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lie to make me like you

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Victor likes routines.

It’s an odd thing for someone who loves surprising people, but he’s always been under the impression that people cannot be surprised if they don’t have routines to begin with. He likes it when things are like clockwork—when the sunrise falls right when the news said it would, when he signs in for work the same time he always does, when the waiter comes around with the exact same champagne exactly every ten minutes.

If he knows the inner ups and downs of someone’s daily life, if he knows what they’re used to, then it’s all the more easy to surprise them. It’s what made him the darling of the press as a child actor, then everyone’s favorite celebrity bachelor, and now a good director at GP Entertainment, the youngest on the board. It’s because Victor keeps a tight rein on the things that can be controlled, and the rest of his life follows, puppets on a string that he’s learned to maneuver since he was seven.

He’s still meticulous, like that, and it permeates every part of his world—love life included. Victor knows what the media thinks of how free he is with his charms, how easily he apparently dates and dumps people, but one secret that stays under hush-hush within the entertainment world is that Victor never asks anyone out. The problem, however, is that he never says no to anyone, either.

So it’s become a game, of sorts, to anyone privy to the fact that the pattern exists in the first place: ask Victor out at the beginning of the month, date for however many days are in that month, and wait for the end to come and for Victor to say, always: I couldn’t fall in love with you. Let’s break up. Some things fluctuate between every new person he dates—sometimes they’ll end it themselves, three weeks in, sometimes a week in, but the one thing that never changes is what Victor says, in the end. He might be charming and a good actor, but he’s honest, when it comes to that.

Victor’s a gracious boyfriend to everyone, too, if he does say so himself. But he’s a busy man, forgetful mostly because there’s hardly anything in his mind but what’s been in there for the past twenty years living and breathing the life of a celebrity. It’s a habit he has yet to break, and love and life remain things he can only pursue in theory instead of actually get, in the kind of world he operates in. So the dating system works, fills his days like a cat toy being dangled in front of him, always out of reach but enough to be half-heartedly chased, and though it isn’t a game to him as much as others would love to assume, Victor moves on with the other routines of his life.

Victor likes routines, and by extension, he likes facts.

Here are the facts he knows about Yuuri Katsuki.

  1. It was his birthday on November 29th.  He’s well-loved enough by the entire building that they threw him a surprise party—a huge one after-hours, to which Victor was invited primarily due to the fact that there was no one in the building not invited.
  2. Yuuri had avoided Victor’s attempts to wish him a happy birthday all evening. Either he’s shy, or Victor had done something to offend him at one point. It’s always a 50/50 chance with everyone.
  3. Yuuri is one hell of a character when drunk—he’d stripped, clung to Victor, challenged anyone available into dance-offs, and—
  4. Yuuri is very good at pole-dancing. And break-dancing. And the flamenco.
  5. Most importantly, he’d invited Victor to dance and said; If I win this dance-off, will you date me for the next month?

And Yuuri Katsuki had won all those dance-offs, fair and square.

Usually, usually, Victor would know what to do with all these facts—only it’s been two days since and he still has no idea. Yuuri alone was a surprise Victor hadn’t been expecting when he’d shown up to the party, not even including any of the things Yuuri had done over the course of one night, and Victor feels a little helpless.

He doesn’t even have a hangover to blame the helplessness on. He’d been completely sober the whole night, by his own choice, and all he has now, like Prince Charming with Cinderella’s shoe, are memories of a warm, drunk and dazed Yuuri Katsuki. Who, technically, had asked Victor out.

And who apparently doesn’t remember the night at all.

"What do you mean he doesn’t remember?"

"I went to say hello this morning, wish him a happy December and all, and he stared at me like he’s not sure why we know each other," Chris says, all too relaxed as he pours himself a cup of coffee from Victor’s maker, like he hadn’t just brought shocking news first thing into Victor’s office. "And I thought we had a good pole-dancing moment the other night."

Victor has to close his eyes and will the image away. He’s not very successful. "He doesn’t remember," he repeats, weakly. "At all?"

"At all. It’s a shame. He’s so cute." Chris sniffs, for effect, only it doesn’t earn any of Victor’s sympathy as he watches Chris sit on the leather chair behind Victor’s desk. Victor’s never sure why Chris is ever in the building—an actor like him has commercials to shoot, filming to do, photoshoots to attend, and yet Chris always finds it in him at least once a week to bother Victor, even if for old time’s sake has gotten too old an excuse a long time ago.

Victor still opens his mouth to readily agree—except cute doesn’t even begin to cover all the things Victor remembers from the other night and—

"You have a boyfriend," Victor mutters, almost accusing.

"Yuuri has one now, too, if I remember how your system goes," Chris says, taking a careful sip from his coffee. Victor’s coffee, technically. "You weren’t dating anyone last month. Yuuri asked on the 29th. That’s an automatic yes, isn’t it? Not to mention the dance—"

"Don’t." Victor says, long-suffering. He knows he’s pouting, already halfway into sulking, but Chris doesn’t look the least bit sheepish. "He doesn’t even remember."

"Oh? So you’re just going to let it go?" Chris raises an eyebrow, leaning back further on the leather chair. "December’s an awful time to be alone, for someone like you."

Victor exhales, tries to expel all the urge to sulk out of him. What happens instead is a pained sigh. "What is that supposed to mean?"

But Chris is already getting up, checking his wristwatch. Victor’s own desk clock reads 6:43 PM. "Just that you get so lonely, for someone so private," he says, giving Victor a rare innocent smile. "Yuuri’s on the fourth floor. Room 417. He usually leaves at 7 in the middle of the week. Ask him out for some dinner or something. Good luck."

"Good luck," Victor repeats, ignoring Chris’ tap on his arm as he brushes past Victor. "What for?"

"That man has a heartbreaker’s smile, let me tell you now," Chris just about purrs, halfway out the door. "But who knows, maybe he’ll drag you out of your little cocoon, you workaholic, you."

He doesn’t close the door all the way behind him—completely on purpose—and Victor lets out another sigh, brushing hair away from his eyes. The silence of his office is almost reprimanding.

Victor would let it go—except he hasn’t stopped thinking about it in the past 36 hours, hasn’t stopped thinking about Yuuri’s bright eyes and the way he’d clung so shamelessly to Victor, hasn’t stopped thinking about Yuuri dipping him low when they were dancing, hasn’t stopped thinking about his own smile, the laughter bubbling in his throat that night, despite being completely sober.

When he realizes it, he’s already getting off the elevator on the fourth floor. The hallway is empty, but he hears piano music from halfway down the hall, and Victor follows it, counting down to Room 417. When he arrives in front of it, it’s the same room the music is coming from, the door half open.

Yuuri’s at one of the two desks in the office, so fixated on the music coming from his laptop that he doesn’t notice until Victor knocks on the open door. Twice.

It’s a slow process, Yuuri coming out of his contemplation to register Victor there. A lot of blinking involved, during which Victor realizes he has no idea what he came here to say.

"Hi," Victor chirps instead. That’s always safe.

Yuuri keeps blinking at him. Victor hadn’t over-imagined the dark eyes, wide and bright with or without Yuuri’s glasses—they’re attention-catching, even from this far away, expressive with Yuuri’s surprise. His lips are pretty, too, parted open while Yuuri works through his recognition, and his voice is a little breathy when he says; "Victor?"

Victor brightens at that. "You remember who I am?"

"I—Of course—" Yuuri moves fast, like he has multiple hands. The laptop’s closed in the same movement that Yuuri straightens in his seat—and then he’s standing, hands on his side. "You’re—you’re Victor Nikiforov, of course I know you?"

Realization takes a while to dawn on Victor, and then he’s deflating. "Oh. Right."

Yuuri tilts his head, confused. It’s adorable—he’s adorable—and Victor’s chest clenches painfully. "To what—what do you need? I mean—what can I do for you? Can I do something for you?"

"I was told," Victor says, leaning against the doorway, "that you usually wrap up your shift around 7? I was wondering if you wanted to go get dinner?"

He purposely keeps his voice low, just not to scare away Yuuri, and he’s rewarded with Yuuri’s pink ears. Yuuri opens and closes his mouth for a good five seconds, before he—takes a step back, almost knocking over the plant on the window sill behind him. "I—why?"

That isn’t the answer Victor’s expecting. Good luck, Chris had said, and now Victor replays it in his head and hears the touch of smugness there. It might have been a bad idea to come here, if even Chris had been left discouraged.

Blankly, all Victor manages is parrot back the question; "‘Why’?"

"Why would you—" Yuuri’s frowning now, and he’s checking the corners of the office for something. But then he looks at Victor, as if finally, finally, seriously seeing him—and when he sighs, the way the exhale puffs up his cheeks convinces Victor that no, this isn’t a bad idea at all. "We don’t—you don’t know me, is all."

Victor can’t help it, he closes his eyes tightly for two seconds. When he opens them, sees Yuuri and his beautiful eyes still looking hesitantly at him, he gives his biggest, brightest smile. "Well, if you come out with me to dinner, I’ll explain?"

 

 

 

"I said that?"

More facts on Yuuri: Yuuri blushes a very, very pretty pink. His ears are always the first to turn red, and then his cheeks. The expressions that Victor has seen on Yuuri so far in the short walk to the restaurant had ranged from bashful to thoughtful to disbelieving—but with such open and easy transition that Victor knows with absolute certainty that Yuuri would make a bad actor. His eyes are even brighter up close in the restaurant lighting—honest and earnest even if his body language remains closed against attempts to get him to warm up—and Victor’s absolutely entranced.

Yuuri also really doesn’t remember a single thing from the other night.

He’d gotten increasingly flustered listening to Victor describe the night throughout their meal, had declined all of Victor’s offers to show him photo proof—but he’s grown visibly contemplative now, staring down at his own half-finished plate while occasionally sneaking glances at Victor.

"Then—Are we—are we supposed to be dating right now?" Yuuri says. "I—"

"Well, yes, technically this would be our first date," Victor says cheerfully.

Yuuri looks like Victor had just shattered a family heirloom in front of him. "What?"

What's with that, Victor thinks, a little grumpily. He doesn't look happy at all.

"It was a promise, Yuuri," he says, out loud. "Count yourself lucky, I don't often remember the promises that I make." Grandly, resisting the urge to sweep a hand through the air, he adds; "But you can say no."

No one really has, though, just like Victor has never said no to anyone.

"A promise," Yuuri repeats, an absentminded mumble from across the table. He looks pensive, hesitant. "I—It's true, then? That you'd date anyone who asks you out at the beginning of the month?"

Victor knows that doesn’t sit well with most people, the idea of dating someone within a time limit. There didn’t used to be one, just that it became a pattern after the first two relationships, even if it was always the other party that ended it first, never Victor. It’s easy to let people assume that he’s being careless with even this, that the reason people come and go is by virtue of Victor’s own whims, Victor’s own boredom. It’s a side effect of growing up in the limelight—it’s always easier to take people’s assumptions and run with it.

Even now, there are people staring: at Victor, taking pictures of him as he swirls the water in his glass for the sake of doing something while Yuuri stays alarmingly shock-still. But at Yuuri, too, even if the only indication Yuuri gives that he notices is the occasional uncomfortable side glance. Yuuri doesn’t strike him as the type to love excessive attention, and Victor almost feels sorry for dragging him out here.

The first time someone had asked Victor out, Georgi had wordlessly given him a list of things one should do on a date. Where to take them out, when to hold their hand, whether or not you should pay, what kind of things to make small talk about. It reads, Victor will realize years later, like a teen magazine check list.

Shh, Georgi had said, dramatically somber as always. Trust me. Trust the list.

Victor would never admit it to Georgi, but he still uses that list.

It’s all in his head at this point, learned and rehearsed: start with a fancy first date, always at this restaurant, with good food and calming music. Charm the other person, make them laugh and feel good, kiss their hand at the end of the date. It’s like reading a script, and it works every time—even if the restaurant ambience has gotten tiring at this point, if Victor’s being honest with himself, has gotten old in all the times he’s come here.

But Victor still enjoys the idea of it, the routine that comes with dating.

"So what do you say?" Victor says. "Let me make good on my promise?"

Most people would be beaming at this point, would be enthusiastically nodding and moving the date along—but Yuuri’s still staring at Victor, distrustful and reluctant. The blush has completely gone from his cheeks now, and Victor wants to frown about that, because what is he doing wrong?

"I don’t like it when you do that," Yuuri says, so sudden Victor almost drops the glass he’s holding. "I really don’t like it when you do that."

Victor puts down the glass before he actually does drop it. "Excuse me?"

"Is it always like this for you? When you date someone?"

Victor blinks, the words surprised out of him. "Well—"

"It’s not your first time here. You didn’t even look at the menu," Yuuri points out—and he sounds like he’s grumbling, no trace of the flustered You’re Victor Nikiforov, of course I know you from earlier. "You don’t have to say yes, either, if it’s all just a game to you."

It isn't a game, though, not to him; Victor takes it seriously each time, is genuinely hopeful each time. It’s a sincere search, whenever he starts a new relationship, only it ends in disappointment each time, one way or another.

Still, he can’t help but feel optimistic at the beginning of each month, and that hopefulness must show, because Yuuri sighs, finishing up the rest of the food on his plate.

"Do you have time after this?"

Victor wants to think he’s regained from the earlier surprise, but he’s still stumped, still doesn’t know what to do with the sudden change in Yuuri’s attitude. He manages a nod, watching Yuuri drink the entire glass of water.

"We’re watching a movie."

Victor realizes his mouth’s hanging slightly open. He closes it, clears his throat, tries again; "Right now?"

"Right now," Yuuri echoes, raising his hand for the bill. "You pay for the bill on the first date, too?"

Victor always pays, for every date. But he doesn’t say that, just scrambles to his feet at the same time Yuuri does. "What movie are we watching?"

This would usually be the part where Victor helps the other person with their coat, maybe carry their bag and offer it to them—

But Yuuri doesn’t even look at him, easily putting on his own coat.

"Whatever horror movie they have available."

 

 

 

Victor has trouble sleeping the entire night.

He’s a twenty-seven year old man with a twenty-year acting career under his belt, and he has trouble sleeping after watching a horror movie.

He’s been tossing and turning in bed all night, unable to find the right position; he feels like something is looming over him from whichever part of the bed he has his back towards, makes his skin crawl and his body shiver. He can’t even stick a single limb out of the covers, for the fear of—the very irrational fear of, he’s well-aware—someone grabbing it.

The rays of white light flooding his bedroom doesn’t help, encourages his imagination as much as the dark would, and it takes about three hours of staring into space before he finally sits up, wide awake and ready to slap himself back into sound judgment.

Yuuri hadn’t flinched once throughout the entire movie, had taken casual sips from his drink while Victor yelped himself silly in the empty theater. It had been the last full show of the day, and while Victor himself has experienced what it’s like to have an entire private theater to himself, away from public eyes, it was completely different watching a crappy horror movie in what is usually a very public space.

Yuuri had also insisted on paying for the popcorn, actually swatting Victor’s hand away from the wallet in his back pocket.

But then he’d flushed, catching himself, and apologized—and Victor, honestly, hadn’t known what to do with that except let Yuuri do as he pleased. And that, he did, buying popcorn and drinks and leading them into their theater two minutes before the movie, all without Victor’s help.

If we’re doing this, Yuuri had said, just as the lights went off. We’re not doing it like a movie script.

Which is, by far, the most interesting thing anyone has said to Victor.

He’s beginning to suspect that Yuuri is a bundle of contradictions and surprises, unpredictable as he is adorable. Not once through the entire night has he reacted the way Victor expects, and it’s almost intoxicating, to look back at it at 4 A.M and remember the way Yuuri had so easily flitted from shy to passively annoyed, from flustered to near-demanding. He’s definitely not comfortable with Victor, had stayed out of reach whenever possible, had been private and reserved every time Victor tried to talk to him on the way to the movie. Yuuri had refused a ride back home, too, staunch even against Victor’s insistence.

That’s already the first half of Victor’s list so cleanly sabotaged, but Victor can’t find it in himself to be upset by the break in the usual routine.

It is, nonetheless, a little discouraging.

There are tabloid photos from the restaurant already up—Victor Nikiforov’s newest conquest?—and Victor scrolls through some of them, searching for ones with different angles on Yuuri’s face. He doesn’t know at all what to make of Yuuri, even less the difference from the Yuuri he’d met last November to the Yuuri he’d gone to dinner with last night.  It feels a lot like someone is attempting to push his world off its axis, and the feeling is so new, so unfamiliar, something he’s not so ready to adjust to after only four hours with the person.

It’s still not enough to stop him from moving on with his list, though.

He waits until 6 A.M before rolling over next to a sleeping Makkachin and scrolling down his contacts to Yuuri’s name, newly inputed before they’d separated in front of the office building. People usually appreciate a sweet morning call, Victor has realized; likes the reminder that they’re in a relationship, especially one where it’s with someone so far removed from the everyday significant other. 

Victor likes it, too, knowing it makes people feel good.

Yuuri picks up after four rings, voice raspy and groggy. "Hello?"

"Good morning, sleeping beauty," Victor croons into the line, perfectly rehearsed. "Rise and shine, love."

What meets him, however, is a long beat of silence.

The night rushing back for Yuuri, probably. Victor waits patiently, smiling at his ceiling, for Yuuri to process it.

There’s rustling on the other end. When Yuuri speaks again, his voice is much clearer. "Victor," he says, but his voice isn’t pleased, not at all. "Don't you dare wake me up like this again."

There’s a click.

It’s another long moment before Victor fully realizes he’d just been hung up on.

And then he’s the one who has to take time to process things.

He stares at his dark phone screen for another ten minutes, waits for Yuuri to call back—but there’s nothing. Not within the next ten minutes, nor the next half hour.

By the time he’s up and getting ready to head out to GPE, there’s still nothing new on his phone but e-mails.

When Victor gets off on his floor, the first thing he sees across the hallway is Mila, waiting outside Yakov’s office with crossed arms. She doesn’t look too upset, though, and when she spots Victor the first thing she says is; "Hey, lover boy, I saw the pictures. Have a fun date?"

She asks this, every time, and Victor, even if he’ll never say it out loud, appreciates that she treats his relationships as seriously as she can. She approaches her own relationships so much differently than Georgi ever has, Victor has always known that, but it’s still a good part of the usual routine, waiting for Mila to ask about it.

"I think I made him mad," Victor says, mournful if only to play up the dramatics.

"You?" Mila says, eyes wide. Then she smirks, raising one hand to wave a metaphorical thought bubble away. "Nevermind. You do say some insensitive things sometimes."

Victor sticks out his bottom lip. "Well, Yuuri does, too."

"Does he?" Somehow, this surprises Mila, her wide eyes turning from disbelief to genuine surprise. "Why, what did he—"

"He hung up on me," Victor says, a little too excited about sharing this information that he cuts off Mila. "He hung up on me after I gave him a morning call."

Mila’s comprehension process goes much faster than Victor—she goes from a frown to another smirk to full out laughter within five seconds, slapping her thighs with both hands when it clicks for her. Victor fake-pouts as he waits for Mila’s laughter to stop, listens to it fill up the silent hallway.

"Victor Nikiforov has finally met his match, huh," she says, wiping tears from her eyes. "Wow. I want to meet this person. Yuuri. It’s the pole-dancing guy, right? From the party?"

Victor exhales, heavy enough to send a few strands of his bangs flying. "I wish."

Mila blinks. "It's not?"

"No, it is, but he’s—" Victor offers a smile. "Different. From what I was expecting."

"The pretty ones always are, no?" Mila sings—just as the door to Yakov’s office opens, and Yakov himself steps out, looking between the two of them with the usual enthusiasm of a disturbed wild animal.

"What is this ruckus about?"

"Nothing, nothing," they chorus, habit more than anything. They smile at each other, at that.

"Well, get to work, Vitya," Yakov grumbles, pushing the door farther open to let Mila in. "Tons of paperwork I’m waiting on from you."

"Exciting," Victor returns, moving his fingers in a dainty wave as Yakov closes the door on him.

He gets about two steps towards his office before his phone vibrates.

He’s never thought himself capable of pulling out his phone this fast, but he pulls it off, somehow.

It’s a text from Yuuri.

R u here already? I’ll wait 4 u in d lobby?

Victor’s speedwalking back to the elevator before he can think too much about it.

It’s easy to spot Yuuri as soon as the elevator doors open on the first floor—Victor’s eyes don’t have to travel far before they settle on Yuuri, standing in front of the reception desk next to someone slightly shorter than him, with equally dark hair. They have matching lanyards, and Victor, squinting at their IDs as he walks over, manages to make out the name Phichit Chulanont on the one that Yuuri’s friend is wearing.

"I'm sorry!" Yuuri says, immediately, as soon as he notices that Victor's within earshot. He moves forward in a bow of apology, almost instinctive in how quickly he does it. "For snapping at you this morning."

Victor thinks he makes a noise, and then he’s laughing nervously, holding up his hands. "Yuuri, look up, you don’t have to—"

"Wait, what? You didn’t mention that, Yuuri," says—says Phichit, clapping loudly and shamelessly as he inspects Yuuri's bow. "No way? Staring your day hanging up on the world's hottest bachelor? That you’re dating? That's my best friend."

"You're not helping." Yuuri does straighten from his bow, though, only he doesn’t meet Victor's eyes. "Victor—this is, um—this is my roommate Phichit."

Victor opens his mouth, but when nothing comes out towards Yuuri, he turns to Phichit, holding out a hand. "Hi. Victor Nikiforov."

"Yeah, hi, of course I know you—but I’m just a lowly intern at the Broadcasting Department to you, really, just here for moral support," Phichit says, shaking the hand and ignoring Yuuri's hiss of his name. He has a firm grip, for someone so childishly radiant, and Victor doesn’t miss the way Phichit gives him a once-over, so quick he almost misses it. "Totally not freaking out right now. Totally gonna wash this hand when I get this home."

"Totally going to quiet down now," Yuuri supplies. When Victor turns to him, his smile is fond, the affection in it almost unconscious. Even the shooing motions he makes towards Phichit are tender, so visibly warm-hearted. "Okay, okay, you’ve met him—now go, you’ll be late for your sign-in."

Victor, hand flopping back to his side after Phichit lets it go, finds himself staring at Yuuri’s smile.

That man has a heartbreaker’s smile, let me tell you now, Chris had said.

The sentence plays in a loop on his head as he and Yuuri both watch Phichit skip over to the elevator. He tries not to be too obvious in sneaking glances at Yuuri’s smile, soft and gentle as it is, but he knows he fails; luckily, Yuuri’s busy waving goodbye to Phichit to notice.

A heartbreaker’s smile.

Chris is absolutely right.

"Victor?" Yuuri finally meets his eyes, only to break eye contact again when Victor perks up at the sound of his name. "I—I really am sorry. About—about this morning."

They’re earning looks from the people walking across the lobby, Victor knows, but he doesn’t look away from Yuuri. "I take it you’re not a morning person?"

"No," Yuuri admits quietly. "I still—I shouldn’t have—" Helplessly, he breaks off, only to quietly add, a second later; "I’m easily stressed."

Victor has to fight back a smile at how bashfully he admits it. He turns his body to face Yuuri fully, doesn’t bother to keep stifling the urge to stare at Yuuri. He’s wearing a scarf today, and his face is half-buried in it; it makes it easier for him to hide away from Victor, but he also looks warmer like this, even farther away from the man that had approached Victor at the party.

Victor, undeterred, keeps staring—stares until the pink blush that he remembers from yesterday returns to Yuuri’s cheeks. "Stress is a very human thing to feel," he says.

That startles Yuuri into meeting his eyes. "Do you—do you get stressed easily, too?"

It’s not a question Victor’s expecting, and for a split second, he almost says yes—but it’s too honest, for someone he’d only started talking to the day before. He flashes a smile. "Well, you’ve stressed me out very much, darling."

There is, for a moment, something in Yuuri’s eyes that look so close to being disappointment, but then it’s gone, followed by shyness at the term of endearment—and blatant guilt. "I’m sorry," Yuuri mumbles into his scarf. "You really don’t have to do this, you know."

This hesitance isn’t like the hesitance from yesterday; it’s Yuuri self-conscious instead of distrusting, and this, too, is a facet that doesn’t fit with the rest of what Victor knows about Yuuri. He thinks this over in his head, and decides—with surprising certainty—that he likes being bossed around by Yuuri Katsuki around a movie theater more than he likes making Yuuri Katsuki self-conscious and disappointed.

"I want to try dating you for a month, Yuuri," Victor says. He hopes that no one’s actually listening in to their conversation, that all of them are as eager to start their day as they look. It’s worth it, though, the blinking confusion he gets from Yuuri. It’s another new expression, welcomed when Victor’s already falling into the habit of tucking each new one away in his head. "Is that okay?"

Yuuri takes a while, hands bunching around the pockets of his coat.

Then, to Victor’s surprise, he nods.

"No morning calls," is all Yuuri says, firm.

"No morning calls," Victor repeats. "Understood."

Yuuri hesitates. "Texts—texts are okay."

"Okay," Victor echoes. "That’s a relief. I love texts." And then he has to smile again, watching Yuuri shuffle in place at that. "I want to build some trust between us, too, okay? I’ll treat you well, I promise."

There’s a sigh. It’s spoken directly into his scarf, when he says it, but Victor thinks Yuuri says; "S’not what I’m worried about."

Victor blinks at him. "Hm?"

"Nothing," Yuuri says, detaching his mouth from his scarf. "Nothing, I just—‘treat you well’—why are you—"

He breaks off, but Victor thinks he knows what Yuuri wants to ask. Why is Victor so insistent on doing things, why is Victor insistent on sticking to his checklist, why is Victor so insistent about this.

Victor doesn’t really know, either, why he’s so hopeful about it each time, why he keeps wanting to try this again and again. It’s the greed, maybe, a pathetic desperation for life and love the way other people around his age seems to have gotten it, from Chris and his boyfriend to even Georgi and his strings of meaningful heartbreak. His unconscious childish yearning for what he’s yet to experience.

He’s twenty-seven, with a twenty-year-long acting career to be proud of, and yet.

Besides—a month isn’t a lot of time, but it’s enough, for Victor to get his taste, and hopefully, hopefully, though it has yet to happen, figure his way out from there.

This part, Victor realizes belatedly, he ends up saying it out loud.

Yuuri’s mouth is opening and closing in surprise, and Victor should be offended, even embarrassed, but then Yuuri’s shaking his head, obviously more for his sake than Victor’s. "I—I get it. I don’t understand but—I get it, sort of."

That doesn’t make sense, but that, Victor’s sure of now, is Yuuri in a nutshell. He doesn’t make sense, hasn’t made sense since Victor first met him, still doesn’t make sense now.

Surprisingly, though, Victor doesn’t mind.

It’s a little addicting, he thinks, how unpredictable Yuuri Katsuki has been—how unpredictable Yuuri will be, in the next four weeks.

When Victor drops Yuuri off on the fourth floor, he doesn’t have to force himself to offer a genuine bright smile, waving one-handed as the elevator doors close between them. One would think he’s learned his lesson by now, but the hope he feels is genuine, too—hope that this is it, that this is the part where the shoe fits, that Yuuri, maybe, will surprise him more than he already has.

His phone buzzes again when he gets off his own floor.

It’s Yuuri, and Victor almost walks past his own office door.

Have a good day. I’ll c u for another dinner tonight.

And then—

I get 2 pick. Bc I’m paying.

Victor’s own smile widens into a grin at that, amused and pleased over something so small, but he doesn’t bother to try and fight it.