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The flowers are already in his room. Fifteen red roses, just starting to uncurl. Christophe can smell them on the air when he gets nearer, the sweet familiar scent not quite whisked away by the air conditioning. There's a damp smell, too, like the previous occupant left a mess behind that called for some deep cleaning.

Well, Christophe has been the previous occupant on more than one occasion, so he doesn't really mind. There's a card beside the flowers and, unexpectedly, a basket of fruit.

The flowers are expected; they've been arriving at his home for the last few weeks. Always the same bouquet, fifteen roses. If it had been anyone but Georgi, Christophe would have assumed a subscription service, automated relationship maintenance, but every time there's a different vase and different words on the card.

Christophe never knows what to do with them. Because flowers are an obligation. Water to change, stems to trim, falling petals to sweep away. And then they droop and die and have to be thrown away and there's still the vase to be washed and stacked up in the cupboard with the other empty vases. One week, his cat knocked the whole thing over and looked smugly at Christophe while he cleaned up the shards of glass and mopped the water from the floor.

He picks up the card, bracing for the message, although Georgi has actually been, Christophe assumes, restrained in what he types into the order form. Allez! is all it says, that and Georgi's name. He wonders what it would look like if Georgi had written it himself, instead of this blue ballpoint flower shop employee. He puts it back, face down.

The fruit isn't all that nice, probably "may not be exactly as pictured", but Christophe takes an apple and holds it to his nose, inhaling the crisp fall smell. It's less aggressively romantic than roses and he feels himself relax. There's a tickle in his mind of some old memory but he can't quite bring it up.

He checks the room for bed bugs, pulling out the bedclothes and sweeping all the corners of the furniture with a flashlight. When he's looked enough, he unpacks.

His phone vibrates on the table, clinking against the vase. A message from Georgi and even before Christophe reads it, he feels that pull in his groin and that push in his head, two kinds of pressure.

Just How was your flight? and a photo of Georgi in his cramped apartment, old t-shirt, worn green couch, his chin in the air.

At least take off your shirt, Christophe thinks about sending back but he swipes the message away.

He has something else to do.

+

It's been five weeks since he's seen Victor, pretty usual for the season. But he's seeing Victor now, the wet ends of his hair flat against his neck, his body distorted by the water.

"Didn't you bring a glass for me?" Victor says.

Christophe considered it, just to show he knew Victor would be here, but he doesn't want to be quite that obvious. "I thought you'd be with your skater." He drops a strawberry — under-ripe, from the sad fruit basket — into the glass and pours the cava. "We'll share," he says and drinks.

He tops up the glass before he slides into the water and works his way to Victor's side, setting the bottle up behind them on the pool's edge. Their fingers brush as Victor takes the glass and Christophe settles so their shoulders touch.

They've been here before, not this pool, but other pools on other rooftops, other bottles, other nights. Just like the hotel bars, the city clubs, the changing rooms. The memories overlap and run into each other, but they're all warm and fun and sexy, the easy background to the skating season.

Christophe takes back the glass and sips. "Remember the first final we were at together?"

"Beijing."

"Quebec City," Christophe says. "My room." Drinking a little there too. Then Christophe's hand sliding under Victor's shirt, his tongue sliding into Victor's mouth, kissing and touching their way to Christophe's cock between Victor's thighs, face to face and panting. Not the first time for them, but nearly.

Victor laughs. "I forgot." He takes the glass back and looks out at the city lights, or somewhere beyond them, sipping idly. Christophe watches him. The light is dim but Christophe thinks he can see lines at the corner of Victor's eye that weren't there last year. He lets Victor keep the glass.

When it's empty, he fills it. When it's empty again, he takes it away. It's time to at least give this a try. He puts his arm around Victor's shoulders. Then he slides his hand down Victor's back, moving slowly under the water.

It's always been Christophe's move first and he's fine with that. It's the way they play the game. The game of teasing Victor until he tips his head to the side and smiles that flirty smile. Until he follows Christophe back to play previous occupant in Christophe's hotel room. Victor likes it slow, but not sweet, and Christophe knows just how to make his eyes go wide, how to make his back arch and his skin flush.

His hand on Victor makes Christophe realise just how long it's really been since he's touched a body with intent like this. After practice, instead of beckoning his rinkmate or propositioning the barista who makes his coffee, he's been picking up his phone, opening his laptop. He stares at Victor's jawline and pushes the image of Georgi, intense and eager, out of his head, because not now, not right fucking now.

He dips his fingers down inside the band of Victor's trunks and Victor lets him for long enough that Christophe thinks it's actually working. And realises how little he was expecting that.

But Victor blinks and turns his head. "Sorry, Chris," he says and moves away, not far, but enough.

You miss it, Christophe thinks of saying. But he fills the glass instead. "So it's true."

Victor doesn't answer but the look on his face is enough.

"I thought you were like me."

"I am like you," Victor says.

+

When he closes the door behind him, Christophe can smell the roses in the air. It's time to take a shower and go to sleep, get his head in the game before practice tomorrow. But he picks up the apple from the fruit basket instead and inhales the scent. The memory is still hiding, like a cat under a couch, just the tip of its tail visible.

He looks at the bed. Why isn't fucking Georgi there to warm it for him? It's not a fair expectation and Christophe knows it. They're both training and it's not like Christophe has made any overtures about travel. It's not like Christophe has asked for anything other than a truly epic amount of Skype sex.

He texts Georgi now, even though it's after midnight in Saint Petersburg. skype me. He strips off his swimsuit and drops it in the shower. He just makes it back to the bed before Georgi appears on his screen, shirt off this time, and hair a little tousled.

Just like... Christophe doesn't want to think about the awkward quarter of an hour in Victor's hotel room but it intrudes anyway. Yuuri soft and sleepy, Victor's head to one side, smiling that flirty smile at him. Christophe isn't quite sure if they're sleeping together or not and maybe there's an opportunity there. But even if he tried to take it, he's outside their notice, even though he's known both of them longer than they've known each other.

He concentrates on Georgi's face instead; even blinking and half-awake, he's only focussed on Christophe. "Did I wake you?"

Georgi leans in like he's trying to get closer but it's just to change the angle of his screen. "Did the flowers get delivered? How's the hotel?"

Christophe doesn't know why even thank you sticks in his throat so he turns the phone to sweep the room instead.

Georgi's gaze shifts for a moment. "Isn't it too cold for the pool?" He must have the photo stream open in another window.

"My fans are insatiable." Christophe wonders what comments Georgi will leave. He always clicks like at the very least and usually says something florid and convoluted instead of a crisp "sexy!" Christophe wonders what Georgi will say about the pics with Victor.

"What do you want to do?" Georgi asks, like he knows, which he must, that he's not going to get anywhere with small talk. He's looking back at Christophe now with those intense eyes and that's all Christophe needs to get going.

He strokes the side of his phone with his thumb. He has a few gadgets with him and Georgi has some there, half of which have apps on Christophe's phone. But he wants something raw and real. "Jack it for me," he says. "I want to watch."

A look, the Skype-sex look, passes over Georgi's face. After all this time, he's only half-comfortable. But he's hungry too, his eyes wider and something about the set of his mouth that Christophe can recognize even if he can't explain.

"You don't have to say anything." Christophe shifts in the bed, moving another pillow behind him. "Please."

Please makes Georgi smile. "What about you?"

"I want to watch you first." Christophe puts on his best sultry look. "Come on, beautiful, let me watch you."

Georgi looks away for a moment, then locks eyes with Christophe. It's disconcerting and it's hot. Christophe feels his breath stop for a moment. "What should I do?" Georgi asks.

"Nothing fancy," Christophe says. "Just do what you do when you're alone. I'm not going to tell you."

Georgi hooks his thumbs into his waistband but he doesn't move. Christophe moves his finger across the screen like he can just swipe Georgi's pyjama pants away. Then Georgi does lift his hips and slide them down, and Christophe's finger is over Georgi's dick, like he can stroke it up until it's hard.

Spread your legs and show me more, Christophe wants to say but he keeps it to himself. And then Georgi does it anyhow, thighs apart, where Christophe wants his hands, his mouth, sucking Georgi's balls, licking his asshole, teasing him until he breaks and makes Christophe suck him off.

Georgi closes his eyes. Then he takes his cock in one hand, probably just squeezing it; the screen is too small to be sure. Christophe wraps his hand around his own cock and squeezes a little. What's next?

Next a thumb along the head, stroking like Christophe's finger on the phone screen, drawing up his cock. Christophe doesn't even need to stroke himself to get it up, just watching is enough.

Christophe wonders if this really is what Georgi does when he's alone or if there's more but he doesn't want to show it. Palms sliding up inside his thighs, maybe. Thumbs over his nipples, teasing himself while he thinks about — what? A beautiful woman in a sheer gown, slowly opening herself to him? Christophe's tongue pushing into his asshole?

Georgi uses two hands, still moving slowly, but Christophe has to hold the phone so he's stuck with one. He wants to be faster, a little rough even, but he makes himself match Georgi's pace.

What he really wants is to wrap around Georgi from behind, settle him between Christophe's thighs, and jack him just like this. Chest against Georgi's back, cheek against his temple, his own stiff cock pressed tight between them. If he strains for it, he can still feel Georgi's skin on his skin, mouth on his mouth, breath in his ear.

A wave of desire goes through him and he wants it so much it turns his stomach, the whole fucked-up mess of them together, destroying the hotel room and each other.

"Fuck," he says, not quite under his breath, and Georgi's eyes flicker. "Don't stop. It's good, don't stop."

Georgi frowns but he keeps going, up and down, faster now, biting his lip. Christophe can't really see it but Georgi's cheeks are flushed now, he knows they are.

There's a knot in his own stomach now, an ache in his chest as he fists his cock and tenses his thighs, watching the changes on Georgi's face as best he can. He turns up the speaker as high as it will go so he can hear the creak of Georgi's chair and the huff of his breath.

Georgi's eyes open wide and fix on Christophe's. And he comes, groaning through his teeth, his face twisting like he's in terrible pain, eyes squeezing closed again, and his cock spattering his belly.

It's enough: Christophe's own orgasm twists tight, wringing him out with a gasp and a crack of his hips and a mess all over his hand. He wipes it on the sheets.

He's usually good at timing it together but tonight Georgi surprised him. He didn't even get a screenshot of Georgi's face. He has a collection of those grimaces, ridiculous and deeply sexy, just like Georgi, and this was a particularly good one.

A deep breath and Georgi opens his eyes again. He gropes for tissues and cleans himself off, glancing at the camera and then away.

"Thanks, beautiful," Christophe says. "Sweet dreams."

"What about you?" Georgi tosses the tissues off camera.

"Too late." Christophe grins.

"You could at least tell me when—" Georgi shrugs. "Fuck it. Good night." He leans in and then the screen goes blank before Christophe can say anything.

Not that Christophe knows what he was going to say.

He puts down his phone and stretches. He can still feel that knot in his stomach, looser now, but persistent. He looks over at the roses. Right now, he thinks, a single petal should drop, floating in slow motion, like a teardrop falling. But it doesn't so he gets up and tears one off. He leaves it on the table and goes to take a shower.

+

The rings surprise him. Like a wasp in the room finally lighting on his arm and stinging. Christophe keeps it light at the table — he's had so much practice keeping it light with Victor — but it still smarts when Victor says the word "engagement".

Whatever they're building, Yuuri and Victor, that complicated tension that Christophe felt in their room, it makes the whole shitshow with Christophe and Georgi look like a schoolboy romance. He looks at them, Yuuri staring down with harassed eyes, Victor looking at Yuuri with a face Christophe has never seen before, and he wonders — just wonders, nothing more — if he could find the place to push to tumble it all down.

When the party breaks up, he heads back to his room. He's got three texts from Josef telling him to keep his focus and have an early night. A few from rinkmates and family. Nothing from Georgi since the morning, when Christophe sent him a selfie before practice: looking flirty in the hallway, and few kissy emojis to appease him. He got a photo back but he's not sure if Georgi was trying to look sultry or just cranky.

The petal he tore off yesterday is gone, brushed away by housekeeping. The roses are uncurling even more, they'll be full-blown by tomorrow, overdone the day after. Finishing just in time for the Free Skate, probably not the omen Georgi intends.

He picks up the apple again. The other fruit is in various stages of green to overripe but apples last forever. The scent teases his memory again, a pin prick in his mind, but he can't quite reach it. He puts it back in the basket.

The knot is back in his stomach, just a small twist of the gut, barely more than pre-competition tension. Barely.

He strips and grabs a hotel robe but drops it on the bed instead of putting it on. He finds his earpiece. "Hey," he says when Georgi picks up.

"Hi."

Best conversation ever. How was your day? he should probably say, like some fucking married person. "How's your Lutz?" he says instead. He should get points for remembering Georgi is working on it.

"I keep touching down," Georgi says and he sounds way too happy about it. "You make it look easy."

"I make a lot of things look easy," Christophe says before he thinks, because he really is such a fucking cliché. He pauses to close his eyes and take a breath. "So Victor—"

"I don't want to talk about him," Georgi breaks in.

"Fine." Christophe can hear the sulky edge in his own voice and it twists that knot up tighter. "Fine."

There's a burst of static on the line and Christophe doesn't know if Georgi said anything back.

"Are you dressed?" Christophe says. "Take your clothes off and listen to me."

"Christophe..."

"Come on," Christophe says. "I want you right now." And he does. He's half-hard just from saying it. So fucked up but these awkward conversations and half-fights and roses dying on the table make him so weak with longing he almost can't stand up.

Georgi breathes out in Christophe's ear. There's a soft thud but the call doesn't disconnect. Christophe closes his eyes and sees Georgi scowling, but stripping off his shirt, pulling off his sweats, because he can't resist Christophe in the end. He can't help but show Christophe his naked body and the hunger in his face.

There's a buzz on the line, Georgi's earpiece connecting, but he still doesn't say anything.

"I'm naked in a crappy hotel room," Christophe says. "The room reeks of sex, like we've been fucking for three days without running the air conditioning. The sheets are stained and wet, we've used up every dry spot."

Georgi's breath hisses out. "Where am I?"

Got you. Christophe wants to touch himself but he holds off. "You're in the shower. I told you not to. I want you to be dirty. I want to smell your sweat and all the cum drying on your skin. But you fucking did it anyway and I'm standing here with my dick in my hand, while you wash everything away." He grabs his cock and holds it, just holds it, doesn't move his fingers. "What do you do?"

There's silence for a moment, there always is while Georgi works himself up to actually speak. "I'm in the shower," he says finally. "The hot water is running down my back and my thighs. I'm sore and tired, I can hardly stand up. One hand braced on the tile." He breathes. Christophe waits. "One hand on myself because I still want it. But I'm going to wait you out."

Christophe swallows. Four times out of five Georgi's phone sex is mundane, hot but not that unusual. But the fifth time is amazing. "I open the bathroom door and steam rolls out into the room. I've still got my hand on my dick. You're not going to get off that easily. The shower stall has a glass door and I can see your silhouette, touching yourself because you're not done, you're never done."

"You're the one who can't wait," Georgi says. "I rub the steam away from the door so I can see your face. We stare at each other through the glass. It smells like shower gel, citrus and honey."

"I yank open the door." Christophe starts stroking himself, slow rub, no extras. "I reach in and grab your wrist, pull your hand away from your dick. I'm not going to let you get yourself off when I'm right here."

"I have two hands," Georgi says. His voice is rough and Christophe can see both of him — shower scene Georgi, hair in his eyes, water beading on his citrus-scented skin, and bedroom Georgi, sitting on his clean white sheets and touching himself while he listens to Christophe's voice.

"I pull you out of there," Christophe says. "The shower is still on but you're out here on the tile, and I'm holding you against me. All the jizz on my body is smearing on your wet skin. You want to tell me to fuck off but I'm kissing you, forcing the words back down your throat."

"I push you back against the wall," Georgi says. "We're still kissing and you're trying to get your hand up in between us but I just grind into you, hard as I can."

Christophe shivers at the thought of that pressure. "God," he says. He's got to have whatever he can get so he presses up on the wall beside the bed, chest, thighs, cock hard against the wallpaper. Awkward but he pushes hard as he can. "I grab your ass and grind back. My dick rubbing up on yours, biting your lip and sucking it in."

"Uh..." Georgi sounds like he's close, like he's losing his English and maybe his words altogether. "I..." He pants into Christophe's ear. "I push you back. Tell you to bend over the counter. Do you do it?"

Christophe should have prepped for this, got out a dildo or a plug, because he really wants to feel this. But he can't break the momentum. He scrambles the gel from the drawer. "Yes. I do it." He lies back on the bed, pushes a pillow under his hips and pulls his knees up. "I brace my hands on the counter. I spread my legs, ready for you." He takes his cock in one hand and strokes his asshole with the other, teasing with his fingertips.

"I put my hands on your hips. You're ready now, I've been fucking you for days."

"Your cum is still in me from last time." Christophe slicks his hands, presses with three fingers, just lightly, just ready. Please, please put it in. "My legs are shaking. I'm looking at you in the mirror, daring you to do it. Do it now."

"Fuck," Georgi chokes out and Christophe worries that he's lost it before they can finish the scene. "Okay. I push inside you."

Christophe pushes in his fingers, past the resistance, wishes he had more to fill him up. "Just fuck me," he says. "That's all you have to do."

"I'm fucking you," Georgi says. "Just...fucking you while you push back against me."

Christophe thrusts with his fingers, moves his hips for the best angle, fists his cock with his other hand. "I'm jacking it while you fuck me and I'm going to come first." He's not going to last. "I mean it, don't be too long."

"Christ," Georgi says and Christophe can tell he's all out of words and imagination. "Just..."

"Just fuck me." Christophe can feel Georgi's hips hammering, his fingers clutching. His panting breath hot on Christophe's back.

"I'm–"

"You're fucking me," Christophe says. "It's all I want right now." It's all he wants and it's happening now, right now, his hips straining and cock jerking, choking out his orgasm into the room, into the phone, into his hand. "God."

Georgi is breathing hard, not talking, but Christophe can tell he's still working it.

It's hard to talk so soon after but Christophe forces out the words. "You made me come but you're still fucking me. My legs are shaking but you won't let me go. Do it. Do it now, Georgi. Come now."

Georgi gasps into the phone, so loudly it hurts Christophe's ear, and Christophe rubs the jizz over his abdomen while he listens to Georgi come and imagines his twisting face.

"When you pull out, I hand you a towel," Christophe says. "It's stained with cum already, but it's not ours, whoever had the room before us, it's all mixed together."

"You're fucked up," Georgi says.

"I know." Christophe covers his eyes with his arm. "That was. Thank you."

"Yeah."

They both just breathe for a few moments. Christophe stretches, his joints cracking, warm all over.

"So," Georgi says. "If I were there..."

But Christophe can't deal with any pillow talk right now; it's not like they're engaged. "It's late," he says. "Good night." He disconnects. He rolls over and looks at the wall. There's a stain on the wallpaper now and he wants to label it with his name and the date.

He goes to sleep instead.

+

Christophe wakes up late and stumbles into the shower. He stands under the hot water and remembers last night, on the phone with Georgi, and a warmth spreads through his chest that's not just from the water. He can almost believe that Georgi is out there, asleep in Christophe's bed, and they'll roll up together for a lazy morning round.

Christophe sends Georgi a photo just out of the shower, the water still beading on his skin and a heart drawn in steam on the shower door. He puts one hand on his dick and tries to look sultry but he just ends up grinning.

It's late enough that Georgi is probably already at practice and Christophe hopes he'll be inspired to greatness when he sees it. send me back something good

It's not until Christophe is dressing that he remembers the rest of last night and his gut knots itself again. Why should you care? he tells himself.

And he doesn't. He doesn't care while he drinks his orange juice. He doesn't care while he laces up his skates. He doesn't care when he sees Victor watching Yuuri at practice with a look no coach should ever have on their face.

He doesn't care when he mistimes his jump and falls on the fucking ice and bruises his fucking hip.

His mobile vibrates in the changing room. Show me something good. It's a video of Georgi nailing the quad Lutz: beautiful form, intense look on his face until he's out and then he smiles. The jump that Christophe missed three times today.

Christophe swipes it away. When he gets out into the hall, Victor is there, waiting, looking down at his hand. Christophe puts his arm around Victor's neck and Victor looks up, surprised. Christophe leans in until his sore hip is against Victor's and their faces are a breath apart. "Congratulations," he murmurs and a few flashes go off nearby.

He lets go before Victor can respond and goes off for his massage.

+

After the Short Program, Christophe makes Josef take all the flowers and crap back to his own room. Christophe is doing okay but he should be better. His scores should be better, he should be killing this.

It's all twisted up: his gut, skating, Victor, Georgi, everything. Like he's a kid on the juniors circuit again, nervous and excited and unable to sleep, always some drama or mistake haunting him like a ghost.

The scent of roses permeates the room, heavier than before. One flower is blown wide, sooner than the rest, showing its yellow heart. The water level is low but Christophe doesn't fill it. He tears off another petal and rubs it between his fingers until it crumples.

His mobile vibrates. He watches it moving on the table for a while, his stomach sinking. Then he snatches it up, the last possible second before it goes to voice mail.

"You looked good tonight," Georgi says. His voice is thin through the cell connection but it slides in through Christophe's ear and coils around his brainstem, squeezing tight, and Christophe is ready to go. Ready not to think.

"What are you wearing?" he says. "Lie if you have to."

"That's all you have to say?"

"It's been a long day," Christophe says. His feet ache. His stomach knots tighter. The ghost inside him grows stronger, possessing him, blowing words into the back of his throat, and he can't keep them from rushing out of his mouth. "Can't we just get off?"

There's silence over the line, long enough that Christophe starts to hope it might be working and everything will be okay when they're into it, when their eyes lock and they come.

"Come on," Christophe says. "Skype now."

"You're so fucking hot and cold." Georgi has yelled at Christophe before but there's an edge beneath the bluster now, like a sharp ridge of ice hidden under snow. "All you do is mess with me."

"I thought you liked messing around." Christophe's head throbs, like the snake has bitten his brain and it's swelling up, too big for his skull. "You're always eager enough."

"You're always fucking with my head, you bastard."

"Now you're just trying to turn me on."

"You pushed me and pushed me to get closer to you and now you're pushing me away again. Are you like this with everyone?"

The words stab into him. "No, I'm fucking not!" And that stabs deeper still, piercing his chest, his gut. He's not. He's not like this with anyone else.

"I thought I could wait you out," Georgi says. "But there's nothing to wait for. I'm just here for you to play with because you can't get Victor fucking Nikiforov. That's who you're thinking about when we—"

"Save it for the bedroom." Christophe doesn't even know he's saying the words until they spill out into the room. He can hardly see, hardly hear anything now. He's staring at the stain on the wallpaper, vision narrowed until it's the only thing in the world. He's calm, now, so calm, but utterly out of control.

Georgi makes a sharp sound in the back of his throat and fuck Christophe but it goes straight to his groin. If Georgi were here, right here, Christophe would grapple him, bite his shoulder, grind against him until Georgi shoved him and slapped him and they were tearing up the room with angry sex.

"If all you want is a body for your bed," Georgi says, "I'm sure you can find someone who doesn't care that's all they are. I'm done."

"You're trying to sabotage me now? You couldn't wait another day?"

"That's on you. Find someone else to dry your fucking tears tonight."

"And now the drama begins," Christophe says. "Are you going to write a sad poem? Compose a tragic opera? Paint your fingernails black?"

"Here's the drama," Georgi says. "Fuck you." Then in Russian: "Fuck you." French: "Fuck you." German: "Fuck you." "Fuck you" in what's probably Spanish but might be Portuguese. "Fuck you" in a couple of languages Christophe can't identify. And back to English. "Fuck you, Christophe. Fuck you."

With each fuck you, Christophe can feel the slap of Georgi's hips against him, the angry thrust inside of him, the scrape of Georgi's nails right through his skin, tearing him open for the birds to eat his viscera, and he wants it, he wants it, he wants it.

Georgi hangs up.

Christophe throws back his head and yells. He slams his fist against the wall. He sweeps the bouquet off the table, the fruit basket after it. The vase doesn't break so he grabs it and throws it against the wall. It explodes into shards that cover the floor.

Then he stands in the middle of the room, chest heaving, staring at nothing at all, feeling nothing at all except the ache in his knuckles, until the phone rings and the management ask him to be a little quieter please.

He takes a sleeping pill — he can't face that shower stall right now — and lies on his back in the dark, feeling every one of his joints and bruises and not crying, not thinking about Georgi, just breathing in and out, this whole fucking season, this whole fucking mess.

He has to take a second pill before he can sleep.

+

He's groggy when he wakes up, or half wakes up, fumbling for his phone to shut off the alarm and feeling so sour in his belly he wonders if he has food poisoning.

Then he sees the room. He can't face the shattered glass and dead flowers. The crushed fruit and empty basket. No doubt Georgi would take some sort of romantic satisfaction in the tragic and obvious symbolism but it just turns Christophe's stomach.

When he gets home he's going break the other vases, smash them on his kitchen floor, sweep up the glass and throw it all away. He hopes Georgi has wrecked his own apartment but the only thing Christophe ever gave him was sex toys and that symbolism is all too hilariously obvious. He imagines Georgi wielding a chef's knife, all Christophe's dildos on the cutting board, and he laughs, a dry bark that does nothing to ease the pressure in his chest.

He drops forty euros on the table for housekeeping, probably should have been sixty but he doesn't have a lot of cash.

He ditches breakfast with Josef and drinks coffee in a café a block away from the hotel, three cups, trying to wake up, until his stomach can't take any more caffeine. He ignores the fruit he ordered and scrolls through his feeds. He's tagged in a few photos from yesterday, with Victor in the hallway, leaning in close.

Half the comments are fan speculation: heating up again?; just friends ffs; they just do it to mess with us. It's the same on the pool photos, all the rumours bubbling, Christophe, Victor, Yuuri. Christophe has always loved stirring things up.

There's nothing from Georgi, though. No comments, no likes. Christophe wonders if they were ever there or if Georgi stayed up all night scrubbing his presence from Christophe's timeline. He's soft-blocked Christophe already so Christophe goes to his Instagram. Georgi isn't very PR-savvy or maybe he thinks it's beneath him because he doesn't post very often. It's mostly moody photos with arty filters, not a lot of spontaneity.

There's nothing about Christophe there, not that there was much before, and Georgi's fans never seemed to consider there might be something "heating up". But anything with Christophe is gone, even podium photos. Maybe Georgi has some sort of kill-switch app for when his relationships go wrong.

The latest entry is Georgi's jump video, his quad Lutz, and Christophe watches it three times, feeling the velocity of his take-off, the whirl through the rotations, the force of the landing juddering up through his body. Georgi's skating has always been more forceful than graceful, smooth without being easy. But he's looser here. Relaxed, even. Probably because of all the great Skype sex with Christophe, not that he'll mention that in interviews.

Christophe turns his phone face down on the table. This isn't helping him get his head straight for the final. He closes his eyes and goes through his Free Skate element by element until the server interrupts him in the middle of the triple loop.

The sun hurts his eyes like he's hungover but he jogs down to the water anyhow, pulling cold air into his lungs until they burn. He wants to run right into the sea and duck his head under the water. Maybe that will wash away everything but the final, everything but the ice.

But he walks back to the hotel.

+

Christophe keeps it easy at the morning practice. His body feels slow and off-balance and he doesn't want to fall again. He can't remember the last time he was so up in his head about anything. He's never had to try any focusing techniques, any meditation or relaxation exercises. Anything besides sex.

Maybe sex, his brain tells him, like it's his only coping mechanism. And maybe it is. He looks around at the skaters heading off the ice for someone he can corner in the changing room. Or he's seen a few other skaters here to watch. Even that fucking Michele Crispino. Christophe could drag him off, make his weekend, post some photos to his Instagram because there's no way in hell Georgi won't be checking it. Poetic enough for you?

But even though his brain is churning through prospects, Christophe knows he isn't going to. Knows he doesn't want to. Knows just how fucked up that is. And because he's still feeling like crap in every other way as well, he goes to sweat it out in the sauna.

And there is Victor.

Christophe sits down beside him. The corners of Victor's mouth turn up but it's not a smile. The light is low but Christophe can see the strain on Victor's face and in his posture, shoulders slumping just a little, eyes looking down. He's tired but there's more.

"Yuuri wasn't at practice," Christophe says and the look that ripples across Victor's face tells Christophe enough. One of them has found that place to push. Is it something in the water here? Barcelona: City of Heartbreak. Probably not their tourist association slogan.

Christophe doesn't say any more. He leans back on his hands and breathes in the heat. He still feels like he's been taking body blows but there's some comfort in being with someone else who's unhappy too.

Another group gets up and leaves the sauna. Christophe and Victor are alone. This would be the moment, then. Any other year, give or take, Christophe would be sliding his hand up the inside of Victor's thigh, teasing the hair back from Victor's face, touching his tongue to Victor's lips.

And why not? There's more than one place to push and Christophe knows all of Victor's. But his chest squeezes and his hands won't move. Don't want to move. Not with Victor. Christophe's throat constricts and he knows just how fucked he is right now. How well and truly fucked.

Sweat runs down his face and he wipes it away. He glances over. "Victor," he says. "You just miss the ice. When are you coming back?"

Victor buries his face in his hands.

It's a blow to Christophe's stomach, the wind knocked out of him. And a curtain torn aside, uncovering what Christophe has always known but would never let himself think. All these years — years — of keeping it light with Victor. It was okay, it was fine because Victor wasn't the type who wanted more. Victor just wasn't someone who could fall in love.

Except that apparently he can. Just not with Christophe.

Anger jolts through Christophe, brain to gut. He's locked in place, heart hammering, tendons straining, head throbbing. This is nothing like his fight with Georgi; nothing he's ever felt before. He's furious with Victor for all those years. He wants to wrench Victor to his feet, then knock him down. If he lets himself move, he just might.

He clenches his hands over the back of the wooden bench, painfully hot against his fingertips. Tries to force some air into his lungs. He can't hit Victor. He can't yell at Victor. He can't. Because it's not Victor's fault. It's Christophe's.

Christophe is the one who trailed after Victor and kept it light. Light with Victor because that's how Victor wanted it. And light with everyone else because he was waiting for Victor. And now Christophe sucks at being serious.

A wave of nausea hits him and instead of being a nice guy who comforts his oblivious friend without seducing him, he bolts from the room and vomits in a trash can.

Then he showers, water cold as he can stand it, eyes screwed closed and all alone.

+

After the Free Skate, Christophe goes up to the roof and sits by the pool. This would be a good time to scream in frustration but he's churned through too much emotion in the past twenty-four hours. His pain and frustration aren't a raging fire inside of him, they're a heavy blanket laid over him, weighing him down, almost soothing because there's really no more he can do to fuck things up. He's screwed himself about as much as possible.

He should be talking to reporters, not that anyone is much interested in fifth place except to ask him if he's going to retire after this season. He should be signing for fans, taking photos. Listening to Josef sigh. He should be resolving to crush Nationals and make his comeback at the European Championships.

He should be chasing down the rumour that Victor is returning to competition after all. Because that was what he wanted, wasn't it? But he can't even bring himself to care.

Instead he takes his shoes off and dangles his aching feet in the pool, watching the steam rise off the water. And thinks about how no one has ever yelled at him the way Georgi did. His relationships, the off-season men, drifted apart without any drama or much emotion. But Georgi fights like he fucks, like he skates: with an incredible focused intensity.

It's not always comfortable to be the focus of that intensity; even over Skype, Christophe can feel it and it scares him a little, enough for him to deflect, deflect, deflect Georgi's every opening. But right now, Christophe would be happy to have Georgi yelling in his face, as long as he were here.

Here where Christophe could grab him around the chest and just hold on. Pull him down on a deck chair and curl around him, listening to whatever he wanted to say and stroking the back of his neck until they were too cold to stay outside. And then down to the hotel room to really fucking wreck it.

He picks up his phone and flicks through the photos he has of Georgi, the tame ones Georgi sends him, the caps Christophe takes from Skype. A surprising amount for half a season's relationship, if you can even call it that. Christophe taps out a text: Don't be mad. Fly out and I'll take you sightseeing. I miss you. He hesitates, finger hovering over the screen like this is some stupid tap the bubbles game, then stabs Send.

There's no answer and maybe Georgi is already asleep but Christophe doubts it. He's probably staring at the screen and wondering if all caps is enough to make Christophe understand how angry he is. Christophe hopes he's angry because the alternative is that Georgi just doesn't care.

And why should Christophe care? He should just head home and start working for Nationals. Keep ignoring the questions from his financial advisor about what he's going to do after he retires from competition. And cut his losses, chat up that barista. What's one more fuckbuddy, more or less?

Christophe kicks his feet in the water and feels the knot in his gut expand, twisting and kinking all his organs into one mass of pain. He stretches out his legs and slides into the water. He floats like a dead man, the chlorine in the pool irritating his contact lenses, until his clothes are sodden and he's chilled, despite the warmth of the water.

He splashes to the ladder and climbs out. Water runs off of him and the cold catches at him. He sloshes down the stairs to his room and by the time he gets there, he's shivering. The roses are gone, the glass swept away, fruit thrown out. All that's left is the apple, sitting in the middle of the table.

He sits down on the bed in his dripping clothes. He doesn't care, it's not like he's going to sleep. And what's one more mess for housekeeping to clean up? All they can do is blacklist him from this hotel.

His phone is still silent and empty but he imagines the capslock message: YOU GOT WHAT YOU WANTED, SO GO BACK TO CHASING AFTER VICTOR.

But even if he could, Christophe doesn't want to. He doesn't want to turn back time with someone who never makes the first move.

This whole time, he's kept from asking himself: why Georgi? Not why Georgi in the first place, or even in the second place. He's hot and the sex is surprisingly great. But why does Christophe keep turning to someone he can't even touch instead of someone else who's right there?

And Georgi is right, Christophe pushed him into this. Kept pushing him further, past the point that Christophe can say it was just for fun. Christophe gets up and strips off his wet clothes. He drops them on the floor of the shower stall and wipes his hand along the glass, as though it's covered in steam and when he clears it, Georgi will be there for him, holding out his hand.

It comes clear for Christophe in one staggering moment, visible through the fog he hasn't let himself wipe away before now: if all he wants is sex, he would never have pursued someone who would so obviously try to give him more.

He goes back out into the room and looks first at the stain on the wall, then at the apple on the table. The card from the flowers is beside it and Christophe turns it over to read again. Allez! He picks up the apple and smells it, the crisp scent of fall days.

And he remembers. It's not even a striking memory, just a childhood day, visiting cousins in an apple orchard. Climbing a tree and scraping his hands. Sitting on the ground and eating five apples in a row. His father carrying him on his shoulders, his mother smoothing down his ruffled hair and scolding him in the voice that says she doesn't mean it. The one she still uses, when they talk.

A good day, that's all, but it cracks him open, crown to sole, and he goes back to the shower, turning the water as hot as he can stand, and cries until his eyes burn and his head throbs.

And then he packs, because it's time to walk forward.

+

Christophe knocks on the door. Eight hours of taxis and terminals, cramped seats and border control, have worn him out. He's keyed up on coffee and no food and, if he's honest with himself, a good dose of fear. And now he's standing in this dim hallway with just fifteen red roses and a terrible speech. It doesn't seem like a lot.

He knocks again, banging on the door like an angry neighbour. His heart hammers too, like a fist against his ribcage. He wants to yell, make all the doors open all down the hallway, look at me, I'm here, I'm here. But they'd probably think he was a stalker fan and call the police.

He slaps the door with his open palm and it opens under his hand, catching him off balance. He staggers, so much for suave, as he meets Georgi's startled eyes.

Georgi stares and Christophe tries to read him: stare happy or stare mad? Hand on the door glad to see Christophe or hand on the door about to slam it shut?

"Can I come in?" Christophe says and his voice rings out louder than he meant. A door does open further down the hallway and a head leans out. "I'm not a stalker!" Christophe waves the bouquet at the head, like it's a convincing argument. He turns back to Georgi. "Do you get a lot of stalkers here?"

"No." Georgi's expression is flat and unmoving and that's the most terrifying thing of all.

Christophe thinks — is pretty sure — that he could drop the flowers and step into Georgi's arms right now. Push him back inside and kiss him until they're crashing through the apartment, knocking it all down. And he wants to, it would be so easy and so good. Instead, he holds out the roses.

Georgi doesn't take them. "Shouldn't you be in Spain right now?" He crosses his arms, blocking the doorway.

The words are there, heavy in Christophe's chest and gut, so deep he wonders if he can dislodge them. But if Georgi can push himself to talk when he's uncomfortable, Christophe has to do the same for him.

Christophe takes a deep breath. He looks Georgi in the eye. He ignores the neighbour still watching from down the hall. And he pries the words out, one by one. "You're the one I want." He's gone over this and over this on the plane, but he can hear the edge of panic in his voice.

Georgi just stares, unmoving. Down the hall, another door opens.

"You," Christophe says. "Not Victor, not anybody. I'm in, for real." The words tumble out now, a rockslide speech, and he's got to say them all, even if it ends with the door slammed in his face. "We'll probably fight all the time and we'll definitely spend too much money on plane fare and I might not be able to say all the things you want to hear but I want to be with you."

Georgi frowns, but Christophe can't tell why. He almost doesn't care why, not until he's done.

"We'll watch crappy movies and have lunch in cafés and skate hand in hand and walk through apple orchards and cook dinner together," Christophe says. "I'm sorry I was such an ass. I'm sorry and I'm here to say I'm in. With you. Just you. So take the damn flowers." He shakes the flowers at Georgi; it's on purpose, he's not shaking. "Don't make me stalk you." And that's all of it, as much as he can say.

Georgi stares. His arms drop to his sides and there's a moment when Christophe wonders if he's actually going to get punched in the face and if he should just take it.

"Okay," Christophe says. "I needed to say all that in person. Call me if you change your mind."

Then Georgi grabs Christophe by the lapel, pulls him inside, and wraps his arms around him.

Christophe drops the bouquet and clutches Georgi, eyes squeezed shut, chest to chest, cheek to cheek, bear-hugging in Georgi's vestibule. The whole fucking weekend, every knot twisting Christophe's gut, every stone weighing down his chest, falls away. His whole body loosens with a hitching breath like a sob and he presses his smile against Georgi's face.

He loses track of how long they stand there, breathing against each other. His heart pulses happiness all through him with every beat, he's so giddy with it he wants to laugh.

Georgi shifts so that his forehead is on Christophe's. Christophe opens his eyes and the light in the room is so warm, so yellow. Georgi is so close, Christophe can barely see him.

"Christophe," Georgi says. And turns his head and kisses him.

It's sweet and warm, Georgi's lips teasing at Christophe's, clinging softly. For a few seconds. Then Georgi pushes Christophe against the wall.

All those scenes they talked through, all the things Christophe imagined doing to Georgi: he can't recall any of it right now. Georgi presses against him, mouth open, and they kiss like it's the only thing they know how to do, over and over again.

Georgi buries his face in Christophe's neck, kissing up and down his throat. Christophe leans his head back. He opens his eyes and in the mirror opposite he can see them both, his hand on the back of Georgi's head, fingers in the soft hair at the nape. His other hand sliding up and down Georgi's back, over his t-shirt and then up underneath onto the warmth of Georgi's skin. Georgi shivering at the touch of Christophe's hand. Georgi alive, real, pushing his thigh between Christophe's legs, pressing his erection into Christophe's hip. Right there, for Christophe, it's his.

All the phone sex, all the set-ups and the scenes, the video, the audio: it's all been just build-up, weeks of foreplay. He can't remember a word of it, now that he's pulling Georgi's shirt over his head and running his hands all over Georgi's back and chest and arms, not even three steps into Georgi's apartment.

Christophe pushes Georgi away so he can see him, all of him. Bare chest and arms, sweats low on his hips, Georgi's dick pushing at the thin fabric. That's where Christophe wants to be, hands over the curve of Georgi's ass, mouth on Georgi's dick, the real deal, no more imagination.

But he makes himself look up at Georgi's dark eyes and flushed cheeks. Blatant need all over his face; he never tries to hide it. Christophe touches his cheekbone, his parted lips. Georgi licks Christophe's fingertips as they pass by. His arms are at his sides, lifting and falling, like he's trying to let Christophe do this slowly but can't keep from reaching out.

Christophe runs his fingers down Georgi's neck, over his collarbone, breastbone, getting those contours back into his memory. Georgi does reach out, finally, and puts his hand on Christophe's throat, thumb rubbing at Christophe's jawline.

Slowly, Christophe tells himself, because he wants to take it all in, the feel of Georgi's body under his hands, the tension in the air between them, so alive Christophe can almost see it flashing.

Georgi fumbles with the buttons on Christophe's coat, eyes still on Christophe's face, and fuck slowly. Christophe crushes him close, bites his lip and sucks it in, pushes his hands down the back of Georgi's sweats. Grabs that ass and grinds against him until he's so close, so hard, so close, like he's sixteen and he's going to come in his pants.

"Wait," Georgi says, more a gasp, like he's almost there too. He pushes back to get some space and gets Christophe's coat open. "Can you wait?"

"No." Christophe shrugs the coat away. "Can you?"

Georgi doesn't speak. He spreads his hand flat over Christophe's dick and Christophe leans up into it, rubs against the palm. Georgi takes it away again. Christophe groans and clenches his fists instead of dragging Georgi to the floor because he's trying. He's trying.

"I deserve to suffer," he says. "But does it have to be right now?"

Georgi puts his open mouth to Christophe's cheek, a long press, his tongue moving in a slow circle. And while this is happening, he undoes Christophe's trousers. And while that is happening, Christophe presses his hands flat against the wall, squeezes his eyes closed, and makes himself wait.

His trousers slide down his thighs and Christophe is so turned on right now that even the soft touch of the fabric slipping over his skin is almost too much. Georgi pushes his underwear down after it, far enough to hobble Christophe's knees, and rests his hands on Christophe's bare hips.

He kisses Christophe again, just once, and pulls back when Christophe tries to catch his mouth for more.

Christophe aches, he's so hard right now. Why can't they be sliding together already? Why can't his cock be between Georgi's thighs, why can't his hand be on Georgi's dick? "My god," he tries to say but it's just a strangled groan.

Georgi whispers something in Russian. And then he slides to the floor and goes down on Christophe.

From the first touch of Georgi's mouth on Christophe's dick, Christophe digs his nails into his palm, a little distraction to give himself some time to feel this. Georgi's hand splayed on Christophe's thigh, the other around the base of his cock, his lips and tongue working the head. First slowly, teasing, like a kiss. Like he likes it.

The breath sighs out of Christophe's chest and he keeps his eyes on Georgi. Georgi's forehead creases into a pucker between his brows and his eyes drop closed. He works Christophe's dick harder, more movement, more friction, rolling his tongue and sliding his hand.

It's good — and it would have to be pretty bad not to work on Christophe at this point — but it's not expert and Christophe is overwhelmed by the level of relief he feels. He's overwhelmed by everything right now: Georgi sucking him off, Christophe's own feelings, all a rising pressure inside of him until he thinks he's going to split open with his orgasm, with his happiness.

That last bit of tension pulls at him, his thighs shake, his hips twitch. "I'm going to—" he gets out and then he does, comes hard, all the wrack of the weekend, the season, all the feelings hiding deep inside his chest, all collapsing in a heap while Georgi holds on and takes it all.

He sags against the wall, waiting to breathe again and blinking. "My god," he says. "Just give me—"

Georgi stands and leans against Christophe, holding him upright in spite of Christophe's shaky knees and a strong desire to close his eyes and sleep. He presses their mouths together and when Christophe opens for his tongue, Georgi passes him the load, all Christophe's jizz, and keeps him there until he swallows.

When Georgi lets him go, Christophe chases him for another kiss. "So hot," he says. "I like it." He puts his hands on Georgi's hips, pulls him in until he feels Georgi's cock hard against his abdomen. "My turn. Do you want to sit? Lie down?"

"Just..." Georgi presses into Christophe, finds his hipbone and grinds against it. "Stay with me," he says, his breath against Christophe's mouth.

"However you want it." Christophe leans close and they kiss, keep kissing while Christophe reaches into Georgi's sweats and finally gets that cock into his hand. Keep kissing while he jacks it, while he strokes Georgi's back with his other hand, Georgi's mouth with his tongue. Keep kissing while Georgi's back arches and he comes and that's the best part, to hold on while he shudders.

Then they collapse, sliding down together, Christophe's ass bare against the floor.

He leans over and grabs the roses. He drops them into Georgi's lap. "Okay?" he says. One romantic declaration per day is probably his limit. Maybe one per week. But he can work around that. "Or were you just using me for sex?"

Georgi kisses Christophe's cheek. Then he picks up Christophe's hand and slides their fingers together so they're holding hands like teenagers in the park. "Okay."

Okay is good. Okay is what Christophe wants everything to be. "Okay." He pulls his coat over and feels in the pocket. "I brought you something else." And he puts the apple into Georgi's hand. "The last of the fruit basket. I lied to customs about it so you can turn me in if I'm too annoying. And when you visit me, we'll go walk in an apple orchard and take pictures with vintage filters. When we're not otherwise engaged."

Georgi brings the apple to his nose and smells it, his eyes going soft, and Christophe does not know what he's going to do if Georgi cries in front of him, that's too much right now. But all he does is squeeze Christophe's hand. "Where's your suitcase?"

"I got a hotel room," Christophe says. "In case you threw me out. It's pretty nice, we can go there if you want. I'm not blacklisted in Saint Petersburg yet."

"Of course you're staying here." Georgi stands, hitching his sweats back up and holding the roses like he's on the podium. "Have them send your luggage over."

He heads into the kitchen. Christophe pulls his trousers up, at least until he can judge how much Georgi will care if he's naked on the furniture, and makes the call.

He's still trying to make them understand they can charge him for the room, just send the bags over, when Georgi reappears. He takes the phone from Christophe, speaks loudly at them in Russian for a while, and hands Christophe a towel and a silk robe. "Through there," he points and Christophe drags his ass into the shower.

The shower is nothing like the hotel, which is too bad. Christophe is sure the symbolism would please Georgi and, well, Christophe too. But he stands in the chipped tub and lets the hot water and citrus honey shower gel wash away the travel grime, the dust from the street, the sex and sweat and fear.

Steam fills the room and when he steps out onto the mat, he draws a heart in the fog on the mirror.

The robe is simple, sapphire blue, and actually more tasteful than most of Christophe's. He really wants to walk out naked, prowl up behind Georgi, and wrap his arms around him. But he puts on the robe and stands with his hand on the door handle for far too long.

When he steps out, the room is full of candles.

Soft music is playing. Georgi is sitting on the old green couch. He's in a robe as well, plain black, his feet bare, pouring out a bottle of wine.

"We don't match," Christophe says. He's seen this room before, bits and pieces in the background. Now he's taking in the details: the Van Gogh print on the wall, the photos on the bookcase.

He sits down next to Georgi. "Why don't you have my photo up? Are they all too risqué for you?"

Georgi hands Christophe a glass of wine. "Shut up," he says. He lifts his glass. "To you," in Russian, and they drink. "We've done this your way," he says. "And now we're going to do it my way."

"So bossy!" Christophe says. "I like it."

Georgi frowns.

"Sorry," Christophe says. "I'm just not used to this." He holds out his hand and Georgi takes it. "But I'm in."

Georgi says something and it takes Christophe a few words to realise that he's actually speaking German. His accent is only fair but Christophe can tell he's quoting poetry. "What I have already learned as a lover, I see you, beloved, learning angrily."

It's so apt, Christophe wants to laugh but instead he lifts Georgi's hand and kisses his palm, soft and lingering. Georgi looks like he's about to melt, so Christophe must be finally getting it right.

Georgi picks up the poor battered apple Christophe smuggled into Russia and holds it under Christophe's nose. Christophe breathes it in, the faint smell of fall and the view of the mountains. Georgi takes a knife and pares it slowly, the peel sliding out in a coil over his fingers.

In the candlelight his eyes are shining and his face is soft and open. Christophe watches him without speaking, sipping his wine, and keeping his hands to himself for now.

Georgi cuts a thin slice of apple and holds it out. Christophe opens his mouth and Georgi feeds it to him, the tips of his fingers brushing Christophe's tongue. Christophe wants to catch them in his mouth, suck and nip until Georgi pushes him back on the couch and they start round two. But he just tastes the sweet flesh of the apple instead and takes the next piece to slide between Georgi's lips.

They share the apple between them, eating half of it in slivers. They drink the wine, eyes meeting over the rim of the glass. "You're lovely," Georgi says and touches Christophe's cheek with a single finger, trailing slowly from cheekbone to jaw.

So trite but it warms Christophe more than the wine. This — here with Georgi — it's strange and intense, a relentless seduction but so different from Christophe's usual attack. These long silences in the flickering light, the eye contact that stretches out until Christophe has to glance away, at Georgi's mouth instead, or his throat, at his collarbone half-hidden by the robe. So slow that if Christophe hadn't just come half an hour ago, he'd be impatient and grasping. Even so, he's already longing for more.

Georgi takes Christophe's hand and holds it. He leans in and Christophe braces for more poetry. But what he says is: "Tell me one real thing about you."

Christophe moves back before he knows he's doing it, leaning away, looking away. He feels himself closing like a door. But he doesn't want to be the one with his face in his hands. So he thinks about what to say. About his family. maybe. About the music he listens to or the movies he watches. A childhood memory, the apple orchard. Georgi will like that, that's the one.

He shifts forward again and closes his fingers around Georgi's hand. "I'm afraid this will be my last season," he says and it's the last nail pulled out of his heart.

Georgi meets his eyes like he's looking right into Christophe, through the door he's opened. His hand tightens. "So am I," he says.

It's too hard to look at Georgi's face right now so Christophe moves in, seduction or no, and puts his arms around him. Georgi's hands come up on Christophe's back and they hold on while Christophe tells himself that there's still Nationals and Europe and Worlds.

Then Georgi slides his fingers into Christophe's damp hair and it's time. They kiss, slowly, while the heat builds between them. Then Christophe lets Georgi take his hand and lead him to the bedroom, where more candles are burning and the fifteen roses are in a vase on the chest of drawers Christophe has seen in the background of so many Skype calls.

He lets Georgi push the robe off his shoulders and lay him down on the bed and do everything he wants to do without making him say any of it out loud.

When they're done, damp and tired and Georgi's arm lying over Christophe's chest, Christophe stretches, lazy and warm all down his body. "Would it contravene your rental agreement to put a mirror on the ceiling?"

"Are all your ceilings mirrored?" Georgi props himself up on his elbow and his face goes serious again.

Christophe isn't sure he can handle more serious right away. "Don't be mad but I'll have to work up to any more declarations." He rolls up to buss Georgi on the mouth. "Unless they're about your hot ass."

"I was going to wait until after the final, anyhow," Georgi says. "To see if you'd stop being such an asshole."

"Unlikely," Christophe says. "But you already told me how you feel."

"I didn't." Georgi frowns.

"When you were yelling at me," Christophe says. "And you said 'fuck you' over and over." He smiles. "Next time just send a card."

Georgi flops onto his back. "I meant it."

This is still too serious. Christophe stares up at the blank, un-mirrored ceiling. He psyches himself up for one more effort, because he's here, they're walking forward together. "What I can say for now is: I won't let the roses die before their time." So cheesy but Georgi ought to like it. "I can repeat it en français if that would be more romantic."

He glances over and, yes, Georgi likes it. Likes it too much, happiness all over his face, and if he cries, Christophe is going to either promise undying devotion or smother him with a pillow, even odds as to which he'll pick.

A buzzer sounds. They both jump. "The door," Georgi says. "Your bags." He grabs his robe and heads out of the room and Christophe thanks all the gods for the save.

But he stops by the chest of drawers and smells the roses before he follows.