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Storm Signs

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Yuri runs into the tea shop and careens around the counter, ignoring the few customers. His grandfather and Yakov aren't in their customary place so he's happily spared that. Once around the counter he spots the familiar shape through the window and sinks to the floor next to Viktor's long legs.

"Don't tell him I'm here!" he hisses and clutches at Viktor's calf as the door opens again and the bell rings.

"I- Oh, Otabek," Viktor says. "What brings you here?"

"Did Yura come in?" Otabek says. Yuri can tell he's trying to not sound winded, which he is. They'd both ran.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Viktor says. At least once in his life Yuri is glad Viktor's a decent liar. He lessens his grasp on Viktor's leg.

"I saw him come in here," Otabek says, but doesn't move, as if expecting Viktor to own up to it. "Did he leave?"

"Why are you so keen on finding him this beautiful day?" Viktor leans on the counter, stalling, which means Yuri can't leave his hiding place because Otabek would see him do it.

Otabek shifts on his feet. The floor creaks as do his boots. "He wrote me a rude note." His voice is so grave that Yuri has to press his hand over his mouth to stop himself from laughing.

Viktor laughs, too, then coughs. "Ah, a rude note. I see. That's our Yuri."

"He's here, isn't he?" Otabek's voice is lower, unamused.

"Yes," Viktor says, delighted.

"Traitor!" Yuri springs up. Otabek's eyes go wide and he twitches as he's going to launch himself over the counter the way Yuri does.

"Yura," he says.

Yuri punches Viktor in the arm and springs away, through the back door. He hears Otabek take off after him again, his boots making a thunder on the wood and then scraping for purchase on the gravel outside. The village is a blur as Yuri sprints through it, lungs and legs on fire to keep ahead. He takes a sharp left into the fields, crosses a ditch in a leap and rolls over his feet, landing in a heap.

He springs up when Otabek lands on the same side of the ditch, but it's too late and Otabek bears him down again. They land in the immature stalks of rye, Yuri with his face down and Otabek's weight pushing the remaining air out of his lungs. Yuri wheezes a protest, but Otabek holds his head down with a hand squarely on the back of it.

"Your note said I smell," Otabek says very close to Yuri's ear. He sounds disappointed.

"You do- OW!" Yuri squirms and Otabek slips on top of him, making pointy, broken stalks bite into him through his t-shirt.

"What?" Otabek's lips nearly touch the shell of Yuri's ear.

"It's your fault," Yuri coughs, dirt in his mouth and hair, eyes squeezed shut. There's still laughter in his belly, and fight in his limbs as he scrabbles against the earth.

"Beg your fucking pardon?" Otabek says. His knee is on the small of Yuri's back, the point which effectively holds him down. "I washed."

Yuri struggles a little, then snorts, laughing and dying at the same time. "I meant to write you smell nice but you came out too soon."

Otabek's weight disappears off Yuri and he rolls onto his back, gasping for breath. He opens the eye that's not crusted with dirt and seeks out Otabek who's sitting by him in the corner of the rye field they've ruined.

"Yura," Otabek sighs. He sounds so stern, but when he looks at Yuri there's a crack of amusement in his face. "You could've just said that and not made me chase you around."

"Yeah," Yuri admits. He uses a clean-ish part of his t-shirt to wipe his face, then laughs again, skin alive with waning pain and the sunlight and the exhilaration of having Otabek there. His legs ache, his knees are skint, his heart is rapid. "But that wouldn't have been as fun."

It makes Otabek laugh, too. "You could just say chase me." He lays his pleased, beautiful eyes on Yuri, with all the heat and fondness of the sun. His gaze is so heavy it's like a touch and causes Yuri to go newly out of breath.

"Fuck, Beka," Yuri stutters and sits up. He looks at Otabek, the sideswept hair, the narrowed eyes, the lines of his legs under his pants, and scrambles up to his feet. "Chase me," he says, breathless, then sets off again.


"Don't you think the courtship's gone on long enough by now?"

Yuri ignores Mila and keeps picking at the scabs on his knees and shins.

"You like him, he likes you," Mila continues and turns away from the counter to see what he's doing. "Oh, you're disgusting. You can't do that in a place where people eat!"

Yuri looks around the empty shop. "What people?" he huffs and ignores the other things Mila's said.

"Stop it." Mila smacks his hands away and then grasps them in her own. "How'd this happen? God, why are you such a little shit? How'd you get all these cuts? You were fine yesterday."

"I fell," Yuri says. "Over and over again."

The shop's bell dings and Mila lets go of him, shaking her head. There aren't many faces in the village which are unfamiliar coming through the door and this one isn't either. The customer owns the only clothing store around so Mila is extra nice to her because in turn she is then nice to Mila when she shops for clothes.

Yuri takes the opportunity to slip into the kitchen where it's both hotter and more humid because of the ovens and the kettles, which he's supposed to be manning for the glorified early evening shift. The village is far too small to sustain any sort of late evening business. It's perfect because it's Yuri's summer holiday, too, and he likes having his evenings free. Especially when Otabek's around.

Yuri kicks the back door open and braces it so with a block of wood to get some air circulating. He needs it as much as the kitchen does. Sure, it stings all over his body from the three times Otabek had tackled him into the ground earlier, but God, if it didn't feel good, too, both then and now.

He runs his hands over his arms and chest and thighs and shudders. Otabek, even just the thought of him, fills Yuri with such restless energy, the same that forces him to either run at Otabek or away from him every time. Or at least want to. It wasn't so bad when they were younger, but this summer it's on a whole new level.

"I always thought you came back here for your grandfather," Mila says from the doorway to the shop. "Oh, I know you used to, and all the rest was just... a bonus." She waves her hand, encompassing the shop, the village. "But it's not that anymore, right?"

Yuri stretches and puts on a fresh kettle, ignoring her.

"It's him. I know it is," Mila says. "You're just here to flirt or whatever the fuck that is." He points at Yuri's knees. "Just fuck him and be done with it. That's what I do."

Yuri keeps up with his busywork. His ears burn and he's glad his hair's down, even though he shouldn't have it like that in the shop.

"If it's bad, you can keep being friends. If it's good, then... You'll have some really fun summers."

"Pfft," Yuri says because he can't formulate a proper reply. Mila's kind of hit the issue head on. They're both there only in the summer. Otabek comes to visit his Russian grandmother and Yuri comes to stay with his grandfather. And Yuri doesn't really want to take the risk of losing Otabek for the summers, too. They already have to conduct most of their friendship over the internet.

"You know I'm right," Mila says with the conviction of someone who only sees their side of the issue.


Gravel rattles against Yuri's window when the sun has already set. It's not dark yet and there's a glow around the horizon, over the forest, but the sun is gone. He goes to open his window and another handful of gravel makes it in, bouncing off him. Otabek is below.

Yuri grabs his shoes and throws them out the window first, to a thud and a gasp, then climbs onto the sill to roll up the legs of his Adidas track pants.

"Why'd you throw your shoes at me?" Otabek demands quietly, holding the pair of fire-red trainers in his hand. "Almost hit me in the face."

"You hit me in the face with rocks!" Yuri whispers back. "You could've come to the door like normal people."

"Nikolai hates me," Otabek says. "Ever since I crashed my bike into his barn."

Yuri laughs, then muffles it with his hand. He shifts on the sill and assesses the distance to the ground.

"What are you-" Otabek starts, watching him. "No! Yura, don't you fucking dare!" Otabek's voice goes into a growl and he drops the shoes, holding out his hands anyway. "Why don't you use the door like normal people!"

"This is more fun!" Yuri insists, peering down. His window's not that high. Just the first floor after the ground floor.

"No!" Otabek hisses.

"Catch me," Yuri says and pushes himself off the window. Otabek curses and Yuri lands safely, if uncomfortably, against him.

Yuri laughs again as Otabek plants Yuri on the ground with thunder on his face. Yuri tingles with adrenaline and success and Otabek. "Did you bring your bike?"

Otabek looks at him, so severe, so heavy, then runs his hand through his hair. "Yeah. I left it on the road." He looks at Yuri, eyes briefly red with the light of the setting sun reflected off the clouds. "Are you okay to ride?"

Yuri has pulled his shoes on. He reaches over to shove at Otabek, then takes off down the driveway of the old farmhouse. Blood has rushed to all of his scrapes and they throb as he runs, but it just spurs him on. He hears Otabek behind him, even though the run is just a short one to the road where he's parked. He vaults over the bike and turns just as Otabek comes to a stop on the other side.

"Yura," Otabek says, not out of breath but voice catching.

"I want to ride the bike. Anywhere. Just around," Yuri says. Otabek doesn't even have his helmet with him, much less one for Yuri. He waits for Otabek to climb on the bike before getting on behind him.

This was so much less problematic a few years ago. Yuri has been riding behind Otabek on his various bikes since he was five. He's been running around the fields and forests around the village with Otabek since he could walk. And Otabek's always been his best friend, although one he gets to see only very briefly every year.

Now hugging close to Otabek on the bike brings more than just joy. He smells nice. Yuri buries his nose in the back of Otabek's neck, just above the collar of his long-sleeved t-shirt. He feels nice. Yuri wraps his arms around Otabek's chest and stomach. The cloth of his shirt does nothing to hide the lean muscles. Maybe Yuri doesn't need to get as close as he does, to press his chest and groin and thighs right against Otabek.

"Ready?" Otabek asks. He sounds nice. He looks nice in Yuri's head when he closes his eyes. He probably tastes nice.

Yuri groans into Otabek's skin, mouth filling with saliva. He didn't have these problems a few years ago. None of this burn and thrum that matches the engine of the bike as it comes to life. The desire to just let his hands slip down and rest in the space between Otabek's thighs.

The air is cold on his bare arms and legs as it rushes past them. He opens his eyes and watches the road move, illuminated by the bike's headlight. He splays his hands on Otabek, touching skin under the hem of his shirt. He's hard, vibrating against Otabek's back.

It's a good place to be every summer.

But it's just the summer.

Sweat gathers between them and Yuri lets go slowly, spreading his arms and clinging on to the bike with his thighs. Otabek calls his name, but he ignores it until the bike slows down and they come to a halt. He jumps off even before it's fully stopped, dashing restlessly to the side.

"Yura," Otabek says, not dismounting. He's gorgeous on the bike. "You were ha-"

"I know," Yuri says, dancing on the spot, turning around. It's darker now, and colder. They're almost at the forest, which is a dark shadow against the sky.

"Because of me?"

"Yes," Yuri hisses, running his hands up and down his sides to calm himself down. He's still hard. He's burning. It’s unfair to take it out on Otabek so he tries to calm down.

"Yura," Otabek says. He swings his leg over the bike, but doesn't leave it, just leans on it. The waning light is blue and silver highlights on the chrome parts of the bike and darkens the black Otabek wears. "We could be together right fucking now."

"No!" Yuri runs towards the forest, forging into the field that lies fallow and is covered in long grass and flowers. God, he wants it so bad. Wants to say yes, wants to jump Otabek, push him off the bike and into the grass. Or the other way around.

“Are you sure?” Otabek calls out.

"Oh, fuck you!" Yuri yells, facing away, stomping in the field.

"You know Nikolai will kill me if something happens to you. If you break a leg jumping out of a fucking window! If you break a leg running around in a field at night!"

It's a beautiful field, even at night. It smells like perfume and the stars are finally appearing. The moon is on the wane. And all Yuri can think about is pushing his face between Otabek's thighs.

"So stop me!" he challenges.

He doesn't turn. He hears Otabek move, expects it, and is then slammed into the ground. The pain helps. Sort of. It's thrilling, too. And the weight of Otabek holding him down makes him throb and yearn.

"Okay, gotcha," Otabek says, close and hot. Then, more reserved, "We really gotta stop this. I'm happy to come see you every summer, but it could-"

Yuri kicks his feet. He could slip away if he wanted to, but he doesn't want to. "It could what?"

"It could be every day."

Yuri snorts, digging his fingers into the ground. "Not gonna happen." Not because he doesn’t want it but because it’s impossible. The summers are all they have.

"Nikolai will kill me if I break your legs by tackling you to the ground over and over again." Otabek's voice is flat, but he doesn't move away. He's hard, too.

"If you do I'll tell him it was my idea," Yuri says. He turns, slowly, until he can look at Otabek who hovers above him, puzzled and frustrated. "Did you have to go to school all the way in the fucking US?"

"What difference does it make?" Otabek brushes the back of his hand against Yuri's cheek, then sits up. "If it's Almaty or New York? It's not here."

"Or Moscow or St. Petersburg," Yuri continues the list. His shoulder aches and he leans into that feeling. He goes to school in St. Petersburg now. School. The Vaganova Ballet Academy. "It's never going to be every day, Beka."

"It could be every summer, then."

"I don't want it."

Otabek's gaze drags across Yuri, stopping at his lips, his chest, his groin. Yuri sits up quickly and glares at him. "Could've fucking fooled me," Otabek mutters. Maybe he isn’t so good with the rejection.

"Wow." Yuri scowls. "Remember when you actually liked me and didn't just wanna fuck me?"

It's dark. Maybe that's why Yuri can feel how much it hurts Otabek to hear those words. There isn't enough light to see clearly what Otabek's expression is when he gets up and dusts off his jeans, but his movement is clipped and harsh.

"Get on the fucking bike. I'm taking you home," Otabek says and walks to it. He doesn't say anything else, not even when Yuri tells him goodnight at the end of the drive. Yuri knows he deserves it, and hopes it’s the right thing to do.


Yuri turns up at the coffee shop the next morning. He's not scheduled or anything, he just needs to be doing something so he goes with his grandfather. Viktor's usually on in the mornings. This morning, too. While Nikolai and Yakov settle by the window and set up their chess board, Yuri goes into the kitchen to join Makkachin in watching Viktor struggle with chebureki.

Viktor is beautiful, in a way. In a lot of ways. Which is probably how he's found success as an actor. He's tall and pale and Yuri feels absolutely nothing when he looks at him. Maybe mild annoyance.

Not beautiful like Otabek who makes Yuri practically gag with visceral desire.

"Why are you here? Aren't you famous now or something?" Yuri says from his perch on a stool, sharp and frustrated. Viktor had reappeared at the start of the summer, asked for his old job back. He’d been gone for years, since Yuri was twelve.

"That's exactly why I'm here," Viktor replies. He smiles. "Do you have something against it?"

"I just don't get it. You could go anywhere."

"Yes, and I chose to come here." Viktor's smile goes wider and his eyes crinkle at the corners. "I missed it."

"This? This village? This shop?" Yuri rolls his eyes. "That’s bullshit." Yuri comes back every summer, but it’s for his grandfather. For Otabek. Viktor has nothing like that in the village anymore.

"It's a good place to rest. And to hide," Viktor says, tapping a finger to his cheek. "Nobody cares about what happened. They don’t know and they don't care. It's refreshing."

It makes Yuri shiver unpleasantly. He doesn't know the details because no one does, but he'd heard from his grandfather, who'd heard from Yakov, who'd heard from Viktor himself, about the reasons for his return. Being successful in Japan hadn't agreed with him. Someone in Japan hadn't agreed with him.

"You're right," Yuri says and hops off the stool. "Nobody cares about your sob story, but you're royally fucking up that chebureki and people will care about that."

"Oh no," Viktor says softly and looks down at what he's supposed to be doing. "I guess I'm better suited for the stage, after all."

"Just serve the fucking coffee with your pretty face." Yuri pushes him away and goes to fix his mistakes. He's got his grandfather's legacy to uphold. Everybody knows the bakery part of the shop is Plisetsky business.

He feels sorry for Viktor, he does. Sort of. To be successful at everything but love, it seems. But everyone fails at that. His own parents. Mila fucking her way through the supply of farmboys and girls. Viktor's mystery love in Japan. Yakov's marriage. It's not so far-fetched to think he'd fail with Otabek, looking at the picture in front of him.

It takes some concentration to get back to making the perfect pastries after Otabek crosses his mind again. It's like his heart grows wings and his skin tightens over his bones. His nipples get hard and his groin aches, and he's not dumb. He knows what it means. He knows what he wants. But it'll pass if he can hold on long enough. Maybe by this time next summer he'll be fine. Maybe Otabek will stop visiting his grandmother in the village. Maybe his grandmother will die. Sorry, Galina Anatolyevna.

Maybe Otabek will get over it, too, and they can be just friends. Safe.

"It's hot here, isn't it?" Viktor says apropos of nothing. "It's making you red. Or is that sunburn? Tsk. You're too young to get skin cancer. You know, you have a pretty face, too. I could get you some auditions if you wanted."

Yuri lets him prattle on. The chebureki need to be filled. Properly. Not like Viktor was doing it, either over or underfilling. Yuri needs to be filled, too. Properly. But it's not going to be Otabek. He's not risking Otabek on the altar of that. Love dies. Viktor's back. Yakov's divorced. Mila's a serial monogamist. His parents broke up so explosively they don't even want to see him.

Romantic love dies. Lust dies. Friendship lasts. And Yuri wants Otabek to last. Even if he has to suffer through this bullshit for a few more summers. It'll die and he'll have his friend back. Provided he manages to keep his mouth—and legs—shut.


"I try to protect him and this is what happens," Nikolai grouses, gesturing at Yuri's bruised, scabbed over knees. "Look, even his elbows. No care whatsoever. What if he broke his leg? Are you listening to me, Yasha?"

Yakov doesn't look up from the chessboard. "I hear you, Kolya. No respect for his elders."

"How is that a respect issue?" Yuri sighs. He's pulled up a chair to sit by them and watch the game. He plays with his grandfather, and sometimes with Yakov, too.

"If you respected me, you'd listen to my advice," Nikolai grumbles. "To not run around and fall over at every root, rock or ditch. He makes his living on his legs."

"I don't make a living yet," Yuri mutters. "I'm just in school." He'd told his grandfather he'd fallen over. It's what he always said. Even the time when Otabek crashed the bike into the barn. Yuri had been on the bike at the time, with Otabek, but neither of them had let Nikolai know that. Yuri's going to take that secret to the grave.

"But you will," Nikolai says as Yakov moves a knight. "You have to stop being reckless. You'll ruin your chance. You're a smart boy and I don't understand this."

Yuri pulls a leg up on the chair, picking idly at the scabs. He hasn't told his grandfather he should probably stay in St. Petersburg the summers, too, attend summer training programmes. He doesn't want to do that. He'd rather come to this shithole village in the middle of nowhere south of Moscow and tend to the shithole coffee shop and see his asshole friend from Kazakhstan.

"I am doing the smart thing," Yuri says, petulant. "Even if you don't believe it."

"I'll believe it when I see it," Nikolai declares.

Then Yakov raises his head and sniffs the air. "Vitya! What's burning?"

Viktor is startled out of his ennui by the counter and drops the napkins. "Oh no," he murmurs and rushes into the kitchen.

"He wasn't great at following instructions before and now he's even worse," Yakov sighs. "Compared to him your grandson is the smart one, Kolya."

Nikolai grunts and flaps his hand, concentrating on the board.

"I always intended to give the shop to Vitya when it was time," Yakov continues. "But I think Yurochka would fit it better. He's got your touch with the baking, even if he hasn't got the touch with the customers. But he can hire servers."

"Hello?" Yuri says, "I'm right here." He kicks his foot back on the floor, making the table shift. A queen falls over and Nikolai fixes it with a frown. "I've never heard of this plan."

Yakov looks him over and it's not the first time Yuri feels like he has two grandfathers. "Because I've never mentioned it before," he says.

"It's an interesting idea, Yasha," Nikolai says. "But you know Yurochka has his future planned out in ballet. He can't do that here."

"Hello?" Yuri repeats. He wants to grab the table and shake it until their game is completely gone. "Can I have a say in where my future is going?" He notices he's stood up only when he sees both his grandfather and Yakov looking up at him, Nikolai with disappointed that he's acting out and, frankly, Yakov with exactly the same.

"Do you want to be a coffee shop owner?" Nikolai asks, and Yakov speaks at the same time, "Do you want to be a ballet dancer?"

Yuri stares at them both, then shoves the table so the chess pieces go flying, and runs out. It's mid-afternoon. It's hot. He runs all the way to Otabek's grandmother's house. The old farmhouses are outside the village. This one's a good five kilometres out, but the distance barely registers.

Maybe they're not on the best of terms right now, but Otabek's still his best friend.

He's soaked through his tank top by the time he gets there, and his hair's sticking to his neck. He stops in the driveway to catch his breath, then hurries into the old cowshed where he knows Otabek will be. There's a ramp up to it so it's great for his bike, used to be great for the cows.

The wide double doors at the top of the ramp are open and Otabek is there with his bike, sitting by it covered in grease and oil and polishing a piece with a cloth. He looks up when Yuri's shadow falls across his lap.


"You look wretched."

Yuri drops to the concrete. "I ran."

Otabek's eyes go up and down Yuri for a moment, then he licks his lips and Yuri starts sweating again. Maybe he has to run back, too. "Why?"

"The old men are plotting my doom. Grandpa wants me to become some ballet star and Yakov wants me to take on the shop after him."

Otabek snorts, wiping his hands on the cloth. "What's wrong with them looking after you?"

"Fuck, Beka," Yuri groans and flops back onto the concrete. It's filthy, years of grime from the cows, more from Otabek's bike and whatever else that's being stored there. It bites into the bare skin of his shoulders and the back of his legs. "Maybe I don't want either of those things."

"Okay." Otabek eyes him with the slightest hint of surliness. "You're pretty clear on things you don't want." 

"Who's gonna know better than me what I want?" Yuri mutters, ignoring Otabek’s jab. "They both call me Yurochka like I'm some child."

"Yura," Otabek says. "Why don't you go complain to Viktor?"

"I'm gonna complain to him later." Yuri scowls. "You don't want me here?"

"You put me in a really fucking shitty position."

"Is that why you took the bike apart? So you don't have to take me for another ride?"

Otabek looks at him, his face sullen and eyes hooded. So Yuri was right. He's still angry. His emotions have weight, like static in the air that Yuri's skin picks up. His hair stands on end.

"My mom and sisters are coming tonight," Otabek says. He picks up another piece of the bike and starts cleaning it with the cloth. "I'll probably have to spend some time with them."

"Why?" Yuri huffs. "You spend time with them all year."

"Not anymore," Otabek counters. "I'm in New York most of the time. And then I decided to come here instead of staying in Almaty with them."

"Beka," Yuri groans and kicks his heels against the concrete floor. He sends up puffs of dust. "Can you get your head out of your ass for one fucking second?"

Otabek drops his hands into his lap and takes a breath. He rubs his forehead, leaving a smear of dirt, but at least the frown is gone when he next looks at Yuri. "You're a lot of work, Yuri Plisetsky."

Yuri sits up, crossing his legs. "Yeah, well." He shrugs. The grime of sweat and dust itches on his skin, and his previously grey shirt is stained and splotched. "You're my best friend, you should be used to it."

Otabek says nothing, but at least his face is clear of the dourness. His eyes flit up and down, sticking to various points on Yuri, looking for something. Uncertainty winds about Yuri's stomach. Maybe Otabek is never going to look at him the same way again. Or treat him like a friend. It's all Yuri thinks he wants.

And still his body echoes with everything his brain tries to suppress. His throat is dry, the reservoirs of desire under his ribs fill with heat and the space between his thighs aches. It comes on like a storm.

"I'm going back," Yuri says and stumbles up.

"By foot? I can take y-"

"With what? Your grandma's tractor?" Yuri gives him a wave, not really looking back. It'd probably kill him. "Bye, Beka."

He jogs back. Doesn't run. He's too hot and terrified for that.


"How's the not-boyfriend?" Mila asks. They're cleaning the kitchen after closing. Yuri, once again, just needs to be doing something with himself. He doesn't bother with a reply and keeps scrubbing the coffee pots.

"Summer's gonna end, then where are you?" Mila continues. She's not cleaning, just fanning herself with a dish towel by the back door. "He's gonna go back to wherever, and you're gonna go back to St. Petersburg."

"Yeah," Yuri grunts. He blows at his hair which is pinned to the side and tied up in the back. "That's the plan."

"What do you do all year? Do you just call him? Stalk him on Facebook or something?"

"He doesn't use Facebook. Nobody uses Facebook."

"Look at the selfies you take with him and jerk off?" Mila grins at him. "Where do you stay in Piter? With the school, right?"

Yuri doesn't say anything, just sets the coffee pots upside down on the rack to dry, grinding his teeth. Mila's more than capable of holding up the conversation by herself.

"I got in the State University in St. Petersburg. We could be roommates."

Yuri yanks the stopper out of the sink and watches the water swirling down the drain, just like his friendship with Otabek. "Good for you."

"Hey, how about you stop being a little bitch?" Mila suggests, annoyed. "What're you so afraid of?"

"The same thing that makes dogs bark when you pass by. Your face," Yuri spits and tosses the plug back into the sink. He pushes past her to get outside, leaving a wet and dirty handprint on her shirt.

"Go fuck yourself!" Mila calls after him. "I'm gonna study business!"


Yuri likes spending time with his ornery grandfather. At least he knows which side of the family his temper comes from. They have dinner. They play chess.

"So what's this smart thing you're doing?" Nikolai speaks over the chess board.

"What?" Yuri says, distracted by attempting to keep up with his grandfather. Maybe he's better at chess than the average 16-year-old, but he can't outplay the old men.

"You said before you're doing the smart thing."

"You don't trust me?" Yuri leaps to the conclusion immediately and makes a hasty move with a pawn. A mistake. Fuck whatever gambit his grandfather's playing.

Nikolai grunts and makes his own move without needing much time to think. "Speak," he commands.

"Grandpa," Yuri reproaches. He doesn't want to share his "smart" way of handling the situation he's in. He scratches at the abrasions on his leg, which he's pulled up on the chair, tingling with the memory of Otabek. Another mistake. He forgets what he was supposed to do next. Move the knight?

"Do not disrespect Yasha's offer just because you wish a different future," Nikolai says, tapping a finger on the table.

"I'm not disrespecting anyone," Yuri mutters. "I know it's a big deal. It's not that."

"Is it about Galina Anatolyevna's grandson?"

Yuri kicks his leg down off the chair and leans forwards, elbows on the table, pretending to think about his move. Well, he is thinking about a move, it's just not a chess move.

"Sort of," he finally says. Lying to his grandfather needs to involve a whole lot of truth. "Just trying to make sure he won't interrupt my career." His career is important, especially to his grandfather.

Nikolai looks up and meets Yuri's eyes. "Good," he says. "Your turn."

"I know," Yuri sighs. He moves the knight, hopes it's the right one.

"He's a student? The grandson," Nikolai continues. He appreciates education. Of any kind. He was a carpenter by trade.

"Yeah. Music nerd," Yuri huffs, everything else shunted aside by affection for a brief moment. "I mean, he got into that really good art university in New York. Full scholarship."

"Music nerd," Nikolai repeats as though he's never heard of such a thing. The board is starting to get stacked in his favour. "So he plays an instrument?"

"Yeah, I think he could play anything he wanted to," Yuri says, more dreamily than he means. Then he coughs and makes an ill-advised advance with a bishop. "He makes music, too. Composes pieces." He leaves out the club DJ part.

Nikolai grunts again. Maybe in acceptance, but it's the end of the conversation anyway. Yuri's glad he doesn't have to talk about Otabek more.

After Yuri loses the chess match Nikolai plays the piano in the sitting room. He's not good, but he's been practising ever since his wife died, who was the actual artist in the house. Yuri knows part of the reason why Nikolai plays is him. Because his grandmother used to play to accompany Yuri's impromptu ballet performances when he was younger.

But Yuri gets tired of the simple off-key renditions eventually and heads upstairs to take a bath. He can still hear his grandfather idly picking at the keys of the piano in the bathroom, but in a way that says his attention's turning elsewhere. Maybe the news.

Yuri knows there's no way Otabek's coming tonight, but he's going to get clean anyway. Just in case. And the bath is the most private place he has in the house—an old farmhouse like Otabek's grandmother's. The village had been a lot farther away from Moscow in their grandparents' youth, and an actual farming community.

Potya sits on the edge of the tub like she always does when Yuri takes a bath. Like she's worried he might drown. He doesn't have the heart to leave her outside, knowing she'd paw at the door and yell until she was let back in.

"Close your eyes, Potya," Yuri instructs the cat, sinking into the steaming water which stings in his cuts and scrapes. He doesn't bother with bubbles in his bath. "Don't judge me. I need this."

He needs the hand around his cock. He needs a hand that isn't his own, but this'll do. Needs the rough and fast rhythm and the release that leaves him only marginally better off. He soaks in his own filth for a little longer, then drains the tub and has a shower to actually wash. While the conditioner is in he presses his cheek against the cool tiles of the wall and gets off again, remembering Otabek's weight on him, wishing it was on him now, forcing him to be still.

He'd needed this every night since he's been back. Now he just needs for it to be enough.