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The most surprising thing about being with Yuri is how uncomplicated and simple everything is. In most situations, Otabek is used to feeling a little out of place, a bit strange. It’s not really a big deal; it’s not as if he doesn’t have friends, they’re just far away more often than not, and he’s finding nowadays that the list of people whose opinions he cares for is getting shorter, shorter…

Yuri jerks in his arms, leaning to the left with the motion of his character in the snowboarding game running on the TV. They end up like this most nights, an inevatibility; when Otabek had moved to Russia to train under Yakov it had been easy to justify getting an apartment together, easy to justify, even, the fact that it’s a one-bedroom. Otabek effectively has a nook set up in the living room, which they never use, a space to keep his books and his laptop, but they sleep here. It had just happened, the already small space they shared for most hours of the day becoming smaller and smaller through exposure until Otabek’s bubble became Yuri’s bubble and vice versa. Now they touch all the time, to congratulate, to reassure, to relax. Otabek’s hand is on Yuri’s flank, stroking absently along his waist as he holds his paperback above Yuri’s shoulder on the other side.

“You’re getting pretty good at that,” he comments as Yuri finishes the course. There are the other touches, too, the ones they don’t share in front of their coaches and rink mates, not out of fear or embarrassment but simply because over the years they’ve become sort of private, only theirs. Otabek softly nuzzles the back of Yuri’s neck and lets his hair sweep over the bridge of his nose. He likes the way he reacts to that, and uses it sparingly as a result; the shiver that goes through him makes Otabek smile against his shoulder blade.

Yuri sets the controller down next to them and turns around, kneeling up between Otabek’s splayed legs. Otabek blinks at him and puts his book down, too. Yuri gets this look when he’s about to be serious: he sucks in his cheeks and purses his lips, and it’s adorable, but Otabek will never tell him that, because he’s aware of his own mortality. Yuri pokes at Otabek’s side, and he seems to be considering him.

Otabek doesn’t ask. His hand is still at Yuri’s side. Yuri leans forward, squints at him, as if he is trying to puzzle out Otabek’s face, and Otabek lets him do it.

He seems to snap out of it on his own after a moment; he backs off, and puffs a breath up to blow a lock of hair out of his eyes. His hair is long now, past his shoulders, and Otabek gets distracted by it easily. He lets himself watch the light play like gold foil across it in the mornings, only narrowly resisting the urge to reach out and touch. He recalls this particular morning, being reluctant to rise on their day off, and smiles.

“What is it?” Yuri must notice the wistfulness on his face. Otabek wills himself to focus again.

“Nothing,” he says, “just thinking.” He trails his hand from Yuri’s abdomen, over his chest, to lightly trace his cheekbone. “Your hair. I like it.”

The blond makes an effort to hide his blush, but Otabek doesn’t miss it; at this point, he is an expert at catching Yuri’s little smiles, the ones that twitch onto his face before he can think to hide them. “Beka,” he says softly, and his eyes drop to the floor beside them, “does it ever bother you?”

“Does what bother me?” Otabek is used to Yuri being somewhat cryptic, but he also can’t really focus with his hands running through his silken hair like this. So maybe he’s at fault for not picking up what Yuri’s putting down; it could be on either of them at this point.

“That we… haven’t…” Yuri trails off. He scoots back a bit, and Otabek leans forward, following him before he consciously makes the decision to do so. He’s spent so much time and practice carefully avoiding the things that make Yuri close off and shut down - there’s a moment of panic as he realizes he may have stumbled upon another one. He hovers his body close to Yuri’s as he watches the frustration fight with the words on the tip of his tongue.

“You know,” the blond says, like it's suddenly obvious. His hand goes to Otabek’s thigh above his knee, just resting there. “That we just… kiss. And nothing else.”

Otabek lets out a breath. He scrutinizes the expression on Yuri’s face, all angles now. He’s never thought about this; Yuri, barely nineteen, has probably been mulling it over for months. He thinks of all the times Yuri’s been on his lap, his hands tracing the curve of his hips, and the way he’s backed off when they’ve dipped a little lower; he’s adapted to it without a second thought each time, unconscious acknowledgement of Yuri’s boundaries, happy as anything to simply be kissing him. He remembers working himself up and over the edge in the shower, thinking of Yuri’s collarbone and his bare chest, feeling childish and invasive after. And he leans forward and kisses him, as full and deep as any touch they’ve ever shared. Yuri melts easily into it; Otabek feels the way the tension leaves the nape of his neck as he holds him there, fingers threaded lightly into the hair at the back of his head.

Yuri’s tongue plays at where they’re pressed together and Otabek teases for only a moment, smiling tight-lipped into it, before letting him in. He relishes the rare moments Yuri feels empowered to take the lead, when his need for closeness overtakes the shyness he hides so well. Being able to comfort Yuri, hold him when he cries (and he does - his emotions are a bit haywire these days, set off by a thrilling competition or a tough practice, and he doesn’t really try to hide it anymore, just curls up on the sofa hugging the cat to his chest and quietly sobbing into her fur. Otabek hates seeing him like that, but he understands, gives Yuri space for the tears that wrack his body to flow out for a while before he’ll sit down beside him and let Yuri wrap himself around him at his own pace) is an intimate privilege he doesn’t quite know how he stumbled into having, but he’s fiercely protective of that role, and he pours that into this kiss, drawing on all his previous unspoken communication with his rinkmate, the way they know each other’s bodies and habits and limits, to get Yuri to understand what he’s trying to tell him. Neither of them ever have the words.

Otabek pulls back by degrees, by centimeters, finding himself drawn back in multiple times before he can completely let go. That’s how it is with Yuri; the layer of armor he wears, cold and tightly sealed, has pressure points, as it turns out, well-hidden seams that crumble under dedicated patience and finally give way to an intoxicating warmth and softness. Otabek had sensed greatness in him first, and then dedication, and intensity, and finally, love, at the very center of him, the capacity he’s always guarded most closely. The sweetness of him, the selectiveness of who his love is given to; Otabek admires him still, for the way he treats his grandfather, the gentleness and innocence in the way his knuckles turn white when he hugs him after not having seen him in a while, but he also adores him. Yuri can go from zero to a hundred in a split second, and he can run manic circles around poor Nikiforov, rendered a bit soft these days by fatherhood, just for fun, and he can drive Yakov up the wall more efficiently than anyone else on their team, but he can also make wonderful stew, and choose an incredibly thoughtful gift, and fall asleep faster and in more places than anyone Otabek knows. These are the things he used to peek in at through the windows, and which he now gets to see up close, without a veneer of frosted glass between them.

“Like that?” Otabek licks his lips. Yuri constantly piles on this shea butter lip balm; it tastes like a soy candle smells. “Do I mind that we just do that?”

Yuri stares at him. His cheeks are pink and his eyes are huge; he looks like a kid again, but open and vulnerable. Otabek realizes he’s holding Yuri’s wrist very tightly where it rests on his own shoulder; he slackens his grip, and Yuri moves his hand to trace his fingers across the outline of Otabek’s lips. “Yeah. I guess,” he says. His speech sounds jarring, louder than it should. Otabek knows he’s expected to quiet it, because it’s a reflection of the buzzing in Yuri’s head.

“When you’re ready,” he says, taking hold of Yuri’s wrist again to make him be still, “we can do other things.”

Yuri huffs, but his gaze doesn’t drop from Otabek’s. “What if I’m never ready?” The blush is now set deeper in his cheeks, darker, his voice so low it can barely be heard, and - ah, Otabek realizes. That’s what this is.

“I don’t,” he begins, and then he interrupts himself to lean forward again, taking Yuri’s lips in another kiss, less heated and demanding than before but still insistent, assertive. Pulling away at Yuri’s soft whimper so he won’t get too distracted, he tries again: “I don’t care.” His hands go to Yuri’s hips, and Yuri doesn’t squirm away, or even shift; he holds his ground, and Otabek feels proud of him, and thrilled that Yuri trusts him enough that his touch here doesn’t scare him away. “When has this ever not been enough?” he asks earnestly, and feels a pang of insecurity thud from somewhere deep within him; he hopes upon hope that Yuri doesn’t have an answer.

Yuri just looks at him again, a little curiously, but then he turns around and leans back against Otabek’s chest again, unpausing his game to go onto the next course. A bit stunned, Otabek fumbles around behind him for his novel, but he can’t get back into it. He’s too distracted by the warmth of Yuri’s core as he rests his hand against it. Hot blood, he’d heard Mila explain solemnly, commiserating, after Yuri’d thrown a fit about something or other. Otabek smiles. Hot blood and a strong, soft heart, and tonight he’ll fall asleep with it all pumping steadily against him and tomorrow he’ll wake up to the same rhythm, to the same curtain of marigold-yellow hair, to the familiar beat of Yuri’s breath and the way they touch, still deliberate and sure, and nothing else will matter.