"She's driving me crazy," Yuri grumbled, flicking through the notifications on his phone. Mila was losing her shit over the internet coverage of Otabek's motorcycle rescue and consequent tea date turned crashed skater rival dinner.
"You could stop looking at your phone," Otabek suggested mildly. When Yuri looked over the edge of it to glare, Otabek was smiling faintly. He was also floating on his back in the pool, that lunatic, not at all affected by the cold of the hotel rooftop in winter.
"It's seriously freezing up here, aren't you done yet?" Yuri demanded. He was sitting cross-legged on one of the lounge chairs, dragged right up to the pool's edge, and even just looking at Otabek was making his balls try to crawl up inside for warmth.
"I'm relaxing. The cold feels good on my knees and the water takes all the pressure off my hips. You don't have to stay up here if you don't want."
Yuri grumbled something indistinct, not really sure himself why he didn't just go back inside, down to his perfectly warm hotel room. All he really understood was that he liked talking to Otabek, and it would only be a few days until they both flew home, so he didn't want to give up what time they had to get to know each other.
But jesus fuck it was cold up here! Yuri glanced over and noticed Otabek's hoodie folded on the end of his lounge chair, over top the rest of Otabek's clothes. "I'm stealing your hoodie."
"Yuri, wait—" Otabek protested, straightening up with a splash, but it was already too late, Yuri halfway into the hoodie.
"What?" Yuri's head popped out of the neck hole. "Oh. Oh. Oh shit, this thing is magic." It really was, perfectly warm and soft, comfortably clingy without being too tight, not staticky at all. Plus it smelled like apples and cold wind and something else earthy that was either Otabek's cologne or just Otabek himself, Yuri hadn't figure it out yet. The hoodie smelled just like riding on the back of Otabek's motorcycle had felt.
Otabek was still watching him with a flat, intent expression that Yuri couldn't read at all. Yuri realized that he was basically sniffing Otabek's hoodie like a creep, and pulled his face out of the hoodie's collar, clearing his throat.
"Well, you weren't wearing it," Yuri sniffed. "Anytime you're ready to quit hanging around up here like some weirdo, let me know."
"Hmm," Otabek said, but he went back to floating on his back, sneaking glances at Yuri out of the corner of his eyes.
Eventually they ended up back in Otabek's hotel room, Yuri flipping channels on his television while Otabek showered off the chlorine from the pool. Afterwards Otabek was puttering around the room restlessly.
"Just sit down already," Yuri ordered, and then blinked when Otabek did right away. "Are you nervous about your Free tomorrow? You'll be great."
"You've never seen my Free Skate," Otabek pointed out. "Can I please have my hoodie back?"
"No, I'm warm." Yuri yawned and slumped against Otabek's side. The earthy smell was stronger, like cinnamon or something else that you grew in fresh dirt, and Yuri figured it was his shower gel. "You pick a channel, I don't care."
"That one," Otabek said immediately. It was the news, which was boring and also in Spanish, but Yuri didn't care, eyelids getting heavier by the second. "You should go sleep."
"Lemme stay here," Yuri murmured.
"Fine. Get under the blanket at least."
Yuri slept like a rock, and woke up all at once early the next morning, the room gray with barely dawn light. They weren't touching, but Otabek was on his side, watching Yuri. One of his hands was in the space between them, the drawstring of the hoodie twisted around his finger.
"Creep," Yuri grunted, swallowing against the dryness of his mouth. He was still wrapped in the hoodie but somehow it wasn't too warm. It was perfect, warm and snug and safe and comfortable. "It sucks we have to both go home tomorrow."
Otabek smiled faintly, eyes low-lidded. "It does suck."
"Don't go home," Yuri said, just to be a brat. "Come to St. Petersburg instead."
There's a pause before Otabek answered softly, "All right."
"Whoa, really?" Yuri sat up, eyes wide. "Are you kidding me?"
"Didn't you mean it?" Otabek asked, face gone that unreadable neutral again.
"Of course I meant it, but…" Yuri broke out into a grin when Otabek just kept staring. "Oh man, awesome. I'm gonna show you everything. You can meet my cat! Oh, and there's cathedrals and fountains and stuff." Because priorities.
And that's how after everything, after breaking Victor's records and winning gold and Victor un-retiring and Yuuri deciding to stay, somehow they all ended upon the same flight back to St. Petersburg. Yuri was still wearing Otabek's hoodie, and it still smelled like wind and apples and some other thing Yuri still hadn't put his finger on.
Somehow Otabek ended up staying for weeks. At first it made sense, that Otabek didn't have Nationals to compete in at home since Kazakhstan some years didn't have enough skaters to field to make it worth it, and then even that it was a good chance for him to access resources that his tiny rink in Almaty didn't afford him. Eventually it stopped making as much sense, but Yuri didn't care. All he cared was that every time Otabek said that soon he would have to go home, Yuri would say, "Stay," and then Otabek would.
But soon enough the days started to get longer, the wind still cold but not made of the razor-iced fingers of December and January, and then one morning the trees in the tiny park they jogged through each morning had buds. Otabek stopped suddenly enough that Yuri was a dozen yards away before he noticed Otabek wasn't beside him any longer and had to double back.
"What?" Yuri asked when he got close enough, stopping at Otabek's shoulder. Otabek was still staring at the buds, so small but dozens and dozens of them. "Looks like spring finally decided to drag its ass out of hibernation, huh?"
Otabek looked down, eyes running over Yuri from messy ponytail to grubby sneakers, most of the in-between covered by Otabek's hoodie. Somehow it still smelled like him, even though Yuri had been the only one wearing it for weeks.
That night after dinner, Otabek pulled Yuri over to the bed they'd been sharing and tugged him down to sit facing each other, expression serious.
"I have something to tell you," Otabek said. "It's very important and you aren't going to believe me at all."
"Oh?" Yuri raised an eyebrow and tried to keep from smiling, half-thinking that Otabek was playing some kind of joke on him. "Go on, then."
"I have to go home. Don't!" he said quickly as Yuri opened his mouth, holding up a hand to stop him. "Please don't. When you command me directly, I have to do what you say and this time, really, I can't."
"You don't have to," Yuri protested, a little stung that Otabek thought anything like that. "Just because I tell you to do something, you don't have to."
"But I do. Because you're wearing my hoodie." Otabek sounded so calm as he made this bizarre claim that Yuri felt irritation rise in his chest.
"What the fuck does that mean?" he snapped. "Would you just make some fucking sense? If you don't want to stay, then don't, but don't blame me about it!"'
"You haven't noticed in all these weeks, that if you told me to do something directly, I always did?" Otabek asked.
"Well…yeah." Yuri frowned. "But I thought you were just being agreeable. I couldn't make you do something you didn't want to, could I?"
"So long as you are wearing that," Otabek reached over to tug lightly on the hoodie's drawstring, "then yes, anything you command me. Do you believe me?"
"No, of course not." Yuri chewed on his bottom lip. "Slap me."
Otabek stiffened. "Yura, please don't…"
"Don't you have to? You just said." Yuri sat up straighter, chin jutted out. "Do it. Hard."
Otabek's expression turned to stone, hard as his palm as it connected with Yuri's cheek, the crack of it echoing in the quiet room. Yuri stared at Otabek, cheek burning, and Otabek stared back.
"All right," Yuri finally said. "Do you mind telling me why you have a hoodie with mind control powers?"
"Because I'm the Knight of Winter," Otabek said, matter of fact, like he was saying 'we're out of milk' or 'your free leg is sloppy.' "It's only because of the Queen's favor that I'm allowed to come to the mortal world and compete from time to time. But I've been overdue at court for weeks now, and with spring coming, even Her favor has limits. If they come for me, you'll be in danger."
"Knight of Winter?" Yuri snorted. "Are you trying to tell me you're some kind of fairy thing? Listen, Beka, there's only one Russian Fairy here, and last I checked it wasn't you."
"The irony is not lost on me, believe me," Otabek said, smiling in faint amusement.
"I've never seen you do even one magic thing," Yuri pointed out.
"How can I, since you're wearing my mantle?" Otabek reached over to wind the hoodie's drawstring around his fingers. "Bestowed on me by the Queen herself, it holds all my power as Knight. Anyone who takes it from me somehow and wears it can command me, just as the Queen of Winter commands me. Without it, I'm…"
"You aren't about to say normal, I hope," Yuri said, lips pursed. "Because this is not fucking normal."
"It isn't," Otabek agreed, smile slipping away. Letting the drawstring slip out of fingers, Otabek lifted his hand to tuck Yuri's hair behind his ear. "I can't return home without it. Please, Yura."
"You only had to ask," Yuri grumbled, reaching to tug the zipper down.
"I know," Otabek said, both of them ignoring the fact that Otabek had asked for his hoodie back any number of times. "You could order me to stay, you know. You could order me to do anything."
Yuri paused, hands just about the push the hoodie off his shoulders. He took one more deep breath in, a lungful of earth and wind and apples, and then he stripped the thing off in one brisk motion and shoved it into Otabek's arms. "If I have to order you to stay," he snarled, "then what the fuck is the point of it?"
Otabek didn't answer, but he did lean in to kiss Yuri, quick and firm. Then he stood up and swung the hoodie around to put his arms through. In the moment that he zipped it up, Yuri could see both versions of Otabek simultaneously: the Otabek in front of him in jeans and bare feet, but also Otabek in ice-blue velvet and knee-high boots, glittering sword at his hip and snow-white cape of fur and silk.
He looked like a knight, all right. He looked like a fucking king.
"Well, shit," Yuri managed, keeping his voice from shaking but only just barely. "Let's see some of your fancy magic then, huh?"
Otabek chuckled, then snapped his fingers. A flower sprang up, slender stem between his thumb and forefinger, glittering petals thin as tissue and clear as glass. He set it on Yuri's palm, where it made his fingers tingle from the cold, but didn't melt. Yuri dropped it in the sheets; he didn't want flowers, even ones spun of magic and silver, he wanted Otabek. He stood up to press himself against Otabek's chest for a desperate, searing kiss, arms tight around Otabek's neck, Otabek's arms strong enough around the small of Yuri's back to lift him up to his toes.
"Stay," Yuri ordered against Otabek's mouth. "Don't go. Stay."
"No," Otabek answered, lips against Yuri's cheek, his forehead, his temple. Yuri gripped the front of Otabek's hoodie, jaw clenched in frustration, but a little relieved too that Otabek could tell him no if he wanted to. "Ready for one more trick?"
"No," Yuri ground out. Otabek pushed him back with firm hands.
The flicker of Otabek's smile was the only warning Yuri got before the air rippled, and suddenly where Otabek had been standing, a fox sat instead, fur pure white, tail curled around delicate paws. Only the eyes were still Otabek's, rich and brown and deep with understanding.
"Think you're so clever, don't you?" Yuri sneered, voice thick. Otabek gave him a slow blink, and then hopped up to the unmade bed on silent feet, putting one paw up against the glass of the window. Yuri thought about refusing to open it, and Otabek tilted his head in mild reproach, as if he knew what Yuri was thinking. Scowling, Yuri knelt on the bed and reached for the window locks, then slid the window up halfway, more than enough space for a fox to slip out. "Well? Go on, get."
Otabek gave him a slow blink, and then he was gone, out the window and down the fire escape, blending into the snow still on the streets like a shadow. Yuri left the window open a long time, until he was shivering head to toe.
Yuri threw himself into skating, spring passing by in a blur of blisters and iced shin splints and sore joints. Mila and Victor soon gave up asking about Otabek, since all they got was grunted half-answers when they asked about him. What the hell was Yuri supposed to tell them, anyway? It wasn't like Otabek could Skype him from the fucking Fairy Court or what the fuck ever. Sometimes Yuuri hugged him for no reason, though, and Yuri always told him he was annoying, but the contact was a little nice, too, like for a few seconds it soothed the spot that hurt the most, right in the center of Yuri's chest.
As soon as it was warm enough not to die of it, Yuri started leaving the window open every night, ignoring the sounds of traffic for the sake of being able to smell the wind. It never carried the smell of apples or fresh earth that Yuri longed for, but it was better than nothing.
On the longest day of summer, just after midnight, Yuri was woken up by the beat of wings, and by the time he peeled his eyes open, a huge, snow-white goose was making an unsteady landing on his feet. In between one blink and the next, the goose became Otabek, golden skin and wind-ruffled hair and nothing at all underneath his half-zipped hoodie.
"Hi," he said, as if he'd seen Yuri that morning at practice instead of three months ago.
"What the FUCK?" Yuri demanded, scrambling up to crawl into Otabek's lap. He threw arms around Otabek's neck and kissed every piece of skin that he could reach.
"It's Solstice," Otabek said, as if that answered everything. "Winter's loss. So until Summer's power starts to weaken in the fall, there isn't much to do at Court. Even fairy balls and feasts are boring when you don't have a proper date."
"You said," Yuri started.
"I said that I had to go home," Otabek interrupted. He cupped Yuri's face between his hands and kissed him, long and sound. Everything smelled of snow, and apples, and the moon, and home. "I didn't say I couldn't come back."