He’s not here.
It’s the first day of the World Figure Skating Championships, and normally Victor would be focused on his upcoming skates.
Instead, the three words keep repeating themselves in his head. He sleepwalks through the check-in process, finds his hotel room, unpacks his things and puts them away, and the whole time, all he can think is:
He’s not here.
Victor has spent the last three and a half months counting on Yuuri Katsuki being at Worlds. He’s imagined the moment they meet for the second time so many times, with so many variations, that it’s almost as if he’s memorized every possibility.
Every possibility but one – the one in which Yuuri Katsuki doesn’t attend Worlds at all.
He’s not here.
“Vitya!” barks Yakov. “Are you asleep? It’s time to warm up for your free skate.”
“Da,” says Victor, and he glides out onto the ice. His muscles feel heavy, leaden and tired. There’s a tight rock in his chest.
Christophe falls in next to him as they circle the ice. He’s shaking out his limbs.
“All right, Victor?” says Christophe, and if anyone skating nearby hears him, they’d think it was just idle chit-chat from the casual tone.
But Victor’s spent the last two months on the phone with Chris, and there’s as much backstory loaded in those three words as there are the three words that run circles in Victor’s head.
He’s not here.
He doesn’t know….
Victor quashes the thought.
“All right,” says Victor, and skates faster.
He can’t skate away from his problems, of course not.
But he can at least skate away from remembering them for a while.
Four months earlier, in Sochi:
Their huffs are loud against each other’s ears; Victor’s hair brushes soft against Yuuri’s skin. It ought to smell like coconut or ice or winter mornings; instead it smells like salt and sex and skin, and Yuuri groans as he moves above Victor. There’s a pounding in the back of Victor’s head, but he can ignore that for now, and his mouth is dry until he twists until he can see Yuuri’s face, open and desperate.
“Kiss me,” gasps Victor, and Yuuri does.
Kissing Yuuri is like drinking cold water straight from a stream, and Victor wants to drown.
Victor’s phone goes off around 5 in the morning. It’s still dark outside, and Victor’s head hurts, but since most of him is sore, he’s willing to overlook that for the time being.
“Yakov?” he says, answering the phone.
“Vitya! You’re late, the plane leaves in an hour and you’re holding everyone up!”
Victor pulls the phone away from his ear, double checks the time, and groans. “Sorry, I’m on my way,” he says, and hangs up while Yakov continues screaming.
He turns over in the bed, and stares at the man sleeping on the other side of it.
Yuuri Katsuki, the Japanese skater who came in last. Who flubbed most of his jumps, who according to Yura was sobbing in the bathroom afterwards. Who danced like a wild man, who argued about philosophy and the nature of love with Cao Bin and Michele Crispino, who let Victor into his hotel room afterwards, because Victor had visions of Yuuri, suddenly maudlin, throwing himself into the Black Sea.
Yuuri, who danced like it was his last night on earth. Yuuri, who had injected more life into a staid Grand Prix banquet than Victor could remember having ever seen before.
Yuuri had grabbed Victor’s tie, and pulled him into his hotel room. Victor hadn’t protested. He’d been more than happy to follow. And he’d been rewarded with Yuuri, eyes flashing and determined, kissing him and speaking in Japanese, which was a much bigger turn-on than Victor would have imagined.
Mine, mine, mine, Yuuri seemed to have been saying, and if they’d giggled and poked at each other’s stomachs in between kisses and caresses, then that was okay, too. Yuuri’s initial release of tension and general euphoria turned into something much silkier and smoother in the bedroom – a sort of confidence he didn’t show on the ice, and the intensity of his gaze on Victor had melted away every last defense he might have had against the smaller, younger man.
Had someone told Victor during the free skate that Yuuri was an alpha, he would never have believed it. There is no doubt, though – he believes it now. He feels the same sort of languid pleasure that he normally feels after a night of sex, and the dampness between his thighs is evidence of how he’s spent the last few hours.
Yuuri’s drooling a little bit on the pillow, but it doesn’t look like the phone call has disturbed his sleep any. Victor can’t help but reach over and touch the hand that is lying on the bed between them.
“Hey,” he whispers, and Yuuri’s eyes flutter open briefly. “I have to go.”
“Okay,” slurs Yuuri, and yawns, and then frowns at his pillow, flipping it over to the drier side. He blinks at Victor, as if trying to focus, and looks so adorably confused for a moment that Victor reaches over to brush his hair away from his forehead.
“I’ll see you at Worlds, right?” says Victor, wondering why he’s so reluctant to go. Yakov is no doubt pacing downstairs. Or even banging away at Victor’s door, three floors away.
And wouldn’t that be fun, letting his coach observe his walk of shame.
“Yeah,” says Yuuri, and there’s a contented sort of smile on his face now. “I’ll see you at Worlds.”
Victor hesitates for a moment, and then gives in to his impulse. It’s never steered him wrong before, at least.
He leans forward, and kisses Yuuri. Their mouths taste terrible, but Yuuri reaches up into the kiss, or at least he does at first, before pulling away with a pop. He’s back to looking a little confused again, and it’s just too cute.
It’s almost enough to make Victor forget about Yakov, plane reservations, and the world in general.
“Worlds,” promises Victor, because he really does have to get out of the bed and go home, although for the life of him he can’t remember why.
Stupid terrible omega memory.
“Worlds,” agrees Yuuri, already half asleep, even if he’s still confused.
And there Victor goes, wanting to kiss him again.
He leaves before he can give into the impulse.
It’s only on the plane that he realizes he should have given Yuuri his phone number. Or demanded Yuuri’s number from him.
Ah well, thinks Victor. I’m sure he’ll figure out how to find me. That must be what I’m forgetting.
He falls asleep, holding his phone. Which would be fine, except that he drops it halfway through the flight, and his thumb swipes away the flashing alert from his omega cycle calendar before he can see it.
It’s two weeks later during Russian Nationals when he realizes, and the only reason he realizes is because he overhears the conversation in the omega locker room.
“Jenya, you have to take your blockers, you can’t go out on the ice smelling like that!”
“I don’t want to take them,” sulks the teenager. “They make my head fuzzy, I come out of my spins looking like a demented cow.”
“And if you don’t take them, you’ll come out of your spins with half a dozen alphas waiting to carry you off to the nearest bedroom,” snaps the coach. “Consider yourself lucky that you’re not actually in heat, you wouldn’t be able to compete at all. Do you think Victor Nikiforov ignores his blockers? Of course not! He’s a professional and he’s learned to work through them.”
“He’s so old he probably doesn’t even have heats anymore,” says the teenager, and there’s a sharp slap, skin against skin. “Oh!”
“Little fool,” scoffs the coach. “You want to get pregnant with some random audience member’s baby and end your career just because you’re afraid to be dizzy? Fine. I’ll invite them in here to give you a good scenting.”
“No, no, fine,” says Jenya quickly. “I’ll take it. Please, Maria, I’m sorry. Please.”
Victor’s breaths are steady, but his heart pounds. He pulls out his phone with shaking hands and opens his cycle app.
There’s an alert there that he’s never bothered to check.
Your next heat is due: December 10. Projected Length of Cycle: 4 days.
December 10 – the day after the Grand Prix banquet. And now he remembers: he’d meant to go back to Saint Petersburg and straight to his apartment, lock the doors and ride out his heat surrounded by familiar scents, safe in the knowledge that the week’s worth of blockers he’d taken in Sochi would dampen his scents.
But that’s not the worst of it, or what is making his head spin and his heart pound. It’s two weeks after his heat cycle – his missed heat cycle, because he definitely didn’t spend that weekend going through the throes of estrus – and in the aftermath of a normal cycle, he’d be menstruating right now. He should be experiencing cramps, an insatiable need for Cadbury’s fruit-and-nut bars, and an incredibly grouchy disposition.
He’s not feeling any of that, though. A bit tired. A bit restless. More than a little hungry for chicken and yoghurt and apples, which is strange, because normally he hates apples in anything but cake.
“I don’t want to be pregnant until I’ve won at least five world championships,” says Jenya the teenager. “If Victor Nikiforov can do it, so can I.”
“That’s my girl,” says Maria the coach, sounding much more sympathetic and kind. “I promise, someday, you’ll have as many gold medals as Victor Nikiforov, and a wonderful alpha to share your estrus. And all the babies you can handle.”
“Two,” says Jenya, and they leave the locker room, never realizing that Victor is quietly hyperventilating behind them.
Somehow, he wins gold at Russian Nationals. He doesn’t remember a single minute of it. He’s too lost in the fog of realization.
Yakov notices, and thank God doesn’t say anything except through incredibly expressive scowling. Georgi notices, and hovers a bit more than usual.
“I could run to the pharmacy, if you need anything,” he offers.
Victor’s eyes light up. The pharmacy. They’ll have tests. I could…
No. I can’t ask Georgi to buy me one of those. Everyone would notice. Everyone would start talking. Anya would kill him.
“I’m fine, thank you,” says Victor, but he’s already planning.
A test. I need to take a test. I need to be sure, before I…
The problem with being Victor Nikiforov, the world’s greatest omega male figure skater, is that he can’t exactly wander into the local pharmacy and expect anything he purchases to go under the radar.
In a perfect world, he’d tell Yuuri. But in a perfect world, Yuuri would have found a way to contact him, and after a brief search online, Victor discovers that Yuuri Katsuki has such a minimal online presence, he might as well not exist. The only way Victor’s sure he does exist is his entry on the Japanese Skating Federation’s website, where there’s a terrible mug shot of Yuuri, and a far-too-brief biography that doesn’t actually tell Victor anything useful.
The next best option doesn’t become available until he’s at the European Championships in Geneva.
Christophe takes the request in stride – and to Victor’s everlasting gratitude, doesn’t even question it. “All right. Give me thirty minutes.”
Victor gives him forty-five, and when Christophe arrives at his hotel room, he hands over the plain brown-paper bag containing a single box.
“Just one?” asks Victor, turning the box over until he finds the instructions. “I thought people generally bought three or four in case the first one is a dud.”
“This is a good one,” says Christophe, and Victor decides he doesn’t want to know how Christophe knows that.
Anyway, it comes up as expected. Victor and Christophe sit next to the tub in the bathroom, staring at the stick in varying amounts of shock.
“So,” starts Chris, and then doesn’t say anything else.
“Yes,” says Victor. It’s not as if it needs to be said. Christophe was there, Christophe danced with Yuuri too, if not quite the same dancing that Victor himself did later that evening.
Victor drops his head and covers his face with his hands. “I am so, so fucked.”
“You have to tell him,” says Chris.
“Yakov?” It’s much easier to be willfully ignorant sometimes, and Victor is going to cling to willful ignorance as hard as he can.
“No. Not Yakov.”
Victor takes a breath. “At Worlds. I’ll see him at Worlds.”
“I meant before that.”
It takes a few goes before Victor can swallow. “I… haven’t heard from him.”
“You could contact him yourself.”
Victor shakes his head.
“I looked him up,” he admits. “The JSF page – it lists him going to a university in Japan, but he’s not enrolled there. I don’t know where he is. Maybe I dreamed him.”
“I kind of think there’s evidence you didn’t,” says Christophe, pointing at the test on the counter.
Victor nods his head, and can’t speak for a moment.
“It’s,” he starts to say, and then shakes his head and tries again. “I only met him the once. I don’t even know him that well. Maybe… this is for the best?”
Chris frowns. “You only met him once? He’s been on the Senior circuit for at least four years.”
“What?” Victor turns and stares at Chris. “You know him?”
“We skated in Juniors together, of course I know him. He’s quiet most of the time, fairly reserved. I’m not sure what got into him at the banquet. As for whether or not you’re better off – if you’d asked me a year ago, I probably would agree. But, Victor? Except for when he’s skating well, the happiest I’ve ever seen him was when he was dancing with you.”
Victor closes his eyes, and rides the sudden wave of emotion that courses through him. He feels like he’s expanding, becoming lighter than air…
Or like he might be sick to his stomach. It’s kind of a toss-up.
“Can you reach him?”
Chris is quiet. Victor opens his eyes and sees him scrolling through the contacts on his phone.
“Merde,” he says finally. “No. His number must have been one of the casualties when my phone crashed a few months ago. I’m sorry.”
Victor breathes a few times. It helps with the odd feeling in his chest.
“I’ll see him at Worlds,” says Victor. “That was the last thing we said to each other. See you at Worlds. I’ll tell him then.”
“Okay,” says Chris gently, and takes Victor’s hand.
Chris’s fingers are fantastically hot. Victor squeezes them as tightly as he dares.
He’s not here.
Yuuri isn’t at Worlds.
It’s only after Victor realizes this that he goes back and looks at the results from the Japanese Nationals.
They were the same time as mine. No wonder I wasn’t paying attention.
And… he didn’t even get on the podium. Just when I realized how badly I’d need to see him at Worlds… he lost the chance to go.
He skates. Of course he skates, it’s what Victor Nikiforov does best.
And somehow… skating Stammi has never felt so… real.
Are you out there, Yuuri? Are you watching me right now?
Do you realize I’m calling out to you? Are you listening?
In his daydream as he skates, he imagines Yuuri waiting for him when he’s done. Standing at the boards, smiling, arms outstretched.
He’s not there.
Victor has to force the smile as he holds up his medal. The cameras flash and click around them. He can’t see a thing.
I haven’t been abandoned, Victor tells himself as he, Christophe, and Otabek head for the press junket. It’s not like he could have been here, and decided not to show. He just didn’t qualify.
He could have contacted me, though. I’m not that hard to find.
Maybe… maybe it didn’t mean all that much to him. And it’s not like he realizes….
“Victor!” shouts a reporter, and Victor shakes himself out of his thoughts to realize they’ve arrived at the press conference. “Any thought about what you’re going to skate next year?”
I can’t skate next year! I’m going to be a….
“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” says Victor, which has the benefit of being true, as well as the only truth that the press will accept.
I only thought as far as this competition. And now that it’s over, and Yuuri wasn’t here… I’m not sure what to do next.
Victor has the brief, insane thought before boarding the plane that will take him away from Worlds and back to Saint Petersburg that he should skip the flight entirely and just go looking for Yuuri. He’s somewhere in Japan, and so is Victor, and this is the closest they’ve been and it won’t take much to find him, Japan’s miniscule compared to the vastness of Russia. Besides, it’s not as if Japan boasts that many world-class figure skaters, or Yuuri wouldn’t have been the only one listed on their website for men’s singles skaters. Someone must know where he is. It’s not as if Victor dreamed him up.
Chris is right: Victor has proof that Yuuri existed for at least one night.
There’s a flutter in his stomach. It’s not anything, he knows that. But….
In the end, Victor boards the plane. It’s sleepwalking, more than anything; Yakov’s hand on his elbow, guiding him to his seat.
“I know your mind is elsewhere,” says Yakov, when they’re somewhere three thousand miles above anywhere. “There is something you’re not telling me.”
“Sorry,” says Victor absently. He’s waiting for the flutter again. It doesn’t come.
“We should think about it, though,” continues Yakov. “Your programs for next year.”
“You think about them,” says Victor, and lowers his seat to go to sleep.
A week later, the video of Yuuri Katsuki skating Stammi goes viral.
Victor covers his mouth with his fingers and watches.
He watches again, and again, and again, and it’s still playing when he switches to a different screen and purchases his ticket back to Japan.
He’ll tell him. Of course he’ll tell him. Maybe not immediately, though. It’s a very large thing to spring on a person when one hasn’t seen them for four months.
And it’s not as if anyone could possibly tell just by looking. No one in the onsen’s locker room looked startled when he undressed, nor did their gaze linger too long on any part of his anatomy.
The hot baths are wonderful, and if Victor had any worries about whether or not he should be using them at all in his condition, the hot water washes them away. He rests back against the rocks, and lets his mind drift back to the last time he saw Yuuri.
Be my coach, Victor, Yuuri had said. So comfortable against Victor’s skin, smelling so good – spicy and dangerous and exciting, and Victor had sucked in the alpha scent of him, feeling every nerve in his body wake up, as if he’d been asleep for far too long.
Be my coach.
Which is perhaps why, when Yuuri bursts in on him, gasping and staring and wearing a ridiculously oversized brown coat, Victor says the first thing that pops into his head, and not the words he’d intended to say all along.
Yuuri, I’m pregnant. And it’s yours.
“Hello, Yuuri! I’m here to be your coach!”