When Victor first brought Yuuri to the rink they would be training at with the rest of the Russian skaters, he worried that the other skaters would be a terrible influence on his always dedicated and determined fiancé. He would have never guessed that the impact Yuuri had on the Russian skaters would be far greater than theirs on him.
It was late and all the skaters had finished for the day, so Yakov was preparing to leave as well. He came out of his office and tugged on his coat on his way past the rink, only to stop when he saw a flash of color that wasn’t the dull blue of the rink staff as they filled in the holes caused by toe pick jumps on the ice. He looked out and saw the red and white training shirt of Victor’s fiancé skating along with one of the rink staff, and he frowned. He walked around to the gate to call him over and ask why he was still out there, only when he got there he watched as Katsuki grabbed some of the slush from the ice bucket and bent down to fill in a hole.
Yakov was very confused and somewhat taken aback. He stood there, simply watching as Katsuki skated back and forth, filling in holes faster than the rink staff could shuffling along in boots on the slippery ice.
Irina, one of Yakov’s assistants, came from the women’s locker room with Mila and one of the junior girls, Evgenia, and they noticed him and headed his way. “Yakov, I thought you had left already,” Irina said, only to trail off on whatever else she was going to say when she looked out and saw what he had, Katsuki helping fill in the holes in the ice. “Huh,” she said, clearly taken aback.
“Oh, Yuuri?” Mila said, and Yakov looked at her. “He does this every time he is here until the rink closes,” she said, and Evgenia nodded.
“Victor complains about it all the time, because he doesn’t like Yuuri walking home alone this late,” she confirmed, and Yakov looked back out at the man as he laughed and smiled at something one of the others filling in holes said.
Yakov grunted. “Maybe my skaters could learn something from Katsuki about respecting the ice they skate on,” he allowed and Irina grinned.
“Like our prissy divas would ever demean themselves to doing rink maintenance,” she said with a laugh. “Come on, girls, I’ll drive you home,” she said, leaving with the girls. Yakov turned back to the ice and stood there, watching to confirm what he imagined would happen; with Katsuki’s help, the rink staff was finished in half the time it would usually take.
Yakov couldn’t help but give an amused grunt at the thought that Victor Nikiforov, the biggest diva he had ever coached, had managed to find someone so humble he stayed behind to help repair the ice after everyone finished skating. It was a nice change of pace, as far as Yakov was concerned. He hoped that maybe some of that humility might rub off on some of his skaters after a while.
Things were always tense at the rink. They had been as long as Yuri had skated there, and he had been skating with Yakov since he was eleven. There were a lot of world class skaters training together, so the competitiveness was always high, even between skaters who weren’t competition to each other. Even if they weren’t going to steal a medal, they could steal sponsors or worse, Yakov’s attention. All of them were trying to beat the rest, no matter what, so every single skater was very focused on their own work and avoiding others.
Nobody passed that memo to the stupid Piggy, though, because it was entirely common for him to skate around light and free, as if there weren’t four senior men with shots at the same podiums all training on the same ice. It got annoying sometimes, but Yuri could admit, it wasn’t nearly as tense when Yuuri was there, because Yuuri had this habit that went against every convention in skating under Yakov that Yuri had ever known.
He cheered for people. Everybody. And gave advice like it wasn’t against his own best interest. If Yuuri saw someone land a jump they had been flubbing all training session, he would call their name and cheer for them. If they fell, he would offer suggestions on how to control their speed. At first, everybody thought he only cheered for Victor because he was engaged to that dumbass, and Yuri because for some stupid reason that damn fatso thought they were friends – something Yuri would deny until the day he died – but once he got to know people and pay attention to them, he got friendly with all of them. He was just so damn friendly.
“It okay, Galina!” Yuuri said in pretty shitty Russian as he stopped to help up the little girl who had fallen into his path. She was thirteen, but she was smaller than some of the smaller girls, so she had to look almost straight up at Yuuri. Yuri snorted as Yuuri brushed ice off of her jacket for her. “You do good! You get double lutz soon,” he reassured her. “Just slow down more. You go too fast, it make you spin faster than you want. Like this,” he said, doing a double lutz as an example. “See how I slow down first?”
Yuri saw the way she lit up and smiled really big before hugging Yuuri around the waist and then skating off and, for a moment, he wondered what it would have been like to have older skaters reassuring him like that when he was her age. Reluctantly, he had to admit that it probably would have helped him be more confident in himself when he needed it. He watched Galina skating off and remembered what his first year in Juniors had been like. She was doing well, all things considered.
Yuri shook his head and lined up to practice the quad loop, and as soon as he landed, he heard a familiar voice cheering. “Amazing, Yurio!”
All the nice things Yuri thought moments before evaporated and he growled as he spun around. “DON’T CALL ME THAT, PIGGY!” he snapped, but Yuuri just skated past and clapped him on the back with a full on giggle.
“You might just beat me at Worlds after all,” he said, winking on his way past.
“Fuck you,” Yuri snapped. However, he couldn’t help but enjoy a little praise. He didn’t get cheered on by anybody else when he landed a jump, that was for sure. He shook his head and skated around, preparing to do another one.
For his age, Victor was still in good shape. Yakov was thankful for that, since he really was pushing it now. He was the oldest skater in the field and already older than the oldest gold medal winner before him. In order to keep him relevant, he had to keep in top shape and uninjured. Because of that, Yakov designated days for Victor to rest and work with Anatoly, the physiologist to make sure he was taking good care of his ankles and knees. Approaching thirty as he was, after skating at an elite level since he was twelve, there was no way Yakov was letting Victor skate without someone to keep a good eye on his joints.
What that meant, however, was that in order to make Victor actually agree, Yakov had to coach Victor’s skater those days. Yakov had complained a lot at first, but honestly, it was only fair. Katsuki was technically a higher ranking skater in the world than Victor until Victor competed at Worlds, so it would be unsportsmanlike to deprive a talented skater of his due training just because his coach was also his competition. Yakov wanted his skaters to be the best in the world, but that meant being able to beat the best entirely fairly. Neglecting Katsuki’s training would mean that, should he lose to Yuri and Victor, it could be due to that neglect and not because they were truly better.
It helped that Katsuki was the least stressful skater he had ever worked with. Every day he was there ten minutes before he was scheduled to be there, he listened to everything Yakov said carefully, he asked him to repeat it in English if the Russian was going over his head – and he had learned Russian faster than Yakov had ever seen any of his skaters learn English – and paid close attention then, and whatever Yakov told him to do, he did. In all his years coaching skaters, Yakov had never had a skater not try to argue that their way was right at least a few times before giving in and doing as he said eventually.
Everything was, “Yes, Coach Yakov,” and, “What would you like for me to do next?” He never complained about something being too hard, or too tiring, and even when he was clearly exhausted and in pain, Yakov had to be the one to tell him to take a moment to catch his breath and have some water.
The best part of all, though, wasn’t that Katsuki was such a good student, it was that he was Victor’s fiancé, and he was the only person who Yakov had ever seen able to get onto Victor and make him listen to someone else, and because of it, Victor was now the best behaved of all of Yakov’s skaters.
Currently, Victor was twenty minutes late to start training and Katsuki had noticed. He was there doing yoga in the lounge, with a glass wall separating them from the rink, with some of the ones who weren’t on the ice since he didn’t have training until that afternoon, and Victor was supposed to train that morning with Yakov before taking a break and then coaching his fiancé. Yakov had some other skaters working with Irina on the far end of the ice since he was supposed to work with Victor for a few hours, so Yakov was just standing around waiting on Victor. Katsuki kept looking over every few minutes and then glaring at the clock, clearly as unimpressed as Yakov was with Victor running late.
When Victor finally waltzed in, sipping an iced coffee and acting like he had no care in the world, Yakov didn’t even get to say anything before Katsuki came out of the pose the ones doing Yoga in the lounge were doing and was out the door to intercept Victor before he even got over to Yakov. “Victor,” he said sternly and Yakov barely kept from laughing when Victor stopped in his tracks and developed a guilty look as he slowly turned to face Katsuki.
“Yuuri,” Victor greeted with a forced smile, though Katsuki didn’t seem impressed, since he stopped in front of him with his hands on his hips. “Good morning, my love-“
“Victor, you are half an hour late! Coach Yakov has been waiting on you and you were getting coffee?” he demanded in a disappointed tone. “That’s so disrespectful! I’ve been sitting in there watching him stand around over there waiting on you and it’s so embarrassing for me,” he said, and Yakov coughed to cover his laugh as Victor visibly deflated. “You’re my coach and you’re going to be my husband, so your work ethic reflects on me, and all I could think about was how everybody must think of me with such an unprofessional and disrespectful coach and fiancé.” He shook his head, mouth set into a solemn line. “I sure hope you apologize to Coach Yakov for wasting his time and being rude. It is annoying when you’re late to show up and coach me, but it’s just rude when you’re late for your own training.”
Victor ducked his head and muttered something to Katsuki before Katsuki nodded and went back to the yoga and Victor turned and walked over to him with his head down sheepishly. “I’m sorry I was late, Yakov. I realize I haven’t behaved like a champion and I know you expect more from me. Please forgive me for being selfish and wasting your time.”
It took everything Yakov had not to burst into laughter, but he managed a nod and a grunt. “Just do better in the future.”
“I will,” Victor promised before heading to the locker room to get dressed.
After that, not only did Victor start showing up on time more often – though he still wasn’t perfectly punctual by any means – and being more attentive to his training, but others seemed to realize that Victor got yelled at less the more attentive and dedicated he was, and before long, half of his skaters started showing up on time and doing what he said more often than before. The other half saw how much better Katsuki was doing by actually listening to the things Yakov told him on the days he was in charge of his training, and within just a few months of Katsuki training there, Yakov’s job was actually noticeably easier to do. Just like with Yura last year, when he came back from Japan incredibly dedicated, the other skaters seemed to realize that the reason Katsuki was so good was because he worked for it.
“You know,” Yakov said to Irina as they watched their skaters looking intently at Victor coaching Katsuki’s jumps while they skated to cool down, “Maybe having a top level skater who isn’t a prodigy is exactly what we needed around here.”
Irina chuckled. “None of our younger skaters have ever really watched someone work for their medals, have they?” she agreed. She winced when Katsuki fell again and then immediately got up and started speeding up to try the same jump. “I’ve been in the skating world for thirty years, and I’ve never seen anyone practice as much as that boy.”
“No, me neither,” Yakov agreed, raising an eyebrow when the boy finally landed the jump he had been practicing and, instead of celebrating, he skated around the end of the rink again preparing to do it once more.
Victor came home from the rink, since it was a rest day for Yuuri and he had no reason to stay all afternoon, he was hopeful that he could talk Yuuri into ordering takeout and watching a movie until they fell asleep on the couch. He wanted to be lazy and cuddle with his fiancé and only wake up long enough to have sex and then go to sleep early that night to get tons of rest on their one free afternoon in two weeks.
“Yuuuriii?” he called as he walked into the apartment, stopping to greet Makkachin as he slipped off his scarf and jacket and tossed them onto the couch. He headed towards their bedroom with a sigh. “Yuuri? Where are you my Yuuri?”
He stepped into the bedroom and saw a dark head of hair on the other side of the bed. He flopped onto his belly on their bed and crawled across to look over the edge, only to smile curiously when he found Yuuri kneeling on the floor surrounded by envelopes and packages and letters. “Hi, Vicchan,” he greeted, leaning over to kiss Victor, who craned his neck to reach him. Victor turned back to the pile of stationary all around him. “Mari sent me allll of this fan mail from home,” Yuuri said warmly. He reached out to hold one of the letters up. “Look at this! It’s from a little girl that’s only four!” he said, and Victor leaned in to see a letter in crayon.
“You read all of your fan mail?” Victor asked and Yuuri, who gave him a confused look.
“Of course I do?” he asked, seeming unsure of his Russian. “What do you mean?” he asked in English, and Victor chuckled.
“I mean you’re a world famous skater. There’s tons of fan mail,” he said in English, looking at what was easily hundreds of letters and drawings and gifts. “Did you do this when we lived in Hatsetsu?” he asked curiously.
Yuuri frowned at him but continued the conversation in English, seeming to really want to get his point across in a way he couldn’t yet in Russian. “Of course I did. I just didn’t get it all at once. This is what got sent there since we moved here a few months ago,” he said, looking down at the letter he was writing. “Most of these are from children. Why would I not write them back?” he asked as if it were the most obvious thing in the world to take time out of his busy days and write letters to toddlers who didn’t have the internet skills to tweet at him like a normal person.
Victor’s heart sank and guilt filled his veins when he realized that, to Yuuri, it probably was a given. He watched Yuuri carefully writing – by hand – a reply to the little girl with the crayon letter and realized that every ounce of gratitude in that letter was probably genuine coming from Yuuri. Victor watched his fiancé finish the letter and add it to a pile of replies already written to his left and realized that he was probably a terrible person. Victor didn’t even read his fan letters or open the gifts. They were sent to the rink and Yakov had an automatic system where someone of the rink staff would mail off generic thank you cards to any letters that had return addresses. The gifts sent generally got given to some charity the way everyone did their stuffed animals that were thrown onto the ice. Victor never even knew what sort of fan mail he got since he’d been getting it by the truckload since he was sixteen.
He watched Yuuri smiling softly as he read a letter in shaky pencil that was probably from another child who could barely write yet, and he felt a pang of guilt and a glowing surge of adoration for Yuuri, as well as that feeling that made his fingers and toes tingle because he knew without a doubt that he had never once in his life deserved Katsuki Yuuri. “You are the best person I’ve ever met, my Yuuri,” he muttered, laying his chin on the bed to gaze at Yuuri. “I am the luckiest man in the whole world to have you.”
Yuuri glanced up at him with a blush. “Victor, stooooopp,” he whined bashfully, but Victor just smiled and shook his head.
“How could I ever stop thinking you are the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful human being I have ever met?” He propped his chin in his hands and just settled in to watch Yuuri continue replying to fan mail. “I’m marrying you the first chance I get. Who needs a big, fancy wedding planned a year in advance? I’m going to marry you the second it’s off-season and we can fly back to Hatsetsu and find someone to marry us.”
“Sounds fun,” Yuuri said dismissively, clearly thinking he was joking. Victor was entirely serious, though. He could not wait a whole extra year to be married to someone so perfect as Yuuri, the world famous athlete who took hours out of his scarce free time to reply to every single fan mail letter he got.
Victor decided that, tomorrow, he was going to ask Yakov about his fan mail and see if he could maybe reply to some of it personally. If Yuuri could do it, Victor could sacrifice his time to do so as well. If he could, he would talk Yura into doing it, too, since most every fan Yuri had was a teenager whose entire week could be brightened with a letter from Yuri Plisetsky. Victor might as well ask Georgi and Mila to try it as well, since they had fans, too, who would be delighted by a letter from their idol.
If he worked it just right, Victor could make it so that Yuuri made everyone around him a better person, not just Victor.
Yuuri wasn’t sure when it started, but after a few months living in Russia and training at the rink with the Russian skaters, he had somehow become the one that everybody came to to talk to. At first, he thought Victor put them up to it to help him practice his Russian, but he gave up that idea the first time Georgi started crying in the middle of ballet practice, without warning, and asked Yuuri how you could make someone fall in love with you the way Victor had fallen in love with him.
Georgi had some serious emotional problems, Yuuri discovered, but he couldn’t very well ignore the poor man when he came to Yuuri with his problems of the heart. Yuuri wasn’t the best help, seeing as all he had done to land Victor was get drunk and naked and forgot about it, and then Victor got it in his head they were meant to be and once he found out where he was months later, he showed up and started coaching him in an attempt to win his heart.
Their love story was very unconventional, Yuuri knew.
However, he didn’t have the heart to say no to Georgi so he gave him the kind of advice he heard on movies about ‘being true to yourself’ and ‘if it is meant to be it will happen’ and stuff. He doubted he was any real help, but Georgi seemed to feel better, so that was all that really mattered.
After helping Georgi, suddenly he had everybody coming to him for advice. Thankfully, most of it wasn’t relationship advice, but he still was mostly just giving them empty comfort about things. It got really uncomfortable sometimes, such as when one of the ice dancers revealed his drinking problem and asked Yuuri for advice on how to tell Yakov he needed help but didn’t want Yuuri to tell anybody he said anything. The most uncomfortable and downright horrific was someone asking the best way to not let ‘tenderness’ from a night of, from their words, ‘rough sex unlike any known to man before’ distract them from their skating.
Yuuri squeaked ‘I don’t know’ and ran away from that one, and never spoke to them ever again, it was so uncomfortable.
Most often, however, it was younger skaters with insecurities that knew from ‘a person who met a guy’ that Yuuri had struggled with his on insecurity for all of his career. He actually felt entirely comfortable talking to those kids about their fears because he knew intimately what it was like to feel inadequate.
“Anatoly says I’m growing too fast to keep training as hard but- but I’m going to fall so far behind if I stop working hard!” Yuuri gave a soft sound of sympathy and reached out when the boy hugging his knees in front of where Yuuri knelt started to cry. Yuuri reached out and patted his shoulder.
“It’s okay, Lev,” he soothed, frowning at the little boy as he cried into his knees. Lev was twelve, a year away from starting his first season in the Junior field. He was a good skater, even for the highly talented Russian skaters, and Yuuri knew how hard it had to be to be so close to skating in Juniors and be told he had to stop training so much because he was growing very fast and his risk of injury was higher. “You know what?” he asked Lev, and Lev sniffled and looked at him. “Yuri is having the same problem,” he told him and he knew Yurio would murder him for it later, but he had to tell the poor little boy something.
“He- he is?” Lev asked and Yuuri nodded.
It was the truth, too. Yurio had started a growth spurt two months ago and had already grown two inches in that time. He was flubbing jumps left and right because he was used to a takeoff on shorter legs and he had grown too fast to get used to it. Also, he couldn’t keep boots that fit for long, so he never got a pair really worn in before he had to get new ones. He was going to be taller than Yuuri in six months at this rate, and may very well be as tall as Victor one day. “You can be careful about your training so that you don’t hurt yourself and still be successful,” Yuuri reassured Lev. “Anatoly knows what he’s doing. If you hurt yourself badly, you may never make it to seniors,” he reminded him gently. “You need to just let your body adjust, because if you hurt yourself because you’re not used to the way your legs are growing or how tall you’re getting, then you won’t be training at all,” he said gently.
Lev sniffled. “But what if I’m not good enough after I stop growing? What- what if I get too big?” he asked in a tiny little voice that made Yuuri’s heart hurt some.
“You’ve seen Victor,” Yuuri said with a smile. “He’s huge and he’s the best skater there is! You can be very big and still very good. You just have to listen to Anatoly and Yakov and trust that they know what they’re talking about.”
The sweet little boy nodded and sniffled some more. “Okay,” he said, rubbing at his teary cheeks. “You’re wrong though,” he said, and Yuuri tilted his head. Lev giggled wetly. “You’re the best skater, not Victor,” he said, and Yuuri blushed.
“I- I am not!” he said and Lev nodded.
“Uh-huh, you beat all his records!” he said exuberantly. “And you can do his jumps! And you have better spins!” Yuuri smiled bashfully as Lev made motions with his hands. “You’re the best skater here, Yuuri!”
Yuuri chuckled and ruffled his hair. “Well, listen to Anatoly and take your time while you grow, and you’ll be better than me one day.”
Yuuri was very nervous about Four Continents and Victor could tell. He was doing very well, though. Even Yakov had commented in passing that he wished Yura had improved as much over the past few months as Yuuri had, but with his growth spurt, he was struggling. At Europeans, Victor won by the skin of his teeth over Chris and Yuri barely scarped into third. Victor had been lucky to grow slowly and consistently from childhood to adulthood, so he had never had a real growth ‘spurt’. Yuri hadn’t really grown between about twelve and fifteen at all, and suddenly in the last few months before he turned sixteen, he had shot up. So it threw him off badly.
The whole flight to South Korea had Yuuri fidgeting and shifting uncomfortably in his seat, and Victor could tell his brain was working against him. “Relax, my love,” he said, reaching over to take Yuuri’s hand. He pulled it to his lips and kissed his fingertips, making Yuuri blush and smile. “Hello, beautiful smile,” he purred and Yuuri rolled his eyes and giggled.
“Baka,” he muttered and Victor leaned in to give Yuuri a sweet little peck to the lips. Yuuri leaned his head against Victor’s shoulder and exhaled heavily. “I’m nervous.”
Victor smiled and reached up to run his fingers through Yuuri’s messy hair. “I can tell,” he said softly. “We’re not even there yet. Wait and be nervous when you see all the other competitors.” Yuuri whined and smacked a hand over his mouth, making Victor laugh and kiss his palm.
“You’re mean to me,” Yuuri said and Victor tutted.
“I couldn’t be mean to you if I tried,” he defended. “I’m weak before my Yuuri’s petty brown eyes,” he teased and Yuuri smiled against his shoulder. Victor stroked his hair soothingly. “You’re going to do wonderfully. You’ll wipe the floor with all the competition. Even JJ will be below you on the podium.”
“Now that’s ambitious,” Yuuri said, but nuzzled into Victor’s shoulder. “It will be nice to see Phichit at least. And Mari and Minako are coming to support me. My parents wanted to, but nobody could watch the Inn for a few days, so they’re going to be watching on TV instead.” Victor smiled a secretive smile as Yuuri sighed. “I’m glad someone will be cheering me on.”
Victor kissed his temple and smiled as he thought about the welcome waiting for Yuuri when they landed.
When Yuuri saw a giant banner with his name on it in the arrivals area of the airport, he frowned and tilted his head in confusion for a moment before he actually looked at the people holding it and his jaw dropped. Victor chuckled and wrapped an arm around his middle, nudging him forward with a kiss to his head. “Surprise, Yuuri.”
Yuuri gaped at the gaggle of people standing around the banner and his heart began to swell when he spotted not just his mom and dad, but also his friends from Russia as well. He smiled suddenly when he saw that even a few of the children from Russia were there, clustered around Yakov as they jumped up and down and waved at him. Yakov looked gruff and annoyed, but Yuuri knew that in order for Victor to talk him into coming to support him, he had to want it at least a little bit.
“What- what is everybody doing here?” Yuuri asked as he walked towards the group. He looked around and smiled brightly. “Wow.”
“Victor made us,” Yuri grunted, though Yuuri could see the tell-tale blush on his cheeks so he darted forward and dragged him into a hug. “OI GET OFF ME, PIG BASTARD!” he cried, but Yuuri clutched him close until he quit struggling and gave in to a hug.
“Thank you!” he gushed, ruffling Yuri’s hair. He then turned and rushed to his mother, hugging her so hard she stumbled back into his father with a laugh. “Mom!”
“You can thank Victor, Dear,” she said, rubbing his back. “He insisted we all come and even paid to have someone watch the Inn for us. He talked his coach into letting everybody take a few days off to come support you and paid for it all. That’s a sweet boy, that Victor,” she said and Yuuri turned to look at Victor, who ducked his head with a sheepish smile.
Yuuri turned and rushed over to Victor, colliding with him hard enough that Victor nearly stumbled back, but managed to keep his balance as Yuuri kissed the living daylights out of him. Victor made a pleased squeaky noise of surprise and Yuuri just held him by the lapels as he kissed him. When the kiss broke, he beamed up at his fiancé. “You’re so good to me,” he breathed and Victor gave him a gentle smile.
“I would do anything for you, My Yuuri.”
Yuuri giggled and smiled brightly up at him. “I guess I better win you a gold medal then, huh?”