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I slam into the asphalt. The ground cracks under my feet. I look left and right, seeing the streetlamps cutting through the darkness, nowhere to hide.
I scale a building and land on the sidewalk, the cement shattering again. Damn it- he’ll track me too easily.
Sure enough, I hear another set of footsteps approaching and turn quickly. I'm too late. In a split second, I'm on the ground, a stranger pinning me down.
“Just a bit too slow… Out of practice now, are we?” His voice modulator hisses.
“You wish,” I smirk, voice robotic.
The air is cold, seeping into my body- but it wasn't this cold a minute ago… ice creeps through my veins, stiffening my limbs, crackling and hissing.
“What did you do to me?” I demand, anger boiling in my stomach. My fingers shake violently, trying to clench into a fist.
“You like my new trick? I’ve been practicing.” He kneels, tracing his finger along my face. “Isn’t it just so much fun?”
He punches me, hard. Over and over, until warm crimson oozes from icy skin. Hours later, he leaves, footsteps floating over blood and dirt.
I slip into my apartment and try to sleep, but I can’t stop thinking about last night. I give up and make some tea, trying not to wake my roommate. Thank god my healing powers worked their magic in the few hours I had alone.
“Viktor, you were out late again, weren’t you? Don’t you have work?” Yuri’s dark hair gleams in the sun. “You should get on a normal sleeping schedule, you know.”
“Yeah, probably…” I laugh and pass him a cup of peppermint tea, his favorite. “I’m dropping a few things off for Chris at nine, but I’ll get going around eight-thirty. There’s a bunch of reporters outside the building.”
“It’s been years since you retired, and they’re still following you?” He smiles and sets down his tea. “ I have to leave for practice in a few. I can distract them for you, if you want.”
“Yeah, that’d be great. Thanks.” I’m exhausted.
“I’ll go get changed. Take care, okay?” He pulls me into a hug, and I hold him tight for a moment. My heart beats faster.
I get to work where I work as a publicist for Chris and Yuri, both well-known figure skaters that I’d met during my own skating career. I’m a few minutes late, and Chris is waiting in my office.
“Viktor! I called you, like, three hundred times! I need the files and interview schedules for this week, which I told you I needed- last week!” He crosses his arms, fake-pouting. “Just because you live with Yuri doesn’t mean you get to pay more attention to him than me. I’m your client too, and your best friend. Also, do you want to get lunch later? We haven’t hung out in a while.” Chris, always a million miles an hour. After twelve years, I’ve gotten used to it.
“I’m busy today, so let’s reschedule for lunch. Here are the papers for this week and next week, filed alphabetically.” My phone rings. “Sorry, I’m getting a call. Talk to you later, okay?”
“Okay, see you.”
I pick up- it’s a mercenary organization I work for. I steal for their clients, they pay me. It sounds a bit desperate, but when money’s tight, you get desperate. Maybe they have a new assignment for me.
“Hey. I've got info on the hero you tangled with last night- goes by Eros. I hacked into his agency. It’s sending right now.” I recognize the voice, a manager within the organization.
“Okay, thanks?” That’s unexpected. I frown, fiddling with my tie.
My phone beeps. The address and description… but…
What? This… this must be a mistake. That's my address, and Yuri fits the description exactly. I… that… he must be… No, I- no. Even with the voice modulator- if he really was Eros, I would have recognized him- I would have- I know him like the back of my hand. He couldn’t possibly be…
I stumble against the wall, mind racing.
My phone pings again. “[Image] Here’s his ID picture.”
I open the file and almost drop my phone. The faded-looking picture is grainy and vague, but I recognize the face.
When I get home that night, I avoid Yuri and go to bed. I lay awake for hours, ignoring messages, calls, everything, just thinking- how could he be my worst enemy? Yuri, who doesn't ask questions when I come home drunk, who makes me breakfast every morning, who watches geeky TV shows with me whenever I want? I've known him for what feels like forever and only a moment at the same time, and when he smiles, when he's skating, even when he’s just making tea, I… well. I just can’t imagine it.
Maybe he’s not Eros- maybe it was just a misunderstanding, or maybe he's working undercover… I try to find any other reason for what I’d found today, but the evidence is undeniable.
My phone rings for the hundredth time, and I finally pick up.
“Chris? It’s really late-”
“Viktor, something’s bothering you. You’ve been avoiding me.” I can hear his sarcastic grin as it bursts through the speaker. “So, spill.”
“I…” There’s no use arguing- Chris gets what he wants. I slip out into the hall.
I fill him in on last night and the information from today.
“I don't know, he’s just… I mean, how could he be Eros? I know I should tell someone, but what if they hurt him? I don't know...” I breathe out and lean against the wall.
“Well, I know what’s going on. You’re in love with him.”
My breath catches as I try to find my voice.
“You… what? What- How can you tell?” My words rush and stutter, tripping over each other on their way out.
“Viktor. I have known you for twelve years, and I have never once seen you care like that about anyone. He’s really something special to you- anyone could see that.” He’s actually… making sense…?
Until recently, my life had been consumed by figure skating and college. Then I was injured and was forced to quit skating, finished school, and somewhere in between, met Yuri… Now I realize just how much I’ve changed.
Hours later, I fall asleep to my troubled thoughts.
“Viktor?” I wake to Yuri gently shaking me. “Someone’s calling you. I’m leaving now, but there’s tea in the kitchen.” He smiles and slips out the door, gone in a breath of wind.
I pick up the phone.
“Hello, Viktor.” A voice I haven’t heard in years. “How’ve you been?”
“You- what do you want?”
“How rude. Humor me, would you?”Entitled and impatient, as always. Her arrogance oozes from the speaker.
“I don’t owe you anything. You abandoned me, remember?” My throat tightens, making it hard to breathe.
“Hm. Doesn’t matter. I need you to provide some… entertainment for the villain alliance. There hasn’t been much action lately. ” I can see her twisted grin. “Your powers… fire and air manipulation and enhanced intelligence, strength, speed, healing, and agility… Quite impressive, really. All thanks to me, of course. They’ll do you well in a fight. I’ll send you the time and address… son.” Click.
I drop the phone, sagging against the wall. My mother, a powerful woman, born into one of the largest pureblood villain families in the world. She’s allied with several other families and together, they have a huge amount of power- and bloodthirst.
There’s no way out.
The day of the fight, I wake up in a cold sweat, gasping for air. Yuri peeks in, a halo of golden light enveloping him.
“Is something wrong?” His voice is gentle and soothing.
“I’m... fine.” I sigh heavily, laying back down.
He sits next to me, soft fingers stroking my hair. “Get some sleep, okay?”
When I wake up later, Yuri’s gone. I realize that I might’ve just seen him for the last time. A tear drips onto the pillow, and I force myself to breathe. My eyes close.
It’s evening in the city, everything fading into darkness. The daylight is replaced with hard edges and black-blue gloom.
I slip through the shadows, avoiding the streetlights. At the address, a dark-clad figure lets me in.
The- arena?- is flooded with murmurs. I’m surrounded by a sea of masks, standing in the eye of the hurricane.
The crowd’s gone silent, watching a figure speaking from above. I tune everything out until I hear-
He walks out wearing a mask, but I know that it’s Yuri. My heart plummets.
Time speeds up, whipping past me. A robotic voice counts down, a starting pistol fires- Yuri hurls an icy barrage at me. I dodge, caught off guard. He lashes out with frozen daggers, gusts of air following him. If I don’t do anything, I know I'll die, but… How could I fight back, knowing it’s Yuri?
A stream of flame meets his attack, melting the ice. In the midst of the blinding heat, I see his dark figure flying towards me. Damn air manipulation!
I find myself cornered, staring at a faceless Yuri.
This is the end, I think. This is how I go out- murdered by the love of my life. And that hurts more than anything I’ve ever felt.
A split second and I’m on the ground… Where’s my mask? I see it close by… A few feet away- I guess it must’ve… it…
I touch my forehead, fingers coming away red with blood. My eyes flick upwards to a blurry figure.
“Hey, Yuri.” I smile at the funny lights. “Hey, look… look at… blue floating… the...” My eyes close.
I wake to Yuri holding me, my vision clear and focused.
“We have to get out of here- follow my lead.” His lips graze my ear, voice hushed. He tenses, and then we’re up and flying, escaping to our house.
“Pack everything you can- we have to run.” He’s taken off his mask, eyebrows furrowed.. “I’ve got a safe house. They’ll help us.”
“Wait.” I grab his arm. “They… won’t let me in. They won’t trust me. I-”
He turns around. “Your mom called me… I know everything. It’s okay.”
I hold him close, desperate for reassurance, and press my lips to his forehead. I tell myself it’ll be okay, and I believe it, because what choice do I have?
For the rest of the night all I remember is running, hiding, melting into shadow and slipping through fog. When morning arrives, we’re still running,
We finally arrive at the safe house. They create new identities, new lives for us, and I know I should be grateful, but everything I have ever had is gone. We disappear without a trace, throwing away everything to elude my family. I never see Chris again, but I keep up with the press. He seems to be happy, but there’s a darkness shrouding his eyes, and I know it’s my fault.
Years later, my parents are killed on a mission. I see pictures of their broken bodies, letting tears fall down my face for a family that could have been.
Maybe I will be okay. Someday.