“Hiroko-oka-san!”, Viktor yells until Yuuri’s mother comes out from the restaurant kitchen of Yu-Topia. It’s a calm evening in the onsen. The freshly fallen snow is piling up outside and prevents regular costumers to visit; plus the guests who will arrive for their Christmas stays are still two days away. That’s why Yuuri tried to be home on one of these days so he could settle down quietly and relax. Their move to St. Petersburg and the preparations for Worlds will start soon enough.
“Have you already unpacked your stuff?”, she wonders, yet she greets him with her bubbly laugh full of love.
“No, not even started to.” They arrived maybe four hours ago but Viktor hugs her again, just because he missed her.
Viktor and Yuuri have been incredibly lucky that the trains from Fukuoka were still working. Although the two of them walked the distance from the station, more or less wading through toppling snow, and being ushered in by the Katsukis, the Nishigoris, Minako and Makka to a lively welcome party Viktor still bursts with restless energy. However, Yuuri is currently napping in his old room; cuddling Makka like a life-sized dakimakura pillow. Exhausted from their small two-day tourist trip from Osaka, from all the retelling of the GPF and the congratulations on winning his first gold medal at the nationals his fiancé barely kept his eyes open.
Fiancé. How Viktor wishes to climb on top of the ryokan and shout his joy out the world!
Hiroko waits patiently until he gathers his thoughts though. Since his arrival in April his Japanese has improved immensely still he has to focus to get the odd sentence structure right. He has practiced the words every minute in the train from Fukuoka, yet everything’s jumbled up now.
“Yuuri asked me to wait a bit but …” Viktor pulls up his right hand and the engagement ring flashes in the light of the dining room. “Look!”
Calloused rough fingers brush over the golden band ever so softly. “We’ve all seen them on TV”, she states calmly. It’s neither a question nor a reproach that they made a secret of it. Hiroko just noticed, she always notices the smallest changes. That’s her way of showing she cares.
“Yuuri asked me.” Viktor blurts out, happiness bubbling over his lips with a chuckle.
“Yes!” He smiles his heart-shaped smile. It’s so bright it could blind someone. Probably the whole world. “I was still gathering courage if I should try after the GPF or if I would be rushing things and then he suddenly grabs my arm and pulls me into a jewelry shop.”
“Well, that’s my son.” Hiroko hugs him firmly. “He sometimes takes a lifetime to choose or he set his will on something instantly and nothing will waver his resolution. He decided to study the U.S. within a day, did he told you?”
Viktor nods, still forming the hopefully right words in his mind. He’d never dealt with nervousness but in this moment he feels like breaking apart in fear and soaring high from excitement at the same time.
“My parents would probably disown me a second time if they knew, but I doubt they following me on the news anymore.” A sharp edge appears within his voice but Viktor swallows it quickly. “And it’s kind of ridiculous since I asked you and Toshiya if I can court Yuuri officially. Plus Yuuri surprised me with this engagement …” He stares down at the small but all soft woman in his arms. “Am I allowed to marry your son, oka-san?”
His heart beats frantically as he waits. Deep down Viktor Nikiforov is a hopeless romantic, such a sap and likes old-fashioned traditions like asking for your future spouse’s hand in marriage.
“Silly boy.” She finally retreats and claps her hands eagerly. “As if I would disagree when my sons want to tie the knot.”
Suddenly Viktor remembers the day of her 30th marriage anniversary last summer. He wanted to surprise the couple with a gift; offering to have a nice dinner as soon as they could leave Yu-Topia unattended for an evening. To his surprise Hiroko and Toshiya declined, explaining that Japanese celebrated differently than Europeans. He had been mostly confused, feared to step over an invisible line, to have offended the couple.
“Hush”, Hiroko stopped his thoughts with a simple wave of her hand. “The tradition says that only multiples of four are lucky years, that’s true. But how could our 30th anniversary be an unlucky one when our Yuuri returned home from the US and our Vicchan joined the family?” Makkachin barked at her remark. “Of course, Makka, you too, I would never forget you.”
Her statement cracked Viktor’s last lock that secured his deeply buried emotions. Instead of celebrating he told between broken sobs how his divorced parents had severed ties with him and how he always wished to be part of a family again.
Hiroko somehow adopted him that night – at least it felt to Viktor like that and he still doesn’t know how he could thank her. However, he would always remember the shocked look on Yuuri’s face. How he held his hand with the gentlest squeeze in order to comfort him.
Again tears rim Viktor’s eyes and threaten to fall but Hiroko just pulls him with her inside the private area of Yu-Topia, and he finds him shuffled under a heated kotatsu. A cup of tea is served, the brand Viktor started to like best, and Hiroko places a tray of cookies between them before she settles down, too.
“I’m happy for you two.” She beams, eyes glistening, smile open and wide. “I suspected this would happen sooner or later since Yuuri won ‘Onsen on Ice’ for you.” Viktor blushes at her words. “Welcome to the Katsuki family, Vicchan. So, is it going to be Viktor Katsuki or Yuuri Nikiforov? How do Russians handle this?”
Viktor loves the sound of both.
“I have no clue. Couples like us are not very appreciated in Russia – to put it bluntly. Names are just syllables on paper though. This is all that matters.” Viktor removes his ring and reveals the well-hidden secret. Inside half of a snowflake is engraved into the gold.
“They match”, he manages to say without shouting gleefully. “It’s a pair.”
Carefully Hiroko takes his treasure and turns it until she sees the small snowflake. A surprised gasp leaves her before she places the ring on her open hand so that Viktor can pick it up again.
It was only for a few seconds, a minute maybe, but he instantly relaxes when the golden band returns to its rightful place.
„I know it’s scientifically proven wrong but I like the idea that every snowflake has a different shape.“ Viktor flashes the ring with a fond smile. “I like the idea of Yuuri and I are meant to stay together, two halves supposed to be one creating something unique that only we can do. That we’re going to dance together like snowflakes in crisp winter air… I could rant endlessly, oka-san. The symbol is as beautiful as my Yuuri.”
That’s why he lately always makes sure his ring is shown at competitions, during interviews, on photos. He really wants to tell the whole world what a lucky guy he is to call Yuuri his fiancé. But he chose a discreet and very personal way to show his love and affection so Viktor can be tactful, too.
“To me, snowflakes symbolize the lives of humans”, Hiroko adds; leaving Viktor dumbfounded. She insists on taking a cookie and a sip of tea before it runs could – either to let her words sink in or to tease Viktor a bit.
“Thanks to wind and weather every snowflake is born with the perfect shape to start its journey”, Hiroko explains slowly, so that Viktor can catch difficult phrases, too. Her gaze is soft and lovingly, this is not going to turn out like one of Yakov’s lectures. Viktor suddenly thinks Yuuri’s mother is sharing a bit of her lifelong wisdom with him, giving good advice to her son. No, it’s plural now. They are both their sons.
“Though gravity pulls all of them towards earth, snowflakes are not bound to fall straight down like rain; they tumble and drift as if they are searching their own path.” Her hands imitate the snowflakes that are dancing outside the window. It’s a heart-warming sight. “Alongside they collide with other snowflakes, sometimes breaking and losing bits, often forming a joint with other ones, just like people who struggle through life, overcoming defeat and bonding with friends and partners. But through all those changes and surprises a snowflake always has the perfect shape for its journey.”
Viktor chokes on his tea, realizing what this little story implies. He always thought his heart was full of love for Yuuri, but he can still love him even more. And more.
“I would say”, Hiroko pats his hand affectionately, “my son is telling you, that both of you were missing something in your lives and struggling on your own but if you unite and stay together like a snowflake you have to perfect shape wherever the journey as a couple takes you two and whichever storm you may have to face.”
Viktor is at a loss for words, before Yuuri he has never been the over-emotional type of guy. Now he contemplates every day his cheer luck that Yuuri’s love and their bond is real, that he will not wake up in his cold, lonely apartment, the last shreds of this beautiful dream fading to gray.
A movement to his right startles Viktor who quickly dries his tears but it’s Yuuri; standing in the doorway. His hair’s tousled from sleep, his glasses a tad askew, a comfy sweater hugging his lithe form. He’s gorgeous. Viktor almost scrambles to his feet to kiss him but stays. Japanese customs considering public affection are still a bit weird to him.
“Oka-san…” Yuuri’s face is flushed and his hands are trembling as he clutches the rim of his sweater. The gaze of his molten chocolate eyes bores into Viktor’s and he whispers: “Why do you know my top secret wedding vow?”
Hiroko just sips at her own cup of tea and smiles.