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all the world's a stage

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“Yuuri, I have an idea.”

Those words, when coming from Phichit, always land Yuuri in bad situations.

(Always. This will be no exception.)

Phichit is grinning at him brightly as he stands by the edge of the ice rink in Detroit, his phone in his hands, held horizontally for an ideal shot of the ice. He’s watching Yuuri expectantly. “Okay, perform a routine.”

“What routine? Why are you recording me?”

“Don’t question it,” Phichit says, grinning even wider now. “Just skate for me. Anything. Something with a lot of jumps. Maybe your most recent long program?”

Yuuri folds his arms across his chest, eyeing the camera nervously. “But can’t you tell me why?

“Just do it. Please?” His voice is dripping with desperation. 

Yuuri has no idea what is going on with him.

But he decides to indulge his friend, because, in his experience, indulging Phichit is better than arguing with him. Especially when he has that sort of dedication in his eyes. So Yuuri makes his way to the middle of the ice, giving the camera one last suspicious stare-down.

He performs Yuri on Ice, a long program that had recently placed him second at the Grand Prix Final. Instead of thinking about Phichit, he focuses on the movements, making sure to land every jump and to pay close attention to the minuscule details of the step sequences. He’s not sure why he’s skating right now, not sure what Phichit’s idea is, but it probably won’t be anything good.

Phichit is clapping his hands by the end of it, the phone now out of sight. “That was great! Perfect. Thank you.”

“What was it for?” Yuuri asks again, slightly annoyed.

“You’ll see. It’s a surprise.”

Yuuri sits down to place guards on his skates. “I hate when you use that word.”

Phichit just grins.

 

~

 

He forgets about Phichit’s surprise for a while. Yuuri starts training for the next season of figure skating, loses himself in new routines and music and the strict coaching of Celestino. He has grown used to living in Detroit, used to the people and the busy way of life.

All of that changes with a phone call.

A simple phone call.

(Not a phone call to him, but to Phichit.)

(Which makes it worse.)

Because Phichit picks up the phone when they’re having lunch one day, presses it close to his ear and offers a casual hello. Then, his eyes widen, his jaw drops, and a hand flies to cover his mouth. Yuuri asks quickly what’s wrong, (What’s going on? Had a family member died? Is everything alright?) but Phichit just stares at him.

“Yes. Okay. Let me get a pen and paper. Hang on.”

He scrambles to find something to write with, and Yuuri pulls over a waiter and practically yanks the pen out of their shirt pocket, only thinking to apologize a minute later. Phichit is scribbling something down rapidly on a napkin, nodding and occasionally making a noise of agreement.

“And you want him when? Oh… seriously? Okay, no, that’s fine.”

Yuuri blinks.

Phichit clears his throat. “Oh, he’ll freak out. He’s a fan. We both are, actually. Thank you so much for calling.”

The moment he hangs up the phone, Yuuri is ready to strangle him. “What is happening? Were you talking about me? Is this about that video you took?”

Phichit grins. “We’re going to book a flight to Los Angeles.”

(Well.)

(That isn’t what he’d been expecting.)

“Los Angeles?” Yuuri asks, shaking his head. “Why would we…?”

Phichit bites his lip, thinking for a moment, then blurts, “Okay, so yes, it does have to do with that video. I saw an ad online for a job in Los Angeles, they were looking for a figure skater, and they wanted video submissions. So I signed you up. And that’s what the video was for. I submitted it in your name.”

“Phichit, I’m not an actor,” Yuuri tells him, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice. Obviously, Phichit had just been trying to be kind, but doesn't he know that Yuuri has stage fright? Plus he's already training for next year’s Grand Prix. Surely he wouldn’t have time for some sort of side job.

“I know. It’s not an acting job.”

Yuuri frowns. “Then what is it? A Broadway show or something? Look, whatever it is, thank you for thinking of me, but I’m not interested.”

“I bet I can make you interested,” Phichit says, and there’s a teasing, mischievous edge to his voice.

Yuuri shifts in his seat, licking his lips and waiting expectantly.

“Victor Nikiforov.”

Oh.

Yuuri freezes.

Phichit is still smiling.

It’s embarrassing, really, how much that name grabs his attention.

Everyone has guilty pleasures. Yuuri figures that romance movies are on the far more innocent side of the guilty pleasure spectrum. He loves a Victor Nikiforov movie, and Phichit knows it. And right now he’s practically preening.

“What about Victor Nikiforov?” Yuuri interrogates, and he tries to keep his voice calm.

(And fails. He’s panicking, and Phichit knows it.)

“They’re making a movie about figure skating. With Victor Nikiforov. And they need somebody to train him. So they asked for submissions of people doing routines. They want the movie to be as realistic as possible. He’s going to do all of his own stunts. Well, skating.”

“You… You submitted…” Yuuri starts, because this can’t be real, because Phichit just doesn’t realize how cruel of a joke this is, doesn’t realize how much he’s breaking Yuuri’s heart right now.

Phichit knows how much he loves Victor Nikiforov. Knows that there are posters on his bedroom walls, knows that he’s watched every last one of his movies and can quote them line for line. Knows that he knows everything about him, has seen every interview, read every trivia fact.

“And they just called to ask you to come to Hollywood to, I don’t really know. Audition, I guess? But you won’t be on camera, you'd just be training Victor, so… I don’t know what they’ll have you do. But they want us there in a week. Well, they want you there, but I’m obviously coming, too.”

Yuuri comprehended about three of those words. His mind has gone haywire, his heart thumping in his chest. A waiter comes by and sets food in front of them, but he can hardly even see it. “The Victor Nikiforov?”

“The one and only.”

“Phichit… You seriously… I can’t believe…” Yuuri starts, staring at his friend.

(He’s not sure what he'd done to deserve a friend like Phichit. Nothing, probably.)

Phichit reaches across the table and grabs his hands. “Listen, you don’t have the job yet, but if you did get it you wouldn’t have time to compete in the Grand Prix this year. But I really think you could get this, Yuuri. And it would probably pay well. After all, it’s a Nikiforov movie.”

Victor Nikiforov is one of the most popular actors of all time—his movies pull in millions of dollars at the box office. He’d moved to L.A. from St. Petersburg five years ago, and his Russian accent can scientifically make people implode. At least, that’s what Yuuri thinks of him. And thousands of other people. In fact, he has been voted ‘Sexiest Man of the Year’ two years in a row now.

“I can’t believe you did that for me,” Yuuri answers quietly, trying to stop himself from crying. “Phichit…”

“We’re going to California,” Phichit tells him excitedly. “You’ll do great. They’ll pick you, I’m sure of it. After all, you’re one of the best figure skaters in the world.”

Yuuri sniffs, pursing his lips. “Did you audition, too?”

“Nah. I’m afraid my Nikiforov crush isn’t nearly as big as yours. I think JJ did, though. I don’t know who else. You’ll beat all of them. Or, at least you’ll maybe glimpse Nikiforov while trying. It’s sort of a win-win scenario.”

 

~

 

Yuuri is nervous during the entire plane trip.

He’d packed his skating gear along with some clothes. They're planning on spending a week there, so that they can sightsee whether Yuuri gets the job or not. Though, in reality, if he doesn't get this job, he figures he’ll be in no mood for posing with the Hollywood sign.

Phichit has been trying to calm him down since the flight started, but eventually he gives up, turning on his phone and showing Yuuri the screen. “I downloaded a Nikiforov movie. Want to watch it with me?”

“Which one is it?”

Stay Close to Me,” Phichit answers, then pouts at him. “C’mon, I know it’s your favorite.”

Yuuri sighs, defeated, and leans closer to Phichit, placing one of the earbuds in his ears and staring down at the tiny phone screen. The moment Victor appears on the screen he feels his heart freeze in his chest. He had long hair in this movie, but recently he’d cut it. Yuuri isn’t sure which style he prefers. He’s just as ridiculously attractive either way.

“I can’t believe I might see him,” Yuuri mutters. “If he’s even there yet—if they’re still casting, he might not be around.”

“We could find his address.”

Yuuri pauses the movie and gives him a look.

“I’m kidding,” Phichit assures him. “Sort of.” Yuuri glares at him again. “Okay, I’m kidding, stalking celebrities is definitely not funny.” A pause. “But if we stumble upon his house by accident…

 

~

 

“Wow, it’s pretty,” Yuuri notes, glancing around at the large building. There are windows above them, letting in skylight, and there’s more people around them than Yuuri has ever seen. Apart from the slight agoraphobia, he loves California already.

“We’re still in the airport,” Phichit reminds him, laughing. “It’ll be even prettier outside.”

The weather is gorgeous, the sun shining high in the sky with only a few clouds blocking the view. There are people everywhere, milling about on every street. Phichit runs to every shop, every sign, taking photos and forcing Yuuri to pose alongside him. He loses four Instagram followers due to the spam, much to his disappointment.

They spot the Hollywood sign in the distance and Phichit looks as though he’s just found a treasure chest at the bottom of the sea. “We have to get a photo! Let’s get closer!”

Yuuri allows himself to be pulled across Los Angeles. He spots countless posters of Victor, they’re practically pasted on every wall in the city. Old movies, new movies, upcoming movies. Yuuri wonders how he has the time to even act in all of them.

“Stop staring at him and get over here,” Phichit commands, though he’s smiling.

Yuuri tears his eyes away from the giant billboard and smiles back at Phichit, raising his phone to take a photo of him in front of a random star on the walk of fame.

They find their hotel room an hour or so later. It’s the cheapest one they could find and their room is small, complimented by some mold growing in one corner, but they deal with it nevertheless. “Don’t put your suitcase on your bed,” Phichit warns. “That’s how you bring bedbugs home.”

“Bedbugs?” Yuuri asks, scrunching up his nose. “I don’t even want to sleep in here now, thanks.”

“Just imagine Victor Nikiforov is sleeping with you,” Phichit provides. Then, he puts on his best Russian accent (which, in Yuuri’s opinion, hardly deserves the adjective ‘best’ because, really, it’s terrible). “Yuuri, I will protect you from the bed bugs with my muscular legs.”

“Shut up.”

Phichit grins. “Never. Now, get some sleep. We have to go to the studio tomorrow.”

 

~

 

Yuuri wakes up to the blinding sight of sunshine.

He squints and sits up, yawning. Then he hears a noise.

“Phichit?”

Phichit is still asleep, curled up into a tiny ball underneath the sheets. Yuuri glances around for the source of the noise, which he is starting to realize sounds like elevator music, and sees Phichit’s phone is lighting up. He leans over the edge of the bed to pick it up off of the floor.

An alarm.

It’s noon.

He was supposed to head to the studio building at eleven.

“Phichit!”

Phichit glances up, finally, rubbing at his eyes with his palms. “Huh?”

“Your alarm was too quiet,” Yuuri blurts, standing up and sprinting over to his suitcase. He throws it on the bed—Phichit makes a comment about bedbugs—and grabs clothes before sprinting into the bathroom. “Oh god, we’re going to be so late. We’re already so late.”

(Late. To possibly the most important meeting of his life.)

Phichit is panicking, too, then, getting dressed and brushing his teeth in record time. Yuuri puts on his shoes and sprints out of the door with Phichit hot on his trail, clutching Yuuri’s skates with one arm.

“Do you know the way?” Yuuri pants, looking around for cars before sprinting across the busy street. There’s no time to get a taxi. There’s no time for anything.

Yuuri hates himself. Hates Phichit’s quiet alarm. Hates jet lag.

“Yeah, this way!”

By the time they get there, Yuuri is exhausted. He’s hyperventilating, hands on his knees. Phichit shoves open the studio doors and places his hands palm-down on the front desk. “Hi, sorry we’re late. This is Katsuki Yuuri, we’re here for the figure skating trainer opportunity with Victor Nikiforov.”

The woman behind the desk looks uninterested. “Oh, alright. I’ll see if they’ll still take you.”

“Tell them we’re very, very sorry,” Yuuri pleads, looking around the reception area.

It’s covered in framed posters of different movies, most of which containing Victor. There are a hundred pairs of blue eyes staring at Yuuri, keeping him still where he stands. It’s absolutely horrifying. There’s a hand on his arm and he glances over at Phichit, who is giving him a reassuring look.

(It does nothing to reassure him. Despite its intent.)

The lady behind the desk glances up from her computer, settling back against her chair. “They might be able to take you in half an hour if you two are willing to wait.”

That half hour is the longest half hour of Yuuri’s life.

There are a few other individuals in the lobby. Yuuri figures they’re skaters, too, all auditioning to be Victor’s trainer. Some are younger than him and some are older, all looking impatient and nervous. He has seen some at competitions before, he thinks.

“I wonder if JJ is here,” Phichit whispers.

Yuuri bites his lip, stares down at the skates resting in his lap. He wasn’t sure why he brought them in the first place—none of the other candidates seemed to have them. And besides, it’s not as though there’s going to be an ice skating rink in the middle of a movie studio. Instead of sharing these thoughts with Phichit, though, he just runs his thumb along the side of the blade.

One at a time, each candidate enters the room.

They each leave looking heartbroken.

(Yuuri feels his confidence lessening with every passing second.)

“Katsuki Yuuri?”

He glances up. Phichit squeezes his arm. “Good luck. You’ll do great.”

A woman with long, dark hair had been sent to retrieve him. She smiles brightly at him. “Hi, I’m Sara.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Yuuri answers breathlessly. He tries to keep his posture casual while walking but realizes, suddenly, that he has completely forgotten how to walk. Or talk. Or breathe. Since when was breathing so difficult?

“Are you nervous?” Sara asks, smiling. “I heard that you’re a big Nikiforov fan from your friend.”

(So this was the person that Phichit had been on the phone with.)

(A big fan doesn’t accurate describe the extent of his obsession, but he’s not about to tell that to Sara. Or anyone else for that matter.)

“Um, sort of,” Yuuri admits.

Sara shrugs. “I’ve seen your routines online. You did well at the Grand Prix Final, and we’re looking for someone with a lot of experience. As your friend may have told you, we want Victor and the other actors to perform all of the routines themselves. You’re currently one of our top candidates.”

Yuuri swallows. For some reason, her words are only making him more nervous. “Okay.”

She looks unimpressed by that answer, as though she’d been expecting some sort of thank you. Yuuri is about to provide one when they arrive at a door and she swings it open, letting him step inside first. “Good luck,” Sara tells him.

Then she’s gone.

And he turns to look in the room.

And there’s someone sitting there.

(Someone familiar.)

“You must be Yuuri!”

Yuuri can’t move. His legs quite literally will not work. His breath is caught in his throat. His world is falling apart. He’s seen that face on the television screen more times than he can remember—he’s ranted endlessly about those eyes to Phichit.

  (And that smile. That hair.)

Is he going to pass out? No, no, please don’t pass out. Please don’t pass out right now in front of him. Don’t start crying. Don’t start screaming. Just be calm. Normal. Calm. Tranquil. Serene.

He’s wearing a red and white jacket and blue jeans, bangs falling casually in front of his eyes. His legs are stretched out in front of him, feet resting on a coffee table and his back pressed into a black couch that does not look nearly expensive enough to have a man of his stature sitting on it.

Yuuri feels an urge to move him, to find him a throne. A golden one. With rose petals and servants to feed him grapes. Because it’s him.

“It’s great to meet you,” Victor Nikiforov says, and his Russian accent is…

(Calm. Calm. Calm.)

Yuuri takes in a breath. Breathing is important. He has to remember to breathe. Definitely remember to breathe. “Um, yes. I mean, it’s great to meet you too.”

The man stands up, extends his hand. “I’m Victor Nikiforov.”

“I know.”

He grins. “Ah, so you’ve heard of me?”

Yuuri doesn’t know what to do. He just nods.

(Heard of him? Did worshipping posters of him count as having heard of him? Did watching every last one of his IMDb credits count as having heard of him? Did knowing his date and place of birth, his entire life story, and every accomplishment count as having heard of him?)

“And you’re a competitive skater, I presume?” Victor glances down at the skates that are hanging from Yuuri’s hand by the laces. “I like your skating. Very nice. I watched the routine you submitted. What was the name of the song?”

“Yuri on Ice,” Yuuri answers automatically. His mouth is acting without his mind’s permission. His entire body is currently on autopilot, having been abandoned by its captain. And it’s sinking. Like the Titanic.

Victor hums. “A pretty name. A pretty routine. A pretty skater.”

Yuuri feels his cheeks heating. Had Victor Nikiforov genuinely just called him pretty? And why was Victor laughing, now?

Oh. He still had his hand extended. How long had that been there for?

Yuuri shakes it with far too tight of a grasp. Victor raises an eyebrow at him. He’s messing this audition up already but nobody had told him it would be with the famous actor himself. This was really, really very unfair. He had had no time for mental preparation, no time to figure out how he’d answer any tough questions.

“How long have you been skating for?” Victor asks. “And have a seat. Would you like some water?”

“Um, sure.”

Yuuri watches as Victor moves to the other side of the room and fetches two water bottles from a mini fridge. He hands one to Yuuri and it’s cold to the touch. He takes a large gulp of it, running a hand through his hair.

“I’ve been skating since I was five, I think,” Yuuri answers. “I made it to the Grand Prix last year for the first time.”

“And what did you place?”

Yuuri bites his lip. He had been so close to the gold, but JJ had beaten him just by a couple of points. “Second.”

Victor’s eyebrows shoot up. “Very impressive. I’m afraid I don’t know much about figure skating. But we’re making a movie about it, and Yakov, the director, wants it to be as realistic as possible. So we’re looking for someone to teach me the basics. Obviously, I don’t need to be able to place second at a Grand Prix Final, but I will need a teacher.”

“I… I could teach you,” Yuuri answers.

(He’d do anything for Victor. Which is probably unhealthy considering he’s only truly known him for about three minutes.)

“Well, that’s why you’re here.”

“Oh. Right.”

Yuuri is sitting on a chair adjacent to Victor, and Victor leans forward to get closer to him, sitting on the very edge of the couch. “So tell me about yourself, Katsuki Yuuri. If you are selected, I’ll need to know everything about you. After all, Yakov left this decision to the actors. He’ll approve my choice for a teacher.”

He doesn’t know what to say. “Well, I’m Japanese.”

“How many languages do you speak?” Victor asks.

“Japanese and English.”

He frowns. “No Russian? Hmm.”

Yuuri stumbles. “I—I could learn. I’m a quick learner.”

“No, no, you don’t need to speak Russian,” Victor assures him, looking both surprised and amused. “Though I like the eagerness. Do you live in Japan now?”

“Detroit. I’ve been skating there for the past couple of years.”

“Detroit,” Victor repeats. “Interesting. I filmed there once.”

Yuuri knows. “The Lilac Fairy.” Victor looks confused. “That was the name of the movie.”

(Why, why on Earth had he said that?)

“You’re right,” Victor answers. “So you are a fan? Sara told me so, but I didn’t want to assume. She over-exaggerates things sometimes.”

“I am,” Yuuri admits. “I mean, I like your movies. I’m not… I just… Yes. I’m a fan.”

Victor is leaning so far forward, now, that Yuuri wonders if he’s about to fall off of the couch. He’s making strong eye contact, it makes Yuuri’s knees feel like rubber. Yuuri takes another sip of the water, glancing around at the room. It looks like some sort of dressing room, there’s a mirror on one wall and a small makeup table. But it’s nothing extraordinary.

“And why would you want this position, Yuuri?”

A better question would be why wouldn’t he? “I think it’d be exciting. And fun. And different.”

Victor purses his lips, studying him. Yuuri feels like he’s under a microscope, feels like every movement is being analyzed, tested to see if he’s good enough. It’s a nerve-wracking feeling. “Exciting, fun, and different. Alright, you can go now.”

Yuuri blinks. “What?”

“I have to interview ten or so more skaters. Sara will call you later to tell you if you’ve been selected or not. How long are you in the area for?”

“A week.”

“Alright. Nice meeting you.”

Victor waves.

Yuuri stares.

(That was it?)

The rest of his time in the studio is a blur. At some point, he stands up, leaves the room, finds Phichit. He ignores Phichit’s endless inquiries about how the interview had gone, instead just corrals him out of the door, head pounding.

Eventually, he spills the details.

“It sounds like it went well!” Phichit tells him excitedly. “It must’ve if he asked you all of those things.”

“When I told him why I wanted the job, he said ‘you can go now.’ That doesn’t make it sound like it went well, Phichit. He was probably bored out of his mind. He’s Victor Nikiforov, after all.”

Phichit rolls his eyes. “You say that name like he’s a god, and I know he is to you, but really, he’s just a guy.”

Just a guy.

Just a guy.

“That’s… You know that’s not true. Half of the world would sell their souls just to own a used tissue of his,” Yuuri complains. “And I just had an entire conversation with him and all I could say is that being his teacher would be fun.

“I think you’re wrong. I think he loved you. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

 

~

 

They rent a car and visit Disneyland, Universal Studios—they even make a short trip to San Diego.

It’s the most fun Yuuri has ever had, but also the most stressful period of his life.

Then there’s a phone call.

“Hello?” Phichit asks, because it’s still his phone number on the forms. “Hi, yes, this is Phichit Chulanont, I’m his friend. No, Yuuri isn’t around at the moment, can I take a message for him?”

Yuuri whacks him on the arm, glaring at him. “I’m right here,” he mouths silently. Phichit just smirks at him.

“Oh, okay. Yes, that’d be… Alright. Where should we meet you? And when? Oh, tomorrow would be fine, we’re in town. Yes, he brought skates. Yes. No, I’m not sure. Okay. Let me just write down that address, please.”

He grabs paper and scribbles something down. Yuuri swallows, his throat dry and his lips chapped, desperately waiting for Phichit to hang up the phone. The moment he does, he’s latched onto his friend by the shoulders. “First of all, why did you tell them I wasn’t here?”

“I figured it made you seem more hard to get if I pick up the phone for you. And I really wanted to hear what they’d say.”

“Okay, never mind, I don’t care. What did she say? Was it Sara?”

Phichit shrugs. “They’re not interested in you. They just wanted to meet to see if you’d be interested in an acting role not involving Victor. Some other figure skating television series.”

Yuuri sinks.

The hotel room bed is like quicksand, but he doesn’t struggle. Just allows it to slowly drown him. He lets out a breath—slow, gentle.

He feels his heart break in his chest, feels every piece separate. It’s painless, emotionless. He stares at Phichit, wondering how he’ll ever recover from this blow. It had been bad enough being second best at the Grand Prix, but now…? Compared to this?

“I’m kidding! Yakov wants to do a test session with you and Victor. To determine chemistry or something, I don’t know. Another actor, too. Somebody named Yuri Plisetsky?”

Yuuri presses his palm against his forehead. “I hate you.”

“No you don’t,” Phichit promises, pulling him in for a hug. “Yuuri, you might get this job! You might be Victor Nikiforov’s coach! Oh my god, can you imagine?” Once again, he puts on his best Russian accent. “Oh, Yuuri, I’m having trouble with my quad toe loop. Could you guide me with your strong hands?”

“Phichit,” Yuuri groans, but he can’t stop smiling, can’t stop hugging him. “Thank you so much for everything.”

“No problem. Besides, if you do get this job, guess who’s out of the picture for the Grand Prix this year? I’ll be a shoo-in for the podium.”

Yuuri raises an eyebrow. “So there were ulterior motives at work here?”

“Maybe. But mostly I just wanted to see you fangirl over Victor Nikiforov.”

“It worked,” Yuuri jokes, looking down at his hands. “I’m surprised I didn’t pass out today.”

“Just don’t pass out on the rink,” Phichit warns. “That’s dangerous. Pass out in his bedroom instead.”

Phichit!

Phichit winks at him.

 

~

 

That night, Yuuri sets five alarms. At the loudest possible volume.

In the morning, when they’re blaring and they can hardly hear themselves think as they scramble to turn them off, Phichit yells, “I think they’re going to kick us out of this hotel!”

They get dressed on time. Yuuri considers what to wear for at least an hour, switching from one shirt to another and then another. He figures he’ll be skating—they’re meeting at a rink, after all—so he ends up in a blue t-shirt and black track pants. He isn’t about to wear his glasses, he doesn’t particularly like the way he looks in them, but Phichit reminds him that being blind might not make a good first impression.

They hurry out of the hotel room, insisting on being early this time, and catch a taxi. Yuuri bounces his leg up and down the entire trip.

Phichit stills his leg with a hand. Yuuri starts bouncing it again unconsciously a minute later, and Phichit gives up.

“Do you think he’ll be there?” Yuuri whispers.

“They said they’re going to test your chemistry with the actors, so probably, yes.”

Yuuri drums his fingers against his leg. Brushes a hand through his hair. “Does my hair look okay?”

“Victor will approve.”

He doesn’t even have the mental energy to laugh, much less offer a smile. Instead he just continues to stare straight ahead at the taxi driver, simultaneously wishing he’d drive slower and faster. “What if I mess up?”

“They don’t know anything about skating. They won’t even know.”

“If I face-plant on the ice, I think they’ll figure out that that’s not supposed to happen.”

Phichit touches his arm. “Listen, just be yourself. I’m sure Victor and the other actors will love you. Sara sounds like she loves you over the phone. The others will, too.”

 

~

 

“So you’re Katsuki Yuuri? A competitive figure skater?”

(Turns out not everybody loves him.)

Yuri Plisetsky, a young actor who has been in a few movies with Victor in the past, is eyeing him suspiciously. “What? Don’t you talk? Or do you only speak Japanese? Because that would make things hard.”

Yuuri blinks. “Um, I speak English.”

“Where is Victor?” the blond actor complains, folding his arms across his chest and glaring at Sara. “He was supposed to be early, too.”

Sara smiles sweetly at him. “He’ll be here. He’s picking up coffee, I think.”

“Coffee. Gross.”

Yuuri had heard that Yuri Plisetsky was a diva, but…

“Oh, here he is,” Phichit says, pointing at a taxi pulling up outside the rink. It’s an indoor public one, but Yuuri figures they were either closed today or Sara had reserved it for them. The area is bigger than anywhere Yuuri has ever skated, and it’s beautiful—the building has a modern design to it, large windows letting in light from all angles.

Victor steps out of the car wearing the same red jacket from the day before. He looks perfect. So perfect that Yuuri almost feels guilty for looking at him, for breathing the same air as him.

“Yuuri!” Victor greets happily. “And Yuri. And Sara, and who are you?” He looks at Phichit last.

Phichit is smiling brightly. “I’m Phichit, Yuuri’s friend.”

“Yuuri’s friend,” Victor repeats, as if considering the words. “Fantastic! Now, Yakov should be here in a few minutes. So should the others.”

“The others?” Phichit asks, and it takes all of Yuuri’s power not to nudge him in the arm, because how dare he ask Victor Nikiforov a question?

“Other skaters,” the Russian actor explains simply. “You didn’t think it’d be just you, did it?”

Yuuri gapes. “Um, no,” he lies.

Phichit looks shocked as well. He doesn’t say anything.

“How many finalists are there from your little surveys, Victor?” Yuri P. asks, raising a suspicious eyebrow. “You should’ve let me had a say in this. They have to teach me to skate, too, you know.”

“You aren’t the best judge of character,” Victor informs him politely. “And there are five finalists, including Yuuri here.” Yuuri feels his cheeks heating, he ducks his head and hopes that nobody notices.

Another taxi pulls up. Then another. People are piling out—Yakov and four skaters.

Yakov is intimidating. He lines all of the skaters up and examines each one, gaze flickering up and down. Phichit is off to the side, offering Yuuri a lighthearted thumbs up. Jean-Jacques Leroy is there, who had beaten Yuuri in the Grand Prix last year, and Yuuri offers him a friendly smile. They’d never been companionable, really, but it was still nice seeing a familiar face.

“You. Out.” Yakov points to one of the skaters.

The skater leaves, looking as though he’s about to cry. Yuuri swallows. Victor glances at Yakov, looking slightly confused but not questioning his methods. There’s only four skaters left, now.

“You sure picked an interesting bunch,” the director says to Victor, loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Best of the best,” Victor answers proudly. “You should let me choose things more often. Our movies would turn out better.”

Yakov growls at him. Victor backs off, but he’s still smiling a bit. He winks at Yuuri and Yuuri feels himself blushing again. Yakov clears his throat. “Alright, this is how this is going to work. Each of you skates with Yuri Plisetsky,” he gestures towards the blond actor, “then Victor. They’ll review you later. See which of you was the best teacher, had the best dynamic. This position will be long term, throughout the entire production of the movie, so it’s important that you… get along.”

At that last phrase, he glances at Yuri Plisetsky, raising an eyebrow, as if warning him. Yuri rolls his eyes.

“You start,” he says, pointing at JJ.

JJ grins and sits down on a bench to strap on his skates. Then, a moment later, he’s on the ice with Yuri.

The skaters go one at a time. Some try to teach them basic jumps, others try to teach them basic movements that are fundamental for step sequences. Yuri and Victor aren’t bad skaters by default, really—they can make their way around the ice with ease, albeit a few fumbles. But it’s still an odd dynamic for figure skaters to be coaching pupils on such basic steps.

“You,” Yakov says, pointing at Yuuri. “Your turn.”

Yuuri swallows, making his way onto the ice to meet Yuri Plisetsky.

“Alright, teach me how to skate, Katsuki,” Yuri says, folding his arms across his chest and not moving. Yuuri watches him, unsure of what to say. “There’s really only room for one Yuri around here, so I don’t know how we’d accept you in the first place. But let’s see what you’ve got.”

He attempts to teach Yuuri how to do a basic jump. Nothing flashy, just getting off of the ice and landing back on without falling. Surprisingly, he picks up quickly. He’s still fumbling it most of the time by the end of the session, but for such a short window of learning, it’s not bad progress at all.

Then, he’s called away by Yakov. Victor is leaning against the half wall of the rink, watching him with a sparkle in his eyes. Yuuri feels his stomach turning as he approaches the famous actor. He feels more confident on the ice, though. It’s his home turf. It’s where he goes when he’s nervous. If there’s anywhere he can confront Victor Nikiforov, it’s here.

(That aforementioned confidence flies out the window when Victor smiles at him.)

(And how does he stand again? How does he skate? How does he breathe?)

“Ready to teach me, Yuuri?” Victor asks.

Victor is even more advanced than Yuri P., so Yuuri tries to teach him a basic salchow. He picks it up quickly, grinning wildly when he gets it right for the first time. The landing is incorrect, and if Yuuri is being honest the jump itself hadn't been performed correctly in the first place, but he doesn't point that out. “This is fun,” Victor comments. “I’m very glad I decided to do this movie. You must be very passionate about skating.”

Yuuri smiles, glancing down at Victor’s skates. They don’t look like they fit right. “Yeah, sort of.”

“If you were to teach me, perhaps you could share that passion,” Victor muses. “Help me get into character.”

He nods, perhaps a little too eagerly. “Yeah, I’d love to. What… What exactly is your character?”

“A novice skater working his way through the ranks,” Victor answers. “It’s a romance. Most of my movies are. I’m typecast, I suppose.”

(Yuuri knows.)

(But, luckily, he doesn’t say that.)

(And Victor looks dejected, in a way. His smile is sad, the words reserved. Was he upset about being typecast? Surely he wouldn’t do those sort of movies if he didn’t enjoy them?)

Yakov calls Yuuri away a minute later. Yuuri swallows thickly as he steps off of the ice, placing the guards on his skates and making his way to Phichit. “Oh my god, Yuuri, you should’ve seen the way he was looking at you.”

“What?” Yuuri asks, gaping.

“He kept staring at you. Like, when you were skating and couldn’t see him.”

Yuuri laughs. “That tends to be how people learn, Phichit.”

“Mmm. I don’t think he was focusing on learning. Those were bedroom eyes.”

“Be quiet,” Yuuri tells him, bumping his friend on the shoulder. “I think it went okay. They’re not complete amateurs, they’ve definitely skated before.”

Yakov lines the skaters up again a minute later. Victor is standing behind the director, eyes focused on Yuuri. Yuuri swallows, turning around to look behind him, but the gaze cannot be mistaken. Victor Nikiforov is staring directly at him. Yuri Plisetsky seems to notice, too, because he frowns at Victor, tugging on his sleeve to get him to pay attention to him.

(Victor is captivating in the worst possible way.)

(There’s several people around Yuuri, but he can only seem to pay attention to one. It’s akin to watching one of his movies—all eyes are just drawn to him, simply, securely. Yuuri supposes that’s why he’s such a successful actor.)

“You all did well,” Yakov says, but his tone doesn’t sound genuine. “I’m going to talk things over with these two and get back to all of you in the morning.”

The skaters depart one at a time, getting into different taxis or walking in different directions. When Yuuri turns around, he can still feel Victor’s gaze on him like a sort of second skin, and it’s heavy, thick, inescapable.

Then there’s someone clearing their throat behind him. He turns around to see Yuri Plisetsky standing there, arms folded across his chest. “Listen, like I said earlier, there can only be one Yuri around here, you get that? So I just don’t want you to get your hopes up.”

Before Yuuri can reply, the teenager is gone.

“What a jerk,” Phichit mutters, shaking his head. “Don’t listen to him. Here’s a taxi for us.”

Yuri’s words stick with Yuuri, play over and over again in his mind. Surely Yuri had some sort of a say in who coached him, so obviously Yuuri wouldn’t get the job now. He sinks into the seat, ignoring Phichit’s words of advice and comfort. They fly in one ear and out the other. He wasn’t going to get the job just because of his stupid name?

Unfair.

 

~

 

There’s a phone call in the morning.

They’re both asleep.

Yuuri hears the ringing and groans, rolling onto his side before realizing what’s happening. “Phichit! Your phone!” he yells, scrambling against the covers that are trapping him against the bed.

Phichit rolls over, yawning. “What?”

“Your phone is ringing! Answer it, hurry!”

He wakes up immediately, grabbing his phone off of the pillow beside him and pressing it against his ear. “Hello?”

Yuuri sits across from Phichit, eyes wide, watching him closely, watching every micro-expression. Watching every movement.

Phichit’s face drops.

Yuuri knows. Knows after a second. Knows.

He runs into the bathroom.

Slams the door.

Fumbles with the lock.

(The tears come before his mind can process the emotions.)

(And it hurts. Everything hurts.)

Phichit has hung up the phone. He’s outside the door, now, begging for Yuuri to unlock it. “Yuuri, Yuuri, it’s okay. It’s just because of Yuri Plisetsky, probably. He’s stupid, okay? It wasn’t your fault.”

Yuuri can’t breathe, hadn’t even realized how badly he had wanted this job until this moment. He’d thought, since they’d called him to come on the ice with them, that he’d gotten it. Phichit had told him Victor had been watching him. Yakov hadn’t been mean to him one time.

He hates Yuri Plisetsky. Hates him with a passion.

“Please open the door,” Phichit is begging. “Come on, Yuuri. We’ll still have fun in California. Screw Victor Nikiforov. Screw him. He’s not the hottest actor out there, anyway. We’ll get you to train Sebastian Stan or something. That’d be even better.”

Yuuri tries to wipe away his tears, but it’s to no avail. Instead he just splashes water on his face from the sink, sighing. He wishes Phichit would go away. He wishes he was back in Japan. Wishes Phichit had never told him about this stupid position in the first place, despite his friend’s good intentions.

“Come on, say it with me. Screw Victor Nikiforov. Screw him.”

“I’m not gonna say that,” Yuuri answers, and his voice comes out more distraught than he’d intended, the words more defeated.

Phichit doesn’t give up. “Come on, it’ll feel good. Oh, how about this? Screw Yuri Plisetsky.”

“It’s not his fault he doesn’t like me,” Yuuri complains. 

“Of course it is! That doesn’t even make sense! Everybody likes you! They’re just stuck up movie actors. Never meet your heroes, that’s a saying, isn’t it?”

Phichit is desperate. Yuuri prays he’ll give up.

Yuuri leans against the creaky wooden door, wishing it would collapse on top of him and crush him so he could get rid of the pounding in his head. “It’s fine, Phichit. Don’t worry about me. You go and sightsee or something, just leave me here.”

“I’m not leaving you here,” Phichit protests. “You’ll get over it. Over him. He’s just another Hollywood prick, we should’ve known better. They all are. Divas. All of them.”

(But Victor had been so kind.)

(So kind, so endearing. His words had made Yuuri feel special, had made him feel certain he would be selected. On the ice, it had felt as though they were the only two people in the entire rink. And yet, here they are.)

(Victor is an actor, after all.)

(He acted.)

Yuuri cries harder. Can’t help it. He’d always cried easily.

 

~

 

Their flight is on Sunday.

It’s currently Thursday. Or is it Friday? Yuuri isn’t really sure anymore.

“Yuuri, come to the pool with me,” Phichit is begging, tugging on his arm.

Yuuri doesn’t move, remains face-down on the bed. “Sorry, I don’t know if I feel like it. Go without me.”

He feels guilty for ruining Phichit’s vacation, feels even more guilty knowing that Phichit is trying to act like he doesn’t care. He’s been in a slump for the past three days, every image of Victor on social media or on a billboard making his heart hurt. His image is inescapable.

“Okay, Yuuri, say what we practiced.”

Yuuri groans in complaint.

“Come on!” Phichit pleads.

“Fine. Screw Victor Nikiforov.”

Phichit is still looking at him expectantly. Waiting for the rest.

“He’s a stuck up actor prick. And so is Yuri Plisetsky.”

“Great!” Phichit praises, clapping him on the back. “Doesn’t that make you feel better? Now let’s go.”

“Go where?” Yuuri asks, sitting up. The world is dizzy. He can’t remember the last time he’d left this hotel room bed. “The pool? I look terrible.”

“You look great. Let’s go find Victor Nikiforov’s house and teepee it. Ooh, or we’ll throw eggs at Yuri Plisetsky’s car. Do you think he has a car? Or does he take taxis everywhere? Is he even old enough to drive?”

Yuuri smiles up at him and Phichit looks proud of eliciting the response. “I’m going to shower. But we are not vandalizing any actor’s property.”

“Alright,” Phichit answers, helping him up. “Shower and get dressed. Then we’ll have fun, I promise. We’ll do whatever you want to do. No vandalism. Unless I can convince you otherwise.”

He smiles at Phichit as he grabs randomly from a pile of clothes, stepping into the bathroom and turning on the hot water. The shower is broken and the water comes out in random spurts, and it’s hardly even warm enough to be considered hot, but it feels good nevertheless.

When he turns off the water, he hears voices.

Phichit’s voice. And then…

“Hmm. Well I’m not sure if his schedule is still open,” Phichit is saying, and there’s a sort of excitement to his voice that somebody who didn’t know him well wouldn’t pick up on. But there’s something else there, too.

(Excitement and passive aggression? An unusual combination.)

Yuuri freezes, wrapping a towel around his waist.

“Yuuri,” Phichit calls, “somebody is here to see you.”

“Hello, Yuuri,” Victor Nikiforov adds.

Yuuri clutches the towel tighter. “Um, give me a minute.”

“Take all the time you need,” Victor answers, the words light, humorous. As though he knows something Yuuri doesn’t.

He puts on his underwear, jeans, and socks, then realizes he’d forgotten to bring in a shirt. “Um, Phichit, could you hand me a shirt?”

Phichit hums, and Yuuri hears him rumbling through a suitcase. “Which shirt do you want?”

“I don’t care. Anything.”

“You can come out and get it if you want, Yuuri. No need to be embarrassed because of me,” Victor tells him. And there’s still that sly edge to his voice and it’s driving Yuuri crazy to try and decipher it. How does he do that?

Yuuri swallows thickly. “Um, that’s okay, thanks.”

Phichit opens the door a crack and shoves the shirt through. Yuuri tosses it over his head then checks his hair, combing through it quickly before emerging from the bathroom, hands deep in his pockets.

Victor looks like a god.

(‘Screw Victor Nikiforov’ was starting to take on a different meaning in Yuuri’s mind.)

“It’s great to see you again,” Victor is saying, adjusting his shirt. His shirt is white, thin. His chest is muscular, his arms are built, his hair is styled to perfection. Yuuri feels small. Feels inadequate. Feels like he’s not worthy to even look at the other man.

Phichit is by his side in an instant. “Do you mind if I take a moment to speak to my client in private, Victor?”

(His client?)

“No, of course not,” Victor answers, and he winks at Yuuri again.

Winks.

Winks.

Yuuri keeps staring. Isn’t sure he can stop. Phichit drags him into the bathroom, there’s no other private space in the hotel room. The mirror is still coated in steam. “How did he find our room?” Yuuri asks.

That’s your first question?”

“I don’t… What is happening?”

Phichit sighs. “He says they changed their minds. He wants you for the job.”

Yuuri isn’t sure what to say at first. Then, he shakes his head, composing himself. He won’t fumble it this time. He can’t mess this up. “Why did I hear you say earlier that my schedule might be busy now? I’ll still take the job.”

“I want you to play hard to get,” Phichit explains. “We’re not about to let Hollywood walk all over us. And I’m your manager now, by the way. Sorry—that was a spontaneous decision.”

“The walls are thin,” Victor calls. “You may want to speak quieter for your private meeting.”

Yuuri wants to die. He covers his face with his hands, shaking his head. “Phichit…”

“Okay, conference over,” Phichit announces loudly, bringing Yuuri back into the main room. “He’ll take the job, but we have some conditions.”

Victor raises an eyebrow. “Conditions?”

“Yuuri’s job is safe until the production of the movie is over. No more mind tricks, alright? And he wants a high salary. And his own trailer.”

The Russian actor thinks for a moment, then nods. “Yes, yes, and yes.”

(Phichit and Yuuri look at each other, surprised.)

“And… And he wants a cameo role in the movie. And he wants one for me, too!”

“Done.”

Phichit thinks on his feet. “And, I don’t know, a starting bonus of a thousand dollars? Just to settle the deal?”

Victor frowns. “Well, you’ll have to talk to Yakov about that.”

He backs off immediately. “Oh, okay, never mind that last part. But, um, you agree to the rest of the conditions?”

“Certainly,” Victor answers, smiling at both of them. 

“It had better be a nice trailer!” Phichit adds.

Yuuri shoves his shoulder, giving him a death stare. If Phichit keeps pushing Victor, it’s more than possible that he’ll simply walk out of the room. At the same time, though, he respects his friend’s tenacity.

“One with a television, and a nice couch, and a king-sized bed,” Phichit informs Victor firmly. “Alright?”

“Alright.”

“Good!” Phichit rests his hands on his hips, glancing proudly at Yuuri. “Now what else needs to be settled?”

“Nothing,” Victor tells them. “You’ll move into a nicer hotel room on Monday. You’ll teach us how to skate for two months, then we film for four. For the filming you’ll have a trailer. I’ve seen the script, and there’s a lot of skating scenes, so most likely you’ll be there all four months. Post production will take the longest, but neither of us will be around for most of that.”

Yuuri is tempted to pinch himself, unsure as to whether or not this is truly happening.

It’s Phichit who speaks first. “Sounds good. And I’m allowed to visit?”

“Of course,” Victor answers warmly.

“And how many skaters will I be teaching?” Yuuri asks. “How many skaters are in the script?”

“Hmm. There’s me, Yuri, Mila, she’s playing the love interest, Christophe. We each have routines throughout the movie. That should be about it, apart from a few other scenes, probably. The minor, background roles will most likely be filled by actual figure skaters, so you won’t have to do much work there. Yakov will work out a schedule for you.”

Yuuri nods. “Okay. And why did you change your mind about the trainer?”

Victor looks surprised by the question. “What?”

“Well, I didn’t have the part, and now you’re showing up to our hotel room in the middle of the day and offering me a job. And why is it you here instead of Sara or Yakov? Doesn’t all of this seem a little unprofessional?” Yuuri asks, straightening his posture.

Phichit is surprised. Victor is surprised. (Yuuri is the most surprised.)

“Well,” Victor starts, “Yakov doesn’t exactly know that I’m here.”

“What?” Yuuri asks, shaking his head. “What do you mean he doesn’t know that you’re here?”

“They haven’t told Yakov’s first choice that he has gotten the job yet. And he won’t get the job. It’s going to be you. Yuri Plisetsky doesn’t like you—don’t take it personally—but I do.”

They stare at him.

The room is silent.

“So you’re saying that Yuuri doesn’t even have the job yet?” Phichit asks slowly. “You absolute piece of…”

“No, he does,” Victor assures him quickly. “Just not officially. Yakov doesn’t know. But Yakov will listen to me, he doesn’t really have much of a choice, and I say that I want you as my coach.”

Yuuri bites his lip, taking in the information. “And why me, anyway?”

Victor smiles at him. It makes Yuuri’s feet melt beneath him. Makes him dizzy. “Does it matter?”

“Kind of, yeah.”

“I liked your passion,” Victor tells him. “I liked your drive. The movie needs something to brighten up the script. Can I be honest with you, Yuuri?”

Yuuri can’t take his eyes off of him.

He’s stunning. His hair is styled perfectly, the white t-shirt would look plain on anyone else but on him it might as well be a name brand. Everything about him screams perfection. It’s almost frustrating.

Yuuri nods.

“My movies don’t surprise anyone anymore. But when I saw you, I thought maybe we could liven them up a bit. Yakov doesn’t see the problem, he only sees the numbers. Big numbers. But I see the audiences. I see their reactions. And you…”

He stands up and gets closer to Yuuri. Phichit backs away from the two of them, shocked. Victor touches his chin with one hand.

His thumb runs across Yuuri’s bottom lip.

Yuuri watches, shocked, unmoving, afraid of breaking the spell.

“You are just what we need.”

Every bone in his body begs him to move, but he doesn’t. He’s frozen. But he maintains eye contact, blue eyes staring straight through his brown, examining him, still trying to get a feel for him.

Yuuri stands his ground.

Victor leaves a minute later. He says something about calling him in the morning, but all Yuuri can feel is the ghost of the other man’s finger on his lips. He reaches up and touches his lip, wondering how he can bring the sensation back. Wondering how Victor Nikiforov had unraveled him with a single touch.

“Okay, tell me you felt that,” Phichit begs, sitting down on the hotel room bed and staring at Yuuri wide-eyed.

Yuuri stumbles to find words, still unsure as to whether or not the events of the past few minutes actually happened. “Felt what?”

“The unresolved sexual tension in the air. Oh my god. He looked like he was going to make out with you then and there, with me watching!”

Yuuri rolls his eyes. “Phichit, he was not about to make out with me.”

(Or was he? What was going through his head?)

“He would’ve if I hadn’t been there. I’m very sorry, Yuuri. I just stopped you from potentially having sex with Victor Nikiforov.”

Phichit.