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[Press Start]

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Light blue.

Yuuri sits up and blearily rubs the sleep away from his eyes, one hand fumbling around for his glasses. The light is so bright that he ends up having to squint away for a bit, blinking hard against the stinging in his eyes.

When Yuuri finally manages to get his glasses on his face and adjust his eyes to the bright blue light, he looks up and wishes he hadn’t even bothered to wake up in the first place.

Where am I?

His bed sits upon a blank blue expanse that stretches out to nowhere in all directions, a never ending plain of azure that fills Yuuri’s eyes and quickly sends him teetering over the edge towards panic. The bright pink letters floating innocently in front of his bed don’t help either, and it’s all Yuuri can do to gather his wits about him enough to make sense of the giant characters.

“‘Yuuri… In… Love’,” Yuuri reads, feeling his glasses begin to slide down his nose. “‘Press Start’.”

Yuuri stares blankly at the wording for a tiny bit longer before stretching out his arms and bringing his hands in a resounding slap to both cheeks. Wake! Up!

It doesn’t help, and now Yuuri’s cheeks hurt.

“Where am I.” Yuuri slams his pillow against his face, squeezing it around his head as if attempting to block out all the light in this godforsaken blue plane of reality. “What. Is. Going. On.”

Yuuri peeks over the edge of the fabric to warily take in the blinking blue cursor that points to the cheerfully pink “Start Game” button.

“I’m sleeping,” Yuuri says suddenly, face smoothing out into serious contemplation. “I’m dreaming on a new level of awareness, and for some reason my brain wants me to play a romance game.”

He pauses and stares around him, clutching the pillow against his stomach. Then, in a sudden burst of inspiration, Yuuri lifts his arms into the air.

“I want a large pork cutlet bowl!” Yuuri declares imperiously. Then, a heartbeat later, “please!”

The ensuing silence seems largely mocking, punctuated by the brightly blinking blue cursor. Yuuri lets his arms flop back down to his sides, feeling incredibly ridiculous.

“This is the only time I’ll be glad that literally no one is around to see that,” Yuuri mutters, pressing his hand against his face. Again, he peers through his fingers at the only other thing in existence (besides his bed), contemplating whether he was risky enough to start a game he didn’t know about.

Well, Yuuri already knew that he normally wouldn’t jump into anything headfirst without fully understanding just what he was getting into. But Dream Yuuri…

Yuuri purses his lips nervously before hefting the pillow into his hand. With a huff, he chucks it towards the bright pink letters…

…only for it to fall uselessly to the ground a foot away from the Start button.

Embarrassing… Yuuri thinks, slumping against his bed. Then, with a steadying breath, Yuuri carefully hops down from his bed and onto the blue ground beneath him.

It doesn’t feel any different from a normal hardwood floor, Yuuri quickly realizes as he flexes his toes against against its cool surface. With another wary glance around, Yuuri tiptoes towards the brightly lit lettering. The Start button blinks almost impatiently, and Yuuri feels his hand tremble as he stretches out to gently push against the blinking sign.

CAN YOU HEAR MY HEARTBEAT?

Yuuri screams and stumbles backward, losing his balance to fall flat on his butt. Only, there’s nothing to fall back onto—the floor seems to have given way, and Yuuri wails as he plummets through an empty expanse of air.

The sound of the wind ringing in his ears drowns out most of the singing, and Yuuri clamps his mouth shut against his own yelling, straining to hear the rest of the song.

An opening scene? Yuuri realizes, blinking his watering eyes against the wind of his descent. He’s been falling for a while now, and even free falling through an empty expanse of blue loses its fear factor when you’ve just basically been sitting there for a while.

WE WERE BORN TO MAKE HISTORY!

Catchy, Yuuri thinks. And then immediately after, ow!

Yuuri lets out a yelp as his back collides with hard flooring, and he wrenches himself up, feeling around for any broken bones.

“Sore,” Yuuri mutters worriedly, “but I don’t feel like I just fell a billion miles from the sky.”

“‘A billion miles’, he says. Are you as stupid as you look?”

Yuuri shrieks and scrambles backward again, only to curse loudly when his head bumps against the wood of the bedpost.

“Wow, what a mouth.”

“Who—“ Yuuri gapes when he sets eyes on an angry looking cat perching on the edge of bed, near his face. It’s glaring balefully at him, and Yuuri stares back for only a heartbeat before he opens his mouth again. “You. You’re a dream cat, so you have got to be the one who talked just now.”

“Dream cat?” it says in a startlingly deep voice. “I am the cat, you pig.”

“That voice…” Yuuri squints into angry looking green eyes, before he wheels back, startled. “Yurio?”

“Don’t call me that!” Yurio screeches, fur standing on end. Yuuri hardly registers the fury in his tone, opting instead to reach out for the tiny Russian skater.

“What happened to you, you look so cute—!” Yuuri yelps when Yurio leaps at him, hissing angrily.

Yuuri only registers the sound of high beeping once he’s flat on his back with Yurio digging claws into his front, and he frowns confusedly as he reaches up to straighten his skewed glasses. “What’s that noise?”

“Your health points,” Yurio says flatly, sitting back on his haunches to lick at a paw. “You did an action, and that’s the result. Minus ten health points.” Yuuri follows the pointed direction of a small brown nose to the space above him. Interestingly enough, Yuuri can see the time and a subdued green health bar, already depleted by ten points.

“I only went to pet you!” Yuuri retorts accusingly, and Yurio scoffs.

“That was your first mistake! Pig!”

“Even in my dreams, you’re cranky,” Yuuri sighs.

“It’s not a dream. It’s a game,” Yurio retorts impatiently. “Welcome to Yuuri!!! In Love, your everyday romance game. I’m Yuri Plisetsky, your… aid.” Yurio gags as if just saying the sentence has pained him, and Yuuri winces at the supposed threat of a hairball.

“I got that from the start button and everything, but why are you my aid…? You’re like a mascot?”

“Good question. I don’t plan on helping you.”

“Great.” Yuuri lets his head fall back, staring dolefully at his health bar. “This is possibly the most ridiculous thing my brain could have come up with.”

“I don’t know what you’re going on about,” Yurio says as he examines a freshly groomed paw, “but you only have a few minutes before the game starts. I’m required to give you a breakdown of the more important points of the game to get you started.”

“Alright then,” Yuuri says. The clock above his head is frozen at 07:59AM, and he studies it and the health bar curiously. “Tell me about it.”

“First, I can only help you if you bring me my favorite food.” Yurio stretches languidly, and Yuuri winces again when he feels tiny pinpricks from Yurio’s claws once more. “Advice in exchange for payment. That way, things are equal.”

“What’s your favorite food, then?” Yuuri asks.

“I’m not telling you!” Yurio spits, and Yuuri rolls his eyes. “Next, throughout the day, your health bar is going to decrease. You either have to eat in order to get back some energy, or you have to go to sleep until the next day to make it full again. Why am I telling you this? Shouldn’t this be common sense for video games?”

“Come on, what else?”

“Next is the romance part, which is gross, so I’m not telling you about that either.”

“Yurio,” Yuuri says exasperatedly, and gets a face full of of angrily fluffed up tail for his troubles.

“All you need to know is that to finish this game, you need to complete a romance route! Pig!”

“With who?” Yuuri replies, and this time, Yurio merely cocks his head to the side.

“The game is starting,” Yurio yawns straight into his face, and then Yuuri’s bedroom door flies open.

“Yuuri, you’re going to be late for school!” his mother says fretfully, and Yuuri sits up hastily. School? But he’d graduated from college already—

“First day of high school!” his mother continues, beaming, and Yuuri wheels around to stare at Yurio in betrayal.

Russia’s now-fluffy fairy merely rolls over onto his back in Yuuri’s bed, pointedly ignoring him.

“I’m sure Phichit is already on his way to meet you by the door! I know you were both so excited to start your first day!” Yuuri’s mother calls out behind her as she bustles out.

“Phichit?” Yuuri blinks, relief seeping into his bones. A familiar face! Yuuri quickly steps over to the bed to prod gently at Yurio’s side. “Hey, hey! Who’s Phichit in this game? Can you at least give me one free answer since it’s just the beginning?”

Yurio sighs exasperatedly. “Childhood friend. By the way, you really should get ready, stupid, or else the game can’t advance.”

Loud beeping catches Yuuri’s attention again, and his head snaps up to stare at his health bar. Minus ten? Again? “Yurio!”

“Every time you consult me, that’s minus ten, by the way!” Yurio says almost gleefully, finally turning to blink slowly at Yuuri. “Better do it sparingly, fatty!”

“Oh, my god,” Yuuri groans, passing a hand across his face. Yuuri quickly turns to bumble around the tiny, unfamiliar room, grabbing at the standard high school uniform hanging by the door. But unlike his old high school uniform, this one looks a bit fancier with its dark blue slacks and gray blazer. He dresses in no time (only fumbling with the tie for a moment), and Yuuri glances at the snoozing cat stretched out on his bed. Before he can chicken out, Yuuri reaches out to pat soft fur, darting out the bedroom door the second Yurio begins howling indignantly.

One generic buttered toast and a packed lunch later, Yuuri steps out of the doorway of his “home”, silently taking in the unfamiliar neighborhood around him.

Everything looks normal, Yuuri thinks, looking up at the soft blue sky. I wonder how I’m supposed to play? And what about my health bar, what happens when it’s empty? Yuuri pauses. Uh… do I die?

“Yuuri!”

Yuuri turns at the sound of a cheerful voice, smiling at the sight of Phichit.

“Good morning,” his friend says happily as he approaches Yuuri. “Are you ready for the first day of school?”

Yuuri open his mouth to reply, only to find that his voice won’t come out. Yuuri freezes, startled, and jumps when a semi-transparent looking text box pops up into existence before him.

I’m ready now that you’re here!

No, way!

I don’t even want to go now that I’ve seen your face.

Yuuri gapes at the apparent dialogue options, and a quick glance at Phichit shows that his friend is none the wiser, patiently staring at Yuuri with a smile as he waits for a reply.

A reply that Yuuri has to choose from the three, apparently, and he frowns in consternation. Option one was just too… flirty, wasn’t it? And Yuuri liked Phichit, but he wasn’t sure if he liked the guy enough to choose his “route”. Option three was just plain rude, and option two… Yuuri frowns again. It was probably the safest one.

Even as he thinks it, the bright blue cursor beeps softly as it moves down to the second option, and the text flashes as it’s selected.

Phichit’s mouth falls into a startled ‘O’. “I see! Go ahead and take the time to get ready if you need to!”

Yuuri stares blankly at Phichit before realizing his friend really isn’t going to move until Yuuri finishes his preparations.

But I’m already ready, so… Yuuri opens his mouth again, and the text box pops up.

This time it has the same choice options minus the second, and Yuuri sighs internally before picking option one.

Immediately, Yuuri sort of regrets it when Phichit’s face turns pink.

“Yuuri!” is all Phichit says as he blushes, and then he’s grabbing Yuuri by the arm to gently tug him past the front door. “We’re going to be late to school!”

Oh, no, Yuuri thinks. If all the options are going to be like that, I’m either going to have several boyfriends, or a bunch of enemies.

Then, wait. Boyfriends?

“It’s too bad we aren’t in the same class,” Phichit interjects, and Yuuri blinks at him, suddenly dismayed. First day of high school all over again, and he wasn’t even going to have a friend around?

Speaking of which…

“Phichit,” Yuuri says slowly, “aren’t you twenty?”

“Yes?” Phichit replies. “And you’re twenty-three!”

“Yes. So, why are we in high school? In Japan? Can you even speak Japanese?”

Phichit merely smiles back, and Yuuri shrugs. Dream logic.

This game’s high school ends up looking very similar to the high school Yuuri had attended as a teenager, and Yuuri frowns when he thinks back to his own (actual) high school days.

…And I hope I don’t actually have to study high school subjects again in this game. I’ve had enough of that already, thanks.

“Yuuri!”

Yuuri and Phichit both turn at the sound of an elated cry, and Yuuri’s eyes widen at the sight of a tuft of blonde hair.

“Minami?”

“You remember me!” Minami says in relief as he darts up to the both of them, hands clutching at his schoolbag. “Good morning!”

“Good—“ Yuuri begins, and scowls when his voice chokes off as another text box appears before him, and the blue cursor blinks almost mockingly.

Hello, you’re looking so cute today!

Gross, it’s you…

Pat his head.

Yuuri stares at the text options in disbelief. Are you kidding me?

The cursor winks merrily at him, and Yuuri almost apprehensively watches it skip down to the last option. There was no way he was going to pick another flirty-sounding option, and his conscience couldn’t handle being mean to someone so sincerely kind.

Yuuri’s arm moves almost mechanically, and Yuuri can only look on in bemusement as he gives the younger boy a gentle pat on the head. Minami looks ridiculously overjoyed at this, pressing a hand against his own head in excitement.

“G-good morning,” Yuuri says hastily, studiously avoiding both Minami’s and Phichit’s eyes. “So… you’re a freshman too, Minami?”

“That’s right!”

Yuuri glances at Phichit exasperatedly as if to say this game logic is really becoming too much for me, only to lean back in surprise when he finds his friend close and crowding into his space. “O…kay. Shouldn’t we be getting to the opening ceremony?”

“Right!” Minami cheers as Phichit leans back and runs a hand through his hair, looking faintly disappointed.

“We’re already there,” Phichit says sulkily, and Yuuri stares at him perplexedly.

“What—“

The bell rings shrilly, abruptly cutting him off, and the chatter and bustle of the other students around them suddenly breaks off.

Yuuri feels like his neck is going to snap with how fast he turns his head, and he reels at the sight of rows and rows of silent students standing in neat lines in front of him. A quick glance to his left and right presents even more unfamiliar faces, but Minami leans out from behind a particularly tall student to give Yuuri a tiny elated wave. Phichit has disappeared from his side too, and Yuuri looks around, completely disoriented. When did they get into the auditorium?

What just happened? Did I accidentally skip a cutscene? I wish it wasn’t so hard to get information out of Yurio, Yuuri thinks, feeling slightly panicked once again. Even if this is a dream, I don’t want to be completely swept away by its pace…

“Good morning, everyone!”

Yuuri freezes from where he’d been turning to look for Phichit, heart beginning to race at the sound of yet another familiar voice. His head begins to turn infinitesimally slowly, eyes drawn to the podium at the front of the stage.

Victor Nikiforov, his coach, leans against the podium with his usual congenial smile, dressed in the exact same uniform as Yuuri. A twenty-seven year old man should look ridiculous in a high school uniform, but luckily, the gray of the blazer suits him and hugs close to Victor’s broad shoulders.

Video game logic, Yuuri thinks dazedly, eyes trained on Victor. Then, I want his route.

Yuuri shakes himself out of his reverie, feeling faintly embarrassed. Wait, what am I saying? That’s seriously so bold of me… Besides, what if Victor doesn’t even have a route?

(However, part of him seriously doubts that.)

“It’s been a wonderful ceremony, and I thank you for listening closely to the announcements,” Victor continues cheerfully, and Yuuri internally rolls his eyes. Apparently he’d missed most of the ceremony itself, and if the game continued like this, Yuuri felt like he was sure to get lost. “My name is Victor Nikiforov, and I’m this year’s school president. I’m looking forward to spending the upcoming school year working with you to make this another great term!”

Of course you would be the school president, Yuuri thinks, absently admiring the way Victor’s bangs fall across his face. …would his route be harder than the others, then?

Victor is smiling, and Yuuri studies him closely without paying much attention to what his coach is saying.

Does he know me in this game? Phichit and Minami seem to, so…

Victor’s eyes suddenly flick to Yuuri’s, and Yuuri’s mind fills with white noise as he stares over the crowd and into familiar eyes.

The bell rings.

“Yuuri, how was your first day of school?” Phichit appears out of nowhere, sending Yuuri jumping straight into the air. Yuuri stares at him, aghast. “What?”

Again, Yuuri nearly strains his neck to stare around, and is disconcerted to find himself outside the school once again. Only this time, groups of students mill about, talking or breaking off to walk home. The day already ended? Yuuri thinks, startled. He squints his eyes against the afternoon sun.

“Your first day! Of school? I’m sure you must have missed me!” Phichit teases, throwing an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders. “My day was pretty boring, and it just makes me miss vacation even more. I wish I could walk home with you, but I joined a club over the summer, and the meetings are already starting today!”

“Oh—it went fine.” Not that Yuuri would know, though. “And it’s alright, Phichit, we—“

Yuuri’s voice catches again, and he glowers at the reappearance of the text box.

We can always walk together every morning.

You can make it up to me with a date!

The first one isn’t so bad, Yuuri realizes in relief, choosing to completely ignore the second option. There’s a small beep as he makes his choice, and Phichit beams at him.

“That’s right! Thanks, Yuuri!”

Phichit darts away, quickly heading back to the school’s entrance, and Yuuri stares after him, feeling slightly unsteady.

It was just morning a few seconds ago, Yuuri thinks frustratedly. Why is it suddenly late afternoon? Is the game constantly going to be like this?

“The beginning of the game is always like that,” comes a voice right by his ear, and Yuuri flinches back.

Yurio sits atop of a wall, regarding Yuuri with narrowed green eyes. “It really is just an introductory day. You get more freedom the longer the game goes on.”

“Did you come to pick me up?” Yuuri asks, feeling touched. However, Yurio swipes at his glasses irritably, sending them askew across Yuuri’s nose.

“Don’t be gross, I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t required to be,” Yurio grumbles, flicking an ear. “This is one checkpoint where I can answer your questions for free. But only a few.”

Yuuri’s mouth flies open immediately, only to clamp shut when a text box materializes in front of him. He leans forward contemplatively, staring at the question options.

What happens when I run out of health points? How do I raise affection? Possible routes?

Yuuri frowns. Only three options?

“You only faint when you run out of health points,” Yurio yawns once Yuuri has made his selection. “You’re sent to the nurse’s office if you’re at school, or back to bed if you’re anywhere else. But if you’re sent to the nurse’s office, you lose currency.” Yurio sounds smug again, and swipes at his paw with a small tongue. “By the way, the currency is ‘katsudon’. Suits you.”

Yuuri rolls his eyes before eyeing the text selection again.

“Routes? Hell if I know.” Yurio snorts loudly at Yuuri’s tiny frown. “No, really—you have to figure those ones out for yourself.”

“But, Minami? Seriously? He’s way younger.”

“You’re all first years, aren’t you?” Yurio says uncaringly. “Besides, how do you even know he’s an option?”

“I dont,” Yuuri replies, pressing a hand against his chin.

“Besides,” Yurio says suddenly, sounding bored. “It doesn’t actually matter. You’ve already chosen, haven’t you?”

“Huh?”

“Last question!” Yurio snaps imperiously.

>> how do I raise affection?

“Easy. Talking or giving gifts. Those are the basics, and that’s all I’m telling you.”

“Gifts,” Yuuri mumbles, watching the text box fade away. “Sounds so simple… Yurio, what about—“ He breaks off at the sight of an empty wall, and Yuuri sighs. Yurio is long gone.

“I guess… I’ll just go home,” Yuuri says out loud. “And save? How do I even save? By sleeping?”

Yuuri sets off in the direction of “home”, glancing uneasily at the students around him. They all have mostly generic faces, and Yuuri doubts that he’d be able to recall them if he ever tried. So I guess only people I know will have routes. That means Victor could have one, right?

Yuuri rounds the corner, so deep in thought that he hardly realizes where he’s going. I’m just thinking that Victor would be the easiest choice. I mean… I feel comfortable around him. Right? And I—

Yuuri collides painfully into something—someone—rounding the corner at a brisk walk. The person is considerably taller as well, and Yuuri’s sent toppling backwards under the weight of the other person.

You have got to be kidding me— is all Yuuri can think, and then he’s flat on his back with a mouthful of somebody else’s tie.

“Woah! Sorry, sorry, I didn’t see you coming!”

Yuuri spits out the fabric in shock, and his eyes flick up to take in Victor’s worried gaze.

“Hey… you go to my school, right?” Victor says, beginning to smile and hardly seeming to care that he’s still literally on top of Yuuri. His arms are caging Yuuri’s head, giving Yuuri no choice but to stare up at his idol. “Are you alright?”

The dreaded text box pops up again, and Yuuri’s heart skips at the sight of it, because didn’t that mean that Victor did have a route?

But the options…

Kiss him.

Knee him in the gut!

Yuuri screams internally, eyes widening in dismay. Click kiss hi—NO! What am I thinking, don’t click that one!

Yuuri nearly collapses in relief when he realizes that there’s a third option to merely “apologize profusely”, and he watches the cursor skip over the two more dangerous options to select the third.

“No, no, it’s my fault as well,” Victor says amicably. “I was in a rush to head back to school because I forgot a textbook.” Finally, Yuuri’s idol moves to stand up, stretching out and arm to offer Yuuri a hand up.

He gratefully takes it, reveling in how familiar Victor’s hand feels—but when he tries to let go, Victor holds on tighter, gently squeezing his fingers. “I’m sorry we had to meet like this,” Victor says, flashing Yuuri another brilliant smile.

So he doesn’t know me in this game, thinks Yuuri, feeling vaguely disappointed.

“I’m Yuuri,” he replies instead, returning Victor’s familiar smile with one of his own. “I know you—president, right?”

“Right!” Victor looks elated, and Yuuri feels a sudden pang of loss. After Victor had become his coach, much of the distance that Yuuri had felt had diminished to almost nothing. To have Victor not even know his name again…

I’m choosing his route, Yuuri thinks determinedly.

“It was nice meeting you, but I do need to rush back and grab that textbook,” Victor continues, looking a little crestfallen. “But I’ll see you in school, right?”

Of course! I’ll look forward to it!

No way, I don’t think I’d like that very much…

Yuuri doesn’t even hesitate with his choice, and his cheeks burn a little at Victor’s resulting smile.

“I will too! Goodbye, Yuuri!”

Yuuri watches his coach’s retreating back, feeling slightly dazed. This game was absolutely ridiculous, and his situation was ridiculous, but if he was here, Yuuri figured he might as well play till the end.

…I should have chosen the kiss, Yuuri thinks distractedly, watching the shine of Victor’s hair in the afternoon sun. Oh well.