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Hold Me Tight

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1.

During the mornings, Victor hugs like an octopus.

Or like a big Russian parasite that has icy feet and leeches warmth off Yuuri.

There’s no better way to describe it, Yuuri thinks with a defeated groan as he tries to rub away the remaining sleep in his eyes and simultaneously pry off the limbs clutching at his torso. It’s way too early in the morning, the first rays of sun barely peeking on the horizon and there’s an uncomfortable pressure in his bladder that’s begging to be relieved.

“Victor,” He croaks, voice still rough from having just woken up. Next to him, Victor is all but dead to the world, half his face buried on the pillow and half on the crook of Yuuri’s neck. It’s an adorably heartwarming sight as it always is every morning, with Victor’s face peaceful and his silver hair mussed from moving around in his sleep but Yuuri really, really has to go to the bathroom. “Victor, let go.”

“Mm.” Victor presses up even closer in response, refusing to open his eyes.

“Victor, come on.” Yuuri makes a stronger attempt to free himself, and the older man scrunches up his face in displeasure. “I have to pee.”

“Pee later,” Victor mumbles. When barely awake, his accent makes itself known, thick and heavy. It takes Yuuri a full minute to decipher what he said (well, half a minute, to be honest; the other half is spent marveling at the low drop of Victor’s voice) and then Victor is being pushed away again, Yuuri standing up before Victor’s hands can haul him back to bed.

“I’ll be quick,” Yuuri says and smiles when instead of answering, Victor grunts in annoyance, burying his face on the pillow Yuuri previously occupied.

When Yuuri comes back from the bathroom, he slides back in under the covers and lets Victor’s arms pull him close once more, smiling fondly as he hears Victor sigh in what sounds like contentment. However, as Victor’s feet brush up against the back of his legs, the smile fades and Yuuri makes an undignified noise.

“Victor!”

Victor’s laugh sounds too satisfied for someone supposedly asleep.

“You’re terrible,” Yuuri huffs out, trying to inch away from the clammy touch but Victor has latched onto him tightly with his limbs, caging him, and is grinning against the skin of Yuuri’s neck. “Honestly, why do you have cold feet? I’m the one who got out of bed!”

“It’s a talent,” Victor murmurs, brushing his lips on Yuuri’s pulse as some sort of apology. “It helps me get revenge on those who leave me with no one to cuddle.”

“I was only gone for five minutes.”

“I suffered greatly for five minutes.”

“You’re such a drama queen,” Yuuri says, turning to face him, and Victor laughs again, low and melodious in Yuuri’s ears. He ignores the fluttering sensation in his chest at the sound, and instead buries a hand into Victor’s soft hair, letting his fingers gently massage the scalp.

Victor gives a sleepy hum of appreciation, nuzzling closer. His eyelashes are long and beautiful with his eyes closed, fanned out across his cheeks. There’s the faintest smile playing on his lips, the soft kind that Yuuri only ever sees when they’re alone together. Yuuri’s heart skips a beat and he swallows back the lump in his throat. Victor is so unfairly breathtaking sometimes.

“Go back to sleep,” He whispers, feeling ridiculously overcome with adoration, and plays with Victor’s hair until his breath is even and deep. Victor’s feet may be outrageously cold but his palms are warm splayed against Yuuri’s back and Yuuri feels more loved than he’s ever been inside Victor’s embrace.

 

2.

In front of the Katsuki family, Victor is kind of shameless.

Not shameless in an obscene way, no. Okay, sometimes in an obscene way, too. But definitely shameless, because he doesn’t seem to care about whoever it is that’s present around them, Victor will touch Yuuri when he wants to touch him and nothing short of Yuuri’s “no” can stop him from doing so. And goodness knows Yuuri sucks at denying Victor anything.

They’re playing Jenga on one of the tables, Yuuri and his sister Mari, during a slow night at the onsen. It’s late and most of the patrons have gone home, so it’s quiet in the inn save for the two of them. Their father is still at the front desk, calculating the day’s sales, and their mother is holed up at the kitchen, putting away the last of the washed dishes.

“Damn,” Mari swears as she glares at the wooden tower, turning her head here and there as if it’ll help her decide better which block she’s supposed to move. She tugs at one of her earrings, a habit of frustration, and Yuuri grins. “You’ve gotten way too good at this, Yuuri.”

“I’ve learned some tricks while in college in Detroit,” Yuuri admits as he watches his sister struggle to remove a block, the tower wobbling dangerously before staying put again. Mari heaves a loud sigh, placing the block on top.

“Where’d you learn the tricks from?”

Yuuri smiles, a little smug, and confidently pushes at one of the blocks in the middle. Mari tenses but the tower doesn’t even budge as Yuuri removes the piece and stacks it next to Mari’s previous block. “From engineering majors.”

“Goddammit, that’s so unfair.”

Yuuri laughs. “It’s your turn, nee-chan.”

It’s then that Victor rounds a corner and walks into the dining room, pausing for a second at the odd sight before breaking into a wide grin. “Jenga!” He exclaims excitedly, dropping to a seat next to Yuuri and latching by his side. Yuuri almost smacks the tower down as he flails his hands to get his balance back. Victor’s not light by any means.

“Victor,” Yuuri says at the same time Mari collapses into laughter, “be careful.”

“No, no, you should have tackled him harder,” Mari argues, grinning at Victor. “You play Jenga?”

“I try,” Victor admits sheepishly, hugging Yuuri close and resting his silver head on his shoulder. Yuuri blushes a little, sending Mari a self-conscious glance but his sister’s focus is on Victor. It’s still a little ridiculous, how unfazed Yuuri’s family is with Victor and his antics, or with the fact that Yuuri is in a relationship with his childhood idol and coach. Yuuri muses he should just be grateful they’re not weird about it. “Yurio says I’m too excitable for the game.”

“Oh, that cute boy,” Mari sighs as Yuuri takes his turn again, “He should visit Japan again sometime. Tell him we miss him here.”

“I’ll pass on the message,” Victor says. His smile widens at the skillful way Yuuri removes a block, the motion of his hand smooth and steady as he places it on top of the tower. “Wow, I didn’t know you’re so good at Jenga, Yuuri!”

Yuuri preens at the praise.

“If only you had the same confidence on ice!”

Aaaand, there it is. Of course Victor won’t be able to pass up an opportunity to make a playful jab at him. Yuuri rolls his eyes with the tiniest of sighs, elbowing Victor gently. Victor’s mock pout of sadness is cute but Yuuri’s not about to tell him that.

“He’s too good,” Mari huffs out as she takes her turn, scowling as Yuuri shoots her a smile. When the stack shakes again, both she and Victor gasp in terror. “Victor, help!”

“Okay!” Victor’s free hand reaches up in reflex but Yuuri pulls it back before it can support the wooden tower.

“Cheating,” Yuuri complains. He goes ignored as the tower stills, and both his sister and Victor let out twin breaths of relief.

“I think it’s only fair,” Mari shoots back. “You learned tricks from engineering people.”

Yuuri arches an eyebrow. “The rules don’t say anything about that.” Next to him, Victor lets out a thoughtful hum. The older man presses closer until he’s practically glued to Yuuri’s side, until soft hair strands are tickling the sensitive area of Yuuri’s neck but Yuuri thinks none of it.

Mari huffs again, but relents. “Fine.”

They continue the game with a few protests and curses from Mari every now and then and extreme concentration from Yuuri. As the minutes tick by, the pieces on the lower levels start missing, and the tower gets more unstable. Victor presses impossibly closer.

The game is getting…difficult.

Not only because half of the pile is leaning sideways now like a small, wooden replica of the Tower of Pisa and Yuuri’s choices are becoming limited, but also because there is a very attractive Russian man breathing softly against his ear, sending shivers down his spine, smooth lips brushing against Yuuri’s cheek from time to time and clever fingers tracing patterns by his hips under the table and It. Is. Really. Distracting.

“Victor,” Yuuri tuts under his breath, brows furrowing as he focused on taking out a piece. Victor kisses his cheek. “Stop it.” Any other time, Yuuri might give in to Victor’s touches gladly but this is Jenga. Jenga. Yuuri has spent countless embarrassing times losing against Engineering Majors just so he can beat Mari at this game when he came back home.

Victor makes a questioning sound, somehow clueless of what he’s doing to Yuuri, and then proceeds to nuzzle his face against Yuuri’s throat.

Yuuri tenses, and the tower wobbles for the first time during his turn.

“Oh, oh!” Mari braces herself in excitement. “It’s going to fall—!”

It doesn’t, and Yuuri lets loose the breath he’s holding in.

“So good,” Victor murmurs in his ear, his embrace around Yuuri tightening for a moment, “You’re so good, Yuuri.” His voice is low, breathy, reminding Yuuri of their more thrilling nights spent together sharing a bed. Yuuri shudders.

He flushes immediately, and scowls. “Victor, I’m trying to win here.”

“I know,” Victor breathes out but squeezes Yuuri’s thigh, smiling when Yuuri jumps a bit in his seat and lets out a startled protest. “Win for me, okay?”

Yuuri looks at Mari again, feeling more than a little mortified at how Victor is blatantly flirting with him in front of his sister, but Mari can’t be bothered, apparently. Her glare is on the Jenga tower and nothing else.

She chooses a piece, takes it out carefully, and places it on top of the pile. The tower doesn’t even move an inch. Mari smirks. “Your turn, otouto.

Yuuri purses his lips as he takes his turn, weighing his options carefully and studying the stack. There’s a piece on the upper level that’s in the middle, another piece by the bottom part that’s already sticking out and is much easier to remove, but there’s also a piece near the side that seems safe to take out and there’s—

There’s Victor’s warm hand sneaking up his shirt.

Victor,” Yuuri hisses, face burning, “knock it off.

He pinches the back of Victor’s hand, heaving a sigh when the older man winces and takes it out. Yuuri ignores Victor’s pouting in favor of choosing the block at the bottom, keeping his hand steady. He’ll apologize to Victor later for the pinching but for now, Yuuri sticks out his tongue and concentrates, gently pulling the piece out of the pile.

It’s halfway through when the tower wobbles and Mari tenses up. Yuuri holds his breath, halting his movement. The pile becomes stable again.

“Come on, come on,” Yuuri chants as resumes taking it out. It’s so close, he’s so close to removing it, slowly, slowly

Victor bites his earlobe and Yuuri shrieks.

His hand jerks violently, shocked, and through his askew glasses, Yuuri sees the tower collapse into a mess of wooden blocks, crashing noisily against the table. His mouth drops open in both surprise and disbelief as Mari bolts up from her seat and whoops loudly.

Next to Yuuri, Victor is torn between chuckling and cooing sympathetically, pulling away from Yuuri to rub his back in consolation.

“Yes!” Mari throws her hands up in triumph, laughing. “I guess I win. Better luck next time, otouto.” Before she leaves Yuuri behind to stare at the Jenga pieces in utter defeat, Mari turns to look at Victor and smirks. She throws him an easy thumbs-up. “Good job, lover boy.”

Victor grins at her and returns the gesture.

Yuuri stares at them, incredulous.

What.

The.

Hell.

“Did you just,” Yuuri starts lowly, voice flat and eyes dead on Victor, “plot against me? With my sister?

Victor’s blue eyes are wide as they turn to him, blinking innocently. Too innocently. “What do you mean?” Victor asks, and then looks at the disaster of the Jenga tower and grins. He transfers to the other side of the table facing Yuuri. “Yuuri, play with me now!”

Yuuri closes his eyes, takes a calming deep breath, and plays with him.

Later, if Victor’s defeated wails sound like music to Yuuri’s ears and Yuuri seems a little too delighted in seeing his boyfriend lose for the third time around, then no one can really blame him, can they?

 

3.

In competitions, Victor’s hugs are fierce and passionate.

The lights are too bright, and the roar of the crowd, voices blending into and clashing terribly with one another, makes his ears ring. The chill of the ice seeps into his skin and settles deep within his bones as Yuuri clutches at the wall of the rink with a grip so tight, his knuckles are losing color.

I can do this, Yuuri tells himself. He takes a deep breath, releases it as a shuddering sigh. The current contestant attempts a triple Axel and lands badly, falling down on the rink. The audience’s echoing dismay cuts sharper into Yuuri’s heart than a skating blade cuts through ice.

Right, Yuuri thinks again, swallowing tightly. He feels cold, his fingertips are freezing, but his palms are sweating bullets and everything is awkwardly gross. I was wrong, I can’t do this.

He knows it’s just his anxiety talking. Of course, he knows.

Yuuri also knows he’s well-prepared for the competition despite his nerves, he and Victor literally practicing his program for hours on end until everything was smooth and perfectly in sync with the music, until his jumps were all beautifully landed. He hasn’t gotten this far with just mere luck—this was the result of months of rigorous training, effort and hard work.

That’s not to say Yuuri’s lungs aren’t starting to burn from the frigid air, his breath coming in short and stuttering. Not now, Yuuri begs himself, clenching his fists, not now, please. His confidence is a work in progress, his anxiety slowly getting better, but this must be a spectacularly bad day because all Yuuri wants to do is to curl up into a ball and breathe into a paper bag.

“Yuuri~!”

All of a sudden, there’s someone putting their arm around his shoulder, bumping against his side playfully. Yuuri makes a startled noise, wobbling on his skates, but Victor rights him before he can completely lose balance.

“Victor!” Yuuri turns to him in protest. Victor’s smile is bright and amused, and unconsciously, Yuuri lets out a shaky breath of relief despite the scare that just sent his heart racing. “I almost fell!”

“Don’t worry,” Victor says with a brilliant grin, “I’ll always be there to catch you when you fall, Yuuri.” He adds in a wink, one that makes him look dangerously charming, and Yuuri rolls his eyes, pretending not to know about the heat growing on his cheeks.

How Victor can keep saying those cheesy lines with such a straight face, Yuuri will never know.

“You look ravishing in that outfit,” Victor comments with a suggestively raised eyebrow. Yuuri pointedly ignores him. “Look at you, you are so hot, you’re sweating.”

Yuuri grits his teeth. He’s all too aware that he’s sweating through his thin costume. “I’m sweating because I’m nervous, you prick.”

He flushes into a deep red as soon as he swears, mortified at his words. “Oh god, no,” Yuuri groans out in embarrassment, burying his face into his sweaty palms. Next to him, Victor laughs in delight. “It just slipped out, I didn’t mean—Stop laughing, Victor, it’s not funny.”

“My, what a dirty mouth,” Victor grins, patting Yuuri on the shoulder. His hand slides up, staying on the side of Yuuri’s neck, and his thumb starts to rub soothing circles at the nape. The movement is delightful, and Yuuri can’t help but close his eyes. He sucks in another deep breath, slowly sagging against Victor.

“Yuuri,” Victor whispers, saying his name with tenderness far deeper than a coach should have for a student and it’s times like these that Yuuri appreciates the fact that both of them have always had a difficult time pretending they share nothing more than a professional relationship. He finds that he needs Victor’s reassurance right now more than ever. “Breathe with me, solnyshko.

Yuuri obeys. He keeps his eyes closed and breathes in time with Victor’s inhales and exhales, the thick cloud of doubt and fear in his mind fading little by little as Victor speaks low enough that only Yuuri can hear it, narrating the elements in his program.

“A quadruple Salchow in the second part of the program, followed by a sit spin,” Victor says, sounding as if he’s trying to recall them, even when both he and Yuuri know that he’s doing it for Yuuri’s sake, “After that…what was it again? Ah, yes, a triple toe loop and a triple flip combination.” Yuuri remembers this part, remembers the impossibly numerous times he’s had to do it in practice again and again. He remembers the memorable time Victor skated to the middle of the rink in his excitement to kiss Yuuri stupid when he landed both consecutive jumps cleanly. “And then, a—”

“—triple Lutz, and a combination spin for the ending,” Yuuri recites. He glances to the side, where Victor is smiling at him with the slightest hints of worry in his eyes, and Yuuri manages a brave smile in return. He feels better, if not a little chilly.

Yuuri braces himself as the contestant on the ice finishes his performance and the speakers announce his name next—it’s his turn to skate. Victor fusses with his hair in the last minute, smoothing out strands that stick out of place.

“Alright,” Victor says once he’s satisfied, “go seduce me, my sexy Katsudon.”

Yuuri wants to protest at the ridiculous nickname but before he can say anything, Victor is crowding into his space for their traditional “good luck” hug, squeezing Yuuri tight and strong, like Victor’s trying to transfer all his confidence and skating talent to Yuuri through touch alone. Any fear left in Yuuri leaves immediately and he sinks into the embrace, barely able to hug Victor back with his arms pinned to his sides.

“I’d kiss you good luck,” Victor whispers in his ear teasingly, “but I might end up causing a scandal.”

“Let’s not do that,” Yuuri says, feeling a little breathless as Victor finally lets him go. He looks at Victor, at the ocean eyes soft and warm on him, and nods. “Thank you,” he tells Victor. “Keep your eyes on me, okay?”

Victor smiles. “Always.”

Yuuri steps into the rink and skates with his arms spread wide and high, baring himself to the crowd and the audience goes wild. His step sequence is dazzling, his jumps all brilliantly landed. For a moment in his performance, Yuuri can almost swear he caught Victor wolf-whistling at him.

By the end of the night, he wins first place by a wide margin, and the minute they’re back to their hotel room, Victor rewards him with more than just a kiss.

 

4.

On cold nights, Victor is like a personal space heater.

It’s March, just a month shy of being one year since Victor first came to Hasetsu, Japan declaring that he’ll be Yuuri’s new skating coach. Though it’s supposed to be the start of spring, the snow outside is still heavy enough that Victor is entranced.

“It’s just like Russia,” Victor says with the barest hints of nostalgia coloring his voice, his blue eyes transfixed as they watch the snowflakes descend from the dark sky. From the side, Yuuri looks at him in turn with a mix of fondness and guilt.

Fondness, because how can he not be fond?

It seems to be Yuuri’s default emotion nowadays when it comes to Victor. The Russian man is achingly beautiful in the low light of the room, his features almost angelic as he stares up into the heavens, blinking slowly. He’s wearing the inn’s green robe, a thick blanket pulled over his shoulders to fight off the cold and he looks so warm that Yuuri has half a mind to snuggle right up next to him.

And guilt because, well…as thrilled as Yuuri is that Victor is here, it has been almost a year since Victor last went back home to Russia. Seeing Victor stare at the snowfall, Yuuri can’t help but think he’s being incredibly selfish, keeping Victor with him.

Just as Yuuri is shoving the thought away, Victor turns to look at him and smiles, all twinkling eyes and tender expression. Yuuri’s breath catches in his throat, heart hammering in his chest. No matter many times Yuuri looks at him, the sight of Victor never quite stops giving him butterflies.

“Yuuri,” Victor calls brightly, beckoning him over by raising a blanket-covered arm, “come here and cuddle with me!”

“Next to an open window while it’s snowing?” Yuuri asks, amused. “I’d freeze.”

“Noooo,” Victor drawls out, flapping his hand in a persistent ‘come here’ motion. With the blanket draped over his arm and following the movement, he looks ridiculously adorable. “You won’t, I’ll keep you warm.”

Yuuri highly doubts it—he can feel the chilly outside air even from across the room—but he makes his way to Victor nonetheless, because he’s too weak for Victor and can’t say ‘no’ to any of his whims. As soon as Yuuri gets near the window, he feels the biting sting of the frigid air against his skin, hitting his face.

“It’s so cold here,” Yuuri protests, a little surprised that Victor seems unaffected. He can feel shivers travelling through his body already. “How can you stand sitting here for so long?”

Victor opens his arms to invite Yuuri under the blanket and into his embrace, grinning when Yuuri all but dives in to escape the chill. “It’s not that cold,” Victor notes as he shifts in place until Yuuri is between his legs and Victor can drape himself over Yuuri like the blanket is draped over him. “Winter in St. Petersburg is much colder in comparison.”

Yuuri pauses as soon as Victor wraps his arms around him, his eyes going wide with awe. “You’re so warm,” He says with a gasp of disbelief and Victor’s eyebrows jump, taken aback. Yuuri grabs Victor’s hands before the older man can react and promptly presses them up against his cold face, letting out an embarrassing sound of happiness as the heat from Victor’s palms seeps into his skin. “Victor, you’re so warm.

“No, Yuuri,” Victor corrects, and Yuuri can feel his teasing grin where Victor’s mouth is brushing against his cheek, “I’m hot.”

“Don’t start,” Yuuri warns.

Distractedly, he hears Victor laughing in his ear but Yuuri is too busy being amazed with his discovery because Victor is so warm and soft and comfortable, he feels like—

“—a kotatsu,” Yuuri sighs, burrowing further into Victor’s hug. Blue eyes blink down at him, Victor’s face alight with childlike curiosity.

“What’s a kotatsu?” Victor asks in the same manner in which he asked what Hatsetsu Castle was months ago.

Yuuri tries to think of how to best explain what it is. “Well, a kotatsu is a low wooden table that has a heating system built inside, either electric or a charcoal heat source, and is covered by a heavy blanket. Most Japanese households have it for winter season.”

“Oh!” Victor’s expression is bright with understanding. “Heater tables!”

Yuuri cracks a smile, nodding in defeat. So much for a proper explanation. “Well, yeah, I guess. Heater tables.”

Victor kisses his temple with a laugh, dropping his hands from Yuuri’s face to intertwine his fingers with Yuuri’s. “So you think I’m like a heating system? I’m touched, Yuuri. But I’m built to be stronger against cold weather, you know,” Victor says playfully, nuzzling at Yuuri’s dark hair. “Otherwise, I won’t survive in Russia at all, solnyshko.”

There it is again, that passing tinge of sadness in Victor’s voice as he mentions his home country. Yuuri peers at him hesitantly, unsure how to broach the topic. After a beat of silence, with Victor turning his attention back to snowfall outside, Yuuri decides to just go for it.

“Do you miss Russia, Victor?” Yuuri asks, glancing out of the window. The snowflakes are dancing with the cold winter breeze, making a flurry of white dust, and it’s a beautiful sight, really. Mercilessly cold perhaps, but still, beautiful.

Yuuri wonders if Russia is the same.

Victor makes a considering noise. “A little,” Victor admits quietly. Yuuri squeezes his hands in reassurance. “I miss the familiar places. I miss eating blini.

Yuuri turns to him. “What’s that?”

Blini, Russian crepes,” Victor answers, and presses another kiss on the slope of Yuuri’s nose. He laughs a little at how Yuuri goes cross-eyed at the action. “I’ll make them for you some time. They’re delicious.”

“Mm,” Yuuri agrees. He snuggles into Victor, burying his head on the crook of Victor’s neck. When hands fall in front of his stomach, stroking the soft flesh adoringly, Yuuri sighs. “What else do you miss?”

“My apartment. The coffee shop near my block that makes the best latte. Yura,” Victor says.

“Yura?”

“Yurio,” Victor clarifies with a small smile. “Well, Yuri. Yura is his nickname.”

“I miss him, too,” Yuuri says, playing with the cloth of Victor’s robe. “He livens up things around here.”

“Really?” Victor raises an eyebrow. “Even when he calls you piggy?”

Yuuri snorts. “Okay, maybe not then. But he’s got his endearing moments.”

“I know,” Victor sounds positively gleeful, “He’s so cute, isn’t he? So tiny and violent. Like a fluffy kitten with anger management issues.”

“Victor,” Yuuri scolds with a smothered laugh, half-heartedly swatting at him. Victor grins. “Don’t make fun of him.”

“But you agree with me!”

“Stop it.”

When their amusement dies down and makes way for the silence to take over again, Yuuri gathers up his courage, and finally asks, “Do you want to go back to Russia?”

The wait is suffocating.

Victor is quiet for a long time, as if he hasn’t heard the question, or at least stubbornly pretends not to have heard it, and Yuuri almost thinks asking has been a mistake but just as he’s beginning to decide to drop the topic, Victor’s answer leaves him as a heavy exhale.

“No,” Victor whispers. He seems weary, all of a sudden. “Not particularly, no.”

The answer feels wrong in a number of ways. Not to mention, confusing. But Yuuri bites back his words, swallows and pushes down on the urge to know more, to understand why. It’s not his place to pry. Victor himself will tell him when he’s ready to tell him.

So for now, Yuuri nods his head and brushes soft kisses on the hollow of Victor’s throat, smiling when Victor breathes easily once more. “Okay,” Yuuri says as one of his hands finds its way over to Victor’s chest. Yuuri counts the heartbeat thrumming underneath his touch, and closes his eyes. He hopes Victor knows he’s there for him. “Okay.”

 

5.

When he’s sick, Victor is absolutely downright clingy.

Even more so than usual, behaving like a stubborn child as he refused to let go of Yuuri—he grips at Yuuri like he’s touch-starved.

“Victor,” Yuuri tries to reason for the third time around, mindful to keep his voice soft. He knows Victor is feeling terrible, and losing patience with him won’t be beneficial to either of them, but Victor isn’t helping himself by not allowing Yuuri to fetch his medicine. “Victor, I’ll be back in a minute, I promise, but I really have to get Ibuprofen for you.”

“Don’t want it,” Victor rasps weakly from where he’s been bundled up by Yuuri’s mom in layers of blankets. He’s trembling and his breath is coming in short and shallow, no doubt experiencing chills. What they first thought was just a common cold is turning out to be a bad flu. “Just stay, Yuuri,” Victor says and there’s something in his voice that strikes Yuuri wrong.

“You really need it,” Yuuri tries again, pulling away from Victor’s grasp. Victor is too weak to hold on to him properly. “We need to get your fever down. I’ll be quick.”

On the bed, Victor shuts his eyes in pain, dropping his hand uselessly on the mattress. It seems like his headache is worsening. “Okay,” Victor whispers as Yuuri’s halfway out the door, “but please come back.”

The plea weighs heavy on his chest.

Yuuri all but half-runs to the kitchen to grab the medicine and a glass of water, and then back to Victor’s room in his haste to return. When he opens the door and walks to the bed, he finds Victor with his eyes still pressed closed, tears sliding past his lashes, and Yuuri’s heart breaks completely at the sight.

“Hey,” Yuuri fusses gently as soon as he places the glass and the medicine by the bedside table, taking a seat at the edge of the bed. He cups Victor’s alarmingly warm cheek with a hand, thumb brushing away the tears. Victor sighs raggedly and presses into his touch. “Hey, what’s wrong? Does something hurt, Victor?”

Victor shakes his head a little, and then erupts into a harsh coughing fit that looks as painful as it sounds. Yuuri supports him into sitting, handing Victor the medicine and guiding his grip on the glass as Victor drinks from it. Once he’s settled down on the bed again, Yuuri cards his fingers through Victor’s hair, smiling worriedly as the older man relaxes under his touch.

“You’re back,” Victor mumbles, eyes heavy with exhaustion as he looks up at Yuuri. He looks awfully relieved, as if the concept of Yuuri going away and abandoning him is even a possibility.

“Well, yeah,” Yuuri says with a heavy swallow, “I told you I’d be quick, didn’t I?” He doesn’t understand what happened to Victor before that makes him so scared of the thought of being left behind. It hurts Yuuri more than it should that he’s helpless to do anything about whatever it is in Victor’s past that’s haunting him now. “Of course I’d come back, Victor.”

“Come here,” Victor croaks, opening his arms feebly. It’s the only invitation Yuuri needs before he’s slipping under the covers with Victor, disregarding the excessive warmth Victor is radiating as he hugs Yuuri tight. He scoots up a little until Victor’s head is pillowed comfortably on his collarbone and presses a kiss on his forehead. Victor sighs.

“Yuuri,” Victor starts in a hushed voice, “are you happy?”

Yuuri blinks. “Well, no, you’re terribly sick—”

“With me,” Victor adds. He shifts a little, hiding his face into Yuuri’s shirt. “Are you happy with me?”

“Of course,” Yuuri breathes. He runs a hand through Victor’s hair again, knowing it soothes him. “I’m really happy with you, Victor.”

Victor nods a little. “Good.”

“Are you?” Yuuri can’t help but ask next. “Are you happy with me? With this?”

This time, Victor hugs him tighter, tiredly pressing a kiss on whichever part of Yuuri he can reach first.

“I am now,” Victor whispers.

Before Yuuri can ask what he means, Victor takes a deep breath and sags against him, falling asleep again. Yuuri sigh shakily, looking down at the man holding him as if he’s something precious.

He hugs Victor back just as tight, and Yuuri wishes he can keep him happy for as long as possible.

Chapter Text

+1

Katsuki Yuuri is not a tactile man.

Anyone who’s spent a minute with him can tell you that much.

It’s not because he’s Japanese, either. His parents have raised him and his sister with a fair amount of hugs and touches, and they’re always generous with affection. He has grown up used to being Mari’s human teddy bear when they were younger. Yuuko is the same—Yuuri remembers blushing so much whenever Yuuko holds his hand as they walk to the skating rink back in the old days. Minako-sensei is pretty casual with her touches, too, giving Yuuri proud hugs whenever he wins and sympathetic ones when he loses.

Even Phichit is a hugger, though it has taken at least three months before Yuuri can be comfortable with his rink mate touching him.

So while everyone else around him is touchy-feely, Yuuri is simply…not. It’s just the way he is, and his family and friends have long since accepted that.

Victor, however—

To say that Victor is touchy-feely is the understatement of the century.

Victor Nikiforov, fifth time Grand Prix Final gold medalist, living legend of the figure skating community, has no sense of shame whatsoever. He has no qualms being stark naked during his and Yuuri’s first meeting (granted, they were at the hot springs and Yuuri did walk into Victor bathing, but still), holding Yuuri’s hand and putting their faces so close, Yuuri can feel Victor’s breath ghosting against his lips. It’s only gotten significantly worse the longer they spent time around each other—ironically, it’s gotten significantly better at the same time.

Yuuri isn’t a tactile person but he does get used to receiving certain touches from certain people. He’s learned to acclimatize to Victor’s touches the way a dog would acclimatize to water, learning how to swim, learning how to go farther away from the shore without drowning, and somewhere along the way the dog has turned into a fish and the water has become an ocean, and the analogy is quickly losing sense but that’s exactly what their situation is.

In the months they’ve spent with each other, Yuuri has been submerged in Victor’s hugs and touches, has spent days breathing against the other man’s skin, has spent nights curled up with Victor’s warmth and softness surrounding him, taking in the scent of aftershave and cologne and something that’s distinctly Victor, and Yuuri has all but accepted it as part of his daily life.

Yuuri is not a tactile person. (Yes, this is worth repeating thrice.)

But when Victor just stops touching him, without explanation, without reason, it makes for a painfully jarring experience.

They’re in Russia for the Grand Prix Finals and as soon as the plane landed, Victor has kept a safe distance away Yuuri, putting at least two meters between them at all times. He doesn’t hug Yuuri, doesn’t touch Yuuri, doesn’t even try to pull Yuuri into a traditional airport selfie to post in his Instagram account. What’s worse is that Victor is smiling and laughing normally all the while, as if he’s clueless about the whole thing.

Yuuri has never felt so lost before.

“Victor,” Yuuri begins hesitantly as they get into a cab and Victor speaks a long string of Russian to give the driver the directions to the hotel they’ll be staying in. “Victor.”

“Just a second, Yuuri.”

The way Victor says his name dismissively, like they are strangers who just met and happened to share a cab, hits a chord in Yuuri’s heart. It hurts, and Yuuri is so confused.

“Victor,” He tries again once Victor is done talking to the cabbie, and reaches a hand out to touch his shoulder, to ask what’s wrong, if he did something wrong, “Is everything okay—”

Victor flinches away before Yuuri can touch him.

Flinches.

Like Yuuri is something horrible and unworthy, and Victor is staring at him with wide-eyed alarm.

Yuuri doesn’t know what expression he’s wearing, and belatedly, he thinks he doesn’t care. His chest feels frozen, his lungs not breathing and his heart having dropped down to his gut like a stone. He’s back in Russia, and Yuuri feels like the world has crashed down onto him once again.

“Yuuri,” Victor starts except Yuuri doesn’t want to listen anymore. He turns away without another word and stares out the window. It’s snowing, just like the last time Yuuri’s been in Russia. Like last time as well, Yuuri pretends that there aren’t tears welling up and threatening to fall from his eyes.

Russia is beautiful. Mercilessly cold and cruel, but beautiful.

The cab ride is spent in silence.

.

 

.

 

.

 

When they get to their hotel room, Yuuri finds that the sight of two beds irritates him more than it should. Normally, Victor prefers the left bed and Yuuri lets him have it, but today, Yuuri marches inside with his carry-on, ignoring Victor’s footsteps right behind him, and drops it on the bed on the left, effectively claiming it as his own.

Victor places his bags next to the bed on the right without a protest.

“I’ll shower first,” Victor says, looking at him, and Yuuri pretends not to hear him as he rummages his bag for his phone. He’s being petty, Yuuri knows it, and it makes him feel even worse but he doesn’t exactly know how to stop. There’s a tired sigh, and then Victor’s footsteps are heard as he crosses his way over to the bathroom. He closes the door as quietly as possible but it still sounds much too loud for Yuuri, who wants to be anywhere else but here.

He showers right after Victor’s done, and Yuuri must’ve taken longer than he thought, because as he gets out of the bath, the lights are turned off inside the room, and Victor is curled up in his bed, asleep.

It’s just a misunderstanding, Yuuri thinks glumly with a sigh, dragging himself over to his own bed. It feels empty, cold without Victor in it. We’re probably both tired. We’ll sort it out in the morning. It takes him a while before he can fall asleep, slumber evading him just like Victor evaded his touch. Yuuri swallows painfully at the reminder and turns in his bed, restless. The minutes tick on, tauntingly slow.

“Yuuri?” Victor calls his name in the dark after what seems like hours, and Yuuri stills. “Are you still awake?”

Yuuri doesn’t answer. He doesn’t know what to say, or what to do, and he doesn’t know if responding will help get them out of their situation. So Yuuri keeps his eyes closed and his breath as even as possible, even as he hears Victor getting out of his own bed.

His mattress dips as Victor sits carefully on the edge of his bed, his hand soft and hesitant as it brushes against Yuuri’s cheek, before carding through his dark hair. Yuuri relaxes despite himself. “Oh, solnyshko,” Victor murmurs, and Yuuri can almost taste the sadness in Victor’s mouth. He instantly feels guilty for ignoring Victor earlier. “I am so, so sorry. I wish I explained it to you.”

Then explain it to me now, Yuuri thinks desperately. Fighting with Victor (is this a fight? Yuuri doesn’t even understand why they’re fighting) is absolutely terrible.

Before Yuuri can reveal that he’s awake, Victor is leaning down, pressing a kiss on his temple with a sigh. “Good night, Yuuri.”

It’s one of the worst nights of Yuuri’s life.

.

 

.

 

.

 

The morning that follows is just as horrible, if not even more.

Victor doesn’t explain anything. He’s still avoiding Yuuri, still pretending like nothing’s wrong as he holds a Russian conversation with the housekeeper and apparently says something so funny that the woman feels the need to laugh so hard, she clutches Victor’s bicep for support. Victor isn’t grinning like he enjoys it, but he doesn’t do anything about the woman either, who keeps on shamelessly groping his arm.

From where he’s sitting on the bed and preparing his things before they go to the ice rink for the competition, Yuuri watches the scene looking like he bit into a lemon. “Explain it better, my ass,” Yuuri mutters bitterly under his breath as he shoves his skates into his bag with more force than necessary and the housekeeper finally exits.

When they go out of the room and into the bustle in the hotel lobby, it gets even worse.

Victor keeps his distance, walking apart from Yuuri like they’re not even together and Yuuri has the strongest urge to yank him close just so he can pinch Victor. The whole thing is grating on his nerves, and by the time they reach the stadium through a 30-minute cab ride, Yuuri is too keyed up with annoyance to even be nervous about competing in the Grand Prix Finals.

The greatest highlight of Yuuri's skating career, and it’s being ruined by a lover’s spat between them.

“Yuuri,” Victor says to him as they enter the venue, “stay close so you don’t get lost, okay?”

Yuuri ignores him, navigating through the crowd of people. They don’t talk again after that.

With his rotten luck, Yuuri draws the first spot. Again.

He does his interviews alone, unlike their usual practice with Victor answering right next to him. When the reporters ask about him and his coach, Yuuri pretends not to understand perfectly clear English and resorts to bowing and apologizing in Japanese until they leave him alone.

Yuuri runs through his choreography in the ice along with the other competitors before the program starts and messes up his triple flip twice. His spins are lackluster. He can’t even land the quadruple Salchow. When he skates back to their area to drink, the way Victor doesn’t even lecture him speaks volumes.

They suffer in tense silence before a voice cuts through it, and both of them turn to look at Yurio approaching. “Took you long enough to get your asses here,” Yurio says in greeting, already glaring at the two of them. Yuuri blinks at the teenager with his lips pursed, and averts his eyes. He can’t even find it in himself to tolerate Yurio’s usual bluster.

“Hi, Yurio,” Victor greets with a smile but it’s too forced, drawn too thin, and his teasing falls short. Yurio narrows his eyes at them, taking in the oddly huge space in between their seats on the bench and the tension that hangs heavy in the atmosphere.

Yurio frowns, confused. “What the fuck is wrong with you two?”

“Nothing,” Yuuri says, at the same time Victor scolds, “Language.” They don’t even look at each other.

Yurio pointedly arches an eyebrow, pushing his point across.

It’s embarrassing, Yuuri thinks as he stands all of a sudden, startling the two Russians, that even a sixteen year-old can see through us.

Yuuri starts to walk away when Victor calls after him tensely. “Where are you going?”

“Men’s room,” Yuuri bites back, and keeps on walking.

.

 

.

 

.

 

Yuuri finds himself alone in the comfort room, and seeing the red cubicles again reminds him too much of the time he lost the Grand Prix Finals and went here to cry. He shoves down the urge to lock himself inside a cubicle and repeat history, and instead makes a beeline for the sink. The first splash of water against his face is an icy shock, and he does it again and again until his lips are pale and his face is numb with the cold. Yuuri lets out a weary sigh as he lets the water drip from his face, washing his hands under the open faucet.

They’re still fighting and Yuuri still doesn’t know why.

It’s an incredibly frustrating ordeal, as it turns out, and Yuuri is stuck glowering sullenly at his reflection in the mirror like it will give him the solution to his problems. Yuuri looks down at the porcelain bowl, gripping the edge of the sink tightly. If only Victor will explain himself properly for once, instead of making everything needlessly complicated and confusing.

A man enters then, no bigger or taller than Yuuri, and Yuuri glances up in reflex, meeting his gaze through the mirror. The man takes a sweeping look at him, at the glitters in his clothes, and a sour expression takes over his face. Yuuri drops his eyes back down. This isn’t the first time he’s encountered men like this one, who frown at their tight costumes and dismiss figure skating as a girly sport. Yuuri just wishes he didn’t encounter one today. As if his day can’t be any worse.

The man uses the faucet right next to him, closer to the exit, just as Yuuri moves away from his and dries his hands. Yuuri is making his way to the door, passing by the other man, when he’s shoved away so suddenly with enough force that Yuuri slams into a cubicle and his shoulder rams painfully against the hard plastic.

The noise echoes like an explosion, bouncing against the tiles.

Brown eyes shoot wide open in shock and Yuuri looks at the man in a mix of disbelief and anger. That is so far from an accident. “Excuse me,” Yuuri spits, pushing himself off the cubicle wall. His shoulder throbs, a red hot pain shooting down his arm, and Yuuri hopes it’s just a bruise.

“Go back to your country,” the man sneers in his broken English, heavily laced with a Russian accent. He looks at Yuuri the way someone looks down on a cockroach. “You’re one of gays, no? Disgusting piece of shit.”

Yuuri opens his mouth, offended and ready to call out the guy’s bigotry, when suddenly everything clicks into place.

He knows why Victor won’t touch him.

He knows why Victor only kissed him in the middle of the night, when no one else was around.

Of course, is what crosses Yuuri’s mind, and his breath leaves him all at once. I should have known.

They’re in Russia, and suddenly, it makes perfect sense that Victor didn’t really want to go back home before. Because now that they’re here, they can’t act like they always do, they can’t hug, can’t kiss, can’t put a name to what they actual are simply because too many people in this godforsaken country refuse to acknowledge it as something natural.

Victor, Yuuri thinks with a pang of guilt, I have to apologize to him.

The man says something harsh and vaguely threatening in Russian, and Yuuri is cut off from his thoughts. He clenches his fists, grimacing at the rude man in front of him, and shakes his head. “I have no time for you,” Yuuri says, already turning on his heel. He doesn’t want to waste any more time talking to this homophobic man when he can be sorting things out with Victor.

Just as Yuuri’s almost out the door, he hears one last insult directed at him.

“Fucking faggot.”

And for some reason, Yuuri stops, glued to the spot.

His ears ring with white noise.

The word is sickening, tasting like ashes on the back of his throat and feeling like acid in his chest.

Yuuri turns to face the man again, his dark eyes unblinking and his breath shallow. “What did you call me?” He asks, deceptively calm. His blood is like ice in his veins, sharp and cold, and Yuuri feels sick to the gut, outrage pooling in his chest. Decent Japanese people have enough politeness not to say that word, and Yuuri has only ever encountered it on the internet. Even back in Detroit, the worst he’s been called by the most ignorant people is “girly” or “loser” but not that.

Never that.

“I said,” the man takes a step forward, damn near spitting on Yuuri’s face and Yuuri squeezes his fists tightly until his knuckles are shaking and his arm is all but ready to draw back, and for the first time ever, he wants to punch someone, he wants to punch this man, and he will, if he hears that revolting word again, Yuuri will hit him, “you are fucking fa—”

“OI, YUURI YOU MORON!”

Yurio’s scream sends Yuuri crashing back into reality. He whirls around sharply, facing Yurio, just as the teenager roughly yanks at his elbow and makes him stumble back, away from the man. Yuuri releases a tight breath he hasn’t known he was holding and blinks rapidly, shaking as red fades from his sight. He almost punched another person.

He almost punched another person.

“Are you fucking messing around?” Yurio snarls, scolding him for reasons Yuuri doesn’t even know and blatantly ignoring the only other person in the comfort room. “The goddamn program’s about to start, what the hell are you doing here, having tea?!”

“I was—”

“I don’t care!” Yurio snaps, tugging at his wrist again. “We’re going back NOW.”

The blond pushes Yuuri forward, towards the exit while he grumbles under his breath. Before they can completely go out of the bathroom, however, Yurio turns to look back at the man and Yuuri glances at the teenager just in time to see him giving the coldest glare he can muster, mouth pulling back in a snarl. Yuuri suddenly remembers his unpleasant first meeting with Yurio.

“The hell you looking at, you son of a bitch?” Yurio’s voice is a low growl, too deep for a sixteen year-old. He keeps his ice blue eyes pinned on the scowling man, and says, “Don’t think I fucking missed what you did. You have less than five minutes to get the fuck out of here before I call security on your ugly ass.”

And just like that, Yurio grabs his wrist and pulls Yuuri away, marching back towards the stadium like nothing happened. Yuuri’s head spins, disoriented.

“Are you okay?” Yurio throws the question over his shoulder, glancing back at Yuuri. His mouth is pulled thin, frowning, and something like concern lingers in his eyes. “You don’t have any bruises. Did he hit you anywhere under the collar?”

“He shoved me,” Yuuri says blankly and feels a little like throwing up at what just took place. He almost punched someone. “I think I have a bruise on my arm but I’m okay.”

Yurio gives a terse nod. “That’s good,” He says, and then glances back once more, almost incredulous this time. “Were you seriously about to hit that guy?”

Yuuri winces at the reminder. He doesn’t want to think about it again, but if Yurio wasn’t there to stop him, Yuuri fears he might have done just that. Maybe his temperament isn’t as good as he thinks.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong,” Yurio snorts, shaking his head, “you have a lot more spine than I thought, but you’re a lot dumber, too. Something like that happens, you don’t throw the first punch. You’re gonna get yourself fucking killed.”

Yuuri swallows tightly. “You heard him,” He croaks in an attempt to explain, “He called me a—”

“I know,” Yurio cuts him off, pained. He sounds revolted, too, and rightfully indignant, like Yuuri was minutes ago. The teenager’s voice trembles as he adds, “I’ve heard people call Victor that too many times before. He’s smart, unlike you. He never fought back. I hate it.”

At the revelation, Yuuri’s eyes press shut, stinging with unbidden tears. God, that sounds so horrible, Yuuri can’t even imagine going through it. He almost wishes he threw the punch, after all.

“Look,” Yurio snaps at him again, and Yuuri’s eyes open, “they’re assholes, okay? They are so fucking messed up. You can’t listen to them.”

“I know, Yuri,” Yuuri tells him gently. Despite his reputation as the Russian Punk, Yuuri knows Yurio is only a kid, no matter how much he pretends otherwise. The teenager seems as shaken up as he is. Yuuri gives the boy’s wrist a squeeze, a little proud at how Yurio handled the situation. “I know. Thank you.”

Yurio nods again and doesn’t say anything further as they go back to the rink. The stadium is more packed than before, the audience finally filling in and occupying their seats, and the announcers are telling the remaining contestants on the rink that warm-up has ended. They find their way back to Victor, who looks as agitated as he can be, his hands balled into fists and wrinkling his gloves, his eyes scanning the whole place.

Once they’re close enough, Victor catches sight of them and takes one look at Yurio’s grim frown, Yuuri’s unsettled expression and the way the younger boy is still clutching at Yuuri’s hand like he’s afraid something bad will happen to Yuuri if he doesn’t keep a grip on him, before Victor inhales sharply, alarmed at once. “What happened?” Victor demands, scanning Yuuri’s face for…something, before he turns to Yurio and grimaces deeply. “I told you to stay here. Where did you go?”

“Men’s room,” Yurio says, “Some homophobic asshole had a problem with Yuuri.”

“Yura,” Victor hisses, fear flashing through his gaze, before continuing everything else in Russian, talking low and fast and harsh, and Yuuri’s never seen Victor like this before—angry enough to snarl, and so upset that his hands are shaking a little by his sides, his eyebrows furrowed, his blue eyes too wide and too glassy.

“Victor, it’s not his fault,” Yuuri starts and recoils when Victor turns his glare at him.

“Do you know how long you were gone? You had me worried!” Victor bites back, furious. Distressed. Terrified.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri manages weakly.

“Both of you!” Victor grounds out, turning back to Yurio. “Yura, I told you not to leave the stadium. You could’ve gotten in trouble—”

Yurio rolls his eyes. “I was just helping—“

“Yuuri is a grown man,” Victor snaps, “He damn well knows how to take care of himself. You’re sixteen! If anything happens to you, I can’t—” Victor cuts himself off, muttering curses under his breath and looking away. The rim of his eyes are red, his jaw tight with tension, and Yurio takes a step back, blinking his wide eyes at Victor. He seems stunned, like he’s seeing this side of Victor for the first time alongside Yuuri.

Silence dawns over them with Victor glaring somewhere at the ice rink, Yurio still staring at Victor, and Yuuri torn between glancing at either Russian men. With an awkward cough, Yuuri gently nudges the boy, and when Yurio scowls at him, Yuuri tips his head towards Victor.

“I’m sorry,” Yurio apologizes begrudgingly after a while, finally having the decency to look abashed, and Yuuri is immensely grateful that the teenager decided not to be stubborn anymore. “I’m sorry I lied about staying in the stadium. To answer your question, no, I didn’t start a fight—I ended one,” He says, and at that, Victor gives Yuuri a brief, sharp glance, disbelieving. “No, I didn’t get hit. I didn’t hit anyone either.” Yurio sighs, and then turns away from Victor. “But you’re worrying over the wrong person, idiot.”

Victor grits his teeth. “Yura—”

“Goddammit, yes, I’m fine! I won’t do it again! You’ve made your point, Dad.” Yurio barks over his shoulder as he keeps walking. Victor doesn’t look amused at the jab. “I’m going back to Yakov! Sort out your issues, will you?”

Victor lets out an aggravated sigh as he stares at Yurio walking away, checking to make sure the boy does go back to his area. He runs a hand through his hair in frustration, his other hand still clenched, as he takes several deep breaths. Victor turns to Yuuri after a moment, worry so tangible in his expression that Yuuri aches to be able to touch him again. “Are you okay?” Victor asks, still a little tense but calmer this time, reaching out for Yuuri’s hand. “What did they do? Did anyone hurt you?”

He’s been through this before, Yuuri realizes with a painful start of his heart, Victor’s been through worse than I have.

He takes Victor’s palm before the other man can change his mind, warm and trembling, and squeezes it briefly before forcing himself to let go. Yuuri hopes it’s enough to reassure Victor in the meantime. “Someone shoved me and threw insults. I’m okay,” Yuuri says, and watches as Victor nods in relief, swallowing back his misery. Victor’s blue eyes are still too glassy. “Victor, I’m okay,” Yuuri repeats earnestly, desperate to make him stop hurting. “I promise, I’m fine.”

“Okay,” Victor breathes out, dropping his head down. He releases a shuddering sigh, blinking rapidly. “I’m sorry,” Victor says, “I should have explained better. I should have told you before we even boarded the plane.”

“Don’t,” Yuuri shushes him, and Victor looks up. Yuuri shakes his head. “I understand. I’m sorry, too. I should have known.”

“Yuuri,” Victor hesitates, “What happened yesterday, I want you to know that I—“

The speakers come to life above the stadium, cutting Victor off as they announce the names of the contestants, and it’s a rude reminder of where they are, what they came here for. Victor takes a deep breath, glancing up at the screens. A picture of Yuuri flashes in the screen briefly as it introduces him as the representative of Japan.

“It’s a nice photo of you,” Victor huffs softly as the moment between them fades away.

Sighing, Yuuri takes off the covers from the blades of his skates and goes into the rink, waiting for the announcers to officially signal the start of his performance. He grips the edge of the wall, facing Victor. For the first time in his life, Yuuri thinks he’s willing to trade skating, if it means being given a moment to talk to Victor properly.

Yuuri takes a deep breath. “Victor, I—”

“Focus on your performance,” the other man tells him. Victor is leaning in, so they can talk in hushed voices, but it’s still a far cry from their usual proximity. Victor offers him a smile, fragile and sad. Yuuri hates it, hates that he can’t do anything to make Victor feel better. “We’ll talk at the hotel later,” Victor says, “For now, you’re going to win a gold medal, and I’m going to cheer for you every step of the way.”

“Okay,” Yuuri nods, biting his lip. He’s not worried about his performance; he’s worried about Victor. Yuuri gives a quick look around. There are too many cameras on them, too many eyes watching. Yuuri never noticed them before, because Victor didn’t care either way who saw them whenever he touched Yuuri, but now both of them are hyperaware of just how many people are looking at them.

Touching Victor now isn’t going to help.

So Yuuri reverts back to the silly metaphor, in hopes of making Victor feel better. “I’ll be the tastiest Katsudon ever,” Yuuri tells him seriously, watching Victor’s eyebrows jump in surprise, “so please watch me.”

It starts slow but soon, Victor’s eyes are crinkling at the corners, his lips spreading wide around a startled laugh. “Always,” Victor chuckles. His eyes are soft and warm on Yuuri. “I love Katsudon.”

“I love Katsudon, too,” Yuuri squeezes one of Victor's hands again quickly, and then skates into the middle of the rink as he’s introduced, his arms raised high with all the confidence of a champion. The crowd cheers for him.

.

 

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.

Yuuri wins gold in the Grand Prix Finals.

It leads to countless of interviews and signatures and handshakes, Yuuri posing for photographs with the other contestants, with his fans, with other people who want to celebrate his triumph, too. Victor is proud of him—of course he is, his blue eyes were all too glassy again during the Kiss and Cry when the judges showed Yuuri’s score—but the fact that he can’t quite show it like he usually does puts a damper on both their spirits.

They manage to return to the hotel room just before midnight. Neither of them talks, but there’s Victor’s hand on the dip of his back, a guiding support since Yuuri looks dead on his feet, and Yuuri’s glad for the excuse. The elevator ride is silent, wordless up until Victor slides their key card and both of them shuffle inside the room. Yuuri locks the door behind them.

They take turns showering, Yuuri first, and then Victor.

Yuuri’s sitting on the edge of Victor’s bed when Victor finally gets out of the bathroom, and when Victor glances at him, Yuuri manages a small smile. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Victor echoes quietly. He looks his age, for once, tired and slow as he crosses the room and takes a seat next to Yuuri, careful not to make their legs touch. Instead of irritation, Yuuri’s heart aches at the change. “You were wonderful tonight. I’m proud of you.”

“Victor,” Yuuri says, disregarding the praise. “You said we were going to talk. Please?”

Victor falls silent again, giving a reluctant nod. “Okay,” He says, taking a deep breath before facing Yuuri again, “I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you about this before we got here. I wasn’t sure how to bring it up, and I didn’t want you to think I’m ashamed to be with you—because I’m not, Yuuri, I’m not,” Victor interjects immediately, clenching his jaw, “I will never be ashamed of you. But living in Russia has made me…defensive, and it was so difficult not to revert back into it.”

Yuuri nods in understanding. “Okay.”

“I’m so sorry,” Victor says again. His hand twitches by his side, making an aborted movement to reach for Yuuri, but Victor grabs a fistful of the sheets instead. Yuuri doesn’t miss it. “I never wanted you to feel like I was avoiding you. That will never be my intention, solnyshko.

“You don’t have to apologize,” Yuuri whispers with a shake of his head. His hand is restless on his lap as well, and he has the strong urge to brush back Victor’s hair. “I know it was difficult for you, too.”

“Earlier,” Victor begins hesitantly, “you said someone shoved you. Were you hurt?”

“A little,” Yuuri admits. He grasps the end of his shirt sleeve, hiking it up as carefully as possible to reveal the purple bruise hiding beneath the cloth. “I slammed against the cubicle, so I got a bit—“

Victor swears.

Startled, Yuuri jerks his head to look at him again, suddenly worried. Victor looks like he’s frozen in place, his wide blue eyes glued to the bruise and his expression tight. Victor blinks rapidly again, and Yuuri thinks he sees tears forming.

“Victor,” Yuuri says softly, “it’s just a bruise. I’ll be okay.”

“It’s never just a bruise,” Victor croaks out, pained. He glares at the welt like he can feel the painful throb on his own arm, and Yuuri loathes the implication behind it. Victor grits his teeth again. “You said he threw insults?”

 Yuuri nods. “Yeah, he called me a,” Yuuri’s dignity won’t let him say the word aloud, so he settles for shaking his head stubbornly. “It doesn’t matter what he called me. He still didn’t have a right to say that.”

“I know,” Victor whispers miserably. “I’m sorry. It doesn’t stop them from saying it anyway.” He’s curled into himself, broad shoulders pulled in to look smaller, and his eyes are pinned to the space between them. It’s like he’s got no strength left to be angry anymore, and Yuuri wonders how many times Victor had to deal with something like this by himself, until he was left weary.

Afraid.

Hopeless.

Yuuri never wants to see him like this again.

“Victor,” Yuuri says, and waits for the older man to look at him before he asks, “are there cameras in this room?”

“What?” Victor frowns. “No.”

“Are we expecting anyone else to come here?”

“I—No.”

“So we’re alone,” Yuuri says. “No one’s here to see us.”

Victor nods, confused. “Yes.”

“So I can do this, right?” Yuuri reaches for his hand across the mattress, lacing their fingers together easily. Victor’s eyes light up slowly in comprehension. The action is familiar, comforting, and Victor looks at their intertwined hands with something akin to cautious hopefulness. Yuuri brings their laced hands to his lips, brushing a kiss against Victor’s knuckles. Victor nods, breathless. “Can I do this, too?” Yuuri asks and then slides his free hand up against Victor’s jaw, thumb brushing his cheekbone, and smiles a little at the long exhale Victor lets out.

“Yes,” Victor rasps, closing his eyes and pressing into Yuuri’s palm.

“And this?” Yuuri asks just before he’s leaning in, slowly, giving Victor time to back away if he doesn’t want it, and then his lips are meeting Victor’s plush mouth, and Yuuri can taste his peppermint toothpaste, can feel the slight quiver of his lips.

“Yes,” Victor sighs as they break apart. “Please.”

“I’m free to touch you here,” Yuuri whispers. This time, it’s no longer a question but Victor nods nonetheless, swallowing painfully. “I can touch you, and I can hug you, and I can kiss you and hold you—”

“Yuuri.”

“—and no one can stop me,” Yuuri breathes, brushing away the tears the slip away from the corners of Victor’s eyes, down to his cheek, “No one can stop me from loving you.”

Yuuri.” Victor whispers roughly, voice breaking with emotion and his blue eyes shut tight, and when Yuuri pulls him into his arms, Victor melts against him completely, clinging to Yuuri like a lifeline.

Yuuri isn’t a tactile man; but as he holds Victor in his arms, his one hand splayed wide over his back and the other cradling the back of Victor’s head, Yuuri realizes that he hugs in the most protective manner ever. “I’ve got you,” Yuuri murmurs, burying a hand in Victor’s soft hair as the other man hides his face on the crook of Yuuri’ neck, sighing raggedly. He presses a kiss on the top of the silver mop of hair. “I’ve got you, Victor. I won’t let them hurt you again.”

“You can’t promise that, solnyshko.

“I can try my best,” Yuuri insists stubbornly, and Victor gives a wet chuckle inside his embrace. Yuuri rocks them gently from side to side, busying himself with playing with silver hair strands as Victor calms down little by little. “Earlier, I was so angry, I think I almost punched the man. Yurio stopped me before I can do it.”

Victor presses a kiss on Yuuri’s neck. “Did you really?”

“Yeah,” Yuuri nods, absentmindedly rubbing Victor’s back. “I was terrified afterwards.”

Victor laughs a little at the admittance.

“If I broke my hand, I think you would have yelled at me,” Yuuri says.

“If you broke your hand, I would have rushed you to the hospital first,” Victor reasons, and then pauses, “I would probably yell at you after.”

“Thank goodness I didn’t do it.”

“My solnyshko’s so brave,” Victor sighs, tracing patterns on Yuuri’s shoulder blades, “I never once thought of fighting back. You’re much braver than I am, Yuuri.”

“That’s not true,” Yuuri argues. “I think you’re brave for coming this far. Maybe you’ve been brave for far too long.”

“Maybe,” Victor relents. He shifts closer until he’s almost sitting on Yuuri’s lap and Yuuri only holds him tighter. It’s quiet for a moment, and then Victor whispers, “I miss Japan.”

Yuuri nods.

“I miss the onsen. I miss your mother’s cooking. I miss Makkachin. I miss Jenga nights with your sister. I miss having this,” Victor says, leaning up to kiss Yuuri. “I miss having you. I miss home.”

“Me too,” Yuuri whispers. “Me too.”

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Tomorrow morning, Victor holds Yuuri’s hand and doesn’t let go.

He holds Yuuri’s hand as they walk out of the hotel, uncaring of the murmurs.

He holds Yuuri’s hand in the cab ride to the airport, ignoring the looks of the cab driver.

They hold hands throughout the plane ride.

When they land on Japan, finally, Victor kisses Yuuri.

“I can touch you again,” Victor says in awe, and Yuuri falls a little deeper in love with him.

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During the mornings, Victor hugs like an octopus.

He knows this. (He does have self-awareness.)

But the morning after they return from Russia, Victor wakes up in confusion, disoriented at the added weight across his chest. There’s Yuuri’s arm thrown over him, toned legs tangled with his own. Yuuri’s the one clinging to him this morning, instead of the usual way around. Victor grins at the adorable sight, kissing Yuuri’s nose. “Good morning, solnyshko.

Yuuri scrunches up his nose in disapproval, burrowing further into his pillow. He latches on tightly when Victor attempts to slide out of his grasp. “No.”

“I need to pee, Yuuri,” Victor coos.

Yuuri grumbles nonsensically in reply. The younger man scoots closer, crowding Victor’s side of the bed and effectively pins Victor down with his limbs.

“Ten more minutes,” Yuuri mumbles around a yawn, going right back to sleep.

And because he’s weak for Yuuri and can’t seem to say ‘no’ to anything Yuuri asks, Victor stays where he is.

He doesn’t leave the bed for another ten minutes.