When Yuuri had woken up that morning, he'd been prepared for yet another uneventful, completely ordinary day in his life. He'd sat through his morning lectures, propping his chin on his hand and trying not to doze from the monotone of the teacher's voice. He'd gone out with Pichit to grab lunch, avoiding the terrible food of the university's cafeteria. Then, after Pichit had gone back for his afternoon lecture and Yuuri had found himself with the rest of the day free, he'd stopped by a comics shop to buy the newest issue of the magazine focused on his favorite superhero and idol, Viktor Nikiforov.

He was walking out of the shop with the magazine safely cradled in his arms when he found himself in the middle of a supervillain attack, and that's when Yuuri's hopes for a normal day were shattered.

Because in front of him, dressed in a black skin-tight suit adorned with pink lines that twisted into a V at the center of his chest, stood Viktor himself.

The TV and posters Yuuri had in his room hadn't done him justice. Viktor had always looked beautiful, something as otherworldly as his superhuman strength, but the images were nothing but pale imitations—the moon reflecting the light of the sun.

And Viktor shone bright as sunlight as he stood before the villain, face clean of any mask to hide the way his blue eyes narrowed, clear and sharp as ice. It was one of the reasons Yuuri admired him so; how Viktor had never hidden behind codenames or slips of fabric, had never been afraid to shout his identity to the world and beat down anyone who dared attack him or the city he'd chosen to protect.

There was no trace of fear in Viktor's stance, nor in the way he flexed his fingers and cracked his knuckles. If anything, his calm spoke of a quiet storm waiting to be unleashed. Yuuri could see it, simmering just beneath the surface.

This supervillain would certainly meet the same fate as the others who'd faced the wrath of Viktor Nikiforov, and Yuuri would be right there to watch it unfold before his eyes.

HIs heartbeat sped up in anticipation, a crescendo that built along with the tension of an imminent fight.

"Stand back!" Viktor shouted to the crowd that had amassed around the scene.

Elbows dug into Yuuri's sides and his toes were stepped on as people did what they were told. He remained just at the edge of the sidewalk, far enough that he wouldn't get in the way but still close enough to see Viktor's every movement.

The villain stood opposite Viktor, apparently unfazed by the waves of raw power emanating from him. His costume was also made of spandex, but unlike Viktor's, its entire chest was a deep red, and the villain's face was obscured by a black mask safely secured over hair of the same color. When he corrected his stance, turning sideways to be completely facing Viktor, Yuuri saw that there were two overlapping letters on his arm: JJ.

"I'll make you an offer," Viktor announced. His voice rose above the noise of the crowd, drowning out the encouraging shouts of the fans and the sniffling of the scared. "You admit defeat, saving yourself the humiliation of getting your ass kicked in front of everyone, and we cut this short. How does that sound?" Viktor smiled. Friendly and teasing, while his eyes remained cold and assessing. "I'm supposed to take my dog for her daily walk at three, and Makka gets antsy when I'm late."

A few people laughed. Yuuri worried his bottom lip, squishing the magazine against his chest. He believed in Viktor, but surely it was a bad idea to rile up a villain like that.

"You've always been overconfident, Nikiforov," JJ sneered. It was clear that Viktor's mocking had gotten to him; his hands clenched into fists before he raised them and flattened his palms against each other. "Allow me to take you off your high horse, in true JJ Style!"

JJ threw his hands forward and a wall of energy exploded outwards.

Yuuri only caught a glimpse of red before it collided with him, knocking his breath out of his lungs. JJ's attack kept expanding at breakneck speed, encasing all the spectators on the street. Screams cut through the air. People stumbled over each other in a panic, trying to escape as the energy grew and grew and grew like a dome all around them.

Despite the cold spreading through his chest, Yuuri kept his eyes on Viktor, who'd dropped all pretense of friendliness to dash towards JJ instead. His silver hair glowed even through the red haze that'd taken over Yuuri's vision.

If he was feeling the same as Yuuri from the impact of JJ's attack, he didn't show. He pulled his arm back, seconds away from punching JJ into unconsciousness.

JJ smiled and snapped his fingers, and suddenly Viktor, the street, the screaming—everything was gone.

Yuuri was standing next to his sister's bed at the hospital, that one time Mari had gotten into a car accident and nearly died. Her face was pale and bruised, her breathing ragged. She didn't answer when he called her name.

He was holed up in his room, cradling a pair of ice skates with the recent taste of defeat souring his mouth.

He was kneeling at the backyard of his parents' house, placing a plaque that read Vicchan, beloved dog on top of a mound of freshly turned earth.

Anguish, sadness, grief—it all filled his chest in waves, throwing him against the sharp rocks of his worst memories to tear open all of his wounds.

Stop! Stop, stop, stop, make it stop!

Yuuri didn't realize he was screaming it out loud until he bit his tongue and tasted blood.

The pain was like a shock bringing him back to reality. Cries filled his ears, the sound of utter despair so raw it scratched at Yuuri's senses like sandpaper. Through the remains of memories flashing before his eyes, the street took form again. Most people were on their knees, clutching their chests and shouting at ghosts, being forced to relive their worst moments by JJ's power.

The taste of tears mixed with the metallic tang of blood in Yuuri's mouth. He stood up, shaky—when had he fallen?—and then his gaze finally found Viktor.

And his heart broke all over again.

Viktor was not made to look like this. He was made to shine, to smile and fight and make those around him feel warm, safe. He was not made to curl up on himself, to have his skin marred by endless tears and his body shaken by silent sobs, to stare with unseeing eyes that were so clearly suffering.

Viktor looked lost. Lonely.

Yuuri couldn't bear to see him like this. In all his years of admiration, never had it struck him as much as it did then that there was a lot he didn't know about Viktor. That, despite his powers, he was still human. And humans—even superheroes—couldn't hold the weight of the world alone.

Yuuri sprang forward. The magazine he'd bought was gone, stolen or dropped after the attack hit, but he didn't care. His mind was set on Viktor and the towering figure of JJ a few feet away from his fallen form.

A ball of condensed red energy hovered over JJ's right hand, ready to be thrown. There was no telling what would happen if it hit Viktor.

Yuuri wasn't about to find out.

He heard JJ's exclamation of surprise, felt the scalding heat of power narrowly missing him as he barreled into Viktor's side. Pain exploded over Yuuri's body as his skin met asphalt; a wet sensation where his shirt had ridden up told him he was bleeding. His fingers left red imprints when he raised them to adjust his glasses.

But being injured was the least of Yuuri's concerns right now. Beside him, Viktor seemed to have broken out of the trance caused by JJ. He blinked, the last crystalline tears making their way down his cheeks, and turned stunned eyes towards Yuuri.

Up close, the slightest trace of vulnerability remained.

Before Yuuri could do something stupid like reach out to wipe away Viktor's tears, Viktor's gaze moved. His muscles tensed; the reaction made panic rise up Yuuri's throat. He started turning his head to see what had caused it.

Viktor stretched his arm towards the car parked close behind him, wrenching it out of its place with a single hand and throwing it in front of them.

Red sparks fizzled in the air as JJ's attack exploded against metal.

"Stay here," Viktor said.

Yuuri expected his touch to be rough, but he was gentle as he pushed him away and got up in a swift movement. Yuuri could do nothing but watch as Viktor vaulted over the car. Grace and power painted his steps; he was every bit the superhero that'd mocked JJ before, back on his feet as if nothing had happened, as if he hadn't stood with the saddest look in his eyes mere minutes ago.

But now that Yuuri had seen it, he didn't think he could ever forget.

By the time Yuuri crawled behind the protection of the car and peeked over its side, Viktor was pulling JJ's palms away from each other, rendering him incapable of reinforcing his first attack. Yuuri had to give JJ some credit—he still tried to put up a fight, even if his physical abilities were clearly lacking against Viktor's strength.

This time Viktor's punch hit the mark, and the red dome surrounding the street disappeared as JJ crumbled to the ground, unconscious.

The blasting of police sirens invaded Yuuri's ears. He hadn't realized how cut off they'd been from the outside until officers and paramedics rushed into the place, hurrying to arrest JJ and aid the victims that were slowly snapping out of his trance. In the middle of the chaos, Yuuri's head pounded; his body protested as he got up with a pained groan.

Black spots filled his vision. Yuuri would've fallen if it weren't for a strong pair of hands that held him when his knees threatened to give out.

"Woah, easy there!" Viktor tightened his hold on Yuuri's shoulders, steadying him. "Are you okay?"

"Viktor," Yuuri murmured. He was a little more grounded now, even though having Viktor in front of him still felt like a dream.

His injuries cried out, reassuring him that this was very, very real.

"The paramedics should take a look at you." Viktor eased Yuuri back against the ruined car. "What's your name?"

"Yuuri." A pause, and then he added, "Yuuri Katsuki."

"Thank you, Yuuri," Viktor said. He leaned forward, caging Yuuri in his arms. Yuuri's heart was about to jump out of his throat when Viktor's hot breath washed over his ear, his voice low enough that no one but Yuuri could hear it. "You were my hero today."

Yuuri sucked in a breath, meeting Viktor's eyes. Viktor's face was streaked with dirt; Yuuri could see the tracks his tears had cleared along his cheeks. He longed to touch them, to brush away the hurt they marked and that Viktor kept hidden from the world.

"You've always been mine," he blurted. When Viktor's eyes went wide, Yuuri immediately wished the earth would open up and swallow him—of all the things he could say, that was his reply? True as it was, he sounded like a fanboy. Stupid, stupid, stupid—

Viktor smiled a heart-shaped smile, pulling Yuuri into a bone-crushing hug.

"I hope I can continue being that for you, then," he said.

Yuuri was frozen in place, still shaken from the fight and from the warmth of Viktor's arms around him. Before he could return the hug or brand it into his memory, Viktor was pulled away—dragged by police officers asking for reports and reporters asking for interviews.

There was a paramedic at Yuuri's side, but he didn't process anything they were saying. His eyes followed Viktor Nikiforov as he made his way into the crowd, warm and shining and beautiful like he'd always been, a superhero who'd faced yet another villain and emerged victorious.

The difference was that this time, before Viktor let his attention be monopolized, he turned around to meet Yuuri's gaze. He winked, raising a hand in goodbye.

"We'll meet again, Yuuri!"

Allowing his lips to form a smile of his own, Yuuri nodded.

It was a promise.