Actions

Work Header

Just Hold On (We're Going Home)

Chapter Text

When his father had said there was a foreigner in the onsen, this had not been what Yuuri was expecting.

“Mr. Feltsman,” he squeaks.

“Katsuki,” the Russian coach greets, gripping tighter at the towel around his waist. It may be April, and snowing, but the onsen is always warm. He looks Yuuri up and down, lingers at his stomach. “It seems you’ve let yourself go.”

Yuuri flinches. “Ahh. Yes. Sir. Why are you…?”

“I would like some clothes, before we have this conversation,” Feltsman replies, gruff. “And perhaps some dinner.”

Ten minutes later, it’s set before him, with Hiroko cheerfully bustling about in the background. After two bites, he sets down his spoon.

“It’s excellent,” he compliments Hiroko, who waves a hand and presses the other to her blushing cheek. “Now on to business.”

“B-business?” Yuuri asks.

“Yes, business. One of my skaters, Georgi Popovich, has made the decision to retire this season rather than continue to compete against my other student. I’ve been made aware of your recent break with Celestino Cialdini after your low ranking at Japanese Nationals and the GPF. I would like to offer you a trial period where you train under me, in St. Petersburg. There are only three conditions: you will board with another one of my students, you will take ballet with Madame Baranovskaya, and you will help me coach Yuri Plisetsky, who refuses to listen to my criticisms of his spins.” Yakov nods at this point, leans forwards and looks Yuuri in the eye. “I will charge no coaching fees.”

The Japanese skater nearly faints on the spot. “Sir. This is extremely generous. I have to ask…”

“Don’t ask me why, boy,” Yakov lets out in a booming sigh. “You take good things when they’re offered, if they’re something you desire. You don’t ask why they landed in your lap.”

“I understand,” Yuuri breathes.

“Do you need time to think about this, Katsuki?”

A world-class coach, showing up at his door and offering a chance to make a comeback to the world of skating after his shameful showing at the Sochi GPF? There’s no logical reason to hesitate, no reason to say no, if he wants figure skating in his life.

Yuuri hesitates.

Because Yakov Feltsman might be offering to coach Yuuri, but there’s another man he coaches. The man Yuuri idolizes. The man Yuuri has loved—in many ways—starting from his first glimpse of him at twelve years old. The man who, even when Phichit pushed and pushed and finally convinced Yuuri to send a tentative Instagram message, had only responded back with a message clearly written for him by his public relations department.

Yes, Yakov Feltsman coaches Viktor Nikiforov, and Viktor Nikiforov is the man who’d promised Yuuri everything he’d ever dreamed, everything he didn’t deserve, at the GPF banquet in Sochi.

Then, he never called. 


 

In the end, love for skating—for Viktor, too— wins.

Feltsman already has a contract written up and printed out. Yuuri signs it with no complaints, and starts to pack. Board with another skater, train with Madame Baranovskaya, train with Yuri Plisetsky. Some people would kill to do the second. Some people would die by doing the third, dealing with the vicious younger skater, but they’d do it happily. And the first—well, Phichit had been Yuuri’s only friend in Detroit. Maybe he and his new roommate can become close, if he’s lucky. He realizes, belatedly, that judging by the people Yakov coaches, that his roommate will probably be Plisetsky himself. Yuuri debates taking some kind of weapon along for self defense.

Overall, Minako is delighted with the news. She writes a letter to Madame Baranovskaya (“don’t you have email?” The triplets question, shocked. “You do not email Madame Baranovskaya,” Minako replies darkly) and sends Yuuri off with a tight squeeze.

“You deserve this,” she says, “remember that.”

It’s a second try, at Yuuri’s skating career. Yuuri may not deserve it, but he’s good at trying things again. And again. And again. So he follows Yakov Feltsman to Saint Petersburg, skates and body and soul, and hopes this time he can be better.


 

Yuuri doesn’t know what to expect, as he ascends the narrow yet elegant staircase. Yakov had given him this address, and Yuuri had wandered past the street signs in Cyrillic that he couldn’t read, following his phone’s directions blindly. It’s snowing, despite the time of year—it’s always snowing in Saint Petersburg, if Viktor’s Instagram posts are anything to go by. Yuuri goes by them religiously.

There’s only a few apartments in the building he’s come to, but they’re expensive, and it’s hard to imagine that Yuri Plisetsky, rebellious fifteen year old, emerged from this extravagance. Admittedly, Yuuri knows next to nothing about his family. The complex feels familiar, though, like he’s seen it in photographs.

Checking the email from Yakov on his phone screen one last time, and confirming the floor of the loft he’ll be sharing, he raises his knuckles to rap at the door—there’s a scrambling then, a scratching of nails on tile, and a surprisingly light thud against the door.

“Um,” he says. Apparently, Yuuri doesn’t need to knock, because the door swings open and over a hundred pounds of tan curls and pink tongue are on him; the only thing that’s not on him anymore is his glasses. It’s hard to be too upset with such an excited welcome, though. He ruffles his hands through the curls, kisses the dog’s blurry nose, and laughs. “Hello. Who are you? You look just like…” He cuts off, rubs at the dog a little more softly.

“I’m sorry about her,” a voice interrupts, amused, and Yuuri looks up with a squint. “You’re Yuuri, yes? Please come in.”

The other man is wearing a blue hat, and is slim but taller than him. This is all that Yuuri, completely blind, is managing to gather.

“That’s me. Sorry, do you see my…” the other man bends over, slides them smoothly onto Yuuri’s face, and everything snaps into focus with dizzying clarity. “Glasses,” Yuuri chokes out.

It’s Viktor Nikiforov, in the flesh.

Viktor Nikiforov, his childhood idol and crush rolled up into one tall and smiling and gorgeous package.

Viktor Nikiforov, who he drunkenly danced with and put his hands all over at the Sochi GPF, who asked for his number and then never, ever called him. Yuuri hadn’t been waiting, not at all. He’d suspected, when he woke up the next morning with sore thighs from the pole and a heavy head and a clear memory of Viktor’s hand warm and damp in his, that the other man probably would never want to see him again.

But now they’re standing three feet apart, and it dawns on Yuuri that Viktor is intended to be his flatmate. Rooming with another student, Yakov had said, and Yuuri had assumed he meant Yuri Plisetsky. Foolishly, foolishly assumed.

“You’re going white,” Viktor says, “did Makkachin manage to make you hit your head? I’m sorry, she gets excited.“

“I have to go back—to Mr. Feltsman’s office,” Yuuri blurts. Viktor blinks at him.

“Yakov’s already gone home, I’m sure. You’ll have to wait for tomorrow.” He glances behind Yuuri, catches sight of the single suitcase. “Where’s the rest of your luggage?”

Yuuri’s tongue feels swollen. “Um,” he says.

“Don’t just stand out here,” Viktor says, brows furrowing, “you can come in. This will be your home, too.” He puts a finger to his lips. “Ah, I forgot to have another set of keys made for you. Yuri stole my second set. We’ll drop by a hardware store tomorrow, after practice.”

Yuuri still hasn’t managed to say anything. Viktor is still passively standing there, looking soft in a blue beanie and stretched out sweats that are slung low over his hips, his hand resting casually on the doorframe.

Deep breath. He can speak English. He spoke English for five years in Detroit.

“Is this okay?” He finally asks, looking Viktor in the eye for however long he dares. The situation is awkward. He’s sure it’s undeniable to the other man: Yuuri is a huge fan, and he’d told him so, repeatedly, after the banquet, whispered and giggling confessions of you changed my life when I was twelve, I love you, you were floating and unreal and beautiful, I’ve always wanted to catch you and hold you to wide blue eyes. And for that night, just for one precious night, Viktor had let him. Let him catch, and hold, and seemed eager to let him.

Now, he’s acting like they’ve only met in passing. Yuuri supposes that, besides the night of the banquet, that is true. He feels foolish. Twelve years of adoration on his side, and one drunken night on Viktor’s—that can’t add up to a balance, can’t be equal. Yuuri’s sure the other man has had plenty of nights that were more enjoyable, steamier than a few rounds of tango and stumbling childishly through the halls after, cheek to cheek, until they found the hotel’s abandoned ballroom and danced again there, slower. Heavier. Chins pressed into the other’s shoulder, swaying, Viktor’s pale fingers creeping beneath his jacket to thumb gently at the soft skin of his hip, but no farther. Alcohol, swirling over him like dark incense blown by the wind. Viktor, trembling in his arms and nudging in closer, closer, with every step, reeling him in pleadingly after every turn in the dance like Yuuri was going to float off into the darkness and never come back. I’ve never met anyone like you.

Yuuri shouldn’t have remembered. Shouldn’t have done this in front of Viktor. Shouldn’t have come to Russia at all, no matter how free the coaching had been.

Is this okay?

“Of course,” Viktor says brightly, cocking his head as though the question is silly. “It’s no trouble to go get a set of keys.”

Viktor shows him around the flat, through the minimalist décor that Yuuri is already terrified of getting his fingerprints on or knocking off of the glass shelves. Viktor waves cheerily at Yuuri’s new bedroom, “across the hall from mine, so grab me if you need me,” shows him the modest collection of vegetables in the crisper drawer of the fridge, and turns on the showerhead in Yuuri’s bathroom for him.

“It’s a tricky one,” he admits, twisting at it. “I’ve almost forgotten how to use it, and it’s my own house.”

Viktor is a god on the ice. He’s going to be a good flatmate, too, Yuuri can tell. Maybe, if Yuuri can swallow these feelings down deep enough into him, dig his fingernails into his palms enough that it hurts more than pretending that night never happened, he can enjoy this time. Invigorate his skating, by being around Viktor, the man he still respects and admires more than anything. Yuuri had been sucked into a whirlpool of his own anxiety, but he always tries to escape it.

The guest room’s lightbulb is out. Viktor looks sheepish, flicking at the switch with a sigh and then a careless shrug. “Ah,” he says. Yuuri looks deeper into the room—there’s no cobwebs, but the room screams unused—the paint perfect, the closet packed neatly with boxes so clothes can’t be stored. “I’ll move them out,” Viktor promises. “I haven’t been in here for so long, I forgot I’d filled the closet.”

Yuuri flicks at the switch four times with trembling fingers. He can’t tell if he’s excited, or terrified, or both.

“I’ll just go to bed now.”

Viktor glances at his watch. Yuuri doesn’t recognize the brand, but he wouldn’t, see as how three months ago he was a college student who had won a meager amount of skating competitions and dressed in ratty free T-shirts from skate club events. The watch is made of gold. “You’re sure? It’s early.”

“I go to bed early, most of the time,” Yuuri admits. “…Though I don’t necessarily sleep, once there.” He taps at his phone, and there’s a quirk to Viktor’s lips.

“I did try to look you up on social media,” he says, and Yuuri freezes. After we danced? Did you look for me? Why? Did you ever want— “I thought I’d see what my new flatmate would be like, after Yakov told me he thought I needed one and said he would provide. Alas, your last Instagram picture was nearly two years ago, and that one was…“ he considers for a moment. The Japanese skater realizes which account the other man had found.

Yuuri covers his eyes with one hand. It had been a very, very badly photoshopped version of two men at an alter, his face slapped onto one and Viktor’s onto the other. He’d been drunk when he made it, posted it, he’d been joking because, well, Viktor would never marry him, but a drunken Phichit thought it was hilarious, don’t delete it, Yuuri, this is amazing! Someday Viktor will see it and realize you two are MEANT TO BE!

Drunk Yuuri had agreed, and changed his account passwords to something that sober Yuuri had yet to figure out. He’d made new accounts, and Phichit had used his magical social media powers to bury it as much as he could, but it was online, if you looked for his name.

Oh. God. “My friend hacked me,” he lies, desperately. My friend being me, with two bottles of vodka in my bloodstream. “That’s an old account. I have a new one now, though I don’t use it a lot.” Viktor nods with a slight, cut off laugh.

“I guessed as much.” He stretches then, a light gesture, one hand clasping at his other arm’s elbow above his head as he arches with a dreamy sigh. Smooth, effortless, and devastatingly attractive. Yuuri thinks, for a moment, that things will be okay, that he’ll just exist in close proximity to Viktor and get to appreciate him, but then Viktor’s arms drop and his mouth opens. “I was a huge fan of Lambiel when I was young—Mila and Georgi always teased me about marrying him, no matter how ridiculous that was, decorated my skate locker with hearts and magazine cutouts of him, once.”

It’s almost funny. Yuuri can think of three occasions off the top of his head where Phichit or Yuuko had done something similar, and he’s about to share, but it dies on the tip of his tongue. Viktor knows, knows the degree to which Yuuri has a desperate crush on him, probably amusedly remembers his drunken confessions from the banquet night, probably tells stories to his Russian friends. The guy who crashed and burned at the GPF had a crush on me. It was kind of cute, he was such a sloppy drunk! Followed me around like a lost puppy at the banquet, though I don’t know why they let him in! What, be interested in him? Never.

“I’m going to bed,” he says, the flatness of his voice belying the oncoming wave of panic and shame. Let me come with you, Viktor had said. Let me come back to your room. His head rolling soft over the knotted muscles in Yuuri’s leg, pillowed on Yuuri’s lap in the empty ballroom. Yuuri can’t have imagined that. “You could—“ he murmurs, unconsciously seeking some kind of reassurance, but he stops himself. Viktor knows he’s a fan. Viktor seems intent on not bringing the banquet up. Viktor doesn’t want now what he wanted then, and everything is already awkward enough.

The other man waits, finger tapping lightly on his waist before he takes one step back.

“I’ll see you in the morning.” Close-lipped smile. “Good night, Yuuri.”

Yuuri shuts the door.

His fingers dart to his phone before he can help it, pull up the all too familiar folder and flick through it like some kind of coping mechanism. But this, this longing—it’s not coping. He’s not coping, not at all.

Viktor’s smile, so bright and free, his hand on Yuuri’s cheek. Letting Yuuri dip him until they were breathless, leaning into him like he trusted Yuuri implicitly, impossibly, like Yuuri was a tree in a thunderless, drenching storm and the only cover for miles.

Burying his mouth into his new pillow, Yuuri cries.


 

Yuuri wakes to rapping on his door.

“Yuuri,” the voice comes through, “Yuuri.”

He’s imagined Viktor saying his name a million times since the night of the banquet, but rarely like this, impatient and pressing and—okay, he has imagined it like this, but never for this reason.

“We’re going to be late. I don’t want to barge in, but I’ve got an apple and some milk for you, and Yakov will make us do suicides if you’re late on your first day.” There’s a pause. “He’ll make you do suicides.”

Yuuri opens the door. “You won’t have to?” He realizes after that the question is stupid. Viktor is Yakov’s star pupil—the man probably caters to him, or at least that’s how the magazine articles frame it.

Viktor laughs. “He won’t be able to convince me it’s worth the practice time.” The blue eyes flicker down, then.

Yuuri realizes, with a sinking heart, that his shirt has ridden up in his sleep, revealing his slightly pudgy belly. He hadn’t stopped skating for long, but it didn’t take long to put back on the weight, and he’d been stressed.

“Maybe suicides are necessary,” Viktor hums. Yuuri flinches. After he’s changed in his room, Viktor hands him the apple and milk, and Yuuri chugs the milk but does not eat the apple in Viktor’s car, because it is a pink sports car. It’s probably worth more than anything Yuuri has ever earned, combined.

“You don’t have to drive me,” he says, when they get out of the car and Viktor’s swinging his athletic bag over his shoulder from the trunk. “I’m used to walking or riding public transportation.”

Viktor props his sunglasses on the crest of his head, shrugs and gives a beatific smile. “We’ll be going to the same place, won’t we?” Yuuri feels dazzled, and unable to argue.

They are late.

“I was going to make you run anyway,” Yakov grunts, “but we’ll add on suicides to the five miles.”

“Yes, sir,” is all Yuuri can reply.


 

Yuuri tries, helplessly, to set down his towel over the leather seats, so he doesn’t have to sit his sweaty and disgusting bottom half onto Viktor’s pristine car. Viktor gives him a curious look, and slides in. There’s a bead of sweat—exactly one—that rolls down from his forehead, leaving a shining trail. It hangs, precarious and a perfect teardrop, from his jawline before it drops as a wet kiss onto Viktor’s grey practice shirt, right above where his nipple hides. Heartstopping. Yuuri feels like a pile of trash left on a street corner on a hot and sunny day.

“Sit,” the other man chuckles. Yuuri sits. “So you stay late, hmm?”

Yuuri sneaks a look at Viktor’s watch, glinting on his wrist against the wheel. He can already feel the buzz of anxiety rising again, the urge to get on the ice or into a studio palpable in his chest. It’s only six o’ clock. Yuuri wishes he’d been given a rink instead of a guest room.

“Not really,” he says instead. Viktor arches an eyebrow and lets it go. This, perhaps, is the most contradicting thing about him. Viktor is talkative, yes—he hadn’t stopped on the way to the rink in the morning—but the silence with him is relaxing, unstrained, surprisingly communicative. He doesn’t mind the quiet—almost seems to appreciate it, sometimes.

“Yakov seems to have high expectations for you,” Viktor interrupts his thoughts casually. “He wouldn’t stop looking over.”

Yuuri had been incredibly perplexed by this. Yakov Feltsman was a very incomprehensible man, to Yuuri. When they’d discussed the contract and what would happen when he reached St. Petersburg, Yakov had fired off rink rules: no phones, no alcohol (Yuuri had flinched at that, knowing Yakov had been exposed to him at the banquet), no kissing or horseplay or anything sexual on the ice.

“That won’t be a problem,” Yuuri had assured him, dazedly. Yakov had grunted, scoffed something out in Russian, as though Yuuri—anxious, shy, chubby Yuuri, who broke down at the last GPF—was going to be seducing skaters left and right and pressing them up against the boards for make-out sessions. Incomprehensible.

But the way he’d looked between Yuuri and Viktor—like he’d expected something. Not Yuuri’s skating, no—the expression on his face when Yuuri skated was something entirely different.

“Have you been practicing since the GPF, boy?” He’d asked loudly, when most of the other skaters were gone, Viktor had headed off to the weight room, and Yuuri was absorbed by the music in his own head on the ice. Yuuri had winced.

“I know I’m out of practice.”

“No,” Yakov had corrected bluntly, “no, your spins and jumps were better, just now. Better than I’ve seen them.”

“Oh.” Yakov would find out eventually, if this trial period managed to last to a competition. “I… get nervous. At competitions.” This was possibly the mildest explanation he could give. It was enough.

Yakov had just stood there, mouth slightly ajar and head tilted. “I see,” he concluded finally. “I… didn’t realize you were that kind of skater.”

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri had apologized instantly.

“No need,” Yakov said, raising one hand. “I should have figured it out. Nobody takes third during the short program at the GPF, coming off a silver and gold from the qualifying competitions, and then does a free program like that, unless… hey!” The tears are already brimming. Celestino hadn’t seen Yuuri cry until the third week, and he’d slapped him on the back and offered him a bottle of water, sat with him on the bleachers while they discussed expectations. Yakov’s approach is, instead, to command brusquely, blustering, “don’t cry! I’m not insulting you. People were expecting you to medal in Sochi, you know.”

Yuuri hadn’t been expecting to medal.

Yakov sighed.

“Being at my rink,” he said, “you can absorb some of the cocky confidence from the others. Maybe they’ll learn something from you, too.” He pursed his lips. “On that subject, you’ll meet Plisetsky tomorrow.”

Yuuri had tried to tell Yakov that they’d already met. Yuri Plisetsky, the boy that had yelled at him in the bathroom after his failure, was unlikely to be thrilled that Yuuri was helping to coach him. Yakov had brushed this off.

Yakov had expectations. Yuuri’s not sure what those expectations are, yet.

In the car with Viktor, Yuuri manages to start a conversation. “Do you know Yuri Plisetsky?”

The corners of Viktor’s mouth stretch up. It seems wrong. “Oh! Yes. He’s very fierce. Quite adorable. He hasn’t realized that he needs to practice to keep up in the Senior division, though. We’ll have to call him something else, now that you’re here. Yurio, maybe?”

Yuuri slides down a bit in his seat.

“Yakov wants me to work with him.”

Viktor doesn’t even try to hide his laughter. “I wish you the best of luck, Yuuri.”

As it turns out, Yuuri doesn’t need it. What he had needed was a corner of the rink to himself for a few moments after practice the next day, doing figures and musing on his jumps, but as he moves into a lazy Biellmann Yuri Plisetsky takes the ice.

You think you can coach me?” He demands, finger less than an inch from Yuuri’s face. Yuuri wonders if he had ever been so difficult as a teenager, and seriously doubts it. He’d essentially been raised as an employee of the customer service industry. So he sighs, and ignores the unmerited hostility.

“Yakov decided this was a good idea, and Yakov is our coach. If he thinks you have something to learn from me, he’s probably right.” The blond’s expression sours further, if even possible. Yuuri feels the need for damage control. “Though, I’ve noticed you have the Salchow down.”

Yuri snorts. “Yes. Better than you.”

“Then we could trade skills?”

“Hardly a fair trade!” Yuri announces, but he slides closer to Yuuri with a determined ferocity. “Teach me your step sequence from last season.”

The one that had Plisetsky yelling at him afterwards in a toilet stall? Yuuri wants to say no way. Instead he launches towards the open ice, with Plisetsky at the back of his blades. They’ve been at it for twenty minutes, Yuri already bafflingly familiar with the steps, before Yuuri notices Yakov, clipboard in hand, watching from the side of the rink.

“Oh! Sir.” He stops, and Yuuri scratches to a halt beside him. “Did you want us to…”

“That is what I wanted you to do. So stop talking to me, and keep doing it.”

They go on, and on, and on.


 

Madame Baranovskaya reads his letter from Minako, on Yuuri’s first day. The turn of her mouth sours slightly. Yuuri hadn’t thought she could disapprove further.

“You are passable,” she says to Yuuri, and Yuuri can see the widening of the eyes of several nearby danseurs and does not understand, in his panic, what that could mean. “This is why I agreed to take you. But I am not Minako. I will break you. You will dance differently, for me.”

Yuuri can only nod, completely lost. Then she claps her hands, and he loses himself in the music.


 

On their first rest day, Yuuri’s not quite sure what to do. If it was Phichit, they’d hunker down on their old torn-up couch and watch terrible old Japanese or American films while Phichit presented him with the highlights from the world news that week. They’d eat yogurt with fruit and pretend it was ice cream, and Phichit would wheedle and prod until Yuuri put on The King and the Skater II, with English subtitles, dubbed in a random language. The French version was Phichit’s second favorite, beaten out only by his own native tongue. He swore that the songs sounded different.

Yuuri misses him, so desperately it closes up his throat. Maybe this is why he dares to meander into the living room, peers hesitantly at Viktor’s expensive flatscreen and nudges experimentally at the remote.

Viktor, of course, walks in with a half-eaten carrot aloft in his hand, and notices.

“Did you want to watch something?”

“No.”

Viktor turns on the television anyway. “I have Netflix, I think. Mila told me to try it.” He sits on the couch, gestures beside him. Yuuri perches hesitantly on the other end. “What do you like?”

Yuuri’s answer is vague, and Viktor settles easily on some comedy, plays it in English.

The Japanese skater likes movies. He also likes movement, which is calming. During a slower scene, he pads off to his room and comes back with a deck of cards. Viktor peers at him.

“Solitaire,” Yuuri explains. Viktor watches, points at opportunities. When Yuuri sets the last card down Viktor claps in mild excitement.

“I’ve never finished solitaire before.” A pause. “Do you want to play another game?”

Honestly, Yuuri should have known better. Viktor is a world champion, and you don’t earn that title without a certain competitive nature. He smacks at Yuuri’s hands mercilessly when they play Slapjack and distracts him with strange stories about his exploits as a teenager during Go Fish, until Yuuri is laughing and laughing, conceding victory rather than bringing out his own competitive nature. They’ve sprawled out on the living room floor, movie forgotten in the background, and when Yuuri shuffles the cards Viktor asks to be taught the technique, too.

“We’ll do a simple bridge for you,” Yuuri feels brave enough to tease. “You’re a novice.” Viktor scoots closer, strong hands curling over the deck of cards, and without thinking Yuuri leans in, corrects them with his own. “Gently. You’ll scatter them everywhere, like that.”

He looks up, a mistake, because Viktor’s face is too close, expression soft and sleepy and pleased. Yuuri can feel the heat rising in his cheeks—he takes his hands back, tucks them into his hoodie pockets.

Viktor’s expression is no longer sleepy. “Help me,” he requests, almost coy, and Yuuri wishes he could scramble back, could prevent Viktor from hearing the pounding of his heart against his ribcage.

“You have to learn how to do things on your own,” he scolds, and he doesn’t mean it, and Viktor knows this.

“I’ve learned how to do that,” Viktor replies, tone distant. “I’ve never liked it.”

Yuuri wants to ask him what he means, but those perfect, pale hands are too strong. Cards spray out onto the carpet, into the air, flutter over Yuuri’s face.

“Viktor!” He laughs. “You did that on purpose.”

“I didn’t, I promise.” The other man’s softness is back, an implacable expression flickering over his face. Yuuri can’t bear to look. Yuuri starts scooping the cards up together, and as he does, he mumbles,

“There’s a game.” Viktor hums in response to that, a question, and Yuuri continues, “it’s called fifty three card pickup. Whoever has the most cards wins.” Viktor freezes, and from the corner of his eyes Yuuri can see him opening his mouth, opening it to ask. “I’m going to win this round.”

Viktor is moving in a flash, pulling cards towards him. Yuuri yanks at them, pulls them from beneath Viktor’s palms and his knees, where the Russian is shoving them for safekeeping.

“Cheater!” Viktor protests, breathless, “How scandalous, that you have to resort to cheating to beat me at your own game, Yuuri!” His pale cheeks have the lightest flush.

“It’s not cheating!” He laughs in response.

“It is.”

There’s a shine to his eyes that Yuuri hasn’t seen since the banquet, and it gives him confidence.

Yuuri straightens, looks over Viktor’s shoulder, towards the apartment door. “Oh no,” he says.

Viktor pauses suspiciously, his hand on the Queen of Hearts.

“Makkachin’s got ahold of your new scarf.”

Viktor’s on his feet too quickly, turning—Makkachin, perfectly innocent, peers up at him from where she’s cuddled next to a heating vent. Yuuri swears he hears the lightest gasp. But it’s too late for the champion.

That,” Yuuri  says, “that is cheating.”

Viktor looks down at him—Yuuri, in his sweats, hair sticking up, stretched out awkwardly towards the last card on the ground a distance away. He’s already collected the cards Viktor used to have pressed beneath his knees. It’s a royal mess. But Viktor Nikiforov is laughing, then, low and rumbling and genuinely appreciative.

When he’s done, Viktor crouches, leans in. “I think, overall, that I won this round of games.”

Don’t look at his eyes. Yuuri always drowns in them.

“Fifty three cards,” he says, in a wobbly voice. “That’s fifty three victories. More than you get, for winning Go Fish three times and Slapjack five times and Euchre six times.”

“Ah, but you admitted that you cheated.”

Yuuri feels them before he registers them fully, the fingers at his pulse point. They’re climbing curiously up the underside of his wrist, his forearm, and the feeling shoots like electricity straight through his veins.

He looks up into the blue eyes. “Viktor?” The fingers stop, drop sweetly from his skin, and Viktor sits back on the carpet.

“Teach me the bridge again?” he requests. His fringe falls gently over one eye, the other still locked onto Yuuri’s gaze.

He pushes the deck towards the other man, and feels a sickening déjà vu. Yuuri’s been exposed to a look like this before—all slightly stunned interest, a growing crescendo of excitement. That had been at the start of the banquet, before it deepened and solidified into pure longing. The start of the banquet, the banquet that faded away after like the interest had been fairydust, magic sprinkled over the evening, disappearing when it was over.

Viktor’s fingers are on him again. “Show me?” He requests, a thumb skimming over Yuuri’s knuckles. “Yuuri, show me?”

Yuuri bites his tongue till he tastes blood, tries to steady his hands, and does.


 

Yakov comes to them with two videos.

“Viktor has choreographed two routines,” he says, gruffly. “He no longer identifies with them, and must skate something that has finally caught his inspiration, or so he squealed at me this morning. I have to deal with his infuriating arrogance, but you two will benefit from it.”

“He choreographed it for me?” Yurio demands.

Yakov gives him a strange look. “No.” The younger skater immediately begins mashing violently at the buttons on his phone. “Your grandfather worries when you text him like that, you know.”

“I am not talking to him about it,” Yurio snaps. “I am asking him something else.” Yuuri vaguely has the thought that Yurio needs a friend his own age to text and rage to, but Yuuri isn’t one to talk. His own texts are limited to Phichit, Mari, and now Viktor, apparently, who has texted him three times since they arrived at practice in the morning, despite eating lunch with Yuuri.

“You could text me?” He ventures.

The response is immediately. “Shove a skate up your ass.” That earns them both three suicides.

The response is equally immediate later, though, when a picture of a long-haired cat finds its way to Yuuri’s phone.

She looks so happy in the windowsill, Yuuri texts back.

Of course she is, idiot, she’s a cat, comes the instant reply. Cats are amazing. Send me pictures of your stupid dog. I know you have one.

Yuuri takes a while, to respond to that.

Not anymore, he finally texts. There is an equally long wait for Yurio’s next text.

Come meet Sasha sometime, he says, I’ll teach you proper Russian food while you’re here, cause Viktor has horrible taste. Pirozhki. Remember pirozhki. They’re all you need in life.

Saint Petersburg is very cold, even in April.

“Who are you texting?” Viktor asks. There’s the subtlest pout to his mouth. “When you weren’t texting me earlier, too, how cruel.”

“I was in practice,” Yuuri laughs. “So were you. And it’s Yuri.”

By May, it’s surprisingly warm. Yuuri can almost forget Sochi.

He doesn’t.


 

Madame Baranovskaya only scowls at him, during practice. He’s been having nightmares. About her, and about other things.

“If you’re going to come into my studio,” she says, “you will have to learn to dance properly, even when your body is weighted with emotion.”

“I’ll work it off,” he assures her, ashamed, “madame. I’ll do it faster in the future, I apologize.”

The displeasure only grows in her eyes. “I do not ask you to toss your emotions away—they are worth their weight. I am telling you to utilize them.”

This is an ideology he’s taken to the ice for years. So Yuuri does. His guest room is empty enough, and the floors are wooden, so at night in socks and his pajamas he dances with his emotion. He’s been working up the courage to ask Yakov for after-hours access to the rink. For now, this will do. Plie, tour en l’air, grand jete. Arabesque and detourne. When he needs a change it comes easy in flamenco steps, and a tango for one.

One night he opens his eyes, with panting breaths, to Viktor: standing in the open doorway with two steaming mugs and wide eyes.

“Tea,” the other man says, “with jam. No. Mine has jam. Yours doesn’t.”

Yuuri shuffles over, tousles at the hair over his eyes self-consciously. He’d been doing a tango for one. It’s not difficult to imagine that Viktor sees the resemblance to the banquet night too, which is probably why he’s tapping at his mug with one finger, troubled, eyes locked on Yuuri’s sweaty frame. Yuuri sips at his drink, half sick with shame.

“I, um, I really appreciate this, but I’m actually very warm from practicing—“ he begins, so quiet, but Viktor is on his feet in moments.

“I’ll get water,” the Russian asserts quickly. Anything to escape the man who still spends his nights reliving their banquet dance, is all that Yuuri can imagine.

He still returns anyway, nearly shoves a new cup into Yuuri’s outstretched hands. The rapid motion has Yuuri spilling some on his pajama top. They stare at the growing stain together, and Yuuri squeezes his eyes shut slowly as it seeps across the fabric on his chest.

“Um,” he breathes finally, “I have to change my shirt.”

“Of course,” is Viktor’s calm response. Yuuri fiddles at the hem, and his eyes dart up.

“Um, do you… mind?”

“Oh,” the Russian laughs, “of course.” He makes to leave the room, and Yuuri watches him go, so collected and beautiful, still clothed in a sweater and expensive, soft sweats. Yuuri knows now that the other man likes to sleep shirtless.

Stay, Yuuri’s whole being seems to be crying, please stay.

“Don’t forget your tea,” is all that Yuuri’s mouth says. Viktor circles back, shaking his head at himself, smile warm.

“Do you always turn your bedroom into a ballet studio?” 

“No,” Yuuri lies.

A chuckle at that. Viktor tilts his head, thoughtful and devastating. “We should dance together, sometime.”

“Yes,” Yuuri lies again. He would rather cut out his own heart from his chest with the blade of his skate. Living with Viktor is hard, sometimes. Being close to Viktor is difficult, always, even as it sends him soaring. But dancing with Viktor—dancing crosses the line. “Goodnight,” he says woodenly.

Viktor echoes it. Every line of his body seems drawn for Yuuri’s eyes to roam over, every turn of his lips something private and breathtaking. It breaks Yuuri’s heart. Breaks and breaks and breaks.

“There,” Madame Baranovskaya says one afternoon, when Yuuri is musing on it during practice, reliving the swell and ache of his chest. Even five grueling hours on the ice in the morning hadn’t been enough to dissipate it, so he gives in, lets himself break rather than worry about breaking, something he can only do while dancing. “That is how you will dance for me.”


 

They’re two months into being roommates, and on one off-day Viktor steps breezily into his room, cocks his perfect silver head, and declares: “we’re going out.”

Yuuri is in mismatched socks and basketball shorts. “To the Chinese takeout on the corner?”

Viktor shakes his head. “No, no. We’re going to—“ the next word out of his mouth isn’t in English. It’s definitely something flowing, something French, something expensive. He must see the look on Yuuri’s face, because he smoothly follows it with, “my treat, of course.”

“I couldn’t,” Yuuri protests.

“Let me,” Viktor says. “So then it’ll be a date?”

Yuuri knows this is not what Viktor means, that ‘date’ must be a more casual, unromantic word for him. In the United States, there’s a phrase like this that has only to do with scheduling, and after several moments of confused silence it bursts from his English speaking brain without much thought. “It’s a date, then. But I’ll try not to go overboard with ordering.”

The restaurant is exactly as Yuuri had feared. It’s expensive, and stylish, and the owner personally stops by their table and chats with Viktor in French for a few moments while Viktor tilts his flute of red wine. Yuuri had nearly spilled his on the white silk tablecloth, earlier.

Of course, Viktor insists that they have two appetizers, and the owner insists that they have dessert. They walk home, stuffed and sated, and Yuuri shivers in the cold because his blood rushes to his abdomen. Viktor, in the middle of a step, easily slides their palms together, links their fingers.

“Better?” He questions.

It is not better. It’s only making him long for something impossible, stoking a fire in him.

He’d wanted to hold Viktor’s hand again, after the banquet. He’d wanted to hold it every single day, in a clenching and painful way that outpaced his former childhood crush on the man, something he’d never imagined could get any worse. Yuuri had watched interviews and short videos on Instagram from Mila and Georgi and Viktor himself, desperate for pieces of the other man. So he doesn’t let go. He just says, “yes.” Better than the last few months. Not better.

In the dark of the apartment’s entryway, Viktor slides their hands apart. Starts unwinding the scarf from around Yuuri’s neck, and it makes Yuuri’s lower lip tremble and his mind scream numbly. When he’s done, scarf hung neatly on the coat tree, he settles hands on Yuuri’s shoulders, squeezes lightly at the tense muscles.

“I had fun.” Yuuri nods. It was fun for him, too, once Viktor had— with no trace of judgment— shown him which fork was which. “It was a good date, yes?”

Yuuri waits for him to step away, to shrug off his own coat. Instead, Viktor’s thumb starts lightly brushing at his neck. Focus on breathing.

“Is this okay with you?”

“Is…” Yuuri can’t even vocalize it, it makes such little sense. “The scarf?”

Viktor laughs through his nose, just a little. “This,” he explains, and his lips are brushing at Yuuri’s forehead. It’s a small gesture. It’s tearing Yuuri apart. He leans up, and Viktor leans down, and Yuuri is kissing him on the lips then, desperately, hopelessly.

They’d done this at the banquet, too, in the ballroom. Gentle, in the silence, the only music their lips moving in light rhythm. I’ll kiss you until you can’t breathe, Viktor had promised, when neither of us are drunk. One month after the banquet, after clinging onto hope for far too long, Yuuri had finally, finally accepted that Viktor hadn’t meant it.

He nips at Viktor’s bottom lip, and the other man opens it with a willing, small moan, and Yuuri presses in like he’d imagined doing.

Viktor pulls away too quickly, tugs at the buttons on Yuuri’s coat and his own. “Let’s go to the couch?” His voice is soft, pleased, the curve of his mouth sweet, even with his lips cherry red where Yuuri had bitten at them.

They kiss and kiss and kiss, tongues and fingerprints on each others necks. When the kisses slow, Viktor settles against him and curls comfortably on his chest.

“I never imagined,” he is saying, his words vibrating over Yuuri’s heart, “that this would happen, when you showed up at my door.”

He’d thought they would never kiss again, never be close again?

“For so long I’d been… growing desperate. Life is full of all of the same things, and I was becoming one of them. Sochi was a breaking point—everything was lifeless.” Yuuri can almost feel his breath rattling in his lungs. Sochi. The banquet. Viktor thought it was lifeless. “And now you tumble into my home, and it—“ he punctuates this with a laugh, a chuckling kiss to Yuuri’s nose, one that shudders over his skin “—everything’s... It seems almost too convenient. Orchestrated by someone, you know, even though that’s impossible. Just… convenient.”

“Convenient,” Yuuri repeats.

It must be convenient, to have someone like Yuuri in his house, someone he can kiss and who looks at him with helpless affection. Yuuri can feel the tears welling in his eyes.

Viktor looks startled at them, almost panicked. “That was too heavy, wasn’t it. We don’t have to talk about that. I won’t bring it up again. I don’t want you to feel pressured.”

And the truth is that he’s not pressured. Yuuri had kissed him first, had wanted to, had liked it because it felt like the banquet night again, something quietly intimate and instantaneously close. He’d indulged in the fantasy of Viktor wanting him, needing him.

And he had, for tonight. On this little couch. Just like he had during the banquet.

Now Viktor was saying he wouldn’t bring it up again. Just like during the banquet. It’s Yuuri’s own fault, for being emotional and attached and obsessed with Viktor since childhood.

He wants to stand, but Viktor’s body is a pressure atop him on the cushions. At the shift in Yuuri’s eyes, his shoulders, Viktor scrambles smoothly to a sitting position at one end of the couch. Watches and waits.

“It’s fine,” Yuuri says. “I understand.”

There’s the strangest vulnerability that trickles over Viktor’s expression. “You do?” He questions softly.

The younger skater nods, and stands, and goes to his room. When he shuffles out to use the bathroom in the hallway and brush his teeth, Viktor’s standing at the end of it, rubbing at the poodle wound about his legs, but his eyes are up, focused. Like he’d been waiting for Yuuri.

I’ve never met anyone like you. That night. Waltzes and swaying and a slow swing dance, then something entirely their own, each step a newly created secret between them.

I waited for you for so long. A confession Yuuri had only dreamed of hearing.

“Goodnight,” Yuuri says. Viktor beams, pats at Makkachin one last time.

“Goodnight.”

Yuuri expects them not to talk about it or acknowledge it, in the morning. They don’t, for the first half-hour—Viktor chewing at a banana and scrolling through his phone, elbow on Yuuri’s shoulder while they sit at the kitchen counter stools and the Japanese man wakes up.

They don’t acknowledge it when they drive in the ridiculous pink sports car. When they park in the rink lot.

Then, Viktor swings Yuuri’s equipment bag over his own shoulder from the backseat.

“I want to carry it,” he announces, and leans forward to drop a kiss on Yuuri’s cheek.

No!” Comes a growl, and before Yuuri has much of a chance to register it Yuri Plisetsky is barreling in and shoving his own sports bag between them with all the ferocity a short fifteen year old can muster. “I am not putting up with this at morning practice! And he’s my coach, you stay—“ he spreads one arm out gracefully as far as it can go “—you stay this far away at all times!”

Viktor smiles. “Of course, Yurio.” Pleasantly retreats a step, roughly the length of Yuri’s arm. Unfortunately, Viktor towers over the blond by a good seven inches, and when he reaches out a hand it still easily comes to rest on the curve of Yuuri’s cheek.

“I hate you,” Yuri hisses, resignedly now. “I can’t believe Yakov thought this was a good idea.”

“What’s that?” Viktor asks, distracted. His thumb is stroking pensively at the bags beneath Yuuri’s eyes, a subtle frown growing on his perfect lips. Yurio rolls his eyes, and mutters something in Russian that Yuuri can’t catch before slinging his bag back onto his shoulder and stomping off, as gracefully as Yuuri has ever seen anyone manage. “Oh. Speaking of Yakov. Do you mind if I tell him?”

Yuuri blinks. “Tell him what, exactly?”

“True, I’m not sure how we’d phrase it, either. He didn’t like it when I went out with one of the ice dancers from the rink, thought it would distract us.” Viktor’s smile is blindingly bright and utterly confusing. “But I’ll be working harder now, to impress you. I’m sure he’ll approve of that.”

Yuuri is still unsure what they’re telling Yakov.

He is unsure until, when he’s again disgusting and gross and has Yakov’s yelling ringing in his ears at the end of the day, Viktor comes over, links their hands, and waves to Yakov as they head out the door.

“Don’t just walk away from me,” Yakov booms.

“Yakov,” Viktor sighs. “Yakov, Yakov, Yakov. I know what you’re going to say.”

“Do you, now.”

“Yes,” Viktor asserts. “I even spent time making a pro and con list so I could convince you.”

“You don’t have to convince me.”

“There are no drawbacks, Yakov! We don’t drink together, weeelll not yet, and I’ll teach him jumps and he’ll teach me spins and we’ll show off on the ice for each other!“ he pauses, squeezes at Yuuri’s hand, as he absorbs Yakov’s final words. “…We don’t have to convince you?”

“No, Vitya. Finally.” He points at Yuuri, then, who swallows and wishes they were having this conversation in Russian, because then he’d have an excuse to not understand a word of it. “Remember the rink rules.”

Yuuri thinks through them. No phones. Check. Phichit complains about how little he’s on it. No alcohol. Check. He hasn’t touched a bottle since Detroit.

No sexual activity.

He glances down at where their hands are interlinked. “Sir!” He yelps, and yanks his hand out of Viktor’s. The man visibly pouts, and Yuuri stares at him with wide, disbelieving eyes before Yakov trundles back into the conversation.

“Hopefully now both of you can come out of your slumps and be the inspired but ridiculous skaters I know you to be.”

“Sir,” Yuuri says, desperately. There’s been some kind of mistake. The coach is acting like one night of kissing that Yakov doesn’t even know about, one night, again, and a morning of hand holding has some kind of mysterious, special meaning. Yuuri knows it does not. He’s not sure how long the affection will last, this time—they’re both sober, yes, but soon enough Viktor will lose interest again, and he doesn’t want his new coach aware of something transient and embarrassing like this, and—

“Breathe,” Viktor says, from beside him. “Breathe, Yuuri, he approves.”

Maybe Viktor just does things like this. Flirts with his rinkmates. Looks and speaks at someone for one night like they’re his everything, like Yuuri is rain and sun and the feel of a perfect slide to a stop on the ice—but only for one night.

They go back to the car. Viktor turns up the radio, tilts his head with the piano and the dip of the singer’s voice. “That went well, I think.”

That evening, when Yuuri has snuck away and started playing his 3DS in his guest bedroom, eager for a distraction, Viktor raps on the door. He sweeps in, a small but intricately decorated box in one hand and a comb in the other. “I need to occupy my hands.” So Yuuri moves to the floor, after Viktor holds up one finger in brief thought and retrieves a couch pillow for him to sit on. The Russian settles onto the edge of the bed, starts combing through Yuuri’s short hair, dreamily humming bits and pieces of song, like he’s talking in his sleep. Yuuri is lulled—closes his game, sighs, shifts back and decides to enjoy the affection while it lasts. “You gel it for competitions, yes?”

“Mm hmm.” The feeling’s nice, tingling, every sweep of the brush making him anticipate the next.

“Japanese nationals and Russian nationals are too close together,” Viktor complains, a soft buzz above Yuuri’s head, “I wouldn’t be able to fix your hair.”

It’s uncomfortable, the implication. Like a promise that Viktor is going to be around in months and months, going to be here and intimate like they’ve been the past few days. Yuuri can’t handle implied promises, not anymore. He tilts his head back, reaches up with one hand, and Viktor makes a noise so softly he almost doesn’t hear it.

“Can I?” He asks. Viktor leans down till his fringe is sleek in Yuuri’s hand. “Sorry. I’m sure people ask all the time.”

Viktor hums, shifts down further, till his forehead is on Yuuri’s, and Yuuri pushes his hand up, past the crown of Viktor’s head.

“Mm. Not since I cut it.” There’s a pause. “…And sponsors never asked to touch, really.”

Yuuri can’t see his eyes. He wishes he could. Instead he scratches lightly beneath the other man’s hair until he melts around Yuuri, pale arms about his neck and shoulders, lips to Yuuri’s ear.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri says quietly. “I’m sorry, Viktor.”

They stay that way for a few minutes more, just brief sighs and Viktor, relaxing, filling in every crevice on Yuuri’s shoulders and back.

“Stay with me tonight,” Viktor’s voice rumbles, low. It vibrates from his ear straight to his throat, his heart. Yuuri squeezes his eyes shut, flinching, and Viktor sits up, cards his hand through the dark hair one last time. “That didn’t come out right. I just want to sleep next to you.”

It’s traitorously tempting, like Viktor sleeping next to him will keep him there tomorrow morning and every morning after that.

“Okay,” Yuuri says.

When they’re in bed, Viktor rolls impossibly close, nudges his way beneath Yuuri’s arm and wedges one leg between Yuuri’s. When he’s sure that Viktor is asleep, peacefully, without a care in the world, he presses his face into Viktor’s hair and lets out one tear. One, another, and then his mind collapses into twisting dark.


Yuuri tries to ask Yurio about it, once.

“Viktor?” Yuri scowls. “Viktor’s always saying things he doesn’t mean. Well, maybe he means them at the time, but he forgets.”

“Things he doesn’t mean,” Yuuri chokes out, and Yuri launches into a spin, completely oblivious to the oncoming breakdown.

“Yes,” he huffs, “that idiot always forgets things. Or maybe he remembers, and just plays dumb to serve his own interests. It’s hard to tell, with Viktor. He can’t keep a promise for his life.”

“I see,” Yuuri says. He cannot see, actually, because there’s tears welling up and the ice of the rink has melted into blurry white and dirty brown. “I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Like hell you do,” Yuri replies, all sharpness, but he follows Yuuri there, stands outside the closed stall door—Yuuri imagines him, arms crossed and yanking impatiently at his own ponytail. “What’s your problem, idiot? We’re not at a competition.”

Putting the problem into words would be difficult enough, if he wasn’t trying to explain a private situation to a furious fifteen year old.

“It’s, ah, nothing.”

“People don’t typically call Viktor Nikiforov nothing,” Yuri snorts, “but I’m glad that you do. What, did he make you a promise too?”

Yuuri opens the stall door, wipes roughly at his own eyes. “Something like that. At the banquet last year.” He looks up, bites his lip. “Has Viktor ever… said anything to you about the Sochi banquet?”

Yuri scowls, but it’s the weakest one of his Yuuri has ever seen. “It’s an unofficial rule not to talk about the banquet with Viktor.”

There’s a burning sensation that rises in Yuuri’s face. “Ohhhh, god. Us dancing was that embarrassing?”

“Hah? No.” Yurio kicks at the bathroom tiles. “You didn’t meet him before the banquet. You live with him so you’ve probably seen bits of it. Viktor’s a screw-up, sometimes.” He kicks again. The words ‘screw-up’ and ‘Viktor Nikiforov’ have never once been close to each other in Yuuri’s mind, except for when the screw-up was Yuuri himself. The dripping of water from a leaky sink permeates the whole bathroom, tears at Yuuri’s ears. Yurio continues on. “A screw-up in his… head. He only got twenty times worse after Sochi. Yakov thought… hmph, yeah. We’ve all learned not to talk to him about the banquet or the GPF. Even Christophe Giacometti, who reveals everything from his fetishes to what’s under his disgustingly tight skating outfits, got the hint to not talk about it.”

The fear Yuuri’s felt is swept away, for a temporary moment. “Is he okay? Should I be… doing something?”

Yuri glares at him. “He’s a lot better this season, yeah. I don’t wanna hear the details about how you did that.”

“Me,” Yuuri questions, too mild and unsure for it to even be a true question.

“Ugh, gross, let’s just get back to practice,” Yuri says, “I want to make my step sequence faster than yours.”

Yuuri presses his palms into his eyes, takes a deep and watery breath. “Won’t happen till you stop favoring your right side and keeping yourself unbalanced. I know you can do it.”

“Shut up,” Yuri growls. His step sequence improves significantly. Yuuri’s got the quad salchow consistently in practice, now.

He has the rinks late at night for himself, too, after a long and uncomfortable discussion with Yakov. He takes the bus after dinner sometimes, so he doesn’t bother Viktor for a ride, and skates until the buzzing nerves seep from his muscles. Figures, On Love: Eros. The piece he hasn’t named yet, the piece Yakov is making him produce. He thinks of dinners with Viktor, and soft kisses, and never dares to hope.

At night, no one can see him practice his new jump.


 

A few days after their talk with Yakov, Mila Babicheva returns from training camp in America, where she’s been since early on in the summer. She sees Yuuri and Viktor curled up, eating bentos the Japanese man had made in a corner for lunch, and slides over to them with a knowing smile.

“So it finally happened.”

“What happened?” Yuuri questions warily, worry starting to thrum at his chest. He hates this vagueness that’s settled like a haze over so many of his interactions in the past few days.

“You’re…” she gestures with a hand. Her nails are painted electric blue, and Yuuri stares at them as they dart through the air, dragonflies.

“Dating,” Viktor pipes up. Yuuri drops his chopsticks. One rolls under the bench they’re sitting on. Viktor laughs, nudges at his hand that’s fisted around the one chopstick he managed to save. “I’d like to see you eat, like this. I’m sure you’ll still be better than me even with only one chopstick.” Yuuri hopes that singular chopstick isn’t shaking, isn’t completely obvious.

“Well, after the GPF, I suppose it was only a matter of time.” Her eyes settle softly on Yuuri. “I was so happy to hear that Yakov had offered you a spot at our rink.”

“After the GPF?” Viktor echoes, bright and curious. “Ah, well, of course after Yakov saw Yuuri skate, even in a routine that wasn’t his best, he couldn’t resist!”

Someone couldn’t resist,” she replies slyly. “Maybe two someones, even?”

“Dating,” Yuuri states stiffly. It’s a mere echo of Viktor’s statement from earlier—it’s taking so long for Yuuri to catch up, to accept that he hadn’t imagined the word.

Mila giggles, pats him on the shoulder. “Of course it’s mutual, if you’re dating. Then I won’t interrupt your romantic lunch. Stay safe!”

Yuuri can’t stay safe. He’s having a heart attack. Mila sways off, throwing one last cheeky smile over her shoulder, and when she’s gone Yuuri takes a deep breath and shoves his bento to the bench.

“We’re dating?” He hisses. Viktor has the good grace to look jarred. His perfect lips fall open, maybe even tremble a little, and his pale fingers clutch at his bento box. It’s heartbreaking, and completely unfair.

“Ah, just, for so long I’d—we kept going out on dates in the evenings and after our conversation with Yakov, I—“ The Russian swallows, shakes his head. “I always get ahead of myself, I’m sorry. What do you want to call it?” Yuuri just stares at him, trying to work it out. Viktor gives a strange smile, makes eye contact. “You want to keep your options open? Date other people?”

“No,” Yuuri says.

“Thank you,” Viktor lets out on a quick breath. “Then we can label it anything you want, Yuuri.”

Yuuri grips lightly at his knees, stares determinedly out towards the rink. “I don’t see the point,” he replies, trying so hard to not let his voice break, “I know it’s not going to last. You don’t have to pretend like it will.” Don’t do it for my sake. It’ll only make it worse when you leave again.

There’s a perfect silence, something Yuuri is unused to. Viktor can be quiet, can sit in the living room with Yuuri and not talk for hours, just settled sweetly with a book or his phone, but the Russian man likes to tap with his fingertips, likes to communicate with smiling sighs anytime he finishes a chapter. Recently he’s taken to tracing patterns on Yuuri’s skin, dragging the Japanese skater’s legs over him like a blanket when they sit on the couch. Yuuri wants that now, wants it fiercely. But he wants so much, in this world, and his desires are too sharp and strong to keep in his heart. They just make him bleed out.

The silence doesn’t end, just stretches out thin and terrible, and Yuuri can’t bear to look up from where his knuckles are clutching white against his pants.

“There you are,” Yakov bursts in with a growl, rounding the corner. “You’ve been on lunch break for almost forty-five minutes. I agreed to dating, Vitya, I didn’t agree to elopement from the ice.”

Beside him, Viktor stands. “Yakov, you know me! I jumped straight to the elopement. We’ll come back now.”

Later, when they’ve hung up their coats and are standing in the entryway of their home, Viktor stares down at him and says,

“So… a temporary situation. That’s what you want.” Then, quieter, “I can give you what you want, Yuuri. I’m good at that.”

Yuuri tries not to shake. Maybe this is what Viktor finds fun. Be someone’s dream, for a night or a few days, make promises of forever and I’ve been waiting for you like the romance is real.

“You don’t need to mold yourself into something for me. Just be Viktor.” Because no matter how ridiculous the promises Viktor makes, no matter how he doesn’t mean most of them, there are other parts of the champion that Yuuri knows has to be real, human. Delighted aggression in winning at cards, the way he cuddles with Makkachin, combing Yuuri’s hair, beautiful things. Things that are even more attractive than promises. Things that Yuuri has been gifted, however temporarily.

 “Even when you’re cruel,” Viktor says, “even when you’re cruel you’re good to me, Yuuri. This isn't the end.”

The Japanese skater goes numbly to his room, and wonders, in that spiraling agony of the anxious, why Viktor calls self-preservation cruelty.

Chapter Text

When Yuuri was twelve, he looked at Viktor Nikiforov and thought, I want to be special enough for you to notice me.

When Yuuri was twenty-three, Viktor had. But Yuuri’s worth had been in champagne bubbles and spinning, delicate moves on the dance floor: temporary, balanced things, bound to die.

Yuuri has always known he was nothing special, but it hurts to hope.

 


 

Yuuri manages to wake up first, which hasn’t happened before in his time living with Viktor. When he shuffles into the kitchen through the darkness of Viktor’s apartment, there’s a wrecked calm to it—the aftermath of a storm. Viktor’s coat and scarf are curiously pooled on the floor, rather than on the coat rack, and Yuuri hangs them up, brushes the expensive fabric off. Time is limited. So Yuuri snags fruit from the counter and does the simple preparation for Viktor’s favorite cereal, and takes it to his door.

Three knocks, and nothing. Yuuri realizes, swallowing the lump in his throat, that Viktor could have already left for practice. He’ll have to Google the bus schedule, but he’ll definitely be late at this point—

The door pops open, just enough for a tousled silver head to poke through, bare shoulders following it. Yuuri looks to the door hinges and focuses on his breathing.

“We’re going to be late, so I just wanted to…” At first, Yuuri thinks the resulting chuckle and incomprehensible mumble is rough and drawn out with sleep. Then he realizes it’s slurred. Suddenly the strange smell clinging to Viktor’s coat earlier clicks in Yuuri’s mind. “Are you drunk?” He asks, stunned.

Viktor presses his forehead to the doorframe.

“Probably? Yes. Which is good. Better than a hangover.”

“I—we have—practice in half an hour,” Yuuri blurts. “Why are you drunk? It’s a Wednesday.”

“Russian tradition,” Viktor assures him, seriously. He ruins the moment for himself when his arm slips on the doorframe, knocking his head into it.

“You’re in no condition to drive—you’re in no condition to skate! I’ll call Yakov—“

“Nooo,” Viktor moans, “no, he worries. And yells. Very loud, so don’t do that, we’ll regret it. I’d rather skate like this. I hold my liquor well. I was just out till…” He squints. “Five am.”

“It’s five-thirty.” Yuuri stares at the other man, who’s rubbing at his red forehead and swaying slightly. “Viktor,” he says, gently, “let me come in. We’ll get you water.” Viktor opens the door fully. “Ah! Please put on clothes first.”

When Yuuri comes back with cool water and a washcloth, Viktor has on sweats and is cross-legged on his bed, staring at him. Yuuri holds out the water, and Viktor’s alcohol-loosened hands run over his forearm and wrist, electric to Yuuri even in this state, before managing to take the glass.

“Did you spill any alcohol on you?” He gestures with the wash cloth. “I don’t want to leave you in a shower by yourself, that could be dangerous. Just…”

Viktor isn’t listening, and it’s clear from his wide-eyed, clear gaze, even if he looks nearly sober, except for the flush. If Yuuri wasn’t sober himself, it’d be near impossible to tell. “You’re so beautiful,” he says, and Yuuri drops the washcloth with a sickening slap onto the wooden floor. “So good. And mine, for a little while.”

Always yours, Yuuri wants to correct. Always. Even when you leave.

Viktor is still going, rolling his expensive sheets back and forth between his hands. “I could stay in bed today. You could stay with me.”

“You’re not in a right state of mind, Viktor,” Yuuri says, softly. The Russian looks up.

“Does it matter?”

Yuuri had thought being close to Viktor was difficult. Kissing him had been a devastating and essential thing, water he drank and drowned in. Viktor like this is somehow worse—all sweetness and fumbling, staring up plaintively through silver lashes and saying pretty things, things that make Yuuri want to scream and do quadruple jumps until his knees shatter, like beautiful and mine. Like the banquet all over again, except this time the champion can’t disappear in the morning.

“Of course it matters.” Viktor matters, more than anything.

The Russian sighs, a wispy thing. “Pick up the washcloth, Yuuri?”

Yuuri does, leans over quickly and plucks it up. “Sorry. I won’t leave it on your wooden floor—“

Viktor reaches out, takes his hand and the cloth, brings it to his cheek.

“Here,” he says plainly. Yuuri can feel the heated flush of his skin, red with alcohol, through the damp fabric between them. He rubs up and down, soft, and Viktor wobbles with the motion, eyes locked onto Yuuri’s own. “I know it’s difficult, caring for me.”

Caring for him, because Yuuri will always care and Viktor never can?

No, he realizes dimly, running the washcloth slowly and gently down the slope of Viktor’s perfect neck, he just means caring for him when he’s drunk.

The old interpretation is still just as true.

“I don’t mind,” Yuuri says, and Viktor shivers beneath his hand. Leans into his touch. Yuuri brushes lower on his torso, meticulous and determined, before settling him back into bed with a plastic bag and a pitcher of water by his bed.

“Tell Yakov I’m sick,” Viktor slurs. “That I’m dying.”

 


 

Yuuri tries. Yakov narrows his eyes.

“You’re even worse at lying than he is. That selfish man is hungover, isn’t he?”

“No,” Yuuri blurts in a panic. The coach snorts, disbelieving. “…He’s still drunk.” Yurio cackles. Yakov’s hair is falling out before Yuuri’s very eyes.

Somehow, his honesty doesn’t help.

When he comes home, Viktor is doing crunches on a yoga mat on the floor. He doesn’t make eye contact—Yuuri assumes he doesn’t want to talk about getting drunk, about missing practice, about… whatever happened last night. Still, he gathers up water from the kitchen and Tylenol from the cabinet, and goes to kneel next to the Russian.

“Are you feeling better?” Viktor settles back, lays sprawled perfectly on the floor, knees propped up loosely. Yuuri tries not to think too hard about it. Nudges him with the glass of water. Caring for Viktor—that’s easy, like living out the half of his fantasies with Viktor that don’t involve a bed, like they’re married and there’s a domesticity to it, a drowsy affection. If they were married, they’d take sick days off together from the rink, and Makkachin would lay across the top of the two of them while they shivered under the covers in Viktor’s room, warm soup and twenty boxes of tissues stacked on their bedside table. If they were married, they would dance every day, tango and foxtrot and sliding socks on the kitchen floor, screams of laughter—he knows exactly how Viktor’s laughs sound, now. The real ones.

Maybe Viktor calls self-preservation cruelty because it’s only prolonging the inevitable. Yuuri’s going to love him regardless of whether Viktor wants twenty minutes or twenty years. Maybe it’s better to accept their relationship as it is. Lips and nipping teeth and holding hands and no promises, not anymore.

He leans forward, settles the glass of water in Viktor’s hand, his lips on Viktor’s cheek.

“You worried me,” he murmurs. “And Yakov. I don’t mind caring for you, it’s not difficult, but… are you going to do this again?”

Viktor blinks. “I don’t know.” Turns his head, follows Yuuri’s mouth as the Japanese man leans back, kisses it twice. “Probably,” he confesses, low. A vibration against Yuuri’s cheek. “Are we going to keep doing this?”

This, kissing and closeness, is like some kind of dark, swirling dream.

Are we going to keep doing this?

Yuuri can’t bear to tell him no.

 


 

If Yuuri had called Viktor ‘affectionate’ at the banquet, he’s not sure what word captures the level of physical intimacy now. He touches Viktor on the arm in the kitchen in the morning, just a touch because Yuuri is sleepy and lazy and Viktor’s blocking his kettle of boiling water. Somehow, that results in the taller skater being wrapped around him while he sips blearily at his tea, standing between the kitchen island and the stove. When he pats at Viktor’s wrist with one hand, he buries in tighter.

“Don’t you want your coffee?” Yuuri asks, gravelly, when their expensive French coffeemaker blinks green.

“Yes,” Viktor says, and doesn’t let go.

“I am actually throwing up,” growls Yuri Plisetsky at practice. “Right in my mouth. This is disgusting.”

“You’re not throwing up,” Yuuri disagrees politely, “you’re throwing your phone.”

“They mean the same thing,” Yuri snaps. “Why is he clinging onto you and mooning over you like you’re both about to tragically die?” He pauses, then adds sharply under his breath, “not like I’d complain about him doing that.”

“Is this not normal?” Mila asks.

“With Viktor there IS no normal,” Yuri declares.

The silver-haired man glides by where they’re standing rinkside, blows a kiss to Yuri (who shrieks) and winks at Yuuri. “Hi, Mila!”

“He seems fine to me,” Mila says.

 


 

Minako comes to the Kyushu championships, squeezes his shoulders while Yuuri tries to control his breathing. Yakov had offered to attend, but Yuuri felt wrong taking him from the other skaters and making him fly hundreds of miles for something that was meant to be small, a regional competition. Something Yuuri shouldn’t have even needed to participate in, except he’d crashed and burned and landed himself here in a charred heap. Yuuri’s phone buzzes. Without much thought, Yuuri opens it while Minako still stands over him.

Viktor

Yuuri! You’re guaranteed the win! I’m thinking of you. <3

Also, did you know that the President of your fanclub has been posting all kinds of pictures on Twitter? From where they’re angled he has to be another skater, I think! You should say hello ;)

Yuuri types a reply, if just to occupy his trembling fingers.

Yuuri

I am not guaranteed a win. I lost to one of the competitors last Nationals. We talked about this.

I don’t think I have a fanclub?

“Is ‘Viktor’ the same thing as ‘Viktor Nikiforov’?” Minako questions.

“No,” Yuuri responds abruptly. His phone buzzes again. It’s a selfie of Viktor with Makkachin.

Viktor

We did talk about it. When you get home, we’ll celebrate! I want to take you out on a date.

“You seductive little sneak,” Minako says, voice beginning to rise at the end, and Yuuri cuts her off with a,

“Please, Minako, please, I’m skating soon.”

“Okay,” she concedes, settling.

Viktor

I think your fanclub president has blonde hair with a streak of red.

Yuuri looks up, scans the area around him, extremely doubtful. Coach, crying fifteen year old skater, aggravated coach, blonde child with Yuuri’s old skating outfit and a flashing cell phone—oh god.

At the Kyushu regionals, Yuuri takes home a gold and, with the insistence of Minako and Viktor tag-teaming him, has interacted… positively… with Kenjirou Minami.

 


 

Viktor takes him out, as promised. Sushi. It’s expensive and intimate and Viktor spends half of it with his chin propped in his hand, his shoeless foot brushing at Yuuri’s calf. Afterwards, Viktor tries to call them a cab, but Yuuri gets him to walk for a time along the river. In the rushing sounds and dark they hold hands, stumble together over the cobbled sidewalks. When Viktor sets Yuuri onto his own bed, and kisses down his neck, he murmurs wetly, “missed you.” It’s been five days.

“I missed you too.” For months, and months, and months.

Why didn’t you want me then, if you promised those things? Why would you want me now?

Yuuri tries not to cry. It works, at least until Viktor’s sleeping, shirtless and curled up against him. He’d wanted Viktor to say that when he first arrived. Now isn’t the time to dwell on these things. Now he has Viktor with him, and he has to take advantage of limited time.

 

“Sir,” Yuuri says, after Yurio has become frustrated with spins after an hour and has gone to cool off in the weight room, “I wanted to ask about…” he swallows, looks down.

“Viktor?” Yakov questions seriously, and Yuuri blinks up at him, the words prompting his own reply.

“The trial period.”

Your trial period?” Yakov confirms, and then snorts. “Were you still thinking about that, Katsuki? That’s over and done—you’re going to the Cup of China. You are my skater, now.”

“Thank you, sir,” he whispers, ducking his head. Slotting into Russia in some permanent way, something that’s firm and reassuring, has tears building up in his eyes.

“How often are you going to do this to me,” Yakov blusters. Still, he goes to his coaching bag and comes back with a blanket and a bottle of water. “I deal with crying children, but I don’t know how to handle you. I am not a soft man, Katsuki.” Yuuri, drowsily wrapped up in fleece, is starting to wonder about that.

 


 

Yuuri

Is it okay if I come over next rest day to do that pirozhki/katsudon exchange we promised to do? Would your grandfather mind?

Yuri

We talked about that 2 months ago you asshole

Yuuri

Sorry. I didn’t mean to bother your family

Yuri

We’re at the store buying the ingredients so you better come

Bring the idiot

Oh, my mistake, we talked about calling him nicer things since he read our texts and sulked and…

Yuuri

Played nothing but Beyoncé and sad Russian pop ballads for two weeks on our drive to the rink?

Yuri

I meant: the Drama Queen

Also, tell him to stop creeping on your texts.

Yuuri

He’s… reading this over my shoulder. Sorry.

Dgsdfsdkkkk

Yuri

Katsudon, what are you doing

Yuuri

He tickled me. It’s okay, I escaped the couch and replaced him with Makkachin and my bed

Yuri

Neither of you are ever allowed within ten feet of me

Yuuri

We’ll be over on Wednesday?

Yuri

At 6pm. Do not make my grandpa wait on you

 

Viktor and Yuuri’s day starts early, in the only international market that sells the appropriate ingredients. Viktor is wandering curiously through the fish selection, but Yuuri pulls him wordlessly away, keeps him by his sleeve, and tries to balance his basket and his phone with the ingredient list in his other hand. Viktor takes the basket, swings it, smiles at him. Distractedly, he fiddles with a box of pocky on a nearby shelf. By now, Yuuri knows that his roommate is impossible to shop with—he grabs already ripe bananas and never checks the vegetables for mold, just buys extra and throws bad food out or feeds the best scraps to Makkachin. He’s ridiculous. He can be wasteful. Yuuri wants to shop with him for the rest of his life, and do laundry while Viktor wanders the house in a bathrobe, and clean their apartment to the sound of figure skating podcasts. He wants the last few months to be years.

“What’s this?” Viktor questions about one fruit.

“It’s—ah,” he muses, and the word for it in Japanese rolls from his tongue, but no English word appears. “Hmm. They’re sour? But now’s a bad time of year—they’re best in the summer, we’d have to try it then.”

“I see,” Viktor says, and shuffles up against his side. “I’d like to come back.”

“You can,” Yuuri tells him. The international store is fifteen minutes from their apartment, by car. Viktor presses closer, and Yuuri steps back, against boxes of colorful, bumpy fruits.

“I wouldn’t know what to pick,” the Russian says, switches the shopping basket between his hands.

“I’d help you,” Yuuri says, baffled. “You just have to ask.”

Viktor’s smile is usually immediate, beaming, but this one comes slow and sweet, syrupy, closed lips and soft eyes. The fruit is sour. Viktor’s expression is bittersweet.

It occurs to Yuuri that Viktor might think that, once their intimacy dissolves, these little things will go with it. When Viktor wanders off to the rest of the store again, Yuuri doesn’t stop him. He thinks of fantasies of dancing in socks in the kitchen, of Viktor never learning how to pick out good vegetables from bad when they shop together at the supermarket, of lazy days when they’d peek through the shutters out at grim rain or snow and Viktor would drag him back, giggling, through the house and under warm covers.

Don’t leave, no, no, Viktor had whispered. Celestino had texted, his words on the phone painfully bright in the dark blur of the ballroom, a sign of the end. Stay with me, Yuuri, please, never leave.

Yuuri leans over the fruits. Clutches at his tightening chest, spreading between his shoulders and threatening to split open, slows his breathing. He does not cry.

 


 

They manage to make it to Yurio’s house by 6pm, arms laden with paper bags of purchases and freshly made ingredients. It’s cramped—nothing like Viktor’s apartment—but this keeps it close, and lets the sizzling sound of oil in a pan fill the whole of the house. Nikolai is exactly like Yurio, except far more honest and relaxed. He assures them it will only be a few minutes, and then Yuuri can use the small kitchen to start making his katsudon.

“Bring us your cat! Call for her!” Viktor commands cheerfully, and Yurio throws a couch pillow at him.

“He’s a cat, idiot, you go to him!” This involves a trip into Yurio’s room, which is surprisingly bare on the walls except for a few band posters that Yuuri doesn’t recognize but assumes are heavy metal, from the hooded skulls and gunmetal-grey backgrounds, the occasional splatter of red flame.

“Potya,” Yurio coos, a sound which Yuuri has to spend a few seconds digesting, and the fluffy cat rolls from his back and trots to Yurio across the bed. Up he goes, into Yurio’s arms, and he turns to Yuuri with heavy expectation in his eyes. “Do you want to pet him?”

Yuuri doesn’t know if he has much of a choice. “Of course.” Yuuri scratches behind his ears, smooths down his back—his college acquaintance Ketty had a cat, one that sat atop her keyboard in her dorm room, and Potya seems similar. Viktor reaches out, ruffles at the top of Potya's head.

“He’s not a dog!” Yurio barks. Potya seems undisturbed by the yelling. “You don’t just rub at him!”

“Have you never met Potya before?” Yuuri questions, and Viktor shrugs. It’s confusing—he’d assumed that Viktor had been here, considering that Yurio occasionally shows up at their apartment in return, seems to have his own set of keys. All he does once he’s there is eat their carrots and use the video game console Viktor has but Yuuri’s never seen him touch, but he shows up consistently. Less, after he walked in one day to Viktor’s hands up Yuuri’s shirt when they were on the couch, but consistently.

“Well, no,” Viktor says plainly. “Yurio’s never invited me.”

“You never mentioned it,” Yurio replies, lip curling up sourly. “Don’t act like you wanted to come here.”

There’s a chill breeze, in Yurio’s room. It’s coming from his windowsill, like it’s never been insulated properly. The home is well cared for, but the paint is cracked, the carpet well-worn, and Yurio’s bedroom is the size of Viktor’s walk-in closet. Yurio has new tiger print clothes, but they’re all cheap—and that’s from Yuuri’s view, who has no sense of these things. Viktor knows how to charm a hundred people all at once, to symbolize seduction and desire and riches with a flick of his hand on the ice, how to inspire other skaters, how to treat a fan with kindness and respect and sign a signature, then move on. But this, this. He has no training to form a relationship with one poor fifteen year old that’s probably looked up to him, been surrounded by The Extravagant Hero of Russia, for years. Strangers, even friends sometimes, leave Yuuri floundering—but the intuitive, gentle touch of family… that, Yuuri can handle.

Yurio’s still glaring at them, clutching at a now wriggling Potya. His face is dusted with stubborn red. The silence has been too long.

“Yurio,” says Yuuri. “We’ve been looking forward to this all day. Thank you for letting us meet Potya.”

“You’re welcome,” the younger skater half snarls, but he props her up higher on his hip, aggravation calming to suspicion.

Yuuri laces his fingers with Viktor’s, who looks over to him with lowered eyes, and brings their entwined hands up to Potya. The cat sniffs at them with a wet nose.

“Viktor loves pirozhki,” Yuuri continues, “with beef and mushroom especially, I think? From that little stall on the street corner we go to on Saturdays.”

The champion hums a noise of assent, and Yuuri thumbs lightly at the back of his hand where they’re still intertwined, dropping them loosely now between their sides. There’s a small sigh.

“Grandpa’s is better,” Yurio asserts.

“We’ll come here instead, then,” Viktor says easily. “On Saturdays.” Yurio’s jaw works itself, lips tightening.

“Just invite yourself over to my house,” he says, “that’s fine.”

And it is.

 


 

It’s the Cup of China, and Viktor has come to support him. This makes Yakov scowl, and he snaps, “don’t distract Yuuri, Vitya, he has better things to do!”

“Better things to do than me?” Viktor asks, and it is only Yakov’s old ears and the screaming of the crowds that saves both their lives.

The support is—strange. Yuuri’s never wanted another person beside him so much, but it’s Viktor. The Russian comments on skating with him, congratulates him on his short program, wraps around him while they watch the competitors like a sort of insulating blanket.

Phichit, of course, finds them approximately two seconds after Viktor’s started hugging him from behind and whispering in his ear.

“Hi Phichit,” Yuuri squeaks.

“Yuuri,” he sighs, “just because we’re best friends, and I know you, I’ll pretend this isn’t happening for another five seconds. After that I’m going to start taking pictures and uploading them.”

Despite Yuuri’s most valiant efforts to peel the Russian off him, Phichit gets pictures.

Later, when they’re out at hotpot, Yuuri drags Phichit to the bathroom.

“You, um, don’t seem surprised?”

“Huh?” Phichit asks, “Why would I be surprised?”

“Because Viktor and I…”

Phichit giggles, squeezes Yuuri’s shoulder. “Oh, my poor best friend. Living in the last century. You do realize Viktor’s Instagram is basically a shrine to you?”

“You’re joking,” Yuuri says flatly.

“Even if I was joking, I could not be as hilarious as the real life situation of Viktor fawning over you. There’s videos of you dancing doing laundry, videos of you at practice, you and Makkachin wrestling. Do you know that you left a plate out the other day and Viktor snapped a pic of the way you’d arranged your leftover peas?”

What?”

“Yeah. You’d made a little heart. Viktor thought it was cute. Anyway, Instagram actually took away his verified status cause they thought he’d been hacked by one of your fans, but he contacted them and got it reestablished.”

What?”

There is a knocking at the door, a velvety voice that passes through it. “Yuuuuri. Is something scandalous going on in there? Our coaches are about to start taking shots.”

“We’ll be done in a minute!” Phichit yells. “I’m just gonna finish making out with Yuuri! Roommate benefits!” Phichit gives him a quick hug. “I’m so happy for you. I knew Viktor would come around, after what you told me about the Sochi banquet. Well, okay, initially I thought he was an asshole celebrity who screwed with your head to, uh, not get in your pants? Unsure. I thought he was just sadistic. But now it’s pretty clear that he actually likes you! So that’s good.”

“That’s… good,” Yuuri murmurs quietly. Phichit peers at him, far too aware.

“Aww, Yuuri,” he says, quietly. “Don’t overthink this, okay?”

“He likes me,” Yuuri says, voice wobbling only a bit, “for now.”

Phichit slings an arm around Yuuri, presses him in close. “We can’t guarantee people will love us forever. Except for me,” he adds fiercely, “I’ll always love you and you’ll always love me or I’ll be forced to take us both down in a blaze of glory.” Yuuri laughs, settles his head on Phichit’s shoulder. “Viktor may not always love you. Are you going to let that stop you from having this and being happy now?”

“No,” Yuuri whispers. He’ll take anything he can have. The performance has begun, and he’ll draw it out as long as he can.

When they return to hotpot, Yakov is staring off into the distance, expression deathly serious and cheeks suspiciously pink, while Celestino has begun to foam on the tabletop. Viktor looks like… Viktor. But significantly less clothed.

“Yuuri!” He gasps. “Yuuri, you came back!” Yuuri settles beside him in the booth, and Viktor slings over him, presses two fingers to Yuuri’s lips and when he reels back, startled, lifts up his chin and peers at his neck.

“Viktor, what—“

“No bites, no hickies,” Viktor says, satisfied. Yakov rumbles in the booth beside them.

“Did you believe us?” Phichit asks, and dissolves into laughter. “I never thought there’d be a day when Viktor Nikiforov, world champion, was jealous of Phichit Chulanont. Before I even brought home a gold medal to Thailand, too. I am just becoming more amazing every day.”

“It’s not funny,” Viktor cries. It is also not funny when the Russian’s clothing all ends up tossed from the booth and right onto poor, sweet Leo de la Iglesia’s head.

 


 

What’s even less amusing is what Viktor says when he drags Yuuri off to the garage, before the free skate. Yakov had watched them go, eyes a warning.

“Getting him out of here is a surprisingly good idea, Vitya. Don’t stress him unnecessarily.”

But the Russian champion had clearly not listened.

“If you miss the podium,” Viktor says, “I won’t come to your competitions, again. I won’t pressure you, or take up your time with date nights, I’ll leave you—“ The tears come at that, bursting forth with shuddering heat, and Viktor stops.

“Why would you say that,” he says, “like you’re testing me. Like if I don’t skate well, I’ll lose you, and now you’re just mocking me!” He hadn’t skated well at the Sochi GPF, and at first, that hadn’t mattered, in a boozy night of fun. Now, Viktor’s drawn it out longer, upped the stakes, slept beside him and kissed him and made more promises. His fists shake, clenched at his sides. “I’ve been thinking that you were wanting to stop doing this.”

Viktor is backpedaling, waving hands, looking less and less like the man the reporters could never shake. “Of course I don’t want us to stop doing those things, Yuuri, but I don’t want you to resent me and if you think they’re bothering you—“

“They’re not!” Yuuri insists hotly. “The nerves I feel right now, they’re not always about you! But—but here you are, supporting me and k-kissing my hand on live television, and people think I’m your boyfriend, and now suddenly everything I do is related to you, reflects on you! If I fall, if you are anything less than perfect in your qualifiers, they’ll blame us both!”

Time seems to stop. The Russian is thinking, a terrifying and calculating thing, eyes flashing.

“I can’t make any of that go away,” Viktor says lowly, “but I don’t care what they think. I just need to know how to make you feel better. Should I just kiss you or something?” The words electrify his heart into beating again.

“NO!” Yuuri bursts, and here they are. Months of yearning, months of fearing, months of lying awake watching Viktor shift in his sleep and wondering if he’d get to do it again the next night. He doesn’t want Viktor’s kisses or Viktor’s promises or the physical intimacy that was preciously devastating. “I just need you to believe in me, more than I do! I need you to stay close to me!”

The garage echoes with their argument. Yuuri feels as though he’s the sound, slammed and thrown between concrete walls. Breath. Another.

“I’ll stay close to you,” Viktor says, softly. “And I already believe in you.”

They’re just words, always words, but his eyes, the lean of his frame, they make it seem true. Yuuri takes in a deep breath. He’s tired of sitting still every day, of waiting and doubt. If he can’t trust in Viktor’s interest in him, he should be trying harder. He can be alluring, appealing, can send a message and urge the other man to stay as best he can.

“Let’s go back upstairs,” Yuuri murmurs, and takes his hand.

Twenty minutes later, Katsuki Yuuri lands a quadruple flip, and Viktor Nikiforov kisses him.

 


 

Afterwards, Viktor would have joined him in the kiss and cry, but one look at the dead expression on Yakov’s face had Viktor pecking Yuuri on the cheek and waving fondly before disappearing off into the screaming press mob. Yakov yells throughout the entire process, something about rink rules apply to OTHER RINKS TOO, KATSUKI and a clean Salchow could’ve earned you more and finally can you not control Vitya, Yuuri, though I know HE IS A HANDFUL, I thought you could be a good influence but I should have known it’d take a while for you to rub off! The scores come in. Yuuri hugs him, very briefly.

“Thank you, coach.”

The yelling does not resume. 

 


 

Time is limited before the Rostelecom Cup. They’re both in it, along with Yuri Plisetsky, and Yakov somehow makes practice sessions more grueling. Yuuri’s never been coached like this, with talent like this beside him—it’s an oddly relieving pressure, to know that he will probably never live up and yet to still try.

They walk Makkachin together, and usually collapse exhausted at the end of the day onto the couch or Viktor’s massive, plush mattress. Yurio moves in with Madame Baranovskaya, so Pirozhki Saturdays are put on hold. The days blur into each other in a satisfied but quiet haze.

There are things about Viktor that never change—he likes to hold and be held, to fall asleep wrapped up in one another, to read the newspaper on his tablet in the morning while Yuuri holds a fruit smoothie or a granola bar to his lips. In practice he is indomitable, indestructible. In the pink convertible he is bold, rubbing fondly at Yuuri’s knee and over his inner thigh while they sit at traffic lights. Then, they have a rest day.

Things slip out at the worst time: when he and Viktor are in bed. The words slip out because Viktor is right there in front of him, all Yuuri’s in this moment and so close, and also because Yuuri is close—he can feel the blinding spark shiver its way from his lower body up to his brain, and then he’s pleading “I love you, I love you—“

Thank god, he thinks in the all-encompassing glow of it, that he had spoken in Japanese. For once, the language barrier between them has been helpful. As he comes down, so gently, he pleads the words again, safe in hiding.

But Viktor’s still beneath him, blue eyes overcome by desiring black, and as he follows Yuuri he gasps, “I love you too.”

It’s in Russian. Yuuri has lived in Russia for the last several months. The words are unmistakable, and terrifying.

I think I love you. I know we’re drunk and hardly know each other, but listen, believe me— I do, I do, I do. Believe me, Yuuri, you’re so…

“You speak,” he breathes heavily, bringing a trembling hand up to his brow in shock, “you speak Japanese?”

Viktor presses his head back lightly in the pillow, eyes not leaving Yuuri’s own. “That’s what you want to talk about, after we…”

“Yes,” Yuuri chokes out, because the alternative could be listening to Viktor tell him he loves him, again, which is all Yuuri has ever wanted to hear. It’s everything he’s wanted, and it can’t be handed to him and then taken away, not again. Being merged like this, that’s something Yuuri can handle, a memory he will probably relive until the day he dies—it can be a promise or commitment, but mostly is just pure feeling.

You, on that dance floor, smiling at me while you spun. You’re everything, Yuuri. I can’t believe I found you—

Viktor’s pale skin never hides the flush of activity, except perhaps in the cold of the rink. Yet the pink sinks into deep red, now, as he answers. “I don’t speak Japanese.”

“But you knew what I said,” Yuuri whispers, “you knew.”

They separate, everything cooling and their connection dissipating out of the air. Yuuri pulls the sheet about him, morbidly conscious of himself. The champion smiles, a thing full of dying hope. “That’s the only sentence I know,” Viktor admits, slow. “The only one I’ve been practicing.”

Yuuri squeezes his eyes shut, and wants to believe.

“Viktor.”

“You said it first,” he replies, very quietly, “you said it first, so can I assume… can I ask if you’ve changed your mind? If I’ve… changed your mind?”

“Changed my mind,” Yuuri repeats, “about what?”

Viktor is so naked before him—body, expression, clear blue eyes. He swallows, moves closer by an inch over the sheets. “You said you didn’t think this would last. Do you think now that you could— could see your feelings for me, lasting? Not being temporary?”

Viktor is cruel, sometimes, but Yuuri is starting to wonder if he intends it. Maybe—maybe this time is different. It’s been months. The words that come from his mouth now are similar to the banquet, but he and Yuuri have been together since the summer.

Maybe Viktor will stay.

“My feelings for you have never been the problem! I meant… what I said, just now. I’ve always meant it.”

Even when Viktor hadn’t. But maybe now he does, maybe Yuuri can believe. He’ll always wonder, but if he gets Viktor, only for a time, he can try to believe…

“Yuuri,” the other man says, voice gentle as the brush of his fingers on Yuuri’s face. His voice still trembles on the next words. “I thought you didn’t want me.”

Yuuri shakes his head fiercely, the tears leaking out, Viktor’s hand pulling back. “Of course I want you. But you won’t want me,” he babbles, “you won’t. Someday soon.”

“I will,” Viktor says, and his voice sounds as if he’s in agony, “I always will. I always have, too, I’ve always meant it—“

Yuuri stiffens instantly, lets out a sob, and Viktor cuts himself off.

“You haven’t. Don’t say that you have, Viktor, it’s never been the same for you.”

His expression is morphing. “Is this because I’m a celebrity? A gold medalist? Is that the problem? You think I’m not capable of feeling anything for anyone, I’ll just cheat on you with whoever comes along like those awful tabloids keep saying?”

“At the beginning,” Yuuri grits out miserably. “That too.” He knows Viktor isn’t like that, now. Viktor is warm and sweet and childish and still the man who promised Yuuri everything he’d ever dreamed of at the banquet and never, ever meant it.

“That too? Three minutes ago we were making love and you loved me and now I’m gold medalist Viktor Nikiforov, playboy extraordinaire?” The anger is palpable despite the calm and flat tone, his hands fisting in the sheets and pulling, dragging them away from where they’re covering Yuuri. It’s not intentional. It still makes Yuuri vulnerable.

Until he sees the tears.

“Are you crying?” He asks, timid. He reaches up to peer beneath the fringe and Viktor slaps his hand away.

“Of course I’m crying,” Viktor snaps, “I’m mad.”

Yuuri pulls back, stares at him as the tears continue to roll.

“You want me to believe you,” Yuuri realizes, the feeling coming full circle. He still voices it aloud for Viktor to shoot down. “You want us to be together.” Maybe Viktor will stay. Maybe Viktor will stay

“I’ve been trying to convince you of that for months. Should I stop trying? Tell me to stop trying, Yuuri, if you don’t want me. I’ll leave you alone. I’m not that selfish, not when it comes to you. Just talk to me.”

“Don’t stop,” Yuuri says, firmly. Every touch. Every kiss. Real. “Stay close to me.”

The fight washes from Viktor, easing immediately. He sits back on his heels and just stares, looking strangely small and tired. Yuuri reaches for where his fist is tight around the sheets. It loosens, lets his fingers in until they’re intertwined.

“Let’s shower,” Yuuri tells him, soft.

Viktor’s frame is limp, in the shower, pliant as he lets Yuuri wash him. If Viktor means it, this time, then Yuuri is the one that has to apologize. Following the banquet Viktor lied to him and ignored him for months, afterwards, and never acknowledged it, teased Yuuri with it— but that was only once. Viktor acts as though he’s been desperate for months. Now he’s despondent.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri says, “I am. I shouldn’t have said those things to you. I shouldn’t have made you cry. I was scared because you’ve hurt me before.” It’s the closest he’s come to saying it, to acknowledging it aloud, since he first tried to probe the subject with Viktor the day he moved in.

“I’m sorry for that,” Viktor says instantly, “I am. I’ll try to never hurt you again. Especially what I said at the Cup of China, that was foolish. I know I apologized then but I’ll say it again now.”

“I’m to blame too.” People changed. Yuuri shouldn’t have held the banquet against Viktor for so long. He’d been tipsy, high off his own victory, and probably thought Yuuri wouldn’t take his promises seriously. Not like now, when they’re roommates and rinkmates and—

He takes Viktor’s face between his hands, leans up and kisses him, heavy and dripping with water.

“Yuuri,” Viktor whimpers.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he says, “never.” Then, quieter, “please don’t hurt me.”

Viktor promises, lips soft and fingers entwining with Yuuri’s under the spray, and Yuuri is starting to believe.

 


 

Madame Baranovskaya sighs, sharp, when he sees her. “An ever-changing danseur,” she intones. “We will work with it.”

 


 

The media becomes the third member of their relationship three weeks before the Rostelecom Cup. They’re coming back from dinner, and a paparazzo snaps a picture of them and approaches Yuuri on the street with a confident, completely destructive, “how does it feel to have Viktor Nikiforov as your boyfriend?”

A younger Yuuri had practiced this answer religiously, into a mirror, had mused on it during sleepless nights. Now, all he says is a disaffected,

“I wouldn’t know?”

“Excuse us for a moment,” Viktor says calmly, steering Yuuri into the nearest store by his elbow, as the paparazzo fumbles for his tape recorder. They’ve wandered into an antiques gallery, and Yuuri likes the smell of it—velvet and old varnish, aged wooden picture frames. It’s quiet, and faded sunbeams are weaving through the dust. “Yuuri.”

“Viktor?”

“We agree that things have changed, yes?” He waits for Yuuri’s nod, then plows onward. “I could be your boyfriend,” he says, and Yuuri doesn’t even hear the words that follow, just plants his frantic eyes on Viktor’s moving lips and waits for something impossible to happen, like the antique store catching flame, to indicate to him that it’s a dream. Viktor is asking him to date, again, and this time Yuuri… believes him.

Then, Viktor’s lips stop moving. Yuuri’s mind tunes back in, looks up to where blue eyes are still locked on him, brow low. He must have asked a question, but all Yuuri knows to say is,

“Yes.”

“Yes?” Viktor repeats, careful.

“Yes,” Yuuri says, “I want to be your boyfriend.” He pauses, looks down at the wooden floors, the gentle sweeping of dust. “Wanted to,” he admits, before he can stop himself, “during the summer, too. But you already know that.” When he looks back up, Viktor’s smile is a wide, all-encompassing thing.

“Then you are,” he says. “My boyfriend. You have been, since the summer. We’re deciding after the fact.”

Yuuri buries his face in his hands, shuffles on his feet. “You can hug me, you know,” he whispers. Viktor does so. Enthusiastically.

When the paparazzo enters the store, Viktor is in the middle of purchasing a lovely set of china.

“You break it, you buy it,” the old shopkeeper is exclaiming, in Russian. Yuuri’s face is red as he sweeps with a tiny broom at the shards of a teacup. While he cleans a voice recorder is eagerly shoved at his face.

“How does it feel to have Viktor Nikiforov as your boyfriend?”

“Right now,” Yuuri squeaks, to the progressively more confused paparazzo, “like I’ve just been handed the first thing I really want to hold onto.”

“What would you call that feeling?”

Yuuri’s response makes Viktor drop the newly purchased tea set with a harmonic, singing shatter.

 


 

Perhaps, when put beside the Cup of China, the Rostelecom Cup is not as exciting in comparison.

“Mr. Nikiforov, how do you feel about competing against your boyfriend of several months in the Rostelecom Cup?”

“I think he’ll do wonderfully!” Viktor announces, perfect grin in place, “we skate for each other, so any success belongs to both of us.”

Yuuri can pinpoint the exact moment when the reporter, and probably millions of viewers, start to melt. They hate Yuuri, still, for taking him. But they can’t help themselves when Viktor turns on the charm, and Yuuri can’t judge them when his own heart is melting too, leaking out his chest.

“Any success belongs to both of us, really? So I can take gold?” Yuuri teases in the locker rooms. “Or are you going to admit that what you said was just for the sake of the press?”

“Why, Yuuri,” Viktor replies, innocently offended. “I meant every word. But I can take the gold, and we’ll share it.”

“I don’t even know why you two are having this discussion!” Yuri hollers from somewhere in the showers. “I’m going to take the gold and you two saps are going to have to fight JJ, of all people, for silver!” Viktor runs a hand through his hair, comes in close, leans down to whisper in Yuuri’s ear.

“Who is Yuri talking about?” He questions. Yuuri pushes him, laughs.

The champion sweeps the locker room with lazy eyes, then steps forward and presses a kiss to Yuuri’s lips.

“I would love to take a vacation to Barcelona together,” he hums, pulling back, blue eyes crinkling. “Yakov has to approve if we’re both already there, right?”

Yuuri shrugs, smiles cheekily up at him. “Well, if we both don’t make it I’ll just vacation with Yuri. We’ll send you pictures.”

“I cannot believe you are the same shy man who showed up at my apartment this last summer.”

The words fly out before Yuuri can think about them. “Am I still the same man from the Sochi?”

Viktor rubs a thumb over his cheek. “Don’t think about Sochi. This year is going to be different.”

“Do you never think about Sochi?” Yuuri questions, and he’s scared of the answer.

“Not really?” Viktor hums. “But it wasn’t the same for me as it was for you, with what happened.”

Yuuri already knows this, but it stings to hear. Viktor’s hand is still on his face. Yuuri takes it with his own, swings it down to their sides and lets go. It doesn’t matter, he knows, it shouldn’t matter. It was one night, and now they’ve had so many more together. They’re together. But it was their beginning, and Yuuri is still secretly terrified, still waiting, for it to become their end.

“I’ll see you on the ice, Viktor.”

“Eyes on you,” Viktor says, so soft.

 


 

Viktor Nikiforov, in essentially top form mentally and physically, is an unstoppable competitor. Even Yuuri and Yuri Plisetsky nipping at his heels can’t slow him—Yuuri knows the man is going to land five quads in the Rostlecom Cup, has seen Viktor run through his program, and it still takes his breath away. He pities those with less preparation of their heart.

Yuuri, wrapped up in an oncoming wave of tension and anxiety, takes fourth. Somehow, this is enough—Christophe, in a shocking upset, hadn’t managed to take higher than third at his event.

The GPF will be Phichit, Otabek Altin, Yuri, JJ Leroy, Viktor—and Yuuri. Again.

Another GPF with Viktor, and Yuuri tries to look forward to it.

 


 

Yuuri is stretching out on the floor, palm of his hand to sole of his foot, gentle. It had been a good day. Practice in the studio with the other danseurs, working on his own form for another hour afterwards while Madame Baranovskaya did paperwork in a nearby office.

Now she is back in front of him, staring down with steely eyes.

“Do you know why I began to dance, Mr. Katsuki?”

Yuuri shakes his head. “No, madame.”

The words are sure. “It’s because I felt myself unbearably ugly.”

Yuuri falls out of his stretch, stares up at her. He has been to Yakov’s house, following lightly at Viktor’s heels or trailing behind him with their hands linked, dropping off borscht they made together or paperwork the champion had forgotten. Viktor has no reservations about treating Yakov’s home as his own space, and by the second time they visited Yuuri knew why, saw it held in every photo frame. Viktor and Yakov. Viktor and Madame Baranovskaya. Viktor wedged between both of them, so very small.

Every ballerina is beautiful, when in makeup and costume and defying gravity and blood up on stage. But Madame Baranovskaya, Yuuri knows, was also beautiful off stage.

“I don’t understand,” he admits, quietly. One perfect eyebrow raises at him.

“You admitting this is yet another thing that sets you apart from other students. Yuri becomes frustrated at misunderstanding, and Vitya avoids until he can take action.” Yuuri continues to stare at her. “Up.”

He stumbles to his feet. Every natural movement of his body in front of Madame Baranovskaya feels like he’s failing a test.

“Being so ugly,” she continues calmly, as though this makes perfect sense, “I wanted to change myself so thoroughly that others would look to me on stage and say: how far Lilia Baranovskaya has come.” A pause then, carefully timed. “Katsuki. Do you think this made me prima ballerina?”

The obvious answer is yes, because Lillia had been.

“Something else?” Yuuri asks, unsteady.

“When I became prima ballerina,” she says, “it was because they would look to me on stage and say: who is that beautiful monster.” She comes to him, tilts his chin up in unshaking, perfect hands. “Destroy your past self, and only use the beautiful pieces. Every time you take the stage you are a new man, Katsuki Yuuri, with something new to prove.” Her eyes, burning on his. “We do not let old lives dance with us.”

Redemption does not exist. There is only rebirth.

 


 

Yuuri goes home, toes off his shoes. Viktor is lying on the couch, curled up with Makkachin and a book, and when Yuuri comes in his perfect jaw darts upwards, eyes fearful and shining with joy. Viktor’s scared of him, Yuuri realizes—perhaps not him, but something about him.

“Welcome back,” he says, and Yuuri doesn’t reply, just takes off his coat and scarf, hangs them up. Makkachin thumps off the couch and pushes her nose at him, till Yuuri obliges and tussles fondly at her ears. She shuffles off, curls bouncing, to the guest bedroom. The room is essentially hers, now.

He pads across the floor to Viktor, still tucked into the couch cushions, his book open on his chest. Yuuri straddles the champion’s long legs, props himself up on his elbows on the armrest so he’s held aloft above the perfect arrangement of silver and blue, creamy white skin.

“I’m home,” he says, soft. “Love you. How was your day, Vitya?”

The reply never comes, just Viktor sitting beneath him with a working throat and downturned, wide eyes. Yuuri brushes at his silver fringe with one hand, suddenly nervous.

“I need a moment,” Viktor breathes. “Just give me a moment, Yuuri.”

“Are you okay?” Yuuri blurts. “Did something happen?” The other man just shakes his head, lifts up and presses a trembling kiss to the edge of Yuuri’s mouth, mumbles something in Russian so quietly that Yuuri can’t catch it. Yuuri’s heart is still pulsing in his chest, winding up, and he presses another kiss down to the pale cheek. When he pulls back, Viktor’s beaming up at him, heart-shaped grin and shining blue eyes and all, and before he really registers it there are arms pressing on his back, collapsing him down onto the other man with a laughing protest.

“Mmph,” he says into the broad chest, “Viktor, Viktor, I’m ruining your book. Let me up.” Between them, Viktor’s hand darts and slides the book out, stretches one arm above his head to place it lightly on the coffee table. Yuuri reaches up, pins him by one wrist, leans down and steals his lips again.

“I asked you a question, Vitya.” On his back, Viktor’s free hand fists in the fabric of his shirt, his breath quickening. “I won’t tolerate you ignoring me. How,” he kisses again, “was,” Viktor kisses him, this time, “your day,” Makkachin jumps up behind them on the couch, whines, “Vitya?”

The smile is real, the laughter unending. I want you, Yuuri thinks, oh, I want to hold you and catch you, and keep you. This time, you’re letting me.

Viktor waits to regain his breath, to stare up with eyes devoted and sure.

“I’ve had a wonderful day,” he murmurs. “The best day.”

 


 

They arrive in Barcelona, the beautiful Spanish city, swooping architecture and the steam of street food, and all Yuuri wants is his headache to disappear with a nap.

Viktor, soaked from the pool, climbs atop him in bed after said nap and ruins all the sheets with the clean tang of chlorine. Yuuri complains for five minutes, until Viktor pulls him into the tiny hotel shower, and he can’t think of anything to complain about, anymore.

The next day, shopping. Christmas lights in Barcelona.

Yuuri makes the best snap decision of his life. Maybe even better than a quadruple flip in the Cup of China. Admittedly, maybe they weren’t emotional spur of the moment decisions. He’s been practicing a quadruple flip since he was twenty-one. He’s been planning on marrying Viktor since approximately one day after he first saw him on a television screen, and Yuuko had giggled, do you like him too, Yuuri? He’s so handsome, so stunning everyone wants to be with him.

Handsome is a true word, just like someone could describe Viktor’s eyes as blue. Neither are anywhere close to the breathtaking reality. But Viktor is Viktor in his elated twirls with their bags while they’re shopping, the warm focus he has to him, the implicit trust and understanding and communication he offers along with his gloved hand.

Yuuri pulls off the glove. Puts on the golden ring.

Later, at a restaurant, when Viktor tells a choking Yuri Plisetsky, a gracious Otabek Altin, and a delighted Phichit that it’s an engagement ring, we’ll get married when Yuuri beats me in competition and takes gold, and Yuri hollers “if he misses one practice with me because of you I will—“ Yuuri can’t even say he’s surprised. Just grateful, and a bit unsettled, and deeply, deeply in love.

Only a year ago, he thinks warmly, look at how far you and I have come.

 


 

When they return to the hotel, loaded up with purchases and newly escaped from the combined social horrors of JJ and his sister’s or Minako’s fangirling, Yuuri could go to bed and sleep straight through the short program. Viktor, lively as always, is far more interested in distractions.

“Let me see,” Viktor complains. “I didn’t take plane selfies on your phone for them to never see the light of day again!”

Yuuri just wants to sleep. Grouchily, he shoves his phone into Viktor’s palm, rolls back over in bed.

“It’s in the gallery,” he groans, muffled, into his pillow. “You know the password.” He just gets a gleeful hum in response. Yuuri relaxes, almost falls into unconsciousness when there’s a sudden, trembling,

“Yuuri.”

“Wha,” he says into the pillow, half asleep. “Rest, Viktor.”

“Yuuri, what is this?”

There’s fear, in the tone. Deep, unsettled fear. Suddenly, sleep feels a million miles away. Yuuri rises up on his forearms, prays that Viktor has not looked into the folder he thinks he has.

“This is—us.”

Yuuri looks. The fates are not kind. He closes his eyes, feeling dizzy. “Yes.”

He shouldn’t have kept the pictures. Viktor was tipsy. He was drunk. It’s embarrassing, to have them, to admit that they’re on his phone. That they’re backed up on his laptop with the rest of his pictures of his time with the champion. That on any night Viktor isn’t there, he looks through them, wonders how long he has left.

“Yuuri, I don’t...”

“I’m sorry,” he blurts. He flips up the covers, swings his feet out of bed. “It was stupid. To keep them. I know you don’t want to talk about that night and things are different now and we don’t have to—“

“Don’t go!” Viktor commands, and it’s desperate. Yuuri stops tugging on his slippers, and Viktor puts a hand over his face and takes in two gasping breaths. “Yuuri, please. Sit.”

Gingerly, Yuuri does. “Viktor. Are you mad?”

“Mad?” With one shaking finger, the silver-haired man swipes at the phone screen where it lays on the bed, switches to a new picture. Yuuri and Viktor dancing, Yuuri and Viktor twirling about one another, Yuuri dipping him. Then, later, in the dark of the ballroom, them lying flat on the ground with the camera held above, Viktor pressing a kiss to Yuuri’s cheek as their hair fans out black and silver behind them. That one is blurry from the trembling of alcohol, from their giggling. It’s Yuuri’s favorite. “Oh,” he breathes. “Oh, Yuuri.”

Tumbling forward, Yuuri takes the phone back. Viktor’s response to finding the pictures isn’t anywhere close to the awkward laugh Yuuri had foolishly hoped for.

“Please,” he’s babbling then, “please don’t—make fun of me. For keeping them. I know it didn’t mean anything to you then, some drunken stupid thing, and I was just some fan that failed to skate, but if you laugh, if you leave me again, you’ll break my—“

He cuts off in a sob, crumples in on himself, and turns his back to Viktor. Viktor, and the bed that’s become theirs.

“I don’t…” There’s a light creaking, and Yuuri’s being turned around, slim fingers catching him by the hip. “I don’t remember this, Yuuri.”

Yuuri’s face jerks up, heart trembling.

“What,” he chokes out.

“I don’t remember that night. Any of it. I was—I must have been—drunk. Sometimes when I drink, I… black out.”

“No,” Yuuri says, shaking his head wildly, “I was drunk. You were just—tipsy. You seemed…”

“I hold my liquor,” Viktor murmurs. “I’m Russian and I hold it very well. Mostly I just take off my clothes.” His eyes dart to the phone, still clenched in Yuuri’s hand, then back to Yuuri’s face, horror dawning in his eyes. “Leave you again?” Yuuri steps forward, away from Viktor’s hands, nods stiffly. He’s still trying to process the words, the last few months, to see them from Viktor’s eyes. “That night, we… we were like we are now. We were close. I came into your life and promised things to you, and then never contacted you again.”

“Yes,” Yuuri admits.

“And then you came here, and I flirted with you, and I barged into your life again and never mentioned it—God, Yuuri, you must have been so confused.” There’s agony now, in his voice, and it startles Yuuri, makes him look up into blue eyes. “Every time you were distant, it was because of this, wasn’t it?”

“Not every time. Just—yes, because of that, sometimes.”

Viktor bites his lip, hand coming up to hover next to Yuuri’s cheek. Yuuri’s knees tremble from where he stands beside the bed.

“Can I touch you?”

A nod. Viktor wraps arms around him, pulls him in close. Then soft kisses are being pressed to the top of his head, his ear, his shoulder, from where Viktor kneels on the bed.

“I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, Yuuri.”

Yuuri shudders. “I know,” he says, quietly, “just don’t—don’t leave me again. Don’t forget me.”

“I will never. Yuuri, I want to… when I said these were engagement rings, I meant it. I want to marry you. I don’t ever want to leave you.”

“I want to marry you too,” Yuuri whispers.

“I’d hoped that,” Viktor laughs, the sound belying his sudden tight grip, “when you proposed to me.”

They are still for a few moments, till Yuuri swings himself out of Viktor’s arms to sit, still tense, on the bed beside the Russian. Viktor’s staring off now, into the dark and away from Yuuri, expression wavering and unsure.

“This whole time. It was you.” Viktor presses his trembling hands to his face. “They tried to tell me. Oh, Yuuri, they tried to tell me about you at first. Christophe and Yakov and Mila and even Yuri. Asking me if I’d enjoyed the banquet, and all I could think was that I’d finally gotten wasted in front of sponsors. Christophe kept talking about how I’d danced with another skater and had fun and asked if I wanted to see pictures and—I’m so sorry, Yuuri. I was in such a dark place after Sochi that I couldn’t even imagine having feelings like that for anyone. Couldn’t imagine… feeling much of anything at all. All I had were medals and quickly dying inspiration and screaming fans that didn’t know me, and the approval of judges and the ISU. I don’t even like the ISU, Yuuri. Every time my rinkmates mentioned the banquet with those knowing smiles it was like they were mocking me for the lack of life and love. I deleted anything they sent me, and tried not to think about it.” A deep breath. “I just wanted to finish the season, and skate, and sleep. I slept all the time. I practiced and slept and drank. Then I got better and after that you came and…” He looks up, bites at his lip.

“Viktor,” he says, quietly, “Don’t say sorry. I’m not blaming you. I could never blame you. If you ever feel like that again, Yakov and I are here for you through it.” Yuuri pulls them back so they lay on the bed, strokes at Viktor’s arm with a watery chuckle. “You don’t understand, this—I thought—every day, I thought this could be like the morning after the banquet. I thought you’d leave me again, but I’d finally come to terms with it, and the entire time you didn’t even know. You were right—I was cruel, and I’m sorry, Viktor. Can you forgive me?”

Viktor squeezes tight, wedges his knee between Yuuri’s legs and his ear to Yuuri’s beating heart. Yuuri remembers holding the wedding bands, fresh from the glass counter—cool and smooth, untouched. Now, entangled together, they’re warm and heavy. Finally, the older man responds,

“I was worse to you.” As Yuuri opens his mouth to refute this, Viktor shakes his head, silver hair shifting against Yuuri’s lips, and it quiets the Japanese skater. “We’ll make it up to each other,” he promises, finally. “We have our entire lives.”

Ah, Yuuri thinks, a whole year collecting as a painful, happy swell in his throat, we do.

 


 

Yuuri is so determined to take first in the short program that he can’t. Yuri Plisetsky, youthful rage and passion personified, knocks Viktor to second place.

Overall, it is a scraping and bloody day, and Yuuri just wants to lay with his fiancé and consider how he can somehow improve his mediocrity, can somehow properly demonstrate his love by skating, in the next forty-eight hours.

“We should talk,” come the words, in the cab ride home.

“Okay,” he sighs.

They don’t talk until Viktor is freshly showered, and Yuuri is situated on the edge of their bed.

“What did you want to talk about?”

Viktor pulls his bathrobe around him, smiles. Yuuri knows this smile—knows it’s not entirely real. The droplets that cling to his hair, his cheeks, are tempting, and Yuuri wants to collect them with his tongue. Knowing that he’s allowed, that Viktor would encourage it, is half the appeal. So Yuuri scoots forward, flashes him a grin in return, places a hand on Viktor’s knee. Then, Viktor breaks him.

“Yuuri, after the GPF… I’m going to end this.”

I knew it.

The response is instant. Every doubt he’s had about his relationship with Viktor falls and burns, hitting his chest in an immediate meteoric shower of fear. Again, you’re leaving me again, it’s the banquet it’s the banquet— Viktor didn’t know. Viktor didn’t know about the banquet. Yuuri has faith.

For a moment, Yuuri wishes he were like Viktor—collected and optimistic and not someone who has to lean over and dig half-moons into their knees with their nails when others talk.

“What do you mean?” He finally chokes out. He’s sure his face is blotchy, the tears about to burst forth. “Tell me what you mean.” At least admit it to me, this time.

Viktor smiles again, moves to sit beside him on the bed. “I’m retiring, Yuuri.”

The burning constriction in his chest clenches, halts. “What?” This is the last thing he had been expecting to hear. “Is this because Yuri took first in the short? Viktor, you’re not losing your touch, you…”

“I know I’m not,” Viktor admits. “I could keep skating. I could have another season or two.”

“Then why?”

“Look, Yuuri.” Viktor’s voice is still calm, decided. “Yakov is doing his best, but his attention is divided. You need more—you deserve more. With you and Yuri and Mila and me on top of it all, Yakov can’t devote time to you. I’ve been skating since I was a child, Yuuri, and this season, with you beside me… It’s better than I could have ever imagined my last season to be—skating, and life, and...”

He shakes his head, black hair shifting, glasses threatening to tip from his nose with the violent movements of it.

“You love skating,” Yuuri whispers. He is in fourth, after the short program. “Viktor, you love skating, I’m not worth this.”

“I love you,” Viktor corrects, “and you are worthy of everything.”

Viktor means it, he wholeheartedly means that curling, dancing everything that falls from his tongue, with every fiber of his being. The spark in his blue eyes, the taut hope of him, every twist of his blades on the ice—he means it. He means it, and it still breaks Yuuri’s heart.

In the morning, Yuuri speaks with Yakov. Asks to sign the papers, even as Yakov yells at him, boisterous and loud and concerned, hollers at him to reconsider.

Two days before the free skate of the Barcelona GPF, Katsuki Yuuri decides to retire.

“What have you done,” Viktor says, later that night, hair wet from his shower. Yuuri still wants to lick the water from the curve of his collarbones, to take the whole of Viktor’s being in his palm and press it tight, private, to his chest. But setting Viktor, uncontainable, beautiful Viktor, free—that’s how Yuuri shows his love.

“We’re each making our own decision,” he says, quietly.

Viktor’s phone hangs from his hand, Yakov’s image fading from the screen. His voice breaks to let the next words tumble from it, raw. “Yuuri, what have you done.”

 


 

The days before the free skate are tense. They still eat together, sleep together, Viktor pulling so close Yuuri can hardly breathe with it.

The morning of the free skate, Viktor rolls over, slides his arms around him. The heated whisper against his ear has his blood flow reversing directions, the world tilting.

“I’m not going to let you beat me easily, Yuuri,” he says, “but I really want to kiss your gold medal.”

I still want you. I’ve always meant it. I’ve always wanted you.

Yuuri shudders in his arms and cries, holds Viktor tighter. When he’s finished he leans up, finds Viktor’s mouth. “What if,” he hums, “Yurio beats you?”

“Yuuri,” he gasps dramatically, “you wound me!”

“No,” Yuuri sighs, “Yurio will, if you beat him and then make a scene on the podium.”

“I’m spontaneous,” Viktor huffs, “no one can say what I’ll do.”

Yuuri can. Yuuri can say that Viktor loves him, will love him tomorrow, can say it with the smooth confidence of Viktor’s movements on the ice. Anxiety still clings heavy to his back, weighs down his shadow no matter where he goes, but it can’t take this love from him. Twenty years from now—who can say? Maybe he and Viktor will have been separated by time and circumstances. But this—love, they’ll always have.

 


Yuri on Ice begins to play.

He can’t let Viktor retire, not for him. He can’t take Viktor’s whole world away just to gamble it on his own career. But Yuuri can show himself here, with his free program, his final words and the proclamation of his love.

Everything comes to an end. When it does, he looks down his arm, the aloft angle of his wrist, to where his lover waits for him. Viktor had watched. Yakov had known better than to try to stop him. His mouth hangs open, tears still shining at the corner of his eyes. For the first and only time, Yuuri doesn’t want to go to him, doesn’t want his embrace. But he has to go to Viktor’s side, and there’s never been another choice for him.

“You did so wonderfully,” he says, “my Yuuri.”

“You’d better give me a good challenge, Vitya.” Viktor laughs, takes him into waiting arms.

“I’ll show you all my love.”

Yakov is waiting for him, too, in the small space of time they have while Otabek skates. Yuuri joins him and a focused Yurio.

“Throwing an extra jump in there,” Yakov snaps, “rearranging your piece to be more backloaded. You are meant to be the only student that listens to me, Katsuki, and instead you break the world record without even a warning to your coach.”

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri says, subdued. “Sir.”

“I’m beginning to think you don’t mean that,” Yakov says, grim. “But I am proud of you, and your emotion-driven rebelliousness, if it’s an expression of who you are. You are my skater, Katsuki. Still will be, even after you’ve retired.”

Yurio looks up, then, even as Yuuri feels grateful tears welling. “Retired?”

“Yura,” Yakov says sternly, a warning. Yurio doesn’t back down.

“Are you retiring, Katsudon?” Yuuri bites his lip, nods, and the younger skater explodes. “You idiot, you asshole, I can’t believe—I’m going to destroy you, and you won’t even think about leaving the ice after I’m done with you! I won’t listen to your coaching if you retire! I will hunt you down in Japan, I know how to find people—”

 When Yurio takes the ice, there’s a beautiful ferocity to it. When Yurio passes his score, it almost offsets the sinking disappointment in Yuuri’s heart.

Still, at the ceremony, bronze medal about his neck and two people he loves standing with him, so different from the pressure that had choked him the year before—he can’t be too disappointed.

The champion had barely outdone Yurio, but it had been enough.

They’ve been roommates, rinkmates, lovers, for months, and Viktor still surprises him on the podium.

He holds out his gold medal, looped around his neck, and Yuuri realizes he’s meant to kiss it.

“You broke my world record,” Viktor says, with a smile. “I may have taken gold, but everything else belongs to you.”

Yuuri reaches up to finger at it—the sleek, warm shine. Then, he pulls.

“And that’s Katsuki Yuuri, current world record holder and bronze medalist, kissing his boyfriend and six-time gold medalist Viktor Nikiforov in public. This is certainly a world record for celebrity kisses, folks, I don’t think any other pair has been quite so bold in their displays! Let’s see what their coach, and the only coach in the history of figure skating to have three students make the podium at once, has to say!”

Yakov, as it turns out, has very little to say. His face is red, huge with the lecture he is holding in. Beside him, Lilia Baranovskaya gives a judgmental little sigh.

“Really,” she tuts, flatly, “he goes and orchestrates this, collects Katsuki from Japan all to make Vitya happy, and doesn’t even try to enjoy it.” The interview, despite being a mere 15 seconds long, trends for a full month on social media. After Yuuri sees it one day at practice, he hides in the bathroom for a full twenty minutes before emerging and wrapping himself into a blanket with Yakov. After Viktor sees it the first time, he buys Yakov a vacation to the Bahamas.

A reporter is holding a microphone to Viktor’s lips now, the camera panning back so it captures his arms slung about Yuuri and Yurio, whose emotions at medaling and having Viktor wrapped around him are clearly fighting a war on his face. Several professional skating questions have already been asked, but the media is ready to move on to more personal and scandalous things.

“You and your boyfriend have taken gold and bronze,” the reporter begins. She doesn’t even get to finish the question.

“My boyfriend,” Viktor laughs, tone sternly offended and expression ridiculously delighted. Yurio lets out a screech and pushes at him, while Viktor clamps down his arm around both of them. “This is my fiancé.”

The media stops maintaining any façade of calm professionalism. Yuuri smiles, just a smile in a tomato red face as Viktor fields questions like he’d practiced for this, curls his hand around Yuuri’s shoulder so the ring shows off just so.

“Katsudon,” Yurio rages, “Katsudon!” He frees himself from Viktor’s grip, and together they break away, stumbling through the press mob with the raging hurricane force of Yurio’s snarls.

When they make it outside onto the streets, into relative quiet, Yuuri hugs him. Yuri spasms and shrieks, brings his arms around to scratch at Yuuri’s back before he squeezes, briefly, in return.

“I’m so happy for you, Yurio. Your free skate… you and Madame Baranovskaya worked so hard. It was stunning, groundbreaking.”

“Of course it was, it had to be,” Yurio scoffs, “to beat you. But just wait for my exhibition. Katsudon, out there, you…” He doesn’t finish, and they separate, Yurio’s face locked in a scowl. “How long do you think your idiot is going to be trapped in there?”

“Oh,” Yuuri muses, “till the other press conference later, at least. We should have time for dinner. Do you want to go?”

“Only if they have katsudon,” Yurio snaps. His expression is breaking into a tiny smile. “Because you deserve that.” Yuuri laughs, brings out his phone to check, but Yuri isn’t done. “And only if we invite Otabek.”

“Your friend from dinner the other night?” Yuuri asks.

“Yep,” Yurio says, and pops the p.

“Maybe we should invite Viktor, actually,” Yuuri ventures tentatively, “so we can both get to know Otabek?”

God,” Yurio huffs, “if you have to. If Viktor thinks he can get out. Also, you dorks have to be cool. Otabek is cool, do you understand?”

“He’d better be,” Yuuri says with a smile of his own. His phone dings.

Viktor

Of course I can get out of a press mob, darling, who do you think I am?

Yuuri

Maybe you don’t want out of the press mob, Vitya, with that shiny gold ring. I know exactly who you are.

Viktor

You do know me, Yuuri. You do. I’ll see you soon, solnyshko.

Otabek is a nice boy, really, and a great skater. Viktor and Yuuri will have to watch out for him.

In the meantime, they busy themselves with stealing bites from Yurio’s plate, to holding hands underneath the table as they sit next to each other in the booth.

“Come to the banquet,” Yurio commands Otabek, who agrees to attend without much thought or visible emotion.

“Come to the banquet,” Viktor whispers in his ear, “so you can make me fall in love with you again.”

“For the third time?” Yuuri asks, interlaced fingers tightening. “Doesn’t that seem like too many times, Vitya?”

“I’ll do it again,” Viktor promises, “and again, and again…”

“We can see you,” Yurio hisses, “we can see you, you promised to be cool, Katsudon.” Yuuri pushes a whining Viktor away from him playfully, focuses. Viktor sighs pitifully and whispers a question in his ear to ask the Kazakh.

“Tell us about your time in Russia,” Yuuri redirects shyly, and from the widening of the reserved younger man’s eyes, he knows the evening will be a good one.

 


 

When they’re back at the hotel, Yuuri holds his medal up to Viktor. Every success belongs to both of them, even the smaller ones.

“I didn’t beat you,” he says, voice small. “I didn’t beat you, and now I have no coach. I signed the documents breaking it off with Yakov.”

Viktor swallows, takes the medal with careful hands. “I’ve been thinking, Yuuri.”

“A dangerous thing,” Yuuri hums, “when it comes to your sharp mind.”

Yuuri expects Viktor to break his promise about their engagement, then, with the softness in his eyes. To break it in a gentle and renewing way, to demand they marry right then, honeymoon in Barcelona even if Yuuri’s medal isn’t the right color. He expects sweetness, and honest kisses, and a sunset all by themselves from a tall tower in Barcelona where they’re even with the skyline, arms around one another.

Viktor surprises him.

“Yuuri. I’ve been thinking about what I can do for you, from now on, as… your coach. If you’ll have me.”

Yuuri sits on the bed, and laughs. Laughs, and cries. Viktor sits with him, hands darting and unsure.

“Yuuri, darling, if this isn’t what you want—I know it sounds insane, coaching and skating at the same time, but I hoped you’d let me do this, I’m confident I can do this—“

“Viktor,” Yuuri interrupts. Stops him entirely, with a finger to his lips, the laughter taking over, the tears dissipating. “Viktor, are you sure you forgot the banquet?”

The silver-haired man startles, nods his head. “I swear to you I did. I’m sorry. I can’t apologize enough, for that. But what does that have to do with now?”

I should really Facetime okaa-san and otou-san, Yuuri thinks. They’ve met Viktor over it, several times, mostly since right before the Rostelecom Cup. But this is something else entirely. This, and their rings—something else entirely. Maybe he should book a flight. Two flights.

“I already asked you to be my coach,” Yuuri whispers, “and you said yes, Vitya. Oh, you said yes.”

 

Worlds begins. This time, Katsuki Yuuri goes home to his apartment in Russia, to a barking Yakov and a surly but determined Yuri and a laughing Mila, to his fiancé and coach—he goes home with the gold.