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Puppy Love

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Yuuri has terrible luck. 

That’s the only reason he can think of for why this happened to him.

He doesn’t consider himself a rude person, but when he ran into a woman outside the rink after failing his free skate, he was too distraught to apologize.  The World Championship was supposed to be his redemption for the Grand Prix Final and he’d humiliated himself.  Again.  He couldn’t bear Celestino’s thinly veiled disappointment and if he saw Victor Nikiforov, well, it would break him.

How was he to know he’d collided with some sort of witch and that a simple “I’m sorry” would have spared him from being cursed?  He didn’t even know witches existed.

Now, as he stares down at the paws where his hands used to be, shaking, he tries to work out what to do next.  He’s in an unfamiliar city with no friends beside his coach.  He has no idea where Celestino is and even if he did, it’s not like he can just walk up and say, “Hey, it’s me, Yuuri.  Looks like I got turned into a poodle.  Got any spells to turn me back?”

He fights back the rising panic as much as he can but apparently being a dog has not rid him of his anxiety disorder.  His heart starts to race, his tongue lolling out as he pants.  He paces in a circle in the alleyway he’s sequestered in.  Tears prickle in his eyes. 

He has to get back to the rink.

With a woof, Yuuri breaks into a run, darting out to the sidewalk.

He sprints back to the rink, praying to find a way inside and see someone he knows.  For the briefest second, he thinks his luck might be changing because someone is holding open the back door. 

He’s tired, and sore from when he fell during his triple axel but he pours the last of his energy into getting inside before the door closes.  Leaping, he launches through air just in time…

To crash right into a firm body.

With a yelp, the man falls to the ground with Yuuri on top of him. 

Sorry!” Yuuri tries to say, a yip coming out instead.  He pushes up to see the person he’s just tackled.  His breath catches in his throat.

Victor,” he gasps, or tries to.  The noise he makes sounds a lot closer to, “Borf!”

Stunning blue eyes look up at him, blown wide.  Victor’s cheeks are pink, his silver hair falling elegantly across his forehead.

Yuuri had fantasized about this moment countless times, of what he would say when he finally got to meet his idol on the same playing field.  He’d be clever, even sassy, maybe make a joke about beating Victor’s record and sweep him off his feet.

He did not think he would literally sweep Victor off his feet and be a damn poodle while he did it.

“Who do we have here?” Victor says with a laugh.  He props up on his forearm and ruffles Yuuri’s fur behind his ear.  Yuuri jolts.  “You look just like Makkachin!  Except black and a bit smaller.”

Yuuri opens his mouth to reply but aborts the effort.  What could he possibly say?  That he already knows everything about Victor and Makkachin, the dog who’d passed away only a few weeks after Vicchan?  That he has posters of Victor hanging in his bedroom?  That he’s watched every single one of Victor’s programs since he was twelve?

That he might be just a teeny bit in love with him?

He can’t even make some kind of plea for help.  And why bother when there’s nothing Victor can do for him?

Regardless, he can’t do more than bark anyway.

Stumbling to the side, he lets Victor up.  Victor pushes to his feet, then delicately cups Yuuri’s neck, making him shiver and flinch.

“Where’s your collar?  Are you a stray?”

A wave of sudden exhaustion washes over Yuuri in the wake of his fear.  Victor’s touch feels better than it has any right to and he finds himself sinking into it, leaning his weight against Victor’s legs.  Though they’ve never properly met before, something about Victor feels safe, familiar.

“What the hell is that?” someone snaps from behind him.  Yuuri jerks.  Victor gives him a reassuring pat.

Yuri Plisetsky comes into view.  Yuuri recognizes him from his senior skate, and from the time Victor mistook Yuuri for a fan wanting a photo.  He cringes at the memory.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” Victor says, face lighting up in a heart-shaped smile.  Yuuri’s chest feels warm before he remembers that Victor would never say that if he was human.

“Dogs are gross.  Where did you even find him?”

“He found me.”

“Don’t tell me you’re actually keeping this thing…”

Yuuri looks back and forth between them, panic rising.  If Victor abandons him he doesn’t know what he’ll do.  He whines, butting his head against Victor’s hand.

“I think I will.  And guess what I’m naming him?” Victor says, grinning down at Yuuri.

“Flea bag?”

“I’ll name him Yuuri, after you.”

Yuri sputters, face contorting in pure teenage ire.

“You wouldn’t dare…”

“What do you think of that name, buddy?  How does ‘Yuuri’ sound to you?” Victor says, bending over, his face so close that Yuuri could lick it.  Not that he’d want to.  Mostly.

A dog barks.   Yuuri realizes belatedly that it’s him.

“Are you naming him after me or the other one who doesn’t know how to skate?”

Yuuri’s ears twitch, his eyes snapping to Victor’s face.  Victor’s expression is polite and unreadable.

“What’s the difference?” he says with a dismissive flick of his wrist.  Yuri looks murderous.

Before Yuuri has time to process “the other” Yuri, Victor prods him back out to the street.

“What do you think?” he says to Yuuri, as if he can respond.  “Want to come home with me tonight?”

A flurry of conflicting emotions battle for dominance.  On one hand, Yuuri knows it’s logical to go with Victor until the spell wears off or he comes up with a solution, but on the other, he feels guilty.  He can’t deny his deep, life-long crush on the skating legend.  It feels like a violation to enter his space with his identity hidden.

Still, it’s not like he has a choice.  And, if he’s being honest, he’s a little terrified.

Yuuri follows Victor through the cold Russian streets and tries not to preen when Victor praises him for staying close.

 

“Come on, come on,” Victor says, patting on his thighs, encouraging Yuuri to cross the threshold into his apartment.

Tail lowered, Yuuri creeps in and looks around.  The room is clean cut and chic.  Expensive.  It shouldn’t be surprising considering all the endorsements Victor has but Yuuri still feels out of place.

The idea that he’s actually in Victor Nikiforov’s home is unfathomable, overwhelming, so when Victor goes to touch his head, Yuuri is unprepared.  He recoils, and Victor puts his hands up.   He steps back, giving him space.

“I have a bunch of dog stuff already so you should be all set tonight,” he says gently, moving to shut the door.  Yuuri pads into the open room, noticing the empty food and water bowls on the kitchen floor.  “Couldn’t bring myself to throw away Makkachin’s things, but I guess that’s good now, right?”

Victor shrugs off his coat and walks to the fridge, keeping a wide berth between them as he passes.

“Let’s get you something to eat.”

Victor spends a ridiculous amount of time and care assembling his food.  Yuuri can’t see what he’s pulling out of the fridge and pantry at his angle, but Victor seems to be preparing a veritable feast.  He’s starting to get excited.

“Tada!” Victor says, when he places the bowl with Makkachin’s name on it in front of him.

Yuuri stares at it.  He sees rice, peas, bits of meat, and some kind of goopy wet dog food.  There’s a small garnish of parsley on the top, which would be adorable in different circumstances.

Stomach churning, Yuuri backs away, paws slipping on the floor.  Even if he did have an appetite, the concept of eating dog food out of a bowl like an animal is too much.  He yacks, tongue sticking out, and Victor yanks the bowl away.

“You don’t like it?  It was Makkachin’s favorite,” Victor says.  Yuuri glances up at him and immediately looks away when the expression on Victor’s face is enough to make him eat an old boot. 

The familiar panic starts to rise up again.  Is this Yuuri’s life now?  Is he going to be eating food off his idol’s kitchen floor forever?  Will he never skate again?  What about his family?  They’ll probably think he abandoned them. 

Then a horrible thought turns his blood to ice.

Will he never eat katsudon again?

The world blurs at the edges.

“Hey, hey, what’s the matter?” Victor says, squatting a few strides away from him. 

Yuuri realizes he’s crying, and not in a normal, human way.  Small, high-pitched keens are coming from his throat, his whole body trembling.

“It’s okay,” Victor says like he means it, like Yuuri’s whole life isn’t ruined.  “Was the food that bad?  I promise, you’re safe with me.  I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you.”

There’s a sweetness to Victor’s voice that demands his attention, his tongue curling around the words like they’re ancient, like they were made for his mouth.  Yuuri meets his eyes.

“That’s right,” Victor soothes.  “Everything is going to be okay.”

His words shouldn’t affect Yuuri as strongly as they do, but he finds his mind slowing down, the winding panic unspooling inside of him.

“Why don’t we forget dinner and go watch TV instead?  Makkachin used to love TV.”

With soft steps, Victor walks past him and goes to the couch.

Nervous, Yuuri approaches.  He stops a safe distance away, sitting back on his haunches.

“Come up here, sweetheart,” Victor says, patting the cushion next to him. 

Yuuri doesn’t move.  He hates that Victor is forced to coddle him like this, welcoming him into his space without knowing who he truly is.  It makes Yuuri feel creepy.  And the way that “sweetheart” sounds on Victor’s lips is doing things to him that Victor definitely does not intend.

“Come on,” Victor tries again, his earnest expression flickering.  “Please?”

Yuuri holds his ground.

Victor’s face continues to fall, a deeper sadness sneaking through.  Yuuri’s resolve crumbles.  He never wants to see Victor unhappy.  It doesn’t suit him, taints the carefree beauty Yuuri’s come to admire. 

With a deep breath, he jumps on the couch and balls up against the armrest, as far from Victor as possible.

Victor reaches out to pet him but stops when Yuuri tenses.  Clenching his fist, he puts it back on his lap.  The light dulls in his eyes.

To distract himself from it, Yuuri takes in his surroundings.  Victor’s flat is cold and unadorned.  There are no pictures of friends or family members, no clutter.  No evidence that anyone but him has been here at all.

There is an obscene amount of books, but none of the numerous medals or trophies Yuuri knows Victor’s won.  With a grumble, he wonders if he threw them out.  Winning is probably meaningless to him at this point.

“Makkachin would have loved you,” Victor murmurs, interrupting his thoughts.  Now that he looks for it, he can see Makkachin’s absence in every corner of the room.  There’s a basket of dog toys by the TV, a dog bed, and a leash hanging near the door. 

Yuuri wants to offer comfort but he tamps down the urge.  He thinks of Vicchan, waiting for him, of how he never got to say goodbye before he died, and feels his own stab of mourning.  If things were different, maybe they could have talked about their shared loss, but that’s a fantasy as unattainable as the rest.

After a while, Victor seems to accept that Yuuri isn’t coming closer, so he selects a movie and puts it on.

Yuuri wonders if this is what life is always like for Victor.  Does he have a group of friends?  Hobbies outside of skating?  A family?  The idea that he could be solitary jars with Yuuri’s distant impression of him.  Victor was always charming and extroverted, at least in public.  He doesn’t seem like the same person now, with his eyes soft and the vulnerable dip of his pale throat peeking out beneath his shirt…

Yuuri forces himself to look away.

With the white noise of the film, Yuuri spaces out, the haze of his day weighing him down.

When Victor says, “Time for bed,” Yuuri startles so badly he tumbles off the couch.  Shaking himself off and ignoring Victor’s snort of amusement, he starts walking to the dog bed.  Victor stops him.

“Oh no, don’t sleep there.  Come get in bed with me.”

A ripple of tension shoots through him.

Bed?  With Victor?

Yuuri wonders if he’s lost in some bizarre fantasy that his brain concocted after too much sake and werewolf manga.

But then he remembers the look on Victor’s face, the wounds of losing Makkachin obvious and deep.  He can feel Victor’s loneliness, if only for how closely it resembles his own.

With a sigh, he hangs his head and follows Victor into the bedroom.  Once inside, Victor pats on the mattress, trying to get him to jump on it.  Yuuri doesn’t move.

When Victor gives up and goes into the bathroom, Yuuri lays down in the far corner of the room, as far from the bed as he can. 

“What are you doing all the way over there?” Victor says when he returns, frowning.  For a moment, Yuuri worries he’s going to try picking him up, but Victor leaves him be.  With a sigh, he gets in the bed, leaning on the pillows and taking up a book.

Yuuri closes his eyes and pretends to sleep.  A silence settles over them.  The floor is hard but he’s exhausted.  He’s just drifting off when Victor speaks.

“I’m glad you’re here.”  Yuuri’s eyes open in time to watch a single tear tumble down Victor’s cheek before he wipes it away. 

Victor seems to be done talking because he folds open his book and starts to read.  As Yuuri watches him, his perception shifts again into something new.  Of all the things Yuuri expected Victor to be, sad was never one of them.

He knew, of course, how close Victor was with his poodle, but he seemed too far above everything to feel something like mourning; more god than man.  It's jarring to see him be human.

It’s a while before Yuuri finds sleep, despite how drained he is, but eventually the whisper of turning pages lulls him.  Victor’s presence is more calming than he expected.  If he was himself, Yuuri would be anxious about saying the right thing or impressing him.  He doesn’t have to worry as a dog.  It’s the only upside he can think of.

He hopes the spell won’t last forever, but if it does, he can’t think of anywhere better for him to be.  Victor is the biggest dog person he knows.

 

Yuuri wakes up in an instant.

It’s early.  With a rallying breath, he looks down at himself and his gut wrenches at the sight of fur and paws and a tail.  The curse feels more real in the bleak morning light.  Permanent. 

Victor stirs on the bed, drawing Yuuri’s attention.  His tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth when he sees him.

Victor is stunning.  His features are soft, his skin flushed warm in sleep.  He could be a painting, with his fingers splayed beside his head and the sheets draped low on his bare waist.

“Yuuri?” Victor mumbles, his eyes blinking open.  Yuuri watches cognition bloom on his face.  “There you are.”

Yuuri opens his mouth to reply, his chest warming at the sound of his name.  He woofs, and winces at the sound.

“You must be hungry.”

He is.  Very.  But the thought of eating canned dog food makes his spit curdle.

Victor throws off the covers and rises to his feet with a stretch.  Yuuri’s gaze is drawn to his flexing back, to the dip at the base of his spine and the perfect swell of his rear.

Yuuri chides himself with a huff and tries to stand.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten used to four legs, and they crumple under him.  His chin hits the floor with a thud.

“You’re clumsy, aren’t you,” Victor chuckles as he pulls on a shirt and sweatpants.

Grumbling, Yuuri slinks off with his ears pressed to his head.  For years, Yuuri’s wanted nothing more than to show Victor how graceful he could be, how nimble his footwork and jumps had become, all because Victor had inspired him.

The memories of his skate the day before taunt him.  He wonders if Victor saw him.  If he did, he must have thought Yuuri didn’t deserve to be there, that he was unworthy.  Clumsy.

With the weight of his failure on his back, Yuuri ambles to the couch.  He has the strong urge to disappear, so he flattens to the floor and crawls under it.

“What are you doing under there?” Victor says as he comes into the room, bending over and smiling.  “Are you hiding?”

Yuuri wishes Victor would stop asking him questions.  Every time he can’t answer a part of him breaks.

“Might want to pull your tail in, then.”

Yuuri yanks his tail in close, and watches Victor’s feet pause as he passes. 

Yuuri stays where he is while Victor putters around the kitchen.  The scent of coffee wafts over to him, making his mouth water.  Then Victor starts making eggs and bacon and toast, and Yuuri can sift through every scent like they’re written in the air.

His stomach growls.

Victor eventually walks over to him and puts a bowl on the floor.  He sits, crossing his legs, and picks up a bit of egg between his fingers.

“It’s good, I promise.  Nice and simple,” Victor says, easing his hand under the couch, palm up.  “Try it for me, sweetheart.”

Yuuri can’t believe this is happening.  He blinks at the food in front of his face, stunned, and wonders how he got himself in the position to eat out of Victor Nikiforov’s hand.  It’s absurd.  And yet, the egg smells delicious.  He hasn’t been this hungry in a long time.  Food was always his weakness.

Before he can think better of it, his long tongue slips out and licks Victor’s palm.  He swallows.

“Good boy,” Victor says.  The praise hits Yuuri like a warm breeze, soothing a part of him he didn’t know existed.  “See?  I’m not going to poison you.  Why don’t you come out and have your breakfast for me?”

Yuuri waits until Victor goes back into the kitchen before he sneaks out from under the couch.

When he starts to eat, Victor hums in approval, and Yuuri’s chest flutters.

“After this, I’ll take you for a nice long walk.”

A walk sounds pleasant, but then Yuuri remembers he’s going to have to relieve himself.  In public.  In front of Victor.

Yuuri decides he hates being a dog.

 

“What do you think?” Victor asks him later that night, posing in front of a mirror.  His designer suit hangs beautifully on his figure, hugging his curves and bringing out the color of his eyes.

Yuuri sits on the rug behind him and tries his best to look ambivalent.

Though Victor left for a few hours for the Exhibition Skate, their day together was surprisingly pleasant and distracting.  He almost forgot about the closing banquet that evening, preoccupied with observing Victor in the quiet of his flat, seeing how he’d occasionally stretch or read or tinker around the kitchen.  They even took a nap together at one point, though Yuuri maintained proper distance between them. 

He did wish they’d gone without trying to play fetch, though Victor had probably lost more dignity than Yuuri in the process.  When Yuuri didn’t chase after the ball Victor tossed for him, he tried to demonstrate, crawling on all fours and holding it in his mouth.  Though Yuuri had done his best to look disinterested, he couldn’t quell his amusement at watching Victor wiggle like he was wagging a tail, smiling around the ball, his eyes sparkling.

When Victor dropped the ball in front of him and looked up expectantly, Yuuri couldn’t resist catching him off guard by licking a wet stripe up the side of his face.

With a cry of fake disgust, Victor rolled on the floor and giggled.  Yuuri watched him with his lip twitching, an intense feeling of fondness efflorescing inside of him.

Now all that good humor has left him.  He knows his absence from the Exhibition Skate and the banquet will reflect poorly on him.  He wonders if Celestino will be worried or think Yuuri is blowing him off.  Yuuri wouldn’t blame him if he did.  He knows what a disappointment he is, especially compared to a dream student like Phichit.  He’s being replaced, and he deserves it.

“That bad, huh?” Victor asks, frowning at Yuuri’s reflection and running a hand through his silver hair.  “Well, there’s only one person I’m trying to impress anyway.”

Yuuri stiffens, but before he can think too much about who Victor is referring to, the doorbell rings.

With a jump, Yuuri shoots to Victor’s side, plastering up against his leg, terrified in some primal, animalistic way.

“Aww, what’s the matter?  It’s just Chris.  I promise he’s harmless.”

With a pat on Yuuri’s head, Victor leaves the room.

After a few breaths, Yuuri gathers enough resolve to follow him.  He enters the living room to the sight of Christophe Giacometti sauntering through the front door and wrapping Victor a sensual, lingering hug.  Yuuri’s chest twists.  Was this the man Victor was trying to impress?  He always assumed they were just friends, but Victor was notoriously secretive about his private life. 

It makes sense when he thinks about it.  Christophe is one of the few skaters who rival Victor on the ice.  He’s sexy and confident.  He’s everything that Yuuri is not.

Hanging his head, Yuuri skulks to the couch and wedges himself under it.

“Since when did you get a new dog?” he hears Chris say to Victor.  Their feet come into Yuuri’s eye line.

“Yesterday.  He’s a stray, that’s why he’s shy.  I found him after the match.”

“That explains where you went.  I thought you’d finally gotten the courage to take Mr. Pole Dance home.”

Victor toes the floor.

“I don’t think he’s interested.”

“He will be after he sees you in that suit.”

Victor laughs.

“You’re getting my hopes up.”

“How many times do I have to tell you?  He was throwing himself at you.  I know what seduction looks like, believe me.”

“Yeah, and then he never called me.”

Yuuri closes his eyes.  He knows he has no right to feel jealous.  Victor doesn’t even know him, will probably hate him if he ever finds out his true identity.  Besides, Victor apparently has a thing for strippers, of all people, though Yuuri can’t imagine why one of them would be attending a figure skating event. 

With a pang of embarrassment, Yuuri thinks back to the pole dancing classes Phichit dragged him to in college on a dare.  He’d never been more humiliated in his life.  If Victor ever saw him like that, he’d probably laugh himself bald.

“Fine,” Chris sighs.  “Ready to go or should we do a shot first?”

“A shot sounds like an excellent idea.”

“Maybe a little liquid courage will actually get you laid.”  Yuuri tries not to listen as they walk into the kitchen but his senses are too strong.  A cabinet opens and shuts, glasses clink, the scent of vodka burns in the air.  “Tell me, how long has it been?"

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Oh, but I do.  What if you manage to get him back here tonight?  Will you even remember how to sleep with him?”

“Who says I want to sleep with him?”

“Victor.”

A sigh.

“I have to get him to talk to me first,” Victor mumbles.

“Do you want some tips?”

Victor laughs.

“From you?  I don’t want to terrify him.”

“Good point.”

By the time Victor and Chris have downed their shots and are preparing to leave, Yuuri feels sick.  Visions of Victor stumbling home, wrapped in a man’s arms while Yuuri hides in the corner, fill his head. 

When Victor kneels down next to the couch and looks under, Yuuri is so lost in thought that he doesn’t notice him.

“See you later, sweetheart,” Victor says, but when he reaches to pet him, Yuuri startles, growling and baring his teeth before he can help it. 

Victor flinches back, his face contorting in shock and hurt.  “S-sorry.  I shouldn’t have…sorry,” he stammers, stumbling to his feet.  Yuuri feels like a monster.

“Maybe you should bring that stray to the pound,” says Chris.

Victor doesn’t say anything, and Yuuri’s stomach bottoms out.  The idea of a dog pound, of a cage, of possibly being put down, steals his breath.

“Victor,” Chris says, more gently.  “There’s…there’s never going to be another dog like Mak--”

“Let’s just go.”

After a silence, the door closes and Yuuri is alone.

He spends the next several hours in a state of distress.  He paces in circles around the apartment, whining, his nails clicking on the floor.  He knows he should be at the banquet, knows what nasty things people will say about him for being a sore loser who doesn’t have the courage to show his face. 

And yet, none of that worries him as much as Victor bringing home some man.  Victor must have no idea how gorgeous and talented and kind he is, because there’s no chance someone could forget to call him back or turn him down.

An unfamiliar itch swells inside of him.  He has the strange, intense desire to chew something.  It’s not the first time he’s felt a compulsion that’s more canine than human, though it’s never been this strong.

He doesn’t want to destroy any of Victor’s possessions but if he doesn’t get his teeth in something he’s worried he’ll lose his mind.

Going to the basket of Makkachin’s toys, Yuuri pulls out the first thing he finds: a stuffed fox with a squeaky inside.  He flops on the rug in the living room and gives it an experimental bite.

A tingle of calm goes through him, taking the edge off.  The squeaky is taunting, yet makes every bite more satisfying.  He can’t seem to get enough.

By the time he hears a key turning in a lock, Yuuri has utterly lost himself in gnawing at the toy.  He doesn’t realize until the door swings open that he’s surrounded by bits of shredded fluff and faux fur.

With eyes locked on Victor, Yuuri is paralyzed.  A part of him is relieved to see that Victor is alone, but he can’t ignore how his suit hangs limp on his torso, how his eyes are downcast, underlined with dark smudges.

“Yuuri?” he calls. 

When Victor sees Yuuri on the rug, surrounded by stuffed animal carnage, he grinds to a halt.

For a long, tense moment, he has no reaction.  Then, the word “no” is carried on a breath, and Victor is striding towards him. 

Yuuri tries to scramble back but he still doesn’t have good control of his legs.  He stumbles, his back hitting a chair and sending him sprawling.

Victor doesn’t even acknowledge him.  He crumples to his knees, picking up the remnants of the fox in his hands.

Yuuri can do nothing but stare, horrified as Victor’s sad eyes fill with tears.

“You didn’t know any better,” Victor says, voice cracking.  “It’s not your fault.  It’s mine, I…”

Yuuri is shocked.  He was expecting anger, maybe even punishment.  Yuuri knows he just took something away that Victor can never get back, and yet, despite his obvious pain, Victor is gentle, forgiving.  Yuuri’s idea of him shifts again.

Though he doesn’t want to get too close, Yuuri has to do something.

Slowly, he rises to his feet and approaches, his ears curled back and tail tucked between his legs.  He wants to hug Victor, but since he can’t, he settles for butting his head against Victor’s shoulder. 

The tension sheds from Victor’s frame, a sigh punching out. 

“It was his favorite toy,” Victor whispers, flooding Yuuri with guilt.  “But he…he would have let you have it.”

Victor sniffs, once, before throwing his arms around Yuuri and burying his face in Yuuri’s neck.  Heat tingles through him. 

Victor smells like a blend of subtle cologne and snow and something purely unique.  It’s inundating with Yuuri’s dog nose.  He shudders.  Victor releases him.

“Sorry, I know you don’t like to be touched,” Victor says, pushing to his feet and swiping the back of his hand across his nose.  “What do you say to a walk and then bed?”

Yuuri brushes Victor’s palm with his snout. 

That night, Yuuri doesn’t sleep on the floor.  He can tell that Victor is down, so he jumps up onto the mattress when Victor asks.  He still coils up on the far edge of the bed, close to falling off.

Yuuri can’t decide if they’ve taken a step forward or if he’s just giving up trying to fight.

 

When Yuuri wakes the next day he is still a dog, and he loses a little more hope.

Still, he doesn’t want to give in to despair, for Victor’s sake if not his own.

Victor is gloomy, perhaps because his intentions with that man didn’t go well, and while Yuuri can’t say he wishes it had gone better for him, he still feels bad.  After all, he owes Victor for the toy.

He stays by his side all day, though he touches him as little as possible.  He knows Victor wants to pet him, but Yuuri has to draw the line somewhere.  Contact with Victor affects him more than it should, more than Victor intends.  It’s not good for either of them, and he’s beginning to forget why he should resist, why Victor’s affection for him isn’t real.

They go for a long walk, until Yuuri’s paws are cold and his tongue is hanging out.  Victor talks to him a lot, for which Yuuri is grateful, even if it’s because Victor is lonely.  They earn some judgmental glances from passersby on the sidewalk.  Victor doesn’t seem to mind. 

If he doesn’t think too hard on it, Yuuri can almost pretend they’re friends.

When they get back to Victor’s flat, Chris is waiting for them.

“Chris!” Victor says as they reach the top of the stairs.  “I thought you’d gone back home.”

“I wanted to give you something before I left.  I just got here.”

Victor brushes past him to unlock the door.  Chris gives Yuuri a critical look behind his back.

“I don’t know why you didn’t just get a cat,” he says.  Victor laughs.

“You know I prefer dogs.”

Yuuri glares at Chris when he passes by him through the open door.  He goes to the couch, but he doesn’t crawl under it this time.  The last thing he needs is Chris bringing up the “p” word again.

“So what is it?” Victor says as Yuuri settles on the cushions.

“I have something you want,” Chris says, pausing dramatically.  “A certain phone number…belonging to a certain someone.”

Yuuri’s ears twitch at the sound of Victor’s breath catching.  His stomach clenches.

“How did you get it?”

“I have my ways.  Now for the love of God, will you stop pining and text the damn guy?”

“What should I say?”

“You told me you didn’t want my advice.”

“And with good reason.  I feel sorry for your boyfriend.”

“Why?  He loves when I torture him.”

Victor laughs.

“I don’t know how he handles you,” he says, not unkindly.

“With great enthusiasm and frequency,” Chris says with a wink.  “But enough about my incredible sex life.  What will you text your pole dancing man?”

“I’ll figure something out.”

After Chris makes his goodbyes with a hug and a pinch to Victor’s ass, Victor collapses on the couch beside Yuuri.  He stares at his phone and worries his bottom lip between his teeth.

“What do you think?” he says.  “I should just keep it simple, right?”

Yuuri huffs, turning his head away.  The sound of Victor’s fingertips tapping on his phone screen is loud in the quiet room.

“How about this: ‘This is Victor Nikiforov.  I wasn’t able to connect with you at the banquet last night, but I got your number from a friend and I was wondering if you wanted to get a drink sometime.’  Is it too forward?”

Yuuri grumbles and flicks his tail.  Even if he could give Victor advice about hitting on another guy, it’s just about the last thing he wants to do.

“Are you jealous, sweetheart?” Victor says, nudging him.  Yuuri jerks, eyes widening.  “I have to say, you are the most expressive dog I have ever met.  It’s almost like you’re a person.”

Yuuri shoots to his feet on the couch.  Is Victor starting to suspect him?  Maybe if Victor figures it out, he can help Yuuri turn back. 

“That’s because I am a person,” he tries to say.  A few broken whines come out, sticking on his tongue.  He tries to nod, but Victor just gives him an amused grin.

“Are you hungry, boy?  Is that what’s the matter?  Alright, I’ll get you some lunch.”

Yuuri whimpers, his shoulders sagging.  He berates himself for getting his hopes up, even for a moment. 

Victor gives him some leftover rice, but Yuuri is too dejected to eat it.  He crawls under the couch, and doesn’t come out no matter how many treats or sweet words Victor plies him with. 

When Victor give up, he sits at the kitchen table with a sigh and folds open his laptop.

Even from his vantage point, Yuuri can see how often he checks his phone, wilting every time he doesn’t see what he’s hoping for.

Whoever this guy is, he must be an idiot.  If Yuuri ever got that text he’d fall all over himself to reply.

Yuuri sleeps on the couch that night, and ignores the pang of guilt when Victor shuffles to his bedroom alone, glancing at him once with a plea in his eyes.  It’s not his place to care.

At least that’s what he tells himself in the middle of the night when he can’t sleep, with the absence of Victor’s steady breathing glaring in the dark.

 

The next day, Victor is aggressively positive.  He greets Yuuri with a heart-shaped smile and seems impervious to his aloofness.

“I want to go to the rink,” Victor announces after they’ve had lunch and Yuuri has, embarrassingly, been taken out.  Yuuri perks up before he remembers that he won’t be the one skating.  He’d give anything to feel the freedom of the ice, to lose himself in the focus it demands.  It’s always been his best escape.  He can’t even have that anymore.

Reluctantly, he follows Victor to his practice rink and is relieved when they have it all to themselves.  He doesn’t want to see any members of the Russian team right now.

Despite his sour mood, Yuuri can’t help but get lost in watching Victor skate as he sits on his hind legs in the stands.  Victor is just as captivating as he’s always been, but the effect is heightened in person, with no one but Yuuri to see.  Victor skates like the ice belongs to him, like he was born for it.  Every inch of his body is elegant and controlled.  Yet he makes it look easy. 

A feeling begins to bloom in Yuuri’s chest, familiar, but deeper now, his affection for the kind, playful man coalescing with his admiration for the legend.  He doesn’t want it, can’t afford it, but he has no defense.

“You’ve been so well-behaved,” Victor says once he’s done, like Yuuri is inferior, a child; no, a pet.  It tamps down whatever he’d been feeling.  “You get a treat when we get home.”

Victor reaches to pet him and Yuuri dodges away.  He doesn’t want to be treated like a dog.  He wants to be human.  He wants to be able to speak, to tell Victor what he thinks and how he feels.  To be an equal.

Victor sighs, his hand falling to the side.

“I don’t understand what I keep doing wrong.”

Closing his eyes, Yuuri sucks in a deep breath.  He knows that none of this is Victor’s fault, that he doesn’t deserve Yuuri’s callousness.  Yuuri might hate his state of being, but Victor is only doing what he thinks is best for a dog. 

Before he can change his mind, he nuzzles Victor’s palm, nudging until Victor pets him.  His fingers are gentle, his face fond and relieved.  It’s unnerving how desperately Yuuri prefers to see him like this.

On their walk home, Yuuri wanders as far from Victor as he’s allowed without being whistled at.  He wants to test his freedom, to feel like he’s not someone’s possession. 

The sun has dipped below the skyline, casting the city in growing shadow, and Victor lets Yuuri wander where he likes, even though it deviates from the path home.

Yuuri doesn’t sense something is wrong until it’s too late. 

One moment Victor is on the other side of the cobblestone street, and then he’s gone.  Yuuri looks around frantically, darting from one side of the road to the other.  He hadn’t been distracted for that long.  Had Victor finally gotten sick of him and left?

Though he’s loathe to admit it, Yuuri knows he needs to use his canine senses if he has any hope of finding Victor again.  Sticking his snout in the air, Yuuri breathes deep.  He sifts through the overwhelming mess of scents before he finds Victor’s.  He’d know it anywhere.

Following it leads him to the mouth of an alley.  His eyes adjust quickly to the low light, another benefit of being a dog, and then he sees him.

A man with a ski hat has Victor crushed up against the wall.  A knife glints in his hand, pressed to Victor’s throat above his scarf. 

Yuuri doesn’t hear what he’s saying.  He doesn’t hear anything.  All he knows is that someone is hurting Victor, and he is going to make it stop.

There’s a low growl in the air.  It distracts the man into looking at him, which is the only window Yuuri needs to attack. 

Lunging forward, he springs into the air and sinks his teeth into the arm holding the knife.  The man cries out, dropping it and reeling back.  He flees down the alley, and something primal in Yuuri takes hold.  The world turns red and he chases after him, barking.  He doesn’t hear whatever Victor calls at his back.

By the time Yuuri comes back to himself, he’s lost the mugger and he has no idea where he is.  It’s dark and the streets are cold and winding.  He keeps moving, but his feet are starting to ache and every building looks the same.  He doesn’t see or smell Victor anywhere.

Then, because his luck hasn’t been terrible enough, it starts to snow.

It’s not long before Yuuri gets too cold to move, with the wind kicking up and the cobblestones unforgiving on his bare paws.  With a whimper, he trudges into the closest alley and balls up on a flattened cardboard box, shivering.  Snow falls on his fur, chilling him to his core.  He wants to keep moving, keep fighting, but he has nothing left. 

Everything in his life seems to go wrong.  He can’t skate as he wants to, can’t take care of himself or eat real food or tell Victor how he feels.  And now he’s lost.  What if he never finds Victor again?  Will he die like this?

A figure appears at the end of the alley.

“Yuuri!” a familiar voice cries, and he’s gathered up in the embrace of strong arms.  “I thought I lost you.  I followed your pawprints.  I was so worried about you,” Victor babbles into this fur.  Profound relief warms a part of Yuuri, but he doesn’t have the energy to do anything more than rest his head on Victor’s shoulder.

Closing his eyes, Yuuri allows himself to be carried, fading in and out of focus.  Victor’s arms are firm around him, safe.  He fills his nose with Victor’s scent, and wonders hazily if it was made just for him.

When they’re finally back inside the safety of the flat, Victor wraps him in a blanket on the couch.  He cranks up the heat and sits beside him, holding him in his arms.

Yuuri knows he shouldn’t allow this, should pull away before he gets in any deeper, but Victor smells so good, is so warm and safe.  He buries his head against Victor’s chest.

“You saved my life,” Victor says, which sounds wrong.  Yuuri is the one who’s been saved.

When Victor puts Yuuri on the bed that night, he doesn’t fight it.  He presses his back to Victor’s legs and sleeps better than he has in days.

 

The next morning, Yuuri wakes up before Victor.

He doesn’t want to bother him, so he eases to the floor and trots into the living room.

He casts around for something to do, but can find nothing that doesn’t require thumbs.  He can’t read a book, he can’t turn on the TV.  His only option is to play with Makkachin’s toys, and he’s not going near them after the incident a few nights ago.

He’s just starting to go stir crazy when he hears a sound from the bedroom.  Ears standing up, Yuuri listens.  A faint groan travels to him and he’s on his feet in an instant.  Is Victor in pain?

With careful steps, he goes to the bedroom door and noses it further open. 

For a moment, he doesn’t realize what he’s seeing.

Victor is on the bed, his head thrown back and cheeks flushed.  One of his fists in clenched in his pillow, the other hidden beneath the sheets and jerking.

With a flood of embarrassment, Yuuri wrenches back, staggering to the living room in abject horror. 

It hadn’t occurred to him that Victor would do more…private things with Yuuri around.  A normal dog wouldn’t even notice, let alone cast judgment, but Yuuri is not a dog.  He’s a man.  A man who has had more than one fantasy about the figure skating icon in question.

He feels more than ever that he’s violated Victor’s trust, his space.  Still, he can’t get the image out of his head, of Victor’s face rosy with pleasure, of the column of his throat and the white knuckles. 

With a snort of disgust with himself, Yuuri hides as far from the bedroom as possible. 

When Victor eventually emerges, Yuuri won’t look at him.  He doesn’t want to see the aftermath of what Victor did on his features.  He’s already seen enough that he’ll never forget.

“What are you doing up against the door?  Do you need to go out?”

Yuuri doesn’t acknowledge him.

“Yuuri?  What’s the matter?  Are you feeling okay?”

Victor reaches down to touch him and Yuuri wrenches back so violently that he hits his head on the door.

With a thud, Victor collapses to the floor beside him and makes a sound that cuts through Yuuri’s embarrassment.  Yuuri can’t help but look at him through the corner of his eye.  Victor is cross-legged, his elbows braced on his knees and head held in his hands.

“Why do you keep doing that?” he says.  “Makkachin never…he never—” Victor cuts off with a hiccup.  His fingers curl into his hair.

Tears slip down Victor’s cheeks, slow and unacknowledged, like he’s barely cried before.

“I’m so lost,” he whispers.  Yuuri cants his head, looks at him fully.  “I don’t…I’m not happy, Yuuri.”

Yuuri breaths in, quick, and Victor looks up at him through the curtain of his hair.

“It’s not your fault.  It’s everything.  It’s Makkachin and that man last night and skating and,” he says, sucking in a breath, “I don’t think I want to do this anymore.  It doesn’t fulfill me like it used to.  I’m so…lonely.”

Yuuri gapes at him.  He knows he should stop this, but he can’t move.  This is a confession Yuuri isn’t meant to hear, but if he walks away he might hurt Victor more than he already has.

“I thought I met someone who could change things for me.” 

The familiar ache of envy swells, but it’s different than before.  He finds that he only wants Victor to find happiness, even though he wishes he was the one to give it to him. 

“He made me feel alive for the first time in…ha, maybe ever.  But I guess he didn’t feel the same way.  Figures.”

Yuuri has the strong urge to find this man, whoever he is, and slap him around.  What kind of fool could get Victor to feel this way about them and not act?

Yuuri wishes he could be the one to show Victor life and love but if this is all he gets, he’ll do what he must.  Victor deserves that much.

With a breath, he shifts closer and rests his head on Victor’s knee.  He doesn’t pull away when Victor folds over him, weaving his fingers through Yuuri’s fur and pressing a kiss to the top of his head.  Victor shakes through whatever he’s battling with, and Yuuri lets himself be held until it passes.

They spend the rest of the day close together, not leaving the flat for more than a few quick walks.  Yuuri can tell Victor is still shaken from the attempted mugging and from what happened that morning.  He can hardly blame him. 

By the time they crawl into bed together, Yuuri realizes that he feels differently about Victor than before.  He cares for him; deeply, indelibly.  Though they’ve never even held a conversation, he’s starting to consider him one of his closest friends.  Not that he has many.

Victor is kind and gentle, occasionally childish but patient as well.   He likes to read and snuggle and he works harder than anyone Yuuri’s met. 

Yuuri always wondered if he’d put Victor on too high a pedestal, that the true version of him would pale in comparison to the fantasy.  Victor was not what Yuuri had expected, but he was better, softer.  If things were different, Yuuri could see himself loving Victor for the rest of his life.

When they finally fall asleep, Yuuri lets Victor hold him.

If this is all he ever gets, it will have to be enough.  He knows that it’s more than he deserves.

 

Yuuri wakes up content.  He’s comfortable, spread out, with a pleasant weight draped over his waist.  The air is cool on his bare skin, but warmth soaks into him from the body pressed to his back.

Body.  A human body.  On his human, naked body.

His eyes fly open, a gasp sneaking from his throat before he has time to cover his mouth.

Reality douses over him in sudden, total clarity.  The spell has worn off.

At first, he doesn’t dare move.  How will Victor react if he finds him like this, naked in his arms without his consent?  He doubts the excuse of “a spell turned me into a dog” will hold up.  He’ll probably think Yuuri is some kind of stalker and call the police.

Yuuri is terrified.

Holding his breath, he gently takes Victor’s wrist in two fingers and picks it up.  When he tries to sneak out from under it, Victor grumbles, his arm clenching around Yuuri to draw him closer. 

Yuuri’s face is searing.  He’s infinitely thankful that the sheets separate them at Victor’s hips.  With a shallow breath, he tries again, and barely manages to escape.

Stumbling to his feet, and wincing at the noise, he looks over his shoulder at Victor with one squinted eye.  He sags in relief when he finds him still asleep. 

He spares the briefest, final moment to experience how lovely Victor is like this, with his hair tousled and swept over his forehead, his skin like porcelain in the morning light.  Yuuri wishes things were different.  He wishes he was waking up in Victor’s bed because he was welcome there, that he could make Victor breakfast and bring it to him and kiss the sleep from his lips.

Shaking his head, Yuuri turns, striding to leave as fast as he can…

And runs straight into the wall.

Swearing in Japanese, Yuuri crumples to the floor, clutching his nose as stars pop around him.  He rocks back and forth on the carpet, pain reverberating through his head.  Blood leaks from his nose onto his lips and between his fingers.

“Um,” says a familiar voice.

Reality comes back with a crack.  Yuuri’s eyes fly open to the sight of Victor’s upside-down face.  He’s leaning over the edge of the bed, staring down at Yuuri in utter bewilderment.

“Yuuri?” he breathes.

“V-Victor.” 

Yuuri prays that he’s dreaming, that he can’t possibly be lying naked on his idol’s floor with a nosebleed, but no matter how many times he blinks, he doesn’t wake up.

With their eyes locked, they’re frozen for a long, strange moment.  Then, in perfect unison, they both yelp and spring back.  Yuuri scrambles to his feet.  The world tilts, his head swimming with dizziness.  He falls down on his ass.

Victor is on his feet at the other end of the room, his back pressed to the wall with his hands splayed.

“I can explain!” Yuuri gasps. 

Victor gapes at him, eyes wide and mouth hanging open.  He’s wearing nothing but his briefs, his chest heaving.

“I got turned into a dog!  That’s why I’m here I--I’m not a stalker, I swear,” Yuuri sputters, wincing because that’s exactly the sort of thing a stalker would say.

Victor is going to think he’s insane and he’s going to tell everyone in the skating federation that Yuuri snuck into his bedroom because he thinks he’s a dog, and Yuuri will be banned for life, or committed to a mental institution, or—

“You’re naked,” Victor says, like he only just realized, and Yuuri’s panic attack halts in its tracks.  Victor’s eyes travel down Yuuri’s body, wide.  A blush climbs from Yuuri’s chest to his cheeks.

“I didn’t…the curse must’ve—” he breaks off with a whimper.  “C-can I borrow some clothes, please?” he whispers. 

Victor doesn’t move.  Then, without a word, he walks stiffly to his closet and pulls out sweatpants and a t-shirt.  He tosses them at Yuuri’s feet.

Yuuri yanks them on as fast as he can.  His breath is coming in short pulls, his eyes prickling.  His nose aches, but at least he’s not bleeding anymore.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri stammers, stumbling to his feet.  Victor still looks shocked, but there’s a new emotion creeping in.

He looks exposed.  Vulnerable.

“So, you’re telling me,” he says, “that Katsuki Yuuri is the dog I’ve been living with the past few days?” 

It sounds ridiculous when Victor speaks it out loud.  Yuuri shrinks back, taking a few steps towards the door.  He fights the strong compulsion to run.

“I know it sounds absurd, I know, but it’s the truth, I swear.  I got cursed after the Free Skate and I found you, and I didn’t know what to do.  I—I tried to tell you.”  An idea pops into Yuuri’s head.  “I know; ask me something that only the dog would know.  I’ll prove it.”

Victor’s brow puckers.  He looks like he’s about to refuse, but then he asks, “What did Chris give me the day after the banquet?”

Yuuri rushes to answer.

“A phone number.”

“Whose phone number?”

Yuuri falters.  He never did figure out who Victor was pining after, but if he doesn’t come up with something Victor will never believe him.

“He’s…the one who doesn’t like you the way that you like him.”

Victor blanches.  He turns his head away, his fists clenching.

“I see.  So you must know everything.  I told you everything.”

Yuuri feels sick.  He knew this was going to happen, that Victor would hate him for the secrets he unwillingly gave.  He never wanted to do this to him.

“I won’t tell anyone.  I didn’t want to know any of it but I had no choice.  I tried not to…I had nowhere else to go.”

Victor’s face twists, and Yuuri’s teeth click shut.  Everything he says only seems to make things worse. 

“Please don’t look at me like that,” Yuuri whispers.  He shuts his eyes and the tears spill free, his breath hitching.

“You’re crying.”  Victor sounds genuinely baffled.  “Don’t—why are you crying?”

“I don’t want you to hate me,” Yuuri says, voice small.

“Why would I hate you?”

Blinking, Yuuri dares to look at him.

“If what you say is true,” Victor says, “it sounds like you didn’t do anything wrong.  You never wanted to be here with me, you just didn’t have a choice.”

Yuuri opens his mouth to correct him, but bites back the words.  It won’t help his case to admit how much he’s adored spending time with Victor, sharing his home and his time. 

He can’t say that there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.  That he’s falling in love with him.

He wraps his arms across his chest, shielding himself.

“I need to call my coach.  He’s probably worried about me.”

“You can use my phone.”

“And I need to find the alley I was in when I got cursed.  My glasses and my clothes with my wallet and phone might still be there, but I don’t know this city at all.”

“I’ll do whatever you need.”

Yuuri pauses.

“Really?”

“Of course.”

“Why?” he breathes.  Victor shrugs.  Yuuri watches a mask slide into place, his eyes turning distant and cold.

“The sooner I do, the sooner you can leave.”

Yuuri’s stomach bottoms out, an ache stabbing through him. 

He feels like he’s just lost one of his best friends.

 

Yuuri trudges behind Victor up the stairs to his apartment.  It took hours, but they were able to locate his clothes.  Luckily, no one had stolen his wallet, but his phone was dead.  He hoped a charge was all it needed, and that the snow hadn’t killed it.  At least it feels good to wear his glasses again.

“I won’t stay long,” Yuuri says as Victor unlocks the door and swings it open.  They’ve barely spoken all day.  “I just want to call the hotel for a room and make sure they didn’t throw my stuff out.  Celestino said he left without checking,” Yuuri says with a twinge.  He thought Celestino would be more concerned, but it seemed Yuuri had disappeared without warning too often when his anxiety got bad.

“Take my phone,” Victor says, emotionless, handing it to him without meeting his eyes. 

Shuffling into the kitchen, Victor picks up the dog bowl, then goes to the fridge. 

He pauses with the door open.  A slow flush pinks his ears.  He glances at Yuuri like he’s been caught doing something humiliating, then stuffs the bowl in a cabinet.

To give him an out, Yuuri turns away and busies himself on the phone.  He pulls up the number of the hotel and dials.

The concierge informs him that they have his luggage in the back room of their lobby and will hold it, but they have no vacant rooms available.  With a groan, Yuuri hangs up.  He doesn’t want to go through the hassle of finding an open hotel room after a major skating event, but it’s not like he can impose on Victor any longer.  Besides, Victor just said he wants him to leave. 

He pulls up Victor’s message app to text Celestino, and gasps.

There, right at the top, is his name.

Why does Victor have Yuuri’s name in his phone?  And more importantly, what did he message him?

He’s already violated Victor’s privacy enough, so he almost ignores it, but it’s not like Victor didn’t want him to see it, right?  He sent it to him after all.

Sneaking a look at Victor finds him in the living room.  He’s picking up the dog toys he tried to get Yuuri to play with, and is stuffing them in the basket, as if he can’t bear to look at them anymore.

Yuuri taps the message.

This is Victor Nikiforov.  I wasn’t able to connect with you at the banquet last night, but I got your number from a friend and I was wondering if you wanted to get a drink sometime.

In one single instant, Yuuri’s world restructures. 

He thinks of Victor dressing up for the banquet, of how he had come home disappointed when the person he’d been trying to impress wasn’t there.  He thought of the Grand Prix Final and pole dancing and the way Victor’s eyes had dilated at seeing Yuuri naked.

There wasn’t some mystery stripper man stealing Victor’s attention.  It was Yuuri.  It had been Yuuri all along.

He feels like an idiot.

“Victor,” he says, striding to him where he’s stuffing the dog bed in a closet.  “Can I ask you something?”

Victor’s back goes stiff.  He shuts the closet door, sucks a breath through his nose, and turns to face him.  He nods.

“When did you meet me?”

Victor frowns.

“At the Grand Prix Final,” he says slowly.  “At the banquet.”

Yuuri swallows hard.

“But I didn’t talk to anyone at the banquet.”

Victor huffs a false laugh.  His brow pulls down when he realizes Yuuri is serious.

“You don’t remember?”

“I had a lot of champagne,” Yuuri says, bashful.  “I didn’t happen to, uh, pole dance, did I?”

Something heated passes over Victor’s face.

“You did more than just that.  You challenged me to a dance off.”

Yuuri wishes that he could crawl under the couch.

“A dance off?” he squeaks.

“And then you asked me to come to Hasetsu to be your coach.”

What?”  Yuuri grips the sides of his head.  “You gave me your number, didn’t you?  And I never called you.”

“I thought you were playing hard to get.”

“So when I didn’t reply to that text message…”

“I assumed you wanted me to leave you alone.”

Yuuri’s eyes snap to Victor’s face.  He’s staring at Yuuri.  He looks resigned, like he’s given up.

“I didn’t know,” Yuuri said, taking a step closer.  “Not until now.  I didn’t know it was me.”

Victor blinks.  Yuuri watches him sift through a few responses before he settles on one.

“But you heard me.  I talked to Chris about it, and then yesterday…” Victor trails off. 

“I never thought it could be me.  When you said those things, I wanted it to be me, but I never thought—”

“What did you say?” 

Yuuri frowns, unsure of what Victor is asking.

“I said…I said I wanted it to be me.”

For a second, Victor has no reaction.  Then something inside him buckles.  The tension bleeds from his frame, his eyes closing on a small sigh.  He covers his eyes with a palm.

Is he crying?  Is he mad?

“Victor,” Yuuri asks, reaching out to touch him but stopping before he does.  He doesn’t know if he still has the right.  “I know you must be so uncomfortable.  You didn’t know it was me and I know if you had, you wouldn’t have said and done the things you did.  I wish I could make it up to you.  I wish…I wish we could be friends.”

“Friends.”

Yuuri closes his eyes, unable to look at Victor when he speaks.  Victor unwillingly gave him so much honesty, so many secrets.  The least Yuuri can do is give him this.

“More than friends.”

“More?” 

“I know everything is ruined, but being with you is—”

Victor throws his arms around Yuuri’s neck, yanking him forward into a hug.  An undignified noise is punched from Yuuri’s chest, his eyes bulging. 

At first, his arms hang limply at his sides, his body rigid.  Then he realizes that he can return this.  He can hold Victor the way he’s always wanted.

Slowly, his hands find Victor’s back and he splays his fingers.  Victor is firm and alive under his palms.  He presses in, turning his head into the bend of Victor’s neck. 

Victor’s scent is less overwhelming than it was as a dog, but it still cuts right to the core of him, making his skin tingle and his breath shake.

“Yuuri,” Victor says, then laughs into Yuuri’s hair.  “I feel weird calling you that”

“If helps, I used to have a dog named Victor.”

“Really?”

“And he was a poodle.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I’ve sort of…worshipped you since I was twelve.”

Victor twitches in his arms.  Yuuri blushes, but there’s something freeing about being so honest, at knowing nothing he can say will be more personal than what Victor has already told him.  They’re equals.

“That does even the playing field a bit.”

Victor’s fingers slide up his spine to this nape, tangling in the hair at the back of his head.

“Does this mean you’ll get that drink with me?” Victor murmurs, making him shiver.

“Yes.  Please, yes.”

“Good,” Victor says.  He leans back until their eyes meet.  “Because we have to discuss my coaching fee.”

“Coaching fee?”

Victor presses a kiss to Yuuri’s cheek, pulls back, and winks at him.

“I’m going to make you win the Grand Prix Final, sweetheart.”