“What sort of code name is “Eros”, anyway?” Yuri had asked when Yakov had first broken the news.
“No powers officially listed,” Georgi had observed, leaning forward in his seat to squint at the profile which Lila had flashed on the screen. “What use is a Normal?”
“Could just be classified,” Mila had offered, at the same time Yakov had said, “If the Japanese think he’s good enough for us and the Kolledzh agrees, he’s good enough.” And that had been all there was to the matter, what with another mission to plan and all.
Now, watching from his vantage point on the parapet diagonally above the room that housed the primary mainframe of the facility, Victor was starting to wonder if Georgi had been right, after all.
“What’s he doing?” Mila whispered him.
Victor shrugged. Yuuri was holding his hands out towards the security guard, and he appeared to be trying to, well, talk his way out.
“Some form of compulsion, maybe,” Mila ventured, watching the same scene.
Victor hummed noncommittally. “Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be working.”
It had been three weeks since Katsuki had joined them, two ops which he had run with the team, and at no point had Katsuki exhibited any sort of Talent. Exceedingly good at infiltration, yes, and passably decent in hand-to-hand combat, but nothing to suggest that he was anything more than a well-trained Normal.
In the room below, the guard reached for his walkie-talkie. Victor tensed.
“Got it,” Yuri’s voice said in his earpiece, just as Georgi snapped, “Primary mainframe. More guards incoming. I’m counting five.”
“That’s my cue,” Mila said, rising from her crouch. “Yours as well, I guess.” She tapped the button-mic clipped to her collar. “Plamya over. To the extraction point, boys. You have two minutes before this facility blows.” She touched Victor’s shoulder briefly, then left.
Victor watched as Katsuki placed a hand onto the guard’s arm, and spared a split-second to wonder just what Katsuki thought he was doing. Five, four, three – Victor took a deep breath, and dived.
He shattered through the window just as five more guards burst into the room, guns drawn and at the ready, only to stumble at Victor’s entry. Slowly, the first guard drew his gun, and turned to face the new guards, raising his firearm. Victor didn’t allow himself to think, grabbing Katsuki with one hand and his teammate behind him. He slapped his other hand onto the ground and pushed, watching in satisfaction as the ice instantly slicks the floor. All the guards froze, ice crystals creeping up their limbs, their tongues gagging in their throats as their hands and faces turn almost blue.
Mila’s voice crackled over his earpiece. “Metel, demolition’s hot. You have sixty-five seconds.”
Victor glanced back. “You okay?” For a moment, Katsuki looked wide-eyed, almost startled. Then, he shook his head.
“I’m fine,” he said, brushing Victor’s hand off his arm. He reached for one of the computers, plucking the flash drive from its port and slipping the device into his suit. “File transfer’s complete. We can go.”
“Forty-nine seconds.” Mila sounded strained.
“Time to go,” Victor said, shoving Katsuki towards the jagged, open hole in the window. “I hope you don’t mind a quick exit.”
To his credit, Katsuki didn’t hesitate, leaping from the window on Victor’s count and giving himself over to the fall. In return, Victor did what he could to lessen the fall, held Katsuki close to him as he concentrated. Frost bloomed, a series of ice-spun bridges, one over the other, each too thin to break their fall but still enough to slow them down. Even so, a thirty-foot drop was still thirty feet, and they landed on the pavement sprawled and gasping for breath.
“Twelve seconds,” Mila snapped, panic now clear in her voice.
“No time to waste,” Victor choked, rolling to his feet and dragging Katsuki up with him. “Run!”
Another sheet of ice to the ground, slippery enough to send them hurtling forward faster than their feet would have carried them, and they’re still not as far away as Victor would like. At T-minus three, he tackled Katsuki, shoving them both forwards. T-minus two, and he’s throwing his body over Katsuki’s; T-minus one, and he’s throwing a frozen dome over both of them.
Behind them, the building imploded. There’s a suspended moment of stillness. Then, the air clapped back, knocking them both flat onto the ground. A wave of white heat licked across Victor’s back despite his shield.
“Glad to see you join us.” A few feet away, Georgi stepped out of the guard house. He’s followed by Yuri, then Mila, tiny blue flames still dancing at the tips of her fingers.
Gingerly, Victor propped himself up, bracing himself on his arms. Katsuki’s face was just beneath his, and Victor caught his gaze. “Still doing okay?”
Katsuki did not look away. His lips eyes twisted in a wry smile. “Not bad.”
“Just another regular day in the office, I think.”
Against his better judgment, Victor threw his head back and laughed.
According to its website, the Kolledzh was a specialised institute of higher learning, a vocational college of sorts for students who wanted to play to their strengths but for whom the world of academia in a regular university h ad little appeal.
What the website didn’t say was that the Kolledzh specialised in the training of students with Talents. It definitely did not say that a number of these students were, in fact, black ops.
Yakov and Lila were waiting for them in the briefing room when they returned. As the team filed into the room, Yakov turned away from the giant screen that took up one of the walls, from which he had been tracking their progress. The said screen now showed surveillance camera footage of the fire where the facility had been. Beside him, Lila did not look up from her laptop.
“Debrief,” said Yakov when they had taken their positions around the room.
Victor took a deep breath, pushing off the wall he had been leaning on to stand at loose attention. “Fifteen guards in total, just as we expected: nine around the perimeter, a further six on patrol within. All of them Normals. Mila and I took care of the guards in the perimeter while Georgi gained access to the surveillance systems. Yuri and Katsuki got in.”
Yakov tilted his head. He regarded Yuri for a moment, before his gaze drifted towards Katsuki. “Did you acquire your objective?”
“You bet I did,” said Yuri from where he had thrown himself on the couch. “And with less fuss than our new friend, too.” In a smooth movement, he pulled the flash drive out and tossed it towards Yakov, who caught it mid-arc.
“Here.” Katsuki held out the other flash drive. “There was a minor complication, but,” he glanced swiftly at Victor, then looked back, “Nikiforov took care of the situation before it could escalate.”
“The other guards,” Georgi cut in. Across the room, Lila raised an eyebrow. Georgi spread his palms and shrugged. “One of them broke from the schedule. Wrong place, wrong time. Bad luck, really.”
“Hm.” Yakov pursed his lips.
“We got the data from both primary and secondary mainframes, and I blew the place up. No evidence left behind. All as instructed.” Mila stretched her arms over her head, and swung her feet over the side of her armchair. “Mission accomplished.”
There was a pause as Yakov regarded each of them silently. Lila’s fingers continued to move over her keyboard, the light clack of the keyboard keys suddenly loud in the quiet.
Abruptly, Victor felt a light brush against his mental shields. Like every attempt before it, it slid off without ever finding purchase. Around the room, his teammates each stood or sat up straighter: a slight stiffness in the shoulders of one, a wariness in the eyes of another.
“Good,” Yakov nodded. “You’re all dismissed. Training tomorrow, don’t forget.” He smiled as he turned on his heel and strode out of the room, pausing only to hold the door for Lila as she in turn stood and swept past him.
“I hate it when he does that,” Georgi announced, falling into the couch beside Yuri. “Testing us after a mission is just cruel.”
Katsuki straightened from his corner of the room. He nodded at them, then followed Yakov and Lila to the door.
“I still don’t see why we need two thieves,” Yuri said as Katsuki left the room. Katsuki flinched, but did not look back.
“Yuri!” Victor said sharply, but it was too late. Katsuki had already turned down the hallway.
“That wasn’t very nice,” Mila pointed out reproachfully.
Yuri shrugged. “He’s a Normal,” he said flippantly, as though that was an answer in itself. Which it was, Victor reflected, in a way. Except –
“We don’t actually know that,” Mila retorted. Georgi snorted.
“I’m turning in,” Victor announced. “Good night, you lot.”
He took the stairs to the dormitories two at a time.
Katsuki’s door was ajar when Victor stopped by, his room empty. Down the corridor, the door to the common bathroom was shut, the sound of running water audible just behind it. Victor hesitated, then let himself into Katsuki’s room.
He looked around curiously. Katsuki’s room was neat, the surface of its standard-issue desk spartan, Katsuki’s mission clothes folded tidily on the seat of the sole, standard-issue chair, and his boots positioned precisely beside the doorway. Only Katsuki’s bed seemed a contradiction, its covers unmade, a haphazard collection of knit throws and fleece blankets pooled over cotton sheets in an indulgent nest.
Idly, Victor ran a hand across the plush surface of one of the fleeces, marvelling at its softness. On impulse, he sat on the bed. Waited.
Eventually, the sound of running water shut off. Footsteps echoed down the hallway, pausing at the door.
Victor looked up. Katsuki was standing at the entrance. His hair was still damp from his shower, and his bare chest was beaded with stray droplets of water. A bath towel was wrapped low on his hips, and for a moment, Victor regretted that this was not to be one of those visits.
Katsuki’s right hand tightened its grip on the folds of the towel. “Nikiforov?” He sounded startled.
Victor stood up. “Please,” he said, “call me Victor.” He paused to push away his fringe to the side, then held out his hand. “The people I rescue usually do,” he added, when Katsuki did not move to take it.
Katsuki continued to eye him warily. Then, he switched his left hand to his towel, and shook Victor’s hand with his right. His palm was still cool from his shower, the skin slightly damp. “Yuuri,” he said with a wry smile. “Since you were kind enough to rescue me.”
“It may get a bit confusing here, with two Yuri’s,” Victor mused, letting Yuuri’s hand go, “but I’m sure we’ll think of something.”
They stood for a moment as they were, each studying the other. The silence stretched. At his sides, Victor’s hands clenched, then unclenched.
“Listen,” he said finally, just as Yuuri spoke, “So – ”
They broke off awkwardly. Victor laughed nervously, while Yuuri rubbed the back of his neck. A faint flush rose on Yuuri’s cheeks, only just visible beneath the fluorescent lights of the hallway and the room.
“Please,” said Yuuri, making an abortive gesture with his free hand for Victor to continue. At last, he moved out of the doorway and into the room proper, leaving the door behind him open. He stepped around Victor and towards the desk, where he stood, his back to Victor as he fumbled on his glasses.
Victor exhaled slowly. “What Yuri said,” he began, and hesitated. Yuuri’s shoulders tensed, and Victor continued in a rush, “I wanted to apologise for it. He’s still young, and isn’t used to working in a team.”
Yuuri remained still, his head bowed.
“Not all of us think that way,” Victor offered. “I believe every member of the team is important.”
Slowly, Yuuri looked up. Their eyes met in the reflection on the window. “It’s alright,” he said. “I don’t mind.” He huffed a laugh. Instinctively, Victor echoed it.
“Okay,” he said, deliberately light. “That was what I wanted to say. What about you, Yuuri?”
“Um,” said Yuuri. If anything, his shoulders grew tighter, the flex of his muscles visible across his back. Then, abruptly, he relaxed, straightened. “Do you do much rescuing of people?” he asked with a forced sort of casualness.
“Not that many,” Victor replied, matching Yuuri in tone. “Only the cutes ones. Like you.” He was flirting, he knew. But flirting had never failed to get him what he wanted, and he saw no reason to stop now.
“Um,” said Yuuri again. “Thank you,” he mumbled, as though an afterthought. He still had not turned around. In the window, his reflected gaze held Victor’s. “Um,” he tried again.
Victor waited patiently.
“Are you feeling alright?” Yuuri blurted, and Victor blinked.
“Yes,” he replied, not entirely sure where their conversation was going. “What – ”
“I meant – I mean –” Yuuri bit off with a mild curse. Victor watched with fascination as a flush crept up Yuuri’s nape. “Are you feeling… alright?” Yuuri tried again. He raked his fingers through his hair, seemingly in frustration.
Victor felt his eyebrows climb. “Yes,” he repeated, and waited.
Yuuri sighed. “I think,” he said, and paused. “I think,” he said again, softer now, “that you had better go.”
“And the next time I look like I need rescuing, please don’t.”
“Yuuri, what – ”
“I’m saying,” Yuuri said, louder now, “please do not rescue me the next time.” He spun around, finally, chin jerking up to glare at Victor defiantly.
“But that’s my job while you’re on my team,” Victor pointed out, as evenly he could. He was missing something, something he couldn’t quite place his finger on, for all that his instincts screamed at hm. For a vicious moment, he wished he had Yakov’s or Mila’s telepathic Talent. Instead, he clamped ruthlessly down on his annoyance. “And so long as you’re here with us on loan, you’re on my team.” He returned Yuuri’s gaze squarely.
Yuuri was the first to look away. He inhaled audibly, then breathed out, body shuddering on the exhale. “Please do not rescue me,” he said again, much quieter now. “And please go. I’m tired after tonight.” He turned away again, and busied himself with pulling open one of the drawers of his standard-issue wardrobe, presumably to pick out something to sleep in. He did not look at Victor.
“Good night,” said Victor as he left. We’ll talk about this again, he wanted to say, but didn’t.
He closed the door softly on his way out.
“Perhaps he would prefer to be left alone,” Mila suggested. She dodged his jab, feinting to the left before sweeping her leg out under him. “He’s only visiting, after all.”
Victor leapt over the kick, using the momentum to dive into a handspring. He landed neatly, then dropped immediately into a roll, coming up within her defence. “He has a funny way of telling it, if that’s the case,” he retorted, reaching up to tap her ribs. She jerks back before his fingers connect with her side, her knee snapping up towards his solar plexus, and he’s forced to swivel back.
“Russia’s hottest bachelor, Victor Nikiforov, turned down by someone,” Mila drawled as they sprang apart. “You can’t expect to seduce everyone, Vitya.”
“It’s not that,” Victor protested, as they moved to take their positions on either side of the sparring room. Mila quirked an eyebrow, and he pouted. “Well, not only that,” he amended, feet falling automatically into a ready stance. “Yakov can’t expect us to protect the team when one of the team refuses to be protected.” He watched carefully as she shifted her weight, knew she was watching him too. His mental Talent made it impossible for her to read his mind, without any effort on his part. It was why they sparred as often as they did, the only time when she couldn’t skim their opponent’s thoughts to anticipate their next move. That, and their offensive Talents meant that they were both typically tasked with the safety of their squad during ops. “I wish I knew what his problem was.”
“So ask him,” Mila suggested shrugging. Suddenly, she leapt forward, drawing her arm back to deliver what Victor knew would be a devastating right hook. He lunged, parrying the blow even as he ducked, pushing off the floorboards with his other hand. Instantly, ice glazed over the scarred and pitted wood, spreading out from beneath his fingers in an ever-expanding starburst.
Mila darted back, narrowly avoiding the jagged line of icy spikes that sprung, teeth-like, from the now-frozen floor. She slashed an arm forward, and with that, a fireball, arcing golden-hot towards Victor until he flung up a shield.
Fire and ice collided with a hissing crack.
“What is this, an ice-skating demonstration?”
They spun around, both of them panting hard.
Yakov stood at the doorway, arms crossed at his chest. He looked dour, but then, he usually did. He made a dismissive gesture with his hand, and the floorboards flexed, shattering their icy coat. “Let’s see what you remember of your lessons,” he said, stepping into the sparring room.
It was almost two hours later when Yakov declared himself satisfied. By then, they were both out of breath, and they allowed themselves to collapse, a sprawl of untidy limbs in the centre of the room, when Yakov left.
“Ask him,” Mila said suddenly.
Victor blinked. “I will,” he said, when he finally remembered, and she gave an absent hum.
Unfortunately, resolving to speak to Yuuri was far easier than actually doing so, when Yuuri was nowhere to be found. He wandered through the maze that was the Kolledzh training facility, pausing only for a spell in the vast hall where Yuri was training under Lila’s critical eye. Victor watched as Yuri tucked and dived in the air, twisting out and spiralling to avoid the various obstacles which Lila, herself floating just beneath the high, vaulted ceiling, tossed his way seemingly carelessly. He clapped at a particularly tricky set of cartwheels mid-flight, received a few choice insults from Yuri for his applause, and moved on to the adjoining practice room where Georgi sat, legs crossed in a full-lotus position, meditating. There, Victor waited.
Eventually, Georgi opened his eyes. “What is it?”
Victor hooked his thumbs casually in the pockets of his sweatpants. “Have you seen Katsuki?”
Georgi stretched, drawing his arms up overhead. “Has the resident remote-viewer seen our visiting Normal, you ask?” He let his arms fall as he yawned, and his jaw gave an audible crack. “I could try,” he offered, “but I also happen have better.” He paused, and Victor waited expectantly. “I overheard Yakov sending Katsuki out this morning.” When it became apparent that Victor still wasn’t going to say anything, he added, “I would just wait, if I were you.”
Victor felt his brow furrow. “A solo mission? What did Yakov want?”
Georgi shrugged. “Who knows? I wasn’t close enough to hear that. Or,” Georgi smirked, “you could ask Yakov himself.”
And they had both laughed, and that should have been all of it.
Still, four hours later and no sign of Yuuri in sight, Victor stood outside Yuuri’s door, eyeing it contemplatively. It was locked, but that was rarely a problem for Victor: ice through the keyhole, a gentle nudge of the tumblers and pins within. The door swung open with a whisper, and without thought, Victor headed for Yuuri’s bed – still unmade, still incredibly soft – where he sat, lay down, and eventually, closed his eyes.
He woke with a start, to a hand on his shoulder. Yuuri stood above him, the expression on his face clearly startled. He had shook Victor awake. “Nikiforov?” He sounded faint. Then, a whisper louder, “Why are you here?”
“Victor,” Victor corrected automatically, still blinking away the last dregs of sleep. “Call me Victor.”
“Victor, then,” Katsuki agreed easily, drawing back. His hand fell away from Victor’s shoulder, and for a moment, Victor irrationally mourned the loss. Then, his gaze sharpened as he took in Yuuri’s suit, mildly crumpled, the shirt buttons undone at his collar and the tie that hung askew about his neck. Yuuri had his glasses on, and his hair would have been slicked back neatly at one point, but was now clearly mussed, almost as though fingers had raked through the strands, gripping them carelessly. He watched as Yuuri’s lips parted, the tip of his tongue darting out to flick at the lower lip nervously. Unthinkingly, Victor reached out, tracing the same bottom lip with the pad of his thumb. If he didn’t know better, if Georgi hadn’t told him, he would have thought –
Yuuri flushed as he scrambled back. He turned his back towards Victor, his hands tugging at his tie with sharp, jerky moments. “I’m going to shower,” he said, and he sounded angry. “Please go.”
Victor sat up properly, leaning back against the headboard of the bed, and waited.
Yuuri’s shower seemed to last unusually long, but even then, there was only so much hiding one could do in a shared bath. Eventually, someone else knocked pointedly on the door to the bathroom, and the sound of running water shut off. Yuuri returned to his room some minutes later, towel wrapped low around his hips, and Victor found himself reflecting that this must be what déjà vu felt like.
Except, as Yuuri stepped further into his room, this time closing the door behind him, it became clear that Yuuri now had reddish marks peppering his torso, fresh bruises by the look of them, smallish… the size of a mouth, Victor realised. Or fingers, he amended, eying the cluster of bruises on Yuuri’s at Yuuri’s hips, just visible above the hem of the towel.
“Where were you?” he asked, sharper than he intended.
“Out,” Yuuri shrugged as he turned towards the wardrobe. “I had an errand to run.”
Victor watched as Yuuri opened his wardrobe and began to rummage through it. “And where are you going to now?”
“Out again. Another errand. You know how it is.” A pair of black jeans was tossed at the foot of the bed.
“Dressed like that?” Victor jerked his chin at the mesh shirt which joined the jeans.
Yuuri ignored him, instead fumbling out a small bag, and from within it, a black pen-like object and a pocket mirror.
Changing tack, Victor tried, “Georgi said Yakov had spoken to you.”
Humming absently, Yuuri started to line his eyes. “You can ask Yakov, if you like.”
“I’d much rather ask you.”
With a sigh, Yuuri snapped the pocket mirror shut. “What do you want, Victor?” He pronounced the final –r softly, a rolling, accented lilt. Victor paused, oddly charmed. But still –
“I want to come with you.”
Yuuri crossed his arms. “I told you,” he bit out, “I don’t need your protection.”
“And I want to,” Victor retorted. He pushed himself off the bed, striding towards the door and yanking it open. “I’ll meet you at the stairs,” he threw out, and left without waiting for Yuuri’s reply.
He dressed quickly, certain that Yuuri would leave without him if given half the chance, and politely refrained from commenting when Yuuri visibly started at the sight of him loitering at the foot of the stairs to the dormitories. Instead, he ushered Yuuri to his car, and nodded when Yuuri rattled off an address of six districts away. A club, by the sound of it, in the seedy underbelly of the city.
“Where exactly are we going?” he asked as he eased the car into the main traffic thoroughfare.
Yuuri quirked his brow. “I already told you.”
“Yes, but why are we going there?”
“I’m not sure that I’m cleared to tell you that,” Yuuri muttered. When Victor glanced over, Yuuri had turned away. His eyes were very wide and very dark in the reflection on the passenger window.
“I can’t be protecting you if I don’t know what I’m up against,” Victor pointed out as reasonably as he could.
“I didn’t ask you to come along,” Yuuri retorted.
The radio warbled an Italian aria – something about loneliness and begging his lover to stay close to him. Victor waited.
Yuuri sighed. “What do you know about the World Coalition?”
Victor raised a brow. “Rumours only. An international network of anarchists. Funding of terrorism, toppling of small governments, that kind of stuff. Ambitious, but lacking the organisation necessary to sustain their plans.” He darted another glance at Yuuri, who still had not looked away from the window. “I wasn’t aware that the Japanese had an interest in them.
Yuuri hummed absently. “We recently became aware of a unifying will in Asia. Japan was interested, as was China – and, it would seem, your government too. “
“What has that got to do with where we’re going?”
“They have a cell in St. Petersburg,” Yuuri replied. “The data Plisetsky and I stole yesterday – that’s data their ground level operatives transmit every other week.” He paused, absently fiddling with his seatbelt.
“And we’re intercepting the transmission tonight?” Victor guessed.
Yuuri huffed. “Got it in one.” He leaned back into his seat, tipping his head back against the headrest and training his eyes on the ceiling of the car. “I managed to persuade my mark to divulge the place of transmission.” For a fleeting second, Yuuri’s mouth twisted oddly before straightening out again, brief enough that Victor fancied that he would have missed it if he hadn’t been watching Yuuri so closely. “Now we just need to trace the transmission to locate the cell,” Yuuri continued, seemingly unaware of Victor’s scrutiny. “It’ll be my job to convince my next mark to share the transmission codes with me.”
“Tall order,” Victor observed drily. They were nearing the club now – which Yuuri must have dressed for, he realised belatedly. “Are you planning on seducing your way to a successful mission?” he asked jokingly.
Yuuri barked a laugh. “I’ll manage.” He remained quiet as Victor parked the car, two streets away from the club on Yuuri’s instructions, and only looking at Victor when Victor plucked the key from the ignition. For a moment, Yuuri seemed to study him, taking in his sleek combat blacks. “You’ll do,” he said suddenly, turning away once more and undoing his seatbelt.
“Here,” Yuuri said when they got out of the car, beckoning Victor towards a side alley. The set of his shoulders was tense, his voice clipped. Silently, Victor trailed after him, pausing only at the other end of the alley, where Yuuri had stopped too.
Beside him, Yuuri sighed. “Follow my lead,” he said, rolling his shoulders, “and don’t ask any questions.” Then, he seemed to melt against Victor, the line of his body curved against Victor’s side. Startled, Victor brought his arm around Yuuri’s waist, even as Yuuri began nuzzling at the square of his jaw.
“Let’s go,” Yuuri murmured into his neck, and Victor’s hand tightened reflexively on Yuuri’s hip.
They made their way in similar fashion to the entrance of the club, where the doorman barely gave them an onceover before waving them in.
Inside, the club was, in Victor’s experience, as most clubs were: all dark corners and blinding strobe lights, the heated press of nameless bodies gyrating desperately to dance music that boomed far too loud. But there was something about being in the midst of it all with Yuuri which made everything seem just a bit too heady, too intense, too cloying, too suffocating, too much.
Stumbling, he let Yuuri guide him to the bar. He watched numbly as Yuuri signalled to the bartender, who poured out two shots of vodka. Wordlessly, Yuuri handed him one and gestured for him to drink up, before knocking back the other. Yuuri’s throat was a slim, pale line in the semi-dark of the club, and for a moment, Victor found himself caught on the bob of Yuuri’s Adam’s apple as he swallowed. Yuuri was looking at him now, wide-eyed in a manner which Victor could almost describe as shy, and Victor’s mouth went dry. The music was still far too loud, too loud for any sort of thought, the throb of the bass a relentless counterpoint to the wild pounding of his pulse.
Victor tossed back his shot, and pulled Yuuri in for a kiss.
Yuuri stiffened. His lips parted, a startled sound which Victor swallowed greedily, even as his hands smoothed down the length of Yuuri’s spine to palm the cheeks of Yuuri’s ass. Then, all at once, Yuuri relaxed. His hands fisted in the folds of Victor’s shirtfront as he tugged Victor closer, head tipping back to give Victor greater access.
It was an eternity before they broke apart, and yet no time at all.
“We should,” Victor started, breathing hard, and trailed off, because Yuuri’s had licked his lips, and how was that fair, really. “What did you,” he tried again, managed, before Yuuri leaned into him again for another kiss.
“Dance with me,” Yuuri whispered against his lips, and Victor let himself be led onto the dancefloor, Yuuri’s hand a hot brand against the small of his back, Yuuri’s thigh between his, Yuuri grinding. He cradled the back of Yuuri’s head as Yuuri tucked his chin on Victor’s shoulder, and shuddered as Yuuri’s breath ghosted up the side of his neck.
“Victor, listen to me,” Yuuri whispered. “Victor!”
“I’m listening,” he mumbled, nosing at the patch of sensitive skin behind the square of Yuuri’s jaw, just to hear Yuuri gasp.
“I’ll be leaving you now,” Yuuri said, and Victor froze, memory washing over him in a cold tide. In his arms, Yuuri continued to murmur, even as he rolled the front of his hips against Victor’s. He was hard. They both were. “Fifteen minutes, and I want you to meet in the backroom behind those stairs over there.”
Victor squeezed Yuuri’s shoulder in acknowledgment. Reluctantly, he let Yuuri go, turning instead to dance with the cute redhead beside him. From the corner of his eye, he watched as Yuuri began to dance his way across the floor. After a while, it became evident that he was heading towards a blond man on the other corner, whose shock of pale hair was visible across the packed room, but whose features were otherwise indecipherable in the pulsating shadows of the club.
Something fluttered against the edges of his mental shields.
Victor froze, tearing his eyes away from Yuuri’s target. Instinctively, he began a visual sweep of his surroundings, but it was no use. There were too many people in too small a place. He would not be able to spot the Talent-user in the pressing crowd.
He redirected his attention on Yuuri, wishing once again for Mila’s or Yakov’s talent, for some way to let Yuuri know that they were not alone.
In the other corner of the room, Yuuri had begun dancing with his target. He had thrown his arms over the target’s shoulders, and was all but frotting against the target on the dancefloor. Victor made himself look away as the target circled his arms around Yuuri’s waist. With effort, he unclenched his jaw, and smiled winningly at his dance partner.
Fifteen minutes, Yuuri had said. Seven left, now.
He began to count down.
Thirty seconds to go, and he began to extricate himself from the dance floor, gentle hands and apologetic smiles as he guided his partner towards another.
The room was as Yuuri said it would be, tucked discretely behind in the back, just behind a flight of stairs which led, Victor guessed, to storage. The room was small, bare but for a control terminal in the centre and, Victor discovered as he did a visual sweep, a man slumped just behind the door, body listing against the doorframe, seemingly unconscious. Yuuri’s target, Victor realised belatedly, recognising the hair.
Victor crouched down and placed his fingers on the man’s neck, feeling for a pulse: irregular and unsteady, but still alive.
“He’s not dead.”
Victor glanced up. Yuuri was standing above him, his arms crossed almost defensively across his chest.
“You did this?” he asked. There were no outward marks on the unconscious man, nothing to give away what it was exactly which Yuuri had done.
Yuuri shrugged, his expression inscrutable, for all that his hair was clearly mussed, his lips red and kiss-swollen. “Like I said, I don’t need you to protect me.” He turned away then, crossing the distance to the terminal in two quick strides. His fingers flew rapidly over the keyboard, pausing only to hook a slim, black device into the console. A tiny light on the device flashed red. Yuuri punched in another sequence of commands, then stepped back, making a pleased noise at the back of his throat. A progress bar replaced the contents of the computer screen, and the light on the device began to blink.
Wordlessly, Victor moved towards the door, positioning himself just so, where he had a good view of the club beyond even as he remained out of sight. He flexed his fingers, taking absent comfort from the ice crystals that gathered and cracked at his fingertips.
Time stretched. They waited in tense silence as the progress bar crept, snail like, towards the right end. 95%, and there was movement at the entrance of the club – four men, their clothes too plain, their movements too purposeful.
Victor tensed. “We’ve got company.”
96%, and the newcomers were wading through the dancefloor now. Victor squared his shoulders. Around him, the temperature began to dip.
“No.” Yuuri’s touch was warm against his arm. “You can’t. No one’s supposed to know that we’ve been here.”
“Then you’d best think of something else,” Victor bit out. A quick glance at the screen showed that they were at 98%. There was a window in the back of the room, but it was too high for either of them to reach without some difficulty, and certainly too small for them to wiggle through easily.
99%. Victor darted another glance towards the rest of the club. The men were closer now. Mentally, he started to measure the distance to the window.
The light on the device flashed green. In a flash, Yuuri plucked the device from the console. “Come with me,” he hissed as he grabbed Victor’s hand, tugging him in the direction of the dancefloor instead, and towards the fast-approaching men.
Confused, Victor allowed himself to be pulled along, ruthlessly squashing any doubts he had. Now was not the time for questions.
“Backdoor’s behind the bar,” said Yuuri, jerking his chin sharply in its direction. “Be ready.”
The men were too close now. Much too close. A few more paces, and they would be within grabbing distance.
Sensation bloomed over Victor’s shields, honey-sweet and gold. A caress.
Startled, Victor wrenched his gaze towards Yuuri.
Yuuri was not looking at him, his attention instead locked fast on the club before them. Around the room, other patrons faltered mid-step as they began to turn towards Yuuri too. One lurched in their direction, as did another, shoving aside the people before him.
Yuuri’s hand was tight on his wrist. “Ice on the floor, quick!”
Without thinking, Victor let the cold snap out. Ice slicked the grimy floor of the club, spread, and people slipped, fell, were punched, kicked.
They ran, and Victor did not look back at the brawl which they had – which Yuuri had – somehow started.
They ran, out into the night and into the alley once more, where Victor pulled Yuuri to a halt.
“You’re not a Normal,” was the first thing he said when he caught his breath.
Yuuri glared. “No, I’m not,” he managed between pants.
“Why did you let us think that?”
“Really? I don’t think this is the right time for questions,” Yuuri snapped, and Victor fought against the urge to smile.
“No, it isn’t,” he said, spinning around on his heel and catching the last man hiding in the alley by his neck. A push, and the blood in the man’s veins froze over. Victor released his grip, and let the man, now very much dead, crumple to the ground. “But don’t you for a moment think that this conversation is over,” he threw over his shoulder as he led the way back to his car.
They drove back to the Kolledzh in silence, where Yuuri had to report to his superiors in Japan, and Victor was obliged to deliver his account of the night’s events to Yakov. Afterwards, however, found Victor once again in Yuuri’s room, and Yuuri frozen once more in his doorway, Yuuri’s expression oddly stricken.
“Perhaps we should stop meeting like this,” Victor suggested casually, when it became clear that Yuuri was not about to speak.
It worked. Yuuri shook his head, and when he looked at Victor again, he even managed a stiff-looking smile. “I’m not the one who can’t seem to stay out of a private room.”
Victor waited for Yuuri to step fully into the room. Then, he stood up, crossing the room to close the door behind Yuuri. When he turned around, Yuuri was watching him warily. “We should talk,” he said.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” retorted Yuuri lightly, even as he dropped his gaze to his feet.
“Us,” Victor corrected. “I want to talk about us.”
“There’s no ‘us’.”
“But there could be an ‘us’.” Victor took a step forward. “What else would you call tonight?”
Yuuri sighed, but he lifted his gaze again, meeting Victor’s squarely. He held his hands out beseechingly. “Victor, whatever you felt tonight, it wasn’t real.”
Victor took another step, and again another, forcing Yuuri in turn to step back hurriedly or come up against Victor’s chest. “Like hell it wasn’t real,” he snapped.
“My Talent, it – god, how ridiculous it sounds – it seduces people.” Yuuri scrubbed a palm across his face. “They fall madly in love with me while it lasts. They’ll do anything for me. And if they come close enough, I –” He hesitated, voice dropping. “I drain them.” He closed his eyes.
Victor paused, struck by memory. “Like,” he paused, as he struggled for the words, the Church and its stories a dim childhood memory, “like an incubus?”
“If you will.” Yuuri sighed, opening his eyes again. He sounded tired, but the words rolled off his tongue smoothly, even and clearly practised. “What you felt, what you’ve been feeling since that last team mission – that’s my Talent talking. You were just unlucky enough to be caught in its radius while I used it.”
Victor snorted. “I call bullshit.”
“Call it what you like, but it’s not real, Victor,” Yuuri exploded.
Victor strode forward briskly, closing the last bit of distance between them, and backing Yuuri against the wall. Daringly, he reached for Yuuri’s hand, cupping it between two of his own, then lifting it up to brush a kiss across Yuuri’s knuckles. Yuuri’s breath hitched, and Victor smirked his satisfaction. “Tell me again that it’s not real. That you don’t feel anything for me.”
“It doesn’t matter what I feel,” Yuuri said. “It’s not real for you.” But he did not pull his hand away.
Gently, Victor turned Yuuri’s hand around, and pressed another kiss on the meaty part of his palm. “Yuuri, have you read my file before?”
Yuuri blinked, apparently confused by the seeming change in the topic. “What has that got to do with – ”
“Victor Nikiforov, 27 years old, born on Christmas day.” Victor recited. “First manifested his secondary Talent at ten, when he froze a lake over. Further testing indicated an underlying primary Talent. A natural shield.” A third kiss, this time to Yuuri’s wrist. “Your Talent doesn’t affect me, Yuuri. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.” Dropping Yuuri’s hand, he took a final step forward, crowing Yuuri against the wall. He placed his hands, on either side of Yuuri’s shoulders, caging Yuuri in, forcing him to look up to meet Victor’s eyes. “I can feel it against my shield when you use it, but it doesn’t affect me.”
Silence, but for their heavy breathing.
“Still want me to go?” Victor asked quietly.
Slowly, Yuuri lifted his arms, wrapping them around Victor’s shoulders. He buried his face in the crook of Victor’s neck. “Stay,” he whispered as Victor drew him in tightly.
They woke in the morning to sleepy kisses and tangled sheets.
“Everyone in position?” Victor asked, from his position on the roof of the World Coalition building facility. They were T-minus twenty seconds from mission start.
“Plamya, check.” Mila sounded cheerful, almost eager; he imagined her pacing within striking distance of the facility’s street-level entrance of the facility, impatient for her cue to take out the security cameras and devices below.
“Tigr, check,” Yurio added, his voice reedy and faint in the wind as he hovered outside the floor-to-ceiling windows of the tenth floor.
“Koldun, check.” Keys clacked in the background, Georgi no doubt tracking their physical positions on map.
“Eros, check,” said Yuuri, warm beside him and so very much alive.
“Good,” he smiled, and stole a kiss for luck before counting his team in.