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everything that's silver is not gold

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Viktor stopped the daily examination of his body in search for his soulmark on his twenty-first birthday.  It seemed silly to keep looking for it; knowing his luck (which, outside of skating actually wasn’t that good -- it was like he used all of the luck ever to be bestowed upon him on being good at being on the ice, and really, he was OK with that. Most of the time, anyhow.) he’d first see his soulmate when he was fifty and they’d turn out to be a teenager, or something equally horrifying.  Like a girl.  He’d never found girls, with their soft curves, terribly attractive.  Really, Mila was probably the most attractive girl… woman… female that he’d met, and no one would call her soft.  Pretty, striking, beautiful -- but not soft .  She was a tomboy through and through.

And much too young for Viktor.  So he was glad that no mark appeared on him the first time she’d come to skate under Yakov from Moscow, back when she wasn’t even sixteen yet and still skating in Juniors.

No.  Viktor’s mark had started to appear when he was twenty-five and curled up on his couch, watching the recording from Skate America.  The Grand Prix final would be in a few weeks, and Viktor thought it prudent to watch the competitors that he’d be up against.  And even the ones that he wouldn’t be; the Olympics were fast approaching too, after all.  He fast-forwarded through the brash young Canadian skater that would probably be a challenge in a couple of years but was still growing into his body and, for all his brashness, was still unsure on the ice.  He hid it well, but Viktor could see it.  He’d been skating for a long time already, so of course he could spot those little telltale indicators.

He was prepared to skip through the Japanese skater who’d also missed the final.  He was older than the Canadian but more tentative; still, there was something about his starting pose that kept Viktor from pressing the fast forward button.  His music started and Viktor immediately recognized the piece.  He’d skated to it himself a few years ago: Ave Maria by Shubert for violin.  The skater’s arm moved in a graceful arc and he started moving with it, like he was being led in a dance.  It was captivating and almost familiar.

It was so pretty -- at least until he failed to land a quad Salchow and skidded across the ice, pushing himself up slower than a skater at this level should.  Everything else after that was stiff.  Viktor sighed and fast-forwarded through the end of the routine. There was nothing worse than watching a potentially good skater self-destruct.  Especially one whose skate started out so very promising.

When he got to Chris’s skate, he sighed.  Chris was well aboard the sexiness train, and was also utterly abusing the fact that the ISU was now letting music with lyrics in.  Victor had to mute the TV when the refrain to Air’s “Sexy Boy” kicked in just to keep himself from laughing.  It was a good thing that Chris was such a good skater, because everything else about this was just ridiculous.  Hot, yes, but ridiculous.  Was he really going to perform this program at the Olympics?

Of course he was.  Viktor knew that, and Chris was probably going to get silver for it.  Not gold, though.  Never gold.  Gold belonged to Viktor, and everyone in the figure skating world knew it.

So when he got up from his research watch and began to make his dinner -- baked chicken with steamed vegetables and a small pirozhki (as a treat) -- and pushed his sleeves up, he was surprised.  Surprised and a little bit horrified.

Right at the base of his thumb there was a small, delicate, silver spiral.

Silver.

His soulmark was silver .

If it was that Canadian skater that he had fast-forwarded through, Viktor thought he might just throw himself off a building.   Silver .

He started wearing jackets, training shirts and sweatshirts that had the built-in thumb holes so that the back of his hand wouldn’t be noticeable.  He changed his costume to include a half glove that covered up to the first knuckle of his fingers.  More than anything, he didn’t want to talk about the fact that his soulmark had started to appear when he didn’t even know who his soulmate was!  Not when it was another skater, because it had to be another skater.

It definitely wasn’t a skater that made the Grand Prix final, though.  Viktor paid attention to every single one -- even the ones that hadn’t performed at Skate America, just in case -- but his soulmark remained small and silver, a tiny spiral on the back of his hand.

It started growing again in Sochi, and Viktor was enamoured with the fact that he could feel it. If he looked when he felt the telltale tentative strokes on his hand, he could even watch it grow.  It felt like someone drawing with a ballpoint pen, but almost hesitantly, as if they were scared; it showed in the sometimes wavering lines of the vine as it curled over his hand, sprouting small little flourishes and leaves before wrapping around his wrist, once, twice, three times.  

His soulmate was at Sochi.

He snuck into as many of the practice sessions as he could.  Technically, it was frowned upon to just loiter around, but it wasn’t like anyone had bothered to put together the gym equipment in the “gym” at the building he’d been assigned in the athlete’s village. If he wanted to do any conditioning, he’d have to go into Chris’s building because at least they had adequate equipment -- though Yakov had forbidden both Georgi and Viktor from even touching it as soon as he laid eyes on it, swearing a blue streak about “fucking Russian bureaucrats.”

When Chris later asked if it was all right for Yakov to publicly cuss out the Russian government, Viktor only shrugged. “They owe Yakov three Olympic gold medals’ worth of swearing.  And those are just the ones he earned.  If you count mine from Turin and Vancouver and --”

“I get it.  No Russian bureaucrat will try to lock Yakov up.”

“I’m a national treasure who doesn’t know how to go grocery shopping without his coach.  I would wither away to nothing without Yakov.”

At that point, Chris leaned back into the not-so-soft cushions of what was probably a knock-off Ikea couch and started laughing. The laughter didn’t stop until Viktor had grabbed him and hauled him to the Iceberg Palace to catch one of the Men’s singles practice sessions.

It took Viktor only a minute to spot the Canadian, and he breathed a sigh of relief.  Now he could go back to ignoring his existence.  Having seen his behavior the last few days, Viktor knew that he’d be miserable if he was truly his soulmate.

“What is going on?  Why are we here?  There’s not really anyone important skating this session.”

Viktor unhooked his thumb from its hole and flashed his arm at Chris.  “This is why.”

He only gave Chris a moment to look before he tugged the jacket back into place. Still, that moment was more than enough. “WHEN?! Viktor! Aren’t you excited?”

Viktor shook his head.  “I don’t know who.  I was watching Skate America and noticed it after when I was cooking.”

“You think he’s a skater from Skate America?  There are a few options then.  Skate America was fun.”

Viktor cast a sideways glance at Chris.  “Doesn’t your soulmate forbid fun?”

Chris laughed and subconsciously itched the side where Viktor knew his soulmark was; full of brash strokes and imaginative turns in bright purple and deep blue.  “Not that sort of fun.  Went drinking with some skaters and then a club.  That’s why my exhibition was a mess. I was so hungover.  But it was definitely enjoyable.”

Viktor shook his head and snorted a little, but then he felt it -- that telltale light fluttering and hesitant feeling of someone drawing on him.  He turned back to the ice.  “He’s here.  Who’s here now that wasn’t here a second ago?”

Chris looked down at the ice.  “Chulanont.  Thai skater.  Just arrived with his coach.”  Chris pointed to a small, lithe figure in black leggings and a black long sleeve top taking to the ice.  And of course he was wearing gloves.

Viktor hummed.  “He didn’t skate at Skate America.”

“No, but he was there with his friend.  They share a coach.”  Chris pointed again.  “Celestino.  Maybe Celestino is your soulmate.”  Chris laughed.

Viktor almost recoiled at the thought.  “No.  I’ve been in a room with Celestino.  Talked to him even.  He’s definitely not my soulmate.”  Viktor frowned.  “How old is Chulanont?”

“Eighteen, I think.  I don’t quite remember.  You think it might be him?  Even though he didn’t skate in that competition?”

“Well, I only had a bit about the size of a 2 euro cent piece.  The camera wouldn’t have had to focus on him for long.”

Chris nodded.  “Is it still?”

Viktor just nodded.  He rolled up his sleeve and watched as the little silver lines curled over his arm in loops and spirals as the Thai skater moved across the ice.  His musicality was good.  He was no threat -- it didn’t even look like he had a quad -- but he was fun to watch. And he kept skating over to the barrier and snapping pictures of the people watching in the stands.  It was cute.

Viktor could do worse, he supposed.

“I need to learn Thai.”

Phichit, Viktor learned, was not expecting to do all that well.  In fact, he’d confided in Viktor that his goal was really just to make it into the free skate and not to be disqualified before then.  Viktor learned how to say ‘Good Luck’ in Thai and took about a thousand selfies with him.

He watched as Phichit watched all the people around him.  And nodded when Phichit confided that his friend was nervous.  Said friend was probably going to be in the top ten and really wanted to win at least a bronze, but wasn’t confident that he could do it.  Viktor, of course, offered to give this friend encouragement. Phichit shook his head and just told him that Viktor would make him nervous, but if Viktor ran into him, he totally should.

Viktor did not, however, ask to see Phichit’s soulmark, nor did Phichit ask to see his.  In fact, the topic never came up.

Viktor did make sure to watch Phichit skate his short program with Chris by his side.  “You two are horrible for each other.  You’re going to make each other even worse media whores.”

Viktor laughed.  “Doesn’t that just mean we’re perfect for each other?”  He watched as Phichit talked to his coach and another member of his team before reaching out and hugging the team member that Viktor didn’t recognise.  He’d gotten used to the feeling of the little lines brushing across his skin.  They didn’t remind him of Phichit at all, but maybe over time it would.

Because that was the thing: even though soulmarks technically matched, they were still different, demonstrating the personality of your soulmate.  And Viktor’s soulmate was shy, he thought; Phichit was not. So then... He pushed the thought to the back of his mind.  It wasn’t 100 percent, anyway.

Little Yuri Plisetsky had a soulmark on his knee that almost looked like written language, but wasn’t. He’d checked, apparently.  The lines were all strong, but angry, very fitting for the Little Tiger.  It’d started when he was ten and then stopped practically immediately after.  No one really asked him about it -- he was only thirteen, after all -- but he had a habit of wearing jeans with tears in them that showed it off, assuming you knew where to look.  

Mila’s soulmark was on her back, wine in colour but bubbly like champagne.  She said she knew who her soulmate was, but was scared to say anything, so instead she ended up dating a hockey player who skated at the rink and pretended that she didn’t know who had the mark on her back.  Viktor thought she was too young to date at sixteen, but she just retorted that if she was old enough for the Olympics, then she was old enough to date, before rolling her eyes.

Viktor even knew about Yakov’s mark.  It was harsh and jagged, not at all pretty, in a ruddy sort of blush color that started by his ear and traveled down the back of his neck and along the top of his shoulders.  Yakov thought that their mark being so harsh and jagged was what destroyed his marriage.  Ballerinas, he’d always thought, were supposed to be soft, but Lilia was not.  She was demanding and argumentative, and it was just too much for the relationship to bear since Yakov was the same.  Their two children thought so too, and opted to go to boarding school in Siberia rather than deal with their parents before and after their divorce.

Viktor hadn’t blamed them.  He’d entertained thoughts of moving to Siberia right after Yakov’s divorce, too.

Georgi was convinced that his soulmark was the same as the ice dancer he was in love with, Anya, but no one else agreed.  His started on the bottom of his foot in a burnished copper, tracing over his toes and to the top of his foot.  Unfortunate placement for a skater.  It was delicate and the lines thin and hesitant, like the ones on Viktor’s hand.  Their rinkmates all agreed that it wasn’t Anya, but was probably the shy little blond ice dancer that she sometimes spent time with.  Georgi, however, was delusional, and... well, he’d come to his senses eventually.

Viktor hadn’t shared that his soulmark had started growing with anyone other than Chris, though.  He wanted to be sure.

It was a good thing, in the end.  After Sochi, he had a break before Worlds.  He and Phichit didn’t exchange numbers or emails or anything of the sort, but followed each other back on Instagram.  Small steps.  Viktor figured out how to say goodbye in Thai, too.

As it turned out, however, he didn’t need to learn Thai after all.

Through the grapevine (and Phichit’s Instagram) Viktor learned that he wouldn’t be at Worlds due to a rink accident and a badly sprained ankle.  Phichit joked that the doctors had thought it broken until he gave it a firm talking to and then lo and behold, it turned out to just be sprained and the trip to the ER had been for naught.

So it took Viktor by surprise when he felt that telltale almost scratch on his arm and he shoved his sleeve up to see his soulmark extend out. This time, though, the marks weren’t as hesitant.  Instead, they were sure and bold as they weaved a braid around his elbow.

Viktor smiled.  He had started to really like his soulmark -- even if it was still silver.

Chris was waving at him and he quickly dropped his sleeve and headed toward him, determined to tell him that they needed to start their quest over again.

“I want to introduce you to Chulanont’s roommate!”  Chris was smiling and drinking some fruity, probably heavily alcoholic, drink.

“Phichit’s roommate?”  Viktor looked around.  “Where?”

Chris spun in a circle, slamming his hand down hard on the tabletop when he weaved a bit.  “He was right here!  He swore he wouldn’t run off! Damn it, Katsuki, if you went to a party without me--”

“Katsuki?  The Japanese skater with the pretty skating?”

“That’s the one!  Chulanont’s roommate.  Was just telling me all about Chulanont’s accident.  I thought you’d want to hear about it since the two of you--”

“We aren’t.”

“What?”

Viktor shrugged.  “I felt it when I got here.  It was wrapping its way around my elbow in a braid.”  He paused.  “It’s stopped now.”

Chris tipped his head to the side.  “Well, maybe you had the wrong roommate.”

“The wrong-- Katsuki?  You think…?”

Chris nodded.  “You know that I thought that Phichit was all wrong for you, but Katsuki...  I think you two would be perfect for each other.”

“Except I didn’t see him once at Sochi.  I mean, I know he was there, I watched his free skate, but I never ran into him.”

Chris snorted.  “He was everywhere that Chulanont was, actually.  In fact, I found out that he was even there when Chulanont was skating that first day when we jumped to the conclusion that  Chulanont was your soulmate.  Chulanont wasn’t taking pictures of the people watching the public training session; he was taking pictures of Katsuki sitting in the stands, working on a marketing paper instead of enjoying his time at the Olympics.  You probably looked right at him without actually seeing him.” Viktor knew that his eyes were round and his mouth was even a little bit open, but Chris just nodded and kept talking. “In fact, while you were learning Thai and taking a zillion selfies, I was with Katsuki.  I wanted to find out more about Chulanont, and well, Katsuki’s fun in the right circumstances.”

“The right circumstances?”

Chris nodded.  “I’ll try to set something up and you can confirm it.”

Viktor never found out if Chris succeeded in setting something up, but he definitely managed to confirm it because Katsuki was avoiding him like he had the plague.  In fact, the only time that he saw the other skater was during his programs.  They were also the only times that he could feel the mark growing, though now it was definitely back to the tentative strokes.

Katsuki’s skating wasn’t pretty.  No, Viktor had been wrong about that.  It was beautiful and stunning, and who cared if he fell on his quad Salchow? When he picked himself up and skated into his step sequence, it was practically masterful.  Viktor couldn’t take his eyes away.  And there , that little flourish, that was Viktor’s .  Katsuki was a fan.  Katsuki liked his skating!

A warm flush traveled down his spine at the thought, and he smiled.

Viktor had a plan.  He was going to go up to Katsuki and kiss him! It was a brilliant plan.  Then he’d get Katsuki to show him his soulmark, they’d laugh that it was completely unfair that Viktor was stuck with a silver soulmark when everyone knew he was golden, and then they’d fly off back to Saint Petersburg and skate into the sunset.  Or against a sunset.  Or while the sun was setting.

Regardless! The setting sun would feature, and it would be terribly romantic. Viktor loved this plan.

His plan made Chris fall off the bed in his hotel room with laughter.

Chris was a jerk.

“Why are you laughing at my brilliant plan?”

“Where to begin, mon ami ?  It’s not a plan.  It’s a fantasy.  As for why it won’t work, he flew out this morning.  He knew he wouldn’t medal, and decided against staying for the exhibition since he needed to meet with his school advisors.  Oh, and that’s the other reason it won’t work: he can’t go to Saint Petersburg with you because starting next week he’s in Japan taking classes at his university until August, when he’ll go back to Detroit to train.”

“Why is he going to university?”

“I assume because he doesn’t want to be an uneducated idiot like a certain Russian I could name.  Seriously, that’s a stupid question.  A better question would be to ask what he’s studying.  Which is Marketing, Administration and Management.  He’s getting a business degree so he can help his family run their small business more effectively.”

Viktor leaned his head on his fist and gave Chris a dopey look.  “His family runs a business?  What kind?”

Chris shrugged.  “We’re not best friends, but I do take the opportunity to talk to him when he’s around.  Like I said, he can be fun.  All I know is that his family is in the hospitality industry.  More interesting is that the boy can dance.”

“Is this who you went clubbing with at Skate America?”

Chris nodded.  “Unlike Chulanont, he’s not underage in the USA.  And I’d tell you all about it, but,” He paused and looked Viktor up and down, “really, it just wouldn’t be fair if you learn everything about your soulmate from me.”

“You are mean and no longer my best friend.”

“Then I guess I’ll just take myself and Katsuki’s SNS info back up to my room.”  Chris blew Viktor a kiss.  “Masumi is waiting upstairs.”

“That’s not even his name, why do you call your soulmate that?”

Chris just winked and left.

It was a full minute before Viktor realized he’d forgotten to get the SNS information.  He flopped down onto his bed and sighed into the pillow.  His life was not fair.

It turned out that Viktor was actually not as good at hiding his soulmark as he thought he was.  Everyone at the rink in Russia knew what he’d been hiding.  At least he was only teased a little about it.  For them, anyway.  So he gave into his selfish desires and did exactly what he wanted to: he choreographed a duo of programs to his soulmate.

He was still hesitant to say that it was indeed Katsuki.  He’d been wrong once already, and didn’t want to be wrong again, so he wouldn’t announce that his programs were about his soulmate. But they were about his soulmate.

He watched videos of Katsuki skating.  Watched confidence that he had his final year in Juniors crash when he entered Seniors.  He was tough.  He never stayed down for long, picking himself up by the time Four Continents came around.

His best skates by far were when he was at his Nationals, and Viktor loved watching those most of all.  As he stared at Katsuki dancing across the ice, all clean edges and expressive wistfulness, Viktor felt the slight pressure of the soulmark growing more.  If there was ever any question, he’d answered it a million times over.

His short program was all about discovery.  He made sure that his costume covered his left hand with a glove -- he went with something more asymmetrical than he usually would -- and chose a fast, almost frantic song, because that’s how his discovery was.  Fast and frantic and wrong wrong wrong.

But for his free skate he was going to go for romantic longing.  A princely outfit with gloves that only covered his thumb and the back of his hand, and a program choreographed to an Italian aria.  Lyrical music done right, in his opinion.

When the assignments for the Grand Prix Series rolled around, he hoped that he’d be assigned to at least one of the same competitions as Katsuki, but he wasn’t.  He’d have to settle for watching, then.

The vines of his soulmark were winding around his bicep and tricep now, the strokes strong and sure for once, bold in a way that they never usually were. Viktor wondered what gave Katsuki that confidence as he watched the NHK trophy.

With good reason.  Katsuki took gold and had a good chance to make the final this year as long as he placed in the top four at the Rostelecom Cup.  Which was in Moscow.  Which Georgi was competing in.  Which was just a short plane ride away.

Viktor didn’t even bother buying good seats; he didn’t want to attract attention to himself or distract Katsuki.  He just wanted to watch him skate.  Katsuki was a fan of his, and he’d quickly become a fan of Katsuki.

Chris had laughed hilariously at Viktor’s plan.  If he was so sure that Katsuki was his soulmate, why wouldn’t he just approach him already?

Honestly, Viktor was scared.  To have something that was his, that would mean that he wasn’t alone.  On one hand, Viktor wanted to grab it with both hands and never let go, but on the other hand, he wanted to treasure it. A beauty that was untouched, pristine, and without expectation.  All potential and no disappointment.

Katsuki got silver as Viktor watched.  The silver medal was hung around his neck, and it looked good. But gold looked better.  It complemented the red-gold flecks in Katsuki’s eyes, and its warmth was appealing against his skin tone.  Yes, Katsuki definitely needed gold.

But gold had always belonged to Viktor.

Hmm. A dilemma.

Of course he told Chris about it. Of course Chris laughed.  “I don’t know why I bother,” Viktor whined.

“Because I will put up with your nonsense when no one else will, mon ami .  Don’t think that the gold medal will always be yours.  You’re getting old and bald, and I am ready to snatch it away from you.”

Viktor pressed a hand to the top of his head. “So mean!  I am not going bald.  My stylist assures me that my hair is not thinning and that I just have a high forehead.” Gales of laughter met his pouting. “I hate you.”

“I don’t know if Yuuri deserves to put up with someone as melodramatic and egotistical as you.”

To prove that he was neither melodramatic nor egotistical, Viktor did not complain that Chris got permission to call Katsuki Yuuri before he did.  He just moped about it a little after Chris hung up the phone.

It was only in Sochi, as he watched Katsuki sneak a cheburek behind his coach’s back, that he started wondering why the Japanese skater hadn’t come up to him.  He was a fan, so he had to have seen his skating long before Viktor had seen his.  He had to know that they were soulmates and shared the same mark.  So why didn’t Katsuki come to him?

It nagged at him all through the short program of the final.  During warm-ups, he kept glancing at Katsuki, but the other skater was avoiding him.  So Viktor thought to maybe seek him out, but he couldn’t find him anywhere.  Little Yuri just scoffed when Viktor mentioned that he was looking for him.

“Just leave him alone.  He doesn’t need an airhead like you distracting him from his already lackluster programs.”

On the one hand, Viktor found it interesting that Yuri had an opinion at all on the matter of Katsuki’s programs. On the other hand, he still was trying to figure out where his soulmate had gone.  He hadn’t done badly.  He was in fourth after the short program, with a decent point and a half between him and Cao Bin, the Chinese representative.  If he actually managed to land his quad Salchow this time in the free, Katsuki might even be able to beat that Canadian.  After all, he’d always had wonderful PCS scores; he just needed a little stronger TES.

No one saw Katsuki until the six-minute warmup on the ice before the free skate.  Chris had mentioned that he’d called, but that Katsuki didn’t answer.  It was obvious that Katsuki hadn’t even bothered stretching before getting on the ice.  He was stiff and looked sick to his stomach.  Had he gotten the flu?  Viktor was worried, but at the same time he knew that he had to focus on his own program. After all, he and Katsuki were skating on the same ice in the same group for the first time.

And he was skating his program for Katsuki.

Stay by me and never leave .  His hope for the future.

Viktor had to look away when Katsuki fell on his triple axel.  It was the one jump that Viktor had never seen him fall on, and yet he fall he did.  Things didn’t improve much from there. Out of his eight jumping passes, Katsuki missed half of them and those that he didn’t he definitely wasn’t going to get a full GOE on.  This was definitely bad.  Something was wrong.

Viktor wanted to talk to him, but the Canadian was on the ice, Yakov was yelling that he needed to do his prep, and Chris, Chris who knew about Katsuki and knew what Viktor wanted to do, just shook his head at him.   Focus , he mouthed, and Viktor nodded.  They were skaters.  Everything else came after the ice.  There would be all the time in the world to talk to Katsuki after he skated.

But there was not all the time in the world.  He couldn’t find Katsuki after the medal ceremony.  He did find Little Yuri, who seemed much angrier about something but wouldn’t answer what exactly it was. So instead, Viktor decided that he should talk about their programs.

“Yuri, about your step sequence--”

“Who cares, I won anyway!”

“YURA!”  Yakov yelled, launching into a full-on tirade. Oh well. Maybe their coach could get through to him.  But then he saw Yuri’s eyes look past Viktor. Viktor turned to see what the younger skater was looking at, and...

Yuuri.  Katsuki.  At last!  Viktor could put his plan into motion.  Katsuki was a fan; he’d never met a fan that wasn’t thrilled with a picture, and it was sure to cheer him up.  Then they could talk about their skating, and then happily ever after. On skates.

“A commemorative photo? Sure!”  Viktor opened his arm with a flourish.

And then he was completely shocked. Katsuki looked insulted, then heartbroken, turning away from him and heading back down the hall, probably to a different exit.  Even his coach calling after him, asking if he was sure that he didn’t want a picture, didn’t stop him.

“Sorry, Viktor.”  Celestino -- with his heavy Italian accent and heavy Italian cologne -- said.  “Yuuri had some bad news today.  Or well, yesterday.”

“Bad news?”  Viktor frowned.

“I’m sorry, it’s not for me to say.  He’s just not himself.  Please don’t take it personally.”  And with that, Celestino was gone, too.

But Viktor did take it personally.  He took it very personally.  Yuuri was his soulmate, had to be.  They hadn’t even spoken yet, and Yuuri just turned away.  Rejected him.  Why?

Why?

“Why?”

“You heard Celestino.  He got some bad news.”  Chris leaned back.  “You know, I was looking forward to it being warmer.  I mean Sochi is subtropical and it was in the teens during the Olympics last year -- well, this year. But now it’s freezing and snowing.”

“What sort of bad news do you think it was?  Do you know his room number?  I know! You can call, and we can go and cheer him up!”

Chris just shook his head.  “That sounds like a horrible idea.  Did you miss the part where you told me he turned and walked away from you?  Whatever is wrong, he obviously doesn’t want to talk to you about it.  Have you two ever even spoken before?”

“Our marks speak for us.”

The groan that he got from Chris for that remark was impressive. “Don’t even.  I know that you’re a romantic idiot, but I’m pretty sure that Yuuri isn’t.  Just give him space and time.  Obviously he can’t deal with you -- and trust me, you’re a lot to deal with -- on top of whatever news he got.  I’m sure that Celestino will make him go to the banquet.  Talk to him then.”

New plan, then.  At the banquet, he would talk to Yuuri and tell him that he’d choreographed his programs for him.  For his soulmate.   Then sunset, skates, and happily ever afters of whatever sort it ended up.  Viktor could be flexible.

Very flexible.

And Viktor couldn’t stop thinking about just how flexible he could be as he watched Katsuki dance on the pole that Chris and Masumi -- seriously, what was up with that nickname? The man was Swiss German, for fuck’s sake -- had set up.  Those thighs.  Those thighs were amazing.  And that chest; firm with just a bit of softness at the belly, and smooth and beautiful.

And when his shirt came off the rest of the way and Viktor saw their mark for the first time…

It was gorgeous, and he could feel the lines on his own arm racing to catch up.  Scrolling over his shoulder, twirling along the edge of his collarbone, flowing down to wrap around his heart.  He swore he could feel the vines tightening, making his heart skip a beat or five.

He wanted.

His soulmate was a wonderful drunken mess of a man and Viktor wanted him more than he wanted anything else in the world.

And as Yuuri clung to him in nothing but his boxer briefs and a badly buttoned shirt with a tie wrapped around his head, Viktor learned that he had a bit of a thing for drunken, slurred Japanese.  And fit Japanese skaters clinging to him.

“Be my coach, Viktor!”

Viktor gasped.  Yes.   Yes .  He would do just about anything this man asked of him.  Jump into the freezing seawater.  Yes.  Learn how to pole dance.  Definitely yes. Be his coach.   Hell yes .

Yuuri was an oasis in the desert, and Viktor was oh so very thirsty.

He wrapped his arms around Yuuri’s waist, ready to whisper yes.  All the yeses.  But he got stopped short as Celestino pushed him away and draped his jacket over Yuuri’s shoulders.

“I don’t think so, Nikiforov.  He’s drunk and can’t consent.”  He turned toward Chris.  “And you, bringing that pole.  Look, I know that the two of you went to the club where Yuuri worked and had a bit of fun, but that was different.  Yuuri was mostly sober and it wasn’t an ISU function.  What the hell are you two idiots thinking?”  Celestino groaned and pulled Yuuri away.  “I’m sorry, Yuuri.  I shouldn’t have left, but you know how the wife is when she’s left alone with the baby.  What do you and Phichit call him?  The devil bear?  I had to talk to him on Facetime for an hour to get him to calm down, and apparently that was enough for all hell to break loose in here.”  

“The demon goat .  Your son is the Demon Goat .”  

Viktor could only watch with a frown as Yuuri’s coach took him away.

Then Yakov smacked him upside the head.

So, the banquet plan didn’t work, either. Unfortunately, Viktor didn’t have any other plans.  But he’d have another chance at Worlds, and a few months to come up with a new plan.  

Except that Yuuri wasn’t at Worlds.  And when Viktor went up to Phichit to try and find out why, all he got was a cold shoulder.  Why?  Did Phichit think they were a thing?  Did he not know who his roommate’s soulmate was?  Was he upset because Viktor only liked half of the instagram posts he posted (all the ones with Yuuri and then a few artistic ones; he left the gerbil ones alone)?

“Phichit won’t talk to me.”

“Really?  He was nice to me, and I didn’t have a lot of tête-à-têtes with him at the Olympics.”

Viktor sighed.  “I think Yuuri might hate me.  He hasn’t even tried to contact me since the banquet.  I thought… I thought we had a moment.”

“Oh, you two had a moment. You two had more than a moment.  But did you fail to notice just how wasted your precious soulmate was?  Maybe Phichit thinks that you should have taken better care of him, or something.”

“Is that what he told you?”

“Sure.  Let’s go with that.”  Chris rolled his eyes.  “I said hello and wished him luck, and he said hello back and wished me luck and then went to check in with Celestino.”

Viktor blinked.  “So when did he--”

Chris threw a pillow at his head.

Viktor channeled all his longing and pain into his free skate.   Why, Yuuri? Why won’t you stay by me?

When the video of Yuuri skating his free program found its way to him-- through Phichit, surprisingly -- Viktor was frustrated at first.  If he had known that Yuuri was in Japan then he would have stayed, would have stayed behind after Worlds and tried to talk to him. But he thought that Yuuri was in Detroit , and that was a bit more complicated.  But no.  He’d been in Hasetsu, Japan.  And Viktor had been in Japan.  And Viktor could have put his plan -- he was back to the “just go up and kiss the boy” plan -- into action, but no. Viktor had lost that chance.

But Yuuri had skated Viktor’s free program and put it on the internet.

Yuuri had skated his free program .

Yes.  Yes, I will stay by you and never leave.  I promise.

“Makkachin! We’re going to Japan!”  His answer was an excited “woof”.

In between the packing and making arrangements, he Facetimed Chris, who gave him a look that said that maybe packing up all his worldly possessions and his dog and landing on Yuuri’s doorstep without warning was maybe not the best plan.

But Viktor didn’t want to hear it. It was the only plan he had, so he was doing it!

“Let me guess.  You’re going to confront him while naked in the bath.”

Viktor paused while wrapping his marble bust in newsprint.  “You know, that might not be a bad idea.  Just put everything out there.  The soulmark, the offer to coach him, the dirty dancing at the banquet.  Everything.” Chris groaned. “I no longer hate you, Chris.  In fact, I love you.  Just not like I love Yuuri.”

“You don’t know Yuuri.  Your only interaction with him has been when he was drunk--”

“But he was such an exquisite drunken mess! How could I not fall in love with him immediately?  He dipped me, Chris.   Dipped me!”

Yu-topia Akatsuki was absolutely charming, and the people working there were absolutely adorable!  The proprietor led him to the the baths and gave a lovely explanation of how they work -- the pre-bathing, the benefits of each of the small pools, etc. -- in broken English before handing him a much more detailed little pamphlet.  How thoughtful!  His wife, a charming, full-faced and cheerful woman, told him that she’d make him a special refreshing snack for when he came out of the baths.

They even offered to keep an eye on Makkachin; said they missed having a dog around the place.

It was lovely.  He told them that his things were on their way and that he’d really like to speak to Yuuri as soon as possible.

This was it.  He was finally doing this.  He’d confront his soulmate, and they could have their happily skating ever after, and adopt dogs -- since it seemed he grew up in a place that had at least one -- and maybe even a little miniature figure skater.  That would be amazing.

Viktor sighed and leaned back against the rocks in his selected pool, pressing the cool cloth against his face.  It was wonderful.  Like the saunas back home in Russia, but so much better.

And then Yuuri was there in front of him.  Bundled up -- obviously having skipped all the steps for proper hot springs bathing -- and gaping at him.  He was as impatient as Viktor was!  This was good!  This was promising!  Chris was wrong!

“Yuuri! Starting from today I will be your coach!”

Chris was right. Yuuri screeched and backed away faster than Viktor thought was humanly possible.  Worried, he rushed through the thigh-deep water and was by Yuuri’s side in a moment.  “Yuuri?”

Things were awkward.  So very very awkward.  Viktor didn’t really know how to deal with awkward, so instead of dealing with it, he yawned and pretended to fall asleep hugging Makkachin close.  He expected Yuuri to leave the room, but he didn’t; he just kept kneeling next to the table.  Viktor sighed and shifted, trying to think of how to salvage the situation when a bombastic brunette rushed in screeching, addressing Yuuri in rushed Japanese that slowly got quieter and more contemplative.  And he heard his name, or at least what he thought was his name.  It sounded so different in Japanese.

This wouldn’t do.

Viktor rolled over, not caring that his robe dropped down and exposed the nape of his neck.  He thought he remembered reading that the Japanese found the nape of the neck to be erotic.  Even better.   Yuuri.  Look at me.  I am your erotic dream.  Your soulmate .

They kept talking.  Viktor felt the need to insert himself back into the conversation.  

Admittedly, Viktor had been mean at the dining table as he ate the ambrosia that was Yuuri’s mother’s Katsudon. He had called his soulmate a piggy -- but only because he was jealous of the closeness that Yuuri was sharing with the woman. But he would fix it!  He would let Yuuri know that he still found him incredibly attractive and alluring, even with the extra weight.  It was just more to cuddle with!  So he took Yuuri’s chin between his fingers and leaned close, letting his other hand trail down Yuuri’s arm and curl around his wrist.  Damn.  He should have used opposite hands; then Viktor’s fingers would be curling around the soulmark at their wrists.  

“I want to know everything about you.”

Again with the running away!  What was he doing wrong?  No matter. They could cuddle all night and tell each other everything.  Low pressure!

“Yuuri! Let’s sleep together!”  Not have sex.  Not finally come together as soulmates.  Not let me look at you, because the brief sight at the banquet just wasn’t enough and I’ve been dreaming about you for months. Please, I’m so very thirsty.  No, Viktor was learning .

Viktor thought he’d never heard such a terrified screech before in his life.

So instead of pressing his face against Yuuri’s neck and breathing in his scent and very essence, he pressed his face against Makkachin’s fur and breathed in dog.  He loved Makkachin, he really did, but the smell of dog wasn’t actually all that appealing or attractive. He wanted Yuuri; his soulmate.  He wanted to know what he was doing wrong!

So he cried, images from the banquet still shining on his phone after he turned his back to it.

Viktor decided that he should have learned Japanese instead of Thai; then at least he’d know what Yuuri was talking about with all these people.  Because he was skating ‘Eros’ -- the routine that Viktor had choreographed about Yuuri! -- and instead of his rapt attention, Yuuri was only three-quarters watching and talking with one of the rink personnel.  They looked friendly, even.

What the hell?

“The little piggy doesn’t get to come on the ice until he loses that extra weight!”

The moment Viktor said it, he knew it was the wrong thing to do.  Yuuri practically curled in on himself in shock and -- was that self-loathing?  Viktor wanted to skate into the wall headfirst.

“Chris! I have a jealousy problem.  Yuuri keeps talking to his friends, and I keep calling him a little piggy because I’m jealous he’s not paying me attention and he’s put on weight since the Grand Prix.”

Chris just blinked at him.  “Going that well, I see? I have a suggestion.”

Hope bloomed in his chest.  “Yes?”

“Don’t do that.”  Chris ended the Facetime call.

Chris was a horrible friend.

Viktor could adult.  He was an adult, so he should be able to adult.  He would approach this like a mature, reasonable human being.  Just because they were soulmates didn’t mean that they had made promises.  Yuuri must have known for ages that they were soulmates.  He could have had other relationships.  Viktor wouldn’t hold it against him.  (All right, he really would, but he’d at least try not to!)

“Do you have feelings for Minako?”

Yuuri practically fell off the bench he’d been doing one legged squats and jumps on.  “N... N... No!”

Good.  One down.  Viktor no longer had to worry about Minako.

“Any other sweethearts?”

“No comment.”

Well, that was a strange answer, and Viktor really didn’t like it.  Two could play that game.  “Let me tell you about my first sweetheart--”

“No!”

Fine.  Obviously, Yuuri didn’t want to talk about that.  They could go sightseeing instead and -- did Yuuri just say NINJAS?! Sightseeing it was! “Hasetsu Castle!”

Then Little Yuri appeared, full of anger and bluster, demanding that Viktor choreograph a program for him.  Because Viktor had promised, and maybe he had, but he had more important, life-changing things to deal with! Though he had promised.

And it really didn’t seem like Yuuri wanted him here.

Fine.  A competition it would be! Yes, brilliant! Viktor loved competitions.  He thrived on competitions!  And if Yuuri was his soulmate, he’d thrive on competitions too.

Yuuri did not thrive on competitions.

Turned out that Minako wasn’t a family friend who owned a little bar that Yuuri would drink at.  She was a school friend of Yuuri’s mother (Viktor really needed to ask Minako about what she used on her skin, because he needed whatever magic elixir she used) who owned a ballet studio, had taught Yuuri ballet since he was little (and wasn’t that the most adorable thing that Viktor had ever heard?) and had won a Benois de la Danse.  Not even Yakov’s ex-wife had a Benois de la Danse.

So much about Yuuri’s skating was starting to make sense.

It made even more sense when he talked to Yuuko and Takeshi.  Turned out that they were Yuuri’s childhood friends, and had encouraged him to start competing, had believed in Yuuri when he didn’t believe in himself. And the Nishigoris, who owned the rink, always made sure that Yuuri had a place to practice when he was anxious.

Apparently, his soulmate had an anxiety disorder.  Viktor wondered what it was like.  He never really worried about anything, but Yuuri -- well, he worried about everything, and he did so incessantly .

And Yuuri still skated compulsory figures, even though no one did that anymore.  It explained his steps.  Edges that clean and deep were hard to come by.  Impressive.  Viktor needed to readjust his plan.

“Yurio will skate ‘Agape’ and Yuuri will skate ‘Eros’!”  Good plan.

“I have it!  My Eros is Katsudon!”

Not-so-good plan.  Viktor could hear Christophe’s laughter in his head already.  “How unique!  Let’s go with that, then.”  Not pole dancing.  Not grinding on Viktor.  Not his soulmate.  No, Yuuri’s sexual love was a rice bowl with a fried piece of pork on top.  Granted, it was an amazing dish, but Viktor much rather have sex (hot, loud, acrobatic sex) with Yuuri than orgasm while eating Katsudon.

But if that was what made Yuuri comfortable, if that was his… kink… well, Viktor could think of worse ones.  So he would embrace it!

“Imagine more of the egg entangling with the pork!”

Hai !”  That meant ‘yes’ in Japanese.  Viktor was learning !  And Yuuri sounded cute when he said it, even if Viktor didn’t know what the hell he himself was saying or meant.  Trying to relate figure skating to a pork cutlet bowl was a little beyond him, but it seemed to work.

Of course, watching his soulmate skate to erotic visions of food all day left Viktor discombobulated.  So he did what any hot-blooded Russian would do in the given situation: he went to get drunk off his ass on lots of sake and eat a ton of ramen.

And then arrived at the rink to see Yuuri and Yurio having a moment, working together and not yelling, and they were getting along, and it looked like his Yuuri liked Yurio, and it was too much.  Viktor needed to get Yurio out of there.

Though he was finally embracing the agape .  Good.  The waterfall must have worked.  Yuuri, however, was not embracing the eros of the Katsudon, and that was a bigger problem.  Viktor didn’t want to go back to Russia and be Yurio’s coach.  He liked him, but, well, Viktor wanted his soulmate!

“I will be the tastiest Katsudon ever!  So please watch me!”

Yuuri’s arms were around him.  Yuuri smelled of hot springs and rice wine and old books.  Viktor breathed it all in.  Under his shirt he could feel the strokes of his soulmark growing, entwining his heart tighter, curving back and brushing over his collarbone.  

Wait… Yuuri wasn’t thinking about Katsudon.  Yuuri was Katsudon.  Viktor allowed himself the barest hint of a smile.  “Of course. I love Katsudon.”  If Yuuri wanted to be Katsudon, then he could be Katsudon.  Viktor would eat him up either way.

Oh. Oh.  Yuuri was not Katsudon.  Yuuri… was skating it as the woman in the story of the Eros playboy.  But a reimagining of it.  He took the role of the sought after and turned it into the seducer.

Yes.   Viktor liked this reinterpretation.

It didn’t matter if it was Katsudon or Casanova’s conquest. Viktor would watch.  Viktor would be seduced.  Over and over again.  And he would love every minute of it, because Yuuri on ice was enthralling.

They were made for each other.

Viktor barely registered Yurio’s departure.

And then something changed.  While Yurio had been around, Viktor had backed off a little.  He’d had to split his time between the two Yuris, and it wasn’t really fair to either of them, but it seemed to have been what his Yuuri needed.  Space.

Viktor had always had so much space that he was sick of it, but here -- well, there was always someone around, someone needing something from Yuuri. So much so that Viktor didn’t even see that Yuuri wasn’t getting what he needed.

He could back off.  He could be patient.  Viktor wasn’t very good at it, but he could try.  He wouldn’t be that girl that tried to hug him and intrude on his feelings.

“So I’ll try to be your boyfriend then, I guess.”  Not soulmate, a step back.

“No no no no no!  I just want you to be you.”

Well, that was unexpected.  Viktor barely even knew who he was, since he’d been reinventing himself on a yearly basis since he was fifteen.  Well, there was one person he definitely was.  He was Yuuri’s soulmate. He could do that.  He could be that.

Yuuri’s theme was ‘Love’. And oh… Viktor was starting to understand.  Not completely.  He didn’t think he’d ever completely understand Yuuri, but that was OK.  It would be OK.  He could love Yuuri without knowing everything, and wasn’t that a revelation!

“Yuuri’s theme is love!  He’s amazing!  His skating… it’s so much better than it had been, Chris!  Did you see the video I sent you of ‘Eros’?”

“Only you would choreograph a piece about your soulmate getting wasted at the Grand Prix Final banquet and sweeping you off your feet, and then have him skate it.”

“You’re just jealous that you didn’t think of it first.”

Chris laughed.  “He’s too innocent.”

Viktor pursed his lips.  Maybe, but, well.  “We’re taking it slowly.”

“Have you even talked about your marks?”

“Not in so many words! We speak through our skating.”

Yuuri definitely spoke to Viktor through his skating. And at the regionals that Yuuri needed to compete in to get back to Nationals, Yuuri’s skating said “I will not compromise, and I will not listen to you just because you say you’re my coach.”

It was both the most frustrating and brilliant thing that Viktor had ever heard.

And if Yuuri’s nose hadn’t been bleeding, Viktor might have kissed him.  Chastely.  No tongue.  Just a peck, really.  But his nose had been bleeding, and Viktor’s suit cost way more than he was ever planning to charge Yuuri for his coaching fee.  After all, it was Armani.

However...

Viktor did kiss him at the Cup of China.

Because Viktor had screwed up.  He’d screwed up royally and said all the wrong things.  He didn’t know how to deal with anxiety.  He didn’t know how to fix Yuuri.  So he thought, just give him nothing to lose and then it would snap him out of it and… and… all better!  But no, that apparently wasn’t how Yuuri’s anxiety worked. Viktor got a harsh lesson in the reality of what Yuuri needed from him, and it wasn’t what he thought at all.

“Just stay by me!  Believe I can win even when I don’t believe it!”

Just stay by him.  Stay by him and never leave.  Viktor could do that.  Viktor wanted to do that.

So Viktor got schooled and managed to piss off his soulmate, but then… Yuuri showed him that it was all right.  They would fight, but come out stronger for it.  Yuuri picked himself up, and he even managed to make Viktor feel better before putting on an amazing Free Skate.  And was that a quad flip? Yuuri jumped a quad flip!  He didn’t land it, but he basically just told all of China and everyone watching that Viktor was with him because they were soulmates.  Because there could be no other meaning other than “Viktor Nikiforov belongs to Yuuri Katsuki.”  And after a declaration like that, how could Viktor not kiss him?

Then Viktor kissed him again in the elevator, and wondered how he had managed to last so long without kissing Yuuri.

And now that the hotel door was closed and they were cut off from the outside world and it was only them… “Show me.”

Yuuri frowned.  “What?”

“Show me.  I want to see it.  You haven’t let me see it.  I want to see it.”

Yuuri bit his lip but stripped off his jacket and shirt, and there it was.  Their mark.  It was the first time that Viktor had really had a chance to see it up close.  It was so different, and yet completely the same.  Viktor grabbed Yuuri’s hand and pressed his lips to the spiral at the base of Yuuri’s thumb.  “This is where it started.”

Yuuri nodded.  “When I was twelve.”

Viktor’s chest felt tight.  Almost twelve years.  Half of Yuuri’s life he’d known, and spent it falling in love with Viktor.  Viktor wrapped his free hand around the back of Yuuri’s head, feeling the soft strands of hair between his fingers.

“So long?”

Yuuri nodded.  “I had a poodle.  I named him Victor after you.”

“Really?”

Yuuri sniffled.  “Yeah.  He… he died the night of the short program at the Grand Prix final last year.  I hadn’t seen him in almost five years because I was in Detroit skating so I could meet you.”

All Viktor’s thoughts of kissing his way along Yuuri’s mark were pushed aside, and Viktor just wrapped his arms around Yuuri and pressed his lips to the corner of Yuuri’s mouth.  “Oh, zolotse .  I wish I had known.  I wish I had tried harder to find you, to comfort you.”

“But you didn’t even know who I was.  Or that we were soulmates, so it’s all right.”

“Wait, what?  But I did!  I knew!  I was looking for you and driving Yakov and Chris insane.  I mean, at the Olympics I thought it was Phichit because whenever he was around I could feel my mark growing, but then at Worlds I realised it wasn’t.  I realised it was you!  Your skating was beautiful, and I told Chris that at the banquet I was going to find you and kiss you, and then…”  Viktor took a breath.  “And then, well, he said you were gone.  And so I snarked at him and he left and wouldn’t give me your number, and I couldn’t find a trace of you online, but I liked every one of Phichit’s pictures of you--”

Yuuri laughed.  “He was rather put out that you never liked a picture of his hamsters.”

“I thought they were gerbils. Huh. Hamsters, really?”

Yuuri nodded.  “They’re cute.  And strangely well-behaved for hamsters.  They’d run all over the bed and us, and yet never try to escape.”

Viktor’s heart clenched.  “The bed? You and Phi--”

“Not like that!  No.  We lived in something like student housing near the rink.  It was sort of an apartment, but was more like dorms.  It just wasn’t associated with a university or anything.  So we each had a small room with a bed and a desk, but no living room or anything.  Just a kitchenette and a bathroom area.  There was a large shared common room for the floor, but Phichit couldn’t take the hamsters out there and they’re actually very social animals, so a lot of the time we’d just hang out in his room and stream movies illegally on his laptop while Gold, Silver and Bronze chewed on his hair.”

Viktor couldn’t help the chuckle.  “Gold, Silver and Bronze?  That’s what he named them?”

Yuuri nodded.  “It was either that or characters from the King and the Skater , but he didn’t want one of them to be just a supporting actor, so… yeah.  He named them after the medals.  He was going to name them Axel, Lutz and Salchow, but I asked him not to.”

“Because of the triplets.”

“Yeah.  They were a year old when I moved.  Did you know that?”

Viktor shook his head.

At some point they ended up curling up on the bed, and instead of drinking in the taste of Yuuri’s skin like he’d planned, Viktor drank in Yuuri himself -- story after story, all out of order, but flowing one into another.  While Viktor’s life had been mostly an open book, there was nothing about Yuuri’s.  Just the basics on his Wikipedia page -- age, birthday, that he was a figure skater, the competitions he competed in, and what he won.  But none of that was Yuuri, and Yuuri was fascinating .

And if Viktor could wake up every morning to the feel of Yuuri’s face pressed against his neck, then he’d be in heaven.  Viktor changed his mind a minute later.  If he could wake up every morning to the soft fleeting kisses that Yuuri was pressing against his neck and collarbone, then he’d be in heaven.

Actually, the feel of Yuuri’s tongue gently tracing the line of his soulmark was probably heaven.

No, it was the way that Yuuri’s fingers were pressing against his hipbones as he shifted against him.

Viktor gasped.  Still wrong.  It had to be when Yuuri rolled his hips and Viktor could feel the hardness of Yuuri’s erection against his hip.

“Yuuri?”

Viktor took it all back.  It was definitely the way that his cock sat heavy on Yuuri’s tongue as Yuuri took Viktor into his mouth.  Yuuri’s mouth was warm and wet and slick, and the press of Yuuri’s tongue right there, under the glans and against the vein, sent shudders through Viktor. He groaned.  

And oh… oooooh. Yuuri apparently didn’t have a gag reflex either, because Viktor was quite sure that he’d never actually been taken in that deep before.  And when Yuuri swallowed around his cock, Viktor swore that there were fireworks going off; his eyes rolled back in his head a little.  He tried to stay still, he really did, but he couldn’t, and his hips jerked up and-

And oh god, he swore that he could feel the back of Yuuri’s throat against his head, and that he was going to come right then, but he didn’t.

He maybe even whimpered a little when Yuuri slid back up his length, licking and sucking and slurping, and all those delicious, dirty sounds were making Viktor want him even more. Fuck .

“I don’t want to know where you learned to do that, just do it again. Please.”  He maybe sounded a little desperate, and Yuuri’s voice was maybe a bit deeper and throatier than usual, and the sound of his chuckle went straight to his cock.  And then Yuuri was taking him back into his mouth, and yeah… Just… ooooh.  Yes .

Viktor stretched and reached and slid his fingers through Yuuri’s hair as he bobbed his head, licking and sucking and slurping and moaning and- Jesus how did moaning feel so good?

He may have started babbling in Russian, and he should feel bad about that because he was sure that Yuuri didn’t understand Russian at all, but he couldn’t. Fuck.  He couldn’t think when Yuuri’s wet, hot mouth was all around him, and then Yuuri deep throated him again and he didn’t even have the presence of mind to warn his soulmate before he was coming, every shudder and pulse wracking his body.  And God. Yuuri pulled off halfway through, and Viktor kept coming on his face. And the sight made Viktor want to come all over again.

Then the sinful, hot man that Viktor would spend the rest of his life loving licked his goddamned lips.  Brought his thumb up to his cheek, where a bit of Viktor’s come was, and wiped it off before sucking it off his thumb.  

Yuuri smirked.

Viktor was the luckiest man alive.

“You look good debauched.”

Viktor opened his mouth but didn’t have words.  His brain had stopped.  He was a meme, for fuck’s sake.   Viktor.exe has stopped working.

“Marry me.”  Shit.  That was not what Viktor had meant to say.  I mean, yes, eventually, but--

Nyet .  Ask me when you don’t look like you’re desperate to have me suck you off again.”  Yuuri moved up the bed and leaned over Viktor and kissed him, long and deep and- shit . Viktor was definitely in love.

The world -- which Viktor was fairly certain had somehow stopped spinning on its axis -- started moving again.  “Did you just say “no” in Russian?”

Yuuri laughed and laid his head against Viktor’s shoulder.  “Everyone knows how to say ‘no’ in Russian.  Just like everyone knows that oui is ‘yes’ and nein is ‘no’ as well.”

Logic. Of course.

Viktor spent every night before going to Moscow for the Rostelecom Cup tracing the lines of their soulmark across Yuuri’s skin.  “It’s still growing.”

Yuuri nodded.  “It is.  So is yours.”

“Mmm.  Mine still hasn’t caught up, but I think it’s closer.  I’m missing this swirl.”  And he ran his fingers over the dip between Yuuri’s collarbones.

Yuuri cuddled closer and sighed.  “That’s what it feels like.”

“What what feels like?”

“The soulmark, when it grows.  It feels like your fingers on my skin.”

Oh… That was… well, that was amazing, frankly.  “It feels like you’re writing on me.”

“Really.  That’s kind of funny.”

“Why?”

Yuuri leaned up and looked down at Viktor.  “Because I started writing letters to you when my mark appeared.  I never sent them, but I wrote them.”

“Can I… Can I read them?”  Viktor didn’t care if he sounded hopeful, and he tried valiantly to hide his disappointment when Yuuri shook his head.

“Maybe someday, but not yet.  This… we’re still too new.”

And Viktor understood.  Yuuri worried about everything, so of course he was going to worry about this, too.  So instead of asking when, Viktor kissed him.  They were late to their block of time on the ice, but no one asked why.

“You have to go back to Japan.  You have to.”

Viktor didn’t want to.  He wanted to, but he didn’t want.  Makkachin was his family, but Yuuri was his family and it wasn’t fucking fair that he had to choose.  But Yuuri was right.  He saw it in Yuuri’s eyes everytime he talked about Vicchan.  The pain and the regret that he had been skating instead of with his dog when he died, and if Makkachin--

No, he couldn’t even think it.  So he just looked at Yuuri with sad eyes and focused on the feeling of the soulmark.  The strokes were strong and brave instead of tentative and scared.  So when he saw Yakov he asked.   Begged .  Please coach Yuuri, please be there for him when I can’t be.

Stay by his side because I have to leave, but I won’t be far.  I’ll never be far.  And I’ll always be thinking of him.

And when Viktor knew that Makkachin would be okay, he wrapped his arms around his poodle’s neck and whispered glupaya sobaka over and over again.  “Don’t scare me like that ever again.  Or Yuuri.  Yuuri won’t like it if you scare him like that, either.  I had to leave him in Russia because of you.  You better apologize to him with a hundred poodle kisses.”

Viktor took his share of poodle kisses first.

“Please take care of me until I retire.”

Well, damn.  What was Viktor supposed to say to that?  “It’s almost like a marriage proposal.”

There was no “nyet” or “iie” or “no”, or even a shake of a head.  Just a blush and small smile.

Viktor took it all back.   This .  This was heaven.

And in Barcelona, when Yuuri bought the rings and they exchanged them in front of the cathedral, it was suddenly real.  Yes, they were good luck charms, and yes, they were for skating, and yes, Viktor’s was to also thank him for everything he’d done, but oh, they were so much more than that.

“What’s with the rings, you two?”  Oh Chris, don’t be coy.

“They’re engagement rings.  Yuuri and I will get married once he wins gold.”  Is what Viktor said.  Because if he was stuck with a silver soulmark for the rest of his life, he wanted his soulmate and lover to have a gold medal around his neck first.

Yuuri’s gold ring looked ridiculously good on his finger.

Viktor never wanted this to end.

“Let’s end this.”

Fuck.  Damn.  Shit.  What the goddamned hell?!  Selfish asshole.

Anxiety.  It had to be Yuuri’s anxiety.  And why did Viktor feel so fucking useless when faced with the giant behemoth monster that was Yuuri’s self doubt and anxiety?  Yes, his short program hadn’t been perfect and he touched down on the quad flip, and yes his PCS had been lower because instead of channelling Eros, Yuuri got a little too competitive.  Viktor would just blame Yurio for that.  The Little Tiger’s competitive energy was probably contagious.

But soulmates -- there was no ending soulmates.  Yuuri was stuck with him, and somehow he’d make Yuuri see it.  Even if he had to go back to the ice and skate to the theme of “my fucking soulmate and fiancé is an idiot with anxiety and doesn’t see how much I love him and need him, and will someone please help me knock some sense into his stupid head because I just can’t.  I can’t.  I need him.”

It was a little long to fit on a display, though.  Or to say in interviews.  Maybe “anxiety is a bitch” instead.  That could work.  His theme for the next season would be “anxiety is a bitch”.  

And Viktor could even admit that he understood in a way why Yuuri wanted him to return to the ice.  Viktor loved skating and Yuuri loved Viktor, therefore Yuuri wanted Viktor to skate.  See, it was logical.  But.  He couldn’t skate without Yuuri.  He wouldn’t skate without Yuuri.

“I really want to kiss your gold medal.”  He didn’t care if it sounded like a whine.  He needed to help his Yuuri, and this, making him laugh, letting him go out on to the ice -- even if it would be for the last time -- happy, Viktor could do that.  For Yuuri.

Viktor had never seen Yuuri skate like that.  He’d never felt the sort of joy and confidence in the strokes of his growing mark like he felt when Yuuri skated his free program.  And oh, he changed the jump elements.  He added a fourth quad.  This was… Oh!

Viktor could feel the tears when Yuuri landed his quad flip.  It was gorgeous and perfect and amazing, and he felt it.  He literally felt the brilliance of that landing right over his heart.  The most brash and strong and amazing stroke of the invisible pen that was Yuuri drawing on him.  He would never let him go.  He would do anything for him.

He would go back onto the ice for him.  Without him.

“Yuuri!”

After all, he had to get his World Record back now.  Even if he didn’t have a chance of getting the PCS points that Yuuri could get.  Damn it.  If they were on the ice together...  But no.  No.  That… he would skate for Yuuri.

“I know silver is not gold.”

Obviously.  Fucking silver.  Silver soulmark -- that should be gold -- and silver medal -- that should be gold.  Fuck silver. “I don’t feel like kissing it unless it’s gold.”

Viktor should have seen it coming, that stubborn set to Yuuri’s jaw. But he didn’t.

“Stay with me for one more year in competitive skating!”

Always.  Viktor would stay by him and never leave.  Yuuri should have known that already.

Afterwards, when both Yuuri and Viktor were wrecked and sweating and clinging to each other in bed -- after they had the chance to marvel at the new growth of their soulmarks, after kisses and touches and caresses that Viktor would never get enough of -- after all of that was when Viktor asked.

“Why do you think they haven’t stopped?  I thought soulmarks stopped growing once you fell in love with your soulmate.”

Yuuri smiled and pressed his lips to Viktor’s shoulder and kissed a delightful little swoop that had appeared a week or so ago.  “Mmm.  My parents’ haven’t stopped growing.  Neither have Yuuko’s and Nishigori’s.”

“Really?”

Yuuri nodded and kissed along Viktor’s jaw.  

Viktor could definitely get used to this.  He stroked his fingers down Yuuri’s side where the mark was just starting to grow into.

“How can a mark stop when it’s possible that you never stop falling in love with someone?”

Oh.   Oh.  Yes.  That did make sense.  “I never want to stop falling in love with you.  Even if I end up covered in silver, head to toe.”

Yuuri laughed.  “Eventually it’ll stop getting bigger and just get more complicated and detailed.  At least that’s what my mother says.  But Viktor?”

“Hmm.”  He pressed his nose against Yuuri’s neck.  He smelled so very good when he was sweaty from sex.

“Our soulmarks aren’t silver.”

Well, that stopped him.  He pulled away.  “Yuuri, I know that you aren’t colorblind.  Is silver/gold color blindness even a thing?  I think I know silver when I see it.”

Yuuri just laughed and stroked his fingers through Viktor’s hair.  “As the one of us that has had their mark the longest, I feel like I’m the expert on this.  Our marks are not silver, Viktor.  They’re platinum .”

Viktor really loved this man.  And he knew just how to show it.