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i will see your body bare (and still i will live here)

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When Yuuri gets the offer, he is sitting at the kitchen table, in the sunny spot that’s always warm on cool late-spring mornings, checking his emails with his noise-canceling headphones on because Viktor is playing the keyboard in the other room.

It’s not that Viktor is particularly awful at it. He talks about things Yuuri vaguely remembers as being difficult from when he’d played in back high school: pokes his head in after he practices and says, “Yuuri, I can play all the major chord scales with both hands together now, two octaves, very fast!” But for all Yuuri really knows, Viktor could sound like a concert pianist, because Viktor insists on playing with headphones plugged in to the keyboard.

“So I don’t bother you,” he said.

“It wouldn’t be a bother,” Yuuri said.

“But I don’t sound any good ,” Viktor said. What that meant, Yuuri wasn’t sure, because Viktor set ridiculously high standards for himself.

Viktor could play the keyboard with his elbows and Yuuri would applaud. Yuuri had told him so, and Viktor had blushed (delightful, still, that he could make Viktor blush).

“Yuuri,” he had cooed, wrapping his arms around Yuuri’s waist “you’re so nice,” but he had remained unconvinced.

Yuuri hasn’t had the heart to tell him that the unaccompanied clacking press of the keys is more annoying than any discordant music Viktor might’ve been banging out. So he just wears his noise-cancelling headphones when Viktor practices, queues up some One Ok Rock, and it all works out very well.

“Huh,” he says, now, staring at the email containing the offer.

Usually, if Yuuri says “huh” within Viktor’s earshot, he can assume that Viktor will say, “oh my god,” or “what, what?” and stick his chin on Yuuri’s shoulder or appear in the doorframe or whirl around so fast his hair flops sideways, because Viktor is nosy, particularly when it comes to things that Yuuri finds worthy of a “huh.”

Viktor is practicing, though, and so he does not hear Yuuri’s “huh.”

Yuuri presses the side of his hand against his mouth and stares at the email some more. His first instinct is to delete it, and if anyone asks say he never got it. But that would be make him an awful person. He reads it again, and then a second time, and then a third time.

He isn’t going to interrupt Viktor while he’s practicing. Yuuri had always hated that. But he wonders what Viktor would say. He’d say you? You can’t do it, he’d laugh at the idea that anyone would want you to coach them-- but Yuuri’s gotten better and better and quicker and quicker at pushing those thoughts out before they take root.

The sound of Viktor talking, underwater unclear, startles Yuuri. He slides his headphones off, and Viktor waves, ridiculous.

“I forgot you couldn’t hear me!” Viktor says. “You looked deep in thought.”

Yuuri shrugs. “I was, kind of.”

Viktor sits down and sticks his legs up on the table, as is his habit. “What about?”

“If you’d put your legs down,” Yuuri says. “I’ll show you.”

Viktor swings them down immediately and gracefully and sits up very straight, eyes wide. “Please!” he says.

“It’s from Minami Kenjiro,” Yuuri says.

“Aww,” Viktor says, peering at the dusty laptop screen as Yuuri slides it his way. “Is he looking for a new president of the Yuuri Katsuki-Nikiforov fan club, because I will apply?”

“Viktor!” Yuuri says. Viktor describes his blush in this kind of situation as “furious, the blush, that is, not you.” It’s been six months since the wedding, but Viktor’s constant casual insertion of their joined last names into conversation still gives Yuuri butterflies.

Yuuri waits as Viktor reads.

“Oh, wow,” Viktor says.

“Umm-hmm,” Yuuri says.

“His coach,” Viktor says thoughtfully.

“I know,” Yuuri says.

“You could do it,” Viktor says. “If you wanted to.”

Yuuri knows that, with a knowing he almost hadn’t noticed, deep in the pit of his stomach. His thoughts are circling, could-you-pull-it-off, will-you-fuck-it-up, Viktor-thinks-you-could-reverse-the-spin-of-the-earth-of-course-he-thinks-you-can-coach. He takes a deep breath and tries not to listen. “I think…” he starts, and trails off.

“He says he’s going to finish the season out with his current coach, so you have some time to think about it,” Viktor says.

“Yeah,” Yuuri says.

 

He thinks about it. He thinks about it sitting on the counter watching Viktor make lunch. Viktor can toss an egg up and crack it on the edge of a spatula into a tiny pan, but for the longest time he would not actually cook the egg without burning it. Worse, he was not aware that he was burning it, just somehow thought that eggs tasted like that unless other people made them, and had been cooking and eating burnt eggs his entire adult life. Of course, Yuuri’s mother’s kitchen was where such ignorance stopped: Viktor had been taught to cook an egg, and has been, for some time, Her Official Vegetable Chopper.

His lunches usually consist of sandwiches, though, since he is less successful at actually cooking the vegetables (two words: Absentminded. Mush). He’s daring today, though, attempting to make rice. Yuuri’s known how to make rice for as long as he could remember. He spent his childhood literally clinging to his mom’s apron strings, and anyone in the kitchen with momma Katsuki was going to be put to work. He wonders if this was how his mother felt watching him learn to cook: it’s honestly very nervewracking.

“Viktor,” he says. “That’s kind of a lot more rice than you think it is?”

Viktor pinches a single grain between his fingers and tosses it back in the bag. “Better?”

“You’re ridiculous,” Yuuri laughs, and Viktor grins.

He thinks about it when he takes Makkachin on a run. He straps his backpack on so that he can pick up bread from the corner store (Viktor moans about the corner store only carrying fluffy white wonderbread to the point where Yurio had shipped him a loaf of the darkest rye bread Yuuri had ever seen accompanied by a very jokingly nasty note). Makkachin loves to visit the corner store, because Mr. Uchida exclaims over him and says “paw!” Makkachin gives him his paw gladly, knowing that a treat will follow, and then Mr. Uchida will ask Yuuri how his granddaughter’s lessons are going, because she is in Viktor’s Monday afternoon beginner class at Ice Castle, and then he will ask how Viktor is doing, because his granddaughter is, understandably, head-over-heels in puppy love with him, and then he will ask how Yuuri is doing and tell him he is very proud of him and say he remembers when Yuuri was just a tiny little one who didn’t realize you had to pay for KitKats before leaving the store. Makkachin likes this question part almost as much as he likes the tricks-for-treats part, because he gets to flop down by the counter and rest his grey head on his paws until he’s caught his breath and feels ready to head home. Yuuri thinks the question part is embarrassing, but he likes it, too. Letting himself see when people are proud of him feels odd in his chest, like it doesn’t quite fit, but it’s soft, too, flower-petal soft.

Yuuri gets a loaf of bread and a bag of peanuts and two Peach Waters, because he and Viktor have been on a Peach Water kick lately, and a jar of strawberry jam, because Viktor keeps using it all for his tea, and then jogs home, Makkachin loping next to him. He stops once to let Makkachin catch his breath as they cross the bridge, and he drinks one of the Peach Waters leaning against the metal railing and looking out over the water.  

He thinks about it when he’s teaching his Tuesday morning beginner class. Viktor’s Snapchat story is filling up with videos of Yuuri and the kids at an alarming rate, if the delighted sounds Viktor makes from the rinkside are any indication. They’re working on their stops. There’s lots of slamming into the boards and stumbling over toepicks, but then little Kagawa Aiko does something closer to a hockey stop than the snowplow stop Yuuri had taught them, with control and even a little grace, scraping the finest layer of snow off the ice, and Yuuri wants to grab her hands and twirl her about as a grin spreads across her face.

“Coach Yuuri! Did I do good?” she shouts.

“Wonderful!” Yuuri says. “Let’s do it again!”

“I saw Viktor’s story, and just tell me: please, please, when will I hold little baby Katsuki-Nikiforov?” Phichit says that night over voice chat. They’re waiting for Leo to accept their group request, talking over the Overwatch menu screen. Yurio makes a small sound of disgust. Otabek makes a small sound that’s probably agreement, though it’s hard to tell with Otabek.

“You’re worse than my mom,” Yuuri says, but the thought of Phichit holding their kid makes something jump in his chest.

“Has Viktor started nesting yet?” Phichit says.

“He’s not one of your hamsters,” Yuuri says.

“I have!” Viktor, who is lying on the floor at Yuuri’s feet stretching and working his way through his paperback copy of Les Mis in the original French, says at the same time.

Yurio screams.

“Hey, guys!” Leo says. “What’s up?”

“Don’t ask,” Yurio says.

“Should we start looking for a match?” Otabek says delicately.

“Wait!” Phichit says. “We’re talking about babies!”

“Save it for while we’re waiting in Skirmish, Chulanont!” Yurio says. “You’re making me have feelings and I need to get violent in these video games, now .”

“Interesting,” Phichit says.

“Don’t interesting at me!” Yurio says, setting to destroying the spawn room, Reaper chanting “death comes for all! Death comes for all!”

“Otabek! Help me!” Yurio says.

“Okay,” Otabek says.

“You’ve succeeded in distracting me,” Phichit says, joining in.

"Guys," Leo says.

 

Yuuri talks it over with Phichit, of course. He’s talked a lot of decisions over with Phichit: should he take this class, everyone says the professor is awful but it’s at the perfect time? Should he major in exercise science or business? Should he go back to therapy? Should he actually marry Viktor, he sleeps with socks on? In fact, Yuuri’s pretty sure that the only major decision of his adult life made without Phichit’s consultation was to go to Detroit and to leave Detroit.

This particular consultation is going as they usually do.

“Yuuri,” Phichit says. “My perfect, beautiful boy. You smart. You loyal. You grateful. I appreciate that.”

“Okay,” Yuuri says. “But I’m pretty sure I’m not qualified for this.” The marrow of his bones says he can do this. It’s kind of hard to hear that over all the noise of his head, a highlight reel of all the times novice kids have cried in his classes.

“You went to the Olympics,” Phichit says, “you sweet baby bird. You're an Olympic gold medalist.”

“I mean,” Yuuri says. “Yeah, but.”

“I’m rolling up my sleeves and going in,” Phichit says. “I’ve seen you teach kids. You’re good.

“I’m really not,” Yuuri says.

“Okay, you say this, but give me a reason?” Phichit says.

“I’m not--” Yuuri doesn’t know what to say. Before he taught his first class at Ice Castle, when he was sixteen, he’d typed up a script and printed it and practiced it in front of the mirror.

He’d found out pretty quickly that there’s nothing like little kids to throw a loop into things. He’d ended up panicking in the bathroom while Yuuko took over the class. The next week, though, he had come back again, and again and again, because that was what he had to do for everything. It wasn’t that he stopped needing the script, it was that every time he taught it expanded. He thinks of Minako’s flexibility, when something small would set Yuuri off or students ran late or didn’t understand her explanations. He thinks of Viktor and his easy back and forth with kids and parents. “I’m not Viktor,” Yuuri says. “I’m not Minako. I’m can’t think of things to do, and I can’t do it quick enough. And they’re just good, at, at teaching, at coaching.”

“Viktor,” Phichit says, “can make a million person suits. He likes it, it’s fun." Yuuri’s seen Viktor come back from teaching the kids exhausted and off kilter, destabilized, somehow, enough to realize that it might not be fun for Viktor, but it’s true Viktor can slip from persona to persona with a kind of mesmerizing performative flair. “And Minako’s been doing this for how many years?” Phichit continues. “Of course it’s easier for her, she’s literally seen it all. Like, seen it all . When she gets drunk she has some wild stories.”

“Believe me, I know,” Yuuri says.

“You wouldn’t be thinking about this much if you didn’t think you could do it,” Phichit says.

“I know,” Yuuri says.

“So I’m guessing we’re done on this topic for the day,” Phichit says. “Now I have to tell you about this comment I saw on Guang-Hong’s instagram the other day…”

Phichit works through instagram drama until Yuuri’s laughing so hard it hurts, relaxed enough that a story about one of the kids in his intermediate class spills out easily. They then discuss Leo’s free skate, which Leo has apparently talked about extensively with Phichit. They rag on Leo gently for continued usage of Christian rap. Yuuri feels slightly guilty, but since no one comes to Phichit with anything they really want to be a secret because he will tell everyone (with the exception of Yuuri’s secrets, which Phichit will take to the grave unless level 11225: you are Yuuri’s fiance has been reached, thus unlocking legions of embarrassing college stories), Yuuri doesn’t feel too guilty.

“Also, we’re not done here, Katsuki, my sweet baby angel,” Phichit says before they hang up the phone. “We’re talking about this again, probably tomorrow.”

“Leo’s free skate?” Yuuri says.

“No!” Phichit says. “You know what!”

“I’m sure I don’t,” Yuuri says.

Phichit squacks. Yuuri hangs up on him.

 

He talks it over with Minako, with Mari, with his mom. He doesn’t say, I don’t know if I can, I don’t know if I want to. They say, if you want to then you can, Yuuri, we know you can.

He thinks, maybe they are his bone deep knowing, his steady backbone and his good posture. Or maybe it was inherited, and made in him, so he can carry it everywhere.

 

“A little bird told me you might be coaching Minami Kenjiro,” Chris says.

“Viktor!” Yuuri says.

“He already knew when I told him!” Viktor says.

“The bird was Phichit, actually,” Chris says, and Chris and Phichit’s blossoming friendship began with mutual best-man-ing and will probably end with both Yuuri and Viktor’s deaths.

“So devious,” Viktor sighs.

“Oh, very ,” Chris says, and winks, because he’s Chris.

Yuuri gives him his steely-firmest look.

“See!” Chris says, fanning himself with his hand. “That’s why you’d be a good coach, Yuuri! Jesus.”

“Chris! He would coach Minami Kenjiro, not dom him!” Viktor says.

“So kind of the opposite situation of what he did to you,” Chris says.

Viktor squeaks.

“So you’re saying I was domming Viktor when I was supposed to be coaching him?” Yuuri says. Sometimes sentences scratch the same part in his head that just doesn’t get recursion, and this is one of them.

“Yeah, I can’t really figure out how to make that joke work, but it’s in there somewhere,” Chris says.

“Sto-o-op,” Viktor groans, sliding down in his chair out of view of the webcam.

“Oh, sit up before you fall off your chair again,” Yuuri says, shoving at Viktor’s thigh.

“See, Yuuri can be bossy ,” Chris says, “unlike Mr. Marshmallow coach here--”

“I was so bossy when I needed to be,” Viktor says.

“Okay,” Chris says.

“Wow, you sure sound convinced!” Viktor says.

“You’re demanding, but not bossy,” Chris says. “In, like, every context.”

“True,” Yuuri says.

Chris makes a high-five-motion Yuuri’s way.

“You’re talking about me as a coach, I’m assuming, Yuuri,” Viktor says slyly.

“Yep,” Yuuri says.

“And how much did you need to boss Yuuri around, anyways?” Chris continues. “Probably like three times. But Minami’s pretty give-an-inch, take-a-mile, it seems like. Weird that he didn’t do well in nationals this season, though now that I know I know he was going through things with his coach, it makes more sense.”

“Yeah, I surprised,” Yuuri says. “He’s never been super steady, but he’s very capable.

“I guessed there was something going on,” Viktor says. “He seemed pretty distracted.”

“He reminds me of you when you were young,” Chris says. “Just a bit.”

“Huh,” Yuuri says. He’s heard stories, of course, and he’s seen Viktor around the house: he’s pacy and busy and loud, sometimes. But he was never so simple, so carefree, in the press conferences and photoshoots and newspaper clippings from his teens and twenties, as Minami is. And when Viktor had walked into the rink, it was obvious even in the pixelated videos and grainy tv transmissions: he’d had a focus like a laser.

“Underneath it all,” Chris says, dry. “And off the ice, but yeah. I can see it.”

Viktor still has his head tilted, considering. “Now that I see it that way. Yeah, sort of.”

They share a look. There’s a lot in it.

Yuuri doesn’t mind: he can make Phichit laugh just by raising his eyebrow just so. It makes him glad, if he’s honest, when Chris and Viktor get into a conversation that’s as much looks and history as words, that Viktor wasn’t truly alone for so long and so young, now that he sees the look of Viktor’s face in his posters as the locked-up look he gets when he’s covered himself in so many layers that it all gets icy.

Besides, he and Viktor have their own looks and their own history. Viktor and Yuuri and their friends are planets swinging around each other, subtly influencing each other’s orbits, sharing in the light of the sun, they’re deep-rooted plants reaching and grow towards and into each other.

Sometimes, Yuuri thinks of things that make his life feel like burrowing into warm blankets on a cold night.

 

Yurio’s finsta is usually rants, selfies of herself in new dresses or leather jackets or hairstyles or makeup captioned with things like GODDAMN BITCH I AM NOT A TEEN CHOICE, pictures of Otabek with puppies, dogs, kittens, children, or food, or more rants.

When Yuuri sees a readmore under a blurry picture of a bowl of broccoli, he’s expecting a rant. Either about vegetables, or a Certain Redheaded Rinkmate Who Won’t Be Named But Is a Fucking GREMLIN.

tigereyed: do you know how some fucking people worry all the fucking time abt shit like theyre morons when really theyre literally the best people on earth and could probably do,,,,,anything they wanted to do they could probably go to SPACE???? like the nicest best person like what the fuck what kind of thick fucking dumbass shit?!?!! them like oh im just small hot bean whatever and i cant do anything cuz i suck whatever SHUT THE FUCK UP????

firehairedlesbian: what the fuck does this even say

tigereyed: SHUT UP HAG???????

poodlekisses: “hot small bean” eyes emoji????

“Viktor!” Yuuri calls, and starts tapping out a message to Phichit.

Um...did Yurio just make a post about me???

“Yeah?” Viktor calls.

“Eyes emoji?” Yuuri calls back.

“I shouldn’t make fun of his feelings, should I,” Viktor says.

OHHHH MY GOOOD IM SCREAMING THANK YOU LITTLE YURI FOR MY LIFE??? Phichit texts back. i can’t believe you saw it before i did???

“I don’t even really know what to do from here,” Yuuri says.

“We just have to love her,” Viktor says solemnly.

 

Yuuri talks about it with Viktor, of course.

It’s ongoing, it’s a hum underneath the normal rhythm of their week.

He’s good, and I’d have to do right by him Yuuri says in his stare into his coffee cup.

Look what you made me, Viktor says, noodling through step sequences after-hours at Ice Castle with his face glowing like a flower opening towards the sun, tossing his head with a laugh and a grin Yuuri’s way.

“You’re ambitious,” Viktor says, sprawling out on the grass while Yuuri sits cross-legged next to him, Makkachin sleeping on the rug they’ve set on the warm concrete of the patio. “You don’t want to sit here forever, I don’t think.”

“So are you,” Yuuri says.

“To have ambition you have to actually be good at something,” Viktor says wryly.

“You’re good at lots of things,” Yuuri says.

“Not yet,” Viktor says.

You made it look easy, didn’t you. They didn’t know how much work you put in. Yuuri says as much with his hand sliding over Viktor’s hip, where the cartilage is worn thin inside the joints.

Viktor tips his head back, shows the long line of his throat, slits his eyes at Yuuri. Yuuri’s heart catches his throat all over again, goosebumps prickling up his arms in the hot of the summer sun.

You steel-backed boy, Viktor says all through his body, husband, husband, husband , and Yuuri kisses him until they ache.

 

“I think...she might need more speed? In the leadup?” he says the next day, tentative, to Yuuko, watching Loop practice her triple axel. “Not more speed, actually. It’s...a hesitation.”

Yuuko looks, considering at Loop, then at Yuuri. “You’re right,” she says. “Lu-chan! No hesitation, Coach Yuuri here says!”

“I didn’t notice her hesitation. I would’ve just suggested more speed,” Viktor says.

Yuuri shrugs. Viktor never hesitates. “I just. I know what it looks like.”

Yuuri can feel the shape of something in the center of their dance, something they’re orbiting around. He can’t tell what it is yet, but he can tell now that they’re getting closer to it.

Ice Castle after hours again, music tinny on Viktor’s phone, Viktor edging figures on the ice and Yuuri copying. It’s childish, it’s play. It’s wonderful. They call everything on the ice love, racing each other, then, from one side of the rink to the other.

Yuuri does a big ice-shredding snowplow stop in Viktor’s direction, showering him with snow.

Viktor looks balefully at Yuuri, like Makkachin does when they wrestle him into the bathtub.

“I wish I was still your coach so I could go make you run a million miles,” Viktor says, but he laughs, bright like the flick of fluorescent lights.

Yuuri laughs, too. “Here. Let’s dance, I’ll warm you up,” he says. He holds out his arms, and Viktor comes into them, ice-speckled and wild-eyed with joy. Yuuri leads to start with, but he’s not as quick with choreography on the fly as Viktor is. Viktor bursts with ideas, spinning through them fast and graceful, and Yuuri finds it’s not hard to follow. They both like repetition, and so Viktor incorporates lots of that, the rock-flap-muscle burn tick-tick-ticking rhythm. They move together well, and Yuuri thinks he could do this forever, the bursts of feeling under his skin, the way they turn and twist into each other.

They’re breathing hard when they come to a stop.

“Vitya,” Yuuri says, Viktor’s eyes getting at soft and sweet at the diminutive like they always do. “It makes me…” Scared. Terrified. “Nervous.”

He realizes he’s been saying, I’m going to say yes for a while now.

“It’s new,” Viktor says. “You’re going to be so wonderful at it.”

“I’m going to do my best,” Yuuri says, and he feels ice-firm and fire-hot. “Viktor, please...be his choreographer?” He doesn’t need to look at Viktor’s face, just pushes his face into Viktor’s chest and holds him tight. Please, please, I don’t want to do this alone.

“Yuuri,” Viktor says. “Yuuri, I would love to. I...I was hoping…”

The cotton of Viktor’s hoodie is wet where Yuuri’s face is pressed into it. Yuuri’s startled but not surprised to find that it’s because he’s crying: he hadn’t even noticed his eyes getting hot. “You were?” he says, pulling his face away from Viktor’s chest and doing a perfunctory swipe at his eyes with the sleeves of his hoodie.

“There’s nothing I’d rather do,” Viktor says, offering his own sweater sleeve. Yuuri just takes Viktor’s hand and nuzzles his cheek into it, the feel of Viktor’s wedding ring warm against Yuuri’s wet skin still sending a thrill through him. “I didn’t want to ask,” Viktor says. “Because it’s your thing, and it’s your choice, and I didn’t want you to think…Well.”

Viktor ,” Yuuri says, and they cling to each other in the big empty echo-y bare-metal-and-plastic space of the rink.

 

“So did you and Viktor have a fight about, I don't know, not washing the dishes, and make up, or what? I just saw his instagram post.” Phichit says on the phone that night. “Certified sappy boy.”

“You’re on speakerphone,” Yuuri says dryly.

“He knows he’s certified! They don’t just hand you that for free, you have to jump through all sorts of hurdles to get sappyboy certification,” Phichit says.

"Actually, I made a decision about coaching Minami,” Yuuri says. “The dishes have all been getting washed around here.”

“I kept forgetting so we made a chart,” Viktor says. “The triplets let us borrow their glitter glue. It's so big, I see it everytime and I remember.”

“Wait, sorry, Viktor, hold on about the chart for a second,” Phichit says. “Yuuri, you better have said yes. Please tell me you said yes.”

“Of course I said yes,” Yuuri says.

“Of course he did,” Viktor echos.

“Of course ,” Phichit says.

“You wouldn’t have asked me that unless you already knew I had said yes,” Yuuri says. “Because if I’d said no I would’ve probably cried. What’s the deal?”

“Chris told me,” Phichit says. “He texted me, like, five seconds ago.”

“Viktor? You told Chris already?” Yuuri says.

“I’m just so excited,” Viktor confesses, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.

Yuuri can’t help but grin at him across the kitchen table. Viktor grins back and swings his feet back and forth under the table, eyes crinkling in the yellow glow of the kitchen lights and the cold blue light of the laptop and Yuuri’s phone.

“Okay, okay, okay, break it up! I can’t see anything, but break it up!” Phichit says.

“I’m writing the email right now,” Yuuri says. “Very professional.”

“Better you than me,” Phichit says. “Anyways, I’m crying right now. I can’t believe I’m going to kick that kid’s ass at Cup of China.”

“Oh my god,” Viktor says. “Oh my god, you should see the look on Yuuri’s face. He’s getting all competitive.

“Isn’t he kind of sexy when he makes that face?” Phichit says.

Yes ,” Viktor says.

“I will hang up on you,” Yuuri says.

“Add in your really professional email that you can distract the opposition by making really sexy competitive faces at them,” Phichit says. “And if they throw in a couple hundred extra, you’ll make out with your really hot Russian husband and really distract them.”

“Did you and Chris make some kind of bet about which of you could manage to have a threesome with us first?” Yuuri says. It’s the kind of thing that slips out, rarely, when he’s distracted enough that his typically overactive brain-to-mouth filter is completely gone.

Viktor turns bright red.

Phichit’s shrieking with laughter, horrible and staticy through the phone. He has lots of experience with stoned-Yuuri and redbull-and-two-hours-of-sleep-Yuuri and mysterious-alcohols-mixed-in-a-trashcan-in-a-frat-house-Yuuri, all conditions in which said brain-to-mouth filter is even less present. “Thanks for the idea! We hadn’t thought to bet on it yet!”

Yuuri fumbles for payback, finds it quickly. “The real question is,” he says, “we know Chris and Ben have their thing all worked out. How would Seung-gil feel about that?”

“Absolutely no way at all,” Phichit says, very quickly.

“Really?” Yuuri says. “How come the only picture he’s posted and tagged someone in besides his dog is of you?”

Viktor gasps. “Yuuri. I just realized. We need to make Makkachin an instagram. We’re the worst dog parents.”

“He was around, we had bubble tea, he has no friends,” Phichit says. “Yes, make Makkachin an instagram, even though both of your instagrams are practically Makkachin’s. I’ll get him to, like, 45k by the end of the week.”

“He should have a million ,” Viktor says.

“Two million,” Yuuri says.
“I’ll work on it,” Phichit says.

“We're talking about this tomorrow, Chulanont,” Yuuri says.

“Makkachin’s instagram?” Phichit says.

No, ” Yuuri says. “You know what I'm talking about!”

This time, Phichit hangs up on him.

 

Yuuri agonizes over the email, just a bit. He knows now that his shyness comes across as coldness, so he doesn’t want to be too formal, but he also doesn’t want to be too familiar. He’s a professional, after all.

Viktor shrugs. Yuuri wasn’t really sure why he’d expected Viktor to be much help, considering his history as a coach (track record: one student, now husband). He had been an excellent coach, but professionalism hadn’t exactly been his strong suit. The Nishigori triplets have got him hooked on emoticons, and so he suggests that Yuuri add some.

“I’m not adding emoticons,” Yuuri says.

“I would’ve,” Viktor says. “I send a knife emoji to an ISU official once. But they all thought I was stupid, so they didn’t care.”

“Context?” Yuuri says.

“I can’t remember,” Viktor says sadly. “But it was probably great.”

Yuuri realizes that he probably shouldn’t have worried when Minami emails him back. It’s speckled with exclamation points, and. “Look, Vitya. There’s your emoticon,” Yuuri says.

Viktor sets his teacup and tablet down and peers seriously at the email. “Beautiful,” he says. “Not as beautiful as you.”

Yuuri blushes. “I actually have a nose.”

Viktor nods. “A very good one, too.”

Viktor settles back to his reading, but Yuuri can tell that he isn’t actually reading, because he usually likes to follow the lines with his finger so he can find his place again if he gets distracted.

“Vitya,” Yuuri says, slouching down in his chair and stretching his leg out under the table to run his foot up the inside of Viktor’s leg. He accidentally nudges Makkachin with his heel.

“I’m so-o sorry, pup,” Yuuri says, as Makkachin scrambles to his feet and weaves around chair legs to Yuuri’s side, and then says to Viktor, “Distracted or thinking?”

“Thinking,” Viktor says. “I mean, I’ve been thinking. He plans to come train in Hatsetsu.”

“Umm-hmm,” Yuuri says.

“Where is he planning on staying?” Viktor says.

“I guess we haven’t really gotten there yet,” Yuuri says, frowning at his computer. Minami had given some times he would be able to call to discuss details.

“I just wasn’t sure…” Viktor says. “I guess I just don’t know if it would be a good idea if he stayed with us? I wasn’t sure if you were going to offer.”

Yuuri’s been making lists of all the factors, all the things he had to discuss with Viktor, with Minami, with Yuuko and Takeshi. He’d thought absently about Minami staying in the house with them. They had a guest room (currently with a huge stuffed tiger on the bed because Yurio was their most frequent visitor). He hadn’t really much thought about any one aspect in particular, still overwhelmed with all the planning and the variables.

“I guess I just remember that it was hard, sometimes, to live with my coach,” Viktor says, looking down into his teacup with his hair falling over his face, unscrutable except for the tension in the line of his shoulders. “I was really glad when I got my own apartment.”

And that makes sense. Yuuri remembered living with Viktor back when Viktor had been Coach Viktor almost all the time, the odd dance of it, the way Viktor seeing him eat or lounge around on his phone had made him feel nervous and guilty. He remembers the way Minami’s eyes light up when he sees Yuuri, and oh. It really would not be a good idea for Minami to stay with them.

“You’re right,” Yuuri says. “Maybe he could get an apartment? Or stay at the onsen? My old bedroom is still empty.”

Viktor nods. He looks relieved, almost. Yuuri understands why, remembers Yakov at the wedding, crying next to Yurio. Yuuri’s aunties and uncles had clustered around him, his cousins all exclaiming over his ring and his shoes and the way Viktor’s cobbled-together Japanese had a Kyushu accent. Viktor’s family was cobbled-together too, Lilia looking on tall and proud in a way that Yuuri thought maybe Viktor couldn’t see, Georgi standing morbid and teary at her side, Chris and Mila and Sara hanging all over Viktor to beam and straighten his tie and tease him about his mascara. But it's hard, family never called as such.

“We’ll work it all out before I call Minami,” Yuuri says. “I made a list.”

“I love lists,” Viktor says solemnly.

 

Minami’s not much taller than he was when he was fifteen. Yuuri would’ve lost him in the crush of the train station if not for his hair, all flame-red, now, and Viktor’s height advantage.

“There he is!” Viktor says, then calls in Japanese, “Over here, Kenjiro Minami!”

A tall light-haired man Russian man wearing a dog-print button-up stands out a little more here than a short Japanese guy wearing a plain blue t-shirt, and Yuuri can see Minami fix his eyes on Viktor as he makes his way towards them through the rapidly-thinning crowd of disembarkers.

“Hey, Minami,” Yuuri says. He’s nervous, he’s not sure why. Minami’s young and inexperienced compared to Yuuri, but where Minami has never competed in the GPF, let alone the Olympics, Yuuri has never been a coach for anyone over the age of nine.

“Hello, hello!” Minami says, bouncing on the tips of his toes. His full attention is on Yuuri, now, and it’s just as Much as it always has been. Combined with the noise of the train station, and Yuuri feels his shoulders hunching up.

“Let’s go to the car?” Viktor says, quickly, making his arm firm around Yuuri’s waist because touches that are soft hurt when things are loud.  

Minami eyes Viktor without suspicion but without interest. “Okay, sounds good,” he says.  

 

They get Minami settled at the onsen, everyone pitching in to haul his things into Yuuri’s childhood bedroom, which is now denuded of all characteristics that could’ve identified it as such, like his posters, his Pokemon comforter, and the bin full of ancient Nintendo DS cartridges under his bed.

His family have all been strictly informed not to breath a word about the fact that they’re putting Minami up in Yuuri’s childhood bedroom. Between his dad, his mom, and Mari, they’re probably going to let it slip within two days, but at least Yuuri can say he tried.

It’s not that Yuuri’s family doesn’t keep his secrets, it’s that they’re all too busy to remember what’s supposed to be a secret and what’s not.

Yuuri’s not really sure if Minami still has the whole childhood crush/hero worship thing he had going on before. Yuuri’s good at saying things with his body, he’s good at seeing people’s feelings on their faces and in their bodies when they don’t involve him, but as soon as they are directed his way they are as foreign as Cyrillic looked when he’d begun training in St. Petersberg.

Viktor’s a lot of help there: he’s good at reading people he doesn’t know well, a necessary skill for someone who got famous young and spent a lot of time picking up strange guys in clubs and bars. It’s somehow consummate in him, bone deep. He specializes in people’s feelings towards himself, but his abilities extend to Yuuri now.

“I don’t think so,” Viktor says as they drive back home, post-dinner dazy, though the evening quiet of Hatsetsu. “Maybe a little, but then again, won’t he always have some measure of awe about you and all you’ve accomplished?”

Yuuri smiles down at the steering wheel. “You know,” he says, glancing away from the road towards Viktor, who has forgotten to put on his seatbelt again. “I felt that way about you, and I still do.”

Viktor worms in his seat and presses his hands to his mouth, gleeful.

“Like you didn’t already know!” Yuuri says.

“But when you say it!” Viktor says.

Yuuri can’t help but smile, and it comes out shy, still.

“Yuuri, stop, you’re going to make me swoon !” Viktor says, tossing himself against the headrest dramatically. “You know,” he says, softer, “I’m in awe of you, too.” Yuuri already knew that, and somehow that makes hearing Viktor say it feel even better.

“Oh, stop, you,” Yuuri says, giving Viktor his best fondest look before turning his gaze back to the road.

When they get home (the kitchen light on, shining out into the drive and waiting for them, Makkachin’s face in the window) Viktor toes off his shoes and heads deeper into the house, without even setting his bag down.

“What are you doing?” Yuuri calls, putting containers from the bag of leftovers his mom had sent him home with them in the fridge.

“I’m sending this to Yurio,” Viktor says, and shows his phone screen: an unsent Snapchat of the spare bedroom, tidily dusted and clean with disuse, captioned “dont worry this rooms still for you!!”  

Yurio will probably send back a close-up of his scowling face, but she will also probably screenshot the picture.

“He’ll be happy about it,” Yuuri says.

“Good,” Viktor says, and sets about putting ridiculous stickers on it.

Yuuri shuts the fridge.

There’s nerves in his stomach, in the wide shape of his eyes in the window over the sink, the same nerves that always snuck in the night before competitions.

He hadn’t needed to compete. His parents would support him no matter what. Minako would teach him to dance if he never danced anywhere but the studio and his bedroom. He could’ve kept skating at Ice Palace to escape, just for a little, being human, not for one other reason. He’d competed anyways. He’d competed again, and again, and he’d spend the days and even the weeks before twisted into knots.

People in college had assumed, often, that he was logical: he was quiet and withdrawn and Japanese and (probably) visibly on the spectrum.

Viktor had laughed when Yuuri told this. “Yura, my love, I’m not saying you’re illogical,” he said. “But I think--”

“Don’t,” Yuuri groaned, because he knew where this was going, but Viktor had that look on that sometimes made no sense to Yuuri, a look like he’d rather look at Yuuri than anything else. It had made Yuuri flush with surprise, with an unexpected surge of possession, then, as it still does now.

“I think the logical conclusion to someone telling you you are incredibly attractive and beautiful and hot and then kissing you in front of everyone is maybe...that they want to date you?” Viktor said, teasing.

Yuuri had probably blushed harder and covered his face in his hands, and Viktor had probably plied him with kisses, because that was how that sort of thing usually went.

Yuuri wasn’t logical: the logical thing to do in the face of the stomachaches and headaches and panic attacks, the thrumming white noise buzz of lizard-brain electric panic, would’ve been to pursue any other career besides competitive figure skating. Something low-stakes, an office, a gym, with friendly coworkers and a set 9 to 5 work day.

He hadn't done that.

“Lost in thought?” Viktor says, tapping around on his phone until music blares out of the speakers. They’ve both been into the Weeknd lately, courtesy of Viktor by way of Chris, having just come out of a Carly Rae Jepsen kick picked up from Phichit.

Yuuri shrugs, switches his hips. He doesn’t want to think, right now. He wants to dance.

They clown around the kitchen, chasing then pursuing, Viktor pulling out his best bedroom eyes and his old I’m-the-extremely-flexible-nubile-young-thing-you-want-to-take-home moves, Yuuri smooching and grinning sly in Viktor’s direction like he’s about to perform Eros again.

“Wait!” Viktor cackles, corners Yuuri against the cabinets and wall-thumps him.

Yuuri laughs, and then growls, flipping Viktor so fast that Viktor’s shoulders slam against the wall as Yuuri gets him back with a wall-thump of his own.

“Wow!” Viktor says, delighted, placing his hand over Yuuri’s free hand and pulling Yuuri’s arm around his waist. The nerves come rushing back strong for a second as the rush of equilibrium fades away.

“Vitya,” Yuuri says. “Why am I doing this?”

“Um,” Viktor says. “Because I’m your extremely hot and needy husband who’s ready for you to carry him to the bedroom and toss him on the bed?”

“No, no, no!” Yuuri says, patting at the small of Viktor’s back. “Ah, I’m so sorry, honey! I meant coaching.”

Viktor melts a little, relieved and tender, now. “Are you nervous?”

Yuuri fights the split-second urge to deny, which would be ridiculous, because he’s the one who brought it up in the first place. “Yeah,” he admits. “I just...I feel like I do before competitions. I don’t know why, really. I mean, I do, it’s all new. But why...why do I do this? If it makes me nervous? It feels bad, but I don’t shrink away and I think that I maybe look for it, and Viktor, why?

“You’re astonishing,” Viktor says, “and unexplainable,” and he looks at Yuuri like Yuuri makes him breathless, like Yuuri is a miracle, like the icons that cry blood that he’s always talking about.

Yuuri pulls their hips together and leans in to kiss him, goal: senselessness, with the flat of his hand still splayed on the wall next to Viktor’s head.

Viktor makes a happy little contented sound into Yuuri’s mouth, sags into Yuuri’s grip.

Yuuri breaks the kiss, leans his forehead against Viktor’s. “You said something about carrying you to the bedroom and tossing you on the bed,” he says.

Please, ” Viktor says.

“Well, we’re due early at the rink tomorrow,” Yuuri says, coy.

“Yuuri, you’re going to make me die ,” Viktor says.

“Chris has taught me some clever French jokes I could make about that,” Yuuri says.

Yuuri! ” Viktor says.

“Less talking, more kissing, I get it,” Yuuri says.

They’ve always been better with actions than with words anyways.

 

The first morning is hard. He forces down half a protein shake before the texture is too much, eats a stack of cookies instead, laughs at the increasingly complex strings of emojis Phichit is winging his way, and turns down Viktor’s offers of driving him to the rink, because Viktor’s driving would, frankly, make him more nervous.

They end up walking to Ice Castle, Makkachin at their side, through the humid cool mist blown in off the sea. Minami had assured them that he could find his way to the rink himself, and Yuuri understood the need for self-possession in the face of newness and hadn’t questioned him or pressed the matter.

The rink is supposed to be dog-free, but Makkachin is the exception. He will stay in the lobby with Yuuko, napping by her feet until eleven, when open skate will begin and children will stream in eager to scritch his head and rub his belly.

“Makkachin!” Axel squeals from behind the front desk, swinging her legs off the desk with a clomp. Yuuko has the phone pinned to her shoulder, nodding. She waves to Viktor and Yuuri with one hand and wags her finger at Axel with the other. Makkachin gives Viktor a look like he’s asking for permission, the way he always does.

“Go on, boy!” Viktor says, grinning, and Makkachin trots over to Axel’s side.

“Thanks for bringing the perfect boy!” she says.

Yuuko claps a hand over the speaker of the phone and says, “Minami’s by the rink, he got here early and Takeshi helped him stretch!”

“Thanks, Yu-chan,” Yuuri says. Viktor squeezes Yuuri’s hand in his.

Minami’s slouched in the bleachers, skates laced, shaking his leg up and down and swiping his finger across his phone screen.

“Hello, Coach Katsuki!” Minami says, scrambling to his feet.

For a second Minami is entirely incomprehensible, which sends a lightning-like spike of nervousness through Yuuri’s chest. He could be nervous, or excited, or annoyed, or all three. Yuuri reminds himself how long it took to be able to understand Phichit, to understand Viktor . He quickly checks off annoyed ( big smile: one tooth still endearingly crooked, fidgeting with the hem of his jacket, Viktor gets stony cold when he’s annoyed, it’s when he’s least likely to fidget, and Minami is like Viktor, in a way, right). Nervous or excited or both, even annoyed: it doesn’t matter. Yuuri can work with all of them.

“Just call me Yuuri,” Yuuri says, because who is Coach Katsuki? “It’s good you’re already stretched, let me just get my skates on and then we’ll see where you are?”

Minami snaps a big over-exaggerated salute and scrambles for the ice. He openly gawks over the boards as Viktor laces Yuuri’s skates. There’s something of Yurio in him: the unsubtly, probably. Yuuri had seen through Yurio quick in some ways, and slow in others. It settles him, that thought. It will take time, but that will be alright, because he has time.

Viktor lays his forehead against Yuuri’s kneecap, wraps his fingers around the muscle of Yuuri’s curve and takes a deep breath before getting to his feet, careful of his hip, always, now. He offers his hand, and Yuuri takes it, let’s Viktor pull him up off the bench.

“Go on, Coach,” Viktor says with a grin.

“You better watch us,” Yuuri says. “We’ll need programs choreographed quick!”

“Of course,” Viktor says.

 

By the end of the first week, Yuuri feels as tired as if he was the one in training. He’d had a routine, a retirement routine, which in addition to providing the simple but all-encompassing satisfaction of a routine had also been an extremely wonderful routine, made up of husband and dog, friends and family and rink.

He’s working on creating a new one, though, and it will be equally good.

Sunday, he’s decided, will be a light day: instead of going back to the rink after lunch, they’ll take the afternoon off.

Yuuri had remembered how difficult it had been the first few weeks in Detroit, without his family and surrounded by strangers. It wasn’t until Phichit’s arrival that Yuuri was pulled (literally, physically, pulled, Phichit’s impressive skater lower body strength on full display) from the small dorm-room-cafeteria-library-classroom-rink circle he had tentatively carved out.

Minami doesn’t appear to be having a similar problem: the Nishigori triplets, despite being a couple years younger, have already taken him into their fold, and they’re planning on going to the noodle shop and then to a movie.

It leaves him and Viktor with the pleasant prospect of a lazy Sunday lounging around the house.

They walk Makkachin in a big loop to the beach and back, but they don’t linger, the beach crowded with teenagers and families who must’ve had the same idea they did.

Upon arriving home, they’re greeted with a wave by Mrs. Ito next door, who is sweeping her front porch with the kind of lazy slowness that means she’s using it as an excuse to watch the comings and goings of everyone on the street.

They wave back, but Mrs. Ito has an uncanny talent for sucking people into conversation, and before Yuuri knows it Viktor is chattering away, as he does, a smudge of sunblock that he didn’t quite rub in on the side of his nose because the sunblock in his foundation is not enough if he’s going to be in the sun between eleven in the morning and two in the afternoon as he'd discovered after the first few sunburns.

“See, I’m not used to the humidity like my Yuuri is, yet,” he says. He’s firmly convinced that he fits into Hatsetsu because he loves Yuuri just as much as the town does. Yuuri thinks that’s ridiculous: how could you not love Viktor, who manages to be charming while sitting on the hood of the Prius wearing his ridiculous douchey tanktop with the massive armholes, the type that Yuuri associates with bored frat boys in gen ed classes back in college (“I get overheated!” Viktor says with great dignity), and his thousand-dollar sunglasses?

It’s impossible.

Yuuri watches him for a bit from the shade of the porch, but all the sun makes Yuuri want a nap , and so he retreats inside with Makkachin, who pads up onto the couch, which is his chosen perch for late-afternoon backyard bird-watching.

It warm and still in the house, sun coming in through the bedroom windows, making the dust in the air glitter gold. Viktor hung the sheets out in the garden to dry in the morning. By the time he brought them in, they had been in the dark shade of the wisteria tree for a while, and so they are cool, still, against Yuuri’s arms and legs, smelling all sweet with summer.

“Hi, love” Viktor says, leaning against the doorframe.

“Hi, yourself,” Yuuri says.

“Tired?” Viktor says.

“Very,” Yuuri says. Viktor likes it when Yuuri asks him to do things, a fact that makes Yuuri thrill through his whole body every time he remembers it. “Can you lie on me?” he says.

Viktor’s face gets bright, the way it always does when Yuuri asks Viktor to take of care him. “Of course,” he says, and sprawls himself on top of Yuuri.

Yuuri heaves in a deep breath. It feels good, all his joints pressed together. Viktor is warm and breathes softly in a good rhythm, even better than a weighted blanket. Yuuri feels a shiver run down his back to the tips of his toes, and then the feeling of calm. Feather-light, he lets himself sink into the bed.The sound of Viktor’s breath, the wind in the trees outside, the whirr of an electric fan in the other room.  Yuuri reaches up to stroke his hand over Viktor’s sun-warm hair.

I love you, I love you , my husband, he lets it say.

“Hey, Yuuri,” Viktor says.

“Hmm?”

“I want to show you…” Viktor presses his face closer to Yuuri’s collarbone. “I want to show something I’ve been learning to play, on the keyboard.”

Sometimes Yuuri is startled by the breaking of something in his chest, like a wave cresting. He feels that surge now, sharp-soft.

“I’d love to hear it,” Yuuri says.

Viktor leads Yuuri towards the keyboard by the hand, fumbles to pull the headphones from the audio jack and spreads out sheet music. It’s untitled and it doesn’t look easy: runs everywhere in the left and the right hands. The sheets are scribbled with notes in Viktor’s untidy Cyrillic and numbers for fingerings.

Yuuri knows it from the first measure.

It’s slower than the version his classmate in Detroit had recorded. Viktor huffs as he goes into a two octave run, starts it again half-speed. But it is, unmistakably, his song, his recordmaker, all wrapped up in memories like layers of tissue paper: he remembers every beat of it. He spins in place without realizing it, his arms making the shapes that are still etched into his body.

Viktor ends it so softly, his fingers gentle on the plastic keys.

Yuuri nearly tips the keyboard bench over trying to pull him as close as possible. He’s a little teary, his voice blurry as he says, “you learned that for me?”

“Of course,” Viktor says, and he sounds all wavery, too. “Phichit gave me your musician friend’s email, and she still had the sheets, and she sent them to me.”

Since when did Phichit start keeping Viktor’s secrets, Yuuri thinks, and the thought is the most wonderful.

Yuuri feels bright and warm as a star. He can feel Viktor’s hands twisting in his shirt, and he slides his own hands through the big armholes of Viktor’s douchey tanktop to feel the shifting marvel of the muscles of Viktor’s back: real and solid and here, and so close.

 

Monday morning, Viktor asks, “So, Minami, why did you decide to switch coaches?”

Minami gawks at Viktor for a minute. Yuuri does too: Viktor’s blunt mining for personal information hasn’t shown its face in a while.

Minami clearly does not know what, exactly to make of Viktor. Mostly he pays him little attention beyond what is polite and friendly, because Minami is nothing if not polite and friendly. He is clearly Here For Yuuri, which Viktor likes because he is also very clearly Here For Yuuri, too. Yuuri thinks that if he had asked Minami why he had switched coaches, Minami would have given him a quick and false answer.

Viktor has on his airy-and-casual face, which is somehow also one of the most intimidating faces in Viktor’s arsenal.

Minami only manages to stare at Viktor a few more seconds before his gaze drops. “I didn’t do well in nationals last year,” he says. “I saw Yuri Plisetsky,” he says. “I’m getting older. He broke your record when he was sixteen. I don’t know, I just. Needed to try.”

Viktor nods, absently, and skates down to the far corner of the rink.

Yuuri sees him, occasionally, working through parts of step sequences Yuuri hasn’t seen before or leaning against the boards with his earbuds in, staring distantly at the screen of his phone. He focuses on Minami, though, because it seems wrong, of course, to not return the new intensity that he is showing in his skating. He made it to the Cup of China last season, even though he ended his international season there after placing last. Yuuri has watched the videos of his performance many times. There’s something new to him, now.

He wants to be in their orbit, Yuuri thinks. He thinks of Minami arriving early every day last week to the rink. He can see Viktor in him, and Yurio, and he can see himself, in pieces like a mirror broke and glued into a mosaic.

Viktor is thoughtful when they get home that evening. He dances around the couch, shuffling carefully around furniture corners.

Yuuri perches on the arm of the couch and watches. Viktor is beautiful when he dances, and slightly wrongfooted: like he’s surprised with every step to find he’s on solid ground and not ice.

He stops, tucks his hair behind his ear, sighs.

“Choreography?” Yuuri says.

“Umm-hmm,” Viktor hums.

It all comes in a big rush for Viktor when he choreographs: song, steps, shapes. He looks, now, the same way he does when he’s sorting laundry, like the jumble makes his head hurt.

“He came here because of you,” Viktor says. “Because he wants you to make him like you.”

Yuuri shrugs.

“No one skates like you,” Viktor says. “No one else does.”

The compliment makes Yuuri feel hot and shivery. He bows his head and accepts it, which makes the corners of Viktor’s mouth turn up in a small smile.

“He changed coaches because,” Viktor says, steps forward, spins a half-spin on his toes, a question.

Minami didn’t medal at the Cup of China, two seasons ago. He was up against Phichit, against Leo, against Guang-Hong. He’d tried, but he couldn’t. Minami wants to medal at the cup of China. He wants to reach the GPF. He hadn’t placed in the top three at Nationals last season. Something going on with his coach, something else going on, Yuuri thought, but he wouldn’t ask, he would let Minami meet him when he was ready. But Minami has two reliable quads and energy and no knee or hip or spine problems. He has.

“Ambition,” Yuuri says. “For his theme.” He adds quickly, “not to overstep! You’re the choreographer, Viktor, I was just thinking out loud.”

“Yuuri,” Viktor says. “It’s perfect. I knew...I knew what it felt like, but I couldn’t think of what it was called.”

He makes shapes in the air with his arms, balletic, clicking out out a syncopated rhythm with his tongue.

“If his theme is going to be ambition, the program is going to have to be ambitious,” Viktor says. “Do you think he's ready?”

Yuuri’s mind scrambles, thinking of a million contingency plans. He remembers telling Viktor to believe, more than Yuuri did, that Yuuri would win. And Viktor had.

“I think so,” Yuuri says. “And Viktor?”

“Yes?” Viktor says.

“Please don’t pull out Coach Viktor on Minami like that,” Yuuri says.

Viktor falters, eyes panic-wide for a second. “I did, didn’t I?” he says.

Yuuri knows Viktor, now, knows that subconscious grabbing-at-straws shuffle he does through various personalities before settling on the one that will be the most useful sometimes. “Yes,” Yuuri says. “A little.”

Viktor nods. “I’ll be more careful,” he says, and Yuuri know what he means, because while he will have to be something in front of Minami, still, for now, some of his careful shells are uneasily heavy.

Yuuri pats the couch next to him. “Come here, you,” he says.

Viktor sighs, a big relieved and relaxed sigh. He sits and wraps his arms around Yuuri’s waist, and Yuuri wraps his arms around Viktor’s shoulders and leans his cheek against the top of Viktor’s head, slings his legs into Viktor’s lap.

Viktor’s hands creep under the hem of Yuuri’s track pants almost immediately, tracing the knob of Yuuri’s ankle, ugly and bruised and calloused the way it always is.

Yuuri leans his weight into Viktor, lets himself slouch as Viktor kneads the tense tired muscles of Yuuri’s calves.

“I can’t wait to see what you make,” Yuuri says.

“I can’t wait to see you skate it,” Viktor says.

Yuuri brushes a kiss against Viktor’s hair, soft and fine under his lips and fingers. They're so good like this, they're so good in so many ways.

 

Minami gets solemn, watching Yuuri skate the program Viktor has choreographed. The music is mostly drums, a heart-thumping beat, with the squeal of synths running high through the melody occasionally. Viktor didn’t backload the quads the way he always had for Yuuri, Minami doesn’t have that kind of endurance. It’s the step sequence that’s demanding: it plays with rhythm in ways that even Yuuri had to practice to nail down.

Minami nods, sharply, when Yuuri is done (Viktor clapping and whistling rinkside).

“I can do it,” he says, and they get to work.

Minami’s dripping sweat, stoop-shouldered with exhaustion, by the time they’re done.

“Good job,” Yuuri says. “You’re catching on quick.”

Minami’s smile is a bright quick flash, even through his tiredness. “Really?” he says, out-of-breath squeaky.

“Of course,” Yuuri says. “Rest up tonight, yes?”

Minami nods.

“Minami-kun!” Lutz says, popping around the corner. “Do you want a ride home? My dad will drop you off at Yu-topia!”

“If he could, Lutz,” Yuuri says, “that would be great.”

Takeshi agrees, and carts Minami off in the Nishigori minivan, Loop and Axel and Lutz playing the radio very quietly in angelic deference to Minami’s yawning slump in his seat.

Yuuri must look tired, too, because Viktor says, “I’m going to carry you the whole entire way home” and semi-successfully attempts to scoop him up.

“Silly!” Yuuri says, and swats him on the shoulder, but he lets him carry him out to the lobby to collect Makkachin.

They’re still milling around in the entry, Yuuri hanging up Makkachin’s leash and Viktor digging granola bar wrappers out of his bag, when Yuuri’s phone rings.

It’s Yurio: Yuuri picks up immediately.

“Hey, Katsudon,” Yurio says immediately.

Who? Viktor mouths.

Yuuri makes a snarling face and holds a hand high above his head to indicate that the identity of the caller.

Viktor’s mouth makes a circle as he lets out a little wordless ‘oh-h-h.’

“Hi, Yurio,” Yuuri says. “What’s up?”

“I saw the video of Kenjiro practicing today,” Yurio says.

Lutz, Yuuri thinks. Of course.

“He better not waste your time,” Yurio says. “I better see him at the Rostelecom.”

“I think,” Yuuri says, “that if you’re going to give a shovel talk, you’d better give it to Minami yourself.”

Yurio sputters. Viktor touches the tips of his fingers to his heart and looks delighted.

“I’ll wipe the floor with him,” Yurio says eventually. “But I’ll be nice.”

“You always are,” Yuuri says.

 

“Movie time!” Viktor says gleefully, carrying his laptop out of the office to the couch.

“Did we ever decide what movie we’re watching?” Yuuri says. He’s been trying to book tickets for the Cup of China for the past hour, and he’s pretty sure he could make a better website than this airline’s.

“Well, Chris wants to watch Clueless, and I want to watch Mean Girls,” Viktor says. “You’re the tiebreaker!”

“Didn’t we watch Mean Girls last time?” Yuuri says.

“Well,” Viktor says, making a juggling weighing motion with his hands.

“Clueless,” Yuuri says. “No offense.”

“Okay, take his side,” Viktor says, sighing, but he’s grinning. He’s always bubbly with happiness when he’s got plans to skype Chris.

Yuuri had always thought of Viktor as being surrounded by friends, popular in an almost high-school way, so it had been surprising when he’d realized, after they’d moved to St. Petersberg that first year, that that wasn’t true. Viktor hung out with Georgi, even though the two didn’t seen particularly well-matched, dramatic in opposite ways. His weekend plans usually involved Yurio, and while Yuuri loved Yurio dearly, volatile seventeen year olds who still hadn't figured out a way to express affection besides insults were probably not the first choice for Saturday night dinners for any twenty-eight-year old with an active social life. Yuuri was used to the idea that he could count all his friends on one hand. The idea that Viktor could as well? An odd, alien thing. It gave Yuuri a sense, almost, that he’d been running towards a mirage all this time. if even Viktor, Viktor Nikiforov, had a list of confidants that went something like: two rinkmates, his coach, his dance instructor, a seventeen-year-old, Chris, his dog, Yuuri’s mom, Yuuri’s sister, and Mr. Watanabe, who always was fishing at the pier when Viktor had gone for early-morning runs and who liked to gossip.  

Yuuri hadn’t thought about it too much: he hadn’t had time. They were busy, training, competing, and then settling into the house in Hatsetsu, and wedding planning, and honeymooning, until, suddenly, they weren’t busy anymore, vast gulfs of time between the odd exhibition skate and scattered weddings and birthdays and holidays.

They had been laying on the couch in the fuzzy fog of post-practice, Viktor’s head pillowed on Yuuri’s head, when Viktor had said, “Yuuri, I miss Chris.”

Yuuri had felt a sudden jolt of well, huh, that would’ve upset me this time a year ago at the same time that he realized he never saw Viktor videochat or call, well. Anyone, really.

“I mean, we text pretty much everyday,” Viktor had said, just the edge of a cheekbone and the tip of his nose and the rumpled smooth sheet of his hair visible to Yuuri. “But I miss…” he’d sighed. “Yuuri, you always talk to Phichit,” and he huffs, starts again, “does it just...when does it just happen ?”

Yuuri had stroked his thumb over the the muscle of Viktor’s arm, covered by the soft cotton of one of his million v-neck. “Viktor,” he’d said. “Honey. We schedule it.”

“Really?” Viktor had said, incredulity muted and muffled and calmed in Yuuri's arm.

Yuuri had shrugged, looking through the glow of the window, indistinct without his glasses. “When I first moved back here,” he’d said. “I didn’t...I’d never really had a friend like that, before. And Phichit gave me space, because he knew that was what I wanted. But then after I reached out to him, I think...I think he realized that I wouldn’t know what to do. And so, well. You know Phichit. I was informed that we’d be scheduling weekly skype dates. Weekly, at least .”

“Firmly informed, I’m sure,” Viktor had said, laughing softly, curling himself into Yuuri.

“Very firmly,” Yuuri had said. “I mean, it might be kind of stupid, I guess. But it works?”

“It’s not stupid,” Viktor had said, fiercely.

“Calling the best friend, watching the movie,” Viktor singsongs now, waiting for Chris to pick up.

“Inception next time?” Yuuri says.

“Are we just going to watch that movie until it makes sense?” Viktor says.

“Yes,” Yuuri says.

“Hey, Vik! Hey, Yuuri!” Chris waves, audio taking a second to sync with his face on the screen.

“Hey, Chris!” Yuuri says, waving back.

“Chris!” Viktor says, making smootchy noises. “Yuuri decided: we’re watching Clueless!”

“I knew Yuuri would have my back,” Chris sighs.

“He also says we should watch Inception next,” Viktor says.

“Leo DiCaprio,” Chris says appreciatively.

“Ah, I’m sure Yuuri was just thinking about those special effects,” Viktor says, elbowing Yuuri.

“I watch it for the plot,” Yuuri says, settling back into the couch.

“Gay? Yuuri? No way,” Chris says.

“Of course not,” Yuuri says.

“Oh! Look! Snowball’s here!” Chris says, stretching his hands out offscreen to the cat, who wanders indolently into view.

“Beautiful,” Viktor says.

“Lovely,” Yuuri says.

Chris hauls her into his arms, Snowball protesting weakly. “Gossip first or movie?”

“Movie,” Yuuri says.

Gossip ,” Viktor says.

“Okay, as tiebreaker, I think we should gossip, and then watch the movie, and then gossip more,” Chris says.

“Well, then, if we’re going to gossip…” Viktor says.

“You want to hear about the wedding,” Chris says. He’s grinning, and Viktor is grinning back.

“Oh my god,” Viktor says. “I’m so excited. Being married is so good , Chris, you’re going to love it.”

Chris’s grin gets soft around the edges, in a way that reminds Yuuri of something he can’t put his finger on, and oh , that something is the way that Viktor smiles when people ask about Yuuri, and Yuuri’s heart does a little flip. “It is so good,” Yuuri says.

“Well,” Chris says. “I’m not as white picket fence as you two, but I honestly. Can’t wait.” He takes a sharp little breath, and Viktor goes, "Chris," fond and happy.

“It's nice,” Chris says. “To have a steady thing. And lots of unsteady things, too.”

Viktor and Yuuri both laugh at that: it's very Chris, from the snappy one-liner to the eyebrow wiggle he tosses at the end of it.

“Christophe Giacometti, married, though,” Viktor says, teasing.

“Viktor Nikiforov, married,” Chris teases back. “Though that’s not really a surprise. Yuuri, I always just knew this boy just wanted to fall in love and wake up next to someone every morning for the rest of his life.”

Yuuri snakes his arm around Viktor's waist and squeezes, and he wants to say something but all that comes out is a soft little “oh.”

“Yuuri!” Viktor says. “Chris, I'm going to cry.”

“Aww,” Chris says, propping his chin up against the back of his wrist.

“How's the wedding planning?” Yuuri asks.

“Well,” Chris says, “at least ten people have already asked me how many calories are going to be in the food.”

“The fact that I can’t tell if that’s a joke or not,” Viktor says.

“Wait,” Chris says. “People actually asked you that?”

“A little closer to the wedding date,” Yuuri says.

“But they asked,” Chris says.

“Oh-h yes,” Viktor says.

“They did ask,” Yuuri confirms.

“Um. I guess, considering the people I know, I’m actually really not surprised by that.” Chris says. “Also,” he adds, “just to let you know, I’ve laid down some ground rules for my bachelor party, and if you have any suggestions, tell me. So far, I’ve got, uh, one: no cocaine.” He barely makes it through the sentence, stifling periodic snorts of laughter behind his hand.

Viktor tosses himself against the couch cushions, cackling.

“Oh my god,” Yuuri says.

“Two: if we’re going to be sluts we’ll have to be ethical about it,” Chris says, ticking the numbers off on his fingers. “Three, beware of men in cheetah print.”

“Stop! It was one time!” Viktor’s wheezing with laughter at this point.

“That’s all the planning I have so far, I don’t even know where I’m having it, but there you go!” Chris says with a flourish.

Yuuri remembers adventuring around cities with Chris and Viktor, and he would be lying if he said he didn’t wish he was coming along. “Aw, don’t have too much fun without me,” he says.

Viktor falls silent mid-laugh.

Chris blinks at him.

“Yuuri!” Viktor says.

“Oh my god,” Chris says. “Yuuri. You’re in the wedding party?”

“Um. Are you saying I’m invited?” Yuuri says.

“You know, I don’t think either of us have a very good track record when it comes to knowing whether or not Yuuri knows something,” Viktor says.

“You’re absolutely invited,” Chris says. “Who else is going to keep Phichit from completely losing his shit and getting into some Hangover style shenanigans?”

“Wow, the Hangover? That’s some real straight boy type of--” Viktor says.

“Hey!” Chris says. “If I was there right now, Nikiforov, I would be fighting you to defend my gay honor to the death .”

“Try it,” Viktor says, scrunching his face up and jabbing his fists towards the computer screen, one-two-one-one, in a parody of a wrestler.

“I can’t believe you’d try to fight me like that,” Chris says, “when I’m going to be the uncle who drinks lots of margaritas and gives good advice to all these little blond kids you keep taking under your wing and adopting?”

“You mean bad advice,” Viktor says.

“Minami’s hair is all red now,” Yuuri says.

“Ignoring that comment, Viktor, wow, looks, Yuuri,” Chris says, nodding at each other them in turn.

“Also, Yurio’s taller than all of us now,” Viktor says.

“Listen: the fact that that kid is almost twenty makes me feel so old,” Chris says.

“Chris, he’s so-o-o grown up,” Viktor says.

“He really is,” Yuuri says. They’re both smiling soppy little proud smiles, Yuuri knows.

“Adorable,” Chris says. “But we have to save the sappy kind of gossip for after the movie. So: how do we feel about Phichit taking Seung-gil to the wedding as his plus one?”

What ,” Yuuri says. The smile is gone: his eyes get wide.

“Oh my god ,” Viktor says, mouth dropping open.

Chris cackles. “You didn’t know?”

“No!” Yuuri says. He digs his phone out of his pocket.

“He only just told me,” Chris is saying. Phichit picks up quickly, as usual, because his phone may as well be surgically attached to his hand.

“Phichit Chulanont!” Yuuri says. “Were you just not going to tell me that you’re dating Seung-gil?”

“Oh my god, you’re talking to Chris, aren’t you,” Phichit says.

Yes ,” Yuuri says, and then covers the speaker of the phone with his hand and hisses at Viktor and Chris, “you sound like teakettles , be quiet !”

“We’re not dating, it’s just a friends-helping-friends type of deal--” Phichit says.

“Friends helping friends with what ?” Yuuri says. “I can’t believe that you told Chris before you told me!”

“It’s his wedding!” Phichit wails. “I had to RVSP! And besides, it’s not like that ,”

“Like what, ” Yuuri says. “Don’t make me bring up our college friends-helping-friends deal--”

“Wait,” Chris says. “As much as I’d love to hear about that, Yuuri, put Phichit on speakerphone, please?”

“Chris wants to ask you something,” Yuuri says, with as much dignity as he can muster.

“Hey, Chris!” Phichit chirps.

“He-e-ey!” Chris says. “Okay, so I just have one question: is he, you know.” Chris makes a series of not-safe-for-work hand gestures, cumulating in a double thumbs up.

“Chris, he’s on the phone, he can’t see you,” Yuuri says.

“Viktor, translate, then?” Chris grins.

“Viktor, don’t,” Phichit says.

“Do,” Yuuri says, sticking his hands under Viktor’s shirt.

Chris whistles.

“What are they doing?” Phichit says.

“Shh,” Yuuri saying, sliding his fingers into the notch on the inside of Viktor’s hipbones.

“Eh, it kind of boils down to, um, is he good in bed?” Viktor says, rubbing the back of his neck and getting red in the face.

“That’s the best you could do?” Yuuri says. Viktor buries his face in Yuuri's neck, only half for reasons of retaliation.

“To answer your question, Chris,” Phichit says. “ Yes. All that intensity .”

“I like that Vik is blushing over this when he’s literally had sex with two out of three of us,” Chris says.

“What a time to grow a sense of shame,” Yuuri teases.

“Eh, if you’re ever up for making it three out of three…” Phichit says.

“You’re so thirsty all the time, and I really admire that, Chulanont,” Chris says.

“Hey, thanks!” Phichit says. He’s probably winking very rapidly on the other side of the phone.

“Please, don’t get into it, Makkachin is here,” Viktor says, settling back into a spot on the couch that's more very-close to Yuuri and less in-Yuuri's-lap.

“Please, yourself,” Chris says. “I know neither of you have the heart to lock him out of the room when you’re getting it on.”

“You’re not wrong,” Yuuri says. “Phichit, come watch Clueless with us.”

“Clueless!” Phichit says. “What’s that line? The girl tries to say she can’t do PE because her plastic surgeon said no activities—”

“Where balls might fly at her face—” Viktor says.

“And then the other girl says that there goes half her social life,” Phichit finishes. “It’s so Chris.

“I can’t believe, ” Chris says.

“I can,” Viktor says.

Yuuri snuggles into Viktor’s side and listens to them bicker. The bachelor party is going to be so fun.

 

Yuuri has a panic attack the morning of nationals.

They used to come sometimes silent and sneaky, but now he sees them coming like a shadow at the end of the haul, sits there as his hands start shaking thinking, and I'd been doing so well lately too, the thought he can't lose any more than he can lose the sour electric feeling once it solidifies in his guts.

Then he'll start calculating the months, rueful, has it been two? Three? They always feel somehow closer than they were, but also further away.

They’re not big. Sometimes he doesn’t even cry. This one hits him when he’s standing in the middle of the kitchen waiting for the beep of the coffeemaker to signal that his sweet, sweet, caffeine fix is ready. His vision gets wavery and his chest gets tight and he sinks down to the floor, knees wobbly. The floor should be smooth and cold against the palms of his hands, but he can’t feel anything but the rub of his clothes against his skin: the seams of his socks and the high neck of his shirt constricting against his throat.

The cold wet poke of something Yuuri immediately recognizes as Makkachin’s nose against his cheek makes Yuuri recoil, but it’s a sense memory to pull Makkachin closer, the way he’d held Vic-chan. Makkachin flops into Yuuri’s lap, and Yuuri wraps his arms around Makkachin’s neck and rocks back and forth.

Breathing , he remembers, sucks in a big breath and counts one-two-three, and it comes a little easier now.

The little sound Viktor makes when he walks into the kitchen still seems like it’s coming from behind a pane of glass.

“Yuuri?” he says.

“It’s, it’s, okay” punctuated by a pause as the words stick in his throat. He grinds the words out through his teeth, looking at Viktor from the corner of his eye, the shape of him blurry.

“Breathing?” Viktor says.

Yuuri nods once, sharp and tense. It’s hard to move, and it hurts: his muscles locked up all up and down his back, but it’s a familiar hurt to push past, like the ache the morning after after a fall on the ice.

“Glasses?” Viktor asks.

It takes Yuuri a couple seconds to feel the dig of the glasses into the bridge of his nose as he presses his face into Makkachin’s fur. He nods again.

Viktor lowers himself onto the floor carefully. The glasses go away.

“You got up early just in case, so you wouldn’t be late,” Viktor says. “You have plenty of time. Of your own free will, you got up early. You were awake before I was. Rare!”

Yuuri closes his eyes and focuses on the softness of Makkachin’s fur against his cheeks, Viktor’s words hard to understand but there .

When the roaring in his ears starts to fade out, like lowering the volume on a staticy radio, Yuuri opens his eyes. Viktor is sitting cross-legged on the floor next to him, Makkachin’s tail is thumping softly. Yuuri’s eyes itch with tears. He draws in a deep breath, can finally feel it fill his chest.

“Hey,” Viktor says, soft.

“Morning,” Yuuri says. His voice croaks, and Viktor smiles, scootches himself closer to kiss Yuuri’s forehead.

“You want some water?” he says.

“Yeah,” Yuuri says. The sound of the cabinet opening, the clink of a glass, the tap running. “Oh. My coffee?” Yuuri says.

Viktor laughs. “It’s done,” he says. “I love that that’s the first thing you think of.”

“It’s very important,” Yuuri says. Viktor passes him the glass of water.

“I’ll make eggs?” Viktor says. He’s still bleary-eyed with sleep and shirtless. Makkachin had probably woken him up whining at Yuuri.

“No, that’s fine,” Yuuri says. “Go do your skincare beauty things.”

“No, no, it’s fine, I’ll make you something to eat,” Viktor insists.

“Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov,” Yuuri says. Viktor looks at him, eyes wide. “If I try to eat right now, I’m going to throw up, or cry. Or both. Beauty .”

Viktor’s eyes get wider. “Sorry,” he says. He has a healthy fear of making people throw up. Yuuri had gotten nauseous more than a few times while Viktor had pushed him through a workout, and every time Viktor had about had a heart attack worrying about him. “Here, wanna come with me?” Viktor says.

Yuuri would. He keeps his glasses off so the world stays soft-edged and indistinct and undemanding, sits on the edge of the bathtub while Viktor puts things on his face and washes them off and pats things on with sponges and brushes.

Viktor’s morning skincare regime is elaborate. Apparently he had gone from zero to one-hundred in that regard as a teen: he hadn’t really managed to get the hang of brushing his hair or his teeth or washing his face, until suddenly he Did, at which point it became an extensive process that he enjoyed. Yuuri understands that: the wonder of routine.

Mari, who refers to the three-point-five times a year she puts on foundation as “slapping some paint on the old wagon,” loves to tease Viktor about this. Yuuri doesn’t use much more than soap and water, hadn’t even as a teenager because he’s been blessed with fairly clear skin, though the one single acne scar on his jaw haunts him. Viktor had gotten him into using sunscreen, even though he can only stand the texture of it about fifty percent of the time.

It’s comforting, to watch other people’s routines. Yuuri goes through each muscle of his body, makes sure they’re relaxed, takes slow sips of his coffee and concentrates on the warmth of the mug in his hand.

“I have to look good for my husband’s coaching debut,” Viktor says seriously, leaning in close to the mirror with his eyes wide as he brushes on mascara.

Yuuri laughs, remembering Viktor’s coaching debut. “Put some on me,” he says, even though he’s just wearing track pants and his Team Japan jacket.

Viktor approaches, mascara wand ready, and presses a thumb on Yuuri’s cheekbone. “Open your eyes wider!” he says.

Yuuri does. “Done?” he says.

“Beautiful,” Viktor says, and lays a little toothpaste-tasting kiss on Yuuri’s lips. “So do you think I look like a suitably handsome trophy husband for Japan’s skating ace Yuuri Katsuki-Nikiforov?”

“Maybe show a little more skin,” Yuuri suggests.

Viktor’s robe is already loosely tied, basically his whole chest displayed. “I can do that,” he says, winking, and slides the robe off one of his shoulders.

Yuuri applauds. “The other one, too!” he says.

Viktor preens and obliges.

 

“Hey, at least it didn’t happen here,” Yuuri whispers to Viktor as they shepherd Minami into the venue. The panic attacks usually had, sometime after talking to reporters and watching the other skaters and hearing the that particular way music sounds, played in an rink, tinny yet expansive, when his thoughts really started spinning.

“That’s true,” Viktor says, wrapping his arm around Yuuri’s neck.

Minami’s nervous, too, Yuuri can tell, but Minami’s nerves are all exuberance. He fiddles with his phone, changing the songs playing in his earbuds again and again, mutters the words under his breath. Yuuri can hear the tinny beat as he stands next to Minami as they wait for Minami’s interview.

Viktor nudges his shoulder again Yuuri’s, looks towards Minami, and yes, Yuuri should do something to reassure him. It feels surreal for Yuuri, the way the gesture comes almost naturally, to press his hand steady to Minami’s shoulder, the way his old coaches had (with the exception of Viktor, who very quickly moved to theatrics like petting his cheek and kissing his nose and lying on the floor with his arms wrapped around Yuuri’s legs).

“Minami-kun fighting!” Axel calls as the Nishigori’s pass by on the way to their seats, slapping Minami upside the head.  Yuuko beams, Takeshi shooting them a double thumbs up.

Loop and Lutz shake a folded banner Minami’s way. “We’ll film your routine!” Loop assures him.

“We’re going to try to get three different angles!” Lutz says.

“I can’t wait until these three take over the world,” Viktor says.

“You’ll get some kind of a title, I’m sure, don’t worry,” Yuuri says.

“Wow!” Viktor says.

Minako and Mari and Mari’s girlfriend Hana trail behind the Nishigori’s. Minako approaches with a grin that means danger for both Yuuri and Minami.

“You’ll remember to keep your back straight, Minami,” she says, all sharky smiles.

“Of course, Minako-sensei!” Minami says. He’d been slouching; he straightens immediately.

“Good to see those dance classes are paying off,” Minako says. She turns to Yuuri, wraps an arm around his shoulders. He’s all in a squish of husband-student-Minako, and she says, low, “there’s nothing better than seeing a student become a teacher,” and Yuuri is suddenly seized with the urge to toss his arms around her and cry.

“Thank you, Minako-sensei,” he says, and she ruins the illusion and ruffles his hair.

“Hey!” he says, bumping into Minami and Viktor as he squirms away.

“Too much gel,” she says.

“The perfect amount of gel,” Viktor says. Perfect was one of the first Japanese words he learned. He leans on it heavily.

“Please,” Yuuri says.

“Okay, sorry, Mari-n-Hana, I just couldn’t resist,” Minako says. “We can go get our seats now.”

“Oh, that’s fine,” Mari says. “The longer I’m around Viktor and Yuuri, the more my gay powers grow.”

“That’s true,” Hana says thoughtfully. She sticks close to Mari’s side, looking around at the buzz of competitors-coaches-family-sportscasters packing the room with interest. “Reminds me of my softball days,” she says.

“Huh. I don’t remember this much spandex and glitter,” Mari says.

“Oh, shhh,” Hana says, elbowing her. “Actually, that part of all this reminds me of roller derby.”

“Wait,” Mari says. “Roller derby?”

“Back in the day,” Hana says. “College.”

Mari’s eyes get very wide.

“Wow!” Viktor says.

“Roller derby?” Minami says.

“Roller skates!” Viktor says.

Minako cackles.

“Okay, we’re up next,” Yuuri says. “Bye!”

“You’re going to kill it, Minami-kun!” Mari says. She’s not terribly huggy, but she reaches toward Minami, and he slams into her and wraps his arms around her waist and squeezes.

“Mari-chan!” he says, and Mari wheezes like she’s dying, Hana laughing.

“Shoo!” Yuuri says, but the effect is ruined because he is laughing, too. “You’re distracting my skater!”

“We’d never!” Minako says, hooking an arm through Mari’s and an arm through Hana’s. “Break a leg, Minami-kun!”

“That’s for dancers, not skaters, I think,” Viktor says.

“I haven’t broken a leg yet, and she’s been saying that to me since I was eight,” Yuuri says, steering Minami towards Hisashi Morooka, who visibly brightens at the sight of the three of them, probably because Viktor is radiating light, love, and expensive foundation as usual.

 

Minami had been chattery during the interview, as he’d been earlier in the day while waiting for the drawing, but now he stands with his eyes fixed on the ice.

“Ready?” Yuuri says.

“So, so ready!” Minami says.

“Now, you know the size of this rink, you know the feel of this ice, just focus on warming up all of your muscles slowly and carefully,” Yuuri says.

“Theatrics: banned!” Viktor says.

Minami nods, more solemn than Yuuri’s ever seen him.

“Okay,” Yuuri says. “Looks like we’re going.”

Yuuri had forgotten the adrenaline rush in the crush of skaters streaming onto the ice during warmup, the jockeying as keyed-up kids make their way into the rink like it’s water in a desert. Seeing it from the rinkside, the racehorse-feel of it is even more obvious, before they disperse and get to work.

“Kind of makes you miss it, yeah?” Viktor says. “Funny, I didn’t, much, when I was coaching you.”

“Exhibitions don’t feel the same,” Yuuri says.

Viktor nods, and they lean on the boards and watch Minami warm up. Yuuri doesn’t want to make corrections now: they won’t stick. He just praises, says once as Minami skates by, “now don’t get frantic. A nice slow warmup.”

Yes ,” Minami says, very firmly with a sharp little shake of his head.

Viktor smiles as Minami skates away. “It’s so funny when he does that.”

“I know,” Yuuri says. Minami’s in a good place, right now, energy gathering, focusing, sharp and concentrated, a conduit that all the hard work he’s put in can flow through, beautiful and seemingly effortless. Yuuri feels the little leaps of excitement in his own chest, squeezes Viktor’s hand.

Viktor squeezes back, and they both smile as Minami launches into his quad toe and lands it clean and easy.

 

When it’s all over, after the post-performance analysis and the kiss-and-cry bated-breath and the gold and the celebratory selfies, they extricate Minami from the triplet’s banner, which they’d rolled him up in and were using as a sort of handle to tow him out into the parking lot towards the Nishigori minivan.

“He’s driving with us!” Loop says.

“Let him, Yuuri!” Lutz says.

“Let him, Viktor!” Axel says.

Minami doesn’t seem to mind their attention: he’s grinning and trying to take a selfie that shows the chaos unfolding around him.

“Yuuri’s the coach!” Viktor says.

“He can drive with you if your mom and dad don’t mind,” Yuuri says.

“Yes!” they all chorus, like they pulled off a heist.

“Sorry, Takeshi,” Yuuri says as Takeshi approaches, keys in hand.

“I’m used to it,” he says.

“Want me to drive?” Viktor says.

“You know what,” Yuuri says, digging his keys out of his pocket. “Now that we don’t have a kid in the car, go for it.

They all converge on Yu-topia, Viktor and Yuuri in the Prius arriving first. Yuuri’s a little white-knuckled, but overall?

“That wasn’t bad,” he says, opening Viktor’s door for him and leaning down to kiss him on the cheek.

“Glowing praise,” Viktor says, sliding out of the car. “I was going to open your door, though, Yuuri!”

“Beat you to it,” Yuuri says, smirking.

“Yuuri, you’re chopping the vegetables,” Hiroko says after all the greetings and hugs and forehead kisses are done, Makkachin trotting around the corners to meet them, tail wagging.

“Ma!” Yuuri says. “What? Why?”

“Viktor’s been promoted to noodle-duty,” Hiroko says.

“Really?” Viktor says, gleeful. “Yuuri! I’ve been promoted! I’m making noodles for lunch tomorrow.”

The fact that Yuuri love noodles and combined with the fact that everything tastes better when someone else cooks it can leave Yuuri with only one conclusion. “This is good,” Yuuri says.

“Katsudon time!” Minami says, busting through the door, Kool-aid man style, the triplets in tow, Yuuko and Takeshi and Mari and Hana and Minako trailing behind.

The triplets promptly spread their phones out on the table and start showing him videos, chattering about editing while Minami groans about a certain section of his step sequence that still isn’t quite where it should be.

“I’ve been promoted to noodle duty!” Viktor says, thrusting his arms in the air.

Yuuko and Takeshi and Mari dutifully applaud. Minako cheers.

“Who doesn’t know how to make noodles ?” Hana says.

“Skaters who don’t eat carbs,” Mari says.

“You know,” Hiroko says, steering Viktor and Yuuri towards the kitchen. “I’m so proud of you both.”

Viktor ducks his head, bashful the way he is when praise means something to him.

When they head for home, the summer night glows cool and bright-starred around them. Makkachin dives for something that rustles in the bushes, and Viktor whistles him back to their side. Yuuri answers texts while they drive home: his phone has been dinging with congratulatory messages all night.

Phichit’s text, liberally sprinkled with handclap emojis, reads: YOU MAGICIAN! HE LOOKED BETTER THAN HE EVER HAS!!! I CANT BELIEVE YOURE SO PERFECT!!!!!! PEEP MY INSTAGRAM!!!!

(Yuuri peeps. Phichit’s posted a picture of the two of them back in the first Detroit year, and they look so young , round-faced and clinging to each other. The caption reads: my little baby all grown up and off to coach people!! #thesegirlsaremysons #coachkatsuki #wow #perfect #beeeffeffs #gobestfriendthatsmybestfriend #gominami #untilwearecompetingagainsteachotherthangome).

Chris’s says HE SLAYT centered in the middle of a block of fire emojis that take up the whole screen, and then: congrats Yuuri keep the afterparty BUMPIN’.

Mila’s texted I STRONGLY SUPPORT THIS FELLOW FIERY REDHEAD followed by a series of bulging bicep emojis. He has texts from Otabek and Leo and Sara Crispino and even JJ Leroy, and Viktor will get a kick out of that when Yuuri tells him, for sure.

Yurio had apparently texted him before the competition, while Yuuri had his phone turned off: he’s going to be great katsudon i know you get anxious but whenever i was around you before a competition you always made me feel calmer especially the season right before you retired that was a rly hard season for me and it was always just comforting that you were there anyways sorry!!! im going to shut up now!!! tell kenjiro good luck!!!

Yurio’s second text is from after the competition: CAN’T WAIT TO KICK HIS ASS!! SEE YOU IN RUSSIA MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!!!!

Yuuri laughs, but he feels a little teary, too.

He never would’ve guessed when they’d met that Yurio would someday send him a message that made him blurry-eyed. Reality is stranger than fiction, like Viktor always says when he sees a picture of a particularly improbable bug or sea slug or goat on twitter, courtesy of all the WORLD’S STRANGEST ANIMALS! accounts he follows.

Viktor’s giddy with that post-competition rush when they get home. Yuuri’s about ready to drop, panic attacks and a day’s worth of nerves and the sleepy lull of home and family stacking up on him, but when Viktor turns to him, eyes bright in the porch lights, and says, “Come to the garden with me?”, he has to say yes.

The garden’s a whole new place at night: all shadowy shapes and loud with cicadas and crickets and wind. Makkachin investigates: a good boy. The light they always leave on in the kitchen shines out on them, on the sharp points of Viktor’s cheekbones and chin. They stand where the grass grows soft and thin because it’s in the shade nearly all hours of the day, and Viktor kicks off his shoes and strips off his socks, because he loves good-feeling things: wears cashmere and dips his hands in bags of rice and, right now, wraps his hand around the back of Yuuri’s head where his hair’s shaved fuzzy and then slides his hand down to the nape of Yuuri’s neck, where he says the skin is always smooth.

Yuuri puts a hand on Viktor’s cheek: the feeling of his foundation and the fine stubble, puts his other hand on Viktor’s waist and holds tight. They sway for a while, like that, feet shuffling beside each other’s, a dance with no music, until Yuuri can’t stand the distance, even this small one. He pulls Viktor close, chest-to-chest, curling his hand up through Viktor’s hair, tipping Viktor’s head down and his own chin up to meet in a kiss.

Viktor makes the soft pleased sound that Yuuri loves. Yuuri could do this forever: Viktor’s mouth on his, the feel of him warm under Yuuri’s hands through the thin cotton of his shirt, pressed together in the cool breezy space of their backyard, close, close, close, and then Makkachin gives them a low short sad bark-whine, eager to go to sleep lying spread out on the bed. Yuuri laughs into Viktor’s mouth as Viktor’s shoulders shake with a laugh of his own, and they pull apart and laugh more.

“Mean,” Yuuri says. “Poor Makkachin!”

“It’s like his fathers don’t even care about him at all ,” Viktor says, gathering his shoes and socks.

“C’mere, baby,” he says, patting his thighs, and Makkachin trots over resentfully. “So dramatic.”

“Of course he is,” Yuuri teases. “You raised him!”

Viktor tosses his head back and laughs, scratches at Makkachin’s shoulders. “I raised him,” Viktor says, “to get what he wants!”

“He deserves anything he wants,” Yuuri says. He can’t wait to climb into bed, and join a pile of dog and husband and blankets. Yuuri kicks off his shoes, lines them up on the mat, lets Viktor take his coat and his bag and fuss over him. He’s tired enough, he thinks, to fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow, and so his sleep will be solid and good when he wakes up in the morning.

And in the morning? Back to the rink.

“Time for the lovely husband to sleep ,” Viktor says.

“Time for the lovely husband to carry me to bed?” Yuuri says, patting at Viktor’s face.

“Of course,” Viktor says, and swoops him up. Yuuri tucks his head into Viktor’s chest.

Intellectually, some things that he is are hard to wrap his mind around. They never stick: hometown hero, ace skater, Olympic medalist.

But some things. Husband, friend, coach.

Yuuri yawns. Tomorrow? Back to work.