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puppy love

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There’s a poodle next door.

Yuuri sees her through his balcony door. She lives in the apartment complex next to his and her veranda is directly across from Yuuri’s with only a narrow five-foot gap between. She’s a pretty thing—with chocolate brown curls and dark soulful eyes. Her fur is neatly trimmed and Yuuri’s pretty sure her nails are painted the same peachy pink as her collar.

Vicchan’s in love.

“Vicchan, shhh,” Yuuri scolds him when the other poodle lopes gracefully into the view, settling comfortably on the edge of the couch with a chew toy. Vicchan’s worked himself up into a frenzy at just the sight of her, yipping excitedly and scrabbling against the glass door. “The neighbors are going to complain again!”

Vicchan gives another enthusiastic bark, tail thumping against the floor and tongue happily lolling out the side of his mouth. Yuuri can’t hold back a fond sigh as he scratches the top of Vicchan’s head before returning to his morning coffee.

Her owner must have moved in recently. The previous tenants—an elderly couple with dated paisley furniture and twin Siamese cats that liked to perch on the windowsill and terrify poor Vicchan— moved out at the end of last summer and the apartment had been vacant ever since.

That is, until Yuuri came home one day to find Vicchan at the edge of his enclosure, straining to look at the poodle happily trotting around a sparse living room filled with cardboard moving boxes.

That was two weeks ago.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri says pleadingly, sitting down on the wooden floor beside him. Vicchan’s metal dog bowl lay untouched nearby. “You need to eat. I have to go to work soon.”

He ignores him, instead standing on his hind legs to get a better view of the dog next door. Yuuri sighs and resigns himself to eating his bowl of cereal with one hand and hand feeding little bits of kibble to Vicchan.

“She’s not good for you, you know?” Yuuri tells him between a bite of his mini wheats. “Girls like her are heartbreakers. She probably has all the dogs on the block chasing after her. You should save yourself the trouble.”

Vicchan continues to wag his tail obliviously.

Said heartbreaker, who had been quietly gnawing on a purple bunny all morning, suddenly perks up. Her ears lift slightly as if her owner called her before she excitedly barrels further into the living room and out of their line of sight.

Vicchan whines, a high keening sound from his throat as he presses himself to the floor, ears drooping.

Yuuri sighs, giving the dog a comforting pat on the back. “I told you, buddy,” Yuuri says.

Vicchan lets out another pitiful whine.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

Yuuri’s never had a dog before Vicchan.

He wanted one—almost desperately so. He used every single birthday wish and letter to Santa during primary school to ask for one. He begged his parents and made entire power point presentations detailing all the reasons why they should get a dog and why Yuuri would be a capable owner. But Mari was allergic and his parents deemed it unwise to raise a pet in the inn, so Yuuri eventually gave up and abandoned his childhood dream.

It wasn’t until Yuuri was in his mid-twenties, attending university in Detroit thousands of miles away from home, that he remembered his dream. He was walking back home after a particularly brutal day at his internship, shoulders hunched and body heavy like lead. It was by chance he walked by a pet store with a bright green “Adoption Day!” sign above the door. It only took that single moment for Yuuri to look through the window and make eye contact with the tiniest brown toy poodle blinking up at him before Yuuri knew he was gone. That evening, Yuuri came home with the snoozing pooch in a dog carrier and his credit card maxed out with new pet purchases.

It was difficult at first. Vicchan was still a puppy, excitable with an excess of energy. At the time, Yuuri doubled as a college student and an intern at his current work place, waking up early in the morning for 6:30 classes and trudging home late from the office. He barely scraped enough money to provide dinner for himself, much less Vicchan’s premium puppy chow.

Yuuri had never taken care of another living being before, especially an overactive pup. Vicchan would gnaw at the living room pillows and pee on Yuuri’s freshly ironed dress shirts. He would be wide awake and ready to play until the wee hours of the night, while Yuuri laid awake in his bed, struggling to get even a moment of rest before he would have to get up at five in the morning, wondering if this was all a mistake.

Almost two months after Yuuri first adopted Vicchan, he came home with tears stinging the corner of his eyes and the beginnings of an anxiety attack clutching at his chest. Work had been vicious and everything that could have gone wrong, had. Yuuri barely remembers staggering into his bedroom and collapsing onto his bed, crossing his arms across his blotchy face and trying to remember how to breathe.

He felt Vicchan clamber onto the bed, sniffing curiously at Yuuri’s hands even when Yuuri irritably batted him away.

“Not now, Vicchan,” Yuuri mumbles out but that gives the puppy enough of an opening to wiggle beneath Yuuri’s arm and attack his face with snuffling kisses. Yuuri can’t hold back a laugh at the feeling of Vicchan’s tiny tongue licking away his tears before the poodle curls up in the crook of Yuuri’s neck. Yuuri barely registers the smile stealing over his face, the day’s troubles melting swiftly away.

He hasn’t looked back since.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

“Um, Yuuri? Is your dog alright?”

Yuuri groans, burying his face in his hands. Phichit, who’s sitting on the other end of the couch, looks at him worriedly. Yuuri doesn’t even have to look to know Vicchan is curled up in the dog bed he dragged over to the balcony, listlessly staring at the darkened living room across the way and giving a pitiful whine every so often.

“I don’t even know at this point,” Yuuri says, voice muffled into his palms. Phichit alternates shooting worried looks between Vicchan and his owner.

“Is…something wrong with him?” Phichit asks hesitantly.

Yuuri lifts his face out of his hands, meeting Phichit’s gaze with a look of utmost seriousness.  “He’s love sick,” Yuuri tells him.

It’s a testament to how great a friend Phichit is that he doesn’t immediately burst into laughter at Yuuri’s declaration.

“Love sick?” Phichit asks, struggling to keep the corners of his mouth from twitching into a smile. Yuuri nods miserably as he sinks further into the couch cushions. Vicchan whines again, as if to answer Phichit’s question.

“You can see into the apartment next door through the balcony,” Yuuri explains. “There’s a poodle next door and Vicchan spends all day pining after her.”

“Oh, Vicchan,” Phichit sighs, looking over to the lovelorn dog with a click of his tongue. He looks awfully amused by the situation. “You should know that the girl-next-door is only trouble.”

“That’s what I told him!” Yuuri exclaims. He feels ready to tear his hair out. “But does he listen? No!”

Vicchan lets out a noise that could only be described as a sigh. Yuuri groans again.

“It was cute at first,” Yuuri admits, “but it’s getting to be too much now. He spends all day looking over hoping to see her. If he doesn’t, he just mopes around and cries until he goes to sleep. He doesn’t eat—doesn’t want to go out for a walk. He doesn’t want to do anything except wait for her!”

Phichit runs his fingers through Yuuri’s hair, which would have been a comforting gesture if he wasn’t snickering.

“Parenthood is tough. You should have raised my three babies with me in a loving domestic partnership,” Phichit tells him. “I could’ve been your rock.”

“Your hamsters hated me, Yuuri says, thinking of all the times he woke up with poop in his bed and scratches all over his face back when he roomed with Phichit. “I still have scars from all the times they bit me.”

Phichit gasps. “That’s how they show their love.”

Yuuri snorts, straightening up into something like a sitting position. Vicchan finally abandons his post by the door to walk over and hop onto the couch, dejectedly curling on Yuuri’s lap. Yuuri runs a comforting hand through his curls.

“Girls are cruel, I know,” Yuuri whispers to him. Phichit laughs, reaching over to gently pet at the toy poodle.

“He’ll get over it eventually,” Phichit says comfortingly.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

He doesn’t get over it.

In fact, he gets worse.

Vicchan has now taken up a devoted 24-hour watch by the balcony. He even abandons his preferred place at the foot of Yuuri’s bed at night in favor of staying out in the living room, howling pitifully at the moon in some strange sort of love song. Yuuri can’t even coax him outside, much less anywhere else in the apartment. He has to dig out one of Vicchan’s old puppy pads from back when Vicchan was still being potty trained to make sure Vicchan won’t a mess on the nice hardwood floors.

“It’s gotten out of hand,” Yuuri tells Phichit when they’re facetiming one evening. His phone is propped up on the kitchen counter as Yuuri worriedly paces back and forth. “He can’t keep living like this. He’s too young for love. The best years of his life are still ahead of him and he’s going to waste away pining for a dog who doesn’t know he exists.”

Phichit, who is living for updates of Yuuri’s lovesick dog and keeps his 10k followers on twitter informed about the current developments, is lounging on his bed with his three hamsters, Reginald, Paprika, and Sir Mix-a-Lot perched on his head. He’s not exactly conversing as much as he is serving as a patient soundboard for Yuuri to rant at.

“I have to do something,” Yuuri says, eyes lighting up before dashing out of Phichit’s view.

“What are you doing?” Phichit calls out. Yuuri comes back to the kitchen with a pen and his blue poodle stationery set specially ordered from Japan.

“Writing a note,” Yuuri says. “Vicchan is never gonna get over her like this. He has to meet her.”

Phichit snorts with such force that Reginald nearly tumbles off his head. He scoops all three of them from his hair and places him in the middle of his chest.

“What are you even going to write? ‘Hi, I’ve been creepily looking into your apartment for the past month and my dog really wants to bang yours. Want to arrange a hook-up?

“Vicchan does not hook-up,” Yuuri says, scandalized. “He’s a gentleman.”

Phichit rolls his eyes. “I’m sorry. I mean, ’can we arrange a beach date so our dogs can hold paws and share a bone at sunset.’”

Yuuri doesn’t respond, too busying reading over the note he had hastily scrawled out before signing his name and number at the bottom.

Hello!

I’m from the apartment directly across from yours. My dog has seen your poodle through your balcony door and really likes her. He spends all day looking out the door to see her, so I wanted to know if it was possible to meet up sometime and introduce them?

Thank you,

Yuuri

xxx-xxx-xxxx

“I just want him to be happy,” Yuuri finally admits with a sigh “It hurts to see him so sad.”

Phichit ‘awws’, sweeping Paprika into his hand to cuddle her to his cheeks. “You’re so precious,” Phichit says. “You’re such a dog dad—trying to matchmake your furry son.”

Yuuri—who once toted Vicchan around in a baby sling for several weeks after he sprained one of his legs, and then continued to do so after he healed since Vicchan had enjoyed it so much—merely sniffs. He folds the note into a crisp paper airplane.

He strides over to the balcony door, picking up Vicchan’s moping form and cradling him close to his chest. The last time Yuuri went out to the balcony, Vicchan bolted out the door and attempted to vault himself over to the neighboring patio and Yuuri would prefer not to have a reprise of that incident. 

After surveying the distance, Yuuri squints and aims for the patio chair tucked in the corner. The plane sails cleanly through the air and lands nearly in the middle of the chair.

“This is all for you,” Yuuri whispers into Vicchan’s ear.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

Yuuri gets the text the following evening.

He’s out on his weekly night out with Phichit, Guang-Hong, and Leo. This week was Leo’s choice so the four of them are at a local karaoke bar downtown. They’re listening to a drunk bachelorette party storm the stage with raunchy dance songs and drinking overpriced fruity drinks because Guang-Hong’s scared of hard liquor. Last week, it was Phichit’s choice and they went to a nightclub where Yuuri got so smashed, he’s pretty sure he was still drunk when he went to work two days later.

Yuuri’s phone buzzes in the middle of the bride-to-be’s offkey solo of “Ain’t No Other Man” and Yuuri picks it off the table while taking an idle sip of strawberry daiquiri.

Yuuri chokes when he opens his lock screen, his drink dribbling down his chin and staining his white shirt.

“Yuuri!” Guang-Hong exclaims, reaching over to grab several napkins to dab at Yuuri’s shirt. “Are you alright?”

Yuuri ignores him, frantically opening his messaging app.

Hello, is this Yuuri? I found your note on my balcony. Makka would love to meet your dog sometime! She’s very friendly and loves meeting new dogs.’

“They answered!” Yuuri hisses, looking over across the table at Phichit. Phichit raises his brow before leaning over to look at Yuuri’s phone.

“Oh, I didn’t think they actually would,” Phichit says. “I thought for sure you were going to get a restraining order.”

“What’s going on?” Leo asks. Yuuri is too focused on writing a response so Phichit fills in the rest of the group.

‘Yes, this is Yuuri! Thank you so much for responding! I’d love to set up a play date.’

The grey typing bubble appears and there’s a response only a few moment later.

’To be honest, I was really surprised when I found your letter! But I’ve seen your dog through the window before and he looks like an absolute sweetheart \(^▽^)/He’s a toy poodle, da?’

“Yuuri, are you really playing wingman for your dog?” Leo asks. Yuuri can’t even find the words to defend himself because that is exactly what he’s doing.

“You should be playing wingman for yourself, not your puppy,” Phichit says with a pout. “When’s the last time you went on a date?”

’He is! His name is Vicchan and he’s three years old.’

“I don’t need to go on a date,” Yuuri says. The bachelorette party finally vacates the stage and a young man goes up and starts to belt out a heartfelt rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.”

“Maybe Yuuri can go on a date with his mysterious neighbor,” Guang-Hong offers, looking over Yuuri’s shoulder to read through his text conversation.

( ´ ▽ ` ).。o♡ What a cutie! It’s been so long since Makka’s been that small~’

A second text quickly appears.

‘Would you like to meet up at the park near our apartments tomorrow? We can introduce our puppers and go on a walk!! (〃^▽^〃)

“Yuuri, you can’t meet them,” Guang-Hong whispers, eyes wide and horrified. “Only teenage girls use that many emojis. You can’t meet an underage girl in a park, Yuuri. You’re going to get arrested.”

“Or maybe that’s just a farce,” Leo offers around a bite of curly fries. “I mean like, who would be okay with finding a note on their balcony asking to introduce their dogs to each other? They’re probably someone super creepy.”

Guang-Hong shudders. “That’s even worse.”

“They can’t be a bad person,” Yuuri easily dismisses with a definitive shake of the head. “No one with a dog that pretty can be a bad person.”  

“Then you’re probably talking to a fourteen-year-old girl,” Phichit snickers. Guang-Hong lets out a horrified ‘meep’ at the thought.

“Yuuri,” Leo says. Yuuri looks up at the seriousness in his tone. ”Seriously, though. Are you sure it’s okay to do this? I mean, you’ve never even seen them before. What if it’s not safe?”

Yuuri thinks about Vicchan, whom he left sadly curled up in his dog bed wrapped up in his favorite blanket, whining pitifully even in his sleep.

Yuuri shakes his head decisively. “I have to do this.”

’That sounds great! Is 11 a good time for you?’

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

“Today’s the day,” Yuuri tells Vicchan, brushing through his fur. Vicchan must have picked up on Yuuri’s good mood because he’s perked up slightly and lets himself be maneuvered into the maroon sweater Yuuri knitted for him because the red tones bring out his eyes.

“You look good,” Yuuri tells him after one final glance over. “You’re gonna kill it today. Remember: confidence.”

Vicchan cocks his head curiously.

It’s difficult to coax Vicchan out the door. Yuuri ends up picking the toy poodle up after clipping the leash to his collar and holding him close to his chest. Vicchan whines and attempts to scramble out of Yuuri’s hold and back into the apartment.

“Shh, shhh,” Yuuri attempts to calm him as he struggles to lock his apartment door with one hand. “You’re going to see her soon. Be good.”

Makka’s owner agreed to meet him at the entrance of the park just across the street. Back when Vicchan was lively and did something other than pine, Yuuri took him to the park every day for a walk. It was a nice park—with a long winding gravel path and a large open field always full of friendly dogs eager to socialize.

Embarrassingly, Yuuri didn’t get much sleep last night. He was up all night worrying about how the meeting was going to go. If Makka would actually like Vicchan or if she would cruelly reject his hand-written confession letter and spread rumors about him like Satori Hayami did to Yuuri in the third grade, and then Vicchan would have to spend the rest of his grade school life eating lunch in the bathroom to avoid her and her friends.

Yuuri feels bad thinking about the collection of panicked voicemails he left Phichit at three in the morning.

They arrive at the park and despite it being a cloudy day, there are plenty of dogs and owners lingering around the entrance. Yuuri tries to scan the area for the poodle but there are so many people around it’s difficult to locate her.

Vicchan has no such qualms.

“V-Vicchan!” Yuuri exclaims when the toy poodle wriggles out of his hands and starts dashing into the crowd, blue leash trailing behind him. “Vicchan! Stop! Come back!”

Yuuri almost has his hands on the leash when Vicchan barrels directly into a familiar mass of curly brown fur, excitedly yipping and snuffling around her.

She’s big, Yuuri realizes with start. He knows that—seen how much space she took on the couch during her morning ritual chew toy relaxation. But it wasn’t until he saw her in person and saw tiny little Vicchan directly next to her that he realized how much larger she was. Yuuri watches with trepidation as she curiously looks down at the tiny poodle and before leaning forward and licking a long wet stripe across Vicchan’s head.

Yuuri lets out a relieved breath, slumping forward to rest his hands on his knees.

“Oh, you must be Vicchan! How cute!”

Yuuri wasn’t sure what the poodle’s owner looked like. He was so fixated on Makka that he didn’t bother thinking what her owner was like. If he had stopped to consider, he might have imagined that the unknown owner looked exactly like their poodle, with curly brown hair, tanned skin and coordinated nail polish.

Yuuri looks up and sees the physical representation of perfection.

His hair is what grabs Yuuri’s attention first—a beautiful silver color shining brightly even with the overcast weather. Despite the hair color, he’s not much older than Yuuri. He has sparkling blue eyes framed with silvery lashes and his smiles curves into a heart as he laughs at Vicchan’s antics. He’s dressed smartly in a nice peacoat and Yuuri suddenly feels awfully underdressed in his sweats. The man’s kneeling down and showering Vicchan with affection, making kissy faces as he pets the toy poodle.

He looks up, meeting Yuuri’s eyes for the first time. He stands up, offering a hand to Yuuri as he gives him a smile that sends an arrow straight through his heart. “You must be Vicchan’s owner, right? Yuuri?”

Yuuri chokes on his own spit.

The man furrows his brow in confusion, hand still hanging uncertainly between them. “Are you alright?”

Yuuri’s tongue feels absolutely useless in his mouth and after sending a few panicked looks to Vicchan, who’s cozying up nicely with Makka, he hastily sticks his hand out to shake the one offered to him.

It’s not until he touches the man’s (soft) hand that he realizes how disgustingly clammy his own are.

He jerks back, stuffing his hand into his sweatpants pocket and trying not to make it too obvious he’s desperately trying to wipe the sweat off his palms onto the fabric.

“I-I’m Yuuri!” He says with a smile that’s more of a twitch. “Are you Makka’s owner?”

Inwardly, Yuuri curses himself. Of course he’s Makka’s owner. He’s holding Makka’s leash. The man smiles back though, unfettered by Yuuri’s apparent nervousness.

“Yup! This is Makkachin,” he says, giving Makkachin a pat on the head. “And I’m Viktor!”

“That’s my dog’s name,” Yuuri blurts out, because what is a filter nowadays. Viktor scrunches his brow again, peering at Vicchan who’s happily trotting around Makkachin’s legs.

“I thought his name was Vicchan?” Viktor asks.

“It is,” Yuuri says, and Viktor looks even more confused. Yuuri struggles to correct himself. “I call him Vicchan. But his full name is Victor. I- I just…call him…Vicchan…”

Technically, Vicchan’s full name was Sir Victor Leopold Duncan Katsuki (name courtesy of Phichit and four rounds of Jägerbombs) but Yuuri already wants to die so he doesn’t bother to correct himself.

Amazingly, Viktor doesn’t immediately run away and instead gives Yuuri an encouraging nod. “Oh, so like a nickname!”

“Yeah, a nickname,” Yuuri says faintly. He feels his soul leave his body.

“I’m glad you reached out to me,” Viktor admits with nervous scratch to the cheek. “I thought it was odd when I found that note but I thought, no one with stationary that cute could be a bad person, right?”

Oh my god, Yuuri thinks.

Victor continues, oblivious to Yuuri’s inner turmoil. “I’m new to the area so I’m glad to be in the company of a fellow dog lover. I was really excited for today!”

Yuuri wants to die.

“Do you want to go for that walk now?” Viktor offers. He bends down to pick up Vicchan’s abandoned leash and places it in Yuuri’s still sweaty hand. “I have to go to work at 11, but that should be enough to tire these guys out.”

“Sure,” Yuuri says, resigning himself to half an hour of sweet, sweet torture.

Viktor smiles at him once more, his heart-shaped mouth reminding Yuuri how heavily his own is thudding in his chest.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

“He’s just so hot,” Yuuri mumbles morosely into Vicchan’s fur. “Like I don’t understand—how can anyone be that hot?”

Vicchan, who’s been in a good mood since meeting Makkachin the previous morning, happily licks at Yuuri’s mouth.

It only took the thirty-four minutes and eighteen seconds (Yuuri knows, he timed it) the two spent together yesterday for Yuuri to realize how utterly fucked he was. Viktor was exactly like the texts the two exchanged when they first contacted each other—bright and effervescent, the personification of the cheerful emojis he liked to use.  During their walk, he happily chatted a mile a minute about everything and anything while Yuuri nervously sweated beside them. By the time they parted ways, Yuuri knew about his entire high school life, where he went to college, and an entire playthrough of the last time Viktor had a checkup at the doctor. He also interrogated Yuuri with rapid fire questions, switching topics rapidly from Vicchan and what he did for a living to, embarrassingly enough, whether he had any lovers.

Yuuri remembers sputtering loudly at the question, red faced and completely tongue tied as Viktor innocently blinked, awaiting a response.

Talking to Viktor was like standing too close to the sun and Yuuri went home with his mind hazy and painfully burnt just from the brief exposure to Viktor. The rest of the day, Yuuri went through the motions of his daily routine with his brain light-years away. He barely registered how Vicchan’s contentedness after meeting the object of his affections and how he finally curled into bed with Yuuri that night after days of sleeping outside.

Yuuri, lying awake that night listening to the metronomic ticking of the clock, can only think of Viktor’s pretty blue eyes and pale pink lips.

“I’m so screwed,” Yuuri moans out loud, hugging Vicchan into his chest. He’s lying on his back on the couch with Vicchan wriggling all over his face and chest. He probably should start on dinner soon but the thought of messing around in the kitchen while weathering an existential crisis just doesn’t sound appealing.

Vicchan suddenly straightens up before he jumps off Yuuri’s chest and dashes across the hardwood floor. “Don’t leave me,” Yuuri begs, reaching out blindly to Vicchan’s rapidly retreating form. Vicchan, the traitor, ignores him as he yips at the balcony door.  Yuuri lifts his head up enough to see Makkachin in her apartment, happily pacing in front of her own balcony door and giving a few excited barks of her own.

Yuuri can’t hold back a fond smile as he sees her, sitting up slowly before making his way over to Vicchan. Makkachin was one of the sweetest poodles he’s ever met, obediently trotting in front of Viktor and kindly letting Vicchan excitedly pounce all over her without the slightest hint of a snarl.

“She’s a nice one,” Yuuri admits, scratching under Vicchan’s chin. His hind leg vibrates furiously in contentment. “I’m sorry for saying she’s not good for you.”

Yuuri looks up only to recoil in shock, losing balance and falling to the floor as another figure appears next to Makkachin, kneeling as he pets her affectionately.

It’s Viktor.

He’s shirtless.

He’s dressed only in a low riding pair of grey sweats and a towel slung over his neck. His silver hair is damp and hanging in front of his face and Yuuri lasers in on a drop of water running down his neck then down his chiseled torso to the V of his hips.

“He’s going to kill me,” Yuuri whispers. Vicchan barks in agreement.

Viktor looks up, meeting Yuuri’s eyes with a friendly smile. He raises his hand up in a wave. Yuuri makes a nose that sound likes he’s been shot, guttural and breathless.

Viktor holds up his finger as if to say ‘wait’ before he’s reaching in his sweatpants pocket to pull out his phone. Yuuri watches dumbly as Viktor seems to send a message, jumping when he feels his own phone in his pocket vibrate.

He takes out his phone.

’Yuuri! I had a lot of fun yesterday! (♡°▽°♡)

He looks back up. Viktor is still shirtless, still smiling at him. Yuuri doesn’t know which is worse. He responds anyway.

Thank you. It looks like Vicchan and Makkachin got along very well.’

Victor types out a reply within seconds.

‘Right? ( ˘⌣˘)♡(˘⌣˘ ) I’m so glad they became friends!’

Another buzz.

‘Do you want to do this again sometime?’

Yuuri really, really does not want to do this again. If Yuuri has his own way, he would buy those full-length blackout curtains and live as a hermit just to make sure he would never embarrass himself in front of Viktor ever again. But he looks down at Vicchan, happily yipping at Makkachin from across the balcony and Yuuri can’t find it in himself to prevent Vicchan’s happiness.

“This is all for you,” Yuuri tells him, echoing what he said the first time he reached out to Viktor.

‘That sounds great!’

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

“So, should I do the red or the blue?”

Vicchan barks. He’s sitting at the foot of Yuuri’s bed, watching attentively as Yuuri frantically tears through his closet.

“The blue?” Yuuri asks, looking at the blue sweater he’s holding up in his left hand. Vicchan barks again. “Don’t you think it’ll clash with my glasses?”

Vicchan whines and Yuuri sighs at the sound. “Alright, fine. I’ll go with the blue.”

He hangs the sweater on the door of the closet, stepping over the mass of clothes littered across the floor.

“Now you have to help me choose pants.”

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

Yuuri ends up going with the blue sweater, paired with some dark wash pants and a cream-colored cardigan (“Do you think this looks a little too casual?” A yip. “You’re right, he’s already seen me in my sweats, it’ll be too obvious if I dress up more.”).

Victor, too, wears something more casual this time around. He’s wearing a nice maroon cashmere sweater and a pair of jeans but he still looks so much better than Yuuri. Not for the first time (or, Yuuri suspects, the last) it physically hurts him how attractive that man is.

“Yuuri!” Viktor greets him. Makkachin, previously sitting by his side, stands up to greet Vicchan, who immediately tackles her with kisses.

“V-Victor. Hello,” Yuuri says with a tight-lipped smile.

“You look lovely today,” Victor says sincerely. Yuuri’s cheek flush at the compliment.

“A-ah, I just…threw this on.”

The fact that his entire closet is currently strewn about his bedroom floor says otherwise. Yuuri clears his throat.

“Do you want to go?”

“Of course!” Viktor says and the two of them start with a comfortable pace, their poodles trotting happily in front of them.

“After our first walk, Makka was so happy for the rest of the day! I’m really glad they took to each other so well,” Viktor says. As if on cue, Makkachin nuzzles at Vicchan’s head. Yuuri can’t hold back a smile.

“She’s very well behaved,” Yuuri acknowledges. Victor preens at the praise.

“I know right! Such a good girl!” Viktor says. He looks towards Yuuri. “But let’s not talk about our dogs right now. We talked about them last time!”

Actually, last time Viktor went into embarrassingly detail about his last check up at the doctor that ended with him bent over and coughing. Yuuri’s too embarrassed to correct him.

“I want to know about you,” Viktor continues, eyes twinkling. Yuuri gulps. For some reason, that statement sounds much more menacing that it should.

“M-me?” Yuuri stutters. Victor nods eagerly. Yuuri avoids his gaze, fiddling with his glasses awkwardly. “I’m not particularly interesting.”

Viktor’s eyes gleam as he leans forward. Yuuri feels a twinge of claustrophobia as Viktor’s stare grows more intent. The other man’s lips curl into a smirk.

“Yuuri, I’m sure you are very interesting.”

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

After recounting everything that’s happened in the past week, Phichit, of course, finds this entire situation hilarious.

“Oh my god,” Phichit gasps, repeatedly hitting Leo’s knee. “Oh my god.”

Yuuri only manages a weak groan.

It’s Yuuri’s choice for their weekly night out and after the mess of Guang-Hong accidently taking them to a strip club last week (“It said it was a gentlemen’s club!  I wanted for us to do something classy for once, okay? I’m sorry!”), Yuuri opted for a simple movie and dinner at his apartment. However, it quickly devolved into Yuuri moodily stuffing himself with slice after slice of greasy pizza while his friends laugh gleefully at his misfortune.

I need new friends, Yuuri thinks.

“So, he’s not a teenage girl?” Guang-Hong asks. Phichit laughs.

“Weren’t you listening, Guang-Hong?” Phichit says, a shit-eating grin on his face. “His neighbor’s not only not a teenage girl but apparently, one fine piece of man.”

Yuuri groans again. Leo sympathetically pats his shoulder.

“It’s not that bad,” he tries to comfort him. “At least he’s nice, right?”

“What’s the point of him being nice if I can cut my face on his abs?” Yuuri asks miserably.

Phichit sniffs, miming wiping a tear away as he leans onto Guang-Hong’s shoulder. “Oh, look at him. Our son finally having his gay awakening.”

“I’m older than all of you,” Yuuri mutters petulantly. He raises his voice. “Also, I’ve known I was gay for years?”

Phichit clicks his tongue, shaking his head. “It’s not a true gay awakening until you want to suck someone’s D. Everyone knows that.”

For some reason, both Guang-Hong and Leo nod in agreement.

“You guys are the worst,” Yuuri grouses. “I don’t understand why I thought it was a good idea to get your advice.”

“Well, what advice do you want us to give you?” Guang-Hong asks curiously. “It sounds like you’re interested in Viktor so why not go for it?”

Phichit adds on. “After all, the only logical turn of events is that you and Viktor fall in love, get married, and Vicchan becomes Sir Victor Leopold Duncan Katsuki-Nikiforov.” He pauses. “Or should that be Nikiforov-Katsuki?”

“Katsuki-Nikiforov,” Leo chimes in. “Has a better ring to it.”

“You don’t understand!” Yuuri hisses. “He’s way out of my league. I don’t even know why he bothers to even talk to me. It’s only because our dogs like each other!”

“You’re selling yourself short, Yuuri,” Guang-Hong says with a frown. “There are plenty of reasons why Viktor would be interested in you.”

Phichit nods sagely. “Guang-Hong’s right. Lots of reasons. Number one: that booty. Number two: that boo—

“I’m going to kick you out,” Yuuri interrupts, shoving Phichit with his foot. Phichit is undeterred, delightedly laughing at Yuuri’s misfortune.

“Honestly, Yuuri,” Phichit says. “How hot could he really be?”

“Oh my god.”

In an instant, the remaining three of them look up towards Leo, who’s staring slack jawed out the window.

It’s Viktor.

“Oh my god,” Yuuri echoes, horrified. Luckily, it seems that Viktor just got home because he’s fully clothed, throwing his coat on to the coach as he checks his phone with his other hand. In the two weeks Yuuri’s known Viktor, he can count the amount of times he’s seen Viktor properly dressed on one hand (it’s two—Yuuri’s only seen him fully clothed two times). Most of the times Yuuri’s seen Viktor through the window, he’s either shirtless, pantsless, and one time (in the incident that shall not be named), both.

Phichit looks at Yuuri, his expression completely serious. “Yuuri, you’ve got to bang him. You’ve got to bang him right now.”

Yuuri sputters. “Phichit!”

Guang-Hong joins in, sweeping up a napping Vicchan into his arms. “I can watch Vicchan while you’re gone.”

Leo starts frantically rifling through the draws of Yuuri’s coffee table, haphazardly pulling out his vast collection of Knitting Monthly onto the floor (Yuuri could not let Vicchan suffer with factory made sweaters and knitting was a wonderful hobby for destressing). “Do you have condoms? What about lube?”

“Who even keeps condoms there?” Yuuri cries out, wincing when the corner of his special Holiday Edition of Handmade Gifts is mercilessly bent by Leo’s carelessness.

“What are you playing at, de Iglesia?” Phichit hisses from across the room. “Do you see that man? Of course he has condoms!”

Leo hits his forehead with the heel of his hand. “You’re right, what was I thinking?”

Guang-Hong’s now opened the balcony door, peering down the ledge with Vicchan still happily slumbering in his arms.

“The gap’s not very big. I’m pretty sure Yuuri can just jump across,” Guang-Hong notes.

“I personally volunteer my body as a human bridge to get Yuuri in that man’s bedroom,” Phichit offers, slipping off his jacket and beginning to roll his shoulders in preparation.

“You guys!” Yuuri screeches, almost hysterical.

A knock stills all four of them simultaneously. As if rehearsed, they look up to see Viktor half hanging out of his own balcony door, hand still raised in a knocking position on the glass. He’s rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt. Yuuri wants to lick his forearms.

“Is everything alright?” Viktor asks with a concerned furrow of his brows.

“It’s fine!” Yuuri calls out, pushing Guang-Hong back into his apartment and blocking the exit with his body. Not that it mattered much because the other three had their faces pressed shamelessly against the glass for a better look at the silver-haired man. “We’re just…talking…”

Talking about their master plan on how to get Yuuri in Viktor’s apartment to “bang” him, but he doesn’t need to know that.

“Well, it looks very lively,” Viktor chuckles.

Yuuri shakes his head feverishly. “Trust me, it’s actually not.”

Viktor gives Yuuri a confused look, glancing at Yuuri’s friends still pressed up against the glass.

“Well, if you say so,” Viktor says with a hint of disbelief. He shrugs, easily changing the subject.

“Are you busy tomorrow?” Viktor asks, ignoring how their enraptured audience audibly gasps at the question. “I got Makka some new tennis balls today. Want to help me break them in?”

“Sure,” Yuuri says, dodging Phichit’s jab to his side and his frenzied whispers of “help him break in his bed.”

“Same time and place?” Yuuri confirms.

Viktor nods eagerly, a beautiful smile gracing his equally beautiful features. “It’s a date,” he says brightly, closing the door just in time to miss Phichit, Guang-Hong, and Leo’s trio of excited screams.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

Surprisingly, it gets easier to be around Viktor. They have their almost daily walks early in the morning before going to work. On the weekends, Viktor drives them in his hot pink Cadillac (because of course he would have a hot pink Cadillac, why did Yuuri even think differently?) to the larger dog park further out of the city where Vicchan and Makkachin mingle happily with other dogs to their hearts’ content. Somewhere along the line, Yuuri finds himself able to easily converse with Viktor— joking and laughing like old friends. It doesn’t just become easier but Yuuri finds that he actually enjoys it. Revels in it, in fact. Every moment he spends with him has Yuuri realizing that he only wants to talk to him more.

At times, Yuuri still gets distracted by Viktor’s sheer beauty—when the sun catches the light of Viktor’s hair at just the right angle so it looks like he’s glowing. Or when he smiles so widely and wholeheartedly that Yuuri’s heart has to skip a beat. But Yuuri’s also come to know the Viktor who sings awful Russian 80’s pop songs in the car and frantically airs out the smoke of his apartment after another failed cooking attempt, covered from head to toe in soot…moments that make him even more endearing to Yuuri. The knowledge that Viktor isn’t just a handsome face but an actual wonderful human being with a personality comparable to the morning sun.

I like him, Yuuri realizes with stunning clarity. I like him a lot.

The thought of having actual feelings is somehow far more terrifying than when Yuuri was high-key thirsting over the man. Yuuri wants to hold his hand, make him dinner, and co-parent their poodles together. It’s frightening, really, how much he wants him.

It’s late at night, moon hanging low in the sky, and Viktor’s spamming Yuuri’s phone with conspiracy theories about how the tenant directly below Yuuri’s lights keep eerily flicking every night.

‘It’s deliberate, Yuuri! I think they’re trying to send a message!! Σ(°△°|||)

Yuuri laughs, smiling fondly down at his phone.

‘Maybe it’s morse code?’ Yuuri humors him.

‘Why didn’t I think of that????!’ Yuuri can almost see the distressed pout on Viktor’s lips and his chest warms.

A faint smile lingering around his mouth, Yuuri goes back to the documentary he’s watching, feeling his eyes droop with every single word the narrator says.

His phone vibrates again.

They just keep repeating the word DIN all over again? What does DIN mean???’

‘Death is near?’ Yuuri offers.

‘Not funny!!  ٩(๑`^´๑)۶  Yuuri laughs.

Yuuri sits up from his position on the sofa, turning off the TV so the only light in the room was coming from the digital display of his kitchen appliances. It’s nearly midnight and Yuuri has an early day ahead of him. He’s about to retire for the night when his phone buzzes with another text from Viktor.

‘Can you come outside?’

Yuuri squints at the window. He can barely make out Viktor’s willowy figure in the darkness, leaning lightly on the barrier and hair shining under the moonlight.

He looks ethereal, Yuuri notices with a shiver.

He opens the door, shuddering when the night chill hits his bare skin. He crosses his arms in front of his chest to conserve warmth. “Viktor?” Yuuri whispers, coming closer to the other man. “Is everything alright?”

“Do you have milk? Viktor asks sheepishly and it takes a few moments for Yuuri to register the question.

“Milk?” Yuuri asks incredulously. “Please don’t tell me you’re cooking this late—you’re going to evacuate the entire neighborhood.”

Viktor pouts. “Yuuri!” His name on Viktor’s lips sounds like a song.

Viktor sighs, folding his arms and resting on top of them. “I couldn’t sleep,” he admits. “I wanted to make some warm milk.”

“Why couldn’t you sleep? Thinking about the murderer beneath my apartment?” Yuuri teases him.

“Yuuri!” Victor glances below Yuuri’s balcony, eyes darting and frightened. This time, Yuuri can’t hold back a laugh.

“I have milk,” Yuuri says in lieu of an apology. Viktor is still sulking, bottom lip jutted out childishly. Yuuri leaves for a moment to grab the half empty carton from the fridge.

He needs to stand on his tiptoes and lean forward to hand off the milk to Viktor. Their fingertips brush against each other as Victor takes the carton from him and Yuuri imagines that Viktor’s hand lingers just like his does before pulling away.

“Thank you,” Viktor says softly. Everything about him tonight seems soft. His freshly washed hair—fluffy and curling around his ears. The oversized cream sweater he’s drowning in. The way he gently cradles the carton in the crook of his arms, as if it was something precious to be taken care of. Yuuri’s heart feels soft just looking at him. “Would you like some as well?” He asks.

Yuuri knows he should say no. He knows that if he has anything so late, he’ll spend most of the night tossing and turning, unable to sleep. He knows that he needs to be awake in less than six hours and he should probably bid Viktor good night and head to bed.

He says yes anyway.

Viktor disappears into his apartment for several minutes to make their drinks. Yuuri takes the time to appreciate the crisp night air and the comforting sounds of the Detroit nightlife. It’s strange to be awake at this hour, when it seems like time has stilled and Yuuri exists only in this moment. He exhales slowly, blinking languidly as he listens to the quiet sounds of Viktor bustling in the kitchen.

Viktor comes back, bare feet padding quietly on the concrete. He first passes Yuuri his milk carton back and then a steaming mug of milk.

Yuuri quietly thanks him, sipping at the drink and reveling at how warmly the sweetened drink sits in his belly.

“Why couldn’t you sleep?” Yuuri asks after several moments of peaceful silence.

“It’s just different here,” Viktor says, looking up at the golden moon in the sky. “I don’t know why but it makes me feel uneasy. It’s the first time I’ve been so far from home.”

“You’re from St. Petersburg, right?” Viktor nods.

“I couldn’t wait to leave,” Viktor says. “I was so excited to move, to see the world and what it has to offer. But now that I’m here, I kind of miss it. Strange, isn’t it?”

Yuuri shakes his head. “Everyone gets homesick. I’ve been in Detroit for years but I still miss Hasetsu every day.”

The last time Yuuri went back home was for his parent’s 30th wedding anniversary two years ago. It felt nostalgic to be back, to fall asleep to the roar of the ocean waves, and to wear their inn’s customary green robes as he helped out in the bathhouse. Hasetsu resides in a small bubble untouched by time; a perfect, pristine replica of Yuuri’s childhood memories.

“Do you ever want to go back?” Viktor asks curiously. His eyes seem to glow in the dim lighting.

“Eventually,” Yuuri admits. “Maybe when I’m older. I miss the ocean and my parents. The city is nice but there’s just something about being home.”

He looks back up at Viktor. “You should visit if you ever get the chance,” he offers. “My family owns an onsen—it’s like an inn with a hot springs. It’s very relaxing.”

“It sounds lovely.” The way Viktor says it feels so genuine, as if he actually would love to visit Yuuri’s small hometown and come to his family’s inn. Yuuri’s chest burns.

“What about you?” Yuuri asks. “Do you want to go back?”

Viktor hums thoughtfully. “To visit,” he eventually decides. “But I like it here. There’s a lot of things here worth sticking around for.”

He smiles tenderly at Yuuri. Softly. Privately. As if the smile was reserved for Yuuri and Yuuri alone. The way Viktor is looking at him, Yuuri can’t help but get his hopes up at the promise of something more.

“It’s getting late,” Viktor says regretfully, glancing back at the darkened sky. “I should let you go.”

“What about your mug?” Yuuri asks. He gestures to the half-full cup still in his hands. Viktor waves him off.

“You can return it to me another time,” Viktor offers. “Thank you for humoring me tonight.” It’s said quietly, getting lost in the whistling wind. Yuuri could almost believe he imagined it if it weren’t for Viktor’s fond gaze resting directly on him.

“Anytime,” Yuuri says weakly.

“Have a good night, Yuuri.” Victor shoots him one last smile before he turns and enters his apartment, the door clicking shut behind him.

“Good night,” Yuuri whispers to himself, watching Viktor disappears into his living room and down a darkened hallway, “Viktor.”

That night, Yuuri dreams of Hasetsu’s ocean waves reflected in Viktor’s crystalline eyes.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

Chris is even less help than Phichit was.

“Stop laughing!” Yuuri demands, casting a frantic look at the receptionist across the room looking at them curiously. “Chris, people are staring! Stop!”

Chris does not stop. In fact, he begins to laugh even harder.

The two of them just finished their pole-dancing class (though if anyone else asks, Yuuri’s taking a high cardio spinning class that is in no way associated with poles or anything remotely phallic) and now they’re lounging in the waiting area of the lobby while cooling down.

“Oh, mon ami,” Chris sighs mirthfully, wiping away a tear. “Only you.”

“I didn’t tell you this so you could make fun of me,” Yuuri says, voice tinging into a whine.

Chris chuckles, brushing his sweaty bangs away to expose his forehead. “I’m sorry, dear,” He doesn’t sound or even look very sorry at all. “But you have to admit that this entire situation is highly amusing.”

Yuuri grunts. He doesn’t find the failure of his love life particularly funny but apparently all his friends do – not to mention Phichit’s thousands of twitter followers. Last week, Phichit sent him an entire BuzzFeed article chronicling his disastrous meeting with Viktor, apparently written by an avid follower of his friend’s feed.

“I’m asking for advice,” Yuuri says with a sigh.

“Advice on what? Wooing your lovely Juliet?” Chris asks, fluttering his eyelashes and pulling a kissy face.

Yuuri sputters. “W-what are you—“

“Oh come on, mon ami,” Chris says with an exasperated look. “Your nighttime rendezvous on the balcony, leaving him a love letter requesting to meet (“It wasn’t a love letter!”). I never pegged you as such a Romeo.”

“I’m not anyone’s Romeo,” Yuuri mumbles. “Much less his.”

Yuuri sighs, scrubbing his face with the hand towel in his lap before slipping his glasses back on.

“There’s no way he’s interested in me. After all, look at me!”

Chris does, waggling his eyebrows salaciously. Yuuri laughs and elbows him in the ribs.

“Not like that!”

The laughter is short-lived as Yuuri deflates once more, slumping into his seat. “He’s become a really good friend to me. I don’t want to mess up our friendship because I can’t stop projecting my feelings onto him.”

Chris frowns and opens his mouth to say something when a third voice interrupting their conversation.

“Chris? Are you ready to go?”

Yuuri chokes, eyes widening in horror as he ducks his head down and prays to all the deities he knows that this is just some awful hallucination.

“Viktor,” Chris cries out happily. “You’re early! I was just talking to my friend—“

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri weakly lifts his head, facing scrunching into a horribly strained smile.

“V-Viktor…” he acknowledges.

While Yuuri couldn’t look any more horrified, the life completely drained out of his face, Viktor is ecstatic. He’s looking at Yuuri as if Christmas had come early, slightly surprised but absolutely beaming.

Chris gives them a confused look. “You two know each other?”

“We’re neighbors,” Viktor explains cheerfully. Yuuri can see the exact moment Chris realizes what must be happening because the smile on his face turns absolutely shit-eating.

Yuuri shoots up to his feet, muscles aching with the effort but Yuuri needs to leave. He needs to leave right now. Once he’s standing, Viktor immediately does a once over of Yuuri’s figure, eyebrows raised, and Yuuri is painfully aware that he’s still wearing the skin-tight shorts from class and the hot pink crop top Chris got him for their one year pole dancing anniversary that reads ‘ASS MAN #2’ on the front.

(“Of course I am Ass Man #1, Yuuri. I can’t believe you even have to ask.”)

“I need to leave,” is all Yuuri can squeak.

Viktor’s face falls instantly. “So soon?” He asks dejectedly.

Chris pouts up at him, the perfect face of innocence if it weren’t for the mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “Viktor and I were going to grab some brunch. Why don’t you join us?”

“I can’t,” Yuuri says, voice borderline hysterical. He stiffly bends over to pick up his sports bag and starts to mechanically make his way over to the locker rooms. “I have plants.”

“Oh,” Viktor says, voice oddly soft. “We wouldn’t want to keep you away from your…plants…”

“Definitely,” Yuuri agrees and he’s almost at the salvation of the locker room door when Chris calls back out to him.

Yuuri turns around to see Chris grinning wolfishly at him and Viktor, face bright red but looking very appreciative at Yuuri’s retreating figure.

“Yuuri, dear,” Chris says. He smirks at Yuuri’s confused expression. “Your shorts are riding up.”

Yuuri lets out an inhuman scream and dives into the safety of the locker room.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

Predictably, the pole dancing class is the first thing Viktor wants to talk about on their next morning walk.

“I didn’t know you could pole dance,” he greets Yuuri, ignoring how Yuuri nearly trips on Vicchan’s leash at his words.

“W-what—“

“You don’t seem like the type,” Viktor continues, automatically helping Yuuri steady himself before their dogs start to impatiently tug them towards the trail. “After all, you are an accountant and everyone says accountants are boring.”

“I’m a business consultant,” Yuuri corrects him with a frown. “And what’s wrong with me doing pole dancing?” His voice must of gave away some of his apprehension because Viktor stills at the question before looking down at Yuuri with a reassuring smile.

“Absolutely nothing,” Viktor tells him. “It’s a very sexy hobby.” His eyes run down Yuuri’s figure appreciatively before he looks up and winks coquettishly. “It suits you.”

Yuuri feels his face burn at Viktor’s sincerity, and immediately makes a stuttering attempt to change the subject.

“How do you know Chris?” he asks.

Viktor hums, pursing his lips thoughtfully.

“We’ve known each since we were young,” Viktor explains after a moment. “We used to skate together.”

Yuuri’s eyes widen. “But Chris is—“

“An Olympic figure skater, I know,” Viktor finishes with a laugh.

Out of all Yuuri’s friends, Chris is the one that Yuuri still considers an enigma (and that includes Seung-Gil and all the allegations that he’s a furry). In the two years they’ve known each other, Yuuri has come to know Chris as an insatiable lust demon with a heart of gold. The man who once did a body shot off a stranger with a carpet of chest hair and has a room in his condo dedicated solely to erotic pictures of himself and strange sex toys collected around the world.

It’s difficult to connect the image of Yuuri’s Chris with Olympic Gold Medalist Chris, who jets off every month to compete in internationally broadcasted competitions like it’s no big deal and has a billboard of him in Times Square of him wearing his bevy of gold medals and only his gold medals.

Yuuri remembers seeing a picture of a beaming Chris holding his gold medal on the front of a supermarket magazine that had the neighborhood grandmas sighing at the ‘handsome young man.’ All Yuuri could think of was the time when Chris drank a glass of organic cherry lube at that very supermarket when they were out of bottled water before sauntering over to self-checkout.

Yuuri leans forward, eyes narrowing as he examines Viktor’s face. “Does that mean…?”

Viktor laughs, waving his hand in dismissal. “The farthest I went was a few novice level competitions. I really messed up my hip when I was thirteen— had to have a few surgeries. Then I hit puberty and grew ten inches and my body never really felt the same after that. So I quit.”

Viktor says it carelessly with a shrug. But Yuuri can see how it affects him. The miniscule amount his fingers tighten on Makkachin’s leash. How his eyes get faintly shiny before he blinks and flashes another practiced smile.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri says simply. Viktor shakes his head.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” he says. “It was a long time ago. And that’s what eventually led me to become a physical therapist, so it’s not like it’s all bad.”

“I understand how you feel,” Yuuri says, ignoring how Viktor’s gaze burns into the side of his face. He continues to walk forward, trying to ignore the anxiety clawing up his chest telling him to just keep quiet.

“I used to do ballet,” Yuuri starts slowly. “I’ve done it since I was three. My ballet teacher is actually a family friend so she took me under her wing by the time I started to walk. I grew up in her studio as much I did at the inn.”

Yuuri shakily exhales. “I danced for the National Ballet of Japan,” he says, reminiscing on the long forgotten memories of times way back when. The years he was a professional danseur were a blur of blinding stage lights and the feeling of being heavily intoxicated. He remembers bruised and aching feet, the grueling practices that lasted all the way until sunrise, the sharp smell of hairspray and the feeling of glitter dusting his skin. It was a never-ending fast paced whirlwind and Yuuri had reveled in every single moment of it. “I was the principal danseur for three years.”

Viktor stares at him, shocked.

“And then I got into an accident and ended up with a metal plate in my knee.” Yuuri shrugs, similar to the way Viktor had moments earlier. “So…I moved here, got a business degree, and haven’t left since.”

Viktor opens his mouth as if to interrupt him but Yuuri cuts him off.

“I didn’t tell you this because I wanted you to be sorry for me,” Yuuri finishes with sudden firmness, “but I just want you to know that when I said sorry, it was because I truly know how you feel.”

There are moments like these when Yuuri looks at Viktor with stunning clarity, seeing the faint freckles speckled across the bridge of Viktor’s nose and how one of Viktor’s eyelids droops a tad lower than the other, registering the raw and grateful expression on Viktor’s face, that Yuuri remembers how thankful he is to have Viktor in his life. And wonders fleetingly if Viktor feels the same way.

“Thank you,” Viktor says quietly, reverently, as if those two words can’t possibly convey the depth of the emotions he wants to convey to Yuuri.

The two continue to walk along the path, enjoying the quiet moment.

Viktor breaks the silence first. “Still, pole dancing?” Viktor asks. Yuuri groans.

“It’s a good workout, okay? Doesn’t put too much stress on my knee,” Yuuri defends himself. He thinks back to earlier when Viktor told him it was a “sexy hobby” and feels the back of his neck burn. He struggles again to change the subject.

“You know I actually thought about skating when I was younger,” Yuuri says, laughing when Viktor’s eyebrows quirk in disbelief. “It’s true! My childhood friends were skaters so I would join them during their practice. I actually really liked it and I considered stopping ballet to skate seriously.”

“Then how come you’re here with me and not with Chris in Spain right now?” Viktor asks.

“The local rink closed down,” Yuuri remembers sadly. “At the time, business wasn’t really big so a lot of shops and places closed down. I ended up sticking with ballet and gave up on my figure skating dreams.”

Viktor hums thoughtfully, nodding at Yuuri’s word. “Well, in another life, I suppose,” Viktor says.

Yuuri glances at Viktor, appreciating the graceful set of his shoulders and how he walks as if he’s gliding through the air, feet merely brushing the ground. He could see Viktor as a figure skater, eyes burning white-hot as he soars through the air, escaping gravity with every jump. Viktor would’ve suited gold.

 “In another life,” Yuuri agrees and the two share a small smile before continuing forward.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

There’s a blond teenager glaring up at him, practically snarling in a tiger print hoodie and ridiculous purple leopard Heelies. He’s clutching Makkachin's leash with a death grip and Makka, always a good girl, sits obediently beside him.

He ignores the boy and looks towards the poodle. “Do you know him?” he inquires curiously. Makkachin barks, tongue lolling out of her mouth in a good-natured pant and Yuuri can’t resist giving her head a scratch.

“She can’t fucking answer you,” the blonde teen snorts. He rolls his eyes and mutters under his breath. “Fucking dog people.”

“Who are you?” Yuuri asks.

“I’m the better Yuri,” he proclaims, glaring disdainfully up at Yuuri.

“Um, alright. Why do you have Makka then?”

Yuri snorts, a short exasperated huff. “Didn’t you check your texts?”

Yuuri didn’t. He digs his phone out of his back pocket and sees several unread messages from Viktor.

‘Yuuri!! .・゚゚・(/ω\)・゚゚・.I’m sorry but I can’t make it to our walk today. Emergency at the office  o(〒﹏〒)o’

‘I didn’t want to keep our star-crossed lovers apart from each other so my cousin Yura will be taking her!’

‘Make sure he treats Makka nicely he always complains about watching her  ╮( ̄~ ̄)╭  he’s such an angry kitten, dont mind his claws’

Yuuri looks up from his phone. Somehow, in the short time Yuuri had been reading through his texts, the scowl on the boy’s face has deepened and he’s impatiently tapping his foot with arms crossed.

“You’re Yura?” Yuuri asks.

“It’s Yuri,” he spits out before glancing over Yuuri with a taunting smirk. “Pig.”

Yuuri might be offended if he wasn’t talking to a literal child with horrible taste in footwear.

The dogs don’t appreciate how long their humans are taking to converse and start to whine, impatiently tugging at their leashes.

Yuri glares. “Stay still, god. Don’t pull,” he says to Makkachin, who merely redoubles her whines and attempts to pull him even harder.

“Should we go?” Yuuri offers. “It looks like they’re starting to get antsy.”

Yuri rolls his eyes but goes along with Yuuri’s suggestion. At least there’s some progress.

The two of them start down the familiar path that Yuuri’s come to known with Makkachin and Vicchan happily leading the way. It’s strange to walk with someone other than Viktor. Yuuri’s gotten accustomed to the man walking by his side, excitedly asking about his day and cooing over all the dogs they pass on their way. It’s lonely, Yuuri realizes, without him.

“So, you’re Viktor’s cousin?” Yuuri asks in an attempt to make conversation. A fairly poor attempt, considering how Yuuri immediately gags at the mention of his cousin’s name.

“Ugh, don’t talk to me about that old geezer,” Yuuri says with an exaggerated retch. “It’ll make me sick.”

Yuuri’s at a loss for words.

Yuri continues his tirade, rolling his eyes. “Of course, you probably think the sun shines out of his ass, don’t you?”

Yuuri doesn't, actually. Yuuri still vividly remembers the time Viktor almost got them killed by driving into oncoming traffic on their way home from a hike and only told Yuuri “whoops!” as an apology before barely swerving around a gaggle of schoolchildren walking home. Yuri’s question, though, also reminds him of the time when he sleepily walked into his living room to find Viktor doing naked yoga in his apartment, who waved happily at him before stretching into a sun salutation.

The sun shines out of his ass indeed.

“Um,” Yuuri says. Yuri groans.

“Disgusting,” he says. “Absolutely disgusting. No wonder you two are perfect for each other.”

“U-um, Viktor’s a good guy,” Yuuri says defensively. Yuri just scoffs, disbelieving.

“Do you watch Makka very often?” Yuuri asks, scraping for any conversation.

“I had to watch her every day,” Yuri grumbles, but surprisingly doesn’t sound as angry as he previously had. “When Viktor was still looking for an apartment, he lived with me and my grandpa. At least Makkachin was better house guest than he was.”

Makkachin, hearing her name, stops curiously before giving a happy bark and continuing to trot forward. Yuri’s eye roll is surprisingly fond and Yuuri feels a surge of surprising affection at this unexpected show of familiarity.

Phichit would call this phenomenon ‘gap moe.’

“She really scared my cat though,” Yuri mutters, eyes softening slightly, and Yuuri spots an opening.

“Oh, you have a cat? What’s her name?”

‘Cute’ is the only way Yuuri can describe the sudden excited gleam in the younger boy’s eyes as he whips his phone out and opens to an album with 612 photos titled ‘potya the badass’

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

Viktor’s waiting on his balcony when Yuuri gets home from an early dinner with Phichit. He’s putting his leftover Pad Thai in the fridge when he spots Viktor beckoning him over, leaning over the banister edge.

Viktor waves warmly as Yuuri comes out to meet him outside.

“Hello, Yuuri,” Viktor says, a tired smile on his lips.

“Good evening,” Yuuri greets back, frowning when he realizes how haggard Viktor looks. “Rough day at work?”

Viktor groans, slumping forward. His normally neatly combed hair falls in front of his eyes. “There was a problem with our computer system,” Viktor explains tiredly. “It took all day to fix and I’m exhausted.”

He looks up at Yuuri, eyes liquid behind silvery lashes and Yuuri thinks of how unfair it is that Viktor can look so attractive when he’s about to drop dead. “I’m sorry I missed out on our walk today,” Viktor says, voice soft and striking deep into Yuuri’s heart. “I really look forward to it.”

“It’s fine, it can’t be helped,” Yuuri assures him. Viktor still looks dejected so he adds, “There’s always next time, right?”

Viktor nods, smiling gracing his face and Yuuri’s glad he can say he was the one that put it there. “Next time,” he agrees.

Viktor continues in a lighter tone. “Did Yura give you any trouble? He’s such an angry boy, I wasn’t sure how it would it go to have him take Makka on her walk with you.”

Yuuri thinks about earlier, how Yuri excitedly showed him pictures of his cat Potya and gave Makkachin way too many treats when he thought Yuuri wasn’t looking and eventually bullied Yuuri for his number so he could text a selfie of himself grumpily sandwiched between Potya and Makkachin fifteen minutes later.

“Yuri was fine,” Yuuri says with a laugh. “He’s a nice kid, behind his prickly exterior. Very cute.”

“Cute?” Viktor asks, pouting. “I didn’t think he was your type.” Yuuri can tell he’s joking but for some reason, there’s an undercurrent of petulant childishness behind his words. Yuuri laughs.

“Not like that,” Yuuri assures him. “He’s like a little brother.”

Viktor is still dissatisfied, sulking. Yuuri shakes his head amusedly.

“You’re cuter,” Yuuri teases and he meant that as a joke but the way Viktor freezes at the words and blushes adorably red to the tips of his ears makes Yuuri go breathless and think, ‘oh, he’s definitely cuter.’

“A-ah,” Viktor stutters, voice hitching. He avoids Yuuri’s eyes. “I bet you say that to all the boys.”

Phichit, the last boy Yuuri saw, spent all dinner trying to see if he could mimic the Davy Jones tentacle beard with his Pad Thai noodles. Phichit, Yuuri thinks, was decidedly not cute.

“Sure,” is all Yuuri can think to say. There’s an awkward moment of silence, an air of uncertainty hanging between them and Yuuri’s about to say something to end it when Viktor decides to speak.

“Y-Yuuri?” He asks tentatively. He’s avoiding Yuuri’s eyes.

“Yes?”

“Do you want to do something different next time?” Viktor asks. Yuuri cocks his head curiously.

“I mean, something different than a walk,” Viktor clarifies.

“Like what?” Yuuri wonders.

“There’s a café just across the street? Dolce? Have you heard of it?”

Yuuri nods. “I’m friends with the owners. I actually go there a lot with Vicchan.”

“Oh…that’s good.” Yuuri can’t figure out the meaning behind Viktor’s tone.

“Do you want to go there instead of walk tomorrow?” Yuuri offers. Viktor immediately brightens and excitedly nods.

“Well, I mean if you want to! Sure! Yes!” He’s like an eager puppy.

“It sounds fun,” Yuuri agrees. “Different than just a walk.”

Viktor’s beaming at Yuuri and he really can’t focus with that bright smile trained solely on him. It’s like looking directly into the sun.

“Same time, same place?” Yuuri asks, with all the composure he can muster.

“Same time, same place,” Viktor agrees, heart-shaped smile gracing his features.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

In hindsight, it was obvious that it was supposed to be a date.

But Yuuri, who’s seen the man every day and grown accustomed to Viktor’s overly affectionate, exhibitionist tendencies, who’s struggled for the past few months to suppress his feelings to preserve their friendship, could not have fathomed that Viktor—Viktor—would have ever wanted to ask him out.

Yuuri makes his way down to their meeting spot in front of their apartment buildings, bleary-eyed and with a stubborn cow lick that refuses to go down no matter how many times he’s brushed his hair. Vicchan, happily trotting beside him, looks significantly more put together with neatly combed fur and a blue-and-yellow striped sweater.

“Why are you such a morning person?” Yuuri asks wearily, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Vicchan barks and excitedly rushes forward.

They’ve been waiting for Viktor for almost fifteen minutes when Yuuri starts to worry, glancing down at his watch before nervously looking at Vicchan.

“Do you think he’s alright? He’s normally here before me.” Vicchan yips in response.

“Yuuri!”

Viktor is jogging over to him, cheeks slightly flushed in exertion as he crosses the street. He’s dressed nicely—nicer than usual. Yuuri practically lives in sweatpants and hoodies during his free time but Viktor always preferred to wear neatly-ironed, color coordinated outfits whenever possible. Today though, he looks exceptionally dashing in a crisp button down with a slate gray sweater layered on top. The tails of his turquoise scarf flapping in the wind and as he gets closer, he notices that Viktor’ lashes look darker than usual.

Is he wearing mascara?  Yuuri wonders.

As it turns out, Yuuri has bigger things to worry about.

Like the bouquet of flowers Viktor is clutching as he runs.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” he gasps out as he screeches to a stop in front of Yuuri, “I forgot how much traffic there is in the morning.”

“Um, that’s fine,” Yuri says, glancing at the bouquet in Viktor’s hands. It’s a pretty thing—soft pink peonies mixed in with forget-me-nots and gentle tufts of baby’s breath, all wrapped in light purple tissue paper with a white ribbon tied at the base. “Um, Viktor. What—“

“These are for you!” Viktor bursts out, nearly shoving them into Yuuri’s face. He flinches back, nearly avoiding the petals smashing into his glasses.

“Um, thank you but Viktor, I’m—“

Viktor notices his hesitant expression and his face falls, bouquet going limp in his hands.

“Do you not like it?” Viktor whispers. The look in his eyes can only be likened to Vicchan’s devastated puppy eyes when Yuuri leaves him in his crate when he goes to work, whining pitifully as Yuuri locks up his apartment.

“It’s not that!” Yuuri insists but Viktor still looks devastated. Yuuri feels awful for being the cause of that expression. “They’re lovely but—“

“Should I have given you roses instead? Of course, they’re more appropriate for this situation. Oh, I should have asked before—“

“I’m allergic!” Yuuri yells out, interrupting Viktor in his frantic tirade. Viktor’s mouth drops open in surprise. “To flowers. I’m allergic to flowers.”

Yuuri continues. “They’re very pretty,” he assures him, “but when I get close to them—“ Yuuri interrupts himself with a powerful sneeze. Just being in close proximity to the bouquet for this short period has Yuuri’s eyes wet and rheumy. There’s an itchy scratch at the back of his throat and Yuuri tries in vain to clear it. He sneezes again and the sound makes Viktor jump.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri gasps, “but can you please get those away from me?”

Viktor jumps as if lightning had struck him, running over to the nearby trashcan and disposing the flowers. Yuuri would feel bad of such pretty flowers going to waste if he wasn’t incapacitated by another sneezing fit.

“Are you alright, Yuuri? Do you need water?” Viktor asks, hanging uncertainty by Yuuri’s side. He waves him off.

“I’m fine, I just need a moment,” Yuri wheezes. He looks down and Viktor’s feet and finally realizes that Viktor is strangely alone.

“Where’s Makkachin?” Yuuri asks and Viktor follows his line of sight. His eyes widen as he spots Vicchan patiently sitting at Yuuri’s feet.

“You brought Vicchan?” Yuuri doesn’t understand why Viktor looks so surprised.

“Of course I did.” Yuuri gives Viktor another strange look. “Why didn’t you?”

Viktor alternates looking at the Yuuri and Vicchan, looking speechless.

“Um, alright,” Viktor finally says after a long awkward pause. He looks down at Vicchan again. “I’ll be right back.”

It’s over thirty minutes since their original meet up time when Viktor is finally ready, meeting Yuuri outside with Makkachin in tow. The tickle in Yuuri’s throat has subsided and the only evidence of Yuuri’s allergies is his slightly reddened nose.

Makkachin and Vicchan joyfully greet each other. Viktor looks significantly more composed now, yet slightly awkward.

“I’m really sorry,” Viktor says again as they cross the street to head to the café. “I didn’t know.”

“It’s alright,” Yuuri says, giving Viktor a strange look when the man nearly trips himself in haste to open the door for Yuuri. “Uh, thank you. I never told you in the first place so I wouldn’t have expected you to have known. To be honest, I’m not sure why you got me flowers in the first place.”

The café is mostly empty when they enter except for the staff and a few odd patrons camping out near an outlet. It’s a cozy place—with large windows to let natural light in and oversized armchairs snugly nestled around. The entire place is warm, a haven from the chilly weather outside, and it smells like freshly roasted coffee beans and sweetened pastries.

There’s a clatter behind the counter.

“Y-Yuuri-senpai!”

Yuuri smiles, greeting the blonde-haired teen who just dropped an entire platter of mugs onto the floor. Luckily, none of them shattered. “Ah, Minami-kun!”

Viktor looks surprised. “You know him?”

“His parents own the café,” Yuuri explains as they approach the register. “I come here pretty often too. Sometimes, I tutor him in Japanese.”

“Good morning, Yuuri-senpai!” Minami squeaks. His face is as red as the dyed streak in his hair.

“How are you today?” Yuuri asks.

“Good! Great—now that you’re here.” Minami looks ready to combust. He rocks forwards on the balls of his feet, leaning towards the older man. “What can I get for you?”

Yuuri orders two drinks for him and Viktor, as well as a few of the café’s specialty house-made dog treats for their poodles. When Yuuri tries to give Minami a twenty for the bill, the teen adamantly refuses.

“It’s on the house,” He breathes out. There are stars in his eyes. “It’s always on the house for you.”

Yuuri laughs uncomfortably, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand. “You can’t do that,” Yuuri tells him. He drops the bill into the tip jar on the counter when Minami refuses the money once more. “I’ll see you next week for our tutoring session, okay?”

Minami frantically nods, a dopey smile appearing on his face. “I’ll be counting down the seconds until then,” he promises and Yuuri gives him an awkward wave goodbye.

It’s not until Viktor and Yuuri and tucked in a small corner of the room, Vicchan and Makkachin cuddled up beneath the table that Viktor finally speaks up.

“So, Minami-kun, huh?” Yuuri would almost say that Viktor is pouting.

“Why are you saying it like that?” Yuuri asks. Viktor harrumphs, petulantly looking away.

“I just didn’t know you had a fanboy.”

“Fanboy?” Yuuri laughs incredulously. “What are you talking about? Minami’s just my kouhai—my student.”

“Please,” Viktor scoffs. He’s definitely pouting now. “It’s so obvious he has a massive crush on you.”

Yuuri’s voice pitches disbelievingly. “A crush? Okay—now you’re talking crazy. Who would have a crush on me?”

Viktor gives Yuuri a weighted looked, long and disbelieving, and Yuuri knows it must mean something but he’s just terribly confused by the entire situation.

After a moment of intense stares, Viktor breaks eye contact first with a sigh.

The atmosphere is tense between them—awkward even—and Yuuri doesn’t understand why. Normally, it’s so easy to talk to Viktor. Their conversation flowed like water as they exchange easy jokes and laughter. Now, it’s oddly stilted and Yuuri doesn’t know what he should say. He downs half of his latte out of sheer nervousness and struggles to calm his caffeinated nerves.

“Yuuri.”

He lifts his head—why did he even have it bowed to begin with?—and Viktor is staring directly at him, bright eyes boring directly into Yuuri’s soul. He gulps.

“W-what is it?”

Viktor sighs, running a hand through his perfectly coiffed hair. “I don’t feel like I made my intentions very clear.”

“Y-your intentions? Wha—”

“I like you, Yuuri.”

It’s like time is frozen and Yuuri’s suddenly acutely aware of his heart pounding in his ears, drowning out all the other noise. He feels the blood rush to his face and just sits there, gobsmacked, staring at Viktor with mouth agape with an expression of disbelief. Viktor looks nervous, the tremble in his jaw apparent in contrast to how rigid the rest of his body is. His hands are clenched into tight fists on the table between them.

“I’ve liked you for a long time,” Viktor continues resolutely, oblivious to the absolute meltdown going on in Yuuri’s mind. “That’s why I was so nervous for today. I know it shouldn’t be that much different than normal but I just wanted today to go well.”

“W-what?”

At least Yuuri’s mouth is working now.

Viktor sighs, looking away from Yuuri with cheeks flushing in embarrassment. “I know this date isn’t probably what you expected—”

“A d-date?”

“A date,” Viktor says with a nod. Yuuri still can’t function properly. He can practically see the steam coming out of his own ears from his brain’s malfunctioning.

“This is a date?” He bursts out.

“Did...did you not want this to be a date?” Viktor asks hesitantly. Yuuri does— he desperately does but his mouth won’t do what his brain says so he just sits there, staring at Viktor with mouth hopelessly agape. When Yuuri doesn’t respond, Viktor practically wilts like the bouquet of flowers that are rotting in the trash can outside. His shoulders are hunched and he slowly bows his head so his bangs shield his face. “A-ah,” he says. “I didn’t mean to force you to do something you were uncomfortable with.”

Viktor isn’t forcing Yuuri to do anything he doesn’t very much want to do but he still can’t say anything. Can’t do anything. He can only watch, horrified, as Viktor hurriedly ushers Makkachin to her feet and turns towards the door.

“I-I’m sorry,” he says. He’s refusing to look Yuuri in the face, gaze trained shakily on the ground. Makkachin whines at him for being forced to leave early. “I’ll see you around.”

Yuuri is still frozen as he watched Viktor rush out of the cafe.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

“He just— it just blindsided me out of nowhere? I was too shocked to say anything but now he thinks I hate him bec— Phichit, stop live tweeting my problems!”

“Sorry,” Phichit says, quickly dropping his phone onto his lap and raising his hands in the air. “It’s just that my followers are desperate for an update and this is just so juicy.”

Yuuri groans, burying his face in the oversized blanket he and Phichit are currently tangled in. They’re in Yuuri’s living room, snuggled up to each other as Yuuri gorges on his third pint of ice cream this evening.

“Well there isn’t going to be any more updates after this,” Yuuri mumbles. He sinks further into his couch cushions. “Viktor won’t even talk to me anymore.”

Yuuri’s gotten so accustomed to have Viktor in his life. The man easily carved a niche into Yuuri’s everyday schedule— with their early morning walks before work, their late nights on their veranda, and their constant emoji-filled text conversations. Now, Viktor can’t even stand to be near him for a second. He ignores Yuuri’s calls and invitations to go out. Last time Yuuri saw the man was when he camped out in the park for two hours hoping to catch him when he brings Makkachin out for a walk. When Viktor finally appears, uncharacteristically dressed in a sloppy hoodie and sweats, he took one look at Yuuri before dashing back into his apartment complex.

It still stings to remember the look of absolute horror on his face before he ran away.

With him gone, Yuuri’s achingly aware of the Viktor-sized hole left in his life and he once again desperately wishes he’d had the courage to say something, anything, during their coffee ‘date’ a week ago.

(He still can’t believe Viktor—Viktor— wanted to go on a date. With him. Just thinking about it makes Yuuri blush and feel giddy until he remembers that Viktor is still avoiding him and he inevitably spirals into a pit of self-loathing and regret).

Vicchan is also miserable after not seeing Makkachin for so long. He’s currently curled up near the balcony door, punctuating the gloomy atmosphere with an occasional whine.

He glances outside the glass door. The curtains in Viktor’s apartment, as they have remained for the past week-and-a-half, are closed.

“You can’t let this end here!” Phichit gasps, hand over his heart. His eyes are wide and mouth gaping in horror. “He’s into you! You know that now! And you’re into him! Now’s the time for that amazing love confession and several rounds of super hot make up se—”

“Phichit!”

He coughs. “Anyway, the point is—you have an opposite of a problem. He likes you. You like him. What’s stopping you from adopting a whole bunch of poodle babies together?”

“My anxiety? My numerous overwhelming insecurities?” Yuuri asks him incredulously. “Or maybe the fact that he won’t even look at me, much less talk to me so I don’t even have the opportunity to tell him my feelings.”

Vicchan interrupts them with a series of excited yips and the two see Vicchan happily panting against the door. Across the building, Makkachin has pushed herself behind the curtain and is mirroring Vicchan’s excited actions. Yuuri can’t hold back a smile at the sight.

“It’s nice that Vicchan doesn’t feel emasculated by the fact his girlfriend is taller than him,” Phichit muses.

Yuuri rolls his eyes. “Of course not. Vicchan doesn’t abide by gender roles. He’s progressive like that.”

Phichit’s reply is cut off short by a pale arm appearing behind the curtain to gently usher Makkachin away from the window and out of view. The briefest glance of Viktor’s arm is enough to send Yuuri’s heart in a frenzy and he’s overwhelmed by how much he desperately wants.

Phichit, who’s looking at him with a pitying smile, offers a consolatory pat on his shoulder.

“Maybe you just haven’t been trying hard enough,” Phichit suggests.

Yuuri starting to think that maybe he hasn’t.

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

It turns out Guang-Hong was right—you can jump across to the other balcony.

It’s surreal to be on the other side for once. Yuuri realizes that is what Viktor must see whenever he comes out to talk to Yuuri, during their late-night chats and shared quiet moments. Yuuri also realizes he should probably invest in some thicker curtains because you can see the entirety of his apartment from this position. He’s even more horrified when he realizes that this means Viktor can see the entirety of his apartment.

It’s also surreal to think that he jumped across the 8th floor balcony like a bandit. Now that the adrenaline has worn off, Yuuri leans heavily on the banister so his shaky legs don’t give out from beneath him.

A high-pitched bark causes Yuuri to look up. He sees Vicchan desperately scrabbling against his balcony door, claws clicking and scraping on the glass as he whimpers in distress.

“Vicchan, shh,” Yuuri says. The poodle continues to whine.

Yuuri sighs as he straightens up, reaching for the canvas bag he brought over before he jumped across.

He turns, then pauses.

Yuuri couldn’t tell from his view on the balcony but the small table on Viktor’s balcony is quite…dirty.

The glass top is cloudy with a thick layer of sooty grime, and the legs of the table and chairs are coated in dust and cobwebs.

Yuuri glances back down at his open tote bag, where the edges of the ivory placemats Yuuri bought specifically for his master plan (which he definitely did not spend the entirety of last night writing on a rolling white board he definitely did not buy on sale at Target during another depressed ice cream run) are peeking out. He looks back at the dusty table and shudders.

After a few moments of deliberation, Yuuri hastily climbs back to his own apartment to raid the kitchen cabinet underneath the sink for cleaning supplies.

Yuuri’s debating whether he should use an all-purpose spray or a glass cleaner when he feels Vicchan burrow into his crouched legs, scratching at his ankles.

“Vicchan, not now,” Yuuri sighs. Vicchan continues to whine, clinging to his pants legs.

Yuuri packs all his cleaning supplies in a plastic bag and struggles to get back to the balcony with Vicchan insistently pawing at his legs. The poodle has his claws stuck in the denim of Yuuri’s jeans and stubbornly clings on.

“Vicchan!” Yuuri says exasperatedly. He bends over to extricate Vicchan, holding the dog down with one hand to prevent him from pouncing on Yuuri once more. “Stop it! You have to stay here!”

Vicchan whines, floppy ears flattening against his head and he blinks wetly up at Yuuri.

Yuuri groans. “Don’t look at me like that,” Yuuri scolds him. “You’re going to stay here. Nothing is going to change my mind.”

Ten minutes later, Yuuri’s back on Viktor’s balcony with Vicchan strapped to his chest with the baby carrier he dug out from the closet. There’s a baby blue disposable mask haphazardly tied around his snout.

“You are spoiled,” Yuuri whispers to him. Vicchan happily tries to lick at Yuuri’s mouth through his mask.

Yuuri rolls his eyes fondly before turning back to the task on hand.

“Why is it so dirty?” Yuuri asks himself as he vigorously scrubs the table surface. “Like I’ve definitely seen him sit here before but this is honestly kind of disgusting.”

The dishrag Yuuri was using is already turning grey from the dirty and he’s only cleaned less than a quarter of the glass.

“Should I go get my magic eraser?” Yuuri asks Vicchan, who merely sniffs curiously in response.

Yuuri’s contemplating on whether he should go back to his balcony to get his really heavy-duty cleaning supplies when he hears a voice that stops his heart directly in his chest.

“Yuuri?”

It’s Viktor, of course. He’s clearly just woken up with his hair crumpled from sleep and a thin line of drool dried down his chest. Not to mention the fact that he’s shirtless and wearing only a pair of Calvin Klein boxer briefs.

Yuuri tries not to stare at his nipples.

(It doesn’t work—they’re a very pretty dusty color).

“I-I…I”

Viktor rubs his eyes as if he doesn’t believe Yuuri’s actually there. “Yuuri? Are you—are you cleaning my table?”

“No!” Yuuri yelps. He looks down at the bottle of lemon-scented Lysol he’s holding and the bright yellow rubber gloves that come up to his elbows.  “Maybe?”

At least Viktor looks too confused to avoid Yuuri now.

“I—um, okay?” Viktor shakes his head, resting his hand on his forehead. “I—give me a minute. Wait here.” He disappears into his apartment.

Yuuri doesn’t have any option to go anywhere but he nods anyway.

Viktor comes back five minutes later, thankfully wearing a pair of paints and a loose V-neck and looking significantly more composed. He crosses his arms in front of his chest and leans on the doorframe, staring Yuuri down.

Yuuri, who spent the time Viktor was gone sweating profusely and contemplating jumping into oncoming traffic, gulps.

“What are you doing here?”

“I…I—“Yuuri’s at a loss for words.

It’s like the day at the café again, except instead of being shocked into a stupor by an unexpected confession, Yuuri’s just horrified at being caught in this embarrassing position. Vicchan - still on his chest - barks happily and wiggles in his carrier, oblivious to the tense situation.

Viktor huffs, looking away. “If you were cleaning my balcony because you felt bad for me, then don’t because—“

“It’s not that!”

Viktor jumps at the sudden interruption, blinking at Yuuri in shock.

Yuuri flushes at his involuntary yell. “It’s not that,” he repeats much quieter. “Well, I am cleaning your table—mostly because it’s just so dirty, have you ever cleaned it before? Honestly Viktor—but not because I felt bad for you.”

“Then why—“

“You’ve been avoiding me.” Viktor blushes at Yuuri’s accusation, avoiding his eyes.

“No, I haven’t,” he weakly protests.

“Then how come you haven’t been answering my texts? Or not coming to our morning walks anymore?”

Viktor remains silent.

Yuuri bites his lip. It’s now or never. “You left before I could say anything. Back at the café.”

“I didn’t see a point of staying. I already knew what you were going to say.“ Viktor still refuses to look him in the eye.

Now or never.

Yuuri breathes in, slightly shaky but determined. “If you had stayed…” Yuuri starts. Viktor flinches at his words. “If you had stayed, I would have said I have absolutely no idea why you would like me because you are so completely out of my league and it makes zero sense why you would be interested in me?”

Viktor gapes. “Out of your league?” Viktor asks incredulously. “I’m the one who should be saying that about you!”

“Me?” Yuuri cries out. “In what way am I out of your league?”

“Are you actually asking that?” Viktor asks. “Do I need to make a list for you? You’re cute and sweet but you’re also so hot? Like you pole dance—how is that even allowed? But you’re so genuinely kind and you ask me about my day because you actually want to know about my day and you laugh at all my stupid jokes but you sound so ridiculously sexy when you talk in Japanese that I just want to ask you to read the phonebook to me. Like, how is that fair? You knitted Makkachin a sweater for her birthday! How could I not like you after that?”

Hearing her name, Makkachin peeks out into the balcony with her head cocked. Vicchan wriggles excitedly at the sight of her, scrabbling against Yuuri’s chest. He slips Vicchan out of the carrier and onto the floor where he immediately dashes into Viktor’s living room to reunite with the larger poodle.

Yuuri sighs, feeling ridiculous as he takes off the sling and gloves and sets them on the half-cleaned table. “Are we really arguing about this?”

Viktor pouts, giving an indignant harrumph. “Is it arguing if I’m just stating facts?”

Yuuri bites the inside of his cheek, wringing his hands together uncomfortably.

“I didn’t know—when you were asking to go out for coffee that it was supposed to be a date,” Yuuri admits. “I thought it was just another thing we were going to do as friends. Just like usual.”

Viktor opens his mouth as if to speak but Yuuri continues.

“If I had known it was a date,” Yuuri says, “I would’ve been really happy."

Now or never, Yuuri reminds himself.

"Because...I like you too.”

Viktor stares at him, eyes wide and surpirsed. “W-what?” He can barely gasp out.

Yuuri blushes, scratching at his neck awkwardly. Viktor’s staring at him slack-jacked with eyebrows raised—a look of complete disbelief on his face. “I wanted to you ask you to dinner—to make up for last time. But then you kept avoiding me and wouldn’t talk to me so this was the only way I thought I could get close to you.”

Viktor’s eyes drop to the bag sitting at Yuuri’s feet, widening when he notices it’s filled with romantic tea candles and the nice China Yuuri reserves only for when his parents visit. On the top of the bag rests a beautiful bouquet of deep wine-red roses Yuuri picked up from the local flower shop.

Yuuri continues, too nervous to stop. “I picked up dinner at that Italian place nearby. I wanted to surprise you before you came home.”

Viktor looks amazed. “I—I thought you were allergic to flowers.”

Yuuri nods seriously. “I am completely hopped up on Benadryl right now. To be honest, I’m still not sure if you’re actually here or if I'm just hallucinating in the medicine aisle at Walgreens.”

Viktor laughs, loud and bright and relieved, and hunches forward a little from the force of his laughter. Yuuri lets out a small breath he didn’t know he was holding, glad beyond words that Viktor was finally smiling.

“You’re ridiculous,” Viktor snickers, grinning up at Yuuri. His bright blue eyes are twinkling and Yuuri’s a little bit in love.

“Both of us are,” Yuuri says with a nervous chuckle. The two stare at each other in awkward silence, both shyly waiting to see what the other would say.

Viktor speaks first. “I didn’t mean to ruin your surprise, but…do you just want to come and eat inside? I promise my dining table is a lot cleaner than this one.”

Yuuri is dumbfounded by Viktor’s suggestion—at the demure way Viktor is looking at him beneath his lashes, how he can see the pretty pink flush work its way down from his neck all the way to his chest.

He’s beautiful, Yuuri thinks.

In a surprising moment of bravery, Yuuri reaches forward and grasps Viktor’s long-fingered hand in his own. He brings his knuckles up to his lips for the softest of kisses, lips gently brushing against the smooth skin.

Viktor’s little gasp of shock is completely worth the burn of embarrassment coursing through Yuuri’s entire body.

“I’d love to,” Yuuri tells him, meeting Viktor’s eyes steadily and hoping he understands the sincerity Yuuri’s trying to convey.

Viktor’s smile turns coy as he laces their fingers together, bringing it up to his lips to place his own warm kiss on the back of Yuuri’s hand.

“You’re very sly, Yuuri Katsuki,” Viktor says with another bright, ringing laugh. He tugs Yuuri forward. “Come on, you said you brought Italian? Did you get pasta? Do you want to recreate the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene with me?”

Yuuri blushes even brighter at Viktor’s suggestion but that doesn’t stop the fond smile that blooms across his face as Viktor pulls him into his apartment, and he squeezes Viktor’s hand even tighter. Vicchan barks happily once his owner enters and Yuuri laughs when he sees the two poodles lovingly curled up together on the sofa.

“Anything you want,” Yuuri tells him.