Yuri starts to say goodbye after the Grand Prix.
Victor doesn’t see it at first, and then he can’t believe it. Yuri isn’t pushing him away. It’s the opposite: he leans into Victor, smiles up at him, brushes their hands together when they’re walking side by side. But Victor catches glimpses of Yuri’s small pensive smiles when he thinks Victor’s not looking. He looks at Victor, he looks at Makkachin, he looks at the ring Victor gave him, and he smiles.
“I don’t want to leave,” Victor tells him.
“You’ll always be welcome at Hasetsu,” Yuri promises, as if that’s what Victor meant.
“I want to be beside you,” Victor tells him another time, with the seagulls crying overhead.
“I like being with you too,” says Yuri, and he blushes a little, and afterwards he is smiling that exact small smile, which Victor is starting to hate.
It’s not long before Victor is frantic. He’s used to Yuri not believing in himself. He hates it, but he’s used to it, and he has thought of dozens of ways around it, ways to shock Yuri, distract him, amuse him, infuriate him into being his best. But none of them seem to work when it comes to making Yuri believe in him. Victor didn’t think there was even a question anymore. He thought it was only a matter of time. He’s kissed Yuri! They exchanged rings!
Yuri seems to have decided there was a question, and to have answered it with a definite, sad-smiling ‘no’ before Victor even got a chance to say anything.
Victor finally snaps on a beautiful spring evening when he’s coming in from the hot springs and he hears Yuri talking to Minako. “No,” he’s saying, “I think I’m done with skating, now. It can’t get any better. So after Victor goes back to Russia -”
After Victor goes back to Russia.
Victor sees red.
He storms in and grabs Yuri by the wrist. Minako puts her hand over her mouth, eyebrows very high. Victor flashes her a bright toothy smile. “Sorry, Minako!” he says, hearing his own voice come out high and sharp. “Yuri and I need to go to the rink now!”
“What?” says Yuri. They were at the rink all day. “Um, Victor -”
“Don’t argue with your coach, Yuri,” says Victor, dragging Yuri from the room. “It’s time to skate.”
Victor slams the front door open.
Victor rounds on him. “Yes?” he says sweetly.
Yuri gulps but stands his ground. His cheeks are flushed. He’s so cute, Victor thinks grimly. “You’re not wearing any pants,” says Yuri.
Victor pauses. Pants. Yes. He is in fact only wearing one of the robes from the hot spring. Even he might find it hard to skate like this.
“I will find pants,” he says with dignity. “And then we are going to the rink.”
Yuri makes it to the rink before Victor does. He’s on the ice, skating thoughtful circles, occasionally throwing in a spin, when Victor arrives. It’s dark outside, and Yuri looks tired, but as Victor watches he gathers himself for a jump.
Quad flip, and he stumbles on the landing, of course. He’s only landed it cleanly once today. Victor watches him frown, shake out his shoulders, straighten up and build up speed for the jump again. This time he nearly falls, one hand on the ice.
Then he picks himself up to do it again.
Victor doesn’t know what it is about this that makes his heart feel tight with emotion in his chest. He has watched Yuri do this for hours, talked him through this exact jump hundreds of times, demonstrated it over and over, put his hands on Yuri to correct his form. Yuri jumps, and doesn’t land it, and gets up. There is a frown of concentration between his eyebrows. He doesn’t look like someone who’s done with skating. And Victor - Victor never wants to leave.
“Yuri,” he calls out quietly.
Yuri looks up. He skates over when Victor beckons him. “What did you want to do?” he says. “It was important, right? You don’t usually want to work with me this late.” He smiles. “I’m warmed up, so…”
“I’ll join you,” Victor says.
Yuri blinks, but nods. Victor steps onto the ice, thinking frantically. There was a reason he wanted to bring Yuri here, there must have been, but he can’t think what to do next. Does he say something? Do something? Get down on his knees and beg, right here on the ice? Don’t say goodbye to me, Yuri. Keep me. Make me stay. Victor skates thoughtlessly, his mind elsewhere. He can see the shape of a routine in his head, the story he’d tell with what he’s feeling. A short program, maybe. For next season, when Victor goes back to Russia. He could tell the whole world.
How does he tell Yuri? Yuri, who hasn’t listened to a single thing he’s said?
When he looks up a little while later it's because he's finally noticed the sound, or rather the absence of sound. The only skates moving on the ice are his own. Yuri is leaning on the barrier, watching him.
"Sorry," he says. "I thought you might want some room. That was looking good."
Victor says nothing.
Yuri smiles at him. "Did you pick the music yet?" he says. "Is this why we're here? So you can show me? I'm glad."
"You're glad," repeats Victor.
"I," Yuri's cheeks are red, "I always love watching you skate."
And Victor suddenly has it.
He grins. He skates over to Yuri and takes both his hands. "Yes, I need to show you something. Watch me," he says. He squeezes Yuri's fingers. "Promise you won't take your eyes off me, Yuri."
Their faces are close together. "Swear it," Victor whispers. He's cheating, because he knows this sort of thing overwhelms Yuri, taps straight into the remnants of the idol-worshipping crush that Yuri used to have on him. He's cheating, and that's fine, because it's going to work, this is going to work. Yuri's going to watch him and Victor's going to make him understand.
"Yes," says Yuri. "I promise, Victor."
"Good," says Victor, and – oh, right, the sound system, but that's no problem at all, he darts over and back and of course he's got the music he needs here. He's got everything he needs. He takes centre ice and strikes the first pose and waits.
In the long seconds of waiting he feels a fluttering in his stomach he genuinely doesn't recognize. He's Victor Nikiforov. He can say without boasting that he is the best skater in the world, maybe even the best there's ever been. He doesn't get nervous.
He's nervous. There isn't a judge in sight, his whole audience is just one person, and in the instant before the music starts Victor's heart is hammering. Yuri will know what this is the moment he hears the first notes.
He knows this routine inside out. It's an easy start, gentle, rippling like the music; but it doesn't stay easy for long. The first combination needs to be effortless. Victor flies through it, quad-toe-double-toe, and hears Yuri's gasp, but he can't turn to look at him. He helped to choreograph this. It's beautiful. He loves it. Quad Salchow, camel spin, and Victor is only in sweatpants and a t-shirt but this routine doesn't need a glimmering costume to make it shine. Look at me, look at me, he thinks: do you see it, Yuri?
Yuri from start to finish, Yuri's music, Yuri's skating. Triple loop. Triple axel. Victor's starting to feel it. This is a hard routine, deceptively slow-seeming, designed around Yuri's amazing stamina, and Victor hasn't skated competitively in a year. But he can do it, he will. The glimpses he catches of Yuri tell him nothing but that Yuri is watching, as he promised: staring, while Victor skates Yuri on Ice.
Here's the combination jumps, the music building, the triple toe-loop under-rotated. Victor lets it go. He's made mistakes before and still taken gold. He can make mistakes and still do this. And it's coming now, the incredible step sequence, one of Yuri's strengths, complex and beautiful and into the final jump, that impossible, outrageous, spectacular quad flip. Victor loves this jump, has always loved this jump, fits it into every routine somewhere, but he has never loved it like this, never loved it more than when it's here in Yuri's skating, here for him alone, and Victor has seen how Yuri works for it.
The music pulls him along through the combination spin to the end. Victor holds the pose, trying not to gasp audibly for breath. That final quad flip is hideously difficult. He knows Yuri is watching. Yuri wouldn't break a promise. Did he see? Did it work?
The music is over. Victor swallows and looks up.
Yuri is crying.
Not just wet lashes or gleaming eyes – both of which Victor thought or hoped might be a possibility – but real tears. He doesn't cry cutely, either: he screws up his face and then covers it with his hands and makes dreadful snuffling noises behind them. Victor freezes. He didn't expect this. He doesn't know what he's supposed to do. And seeing Yuri like this brings back the confusing horror of staring at him in a carpark in China, trying to work out how to put him back together in less than three minutes, feeling like a monster for pushing him so far. "Yuri!" he says.
Then Yuri's on the ice, skating towards him, scrubbing furiously at his eyes, and Victor catches him with both hands on his shoulders, turns them a little to halt his momentum. "Yuri, it's okay," Victor says, "don't cry, I didn't mean –"
Yuri looks up and behind the tears there's a glare. "Don't tell lies," he says. "Victor. That was mine."
"That was mine, and I've never skated it like that," Yuri says. "You would have another gold medal right now, if you'd competed this season and skated like that."
Victor shakes his head, because obviously that's completely impossible and ridiculous, although Yuri's not wrong.
"Victor," says Yuri, and then Victor squawks because Yuri's arms are around him, dragging him close, both of them skidding sideways a little. Yuri turns his head and says, low, right into Victor's ear, "Victor, you've never skated anything like that."
His face is damp against Victor's cheek and his embrace is tight. "No," says Victor, because it's true. He hasn't skated like that. He's been stronger, fitter, flashier, younger - but he's never skated like that.
"You love me," says Yuri. He sounds fierce. "Victor, you love me. You really do."
"Yes," says Victor, hugely relieved. "Yes, of course."
Yuri laughs. "Idiot," he says, suddenly terribly fond. He loosens his embrace. He holds Victor's hands. He smiles. "Why didn't you say something?"
"Wh-" says Victor, prepared to be outraged, because really, Yuri, but he doesn't get a chance to get the rest of the sentence out because Yuri kisses him.
It's the first time Yuri's kissed Victor, rather than the other way round. Yuri's smiling while he does it. Yuri's smiling and kissing him, right here on the ice, while Victor's still sweaty from skating the most important routine of his life. It lasts for a long time which is not nearly long enough. Victor whimpers when Yuri pulls away.
"Not fair, Yuri," he says. "You can't finally kiss me and then stop kissing me."
Yuri is grinning and grinning. "Later," he says, as a promise, and he squeezes Victor's hand. "I wanted to ask you something first."
"Anything," says Victor. He will definitely marry Yuri in a beach wedding. Or a rink wedding. Is it possible to have a beach wedding on an ice rink? Chris would get ordained for them. Makkachin could be ring bearer. It would be so beautiful. Victor is going to wear white.
Yuri does not actually ask about wedding venues. "When are you going back to Russia?" he says.
"Yuri!" protests Victor.
"You need to," Yuri says. "You have to get ready for the season."
"I'm retired," says Victor defiantly.
"Not yet," says Yuri. "Or aren't you going to show them all?" His fingers are tangled with Victor's. "How you've changed. How it's different now. I want the world to see."
The routines are already unfolding themselves in Victor's head as Yuri says it. The short program from earlier, the confusion and despair of wanting and not having, and then for the free skate – this. This, this, this: because the skating world has seen lots of things from Victor Nikiforov, but they've never seen anything real. Victor can feel it already, the shock, the awe, the amazed stares of the judges. This. His last season: because after this there's nothing else he needs to say.
"I won a medal for you, after all," Yuri says. He's blushing now, but still determined. He kisses Victor again, on the cheek this time. "Your turn."
He's so sweet, Victor thinks, melting. But – "I don't want to leave you," he says. "Never."
"Well," says Yuri. He ducks his head. "Do you think Yakov would take me on?"
The triplets post the video of Victor skating Yuri on Ice on the internet. It goes viral. Everyone Victor knows sends him strings of emojis and exclamation marks, except Yurio, who just sends an angry keysmash.
"When it happened to me," mumbles Yuri, curled around him, "I turned off my phone."
"Good idea," says Victor. He tosses his phone away, and turns towards Yuri, who is much more interesting anyway.