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The Wolves' Den

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Yuuri wakes up in the Pakhan's bed just as early sunlight starts filtering through the windows. The plush, enormous king-size bed is in utter disarray, torn up bits of foil wrappers littering the stained Egyptian cotton sheets.

He stirs and stretches his arms languidly, feeling sore and bruised all over, skin tingling and a familiar ache burning at the base of his spine. His eyes flutter open and take in the gilded ceiling above him, as hazy memories of the night prior fill his mind.

Next to him, Alexey’s side of the bed is already empty and cold, and there's the sound of gushing water coming from the master bathroom, a sure indication that the man is busy taking his shower.

Craving a cup of tea, Yuuri slowly rolls out of the comfort of the sheets and stands on wobbly legs, wrapping a black satin robe -one of Alexey's gifts- around himself before padding out the bedroom. He is greeted by a mouthwatering smell wafting from the kitchen and he follows it eagerly, only stopping briefly in one of the guest bathrooms to clean up the last traces of sex that still cling to his skin. He no longer has trouble navigating the maze of rooms and corridors, having become quite familiar with the layout of Alexey’s enormous mansion after all the time he spent there in the last four months.

He still clearly remembers the first time he had visited the mansion, of how terrified he’d been back then. The Bratva lair was crawling with burly Russian men and he'd glimpsed the guns, the ragged scars peeking from their shirt collars, the beefy, taut muscles straining their clothes. It had been enough to scare the hell out of him and send him into a wild panic. And then he had heard the leers and the whispers –the “Pakhan’s new plaything” they were calling him.

He isn’t fazed as much anymore. As it is, he walks into the kitchen and doesn’t even bat an eye at the sight of the Bratva’s deadliest men all lounging indolently around the kitchen island, enjoying what looks like a hearty meal.

Everything looks and smells great. A steaming pot of coffee and a pitcher of orange juice sit next to a neat arrangement of thick, golden brown French toast, dripping with syrup and topped with strawberries and blueberries. There’s also an assortment of cinnamon rolls, raisin scones, omelets, poached eggs and bacon, slices of cantaloupe, oranges and bananas.

Most of Alexey’s men only spare Yuuri a cursory glance, but Mila’s blood red lips curve into a smile as soon as she spots him. Dmitry, who is sprawled on a stool next to her, stills mid-bite, his eyes traveling up and down Yuuri’s flimsy robe with a different kind of hunger.

“Eros! Hi!” Mila exclaims delightedly, her heels clicking against the tiles as she swerves around Dmitry to greet him. “Would you like some breakfast? Coffee? Toast? Scones?”

“You can sit on my lap, sweetheart,” Dmitry adds, a wolfish grin breaking across his face. He pats his thigh, splaying his legs wider apart in a very suggestive manner, and Yuuri averts his eyes, an unpleasant, queasy feeling coiling in his gut, swiftly overriding his appetite.

“Thanks Mila, but I think I’ll just have some tea,” he says, ignoring his stomach’s protests.

Mila’s smile flickers. “Oh. Are you sure you don’t want anything to eat? I can have Mariah fix you something light if you’d like.”

“No, thank you, I’m not really hungry right now,” he lies, mustering up a small, reassuring smile and quickly steers away from Dmitry and Mila to rummage through the cupboards in search of the green tea. "Asshole" he hears Mila mutter under her breath as she whacks the back of Dmitri's head, and he has to hold back a smile. Mila is one of the few people here who has always been nice to him, looking out for him as best as she can.

He is about to open the top cabinet when a figure on the other end of the kitchen catches his eye. A tall, lean and broad-shouldered man, with pale skin and even paler hair, leaning casually against the wall by the window, dressed impeccably in a stylish black suit and tie like the others, a dark overcoat draped over his shoulders. He is busy swiping away at his phone, a steaming mug of what Yuuri assumes to be coffee in his other hand.

Yuuri’s throat goes dry. He may not be wearing his glasses, but he would recognize that light hair color anywhere, having seen the man before on multiple occasions.

Victor Nikiforov.

Nikiforov is a high-ranking member of Alexey’s inner circle, and also happens to be unfairly, heartachingly beautiful.

In all the time Yuuri has spent with Alexey, he has never actually had the chance to talk to the silver-haired man or learn much about him. He's a bit of a mystery, not a personal bodyguard like Ekaterina and Dmitry, nor a driver like Georgi or a personal assistant like Mila.

All Yuuri knows is that he usually lurks in the background of the Pakhan’s meetings and takes over the Pakhan’s operations when the Pakhan gets bored or when he is confronted with uncooperative and unsavory associates. He’s not privy to what happens when Nikiforov and the other men disappear behind closed doors, but he has heard the housekeepers’ rumors of hair-raising screams coming from the other side, and it’s not hard to hazard a guess as to what Nikiforov’s job entails.

Yuuri manages to tear his eyes away long enough to find the green tea. Of course, it’s on the highest shelf in the top cabinet, slightly out of his reach. He clenches his teeth, rises on his tiptoes and stretches his hand as far as it will go. His fingertips are straining to graze the side of the box when he feels a presence looming at his back. Before he can so much as panic, the other person’s front bumps into his back and the box is lifted off the shelf.

Yuuri spins around, heart hammering in his chest as he finds himself a hair breadth’s away from Victor. It takes his scrambled mind an embarrassingly long time to register that Victor is presenting the box to him in his gloved palm, and he takes it with flaming cheeks.

“Thank you,” he says a little dazedly.

“My pleasure,” Victor smiles, before stepping away and retrieving his mug off the counter.

Yuuri has never been particularly clumsy or goofy, but as he flicks the kettle on and goes through the motions of preparing his tea, Victor’s distracting presence at the edge of his vision has him fumbling and faltering, despite the fact that the man's attention is no longer on him.

He winds up carelessly steeping the tea for a bit longer than necessary, but still, the tea is exquisite. It’s high quality, organic Japanese sencha, the kind that costs an arm and a leg and is highly sought-after.

He takes a sip of the delicious liquid, the unique earthy flavor bursting on his tongue. There is something tranquil about sipping a fresh brew of green tea that reminds him to take a deep breath and relax. It reminds him of home, of Hasetsu’s slow pace and calm waves.

He must have a particularly blissed out expression on his face because Ekaterina catches his eye and smiles.

“That good, huh?” she asks, in her flat, slightly scratchy voice. Ekaterina is the only member of the Bratva’s inner circle who is older than the Pakhan himself. Unlike the rest of Alexey’s men, she doesn’t wear crisp black suits, favoring a much more casual style, complete with leather jacket and knee-high combat boots.

Currently, she’s perched on one of the kitchen’s stools, her chin resting atop her hand and her messy blonde curls spilling over her shoulders.

“Yeah," Yuuri nods, fingers bumping along the handle of the cup. "It’s Japanese sencha. Alexey had it shipped from Japan a couple of weeks ago.”

Ivan’s eyebrow arches. “Since when does he buy fancy Japanese tea?”

“He got it for me after I told him I was feeling a bit homesick," Yuuri explains. "He’s been keeping it for when I stay over.”

“You know, kid,” Ekaterina drawls, looking at Yuuri from under her thick, slightly flakey mascara-coated lashes. “I can’t remember the last time he did something like that for anyone. Alexey is not one to pamper or coddle his partners. He must have it bad for you if he’s actually going out of his way to try and make you feel at home here.”

“Eros is special,” Mila pipes up, grinning. “Alexey is really smitten with him.”

“Why are you talking about him like he’s his fucking boyfriend?” Dmitry sneers, voice dripping with malice. “He’s just a whore.”

Yuuri winces. He’s gotten used to hearing Dmitry’s insults over time, but that doesn’t mean they hurt any less. Mila seems to share his distaste, her mouth twisting in anger.

“Dima! Watch it!” she seethes, glowering at him.

“What? It’s true!" Dmitry's lips curl, his cold eyes locked on Yuuri. "You know, I could hear your screams all the way downstairs. I bet you just love taking a cock up that tight little ass of yours, don't you?”

Yuuri throws him a hateful glare, a flare of annoyance rising in his chest.

“For fuck’s sake, Dima,” Ivan says. “Do you have a death wish?”

“I can help you with that,” Ekaterina pipes up, drawing one of her throwing knives and twirling it between her fingers. She uses it to pierce a piece of omelet and bring it to her lips.

Georgi wrinkles his nose in disgust. “That is so unsanitary, Katyushka. Did you at least disinfect it?”

“Nope.” Ekaterina replies, popping the bite into her mouth, and Georgi makes a face. “Gross.”

Dmitry continues, undeterred. “So, what's your price? How much is he paying you to spread your legs for him?”

“Cut it out Dima!” Mila snarls.

“It’s okay, Mila. He would never be able to afford my rates anyway." Yuuri says as evenly as he can manage, looking Dmitry dead in the eye over the rim of his cup.

A few chuckles break out around the room.

“Bitch,” Dmitry hisses. His face scrunches up in an angry scowl, hands balling into fists at his sides, but he knows better than to touch Yuuri, of course. Everyone in the room knows that Yuuri bears the Pakhan's claim and is not to be violated under any circumstances. The rules on the matter are clear. You're free to look, but you cannot touch.

As if on cue, a strong arm curls around Yuuri’s waist, drawing him to the Pakhan’s side. Yuuri tenses for just a brief moment, before relaxing in the sturdy cradle of Alexey’s arms. “Enough Dmitry. Another word and I swear I’ll rip your goddamned tongue out and feed it to Maxim.” Alexey barks. Uncannily, Maxim, Alexey’s vicious Dobermann, appears from behind his master’s legs and starts growling.

From the way Dmitry shuts his mouth immediately and pales, it’s clear that it’s not an empty threat.

“Good morning, beautiful,” Alexey croons in Yuuri’s ear.

“’Morning,” Yuuri purrs back, turning and winding one arm around the other man’s neck seductively, fingers carding through the short hair at his nape the way Alexey likes.

Alexey tilts Yuuri's chin up and captures his lips in a deep, possessive kiss.

“What are you doing up?” he says before leaning in to kiss him again, and Yuuri lets his clean, musky scent envelop him. “I thought you were going to take it easy and sleep in, kotyonok.”

“I couldn’t sleep anymore,” Yuuri whispers against Alexey’s lips. Alexey takes notice of the cup in his hands and smiles. “Was the tea to your liking?”

“It was really good, thank you.”

Alexey finally takes his eyes off Yuuri, taking in the scene around him. “I see you didn't waste any time making yourselves comfortable in my kitchen, as usual,” he says dryly addressing his men, his intense gaze sweeping across the room. “Feet off my furniture, Vasylieva.”

“Su casa es mi casa, boss.” Ekaterina says, not moving an inch.

Georgi frowns. “I don’t think that’s how it goes-”

“We’re ready to leave when you are, sir,” Mila interrupts in a bright, no-nonsense tone, offering the Pakhan a mug of steaming coffee.

Alexey nods and then, to Yuuri’s surprise and mild shock, he beckons Victor closer.

“Kotyonok,” Alexey gestures towards the silver-haired man. “You’ve met Victor, right? My second-in-command.”

Yuuri casts his eyes to the floor. “A few times,” he says, fiddling with the sash of his robe.

“Well, Victor, what do you think of my little minx?” Alexey grins. “He’s a beauty, isn’t he?”

“Absolutely,” Victor’s rich and melodious voice replies, before adding “A bit on the short side, though.”

Yuuri’s eyes snap up immediately, feeling a twinge of indignation at the man’s blunt remark.

Alexey barks out an amused laugh. “Don’t listen to him, darling, he’s just being a jackass,” he says, slapping Victor’s shoulder. Victor’s lips twitch up, in a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. Just like the smile he’d given Yuuri earlier, it feels unnaturally mannered and artificial.

“Well, since Victor won’t be coming with us, he will take you back to the Menagerie instead of Georgi this time,”

“There's no need, I can get a cab--” Yuuri starts to protest. He’s gotten used to quiet car rides with Georgi, but that doesn’t mean that he's ready to hop in the car of another mysterious and potentially very dangerous member of the Russian mafia, no matter how attractive he might be.

“Nonsense” Alexey tosses the suggestion aside with a dismissive wave. “I don’t like the idea of you getting in a car with a stranger. I would feel much better if Victor gave you a lift. And you don’t need to worry, kotyonok, Victor is one of my best men. You’ll be safe with him.”

Yuuri reluctantly bites back his protests as Alexey exchanges a few more words with Mila and Ivan before finally tucking into his breakfast, pulling Yuuri onto his lap, much to Yuuri’s embarrassment. He still feels sore and kind of uncomfortable but settles on resting his head against Alexey’s firm chest, listening quietly as Alexey talks to his men. They are speaking rapid-fire Russian, and the words are too fast for him to catch.

He almost dozes off right there, lulled by the constant chatter, when a hand starts raking through his hair. “I can’t believe I won’t be able to see you for two weeks,” Alexey says in his ear, tugging a strand of Yuuri’s hair between his forefinger and thumb.

“We’ve been apart before,” Yuuri reminds him.

“Never for this long,” Alexey continues huskily. “Maybe I should stay here. With you. We could find something else to do,”

He snakes a hand under Yuuri’s robe, letting his fingers trail up Yuuri’s calf to his bare thigh.

From this angle, nobody can really see anything, but Yuuri stiffens nonetheless.

Not here. he thinks desperately. Not in front of them.

He twists and tries to sneak a hand on Alexey’s sternum in a subtle attempt to put some distance between them, but Alexey seizes his wrist, squeezing it almost painfully. His hand on Yuuri’s leg moves higher, caressing the soft skin of his inner thigh. His thumb skims over the bruises he left the previous night and he presses down on a particularly tender spot, making Yuuri hiss.

“S-Sounds tempting…” Yuuri tries to say, aiming for coy but ending up sounding unconvincing even to his own ears. Alexey’s smile turns a little sharp at the edges, as if he can see right through him.

He pulls Yuuri into a harsh, demanding kiss, a testament to his overpowering strength and brutality, which often surge when they are alone in Alexey’s bedroom, tangled in the sheets. It's a clear show of Alexey’s dominance, to remind Yuuri that Alexey could have him right now if he wanted, and that it doesn’t matter if Yuuri is into it or not, or whether he’s still sore or not, because Alexey is not simply another client, but the most powerful man in Russia.

Thankfully, Alexey breaks the kiss not long after and his hand doesn’t stray any higher. Yuuri lets out a shaky breath, feeling sheer relief flow through his veins.

“Tell you what,” Alexey says. “When I get back I’m going to take you somewhere nice for dinner. And later we can spend the night in one of my penthouse suites in Tsentralny. Just you, me, a bottle of champagne and a perfect view of the city. What do you say?”

He's not really asking, but Yuuri nods anyway, donning on a fake smile. “I can hardly wait.”

“Excellent. I’ll have Mila call Lilia and make the arrangement.”

“Hey, are you gonna eat that, boss?” Ekaterina asks, gesturing at his half-finished breakfast. Alexey sighs heavily, sliding his plate over to her. “It’s all yours.”

“Sir,” Mila says, glancing down at her watch. “We really need to hurry if we want to make the nine o'clock plane to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.”

“Have fun hunting… um,” Yuuri tries to bite back the bile rising up his throat. “Rabbits?”

Alexey’s cold grey eyes twinkle wickedly. “Wolves and mooses, darling. Bears too, if we’re lucky.”

“R-Right,” Yuuri swallows thickly, feeling sick. “Have a fun trip.”

Alexey gives Yuuri one last goodbye kiss before he leaves, Maxim at his heels. Dmitry, Ivan, Georgi, and Ekaterina file out after him, Mila the only one to offer Yuuri a friendly wave before disappearing.

From one of the large windows, Yuuri watches the blurry shapes of Alexey’s staff as they scuttle around, hauling Alexey’s luggage and rifle cases in the back of the Lexus, while Georgi and Ivan gingerly strap in the two huge dog carriers containing the newly acquired mastiffs Alexey has opted for, since Maxim is too old to make the trip.

Just then, he feels a presence sidle up beside him and he startles, glancing to see it's Victor.

They don’t say anything, just watch in silence as three sleek black cars pull out of the driveway, onto the gravel track and through the heavily guarded front gates, disappearing from view behind a long line of trees.

Something coiled tight in Yuuri’s chest starts to loosen and unwind. An overwhelming sense of relief washes over him like a tidal wave, making his knees buckle, and he grips the backrest of a chair in an effort to keep himself upright. For the first time in months, he feels like he can finally breathe normally again. He can’t believe that he’s been granted two weeks -two weeks!- in which he won’t be asked to warm Alexey’s bed and satisfy his every whim and desire.

“Are you all right?”

Victor is studying him with his eyebrows pinched in a frown, and Yuuri realizes that he must have mistaken Yuuri’s relief for dizziness or pain. “I’m okay,” he says quickly.

Victor’s blue eyes, icy and devoid of any sympathy, bore into him. “Rough night?”

Yuuri exhales a sharp breath, looking away. There's no need for him to answer. After all, it’s no secret that the Pakhan is rough in bed. In the throes of passion, he becomes a lustful beast and doesn’t care whether he leaves his partners unsatisfied, or worse, hurt.

“He doesn’t treat you kindly, does he?” Victor goes on, after a beat of uncomfortable silence. He nods towards Yuuri’s hand, and Yuuri looks down to see a ring of bruises blooming around his wrist. He hastily tugs his sleeve down to cover it, feeling his face heat up to the tip of his ears.

He really, really doesn’t want to have this conversation right now, not with Alexey’s second-in-command of all people.

“He was just very… eager, that’s all,” he settles on saying, tightening the belt of the robe self-consciously.

Victor scrutinizes his face for a long moment. Yuuri can see the way his brow furrows like he wants to say more, but he's interrupted when Yuuri’s stomach breaks the silence, growling loudly.

“You haven’t eaten,” Victor states, glancing around the kitchen, but there’s hardly anything left of the previously luscious breakfast. “I’ll have Mariah fix you something.”

“Oh, you don’t need to do that,” Yuuri says. “I-I mean, I'm sure she has her hands full with her housekeeping duties, and I don’t want to inconvenience her. I’ll eat later.”

Victor doesn’t say anything, but his eyes narrow.

Yuuri squirms uncomfortably. Nervousness and apprehension pool in his gut, making him jittery and tongue-tied. “So… uhh. Yeah. Um.... I-I should probably go now… to, uh, get changed—” he stutters, swinging his arm and making an aborted gesture towards the door. He takes off before Victor can say any more.

Half an hour later, he has showered and slipped back into his skimpy clothes from the previous night, and he forces his feet to make their way back to Victor to tell him he is ready to leave. He feels limp and sore, and all he wants to do is go back to his small room at the Menagerie, eat a whole bucket of ice cream and sleep for a week straight.

Apparently fate has other plans, and he finds Victor still in the kitchen, standing before an assortment of ingredients – flour, eggs, cottage cheese, sugar, and salt- all lined up on the granite countertop, next to several utensils and measuring cups.

“Um… what are you doing?”

Victor looks over at him. He has foregone his jacket, and the sleeves of the crisp white shirt underneath have been rolled up to his elbows, revealing a pair of well-defined forearms. “How do you feel about syrniki?”

Yuuri tries very hard not to stare at Victor’s forearms. “Excuse me?”

“Clearly, you need to eat,” Victor says bluntly, a cold yet cheerful smile splashed on his face. “So, I decided to make us syrniki,”

“You’re cooking for me?” Yuuri asks incredulously.

Victor cocks an eyebrow, something like amusement dancing in his eyes. “Why are you so surprised?”

Yuuri gapes, feeling stunned and appalled at the same time. In all honesty, the idea of Victor -ethereal and inscrutable Bratva enforcer- wielding a spatula and performing such a mundane task as cooking sounds utterly preposterous.

“You really don’t need to do that…” he tries to say.

“Yes, I do,” Victor says brightly. “As I said, you have to eat. You looked ready to faint earlier, and we can’t have that on my watch. You understand, da?”

Yuuri just stares, absolutely dumbfounded.

“So,” Victor continues, looking expectantly at him with the same eerily cheerful smile. “Syrniki?”

Yuuri shifts his weight from foot to foot nervously. “I, um, have never tried them.”

“Never?" Victor fakes a gasp, bringing a hand to his heart for emphasis. "Well, you’re in for a treat. I happen to make excellent syrniki.”

He has flour smattered across his cheeks and nose, Yuuri notices dimly. It’s kind of cute.

It turns out that Victor does know how to make syrniki. His skills in the kitchen, however, leave much to be desired.

“Um, do you need help?” Yuuri asks, unsure.

“No,” Victor snaps, huffing out a breath that makes his bangs flutter adorably. “I can do this,” Stiffly, he attempts to whisk together the ingredients in a bowl, brows pinched and a look of intense concentration on his face.

He has donned one of Mariah's frilly pink aprons they have found in one of the kitchen drawers, and the contrast with his fine, tailored clothes is so comical that Yuuri has to stifle a smile.

After managing to whip up the batter, Victor also insists on molding the syrniki and frying them himself, but his technique doesn’t seem to yield great results, and he almost ends up burning the food twice. Yuuri has helped his mother in the kitchen enough times to know instinctively what to do.

“Maybe it’s better if I do it,” he says, and Victor glances at him with something akin to relief. Yuuri takes over easily, plucking a pair of chopsticks from one of the drawers and using it to fry and flip the syrniki with practiced ease.

Victor’s eyes on him are only mildly distracting this time. At one point, Yuuri even bumps Victor’s hip by accident and is totally taken aback when Victor bumps back playfully. His surprise nearly causes him to send the chopsticks flying right into the skillet, but Victor’s hand readily shoots out to steady his.

They keep cooking side by side for a while, Victor molding the batter into little round shapes and coating them in flour before passing them to Yuuri to fry. It would almost be domestic, if it weren’t for the gun nestled in Victor’s shoulder holster, the glint of metal reminding Yuuri exactly what Victor does for a living.

In the end, they wind up with a stack of uneven but golden syrniki and a very messy kitchen, flour and sugar and specks of batter splattered all over the place on the pristine granite countertops and marble floors. Of course, Yuuri starts to fret about the state of the kitchen, but Victor assures him that Mariah and the other housekeepers will take care of it later.

The syrniki are delicious. They are like sweet pancakes and they melt on his tongue, the golden crispy exterior perfectly balanced by the pillowy-soft, fluffy interior. By Victor’s suggestion, he tries them with blueberry jam and sour cream, and the taste is fantastic.

“Thank you,” he says, giving the other man a genuine smile. “It was really nice of you to do this for me.”

Victor eyes him for a long, quiet moment, his stare so intense and unflinching that Yuuri feels his pulse flutter, anxiety creeping back under his skin as he realizes how indecent he must look, what with his wet hair pushed back, his low-cut blouse and red-stained cheeks.

“There’s no need to thank me,” Victor eventually says, clearing his throat. “I rather enjoyed it, actually. Though it’s been a while since the last time I tried making this recipe myself. I don’t normally cook, and when I do I mostly stick to the basics. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure they'd turn out edible.”

“What?” Yuuri huffs out a laugh. “But you said you made excellent syrniki. Those were your exact words,”

Victor’s mouth curves just a hint. “Ah, yes, and surprisingly that turned out to be true, didn’t it?”

“Why did you bother at all?” Yuuri asks, unable to resist his curiosity. “To cook for me, I mean. Just toasting some bread would have been enough.”

“Perhaps I wanted to impress you,” Victor says, then winks at him.

Winks.

Yuuri nearly chokes, cheeks flooding with heat. Having absolutely no idea what to respond to that, he hastily ducks his head and busies himself with another piece of syrniki.

That is, until he feels a finger gently tip his face back towards Victor’s.

The man’s eyes rake over his face, lingering on his mouth, and he starts to lean in, getting far too close for Yuuri’s comfort. Yuuri's pulse goes haywire, heart leaping in his chest.

“What are you doing?” he asks faintly.

“You have cream on your chin,” Victor tells him, sweeping his thumb over Yuuri’s skin, dangerously close to his bottom lip. He swipes the smear of cream and brings it to his own lips, licking it off his own finger.

“Vkusno,” he says, eyes never leaving Yuuri’s, and Yuuri's heart pounds faster, breath catching in his throat.

This, whatever it is, is dangerous. Far more dangerous than a gun to his temple, or a knife at his throat.

Abruptly, the door bursts open, swinging on its hinges, a familiar pitter-patter resounding against the tiles. Yuuri straightens up, attention whipping to the door, but relaxes when he sees that it’s just Maxim.

Victor too seems to be pulled back into the moment. He frowns, checking the time on his phone.

“We still have a few hours left before I have to take you back. Why don’t you go lie down for a while? I’ll wake you up when it’s time to go.”

“Can’t,” Yuuri sighs, slumping in his chair. “I’m stuffed. I can’t get up.”

The playful look is back in Victor’s eyes, and Yuuri doesn’t even have the time to register what's happening before he's snatched up, hoisted by Victor's arms hooked around his back and under his knees.

“Oh my god!” he screeches, desperately latching onto Victor’s shoulders as he finds himself with his legs dangling in the air. “Put me down! I’m heavy!”

“You’re light as a feather,” Victor reassures him, already on his way to Alexey’s guest bedroom. “Come on.”

Yuuri fists the material of Victor’s shirt in his clutches. From this up close, he has the chance to observe the man's striking features, his long, elegant nose, his high cheekbones and the soft swoop of hair that falls over one of his bright blue eyes. He’s truly gorgeous. Gorgeous and deadly, a small voice in the back of his mind reminds him, even though it’s quite hard to reconcile this man with the cold, impassible Bratva persona from before.

Victor deposits him gently on the plush bed, but Yuuri catches the hem of his shirt before he has the time to pull away.

“Can you stay for a bit?” he asks, tugging lightly. His cheeks redden at his own boldness.

Victor’s only visible eyebrow shoots up.

Yuuri’s eyes widen as he realizes the implication of his words. “Not like that!” he says hastily. “Oh my god, I didn’t mean it in that way, I just – ” he sees the glimmer of mirth in Victor’s eyes and lets out a groan, covering his eyes with his hands. “Forget I said anything please,”

His mouth falls shut as Victor shakes his head and cracks a small, genuine smile. "You're just full of surprises, aren’t you?" he says, assessing him for a moment, before joining Yuuri on the bed, laying down next to him with slow, careful movements, as if not to spook him away.

They lay there, face to face, staring into each other’s eyes.

“Try to get some rest, Eros,” Victor says quietly.

Yuuri feels a warm, happy feeling curling in his belly. He still feels a bit anxious, a bit out of his depth, but he no longer feels intimidated, knowing that the man in front of him is not exactly harmless but not dangerous either.

Weariness and contentment make his eyelids droop with sleep. The last thing he remembers before drifting into unconsciousness is the sea-blue of Victor’s eyes and a warm hand curling tentatively around his own.