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Dream a Dream and See

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“It’s wasting disease, Prince Yuri. There is no cure.”

“What? What do you mean there’s no cure?” Yuri hit the table with his fist. “There has to be a cure!”

The older man before him sighed wearily. “We have consulted the best healers and herbalists in the land, your highness. And they all agree that there is nothing that can be done. King Nikolai is dying.”

Yuri felt tears pricking at his eyes. Shit… I’m not going to cry… not in front of him…

“If you have nothing useful to tell me, then get out.”

The man bowed deeply. “Yes, your highness.” He turned and left the room, shutting the door as he left. 

Yuri paced the floor of his room furiously. There has to be a way. How can there be something that cannot be cured, through herbs or magic? There just has to be something that I can do!

I can’t lose him.

Yuri crouched down on the floor. He covered his face with his hands, trying to stop the tears flowing freely down his face. This… this disease… It’s the same one that killed my parents. And now it’s going to take Grandpa too? What is this disease, and why does it curse my family?

Yuri sobbed out through his tears, “I’m not ready. I’m not ready to be king. I’m not ready to lose him. If I do... “ I’ll be all alone…

A knock on the door invaded his thoughts. Go the fuck away. I don’t want to see anyone.

“Prince Yuri?” Otabek’s strong voice carried through the thick wooden door. “I just saw the royal healer leaving your room. Are you unwell?”

Yuri scoffed. I should have known it would be him. 

“Come in, Otabek.”

The door opened slowly. The young man that stepped inside was not dressed like nobility, but rather like a common soldier, despite his noble birth. He closed the door quickly and rushed to Yuri’s side. He lightly touched Yuri’s back as he crouched down next to him.

“Yuri! What happened? Are you hurt?”

Yuri shook his head. “No…”

“You’ve been crying.”

Yuri sighed as he attempted to collect himself. “You know that the king is sick?”

“Yes…” It was common knowledge throughout the kingdom that the king had recently fallen ill.

“The healer… he said it’s wasting disease…” Yuri bit his lip to keep from crying.

Otabek hissed in a breath. That’s the same thing that killed Yuri’s parents. In the same outbreak that took my little sister.

Otabek whispered, “That means there’s no cure. The king is going to die. I’m so sorry, Yuri.”

“NO! I won’t accept it! There has to be a way!”

Otabek gently placed his hand on Yuri’s shoulder. “Yuri… there’s some things that even magic can’t fix. I’m sorry.”

“I can’t just give up on him like that! There’s a way, I just have to find it!”

Otabek sighed. I don’t know what he expects to find, when the best healers in the land don’t know of a cure. But I’ll support him, like I always do. It’s all that I can do.

***

Later That Evening

Yuri sat at his desk, pouring over manuscript after manuscript. Surely someone has some treatment for this disease. I just have to find it. There has to be something…

A soft knock at the door broke his concentration. “Who is it?”

An all too familiar voice answered, “It’s Victor, cousin.”

“Come in.” Yuri sighed and looked up at the ceiling in exasperation. What in the seven hells is he doing here? I thought he was in Hasetsu, working on a treaty between our countries. He shouldn’t be back yet.

Victor opened the door and stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. “I came back as soon as I heard.”

Yuri shook his head, trying to fight the tears threatening behind his eyes. “Victor… they won’t even let me see him.”

Victor crossed the room and rested his hand on Yuri’s shoulder, squeezing it gently. “I know. I tried to see him, too. And they wouldn’t let me in either. They can’t risk it.”  They can’t risk the only direct heirs to the kingdom catching the disease. I hate this for Yuri, he’s always been so close to grandfather. Much closer than I am. 

“They said it’s wasting disease.”

Victor nodded. “I heard. I’m so sorry, Yuri. I know that you were close.”

“Don’t talk about him like he’s already dead.”

Victor sighed. “But there’s nothing that can be done. There’s no cure.”

Yuri stood suddenly, shaking Victor’s hand off in the process. “You may be ready to give up on him, but I’m not!”

“Yurochka… stop, please. This isn’t healthy. There’s nothing that we can do. It’s time to let go, to say goodbye. And to start preparing for your ascension to the throne.”

Yuri shook his head, tears falling from his eyes. “I… I can’t…”

Victor wrapped his arms around Yuri and held him tightly. “I know. But you must. You don’t have any choice.”

Yuri nodded dejectedly. He’s right, I know he’s right. There’s nothing that I can do to save Grandpa. But I can’t give up. Not yet. There has to be something. And I won’t rest until I find it.

***

A Week Later

Yuri pulled the cloak’s hood over his head, hiding his golden hair as he made his way through the streets of the capital. He wrinkled his nose in disgust as he turned down a side street and was met with the smell of excrement and rot. Ug, I feel like I’m gonna puke. I hate coming down to the slums. 

He stepped gingerly past the puddles of questionable nature as he made his way down the narrow street. But those overpaid idiots at the castle don’t know how to help him. They can’t even really manage his pain. So…

I’ll look for help elsewhere.

The street ended in a wall with a plain wooden door. Yuuri knocked on the door tentatively. All of my sources said that this was the place… 

The door opened, revealing a middle-aged woman in clean, but threadbare, clothes. She smiled warmly. “You come seeking help. Please, come in.”

Yuri took a deep breath and crossed the threshold. The inside of the little house was surprisingly clean and cozy. The woman motioned for Yuri to sit in one of the overstuffed chairs near the fireplace. The chair was old, but comfortable. Yuri settled into it and sighed. He felt relaxed for the first time in weeks.

“Might I offer you some tea, your highness?”

Yuri started. “You know who I am?”

The woman chuckled good-heartedly. “Of course, your highness. Besides being blessed with a little bit of the Sight, there are not that many young men in the capital with blonde hair and green eyes.”

Yuri turned his head away slightly. “Tch. I thought I was being careful…”

The woman handed him a cup of tea. “Here. To calm your nerves.”

“What is it?”

The woman smiled softly. “Only chamomile tea, your highness. I have no desire to harm you.”

Yuri took a tentative sip and nodded. It tastes better than that shit they make at the palace…

“You said you have the Sight? So you know why I’m here.”

“I do. You wish to know if there is truly no cure for the wasting disease.”

Yuri set the tea cup down on the table beside him. “And? Is there?”

The woman hesitated. “There is one thing… but it is far too dangerous”

Yuri stood so suddenly that he scooted the chair back. “I don’t care! I don’t care if it is dangerous, or difficult! I have to try!” Yuri could feel tears in the corners of his eyes. His whole body shook. I can’t just sit here and watch him slowly die. I have to try and save him. Why doesn’t anyone understand that?

The woman shushed him gently and patted him on the shoulder. “I’ll tell you what I know. But I will warn you, this is an ill-advised plan. It could very well lead to your untimely death.”

Yuri swallowed hard and nodded. Anything. I’ll try anything. As long as there is a chance that I can save Grandpa. 

“In a valley far from here, there is a clearing. In that clearing, there grows a flower that, according to legend, can cure any disease, heal any hurt. It is the maledictus flower. But there is a catch. The petals cure, but the thorns are deadly. They carry a curse.”

Yuri felt his heart drop. “What kind of curse?”

The woman shook her head. “I know not. No one has ever survived it.”

“Tell me where this valley is, and what the flower looks like.”

The woman’s eyes were sad as she said softly, “Yes, your highness.”

***

Later That Evening

Yuri poured over the maps on the desk in front of him, one a hand drawn map made by the Seer woman, the other an official map he had borrowed from the library. He worked on lining up the crude hand-drawn map, comparing the landmarks and distances to the official document. If my calculations are right, it will take at least five days of hard riding to reach the clearing. I will need to plan carefully. 

A strong knock on the door caused Yuri to jump. He slipped the hand drawn map under the other, hiding it from view. “Who is it?”

“Otabek.”

“Come in.”

Otabek stepped into the room, quickly closing the door behind him. His eyes narrowed as he took note of the plain, drab traveling cloak lying in a heap on the floor. What has Yuri been up to? 

Yuri crossed his arms across his chest. “Did you need something?” I have planning to do, and the more time that he spends here, the more likely it is that he’ll figure out what I have planned.

Otabek shook his head. “I just wanted to check on you. Before I go off duty for the night.”

Yuri huffed a little. “As you can see, I’m fine.”

Otabek raised an eyebrow in question. Are you? You don’t look like it to me.

Yuri looked away from Otabek. Don’t look at me like that. I feel bad enough, lying to you.

Otabek scanned the room, noticing the map on the desk. What is he up to? Probably something desperate, and stupid. And likely to shorten my lifespan by at least ten years.

He took a step closer to the prince. “Yuri… you know that you can talk to me. If you want.” We’ve been friends for years, that has to mean something.

“I told you, I’m fine.”

Otabek sighed. “Yura…” I know that’s not true.

Yuri felt his resolve break a little. I could tell him. He wouldn’t tell anyone. He’d come with me, if I asked. He bit the inside of his lip. No, I can’t ask him that. If he’s gone from his post, it would cause him trouble.

Yuri mumbled quietly, “There’s nothing that you can do. There’s nothing that anyone can do.” He slumped heavily in his chair. “I just…”

“I’m sorry, Yura.” Otabek’s heart ached. I hate seeing him like this.

“Don’t. It’s not your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault.” Yuri felt a tear fall down his cheek. He dashed it away quickly.

Otabek crossed the distance between them. “I know.” I just wish there was a way to spare you this pain.

Yuri reached out for Otabek’s hand. He grasped it tightly. “I wish I didn’t have to be king. I wish that Victor was next in line instead.” Then I wouldn’t feel so guilty about this. Then the only thing I would have to feel guilty about would be lying to you, and leaving you behind.

Otabek knelt down next to Yuri. “I know. But you have your duty to fulfill.” As I have mine. And my personal feelings cannot interfere. The prince will marry for political advantage, as the future king. My feelings will not bear on that decision in the least. 

So it is best that I keep them to myself.

Yuri sighed, his shoulders sagging. “I know. And it already weighs heavily on me.” He motioned towards the map on the desk, a sudden idea hitting him. “I was just trying to plan out my route for the coronation tour.” Now he won’t question why I was studying a map this late.

Otabek nodded as he studied the map. “Hmm, that is a problem. Some of the nobles are so easy to offend.”

“It is a matter of deciding who to visit first, without backtracking too much. It would be easy, even as small as our kingdom is, to spend over half a year on this tour. It’s utter bullshit and an abysmal waste of time.”

“I agree. But, if you like, I could help you. Before I retire for the night.”

Yuri smiled slightly, his worries of being found out forgotten. “I think I would like that.”

***

The Next Night

Yuri took a deep breath as he placed his hand on the hidden switch. The wall swung out, revealing a hidden passage. This passage leads out of the castle, and only the royal family knows of it. I can buy myself a few days, hopefully, before anyone realizes that I’m gone. 

It would not be the first time that Yuri had spent a few days locked in his chambers, refusing even food for the duration. He smirked. Who knew that my silly tantrums would prove useful.  

Yuri stepped into the dark passage. He concentrated, conjuring a small flame in his palm to light his way. Like I could get lost. It pretty much goes from the royal apartments to outside the South Gate. He rested his hand against the wall for stability and quietly made his way down the passage.

Outside of the castle, the groom he had paid off waited with his horse. “Remember, tell no one that I have left. Or what direction I went.” He leaned in closer to the boy. “You know what will happen if you do.”

“Yes, your highness.” The terrified boy handed Yuri the reins and slipped back into the night. Yuri didn’t spare him another thought as he swung himself into the saddle. He turned his mount west and rode into the night.

***

The Following Evening

Yuri picketed his horse, allowing it to graze on the fresh grass. He made sure that it had access to water before quickly gathering enough wood for a small fire. No one should be looking for me yet and by the time that they do, I’ll have a few days lead on them. I should be able to risk a fire.

He arranged the wood and furrowed his brow, concentrating on the small pile until it burst into flames. Yuri grinned in triumph. Seems like all those lessons in magic are finally paying off.

Yuri rummaged in his saddle bags and pulled out a dinner of cheese, bread, and dried fruit. He sighed. I’m going to have to stop in a village somewhere, on my way back, and buy supplies. I’ve only got enough food to get me to the clearing, as long as it is where she said it was. 

After finishing his meal, and washing it down with the cold, crystal clear water of the nearby stream, Yuri wrapped himself in the blanket that had been strapped to the back of the saddle. He braced himself against the back of a tree and grasped his dagger tightly. Yuri sighed deeply, closed his eyes, and tried to get some sleep.

But sleep would not come so easily. Yuri started at every sound in the darkness. His eyes darted as he tried to find the sources of the strange sounds in the night. I need to get some sleep. But what if…

I should have asked him to come with me. We could have taken turns on watch. He would have had my back…

Yuri shook his head. No, if I had told Otabek what I had planned, he would have tried to stop me. He would have told me that it was too dangerous. And that Grandpa would not want me to risk my life like this.

He’s going to be angry when he realizes that I’m gone. He may never forgive me.

I may have just lost my only friend.

***

Five Days Later

Yuri tied his horse loosely to a tree near the edge of the clearing. If the worst happens, I don’t want its life to be forfeit… This way he can pull free if he needs to.

He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders as he turned towards the clearing. According to the Seer woman, this should be the place. Where the maledictus flower grows. If I can manage to harvest the flower without being cursed, I can save Grandpa. But if not… then I’ll die too. 

Yuri bit his lip and nodded. That’s fine by me. It would be better than being alone.

The forest surrounding the clearing was oddly silent. No birds sang, no small animals rummaged in the undergrowth. The trees grew thick around the clearing, but stopped in a perfect circle. It was as if all life avoided this place.

In the center of the clearing, a single shaft of sunlight illuminated a strange vine. The lilies blooming on the vine were offsetting, yet oddly alluring at the same time. They were a deep red so dark they were nearly black. The vine itself was such a deep green that it appeared black, and the thorns… They lived up to their reputation. They were truly wicked-looking, the deepest black color, shiny and thick. They looked capable of piercing through the toughest leather, maybe even armor. Yuri shivered slightly at the sight.

He took a step back, away from the clearing. It’s not too late. I could turn back. There are just so many thorns…  this is impossible. There’s no way to get a flower without touching one of those cursed thorns!

Yuri shook his head violently. No! I can’t turn back now! I’ve come too far. And this is the only chance I have. The only way that I can save him.

He narrowed his eyes and stepped into the clearing. The air felt warmer, heavier. Yuri’s heart beat wildly in his chest as he walked slowly towards the vine. 

Yuri stumbled over something, barely catching his balance before he careened towards the ground. His heart hammered in his ears as he struggled to catch his breath. He looked down and gasped. A bone was sticking out of the ground, and Yuri could see the distinct outline of a human skull, covered in moss, nearby.

The curse… I can’t forget about the curse. People die trying to get this flower. I must be careful.

He approached the vine slowly, carefully. Yuri studied the plant, looking for a bloom where less thorns grew. And then he saw it. A bloom that appeared to be free of the cursed thorns. Yuri smiled in triumph as he reached out to pluck the flower from the vine.

He never saw the thorn, hidden from view by the bloom. Yuri felt the thorn prick his skin. 

And then he fell into darkness.

Chapter Text

“Yuri.”

Yuri moaned. Leave me alone. I just wanna sleep. 

“Yuri! If the professor catches you sleeping in class again, he’ll kick you out. Permanently.”

Huh? Professor? Class? What is Otabek talking about?

Yuri carefully cracked open his eyes and blinked as he was assaulted by lights ten times brighter than any he had ever seen. He sat up slowly and looked around, confused. Where am I? What the… what in the seven hells happened?

The room that he found himself in was different from any he had been in before. It was overly bright, with large glass windows built almost from floor to ceiling in one wall. How can they afford so much glass? And how did they make it so clear, and so thin?

The room was built in an amphitheater style, with the focus being on a podium, table, and a writing board. There was a man standing there, arranging notes like he was about to give a lecture or speech.The seat Yuri found himself in was not made of wood. The base was made of metal, but the seat and back were made of a strange material that he could not place. And the table that he sat behind was white, unlike any he had seen before, and stretched the entire length of the row.

He put his hand to his head and tried to think clearly. The last thing that I remember was going to the clearing. I… I touched a thorn on the maledictus vine… 

“Yura, are you alright? You look white as a ghost.” Otabek’s voice was heavy with concern. 

Yuri turned to look at Otabek and gasped a little in surprise. He looks the same, and yet at the same time almost completely different. 

It was subtle things. The cut of his hair, the metal studs in his ears. Then there was the strange clothing that Otabek wore. They were so different from anything that Yuri had ever seen. He blinked, confused. 

Yuri felt like his chest was constricting. He struggled to breathe. I… I can’t… He stood so suddenly that the chair clattered to the floor. Yuri bolted down the stairs and out of the room, leaving a shocked Otabek in his wake.

Yuri ran blindly down the hallway. His chest was heaving, his heart beating erratically, as he continued his uncontrolled flight. He ran until his breath was burning in his chest. Yuri’s legs felt like they were going to give out from under him. He sank to the floor and pulled his knees in close to his chest. Tears streamed down his face.

I don’t understand… I don’t know where I am, or what is happening to me. Or what happened to him. He sounds and looks like Otabek. But it can’t be him, can it?

Yuri heard the sound of footsteps, of someone running closer to him. “Yuri!?!”

He looked up and saw Otabek running towards him. He looks panicked… I’ve never seen him look like that before. 

Otabek came to a sudden stop and fell to his knees in front of Yuri. He reached out and cupped Yuri’s cheek with his hand, gently wiping away the tears that still clung there. “Are you okay? What happened?”

Yuri’s eyes were wide. He’s never been… never touched me like this… What does this mean? 

Is this a dream? Is this just what I wish he would do?

Yuri made a little distressed noise in the back of his throat. “I… don’t know…”

“I think it would be best if you went home. Come on, I’ll take you.”

Yuri nodded. Good, since I don’t know where ‘home’ is… 

He squeaked in surprise as Otabek gathered him up in his arms. “What… what are you doing?”

Otabek settled Yuri in his arms, letting him rest against his chest. “I’m carrying you. You’re sick. It’s what good boyfriends do.” Otabek kissed the top of Yuri’s hair.

Yuri blushed bright red. What…? Boyfriends… I don’t know that term. But the familiarity, the affection that he’s showing towards me… does this mean that we’re courting? Does he like me like this? Or does my mind just wish that he did?

He rested his head against Otabek’s shoulder. “I’m okay… I just… I can walk.”

“You’re still white as a ghost, Yura. Just shut up and let me carry you home.”

Yuri sighed dejectedly. “Fine. You can carry me.” At least it will give me some time to think. I need to figure out what is going on. I know that I touched one of those thrice accursed thorns. And the next thing I knew, I woke up here.

Where is here, anyway?

I’m so confused…

Yuri closed his eyes and focused on taking deep, slow breaths. Just calm down, I can figure this out. Let’s start with what I know, which is unfortunately very little. I don’t know what the curse is, or how to break it. If it can even be broken.

No, I can’t think like that. Every curse can be broken. There’s always a way. I just have to figure it out. I… shouldn’t have gone alone. I should have told him…  He felt a tear travel down his cheek.

No, Otabek would have tried to talk me out of it. Or worse, he would have gone with me. He would have risked his position at the castle to help me. And I couldn’t let him do that.

“Yura? You’re awfully quiet.”

Yuri sniffled softly and cleared his throat. “Sorry… I’m just thinking. I have a lot on my mind.”

Otabek nodded. “I know. Finals. I know they always stress you out. I just… was kind of hoping that maybe you wouldn’t get sick this year. Since we moved in together.”

Yuri’s eyes went wide. We… we’re living together? There’s no way that this is a dream. There’s no way that I could ever come up with all of this on my own. But…

His mind turned back to the clearing, to the remains of the others foolhardy enough to brave the curse. I know that it doesn’t transport its victims to other worlds. And magic like that is more powerful than could be expected of a mere plant. So what exactly is the curse? Is what I’m experiencing real?

Otabek carried him inside of a building and punched a button on the wall. Yuri heard a loud groaning sound coming from the other side of the wall. He tried to mask his surprise when the wall opened up and revealed a small room on the other side. 

“I know. Usually I would take the stairs. But I don’t wanna carry your ass up 5 flights, okay?”

Yuri nodded. “Okay.”

“Are you?” Otabek stepped onto the elevator. “It’s just… you’ve been acting strange ever since I woke you up. And you were fine at lunch. I know that you hate Western Civ, but I can’t imagine that you’re doing this just to get out of class. So… tell me?”

Yuri sighed. What can I tell him? It’s not fair to him to keep him in the dark. And if this is real… I don’t want to trash this relationship for the ‘me’ that actually belongs here…

In the back of his mind Yuri felt something, an emotion that wasn’t his. A feeling of gratitude. Suddenly it clicked. I think… I know what’s going on. The curse. It sends its victims to other worlds, to inhabit other versions of themselves? And the others, they are passengers. But the question is, am I stuck in this world? Honestly it wouldn’t be so bad. 

Or does the curse have more in store for me? 

“Reach into my pocket and get my keys for me, Yura.”

Yuri was pulled out of his thoughts. “What?”

“We need the keys to get in. So get mine out of my pocket. Otherwise I’ll have to put you down to get them. Unless yours are easier to get to.”

Yuri turned bright red. “N… no, I can get yours…” He reached into Otabek’s pocket and quickly found the keys. The door to the elevator opened. Otabek carried Yuri down the hall and stopped in front of a door.

A minute passed before Otabek finally asked, “Well?”

“Well, what?”

Otabek sighed, exasperated. “Are you going to put the key in the door, or not?”

Yuri started. Oh, right. This must be ours. Our home? Gods, that sounds odd…

“S… sorry…” Yuri took the keys and put it into the lock. The lock wouldn’t turn. 

Otabek pursed his lips. What the hell? It’s like he doesn’t know which key is the one to our apartment. What’s up with him today? Does he have a fever? Is he delirious or something?

“The silver one, Yura.”

Yuri nearly dropped the keys in his rush to get the right one in the lock. “Oh, right. I knew that.”

The lock clicked. Otabek pushed the door open with his foot and walked into the apartment. He used his foot to kick the door closed behind them. “Bed or couch?”

Yuri’s brow furrowed in confusion. “What?”

“You’re sick, and you need to rest. So, where do you want to be? Bed or couch?”

Yuri scanned the room. He saw the couch along the wall. Not that different from what I’m used to… But the rest of the room was strange, full of items that Yuri didn’t recognize. I’ll take my chances with the bed.

“Bed. Please.” It came out as a whine. This has all been too much. I just… there’s so much going on. I just want to sleep. Maybe things will make more sense when I wake.

Otabek carried him into a dim room. The dark curtains over the windows kept out all of the light from outside. It was cooler than the front room. Yuri sighed, his body relaxing against Otabek. 

“Let’s get you in bed, and then I’ll fix you something to eat.”

Yuri shook his head. “I’m not hungry.” Actually it feels like my stomach is in knots.

Otabek set him gently on the bed. He knelt down in front of Yuri. “Are you sure?”

Yuri nodded. “I’m just really tired.”

Otabek leaned closer and kissed his forehead. He held the back of his hand against Yuri’s forehead and smiled. “I was afraid that you had a fever. But it doesn’t feel like it.”

“I just want to sleep.”

Otabek nodded. “Okay, babe.”

Yuri felt his heart skip a beat. Gods… he’s being so… attentive. So affectionate. I want this. Gods, I want this so bad.

He felt the tears building up behind his eyes and closed his eyes tightly to try to keep them at bay. No, don’t cry. He’s already worried. About his Yuri. Not me. He doesn’t know about me. 

Gods, this is so unfair. Why show me this? Why send me to this world? Only to show me what I can never have. Even if…

Yuri’s chest hitched as he tried to hold back a sob. Even if the Otabek in my world cared for me like this, we can’t. I have to marry for political gain or some shit. If I ever even manage to break free of this fucking curse…

A light touch brushed away tears from Yuri’s cheek that he didn’t even know were there. “Yura. Please, tell me what’s wrong. You’re scaring me, babe.”

Yuri resisted the urge to fall into Otabek’s arms. His heart was so conflicted, his mind reeling. No, I can’t. He’s not Otabek. At least, he’s not my Otabek. I don’t have that right.

He sniffled loudly. “I… sorry. It’s stress?”

Otabek hummed quietly, his eyes full of doubt. He wrapped his arms around Yuri and pulled him into a tight embrace. Yuri squeaked slightly in surprise before relaxing into the embrace.

“This is more than just stress, Yura. I wish you would tell me what’s wrong. Did something happen?”

Yuri closed his eyes and rested his head on Otabek’s shoulder. He feels so warm, so comfortable. This feels so right. And now… It’s too late. I’ll never have this. Not for real.

And how could I possibly tell him what’s wrong? He’d never believe me. ‘Well, you see, I’m actually from another world and I’m inhabiting your boyfriend’s body. No, I’m Yuri too. Just not your Yuri. And I don’t know how long we’ll be stuck like this.’

Yea, that would go over well.

“I’m sorry. I think I’ll feel better after I sleep some. Maybe I’m just overtired.”

Otabek sighed as he pulled away from Yuri. His eyes had that same worried look in them that Yuri had seen too many times to count in his own world. “Okay. Sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

Yuri nodded. He crawled under the blankets and rested his head on the pillow. Yuri took a deep breath. It smells like him. Is this his bed? Or… do we share one in this world? Yuri felt his cheeks growing warm at the thought.

No, no, no. Now is not the time to be thinking about things like that. Sleep. I need some sleep. And then, hopefully, I can figure all of this out. And find some way to make all of this up to him. 

Yuri closed his eyes and forced himself to slow his breathing to a slow, even rhythm. It did not take long for him to slip into a deep, restful sleep.

Chapter Text

“Yuri. I’m sorry, but you need to wake up. You need to get ready.”

Yuri moaned. His head ached abominably. He curled his body in, hissing slightly as the movement pulled on sore muscles. His eyes felt sore and swollen and there were dried tears on his face, making it feel tight and itchy. What in the seven hells happened? This isn’t the same world that I fell asleep in. Why do I feel like I got trampled by a horse? Why was I crying? And why is Victor the one trying to wake me? Where’s Otabek?

Yuri opened his eyes and blinked, taking in his surroundings. Victor was dressed in a black suit and was kneeling down next to the bed he was sleeping on. “W… what happened…?”

Victor put his hand to his forehead, pushing his bangs momentarily out of the way. Not again. But the doctors warned us that this might happen. That between the head injury and the trauma he might have problems remembering, and accepting, what happened.

I just thought by now that he would have accepted the fact that he’s gone.

Yuri rubbed his eyes, trying to focus on the figure in front of him. His heart sank when he noted the concerned, morose look on Victor’s face. If this version of Victor is anything like my cousin, he doesn’t do morose. Something happened. Something really bad.

Victor sighed. His voice was quiet, strained. “Yurochka… Don’t you remember? A few days ago, in Saint Petersburg? Otabek came to visit you. You were showing him around the city. And… you didn’t see the bus that ran the light…”

Yuri went pale. “No… no, no, no…” I don’t need to hear it. He’s going to tell me that… And I can’t. If he says it, it will be real… 

“He pushed you out of the way. But… I’m so sorry, Yuri.”

Yuri wrapped his arms around his stomach. I think I’m going to be sick. He can’t be dead. He just can’t. Yuri gritted his teeth, in a vain attempt to stop the powerful sobs that wracked his chest. It feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest… This is… unbearable…

Victor sighed as he rose from his kneeling position. He wiped away the tears that clung to his face as he walked slowly towards the closet in the small room. I hate seeing him like this. I know how much he cared for Otabek, probably more than he knew himself. When he looked at Otabek, his whole face lit up. 

He was in love with him. And now it’s too late.

Victor pulled the garment bag out of the closet and laid it over the back of a chair. He sat on the edge of the bed and waited. I hate to rush him… but we will need to leave soon.

“Yuri. I’m sorry, but you need to get ready. We need to go.”

Yuri glared at Victor. “Where? Where in the seven hells do we need to go? What the fuck is so important?” 

“The funeral.”

Yuri felt like someone punched him in the gut. Gods… the funeral… He pushed the heels of his hands against his eyelids, trying to stop the tears. So he’s… he’s really dead… 

This curse is too, too cruel. 

“I… I can’t…” Yuri curled around himself, trying desperately to hold himself together.

“You must.” Victor sighed. “I know. I know this is impossible. But we’re here for you, Yurochka. We all came to support you.” And to say goodbye. Altin was a good kid. He’ll be missed…

Victor rested his hand on Yuri’s back, in an attempt to ground him. “Small steps, Yurochka. Just breathe. Just concentrate on breathing.”

Yuri choked back a sob and tried to concentrate on taking deep, slow breaths. 

“Good. Now, try sitting up.”

Yuri nodded. I feel numb. Like I can’t quite believe that this is real. But… it is. 

He slowly pushed himself into a sitting position, using his hand on the bed to steady him as the room spun. Yuri moaned and put his hand to his head. He started, pulling his fingers away as if they had been burned as they came in contact with gauze.  He gingerly ran his fingers over the bandage. “What…?”

“You hit your head. When he pushed you out of the way. The doctors said you were lucky to come out of all of this with just abrasions and a mild concussion.” 

Yuri nodded numbly. He wrapped an arm around his stomach. “I… think I’m going to be sick…”

Victor only nodded as he bent over and grabbed the trash can off of the floor. He pressed it into Yuri’s hands as he started to retch. He’s been doing that a lot lately. The doctors said that might happen, because of the concussion. Especially since we had to travel so quickly after the accident…

Poor Yuri. It’s like he’s been in a daze since the accident. I can’t really blame him much. I can’t even imagine how I would react, if the same thing happened to Yuuri. His whole life has shattered, it will take time for him to heal, to find some semblance of normal again.

Yuri cried as he emptied the contents of his stomach into the trash can. Victor patiently held his hair back from his face and rubbed his back in a comforting manner. Yuri struggled to breathe through his tears as the retching finally stopped. 

Gods… I hate this. It’s not fair. He sacrificed himself… for me? Why? Why would he do that?

His feelings of pain and confusion were echoed deep in his mind. I… Gods above. I get to leave. I get to fucking leave this world, or at least I hope I do. But this Yuri… he has to live with this. With the knowledge that he’s gone, and it’s all his fault.

I don’t think I could.

***

The rest of the day passed by in a blur. People hugged him, whispered words of condolence in his ear. He was led from place to place, pushed down into chairs, as the world seemed to move around him, without him. And Yuri let it. 

His head pounded dully as he closed the door to his room at the end of the day. He stepped out of his shoes and stripped out of the suit jacket, leaving it draped over the back of a chair. He loosened the tie around his neck and flung it towards the chair as he collapsed back onto the bed. 

Gods…

Yuri grabbed a pillow and rolled over onto his side. Sleep. I just want to sleep.

He huffed out a breath as he closed his eyes and tried to relax. Maybe if I can fall asleep, I’ll wake up in another world. Maybe this will all just be a dream…

Tears leaked out of his closed eyes. Because this is too much to bear.

“Yura…”

Yuri’s eyes snapped open. That’s Otabek’s voice. But… it can’t be. He’s dead!

His eyes focused on a figure standing in front of him. It was without a doubt Otabek, but his outline was hazy, incorporeal. Yuri shook his head in disbelief. His voice was a tentative, shaky whisper. “No… it can’t be…”

“Yura, I’m so sorry.” The ghostly figure looked to be on the verge of tears. “I didn’t mean for this to happen. I didn’t mean to leave you.”

Yuri found himself completely incapable of speech. This can’t be happening. People just don’t come back from the dead… Tears ran freely down his cheeks.

“Please, Yura. Please, don’t cry.” Otabek reached out towards Yuri, but stopped right before his fingers touched his face. He pulled his hand back, his face contorted with longing and guilt. 

Yuri’s breath hitched painfully, sending a stab of pain through his head. He winced as he put his hand to his head. 

“You’re hurt.”

Yuri laughed softly through his tears. “Really? That’s what you’re worried about? Beka… you died…” 

“But I saved you.”

Yuri looked up at him, anger flashing in his eyes through the tears. “Why? Why did you save me? Why were you willing to die for me?”

Otabek raked his hand through his hair, taking a moment to center himself. “Yura… haven’t you figured it out yet? I love you. I’ve loved you ever since I met you.”

Yuri felt like something was crushing his chest. Deep in his mind, he felt the echo of deepest despair. Yuri doubled over as he was overcome with his emotions. Yuri wailed out a single word, giving voice to all of his feelings. “Beka…”

Otabek fell to his knees before Yuri. “I’m sorry, Yura. I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry for leaving you. And for not telling you the truth of how I felt before it was too late.” 

His hand tightened into a fist. “I wish I could touch you, hold you just one time. I wish that I could stay.”

Yuri’s head jerked up. “No! You can’t leave me here. Please…”

“But I can’t stay. I just… I needed to tell you that I love you, Yuri. And I always will.”

Yuri fell off of the bed, landing hard on his knees on the floor. He reached out towards the already fading figure. “Please… please don’t do this…”

“Goodbye, Yura.”

The figure faded away. Yuri fell forward, curling his body around itself in an attempt to hold himself together. His body shook violently from the force of his sobbing. He cried out Beka’s name over and over as he cried himself to the point of exhaustion. The last coherent thought before he passed out was, You told the wrong Yuri…

Chapter Text

Yuri came around slowly, his body sore and emotions raw. Please, Gods… Tell me that I’m not still in that world. Please, let him be here. Let me see him when I open my eyes…

He slowly opened his eyes, afraid of what he might find. The room was different than the one he had fallen asleep in, more homey and lived in. He was in the middle of a large bed piled high with blankets and pillows. Where am I? And where… where’s Otabek…?

Yuri’s eyes burned as a soft whimper started in the back of his throat. He curled his knees in tight and hid his face in his hands. He’s gone… He’s really gone… 

He didn’t hear anyone come into the room, didn’t feel them scramble onto the bed. But suddenly there were arms wrapped tightly around him, pulling him close into a warm, strong chest. A comforting smell reached him as the other man moved his head to rest on his shoulder. Strong hands caressed his back tenderly as a voice asked gently, “What’s wrong, Yura?”

Yuri shook his head as he clung to Otabek like his life depended on it. His tears came unchecked. He’s here. He’s alive. Thank the Gods.

Otabek rubbed circles into his back, in a slow comforting pattern. “Did I hurt you? I’m so sorry… I tried my best to be gentle. But…”

“You… were gone…” Yuri could barely form the words around his tears. They were soft, muffled as he spoke against Otabek’s skin.

Otabek took a sharp breath in. “Oh, babe… I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have. But you fell asleep after, and I knew that you should eat after you woke, so I just went to the kitchen to get something…” I know better than to leave an omega alone in the nest after their heat. But I didn’t expect him to wake this soon.

Yuri shook his head. “No… you were gone… You died…” Yuri tightened his grip as his tears started anew.

Otabek’s eyes went wide. What? Was this some kind of bad dream? What the hell happened to him? 

“Yura… It’s okay. I’m okay. It was just a dream.”

He tried to take deep, calming breaths as he held his emotional omega. Did I somehow screw up the bonding? I should be able to feel his emotions… but I don’t feel any of this. I feel a bit of concern… but it’s muted. Kind of like I’m trying to hear something with cotton wrapped around my head. Why can’t I feel him?

Yuri shook his head. “It wasn’t. I…” He closed his mouth, afraid of what he might say next. I can’t tell him the truth, he’ll think I’m crazy…

Otabek shifted Yuri into his lap, cradling the sobbing man gently in his arms. He moved Yuri closer to his scent gland and tried his best to make his scent comforting. Damn it, I hate this. I've only been his alpha for a day, and I’m already failing…

He tried to keep his thoughts from spiraling as he held Yuri close, afraid that the omega would feel his emotions through the bond. Even though I obviously managed to screw that up. Did I bite him in the wrong place? Or not hard enough? I know that he didn’t mess up his bite…

Or maybe we aren’t compatible? Otabek shook his head. No, I’ve never heard of anything like this. I just need to figure out what’s wrong with Yura.

Otabek’s voice was thick with worry, breaking slightly, as he said, “Please, Yura. Talk to me. Tell me what happened.”

Yuri sniffled. “You won’t believe me.” I barely believe it, and I’m living it. 

“Try me.”

Yuri tightened his fingers into fists. He sighed so deeply that his whole body sagged. “I…” Damn it, I don’t know where to start. He’s not going to believe me, and I don’t want him to think that his Yuri is crazy.

“I’m not Yura. Or, at least I’m not your Yura.”

Otabek went stiff. His voice was soft, with a slight edge to it, as he asked slowly, “What do you mean, you’re not my Yura?” This is crazy, right? He looks, sounds, and smells like Yura. He even acts like him… or does he? I’ve never seen Yura this upset before. 

Yuri rested his head on Otabek’s shoulder, finding that he didn’t have the strength or willpower to move away from the comforting scent near the base of Otabek’s neck. He breathed it in and felt his body relax. 

“It’s a long story.”

Otabek pushed Yuri away from him. Yuri whined softly at the loss of contact and looked down away from Otabek. Otabek felt his heart twinge and resisted the urge to pull Yuri back close to him.

“You’re not getting out of this that easily. Talk to me, Yura.” Help me figure out what’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with our bond. Cause I’m trying really hard not to freak out.

Yuri nodded dejectedly as he wrapped his arms around his stomach. “I… guess I’ll start at the beginning. I am Yuri. Yuri Plisetsky, fifth of my name, and heir to the kingdom of Moscavo.” 

Otabek resisted the urge to yell at him, or shake him in frustration. His voice was controlled, even, calm, as he spoke. “Yura… this isn’t a joke.”

“I know. And I’m not joking, believe me. I… I’m cursed.” 

Otabek rolled his eyes. “There’s no such thing as curses.”

“There is in the world that I’m from.”

Otabek closed his eyes tightly as he struggled to think. I can’t believe him, right? But why would he come up with this? Can he feel it, too? That our bond isn’t right? Is he trying to convince me that he’s crazy?

Yuri felt the familiar burn of tears behind his eyes. No, hells no. I’m not going to cry again. That is all that I’ve done for the past two days, for the past two worlds. It’s all I’ve done since I got caught in this curse.

“I knew that you wouldn’t believe me.”

“How the hell am I supposed to believe you? How the fucking hell is anyone supposed to believe a story like that?” Otabek’s calm voice belied the frustration that he felt. 

Yuri took a steadying breath. “You’re right. I’m not sure that I would believe it either.”

The tears he had been keeping at bay started to fall down his face. “It’s just… I can’t take it anymore. I was just trying to save him, and I managed to get cursed instead. And now he’s going to die, and I’m stuck like this until I die too…” Which, if the Gods are merciful, won’t take long. Of course, if the Gods were merciful, this curse would not exist in the first place…

“… I’m an idiot…” 

Yuri blinked in surprise, his tears halting. “What?”

Otabek sighed deeply as he pulled Yuri back close to him. “I’m an idiot. And I’m sorry.”

He kissed Yuri’s hair as Yuri settled in his embrace. Otabek whispered softly, “It shouldn’t matter if I believe you or not. The important thing is that you believe it, and it is causing you pain. So, tell me. I’ll listen, without judgement. I promise.”

Yuri took a deep breath. The scent coming from Otabek helped calm his shattered nerves.  “Okay. I’ll tell you.” It will be a relief to tell someone, even if they don’t believe me. I’ve felt so… adrift and alone. 

“It all started a month ago when Grandpa got sick…”

***

Otabek tried to keep an open mind as Yuri spun his story. But it just seems so unbelievable. Things like that don’t really happen, do they? Magic, curses, traveling through worlds. Ghosts…

If it’s real, then I feel sorry for him. And if it’s not, what the hell could be wrong with him? With us? It might be easier to believe that he’s telling the truth.

“You think I’m crazy.”

Otabek shook his head. “I admit it is a lot to take in. But I think I believe you. Mostly because it seems so outlandish. I can’t imagine that you would make it up. And it also explains some things that have been bothering me.”

Yuri looked up at Otabek. Tears still clung to his lashes, the story of the previous world still being too much to bear. “Like what?”

“Hmm, like how you don’t act the same as the Yuri I know. You’re too damn polite. You haven’t even called me a dumb alpha once today.”

“A… a what?”

Otabek ran his fingers through Yuri’s hair, careful not to pull it. “A dumb alpha.” Otabek sighed. I guess I really do believe him. He seems to be completely clueless about secondary genders. At least this would explain why I can barely feel our bond…

He’s not my omega.

“In this world, there are three secondary genders. People are still male and female, of course. But they are also either alpha, beta, or omega. I think roughly 60% of the world is beta. That means that they behave the same as their primary gender.”

“The other 40% of the world are alphas and omegas. Alphas and omegas can be different from their primary gender. Like you. You’re a male omega, which is a little rare.”

Yuri nodded distractedly. “Of course I am. And I guess that you’re an alpha?”

“Yes.”

Yuri curled up closer to Otabek. “What does that mean, exactly? Are we… a couple or something?” Is that why you smell so good?

Otabek nodded. “We’ve been friends for years, and I had suspected that you were an omega. But you kept it a secret.” Because some people still treat omegas differently. So you used scent blockers and heat suppressants. Anything that you could to still compete without being harrassed by the stupid alphas that dominate our sport. Or the ISU that doesn’t like the idea of male omegas competing. It’s not against the rules per se, but they try to pressure omegas to retire early.

Fat lot of good it did with you. But you learned from the best…

“But you finally admitted the truth about six months ago, and we started dating. And then, about a month ago, you asked me to spent your heat with you.”

Yuri blushed bright red. “Is that… is it what I think it is?”

Otabek kissed the top of his head. “It is. And you asked me to bond you.” He ran his fingers gently over the bite mark on Yuri’s neck. Yuri hissed slightly as the touch made the bite throb.

“I guess that’s why you’re sporting a bite mark too? I bit you?”

“That’s how bonding works. And the mark doesn’t fade. So everyone will know.”

Yuri’s heart thumped hard in his chest. The me of this world loves Otabek so much that he’s willing to expose his ‘weakness’ to the world. He’s willing to announce that he’s an omega, and that he loves Otabek, publically. Even if it costs him everything.

Am I willing to do the same? If I ever get back to my world, could I throw caution to the wind and tell the world how I feel?

After all of this, could I risk not?

Yuri snuggled closer to Otabek, enjoying the calming scent coming from him and the feeling of his strong arms holding him tight. “I can think of worse things.” In fact, I just experienced one.

“You said that you change worlds when you sleep?”

Yuri nodded. “Yea.”

“Want me to hold you until you do?”

Yuri let out a tiny whine. “Yes, please.”

“Okay.” Otabek moved so that they could lay down comfortably and pulled Yuri in tight to his chest. 

Yuri closed his eyes. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For caring, even though I’m technically not your Yuri.”

Otabek hummed softly as he ran his fingers slowly through Yuri’s hair. “Any time.”

The gentle feeling of Otabek’s fingers through his hair, along with the calming scent and warmth coming from Otabek, quickly lulled Yuri into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

Yuri was jarred awake by a loud, blaring noise near his head. The noise sent a shard of pain through his head. Yuri moaned. An irritated voice growled out, “For Christ’s sake, Yuri. Turn the damn thing off.”

Yuri cracked an eye open, and was shocked to find that there was nothing in front of him but open air. “Huh?”

“Your alarm. Turn it off!”

Yuri looked around in a panic. Alarm? What? What world have I found myself in now?

“Oh, for Christ’s sake…” The bed shook as someone got off of the lower bunk and stood. He messed with a small black box on a shelf near Yuri’s head. The noise ceased.

The other man yawned loudly as he turned to face Yuri. “What the hell, man? Just how hung over are you? Or are you still drunk?”

Yuri’s eyes widened in recognition. Jean Jacques. He’s a minor noble in my world, and a bit of a jackass. What is he doing here? Surely we aren’t… Even the thought made Yuri want to gag.

“I swear, man. You’re a decent roommate and all. And I’ll be willing to room with you next year. But it sucks when you’re hung over. It’s like rooming with a bad-tempered zombie.”

Yuri moaned softly. “Shut the fuck up, Leroy. My head fucking hurts.”

JJ laughed. “That’s what you get for drinking too much.”

Yuri groaned as he stretched his body out, trying to work out the kinks of sleeping. His eyes were drawn to his left arm, where the words ‘How do you know my name?’ were written in bold, black letters. “What in the seven hells is this?”

JJ looked at Yuri in surprise. “Are you okay, man?”

Yuri rested his palm on his forehead. “I.. yea… It’s  just… my head hurts … it makes it hard to think.” 

JJ sighed deeply as he moved closer to Yuri. He turned his own arm over, exposing the words written on his own forearm. “These are the first words that your soulmate will ever say to you, remember?”

Yuri swallowed dryly. “Um… yea… of course. How could I forget that?” Soulmates? Really? Those exist?

Well, I guess why the fuck not? I’ve run across just about everything else during my little jaunt through worlds. Why would soulmates be any different.

JJ’s voice broke through Yuri’s thoughts. “Even though, I have to admit, I’ve always thought that yours was a little strange. I mean, ‘How do you know my name?’ Weird, right?”

Yuri let out a strained laugh. “Yes, weird.” That must mean that I haven’t ‘found’ my soulmate yet. I wonder… It almost has to be Otabek, right?

Yuri cleared his throat and tried to cover up his nervousness. “Hey… do you, um, do we know anyone named Otabek?”

“Altin? He’s in my Econ class. But I don’t think that you two have met. Why?”

“Um, no reason…” Yuri ran his hand down his arm as he tried to control the erratic beating of his heart. So it really could be him. I could… maybe I could help the me in this world find his soulmate.

JJ waved his hand dismissively. “Whatever, man. I don’t know what you’re thinking, and honestly right now I don’t really care. I promised Izzy that I would meet her in the library to study for midterms. Something about how she doesn’t want her soulmate to fail out.”

Yuri nodded and immediately hissed in pain. Gods, my head hurts. I’m getting really fucking tired of this. The pain. Can’t I go to a world where I’m not in pain?

“Aspirin and water.”

Yuri looked up at JJ. “What?”

JJ sighed, frustrated. “Take two aspirin and drink a glass of water. That will help.”

Yuri had to stop himself from nodding in agreement. “Thanks.”

“I’m going to go get ready to meet Izzy. See you later.”

***

Later That Afternoon

Yuri sighed as he leaned back, breathing in the scent of the grass and the trees. The world that he found himself in was busy and crowded. He could not count how many people had passed by since he had set himself down in the grass, at a loss for what to do or where to go. I feel so alone… this is the first time that someone has not been there to tell me what I needed to do when I woke up. Cause, let’s face it, Leroy wasn’t much help. 

But at least Otabek is alive. That had been Yuri’s first concern when he had woken and seen Leroy’s face instead of Otabek. And also, it might be… it’s possible that…

He picked at the grass under his hand. Dare I believe it? Could we really be soulmates? I still can’t believe that they’re a real thing here. At home, they’re just a fairy tale. But… in every world that I’ve been in, the threads of our lives are intertwined. Maybe we’re not just soulmates in this world. 

Maybe we were supposed to be together in my world, too. Before I went and fucked it up.

Yuri sat up and huffed out a breath. And what exactly am I supposed to do with that? I’m stuck in this curse. I have yet to come up with any kind of plan to get out of it. I don’t know if I can. Hells, for all I know, I might already be dead.

He casually watched the people that walked by, uninterested. That is, until one person in particular caught his eye. Yuri sat up a little straighter. Wait, is that…?

The man in question definitely looked like Otabek, but sported piercings in his ears and in his eyebrow, and a pair of glasses resting on his nose. Yuri smiled slightly. He looks good like that. 

Yuri stood. Before he could even think about what he was doing, he yelled out, “Beka!”

Otabek turned his head towards him. As his eyes focused on Yuri, his brow wrinkled in confusion. “How do you know my name?”

In the back of his mind, he felt pure joy. Did I just find this Yuri’s soulmate for him? I feel kind of bad, taking this moment from him.

But could he have found Otabek without me?

Yuri moved through the thin crowd, making his way closer to Otabek. “It’s a long story.” That you probably wouldn’t believe anyway.

Otabek’s eyes were wide in disbelief. “I… I don’t know you. We’ve never met before, right?” So how is it that not only does he know my name, but he knows my nickname that I don’t share with anyone. The one that is written on my arm. Is he?

“I don’t think so.” Yuri pushed up his sleeve, revealing the writing written there. Otabek took a sharp breath in. 

“So we’re… soulmates…?” This is insane, right? Running into my soulmate on a lazy Sunday afternoon on my way to the library to study, like I do every week? I thought it was supposed to be this big, grand thing. And yet, it seems almost… mundane.

Yuri nodded. “Yuri Plisetsky. But, you can call me Yura if you want.”

Otabek rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “Otabek Altin. Um, it’s nice to meet you? I think… we should talk.”

“That sounds like a good idea.”

Otabek blushed as he reached out and took Yuri’s hand. “Come with me, please.”

***

Fifteen minutes later they were seated in a quiet corner of the student union. Yuri sipped at the strange drink that he had let Otabek order for him. I think he called it a latte? I don’t know, the words sounded like gibberish to me. But it tastes good.

Otabek had his hands wrapped around his cup. He looked at Yuri, his eyes still full of disbelief. “I can’t believe that this is really happening.”

Yuri looked up at Otabek. “Hmm?”

Otabek sighed. “All my life I wondered about my soulmate. What they would be like. Who they might be. How... “ Otabek cleared his throat nervously. “How they knew my name…”

Yuri could see the name printed in dark letters across Otabek’s forearm. Ah, I can see how that could be confusing. In a world where your soulmate’s first words are printed on you, how is it that your words could be your name? How could they know that, if you’ve never met?

Yuri’s finger tapped nervously against the cup in his hands. I don’t know what to say to him. I can’t tell him the truth, can I?

Yuri cleared his throat as an idea came to him. “You look like someone I used to know. His name was Beka, too.” It’s not exactly untrue, so hopefully he’s be satisfied with that.

Otabek nodded. “So when you saw me, you thought I was him. That makes sense, I guess.”

Yuri reached out and took Otabek’s hand. His eyes widened slightly in surprise as he realized that Otabek’s hand was shaking slightly. “I’m so glad that I found you.” When I woke and you weren’t there, I was afraid that you were not in this world. That it was like… No, this is no time to think like that. He’s here. And in this world we are fated to be together.

“What’s wrong?” 

Yuri shook his head slightly. “Nothing. I was just thinking.”

Otabek smiled softly. “About?”

“You. Us. What this all means.”

Otabek brought Yuri’s hand up to his lips and kissed it gently. Yuri blushed as Otabek’s soft lips brushed his knuckles. Otabek’s smile widened.

“Yura. We’re soulmates. Everything is going to change, but it will be a good thing.”

Yuri nodded. “I know.” I want it. I want this. But I want it… in a world where I won’t disappear as soon as I sleep. I want forever, not just a day. I don’t want to dread what the next day will bring.

Otabek rubbed Yuri’s hand gently. “Seriously, something is bothering you. Please, let’s not start off like this. Tell me.”

Yuri shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s just a lot, you know?”

“I know. We can take it slow? Date for a while?” As much as I would like to just skip all of that. Move in with him, start our life together now. But… I don’t want to overwhelm him. And right now, it looks like he needs the space. And time to adjust to this. 

I can give him that.

Yuri nodded slowly. “We should get to know each other.” He swallowed nervously. “But… not today.”

“What?” Otabek jerked back a little in surprise. But we just found each other.

Yuri sighed heavily. I don’t know this world. I don’t know this Yuri’s life. And I don’t want to screw this up for him. This is the right decision, right?

Yuri covered Otabek’s hand with his free hand. “I would love to spend the day with you, believe me. But…” What did Leroy mention earlier? Midterms, and needing to study? Some kind of big test, I guess? “But we have midterms to worry about.”

Otabek groaned. “God, midterms. You’re right. I don’t like it, but you’re right.”

“So, find me after midterms are over?”

Otabek pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Just give me your number and I’ll call you.” No way I’m going to let him go without a way to contact him. Not after looking for this long.

Yuri started. My what? What’s that device in his hand? I saw one of those in the room I shared with Leroy, but how am I supposed to know what to do with it?

“I don’t know it. And… I didn’t bring mine.” He motioned vaguely at the device in Otabek’s hand.

“O… kay… Plan B.” Otabek flipped open his notebook to a blank page and fished a pen out of his pocket. He wrote something down on the piece of paper and ripped it out of the notebook. “Here is my number. Please call.”

Otabek handed the paper to Yuri. Yuri took the paper from Otabek and nodded. “I will. Tomorrow, I’ll call. I promise.” The other Yuri will know what to do. 

Otabek smiled slightly. “I’ll be waiting.”

***

Later That Evening

Yuri sighed as he settled onto the bed. He took the piece of paper that Otabek had given him and stuck it underneath the device (phone, he had learned it was called a phone) where the other Yuri would find it tomorrow morning. In addition to Otabek’s number, Yuri had added a little note of his own:

Yuri,

I don’t know how much of this you will remember, if any at all. But I found your soulmate today. His name is Otabek Altin, and he’s a student here, too. Don’t worry, I didn’t tell him anything weird. We barely talked, to be honest. I used midterms as an excuse so that he will get to know you, not me. This is his number. Call him tomorrow.

Yuri settled his head on the pillow. I guess it’s time to see what else the Gods have in store for me.

It did not take long for Yuri’s weary body and mind to pull him into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

“Hey, babe. I’m about to leave.”

Yuri felt a featherlight kiss on his forehead. He opened his eyes to see Otabek leaning over him, smiling softly. “I didn’t want to leave without telling you goodbye.”

Yuri’s voice was slightly husky with sleep as he asked, “Where are you going?”

Otabek chuckled softly as he leaned in to kiss Yuri. “You’re so forgetful when you’re still half asleep. I’m going to work on that custom job, remember? But the shop is closed, so you can sleep in.”

Yuri blinked, trying to focus on what Otabek said. He’s going to work? Do we work together? It kind of sounds that way…

“Can I come with you?”

Otabek tilted his head in confusion. “There’s nothing for you to do. You told me that you and Izzy caught up on the paperwork yesterday. We’ve already got the parts designed for this bike, too. It’s just going to be Jean and I working on assembly all day.”

Yuri stretched his arms out, trying to work out the stiffness of sleep. “I want to watch you work. Is that okay?”

“Of course it’s okay. Can you be ready in 10? I promised Jean I’d be there by 9.” He’s never wanted to watch me work before. He’s always claimed that the machinery was too loud and gave him headaches. 

Yuri nodded. He sat up slowly and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He smiled as he stole a glimpse at Otabek, who had walked away from the bed. He was shirtless, and his arms and shoulders were covered in black swirling tattoos. Oh, I like that. Yuri swallowed hard. Those look… really good on him…

He looked down and noticed a thin gold band on his finger. Does this… I know some cultures in my world use rings to symbolize marriage. Does this mean that we’re married? I didn’t notice one on Otabek’s hand. He squinted, looking harder at Otabek’s left hand. In lieu of a ring, there was a band tattooed around his finger.

Otabek looked over his shoulder as he pulled a plain white t-shirt out of the closet. “Yuri, stop squinting. Your glasses are on the nightstand.”

Yuri rolled his eyes. Glasses? Really? “Fine.” He grabbed the glasses off the nightstand and settled them on his face. Oh, wow. That helps a lot. Damn, this Yuri is blind as a bat.

“Hurry up if you’re coming.”

“Okay. I’m going.” Yuri stretched his arms over his head and scooted to the edge of the bed. He stood up slowly and then turned to look at Otabek. He took a sharp breath in at the sight. Fuck, he looks good in that. It’s just a white shirt and those tough blue pants but damn.

Otabek smiled as he moved closer to Yuri. “We’ve been married for 5 years, Yura. Do I still take your breath away?”

Yuri fought the urge to blurt out always. But I don’t know if the Yuri in this world would react that way. He felt something in the back of his mind, like the Yuri of this world was agreeing with him. 

He smiled. “Always.” 

Otabek hummed softly as he reached up and pulled Yuri’s head down enough to kiss him. “Now hurry up and get dressed.”

Yuri nodded as Otabek moved towards the room that he knew from previous worlds would be the bathroom. Yuri walked over to the closet and looked for clothes that looked like they would fit him. It didn’t take long for him to settle on a pair of the same blue pants Otabek was wearing and a black t-shirt with some writing on it. I wonder what ‘Imagine Dragons’ means? Not that it really matters. Obviously it’s something this Yuri likes, and that’s good enough.

Otabek moved out of the bathroom. “You look good too, babe. I’ve always liked that shirt on you.” And he’s wearing that pair of jeans that shows off all of his assets in all the right ways.

Yuri smiled. “Thanks, Beka.”

“I’m gonna grab us something for breakfast. Almost ready?”

Yuri nodded. He gestured towards the bathroom. “I just gotta…”

“Okay.” Otabek moved out of the bedroom as Yuri made his way into the bathroom. He made quick work of the necessities and took a minute to try to contain his hair. It’s longer than I’m used to. How in the seven hells does he manage it every day? I’m just going to put it in a tail and hope for the best. I just got to find some ribbon…

“Beka, have you seen a hair tie anywhere?”

“There’s a whole bunch in the medicine cabinet. Wearing your hair up today?”

Yuri mumbled, “I’m trying…”

He heard Otabek’s soft footfalls coming back towards the bedroom. “Want some help? You sound a little flustered this morning.”

Yuri sighed. “Please.” He dropped his hands and relaxed as Otabek took over, running the brush through his hair. Gods, that feels good. Maybe I should grow my own hair out. 

“What did you want to do with it? Pony tail? Braid? Bun?” 

Yuri’s eyes were closed as he concentrated on the feel of Otabek’s hand in his hair. “Whatever you think would be best.”

“Hmm…” Otabek hummed softly as his fingers moved, gently twisting Yuri’s hair into a bun and securing it to the back of Yuri’s head, like he had done it a thousand times before. “It’s not too tight, is it?”

“No, it feels good.” 

Otabek smiled and kissed Yuri’s shoulder. “Good. It should be out of your way now.”

“Thanks. I guess we should go…”

Otabek wrapped his arms around Yuri’s waist and rested his head on Yuri’s shoulder. “Jean can wait. It was his idea to work on a Sunday. We’re closed on Sundays for a reason.”

“Is this custom job that important?”

Otabek groaned. “Yes. We’ve worked hard on this bike. And it needs to be ready for pickup tomorrow at 8 am, if it’s going to make it to Los Angeles in time for Anime Expo. Which is what the client wants. Yuri, we’ve talked about this. This bike, if it turns out well, could put us on the map.”

“Then we better get going.”

“Hmm, remember to grab your jacket. I’ll get the helmets. I left you a breakfast bar on the kitchen counter, and we can make coffee when we get to the shop, okay?”

“Okay.”

***

Fifteen Minutes Later

Yuri was grinning from ear to ear as they stepped into the shop. That was… exhilarating! I’ve never gone that fast before. The feeling of the wind in my face… and they do this every day!

He followed Otabek’s lead, hanging his jacket on the coat rack near the door and sitting his helmet down next to Otabek’s. Otabek called out, “Jean, did you start some coffee for us yet?”

There was an answer yelled back from somewhere deep in the shop. “Yep. You’re late, by the way.”

“Yuri wanted to come. Took a little longer to get ready.”

A head poked out from around a tall rack of parts. JJ’s eyes went wide when he saw Yuri standing there. “I thought you and Izzy finished this week's reports yesterday?”

Yuri mumbled out, “We… did…” I hope… “But I wanted to watch you guys finish this bike. You’ve been working hard on it, and I know it’s important…”

JJ shrugged. “There’s not going to be much to see. We’re just slapping the parts on the bike. But if you want to watch, whatever.”

Otabek kissed Yuri lightly on the cheek. “I’ll go get us some coffee. Be right back.”

Yuri nodded distractedly as he looked around the shop, his eyes wide. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I know that these are all parts to make one of those things we rode here on… bikes? I guess that’s what Otabek does, but what part does Yuri play in this?

JJ’s voice broke through his thoughts. “We got the painted parts back yesterday. Your designs turned out great, Yuri. Have you seen them yet?”

“N...no…” 

JJ motioned Yuri closer. “Then come and have a look.” 

Yuri walked over to where JJ was sitting, drinking coffee from a cup similar to the one Yuri had used in the last world. On the table in front of him were several large pieces of metal, shaped to fit a bike similar to the one Otabek rode. The pieces were covered with a multitude of brightly-colored characters. 

“We sent pictures to the client, and they were impressed with how close your designs were to the original characters.”

I don’t know what to say to that. Obviously this Yuri is artistically inclined. I… am decidedly not. The court painter tried to teach me, but it just… escaped me.

JJ cleared his throat. “Anyway, I was wondering if I could ask you for a favor? Otabek told me that you designed his ring tattoo.”

Yuri raised his eyebrow slightly in question. “Yes…?”  That’s actually really… sweet? That he has a tattoo that his Yuri designed, in a place that is so symbolic.

“Izzy and I are going to renew our vows on our wedding anniversary this year, and I thought I would surprise her with a ring tattoo of my own. Since it’s dangerous to wear a ring in the shop and all. Would you design it for me?”

“Okay… just sit down with me tomorrow and tell me kind of what you’re thinking.”

JJ grinned. “Thanks, man. I knew you’d say yes.”

“Just make sure that you have Mila tattoo it to your finger. She’s better with delicate details than Emil is.” Otabek chimed in from across the shop. He had a cup of coffee in each hand.

JJ nodded. “Of course. But no one beats Emil for his tribal tattoo work.”

Otabek handed Yuri a cup of coffee. “True.”

Yuri mumbled a soft thanks as he took a sip of the warm drink. The drink was bitter, but no worse than some of the drinks in his own world. 

“Here’s what I was thinking for today.” JJ was holding a thin metal object. When he touched the large black surface, it lit up. 

Yuri’s eyes widened in surprise. Magic…?

JJ was talking Otabek through what had to be the day’s schedule, but Yuri had tuned him out, instead staring at the object in JJ’s hand. This is the first world that I’ve been in that had magic like this. I wonder how he does it? Is that some kind of artifact? Surely not, he treats it so casually…

“...So what do you think, babe? Want to help me?” Otabek touched Yuri’s arm as he asked, startling Yuri out of his thoughts.

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Of course.” Yuri smiled at Otabek. “But you’ll have to show me what to do.”

JJ stifled a chuckle. “We all know that you’re useless at this stuff.”

Otabek shot him a look. “Jean…”

JJ held up his hands in supplication. “I’m kidding. And anyways, I think it’s great that he wants to learn. I would never be able to get Izzy back here. Not for nothing.”

Otabek nodded. “And we could always use an extra set of hands. Come on, we’ll show you how to put the wheels on the bike.”

***

Over the course of the day, Otabek patiently showed Yuri how to put together the bike. Yuri was blown away with all that went into making the contraption that they had ridden earlier that morning. And the bike they were putting together… 

It was something special. Made to be both a functional tool and a work of art. Yuri stood back and admired the machine that he had helped put together. I think I understand why he loves this. Why he does this. He’s an artist too. There was an echo of intense pride deep in his mind.

It was late when they returned home. Otabek had some food delivered to them (pizza, which was an instant hit as far as Yuri was concerned). After dinner, they cuddled on the couch together, Yuri leaned against Otabek, a blanket wrapped around him. He sighed softly, enjoying the soft music playing in the background and the feeling of comfort of being in Otabek’s arms.

I want this. I want to stay. Can’t I just stay here? I don’t want to move on to another world, where who knows what will happen. What if he’s hurt, or missing, or… Yuri shook his head slightly, trying to drive that thought out. He fought against the tears that threatened behind his eyes. 

I just want to be in a world where Otabek and I can be together and be happy. And I know I fucked that up. I fucked that up long before I ever touched that thrice-accursed vine. Before I left on my foolish quest. 

I fucked it up on the day that I realized how I felt about him and chose to stay silent. I should have told him how I felt. Even if we can’t, if we couldn’t be together. Even if he didn’t feel the same way about me. I should have told him.

At least then I would have had a chance. 

Yuri let out a ragged breath and let his weary body rest against Otabek. “Are you okay, babe?” The words were spoken softly in Yuri’s ear.

Yuri closed his eyes and tried to keep his tears at bay. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yea. I’m just tired.” The lie came easily to his lips. I can’t tell him the truth. There’s no good way to explain to him that I’m upset cause I want this, and I can’t have it.

“I wish I could just stay awake forever. Stay awake, and be here with you.”

Otabek smiled softly as he ran his fingers through Yuri’s loose hair. “I’ll still be here when you wake up.”

No you won’t…

Or at least, I won’t be here. I’ll be in some other world, with some other Otabek. Gods, when will this end?

Yuri’s eyes felt heavy. His mind railed against it, trying to stay awake. A little longer. Just a little longer. I want to stay.

Please, just let me…

His thoughts were cut short as he slipped into the oblivion of sleep.

Chapter Text

“Yuri. It’s time to stop this. Holing yourself up in your room isn’t going to do anyone any good.” Otabek knocked softly on the heavy wooden door. There was no response.

He knocked harder. “Really, Yuri? I thought that you were too old for this type of tantrum. You’re going to be the king soon…” Much sooner than either of us would like. “You need to start acting like it.”

There was still no response from inside the room. Otabek sighed. “Fine. Then I’m coming in, whether you like it or not.”

Otabek swung open the heavy door. His eyes darted around the room. Yuri was nowhere to be found. “Oh, for the love of… where in the seven hells did he go?”

He moved to stand in the center of the room and closed his eyes. He focused on pushing his magic out, sending it to search for Yuri, or at least the little ripples that Yuri had left behind as he walked. He opened his eyes and saw the lightly glowing footprints revealed by his magic. The footprints ended at a wall in the suite, one of the prints cut in half by the wall itself. A secret passage… that makes sense. Of course there would be a passage that leads from the heir’s room to safety. Now I just need to find out how to open it, and where it goes.

Otabek felt along the wall, looking for a secret latch. He pressed on all of the stones until one gave under his hand. The wall groaned open, revealing a dark, narrow passage. Otabek hurried to follow the glowing footprints. I have no idea how much of a head start he has on me. Or where he’s going, and what he intends to do when he gets there. I need to stop him, before he does something foolish.

He followed the passageway out of the castle. Yuri’s footprints traveled a short distance away from the passage, and then abruptly ended. Damn… He must have gotten a horse. What exactly does he have planned?

Otabek walked to where the footprints ended and crouched, studying the ground closely. West. He went west. And recently. If I hurry, I should be able to track him. And maybe catch him before it’s too late.

***

Less than an hour later, Otabek rode out of the palace gates with a saddlebag full of provisions. I hate wasting that much time, but there is no telling where he is heading. And there is no way that I would be able to catch up with him on foot.

He already has a head start on me, not to mention the advantage of speed. I will have to track him as I go, which means that I cannot travel as fast as him, or at night. Damn it.

Otabek rode as fast and as hard as he dared, watching carefully for signs of Yuri’s passage. He rode on until the dark of the approaching night made it impossible to track on horseback, and then continued on foot, leading his mount, until it was truly too dark to see. Only then did he allow himself to seek shelter, and the slim comfort of sleep. 

The days blurred together as Otabek continued his search for Yuri. He felt like he was always just a few steps behind, as proven by the remnants of Yuri’s campsites. So close. I was so close to catching up with him. If I had noticed he was gone just a little sooner, or if I could have kept going just a little longer… Otabek shook his head. Thoughts like that would not help him catch up with Yuri any sooner.

He honestly was not sure how many days had passed when, late one afternoon as the day was starting to fade into dusk, he followed Yuri’s trail to a small clearing in the woods. He started slightly as he recognized the horse tied loosely to a nearby tree. That’s Yuri’s favorite mount. He’s here. I finally caught up with him.

Otabek tied his horse up next to Yuri’s and looked around for clues to Yuri’s whereabouts. And then he saw him. Lying on the ground, unmoving.

Otabek rushed out into the clearing, skidding to a stop next to Yuri. He fell to his knees and shook him, trying to rouse him. “Yuri. Yuri, please wake up.”

Yuri did not wake. Otabek could feel panic bubbling up in his chest. He shook him harder, desperate for a reaction. “Yuri! Please! Damnit, wake up!”

Tears started streaming down Otabek’s face as he leaned over the prone figure. He put his ear to Yuri’s chest and choked out a heart wrenching sob. There was no heartbeat, no rise and fall of breath. Otabek wrapped his arms around Yuri. No, Gods no. He can’t be… 

Please Gods, I can’t have been too late. He can’t be dead.

Otabek felt like something had reached into his chest and crushed his heart. The pain was nearly unbearable. He shuddered out a breath as he looked down at Yuri’s face. The tears continued to trail down his cheeks as he thought, He looks so peaceful, like he’s sleeping. 

“I loved you.” The words forced their way out of Otabek, a confession that fell on deaf ears.

He knelt down and softly, ever so softly, pressed his lips to Yuri’s. He let all of his love, all of his emotions, flow through that first and final kiss. 

Otabek fell back heavily, collapsing onto the grass. He covered his eyes with his hands in an attempt to block out the world. His body was wracked by the force of his sobbing, the pain of his loss making him feel like his heart was shattering to pieces.

How can I possibly go on if he’s gone?

***

Yuri opened his eyes slowly. The sky above him was starting to turn dark, the stars starting to shine down on the earth below. He moaned softly. It feels like I was slammed to the ground, instead of merely sleeping on it. What in the seven hells did this Yuri do?

He brought his hand to his head. The last light of the setting sun glinted off a familiar ring on his hand. I… Gods… I’m home. How?

Then he noticed the sound of sobbing nearby. He turned his head slowly. Otabek lay a short distance from him, his body shaking with the force of his uncontrollable crying. “Otabek?” It came out barely a whisper.

He found some way to break the curse. But… why is he crying like his heart is breaking? What did it cost him to break it? 

Yuri pushed himself up, wincing slightly as he pulled on stiff and sore muscles. “Otabek.” He said it louder this time, but there was no reaction from the man in front of him.

Yuri reached out and touched his arm. “Beka!”

Otabek uncovered his eyes, his breath hitching painfully in his chest. “Y… Yura?” He swallowed hard, trying to find his voice. “But, how? You were… were dead…” A few tears traveled down his cheeks.

Yuri shook his head. “Cursed. But you came for me. And you broke it.” 

He took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. I can do this. I promised myself that if I made it back to him that I was going to tell him. And I don’t want to wait anymore.

Yuri reached out and gently cupped Otabek’s face. “I know that it’s impossible. There’s no way to make it work. But… I love you, Beka.”

Otabek sat up and gathered Yuri in his arms, holding him close to his chest. “This is real, right? This isn’t some kind of dream? You’re here, and telling me what I always wanted to hear? That you love me too?”

Yuri laughed as tears started falling from his eyes. He loves me too. “No, it’s not a dream.” Believe me, I’ve had enough dreams to last me a lifetime.

Otabek tightened his arms around Yuri. He rested his face on Yuri’s shoulder. Yuri could feel the tears soaking into his tunic. Yuri wrapped his arms around Otabek, returning his embrace.

Otabek’s words were muffled as he spoke into Yuri’s shoulder. “I thought I lost you. I thought it was too late.”

Yuri felt a sharp pain in his chest. “I’m sorry.” I didn’t mean to put you through that pain. The pain that I felt when…  Yuri tightened his hold on Otabek as he forced the thought from his mind.

The sky slowly darkened into night as they held fast to one another, neither one willing to let go. Yuri sighed softly as the sounds of night reached his ears. “We should go.” I really don’t want to spend the night here. 

Otabek nodded. He slowly loosened his grip on Yuri. “You’re right. There’s something about this place… the air feels foreboding. Why did you come to this Gods forsaken place?”

Yuri pulled away from Otabek. He conjured a small flame into his hands. It wavered. Otabek frowned slightly. He’s worn out. He should be able to maintain that little flame in his sleep.

The flame illuminated the vicious vine in the center of the clearing. “This is why I came. Those flowers, they are the only thing that can save Grandpa.”

Otabek squeezed his free hand gently. “Yura. You know he would not want you to risk your life like this. Not even to save his own.”

Yuri sighed, his body sagging slightly with exhaustion. “I know. But I had to try.”

“I know.”

Yuri clicked his tongue in frustration. “But it was a fool’s errand. I nearly died. I would have died, if you had not come for me.” Yuri hung his head. “And for all that, I’m still returning empty handed.” Cause there is no way in any of the seven hells that I am touching that thing again!

“Yura. Look.” Otabek pointed towards the ground near the vine.

There was a loose bloom lying on the ground near where Yuri had been lying. Yuri laughed as he reached down to pick up the delicate flower. He looked at Otabek, his eyes bright and smiling.

“Let’s go home.”

***

An Hour Later

Otabek settled back against the tree. He grunted slightly as Yuri settled against him, Yuri’s back resting on Otabek’s chest. “Yura, you’re exhausted. You couldn’t even start a fire for us.” I had to use flint to start one. And you’ve been able to do that since you were a child. “You need to rest.”

Yuri shook his head. “I’ll stay up with you.”

Otabek wrapped his arms around Yuri’s waist and pulled him closer. “That defeats the purpose of alternating watches, Yura. Or did you want to go first tonight.”

“I don’t want to fall asleep.”

Otabek frowned slightly. “Why?”

Yuri felt his lower lip quiver slightly. Damn it, I’m not going to cry. I don’t want to worry him. I can’t tell him what the curse entailed, what I’ve been through. He sniffled quietly as he struggled to keep from breaking down.

“Whatever it is, Yura, you can tell me.”

Yuri shook his head. “You don’t know what you’re asking.”

Otabek gently repositioned Yuri so that they were facing each other. “Tell me.”

Yuri’s eyes were bright with tears as he nodded. “The curse. While I was under it I… hells I don’t know what to call it. It was more than dreams, less than real? But I know I was in different worlds, living as different versions of us. And every time I fell asleep, I changed worlds.”

Otabek hissed in a breath. “How many?”

“Five.”

Otabek reached up and caressed his cheek softly, rubbing away a tear. “How many were bad?”

Yuri turned his eyes down, away from Otabek. “One. But it was enough.”

“Please. Tell me what happened. You don’t have to bear this burden alone. Not anymore.”

Yuri nodded slowly. A few tears trickled down his face, only to be wiped away by Otabek’s tender touch. Yuri told Otabek everything as Otabek held him gently and wiped away his tears. The darkness of night slowly faded as Yuri reached the end of his tale. 

And when the light of dawn at last illuminated them, Yuri was asleep, safe in Otabek’s embrace. 

Chapter Text

A Week Later

Yuri carefully crushed the dried petals and added them to the steaming water. The seer woman said that it should steep for 10 minutes. 

A firm knock drew his attention away from the steeping tea. He smiled as the door opened to reveal Otabek’s smiling face. We’ve not been able to spend much time together since we got back yesterday… I kind of miss being on the road with him.

Otabek closed the door behind him before crossing the space between them. He pulled Yuri into an embrace and rested his head on Yuri’s shoulder. Yuri sighed as he wrapped his arms around him. “I missed you.”

Otabek hummed softly. “I’ve been here.”

Yuri tangled his fingers in Otabek’s hair. “It’s not the same.”

“I know. But we’ll find a way to make it work.”

Yuri choked out a little laugh. “How?”

Yuri could feel the tell tale prick of tears in his eyes. He squeezed them shut, trying to avoid the tears that threatened to fall. We have to play our parts here. I will have to marry for politics, for heirs. We can’t be together.

And I don’t want Otabek to just be my lover. He deserves better than that .

I should just accept the fact that I need to let him go. And the sooner the better. Before we hurt each other more.

Otabek clutched at the back of Yuri’s tunic, holding him tighter. “I don’t know. The only thing I know for sure is that I am not letting you go.” Not after everything that we’ve been through.

“Maybe I should just abdicate. Let Victor have the crown. Then we could run off together.”

Otabek loosened his grip slightly. He sighed. “Yura. We both know that you don’t mean that. We’ll figure out a way. Even if…”

“NO! There is no way that I would ever put you through that!” Yuri pulled back, using his fingers under Otabek’s chin to gently force his head up. Yuri scowled. “We talked about this. I want you. All of you. But I will not subject you to the gossip and the harassment that comes with that.”

Otabek’s eyes flicked away. “So you want it all, or nothing?”

“Yes.”

Otabek slowly let go of Yuri. He closed his eyes briefly. How in the seven hells can we make this work?

***

“Are you ready, Yuri?”

Yuri took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. He looked at Otabek, determination flashing in his eyes as he nodded. Otabek knocked firmly on the door. The door creaked open slightly. Yuri nearly gagged on the heavy smoke of incense that wafted through the door. Gods, how is anyone supposed to get better with that shit smothering them?

He closed his eyes briefly. That’s just it. They didn’t expect him to.

“Prince Yuri? You can’t be here.” The man moved to close the door back.

Otabek grabbed the door, keeping the man from closing it. His eyes narrowed. “Do you mean to tell me that you intend to keep him from seeing his grandfather, the king? Do you think it wise to antagonize your future king?”

The man blanched. “But… but the disease…”

“We’ll take our chances. Move.” Otabek’s voice was nearly a growl. 

The man nodded shakily as he stepped away from the door, allowing Yuri and Otabek into the room. The thick incense smoke made Yuri’s eyes water. A group of priests stood close to the king’s bedside, chanting incessantly. Yuri narrowed his eyes and clicked his tongue in disgust.

“Get out.” His voice was quiet, yet firm. 

The priests halted their chanted prayers and looked up in surprise. One of the priests studdered out, “B… but your highness…”

Yuri’s eyes flashed in anger. “Get out! Take your thrice bedamned incense and chanting and get  out!”

The priest jumped like he had been burned. He managed a shaky bow before all but running for the door. The other priests followed suit. Yuri nodded to Otabek, who closed the door and threw the bolt. 

Yuri sighed in relief. “Damned vultures...” He walked closer to his grandfather’s bedside. Yuri’s breath caught, the sight of his grandfather wasting away nearly more than he could bear.

Otabek rested a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. “It’ll work, Yura.”

Yuri nodded slowly as he placed the teapot he was carrying on the nightside table. “I hope that you’re right.” I guess we’ll find out soon. Whether this was really a fool’s errand, or not… 

Yuri carefully poured the tea into a cup. He reached out tentatively, lightly touching his grandfather’s shoulder. “Grandpa…”

Nikolai groaned in pain. “Yuri? You can’t be here…”

“Shh. I brought you something to make you feel better. Can you sit up?”

Nikolai nodded. He moved slowly, all of his former strength gone. Yuri pursed his lips and glanced worriedly at Otabek. Gods… I didn’t realize it was this bad. What if the flower saves him, but he stays like this? Yuri shook his head. No, I can’t think like that. He will get well. 

He has to.

Yuri brought the cup to Nikolai’s lips and tilted it slowly. “Drink this. It will help.” I hope.

Nikolai slowly drank the tea. Color returned to his pale cheeks. He felt his strength returning to him nearly immediately. Nikolai sighed softly. “Yuri… what did you do?”

Yuri smiled. It worked. It really worked! He coughed softly. “It’s a long story.”

***

Yuri was seated by his grandfather’s beside. He waited patiently, having finished his tale, for his grandfather’s reaction. 

Nikolai sighed deeply. “This has cost you dearly. I sincerely wish that you had not undertaken this quest.”

Yuri smiled softly. I think I gained more than I lost.

Nikolai turned to look at Otabek, who stood with his back to the door. “And you. You found Yuri, and brought him back to me.” Nikolai’s eyes were wet with unshed tears. “You brought back my greatest treasure, more precious than any riches in all the lands.”

Otabek started slightly. “I only did my duty, your Majesty.”

Nikolai shook his head. “No, you did so much more. And you deserve to be rewarded. Anything in my kingdom, anything that is within my power to give, is yours. Just name it.”

Otabek swallowed hard. His heart was racing, thumping painfully in his chest. Dare I ask? Or, maybe the better question is, dare I not?

He took a steadying breath. “There is only one thing that I wish for, your Majesty. And that is for Yuri’s hand, if he will have me.”

Yuri gasped. What? Can he ask for that? 

Nikolai replied. “Are you sure that is what you want?”

Otabek nodded. “Most assuredly, your Majesty.”

He turned to look at Yuri. “And do you want this as well?”

Yuri’s voice was soft as he replied, “More than anything.” 

Nikolai sighed. “Then I have no objections. Just promise me one thing.”

“Yes, your majesty?”

Nikolai smiled. “Make him happy.”

Otabek smiled softly as he crossed the space between Yuri and himself. He leaned down and caught Yuri’s lips in a gentle, loving kiss. As he pulled away, Otabek softly whispered, “Always.”