It’s happening again.
Viktor likes to think that he’s learned to read Yuuri well enough in the months he’s known him, after spending each day living, breathing and skating with him. Yuuri’s panic attacks come with no set rhythm or rhyme, but they are always preceded by a dead look to his eye. His eyes look vacant now, and it won’t be long before he descends into some dark place Viktor cannot follow.
Despite his meek nature, Yuuri feels very strongly. It’s what makes him so captivating on the ice—his technical scores may not always be perfect, but his performances are always stellar.
Unfortunately, that same emotionality makes him fragile too, easily overwhelmed under pressure. Viktor needs to find a way to hook him away from the precipice and back onto solid ground. Fast.
They have the better part of an hour before the warm-up. Yuuri is already in his costume and jacket, his hair gelled back, his earbuds blasting his Free Skate music so loud it probably drowns all other noise. The other competitors are doing their own pre-competition stretches and rituals, and the atmosphere is tense.
Viktor wordlessly steers Yuuri into an empty hallway and feels helpless. He still struggles with the words, still struggles with understanding how deeply anxiety burrows itself into Yuuri’s soul. Viktor’s been skating for twenty odd years now, professionally competing for fourteen—and after five successive seasons of winning gold he’d forgotten what uncertainty on the ice felt like. He can’t place himself in Yuuri’s shoes because he doesn’t know what it’s like to fail spectacularly at a skate and compete again for redemption in the same event a year later.
He does believe in Yuuri though, completely and wholeheartedly. And if his grasp on words is tenuous, at least his arms don’t lie when they wrap securely around his fiancé, confident and sure. There’s a trick he’s learned recently, opening the lapels of his coat to hide Yuuri and make him feel small, warm and safe. The height difference between them isn’t as pronounced with Yuuri in his skates, usually Viktor can tuck him under his chin, but Yuuri slouches so that he can wrap his arms around Viktor’s waist under the coat and bury his face in the soft space between Viktor’s neck and shoulder.
Yuuri takes a deep, shuddering breath, probably taking comfort from the scent of Viktor’s cologne, and after a beat, he settles at last. The tension in his limbs melt away, the weight of him in Viktor’s arms grows a tad heavier, but Viktor has the strength to hold the both of them up, especially now when he’s needed the most. He has to readjust them for a quick moment, slipping Yuuri’s glasses in his coat pocket because it’s digging into his neck. Yuuri takes this time to remove his earbuds too, but afterwards he just goes back to where he’d easily slotted into Viktor’s space, and Viktor has never felt so fond and protective all at once. He holds Yuuri for as long as he is able to.
“I love you,” he tells him quietly, and he knows that Yuuri will feel the rumble of his voice where their chests are pressed together.
Yuuri replies with a faint hum. His lashes tickle against Viktor’s skin.
“You’ll skate beautifully out there,” Viktor murmurs, tenderly, and he knows right now he isn’t Viktor the Coach, who will try to appeal to Yuuri’s ego and competitive streak, but Viktor the Lover, the Soon-to-be-Husband. Yuuri’s safe place to land. “I’m proud to call you mine. Whatever happens today won’t change the fact that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Don’t think too hard and just skate the way you like best, darling. Oh, Yuuri, I love you so.”
There’s no manual for this. Viktor can only speak from his heart now and hope Yuuri’s listens.
Gradually Yuuri’s grip on his waist loosens, loses a bit of that edge of desperation, and his heartbeat slows into a more even pace. His eyes are dry when he pulls away, and he tilts his head in a silent request.
Viktor kisses him chastely, and then lands another soft peck on a high cheekbone. “Feel better?”
Yuuri nods, and his eyes are clearer now, lighting up with determination. He looks calm. Strong. Beautiful.
“Stay close to me,” he says, as he leads them back to where the other skaters are.
“I will,” Viktor promises, and does just that.