Roxas adores Moscow. He wishes he could spend more time here, more time exploring the city; places to eat, tourist traps, the places where all the locals go at night, the proper way to traverse frozen cobbles, the little secret histories that no one speaks about and which you won't find in any of the books published in the roman alphabet. He loves the Cyrillic on the signs and doors, the shape of the letters, the clicking sound of locals exchanging information or bartering over goods, and wonders how long it takes to become fluent, how hard it would be to learn another language. The cold is something to get used to, it really is, cold like he's never felt before, but it doesn't penetrate after he's put enough layers on, it's just hell wriggling into them all to do the two blocks to the ballet school and shrug them all off again. A few of the dancers have taken to calling him 'little bear', watching him shrug off his coat and jacket as if he's shrugging of his thick, winter fur as he steps into spring. He smiles at the familiarity, thinking of his classes, where nearly all of the dancers still call him 'sir' – American schooling, he thinks, but still – and it doesn't feel like he's the same age as any of them, or younger, sometimes, but feels like he's forty years old, grizzled and grey, and he wonders if Leon ever feels about a decade older than he is. The cold of outside gives way to the warmth of the school, men and women of varying ages and stages in leotards and tights, no outdoor clothing here, just shoes for the corridors and dance shoes for the practice rooms. Even those for the lower school are beautifully sprung, and Roxas takes a few, hesitant steps onto it, barefoot and testing the pliability, how much force it pushes up with, and Leon wanders in, nodding.

"You're like a dancer, aren't you, got to test everything out for yourself?"

Roxas flushes, and begins to explain, but Leon cuts him off.
"It's good. It's why I didn't feel like I had to bring Cloud with me for this. You're good enough; you've been doing this, untrained, for half your life. I'm not about to tell you how to go about it."

Roxas goes pinker, and puts his shoes back on as the dancers file in to show him what they can do.

He thinks, later that night, as Leon goes to a late-night meeting with one of the dancers from the company, a bottle of wine in his hand and wearing a dark shirt, open at the collar, if there isn't another reason that Leon didn't bring his partner – husband, he thinks, seeing Leon's left hand as if for the first time, the glaring gap where the ring has been all this time, and yet he's never looked at it. He hopes he's wrong, because he respects Cloud, and there's no way he will fail to pass this information on, not to his friend and mentor when Leon is in an artistic huff and will not see reason. If Cloud does not know, and Roxas assumes that there is no way Cloud would stay if he did know, then he must know, and Roxas will be the one to tell him, because clearly Leon isn't going to. He hopes he is wrong, because the alternative is that his teacher, a man whom he considers a friend as well as a tutor, a man who talks to him about Axel and the best way to keep him happy, is carrying on with men half his age; limber, strong, flexible men in the peak of their physical condition, unlike Cloud, growing stiffer and less able with every day he ages – and that thought chills Roxas to the core, like the weather has not yet been able to do. When Leon comes back in, his shirt is untucked, and he smells like wine and something else, underneath that, which Roxas recognises, blushing faintly, as semen. He doesn't appear to be drunk, but takes his shirt off in the anteroom of their shared quarters as if he can't see Roxas on the couch with a book, and revealing livid bruises on his throat and collarbones, and raw scratches down his back, before heading into the bathroom where the shower starts. Roxas heads back to his own room, closing the door behind him. He can not say he is impressed with Leon's conduct.

With Leon otherwise occupied with members of the icorps de ballet/i, Roxas is left to his own devices a lot, wandering about the school, sitting in on classes and rehearsals alike. Their ipremier danseur/i is good, he feels, but a little heavy on his feet, doesn't hold the same arc and spin as Axel, and doesn't look quite as free. None of the Russian dancers look as alive as Axel does, but it's Sergei Yulyavich who Roxas keeps his eyes on, their main driving force for the next few years, and he smiles as he watches. Oh, Sergei's good, there's no doubt about that, as if he could be anything else when he's taking over the Moscow ballet, taking the world by storm, but Roxas' smile just grows when he watches him dance with the girls, because he' disconnected, uncomfortable and stilted, and Axel can do better, Axel will do better, and Axel will be the best idanseur/i in the world. It's not surprising that the director nudges Sergei over to him at the end of rehearsal.

"I wish to speak to you." The accent is crisp and clean, beautiful English, as he'd expect nothing less, "I think you have an interest in my dancing."

Roxas nods, and allows the dancer to lead on, taking him to a little, out of the way practice room.

"You're good," he says, when they get in, "The firebird, particularly – I work mostly with… well."

"Axel Eclet, I know." Sergei cuts in, "He will be a fine dancer if he learns to put one foot in front of the other."

Roxas' eyes narrow, but he doesn't let anything else show. He will make Axel beat Sergei to the prize of the world, he'll see.

"Yes, he is my principal concern. You know of his dancing, then?"

Sergei responds that he has seen videos, but seemingly feeling the tension, drives their conversation on to other topics; the brilliance of the school, the coolness of the season, the history just outside those windows and the history inside this building, too, and despite himself, Roxas feels himself warm to the Russian. He is reminded that ballet is not everything, not for him, and that there are lives outside these halls which have nothing to do with dance or poise or balance, and he smiles. Sergei offers to take him to dinner, and Roxas agrees, gleefully. He does not want to see Leon, tonight, going out with seduction of young, nimble dancers in mind. He takes Sergei's arm, both of them in enormous coats, and Roxas in a ridiculous hat his mother made, and walks out into the cold, beautiful world, leaving the heat of the ballet school like a distant memory.

Time with Sergei seems to fly, and whilst Roxas watches him carefully when he's onstage, looking for little cracks and places where Axel excels over him, they create a friendship of a sort, joking together, Roxas coming home later and later, cheeks flushed pink with the cold and a little wine, drinking age being eighteen in Russia, which Roxas doesn't want to take too much advantage of, but it really does help with the temperature. Sergei, older and more experienced in these matters, doesn't drink wine, eschewing it for vodka, and laughs when Roxas stops after a glass, as if he thinks he's not trying hard enough. Roxas takes this as the rubbing it is, and accepts that in terms of Russia, he's not really drinking at all. But his favourite times are when he's just watching Sergei show him something new, something he's picked up that day, or a combination of steps he's using for rehearsal. He's so casually beautiful in dance, in motion, and it makes Roxas smile and cheer, even though it makes his heart pang with missing Axel, because if he just watches the footwork, he can imagine that he's going to turn his face up and see that shock of red hair, that wicked grin, and know that he's going to be kissed to within an inch of his life. Which is why it's even more of a shock, as he's musing over the words the director had said to him, about keeping him on, which he's given no thought to, that he looks up, and Sergei steps into his space and kisses him soundly. Roxas pulls away immediately, and opens his mouth to speak, but Sergei is on him again, and Roxas has a split second to choose his action, which is to twist in the dancer's grip, and when he doesn't let go, kick him on the ankle, which makes him buckle.

"I hope it's fucking broken." Roxas snarls as he grabs his bag and leaves, heading back to the room, fuming, face red, he knows it is, and walks straight into Leon, just going out for the night with another bottle, another open shirt, another smirk.

"Ah, so you said yes to Sergei." Leon says, with a lazy smile, "I thought you might. He's a good dancer, and he's got good prospects. They'll like it if you stay here, and with your father's standing – "

"I'm not you." Roxas says, coldly, and steps out of Leon's way, "I have my boyfriend, and I'll keep him, thank you. If I were going to stay here, he'd come too. I don't need a lover in every town."

Leon colours, but wordlessly steps out of the way and Roxas steps around him into the room, closing the door behind him. He boots up the ancient, slow computer they've got, which barely gets internet, and slumps into a chair. What is he going to do?

By the time the computer's found itself online, and Roxas has got to his emails, he's made up his mind. Email already sent, he fires off a quick message to Axel before shutting the whole thing down, not needing to read the reply, not even knowing what time it is over there, what Axel's schedule is whilst he's away and Axel isn't working for him. He hopes Zexion or Larxene is about, hopes it isn't Naminé, because she'll call the school and not give up until she finds him, international charges or not. He hopes someone is there for Axel when what is going to happen, happens. There is no stopping it now, the path has been cut away and he is wandering, unknown, without a map or anything to guide him to the correct way to treat this. The truth is, he could have taken less interest in Sergei, could have watched him less, spent more time with the others dancers, or with the girls, and he solicited this, he made Sergei want him, made him think that Roxas was interested in him. And he can't tell Axel, can't say anything about this, because if he does, Axel will know what he did, Axel will know that he made it happen and that it was all his fault. He'd call, he wants to call, but if he hears that voice, he'll break down, he'll lose it. He wouldn't be able to hold onto the truth if he heard Axel speak, that voice so full of love and trust, so he doesn't shoulder the phone, and instead just heads into his bedroom, shoulders slumped, and shuts the door behind him. In the living room, the computer whirls, still sending:

iI miss you so fucking much. Be home soon, Roxas xxxx/i