a fearful and cautious position and also the air around him was full of darkness, repelling everyone that came too close to him. But something about him had changed. This time, he seemed to feel safe enough to fully close his eyes. He wasn’t paying attention to anything around him except the sound of the violin. He allowed himself to immerse completely into the music.

Victor wondered who appeared in front of his inner eye. His family? A former lover? Who caused this innocent boy to experience so much sadness? Was this person part of the trauma he had gone through? Had this person been his last support and now that they were gone, he was alone? Victor noticed how the energy around the boy changed as the melody and the flow of the music evolved. Sometimes, he seemed to melt into the notes, handing his body over the to the movement of Victor’s bow. In the next moment, however, the grip around his knees tightened and the suffering he was reliving was so apparent, it was taking over the whole room. Victor was able to see the ledge he was sitting on, alone, surrounded by cold stone as the echo of long forgotten sobs passed by him. In front and behind him, there was nothing but a deep abyss. The voices of the ones he had lost were crawling up from the darkness below him, but what they said was not for Victor to hear. The psychiatrist was forced to just watch the silent movie from afar and contribute the background music.

When Victor had finished playing, he didn’t dare to move. He didn’t want to rouse the boy from his memories. Instead, he waited from him to find his way back into reality. The skater needed a while to shake off the clouds of the past. He lifted his head and opened his eyes. He directly looked at Victor and that was when he saw it.

It was hardly there. Most people would probably not have seen it. But Victor could read faces like none other. The little glimpse of pain, of anger and hate. There was so much grief inside this boy, he was nearly bursting. Victor wondered how he was able to keep these strong emotions inside. Only here and there, they broke through the small invisible wounds that covered his whole body, tearing them open again. It was heart-breaking, witnessing this pure soul suffer from so much pain, unable to heal himself.

By choosing such a personal piece, Yuuri Katsuki had revealed a lot about himself to Victor. He might not have noticed, but by allowing himself to experience and relive all those emotions in front of Victor, he lowered the barrier between them. Victor was sure that if they continued this way, the skater would soon be able to start speaking to him and hopefully allow Victor to glimpse into his mind. He couldn’t wait for that day to come, a smile of anticipation forming on his face.

 

“That’s gross, Victor.”

Yurio’s voice caught him a bit off guard.

“What?”

“That way you smile into the void. It’s disgusting. Only drooling could make you look more creepy.”

“I wasn’t smiling. Why should I do so?”

“The hell I know, but you did definitely smile. Just because I don’t do that often doesn’t mean I don’t know how it looks like.”

“I’m not saying you don’t know how a smile looks like, although I admit that I think you should do so a lot more often. It would make your face look a lot prettier.”

“Uahh…What’s wrong with you today? You’re more gross and annoying than usual.”

Victor laughed, but inside he was wondered how Yurio was able to notice the difference in him so easily. Yes, he had just spaced out in front of the boy, but what he had just described was more than a lack of attention.

“I’ll take it as a compliment.”

“You take everything as a compliment, you old cocky bighead. What were you thinking about? A client? Food? Or…could it be that you met somebody? The local upper-class ladies would be devastated if they found out that the most coveted bachelor in the whole county, the talented and oh-so-charming Victor Nikiforov, was in love,” Yurio smirked. “If they only knew how you really are, Victor, they wouldn’t be chasing after you anymore.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not seeing somebody. I don’t even have time for that,” Victor answered, trying to change the topic.

Chris already knew about Yuuri Katsuki or at least that Victor was interested in him. He didn’t need another person to find out that there was finally something that bothered him so much he couldn’t sleep. Yurio, like Christophe, would only draw the false conclusions and he didn’t want them to investigate their relationship, assuming it could be a romantic one. No, Victor wasn’t interested in that skater that way. Sure, he was beautiful and attractive, but intimate relationships were bothering and distracting. He only wanted the boy’s mind, not his body.

“Don’t have or don’t want to take?” Yurio asked him in a sly voice.

“Both and neither. You know very well that I’m currently not interested in dating anybody.”

“I know, I know. But it would be really interesting to see what kind of person could fascinate you enough that you want to spent more than an hour a week with them.”

Victor laughed. “If you say it this way, I sound like an antisocial monster.”

“Oh, you are a monster Victor. Or rather the devil himself.”

A sigh left Victor’s lips. “Enough about me now. How about you? Met anybody interesting since we met the last time? What’s with the boy who moved in next door? Did you talk to him?”

“Not really.”

“Which means you did?”

“Why are you dwelling so much on this? Yeah, I did talk to him. One sentence, maybe two? So what? It’s not like we’re friends because of that.”

“But you could become friends.”

“I don’t need friends. People are annoying and untrustworthy, so why would I want to get close to anybody? It was you who taught me not to trust the people around me.”

“Yurio,” Victor sighed, leaning forward in his chair, so his elbows were resting on his knees, “it’s important to have friends. You need someone you can talk to, someone you can confide in. Even I have friends.”

“Oh you mean the people you call scum behind their backs?”

“No, I mean real friends. Like Christophe.”

“If I was you, I wouldn’t be proud to be associated with that weirdo. You know what they say about him, don’t you? About how he really earns his money? If you ask me, I believe every single word, he looks pretty much like he’s…”

“Yuri Mikhailovich Plisetksy,” Victor had abruptly risen from his chair, nearly flipping it over, “don’t you dare speak about my friend this way!”

It was so quiet, his voice was echoing from the walls of his office. Yurio was looking at him with his eyes widened in total shock. It wasn’t before Victor took a deep breath, smoothing down his waistcoat and sat down again that Yurio found his voice again.

“Sorry,” he mumbled into his hoodie, his eyes facing the ceiling again.

“What was it? And sit down properly, this is not your couch but my chair!”

Yurio grumbled, but followed Victor’s orders.

“I’m sorry.” His eyebrows narrowed as he added hissing, “but never ever, call me by HIS name again!”

“I’m sorry for shouting at you…. See, this is what friends are for you. You love them like your family and they love you, too. You’ll do everything for them and it hurts you when somebody talks about them in an unpolite way.”

“Uhm..”

“Now that we have settled this manner as adults, let’s go back to where we left off… Did you like your new neighbour?”

“Arrrggg! You’re really fucking me up, Victor.”

“It’s a simple question,” Victor smiled. He loved tease the young boy. Just imagining to get him in this mood in the right situations made his blood boil. Yes, he had plans for Yurio. Big plans. But until then, he had to train him.

 “Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean that I’m interested in every guy that passes by.”

“But?”

“God, Victor! It was nice, okay? He seemed to be quite sane, not like the rest of this city. He’s not talking much, so he’s already more acceptable than Georgi. Now, go and fuck yourself. I hope you’re happy.”

Yuri had raised from his chair. It was always interesting to see how easily he gave in to his own emotions. Just triggering the right topic and he would break out like a volcano. His power was incredible, his boiling blood shooting through his body like lava. Bubbling up from his insides, his anger was ready to erupt with just one simple word. His head exploded, his mind broken apart and if he had been heated up enough in advance, he would loose all consciousness and reason and cover the floor in hot red liquid, leaving behind nothing but ashes. Victor had seen what he was able to do. He had witnessed how much strength and strong-mindedness were buried behind his punky façade. With the right training, with wise words and a little push in the right direction he could become a useful and loyal tool.

A gentle smile formed on Victor’s face when he remembered how he had meet him for the first time. A young boy of 15 years, the flawless skin of a porcelain doll, blond hair like an angel. His figure thin and fragile, easily broken apart with only one touch of his fingertip. Yet what had seemed like a heavenly creature at first sight, surrounded by bright light, dressed all in white, had converted into the offspring of hell. Like a red filter was thrown over his sight, this kid that had seemed so pure and innocent was covered from head to toe in blood, crimson red drops dripping from his arms, his legs. Nearly every inch of his clothing was tinted in that gruesome yet beautiful colour. There he had been standing, his back turned towards Victor, his head dropped on his chest, an artless child standing straight with the last bits of strength. Victor had needed quite a while to pull himself out of this dramatic picture where white and red light flickered over each other, colouring the scene with their associated emotions in turn. It had been a piece of modern art. To opposites combined and intertwined on one canvas. The angelic beauty of innocence hand in hand with the fascination and passion of destruction. Slowly, Victor had waded through the stroboscopic flashlight. The closer he got to the kitchen, the more the image section widened until he was standing one feet away from the boy where the whole scenery was lying in front of his feet. Execrably to most people, it was a painting of real artistry to Victor. The whole floor was flooded with sticky, metallic smelling blood. Even the hallway was submerged by a dark red ocean. Bodies were lying all over in their own lifeblood, mingling with each other in a way they would never have expected. In the middle of everything this boy still reigning over his fallen pawns. He didn’t need a crown. He dominated the room, no, the whole house. Everything his eyes touched was delivered at his mercy. As Victor cautiously stepped closer, the boy suddenly turned around. Blond strands of hair hanging into his blood-sparkled face, but none of them could hide his beauty. Yet it wasn’t just his face, nor his body, it was his eyes that caught Victor. Not the scene around them, not the kitchen, not the whole tragedy was an artistry. It was his eyes that drew Victor to him, that made him realize his true nature. The turquoise gemstones were burning in willpower and madness. The boy was a piece of art, the perfect image of ingenuity. And Victor wanted him. He needed to possess him. He would need to restore him, hiding him from the harming light of public and when he finally had raised and repainted him to perfection, he would present him to the world. Victor had reached out his hand as he took the last step towards the boy and the second he touched him, the boy collapsed, breaking down in Victor’s arms.

 

“It doesn’t matter that I’m happy. It’s your happiness that concerns me.”

“Oh come on. As if anyone really worries about me. And please stop this talk of a psychiatrist. I thought we were already past that nonsense.”

Yurio tried to calm himself down, but Victor could still see the blood boiling in his veins. He would just tease him a little more. Regular training was crucial to his plan.

“As your FRIEND I’m concerned about your happiness. Listen, if that boy seems like a nice guy, don’t shut him out like you tend to do with the rest. Trust your instincts. Maybe he’ll become a great ally to you. Or even more…” Victor smirked, knowing exactly what this would cause inside Yurio.

“You stupid bald geezer! Why don’t you get a fucking love life yourself before you start prying into other’s affairs?” Yurio was walking around in the office, his steps echoing loudly from the walls. He clenched his fists so much, his knuckles protruded in bright white. “Don’t you ever get sick from sticking your fingers into other people’s lives? They already must be covered in shit and dirt.”

Victor was leaning back in his armchair. He really enjoyed his friend, running up and down the room like a tiger behind bars. Now that he had grown a lot, he hadn’t lost a brushstroke of his beauty. On the contrary, over the years, he had become even more graceful, although he owned the unfortunate tendency to hide behind his armour of cursing and shouting. Deep inside, however, he was as gracile as a wildcat. His movements were elegant and absolutely quiet. He knew how to move fast and unseen. If he wanted to, he was able to sneak up to his pray completely unnoticed. Only the second before his sharp claws would cut the poor victim’s throat, they would notice that he was there. Yet he was impetuous. Uncontrollable like the weather. This trait of him worried Victor. How could he take his place in Victor’s plan when he was unpredictable. The psychiatrist knew everything about him, even all the things that were hidden and buried deep in his mind, but still, Yurio was a risk. A savage tiger that needed his tamer.

This, however, wasn’t supposed to be Victor’s role. As much as he loved the boy, gaining control over him while remaining at eye level was nearly impossible and demanded a deep emotional connection, which needed time and nerves he wasn’t willing to invest. He would remain as the mastermind and manipulator in the background. No, the one to tame Yurio had to be somebody the boy would be willing to give his life for easily. Yurio needed to trust him and, even more important, love him. No rational thinking would awaken the red tiger inside him.

“Why so angry? I didn’t say anything. All I did was leaving the rest of my sentence open to your own interpretation. If you think I implied that he could be your boyfriend, that’s just your own mind filling in the missing words. Isn’t imagination powerful? It never ceases to show us the things we desire most. Even Freud knew that. So…May I assume you have a small crush on that bo…”

Within the blink of an eye, Yurio had jumped from the other end of the room right towards Victor. His left arm was pushing the armchair back while his feet had lifted it from below, so Victor’s back and the floor formed a perfect 45° angle. With his right hand, Yurio grabbed Victor’s lie, pulling him closer to his face. His voice was hissing and his bright teeth ready to be buried in Victor’s neck, but the psychiatrist was a lot more fascinated by his eyes.

“Shut the fuck up you dirty shithead! Don’t you dare using your psycho-tricks on me one more time or I’ll rip your head from your throat and crash it against the wall until there’s no brain left you could use for analysing.”

Somewhere behind his fury, it was hidden. Fired up by all the emotions that spark Victor had been searching for for years finally had returned to his gaze. It was weak and covered by the dark fog of unconsciousness, yet it was still there. It just needed to be brought to daylight again and now, Victor knew exactly how to do it.

“Now, now!” He smiled and raised his hands soothingly. “I was just teasing you.”

Yurio stared at him for a second, then shook his head and his eyes returned back to normal. He let the armchair fall into it’s normal position and threw himself into the other chair.

“Keep your teasing for that faggo…”

“Yurio!”

“For that eccentric friend of yours.”

“How do you always manage to change most of our conversations into an insult of Christophe?”

“I just don’t like him, that’s all.”

“You don’t like your foster siblings either, but you don’t call them ugly names like that.”

Yurio laughed loudly. “You have no fucking clue.”

Victor sighed. “Yurio, you’ll be going to college soon. Don’t you think it’s time to adjust your manners of speaking to your age. Please don’t forget that you have a great scholarship. ”

“Well, technically I’ve lost a complete year of development due to that motherfu…”

“Yurio!”

“Anyways, it doesn’t matter how I talk. All they care about his how I dance and as long as I keep my mouth shut, they will pay the money without thinking twice.”

“You rely a lot on your talent.”

“So what? It’s the only thing I could rely on for years. My family has always been fucked up. When mom and that… had been fighting, it was the only thing I could do to have a valid excuse to flee from home. When I brought home another competition win, it was the only time they didn’t shout at me, so yes, I’ve been relying on my talent my whole life, because it was the only thing that kept me alive.”

It was true. Yurio’s talent for ballet was exceptional. His parents had never realised how skilled their child had been, but at least his ballet teacher had done her best to foster him properly. During the time when Yurio hadn’t talked to anyone after the tragedy that made him loose his family, dancing had been the only thing he had done besides eating and sleeping. For months, he had trained so much, his body had been completely covered in bruises and every night, somebody had to carry him to bed, because his legs wouldn’t support him anymore. Still now, when his life was as normal as it could be in his situation, he was going to the studio nearly every day. Through his participation in competitions and some engagements he had already gathered, he was able to live without any further support from his foster family, yet they had insisted on him living not too far from them although he was already 18. The lovely couple without any kids on their own and a husband who earned quite a fortune every year had decided that it was their god-given quest to raise and support three orphan children coming from all different kinds of backgrounds.

“I know that ballet is you life, but…I would love to see you so passionate about something different. Since I’ve known you, you’ve never been out with friends. You never went to the movies, you never grabbed a coffee with someone. I just don’t want you to miss all these experiences. And since you didn’t hate him from first sight, that boy…”

“Okay, I guess it’s time for me to go now, before you try playing any more tricks on me.”

Yurio got up and grabbed his bag he had carelessly thrown aside when he had entered Victor’s office.

“What’s the plan for tonight?”

“Dancing, of course.”

Victor rolled his eyes.

“What did you expect? That I’m going out with friends? Heading to the bowling centre or watch TV together?”

“I don’t know,” Victor smiled, “maybe spent some time with somebody who just moved in. I bet he needs somebody to show him around town.”

“Gosh, Victor! No!. I won’t ask HIM out for a date. I don’t care about him and there will never be anything between us, so just stop it. It wasn’t a pleasure, as always. See ya!”

Without waiting for a reply, he slammed the door into its hinges.

Now that he was gone, Victor couldn’t keep in his smirk anymore. Sometimes, Yurio was easier to play than his violin.

“We’ll see, little tiger. We’ll see.”

Chapter Text

„Could you call me by my first name,” the boy with the dark hair and the porcelain skin whispered into the hand he had cupped his chin in. His elbow was resting on the arm of the chair next to the large window. He didn’t look at Victor when he said those words but stared at the floor to his feet.

“Excuse me?”

Victor couldn’t hide his surprise. This was the first time, the Japanese skater talked to him. His voice was beautiful. Like a drop of rain that fell down on a leave and bounced of to the ground. Soft like the stroke of a butterfly’s wing and hardly audible as the whisper of the rising sun. Victor whished he had memorized it, taking in every note of colouration and pronunciation, but the boy had caught him off guard.

Turning towards his client, Victor instantly regretted to have reacted the way he had. His question must have sounded like astonishment or indignation, because the boy crawled back into his shell, pulling his head as much into his turtle neck sweater as he could. His eyes, which had become calmer throughout the last weeks, were hushing over the floor – from left to right, avoiding Victor at all cost.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you properly. In an acoustical way. Would you please be so kind and repeat it for me,” Victor tried to save the situation before the boy would slip away again. There had been so many improvements over the last few weeks, it would be unforgivable to push him back again due to one moment of inattentiveness.

“I… I just wanted to…”

Victor smiled encouragingly towards the boy. “There’s nothing you need to be afraid or ashamed of. In this room, you can tell everything that’s on your mind.”

“Could you call me by my first name?”

Trying not to let himself be distracted by his beautiful voice, Victor analysed the words. It sounded like a simple question, but the true meaning was multi-layered. In general, calling someone by his first name signified a level of intimacy. Especially in Japan, only close friends and family were allowed to use the given name to address a person. Another important fact was that this boy had chosen this request for his first words towards Victor, so they must be very important to him. So the resulting question was, why the skater wanted Victor to lift their lingual relationship up so much? There must have been a reason for him to ask this question right now. Did he prefer his first name in general and was just comfortable enough around Victor to ask? Did his first name have an important meaning to his trauma that he wanted to address by reframing it through Victor’s voice? Several possible explanations filled Victor’s head and he had to take a deep breath to let them calm down.

Victor couldn’t tell from what he knew by now, but this was just one more mystery he needed to solve. But more than understanding the reason of this request, he had to decide on something different. Would he fulfil it? This was a critical point. From a professional point of view, Victor was supposed to keep a certain distance to his patients. So far, he had always abided to his own rule not to get too friendly with his clients, even though they might be of true interest to him. On the other hand, Yuuri Katsuki wasn’t a normal client and after one and a half months of getting used to each other, Victor did not dare to push him away. Somewhere, deep inside in his mind, in that place he kept behind bars, thoughts chained to the bones around his brain, he knew that he wanted to call him by his first name. He wanted that intimate relationship. He wanted to be as special to the skater as the boy was to him. But these thoughts were forbidden and Victor did his best to never let them slip into his consciousness.

“If that’s your wish, I wouldn’t dare to reject you,” Victor smiled warmly.

Instantly, the boy’s eyes stopped darting from side to side and it seemed like a huge weight was lifted of his chest. Victor made a note in his head that he definitely needed to evaluate this topic further when he was back at home. Usually, he left everything regarding his job at the office and as soon as he left, he locked it inside those high walls with the turn of his key. All the thoughts and pictures, all the word that have been said and all the interpretations that could have been made were free roam around throughout the night while Victor pursued more enjoyable activities.

Yet, during those last weeks, he had accepted unwillingly that things were different when it came to that boy. Unlike his other clients, he sneaked into his dreams, tip-toed into his mind whenever he liked and even if there was no trigger, from one moment to another, he was suddenly there and Victor had a hard time to concentrate on something different. This boy was a mystery to him. A mystery he couldn’t solve as too many pieces of that huge and beautiful puzzle were missing and Victor was convinced that this was the reason why he couldn’t stop thinking about him. Him – Yuuri.

It felt unaccustomed to call him by his first name, yet it wasn’t uncomfortable. Its sound was soft, not too warm, but not cold at all. More like the breeze on a warm spring day. Victor was looking forward to voice it out loud, to form those syllables that sounded so differently with his own lips. The first calm and steady, even a bit dark. The second so light and joyful as if the early morning sun send her rays onto the colourful tulips. This image didn’t seem to fit him at all, still Victor believed that this side was also inside him. Somewhere, hidden under the blanket of the winter snow.

Surely, he would need to get used to it, but Victor knew that he would love calling out for him every single time. He would examine him closely to look out for the slightest difference, for the smallest change of emotion. It wouldn’t be easy to spot them, yet Victor had learned to listen to the language his face. He didn’t understand the tales it told. Neither did he comprehend the complexity of its grammatical structure. But over the last few weeks, Victor had studied his features closely, had learned to extract the variations and the similarities and all of this without Yuuri talking to him even once.

 

This was their seventh session together. During their last appointments, Yuuri had achieved quite some progress. Every time they met, he had prepared a note for Victor with names of songs and artists he would like him to play. He probably hadn’t noticed so far, but by asking for special pieces, he allowed Victor to glimpse inside his head. Examining the way he reacted while feeling the impact of the music through the sound waves of the violin on his shoulder by himself, Victor was able to lift the fog around Yuuri. Surely, it was a laborious path, yet it wasn’t the most unpleasant. Much to his delight, they seemed to share a common type of music. Until now, Victor had known all of the pieces Yuuri had asked him to play but two. Curious of their sound, he had listened to them the same night and when they had met the next time, Victor had already known them by heart.

Also the list of songs he had asked for had increased in length every session. Some songs, he only asked for once, some were on the list nearly every week. It was interesting to watch how differently he reacted to them. Sometimes, he just seemed to enjoy what Victor played, yet the other times, he completely immersed into the music. Especially when it came to the songs he requested more often. Victor was conceived that they must have a deeper meaning. He believed that they were somehow connected to the boy’s life. While his expression was anxious and timid most of the time, it totally changed when he listened to those pieces. Then, a variety of emotions and feelings could be seen on his face, every single one of them a beauty unknown to the world.

In his fantasy, Victor owned a collection of the skater’s expressions. Every time he showed a new one, even if just tensed his corrugator supercilia in a different manner, Victor added it to his library. In reality, his body kept playing, not turning a hair. But in his mind, Victor stepped out of his body. Like a ghost he left his vessel, which kept on moving in slow motion, and crossed the room. At first, he examined the boy’s face. Every muscle, every inch of his perfect skin was copied into his mind. Victor’s eyes wandered from his forehead, which already showed thin lines of worries despite his young age, over his dark eyebrows to his eyes. His lashes were completely black and so long, Victor wondered if they touched his frontal bone when the boy lifted his lids. They were so thin and delicate, Victor was able to count every single one of them as they gently kissed the dark circles under his eye. Following down his small nose, Victor examined the contour of the boy’s lips. His upper lip was thinner then his lower one, but a peaked cupid’s bow gave them an elegant swing.

Carefully as if he could break him, Victor reached out his hand. With his thumb, he caressed the skin on the boy’s lips. It was rough and chapped, probably due to him biting his lips quite often. From there, Victor traced all the delicate lines he had first followed with his eyes only, memorising the feeling of the soft skin. What looked like porcelain from the outside was smooth and even. The tiny hairs tickled Victor’s hand, reminding him of feathers. He caressed his jawbone, his cheekbones and wandered up his temples to tail his lines of worry. It was a shame for such a young and handsome man to have his body blemished due to the thoughts that kept him up at night.

His fingers were soon followed by his tongue. Eager to taste the long forgotten salt his childhood tears had left on his cheeks, the dried sweat behind his ears, Victor allowed his tongue to follow the jawbone up, giving him a great view on the tight and pale neck, up to his earlobes. He licked over all the little wrinkles a boy his age should definitely not have. Still, Victor had to admit that these hidden flaws made him even more a piece of art. A perfect picture was boring. There were no secret details. Nothing to be only discovered after looking closely for hours. True art was mysterious. It needed time and experience to be truly understood.

Victor cupped the angelic face in his hands, once more in awe how beautiful a human being was allowed to be. He examined the skater for as long as he needed to be able to draw the expression just from his memory. He focused the eyebrows, the tension in the procerus muscle and the exact position of his lips. Even the smallest lash was burned into his mind. Just when he was sure that he hadn’t missed the smallest detail, Victor took a scalpel and positioned it at his right temple. In a clockwise direction, the sharp knife cut through the skin, drawing a thin, red line around the face. Small drops of blood dared to ruin his work, but Victor would clean and restore it before he would add it to his gallery. Then, he had to separate the cut-off skin from its foundation. More and more blood was dripping down over the boy’s body, ruining his shirt and matching trousers. Victor’s hands, too, were covered in blood. This feeling wasn’t unknown to him, but in contrast to that time, what he was doing now was worth getting his hands dirty. It took some time to finally hold the bare face in his hand. Victor would carry it home safely. He would wash and lotion him. Then he put him on a plaster impression and arrange him on a wall of his private library, next to the other expressions he already owned.

 

While Victor had studied him a lot closer, the boy had also opened up to him if one may say so. After four weeks, he had left his usual spot next to the door and had taken place next to the large window. He was still sitting far away from Victor, but he had given up on the fastest way to leave the room. One week later, he had sat down on the armchair after Victor had gotten up to pick up his violin and last week, he sat down there right away after the psychiatrist had asked him in. To say that Victor was pleased with this development was more than an understatement. He always tried not to let Yuuri notice, but every week, he was anticipating the change of his behaviour. Instead of feeling satisfied with the trust that built between them, Victor was yearning for more. Only knowing that the skater was willing to form a real relationship sent a tingling feeling through his body. After one session had ended, he couldn’t wait for the next one to take place. In such a short amount of time Yuuri Katsuki and the mystery of his personality had become a drug to him that was more addictive than heroine. Victor needed him and only thinking about him, picturing him when he was at home wasn’t enough. It might cool his mind down for the time being, yet when he got up Wednesday morning, his fingers were prickling and his legs bobbing nervously. More than ever, Victor had a hard time concentrating on his other clients until he could finally shove the last one out and take a deep breath.

The hour before Yuuri would quietly knock on his door was probably the most nerve-wracking of the whole week. Counting every minute, Victor opened the windows to let in some fresh air, tuned his violin and tried to make notes on the patients he had seen earlier that day, although his mind was already fixed on Yuuri. The moment he finally heard his knocks on the door, endorphins were flushing through his veins and left a nervous and tingling feeling all over his body. Victor had to hold back in order not to rush at the door, but his steps were hurried and full of anticipation. Then, he saw him and all the uneasiness, all the thoughts in his mind stopped for a moment as the opiates docked at their receptors and made him feel calm and euphoric. No matter how much his other clients had annoyed him that day, everything was forgotten when he looked into Yuuri’s eyes. Trying to stay professional and unobtrusive, Victor asked him inside, soaking all about the boys in as he walked by. His scent, his expression, the short touch of their hands. These there the small things Victor had to sap from the upcoming week.

 

After Victor had closed the door behind Yuuri later this evening, he sighed. The boy hadn’t said much the rest of the session despite one song he wanted to hear and his whispered good-bye. Today, he had taken a great step forwards and Victor was proud of himself not to have given up on him. Dreaming about what might happen next week, he packed his bag and left the office. Would he talk to him more? Would he stop writing all his song request on a piece of paper and tell Victor directly from now on? His chest was prickling, imagining what might change about Yuuri the next time they met. In exceptional good mood, Victor walked up to his car, a 1960 Bentley S2 Saloon. He loved his car, although he had never seen it as a status symbol. It had been a present from an old and very thankful friend and the maroon colour and it’s beautiful design had made him fall in love with it right away. Victor would have never spent so much money on an object of utility, but confronted with this beauty he hadn’t been able to say no to the favourable offer he had received. Humming the tune of a song he had played earlier, Victor got into his car and made his way home. While driving, he recalled their session.

After overcoming his shock of hearing Yuuri’s voice for the first time, Victor had started to play down the list the skater had handed him when he had entered the office. Some of them, Victor had already played a few weeks ago. It was amazing to have a second look on the emotions Yuuri showed while listening, but at the same time there were differences in the reaction to be noticed. Once more, Victor was lucky to be able to play songs just after hearing them a few times and then knowing them by heart forever. So instead of concentration on the sheet music, he could bring all his attention to Yuuri’s face and general behaviour. At the end of the list, they still had about 7 minutes less to fill, so Victor had asked him if there was another song he wanted to hear, adding that nodding or shaking his head was enough. But despite his predictions, Yuuri had told him another piece. His voice had been quiet but steady. Victor assumed that Yuuri wasn’t used to talk much to other people so his vocal cords weren’t as trained as they should be, making his voice sound a little weak and thin.

The song he had chosen was from a popular French movie ‘The Chorus’ where a music teacher decides to form a chorus inside a boarding school for troubling boys. It was a calm song and probably the one Victor liked the most in this movie. It praised the beauty and mystery of the night and the quiet it brought to earth. When Victor lifted his bow to the strings, Yuuri had already closed his eyes. His chest was rising and falling slowly in a steady rhythm. For a moment, Victor believed he had fallen asleep. His face was more relaxed than ever. No muscle was tensed and for the first time no line of worry was visible on his forehead. He didn’t bite his lips like he often did. His hands were folded on his lap and as the light from the street lamps outside illuminated his face, he looked like a resting angel. Victor didn’t dare to break this stunning picture, so he kept playing and playing without stopping even once. Just one time, his bow nearly fall out of his hands.

If hearing Yuuri talk had already caught him off guard, what he saw now was the greatest shock of his life. For a moment, he was sure his eyes were playing a trick on him or his brain was imaging something. But if this was just a dream or an illusion, it was really the most beautiful thing Victor had ever seen. It wasn’t his favourite painting, it wasn’t Yurio bathed in blood. It wasn’t Yuuri’s perfect skin, it wasn’t his performance nor his twisted mind nor the mystery around him. It was his smile.

More than any painting or piece of music before, this smile had touched something deep inside Victor, bringing a part of his soul back to life he had believed dead for years. A warm feeling had spread from his chest into his arms and legs. Even his fingers and his toes were filled by this tingling heat. Victor felt like he hadn’t been alive before, but Yuuri’s smile had revived him from state of dullness and numbness. It had been nothing more than a short-lived twitch of his labial angles, but if such a small movement was able to shake Victor’s word so much, what would happen if Yuuri laughed? Yet… Wouldn’t he be even more beautiful if…Victor hesitated for moment, but then he couldn’t help but imagine.

Usually, anxiety could be read all over Yuuri’s face. But anxiety wasn’t graceful. It was caused by overthinking and overanalysing the situation. In contrast, fear was a pure emotion. No thinking, no additional working of the brain was needed to see the glimmer of mortal agony in someone’s eyes. Victor had always loved the emotion of fear. It was the manifestation of the realisation that there was something greater, better, more powerful. For all those filthy humans who believed they were at the top of the food chain, it crashed their pride and arrogancy to learn that there was something they couldn’t stuff money into. Something they couldn’t scare away with their overpaid lawyers. Fear brought them down to their knees and even the toughest man who killed and defiled as he wished would burst into tears in the presence of his greatest nightmare. Only then, their true personality rose to the surface and showed how weak they truly were – nothing more than a disgusting piece of scum.

But true beauty lay in those emotions that were the purest of them all. Already the ancient Greeks used them to portray all different kinds of role in their theatres. The two opposites of their masks – joy and sadness. They were genuine and impulsive. Just one word, one picture was enough to trigger them. Every human reacted the same way to those emotions. Some less than others, but the same facial muscles, the same neurotransmitters were involved. Yet Victor was sure that Yuuri would still be different from everything he had seen so far. So if just the smallest sign of delight was able to shake Victor to his very foundations…What would happen if Yuuri cried? How would his beautiful features convulse if tears ran down his flawless skin? Not tears of fear, no. Tears of true sorrow or sadness. What would they taste like? Would they be salty or taste like water? The psychiatrist imagined how Yuuri’s beautiful eyes would water, dissolving their warm colour. He surely wouldn’t cry much as his past probably didn’t leave much tears to shed. Just one single drop of water would drip from his lashes and fall onto his cheekbone morning dew. From there, it would travel down his soft skin until it pended on his chin. Would his lips tremble as he found no words to express himself?

Once more, Victor tried to understand why he thought so much about Yuuri. Sure, he might be an interesting case and his beauty was outstanding, but Victor had read so many captivating psychological reports and he was surrounded by handsome people as often as he wanted to. So why was Yuuri constantly on his mind since they had met for the first time? What exactly caused this bubbly feeling inside him that always appeared when he thought of Yuuri? What made him wish for the week to be over sooner? Why did his request to call him by his first name make him happier than it obviously should? If Victor knew it was wrong to allow their relationship to become personal, then why was his heart skipping a beat every time he only thought of his name? Why was he feeling so comfortable around him? Why was he craving to get closer and closer to him, until their minds and bodies were one?

Victor shook his head. Now his thoughts turned ridiculous. The only thing he should focus on was digging deeper into his psyche, finding the cause of his trauma. Of course, Yuuri’s beauty was to mesmerizing, but Victor mustn’t be enchanted by his appearance or he would forget about his true goal. Furthermore, Victor had never been the person to let other people get too close. Christophe was the only person who knew what Victor was hiding behind his perfect façade – not all of it, but he was the only one to have an idea of who Victor really was. But they’ve known each other for years and their bond had grown with their past, not because Victor had been putting effort into their relationship. He didn’t need people around him. He had always been fine on his own and most people disgusted him anyway. He had never needed someone to share his secrets and thoughts with. He had never wished for someone to give him company when he felt alone, during the nights the shadows of his past swallowed him in. Someone, he could talk to without hiding anything. Someone, who lend him their shoulder to rest his head on and forget about anything for a while. Maybe, Yuu…. No! Victor braked hard. He was just drawn towards Yuuri because of his psychological, maybe also artistic interest. There was nothing more behind it. For the rest of his drive, Victor turned on the radio and tried not to think about anything.

 

As soon as he got home, he decanted the wine he had bought when he had stopped by his favourite wine store. He needed something to put his mind to a rest. He had decided on a Martinet Bru – a red wine cuvée with incredible complexity and depth. From dark cherries over leather, cedar wood, dark chocolate and even black pepper, the taste was praised to be compared to none other. It felt just right for this evening. Maybe, allowing his tongue to experience so many different impressions at one, his mind might also be attracted to the exceptional bouquet instead of spinning around Yuuri all the time.

As he gave the wine its time to breathe, he prepared a small meal for himself. Nothing special. Just some beetroot salat, marinated in balsamic vinegar and walnut oil, with some chèvre on top. Victor didn’t feel like eating much at all. Much to his surprise, he had noticed that, since Yuuri had started to come to his office regularly, Victor hadn’t been in the mood to cook at all. Most of his meals were basic, mostly serving the purpose to nourish. Especially regarding meat, Victor had mostly eaten vegetables lately. It was a shame and he knew that he should invite some of his acquaintances over to be motivated to conjure a feast onto his dinner table. Yet he didn’t have any inspiration to create a culinary experience for his guests and himself. Usually, Victor was inspired by the main attraction of his party – the meat. Looking at a perfect piece of lamb filet or a piece of pork caused images, tastes and scents to form in his mind and create a dinner around the star of his menu. But although he had been shopping his groceries as usual, none of the products his butcher had presented him had evoked any of these sensations.

 

After he had eaten, Victor sat down on the sofa, the second glass of wine in his hand, and turned on the TV. Even though he possessed one, he rarely used it. He didn’t need stupid entertainment programmes to calm down his mind after an exhausting day of work. He rather spent his evenings reading. Immersing himself into a different world – a world out of letters and phrases, a world of philosophical questions, adventures, ethical and emotional dilemmas or even medical or psychological phenomena – Victor was soaking them into his head and allowed a completely new universe to unfold in his mind. But also drawing the images and fantasies that floated around in his head eased him. Stroke after stroke, the pictures in his mind dissolved into his blood, wandered from his mind into his hand and manifested again on the paper through the movement of the. His sketch books were full of the real face his clients tried to hide from the public and the creatures that lived inside the vessels of his so-called “friends”. Also memories from his past, landscapes and scenes evoked by the music he was listening to filled the pages. But today, Victor didn’t feel at all like doing one of those things, because he knew that Yuuri would slip into his thoughts anyway.

Zapping from one channel to another, Victor tried, and obviously failed, to find a programme that wouldn’t kill hundreds of brain cells per minute. In his desperation, he even took a look at the sports channel. But today they only broadcasted reruns. He was a second away from pushing the button on his remote, when his ears picked up a name that was burned into his system.

“Mr. Katsuki,” the reporter asked the pale man next to him, “how would you describe your performance today?”

The Yuuri on TV resembled the Yuuri who had stepped into Victor’s office the first day a lot. His eyes were darted around the room, evading the journalist’s gaze as much as he could. His hands were clenched into fists, while his nails were buried into the heel of his hand. His arms were pressed tightly to his body and he was trembling like a leaf. The face screamed anxiousness. Unlike to when he met Victor for the first time, he wasn’t just cautious and a bit frightened but scared to death.

“I…I guess it was…alright…” he mumbled, his voice hardly audible.

“Alright? Well, you placed third today. I think that’s a little better than ‘alright’. The audience loved your interpretation of ‘Adagio in G Minor’ by Albioni. Did you chose the song?”

“Ehm…Yes…”

“What made you chose it? Is there a certain memory you link to this piece? Your expression fitted the melody so perfectly, I was close to tears. This can’t be just played.”

“Ehm…I…don’t know…”

“Don’t be shy,” the interviewer approached Yuuri, poking his side. “I won’t tell anyone.”

“I…”

In the background, Victor could hear someone saying “That’s enough!” He figured that it must be Yuuri’s coach since the fulminant voice and the Italian accent sounded quite familiar. Yet, the reporter didn’t stop.

“What is your secret to your perfect expression? Is it a love tragedy or a the loss of someone close?”

The closer they stepped towards the skater, the microphone nearly touching his lips, the more unsteady Yuuri became. His eyes had stopped wandering around and he was focusing on some point behind the camera, probably the closest door. His breath increased and he pressed his hand against his chest as if he didn’t get enough air. Victor knew that he was close to collapse and so did Cialdini as the coach suddenly pulled the journalist away from Yuuri.

“I said it was enough!”

He had already known that Yuuri had trouble talking and being close to other people, but this interview had made him realize once more how severe his trauma must have been. Therefore, it was an ever greater honour and sign of trust of Yuuri to allow Victor to approach him step by step. At the same time, Victor felt anger rising up his chest. The way the reporter had talked to Yuuri and the way they had harassed him made Victor furious. How could someone, who was used to talk to all different kinds of people and personalities, able to act so indifferent and ignorant? It had been more than obvious that Yuuri hadn’t felt well, so why did they have to push him even more. Luckily, Cialdini had jumped in to save him, but Victor couldn’t help but imagine what would have happened if he hadn’t. He put down his glass of wine and started walking up and down his living room. He could have hyperventilated or even dissociated. Would they have kept the camera on while Yuuri was pulled back into his mind to protect himself?

This was why Victor hated humans. Although they always pretended to be interested and to care for each other, they were ignorant and selfish scum, just trying to gain profit for themselves. This interviewer surely had wanted a good story and everything else hadn’t mattered. Maybe something that brought their audience to tears, but overall, they didn’t care at all as long as people would watch their programme.

Poor Yuuri. This must have been really hard on him. Victor wished that he would have talked to him about this incident. He really wished for them to develop a relationship where Yuuri could tell him whenever such things happened to him. To understand his trauma, Victor needed more information and by analysing situation that provoked such reactions from Yuuri he might have learned something new. Yet, even more than finding out more about him, Victor wanted to protect him. No one else besides him should see this beautiful expression on his face. These widened chocolate-brown eyes and the raised eyebrows that pulled together, creating those thin lines above the end of his nose. The veins on his hand that popped out and pervaded his porcelain skin with blue lines. His lips had been slightly parted and stretched back. Victor instantly knew that he would spent the rest of the night drawing this breath-taking face. Of all the people and all the fearful expression he had seen so far, Yuuri’s was still the most beautiful. No matter from which perspective one would look at him, his facial features were just perfect. Every muscle was where it was supposed to be and so easily to be seen a medical student would have gasped. How fun would it be, to cut them all out, one by one until he had taken apart Yuuri’s face like a puzzle?

No, Victor mustn’t think about such things now. It was more important to find a way to protect Yuuri from the dirty eyes of society who only waited for him to show them an interesting face so they had something to talk about. But Victor wouldn’t let this happen. He would make Yuuri trust him so the skater would talk to Victor about all his fears. This way, Victor would be able to help him find ways to cope with the upcoming fear while at the same time saving all those expressions and stories for himself. Then he could use them, to infiltrate Yuuri’s mind, to manipulate him and therefore find even more expressions he didn’t know about yet. No one would ever make Yuuri look this frightened except for him.

Until then, he would have to find a way to protect him from afar. Until their relationship had developed to that degree, Victor would find another way to keep him safe from insolent and ignorant folks.

Victor went to his small office and opened his laptop. He was searching for the channel and the programme he had just watched. From there on, it was easy to find out who had been the person to harass Yuuri. Taking a short note with the name and a phone number, he went into his kitchen to look through his recipe book. He skipped through the pages of cut-out or hand-written recipes until he found the right one. He took it out of the folder and placed on his worktop. While writing down his grocery list on the back of the note he still held in his hands, he retrieved his phone from his pocket and called his best friend.

“Good evening, Chris. I’m sorry to call you that late, but I have a favour to ask. I’m in need of your contacts to the press. I’m planning a dinner for the upcoming weekend and I have a special guest I want to invite.”

Chapter Text

When Victor sharpened his knife, he felt livelier than ever. For week he had believed his inspiration, his desire to cook to have vanished, but just a few days ago they had returned. A burning flame of passion, setting his body on fire had rushed through his veins the moment he had seen that interview. Whenever he thought about it, the flame turned into a uncontrollable firestorm, rolling over everything and everyone that dared to come closer. To say he was angry was an understatement. At night, he still dreamed of tearing this reporter apart – the reporter who had made Yuuri feel uncomfortable, probably triggering his trauma. Even if it was their job, Victor would never forgive this person for hurting Yuuri. The fear that had watered his eyes, the way they had widened, the tremble of his body – Victor saw it before his inner eye every night. He should be alarmed that he dreamt of the skater every time he closed his eyes since he had seen that interview, but at the same time, he was bathing in his reawakened passion. The rest of that very night, he had spent planning out the dinner he was preparing right now. Every little detail had to fit the occasion. Not only the food itself, but also the wine, the music and the decoration had to be perfect. This night would be another masterpiece, his come-back so to speak.

Victor had prepared the dining room this afternoon. The table was set for three people, Christophe, himself and his special guest of the evening. Victor smirked at the thought of welcoming him to his house. He didn’t knew much about him, just what Chris had told him, but Victor was sure that his guest was one of the dullest, most complacent people to ever step into his house. Usually, he wouldn’t even look at somebody like this twice, but for the sake of his sanity and the fun he would have tonight, Victor was willing to spent hours the next day to clean up every little inch his guest had touched.

Besides dinner fork and knife as well as a desert spoon, every seat was equipped with a light yellow napkin folded in the shape of a diamond. Its colour didn’t quite fit the season, but it perfectly matched the foral decoration Victor had arranged. In three smaller vases, beautiful yellow carnations lightened up the dark room. His florist had looked at him quite astonished when he had ordered the flowers a few days ago, but Victor had answered his questioning gaze with a simple smile. Of course, a professional and any erudite human would understand the message. Yet Victor was sure that his guest would suspect nothing. If the psychiatrist loved anything as much as cooking, it was showing-off his true feelings to somebody who didn’t understand his hints as this surpassed their intellectual level by far.

Rolling up his sleeves, Victor put on his apron. At first, he would make the dessert – peach and apricot fruit trifle – and then he would prepare anything he needed for his starter and main course. Both of them didn’t need a lot of cooking time and weren’t supposed to be kept warm for a longer period, so Victor had decided to cook them when his guests had already arrived. He had baked the vanilla sponge cake this morning, so only had to cut the fruit and make the pudding. Combining sugar, salt and corn-starch in a sauce pan, he slowly stirred the milk in, letting in run down alongside the wall of the pan. He turned on the heat of his stove and whisked in the rhythm of the music playing from his dining room until the mixture thickened and he could add the vanilla. Then, he carried the bowl outside in order to let it cool down.

As he came back inside, the ‘Serenade for Strings in E Minor’ by Antonín Dvořák filled the room. Victor liked this piece a lot and right now, it perfectly mirrored his mood. It was light and reminded him of his youth. More than once, he had lead his mother or his sister to this song, floating over the ground of their ballroom in a Viennese waltz. Usually, Victor did prefer not the think about his childhood, but today, his mood was so heightened about the upcoming dinner, he didn’t mind the memory slipping into his head. Instead, following the wafting sound of the strings, Victor danced through the kitchen and down the stairs to his cold room. There he stored today’s meat alongside some other delicacies that were reserved for another feast. He retrieved the bowl in which his main dish was already soaking in its apple cider vinegar marinade and the meat for the starter and returned upstairs. Setting the bowl in the fridge to stay cooled, Victor opened the bag and gently placed the two pieces of meat on his cutting board.

“Excuse me? I know it’s impolite to disturb you, but you’re working for ‘World of Sports’, aren’t you? I loved your last feature on the figure skating championship. Please, allow me to pay for your coffee.”

Slowly, cherishing every fibre his knife severed, Victor cut the meat into smaller pieces, removing the white renal pelvis.

“I bet you wonder how you came here. The last thing you might remember is how I payed for your coffee in that bakery. Well… I don’t want to bore you with details, but you shouldn’t take drinks from strangers if you haven’t seen how they were prepared,” he smirked. “But don’t worry, the effect of the anaesthetic will subside fast enough for you to witness all the fun.”

The person in front of him dragged at the buckles that kept their hands, arms and legs fixated at the operating table, their eyes widened in fear.

“Although I have to admit that this will be more fun for me. For you, this is more of a lesson. Yet you will not have the opportunity to learn from it.”

Adding some coconut oil to the pan on his stove, Victor watched how the slices of fat slowly melted. Then, he added the chopped meat, humming with the strings in the background.

He had already put his surgical mask in advance, so only his medical gloves were missing. Then, he adjusted the light above him. It was merely a barn lamp than what he had been used to, but for his purposes, a little malpractice wouldn’t hurt anybody...At least, not anyone who mattered. Taking his scalpel from the tray next to him, he took a deep breath, soaking in the muffled screams and the rackling of the buckles. He emptied his mind, preparing himself for what he was about to do. The last time he had cut somebody open wasn’t that long ago, but for his ‘patient’ to be awake… Suddenly, a tune slipped into his mind and he smirked. What a coincidence this was. Opening his eyes, facing the person on the table, he positioned the sharp knife and while making the first cut on the lower abdomen, he started humming that beautiful yet sad piece that had changed his life the first moment he had seen that boy skating to it.

Pouring some brandy from the side, Victor gently stirred the pieces of meat until they were fully covered with the alcohol. Next, he added cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and a little bit of apple jelly. He watched small bubbled rising to the surface as the sauce was reduced before he added a teaspoon of double cream, following it as it dissolved through his stirring. As the liquid got thicker, Victor rushed outside, to take the pudding inside and to chop off some parsley from his herb tower. Back inside, he cut several slices off the sourdough bread he had bought earlier and roasted them in a second pan. Then as the final touch he sprinkled the parley over the finished meal. Putting the toasted bread into a basket, a yellow napkin laying inside, he carried it and the bottle of wine he had chosen for tonight to the dining room.

His two guests were talking lively when he entered the room, yet Victor noticed the expression of relieve on Chris’s face. He hadn’t been happy to accompany Victor at dinner, probably aware of his role as a converser for his second guest. The psychiatrist smiled at his friend reassuringly for a second and returned to the kitchen. He portioned out the starter on three tables, and before he carried them to next door cautiously, he put off his apron and rolled down his sleeves again.

 “May I present tonight’s starter: devilled kidneys. This traditional English recipe usually served as breakfast, yet I believe this will be a great opening for what will await you later,” he smiled.

“Offal? That’s quite unusual these days, isn’t it,” the chubby but tall man on Victor’s right noticed.

“I’m sorry. Don’t you like kidneys? If that’s the case, then…” Victor put on the best apologetic face he could force himself to me, thinking that even this philistine’s wedding dinner hadn’t been as exquisite as Victor’s cooking.

“No, no. It’s fine. It’s been a while since I tried pluck the last time, but judging from what I heard about your abilities, I’m sure that this will taste great.”

Victor answered nothing. Instead, he smiled and opened the bottle of wine.

“I assume you drink?” he politely asked his guest.

“Sure, sure. My wife always says that it’s not good for my liver, but who am I to say no to a splendid wine,” he laughed.

“I assure you that whatever bottle Victor picks out, it will be worth any dialysis,” Chris remarked. “Tell us. How you’ll be treating us tonight?”

“I’m sure you’ll love it. I chose a 2017 Viognier. It’s dry yet full-flavoured, with notes of peach and apricot.”

Victor poured the beautiful light, slightly golden shimmering wine into his guests’ glasses before he helped himself. Sitting down between Chris and José, he opened up his napkin and placed in on his lap. He raised his glass and smiled.

“To an interesting evening and knew acquaintances.”

“Cheers.”

They all took a sip and Victor enjoyed how the liquid gold ran down his throat. Its taste was remarkable. It was softer than one would predict. Like silk felt, running through the fingers. The Viognier flattered his palate and filled his body with a comfortable warmth. Besides the fruits, he was also able to make out violet and acacia. A truly divine combination. He put his glass down and turned towards his tables. He had wanted to try this traditional dish for a long time, but there had never been the inspiration nor motivation. Watching his guests, from the corner of his eyes, Victor picked up a piece of kidney and put it inside his mouth.

“I really wonder what you’ll pass out form first. Blood loss or pain? You know, at first, I thought about keeping you alive, seeing how long you’ll last without a proper dialysis, but then I realised that this would only make the rest of you taste disgustingly and that way, you wouldn’t be of any value to me anymore. Furthermore, it would be a pain to keep you here. This would only make me vulnerable. You know, I really don’t think that you could escape and call the police. Also I am certain that nobody is going to find you out here, but I highly value my good nights sleep and I won’t allow scum like you to keep me awake.”

The tender meat nearly melted on his tongue, the acid from the vinegar harmonising perfectly with the soft yet distortive note the kidney carried.

“This is fantastic, Victor. Know I understand why everyone in this city is so crazy about your dinner parties.”

“Oh, you’re too kind.”

“No, really. It’s a feast,” José chewed noisily, making Victor have to hold back not to throw up. For a moment he tried to remember why he had even invited him to his house, but then a certain thought popped up in his head and a soft smile formed on his lips as he put the next piece of meat onto his fork.

Stuffing the bread and the rest of his starter inside all at once, the man of Latin American origin rather reminded Victor of a porker than the head of a local TV station.

“Although”, José added, everything he had put inside his mouth clearly visible to everyone, “I still wonder what I owe the honour of this invitation.”

Chris chuckled on the other side of the table, half of amusement half of contempt. He was seemingly having as a hard time as Victor to hide his disgust, but he was just as good as the psychiatrist. Only because Victor had known him for years, he was able to read the small changes in his expression.

“You need to know that Victor is recently obsessed with figure skating. And as your channel is the only one to broadcast the local competitions, he had to invite you as a thanks for committing to the world of skating.”

“Figure skating? Oh yes, we added this to our programme a while ago. It’s more popular than we thought. A lot of young girls seem to have a crush on all those guys in the tight outfits. All gay if you ask me. Anyways, the competitions are pretty well visited, so we asked our reporter… oh…”

José suddenly stopped and put down his knife and fork.

“Are you alright?” Chris asked, all the concern in his voice being faked. We probably wished for the inflated dimwit to choke. That was at least what Victor was reading from his face.

“Yes, it’s just…” José paused for a moment, his hands nervously playing with his napkin. “Our reporter who has been in charge of the figure skating department went missing a few days ago. They haven’t returned home after work and since Thursday afternoon, nobody has seen them.

“Oh no, that’s awful.”

Victor really had to give Chris credit for his excellent acting performance. He had already known that it was his specialty to wrap people around his little finger, but his mimesis of condolence was pretty impressive as well.

“Yes, their family is devastated. And the channel! Do you have an idea who hard it is to fine someone who is actually interested… I mean… who has enough knowledge of this beautiful sport to conduct all those interviews?”

“We’ll pray for their save return,” Victor assured his guest and got up, clearing the table. “Shall I prepare the main course now?”

“Oh, before you faint, I should probably tell you why this is happening to you. I assume you’ve been asking yourself that very question quite often up until now. Let me enlighten you, so you won’t die st… Well, actually you will still die as the simple-minded, obnoxious person you are, but at least you won’t leave this world cluelessly.”

Retrieving the first reddish brown organ from the trembling body, he took a short break after placing it into a cold box. This was more exhausting than he had remembered, but also a lot more stimulating. He could feel the adrenalin rushing through his veins and the dopamine in his head running wild. Switching sides, he started cutting the lower abdomen open again.

 “One done. Two more to go. You’ve been holding yourself together for longer than I thought. Well done. Well, were was I? Oh, yes. You see, I know it’s your job to interview those stupid, dull sports guys and I understand that you need to push them until they say something interesting, but that doesn’t discharge you from using a little of you empathy and common sense. You remember this young skater? I guess this interview took place a few weeks ago, but I’m certain that you already recognised that little tune I’m humming, didn’t you?”

 

Back in the kitchen, Victor couldn’t hide his smirk anymore. José was probably one of the most distasteful people to have taken a seat at his table, but the internal satisfaction this dinner gave him was worth everything. Of course he had known in advance that this person had no interest in figure skating. If he were curious about that kind of sport, he wouldn’t have employed such an insolent reporter. Anyways, now that he knew that Victor was watching his programme with an benevolent eye, he would probably be more cautious about his future employees. And if they were not to Victor’s liking, if they dared to harass Yuuri again, the psychiatrist would just need to make a simple call.

After whipping some cream, Victor carefully folded it together with the pudding. Then, he washed some peaches and cut them into thin slices. He did the same with the sponge cake. Taking three round, rather short glasses from his shelf, he filled in a thin layer of the pudding-cream, putting some of the peach and sponge cake slices on top. Repeating this procedure until the glass was completely filled, he garnished them with a leaf of lemon balm. This desert would now need some time to cool and would be perfectly ready after they had enjoyed their main course.

Before he opened his fridge to take out the already in apple cider vinegar marinated meat, Victor took a deep breath in. This dish would be the master piece of the night and he was excitedly looking forward to preparing it, feeling the tight skin under his fingers that had recently been perfused by oxygen and blood. He already imagined the satisfaction of cutting through the organ with one smooth movement while adrenaline as well as a lot of endorphins were rushing through his veins. With a smile on his face he retrieved the bowl from the fridge and put it down on his sideboard. Gently taking the meat out of the liquid like holding a new born after taking it from its mother’s womb, he rinsed it under water and patted it dry so cautiously, one could actually think he was touching a baby.

He stopped in the middle of his next cut and took a look at the scum below him. Their eyes were turned to the ceiling in exhaustion – pain, fear, panic glistening in there, but suddenly a glimpse of recognition followed by shock.

Victor took the knife he had sharpened earlier, feeling its weight in his hands. The silver blade reflected the light from the lamp above him as he tried to sense the shape of the handle with every hinge of his fingers. Only when he was sure that he had absolute control over his tool, he moved onto the auburn-brown treasure in front of him, waiting for him on his cutting board out of walnut wood. Getting ready for the first cut, Victor deeply filled his lunges with air, holding the meat tightly in place and positioned the knife.

“Ahh, so you do know this song. This person you’ve bothered with your persistent questions is very dear to me. In his past, things have happened that nearly destroyed him and I won’t let despicable trash like you exacerbate my quest to help him. You noticed in which state he was back then and you still kept pressing him. He was close to lose his mind, but you didn’t stop, although his coach told you to do so. You might have escaped from this situation without any harm. Yet I think you deserve some punishment. I guess, you’ve asked yourself who I am and what this boy is to me. Well, I don’t know…at least not now, but I know that I’m going to protect him no matter want it’ll need.” 

The first cut felt like slicing through a cloud. It was so soft and so different from normal flesh, Victor had to hold in a deep sigh. The sound of his knife hitting the cutting board was hardly audible. Victor lead the blade so watchfully, it rather kissed the wood than crashing onto it. Slice after slice he parted pieces after pieces until nothing was left.

There was a lot of blood breaking out of the thin yet deep cut the scalpel had left. But he didn’t care. It might blind his sight a bit, but aspirating it would only destroy the calming silence which was only broken by silent screams. Desperation, pain, the crack of exhaustion that signalised him that his ‘patient’ was close to fainting, cold sweat dripping from their face and arms.

After whisking together arrowroot flour, salt and pepper, Victor dredged the slices of meat in the mixture, while pre-heating a pan with some coconut-oil in it. When it was hot enough, he put the slices in, just for a few seconds. The crackling sound was music to his hears and the first waves of incredible scent raised up from the pan. He waited and turned them over until they were slightly bronzed on each side. He took them aside and covered them with a table to keep them warm.

Now it was time to prepare the first side dish. While another tablespoon of oil dissolved in the pan, Victor cut two onions and two peaches in slices. At first, he only let the onions gently fall into the oil. Silently, only the music and the muffed voices blowing over from the dining room, Victor listened to the cracks while an evolving scent lapped around his nose. Making sure, nothing was brunt, Victor didn’t leave the onions out of sight as they caramelised. Minute after minute not only the scent grew more intense and more tempting but the colour of the glassy white vegetable turned into a beautiful golden one. Only when he was truly satisfied with their shimmer, he added the peaches, ginger, rosemary from his garden, salt and pepper as well as a dash of vinegar.

“Aw, already giving up? It’s a shame since your screams are music to my ears. After you pass out it will be all silent in here. Why don’t you accompany me a little longer. I even got some blood transfusions for you, although this won’t be enough to keep you alive for more than 15 minutes from now on, judging from your complexion.”

He waited until the peaches were soft before turned off the heat and put in the liver slices to stir them. In the meantime, he chopped some carrots and cabbage, mixing them with vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and a hit of ginger to create a simple yet fitting second side dish. Everything that was left now, was the proper presentation.

Every table was arrange in the same way. On the left side, he positioned the liver accompanied with the peaches and onions, a branch of rosemary on top. One the right, a small bowl with the carrot salad was prepared. Simple, yet perfect.

“Wow…you actually made it through. I must admit, I helped you a little, but I really wanted you to see this beauty here.”

He took out the slightly heavy organ. It was still warm and I felt like it was also still working, or rather dying, cut off from all nutrition supplies. The weight felt amazing in his hands, making him once more cherish what the wonder of the human body was able to bring forth.

“Here! Can you see this? This is yours. Astonishing that even repugnant vermin as you can grow something so incredibly beautiful.”

He carried the liver, holding it like a new-born, to his original owner. They took a look at it, their eyes rolling upwards and they passed out immediately.

“Beef liver with caramelised onion and peach compote accompanied with some freshly made carrot salad.”

While José had a hard time containing himself not to stuff the whole table into his mouth all at one, Chris was looking at Victor as if he wanted to say ‘No one needs freshly prepared salad if that would have saved me from five more minutes with this idiot – alone!’ as Victor served the main course. Actually, Victor felt a little guilty for leaving Christophe all alone. To say José wasn’t the most alluring collocutor would bring shame to the world itself. Victor knew he had to make up for a lot after tonight, but surely, he would find a way to make Christophe forgive him in no time.

“Honestly, I believe this is heaven. Although I never imagined they would be eating so much meat in heaven,” José munched.

Instead of answering anything, Victor helped himself to a bite of liver. He closed his eyes for a moment, cherishing the soft yet tight texture on his tongue. The special taste – a little earthy and metally, the reminders of what astonishing work this organ had done for decades – was an incredible experience. Completely disregarding the voices of his guests and the obnoxious sounds José made, Victor forgot about everything and just gave in to the landscape of taste that stretched out on his plate. Like a wanderer, stepping on unseen land, he discovered differences and notes with every bite. Combining the contrasting textures of the meat, the salad and the compote, it was like stepping on new ground every time he brought his fork to his mouth. Once soft and sweet, than crunchy and neutral. It really was miracle what new worlds food was able to open up.

 

 

“I better hope you have a good reason for this, Victor. And I also hope you have an idea how you want to make this up to me. This has probably been the most annoying night of my life,” Chris bragged, leaning against the kitchen counter and holding his glass of wine in his hand as Victor washed up.

José had luckily left soon after dessert – much to Christophe’s joy who had been becoming more annoyed with every minute.

“Was this really worse than your date with that guy…what was his name? The one with the mother complex?”

“Urgh… Jerome. I assume that it hasn’t been THAT bad. The food was better than in that trash can of a restaurant he had chosen. Still, I’m mad at you.” He took a large sip from his glass.

Victor turned around to him and smiled apologetically. “I’m happy you liked it. And I’m really sorry. I guess a nice Scotch could make up for it? A friend of mine has recently been in Scotland and brought back a pretty impressive selection. You know where to find them.”

“It’s hardly an apology of I have to go get it myself. But depending on the taste, I might forgive you.”

Chris left the kitchen and returned a few moments later with a black bottle. He handed it over to Victor who had finished cleaning up in the meantime and reached out to a shelf to get to glasses. He poured in a generous amount of the dark copper coloured liquid.

“I’m really impressed by your ability to always choose the most exquisite bottle.”

“And by exquisite you want to say most expensive,” Chris raised his eyebrows and took the glass Victor offered him, “And it’s not an ability, it’s a talent.”

“It surely is, my friend.” Victor guided him to his living room to sit down in a more comfortable atmosphere. While Chris sat down on the large black couch, Victor made himself comfortable in his armchair. He raised his glass and toasted to his friend. “A votre santé!”

“A votre santé!” Chris replied and a more friendly expression appeared on his face.

They brought the whiskey to their lips and both sighed after taking a sip. A well-known warmth filled Victor’s body, spreading out from his throat into his arms and legs. He suddenly felt at ease, his body relaxed and he forgot about how nerve-wrecking his dinner guest had been. Only the memory of the delicious taste was left.

“Now say, Victor. Why did you invite this… man? And don’t tell me it’s just because of figure skating. That won’t work for me.”

Victor sighed. “I’m really sorry I dragged you into this, but I thought it would be uncommon to invite him without meeting him in person in the first place. Also, you have never said no to having dinner with me.”

Chris put his glass on the small table that was standing between them.

“This was not my question, Victor. Don’t try to evade it.”

Victor didn’t answer, but took another sip.

“It’s because of that boy, isn’t it?”

Looking up from his glass, Victor met his friend’s eyes.

“I guess it’s needless to say that I’m concerned about you.”

“There’s nothing to be concerned about, Christophe,” Victor tried to reassure him. One day, it would be problematic if Chris would know too much about Yuuri. Yet, this wasn’t about trust. Victor didn’t tell his friend about the skater for his own well-being and confidentiality, of course.

Chris, however, didn’t seem to be so convinced. He leant forwards, his elbows resting on his knees.

“This is the first time in years that you’ve been interested in someone. Like, really interested. Besides me, that punk of a child has been the only human being that you accept in your life. You hate people. You are only interested in their minds and if they bore you, you throw them away. So thinking about someone for weeks, although you haven’t even talked to them, is something completely out of your way.”

Victor thanked the heavens that Chris didn’t know that Victor had already talked to Yuuri. That he was even calling him by his first name – despite their professional relationship.

“I’m fine. But it honours me that you care about me so much.”

“Victor, I took a bullet for you, that’s how much I care for you. I just wish I would understand you a little more.”

‘I wish I would, too,’ Victor thought.

 

 

A knock on the door made Victor rise from his thoughts. As fast as he could, he hid the drawing he had been working on and hurried towards the door. It was finally Wednesday again. Although he refused to believe it, waiting for their session to arrive became more exhausting with every week that passed.

“Good evening, Yuuri. Please, come inside.”

Although he had said his name numerous times in his head, it was still unfamiliar to say it out loud. Yet the more often he did so, Victor loved the feeling it left behind on his lips.

“Good evening,” the skater stumbled.

When he walked past Victor, the psychiatrist was able to take in his scent. He must have showered before he came to his office as his hair lightly smelled like mint. His skin carried the scent of his shower gel, a common brand, nothing special. Yet underneath, Victor was able to make out some notes of Yuuri’s own scent. Sadly, most of it was covered up by the products he had used. For a moment, Victor thought that he would love to sniff him without being disturbed by deodorant or the small rests of washing powder. Along with his hands, his nose would trail down his back, touching the fair and soft skin. Although his shoulders were surely muscular, his waist was still slender. Would his scent get stronger, more masculine the further his nose would travel downwards?

“Dr. Nikiforov?”

Victor shook his head. For a moment, he had lost his composure in front of his client. This was unacceptable.

“I’m deeply sorry. My thoughts were with another patient, but I can assure you, I’m now fully at your service.”

Yuuri didn’t look at him, but he nodded. Like usually, he took his seat in the arm chair that was closest to the door and looked at the floor. Victor followed him and sat down on the opposite site.

“Don’t you have any songs you want me to play for you today?”

At first, Victor had been so captivated by saying Yuuri’s name. Then, he concentrated so much on his scent that he hadn’t noticed. But now, he had realised that the skater hadn’t given him a note like he usually did.

It took a while until Yuuri answered. He looked outside the window. His hands were folded in his lap, his feat raised up as if he was about to go en pointe. Victor had seen him doing so this earlier, but this was the first time he actually noticed it.

“No, today…I thought we…”

Yuuri turned his gaze from the window into Victor’s direction. However, he didn’t look at him directly. His eyes were fixing some point above the psychiatrist’s shoulder. Just one or twice, he dared to look into Victor’s eyes, but then, he hushed away instantly. Victor waited patiently, smiling gently at the boy in front of him.

“I thought we could…talk…”

For a moment, Victor was caught off guard, but he had learned from last time and he recovered fast.

“Sure. Is there anything special you would like to talk about?”

It was hard, hiding his excitement. This was a huge step forward. A step, Victor hadn’t believed they would take so soon.

“I…don’t…know…I…”

From the way he squidged his hands, Victor knew instantly that he had something he wanted to talk about, yet he was still too insecure. How adorable.

“Maybe it would help you, if I start off?”

Yuuri nodded shyly.

“What would you like to know? Shall I tell you something about my career?”

Yuuri nodded again, seemingly getting a bit more relaxed.

“Well…let’s see. I guess you have assumed from my name, but I didn’t grew up here. My family is from Russia, St. Petersburg to be precise. I went to school there at first, but when I was a teenager, about 17 or 18 years old, I moved here. Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to study medicine. I don’t know why exactly, but I was drawn the human body. The complex cooperation of the tiniest cells, the incredible richness of details, the precise network. Everything was just mesmerising to me. When I was in elementary school, my sister broke her leg and was brought to the hospital. Crying in pain, she was brought into the surgery, but when she came out, she was completely fixed. I guess it was then, when I decided that I would become a doctor. It wasn’t an easy path, but finally, I went to college and I became a surgeon. Yet due to tragic circumstances, I wasn’t able to pursue this way and decided to become a psychiatrist.”

All of this was true, but Victor rather left out all the things that might scare Yuuri off. Why he had moved to the US. Why he was here without his family. The actual situation that had made him become a surgeon. Although there was this urge to tell him all the things only Christophe knew about him, Victor was aware that he was elevating Yuuri’s role once more. Right now, he was a patient and nothing else.

“Is there anything more you would like to know about me?”

With prickling anticipation, Victor watched Yuuri. It was interesting to examine his expression which was so different from what he showed when he was listening to Victor playing the violin. He was a lot more tense, but he seemed to be really thinking about what Victor had said. The movement of his eyes and head signalised that he was listening actively. Something that made Victor really happy without any particular reason.

“When did you learn to play the violin?” Yuuri suddenly asked.

“I must have been about 6 years old. My family had always emphasised the value of music so my mother asked me one day which instrument of the orchestra I liked the most. I said I liked the violin. Its sound was so alterably. Once soft and shy. In the next moment strong and commanding. Just four thin strings able to cover multiple octaves easily. A small body filling concert halls. My mother asked me if I wanted to learn how to play myself and I said yes. Since then, my life and my happiness was tied to this instrument. Even though there were times when I didn’t play at all, I always knew that I would take it into my hands and bring my mind to ease. When I hold it in my hands, when I let the bow slowly touch a string, my heart is filled with easiness and I’m able to let go off every troublesome thought that bothers me.”

It was silent after Victor had ended. Yuuri had listened to him the whole time, but his hands and eyes had become more uneasy. He seemed to get closer to open up to Victor with every story he told him. Victor knew that if he continued to narrate stories from his past, Yuuri would reach the point of opening up to him. The stories might be meaningless, yet to Yuuri they probably signalised trust, a save haven. So Victor continued to tell the skater about the time  hadhe learned to play the violin, about the orchestras he had participated in. When he took a short break after talking for a while, Yuuri suddenly changed the topic.

“I’ve been having nightmares again recently,” he whispered, his eyes fixed on the floor.

Victor sharpened his ear. This was the first time Yuuri actually told him something about himself. Something that might be connected to his trauma.

“You say ‘again’. Have you had nightmares in you past?”

Yuuri took his time to answer. “Yes, but it’s always been the same dream all over again.”

Victor noticed that Yuuri hadn’t brought up the plot of the dream. Maybe he didn’t trust him enough yet. Maybe it was something he felt uncomfortable to talk about. Therefore, he decided it would be better if he waited for the skater to open up when he decided to do so himself. Pushing him would only push him away.

“When have you had it for the first time?” Victor asked gently. He tried to convey with every word that Yuuri was allowed to talk about everything he wanted to. Victor wanted to create a safe space for him to feel comfortable in.

“When I was 12 years old, I guess.” He closed his eyes. “Maybe even earlier. I don’t remember a lot about my childhood.” His last sentence was only a mere whisper.

Although he tried to remain calm and relaxed on the outside, Victor’s brain was working on full speed. The first idea that jumped into his mind was that Yuuri must suffer from a trauma that had taken place in his childhood. It was normal to not remember anything before the age of 3 or 4, due to the so-called infantile amnesia. Yet with the age of 12 the memory storage system and the cognitive self should be matured enough to allow the long term memory to bring certain events back to consciousness. So if Yuuri’s retrospection was blurry, it might be blocked by a self-protection mechanism.

While he had been making his mental notes, Victor had observed Yuuri. The skater was nearly overbending his feet, his fingernails buried into his balm. For a moment, Victor thought about ending the session since he didn’t want to overwhelm Yuuri, but than the skater starting talking again all by himself.

“I was standing in a dark room. I couldn’t see anything, but I’m sure that’s in my parents home. I was child. Not older than 10 years. I was alone.”

Although Yuuri’s voice was silent, Victor noticed the slight tremble. Yet he continued narrating as if he had to end it once he had started. His eyes were fixed on the ground, not moving an inch. He wasn’t blinking as much as usual and his expression which was usually quite easy to identify became more and more stony.

“I can hear water dripping into the room from somewhere far away. It’s not much at first, but then, I can feel my feet getting wet. Soon the whole floor is covered and it rises up to my knees. The water is now crashing in from all sides and cover me up.”

Victor’s heart started beating faster as he noticed that Yuuri had switched into present tense.

“It crashes my lungs as only the last inches of my head are above the water level. It’s hard to breath. I’m pulled downwards by thousands of hands that reach out to me. I’m drowning. I loose my consciousness, but right before I can take my final breath, I hear a dog barking.”

“Yuuri?”

The skater didn’t react. He continued to stare at his feet.

“Yuuri, can you hear me?”

“I have never had a pet. But the sound seems so familiar.”

“Yuuri, where are you?”

“No, I had a dog…His name was…Vicchan…”

Suddenly, Yuuri’s eyes lost their focus. The clenching of his fingers stopped and his hands relaxed. Also his feet nearly fell down on the floor, yet he continued to sit upright.

Slowly, Victor got up from his chair. Step after step, he walked closer to Yuuri.

“Yuuri? Are you still here with me?”

No answer.

“Your name is Yuuri Katsuki and you are in my office. My name is Victor Nikiforov and I’m here to help you. Everything will be alright.”

Right before the skater’s feet, Victor knelt down.

“What you are in now is called dissociative trance.”

Chapter Text

“Please listen to me, Yuuri. Try to concentrate on your breath. Breathe in and out gently. All the thoughts in your head, all the feelings inside you – negative and positive – stream inside you with the air and leave you again as you breathe out.”

Victor examined his patient who was still staring at the floor, not moving an inch.

“Try to press your hands against each other and feel the pressure building up.”

Time passed, but nothing happened. Yuuri’s gaze was still stony, his chest rising and falling only flatly.

“If you can hear my voice, try to return to where it’s coming from.”

Again, no reaction. More than twenty minutes had passed. Victor thought about his possibilities. There were several options to help somebody to get out of a dissociative state, yet he had to choose the right one. Sometimes, it could help to touch the patient, but Victor would never do that without the client’s consent. Especially in Yuuri’s case who obviously struggled with any kind of body contact touching was not an option. Also smelling salts or points balls didn’t seem to be the right choice since he would have to get closer to Yuuri than he already was. For a second, Victor considered calling Yuuri’s coach to make him talk to the skater. Since they had a closer relationship, he might listen to Cialdini’s voice, although Victor was not sure if Yuuri would consider his coach as the save heaven he needed right now. Listen to… Suddenly, Victor had an idea.

“Yuuri, I’ll get up for a moment. I won’t go far away, I’m just getting something.”

Waiting for a small sign of comprehension, Victor observed Yuuri for a while. Then, he got up and took his violin from the wall.

“Yuuri, I’ll play something on my violin for you. Please concentrate on the sound. It will guide you back into my office.”

Lifting the instrument to his shoulder, Victor had exactly in mind what he wanted to play. It had to be something soft, something that warmed up the soul and would hopefully awake Yuuri from his trance. Slowly, Victor guided the bow over the strings. He tried not to play too loud, but just audible enough for Yuuri to hear him. He cherished every note, beautifying the longer tones with a gentle vibrato. Like in the sonnet that corresponded to the piece, Victor wanted to create a warm and peaceful atmosphere. In his mind, a fireplace was crackling in the background, bathing the room in a mild light while wind and coldness rattled at the windows. He wanted Yuuri to relax and let go of all the negative thoughts he was fighting against. He wanted him to follow the flow of the music, leaving the uncomfortable memories outside and return to the office where he was safe. Being send from the touch of his bow into the room, the notes floated in the air like snowflakes. They delicately danced before their eyes, kissing both Victor and Yuuri’s skin as they glided downwards. They weren’t cold. Instead their surface sparkled in the light of the flames and their touch felt like the fondle of a butterfly’s wing. They caressed Yuuri’s hands, his neck and his cheeks and it seemed that with every bar, life was returning into the skater’s eyes.

The pieces was rather short, but Victor continued to play, repeating it several times as Yuuri was slowly stepping out of his trance. His breath got more relaxed. His complexion warmed up a bit and his brown eyes that had been caught in a dark and dismal place let the grey clouds fade and slowly returned to their usual beautiful tone. And finally, Yuuri’s stony expression began to crumble. Blinking several times, he raised his hands and massaged his forehead. All of his movements were slow, showing his exhaustion.

When he was sure that Yuuri was completely back, Victor set down is violin and settled in his chair again. A force inside him was drawing him towards Yuuri. To kneel down in front of him, cupping his face in his hands and caress his cheek. Victor wanted to touch him, to show him that everything was alright, but besides the mayhem he could cause, he had to keep his professional distance. Yet he couldn’t deny how much he…

“How are you, Yuuri?”

“I…don’t know…,” Yuuri mumbled. Victor nearly sighed in relief. He had been a little afraid that Yuuri wouldn’t talk to him after such a horrible thing had happened to him.

“Can you tell me where you’ve been?”

“I…don’t know…Everything was…cloudy. I… I felt like I… There was nothing. But then… I heard you play…”

“Has this happened before?” Victor asked cautiously. He didn’t want to pressure Yuuri too much, but it was necessary to ask these things.

Yuuri stared into his hands, playing with his fingers.

“You don’t need to answer. I understand that you must be quite confused and exhausted.” Victor smiled although Yuuri wasn’t looking at him.

“No I… I can’t remember.”

“That’s alright.”

Victor examined Yuuri. The skater was looking even more miserable than the first time he had come to Victor’s office. He sank down in his chair. The aura of fear that rose up from the ground was nearly visible. It enwrapped Yuuri, covering him like a blanket. Dozens of arms, made out of grey fog, reached out from the aura, wrapping themselves and their long, thin fingers around Yuuri’s body and pulled him into the darkness – away from Victor.

“Yuuri.”

Like in slow-motion, Yuuri lifted his head and looked at Victor.

“From today on, I will help you.” Victor got up and reached his hand out to Yuuri. “I will help you to fight against your nightmares. I will help you to figure out what is going on with you. If you let me, I’ll do everything I can to make you stop suffering.”

Yuuri didn’t move. He was still looking at Victor. Just slowly, the expression in his eyes changed. Behind the thick fog that erased all the light inside them, a small flame seemed to flare up. It had only been there for a second when the misty clouds returned, carrying another note with them.

Although Yuuri’s face appeared to be stony, Victor could make out some micro movements. A lot of people were blind to such small details, but Victor had trained himself to read everything – even the tiniest sign – from his opponent’s face. Having examined Yuuri’s face closely for weeks now helped him to analyse him right now. When Yuuri blinked, his eye lids were close a millisecond longer than usual. His lower lip was being pulled in like he wanted to bite on it but had thought better of it. When he swallowed, Victor noticed how it differed in duration and intensity from his normal behaviour. Victor had to hide his surprise. He had expected fear, disgust, even anger – but pain?

“Please, Yuuri. Allow me to help you.”

Victor wondered if anyone had honestly offered Yuuri their support up until now? Had anyone tried to stay by his side, following him through any hardships? Victor couldn’t believe that there was supposed to be no one who had accompanied him. What about his parents? What had made them give up on him? What about his friends? Were they fine with the way he made himself suffer every single day? Had the lack of support made him believe that he was supposed to live this way, that he earned to feel like this?

“Yuuri, whatever it is that holds you back, that terrifies you, it’s not your fault and neither do you deserve to live this way. You deserve to be happy.”

“I don’t.”

Yuuri’s voice was merely a whisper, yet the tremble revealed how convinced he was. Throughout all those years, the belief that he wasn’t worth to live without fear must have been burnt into his mind and now it was at Victor to convince him that this was not true. He just had to find the right words to do so.

“I would love to convince you of the contrary, but I assume that words wouldn’t serve any purpose. Let me show you instead. Allow me to win you over by teaching you step by step that you don’t need to hide from anything. Because I honestly believe that there is a more colourful life waiting for you.”

While he had listened to Victor’s words, Yuuri had lowered his head. For some fraught moments, he didn’t react at all. Victor feared that he had gone too far. Maybe he had pressured him too much with his straightforward speech. Yet, he really wanted to help him.

Help? Victor’s system of self-reflection cried havoc. He had never wanted to help anyone before. Also, he never had intended to help Yuuri. He had agreed on treating him, because he had been interested in him, his behaviour and the secrets that built the foundation of all his being. He had planned to infiltrate his mind, to mingle with his thoughts, to explore the smallest detail of his twisted personality. That had always been his goal. Treating his patients had only been the means to an end. After Victor had played with them until he had gotten bored, it was the easiest way to make them leave and never come back without ruining his reputation. Humans and the lives that were connected with those diseases and disorders that fascinated Victor so much had never mattered to him. He had rather labelled them as disgusting. So why did all of this change now when this small, unremarkable, yet absolutely beautiful boy lifted his head again and met Victor’s gaze?

For a moment, it seemed like he was searching for something, but then he looked away again. Victor could feel time ticking on his skin, every second that passed leaving a tingling sensation behind. The sand of an hour glass fell down on him, one grain of sand at a time. Victor didn’t dare to move. The pile of sand that had already built around his legs would crash the same way the atmosphere around them would do – the atmosphere that still encircled the opportunity that Yuuri would agree on his proposal. Bursting it would only make way for a reality in which he and Victor would never…

Suddenly, Yuuri nodded. At first, Victor believed that his eyes were playing a trick on him, but the longer and the closer he watched him, the movement of Yuuri’s head was clear. Victor tried his best to ignore the feeling of excitement and content rushing through his veins and to focus on his job.

 

Taking a look at his watch, Victor breathed in deeply. It was one and a half hour later than the usual end of their appointment.

“Yuuri, I guess we should end our session at this point. It’s already late and I don’t want to detain you any longer. You must feel tired.”

Yuuri got up, slowly and seemingly exhausted. He walked towards the clothes hanger and put on his coat.

“May I ask,” Victor suddenly said, flying by the seat of his pants, “how did you come here? Are you here by car?” If he had, Victor would allow him to drive in such a state.

Yuuri shook his head. “I walked.”

“You…Yuuri, you don’t want to tell me you’re considering walking home in this chilling cold.”

The skater shrugged his shoulders.

“Mr. Cialdini would surely not approve such reckless behaviour. What if you get sick?”

Instead of replying anything, Yuuri just buttoned up his coat.

Victor sighed. “Please, let my drive you home. My car is parked close by.”

“You really don’t need…” Yuuri stumbled, obviously caught off-guard by Victor’s offer.

“No, please. It’s my pleasure.”

 

Offering Yuuri to drive him home had been the right choice. As soon as they stepped out of Victor’s office, an icy breeze blew into their faces that was so cold, it felt like it would freeze any kind of fluid immediately. As usual, Victor wore his blue scarf and black leather gloves, so most of his skin was covered, yet Yuuri only wore his beige coat and nothing else. If Victor had let him walk home, he would have frozen to death. Still, he knew that this act of ‘kindness’ neither fitted his personality nor into the professional boundaries he was supposed to keep up. There were surely cases when it was appropriate for a psychiatrist or therapist to accompany their patient– may it be to the hospital or to the authorities. Not that Victor had ever done something like this. But he had heard of colleagues who supported their clients to this extent. Driving Yuuri home, however, was surely not falling into such categories. His offer had been impulsive – something Victor had already noted and labelled as another singularity in his behaviour that he didn’t approve at all.

He had never been impulsive. At least not since a long time ago. So far, Victor had been proud to have himself under control in every situation. To act before thinking everything through in the smallest detail was not like him at all. Yet since he had met Yuuri, Victor had started to change. From the moment he had seen him skating, he had been fascinated by him without even knowing about his twisted personality. Yuuri had caught his eye with his outstanding beauty that was overlooked by the dull public. His movements and his aura had drawn Victor and since then, he hadn’t gotten the skater off his mind.

Unlocking his car and opening the passenger door, Victor let Yuuri get into the car and took his seat behind the steering wheel. In days like this, Victor appreciated that a garage was associated to the house in which his office was located. Scraping the ice off the car windows after a long day filled with annoying clients was the last thing he needed to keep him away from his kitchen and a good glass of wine. Victor started the motor and drove off onto the deserted streets. In summer, people were still outside at this late hour, getting some fresh air after the heat had settled down a little, but at this time of the year and at those temperatures, one would prefer to spent the whole day at home in front of the fireplace.

The ride was silent. Victor hadn’t expected that Yuuri would say anything and judging from the looks he dared to throw at him when he was waiting at the traffic lights, the skater had fallen asleep. The experience of a dissociative trance, probably the first one he had ever made, must surely be exhausting. Victor had never experienced one himself, but he remembered from the early stages of Yurio’s ‘therapy’ that dissociative or psychotic conditions drained both body and mind. Waiting at a larger crossroads, Victor allowed himself to examine Yuuri for a bit longer. Although he was sleeping, his breath deep and steady, he didn’t really seem to be relaxed. Surely, not all of his muscles tensed like usual. His feet weren’t bend en-pointe but resting on the ground. His fingers were intertwined like he was praying yet they didn’t try to break themselves into pieces. Also his facial muscles were relaxing which gave him a look that was completely different from usual. He looked younger, maybe a bit more healthy. His aura, however, hadn’t changed a bit and overshadowed the sleeping beauty.

Once more, Victor noted how incredibly beautiful Yuuri was. The porcelain skin that glowed in the light of the street lamps. His long lashes and his delicate nose. Everything was still a piece of art that got more beautiful the more the single strokes became visible. Victor’s hand was already letting go of the gear stick, when he realised what he was about to do. For one moment he would have taken advantage of this situation. Strictly facing to road ahead of them again, Victor tried to understand how his desire of touching Yuuri could be so overwhelming that he nearly forgot every tact and modesty. For years, no one had been able to shake him and now, a single person was destroying every pile of his personality and existence with just a blink of his eyes.

 

Yuuri had asked Victor to stop a few blocks away from his apartment. Of course, Victor knew where Yuuri was living from his file, yet he hadn’t said anything. May it be a way of feeling less guilty because he had accepted Victor’s offer or a way to restore some privacy, Victor was fine with both. The closer they had come to their destination, Victor had thought about how to wake him up, but as soon as the wheels stopped, Yuuri opened his eyes. He mumbled a short ‘Thank you’ and had left the car before Victor could have said anything. For a second, the psychiatrist wondered how he should interpret this reaction, but decided that there was no use in parking somewhere in the outskirts of the city in the middle of the night.

On his way home, Victor finally allowed himself to think about the session and what Yuuri meant to him. Never before had any patient made him so emotional. Seeing him so hopeless, so convinced that his life wasn’t even worth a penny had affected Victor more than he wanted to admit to himself. The pained look in his eyes, the shaking of his words when he said that he didn’t deserve to be happy more and more awakened the desire in Victor to drag him out of his misery – the misery that had attracted Victor’s interest in the first place. He couldn’t deny anymore that Yuuri meant more to him than just amusement, a divertissement from his boring work day, a light waiting for him to pull him out of the fog of dullness and monotony.

Still, what he had done today was inacceptable. To offer a therapeutic relationship was surely not only common but necessary to start a productive therapy, yet what Victor had done exceeded the common borders by far. He had gotten carried away and talked all this nonsense. He had said things that could be interpreted as a personal interest in Yuuri’s well-being. An interest that went beyond professional concern. Even if this was the case, although something like that should never have happened in the first place, Victor wasn’t supposed to allow his clients to notice. Usually, the codex suggested to end the therapeutic relationship and to refer the client to a colleague if the personal involvement was undeniable. But the side of Victor that had easily permitted Yuuri to move him before he had even noticed wasn’t willing to let him go. To end everything before worse things could happen was probably the best idea, yet Victor knew that this was impossible. He just couldn’t let Yuuri go. How disconcerting.

Victor remembered how a flow of happiness and excitement, a steam of bubbly warmth had filled his body and made him glow from inside when Yuuri had accepted his offer to help him. For years, Victor had been more than convinced that he wasn’t able to perceive such emotions. The last time he had felt this way was when his mother…

No! Why did these memories come up now? They and these feelings should have died on that day when everything else had died as well. That day when his life, everything he had owned, everyone he had known, had vanished in the cruel snap of time. Within the blink of an eye, his life had changed completely, the path that had been prepared for him performing a volte-face. Victor forced a smile when he remembered that day that lay more than 20 years in the past. For quite a while he hadn’t thought about that day. It simply hadn’t existed in his mind, but now, every single second, every scene unfolded before his eyes was more present than ever.

Clawing his fingers into the steering wheel, Victor slammed on the brakes. This wasn’t good. That wasn’t good at all. He needed to get himself under control. He couldn’t allow all those memories to return. It had taken years to get them all sealed up in a place at the on the edge of his consciousness. He hadn’t blocked them out. They were easily accessible, but they had never broken out of their cage and slipped into his mind on their own. Yuuri had not only broken the seals inside him, but he was about to break any chain and any wall Victor had set up to be the person he was now. Already once, he had stepped out of himself to invite this scum that called himself TV producer to his dinner table – just for Yuuri’s sake.

He definitely needed to talk to someone. He needed someone to clear his brain, to sort out his feelings and to discuss his struggles. Everything inside him ran riot, screaming that he hadn’t sought help from anybody for years. When had he become so weak that he needed somebody else to calm his demons? Victor sighed. There was only one person that had enough professional distance but knew just enough of him to be actually helpful. He wasn’t really keen on contacting them. They hadn’t met in a while and he knew that they would be more than surprised to hear from him, but Victor saw no other option. Taking a note in his mind to call them as soon as he returned home to make an appointment, he hoped that a glass of wine would be enough to make him fall into a dreamless sleep.

 

 

“I’d say it’s a pleasure to see you, Victor, but I guess that you’re not here for pleasure, are you?” The beautiful auburn-haired woman in front of him smiled and invited him inside.

“I’m sorry to ask for an appointment on such short notice.”

“Well I rather expected to be invited over for dinner  – it’s been way too long since the last time by the way – but I’m also curious what matter could be so urgent that you couldn’t wait for a few days.”

“Note taken. I’ll reserve a seat for you next time,” Victor tried to evade coming straight to the point.

“Too kind, too kind.”

Mila led Victor into a light and modernly furnished room. Two red chairs were standing opposite of each other, a small table out of glass between them. The walls were painted in a bright orange, forming a contrast to the vast amount of flowers and bouquets.

“I hope you brought the usual payment?” she smiled broadly and sat down on one of the chairs.

“I wouldn’t dare not to.” Instead of sitting down opposite of her, Victor walked to a cupboard on the wall behind Mila and opened the doors. Taking out two glasses, a decanter and a cork skew, he returned to her and skilfully opened the bottle.

“A tenuta dell'ornellaia masseto,” Victor explained as he poured the wine from the bottle into the decanter.

“Oh. So you must really be bothered.”

Victor looked up from the carafe and looked into Mila’s face. She had raised her eyebrows but at the same time, a smile had formed on her lips.

“What makes you think so?”

“Victor, you have the gift to always choose the right wine for the occasion. You brought a heavy and complex red wine today which would pay my rent for about a month. This tells me enough to know that we’ll probably empty the whole bottle before we get to the ground of your troubles.”

Responding nothing, Victor sat down on the free chair, looking at Mila without any expression. Last night, Victor had left her a voice mail. He detested doing such a thing as it felt unpersonal and impolite, but he hadn’t been himself that night. But now, after a long dreamless sleep and a whole day to think about everything, he wasn’t so sure about his decision anymore.

To say that he and Mila were good friends was an overstatement. They had met during a guest lecture at the university where Victor had earn his PhD. Amongst all the men in the auditorium, Mila had drawn a lot of attention with her unusual hair colour and her bold questions. Afterwards they had ended up talking and Victor hadn’t been repulsive to her company. She was intelligent and definitely had a quick tongue. Although her speciality was in a completely different area than Victor’s, she was one of the few people he could descend into deep subject-specific discussions with without leaving Victor with the feeling of being the only person possessing a brain. Since she had taken the path of psychology directly, she was younger than Victor by a few years, yet her past had made her more mature than she should be at her age. Because of her wit and her beauty, she was a welcomed guest at his dinner table. Also her opinions and convictions were compatible with Victor’s if one ignored her disgusting altruism. Only her tendency to deepen her love and hate relationship with Christophe every time they met had forced Victor to only invite over one of them at a time. Once or twice, Victor had asked for her expertise in different cases. Like in the past, it felt odd to talk to her and not Chris. But her professional background and the fact that she wasn’t too close to him made it easier to discuss certain things.

“So…are we going to wait until the wine’s ready or are you able to talk to me sober?” Mila had crossed her legs and looked at Victor with an anticipating gaze after they hadn’t talked for quite a while. Mila was used to his peculiarity to stay silent before talking about important things. Yet she wasn’t really fond of it.

“I have this client. He’s… interesting.”

Victor hesitated. He had to choose his words wisely from now on. Saying too much could have fatal consequences, not only for his relationship with Yuuri but it could allow Mila to take a glimpse of his true face. Taking his time to answer, he thought twice about every word that left his lips.

“I assume that he suffers from a severe childhood trauma. He has troubles communicating and handling social interactions in general. His dissociative amnesia comprises most of his childhood. In our last session, he also went into a dissociative trance while telling me something about a nightmare he has had several times.”

“But that’s not why you’re here,” Mila noted in a matter-of-fact tone.

Victor bend forward and smelled at the carafe. Content that the wine seemed to have breathed enough to give him some excuse not to answer right away, he poured some of the dark red liquid first into Mila’s and then into his own glass. They said cheers and as soon as the first drop of wine met Victor’s lips, the rich flavour ascended to his nose and filled his lunges while his tongue was devoured by the incredible depth and complexity. Flowers, berries, iron, everything crashed into him all at once and he understood what Mila had said before. Just like the flavour, his feelings were also complex, deep and hard to understand.

“I’m concerned about him.”

Mila looked like she was choking on her wine.

“What?”

“After he came back from his trance, I was really concerned about him.”

“You mean you actually felt something like compassion?” Mila sat down her glass. Her expression was shifting between surprise, concern and amusement.

“Please don’t make it sound like I’m an emotionless monster.”

“I’m sorry, but so far, you’ve have behaved like an emotionless monster. At least when it concerns your patients.”

Victor responded nothing, sipping indignantly from his wine. He was well aware of his lack of empathy towards his clients yet he didn’t like it to be spelled out for him. To precise, he wasn’t emotionless. He was rather annoyed by his patients. Their whining about their insignificant ‘troubles’ was nerve-wrecking and absolutely not Victor’s problem. He lived for the twisted and complex cases but more than 80 percent of his clientele was of no use besides earning his bread and butter.

“Why do you feel concerned about him?” Mila asked, her tone returning to a professional level.

Instantly, Victor recalled the moment when Yuuri had looked at the ground in front of his feet denying himself any kind of happiness. His beautiful brown eyes had been dull and without any light in them but at the same time, there had been such a conviction hiding in his shaking voice. This was not simply a depressed person that assigned all blame for their situation on themselves. There was more behind it. Something that Victor couldn’t see just yet, but he was more than inclined to find the cause and make it disappear from Yuuri’s believes.

“His beauty and his expression is exceptional. He is like a butterfly in a mild summer breeze. His body is so honest to the slightest change of harmony that he appears to live from the sound of the strings. The darkness inside him grants him a unique aura, yet I wonder how much he would achieve if there was a light inside him to fight those shadows. Not to make them disappear, but to allow him to experience a broader spectrum of emotions, as if more colours were added to his wings.”

For a while Mila said nothing and just examined him. Victor could see that she was thinking thoroughly about what to answer and he was honestly expectant of what she would say. He knew that most of what he had said made no sense to somebody who didn’t possess the same memories, the same images of Yuuri.

“If I was to answer as your friend, I would say that I actually didn’t understand a word you were saying. But as I assume that you’re here for my professional opinion, I might say that this client means a lot to you as in ‘he’s not just a client to you’.”

Victor’s lip twitched. That was nothing new to him.

“It’s not only that you finally experience something like honest compassion towards a client, he fascinates you on several different levels. When you were talking about him, you used a lot of images to refer to him.” She paused. “You have met him outside your office, haven’t you?”

For a moment, Victor felt like the mask he usually wore fell from his face, torn away by Mila’s words. How could she know? He hadn’t said or done anything that could have made her draw that conclusion, had he? What he had said before had been from his heart, yet abstracted to a level that lived from pictures not from words. For someone, who had never seen Yuuri, who had never even heard of him or his profession, it should have been impossible to read that much from his words.

“You have a more refined and complex picture of him that wasn’t painted in that dark room of yours only, I’m sure about that. He has more dimensions than any other client you’ve met so far. At least, you’ve perceived more of them in that special case. Thanks to that picture, you’re not only drawn towards his trauma, but the person as a whole. He doesn’t only attract your professional curiosity but your passion for music, your eye for aesthetics. I have no idea what kind of experiences you have shared with him, but they have probably have shifted him from a mere client to something different. Something that appeals to you on so many different levels. He is an opera, a painting, an epos and a good glass of wine at the same time.”

Victor wasn’t sure if he should feel flustered as he was obviously easier to be read than he had assumed or if he should be impressed with Mila’s skills of seeing through a person.

“Don’t worry. I guess besides me, no one would have gotten anything from your jabbering. Well, maybe that court jester of yours, but he’s just too busy sticking up his head into other people’s asses to use it properly. The way you chose you words just reminded me of what you said about that picture – what was it called? Something with ‘Dance’ or something like that. It was the first time I saw you so fascinated by anything besides food and wine.” She laughed.

Smiling softly, Victor recalled that painting “The Beauty of Classical Dance”. He had seen it in a vernissage a few years ago. He didn’t remember that Mila had been there with him, but he remembered that stunningly beautiful ensemble of colours that surrounded the figure in the centre. Instantly, Yuuri took that position in his mind. Yet the more and more he faded into the picture, the colour was soaked from the canvas and only shades of black and white were left. How breath-taking would Yuuri appear, if all those colours returned to him?

Victor took another sip from his glass and allowed Mila’s words to sink into his mind while he gently let go of all other thoughts. His mind had been so clouded by Yuuri’s overall presence that Victor hadn’t been able to take the mental image of Yuuri apart, picking out piece by piece to separate the smallest bricks from each other. Yuuri had overwhelmed him. He had awakened so many sentiments in Victor that he had believed withered. Now that he was able to disentangle the bolt of emotions and thoughts, he understood that Yuuri was truly a work of art. As Mila had stated, he possessed so many qualities that Victor adored that he had believed his confused feelings towards him were directed towards his person. But in reality, he just wanted to preserve and restore Yuuri’s beauty, he wanted to enrich his twistedness and he wanted to elevate his being to a whole new level. He yearned to transform him into a piece of art that no one could take their eyes off.

“Victor?” Mila disrupted his train of thoughts.

“Sorry. You just…”

“Hit a nerve?”

“Helped me to unravel a few vexations,” Victor smiled.

“I’m glad to hear that. At least that way it was not a waste for you to bring such an expensive bottle over.” Mila laughed and took another sip of her glass. “I don’t want to know who you’re killing to get hold of all these treasures.”

Victor’s grin got broader but he stayed silent.

“But…” Mila started yet hesitated.

Raising his eyebrow, Victor looked at her curiously.

“I think it’s nothing bad that you feel about a client this way. You’ve been distancing yourself from everyone for years. Maybe this is a first sign that you still have a heart that beats for something else than food and arts. Please, don’t lock those feelings up. Allow them to be there. I know, as a professional I shouldn’t encourage you to explore yourself in front of a patient, but I’m just happy that you seem to be a human being after all. Just…take care that you’re not getting involved too much.”

 

On his way home, Victor continued to think about Mila’s words. It was charming of her to think that he would actually care for someone. For a few days, he had thought so himself. Now, however, he had realised that his feelings didn’t stem from compassion or affection but from the artist inside him who wanted to preserve his painting. Yuuri was his muse but also his canvas. It wouldn’t be easy to transform him. Yet Victor had a plan and he would do anything to complete it.

Chapter Text

“It’s good to see you, Yuuri.”

When the skater finally stepped into his office and took a seat on his usual chair, Victor felt a little relieved. He hadn’t wanted to admit it, yet since their last session he had been unsure of whether the skater would show up or not. A dissociative state was nothing to joke about and since it had been Yuuri’ first time, Victor had been afraid that he would associate this terrible experience with Victor, leading him to avoid him. No, he hadn’t been afraid. Just a little concerned. Concerned that his plan, his masterpiece of a transformation would fail due to such an unfortunate incidence.

Especially the hour between his last patient and Yuuri’s arrival had been fraught. Victor had tried to complete his notes, but he hadn’t been able to follow one line of thought. Every time he tried to concentrate, his mind had wandered to Yuuri, his brown eyes and his long lashes. His stunningly perfect skin and his delicate fingers. By now his image was so vivid in Victor’s mind, for a moment the psychiatrist had believed to see him standing right in front of him. But that was nothing but nonsense.

Of course, he had worried about his plan and the amusement he would lose if Yuuri wouldn’t show up. Not about how he would miss his outstanding beauty, the sound of his voice, the glimpse in his eyes when he looked at Victor. Although his session with Mila had opened his eyes, Victor still found it very hard to reject such thoughts as useless and distracting. It was too easy to get lost in his memory of their sessions when he had just examined him for hours and every time he woke up from a dream where Yuuri had been dancing his heart out, Victor questioned his feelings towards the skater for a second. For just a short moment, he wondered if Yuuri could be the one to…

No. Victor just needed to get used to his new, fresh mindset. It would take time for sure, but he would adapt and stick to it no matter what.

“How are you?” Victor asked when he sat down opposite of Yuuri.

“Alright, I guess.”

“Any dreams or intrusions last week?”

“Intrusions?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. An intrusion in an unwelcome thought, a painful memory or experience that dawns up involuntarily. Sometimes, there a triggers. Yet there are other times when pictures, voices, scenes just appear in the mind.”

Yuuri thought for a moment. “No, I guess not.”

“Okay. Yuuri, I would like to talk about what happened last week. We don’t need to talk about your dream if you feel uncomfortable with that, but I’d like to explain what happened to you. Would that be alright with you?”

The skater nodded.

“I already explained to you that the state you were in is called dissociative trance. It’s a state in which your consciousness is narrowed down in order to protect yourself from a traumatic memory. Many patients describe it as being somewhere else, not noticing anything that’s around them. Some switch into a new identity or repeat an action over and over again. A dissociative state is mostly induced by a trigger – a memory, a word, a sound or even a scent that it somehow connected to the traumatic experience.”

“But I don’t even know what it is protecting me from…” Yuuri murmured.

“That’s actually not that uncommon. Especially when you were young when your trauma occurred, the memory is likely to be split-off. It’s not in your consciousness and you can’t access it willingly. It just rises to the surface in an unconscious way, through a dream for example.”

“Or when there is a trigger,” the skater added.

“Exactly. Although it’s an adaptive protection mechanism, it is uncomfortable, sometimes even dangerous. Imagine dissociating on the open street. You wouldn’t react to hoots or shouts. That is why we should look back on and reappraise whatever has happened to you – in slow steps of course and only if you want to. That’s the only way to prevent them on a long-term perspective.”

Yuuri nodded understandingly.

“That doesn’t mean, however, that there is nothing we can do about it now. There are different tricks – or skills as we tend to call them – you can use to centre yourself in the present. Some people use a spike ball, some smelling salts. For you, music seemed to be a good choice. We just need to find out which skills work for you.”

Victor looked at Yuuri who seemed to be a bit overwhelmed. Not by the amount of information, but more by the consideration itself. He probably didn’t think about himself a lot in general.

“Do you have any ideas what might work for you? Of course, you can try whatever you want. I even encourage you to test multiple grounding methods.”

“I guess I could put some of the music you played to me on my phone,” Yuuri whispered.

“That’s a great start. Which songs do you think about in particular.”

“Winter.”

This answer came so fast, Victor really hadn’t reckoned with it. For a moment, he felt warmth radiating from his chest, imagining that Yuuri would think of him every time he listened to that song. He nearly smiled but he thought better of it instantly.

“Great. What else?”

Playing with his fingers, Yuuri examined the carpet in front of his feet.

“It’s alright if we have one song for a start. If you have time, please think about other pieces that make you feel safe, like coming home after a long day. Try to imagine the feeling of stepping into a warm room, a fireplace rackling invitingly after walking in the cold snow for days. That’s the feeling we want to create with these skills.”

Yuuri nodded again but stayed silent. Examining his posture and expression, Victor noticed that there was a change in his energy. His head was ducked in, his shoulders stiffened. His eyes wandered around unsettled but he had no problems looking at Victor from time to time. His short glances felt like they weren’t nearly there, but every time this beautiful brown eyes hit Victor’s skin, the psychiatrist felt a warm shiver running down on him.

No. Despite Yuuri looking at him from time to time wasn’t a reason to be excited about at all, Victor should rather focus about the things that seemed odd to him. Sure, he was delighted that Yuuri seemed to confide in him more and more. But Victor had to admit that it bothered him that the skater appeared to be a lot more distressed today than usual. There was a glimpse in Yuuri’s eyes that was a lot different. As if the uncertain predator that was following him everywhere in form of dust and shadows now had a face. His fear wasn’t unreasonable anymore.  

 “Yuuri?”

The skater looked up.

“I have a feeling that something is bothering you. Whatever it is, you can tell me. I will neither judge nor tell anyone.”

“But it has nothing to do with…” He stopped, obviously unsure of how to name his reason for seeing Victor.

“That doesn’t matter. I’m here for you no matter what you want to talk about. You decide what is happening in here.”

He smiled encouragingly, hoping that the skater would open up to him. For quite a while, Yuuri looked outside the window, playing nervously with his hands. His left hand was wrapped around the other, his fingertips pressed against his knuckles. His thumb forcefully caressed his counterpart. His eyes were glued to the world outside the office, yet they didn’t follow the snowflakes that slowly floated towards earth. He looked through them as if a screen was behind them, showing a movie of the events that bothered him.

“At the rink where I’m practising, there’s also a hockey team. Most of them ignore us. Some call us gay. But there’s one guy… He teases us. He…mocks us… Today, he… threatened me. He said…he wasn’t into guys at all but if I kept waggling my ass in front of him, he might be willing to fulfil my greatest wish – to be fucked by a real guy. If he’d punch me in the face beforehand, I wouldn’t be any different from a girl anyways.”

Although he stopped talking, Victor had the feeling that this wasn’t everything. There was something worse that this disgusting threat. Something that made Yuuri fall into hold behavioural habits which he had started to cast off at least in front of Victor. It was hard to stay calm, seeing that all the effort he had put into this relationship go to waste. Not that he wouldn’t like to spent more time with Yuuri, but Victor was looking forward to those sessions when they could finally talk about more intense topics. Furthermore, seeing Yuuri that way made something grow inside Victor. A feeling, he had experienced a few weeks earlier. Victor noticed how his stomach tightened and he clenched his fists until his veins were visible. Taking a few deep breaths in and out, Victor tried to steady his heartbeat. Once more, he got carried away, because of something that had to do with Yuuri.

“When…he said that… I felt like… I was drowning… I couldn’t breathe…I…,” Yuuri’s voice trembled. His hands had stopped trying to crash each other. Instead, he buried his right hand into his shirt, just above his heart. His eyes were closed and for a short moment, a flinch of pain flashed over his face.

There it was again, the inevitable urge to run towards him, to clasp him into his arms and hold him tight until all the bad thoughts were forgotten. Yet this was nothing but a delusion, a misinterpretation of Victor’s true desires. He had been alone too long, too indifferent about other people that his body had forgotten what being interested in someone felt like. He was just angry that someone threated to blemish his piece of art. To dirty it with filthy hands. Concentrating on his breath, Victor tried to calm down to wait for what else Yuuri had to tell him.

“It felt like last week. I was so … I couldn’t move. He was…so close… If Phichit hadn’t….”

His words were hardly audible.

“Thank you for telling me this. It’s really brave of you to express your feelings, especially in a situation of menace. Is this the first time something like this has happened?” Victor tried to keep his voice steady but it was really hard not to growl or express his disgust in any other way.

“He said things like that before. But I never felt I was pulled away from reality like that.”

“And Phichit is?”

“He’s my… we are… friends.”

Victor noticed how his chest suddenly ached.

“And he’s skating with you?”

“Yes, he’s also training with Celestino.”

Phichit… Phichit… Sounded Thai. Victor remembered that there was a province in Thailand called Phichit. He ran through the name index in his brain and a little bell was ringing dully. Maybe he had been skating in the same competition Yuuri had been in. The competition, Victor had fal…Victor had taken interest in him. He must have been performing after him since the psychiatrist only remembered the sound of his name yet there was no face associated with it. Although Victor didn’t care about most people, his name-face memory was excellent – much to his dismay. He could use these precious Hebbian modifications for more significant causes. Like reciting another Shakespeare play. Or a few more digits of pi. Or memorizing Christophe’s latest TV series obsession.

“It’s a relief to hear that you have a friend there. Especially when he takes care of you.”

Victor hated it. At first he didn’t quite understand why he hated this so much. He just felt this fire inside him. A fire which he wanted to throw at this Phichit, watching him burning up in flames. That was the first time he had ever felt like this.

He should be mad at the ice hockey player who had dared to threat his precious painting, menacing to dirty, damage it. He was, actually. A little part of his anger was directed towards that scum and if Yuuri hadn’t mentioned his ‘friend’, Victor could have focused on that idiot alone. Yet the way Yuuri’s voice had changed, how his expression had softened for a moment when he had talked about him, bothered him almost as much as the fact that Yuuri had been threatened. In addition, there had been his stuttering, his search of words to describe their relationship. There was a deeper story behind that than just a simple friendship. Victor sensed that. And it drove him crazy.

“Is there anyone else you can talk to about this? Your coach?”

“I… don’t know. I guess… it wouldn’t do any good. And he would only get angry with me.”

Victor sighed. He sensed that it was no use pressing Yuuri about that. Although he had loved to talk about his nightmares and what else had happened before, during and after his dissociation, the psychiatrist realised that Yuuri wasn’t in a good state today. They needed a different environment to talk. In this office, he would always be on show. Yuuri would never see Victor as equal, but as somebody who potentially looked down on him, who wanted to harm him. On long term, Victor wouldn’t be any different from anyone else – Cialdini, that hockey player. He had to distract Yuuri, make him focus on something different so he could loosen up, relax and talk more freely. At least for a start.

Suddenly, Victor had an idea. It was unconventional. Very unconventional. Neither corresponding to his work-ethics nor to his actual practice. But it was too tempting. If his plan worked, he would get a lot closer to Yuuri. Besides that, however, he would have to open up as well. He would have to open a major part of his life. Mila had advised him not to get too involved with him and in general she was right. Despite his yearn to dig deeper, Victor had to set boundaries. Not for Yuuri but for himself. If he would open that door, he would never be able to close it again. But did you want to close it?

for the first time in his career, Victor was torn. No, he was even doubting his own judgement. What was wrong with him to even consider this? Surely, he was devoted to his plan. He couldn’t even wait to finally take the first steps. Yet this was going too far, wasn’t it? Thinking about it in detail, Victor tried to analyse the relationship that was necessary to shape Yuuri in the way he had planned. Something inside him revolted as he slowly began to understand that he had to reveal small pieces of himself. He would never get closer to Yuuri, if he didn’t signalise a little vulnerability. Of course, he shouldn’t reveal too much as he was still the artist, the master who sculptured and shaped his piece of art. Yet it was no good, if he didn’t put his heart into this.

“Yuuri, I can sense that you’re not feeling well tonight.”

The skater looked at him, a confused expression on his face.

“Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend talking about your nightmare or anything connected with that. You see, it’s important to account for it, but you will need all your strength for this. It can be exhausting, intimidating and dreading to dig in the past and I don’t think that it would be a good idea to do such things today.”

A flinch of disappointment darted over Yuuri’s face.

“That doesn’t mean that we will never talk about it and neither do we have to end our session right here. I’m just concerned for your well-being. I don’t want you to make any other bad experiences in here. If you want, we can talk about the guy who threatens you or any other topic. I could also play the violin if you prefer that.”

“But…” Yuuri mumbled, “what about my…”

“Don’t worry, we’ll work on them when the time’s right. We have time, there’s nothing pressuring us.”

“Okay…”

Yuuri stayed silent for a while. Victor wasn’t sure if he was a little thrown off or unsure of what to do next. The psychiatrist realised that this wasn’t working. They needed a change of atmosphere. To hell with boundaries. If he wanted to make a step forward in Yuuri’s therapy, he needed to step outside the box. He was pretty sure, however, that he would regret his decision later.

“Maybe we should try a less formal setting. Something that makes you feel less exposed.”

“Hm?” The skater seemed even more confused by Victor’s sudden change of topic.

“Say, are you free Sunday night?”

 

‘Local ice hockey player died in tragic car accident’

The star centre of the Cheetahs, Cole Davidson, died in a tragic car accident Thursday night. According to the police, he lost control over his car, fell down a scarp outside of the city and crashed into a tree. The car caught fire immediately. A young couple who passed by noticed the flames and called the ambulance. Due to the fire and the inactivated airbag the police was only able to identify him by his licence plate. Davidson was team captain and leader of the Cheetahs for three years, winning two championships. His team will hold a memorial service on Sunday, the…

Victor continued to glance at the newspaper which was lying to his right. He had read it multiple times already as it came out yesterday, but he every time he looked at it, a smile played around the corners of his mouth. What a tragic coincidence. If Yuuri had already heard about it? Maybe Victor could casually ask him tonight if he wouldn’t bring the topic up by himself.

A nervous shiver travelled down his spine. Yuuri would come over later this night. Victor still didn’t knew what had gotten into him when he had asked the skater to visit his house. He was looking forward to it with a tingling sensation in his stomach. He felt like he was waiting for his first date to come up, although this was absolute non-sense. This wasn’t a date. This wasn’t even a normal dinner invitation. This was an extended, complementary therapy session, nothing more. Still he was kind of…

“Victor, something’s odd with you.”

“Hm?”

“You’re hardly listening to me. Again.”

“I’m sorry.”

Chris sighed. “It’s about him again, isn’t it?”

“Who?”

“That skater.” Chris’ tone was something between amused and irritated.

“What makes you think so?”

“Well, you think about him constantly, so there was a 90 percent chance that you think about him right now.”

“I’m not thinking about him all the time.” Victor was in a trap, he knew that. His only chance was to perform damage control.

“But you don’t deny that you think of him.”

“You know I don’t lie to you.”

“And I appreciate that. I just wish you would talk a little more.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

Chris laughed. “Oh yes there is. Like that fact that you’ve been looking at the clock all the time. Or that you’re nervous. And don’t hide it! I can sense it.”

“I’m not nervous,” Victor tried to row back.

“You are, my friend. You’re less interested in the planning of the upcoming vernissage than usual – which is still the reason I’m here to remind you. You haven’t made any useful suggestion regarding the catering which is usually the only thing you’re interested in. And you haven’t touched your glass at all. Which makes it the most obvious.”

“I’m sorry that I don’t have a thing for young, hopeless artists. I haven’t suggested something, because I’m still thinking about it. I wouldn’t want to serve something we already had in the past. And I didn’t touch my glass, because I have another app…” Shit.

Chris squealed. “You invited him over!”

“No, I…

“You have a date!”

“I don’t have a date. It’s…”

“Tell me more! How did you contact him? What did he say? When…”

Suddenly, the doorbell rang.

“Is that him?” Chris was excited like a child on Christmas Day.

“I suppose.”

“Come on! Open the door.”

“The hell I’ll do. You’ll leave first.”

“Uhh…It’s been a long time since I last heard you talking like that.” Victor noticed how much Chris enjoyed to tease him and he hated to be in this position. Not that Christophe hadn’t mocked him before, but now, Victor actually was in a vulnerable position and his friend took advantage of if shamelessly.

“Gr…Leave!”

“But you need to open the door first, how else should I leave?”

“Oh no.” Victor shoved him through the living room. “You’ll leave through the backdoor.”

“You’re so mean, Vitya.”

“That’s nothing new. Good night.” Throwing Chris’ coat after him, Victor closed the terrace door. For a moment, he allowed himself to close his eyes and take a deep breath before he ran to the entrance and opened the door.

“Good evening, Yuuri.”

“Mr. Nikiforov.” Victor noted how adorable Yuuri looked in his thick coat, the collar pulled up into his face.

“Please, come in.”

Cautiously, the skater stepped inside and allowed Victor to help him get out of his coat. Then, he lead him to his kitchen, noticing the curious looks Yuuri let wander over his walls and furniture. The skater’s eyes widened when he entered the large kitchen.

“Please, take a seat,” Victor pointed at the barstools by his counter. He had already decided that it was best to be honest why he had invited him over. Still, it felt somehow uncomfortable. “I thought we could talk in a less taut situation. At first I thought about just talking in my living room which is a lot more private than the office, but I image that you might still feel uncomfortable about that. So, I wondered if you would like to have dinner with me.”

Yuuri’s expression changed from surprised to embarrassed to flustered. For a second, Victor had to hold back not to pull him into his arms, just because he was so cute. But then he told himself again that these kind of thought were inappropriate and still stemming from the confusion of his emotions.

“I…would…I mean…Yes…”

“Splendid,” Victor smiled, “since I didn’t knew what you’d like I haven’t prepared anything yet. But if you like, you can help me. Or you just take a seat and drink a glass of wine. Do you drink?”

Victor realised that he was asking multiple questions at the same time, just because he was nervous. It was an exciting yet odd feeling to welcome a client in his home. Furthermore, Yuuri wasn’t even a normal client. He was… special.

“It’s been a while, but if it’s not too heavy…”

“You can choose whatever you like. I just opened a bottle of Riesling if that is to your liking. It’s light and quite fruity. Not too sweet, but just soft enough to please the palate. If you like, I can try it first.”

“That would be nice.”

Victor got a glass from his shelve and took the wine out of the cooler on his counter. He poured in just a little so Yuuri could have a small sip. He handed the glass over to the skater who had finally dared to take a seat. Not letting him out of sight for a single moment, Victor followed Yuuri’s every movement – how he lifted up the glass, how his soft lips touched the glass, how the lightly golden liquid ran down towards his slightly opened mouth. Yuuri’s lips were pink, a bit chapped but nonetheless, Victor envied the wine as it kissed them for a short moment. Did they feel soft besides the skin peeling off? Would they caress Victor’s fingers as he fondled them?

Victor found himself in this dark room again where he kept all of Yuuri’s expression. The walls were already covered by thousands of his faces yet his lips hadn’t been in the focus so far. Victor wondered how he would arrange Yuuri’s lips if he cut them out. Would they smile? Would they ankles be turned downwards? Victor hadn’t decided yet. Of course, he must be really cautious to catch the delicate lines. But he was a trained surgeon so if he focused properly, Victor should be able to perfectly cut along this beautiful cupid’s bow. It would only be a shame that the huge amount of blood would dirty Yuuri’s face. Still, he would look breath-taking.

“It tastes amazing,” Yuuri stumbled.

“Would you like a bit more?”

“Yes, please.”

Victor poured in a little more, not enough to make Yuuri drunk though. “So, any recommendations for dinner?”

Yuuri seemed to think about it. “I don’t know.”

“Hmmm…How about pork tenderloin? With grapes and cabbage? Would that fit your diet?”

“Sounds great.”

“Perfect,” Victor smiled. For a moment, he left the kitchen, took a record out of his shelf and started his phonograph. He hadn’t thought about his choice a lot, he had just let his heart guide his hand. “I hope you like Schubert.”

Yuuri closed his eyes, soaking in the music. His features softened and he seemed to relax a little. Now that Victor didn’t have concentrate on playing the violin, he had the opportunity to closely examine Yuuri. It was mesmerizing how music alone had such an effect on Yuuri. He was able to let loose, to immerse into sounds around him. A faint smile appeared on his lips and Victor’s heart stopped beating for moment. “I used this for a short programme when I was in junior league.”

“Is this a good memory?”

“Yes. Yes it is.”

“Then I guess this is another candidate for you playlist, isn’t it?”

Yuuri opened his eyes. For moment, his expression was unfathomably, but then he nodded.

Victor smiled at him and turned towards the fridge. “Shall we start cooking?”

 

 

It hadn’t been hard to find out his name. A few questions and all of his disgraceful deeds were spilled onto the table just like tea. The internet was such a crowded place where people finally dared to speak their mind, hiding behind a user name. If it wasn’t for a higher cause, he would have deserved punishment anyways. Fraud, cheating, compromising pictures of ex-girlfriends… that scum had surely been around.

Following him all night had been tiring, but it had totally been worth the wait when he forced his car off the road, watching it turn over the scarp. When that drags even hit the tree, he was laughing out loud. That guy was really unlucky tonight. How bad that his airbag didn’t activate. Hopefully, he was still alive. He would love to see the miserable face.

 

“Do you usually cook?” Victor asked while cutting the red cabbage into wedges.

“I love to cook but…” Yuuri watched the psychiatrist from his barstool. As he hesitated to continue, Victor looked up and their gazes met. “I have to hold onto a strict diet, so I can’t cook most of the things I can do.”

“I guess being a professional athlete bears a lot of deprivations.”

Yuuri said nothing.

“Where did you learn to cook?”

“My mother taught me.” Victor didn’t knew if he should keep on asking simple, innocuous questions, but then Yuuri continued. “They own an Onsen in my hometown. My sister and I had to help from time to time, so she taught me the basics of the Japanese cuisine.”

“That sounds really nice.” Victor peeled some shallots and cut them as well. “Do you miss your family?”

“Yes. A lot.”

 

Parking behind another tree, he took the dead body out of his trunk and carried it as well as a canister of engine oil and a bag with his tools down the hill. On his way, he already heard the disgusting cries and wails. That was truly music in his ears.

“Help! Please!”

He walked closer to the car wreck. Oil was already running out of the bonnet. Great. He couldn’t have planned it better.

“Help! Anyone!”

“Aww you poor thing.” He came closer to the driver’s seat. The door was standing ajar. The guy, still hanging in seat belt, was covered in blood. His head was severely injured by his crash against the steering wheel. It was a wonder that he was still alive – yet no luck.

“Please Sir, help me!”

“Oh, I’m not here to help. Well, I am. But not to help you.”

 

Victor put the sliced cabbage, shallots, some thyme as well as grapes on a backing sheet, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and put it into the oven. “When did you start skating?”

“I guess I was about five? My ballet teacher recommended it.”

“You do ballet as well?” Victor was surprised for a moment. But then he thought about Yuuri’s performance on the ice and know he understood where his outstanding form, his flexibility and his grace came from.

“I guess I always loved dancing. I also tried jazz and ballroom dancing.”

“Wow, that’s impressive.”

As he carefully cut the meat, Victor was delighted that his plan to take Yuuri out of the strict setting in his office was working so well. It was a shame that he had only little opportunities to examine the skater, but the fact that he had to concentrate on the cooking surely allowed Yuuri to feel less cornered.

For a moment, Victor dared to lift his gaze. The chance that he could miss a new expression was forcing him to. Yet when he raised his head, he nearly let fall down the knife at the sight that unveiled itself. Yuuri was blushing. Never before he had seen him so flustered. Was it allowed for a human being to be so adorable, Victor thought for a moment before he turned to the pork again. Still, he wished that his knife wasn’t cutting the tenderloins but something different. He hoped that he had seen enough of this expression to imprint it into his memory. This was definitely missing in his collection of Yuuri’s face.

“You don’t need to be flustered. That’s something you should be proud of.”

“I don’t know. There are so many…”

“Yuuri,” now, Victor actually set down the knife, “it doesn’t matter how many other people are out there. You’re amazing in what you’re doing, there’s no need to hide that. You need to start to value yourself. There are things you can do. Things you love and you’re good at. I bet there are hundreds of other figure skaters who do ballet. Some might even do other kinds of dancing. And still, you’re the one competing on top of the world.”

The blush on Yuuri’s face increased, probably also caused by the amount of wine he had drunken, but he smiled a little – the smile that made him even more beautiful than he already was.

 

Letting the corpse on his shoulder drop down, he got to his knees and examined the boy. Stroking a strand of hair out of the boy’s face, he looked right into his eyes. Now that he was spilled with blood, tears running down his pathetic face he looked a lot younger than at the rink. The ice hockey player was trembling, watching him with a fearful gaze.

“What are you doing? Get me out of here!”

“Oh I will. But not right now.” He got up again and took a closer look at the rest of the boy. His arms and legs seemed to be quite injured. He smiled. This would be way too easy.

“What a pity, your teeth are still inside your mouth. I really hoped for you that you would eat your steering wheel, but this way, I guess I have to do it myself. I’m sorry but you can’t keep them.”

“What are you doing you dipshit! Get me out of here!”

“There, there. That’s not how you talk with people. Especially when these words will be your last.”

He opened the bag and retrieved a pair of forceps as well as a small axe.

“Hold still!” he ordered, sweeping the cervical spine.

“Don’t touch me! Get me the fuck out!”

“Hold still!” He shouted. “Ahh…here it is.” With a well-aimed hit of his axe, he broke the sixth vertebrae.

“THE FUCK!” The boy screamed in pain.

“I’m sorry, but that way, you won’t move. And you won’t feel you injured limps. See how nice I am?”

“You’re mad!”

“Yes, yes. I might be. But this is what happens to little boys who can’t play nice. Now, smile for me.”

 

Victor nearly forgot that he had to take the pork out of the skillet. With every minute, Yuuri was opening up more to him. He still didn’t talk a lot. Yet Victor sensed that he felt more comfortable. They talked about Yuuri’s dancing lessons and music. Victor asked Yuuri about the music he had used for his past programmes and in return, he told Yuuri stories of concerts he had been to and ballets he had seen.

“You might know a good friend of mine. Have you heard of Lilia Baranovskaya?”

“You’re friends with Ms Baranovskaya? She’s incredible. Her performance as Giselle was the reason I started dancing.” Yuuri’s voice was suddenly like a child’s, facing a present.

Taking the vegetable out of the oven and pouring vinegar as well as some red wine over it, Victor laughed.

“I guess you’re talking about the recording of the Bolshoi Ballet from’79. She was stunning, wasn’t she?”

“I forced my father to record it for me when it was on TV the second time. I watched it so often, the videocassette broke.”

“What a shame. If you want to, I can ask her if she still owns a copy.”

“You would to that?”

“Sure, if it makes you happy.”

 

He pulled back the boys head, clawing his fingers into his hair.

“That’s for threating innocent boys.” He hauled off and punched the player right in the face.

“And that’s for nearly ruining my artwork!”

More and more punches hit the boy’s teeth until they were all broken off. He swiped away the sweat from the hockey player’s forehead and examined his work. With a wrinkle of his nose, he noticed that the boy was already unconscious.

“That’s so typical. Faking manliness but not standing a little dentist session,” he sighed. Well, at least he would be able to finish his plan in peace.

He took out the pair of forceps and pulled out every single tooth. It would be a pain to insert them into the nameless corpse he had brought with him, but it was necessary. If the police tried to identify him, they would surely try using dental evidence.

Humming a light tune, he finished preparing his surrogate corpse and exchanged the bodies. Then he spilled some extra motor oil around the car. Carrying the player to his truck, he turned around one last time. He took a match out of his coat, lit it and flicked it into a puddle of oil. The flames spread instantly, nagging hungrily at the car, destroying all the evidence.

 

The table was set modestly. Since he hadn’t been sure if Yuuri would accept his proposal to have dinner together, he hadn’t prepared anything. Yet Yuuri’s presence was enough to attract Victor’s full attention. To be honest with himself, he was a little nervous when they set down on the table. He had mostly focused on his conversation with Yuuri, so he was afraid that he might have used a little too much salt. He already felt bad enough for not treasuring the ingredients like he usually did. Cooking was a ritual for him and he had broken it for the sake of getting closer to Yuuri. He should probably evaluate that tomorrow, questioning their relationship and his own feelings once more. But now, he was waiting for what the skater was thinking about the dinner.

They toasted to each other and Victor cut off a little bit of his tenderloin while watching Yuuri over his knife. The skater brought a fork filled with pork and cabbage to his mouth. Victor examined in detail how his lips opened up, how he took in the fork and closed his lips again.

“Wow…”

“You like it?”

“Yes. It’s…. amazing.”

“Then I’m glad.”

And Victor was. He had often received compliments on his cooking skills, but coming from Yuuri, it had a greater meaning. It actually meant something to him. Maybe it was the wine going to his head. The warm and comfortable sensation in his stomach wandered up to his chest and spread through his whole body. It reminded Victor a little of the feeling he had when he listened to a stunning piece of music or drank an exceptional glass of whiskey. Somehow, however, it was different. It was perfect. Wholesome. There was nothing missing. For the first time in a long time, Victor felt complete. Sharing his hobby which occupied a major part of life with someone he cared for deeply elevated the simple act of having dinner to a whole new level. It was different from eating with Chris. He loved his friend yet… with Yuuri by his side, he was another person. All the demons that haunted him, all the irritation he carried around with him all day – everything was forgotten in that moment he watched Yuuri enjoying his dish. Right now, Victor believed that he needed nothing else in his life than this.

They ate in silence, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Also, Yuuri seemed like he was enjoying the atmosphere. He appeared to be relaxed. From time to time, he even smiled a little. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Victor realised that he was breaking through all boundaries his job predetermined and even worse, he neglected the boundaries he had set for himself. He would hate himself tomorrow. He would struggle even more to hold onto the conviction that he didn’t need anybody. That Yuuri was just a project he used to pass away the time with.

Maybe he should talk to Mila again. She had helped him a lot last time, even if it had been unconsciously. Yet for a moment, Victor thought that it was alright to feel that way for one night. That if he spent one night thinking that there was more to his feelings towards the skater than curiosity and the wish to create something the world had never seen before, maybe he would wake up tomorrow, realising that all of this was nonsense. Tomorrow he would understand that, although he had enjoyed to spent time with Yuuri, he would remain his canvas and Victor was the painter. This night had helped him to understand the surface, the texture of the canvas a lot better yet it hadn’t changed their relationship. So it was alright to be swiped away for one night.

When Yuuri put on his coat again, however an ache, short like a lightning, hit Victor’s chest.

“Is it really alright for you to return home one your own? I could drive you.”

“It’s fine… I got a Uber..”

Victor was relieved. I wouldn’t have liked if it Yuuri would be walking home in this cold. Still, he would have loved to spent a little more time with him. To get to know him even more – of course. He had learnt so much about him tonight and he didn’t want to stop. Because what he had seen tonight had made him even more curious about the skater.

Yuuri’s phone vibrated and he took a quick look at it. “It’s here.”

“Okay.” Somehow, Victor didn’t want him to go.

“I... I… really… the dinner… Thank you, Mr. Nikiforov.”

And then Victor did something, he hadn’t planned at all. Something, that he would regret sometime, but that felt just right.

“Please, call me Victor.”

Chapter Text

Standing in front of the mirror, Victor recalled the last week. This day, just seven days ago, Yuuri had been right here in his house. They had had dinner together, talking about all kind of things. Looking back, Victor knew that it had been the right decision. In these few hours he had learned more about Yuuri than during the last months in his office. It had been helpful to take him out of the strict setting into a more casual atmosphere. Maybe he should do that more often. Maybe this would help Yuuri to open up even more and somehow, Victor liked the idea of welcoming the skater in his house again.

Of course, he had to remind himself that those meetings were just an extension of their usual sessions. A kind of special treatment so to speak. But despite that, Yuuri’s presence had mixed with the atmosphere of his home, his scent had intertwined its special note with the one of Victor’s books. He had been able to light the rooms without any candle, he had granted the walls his beautiful face, lifting every mirror up to a precious painting. And Victor’s home had embraced him, taking him in like its own resident and when he had left, he had taken something away – a bit of warmth, a bit of comfort. Victor reckoned that these thoughts were going too far, but who wouldn’t like to own a piece of art? Who wouldn’t like it to decorate the living room. As long as he held onto that attribution, he was fine.

Still, there was one thing that bothered him. Without thinking about it too much, he had asked Yuuri to call him by his first name. The words had left his lips long before he had even considered expressing them out loud. Even now, Victor tried to figured out what it had been that had made him say those words. Had it been the wish to elevate Yuuri up, so that they were on the same level? Had it been a spontaneous decision without further thoughts? Had it been the desire to hear his velvety voice whisper his name?

Victor walked over to his drawer to choose a tie and matching cufflinks. Anyhow, he had regretted them as soon as he had closed the door out of several reasons. First and foremost, he had overstepped  the boundaries of his profession with the steps of a giant. Allowing a client to act and talk on a first name basis was not only unprofessional but suggested a friendship, an excess of the weekly one hour appointments. Calling someone by their first name implicated closeness, intimacy – all the things he mustn’t have with a patient, but what he wished to have with Yuuri. No matter what emotion had made him put this whish into the world, Victor had to acknowledge that his interest in Yuuri had by now more than transgressed the medical interest a psychiatrist should have and even his constant excuses that Yuuri was only a piece of art he wanted to paint withered with every day he woke up from another dream, detangled with every sketch of his face Victor that unconsciously drew.

With every morning, it became harder to push these thoughts away and by allowing Yuuri to call him by his first name, it would make everything worse. Until now, only speech had been able to draw a line between them, to pull them apart and part what should not be intertwined. Victor had to take his request back to remind him that they were nothing more than therapist and client. He had prepared his words, he had planned out what to say, how to explain it to Yuuri. He had no idea what that would do to their relationship, but it was necessary – for himself. So when Yuuri had visited him the following Wednesday evening, Victor shook his hand, braced for the talk that he had to start as soon as they sat down.

“Good evening, Yuuri,” he said.

A faint smile formed on the skater’s lips. “Good evening, Victor.”

In the moment he heard his name, the psychiatrist felt the lump in his chest disperse. It had clogged his aorta arch and now that it had vanished, a stream of hot blood travelled up his left and right common carotid that made it shoot into his brain. Yet it didn’t feel like blood that filled his arteries, it was liquid gold, honey or phenethylamines*, rushing through his body, clouding his brain while making him forget about everything he had planned to say. His ears rang like he had listened to the most beautiful melody in the world, like seraphim and cherubim sang their glorification. They felt like they were covered in silks and satins, Yuuri’s voice echoing again and again and Victor knew that he would never be able to forget about this sound. He would dream of it, he would crave for it like an addict and he would do everything to hear it over and over again.

They sat down and still, Victor was trying to find his words again. Never before had something hit him – no, it had been softer, like the kiss of a fairy – so deeply. His core was shook. He wasn’t even able to break out of this state by himself. It was again Yuuri’s soft voice to address him. His lips forming the psychiatrist’s name were like a spell on him.

“Victor? Are you alright?”

Shaking his head as if he woke up from an exceptionally beautiful sleep, Victor let go of the dream and stepped back into reality.

“I’m sorry…I…” He tried to find a good excuse, but he had to admit that there was none. “How’s your week been so far?”

 

For the rest of the night and even the whole day after, Victor had questioned his behaviour. What had gotten into him to be enchanted in a way that made him loose his sense of adequacy. To space out in front of Yuuri of all people was a malfeasance that should never happen again. For the rest of the session, Victor had blocked out every little thought or sensation that hadn’t to do with what Yuuri was talking about. Yet as soon as he had left his office, his mind had run wild – caught between madness and divinity. Was it right to forget about all ethical boundaries of his profession just for the sake of being granted one of the most beautiful sounds on earth? Victor didn’t knew and he wouldn’t find out, but the discussion of the hundreds and thousands of voices in his head would be going on until he came to a conclusion.

So when Alana had called him Thursday evening, Victor had been more than thankful for the distraction. The young woman he had met and invited to one of his dinner parties thanks to Christophe had asked him to join her at the opera this weekend. Her companion had to cancel on a sudden note due to an important work appointment out of the state and she didn’t want to go alone since she already had the ticket. By the way how her voice had trembled hardly audible and her significantly longer breathing pauses when she had explained her friends absence combined with Victor’s self-confidence, he assumed that there hadn’t been a friend in the first place. She was very good at hiding it, Victor had to give her that. The control she had over her voice and the choice of her words were better than what normal people were able to do. Victor wondered whether her job and apprenticeship had taught her that or if she had a difficult past that had forced her to learn to contain herself. It had intrigued him to find out more about her, finding out if he was able to tickle more out of her, Yet most of all, who was he to say no to Händel’s masterpiece “Rinaldo”. Thanking her for her invitation Victor had accepted and offered to pick her up Saturday evening.

 

The psychiatrist checked his outfit one last time in front of the mirror. He wore a Bordeaux tailored tuxedo with a waistcoat in the same colour as well as a white button-down shirt and a black bow tie. His dress handkerchief was also black just as his Oxfords. The cufflinks he had decided on were made out of a multicoloured opal which was mostly black yet shimmered in a blood red under the light. It was a present from a former client who worked as a jeweller. Victor brushed his hair out of his face. Yes, he was more than content with how he looked.

It had been a while since he had been to the opera since he wasn’t a real fan of modern staging. So while the local theatre had been playing around with a direful interpretation of Wagner’s ‘The Valkyries’ including a lot of shaved heads, nudity and a striking amount of machine guns, Victor had preferred to visit concerts or the ballet. But now, he was really looking forward to step into the great hall again that was built after the model of the most famous European opera houses. Also, he had heard that the new counter tenor that had been hired just for this play was supposed to be astonishing. Hoping that his expectations would be fulfilled, Victor put on a long black coat and started is car.

Alana looked absolutely beautiful when she took off her coat at the cloakroom. She wore a long dark blue dress with long sleeves out of lace. Her chest was completely covered up, but her back was exposed, only a thin layer of lace hiding her soft skin. Her chocolate brown hair was pinned up into an up-do, two strands of hair framing her face. Victor had to admit that she was very enticing. The sparkle in her green eyes combined with her wit and intellect made her an enjoyable companion.

Taking their seats, Victor threw a short glance to the orchestra. Much to his delight he noted that they used actual historical instruments that matched the Baroque age.

“Don’t you think it’s uncomfortable to play without a shoulder rest?” Alana asked him while the orchestra tuned their instruments.

“It’s something you get used to. You can compare it to riding a bike without stabilizers. Every mistake is audible, it’s a completely different feeling, but as soon as one masters it, one immerses into a new world of possibilities and sounds. Playing without a rest is like playing with the violin, not on it. But it is also a question of taste and the piece that is being played. In more recent oeuvres, it may fit the sound that the composer had in their ear while writing down the bars yet I have to admit that I’m also a protectionist of the pure original sound.”

“Do you play yourself?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Wow, that’s impressive.”

“Have you learned to play an instrument, Alana?”

“I’m afraid I ended my flute lessons after third grade, much to the joy of my family’s ears, I guess.” She laughed.

Victor smiled. The light was turned down and he noticed the rush of adrenaline he always experienced before a performance. He blocked out everything that happened next to or behind him and focus solely on the stage.

The orchestra began to play the overture and sent a shiver over his body. Victor loved the Baroque epoch and Händel captured every characteristic of it in his music. The line of the melody, the harmonies, the violins accompanied by the basso continuo – it was marvellous. He could even make out the distinct sound of the harpsichord that provided the special sound of that epoch. The psychiatrist closed his eyes and soaked in every single note. He enjoyed the sensation of the goose bumps that built on his arms. He had missed this so much. Listening live to music was so different from a recording. Not even the best record in the finest quality was able to transport emotions in such a delicate way.

The curtain opened and the first actor appeared on the stage. The staging was a little more modern than the last one Victor had watched, but it was rather minimalist. The knights didn’t wear the usual armour but white knee-length pants and vests. Goffredo, the leader of the crusade, stood out with his long beard and crutches he needed to walk. The woman who was playing him had a nice voice just as Almirena, Goffredo’s daughter and the lover of the hero Rinaldo. She was dressed in complete white which underlined her light skin and her ebony coloured hair. But Victor was looking forward to hearing Rinaldo sing. He had read about him a lot in blogs or magazines connected to the subject yet he had never listened to him since he wasn’t a fan of the audio quality on YouTube. The young man whose outstanding beauty overshadowed the whole stage was really attractive and Victor understood why everyone in scene had fallen for him instantly. Hopefully, his voice would match his appearance.

When he rose his voice for his first recitativo, Victor sharpened his ear. His Italian sounded great despite his Polish origin. He sounded nice but what Victor was really waiting for was the following aria. He wasn’t disappointed by the critiques. He was really one of the best countertenors Victor had heard so far. His voice was clear and precise, no smoke or velvet covering it’s pure tone. It was warm and soft, like cream-coloured silk running through one’s fingers. The melody, the beautiful notes glided into Victor’s ears, kissing and caressing every inch of his skin. Warmth filled his chest and spread through his veins into the last vessel.

Suddenly, Yuuri’s face appeared in Victor’s mind, evoked by the sensation of listening to that mesmerizing voice that resembled the feeling Victor had experienced when Yuuri had called him by his first name. It wasn’t as strong and not as deep, but it activated the same neuronal network.

‘Ogni indugio d'un amante
È una pena acerba e ria.

Any delay of a lover
It is a bitter and ruthless punishment.’

Victor’s first thought about the lyrics was how true they were. Not being allowed to touch the person one like, not being able to cherished them in a way they deserved was cruel. Like the most mesmerizing picture hidden behind a curtain, like heaven’s gate barred by its guards, the pain of being close yet not close enough, the ache of seeing without being able to truly see was the greatest punishment the human race was able to witness. Victor could understand the struggle Rinaldo went through, he experienced just the same with Yu…

No. No! No! He shouldn’t, he mustn’t think that way! This was going way too far. Victor closed his eyes for a moment. He had to repress those thoughts. He had to ban them out of his mind until he had time to argue against them, to tear them apart, to dissolve them. This was not what he felt towards Yuuri – not at all! He was just immersed into the play too much. The music and the voices were just too overwhelming, too captivating. He projected their situation onto himself. Nothing more. Taking a few deep breath, Victor tried to focus on the stage again, although it was a lot harder to follow the plot now.

After a while, he felt a gaze on him and from the corner of his eye, he noticed that Alana was looking at him with a curious gaze. Victor just smiled and she blushed slightly due to being caught. She redirected her eyes towards the stage again, too, but a happy smile appeared on her lips and, Victor thought he had imagined it at first, her shoulder approached his a little. They weren’t touching, but the psychiatrist was convinced, the air around him had gotten a little warmer.

As the opera continued, Victor was more and more able to let go and enjoy the play. Maybe it was the other characters that pulled his attention away from Yuuri, maybe it was the plotline that differed so much from his own life. So when they had reached the end of the first act, he was at his normal self again. If he was honest it bothered him a little that Alana might have or have not noticed some change in him. He wasn’t sure if she had looked at him in confusion of the sudden change in his composure or if she had just examined him for another reason. Maybe the small break would bring light into the darkness. Anyways, Victor had to learn how to better keep his composure. Just thinking about someone shouldn’t render his thoroughly built up walls void in no time.

“He’s amazing, isn’t he. Rinaldo I mean,” Alana exclaimed right after the lights were turned on again.

“He is. I’m impressed by his range and precision.”

“Right! And he looks so good.” Alana smiled.

“He sure does.”

Victor got up, offered Alana his arm and they stepped outside to get something to drink. It was really crowded and Victor recognized some of his ‘friends’. They were not actual friends, but people he had met at all kinds of soirees. At the opera, at the theatre, at vernissages. Some of them belonged to the local upper-class, some to the sophisticated circle. Only a few of them were actually endurable and ever fewer had been invited to a dinner party, although all of them begged for it. Whenever somebody recognized him too, he greeted them back, but most of his attention lay on Alana since he was her companionship. Still, a few people joined them at a bar table where they put down their glasses and used the break to discuss the staging so far.

“I must admit I was a bit thrown off at the peacock and the deer in the garden. The way they were prancing around while Rinaldo and Almirena were singing their love duet…,” a guy said. Victor didn’t remember his name, but he imagined to remember that he was a lawyer.

“I know what you’re talking about, but I really liked the leather Harnish the peacock was wearing,” an older women – dean of the local arts community and youth funding, if Victor remembered correctly – added, “it added so many depth to the play.” She went on interpreting a rather questionable fashion choice, but Victor only pretended to listen.

“I’ll excuse myself for a second,” Alana whispered next to him.

“I envy you,” he mumbled back and the young woman smiled before she left for the restroom.

Victor took a sip from his glass. The dumb talks were the only thing he hated about going out. If there was only a person he could actually enjoy evenings like this with. It didn’t have to be someone who understood something about the subtleties of the opera, it didn’t have to be someone who was as involved in the arts, although it would be nice to discuss they plays afterwards with someone who had the knowledge and intelligence to built a justified opinion. No, just someone he liked and who would cherish the time spent together. Victor had to admit that Alana kind of met a few of his requirements which was actually a lot more than any other person before her had done. Victor felt comfortable around her and she was fun to talk to. Still, there was something missing. That little tip of salt and sugar. That one spark. But maybe that would develop later on. Victor didn’t know.

Shaking his head, the psychiatrist wondered were all these thoughts suddenly came from. He had been perfectly fine with being alone. He had kind of enjoyed the stupid conversations, the catching-up with his acquaintances he didn’t really care about and the begs for another dinner party. He had enjoyed the superiority that filled him up as soon as they opened their mouths. Yet today, Victor felt a little lonely and he wondered where that came from.

While nipping at his champagne, he let his gaze wander around the room. It was a shame how many people weren’t able to dress up to the occasion. If Chris could only see that. He would either rant or read the partially hideous outfits or he would approach them directly, shaming them while giving advise at the same time. He had already done that once or twice and Victor hadn’t been sure whether he should be ashamed or amused. Heavens, one guy even wore a t-shirt. Victor rolled his eyes. What happened to the dress-code?

As he continued to eye the other guests, his gaze suddenly stopped. Through the masses of people, a plain figure had drawn his attention. Victor could only see the back of the young man, dressed in an ordinary black suit. He wasn’t tall, his waist slender and his black hair covered most of his porcelain neck. Victor didn’t know what it was that fascinated him so much about him, but he couldn’t take his eyes off him. Like a spell had been put on him, Victor put down is glass and waded through the waves of people. He was drawn to that man, to his posture, his aura. He needed to know how he looked like, who he was. He needed to touch him no matter what. He needed to feel the bright, flawless skin under his fingers.

He didn’t come far, however, maybe two or three steps, when the man suddenly turned around and Victor was hit by a lightning. This wasn’t possible. In no way! How…Why… What was he even doing here? Victor’s heart started beating faster. He took a few steps back, frightened while confused at the same time. This had been the last person he had expected to meet here. The last person he had wanted to see. This night, he had hoped to forget about him, to distract himself and maybe find someone else to focus these feelings on that started spreading through his body once more.

The young man’s round brown eyes darted over the mass of people as if he was looking for someone while searching for the fastest escape route. His poise revealed that he wasn’t feeling well at all. He was intimidated, scared, uncomfortable. He was the small rabbit amongst foxes. Playing nervously with the seam of his jacket, he tensed every single muscle of his body. Especially at his neck and his thighs, but also his abs that were hidden below his shirt. Also, he surely curled up his toes until they cramped. Victor didn’t need to see all of this, he just knew. Because he knew the expression on his face. He had panted it multiple times, sitting in front of his wall of faces, memorising every single detail just to put it on paper from where it would never wither. How often had Victor followed the line of his lips with his pencil? How often had he counted every single lash to make sure that what he was drawing wasn’t a simple portrayal but a mirror?

Faster and faster, Yuuri’s eyes darted across the room until they stopped and his gaze met Victor’s. At first, he seemed surprised, maybe a bit shocked, but then something happened that Victor hadn’t predicted: He relaxed. Not completely, his overall expression was still tense and also his posture didn’t change a lot. Yet his eyes did. They stopped rushing from side to side, but focused on the psychiatrist. There wasn’t only fear or turmoil inside them anymore. There was a shimmer, a glance. Also the rest of his face seemed to loosen up. The muscles of his jaw didn’t tense anymore and he was breathing deeper than before, his chest rising and falling more controlled and not as shallow. And then, a faint smile formed on his lips. It was hardly visible, nothing more than a minimal rise of the corners of his mouth.

Victor’s heart skipped a beat. He had no idea what to do. Everything inside him screamed to walk, no to run towards Yuuri, to talk to him and hear him saying his name again. The voice in his head that suffered from the loneliness, the voice that had brought up all that nonsense during the first act shouted, cried out, because he needed Yuuri, he needed…

But Victor mustn’t. Not only for himself, but also for Yuuri. From a professional point of view, he shouldn’t expose their relationship out to the public. He could place Yuuri in a dilemma. The skater probably didn’t want anybody to know that he was seeing a psychiatrist and even if Victor didn’t disclosed the nature of their acquaintanceship, he would force Yuuri to lie. Depending on who his companion was, they might be involved into the skater’s life enough to become curious of their relationship. On the other hand, it even might be Cialdini which would put Victor into a precarious situation. What would Yuuri’s coach, Victor’s ‘principal’ think, if he approached his client in public? It was hard, however, holding back, especially when Yuuri looked at him the way he did.

Normally, Victor should have wondered why Yuuri, who obviously hated being in the public, who avoided company as much as he could, was at the opera. He should have wondered who had brought him here, who was accompanying him. But Victor couldn’t think at all. All his cognitive and motoric resources were burnt by staying where he was. Somewhere in the back of his mind, far away from his consciousness, the voices in his head were fighting again, probably breaking out as soon as Victor was home again. Right now, he only heard the voice that screamed for Yuuri’s closeness and became only louder when the skater actually took a step towards him. What was he planning? He couldn’t possibly…

But suddenly, the corners of his mouth fell down. Victor wondered why, when he felt someone tucking their arm into his.

“Here you are!”

A bit confused, Victor turned his head to his side and looked into Alana’s smiling face.

“I’m sorry. I needed to get a little…fresh air,” he forced himself to smirk, “Shall we go back to the other’s?”

Alana nodded and Victor attempted to guide her back. He tried not to, but he had to throw on last little glance towards and what he saw then, shook him so deeply, he nearly let his façade slip again.

The expression on Yuuri’s face was a one, he had never seen before. It hit him even harder than his voice whispering his name. It was more beautiful and more painful than anything else Victor had ever seen on him. He wasn’t able to make out the smallest detail like he usually did, because Yuuri’s eyes held him captive. They drilled themselves into his chest, making it hard for Victor to breathe. Yuuri looked disappointed. No, it wasn’t exactly disappointment. More like he was in pain, real pain. Could it be, because Alana was…?

Victor didn’t dare to put that thought to an end, because he had no idea what it would do to him. Instead, he had to break free from Yuuri’s spell and guide Alana back to the bar table. One last time, however, he threw a look over his shoulders and he suddenly stopped walking. A young man with caramel-brown skin had approached Yuuri, placing an arm around his waist. Unwillingly, Victor grinded his teeth and when Yuuri turned towards this guy, softly smiling at him, the psychiatrist sensed a burn inside him, he had never experienced before. All of a sudden, phantasies rose up from a dark place inside Victor and he would have loved to make them all real. Like skinning him alive. Like breaking every single bone he owned. Like cutting open his thorax, chocking the life out of his lungs with his bare hands while…

“Victor? Are you alright?” Alana asked him with a concerned note in her voice.

Victor took a deep breath. What was wrong with him today? “I must apologize for my absentmindedness. I shouldn’t take an exhausting week out on a charming lady who invited me out. How can I make up for this?”

“You…There’s no need to apologize. I know how hard our job can be.”

“Oh but I have to. My parents raised me better than that.” He lifted up her hand to his lips and breathed a kiss onto it.

Alana instantly blushed, but she seemed to be content with his shallow excuse. At least that way, she wouldn’t dig deeper.

Before they could join Victor’s acquaintances again, the gong rang and everyone slowly returned to their seats. The psychiatrist had been really looking forward to the second half, he couldn’t concentrate anymore. His eyes were practically glued to the stage and the surtitles so he didn’t have to think about Yuuri who was probably sitting somewhere behind him. Did he know where Victor was sitting? Was he looking at him right now? All those things occupied Victor’s mind so much he nearly missed his favourite aria of the opera. Just when the lights were turned down a bit to imitate the dungeon atmosphere even better, he realised he had missed the first half of the second act by trying not to – but actually – thinking about Yuuri. But there was Almirena, bound to the ground in heavy chains, still wearing her beautiful white gown. Her voice was just so captivating and touching, Victor nearly shed a tear. He didn’t need to look at the translation. He knew every single word by heart.

‘Lascia ch'io pianga
Mia cruda sorte,
E che sospiri la libertà?

Il duolo infranga
Queste ritorte,
De' miei martiri
Sol per pietà.‘

Let me weep
My cruel fate,
And that I
should have freedom.

The duel infringes
within these twisted places,
in my sufferings
I pray for mercy.

More than the words or the melody themselves, the memory Yuuri’s eyes were what made his heart ache. They were so well imprinted on his mind, Victor could draw them, although he had only seen the expression for a second. Blood was soaked out of Victor’s arms and legs, making him feel cold out of a sudden. Nothing was left in his veins beside emptiness.

Victor realised that Yuuri was giving him life. He tickled his professional interest, he had brought back his curiosity from a grave of boredom. He was not only his inspiration in an artistic way, he filled him with ideas, tastes, scents, menus he wanted to create, experiences he wanted to serve. But most important of all, he evoked a state of contentment, of nervousness – emotions, Victor hadn’t felt in years, if ever. They only thing Victor didn’t understand was the reason why. What was it about him? What was it about him that had fascinated him from to first moment up to this point?

 Almirena teared at her chains. Victor knew just too well how she must feel. He, too, was bound to the ground, bound to be Yuuri’s therapist. Despite all he might or might not feel for him, he would, no he could, never be more. He was already overstepping boundaries, but there was one line he must never trip over. Of course, Victor would do everything to stay close to him, to help him and maybe even shape him into the person he had seen inside him. Yet the voice inside him that yearned for him would never be satisfied. How long would Victor be able to hold it back? How long would he be able to repress these thoughts? And what would happen if they broke out, running wild? Hopefully, a lot of wine would keep them shut for a while. Taking a deep breath, Victor closed his eyes, just wishing for this night to be over.

 

“Good evening, Victor.”

“Good evening, Yuuri.” Victor shook his hand, breathing against the goose bumps that travelled down his spine.

The last few days and nights, he had tried to work his situation and feelings out, mostly doubting his reason. After a good glass of Pinot noir and 25 mg Tavor, Victor had slept without a dream. It might have been an overreaction, but he had needed to get some rest. With a free and a more or less rested mind, he had laughed at himself for getting all hysterical last night. Maybe it had been the opera to stir up his emotions. Yes, Yuuri’s expression hunted him, but that was probably due to the fact that he didn’t have enough time to memorise it properly. Yet the longer he thought about it, the more the feelings of coldness dwelled up again. And then there was this wrath, this anger and heat. Some people might call it jealousy, but Victor wasn’t jealous. Still…It was exhausting and nerve-wrecking and Victor knew it couldn’t go on like this. He needed to talk to someone. He needed to consult someone or he would go mad soon. Maybe, he should visit Mila again. But he would put it off for as long as possible… which could already be tomorrow, depending on how this session would go.

“How are you feeling?”

“Good. I guess.”

“That’s great.”

Yuuri turned his gaze to the floor. Victor knew this posture. There was something Yuuri wanted to talk about, but he didn’t dare to. Maybe Victor had to get him to talk first in order to get more comfortable.

“How is practise going?”

“Good. It’s off-season, but I’m working on my new routine.”

“Do you like it?”

A weak smile appeared on the skater’s face. “Yes. I do.”

“How do you feel when you train?”

“It…It makes me….I don’t know.” He stopped and Victor gave him time. “It relaxes me. Finally, I can close my eyes and I’m not afraid of it. For the first time in years, I feel like I can enjoy skating again.”

“Why didn’t you like it in the past.”

“I don’t know. I always enjoyed being on the ice. But skating in competition…. It… Every year when I started preparing for the upcoming season, my nightmares became worse. Just imagining being watched by everyone made me feel….” He gulped and he flinched for a second. “But it’s a lot better this years. I’m sleeping properly and I look forward to practise again.”

“I’m really happy for you. Why do you think you feel so good about it now? What changed?”

“I….I…guess…it’s the song I’m skating to. I chose it myself and… I really like it.” If Victor wasn’t mistaken, a blush appeared on Yuuri’s cheeks. But maybe it was just the light.

“What music did you chose?”

“I….That’s…” Yuuri started but rather stayed silent. Victor wondered why, but he decided not to push him.

Still, there was something else he wanted to know. For a while, he reflected if he should address what happened at the opera. On one hand, he didn’t want to as a form of self-protection, yet on the other hand, it was necessary. What would happen if they met outside in the public again? They had to set up rules on how they, especially Victor, should act in such a case.

“Yuuri, I would like to talk about Saturday. For me, it’s not a problem to meet you outside of our sessions, but I want to know how you felt about it.”

“I was a little surprised to be honest. But you fit in there so well.”

Victor narrowed his eyebrow, but Yuuri didn’t seem to elaborate on that. If he was honest, it bothered Victor a little that he still wasn’t sure if he could put a little pressure on Yuuri or not. Did he already feel comfortable enough to open up? Did he trust Victor enough to know that he only wanted the best for him?

“What you have to decide on is what you want me to do if something like that happens again. Do you want me to ignore you? Do you want me to act like an acquaintance? It’s fully up to you. I won’t feel hurt if you decide to keep your sessions a secret. I understand that. Actually, that’s what most clients prefer.”

“I… haven’t thought about it. But…I…” Yuuri closed his eyes for moment, thinking about what Victor had said before he whispered, “I wouldn’t want you to ignore me.”

‘Breathe…One…Two…This doesn’t mean anything.’

“Why don’t we handle it like this: When you feel like it, you can come and talk to me. And if not, we will just greet each other like normal acquaintances without having to interact much. How does that sound?”

“Good, I guess…”

Yuuri fell silent again. There was something else, Victor could sense it. Something about that opera night that pulled Yuuri down. He just knew it, but… Maybe tonight just wasn’t the right time.

“Have you watched Lilia’s ballet yet?” Victor tried to lift the atmosphere again.

Victor had called Lilia the day after Yuuri had been over for dinner. She had been a bit surprised, but of course, being an idol to a young successful athlete was complimenting her a lot, so she sent one of her copies – yes, she possessed multiple to lend them to her ballet students – over and Victor had handed it to Yuuri during last week’s session.

“No…I…” He stuttered. Suddenly, he seemed to be a lot more nervous than before. He played with his fingers so much they nearly cracked and his gaze wandered from the floor to the window and back again. “Would you like to….I mean…” Yuuri started again after a while when he was abruptly interrupted the stomping of steps outside and the door that was torn open.

“He asked me out! Victor! He actually asked me out!” Yurio yelled, panting heavily and obviously unable to cope with whatever had happened to him.

“Yurio?” Victor was caught a little off-guard.

“We met earlier when I came home from practise. It was completely coincidental. I didn’t even greet him, but before I could close the door, he called out to me and asked me if I could show him the city. HE asked ME!? Like, why would he do that? I… I…”

Words were rushing out of Yurio’s mouth like a waterfall.

“Yurio. This is not the time to…” Victor tried to interrupt him, but it was no use.

“And then he looked at me. With his eyes, he looked into mine and he was like…I didn’t know…”

“Yuri Plisetsky!” The psychiatrist had gotten up from his chair and finally, the young Russian stopped babbling and looked to him. “I must ask you to leave my office right now since I have a client.”

Just now, Yurio seemed to realise that Yuuri was sitting in the chair opposite of Victor.

“You may come back in 30 minutes when he have finished and then we can talk about whatever bothers you. But I won’t tolerate this behaviour again, understood?”

Yurio nodded

“Ehmm..Victor? I… I can go now, if you want me to. I…”

Victor turned around to look at Yuuri, who was watching them confused as well as a little intimidated. Victor grinded his teeth. If Yurio had done something to frighten Yuuri or to push him back into his shell, he would tear him apart.

“There’s no need to. This is your session and my dear friend understands that he has no right to interrupt that.”

Even more confused than Yuuri, Yurio’s gaze switched between Victor and the skater before he just left the room without another word.

Victor sighed and sat down again.

“I’m incredibly sorry. He’s a good kid, but his manners are questionable.”

Yuuri didn’t react and Victor feared that he had lost his trust in him due to this incident. He played with his fingers while looking out of the window. The psychiatrist waited for him to do something, although it was hard, seeing all his work crumble before his eyes.

“Is he a patient of yours?” His voice was silent and hardly audible. Some undertone made Victor’s ears sharpen. Yuuri sounded a little…sad? No. What was this?

“Not in the traditional way, so I guess I’m allowed to tell you that much. He’s more like…not a friend…Like a younger brother. I guess that fits it best.”

“So that’s how it is….”

What was it today about Yuuri that seemed so off? He was more silent than last week, but not more frightened or angsty. Today, he showed Victor a side he hadn’t before and that the psychiatrist couldn’t quite read.

Again, it was quiet and Victor used the time to examine his client closer. His body was tense but he sat upright. His head was turned to the ground yet not tucked into his shoulders.

“Before we were interrupted, you wanted to ask something?” Victor tried to start where they had left off.

“Oh…yes…” Yuuri lifted his head, but still didn’t look Victor in the eye. “It was stupid, so please forget about it.”

“Yuuri,” Victor looked at him with a strong gaze. He wanted him to internalise the words he was about to say deeply. “There is nothing stupid or embarrassing or inappropriate in this room. You can tell me everything.”

The skater turned his face to the window. It took a while until he mumbled something.

“I wanted to ask if you would like to watch it together. The ballet I mean. But it was a dumb idea.”

Instantly, Victor’s heart started racing. Yuuri wanted to spent time with him again, outside of their sessions. He wanted to share something he liked with Victor.

He knew he shouldn’t. He knew that he was crossing his boundaries even more and yet he wasn’t able to put a decline together. He just wasn’t physically able to form a sentences to reject Yuuri and get it over his lips.

“I’d love to.”