If I told you, this was only gonna hurt
If I warned you, that the fire's gonna burn
Would you walk in?
Katsuki Yuuri had never been anyone's boyfriend before.
The closest thing to romance he'd ever gotten was the crush he had on Yuuko-chan, back home in Japan. And that was when he was nine. (Though she had kissed him once, just off-centre when she had aimed for his cheek). The only other infactuation Yuuri had to speak of was with Victor Nikiforov, Russia's pride and joy of figure-skating. But he wasn't exactly alone on the world in that. And the courtship consisted entirely of Yuuri admiring Nikiforov's poster from his bed.
So to say Yuuri was inexperienced in relationships was putting it lightly.
He had never given it much thought. It wasn't particularly uncommon in the small town where he was from. But that all changed when Yuuri got to America.
Yuuri was granted passage on the back of a scholarship for his own figure-skating. A scholarship he had promptly lost by flunking out terribly at the Grand Prix Final at the end of November, just last weekend. Which led to Yuuri's current situation;
'It really isn't that bad.'
'Yes it is. It is that bad. It's worse, it's hell,' Yuuri lamented, hiding in his face in his arms on the table. The campus bar was buzzing, low lights and Christmas music already playing, with students ambling around them all before the big Finals rush. Phichit Chulanont, his room and rink-mate there in Detroit, was now rubbing Yuri's back sympathetically.
'At least you got to meet Victor!' Phichit offered.
'He didn't even recognise me as a competitor,' Yuuri complained, embarrassment at the memory of meeting his idol, Victor Nikiforov, briefly at the Grand Prix, only for Nikiforov to offer him a commemorative photo as acknowledgement. 'Besides, that's not even the worst part. What am I going to do about my fees without a scholarship?'
'You can reapply next semester. You will be back in your groove by then,' Phichit offered, his English a little slow as the fellow-skater had only left Thailand five months prior. He hadn't prepared like Yuuri had. Phichit patted Yuuri's shoulder before moving, presumably to take a sip of his soda.
'I don't think I should skate anymore. I think I've embarrassed myself enough for one lifetime,' Yuuri said dejectedly, sitting up to meet Phichit's frown. 'Also- back in my groove?'
'It was in one of my Penguin Guide. Did I not say it right? Anyway, you cannot quit,' Phichit said, putting his Coke down with a little more force than necessary. Yuuri sighed, rubbing at his eyes beneath his glasses. 'You are the most talented skater I know!'
'Clearly,' Yuuri deadpanned. Phichit looked at him for a moment. 'I mean, thank you. But I've decided.'
'I think you are making a mistake,' Phichit said, using his drink to signal Yuuri. Yuuri hummed in acknowledgment, taking another sip of his water.
A girl started waving at them from the bar. She was blonde and American; loud, so her voice carried well over the crowd. Yuuri recognised her as Hannah, one of the girls from his lectures. Although a bit overly friendly at times, Yuuri really liked her. Despite the numerous party photos she was tagged in on Facebook, her passion for the subject meant Yuuri met her more often than not in the library.
Hannah sat down at their table, squeezing Yuuri in against Phichit; 'Hey! How're you?'
'I'm okay-' Yuuri started before Phichit interrupted.
'Yuuri's quitting skating,' Phichit said, completely ratting Yuuri out. Yuuri glared at him as Hannah absently patted her finger against the lipstick on her lips.
'Oh? Why?' she asked, curiosity genuine though her eyes were now scanning the bar.
'It's nothing-' Phichit squawked in protest. '-Well, I lost my scholarship, so it just seems like there's little point in continuing,' Yuuri confessed, Phichit proving somewhat correct as the need to get it out beat his self-consciousness about it. Hannah met his eyes then. Hers were blue and searching. Yuuri had never met anyone with blue eyes before her.
'You lost your scholarship?' Yuuri nodded, fidgeting with the end of his sweatshirt. Hannah's mouth opened into a rosy o; 'But how will you pay your fees?!'
Yuuri flushed. They were so easy to talk about money, Americans. He always forgot that. Yuuri spun his glass of water slowly, condensation on his fingers.
'I- I'm not sure. I'm trying not think about it. If I think about it too much, I think I'd just freak out.'
'Do you need money?' Hannah asked immediately, causing the colour in Yuuri's cheeks to tumble all the way down his neck at her forwardness. He held his hands up, shaking his head. Before he could stutter out a no thank you though, Hannah reached out and took one of his hands, meeting Yuuri's gaze straight; 'If you're stuck, guy, let me know. I'll help you out.'
'Ah. Um, thank you,' Yuuri said, bowing his head a little to her. Hannah nodded, turning back to her observation of the room. Phichit leant a little forward, continuing his conversation with Yuuri like nothing had happened.
'Ciao-Ciao will not be happy if you quit, Yuuri.'
Yuuri tried to listen, but mostly he couldn't stop focusing on Hannah, and the way she ran a hand through her long, blonde hair in a way that made it look so inviting. Yuuri could see a few guys across the bar staring. Yuuri wondered, briefly, if how Hannah felt now felt similar to how Yuuri used to feel on the ice.
'There's no pressure, it's just drinks,' Hannah said, using her ring finger to blend blush on her cheeks. They were in Hannah's dorm-room. She had a single one, all to herself. It had two windows, both looking out over campus. The trees were just bare outside in the winter frost. Yuuri had always wondered how she could afford it.
'I understand,' Yuuri said, perhaps a little too quickly as Hannah turned around to give a look. Yuuri blushed, unable to help himself, sitting lower on the bed and fidgeting with the watch Hannah insisted he wear.
'I just need someone for his friend. Just to talk to him, or something,' Hannah said, walking over in her too-high heels, sequined dress winking in a way that Yuuri knew most ice-skating costumes would dream of. 'And you like guys right?'
Yuuri spluttered, still appalled at Hannah's bluntness at times. Hannah rolled her eyes.
'Or you like guys as well, at least,' she continued, perfectly manicured hands brushing off imaginary dust from Yuuri's suited shoulders. Hannah bent down to Yuuri's level, looking at him kindly. 'Just pretend it's like a date. No expectations.'
Yuuri felt like calling what they were going to do 'a date' very much implied expectations. Hannah stood back, looking Yuuri up and down for a moment before deciding something. She came back, undoing Yuuri's blue tie and slipping it off him. She opened the first three buttons of his shirt in it's stead. Yuuri watched her the whole time, unsure.
'This tie is hideous, you're not wearing it. Looks like you're giving a presentation or something,' Hannah said matter-of-factly, throwing the tie across the bed. She gave him another once over, turning to her dresser to grab a bottle of something and then coming back. 'And your hair. I need to fix it.'
Hannah used the hair-gel to slick Yuuri's hair back. Yuuri was familiar with the ministrations. He always wore his hair out of his face for skating as well. To be honest, the longer this went on, the more Yuuri felt like he did when he was about to step out on the ice. It was like trying on being someone new. Only this time there would be no one to score him for it, no medals looming. He could leave any time he wanted to- could he? Hannah needed him. And what if he was bad at this? Yuuri smiled weakly, thanking Hannah.
'There,' she said, standing back to admire her work. 'Now all we have to do is hope your date likes glasses. Because there's no doubt he'll like you.'
'I'm not so sure,' Yuuri said, anxiety creeping in around him. Yuuri had never flirted in his life. Wouldn't even know where to start. 'I've never done anything like this before.'
Hannah thought about that for a moment, biting one of her perfect lips. Then, she turned and grabbed her desk chair, pulling it over and in front of Yuuri. She sat down in front of him, knees together in perfect poise.
'I'm going to give you some tips,' Hannah said. Yuuri opened his mouth, about to ask why he needed tips if it were just drinks but she seemed to read his mind. 'Look, you don't have to do anything. Just talk, I promise. But I think it's important we follow the same rules anyway, just in case. Okay?'
Yuuri nodded. The rules, as it turned out, were simple. Whatever Yuuri did, he didn't study in Detroit. Not anymore. When asked, he wouldn't be from Kyushu. (His accent for English, though neutral enough from years of study, wasn't fluent yet to be considered native). He didn't have a cellphone, so no- he had no number to give. No, he didn't live nearby. Hannah wasn't his classmate- they met through book club, years ago. The tips Hannah suggested were less practical. Lots of casual touches, eye-contact. All those things Yuuri was really bad at.
'And your name,' Hannah said finally, pushing a strand of beautiful hair behind her ear. 'Your name is not Yuuri. And my name is not Hannah.'
'What is your name?' Yuuri asked. Hannah smiled, all teeth.
'Eurus,' she said and Yuuri looked behind her to the bookshelf, Greek studies and the classics looking back at him. 'And tonight, you're Eros.'
Yuuri choked, stuttering; 'W-what? That's ridiculous!'
Hannah pouted. 'No, it's sexy. With a name like that, half of the flirting is already sorted just by what the guy's imagining. Trust me, it'll be less work for you.'
Yuuri highly doubted that, but the sound of it made his heart beat a little faster with panic. Hannah sighed, standing up to get her bag.
'Eurus and Eros,' she said, like it was obvious. 'I've used it before, and trust me, people love it. It's Latin, it rhymes. They love that shit. And it'll save you time trying to think of a name quickly. Think you can manage just for tonight?'
Hannah took Yuuri's hands, pulling him up off the bed. She smiled at him, lips red and lashes elegantly long. Yuuri's knees went a little weak as she looked at him, eyes sparkling; 'For me, Yuuri?'
Yuuri nodded, admitting defeat.
Christophe Giacometti was only twenty-one, two years older than Yuuri, but he was infinitely more refined.
Christophe was Swiss, or so he told Yuuri, who found his accent so difficult that Christophe could've told Yuuri he was from the moon and he'd believe him. He also asked Yuuri to call him Chris almost immediately, causing Yuuri to flush in response. Chris was tall with one of those faces that seemed trained for beauty with his big eyes and full lips, every expression he made pretty from any angle. His eyes were hazel, with a green that cut through them anytime he smiled in Yuuri's direction. Which was often.
Hannah and her 'date', (a broad shouldered guy with dark hair), were otherwise occupied, quiet conversation now shifting into straight up kissing in their small booth at the restaurant. Yuuri avoided looking at them, which only left him with Chris next to him. Chris was very friendly and patient with Yuuri's English, which Yuuri had always been proud of until this moment.
'You really shouldn't be embarrassed,' Chris cooed over the rim of his wine glass. This only served to make Yuuri blush more. 'Your English is really lovely.'
'Wow, thank you,' Yuuri said, having never had anything of his ever called lovely.
'Tell me more about yourself. I feel I've been terribly self-absorbed,' Chris said, putting his glass down and sliding along the seat. They were almost touching now. Yuuri tried to relax, to remind himself that everything they were doing was all he had to do.
'What-' Yuuri's voice was a little high with nerves. He swallowed thickly and tried again, not missing how Chris' eyes dropped to his neck as he did so. He found Yuuri attractive. The thought made Yuuri's heart race. 'What would you like to know?'
'Where are you from?' Chris asked, sidling up a little closer, taking another sip of his wine. Yuuri fidgeted with his own glass, relatively untouched. He hated wine.
'Tokyo,' Yuuri answered immediately. Chris raised his eyebrows.
'City boy, then,' Chris said with a smile that made Yuuri's stomach do a flip. Chris picked up his fork, poking at a stray leaf of salad left on his plate. 'I prefer small towns myself. So I suppose Detroit hasn't been that difficult a move for you.'
Yuuri thought of Hannah's rules, panicked; 'I don't live here!'
Chris blinked at the outburst, then chuckled quietly. It was low, and flirty, and Yuuri had never heard anyone laugh at him like that before. A waiter came to clear the table, finally bringing Hannah and her own date back to the conversation. They all talked amicably about travel, for the most part, Chris and his friend coming all the way from Europe. Yuuri found the conversation surprisingly easy, familiar with timezone adjustments himself. Jokes came pretty well, too.
'So, Christophe,' Hannah said, tinkling laugh at her date's story fading out effortlessly. 'Luca says you're a figure-skater. That's amazing. You know about skating though, don't you, Eros?'
It took Yuuri longer than it probably should have to remember that he was Eros. Yuuri made a small noise of agreement, but his heart was in his throat. Chris was a figure-skater? What were the chances? Yuuri couldn't believe it. Chris looked at Yuuri, eyes ablaze with curiosity.
'Really? Do you skate yourself?' Chris asked, excitement evident.
'I- um, no. Not really,' Yuuri stammered, realising too late that he needed to be someone other than himself. He decided to go with half-truths, as all the lies were getting too big to remember. 'I follow the competitions though. I find skating beautiful.'
Maybe it was a trick of the light, but Chris' eyes turned so much darker. Like the wood colour of them had burnt.
Yuuri lost track of the time now, desserts coming and going in what felt like moments. Himself and Chris were too far gone into their conversation to really appreciate their food, their plates only half-empty when they were cleared. Yuuri knew he had drank just a little bit too much, wine becoming easier with each sip, body loose and face red with it. But it was very hard to care, he was beginning to have so much fun. He didn't even mind when one of Chris' hands made it to his thigh, giggling when Chris skirted where he was ticklish.
'I'm going to the bar for another round,' Chris said to the table before turning to address Yuuri directly. He squeezed Yuuri's thigh for a moment. 'Can I get you anything, Eros?'
'Water, actually. Would be lovely,' Yuuri said, some part of him thinking he should sober up soon before he lost complete control over the situation. Chris winked, leaning forward boldly and kissing Yuuri on the cheek. Yuuri squeaked, unable to stop himself.
'Eros, could you come help me with my dress for a second?' Hannah asked, all simple glamour as she slipped out of the booth. Yuuri nodded, unsure of how to respond. Luca waved them off cheerily, downing the last of his own drink.
In the bathroom, Hannah took an envelope out of her bag. She held it out to Yuuri, face skillfully blank. Yuuri stared at it, frozen. Hannah sighed in impatience.
'Go on, take it,' she said.
'I'm not sure I should,' Yuuri said quietly. Truth was, he was afraid to take it. Afraid of what it would mean to do so. What he would have to do to earn it. Hannah watched him carefully, blue eyes sharp.
'You don't have to do anything. You did me a favour, coming with me. It's only fair you get half. Besides, you need it,' she said, tactfully placing the envelope on the sink counter. Yuuri found he couldn't look away from it. Hannah reached out, taking his shoulder. 'Luca and I will be leaving soon. It'll just be you and Chris. Remember, it's just drinks and he knows that. But at eleven pm, exactly, you have to ditch him, okay?'
Yuuri tugged at his watch, moving it around his wrist. Hannah stepped a bit closer.
'You have to leave at eleven, okay, Yuuri? We have to be strict with the timing, otherwise they think they can get away with something for free. You understand?'
'Okay,' Yuuri said. Hannah smiled before telling him she was going back out to Luca, leaving Yuuri and the envelope alone.
Yuuri took a couple of breaths before he opened it and counted. He then proceeded to nearly drop it all in the sink.
Fifteen-hundred dollars. Fifteen hundred dollars.
It was like a switch had gone off deep in Yuuri's mind. Chris had paid fifteen hundred dollars just for Yuuri's company. It was like winning the Japanese nationals all over again. An overwhelming, electric rush of accomplishment. Tangible, valuable worth to Yuuri's name. Yuuri was wanted, more than that- suddenly, Yuuri was someone worth wanting. Top of the podium.
Yuuri took his time freshening up. He slicked his hair back again, tucking the envelope safe in his breast lining pocket. He looked at himself in the mirror.
It was just like the ice. But Yuuri had already won, had already gotten his reward. And with that knowledge, his nerves ebbed away. Katsuki Yuuri, anxious neurotic and failed skater slipped off him like a shirt to the floor. Yuuri practiced a smirk in the mirror.
Yuuri may not be worth fifteen hundred dollars. But if Yuuri was willing to try, and he was- then Eros certainly could be.
Four years later...
Victor threw the vodka back with a pace that got him a low whistle from his friend. Chris was shaking his head, taking a deliberately slow sip of his wine as they both sat at the hotel bar. Victor ignored him, flagging the bartender to order another one.
'You don't even like vodka,' Chris said, putting his glass down on the bar. Victor shrugged, adjusting the cuffs of his shirt while he waited.
'It's a special occasion,' Victor replied, tossing his head a little to get his hair out of his face. Chris watched the movement, hazel eyes dark.
'Your short-program at Germany was impressive, I'll give you that.'
'Not a celebration. This is a wake,' Victor said, slipping a five dollar bill to the bartender for the vodka he just brought.
Chris paused over reaching for his wine; 'Who died?'
'My inspiration,' Victor lamented, taking the vodka straight again. Chris sighed, taking up his wine and smiling into it.
'Ah, Victor. Always one for the dramatics,' he said and Victor felt himself pout. He really wished Chris would take his predicament seriously. It was easy for Chris to dismiss it, like it wasn't that big a deal, but Victor knew better. Chris had outperformed him so far in the assignments, even if the rankings read differently.
'I'm not being dramatic,' Victor said, reclining in his bar stool in a manner that could definitely be taken as being dramatic. He looked around the room, taking in the low light chandeliers and expensive leather seats. The hum of people talking and the quiet traffic outside. Victor always liked a good Westin. 'Without inspiration, my career as I knew it is practically over.'
'So you didn't score as well in performance as you usually do. You're still leading ahead the rest of us,' Chris said, tone at least a little more sympathetic now. He smirked, finishing his wine. 'At least it's giving me the chance to show you how a real artist looks.'
'Ha, ha,' Victor said miserably. He leaned on one hand, watching as Chris poured himself another glass of wine. 'I will admit, your Intoxicated program certainly gave mine a run for it's money.'
'Hmm, shame about the quad loop though,' Chris said, referencing to when he had touched down on the ice at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September. Victor smiled in sympathy.
'Yes, but your performance was so strong that it hardly mattered. Your conviction was one thing I was definitely lacking,' he said kindly, shaking his head when the bartender asked if he needed another drink. Chris laughed, breathy and flirty- like always. Victor felt himself grinning at it. 'What?'
'I don't think your conviction was the problem, Victor,' Chris said, his accent making the i seem soft in his mouth. Victor frowned, unable to stop himself.
'What do you mean?'
'Please tell me you've slept with someone, anyone, between now and when we hooked up at the World's last season,' Chris said, mouth all amusement at Victor's expense. Victor froze, not at all happy with the direction the conversation had taken.
'I- well, I've been busy,' Victor answered lamely, causing Chris to narrow his eyes.
'Six months is an awfully long time.'
'It is when you decide you want to dance about sexual love of all things,' Chris countered, taking another sip of wine. Victor was half-tempted to take it off him and throw it in his stupid, smug Swiss face. 'The storyline of your short-program is great, Victor. But the inspiration for it isn't exactly fresh, is it? You haven't seduced anyone in over a year.'
'I seduced you at the Worlds,' Victor retorted, smiling at the memory. Chris scoffed.
'Come now, really? That was hardly the tale of temptation and chase you were trying to convey in your On Love: Eros. Even while it was happening I could tell your heart wasn't in it,' Chris said, looking at Victor fondly but his mouth was turned down just a little in disappointment. Victor didn't blush, but he could feel himself get a little warmer under the collar.
'That's not fair,' Victor said, knowing it to be true and hoping to alleviate some of his guilt. Chris smiled again, leaning over to squeeze Victor's hand for a moment.
'Not saying you weren't nice, chéri,' Chris teased and Victor side-eyed him appropriately. 'But when did you last seduce someone properly? Last time you even flirted! You're Victor Nikiforov, aren't you? Shouldn't you be sweeping some poor soul off their feet and to the Bahama's or something?'
'No one has grabbed my attention,' Victor answered truthfully, but he couldn't meet Chris' eye anymore, instead focusing on the crimson bottles behind the bar.
'Don't me tell me you, of all people, are looking for 'the right person'?' Chris asked, incredulous. Victor sighed, running a hand through his hair as he tried to think of the best way to answer. Chris whistled again and this time Victor was sure he could feel the littlest blush come across his cheeks. 'Mon dieu.'
'Alright, I know! I get it!' Victor said, waving a hand at Chris like he could wave away Chris' mocking. Victor flagged the bartender again, giving in. 'It's just- skating has begun to lose its appeal. I've never had anything but my work, but now I'm not even sure about that. That's why I'm so disappointed with my performance this season. If it's to be my last, then I want it to count. I want to surprise people, but not with how lacklustre it is.'
Chris had been listening patiently, even ignoring his wine so to give Victor his full attention. Victor was grateful, but now he felt a little self-conscious in admitting everything to him. Even though Chris was his friend, he was Victor's competitor first. It probably wasn't wise to admit to such things in front of him. But Victor couldn't bring himself to worry too much about it. Chris was all sympathy anyway, patting Victor's knee in comfort.
'I think I know what you need,' Chris said and his eyes were all mischief. Victor rolled his own, half knowing what to expect. Chris delivered faithfully. 'I'm taking you out. You're twenty-seven, not dead. I'll even cover you.'
'Oh?' Victor asked, the prospect not sounding as bad as it had before Chris had outright said it. Maybe it was the fact that Victor was dreading another night of insomnia due to his worries about the season. Maybe it was just that Victor was sick and tired of not having fun anymore.
'Yes!' Chris said, all enthusiasm now Victor hadn't turned him down. 'I know a great strip club-'
Victor laughed before he could stop himself; 'A strip club? That's bad enough at the best of times, but a strip club in Detroit?'
'It's a surprisingly classy establishment, I assure you,' Chris replied, but Victor wasn't convinced. His initial excitement was beginning to dull when the reality of the situation came back to him.
'There's a reason we're in the bar at half five, Chris,' Victor said, thanking the bartender when he dropped off another vodka, this time with a soda mixer. He mixed his drink, aware of Chris' disappointment. 'I doubt any strip club, no matter how classy, gets going before eleven, when we should be in bed.'
'Hmm,' was all Chris said, but Victor knew it meant that Chris had conceded his point. Then something crossed Chris' face and Victor knew that look. That look meant trouble. That was the same look that got Victor into Chris' hotel room in the first place back at the World's.
Friendly game of strip poker indeed.
'I have an idea.'
'I thought as much,' Victor said, motioning with his drink for Chris to continue. Chris smiled wickedly.
'It's not strictly speaking legal,' he said, eyebrows wiggling and Victor couldn't help himself. He took the bait.
'I don't party,' Victor said, though he knew Chris was aware of that but he wanted to be clear. Chris looked offended.
'I'd never suggest it. We're professionals, after all,' he said somewhat distractedly as he pulled out his phone. Chris scrolled through it, looking all the more excited as he did so. Victor was truly intrigued now. 'And speaking of professionals- how about I set you up on a very special date?'
Victor thought about the meaning of that for a moment. He paused while taking a sip from his drink; 'A hooker?'
'Escort,' Chris corrected smoothly, putting his phone down on the bar screen up. 'Don't be crude. You know better English than that. Better French even.'
'I don't need an escort, I'm not that bad,' Victor said as Chris glanced at his phone again. 'I like to think I can still get my own dates.'
'The last year says different.'
'... I wasn't trying.'
'Sure. Well, now you don't need to as I've done it for you. I'll even pay for you,' Chris said, grin lighting up just as his phone did. 'Excellent,' he said to whatever the phone read.
'How expensive is it? Should I allow you to do that?' Victor asked, genuinely unsure if this was a matter of a couple hundred dollars or a couple thousand.
Chris was texting distractedly; 'Don't worry about it. I get a special rate for loyalty.'
Victor blinked at that, surprised. 'How often do you use this service?'
'I use this person's service, and every time I'm in America,' Chris replied, cheerily sending another text before setting the phone back down. He gave Victor his most charming smile, the one that got him into most of ladies' skating once he'd made his way through half of the men's. Also got him a guest role in a few pair skates as well, if the rumours were anything to go by.
Victor thought about what Chris said while he finished his drink. Every time he was in America. Chris had been assigned to Skate America for almost four years now. Had he been meeting this person, this same person, all that time? As far as Victor was concerned, that was practically marriage. (Even if Chris was paying for it).
'What about-?' Victor started, wondering if he should bring up Chris' boyfriend.
'We've only been exclusive in the last four months. But no, I would never consider this for myself now,' Chris said, taking his wine in hand again. He signalled Victor with it, smile coy. 'That's why I have no problem in sharing with you. Once you meet, I'm sure you two will get on just perfectly. More than that maybe.'
'Oh? You're confident,' Victor replied, looking out across the bar again. Watching other couples sit close and talk in secrets. 'So, do I get to know anything about them other than the price tag before I decide?'
'Appalling.' Chris smiled again over the rim of his wine glass, eyes glittering like the glass chandeliers above them. 'I wouldn't be so rude as to bring up money, like some people. I can tell you that no matters what happens you certainly won't regret it.'
Victor thought about that for a moment. This was outrageous, even for him. Hiring a person. For sex? It was insane, beyond bold and possibly into evil. Was it evil, to do such a thing? Victor wasn't sure, he'd never done anything like this. Never had to arrange a rendezvous with his credit card. But Chris seemed so comfortable about it, so happy to share the experience. Maybe Victor was being puritan. (Which was a first).
'Alright,' Victor conceded, to Chris' apparent glee. Victor fidgeted with his hands, feeling nervous and for the first time in a while, excited. 'Do I have to sleep with them?'
'Him. And no, you don't have to do anything you don't want to,' Chris said, firing off another text. He gave Victor another smirk. 'I sincerely doubt you'll find the restraint though.'
'Is that a comment on me as a person, or your friend's skill as a professional?'
'Why don't we find out?' Chris said, slipping his phone back into his dark jeans. He readjusted his shirt, (lavender, beautiful as always and bringing out his eyes). 'Everything's arranged. All you have to do is show up here, at this bar, at seven o'clock.'
'Can't I just wait?' Victor asked.
Chris gave him a very pointed look up and down. Victor shifted uncomfortably under the scrutiny.
'Chéri, you're the illustration of jet-lagged right now. Go upstairs, shower and put on a nice shirt,' Chris said, sliding out of his seat gracefully. He stood up and left a five dollar bill under his empty wine glass. 'First impressions count, you know.'
'I get it,' Victor said, standing up and leaving a tip as well. American tip culture was still something he didn't understand. Victor paused mid-movement. Would he have to tip this guy? Does one tip an escort? How did that work?
'Don't worry,' Chris said as they both walked out of the bar and into the lobby. 'There's nothing to be nervous about. I think this guy is just what you need, actually. Might even be fate.'
'A bold declaration,' Victor said, pressing the call button for the lift back to their rooms. He turned to face Chris, taking in his curly hair and slight stubble. Victor wondered idly if he should shave again. 'So, what's this guy's name?'
Chris laughed softly as they stepped into the lift, eyes turning green with mischief as he met Victor's gaze. His smile was crooked, all leaning intention.
Yuuri finished taping the last box with a flourish, stepping back to admire his handiwork. The dorm-room looked so big now with everything packed up, his and Phichit's beds bare but for a sleeping bag each and the walls empty of their posters. It was strangely sad, seeing the room this way after all the years they'd spent together in it. But they were moving somewhere much better, ready to start their adult lives. That was something worth giving up the small room for, despite the nostalgia.
The door opened behind him and Phichit came in, pulling his hat off as he did, brown cheeks tinted red. It was quite cold for October, gloves and scarf weather already. It would probably snow in winter. Yuuri was glad they'd be out of this room by then.
'Yuuri!' Phichit cried, running across the room with his phone aloft. He shoved the screen into Yuuri's face. 'Have you seen Instagram? What am I saying? Of course you didn't. But Victor Nikiforov arrived in Detroit today!'
'Wow, already?!' Yuuri asked, unable to contain his excitement. He took Phichit's phone, looking at the selfie Nikiforov had posted. He was all glamour; gorgeous silver hair, matching sunglasses for the winter sun and stylish black peacoat. It made Yuuri's heart ache, just a little, knowing someone he admired so much was so close. 'He looks amazing.'
'When doesn't he?' Phichit replied, throwing himself down on one of the bare beds, only to yelp and sit back up. He pulled a stray roll of tape out from behind his back, glaring at Yuuri. 'It's amazing you have any left. You taped those boxes within an inch of their life.'
'Better safe than sorry,' Yuuri said, tapping like before handing Phichit's phone back to him and putting down the tape gun he was holding.
'I'm not even going to be able to get at my stuff under all that wrapping,' Phichit said, dark eyes looking at his phone now. No doubt scrolling through the rest of Instagram. Yuuri smiled at him fondly.
'I already liked that photo for you.'
'It's a fake like though,' Phichit said, lying back down on the bed. He reached a hand out towards Yuuri. 'Why don't you get your own Instagram and then you can leave all the love letters you like in the comment section instead of hijacking mine?'
'You know I don't like social media,' Yuuri replied, taking Phichit's hand and letting himself be pulled down onto the bed next to him. He looked at Phichit's phone as Phichit switched to camera.
'Paranoid,' Phichit said, adjusting his phone for the perfect angle. He smiled, giving a peace sign in the lower corner of the frame. 'Smile, moving day selfie!'
Yuuri pushed himself into Phichit's shoulder, grinning up at the camera for the customary click noise. Phichit had always wondered why Yuuri avoided social media, but Yuuri had told him he was just a private person and didn't appreciate the culture. It wasn't strictly speaking a lie. Social media could be dangerous if you weren't careful. And Yuuri already had enough to be careful about. One less thing to worry about if Phichit couldn't attach his name to any photos.
As if on cue, Yuuri's phone beeped from his laptop bag on the other bed. His professional phone. Yuuri got up, padding over in his socks and fishing the phone out of the bag. The Blackberry was a little old now, he should probably upgrade soon. Just seemed like a needless expense when his private phone was already an iPhone6. Yuuri had other things to spend his money on.
Yuuri smiled before he could stop himself as he read the notification.
1新しいメッセージ - Chris G.
Yuuri had met Chris four years ago when he was in America for his first US assignment. Yuuri's first. He'd lost his virginity to him. Professionally speaking, that is. A champion figure skater, gorgeous, funny and exuding charm. He always paid in full upfront via card, too, without Yuuri ever having to ask like he had to with some clients. Chris was the perfect regular, though Yuuri only saw him at most twice a year. If anything, it made the time they saw each other all the more special.
Yuuri bit his lip as he opened the message, unsure what to expect. He'd seen the gossip websites, linking Chris to his choreographer. By all accounts it was getting serious. But Chris was a grown man, he could make his own decisions. It's not like Yuuri was twisting his arm.
17:34PM Evening, mon ange. No doubt you know I'm back in town. Don't suppose I could ask a very big favour of you?
'Is that work?' Phichit asked from the bed, only sounding half interested. Yuuri nodded before realising that Phichit likely wasn't looking at him.
'Yeah, might need to go in later,' Yuuri said, typing out a reply to Chris as he did. Flirting was still so much easier in text than person, even after all this time.
17:35PM For you, anything.
Yuuri waited patiently for the response while Phichit grumbled from the bed about eating alone for dinner again.
'I'm sorry, Phichit.'
'We're moving tomorrow. It's a special day, our last day in this shitty dorm-room! And you're abandoning me for some stupid meeting,' Phichit said, sitting up and pouting proper at Yuuri now. Yuuri smiled sympathetically as his phone went off again.
'I found the new apartment, doesn't that get me off the hook at least a little?' Yuuri said as he read Chris' message, then ignoring Phichit's reply.
17:35PM I have a friend I'd love you to meet. Having a rough time of it. Could do with some good company. My treat, of course. ;)
Yuuri twirled the cursor ball of the Blackberry distractedly. Chris had never set him up before. Yuuri had been referred by other clients before, of course. But never by Chris. It was unusual, but Yuuri couldn't stop the little knot of excitement from forming in his stomach. Chris was pretty wonderful, and a really decent guy. Very good sex. He'd never set Yuuri up with someone he didn't think was nice, at the very least. Chris was even willing to pay. Yuuri typed out his reply, not bothering to be coy about it.
17:36PM The usual session? (4hr 3K)
'You're not even listening to me. Here I am, telling you how heartbroken I am that you would abandon me on a day like today, and you're ignoring me,' Phichit lamented, squeaking bed springs signalling to Yuuri that he'd gotten off the bed. Sure enough, Phichit was behind him instantly, resting his forehead on the back of Yuuri's neck dejectedly. 'You're the worst friend.'
'I'm a great friend. You're paying half rent, aren't you?' Yuuri said, hiding his phone subtly against his chest as he turned to face Phichit. Phichit groaned in acquiesce, flapping his arms dramatically, his puffy red parka scraping.
'Fine. Go,' Phichit sighed loudly, throwing his eyes to the ceiling. 'Maybe Ciao Ciao will get dinner with me.'
'Cause he doesn't see you enough? Between training and Skate America this weekend, he'll be sick of you,' Yuuri said as his phone beeped again.
'I wish you still competed,' Phichit said, and not for the first time since the season had started. Yuuri felt a blush creep up, warming his cheeks. He looked away, one hand coming up to fidget awkwardly with the arm of his glasses. 'Then you wouldn't have to run off to that god awful office at the most inconvenient times.'
'Ah- yes, but then how could we afford anything?' Yuuri stuttered, trying to steer the conversation away from skating. Yuuri could listen to a stranger talk about skating for all the hours he was paid to. But listening to his friend bring it up just reminded Yuuri of how much he missed it. It was painful, and too late for such things now. Yuuri was too old, at twenty-three. Better to focus elsewhere now.
'Skating is way better than stocks, or finance. Or whatever it is you do'
Yuuri shrugged Phichit off him, muttering about how he had to make a living somehow and checking his phone as he made his way to the en-suite to get ready for his evening.
17:37PM Perfect. 7pm Westin Cadillac. Usual place.
17:37PM I normally only accept two hours notice.
17:38PM I know, but like I said, this is a favour. ;)
Yuuri slipped into the bathroom, turning the shower on before sending his next message, excitement bleeding out into his face now as he smiled to himself in the mirror.
17:38PM I spoil you. What's your friends name?
17:39PM Trust me, you'll know him when you see him.
Yuuri popped in his contacts in the Westin lobby bathroom, glasses safe at home. He ran another hand over his hair, pushed back like he used to wear on the ice, back when he skated. His clothes for the job were also influenced by his skating career, made him feel closer to it somehow. Strange as that probably sounded, it was comforting. The shirt Yuuri was wearing was actually from the women's section, but it fit beautifully once he had it tailored after buying a larger size. Black silk, with a chiffon panel across the shoulders showing just the barest shadow of his pale skin beneath. It hung loose and heavy, buttons swirling pearl; it made Yuuri feel beautiful and malleable. The best thing to be in this situation.
Running a quick swipe of lip balm over his lips, Yuuri looked at his own brown eyes staring back at him in the mirror. This was always the best part of the job. The sex itself was rarely good, even rarer to be great or memorable. But that first meeting. The adrenaline, the figuring out of which persona Yuuri should adopt, what the client wanted- it was equal to nothing. Yuuri wasn't even sure anymore if stepping out on the rink that first time before an audience, ready to tell a story through dancing on ice, could compare anymore. He told himself it wouldn't, that it couldn't.
And the money wasn't bad either, Yuuri would admit.
Taking a breath, Yuuri ran his hands down his black slacks to brush away any dust. They were impeccable, having only been dry cleaned the day before, but Yuuri found himself strangely nervous. Brimming with tense excitement. He turned and left the bathroom, walking purposely across the lobby towards the bar. His watch read 18:58PM.
Walking into the bar, Yuuri felt like he was stepping into something familiar. He was reminded, vividly, of being a teenager and sneaking off to Ice Palace, the rink he'd skate in back home in Japan. Yuuri stopped himself from frowning at the memory. Weird; to think of that now.
Yuuri looked around the bar, which was full of life now so late in the evening. Busy, even for a Thursday. Yuuri walked with purpose up to the bar itself, enclosed in an alcove in moody blue and purple lighting. And sitting at the bar was a tall, slender man with bright, silver hair that caught the light in lines of mauve and gold.
No, no way. It couldn't be. Of all the people in the world, all the men in this hotel, even all the skaters Chris knew... Yuuri was standing in the centre of the bar, lights passing through the tall windows and ears full of the chatter of other patrons. But he couldn't focus on anything but the back of Victor Nikiforov.
Victor freaking Nikiforov. Yuuri's celebrity crush. The screensaver of his personal phone. Yuuri just stopped himself from ruining his hair by running his hands through it as something Yuuri was afraid to call panic, (but it was definitely panic), flooded through him. It had to be a mistake. But there was no one else sitting at the bar. And Chris said Yuuri would recognise the client. Yuuri didn't realise he was holding his breath until it all fell out of him. Okay, calm down. Yuuri needed to get his shit together. This was fine.
Okay, it wasn't fine. It was kind of amazing. Never in all his wildest fantasies, (in which Victor Nikiforov did indeed play a role), could Yuuri have imagined this. Yuuri took a long, shaky breath, ignoring the way a nearby table was watching him have a mini breakdown. Yuuri could do this. It was just like any other appointment, with any other client.
(Except it wasn't. It was Victor Nikiforov).
Yuuri tempered down the raging of his mind, reminding himself to be sceptical. Life was rarely this kind to anyone, especially him. Yuuri would go up to the bar, and sit near but not next to Victor. If Victor was his client, he'd be sure to ask, and if not- well, then Yuuri would feel disappointed later. For now, Yuuri let himself indulge in the stupid, silly hope for just a bit longer.
Standing up a bit straighter, Yuuri put everything he knew about Victor Nikiforov into his walk. Echoed the skating he so desperately admired, the skating that had influenced Yuuri's own so heavily back when he had skated himself. Hips swaying, arms loose. Feminine, inviting. Yuuri wanted to be as far away from the high pressure men Victor was often associated with. If Yuuri was going to seduce Victor Nikiforov, then he was going to be as much of himself as he could be while he was doing it.
Yuuri leant against the bar, hyper aware of Victor's eyes on him as he did. He signaled the bartender with a brief nod, glancing at Victor from the corner of his eye. Victor was so handsome, more handsome than his own photos did justice to. His hair was styled so his fringe looked perfectly swept out of his face, white shirt crisp under Victor's suit jacket and begging to be rumpled in Yuuri's mind. But Yuuri was careful, trying to keep his treacherous heart from getting too excited.
Victor's accent was so much more striking in person than on a screen. Yuuri couldn't contain the smile he got when he heard it, looking at Victor properly over his shoulder. Victor's eyes were electric, the blue of them reflecting purple and looking dark in the shadows of the bar. Yuuri felt his breath catch, just a little, but he covered well. Yuuri hadn't been this nervous since his first time.
'You must be Chris' friend,' he said, voice soft and just a little breathy. He was pleased to see Victor's lips part in some surprise. Most men were surprised with how softly Yuuri could speak. Yuuri held out a hand.
'Victor, please,' Victor said, taking Yuuri's hand and bringing it up to his lips, kissing Yuuri's knuckles. It was Yuuri's turn for surprise now. A blush bloomed, unbidden. Yuuri instantly felt embarrassed, only making it worse he was sure. For God's sake, he was supposed to be a professional. Victor smiled sinfully, letting Yuuri's fingers slip through his own as the bartender approached.
'Can I get you a drink?' Victor said, r sounding like it had edges with accent.
'Champagne,' Yuuri answered, a little breathless. Clients had done a lot of things with Yuuri over the years. He'd thought he'd done everything. But no one had kissed his hand like that.
Victor asked for two glasses of champagne as Yuuri settled himself into the bar stool next to him. Yuuri crossed his legs and ambitiously let his top leg reach into Victor's space, calf just grazing Victor's thigh. Yuuri had never thought he'd get so close to Victor Nikiforov, and yet here he was. It was amazing. Better than that.
'You come highly recommended,' Victor said as he passed Yuuri his glass. Yuuri smiled, thanking Chris profusely in his head.
'I've known Chris a long time. He's too kind, really,' Yuuri replied, feeling brave behind his glass of champagne. He took a small sip, careful to pace himself. It didn't do well to drink too much on a job.
'I have faith he meant what he said about you,' Victor said, eyes like flint in the dark. Setting Yuuri's heart alight. Yuuri hoped he wasn't still blushing. Instead, Yuuri put the glass down carefully, leaning across the small space between himself and Victor. He put his hand on Victor's knee, loving the warmth he felt there. Victor sat up a little straighter, looking down at Yuuri from beneath his silver fringe.
'Chris said you were a bit down lately,' Yuuri said lowly, causing Victor to lean a little forward, making the space between them even smaller. Yuuri looked up at Victor from beneath his lashes, a move that generally got the desired affect. 'Any idea on how I could help cheer you up?'
Victor visibly swallowed, cheeks lighting up and for the first time in a long time, Yuuri genuinely wanted it. Yuuri wanted Victor to take him upstairs to his room, he wanted to let himself be taken where ever Victor wished and he wanted Victor to want him right back. He squeezed Victor's knee, letting his hand slip up just a little further, slow and heavy.
'Tell me, Eros,' Victor said, placing a hand over Yuuri's on his leg. He moved forward suddenly, all boldness to Yuuri's coy. Victor's other hand slid across the bar, taking Yuuri's hand there and lacing their fingers together. He was up in Yuuri's space, forcing Yuuri to sit up as Victor practically leant over him. Yuuri looked at his lips the entire time, wanting what he'd wanted to know since he was twelve.
What do Victor Nikiforov's lips taste like?
'Can you dance?' Victor asked, breath fanning over Yuuri's face as Victor moved closer, so close that all Yuuri would have to do is push forward just the small, few centimetres.
Yuuri was losing control of the situation. He was the one who had seduce Victor, not the other way around. Yuuri shifted slightly, attempting a smirk and putting his own wants away. It was just like the ice; all that adrenaline, all that excitement. The need to prove himself. Yuuri had always dreamed of meeting Victor one day as a rival. He'd blown it as a skater back at the Grand Prix, but now he had a second chance in a whole new playing field. Not like Victor remembered anyway. Yuuri was someone else now.
It was like pulling the zip up on a costume. Elegant and easy. Yuuri slipped into Eros like he had a thousand times before, pushing the excitement he felt at being in Victor's presence down. He'd indulged enough. Time to show Victor just what Katsuki Yuuri was capable of.
Yuuri slid effortlessly off the stool, letting Victor trail his hands up his thigh and across his hip as Yuuri twisted out of Victor's grip, releasing his hand. He smirked over his shoulder at Victor's look of surprise.
'I know just the place if you're looking for a dance,' he said, turning on his heel back to Victor as he got out of his seat.
Yuuri reached up to Victor's collar, smoothing it out though it was already perfect. He ghosted his fingertips across the skin of Victor's neck, trailing his hands down Victor's chest. He pressed just a little harder than he needed to, hands slipping under Victor's suit jacket, feeling the tone of his abs underneath fabric. Yuuri stood up on his tip-toes to whisper in Victor's ear. 'It's a bit dangerous though. Think you can handle it?'
Victor nodded mutely, eyes dark like dried ink on the page. Yuuri felt his stomach twist at the sight as he pulled away, careful to let his hands linger on Victor's slim waist as long as he could manage to. He smiled, right corner up a little further. Slanted, inviting. Bordering on smug.
'Come with me.'