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Yuuri!!! on Floor

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July 27, 2012

phichit+chu WOW (^∇^) #tokyo2012 #openingceremonies
lovelifeleo, katsuki-don, ciaociaocialdini and 175 others like this.

 

katsuki-don so proud #tokyo2012 #openingceremonies
madonna-yuuko, nishigori-kun, mari-chan, minakodeladanse, singsingswing, and 8 others like this.
> madonna-yuuko you’ll make us proud! #hasetsucastlegym
> nishigori-kun MY HOMETOWN BOY #hasetsu

 

phichit+chu TORCH IS LIT ː̗̀٩꒰ꋃ꒱وː̖́ #tokyo2012 #myfirstolympics #openingceremonies
lovelifeleo, katsuki-don, ciaociaocialdini and 302 others like this.
> phichit+chu this has been my dream
> phichit+chu for so long
> phichit+chu still can’t believe it \\\(۶•̀ᴗ•́)۶////
> ciaociaocialdini #goblue proud of you all

 

phichit+chu FIREWORKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! o(o) #tokyo2012 #openingceremonies
lovelifeleo, katsuki-don, ciaociaocialdini and 249 others like this.

 

July 28, 2012

phichit+chu roomie took me to get kat~su~don~ with his friends and family! #tokyo2012 #katsudon
lovelifeleo, katsuki-don, madonna-yuuko and 83 others like this
> madonna-yuuko so nice to finally meet you!
> lovelifeleo jealous *AND* hungry now
> phichit+chu @lovelifeleo where are youuuu
> lovelifeleo coach won’t let us leave the village tonight
> ciaociaocialdini shouldn’t you all be focusing on qualifiers tomorrow? ciao ciao!

 

katsuki-don カツ丼 ♡~٩(^^)۶♡ #mamamakesitbetter #tokyo2012 #katsudon
phichit+chu, singsingswing, madonna-yuuko and 249 others like this.
> mari-chan it’s a #yu-topia family secret~~~
> madonna-yuuko we had to come wish you good luck! ♡♡♡
> singsingswing katsuki-san I know you’re going to be great tomorrow!

 

July 29, 2012

phichit+chu competing in my first ever olympic qualifiers today! wish us luck xoxo #tokyo2012
katsuki-don, ciaociaocialdini, and 84 others like this.
> katsuki-don SO NERVOUS OMG (Д)
> ciaociaocialdini stay focused!

 

[Text Messages; Yuuri’s Phone]

July 29, 2012

Phichit: Yuuri
Phichit: Yuuuuuuuri
Phichit: YUUUUUUUUURI
Phichit: WHERE ARE YOU

 

Coach Cialdini: Your sister texted me, your family’s looking for you
Coach Cialdini: Don’t let this ruin your Olympics, Yuuri

 

- - -

 

Katsuki Yuuri was, as a point of fact, in a bathroom stall. Worse, he was crying in a bathroom stall, struggling to control his breath, to somehow contain his sobbing. Qualifiers had been an unmitigated disaster on almost every front. Team Japan had been counting on him to qualify in most of the events to anchor the team’s hopes of competing in Team All-Arounds.

The catastrophe, like a train wreck he could see coming from miles away, had started with the draw, which put him qualifying on Horizontal Bar first, his second worst event, only surpassed by the paralyzing anxiety that surrounded every Vault competition.

He could remember it perfectly, the haunting feeling of the bar brushing his fingertips, the way that what couldn’t have been more than a second between his missed catch and the crash to the floor seemed to expand into whole eternities of falling. The feeling stayed with him into his second event, supposedly his best: floor, and he’d turned in a performance there that was far from the personal best he’d gotten earlier in the year. Afterwards there had been no saving rings or pommel, and he’d fallen on both of his vaults — compulsory for individual all-around qualifying, but an event he’d always hated.

Vault was ever and always a pair of single moments, and given such a precise points upon which to graft his failures, Katsuki Yuuri never disappointed.

The sinking feeling stayed with him as his teammates drifted further away, in careful silence, unsure of what to say; in Mitsurou-sensei’s attempts to talk him out of the downward spiral; in the way Coach cialdini looked at him, worried, from time to time, as he followed Leo around the arena. Phichit, trying to qualify for just the one event, and the only gymnast representing Thailand, had gone out of his way as they passed each other on rotation to reach out and squeeze his arm, wearing a worried expression that had told Yuuri plenty about just how bad things were.

He was a fraud.

Somehow he’d managed to win the Japanese championships. He’d just missed the podium in the All-Arounds for the Asian Games in 2010, falling behind other competitors from China and Korea, but had a medal in floor to show for his efforts. His international performances had been decent, respectable, some might argue. He saw them now for what they were: an international Also-Ran. He wasn’t a superstar, not like this year’s favorite, a flamboyant Swiss gymnast Yuuri didn’t know very well, and certainly not like the Russians Yakov Feltsman seemed to turn out year after year, contest after contest. But it had been enough to catch the attention of Celestino Cialdini, who was the Head Gymnastics Coach at the University of Michigan, back in the United States. Ciao Ciao had been the one to convince him and Phichit, after the Asian Games, to apply to study in the United States, who said he was rebuilding the college team in the search of an NCAA Championship he was confident the Wolverines could clench.

Except Ciao Ciao was with Leo de la Iglesia now, expected to join them at Michigan in just a few weeks, and couldn’t help Yuuri here. In Tokyo, Celestino Cialdini was a mere assistant in the Team USA staff. Leo, who’d only just graduated high school, was the youngest gymnast on their whole team.

And Katsuki Yuuri was Japanese, and so when qualifiers came around, they were competitors, not friends.

Anyway, all of it had been sheer dumb luck. Victories secured in front of smaller audiences. On lower stakes. Here, in the Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, with his entire family and his handful of friends watching from the stands in real time, the hopes of his whole country bearing down on his shoulders, Katsuki Yuuri failed to deliver.

He ought to have known that was the outcome, written in his stars: Katsuki Yuuri, nothing more than an ordinary boy, certainly not born to make history.

I’ll just get my degree and be done with it, he decided, when his tears were well and fully spent, leaving him with nothing more than a bone-dead exhaustion that barely let him walk back to his dorm in the athletes' village. 

He had sixty-three different unread notifications on his phone when he collapsed into bed, and because he wasn’t willing to be both a bad son and a bad gymnast, he sent just the one text message before falling into a black sleep that didn’t even give nightmares.

Like its own little death. Empty and meaningless.

 

- - -

 

[Group Text; Katsuki Family]

Yuuri: ill be ok. going to bed. talk later.

 

- - -

 

Morning came, because morning always seemed to come anyway, even when Katsuki Yuuri rather wished that it wouldn’t. It came in the form of a pillow thrown at him by his roommate; not Phichit, unfortunately: another Team Japan athlete who'd had tremendously little to say in regards to his performance (or complete lack thereof) from the night before.

There’s an idiot outside who keeps talking to me in English and I want to go back to bed. He’s here for you. Get up.

“Huh?”

The one from instagram.

There could only be one person who was “the one from instagram.” Phichit Chulanont, Yuuri's sometimes teammate, when they were both back at Michigan; a long-time competitor in all the competitions they’d grown up in while trying to build careers as gymnasts all throughout Asia. Phichit was the first gymnast in Thailand who had the potential to really compete, and he had wandered his way through the road leading up to the games with stars in his eyes and an irrepressible cheer that Yuuri both admired and envied, because he’d never once felt so optimistic or carefree about his own chances.

Instead he'd felt what he felt before every competition, and that was an endless abyss of pure dread.

Yuuri shambled out of his bed at the same time as his roommate shambled back into the other one, and came to the door in the yukata every athlete in the village had been given. It was part of the host nation touch, that and the house shoes, and he'd decided to sleep in it because it had vaguely reminded him of home. Home, where he’d been able to develop his love of gymnastics in private, away from the stares of thousands of strangers, away from the trail of cameras.

Whatever gymnastics was now, it didn’t feel like that love.

Phichit was already dressed and ready for the day, bouncing on his toes. “Morning, Yuuri!” Looking at the Thai gymnast, Yuuri supposed a total stranger would never be able to tell that his Michigan roommate hadn’t been able to qualify at all, not even for his best individual event: vault. He’d come closer than ever to making the final cut, and it hadn’t been quite enough. Phichit had what seemed like a million instagram fans, though, and no doubt he’d gotten nothing but encouraging messages from them. Though his mega-watt smile hadn’t dimmed in response to his own short-lived Olympics, it wavered as he studied his best friend. “Leo said he can get away long enough to meet us for breakfast,” Phichit began, expressive face drifting into a pout that reminded Yuuri, in a strange way, of the family dog. Vicchan, they'd named the toy poodle, back then, after Victory, which commemorated Yuuri’s first gold in a junior competition and supposedly was going to help with his nerves.

“You’re not going to make me go without you, are you?”

“… I’ll get dressed.” He had to face the day somehow. Plenty more like it were coming. The next ten days had been meant for the All-Arounds, and the Team Event, and now all Yuuri had between him and the end of his Olympics was one single final on Floor, nearly at the end. That was plenty of time to agonize about the event, to let depression seep into his bones, whittling away at what meagre resolve he’d ever had to begin with. 

Leo was waiting in one of the village cafeterias, drumming his fingers on the table in time to the music playing over the speakers. He’d qualified for an individual showing on parallel bars, at least, which Yuuri would’ve been happy about if Leo’s presence, in his Team USA jacket, hadn’t been such a stark reminder of the way he’d let Team Japan down. They were going to the team finals, after all. “… Hey.”

They’d both sat with him, still, because they were good friends, even when Yuuri felt the least like himself, unlikable, even. He scrolled through an endless number of texts and posts, finally getting around to flipping through a long list of social media notifications, very few of which seemed worth reading.

> LOSER! what an embarrassment! I hope you apologize to your teammates
> singsingswing katsuki-san don’t listen to them
> singsingswing you’re still my hero 

“Quit that!” Phichit scrambled to grab his phone, and Yuuri, his hands suddenly empty, crossed his arms and let his head sink into the cradle they made. “It’s like sitting here watching you pick at a scab,” he said, “and I won’t do it. Leo, tell him!”

“You’ve got a lot of time before floor, still, Yuuri,” Leo murmured, flashing one of his gentle smiles. “Your parents, your sister … they closed the hotel down to come see you, right?”

“Yeah.” Yuuri gave a miserable affirmative, muffled by the table and his arms. “I let them all down, Leo. I know that.” A flicker of temper roared up, an instinct to hurt something, to lash out. Yuuri tried to clamp it down, to redirect his anger back where it belonged: squarely pointed at himself. “I don’t need the reminder.”

“Coach said you’d say that,” Phichit muttered, suddenly sullen. Evidently they’d both talked to cialdini, even if Yuuri had not. It was strange, competing against his college coach here, taking all of his instructions from a coach he hadn’t worked with in over a year. Phichit, seemingly in spite of his sour tone, leaned over and wrapped his arms over Yuuri’s, tilting his head against his friend’s rigid back.

“Yeah,” Leo added, and he reached over to the next seat for his bag, and laid a hand on Yuuri’s shoulder. “For what it’s worth, he also said to make your floor performance for them, like you’re back at home, instead of putting the whole weight of your country on your shoulders. I’ve got to run,” he apologized. “We’ve got a thing, with NBC …”

The media. Yuuri had almost forgotten.

“I’m keeping your phone until you finish your interviews,” Phichit chirped, as though he’d read Yuuri’s mind. He had not done so, of course, but Yuuri’s shoulders had gone rigid under his weight, and there was, apparently, a way to positively radiate dread. “You can have it back when you’re done.”

By the time he actually got to his press conference, Yuuri had gotten his hands on a pen and paper, had drafted a written statement. I would like to apologize to the teammates I let down yesterday in our qualifier, to my friends and family, and to the people of Japan for yesterday’s disappointment. I will do my best to salvage Team Japan’s reputation in the Floor Event to make up for my mistakes. I will be thinking about yesterday for the rest of my life, and am considering what it means for my career in international competition. That is all I have to say at this time. Thank you.

There was no way to post it to instagram; Phichit had his phone.

 

- - -

 

[Texts, Phichit’s Phone]

Leo: is it just me or did it sound like Yuuri’s thinking about not competing internationally next year?
Phichit: (゚ペ)
Phichit: we will just have to talk him out of it!

 

- - -

 

August 7, 2012

Phichit Chulanont was voguing in his doorframe. “We’re going out.”

“Floor finals are in two days, Phichit, I need to focus.”

“That,” Phichit crooned triumphantly, wrapping his arms around Yuuri’s neck, one leg haphazardly up in the air, “is exactly why we’re going.”

 

 - - -

 

Flashback, October 7, 2011

In their few weeks as roommates, Katsuki Yuuri had learned more about Phichit Chulanont than he’d ever been able to glean from their meetings at international contests for gymnastics around Asia. He’d learned, for instance, that Phichit missed his hamsters at home, had somehow gotten pillows in the shape of all three of them, made his family sometimes point the phone towards their cage in a strange Skype livestream that even Yuuri had needed to watch. He’d been forced to watch Phichit’s favorite movie four times, and seen the sequel twice.

He’d learned that Phichit’s irrepressible cheer was not, in any way, a front: his friend truly possessed the art of optimism. He’d also learned that this bright mien sometimes turned into a kind of electric, nervous energy, and was beginning to come to predict when it would lead to surprising, spontaneous outbursts.

3, 2, ….

“I’m going to FreshSpectives tonight.” Phichit announced suddenly, leaning over Yuuri’s chair to cast a critical eye at his homework.

Yuuri pretended not to know what that was, as though he hadn’t seen the flyers for it in their first week, when Phichit had dragged him through the student union looking for clubs to sign up in that surely the Thai gymnast was never actually going to have time for. FreshSpectives: Building Community with LGBTQIA Students. He’d read the poster, and had pondered what it meant, because there were so many more letters strung together than he’d ever heard about in Japan.

With Phichit asleep, after that first day, he’d fallen into a hole on Wikipedia, and had emerged from it with significantly less clarity than where he’d started, head swimming with information that seemed to be common knowledge in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but had never really been discussed in Hasetsu, Japan.

L, G, B, T, Q, Q, I, P, 2S, A, A? All those letters. Which one was he?

“Yuuuuuuuri.” He’d also learned about the effectiveness of Phichit’s whine, and the way his roommate could seemingly flop anywhere, over anything: presently over Yuuri’s homework, for example, like he was liquid, and could seep anywhere. “Everyone thinks Thailand’s this great place for gay people, but it’s really complicated and — and — even if you’re not gay, won’t you come support me?”

So Phichit was a G, then, on that bewildering list of letters. Gay. He’d said it the way he did everything else, lightly, like a feather in the wind, drifting and swirling and heedless of whatever direction he was being pulled in. Yuuri didn’t think he’d ever have whatever that was, that kind of carefree.

Phichit Chulanont was also really good at batting his eyelashes, and dragging Yuuri Katsuki to places he would’ve never gone to on his own. Months later, after listening carefully to the coming out stories of others in the club, even Phichit’s starry-eyed confession about another gymnast he’d desperately wanted to kiss when he was thirteen, Yuuri had admitted to the same question which had lingered in his thoughts for ages:

I don’t really know what I am, to be honest.

Phichit had been as warm and enthusiastic as ever: “that’s okay, Yuuri! Just be yourself!”

It seemed so easy for someone like Phichit Chulanont, something as simple as knowing who he was.

 

  - - -

 

August 7, 2012

Out, as it turned out, had meant going to a club in Shinjuku, and Phichit had refused to settle for Yuuri’s initial attempt to dress himself. You can’t go out like that! It’s our first Olympics. We’re going to celebrate. Let me dress you up. He’d swept into Yuuri’s room like a hurricane, ignoring objections, had made him put his contacts in, ran gel through his hair, insisted on a change of clothes: a black shirt with a silver streak that ran like lightning over its shoulder, and trickled over his hips. It fit far more snugly than Yuuri really liked, and made him wonder, for a moment, whether or not he’d put on weight in the scant number of days since Qualifiers. Phichit didn’t let him think about it for very long: a pair of narrow, black slacks hit him in the face straight after, evidently an improvement over the jeans he’d wanted to go out in.

 

 - - -

 

[Instagram]

phichit+chu we clean up gooooood! (゜▼゜*)@katsuki-don #tokyo2012 #boysnightout

 

 - - -

 

Yuuri picked at the hem of his t-shirt, trying and failing to ignore his nerves. Phichit, who had a sixth sense for places to have a good time had gotten them into a club with a larger group, somehow flouncing the ID rules that Yuuri was certain should have gotten them stopped at the door. He’d bounced from the entrance directly to the dance floor, and dragged Yuuri with him in the process, bypassing the bar entirely. Thailand’s drinking age was 20, and in the states it was 21, and evidently both of those things were reasonably well enforced, as far as Yuuri could tell.

Besides, he thought, darkly, Phichit can’t get caught drinking. He’d let his whole country down. A cynical part of him wondered whether or not the Thai gymnast had picked his battles afterall.

On the dance floor he’d been unable to let go and just enjoy the music, in spite of the relative novelty of finally hearing the vocalists croon to him in his own language, after a year away from home. Careful who sees you, he’d reminded himself, bitterly, even as Phichit tried to draw him in closer. Phichit was a snuggler. Phichit had no respect for personal space. The Japanese press were already having a field day with Yuuri’s meltdown in qualifiers; he didn’t need to fuel the flames by letting the worst of the tabloids run a headline insisting he was gay.

And yet. And yet. And yet. They didn’t seem to be the only two men dancing together on the dance floor, though the couples, as far as Yuuri could tell, among the flashing lights, seemed mixed.

He supposed Phichit was to blame for this, too.

You could get a drink. The drinking age in Japan was technically 20. Technically, because Yuuri didn’t know a single person who hadn’t started drinking in high school, fetching beers from vending machines or picking up their liquor from convenience stores that literally never carded the way people did back in the states. It was a voice he knew he shouldn’t have listened to, this little whisper. It wouldn’t be a good thing to bring any more embarrassment to his teammates or his coaches.

Except his anxiety shouted louder, was deafening.

Just one drink. To take the edge off. “I need some water,” he told Phichit, nearly shouting in his friend’s ear over the thrum of the music. In response he got a mega-watt smile and every indication that Phichit wasn’t quitting any time soon. Yuuri gave what he hoped was a convincing smile in response, and then he purposefully let the crowd separate them.

 

  - - -

 

[Text Messages, Viktor’s Phone] 

Christophe: You get to Tokyo yet?
Viktor: Landed a few days ago. Been sightseeing. You?
Christophe: Staying in the village.
Christophe: Did you know they’re giving out a hundred thousand condoms this year?
Viktor: … I do now.
Christophe: I’ve heard good things about Shinjuku.
Viktor: Oh? Coming tonight?
Christophe: One hopes. I’m staying in. Need to see about a swimmer. Very inspired by those abs.
Christophe: Don’t do anyone I wouldn’t do, Vitya. xoxo

 

  - - -

 

That, Viktor thought, was casting a rather wide net. And somehow just like Christophe, who moved through life in a series of cresting waves, forever on the prowl for his next great peak, his next challenge, the next terrific ride. They’d become friends working with a non-profit that helped locate and help young athletes throughout Europe; the strange mentorship program that currently saw Viktor saddled with a budding junior gymnast currently sitting out the Tokyo competition because he wasn’t quite old enough. Yuri Plisetsky was one of Yakov’s, now, but he hadn’t been when they’d first met. Back then he’d been a furious pre-teen in a second-hand tiger hoodie, and he’d been struggling to secure enough practice time to really shine in Moscow, in spite of all of his Grandfather’s support. 

Bunch of cowards, Yuri Plisetsky had cursed before Viktor had left, dropping in on the teen in Moscow on his way to the airport. Yuri’d sat with his feet thrown up on his desk, defiant, turning over his junior world championship medal in a hand to inspect it for dust. It was gold, just the way Viktor’s had been at his age. They’re just afraid I’d wipe the floor with all of them. Guang Hong has to sit out, too. Bet you China sucks without him…

Rules are rules, Yurotchka. Viktor had smiled, and pat him on the head, which the teen had reacted to with a vicious swipe so very akin to the cats he clearly loved. I missed the podium when I went to my first olympics in Turin, you know. Build your strength. You’ll have your chance in Vancouver.

I hate it when you call me that, the teenager had grumbled, but he’d put his medal away, and fixed Viktor with his glare instead. Have a good time in Tokyo doing your stupid torch stuff or whatever.

Stupid torch stuff was still several days away, but with Christophe expected to do well in all-arounds, Viktor figured he’d repay his friend the favor of two years before by coming to watch the gymnasts early. Christophe had traveled an even greater distance to see Viktor win his first gold in Beijing. It was the very least he could do in return. He had a long program for the upcoming season to finish choreographing, but inspiration had been slow to settle around one concrete theme. Take a break, Christophe had advised, in a rare moment of seriousness. Maybe watching the Games in Tokyo will revive your competitive spirit.

Viktor missed Christophe now. His friend was notoriously competitive and would’ve been a great help in overcoming the barrier Viktor faced now, as one of only a handful of white faces in a crowded club, and with zero ability to speak Japanese, no less. Christophe had a tendency to both start and finish informal dance competitions and never heeded such trifles as when or where he could start them. There was no language barrier the Swiss gymnast hadn’t been able to overcome with sheer charisma. Viktor would have liked the excuse of Christophe’s intuition and impulsiveness now, but in the meanwhile a drink would have to do instead. Something to settle in. He made an impulsive order for something someone else was drinking, a pretty shade of green, both sweet and sour at the same time. Curiosity had struck. Surprise me, Viktor had said. He liked surprises. The ice skater took a first sip, appreciative, and it was just after the second that someone bumped into his back.

“Sumimasen!” Viktor had no idea what that meant, but it sounded like an apology, and so he turned to acknowledge it properly. “I mean, sorry — “ Standing in front of him was a young man in a black t-shirt, his hair slicked back, face a strange study in contradictions. It was all angles, and still all softness, and Viktor Nikiforov had never seen someone who could be impossibly both at those things at exactly the same time. More fascinating were the mahogany lights in his dark eyes, and the way they made Viktor think of what fires looked like, when they were on their very last embers.

The way they simmered before dying.

Yuuri Katsuki, who was well and properly drunk, leaned in, brushing back Viktor’s bangs for a rare look at both of his blue eyes, catching them in-between the lightning bolts of flashing lights in the club. “You ‘ave prettyyy eyes,” he slurred in English, for the benefit of the foreigner, with a tilt of his head. “Y’wanna dance?”

 

  - - -

August 8, 2012

[Text Messages; Yuuri’s Phone]

Phichit: YUUURI. Where did you go last night?
Phichit: …
Phichit: Last I saw you were out on the dance floor
Phichit: WAKE UP GOSH
Phichit: Inquiring minds o(o)
Yuuri: … got a little drunk
Yuuri: and left
Yuuri: sorry!

 

  - - - 

 

Yuuri wasn’t sure he wanted to explain it, the way he’d come to with a pounding headache in an unfamiliar hotel room as sunlight snuck through the cracks in the screens lowered over the windows. Alarm had raced through him, then, more urgent than any of the symptoms of his hangover, and he’d scrambled to sit up, to try to piece together facts.

Fact one: he’d changed clothes. He was in a sleeping yukata, again; the hotel’s, evidently, but his clothes were neatly and carefully folded over the couch. He’d woken up by himself in a twin bed; the room itself had two of them. The other one looked slept in. Surely that was a good sign. The shower was running in the bathroom, though, and that was a bad sign, the worst. He needed to get his bearings. Padding over to the window, Yuuri peeked past the shade, blinking down at the Imperial Gardens below. Ginza. He was in Ginza.

Judging by the view alone, this was a very nice hotel.

He blinked, ignoring the protest of his slept-in contacts, and raked his fingers through his hair, scrambling to get dressed.

“Yuuri?” Accented English, coming from the bathroom. It sounded familiar. Summoned flickers of memory: of silver hair, so soft to the touch; the mercurial flash of cerulean blue eyes. There had been a cab, and he’d constantly crept closer, had felt the press of patient fingers at his wrists, carefully re-arranging him. He remembered an elevator, the way he’d clumsily pressed his lips to the elegant hollow of a man’s throat.

The revelation of that, of kissing sent heat all over his body, from the tips of his toes to his ears, and then the voice called again. “Are you awake?” Silence. “I’ll be out in a minute —“

Did I just sleep with a stranger?

Panic and bile rose in his throat. He’d never slept with anyone. His friends at college always talked about it. Every week some new relationship was forming or unraveling. Even back in Hasetsu, Yuuko had gone and fallen for Takeshi, of all people. In high school, he’d tried to date a girl once, had even gone as far as kissing her. He’d felt nothing and it had terrified him, sent him into Minako’s dance studio for hours trying to figure out what was wrong with him.

Everyone else seemed to fall in and out of love so easily, so naturally.

Katsuki Yuuri loved gymnastics and katsudon and his dog. He loved his family. In a way, he supposed he loved his friends. He didn’t love anyone the way all the songs and stories said he was supposed to. He’d broken it off with the girl, back then, terrified by the emptiness of his own heart. Used the excuse that had stayed with him ever since, even at Michigan.

International gymnastics was a marathon of one contest after another. He was too busy for dating.

A pen and paper were left on the room’s desk, and he raced to them, left a note. Coward, some part of Yuuri insisted. This, though, after the disaster of qualifying, couldn’t possibly be news.

I HAVE TO GO. SORRY.

 

   - - -

 

[Text Messages; Viktor’s Phone]

Christophe: Well?
Viktor: I’ll tell you about it later.

 

    - - -

 

“I thought it was just the abs,” Christophe explained over a bowl of ramen, wiggling his eyebrows mischievously. “Clearly I hadn’t paid enough attention to his hips…” A slow blink followed. “Viktor. Viktor Nikiforov. Earth to Viktor.” 

“Sorry…”

“You’re on a whole different planet today. What the hell happened?”

Viktor stirred, subtly troubled in a way Christophe was never allowed to see. It was hard to learn anything about Viktor Nikiforov that couldn’t be read in an article about figure skating, in a magazine. He was a living legend. European champion, world champion, gold medalist. An incredible choreographer. Could’ve had a promising career in ballet, according to his early teachers, if the rink hadn’t gotten to him first. An artist at heart. Viktor was passionate and focused, when it came to his career, but in his own way he was also wayward; forever looking for his next inspiration. Drifting. And yet he had the kind of accolades Christophe could only dream of; his name was going to be in the record books for years, and he had no intention of retiring anytime soon. They competed in completely different sports and still Christophe felt like he was chasing after the Russian’s shadow. To see this, though, this vulnerability: it was a rarity, something Viktor rarely consciously allowed.

He had an impeccable public face. A heart-shaped smile that had charmed millions. A secret carefully kept from the Russian public which only very few were aware of, Christophe included. Some days he suspected he’d only been brought into the cone of secrecy, in regards to Viktor’s sexuality, because of that one time in Vienna, and even then something like the real Viktor had eluded him completely; had never gone further than the one messy make-out Christophe had started just to get a reaction, to stir up some shit. He'd gotten a reaction, back then, he supposed, but they hadn't really clicked in terms of chemistry, and because he suspected neither one of them cared to try and cultivate a thing that wasn't there, Christophe had moved on without hard feelings. It wasn’t in his nature to dwell on things that weren’t meant to be.

Viktor conducted a series of carefully orchestrated public relationships instead. A Russian ballerina had been the latest, Yakov’s ex-wife’s niece, or something like that. People Christophe had watched Viktor Nikiforov try to love, in his own way. Except that in some strange way, Viktor was already taken, married to the ice, to the graces of winter. Everything else always seemed to come in second in the chambers of his heart, which were colder than Christophe thought anyone knew to expect. “… I met someone last night.” His eyes, as clear and bright as the Mediterranean sea, shone momentarily, and it struck Christophe this was the first time he might’ve ever called them stormy, except perhaps in some performances, whenever Viktor was acting, when it suited him. “He was …”

How could Viktor explain it? The way a total stranger had been both hard and soft, gentle and firm; the utter inexperience and hunger in his kiss, like he’d gone a whole lifetime never knowing his own spark. Viktor tended to draw people in, was well aware of his own siren song, and this almost-boy had come to him ready to drown, eager. He’d needed to be careful, ever wary of cameras, kept them separate in the taxi and carefully navigated in and out of the elevator of the Hotel Peninsula. 

I’m Viktor, he’d hummed against the other man’s lips, once they were behind closed doors, sitting on the couch with his fingers spilling over the stranger’s knees. Viktor was nowhere near as drunk as the other man was, and yet the kiss alone threatened its own kind of intoxication; every one of them was different, each their own kind of surprise. mmmYuri had been the answer, and he’d laughed softly, because of course there’d be another Yuri in his life, a new one, as completely different from the teenager in everything except something that read a little bit like a hunger.

A certain kind of starvation for love, perhaps.

Then this Yuri had nearly drifted off in his arms, mumbling apologies that barely qualified as English, and Viktor had chuckled at the ridiculousness of his life, gotten him into pajamas, and put him to bed. There was time still to unravel the mystery, he’d told himself, then. He could be patient.

“I guess it doesn’t matter,” he admitted, shaking his head. “I didn’t have the kind of night you had. He took off before I could talk to him properly this morning, and I’m not going to find him again the middle of the Tokyo Olympics.”

It saddened him, that, to think about the subtle smolder he’d seen in those dark, expressive eyes, and to never have the chance to try to fan those flames, to explore their nuance.

“You get a picture at least?” Christophe nudged him, teasing, and Viktor sighed, handing over his phone. He’d taken a selfie with Yuri asleep against his shoulder, just before depositing him into the room’s second bed. Something to tease him about in the morning, he’d thought.

How little he’d known.

“… Viktor,” Christophe said slowly, turning the phone sideways as though to give it an even more thorough inspection.

“What?” Was ever-smiling, unflappable Viktor Nikiforov grumpy? Christophe contemplated teasing him further, dragging the moment out to truly savor his momentary power over a man who could never be beaten.

He decided against it. “This is a photo of Yuuri Katsuki.”

“Yuuri Katsuki?”

“Japan’s premiere gymnast.”

 

    - - -

 

[Yuuri’s Instagram]

v-nikiforov has followed you!

 

 

   - - -

 

v-nikiforov?



. . .

He’d come clean to Phichit in a panic. I went home last night with someone from the club and that someone is apparently Viktor Nikiforov who is the best figure skater on planet earth and Phichit I don’t remember what I did and —

 

   - - -

 

[Yuuri’s Instagram; messages]

v-nikiforov
can we talk? 

v-nikiforov
let me get you a coffee, at least

(Phichit, staring over Yuuri’s shoulder: “Well at least he’s trying to help you figure it out?”)

v-nikiforov
i can meet you in the village

katsuki-don
no

katsuki-don
i can’t do this right now

katsuki-don
i need to focus on floor

(Phichit, now on his own phone, the very picture of innocence: “Okay, Yuuri, but: have you seen this photo from his junior championships? I’m pretty sure even Leo’d change teams…”

[Viktor’s Instagram]

phichit+chu has followed you!

[Viktor’s Instagram; messages]

phichit+chu
break my roommate’s heart and I will make you wish for death by a thousand hamsters (; ´)

v-nikiforov
. . . hamsters . . .?

phichit+chu
he’s having a rough time

phichit+chu
good luck (^∇^)

after midnight, August 11, 2012

katsuki-don
i’m sorry

katsuki-don
did we sleep together

katsuki-don
i don’t remember

katsuki-don
i need to know

v-nikiforov
absolutely not

v-nikiforov
never like that

katsuki-don
ok

katsuki-don
thank you

v-nikiforov
give me your number

katsuki-don
why

v-nikiforov
you don’t want to?

 

    - - -

 

Damn. Yuuri threw his phone back on the nightstand, irritable, determined to go to sleep, and reached for it five minutes later to punch his number in. Floor finals were calling his name in the morning, and for once that wasn’t the only reason he hadn’t been able to sleep. 

Viktor’s blue eyes had haunted the edges of his thoughts, and he couldn’t even remember them clearly, properly, the way all the pictures said those eyes were meant to be remembered. Phichit had gone on a googling spree, had learned everything there was to know about Viktor Nikiforov. Yuuri didn’t admit that, his memory now jolted by sobriety, he already remembered.

He’d been glued to the television, back in Hasetsu, watching Ice Skating finals in 2010. Viktor Nikiforov’s free skate had been the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

He remembered, though, that those eyes had reminded him of oceans up close, that he’d wanted to learn all he could about the ways they shifted and churned. That the cerulean brights of them had made him think of the placid surface of hot springs back home, of swimming pools, of everything that had ever lured him for a dive inwards, promising hidden depths.

Viktor had beamed, standing atop the Olympic podium, and he’d kissed his gold medal, and broken a million different hearts.

The phone was vibrating in Yuuri’s hand moments after he’d sent the message. With his roommate for the Olympics properly asleep on the other side of the room, Yuuri glared down at the screen. He didn’t recognize the country code, which meant it was probably Russian, which meant answering this was a terrible idea.

He did it anyway.

“… Yuuri desu.” What was one more terrible idea at the end of a string of them, at this, his terrible Olympics?

“It’s Viktor.”

“Saa ... I figured that.”

“Can’t sleep?”

“That obvious, huh?” With a surreptitious glance towards his roommate, Yuuri put his feet into his house-shoes, lined up near the bed, and left their room, walking down the hall to a lounge on his floor. The Olympic village glittered and glistened through the window.

Viktor chuckled, but it felt a little calculated; a bit like the show he put on, day in, day out. I wish you hadn’t taken off, he wanted to say, we could have talked. Talking to Christophe had put Katsuki Yuuri into some perspective. Afterwards he’d gone and found the replays of men’s qualifying, had made himself watch what his Swiss friend had described as a first-class meltdown.

Christophe had not been wrong about that.

Then, on Christophe’s recommendation, he’d found Yuuri’s highlight reel, and he’d watched it instead, and he’d been captivated, had googled for the kanji to properly spell Katsuki’s name, had gone looking for other videos in Japanese; had analyzed them like Yuuri was a figure skater, like any of the tumbles of gymnastics could be the same thing as a triple lutz, or a quad combination.

“Tell me what you love about gymnastics,” Viktor said instead.

“Why?” Defensive, cautious. This Yuuri was prickly and fragile, very far removed from the one who’d hooked a finger under his chin the night before, and insisted on a dance. Be careful with him, Viktor, Christophe had warned him, his competitive spirit somehow extending protectiveness over the Japanese gymnast he’d be competing against in Floor finals. I want to win outright. Don’t spoil the contest.

“Come on,” Viktor murmured, pinching his forehead with an air of bemusement, “it won’t hurt.”

Yuuri sucked in a deep breath and began to explain the way he’d felt as a little kid, on a trampoline; the way he hadn’t wanted to get into baseball or soccer but dance, gymnastics. The way sometimes in the studio he could finally lose some of himself, or how in the middle of a tumbling pass, outrun and shake off the chains of his anxiety.

“I used to feel closer to myself,” he murmured, distantly.

“Used to?”

“Not right now.”

“Believe it or not, I think I know the feeling.” Viktor hummed, thinking about the long program that was still eluding him, wouldn’t solidify. Like smoke trickling through his fingertips.

Yuuri was like that, holding himself just beyond his reach.

Yuuri was silent for a moment, contemplative, determined to avoid what the Americans all called the elephant in the room, even though Phichit had insisted that it was a silly thing to say in a country whose only elephants lived in zoos. “What do you love about ice skating?”

So Viktor explained the ice and its grace and its ease.

“I love surprises,” he admitted, then. “The ice is full of surprises. You surprised me, Yuuri Katsuki.”

“Me?” Yuuri echoed this, in near disbelief. “I’m the most unsurprising person in the world,” he insisted next, stubbornly, and his denial was rewarded with a laugh. It sounded fond. That had to be his imagination working overtime. Viktor Nikiforov was in another league of athlete entirely, a universe away, and he could not possibly have been fond of Yuuri Katsuki. 

“Will you let me surprise you, tomorrow?”

“I hate surprises.” Yuuri planned for every contingency. Tomorrow’s floor routine was sure to be another failure, and he’d already imagined another press conference, apologizing, admitting that the stress had been too much to handle.

“Do you?” Something strange again, in the Russian’s voice. Yuuri didn’t dare call it a purr.

“Mostly. Usually. Generally.”

“Will you let me surprise you, tomorrow?”

“What are you going to do?”

“I can’t tell you that,” Viktor said, and this time, to his increasing dread, Yuuri thought he detected a certain element of triumph. “It would ruin the surprise.” He paused a beat, hummed speculatively. “Do you think you can win tomorrow?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Then I will have to believe for you,” Viktor declared. “Can you believe that I can believe that you can win tomorrow?”

“… Yes,” Yuuri said slowly, vaguely recalling the warm flashes of Viktor’s eyes, nice as the sea, all-encompassing. He’d forgotten himself, for a while, looking into them. He remembered that much. “But only because you’re crazy,” he added, smartly. 

Viktor laughed again. Yuuri thought he could learn to like it, that laughter. No: he liked it already. Everything about Viktor Nikiforov was likable. Nothing about Katsuki Yuuri was. “Maybe I am. Very good. Yuuri Katsuki, good luck tomorrow,” he said. “Now go back to bed. I believe you can win. Good night.”

He wandered back into his room, still puzzling over the phone in his hand, scrolling idly through Instagram:

v-nikiforov fond of this view #tokyo2012

It was a picture of the view from his hotel room. Tokyo glittered at night. He missed Hasetsu, but Yuuri could concede that much to the city’s beauty. At night it lit up like a whole galaxy of stars.

katsuki-don likes this.

Yuuri fell asleep still turning over Viktor’s words, like they’d passed from his ear into his mind and were slowly assimilating into his bones from the moment they'd been breathed to life. I believe you can win.

 

   - - -

 

August 11, 2012

 

He did not win.

Not quite.

 

“Canadian upstart Jean-Jacques Leroy has pulled off a stunning upset in the Tokyo Summer Olympics, winning a surprising individual gold with a flawless performance for Team Canada over veteran and favorite Christophe Giacometti! Giacometti finished second after taking a deduction for a tumbling pass that finished just out of bounds. Host country hero Katsuki Yuuri redeemed himself with a strong performance and a new personal best, following his disastrous turn in the Qualifying rounds, and has a bronze medal to show for his efforts after all …”

 

He could barely remember it. He’d gotten up on the floor, raised his arms in the air, turned to salute the judges, and … 

There, sitting behind the judges, silver-haired Viktor Nikiforov in the first row, sitting next to what looked like a row of Swiss fans. Giacometti’s family? He looked smart, in a sharp blazer, a suit as tailored as the one Yuuri only halfway remembered, and he smiled his heart-shaped smile and unfolded a poster.

#BELIEVE.

He’d smiled and flashed a peace sign and Katsuki Yuuri had lost himself, thrown under a wave, had tumbled and churned and stood on his head with the momentum of it.

I believe you can win.

Hours later, after the embrace of his family and Phichit’s spectacular dive tackle, and what must’ve been a dozen different interviews, Katsuki Yuuri finally made it back to his dorm room, and fell onto his sofa, holding his medal up in the light. In his pocket, his phone rumbled ominously, promising a low battery, and Yuuri pulled it out to scan through dozens of different notifications.

 

v-nikiforov
congratulations.

v-nikiforov
I knew you could do it

 

    - - -

 

August 14, 2012

Viktor Nikiforov walked onto the arena floor in the final stages of Tokyo’s closing ceremonies, amidst a Russian delegation bringing cooler blue lights in their wake. Russian dancers surrounded them, now; his country’s folk music soared overhead.

“This year’s Olympics have come to an end,” lamented one announcer. “Here we have the Russian delegation, ready to take on the Olympic torch. Skater Viktor Nikiforov was nominated by his teammates to accept the honor. He’s won multiple European championships, won the Gold medal in Beijing in 2010, won worlds in 2011, and here he is now, accepting the torch on behalf of his hometown ... St. Petersburg, of course, which will be hosting the Winter Games in 2014, where Nikiforov is expected to handily capture gold ...”

“What a great moment, Jim. See you in 2014, St. Petersburg!”

 

  - - -

 

[Yuuri’s Instagram; messages]

v-nikiforov
will you come?

katsuki-don
what?

v-nikiforov
come see me skate, yuu~uuuri

katsuki-don
where?

v-nikiforov
in st. petersburg