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Sixty Impossible Things

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Sixty Impossible Things
(or Yuuri in Wonderland)
Part One

-

“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

???: why the fuck are you ignoring viktor

Yuuri freezes, his fork midway to his mouth, to peer down at the text. He doesn’t recognize the number, not even the country code. And the only Viktor that he knows is Viktor Nikiforov, who barely knows that Yuuri is alive, much less him being someone that Yuuri regularly talks to and can thus ignore. Chalking the text up to a wrong number, Yuuri deletes the message, shoves the hovering bite of chicken into his mouth, and resumes studying his marketing book for his final.

His phone, however, buzzes again a few seconds later.

???: don’t ignore me asshole

???: i know you're getting these

???: viktor might be too big a coward to confront you directly but I'm not

Yuuri frowns again. He lays his fork on his plate, picks up his napkin, and wipes his fingers on it before lifting his phone to respond.

Yuuri: I’m sorry but I think you have the wrong number

The response to his response is immediate.

???: i don't unless you lied to sara too

Immediate and confusing and Yuuri can’t help the sigh. As if he needed more on his plate right now. His winter finals loom, postponed a few weeks to accommodate Nationals, which loom as well, the first time that Yuuri will skate publicly after his catastrophic crash and burn at the Sochi Grand Prix. And there’s Vicchan too and his grief and guilt over everything.

And now this, a relentlessly angry texter.

Sighing again, Yuuri foolishly chooses to engage.

Yuuri: Who is this? What are you talking about?

???: its yuri dumbass and you know exactly what i'm talking about

Yuuri blinks at that. For a split second he wonders if an angrier asshole version of himself from an alternate universe, someone who spelled their name wrong and snubbed his nose at basic rules of grammar, had somehow found a way to pester him while he tried to prevent, by studying, at least one aspect of his life from crumbling into utter ruin. Then the split second passes and Yuuri reins in the insanity long enough to venture a rational approach.

Yuuri: Yuri who?

Three seconds later his phone rings.

The ringing startles Yuuri so much that he drops his phone. Thankfully, it lands on the scratched dining room table that he and Phichit had found in a Goodwill three years ago and not in his food. Not that he would mind being unable to eat the steamed broccoli and baked chicken before him. Yuuri would love an excuse to eat something else, something tasty, something with flavor at least, but he’d had plenty of such excuses the last month and had packed on pounds as a result. If he gained any more weight, he wouldn’t be able to fit into his costumes and then he wouldn’t be able to skate in Nationals or the Four Continents or at Worlds and he’d have to retire, move back to Hasetsu, and work in his parents’ onsen as a sad, fat failure for the rest of his spinster life.

Yuuri closes his eyes. He’s not supposed to think this way. He’s supposed to focus on the positive and not the negative. So what’s the positive? Nothing, his traitorous brain whispers, but Yuuri ignores it in favor of Phichit, or at least the memory of him from when Yuuri had returned from Sochi.

01. Yuuri had made it to the Grand Prix final. Only five other male skaters in the world accomplished that.

02. Despite his stress eating in the weeks leading up to the competition, he’d done well in his short program, enough to place third.

03. He- He-

Yuuri swallows as his throat swells. He’d done well in his short program, enough to place third, but then he’d learned about Vicchan and had failed in his free skate, a demonstration to all and Viktor Nikiforov that he was a sad, crying failure who-

His phone chimes with a voicemail, breaking Yuuri from his disastrous train of thought. Opening his eyes, he stares down at his cell. Whatever the angry texter had left for him would likely not be good, but Yuuri hated himself just enough in that moment to masochistically want whatever the message would unleash upon him. Besides, if he didn’t listen, Angry Yuri from an Alternate Dimension would somehow know and pester him about it until the end of time.

So, lifting his phone with a shaking hand, Yuuri listens to the voicemail.

“Of course you didn’t answer the phone. You’re probably crying in the bathroom again. Aren’t you? Pathetic. You’re both pathetic. You-” There’s a pause, and Yuuri hears the sound of a long, slow inhale, as of a prayer for patience, for the will to resist murder, if only for the next couple of seconds. Then he hears, in a quieter but no less enraged voice, “If you don’t grow some fucking balls and call me back right the fuck now, I swear to whatever Japanese god you hold dear that I will find out what shitty city you train in, fly there, track you down, and kick your ass so fucking hard you’ll never be able to pick up a pair of skates again! Call me the fuck back, LOSER!”

The message ends. Yuuri lowers his phone, his hand still shaking. The other has joined it now, the situation just as mystifying and unsettling as it was before he heard the message, although now, at least, Yuuri knows who has been messaging and threatening him the past few minutes.

Yuri Plisetsky.

His bellowed signoff- LOSER- echoes in Yuuri’s head, overlaying the memory of Yuri shouting the same in Sochi nearly two weeks before. Then he had been intimidating Yuuri about retiring. Now…

Frowning again, Yuuri brings up the recent texts. Now he was badgering Yuuri about… ignoring Viktor?

Yuuri blinks at the first message, too shocked to do more. He amends his prior insane thought. It wasn’t that a Yu(u)ri from an alternate dimension had found some way to contact him. It was that Yuuri had fallen into an alternate dimension, one where Yuri Plisetsky had his phone number and also expected him to be on speaking terms with the only Viktor that they likely both knew.

Viktor Nikiforov.

Yuuri’s still gawking at his phone when it rings again a minute later. Slowly, unable to resist, the power of something compelling him, probably insanity, maybe the same guilt-ridden masochism that prompted him to listen to Yuri’s message in the first place, Yuuri lifts the phone and accepts the call.

“...hello?”

“YOU!” Yuri bellows. “Do you know how much shit you’ve put me through the last two weeks? I bet you do, don’t you?” He proceeds without waiting for a response. “This is your payback for Sochi, isn’t it? Because that was wholly fucking deserved. You’re a grown man and you were crying. In a bathroom.”

Yuuri’s mouth goes flat. His hand tightens on his phone.

“I didn’t think you could get any more pathetic,” Yuri continues, oblivious to Yuuri’s silence, to the roiling mood behind it, “but now this- playing mind games with Viktor. What-”

Later, Yuuri will look back on this moment and berate himself. For all the mature vitriol that was spewing from Yuri’s mouth, he was still a kid. He wasn’t even old enough to qualify for Seniors. But now… now Yuuri recalls that prior exchange they had in Sochi, Yuri intruding on a private moment between Yuuri and his grief, Vicchan gone and everything he had worked for, everything he had worked so hard for, what he had sacrificed years away from his home and his family so that he could achieve, making it to the Grand Prix final, skating on the same ice as Viktor, perhaps even standing on the same podium as him, Yuuri recalls all of it, all the headlines from the Japanese press about his failure, the long flight back with Celestino, the listless last two weeks as he struggled to practice and grieve and study, the upcoming flight to Japan, Nationals, his redemption or his utter demise, Yuuri recalls all of it, and he snaps.

“My dog died. The night before. At Sochi. That’s why I was crying. I’d been away from him for so long. Five years, and he waited for me and I-” Yuuri stops, the words choking him, tears now pricking his eyes. He sucks in a shaky breath and continues, “That might seem pathetic to you. I might seem pathetic, I probably am, I don’t care because at least I don’t harass people I barely know. You listened in on a private conversation between me and my family, you kicked in the bathroom door… You’re the asshole, not me. Don’t call me again.”

Yuuri hangs up, his hands still shaking. He’s breathing fast, tears streaming down his face. He wipes them off though there’s no one else in the apartment to witness his breakdown, Phichit at practice with Celestino. Only the table and his textbook and the remains of his shitty lunch bear witness to his latest collapse. Yuuri drops his phone on the table and stares at the lot, at the pathetic state of his life, at the highlight of his day: bland chicken and limp broccoli. Then he’s pushing back from the table and standing from his chair and walking to the living room to grab his wallet and his keys and then he’s crossing to the front door to grab his jacket and scarf, to shove his feet into his shoes and escape- Yuri and his phone, the table and his lunch, his textbook and his finals, the apartment and his failure and his bland, tragic wreck of a life.

*

He returns early in the night, having plowed through burgers for lunch and then tacos for dinner and then ice cream for dessert. The food, though, does little to improve his mood, sitting heavy in his stomach, a constant reminder of his latest failure. Yuuri slinks into the apartment. Phichit sits on their couch, both laptop and phone before him as he streams some strange Korean game show and messages, simultaneously, Leo and Guang Hong. They lock eyes. Yuuri lasts only a few seconds before the sympathy he sees overwhelms and he turns for his room. Yuuri should request a roommate change with Celestino, give Phichit a chance to live with a normal person for once and not the awkward, brittle disaster that was Yuuri.

In his room, he flops face down on his bed and lays motionless until guilt drags him to his desk to study his finance notes, his marketing textbook still in the dining room and thus irretrievable, yet the words swim before Yuuri’s eyes, elusive and incomprehensible. He eyes his laptop then his 3DS and then his phone, but nothing sparks the faintest speck of interest so Yuuri gives in and goes back to bed.

Sleep, however, doesn’t come. Yuuri tosses and turns, his mind churning, turning and returning to the sore spots of his life- Vicchan and Victor, Yuri and Sochi- prodding the bruises despite the pain. The hours trawl by.

Yuuri thinks he falls asleep somewhere around four.

When his alarm blares two hours later, intending to wake him after a restful night of sleep for the long flight to Japan with Celestino, Yuuri rises like a zombie from the movies that Mari loves so much and shuffles out to the kitchen. Phichit, blessed human being that he is, already has coffee brewing, sympathetic both to Yuuri’s distaste of mornings as well as to epically long airplane flights. When Yuuri arrives, he’s leaning against the refrigerator and staring intently at his phone in his hands. If Yuuri were more conscious and thus cognizant, he’d probably notice the faint frown on Phichit’s face, how he stared at his phone like it had transported him to an alternate dimension. However, Yuuri just shambles past without a word, heading straight for the coffee and the poodle mug that Phichit had placed on the counter especially for him.

Phichit waits until he pours a cup, until he doctors it with two sugars, until he takes a sip or three, before he speaks.

“Uh… Yuuri?”

“Mmm?”

“Why is Yuri Plisetsky throwing down over you on Twitter?”

It takes a few seconds for the phrase to process, Phichit much more adept at American slang than Yuuri. When it does, it hits his bloodstream like a jolt of caffeine, starting him awake and making him whirl back around to face Phichit.

“What?”

Phichit crosses the kitchen to pass his phone to Yuuri. Yuuri squints at it, sans glasses, and finds exactly what Phichit claimed: Yuri Plisetsky, the next great hope of Russian figure skating, a boy that Yuuri had never even spoken to a month ago, throwing down with anonymous Twitter users.

Over him.

The defenses weren’t explicitly defenses. Yuri never outright praised Yuuri or his skating. But every comment that earned one of his soul-crushing missives was a nasty slam against Yuuri and his Grand Prix performance.

Yuuri blinks at the screen.

Yuri Plisetsky was defending him. On Twitter.

What?

“What?”

“I know,” Phichit says as he reclaims his phone. “I didn’t think you two even knew each other.”

The memory of how exactly he and Yuri met surfaces, prompting Yuuri to sigh. He takes another drink of his coffee, somehow miraculously surviving his shocked spin.

“Did you two meet at the Grand Prix?” Phichit asks as he pokes at something on his screen. “Or is he just a fan of yours?”

“The only thing Yuri Plisetsky is a fan of is being an asshole.”

Phichit slowly lifts his head. His brows follow suit, and with each millimeter, Yuuri feels another lick of shame in his gut.

“I’m sorry,” he says once Phichit’s brows reach his hairline. “I just- He said things. In Sochi. After…” He shrugs rather than to articulate the particular after in question.

Oh,” Phichit says after a beat. “He’s apologizing.”

Yuuri’s thankful he doesn’t have a mouthful of coffee at that moment because he’s sure he would have spit it out all over Phichit and his phone. “What?” he says once he’s done sputtering. “To who?”

“To you. He really is like an angry kitten,” Phichit adds as he glances once more at his phone. “Hissing at anyone who’s mean to you. It’s so cute, but so so vicious.”

Yuuri gawks at Phichit a few seconds before he lifts a hand and pinches the bridge of his nose. “I do not have time for this.”

Phichit lifts his free hand and lays it on Yuuri’s shoulder. “Yuuri. Babes. You’re about to be stuck on a plane for 14 hours. You have nothing but time for this.”

“No. I need to focus on Nationals.”

Phichit shakes his head. “No. That’s the last thing you need to do.”

Yuuri looks away. He barely resists the urge to sigh again. “Phichit…”

“No.” Phichit ducks down, contorting until he can catch Yuuri’s eyes. “Focusing for you is never just focusing. It’s over-focusing. It’s obsessing.”

Yuuri, maturely, looks off in the other direction.

At this, Phichit sighs. From the corners of his eyes, Yuuri watches as he straightens. He doesn’t try to maneuver himself in front of Yuuri again, but he does squeeze Yuuri’s shoulder, the gesture like Phichit, warm and friendly. “Yuuri, I know you can’t help it. I know you can’t not think about stuff sometimes, but I also know that you’re supposed to try not to let those bad thoughts take you over.” He lowers his hand but raises the other still clutching his phone, which he waves in front of Yuuri. “Let the angry kitten be your distraction.”

“But-”

“But what? You know your programs. And you know there’s not a male skater in Japan even close to your level right now. The only one you have to beat at Nationals is you. So if you’ve got to obsess over a Yuuri, make it the other one.”

“I… don’t think that’s a good idea. And not for the reason you’re thinking,” Yuuri adds as his gaze flits toward Phichit. “I… He’s been messaging me the last few days, and he called me and I called him back and…”

Phichit finally stops wiggling his phone. “And…?”

At the prompting, Yuuri resolutely fixes his eyes on his coffee. “And I kind of yelled at him. And called him an asshole. To his face. Or not his face. His ear. Which I guess is still him, so- so I don’t think it’s good. To talk to him again… ever.”

Silence greets his pronouncement. Yuuri chances a glance at Phichit and finds him staring once more, again with brows raised, but not in shock this time. No.

This time in complete and utter delight.

“Oh, Yuuri. Such drama. Much interest.” Grinning brightly, Phichit returns his hand to Yuuri’s shoulder and gives him a little shake. “You must tell me everything.”

*

Yuuri does. Over breakfast, he regales Phichit with his confrontation with Yuri at Sochi and then with yesterday’s drama, from the first inexplicable texts to Yuri’s phone message and then to their final disastrous conversation, asshole accusations included.

Once finished, Phichit leans back in his chair and shrugs. “Seems to me like he deserved it. And to him too,” he says, pointing at his phone, “if this morning’s findings are anything to go by.”

Yuuri looks at the phone, recalling the Twitter beatdowns dealt by Yuri.

“Which is kind of amazing,” Phichit continues. “I don’t think he’s ever apologized to anyone for anything he’s ever said. Certainly not to Guang Hong, who comes as close as he can to actually disliking someone with Yuri Plisetsky.” Phichit pauses then to smile at Yuuri. He lays one hand dramatically over his heart. “Aww, Other Yuri is a fan of yours.”

“Why would anybody be a fan of me?”

Phichit gives him a look. “I’m going to ignore that blasphemy that just came out of your mouth to focus on the real issue: why Other Yuri is saying that you’re ignoring Viktor.”

Yuuri shrugs. “I don’t know. Boredom. He doesn’t seem to be worried about his Nationals if he’s been doing all this rather than practicing.”

Phichit contemplates the notion a moment before dismissing it with a shake of his head. “No. I don’t think so. This is too… weird. I mean, if he wanted to talk more smack to you, he’d say that Viktor hates you or something, not that you’re ignoring him.” Phichit purses his lips, his eyes locked intently on his phone. “No. Something else… Did something else happen at Sochi?”

“What do you mean?”

Phichit looks back up at him. “With Viktor. Did something else happen to prompt this?”

Yuuri tries very hard not to squirm. “No…”

Phichit says nothing. He merely crosses his arms across his chest and waits.

Yuuri congratulates himself for resisting nearly a full minute. But resistance, he knows, is futile when Phichit Chulanont smells drama, even of the faintest variety.

“It’s nothing big,” Yuuri begins, his fingers fiddling with the edge of his napkin. “I just- After the free skate, as I was leaving, I ran into him. Well, not just me. I was with Celestino. And Morooka was there. And he- Viktor- was talking to Yuri and Coach Yakov. But he saw me- Viktor, I mean- not Coach Yakov- Viktor saw me and he asked… He asked if I wanted to- to take a photo. You know, to commemorate… stuff.”

“And?”

Yuuri closes his eyes and slumps down in his chair. “And I walked away.”

“Yuuri…”

Yuuri winces at the chastisement. “I was upset. I didn’t mean- But that can’t be it,” he says as he straightens and opens his eyes. “That’s not a mind game. I just didn’t want a photo. Who would be upset over that for nearly two weeks?”

Phichit shrugs. “Viktor Nikiforov?”

To that, Yuuri shakes his head. “No. Yuri’s probably lying. He’s the one playing mind games, not me. He’s just trying to get me to retire.”

“Then why would he be defending you on Twitter?”

Yuuri drops his head onto the table with a groan. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t deal with this right now.”

“I disagree,” Phichit says as he pats Yuuri on the head. “I think two extra Europeans are exactly what you need to deal with right now. Besides packing. Because Ciao Ciao will be here in 30 minutes to pick you up.”

Lurching from the table, Yuuri races to his room to finish packing.

*

Despite his attempts not to, Yuuri finds his mind circling back again and again to Yuri Plisetsky and his absolutely illogical behavior. The one-man mind game had shifted from Twitter to Instagram while Yuuri traveled to and checked into the airport with Celestino. In their terminal, Yuuri eyes the latest salvos before rational thought abandons him completely and he re-opens the lines of communication.

Yuuri: What are you doing?

Somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, he doesn’t expect a response, the time still early enough in the evening in St. Petersburg for Yuri to be practicing. However, his phone buzzes less than two minutes later with a reply.

Other Yuri: resisting the urge to murder viktor

Other Yuri: put him out of his misery and call him already

Yuuri bypasses the order to call, as well as the opening to ask Yuri why exactly he claimed that Yuuri was playing mind games with Viktor Nikiforov, for the safer and more pressing concern.

Yuuri: I mean why are you defending me on Twitter? I thought you hated me

Other Yuri: that's only because i thought you were crying over losing and that would have been pathetic

Hand tightening on his phone, Yuuri draws in a slow breath. He had cried over losing before and had been doing so, in part, in Sochi too. But before he can decide how best to respond to Yuri, he gets another text, this time with a picture of a gorgeous cat attached.

Other Yuri: this is potya, i've had her 3 years

Other Yuri: i would murder everyone if she died

Normally, the vow to murder would draw forth a raised eyebrow from Yuuri, but all he can do is stare at the picture of Potya, frozen by the idea that Yuri had been, as Phichit claimed, trying to apologize to him for the nasty things he said in Sochi, just in the only way he knew how.

Absolute murderous rage.

The seeming proof of Yuuri having fallen into an alternate dimension is so puzzling and so, so real that his hands move of their own volition to respond.

Yuuri: She’s gorgeous

Other Yuri: of course she is, all cats are

Other Yuri: what was your dog's name

Yuuri freezes again, the question, and the apparent genuine interest from Yuri, unexpected. The sane response would be for Yuuri to tell the truth. He doubts that Yuri understands how Japanese nicknames work, or, if he does, that Yuri likes Viktor enough to tell him about Vicchan and the reason behind his name. The slightly less sane response would be for Yuuri to lie, for him to make up a name, like Fluffy or perhaps Dog. Something. Anything other than the truth.

Yuuri does neither of these things.

Instead, Yuuri panics.

Yuuri: Got tp go mu flights boarding

He exits out of his messages, turns off his phone, shoves it deep into the dark underbelly of his bag, leans back against his seat, then slumps down in his seat, crosses his arms over his chest, stares out into nothing, rues ever reopening the lines of communication with Yuri Plisetsky, and panics until the airline calls his and Celestino’s row for boarding.

*

And oh how they’re reopened. When Yuuri chances to peek at his phone during their layover in Chicago, there’s a barrage of texts and pictures waiting for him.

Other Yuri: nationals?

Other Yuri: you know viktor’s been whining about not being able to watch you skate in person

Other Yuri: he’s awful, seriously, look

Pulse pounding, Yuuri clicks on the picture. Awful is not the word that comes to mind when he sees what Yuri has sent him. Sublime does, as does breathtaking. Yuuri certainly goes breathless at the sight of Viktor draped dramatically over the rink wall at Yubileyny, his legs long and his back curved in a graceful arch. Yuuri lusts for another half a minute before Yuri’s prior message processes: Viktor Nikiforov wants to watch him skate in person. Blinking twice, Yuuri scrolls through the rest of the texts.

Other Yuri: seriously what the hell do you see in him

Other Yuri: i know he can skate but he does it on gold blades

Other Yuri: GOLD

Other Yuri: and he thinks they're COOL

Other Yuri: he listens to britney spears

Other Yuri: he’s friends with giacometti

Other Yuri: he’s ridiculous

Other Yuri: you can't actually want him to be your coach

Yuri goes absolutely still at the last text. He reads again and again, but the words don’t change and the mystery doesn’t clear. The claim remains the same: Yuuri wants Viktor to be his coach. Yuuri swallows then and takes a peek at Celestino, sitting a seat away in the terminal. Yuuri owed everything to Celestino, his past two wins at Nationals, his silver at the last FC, qualifying for the Grand Prix… Yuuri would never have been able to accomplish any of that on his own.

And now Other Yuri says this.

Jaw tightening, Yuuri prepares to stand. “Coach?”

“Yes?”

“How long until the flight leaves?”

From the corners of his eyes, Yuuri sees Celestino check his watch. “About forty minutes. Why do you ask?”

Yuuri moves his bag onto the seat between him and Celestino and then stands. “I need to make a phone call.”

*

Yuuri doesn’t go far, forty minutes not a lot of time, not with boarding starting in half that time. He moves to a secluded end of the terminal, in sight of Celestino but not within hearing distance.

There’s no one close enough to hear him yell at at fifteen year old kid.

“Why are you doing this?” he asks when Yuri, predictably, answers his call. Didn’t Yakov ever make him practice?

“Because I have no interest in going to jail. And I will murder him if-”

“No,” Yuuri says as he starts to breathe fast. “This. This whole thing. Saying I’m ignoring Viktor. That he- That I want him to be my coach. Are you- Why? Why are you doing this?”

Yuri says nothing, for once, but rather than placate Yuuri, the silence enrages him.

“I can understand the lie about him wanting to watch me skate-”

“It’s not a lie,” Yuri snaps.

“Making me think that…” Yuuri continues, ignoring the denial. “That would hurt. Maybe you think I’ll call him and embarrass myself somehow.”

“No, I want you to call him so he stops embarrassing himself.”

“Stop. Just stop, okay? You’ve had your fun. I don’t- I never said I want Viktor to be my coach.”

Yuri’s silent again, but only for a few moments. “What the fuck? Yes, you did. I was standing right in front of you when you said it.”

Yuuri’s free hand clenches into a fist. “I never said that. Ever. And I’ve barely spoken to Viktor Nikiforov. And certainly never about coaching.”

“Are you serious?! You two were all over each other at the banquet.”

The comment, so unexpected, makes Yuuri frown. “What banquet?”

“The Sochi banquet, dumbass. Did you hit your head on the ice or something? It was two weeks ago. Not even that. You can’t have forgotten it already.”

Now Yuuri’s the one who snaps. “I know when it was. I was there-”

Thank you-”

“-but I never spoke to Viktor. I didn’t speak to anyone, except my coach. If anyone asked Viktor to be their coach, it wasn’t me. Maybe you’d know the difference between your fellow skaters if you actually bothered to be nice to any of them ever in your life.”

Were it not for the fact that Yuuri could hear Yuri breathing on the other end of the line, he would think that Yuri had hung up, his silence in the wake of Yuuri’s lambast so absolute. But no, Yuuri hears the quick scrape of breath crackling in his ear.

The impasse lasts another ten seconds before Yuri says, his voice deadly quiet, “Are you fucking with me?”

“No. I should be asking you that. In fact, I am. What the hell-”

Yuri hangs up before he can say more. Resisting the urge to chuck his phone across the terminal, Yuuri instead closes his eyes and tries to slow his breathing, to restore calm. Despite what Phichit said, he needs to focus on Nationals, not on Other Yuri and his asshole mind games. However, not even thirty seconds after hanging up, Yuuri’s phone buzzes with a message. He, desperately, hopes it’s Phichit, or perhaps Mari or Minako-sensei wishing him a safe flight, but a peek down at his phone confirms that the text is from Yuri.

A longer look has Yuuri straightening in his seat.

Other Yuri: so you're saying this isn't you

There’s a photo attached. The last shreds of Yuuri’s better judgment impels him to ignore it, to block Yuri and return to his seat beside Celestino and focus on righting the listing mess of his life, but better judgment fled Yuuri long ago, perhaps when he cracked beneath the pressure two weeks before the Grand Prix and ate all the food he could find in his kitchen, or perhaps when he yelled not once, but twice, at a crazy kid he was better off ignoring. Whatever the cause, rather than do any of the things he should do, Yuuri clicks on the photo and seals his doom.

It’s of Yuuri. And Viktor. Yuuri and Viktor. And they’re dancing. Photo Yuuri is dipping Viktor, no, bracing him as Viktor kicks his leg into the air. And they’re smiling. Photo Yuuri is smiling at Viktor. And Viktor is smiling back. They’re both smiling. At each other.

Other Yuri: or this?

The next photo is of Yuuri too. But not with Viktor. With Yuri. Yuuri and Yuri, breakdancing in a banquet hall. Photo Yuuri’s in a one-armed handstand while Yuri leaps angrily behind him.

Other Yuri: or this???

Yuuri clicks on the third photo with a shaking hand.

When it resolves, he shrieks and drops his phone.

A stripper pole.

Him. On a stripper pole.

Him. On a stripper pole. Without pants.

He’d taken his pants off and danced on a stripper pole at the Grand Prix banquet. In front of Yuri. In front of Viktor. In front of everyone. The ISU. Sponsors. Coaches. Celestino.

Oh god. Oh god.

“Oh god, oh god, oh god.”

The world narrows, fades, and begins to fuzz. His chest grows tight and breaths short. Yuuri closes his eyes. His hands shake, everything shakes. Distantly, he hears a phone ring, he hears footsteps, he hears someone speak, say something, his name, he hears someone say his name-

“Yuuri? Yuuri. Breathe. Breathe with me. In two three, out two three…”

He hears breathing, not his, because Yuuri can’t breathe, he can’t do anything but think about the picture of himself on a stripper pole, drunk and naked, as pathetic as Yuri Plisetsky claimed.

“Come on, Yuuri. Focus on me. Focus on breathing. In two three, out two three…”

He hears breathing again, from Celestino, his coach before him, Celestino who likely knew, who maybe even saw, Yuuri make a fool of himself after failing, after placing dead last. He may have even tried to stop Yuuri. Drunk Yuuri never listened to anything sane and reasonable. Just crazy ideas like getting naked in front of the entire skating world and pole dancing.

“Yuuri. Breathe. In two three, out two three…”

He doesn’t want to breathe, he doesn’t want to do anything but let the ground open up and swallow him whole, but he tries, for Celestino. It’s the least he can do, for everything Celestino has done for him, for all that Yuuri has put him through, for Yuuri, apparently, betraying him by asking Viktor Nikiforov to be his coach. Swallowing hard, Yuuri sucks in a thin stream of air, one and then another.

“Good. That’s good, Yuuri.”

It wasn’t. It wasn’t good. It was so far from good. And Yuuri had already gotten there- so far from good- with Vicchan and Sochi. And now this. Naked pole dancing and Viktor Nikiforov. The Grand Prix and Japanese Nationals. And everyone- everyone would be watching. Mari and Yuuko. His parents. Minako-sensei. All of Japan. All of them would be watching to see if he failed again. Oh god. Would Viktor watch? Viktor watching and seeing, seeing just how pathetic Yuuri really was. Once was enough, but twice? He can’t-

“Yuuri, concentrate on breathing. On here, not the thought. You can do it. Breathe with me. In two three four, out two three four…”

He tries again. He can’t fail Celestino again.

“Good. Now tell me what you see. Two things. Two things, Yuuri.”

Two things. Two Yuris. There couldn’t be two Yuris. Maybe he should just retire, like Yuri-

“Two things. You can do it, Yuuri.”

He can do it. Can he do it? Hadn’t he already done enough? Or maybe he hadn’t done enough? Heart still racing, Yuuri cracks open his eyes. He sees his hands clenched on his knees, knees that shake, legs that bounce, and then Celestino steady on the floor before him. Behind him, a few people gawk in the distance, but no one has yet to approach. Swallowing hard, Yuuri looks away from them and then croaks out, “You. Carpet. G-Grey.”

Celestino looses a long breath. “That’s great, Yuuri. Breathe in again, nice and slow. Slow now. In two three four, out two three four. Just focus on your breathing. You can do it.”

*

He does. Yuuri focuses on his breathing and calms enough to board the plane to Tokyo. Guilt prompts him, guilt at wasting the money for another plane ticket later that day or tomorrow, guilt at wasting Celestino’s time, his parents’ time and all the money that they sacrificed for Yuuri to pursue his dream. Exhausted, Yuuri shuffles onto the plane. Some people watch him, maybe worried that he’ll snap again. Yuuri ignores them as best he can, walking behind Celestino to his seat.

As they sit, as the rest of the passengers file in, as the plane begins to taxi down the runway, as it takes off and rises into the sky, Yuuri waits for Celestino to ask him what happened, who he had been talking to and what had caused the panic attack, but Celestino just sits beside him, a quiet, steady presence that helps eventually to steady Yuuri.

When the flight reaches cruising altitude, he feels composed enough to speak. “I’m sorry.”

Celestino shakes his head. “Sorry is not necessary. What is it that Phichit says?”

Yuuri sighs but recites the line, “‘Say thank you, not I’m sorry.’”

Celestino looks at him, a warm gleam in his eyes. “So?”

Yuuri averts his gaze. He stares down at his hands, his throat swelling with emotion, before he says softly, “Thank you. For helping back there.”

“You are welcome.” Yuuri hears a bit of rustling then Celestino taps him on the arm. “Here.”

Yuuri glances over and finds Celestino holding his phone. Panic jolts him like a lightning bolt at the memory of what exactly had been on his screen when Celestino had come over: Yuuri and the stripper pole with no pants in sight. But then Celestino likely didn’t need the phone to know what Yuuri had done. He’d probably seen it in person, watched as his drunk, naked, failure of a student made a fool of himself in front of the skating world.

“I am sorry to have left you there alone. At the banquet,” Celestino clarifies when Yuuri looks at him with wide eyes. “I know you did not want to go yet I insisted, and for me to have left you…” Celestino sighs as he shakes his head. “I did not think I would be gone for so long, but Paloma… she needed to talk.”

Yuuri nods. He knows the basics, Celestino explaining the higher volume of calls he was getting from his sister, who was in the middle of a nasty divorce.

“I did not know if you remembered much,” Celestino resumes after a half minute of silence. “I thought, if you did, you would talk about it when you were ready. If not with me, then with Phichit. If you didn’t remember… I thought perhaps that was for the best. Although,” Celestino adds as he peers at Yuuri’s phone, “I must admit I was foolish not to think another skater would contact you about what happened. For that, I am sorry.”

Stomach churning, Yuuri shakes his head. “You don’t- It was my fault. For drinking so much.”

Celestino waves a hand, cutting off the rest of the apology. “And it is mine for forcing you to attend. I had hoped…” Celestino goes quiet. He lowers his hand, but his eyes remain on Yuuri, so full of care and concern that Yuuri has to look away. A few seconds of silence pass and then Celestino speaks again. “In case you are worried, I have spoken with the ISU and the JSF, and you do not need to worry about any consequences from the banquet. While they both frown on some of the more… risque actions that occurred, you and the others did nothing illegal. In fact,” Celestino continues with a smile, “you helped embolden camaraderie. Yakov Feltsman told me afterward that his Yuri usually stands in the corner and sulks at these banquets, yet with you, he danced.” Celestino pauses. He cocks his head to the side as he regards Yuuri. “So maybe I was not wrong to hope.”

Yuuri nods, more in acknowledgement of Celestino speaking than in agreement with what he’s said, with what he’s always said since the first day Yuuri moved to Detroit. Like Minako before him, Celestino’s encouraged Yuuri off the ice as much as he’s coached him on it, urging him to socialize more, to, as he often said, burst forth from his cocoon and show the world the beautiful butterfly within. He succeeded more in his encouragements when Phichit joined them in Detroit, the two co-conspirators in the Get Yuuri Friends Club.

And how does Yuuri repay him?

By asking another man to be his coach.

Yuuri slumps down in his seat and stares out the window. Eventually, he hears Celestino sigh and return to his newspaper, leaving Yuuri to his thoughts.

*

And oh, how he thinks. Fourteen hours on a plane, no escape, and few distractions. Yuuri sleeps fitfully for some of the time, worn down by the sheer emotional turmoil of the time before, during, and now after the Grand Prix. When awake, he tries to study, but the words on his tablet fail to process, drifting like clouds through Yuuri’s brain, vague and insubstantial. And he doesn’t even drag his 3DS from his bag, no room in his mind for anything else aside from his present impossible circumstances, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

01- His entire skating career up until Sochi

02- Sochi

03- Vicchan

04- Viktor

05- Viktor smiling at him

06- Viktor dancing with him

07- Viktor apparently miserable because Yuuri hadn’t called him

08- But how could Yuuri call him?

09- Yuuri must have Viktor’s phone number

Spurred by the thought, he grabs his traitorous phone from his bag and checks his contacts, and there it is, right at the very bottom of the list, one simple, beautiful, terrifying, impossible word of merely six letters.

Viktor.

This propels him toward:

10- This is a joke, it has to be, it has to be

11- Except

12- Who would be mean enough to trick him in this way, to put a fake number in his phone for Viktor Nikiforov?

13- Yuri Plisetsky

14- Who followed him into a bathroom, kicked the closed stall door, berated Yuuri for his failure, and tried to intimidate him into retiring

15- Yet

16- Who also claimed Viktor was pining because Yuuri hadn’t called him and was now trying to intimidate Yuuri into calling him

17- Retiring?

18- Calling?

19- Would retiring lead to calling?

20- Or would calling lead to retirement?

21- But

22- Apparently Yuuri wants Viktor to be his coach

Here, in the confines of the plane, in the privacy of his mind, Yuuri allows himself to ruminate over the possibility. It terrifies him. Puzzles him. Intrigues him. Embarrasses him. Thrills him. Viktor as his coach. Viktor coaching him.

23- Except

24- Viktor has never coached before

25- Yet

26- Viktor is the most successful figure skater of all time

27- Yuuri is not because Yuuri failed

28- Yet

29- Viktor wants Yuuri to call him

30- Viktor wants Yuuri

This thought also terrifies and puzzles and intrigues and embarrasses and thrills. He’s just Yuuri. Just Yuuri and Viktor Nikiforov, a living legend among the common folk of humanity.

31- Except

32- Viktor likes Britney Spears

33- And apparently wants to see Yuuri skate in person

34- Which would mean he would see Yuuri in person

35- Which means he wants to see Yuuri

36- Which means he wants Yuuri

The thought bounds and rebounds in Yuuri’s mind. He wants Yuuri. Viktor Nikiforov wants him. Him. Yuuri. Or Drunk Yuuri, his traitorous brain whispers. Drunk Yuuri was the one who danced with Viktor, who stripped naked before him and pole danced. Sober Yuuri only received a polite invitation for a commemorative photo and other meaningless chitchat exchanged between fellow competitors in the shared time in and around competitions. Sober Yuuri is not Drunk Yuuri. Drunk Yuuri must have wobbled right up to Viktor and demanded a dance. Sober Yuuri turned from Viktor and walked away. Viktor wants Drunk Yuuri, but Yuuri is Sober Yuuri. That’s it. That’s all.

He’s just Yuuri.

He should forget everything, delete Viktor’s number, delete Yuuri’s messages, and try to move on with his life, to not abysmally fail at Nationals or Four Continents, and perhaps try to succeed again at World’s.

37- Except

38- Would he ever know peace if he didn’t call Viktor?

39- Yuri Plisetsky rivalled even Phichit with his speedy and dextrous use of his phone and social media. He would likely hound Yuuri to the ends of the earth if Yuuri didn’t end the torment of watching Viktor pine and call Viktor

40- Yuuri could change his phone number

41- But then he would have to explain to Phichit why exactly he would be changing his number, how it was because he was chickening out of calling Viktor, his idol, the man who must have, of his own free will, put his number into Yuuri’s phone with the expectation and desire for Yuuri to call him, and then Phichit would sit Yuuri down and literally sit on him until he called

42- So Yuuri should call

43- Should he?

44- No

45- Nationals. He needs to focus on Nationals

46- Because of Sochi

47- Because of Vicchan

48- Because of five years in Detroit and all the time, effort, and money poured by Celestino, by Minako, by his parents, by all of Japan into him and his dream

49- The dream that he’s had since he was twelve years old and he first saw Viktor skate, gliding graceful and gorgeous across the ice, a silver angel in leather and lace

50- Eleven years of blood, sweat, scrapes, bruises, tears, blisters, sprains, heartbreak, longing, homesickness, and drive, eleven years to make it to the same ice as Viktor Nikiforov, only to fail, to cave to the pressure, to collapse beneath his grief, to embarrass himself and his family and his coach and his country, to make eleven years all for nought

51- Except

52- Viktor danced with Yuuri

53- Viktor smiled at Yuuri

53- Viktor wants Yuuri to call him

54- Viktor wants to see Yuuri skate in person

55- Viktor wants to see Yuuri in person

56- Viktor wants Yuuri

And Yuuri wants Viktor. He always has. He wanted to skate because of him. He wanted to skate just like him. He wants to skate with him now. He wants to be seen by him, to be acknowledged, to be known by him. If Yuuri was, if he was seen, if he was acknowledged, then eleven years, five years, all of it, all would be worth it, the time, the effort, the money, the loss of Vicchan, of his home, all of it, all would be worth it.

57- So Yuuri should call him

58- Or not call

59- Yuuri should text because texting is easier, less immediate, less personal, less real, less ripe for potential embarrassment

60- He should text Viktor Nikiforov

*

He doesn’t.

Because Viktor Nikiforov, living legend of men’s figure skating and Yuuri’s childhood and also current idol, texts him first.

*

Chapter Text

Sixty Impossible Things
(or Yuuri in Wonderland)
Part Two

-

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

Yuuri, of course, doesn’t receive the text for hours. He first endures the rest of the plane ride and his ceaseless churning obsessive contemplations. Then he and Celestino navigate the airport and Customs, claim their luggage, travel to the train station, buy their tickets, and then board for the short ride to Saitama where that year’s Nationals would begin in just two days. It’s only on the train, the afternoon sun shining bright upon him, that Yuuri finally grabs his phone, switches it back on, and is inundated by a flood of increasingly bizarre messages from Yuri Plisetsky.

Other Yuri: thats you

Other Yuri: you can't deny it so don't even try

Other Yuri: don't ignore me

Other Yuri: it's not my fault you got so drunk you got naked in front of everybody

Other Yuri: although i guess you had a reason to get drunk

Other Yuri: shit

Other Yuri: SHIT

Other Yuri: you drank A LOT

Other Yuri: shit you probably don’t remember anything

Other Yuri: is that why you didn’t call viktor

Other Yuri: it is isn’t it

Other Yuri: shit SHIT

Other Yuri: please tell me you're not crying again

Other Yuri: shit

Other Yuri: you need to calm the fuck down ok

Other Yuri: you didn't do anything giacometti hasn't done 8 billion times already

Other Yuri: if the isu hasn't banned him for his gross existence you’ll be fine

Other Yuri: katsuki

Other Yuri: katsuki message me damn it

Other Yuri: you better not be responding to me because you’re on the fucking plane already and not hiding in a bathroom somewhere freaking the fuck out

Yuuri’s halfway through the barrage when a new message pops up. It’s not from Yuri, though it could be, the time early in the morning in St. Petersburg, likely just prior to practice for him.

No, the text is not from Yuri.

It’s from Viktor Nikiforov.

Viktor: I hope you don’t mind me messaging you, I know I said I’d wait for you to call

Viktor: But Yura gave me your number

Viktor: Yuri Plisetsky I mean

Viktor: It’s Viktor by the way

Viktor: Viktor Nikiforov

Viktor: Hi

Yuuri stares, frozen, trembling, at actual, tangible contact from Viktor Nikiforov. As he does, a subsequent text comes in, this time from the puzzling bane of his existence, Yuri Plisetsky.

Other Yuri: viktor nikiforov is a fucking dick, don’t believe anything he says

Other Yuri: he stole my phone to get your number

Viktor: Yuri stole yours from Mila

Other Yuri: not mila, sara crispino

Viktor: Using Mila’s phone & saying he was Mila

Viktor: Also whatever he’s said about me is probably a lie

Viktor: Unless it’s that I want to talk to you

Viktor: Because I do )))))))

Other Yuri: everything i said is true

Other Yuri: viktor nikiforov is a giant douchebag asshole!!!!!!

Other Yuri: i take back everything i said about you calling him

Other Yuri: let him suffer ignored and alone the rest of his pathetic life

Yuuri sits shellshocked at the barrage of messages.

Before him, Celestino sighs. “Tell Phichit to go to sleep.”

“It’s not Phichit.”

Celestino looks up from his magazine and blinks at Yuuri. Yuuri understands. Who else would be contacting him so relentlessly? His friends and family in Hasetsu possessed a modicum of chill, as Phichit would say, at least when it came to phones and social media. This blitz… possessed no chill whatsoever. None. Yuuri thinks even Phichit would be awed.

“Yuuri? Is everything alright?”

Slowly, Yuuri drags his eyes from his phone to Celestino. The buzzing continues. Yuuri knows if he’s able to sleep tonight, he’ll dream of the sound, of the scowling Yuri bees endlessly chasing him alongside the smiling Viktor bees.

“I- I don’t know,” he says to Celestino now. “I…”

Celestino lays his magazine to the side and shifts forward in his seat. “Is it your family? Are they okay?”

“I…” Yuuri blinks at Celestino a few times before his gaze falls once more to his phone. How to explain the unexplainable, the inexplicable? Floundering, Yuuri looks back up at his coach and settles on a line of approach that he usually avoids at all costs.

Blunt honesty.

“Yuri Plisetsky and Viktor Nikiforov are messaging me the argument I think they’re having with each other about each other while likely standing right next to each other while texting me.”

Celestino stares at him a long moment, silent. Then he lifts a hand to his temple, closes his eyes, and sighs.

Yuuri nods, the reaction more than understandable. His gaze drifts back down to his phone, held loosely in his limp hand, as more texts pour in. Viktor Nikiforov, the man who had inspired Yuuri to skate as well as the one who had made Yuuri realize that he liked men, Russia’s pride and joy, lover of Britney Spears and wearer of gold figure skating blades, actually wanted to talk to him. Was talking to him. Is taking to him, right now. Or trying to, Yuuri not responding.

He should respond.

Shouldn’t he?

Yuuri stares down at his phone, at the fast and furious pileup of messages. Then he reaches for the power button and shuts it off before stuffing it back into the dark depths of his bag.

*

Later, after checking in to the hotel and forcing himself to eat a blandly nutritious dinner, after Celestino leaves to meet up with a former competitor turned rival coach for drinks, after Yuuri showers and performs a series of cool down stretches, Yuuri sits on his bed, his phone in hand. To turn it on or not to turn it on? If he didn’t turn on his phone, he’d likely miss a message from Minako-sensei or Mari. And then they’d worry, and he couldn’t have them worry. Not now. Not after Vicchan.

But if he did turn on his phone…

Yuuri eyes it right now, already imagining the insanity waiting for him from Yuri and Viktor. The insanity from Other Yuri Yuuri could do without. But from Viktor… Viktor who danced with him and smiled at him and gave Yuuri his phone number and stole Yuri’s just so he could text him…

To turn on or not to turn on?

Yuuri abandons any pretense at contemplation after five more seconds. Bracing himself, he turns on his phone and winces at the flood of texts waiting for him. As expected, there are messages from Minako and Mari. Yuuri responds to these first, quickly thanking them for their well-wishes and saying that he had gotten in safely. Then his eyes linger on the texts from Yuri and Viktor. Of which there are many. So very, very many. For a moment, Yuuri regrets turning on his phone, the day only half gone in St. Petersburg and plenty of time left for one or both of them to bombard him with more messages. And tomorrow too… Viktor might cease in his efforts, respectful of the fact that they both had to skate their short programs tomorrow. But Yuri… He doubted Yuri knew of the existence of such restraint, all his actions up until now lacking such consideration.

Sighing, Yuuri clicks on Yuri’s name and reopens the line of communication.

Yuuri: Please stop messaging me. I need to focus

He doesn’t expect a response, but he should know better by now. Did Yuri ever practice? Or did he practice with his phone surgically and thus permanently attached to his hand?

Other Yuri: and i need peace of mind

Other Yuri: i won’t get it until you call the asshole

Yuuri: I can’t right now. I need to focus

Other Yuri: on what

Yuuri’s jaw drops at the message. On what? On what?

Yuuri: On Nationals

Other Yuri: why

Why. Why. Why. Yuuri stares at the word, at the text, at the question, burning all into his brain. His lips thin and Sochi looms before him, Yuri and his vitriol, his sneers at Yuuri’s failure, and his hands are moving before he’s quite aware.

“Why?” he asks when Yuri picks up. “Why do you think? Because I need to do well. So many- People have helped me and I- Not everyone is like you, okay? Some of us care and some of us have to try and some of us have to deal with the fact that we might fail no matter how hard we’ve worked. We’re not all Russian gods who don’t even have to try, who can spend all their time leading up to Nationals badgering some nobody who should just retire! And I know you’re going to call me pathetic. Go ahead. You think I haven’t ever thought the same? Whatever you’re thinking or have thought of me, I’ve already thought it and have done so for far longer than you. And you know what?” he adds, his voice steadily rising in volume. “Viktor was right! Your step sequence in your free skate is bad, and you should be working on it because you could make it so good if you just put half as much effort into your skating as you’ve done to yelling at me the past few days!”

Yuuri hangs up without waiting for a reply and then chucks his phone across the room. It bounces off the back of the lone armchair and rebounds onto the carpet. Yuuri stares at it, waiting, his breath coming fast, but no reply immediately comes. Flopping back onto the bed, Yuuri closes his eyes and tries to regain control over his breathing. He had abandoned any notion of regaining control of his life the second he opened the damning picture Yuri sent him of the banquet.

Seconds of silence bleed into minutes, and as they do, Yuuri’s pulse slows, his breathing evens, and sanity finds its way once more into his brain. Sanity and shame, this the second time in nearly as many days that Yuuri has lost his cool and yelled at a kid. He should apologize to Yuri. He was the adult here- allegedly, though the last few days, no, the last few weeks, ever since he drank himself into a naked champagne stupor in Sochi, have cast that claim into doubt- yet even on a technicality, he was the adult and he should apologize.

Before he can though, his phone buzzes with another message. Sighing again, Yuuri lurches to his feet and crosses the room to retrieve it. There’s no text waiting for him this time. No photo either.

No, this time Yuri Plisetsky sent him a video.

Dread pooling in his gut, Yuuri clicks it open.

A skating rink appears before him. Not just any rink- Yubileyny, training grounds for both Yuri and Viktor. He spots Yuri on the ice, gathering speed as he rounds the far end of the rink; as he circles back around to face the camera, he launches into the step sequence from his free skate. The sequence lasts nearly the length of the rink, allowing Yuri to pass by whoever is holding the camera. Once he’s finished, he whirls around and skates back toward the camera, so fast that Yuuri preemptively winces for impact. But Yuri skids to a stop just in the nick of time before he leans in toward the camera, a sneer on his face.

“Tell me that was bad, asshole.”

Mouth going flat again, Yuuri fires off a text in response.

Yuuri: It wasn’t but you didn’t skate like that at the GP

Yuuri: Which is even more infuriating

Yuuri: You think you can do something like this in seniors and win?

Yuuri: You don’t work hard all the time you don’t make it

Yuuri: How can you not know this sharing the same ice as Viktor?

He’s in the middle of his next chastisement when Yuri responds.

Other Yuri: so am i a russian god who doesn't need to try or a lazy asshole who doesn't try hard enough

Yuuri: Both

He closes out of that conversation and opens the one started by Viktor.

Yuuri: Please stop whatever it is you’re doing that’s making Yuri mad

Yuuri: He needs to focus on Nationals. And so do I. And so do you

Yuuri: So just stop whatever it is

Yuuri: Please

Again, despite all evidence to the contrary, Yuuri doesn’t expect an immediate response. But he gets one.

Viktor: No

Yuuri flops back onto the bed, smashes a pillow over his face, and screams.

How had his life come to this? Yuuri had fantasized many times in his life of someday meeting Viktor Nikiforov, of Viktor actually knowing him and willingly talking to him, but a bratty teen who desperately needed a new hobby never factored into any of the imagined scenarios. Yet here he was, reducing Yuuri’s impulse control by a half dozen years and making him yell via text at Viktor Nikiforov.

Still despairing, Yuuri hears his phone buzz once and then again. As of a man with a death wish, he slides the pillow from his face, lifts his phone, and looks at the screen.

Viktor: That’s the best he’s ever skated that step seq

Viktor: Whatever you said has made him actually try

Yuuri draws in a deep breath and replies.

Yuuri: I just told him you were right about it and that he needed to follow your example

Viktor: YUURI!!!!!!!!!!

Viktor: That’s so sweet ))))))))))))))

Despite his exhaustion, Yuuri starts to smile.

Viktor: But so so wrong

And there goes the smile.

Viktor: He’s already followed my example for years

Viktor: I think he needs to follow yours

This makes him sit, makes his brows draw together in a frown. Yuuri inspects the texts, waiting for the punchline to unfurl, but one never does. He glances around the room. He’s still on the hotel bed. His suitcases are still tucked up against the wall. Despite his feelings to the contrary, he hasn’t been spirited away into some other world, cast down some Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole where nothing makes sense.

Viktor: Must go now, Yakov’s yelling at us to get back to practice ((((((

Viktor: Can I call you later?

Yuuri’s heart stops. His heart and lungs and brain and body all stop.

Viktor: If it’s not too late for you

Oh god.

Oh god oh god oh god.

“Oh god, oh god, oh god.”

Viktor: It’s okay if it is, we can do it some other time if you want

“NO!”

Lurching into motion, Yuuri types out a reply. His fingers fumble over the letters in his haste and desperation to catch Viktor before he returns to practice.

Yuuri: It wnot be tooo lste xo ypo can cLL

Viktor: ???

Face heating, Yuuri takes a moment to silently shriek at his texting ineptitude before he tries again.

Yuuri: Sorry, I meant that it won’t be too late for you to call

Yuuri: If you still want to

Yuuri: You don’t have to if you’ve changed your mind

Yuuri’s in the middle of typing out more apologies and panicked mitigations when he receives Viktor’s reply.

Viktor: I do! I’m so excited!))))))

Viktor: Got to go now, talk to you soon))))))

Slowly, so very slowly, Yuuri lays his phone on the nightstand by his bed then he twists and tilts, slithering from the bed onto the floor, where he lays, utterly deceased, murdered unknowingly by Viktor Nikiforov and his excessive, excited smiles.

*

Two and a half hours later, his phone rings. Yuuri has been staring at it for the past half hour and now continues to stare, his heart beginning to pound again as he looks at the name on the screen.

Viktor.

Yuuri takes a peek at Celestino sitting on the bed opposite him, laptop on and likely in the middle of an email to the rest of his skaters about their daily schedules. His peek does not go unnoticed by his coach though, who meets his gaze with a far too knowing raised brow. Face flushed, Yuuri slides off his bed, phone clutched tightly in his hand, and gestures toward the door.

“I’m, uh, going there… talk-”

One corner of Celestino’s mouth quirks up as Yuuri flails. “Enjoy your talk.”

“I… okay,” he mumbles before reaching the door, yanking it open, darting out into the hall, and finally answering the call. “H-Hello?”

“Yuuri! It’s Viktor!”

The sound of Viktor’s voice stills Yuuri. He stands, facing the now closed door, his face inches from the painted wood. As the trill of his name echoes in his ear, Yuuri breathes out a sound that may or may not resemble ‘hi.’

“I was worried it was too late,” Viktor continues. “I’m so happy you answered!”

Yuuri slowly turns and leans back against the door. The rest of the hall is empty, just past eleven at night in Tokyo. Me too dances through his mind, but Yuuri bites it back, saying instead, “Well, I said I would. So I did.”

Viktor laughs. At something Yuuri said. His knees are too weak to bear this beautiful turn of events, so he sinks down to the floor, breathless. “How was your flight?” Viktor asks after a beat of silence.

“It was fine,” Yuuri manages. “Long. W-What about practice? For you. How, uh, was it?”

Yuuri winces at his stammering, but either Viktor takes no notice of it or is somehow unbothered for neither the joy nor the volume diminish in his voice. “It was wonderful! Yura made everyone record six more videos of his spins and step sequences. They were beautiful, the best I’ve ever seen him do! I imagine he’ll send them to you tonight. And Yakov said my short program was the best he’d ever seen me do, too, so thank you!”

Yuuri blinks at the last. “Me? Why?”

“For inspiring us, of course!”

The power of speech, of rational thought, of any thought, departs Yuuri at that. He wonders once more if he’s fallen into an alternate dimension somewhere, one where everything in his life is the same except this, phone calls and text messages with Viktor Nikiforov. Perhaps Alternate Yuuri is in his world, lamenting at the lost contact with Viktor. If so, he can’t disappoint his other self whenever reality rights itself, so he resolves himself to engaging in conversation.

“Oh. I, uh- Me?”

Of a sort.

But not the sort to make Viktor hang up on him in disgust. The sort to earn Yuuri another laugh, one that again snatches the breath from his chest and makes him stomach flutter. “Yes. You.”

“Oh,” Yuuri says again.

“Your artistry! It’s divine! Your free skate at Skate Canada…” Viktor sighs rather than continue, but Yuuri understands every quirk of exhalation, the sigh the same one he’s loosed every single time he’s watched Viktor skate since he was twelve years old.

Yuuri draws his knees up to his chest and buries his burning face in them. “But I double-footed my quad sal.”

“True. But jumps are boring.”

His head nearly smacks against the door with how fast Yuuri whips it back. “What?!”

“They are,” Viktor repeats. “They’re all the same. I mean, sure, you can add variations, arm placement and combinations, but a jump is still a jump. Now presentation and performance…” Viktor sighs again. “So few skaters appreciate it enough. Or practice it. But you… You live in the music. It’s beautiful.”

Oh god.

Oh god oh god oh god.

Yuuri very carefully presses his lips together to stop from crying, shrieking, or hyperventilating. He lays his head again on his knees, breathing carefully, in two three, out two three, all to the beat of Viktor’s compliment.

It’s. Beau. Ti. Ful.

“But I’m talking too much, aren’t I?” Viktor says into the silence. “I’m sorry. I’m just excited. I’d been waiting for you to call! I was so happy when Yuri told me you’d probably just forgotten everything.”

This brings Yuuri’s brows together. “Really?”

“Yes! Because that meant you’d only forgotten to call. And now you have! Tell me everything about you, Yuuri. I want to know it all.”

Yuuri freezes. His mouth goes dry. “I… I don’t- I’m not that interesting.”

“Nonsense,” Viktor says. “Everyone is interesting.”

The comment is so unexpected, but still so familiar, that Yuuri starts to smile. “You sound like Phichit. Chulanont,” he clarifies after a beat. “He’s-”

“The skater from Thailand. Yes, he was at NHK with me. He’s got fantastic presence on the ice.”

Yuuri delays responding a moment to picture how much Phichit will freak out when he tells him that Viktor Nikiforov not only knows who he is, but complimented his skating. “Yes. He’s my rinkmate in Detroit. Well, he’s my friend too. My best friend. And he- he’s so positive. About everything. I mean, not always. No one can be positive all the time. But when something doesn’t go right for him, he doesn’t let it get him down. Or at least not for long. It’s amazing…”

Yuuri trails off, knowing exactly how Phichit would have reacted to his own situation, to Yuuri cowing to the pressure and succumbing to the grief. He’d focus on the positive. Phichit would say that Yuuri made it to the Grand Prix final, and only five other skaters in the world had done that. That dozens and dozens had tried, including Phichit, but Yuuri had succeeded. So he hadn’t failed. He’d placed sixth. Sixth out of the entire world.

Yuuri repeats it to himself. He was sixth. Sixth. Sixth in the world. Out of hundreds of skaters.

But the undeniable truth slithered out from the churning depths of his mind to override the spin.

He didn’t want to be sixth.

He wanted to be first.

Yet Viktor was first. Yuuri was sixth. He would never be first. He’d had his shot, and-

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri starts, torn from his thoughts by the soft inquiry. Exactly where he was and what he was doing and who he’d been talking to returns to his consciousness, bringing another blush to his face. “S-Sorry. I just- I have a lot on my mind. I didn’t mean to stop listening.”

“I understand. Your Nationals start tomorrow, correct?”

“Yes.” Yuuri lays his head on his knees again and pulls in a deep breath. “I’m trying not to think about it actually. I tend to- Well, Phichit says I think too much.”

“Oh! I can distract you, if you’d like. Yakov says I excel at distracting others. Myself included,” Viktor adds with a laugh.

The laugh prompts one from Yuuri, a soft one, but still there. Still real. “Celestino- my coach- he would probably say the opposite. About me, I mean.”

“Yes, you were very serious in Sochi.”

Yuuri goes silent at the reminder of Sochi. He tries, but he can’t stop the bitter recrimination from escaping his lips. “Not that it did me any good.”

Viktor’s quiet a moment. Yuuri hears rustling on the other end of the phone. For the first time in their conversation, he accepts that Viktor’s real, that he actually exists somewhere in the world, and that he’s not a crazed figment of Yuuri’s imagination. Would he be at home now, trying to rest for his short program tomorrow? Or would he still be at Yubileyny, in a quiet corner as he talked to Yuuri?

“It did at first,” Viktor says, breaking Yuuri from his ruminations. “You did very well with your short program. It’s just, well, after…”

Yes.

After.

Yuuri sighs at the mention of after.

“Did something happen?” Viktor asks softly. “Between your short and free programs?”

Yuuri pokes at the carpet by his feet. “Yuri didn’t tell you?”

“Not what happened. Just that something did. He just wanted me to know he knew something about you that I didn’t.” Viktor pauses then. The pout in his voice is audible when he mutters, “He does so enjoy watching me suffer.”

Yuuri’s about to agree when Viktor continues. “But then, if he never contacted you, we wouldn’t be talking right now, and I’d still be suffering.” He pauses again. His voice is so bright when he resumes that Yuuri can’t help but picture his smile. “Aww, he can be so sweet sometimes.”

Yuuri doubts the presence of any sweetness within Yuri Plisetsky, but he doesn’t argue the point with Viktor.

“Do you want to talk about what happened?” Viktor asks now. “Or no, wait, you said you wanted to be distracted. Ooh, I could tell you about the time Mila and I changed all of Yuri’s ringtones to Britney Spears songs! He turned the most delightful shade of puce when he found out.”

Yuuri can’t help but laugh at the image. And he can’t help but say yes. It surprises him how easy it is for him to say yes, to want to be distracted though Phichit told him he should and Celestino said he should enjoy the conversation, but then it wasn’t everyday that Viktor Nikiforov willingly engaged in a conversation with him and brightly, delightedly offered to distract him. Drawing in a deep breath, Yuuri says, “Yes, I’d like to hear that. Very much.”

There’s a little sound on the other end, something like a sigh, something softer but still audible, but before Yuuri can puzzle out the meaning behind the sound, Viktor launches into the story and Yuuri settles in to listen.

*

They talk for nearly forty-five minutes, Viktor telling Yuuri stories of him and his rink mates, or of him and Christophe and their post-competition shenanigans. In return, Yuuri tells him about the first time Phichit dragged Yuuri to a Wal-Mart at one in the morning and the strange and unsettling sights they saw while there. By the end, Yuuri had laughed so hard that tears had come to his eyes, he got a stitch in his side, and his face hurt from smiling so much. When he slinks back into the room, the time nudging past midnight, Celestino says nothing, but Yuuri spies the same knowing gleam in his eye as Yuuri passes by his bed, and he feels another raging blush burn across his face.

Sleep eludes him, as Yuuri anticipated, but not for the reason he dreaded, not from nerves or the spectre of his past haunting him into the wee hours of the morning, but from Viktor and their talk and the fact that Viktor sounded like he actually enjoyed the conversation and had been reluctant to end the call. This Yuuri ponders until the wee hours, but when he wakes at six, he feels more refreshed than he had on nights when he’d gotten seven, eight, ten hours of sleep.

He finds a good luck message from Viktor waiting for him when he wakes, as well as the six aforementioned skating videos from Yuri. Yuuri watches them as he does his morning stretches, composes replies as he takes his shower, and then sends them as he and Celestino sit down to eat breakfast in the hotel dining room. By this time, even though it’s late in St. Petersburg, Yuuri anticipates a response, and, about a minute after he sends his last critique, he gets one.

Other Yuri: you better not suck in your sp

Yuuri sets his tea back down to reply.

Yuuri: I’ll try my best not to

Other Yuri: i’m serious

Other Yuri: if i have to watch you lose to fucking minami i will murder you and then him and then me

Yuuri frowns at the text. “Minami?”

“Hmm?”

Yuuri glances across the table at Celestino, in the midst of dumping an obscene amount of pepper on his eggs. “Yuri mentioned someone named Minami. He told me not to lose to him today.”

Celestino nods. “Minami Kenjirou. This is his first year as a senior. He and Yuri had something of a rivalry in juniors, though from what I gather it was mostly one-sided.”

“From Minami?”

Celestino laughs. “No. From Yuri. Minami is too…” He pauses then, shoveling a healthy amount of eggs onto his fork as he searches for the right word. “What is it Phichit says, when someone is innocent? They’re a cinnamon stick?”

Yuuri can’t help the snort. “A cinnamon roll.”

“Cinnamon roll. Yes. Minami is certainly that.” Celestino eats his eggs, his eyes still on Yuuri as he chews.

Yuuri resists the urge to hunch down in his chair at the prolonged stare. “What?”

“I feel I should warn you,” Celestino begins upon swallowing. “Minami will likely try to talk to you today. His coach said he’s quite a fan of yours.”

“O-Of me?”

“Yes.” As Yuuri continues to stare at him, Celestino lays his cutlery on his plate. “Is it really so surprising that young skaters like Minami and Yuri look up to you?”

“Yuri? No. No,” Yuuri repeats, shaking his head. “Yuri hates me.”

Celestino arches a brow. “Yet he has sent you how many skating videos?”

“That’s not- He’s just trying to prove me wrong.”

“So your opinion matters to him.”

“I… Not like- He doesn’t-” Yuuri’s shaking his head again, but he stops when the buzz of a text catches his attention.

Other Yuri: you better watch me skate tomorrow

Other Yuri: i’m going to demolish that step seq

Other Yuri: then you and the asshole will be eating your words

“See,” Yuuri says as he lifts his phone and shoves it at Celestino. “He wants to prove me wrong.”

Celestino peers at the screen. He inspects the messages for a few seconds before shrugging and turning away. “I see nothing to change my mind.”

Yuuri watches as Celestino reaches for his mug of coffee, as he takes a sip, as he returns it to the table and reclaims his cutlery. Slowly, Yuuri lowers his phone. He takes in the texts, the threat for him and Viktor to eat their words, but that makes him think about Viktor and what he said about Yuri, about how Yuri could be so sweet sometimes and about how Yuuri had inspired them, both of them, him and Yuri, and then that makes him think about Phichit and his declaration that Other Yuri is a fan of his, Yuri who badgered him until he finally contacted Viktor, Yuri who defended him on Twitter, who even tried to reassure him that his antics at the Grand Prix banquet wouldn’t result in any irreparable consequences.

“Perhaps,” Celestino says as Yuuri continues to gape at the increasingly impossible to deny proof of Yuri Plisetsky actually liking him in his own hostile yet genuine way, “you should tell him you will watch.”

“I… okay.”

In a daze, Yuuri lifts his phone and texts Yuri that he’ll be watching. The reply is immediate, as though Yuri had been waiting, as though what Yuuri has to say actually matters to him.

Other Yuri: good

Other Yuri: and ABOUT FUCKING TIME you talked to the asshole too

Yuuri blinks at the last message, surprised.

Yuuri: He told you we talked?

Other Yuri: YES

Other Yuri: A LOT

Other Yuri: it was sappy and pathetic

Sappy and pathetic. Even without the former, Yuuri’s familiar enough at this point with Yuri’s use of the latter to know it means any emotion other than pure, unadulterated rage. Sappy just narrows it down, just confirms what Yuuri heard for himself last night, that Viktor actually liked talking to Yuuri, that he likes Yuuri, that he feels sappy feelings for and about him.

His lips curve in a small, soft smile.

He’s still smiling when Yuri texts again.

Other Yuri: don’t you dare do the same

Other Yuri: because i will fly to detroit and murder you if you do

Yuuri would probably murder himself if he ever resorted to gushing about Viktor and this new, unexpected connection they now had to Yuri Plisetsky, but he keeps this to himself and instead, emboldened, pokes the tiny, angry kitten.

Yuuri: You’d never have peace of mind if you did

Yuuri: I mean, you’ve seen how Viktor is when I just didn’t call

Yuuri: How much worse would he be if I died?

Still smiling, Yuuri eats part of his banana as he waits for Yuri to compose a reply to this new dilemma.

Other Yuri: FINE I’LL THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE

Yuuri can’t help but laugh. He looks up to reach for his tea and finds Celestino peering at him over the rim of his own mug, his eyes bright and just a tad smug, as if his point had just been proven. And Yuuri supposes it had. Face flushing, he deviates course, shoving his phone in his pocket, gulping down the rest of his tea, snagging his half-eaten banana as well as his pile of power bars, and then escaping the knowing eyes of his coach for morning warm up.

*

Minami Kenjirou looks nothing like a person that Yuri Plisetsky would choose to be his rival, but rather, as Celestino said, everything like the human version of a cinnamon roll. As Yuuri stares at him from across the ice, he doubts for a moment the honorability of his plan. Or not a plan, per se, nothing in his head beyond taking a photo. A simple photo. A photo of him and Minami. And then posting it. To his sad and barren Instagram. His Instagram that, he just discovered before taking the ice, that Yuri Plisetsky began following three days ago. Yuri Plisetsky, who is tied brain, body, and soul to his phone and social media. Yuri Plisetsky, who, if Phichit and Celestino and even Viktor are to be believed, looks up to Yuuri as a skater and who, for some unfathomable reason, chose cinnamon roll Minami Kenjirou as his junior rival.

How would tiny, angry Yuri Plisetsky react to a photo of his role model and his rival together?

One half of Yuuri’s brain reasons that the picture will motivate Yuri to do well in his free skate, even more than he was already intending to in order to prove Yuuri and Viktor wrong. Now he had even more of a reason to skate well, to prove once and for all his superiority to his arch-rival Minami Kenjirou.

The other half of Yuuri’s brain exults in the fact that the picture’s just going to piss Yuri off, and, after all the insults and invectives and threats of murder thrown his way, Yuuri reasons that Yuri deserves a taste of his own petty medicine.

But to unleash said medicine, Yuuri must use human cinnamon roll Minami Kenjirou. Could he do it? Was he really that petty and deceitful of a human being? As he contemplates, he watches Minami begin a step sequence, and there’s something in the way that he moves that makes Yuuri go still, that makes all thoughts of angering and/or motivating Yuri Plisetsky fly out of his head.

He’s trying to puzzle out the something when Minami happens to glance up, spot Yuuri watching him, yelp, flail, and then fall ass-first onto the ice.

Yuuri shoves his phone back into the pocket of his jacket and skates over, guilt souring his gut at the thought of being the cause of Minami’s crash. “Are you okay, Minami-kun?” he asks as he comes to a stop before him.

Minami sits up, his eyes wide and mouth open. “Y-Y-Yuuri-senpai…”

Yuuri freezes at the honorific. “N-No. No senpai. Please,” he adds a second later, after Minami flushes a deep shade of red. Yuuri reaches down to help Minami to his feet, but Minami just gawks at the offered hand and then up at Yuuri himself before he squeals and flings himself back onto the ice as though he were making a snow angel.

“This is the best day of my life! Except I fell!” Minami wails only to rocket up to his feet so fast that Yuuri jerks back in surprise. “Will you watch again, senpai? I can do it better. I have done it better! Coach! Coach!” he shouts, spinning around to face a middle-aged woman by the boards. “Haven’t I done it better?”

His coach nods, but also says, “Yuuri-kun can watch you while you perform. He has to practice too, you know.”

“Okay!” Minami whirls back around. “Are you excited?”

Yuuri blinks a few times, completely out of his depth with Minami Kenjirou. “About what?”

“To compete again! I love it! Every place is new. And I get to meet so many new people. I’ve made so many friends. And skating!” Minami gushes. He swirls around in a quick little spin, a dreamy look on his face. “Every time you get to try better than you did before. Oooh,” Minami says as he snaps to a halt before Yuuri again, “are you going to do your quad toe again? I’ve only tried it a few times in practice. Mostly I work on my triple axel. But Coach says if I keep at it, I’ll get it in no time!”

“I- I’m sure you will…”

Minami goes completely still. Then he shrieks again, so loud that Yuuri flinches. “I will, Yuuri-senpai! For you, I will! Watch me. You’ll watch me, won’t you? I can’t wait to watch you!”

“I…” Yuuri swallows. He can’t help but glance back over his shoulder at Celestino, who watches him and Minami. Their conversation at breakfast creeps back into his consciousness, Celestino’s question about younger skaters admiring him, then Yuri’s demand for Yuuri to watch him skate at his Nationals. He had floundered then at the idea of anyone looking up to him, of finding anything to admire about his skating, and he flounders now as he turns back toward Minami and is confronted once again with the idea in clear and vivid technicolor.

“I…” he tries again, but the words fail him as they always do so he simply nods.

His silent response does nothing to diminish Minami’s enthusiasm. “Yes! Now today is the best day of my life!”

“Minami-kun!” his coach calls. “You should get back to practice.”

“Right!” Minami snaps to attention, but rather than return to his coach, he stays in front of Yuuri to bow. “Good luck today, senpai!”

“T-Thanks. You too.”

Minami shoots him an absolute blinding grin. He starts to turn, but before he can, Yuuri, dazed and potentially crazed by the last week of his life, asks him to wait.

“Would you mind taking a picture?” he asks as he grabs his phone from his jacket pocket. “I, uh, wanted to post it. For Yuri. Plisetsky. N-Not that I don’t want to take a picture with you,” he adds quickly, “but Yuri’s competing today too, and-”

“You wanted to wish him luck!”

Yuuri stares. He does. Sort of. The sort being whipping him up into an incandescent rage so he’d overcome his apathy and skate well out of sheer spite.

“Yes…” Yuuri says slowly.

“Of course I will! I love Yuri-san!”

Yuuri gapes at him, silent, a few moments before his brain stutters back to life again. “Y- You do?”

“Of course! He always challenges people to do better. He has high expectations. Not just for him but for everyone. He landed a quad for the first time last year. No one in juniors can. But he did! It was amazing! I was so inspired I landed my first triple axel that same day!”

“I… That’s good.”

“It is!” Minami skates close to Yuuri, stops beside him, and then holds up a peace sign for the picture. “Okay, senpai! Let’s inspire!”

*

Yuuri takes the ice for his short program to thunderous applause and absolute bewilderment. He supposes such confusion is a better state of mind than utter panic, his usual state prior, during, and after a competition. There hadn’t been opportunity for his panic to gestate to its full potency this time, not with Yuri and Viktor and now Minami and the seismic shifts that they’ve made in his life the past week.

Yuuri had watched Minami skate his short program while he’d warmed up backstage. Minami had fumbled a couple of his jumps, nearly falling on his triple lutz, but the rest of the time he’d been electric to watch, bright and bubbly on the ice. He had reminded Yuuri of Phichit, the two sharing similar charisma while skating, at least until Minami had started his step sequence. And then Yuuri had seen himself, he couldn’t not, the something that had wiggled in his brain while he’d watched Minami during practice finally clicking. The way Minami had moved was the way Yuuri moved, the way no one else moved in step sequences, Yuuri molded by Minako-sensei and her unique blend of dance styles. He had stood backstage, breathless as he watched Minami, as he recalled himself skating beside Yuuko, copying Viktor again and again in their youth, inspired by him and the beautiful way he moved across the ice.

And now it was Yuuri who was inspiring others. He shakes his head as he skates to the center of the ice. Minami, perhaps, he could understand. But Yuri and Viktor… Why would either of them need inspiration? Neither of them crumbled to pressure like he did. Year after year Viktor rose to the challenge, to the expectations of something better, of more. And Yuri… he’d taken Yuuri and Viktor’s criticism of his skating and used it as fuel to do better, to do more. And Minami… to him, skating was fun. A chance to see new places and to meet new people and to try, to do better than he had before. To be more.

And all of them, Yuri and Minami and Viktor and, beyond them, Phichit and Celestino, Minako and Yuuko and his family, all of them looked at Yuuri and saw something worth seeing, they saw something that inspired.

And all of the were watching. Not to see him fail, but to see him succeed. To try. To do good. To do well.

To do better.

Yuuri stops in the center of the ice and draws in a deep breath.

Every time you get to try better than you did before.

You better not suck today.

He’s already followed my example for years. He needs to follow yours.

You live in the music. It’s beautiful.

Yuuri exhales, slow. He closes his eyes. He waits for the music.

Let’s inspire.

*

Chapter Text

Sixty Impossible Things
(or Yuuri in Wonderland)
Part Three

-

“Who are YOU?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I- I hardly know, sir, just at present- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

First place. Yuuri had bobbled a couple of jumps, even though he’d changed his one quad to a triple flip. So many nights of poor sleep eventually catch up, even for Yuuri and his extensive practice skating on little sleep. But, as usual, his performance scores compensated for his technical lack, even more so this time, Yuuri earning his personal best for performance. He’d tried his best to live in the music, to reach the divine, the beautiful, that Viktor had seen before.

Celestino had been ecstatic when he’d come off the ice, sweeping Yuuri into a massive hug that lifted him clear from the floor. Backstage, he’d found Minami openly sobbing by the television that replayed his combination spin. Congratulatory texts flooded in from Phichit and Minako and Mari, even Yuri (you didn’t suck followed by I WILL CRUSH YOU AND KENJIROU ASSHOLE JUST YOU WAIT). His mother had left a five-minute gushing message about how proud she was of him punctuated by his father’s terse ‘Good job, son’ at the end. But the text Yuuri had returned to the most, that he returns to now, his press done, his shower taken, his dinner eaten, is Viktor’s.

Viktor: Absolutely gorgeous

Once again, Yuuri is thankful that Celestino’s in the shower as the sigh that escapes his mouth now is one that makes his face heat, that literally makes him swoon, Yuuri slumping onto the table next to Celestino’s laptop which currently streams the junior free skate of the Russian nationals.

Gorgeous. Gorgeous.

Viktor said he’d been absolutely gorgeous.

Yuuri sighs again. However, his intention to continue swooning is interrupted by the announcement of Yuri taking the ice. Straightening, Yuuri peers at the screen. In his plum pants and formal white shirt, Yuri looks elegant, a far cry from the tiny foul-mouthed hellion who had terrorized him the past week. Yuuri stops breathing as he waits, more nervous now than when he had skated earlier that day. He nearly laughs at the realization but then Yuri begins. His slender frame implies grace, but Yuri is ferocious when he skates, fierce and fervent and bursting with raw power. His jumps dazzle, and he skates his step sequence sharper and cleaner than Yuuri had ever seen before. He nearly claps when Yuri finishes, breathing hard but with a triumphant grin across his face. He does snatch up his phone to send Yuri a congratulatory text. Yuuri considers the same passive aggressive praise that Yuri had sent to him, but he can’t, Yuri deserving, if not expressly desiring, outright praise.

Yuuri: You were fantastic! Well done!

Yuuri: I can tell you worked hard on your spins and step seq!

He’s in the middle of typing a follow-up that highlights the improvement to Yuri’s step sequence when he receives a message from Viktor.

Viktor: See what I mean?

Viktor: Months of feedback from me and Yakov yet he skates like this for you

Yuuri starts to smile. His eyes linger on Viktor’s name. Something warm flutters light in his gut.

Yuuri: Not just me

Yuuri: He said he was going to prove both me AND you wrong

Yuuri: So you need to take your fair share of the motivational spite :)

Yuuri closes out of the stream, lowers the laptop screen, and returns to his bed, where he curls up and waits for a reply, still smiling, still warm and fluttering and light.

Viktor: I would, but you tipped the balance in your favor when you posted that picture

Viktor: Well played

Yuuri’s smile grows.

Yuuri: Did he turn a delightful shade of puce when he saw it?

Viktor: He did ))))))))))

Viktor: Vows of eternal vengeance were uttered

Viktor: Which is Yuri’s version of eternal friendship

Viktor: Congratulations ;)

Yuuri: Thank you

Neither now nor looking back will Yuuri be able to quite explain what takes him over to type what he types next. Maybe it’s the high of a skate well done, of praise not just from his family and friends, but from five-time consecutive champion and all around skating god Viktor Nikiforov. Or maybe it’s the emoji, the winky face, the flirty face, that Viktor sends him, the face that fuels the realization that, yes, that is exactly what they have been doing the past few minutes. Exactly what Yuuri has been doing. Flirting. With Viktor Nikiforov. Or maybe it’s the feeling of unreality that still permeates everything and has from the moment he received Mari’s call about Vicchan. Why should the usual fears and hesitations apply in wonderland? Whatever the reason, Yuuri bites down on his bottom lip and types.

Yuuri: And what about you?

Yuuri: Do you also want my eternal friendship?

Regret swoops upon him as soon as he hits send. Yuuri watches the little ellipsis appear. He worries his lip as the seconds tick by, as the ellipsis comes and goes and comes again, but Yuuri breaks before a message comes through, sending a third to Viktor.

Yuuri: You don’t have to answer now. I know you need to focus on skating today

There’s no waiting for a response this time.

Viktor: But what if I want you as a distraction?

Viktor: I am yours after all

The sound Yuuri makes is inhuman, a strangled gasp worthy of Minami. His bones melt, and he sinks down onto the bed, the last text from Viktor spinning around and around in his brain.

Mine, mine, he is mine. Viktor is mine, mine, my-

Distraction.

Yuuri frowns and sits up. He stares down at the message, and thought, traitorously, creeps back into him. A distraction. Nothing permanent, only something you focused on when you didn’t want to think of something else. He understands why he would want a distraction now, Sochi and Vicchan still looming large in his brain. But Viktor? He hadn’t failed recently. He hadn’t failed at all. He’d succeeded, like always.

The water cuts off in the shower. Through the wall, Yuuri hears Celestino humming a Scarlatti aria that Yuuri knows he skated to way back in the day. His focus, though, remains on the text, on the tone of it, the history behind it, and the implication. Viktor said that Yuuri had inspired him, both him and Yuri, the two who always won, the gold medalists of the Grand Prix. Yet both were using him, Yuuri, as inspiration, as motivation.

As a distraction.

One part of him whispers to accept it. He should be happy with just a taste of Viktor Nikiforov, but Yuuri had never wanted just a taste of anything.

He wanted it all.

He wanted to be first.

Hands shaking, Yuuri replies.

Yuuri: I don’t know if I can do that

Yuuri: You said it yourself- I’m too serious to be a distraction

He is. He’s too serious. He thinks too much and eats too much and cries too often. Nothing is ever simple or straightforward with him. His mind is an overgrown hedgerow, a tangled maze, convoluted and dark, and Yuuri is caught in the brambles, bruised and bloodied and raw. He could never be as cool as Viktor, as breezy and as effortless. Casual defied him and always had. Yuuri felt too much, he wanted too much, he committed too much, and he couldn’t- he couldn’t- settle for a taste, for a fling, for a casual distraction.

Heart in his throat, Yuuri waits.

Viktor: And what if I want you to take me seriously?

“YES!” Yuuri shoots up to his knees and he nearly fist pumps, but his hands are clutching his phone like a lifeline, like it and Viktor’s response will disappear if he let go.

The door to the bathroom opens then. Yuuri’s head shoots up as Celestino’s pops out in a billow of steam. “Yuuri, are you alright?”

The phone buzzes with another text.

Yuuri nods. “Yes. Yes. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. It’s all fine. How are you? Are you-”

“Fine?” Celestino asks, one brow lifting as he glances at Yuuri’s phone.

Yuuri feels himself start to blush, more when Celestino smiles.

“Then I will leave you to your fine,” he says, still smiling as he retreats back into the bathroom.

As soon as the door closes, Yuuri looks back down at his phone.

Viktor: Is that something you want?

Yes, Yes, Yes screams at Yuuri from all corners of his mind, but before he can reply, Viktor texts again.

Viktor: Yakov’s calling. I need to get to the rink for warm up

Yuuri freezes. Or his body does. His heart and mind, skipping ahead of him in a haze of ardor and euphoria, slam back into his body and jerk him, hard, back down to reality.

Yuuri: ok

He means to send more, to say something, anything, goodbye or good luck, but nothing comes. For once, Yuuri’s brain is utterly devoid of thought, left in the lurch by the abrupt shift and end to the conversation. And one part of him knows that Viktor does skate in a few hours, that he does need to get to the rink if he hasn’t already. But the other, louder part wonders whether he’s upset because Yuuri didn’t immediately respond, this silence too much on top of the two weeks of it after Sochi, whether he’s changed his mind and regrets texting Yuuri and talking with him and dancing with him and smiling at him and ever meeting him at all.

Yuuri swallows. His arm sinks down by his side. His phone buzzes with another text, but Yuuri doesn’t look at it. He can’t. He turns his phone off, sets it on his nightstand, then turns off his light, crawls beneath his blankets, pulls them over his head, and descends into swirling miasma of panic and dismay.

*

He unearths himself late into the night, or early in the morning, four a.m. one of those nebulous times of neither this nor that but both and neither. Celestino snores steadily in the other bed. He had not attempted to pry Yuuri from his cocoon of anxiety; he had merely wished him goodnight in a warm, knowing voice that had felt like a knife to Yuuri’s gut then, like a reminder of a world believed possible yet ultimately deemed illusory, a fantasy concocted by grief and insanity never to be.

Or so it had appeared then. As the hours wore on, the small portion of Yuuri’s brain that housed rationality grew and eventually overcame the tortured anxiety, long enough for Yuuri to chance a glance at his phone. If two weeks of silence hadn’t dimmed Viktor’s enthusiasm to talk to Yuuri, a few seconds would not, a rationalization which proved true when, at one a.m., Yuuri spied the last message Viktor had sent, a promise to call Yuuri once they both finished skating to continue their conversation.

He had lingered over the message then scrolled back through the others to read through it all again, first to last, from the initial introduction to the last promise of something, something serious to be taken seriously. Yuuri closes out of the conversation and looks at his background, the photo that Yuri had sent to him of him and Viktor dancing. He lingered here too, committing to memory what he had already memorized, the elegant point of Viktor’s toe, the way Yuuri cups his face, the flush on Yuuri’s face as he smiles down at Viktor. He’d tried scouring his brain for some memory of the banquet, but he recalled nothing beyond Celestino promising to return in a few minutes and then leaving him by the refreshments.

That hadn’t happened, Celestino returning in a few minutes, but everything else had, the drinking and the dance off, the stripper pole and the nudity, and Viktor. Yuuri dancing with Viktor. Smiling at him. Asking him-

Asking him to be his coach.

Yuuri had forgotten that until then, too swept up by Viktor reaching out to him, by their texts and conversation, by Yuri and his determination and Minami and his enthusiasm. Had this been why Viktor texted him- coaching? Was the excitement to text Yuuri and talk to him simply about that and not about…? Yuuri had shied away from naming the other possibility, instead reviewing it all again, the texts and their conversation. Some parts implied yes, coaching. Others no. Especially the photo of them dancing. It was hard to see coach and student there. Yuuri would never dance with Celestino in such a way, but maybe this had been before he’d asked Viktor to be his coach. Maybe taking Viktor seriously was taking him seriously as a coach and not as…

Yuuri had shoved his phone back onto the nightstand, turning again from the words as well as from the possibility overall. But his brain had charged forward anyway, ruminating, obsessing, until Yuuri had finally crawled out of bed and dressed at 4. He shuffles now to the hotel gym. A run’s not the same as taking the ice to clear his head, but it’s movement and all he has right now, so he runs. Yuuri runs and seeks the clarity he finds in sketching figures on the ice, the peace that he gleans from gliding crisp and cool around a hushed and empty rink.

By five, no clarity to be found, he gives in and, huddled in a corner of the empty gym, calls Phichit. It’s evening of the night before in Detroit, and Yuuri only has a moment to be boggled again by time zones and day demarcations when Phichit answers his FaceTime. Yuuri spies their living room in the background and hears the faint sound of Bollywood when he answers.

The bright smile on Phichit’s face softens when he sees Yuuri, sweaty and miserable and lips bitten raw. “Hey. You nervous?”

Yuuri nods.

“Have you talked to Ciao Ciao? He-”

“It’s not about skating.”

Yuuri watches as Phichit straightens on the couch. The Bollywood movie goes silent then Phichit returns his gaze to his phone, a faint frown now between his brows. “It is Other Yuri? Is he still being an asshole?”

“No. Well, he is, but not in a bad way. No. No, it’s…” The words stick in his throat. Yuuri takes a drink of his water and tries again. He needs to get it out so he can get out of the tortured tangle of his mind. “It’s Viktor. You were right. About something else happening at Sochi.”

Slowly, Yuuri tells Phichit about the banquet, about dancing with Viktor, about Viktor stealing his number from Yuri and contacting him, about their messaging and their phone conversation, up to their last exchange the evening before and its abrupt ending.

As he explains, Phichit’s normally buoyant face goes slack with shock. He says nothing for a few seconds after Yuuri finishes before finally managing a hushed, “Wow.”

“Yeah.”

“He said that. He literally said that to you. ‘I am yours.’”

Yuuri feels himself start to flush. “He texted it, but- He didn’t mean it that way.”

Life returns now to Phichit’s face, evil and wry. “And what way is that exactly?”

Yuuri sighs and closes his eyes. “Phichit…”

Phichit just laughs. Yuuri lowers the phone and seriously considers hanging up. And finding a new best friend, one that wouldn’t be entertained by his existential crisis.

“Yuuri! Yuuri, come on. It’s okay. It’s-”

“It’s not okay,” Yuuri says as he whips the phone back up. “I asked Viktor to be my coach.”

Phichit goes still again. The glee fades from his face. “What?”

“At the banquet. Apparently I asked him to be my coach.”

“Oh.” Phichit blinks at him once and then again. Yuuri takes another drink of his water and tries not to curl up and die. How, how, how had he gotten himself into this situation?

Oh, right. Champagne and desperation.

“Well,” Phichit says a half minute later, “what did he say?”

“I don’t know. All Yuri said is that I asked him, not how he responded.”

“And you haven’t asked Viktor about it yourself?”

Yuuri doesn’t say anything. Rather, he looks away.

The sigh he receives in response makes Yuuri cringe. So too does Phichit’s follow up. “Yuuri, what have we said about using your words?”

“There’s been a lot, okay? There just- There hasn’t been an opportunity,” he explains as he peeks back at the screen.

Phichit tilts his head to the side and lifts a brow.

“It’s not like he brought it up either,” Yuuri mutters, dropping his gaze to the floor.

“He did ask what you wanted. Maybe that’s his way of trying to bring it up. He knows you don’t remember it, right?”

Yuuri says nothing. He doesn’t need to because both he and Phichit know that Phichit’s right. He sighs instead and slumps back against the wall, waiting for Phichit to continue.

A few seconds of silence pass before he does. “Are you unhappy with Celestino?”

Yuuri’s gaze snaps back to the camera. “No. No, I’m…” He means to say not because he isn’t unhappy, not exactly. But not exactly is not not, a truth that renders him speechless upon its realization.

“Yuuri?”

Phichit’s soft inquiry snaps Yuuri from his silence. “I’m not unhappy,” he says now. “I just…”

“What?”

Yuuri opens his mouth; he closes it. Tears start to pool in his eyes. “I just- I want… I want to be better.”

“Better how?” Phichit asks. “As a skater, or…”

“I don’t know. That and just… better. More.”

They’re both quiet a moment, Phichit taking everything in and Yuuri trying to stem the swell of emotion within him. Phichit succeeds because he’s Phichit, together and more of an adult than Yuuri will ever be even though he’s just turned twenty.

“Well, you know what I’m going to say.”

Yuuri nods. He knows. “‘Use your words, Yuuri.’”

Phichit laughs, and it’s so warm that Yuuri feels himself relax a fraction. He summons a watery smile to send to Phichit before drawing in a deep breath and releasing it slow.

“It’s clear you and Viktor want something from each other,” Phichit continues. “But what that is, whether it’s coach and student or something else,” he adds with a wag of his brows, “you won’t know until you talk to him about it.”

Yuuri nods, too daunted by the prospect to speak.

“Personally,” Phichit says, his tone brightening, “in the choice between man and coach, I’d go with man. Good ones are hard to find, you know. Especially for you,” he adds with an entirely too gleeful gleam in his eyes.

Yuuri narrows his. “What does that mean?”

“Exactly what you and your extensive Viktor Nikiforov poster collection think it means.”

Yuuri starts to flush. “Phichit…”

Phichit, demon spawn that he is, simply laughs at Yuuri’s whine. “Seriously, no one collects that many posters of someone just because they admire his skating.”

Yuuri glares at the camera. “I hate you.”

Phichit beams, utterly shameless. “No, you don’t. You love me. But not as much as you love-”

“I’m hanging up now.”

“Okay, okay,” Phichit says between bouts of laughter. “I’ll stop now. I promise.”

He does, eventually, his laughter dwindling to a soft smile. Yuuri shakes his head and sighs, but his irritation is short-lived as it always is with Phichit, the best friend that Yuuri could ask for and certainly more than he deserved. The lump returns to his throat at the thought. “Thank you. For listening. And for everything else. F- For being my friend. I know I’m not-”

“I know you’re not going to complete that ridiculous sentence. Being friends with you is not a burden. Don’t make me break out Stuart Smalley.”

Yuuri huffs out a soft laugh. The day Leo realized neither Phichit nor Yuuri knew Saturday Night Live had been an interesting one indeed, the opening of Pandora’s box to older American pop culture that Phichit embraced with open arms.

“You know I’ll support you,” he says to Yuuri now. The soft tone to his voice nearly brings tears back to Yuuri’s eyes. “Whatever you decide. Coach or man. Or nothing. I got your back.”

“I know.” Yuuri pauses and pulls in a deep breath. When he speaks again, it’s with a hint of a smile on his face. “Though I don’t think you’ll support nothing when I tell you what Viktor said about your skating in our conversation.”

Phichit’s eyes widen. He sucks in a deep breath. Yuuri braces himself. Then it comes. The shriek of glee nearly strains the limits of his phone’s speakers, but Yuuri just laughs before he settles back to explain, in minute detail, as a thank you to his friend, the compliment Viktor Nikiforov paid to his skating.

*

Twenty minutes to his free skate, and Yuuri should be nervous. The last time he had skated it had been the disaster at Sochi. He still bears the last remnants of one of the bruises he acquired in his many falls. He should be nervous, expectations high for Yuuri to keep up the momentum from his short program the day before. Yuuri should be nervous, and he is, just not about skating.

About his coach.

He glances again at Celestino as he circles his arms in a stretch, as he has since they came down to the rink for final practice and warm up. Did he know? Did he know Yuuri asked Viktor to be his coach? He knew about the pole dancing, he must have been the one to collect Yuuri and take him back to his room. But did he know about Yuuri’s request? Did he hear it for himself, or had someone told him about it? Had he not mentioned it to Yuuri because he didn’t know, or because he didn’t want to discuss it? What-

“Yuuri.”

Yuuri jumps, torn from his panicked thoughts.

Celestino’s staring at him, his brows drawn together in a frown. “Something is bothering you, yes?”

“No. Nothing is bothering me.”

Celestino doesn’t say anything. He merely cocks a brow.

Yuuri lowers his arms from his stretch. The denial is poised on his lips, beside it the evasion, but as he looks at Celestino, at the man who had done so much for him the past five years, Yuuri finds that he can’t lie. “I- I asked Viktor Nikiforov to be my coach.”

Celestino blinks at him. “What?”

“At Sochi,” Yuuri continues, his face heating. He drops his gaze to the floor, focuses on the way the light shines off of the toe of his skate. “At the banquet. I- I asked him to- to be my coach. I’m sorry.”

Celestino says nothing. One second passes and then two and then Celestino bursts out laughing.

Yuuri whips his head back up. “Coach?”

“I- I am sorry,” Celestino says as he tries to compose himself. He nearly does, but starts laughing again when he looks at Yuuri’s face. “I- Oh, Yuuri. You never cease to surprise me.”

Yuuri gapes. He doesn’t know if he should be relieved or upset by such a reaction, so he settles for crossing his arms over his chest. “I wasn’t joking.”

Celestino finally composes himself. “I know you weren’t. Now or then. You are always serious when it comes to skating. And to Viktor Nikiforov, too. Yet you are rarely direct.”

Yuuri blushes at the mention of Viktor, but he frowns at the last.

“It is like what happened on the plane,” Celestino explains. “You said ‘I’m sorry’ but you meant ‘Thank you.’ You asked Nikiforov to be your coach, but is it because you truly want him to be your coach, or is it because it was easier to speak of what you want as coaching?”

It takes a few seconds for the latter half of the question to process. When it does, Yuuri ducks his head. The blush on his face intensifies.

Celestino lays a hand on his shoulder. His voice is soft when he continues. “Perhaps you truly want him to be your coach. Or perhaps you simply want a new coach, and he was the first one you thought to ask.”

Yuuri shakes his head. “I- I don’t… I’m sorry.” The last comes out as barely a whisper, his throat too swollen to venture anything more.

“No, no. Yuuri, please look at me.”

Yuuri tenses. He doesn’t want to. He wants to run away, to somehow turn back time five minutes and stop himself from voicing this topic and bringing about this conversation, but he swallows down the impulses and instead forces himself to look at his coach.

“I am not upset,” Celestino says when Yuuri meets his eyes. His voice is firm, but not hard, like the expression in his eyes, so direct in their warmth that Yuuri trembles, on the verge of tears. “Do not misunderstand,” Celestino continues. “I do not want to lose you as a student. You are truly gifted, and it has been a pleasure seeing you flourish these last years. But this past month has been hard for you, I know. It is natural to seek an escape- to desire something new- in times of distress. Whether you genuinely desire a new coach, or simply reacted to the stress, only time will tell.”

“But-”

“Yuuri, I know you dislike uncertainty. But it doesn’t all have to be decided now. It doesn’t all come down to one moment, now or at the Grand Prix. They are all simply moments, of many. Focus on this moment and what you want it to be, not on the past or the future. Not on me or Nikiforov either.” He pauses then and the twinkle returns to his eyes. “Unless you would like to focus on him in another way…”

The comment stokes the fire heating his face. He’s thankful at least that his back’s facing the rest of the competitors in the waiting area so they can’t see the blazing cherry his face has become.

Celestino gives his shoulder a friendly squeeze. “Besides, Nikiforov can’t be your coach until the end of the season at the earliest. He is still competing too. You have plenty of time to think about what you want. As does he.”

Yuuri nods. He releases a long breath, expelling the tension that had been twitching within him. Celestino squeezes his shoulder again before dropping his hand. As he does, Yuuri reaches into his jacket pocket for his phone, to cue his free skate music for one final run through. Yet he stills as his other hand curls around his headphones, a different desire seizing hold.

“Coach, I need to make a phone call.”

Celestino regards him a moment before his lips twitch in a hint of a smile. “Young love is sweet, no?”

Face heating, Yuuri looks away. “It isn’t- That’s not…”

“No?” Celestino asks when Yuuri fails to continue. “A pity. Love is a beautiful thing.”

Yuuri says nothing; his face says everything.

“Go,” Celestino says a few seconds later. “You have ten minutes.”

Yuuri nods. He turns and moves down the hall, remaining within sight and perhaps within earshot of Celestino. His coach, though, turns to give Yuuri a modicum of privacy. Drawing in a deep breath, Yuuri enters his passcode, clicks on messages, and finds his conversation with Viktor.

Yuuri: Are you awake

The reply comes half a minute later.

Viktor: Yes

Yuuri: Can I call you

Viktor: Yes

Yuuri nods, the only acknowledgement that he allows before he clicks on Viktor’s name to initiate the call. He pulls in a slow breath as the phone begins to ring and is letting it out just as slow when Viktor answers.

“Hello? Yuuri?”

“Hi.”

“Is everything alright? I thought you were supposed to skate now.”

“I’m up in ten minutes. I…” Yuuri pauses. His eyes dart around the waiting room, but no one is looking at him, likely because Minami is out on the ice right now. Still, he drops his gaze to the floor and tries his best to block out everything around him, to reduce the world to him and the phone and Viktor. “I know you said we’d talk later, after we both finished,” he resumes. “And I don’t mean to distract you, but- but I have an answer for you. To your question. About what I want. It’s not a permanent one,” Yuuri continues as he sets his free hand on the wall, as though for support. “I- I don’t know that yet. I thought I knew what I wanted, but things are changing. Maybe I am. I mean, I never thought I’d get so drunk that I’d pole dance at an ISU banquet, but I did.”

He laughs, more wry than embarrassed. He can’t change what happened and isn’t sure he would want to now, despite the mortification he felt first learning of his stripping adventures. Without them, would he be here now, speaking to Viktor about them, about this, whatever it was that was blossoming between them? The soft laugh that he hears from Viktor relaxes him further, enough for him to say, “And I never thought- I never thought I’d be talking to you like this. About this. You and me, I mean. But we are. So I don’t think I can go by what I wanted before. But I haven’t figured out what I want now either. I don’t know if I really want you to be my coach, or if I asked because- because I was sad about everything and really drunk. Or maybe that was just an excuse, you being my coach. Maybe what I really want is… Maybe it’s…”

“Me.”

Yuuri flushes hard at the word, at the tone, intimate and soft. Heat swirls and spins within him. Yuuri closes his eyes and pulls in a thin, shaky breath. “Yes.” The word shakes too, a dizzy, tremulous thing, like Yuuri himself, like the hope he feels dawning before him. “I- The last few weeks have been a lot. You and Yuri, and I don’t even know what you want, if you want to coach or if you want- if you want…”

“You.”

He goes weak-kneed at the word, has to lean hard against the wall, everything trembling within him. “Yes.”

Neither speak. Yuuri strives to steady himself, to regain control of his breathing. On the other end of the line, he hears Viktor exhale, and the sound recalls their prior conversation, when he had agreed to let Viktor distract him. The something like a sigh that he heard but did not then understand. Yuuri thinks he might now, though the idea defies possibility. Yet impossible things had been happening to him since he downed his first glass of champagne in Sochi, since Yuri had first messaged him and sent this snowball careening down the mountain, so why not this too, this sound of a worry relieved, of a delighting, exciting, burgeoning happiness?

“So I don’t know about tomorrow,” Yuuri says as he opens his eyes, “but for today, I’d like you to watch me skate. If you have the time.”

“I do. I was already intending to.”

Yuuri sighs, relieved, delighted, even excited, happiness burgeoning bright before him. “Good.”

“Will you do the same? Will you watch me?”

The questions come quietly, each word like blossoms drifting light from a sakura in spring, but Yuuri feels their impact, the significance of them and now, this moment. And it’s not as though he disagrees with Celestino, not completely. He knows he fixates on one time, jump, one skate as everything, but Yuuri can’t dismiss moments in entirety, this one too important, potentially world defining.

“I always do.”

They’re silent again and then Viktor laughs, loud and bright. “Yuuri. Yuuri, I-”

“Yuuri.”

Yuuri’s head snaps up. Celestino stands a few feet away. When they lock eyes, he tilts his head toward the rink. “It’s time.”

Yuuri gives him a quick nod. Ducking his head again, he says to Viktor, “I have to go. Can I call you tomorrow? On Skype? I want to-”

“See you. Yes. Yes. Please. Yes.”

*

Chapter Text

Sixty Impossible Things
(Or Yuuri in Wonderland)
Part Four

-

“How long is forever?” asked Alice.
“Sometimes, just one second.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The gold medal glints in the early afternoon sun. Yuuri stares at it as he sits at the lone table in the hotel room, the medal sprawled next to Celestino’s computer. He’d earned his personal best in his free skate despite his lack of sleep, his body and mind high on adrenaline and Viktor. He knows if he’d skated like this at the Grand Prix, he would have medalled. Bronze at least. For a moment the thought burns, but Yuuri tries to shake it away. He needed to look forward, not back. He had re-established himself, provided a foundation from which he could build toward Worlds.

Toward Viktor.

Yuuri glances at the computer, at Skype open and waiting for Viktor’s call. He had stayed up to watch Viktor’s free skate. The technical elements had been softer than in Sochi, but the presentation and performance, the artistry, had been outstanding, richer than Yuuri had ever seen. He shivers at the thought that it was because of him, that he had inspired Viktor to perform like that. He can’t deny it though, not with their last conversation, with the palpable joy in Viktor’s laugh, in his voice as he spoke to Yuuri. The idea still boggles though. Yuuri had artistry, but his personal best was nearly one hundred points below what Viktor earned at Sochi. How could that inspire? How could Yuuri? What had Viktor seen in him to inspire such a response? They’d had fun at the banquet, sure, the lone picture that Yuuri had of them together showed that, but Viktor had had fun before. The stories that he’d told Yuuri about his rink mates in Russia, about Chris and their antics, had been fun.

What made this different?

What made him different?

Nothing, his brain whispers, but the chime of an incoming Skype call nips the dark thoughts in the bud before they can flourish. Yuuri freezes as his eyes dart to the screen, then everything in him shifts into overdrive. His heart pounds; his breaths come fast. Yuuri wipes his palms on his warm up pants. The impulse to run strikes him hard and fast, but Yuuri squashes it down. If he ran, would he get this again, Viktor reaching for him, wanting him, just a click away?

Hand shaking, Yuuri connects the call.

His breath stops as the picture resolves. Morning sunlight shines on Viktor, turning his silver hair nearly white in the glow. He wears a dark sweater, black or a dark grey. Beyond him, Yuuri spies a bit of his home, a glimpse into the kitchen, a light fixture hanging from the ceiling, all of it as sleek and refined as the owner himself. Yuuri’s seen Viktor on a screen before, hundreds if not thousands of times, he’s seen videos of Viktor skating, of his interviews and commercials, of the Instagram clips he’s posted of himself and Makkachin, Yuuri’s even seen him in person at Sochi, yet this is headier than any of those times because now Viktor is looking at him too, now he’s taking Yuuri in as Yuuri is him. For the first time Yuuri wishes he’d worn something other than his warm up clothes, that he’d taken off his glasses or fixed his hair or something. He hadn’t thought about any of it, too nervous at the prospect of seeing Viktor to give any thought to Viktor seeing him. Yet he is. Viktor is looking at him, Viktor is seeing him, and Yuuri can’t breathe.

And then Viktor smiles.

And Yuuri’s seen Viktor smile before, dozens and dozens of times, from the top of the podium, in photos with fans, on posters, in advertisements, and the selfies that he posts to Instagram, but this one looks different. It feels different to Yuuri. Maybe because this one is for him, that it’s because of him. Or maybe it’s just different. Maybe Viktor is, the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in affecting him too, perhaps as much as Yuuri.

“Hi,” Viktor says, breaking Yuuri from his contemplation. The word’s as soft as his smile, and it coaxes an answering one from Yuuri.

“Hi.”

They say nothing else, falling back into silence as they stare at one another. Yuuri feels his face start to heat as the stare persists, as the reality of the moment tips from nebulous to real, actual and tangible. Heart beating fast, Yuuri shifts his gaze to the side. He tries to steady himself, he tries to breath in slow, but he can’t look away for long. Viktor had always been the sun around which Yuuri revolved so his gaze slides back after a few seconds. He finds Viktor still staring at him, grinning and gorgeous, and, overcome, Yuuri slaps his hand over the camera.

Covering the camera does nothing, of course, to block the speakers, so he hears Viktor’s laugh crystal clear, as vibrant as it was the day before. “Yuuri, the whole point of Skype is for us to see each other.”

Yuuri closes his eyes and exhales slow. “I know. I just… need a minute.”

“Hmmm.” The sound makes Yuuri shiver. He clutches at the top of the laptop, for the last shreds of his control. “You have ten seconds.”

The comment cuts through the giddy fog surrounding Yuuri. He opens his eyes to glance at the screen. There’s a teasing slant to Viktor’s grin now, one that Yuuri can’t resist. “Or what?”

“Or I’ll be lost. Bereft without your beautiful face. Not even Makkachin here will be able to save me.”

Viktor tilts the computer to the side to show Makkachin sprawled out on the couch beside him. His tail wags and he gives a soft boof as Viktor leans in close. Yuuri lowers his hand from the camera to watch. When he does, Viktor throws an arm around Makkachin and says, the teasing slant now a tempting curve, “You wouldn’t say no to the both of us, would you, Yuuri?”

No is on the cusp of his lips, but Yuuri can’t say the word, his eyes fixed on Makkachin. On the screen, he looks so much like Vicchan that all Yuuri can do is stare.

The silence persists. Frowning now, Viktor straightens, the top half of him disappearing from view. “Yuuri, are you alright?”

Yuuri means to nod, but his breath hitches in his throat and his lips begin to tremble. He thought he had cried all that he would cry, all that he deserved to cry for abandoning Vicchan for so many years, but hot tears prick his eyes.

“Yuuri?”

“Sorry. I’m sorry. I…” Yuuri shakes his head and closes his eyes, but as with Viktor, the impulse to look overtakes him. Opening his eyes, he searches for Makkachin, but he’s no longer in view, Viktor moving the laptop back to its original position. Now he stares at Yuuri, his mouth open and his eyes wide.

“What-”

“Sorry,” Yuuri says again. He drops his gaze, fists his hands in the fabric of his pants. “Sorry, I- I don’t…”

The stuttered apology peters out and silence overtakes them again, heavy and thick. Yuuri eyes the door to the room. He shouldn’t have done this. He shouldn’t have believed. Who is he? He’s a wreck, a messy ruin of a man. How can he ever hope to equal Viktor, to-

“Yuuri, do you… not like dogs?”

His eyes snap back to the screen. He gawks at Viktor, at the question he just asked. “What?”

There’s a pause in which neither move or speak, and then, to cement the strange path that Yuuri’s life has tumbled down the past week, Viktor Nikiforov, living legend and all around god of figure skating, king of effortless cool and celebrity athlete du jour, blushes, the red rising up his neck, to his cheeks, to the very tips of his ears.

“What?” Yuuri squawks again, as thrown now by the blush as by the question.

Viktor averts his gaze. He shrugs, the movement striving for nonchalant.

“I- What- That’s what you thought?” Yuuri sputters. “That I was crying because I didn’t like dogs?”

Viktor shrugs again. “Well, what else was I supposed to think?”

“I don’t know. Something. Anything. Not- Not-” Yuuri can’t help it. He starts to laugh, the idea so absurd, Viktor so absurd, all flushed and fumbling, as utterly ridiculous as Yuri declared him to be.

“It was a perfectly logical conclusion,” Viktor says after a beat, his voice so prim and disgruntled that Yuuri can’t help but laugh harder. This earns him a look that Yuuri imagines is intended to be a glare but ends up more as a pout, which sparks off another round of laughter. Yuuri covers his face with his hands and tries to regain control of himself, an effort made near impossible when Viktor honest-to-god whines. “Yuuri… Yuuri, you wound me.”

Yuuri peeks at Viktor from over the tops of his hands. “Are you lost and bereft again?”

“Yes.”

The decisiveness of the response is punctuated by Viktor crossing his arms over his chest, but the gesture is belied by the teasing gleam in Viktor’s eyes.

Smile still on his face, Yuuri lowers his hands. “Well, we can’t have that.”

“No, we can’t.”

They smile at each other, and the moment catches, settles, and grows. And Yuuri can’t take it, the way Viktor is looking at him. He slaps his hands over the screen, his head spinning and his chest tight.

Viktor laughs again. “Yuuri, are you covering me now?”

Yuuri ducks his head. He wishes he had a third hand to cover his now blushing face. He eyes the space beneath the table and contemplates slithering off his seat and hiding there, but the thought never takes root, another, stronger part of him, the part of him responsible for the thirteen Viktor posters covering the walls of his bedroom, fixing him in place.

“You know, I was positive the purpose of a Skype call was to look at the other person.”

“I know. But not like- not like that.”

There’s a pause, a brief respite from the campaign to make Yuuri spontaneously combust, and then Viktor speaks again. “Like what?”

And there’s the match, Viktor delivering his doom in a sly, soft tone that makes Yuuri whimper, that sets his trembling nerves alight. “Like how you sound like you’re looking now.”

“Oh, and how is that?”

Yuuri hears the challenge in the question, yet rather than retreat, Yuuri rises to it. He lowers his hands and looks. He looks at Viktor who looks back at him, and the moment verges on too much but it settles on not enough, one moment of this, of Viktor, insufficient. Yuuri craves them all, so he looks and he looks and he looks. And he burns still, but the conflagration comes from within now, directed toward Viktor rather than deriving from him.

The moment again catches, settles, and grows, but it’s Viktor who blinks first, his cheeks going pink once more and his eyes lowering. Yuuri watches as he draws in a shaky breath, and then he sees it finally, the something like a sigh. His heart clenches at the delicate sight, at this vision of Viktor, the man and not the living legend.

“Like that,” Viktor murmurs after a few seconds, his eyes flitting up to Yuuri again.

Breathless, Yuuri nods. He fists his hands, the itch to touch Viktor swooping down upon him. He wishes again he remembered the banquet, that he remembered what it was like to touch Viktor and hold him. Had that been their only dance? Had they talked beyond coaching? He needs to ask if there are more pictures. He needs to relax, his heart racing and breaths coming fast. Yuuri looks away. He pulls in a deep breath, licks his lips, and exhales slow. When he turns back, he finds Viktor staring at him, his eyes wide.

Frowning, Yuuri leans closer to the screen. “Are you okay?”

Viktor jerks. He blinks, blushes, and clears his throat, his gaze flits away and then returns, and he says, “I- Yes. I- I just- I wondered if it’s not disliking dogs, then what it was, I mean, what was it before?”

“Oh.” Yuuri swallows. He ducks his head and considers ducking the question, the truth too heavy for this light moment, but no plausible excuse comes fast enough so Yuuri looses a long sigh and settles for truth. “I, uh, I had a dog. Like Makkachin. He- He died. When I was at Sochi. So…”

“Oh. Oh, Yuuri. I’m so sorry.”

Yuuri shrugs off the soft sympathy. “I- It’s okay. I thought- I…” He shakes his head to stop the rambling. “I didn’t- I don’t-” Yuuri clenches his hands again to stave off the grief that threatens his composure. “Can we talk about something else? Please? I don’t…”

“Of course.” There’s a pause then Viktor speaks again. “Are you going home for the new year?”

Yuuri looks up at screen. “What?”

“You’re in Japan,” Viktor says, shrugging. “I imagine you don’t get to return there too often. I wondered if you’d be visiting your family’s hot springs.”

Yuuri gapes at him. “I told you about that?”

Viktor nods. His expression turns mischievous when he says, “You told me I should go.”

“Oh, I- Well, they are nice.”

“So are you going?”

Yuuri looks away again. The familiar prick of guilt prods at his gut. Nearly five years gone and not one visit back. He hadn’t even considered it this time, not even one day, though Viktor was right, he was closer to Hasetsu than he had been in years. At first, he’d wanted to bring home a gold medal, an international gold, to prove that it had all been worth it. The more time that had passed without the accomplishment, the more Yuuri retreated. His parents had called him on his birthday, as had Minako. He can’t remember the last time he had talked to Yuuko. He-

“Yuuri?”

“S- Sorry. I can’t. I, uh, have to get back to Detroit. My school delayed my finals a couple of weeks so I could compete. I need to take them before the new year.”

Viktor doesn’t say anything. Yuuri peeks at the screen and finds Viktor staring slack-jawed at him. “You’re in school?” he asks after another beat.

“Yeah. I’m in an exchange program with Wayne State. My finals are my last U.S. requirements. I just have another quarter class and then I should graduate after World’s.”

Viktor’s still gawking at Yuuri in something close to awe. “You’re competing internationally and you’re in college?”

Yuuri shrugs, his face heating again. “It’s not a big deal.”

“It is,” Viktor insists. Another second passes and then he starts to smile. “It’s amazing. What are you studying?”

His blush slides from embarrassed to pleased. “Hotel management. It’s not exciting, but I wanted to help my family. I minored in dance though.”

Viktor tilts his head to the side. The movement drapes his hair across one eye, tilts his expression from awed to amorous. “There’s nothing minor about your dancing, Yuuri.”

It takes a second for Yuuri to process the comment, to make the leap from his university dancing to where and how Viktor would have seen him dance. When he does, when visions of naked pole dancing and intimate caresses spin through his head, his blush barrells back to embarrassed and Yuuri closes his eyes.

As before, Viktor grants him just a moment’s reprieve from his ardent campaign. “Has anyone ever told you you’re absolutely enchanting when you blush?”

“Oh my god.” Yuuri drops his head into his hands. He also drops all pretense of remaining cool, calm, and collected. Rather, he begins composing his epitaph. Here lies Katsuki Yuuri, killed by Viktor Nikiforov and his gorgeous smile. He imagines said smile now as Viktor begins to laugh, and the urge to see it overcomes his need to hide from it, and much like a bug dazzled by a light and flying to his doom, Yuuri opens his eyes and lowers his hands.

When he does, the soft affection that he sees from Viktor renders him breathless, as does the fact that Viktor now ducks his head, that he blushes again, a light and lovely pink. Chest going tight, Yuuri revises his epitaph.

Here lies Katsuki Yuuri, killed by Viktor Nikiforov and his beautiful blush.

“You are, too,” he says, and the words spill from him without conscious thought. “Enchanting, I mean. When you blush. It’s- It’s beautiful. You’re beautiful. Like this. Laughing and- When you smile. You should do it more often. Like this. You should- You should do it always.”

Yuuri cringes at the stammered nonsense, but Viktor just stares, silent, still blushing but his lips parted and his eyes now wide. “I- I’m sorry,” Yuuri says after a beat. He averts his gaze from the screen, from Viktor and his silent stare. “I didn’t mean to-”

“You said the same thing when we danced.”

Eyes jerking back to the screen, Yuuri blinks at Viktor. “I did?”

Viktor nods.

“Oh. I…” Yuuri blinks again. He swallows and rubs his palms on his pants. “I don’t remember.”

The enormity of the loss hits him in this moment. He danced with Viktor, he touched him and was touched by him, yet he remembers none of it. He’ll never remember it, and he wants to, he so desperately wants to, because when will he have it again? At World’s? That was three months away. Three months and seven time zones and nearly eight thousand kilometers. How could this endure all of that? One Skype call, one phone call, a few text messages, and a dance, a dance that Yuuri doesn’t even remember. Perhaps if he were more, more confident, more successful, more interesting, the scales would be more balanced, and the time and distance wouldn’t overwhelm this, but he wasn’t. He was-

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri startles. He focuses again on the screen, on Viktor. “S-Sorry, I-”

Viktor shakes his head. “You don’t need to apologize. I merely wondered if you’d like for me to tell you what happened.”

“Oh. I- Yes.”

Yuuri might not remember the night itself, but he would remember this, the night as Viktor saw it, the words that he chose and their intonations, the way that he looked when he recounted it, the bright grin that forms when Yuuri’s assents, the way that Viktor rearranges himself on his couch, settling in for the story. He pulls in a breath and pushes his hair from his face, watching Yuuri all the while. Then, lowering his hand, he begins.

“It was a cold and lonely night in Sochi.” Viktor pauses and cocks a brow, and Yuuri has to place his hand over his mouth to keep himself from laughing. When he does, he sees a hint of a smile pass across Viktor’s face before he grows serious again and continues. “I had been charged with herding Yura around his first senior banquet. True to his obsession, he was as grouchy as a tomcat, and I was languishing, drifting as a leaf lost upon the Neva. Then,” Viktor says, leaning a bit towards the camera, “I saw you in the distance. You were with your coach, and your misery was as clear as a night winter sky. Yet fate did not allow us to speak. Not then. Cruelly, I was swept away, and you- you consoled yourself with a truly remarkable amount of champagne.”

Yuuri goes still. He hadn’t realized that Viktor had been aware of him then, that he’d seen Yuuri and understood how he’d been feeling. Of course, Yuuri hadn’t been aware of anything beyond his own misery. What else had he missed in being so lost in his head?

“Now,” Viktor resumes after returning to his original position, “the fates begin to align. Yura had sought sustenance for the ‘shitty, boring waste of time’ that he’d been forced to attend, leaving me alone amid the crowd. Yet I was not alone for long. Soon the crowd parted and you appeared. You no longer wore your glasses or your hideous, hideous tie. You stopped in front of me and squinted a few seconds. Then you leaned in close,” Viktor mimics the story, leaning in toward the camera again. Yuuri finds himself holding his breath as Viktor drags out the dramatic pause. What had he done? What had he said? Was this when he asked Viktor to be his coach? Yet Viktor said Yuri hadn’t been there, yet Yuri said he’d heard Yuuri ask, so no not then. So what, what, what had he said? Smile ghosting across his face once more, Viktor ends Yuuri’s misery. “You leaned in close and you said that you were ready for the picture now, you just needed to finish your drink.”

“Oh.” Yuuri deflates. He resists determining whether it was from relief or from disappointment.

“Ah, ah, ah,” Viktor says, holding up a hand. “You said you were ready for the picture, yet when you finished your drink, you walked away and disappeared back into the crowd, leaving me alone once again.”

At that, Yuuri averts his gaze. Twice in one day, he’d walked away from Viktor. And when he had messaged Yuuri, what had Yuuri done? Ignored him. Yuuri shut off his phone and shoved it in his bag, and when he did finally make contact with Viktor, it was to order him to stop thinking about Yuuri and talking about him, to stop making Yuri mad so Yuuri could have peace. Tears prick his eyes and his stomach churns and he takes a slow, careful breath to try to stay calm.

“Yet all was not lost,” Viktor continues. “Beauty awaited just around the corner because, when I saw you again, you had accomplished the impossible. You, Katsuki Yuuri, had made the banquet interesting.” There’s another pause. When Yuuri chances a glance at the screen, he finds Viktor looking off into the distance, a soft, wondering smile on his face. The recriminations darkening Yuuri’s mind cease, and he stares at Viktor, breathless. “You brought color and life to the room, and you did it in the most fantastic way possible.”

Viktor’s eyes shift back to the screen then, and they’re as gleeful now as they’d been wondering just a moment before. Viktor leans in close to the computer again and he crooks a hand for Yuuri to do the same. Suppressing his smile, Yuuri does. They stare at each other a beat, Viktor clearly relishing the drama of anticipation. He indulges a few seconds then says, his voice low and sly, “You started a dance battle with Yuri Plisetsky.

“Now,” he continues, holding up a hand again as he leans back from the camera, “I have no idea how you managed to accomplish such a wonderful feat. Yura refuses to tell me despite my many, many inquiries. However, the words don’t matter as much as the movement does, and yours-” Viktor pauses here to sigh, the sigh the same as the one he bestowed to Yuuri’s free program at Skate Canada. Leaning back from the camera, Yuuri waits for Viktor to complete his thought and tries to stave off a blush. “Yours was graceful and bold, like a meteor shooting across the sky.”

He fails, his face flushing hot at the hyperbolic simile. “I highly doubt that.”

“You may doubt, but I know. I was there. I remember. And I say you were as graceful and bold as a meteor. Ask Yura if you still doubt me.”

Yuuri snorts. “I don’t think Yuri would ever say I was as graceful as a meteor.”

“He would, in his own way.”

Yuuri lifts a brow. “Is that way anger and excessive cursing?”

“Yes! Now,” Viktor says, sinking back into storyteller mode, “defeated, Yura retreated, vowing vengeance of the highest order. Yet you continued to dance. Most skaters have some experience with dance, yet it was then I realized you must have been a dancer first because you didn’t dance to the music. You danced in it. You were a part of it, or it was a part of you, and it was- You were beautiful. I couldn’t help myself. I was the meteor now, pulled into your orbit. You had walked away twice, but I wanted-”

Viktor’s voice hitches on the last word, and the storyteller veneer cracks like a crab shell, revealing the tender heart beating at the core of the memory. Yuuri tries not to stare at Viktor, to devour every minute variation to his expression, but he can’t resist, feeling as though he was on the cusp of revelation, that the clarity to the riddle of what exactly Viktor had seen in him to induce this nigh.

“When I approached,” Viktor says a few seconds later, “you didn’t walk away. You didn’t stop dancing either. You swept me up in the dance like you’d been waiting for someone to come along to dance with you, like you had been reaching out and…” He does here, he reaches out, the movement small but enough for Yuuri to see, and it recalls for him the opening of Stammi Vicino. And then the dominos fall, one after the other, the gesture, the lyrics that Yuuri tracked down immediately after Viktor debuted the program at the Trophee de France, the cold and lonely start to their story, the champagne replacing wine, the fusing of two into one in a dance, and the fear that what had just been found had been lost and the burning desire underneath: stay close to me. And what had seemed before like the latest creation of an artistic genius clarifies into a deeply personal revelation, Stammi Vicino capturing Viktor’s loneliness and longing and laying them bare for all the world to see.

“Oh.”

Yuuri’s soft exhalation snaps Viktor from his reverie. His eyes dart to and then from Yuuri. He lowers his hand and then his head, playing off the actions as a pat to Makkachin, but Yuuri sees the bob of Viktor’s throat as he swallows and the flush now staining his cheeks. Words claw their way through his mind to his throat, intent on being spoken. It would have been you. I would have been waiting for you. It’s always been you. I’m sorry I walked away. I’m sorry I don’t remember. Stay close to me. Dance with me again. Please. Please. Please. But they clog and choke Yuuri, the sentiments too fervent, too intimate, too desperate to reveal.

“It was a flamenco,” Viktor says once the color has receded from his face. He peeks at Yuuri, but the look doesn’t last long, retreating back to Makkachin once more. “You led, and at the end, you dipped me back, and you said that I should always look like this, that I should always be smiling, but not like I usually did. Like this. Happy.”

“Oh.”

Viktor nods. “Yes. It was terribly romantic.”

“Oh,” Yuuri says again, and he can’t even blush, he can’t even think or speak, all he can do is gape at Viktor. He- He- Yuuri had been romantic. Terribly romantic, dancing the flamenco with Viktor and caressing his face and wooing him with beautiful words. “Oh. Oh, oh-” Yuuri snaps his mouth shut and swallows hard. He breathes in and tries to push his brain into some sort of functionality. “Did we, ah, did we dance again?”

Viktor shakes his head. Then he stops and says, “Well, you did,” and the way he glances at Yuuri, the slant to his smile and the sparkle now brightening his eyes, clues Yuuri in to how exactly his pole dancing fit into the evening’s shenanigans. “Another challenger had been inspired by your competition with Yura and laid down one of his own. No one was surprised by such a challenge from him. All one needs to do is peruse Chris’s Instagram and they can see his prowess with a stripper pole. No, the fact that he challenged you, Katsuki Yuuri, and that you accepted, that was where the surprises began.”

Yuuri freezes at the last. “Began?”

Viktor nods. “You added one last twist before the competition commenced.”

“I did?”

“Yes. You said that, if you won, I should come to Hasetsu with you after the season ended and be your coach.”

“Oh.” Yuuri lowers his gaze. Celestino’s response the day before makes more sense given this, how exactly he had asked Viktor to be his coach, how it had followed their dance, the romance of his words and the way they had moved. Drunk Yuuri must have balked at the last moment, faced with a Viktor who looked at him the way Viktor was in the photo Yuri had sent to him, and asked Viktor to be his coach rather than to be his.

“I’d never thought about coaching before you asked me.” Yuuri looks back at the screen. Viktor shrugs when he does, and his face twists into a rueful smile. “I’d never thought about life at all after skating.”

Yuuri shrugs too. “I don’t think any skater wants to think of that.”

“True, but…”

Yuuri waits, but Viktor doesn’t continue. “Viktor?”

Viktor shakes his head. He doesn’t quite look at Yuuri. “It doesn’t matter.”

“No, no, it does. I mean, you do. I mean-” Yuuri pauses and draws in a breath, his face heating as Viktor looks back at him, his eyes wide. “I- I just meant, I’m willing to listen. If you want to talk, that is. You don’t have to. I-”

Yuuri doesn’t finish, his brain finally catching up to his runaway mouth and realizing what he’s now saying.

On the screen, Viktor frowns. “What is it?”

Yuuri starts to shake his head, stops, then starts to laugh. How could he not, the irony of this, of his entire life now, too much to bear?

“Yuuri?”

“It’s nothing. Really. I just- Me. Telling someone else to talk when they don’t want to.” Yuuri stops and shakes his head again. “I never want to talk. Ever. Phichit’s always trying to get me to ‘use my words,’ but- but I don’t. I- I walk away or I turn off my phone or I- I…” The words tangle within him as before, but this time Yuuri swallows and tries to push past the reticence. If Viktor had laid himself bare, both in his skating and now, and if Yuuri was asking him to reveal more, how could Yuuri not do the same? “I- I ask someone to be my coach,” he says, his gaze bouncing from Viktor to Makkachin to the pale watercolor on the wall before him, “because I- I can’t think of any other way to say I want to be close to them. Not that I don’t think you could be a coach,” he adds as he ducks his head, “because you could. You could do anything you wanted. You could be anything you wanted. I just- I meant…”

He trails off, wincing as he reviews the deluge of words that just coursed from his mouth, then a soft hitch of breath brings his attention back up to the screen. He finds Viktor hunched over, his head in his hands, his shoulders shaking as he-

Cries.

Oh god.

He made Viktor cry.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I-”

Viktor looks up and shakes his head. “I’m not upset. I’m happy.” His lips stay parted as though to say more, but then Viktor laughs and it’s the same bright and beautiful sound that Yuuri heard the day before, right before he had to hang up to perform his free skate. He watches, entranced, as Viktor makes the something like a sigh, as he stares at Yuuri with affection clear in his eyes.

“Oh.”

Viktor huffs out another laugh. “Yes, that had been my reaction too. Then. Now. You surprised me, Yuuri. I feel…”

“Like you’ve fallen into another universe?”

Viktor shakes his head. “Like I’ve finally seen this one. Like one exists beyond the edge of an ice rink. It’s…”

“Terrifying?”

“Exhilarating.” He pauses and some of his euphoria dims as he eyes Yuuri. “Are you terrified?”

Constantly. Intensely. Terror greeted him each morning when he opened his eyes. It accompanied him to the rink each day, to his classes where it fluttered in the periphery. Every day he fought it. No, he wasn’t a burden to his parents. Yes, Celestino wanted him as a student. No, Phichit didn’t secretly hate him. Yes, it’s been worth it, all the time and effort and blood, sweat, and tears. And now…

“Yes. But not of you. You’re- I don’t-” Yuuri flounders, his heart beating fast.

“It’s okay,” Viktor says when the silence continues. “You don’t have to-”

“I do. I do. You did, so I do. I just- I- None of this seemed real at first. I mean, I’m studying for finals and hoping not to crash and burn at Nationals like I did at Sochi, and then Yuri Plisetsky’s texting me and then you are, and then we’re talking, and I- It seemed- It seemed like something from a dream. And the fact that it isn’t,” Yuuri continues, leaning closer to the laptop, his eyes fixed on Viktor, “the fact that this is real, that you and me- that we… It’s-”

“Terrifying.”

Yuuri nods.

There’s a pause in which Viktor regards him, carefully, and just as carefully, he asks, “Do you not want to?”

“No! I mean, yes. I mean, I want to, I do, I just- I just-”

“Need a minute?”

The tension pops at the gentle tease. Laughter follows, first from Yuuri and then from Viktor. He does. Yuuri needs a minute. He needs sixty of them to be able to process all that’s happened and all that will and all that might between him and Viktor. But for now, Yuuri sets aside processing, he sets aside thinking and worrying and he tries just to be, to focus on this moment, on the way Viktor laughs and the effervescent bubbles of joy that float up inside him.

*

Chapter Text

Sixty Impossible Things
(or Yuuri in Wonderland)
Part Five

-

“I could tell you my adventures--beginning from this morning,” said Alice a little timidly, “but it's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Yuuri half expects Detroit to suddenly be different when he returns from Nationals, the eerie end to the extraordinary adventure he’s been on the past week, but the city’s the same, as is his apartment with Phichit and the rink where they train with Celestino. Yet while everything looks the same, it feels different to Yuuri. Or Yuuri feels different toward it, toward everything, himself and skating and his future. A week ago he’d been contemplating retirement, envisioning a future as a sad, lonely spinster forever alone in Hasetsu. Now he’s planning for the Four Continents and World’s, and visiting Viktor, hopefully before those, but definitely after. Maybe in Hasetsu. Yuuri had vowed not to return until he won gold at an international competition. That was still possible if he skated well at the Four Continents, but even if he didn’t, even if he won silver or bronze or if he didn’t place at all, he thinks returning to Hasetsu with Viktor, his boyfriend, would be just as good.

Yuuri flops back onto his bed at the thought. Viktor liked him. Viktor liked him. Romantically. He was Yuuri’s boyfriend now. And Yuuri was his. Yuuri hadn’t thought to label it, them, their feelings declared but dating made difficult, if not impossible, given the distance between them. Viktor had not only thought to label it, he had gone ahead and done so, first at the end of their initial Skype call and then every day since, relishing the word and the blush that it pulled from Yuuri each time that he said it.

At the thought, Yuuri glances up at his closest Viktor posters. They were two of his favorites, both from the season Viktor cut his hair short. His theme that year had been ‘Love and War.’ He had never worn anything quite like the costume for his free skate, the black outfit like a military uniform, matching the intensity of the music: four minutes of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture. If before, he had seemed otherworldly, something ethereal and beautiful, then he had seemed like a god, stark and powerful, something more than human. Yuuri had imagined conversation after conversation with such a figure, gushing tributes, deep, philosophical discussions about skating and life. He shakes his head at the fantasies, the reality as far from those imaginings as possible, Viktor as far from those imaginings as possible. Yet Yuuri infinitely prefers the reality, the real talks with the real man, Viktor funny and sincere and goofy and heartfelt and so, so lovely that sometimes Yuuri forgets how to breathe.

Ringing breaks Yuuri from his contemplations. Sitting up, he leans over and grabs his phone from his desk. A FaceTime request from Other Yuri flashes at him from the screen. He takes a second to indulge in his smile, knowing exactly why Yuri has called, before smoothing out his face, settling back on his bed, legs crossed before him, and connecting the call.

He nearly starts laughing when the image of Yuri’s face clarifies on the screen. Yuri’s breathing fast, and his nostrils are flared as he scowls at the camera. Trying his best to summon an innocent smile, Yuuri says, “Yuri! Hi! How are you?”

Yuri narrows his eyes. “You know exactly how I am, asshole. Was this your idea or Viktor’s?”

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri says as he tilts his head to the side, his smile still in place. “You’ll have to be more specific.”

Yuri says nothing. He exhales, slowly, loudly, the sound the same as the first time he tried to talk to Yuuri on the phone, the sound a prayer for patience, for the will to resist murder, or at least the will to resist hurling his phone against the wall as the action would not, unfortunately, hurl Yuuri against the wall. “I am talking,” he says just as slowly as his exhale, each word nearly a sentence in and of itself, “about this.” Yuri punctuates the statement by whipping his phone around to see the end of his bed where, held flat by the cute cat toys Yuuri shipped to Yuri to thank him for his grudging assistance the past week, is the other item that Yuuri included in the shipment.

“Ah,” Yuuri says, his smile turning gleeful. “The poster.”

Yuri whips his phone back around to scowl again at Yuuri. “Yes. The poster.”

The poster of Yuuri skating at the last Four Continents, where he won silver.

The signed poster of Yuuri skating at the last Four Continents, where he won silver.

The signed poster of Yuuri skating at the last Four Continents, where he won silver, thanking Yuri for his kind and kindly given advice at Sochi, but after careful deliberation, Yuuri has decided not to follow it and will, instead, continue skating next season.

Thanks ever so, the #1 Yu(u)ri, Yuuri Katsuki.

Spotting Yuuri’s gleeful smile, Yuri shakes his head and sighs. “I hate you. And him. Both of you. I should have let you both suffer alone forever.”

Yuuri tries, but fails, to tamp down on his smile. “You can send it back, you know. I can always give it to Minami. Or to Viktor. He was jealous when I told him I was sending you a signed one.”

“Fuck that,” Yuri snaps. “It’s mine. Not that I like it or anything,” he adds, glancing away. “I mean, you signed it in Japanese.”

“I did. Would you like me to tell you what it says?”

Yuri looks back at the camera to glare. “I know what it says. Google Translate, asshole.”

“Oh, right,” Yuuri says laughing. “Hopefully you’re not too disappointed.”

Yuri looks away again and shrugs. “It’s fine. Whatever. I’ll crush you in competition just like I will everyone else next season.”

Yuuri nods. Of this, he has no doubt. Not if Yuri keeps working hard like he has the past week at his skating. He doesn’t say it though, the thought too sincere for FaceTime and best expressed as a text to prickly pear Yuri Plisetsky. The conversation drifts into silence, Yuri still looking away and Yuuri scrambling for something to say. He’d always relied on someone else to fill his silent and awkward gaps in conversation, whether Yuuko when they were young or Phichit or Viktor recently. But Yuri seems even more awkward and unsure about conversing than Yuuri, just surly where Yuuri is anxious, so the conversation languishes, the silence thick as the seconds tick by. How did people talk? What did they say? How-

“So are you really going to let the asshole coach you?”

Yuuri blinks at the abrupt question. Yuri’s still not looking at him. There’s a faint line between his brows now, and his cheek is puckered, like Yuri’s biting down on the inside of it. Yuuri blinks at that too, a couple of times, before he remembers the question. “Oh. I- I don’t know. I don’t think so. I mean, I think we’re, uh, we’re going to, you know, to be- be…” Boyfriends sits on the tip of his tongue, as does together and in a relationship, but his brain makes good on his past claim of never speaking about Viktor to Yuri and refuses to spit any of the phrases out, so Yuuri sputters and struggles until Yuri finally looks back at him, his brows raised and a look of pitying distaste on his face. Flushing, Yuuri shrugs and switches gears. “Why do you ask?”

Yuri averts his gaze again. “He promised me he’d choreograph a routine for my senior debut.” He pauses then and shrugs. A few seconds pass before he continues, and his voice is softer when he does. “He’s probably forgotten about it. He usually does.”

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

Yuuri stares, his eyes wide. He no longer sees the foul-mouthed hellion that had hounded him the past week, but a fifteen year old kid on the verge of tears. His mouth opens and closes, then opens and closes again as he searches for something to say, but he finds nothing. Before he can force out a random remark about the weather in St. Petersburg, Yuri shrugs a second time and twists his lips into something vaguely resembling a sneer.

“Whatever. It doesn’t matter. I’ll do it on my own. It’s fine.”

The comment pulls a frown from Yuuri. “What about your coach? He’ll choreograph something for you, right?”

Yuri rolls his eyes. “Yeah, some lyrical bullshit to the same fucking Chopin piece that everybody has skated to since the beginning of fucking time. At least Viktor’s unique, even if he is a pain in the ass. That’s all I want. Just to be…” He trails off, his head shaking and his mouth going flat. “But no, when I ask fucking Yakov if I can choreograph my routines next season, he says no.”

“Oh.”

“It’s bullshit,” Yuri continues, speaking less to Yuuri and more to himself. “Viktor wasn’t that much older than me when he made ‘Lilac Fairy.’ But I get told no.”

Yuuri pulls in a deep breath and foolishly wades into the fire. “Well, maybe Yakov wants you to get some experience in Senior’s first. I mean, ‘Lilac Fairy’ was Viktor’s second year, right?”

Yuri dismisses the attempt at pacification with a click of his tongue.

“Okay, well what about your exhibition? Do you think he’d let you do that? It’s not-” Important he’s about to say, but Yuuri bites back the descriptor, not wanting to offend Yuri. “There’s not as much pressure for that one. That’s what I do. Choreograph my exhibitions, I mean. You could-”

“No! No, I can’t. He said I wasn’t ready, that if I couldn’t even get a fucking five in performance or interpretation, there was no way I could choreograph a whole routine. I just-” Yuri stops, his jaw clenched so tight that Yuuri’s afraid he’ll crack a tooth or six. Or that he’ll really, truly start to cry, the clenched jaw and furrowed brow not enough to hide his trembling.

The sight is enough to incite a small panic within Yuuri and push the next bit of insanity from his mouth.

“I, uh, do well with performance. And interpretation. I could, um, help you. With it. If you, you know, wanted.”

Yuri zeroes in on the screen and on Yuuri with an intensity that inflames the small panic within Yuuri to absolute and all-encompassing inferno. “What?”

“F- For your exhibition,” Yuuri stammers. “I could- I could help you with it. Choreograph it, I mean. If you wanted.”

Yuri’s stare doesn’t waver. “Are you serious?”

Face heating, Yuuri looks away. “I- I just thought- You helped me. This past week. And I don’t- I don’t mean just with Viktor. I don’t know,” he continues, shaking his head. “Maybe I shouldn’t-”

“No!”

Yuuri’s head snaps back toward the camera.

Yuri’s leaning forward now, nearly hunched over his phone. “You said you would. You can’t take it back now.”

“I- I wasn’t. I won’t.”

The denial earns him a suspicious examination for another few seconds before Yuri leans back and nods. Yuuri releases a long breath, feeling like he just skirted the edge of a deadly precipice, but the breath stills in his chest when he spots an absolutely evil smile unfurl across Yuri’s face.

“Wait. Why are you smiling?”

“I can’t wait to see Kenjirou’s face when he learns you made a routine for me.”

Yuuri gawks, slack-jawed and wide-eyed, a few moments before he jerks back into motion, his head shaking and free hand waving at Yuri. “Yuri. Yuri, no.”

The nefariousness of his grin does not diminish one degree. “Yes. Thinking he could one up me. This is so much better than a stupid picture.”

“I- He wasn’t- He wanted to help you.”

Yuri says nothing. He just gives Yuuri a flat look.

“He did,” Yuuri insists. “He was trying to wish you luck.”

“Then he should be happy that I’m going to have a routine from you and he won’t.”

Yuuri blinks at him a few times, gobsmacked still. Celestino had told him about the rivalry, how it seemed to come from Yuri rather than Minami, but how? How? How could Yuri hate Minami? How? “How?” he asks, finally lowering his hand. “No. Why? Why do you hate him so much? I don’t- I don’t understand.”

“Oh please,” Yuri says, rolling his eyes. “Like you’d actually spend five minutes with him unless you had no other choice.”

Yuuri opens his mouth to deny the claim, but nothing comes out, halted by the memory of his absolutely overwhelming first encounter with Minami. And his second encounter on the podium at Nationals, Minami seemingly happier at standing next to Yuuri than with his own silver medal, and their third encounter during their exhibitions when Yuuri, still guilt-stricken at using Minami to rile up Yuri, offered to take another photo with Minami, just for him, and to follow him on his social media accounts.

Yuuri’s still haunted by the phantom echo of Minami’s piercing shriek of joy.

“Ha!” Yuri shouts into the silence. “I knew it. You hate him too.”

“I don’t hate him. I just- He’s really… energetic.”

“He’s annoying as fuck. And don’t even think about choreographing something for him out of some stupid sense of guilt or Japanese pride or something. Okay?”

Yuuri closes his eyes and sighs. What had he just gotten himself into? All he’d wanted to do was be nice for once, to stop Yuri from crying. Now he was going to help him choreograph his senior exhibition routine and lord it over Minami’s likely hysterical head.

Phichit was going to die laughing when Yuuri told him about this.

“Katsuki.”

Yuuri opens his eyes. “I won’t, okay? Just leave me out of it, please, whatever else you do in this weird rivalry.”

“Fine. Coward,” Yuri adds after a beat, prompting another sigh from Yuuri. Thankfully he drops all mention of Minami and rivalries when he speaks again. “So what do we do now?”

Yuuri tilts his head to the side. “What?”

“Collaborating or whatever. What do we do?”

Yuuri blinks a moment as he thinks. “I- I don’t know. I’ve never done it before.”

“Yeah, but you have-” Yuri stops suddenly, his mouth snapping shut and his face going red as he looks away.

Yuuri stares, utterly baffled by the partial statement and the reaction afterwards. He had what? Experience? Not with collaborating. Yuuri had made his exhibition skates, sure, but Celestino always made his competition routines. He picked Yuuri’s music and had chosen the look of all his skating costumes the past five years. Yuuri skated what he was given, too timid and uncertain of the opportunities Celestino had given him to do more.

But he could do that with Celestino, a grown man with dozens of years of experience. With Yuri, Yuuri was the adult, even if in number only. He draws in a deep breath and tries to swallow down his doubts. “Well… Well, I guess,” he begins, “I guess you could send me some music you like. Maybe things you want to skate to. Or just stuff you like. And then I guess we could… talk about it. About what kind of exhibition you want. The story you want to tell. How does- How does that sound?”

Yuri doesn’t look up, but he nods. Ask Yuuri just one week ago and the last thing he’d expect to see was Yuri Plisetsky rendered red and silent, especially in a conversation with him. Of course, the other last thing that Yuuri would have expected a week ago was for him to do his damndest not to make Yuri Plisetsky cry, yet here he is, cementing his madness by offering to choreograph a routine for a soon to be competitor. But Yuuri’s helped Phichit the past few years, he’s been the sounding board for Phichit’s ideas, he’s helped him with spins and step sequences, even with the quad toe last season. He and Phichit were competitors but they were also friends. Perhaps he and Yuri could be too. Such a notion would have seemed impossible just a short while ago, Yuri surly with everyone and Yuuri skittish, Yuri apathetic about skating and Yuuri insecure, yet they’ve pushed each other past these, to be better, to be more. Maybe they could still, if Yuuri could grow some balls, as Yuri would say, and use his words, as Phichit would say, and view, like Viktor, the unknown not as a source of terror, but of excitement, as a world expanding and enriching, where the impossible became possible, became actual, tangible and palpable and real.

“You know,” Yuuri says, clearing his throat, “you could text me about other things too. Or call. If you wanted. Or not even about anything. About Potya, maybe. Or just, you know, to talk…”

Yuri doesn’t say anything. Chancing a glance at the phone, Yuuri finds Yuri squinting at him like he’s just spoken in Japanese rather than English. “What,” he says after a beat, “like friends?”

“If- If you want.” Yuuri clenches his jaw against the reversals, the apologies and dismissals, that nudge and push and insist and demand to be spoken. He leaves the offer as it is, his mouth dry and his hand clenched around his phone.

A few seconds pass in which Yuri stares and then, abruptly, he ducks his head. His hair slips over part of his face as he does, but Yuuri can see his neck and the tips of his ears, and both burn red once more. He shrugs then, a stilted, careless thing, as he says, “Yeah, okay. That’s fine. That’s-” Yuri pauses and tilts his head enough to peek at Yuuri. “I guess you’re not completely awful.”

Yuuri huffs out a soft laugh. “Thanks.”

Yuri rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling too, a faint one but there. “Whatever. I have to go now, but I’ll send you some songs, okay?”

“Okay. I’m looking forward to it.”

Yuri nods. He doesn’t hang up though. Rather, he glances at Yuuri, hesitates a moment, before muttering, “Happy new year, Katsuki.”

The smile that breaks across Yuuri’s face is bright, Viktor bright, big and light and happy and warm. Tomorrow was a new year and, inexplicably, improbably, but not impossibly, a happy one, one of possibility, of new paths for Yuuri to find and pursue, and if the old terrors appear again, the doubts and insecurities, at least Yuuri knows that he won’t have to face them alone.

“Happy new year, Yuri!”

*

Chapter Text

Sixty Impossible Things
Part Six

-

Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can’t help falling in love with you
- "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" by Hearts & Colors

-

Viktor: love is dead

In the dark of his bedroom, burrowed deep in his blankets, Yuuri squints at the text. Strangely, the content of the text is the last thing to concern him. Dramatic declarations have become the norm in his conversations with Viktor, whether it’s Viktor proclaiming that he has to burn his entire wardrobe because he found a spider in his closet or announcing that he has searched the whole world over and has yet to find a man as beautiful as Katsuki Yuuri.

No, a dramatic text declaring the death of love does not worry Yuuri at first.

It’s the lack of capitals that has him lurching upright and fumbling for his light.

He has to glance at the name a few times to confirm that the text is not, in fact, from Yuri, who has yet to meet a grammar rule that he didn’t gleefully break. Maybe he’d stolen Viktor’s phone somehow, the two probably at the rink now for the start of practice. But if he had, why would he send this? Yuuri knows that Yuri hates when Viktor gushes to him about Yuuri, but Yuri doesn’t hate the relationship overall. He wouldn’t have worked so hard last month to get Yuuri to contact Viktor if he didn’t want them together. Or if not want, then at least tolerate them being together. So no, the text is from Viktor, which means that something had rattled him enough to destroy his usual level of grammatical poise.

The time of the text worries Yuuri next, Viktor rarely sending one to him when he’s sleeping, waiting instead for Yuuri to wake up for an immediate reply. The few messages that Viktor had sent to him overnight had been wishes for a good morning or, once, a week ago, a picture of Makkachin flopped belly up and pretzel shaped on the couch as he slept. It had been too precious not to send right then and there. At that thought, Yuuri blinks once and then again. His body goes cold and his hands shake as he replies to Viktor, Makkachin the one thing that Yuuri knows with absolute certainty would devastate Viktor.

Yuuri: Are you ok? Did something happen to Makka?

As he waits for a reply, he kicks off the rest of his blankets and sits hunched over his phone. The answer thankfully comes quickly.

Viktor: no

Yuuri’s barely released his sigh of relief when Viktor texts again.

Viktor: cani call you

Yuuri: Of course

The call comes as a FaceTime request. Yuuri answers it and sees immediately that Viktor is at home, not at the rink, and that he’s in bed, curled up on his side. The morning sun shines behind him through a vast expanse of windows, casting his face into shadow, but Yuuri still spies a few tear tracks trailing from his eyes. The sight has him clenching his phone, it has his heart racing and lungs straining for breath.

“What happened?” he asks. “Are you hurt? Is Yuri-”

Viktor shakes his head. “I’m fine. Yuri is too. No. It’s…” He stops then and everything teeters on the edge of collapse. Viktor draws his bottom lip between his teeth and worries it a few seconds before blurting out, as though the words defy his attempt to restrain them, perhaps even to deny them, “Yakov and Lilia are getting divorced.”

Yuuri blinks at the news. He hadn’t known that Yakov had been married in the first place, much less to a former prima ballerina and all around goddess of Russian figure skating choreography.

Viktor continues in his silence. “Yakov… He’s been my coach since I was twelve. I- I lived with them. For years. Georgi had his family, but I-”

Viktor stops again and turns his face into his pillow, but Yuuri sees his chest hitch with the sob. He’s never been a hugger, not even with his family, but he wishes he were there with Viktor to do so now, to try in some small way to comfort him and let him know that he isn’t alone. But Yuuri is not there, so he clutches at his phone and says, uselessly, “I’m sorry.”

He wishes there were more that he could say, but he doesn’t know what. Divorce, abandonment, death, Viktor has suffered each but Yuuri none. His parents are alive and well in Hasetsu, they both love him and support him, and all he has to do is call to confirm it. Viktor’s mother died when he was eighteen years old, and, in the one interview that Viktor had spoken about him, his father had left when he was a baby. For nearly ten years, Yakov had been all that Viktor had had, Christophe in another country, and both he and Georgi cast in Viktor’s competitive shadow.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri says again, for Yakov and Lilia, for ten years an orphan, for a life shaped as much by immense success as by unbearable loneliness.

Viktor draws in a shaky breath. He exhales it slow, licks his lips, and swallows before lifting his free hand to wipe beneath his eyes. Each gesture and tick of the clock bestows upon him another bit of composure. Viktor even sits, his back against a steel blue headboard that looks soft to the touch. Yet, if anything, he looks more miserable than before, and this, this utter blankness of his normally expressive face, unsettles Yuuri the most.

“What is it?”

“I can’t come visit. Yakov asked me to postpone the trip. He says he needs at least a week to find a new place to live, and he doesn’t want his absence to disrupt the progress Yura’s made the past month. So he asked me to stay, to- to-”

“Be Yuri’s coach?”

Viktor nods. He was supposed to fly to Detroit tomorrow for a short visit, a whirlwind week that Yakov had protested and even Yuuri questioned, the European Championships just a few weeks away. Yet Viktor had insisted and cajoled and enticed and assured, the three months until World’s entirely too long, in his opinion, to endure apart. Besides, he’d said, he owed Yuuri a terribly romantic gesture, and what was better than flying halfway across the world for a first and second and third and fourth and fifth date with your beautifully handsome boyfriend?

“I’m sorry,” Viktor says now. His composure cracks and he looks away from the camera, his lips pressed flat as he strives to regain control.

“It’s okay. I understand. I-”

“I know you do. I know. I…” Viktor shakes his head. He lowers it a second, lifts his hand, and covers his eyes. Yuuri braces for the next wrench of a sob, but Viktor abruptly straightens, tears in his eyes but a tight smile on his face. “I suppose I am selfish. And greedy,” he says a second later. “We talk everyday, but I want- I want to see you…”

His voice cracks at the last and he closes his eyes. Heart clenching, Yuuri clutches at his phone. “You will,” he says. “We will. We will. We’ll see each other. We… We could…” Yuuri scrambles for something, something other than waiting until World’s. But Euro’s were two weeks away and the Four Continents just a month after that. They were in Taiwan this year. Maybe Yuuri could stop by St. Petersburg when it was done. He could stay for a week before returning to Detroit to practice for World’s. It wouldn’t cost too much more to fly there first. The hotel room would. He’d need to add another ice show to the summer to cover the-

“I could come to Taipei.”

Yuuri blinks, torn from his frantic planning. “What?”

Viktor doesn’t quite look at the camera. “The Four Continents. I could come there and cheer you on. I promise not to distract you.” He pauses and a smile wobbles into place. “Or at least not too terribly.”

Yuuri stares at Viktor, his mouth open and his eyes wide. Viktor. Coming to Taiwan. For him. To watch him compete. To cheer him on. The idea baffles. Even though Viktor had been planning to visit Yuuri in Detroit, even though Taipei and Detroit were near equidistant from St. Petersburg, the proposal still shocks and surprises.

Before Yuuri can puzzle out why, the smile slips from Viktor’s face and he shrugs. “Never mind. I was just thinking out loud. I-”

“No! No, no. I mean, yes. I mean, I’d like that. You coming there and… I was just surprised. I didn’t mean- I’m sorry…”

Viktor’s relief is palpable, his smile heartbreaking. “Good. I’ll buy a plane ticket today. Maybe we could stay a day or two longer. I’ve never been to Taipei before. We could sightsee.”

Yuuri nods, not trusting himself to speak.

Viktor nods too. He looses a long breath, sloughing off a bit of the tension that had plagued him since Yuuri answered the call. “I’ll let you get back to sleep. I should take Makka for his morning walk now. He’s been waiting for me.”

“Okay. I’ll text you later. When I wake up.”

Viktor smiles again, this one brighter than before. “I’d like that. Thank you.”

All Yuuri can do is nod a second time, simultaneously struck dumb and keyed up by Viktor and his smile and his vow to come visit. Him. Viktor was coming to visit him. Hanging up the phone, Yuuri flops back onto his bed. He feels breathless, as if he had just run through his free skate. Viktor was going to come to Taiwan. He would be there while Yuuri skated. To cheer for him. To support him. Yuuri might be able to see Viktor from the ice. He might be able to hear him from the ice.

Trembling at the thought, Yuuri swallows and closes his eyes. Viktor would be there. He would be there. In Taiwan. While Yuuri skated. The thought bounds and rebounds in his head.

He would be there.

He would be there.

He would be there.

He would see Yuuri fall.

There, in person, Viktor would see Yuuri fall. Because Yuuri always fell. He fell at Nationals. He fell at the Grand Prix. He’s fallen hundreds of times but never with Viktor watching him so close, from just a few feet away. What would he think when Yuuri fell? Because Yuuri would. He would fall. Would Viktor feel the same when he did, knowing how weak he was, how pathetic-

“No. No. No.”

Yuuri shoots up and moves from the bed. He covers his face with shaking hands and tries his best to breathe. Think positive. He needed to think positive. He was supposed to think positive. What would Phichit say? How would he interpret this, Viktor coming to visit Yuuri in Taiwan?

01. That is disgustingly adorable.

02. Yuuri should think about putting a ring on it.

The room begins to sway. Or Yuuri does. Or both, Yuuri and the room. He can’t tell anymore, his mind overrun with images of marrying Viktor Nikiforov. Weak-kneed, Yuuri plops down on the floor. He can’t put a ring on it. He and Viktor haven’t even been on a date yet. They’ve never even kissed before. They’ve never even hugged.

So no, no ring.

Just hugging.

And kissing.

Oh god.

Kissing Viktor. Yuuri will be kissing Viktor. Because he’s Viktor’s boyfriend. So Viktor will kiss him. And he’ll expect, he’ll want, Yuuri to kiss him back. But how could Yuuri do that and skate? How could he do that and live? He couldn’t. He couldn’t. Just the thought of kissing Viktor has him so flustered he can’t stand. The reality of a kiss…

Yuuri will die.

Yuuri will absolutely die.

And he can’t skate if he’s dead.

But he has to. He has to skate. Viktor’s coming to watch him skate. He’s wanted to see Yuuri skate since Nationals. So Yuuri has to skate. But he has to kiss too, and a first kiss at that.

Yuuri closes his eyes again.

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

Maybe if it wasn’t the first kiss, Yuuri could do both and live. Then he’d be used to it. Somehow. At least he’d know what to do. Where to put his hands. How to breathe and kiss at the same time. Maybe instead of staying a few days late, Yuuri and Viktor could get there a few days early. Then he would have time to adjust. But even as he thinks it, Yuuri knows it for the lie that it is. Just talking on the phone to Viktor had taken nearly a month for him to get used to. Maybe if he had a month to get used to kissing Viktor then he could-

Yuuri sits up.

A month. One month until the competition in Taipei.

Yuuri glances at his phone, his heart pounding fast.

Could he do it?

Why not? If Yuuri had been planning for an extra ice show in the summer so he could to visit Viktor in St. Petersburg, why not this?

Should he do it?

Why not? If Viktor was, why shouldn’t he? Yuuri was Viktor’s boyfriend as much as Viktor was his. And if he didn’t do it, then who would? Yuuri had his family, he had Minako, even Yuuko, though it had been years since they’d seen each other in person. Viktor though… He had Yakov, but Yakov was Viktor’s coach. There was Christophe, too, but he was Viktor’s competitor. Yuuri supposes that he is too, but he wouldn’t be there.

No, there he would be Viktor’s boyfriend, focused solely on watching, on cheering him on and wooing him with another terribly romantic gesture.

Yuuri stares at his phone, his breaths coming fast.

Could he do it?

Should he do it?

Would he do it?

Another second passes and then he moves, grabbing his phone and pulling up a name.

Yuuri: I need your help

*

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

This is stupid. This is stupid. This is so stupid.

What had he been thinking? He hadn’t been. That’s the problem. For one of the few times in his life, Yuuri hadn’t thought. He’d just acted. And now this- his problem- six thousand kilometers between him and Detroit, a new thousand dollar debt on his credit card, his suitcase by his feet, the plane at the gate, and Viktor about to disembark to discover Yuuri waiting for him here in Stockholm to cheer him on at the European Championships.

Swallowing hard, Yuuri wipes his palms on his jeans and watches the airport employees open the gate doors. He could run. He still had time. Viktor hadn’t seen him yet. Sure, Yuri already knew he was here, Yuuri foolishly texting him when his plane arrived four hours before, but he could still run, still hide somewhere until the plane disembarked and Viktor safely passed by and went to the hotel and won gold at the championships and then returned to St. Petersburg, the smile on his face still not quite hiding how sad he’d been the past few weeks. Yuuri could still do that. He could still run, but if he did, if he ran, Yuri would know, and he would tell Phichit, the two now following each other on social media, and they’d never let Yuuri live this down, his cowardice, him once again walking away from Viktor Nikiforov. Yuri might even fly to Detroit and murder Yuuri if he did. And Yuuri would probably let him. Hell, he’d probably help him, so he couldn’t run.

He couldn’t run.

Because Viktor cared about him. He would be happy that Yuuri was here, that he didn’t have to wait another month to see him. That’s what he wanted. That’s why he wanted to fly to Detroit before. To see Yuuri. And now he would. And yes, he would be distracted from his competition now, but if anyone could be distracted from a competition and still win, it was Viktor Nikiforov. And besides, Yuuri wouldn’t distract him. He would support Viktor. He’d support and cheer and maybe even motivate and Viktor would win and they would have their kiss and possibly their second and third and maybe even fourth and Yuuri wouldn’t die and all would be well.

Positive. Positive. Think positive.

Breathing out slow, Yuuri stands and moves in view of the gate.

He could do this.

He could do this.

He can’t do this. He isn’t dressed right. Why hadn’t he worn something nicer? Like his suit. Phichit had made him pack his suit, visions of banquets and the accompanying photos dancing through his head. Why hadn’t he worn that? Or brought something. He should have brought a gift for Viktor. Like flowers. Flowers were romantic, and this is romantic. Phichit had said that it was. So Yuuri needs flowers. Did they even sell flowers in an airport? Did Viktor even like flowers? Everyone said that he did, but as Yuuri had discovered more and more the past month, what everyone said about Viktor and what was actually true often differed wildly. Maybe Viktor hated flowers. Maybe he liked pine cones instead. Or tea. Yuuri knows that he likes tea. Viktor had told Yuuri that he likes tea. Yuuri had seen him drinking tea on more than one occasion during their Skype calls. Yuuri should have brought some tea.

He’s just about ready to bolt for the nearest cafe to buy all the tea that he can carry when the passengers begin to trickle out from the gate.

Pulse picking up, Yuuri starts to scan their faces. Viktor should be one of the first off the plane. Yuri had told him that Viktor always flew first class, so he would be now. Yuuri’s never flown first class before. He’s looked at first class as he’s passed on by to the cheaper seats in the back, but he’s never sat there. Would he now if he flew with Viktor? Would they take a trip somewhere together? Where would they go? Paris? Paris was romantic. At least that’s what people said. Or not people. Movies. Yuuri’s never been to Paris.

He’s in the midst of chastising himself for never having been to Paris and for not knowing what exactly foie gras is when he sees a flash of silver and red amid a sea of rumpled black suits.

Yuuri goes breathless as the crowd parts and he sees Viktor. They had Skyped each other every day since that first call after Nationals. Nearly thirty times in total, but as texting had paled to a phone call and a phone call had paled to Skype, so too does Skype pale to actually seeing Viktor in person, from just twenty feet away. Yuuri takes a moment to marvel at this. Twenty feet. Only twenty feet separate him and Viktor. The last time they had been so close- at least the last time that Yuuri remembers- he had been walking away, dejected and humiliated after his Sochi free skate. Forty-four days separate then and now- forty-four days, twenty-nine calls, hundreds of text messages, thousands of miles, eight time zones, and now just twenty short feet.

Beside Viktor walks Yakov. Viktor looks toward him, head tipped away from Yuuri toward Yakov as Yakov talks. Yuuri’s about to call out when both Viktor and Yakov stop and turn back toward the gate. Beyond them, Yuuri sees Yuri stomping past one of the black rumple-suited businessmen. Yakov snaps something at him in Russian, but Yuri ignores him and keeps going, reaching them, stopping beside them then looking past them, searching, searching, and finding Yuuri. For a second, Yuri sags, as though relieved, as though he feared he’d have to search all the bathrooms in the airport to find Yuuri. Then the second passes and Yuri straightens, drops his bag, grabs Viktor by the arm, and hauls him around.

“Yuri, chto-”

“Look.”

Viktor does. Brows pinched together in a frown, he looks. And almost immediately he sees. The tight frown twisting his face slackens into shock as recognition hits, as the reality of the moment processes, Yuuri here before him and not thousands of kilometers away. Heart racing, Yuuri lifts one hand and waves, the gesture a small, stilted thing, but it’s enough to loose the chocks on the wheels, to start Viktor across the aisle toward him. His first few steps come slow, as though he found himself in unfamiliar terrain, as though he walked in a dream. Then his chest hitches and the shock blanking his face cracks and starts to crumble and then he’s running, dodging around luggage and passengers to get to Yuuri.

Yuuri expects Viktor to slow when he gets close, but he doesn’t. He crashes into Yuuri as a wave to the shore, nearly sending both of them tumbling to the ground. Yuuri manages to brace one leg behind him to keep them both upright, but it proves needless a second later as Viktor hauls him forward, swooping him up in a fierce, fervent hug.

Yuuri reels, brain and body and everything in between. The only person that he’s hugged the last few years has been Phichit, and before that, his family, but only rarely, a pat on the back the same as a fierce hug from his parents or Mari. The embrace itself overwhelms Yuuri, but so does Viktor, the way that he feels against Yuuri, the strength of his arms and the hard plane of his chest as he presses Yuuri close for the hug. How many times had he imagined this in the past month, the past eleven years of his life? As with everything else, the texts to calls to Skype to this, his imaginings pale in comparison, Viktor warmer, taller, stronger, and kinder here in reality. Eyes slipping shut, Yuuri completes the embrace, wrapping his arms around Viktor’s shoulders. When he does, the something like a sigh sounds inches from his ear, and Yuuri can’t help but shiver in response.

“You’re here. You’re here.”

Yuuri nods. It’s all he can do. Words fled him as soon as Viktor found him.

A few seconds later, Viktor pulls back, far enough to be able to look at Yuuri, for Yuuri to see the tears in his eyes. Viktor moves his hands, first to Yuuri’s hair, then his shoulders and his neck, touching, learning, confirming. This is real. It is. You are. You’re real. Real and here. Here with me. The words zip through Yuuri’s brain before grinding to a halt when Viktor once more moves his hands, this time to Yuuri’s face. The touch is gentle, trembling and soft, and too much, much too much, too tender and too real, for Yuuri to endure. He closes his eyes and draws in a shallow, shuddering breath, but the universe affords him no further abatement for, a second later, Viktor moves again, closing the distance between them for a kiss, gentle like his touch, trembling and soft.

The entire world contracts around Yuuri, zeroing on the molten point of contact, the place where his lips, his lips, are pressed against Viktor’s. Viktor’s. Viktor’s lips. Against his. In a kiss. Yuuri opens his eyes, half expecting to wake up somewhere else, in his bed or on the plane, but here he still stands, before Viktor, in the airport, passengers bustling about while Yuuri’s entire existence crackles and burns around him.

Seconds later, or hours, or days perhaps, time dissolving for Yuuri at the outset of the kiss, Viktor pulls back again. His eyes ease open and he looks at Yuuri. Yuuri blinks up at him, still frozen by the existence of the past minute, and now by the way Viktor looks at him, the affection clear in his eyes, the expression so much more potent and thrilling and captivating and devastating than over Skype. All Yuuri can do is as he did before: lift a hand and gently cover Viktor’s face with it.

Viktor laughs, a gorgeous, joyous sound. “Oh, Yuuri. Do you need a minute?”

Yuuri nods. Viktor laughs again and kisses his palm, ensuring Yuuri’s immediate demise, but he also draws Yuuri closer, resuming their hug. Hand slipping from Viktor’s face, Yuuri leans his head against Viktor’s chest and shuts his eyes, striving for calm, for sanity, for the scorched shreds of his soul flickering in the surrounding ether. Viktor rubs one hand up and down Yuuri’s back, soothing, comforting, crooning something soft as he kisses the top of Yuuri’s head. As the seconds pass, Yuuri’s shock begins to abate and the tension eases from his body. His hands find Viktor’s waist and inch around until they meet and clasp at the small of his back, and now Yuuri allows himself to finally believe.

This is real. This is real. It is. You are. He is. He is. Real and here. Here with you.

Yuuri looses a long, shuddering breath, but the peaceful tableau breaks a few seconds later when something thwacks him hard in the leg. Tilting his head, Yuuri finds his suitcase now by his feet and, beyond, a pair of leopard spotted sneakers.

“Phichit says you two are disgusting.”

Looking up, Yuuri locks eyes with Yuri, who stands beside them, his phone in hand. Yuuri blinks at him once and then again. Yuri holds the stare half a minute before heaving out a long and aggrieved sigh. “Fine. Disgustingly adorable. Whatever. Text him so he’ll stop gushing this shit at me.”

Yuuri tries but fails to stifle his smile. “I will.”

Before Yuri can reply, Viktor speaks. “You’re friends with Phichit?”

Yuri shrugs. He’s already looking back at his phone. “He wanted to make sure Poster Boy didn’t run off and hide as soon as you stumbled off the plane.”

There’s a beat of silence and then Viktor unwinds just enough from the hug to face Yuri. “Wait. You knew Yuuri was coming. That’s why you wanted to come.”

Yuri says nothing. He just shrugs again.

The silence persists long enough this time to prompt Yuuri to glance up at Viktor. He finds him gaping at Yuri, who steadfastly ignores him, keeping his eyes glued to his phone. “Yuri’s the one who gave me your flight information so that I knew when to come.”

The gaping continues. Then, abruptly, Viktor moves, away from Yuuri toward Yuri. It’s only at the last moment that Yuri realizes the fate about to befall him. He has just enough time to bark out a panicked no before Viktor reaches him and sweeps him up for a hug. In the distance, Yuuri hears a gasp of shock. He turns to find both Mila and Georgi gawking at Viktor and Yuri. Maybe they had gawked at him and Viktor too. Maybe everyone did. Yuuri starts to glance around, but his gaze is arrested by the figure standing to Mila and Georgi’s left: Yakov. He stares not at Yuri and Viktor, but at Yuuri himself, and Yuuri can’t tell what he’s thinking, whether he’s happy or angry or hungry or bored or something else altogether. His face is inscrutable and therefore the most intimidating thing that Yuuri has ever seen. Thankfully, a growl and a grunt to his right save Yuuri, finally bringing Yakov’s attention to his wayward students.

“Vitya, stop hugging Yura. Yura, stop kicking Vitya. Mila, stop taking pictures of Vitya and Yura. Georgi, get Vitya’s suitcase for him before someone takes it. Everyone, stop standing around and start walking. The cars are already waiting to take us to the hotel.”

Nobody moves.

“Now!” Yakov bellows a second later.

Everybody moves. Viktor turns back to Yuuri, clasps his arm, and swings him in the direction he least wishes to swing: right toward Yakov. Bright smile on his face, Viktor says, “Yakov! This is Yuuri!”

Yakov gives Viktor a flat stare. “I know who Katsuki is.”

“As a skater, yes. But not as my boyfriend!”

Viktor punctuates the claim by throwing his arms around Yuuri, by glomping him. Yuuri’s face starts to burn again, more when Yakov sighs, turns to him, and says, “Katsuki.”

Yuuri bows as much as he can with Viktor still hugging him. “C-Coach Yakov.”

“Does Cialdini know you’re here?”

“Y-Yes, sir.”

Yakov eyes him a moment longer before giving a short nod and turning away. As he starts for the end of the terminal, Yuuri wilts, or as much as he can with Viktor still hugging him. Why? Why? Why did he come here? Viktor’s on the precipice of history, five consecutive European golds to match his five consecutive Grand Prix golds. And now Yuuri-

“Don’t worry,” Viktor murmurs, just loud enough to break through the panicked chain of Yuuri’s thoughts. “He’s happy that you’re here.”

Yuuri twists in Viktor’s arms until he’s facing him. “How do you know? I- I just showed up here and-”

Viktor lifts a hand and cups the side of Yuuri’s face. “He’s happy because I am.”

“Oh. Oh,” Yuuri rambles, overcome once again by the look, the touch, the reality of Viktor here with him. “Good. Good. That’s-”

“Fucking shit! Are you two ever going to move? I’m hungry and everything smells like airplane. Christ. I regret everything.”

The complaints echo through the terminal. His mouth going flat, Viktor glances over his shoulder and says, “Not enough to stay at home.”

The sharp inhale that Yuuri hears portends doom. “Listen, asshole-”

“We’re moving. We’re moving,” Yuuri says, grabbing Viktor’s hand and tugging him around. He spots Yuri standing guard over both his and Viktor’s suitcases, Mila and Georgi having followed Yakov to the end of the terminal. Or, more accurately, Yuri stands guard over Yuuri’s suitcase. Viktor’s lays upside down in the vicinity of Yuri, rather than under his direct protection.

“Finally.”

Yuri grabs the handle of Yuuri’s suitcase and holds it out to him as he approaches. He leaves Viktor, though, to his own devices. Viktor hadn’t said much the past couple of weeks about how coaching Yuri had gone in Yakov’s absence. Falling into step between them now, Yuuri posits badly if the surly glower on one side and the feigned obliviousness on the other are anything to go by.

How he was going to kiss Viktor, cheer him on, avoid the wrath of Yakov and the millions of Viktor’s fans all hoping for a historical win here at Euro’s, and secretly help choreograph Yuri’s exhibition for next season all in the span of a few short days, Yuuri has absolutely, positively, undeniably no idea.

*

Chapter Text

Sixty Impossible Things
Part Seven

-

Everything's falling, and I am included in that
Oh, how I try to be just okay
Yeah, but all I ever really wanted
Was a little piece of you
- “Be Be Your Love” - Rachael Yamagata

-

Yuuri had never thought there would be a moment in his life equally as heavenly and horrifying as pole dancing naked at the Grand Prix banquet, and yet here he sits, trapped in a car with Viktor and Yuri, simultaneously delighted and distressed by the current state of events. Delighted because he was here with Viktor, his boyfriend, and Yuri, his friend. Distressed because said boyfriend and said friend were in the midst of a testy exchange that was quickly growing testier by the minute, and Yuuri was literally caught in the middle of it, squished between the two in the backseat of the shuttle car.

“What the fuck? You said I could stay in your room.”

“Technically Yakov said that. I neither agreed nor disagreed.”

“That’s because you weren’t paying attention. You were too busy moping to focus on anything else. As usual.”

“Now I’m not. Stay with Mila. Her room has two beds.”

“Fuck that. I’m not coming within a ten foot radius of Creepy Crispino.”

This brings a much needed pause to the argument. And for Yuuri, whose head has been whipping back and forth between Viktor and Yuri like a spectator at a tennis match. He glances out of one window. They’re in one of the cars Yakov reserved to shuttle his team to the hotel. The evening sun shines now upon Stockholm, bestowing a warm glow to the buildings and the streets. As the car slows for a right turn, Yuuri’s gaze flits from the city to the driver. He wonders if these sorts of exchanges were regular occurrences for the drivers of the Russian team, or at least whenever Viktor and Yuri happened to ride in the same car. When Yuuri and Phichit took the same car, all their drivers were forced to endure was excessive selfies and overly loud pop music.

Never has Yuuri so desired to listen to blaring K-Pop than he does right at this moment.

“You think Sara Crispino is creepy?” Viktor asks Yuri now. Yuuri turns back to look at him, finds his face pinched by a frown.

His gaze ping-pongs over to Yuri in time to see him roll his eyes. “Not her. Her brother.”

There’s another pause and then Viktor gasps. “Mila’s sleeping with Michele Crispino?”

“No, moron. His sister.”

Viktor gasps even louder. “Michele Crispino is sleeping with his sister?!”

Yuri scowls at Viktor for approximately seven seconds before releasing a long, slow exhale, one that Yuuri has become intimately acquainted with the past two months, Yuri having directed it his way many a time and for many a reason.

The long, slow exhale of imminent murder.

Yuuri, foolishly, throws himself into the fray. Turning to Viktor, he says, “I think he means that Mila and Sara are together.”

“Yes,” Yuri snaps. “And Creepy Crispino doesn’t know, so Mila gets rooms with two beds to trick his creepy ass, so I will not be staying with Mila.” Viktor opens his mouth to respond, but Yuri continues before he can speak. “And don’t even fucking mention Georgi. I’m not staying with him. Not with that hag competing here too.”

Neither Yuri nor Viktor clarify who ‘the hag’ is. Yuuri makes no attempt to ask either. Rather, he sits quietly between them and hopes they arrive at the hotel soon. He doubts his ability to restrain Yuri if he were to launch himself at Viktor, not with all of them trapped in a moving vehicle.

In contrast to Yuuri, Viktor does not sit quietly. Instead, he releases a very audible sigh. “Fine. Then stay with Yakov.”

Yuuri flinches as Yuri swings around, but he stays in his seat, only glaring at Viktor rather than reaching for him to murder. “And have him bitch at me because he’s pissed at his wife? No. No way. I’m done with that shit.”

The silence to his right prompts Yuuri to peek at Viktor. He gapes now at Yuri, his eyes wide. “You know about the divorce?”

“Of course I do. Everybody at the rink knows.”

“But-”

“But what?” Yuri asks. “What the hell could have made Yakov leave for an entire fucking week right before Euro’s? And you- what the fuck would have made you bail on your trip to see him?” Yuri elbows Yuuri then to punctuate the point. Or perhaps to puncture one of Yuuri’s lungs. Both seem plausible at the moment. “We’re not stupid, you know. Just cursed with your two sad and mopey asses.”

“If you no longer want my ass to be sad or mopey,” Viktor says, his voice ruthlessly prim, “then you’ll sleep somewhere else so I can spend some time with Yuuri. Alone.”

Yuri releases another long, slow exhale, but Yuuri’s no longer focused on him or Viktor or the potential for murder between them. Like a skipped record, his brain plays and replays the last ten seconds of the conversation, on its implication, on the other romantic action Viktor will likely want to do with him because Yuuri is, after all, his boyfriend.

Sex.

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

How had he not thought about this? Because he hadn’t, not for Viktor’s cancelled trip to Detroit, for his proposed one to Taipei, or for here, now. The possibility of sleeping with Viktor had never once crossed Yuuri’s mind. And it should have. Because, apparently, it was on Viktor’s mind and he was Viktor’s boyfriend so Viktor would be sleeping with him.

Him.

Katsuki Yuuri.

Who has never slept with anyone in his entire life.

At least not in reality. In his imagination, yes. Prior to actually meeting Viktor, sleeping with him had featured prominently in Yuuri’s dreams. After, though, Yuuri had thought about other things, meeting Viktor, dancing with him again, kissing him, hugging him, sending him the latest picture that Yuuri had taken with Phichit, telling him how much he missed Hasetsu’s ocean when he heard the gulls in St. Petersburg crying over a Skype call. But not sex. Not really. Not directly, and didn’t that say everything about Yuuri? Everything weird, everything strange and unusual.

Viktor and Yuri continue to argue around him, oblivious to his impending nervous breakdown. The world begins to grey at the edges of Yuuri’s vision. He draws in a careful breath and then another and then says, just as carefully, “It’s okay. I booked a place. Somewhere else to sleep.”

It was technically a bed in a hostel, but Yuuri neither has the brain capacity nor the courage to explain his sometimes strained financial situation to Yuri and Viktor, so he leaves it vague and hopes for the best.

The best, naturally, does not come.

Absolute silence does, followed by Viktor and Yuri whipping their heads around to look at him. Yuuri nearly closes his eyes, the twin stares too much for him to bear, but a flicker of something in Viktor’s expression compels Yuuri to glance at him.

Viktor’s voice is quiet, hesitant, when he asks, “You did?”

“I- I didn’t want to assume…”

The something vanishes from Viktor’s expression, but Yuri beats him to the vocal punch.

“Fine,” he says. “You can keep your shitty room. I’ll stay with Yuuri.”

It takes Yuuri a second to process what Yuri has just said, that the shitty room does not, in fact, belong to him, but to Viktor. Turning to Yuri, he shakes his head, quick little shakes that rattle his brain like his already rattled nerves. “You can’t.”

Yuri scowls at him now. “Why not? You’re the one who said we should be friends or whatever.”

“I did. But it’s not- It’s not that. I would let you but I just- I-” His eyes dart toward Viktor then to the driver, who slows for the hotel.

“It’s just what?”

Floundering, Yuuri looks again at Viktor, who peers at him with a furrowed brow.

“Look, if you’ve changed your mind about being friends, just fucking tell me because-”

“No!” Yuuri yells, yanking his head back around toward Yuri. “That’s not it. At all. I just… I- I don’t have a room. Exactly. Just a bed. In a hostel. I- I couldn’t… The plane ticket…”

Yuri draws back at the admission. He stares at Yuuri like he’d spoken in another language, not a human one. Plutonian. Or binary. Or whatever dismal shrieks sounded in the bowels of Hell. Flushing hard, Yuuri closes his eyes and buries his face in his hands. He feels the car ease to a stop then, but neither Viktor nor Yuri move. Only the driver does, escaping the vehicle and its undeniable madness as quickly as he can. Yuuri understands. He’d escape too if he could, but that would require him to lower his hands and actually see Viktor and Yuri, so he maintains his best impression of a dog instead- if he can’t see Viktor or Yuri, they don’t exist and neither does his shameful, stuttered revelation.

For half a minute, the ruse works, complete and total silence left in the wake of the driver’s exit, then the testy exchange around him resumes.

“Two nights.”

“Four."

“Two, and I’ll buy you that new phone you wanted.”

Yuuri lifts his head and opens his eyes. He’s now the front line to a fierce showdown, both Yuri and Viktor twisted toward each other, eyes and shoulders and mouths all set.

“Four,” Yuri says now. “You owe me more than a fucking phone. I’m the reason he’s here in the first place.”

Viktor cocks a brow. “Two. Everyone knows the championships are in Stockholm and that the skaters’ hotel would be close to the rink. Yuuri would have found me eventually.”

“I meant at all, dumbass! I’m the one who messaged him after Sochi. You were too busy moping. You owe me, and I’m coming to collect. Four nights.”

Viktor stares at him a long moment before, surprisingly, relenting. “Fine. But I’m choosing the nights. You get the first four, but you find somewhere else to stay for the last one.”

Yuri rolls his eyes. “Like I want to stick around for your drunken banquet orgy anyway.” As if to emphasize the point, Yuri wrenches the car door open and leaves, yet he whirls back around after two steps to kick the door closed with all the might that his tiny, angry body can muster.

It’s a shit ton, as Phichit would say.

Rocked both from the slam and the past ten minutes, all Yuuri can do is blink. The equilibrium stabilizes in the car, yet in Yuuri it does not. He’s tired and tense, sleep eluding him on the plane ride to Stockholm, his face still feels flushed, his heart races, his mouth is dry, and his palms are sweating once more. Through the windows, he sees Yakov stop and stare at the car, at him, like he knows Yuuri has anxiously impure intentions toward his star pupil-son. Yuuri jerks his head around, but this provides him no relief for it brings him face to face with Viktor, who also stares at Yuuri, and it’s not fair, how gorgeous he looks, hours on the plane and yet he still looks as crisp and as cool as ever, but Yuuri… Yuuri realizes in this moment that he does in fact smell like airplane, that he did not in fact pack his toothpaste, that now Viktor knows he has no money, and soon he’ll know that Yuuri has no experience either and that he has absolutely no fucking clue how to do this, any of this, sex or wooing or behaving like a sane and functional human being.

Whimpering like the grown man that he is, Yuuri crumples like a folding fan. He buries his face in his hands, sex and rooms and kissing and Viktor and scowls and poverty and Yakov and Yuri and planes and toothpaste too much. Much too much.

A couple seconds tick by then Yuuri feels Viktor place a hand on his back. “I’m sorry. Yuri and I can be a bit of handful sometimes.”

Yuuri nods. Or he tries to. His head more wobbles in the sweaty palms of his sweaty hands.

Viktor says nothing else, not for a moment. Then, his voice careful like the hand on Yuuri’s back, “I could pay for the plane ticket if you-”

“No!” Yuuri whips back, dislodging Viktor’s hand. “No. I can pay my own way.”

Viktor retracts his hand. “Okay.”

They stare at each other, eyes wide. Viktor’s hand still hovers upright, curled and hesitant against his chest. The sight of it sours Yuuri’s stomach.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I just meant- I meant that I’ve already scheduled an extra ice show for the summer to- to pay for this. So it’s fine. Really. I don’t mind paying. I want to. I-”

A knock on the window behind him interrupts Yuuri’s rambling. Turning, he sees Georgi peering at them, his brow furrowed. Opening the car door, he leans in and says, his voice soft, “I’m sorry, but Yura has asked me to ask you to please continue your reunion after you check in.”

At this, Viktor heaves out a long sigh. “Okay, Georgi. Thanks.”

Georgi nods. He starts to retreat but pauses to look at Yuuri and say, “It is good for you to come here.”

“T-Thank you.”

Georgi nods again before closing the car door. The silence left in his wake churns Yuuri’s already unsteady waters. He can’t bring himself to turn and look at Viktor, to see the look in his eyes- sad or angry or disappointed or dismissive- to Yuuri snapping at him for just trying to help. Instead, he gestures to the door and says, “I- I guess we should go…”

“Yes.”

Yuuri reaches for the handle and opens the door. Viktor follows him out of the car, easing the door shut with considerably less force than Yuri had.

“Is it in America?” Viktor asks as they head for the lobby, the driver having already collected their luggage from the trunk.

“What?”

“The ice show.”

Yuuri blinks and then blinks again before looking at Viktor. “What ice show?”

“The one you signed up for. Is it in Detroit?”

Clarity dawns. “Oh. No. No, it’s in Japan. Fukuoka.”

Viktor stops in the middle of the entrance. He turns toward Yuuri, his eyes bright and an equally incandescent smile stretched across his face. “Fukuoka? Does this mean you’re going home for a visit?”

Yuuri stutters to a stop as well. No brightness livens his eyes though. Just plain and unadulterated shock. “You- You know where Fukuoka is?”

Viktor nods. “I researched it.”

“Oh.”

“I wanted to know more about where you were from. And it was all so interesting,” he continues, oblivious to the devastation he’s just unleashed in Yuuri’s world. “Hasetsu looks so beautiful, especially Hamatama Beach. I saw a picture of a sunset there, and it was so gorgeous! And when I read about Kyushu, I saw that it has one of largest volcanos in the world there- Mount Aso- and I got excited. I’ve never seen a volcano before! Well, I have seen Mt. Fuji, but just from Tokyo. I never visited it. I should have but I never did. But I-”

Yuuri doesn’t mean to interrupt. There are few things he likes better than watching Viktor talk about something that interests him. His eyes sparkle and his hands flutter and flap, as though he would take flight from the strength of his excitement alone. But his brain short-circuits when he realizes that what has interested Viktor is him, his life and his home, that Viktor hasn’t just been saying it, that he means it, that he finds Yuuri interesting, that he likes him, enough to purchase two plane tickets halfway across the world, but to also make a simple Internet search, to learn about a place he didn’t know that he’d ever visit simply because it was precious to Yuuri.

So Yuuri doesn’t mean to interrupt, but he does, trembling as he lifts his arms and gathers Viktor into a fierce and desperate hug.

“Oh.”

The soft exhalation signals Viktor’s surprise, but he responds much quicker than Yuuri had in the airport, completing the hug in just a few seconds. Yuuri sucks in a shaky breath, breathing Viktor in. He opens his mouth to speak, to take another fantastic leap and invite Viktor to visit Hasetsu with him, no matter the fact that the ice show isn’t for another four months, when chaos erupts to his left.

“Nyet! No! No more hugging until you check the fuck in! I’m serious! I will- Hey!!!”

Yuuri twists his head to find Yuri caught in a headlock administered by Mila, who sends Yuuri a sunny smile when she sees him looking.

“Let go of me, you hag!”

Mila shakes her head. “Not until you learn some manners.”

“I’ll show you manners!”

He does, or he tries to. He tries to flip Mila over his shoulder, but Mila doesn’t move an inch. She just cackles, pausing long enough to grin for Georgi as he snaps a picture.

Beyond them, Yuuri sees Yakov close his eyes and sigh.

*

He’s still sighing at dinner.

Yuuri sits directly opposite Yakov, sandwiched, once again, between Yuri and Viktor in a small cafe close to The Globe where the Euro’s will be held. Mila and Georgi flank Yakov, Mila across from Yuri and Georgi from Viktor. Yuuri should be probably sleeping now, closing in as he is on thirty hours of being awake, but he never broached the idea after checking in, neither Yuri nor Viktor seemingly open to the idea of leaving Yuuri behind so soon after reuniting with him. He knows that when he does finally get some sleep, he’ll marvel at this, at Yuuri being the central focus for both the senior and junior male Grand Prix champions, but right now, all that Yuuri can do is try his best not to drop food on himself or to sweat through his sweater as Yakov watches him interact with his two prize skaters.

“Reblog this on Twitter.”

Yuuri pauses eating to glance at Yuri’s phone, currently thrust between his face and his sandwich and bearing a picture of Potya. “I… why?”

“So Kenjirou knows you think that Potya is the cutest.”

“Cutest what?”

Yuri huffs out an aggrieved sigh. “Cat, dumbass. He won’t shut the hell up about his.”

“Language, Yura.”

Yuri rolls his eyes at Yakov’s admonition. He sets his phone on the table before turning to Yuuri to start patting down his pockets. “Where’s your phone?”

“I have it,” Viktor says to Yuuri’s left.

Yuri stops his cellular assault long enough to scowl at Viktor. “Why?”

“To look at pictures of Hasetsu. Look.” He thrusts his arm across Yuuri to show Yuri a somewhat blurry photo of Hasetsu Castle, oblivious to how he nearly knocks Yuuri’s tea all over the table and particularly Yakov’s stew. “Yuuri said there’s a ninja house inside the castle.”

Yuri’s eyes go wide. “Really?” He makes a grab for Yuuri’s phone, but Viktor snatches it out of his grasp.

“I’m not finished. Look it up on your phone if you want to see.”

“You look it up on yours. Katsuki needs his phone to reblog something.” Yuri tries again for the phone. And to cause permanent organ damage to Yuuri with his horrifically sharp elbows.

Yuuri once more wades into the fray, if only in the name of self-preservation. “I really don’t.”

Yuri retracts his arm, thankfully with no further damage to Yuuri or the food on the table. “Why not?”

“Because I asked you to leave me out of your weird rivalry with Minami. Besides,” Yuuri says as he rubs the sore spot on his chest, “I like dogs.”

Across the table, Mila snorts with laughter. Georgi, who has blessedly ignored them up until this point, as dedicated to his phone as Viktor has been to Yuuri’s, looks up now to smirk at Yuri.

Yuri stares him down before surprisingly, like Viktor in the car, relenting. “Fine. Then take a picture with me.”

“Oooh,” Viktor coos. “A selfie.”

Yuuri ignores the doom developing to his right to arch a brow at Yuri. “Is it because you really want to take a picture with me or is it because I took one with Minami first?”

Across the table, Mila blinks. Georgi raises his brows. Yakov watches closely.

Yuri huffs out a short breath. “Does it matter?”

“Yes. It does.” Yuuri has a whole lecture prepared, how as friends Yuri is supposed to care about him, not use him to gain imaginary victory over Minami. But Yuuri gets no chance to say any of his carefully prepared thoughts for, at that moment, Viktor launches himself into his space, invading his chair to wrap his arm around Yuuri’s shoulders and press his face close.

“Smile!”

Yuuri doesn’t. He barely has time to process the presence of a phone held before him before the flash illuminates, dazzling both his eyes and brain. In his blindness, his other senses zero in on Viktor, on the smell of his cologne, on the sound of him breathing, on the long, lean line of him flush against Yuuri. And Yakov still watches, Yuuri knows that he does, and Mila and Georgi do too, and Yuuri’s pretty sure that a reporter followed them from the hotel taking pictures. Everybody’s taking pictures, Viktor and Yuri and Mila and Georgi and the reporter, and Yuuri should be used to it by now, Phichit always taking pictures, dozens and dozens each day, but he asks Yuuri first. Or he had at first. But Yuri reaches across him again, his elbow digging once more into Yuuri’s stomach, his empty stomach, his food largely untouched in this war of attention waged by Viktor and Yuri, and it’s too much, it’s much too much, it’s-

“Yura, put Katsuki’s phone down this instant! And stop elbowing the boy! You’re supposed to be his friend! And Vitya, you have your own seat! Use it! Katsuki’s not your personal chair! Georgi, stop texting that ice dancer! You need to focus! All of you need to focus! That means you too, Mila. Stop laughing! Everyone sit down and eat your food before I make you skate midnight figures at the Annex! And I mean you too, Yura! Because I know that you brought your skates!”

Yakov doesn’t need a follow up yell this time. Viktor and Yuri retreat to their seats, Georgi slides his phone into his jacket pocket, Mila deflates, then Viktor sighs, Georgi sighs, Mila sighs, all of them sigh as they pick up forks and knives and sandwiches and resume eating.

Yuuri tries hard to resume breathing. He blinks a couple times, his ears still ringing from Yakov’s explosion, his body still tingling from Viktor’s closeness. His eyes dart from his rapidly cooling tea to his phone perched precariously by his plate to Yakov’s stew and then to Yakov himself, who is once again staring at Yuuri, his face red and a blood vessel bulging on his forehead.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri blurts out. “I need to use the restroom.”

He shoves back from the table then and stands. As he does, Yuri mutters, “Great. Good going, asshole.”

“What?” Viktor asks as Yuuri turns from the table. “What did I do?”

“Nothing. As usual.”

Yuuri doesn’t stay to hear the rest. He books it across the restaurant to the restroom, finding it blessedly empty inside. Darting to the stall, he locks himself inside, sits down, and tries his best to breathe.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Breathe.

His hands shake. It’s been years since he’s been so overwhelmed by conversation, since he first moved to Detroit, his grasp on English steady and clinical, but no match for so many people that spoke so loudly and so fast. He became used to it, especially when Phichit moved to Detroit, but the lack of sleep, his nerves, the fighting, sniping, poking, kissing, yanking, hugging, scowling, watching, all of it overwhelms.

Yuuri closes his eyes and tries to breathe.

Breathe.

Breathe.

He shouldn’t be overwhelmed. He’d prepared for this, maybe not for how touchy Viktor is with him, or for the possibility of sex. But Yuuri knew how big Viktor can be, how loud and bright and dramatic. And Yuri too. Yuuri knows how prickly and fierce he can be as well.

He just hadn’t anticipated them to be fighting and him literally caught in the middle of it.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Why hadn’t either of them told him they weren’t getting along? Was it about him somehow? Is that why they didn’t say anything? But how could it be? Neither Viktor nor Yuri seemed angry with him in any way, not in their prior conversations or here in Stockholm. They aimed their ire at each other. Maybe Yuri had confronted Viktor about his long forgotten promise to choreograph a routine for his senior debut. Or maybe something happened the week Yakov had been away to deal with his divorce. Maybe Viktor wasn’t a good coach. Or maybe Yuri was a difficult student. Yuuri could imagine the second much more than the first, but he can’t deny how sad Viktor was when he learned about Yakov’s divorce, how sad he’d been about not being able to visit Yuuri in Detroit. And subtlety was never the volume at which Viktor expressed his feelings about Yuuri. Yuuri still has that first picture from Yuri of Viktor draped dramatically across the rink wall at Yubileyny, bemoaning how he wasn’t able to watch Yuuri skate in person.

He should have anticipated this. All the ingredients were there. He’d just been so focused on getting here, on discussing the trip with Celestino, of working ahead in his class, on scheduling the ice show, on buying the plane ticket, on talking to Viktor who was trying so hard not to be sad, on working on Yuri’s routine, on practicing, on eating, cleaning, living that he hadn’t had the brain space for anything else. He-

The creak of the restroom door halts his ruminations. Yuuri tenses, waiting. Then he hears, the word muted in the hush of the bathroom, “Yuuri?”

Viktor.

Yuuri shoots up and slams a hand down on the lever to flush the toilet. “I- Just a minute!”

“Okay.”

Yuuri waits a few seconds, guilt swirling in his gut at deceiving Viktor, then he leaves the stall. Viktor stands by the sink. He holds Yuuri’s phone in his hands.

“Ah,” he says when Yuuri spots it. “Yuri said you might want this.” He holds the phone out as Yuuri approaches.

Trying hard not to blush, Yuuri takes the phone. Of course Yuri would know what he was doing. He’d seen Yuuri flee and hide in a bathroom in Sochi.

“Is everything okay?” Viktor asks now. Yuuri glances up at him, finds him peering at Yuuri with a furrowed brow.

Yuuri summons his best smile. Or the best smile that he can. “Yes! Yes. Everything is fine. I’m just a little tired. Long flight.”

Viktor eyes him a few seconds before nodding. He smiles too, but it’s not the one that Yuuri has grown to cherish this past month, the broad grin, sparkling and bold. This one is small and tight, obvious, even to Yuuri, in its strain. “Okay. Shall we go back?”

Viktor starts to turn, to gesture to the door, but the guilt burns so fast and hot within Yuuri that he only starts, Yuuri reaching out and grabbing him by the arm.

“Wait! Wait. I…”

Viktor pivots back around. “Yuuri-”

“Why are you and Yuri fighting?”

There’s a second of silence then Viktor says, softly, “Ah.”

“I- I’m sorry,” Yuuri says. “I just- Neither of you said anything, but it’s- I can tell. That you’re not- that you’re not getting along. And I don’t…” He pauses then to pull in a deep breath. “I don’t understand why.”

Viktor nods. The movement is slight and stilted. He’s not quite looking at Yuuri anymore. Lifting a hand, he runs it back through his hair and takes a careful breath. “I- I’m afraid it’s my fault,” he says after a couple seconds. “I wasn’t as good a coach as Yakov hoped I would be. Yuri was… displeased.” Viktor pauses, lowers his arm. His eyes flit toward Yuuri then away and the tight smile returns to his face. “I’ll talk to him about it. Tonight. Don’t worry. I don’t want your visit to be spoiled. I-”

“No. Viktor, that’s not… You’re here to compete. I don’t want to distract you from that. Or to- to burden you in any way. I came to support you. To help you. I just- I didn’t understand what was going on, but now I do, so I’ll try, I don’t know, I’ll try to talk to Yuri. Somehow. You just focus on your skating. I’ll-”

The rest remains unspoken for Viktor moves then, closing the short distance between them and gathering Yuuri into a hug.

“Oh.”

Viktor laughs. It sounds like spring to Yuuri, soft and warm and sweet. “Yes. That had been my reaction too.”

Yuuri laughs too, the warmth sinking into him, warmth from Viktor and for Viktor. The embrace that had so shocked him before, just a short hour ago at the airport, now feels soothing to Yuuri, it feels good, comforting and safe, like home.

*

Chapter Text

Sixty Impossible Things
Part Eight

-

Give me the first taste
Let it begin
Heaven cannot wait forever
Darling, just start the chase
I'll let you win
But you must make the endeavour
- “The First Taste” by Fiona Apple

-

“Did you bring it?”

Crouched before his open suitcase, Yuuri nods. He hears rustling behind him and looks up to see Yuri standing a few feet away, his hand held out and expectant. Yuuri looks at it and then past him toward the just closed bathroom door of Viktor’s hotel room.

Before him Yuri rolls his eyes. “Don’t worry. He’ll be in there thirty minutes. At least.”

Yuuri’s gaze doesn’t drift from the door. He hadn’t told Viktor about his promise to choreograph Yuri’s senior exhibition. Yuri hadn’t made him vow silence, not remotely. He hadn’t shown any agitation at the thought of Viktor or Yakov discovering what they were doing. Yuuri, on the other hand, had been at agitation’s mercy the past month, envisioning countless reactions Viktor might have to discovering Yuuri’s intent to choreograph for Yuri. He had worked past the most extreme reactions- Viktor somehow banishing him from the ISU or breaking up with him or having him arrested for endangering a minor- to those that were more likely but no less horrific to Yuuri- disappointment, amusement, or outright indifference.

“You promised,” Yuri says now. He crosses his arms over his chest and directs the full power of his glare Yuuri’s way.

“I know. And I brought it. I just… Now? What if he hears?”

“I don’t give a shit if he hears.”

Yuuri finally turns from the door. He sends Yuri a flat look, which prompts another rolls of Yuri’s eyes.

“Fine. I have headphones, okay?”

Yuuri resists his sigh. Instead he nods again and stands then moves to the nightstand where he placed his phone upon returning from the restaurant. He can’t help but peek at the bed where, in a few short hours, he’ll be sleeping with Viktor. There had been no further discussion of the bed that Yuuri had rented in the nearby hostel. When they had checked in, Viktor had paid the fee for extra occupants in his room, acquired the extra keys for Yuri and Yuuri, and that was that. And sure, Yuri would be on the fold out couch just across the room so Yuuri wouldn’t be sleeping with Viktor, but the total number of people that he’s shared a bed with in his life can be counted on one hand, and zero of them had been his boyfriend at the time. But it was fine. It was fine. It was-

“Katsuki.”

Startling, Yuuri grabs his phone and whirls for the couch, not yet made into a bed. He sits. Yuri joins him a second later, his headphones in hand. He stares at Yuuri’s phone like Vicchan had at food, like Yuuri does at food, or at Viktor, and nerves strike Yuuri fast and hard. He licks his lips and pulls in a thin, shaky breath. In the past month, Yuri had sent him a lot of songs that he liked. A lot of angry songs, ones that were either too long to skate to or too monotonous or that had too much cursing and couldn’t be played in a public rink. So Yuuri had had to search on his own. He’d still been searching for the right song when he’d decided to come to Stockholm. Only after, a few days later, had this one been sent to him.

“Okay,” he says as the shower starts up in the bathroom. “Just- Just give it a minute. And I mean a minute. Just listen to it and let me explain why I think this one is the best. You might not like it at first, but-”

“I get it. Listen. Christ. Just let me hear the damn song.”

Yuuri arches a brow. Naturally, Yuri doesn’t apologize. He just lifts his brows in return and looks at Yuuri’s phone. Sighing now, Yuuri reaches for the headphone jack, plugs it in, searches for the song. He hesitates just a moment longer, just long enough for Yuri to unleash a sigh of his own, and then presses play.

He doesn’t need to hear the song to know how it goes. He’s heard it enough the past week and a half as he’s planned Yuri’s routine.

First, the tinkling piano. Yuri listens, his eyes intent on the phone, a faint line between his brows at what must be, to him, the exact opposite of what he wanted and instead the exact same as what he’s been skating with Yakov.

Then, the choir. Yuri huffs out another sigh. Of course he would, this is what he dreads for the upcoming season from Yakov, old fashioned classical music. Yuuri waits though. He waits and he watches, and, when the half minute mark ticks by, Yuri’s eyes jerk up to his.

Ready or not, here I come, you can’t hide

The bass and horns blast in. Yuri ratchets up the volume, so loud that Yuuri winces at potential hearing damage. No such concerns seem to flit through Yuri’s mind. He’s fixed on the phone, on the song, and when the guitars layer in, fast and fierce, he shoots up and shouts, “Yes. Yes. Fuck yes!”

Yuuri jerks his head toward the bathroom door, but there’s no discernable change. The shower continues, the door remains shut, so Yuuri eases around and sags back against the couch. He watches Yuri listen to the rest of the song, a techno rock explosion of attitude and anticipation. When it ends, Yuri sinks down onto the couch beside him. His eyes are bright and he’s sporting the closest thing to a smile that Yuuri’s seen since they had their first FaceTime conversation in the wake of his win at Nationals.

“So you like it?” he asks now.

Yuri nods as he removes his headphones. “It’s perfect.”

The simple praise stuns Yuuri, accustomed as he is to Yuri’s enraged declarations of care and concern. He feels his throat start to swell and the telltale prickle of heat behind his eyes and quickly ducks his head. He doubts Yuri wants to see him cry, and he knows he doesn’t want Yuri to see him cry, not now, not ever. He has to be the adult here, the tranquil sea to Yuri’s turbulent storm.

“Good. Good. That’s good,” he says when he feels like he’s regained his composure. “I wasn’t sure. I had to ask Phichit-”

“Wait, Chulanont knows you’re choreographing for me?”

Yuuri winces. “Sorry. I couldn’t find any songs that I liked. So I asked him. And Phichit asked Leo, so-”

“Who?”

Yuuri finally looks up at Yuri. “Leo. de la Iglesia. He’s from-”

“America. Yeah, I know.”

“Then why did you ask?”

Yuri narrows his eyes. “Why the fuck did you ask ‘Yuri who’ when I texted you the first time? How many fucking Yuris do you know?”

One too many he wants to snap, but Yuuri bites back the retort. Like the tears, it came from too little sleep and too much stimulation, not from any genuine anger at Yuri. “Anyway,” Yuuri says after a beat, “you should be thanking me for asking Phichit because I wouldn’t have had anyone to hold the phone for me if he didn’t know.”

At that, Yuri draws in a sharp breath. His eyes go wide. “You’ve made something? Already?”

Yuuri nods. “It’s not much. Just some ideas. I mean, I’ve gotten a good sense of what you can do from watching your routines, but-”

“You watched me skate?”

Yuuri nods again.

Yuri stares at him a moment, eerily still. “Which routines?”

“All of them. Or all I could find online. I needed to know what you could do. I mean, I know you sent the videos, but they aren’t whole routines. I needed to see how you move overall, what your presence is like on the ice.”

“Oh.”

“It’s great, by the way,” Yuuri says with a smile. “It’s no wonder you’ve won gold the past few years.”

Rather than preen at the compliment or aggressively agree, Yuri looks away. His hair falls across his face, but, like before, when Yuuri first suggested for them to be friends, he sees the tip of one of Yuri’s ears and the bare stretch of Yuri’s throat above his warm up jacket. Both now flush a fiery red. Yuuri averts his gaze. He scratches the tip of his nose. Never has he so desired Minami’s screech of absolute joy. He shouldn’t desire it. This awkward silence resonates with him much more than Minami’s excessive enthusiasm. Perhaps that’s why he desires it. The last thing Yuuri is capable of doing is dealing with himself. Phichit deserves a dozen more hamster plushies in thanks of accomplishing that feat so smoothly these last few years. How would he deal with this, with Yuri if he were here? How would Viktor? He’s navigated enough awkward silences with Yuuri this past month too.

What would Viktor do?

Breathing in, Yuuri straightens and summons a smile. “Here,” he says, plucking the phone from Yuri’s hand.

Yuuri backs out of his music and pulls up his videos. He finds the correct one and then extends his hand again. Yuri glances at it and then at him, the look quick, darting away fast. But he takes the phone.

Before he can put back on his headphones though, Yuuri speaks again. “It’s not much, okay? I only had a week to sketch some ideas, and I could only run through it a couple of times before coming here. And it’s just an idea. Taking you from where you’ve been to where you’re going, so-”

The rest of the explanation dies on his lips as the bathroom door opens and Viktor comes out, his shower apparently done. Both Yuuri and Yuri whip their heads towards him. Yuuri goes still at the sight, Viktor with a towel around his waist and another in his hands, but nothing, absolutely nothing, else on. Yuuri blinks at the half-naked and glistening glory before him. Then he blinks again as he sees Viktor zero in on the phone in Yuri’s hands.

“What are you listening to?”

Yuri recovers first. “What the fuck, are you finished already?”

Viktor nods. “I didn’t want to take too long. I knew you and Yuuri were waiting for the shower too.”

He gets no response for his act of bathing charity. Just gaping silence.

A few seconds pass in which they all stare at each other and then Viktor moves closer. “Are you watching a video? What-”

Yuri shoots up from the couch. “I’m next.”

He dashes off without another word, Yuuri’s phone clutched tightly in his hands. The door to the bathroom shuts behind him with an ominous click, leaving Yuuri alone with Viktor and his naked chest. Yanking his head back around, Yuuri finds both staring down at him, Viktor’s chest still bare and shining and the man himself with a faint frown on his face.

“It- It was a cat video,” Yuuri says as he scrambles to his feet. “Just something I thought that he’d like.”

“Oh.”

Viktor says nothing more. Neither does Yuuri. Rather he eases around Viktor and retreats to his suitcase, his mind whirling. How were he and Yuri going to do this? How were they going to keep their secret from Viktor? Or from Yakov? Neither of them could lie, Yuri too surly and Yuuri too anxious whenever they tried. He should have thought about this, he should have gotten a room of his own so that they’d have a private place to practice. Here there would be no privacy. Here they’d be subject to a wild Viktor Nikiforov appearing at any possible moment, clothing optional. Shaking his head, Yuuri crouches beside his suitcase. He pulls out a pair of athletic shorts to sleep in and then keeps digging for the suit he knows that Phichit added before he left. He needs to hang it up before it wrinkled too badly.

He needs Viktor to address his nudity before he loses his entire mind.

As if he heard Yuuri’s silent plea, rustling sounds from Viktor’s suitcase. Then, a few seconds later, he says, “You and Yuri have become close.”

Yuuri tenses at the comment. Does he know? How could he know? He can’t know. Had Yuri said something to tip him off? But Viktor would have said something to him, right? He wouldn’t just stay silent, would he? He doesn’t seem mad at Yuuri. And he’d be mad, wouldn’t he? He would, Yuuri keeping this from him. A person would be mad at their significant other keeping a secret from them. That would make someone upset, right? Even if it wasn’t a bad secret, even if it’s what the person himself had intended but forgotten to do. He-

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri startles again. “Oh. I- I guess.” Wincing at his stammering, he pulls out his suit jacket and dress shirt and tosses both onto the bed. “Yuri probably wouldn’t agree,” he continues after a few seconds, “but… I don’t know.” Pausing in his efforts to unearth his pants, Yuuri glances at the space where his phone had been on the nightstand. “He reminds me of me, I guess. Just a bit. When I was his age, I mean. He- I wasn’t very good at making friends either.” Yuuri shakes his head then and returns to his search, locating his pants beneath his second favorite blue sweater. “I- I guess I’m still not very good,” he adds as he pulls his pants out of his suitcase. “You may have noticed.”

Standing, he turns around, but all movement, all thought, ceases a second later as he spots Viktor just a few feet away now, clad in a silky blue robe the same shade as his eyes. It accentuates the breadth of his shoulders, the firm expanse of his chest, the narrow v of his waist. Yuuri clutches at his pants and tries to remember how to breathe.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Viktor says as he moves closer. “You’ve done far better than I have at being Yuri’s friend lately.”

Yuuri wants to say something, to deny Viktor’s chastisement of himself, but every thought that he has ever had in his head vanishes as Viktor stops before him. He smells like a winter forest and looks like he was made out of marble, and Yuuri resigns himself to his complete and utter loss of sanity, both for this week and for the rest of his life. Who could recover from this? No one. Certainly not him. Nothing in his prior dreams or fantasies prepared him for this, the reality of Viktor standing before him, nearly nude, mere inches from a bed, their bed, and close enough for Yuuri to touch.

Yuuri licks his lips and tries his best to breathe.

Seconds pass. Viktor peers down at him, first at his face and then lower to the pants still clutched in his hands. His brows quirk and he asks, “Is this the same suit you wore in Sochi?”

Yuuri nods. It’s the same suit because it’s his only suit, but he would rather shrivel up and die right now than admit that to Viktor.

Viktor looks back up at him. His eyes sparkle in the light. “Did you bring the same tie, too?”

“What? Oh. Yeah, I did.”

“May I see it?”

Yuuri blinks at that. Viktor smiles at him, and it’s so radiant and warm that Yuuri finds himself complying. He lays his pants on the bed and twists around to retrieve the requested tie. When he straightens, tie in hand, Viktor nods, but he neither takes it nor inspects it. Rather, he lifts a hand to brush a stray lock of hair from Yuuri’s face.

“Yuuri,” he says, and Yuuri will never recover from this either, the way Viktor says his name, how his accent molds the syllables into something new, something that sends a shiver down his spine. “May I buy you a gift?”

The question doesn’t immediately process, Yuuri too overwhelmed by the robe and the touch and the closeness and the bed and the smile. “What?”

“I’d like to buy you a gift. Many of them, in fact, but I’ll start with just one. If that’s okay.”

Why wouldn’t it he almost asks, because who needed permission to buy someone a gift, but then he remembers his response to Viktor’s offer to pay for his plane ticket and understands. Ducking his head, he says, “You can. If you want. You don’t have to. I- I’m not expecting any. I-”

Light fingers touch his chin and still his stammering. Viktor tilts his head up until they’re looking at one another again. “I know. But I want to.” His thumb settles on the center of Yuuri’s chin; it brushes against his bottom lip. “May I?”

Breathless, Yuuri nods.

The nod earns him an incandescent smile. Viktor lowers his hand and begins to ease back. Yuuri finally has space to breathe, but the reprieve lasts a moment only for Viktor tilts his head to the side and starts to pull the tie from his hands as he retreats.

“What…”

“I have many fond memories of this tie,” Viktor says as it slips through Yuuri’s fingers. “And of the suit that accompanies it. But I would like to buy you a new one.”

“A new tie?”

“A new suit. And a new tie,” Viktor adds as Yuuri’s jaw drops. “You can’t very well wear a new suit with this one.” He holds up the tie before them, his nose wrinkling in distaste.

Yuuri gawks first at the tie and then at Viktor. “No. No. That’s too much.”

Viktor eases back more. “You said I could buy you a gift.”

“I know. But I thought you meant something small. Like flowers. Or tea.”

Viktor stops to arch a brow at Yuuri. “You mean small like flying halfway around the world to surprise your boyfriend at his skating competition?”

Yuuri presses his lips together. There’s nothing else he can do, nothing he can say in response, that decidedly not a small gift.

Except.

“That wasn’t a gift,” he says. “A gift’s just for you, but I’m benefitting from being here too.”

“As will I,” Viktor says. “Immensely.”

Yuuri blushes at the tone but doesn’t give in. “I don’t need a new suit.”

“No, but I do.”

“You need a new suit?”

“No, I need you in a new suit. Especially a new tie.” Viktor waves it in front of him again. Yuuri contemplates snatching it from him, but he’s too far away for him to reach. “Maybe burgundy,” Viktor continues as he peers at Yuuri. “Though I know how much you love blue.”

Yuuri freezes at that. “You do?”

Viktor nods. “You usually skate in blue or black. And most of the sweaters you’ve worn during our talks have been blue too.”

“Oh.”

“And you look divine in blue. Believe me. But you’d look divine in burgundy too, especially with your eyes…”

He drifts off then as he gazes at Yuuri’s eyes. Yuuri’s face burns more, but he forces himself to keep looking at Viktor, to try to nip this crazy scheme in the bud. “Then buy me a burgundy tie, not a whole suit.”

Viktor purses his lips. He tilts his head to the other side and continues to peer at Yuuri as he contemplates, then his eyes brighten and a gorgeous grin graces his face once more. “Okay, I will.”

Yuuri blinks at the easy capitulation. “You will?”

“I will,” Viktor says, “if you can win back your tie from me.”

Viktor holds up said tie again and dangles it between them. Yuuri eyes it and then Viktor, who cocks a brow, presenting the challenge, reveling in it. Yuuri stares at him approximately six seconds before he straightens his shoulders. “How?”

The incandescent glow returns. “Oh, nothing much. Like I said, all you have to do is win it back from me…”

Yuuri frowns, uncertain as to what Viktor means, then he realizes just how far across the room Viktor has moved, how near the door he stands. Realization must manifest on his face for Viktor flicks the tie in a cheeky wave before whirling and bolting through the door out of the room.

Yuuri charges after him. He finds Viktor a few doors down, facing Yuuri, waiting for him. The look on his face sends Yuuri’s already racing heart racing faster, Viktor’s eyes radiant and intent, his mouth curved in a thoroughly satisfied smile. The rest of the hallway is empty, at least what Yuuri can see of it. There’s a T-junction about fifteen feet down from where Viktor stands that leads down the other hall of the floor, and beyond that lies the nook with the ice and vending machines, but here it’s only Viktor and Yuuri, alone.

Viktor lifts the tie and slowly draws it across the palm of his free hand. “Yuuri… Are you really going to deny me?” He peers at Yuuri through his lashes. “I promise it will be worth it.”

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

Every nerve in Yuuri’s body spontaneously combusts at that look and that tone. But the challenge has been laid. Pulling in a deep breath, he tilts his chin and says, “It will be when I win.”

The bravado is worth it when he spies a delicate blush coloring Viktor’s cheeks. Yuuri smiles, a slow one, and watches as the blush deepens, he watches as Viktor looses a soft shivery sigh.

Then the standoff begins.

Yuuri regards the tie.

Viktor brandishes it, taunting, teasing.

Yuuri licks his lips and shifts his weight.

Viktor lowers the tie and lifts his chin.

Yuuri takes a step forward.

Viktor takes a step back.

They stare at each other for one second, then two.

Then Yuuri darts down the hall. Viktor dances back, laughing. He doesn’t move quickly enough though, or he doesn’t want to, so Yuuri draws near, within a few feet. Heart pounding, he makes a grab for the tie, but he feels sluggish, slow from his lack of sleep, so Viktor’s able to evade. He raises his arm and uses his height advantage to keep the tie out of Yuuri’s reach. Yuuri narrows his eyes at him. Viktor just laughs and skips back, into the T-junction. Yuuri follows and tries a second time for the tie, but Viktor executes a quick spin around Yuuri, the move as graceful as if he’d been spinning on the ice.

“You’ll have to try harder than that,” he murmurs into Yuuri’s ear, making him shiver again.

Yuuri whirls, only for Viktor to complete the circle and dart around Yuuri again. Yuuri follows him, always he follows. This time he feints with his left hand, reaching in with his right when Viktor yanks the tie away. Yuuri misses the tie, but he’s able to grab hold of Viktor’s wrist. He tugs, using his strength to draw Viktor closer. He intends to snag the tie with his other hand, but rather than resist, Viktor moves with the movement, pushing into Yuuri, leading him around until he’s up against the wall by the ice machine, Viktor before him, mere inches away.

Yuuri’s eyes widen at the proximity. The breath leaves his chest in a rush. His hand still holds Viktor’s wrist, the feel of his skin and bones acute beneath his palm. He feels Viktor’s foot brush against his own. Their knees knock. And Yuuri can’t help but amend his prior thought. Now every nerve in his body bursts into agonizing flame. He wants to close his eyes. He wants to look at Viktor too. His gaze flits around, restless, yearning, darting from Viktor’s collarbone to the curve of his neck, wet with the water dripping from his hair, to the damp edge of his robe to his lips that are directly in front of Yuuri’s eyes. Yuuri has never cursed his shortness before, he’s never really thought of himself as short before, but now he does because all he can see is Viktor’s mouth, the soft bow of the upper lip, the full flat line of the lower.

They move now as Viktor speaks. “Yuuri…”

Yuuri startles. He jerks his eyes up to meet Viktor’s. “Yes? Sorry. What?”

“I think,” Viktor says, his voice low, “that there has been a decided lack of kissing today. Which is wholly unacceptable for a reunion, don’t you think?”

No. He doesn’t. Yuuri doesn’t think because all thoughts have fled him. All he can do is stare.

Viktor does more than stare. He dips his head, intending to make up for the lack of kisses. At the movement, though, the reality of this moment slams into Yuuri with the speed and force of a bullet train. This would be their first true kiss, not the one at the airport, that one nearly negligible in comparison, just a peck, a mere prelude to a kiss. This would be A Kiss. Even Yuuri understands that.

So he freezes.

And Viktor sees.

He starts to pull back, but Yuuri clutches tighter at his wrist. “Don’t. Please.”

He doesn’t. They stand in place, at the edge of a precipice. Yuuri feels on the verge, of madness, of sanity, of sleep and hope and life and love. He closes his eyes and breathes in, catching again the scent of Viktor’s soap. His heart pounds. His hands tremble. He needs to find the words to explain, to say he’s never done this before, not really, that he’s kissed people before, a few, but never like this, stone cold sober and far beyond simple attraction, well past infatuation, where a kiss is not just a kiss, but a pledge and a promise.

“We don’t have to-”

His eyes fly open. “No! No.” He looks up at Viktor, but his gaze skitters away a second later, Viktor too gorgeous to endure. “That’s not- I want to. I do. I just- I’m not- I’ve never…”

“You’ve never kissed anyone before?”

Yuuri ducks his head. His face burns. “I have, but not like- not like this…” He closes his eyes against the inadequacy of his words, of himself. This moment is everything, and he’s ruining it, overthinking it.

“Would you rather wait until tomorrow?” Viktor asks.

This pulls a laugh out of Yuuri. “No. I’d be even more nervous then. I probably wouldn’t sleep at all tonight.”

“I wouldn’t either.”

The comment so surprises Yuuri that he finally looks at Viktor. “You wouldn’t?”

Viktor shakes his head.

Yuuri wants to ask why, but again words fail him. In the absence of words though, Yuuri finally sees. He sees Viktor. He’s imagined this a thousand times, kissing Viktor. In every fantasy Viktor stood effortlessly cool, breezy and beautiful. He’s beautiful here too, but here Viktor breathes as fast as Yuuri does. Here, his pulse races beneath Yuuri’s thumb. Here, the tilt of his brows speaks to Yuuri in an innate, intimate way, mirroring the nerves that he feels every single day of his life. Viktor opens his mouth to say something, but closes it without speaking. And his gaze skitters away as Yuuri’s had and he draws in a shaky breath.

In his fantasies, Yuuri never felt calm, but calm settles over him here as he stares.

Or not calm.

Certainty.

Lifting his free hand, he touches Viktor’s cheek. Viktor gasps in response, the sound soft and slight but thunderous in the space between them. He looks back at Yuuri, who peers at him for a moment before lowering his gaze to Viktor’s mouth. One second passes and then two, then Yuuri rises up, as smooth as an axel, for a kiss. The first he keeps feather light, an answer to Viktor’s at the airport. The next becomes a delicate search of the far corner of Viktor’s mouth. The third nuzzles the tremulous bow. The fourth ignores lips altogether for Viktor’s chin while the fifth returns to soothe the slight, to learn and confirm the taste and feel and smell and touch of this impossibly wonderful man.

Yuuri pauses before the next. He gathers both faith and breath before leaning back in, head tilted this time. The sixth kiss lingers and elaborates, Yuuri nudging then parting Viktor’s lips, entreating with a light lick of his tongue. The plea tips them over the edge. Viktor moves, he cradles Yuuri’s face and cants it back to deepen the kiss. There’s no hesitance in his movements but no haste either. He kisses as slow and as sure as the rising sun. Yuuri winds his arm around his neck and across his shoulders and holds on for dear life. It’s all he can do. The small part of his brain that still functions registers several facts at once, how they stand in the middle of the hallway, exposed to anyone who may happen to walk by, how he never brushed his teeth after dinner and likely tastes like tea and sourdough bread, how he probably still smells like airplane while Viktor tastes like tenderness and cool mint, but this is only a small part of Yuuri’s brain. The rest basks in the conflagration of Viktor’s kiss, in the feel of his hand at Yuuri’s waist, and the strength of his shoulders beneath Yuuri’s arm.

They kiss and they kiss, yet breathing proves as necessary but as forgettable as Yuuri anticipated it to be. Eventually he pulls back, chest heaving and body tingling. Viktor still cradles his face. He rubs a thumb against Yuuri’s lips, eliciting another shiver. Yuuri opens his eyes and finds Viktor staring down at him, and even if Yuuri and words suited each other well, he’d lack the ability to accurately describe the look on Viktor’s face, the raw yearning quality to his gaze that nearly makes Yuuri whimper.

“Viktor?”

Like light moving through fog, the query eventually reaches then through the haze of heady ardor. Turning, Yuuri spies a long haired brunette gawking at Viktor. Yuuri gawks in return, his brain not yet capable of processing the reality of this woman before them, of the existence of the world beyond the circle of Viktor’s arms. He glances back at Viktor. The shallow, wanton portion of his brain preens at the dazed look in Viktor’s eyes, at the slick shine of his lips and the flush coloring his cheeks. Propriety dictates that Yuuri step away, that he put a respectable distance between him and Viktor. But propriety cows before Viktor, who leans into Yuuri even more and unleashes a devastating smile.

“Hello, Anya! This is Yuuri! My boyfriend!”

Yuuri bites his lip to keep the same giddy smile from breaking out across his face. He can’t help the blush though, not with Viktor’s excitement at the declaration. “Hi.”

“Anya is Georgi’s girlfriend,” Viktor murmurs into his ear. To her, he says, “Georgi’s in room 623, I believe.”

Lips still parted in shock, Anya nods. She glances once from Viktor to Yuuri and then back again before starting past. Yuuri watches her round the T-junction and disappear down the other hall, that small part of his brain that’s capable of functioning already beginning to worry about this, about someone else beside him and Viktor and a few trusted others knowing about their relationship.

But the small part of his brain fades beneath the larger, decidedly more shocked portion. Turning back to Viktor, he asks, making a vain effort to keep his voice low, “She’s the hag?”

Viktor bursts out laughing at the question. He wraps his arms around Yuuri and gathers him into a hug. The sound of his mirth calls to Yuuri, and he responds, his own euphoria spilling forth as sweet as champagne, sparkling and light.

*

Chapter Text

Sixty Impossible Things
Part Nine

-

Don't start collecting things
Give me my rose and my glove
Sweetheart, they're suspecting things
People will say we're in love
- “People Will Say We’re in Love” by Ella Fitzgerald

-

Consciousness returns to Yuuri heavy and warm. As he eases out of sleep, the last images of his dream begin to fade- Yuuri and Phichit riding Phichit’s hamsters, which were the size of horses, into battle against Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach. He huffs out a breath at the frankly bizarre turns that his mind sometimes takes then the heavy arm slung across his waist registers, as do the the legs pressed up against his and the soft breath fanning the back of his neck, and Yuuri smiles.

He hadn’t thought that sleep would come last night. How could it ever come with Viktor laying beside him, with the memory of their first proper kiss fresh in his mind? How could Yuuri do anything other than stare at Viktor, to burn this image into his brain forever and ever? They had. When they’d turned out the lights, Yuri flopped face down on the couch bed already fast asleep, they’d stared at each other, hands clasped, occasionally touching a shoulder or a cheek or a stray lock of hair. The dark had helped Yuuri cope with the intimacy, reducing Viktor to muted shades and shadows, to comprehensible attributes for Yuuri. Still he anticipated hours awake, marveling at the impossible reality of his life, but the anxious, joyous rollercoaster of the last day, one that spanned eight time zones and two continents, eventually overpowered even the most electrified of spirits, and he slept, soundly, throughout the night.

Opening his eyes, Yuuri squints at the sunlight peeking around the edges of the curtains. He can’t see the clock, it’s on Viktor’s side of the bed- He pauses here to marvel at that, at how now there is a side of the bed on which Viktor sleeps, and he knows he’ll think of this back in Detroit, alone in his double bed, how even there the left side of the bed belongs to Viktor. The clock denied to him, Yuuri reaches out for his phone to check the time. He doesn’t want Viktor to miss breakfast, not for his busy day of press and practice. Snagging his phone from the bedside table, Yuuri hits the home button and immediately wishes that he hadn’t.

Dozens of notifications greet him- texts, calls, emails, even messages from his rarely used social media accounts, from Phichit, Celestino, Minako, Mari, Yuuko, even his mother. And this makes Yuuri lurch upright, his heart in his throat. His mother called, but rarely texted. Had something happened? Was his father okay?

Viktor groans as Yuuri shoots up. Yuuri ignores him though. With shaking hands, he opens the notifications and scans through them, and as quickly as one kind of panic overtook him, another takes its place, nothing in any of these messages concerning Yuuri’s father or his family or his friends.

No.

All the messages concern him.

And Viktor.

“Y’ri…” Viktor paws at his waist, tries to tug him back down. “Sleep…”

Yuuri ignores him again. Jaw dropping, he scrolls through the links, articles, and tweets of the pictures of him and Viktor that someone had taken as they’d left the airport and then again at the hotel. These make Yuuri’s stomach churn. That hug had been for him and Viktor only, something precious and private, and now it was being dissected, inspected, gawked over, and speculated on by thousands. The official press were no better, running wild at first about the mystery man who had captured Viktor’s heart and then running wilder when they realized it was him.

Bile rising in his throat, Yuuri abandons the articles for his personal messages. He spots multiple from Phichit, expressing simultaneous delight in the happy reunion and concern for Yuuri. Those from Celestino mention first inquiries for comment from the press, then reassurances that none would be made, not about Yuuri’s private life. He actually relaxes a bit at Mari’s, her dry wonder at this, Yuuri dating the man that he’d idolized for half his life, but the tension ratchets back up at Minako’s many demands for details, plus confirmation of whether Viktor would be at the Four Continents because she, of course, wants to meet him. Yuuko’s, he thinks, were actually written by the triplets, the ten texts increasingly desperate pleas for signed Viktor merchandise. And his mother-

Yuuri closes his eyes and flops back onto the bed with a groan. He can’t deal with his mother commenting on his romantic life, not so early in the morning.

As soon as he’s back down, Viktor throws an arm around Yuuri and buries his face in Yuuri’s shoulder. “‘s ev’rything ‘kay?” he asks, his voice soft and rough with sleep.

Yuuri opens his eyes. He looks at Viktor, his wonderment at all of this temporarily silencing the hysteria rising within him, then his phone buzzes with another message and then another, and he groans again. “No. I don’t know,” he amends a second later because he doesn’t know, the online skating community focusing more on his failures than on his love life, or lack thereof, in the past. “I- Someone took pictures of us at the airport and at the hotel too and posted them online, and now it’s everywhere. We’re everywhere.”

At that, Viktor tilts his head and cracks open one eye. “Everywhere?”

Yuuri nods. “The pictures are trending on Twitter. People are starting to write about them. About us. There’s- There’s already a hashtag. About us. And my family…”

Viktor lifts his head completely, both eyes open now. “What?”

Yuuri averts his gaze. He scrambles to find a nice way to say that they’ve collectively lost their minds at the knowledge that Yuuri and Viktor are dating, that Minako may actually fly here in the next twelve hours to lightly stalk Viktor and ask him his intentions, that his father is allegedly brainstorming ways to work Viktor into the advertising for the onsen, and that his best friend has already laid best man dibs at Yuuri and Viktor’s future hypothetical wedding.

“Do they not approve?” Viktor asks when Yuuri doesn’t respond.

The hesitant tone yanks Yuuri’s attention back to him. “No! No. I mean, yes, they do. I- They’re happy for me. For us. It’s just…”

“What?”

“They’re… confused. And insistent. About how we, you know, met. Not met because they know we were at Sochi together. But how, you know…” He trails off, the beginnings of a blush burning away the rest of the sentence.

Viktor starts to smile. He props his head on one hand and gazes down at Yuuri. “About how you seduced me with your gorgeous dancing and terribly romantic gestures?”

The blush intensifies.

So too does Viktor’s smile.

Overcome, Yuuri glances away again. “I- Celestino said he’s already been getting questions from reporters. For a comment or a statement, I don’t know. I guess you will too.”

Viktor reaches out with his free hand and clasps one of Yuuri’s. “Is there anything you’d like me to say? Or not say?”

“I- I don’t know. I’ve never had to think about it before.” The implication of his claim processes as soon as the last word has left his lips. Not before. Of course not. Neither Yuuri’s brain nor the universe itself can pass up an opportunity to humiliate him, especially not in front of Viktor and especially not about this, his horrific lack of experience. Flushing again, Yuuri stares resolutely at his hand, currently ensconced within Viktor’s. “I meant- Reporters haven’t- They haven’t ever asked me about, you know… relationships. I mean, why would they? I’m just me. I- I can’t even skate half the time, so why would they think- Why would they ever think-”

“Yuuri.”

Yuuri closes his eyes. He’d melt back into the mattress if he could, anything to escape the soft lilt of his name. “Just- Just say whatever you think is best. That’s fine. That’s- Just do that. I-”

Viktor lifts Yuuri’s hand and places a light kiss on the knuckles. “Okay. You know what I think is best?”

Yuuri waits but Viktor doesn’t respond. The silence stretches on so long that he’s compelled to crack open one eye. Viktor’s watching him, his brows raised. “What?”

Viktor looks at Yuuri a moment, lays his hand on his chest, gives it a soft pat, then he shoots up to his knees, flings his arms out, and shouts, blankets down and naked chest on full display, “I, Viktor Nikiforov, am blessed to be dating Katsuki Yuuri, Japan’s ace, the most beautiful dancer that I’ve ever seen, and owner of the most distressingly hideous tie! He-”

The rest dies a swift, brutal death by pillow, hurled at Viktor from across the room. It catches him full on the back, eliciting a soft oof as Yuri sits, his scowl visible even to Yuuri sans glasses. “All they’ll be asking,” he begins, his voice quickly rising in volume and irritability, “is why you have two black eyes if you don’t shut the fuck up so I can get some more sleep!”

Viktor, mercifully, stays quiet, but he wags his eyebrows at Yuuri before darting back down to kiss him on the cheek and then the chin and nose and lips, soft, swift kisses that overwhelm the panic that had been laying siege to his mind. Breathless, flushed and flustered, Yuuri laughs, at Viktor, at himself, at Yuri threatening to set Viktor’s skates on fire if he doesn’t stop being gross right the fuck now. He doesn’t, kissing Yuuri one final time, before he springs up and out of the bed, humming as he heads to the bathroom for the start of his press and practice day.

*

Panic resumes its siege at breakfast. Or, more accurately, on the walk to breakfast, as Yuuri and Viktor approach the hotel dining room. Only as he detects the buzz of conversation inside, from fellow skaters and coaches and trainers and choreographers and friends and spouses and partners, does Yuuri consider them, consider their reaction to him and to Viktor with him. Because Yuuri knows most of the European skaters, but not well, not like those at the Four Continents, Phichit and Leo and Guang Hong. There, he’s among friends. Here, he’s the outsider.

Stomach churning, he approaches the door hand in hand with Viktor. Yuuri briefly considers letting go to assert the proper space he so failed to assert last night when Anya came upon them in the hallway. But Viktor had been the one to clasp his hand as they left the room, and he shows no signs of desiring separation, instead tugging Yuuri along in his buoyant wake, so whatever composure his soul may receive from respectful distance would be instantly crushed by Viktor’s disappointment, so he holds on, hoping against hope that he doesn’t throw up three steps into the dining room.

The theory goes untested as Viktor stops two steps inside the room. From the corners of his eyes, Yuuri sees him search the room, presumably for a free table. He wishes that he could help, but he can’t, his brain, body, and soul rendered frozen by all of the people who turn to stare at them as they arrive. He spots Georgi with Anya, Christophe and his coach, the Crispinos with Mila, and Yakov at a table with, presumably, other coaches. And all of them, every single one, stare. Pulse racing, Yuuri tries to breathe. How does Viktor do it? How does he walk around knowing that someone is watching him all the time? People only ever watch Yuuri when he’s on the ice. There, he knows that they’re watching, but he can’t see it. Here, he sees it. He sees everyone. Everyone looks at him.

Him and Viktor.

What do they think? Are they surprised? Most here had been at Sochi. Christophe had been. So too Michele and Sara. And Mila, at her first Grand Prix final. They’d seen him and Viktor there. Were they surprised now, or was this, Yuuri and Viktor together, expected given what they’d seen then? Viktor smiling at him. Viktor dancing with him. Viktor choosing him. Him. Katsuki Yuuri. Who’d come in sixth. Who didn’t belong. Yet who had somehow, someway swooped in and stole their shining star.

Yuuri stares back at those who stare at him then, straightening his shoulders, he tightens his hand around Viktor’s, starts forward, and leads him to the first empty table he sees.

When they sit, he finally looks at Viktor who thoroughly embodies the phrase tickled pink. It is, coincidentally, the same color that Yuuri’s face turns right now. “What?”

“You,” Viktor says. “Surprising me again.” His lips unfurl into a grin. “So possessive.”

“No! No, I wasn’t- I didn’t- I just- I…” Yuuri stops and closes his eyes with a groan because that is exactly what he was. Possessive. Over Viktor Nikiforov.

Viktor just laughs.

Yuuri opens his eyes and leans forward. “You did it too, you know. Last night. With Anya. You were all- all…”

Viktor arches a brow. He’s still smiling. “Yes?”

“Close,” Yuuri settles on after an entirely too long deliberation.

Viktor leans back in his chair. Not one ounce of shame graces his gorgeous frame. “I was.”

Before Yuuri can respond, the waiter comes then and takes their order. Tea and fruit and yogurt with granola, eggs for protein, whole wheat toast with both peanut butter and jam, and an order of waffles and sausage for Yuuri to take up to Yuri, who still sleeps, when Viktor left for press and then practice.

As the waiter leaves, Viktor reaches for his hand. “It’s not fair.”

“What?”

“You and Yuri. You get to spend the whole day together.” His bottom lip pushes out in a pout. “I, on the other hand, have to do press. And practice.”

He said practice the same way Yuri had said Chopin. Press Yuuri could understand. Every single time he spoke to the press was a nightmare of stammering and incoherency. But practice… Okay, Yuuri could understand this too if it had been him speaking, but it had been Viktor, the man who had just made history with his fifth consecutive Grand Prix gold medal and was about to make history here too.

He doesn’t consider gold medals now, just Yuuri’s hand as he flips it over and runs a thumb over the various lines of his palm. “What are you two going to do?”

Yuuri freezes. They were going to practice. Possibly. Or possibly Yuri was going to yell at him for a few hours about how awful his choreography is. Or maybe not. Yuuri hadn’t been able to tell whether Yuri’s irritation last night had been about the choreography or about him and Viktor. Probably both, knowing Yuri.

“I- I don’t know,” he says now. “Maybe go see the city.”

Viktor’s pout intensifies. “Nooo. I love sightseeing.”

“We can wait until you’re done. It’s- That’s no problem. We’ll, I don’t know, we’ll…”

Viktor straightens. He sends Yuuri an absolutely blinding smile. “You could come watch me practice! That’s what Yura was supposed to do anyway. I’d love it if you came to watch me.”

Wide-eyed, Yuuri stares at Viktor, stuck between that proverbial rock and a hard place. As he’s scrambling for an answer, he sees a shadow fall across the table.

“Well, well, well, this is a surprise.”

Turning, Yuuri finds Christophe standing beside their table. He stares down at their linked hands with an absolutely devious grin on his face. Glancing now at Viktor, he says, “So when did this start?”

Yuuri glances too. He can’t not. The question sends his heart racing and mind spinning. Viktor hadn’t told Christophe about Yuuri. Why? They were friends. That’s what friends did. They told each other things, right? That’s what Phichit always said. You shared your life with your friends. Yuuri had with Phichit. He’d used his words. He’d told him about the banquet, about their Skype calls. Okay, so he hadn’t told him about their kiss, but he hadn’t had time yet. Viktor had time, at least a month from when they’d started talking, but still, he’d said nothing.

Hand still holding Yuuri’s, Viktor sends Chris a sunny smile. “You should know. You were there.”

Christophe gasps. “Since Sochi?” He shakes a finger at Viktor. “You naughty minx. You should have told me. I feel invested. My pole and I were instrumental in bringing you two together.”

Viktor says nothing. He merely shrugs.

Shrugs.

Why hadn’t he said anything? Viktor had never been shy about informing the world about his past relationships. All his social media accounts were littered with the evidence, photos, gushings about dates and reunions. There hadn’t been any about Yuuri yet, but there also hadn’t been any photos, except for the banquet. There’d been no dates or reunions either. Not until now. But Viktor had declared them to be boyfriends after one Skype call. That would have warranted him saying something to his friend, right? But Anya hadn’t known, which means Georgi hadn’t told her, and Georgi knew, he shared the same ice as Viktor and Yuri. He had to have known. Why else would he have told Yuuri it was good of him to come here? Had Viktor asked Georgi not to say anything to Anya? Was he- Was he ashamed of Yuuri? He-

Christophe’s sigh breaks Yuuri from his thoughts. Glancing at him, Yuuri watches as he lowers his hand and says to Viktor, “I should have known though. Your Nationals make perfect sense now.”

Viktor shrugs again. He shifts his gaze to Yuuri and smiles. “I was inspired.”

Christophe also looks at Yuuri and smiles. There’s no trace of softness in his smile though. Just something sly and sharp. “Is that what they’re calling it these days?”

Yuuri’s eyes widen at the implication. His face begins to heat in a blush.

“How is Mathieu?” Viktor asks now. “And Selina? Still well, I hope. Or as well as a cat can ever be.”

At that, Christophe shifts his gaze back to Viktor. He answers, but Yuuri processes nothing that he says, the words dim against the din in his mind. Sex. Sex with Viktor. Christophe assumed it had happened. Already. Why? Because of the photos? Were they that suggestive? Were others thinking this too? That he and Viktor had had sex. Was his family? Oh god.

Before the thought can deteriorate further, Viktor squeezes his hand. Yuuri drags his gaze toward him, molasses slow. Viktor’s not looking at Yuuri though, but at Christophe. He’s laughing at whatever Christophe just said. Looking at them, Yuuri amends his prior thought. Maybe it wasn’t the pictures that made Christophe assume what he did. Maybe he assumed because he knew Viktor. They’d been friends for years. Maybe more than friends. Rumors had dogged the two of them for years, at least before Christophe had settled down with Mathieu. Why wouldn’t the rumors be true? Viktor was gorgeous. He was funny and sweet and kind. Who wouldn’t want to sleep with him? And Christophe was… Christophe. He’d embodied sex on ice for half a decade. How could Yuuri compete with him? He couldn’t. Not with Christophe. Not with anybody.

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god, oh-

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri startles. His gaze flies back to Viktor, who frowns at him now, Christophe having gone back to his table.

“Is everything alright?”

Yuuri jerks his head in a nod. “Yes. Yes. Everything’s fine. I’m- I’m just- I’m hungry. How, uh, are you?”

Viktor doesn’t respond. He stares at Yuuri, his brow still furrowed, and with each silent second that passes, Yuuri’s pulse ratchets up another dozen notches. His eyes dart around the room in search of something to say, some comment he can make about another skater or their food or an interesting aspect of the room. Naturally, nothing sparks a speck of interest or any sort of sane thought in his head.

“I’m okay,” Viktor says after a few seconds. “Looking forward to sightseeing with you and Yuri this afternoon.”

He chatters on about the different places they can visit, going to Old Town or the Djurgarden, though it probably wouldn’t be as pretty in the winter as in the spring. Yuuri listens and nods and tries his best for the rest of the meal to behave like a sane, normal boyfriend.

*

He’s still trying a few hours later, this time to behave like a sane, normal friend.

He’s somehow managed to both evade Viktor’s suggestion for him and Yuri to come watch him practice and to help Yuri choreograph the first portion of his exhibition, the ‘before’ opening of delicate piano and graceful movements. How he’ll never know as his brain has done its hardest to foil Yuuri at every opportunity, throwing random thoughts, fears, and connotations at him like confetti in a parade. He glances again at the bed, shoved now against the wall like the rest of the furniture so he and Yuri have space to practice. Viktor hadn’t seemed bothered that morning by the idea telling everyone about him and Yuuri, yet he hadn’t told his closest friend. Why? Was he just acting like he was okay with people knowing now, or had he just not had the chance to tell Christophe before? But no, Viktor had had over a month to say something if he’d wanted to, yet he hadn’t. Why? Was he-

“Oh my god, if you don’t fucking pay attention, I’m going to throw your phone at your face!”

Yuuri flinches and jerks his gaze over to Yuri, who glares at him from his spot in the center of the room.

“Sorry. Sorry. I- Okay. We were…” He turns and peers down at the table where they’ve laid his phone and their growing pile of notes. They’re at the transition, at the abrupt end of the Y spiral to the hard shove across the ice, Yuri moving away from the past and into his future. Ready or not, here I come. Yuuri tilts his head to the side. He rewinds to the cue in the music, the pause before the bass bounds in, bold and explosive. “Maybe a triple axel,” he says, rewinding again. “Or a Russian split? People love them, and you’ve got the power and flexibility for it-”

“I want to do a quad.”

Yuuri looks up. “What?”

“I want to do a quad here. To show everyone I can.”

Yuuri frowns at that. “Wouldn’t they already know? I’m sure Yakov will have you practice at least one over the summer so you can add it to your routines next year.”

“I’m not doing this next year.”

“What?”

“I’m doing it this year. At World’s.”

All of Yuuri- his brain, body, and soul- goes still. The music, however, keeps going, set as it is on repeat. “What?”

“For my exhibition. I want all the assholes in Senior’s to know exactly what’s coming for them next season.”

Oh god.

“But- But-”

Yuri crosses his arms over his chest. “But what?”

But Yuuri will be there. At World’s. He has to be. For Viktor. Yet if he’s there and Viktor’s there and Yuri’s there, then Yakov will be there too. Yakov who probably wants to murder Yuuri right now for distracting his prized senior skater. He’ll definitely want to murder Yuuri for degrading his prized junior skater with his roughshod choreography.

Oh god, oh god.

Yuri unleashes a long, heavy sigh. “Fucking shit, what is it now?”

“But- But- Have you been practicing quads this year? At all?”

“No. Yakov won’t let me.”

Yuuri blinks at him once. And then again. “But-”

Yuri shrugs. “I have two months. That’s plenty of time.”

It wasn’t. Or it hadn’t been for Yuuri. He’s been practicing for years and has only mastered the Toe so far. Well, the Salchow too but only in practice. And here he was, daring to choreograph something for another skater. Like he was good enough to. Like he actually could. What was he thinking? He hadn’t been. That’s the problem. He-

“I can’t believe Iglesia found such a cool song. His music usually sucks.”

Yuuri frowns, first at the insult and then at the knowledge it required. To know what Leo usually skated to required Yuri to not only have watched Senior competitions, many of them, over many years, but to pay attention too. To take them seriously. Stifling his smile, Yuuri says, “Well, he is friends with a DJ, so-”

“What?”

“Leo. He’s friends with a DJ. Phichit said he got the song from him. Or her. I don’t know. But I guess technically he didn’t find it. His friend did, so…”

Yuri says nothing. He just stares.

Yuuri stares back. “What?”

Unfolding his arms, Yuri props them on his hips. “So Chulanont, Iglesia, and some random DJ know you’re choreographing for me, but you haven’t told the asshole yet?”

“You haven’t either. And only Phichit knows. Leo just thinks I’m helping you find music, which he almost didn’t want to do because apparently you and Guang Hong-” He stops as Yuri rolls his eyes. “What? What’s wrong with Guang Hong?”

“What isn’t? He’s like a worse version of you. Or you before I got to know you,” he adds after a beat.

At that, Yuuri’s mouth goes flat. He knows better than to engage. He knows he’s the adult here, the one who needs to set the good example, to stay calm, to be mature. But what he knows and what he feels are two different things. “What does that mean?”

“It means he walks around like he left his spine back in China.”

Yuuri stares at Yuri for a long moment before shaking his head and turning away.

“What?” Yuri says from behind him. “I’m not saying you’re like that. Just that I thought you were.”

Yuuri says nothing. He walks back over to the table, his teeth clenched, and stops the music. His eyes drift to their pile of notes, but the words and figures swim before him rather than resolve into something comprehensible.

“What?” Yuri says again. “Don’t tell me you’re pissed.”

Yuuri takes a careful breath. “I’m not.”

“Bullshit.”

“Does it matter?” Yuuri asks, just this side of snapping. “You’re here for the routine. Let’s just focus on that.”

Surprisingly, Yuri keeps silent. He watches though. Yuuri feels the weight of his stare heavy on his back. He takes another careful breath and lets it out slow. He needs to be calm. Calm. Yuri’s never calm. And if he’s never calm and Yuuri’s not calm, then no one will be calm, and someone needs to be calm, otherwise not calm things will happen, like murder. Drawing in a third, calmer breath, Yuuri reaches for his phone to review his practice skate, but a sound outside the room has him jerking around toward the door.

“Oh my god,” Yuri groans. “His practice doesn’t end for another forty minutes. Stop freaking out.”

The comment stokes a fire under Yuuri’s skin. He ducks his head but can’t turn back toward the table, Yuri speaking before he can.

“Just tell him. Jesus Christ. I don’t care if he knows.”

Yuuri lifts his head. “Why do you want him to know? I thought you hated him.”

“And I thought you liked him. Aren’t you supposed to tell each other everything or some shit? Isn’t that what you do in a relationship?”

Possibly. Aside from his parents, all that Yuuri knows about relationships is what he’s seen in the K-dramas first Mari and then Phichit had him watch, but he’d rather eat his own soul than reveal this to Yuri, so he glances instead at the clock and says, “If you want to practice, we need to practice. Time’s running out.”

I was practicing. You’re the one who-”

“Damare! Damare. Just… shut up. For once in your life. Please.”

The only sound that follows his outburst is that of his own harsh breathing. Yuuri registers the shock slackening Yuri’s mouth before he closes his eyes and lifts his hands to his face. So much for calm. Or mature. Snapping at a kid because of his own anxieties. Yuri didn’t deserve that, or Yuuri’s inattention. He’d promised Yuri that they would practice together, yet all he’s managed is a cobbled together imitation of a routine.

Drawing in a deep breath, Yuuri lowers his hands and looks up. Yuri still stares at him with wide eyes. Wincing, he resists the urge to duck his head or to run shamefaced for the bathroom. Rather he forces himself to maintain eye contact as he says, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-”

“Yes, you did.”

“Yuri-”

“Whatever. I don’t care.”

Yuri turns away then and walks over to the couch where he grabs his phone and proceeds to ignore Yuuri for the next two minutes. Yuuri lets him, needing the time as much as Yuri does to decompress. Besides, if anyone can respect another’s avoidance coping mechanism, it’s Yuuri, the master of such feats of epic evasions. He pivots back toward the table and starts the music again, moving to the open space in the middle of the room to run through the routine. Maybe he can add a cantilever. Or hydroblading. Definitely a death drop. The music needs something with drama, and death drops definitely qualify. And a step sequence. A level three, if Yuri wants to do this at World’s. He’ll need to practice listening to the music, timing his turns to the correct beat. Maybe a diagonal one cutting right across the rink and ending with a death drop into a sit spin. Or some sort of spin. Yuri’s good with spins. He’ll-

“I’m doing the quad.”

Twisting around, Yuuri finds Yuri no longer regarding his phone, but him, with his chin lifted and shoulders set. Yuuri can’t help the sigh. “Yuri-”

“Just because you fall on them all the fucking time doesn’t mean I will!”

Yuuri barely resists the urge to throw up his hands. “You will if you don’t practice!”

“I’ll practice.”

“How? You said Yakov won’t let you.” Yuri opens his mouth, but Yuuri cuts him off before he can continue. “And don’t say you’ll do it by yourself because you can’t. You can’t practice quads by yourself.”

Yuri narrows his eyes. “Yes, I can.”

“No, you can’t. You’ll hurt yourself.”

“Like you care.”

Three simple words, yet they batter at Yuuri and make his jaw drop. In the silence between them, the song starts again. “You- You think I don’t care about you?”

He gets no response. Just an eye roll and an averted gaze.

“Yuri-”

“No! You don’t! If you did, you would have told Viktor, but you didn’t. You don’t want to. You don’t care. You-”

Yuri breaks off, trembling. For perhaps the first time in his life, Yuuri understands the impulse to move closer and comfort another person with a hug or a hand on the shoulder. Yet he resists this urge too. In this, he feels he and Yuri are similar. Instead, perhaps foolishly, he tries with words. “That’s not- Yuri, it’s not because of you. I-”

“Whatever. Stop acting like we’re friends. You don’t have to anymore. You got what you wanted. You’re here and so is the asshole, so just teach me the fucking routine so you won’t have to-”

The rest withers on his lips as the door opens and Viktor strides in, a bright smile on his face. He drops his skate bag onto the floor and makes his way into the room. “Good! You’re still here! I was worried you’d left already!”

Neither Yuuri nor Yuri respond. The music fills the lack, booming into the silence with a frenzy of bass and guitar. Yuuri and Yuri simply stare, as though an elephant had burst into the room and started to tap dance.

Viktor glances from one to the other. He takes in Yuri’s fisted hands, Yuuri’s clenched jaw, the way that they gape at him, silent. His smile dims a shade. “Is everything okay?”

“Why the fuck are you here?” Yuri says in lieu of response. “You’re supposed to be at practice.”

Viktor shrugs. “I left early. I’d much rather be here with you two.”

Yuuri blinks at him. “You… left early?”

“Yakov let you?” Yuri adds.

Viktor waves a hand, dismissing the questions and the matter entirely. Moving closer, he looks past them toward the table. “What are you two doing?”

Like the gum bubbles that Phichit loves to pop, the question punctures Yuuri’s shock. There’s no sticky sweet residue left in its wake though. Just all encompassing dread. What were they doing? In a room with all the furniture pushed back against the walls, with music blasting from a phone that lay by a pile of notes that, to the experienced eye, to Viktor’s eye, would look exactly like what they were: the initial choreography for a figure skating routine.

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god.

Panic swoops upon Yuuri like a bird of prey. Chest beginning to burn from its iron grip, he closes his eyes and tries his best to breathe.

He hears a scoff of disgust to his left. “Nothing now,” Yuri mutters. He moves, toward Yuuri. A few seconds later the music stops and silence encompasses them all.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

“Was that new music?” Viktor asks, likely because neither Yuuri nor Yuri continue. “I don’t recognize it.”

There’s a clatter, Yuri tossing Yuuri’s phone back onto the table, then he retreats, from Yuuri and Viktor. “So?”

Trembling, Yuuri thinks he hears Viktor approach as he says, “I’m just curious-”

“Of course you are!” Yuri yells. The volume and vehemence shock Yuuri’s eyes back open. He finds Yuri glaring at Viktor, his hands fisted and his chest heaving. “You’re always curious, but it never lasts. You have the attention span of a goddamn bug. You’re like your stupid fucking dog chasing after whatever shit has waved itself in front of its stupid face.”

Likely only years of media training allow Viktor to maintain some semblance of a smile. “Yuri-”

“No!” Yuri explodes. “Fuck off! Just fuck off! God, you always make everything awful. If it’s not about you, you have to stick your goddamn nose in it. Not everything is about you, asshole. I don’t care how many medals you’ve won. You don’t own the fucking world!”

Viktor’s smile collapses beneath the vitriol hurled his way. His wavering composure wrenches Yuuri from his panic. Turning to Yuri, he says, “I think you should-”

“No,” Yuri says, whirling on him. “Fuck you, too. You’re so stupid. Don’t expect it to last with you either. No matter what he’s promised. You’re not special. Not to him. No one is.”

Yuri whirls again, this time for the couch where he grabs his phone and jacket before storming past Viktor for the door. He slams it shut behind him, so hard that the impact makes both Yuuri and Viktor flinch. The only sound that breaks the silence left in Yuuri’s wake is a soft gasp from Viktor. The sound draws Yuuri’s gaze to him. They briefly lock eyes before Viktor looks away. He raises a hand to his mouth only to lower it a second later.

It trembles on both the ascent and descent.

“We- We had been fighting,” Yuuri says, his eyes locked on that hand. “Before you came. He’s… He’s angry with me too.”

He lifts his gaze to find Viktor staring at him now. “Why?”

Yuuri breaks the stare. Heart racing, he scours his brain for a response. The truth he immediately dismisses. A mine lurks under every aspect of it- the choreography, Christophe’s innuendo, the paparazzi pictures, press rumors, his inexperience and insecurities. Yet the idea of lying again to Viktor leaves a sour taste in Yuuri’s mouth. He already has too many times. Even he knows that no relationship survives based off of lies. Yet no middle ground exists for him, no plausible half truth that isn’t also half lie.

“Were you…” Viktor asks into the silence. “Were you two making a routine?”

Unwilling, Yuuri’s eyes flit back to Viktor. He’s peering past him toward the table with his phone and his notes. A faint frown furrows his brow.

Oh god.

No longer a bird of prey, but a beast, his panic pounces and pins him flat, teeth going straight for the jugular.

Viktor turns back to him. His frown slackens into shock and he takes a half step toward Yuuri. “Are you-”

“You forgot. You promised to choreograph a routine for Yuri for his senior debut, but you- He said that you forgot, so I- It’s just an exhibition. That’s it. Just- It’s nothing. It’s not- I wasn’t- He was- He was going to cry, and I couldn’t- I couldn’t… Please. Please.”

What he begs for Yuuri can’t articulate. The only cogent thought in his mind is the word itself, bounding and rebounding again and again and again.

Viktor freezes. His eyes dart to where Yuri last stood. He stares a moment before wilting. His eyes close and his head falls forward and he slumps like a puppet with its strings newly cut. “I had,” he murmurs. “I’d forgotten. I-” His eyes fly back open and he whips his head up, meeting Yuuri’s gaze once more. “It wasn’t because of interest. Not the way Yuri said.” Viktor stops, his mouth open as though he planned on saying more. Yet nothing comes. Instead, he looses a sharp breath, nearly a laugh except for the utter lack of humor. “Or maybe it is. I’m here, after all, and not at practice. That’s proof enough, I suppose."

Yuuri supposes too. He wonders, the din of please and proof giving way to the thought that Yuuri had created and contemplated yet ultimately cast aside, the thought that Yuri restored and Viktor unfurled, the thought of interest and inspiration. Yuuri has no doubt that Viktor cares for him, but his brain whispers again how long and just wait and too good, this is too good to be true. Maybe that’s why Viktor hadn’t said anything to Christophe. Maybe that’s why he kept them a secret-

Yuuri blinks. And blinks again.

His eyes dart too to where Yuri last stood.

Oh no.

“I suppose I should return to practice.”

Yuuri nearly misses it, Viktor speaking so quietly. By the time it makes its way past the miasma of Yuuri’s silence about Yuri and Viktor’s silence about Yuuri, Viktor’s already at the door, his skate bag in his hand.

“What? Viktor-”

He’s out and through the door before Yuuri can finish. Unlike Yuri, the door coasts closed behind Viktor, easing shut with a soft click that still sounds gargantuan to Yuuri, like finality, like fast approaching doom.

*

Chapter Text

Sixty Impossible Things
Part Ten

-

Every single night I endure the flight
Of little wings of white-flamed butterflies in my brain
These ideas of mine percolate the mind
Trickle down the spine
Swarm the belly, swelling to a blaze
That's where the pain comes in like a second skeleton
Trying to fit beneath the skin
I can't fit the feelings in
Every single night's alight with my brain
- “Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple

-

One hour. Yuuri waits in the room one hour. He waits for Viktor, more likely than Yuri to return, the room his after all, and to return within a reasonable time frame, men’s practice ending within an hour of him leaving. So Yuuri waits. He pushes all the furniture back into place, he packs his notes about Yuri’s routine, he straightens the odds and ends strewn about the room, lingering over the nightstand on Viktor’s side of the bed. There’s a glass half-filled with water and a tin of lip balm and, beneath this, a book.

With tremulous fingers, Yuuri sets the lip balm by the glass before lifting the book. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. It’s in Russian, but Yuuri recognizes the cover image even though he’s never read it. Viktor had asked him for recommendations a few weeks ago, actually blushing as he admitted to not having read much Japanese literature. Yuuri had just blinked at him before surreptitiously grabbing his phone and searching for ‘best Japanese novels.’ Reading had never ranked high on his list of leisure activities, not nearly enough to know what to recommend to Viktor, who had bookshelves stuffed to the brim in each room of his apartment. For Yuuri, when he wasn’t practicing, he was in class, and when he wasn’t in class, he was dancing, and when he wasn’t dancing, he was usually too tired to do anything more strenuous than play a videogame or watch a movie with Phichit. He poked at his keyboard occasionally, not wanting to let his piano skills become too rusty, but he rarely read, at least not more than random Internet browsing. And here Viktor is, actually reading one of the suggestions that Yuuri had found on the internet.

Breath hitching in his chest, Yuuri replaces the book and the lip balm too. Reading Murakami, researching Hasetsu, how is Yuuri supposed to reconcile these with Viktor’s silence about their relationship? He had held Yuuri’s hand in the cafeteria in front of half the skating world, but he’s never mentioned Yuuri once on social media. Viktor’s okay with telling the press about them but not the man he considers his closest friend. These made no sense, these contradictions, but there has to be an explanation, something that connects all the dots. There is for Yuuri, for his silence about choreographing Yuri’s exhibition. There has to be for Viktor too. But what Yuuri doesn’t know, and he wouldn’t until he did the impossible, until he did what he’s never successfully done in his life: had an actual conversation with a fellow adult about feelings.

Sighing, Yuuri flops onto the bed. Maybe he should try to track Yuri down instead. There’d be no talk about feelings there. There’d probably be grievous bodily harm, but no feelings. He’d have to find Yuri first though. Hopefully, he was still here in the hotel and not out in the city. At least he hadn’t taken his skates or luggage with him so he couldn’t try to practice on his own or leave the city altogether. But even then, Yuri was fifteen and angry and alone. Other things could happen. Dangerous things.

Sighing a second time, Yuuri wonders if he should tell Yakov. Viktor would have, wouldn’t he? He said he was returning to practice, to Yakov. If there was something to worry about, he would have said something, right? Maybe Yuri stormed off all the time. Maybe there was nothing to worry about. Or maybe there was. Shaking his head, Yuuri closes his eyes. He can’t do this. He can’t take care of himself and his own well-being, much less that of another person’s. Or two people, Viktor and Yuri now a part of his life.

The impulse to call Phichit flits through his mind, but Yuuri dismisses it as he has the past three times, Phichit probably still asleep, or maybe getting ready for early morning conditioning. And he couldn’t ask Minako or Mari for advice, not when he hadn’t even spoken to them about Viktor yet. No. No. He got himself into this mess; he would somehow get himself out of it.

Somehow.

Yuuri breathes in, careful and slow.

He can do this.

He can do this.

He can’t do this.

Opening his eyes, he rolls over and reaches for his phone. He’s halfway through typing ‘how to successfully resolve a conflict between people’ in a Google search when there’s a knock at the door. Yuuri’s up and off the bed before his brain can process that both Yuri and Viktor have keys, that whoever stands on the other side of the door is likely then not one of them.

And it isn’t.

It’s Yakov Feltsman.

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

“Viktor isn’t here,” Yuuri blurts out before Yakov can even open his mouth.

“I know.”

Yuuri blinks at that. “Oh.”

“He’s with Georgi right now.” Yakov pauses, and a muscle in his cheek twitches. “Do you know when Viktor interacts with Georgi outside of practice?”

Numbly, Yuuri shakes his head.

The muscle twitches again. “When he is vexed about a boy.”

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri says as he averts his gaze.

“I didn’t come here for an apology. I came so you could tell me what is wrong. Viktor won’t. Yuri won’t either.” Yakov stops then to heave out a sigh. Yuuri glances at him and finds him shaking his head. “I did not expect to see that boy until the flight home, yet he is in my room right now, ranting about Viktor. And about you.”

“Oh.”

This earns Yuuri a glower. “I do not want him in my room, Katsuki. If I wanted him in my room, I would not have told him to stay with Viktor. Do you understand?”

Yuuri nods.

“Good. Now Cialdini says you’re a responsible boy. That you listen to your coach. Is this true?”

Yuuri blinks again. “I- I suppose…”

“Good. Then get your coat.”

“What?”

“Get your coat, Katsuki. We are going to get tea.”

Yuuri blinks a third time. “We are?”

“Yes. We will get tea and you will tell me what is wrong. Then I will tell you how to fix it.”

*

A half hour later they sit in a cafe a few blocks from the hotel. A mug of tea steams before Yuuri, but he makes no move to drink it. This moment is too surreal, too thoroughly bizarre, for such a prosaic action as drinking tea. So he watches it steam and sits as still as he can and tries his best to breathe. Perhaps if he can project the illusion of a calm, rational human being, he may actually become one.

“Well?” Yakov demands.

Yuuri jumps. His knee bangs against the table. The impact nearly upends his tea.

So much for calm.

Exhaling slow, Yuuri gathers his thoughts. He’d frantically scrambled for what to say on the way to the cafe. Bits and pieces of the truth had quickly fallen like horrified dominos. His relationship insecurities? No. Never. Not in a million years. Especially not to Yakov Feltsman. The thought of sitting here and talking to Yakov about having sex with Viktor…? Yuuri would rather let Yuri set him on fire and then gleefully skate over the sad, smoldering remains than talk with Yakov about sex. But if not that, then either Yuuri has to do the impossible and craft a successful lie, or he has to spill the beans about his promise to inflict his shoddy choreograph onto the next great hope of Russian figure skating behind Yakov’s intimidating back.

He could do this.

He could do this.

He could-

“Katsuki.”

“Okay. Okay. I- I may have- I… No. No, I need- Okay, so Viktor- He, uh, he promised to make a routine for Yuri for his senior debut, but-”

“But he forgot.”

Yuuri’s jaw drops. “You already know?”

“Of course I know. I was there when Yura asked and Vitya foolishly said yes.” Yakov sighs again as he shakes his head. “I thought Yuri would have confronted Viktor about it by now. He doesn’t usually shy from expressing his opinions. But he hasn’t confronted Viktor. At least not while we were in Russia. And I didn’t understand why,” Yakov continues as he reaches for his tea, “until I walked off the plane and saw you standing in the airport waiting for us.”

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god.

Yuuri ducks his head. He tries to swallow but his throat is too dry. He looks at his tea but his hands are shaking too much for him to even think about reaching for his cup. He just avoided one liquid disaster. He doesn’t need to tempt another. His eyes flit to the door. What if he ran? What if he just ran? He could. He could do it. He’s faster than Yakov. He could run. He could get away. He could-

Across the table, Yakov sighs. He sighs again when Yuuri flinches. “Katsuki-”

“I’m sorry.”

“Katsuki-”

“Sorry.”

“Stop apologizing and look at me.”

Yuuri does, reluctantly. Rather than the terrifying visage of doom that he expects, Yakov regards him with a marginally softer expression, soft enough for Yuuri to maintain eye contact for more than two seconds and for Yakov to speak again.

“Cialdini says you worry. You are worried I’m here to yell at you. Yes?” Yakov lifts both brows but he doesn’t wait for Yuuri to respond. “You are worried that I blame you for the current state of my skaters?”

Yuuri says nothing. He can only stare.

“Perhaps you share the blame. But I know Vitya and I know Yura and…” Yakov trails off then, shaking his head. His gaze shifts past Yuuri, past the cafe, back into memory. Lifting a hand, he rubs it across his face, and, for a moment, his expression flickers. For a moment, Yakov seems less like the stern coach of the most decorated senior and junior men’s figure skaters in the world and more like an exhausted parent, beset by worry for his wayward sons. A few seconds pass and then Yakov lowers his hand. “They are not easy. Especially Yuri.” Yakov turns back to Yuuri, and the lingering grimness fades, shockingly, to an undisguised plea. “I want to help you, Katsuki. I want to help you help them. They will not let me. They are stubborn. It is what makes them such good skaters, but in the rest…”

Yuuri draws back. He still stares, unable to formulate a coherent thought. “You- You care about them.”

This restores the frown. “Of course I care. I have raised them- both of them- since they were ten years old.” Yakov stops and presses his lips flat, but Yuuri still spies the wobbling of his frown. He freezes, worrying, but all Yakov does is let loose another sigh and slip into reminiscence. “I have raised that boy seventeen years. Seventeen years, Katsuki. I was there when he got his dog. When he cut his ridiculous hair. I was the one who found him crying the first time over a boy.” He stops again as his gaze goes fierce. Determined. “You will tell me why he is upset over you.”

Yuuri swallows hard. “I- I don’t know if it’s me. Yuri… He said a lot. About Viktor. To Viktor. Before he left.”

Yakov waves his hand. “Yuri says many things to Viktor, especially this past month. He would not upset Viktor. Not like this.”

All gaping ceases. Yuuri drops his eyes, then his head and his shoulders, wilting at the thought that he’s upset Viktor. He never wanted this. He never wanted to lie. But he had. Repeatedly. Of course Viktor would know. And of course he’d be upset. Yuuri was supposed to care about him. Who lied to someone they cared about? What kind of person did that?

“What happened between you and Viktor when he returned to your room?”

Yuuri remains fixed on the table. “He- When Yuri told me about Viktor choreographing for him, or about forgetting to, he was upset. He- He wanted to do it on his own, but he said- he said you wouldn’t let him. His presentation scores, and interpretation, were too low. But mine- Mine are- I offered to help. We were- Yuri and I- We were practicing when Viktor came back.” Yuuri grits his teeth against the bile that rises in his throat. Swallowing again, he exhales slow then forces the hateful words out. “He didn’t know. About my offer. I never told him.”

There’s movement across from him, but Yuuri doesn’t dare look up. He clenches his hands in his lap and waits, for dismay, for doom, for Yakov to verbalize the enmity bubbling within him like the springs at Yutopia.

Half a minute passes before Yakov asks quietly, “Did Yura ask you not to tell Viktor?”

Yuuri shakes his head. “He- I think he wanted Viktor to know. But he wouldn’t- He wouldn’t tell him himself.”

“He wanted you to?”

Yuuri nods.

“But you wouldn’t?”

Yuuri shakes his head again.

“Why not?”

Why not? Why hadn’t he? The reason seems so slight now, so selfish and insignificant. But he still quails at the thought of telling Yakov. Such doubt cuts too close to the quick. He can barely discuss his feelings with Celestino, and Yuuri has to with him. With Yakov? How could Yakov even hope to understand the insidious insecurity that lay deep inside Yuuri? Lack of confidence was not an issue either Yuri or Viktor had ever faced. And if Yuuri did tell Yakov, Yakov would most assuredly tell Viktor, and he can’t- he can’t- still he can’t-

“Very well,” Yakov says when the silence stretches on too long. “Is this why Yuri is upset with you? Because you wouldn’t tell Viktor?”

And here Yuuri thought he could avoid at least this. But since when had the universe ever spared him a heaping helping of humiliation? Never, his traitorous brain whispers. Unable to restrain the sigh, Yuuri succumbs to the inevitable. “Partly. I- I was distracted. I didn’t expect, you know, all the articles. About me. And Viktor…”

Silence greets his admission. It ratchets up the intensity, intensifying the torture. After ten long seconds, Yakov says, his voice gruff, “You did not think of this before you came here?”

Miserable, Yuuri shakes his head.

“This is Viktor’s life, Katsuki. Privacy vanished for him when he was sixteen years old.”

If the world would oblige, Yuuri would gladly sink through his chair, beyond the floor, and into the bowels of the earth. Because he knows this. He knows. He consumed more than his fair share of articles about Viktor and his personal life over the years. It’s just-

“You should have thought about this before you made Viktor hope.”

Yuuri’s head snaps up. “What?”

“You knew the realities of his life. If such publicity makes you so uncomfortable, you should not have pursued a relationship with him.”

For five seconds, Yuuri stares. He stares, utterly frozen. Then the first stirrings of anger light within him. “I know people are interested in him. That the press- I know. I knew. I just- I didn’t think anyone would be interested in me, okay? I’m not- I’m just-” As quickly as the anger stirs, it extinguishes, Yuuri’s throat clamping down on the rest, on the frenzied rush he said to Viktor just that morning as they lay in bed together. It seemed so long ago now, hours feeling like days, like an entirely different world.

Yakov regards Yuuri a moment before cocking a brow. “That was foolish of you.”

Yuuri huffs out a laugh.

“It was,” Yakov affirms. “You are one of the world’s top figure skaters. The most talented from Japan in years.”

Yuuri ducks his head, shaking it in automatic denial.

“You doubt me?” Yakov asks, and the volume of his voice, the indignance, has Yuuri whipping his head up again. “You doubt my knowledge of skaters?”

“N- No, but-”

“But nothing. You have talent. Your programs are too timid and your jumps mediocre, but the rest…” Yakov stops to glare a few seconds. “You think I let Yura send videos to just anyone for skating advice?”

Yuuri blinks at that. “Well, no, but-”

“But what, Katsuki? Do you think just anyone’s skating inspires Viktor?” Yakov pauses, but it provides no relief for Yuuri, the contemplation as intense as the confrontation. He feels exposed, laid bare, his skating, his soul, his very self weighed and measured by Yakov’s steady gaze. “You could challenge him. If you pushed yourself. You should,” he adds a beat later. The intensity has finally abated, softened by some emotion that prompts Yakov to look away. Seconds pass. Then he murmurs, rocking Yuuri’s world with three simple words, “He needs it.”

He needs it.

If Yuuri retained any semblance of cognition, of basic consciousness, he would speak, he would demand answers from Yakov, clarifications concerning this bombshell. As it is, all he can do is gape.

He needs it.

He needs it.

“Why are you surprised?” Yakov demands, his intensity returning with a vengeance. “Viktor left practice today. He’s on the verge of history, no one has won Euros five years in a row, yet he left. His interest in skating is waning.”

More seismic shifting, more silent gawking.

Yakov huffs out a sigh, either at Yuuri’s dumbfounded expression or his silence. He casts a quick glance around the cafe before leaning forward, dropping his volume but not his severity. “There is no one to challenge him. Not in years. Giacometti has come the closest, yet he has consistently chosen crudity in his programs, base shock value rather than true artistry. This will never appeal to Viktor. But you…”

Yuuri draws back. He wants to deny every syllable, the thought of Viktor no longer skating too unbearable, too dismaying, but he can’t. Not when Yuri raged at his waning interest. Not when Viktor had confirmed it with his shaky admission. He was there, after all, in the hotel room, and not at practice. Is this why he’d cried when Yuuri told him he could be a coach, that he could be anything, that he could do anything he wanted? Is that why he’d cried, someone validating his desire not to skate anymore? Was this why Viktor had forgotten his promise to Yuri, why he’d struggled as a coach? Waning interest. No challenge. The thought churns Yuuri’s stomach. In a dim, dusty corner of his brain, he knows that every skater must retire. He’d thought of it himself after Sochi, in the dark weeks before Yuri and then Viktor had barreled into his life, daring and provoking and encouraging him. But Viktor…

Yuuri’s chest goes tight at thought. The world fuzzes at the edges of his vision.

Across the table, Yakov sighs once more. “That is a discussion for another day. Now you must talk to Viktor and explain why you did not tell him about making this routine for Yura. And then Viktor and Yura must talk about this promise to choreograph because it is not fair for Yura to put you in the middle of their disagreement. You are supposed to be his friend, not his bargaining chip.”

Bile rises in Yuuri’s throat at the claim. He thought they were friends. He’d offered to be friends. He’d wanted to be friends, he’d thought Yuri needed a friend, like he had at that age. But Yuri…

Yakov lifts his cup and drinks the rest of his tea, exchanging the cup for his hat when finished. “I will make sure Viktor and Yura return to your room so that you may talk with them. And then all of this will be resolved, yes?”

Distantly, as from the depths of the sea, Yuuri nods.

“Good.” Yakov pushes back from the table and eases to his feet. He doesn’t immediately move from the table though. Instead, he stares at Yuuri, his hat held in his hands. Yuuri sips careful breaths; he tries to ground himself with his fisted hands. Neither helps. After a few beats, Yakov says, “You have been good for them. Both of them. I did not think you would be, but you have been. I…” He drifts off, searching, then stopping. The rest remains unspoken, conveyed only in a light tap of his hat against the table. Seconds slip by then Yakov nods and turns to leave. Before starting for the door, he says over his shoulder, “They will be in your room within the hour.”

*

They may be, but Yuuri isn’t. He doesn’t return.

He runs.

Or, more accurately, he walks. For hours he walks Stockholm, hunched against the cold and the thoughts whirling like the wind in his mind. It had whirled before, spun about for hours, for days, for weeks, powered by the torment of lying to Viktor, of angering Yuri, of confusing his family, from the press now and their speculation, his inexperience with sex and relationships, yet all of that pales, all is rendered utterly insignificant by the knowledge that Viktor Nikiforov no longer wants to skate.

The thought freezes Yuuri. In the middle of a street he stops. The hum of residential life carries on around him, Yuuri having long ago passed from the area around the hotel to the surrounding neighborhoods, but nothing registers, nothing penetrates the thought currently laying siege to his mind.

He needs it.

He needs it.

His interest in skating is waning.

Yuuri contemplates, again, calling Phichit, but what Yuuri needs to discuss with Phichit he can’t. Yakov would murder him if he breathed one word about Viktor’s waning interest to anyone, even to Phichit, who Yuuri trusts with his life. Yakov doesn’t know Phichit, he has no reason to trust him, a rival, a fellow competitor of Viktor’s. He probably only told Yuuri about Viktor out of sheer desperation.

So no. No calling.

He’s on his own.

Phone off to resist the temptation, Yuuri walks. He walks and he thinks.

This is where he begins:

01- Viktor no longer wants to skate

02- Viktor no longer wants to skate

03- Viktor no longer wants to skate

04- Viktor no longer wants to skate

The thought overwhelms. What is skating without Viktor Nikiforov? To Yuuri… he can’t even imagine. The thought defies completion. Twelve years Viktor has guided him, inspiring him, surprising him, thrilling him, motivating him, and now…

Nothing. Now nothing, the ice empty without Viktor.

The thought makes Yuuri tremble. He stops and closes his eyes, breathes in and tries to calm himself down. Everyone retired. Everyone. No one skated forever. Not even Viktor could do that. Logically Yuuri knows this. But…

05- Maybe Yakov is wrong

06- People, occasionally, can be wrong

07- Yuuri, for instance, is often wrong

08- He was wrong about lying to Viktor, for thinking that he could, for thinking that he should, thinking that it would be better to keep his promise to choreograph for Yuri a secret

09- And Yuri, Yuuri had been wrong there too, thinking they were friends when Yuri, apparently, was just using him as a bargaining chip, to gain what he wanted from Viktor and nothing more

His chest aches at that. How stupid he’d been, seeing only what he’d wanted to see, a similar loneliness, a similar awkwardness within Yuri, a similar inability to make friends at that age. But no. Yakov was right. Yuri never shied from the truth. He’d told Yuuri what he thought about him right from the beginning, how Yuuri was pathetic, how he should just retire. Everything after was never about him, but about others. Upsetting Minami. Defying Yakov. Manipulating Viktor.

Yuuri opens his eyes. He blinks back the tears.

10- So people could be wrong. They could be very, very wrong

11- Maybe Yakov was too

12- But

Yuuri shakes his head. He starts forward again, trying to outrun the thought worming its way into his brain.

He fails.

13- Viktor admitted it

14- He admitted that leaving practice early was proof of his waning interest

15- So Yakov was right

16- Viktor no longer wants to skate

17- And Yuuri, apparently, is the only one who can stop him

The thought makes him shiver. Yuuri shoves his hands deeper into his coat pockets and walks on into the night, evening having fallen during his flight from the cafe, from what Yakov said, both about Viktor and about Yuuri himself.

How Yuuri could stop Viktor? How he could inspire Viktor to keep skating?

18- How?

19- How?

20- How could Yuuri ever challenge Viktor?

21- His skating was too timid

22- His jumps mediocre

23- He’d come in last at the Grand Prix, one hundred points behind Viktor

24- The thought was ridiculous

25- It was absurd

26- It was absolutely impossible

27- But

28- Viktor had said that Yuuri inspired him

29- During Nationals, Viktor had said that Yuuri inspired him

30- And

31- And

32- Yuuri had seen it

33- He’d watched Viktor skate at his Nationals, watched him perform his richest interpretation of his programs to date

34- He had inspired Viktor

35- Yuuri had inspired Viktor

Yuuri can’t help but shake his head again. The thought still puzzles him as much now as when Viktor first said it a month ago. As he wades through his befuddlement, Yuuri reaches an intersection, hangs a left, and heads for a park of some sort in the distance. What had Viktor said then, during that first Skype call? What had he said to explain the impossible, how and why Yuuri could ever, ever inspire him?

Oh, yes.

36- Boredom

37- Viktor had been bored, bored with the banquet, bored with skating, bored with life

38- And wanting someone, something, something more than his cold and lonely life

39- And Yuuri had blazed into it like a meteor, somehow sweeping Viktor off of his feet with his drunken dancing and terribly romantic declarations

40- Sweeping him off of his feet and now off of the ice

Yuuri enters the park, or the grounds, a church rising high into the air to his right, but Yuuri stays on his path, too paralyzed by the conundrum he finds himself in to deviate course. He’d pulled Viktor’s focus from the ice, yet he was also the one thing that could renew Viktor’s focus on the ice. Yuuri nearly laughs, but it’s smothered by the more powerful panic brewing within him.

41- He distracts Viktor from the ice

42- He could focus Viktor back on the ice

43- If he skated better

44- But can he? Could he?

Yakov said that he could. The thought baffles Yuuri more than anything else the past few days. Maybe he was lying. Maybe Yakov only said that Yuuri could challenge Viktor. Maybe he didn’t really believe it. But even as he thinks the thought, Yuuri dismisses it. He doesn’t know much about Yakov, but what he does know contradicts such manipulation, such underhanded deceit.

45- So Yakov believes then, he truly believes, that Yuuri could be better, that he could challenge Viktor at skating, if he pushed himself

Yuuri blows out a long breath. How? How? It’s not like he hasn’t been pushing himself. He has. For twelve years, he’s been trying so hard to skate like Viktor, to be his equal. Yet what does he have to show for it all, all that time, sweat, and effort?

46- Sixth place

47- One hundred points behind

48- Timid routines

49- And mediocre jumps

So maybe Yuuri could challenge Viktor, but he can’t now. Maybe somehow by next season, if he found a miracle cure for anxiety and the secret to landing all the most difficult jumps, he could, but not now.

50- Besides

51- How could anything Yuuri does now or in the future positively impact Viktor?

52- Yuuri had lied to him

53- He lied to Viktor, and Viktor had walked away

54- He’d turned from Yuuri and left, he left the hotel room rather than stay, rather than listen to whatever stuttering apologies Yuuri could tell him, that could possibly make up for weeks of lies

55- Viktor had turned from Yuuri and left

Yuuri stops. He closes his eyes, pulls his hands from his pockets and presses them against his face, trying to stifle the sob that’s welling within him. He’d ruined it. He’d ruined everything. They had barely even begun, but Yuuri had ruined it. Yakov was right. He was too timid. He was too scared to be honest, too worried what Viktor would think of his ideas, of his pathetic attempt at choreography, that he’d disapprove, that he’d be disappointed, that he’d regret wanting Yuuri and choosing him, and now…

56- Now he’d hurt Viktor

57- He’d lied to him

58- And Viktor had left

59- He’d made his choice

60- So Yuuri, now, had to make his

Celestino had been hesitant about Yuuri coming to Stockholm, about him taking a week off the ice. He hadn’t wanted the momentum Yuuri gained from Nationals to dissipate, so Yuuri should return, like Viktor. He should return to practice. He should change his ticket and fly to Detroit tomorrow, he should give up this impossible dream he’d convinced himself he could have, this dream of love and life, this dream that depended on experience, on confidence, on stability, none of which Yuuri possessed. If he stayed, he’d only disappoint Viktor more. He already had and he would again. Like Yakov said, the worst thing would be to give Viktor hope, to make him think that Yuuri was something that he wasn’t, that he could be what Viktor wanted, someone terribly romantic. He wasn’t. He was just terrible at romance and at skating and friendship and life.

So he would return. He’d finish his last class and graduate. He’d finish out the season and…

Yuuri opens his eyes. The night stretches out before him, the grounds of the park segueing to trees, a dark ring surrounding him. Shivering, he glances up at the sky. A few stars shine amid the clouds and the lights of Stockholm, but not enough to illuminate the path forward, so shivering again, Yuuri turns and begins the long walk back to the hotel.

*

He nearly balks in the elevator, barely restraining the impulse to smash a button for a lower floor and beat a hasty retreat to somewhere, anywhere, else. Yuuri stuffs his hands into his pockets and watches the numbers of the elevator rise. Whatever response Viktor would have, however angry he might be or upset or bored or dismissive, Yuuri has to endure. He owes Viktor that much. At least Yuri would likely be gone, to Mila’s room, or maybe to Yakov’s, somewhere far from Yuuri and his lack of a spine. At least Yuuri wouldn’t have to endure Viktor’s grief and Yuri’s rage at the same time.

As the elevator begins to slow, Yuuri’s heart begins to race. As the elevator stops, his chest grows tight. He sucks in a tremulous breath, bites down hard on his bottom lip. The doors open and he takes a stilted step out and then another, a few more, enough to clear the elevator and stand in the middle of the small foyer, but he stops there, the hallway before him a straight line, providing no obstacles or hindrances to the depths of the hall, to the door to Viktor’s room and to the person sitting before it.

Even without his glasses, Yuuri recognizes Yuri, his bright hair covering his face as he hunches over something, presumably his phone. Yuuri tenses to retreat, but the elevator doors close with a swish behind him and Yuri’s head snaps up, pinning him in place. They stare at each other a few seconds, neither moving or speaking. Without his glasses, Yuuri can’t discern the expression on Yuri’s face. But he doesn’t need to see. He hears well enough to catch the curse that Yuri mutters, the furious snarl that follows, and he sees well enough to watch Yuri shoot to his feet.

“You!” he shouts as he storms down the hall toward Yuuri. “Where the fuck have you been? You were supposed to be here hours ago. We thought- Asshole. You goddamn asshole. Chulanont is going nuts because you won’t answer your phone. And your coach- And Viktor-”

Three things happen simultaneously. Yuri reaches him, and this close Yuuri can see how he trembles, he can see the splotches of red around Yuri’s eyes, signs that, for him, signify crying, but before that thought can process, before Yuuri can even begin to contemplate this strange new twist, Yuri Plisetsky crying and possibly crying because of him, the third thing that happens snatches all of his attention, the door to Viktor’s room slamming open and Viktor himself darting into the hall. He turns in their direction and, like Yuuri spotting Yuri before, goes utterly still when he sees them. And, like Yuri before, Yuuri can’t see the expression on his face, but he hears the hitch of Viktor’s breath down the hall and he sees how Viktor’s shoulders slump, he sees how Viktor raises a hand to his face and covers his eyes.

And it flips the switch, that gesture, it loosens his grip on control, tenuous from his first steps off the plane in Stockholm, but held, held through the airport reunion, through the argument to the airport about rooms, through the disastrous dinner and Yakov and his glares, then Yuri and his demands, then the knowledge of the press, the innuendo from Chris, the expectations of sex, the inquiries from his family, the anger from Yuri, the expectations from Yakov, and the grief-

-the grief from-

-the grief from Viktor, and he can’t-

Yuuri can’t-

He can’t-

He can’t breathe. Throat tight, chest frozen except for his heart, which races, Yuuri hunches over, or he tries to, hard hands on his shoulders pushing him up. Gasping, he sees Yuri staring at him, a frown on his face and more in his eyes that Yuuri can’t parse, not right now, not with Viktor drawing near. Yuuri reels back, he turns, but the elevator’s closed, the stairs are behind him. Legs trembling, he hears footsteps come closer, and he wants to throw up, he wants to pass out, he wants the floor to crack apart and swallow him whole.

“-Yuuri! Yuuri!

Oh god.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

He’s here.

He’s here and he’s seeing, he’s seeing Yuuri, he’s seeing the mess and the failure, Viktor knew he couldn’t skate before, but now, now he knows Yuuri can’t even be, he can’t be normal and he can’t be good, he keeps secrets and he lies and he ruins everything, he ruins it all.

He’s ruined it all.

Legs buckling, Yuuri crumples. His palms sting as they smack against the floor. He feels hands on his back, and he flinches, already knowing that touch. Viktor. Viktor here beside him, seeing.

“-wrong with-”

“I don’t-”

He hunches over, presses his forehead to the floor. Everything’s hot and tight and bright and fast and it’s too much, it’s much too much, and he can’t, he can’t, he can’t breathe, he’s lost, he’s lost it, he’s lost Viktor, he messed up, he can’t, he can’t-

“Yuuri-”

No.

“Call-”

No.

“Yuuri-”

No no no no no no no-

His lungs burn. His heart pounds. His hands tremble. His muscles tense. He gags and gags again and tries to draw in breath, but there’s nothing, nothing, nothing-

“H̄āycı. H̄āycı, Yuuri. Fạng c̄hạn. Yuuri. Yuuri. H̄āycı.”

In a world of Swedish and English and Russian, the unexpected Thai punctures the panic around him, long enough for Yuuri to surface, to raise his head and spy the small, distorted face hovering before him.

“...Phichit?”

Phichit sighs, a heavy, tinny one. Reality processes, Phichit not here with him, but on the phone, Yuri’s phone, held in his shaking hand.

“Yes,” Phichit says now. “You have to breathe, Yuuri. In and out. Nice and slow.” He pulls in a deep breath, demonstrating, helping.

Yuuri shakes his head. Tears fill his eyes. He’s an awful friend, pulling Phichit from practice, always imposing, always bothering. He turns from the phone, tries to curl in on himself.

“Yuuri. Yuuri, come on. Breathe. Please. In and out.” There’s a pause then Phichit says, harsher, louder, “Do it. You’re there with him. Show him. Help him.”

There’s a breath close by, deep and tremulous. A few seconds pass and then it’s exhaled, as shaky as the inhale. Hands grab him, and Yuuri knows that touch, already he knows it. He’s pushed upright. One of the hands grasps his, lifts it, places it on something firm yet soft. Yuuri hears another breath but he feels it too, his hand on a chest. He feels the breath, in, slow, slow, out, slow, slow, again and again and again. Hands cover his, warm and tentative but there with him.

“Yuuri. Breathe with me. Dorogoy, please. In.” An inhale. “Out.” An exhale. “In.” An inhale, a stroke of a thumb against the back of his hand.

Yuuri looks. He can’t not. He can never resist with Viktor, his pull on Yuuri like gravity, like the sun in the sky. Viktor kneels before him, his hair mussed and his eyes red and so beautiful, he’s so beautiful, the most beautiful man that Yuuri’s ever known, and he’s there with him, helping, trying, even now, so Yuuri tries too. For Viktor, he tries. He tries to breathe, in and out, nice and slow, again and again and again.

*