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Victor Effing Nikiforov

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“Yuuri!”

The hotel lobby was full, and Yuuri—slinking against the wall, heading out to grab dinner on his own—had no idea who was calling his name. Phichit hadn’t arrived yet, and Celestino had plans with some other coaches.

Who else did he know? A few people, yes, but talking to other skaters beforehand inevitably left him psyched out. Nothing good would come of having attention called to himself, not here. He’d choked at the Grand Prix final; all he wanted was to put in a respectable showing at World’s.

The words came again. “Yuuri! Over here!”

Yuuri squinted into the center of the lobby, only to see Victor Nikiforov waving madly in his direction.

What the hell? Yuuri swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. Victor was smiling and gesturing, and for a moment, Yuuri felt his whole face heat. Who, me? He almost took an involuntary step forward, before reason asserted itself.

No. Of course not him. Victor was probably talking to the Russian Yuri. Why would Victor effing Nikiforov have any idea who Yuuri was? He sighed and looked away.

He managed to take three steps before someone grabbed his arm.

“Yuuri,” said Victor Nikiforov’s voice in his ear, “Where are you going? I have been looking for you for hours.”

For a moment, Yuuri felt frozen in place. That was Victor Nikiforov’s voice. He’d heard it in interviews all too often. It seemed impossible that Victor’s voice would be connected with the hand on Yuuri’s elbow.

Nothing was making sense. This was probably a dream. He was still on the plane. He’d fallen asleep, and the food had disagreed with him, as it sometimes did. But he felt Victor’s fingers dig into his elbow, and when he turned…

Victor Nikiforov. Victor fucking Nikiforov, with his heart-shaped smile and silver hair, beaming at Yuuri as if they had somehow become best friends.

“Congratulations on your win at the Japanese nationals!” Victor’s smile almost knocked Yuuri over with its enthusiasm. “You really did your program justice. And also, the bronze at the Four Continents—great showing, even if—never mind, we can talk about that later tonight. I almost went to the Four Continents, you know, but Yakov was screaming at me about pushing the difficulty of my short program, and I couldn’t miss the practice. Sorry I wasn’t there to cheer you on.”

Cheer him on? What the hell was this? Yuuri pinched himself, but even though this was definitely a dream—an incredibly realistic dream, one where Victor was standing so close that Yuuri could smell the faint splash of some spicy, heady cologne—he didn’t wake up.

“Anyway,” Victor said, as if this were all completely normal, “of course you’re coming to dinner with us, right? I can’t believe I didn’t get your number.”

“Huh?” It was the only word Yuuri could think of.

“Don’t tell me you already ate.” Victor sighed. “Too bad; you’re still coming along. We need to catch up.”

“Who is us?”

“Me, Yuri Plisetsky, Mila, Christophe, Emil…? Probably some others. It’s a huge group. I told them I’d wait for you in the hotel lobby and meet up with them as soon as I found you.”

Yuuri had known that Victor Nikiforov was a force of nature. This was the first time, though, that he’d experienced it in person—that broad smile, the bright sunshine of his personality bearing down on him.

“Uh…”

“Come on, I’m starving.” Victor gave Yuuri a wink that suggested a great deal more than physical hunger—no, no, Yuuri’s rational brain protested, don’t project your own wants on him—and before Yuuri knew what was happening, entwined their hands together and started marching out the door.

Dream. This was a dream. There was no way this was anything except a dream, because Victor was holding his hand and hailing a cab and, as they piled into the backseat, Victor’s thigh pressing into him close, too close, he was handing him his phone and demanding that he put his number in.

Yuuri did so with shaking hands. Victor then proceeded to send him an SNS. It’s Victor. Not getting away again so easily.

“Are you okay?” Victor asked. “You seem a little subdued. Jet lag?”

Yuuri looked over at him. “Uh… Well…”

Victor’s face changed subtly. “Oh. It’s me. I’m babbling too much. That’s it, right? I’m babbling. Oh, God, you have no idea—my rinkmates make fun of me all the time, I’m a nervous babbler, I have been kicking myself for the last months for not getting your number, but of course if we’d been exchanging SNS this whole time I wouldn’t be so nervous.”

The night was going from strange to surreal. “You’re nervous?” Yuuri squinted at Victor. “Why are you nervous? You’re Victor fucking Nikiforov.”

“I watched all your programs,” Victor confessed in a low voice. “You’re brilliant. I adore you. I honestly think if you had a clean skate, you could beat me, you know.”

“Ridiculous.” Yuuri stared at him. He pinched himself again with his free hand through his jeans. He still wasn’t waking up.

“Your program components score could wipe me out. And I know you’re landing the quad Salchow in practice all the time now, so if you could do it in competition—”

“Ridiculous,” Yuuri repeated more emphatically.

“And you have more stamina than any skater I’ve seen,” Victor concluded. “Honestly, your free skate doesn’t take enough advantage—but oh, God, I’m babbling again.” Victor looked up at the ceiling. “Shut up, Victor; he doesn’t want to hear you critique his free skate program.”

Yuuri shook his head in bafflement, and then Victor turned back to him, supernova smile in place once more.

“I really, really like you. Promise you’ll still dance with me at the banquet if you take gold this time around.”

Yuuri stared at the man. He looked at their entwined hands—he hadn’t wanted to pull away—and their thighs, pressed together despite there being plenty of room in the backseat of the cab. That scent of Victor’s cologne—just a dab, lightly applied somewhere on his neck—swirled around him. This was too real to be a dream, too physical for him to have imagined it.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri said slowly. “But…have we talked before?”

Victor looked at him. Slowly, that brilliant smile faded from his face. He turned away. “Ouch.”

The word came out lightly. But…Yuuri could have sworn the man was actually hurt, which made no sense.

“Ah, damn.” Victor’s hand pulled from his. “Damn. That’s… No, no, it’s fine. I get it. Is it Christophe? Or do you have someone else at home?”

Yuuri swallowed. “No,” he said slowly. “No, I don’t. It’s just, I just… I’ve looked up to you for a really long time, you know? And at the Grand Prix final, you didn’t even know I was a fellow competitor.”

Victor winced. “No. You’re right. I didn’t realize it until the banquet. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that bothered you.”

Yuuri bit his lip.

“Of course it bothered you,” Victor said, a little more steadily. He gave a short nod, as if coming to a decision. “Damn, I should have got your number then, and we could have worked this out before now. I was just so blown away at the time, I couldn’t even think.”

The strangest thing about this conversation was that it didn’t feel strange. It should have felt intrusive, to have Victor this close to him. To have his fingers play across Yuuri’s wrist. It absolutely should have felt unnatural when Victor tapped Yuuri’s chin, tilting it up, looking into his eyes.

Instead, it felt right. As if all of Yuuri’s life up until this moment had been hummed subtly off key, and the moment Victor walked up to him and took his hand, the melodies asserted themselves as they should be.

“I’m sorry,” Victor said. “This is more complicated than I imagined. Let me make it up to you?”

His eyes were blue layered on gold. His mouth tilted up in a smile, and that damned cologne…

“No, no,” Yuuri said. “That’s not necessary.”

The cab stopped. They’d arrived.

Victor tapped his thumb against Yuuri’s lips. “Oh,” he said softly. “But it is necessary. If I’ve upset you in any way, I intend to make it right.”

#

The evening continued in that same bewildering vein. Victor insisted on paying the driver. He locked his hand in Yuuri’s, and then conducted him to the second floor of a crowded restaurant, where all the top men’s figure skating competitors were already seated around a table laden with dishes.

“Victor!” They were, of course happy to see him; Yuuri expected that. But…

“Yuuri!” said Cristophe Giacometti. “The man of the hour. I see Victor’s already laid claim to you.”

Yuuri had never been the man of the hour. For that matter, he’d never been the man of the minute.

But Victor’s hand tightened around Yuuri’s almost possessively. “Don’t answer,” he said lightly. “Christophe is just being a jerk.”

“Tch,” said Yuri Plisetsky from down the table. “I can’t believe you found him and brought him here. You know he’s just going to flub his jumps.”

“Yuri,” Christophe said patiently, “when you enter the senior division, you’ll discover that it’s not just about how high you jump, it’s about the motion you make while doing it. I’d explain more, but you’re still a minor, and I do have some standards.”

Yuuri choked.

“Try to be polite,” Victor said to the other Yuri, “unless you want to settle things with a dance off?”

“Oh, sick burn,” said Leo de la Iglesia, and for some reason, the Russian Yuri seemed to think that this baffling comment was, in fact, a sick burn, because he flushed red and muttered something under his breath about cheating and next time and disgusting.

Victor pulled Yuuri down to sit next to him. “Ignore Yuri,” he said. “We all do.”

“Hey, asshole, I’m right here! I can hear you!”

“He’s just jealous because you have more artistry when you fall on a jump than he has when he makes them.”

“Bitch, I know where you live!”

“I love you too, Yuri.”

“This is too confusing,” said Mila. “I knew this would happen. We can’t have two Yuris at the table. Yuri Plisetsky, from here on out, you’re Yurio.”

“What the hell? That’s not my name. And I was here first! Shouldn’t he be called Yurio?”

“Well, if you want to dance for it—”

For some reason, that baffling interjection left the entire table, except Yuuri, cackling—and Yuri Plisetsky frowning and muttering imprecations under his breath. Rinkmates and their inside jokes, he supposed.

“Are you sure you should be using that kind of language?” Mila said with a shake of her head. “You’re awfully young for it, Baby Yuri.”

“I’m not baby Yuri, you hag, and—”

“Isn’t it past your bedtime?” Victor said.

“It’s not even eight, I hate you all, just wait until I enter the senior division, I will kick your asses so hard, yes, even you, Mila, I don’t have to be directly competing against you to destroy you forever.”

“He’s loud,” Victor whispered in Yuuri’s ear, “but we love him. Don’t take anything he says seriously. He only yells at people he respects. He’s like a kitten, pouncing on anything that moves.”

Yuuri blinked, remembering that time a few months back in the bathroom. Respect? He looked over at the Russian Yuri—Yurio.

Yurio glared at him. “You’re gonna suck in your short program. Both of you. You and Victor. You’re both going to suck. I will be the only Yuri left standing. I will eat your skates.”

“Huh,” Yuuri said. “Respect.” And after that, he began to relax.

#

Victor fed him dessert.

That wasn’t even the weirdest part—Victor ordering tiramisu, holding up a bite on his fork, and leaning toward Yuuri, teasing him until he opened his mouth and let the delicious treat dissolve on his tongue.

The weirdest part was that nobody else at the table seemed to think this was weird. Mila didn’t gasp. Christophe just smiled. Emil just shrugged, as if it were absolutely normal for Victor to grab skaters he barely knew from the hotel lobby and then feed them dessert.

The only person who expressed any opinion at all was Yurio. “Get a room, you two,” he snarled.

“Don’t worry,” Victor said casually. “I have one.”

Did Victor do this so often that nobody even blinked an eye at it? How many of his fellow competitors had he seduced this way? Yuuri had a Google alert set for Victor’s name, and in all the gossip that swirled about the man, he’d never heard of anything like this. He really ought to have.

On the other hand, maybe Victor left his conquests so satisfied that they didn’t dare complain.

“Another bite,” Victor whispered.

“Sorry.” Yuuri felt his cheeks flush. “I have to compete in a few days. And it’s very good, but dairy doesn’t always agree with me…”

The smile slid off Victor’s face. “Oh, damn. I should be sorry. I should have asked. There’s a flourless chocolate cake; I can get that instead?”

“Why should you have asked? You were ordering for yourself.”

“I…” Victor shook his head. “But… Ah, well. It’s a couple miles back to the hotel. Want to walk back with me?”

“Uh…”

Victor grinned and tilted his head at the rest of the crowd. “They’ll be taking cabs. I want you all to myself, if you don’t mind.”

Yuri agreed in a helpless daze.

Victor was good at seduction. He probably had a long line of conquests. His friends were used to him deciding on a different nobody every time. They were so used to it, they didn’t even comment. And for some unknown reason, Victor Nikiforov had decided that Yuuri would be next in that line.

Yuuri should have been offended.

Instead… He couldn’t help thinking that this meant that he could have Victor’s full attention, even for just this evening.

Stupid Victor. Yuuri had been seduced by him years ago. He hadn’t needed tiramisu or dinner or a walk together to make him give in. He’d just needed Victor.

If Victor wanted to walk him back to the hotel and whisper sweet nothings in his ear the whole way, Yuuri planned to let him.

He planned to let him do everything.

#

Victor did not whisper sweet nothings.

“You know what I don’t understand?” Victor said, as they walked hand in hand along the boulevard. “I don’t understand why you don’t win more.”

Yuuri felt himself flush. “I do. It’s because I’m not as good as you. You don’t have to flatter me.”

“I’m not flattering you,” Victor said impatiently. “You have the skills to win. Your artistic interpretation is better than mine, and I’m as arrogant as they come, so if I’m admitting it, it must be true. You don’t get tired easily, and while you can’t land a quad flip or a quad loop yet, I’ve seen you in practice, and you’re pretty consistent with the toe loop and the Salchow. You should have placed at the Grand Prix final a few months ago.”

When had Victor ever seen him in practice? Yuuri blanked out, until he remembered the little segment that had aired a few weeks ago. It’s not like anyone could get a sense of him from that highly edited piece, anyway. It felt frankly bizarre to know that Victor must have seen that one video Japanese media had made of him practicing, after he’d won the national competition. Where else Victor would have seen him, Yuuri had no idea. It felt even more bizarre to have someone else echo his most arrogant thoughts, the ones he was afraid to even let himself think.

“Come on,” Yuuri said. “This is embarrassing. My total score at the Grand Prix final was a hundred points below yours, you know, and—”

“And it shouldn’t have been,” Victor said passionately. “What was going on?”

Yuuri swallowed. “My…my dog died the night before the competition.”

“Oh, no. I’m so sorry. I would have been devastated.”

“I was stressed because of the pressure, and…” He couldn’t make himself look at Victor. “And on top of all that, I suppose… I suppose I lack confidence. I always have.”

Victor didn’t say anything to that. He just kept hold of Yuuri’s hand as they walked, swinging it gently. Yuuri glanced over, to see the other man biting his lip pensively.

“It’s not new,” Yuuri said. “I’ve always been like this. No matter how prepared I am physically, I’m mentally weak.”

“Mmm.” Victor nodded. “It’s a little surprising to hear you say that. But it explains a lot. Is that why your free skate program is…like that?”

“Like what?”

“Well.” Victor swung their hands as they walked. “It’s safe. Even your short program is a little too safe, but I was especially wondering about your free skate program. Why are your biggest jumps in the first half?”

“Well, my coach thought, since I have difficulty landing in competition—”

“Your coach put your jumps in the first half?” Victor was beginning to look angry.

“Yes. He choreographs all my programs.”

“That’s ridiculous. You don’t have a problem landing jumps. You have a problem being confident. And when your own coach gives you a program that says that even he does not believe you are capable of landing jumps, that just undermines you yet again. You know what I would do, if I were choreographing your program?”

“Um. What?”

“I would give you three quads. Maybe four. I’d put them all in the back half of the program, because you can do it. I’d push up the difficulty level by twenty points—no, don’t frown—and when you looked at me like that, I would tell you in no uncertain terms that I believed you could do it. Because I do.”

Yuuri swallowed. He wasn’t sure what this feeling inside him was. It was something strange, something he couldn’t quite wrap his head around.

“Are you…just telling me this so that I’ll rearrange my program and mess it up?”

“Why would I do that?” Victor asked. “First, I like you. I wouldn’t screw you like that. Second, it makes no sense. You can’t beat me with your program as it is now. You can’t even come close. You’re not competition, not like this. But you could be.”

Yuuri looked over at Victor. In the moonlight, his hair shone like silver. He had a smile on his face—a mocking, taunting smile. He was still holding Yuuri’s hand.

“I skate best when I’m challenged,” Victor whispered. “Challenge me, Yuuri.”

“I…”

“I’m supposed to meet Yakov at nine tomorrow morning for practice,” Victor said. “I’ll tell you what. Meet me on the ice at seven, and we’ll go over your short program together. I did tell you I’d make up for not recognizing you as a competitor, didn’t I?”

“Fine,” Yuuri said. “Fine. I’ll meet you.”

For a while, they didn’t say anything. The evening was crisp, not cold, and the lights were beautiful. They walked, holding hands, leaning into each other. Victor’s hand enveloped his. He didn’t just hold it; he ran his thumb up and down Yuuri’s palm as they walked, and after a little bit, Yuuri responded, caressing him back.

He’d never been a conquest before. He didn’t know if he should keep the fact of his virginity to himself, because it might inconveniently spoil the mood, or if he should mention it to explain his inevitable fumbling inexperience.

Victor brought him up to his room. Yuuri rescued his room key from the jumble in his pockets and opened the door. Thank God he was naturally neat; he’d put away most of his equipment in the hotel drawers already.

Victor just smiled languidly down at him.

“Aren’t you going to come in?” Yuuri asked.

To his surprise, Victor just leaned down until their noses brushed. His lips tasted Yuuri’s for the barest of instants.

“If I come in,” Victor said, “we’re not likely to sleep, are we?”

Yuuri felt himself blush fiercely.

“We’re skating early in the morning. Better not.”

“Oh.” Yuuri tried to tamp down the stab of disappointment.

“And besides,” Victor said, “I want to savor this. We have plenty of time, don’t we?”

“We…do?” He’d thought that they would have a night. Maybe, if they were enthusiastic, it would spill into a morning. But apparently, Victor was thinking they might spend all of the World Championships doing…whatever this was. Maybe that’s why Chris had called Yuuri the man of the hour.

“We do,” Victor said.

Oh, what the hell. Yuuri was already blushing. He’d reached peak embarrassment a while back; it couldn’t get any worse. “Victor?”

“Mmm?”

“I still might not sleep.”

For some reason, Victor grinned in delight at this confession. “I know,” he said, brushing Yuuri’s cheek with his hand. “Me neither, I’m so happy. But we should try.”

#

On the ice, Victor was all business.

“Here,” he said seriously, handing Yuuri a paper cup with a cardboard sleeve. “I went over your short program from the Four Continents.” He pulled out a list he’d made of Yuuri’s jumps. “Were you planning on the same difficulty this time around?”

“Um, no. My coach changed this triple flip to a triple loop, and—”

“What?! He lowered the difficulty for Worlds?”

“Well, as it was, I was—”

“That’s ridiculous,” Victor said. “Does he not want you on the podium? Does he not think you can make it?”

Yuuri lowered his head. “He said if I skated well, I might end up…top ten?” It sounded arrogant to even admit that he thought he could do such a thing.

Victor emitted something like a low growl. “You made the Grand Prix finals this year, and he thinks you should maybe shoot to end up in the top ten? Oh, no he didn’t. I will track him down, and—”

“Victor, please stop. It’s okay. I just—he wants what’s best for me, he’s thinking of my weakness, and next year—”

“He’s not thinking at all,” Victor groused. “Does he understand this sport? There is no next year. No next competition. There’s only the one you’re in right now. One injury, one skating accident, and there is no future. You take what you have, when you have it, and you give it your all. Or what’s the point in doing it?”

Yuuri swallowed. Good advice, and for more than just skating.

“Jump higher. Move faster. Land better. That’s the only way you’ll move forward. Now tell me what you think you can do.”

Yuuri looked at the page before him. He could see the choreography in his mind, imagine himself speeding up this section here just a hair… The music would actually support that.

“Triple flip,” he said, tapping a jump. “A quad loop here. Switch this double and this quad Salchow for the points.”

“Good,” Victor said. “Keep going.”

And so he did. They spent an hour rearranging his short program, Victor making him practice sections over and over until he had the flow down.

“There,” Victor finally said. “I think you can practice on your own. Any advice for me?”

Yuuri looked over at him. “Victor. How could I advise you? That’s… That’s just nuts.”

Victor raised an eyebrow. “Is it? You’ve never had one critical thought about my short program? Not once? Or have you not watched it?”

Yuuri felt himself flush. Well. As it turned out…

Victor leaned in. Brushed Yuuri’s cheek with his finger. “Tell me what you’re thinking, Yuuri.”

“It’s nothing, really, it’s nothing. But, you know, just a few things. On the part where you come out of the Ina Bauer…”

Last night, Yuuri had thought that nothing would be more seductive than Victor feeding him tiramisu. This morning, he’d revised that thought—nothing was more seductive than Victor facing him with the megawatt power of his star smile, telling him that he was going to land that quad Salchow at the end, that he expected him to do it.

He had been wrong yet again. Victor asking him for advice—as if he were an equal, not a skating mortal compared to a god—and then taking it—that was the most seductive of all.

Yuuri was fairly certain that he wasn’t going to survive this championship intact. He was just as certain that he didn’t want to. He wanted this—all of this—for as long as Victor would have him.

#

Yuuri, dinner tonight?

The SNS came at about three PM—after Yuuri had finished his own practice session with his coach, ignoring the man’s flat looks as he worked Victor’s adaptations into his program.

Celestino had been more than a bit taken aback. “Yuuri, are you sure? This seems terribly ambitious. You should skate a program geared to your abilities.”

Yuuri had thought of Victor telling him that there was no competition but the one he was in. “I’m sure,” he had said.

He was sure of this, too. My rinkmate is also in town for world’s, he wrote back. Is it okay if he comes along?

Okay! It was my friends last night, so it’s only fair. As long as I get you to myself for a little while.

#

“Yuuri,” said Phichit halfway through dinner, when Victor had temporarily excused himself, “how is it that you failed to mention that you were dating Victor effing Nikiforov?”

Yuuri found himself blushing. “Shut up, Phichit. We’re not dating.”

“Oh, you’re just holding his hand and letting him kiss your knuckles and tell you that you’re ravishing in that color for no reason?”

“It’s not like that,” Yuuri started. But he stopped himself. “Okay, it’s exactly like that. But the way I see it is, um…” He trailed off.

“Um.” Phichit scowled at him. “Um is not nearly enough explanation. Spill it, girl.”

“It’s not dating,” Yuuri finally said with a sigh. “Victor just walked up to me yesterday at the hotel, took my hand, and announced I was going to dinner with him. I think he just…decides on someone he’s going to seduce for the tournament or something?”

“And you just went along with it?”

Yuuri flushed. “What was I going to say? ‘Victor, I’ve been fantasizing about you for years, please don’t touch me?’ Of course I went along with it.”

“Congratulations,” Phichit said in awe. “You big slut. I’m so proud of you.”

“I was a little taken aback at first,” Yuuri confessed. “It was the weirdest thing. Suddenly, he was like my best friend—”

“I’m your best friend.”

“Yes, of course you are,” Yuuri said hurriedly. “But he knew my skating programs and everything. He even brought me tea this morning—and he got his hands on genmaicha, which I haven’t been able to find here! How did he know that’s what I drink in the morning? Honestly, I would have been satisfied with him knowing my name. But no, Victor Nikiforov seduces the way he skates—like I’m the only thing in the world, and nobody stands a chance.”

“He’s good, then?”

“We actually—um, we… We actually haven’t… That is to say, I’m…still a virgin.”

Yuuri heard a choking noise behind him and turned rapidly. Victor was standing behind him, his eyes wide.

Oh. No.

“Um. Victor. Hi! How long have you been…um…”

“You’d be satisfied with my knowing your name?” Victor sounded incensed. “What the hell.”

“Phichit. You knew he was there.”

“Well, yes, but—”

“Never mind,” said Victor, sitting down next to Yuuri. “It’s fine, that’s fine. What were we talking about before I left?”

#

It wasn’t fine. Yuuri couldn’t quite figure out why Victor kept shooting him dark looks. He didn’t want him to have expectations, did he? Yuuri was a virgin, not an idiot. Celebrities didn’t just become miraculously handsy with their biggest fans because they wanted a long-term relationship. That’s not how this worked.

Victor shared a cab back to the hotel with Phichit and Yuuri, though, scarcely touching Yuuri.

He walked Yuuri to his room, his hands clasped together behind his back, his eyes dark and stormy. And when Yuuri paused there, wondering if he was even going to get a kiss tonight, Victor turned to him.

“For the record,” Victor said, “I found an interview with you from three years ago that said you had a cup of genmaicha in the morning. So I ordered some online when I was in Russia and brought it along this trip, on the off chance that you might share a room with me.”

Yuuri swallowed, shaken.

“I know your name,” Victor said. “I know your hometown. I know what your parents do for a living. I know you majored in linguistics at college, I know your birthday is November 29th, and I know that you used to have an adorable poodle named Vicchan.”

Yuuri found himself blushing.

“I know that nobody in the world believes in you the way I do. You changed my life at the Grand Prix banquet. You were the brightest, most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Go ask any of my rinkmates—Georgi, Mila, Yuri. Go ask Christophe or Emil; they were with me at the European championships. I have literally not stopped talking about you since that moment.”

Yuuri didn’t know what to do with this confession. It made no sense. He’d gone to the banquet, hid against the wall, and drank himself into a stupor of regret and sorrow. How the hell had Victor even noticed him? Why had he even cared? Did Victor have a soft spot for despairing, failing drunks?

“Oh,” he said stupidly.

“I redid the choreography for my short program after that banquet so it was about meeting you. I redid my free skate so that it was about missing you,” Victor said. “And I will be damned if you watch me skate tomorrow and imagine that I’m thinking of anyone but you.”

Yuuri shook his head, unsure what to do with this.

“You deserve someone who thinks you can make all your jumps,” Victor said. “And Christ, really? You’d let me take your virginity just because I knew your goddamned name? Have some standards.”

It was really too much. How was Yuuri supposed to understand any of this? Victor was the inexplicable genius, the one who made up his mind to have something and pursued it. Yuuri just wanted to be pursued, dammit.

“It’s my virginity,” he said quietly. The words still seemed forceful. “I can give it up to anyone I want, any way I want, for whatever reason I want. It’s not like I’ve lacked opportunity before now.”

Victor paled. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I have standards,” Yuuri said. “High standards, if you want to know the truth. Here’s the biggest one: I didn’t want to have sex with someone when I knew I was going to be imagining you the entire time. It’s not that I’ve been waiting for someone to know my name. I’ve been waiting for someone who could make me forget yours.”

It was Victor’s turn to stare at him stupidly. “Oh,” Victor finally said. “Oh.”

“For the record, my poodle, Vicchan? He’s named after you.”

A third time: “Oh.”

“I’m going to demolish you in the short program tomorrow,” Yuuri heard himself promise. In the back of his mind, he could hear his more careful self screaming. No, no, Yuuri, what are you doing? Why are you challenging Victor Effing Nikiforov, of all people, to a skate off? “And when I do, Nikiforov, you’re coming back to my room, and this time, you’re coming in. And you’re going to do exactly as I say. Do you hear me?”

Victor’s eyes glowed. “Loud and clear, Katsuki. But if I outperform you, you’re coming back to my room, then. And don’t think I’ll let you off easily. Now that I know the truth, you’re never getting away.”

#

Victor had a suite on the top floor of the hotel, one that was almost the size of the apartment Yuuri had shared with Phichit in Detroit. Victor poured out glasses of bubbly water with a squeeze of lime—“We shouldn’t drink mid-competition,” he murmured as he passed the flute to Yuuri—and pointedly did not look in the direction of the bedroom.

Instead, Victor sat on the couch.

“A quarter of a point,” Yuuri said. “A quarter of a point between us, and you had to get another world record, didn’t you? I would have beaten you in any other competition.”

“Best PCS score I’ve ever achieved,” Victor said, “and it’s all your fault, Yuuri. You’re adorable when you sulk. Come here anyway. Aren’t you supposed to do as I say?”

Yuuri’s heart was beating hard. “Yes. Of course. What…what do you want with me?” He hoped they started slow. Kissing. Maybe moving to blow jobs or something. As excited and willing as he was, he didn’t know if he could just jump right into the hardcore stuff…

Victor patted the seat on the couch next to him, and Yuuri came to sit next to him. Their thighs touched. Victor draped his arm around him.

“Yuuri,” he said, “do you know what’s coming next?”

Yuuri had some idea. There was porn, after all, and even without porn—which Yuuri suspected was probably overblown, since it didn’t seem possible that people who had not taken ballet were that bendy on a regular basis—there were plenty of articles online covering everything from blowjobs to rimming to anal.

Yuuri flushed. “I’m a virgin,” he said, “but I’m a virgin with internet access. I have some idea.”

Victor just grinned at him. “You have no idea, because I get to tell you what we’re doing tonight. Tonight, we’re looking at pictures of Makkachin.”

Yuuri tilted his head. “Makkachin. Your dog?”

Victor retrieved a tablet from the table. “My dog,” he said. “The best dog, the most wonderful dog. Here’s Makkachin when he was a puppy. Oh my god, this picture—one of my favorites—Makkachin chewed the laces off my skates…”

Victor showed him pictures of St. Petersburg, his dog, his competitions, his dog, his rinkmates, his dog

“I’m saving the best for later,” he told Yuuri, turning off his phone as the Victor on his camera roll started looking more and more like his present-day self. “It’s your turn.”

So Yuuri shared his pictures in return—Vicchan, when he was a puppy, then Hasetsu, Mari and her pictures with Vicchan, his time in Detroit, a road trip with Phichit to the Grand Canyon.

It was ten by the time they finished.

“Sleep with me?” Victor asked. “And I do mean sleep. Because we’re getting up early to go over your free skate program, you know. Just because there’s a day off between programs doesn’t mean we can rest. How else are you going to get me back to your room to have your way with me?”

Yuuri shouldn’t have been able to sleep, not after that. Especially not after he stripped down to his underwear and borrowed one of Victor’s shirts. Not when he climbed into bed and Victor threw an arm around him, pulling him close. Not when his heart beat with excitement at Victor’s proximity. But Victor pressed a kiss against his forehead and…

And it really had been a long day, starting with morning practice, and ending with the short program event.

“Good night,” he said.

“Good night.”

#

“Wake up, sleeping beauty.”

Yuuri frowned and turned over. He had no idea where he was. What he was doing. The room seemed large, and the clock read five in the morning. What the hell. He managed an incoherent groan.

“Come on,” Victor said, “what are you waiting for? Up, up, up. Time is wasting.”

“Oh my god.” Yuuri buried his head in the pillow. “You’re a morning person.”

“Mmm. I made you tea.”

Yuuri turned his head. Yes. Tea. He reached out and took a hold of the cup and inhaled. “Nice.”

“Very nice,” Victor said. “And I have breakfast, because we need to go practice.”

“Practice? At five in the morning?”

“Of course,” Victor said. “How else will we get through both of our free skate programs together?”

#

It turned out that Victor was an absolute madman at practice. They spent two hours refining Yuuri’s program, pushing, pushing, pushing until Yuuri was ready to scream. Then they started talking about Victor’s, and for some reason…

For some reason, Yuuri had opinions, and today, he wasn’t afraid to use them. “Look,” he said, “that step sequence… You can do so much better than that, you’re not using your hips, see, if you’d push off like this…”

Victor Nikiforov, four-time world champion, was listening to him. He was taking Yuuri’s advice. He was using it, and his program was getting better for it.

By the time Celestino arrived at the rink, sometime around nine thirty, Yuuri had discovered that he was actually better at spins. Better. At spins. Then Victor Effing Nikiforov.

Victor didn’t bother to deny it, either.

#

“It’s too much,” Celestino was saying five hours later. “You’re missing your last jumps, and you know that you always underperform under pressure, Yuuri. I know you have some idea that you can put together a technical program that—”

He stopped as another skater came to an abrupt halt next to them in a spray of ice. Yuuri looked over. It was Yurio—small and angry, like a tiny bristling mountain lion. His hands clenched into fists and he glowered up at Yuuri. “So are you coming to lunch with us or not?” he demanded.

“Um…”

“Yuuri still has to practice,” Celestino said. “He’s flubbing his jumps—”

Of course he’s flubbing his jumps,” Yurio said with a roll of his eyes. “First, he’s an incompetent idiot of a skater who I expect will crash every single fucking landing tomorrow, and second, he hasn’t eaten since five thirty this morning. What kind of a moron tries to do quad toe loops when he’s so hungry his hands are shaking?”

Celestino looked at Yuuri’s hands. “Oh,” he said in surprise. “Really? I thought…”

“I got here a few hours early,” Yuuri explained.

“In that case…”

Celestino left, and Yuuri was left to look at Yurio. The boy just rolled his eyes. “Not only are you an incompetent idiot, your coach is an incompetent idiot. Everyone knows that if you practice jumps when you’re worn out you’ll just learn to do them wrong.”

“Uh. Thanks?”

Yurio shrugged this off. “We’re meeting outside the locker room in ten minutes. Don’t think we’ll wait for you, moron.”

We turned out to be the Russian contingent once again—Georgi, Mila, Anya, Yuri, and Victor. Victor’s eyes lit up when he saw Yuuri.

“Yuuri! You’re coming to lunch with us?”

“I was kind of dragged into it,” Yuuri said, and Victor captured his hand again.

They found a small cafe near the rink. The waiter had just delivered bread and drinks, when…

“So,” Mila said, “Vitya, did you finally get laid?”

Victor spat out his drink.

“Oh my God,” Anya said. “You’re right. He did! Congratulations on the sex, you two!”

“Shut up!” Yurio snapped, turning bright red. “There are minors present! Think of my innocent ears.”

Yurio was not the only one blushing. Yuuri could feel his face heating. His whole body. Of course, of course everyone assumed they’d had sex. They slept together. They were holding hands.

“You’re cute together,” Georgi said. “Not as cute as me and Anya, but still cute.”

“I apologize,” Victor said to Yuuri. “My friends are terrible. Truly terrible.”

“So, Yuuri, have you called him Vitya yet?” Mila practically cooed.

“Do you even know about Russian forms of endearment?” Anya said. “Victor wants you to call him Vitya, you know.”

“Only if he wants to,” Victor said, in a voice that sounded suspiciously like a whimper, “and…”

“But how will he even know if you don’t tell him? In fact, that’s good advice for just about everything in the bedroom.”

“Gah.” Yurio shook his head. “Stop it, all of you. Stop this stupidity this very instant.”

“You know who gets to talk about my sex life?” The tips of Victor’s ears were red, almost as if he were embarrassed. Yuuri found that particular shade of pink fascinating. He hadn’t thought that it was possible to embarrass Victor. He was older—four years older—and more experienced, and for God’s sake, he was one of the hottest bachelors around, and a worldwide heartthrob. But he was blushing.

“Everyone who landed a quad flip in practice, that’s who gets to talk about my sex life,” Victor concluded.

Yurio slammed a fist on a table. “No fair! I’m not even allowed to do quads yet!”

Victor turned to him. “I thought you didn’t want to hear this, let alone talk about it.”

“I don’t, but that doesn’t mean you can tell me what to do. Suck it, you bag of dicks.”

“Oh no,” Mila said, “Yuuri is blushing, too.” She turned to him, which made Yuuri blush even more. “I know you just got here, and we don’t really know you, and it must seem really mean to tease you like this.”

“Ehhh…” Yuuri managed.

“I’m sorry if we’re making you feel uncomfortable. I like you. I just didn’t think you were the kind of person to be phased by this kind of thing. You know, you’re the confident, assertive, type.”

Confident? Assertive? What the hell was even happening? Had the entire group somehow confused him with JJ Leroy?

“If you only knew how many years of shit-talking we have had to put up with from Victor,” Georgi said sadly, “you would understand.”

“So many years.” Mila sighed. “So much shit.”

“So many fucking years,” said Anya. “The payback is real.”

“Oh,” said Yuuri, his face burning. “It’s okay. It’s kind of funny.” And it was. They were teasing Victor, but there was a lot of love in it. And he didn’t get the impression that Victor minded. He was blushing, yes, but also…it was cute. “I guess you…don’t have to stop.”

Victor frowned at him. “Did you land a quad flip in practice, Yuuri? No? Then I don’t think you can say anything, either.”

“Huh,” Yuuri said. Somehow, being around people who thought he was confident and assertiive made him feel…more secure. Which is probably why he heard someone say, in his own voice, “but I don’t think you really thought that rule through.”

“Hmm?”

Yuuri’s face was so hot he could have cooked an egg on it. Still, though—Yuuri wasn’t sure how—he found the nerve to arch a brow in Victor’s direction. “If I can’t talk about your sex life,” he said, “how will I tell you what to do later tonight?” And then he clapped a hand over his mouth, because holy crap how had those words come out of there?

“Oh my God!” Mila waved her hands excitedly. “Victor, I think I love him.”

“He’s the shit-talking boyfriend that Victor deserves!” declared Georgi.

Victor didn’t say anything about that boyfriend, didn’t disclaim it, didn’t say that this was just for the competition.

“Fuck you all!” growled Yurio. “There are children present. Will someone please think of the goddamned children?”

Victor just looked at Yuuri with brilliant, shining eyes, as if he had said the best thing ever.

“Fine,” Mila said. “Fine. We’ll be nice to you, Vitya. We won’t tease you hardly at all. I mean, it’s not like this is funny or anything.”

“Okay, but can we please not stop yet?” Anya interjected. “Story time. You know who I talked to today? Phichit Chulanont.”

“Oh,” said Georgi, “Phichit! Our man Phichit.”

Their man Phichit? “Um. I didn’t know you guys knew Phichit.” In fact, Yuuri was pretty sure they didn’t. Phichit hadn’t said anything at dinner or at practice. Hell, Phichit had never mentioned anyone at this table, and he was such a gossip that he would have.

Anya waved a hand. “Victor made us all follow him on Instagram and Vine so we could talk about you.”

Um. “What? How?”

“How are you so dumb?” Yurio glared at him. “Of course we follow Phichit! How do you think we all know how you skate in practice, you cow-brained moron? It’s not like you ever post anything on social media. Dimwit!”

“So anyway,” Anya said, brushing off these baffling revelations as if they were nothing, “I sort of accidentally on purpose went over to adjust my laces next to him at the side of the rink? He was taking pictures of Vitya talking to Yuuri.”

“Oh,” Yuuri said, wincing. “Oh dear.”

“And I may have wondered aloud if they’d, um…”

“Oh.” Yuuri squeezed his eyes shut. “Dear.”

“So Phichit dropped the biggest bomb. He said something about Yuuri having fifteen posters of a certain someone on his wall.”

Victor’s ears turned a brighter red.

Yuuri felt his entire face heat. “I do not.”

“Oh, too bad,” Victor said. “I thought that sounded…sweet.”

Yuuri looked up to see Victor fighting a smile. Not a mean smile or a triumphant smile. A giddy, brilliant smile, the smile of someone who was as delighted in Yuuri as Yuuri was in him. It was a strange and beautiful feeling. He had no idea what was happening, or why, but somehow, some way, Victor Nikiforov had figured out that Yuuri existed, and he seemed to like him despite having personal knowledge of his shortcomings.

Maybe that was why Yuuri finally gave in. “It’s not fifteen,” he admitted with a sigh. “It’s seventeen. Eighteen, if you count the framed photo on my bedside table.”

Mila let out a little shriek. “This is the cutest World Championship ever. Vitya, you’re going to be so happy. And I am going to give you so much shit for it.”

#

“I honestly have no idea what is going on,” Yuuri said later that night, when they’d retreated to Victor’s room. “And that is, to put it bluntly, the mildest way I can express myself. I walked into the hotel thinking, don’t choke, don’t choke, maybe try to talk to one new person. The next thing I knew you were dragging me to dinner and suddenly all your friends are telling me how confident and cute I am. What is even happening?”

“Um.” Victor insinuated his hand in Yuuri’s. “I didn’t think this was hard to figure out. You’re currently in second at the World Championships.”

“Yes, and what the hell is that?”

“And you’re currently in my room,” Victor said.

“Which makes absolutely no sense. You’re Victor fucking Nikiforov.”

Victor just smiled and brought up Yuuri’s hand so he could kiss it. “And you’re Katsuki fucking Yuuri. You are cute. I think you’re beautiful, and fun, and one of the best skaters I’ve known. Honestly, if you perform your free skate like you did in practice, you can beat me.”

“That’s another thing,” Yuuri muttered, yanking his hand away. “You have this idea that just because I can do this program, I will. You seem to think I’m on your level.”

Victor reached out and took his hand back. He turned it over, tracing little figure eights on his palm. “Yuuri. How are you not on my level? You are literally 0.24 points away from me after I set a world record on my short program.”

“That was an accident,” Yuuri said baldly. “This whole thing is an accident. It feels like you’re confusing me with someone else.”

“That was your short program score? 115.81?”

“Yes, but… That was seriously an accident! I was so focused on impressing you in the short program that somehow, I never got anxious. But tomorrow is different, and you seem to think I’m this confident person. I’m not. I’m mentally weak. I have been my entire career. That’s why I’ve never matched you. That’s why I never will.”

“Mentally weak.” The figure eights on Yuuri’s palm turned into three-point turns. “What do you mean, you’re mentally weak?”

“I get anxious.” The words sounded ugly when Yuuri said them aloud, confessing the worst part about him to the person he most wanted to impress. “My heart races. My hands get clammy. My skates feel like they weigh forty pounds. Sometimes I can barely even see, and it’s not just because I take my glasses off, you know? My anxiety is so bad that I have a prescription for it. Sometimes, if I’m not in training, I’ll use it just so I can get through the day. But it’s not safe to skate and take the medication. So.”

“Oh.” Victor’s arm came around him.

Yuuri didn’t understand why Victor was holding him when he’d just confessed his worst secret.

“So there you are,” he said. “That’s what happened at the Grand Prix final. You seem to have this idea that I’m this confident, brilliant skater, and one of these days, you’re going to figure out that you’re not. Ask Yurio—he found me crying in the bathroom afterward.”

“He told me,” Victor said absently.

“He—what? You knew?”

“Mmm.”

“You knew, and you win everything, everything all the time, and…and…you…”

“Mmm,” Victor said again. “He told me, and I thought… Oh. Maybe Yuuri will understand.”

Yuuri blinked. He didn’t understand. Victor was the champion of everything; how could Yuuri’s weakness connect them? But he was beyond protesting.

And Victor looked at their interlaced hands and shook his head. “My parents died when I was ten. I had just started to achieve success as a skater. They left me a little money. I fell to the care of my uncle, though. He didn’t think much of skating, but when I said I wanted to keep on under Yakov, he shrugged and said I could do so until the money from my parents ran out.”

Yuuri held his hand, and held his breath.

“Skating is expensive,” Victor said. “There are coaching fees, rink fees, housing. You know. Then there are costumes and choreography. My parents left me enough for one year. One year of skating, that was all I had. If I wanted to keep going, I was going to have to win prize money. A lot of prize money.” Victor shrugged. “For the first three years, I… I couldn’t afford to miss a podium at a competition. I told everyone I was doing my own choreography because I knew myself best, but the truth is I needed to do it to save money.”

Yuuri tilted his head. Victor was still idly stroking his palm, but he was looking off in the distance. There was something almost vulnerable about him. This was not the Victor Nikiforov Yuuri had seen in interviews, always confident, always sure of himself.

“I almost ran out of money three times. There was a point where it was so close I had to sell my extra set of skates. I pawned my medals.”

“Oh, no.”

“I got my first sponsorship when I was thirteen, and things mostly improved after that. But those three years… I had all these nights where I’d stay awake, think of the bills I had to pay, knowing that I’d lose my entire world if I messed things up.”

“Oh,” Yuuri said softly. “Vitya. I’m sorry.”

“And of course you know the Victor Nikiforov story after that. Things turned around, and once I started winning everything in juniors, I got real sponsorships and advertising money. But once you’ve got in the habit of worrying, it’s hard to stop. I know it’s irrational, but I always feel like I’m one loss away from disaster.”

Yuuri leaned his head against his shoulder.

“When I joined seniors, it took me a while to start winning again. Maybe, I think, my first few seasons were terribly inconsistent because I had to prove to myself that I could lose. That it was allowed. That I could make a mistake and not have my world collapse around me. I had to learn that I could lose before I could start winning again. So, yes, Yurio told me about your crying in the bathroom, and I thought…maybe you would understand.”

It was strange. Victor Nikiforov was not a god. Yuuri had begun to realize that before, but this was proof. He was…human, and somehow all the sweeter for it.

“You’re Victor,” Yuuri said. “I didn’t expect you to be…this, too.”

“What,” Victor said, “a giant liar? Everyone always talks about how effortless my skating is. What they don’t know is that it’s hard every time. I just can’t let anyone know how hard.”

They didn’t say anything for a while after that. They sat on the couch, holding hands, holding each other, Yuuri feeling his world shift in the best possible way. He had never been able to believe that Victor Effing Nikiforov would take an interest in him for anything except a meaningless fuck. But Victor—this Victor—might.

“It’s interesting, what you told me about anxiety,” Victor said. “You said you were mentally weak, and I’m curious why you think that.”

“Uh,” Yuuri said, “because sometimes I stop breathing, miss all my jumps, and land in rock bottom?”

“That’s not what I heard,” Victor said. “Your anxiety is serious enough that you’ve been prescribed medication, which you can’t take if you want to skate. And yet you qualified for the Grand Prix final. You won your national championship. You’re here at the World Championships, in second place after the short program, behind only the four-time World Champion, Victor Nikiforov.”

“Enh, but—”

“You’ve accomplished the exact same thing that I’ve accomplished in this competition, except you did it with anxiety,” Victor said. “You’re not mentally weak. You’re so strong that you can outskate everyone else here wearing forty pound skates.”

“I—but—that is—” Yuuri frowned. Nobody had ever put it quite like that.

“And you thought that telling me this would make me like you less?”

“Um. Yes?”

Victor’s fingers curled, hooking around Yuuri’s, pulling him close. Their noses brushed, and Yuuri inhaled. There it was—that hint of cologne, bringing with it a wave of rising interest.

“Wrong,” Victor said. And he kissed Yuuri.

Somehow, in the whirlwind of the last few days, in that weird space where Victor acted like he knew Yuuri, where their friends all thought they had banged… Somehow, Yuuri himself had forgotten that they’d barely kissed, and that only once.

He remembered it now. Remembered it as Victor pulled an arm around his waist, dragging him close. He remembered it far too well as their mouths came together, lips and tongue tasting each other. The touch was light at first, and then—as they grew used to the idea of each other—deeper, more.

Victor shed his shirt first. Skating left little room for fat on the body; Yuuri ran his hands down Victor’s chest, touching the rippling muscle, down his abdomen, and then up.

“Oh, God,” Victor whispered. “That’s nice. So nice.”

Yuuri touched him again, and again, growing bolder with every caress. He dared to thumb Victor’s nipples, and was rewarded with a heavy gasp when he did.

“Let me,” Victor said. “Let me touch you, too.”

And so he did. There were a few moments of overwhelming shyness—when Victor unsnapped his jeans, when Yuuri slid his hands up Victor’s thighs for the first time.

The first time when Victor stroked the length of his erection through his underwear.

“Nice,” Victor said.

Yuuri shut his eyes. “Do it again.”

The warmth of Victor’s touch shot through him, an electric bolt spearing him from one end to the other.

“It’s almost midnight,” Victor said.

“Mmm. Do it again.”

“The free skate is tomorrow,” Victor said. “And… I… I hate to be rational and everything, but…we need to stop.”

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Yuuri exhaled, burying his face in Victor’s shoulder. “Okay,” he muttered. “Okay.”

“Sleep with me?” Victor asked, casually.

The shirt Victor loaned Yuuri smelled like him. It didn’t matter that the bed was soft and the room was dark. It didn’t matter that he’d worn himself out in practice. Yuuri could feel Victor’s presence close, so close. It was different, now that he knew what he looked like. What he tasted like. What his hand felt like, running the length of his erection.

Now Yuuri knew how close Victor was, and now he wanted him.

He forced himself to lie in place, teeth gritted, ordering his mind to stop conjuring up images of Victor’s chest, the bulge in his underwear. He had to fall asleep. The free skate was tomorrow. If he tossed and turned, he’d disturb Victor.

He had to go to sleep. He had to. Too bad his erection had another idea entirely. By the clock in the room, the minutes ticked by slowly. One. Two. Ten. He was still thinking about Victor. About what Victor had done to him, what he wanted to do back. Twelve. Fifteen.

God, they hadn’t even taken off their underwear. This was a bad, bad sign.

Twenty.

“Yuuri,” came Victor’s voice, gentle in the dark. “You can’t sleep, either?”

“I, um.”

Victor rolled over. Close to him, warm and oh, softer than he’d have imagined.

“I think,” Yuuri said carefully, “I should probably go to my room.” Where he could rub one out and sleep without Victor to distract him.

“Mmm. Maybe. But I’d miss you.”

Victor’s hand was on his bicep, and…

And that part of Yuuri, the confident part, the assertive part, the one that had teased Victor earlier, that had promised to tell him what to do… That part came to life.

“Or,” Yuuri heard himself say, “if you’re having the same problem I am, I could help you take care of yourself.”

There was a long pause. Then a low moan. “Yuuri. You’re going to kill me.”

“No,” Yuri said. “I won’t.” He slid closer to the man. “I’m going to make you feel really, really good.”

He wasn’t sure what had got into him, but he leaned down and kissed Victor’s neck.

“Ahhh.”

He was so responsive. So interested. Victor gasped underneath him, and Yuuri took pleasure in it.

He found his nipple with his tongue. Felt the man jolt, his arm go around him.

“There,” Victor said. “That. Do that. Do you mind…?”

“No,” Yuuri said. “Do it. Can I touch with you?”

“Yes.” The word was hot, urgent, whispered in his ear. “Yes, I want you to touch.”

So the first time Yuuri touched Victor’s cock was in the dark. With his lips on the man’s chest, his body pressed against him, his own erection hard against Victor’s hip. He let his hand slide on top of the other man’s, let himself get used to the rhythm of Victor’s strokes, the way he liked to pause at the end, the way his breath came undone as he came closer.

“Yuuri,” Victor said. “Yuuri. You’re so perfect.”

Nobody had ever thought Yuuri was perfect before. Victor came with a growl, his hand speeding up.

It was probably the hottest, most wonderful moment in his entire life. He’d done that—he’d taken apart Victor Nikiforov, world heartthrob. He’d made him come.

And then the next moment was hotter. “Your turn,” Victor said, turning to him. “Can I…?”

“Yes,” Yuuri said. “Yes. Everywhere. Anywhere.”

He wouldn’t have thought that Victor would be tentative about this, but he was at first. Kissing him. Touching him. Sliding his hands down Yuuri’s abdomen as if he were trying to memorize him.

“There,” Yuuri said. “Touch me there.” He was touching himself, firm, strong strokes. He’d touched himself before, but this, this, with Victor’s hands on him, his mouth on him, magnifying everything… This was more. Bigger. Harder. Better.

“Do you like this?” Victor asked.

“Yes.”

“This?” His lips kissed their way down Yuuri’s chest.

Yes.”

“This?” Down his abdomen.

“Yes,” Yuuri was chanting. “Yes. Yes.”

“And this?” His lips touched the end of Yuuri’s penis, interrupting his strokes, and Yuuri didn’t care, didn’t care at all, it was so hot, so perfect.

“Yes,” Yuuri said. “Yes, yes, oh fuck, yes, more, please, please don’t stop, god. I’m going to come. Victor. Victor. There.”

Holy shit. Holy shit. Everything was different, and still the same. The bed was still soft. The room was still dark. Everything was warmer, though, and Victor was cuddled against him.

“Was that okay?” Victor’s voice was breathless.

“Oh my god,” Yuuri heard himself say. “More than okay.”

“Good.”

“It was the best,” Yuuri said. “The absolute best.” He yawned. “Victor, you better fucking skate like hell tomorrow because if I win, I am coming for your ass.”

For a moment, there was silence. Then he realized what he had said—oh, God, what would Victor think? Had he really said that out loud?

“Well,” Victor finally said, “that’s convenient, because if I win, you’ll be coming for my ass, too. But since we both need to sleep…maybe now is not the time to work ourselves up about it.”

#

They could hear the commentators from the podium.

“And that’s Victor Nikiforov, silver medalist, giving the gold medalist, Katsuki Yuuri, a hug.”

“Yes, you know, sometimes these close matches can turn into rivalries, but we saw Katsuki and Nikiforov in practice earlier today. It looked like they were actually working through each other's programs together. There’s a real friendship there.”

Friendship. Yes. It was that, all of that, and…

“Honestly, I’ve been trying to get the inside scoop on that,” said one of the other commentators. “Apparently, they met at the Grand Prix final earlier in the season, and hit it off really well. There’s some kind of story there, but nobody’s really talking…”

Oh, skating gossip. Always the furthest thing from the truth. Yuuri couldn’t help but smile. If they knew the real truth of the Grand Prix—that Victor hadn’t even known who he was—they’d probably be as baffled by this turn of events as Yuuri himself.

And yet somehow, he was here. On the podium. Standing above Victor. Who had promised to do anything he wanted if he won.

Yuuri wasn’t entirely sure what he’d done to deserve this, and part of him was still convinced that he was going to wake up at any moment, but…

Well, if this was a dream, he was going to enjoy it to the utmost.

“Congratulations,” Victor said from his place on the podium just beneath Yuri. “So what exactly am I going to be doing tonight?”

Yuuri smiled. But for the first time that night, his anxiety started to assert himself. What the hell had he been thinking? You’ll do whatever I say. Haaaa. This was Victor Nikiforov, international heartthrob, hottest man alive. And he was supposed to do what Yuuri wanted? Yuuri was supposed to put what he wanted in words?

This… This was not going to go well.

He managed a shaky smile. “I’ll think of something.”

#

They didn’t say much on their way up to Yuuri’s room. Their eyes met in the elevator, and in Yuuri’s gut he felt something like excitement mixed with nausea.

We’re doing this. And also: Oh, fuck, what are we even doing?

Victor met his gaze calmly, as if he expected Yuuri would have it all under control.

Yuuri was not quite in a blind panic by the time they got to his room, but he was close. His heart pounded heavily in his chest. He’d already started to imagine Victor laughing at him—God, Victor somehow thought he was hot, and he was actually quite ordinary, and this was all a mistake and Victor was going to realize it…

He opened his door, pulled Victor in, and pushed up for a kiss in something like a blind panic.

Victor set his fingers on Yuuri’s lips. “Wait. Before we start, I have… Can I just tell you something first? I’m not going back on anything. I want to do…everything. But…”

But everything was already going wrong, and Yuuri could do nothing to stop it. “Of course,” Yuuri said.

He had no couch in his room, just a bed. They sat, and Victor took out his phone. “The other night, I showed you pictures of St. Petersburg and my dog and my home and… And I skipped some of the most important pictures to me. Can I show you them first?”

Anything to put off Victor’s inevitable disappointment. “Sure.”

Victor thumbed his phone open and brought up his camera roll, navigating into a folder. His face was pink, and gently—nervously, Yuuri thought, why would Victor be nervous?—he handed over his phone. “Here. Start here.”

Yuuri was looking at his own face, flushed and arrogant, right up in the lens of the camera. He frowned.

“What? What’s this?”

“From the Grand Prix banquet, of course,” Victor said shyly. “I… I don’t know if you noticed, the way my rinkmates were teasing me at lunch the other day. But… It turns out…” His voice dropped. “You… You aren’t the only one of us that’s a virgin.”

“What?! But how—”

“Crushing desperation about losing when I was younger,” Victor said, “followed by…well, a lot of work, and the fact that every time I got close to someone, I’d hear nothing but, oh, you’re so bruised, you should take a break… Pfft. I didn’t want to have sex with someone who didn’t understand me, and that meant I was looking for someone who understood skating.”

“But you’re Victor Nikiforov, hottest man alive,” Yuuri said blankly.

Victor gave Yuuri a shallow grin. “I did tell you I was a liar. And, you know, the other night, after our bet about the short program, when I showed you pictures of Makkachin?”

“Actually, that was really fun.”

“I wanted to do more,” Victor said. “But I chickened out. Deep down, I was actually…kind of glad you won tonight. It took the pressure off me.”

“But you’re an international heartthrob,” Yuuri said. “Reporters have written articles about your love affairs.”

Victor ducked his head. “Sorry I got mad at you the other day when I lectured you about standards for giving up your virginity thing. It wasn’t my place to criticize.”

“It’s okay.” Yuuri pulled him close.

“I just wanted to think that when I gave up mine, it would mean something to you. I wasn’t trying to tell you what to do, or how you should think. I honestly don’t care what your past is. I wanted you when I thought you were a playboy.”

“Wait, you thought I was a playboy?” Yuuri frowned. “Where the hell did you get that idea?”

“The banquet at the Grand Prix final, duh.” Victor gestured to his phone. “We got sidetracked. I was telling you how I saw it. Where were we? Right. I was waiting for the right person. And then you walked up to my rinkmates and me, drunk off your ass, at the banquet.”

Yuuri blinked and looked down at the image of himself on the phone. There he was, bright red—stupid Asian flush—and definitely drunk off his ass, gesturing with a champagne bottle. “I did what?”

Victor didn’t notice Yuuri’s disbelief.

“I know,” he said with a soft chuckle. “You walked up to us, looking as hot as that. And you said, ‘Yuri Plisetsky, you little shit, if you think you’re better than me than take me on in a dance battle.’”

Victor thought he looked hot? “I said that?”

“It was so great.” Victor gave a happy sigh. “At first, I tried to calm things down between the two of you. But you looked at me and said, ‘Just because you have a great ass does not mean I’m going easy on you. Just try me, Victor.’”

“Oh, God. No. I said that? At a banquet? In front of everyone?”

“It was my favorite thing that has ever happened at any banquet anywhere.” Victor was flipping happily through photos on his phone. “Here,” he said, “here, this is the point right here when I asked you who you were, and you said, ‘It’s Katsuki Yuuri, and you better not forget my name again.’”

“I’m dead, I’m dead.”

“It took me… Maybe fifteen minutes?”

Victor flips through the photos, burbling delightedly about Yuuri and how much fun he had. There is actual proof that this all happened, even though Yuuri has no memory of it. But there he is, pawing at the ground and making fake horns at Victor, who’s flapping his jacket at him as if it were a red cloak.

“There,” Victor said. “There. That’s the exact moment when I knew I wanted it to be you.”

More photos—Yuuri dipping Victor, grabbing hold of his thigh. Oh, holy shit. Was that a pole? Was Yuuri in his underwear? In front of all the skating officials? How had anyone let this happen? Why hadn’t anyone stopped him?

“Here,” Victor said, his voice getting thick. “In the photo before, I knew I wanted it to be you. This? This is the moment when I knew I needed it to be you. I knew that nobody else in the entire world would do. I wanted your hands on me. Your thighs against mine. Your mouth—”

“Oh my god.” Yuuri put his head in his hands.

Victor pulled away and contemplated him. “Is that shallow? I guess it sounds shallow. I mean, you’re incredibly hot, but it wasn’t just that, it was, it was this beautiful connection, you see? Tell me you felt it the way I did. Just a little bit.”

The man looked so hopeful. Yuuri couldn’t bear to break his heart. But he couldn’t bear to lie to him either.

“Victor,” Yuuri said. “I’m sorry. I was so incredibly drunk. I don’t remember any of this.”

There was a long pause. Victor’s face went blank. “You…don’t…remember.”

“I remember going to the banquet. Glaring at you. Drinking. Staggering up to my room, and waking up with a splitting headache.”

“Wait.” Victor stood. “So you thought I just walked up to you in the hotel lobby, having never spoken to you before, and demanded you come to dinner with me?”

“Pretty much,” said Yuuri. “That’s how it happened.”

“When you told me that we hadn’t really spoken before, that’s what you meant. You weren’t trying to put me in my place. You meant that you literally believed that we hadn’t spoken before.”

“Uh, basically that.”

Victor paced across the room, shaking his head. “Then my friends all told you that you were confident and assertive, and you didn’t think that was weird?”

“It did seem pretty weird, honestly. I told you that. You didn’t believe me.”

“I told you about stalking Phichit’s instagram for news of you, and you didn’t wonder why?”

“I did wonder why. Honestly, it seemed pretty random, but you’re Victor Nikiforov. You like to surprise people. I was extremely surprised, so, I mean, it seemed in character?”

Victor turned back around, pointing at him in accusation. “We all made fun of Yura’s inability to dance off against you, and you thought…”

“You’re friends, and friends have inside jokes?”

Victor was looking more and more appalled. “I took your hand, fed you dessert, told everyone we were planning on sleeping together, and you thought we had never spoken before?

“Um. Yes?”

“You thought I was going to sleep with you while barely knowing who you were, and you were okay with that?”

Yuuri considered this. “No,” he finally said. “I wasn’t just okay with that. I was over the moon about that.”

“Shit,” Victor said, breaking into helpless laughter. “I don’t deserve you. I can’t believe you don’t remember. And to think that I never really lived until that moment when you whispered, ‘Victor Nikiforov, I’m going to do filthy things to you’ in my ear.”

“Oh my God. I said that to you?” Yuuri hid his face in his hands.

Victor came over, knelt in front of him, and pulled his hands away. “No,” he said, a delighted smile on his face. “You didn’t say that. I was just teasing. But it’s not too late to start.”

Yuuri looked into Victor’s blue eyes. He felt his own heart hammering in his chest. He didn’t know what he was doing, but… But, well. He was shy and anxious, but also…maybe…he was a little confident, too?

He reached out and brushed Victor’s hair away back. “Victor Nikiforov,” he said quietly, “I’m going to do filthy things to you. I don’t know what they are or how to do them, but we aren’t leaving this room until we figure them out.”

“There’s always porn,” Victor said. “That should help.”

#

Porn did not help. In fact, all the things that they both thought they should be able to do easily, according to porn, just did not work in reality.

“How is this hard?” Victor muttered. “Slot A, Tab B, right?”

They ended up googling three times before things began to make sense, and if any of the skating gossip circle ever got wind of their google searches, the damage to both their reputations would be immense.

They finally found an angle where Yuuri could slide in—slowly—waiting minute by minute for Victor’s body to adjust, touching each other, feeling each other the entire way. It took some experimentation even then, once he was inside, the heat of Victor’s body compressing him, to discover the precise rotation of hips that hit Victor’s prostate.

“Oh.” Victor’s eyes widened the first moment Yuuri found it. “Oh. There. That’s why… Oh, god. Keep going.”

After that, they were off to the races, bodies coming together, lips coming together. Victor begging, begging, and Yuuri’s anxiety evaporating at the sight of the other man beneath him, coming apart because of what he was doing to him. Victor came first—Yuuri’s cock, Yuuri’s hands on him—and the sounds he made when he did, soft and vulnerable, were enough to send Yuuri over the edge.

It took them an hour in bed, holding each other, kissing, unwilling to let go, before they were ready to go again, switching positions this time. It was a little easier this time.

“Here,” Victor said, “it helped me when my legs were like this. There. No, I’m not going to just push through it, are you nuts?”

It got better every time they woke from their exhausted stupor to try each other again. And again. And again.

They missed the pairs figure skating final the next day, ordering giant bottles of water and pasta from room service to replenish their energy.

It was around four in the afternoon—an exhausted, delighted, four—when Victor finally turned over and sighed. “I’m going to have to go back to my room to change for the banquet,” he muttered into Yuuri’s naked shoulder.

“Mmm.” Yuuri’s arms closed around Victor. “No. Not allowed to leave. Not yet.”

“I suppose I could show up to the banquet like this. It would do wonders for both our reputations.”

“Haaaaa.” Yuuri slowly sat up. “I suppose.”

And then Victor asked the question, the one he hadn’t wanted to let himself think about. “When does your flight leave?”

“Tomorrow.” Yuuri’s voice was low. “Tomorrow at ten.”

Victor didn’t say anything for a while. They had a little more than twelve hours together, and a good portion of those hours would be spent at the banquet or sleeping—and however little Yuuri wanted to sleep, they’d gone one night without. Another would be impossible.

A few hours together. He tried not to get depressed. Victor showered with him, soaping him off and then rinsing him clean, kissing each other under the hot spray as if they’d never see each other again.

And…who even knew? Maybe they wouldn’t.

It would be eight months until the skating competition season started again. There was the ever-present possibility of injury, and who knew what else could happen in that time? Eight months, without excuses to see each other. Despite everything they’d told each other, they hadn’t talked about what this was.

Victor waited until Yuuri was putting on his suit before he said anything.

“Look,” Victor said, his voice low, “this may be a little forward of me…”

“Be forward,” Yuuri urged. “Please be forward.”

“…But I think we both know that you need a new coach.”

Yuuri blinked. This wasn’t where he had thought the conversation would go.

“Celestino is holding you back,” Victor said. “And…after I made everyone at the rink watch everything about you, I’m sure Yakov would take you on. He thinks very highly of you, you know.”

“He…does?”

“You’d have to train in St. Petersburg,” Victor went on, “and, um, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re actually good training partners? Our strengths are very complementary. And my rinkmates really like you, and…”

“And?” Yuuri asked shyly.

“And…what are you doing?” Victor stood, frowning at him. “Seriously, what is wrong with you?”

Yuuri paused in the middle of tying his tie, his hopes freezing in his chest. “Um. What am I doing?”

Victor took hold of his hand. “Coming with me to my room,” he demanded. “You’re not wearing that tie. The suit is bad enough, but there’s nothing to be done about it at this point. That tie, though…”

“It’s my tie,” Yuuri said, frowning. “I bought it. I like it.”

“My boyfriend,” Victor said passionately, “is not going to his first banquet with me wearing a department-store tie.”

His boyfriend. Yuuri couldn’t help but smile. “Your boyfriend,” he said with a smile, “doesn’t know a thing about fashion, and he isn’t going to start caring just because you tell him to do so. If you don’t like the tie, take it off when we get back to the room. You don’t touch it before then.”

Victor stared at him. He licked his lips. “Damn,” he said slowly. “I never thought a lack of fashion sense could be hot.”

“Besides,” Yuuri said calmly, “I won gold this time around. You can take my tie when you come in first. We’ll have plenty of chances to compete, now that I’m moving to St. Petersburg.”

A predatory gleam shone in Victor’s eye. “Is that so?”

“Yes, Nikiforov. It is.”

“You’re on, Katsuki.”

#

An hour later, they were both clean and polished, all signs of their sex marathon erased so that they could present a somewhat innocent appearance at the banquet.

Somewhat being the key word.

They even made a point of not arriving together. Yuuri waited in Victor’s room for a few minutes after Victor went down, counting in his head.

Still, the moment he walked into the banquet hall, his eyes met Victor’s, and… And that smile. The way they moved toward each other as if nobody else were around. Why were they even bothering to pretend?

“Holy fucking crap,” said Yurio, at Yuuri’s elbow. “Stop it, you two. There are children present.”