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Dog People

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Today, like every day, Mr. Takagawa looks up from the computer where he always promises to be studiously scheduling meetings for everyone or processing an invoice, to say: “Good morning, Mr. Katsuki!”

And after two years in the Business floor of the office, Yuuri has well learned to say, “Good morning, Mr. Takagawa,” back to him without pausing to swallow or double check that it’s really Mr. Takagawa and that is in fact his name. Sometimes Yuuri will find himself doubting who people are right at the moment of engagement. So he says: “Good Morning, Mr. Takagawa.”

What Mr. Takagawa does not say every day is: “Welcome back!”

Usually, he says: “How are you?” and Yuuri says: “I’m fine, thank you.”

So today Yuuri says: “I’m fine, thank you,” and only realizes it after Mr. Takagawa is squinting at him. “Ah! S-sorry, I—Thank you. Sorry. Nice to see you!” And then Yuuri run-walks past the receptionist desk and through the divider that drops him out into a tightly packed swamp of desks cluttered by newspapers, stocks, magazines and small shrines to beloved faces erected amongst the routine rubble of office material to remind all the hard-working souls why they endure aching necks.

Yuuri has a picture of his family on his desk, a small split leaf philodendron trailing its leaves over its pot, and a mug with a cartoon dog on it. Snoopy. He brought it back from America; bought his third year studying abroad and it’s been with him eight years since. There’s a permament stain coating its once-crisply white ceramic inside. Nothing on his desk has moved, and he cradles the cup happily in his hands.

“Yuuri! You’re back! How was Uganda?” Takeshi greets him with a hearty clap on the back, summoned from nowhere.

Yuuri fumbles his mug onto his desk and smiles up to his friend, correcting his glasses with a few pokes of his fingers. “Takeshi,” he softens. Takeshi rocks Yuuri back and forth in his seat, performing an impromptu massage. Takeshi Nishigori is the second most reassuring thing in the office; well, most reassuring person. Yuuri likes his mug because he can take it anywhere. He likes Takeshi for, if lacking in complexity, for being his friends nearly his whole life.

Yuuri was covering a more complex economy and culture piece in Uganda regarding an ongoing Chinese investment in a railway that was spanning several countries in central and Sub-Saharan Africa. It had been a more interesting piece, and Yuuri feels his privilege and pleasure flow as he relays the experience and his current outlook, the write up already submitted, as they fetch tea together. The sun had given him a freshly dark complexion, and Takeshi teases him for the freckles speckling his nose and cheeks. His friend’s warm welcome is almost enough to make Yuuri forget his social ineptitude just prior; however, he can’t shake the blunder.

When he burns his lip on his tea, Yuuri resigns himself to a poor day back in Japan.

Maybe…

 

 

 

Ryota’s apartment is as familiar to Yuuri as his own. Ryota’s body as familiar to Yuuri as his own. His manners, his habits.

It’s not that Yuuri necessarily expected Ryota to take him out his first full day back from his work trip, but one would think that a boyfriend of five months would put more effort into the evening than take out and ‘whatever happened to be on.’ But not to complain! Yuuri liked nights in, he liked comfort and domesticity. He likes how hungry Ryota was for him, “missed this, Yuuri” sticky-sworn against his lips when they roll over together on the couch. But there’s something distinctly uninspired in the way Ryota fucks him that night, Yuuri on his hands and knees, the sensation around him faceless, nameless. Distant.

“Missed this.”

“What, sex?”

“Yeah.”

Ryota doesn’t tease him about freckles; he doesn’t kiss them. His fingers don’t stroke the tan line left by Yuuri’s wristwatch. The bed sheets are damp and loveless. The tip of Yuuri’s tongue hurts where he burned it earlier, where it got sucked on. He slips off to sleep; he wakes up an hour later, the luminous screen of Ryota’s phone displayed to him over the crest of his boyfriend’s shoulder. It’s a dating app. It’s the one they met on. The one Yuuri deleted after two weeks of dating Ryota and hadn’t considered in months.

“I was only gone a week and a half,” Yuuri says quietly, voice scratchy. Ryota never planned ahead by putting a water bottle on the bedside table.

Ryota thumbs off the screen, but when he rolls onto his back, no words of protest or comfort leave his lips. Yuuri inches the touch of his leg away, relocates to a cooler part of the bed. The guilty silence stretches until it breaks. Yuuri sits ups and throws his legs out over the side of the bed, flushed and chilled at once, eyes stopped up with ready-made tears.

“I guess it’s good that we never stopped using condoms, isn’t it, Ryota,” he accuses.

“Yuuri,” Ryota sighs. He reaches out and his rough hand on the small of his back makes Yuuri flinch. “Look, Yuuri—“

“Why didn’t you just make it clear to me that this wasn’t working, or that I’m not what you want, or you just wanted to f-fuck or leave me like a respectful man or—“

“You’re so exhausting,” Ryota groans, throwing an arm over his face and cutting Yuuri’s rant off. “Everything’s zero to a hundred with you; except the sex! This! All you saw was an app on my phone and you’re freaking out.”

“I’m not,” Yuuri argues, starting to cry and despising himself for it. “I’m not freaking out. You’re the one who’s looking for other guys while lying in bed with me.”

 “I’m just talking to people! Just going out and having fun. You know, fun? Let loose? Go partying? I’m not eighty, Yuuri, I want to have fun.”

“Then have fun! We could have fun,” Yuuri shouts, closing his hands into fists in the sheets. “I never said anything against fun.”

“But you’re not fun,” Ryota says almost pitying, apologetic on Yuuri’s behalf. “Babe.”

“Don’t.”

“Yuuri, come on. Yes, alright, I’ve been going out occasionally. I’m not dating anyone. I just like to meet up and have a good time.”

Yuuri takes a long, deep breath. His heart’s racing in his chest; even if he had his glasses on, he doesn’t think he could see straight. Fun. “I’m not doing this.”

“So we’re not fighting?”

“We’re not anything. Have fun with that.”

He thinks it’s a pretty good comeback; he’s quite proud of himself. Ryota protests, whining, but doesn’t rise from bed as Yuuri dresses and storms out. Maybe Yuuri would buckle, maybe he'd go crawling back into that bed that lacked passion if Ryota made an effort to catch him, to call him back. Yuuri would crumple if his boyfriend (ex!) hugged him, cried for him; he'd cut Yuuri down to the wick of his weaknesses, to need and affection. But Ryota didn't. He let Yuuri go. He didn't fight for him, didn't make Yuuri stumble in his actions. Fine! That's fine. Yuuri takes the last carton of take out from the fridge while he’s at it. That’ll show Ryota who he's messing with.

He’s pretty sure crying into dumplings in the back of a taxi isn’t the sign of a successful getaway. “Take me to a club,” Yuuri hiccups through his tears. “Someplace fun.”

He’s better than this. He’s better than Ryota, better than being – god, what? The safety fuck? The leisure boyfriend? He resents every dollar and every minute wasted on that venture. He resents himself. He drowns the parts of himself that say: you can be fun. Show him. Be fun for him. He nods his head to the parts that say: To hell with him. To hell with men who don’t want love. Fun? Where will fun be when you’re bald? He's better than that.

Exhausting? Yuuri’s not exhausting. He’s a breath of fresh air. He’s life itself.

He’s…plastered.

He’s…in Phichit’s apartment.

He’s…throwing up in the toilet.

“You okay in there?” Phichit’s voice calls worriedly from the other side of the door.

“Did I have fun?” Yuuri moans into the bowl, words splashed back like a hex on his face.

 

 

Yuuri’s late to work and hung-over. He snaps at a colleague during a meeting. He accidentally deletes the publisher file with the info-graphs he’d spent all morning making. He’s going to mutilate his laptop.

“Maybe you need a break,” Takeshi suggests, leaning on his desk.

“I don’t have time for a break,” Yuuri grits, frantically typing.

“Look, it might be better to take a breather. You know how you get when you’re worked up—“

“I know how I get, Nishigori,” Yuuri snaps, hands slapping palm down on his desk; the skin smarts. Everyone in their quarter of the office stops and perks their heads up to spectate. “I don’t need a break and I don’t need you nagging me. Go.”

He doesn’t regret the words, even when Takeshi’s face stones over. He doesn’t. He’s busy. He has a deadline and this file, and Ryota, and everything. He’s been back in the office for two days and it’s miserable.

Takeshi folds his huge arms over his huge chest and couches the obvious hurt and embarrassment under a disappointed frown. They hold eyes until Yuuri gives under the weight and returns to his computer screen, acutely aware of Takeshi taking his seat at the desk beside Yuuri’s. Yuuri digs his head down and his shoulders up and pulls up his research notes, opens the apps for graphs, starts dragging boxes. But he can’t seem to type anything right, and his eyes are crossing, and he can’t read anymore.

He shoves out of his seat and marches himself to the bathroom, face scorched hot, breathing high and fast. He cries, then he throws up, still tasting whatever he drank last night, and then cries some more.  The bathroom door opens, but whoever might’ve entered bails quickly at the sound of suppressed crying. He emails his boss from his phone, claiming the sickness that made him late has reemerged, but he’ll have the piece to her by the deadline, he’ll just need the rest of the day off. Takeshi looks worried when Yuuri hurries in to collect his laptop and bag and hurries out, but he doesn’t stop Yuuri either.

Maybe he’s exhausted too.

 

 

Alone. Alone sounds nice. He can be alone forever. Safe, boring, and exhausting. Is it possible for one to exhaust oneself? Yuuri thinks it’s highly likely. He’ll make himself a case study, the prime subject of the hypothesis. He’s not thirty yet, neither is Ryota; they shouldn’t be safe and boring. Ryota’s right, they should have fun – stop! Stop thinking in they and we. There isn’t a Ryota anymore, Yuuri, stop counting him into your reasoning.

Yuuri’s known for a long time that other people exhaust him; that things run him ragged. He’d been in Uganda for almost two weeks, and what had he done? His job. He’d done his job and hung out in his hotel room, doing the same nothing he does at home; nothing.

 

But a number of coincidences of disaster can add up to a serendipitous result.

 

If Yuuri had not been boring and exhausting, he wouldn’t have broken up with Ryota --> he wouldn’t have gotten drunk --> he wouldn’t have been a hung-over mess --> he wouldn’t have lost his shit at work and run home in the middle of the day --> he wouldn’t have gotten off at the stop closest to his house as opposed to the earlier one closer to the grocery store --> he wouldn’t have realized there was no food in his house until night --> he wouldn’t have gone out to the convenience store --> he wouldn’t be staring into the unconscious face of a strange beautiful man passed out on his doorstep.

Edit: boy. Man-boy. Young adult.

Regardless, he’s the most foreign looking person Yuuri’s ever seen. Even dirty and slack-jawed, the kind of pretty you want to protect. Or beat up and rob, potentially. He reeks of booze. Well, that’s something Yuuri understands. He’s breathing, at least. Yuuri doesn't think he could handle a corpse right now. Or ever. He'd like no human corpses in his future, please and thank you.

“Are you okay? Are you sick?” he asks in English, shifting the stranger up against the wall. He slaps lightly at razor-sharp cheeks. “Do you speak English?”

“Da,” the man mumbles, cracking his eyes open. They’re, and Yuuri feels he could have predicted this, a pale steel blue. He fixes an unsteady gaze on Yuuri. “Yuuri? I am...found you,” he says nonsensically before his head drops forward.

There’s no way Yuuri would forget meeting him. “H-hey, wait. How do you know me?” He picks up the strangers face in his hands once more, but this time, touch lingering, he feels the heat melting the surface of the skin in sweat. “O-oh, no, you’re sick. You’re sick and pretty and you know my name. Why did you have to be sick and pretty and know my name?”

Bringing a stranger into his apartment is neither safe nor boring, but dragging a grown adult man in your arms is certainly exhausting.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Some part of him is going to ache tomorrow from carrying someone bridal style for as long as it took the elevator to come down and go up again, taking Yuuri and his impromptu passenger along with it. At least he didn’t have to take the stairs. But still, the weight makes his arms start to tremble and getting his door open is a dramatic affair and a balancing game.

“Are you passed out,” he asks worriedly.

“No,” the man replies, groggy but coherent. “Russian. Don’t go down so easily.” Then he laughs at whatever joke he’s made in his mind and clings his arms tighter around Yuuri’s neck. Yuuri sits him on the couch with a plop and untangles the touch, hot and itchy from the contact. He’s not in the mood for any man to be feeling too closely to him, too intimately. There’s a whimper of complaint at the loss of contact, and Yuuri stalls just a moment long enough to get angry about the response. Sick pretty foreigners.

“How do you know me?” he demands again, hovering over the stranger. But there’s no response, the man’s chin touching his chest with a tired slump. Yuuri throws up his hands and patters off to get medicine and water. One thing at a time.

He sends a picture of the stranger to Phichit.

 

 

 

“Hey. Wake up,” Yuuri chides when he returns, crouching down in front of the sitting-up-sleeping figure. God, what a face on him. He reminds Yuuri of statues and paintings in museums in America, of white nobles and royals. Yuuri swallows, unsure of who in this situation is more at risk.

“You’re very lucky that I found you,” he continues, kneeling up higher and taking that sharp jaw in his hand to tilt his head back. “Wake up. Take some medicine, mister.” He presses the cold glass of water to the flushed cheek, rousing a flutter of pale eyelashes. He wants to touch his hair but resists, though the strands are crazy awry, slipped from a high ponytail that’s seen far better days.

Those deep lazy blues roam the room, clearly lost, but the simplicity of a glass of water isn’t lost on the man. He gropes for it, guided by Yuuri’s hand, and takes a few sips, and when given pills, takes those; his hands tremble the whole time, and swallowing seems a great effort. There’s not a trace of vomit on him, not even a stink, and Yuuri feels confident that despite the mix of a fever reducer and whatever’s in his stomach, that he hopefully won’t puke in the middle of the night. Even so, Yuuri hurries to his linen closet and gets his worst sheets and a raggedy towel to line the couch, physically moving the man until he’s laid down and covered up, on his side and slightly elevated.

He texts Phichit more with an update, and trips on his groceries’ discarded halfway to the couch. Ugh, his milk. He puts them away and, quite awake and sneaking looks over his shoulder at his house guest, changes his plans. He had intended to wallow and spend the night clenching his jaw, poking around the internet, distracting himself with surface level entertainment. Instead, he raids his limited supply of food and preps for tomorrow’s meals. He dices his way through peppers, onions, mushrooms and asparagus and cooks off a couple of servings of rice porridge. It’s not particularly late when he finishes, and when he checks on his guest, he sees the water’s been emptied and the body has rolled over, hunched into the back of the couch and curled as much as possible. Yuuri fixes the blanket around him, touches a hand to his cheek and feels mild relief that it, he thinks, is a little less warm. A fresh glass of water and then he’s off to bed.

 

 

He left his phone on the counter. He wakes up late. Yeah, that’s about how his life looks right now. Waking up, he forgets everything, lulled in sleep, until the panicked urgency of knowing he’s late throws him bodily from bed. The frantic air of the morning cracks and freezes when Yuuri, dashing through his apartment, toothbrush hanging out of his mouth, sees the forgotten occupant of his couch.

Oh. That’s a thing. That’s a whole person. But he’s already late. He’d rather…not. Yes, he decides to just not.

 

Good morning,

I found you last night near my apartment. I don’t know how you know me but I gave you medicine for a fever. There’s more on the counter. You may eat anything you’d like. There’s rice porridge in the blue bowl, it’ll be gentle on your stomach. I am at work. Do not worry about locking the apartment, the buzzer at the entrance is enough security for the day.

-Yuuri

 

He leaves the note, avoids the entire problem otherwise, and gets his ass to work. Maybe he’ll be robbed. That’d be exciting. Yuuri recognizes the dangerous edge of fatalism injected in his blood right now, but he can’t stop it. Anxious energy dizzies the edge of his thoughts, making the world just a little more narrow, a little more unclear. On the train, he remembers the condition he left in yesterday. Shouting at Takeshi. Crying and puking in the bathroom.

“Good morning, Mr. Katsuki. I wasn’t sure if you’d be in today,” Mr. Takagwa greets. Yuuri stumbles, because it’s all those extra words, and it feels invasive, and should he explain himself, but no he doesn’t need to, but he’s noticeably late. He twitches out a harried smile and cuts a small bow, voice stuck.

It’s been a long time since he started to slip; he’s been balanced for the past few months, mostly clear-minded, mostly in control. Oh, because he’d been dating Ryota. Even though Ryota – less him as an individual and more the space and idea of him – had been nerve-wracking in its newness, it’d simplified so much. There was a script, a scheme to such things. Boyfriend. He’d thought he’d been following it, doing it right; it’d been easy. Apparently, that was the wrong way.

He’d like to go to the gym; he decides this as he passes into the office space. He is going to vanish into the studio fitness room and only become the figure in the mirrors. He likes the Yuuri he sees when danced; that Yuuri knows a whole other rhythm of life.

He knows that people are watching him when he marches up to Takeshi’s desk. Takeshi looks up from what he’s working on, surprised, and Yuuri bows deeply, ashamed.

“I’m sorry for yesterday.” He looks at his shoes.

“Yuuri,” Takeshi huffs. Yuuri straightens slowly, meeting his friend’s forgiving eyes. “Thank you. And because I know you, I should have known better than to push you when you were like that.”

Yuuri bites down on the inside of his cheek. Yes, right. He’s like that. How he’s like. He knows this. Unbearable. Zero to a hundred. But he’d rather be forgiven. He’d rather absolve and dissolve than dig deeper into when he’s like that.

 

 

Whatever karma from rescuing a stranger Yuuri should have accumulated apparently isn’t on its way yet because his day manages to get worse. Fantastically so. Around lunch time, although Yuuri doesn’t need it or want it quite yet and will probably just put his head down and work through the day, his stomach a knot of nerves, Ryota shows up.

Yuuri looks up when he realizes someone is standing in front of his desk. He has a long moment of confusion, because surely not, no no, and then he makes the mistake of saying: “What are you doing here?”

Ryota must be on his break too from work. He works in another building on the block. It’d been proximity, convenience perhaps that had allowed them to foster such an easy dating life. No one knows they’ve broken up. He should have told Mr. Takagawa at the desk; if he hadn’t been so frazzled coming in, he might have…no no, he wouldn’t have. Something so private? So suddenly? It’d be strange. But Ryota has come for him for lunch so many times before. So easy. He probably said hello to everyone coming in, natural and relaxed. Or maybe he knew he was trespassing; did he see it as such?

“I thought we could talk,” Ryota says quietly, shrugging vaguely. His hands are folded behind his back, posture tense with waiting.

Yuuri’s surprised, touched even, that Ryota who’d seemed so indifferent to Yuuri two nights ago has thought about him, has come here for him. He’s…happy. Ryota wants to make amends!

And he thinks he can just walk up to Yuuri’s work and take him away and fix it.

Does Yuuri even want it fixed?

“Now’s not a good time,” he defies curtly. He spreads his hands out over his work, palms kissing the shining laminate pages of a file protector.

Ryota resets his jaw but doesn’t move his body, doesn’t recede. “Yuuri, please. You can take lunch; I really want to talk.”

He’s dressed nicely, nicer than usual. Yuuri skims his eyes over him, thinking; no. I think I want you to be a stranger to me. He drops his eyes back to his work, even though he’s not reading it. “I’m not interested, Ryota. Please, leave.”

The back of his neck prickles. People are watching again. Since when has he become such a fixture of attention? From where did all of this wrongness descend upon him?

“Damn, Yuuri, come on,” Ryota snaps, tired sounding, irritated. He brings his hands down on the desk, leaning on it; there’s a small, slender bouquet crushed under his palm. “Don’t be this way.”

This way. This way.

“What way,” Yuuri asks tightly, looking up from under the rim of his glasses. Those anxious knots in his stomach are catching fire to the ugly oils of his insides. The tightrope of his patience for people has lost its safety net.

Ryota stares at him hard; he glances side to side at the faces watching him. Takeshi isn’t there, and perhaps that’s what he’s looking for. Takeshi’s on lunch. It’s relatively empty. “Too stubborn to talk.”

Yuuri nods, like he gets it. “It’s not stubbornness,” he says coolly, folding his hands back into his lap to wipe the sweat onto his thigh, to clutch at his knees to stop the shake of his hands and the bounce of his leg. He feels sick, like that night in bed with Ryota. “It’s disinterest.”

Ryota inhales sharply, and he nods too, like he gets it. He straightens up and straightens his jacket a little and throws down the flowers. “Your pride is bigger than your worth,” Ryota dismisses, insult red splotches in his cheeks. “Enjoy loneliness.”

“I’d rather be lonely than with you,” Yuuri shoots backs, a little too loud, a little too much hurt showing through. Ryota wavers, caught between satisfied that his insults landed, and guilty. He shuffles closer, looking soft and beseeching, and Yuuri doesn’t want to see the apology forming on his lips. “No! Ryota, go!”

“Mr. Katsuki, is there a problem here,” comes the warm terrifying intervention of Yuuri’s boss, Mrs. Yakimura. Her heels click as she rounds out of her office and settles at his side, small frame squared by a boldly cut blazer. She’s gray and fierce and everything wonderful. He loves her. He doesn’t want her to see this.

“No,” Yuuri manages. Ryota acknowledges Mrs. Yakimura with a slight bow, clearly rendered uncomfortable by her presence. She has that effect. Yuuri wishes he had that effect: quiet power.

“I’ll call you,” Ryota says by way of promise or apology, it isn’t clear, nor is his pursuit. Yuuri could have sworn that this was what he wanted. Men vex him.

With Ryota gone, Yuuri finally crumbles, covering his face with his hand and groaning.

“I’m not terribly fond of my employees’ private lives finding their way into the office so dramatically.”

He wants to be smote. “I apologize, Mrs. Yakimura.”

“Admittedly, it appears that your…ex… is to blame. For him to seek you at work is manipulative. I know it’s not your fault.”

To that, Yuuri can only grunt.

“Take lunch, Mr. Katsuki.” It’s not really a suggestion. So Yuuri does. And when he comes back, he’s been emailed a new assignment; a fluff piece on some local tourism. It gives him a headache. ‘Perhaps something lighter will treat you better after your diligent work on the Ugandan railroad deal.’ Like he needs the break, coddled. Helped. He appreciates the gesture for what it is, an easing back; no wait; he doesn’t; it’s an insult he doesn’t know how to protest. He doesn’t need lessened, work isn’t the problem. He does great work, he’s been doing international pieces for months now. And now: domestic.

How ironic.

He sighs. He doesn’t tell Takeshi, who wonders after Yuuri’s mood, but the gossip mill eagerly awaits to spread the news. He goes home. He goes home and slumps against his front door, stone-dead exhausted. He sinks down to his butt and just. Sits. He’ll just sit here for a little, until he gets hungry, maybe. He’ll eat pudding for dinner. Yeah….he loves pudding.

He doesn’t think too much about his door being locked. Ergo, he’s not really expecting for the foreigner to suddenly be in front of his disbelieving eyes.

“You’re back!” is the chipper greeting. The English is accented but well-learned, but for some reason Yuuri can’t seem to hear it. It’s all clunky in his head. “I was wondering when you’d come back.”

He stares. The man’s still in yesterday’s clothes, his hair’s piled in a bun atop his head. He looks a little washed up. But he’s in Yuuri’s apartment. He’s still here.

Yuuri shoots to his feet, kicking his shoes off and hefting one of them threateningly. “Why are you still here?”

The man throws his hands up, bright smile slipping to something nervous and placating. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I-I’m not scared,” Yuuri sputters, shaking his leather shoe at the man. “I’m confused. Why are you here? Are you still sick?”

The man claps his hands together in a prayer and smiles winningly at Yuuri. “I know this is horrible of me, and presuming, and unwanted, but you seem so kind, you took me in and took care of me, I don’t know what else to do, can you take care of me a little longer? Please, please, please?”

Is this guy for real? Yuuri drops his shoe down with a loud clatter and kicks it into line next to the other wall, toes tapping the wall. “This isn’t happening,” he grumbles, hand to his chest, feeling his ribs expand with breath, counting it in and out. “This is too much nonsense. Am I so unlucky? Was I cursed?”

“Uhm, Yuuri?” the man interrupts, inching closer, eyes wide and beseeching, forehead lined with curiousity and interest.

“And that!” Yuuri whirls, finger pointed in accusation, chin jutted. “Who are you that you know me? You knew me last night, even drunk and fevered!”

“I thought I was the one with a bad memory,” the man says to himself, leaning back, hands on his slender hips. God, now that Yuuri really looks at him standing on his own two feet, he’s a tall drink of water. There’s strength there; he’d been heavier than he’d looked, tight and narrow, all lean hard muscle.

 “You don’t remember? Well, you were outrageously drunk…it was the other night. At a club! You were dancing beautifully, really, fantastic! Wow! The most amazing dancing, and you danced with me. For hours!” He’s telling this with animated gestures, all affront lost in excitement, smile huge and graceless, mouth big and teeth all exposed. “You invited me here, you wanted me to come home with you, you gave me your address like I’d know it uhm, but you must have called a friend because some guy came and took you away. Ah,” he pouts, laying a hand to his cheek and shaking his head. “You carried me up here, you’re so strong. You pole-danced, I should have known you’d be so powerful.” He sounds delighted.

Yuuri has his face in his hands, whining and shaking his head. Oh no. Oh dear. He did that? God. Thank god for Phichit. Oh but, this man probably had wanted to come home. But Yuuri wouldn’t have remembered it. Thank god for Phichit. God, Yuuri would have been loose from Ryota. God. He groans unhappily into his hands, face burning red and stomach sunk.

“This is unreal,” he sighs to the gods.

“So, uhm, I’m not at my best. But I have no money, I can’t afford my hotel anymore—“

“—that’s your fault,” Yuuri chides.

“Please!” The man begs desperately, coming towards Yuuri, reaching for him. “I’ll be so good, I’ll be the best guest, I have nowhere to go, and you were so kind, really the nicest most beautiful person I’ve ever met, Yuuri; this is fate, I know it.”

It’s that pretty face, it takes Yuuri in. Those big eyes that are wide with light.

“It’ll be like a sleepover! It can be fun!” the man continues, thinking he’s gaining ground with Yuuri.

“Fun,” Yuuri says flatly. “You think it’ll be fun.”

Whatever’s on Yuuri’s face makes the man freeze, his expression goes alarmed and tense. He takes a step back and Yuuri finds himself taking a step forward. “Fun. You think you can just drop yourself into a man’s life and have fun. Because we danced? I may have wanted to have -- have sex with you that night but it was not an invitation to keep you. I don’t want a man in my house, I don’t want a man in my life! All men want is to drink and fuck and leave. How convenient. Is that it? I’m convenient? I have this nice safe home and my nice safe domestic life and you all come to me like hungry dogs and then run away as you please!”

And it isn’t about this man but it’s about this week and Ryota and all the bad dates and bad men that came before this perfect stranger who thinks because he’s some pretty foreigner that Yuuri will help him out. Oh no! News flash: fuck you.

He has the man backed up against the wall and he’s yelling, yelling at him. The man, who’s taller than Yuuri, has shrunk down, eyes huge, mouth soft and red with an animal flush of fear. It’s only when Yuuri sees that he’s blocked out all of the light in those blue eyes, and they’re gray and dim, that he gasps in horror at his own outburst and claps both hands over his mouth.

“I’m so sorry,” he squeaks, mortified, ashamed. He jumps back, now the one shushing with his hands, apologizing. “You didn’t deserve that. I’m s-sorry.”

“Wow,” the man says, coming out of his stupor with a crooked tilt of his mouth, a cock of his head. “That’s a lot of pent up emotion. Your English is very good, by the way. I think it's better than mine.”

“I studied in America,” Yuuri finds himself explaining. Yuuri suspects Russian of the other. “And I write articles in both Japanese and English.”

The man nods, tapping his lips thoughtfully, looking down at the floor. “Would you let me stay if I wasn’t a man?”

“Huh?” He’s still at this?

The man snaps his fingers, struck by a brilliant idea. He grins hugely, satisfied. “I don’t have to be a man. I can be a dog. Or a cat. Which do you like more?”

“Dogs,” Yuuri says, not really sure what’s happening. But at the word, the guy drops to his hands and knees! He smiles up at Yuuri.

“Gahf-gahf!” the man barks.

And it’s a sort of grotesque turning point in the narrative of the moment. Yuuri gawks at him, eyes as wide as his mouth. He winks at Yuuri like he’s letting Yuuri in on a brilliant secret of his.

“Ah,” Yuuri admires, falling back into himself, into a calmer, smoother part of himself. His eyebrows climb his face in amused awe. He switches to Japanese and delights in the absent confusion that comes over the foreigner’s face when he speaks. “Look at you, all lost and alone in another country. You’re a pretty show dog. Is that it? If I don’t put a collar on you, you’ll get taken to the pound or someone else will take you away….oh! Oh no! You’re really dumb, aren’t you?”

Yuuri can’t possibly let this stupid man with no pride and no common sense, who gets on his knees and barks for a place to stay, be left alone. He’ll die. Yuuri can’t have him dying. He's concerned for him more than any other feeling.

“What’s your name?” Yuuri finally asks, resigned, sighing.

“Victor!”

“Okay.” Yuuri scrapes a hand back through his hair, and chews on his lip, but the decisions been made and Victor can see it, already smiling.  “I’ll call you Vicchan. You can be my...pet.”

“Ooh,” Victor admires. “Pet. That sounds like a sexy arrangement.”

“It’s not,” Yuuri is quick to correct. “There will be no sex.” He offers his hand and Victor takes it, getting off his knees with a wince. “But you can stay.”

The hug almost knocks Yuuri over with its force; Victor’s got long spidery limbs, and they wrap all the way around Yuuri. He buries his face into Yuuri’s shoulder, curled close. Foreigners. “Thank you so much, thank you truly. I promise it’ll be fun. I’ll be good.”

Yuuri grunts, not lifting his arms to engage in the hug. He’s not sure what’s happening in his life right now, but he doesn’t think it’s in his power to fight it. And with his nose filled with the smell of a dark body odour that isn't bad so much as definitively present, with silver haired flyaways tickling his cheek and lips, Yuuri think that the strange forces upsetting his usual life are tangled up with the man clutching onto him like a lifeline.

Chapter Text

 

Yuuri’s phone keeps going off. There are texts from Takeshi and Yuuko, no doubt about Ryota. Takeshi would have learned about the breakup from office gossip and immediately told Yuuko. Yuuri doesn’t want to talk about it; he hasn’t even really told Phichit what happened, even though Phichit had rescued Yuuri from a silver-haired mistake. The same mistake that now hovers at Yuuri’s elbow, watching his every move as Yuuri cooks.

Whenever Yuuri tries to sneak a peek at him, Victor smiles hugely at Yuuri, visibly perking up, inching closer. His stomach bumps into Yuuri’s elbow, and it makes the neat rhythm of his chopping go eschew. He’s too close. He’s invasive. Like a bug.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri tsks, waving the knife a little, glad that the annoyed tone coming from his mouth has no repercussions. “I need space. Or do you not want to eat?”

Victor droops and scoots away, trailing his fingers along Yuuri’s counter. He’s a kicked dog. But an obedient one. He leaves Yuuri to cook with his thoughts.

Yuuri wishes he could remember dancing with this man because his grace is painfully obvious. His hands alone, innocently toying with the items in Yuuri’s kitchen, had been strangely erotic to watch. And that fact irritated Yuuri above all else. Oh yes, he believed he had invited Victor home with him in a fit of drunken boldness. Had desired some throwaway beautiful boy to give him all the fun and passion that apparently lacked in his couplings with Ryota. And, given by Victor’s own enthusiasm with Yuuri, he still sees Yuuri as someone full of potential for such fun and passion.

It doesn’t help a thing. Yuuri wants nothing to do with errant men right now. He certainly wants nothing with a needy boy who gets on his knees and barks for a stranger, for a place to say. It’s too precarious, too nonsensical.

Ha. Yuuri says this to himself in one strand of thought, and his heart chides him: like he would throw someone out onto the street.

He’s almost done cooking when Victor wanders back into the kitchen to resume his hovering at Yuuri’s side, all smiles once more.

“Yuuri,” he greets, Yuuri’s name a purr of accent. “Wow! You cook so fast.” He leans against the counter, hands braced on the edge, and peers into the wide bowl where steam billows up and Yuuri whips his hand around to keep the vegetables and noodles frying evenly. “Can I help?”

He’s not the worst thing to come into Yuuri’s home. Not even the worst person.

Yuuri tips his head towards a set of cabinets. “You can get out two plates and two bowls and place them here. Then go sit at the table.”

With that little help, Yuuri finishes cooking and plates the food, steam clouding his glasses. He should feed Victor and send him off. Victor’s too flirtatious, has no sense of boundaries. What sort of audacity and arrogance convinces someone to stay all day in a stranger’s apartment and ask for more aid? Yuuri’s gut clenches. He’s not scared, but he has the suspicion he’s being scammed.

“Can I help?”

Yuuri jumps at the sudden closeness of Victor’s body, the air pushed out between them as Victor leans his hip against the counter beside Yuuri, looking down his nose and through a silver sheet of eyelashes. His smile is a menacing curl, as far as Yuuri’s concerned.

“I –” Yuuri swallows, “I told you to sit.”

Two fast blinks on Victor’s end, and a complicated twist to his expression seems to erase all teasing from his face. “Ah,” he sounds out thoughtfully, lips pulling together. “Okay.” And then he’s off, out of the kitchen; Yuuri can hear the chair scrape slightly as it’s pulled out. Hmm, he’ll have to put pads on the bottom.

He brings out the food to the table, a couple of simple dishes, but Victor’s eyes still go wide and Yuuri can see the deep rise of his chest as he inhales the smell of food. Pride glows on Yuuri’s face, and so does a wicked spike of pleasure when Victor reaches for the chopsticks near him and Yuuri slides them away.

“Not yet,” Yuuri denies, taking the utensils with him to his seat and sitting down. Victor’s eyeing him warily, jaw set and brows furrowed, tension strung about his neck and shoulders. 

“My master is cruel,” Victor sighs, sitting back in his seat and tucking a long lock of hair behind his ear, looking away. There’s a blush high on his sharp cheek but a slated look in his eyes when they return to measure Yuuri. “Are you going to make me eat like a dog?”

The idea is so humiliating, something sick and hot scorches the lowest parts of Yuuri. He clears his throat, clicking the chopsticks down firmly on his side of the table. “Can the man who barked on his knees so easily feel shame?” Yuuri challenges, curious and titillated.

Against his expectations, Victor smirks, a whistle of laughter escaping his nose. He runs his fingers around his ears again, fixing hair back that doesn’t need fixed. “I’ve been told many times that I should feel more shame for my behavior.”

“I believe that,” Yuuri says honestly, but he folds his hands in his lap and gives Victor a hard look. “I’ll give you the chopsticks after you tell me the truth; you’re scamming me, yes? Maybe we did dance the other night, but no one is so desperate as to be a stranger’s pet in exchange for a place to stay – unless,” Yuuri’s tongue feels thick but he perseveres, that same needling hot sensation probing deeply from within, “you have a particular fantasy you’re enacting on me.”

Yuuri says this as tactfully as he can, but still it feels wild and wrong to be said in his home, over his table, in such a casual way. He can do nothing about the redness of his face that he knows is climbing up to his ears and down his chest. Victor’s mouth drops open and the stunned look makes Yuuri groan and cover his face. He’s going to throw this man onto the street, forget kindness.  

Victor laughs. It’s a nice laugh. “No, I don’t think so,” he answers with seeming honesty, finger touched thoughtfully to his chin, mirth alight in his eyes. “But the press would never let it go if they heard such an accusation. My name is Victor Nikiforov.”

He waits, like that will mean something, but Yuuri’s flat look makes him grumble and wave his hand about his head. “Look me up.”

So Yuuri does.

An Olympic gold ice skater is the last thing he expects to find. He gasps and scrolls through the first article, and then some photos, and thrusts his phone across the table at Victor angrily. “This is you?”

“Yes!”

“W-why why – what are you – you can’t be broke,” Yuuri sputters. He shoves the chopsticks across the table. “Eat,” he commands flippantly, needing a way to occupy Victor while he explores this mystery. Victor leaves him to it, starved.

Victor Nikiforov. 21. Russia’s top competitive men’s singles skater. Olympic gold. Managed to make podium his debut in the Senior division after destroying the Junior division. A gold at World’s last year.

Yuuri watches a video, a short clip that’s dated only a month ago. It’s Victor on the ice. A sharp woman's voice music cries out from his phone speakers; across the table, Victor stops eating. Victor’s in an all black shimmery get-up, gliding across the ice. It’s very lovely; Yuuri knows form when he sees it, knows the way bodies become things of beauty. It’s that way until Victor seems to drift on the ice, slowing, the extension of his hand coming to clutch his head—and then he falls as if his legs have vanished beneath him. He doesn’t get up until a medic helps him sit up, and the camera zooms in on his dazed expression, the tears beneath shadowy eyes.

“What happened?” Yuuri asks gently, putting his phone down. Victor’s abandoned his foot and he touches his fingers to his skull, tapping two different parts of his head.

“Concussions can catch up to you,” he says mildly. “At the most inopportune times.”

“Oh,” Yuuri says neutrally. Victor hums. After a beat, his resumes eating; he lacks the previous glow that laughter had brought him, and Yuuri can already see that gloom is a poison upon him. Yuuri gives him silence and starts to eat as well. He’s not good at this sort of thing. He doesn’t know what to say.

And besides. It’s not his job to comfort Victor.

“My funds have become suddenly more limited than I expected for personal reasons. I apologize,” Victor says stiffly. “But my need for a place is not a scam.”

“No one can help you?” Yuuri asks pointedly.

Victor bites his lip, worrying it. “Not without me making a decision I’m not ready to make.” And then, as if anticipating criticism, he snaps his eyes up, creased around a mouth holding an empty smile. “I’m selfish that way.”

Yuuri doesn’t need to know what to do to know what not to do, and Victor’s an exposed wire dancing sparks, pretty and on the edge of combustion. It’s not something Yuuri wants to tangle himself in.

“Okay,” Yuuri agrees, taking a huge bite of food that will let him chew for a long time and make conversation unnecessary. Knowing who Victor is, Yuuri does feel better about his presence. He’s not someone nameless and faceless; there’s accountability. There’s a sense of security. Plus, just watching a few clips, Yuuri respects what Victor’s capable of, and he pities the injury that’s apparently been enough, judging by the article accompanying the video, to chase Victor away from his life.

Olympic Gold Skater Victor Nikiforov abandons skating midseason due to head injury.

“Tell me about you, Yuuri. What’s your full name? Where do you work? Where did you study dance? What forms do you know?”

Yuuri’s not expecting the onslaught of questions and he swallows hurrifly, coughing at the strain in his throat. Victor’s cleared his food and has his chin in both hands, his attention readily perched across the table. It’s more interest than anyone’s shown Yuuri in a long time.

“U-uhm. My name’s Katsuki Yuuri. I grew up studying ballet. I went to an American university on scholarship and was in a troupe there, where I studied other forms…hip-hop, salsa…”

“Pole dancing?”

Yuuri flinches. In America, the style is slightly less scandalous than it is in Japan. “It was offered at the gym by a friend of mine. She worked at a club…she made good money.”

Victor’s smile is new, genuine. It stretches his whole face. “What do you do now? Tell me you dance, Yuuri, please,” he begs.

“No. I’m a journalist for the Japanese business and economy division of a major magazine.”

Victor releases an unruly noise of complaint. “Boring. That’s a waste of your obvious talent.”

He says it flippantly, with complete disregard for whatever life Yuuri’s built on his work, whatever joy he receives from it. Without care for what’s diverted Yuuri from dance and brought him to a boring, safe, domestic life. Yuuri’s teeth set on edge, but before he can deal with one callouse comment, Victor ignites him with another.

“So, I take it no lovers? You seem newly heart-broken by a man.” He’s holding his chin speculatively, eyes drifting off as he mines his memories for substance. “I know the signs quite well. You know, my exes always called me a dog when they were mad!”

 

The rudeness upset Yuuri more than the reminder of the hurt inflicted upon him. No, the hurt will come later, in the lonely night.

“Who are you to speak so intimately of my life and pass judgments?” Yuuri snaps, catching Victor off-guard, given the wide blinking eyes turned to him. A fire in his chest burns fully, tight with emotion, suffocating him. His eyes sting – oh perhaps he is hurt. He’s been meanly dumped, humiliated at work, and assumed incapable of maintaining himself by his boss. And now this wreck of an athlete wants to lament that Yuuri isn’t a dancer and then casually invade his love life? “I said I’d let a pet stay here, not a smart-mouthed boy!”

His emotions clatter through the apartment. Yuuri wants to bite them back, wants to scream more, wants to vanish or make all else vanish. All he’d wanted was to come home and be alone and he’s far from it. He doesn’t bother looking at Victor, just drops his face into his open palm, face aborted to the ground.

A breath later and the chair scuffs as Victor rises, but then there’s a different creak and a shuffling sound. Yuuri's view of the floor, of his own feet, is blocked up by a silver head. Victor’s once more on all fours, crawled to Yuuri’s side at the table, eyes huge, face a perfect pitiful rumple. He catches sight of Yuuri’s damp eyes and drops his heas in guilty acknowledgement to bump his face into Yuuri’s knee.

“What are you doing?” Yuuri asks tiredly, releasing a breath of disbelief.

“Simpering. Is it working?”

An unexpected laugh pops from Yuuri’s lips, a gust of terrible delight. Victor grins encouragingly and rolls flat onto his back, curling his legs and hands to his chest. “How about the pose of submission?”

It’s outrageous. He is outrageous. Yuuri bites his knuckle, laughing, embarrassed for him. Victor steals away all of Yuuri’s frustration with the show of his underbelly, all vulnerability and fatalism. Yuuri swallows back his laughter, grows quiet in thought. He stands and steps over to Victor who never once takes his eyes from Yuuri.

“Your things are still at that hotel, right?”

Victor nods. Again, he takes the hand Yuuri offers him and gets to his feet, standing many centimeters over Yuuri. He needs a bath, he needs clean clothes. He needs a good night’s sleep. Yuuri doesn’t touch him, even though his fingers itch to tuck his disheveled hair away from his face. A little is caught on the damp seam of his pink mouth.

“I don’t remember where it is,” Victor admits, frustration evident in the short drawl of the words. “And my phone’s dead.”

“I’ll lend you my computer. If you paid with a credit card, you can look at your bank statement,” Yuuri solves easily. Victor’s mouth makes an ‘o’ of understanding.

And yes, they solve that little mystery in little time and head out into the evening. Yuuri shakes off Victor’s hand when he keeps trying to hold onto Yuuri, but otherwise it’s a painless trip. Victor pays the last of his bill; Yuuri winces at the place. He wouldn’t stay there. Yuuri’s not a big talker, he hates small talk and although he could probably ask Victor a million questions about his skating training, and dance, and Russia and the Olmypics, he’s tired by the thought, content to rock on the bus, to watch Victor’s admiration of the dark city streets.

“Rinse and then bathe,” Yuuri instructs when they’re back at his apartment. “I’ll make up a futon; I have a loft over my work desk,” he points to the corner of the living room at a wide table, computer and chair, and the narrow rungs of a ladder that lead to a small raised unit; all that’s up there is spare bedding.

He sends Victor off to the bathroom and plugs in his phone for him. He’ll feel better about letting Victor stay here when both of them have told someone of his whereabouts. Victor says he’s going to call his friend Christophe, a fellow skater, when he’s out of the bath. Yuuri? Well, once he sets up a sleeping place for Victor, he makes a pot of tea and calls Phichit. The texts from Yuuko and Takeshi will have to wait.

After a quick greeting, Yuuri can’t stop the words from tumbling out of his mouth. They still used English for most communication, as neither had quite mastered the other’s native tongue. Yuuri gives Phichit a hasty recap of the situation, starting with the fight with Ryota and tracing his past two days.

 “You’re going to let him stay?” Phichit’s disbelieving. “That’s unlike you. Is it because of Ryota?”

“I don’t know,” Yuuri answers truthfully. “Some of it. I’m not worried about Victor doing anything bad.”

“Just because he’s famous doesn’t mean he’s not bad,” Phichit warns.

Yuuri hums. He knows that. In fact, maybe it’s more of a disadvantage. The world would sooner believe Victor than Yuuri if anything foul occurred. And the international politic of it… “I know I have to be careful.”

“You’re always careful,” Phichit teases. “I guess I should encourage the opposite in you? Let me meet him. I want an autograph. He’s very very good looking. There are worse people you could have playing puppy in your home.”

Yuuri snorts dismissively, but the blush on his cheeks gives away his feelings on that matter. “Oh yes, he’s very cute. But I’m tired of men, and the prettier they are, the worse they are. I have no interest in such things.”

“Uh-huh,” Phichit agrees mockingly. “Of course not. You’re just going to let him stay in your home innocently.”

“Yes,” Yuuri insists. “Trust me, Phichit, if you met this guy you’d see…”

Victor’s come out of the bathroom during the conversation, ostensibly for his phone that’s charging on the outlet by the couch. He’s damp, skin glowing with a healthy flush. He’s a long slip of muscle, of a masculine breadth of shoulders and a tapered waist, of calves that cut out from his legs. His hair’s a dark smoke slicked away from his forehead. He tosses a grin over his shoulder at Yuuri as he picks up his phone, flashing the now awakened screen at him triumphantly.

Yuuri switches to Japanese, knowing Phichit will understand. “You’d see that he can’t be left on his own. He’ll get eaten.”

“Eaten?” Phichit answers in Japanese.

Yuuri swallows, mouth dry. Victor turns, facing Yuuri, typing on his phone furiously. Every breath he takes flexes his stomach, a sheet of muscle. There’s a miracle of water caught in the valley above Victor’s collarbones. Yuuri thinks he could quench all the needs of his body on just a taste of his skin. He’s been sculpted by an artist and had life breathed into him by a god.

“Vic-Vicchan,” Yuuri calls, turning the receiver of the phone away from his mouth.

 Victor looks up, seemingly only now to notice Yuuri curled up on the couch. “Sorry, was I interrupting your call?”

“No, but you’re dripping everywhere. Go dress.” It’s not the most polite way of phrasing Yuuri’s need for Victor to be wearing clothes, but Victor doesn’t seem to care. He obeys. It’s a terrible, poisonous obedience that leaves Yuuri drugged, following him covertly with his eyes over the back of his couch. Victor has dimples at the base of his spine; the towel’s hung so low that the grand swell of his bottom is visible, hips swaying.

Yuuri glares. He has to be trying that. Nobody has that much beckoning in their walk.

“—uuri-? Yuuri?”

“He’s going to kill me,” Yuuri whispers.

“What?!” Phichit squacks.

 

He’s finished with his call by the time Victor returns, wearing sweats and a zip-up jacket in a bright, garish red. “I called my friend Christophe. He’s another skater,” Victor explains, going to the charger to let his phone get to full battery.

“Yes, the Swiss one, right?” Yuuri pours him a cup of tea automatically. Victor’s bare feet make him cold to see.

“Oh, I told you?” Victor looks confused. Yuuri flicks a considerate look his way and gives a slight nod. “Oh. Well, yes. He’s probably my best friend in skating. The travel makes it hard, but he let me stay at his home for two weeks when I first ended took my break.”

He approaches Yuuri cautiously, coming around to the couch and Yuuri’s relaxed form like he’s going to make a misstep.

“Sit, Vicchan,” Yuuri offers lightly. He’s not surprised this time when Victor gets down on his knees on the floor beside Yuuri. He shakes his head, smile ready and easy. “You are ridiculous, aren’t you?”

Victor dares to drop his chin onto Yuuri’s thigh. “You smile whenever I do this.”

“A-ah, is that so?” Yuuri stutters, leaning forward to pour himself tea as well. It jostles Victor a little, but Victor adjusts, leaning in closer so that his shoulder lines up against Yuuri too. “Seeing something so ridiculous – of course I’d smile.”

“I’m being a good pet, so you’ll keep me, right, Yuuri?” Victor’s teasing him, like this isn’t out of the bounds of his reality. Like it’s fun.

Yuuri ignores the question, the parameters created in it. He averts his eyes. “Sit on the couch, Vicchan. I don’t need to be a figure skater to know the pressure on the body it must bring.”

Victor’s laugh is a little hollow, a little scornful. Yuuri remembers too late that it’s an injury that’s brought him so low. An injury and running away from what it might mean. But the cushions on the couch dip and crunch with Victor’s weight, and he accepts the warm tea cup with a sigh.

He’s warm and strange and magnetic. Yuuri can’t help but regard him, study him. Victor’s eyes drift open and closed as he drinks his tea, not doing a thing to defend himself from Yuuri’s gaze. He must be used to it, to cameras and fans and the inquiring eye. But on Yuuri’s couch, already so humbled by the circumstances, he doesn’t even put up a scrubbed-white smile as a castle wall. He’s run away, he’s run away and his funds are contingent on some form of return and obedience, to skating no doubt; he’s thrown himself down at Yuuri’s feet, four times now.

“You should sleep,” Yuuri eventually breaks, rising from the couch and gathering the cups and the teapot. “I have to work tomorrow. I’m not sure if you’re an early riser, but I’ll leave breakfast for you.”

A hand catches his, a curl of fingers he didn’t expect to have callouses but do.

“Yuuri,” Victor presses, looking up at him with a serious gaze. “Thank you. You’ve already done so much.”

Yuuri’s not kind. And he’s not sure he would have taken Victor in if he wasn’t a beautiful man. And he’s not sure if he would have kept him if he wasn’t someone Yuuri could admire even in this troubled situation. The thanks rock him with guilt.

Victor sees the struggle on Yuuri’s face and kisses his fingertips, lips grazing across them, velvet against the whorls of Yuuri’s pads. Yuuri flinches out of the touch, guilt replaced by guardedness.

“Pets have no business with kissing,” Yuuri says sharply, turning away to hide his blush. He thinks he hears Victor sigh, but sure enough, a minute later the ladder to the loft gives a little creak as Victor finds his futon.

Chapter Text

 “Salut!”

“Victor! I was expecting to see your body drifting ashore dead and ugly with how long it’s been,” Christophe greets dramatically. In the background of the call, Victor thinks he can hear the casual commotion of a busy coffee shop. It's deplorably early where Chris is.

“Not the case. My phone was dead for almost two days. I had to call you first thing; congratulations on your gold at the European Championships!” Victor inspects himself in the foggy mirror of Yuuri’s bathroom. He’s surprised to find his reflection smiling, happiness for his friend thumbing dimples in his cheeks. “You deserve it. You’re the star this season.”

“Thank you, Victor,” Chris says, soft and sincere into the phone. A shuffle of noise follows as it’s readjusted, a faint slurp—coffee probably. Victor hasn’t had coffee in forever. “I have to say, with you gone, my way is clear at Worlds.”

“Don’t get cocky, it’s not an endearing look on you.” Ah, there’s the expected pang of regret; it hits Victor beneath his ribs, like a killing blade.

“Everything is an endearing look on me. Excuse me, have we met? You’ve seen me,” Chris teases. Victor could let him sweep away the words, and the topic; but when he holds his breath, biting his lip, Chris follows into the silence. “Yakov called me.”

“Oh did he now?”

Victor has a few voicemails from his dear and darling coach. He can’t bring himself to listen to them yet.

“I’m not to wire you any money. You’re to come home.”

“Letting him handle all of my bank accounts was not the best move. I wish I could kill my past self.”

“After you bought that vintage hot pink Cadillac that you pay to keep in a garage because you’re never around to drive it? My sweet, Yakov will be the only reason you retire with a roof over your head….but how are you getting along in Japan with no money?”

Victor laughs to himself in the mirror, his smile secretive and pleased. “I’m a kept boy, Chris,” he promises giddily, amusing himself entirely too much making faces in the mirror. It’s the bath, it’s made him feel new. Being clean has always felt like becoming new to Victor. “I found the most delicious man here.”

“You’re fucking with me,” Chris answers drily.

“I’m not. I’m his pet. Just tonight, at dinner, I got on all fours and crawled to him.” He twirls his hair around his index finger and affects a trashy pose, saucing his mirrored-self with a wink, a glamorous smile, flashing his nipples brazenly. He knows very well that if he did any such thing in front of Yuuri, he’d be tossed onto the street. But Chris doesn’t need to know that. He doesn’t need to know that Victor has no idea what he’s doing, that playing puppy is easier than learning how to say sorry.

“Victor Nikiforov, you are a wretched filthy creature and I adore you.” Yes, that’s pride in Chris’s voice. “But please be careful. I’m all for vigorous sex but you can’t afford to have anyone send you through a headboard.”

The press isn’t here. No one is. Victor doesn’t need to hold his smile. It goes, he doesn’t know where.

“I’ll manage.”

He and Chris have known each other for many years. Their friendship has fluctuated, varied in its depth and devotion. It’s improved in the past two years; sleeping together did wonders for it. Sneaking off, sneaking drinks, feeling like reckless boys and letting their bodies be for themselves, for the hot kiss of skin instead of the cold punish of ice—they understood each other. They had that capacity.

“My home’s always open to you, Victor,” Chris says, as he’s said before. “You can come back. I won’t tell Yakov if you stay with me, if you want to stay hidden.”

Swallowing, Victor moves to the toilet and sits down on the lid. His feet aren’t wearing blisters or bruises for the first time in a long time. It feels good to heal, even if he doesn’t know how long he’ll let himself do it. Not as long as his body needs. “Thank you.”

Chris chews on the line, letting the conversation lull as he eats. Finally, he clears his throat. “So who’s the guy? You’re safe?”

“The safest. First name Yuuri, surname Katsuki. He’s some kind of business journalist; it’s boring. But Chris,” Victor gasps, fresh with remembering. “So I met him at a club and you should have seen him dance. I think I’m in love.”

Victor had gone out that night hoping to get picked up, or at least be spoiled. People spoiled him everywhere he went, and Japan was no exception. In fact, he managed to eat for free and get tidily drunk for free that night. And the next too, and lo, what luck for it brought him here. But—Yuuri had come in, and taken up the bar with a row of shots and such a serious face. Honestly, he looked like a mess, face red and hair and clothes ruined; Victor assumed he’d just gotten fucked in the bathroom. Victor had been nearby, watching in captivation as this rumpled man blew through six shots and then faced the dance floor like a firing squad. Once the alcohol kicked in, and Victor kept an eye on him all night waiting for the turnover, boy, did he cut loose.

Yuuri had commandeered an empty pole that one of the club dancers had left, and while normally seeing someone approach a pole was a sign of a night about to take a turn for the embarrassing, instead the entire club lost its collective mind when this man still wearing a button down and a mostly-forgotten tie stripped and worked the pole like his rent was due. And then there were more shots, and then Yuuri, galvanized, made the DJ put on an electro-remix of what Victor was sure was Cuban salsa, and that’s when Victor found himself approaching Yuuri who swept Victor into his arms and made him breathless with burning and fast feet.

“That’s quite the escapade,” Chris admires when Victor stops gushing. “So he took you home?”

“Uh, something like that….I’ll let you go, Chris, I know your day needs to start.”

Unfortunately for Victor, he wants to kiss on someone who’s in the righteous stages of spurning men.

 

 

His body, and his heart and mind but that’s another issue, has yet recognized that he’s not skating. That he doesn’t need to be on the ice first thing in the morning, when it’s a perfect plane of glass. He’s been skating almost as soon as he could walk, and nothing makes him hold his breath like the first slice on fresh ice. So, point: he’s awake before Yuuri. Not long before him, but he’s on the living room floor going through stretches when Yuuri’s alarm rings from the farthest room. He’s face down, legs spread trying to open the tension in his hips, when Yuuri’s shuffling wakefulness joins him.

Yuuri groans. It’s drawn out, rough with sleep and, dare he say, desire?

“Like what you see?” he teases, lifting his face from the floor, rolling his spine out and straight. He expects Yuuri to be ogling him, to be thinking lustfully of all the ways he can bend Victor over.

He’s not. He’s not even looking at Victor. Instead, he’s folded over himself like his spine’s been cut, upper body vertical, bent at the waist, and palms flat on the floor between his feet. Yuuri sighs out, and inches his hands behind his heels, until it looks like he means to crawl inside-out. His shirt’s rolled down, exposing his back, the shuddering of ribs and spine, the tension of muscles. Then his feet lift into the air, his legs split, stretch. He inverts and falls carefully, although the landing is a little clumsy.

Victor neatly picks up his jaw from the floor. Well.

“Seeing you makes me wish I’d woken up earlier to do a full routine,” Yuuri says to the ceiling, spread flat on his floor. He stretches out and yawns again, flopping onto his side and rubbing his face. He’s not wearing glasses and he’s smudged soft from sleep, disarray and a palpable warmth in his presence.

“Tomorrow?” Victor suggests eagerly. He moves into a new stretch, a wide split with his back to Yuuri, presenting himself perfectly for admiration. If he doesn’t look at Yuuri, surely Yuuri will look at him?

Victor never said he isn’t vain, that he doesn’t like being admired. In fact, he loves it. He loves now the mystery of Yuuri, all the potential of him. He likes the denial and the risk and the strange up-ended dynamic he’s tangled himself in. He lied to Chris only a little last night. Embellished, really. Harmlessly. But the fantasy of it sits snugly in the ache of his stretch.

“Probably,” Yuuri agrees after too long, after Victor’s moved into a new position. Mmm. “Actually, I had a thought. Would you like to go to the gym today? I can bring a guest.”

That’s unexpected. Victor twists to regard Yuuri, surprised by the offer. After last night, he thought he’d be relegated to a realm of silence, endured but not invited. Yuuri’s not looking at him, feigning intensity in his stretches, but the ways he’s ducked his head convinces Victor that this isn’t an idle invitation spurred on only by catching sight of Victor this morning.

“That’d be perfect! I can make do working out with just my body, but I like equipment.”

Thank god he brought workout clothes. Not a lot, he’ll have to wash them more frequently. Actually, he really needs to do laundry. He’ll have to ask Yuuri about that.

“Weights,” Yuuri sounds out thoughtfully, finally lifting his dark eyes to Victor. He’s so unassuming, peripheral, but then you see him, you look at him, and Victor thinks: god really? “What about a dance studio?”

Victor beams. “Even better.”

Yuuri leaves him at that and gets ready for the day; Victor remains, loosening up carefully. Yuuri chatters, half to himself in Japanese, half-addressing Victor in sporadic English. “I’m leaving this dish for you” and “oh, laundry? It’s that little closet near my room. It takes only small loads,” and “you can push the coffee table out of the way if you need more space.”

He’s not overly attentive, he seems fine letting Victor be, leaving him to his thing as Yuuri maintains the motions of his daily life. In fact, he’s distracted, if Victor were to guess. Aside from the eye contact given over the offer of the gym, he doesn’t look at Victor at all the rest of the morning. He’s kind but, whatever easy softness he’d woken up with leaves him by the time he’s in some drab little suit-and-tie and heading out the door.

“Wait,” Victor calls, chasing him to the narrow entrance way.

 Yuuri’s balanced on one foot, sliding a loafer onto the other, briefcase in hand, glasses slipping down his nose. The whole situations irreverent, uncalled for. Yakov will kill him when he finds out that Victor’s doing something as wasteful as sitting in a stranger’s home. Oh well. Yakov knows he’s an idiot, doesn’t he? Victor dives in, scooping Yuuri into a hug, cheek to cheek. He doesn’t even wear cologne. How minimalist. “Bye bye, Yuuri. Have a good day.”

“You--!” Yuuri starts to sputter. Victor slides down in front of him and puts up his hands in happy imitation of a begging dog, face blank with innocence.

 “You--” Yuuri repeats, cheeks dappled red, eyes narrowed suspiciously. Victor increases the wattage of his smile. Yuuri deflates, sweeping a hand across his face and muttering to himself. He goes through some sort of one-sided conversation; Victor catches his name more than a few times, and “pet” and “Olympic.” But finally, Yuuri drops his hand away from his face, takes a steeling breath, and crouches down so that he’s eye-level with Victor. Again, it’s not the gesture Victor expects. He can’t seem to predict Yuuri; he’d hugged him expecting to be thrown off and scolded, to send him blushing madly from the apartment, but not to be met on the floor.

He’s intimidating, so close and frowning so seriously. Victor plants his hands on the ground for balance, anticipatory, strained under the endurance of Yuuri’s searching stare. Last night, Yuuri had stared at him plenty, and Victor had let him, worn out, relinquished to it. He couldn’t deny the one who’d taken him in such a simple submission. It’s different now. There’s a forward motion to the looking, to this posturing on the floor.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri sounds out meaningfully, flicking his tongue over the consonants and sustaining the vowels. Victor’s not stupid. He doesn’t need to speak Japanese to know basics, to know stock phrases, to know the familiar effeminate quality to this name, his name, in Yuuri’s mouth. He wonders how his full proper name would sound rolling out like that, owned and stressed.

He’s not sure what his face does; he thinks he feels it open up with heat and vulnerability. It’s the bare exposure that normally only reveals itself when he’s lost in his performance, when the music and the ice drag him inside-out for all to see.

Yuuri hums and stands, satisfied with his ruining of Victor’s composure. He taps his finger lightly at the part of his hair, cutting beneath a heavy silver lock and letting it fall through his touch. “Be a good boy, Vicchan. You have a good day too. And stop getting down on the floor; my apartment doesn't allow dogs.”

The door closes, and Victor drops back onto his ass. If defeat always feels like this, he wouldn’t mind losing.

 

 

 

The elevator takes forever to come, and Yuuri’s standing in the hallway clutching his chest and gasping. His heart races wildly, almost drunk in its rhythm. It wasn’t the hug. Well, the hug was a lot. Victors strong himself and very well made for hugging, able to wrap Yuuri up completely in his arms. That’s…a lot. But not; it was the face he made when Yuuri called him sweetly. That face alone had made Yuuri never want to give him back to the world.

This is a problem. A big problem. Yuuri does not want problems in his life, no thank you. He wants, in fact, the opposite of problems. Solutions! But there isn’t a solution to this problem because the problem is deep-ended and dangerous and the only solution to truly solve the problem would be, theoretically, if the problem had never happened. If Victor had not happened. But he had. So there is no solution.

Last night, Yuuri had learned everything about Victor Nikiforov he could. He’d watched hours of YouTube videos of his routines, trolled his instagram, read countless articles. He likes research, he likes obsessing, and Victor requires research. It is like having a pet because Yuuri’s stressed about how to care for him: Victor isn’t skating at the moment, but surely he’ll return. He needs a proper diet and regular exercise. He’s just in a poor state right now. His coach, one Yakov Feltsman, had been tight-lipped about the condition of his star skater and long-standing pupil. But he’s given no hints about where Victor’s gone: now Victor’s instagram revealed that he’d been in Switzerland and France shortly after dropping out of the skating season following his concussion and subsequent fall (faint?). But, the matter of him being in Japan is entirely off the record. Yuuri’s harboring an athletic fugitive. Sort of.

Yuuri arrives at work only by sheer force of muscle memory, still locked up in a haze. He fails to say hello to Mr. Takagawa, and drops into his desk chair with disbelief.

“Yuuri, why haven’t you answered any of my messages?”

Takeshi’s looming, plastered with worry.

“Huh?” Oh. “Oh!” Ryota. Right. Huh. “Sorry, Takeshi, I’m really sorry, I’ve been…busy.”

“Busy?” Takeshi’s huge eyebrows go up then down and pincer together. “With what?”

“Uh—crying. I’ve been…crying.”

It’s a bad lie. It’s the lie-iest lie. And Yuuri’s surprised by that. He actually expected to cry last night. In fact, he’d scheduled it into his evening plans. He fully anticipated crying himself to sleep, yearning for the familiar shape of Ryota at his side, for the security of an arm around his waist. But he hadn’t had time to consider that longing because he’d stayed up late internet-stalking Victor.

“I’m sorry, Yuuri. I had no idea that you two had broken up. Yuuko’s worried, she wants to make sure you’re okay. Will you call her on your break?”

Yuuri smiles gently at that. It isn’t fair to make his friends worry. “I will. Thank you for your concern Takeshi. I’m really fine.”

He feels fine. Well, he’d like to punch Ryota, maybe. He definitely does not want to see Ryota. And, alright, dwelling on it makes sickness tide over him. They’re really broken up. Ryota came to work and Yuuri had yelled at him. And the worst, Mrs. Yakimura had seen.

His face falls in remembering. “I have a local economy piece to do,” he complains, sagging into his chair. Takeshi winces at the set back. It’s not the best look for someone who’s been working on so many big international pieces.

“Take it as a break. You deserve one,” Takeshi says by way of comfort.

I don’t want one, Yuuri thinks futilely.

 

 

 

Victor tries to hug him again when he returns home. Yuuri hasn’t been able to forget what, or who, he’s coming home to all day.

“You’re back! I missed you!” Victor shouts, thundering towards him, a devious glint in his eyes. Yuuri drops his suitcase and braces for when Victor lunges, arms outstretched. He catches him and lifts him, height be damned, into the air. It’s stupid and inappropriate, this proximity, this ease, but Yuuri can only convert Victor’s closeness into something new, or reject it entirely. It seems the happy middle.

“Vicchan! You are an overactive pet,” Yuuri scolds, but he’s laughing incredulously all the same. Victor’s already dressed for the gym. There’s something clenching and immediate about Victor. Yuuri holds him up by the hips, thinking: you are too skinny and you are too tall.

“This brings back such fond memories,” Victor flirts, easily adapting. Yuuri drops him, but it’s not a long way down by any means, and Victor bounds back to the living room, twirling, long ponytail a whip about his face. “Do you have any videos of your college routines? Will you show me some tonight?”

“You’re very invested in my dance,” Yuuri acknowledges as he kicks off his shoes and comes into his home. “You can’t be without dancer friends in your line of work.”

“I’m not,” Victor shrugs, sprawling on the couch. He looks at ease but there’s a meticulous maintenance to it. His smile is careful. “I believe that watching someone dance is the best way to know them.”

“Then will you show me your skating? As best you can, off the ice,” Yuuri bargains. He comes to the edge of the couch, looking down to Victor as he slides his tie from his collar. “I watched a lot of your videos last night,” he admits, a little hesitant. He can see Victor stiffening as the conversation goes on. Skating is sore to him.

“Sure,” Victor replies with a smile. “If that’s what you want to see.”

Yuuri doesn’t know what to do with that so he leaves to change. He grabs them both water bottles and protein bars for the bus ride. Victor, between his face and his hair, attracts a lot of attention. Yuuri both wants to cover him up and inch away so as not to be caught in the crossfire. About two people recognize him but Yuuri gets him off at the stop quick enough that there’s no result.

In the studio room of the gym, only two people practice. One’s a young girl working on a hip-hop routine; Yuuri pauses to watch her and turns to Victor.

“Do you want to see ballet or something like that? Or salsa?” As nervous as Yuuri feels, there’s also a weightless spark brewing in his chest. He dances here regularly enough, with other people that he’s not sick by the thought of dancing for Victor’s eyes. Even if they’re the eyes of a gold-medal athlete. How can he, when Victor has no qualms about calling himself Yuuri’s pet? It’s too silly, and Yuuri’s not the so-delicate boy he use to be. College abroad numbed a lot of his performance anxiety. Dancing’s easy. It’s the time before and after the music that’s hard.

“Everything,” Victor winks. “Show me everything your body can do, Yuuri.”

Victor kisses Yuuri’s name into the air, full of intention. Yuuri kisses his teeth in response, cocks a hip into the fortified stance of the unamused. “What did I say about smart-mouthed boys?”

“Who, me?” Victor looks around the room, coming up null, and points to himself disbelieving. “I’m not a smart-mouthed boy. I’m a good boy.”

Yuuri covers a snort with his hand. Only a twenty-one year old could be so free with himself, so without pride. He shakes his head.  That’s not right. Victor’s full of pride; no one who works so hard, who wins so much and breaks himself for art and victory can be without pride.

They warm up separately, each finding their own space. Yuuri can’t not notice Victor looking his way; hell, he’s pinching himself to not look at Victor. But it feels good to be looked at by a man like Victor. Yuuri might be pushing twenty-eight, but he’s of the opinion he’s aged well. That time looks better one him, has made him more solid. He doesn't dread the years ahead of him. College had been a time of dramatics, his body swinging one way and then the next. The stress of courses, the rigor of dance, the wild moments of weekend parties. Adulthood suits him well. He might be boring, but in that boringness is a routine and a precision that’s helped him find peace.

He thinks derisively of Ryota now. Ryota hadn’t been a good dancer. He’d never be here with Yuuri.

When he takes off, a song from a college routine just loud enough for him to hear coming from his phone, Victor whistles. It feels good.

Victor likes the ballet, but he likes the hip hop and fusion that Yuuri shifts into when a new song starts.

“Show me that! With your feet. That footwork.”

He makes Yuuri dance, but he dances too, Yuuri trying to break down his motions, restarting the music. Yuuri watches him in the mirror as they move side-by-side. It’s fun teaching Victor who happily accepts all instructions. He’s a little awkward, new to the style, but he has rhythm and that’s most of the struggle. Yuuri finds that he has to go back and repeat steps he thinks Victor has down one moment and loses the next, but he doesn’t mind. Victor doesn’t mind when Yuuri takes his hands and push-pulls his body, or when he slips behind Victor and takes his hips, making him feel the weight shift and the jaunty pelvic pop. He aborts this position the second Victor starts to shimmy his ass into Yuuri’s crotch.

It’s so easy for Yuuri to be distracted by Victor, his enthusiasm, his endless questions and exaggerated flirting, that they leave the gym without Victor having shown Yuuri a single motion of his own choreography.

Chapter Text


 

It’s the end of a full week of Victor staying in the apartment when Phichit Chulanont, the one and only, returns from the dead (otherwise known as the work week.)

 

 

 

 

“Vicchan,” Yuuri says, typing his replies. “Do you want to meet my friend Phichit?”

“Yes.” Victor doesn’t even hesitate. He’s playing on Yuuri’s laptop, watching the Russian news. Yuuri installed a new browser because he wasn’t sure even he, with his adept computer skills, could purge his search history well enough to trust his laptop in another human’s hands. So far, Victor hasn’t teased him about any scandalous discoveries, but it still keeps Yuuri’s heart rate above a comfortable resting rate whenever Victor logs into his computer.

“I think we’re going to go into the city for the day, have dinner, and then he wants to go dancing. Is that something you’d like?”

“Yes! Yuuri, are you trying to convince me otherwise? Do you not want me to go? I can stay here and not see you dancing,” Victor half-closes the laptop to fix Yuuri with big, watery eyes.

Where Yuuri entertains such worries as genuine concerns, would press his friends with such anxious doubts, Victor does it boldly, demanding confirmation not because he disbelieves but because he is just that kind of way. He likes to tease out people’s affection for him.

If he’s hurt, if he’s unsure, it’s deeply couched under a practiced routine of nonchalance. He covers with noise, with an electric persona.

“N-no, I want you there,” Yuuri promises adamantly. Victor grins triumphantly, and Yuuri rolls his eyes. Figures. “If I left you alone, you’d wind up drunk in the gutters or wandering into some stranger’s home.”

It’s a tease at Victor’s readily recounted habit of drink that, insofar, Yuuri’s yet to see. He’s given Victor a key by now and downloaded a good map onto his phone with the apartment boldly marked. The past few days, Yuuri’s mornings have begun a little earlier in order to accommodate a thorough morning stretch alongside Victor before he leaves for work and Victor for a run through the neighborhood.

 

They’ve found an unexpected rhythm rather quickly, but that doesn’t mean being around each other is easy. Yuuri feels himself folding over at times to accommodate the size of Victor’s personality, and the constancy of his houseguest. Pet? House pet. Yuuri frets and fumes in sudden turn. On the occasions when Yuuri closes himself into his bedroom to rest in solitude, Victor will catch onto the snare in Yuuri’s expressions and start tiptoeing. They don’t fight, but they’re too aware. So no, it’s not easy. It’s not easy for Yuuri to take his hands off Victor when he pushes him through a stretch, fingers splayed on the small of Victor’s back or holding Victor’s ankle and making his leg open open open, Victor at his mercy, his eyes shut, the chords of his body straining in Yuuri’s hands, worked loose to the count of Yuuri’s breath. Not easy. And Yuuri is well aware of the linger of Victor’s hugs in the morning, how Victor never steps back full, how he  holds Yuuri’s hips and squeezes the soft give of him until he’s got a handhold on Yuuri’s hipbones, Victor’s eyes cast in distraction and daydream. It’s not easy. But Yuuri’s clear-headed and always manages to pull away.

So there’s that.

 

 

It’s the weekend, and Yuuri can sleep in. Even after years of mostly regular work hours, he’s never lost the ability to sleep on the weekends. Apparently, Victor Nikiforov doesn’t understand this because he scratches his fingers on Yuuri’s bedroom door until Yuuri, hovering in the early morning creaks of sleep, grunts irritably at the noisome intrusion to his fantastic, beautiful sleep.

“Yuuri,” Victor lullabies, slipping into the room and onto Yuuri’s bed. Yuuri has a nice mattress, memory foam, and it barely registers the inclusion of another body; however, the comforter crinkles; the pillow sinks; Yuuri rolls towards the new depth, like sand to the tide, slipping into the cradle of Victor’s body.

For what seems like the first time, Victor stays quiet. Yuuri’s cuddling him.

The chest Yuuri’s nuzzled against barely stirs with breath. It becomes a dream, a comfortable one. The weight of an arm settles around Yuuri, the slow glow of skin smell blankets his senses. There’s a heartbeat humming against the tip of Yuuri’s nose; a welcoming instinct makes him cuddle closer. He’s asleep again without ever properly waking. Time passes unnoticed until the world stirs into makeshift reality when the covers lift and somebody slips in beside him.

Yuuri turns and stretches to catch hold of a narrow torso, molding himself around strength and smooth skin. His fingers find fingers and they twine into one kaleidoscope palm-kiss. A hot belly trembles against the back of Yuuri’s knuckles and he rubs it, squeezing his embrace closer, tighter, sighing into a long waterfall of hair. It’s good.

There’s a thing about break ups and big decisions: sleep erases them. Sleep takes the world out of the body; along the edges, all salt-foam half-dreams, there’s no consequence. There’s no remembering because the body’s sunk, reflexive and true. And there’s a thing about love: it’s mostly habit. Relationships are mostly a practice of habit. Scripts, routines.

“Ryota,” Yuuri hums into the shiver of his pulse; he kisses it, thinking: gentle.

Ryota’s breath catches, an ugly stick of sound. Yuuri inquires after it a brush of his lips like a question mark.

“Yuuri.”

That’s not Ryota. Because they broke up. Because Ryota had been seeing other men. Yuuri wouldn’t be holding him this way. Those moments of missing around the empty space in his arms aren’t enough to have made Yuuri hold him like this again.

Victor. Yuuri snaps his eyes wide, awareness crashing into him. His hands are under Victor’s shirt, half an erection wedged into the crack of Victor’s cheeks.

“Who’s Ryota?” Victor grumbles. He’s staring at Yuuri with a stiff smile, too close, turned towards him, a layer of accusation superimposed over him. His words, his face, his voice, his body, all are at odds with each other, at odds with Yuuri. It’s far from easy.

Yuuri flings himself across the bad and falls off the side with a shout, Victor diving after him too little too late.

“Ow.”

The comfort’s tangled around him, his ass hurts; it’s not a good way to wake up. Victor hangs over the side of the bed, gasp stamped on his mouth. A million apologies bubble up because Yuuri had been touching Victor in all the ways he should not, cannot; because Yuuri had called him Ryota and now he’s sick. The apologies are there, English phrases of regret and shame and guilt. As he looks at Victor’s pinched expression, that awful plastic stillness strung about with the silver light of his hair, the words don’t come to Yuuri. Instead, he demands to know: “were you awake that whole time?”

Victor aborts eye contact and rolls back onto the bed, hiding from Yuuri’s line of sight from the floor. It’s all the answer he needs. Yuuri stays on the floor. There’s plenty of excuses for why Victor did something so bold as came into his bed. He might not have expected Yuuri to sleep late, was worried, was bored, hungry, anything. But there’s no excuse for why he came so close, locked his fingers with Yuuri’s, curved himself to slot with Yuuri from toe to head.

A shaky breath. “I thought you were someone else,” Yuuri tells the expanse of this ceiling.

“Apparently,” Victor tells his blank wall.

His misses having someone more than he misses Ryota, right then. He misses being held, he misses not guessing for a few minutes of the day. Those minutes of unreality that let him hold Victor thinking only I have someone throw into new weight the time of goodness with Ryota against the mistakes made. How much good warrants forgiveness of a few bad moves? Had Yuuri been wrong to run away instead of fixing what he had?

Victor’s leans over the edge of the bed, expression aloof. He looks unreachable. He looks menacing, coldness set to finely in his lovely face. His jaw works, his throat tensing with something to say. Yuuri bets it’s cruel. It’d be a fitting time for Victor to unleash savagery. Yuuri’s on the floor for him this time, underbelly bared.

“Whoever he is, he’s a fucking idiot,” Victor impresses to him. He searches the stun on Yuuri’s face, hesitating visibly in whatever his next move, his next words may be, before he vaults off the bed and out of the room, ducking for the bathroom. The shower starts a second later.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri wonders after him too late. It’s the first time he’s seen Victor run away from him; Yuuri is the one who runs away. Victor is always running towards something.

 

 

 

They don’t talk about it. Correction: Victor doesn’t talk about it.

After his shower, Yuuri’s waiting for him, pushing breakfast and tea at him, wringing his hands in worry. Yuuri had called him Ryota. At the least, Yuuri should apologize. Should Victor? For getting into bed with him? He can after Yuuri apologizes first!

“About earlier—“ Yuuri will start and Victor will flicker into an eerie smile, like he’s in a midnight commercial selling you the kitchen supply of your life, and say “there’s nothing to talk about, Yuuri,” in this perfect lilting tone of voice. He’s as bright and cheerful as ever, he touches Yuuri during their stretches, but Yuuri doesn’t have to know Victor well to know that he’s playing an imitation of himself. It's an awkward couple of hours until Phichit arrives.

 

Phichit is pure magic and puts an end to the day’s nonsense. Yuuri opens his door to the flurry of pounding fists and welcomes Phichit’s overzealous hug.

“Yuuuuuuuuuuuriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii~!” The reusable grocery bag bangs against Yuuri on one side, Phichit’s backpack on his other. “Never go on business trips again. I had to wait three whole weeks to see you,” Phichit says in Japanese. Ah, he’s getting better every day. Yuuri really needs to work on his Thai.

That won’t be happening anytime soon, Yuuri thinks with bitter disappointment. The negative thought makes him hug his friend tighter, take absolute comfort in the unending and uncomplicated love he has with Phichit. “Sorry.”

“Oooh, hii~ you must be Vicchan,” Phichit greets in English, still wrapped up in Yuuri. At the end of the entranceway, Victor’s standing, watching, smiling. Yuuri twists to see, but it’s not the unsettling commercial smile. It’s softer, but Victor’s eyes disquiet him. They’re frosted over in thought, looking at Yuuri and Phichit and seeing somewhere else.

“Call him Victor, Phichit, don’t be rude,” Yuuri tsks. Only he can call Victor Vicchan because…Because.

“Me? Rude? I’m the nice one in this relationship Yuuri,” Phichit continues in English, pulling away to investigate the curiosity that is the Russian, the Olympian, the pet. Victor bursts out into laughter, deep and bouncing from his chest at what’s been said. Phichit grins reflexively at the sound of joy, because that’s the sort of person he is, but he shoots Yuuri a confused look. Yuuri doesn’t know what’s so funny either but he’s relieved to hear Victor laugh like that.

“Sorry,” Victor sighs after his last giggle, hands clapped happily to his cheeks. “You reminded me of my friend Chris.”

Yuuri’s come to understand that Victor doesn’t see Chris often, mostly only around competitions and in the occasional vacation in the off-season. He’s said he’s not particularly close to any of his rink mates in St. Petersburg, so he doesn’t have anyone in particular to miss; but still Yuuri can’t help but worry that he’s lonely. Yuuri isn’t home most of the day. Victor’s situation seems so cruel, but it’s Victor’s decision to avoid the phone call he receives daily from Yakov, the one he doesn’t answer and lets rings to his voicemail.

“Perfect!” Phichit exclaims, flashing an approving victory sign with his fingers. “That means we’ll be friends now too.”

Phichit’s effortless friendship lifts Yuuri’s heart. He’s grateful too for a distraction from the tension between him and Victor. He’s not sure he could take another minute of that taut currents strung between them. Phichit chatters away, to Yuuri and Victor, switching his attention and bouncing around. Victor responds well to the energy and, trusting Phichit to behave himself (ha), Yuuri preps the squid Phichit brought. He’ll let it marinate for a few hours. He serves cakes and sits on the floor, basking in the excitement Phichit has for his latest project. He works in lifestyle and design on digital media and marketing. He hedges somewhere between lifestyle coach and website designer. Basically gets paid to be positive and fierce, face-lifting companies and working their public appeal. He’s brilliant at it. He’s always been brilliant.

“You went to school with Yuuri?” Victor asks, picking up on a comment Phichit’s made. Yuuri zone in at the mention of his name; hadn’t Phichit been talking about clubbing?

“Yeah! Only for a year. I studied abroad at the American university Yuuri attended. He was a senior but I when I was a sophomore. We go way back.” Phichit grins at Yuuri and nudges him. “Let’s see; we became friends after I threw up all over you at a party and you still walked me home. It was my first big American rager. I was not prepared.”

“We told you not to drink anything served out of a trashcan,” Yuuri says with a shake of his head.

“But it was free,” Phichit whines, laughing with far less embarrassment than Yuuri would. But Phichit never cares about his wildness, especially when it makes for fantastic conversation. He launches into tales from his time at uni with Yuuri and drives everyone into gales of laughter. He even gets Yuuri to giggle-snort, resulting in Yuuri finally trying to smother Phichit with a pillow to end the madness.

“I’m almost jealous I didn’t go to college,” Victor whines. He’s gone loose from all the laughing, spread on the couch. He’s bright again. The morning’s mistake is wiped from his countenance. “But I’ll tell you, the parties at the Olympics are, mmm,” his face is pink as if he’s drunk on a memory, “unfathomable.”

“Tell,” Phichit demands, hand on Victor’s thigh.

“I’m sworn to secrecy,” Victor laughs. He keeps laughing as Phichit jostles his leg, pleading and bribing him to spill the secrets of the greatest athletes in their lifetime. Phichit’s hand is only on Victor’s thigh for a minute, an extension of excitement over the topic, but Yuuri can’t look away from it the whole time.

 

 

After a giant yawn cracks Victor’s jaw, Victor slips off the couch and collapses beside Yuuri on the floor. There’s the slightest pause in Phichit’s talking; he lifts an eyebrow at Yuuri questioningly; Yuuri gives him a bug-eyed look in response; Victor buries his face into Yuuri’s neck, sighing hot and damp across his skin. A strangled meep squeaks out of Yuuri’s throat and Victor yawns again and leans his weight on Yuuri.

“D-do you want to nap, Vicchan?” Yuuri asks. He gets a full-throated hum of confirmation, but Victor doesn’t move. No. Correction: he does move. He runs his nose along Yuuri’s neck, his breath tickling Yuuri behind his ear so much that Yuuri gasps, shudder traveling all the way down his spine.

“Yuuri,” Victor drags out sleepily. “Can I nap in your bed?” He nuzzles deeper into the curve of Yuuri’s shoulder and neck, pillowing his cheek on the arch of strength Yuuri carries there.

Phichit’s taking a picture. Yuuri shoots him a murderous look, the threat greatly reduced by the blush overtaking his face.

“Yes,” Yuuri answers hastily, heat creeping into places far more hidden and damning than just his cheeks. “P-please, go sleep. I’ll wake you to eat.”

Correction: Phichit’s recording a video. Yuuri’s going to throw his phone out his window.

Yuuri’s distracted from his predictive fantasies of destroying Phichit’s condemning phone bu Victor. He sits up with an unhappy noise, mouth a perfect pink pout, the bottom lip pushed out enough that Yuuri can see the slick wet seam. He scrunches his nose and rubs at it, then pushes both hands through his hair, long fingers scratching through silver locks. He tucks it behind his ears to moderate success. A lot escapes the left ear, falling forward, strands catching on feathery edges of his eyelashes.

Yuuri helps it away, thumb stroking over Victor’s cheek, before he can even think about it. Yuuri traces the shell of Victor’s ear and has a moment to admire how velvety the lobe of his ear feels, when he registers his actions and snatches his hand away.

The apartment is very quiet.

“Come with me,” Victor demands.

Phichit claps a hand over his mouth.

“W-what? Why – why would I need to do that?” Yuuri sputters. Victor takes Yuuri’s hand and squeezes.

“Only a moment, Yuuri. Phichit, you don’t mind, do you?” Victor asks, perfect and polite and Yuuri’s suddenly sure that he’s being tormented for this morning.

“No, no,” Phichit waves, grin eating up his face. “Take all the moments you need. Tuck your poor puppy in, Yuuri,” he friend teases.

“Phichit!” Yuuri’s scandalized and betrayed.

“Tuck me in!” Victor encourages, dragging Yuuri to his feet. He locks their fingers together and hauls Yuuri behind him all the way to the bedroom.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri huffs, breaking the handhold the moment they’re behind his bedroom door. “What do you—“

Victor envelopes him in a hug. Even though he’s taller than Yuuri, when he hugs, he ducks down, he folds himself to fit. He buries his face into Yuuri’s neck and wraps his arms around Yuuri’s shoulders and does everything in his power to make Yuuri reach out and hold him, to balance the sudden weight thrust onto him.

“Sorry, Yuuri,” Victor mumbles into Yuuri’s neck. “I really do want a nap, but I wanted to hug you too.”

“You – what?” Yuuri tries to pull back so he can look at Victor, but Victor squeezes him tighter, closing the space. Victor’s cheek is hot against Yuuri’s skin, the dark smell of Victor’s hair filling his nose. It’s like the first time they hugged; it’s like this morning in bed. How could Yuuri have mistaken Victor for anyone else?

Victor shouts a short “oh!” when Yuuri picks him up, hauling his thighs up and around his waist in a bold move. He's picked Victor up a few times but that was purely for recreation in the studio. Now, Victor latches around him immediately, bumpipng their hips together meaninfully, a ragged gasp cut from his mouth. The sound, the touch, it's almost enough to make Yuuri stumble but his mission is short and pointed. He carries Victor with a few decisive steps to his bed and drops him down onto the mattress with small bounce. Victor has the wide-open confused look on his face that makes Yuuri want to punch the air and dance with victory. That makes Yuuri never want to do anything else but keep surprising Victor.

“Take a nap, Vicchan,” Yuuri orders, easing him down flat with a hand on his chest. Victor goes, head hitting the pillow, eyes locked on Yuuri. Yuuri fusses over him, pushes the hair off his face and draws the folded comforter up to his chin. “And ask, next time. You don't have to con me for hugs.”

Victor keeps staring.

“Say ‘yes, Yuuri.’”

“Yes, Yuuri,” Victor echoes breathlessly. His eyes have drooped and darkened. He seems arched towards Yuuri, canted his way. Yuuri backs out of the room quickly, letting the door snick shut and latch. He’s quiet when he returns to the living room and takes a seat practically on Phichit’s lap.

Phichit hands him a pillow without looking up from his phone, and Yuuri smothers his face with it.

“Wow,” Phichit says, voice lacking any inflection of surprise, his eyes still focused on his phone as he texts rapidly, “it’s even worse than I could have guessed.”

 

 

Phichit gives Yuuri a solid ten minutes of laying catatonic in his lap before the inevitable interrogation of all things Yuuri’s love life begins.

“So have you talked to Ryota since he came to the office?” Phichit begins. Yuuri’s made more tea, mostly out of nervous compulsion. He wants to have something to hold and sip and fiddle with. Tea fixes problems.

“No. Well, yes,” Yuuri winces. “I sent him a text this morning, saying sorry for being so rude when he came to apologize.”

“Yuuri,” Phichit chastises, releasing a disappointed breath in a great whoosh. “You were not rude to him. He was the rude one. It’s skeevy to bother your ex at work.”

“How quickly do you become exes though,” Yuuri counters. He crosses his legs and sits deeper into his couch, pulling a pillow into his lap to squish and balance his cup. “I feel like we weren’t quite exes yet. I’m not sure we are exes, in fact! I think we’re just having a fight. A couple’s fight. I was thinking, this morning, that maybe I need to make up; everyone makes mistakes. And he came to fix them. I’m being too hard on him. I was being boring, and I didn’t actually catch him cheating on me; I really only saw him on the app. Phichit, I totally blew up at him. I should be the one trying to fix it.”

Phichit’s giving him his patented I love you but you’re an idiot look.

“It seems stupid to destroy five months over one night,” Yuuri says lamely. He withers under Phichit’s gaze. “I feel….stupid. I feel stupid.”

“You’re not stupid for ditching a guy who, after having sex with you, while you’re sleeping next to him, is on a dating app, especially if he says it’s because you’re boring and he wanted to meet people to have fun. Yuuri! You’re not boring. He’s boring! He’s boring and ugly.”

“He’s not boring and ugly,” Yuuri defends weakly. He really isn’t ugly. But…the sex had been boring. That Yuuri will admit.  

“Well he’s not hot enough for you and he can’t actually dance so I don’t know why his ugly ass is going to clubs in the first place,” Phichit amends in a righteous rage. Phichit’s absolute loyalty to Yuuri is the best cure for a persistent and anxious heartache. Most of the time. “Did he text you back?”

“No,” Yuuri shakes his head. “I don’t know what I’d do if he did. I am sorry…but I didn’t say anything about getting back together.” He picks at a fuzzy on the pillow.

“Don’t,” Phichit insists. “He’s not a bad person, but I have no idea how you could spend time with him. Yuuri, I could barely sustain a conversation with him.”

“Tell me how you really feel,” Yuuri suggests wryly. Phichit’s eyes glint.

“Speaking of how I feel: I feel a lot of things about Victor Nikiforov,” Phichit says meaningfully. Yuuri’s stomach drops.

“Like what?” he asks warily, looking away from his friend.

“Oh, you know….” Phichit trails off. Yuuri can feel the expectancy of his gaze. He’s being baited. “I’m feeling like you have a mail-order Russian boytoy sleeping in your bed.”

“Phichit! Don’t call him that,” Yuuri snaps, ears scorched and heart kicked into fury. “Vicchan isn’t a – only you would say something – he’s just – it’s not – it’s not like that. It’s definitely not like that!”

Phichit takes a delicate sip of his tea, blinking far too innocently at Yuuri. “Oh? My, what a reaction. Tell me, Yuuri, what is it like? Because the prettiest boy I’ve ever seen apparently crawls on his knees for you and begs for your attention.”

Yuuri sets his tea on the coffee table and screams into his pillow. Phichit gives him another ten minutes to recuperate. Katsuki Yuuri: Pending…..pending…pending….

“It’s not like that!” Yuuri comes back to life with a mountain of explanations. “I don’t know what it’s like, but there is no sex. There is no kissing. He likes to hug, is all. He’s very affectionate. I told you that on the phone. He’s a touchy-feeling person. Besides, I could never. He’s here all alone, he needs my help. I can’t take advantage of his situation. And I don’t want to. I’m already confused enough about Ryota, I don’t need to add Victor Nikiforov into the mess.”

“Okay, but,” Phichit ignores all the logic of Yuuri’s statements to thrust his phone into Yuuri’s face. It’s the video of Victor cuddling up to him, of them looking at each other like the world’s narrow to only them. Yuuri’s never noticed how close they let their faces be, how Victor holds himself at a supplicating angle, ready for a—a kiss. “Have you seen how he looks at you?”

“Yes,” Yuuri answers truthfully. He lifts his eyes from the photo to Phichit. “I take him to the studio to dance. There are plenty of mirrors. I know…I know that he’d like to have sex with me Phichit; and he knows I find him attractive. Trust me, he knows. But I don’t want to.”

Yuuri doesn’t. It seems so wrong. It feels wrong because it is; because Yuuri already knows Victor being who he is and looking how he does, played too much into why Yuuri so readily let him into his home. Victor’s twenty-one, and wayward, and willing to do anything for Yuuri to keep him. Yuuri can’t take advantage of him. Sex will just make everything harder, messier. Victor’s a guest, this is a temporary stay. Yuuri doesn’t need his heart hurt any more than its already been hurt. There’s as much self-preservation in this denial as there is honor.

“You don’t have to marry him,” Phichit groans, inspecting the video as it plays on loop. “Just have mind-blowingly sexy sex.” He looks encouragingly at Yuuri but the sour face of rejection greets him. Phichit clicks his tongue and turns off his phone, turning to Yuuri with all of his focus. “If you won’t, I will.”

The words slap Yuuri. He rears back, hurt struck over his face. The image of Phichit and Victor pressed together, of Victor’s big-eyed expression turned towards someone else, flashes through Yuuri’s mind, its own blow. Phichit follows after Yuuri’s retreat, taking his hand.

“Never mind, never mind, I didn’t mean it, Yuuri. Not if you make a face like that, I won’t. I just wanted to see what you’d say, I’m so sorry. He wouldn’t sleep with me anyway. Please don’t cry, please don’t hate me.”

“That was mean, Phichit,” Yuuri whispers. He resists Phichit’s hands trying to bring him closer. He doesn’t want to be hugged by Phichit right now and Phichit soon retracts, palms up. He has the decency to look ashamed.

“I know, I’m sorry. I didn’t know how else to get past your stubbornness. I’d never do it if you weren’t okay with it, and you aren’t, so I won’t. I already know Victor would politely tell me no.” He draws his knees up to his chest and rests his chin on them. “But it’s obvious that whatever’s between you two is—.”

“I barely know him,” Yuuri interrupts angrily. “Why are you pressing this so much?” Yuuri wanted his friend, not this cruel therapy session. “He’s going to leave soon.”

Phichit’s surprisingly calm, voice even. He’s younger than Yuuri, he shouldn’t be so good at advice. “You’re going to get hurt no matter what, at this rate. Why don’t you let something good happen to you for once. Someone good? He feels right, even if it’s only for a short while; isn’t that okay, Yuuri?”

“No.”

 

 

Yuuri and Phichit have screaming-fought before. They’ve quiet argued. They’ve both been in the wrong, they’ve both been in their own right. They’ve been friends for five years. The argument sours them for all of half an hour before Yuuri starts apologizing for being so difficult. Then Phichit is hugging him and crying about being sorry he hurt Yuuri’s feelings and he’d never do anything to hurt Yuuri on purpose; and then they hug each other and thank each other for being a patient friend and then they go down to the nearest liquor store and spend too much money and remember reckless weekends and by the time Victor wakes up from his nap, dinner’s almost done and whatever happened while he slept is undetectable to him.

“Hey, Victor, have you ever tried sake?” Phichit hands him a bottle.

Yuuri finally sees Victor’s aforementioned Olympian-levels of alcohol consumption.

Chapter Text


 

The club’s packed. Everyone’s speaking Japanese.  Victor’s drunk. It’s awesome. It’s awesome because Victor doesn’t have to do anything. He can be drunk and he can dance and he can do whatever he wants because Phichit is skilfully leading them through the crowd, a VIP member that got them in ahead of the line waiting outside (“He ran their launch” Yuuri had tried to explain.) Yuuri.

Yuuri is holding Victor’s hand. Yuuri isn’t wearing glasses. Yuuri is wearing soft cotton pants that look like jeans but are paper thin and loose, cuffed at the ankle to reveal the barest hint of his tiny pink socks and beat up tennis shoes and a crop top; it’s black and soft and perfect. Victor can already see sweat on his skin, on his muscles, and all he wants is to take two handfuls of Yuuri’s soft hips that have lightning strikes of stretch marks that Victor wants to lick. It’s awesome.

Phichit buys them all shots of something after waving cash conspicuously in his hand until a bartender reaches them. Yuuri’s worrying is lost under the techno-pop. Victor’s good. He’s so good. He could be better but he’ll get there.

“Поехали!” Victor yells above the din, just loud enough for Phichit and Yuuri to register that their esteemed guest has raised toast. They knock the shots back. He knows people are looking at him. Have been looking. He’s always looked at. Here, he sticks out like a sore thumb, taller than most, his hair outrageous, his features misplaced. Everyone’s looking at him except Yuuri, who’s looking everywhere else with a squint. Oh right. He isn’t wearing his glasses. Best not let him get separated. In fact, Victor will be very careful to make sure Yuuri doesn’t wander off. Or start pole dancing. Maybe? Maybe. He’ll see how he feels about Yuuri pole dancing. He feels positively about Yuuri pole dancing and stripping but negatively about not being able to do anything about it. It wouldn’t be like when they first met. The heartbreak high of a perfect dance partner, of a wild Yuuri who had seduced Victor, had all but kissed him in his offer: “Can I take you home?”

It’s all Phichit’s fault. Maybe it could be that much different. Victor could be Yuuri’s sex-worn pet instead of his “I set up a spare futon” pet. Then he wouldn’t be lying to Chris. He’s in a web of lies and it’s all because Phichit is a good friend and came when Yuuri called. Victor forgives him.

On that note, he snares Yuuri and Phichit around their waists and hauls them into the fray.

Phichit starts jumping around immediately. Yuuri’s acting like he doesn’t know what rhythm is. It’s awful. Not awesome. Victor hates it.

“Yuuri,” he cries, grabbing at Yuuri sweaty hands. “Come on. Dance. Dance with me!”

It’s not under false pretenses Victor finally gives in and holds Yuuri by the hips, squeezing the delicious solidness of him to try to move him more animatedly on the dance floor. He really wants Yuuri to dance with him, like they do that the studio. He wants Yuuri to spin him around and pull Victor’s ass against his crotch and teach him how to drop down low and dance on his toes. He wants to be buried in Yuuri, with Yuuri’s soft commands breathlessly given to his ear, with Yuuri’s hands moving Victor into the next best thing.

But that’s not what’s happening. Yuuri’s shuffling and it’s on-beat now, at the very least, but it’s shy and weird and Yuuri’s being shy and weird. No. No? No. Victor is prepared to cry; he’s getting reading to drop to his knees and beg for Yuuri please start moving like he knows how to, to move so that Victor can’t look at anything else, can’t even blink, when Phichit grabs him and spins him around and drags Victor down with an arm around his neck.

“А, здравствуйте,” Victor laughs as he’s drug down. Phichit’s mouth tickles his ear. It’s hot. But it’s Phichit. Phichit is very hot. But not Yuuri. Victor forgives Phichit for not being Yuuri.

“He’ll dance on his own time,” Phichit all but screams into his ear. Oh. Ooooh. Victor takes Phichit by the shoulders and nods firmly. Phichit laughs and takes Victor by the hips, swinging them closer so that they roll in time. Phichit’s even short than Yuuri and Victor can only laugh at the height disparity. But other than the original tug for proximity, Phichit doesn’t move onto Victor at all, dancing with him but not on him, although Phichit is grandly generous with his mega-watt smile. It’s almost lonely. He wants to be touched. He’s sweating and the music’s fast and pounding and he wants—

Yuuri’s hands on his hips. The heat of Yuuri’s palm bleeds through the spandex of his tights, searing his skin. Yuuri rubs his thumbs across the small of Victor’s back, just above the muscle of his ass cheeks, then he finally yanks Victor against him. Victor moans at the press of Yuuri’s body along his, but the sound’s swallowed by the music. Yuuri’s just tall enough to reach his ear to talk.

“Do you remember what I’ve taught you?”

Victor’s heart stutters in fear. He can’t for the life of him recall anything about his lessons with Yuuri. He can’t even remember how to move his feet. The stiffness that overtakes Victor makes Yuuri release him. That’s the last thing Victor wants. He spins, hoping to catch Yuuri, expecting Yuuri to be giving him a strange look or apologizing or being disappointed that Victor suddenly forgets how to do anything when the moment demands that he know everything. Worst of all, Victor expects to see Yuuri taking steps away from him.

“You’re a difficult student,” Yuuri laughs, taking Victor’s hands in his own and lacing their fingers. His sweaty hairline is already starting to undo the hold of his hair gel and the heat seems to unravel him. Yuuri leads Victor in an easy step sequence that has Victor following automatically.

 “There you go!” Yuuri cheers, releasing Victor but not looking away. Victor’s skated in front of thousands upon thousands of people, televise zed to millions more, but Yuuri’s dark eye lit under flashes of neon are enough to make him feel every inch of his body with new nerves. Victor doesn’t stop dancing, finding it easier with every thump of the bass, his heart matching its rapid pound. Yuuri’s smiling, nodding, matching him almost leisurely but never stepping away.

“They need to play good music!” Phichit complains, dancing closer to them. He makes ridiculous overtures at both him and Yuuri, instigating Yuuri to do the same. The techno is drowning, it lacks the variation and cipher Victor’s come to expect from Yuuri’s rap and hip hop. But they make do. They make better. Victor doesn’t pay attention, but Phichit and Yuuri have been working them into a slowly widening circle until they’ve cleared a patch of sticky dance floor. Phichit checks his watch and points excitedly to it.

“Finally,” Yuuri heaves, slowly to a rhythmic shuffle and waving a hand at his face, desperate for a little breeze.

The DJ at the back of the club is saying something obviously unknown to Victor, but the crowd cheers, and then another voice joins and the music scratches out and back in.

Even if Victor didn’t know English, “You with me, motherfuckers?” is pretty much universally understood. It’s an apt way to begin a song. It’s still in Japanese, but it’s hip hop and Yuuri and Phichit clearly know it. Both of them break out in that circle they’ve spent all this time building and with each expansive move, rough jerks of their arms and dropping low on their knees, especially Yuuri, the circle gets a little wider as people give them space, spectating. They wave for Victor to join but he stays back, admiration cutting through all other desires. Phichit’s good, having fun, but Yuuri works the floor like he owns it. His feet move so fast Victor can’t keep track, the roaming strobe lights making it all the more spectacular. Yuuri breakdances, his skimpy crop top letting everyone see so much of him, and all Victor can think is how spectacular he would be on the ice. He owns the music, makes it seem like the beat comes from him, that the instruments and the sharp rhythm of the rap is being made in response to his body.

If Victor could learn footwork like that; he can see it; a modern piece, a simpler costume. He’d let his skating be the star. No one would be doing anything like this, he’d bet his career that he’d be the only one. It’s perfect. He wants to do it. But he has no idea how.

“Yuuri! Yuuri!”

Yuuri’s panting, soaked. How many songs has it been? He’s a whole other person, riding the high of exertion. “You’re barely dancing, Vicchan,” he teases, collapsing against Victor’s chest. “I’m so tired. I need a drink.” He has to yell into Victor’s ear to be heard.

“Yuuri,” Victor repeats himself, folding Yuuri’s hands in his own. He leans down to help the words along to Yuuri’s ear. He can barely hear himself think.  “I want to dance like you.”

“What?” Yuuri shouts back, leaning up on his toes, reaching up to balance his hands on Victor’s shoulders.

“I said,” Victor shouts, determined. Mother of God, he can taste his own accent blowing the words wide. No wonder Yuuri has no clue what he’s saying. “I want to dance like you.”

It shouldn’t be shocking. Victor’s been trying to learn to dance like Yuuri every day at the studio; but his words tonight make Yuuri drop so his feet are level and he’s craned up looking at Victor, no longer holding onto him for support.

“I need water,” Yuuri says with a shake of his head, disappearing through the crowd towards the bar. Victor has no idea what just happened, but he has little time to contemplate it before Phichit grabs hold of him.

 “We’re getting drinks!” Phichit declares, punching the air and having a one-man riot. He’s still going, unbroken by heat or exhaustion.

 

 

 

Yuuri made a mistake tonight. He left Victor alone with Phichit. Now, Victor’s shivering and topless and borderline belligerent, and Phichit can’t stop laughing as he stumbles along in Yuuri’s grip. It definitely feels like college. Yuuri isn’t so sure he misses college.

Victor tries to get naked in the cab, complaining that his tights are suffocating him. The taxi driver is peppering Yuuri with questions that he doesn’t care to answer. He gets everyone up to his apartment as fast as possible. Phichit goes cross-eyed and Yuuri rushes him to the bathroom to puke. It’s ugly and noisy and Yuuri can’t help but laugh.

“Why…” Phichit groans into the toilet. “Do you laugh at my pain?”

Yuuri rubs his back. “You spent all night missing your college days.”

He washes Phichit up and tucks him into his bed with a towel laid down and a trashcan in easy reach. The living room’s suspiciously quiet when he returns, but scattered on the floor is a pair of tights, a pair of socks, and a black thong.

“Vicchan” Yuuri says warily, creeping towards the couch. There’s a head of silver just visible against the arm of the couch. Yuuri holds a hand over his eyes preemptively and yes, Victor’s very naked on his couch. It’s a miracle he didn’t try to climb the ladder to the loft. “Oh, Vicchan.”

“Yuuri,” Victor whines, rolling over on the couch. Yuuri keeps his eyes averted and lays the throw blanket over him. “Tuck me in.”

“I’m trying,” Yuuri laughs softly, kneeling down on the floor so he’s level with Victor. The boy is a wreck, hair all over the place, glitter somehow coating him. He stinks of sweat and alcohol. It’s a very very familiar situation.

“Poor puppy,” he tsks, surprised by his own fondness. He’s not annoyed at either of them; okay maybe Phichit a little for getting Victor so drunk but they’re grown. “Don’t fall asleep yet, you need water.”

“Okay,” Victor agrees, promptly closing his eyes. Yuuri gets up and gets a cup of water and returns as fast as possible. Just like last time, he sits Victor up but this time he sits beside him on the couch to help him drink. It takes a lot of coaxing but Victor gets all the water down. Yuuri sets the cup on the coffee table and accepts Victor’s clumsy cuddles.

“You’re nice to me, Yuuri,” Victor mumbles, head dropped on Yuuri’s shoulder, a weak attempt of a hug slung around him. Yuuri hums a melody stuck in his head from the club and reaches up awkwardly to stroke Victor’s hair.  

“Not really,” Yuuri winces.

Victor smacks his lips. His accent is dark in his mouth. It’s been hard to understand him all night. It makes everything he’s saying reach lower into Yuuri’s gut, grabbing and twisting at his organs. “You can have sex with me.”

Yuuri’s hand stills in Victor’s hair. Victor bumps his head against it with a grumble, so Yuuri resumes the motion, carding his fingers as best he can and picking away at knots. Victor’s very naked and very drunk, and right now all Yuuri can think about is giving him a bath and washing his beautiful hair and combing out the knots.

“I’ll be good,” Victor continues. “I’ll be a good student.”

“Student?”

“Teach me.”

Yuuri has no idea what Victor’s implying. He tries to stand up, but Victor whines and throws himself across Yuuri’s lap.

“No no. Stay with me. Tuck me in.”

“I can’t if you’re on top of me, Vicchan,” Yuuri sighs. Victor’s head is in his lap and he’s shivering. Oh, that’s not good. The sweat’s cooled on both of them and Yuuri’s cold too but at least he has on some clothes.

 “Vicchan, do you feel sick?”

“Russian,” Victor defends petulantly.  His logic’s all over the place. “Stay with me. Pet me. You’re nice to me, but…you get nothing from me.”

“You shouldn’t have to give people things to make them be nice to you,” Yuuri cautions, looking at Victor with a worried frown. Victor scoffs, shoulders jumping.

“Yes. Give them medals. And sex. I need,” Victor rolls over so his face isn’t buried in Yuuri’s stomach, instead he’s looking up at Yuuri, very serious, very sad. His eyes are bloodshot with drunk, but they’re tight with an emotion that’s been cut loose.  “I need to be perfect. Or everyone stops being nice to me. Don’t want me. Can’t skate. No skate? No Victor.”

He’s staring up through Yuuri, to some other horror. “No skate. No Victor,” he amplifies, squeezing his eyes shut like he’s in pain to speak, the admission escaping him in blurred despair.

“Vicchan – Victor,” Yuuri tries to comfort, cupping the side of Victor’s face; he strokes his thumb lightly under Victor’s eyes, around the delicate blue-bruise skin, making Victor sigh shakily and flutter his lashes, opening his gaze just enough for a tear to spill out and run over Yuuri’s hand. Victor’s trembling, and it’s not with cold. He’s clenching his teeth and gasping alternatively, trying to hold himself together, even drunk. Even with tears wetting Yuuri’s palm, Victor’s pinning himself down, pinching the loose ends of his fraying control.

“Victor, you’re okay. You’ll always be Victor,” Yuuri soothes, adjusting their position so he can pull Victor closer to him, fixing the blanket around his lower body. Victor curls up in Yuuri’s lap, folding his long-limbs so that he’s small enough that Yuuri can hold all of him.

“No,” Victor insists, hell bent on destroying himself. His grammar’s taking the biggest hit, the structure crumbling to the bare necessities of communication, tense shifts making the message all the more muddied to dissect. It reminds Yuuri of how, whenever he’s nervous to speak Thai to anyone but Phichit, he sounds like he’s a novice beginning. “I forgot. I forgot. I no fall. I forget. On the ice. Suddenly, forgot.”

Concussions. Victor never gave the specifics of them, only that he’d had one recently in the season. But apparently, it was a little more severe than he’d let on. It’s bad enough to suffer amnesia in the incident, but another to experience symptoms after the fact. He must have been cleared by medical staff to have been let on the ice in the first place, but that’s only the best safest guess they could give.

Yuuri hums softly, rubbing Victor’s back. That explains a lot. Yuuri suspected that Victor was simply forgetful and distracted. He’d left his laundry in the washer wet so long it needed washed again and then in the dryer so long it’d be wrinkled to all hell. In the studio, Yuuri would teach him part of a routine but Victor would lose his grasp on it too often, something Yuuri never would expect from an ice skater. Yuuri had always assumed he was simply an absent-minded person. But what could he do other than comfort Victor?

Victor’s shaking has calmed under Yuuri’s hands. His breathing’s even out, still ragged with pent up tears, but it’s steady again. Contained. Yuuri can only tell Victor’s awake because he can feel Victor’s eyelashes against his neck with every blink.

“You can be Vicchan for as long as you need to be,” Yuuri finally says. Tonight, what else can he say? There’s no way for Yuuri to totally comprehend Victor’s plight. Not tonight. That’s not what Victor needs right now. “You don’t need to do anything to be Vicchan. I like you just as you are.”

Victor exhales shakily, breath so thick it feels sticky across Yuuri’s skin. In the quiet that lulls between both of their measured breaths, Phichit’s distant snores drift through the apartment. Victor cocks his head at a particularly mechanical-rev Phichit makes, and he laughs.

“Yuuri,” he whispers, fingers creeping up the side of Yuuri’s neck in a way that makes Victor’s nudity and Yuuri affection overbearing. Victor lifts his face properly; his cheeks are blotchy and his lashes clumped to snowy spikes. He’s unfairly pretty, a ruined beauty. He looks good messed up. Yuuri’s eyes cross trying to look him in the eye so close. Victor’s wonky nose has a slim scar across the bridge. It must have been broken before. “Kiss me.”

“Vicchan.”

“Please,” Victor begs, straddling him detemindedly. He almost knocks their heads together. Yuuri balances him, wincing when his hands land on bare skin. The blanket’s bunched between their bodies. Victor shivers at the touch, face hovering over Yuuri’s, their breath mingling. “Kiss me.”

Phichit was right, Yuuri thinks dismally. There’s no logic or rhyme to Victor Nikiforov. He’s here. He’s Yuuri’s right now. It’s going to be painful no matter what Yuuri does.

“If I give you a kiss, will you let me go get blankets for you?” Yuuri asks with a raised brow. Fresh sweat’s dampening his spine, a crawling sensation that makes Yuuri itch. The tremble of Victor’s flank beneath his fingers is making Yuuri itch.

“Yes,” Victor agrees with a bob of his head. He’s already leaning in, eyes closed. Yuuri snares him with handful of hair and holds Victor back, instead planting a kiss on the tip of Victor’s nose with a loud smeck. Victor snaps his eyes open, leaping from shock to anger. "Cheat!"

“Ambiguous terms of the deal,” Yuuri counters. “Up. Up, Vicchan,” he orders with a pat to Victor’s thigh. “I’ll be back to tuck you in.”

Victor glares. “Promise?”

“Promise.” Yuuri kisses his nose again, because he did it once and now it’s so easy to do again, the weight of his affection choking him like a peach pit in his throat. It’s a sweet poison. Victor's glare drops away, easily won over by Yuuri's newfound gesture. His face fills with innocent contemplation before his truly evil nature overtakes him and he licks Yuuri's nose in retaliation. Yuuri snorts an ugly laugh and shoves Victor away. He slips off Yuuri’s lap, making no move to cover himself when the blanket falls away. Yuuri keeps his eyes averted and gets up. He almost falls, his legs prickling with numbness but he manages to climb the ladder to the loft and throw down all the bedding.

Victor’s hanging onto consciousness by a thread when Yuuri dumps the blankets on him and bundles him into a human cocoon. He’s out by the time Yuuri returns from brushing his teeth. Yuuri sets out water for him, hesitating to leave his side, before self-love leads Yuuri back to his bedroom to crawl into the scant space Phichit’s not occupying.

 

Chapter Text


 

For the second morning in a row, Yuuri wakes up cuddling someone. This time, he doesn’t utter his ex-boyfriend’s name. He’s decided to go with ex-boyfriend; he’s officially broken up. It’s a miracle! Good job, Phichit, for helping Yuuri get over his last mental hurdle. But the matter at hand: Yuuri keeps waking up cuddling people. This time, it’s Phichit.

“Are you awake?” Yuuri whispers into the thick black hair smothering his mouth. Phichit’s crammed against him, drooling on Yuuri’s pillow. Even after growing up and getting full-sized beds, apparently they gravitate towards each other like they expected to fall off some dorm-room bunker bed. It’s the best kind of nostalgia. Phichit had fallen into Yuuri’s lap his senior year of university and knowing he has his friend by his side, against all probability, is the best comfort of life. 

“I think,” Phichit says stickily, “if I open my eyes, I’ll puke.”

Could Yuuri be luckier?

“What did you drink?”

“Everything,” Phichit shudders.

“I both admire and fear your dedication to the weekend club scene,” Yuuri teases.

“I work my fingers to the bone all week.”

“I’m going to make ginger tea.”

“My hero,” Phichit yawns. Once Yuuri gets out of bed, Phichit curls into a ball in the space he’s vacated. He belches and slits his eyes open enough for Yuuri to see the misery in his face. “That burp tasted like squid and awamori. Is Victor dead? I think he chugged a bottle. I did a shot off him, by the way. Sorry. He was delicious. I love you.”

“You talk a lot for someone supposedly dying,” Yuuri grits. He’s not sure if he wants to know the sordid details of the forty minutes he’d lost Phichit and Victor in the club. Without his glasses, Yuuri had been helpless, only hoping to see his friends by silver hair or Phichit’s neon yellow shirt. “He was in bad shape last night, but he didn’t get sick.”

“Russians,” Phichit bites out jealously.

“Russians,” Yuuri agrees with a laugh. “That’s what he said too.”

Their concern is misplaced. Victor’s awake, dressed, drinking coffee and eating a loaf of bread. His hair is still a disaster but it’s been tied up in a conveniently messy bun. Yuuri gapes, rubs his eyes, gapes some more.

“Ohayou, Yuuri,” Victor chirps chipperly.

Russians! Yuuri levies a disbelieving accusation against him: “You are not normal.”

After brief conversation, it becomes clear that Victor is, in fact, still drunk. He woke up and went to the nearest café and is now waiting for the inevitable hangover by stuffing his face. He’s a monster.

“I used the cash you keep pinned to the fridge. I promises I’ll reimburse you when Yakov unblocks my credit cards.” He’s picking at his bread and rolling the fluffy white goodness into dense balls. Yuuri’s not sure he’s even eating it at this point, just mutilating the loaf. He keeps his attention on this destructive task, avoiding Yuuri who’s puttering about the kitchen scrapping together a hangover cure for both of his friends. Victor pops a bread-ball into his mouth and chews with great concentration.

 “I woke up naked,” Victor adds nonchalant, finally lifting his head up to smile blankly at Yuuri. “I get naked when I’m drunk. Sorry for the trouble I must have caused.” His smile remains, an impervious mask.

“I’m sure you didn’t mind too much since I woke up covered in blankets,” he continues. “You probably enjoyed the free show.” He’s teasing but it isn’t friendly. He’s goading Yuuri, careless in the fatigue of a too-long drunken state. There’s no recollection of crying or confessing to Yuuri. Of clinging to him. He’s freshly scabbed over with no idea of his own reveal hurt.

Yuuri isn’t sure if it’s cruelty or a strange sadistic love that makes him want to pick at the wound.

“So you don’t remember asking me to kiss you,” Yuuri says lightly, looking over his shoulder from the stove.

Victor’s smile gets wider, thinner. His eyes are flat. “Afraid not! But I believe I tried to do far more than that with you.”

“So you don’t remember me kissing you,” Yuuri rejoins airily. “It’s good I didn’t let it go far. You were climbing all over me, saying embarrassing things…”

Victor’s face is frozen, teeth bared in a smile-turned grimace. It’s kind of scary. A high-pitched whine ekes out of his throat on a broken laugh. “You kissed me?”

Yuuri holds up his fingers. “Twice.”

And okay, he’s being mean. He knows he’s being mean. But he has to let Victor know what happened, at least the parts that didn’t involve tears – Victor’s obviously bottling up those issues. And Yuuri knows how to bottle up an issue or two or fifty.—He might as well get a little harmless payback for his drunken antics.

“You kissed…we kissed? Yuuri,” Victor cries, slapping his hands on the small kitchen bar, leaning over it in distress. “I don’t remember. That’s not fair. You really kissed me?”

God, he’s cute. He’s too cute. Yuuri washes his hands of any egg and dries them deliberately slow. Victor exhales in noisy frustration behind him and slumps back onto the bar stool.

“You are the cruelest master,” he mutters bitterly. He props his chin in his hand and glowers at his breakfast. Yuuri approaches, heartbeat taking off from his chest and surely ready to drop itself like a cymbal crash into Victor’s coffee cup.

“I’m sorry, Vicchan, do you need your memory jogged?” Yuuri offers quietly.

He knows what’s coming: Victor flashes him that precious expression of being caught off-guard. His lips part and he blinks rapidly, the constant coil of his body cut for just a little, like being surprised resets him. Yuuri reaches slowly across the kitchen bar to cradle Victor’s jaw, fingers framed against the sharp bone, a finger on his pulse point, the muted gulp of Victor’s throat a ripple of feeling.

Victor licks his lips and drags them alternatively into his mouth to scrape red with his teeth. It…sidetracks Yuuri. He’d told Phichit he wasn’t going to do this, this, with Victor. It’s already ridiculous. It’s only destined to get messier, harder. More painful. Victor’s simply looking for something, anything or anyone, to distract him.

“Close your eyes,” Yuuri orders, tilting Victor’s face up. He’s obeyed immediately. Victor’s eyelids flutter, like it’s an effort to keep them closed, but he gives himself to the guidance of Yuuri’s hand so beautifully, becoming soft despite the meticulousness of his control. Victor unguards his body but not his mind or his heart. It’s familiar; Yuuri thinks he’s catching sight of himself in a mirror.

Yuuri kisses the tip of his nose and pulls back before this gets out of hand. He’s practically shaking.

There’s a long beat where Victor scrunches his eyebrows and purses his lips in unhappy wait. Nothing happens. Victor keeps his eyes closed, his face tilted up, so expectant.

“You said you kissed me twice,” he reminds neutrally. “My memory’s not jogged, Yuuri.”

Yuuri laughs and leans, balancing himself with both hands on Victor’s cheeks. No sooner do his lips connect once more with Victor’s nose than Victor jolts forward and licks him messily across his mouth, nose and cheek.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri sputters, scrubbing the back of his hand across his face. Victor’s laughing, smacking the table like he’s just pulled the greatest prank in the whole world. “You did that last night too.”

Victor’s wheezing. “I did? God – that reveals a lot about me, doesn’t it?”

Phichit stumbles out of Yuuri’s bedroom, roused by the laughter. When Yuuri feeds him, it’s service with a smile.

 

Victor gets around to remembering that he wants Yuuri to really properly teach him how to dance. He envies Yuuri’s footwork more than anything alongside his adeptness, hip-hop lending him a complete relationship with a song’s beat. That he can lift his leg practically over his head doesn’t hurt anything either. Yuuri takes his request seriously, and every day after work, Yuuri takes Victor to the gym with him. They practice for anywhere from two to three hours, depending. Yuuri’s not able to maintain a rigorous pace for too long but luckily Victor needs lots of help. After the third time of Victor saying “can you do that thrusty motion with your hips again,” Yuuri is a lot less nice to him. It’s not Victor’s fault. Body rolls are sexy.

He takes it surprisingly seriously, teaching Victor. Not that Victor isn’t taking learning seriously, but Yuuri’s precise and genuine. He knows what he wants to teach Victor before they reach the gym. He has a plan, and even makes illustrative guides to movements with little stick figures on the way to and from work, the drawings jerky from the rumble of the bus and jostle of people but he gives them to Victor regardless of how much he blushes about it and apologizes for the poor quality.

Yuuri lavishes Victor with praise. Every improvement is noted. Of course, every fuck-up is too. But it’s good. For the first time since fleeing the ice, Victor feels like he’s working on behalf of his skating. Whenever Victor likes a suggestion of movement, Yuuri helps him work it out.

“I could help you more if you skated for me,” Yuuri says on more than one occasion.

“There aren’t any ice rinks in Fukuoka. I checked. Not after the frozen fish scandal,” Victor dodges.

He keeps dodging. He’s very good at avoiding things he doesn’t want to address, don’t you know? He can see that it’s frustrating Yuuri, but Yuuri backs down each time when Victor changes the subject, letting Victor distract him with a knowing look in his eye. Victor’s starting to suspect that Yuuri knows more about him than he’s able to find in an interview.

 

 

The change is noticeable. Yuuri’s a good tired at the end of each day. He wakes up and stretches and he’s starting to feel like he used to feel. He’s working on a full routine that he can do with Victor; it’s a little distracting, but his commute to work’s suddenly productive again, spent listening to music and scratching out choreography. Victor does his own choreography for his skates, Yuuri’s research reveals. He has good input and sense for the music, such good artistic sense. Yuuri’s there to meet him, to help grow the vision. Yuuri watches all of Victor’s routines and his top competitors too. He can’t keep track of the jumps very well, and he has no idea how the judges are able to see how many rotations a skater makes because it’s so fast, but it helps him put together motions that will translate to the ice.

He wants to see Victor skate. He knows Victor brought his skates. He’s seen them, gold blades sticking out of one of Victor’s bags, like he’d been inspecting them during the day. Longing? Loathing? Victor’s trying to flesh out a routine for the next season, this year totally abandoned. He won’t talk of it. He prefers whatever distraction Yuuri brings him. Yuuri took him to an arcade and they played DDR for hours instead of the studio the other night.

Phichit said that’s a date. Yuuri’s opted to refer to it as a practice in alternative contemporary medium. Yuuri conveniently left out that they stopped at a food stand and ate outside, Victor’s arm draped around his shoulder while Yuuri walked him around bustling Hakata.

Work’s improved. Mrs. Yakimura says she liked Yuuri’s domestic tourism piece. The way she asked him about Hasetsu niggled at Yuuri. He reserved a few suspicions about his next assignment, not quite dreading it. In fact, he’s been thinking it’s due time he visit his home.

Hasetsu has an ice rink.

“Yuuko was reading an article in a magazine the other day that talked about the post-breakup boon,” Takeshi says one day at the office.

 Yuuri’s been sending him meme’s all morning. He’s doing some half-assed research and mostly listening to music. He’s waiting for his next assignment, filling in for someone else who called in sick by reformatting a few spreads.

“You’re about to analyze me based on the article, aren’t you?” Yuuri laughs.

Takeshi rubs a finger under his nose, caught out. “Can’t help but notice how well you’re doing, Yuuri. A lot more smiling. I was expecting a dramatic haircut. Girls always cut their hair after a break up.”

“I’m growing it out,” Yuuri says with a shake of his head. It’s at an irritating length. He wants to be able to put it up into a ponytail or bun like Victor does. He’s jealous. It’ll probably just make his face look rounder but Victor and Phichit have both encouraged the idea.

Takeshi gets around to inviting Yuuri over for dinner. Yuuri’s on the cusp of accepting when he remembers his other obligations.

“I can’t,” he apologizes. He can’t just leave Victor home alone and he definitely can’t bring him. Phichit is one thing, but Takeshi and Yuuko? Well, they are his oldest friends…but Victor’s an internationally renowned skater, he deserves a little privacy. Plus, Yuuko will never ever let Yuuri live this down. She’d recognize Victor straight away. Oh god. She still likes ice skating. Oh god, she’ll kill him for keeping this a secret. And because Yuuri’s brain is stupid and won’t let him just stop he goes on to clarify, when clarification isn’t necessary: “I can’t…be-because I have a new puppy.”

“Oh!”

Yuuri laughs awkwardly. “I got him to….help with Ryota. He’s really high-strung and demanding. I can’t leave him alone longer than it takes to work.”

Takeshi nods along. “What’s his name? What kind?”

Yuuri does have a few pictures of Victor at this point. If he showed Takeshi a picture of Victor Nikiforov eating matcha ice cream, what, exactly, would happen?

“His name? It’s – It’s Vicchan. I don’t know what he is, some kind of mutt? Something…I think some Russian mix? One of those horse looking dogs with the weird faces.”

“Oh, a Borzoi?” Takeshi snaps his fingers. “Those are really expensive. But a mix, you say? Do you have any pictures?”

Yuuri would love to be launched into the sun right about now. “N-no he’s very…shy. He hates camera and all flash photography.  If he even sees a camera, he runs away.”

Didn’t Victor just say he has a modelling spread for Champion coming out? Something about thermal clothes.

“Oh, that’s unfortunate,” Takeshi says sympathetically. “How is he with people? Would he like the girls? You’re supposed to socialize puppies with all ages.”

“No! N-no,” Yuuri winces and ducks his head. “No, not at all. He’s awful with people. His personality is totally…warped. He’s, uhm, I got him – I found him on the street. He barely lets me touch him.”

Takeshi frowns. “I thought he was attention demanding?”

“OH! He is! He is very demanding. A lot of energy. But he’s still guarded,” Yuuri relates, licking his lips nervously. “I think he’s traumatized. He’s an unpredictable puppy. I wouldn’t want the girls to get scared by his…behavior.”

At this point Yuuri isn’t even lying. In fact, this would probably hold up in the court of law. He could pass a lie detector with this tale. Yes, I have a Russian puppy named Vicchan. I found him on the street. He licks my face. Is he a person? Well, I mean, yes but only if you want to get technical about it.

“Huh,” Takeshi leans back and appraises him. “He sounds like a lot of work. But you seem happy, so it must be rewarding. I, for one, am more than content raising triplets. Have I showed you the pictures from the girls’ latest dance recital?”

 

 

Has Victor mentioned how suspicious he is of Katsuki Yuuri?

They’re watching a documentary in English about “the Russian Yeti” to Yuuri’s intense delight and Victor’s ceaseless skepticism and commentary (“Give me a babayaga or give me death!”). Victor had joined him on the couch and, with slow fidgeting, wormed his way down so that his head is in Yuuri’s lap. Yuuri’s lap is the most beautiful place in the world. It’s soft and warm and the proximity to Yuuri’s genitals exhilarates Victor. Yuuri drops a hand down onto his head and starts carding his fingers through Victor’s freshly deep-conditioned hair. The electric current crackling on the surface of Victor’s skin whenever Yuuri touches him shoots off sparks of pleasure as Yuuri’s absent-minded fingers wander; he likes Victor’s disconnected earlobes and has no idea he’s killing Victor when he traces behind them, the barest hint of his nail a seam-ripper on Victor’s control.

If Yuuri would take a handful of his hair and tug or – no – slip his fingers into Victor’s mouth and let Victor show him what he’s missing, what he’s denying himself – Victor should skip the middle ground and get to his knees. Yuuri will laugh and call him Vicchan and then Victor will show his master how many tricks his pet knows.

Victor’s throbbing and a particularly good scratch to his scalp pops an erotic sigh from his lips that there’s no reclaiming. Maybe this is it; Yuuri will hear it and do it again and again and hold Victor by the throat and talk sweetly to him.

But Katsuki Yuuri is an oblivious, tormenting monster.

“Vicchan, is it okay – can I – do you want your hair played with?” Yuuri asks regretfully, hand withdrawing. Victor snags it without looking and brings it down in front of his face to kiss the palm. He delights in the catch of Yuuri’s breathing and releases him. He’d probably put Yuuri in an early grave if he pressed Yuuri’s hand to the half-firm interest of his cock.

“Please do,” Victor encourages innocently.

Yuuri clicks his tongue and grumbles something in Japanese, giving Victor’s ear a flick. All the same, he goes back to scratching Victor’s scalp and playing with his hair. It’s bliss. Russian Yeti conspiracy theory bliss. Until Victor’s phone starts ringing on the coffee table. It’s Yakov’s ringtone. Ah, the sound of that eerie lullaby never fails to make Victor’s heart quicken.

“Yakov?” Yuuri asks.

“I’ll let it ring out,” Victor shrugs. Yakov calls him almost every day. Victor doesn’t answer. He sends ‘not dead’ texts sporadically. He’s blacked out on his social media to the distress of his fans; he’s seen Yakov make a few public comments on the behalf of his most troublesome student. “He’s putting me into an early grave.” Victor is good at putting men into their early graves.

“Answer it, Vicchan,” Yuuri orders tersely. He’s stopped petting Victor’s hair. “You should talk to him.”

Yes, Victor should talk to Yakov but he doesn’t want to be yelled at. He doesn’t want to be given ultimatums. He doesn’t want to say I’m scared to go back on the ice and you know I’ll be back so please just leave me alone and what if I fall again? What if I lose more than my focus next time? We know what to do when a skater breaks an ankle, but what if I break, Yakov? I forgot. I forgot where I was in the middle of a performance. I forget why I enter rooms and I can’t remember what I said at the beginning of a conversation sometimes and I can’t follow directions walking down the street. My body goes and I feel blind.  

“You can’t hide from him forever,” Yuuri presses. He’s oblivious about how much Victor wants to ride him but not about Victor’s gold-medal avoidance tactics?

“You answer it,” Victor snips. Like Yuuri would ever—

“Hello, this is Katsuki Yuuri speaking….Victor is beside me, Mr. Feltsman. He is being stubborn like a child,” Yuuri says in slow, professional tone.

“Hey!” Victor exclaims, trying to grab the phone from Yuuri’s hand. He can already hear Yakov’s harping, the effect lessened by the use of English. English is not a language suited to a man like Yakov Feltsman. It lacks the lyrical quality of Russian that makes his ceaseless frustrations so endearing.

Yuuri tosses the phone at him and after Victor’s raised it to his ear, he sees Yuuri’s triumphant smirk. Victor has only a moment to appreciate Yuuri’s devious ploy to get Victor on the phone with Yakov before Yakov is screeching in his ear.

“Hello? Where is Vitya?”

Yuuri waves his hands at Victor: Go on!

“Алло?” Victor greets, eyes squeezed shut, death coming for him. He hopes Yuuri is happy.

Yakov doesn’t even give him a moment of silence before an explosion of Russian overtakes his ear canal. “Vitya! If I ever see you again I’m going to spank your scrawny behind! You want to put an old man into his grave? You must for never answering my calls. What is wrong with you? You are a thoughtless child, do you hear me? A thoughtless child! No care for who you leave worrying when you run away. Who is this man? What have you been doing? You made me talk to Christophe, do you have any idea how humiliating it is that I can’t even speak to you directly?”

“Is this Yakov?” Victor asks in a peaked voice. The Russian feels good in his mouth. “Hiiiiii, Yakov.”

“Victor,” Yakov snarls. “Don’t play with me. It’s been almost a month since I’ve heard from you. I cut off your money; you should have come crawling to me. How are you surviving? Who is this Katsuki? You’ve gone and sold yourself to some man, haven’t you? Is that how you’re getting by? I never should have let you out of my sight.”

“I thought you were about to fall into your grave? You have so much energy for an old man to be yelling like this.”

“This is serious!”

“It’s always serious with you. I think you’re where I get my dramatics. You’ve rubbed off on me and Georgi.”

“Vitya—“

“I’m fine,” Victor assures, casual as anything. “This nice old man is letting me sleep in his dark creepy basement if I suck his toes every night.”

“Vitya. With your face? You better get a full sized mattress with a window.”

Victor snort an ugly laugh. Yuuri’s watching him with worried interest, curiosity glowing in his eyes. Victor winks at him reassuringly.

“You’re so supportive, Yakov. No, truly, have no fear my dear coach. Yuuri is good to me. I’ll return with my virginity intact; you’ll be able to marry me off to a suitable husband of your pick without shame.”

“Stop being a brat. You are always like this—“

“Like what? Please, tell me how bratty I am after I’ve been cut off from my own money.”

“You were bar-hopping across the whole island. You weren’t calling me back. I needed to make you come home. Vitya, have you been to a doctor? You said you were going to find, I don’t know what, some medicine man in Japan but all you’ve found was sake and a sugar daddy!”

Victor barks with laughter, falling down along the length of the couch, dropping his head into Yuuri’s lap. Yuuri says something but Victor doesn’t catch it. “If only that were my arrangement. No such thing, Yakov! He’s teaching me how to dance.”

That finally corks Yakov’s tirade.

“He’s a dancer. He’s helping me develop a new routine. Yes, I’m living with him, but it’s hardly sexual. I’ll be compensating him with money once I make my glorious return.”

“So you are coming back,” Yakov says. It’s not quite a question, but the relief is palpable. “Have you been skating?”

“Nope! I’ve been learning hip-hop.” Victor cranes his head back a little to meet eyes with Yuuri. He smiles up at him, eliciting a twitchy smile in return that’s not genuine. Ah. He’s gone and worried his precious master.

“Viten’ka,” Yakov begins, sounding older than he is, and that’s an alarm bell. There’s no way Yakov likes him enough right now to endear his name to that extent. “All skaters fall. They fall more than they jump.”

Victor lifts the phone away from his ear and wags it for Yuuri to take. “You finish this call. I’m done.”

“Wha-what? Vicchan? Victor, you can’t – ah – oh no – hello? Mr. Feltsman? I’m – ah, I’m sorry. Sorry, it’s Katsuki. Yes, Katsuki Yuuri. You can – yes? You can look me – oh no, he said what? He did? I – we haven’t! Yes, sir I’m listening………….Oh my god! I’d never – Sir – Mr. Feltsman, please……I agree….He isn’t, no….I’m trying. I am. I feel the same way, I promise you that….I’ll try my best. Yes. Yes. I’m not…Yes. Promise you. yes, he’ll answer next time.”

“Nuh-uh,” Victor grumbles.

“Yes, my phone is capable of international calls,” and why is Yuuri giving Yakov his phone number? Oh no. Victor’s miscalculated this. He never expected Yuuri to go through with talking to Yakov and now he’s agreeing to things Victor has no idea about. Yuuri makes a few more promises before he hangs up, face scarlet, sweat on his brow. He looks like he’s run a marathon or aged ten years. Talking to Yakov will do that.

“I need to lay down now,” Yuuri mumbles, dropping Victor’s phone onto his lap and standing up sharply, sending Victor crashing to the floor. “I’m traumatized.”

“What he say? Why’d you give him your number? Yuuri.” Victor grabs him by the arm and holds him in place. “What did he say to you?”

“He’s worried about you,” Yuuri replies, shaking Victor off. He stands a step out of Victor’s reach, face tight. He’s disappointed. “Next time he calls you, you will answer or call him back. You can’t run away from people so selfishly.”

“Wow,” Victor mocks in an overly bright tone. He grins, holding up his hand and clapping once in joyless celebration. “I have two coaches to boss me around and tell me what’s best. How lucky am I?”

Yuuri drops his eyes, stung. It’s enough to make Victor want to scream. He pulls on his hair with both hands, pacing away from Yuuri.

“Victor,” Yuuri tries. He’s all wrong. It’s all wrong. Yuuri’s looking at him like Victor’s fragile, like he’s a child.

“So I’m Victor now, is that it? Suddenly I’m Victor? What did Yakov say, Yuuri? That I’m stupid and irresponsible? That I shouldn’t be here? Oh, did he tell you my head’s broken and you need to send me back to people who know what’s best for me? That I’m wasting my potential, I’m ruining my career? My life?” Victor manages the verbal tirade with a smile on his face and his hands yanking on his hair until his scalp screams, the silent pain the only thing Victor has.

Yuuri flinches at the verbal assault, still looking at the floor, cheeks pink and jaw clenched. The bolt jumps in anger. Perfect. Victor can disappoint him too. Yuuri and Yakov can call each other and conspire to send Victor back to Russia, back to the ice. They can stress over his career and his medals and his sponsorships; everyone wants him to skate. Strap him into skates. Sew them on, nail them to his feet. He’s twenty-one and on top of the skating world and they are going to keep him there until he falls and falls and falls to the darkest pit.

“You’re going to send me back, aren’t you?” Victor accuses, breath coming fast. “You don’t want me anymore because it’s too much trouble. You’re going to toss me out—“

“Victor,” Yuuri snaps, the name a hiss, “Stop. Talking.”

“Make me!” Victor retaliates, dropping his hands from his hair with one last punishing yank to clench them into fists at his side, biting nails into his sweaty palms. His body’s thrumming, trembling. His bones feel sick under his muscles. His ribs are splinters in his heart and lungs. His eyesight’s dislocated from reality, foggy, and Yuuri materializes in front of him in the spaces between clarity.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri repeats, hands hovering delicately in the air like he wants to reach out but can’t close the distance. His eyes are huge behind his glasses. “You need to calm down.”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Victor seethes, gnashing his teeth around shallow, fast breaths. His ears are ringing with a rush of blood. He knows this feeling. It's been years since he last had this feeling in front of anyone but his own mirror, his own condemning reflection taunting him: look at you. Only Yakov’s ever seen Victor gone ugly with raw edges. He sucks at the air greedily, trying to drown the upheaval of his stomach, swallowing it all back. “I am calm.”

He’s always calm. He’s professional. He’s in control.

“Okay,” Yuuri says evenly in the face of a blatant lie, hands still poised around the transparent barrier of Victor’s distress. He doesn’t close the space and he doesn’t give Victor more room. Victor hates him for it, for the hesitation, for the obliviousness and the teasing and the praise and the disappointment. Victor told him that he’s selfish. He told him first thing. He can’t turn on him for it now.

It seems like forever of standing there, Victor hiccupping for breath, shaking with rigidity and Yuuri staring at him with naked comprehension, before Yuuri drops down on the couch once more, blowing out a huge breath.

“Victor Nikiforov,” he sighs, poking his glasses up his nose and being so goddamn unassuming, so goddamn soft. “One second you say ‘make me’ and the next ‘don’t tell me what to do.’ I don’t think you know what you want from anyone,” Yuuri muses. “Including yourself.”

A familiar burn’s building behind his eyes. Victor blinks harshly, swallowing down the grayness clouding the edges of his head. He can’t stop shaking. “And you know?” he presses, teeth chattering around the words.

“No,” Yuuri admits, eyes clear and earnest. His mouth gives up slowly to the suggestion of a sad smile the longer he looks at Victor. “I don’t know what you want either. I’m not going to make decisions for you. I’m not going to throw you out or mail you back to Russia in a box. I’m going to teach you to dance because you asked to be taught, and I’m going to call you Vicchan because you smile when I do it.”

Victor sucks in a sharp breath and hunches his shoulders as if struck.

“You don’t have to talk right now,” Yuuri offers more quietly. “You can go to my room or take a bath. Or you can lay down here and I’ll play with your hair or not touch you at all. I can even leave, if you need the whole apartment.”

Victor screws his eyes shut. “Why…,” he has to swallow, spit thick in his throat, “are you so nice to me?” Victor doesn’t do anything for Yuuri.

“You deserve to be treated nicely, even when you don’t think you do,” Yuuri answers immediately, as if asked this before. “You deserve kindness without justification. You don’t have to give me anything.”

There’s a distant echo of familiarity to the exchange, too slippery for Victor to grasp. A déjà vu that shimmers quicksilver out of Victor’s comprehension. It remains as Victor collapses into Yuuri’s lap, cut to the quick with exhaustion, limbs weak.

“Touch me,” Victor just manages, burying his face into Yuuri’s shoulder. Yuuri does, perfectly. He’s soft, a reliable solid support surround Victor. He rubs his back in slow circles and kneads the tense lines of Victor’s neck, circles his thumb at the base of his occipital lobe that aches dully. It’s so familiar. Even the sludge of tears burning Victor’s lashes is familiar. He did this before, didn’t he?

Yuuri props his chin on Victor’s head and doesn’t say anything and doesn’t ask anything. The documentary goes on and on about missing hikers. It ends, and a different documentary one comes on, this time in Japanese. Victor has no idea what it’s about, but Yuuri laughs when it starts.

“What,” Victor asks groggily. He feels flayed, fatigued.

“It’s a documentary about Hachikō, a dog famous for his loyalty to his master, even after the man died.”

Victor’s laugh is a little hysterical. Yuuri hugs him tighter.

 

 

“I’m on medication now for anxiety,” Yuuri says after an hour. They’ve adjusted, Victor laying down, curled around Yuuri, face in his belly. Yuuri hasn’t stopped stroking him, moving from Victor’s arms and back and head. “But I wasn’t until I was twenty-four. I didn’t show up for my audition to an American dance team, the one that recruited me coming out of university. I cried in the bathroom and never called them back. I came back to Japan and worked for my parents part-time and free-lanced for online publishers writing in English. I eventually got hired here in Fukuoka. I was never on your level, never had so many expectations from others, from my country….you don’t have to say anything to that. But I wanted you to know.”

Victor does say something. “So you’re kind out of empathy.”

Yuuri blows air out of his nose in dissatisfaction. Perhaps Victor ought not to have spoken. “Among other reasons,” he says wryly.

“Hmmm, like what?” Victor’s starting to feel a little more like himself. He’s thirsty as anything too. He smacks his lips and sits up. He didn’t cry, and almost wishes he had because underneath his skin there’s a sludgy feeling that will only go away now with sleep.

Yuuri doesn’t answer him, and Victor glances over to see Yuuri staring at his hands in his lap, now empty, the corner of his mouth tucked into a secretive smile. After calming down, Victor can’t access the emotions of his outburst. He knows he panicked, he knows adrenaline dumped into him and anger and fear overtook him; and he yelled at Yuuri. But Yuuri hadn’t left, hadn’t stormed off, hadn’t even yelled back. He knew exactly what to do. He met Victor in the middle, let Victor decide what direction to go, how he wanted to be comforted.

Victor draws his knees up onto the couch underneath him crawls over the space separating them, straddling Yuuri in a move. This feels familiar too, the width of Yuuri’s thighs spreading his own apart, the surprised but confident grip of Yuuri’s hand on his waist.

“What are you doing,” Yuuri questions warily, leaning back into the couch cushion. It’s a cute show of resistance that doesn’t match the tightening of his hands, the shift of his thumbs along the dip and jut of Victor’s hips.

“Investigating your other reasons,” Victor purrs. He flexes his thighs around Yuuri and delights in the stressed hiss he wins, the flare of Yuuri’s nostrils on the deep breath he takes. Yuuri said he has no use for pretty boys or smart-mouthed boys or sex or kissing; but he also said he wouldn’t make Victor leave. And he hasn’t pushed Victor away, so he thinks he likes his luck.

If Yuuri says no, if he pushes back, Victor won’t try anything on him ever again. He’ll take everything Yuuri gives him, take it gratefully, and not ask for more. But he can’t—god he can’t be satisfied with the distance Yuuri keeps him at only for Yuuri to be so perfect when Victor needs him the most. He has no idea how this quiet, beautiful man’s figured out so much of him so quickly. Victor didn’t come to Japan expecting anyone to catch him.

Yuuri’s hands are a cradle against the ice.

Victor kisses Yuuri’s flat, squishy nose and runs his own up the shallow bridge. A broken gasp fans out across his lips in response from Yuuri.

“You don’t have to give me anything, Vicchan,” Yuuri whispers, eyes bright and jumping between Victor’s, searching him for second-guesses.

“What about what I want to have from you?” Victor challenges, a new, hotter trembling creeping along his spine. He balances himself with hands on Yuuri’s shoulders, taking anchor there. “What I want to give?”

He’s trying to relieve Yuuri of any doubts about Victor’s desire, as if it isn’t abundantly clear that Victor wants him, has wanted him from the moment that they met. He remembers belatedly that Yuuri said no to men in the first place because – he’d just broken up with his boyfriend. Ryota. Victor gets a full second of berating himself for being a selfish forgetful dickhead before Yuuri kisses him on the mouth. It’s shy and Yuuri’s lips are slightly damp from being freshly licked; it ends before it begins, but Yuuri doesn’t pull back, instead he slides his kisses to Victor’s chin and jaw and cheek, peppering his face affectionately.

“O-oh, finally” Victor says shakily, leaning in for more. Yuuri laughs and draws Victor’s hips to his, a hand slipping under Victor’s shirt to run up and down the curve of his spine. A milky sweetness floods his body, washing along the worn out threads of his nerves.

“Finally,” Yuuri repeats, kissing Victor’s nose once before finding his lips again. This time, Victor’s prepared, and he doesn’t let Yuuri draw away so quickly. Yuuri’s fat pouty mouth is sweeter than anything, and Victor sucks on his bottom lip with a hungry moan, relishing the fleshiness between his teeth like a plum, delighting in Yuuri’s shuddering breath. Yuuri kisses him slowly, exploratory, fingers tracing patterns on Victor’s naked skin.

They kiss and only kiss, Victor rolling his hips leisurely into Yuuri’s firm stomach, Yuuri just shy of squeezing his ass. They kiss until they’re on edge and resting their foreheads together, Yuuri’s glasses tossed haphazardly on the cushion beside them. They kiss until one of them lets out a whine bordering on pain when the mouth on their neck nibbles over new bruises. They kiss until Victor’s knees pop and Yuuri drops his head to the back of the couch, hard underneath Victor, face drunkenly flushed, mouth and chin red from Victor’s constant affections. It’s a miracle they part to wash up for bed, Yuuri barely remembering to set his alarm for work in the morning. Victor doesn’t even need to sweet talk his way into bed with him, and Yuuri throws an arm around his waist knowing full-well who he’s curled around this time.

Chapter Text


 

The plan is to go slow. To keep it casual, to maintain boundaries. Yuuri has no qualms about kissing. Victor’s smile tastes as sweet as the Teen Vogue “Ice Prince of our Hearts” article suggested when Victor, in the wake of his Olympic victory, was the newest hearthrob. He likes to bite too, dark bitter pain that Yuuri chases towards. Yuuri could have guessed this; Victor’s mouth is a wicked vessel.

There’s a plan, one anxiously brewed before Yuuri’s head hit the pillow the night he and Victor finally kiss. Victor had drifted off quickly, to Yuuri’s surprise, dismay, and relief. Yuuri stayed up all night trying not to toss and turn in bed, his eyes burning for sleep and his mind persistent with worries, dredging up every intimate encounter he’s ever had, the feel of Ryota in and around him, the lush smell of Victor’s body pressed close, that typo he made in an email, why he’s an idiot piece of shit who gave up dancing. It’s all there to warn him about every mistake he’s going to make with Victor, every way this is going to hurt.

He falls off to sleep around 3am, close to dying, and wakes up entangled with Victor, tip to toe, Victor’s chest expanding and contracting underneath his arm. Victor’s face rooted against Yuuri’s neck, puffing slow sleepy breaths. Victor’s one leg dangerously close to crushing his testicles.

Yuuri’s in deep. He knows this. He saw this coming since Victor showed up on his doorstep, wayward and spiraling. Hell, Yuuri did this, brought this onto himself. He found Victor, hadn’t he? Danced him away in a drunken fury, typed his address into Victor’s phone with pointed invitation. Victor’s been with him almost a month. Every day the friction of Victor’s presence has rubbed him as smooth as sea glass. Yuuri tried to resist this natural disaster for a month. Who was he kidding? You can’t fight a storm.

Yuuri kisses Victor’s temple hesitantly, not daring to breathe in fear of waking Victor, but it’s pointless. Victor stirs and murmurs his name. He adjusts his leg off Yuuri’s nethers with an amused whistle of air.

“Do you want pancakes?” Yuuri offers, surprising himself.

“If you have time--,” Victor’s jaw cracks with a yawn, and he rubs his face sleepily. He’s a morning person once his feet hit the floor; Yuuri’s never gotten to see him wake up. His blinks his eyes open, bright and blue, like coming up for air. They find Yuuri’s dark ones, and the connection makes both of them smile. Yuuri can’t fight the storm, but he doesn’t have to drown.

 

 

The differences of that morning include: Yuuri kissing the inside of Victor’s ankle during a stretch; Victor hugging Yuuri the whole time he makes breakfast despite the mild safety hazard he creates; Victor declaring “we’re finally close enough for me to tell you that your tie is atrocious and none of your suits fit you properly, Yuuri. God knows why you’re hiding that sexy body,”; and Yuuri kissing Victor’s nose and then his lips after Victor’s customary hug as Yuuri heads out the door for work.

Yuuri doesn’t try to bring up Victor’s outburst of the prior night. Not in the morning. He waits until they’re in the studio warming up. That way, they can both work off the tension.

Victor’s stretching his calves, hands braced on the bar. Yuuri wants to do ballet today and Victor’s keen on his next season’s choreography. Yuuri definitely notices that his furniture gets moved every day to make room for Victor to work out movements. He brought sliders home last week for the couch so Victor can push it without struggle. He’s well aware of what that means. There’s a date set for Victor’s return to Russia, even if Victor wants to hold off on his return to the ice. That’s the problem. That’s multiple problems.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri begins nervously from beside him. “Do you remember what you said last night?”

He thinks at first that Victor didn’t hear him, so long Victor waits to respond. He does though, twisting and clasping an arm across his chest and breathing out, focused and cool, smile distracted, eyes closed. “Not really.”

“You mentioned uhm – you said, when you thought Yakov said, to me, that he said, about your—“

“Yuuri,” Victor prompts, impatience couched under a softer smile, eyes open and easing.

He wonders now if Victor trusts him with anything more than just his body. Victor surrendered to Yuuri out of a mix of necessity and desire, but only the parts of himself that Yuuri could touch and feed and house. Victor said “want” and “give” but nothing of the material of those exchanges. The internal mechanisms of a heart and a mind, all the reasons why Yuuri resisted the red-rope tug between them, surge to the front of his thoughts.

Victor’s smile has dropped to a frown. “Yuuri?”

“About your head being broken,” Yuuri finishes in a rush.

Victor flinches his mouth right-side up like a switch’s been thrown. “Yakov’s such a worrier, especially after I fell. Always saying ‘Vitya, Vitya,” Victor recites some babbling, gruff Russian with great theatrics, laughing and patting Yuuri’s shoulder.

“I know that you forget things,” Yuuri interrupts. The tempo of Victor’s cajoling hand on his shoulder trickles off. “That on the ice, you forgot what was happening. You told me, that night you were drunk with Phichit. You told me that you’re scared.”

Across the studio floor, the girl that’s always dancing keeps dancing, her music bubbling her out of this conversation.

“Oh,” Victor says brightly, grin chaotic, eyes creased shut. He knows how to smile so it reaches his eyes and it’s vaguely terrifying. Yuuri recalls seeing a similar look on Victor’s face in a video of one of his skates from four years ago when he landed shakily and the commentators had hissed. “I’ll have to have a chat with my drunk half about discretion.”

Victor won’t drop the fortress of his smile with Yuuri staring holes in his head, so he moves into a standing second position stretch, foot in the air. That always puts Victor in a better mood.

“I wanted you to know that I know. I’m not going to make you to talk about it.” Yuuri breathes through a count of twenty.

“Thank you,” Victor mumbles.

 

 

They dance in silence, most of the night. Victor stops early and plays on his phone. Yuuri doesn’t pay him mind, too engrossed in his own routine. Dance has only grown in his heart these past few weeks. It’s a movement he embraces effortlessly. He’s not happy, as he dances tonight, but he’s not truly sad either. He longs for his younger years without resenting his current life. He dances bits of past routines, motions and rhythms trained into him, unforgettable fragments that blur together until he’s leaping through collages of the years, meshing old and new.

They go home in a strange mood, but Victor holds his hand. They don’t talk much back at Yuuri’s apartment, but Victor kisses Yuuri halfway through the mattress when they climb into bed, grinding against Yuuri’s dick and into Yuuri’s stomach until Yuuri has to roll him off before they both come in their underwear.

Victor lays beside him, panting for breath, spread out and glazed, his erection jousted towards the ceiling. Yuuri sits up and tries to push his own down, making a face at the sticky wet spot. He wipes it on the leg of his underwear and drops back down against the pillows, laying on his side to face Victor.

“Too much?” Victor asks. He looks at Yuuri from the corner of his eye. “You don’t want to have sex?”

“Is that a real question?” Yuuri snorts, reaching out to touch Victor, sliding his hand under the hem of his shirt to spread his fingers over his taught, defined stomach. The skin jumps at the contact, heat pouring off Victor. The tip of his pinky brushes the elastic of Victor’s underwear, his thumb circles his navel. Victor squeezes his eyes shut and sucks in a stained breath, his hips lifting off the bed in a twist of pleasure. He reacts beautiful just from Yuuri touching his stomach, teasing him a little. The pleasure he can bring Victor, the control he has over him, fills Yuuri with a primal surge of power. He wants nothing more than to take Victor apart slowly, with absolute confidence.

It makes saliva run in Yuuri’s mouth, and he has to swallow. He wants to be absolutely confident when he touches Victor that intimately. “I do, but not yet.”

“Is it because of Ryota?” Victor pries. Yuuri’s first instinct is to suspect that Victor’s asking as petty vengeance for earlier, but no—he’s brought a pillow down for his head and has turned his face towards Yuuri. He’s genuine.

“Yes,” Yuuri sighs, shifting, bringing Victor closer with a hand on his hip. He can’t stand the space between them even if he’s the one putting it there. They slip easily on the sheets. “But also…you. It’s you.”

“What about me?” Victor asks, snuggling closer. Their hips meet in the movement and both of them jerk forward, rubbing. Yuuri grunts around his teeth. Spurred on by the sound, Victor throws a leg over Yuuri’s hip and ruts them together, kissing at Yuuri’s mouth, spreading an infectious smile to Yuuri’s lips. “What about me?”

Yuuri kisses him back in lieu of an immediate answer. A gentle swipe of his tongue has Victor opening up for him, and it’s so lazy, their heads on pillows, their hips moving together. Yuuri holds him close, air coming in hard puffs from their noses as their bodies meet. Victor moans into his mouth, chambered between them; it’s a clarifying bolt. Yuuri flips them over, easy with Victor’s leg already around him, and pins Victor to the bed, a quick scrabble to find and hold Victor’s hands. Their fingers interlock with a squeeze.

Yuuri leans back to admire the pleased surprised on Victor’s face. He gives Victor a peck on his hot pink lips and buries his face into Victor’s neck to hide his embarrassment.

“It took me a month to kiss you,” he reminds.

“But it was such a good kiss,” Victor whines. He wraps his legs around Yuuri enticingly. “I hadn’t made out like that since…since…the Olympics, I think.”

Yuuri guffaws at the outrageousness of that statement. Surely only Victor Nikiforov could say those words with such blasé. “You’re the hare and I’m the tortoise.”

“What, I’m a rabbit now? I thought my dog impressions were coming along great,” Victor laughs, letting his legs drop and his body relax beneath Yuuri as best he can with his erection and Yuuri’s snug together. Yuuri pities them both enough to get off Victor and curl around him, hips distanced.

“Yes, you are a charming puppy. But what I'm trying to say is that I like to take my time. You rush, Vicchan,” Yuuri chides lightly. Yuuri doesn't sound like a flustered train wreck at all!

“Yuuri, are you going to wait a month to touch me? I thought I was going to die waiting for you to kiss me. Die, Yuuri. I’m too young to die. Is it Yakov? He said something foul to you, didn’t he? Did he say something about sucking on toes because he’s a very weird old man and sh-shou--shhit,” Victor stumbles off with a moan, shuddering backwards against Yuuri.

Yuuri had been running his hand under Victor’s shirt, scratching lightly, listening, filled with absolute fondness for this over-dramatic man. A thought intruded on Yuuri and he’d been unable to resist. Hadn’t wanted too. He’d framed his hand under Victor’s jaw, hand gentle but there around his throat, thumb on his pulse point and tipped his head back so Yuuri could lick the inner shell of his ear. If Victor thought Yuuri hadn’t noticed that ears were his weakness, he was sadly wrong.

“Shit,” Victor gasps as Yuuri nips his earlobe and retreats a few inches, waiting patiently for the outburst. “Yuuri!” Victor turns over to face him, pouting furiously. “You say you don’t want to have sex but you want to make me come like that?”

Yuuri’s face is on fire, but he can’t stop smiling. His heart’s beating wildly yet his chest isn’t a prison of tightness holding it back. “That’s enough to make you come?”

“Shut up,” Victor pouts more, slapping Yuuri’s chest playfully. “You’re mean. I take back all the times I said you were nice to me. You are a cruel master.”

“Sorry,” Yuuri says, telegraphing his movement to kiss Victor’s nose. Victor keeps his eyes steadfastly open at the approach, crossing his eye to keep Yuuri in vision when their faces come together. Yuuri keeps his eyes open too and laughs, biting his lip.

“You’re cute,” he mumbles shyly. Victor’s not just drop-dead gorgeous. He’s cute. He’s Victor. Vicchan. Difficult and endeared deep.

“Oh no, Yuuri, you’re cute,” Victor exclaims with a giggle, hugging him. “You’re so cute. You should have seen your face just now. We can wait a month to have sex. I don’t care. I do care, but I can wait. If it’s anything like the kiss, it’ll be worth the wait. We have plenty of time.”

Yuuri doesn’t remind him that no, they don’t.

 

 

When Yuuri tells Phichit that he finally kissed Victor, he friend replies with a video message of himself opening a bottle of champagne twenty minutes later. Yuuri calls him.

“You didn’t really open champagne for this, did you?”

“I needed an excuse,” Phichit dismisses. “I got a complimentary bottle in my hotel. I’m following this designer around doing a piece on her and her lifestyle; she put me up somewhere nice. I missed Bangkok.”

“How long do you think you’ll be there?”

Yuuri knows Phichit enjoys any chance to go back to his home. He’d lived with Yuuri for a year while he figured himself out and free-lanced website designing. He’d wanted to move to a different country, and why not stay with his dear friend Yuuri? He sublet an apartment now and travelled a lot for work, mostly between Japan and Thailand. He did the occasional work for American corporations but almost always remotely with the exception of a few trips to California. He had the trendiest, most exhausting life Yuuri can imagine. Short of an Olympic gold skater, maybe. Yuuri doesn’t miss the hectic anxiety of airports but he misses the lift in his chest that comes with flying. He thinks dreamily of Uganda and mourned his reluctance to engage with anyone while there. He would now, if he could do it again. He hopes he gets an international piece soon.

“I’m working on her profile for a week but I’m taking a few days off to visit my parents too. I haven’t bought a ticket back to Japan yet in case any other works pops up here.”

“Tell your parents hello from me.”

Phichit’s ability to pick-up and go, his fluid personality and flexibility, settles in Yuuri’s mind. Phichit loves his homeland, he likes exploring, and is always up for the next adventure. Yuuri never considered his life stagnate before all this: Ryota calling him boring, Victor being the last thing Yuuri expected. Yuuri admires Phichit’s ease with the unpredictability of his life.

 

 

 

 

Victor’s on his phone a lot these days. He answers Yakov’s calls and has mostly civil conversations in Russian. Occasionally Victor hangs up and shoves the phone under a couch cushion. No sooner than does he hang up that Yakov calls Yuuri, who always answers, although sometimes he’s fending Victor off from trying to snatch it out of his hands. Yakov has to endure a lot of “Yuuri, no, you traitor. He’s KGB!” and Yuuri laughing into the receiver; the other skaters around Yakov know who he’s on the phone with just by the steam coming out of his ears.

“A doctor. You need to go to a doctor. Vitya, please. I haven’t seen your body move in two months. Do you even know how much you weigh right now? What’s your resting heart rate? The longer you put this off, the worse it can be.”

Yuuri waves for Victor’s attention and holds up a piece of paper he’s scribbled on.

You’ll go to a doctor if Yakov unblocks your credit cards.

Victor nods. “Yakov, I’ll go to a doctor—“

“Thank god the boy has sense!—“

“If you give me back my credit accounts.”

Yakov hangs up this time. He calls back on Yuuri’s phone. Victor slips into Yuuri’s lap to nibble on Yuuri’s neck and eavesdrop. It’s nothing too scandalous, but the situation, Yuuri on the phone with Victor’s coach while Victor trails his lips up and down Yuuri’s throat makes him unexpectedly hard.

“Katsuki,” Yakov harrumphs in greeting. “I’ll contact a physician through the ISU’s boards in Japan. I’ll forward you the information once I’ve set an appointment. You will send me photo evidence of Victor at his examination. Then he can go back to wasting his money.”

“I will do that, Mr. Feltsman,” Yuuri promises, proud that his voice doesn’t shake. Victor lifts his head up, eyes darkening with mischief. Yuuri angles the phone away as Victor claims his mouth with a deep kiss, a slow filthy probe of tongue. Victor said he was fine waiting on Yuuri to make the move towards more physical intimacy, but he clearly planned on making Yuuri suffer for it. If being kissed like this is anything close to suffering.

“Victor’s still under contract with me, so the information will be released to me. Tell Victor that if there’s anything I don’t like about the results, he will be coming back to St. Petersburg. Tell him I mean it. He’s not the only one who can threaten to break our contract. After he’s run off like this, my lawyers will skin him if he tries to cry to anyone. Make sure he understands. I’ll skin him myself. He better not be fat.”

“Mmm, y-yes, I’ll tell hi-im,” Yuuri stutters. Victor’s gone ahead and taken Yuuri’s free hand to put on his ass, about the only place on his body with a lick of fat but even his ass is nothing but tight muscle, resilient as Yuuri squeezes. Victor tosses his head back with a breathy sigh, hair falling in waves around his shoulders. “I think you’ll --- be happy…with his body. I’ve got to go.”

“Katsuki!”

But Yuuri’s hung up and chucked his phone down on the couch, freeing up both of his hands to wrangle the maelstrom in his lap. “You’re going to kill me,” Yuuri huffs, cheeks burning. He slides his hands around to Victor’s ass and rubs the cheeks, massaging them together and spreading them apart. Victor groans, kissing him heatedly.

“You’re killing me,” Victor shoots back with a nip to Yuuri’s lip.

“You’re right,” Yuuri sighs. It takes all of his willpower to drop his hands from Victor and shove them under his thighs.  “I’m only encouraging your behavior by playing along,” he says in an overly serious tone.

“Hey,” Victor chuckles. “Yu-u-ri~. That’s not what I meant.” Victor sits back, trying to pout through his laughter. He tugs on Yuuri’s hands, trying to free them. “Grab my ass, Yuuri. Grab my ass!”

“I’m thinking of your health!” Yuuri fights, grabbing Victor and heaving them both from the couch. Victor’s too tall for Yuuri to carry around the middle when he’s struggling, and he’s definitely struggling, reaching around and grabbing Yuuri’s ass and smacking it. Yuuri knocks into the coffee table and almost drops Victor, but in a last effort hoists Victor over his shoulder like a sack of rice.

“Oh my god, put me down!” Victor shrieks. He’s laughing breathlessly, body juddering in Yuuri’s hold.

“You’re too tall,” Yuuri complains, adjusting his hold on Victor’s thighs. “You’re like a noodle.”

He shrieks girlishly when Victor bites him right on the butt. But it’s perfect; when they do have sex, they’re going to be totally comfortable.

 

In the morning, they both have emails from Yakov with a scheduled appointment for later this week. Yuuri notes his surprise over the immediacy but Victor shrugs. “I’m Victor Nikiforov,” he says by way of explanation.

Right. He’s the number one male skater in the world right now, drop-out season or not. Right.

 

 

Victor’s phone. Victor’s phone. They’re at the studio and Victor’s on his phone while Yuuri dances. Victor’s sitting against the far wall, phone pointed at Yuuri, bobbing his head lightly to whatever he’s listening too. Yuuri had told him to watch carefully, but there’s a curl to Victor’s mouth that doesn’t look like adamant focus.

Yuuri just finished showing Victor a lightning-fast freestyle and he’s panting and sweating after a few hours of hashing out some moves. Victor looks up from his phone where he’s suddenly typing rapidly, grin growing.

“You recorded that, didn’t you?” Yuuri demands to know, stopping at Victor’s feet with his hands on his hips. Victor smirks. Yuuri wipes his hand across his sweaty forehead. “You’ve been recording me, haven’t you?”

“You caught me!” Victor waves his phone at Yuuri, revealing a video clip of what Yuuri had just danced. “You are very popular on my instagram, did you know that? Everybody looooooooves you.”

“Your instagram?!” Yuuri sputters, dropping to a sit in front of Victor. Victor sits up properly and shows Yuuri his profile. The past few posts have been videos of Yuuri dancing, anything from ballet to hip hop. Even the stupid half-assed flamenco he’d been trotting around to in his kitchen, the audio picking up the song Yuuri had been humming. “Vicchan, that’s so embarrassing. Oh my god. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Aw, Yuuri,” Victor pouts. “You would have said no. But look! Everyone loves you. You’re my mystery man.”

 

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v-nikiforov The #oneandonly seducing me while the #crèmebrulee he bought me finishes! ! ! #hipsdontlie

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christophe-ge why bother with the store-bought dessert when you have homemade right there?

Nikistan2000 IMSCREAMING IS HE YOUR BOYFRIEND IS HE YOUR COACH?

 

Yuuri curls up on the floor, the rubbery, sweaty smell of the mats pervading his senses.

“See? Who knew you’d be so good for my internet presence. There’s already a bunch of speculative tabloids out about us. Want me to read them to you? Yakov’s only a little mad but I told him you didn’t know, so he’s only been yelling at me. Yuuri? You really don’t want to let your face touch these mats. It’s not sanitary.”

 

Nikiforov’s Mystery Dancer

After nearly two months of social media blackout, the elusive Victor Nikiforov returns to Instagram and Twitter with an unexpected surprise: an unnamed male dancer. The first video Nikiforov posted showed the man performing a medley of contemporary and classical ballet moves in a high degree of skill. The videos continued, displaying a variety of dance styles. Nikiforov has not listed a location with his posts, but a sign on the wall of the studio had been in Japanese. Yakov Feltsman, Nikiforov’s long-time coach, has neither confirmed nor denied Nikiforov’s location…read more

 

Will Victor Return to Skating?

Despite the blow-up from recent social media activity from Victor Nikiforov, featuring an unknown man dancing in a studio and an intimate domestic scene of the same man, suggesting a private relationship between Nikiforov and the man, there is still no official correspondence from the Olympic skater. Japan has few ice rinks, so how can Nikiforov be preparing for the next season after his withdraw from the previous…read more

 

Mystery Dancer Identity Speculation

Founder and instructor Monique Famosa of HypeStep dance studio in Detroit, Michigan, speculated on her twitter feed that the dancer in Victor Nikiforov’s instagram videos is Yuuri Katsuki, a citizen of Japan and alumni of New York University. Famosa linked photographic evidence of a younger Katsuki along with a video of one of Katsuki’s recitals posted on YouTube from eight years ago…read more

Chapter Text


 

Being off the ice doesn’t for one second mean Victor stops thinking about it. He wears skates in his dreams. When Yuuri’s breath goes rough in sleep, it sounds like the slow cut of a blade over the frozen froth left behind after practice. He tries adamantly to teach Yuuri how to recognize different moves. He struggles with the jumps but happily exclaims over Chris’s triple flip in the stream they’re watching of the Challenge cup.

“I have to at least know the flip,” Yuuri says by way of explanation when he catches Victor’s surprised look. “Maybe I’ll get to see you land your quad flip in real life,” he adds softly when Victor’s head has returned to his shoulder to continue watching Chris skate.

Victor can’t tell if it’s a wish or a promise, those words. Yuuri doesn’t talk about the future. He doesn’t speculate out loud about Victor or this. He has ten reminders in his phone about Victor’s doctor’s appointment but that’s as far ahead as Victor’s seen him plan. Wish, promise, or even empty fantasy whispered like a sweet nothing, Victor vows in that moment to make those words a reality.

He calls Chris that night while he does dishes, ear-buds in, phone safe in his pocket, hands submerged in soapy water. Victor always cleans up when possible. Sometimes Yuuri needs to clean and will shoo Victor out of the way, but he’d mostly accepted that Victor want to contribute to the household as best he can. Yuuri loves borscht and the sweet blini Victor makes. Naturally, he likes salty herring and anything salmon and dumplings.

They delight over the variety of dumplings that exist in the world. Over beer and shumai and mushroom and lamb dumplings, they yell promises out of Yuuri’s window that they will single-handedly create a dumpling appreciation day and make it internationally celebrated. People on the street have mixed reactions; Victor yelling in Russian probably didn’t help clarify what the fuck was happening up in the innocuous apartment. Needless to say, there’s been a great deal of palate exchange in the Katsuki apartment.

“Salut, mon ami~!”

“Christophe! Do you know that while watching the stream of the short program, my Yuuri grabbed me and had to ask ‘did your friend ejaculate?’ He really said ejaculate,” Victor uses the English word for emphasis before his voice drops back down to the wet drawl of French. His English is much higher and drawn out than his French. 

Chris laughs boisterously. “What did you tell him?”

“I told him that your cum-face is much uglier,” Victor dishes in a monotone. Yuuri had started to ask how Victor could know that and stopped himself. It wasn’t, perhaps, the best thing Victor could have said to a sensitive man abstaining from fucking him. Live and learn…

 “Victor, my dear friend,” he says with a gathering sniff, no doubt wiping fake tears from his eyes, “this is not a game you want to play with me. I will win. Your Yuuri will find you weeping.”

“I will say no more on the matter,” Victor surrenders gracefully. “Congratulations on your short program. You aren’t far behind second and first.”

“The line-up makes me miss you more and more with each passing competition. The hotel parties aren’t nearly as fun without you.”

They chat about skating, Victor commentating on everyone’s performance and letting Chris unload a few of his own worries. It’s strange, being on the outside for the first time in almost a decade. He ran from the season, but he wakes up sometimes thinking he’s late for practice, or that any day now he’ll be boarding a flight for a competition. Talking to Chris reminds him that his life, his real life as top skater Victor Nikiforov, is waiting for him.

“Yuuri’s taking me to the doctor later this week. Yakov will unblock my credit cards once I go.”

“Have you not been examined all this time?” Chris asks, surprised.

“No? I hate exams,” Victor laughs gaily. It’s a total lie. He’s numb to exams of all kinds. For so long, his body has been stripped and scrutinized. He can’t feasibly maintain anxiety about latex gloves, needles, and being asked ‘cough twice’. Truthfully, the duration between this exam and his last one, the one after his fall at a low stakes Russian skate, has him more on edge. He’s terrified by whatever news he’ll hear. But he’s not a child. He knows. He knows he needs to bite the bullet. Yakov’s right. He has sense. Sense enough to know he can only stay hidden for so long.

“Right,” Chris says, clearly letting Victor lie to him. Chris knows him better than that. “So Yuuri,” he purrs, surging ahead in the conversation. “Quite the stir. I had no idea your master was so talented. A beautiful body that moves beautifully? And he’s nice? I’m officially jealous.”

“Right!?" Victor exclaims. “What’s that saying? A diamond in the rough? Like Disney Aladdin. Do you know the movie?”

“I’m familiar with Disney, Victor,” Chris says on a dry exhale. “Does your prince charming know that he’s found his genie in a bottle ready to grant him wishes? Or are you the little monkey? The pretty tiger? Kitty, puppy, it’s all the same difference. NO! Wait, wait, I’ve got it: Iago. You would dramatically narrate your own demise…and that beaky nose of yours…”

“First, obviously Chris, I’m Princess Jasmine. I’m clearly the princess in this story. Her outfit would look great on me. And for your information, Yuuri loves my nose,” Victor replies haughtily. “And yes, he knows. He found out the other night. He wasn’t happy with me at first, but I think I’ve been forgiven.”

“I’m tempted to think this has all been an elaborate stunt on your part, Victor. Did you know who he was before this? You’ve drawn him out of the woodwork and everyone’s exhilarated. Bad job on your part, letting his face be so clear. Someone’s already recognized him, a dancer he went to school with. #mysteryman has been trending relentlessly since the first video. Now they’re trying to find you and him.”

“Oh dear,” Victor coos, stacking dishes into the drying rack. “Sounds like a fuss.”

“You’re terribly unconcerned,” notes Chris. “What are you planning?”

“Nothing! I’m simply letting the world see my Yuuri as I do.”

“Victor,” Chris sighs his name like a warning. “Some people dance because it makes them feel good, not because they want people to watch.”

“I know that,” Victor defends, not letting the pleasant conviction of his voice waver. “But my Yuuri is meant to be seen.”

The first video he put on instagram because Victor wanted to celebrate Yuuri. It was the day after they’d kissed and Victor wanted to shout to the whole world about Yuuri. Yuuri must have felt the same electric excitement of new love in his heart because he made great height in his leaps, blood singing through his muscles in defiant declaration of all things ungrounded. Victor couldn’t resist recording it and ultimately, sharing it.

 Victor never expected Yuuri, despite the improbability of them that Chris says makes their meeting suspect. No. How could Victor have found someone he never knew he was looking for? He had been lost and confused and Yuuri brought him into his home; Yuuri, who was freshly hurt from another man, who in that ugly drunken pain had taken the hands of the stranger in the club and unzipped dizzying delight. Yuuri hesitates and he hides, but when Victor needed someone, Yuuri held him without condition. Yuuri was kind without condition, without reward or desire.

So Victor put up a video of him dancing, his first social media post in almost two months and – okay, he knew it would blow up. Are you kidding? Of course he knew. So he put up more. He wanted the world to see Yuuri, he wanted the world to see what Victor had found off the ice. He has someone even when it feels like he has nothing else.

The curious job offers stacking up in his comments and DMs and Yakov calling to complain about the emails he’s been getting regarding “Mr. Nikiforov’s dancer friend,” were a little less expected.

“Vicchan? Are you still on the phone?” Yuuri says as he comes into the kitchen. Victor dries his hands before he takes one ear-bud from his ears. Yuuri waves his hands in apology for interrupting. “Please, finish talking to Chris. Tell him I said he did very well today, that it looked,” Yuuri purses his lips, remembering how Chris’s performance ended, “it looked like he enjoyed himself.”

“Yuuri says you shouldn’t desecrate the ice,” Victor relays in French.

“I heard him,” Chris snorts. “Tell him thank you. Tell him he should take his puppy to obedience class or better yet, find him a muzzle.”

“Wow, Kinky!” Victor exclaims in English. Yuuri blanches and tries to backpedal out of the kitchen but Victor’s already groping at his hand. “Yuuri, wouldn’t I look good in a muzzle? Or a gag?”

“S-stop,” Yuuri struggles, pushing Victor away, flush coming too easily to his cheeks for Victor to resist harassing him. Chris is laughing in his ear. “You’re terrible. You’re on the phone. Have you no decency?”

“No, Yuuri!” Chris yells into Victor’s ear, laughing. “He’s a shameless brat. That's what makes him so much fun.”

“I have shame,” Victor scoffs, continuing in English. He keeps a grip on Yuuri’s hands, running his pruned thumb back and forth across Yuuri’s knuckles. “Remember when people tried to convince me scrunchies were cool and I said I wouldn’t be caught dead? Remember when Yakov tried to make me wear yellow? With my hair?”

“That’s not having a sense of shame, Victor, that’s having common sense,” Chris clarifies. “Anyway, sweet, I need to wash off my face mask. Bisous!”

 

 

 

Yuuri has not read any of the supposed articles speculating about who he is or what in the world Victor Nikiforov is up to next. Victor mentioned them. It wasn’t like it was a secret. He had said: “My beautiful master is so famous now. You’re a wanted man. I’ll have to fight for your affection. Yuuri, promise me that I’ll be your only pet. Tell me that I’m enough to satisfy your passionate, carnal desires. Ravish me now, to prove it to me.”

Victor always talked like that. Yuuri thought it was more of his over the top flirting. His only concern on the matter of him appearing in Victor’s social media is the probability that Yuuko’s seen it. She isn’t as interested in figure skating as she was when they were kids, gliding around Hasetsu’s small rink. But Victor isn’t some low-tier skater. He keeps waiting for her call.

“Good morning, Mr. Katsuki,” Mr. Takagawa greets. Yuuri says hello, coming back to himself. He’s prepared to walk into the office when Mr. Takagawa makes a staying gesture and waves him closer. “Mrs. Yakimura wants you to go directly to her office. We’ve been getting calls about you, Mr. Katsuki.”

Mr. Takagawa looks at him meaningfully. Oh no.

 

Yuuri has pit stains in the time it takes to walk from one end of the office to the other. He tries to clamp his arms down and knock on the door to Mrs. Yakimura’s office at the same time. She waves him in.

“Mr. Katsuki,” Mrs. Yakimura looks up from a sheaf of abstracts.  “You are very popular.”

“Mrs. Yakimura—” Yuuri cuts off at the lift of her hand. She’s cool, hair pulled back, expression pointedly serene. Yuuri has always admired her control; he still does, even when he expects it to come down like a cold axe over his head. The hateful chatter of his own weaknesses clicks and cackles madly in his head, almost deafening him to her words.

“I thought I told you I dislike when my employee’s personal lives join us at work,” she begins in a distant voice. “Our office has been fielding a number of calls inquiring about a Katsuki Yuuri, who graduated from New York University in America. Many calls, Mr. Katsuki. Unfortunately for the curious who go around bothering people at their work, I told them that the only Katsuki Yuuri I know has been traveling for a report and could not possibly be the same person suggested in these…viral videos. I also told them that they are very poor journalists.”

Yuuri gapes. His boss inclines her head slightly. “I – Mrs. Yakimura? – I – thank you. I didn’t… I didn’t know. I never meant for you to be, for the magazine, to be disrupted.”

“I know you well enough to know that. I’ve known people in my life, Mr. Katsuki, to be caught committing actions I wouldn’t expect from them. I’ve never been so pleased by the unexpected in one of my employees. You dance beautifully. I like the – the Spanish dance the most.” She smiles, thin and rare. Yuuri can’t stop sweating, but he’s not so afraid. “No one else in the office as far as I’m aware, knows about this. Mr. Takagawa has been told to field the calls but remain quiet on the matter. Do not invite your friend, this Nikiforov, to join you for lunch. That’s far too much trouble.”

“I won’t. Thank you, ma’am.” He ducks his head. She’s seen him flailing about a gym, seen him swaying around his own home. He squeezes his eyes shut. Victor didn’t mean any of this. It’s not his fault. He’s not cruel. Yuuri know. He knows Victor adores him, however fleeting this tryst is. He never meant for Yuuri to be exposed to everyone. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience I’ve caused.”

“Like the previous incident, you cannot help what follows you sometimes. Now, sit. Let’s talk your next assignment. Hasetsu, your hometown. It’s crumbled in the years; you must have grown up watching tourism, and its resulting industry, fade. I want an economic profile that comes from the heart for this one, Mr. Katsuki. Don’t be afraid to get personal. Your family, they have the only remaining onsen there, yes?” It’s not a question. She knows what she’s talking about. “Tell the story was what has survived and what has been forgotten.”

 

Yuuri slides his chair over to Takeshi’s desk. “I’m doing a piece on Hasetsu. Want me to bring anything back for you?”

“Are you really?” Takeshi spins to face him, laying down his red pen. “”You’re not mad? That’s the most domestic you can get.”

Yuuri shrugs. “I’ve…been anticipating it. Looking forward to the opportunity, actually. It’s well-past time I visit my family.” He misses them passively. He misses his mother’s cooking and her hugs, he misses his dad’s ribbing and sitting on the porch drinking beer. And Mari. He misses Mari most of all without context. She rolls her own cigarettes and no one else quite has the same tobacco smell.

“What about your puppy?”

“Hmm?” Yuuri blinks at Takeshi, distracted. “My puppy? Oh. Vicchan!” He says the name too loud, jumps straight in his seat. “I’m bringing him with me.”

“Your Russian puppy,” Takeshi stresses, staring hard at Yuuri.

“Y-yes?” Yuuri shifts in his seat, flicking his eyes away from Takeshi. “I – he…. You, uh, do you--?” Yuuri’s going to ask if Takeshi knows, but the disappointed look handed his way is confirmation enough. “I am so sorry, Takeshi. I – he – my puppy, uhm, Vicchan…”

“Why did you lie?” Takeshi asks simply. “Yuuri, I’ve known you your whole life. What did you think would happen if you told me that you were dating Victor Nikiforov? I think it’s great! Is it because you’d just broken up with Ryota? I don’t think rebounding is wrong. Of course, I’ve only been with Yuuko so maybe I don’t understand, but I think Victor’s a very handsome catch. For you. For a guy, I mean. If I were a guy who liked guys, I’d think that.”

“If I was…dating?” Yuuri’s smile is a cry for help.

“Yuuko is not happy. But she’ll forgive you if you bring Victor over for dinner tonight. She wants an autograph. She might want something from Hasetsu too. Actually, she wants to send down a few things to her folks.”

“S-sure,” Yuuri stumbles. “Uhm, are you mad? Do you hate me?”

“Hate you?” Takeshi roars over the idea and claps Yuuri hard on the shoulder, shaking him. “I could never. You’re a weird dude, Yuuri. I know how you are.”

Takeshi, once won over, once he no longer felt threatened by Yuuri has a rival for Yuuko’s affection, had taken Yuuri in as a brother. They didn’t have much in common outside of work and history, not like how Yuuko and Yuuri could talk for hours, but Takeshi never begrudged Yuuri his ways. He forgives easily. Yuuri’s friends have to be willing to forgive him his ways.

 

 

 

Victor only gets to see Yuuri in casual clothes twice a week, so he has fun in Yuuri’s closet. He picks his own outfit first, sharp but understated. He wants to look nice without looking like he’s trying. He’s anticipating photographs; at the very least with Yuuko. Maybe he’ll put her on his instagram too. With Yuuri in them. Yuuri has to look good. They definitely need to match. It’ll be subtle. Maybe mix and match colors. Inverted colors. Oh, that’s perfect. That’s classy. The media can chatter about their cute couple’s fashion. Yuuri’s been keeping him a secret, so Yuuko found out through his instagram. Yuuri knows he’s trending. Ah—this is all causing a bit of drama in Yuuri’s life. But no harm! Dinner with friends doesn’t sound like there’s any problems.

“Wow, wow, wow,” Victor claps to himself. It’s a good step forward in their relationship. It’s a double date, really. With a married couple. All the married people Victor knows are old. He’ll toast to Yakov out of respect.

He’ll wear a black turtleneck with his white faux-fur vest – oh and those square-toe jade alligator boots. God, yes, he’s so glad he brought them. Mmm, and black skinny jeans. Definitely. Yuuri’s wardrobe is awful. Once Victor has his money back, he’s going to buy Yuuri some statement pieces. Once Yuuri comes to Russia with him, Victor will work on his taste. No more office job. No more frumpy suits. Victor never expected to fall for someone who doesn’t get their clothes tailored, but here he is. A white button down and charcoal gray cardigan will have to do. He’ll trust Yuuri’s wearing a decent shoe. No no, wait, he likes his trainers more. Dark wash jeans will do. Oh, look at him, how poetic. It’s a good sign. Nothing can go wrong!

 

Yuuri comes home in a quiet mood, close-lipped to Victor’s greeting kiss. Victor’s immediate spike of worry at Yuuri’s turned-away face is dampened by the hug Yuuri initiates, Victor’s arms pinned down at his sides by Yuuri’s strong arms, Yuuri’s face resolutely buried into his chest.

“Your vest makes my nose itch,” Yuuri mumbles. Victor smacks kisses onto the crown of his head by way of apology. Yuuri releases him with a sigh, face downturned, to shuffle off to his bedroom to change. He comes out looking good but stops short at the sight of Victor. He looks down at himself, back to Victor, down at himself, back to Victor with a suspicious squint.

“Did you do this—“

“On purpose? Yes! Isn’t it cute? Come take a selfie with me, Yuuri.”

“I’m not really…,” Yuuri protests, wrapping his arms around himself, shoulders drawn up, like a turtle hiding its head in its shell.

“But we match. We need a commemorative photo.” Victor forges ahead. He flings an arm around Yuuri and takes a few quick pictures, already well aware of his own angles. “Aaah, I wish your hair was pushed back. Can I do your hair? Five minutes, Yuuri.” He holds up his hand, wiggling all five digits. Yuuri licks his lips and his mouth makes motions for speech but nothing comes articulately. Victor drags him to the bathroom excitedly. He plops Yuuri on the toilet seat and snatches away his glasses to put on the counter. The mirror of the vanity swings out to reveal Yuuri’s medication, grooming products and miscellaneous toiletries. When Victor first arrived, there’d been an unopened bottle of lube but that’s since been hidden.

“I’m excited to meet your friends. Takeshi and Yuuko, they are the ones you grew up with, yes? I’ll give Yuuko the Victor Nikiforov Extra Special Fan experience.” He finds a styling paste and swings around to Yuuri once more, comb in hand, only to have his excited chatter sawed off. Yuuri’s slouched, cheek in one hand, elbow locked to knee. His expression is far away, marked by a troubled frown. He doesn’t even register that Victor’s stopped talking or is hovering over him.

“Yuuri?” Victor prompts softly. It takes a few more repetitions of his name before Yuuri startles, blinking and lifting his head. “Are you okay?”

Yuuri smiles. “Sorry, Vicchan. I’m fine. I have a lot on my mind.”

Aside from the first two outbursts, Yuuri’s never yelled or gotten angry. Expecting outright anger from Yuuri, thinking he’d come home ready to confront Victor about boundaries, was a stupid thought on Victor’s part. Yuuri’s worried. It’s only natural. Victor simply has to show him that there’s nothing to worry about, that he’ll handle it. Yuuri only has to be Yuuri.

Victor touches his shoulder with two fingers and slides them up Yuuri’s neck, over satin skin, to trail under his chin. He bows low to kiss Yuuri’s plump mouth chastely and murmur: “Close your eyes, мой Солнышко. Think only about me.”

He holds Yuuri’s eyes until Yuuri complies, brows frumped together in anticipation but still, Yuuri trusts him and closes his eyes. Victor smiles and kisses his forehead, only to resume his original intention of styling Yuuri’s hair. He hums his way through his Lilac Fairy Prologue as he combs back Yuuri’s hair, the teeth running smoothly through Yuuri’s fluffy mop. He can’t wait until it’s long enough to really play with. He’s wearing his own hair down with bombshell curls, a little extra effort. He wants to look his best for Yuuri’s friends.

He pays special mind to scratch Yuuri’s scalp and rub the back of his neck, and soon Yuuri’s face is relaxed, mouth parted, the weight of his skull given over to Victor’s touch. Victor breaks to rub the styling past between his hands before he works his fingers through Yuuri’s hair, fixing it back. It’d be better to start wet and do an application of wet and dry product, but he can make do. It’s not perfect, a few fly-aways coming down, but by the time he’s finished, Yuuri’s humming along with Victor.

Victor declares his task complete. “You are so handsome. So beautiful, my Yuuri. Please take a picture with me?”

“Don’t put it online,” Yuuri warns, giving over. They pose near the door; Victor tickles Yuuri on his side in the first one; Yuuri pinches Victor’s butt in the next. Victor kisses Yuuri’s cheek in the third. They waste too much time but Yuuri’s wearing a big goofy grin by the end. Victor sets that one as his phone background and sends the rest to Yuuri.

When Yuuri checks his phone on the bus, Victor sees that the one of him kissing Yuuri’s cheek is his background.

 

 

Takeshi lives closer to Yuuri than he does to their place of work. The housing is cheaper, and with three kids that need Yuuko’s attention at home, they need the cheaper housing. The night’s cold but not bitter, enough that Victor doesn’t take it personally that Yuuri wants to keep his hands in his coat pockets and not clasped with Victor’s. Yuuri’s resumed his silence, eyes looking off in private contemplation. The city, with its burble of Japanese, its lit storefronts boasting foreign signs, foreign people, and Yuuri closed off, makes Victor feel a little lonely.

It’s difficult to imagine what Yuuri’s thinking. It’ll be in Japanese, his thoughts. He’s crafting a world outside of Victor’s comprehension. Victor’s own mind runs in Russian except for when he’s speaking with Yuuri, or French with Chris. Victor can’t think of a word to describe Yuuri in Russian as he’s become acquainted with in English. It makes the distance between them sharper. Yuuri seems untouchable. He’s pushed the world away, including Victor; or closed himself from the world. It’s a defensive energy. He’s recoiled.

“Victor…” Yuuri sighs to himself. His mouth’s thin, tension in the corners.

“Hmm?” Victor wonders, glancing his way. Hearing his full name from Yuuri’s lips is like hearing it from Yakov. It’s a bad sign.

“Huh? Sorry…,” Yuuri trails off, looking down, red in his cheeks. “Sorry.”

“You don’t have to say sorry for saying my name,” Victor jokes.

“Sorry,” Yuuri repeats. He quickens his step, leaving Victor hanging behind. “Let’s buy a cake. There’s a shop I like on this street.”

Victor trails behind him, hands deep in his coat pockets. “Yuuri, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Yuuri replies too quickly. Victor easily falls in beside him. He repeats his question, a little more force behind it but his smile reassuring. Yuuri glances at him from the corner of his eye and pulls his scarf up around his face in response. “I know you didn’t mean to…”

“Mean to what, мой Солнышко?”

“I – what does that mean?”

Victor grins brilliantly. “My sun. My cute sun.” He wraps an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders, craving him. He’s selfish. He wants to have Yuuri pressed close. He wants to be wrapped in him, not held at bay. “Because you’ve given me so much warmth. You heal my heart in my absence from the ice.”

Yuuri’s listening attentively, so Victor carries on, clutching his heart and leaning closer. “You are my light in this time of darkness, Yuuri. You take care of me, your smile alone blinds me.”

“Y-you’re impossible,” Yuuri huffs, wiggling under Victor’s arms. He’s blushing fiercely, staring ahead. “You’re a terrible flirt.” He shrugs out of Victor’s hold and stops walking. Victor immediately stops, waiting patiently under Yuuri’s assessing gaze, waiting for a cue.

Yuuri’s lips quirk up. “So well trained,” he acknowledges with a shake of his head. Victor doesn’t get it, but he smiles because Yuuri’s smiling. Yuuri inclines his head to the store they’re in front of and holds open the door. “You can pick the dessert.”

The shop has a small sitting area and a huge well-lit display case. They have cakes and cookies and flan and tarts, and even ice-cream.

“いらっしゃいませ,” the girl behind the counter greets. Victor nods a greeting, already focused on his task. His first instinct is the matcha cheesecake because Yuuri loves matcha, but Yuuri also avoids dairy whenever possible. Victor misses cheese. He’s comparing prices for daifuku – it’ll be easy for kids, right? Less dishes – when someone says: “Yuuri?”

The breath of silence that follows exists entirely outside of Victor’s head because he just knows who said Yuuri’s name. He turns, and Yuuri’s drained of blood, caught like a rabbit in a snare. A man Yuuri’s age rises from a seat with another man – because of course – and steps closer to Yuuri, a little nervous but offering up a smile.

Yuuri says something in Japanese and Victor catches the bell toll of doom: “Ryota.”

Ryota isn’t anything special. He’s a little taller than Yuuri, not bad looking but Victor would never look at him twice. In fact, the eyes slide away from him easily. He’s not the same unassuming grace as Yuuri, Yuuri who glows, who radiates an intense energy. He’s just a man. He’s a man with his own life, his own story, and his only intersection here is that he hurt Yuuri and inevitably drove him into Victor’s arms. Ryota’s dressed nicely, as is the man now turned in his seat to watch – one plate, one cake, two forks: date.

There’s a visibly awkward exchange in Japanese between them. Yuuri’s growing quieter and quieter with each word, wringing his hands, eyes flicking to the man watching them. An older man. Maybe in his 40s if Victor were to guess. Glasses. Hair short and stylish. Ryota follows Yuuri’s gaze and gestures, bringing Yuuri into an introduction he clearly doesn’t want.

Victor came in ahead of Yuuri, hadn’t engaged with him at all in the store, had he? To Ryota, Victor’s no one, just a pretty stranger. He’s an outsider. He has no clue who he is. Has no clue who his Yuuri really is. He’d hurt Yuuri enough that Yuuri had tried to swear off men, swear off anyone who could get close enough to hurt him again. Left Yuuri tip-toeing around Victor in his own home like Victor was going to grab his ankles and pull him under.

 Yuuri bows briefly to the older man who inclines his head and it’s awful. Yuuri’s face remains shock-pale but now his ears are red, color seeping in patches to his cheek. Victor can’t stand it. He can’t stand seeing his Yuuri looking so unsure and he can’t stand even more being outside of it, on the outer rim of Yuuri’s life while his ex gets to think he’s conquered any of Yuuri’s light.

“мой Солнышко!” Victor sings, standing up tall and squaring his shoulders. Yuuri jerks towards him, and Ryota and the other man follow the direction. Victor flicks his hair over his shoulder and puts on his best gold-medalist smile, draping an arm around Yuuri. He lowers his head to purr into Yuuri’s ear: “Let’s buy ume daifuku. I heard it’s sweet.”

“Vicchan,” Yuuri breathes in a gush, posture loosening. Huge amber eyes peer up gratefully from behind his glasses. “If – if that’s what you want.”

“You’re so good to me, Yuuri,” Victor continues in the same low, sultry tone. “Too good.”

Yuuri’s face is close enough to kiss, the red dimple of his lips inviting Victor’s eyes down to linger; but Yuuri would hate that, wouldn’t he? Yuuri’s rarely so free; it feels better when Yuuri’s kisses come in private, sweet and secret for Victor alone. Ah, but for a little show, for their small unworthy audience. Victor’s better; Victor’s better simply because he knows Yuuri’s value. He would never discard him so callously, leave Yuuri to drink himself into a frenzy; he’d never let Yuuri enchant another man. Yuuri’s his. He’s Yuuri’s.

A possessive conviction swells in Victor, his breath catching. Yuuri’s relief has shifted to a look of longing, his own eyes swimming between Victor’s argent blue gaze and the familiar dip and give of his mouth. But he has more sense, and lays a hand on Victor’s chest, thumb brushing side-to-side in comfort.

“We can – we will try the ume flavor before we buy them, to make sure you like it,” Yuuri reasons, tone steadying by the end of the statement. He’s flushed against Victor’s side, small and sturdy. Victor’s even taller in his heeled boots. “Excuse me, Ryota, Mr. Tsukuda: this is Victor.”

“Victor Nikiforov, Yuuri’s boyfriend and favorite student,” Victor proudly proclaims, thrusting his hand forward, squeezing Yuuri tighter. Yuuri croaks and the hand on his chest freezes.

Ryota’s shock will keep Victor young and beautiful forever. He stares at Victor uncomprehending. “Boyfriend? It’s – it’s been a month, Yuuri,” Ryota stumbles, then laughs and looks down. Ha, Victor thinks with ugly delight. Yuuri’s fingers curl into Victor’s sweater as if gathering comfort in the face of pain.

Ryota looks up, smiling, a little sad. “Good for you.”

Yuuri chokes an “uhm” at the well-wish, caught off guard.

“I know! I’m so lucky. I’m a complete teacher’s pet for him,” Victor cheers, knowing full well that Ryota wasn’t talking to him. How can he wish Yuuri well and aim for grace?

“Excuse us,” Yuuri whispers, bowing slightly and shuffling Victor away pointedly to the cake counter. He speaks rapid Japanese to the people behind the counter and receives a mochi ball on a toothpick which he proffers to Victor. He bites half and Yuuri eats the rest, chewing slowly, eyes averted.

“I like it,” Victor says and they leave with a box, words otherwise discarded. And they remain discarded all the way to the Nishigori’s. It doesn’t bode well.

 

 

The Nishigori household is loud. Yuuko is bubbling and excitable. Takeshi is big and shakes Victor’s hand up and down like a crank. The triplets try to show Yuuri all over their drawings at the same time.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were dating Victor Nikiforov,” Yuuko squeals in Japanese as she hosts a poor attempt at private conference at the stove. Her spoken English isn’t as practiced as Takeshi’s by far, and she wants to pump Yuuri for details before they sit down for dinner.

Yuuri smiles but doesn’t speak. He’d barely made introductions. He’d gotten talked over immediately anyway. Victor was already sitting and alternating between sipping a juice box that one of the triplets (“How cute, they’re named after skating jumps!”) had boldly gifted him, to his utter delight, and a bottle of beer Takeshi had handed him with an intimidating look. Victor’s regaling his most recent travel adventures in Switzerland and a brief sojourn in the south of France and his few experiences in Japan. He’s carefully avoiding mention of his live-in situation with Yuuri, for however long that secret may last.

“And so soon after Ryota. Wow, Yuuri. How did this even happen? Was he visiting? How did you meet? Were you waiting to make a public announcement?” Yuuko speculates happily, attention on the stove, ear trained on Yuuri.

“We’re not,” Yuuri whispers shakily, blinking rapidly as his eyes begin to burn. It’s an effort to speak, his mind buzzing with radio static, his skin prickled and sensitive to the air. The smells of cooking overwhelm him, Yuuko’s voice shrill and alien. He doesn’t remember walking here although he knows the way as well as his hometown streets.

“Yuuri?” Yuuko looks over her shoulder to see Yuuri breathing shallow and fast from his mouth, eyes stained with tears, nose flaring red. “Yuuri, what’s wrong?”

“I—I’m – having. An. Anxiety. Attack,” he gasps between each word, face twisted in frustration, ears ringing. Without another word, he rushes out of the kitchen, past the sitting room and to the guest bathroom, locking the door.

He paces in the square room, bumping into the counter, before giving up and sinking to the floor between the toilet and the sink, wedging into the narrow space. He draws his knees up to his chest and buries his head between them, curling small and tight, trying his best to to calm his breathing. He should have seen it coming all day with each new, unwanted encounter with the world. Mrs. Yakimura, and Takeshi, and Victor trying so hard to be nice to him, and Ryota. Ryota and Mr. Tsukuda, the regional manager of Ryota’s office. His fucking boss. Older, and bland, and reserved, a perfectionist that Ryota had complained about far too often. And they were on a date? The man – he wasn’t far from Yuuri. He wasn’t different. He wasn’t fun or exciting or young and sexy. Yuuri would have forgiven it if Ryota had gone after someone opposite of Yuuri in every way, but this? He hadn’t wanted someone different from Yuuri. He’d wanted the more elite version of him, the better businessman, the cooler calmer version that Yuuri wasn’t.

It hurt, when it shouldn’t. It hurt that Ryota was on cute dates at the café that Yuuri had introduced him to. Eating strawberry cake. It was too soon for such a thing with his boss. What, had he run to him the day after Yuuri had rejected his apology and been taken out? Yes; Yuuri could see it. Consolation drinks, Ryota feigning to be drunk and making a move, laughing and kissing Mr. Tsukuda. He must have already liked him. He’d been with Yuuri thinking of a future without him, with another man.

It shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Yuuri doesn’t want to be with him, doesn’t miss him. He doesn’t. But it sours the past further, makes the memory of hands on his body slither like seaweed, something from a blank depth crawling over his body.

God. And Victor. Victor saying that they’re boyfriends. The whole world talking about them, about Yuuri. People called his work. He’d looked online, he’d gone onto Victor’s profile. It was unreal, seeing all those comments under videos of him. Even if the overwhelming majority of them were positive, Yuuri felt naked and exposed to strangers. He was back in a bathroom, crying, the world waiting for him to come falling over his feet in the light of the stage.

“Yuuri,” Yuuko pleads from the other side of the door. “Let me in.”

Yuuri grits his teeth around a whine that bubbles out of his throat, crying fitfully, smothering the noise into his legs. He’s not dying. He’s fine. It’ll pass. The door’s too far away. He sees himself opening it but his body doesn’t move. He presses his cheek to the wood of the vanity, the laminate wood cool to his flushed skin. He wants to go home, right now, this instant, but teleportation doesn’t exist. Why haven’t they developed teleportation yet. Civilization is doomed. It deserves to fade. Someone knocks and he ignores it.

“God,” Yuuri sighs, squeezing his knees around his head, pressure against pressure. That’s how physics works. His head wants to fly apart so he has to crush it into place. The human body wants to tear itself apart and only gravity holds it together. He needs more gravity.

It’s probably twenty minutes until he gets up, body aching, and splashes water on his face. His expression is weary, eyes bloodshot and tight. He tucks his button down into his jeans guiltily. Victor wanted to match outfits. It’s embarrassingly cute; and what did Yuuri do? Freak out and leave him with strangers. At least this sort of thing isn’t unknown to Yuuko and Takeshi. They grew up with him having far worse experiences.

Yuuri opens the bathroom door slowly, bumping it into something resistant. Peeking out, he sees that Victor’s sitting on the floor across from the door, pulling his legs back.

“Yuuri!” He scrambles to his feet gracelessly and makes a motion to engulf Yuuri, but at Yuuri’s flinch back into the bathroom, he pinwheels his arms and backs up, hitting the wall. “Sorry. I won’t touch. Yuuko warned me that you might not like that. Yuuri, are you okay?”

Victor’s flustered, face creased with worry, eyes bright. He’s holding himself taught, visibly restraining himself from reaching out to Yuuri. He tries to summon one of his smiles, the ones that sit on his face like oil on water. The kind of smiles Yuuri knows himself too well, worn for others, pain relievers to the broken hurts inside. Temporary fixtures.

“Sorry, I’m an ugly crier,” Yuuri rasps, throat tacky. He tugs the sleeves of his cardigans over his hands and clenches the soft fabric. “Uhm. Sorry. Can you…can you hug me?”

He knows that Victor will say yes even though his body floods with the terror that he’ll be shamed and denied. It barely has time to manifest in his blood before the warmth of Victor’s arms comes around him, familiar hands winding into his hair and cupping the back of his skull. He smells good, his hair sticking to Yuuri’s mouth and nose and the dampness of his face. He’s surrounded by Victor, held.

Yuuri knows Victor would never do anything on purpose to hurt him. He’s not that kind of man. He’s far from perfect, careless and carrying his own troubles, a bit too quick-mouthed, but he’s here, so tight, so completely Yuuri’s that the rest of the world can only knock on the walls of what they’ve built. It’s not a home but a shelter from the storm.

Yuuko and Takeshi know not to ask about it. Yuuri will never give an honest answer and only clam up more in response. The triplets…not so much.

“Uncle Yuuri, were you crying?” Loop asks loudly when Victor and Yuuri come back to the sitting room. The foods covered, warm and waiting.

“Loop,” Yuuko scolds. “Don’t ask people that.”

“It’s okay,” Yuuri demurs. “I feel better after a cry. Sometimes…things just catch up to me.”

He doesn’t miss Victor’s worried look and offers half a smile, accepting Victor’s tentative handhold under the table and giving it a squeeze.

“Thank you for cooking, Yuuko,” Yuuri says, clearly putting the topic aside. “Did Takeshi tell you that I have a trip to Hasetsu coming up?”

Victor’s quiet, listening to the exchange over their hometown. He eats slowly, holding Yuuri’s hand without so much as a twitch of discontent in his fingers. The timetable for this trip eludes him until Yuuri says, “We’ll be there for a full week, come Sunday.”

“We will?” he interrupts, slurping down a noodle. Yuuri’s tongue pokes out of his mouth to prod the corner of his lips and Victor mirrors the action, licking away a bit of sauce. He dabs his mouth with a napkin self consciously, Yuuri’s smile teasing. “I get to go too?”

“Yes, I meant to tell you. I only found out today. We’ll go the day after you’re, uhm, appointment. If that’s okay,” Yuuri hedges softly.

“Hasetsu has an ice rink,” Yuuko volunteers. “You haven’t been able to practice in so long.”

Victor’s face blanks for one terrible second that no one but Yuuri can read for why, before Victor beams unflinchingly at the expectant faces around the table. His palm sweats in Yuuri’s.

 

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v-nikiforov Thank you to all the #love in #japan. My not so mysterious #mysteryman and his best friends (they’re fans!!!) are making this visit everything I need!

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m.pire Ill carry your babies!!!!!!

phichit+chu I cannot believe u guys matched ur outfits #grossestcouple #icalledit

christophe-ge @phichit+chu I don’t know you but #icalledit first

phichit+chu @christophe-ge SEE U IN MY DMS

 

Chapter Text


 

Despite the initial hiccups, dinner with the Nishigoris was fun. Yuuri’s quiet on the way home, distracted, but this time it’s by Victor. Victor catches him looking on multiple occasions, and Yuuri doesn’t look away immediately. The bus slumbers through the night, the late evening passengers looking forward to bed; it’s the hours before the weekend rabbles will take to the city. Warm with good food and good company, Victor rests his head on Yuuri’s, tangling their fingers together, their bodies rocked side-to-side in a serpentine jostle. He’s drowsy, lax as Yuuri turns Victor’s hand over and traces patterns on his palm, maps the pink wrinkles of his skin. He says nothing when Yuuri pushes his sleeve up to stroke the blue veins shadowed under his skin, grays and fogs in the mild darkness, yellow and pink patches of lamps and store lights rolling over them.

If before on the street Yuuri had felt far away, now he’s under Victor’s skin. Victor can’t see his face, but Yuuri’s hands are soft and tethered to his; his fingertips slip secrets in the whorls of Victor’s. Yuuri draws Victor’s hand over into his lap and rests it palm up on his thigh, kissing their palms together, and not subtly puts his other hand on Victor’s thigh, squeezing the muscle, fingers curved down over the inner seam of his pants.

Vic-chan,” Yuuri puffs, drawing out the syllables, voice low and directed down at their hands but still audible, private, just for Victor. “I can’t wait to kiss you.”

Victor’s suddenly very awake.

Yuuri rubs Victor’s thigh and snuggles closer, giving Victor another squeeze, tighter this time. It’s so simple, such basic contact, but Victor’s mouth is dry and Yuuri’s hand needs to be higher on his leg.

“You can kiss me now,” he goads in as civil a tone as possible, fingers twitching under Yuuri’s continuous exploratory touch.

“No,” Yuuri declines without pause. He doesn’t shift at all, Victor’s cheek still pillowed on his head. “I can’t kiss you how I want to in public. I’m not a school boy.”

“Oh my god,” Victor shakes out. The image is enough to hurt his mind’s eye. He hopes Yuuri’s uniform had a tie.

Yuuri hums and pats Victor’s thigh, not removing his hand. They ride home like that; Victor practically runs back to the apartment and Yuuri takes his sweet old time, laughing at Victor’s hand-pulling.

“You’re killing me,” Victor complains when Yuuri stands in front of his apartment door, selecting his key at a snail’s pace from the ring. “It’s the pink one. The pink one, Yuuri!”

“Patience,” Yuuri snickers, sliding the key into the lock. Then out. Then back in. Victor grabs him around the middle and fake-cries into his shoulder. The lock clicks open and Victor hurries them inside, pressing Yuuri to the wall in a fervent kiss. Yuuri’s mouth tastes like peppers and sugar, matching the tingle of Victor’s lips. Yuuri wraps an arm around his neck and kisses back in equal measure, opening up to Victor’s eager tongue only to catch it and suck. Victor moans into the kiss, shook, and he barely recovers before Yuuri pushes him away with a firm hand and moves into the apartment, kicking his shoes off.

“I’m going to make almond tea. Would you like some?”

“Tea?” Victor gasps, disbelieving. “You’re making tea?”

Yuuri flicks on the kitchen light and turns, backlit, his silhouette a dark curl of temptation. “Would you like some, Vicchan?”

“Yes,” Victor sighs, defeated. He takes off his shoes and his vest, and after a pause, everything. He’s tempted to come out naked. Very tempted. What would Yuuri say? Do? He’s clearly in a mood, a tormenting monstrous mood. Katsuki Yuuri is a monster. Put it on Victor’s gravestone. Basic sense reunites with Victor’s limited impulse control and he puts on a thin undershirt and a pair of cutoff sweat shorts before padding out to the kitchen. Yuuri’s had enough surprises for today. Victo never wants to see him so shaken up again; it’d been awful, hearing Yuuri’s stifled crying in the bathroom. Yuuko had kept him away for the most part, saying that this happens from time to time and that Yuuri comes out of it.

“It’s not like when he was younger. He’s doesn’t spiral like he used to without medication. Do you know what happened to work him up?”

And Victor, struck by helplessness in his proximity to Yuuri and uselessness to aid him, had mumbled about Ryota. Takeshi harrumphed loudly and said very unkind things about the man to Victor, just low enough that his nosy children hadn’t heard. Victor couldn’t agree more with the assessments. Dinner had gone fine, so he guesses Yuuri’s all better? He’s not very familiar with anxiety that goes beyond pre-performance jitters and the stress of competing. He has his own fears, and well, Yuuri’s seen his outbursts. It can’t be too dissimilar. The doctor’s appointment looms, a snapping beast that he shoves down under the bed.

Victor loiters in the bedroom, thinking this through. Yuuri’s in a playful mood. He’s a grown man. He knows himself. This sort of playful behavior isn’t out of bounds, even if normally Victor initiates it. It’s a good sign…maybe it’s because Victor called them boyfriends. Shit, the word’s juvenile but it makes Victor’s heart bump up his throat in a flutter. Yuuri hadn’t said no either, and Takeshi had very pointedly mentioned how happy Yuuri seems since “adopting a Russian puppy.” If Victor had a tail, it would have been thumping on the floor in delight. He makes Yuuri so happy that his friends notice.

Victor creeps out to the kitchen, tiptoeing with the intent to pounce on Yuuri. He can hear the murmur of water as Yuuri pours over the kettle into the pot, water sloshing through the mesh of the steeper. The ceramic lid slots into place as Victor peeps his head around the wall. Yuuri’s shed his cardigan and untucked his button down, the sleeves rolled up his impressively thick forearms. His hands are both big and gentle on the small cups that he places on the serving board. Tea will be had on the couch; the sureness of the knowledge warms Victor. They have a rhythm here. He wants to take the pattern with him everywhere, wear Yuuri around him like a home, all the way to Russia.

Yuuri turns before Victor can make a move into the kitchen, too caught up daydreaming at the sight of Yuuri. Yuuri jumps a little at the sight but then he’s smiling. “Why are you lurking? Come here, Vicchan.”

He obeys eagerly, practically skipping to stand in front of Yuuri, vibrating under the cool, half-lidded gaze of assessment Yuuri fixes on him. Yuuri glances at the clock on the microwave and back at Victor before he plants his hands on the counter and hefts himself up, spreading his legs, the denim going taught across his thighs. He takes his glasses off pointedly and sets them out of harm’s way.

Victor blows a breath out of his mouth, whistling. Yuuri laughs and curls his finger, come hither. Victor steps between Yuuri’s legs and gets an ankle hooked around the back of his thighs immediately, keeping him close – as if he’d ever leave when Yuuri kisses him, slow like honey. Hands run through his hair, stroking it behind his ears and scratching down his neck to make him shiver. They’ve spent so much time kissing, touching over clothes, Yuuri could probably undo him without anything else.

Actually, it’s a very real danger.

He squeezes Yuuri’s thighs and hips and sides, feeling the flesh that presses over the hem of his jeans, the muscle that stands out thick on his back, padded in a layer of fat that dimples under his fingers, makes his hands flex and knead with an urgent desire. His mouth, god Yuuri’s mouth, slipping his tongue inside is like licking fire. Hot and cool and peppery. Zinging.

Victor smacks his lips thoughtfully when they part for breath. “You taste different than before,” he muses.

Yuuri wraps a second leg around Victor’s hips. “I ate candied ginger. Do you want some?” He points to the little dish Victor hadn’t noticed, the pale yellow and sugar-crystal coated candies piled up.

“Yes!” Victor pops one into his mouth immediately.

It’s a trap. With his head turned, Yuuri has full access to his ears and he holds Victor with a firm hand on the back of his neck and latches his mouth onto Victor’s ear, the tip of his tongue curling around the inner fold. Victor chokes on his candy, hand spasming on Yuuri’s thigh.

“Now we’ll taste the same,” Yuuri whispers, breath hot and rushing in Victor’s ear. The hand on his neck tightens fractionally, thumb under his jaw tilting his head back for Yuuri to kiss his pulse then roam his hungry mouth over Victor’s bobbing adam’s apple and lick and suck hard, pleasure gagging Victor. His hips jerk forward in hot seeking need, his growing erection rubbing plaintively into the apex of Yuuri’s thighs, sweat shorts thin and revealing, transparent in protection against the rigid seam of denim and zipper that hurts in the best way possible.

“Yuuri,” he gasps, squeezing his eyes shut. “Yuuri, please, you’re killing me. I mean it.”

“Shh, shh,” Yuuri soothes, control slipping, given away by the quake of his hand. He locks Victor tight between his legs, rutting back into Victor’ hips, everything about him hard and punishing in its barriers. “You won’t die. You’re too good, do you know that?”

Yuuri pulls back to kiss his mouth, his cheek, nose, his forehead, hand smoothing down his hair, grabbing locks and tugging and smoothing, like he can’t make up his mind if he wants to hurt Victor a little or comfort him. “You’re so good, Vicchan. So pretty too. You’re so pretty. You made yourself so pretty tonight to meet my friends and you were perfect,” Yuuri praises, the words fast and flushed with emotion pouring over Victor. “You wanted to be good for me, didn’t you?”

“Y-yes,” Victor cracks, tugging Yuuri closer, the candy long swallowed from his mouth. He’s been called pretty a thousand times before but this time he did it just for Yuuri. He wanted Yuuri to notice, to think this of him. He wanted to be pretty just for Yuuri, to show everyone that Yuuri had him and wasn’t Vicchan so pretty?

“You made us match,” Yuuri laughs, drawing Victor into a kiss that tastes like fresh spice, ginger hot and caramelized by sweetness.

“I wanted to show everyone,” Victor admits, voice catching shyly, whining for more. His hands have long since found permanent residence on Yuuri’s ass and hips, dragging him into a rolling grind.

It’s not perfect but it’s fucking good. He can feel where Yuuri’s hard, dick big and risen in the line of his jeans, and Victor’s is practically free, jutting in his thin pants and sliding against Yuuri, bumping into his stomach. The counter’s a hair too tall for it to be totally on point, but who’s really keep track anyway? Victor’s toes are curling on the laminate floor and he’s faced with the very real possibility that Yuuri is going to drive him to come in his clothes. The heel of Yuuri’s foot has expertly lodged at the base of his ass, pressing behind his balls, a pressure on his hole and the sporadic urging given there is a pulse that runs deep into Victor’s gut.

“Hmm?” Yuuri sounds a little confused and he slows down, panting, holding Victor’s face. “Show everyone what?” His eyes are dark, gone, a midnight trench of desire ready to bury Victor alive.

“That--,” Victor can barely think. He licks his lips, feeling them puffed and smoothed from kissing. Yuuri’s eyes flicker down and he leans in to lick the fresh wetness Victor’s made, suck Victor’s bottom lip into his mouth in patient devour. Victor groans and surges up, knocking their teeth and noses together but both men grunt and ignore the clumsiness, falling back into a kiss that Victor breaks with a loud smack to bully on, “that we’re together.”

Yuuri exhales harshly, hands coming to frame Victor’s face but it’s tentative, and Yuuri’s not moving to kiss him. He ducks his head, chin to chest, giving Victor only the sight of his furrowed brows. He kisses Yuuri’s forehead and forces himself to stop grinding his dick into Yuuri’s, although it makes his hips ache in protest, spine shivering at the stop-motion. The too-big-for-his-own-face smile he’d been expecting in response to his declaration doesn’t come.

“Master and pet,” Victor blurts in a desperate save. Yuuri whips his head up, almost bashing into Victor’s nose. Victor kisses his chin in a flurry of pecks. "Master and pet, like you said. We’re together. Right, мой Солнышко? Everyone can see that you’re my nice master who takes care of me.” He makes himself laugh.

Yuuri sighs out again, squinting at something over Victor’s shoulder before shaking his head with a rueful smile. “I know, Vicchan. I know.”

Yuuri’s legs loosen around him and he disengages, leaning over the counter to take the mesh steeper out of the teapot and replace the lid. He clicks his tongue and nudges Victor out from between his legs; Victor complies, nervous, trying to hide his erection but Yuuri’s still got that dark look in his eyes. He stands back, admiring Victor shamelessly, enough to make a blush chase down in a prickling ripple from Victor’s face to his nipples. He can feel them peak, and Yuuri glances at his chest with a raised eyebrow.

“Don’t stare at my nipples,” Victor shames, abandoning his attempts to hide the wet spot in his shorts to delicately cover his nipples. “They’re shy.”

“Nothing about you is shy,” Yuuri counters. Victor doesn’t try to argue with how true that it. Yuuri’s tongue comes out over his bottom lip and he visibly hesitates, before coming to place his hands on Victor’s hips, thumbs dipping under the loose elastic of his shorts.

“My pretty puppy,” Yuuri mumbles under his breath, looking down at Victor’s straining cock. Whatever blood might have been trying to find Victor’s poor brain quickly diverts and his cock jumps at the words. Then he’s in the air, lifted up like a ballerina in Yuuri’s sure hands, his whole body following the motion so that Victor ends up on the counter effortlessly.

“Wow!” Victor delights. Yuuri snorts, an embarrassed blush finding room in his cheeks. “My master is so strong,” he cheers.

Yuuri looks up at him, hands still on Victor’s hips. “You really like that, huh?” It’s not rhetorical.

Heat flares across Victor’s body, but he nods, wrapping his legs around Yuuri for good measure. Yuuri’s shorter, so his heels lock at the base of his back.

“I knew you had a peculiar fantasy,” Yuuri huffs, looking away with a suck to his teeth. “Such a shameless boy. It’s good I kept you.”

“You’re teasing me,” Victor grumbles, trying to cover how much the words make him sweat and wriggle. But he loves the possessiveness of the words and the touch of humiliation. Yes, yes, he’s shameless.

“Ha, me?” Yuuri dismisses with a comical lift of his nose. He scrunches his face when Victor kisses his cheek and bats him away.

“I’m being serious.” His playful tone drops to a smoke-crawl, voice whiskey rough like magic. “I can’t imagine you with anyone else,” he goes on to say, hands falling to Victor’s thighs and sliding up and in, framing Victor’s erection. Victor’s jaw goes slack, his face dumb with want, and Yuuri smirks. “No one can take care of you as well, can handle how needy you are.”

Underneath the confidence, Victor can see clues: Yuuri’s face is beet red, his eyes locked on Victor’s, a hint of nerves revealed in the desperate looking. He’s saying words that make both of them shiver, but his hands are frozen, not yet touching Victor where he wants it, where he – he hasn’t given permission no matter how often he begs for Yuuri’s touch.

“Yuuri,” Victor has to swallow after, the name too much for one mouthful. He wants his mouth stuffed with Yuuri. If he’s lucky… “Please. Take care of me.” He rolls his hips forward pointedly, Yuuri’s hands moving with the motion.

Yuuri whines. It’s totally unexpected and Victor’s breath catches, ears straining for more. Yuuri’s eyes are huge and riveted on where his hands frame Victor’s erection. Ah – oh. Oh. The head has slipped out over the elastic, just a bit, the fabric pulled down by Yuuri’s hands and now Victor’s shiny and red, dribbling visibly and Yuuri’s fucking gone.

“I – uh. Yes. Yeah. Let me, uh—I need to go get—the stuff. Stuff,” Yuuri stutters, but he hasn’t moved. Victor rolls his hips again, biting down on his lip so hard it’s going to burst. His dick bobs forward, up a little more, and Yuuri’s hips push into the counter, his shoulders shaking. Then he’s reaching forward, and Victor strains to hold still because then Yuuri’s touching his dick, full skin contact, and the wait has been so long and fuck, Yuuri delicately slides his index finger across the head, gathering the slick and then he – he pushes it back under Victor’s shorts and backs away.

Yuuri,” Victor curses, “what—why?”

Yuuri’s rolling his finger and thumb together, way too focused on Victor’s pre-cum. In a fit, Victor grabs his wrist and pulls Yuuri’s fingers into his mouth. He will not be one-upped by his own bodily fluids. He sucks them clean, laving Yuuri’s thumb and forefinger with his tongue. Yuuri swears harshly in Japanese and rips his hand from Victor’s.

“Stay right there,” he orders.

Victor grabs him by the shirt collar. “I swear, Yuuri, if you leave—!”

Yuuri pries Victor’s hands off his shirt with a firm look. “I told you, Vicchan. I’m the tortoise, you’re the hare. Have patience, you’ll appreciate it.” Then he pointedly resettled Victor’s hands on Victor’s dick, curling Victor’s fingers around his shaft. “Don’t stop touching yourself while I’m gone. But don’t take yourself out. I want to do that.”

What kind of evil genius—

Victor does exactly as he’s told, palming himself and thrusting against his hand, wound so tight he could cry. He can’t think about anything else, whole world narrowed to the expectation of Yuuri’s return which takes eons.

Yuuri’s back within a minute, button down discarded, leaving himself in a white undershirt; in his hands is a bottle of lube.

“You’re a genius,” Victor gushes, still rocking into his hands. “Yuuri. Touch me. I really need you to touch me.”

“You beg so easily,” Yuuri notes, coming to him quickly. He yanks Victor down for a messy kiss, fucking his mouth with his tongue, kissing Victor’s tonsils. It’s everything Victor needs right now and he moans loudly, sucking on Yuuri’s tongue, whole body singing with sensitivity. He’s never wanted someone’s hands so much. He’s never been teased so madly for a handjob.

Yuuri breaks away, lips shining. He takes a steadying breath; how is he not dead? He’s so in control, comparatively speaking and he’s, he’s—pouring tea. Yuuri pours two cups of tea and hands one to Victor.

“It’s the perfect temperature,” Yuuri says idly, inhaling the steam and taking a long drink. Victor holds his cup, dumbfounded, before he throws his head back to laugh.

“You’re the worst, Yuuri.”

“Ah, not what your body is telling me.” Yuuri puts down his cup and runs a hand from Victor’s knee under his shorts to scratch at his thigh. It makes his leg kick out. “You’re going to burst, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Victor admits. He shakily sips his tea. It’s naturally sweet and smooth, wetting his dry mouth. Oh, it’s perfect. Yuuri’s smiling at him, and Victor finds himself draining the cup. Yuuri refills it almost immediately, and picks up his own, his other hand sliding now over Victor’s shorts to cup his erection. Victor almost drops his cup but he hangs on, trembling as Yuuri feels the shape of him, squeezing the head gingerly, running down the shaft and under to rub the weight of his balls where Victor’s already tight.

Yuuri sets aside the tea when Victor’s finished a second cup and then he helps Victor out of his shorts, kissing him carefully before and after. They both strip out of their shirts. They’ve seen each other topless many times, but never with so much charge between them. It’s taking so long. Victor droops around Yuuri to kiss his warm, sundark shoulders, smelling his skin, relishing the bulk and warmth of him. And Yuuri kisses Victor’s chest, his nipples, his collarbone.

“I should take you to bed.”

“The kitchen has nice lighting,” Victor says. “And the lube’s already here.”

“You’re right,” Yuuri sighs, sliding his hand down around Victor’s cock and squeezing experimentally. Victor’s already feverishly hot, sticky with the mess of himself and throbbing in Yuuri’s palm. “If I take you to bed, I won’t be able to stop. Just this, for tonight.” He strokes experimentally, the slide a little rough but Victor keens. Yuuri’s cheek rests on his chest, hearing the hammer of his heart, the way it kicks in time with the pulse in his dick.

“Vicchan, shit,” Yuuri curses again, Victor’s name strung out in his lips. He dumps lube into his hands, oil-slick, and returns to touching Victor with slow, gentle strokes, fingers exploring the darkened head. Victor holds on, hands savage on Yuuri’s shoulders, head bowed so he can memorize the sight of Yuuri’s hands on him, Yuuri’s pink cheeks and dark lashes, the way he’s breathing harshly from his nose and grinding into the counters for his own pleasure.

Victor’s gone. He’s so fucking gone. There’s a moment, when they’re kissing and Yuuri’s picking up his pace, keying his movements to wring moans and hitched breaths out of Victor, learning him – slowly, of course it’s slow. Yuuri’s going to figure out every weak spot in Victor’s body, come tearing him apart-- that he realizes that when Yuuri wants to destroy him, Victor won’t have a single defense left. He’s adrift in the vulnerability, the surrender—Yuuri calls him pet names in Japanese, in English, urging him on until neither can speak, Yuuri absolutely focused on bringing Victor off spectacularly.

“Look at me,” Yuuri commands, fist a wet squelching blur over Victor’s cock. “Look at me, Vicchan. Keep your eyes on me.”

And Victor wants to cry because it’s hard, he wants to curl over Yuuri’s shoulder and bite and smother himself in him. His spine’s bowing, hips coming off the counter. He can’t even hold onto Yuuri, too busy keeping balancing, fucking into Yuuri’s fist. His head flies back and knocks into the cabinet and Yuuri curses against, hand leaving Victor’s balls to cradle the back of his skull safely, twisting the angle of his grip on Victor’s cock that much more.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri grits in a harsh tone. Victor’s eyes snap open and he gasps, tasting sweat on his lips and his eyes find Yuuri’s and the burning in them, obsidian and tiger’s eye, glossed with lust, has his gut twisting and balls drawing up until he cries out, eyes damp with pleasure-wrung tears. He comes into Yuuri’s hand, spattering onto his shirt, over his thighs. Yuuri gasps after him, marveling, jerking him viciously to the end before slowing his motions until he’s cradling Victor’s spent cock and murmuring softly in Japanese, the words not needing a translation for Victor to know that they’re awed praise.

“Fuck,” Victor whimpers, hand coming up to scrub across his burning eyes. “Yuuri.”

“You’re beautiful,” Yuuri awes. He wipes his hand on his own shirt, and wraps both arms around Victor, hugging him. “You’re so good. So good, Vicchan. Was that good?”

“Was it – god,” Victor sniffles, burying his face into Yuuri’s hair. “You made me cry. From a handjob.”

His outraged tone makes Yuuri laugh wildly. He rubs Victor’s back, the smell of sex and sweat surrounding them. Victor’s muscles slowly unclench, loosening in the drifting bliss that follows orgasm. He slumps into Yuuri, who without hesitation, slides Victor off the counter and into his arms. Victor has enough strength to wrap his legs around Yuuri, but Yuuri holds his weight easily and takes them to the bedroom, dropping Victor with a bounce on the mattress.

“I have wipes,” Yuuri says, trying to pull away, but Victor yanks him into bed on top of Victor. It isn’t the best move, Yuuri’s weight on his genitals making him grunt in pain and he has to look at Yuuri’s big stupid guilty face. “I’m s-sorry. Are you okay?”

God. Who is this guy?

“No,” Victor snips, holding on tight to Yuuri’s soiled shirt. “I haven’t seen your dick yet.”

“Vi-vicchan, really,” Yuuri huffs. “It’s okay. I didn’t do that so you’d—”

“Yuuri,” Victor whines, writhing beneath him, pulling his best puppy-dog eyes out, pout included. “I want to touch you. I want to see you. Take it out. We can just – you can – jack off. Come on me. I want you to come on me.”

Yuuri whispers a prayer in Japanese, looking up to the heavens. Victor carefully hides his smirk. He needs Yuuri’s cock like burning. Even though he just came, spectacularly at that, he thinks if it was possible to slip Yuuri inside his body without trouble, that he’d ride him. He feels loose all over, easy, like his body is silk through every stitch of skin and nerve.

“Come on me, Yuuri. Please,” he begs, sitting up to kiss Yuuri before dropping back down onto the bed and spreading out. There’s a mess on his stomach, his dark silver pubic hair matted down, his thighs shining with sweat. He runs his fingers over his now tender cock, shivering and whimpering at the sensitivity, biting his lip and tossing his head back. “Yuuri~”

The sound of a button clasp and a zipper. He opens his eyes, the sight of Yuuri’s thick cock jutting out of his pants like a punch to the gut, making Victor’s mouth run over with spit. He swallows and reaches out a hand to finger it, sighing hungrily. There’s nothing like having a cock in his hand. It makes his ears ring and now he’s definitely filling in the visual blanks of all his fantasies of Yuuri plowing his ass.

“The lube?” Victor asks, wrapping his hand around Yuuri. Yuuri shakes his head, breathing roughly.

“I’m not going to last even a minute. You were – watching you. Touching you. I thought I was going to come.”

“Who’s the easy one now?” Victor leers, triumphant, pulling on Yuuri’s cock.

“Me, I think,” Yuuri argues breathlessly. Leave it to Yuuri to have attitude even now. He pushes Victor’s hand back and puts it back on Victor’s flaccid penis. “Can you touch yourself, just a little?”

His sweet Yuuri, all hesitation when it comes to his own wants. Victor complies easily, stroking the back of his knuckles over himself, teasing the head; it makes him flinch and wince, hips jumping, oversensitive and shocky. It doesn’t feel good necessarily but isn’t pain. It’s a static-shock feeling that runs away with him. But with Yuuri jerking himself off, eyes roaming over him, trying to look at Victor all at once, it starts to feel like a new kind of pleasure. There’s no doubt in his mind now that Yuuriu will fuck him into new limits, will take Victor with dedicated cause to ruin him.

 

He spreads his legs and eases his knees up, breath coming hard, aroused deep in his balls even though there’s no way he’s getting hard again that fast. He cups his balls and Yuuri groans, jacking off, the sound becoming wetter with each passing second. When Victor parts his cheeks and runs two fingers down beneath, into the dark seam of his body, Yuuri fucking growls and grabs him by the hip, pulling him down the bed and beneath him, the air sweltering; he drops down to kiss Victor deeply, shuddering into his mouth with a moan as hot splashes of come hit his chest and stomach, running over his skin.

Yuuri collapses beside him, shimmying out of his pants and underwear with a few grumpy huffs as Victor laughs at him. They cuddle in a sticky mess, neither talking, until Yuuri mumbles about “drying stuck together” and he gets out some kind of packaged moist towelette thing to clean them up with.

“That’s cold,” Victor bites, trying to get away. Yuuri swipes it over his balls just to be a jerk. Victor tries to whip him in the butt with it; it fwaps weakly. They get themselves together enough to clean up for the night and collapse gratefully into the bed, uncaring of the soiled top sheet. Victor definitely doesn’t care and Yuuri says he can’t be fucked. He spoons Victor like his life depends on it.

They pass into silence that feels comfortable. Victor’s never been so comfortable in silence. He’s used to filling it up with jokes and chatter, with observations and speculations just to keep the noise constant, the silence away. But Yuuri makes quietness a place to rest.

That’s why it surprises him when Yuuri breaks it, maybe an hour into them not-quite sleeping.

“Victor?”

His name makes his heart spike. “Yes, Yuuri?”

Yuuri tightens his hold around him. “I liked it when you said we were together.”

Victor stares into the dark. Yuuri’s lips smooth across his back, over his spine. “Good.”

“Good,” Yuuri echoes.

“Good,” Victor says again, grinning. He finds Yuuri’s hand and kisses it. Yuuri’s hand. God, what a hand.

Chapter Text


 

“Sir, are you well? Would you like a cup of water or tea?” The front desk clerk asks, standing a polite distance away from the two waiting men. She heard them speaking English, and so she does now, slow and articulate. The white one, the actual patient in her book today, answers in a heavy accent. Victor Nikiforov. The Russian skater. She knows who he is the way she knows all the most-spoken of athletes that pass through Dr. Fujika’s clinic.

“Water, please.” He lays his hand on his companion’s jittery, bouncing knee. It doesn’t so much as stutter in its motion; he’s added no force, no attempt to stay the outlet.

“Sorry,” Yuuri mumbles, shifting in his seat. “I shouldn’t be nervous.”

“It’s okay!” Victor comforts, bright and unfaltering. “You’re so nervous, I’m not nervous.”

“Glad I can help,” Yuuri huffs. Clinics stress him out. Victor will go in any minute for his exam, which will be a long one. Victor is nervous Yuuri knows. He’d still been awake on his phone when Yuuri had fallen asleep and he’d been awake before Yuuri too. It made Yuuri wonder if he’d slept at all. He looks rough, dark circles a shadowy reflection under his blue eyes.

The desk clerk who’d signed them in returns with two bottles of water and a passing remark about how Dr. Fujika will take good care of Victor.

“You said you’d work remotely today. Maybe prepping for your Hasetsu piece will calm you down?” Victor suggests. Normally, he’s alone when he goes to the clinic. Yakov usually schedules his appointments because Victor forgets, but Victor never has anyone take him anymore.

“No. I’ll do that after you go into your exam…unless you want me to come with you? Do you? I can.”

“It’s boring. Unless you want to see me in a paper dress. Do you want to play nurse?” Victor leans in close to whisper the last part. Yuuri kicks his legs out and slouches low into his seat with a growly noise in his throat. “Wow, I’ll take that as a no.”

“You’re going to be fine. I don’t need to worry. You’re fine,” Yuuri repeats to himself. His leg kicks up again, the only thing moving as he holds himself rigid and awkward. Victor sighs. Yuuri will worry, nothing to be done. Hell, Victor’s worried.

The door to the rest of the clinic opens. Dr. Fujika, older and bearded, vaguely familiar from the last time Victor skated in Japan, steps out and waves him in. Yuuri stands up, wringing his hands. Victor touches his elbow and smiles.

“It’ll be a long exam,” he warns mildly. “Don’t make yourself sick worrying.”

“Too late,” Yuuri says miserably, clasping his hand and squeezing.

 

Most of the exam is routine. It’s a basic physical, nothing extensive; that’s his regular doctor back in St. Petersburg, the one who he’s been with for years.

“You’ve gained three kilograms since your last exam in December,” the doctor tells him. “But your resting heart rate is the same. I can’t say taking a break from skating, especially in competition season, has been a bad thing for your body. But that’s not why you’re here. The MRI is being set up. I’m going to do an evaluation to determine if your need to see a neuropsychologist. I have a record of your exam followed the concussion you received when you were sixteen.  You lost consciousness with that injury, but not your most recent one, correct.”

“Yes,” Victor answers quietly. He wipes his sweaty palms on his examination gown, the paper crinkling under his hands. In his bare feet, he can’t help but look at how his baby toes curl in under the next, his long second toe folded over his big toe. His legs bow out, his patella strangely shocked and small amongst the muscle, like his bones are unguarded and burgeoning up against his pale flesh. His skeleton wants to escape.

The doctor asks him about his memory, about his personality. Has he found himself losing focus, losing patience and being quick to anger? Does he lose vision ever or experience headaches associated with movement? On and on. Victor recalls answering such questions before, yeas ago, but he has no idea how he answered.

The exam blurs ahead until Dr. Fujika asks him if he wants his friend to be in the viewing room for his MRI. Victor automatically says no. He never has anyone with him for exams. Why change that. But when he lays down before the ominous machine, he sits up to the annoyance of the technician.

“Yuuri. Can I have Yuuri? The Japanese man I came in with, can you ask him to come watch?”

He thinks he hears his voice radio-echo behind the glass. Dr. Fujika waves at him and opens the door to the other room, revealing Yuuri standing at the ready, confused but rushing into the room to the glass. Yuuri says something but it doesn’t come through, and then he’s gesturing for the button and the technician rolls his chair away and Yuuri presses on the comm.

“Hi. Hey. H-hi, Vicchan. Uh- D-davai? Right?”

Victor laughs, chest unclenching. He waves and lays back down. He slides in through the tube, breathing out slowly. It’s loud. It’s scary. He thinks about Yuuri looking at the projections of his brain. They won’t tell him much, not without Victor’s consent for Yuuri to be a part of his results. He’ll keep him with him, for the rest.

Yuuri stands beside the cushioned bench Victor’s sitting on. He’s got his arms crossed, figure stuck between imposing and defensive, slightly stepped in front of Victor and the door, where they wait for Dr. Fujika to appear, as if to take the blow that will come.

Neither men talk. Victor tried, but it’d all been so outlandish and juvenile that Yuuri could only look at him with confusion at the weak attempts at distraction. Still, it’s better to have a silent companion than no companion. Victor thinks again how uncanny Yuuri is, how capable he is of making silence not feel lonely.

The door opens, and whatever reverie both men are in vanishes with the sight of Dr. Fujika’s shiny, bald head; he comes in bald-head first, then beard, clipboard, and finally the rest of his body; the door closes heavily, weighted shut.

“Mr. Nikiforov, how are you feeling?” he preambles. His English has an overseas accent, something from the UK but Victor can’t place it beyond that. Dr. Fujika tends to a lot of competitive athletes; this facility is testament to that. An MRI machine and ImPACT testing are no small thing. Yakov found him through the circuits.

“Nervous,” Victor answers truthfully.

Yuuri says something in Japanese, a little urgent. Dr. Fujika waves a hand at it and rounds over a table to slide a paper from his clipboard into a folder – Victor’s folder.

“What did you say?” Victor whispers.

“I told him not to waste time,” Yuuri whispers back. He uncrosses and crosses his arms, and through the cozy knit of his sweater, the bulk of his body goes taut with intent.

“So protective,” Victor appraises, pinching Yuuri’s butt. Yuuri jumps, snatching too slowly at Victor’s menacing hand. He glares for only a moment before it turns buttery with a fond look. Levity resumed: mission accomplished.

“Mr. Nikiforov,” Dr. Fujika begins again, turning to them. “You’re quite well.”

“Oh?” Victor responds vaguely.

“There were no bright spots in your MRI or signs of tissue damage. Your question and answer evaluation to determine the need for a neuropsychologist passed too. Your answers don’t differ noticeably from those given when you were sixteen and suffered a more severe concussion. In fact, your relatively asymptomatic at this stage; it’s not uncommon, considering you skated two weeks after the trauma, that you maintained some latent confusion or dizziness that may have contributed to your sense of unease and exasperated your stoked fears; I’m recommending to Yakov that we set a neuro baseline for your behavior in case of future trauma—“

“Relatively asymptomatic,” Yuuri cuts in. “So he’s relatively well.”

“Mr. Katsuki, Mr. Nikiforov has nothing in the brain-area to fear. Two concussions is no joke, that’s true, but he had the fortune of experiencing the trauma on different parts of the skull and many years apart, so the injury doesn’t compound in a profound way, especially considering he didn’t lose consciousness in the second incident.”

“But I forget things all the time,” Victor adds. He’s back in his regular clothes, and he misses the easy crumble of the examination gown, the satisfying crunch in his hand. “On the ice, I spaced out.”

“Yes. Mr. Nikiforov, you were told by the medics after your most recent concussions the risks of brain injuries.”

“Yes.”

“You said it scared you. You’ve been unduly stressed by the possibility of your personhood being damaged in addition to the normal debilitating effects of skating. I believe that your incident on the ice was stress-related. You said you hadn’t been sleeping, had been trouble eating, and found yourself second-guessing your decisions leading up to that performance.”

Yuuri looks back at him; Victor can only roll his lips into his mouth.

“Mr. Nikiforov, your memory issues aren’t uncommon. They’re worth keeping an eye on; it’s more likely that you have a preexisting disorder or mental health issue that’s gone undiagnosed and the symptoms are being wrongly attributed to your concussions."

"Now,” Dr. Fujika wheels his stool closer, sitting across from Victor. “The most telling fact that your brain is undamaged, Mr. Nikiforov, is the absence of symptoms when you’re physically active. You said that you’ve been dancing for hours a day; your brain moves in your skull, protected by fluid. If you had any bruising or physical damage, your high activity would aggravate the problem. You’d have headaches or cloudy vision or disorientation during or after your activity. But you report none. Stress and anxiety are more insidious than one thinks. I’m recommending that you see a regular therapist. Your fears are warranted, and the human brain remains our greatest biological mystery. I encourage you to seek a second opinion on this matter, but in my opinion, you are well. Although, you should cut back on your drinking. Blacking out from alcohol twice in a month is excessive and dangerous.”

 

 

Yuuri had dutifully sent a picture and evidence to Yakov of Victor’s presence at his exam, so sometime in its duration, Victor had received an email and a voicemail from his bank letting him know that the temporary block on his primary checking account has been released. It’s funny. He set up his bank accounts when he was eleven with Yakov as his account holder because that was the only way. He’d never thought to change it, all these years. This has been a lesson in avoidance, certainly. For the first time, the precarious structure of his life is beginning to shake him.

Right now, Yuuri’s holding his hand and leading them through the crowded sidewalk while Victor listens to his phone ring in his ear.

“Vitya,” Yakov sighs, relief filled. “The fax came through. I was going to call you.”

“Aren’t you pleased? There’s been nothing wrong this whole time.”

“I told you,” Yakov grouses immediately. “You’re just a stupid boy. You don’t pay attention. You act like you forget what you’ve been told, but you never listen to anyone properly to begin to remember. I should thank this doctor for proving what I’ve been saying.”

“Ah, but it’s natural. You can’t fault me for that. You have to love me for my flaws."

“I’m finding you a therapist. I’m getting both you and Georgi a smart woman to beat some sense into both of you. His latest lady has broken up with him. Have you spoken to him? Don’t. Don’t try, he’ll talk your ear off. That’s my reward to you, warning you against calling him.”

“I thought my reward is my money back.”

“I’ll know if you spend it all. Vitya—“

“I’m taking Yuuri out. Expensive crab. Expensive champagne. Maybe a trip to a tropical island.”

“Victor, stop talking,” Yakov interrupts, voice snapping with seriousness. “Listen now, boy. You’re well. You can skate. You need to return.”

“I will, I will,” Victor answers airily. Yuuri looks over his shoulder, checking on him. When Victor smiles, he smiles, and keeps plowing ahead, phone held out to navigate them to the restaurant Victor chose for their early dinner. They were in the exam for hours. Yuuri said he'd gotten some research done on the businesses in Hasetsu, ones still existing and ones that have closed through the years. He's supposed to do interviews with lots of locals. Victor strongly suspects, given the sheepish avoidance of any specifics, that Yuuri hadn't done any work in the hour leading up to the MRI.

“Victor, it’s one thing if you’ve pulled out of the season for a medical reason. But you still qualified for World’s before you left. You need to return and compete. You haven’t lost the entire season. And now, you’ll be violating your sponsorship contracts if you refuse. You’re going to lose funding for the next season and lose your next paycheck.”

“What?!” Victor stops walking and Yuuri stumbles, both of them jerking, their handhold breaking apart. Victor runs his newly freed hand through his hair, wresting a hunk in his hand and pulling the skin of his scalp tight. Bad habit. He's going to go bald.

“This isn’t any different than a skater twisting an ankle and missing a few cups. You qualified, you must skate. Don’t be insane. Did you think you would be gone all season if you were fine? It’s already infuriating that all this while you’ve been able to skate – for god’s sakes, you’ve been prancing around Japan with a dancer. Your social media stint with Katsuki hasn’t been treated favorably by the peopling funding you.”

It’s not that Victor hadn’t known he qualified for Worlds. He won the Grand Prix, after all. His routines were more than enough to meet the technical competition requirements. He’d been anticipating giving up Worlds. He didn’t think he’d come back till the next season; he’d been choreographing his next season.

His silence speaks for itself. Yuuri’s hustling Victor out of the center of the walk and against a building, plastered to his side in the bustle and frowning at him. Victor meets and holds his eyes, unable to explain.

“Vitya,” Yakov continues, quieter, worried beneath the roughness, “you should be happy. You're healthy, you're capable. You can skate. Be happy.”

“I am.”

He is. He’s okay. He has nothing to fear. All his worries, his visions of a future losing himself, losing the world around him, are dispelled. He can go back to worrying about his ankles and his knees and his spine, the parts of him that can now return to their regularly scheduled torture. The parts of his body he knows he's sacrificing. Truth be told, he misses skating fiercely; he misses the ice; he misses the smell of the cold; the roar of the crowd; the muscle memory of his body taking him through his routine. He’s happy. He is. Who wouldn’t be? But this, now, Yuuri’s face, Japan, it’s a dreamland. He’s waking up, too suddenly, too coldly. He knows he’s been dreaming.

“I need a week,” he begs. “I’m meeting Yuuri’s parents.”

“You’re meeting his parents? What?”

They hadn't talked about what it meant that Victor was going to meet Yuuri's parents. Yuuri promised that he'd be adored, that his mother and father would try to fatten him up; and Victor can meet his ballet coach and that he's positive that Minako knows his coach's wife Lilia Baranovsky; Yuuri had gushed about Lilia. She always struck Victor as a phantom or a mirage, a figure in stories and on the peripheral of his time with Yakov despite the binding ring he sees everyday on his coach's finger. All this, Yuuri wanted to share with him. Everyday, Yuuri offered more and more of his life to Victor with no expectation.

“They have an ice rink, Yuuri’s hometown does. I’ll practice there. I have my skates. I need a week here.”

“World’s is in a month!” Yakov screeches. “And you want a week to keep playing house? There is something wrong with your head.”

“I’m not playing!” Victor shouts, eyes skating away from Yuuri, roaming the chrome faces of the buildings, the low winter sky, the black dart of birds.

“Vicchan, what’s wrong?”

He shakes his head at Yuuri and turns away, hand tight on his phone. He takes a deep breath. “I need a week. I can’t leave yet.”

“Because of him,” Yakov deduces. “Good God, Vitya. No. Enough. I’ve given you too many allowances.”

“You can’t get me on that plane. I’ll break my leg,” Victor threatens wildly. He wouldn’t. Worlds. He wouldn’t. Would he? He laughs; he doesn’t know. “I’ll fire you. I’ll break our contract.”

“You’re already breaking contracts. Do you think before you speak? The hair on my head is running to my ears to try to block out your voice.”

There have been many times Victor ignores Yakov and does what he likes, making the decision that Yakov doesn’t like, curses him for. When he and Georgi ran off to Sochi and got sunburned before a competition, both of them peeling under their costumes, their faces perma-flushed, Yakov chewed them both out for jeopardizing their performances. Yakov protests Victor wearing a cape, or a skirt, or frills in his costumes; he protests flagrant gender nonconforming behavior and appearances. But he can’t deny that Victor sells himself well, that it’s best to let him be pretty, regardless of what Russia liked to say. He’s given up on stopping Victor from posing nude at every opportunity. Things of that nature.

But this is the first time that it matters so much that he get his way.

“I think I love him,” Victor chokes, ducking his head, hair cascading around him. Yuuri doesn’t know enough Russia, nothing more than the barest of pronouns and skimpy vocabulary. Even with his straining ears, he won't  know those words. But they leave Victor’s mouth like the promise of a bounty on his head, something to be taken and run with. “Yakov, please. I’ll be ready. But I need a week. I need to convince him to come with me.”

Silence and Yakov do not comfort Victor. The other end of the phone call hangs empty for too long; Victor checks to see that Yakov hasn’t hung up on him. He presses his phone to his ear. “Yakov.”

There’s a long sigh, the breath crackling over the receiver. “Don’t try to do this, Vitya. You’re going to be hurt. It’s going to hurt more.”

It hurts already. Victor’s cheeks flame painfully, emotion throttling him.

“Is that why you plastered him on your social media? You hoped, what, that he’d take up an offer in Russia? Run away with you?”

“You know me,” Victor laughs, grinning through the doubt. “I always get my way.”

Yakov sounds pitying when he relents. “I want daily videos of you on the ice. No more drinking, no more stuffing your stomach. You’re not on vacation anymore.”

 

The call ends, always too abrupt, Yakov abrupt by nature, Victor always lingering too long with empty drone in his ear; he’s always hanging on or throwing away the phone. Has he ever said goodbye properly?

“Victor,” Yuuri says, the name a question and a demand. He’s strained; he’s already done so much, his Yuuri. For all his hesitations when Victor drunkenly stumbled into his life – ah but it was Yuuri first, Victor only answered his invitations – for all his hesitations, here he is. Unbelievable. This dream, it’s unbelievable.

“Sorry, Yuuri,” Victor says with a smile, pushing his hair off his face. He pockets his phone, smoothing his hands over his coat and straitening himself out. “He always has so much to say.” He takes Yuuri’s hand and pulls him in the direction they’d been going.

“You were yelling,” Yuuri says.

“Oh, I know. Russians are so much louder than you Japanese. Yakov is always yelling, I can’t help but yell back,” Victor says over his shoulder. “He’s worried I’m going to spend all my money.”

Even when Victor’s telling the truth, Yuuri looks at him like he knows it’s a lie.

Chapter Text


 

Her friends call her Wani. It started off as a mean nickname, her poke-out teeth of childhood the fastest way to not have friends. She lost the last of her baby teeth in the ocean, where they belong. She bled, thin and rushing in the salt water while her brother apologized for being too rough in play. She liked to dance in front of the mirrors, to see herself gasping in exertion, her teeth small and even. No more shark in her mouth. She tells people to call her Wani now, promising a bite with her name.

All of the walls in the studio are studded with mirrors. For over a month, she’s watched the reflection of those two men dancing with her. She knows their names because they say them constantly: Yuuri and Vic-chan. They’re gross and cute and good. If they weren’t cooing at each other and slapping each other’s butts, she’d still know their names because the white guy, Vic-chan, is Victor Nikiforov, a Russian skater, and videos of him and Yuuri trended on Instagram. Wani had been in the background. Her friends found it and tagged her.

Okay, plus, Yuuri bandaged her ankle once when she fell. He’s really cute and really nice, but he never talks and only smiles nervously when people look at him in the gym; she thought he was a complete shut-in before he started dating Victor. Oh, yeah, the whole gym gossips about it. Pretty much everyone knows who they are at this point but not enough people use the dance studio to create a climate around it, nor does anyone care particularly. They just gossip a disproportionate amount about both of their asses and who’s dick is going where; a few girls want to know what products Victor uses in his hair. Typical stuff.

She’s there when they show up to throw down. It’s distinctly a throw-down for them and clearly Victor’s idea because he’s dragging Yuuri into the studio with both hands.

“You look so good, Yuuri. They look good on you,” Victor compliments, bouncing around behind Yuuri to push on his back.

Yuuri’s ass is falling out of a pair of white booty shorts that say ICY Hot across the butt in black.

“They’re yours. I don’t know why I have to wear them,” Yuuri grouses. He’s also got on a black crop top; Victor’s clearly enjoying all the access to his boyfriend’s skin because he’s handsy as a teenager; hands on Yuuri’s hips, his waist, his arms. Wani’s pretty sure those shorts count at lingerie and she’s watching the intro to a porno; what kind of compression underwear does he have on underneath? It must be a thong. She barely dwells on the potential of a dick-slip because Yuuri’s thighs, normally sheathed in tights, are thick and tan and she’s suddenly very grateful to Victor.

Victor’s in black tights, his bubble-butt fit to burst, and a too-tight turtle-neck crop top with a black crown graphic. It’s awful and Wani needs it yesterday. Also, wow. First of all; Victor’s body is perfect. He’s totally cut. There’s a shiny trail of hair running down his polished, defined abs and into his tights.

“So we can match!” Victor points out, undeterred by Yuuri’s glare. He plucks the glasses from Yuuri’s face and stacks them safely with their towels and water bottles.

“There are a lot of other things we could have worn to match,” Yuuri points out, tapping his foot impatiently. Victor makes to kiss him and Yuuri ducks out of the way, shooting a pointed look at her and hissing something under his breath. Victor backs off, smile not slipping, and they settle into some stretching and warming up.

It’s twenty minutes later, her dancing and occasionally watching them rehearse a pair dance, that she breaks for water and they break too, conversing and Yuuri once more being poked ahead by Victor. Yuuri shuffles his way over, blush skyrocketing when Wani raises her eyebrows. She can’t pin an age on him; she knows he’s older but she can’t tell if he’s twenty or twenty-nine.

“Excuse me, Wani?” Yuuri practically whispers, standing a respectful distance away from her.

“What’s up?”

Yuuri thrusts out his palms, a phone there, and ducks his head. “Would you please record our routine?”

Oh my god.

They’re dancing to Hotto Dogu. It’s hilarious and perfect. Her laughter covers the beginning of the video. She doesn’t feel bad because when the voiceover screams “Hotto Dogu” both of them lose whatever facsimile of composure they managed to scrounge up before they began dancing and laugh too. Yuuri’s bursts into camera view with a short run to get the momentum to land a double forward handspring like holy shit. Ten seconds later, Victor volts over his crouched shoulders and falls back into Yuuri’s arms, only to be dipped and ducked in some harshly-converted swing-step. They pop and lock their bodies in staccato rhythm, shuffle-step and tut viciously in rhythm; they look so cool until they scream “HOTTO DOGU” slightly out of sync with the song. Yuuri makes gorgeous body rolls and Victor does these jumpy-spin things with crazy height. They only choreographed to the “thank you very much” and at that, Victor tackles Yuuri who catches and swings him around until they’re off balance and kissing. Wani records until they hit the matts because at that point, it’s way more than PG.

She gets them to record her for a little and Victor follows her on instagram, promising to give her lots of very public credit and to tag her.

“Katsuki,” she says, interrupting Yuuri trying to pick wedgie. He squirms uncomfortably and she pities him a great deal. “So what’s your deal? Do you teach?”

“Teach?” he asks dumbly.

“Yeah, dancing. You taught him all that stuff; can you teach me?”

They’re speaking in Japanese, and Wani doesn’t know that if it weren’t for that, Victor would be losing his shit.

 

 

 

 

The deal was that if Yuuri let Victor make him an Instagram, that Victor would tell him what was wrong.

“Something's wrong,” Yuuri had correctly deduced halfway through an expensive bottle of champagne at dinner. “You’re not happy.”

Victor played it off until they were home, at which point Yuuri changed his plan of attack and said that since Victor didn’t have any injuries, that they could celebrate and finally record the routine Yuuri had taught him. At that point, Victor let himself celebrate but only because he got to squeeze Yuuri into the booty shorts Chris had gotten him as a joke.

Then, obviously, they had that girl Wani record them. And then Yuuri saw on Victor’s camera roll a ton of videos of Victor zooming in and out on Yuuri’s ass bouncing juicily at the studio.

“When did you even take these?” Yuuri had screeched, deleting them. Victor thanked a god he didn’t believe in that he’d sent some to Chris as a fail-safe. Yuuri refused to surrender Victor’s phone at that point, claiming it was being used for evil; eventually, they settled on the IG-for-Truth deal.

 

 

Victor posts the end of the routine to his account, when he jumps into Yuuri’s arms, when they kiss. He watches it on loop over and over. To Yuuri’s brand new account y-katsuki he posts the bulk of the routine. He links to Yuuri’s account from his own, goes back and properly tags Yuuri in all the video’s he’s previously posted, and links in a new dance-related email for Yuuri.

Yuuri makes tea and doesn’t protest when Victor shoves both of their phones, on silent, under a pillow. Yuuri’s terrified, surprised that his nerves held out for so long because his hands are shaking bad enough that the tea set rattles on the wooden serving board. Victor leaps up to relieve him of it.

“Tomorrow we go to Hasetsu,” Victor begins, tucking his hair behind his ears. He does it three times and Yuuri’s heart twists. “For a week.”

“Is it that? You don’t have to come. You can stay here, you know, if you’re worried. My parents will love you b-but, I understand, if you don’t want to meet them. I mean, it’s, they’re, it’s a lot. I’m not expecting anything from you, it doesn’t mean, u-uhm—!”

Victor had mentioned Yakov’s huffing about him meeting Yuuri’s parents, and of course. It makes perfect sense. Yuuri’s dragging Victor into his backwater hometown, with its crumbled industry, to his parent’s home. He probably doesn’t want to go and doesn’t know how to say it. Yuuri should have asked, but it’d been so sudden, he’d scheduled the trains the same morning Mrs. Yakimura told him of his assignment.

Before his you’re a stupid idiot thought process can escalate, Victor puts an end to it.

“No! Yuuri, that’s not it at all.” Victor grabs his wringing hands, sharp brows drawn down, eyes so blue they’re alien in their intensity. “I want to meet them. I want it to mean everything it can mean, to meet your family. I want you to expect something from me, Yuuri. But I—”

It’s odd, watching Victor struggle right in front of him, looking at Yuuri like he’s trying to find an escape route in his eyes, a way out. They haven’t known each other long, but they’ve come to know each other deeply. Yuuri’s been diving into Victor’s eyes since that first blurry blink. Drowning; that’s what he’d thought; drowning in this storm of a man.

“I don’t have a medical excuse to be absent, anymore,” Victor explains stiffly. He leans back but his hands clasp painfully with Yuuri. “I’m competing at Worlds.”

“You’re competing at Worlds?” Yuuri echoes, stalling as his brain catches up. “The World Championships? That’s good, Vicchan. That’s great?” He can’t remember anything about the skating season in the moment. All he knows is that Chris got silver at Europeans.

Victor smiles, a devastated laugh crashing around his teeth. His eyes scrunch up, and he jiggles Yuuri’s hands. They’re both trembling. Yuuri had been exhausted by the doctor’s visit, and while the nerves of his body had calmed down after Victor got an expensive meal into him and they’d danced, a new panic rears up inside him, goaded by Victor’s terrible expression.

“It’s in a month. I have to leave in a week.”

A pre-syllabic noise of hurt punches out of Yuuri without his consent. A week. Yuuri tries to wrangle it back, language aborted in the thick swell of pain rising in his throat. He’s a crybaby, so it’s no surprise when his eyes well up with tears.

“I’m so sorry, Yuuri. Yakov told me – I didn’t think – but I can skate, and if I don’t at least go I’ll lose some of my biggest sponsors from contract violations. I’m sorry. I didn’t know how to tell you. I want to go to Hasetstu with you and meet your family and be with you.” Victor’s voice is ripe, spilling out words messily. “Yuuri –please don’t cry. I don’t know what to do when people cry.”

“S-sorry,” Yuuri blubbers as tears burn down his cheeks. “I’m okay. Sorry. It’s okay.” He whips his glasses off and throws them onto the coffee table to really pat his eyes, cursing himself. Why should he be caught off guard? This had to happen sometime. He’s been telling himself this whole time that it’d only hurt more the more he came to love Victor. He lived in Russia; he had to leave sometime. It’s a fling. It was always coming.

“It’s okay,” Yuuri repeats, scrubbing his eyes dry. He can cry later and remind himself that he’s an idiot. “I’m sorry. I understand. It’s a good thing.”

It is. Victor can close the season, he can be spectacular and healthy and--

“For Victor Nikiforov,” Victor agrees weakly, smile wobbling. “Not so much for Vicchan.”

“Oh, Vicchan,” Yuuri gasps, lunging and gathering Victor in his arms. Victor flails with a yelp, but ultimately smothers his face into Yuuri’s neck. “Don’t be silly.”

“I want to be silly,” Victor sniffs, wrapping his arms around Yuuri and grabbing handfuls of his shirt. “I don’t want leave you, Yuuri.”

It’s exactly what Yuuri wants to hear. It’s impracticable and romantic and Victor’s quivering with need for Yuuri. Yuuri doesn’t want to let him go. That’s all true. But—But that’s not how this is going to go.

“I don’t want you to go either, Vicchan,” Yuuri whispers into his hair. He wonders if he could say: stay. If he could promise Victor a home here always and keep him. Victor might even say yes. But not once has that thought taken root. That’s the ugly truth. Yuuri’s taken each day with Victor as a strange, undeserved gift, something whimsical that he needs to enjoy before it dissolves sugary on his tongue. He’s never tortured himself enough to think of Victor under the cherry blossoms, in full summer heat, standing beneath the first snow. He’s never placed Victor in context, given him temporality. “But you need to go.”

Victor tenses in his arms. Yuuri loosens his hold and Victor sits out of it, face tight.

“Don’t you care?” he snaps, cheeks red, eyes glistening.

“Of course I care,” Yuuri says quickly, drawing his knees to his chest, curling like a pillbug. “I want to keep you, but this was inevitable. Victor, try to tell me that you don’t want to skate at the World Championship.”

Victor opens and closes his mouth, cuts his eyes away. Yuuri sighs and reaches for his hand. Victor doesn’t jerk from his touch, but his hand lays limp in Yuuri’s.

“I want to see Victor Nikiforov skate for all the world. Now tell me you hate that, that you never want that again, and you can stay.”

The bolt of Victor’s jaw jumps as he grinds his teeth, a breath whistling sharply from his nose. He squeezes his eyes shut and squeezes Yuuri’s hand. “You won’t even ask me to stay?”

Yuuri can’t. He can’t. He can’t ask Victor make that sort of sacrifice; he hates that he gave up his own dreams so easily and Victor’s better than him. Victor’s at the top of the world in his career, young and rising and burning brightly. He has years yet to skate, all things willing, and he’ll be beautiful. He has all of Russia’s pride, his own pride and power, to share. Yuuri can’t have Victor tell him no either. It’s better not to fight a losing battle. There’s grace in surrendering, let the water come over head and swallow, choking beneath the depths instead of flailing, ugly and desperate.

Yuuri kisses Victor’s knuckles, tears dripping from his nose to the back of that pale hand. “It’s not fair to either of us,” he whispers. “So don’t make me ask.”

Victor swears up and down in Russian, storming to his feet and storming around the apartment. It’s a lot of Russian, and it’s loud, and Victor’s vibrant with emotion. Yuuri curls up tighter, holding his knees, watching Victor become far away and untouchable. Victor yells at him, something pleading and angry that he doesn’t want Yuuri to understand but wants to say anyway for his own self. Then he’s talking to himself, and tugging on his hair, and laughing a little and getting wet-eyed, putting a hand to his forehead and ostensibly monologueing.

He’ll be beautiful, on the ice. Yuuri wants to see him skate. No skate, no Victor, Yuuri thinks bitterly. Victor’s more than skating, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to let it go or be let go by it. Yuuri understands this even if all the time that he’s known Victor, skating has been a vague enemy, a past and future hungry mouth. Yuuri knew an art that’s pain; he has his own ugly feet, his own throbbing knees that catch up to him in stairwells; he mastered vomiting without disintegrating, icing his joints numb, the perfect character of his bow when the stage lights burned the sweat on the back of his neck; the endless race for better and again and the craving for a transcendental perfection growing adjacent to the bending horror of his own body.

He’s so young. Twenty-one. Yuuri remember being that young, his birthday in America full of neon colored drinks and a dirty bar and a sticky dance floor and people he doesn’t talk to anymore loving him. It’s fantastic and gone. Yuuri won’t say that he’s nothing to Victor, he’s not that self-effacing, but they’re comets passing in the firmament. Victor’s brighter, burning hotter. Yuuri feels lucky to have crossed paths with him.

“Yuuri.”

Victor’s done with his ranting dramatics and now intent on Yuuri. Yuuri wipes the cuff of his shirt across his cheeks and drops his legs down from his crunched position just in time for Victor to grab him by the front of his shirt and haul him onto his feet and into a searing kiss. Yuuri’s lips throb at the impact but he moans like he’s been given life. He clutches Victor for balance, still unsteady, only to be pushed away, held at the shoulders and faced with Victor’s begging eyes, the love-curve of his mouth so unsuited for sternness.

“I want to be Vicchan for one more week, Yuuri. Be my master for one more week. You said you’d take care of me.”

Does he have any idea what he sounds like?

Yuuri laughs, quiet and breathy. It hurts so fucking much to look at him, the space between them, and know it’s going to get bigger and bigger. His voice is wet, croaking, when he says: “I told you first thing, I have no use for troublesome men. You’ve never stopped being my pet, Vicchan.”

Victor smiles. How did they even get here, hurting and smiling through it? Victor kisses him again, so soft this time that Yuuri only knows because he keeps his eyes open. He can't stand to look away.

“Does being needy count as being troublesome?” Victor queries against Yuuri’s lips, still tender but quickly healing.

“You’re always needy,” Yuuri huffs, closing his eyes and kissing him, urging the healing along for both of them. “But lucky for you, I’m a very nice master. I’ll take care of you, Vicchan.” A dizzy, irrational part of him almost says forever.

“So nice,” Victor sighs in agreement. He presses their foreheads together, and this time both of them open their eyes, damp lashes clotting together like a stemmed wound they’ve shared.

They break each other’s hearts a little that night and break the internet a little too.

 

 

723,002 likes

v-nikiforov My #mysteryman let me make him his own account @y-katsuki where you can see the routine we did together and not just the big fat kiss we had after! He choreographed and taught me it! He taught me so much tbh....He’s given me life and <3 <3 <3 when I least expected it. As you know, I’ve been dealing with an injury that kept me from the ice , but I got a clean bill of health today. I’ll be at Worlds to skate my heart out! I can’t wait to see everyone

view 623 comments

first first.
christophe-ge WHY AM I FINDING OUT ABOUT THIS ON INTAGRAM CALL ME
ALSO THE SHORTS!!!!!!!!
vivalavictor omg im so glad you’re okay we’re rooting for you Vitya!
Hereforthedandthet it means so much that you’re open about your love. You’re my role model <3 
Vityasmysterman DAT ASS

 

Victor Nikiforov Announces Return

After over two months without word on his career, GPF gold medalist and Russian Olympic skater Victor Nikiforov announces on his instagram that he’ll be returning to compete at the ISU World Championships in Boston, Massachusetts. Nikiforov qualified for Worlds early in the season, and as the GPF finalist, his presumed absence was a disappointment to the skating world. Coach Yakov Feltsman has been close-lipped about his star skater’s whereabouts and behavior until Nikiforov resumed his social media presence with a proxy dancer, coined #mysteryman…read more.

 

Yuuri Katsuki: Not All Heroes Wear Capes

Not much is known about this #mysteryman, even though we have a name. Yuuri Katsuki (Katsuki Yuuri) appeared in the too-beautiful-for-words Victor Nikiforov’s social media almost two weeks ago. The dancer, a confirmed graduated of New York University, continues to dodge anyone’s attempts at contacting him. How can we thank him for the “life and [love]” he’s given our Vitya? GOOD NEWS: he has an instagram now y-katsuki with a video of him and Victor performing a routine choreographed by Yuuri himself. Rumor has it that several dance groups want to recruit Yuuri but …read more.

 

ICY HOT

If you haven’t seen this video or this video yet YOU’RE FUCKING WRONG. I thought Vitya had an ass on him but somehow he found???????? Another beautiful ass? Scratch that. Yes. Yuuri’s ass (so sorry Yuuri welcome to stardom) is amazing but I’M REALLY FUCKED UP ABOUT HIS THIGHS. Look at them. Look. At. Them. And when he picks Vitya up? Also, anyone else recognize those booty-shorts? If you’re a creepy fan like me, you’ll know that Chris gave them to Vitya for his 20th bday. They have got to be stretched out now. They were practically a thong on poor Yuuri. I’m sweating…read more.

 

Chapter Text


 

People look like themselves in their element. Victor often thinks of himself as his truest when he’s on the ice. He thought, mistakenly all this while, that Yuuri is his true self when he dances. But that’s all been in enclosed, fabricated places that Yuuri sought out. The backdrop of Hasetsu makes him radiant. A small bridge connects the island town to the rest of the prefecture, but Yuuri had followed Victor’s ever-curious eyes, seen the fisherman, and haggled them aboard like a couple of runaways. It smells like fish and salt; the thickness of sea water hugs every air molecule and Yuuri’s hair becomes a halo of black around his face, lifted up by the wind. Victor’s glad he’d put his up, but fly-aways tickle his cheeks and catch on his mist-slickened lips. Everything’s a soak of early spring gray, the sun white, the world coolly saturated. The low kiss of the sky, sea and land a shimmery cluster – and Yuuri, in a heinous pink sweater with green and blue triangles danced across the chest. Victor loves everything his eyes land on, even the fisherman who’s Japanese accent chirps, Kyushu, but he loves Yuuri most of all, Yuuri who, as he has a conversation with the fisherman, slowly returns to his boyhood in the shape of language. Victor only has keep an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders and watch the small mountains and fabled ninja house and the birthplace of one Yuuri Katsuki come into reach.

A week is not enough time; the clarity of this fact blinds Victor one second inside Yu-Topia. Yuuri looks like his mother, and they squish together in a stew of sweetness. She cheerfully scolds him in Japanese, predictably claims that Yuuri doesn’t visit often enough for how short the distance is between his apartment in Fukuoka and Hasetsu. Yuuri hums and makes the excuses of a son who loves his parents but isn’t perfect and his father, yet unseen, bellows happily to the doorway from the main room.

“Mama, this is Vicchan,” Yuuri introduces, stepping aside. Victor doesn’t know what Yuuri told his family but they seem relatively aware of the situation insofar as Victor is very dear to Yuuri and will be returning to Russia and figure skating after this week. There’s no reason to invest in him.

There’s no reason, but Hiroka says in practiced English, “call me Mama, Vicchan. This is your home for your stay,” and hugs him just as dearly as she had her son. She smells like she was born in a bubbling pot, a master of hearth and home.

Yuuri abandons him for a moment to snoop out his father and there’s a cry of “Oto-san!” and deep laughter and Yuuri grumbling before both Katsuki men appear and Yuuri has a giant crate of laundry in his arms and a tired look.

“This is Vicchan?” Toshiya says unnecessarily, kind and weathered, wrinkles deep where his wife of comparative age seems fully and freshly fleshed. “Nice to meet you. Feel at home. If you look at home, you can help.”

Yuuri says something to his father in rapid Japanese, still holding the laundry that looks like towels and green robes. He asks about “nee-chan” and relays the answer to Victor: “Mari is picking up supplies. She is an equal partner here, now that she’s thirty. Here, uhm, Mama, can you show Vicchan to the guest room?” He repeats the request in Japanese.

She replies in Japanese to Yuuri then cups a hand over her mouth and waves apologetically at Victor. “Sorry, Vicchan. Follow me.”

Arigato, Mama,” Victor says with a bashful bow that makes Hiroko coo and bat at him, leading him through Yu-Topia, past guests drinking and eating in a large square room. Victor gets introduced ten times to perfect strangers, always adjacent to Yuuri’s name in his mother’s mouth, and everyone knows Yuuri and everyone knows everyone. Small towns aren’t exclusive to Japan, and Victor’s seen even smaller communities and their interwoven relationships. He’s certain that, should he leave this house, he’ll be known around the island by the end of tomorrow.

The guest room is way in the back, surprisingly small and Western. It’s irregular; Hiroko refers to it as “Yuuri’s room.” Victor doesn’t ask for particulars, swept up in an education on the bath house, how to bathe, that he should eat more but “Yuuri said you are athlete; I know how you eat.”

Yuuri bolts into the room with his duffle over his shoulder, face prematurely flushed for conflict. “Mama,” Yuuri moans, dumping his bag on the floor. A string of panicky Japanese, then translated as: “Minako-sensei is sending me death threats.”

“Your dance instructor?” Victor sits down on the bed, curious. Yuuri nods grimly. Hiroko laughs.

“She’s mad at you,” Hiroko warns in a dramatic whisper. She slips a wink at Victor which…he doesn’t know what to do with that, but it’s welcoming, being let into the secret of Yuuri’s impending murder.

She leaves them with a promise of something to eat and Yuuri joins Victor on the bed, flopping backwards. Victor mirrors him. The ceiling is slatted with wooden beams. Not so Western.

“Your parents are very nice,” Victor says.

“Thanks. They’re great. But they’re a handful. It’s the inn-owner spirit in them,” Yuuri says with good-natured suffering.

Victor makes a noise of understanding at that and turns over, propping himself up on his elbow. “Do I get to see your childhood bedroom?” He wiggles his eyebrows for effect.

Yuuri glances at him, devoid of embarrassment. “You’re in it.”

“What? Really?” Victor looks around, frowning. “But it’s a guest room?”

“Exactly. It was a big deal when I came back to Japan but didn’t move home. Mama and Papa wanted to keep my room the same, but Mari nee-chan, ah, my sister, she said good-bye and remodeled it.” Yuuri presses on the mattress firmly. “The bed is definitely nicer. Bigger. You’re staying in here.”

Victor had really been hoping to see relics of Yuuri’s childhood. Action figures or posters or books. Manga? Yuuri’s apartment doesn’t have that much personality; it’s the home of someone who travels not to collect but to leave behind. It’s minimalist but not chic, everything second hand. He sighs and flops back, curling around Yuuri.

“Are you not sleeping here? Yuuri~ don’t leave me alone мой Солнышко .”

“Ah, I – ah, hmm,” Yuuri picks at the sheets, not looking at Victor. “Yes. I mean. I will. But I’m going to let my parents have a little sense of propriety and I’ll put my things in my sister’s old room.”

That room is still terrifyingly steeped in Mari. She has an apartment nearby because she needs a break from the business and also a place to bring home dates. When the inn’s busy, she stays in her old room, but this week she’s resigned herself to the fifteen minute walk from her tiny complex to the inn.

Victor makes an affirming, appreciative sound and leans over to ease a kiss onto Yuuri’s lips. “So you’ll be sneaking over? How naughty, Yuuri. Who knew you’d do dirty things with a guest.”

“Don’t make this weird,” Yuuri huffs, rolling his eyes. He lets his hand find the back of Victor’s neck to deepen the kiss. “Besides,” Yuuri sighs, licking his lips. They both taste like salt spray. “This room’s the farthest from my parents’ room.”

It’s innocuous, but Victor pinks across his nose in tickled delight. “Naughty!” he repeats, nipping Yuuri’s lips. Yuuri laughs, giving up on dispelling Victor from his enchanted and lascivious view of him and also gives up on making out because the door is hanging open and he really doesn’t need to be caught this early into his visit.

“The ice rink,” Yuuri begins cautiously when Victor’s started to unpack a few of his essentials, hanging his coat up. He brought all of his luggage after Yuuri worried himself into an ulcer about the potential for their train being late or the bus or Victor needing something in Hasetsu, blah blah, endless possibilities. Victor stuffs his coat into the small closet with a clatter of hangers. “I called them. Yuuko was the manager before she and Takeshi moved for his work, so I know the guy who runs it now; he said they don’t open till afternoon but he’ll open early in the morning this week. You can practice from eight till two without any interruptions; he said just name-drop the rink as much as possible.”

It’s ten now.

“Thank you, Yuuri.” It’s thoughtful, and Victor probably couldn’t have gotten that accomplished as easily. “I’m going to take full advantage of the rink. Yakov needs daily videos.”

“Cool!” Yuuri says, sounding very American. Victor has to smile at that. “I told my parents that we won’t be in the inn much, so they aren’t expecting you to uhm, be around, so don’t feel rude about going out as you like. Do you want to go to the rink now? I can show you. It’s walking distance, but if you need to drive I can take you in my sister’s car.”

 

 

 

Yuuri can skate. He has his own crappy pair stashed away in the inn, apparently with Mari’s pair under her bed; they’re dusty and they make Victor cringe on behalf of his ankle support but it’s not like Yuuri’s doing jumps. Victor changes into exercise clothes while Yuuri hunts them down, and they bid a hasty farewell to Yuuri’s parents before leaving.

There’s no one else at Ice Castle. The rink is cartoonish and small and ancient. Yuuri says that they fundraise to keep it in shape. It’s busy on the weekends because enough people travel to skate but skating’s a little niche in Japan; it’s better around the holidays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day especially. He wants to write about the rink in his profile on Hasetsu. 

He glides out on the ice, a little unsteady, legs spreading out beneath him before he gets his bearings. Victor feels the same way. His blades flash gold, boast Russia on the sides, and feel like muck-boots. He pushes out onto the ice, breathing slowly. The room’s cold, winter pumped inside, but his face is hot and sticky despite the chill he inhales. He laps around Yuuri whose eyes are big and wondrous, watching him.

“Did you ever want to be an ice skater?” Victor asks.

Yuuri shrugs. “I learned enough to enjoy the activity but I always looked up to Minako. Ballet was my first love.”

Yuuri skates slow, meandering laps around the rink while Victor closes his eyes and floats along, disconnecting and coming together. He feels the ice in his ankles, the heavy pull of his skates to the core of the world, anchoring him. The pressure moves in inverse up his shin, trembles behind his knees, and warms to his chest. He picks up speed and does a single toe loop, skates schk-ing.

There’s nothing to fear but the same hot anticipatory feeling of when he first started quads and knew he’d fall, and fall a lot and fall hard, builds in him. Yuuri comes and goes in the peripheral of his vision, pink sweater like a bright flare winking at him, orbiting.

Victor pushes a breath out, cutting to a stop at the wall and grabbing his blade guards. “I’m going to properly warm up before I practice. This is going to be very rude of me, Yuuri, forgive me, but would you mind leaving?”

He doesn’t look up when Yuuri comes to a graceless stop, using the wall to halt his movements.

“Will you be okay?” is all Yuuri asks.

“Yes. The manager,” who’s reading a book and happily ignoring the uneventfulness on the ice, “will be safety precaution enough.”

Yuuri doesn’t fight or worry beyond that. He puts on his dinky guards and unlaces his skates first chance he gets, slipping into his sneakers. “I’ll come back at two,” he demurs.

 

He’d spent the train ride here listening to his program music, remembering it, tracing his motions with the songs. He watched his routines. He knows them. But even he isn’t going to risk jumps right now. He marks them and focuses on revitalizing the routines. His short program's safer. His free skate – it was brutal when he won at the GPF with it; it’d probably kill him now. It took him to the ice last time.

 

 

Yuuri doesn’t go home when he leaves Victor at the rink. He buys a hot tea and walks the circumference of his island home, holding his phone to his lips and recording aloud a sweeping revisit of Hasetsu. He doesn’t visit enough, but nothing changes. Sometimes, he comes for a wedding celebration, the town center hung with paper lanterns, old classmates clustered around, remembering and remembering together.

Hasetsu has: one family owned grocery store and about three market spots that primarily consist of homegrown vegetables and a lot of seafood; one pharmacy; one movie theatre and community theatre mashed into a single venue; the primary school but no secondary school; a bike rental shop that, inside, is also a seamstress; no restaurants that sit more than ten people except Yu-Topia; and an absolute fuckload of chickens that roam the island just daring the stray cats to pick a fight. The cats do not. Mishi and Tobi are two monstrous birds that scare even Yuuri and he isn’t at eye-gouge level with them.  

During peak tourist season, the Ninja House suddenly has a million vendors, the theatre explodes, the rink’s over-run and the onsen has to rotate bath slots so the springs aren’t overrun. Every year, the population dwindles just a little. People like Yuuri move off the island. They send money to their parents, intra-national remittance. Yuuri doesn’t have to do that, his parents do well enough and he’s still paying off the last of his university loans that weren’t covered by scholarship. But he knows classmates who do. Most people make half their yearly income in a few short months, when activity explodes. The industry of the island has stagnated. A lot of men work at the metal factories in the prefecture; women raise kids here. The same teachers Yuuri grew up with are still there, still wearing hakamas because they grew up seeing their teachers wearing them.  

He walks the island twice, once around the perimeter, the second time cutting in and out of the streets to see if any shops have closed. He sees an antique store he never pays attention to tucked away. He stares at a porcelain and jade kanzashi with a gouged pain in his heart. A week. A week isn’t enough.

He’d explained to his parents as best he could the guest he was bringing to the inn. They were confused, are still confused. Yuuri left out that Victor has been living with him and painted him as a tourist who Yuuri’s “dating.” Then his parents had gotten very quiet and worried and asked if this dating cost Yuuri money and wasn’t he seeing a Japanese man? God. It’s for the best that Victor never knows that Yuuri ever had to say the words “No, Mama, I didn’t order a Russian boyfriend. He’s an ice skater. Look him up,” and then everyone appreciatively cooed. His life right now, honestly.

He’s a little late to meet Victor, but there’s no guilt when he sees Victor cooling down with some focused stretching. Hair has slipped out of his ponytail and sticks now to his face in sweat, fine persistent babyhairs along the nape of his neck wicked down. Yuuri’s seen him stretch a million times, but it’s the first time that Victor looks like he’s feeling every inch of his body in movement, like he’s finally tuned back into himself.

“Hi. How was practice?” Yuuri asks, stepping up beside where Victor’s on the ground and helping to push him down the last bit so he’s flat between his V’d legs. Victor groans; they go slow.

“I sent a recording to Yakov. He isn’t happy.”

“How is Vicchan?” Yuuri redirects, easing Victor up and off the ground. He passes over a chocolate protein shake.

“Vicchan is very appreciate of this,” Victor says, wagging the bottle before cracking it open and guzzling. He hasn’t eaten in six hours. Yuuri eyes him warily. Two times dodged on an answer? He’s not going to touch that. It isn’t his place.

“Let’s get you to the inn to soak.” It’s easy, to walk Victor home. Victor asks after him and Yuuri shows him his recorder and Victor listens to it uselessly, because it’s all in Japanese, so Yuuri translates. He draws Hasetsu for Victor, taking him through Hasetsu while only walking him down one road.

“Maybe if all of your work was like this, it wouldn’t be boring,” Victor says when he passes back the recorder. Yuuri tucks it into his bag with a shake of his head, a little stung. His life isn’t…isn’t what he envisioned for many years, and it’s not the goal-driven, compete-for-his-country’s-pride grind that Victor’s is, but he’s proud of what he’s done.

“My work’s interesting. I’ve gotten to travel a lot, you know.”

“Yeah but,” Victor says in an odd tone, not looking at Yuuri, “you never talk about where you’ve been. There’s no evidence.”

“Evidence? What does that mean? Do you want my passport?” He’s definitely told Victor of the places he’s been. Just from work he’s gone to Uganda, Botswana, and Nairobi, Thailand, China, and Myanmar. They’ve come up, just like he knows Victor’s been to China, Canada, America, France, Switzerland, Findland…some other places too.

“I don’t know. You don’t have pictures or souveniers. There’s nothing,” he waves his hand in the air, looking for the word and the lights up when he finds it, “cosmopolitan. There’s nothing cosmopolitan about you, Yuuri. You’re unassuming, do you know what I mean, Yuuri? Everything comes from inside you, but nothing sticks to you.”

“Uhm,” Yuuri says. Victor’s talking and Yuuri has no idea what about, but it’s probably best to let him keep talking.

“Except Hasetsu. Look at you!” Victor gestures loudly at Yuuri, then at the sea to their left, and into the distance from where they came. “It fits. This makes perfect sense. You. Hasetsu. A match.”

It makes absolutely no sense to Yuuri, and he isn’t sure he’s being complimented, but he’s also not sure he’s being an insulted. He is, in a word, confused.

“L-lets get you into the hot springs,” he decides. “And I know you’re supposed to be eating healthier, but Mama and I are going to make katsudon for dinner. She always makes it for me, and it’s very fattening, but you’ll love it.”

“I won’t tell Yakov if you won’t.” Victor pats his belly. Yuuri has no idea where the 5kg went on him; maybe his butt? “You’re getting into the springs with me, right?”

Yuuri doesn’t miss the sly, suggestive look Victor sends him.

 

 

The smell of cigarettes reaches them first. They’re used to it now, so much time in the city, but for a few hours in Hasetsu they’d be smelling only the sea air. Yuuri whispers something under his breath as they round the corner, prepping Victor’s interest. Sitting in the open bed of a pick-up truck is a woman smoking. She has grown-out bleached hair, several face piercing, and Yuuri’s mouth sucking on a cigarette.

“Mari nee-chan!” Yuuri waves. His sister waves too, a rise and fall of her hand. She hops off the truck and stomps out her cigarette. She looks more like their father, doesn’t have Hiroko and Yuuri’s wide-open face, but the nose that they both have is a happy medium between both parents. She looks as cool as Yuuri said she is. He stressed that if Victor ever thought Yuuri was cool, that it was entirely because of his sister.

“She didn’t go to college but she’s so smart. She learned to code on her own and made Yu-Topia a website, and she makes the brochures and makes newsletters for a bunch of businesses.”

She also looks like she’s in a girl-gang.

“She has a giant back tattoo of Akira.”

“What’s Akira?”

“D-don’t..don’t ever say that in front of Mari.”

“The Katsukis are really something,” Victor muses aloud in Russian. He slows, letting Yuuri reach his sister first for a hug and untranslated greetings. Yuuri’s family is a hugging family. Yuuri hugs the Nishigori’s and he hugs Phichit and he hugs Victor. These seem the only people in his life that he speaks of, but they’re close and dear to him, a selected few.

Does he dare ask Yuuri to come with him, to leave any of this love behind? Is his love enough? Is he?

“Victor Nikiforov. Mama said everyone gets to call you Vic-chan,” Mari says, holding out her hand. Victor smiles and shakes her hand, trying not to wince at her pointed look or the strength of her grip. Yuuri laughs nervously, looking between them.

“All the Katsuki’s may call me Vicchan.”

Mari makes an is that so face so Victor goes a little farther with his introductions, smile impish, eyes creased shut. “May I call you nee-chan?

“Nah,” Mari says, her English sounding like a TV show. “You can call me Katsuki-sama.”

“Mari,” Yuuri groans, shooing at her. He steps up close to Vicchan. Does he know he does that, always sneaks a little closer? Victor can’t stop noticing how Yuuri always wants to come between the world and him, his sweet Yuuri. “Don’t torment him.”

“Sama is boss, right? You call your boss Yakimura-sama,” Victor says to Yuuri. Yuuri catches the dangerous look in Victor’s eyes and pales when Victor throws an arm around his shoulder. “Ah, sorry, this is the only Katsuki-sama for me.”

Yuuri buries his face into his hands, ears fire hydrants. Mari laughs, eyes sliding to Yuuri. She ruffles her brother’s hair.

“That was culturally ugly. Mari is fine, Victor.”

“Vicchan,” Victor corrects

“Ah, he’s so cute, Yuuri,” she sighs, hand to her cheek. No – the resemblance is striking, the same considerate pout Yuuri effects when he’s teasing. “When you said you broke up with Ryota, I thought you’d be lonely for months. Instead you bring home a total hottie. Come in, Vicchan. Do you like beer? I brought some.”

“I shouldn’t indulge too much. I’m officially in training mode,” he apologies, dragging Yuuri inside who’s mumbling to himself.

They all go inside together, Mari asking after them, easy-going. The house smells amazing, like something fatty frying; he’d be in worse shape if Yuuri hadn’t brought him a protein shake but even that does little to stave off the gnaw of hungry and the way his body hypes for calories. Yuuri bumps against him affectionately before disengaging from Victor’s handhold, giving only a squeeze to his hip. They share a smile of understanding and take off their shoes.

“I need to shower. Can we soak after?” Victor asks.

“Yes. Do you remember where the bathroom is?”

Victor nods and makes to way out of the entrance and past the main room when he brushes by a beautiful older woman who’s marching down the hall. He stops when she calls: “Yuuri.”

“M-Minako-sensei!”

And then Yuuri’s whining and the woman, Minako, the Minako, is clearly laying into him in Japanese. Victor dashes back whence he came to see Minako trying to pull Yuuri out of his sweater.

Hiroko and Mari are spectating, Hiroko with a frown and Mari with something akin to amusement. Minako’s diving in to pinch Yuuri and Yuuri’s holding her off, getting more and more flushed.

“What is happening?” Victor dares to ask.

“Minako saw the videos of Yuuri dancing,” Mari says helpfully.

“And she wants to strip him?” That, Victor totally understands, but Minako’s …old…and also Yuuri is his. So he’s not in favor of this.

“Ha, well,” Mari holds up her hand and pinches her fingers together till nary a hair’s breadth remains between thumb and forefinger. “When Yuuri danced, he was thin. Small. Now he has meat, yes? I think he looks good. But Minako is used to a lean Yuuri. How you look.” Mari waves a hand at Victor, then gestures to his shirt. “Lift that up.”

“Uh--,” Victor pauses, but she waves her hand again so he raises his athletic top up to show off the chiseled abs, the obvious cut of his hipbones, the muscle that lines the barest suggestion of his ribs. “He was like this?”

“Uh-huh,” Mari says slowly, looking him over with a gaze that is far, far from objective. Hiroko pretends not to look but she’s only human. She at least knows how to be discrete, unlike her children.

“Vicchan!” Yuuri shouts, holding Minako by the wrists and starring bug-eyed at him. “W-what are you doing?”

Victor drops his shirt down and waves. “Sorry, Yuuri. I’m not flashing your Mama or sister, I promise.”

Victor Nikiforov. Est-ce que vous connaissez Lilia Baranosvskya? Votre entraîneur est Yakov Feltsman, oui? Je pense que nous avons rencontré en Madrid. Vous vous souvenez?” Minako’s on him like a bolt, pulling his hands up, kissing his cheeks.

“Oui,” Victor answers in surprise. “Eh, je vous demande pardon. Je ne sais pas. J’ai oublié beaucoup des visages. Désolé, désolé. Mais, Yuuri a dit que vous connaissez Lilia.”

“Bien sure!” She’s scandalized. “Tous ballerines connais Lilia.”

Mari bites off a mouthful of Japanese and Hiroko admonishes her. Yuuri scrubs his hair and shrugs, finding Victor’s eyes over Minako’s narrow shoulder, expression hard to read. He’s a little glossy-eyed with the amount of activity, focus frayed. Victor wants to bring it back into sharpness.

“Do you like my French,” Victor asks him in Russian. Yuuri squints, mouthing the words after, brain turning over. Victor can imagine the clunky sentence coming together: Do. You – Do I – like…French. His French. When Yuuri gets it, he smiles and nods.

Da,” Yuuri says, brightening sweetly.

 “Enough,” Mari decides shaking a hand at them all. She jerks a thumb at her and her mom. “English is hard. Yuuri needs his Kyushu accent back.” She pokes her brother in the arm and sounds out slow Japanese at him. Yuuri’s face darkens with blood and he snaps something back. Hiroko waves her hands, clapping her cheeks and blushing along with them. 

“Translate?” Victor whispers to Minako.

 “Mari said you two can dirty talk when you’re alone. Yuuri denied it. Hiroko says she supports it but doesn’t want to know and to spare her poor motherly ears.”

Victor whistles; and forget what Yuuri accuses him of, he has the shame to blush when Yuuri's mother thinks they're being naughty in front of oher.

Minako snorts. “Don’t ever let her fool you. I went to school with that woman. Yuuri and Mari were both the product of excitement and not planning.”

“Wow,” Victor gawps, eyeing the trio before him. Hiroko; she would have worn pregnancy well. “That’s quite the detail.”

“Mari!” Toshiya calls, coming in from outside. He’s keeps up a flow of Japanese until he hits the main room and sees Victor. There’s a stumbling moment where the older man stops and restarts in English, sounding out his words under his breath almost before projecting: “Mari, the truck is empty. Where is the beer you brought? Vicchan, how was the rink?”

Victor tears his eyes away from Yuuri who’s trying to give his sister a wet-willy while she pinches at his nipples, and Hiroko is hiding behind her apron pretending neither of them came from her loins.

“Good, Papa,” Victor replies, shuffling his feet. “I’m going to wash up, if that’s okay?”

“Yes! Okay! Please do, boy. My children are bad. Ignore them.” He comes up behind Yuuri and whaps him on the ass, making his son jump ten feet. Mari laughs until she gets a smack from her Papa too.

“Go,” Minako advises with a tilt of her head. “Escape while you can.”

Hai,” Victor dips his head before making a run for it.


Dinner’s hectic in a predictable way. Everyone focuses on Victor, with Yuuri translating the rough patches of English. The katsudon is delicious, and Victor tries to pace him, almost weeping at the task. It’s salty and juicy and this is it, he’ll only allow it once. He can feel the heaviness of it in his body even though his mouth won’t stop watering.

“I always got fat over summer,” Yuuri confides, watching his struggle with a sympathetic eye. When Victor looks up, Mari pinches her fingers again. 5kg isn’t bad. He just wishes he didn’t have to jump and spin himself in the air and endure the shock of his body weight and gravity on a pair of blades.

“When I retire,” Victor whispers to Yuuri, grease on his lips, “I want to come here and get fat.”

Yuuri rolls his lips into his mouth, looking down at his bowl. He nods once, sharply, as if making a great concession to Victor. “Our doors are always open to you.”

 

They do make it to the hot springs. Yuuri diligently holds a towel in front of himself, getting into the springs quickly, his hips swaying and butt shaking. Victor has a moment of enjoying the flair of Yuuri’s hair all down his legs when toes meet hot water, when prickles cover his skin at the temperature change, before Yuuri’s submerged and beckoning him into the water.

“Amazing,” Victor sighs, slinking closer to Yuuri, the rocks smooth under his skin. “The biggest, hottest bath.”

“Mhmm,” Yuuri hums. “I didn’t grow up with a lot but I always had this luxury. My family, and the onsen, and dance. The three essentials.” He sounds like he’s telling a joke.

A hot spring would make practices so much better. Victor hurts in a new and familiar way. His feet, the bones of them, hurt. The skin of his pinky is rubbed raw already from today’s practice; he’ll need a plaster tomorrow. The little callous he normally wears on his skin has gone too soft in this off-time. It’s a good metaphor. Yuuri is the first raw scrape he’s felt in so many years.

“Skating, sex, and Yakov,” Victor replies, shifting so he can rest his head on Yuuri’s shoulders. “Those were my essentials.”

“They’re not now?” Yuuri teases lightly. He finds Victor’s hand under the water and laces their fingers.

“I’m willing to replace sex with Yuuri,” Victor rejoins, squeezing on Yuuri’s hand. He kisses his wet shoulder but nothing more; he’s been warned about decorum. Yuuri inhales audibly, dwelling, so Victor intrudes and prevents it with another chaste kiss to Yuuri's shoulder and a bump of his nose.

“Yakov…do you miss him?”

Victor sinks lower into the water till it’s just below his lips. “I do. I know it seems like he yells a lot…he does. But it’s good yelling. If he ever stopped berating me, I’d worry.” He blows a stream of air across the water, parting steam and stirring ripples. “How about you; is Minako mad with you?”

Yuuri grunts. “Not more than usual. She’s…she’s been disappointed for years,” he says quietly. “I disappoint her.”

“No,” Victor disagrees without place. But what does he know? Yuuri shakes his head, so he insists. “Yuuri, I don’t think you’ve disappointed anyone.”

“She trained me. She gave me lessons even when I couldn’t pay her. Let me use her studio. Wrote me recommendations. She’s why I got into NYU in the first place.” The pace of the words picks up until Yuuri cuts himself off, sucks on his teeth and blows out a big breath. “I – never mind. I don’t want to talk about it.” He brings their clasped hands out of the water and kisses the back of Victor’s hand, turns to him with a bright smile. It’s sincere. “Vicchan, thank you for coming. For giving us another week.”

“Of course,” Victor manages, throat tight. He sinks low into the water, so the steam dances in his eyes.

 

“Are you really messing up the bed right now?” Mari questions, disbelieving as Yuuri makes a very convincing case in the sheets that he totally slept in Mari’s old room in the likely chance his mother will come snoop. “Papa took one look at Vicchan and told mama he would go buy ear plugs.”

“M-Mari,” Yuuri hisses, throwing a pillow at her. She catches it with a cackle.

“What? It’s a good thing. They’re being respectful.” She throws the pillow back at him. When Yuuri takes hold of it, he squishes it to his chest in a Heimlich. “He seems really nice, Yuuri. You look really happy around him.”

“He is. I am,” Yuuri smiles, eyes downcast. “He makes me so happy I don’t know what to do.”

She has no idea what to say to that. It’s a non-option. Victor has to leave, and who tells their little brother to try to chase some twenty-one year old guy across continents because they’re enjoying a fling?

“You do him.” She laughs just to take that wistful melancholy off Yuuri’s face.

“Ugh!,” Yuuri flops back onto the bed. “Don’t make me tell you the stuff Papa and Mama say about you and Haru-kun,” Yuuri taunts. Mari smiles fleetingly, the expression losing itself too quickly. Her face in rest is always grim, accentuated by the piercings.

“They hate him,” Mari blows out. She turns to her mirror and fiddles with a bobby pin.

Yuuri snorts. “No they don’t. Our parents don’t know how to hate people.”

Mari hums. It’s too true to deny. “Whatever. I’m too busy to see him much. Papa keeps messing up the online reservations even though it’s the simplest design ever and Mama –”

“Refuses to learn technology?” Yuuri guesses. He tosses the pillow aside to go to his luggage. Mari grunts an affirmative. “She called me when you were gone last week to come over and fix the TV because she accidentally changed the network.”

“I told you we shouldn’t have bought them a new TV,” she says triumphantly. “I’m trying to convince them to let me hire someone to transfer everything that’s hard copy onto a computer.”

They get caught up talking about their parents minor faults and the struggles of a family business, Yuuri excessively pleased that he doesn’t have to navigate that complicated hell, and debating what family friend’s kid because in this town everyone’s a family friend, to hire, when there’s a scratching tap at the door. Mari opens it and immediately turns back to Yuuri with a shit-eating grin.

“Oh, Yuuri, room service!”

Victor pokes his head in, waving. “Hi, Yuuri. Sorry to interrupt.” His eyes go wide as he looks around. Mari has a lot of scary grunge rock posters. “I wonder if Yakov would let me where something like that,” Victor says, pointing at a Dir En Gray poster.

“I don’t think you should try to skate in a leather play suit, Vicchan,” Yuuri cautions. He stares hard at the picture. Victor in a strappy black leather get-up? With a muzzled face mask? The world does not need that. Yuuri’s heart couldn’t take it.

“I think you should, Vicchan. You’d look so cool,” Mari emboldens. “Make the top into a harness so it really shows off your body.”

“Do you think?” Victor inquires dumbly, finger pressed thoughtfully to his lip, eyes narrow in focus. “It would let me have more freedom of motion. The pants couldn’t be leather – oh, maybe leather paneling around the hips. You know what!” He pulls out his phone from his sweatpants pocket and steps up to the poster to take a few pictures. “I’ll work on it.”

Mari gives Yuuri a thumbs up.

“Did you need something, Vicchan?” Yuuri asks, trying to salvage someone’s dignity. Vicchan purses his lips and scuffs the floor with his toes, playing coy.

“Are you still going to sleep over with me?”

“Sorry,” Mari grins. “I was keeping him from you. Yuuri, please, tend to our guest.” She waves her hand with a flourish at the door. Yuuri heaves the sigh of the suffering and gets off the bed.

“Goodnight, Mari,” Victor bids pleasantly, following on Yuuri’s heels. When they’re in the hall, Victor hugs him from behind, chin on his shoulder to whisper, “I think your sister thinks I’m cute.”

“Cute is too innocent a word for what she’s thinking,” Yuuri grumbles.

 

“Your hands smell like onions.”

“W-what?” Yuuri sputters, jerking his hands away from Victor’s face and bringing them to his nose to sniff. Victor’s laughing at him. After all Yuuri’s sneaking into his bed. Ungrateful!

“Oh, they do,” Yuuri admits, embarrassed. He washed up really well, but some scents refuse to leave. “Oh no, they smell like cooking all the time, don’t they?”

Victor bites his lip, trying to tame his grin. “Sometimes. It’s just really,” he pulls Yuuri’s hands back to his nose and takes a big, exaggerated sniff, “potent tonight. It’s because you slaved over a hot stove to make me dinner. My nice master, taking such good care of his pet. How dedicated.”

Victor doesn’t seem to mind because he’s cooing and kissing Yuuri’s fingers, all butterfly lashes and a nibbling mouth. Actually, he looks like he likes it, if sucking on Yuuri’s middle finger with pointed eye contact is an indicator. It might be an indicator of something. “I bet our dicks will taste like pork cutlet bowls.”

“O-o-h my – Vicchan!” Yuuri hits him with a pillow and tries to smother his cackles. “That’s gross.”

“But it was so good, Yuuri,” Victor pleads his case, fighting the pillow off and tackling Yuuri on the bed. He manages to pin him, definitely fighting dirty by being naked and using his wiles; like Yuuri is going to push Victor off of him when he’s naked and wily. “This will be the low-calorie alternative.”

“There’s something wrong with you,” Yuuri deadpans.

“I know! Yakov’s getting me therapy; cheers to progress,” Victor returns with a nip to Yuuri’s neck that he soothes with his tongue. “Now,” he purrs, kissing down Yuuri’s neck skillfully, a dedicated learner of Yuuri’s weak spots, “let me find out if my hypothesis is correct.”

“Y-your hypothesis?”

“About what your dick is going to taste like,” Victor supplies helpfully. He punctuates this by scraping his teeth over Yuuri’s left nipple, the bud tightening for him to roll his tongue over firmly.

“I brought condoms,” Yuuri manages, halting Victor’s descent with a hand in his hair.

“You got tested, I just got tested. It’s okay, Yuuri,” Victor says, kissing the available skin of Yuuri’s chest. “Unless they’re flavored. Are they flavored?”

“No…” If Victor’s comfortably sucking him off sans condom, then by all means, there isn’t reason to fight—that line of thought ends because Victor’s found Yuuri’s dick and is licking it, half-obscured by the covers, tongue very persistent and as curious and as bold as Victor always is. Yuuri isn’t very hard yet, so it’s a nice sensation. He’s getting hard quickly though, especially with Victor sucking on the head and dripping spit out of his mouth, salivating. Yuuri hisses, spreading his legs and grabbing the pillows to prop himself up so he can watch.

“Dare I ask about your scientific conclusion?”

He does this to himself.

Victor smirks up at him, letting Yuuri’s almost fully hard dick flop onto his thigh. He licks his lips, slow and obnoxious. “Tastes like we sat in a hot spring for hours.”

“Oh my god,” Yuuri groans, head thunking back to the pillows. He still has a handful of Victor’s hair and he drags him back onto his dick; it doesn’t do a thing to stifle Victor’s laughter.

    

The days pass too quickly. Four days in, the mood begins to drop. Victor’s sullen and distracted when he comes back from practice unwilling to talk about it. He has bruises up and down his body, blisters on his feet. He hisses in pain when he gets into the spring and Yuuri rubs his back and sucks him off and doesn’t ask to see him skate. Phichit says they’re both masochists for doing this to each other. Victor’s avoiding Chris’s messages.

Hiroko shows Victor pictures of Yuuri from babyhood through his college years. Yuuri winces at the gauntness of his face his senior year in college. Victor hums over the narrowness of him, the starkness of muscle and the jaunty angle of elbows and knees and clavicles.

Yuuri’s been dancing at Minako’s studio early in the morning. Victor goes on a run before he goes to the rink and Yuuri’s stopped trying to follow him there because Victor’s holding himself stiffly these days, eyes sharpening with determination that Yuuri wants to respect. Minako doesn’t spare him anything, a ruler over her shoulder, ready to prod him into better form.

“I never should have sent you to America. It ruined your ballet. It should have been Italy, or France. Even Russia.”

“I can’t go back in time,” Yuuri gripes. He should have expected that she’d have something to say to that. Part of him knows that even though, yes, she’s disappointed, she isn’t resentful. She loves him still. But now she’s seeing him dance again, the dance he did for himself for so long just to keep moving, to keep feeling alive like he’s able to create something, use what he knows…and now it’s all up for speculation and judgement.

“But you are going forward. Victor’s thrust you into an unexpected situation, hasn’t he? What will you do?”

Yuuri drops his arms, relaxes his feet. “I don’t know.”

He gets a smack on his butt but it’s gentle. “Okay, how about not what you will do but what options have you considered?” Minako knows how to make it easier to talk, to leak out the words and worries.

“My friend, Monique, she graduated ahead of me, she has a studio in Michigan. She contacted me when the videos first came out about a temporary instructor position.”

“Furmosa, the one who gave them your name? I’m not sure I approve. Her studio is young, and trendy. I looked it up. You should find someone with more credit to their name.” Minako pauses before adding. “Any place in Japan?”

Ever since Victor set up his instagram and that email, Yuuri’s been approached with offers. He hasn’t mentioned it to Victor, although no doubt that he knows. Yakov kindly forwarded him emails he’d gotten when this debacle first started. Minako’s right; he’s going forward in time, taking the past with him.

He’s happy as much as he’s nervous-sick over the idea of such a change. Especially because he doesn’t deserve it. There are better dancers than him who aren’t getting these offers; it’s only because he’s trendy now too, because Victor is the real performer and Yuuri’s on the coat tails of his starlight.

“If I took a temporary position, I can come back to my job here when I’m done.”

“Why, Yuuri?” She’s frowning, her age coming out in the paper thin wrinkles appearing around her eyes. She’s held onto her beauty for so long. Her hip pops too much for her to dance what she teaches. “Why go back to that, when the world’s telling you to dance?”

He’s too old to say something as simple as “I’m scared.” He’s too young to settle down with perfect complacency either.

 

  

Yuuri wakes up in the odd hours between night and day. His phone’s out of reach, the room blanketed in a half-done darkness, stars and the new month moon drifting in through the window. The crash of waves sounds like Victor’s breathing. But Victor isn’t asleep, not fully. No, no, in the dark he’s feeling, rocking. His thighs bracket Yuuri, his naked dick rolling against him. Yuuri sighs, warm and content, a dark, intangible thrill coursing through him. The heat against his back, the pressure that Victor seeks stokes this odd-hour arousal.

He won’t sleep now. He’ll leave himself to this, hotly passive, trying to spread his legs, open the crack of his ass so Victor can find his way deeper, closer…

“Yuuri,” Victor slurs. The hands around him grope; a wet, lazy kiss finds his neck. Yuuri almost can’t place them, either of them; they’re in Hasetsu. The sheets smell so clean. They’ve been sleeping together for weeks now, falling asleep and waking oddly and at the ring of alarms. “Are you awake?”

Victor trembles, holding his hips still as consciousness manifests, warning him off. His cock throbs against Yuuri, but he tries to be so good, to hold so still until he has permission. “Yuuri?”

“It’s okay,” he whispers, turning over. Both of them let go of their breaths, a rush of air colliding, turning over and over in a fount of warmth. For a moment, that’s all there is. Yuuri finds Victor’s mouth without seeing. Their lips brush over, their noses bump. The space between is vacuous, collapsing their desire into a fracture. They’ve kissed for weeks, laid side by side learning the sixth sense of each other. They’ve woken up again and again to taste the answering wetness of each other’s mouths. It’s become easy, knowing the way Victor’s body shapes together, the angles and composition of him. If his mouth is here, Yuuri only has to lift his head and move so that – yes, his tongue rolls over the open of his ear.

Victor keens softly, gasping. Kissing ears is always funny, the hard ridges of the inside, the suckable lobe that Yuuri always has to remind himself not to bite off; kissing ears is noisy, on the other end. It sounds like a conch shell and the wind and makes heat spike through the body. Victor bucks his hips, scrabbling at Yuuri. They’re awake but both of them keep their eyes shut, just feeling. Victor mewls into the air and Yuuri follows the source of the sound, mouthing at his throat where the volume of Victor’s pleasure vibrates. His skin tastes how hunger feels and Yuuri opens and closes hit lips over and over, sucking and biting, pushing down when Victor pushes up until their cocks are shifting side-by-side like their bodies were laying, heat twinned and raging, thighs quivering in a tangle. Victor’s clawing at him, kneading his ass over his underwear and then beneath, the elastic cutting tight around Yuuri’s stomach as Victor fits his hands beneath to palm and pull at his cheeks, fingers getting closer and closer to his hole.

They curse in their respective mother tongues, then laugh and lick at the flavor leftover.

Solnyshko, please, can I—“ Victor gasps.

Yuuri shimmies out of his underwear, kicks it off to be lost among the sheets. He wants this bad. He wants this blanket of shadow over them to never lift, so they may burn obscure and out of reach together. He’d put the lube and condoms in the bedside drawer, first thing, even though Victor had laughed at him. He’s only grateful now when he slicks himself and then moans desperately when Yuuri smears a puddle between his thighs and rolls over to shove his ass against Victor’s hips.

“As hard as you want,” Yuuri grants. He want to feel the power Victor has, already has a fist around himself. Victor’s whimpers against the nape of his neck, slotting behind him, poking his dick through the clench of Yuuri’s thighs. The head slicks behind his balls, and Yuuri touches it when it comes through, when Victor’s sharp pelvic grinds into his ass.

“I’d be too loud, if I let go,” Victor says, kissing his shoulder, pushing up awkwardly to find Yuuri’s mouth when Yuuri tilts his head back. Instead, he moves languidly, slipping between Yuuri’s thighs. “I’ll take my time.”

“I thought I was the tortoise.” Yuuri slows his hand to match Victor’s pace.

“Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” Victor snips, biting down on Yuuri’s neck playfully.

They settle back into the pillows, wedged close and sweating, Victor moving slowly. It’s a swimming pleasure, like floating. Yuuri’s slick and hot, feeling like he’s wet as a girl, imaging that everything dripping between his thighs has come from his own body, that he’s leaking for Victor. He would leak, for Victor. And Victor rolls into him, between him, occasionally pulling so far back that his cock bobs up and wedges high between Yuuri’s cheeks and presses at his hole and they both gasp when the head pushes blunt over the pinprick of wrinkled flesh that’s flexing in anticipating and Victor thrusts and thrusts against it, knowing that it’s too tight and they can both shudder until his cock once more wetly finds its place between Yuuri’s thighs –“you feel so good, Yuuri, ” – and he’ll squeeze tight, a repercussion, and pinch the fleshy head of Victor’s cock that leaks for him too, when it comes through to the other side and Victor hangs onto him like he’ll be shaken apart otherwise.

They build, until it’s mindless, rutting, Victor biting and sucking on his neck and shoulder and ears and jaw, jerking Yuuri off in time with his thrusts. Yuuri’s hands are free to wander and he reaches around and pulls on Victor’s hair or grip his ass cheek, grunting “hard, fuck me, Vicchan,” making Victor whimper and slam against him, jolting their bones, skin slapping and compressing—and Yuuri follows the run of sweat on Victor’s body to his iron-tight ass and slicks his fingers through it and down, between, Victor loosening for him with a curse so Yuuri can rub over his hole, scrape it with his nail and pulse his fingers, defiant of the strain that twinges in his wrist, with Victor whining and thrashing, trying to spread himself for Yuuri and fucking his thighs at the same time.

Yuuri comes first, into the wad of his of his rediscovered underwear. He can’t help the looseness that overcomes him, how he can’t keep the clench of his thighs and Victor growls in disappointment, voice kicked low with want, and then he’s shifting and rolling Yuuri over onto his stomach, sliding between his ass and squeezing the globes of Yuuri’s ass together, fingers pinching fiercely, fucking himself between his cheeks until he comes on the small of Yuuri’s back, gasping and groaning behind a lock of his teeth, his spend running over Yuuri’s sweat-soaked flesh.

Yuuri passes him the underwear wordlessly and Victor mops him off, throws the soiled garment off the bed and collapses beside him.

“I need to do the laundry now,” Yuuri complains into the pillow. Victor chuckles, rubbing his hand over the sweaty hair on the back of his neck.

“Don’t bother. I want to make them dirty again tomorrow night.”

Yuuri laughs a huff into the pillow and rolls, pulling Victor to his chest. They kiss, but their jaws are tired, so mostly they breathe each other in. “You want to smell like sex when you wake up?”

“I get all gross and sweaty during the day anyway,” Victor reasons, shrugging in Yuuri’s arms. “Let me be really dirty.” And then, because he’s a little bit evil and Yuuri’s probably dreaming, he says, “I want to smell like your come.”

Yuuri whimpers. Victor rests his teeth on Yuuri’s neck, rolling the blunt edge of his smile over his skin.

“I hope you fuck me before I leave,” he whispers filthily. Yuuri’s dick twitches at the words, stiffening in promise. Victor brushes his thigh against it in encouragement. “I want to land in Russia with Yuuri’s come dripping out of me.”

Yuuri swears, boiling over.

“You got hard again!” Victor delights, reaching down between their bodies to take Yuuri in hand. They’re both sticky with the poor clean up.

“You have to wake up early,” Yuuri murmurs raggedly. He kisses Victor’s brow bone and pushes into the tight web of his fingers, feeling slowly peeled out of his skin, the action contradictory to his words.

“I’m too awake now,” Victor insists, making a convincing argument with his thumb over Yuuri’s slit. “Put it between my thighs?”

Yuuri nods, swallowing tightly. They kiss while the angle is easy up until Victor scrapes his nails over Yuuri’s cock, careful, kissing Yuuri through his groan of pleasure-pain, clearly trying to get himself into trouble. Yuuri flips him over onto his back and grabs the lube. He hesitates at the bedside table before he grabs his phone and turns on the flashlight, setting the beam towards the ceiling. The science-winter light washes the room in clean cast off.

“Wanted to see me?” Victor guesses, smile impish and satisfied, eyes roaming eagerly over Yuuri’s body. The light’s kind on Yuuri’s body, folding around his muscles, making him a thunderous presence. Victor, on the other hand, loses some of his cut-glass, melted down to a figure Yuuri can get his hands over confidently, not fearing the sharp angles. He can ignore the bruises that little Victor’s hips, the tired look of his ankles.

“Yes.” It’s not even worth joking about. He sits between Victor’s legs and folds his knees to his ears in a slow stretch, until his cock’s rubbing into the sweaty skin between thigh and balls, grinding agonizingly into Victor’s still sweetly soft cock. Victor chokes back his attitude, squirming. “Now you can watch me fuck you.”

They shift around, shoving pillows under Victor’s hips to leverage him up into a comfortable angle. Yuuri gathers his legs over on shoulder, kissing the sole of each foot because Victor likes that and isn’t subtle. He should let the poor boy fuck his feet like he’s clearly vibrating to do, if how many times he pulls Yuuri’s feet into his lap when they lay on the couch is any indication.

It’s slow, Yuuri wanting to drag out how he can look down Victor’s thighs and watch his cock slip against Victor’s. He’s still sensitive, shocky. Victor’s watching too, fingers hovering to meet Yuuri’s thrusts, spit-slicked. Like this too Yuuri can bend him in two and kiss him, play with his nipples. He rolls his hips steadily, Victor’s thighs a warm, muscled wall of pleasure around him, Victor’s eyes phantom winks of light, mouth gasping darkly…

 …

“Vicchan.”

Victor moans quietly in response to his name. His head’s lulled to the side, mouth open with pleasure. He’s finally hard, now playing with himself; only the head of Yuuri’s cock comes through his thighs, as muscled as they are, and it bumps into Victor’s hand, dripping precome onto his knuckles to mingle with Victor’s. His pubic hair is a soaked mess of fluids and lube.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri tries again, a little firmer this time, getting his attention. He smiles at Victor’s dazed interest. Yuuri keeps one hand on Victor’s knees hooked over his shoulder, holding him together there, and leans down to snatch Victor’s hand off his twisted-red nipple and lace their fingers together. Victor grumbles at him. “I was thinking…”

“You’re thinking?” Victor tries to tease but he’s bucking into his own hand, shaking their tempo. “At a time…like this?”

“About where I want to come on you,” Yuuri supplies helpfully. Victor groans at the clarity, nodding his head.

“Good thoughts. Keep thinking,” he rushes to say. They smile at Victor’s enthusiasm and share a clumsy kiss. “What are the options?”

“If we stay like this, I’m going to want to come on your – your face.” Yuuri almost bites his tongue, but he’s glad he said it because Victor arches, a loud burst of noise leaving him. His hips roll up, Yuuri’s cock catching between the happy clench of his ass. Yuuri has to push him back down and steady them.

“You like that?”

“Yeah. Come on my face,” Victor says. “Are you close? I’ll suck you.” His eyes are barely open, but they’re dark and demanding, looking down his body hungrily for Yuuri’s cock.

“Not yet,” Yuuri laughs breathlessly, balls drawing up hypocritically. He already came so he’s going to be able to draw this round out for a long time. Victor’s already getting pitchy; he is noisy. Yuuri guessed that just by looking at him. He mewls and whines and yips out tiny, high noise every time Yuuri snaps forward and pounds into his ass, making his cock bob and slap on his stomach. “But – god, Vicchan. I was also thinking—”

“More thinking?”

Yuuri lets go of his hand and his knees, making Victor huff and tighten his position, so he can sweep his hands under Victor’s body and arch his spine, run greedy hands over his lean, relenting shape and thumb both of his nipples harshly, pulling on the nubs. “I could come on your chest again.”

“O-oh…”

“I could…,” Yuuri catches his breath, what of it he can, and kisses Victor’s sternum, feels Victor’s hand in his hair scratching and pulling. Victor lets out little uhn, uhn when Yuuri sucks on his chest, pulls on what he can’t suck.  “I could roll you over onto all fours—”

“Like a puppy, m’your puppy," Victor says immediately. He scrapes his nails over Yuuri’s scalp, pressing Yuuri's face into his nipple. Yuuri bites it. Victor has to slap a hand over his mouth to stifle his cry of pain, but his grip only tightens while Yuuri rolls it around between his teeth, licking after the pain. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Yuuri shakes off his hand and slows his hips, grabs Victor’s hand off his cock too and pins him still. “You won’t let me finish,” Yuuri chides.

“But everything’s a good idea,” Victor defends, unabashed. He eases his legs off Yuuri’s shoulder, stretching them out in relief. His knees pop. He rolls his ankles and they crackle like a torch.

“I’m going to let you pick,” Yuuri insists. He kisses Victor’s nose. “If you want me to come on you,  you have to pick where. I can come on your pretty face,” he kisses him, “come on your nipples, let you play with them,” he kisses them, “or spread your cute ass, Vicchan, and come on your hole. You can rub it in yourself how you want.”

It’s the filthiest thing Yuuri’s ever said in his life. English has never yanked on his guts like this before, made his blood throb in the vessel of his body. Maybe he’d feel bad, would never have had the courage to speak a fantasy like that aloud if Victor hadn’t told him some snippets of what he’s done before…what the Olympic village was like.

 Victor curses in shock, eyes closed, arching again, thrashing on the bed.  “YuuriYuuriYuuri,” he whines, stringing the name out like a prayer. “That one. The last one. Yuuri.”

Yuuri’s a little evil too. He sits back, letting Victor up. He accepts the armful of neediness that tackles him backwards on the bed; he kisses back into the fury that covers his lips. “W-where did you say that you…that you want it?”

Victor growls, hair messy and wild around his head, tickling Yuuri’s face where it hangs down. They’re in the shadows again, the light behind them a glow. “I told you. I want you dripping down my ass.”

“God,” Yuuri marvels, struck dumb, defeated in the moment.

But he delivers. Victor spills all over the sheets, moaning into a pillow, and Yuuri paints his ass in white, holding his cock up against Victor’s twitching hole, feeling the heat pour off him, the musky smell of sex thick around them, and he comes so it drips and runs and watches in glossy-eyed stunned silence as Victor reaches between his legs, Yuuri holding his cheeks apart, slender delicate fingers slipping through come, something deep and satiated rumbling from Victor’s chest. Something deep and possessive hooking into Yuuri. Victor smiles, victory vicious on his lips, when he wraps his sopping wet hand around his spent cock and cries from sensitivity, swallowing and choking and jerking off futiley, tormenting himself, biting his lip around “Yuuri, Yuuri, Yuuri,” while he twitches and jerks and says after, when Yuuri asks finally because all he could do is sit back and watch Victor put on a show like that, that he wanted to show Yuuri how much Yuuri’s pleasure makes him crazy.

 

Yuuri does the laundry when Victor isn’t looking.

 

 

When the bubble burst in the 1990s, everyone felt it. When the middle class tightened to the essentials to ride out the decade, the people beneath them often couldn’t hold on to the essentials of the lives they’d built in the 80’s boon. My sister and I were born when Hasetsu of the Saga prefecture, was enjoying a nationwide wealth…

…the only reason my parents’ onsen, Yu-Topia, endures, is because they risked it all. They dropped prices, accepting a net loss year after year in order to survive while the other onsens escaped the risk of life-long debt. I don’t know if I would have ever borrowed on a failing economy or sacrificed the security of savings, but they did. My father taught us to gamble, Chō-Han played with his friends for pieces of candy. He gambled everything to keep his family business. They look back proudly on this decision, but I can only see the fear of what it might have cost them, to put everything on a hope for a better future…

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri stops typing, looking away from his computer with a squint to Victor beside him in bed.

“Sorry, I thought you were asleep,” Yuuri whispers, running his hand over Victor’s head, over his shoulders. “I can turn it off.”

“No,” Victor sighs, rolling his head so that Yuuri can scratch the other side. “Keep working,” he slurs, sleep-thick speech. “Just…will you send me the article in English, when you’re done?”

“Yes, of course.” He’ll have to have the Japanese approved before he rewrites it in English. Victor will be well settled in St. Petersburg by the time, probably preparing to fly off for Worlds.

Yuuri finishes his sentence and makes a note of what he plans for the next paragraph before he saves his draft and puts his laptop away. He sinks down under the covers and spoons behind Victor, sighing into his hair, kissing the curve of his skull. “You can ask me for anything,” Yuuri whispers. “If you ask, I’ll do it.”

Victor hums sleepily, snuggling back into his arms.

 

 

He comes out of an interview with a family of one of the previous, failed onsens of Hasetsu to see several missed calls on his phone from Yakov. He dials back immediately, already turning towards the rink. Yakov hasn’t called him directly since Victor’s doctor’s exam.

“Katsuki,” Yakov says when the line picks up. “Are you with Victor?”

“No, Mr. Feltsman. Is everything okay?” It’s cold out, windy, and he regrets intsenyl not taking Mari’s car. He checks his watch; Victor’s almost done with his private time at the rink. Tomorrow, they go back to Fukuoka to the airport. It’s redundant in its awfulness.

“Get to the rink. He’s in a mood, I don’t want him alone.”

“Is he okay,” Yuuri sounds out firmly, picking up his pace.

“As he ever is,” Yakov says cryptically. Yuuri doesn’t need him to explain. Victor and “mood” is almost self-explanatory at this point.

Victor’s skating to his short program, the music hooked up to the speakers and filling the entire building. Maria Callas’s voice is shrill and tinny in the cheap audio system. It echoes too heavily in the small rink, too powerful, vibrato in her voice seeming to shake the air. Yuuri stands behind the wall of the rink, seeing Victor skate his routine for the first time.

It’s nothing like when he’s just a figure on the screen of Yuuri’s hone, when the camera is swiveling around after him, and he’s small and distant. Even under the power of the aria, Yuuri can hear the shredded sound of his blades taking off, the clack of him landing as he spins, one arm up; Maria gulps into a low note and Victor skips through a double-triple-double and speeds around the rink, clutching himself, wailing with his body but his face is blank. When the flutes swell up, his spins, leg high, holding his blade, round and round.

He is beautiful, just like Yuuri thought, but it’s eery. He’s too passive, unseeing even as he whips by where Yuuri stands, rushing, rushing, the smell of sweat crisp in the air, sweat stains down his back, under his arms. Maria’s voice is crying out, begging high and desperate, and Victor flies into the air but he slides out of the landing, going down and rolling.

“Vicchan!” Yuuri lunges at the wall, half over it but Victor gets up, on his knees, shoulders heaving. The music dies out, goes to silence. “Victor. Are you okay!?”

He rolls over and lays flat on the ice, hands fisted over his face. He doesn’t make a sound, just shivers, panting for breath. And then he gets up and skates, body hang-dogged, over to the gate. Yuuri runs to meet him and reaches out to balance him when he puts on his blade guards.

“Are you hurt?” Yuuri asks quietly, nervous. The dark aura around Victor makes him nervous; he’s a storm crackling, ozone thick.

“I’m fine,” Victor dismisses. “You’re early.”

Yuuri opens and closes his mouth. In the end, he takes Victor’s gear bag from him when they walk home, both of them mute. Victor eats lightly and goes to bed early; still, he leaves the spot next to him wide open and Yuuri fits in behind him.

 

Hiroko makes Victor the huge fluffy pancakes he’s come to love. Toshiya crosses the bridge into the bigger city and gets a helium tank and a million balloons. Everyone who’s met Victor and even those who haven’t are packed into the main room, toasting him. Minako and Mari hold up a hand-painted banner. Good Luck at the Championship. It’s the middle of the day, the house smells like all the coffee Yuuri brought just for Victor.

Nothing of yesterday is visible on him. Victor’s smiling and laughing, taking selfies with everyone. He’s wearing the hakama and kosode Hiroko found for him. The hakama is basic, black and white, but the kosode is a bubbly pink with gold and green stitching, fabric something shiny and probably acrylic blend, contemporary even in its Edo style. Yuuri had slipped the jade kanzashi into his hair after he’d helped Victor get into his robes. Now it sits primly from his ballerina’s bun, the jade flowers a dark bloom in a bed of silver. He couldn’t walk past the antique store without buying it.

“It’s said that the pin was long and sharp so it could be used for self-defense, when the maiko girls wore them. It reminded me of ice skates…maybe that’s dumb. But your skates let you be beautiful and terrifying.” Yuuri told him he was beautiful, wondering if, after all this, he’d be able to bear to see Victor in photographs.

“Good luck getting him to change before you go to the airport,” Mari ribs. Yuuri winces, following Victor’s sporadic flight around the room. Victor’s trying to lift Minako up, saying “if you can ballet, you can skate,” which…Victor…

“Are you okay?” Mari asks, tapping his arm.

“I will be.”

Victor wears his new clothes to the ninja house. His long, noodle arms are able to capture him and Yuuri and the backdrop no problem.

“Phichit will be so proud,” Yuuri says. “And jealous of your outfit.”

Victor smiles at him and takes his hand. “Let’s go to the beach next.”

They spend the day taking pictures, eating anything Victor wants. Yuuri kneels in the sand and ties up Victor’s clothes so they stay dry, and watches him wade out into the sea up to his knees, feet sinking in the sand.

“It’s freezing,” Victor says, staring out at the horizon.

“It’s March,” Yuuri replies helpfully. Victor laughs but doesn’t turn back to land. He stands there, sun turning the pink of his kosode into a scorch, the ocean dark fingers clutching his pale legs. The wind flings the two long strips of hair Victor left down to frame his face, snaking them in the air, silver ribbons. The waves sneak up, soak into Yuuri’s shoes. He gives up and takes off his clothes; he tucks his wet socks into his shoes and takes off his pants, putting everything up on the sand. He runs out ino the water, crying at the cold. Victor catches him when Yuuri trips through the waves towards him.

“I was hoping you’d join me,” Victor sighs, wrapping Yuuri up in his arms.

“It’s fr-freez-eezing,” Yuuri shivers. Every splash of water on his thighs is mother nature’s cruel punishment. He tucks his nose under Victor’s jaw.

“It feels good on my poor feet.”

“I hate Russians.”

Victor hums thoughtfully, lips quirked up. “But you love me.”

Yuuri squeezes his eyes shut. “I do.”

Victor breathes in and out slowly, deeply. Yuuri tries to bury himself in the folds of Victor’s clothes.

“I love you, Yuuri.”

This time, he doesn’t tell Yuuri not to cry. He still doesn’t know what to do when people cry. Holding them is a good place to start. Yuuri cries his way through the layers of Victor’s clothes until the salt of his tears touches skin. The cold of the ocean sinks into and upward, stealing them of their legs, coming for their hearts like a witch’s curse.

“I knew this would happen,” Yuuri wails, clutching at Victor. He has fistsfuls of fabric, he’s undoing the belt of the kosode, risking the tie-ups he’d done. “I told you – I said – I didn’t want another man –or a- -a boy. You’re a boy – and you all leave.”

“Yuuri, please—” Victor pleads, pained, holding his shaking shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri sniffs, grinding his face miserably into Victor’s chest. “I know. I knew. It’s not your fault.”

“You….” Victor hugs him tight, hiding his face into Yuuri’s dark hair. It’s warm, from the sun, but blowing madly. “You’ve been so good to me, Yuuri.”

Yuuri quiets with a ragged noise. Victor doesn’t let him lift his head. His lips shake as they kiss the crown of Yuuri’s head. “You’re the best drunk mistake I ever made.”

Yuuri laughs hoarsely and pulls back to scrub at his puffed up face. His glasses almost fall into the ocean but Victor catches them and fixes them back on Yuuri’s face.

“I hate you, Victor Nikiforov,” Yuuri declares grimly. “You made me fall in love with you. And made me cry in the cold fucking ocean.”

The English curse makes both of them laugh, miserable and sniffling. Victor’s eyes well over and he can’t stop the drops that fall, doesn’t bother to wipe them away. They make Yuuri burst into new tears and it’s all useless.

“Why are we standing in the fucking ocean,” Victor demands to know, laughing as the waves crash around their legs, rocking them.

“Because you fucking Russians love the fucking cold.”

It’s hysterical, and they can’t stop saying fuck, cursing the ocean, cursing the sand, cursing the sun and the wind and cold. Their legs are numb, Victor’s blistered inflamed. They curse his feet, ice skates, and ice skating. They carry their shoes in their hands and walk back to Yu-Topia, Yuuri with sand itching in his pants.

 

Yuuri hates airports. Victor doesn’t seem to care. He’s going through his camera roll, showing Yuuri pictures, asking which ones he likes the most. He did change from his traditional clothes that are safely packed away; he sits cozy in jeans and a sweater. It’s a late flight and not packed. It just makes Yuuri more nervous. He can’t focus anything other than the flights being called in Japanese, watching the take-off times creep closer.

“Yuuri, it’s fine,” Victor says for the tenth time. He puts a hand on Yuuri’s bouncing knee but doesn’t force it still.

“I know. I know.” Yuuri knows. Victor’s flown a lot. But Yuuri’s never had to say goodbye to Victor before and it’s awful. He hates him. He really does.

“Yuuri…”

Yuuri spares him a glance when Victor gets up; really, he should be able to predict him more, but Victor’s endless surprises. He’s out of his seat and kneeling in front of Yuuri before Yuuri can stop him.

“Oh god, what are you doing?” Yuuri hisses, pulling on him. “Vicchan, get off the floor. It’s dirty.”

“No. Wait.” Victor grabs Yuuri’s hands. “Yuuri, listen.”

“You want me to listen to a shameless man on his knees?!”

“Yes! Yes, I’ll be shameless because you wouldn’t believe me if I didn’t beg!” Victor snaps, breaking off into something sharp, serious. “I can’t think of a better way to do this. You wouldn’t ask me to stay.”

“No,” Yuuri breathes. “Don’t…”

“I have to,” he insists. “Look at me, Yuuri. Yuuri,” he presses Yuuri’s hands flat to his cheeks, eyes beseeching and earnest. “Come see me at the World Championship.”

He’s surprised again.

“What?” Yuuri squints at him. Victor rubs his cheek into Yuuri’s hand.

“I want to ask you to come with me, but I have to be realistic. Yakov told me to have common sense, so I am. All I want is for you to come see me at Worlds. I’ll buy you the ticket and the flight. It’ll only be two days. That’s all.”

“That’s all?” Yuuri baffles.

“Yes. I never showed you my skating.”

“I—Vicchan. I...I’ll come see you.” Of course he’ll go. He was thinking about it anyway, of surprising Victor. “Get off the floor.”

Victor relents, letting Yuuri drag him into his seat. His flight’s being called. That bastard timed it.

“I wanted to ask you to come with me,” Victor rushes to explain as he gathers his carry on. “But it’s too much right now. I’m not stupid. I’ll give both of us time to…to feel the differences in our lives.” His jaw is set, his eyes focused how they are when he skates. Yuuri can’t focus, thrown. “See me at Worlds, Yuuri,” Victor demands. “Promise me, you’ll come.”

“Y-yes.” Yuuri swallows, staring at him. He doesn’t look like a boy right now, he doesn’t look like a wayward twenty-one year old running away from his problems. The set of his face is that of a man. “I’ll come see you skate, Victor.”

Victor grins and snags Yuuri by the back of the neck, kissing him deeply, dipping him down with a flourish. Yuuri shrieks into his mouth, clutching at him for dear life, only to be released with a laugh. People clap politely in the background.

“Great! Perfect, Yuuri. I won’t disappoint you,” Victor promises in a flurry. He slings his bag over his shoulders. “I’ll show you my most beautiful skating.”

“W-wait. Vichan. Victor.” Yuuri grabs his arm. “I don’t understand. You’re not asking me to go with you?”

“Yuuri,” Victor says seriously, smile easing Yuuri’s worries. “I’d sneak you into my suit case right now and never let you go if that could work. But you, my sweet master, need to figure out what you want to do because…because I can’t take you away from your life. I can’t ask you to come with me, really come with me, if you can’t ask me to stay. It’s not fair, right? So…so,” Victor looks down, losing his strong posture.

“I’ll figure it out,” Yuuri blurts. Victor jerks his head up, eyes wide. Yuuri squeezes his hands. “You’re right, Victor. Neither of us can make decisions right now about something that big. But I’ll know, when I come see you.”

Victor bites his lip and nods, eyes softening. “Don’t for one second think I’ll have stopped loving you between now and then, okay, Yuuri? Call me, if you start doubting it.”

The loud speaker is calling out Victor’s flight number.

“Fucking airports,” Yuuri mumbles. Victor squawks an ugly laugh and they snicker, hugging fiercely, trembling. “You’re going to miss your flight. Yakov will kill us both.”

“He would,” Victor agrees with a sigh. He goes unresisting when Yuuri pulls his face down and kisses his nose. “Bye, Yuuri.”

“Bye, Vicchan.”

 

 

Yakov hugs. This is a rarely known fact. Some skaters hate that about him. They’re too used to his roughness, they don’t know how to take the kindness. Victor never struggled with the two opposing tempers. Yakov hugs Victor at the airport, smelling like tobacco and Krasnaya cologne.

“Did you miss me?” Victor asks a little wetly, tucking himself down into his itchy scarf.

“If I say yes, will you promise not to run away again? You made me bald.”

“No,” Victor huffs but he squeezes Yakov tighter. “You were bald when I left.”

“See, that attitude is exactly why I didn’t miss you.” Yakov picks Victor up a few inches, just to prove that he can and that Victor’s still an idiot boy. “How are you, Vitya? How’d it go with Katsuki?”

He’d warred with himself on whether or not to ask after the Japanese man. He’s pretty sure he knows the answer considering that Victor hadn’t sent him any texts messages about eloping.

Victor sighs heavily as they march to the luggage carousel. “I’ll know after Worlds. I need to focus on my skating. That’s my priority right now.”

Yakov really thought he’d stopped being surprised by this boy. But he can't expect Victor to do all his growing up where he gets to watch.  He clears his throat and grabs Victor’s suit case off the carousel. “Good. That’s good, Vitya.”

 

 

530,203 likes

v-nikiforov I miss Japan and my family there already. Majorly disappointed there’s no #welcomebackvitya party waiting for me in Russia. Only a mob of reporters :(((

#japan #travel #homeawayfromhome #mysteryman

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georgi-the-III Yakov picked you up. He’s all the party you need.

avocado4life lol why is he appropriating Japanese culture

hereforthedandthet @avocado4life seriously he’s surrounded by the Japanese family that clearly dressed him r u for real I S2G

Phichit+chu nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo I wanna do body shots with you again D’:

 

 

(one hour after posting)

9,067 likes

y-katsuki I guess I know what I’m wearing to Worlds… <3

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Nikistan2000 HE LEFT YOU HIS TEAM RUSSIA JACKET @vityasmysteryman
Vityasmysteryman YOURE GOING TO SEE HIM AT WORLDS IM DYING
christophe-ge Yuuri!!!!!!!! We get to meet. Bring @phichit+chu !
Phichit+chu @christophe-ge buying my ticket now #bodyshotsreunion
v-nikiforov @y-katsuki only wear the jacket.
christophe-ge @v-nikiforov Vitya honey, missing a prime opportunity. #WEARTHESHORTS #ICYHOT2016
unofficialworlds2016 I know what I’ll be looking forward to in Massachusetts. #ICYHOT2016
vityasmysteryman im making a gfm to bribe yuuri into #ICYHOT2016

 

(36 hour after posting)

200,293 likes

y-katsuki I guess I know what I’m wearing to Worlds… <3

 

 

 

GoFundMe
#ICYHOT2016
Goal $1,000 (USD)
Currently $432

This is to raise money to bribe Yuuri Katsuki to wear the #ICYHOT booty shorts from this video and Victor Nikiforov’s jacket from this post to the 2016 ISU World Championships so that I can believe in god again. Please. It’s for a good cause.

 

 

 


BKirschein@ISU.com

Dear Mr. Katsuki,

My name’s Brianna Kirschein. I’m a PR representative and funds ambassador for the International Skating Union. A GoFundMe page has been created by an unknown person trying to raise funds for a “bribe” to convince you to wear the ensemble of your #ICYHOT shorts and Victor Nikiforov’s trademark Team Russia hoodie. I believe it was linked in the comments section of your most recent post but I’ve supplied a link as well.

Mr. Katsuki, would you be interested in a fundraising venture in support of low-income background junior skaters? You and Mr. Nikiforov’s relationship has generated a lot of public interest that’s already a tabloid-titillating story for skating fans, athletic fans, and LGBT+ supporters worldwide. We'd like to negotiate a publically endorsed official ISU scholarship fundraiser under the terms of a public appearance and a short interview dressed in the #ICYHOT shorts and Victor Nikiforov’s Team Russia jacket. 

If you’re interested, we will draw up a contract of distribution rights to the photos….

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


 

The day after Victor leaves, Yuuko packs him a bento box, sends it along with Takeshi. She used to pack him meals when they were kids, leaving them with Minako to make sure Yuuri ate when he was too busy hiding in the studio. A lot of things feel like his youth, all of a sudden.

When Yuuri was little, he’d sit up all night listening to the inn, the town, the sea. He wouldn’t consciously do it; he would go to sleep like a good boy, reassured by his parents’ nightly kisses, but he’d rise inevitably after only a few hours of sleep. It wouldn’t be a nightmare that ticked his heart into a panic but a sense of pressure, a foreboding inevitable something. It was his own brand of monsters creeping aimlessly the way other children imagined them lurking in the closet or the cast-off shadows on their walls. Yuuri would wake, sure that disaster would strike, and so he must keep guard; not to fight off the danger but to raise the alarm, to be the first pair of eyes to behold this inevitable coming something. He’d sit up in bed, staring out his window.

The inn didn’t sit seaside, and so Yuuri’s window gave a vision of quiet Hasetsu and then, through the cracks of houses and stores, he’d spy the slick line of an ocean horizon. If the moon was bright, he could see the ocean, a soft whisper of a gesture, one he heard, the lap and lick of water; on dark nights, new moons or smoked-out cloudy nights, the world ended. There was no Hasetsu, no ocean, only the sound of the world swallowing itself.

That’s how he imagined the world, pinched between the ocean and the moon. Yuuri couldn’t imagine any child, any human, not reaching up for the moon, grasping at it like a silver coin. The moon was lovable because it couldn’t be reached, because it moaned across the sky, night after night; it vanished at the whim of the weather and curled behind the shadow of the earth only to wink to the home of your eye once more.

Then the ocean, his ocean. He’s an island boy; it’s unimportant in conversation but essential in his construction. He was born on an island, of island people, sea people. The slow eating of water at the wood of the docks, the walls of rocks, were old folks’ worries. The rise of the waters, the noxious building warmth in the shallow pools were the concerns of the modern youth. Everyone had a war story about a storm that pushed a flood under the houses; everyone knew at least one person who had drowned. You can love the sea but she won’t love you back. You can weather a storm but the waves will survive you. Earth can be tilled, maintained, but to a sea people there’s no possession. There’s only the engulfment by an indomitable will, a pull of the moon and the rhythm of waves always older, always younger, than any human alive.

He’s restless in the aftermath of Victor’s departure. He wakes and wonders his apartment, seeking monsters, disappointed that his windows only reveal his half-made reflection.  Nameless, shapeless worries quiver out of reach. He hates Fukuoka now. He hates it after he’s felt Hasetsu’s easy welcoming familiarity, after sharing it like it’s brand new with Victor.

Fukuoka is seaside, but Yuuri lives closer to Kasuga, straddling the boroughs along the highway near the airport. The sea’s too far to hear; he can’t see anything but complexes from his window, buildings that never go fully dark. If he goes to the roof of his building, the twin-spots of airplanes confuse him for alien ships. In New York, the Atlantic border hadn’t been interesting. There was too much industry, too many people.

At university, on breaks that Yuuri couldn’t afford to enjoy, his classmates, the ones that weren’t scraping by in meager cramped apartments with meager rations of peanut butter and terrible, terrible ramen, those lucky classmates escaped north and south. They went south to beaches that pruned the shore. The New England folk Yuuri understood a little better. He had been once, up along the north east coast of the States, with a friend who’d taken him away on their holiday break. Yuuri ate Thanksgiving in a living room stuffed over with warmth, and walked off his turkey-sleep along a rocky coast, lunging into the swinging beam of a lighthouse. That was the closest he’d felt to home in America.

He thinks about that now, of himself trying to find home on a foreign coast, foreign until his feet met the gush of icy waters. Maybe some of the same water that grounded him when he was twenty, across the world, found him a week ago in Hasetsu, had kissed itself over his and Victor’s legs.

I love you, Yuuri.

The ocean doesn’t love people. It just is. It havocs life and bears life. But it bends too, gives to the untouchable, peaceful weight of the moon. The distance between them looks small when they shine together in the night.

Yuuri can’t shake the images or thoughts from his head. His island town, his island country. Victor, running into the water to confess his love. His silver hair dancing in the wind. Him, leaving for ice. For solid, unmovable ice, for being a lone figure balanced on the edge of a blade. Yuuri’s bowled over in clenching heartache.  He’d thought before, that they were passing comets, romantic thoughts of stars and burning tails, of wished promises. They aren’t on the same path, not quite, but the distance between them isn’t impossible.  It is, in fact, conquerable. Yuuri wants to bridge it. He’d thought too, wrongly, that Victor is a coastal storm, a hurricane of a human being. Victor had flooded his world over, come to drown Yuuri in desire, in hopes, in an inevitable breathtaking end.

But that’s wrong too. Yuuri’s been so wrong. He’d been drowning himself for too long, watering down his passion, his goals, himself. He’s been treading water for five years, waiting for the inevitable give of his body. Drifting. He’s been drifting. He’s been a child sitting up at night, too busy waiting for something to happen, too wary to rush forward. And now? He longs. It’s all he can think of, his longing. It’s there in every breath.

He waits out morning. He sends too many emails. He texts Phichit exactly one minute after he knows his friend’s alarm goes off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[A slow-motion compilation of Victor Nikiforov falling on the ice]

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mila-mifa-mere The beautiful graceful untouchable heartthrob @v-nikiforov at practice this morning.

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Victor waves his phone in the air in mock outrage. Mostly mock. He’s wounded. His pride is hurt. His ass is bruised. “Mila! You disrespect me!”

Mila, who is sixteen and lucky that she’s so cute and that Victor’s soft and easy and an innocent soul without plans for revenge, only wiggles her fingers and skates to the other end of the rink, far out of yelling range. Victor’s glad to let her go, eyes dropping down to his phone to watch himself fall again and again, the grimace of pain that comes over his face as he breaks his fall, rolling, legs going out.

There hadn’t been a welcome back party but there’d been hugs and slaps on the back and careful nods. Mila, who is just easing into the senior bracket, and Georgi, Victor’s own peer, are about the only ones at his home rink that engage with him past common familiar courtesy. It’s lonely here. It’s easy that way too. St. Petersburg’s colder than he remembers, spring an ugly struggle of weather. Skating’s harder than he remembers too, and he’s grateful. It feels good to hurt.

The thought occurs to him as his body throbs in pain from his many falls this morning. He’s three days into his return to Russia, and he’d be as numb as the ice if not for the solid, anchoring pain that beats in time with his heart, surging in the ugly bruises on his body. It’s familiar and comforting, the heaviness of his body, the simplicity of his thoughts. Skate.  Get up and skate. Stand up, Victor, and skate. Skate more. Sleep and dream about skating.

He drinks his protein shakes, takes a pain killer, and gets back on the ice.

Three days it’s been, and he couldn’t remember them if you put a gun to his head. What’s to remember? He’s been at the rink. These days could be replaced with any number of days from the past ten years of his life. Nothing’s different, nothing’s changed.

Hasetsu’s a million lives away from him; Yuuri’s a series of photos in his phone.

He sleeps hard from exhaustion after amusing himself by crying into his pillow. Yakov worries over him, hovering and calling him constantly, squeezing his arms with an old-man’s grip when Victor totters on his blade guards. He mumbles odd comforts, he squints at Victor. He checks him for fever, a wrinkle-wedged hand on his forehead, when Victor sits listlessly on the bench, skates unlaced, eyes out of focus.

Day three becomes four becomes five.

 

His phone’s ringing incessantly. Yakov’s knocking down his door. It’s a rest day, and Victor has his therapy appointment. Oh joy.

“Give me a minute,” he yells from bed, angrier than he has any right to be. The knocking stops, replaced by the metal grind of a key into the lock that sticks; Yakov lets himself in, giving up on politeness.

“Vitya, this place is a wreck,” Yakov scolds from the living room. He’d been a whirlwind when he’d left Russia, tearing his closet apart, throwing this and that around his apartment as he’d packed. In his return, he’s dumped everything, uncaring, picking through what he needs as he needs it. What’s the point of putting it all away? He’ll be travelling again soon enough. No one’s here to see.

Rolling over’s an effort, but he grabs his phone and answers, not looking at the receiver.

“Da?”

He knows it isn’t Yuuri. Even though Victor told him he could call, he knows Yuuri won’t. Yuuri won’t call to say “I miss you” or “tell me again that you love me.” Yuuri’s busy figuring out what he wants, the ‘what’ being Victor. They had, briefly, agreed that it was better to have some distance, for the perspective. Victor wouldn’t know what to do if he called; he might beg. He might cry. He might say nothing, and Yuuri would run his mouth rapid-fire with every point of stress and worry, with a hundred dilemmas and reasons for why they couldn’t possibly do – do what it is that Victor wants them to be doing. He isn’t sure. Boyfriends. Lovers. He doesn’t know; those one-word titles don’t explain that he wants to fall asleep in Yuuri’s arms and he wants to see Yuuri dance and he wants to go back to Hasetsu and have Mari and Yuuri gang up on him at board games and Yuuri’s Papa will show Victor his Minoru Muraoka collection and sit on the porch with him because Yuuri brought Victor to his family and that meant he was worthy of love, no conditions, and Mama will pat Victor’s cheek and tell him to eat more.

Victor doesn’t need him to call. It’s enough that Yuuri put that picture on instagram, in Victor’s jacket. He’d hidden it under Yuuri’s pillow before they’d left for Hasetsu. It’s enough that Yuuri promised to come see him at Worlds.

His speaker greets him with a French command. “Check your email.”

Yakov’s still grumbling in the other room.

“What time is it for you,” Victor grumbles. If it’s morning here, then for Chris it must be --- Victor pulls his phone away from his face to check the time. It’s not morning here. It’s well past noon. No wonder Yakov’s here to drag him to therapy, Victor’s going to be late. “I’m late for an appointment.”

“Love, you will want to check your email.”

His bedroom door opens, Yakov’s surly presence filling the square of light. “Vitya. Up.”

“I have to go,” Victor sighs, French sleep clumsy in his mouth. Chris tuts at him but lets him go, his civic duty done. Victor will check his email in the car.

“It smells in here. Have you washed your sheets since you left? You haven’t unpacked either. If I check the fridge, will it be empty? You know, I threw out all your spoiled food. No thanks from you.”

“Yakov,” Victor groans, rolling over and pulling the accused, musty sheets over his head. “Out. I’m naked.”

“I’ve seen you naked a million times, you tart.” The bed dips as Yakov takes a seat heavily on the edge and clamps a hand on Victor’s shoulder, feeling him out beneath the sheets. “Come on, Vitya. Lilia helped me to find this lady. She is well-recommended among performers.”

Victor grunts. Yakov pats his shoulder. “Up, Vitya. Hop in the shower. You stink. I brought you lunch, but I suppose now it’s breakfast.”

He leaves the bedroom, trusting Victor to obey. And he does. He slinks out of bed and into his bathroom, avoiding his reflection, avoiding the accusation of his hair gray with oil and his puffy eyes. 

 

 

The therapist office has plants everywhere, the room muggy and hot, red lamps tending to the out of place foliage. Victor’s nursing a cup of very pale very sweet coffee, feeling criminal for it, wondering what face Yuuri would make if he tasted it. Yakov had let him have the cream, sugar, and caffeine “just this once.” Mrs. Petrova reminds him of how Victor imagines a younger Lilia might have been; the same austere beauty but not as biting. Only just, though.

Victor turns on his face with smiles, polite words, the vague indication of flirtation that they both know means nothing. She’d said “tell me about yourself,” and Victor gave a summary of his skating career. Her pen moved. She said “tell me about your fall on the ice in January,” and Victor told her his medical history. She said “what did you do while you were gone,” and Victor said he’d travelled.

She listens, of course she does, and she asks nice questions about what he liked about travelling. It feels like an interview or a coffee-date or something banal. Victor finishes his coffee, warmed up in the office, still strangely drowsy in a way he can’t get rid of but his speech comes faster and easier as the minutes roll by.

“Tell me more about Yuuri,” she interrupts. “You stayed with his family in his hometown—”

“Hasetsu,” Victor nods.

“You met him in Japan.”

“Yes.” Victor wishes he had more coffee. “Everyone knows about Yuuri.”

She hums. “You’ve made him quite a presence in your social media.” She’s done her research; hell, Victor didn’t expect anything less. “You haven’t said how you met.”

“Oh?” Victor smiles. “At a club. He is a brilliant dancer. It was love at first sight.” He lays a hand over his heart for effect.

“It was while you were in Japan that Yakov cut off access to your funds, correct? You mentioned that being a part of why you went to the doctor, who recommended therapy to investigate your dissociative episodes—“

“Dissociative episodes?” Victor parrots with a tightening smile, a scrunch of his eyes.

“Yes,” Mrs. Petrova says carefully, hands folding flat over her notebook. “Do you know what that is, Mr. Nikiforov?”

Victor bobs his head. She nods back, slower, and continues. “So you and Yuuri met at a club; were you sober?”

“More than he was,” Victor shrugs. She writes something down, Cyrillic impossible for Victor to read at this angle and distance.

“And you became lovers? Did you have sex the night you met him?”

“That’s hardly your business,” Victor responds with crisp acid. It’s the first sharp slice of resistance to her questions.

“Mr. Nikiforov, I’m only trying to understand your relationship with Yuuri. But we can pass over that for now. You have a right to your secrets,” she placates immediately. “So you two became friends, after meeting. You stayed with Yuuri?”

Victor chews on the inside of his cheek before nodding.

“He let you stay with him for over a month? Without compensation?”

“Are—are you suggesting I prostituted myself to him?” Victor interrupts, on edge.

“No,” she replies civilly, everything about her placid. Smooth. “You’ve reached that conclusion on your own. Again, Mr. Nikiforov, I’m only trying to understand your situation. We don’t have to talk about Yuuri. But I’m interested in your time travelling, and you’ve mentioned him a fair amount.”

Victor crosses his arms with a huff, then his legs. It’s not like he could leave Yuuri out of his time in Japan. Yuuri was his time in Japan. “Yuuri’s perfect. He’s not why I’m here. There’s nothing to understand. We’re lovers. It’s simple.”

“That can be the simplest thing in our lives: love. Lovers. But Mr. Nikiforov, I’m trying to piece together your most recent history. You are a symbol in Russia; you brought us a gold at the Olympics and many golds and medals in your skating. You’re a public figure. Yuuri is the first time you’ve given a lover such focus; forgive me for knowing a bit of your tabloid history. There was the hockey player, Rauol—” she pauses. She doesn’t need to say any more about that. Victor does not squirm. “You fled, you said that yourself. You wanted a break from skating, in the middle of the season, and you found yourself without money in Japan, taking up with a man you just met.”

“So?”

“Does that behavior alarm you in any way?”

“No?”

“Why are you resistant to sharing your story with Yuuri and how you two came to be when you’ve been very public about your love otherwise?”

“Is that it?” Victor uncrosses his limbs with a wide sweep, sitting up straight and forward in his seat, hands clasped on his knees. “You think I’m being resistant?”

She holds up staying fingers. “Mr. Nikiforov—”

“If you want to know so badly; no, I didn’t hand over my body to Yuuri. Although I certainly tried! He’s beautiful and strong, we were going to fuck when we met at the club but his friend took him away but not before he gave me his address. So I found him one night, went to his house when I was drunk and begged him to take me in. Is that what you want to know? I couldn’t go home, and I couldn’t afford to stay, so I got on my knees for a perfect stranger and barked like a dog and rolled over and was so pitiful that my sweet Yuuri let me sleep on a futon. Is that the alarming behavior you want to hear?”

From all that, she says, with probing interest: “you barked like a dog?”

“He told me he hated men. Recent break-up, I’m sure you know how people get, in your line of work,” he says ruefully. “So I pretended to be a dog. He didn’t like that very much either. He told me he let me stay out of fear for what would happen to me, you know. He says I’m shameless.”

“It sounds like,” Mrs. Petrova says carefully, eyes gentle, “Yuuri did his best to keep you safe.”

The remarks so obvious, yes, Yuuri kept him safe. Yuuri took care of him, but still it takes the wind out of Victor. He falls back into his seat, exhausted, feeling like strings have been cut from his body. He covers his face with one hand, breathing in slowly, gathering himself. He hates outbursts. He hates when he gets like that.

“He’s a really nice person.”

“I believe that,” she agrees. “What do you think about that?”

“About what?”

“If a young man, a famous one, ran away without a word, to another country, found himself penniless, and barked like a dog in desperation for a stranger to take him into his home, what would you say about that?”

Through the spread of his fingers, Victor can see the hot red glow of the heat lamps. The rooms a strange, endless sunset. “I’d say that he needs therapy.”

 

 

He’s supposed to see her next week. Yakov’s reading a home care magazine in the waiting room when Victor comes out.

“How was it?” Yakov asks cautiously.

“Same time next week,” Victor shrugs. He takes a lollipop from the jar on the secretary’s desk and ducks away from Yakov’s hand when he tries to yank it out from his mouth.

“Spit that out. Five kilograms, Vitya. I don’t know where it went on you. We’re buying groceries before I take you home. Do you need laundry detergent? Clean your apartment tonight, don’t be a child about it.”

The ceaseless orders are a comfort after ceaseless questions. Victor slouches in Yakov’s car, quite resigned to Russia’s hateful driving. Chris has texted him again about his email. What the bloody hell is so interesting that warrants a call and a text. If it’s a meme, Victor’s going to block Chris from his life forever.

“Did you know the ISU is doing a fundraiser?” Victor says when he sees the subject line.

“So you’re checking your email finally? I read it this morning. Only you could have been responsible for such an embarrassing thing,” Yakov says.

“Me?” Victor frowns, confused, but then he’s reading it, eyes widening and mouth falling open. “Yuuri! Yakov! Yuuri! Yakov! They’re making my Yuuri into a pin-up! Oh, I’m donating. Did you donate? Oh my,” he’s grinning so hard his face hurts. “I told him that he looked good in those shorts.”

He’s giggling as he shares the fundraiser’s image and information to his instagram and his twitter. It’s about time the world starts taking notice of Yuuri.

When Yuuri had posted that selfie in his jacket, saying he’d wear it to Worlds, Victor’s heart had soared. Yuuri was going to come to him, dressed just for him, Victor red and bright all over his body. But this? This is so much better. It’s hilarious and surprising. He never would have guessed that the quietly guarded man he first began to know would surrender himself to the public eye like this. Victor can’t help but think it’s because of him; it is, in a basic way. It’s his shorts, his jacket, Victor Nikiforov who has brought unknown Katsuki Yuuri into the temperamental limelight but is it Vicchan and all their playfulness, all the loosening of Yuuri’s restraints that’s urging the older man to catch the waves that come?

Yakov eyes Victor’s wild grin warily. “I’m only grateful that it’s not you shaking your ass like some floozy. Have mercy: what is the ISU thinking?”

“Sex sells,” Victor replies primly. He brandishes his lollipop at Yakov for emphasis. “I told you this. Watch; I hope the scholarships goes to one of your little brats. And don’t call my Yuuri a floozy. He’s quite the dignified man. He works in an office Yakov.”

Yakov snatches the candy away and throws it from the window, ignoring Victor’s shrill protests.

 

736,274 likes

v-nikiforov I’ll be jealous when everyone gets to see Yuuri looking so sexy but I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. I’ve been so busy, I only now checked my email (thanks @christophe-ge) and saw the fundraiser. Please donate! Skating is SO SO expensive. I really struggled when I started. So many young kids can’t keep up with their dreams because it’s so expensive. @y-katsuki you are so beautiful and perfect and I can’t wait to see you at Worlds my love <3 <3. #icyhot2016 #mysteryman #itsforagoodcause

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Chris calls him, ever the lovable pest. It’s like he knows that Victor doesn’t leave the house except to go to the rink. “You must mail him the shorts, Victor. He’ll be displaying them the day before the men’s short program skate.”

“Part of me doesn’t want to,” Victor sighs. He has the shorts in his hand. He never washed them. They smell faintly of Yuuri, and he bring them to his face and inhales. He’s foul. He misses Yuuri and his smell, waking up to it, falling asleep with his face smashed into Yuuri’s skin. Yuuri smells like soap and linen and volcanic salt.

“If you don’t, someone else will be more than happy to have him in their clothes. Or better, in nothing. I can see it now, Yuuri with nothing but your jacket, hands covering himself, that cute face blushing—”

“Chris,” Victor cuts him off, tone seering. “Don’t make me rethink our friendship.”

“What?” Chris has the audacity to act offended. “I’m only giving my approval of your master. Or don’t tell me, the little puppy is a big bad guard dog these days?”

Victor grumbles into the phone, dragging the shorts across his nose and lips. He regrets telling Chris the details of his relationship with Yuuri. Only Yuuri can call him Puppy. “I’m territorial. You are a horn dog. I can’t have you sullying Yuuri with your filthy fantasies.”

Chris laughs him off, and Victor smiles, distant from his body. “Did you donate?” he asks.

“Yes. Not much though, I don’t have your gold-medal winnings. Ah, you just had to come back for Worlds. Now I must work extra hard.”

“Don’t strain yourself,” Victor says bitterly. “I’m rusty.”

“You at your worst is still the opponent to beat, Victor. I’m not interested in your humbleness. Save your lack of pride for Yuuri’s whipping hand.”

An ugly snort escapes Victor’s nose, practically a honk. “I’ve mislead you terribly if you think that my Yuuri has a whipping hand.”

“Ah,” Chris’s smirk is audible over the line, “but no defense for your lack of pride?”

 

It’s long past time that Yuuri’s coworkers take an interest in their quiet colleague’s obscure, but rising, fame. It’s long past time Yuuri deals with his predicament. He’s disabled notifications on his instagram because it’s relentless. Last week, Phichit had come over to teach Yuuri everything about social media, public image, and selling yourself for publicity, endorsements, and fame. Yuuri finally knows his selfie angle. He’ll post twice daily, a flattering photo of any kind (“start sexy. Let’s do some stretching photos.”) and a cropped dance video with the link to his new youtube channel. Companies are sending him clothes and organic salt-stone antiperspirants.

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing, Phichit,” Yuuri whines, hugging his friend to near suffocation. But I know what I want.”

“Victor’s babies, you said,” Phichit manages to wheeze. Yuuri loosens his hold guiltily and shuffles away.

“Babies, yeah,” he laughs nervously, scrubbing at his hair, fixing his glasses. His hands tic through motions of adjustment, repositioning. “I want to be a dancer again,” Yuuri admits quietly, looking down at his feet. “I’m not good enough for a ballet company, that I know. I’m realistic about it. But teaching Victor had been more than just fun. It felt good. I think – he’s given me a gift.”

“Yeah. Instant-insta semi-stardom.” Phichits only a little bit jealous that Yuuri’s blowing up on social media without trying, meanwhile Phichit’s carefully crafted public figure mark had been hard won. But he’s happy for his friend, at the end of the day. Phichit claps. “So what’s the plan? America first, then Russia? I can absolutely plan a sexy dance tour. You want a vodka endorsement? I know a guy.”

Yuuri doesn’t look up from his feet, lagging in his answer long enough that Phichit worries. “Actually…,” Yuuri scrapes his teeth over his bottom lip, too much a nervous boy in the gesture. “I want to teach in Hasetsu. At Minako’s studio.”

“Oh,” Phichit says meaningfully, taken aback. His happy-hands press tightly together, tendons straining. Yuuri grimaces at his tone and turns away, waving his hands in the air.

“I know. I know. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“You’re not moving to Russia?” And in a way, Phichit’s relieved. Hasetsu is far closer to him than Russia. He can like the idea of Yuuri and Victor without liking the many miles that will lay down between him and Yuuri.

Yuuri covers his face with his hands. “I don’t know,” Yuuri groans in his hands. “I don’t know, Phichit. I’m figuring it out.”

Figuring it out looks like Yuuri standing up from his desk two weeks after Victor’s left and Yuuri can’t anymore. He can’t sit in this building atrophying. That’s what it’s become, sharp and sudden. He has to get out of here. He’s seen this in movies and on TV, the flight of passion that overtakes the main character, the star-studded eyes bright with fantastic whimsy and determination. He’s twenty-two again, opening the thick envelope of an invitation for an audition, student union building bustling around him, people passing by, everything passing by him.

Takeshi doesn’t say his name, but he watches as Yuuri weaves around the spread of desks to Mrs. Yakimura’s glass office. She waves him in, on the phone, and finished her call with Yuuri rubs sweating hands over his suit pants. Victor hates this suit. The ISU said that he was invited to the championship’s banquet; he’ll buy a new suit.

“Mr. Katsuki?”

Yuuri looks up from his pants, smile lingering. Mrs. Yakimura’s thin eyebrows rise in question. That’s all Yuuri needs to launch into apologies, into thanks, bowing his head, stumbling over his words. She’s been a better boss than he could ever imagine, and he’s so grateful for the opportunities he’s had, he’s grown so much with the magazine; he’s truly thankful but—

“Mr. Katsuki,” and Mrs. Yakimura has a way of saying his name that puts Yuuri at ease like nothing else. It’s a little weary, a little distant but like it’s already forgiven you, her voice. “I’m not of the opinion that a twenty-seven year old has tied himself permanently to one path in life.”

Yuuri nods, licking his dry lips. “Y-yes.”

She’s kinder than he thinks he deserves.

 

“Wani!”

“Yo, Katsuki,” Wani waves her hand as Yuuri jogs up to her, ballet flats on his feet releasing smothered slaps of sound. “You’ve been coming at different hours since your boyfriend left.”

He flinches, a small curling inward, and she feels guilty. “Hey, sorry, I follow you guys on instagram and his twitter. You’re seeing him soon, right?”

“Yeah,” Yuuri nods, features easing. He’s really good looking. The eyes rest easy on his smooth face, want to dip around his pale mouth, the sweep of his jaw. Wani sighs loudly around her water bottle. All the good ones are taken. “Ah, so, uhm, remember when you said about…when you asked if I taught dancing?”

“Yeah?” she pins down her smile but she can’t help that she’s already lighting up. “Yeah,” she repeats with increasing interest. Some of Yuuri’s teeth show when he smiles next, waving his arms forward and clapping his hands politely before his body, rocking up on his toes.

“I’m going to become a teacher. I think. I’m going to try. Uhm. I have a week, a week here in Fukuoka. I’m not…really sure what I’ll be doing after that but do you want to dance together for this next week?”

Wani holds up a finger. “For free?” Because she isn’t about to get played.

Yuuri laughs. “For free. I have some choreography in mind; how do you feel about lifts?”

 

 

 

454,002 views

y-katsuki does everyone remember @wanizamewasabi from my first post? She’s my first official pupil J You can see the full video with some step-by-step instructions on moves on my youtube channel! #contemporary #dance #ykatsukidance #学生  

 

 

Victor falls asleep with his phone in his hand, the screen long darkened over a boomerang edited video of Yuuri in an endless pirouette, round and round, arms an arch, one leg indomitable, the other curling in and out from his body in a perfect angle, his foot popping to propel him, face peaceful. He dreams of Yuuri like this, a dancer in a music box wearing a tutu and a Nutcracker’s red soldier coat. Victor opens and closes the lid, unable to stop, making Yuuri twirl faster and faster each time, obedient to the whim of the music, of the hands that cranks him.

He wakes up before his alarm, his bedroom pitch around him. He doesn’t know what’s caused him to stir awake until he checks his phone and his heart missteps in his chest.

 

Yuuri’s message sits innocent on his display, a quiet bid. It must be morning for him in Japan. Victor thumbs to a call before he thinks much of it, phone sticky on his cheek.

The line clicks awake almost immediately. Yuuri whispers a soft “moshi moshi,” and Victor sighs, eyes shut once more.

“Yuuri~.”

There’s a long emptiness, then a rustle which Victor assumes is Yuuri settling somewhere before Yuuri speaks. “Hi, Vicchan. I’m sorry. It’s so early for you. And you probably go to the rink early enough as it is. I shouldn’t have—“

“I miss you,” Victor hums, voice thick with sleep. It feels good to say. “I’m glad you texted.”

There’s another stillness before Yuuri whispers, the line crackling with his breath, the phone must be held so close and tight: “I miss you too, Vicchan. I – it’s good to hear your voice.”

“Yeah,” Victor wonders. He shifts around in bed, the covers suddenly warmer, more comforting. A laugh, sheer and whispy, bubbles out of him. “I would have called you, but I didn’t want to –“

“Seem needy?” Yuuri teases. Victor huffs and Yuuri chuckles, then gulps and quiets. “Me either. I know you’re busy…and I am too…and there’s so much to figure out…”

“Yeah,” Victor says again. “Is it going well? This figuring out? You’ve been a busy boy, if your various social media accounts are anything to go by. You’re giving me a run for my money.” He lightens his tone, purrs honey for Yuuri to ease into. No reason to make this harder. It’s good, simply to hear his voice.

“Ah. Yeah. Phichit helped me a bunch. Uhm, that’s, yeah,” Yuuri mumbles.

“And this fundraiser. I mailed off the shorts. I do want them back. Don’t wash them. I want them returned ripe with you.”

There’s a loud gust of air into the line. A despairing sigh. “You are – Vicchan.”

Victor giggles, twisting happily in the sheets. “I’m what? Tell me, Yuuri? Call me naughty. Tell me I’m a bad puppy, please, I miss your scolding.”

Yuuri’s laughing, the noise a slow rocking. “You are one of a kind, Victor Nikiforov.”

“Aw,” Victor pouts. “My full name?”

Yuuri clicks his tongue. “You said you wanted to be scolded.”

That’s true. His full name is so serious. It’s something strangers use, a distance built into the syllables. Not like Vitya. Not like Vicchan. Victor whines unhappily. Yuuri hums, low, and breathes again in preparation for proper words.

“Thank you, for calling me. I did wake you, didn’t I?”

“It’s okay,” Victor assures quickly. “It’s a dream come true.”

“Have you been well, Vicchan?” There’s a lot to the question. It’s asking for more than it suggest, able to be brushed off easily. Yuuri won’t ask him anything outright, ever cautious, always aware of the space between people, gratifying in his own privacy. It makes it easy to tell half-truths; Yuuri will press and worry in his head, but it’ll take weeks for him to work up to doubting aloud.

 “Mr. Nikiforov, it’s common for mental health issues to emerge in the early twenties. It’s easy to attribute some of your behavior to that of any young man… Your personal endangerment, extravagant spending, the risky sex. People in high-stress careers blow off steam in a number of ways. But your depressive episodes……dissociative episodes…on the matter your concussions, mania causes rapid speech, disorientation, attention problems…,” Mrs. Petrova drones on, explaining the interior of Victor’s brain.

 “I’m not starting medication before a competition. I won’t risk side-effects.”

“Same old. I’m sore from skating. I miss the hot springs.”

“Poor puppy,” Yuuri coos. “Do you have a bathtub?”

“Yes…” His tub needs a good scrubbing if he wants to take a soak. His tone gives away its sorry state and Yuuri doesn’t press.

“When I see you,” Yuuri says in a burst, clearly something he’s worked up to in his head, “I will make you feel good. Skaters and dancers experience similar aches. I’ll- I’ll be there the day before the Men’s singles start. For the fundraiser. So if you’re free—I’m sure you have friends you’re supporting but—“

“Yuuri,” Victor admonishes. “Yuuri, my love,” and Yuuri shuts up, “I cannot wait to see you. I’ve been dying since I left you. Wilting, Yuuri. You won’t recognize me, I’m so—”

“Withered?” Yuuri guesses.

“Withered! Perfect, Yuuri. Your English is as expansive as always. My sweet prince of a polyglot.”

“Okay, Shakespeare,” and Victor’s pleased to hear the crinkled edge of a smile back in Yuuri’s voice. “It’s only a week until Worlds…Vicchan, I—” the words hang, a vine of grapes floating nectar sweet, “I love you. Uhm. I wanted to tell you that. And that I’m rooting for you every day.”

“I love you too,” Victor says automatically. He says it before he can stall. Yuuri would wither if he stalled. He loves Yuuri. It just feels far away, sleepy. But he can say it. He’s warm with Yuuri’s words, lethargic. He loves him. In this moment, it’s the only thing he trusts. Yuuri. Yuuri’s going to come to him, and Victor will show him the best skating that he can do.

He doesn’t go back to sleep after their call. It wasn’t more than ten minutes, but Victor’s begrudgingly awake. It’s for the best. He needs every hour of practice he can get before Worlds.

 

Georgi finds him soaked to the bone with sweat, landing a quad lutz. He stays silent and watches as Victor laps around, moving through the spin section of his free skate, a spray of hair and sweat in his whip-whirl Beilman that makes Goergi’s stomach heave to watch that broken spine, the girlish insistence of movement long-lost in a grown man’s body.

He lands the lutz again and tacks on a triple toe-loop.

If Victor pulls it off at Worlds, he’ll win. It won’t matter. He’ll win. He disappears and comes back like a dead-after spectre; he’s going to win.

Victor heaves on his hands and knees when he comes out of form, mouth huge, face red under his pale hair, all of him desperate, the curve of his spine shuddering, a prehistoric arc of bone. Georgi wants to hate him. He does, part of him hates Victor. But watching him sink down to the ice, sprawling out to cool down, no music, nothing but him hollowing up the air, he wonders how someone can walk away like he did, find love, and still try to kill himself on the ice in the lonesomeness of a morning slipping into a post-dawn haze.

 

 


 

 

Boston’s a fucking madhouse. Phichit doesn’t begrudge Yuuri for holding his hand in a death grip. He’s glad Yuuri let him write that email to Brianna, their ISU lifeline, about Phichit needing to join him at Worlds. She hadn’t cared, booking them the double room with two queens without much convincing, adding another pass for Phichit that now shines through a laminate sleeve on a god awful lanyard around his neck. It’s not a look that he likes. Once they’re at the table for Yuuri’s dubious but amusing fifteen minutes of fame, that thing is going into his bag.  

“Do you see Brianna?” Yuuri asks for the millionth time, coming to a standstill and jarring both of their arms. He’s on his tippy-toes, looking around. He’s wearing Victor’s red jacket and people absolutely know who he is. But the booty and the booty shorts are hidden under discrete tear-away black track pants that Phichit found for him. He’s a genius.

“She’ll meet us at the table. She’s said she’s grabbing us food.”

“Do you see Victor?”

“He said he’s on his way. He’ll find us.”

“Do I smell okay? Smell me.”  Yuuri plasters himself against Phichit, hugging him tightly. Phichit dutifully sniffs Yuuri’s neck, making it look like a normal hug.

“You smell good. Your breath is fine too, before you ask. Didn’t you tell me that Victor says he wants to sniff your panties or something?”

Yuuri chokes on a whine and squirms away, now the one pulling them towards the interview table. People are snapping pictures. Phichit’s phone chirps at him. He has a lot of alerts on and he snorts when he sees the latest blurb in Victor and Yuuri’s Google alerts.

Nikiforov’s boyfriend, Katsuki, spotted canoodling with another man at ISU Worlds!

Come on. At least give him name cred. Phichit’s in that post-workout face mask selfie. Maybe that’s why they can’t recognize him? But unless there’s another hot brown guy in Yuuri’s instagram, that just reeks of laziness.

“Yuuri, come here.” Phichit ropes him close with a hand around his neck. “Smile. Hit a good angle. Okay!”

Yuuri’s giving him the stink-eye and it’s hilarious against Phichit’s victory fingers and bright smile.

Phichi+chu Chulant’s best friend, @y-katsuki, spotted looking for @v-nikiforov  at ISU Worlds! #icyhot2016 #mysterman #victornikiforov #isu2016 #boston2016 #iceskating @isuofficial @bladerush get your facts straight!

Yuuri eyes the phone, mouth flat. “You’re enjoying this too much.”

“I told you, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me without happening to me. Okay, come on, Slowbro the Snail!”

“SlowBro is not a snail,” Yuuri hisses. They make it ten feet in the crowds before Brianna finds them.

“There you two are! Yuuri, Phichit!”

Brianna is a self titled #Black, #fat, and #femme lesbian according to her instagram. Yuuri had sighed with relief when Phichit scrounged her up online, feeling marginally less exploited when the bidding’s being done by another qpoc. The ISU might still be a nebulous organization using a cute, iconic queer East Asian man for profit…but at least their proxy agent feels safe. There’s a least five think pieces on #icyhot2016 that Phichit had to use a dictionary to decode. Yuuri had just nodded and agreed: “highly problematique.”

“Hi hi hi,” Phichit greets, his wave quickly turning into a clutch around a venti coconut caramal macchiato. Yuuri shoots it a horrified glance and accepts the iced green tea (snooze) that Brianna hands him, juggling it to keep a hand free. He keeps shaking people’s hands, lapsing into his overseas business mode.

“Hello, Brianna. Thank you.”

Brianna smiles, bright and personable. She shakes hands every time with unwavering enthusiasm. She’s damn good at her job. “You’re welcome, Yuuri. I’m glad you two managed to get through the throng okay. Yuuri, thank you so much for accepting this offer, I can’t say that enough.”

She’s said it a bunch. She said it in emails, on the phone, when they met last night at the airport, before she left them at their hotel room.

“So I sent you the itinerary. There’s already a line. People have been really good sports about it, oh ha! I’m hilarious. Anyway. So there’s a line from the people who pre-purchased photos with you. You said you were okay with physical contact but there’s security. No one will get to get handsy. Don’t let anyone actually touch your butt, Yuuri. Once you let one person do it—”

“YUURI!”

Brianna’s words get caught off by the yell, and Yuuri’s serious listening face splits wide, eyes instantly bright, mouth curling immediately. It’s beautiful, seeing his friend light up like that. Phichit has one moment to admire Yuuri’s happiness at the sound of Victor’s voice calling his name until he catches sight of Victor barrellingtowards them.

“Vicchan! Wait—” Yuuri flails, and Phichit grabs the drink from his hands just in time for Yuuri to shift his wait and catch Victor’s full-throttle hurtle into his arms. Victor’s cackling, legs wrapped around Yuuri in a flash. Yuuri stumbles backwards, converting the force into a spin round and round, bowing with the initial weight, but with a grunt of effort, he keeps himself and Victor from crashing to the floor. There’s a lot of flash photography and noise around them. Brianna’s eyebrows are high on her forehead, her blinks slow and impressed. Phichit sets their drinks on the ground and whips out his phone to film the reunion.

Victor’s animated in his hug, nuzzling Yuuri’s hair, rubbing his face into his cheek, squeezing Yuuri with his thighs. “Yuuri, moy solnyshko. I missed you. I missed you so much. Thank you for coming. Yuuri, I’m reborn. I’m back to life. You’re resurrecting me, my love. I’m never letting go. Miserable, Yuuri. I was miserable without you. ”

Yuuri’s not saying anything. His face is buried in Victor’s shoulder, head down, back straight. His arms securely hold Victor, one underneath, another around his back. But his hands are clenched, pressed tight. There’s no space between them. Victor’s running mouth slows then trails off until he too tucks his head down beside Yuuri’s face, whispering too softly for Phichit to hear. Yuuri nods ever so slightly, his chest expanding and contracting with slow, deep breaths. Victor kisses his temple, expression cut and tender.

Phichit has mixed emotions about Victor and Yuuri as a couple. He’s Yuuri’s best friend, so he has to have mixed emotions about anyone romantic in Yuuri’s life. Yuuri’s not a caretaker. He doesn’t like to fix or heal. So Victor’s crash-landing into his life, the undeniable chemistry and Victor’s neediness had thrown Phichit. He’s clingy and expressive and should be overwhelming to Yuuri but Yuuri loves him; that’s not up for dispute. Phichit’s never seen Yuuri get so deep so fast. He’s still guarded, still doubting and worrying, but Yuuri keeps pushing onward into this weird, vibrant mess. Watching them now, the clutch of them, Phichit doesn’t think he can say a word to stop Yuuri. He’s going to do what he’s going to do, and even if Victor is as worrisome as he is delightful, Phichit can’t really find fault in him either.

“Gentlemen,” Brianna says evenly, touched but aware of their time table. “You don’t have to let go, but can Yuuri come to his table?”

“Yes,” Victor answers, turning his head to smile at her. “But I need at least twenty more minutes of hugging before I can get down.”

“Vicchan,” Yuuri rasps, poking his head up. “Do you remember when I said that you are a noodle?”

“Yes?” Victor blinks rapidly down at Yuuri, sparkles in his eyes.

“You are a buckwheat soba noodle.”

Phichit snorts behind his hand, still filming.

“Meaning?”

“Heavy,” Yuuri huffs. He bounces Victor in his arms and adjusts his grip pointedly. Victor laughs and cups Yuuri’s face in his hands, squishing his cheeks together. Yuuri’s eyeglasses are barely hanging onto his nose.

“I lost two kilograms!” But Victor gets down out of his arms, settling on a regular hug. Then he finally sees Phichit and detaches from Yuuri to squeeze his Phichit, narrowly KOing their drinks. “Phichit! I’m so glad you could come. I can’t wait to introduce you to Christophe.”

Victor holds Yuuri’s hand and leads him to the photo table. Brianna and Phichit lag behind. Yuuri’s staring at Victor, amazed, like he’s seeing the sun for the first time in a long time, while Victor talks and talks about Yuuri’s dance videos on youtube and what does Yuuri think about the ice dancers, did he get to watch them and such and such.

“I debated pantsing him,” Phichit confesses. “But Yuuri would have died on the spot.”

Brianna makes a speculative face. “He already seems overwhelmed. But that hug is going to do wonders for this campaign. They really are the cutest couple. It’s a shame Yuuri isn’t an ice skater. I can see them breaking barriers as male pair skaters. Now that would make history.”

 

Yuuri really wants to run into the bathroom and guzzle an airplane shot of vodka, but he settles on popping a Xanax and swallowing it down with his iced tea. Victor’s sitting coyly on the table, waving at some of his fans with a flirtatious flutter of fingers. Phichit’s documenting everything and Brianna’s talking to security. Now that he’s here, this whole thing’s stupid. He just wants to go get food with Victor and watch skating with Victor and go up to his hotel room with Victor and take a nap with Victor. But he has this.

“Okay, Yuuri?” Victor asks with concern when Yuuri takes the pill. He looks tired, Yuuri notes. He looks how he would look coming out of the rink at Hasetsu, like he’s not quite all on earth with his body.

“I’m Okay.” He wants to touch Victor again, more, hold him again, go away with him. But the people calling out to them, waving, taking pictures…it’s taking everything he has not to look up and really take notice of what he’s doing and where he is. “Oh. Are you still okay to get dinner? Chris is coming, right?”

“Yeah! He’s watching his friends’ skate right now, but he’ll come by. He’ll probably cut in line. Don’t let him grab your butt, Yuuri,” Victor warns, smile all teeth, eyes closed in cryptic promise. “He’s filth.”

“O-okay,” Yuuri nods, taking a long drink from his straw. Victor reaches out for him, grabbing the hem of his jacket and pulling Yuuri close enough for him to press his face into Yuuri’s stomach. If Yuuri’s too nervous to reach out, Victor picks up the slack without problem.

“I missed you so much,” Victor whispers, looking up at him. Yuuri cups his cheek before he can worry about it, thumb running under a dark circle. “Thank you for coming. Let’s have fun these next few days, okay?”

“Vicchan…” They have so much to talk about, but it can wait until Victor’s done competing. Yuuri won’t distract him.

“Yuuri,” Brianna says, coming over to him. “Sorry to interrupt. Do you want to get started?” It’s not really a question, but Yuuri nods, pretending like he’s calling any of the shots. She smiles. “Okay, so how do you want to do this?”

Phichit jumps in. “He’s going to stand on top of the table, back to the crowd, and rip off his pants.”

“I like it,” Brianna agrees easily. “So our photographer, Tess, will be taking pictures.”

Yuuri takes his glasses off so that he can at least spare himself seeing anyone’s faces. He’s pleased that his hair is finally long enough to sport a half-up look, with a few escapees around his temples, the length comfortably past his chin. He still doesn’t know what he’s doing with it. Phichit’s stopped impulse-chops at least twice now this week alone. His butt is lightly shined with cocoa butter. He trimmed his pubic hair and put on the white jock strap that got mailed to him in a box with a leotard for a company promo. He’s ready. He’s so ready.

“This is very sexual,” Victor muses, head cocked as he admires Yuuri. “Yuuri, does Mama know about this? Does Mari?”

“Don’t,” Yuuri squeaks, clamping a hand on Victor’s mouth. “Oh, god, Vicchan, don’t say another word.”

Victor kisses his palm and keeps his mouth shut otherwise. Well…mostly. When Yuuri finally gets on the table, and people are losing their goddamn minds, Victor screams and hoots with the worst of them. Yuuri doesn’t know how he got here in life, but he rips away his pants to a deafening roar of screams and plants his hands on his hips, popping a hip like he practiced, making one cheek jiggle, the other dimple, and tucks his head down into Victor’s jacket to smell his faded cologne on the collar. Phichit catches his eye, and his friend flourishes his hands around his face, impressing a smile. Right: smile. Yuuri jerks his head up, looks over his shoulder, and blows a kiss to the masses.

 

Victor does get the first picture with Yuuri and unsurprisingly takes the longest because Yuuri gently reminds him that he can’t touch Yuuri’s butt.

“But I’m your—and they’re my—and you’re my—Yuuri~” 

Tess takes a picture of Victor crouched on the ground, dramatically fake crying into one hand, the other thrust out in a “look at what ails me” gesture, Yuuri’s juicy asscheeks popping out of the strained ICY HOT shorts framed above his hand, the white gird of the jockstrap accentuating their curve. Yuuri’s twisted around to puzzle down at Victor and his own butt, like he doesn’t know that he’s devastation in the flesh.

“I can’t believe that’s candid,” Tess mutters to herself, checking the photo on her screen. Pure Eros. “Okay, Nikiforov, you’re done!”

He sticks around for thirty minutes, drooling mindlessly, until Phichit takes pity and drags him off for food.

 

After that, it’s a blur. Yuuri’s heart can’t maintain its panicked state. His Xanax kicks in. He pretends he’s someone else, a sexy Yuuri, a famous Yuuri, a Yuuri who does this sort of thing all the time. He has fun with the group of teens who roll up with their own booty shorts saying “Are you nasty” and “juicy” and a slew of American flag prints. He gets a group of surprisingly forward grandmothers and a few giggly old queens who pat his hand meaningfully after the picture. He gets a lot of Victor fans.

Then he gets Chris.

“Yuuri.”

Yuuri blinks, registering the familiar blond face. If he thought that Victor knew how to say his name like it was sex, Chris comes in close second. If Victor’s young, Chris is practically a baby, and yet he makes no effort not to ogle Yuuri. Really, men these days. It tries Yuuri’s soul.

“Christophe.” He smiles though. This is Victor’s best friend. “It’s nice to meet you. I wish it were under different circumstances.”

Chris, however, doesn’t seem to mind because he winks. Oh yes, he’s definitely Victor’s best friend. “I think these are exceptional circumstances.”

His pose is tame, just a hand around Yuuri’s waist, both of them smiling at the camera. Yuuri lets his guard drop and gets the elastic of his jockstrap snapped, a smart of pain on his thigh.

“Ta-ta, Yuuri. Tell your puppy that I’ll see him at dinner.”

He leaves Yuuri scarlet and mortified, unable to speak for the next thirty minutes.

 

TD Garden’s is huge but Brianna included a tiny map of the layout in the lanyards; Phichit begrudgingly digs it out to consult. Victor’s easy-going beside him, talking to fans when they approach, signing tshirts and skates and pictures. Phichit knows that athletes at his level are celebrities but it’s weird to see the status take effect. This is the guy that begged Yuuri to let him crash on a futon. People are weird. Life’s weird.

“I just want a hot dog,” he sighs, squinting at the little card and its tiny map. He wishes this was in New York City. He wants a cart hot dog with neon yellow mustard.

“Would you hate me terribly if we got smoothies instead? I fear my coach’s wrath.” Victor looks sorry but also like he’ll walk off and leave Phichit and Phichit doesn’t want to lose track of him. Not that he’s hard to find with hair like that.

“That’s the safer option.”

Victor pokes a finger towards one end of the building. There’s a little stand on wheels. They walk over in silence, both of them clearly sensing the shovel talk.

“So,” Phichit chirps.

“So!” Victor echoes.

They’re in line.

“Yuuri,” Phichit says.

“Yuuri,” Victor nods.

“Do I need to explain myself?”

“Not unless you want to.”

“Great.”

“Can I buy your smoothie? I owe you for the body shots,” Victor offers. “What will Yuuri want?”

“He’s dieting,” Phichit sighs, eyeing the menu. “What are you getting? Is it something with protein? He doesn’t like whey powder.”

“That irritates my bowels,” Victor confers. Phichit nods in sympathetic understanding. “He’s dieting?” Victor asks, tone pitched, brows furrowed.

“He wants his college body back.”

Victor clicks his tongue. “His mama showed me photos of him in college. I can’t imagine him lean like that. Why is he trying to look like his college time? Is it because of this?” Victor jerks a thumb over his shoulder. “That would be silly. He is sexy as he is, that’s why everyone wants to be near him. Sexy and amazing.”

Yuuri probably doesn’t want Victor to go around blabbing about how sexy he thinks Yuuri is, but Phichit’s more than okay with having someone else to admire his friend with. He had the biggest, messiest crush on Yuuri when he’d studied abroad. He gets it. He feels it.

“Uhm,” Phichit hums. “I don’t know. He has moods. You know how he is.” It’s not his place to divulge Yuuri’s new life plan. “He deserves chocolate. Chocolate peanut butter banana. That’ll make him happy.”

“Really? Okay. Should I get him two, do you think? Something fruity? Or, oh, spinach mint green tea…”

 

 

The photo-op isn’t long. Most people put in money for the fundraiser for the cause, galvanized by the energy surrounding it. They get to pick from a selection of high quality prints of Yuuri in different poses that Tess snaps off. Yuuri’s supposed to sign them, but Phichit’s pretty sure there’s a team of underpaid interns who have mastered Yuuri’s signature waiting with sharpies in a poorly ventilated ISU office. Most of the people who got into line today were on the younger side of the skating fan spectrum, people who liked social media since the campaign exist solely online.

Yuuri drinks his smoothie (Phichit talked Victor down from two to just the chocolate peanut butter banana one), mouth latched to the straw, glasses back, on, eyes glazed. He’s back in his track pants but out of Victor’s jacket, replaced by a NYU dance ensemble hoodie. Victor and Phichit watch him drink the entire smoothie without coming up for air, single-minded. When he’s done, he swivels his head, locates a recycling bin, disassembles the cup and straw, recycles and trashes each item respectively, then shuffles his way back to them. Phichit turns to Brianna to double check that they’re done with everything. Yuuri powered through but he’s definitely at the end of his limits.

“You have friends in the women’s single skates, right?” Yuuri asks when he joins Victor’s side. “Is it okay if I shower and nap before dinner? I’m…I need to not be around people.” He makes an irritated face that smooths quickly, cheeks too tired from camera-smiles to maintain anything long-term.

“Yes,” Victor replies instantly. There’s not a hint of displeasure in response to Yuuri wanting to nap. “Phichit?”

“Yo?” Phichit responds, pulling away from his conversation with Brianna. “What’s good, Niki?”

Victor stares blankly at Phichit for a painful moment before he shakes his head. “Yuuri wants to nap. I’m going to go up to your room…if you want to come?” he phrases the questions awkwardly. Phichit waves a hand.

“How about I wait down here with Brianna and when you’re done tucking him in,” Phichit smiles innocently, “you text me? Chris wants us to find him.”

“Is it okay?” Yuuri asks again, this time at Phichit. “Do you care if—”

“Yuuri, you are one hundred percent good to sleep the rest of the day. I love you. You did great. Better than great. Recharge with my blessings.”

Yuuri huffs. Hair creeps loose from his elastic, more and more falling over his forehead.  

“Thanks, Phi.” He rubs his face, covering a yawn with his hands and, a bit like a kitten seeking warmth, turns and presses his face into Victor’s chest. He grunts and smooshes in more, apparently happy with his decision, to Victor’s visible delight. Phichit gets to witness Victor’s smitten gaze on Yuuri’s head. He wraps an arm around Yuuri and rubs his back.

“I’ll tuck you in this time,” he whispers. Yuuri nods and grunts again.

He and Victor manage to escape mostly unscathed to the hotel across the street, joining another couple in the elevator. They’re evidently a married couple, here as fans of the American skaters, but they still kindly wish Victor luck on his skates tomorrow. Yuuri has a dazed moment of forgetting that even if people aren’t here to as Victor’s fans, that he’s still the person to beat and thus known. He’s tried to follow all the news on Victor, but most of it was redundant and stacked with questions. Yuuri doesn’t need outsiders to tell him about Victor.

Victor’s quiet, keeping contact with Yuuri religiously but not doing much else, seemingly content just to be close. Maybe he knows that Yuuri’s too strained to talk, grateful for his presence and his silence in equal turn. They walk down the hall of the fourth floor of the hotel.

“I’m on the sixth,” Victor murmurs as they come to a stop at Yuuri’s door. “Room 609.”

Yuuri notes that with a nod and opens his and Phichit’s door with a swipe of the card. He steps in, leaving the light off, the window more than enough to see by. He gets into the hallway, taking off his shoes, before he realizes that Victor’s still in the hall, leaning against the doorframe, looking. “Aren’t you coming in?”

Victor blows air out of his nose, smile lazy, boyish and handsome. “I didn’t want to presume.”

“Please, come in, Vicchan.” Yuuri murmurs. He pushes his shoes against the wall. Victor steps in, kicking his shoes off quickly, all too eager to get his arms around Yuuri again.

“Can I kiss you?” Yuuri asks, voice quiet. The room’s quiet save for the distant noise of cars outside. Victor still looks tired, thinner in the face, but in the hotel room, Yuuri finally feels like he can pretend to do something about it.

“I was going to ask you that,” Victor charms, still with a smile fixed to undo Yuuri. He ducks his head, running his nose along Yuuri’s, trading smiles with him before they kiss softly. Yuuri sighs into Victor’s mouth, he can’t help it, Victor’s lips make sparks jump all through his body. The fluttering that resounds in his stomach and chest tickles itself up through Yuuri’s throat and he has to break away to laugh, burying his face into Victor’s chest.

“Hmm?” Victor wonders, rubbing Yuuri’s back. Yuuri only laughs more, holding onto Victor’s shirt. “Yuuri? Are my kisses funny?”

“That was so stupid,” Yuuri laughs.

“What was? The pictures?”

“Yes,” Yuuri says emphatically. “I can’t believe…I can’t believe I did that. Why did I do that? Oh my god, I did that.”

Victor winces. “Do you regret it?”

Yuuri lifts his head up and pokes his glasses straight. He’s blushing, eyes distracted and off to the side. “Not exactly. It’s…it’s embarrassing…but not, I don’t know. Words right now, words are hard,” he trails off with purse of his lips.

“Words are hard,” Victor agrees.

Brianna had explained that people just need a little motivation to support good causes. They get a picture with him or of him, a little sex appeal, something positive and trendy, and they’re willing to offer a bit of cash. She didn’t downplay Yuuri exactly, but it put into perspective how irrelevant he is while also being necessary. It’s okay. He’ll take the boost to his popularity. Victor’s done all sorts of ads and commercials to support himself. It’s the same idea. Yuuri doesn’t need to get existential about it.

“I don’t see why people would want to take a picture of me or my butt when you’re there,” he shrugs and peeks up from under his bangs. “I’d want a picture with you.”

“Or my butt?” Victor adds, smirking, eyes dark with teasing. “I can give you one right now.”

“No,” Yuuri declines quickly, patting his chest. “I want nothing to do with butts or photos for at least a day.”

“That’s just the tiredness talking,” Victor says with a shake of his head. “You will change your mind by dinner. Then we will take pictures of my butt.” When Yuuri starts protesting, Victor presses him to his chest, smothering his words, patting his head. “Oh yes. You will be back to your normal self and won’t be able to resist my body. Count on it, Yuuri.”

Yuuri pries Victor off, a little too tired to keep playing, and Victor kisses his pout carefully. He’s bordering on cranky, nerves shot, but he’s also glad that this is how they are. They barely spoke in their separation, and he’d probably be more nervous and hesitant to be close to Victor if he wasn’t too worn out to be nervous and hesitant. Instead, Victor’s slipping into his space as he had weeks ago, insistent and sure, wrapping Yuuri up, eager to be held, to kiss, to be close to Yuuri like they’ve always been close. The three weeks they’ve been separated vanish; so much happened, but the feeling of distance is gone.

“It’s so good to be with you again,” Yuuri spouts, expression carrying over the shock of how insistent the knowledge is. Victor looks shocked too, blinking in Yuuri’s face, head cocked. For a moment, he looks sad, leeched, but he smiles earnestly and draws Yuuri’s hands to his lips to kiss them. It scares Yuuri, that sliver of pain given away before Victor can summon his smile.

“I worried,” Victor admits softly, looking at Yuuri’s hands, turning them over to rub his thumb over the knuckles, between the fingers, “what it would be like to see you again. I worried it would feel different, that it would feel like less. I – I struggled,” his eyebrows pull down, his eyes shimmer like the surface of Yuuri’s boyhood ocean, “I worried I wouldn’t be happy when I saw you. But I am. This feels right.” He kisses Yuuri’s hands again, squeezing them.

Yuuri nods, throat tight. That selfish feeling rises again, wanting to tell Victor to stay. If he stays, he’ll never worry or doubt again.

“I’m grateful,” Victor goes on, voice low. “For how you make me feel.”

Yuuri knows his face has become an ugly twist and Victor smiles knowingly when Yuuri squeaks with a fresh hot cry.

“You always make…me cry,” Yuuri cries. Victor kisses his cheeks and tuts out his apologies, hugging and rocking him. “I don’t know wh-why I’m crying. S-sorry. I’m happy. Really ha-appy. I’m tired. I need to cry.”

“I’m happy too,” Victor says, squeezing Yuuri, chin on his head. “I’m happy.” He sounds surprised. “It’s okay to cry.”

It’s embarrassing, but once Yuuri starts, he can’t stop. He knows that it’s crying from exhaustion and overstimulation, just needing to release. He was hoping to be alone when it came, but it’s not bad either that Victor holds him, not trying to talk him through it. It’s eerie too. Victor usually tries to comfort Yuuri with too many words and worries when he cries. He has a transcendental moment to feel ridiculous that there’s even a pattern to analyze regarding Victor responding to his crying.

It doesn’t last long. Maybe two minutes of crying and then he’s sniffling and rubbing his face and returning to being embarrassed. He kicks Victor out when Victor’s phone starts blowing up with texts. They’ll see each other in a few hours. Yuuri will be able to focus then, be able to actually have a conversation without his emotions short circuiting. He has the answer he needs to make it through the next few days: they make each other happy. A down deep happy.

 

Dinner’s tame. Everyone’s still jet-lagged. The boys are, unsurprisingly, nervous about tomorrow’s skate. Chris flirts with all three of them but when his mouth isn’t busy teasing out words, he’s somber and heavy-eyed with focus, much of it on Victor, the occasional analytical frown passed to Yuuri. They turn in by ten, Victor yawning and stretching and expressing enthusiasm that he doesn’t have to be up till seven that morning. Yuuri rides up the elevator with Chris and Victor, and Chris blows them kisses goodnight.

“Hmm,” Victor muses, watching his friend go. “He didn’t make half as many passes at you as I expected.”

“He snapped my jockstrap earlier,” Yuuri says by way of explanation. He’s glad Chris didn’t press his luck.

He what?” Victor fluffs up like a cartoon bird. His eyes narrow in the direction Chris went and he clicks his tongue, muttering a surly “Pizda.”

“Vicchan,” Yuuri says in a knowing, unimpressed tone. “Are you upset on behalf of my honor or because you didn’t get to snap my jockstrap?”

Victor draws his lips into his mouth and looks up at the ceiling in feigned interest. Yuuri pats his chest. “That’s what I thought. Okay!” He pats him again, getting his attention. “Sleep well, Vicchan. You’ll do great. Mom, Mari, and I made a banner for you, so get ready for some Hasetsu home loving.”

Victor smiles close-lipped and nods, but it slips too soon, too easily, from his face. He must feel it go because he hugs Yuuri.

“Be sure to thank them for me,” he says. “Thank you for coming, Yuuri. I feel better skating with you here.” He smacks a kiss on Yuuri’s forehead and bids an over exuberant farewell, darting into his room.

 

When Yuuri returns to his hotel room, Phichit comments in surprise that he hadn’t expected him back so soon. Neither had Yuuri, but he smiles and brushes it off.

“He needs to sleep.”

It’s true and Yuuri means it when he says it but…it’s the first time that Yuuri can remember Victor being the first to turn away for sleep. The first time Victor hasn’t suggested “a few more minutes” of company. He’d worried about if he’d feel happy seeing Yuuri again but more than that, he said he’d struggled. Yuuri doesn’t know what Victor means by that, but he sits awake by the window, the curtains inched back to show him the lit city streets, hoping and knowing he’ll be disappointed, that Victor won’t look so tired tomorrow. Yuuri remembers the strain leading up to a performance, never on such a grand scale but in his own small life, the moments had felt grand. Victor’s been working hard, Yuuri can assume ruthlessly hard, given how he’d been at Hasetsu. They can figure out everything after he skates. There’s something to be said for waiting.

 

A Tush to Toast

When Funds Ambassador and PR agent for the International Skating Union Brianna Kirschein, 31, suggested to the Scholarship board a spur of the moment fundraiser plan to sell pictures of someone’s butt, no one predicted it would be so successful. The fundraiser, titled after its preliminary trending hashtag ICYHOT2016 raised over $54,000(USD) to go to scholarships for junior skaters with low-income backgrounds. Kirschein is evidently ahead of the curve.

“People love butts,” Kirschein says, enjoying the success from her hotel room at the TD Garden in Boston, host of the 2016 ISU World Championships. “People love cute celebrity couples too. Victor Nikiforov is one of the biggest names in the skating world, and all of a sudden, so is his [boyfriend] Yuuri.”

Yuuri Katsuki from Japan has been a splash on instagram and youtube, garnering an impressive follower and subscriber count in less than a month. The NYU alumni and currently uncontracted dancer boast a bevy of dance forms. His media presence is body and spirit positive, with endless enthusiasm for dance and helpful breakdowns of his moves included in each video so anyone can learn, and his fans appear to enjoy his curvy body given the amount of money photos of him posing in a pair of tiny shorts have raised. Photos with him cost $20 and signed photos ordered online cost $10. Katsuki only interviewed with Kirschein, but from his statement, the callipygian dancer seems flattered and confused.

“It’s definitely not what I expected to be doing, and I still don’t think I understand why it’s happening,” Katsuki said in his ISU statement, “but Victor works so hard for endorsements. I can’t imagine kids having to go through that…read more

 

 

ISU Favoring Nikiforov?

Speculation has been raised regarding the ICYHOT2016 fundraiser where Nikiforov’s boyfriend posed wearing his trademark red Team Russian jacket. While the Scholarship Board and Funds Ambassador Kirschein have reported that they exist as separate entities under the ISU corporation and have no impact on judges or competitions, a number of skating unions and federations have voiced concern over the subject of the fundraiser. The funds are to benefit junior skaters who qualify for the financial support, with no restriction on national…read more

 

[slideshow images of Victor hugging Yuuri. Yuuri on top of a table. Yuuri without pants.]
473 likes

Vityasmysteryman I cant believe Vitya ran and JUMPED into his arms. when will i ever find love that cute??????? AND THEN YUURI RIPPED OFF HIS PANTS. HE HAD TEAR AWAY PANTS #bye

 

 

[Yuuri laying on his stomach on a hotel bed, in a jockstrap, suspiciously shiny.]

20,938 likes

phichit+chu remember that time @y-katsuki let me convince him to put cocoa butter on his booty? #never4get. Can’t believe his @$$ is worth 54k. #icyhot2016

View 746 more comments
y-katsuki take this down I will call your mom
phichit+chu u r so lucky mari doesn’t have instagram

Chapter Text


 

 

Translated interview with the Russian Skating Federation prior to the Grand Prix Final:

               Interviewer: You’ve spoken before about your theme, stating that you’re exploring violent loneliness as expressed by women. Do you care to expand on that as you round the first half of the season?”

               Nikiforov: Yes, thank you. I found the music before I found my answers to why it caught me. I’ve said before that Tosci’as Vissi d’art and ‘the chanson de la foulle au aboard de la mer’ overwhelm me in the best way. They bring me to a special place within myself where my woman soul sleeps. Vissi d’art has lyrics and a story. For those who are just tuning in [wink] Tosca is singing of her abdonment by God, framing her narrative as a dedicated Christian and producer of art and beauty. She’s been threatened and proposition by the evil Scarpia [Victor makes a cryptic hand gesture] as her lover’s being held hostage, tortured, and put to death! [He’s animated, smiling at the interviewer, but he sobers as he continues speaking.] It’s classic and for that reason, more troubling. I think the narrative of holy abandonment speaks to a lot of artists, myself included [he licks his lip, a moment of unsettlement, before he smiles placidly] and it’s made worse by her womanhood which is under a specific sexual violence. Hers is a tale of exploitation in this moment but ultimately, of abandonment by god and in a way, art, in my opinion. She can live for art but art cannot save her. I think of myself as an athlete and an artist, so I’m humbled by her story.

               Interviewer: And what of the dramatic “chansons”? Valkan’s a lesser known composer and this piece in particular is played to mood.

               Nikiforov: I love Valkan. I almost picked his Barcarolle or maybe the Scherzo Diablo Op. 39 no 3…maybe another year. But La chanson…it makes me weep. But that’s what complicates the view of loneliness. This woman I become, and I do feel her, I feel her all through me [he gestures at his chest, his heart, touching his neck where a vein shows pale blue] if we saw her in her madness on the beach, it’d be simple to say “she is alone.” But I’m left wondering about the two ways we become alone. Isolation, which is self-inflicted, and alienation, which others inflict upon us.

               Interviewer: That’s very thoughtful, Mr. Nikiforov. What do you feel when you skate? Isolation, or alienation?

Nikiforov: [Victor puts a finger to his lips and smiles.] That’s a secret only she knows.  

 

 

No amount of YouTube prepares Yuuri for Victor that day. He has to go first, the result of having not competing for months. Yuuri’s relieved if only because he doesn’t have to wait, but he can only guess that it’s misery for Victor. He recalls going first in a Tri-state intercollegiate dance competition for both the semi and finals and it’d been misery. You have to throw yourself down as hard as possible, no one to visualize, nothing to gauge. It’s a cursed placement, as far as Yuuri’s concerned.

               “Going first sucks,” Phichit says emphatically from beside him. Aside from karaoke and drunken talent shows, he’s not been in a proper competition, but he knows Yuuri’s complaints. “But hey! If this starts to be no fun, we can always leave after Victor’s skated.” Leave it to him to find the silver lining.

 Yuuri nods. That’s true. He wants to see Chris, who is to go third from last though. He can always leave and return.

               The announcers are cheerfully ushering everyone to states of anticipation. When they say ‘Victor Nikiforov,’ the vowels stressed in all the wrong places, a cheer bangs out from the stadium. It’s packed. Yuuri’s watching cameras move about along the rink side and from overhead. He’s distracted and doesn’t see Victor until he’s on the ice, skating a loop and waving. They’re seated close enough for Yuuri to see the blush on his cheeks, the dark stain on his lips and the darkness around his eyes. His top is a tight, blood red shirt that’s tight and entirely backless before it flares at his hips, paired with simple black pants. Yuuri’s seen this all before, but now it has root in him, an impact. Now he’s watching this man knowing he loves him, knowing his kiss and his struggles and the pain of his feet.

“Vicchan!” Yuuri yells, hands cupped around his mouth. He stands up, shouting with the crowd. “Ganbatte!”

“Kick ass!” Phichit yells beside him, whooping his fist. The air’s heavy, but Yuuri laughs at Phichit, overcome with pleasure to have his company. He’s grateful all over again for Phichit’s insistence that he join Yuuri in Boston.

There’s no indication that Victor’s heard them, not among all the noise. He’s not even searching the crowd. He tightens his circle, coming to his starting position, body narrow, curved in anticipation for a blow. Yuuri and Phichit hold up the banner Good Luck Vicchan that his mom and sister helped make. Mostly his mom.

The crowd hushes but there’s no silence, too many people breathing, a cough. But for a split second, Yuuri hears the preemptive static before the music begins. Victor opens with a slow spin, hands questing away, pushing off, skating backwards. He arrests. The nakedness of his throat traces a vulnerability through his motions. He’s lovely. He’s really really something.

“—triple toe-loop, double toe-loop combination, absolutely effortless-“

And the jump was effortless. He took off and landed without so much as a stutter. It’s amazing, watching him move so quickly and powerfully on the ice, body dancing on nothing but blades. But Yuuri knows the routine, knows music, and knows Victor.

“He’s ahead of the music,” Yuuri whispers.

“Huh?” Phichit glances over at Yuuri for a split second then back down to Victor.

Victor comes out of a spin before the next syllable from Maria’s voice can shift. One beat, two?

“I think he dropped a step, before the jump.” Yuuri watched this enough times, the way Victor peaks each of his jumps with a swell of voice, how his spins begin and ended on a word.

It’s not much of an error. Victor can easily fix it if he slows down, stretches something. But he only seems to speed up; his face, projected onto the big screen, is pinched, eyes too hard, brows drawn too narrow. He’s still beautiful but it’s too fierce, too angry.

“He looks mad,” Phichit observes cautiously, looking at Yuuri again for agreement. Yuuri nods once more.

Victor touches down on the quad flip. He over rotated it. The commentators wince. The whole stadium heaves with sympathy. People are shifting, standing, watching in titillation as Victor wrecks over the ice. Yuuri can't ’look away. This is not the heartache performance that won at the GPF. The bleeding, aria of loneliness. If Tosca passionately lamented her fate, here was Victor too ready for the stabbing and the free-fall. His quad salchow is shaky at best; Yuuri still clutches a hand over his mouth in relief. Please don’t fall, please don’t fall. He can’t look away; no one else can either.

Victor ends holding himself, embracing his body in a world where no one else will – according to the story. His bare back glistens with sweat. Yuuri drops his corner of the banner and picks up the bouquet he bought. People are throwing Victor flowers and stuffed animals and t-shirts and booty shorts.

“Oh my god,” Phichit gasps.

Victor skates over to a guy shaking a pair of Rocky Horror Gold shorts daintily from his hand like an English lady waving her kerchief. Victor, all smile, takes the gift with a flourish and holds them above his head like a victory flag, even though everyone knows he flubbed the skate.

“I’ll be back,” Yuuri tells Phichit. Phichit wishes him luck and watches as Yuuri struggles his way through the stands, all polite, accented “Excuse me” and “pardon me” and “please, excuse me, yes please.” All Phichit really wants is for Yuuri to break out into “Move Bitch” because Phichit know, for fact, that Yuuri can perform that whole song with scary accuracy.

 

 Yuuri makes it to the Kiss and Cry to catch the tail end of what appears to be a lecture and a dress down from Yakov. Victor’s snuggled against the old man as if he’s not being systematically berated in Russian, arms wrapped around Yakov’s, head on his shoulder, watching in disinterest at his scores show up.

“80.07. That will be Nikiforov lowest score of the season. But still, a fantastic performance from Nikiforov, and astounding given his circumstances.”

Victor’s saying “da, da, da,” over and over in a tired voice.

Yakov sighs once, harsh through his nose, arms crossed over his chest. Victor jostles him with a laugh and a pitiful look on his face, jokingly pleading for something if Yuuri can guess from his tone. Yakov drops his arms and turns, taking Victor’s face in one hand, pinches his jaw and giving him a kissy face. He grumbles at Victor who closes his eyes, nodding – no, Yakov is nodding for him, moving his face up and down. Victor slaps his hand away after a moment of this, blushing and exhausted, and then Yakov pats his cheek and Victor dives in and hugs him, tight and shaking. Yuuri doesn’t realize that he’s holding his breath until he sees Yakov rub Victor’s back, and then he lets it all go in a gust.

Then Victor opens his eyes and sees Yuuri standing there, a bouquet of red roses awkward in his arm.

“Yuuri!”

Victor gets to his feet and almost tips on his blade guards, wobbly like a newborn horse on those long legs of his. Yakov steadies him with a hand to his back, a measuring look in his eye. Then Yuuri is doing the same, but with much more softness, a shy smile.

“Vicchan, you were beautiful. Are. Are beautiful.” Yuuri feels out of sorts. He shrugs the flowers forward and Victor takes them gracefully, a familiar thing in his hand, and holds them away as he embraces Yuuri with one arm and a kiss to his cheek.

“Sorry, Yuuri. I didn’t show you my best skating.” His tone is whimsical, the bitterness couched beneath a ghost of ease. Before Yuuri can make any word to that, Victor leans back, hand on Yuuri’s shoulder. “I am begging your pardon.”

“I –—You’re—“ Yuuri rolls his lips into his mouth and takes the safest route, which is to hug Victor tightly and lift him off his feet. “Amazing. I thought you were amazing, Victor.” At the end of the day, Victor was still a powerhouse on the ice. Yuuri didn’t care about the score. As far as he’s concerned, Victor was amazing. He was. He still skated a ridiculous routine, he’s still one of, if not the, best male skater right now. “You were so cool and electric. I could not look away. I held my breath the whole time!”

Slowly but surely, Victor hugs him back.

               “Thank you, Yuuri,” Victor whispers, sneaking a kiss onto his cheek. Yuuri hums, squeezing him hard enough to make him grunt, before he releases Victor sheepishly. They meet eyes, heavy and mutually glamoured on each other’s presence. In all of his internet skulking, slightly advanced through the weeks, Yuuri has never once known Victor to have a special someone meet him at the Kiss & Cry, to be waiting off the ice, the camera’s capturing the outer edge of him, then the cameras capturing the full of him and communicating a relationship to internet masses, like Yuuri is now. Another clip for the internet to fawn over. The closet that might have come had be Raoul, the ice hockey player, the other Olympian. “Nothing more than a companion in pursuit of pleasure,” Victor had delicately phrased. They were friendly lovers – fuckbuddies, in another tongue. But Victor said in a carefully, precisely chosen translated phrase, never had someone been “willing to publically and explicitly entangle themselves” with him.

Then came Yuuri, unexpected, and didn’t they just jump in feet first and breath held.  

Victor’s talking, and Yuuri cues back into reality.

“I have to do an interview, but after that I’ll come sit with you. Stay here? Talk to Yakov! Yakov!”

His coach makes several goatish grumbles but appears at their side, surly and intimidating with his scowl and his cocked hat and his prestige and his scowl.

“Yakov,” Victor chirps, bringing him around with a hand on his shoulder, grouping them together for some bastardized handshake that’s too close by all the accounts. “I know you two know each other but,” he wiggles his fingers excitedly, clasping their hands together for them, cupping the union with as much ceremony as a priest presiding over the wedlock of great kingdoms “now it’s proper! Be nice,” Victor says pointedly to Yakov, expression pointed, before he beams a reassuring smile at Yuuri.

And it’s fucked; they’ve talked on the phone how many times? But this is Yakov and Yuuri relates him to Minako and that’s fucked. He can’t think of another word for it. Coach means boss but also means champion and father and teacher and Victor talks about Yakov more than he talks about his own mother.

Victor stands there long enough to watch Yuuri bow; he claps his hands in delight before tottering off, called upon by a familiar report whom he greets by first name.

Yuuri’s been preparing for this. He’s anticipated this. First impressions. First impressions.

But then he remembers how he met Victor and then how he soberly met Victor and well...first impressions aren’t everything. Phichit threw up on him the first time he met him too. And Chris…snapped his jock strap. Wow. He and everyone he knows is a disaster of a human being.

“Mr. Feltsman,” Yuuri bows.

“Katsuki.” There’s nothing affixed to his name, and it’s funny how Yakov says “Vitya, Vitya, Vitya” how he does, dropping the sweet name like rain, the only sweet thing from a grizzled tongue. Then “Katsuki,” foreign but careful and Yuuri’s heard it many times and Victor’s said it many times and it’s proper. “It is good to finally be meeting you.”

They’ve already let go of each other’s hands, so they can’t take them again, and Yuuri doesn’t know what to do with his hands. Hang limply? No. He starts to cross his arms before he remembers that it’s defensive postures…he settles for clasping them tightly in front of himself. Now he looks weird. What do people do with their hands? He wishes he had the bouquet to keep holding.

“You too, Mr. Feltsman.”

“My wife—“

“Lilia Baranovskaya,” Yuuri says automatically, reverently. Yakov’s flat mouth brackets upwards in pride.

“Yes. I showed you to her. Your ballet. She says you are not awful.”

Yuuri calmly does not scream. Lilia Baranovskaya says he’s not awful.  He smiles. It starts small, the polite response, before it takes off because his heart soars at the indirect praise. He ducks his head down, scratching at his face.

“Please pass on my thanks to her. It’s an honor uhm, to even be watched by her.”

Yakov makes a short, affirmative noise in his mouth before he adjusts and he crosses his arms.

“You were with Victor last night, yes?” Yakov questions. It’s not what Yuuri was expecting, and he lifts his face, blinking owlishly. Yakov chances a look across the room to where Victor is waving his hands in his interview. “How was he?”

“How was he?” Yuuri parrots, cocking his head. Then – ah. He slides his gaze over towards Victor as well, assessing as Yakov is. Victor’s in profile, standing very straight, posture impeccable, still on his blades. He’s gesturing with his hands, as he always does, seemingly his normal animated self. Yuuri would not guess looking at him that he just performed the worst he has all season.

“He,” Yuuri frowns and looks away quickly, back to Yakov, fearful that Victor will notice they’re staring. “He said that he was struggling.”

“So he’s talked to you about it?” Yakov presses, eyes back on Yuuri.

“It?”

Yakov makes another noise in his throat, this time upset and contemplative. He uncrosses his arms, shoulders sagging with a sigh. “No. Never mind. He did not. I would have been surprised. He never says anything important. Stupid boy, no?”

“He’s not stupid,” Yuuri defends; he’s heard Yakov call Victor far worse, many times. To Victor, to Yuuri. It’s always layered with love but Yakov means it too, when he says it. It rankles Yuuri, all the same. Victor’s only a little stupid.

“Yes, he is,” Yakov says meaningfully. He narrows his eyes at Yuuri, chin lifting. He’s not any taller than Yuuri, both of them dwarfed by Victor, Yakov has the presence of an experienced man that makes Yuuri feel the years between them. “If you are wanting to be with him, you should accept his stupidness. I was hoping you coming would fix him but things do not work that way.”

Yakov leaves him abruptly to fetch Victor, who’s now somehow turned his interview around and is showing the interviewer something on his phone. Meeting Yakov properly could have gone better but then again, Victor could have stuck around to make sure of that. Yuuri doesn’t feel like he’s been giving Yakov’s blessing, instead put on edge. Whatever Victor alluded to yesterday, Yakov knows something about it. Fix him. Victor’s pouting as Yakov hustles him away from the interviewer. The bouquet is still in his hand, cellophane more and more wrinkled. The sight of it embarrasses Yuuri. He doesn’t know why.

“Yuuri!” Victor calls to him and waves him over excitedly, patting the bench beside him. He’s undoing his skates finally. “Come sit!”

Yuuri had said once to Victor’s unlistening ears that if he asks, Yuuri will do. So he’s with him in a few steps, taking the initiative to kneel down and unlace Victor’s other skate.

“How was the interview?” Yuuri asks conversationally, hoping to fill his head with Victor’s voice, to wash out his own thoughts. The knot on the laces is tight, and his nails are trimmed far back, so it takes him several attempts to pick it loose. Victor hasn’t spoken, and when Yuuri notices that, he also notices that Victor’s hands have stopped moving. Yuuri looks up, worried.

Victor touches his chin tenderly, expression odd, mouth quirked in amusement but his eyes are misted, the blue polished with unnamed emotion. Yuuri freezes, fingers clumsy, and his lips part against his will when Victor presses thumb into his bottom lip.

“I can do that myself, solnyshka,” Victor teases.

Yuuri’s face flames over and he drops the laces of the skate, standing up fast enough that he gets dizzy. Victor laughs at him and pulls him down onto the bench, squeezing him in a half hug. He’s sticky and ripe with sweat, but the smell of him hits Yuuri in the gut with its familiarity.

“No, no, Yuuri, don’t be embarrassed. I liked it.”

“Nope,” Yuuri huffs, eyes shut, definitively not curling into the hug. Definitely not breathing in Victor’s smell, tasting him on the back of his tongue. “I will never help you with your skates again.”

“No no no!”

Victor’s still laughing when he tugs off his skates and his socks. Yuuri opens his eyes in time to watch him wipe his feet with some kind of antiseptic wipe, blood coming away dark. He slaps on wide, cottony bandages then rolls a clean sock over each foot and crams them into impeccably maintained expensive looking sneakers.

“Hurt?” Yuuri asks, knowing it does, more curious about Victor’s response.

“I don’t notice,” Victor says amicably. “I’m going to change out of my costume. Stay right here? We can watch the rest of the skates together.”

He goes. Yuuri wonders briefly where Yakov’s disappeared to until he remembers that Georgi has to compete yet. Most of the skaters are keeping warm somewhere else, leaving Yuuri to play on his phone and text Phichit. He lets him know that he and Victor will be over soon.

“Yuuri!”

Victor’s in front of him, making grabby hands. He’s dressed down in athletic leggings and his red jacket, having since been returned. Yuuri gives his hands over and lets Victor help him to his feet and into a hug.

“I missed you,” Victor sighs, squeezing him.

“Since you had to go change?” Yuuri laughs. He disengages from the hug sooner than Victor would probably have liked, but he’s pretty sure that if he didn’t, Victor would never let him go.

“Yes.” Victor shoves his hands into his jacket pockets and tips his head. “Shall we?”

Brianna’s with Phichit when they get back to their seats.

“You looked so cool on the ice,” Phichit compliments immediately. He reaches across Yuuri to high five Victor. “Loved the costume. Backless is so sexy.”

Brianna waves, the furthest from Victor. “One skate down, one to go.”

Victor smiles, but someone from Czech Republic is on the ice and his attention’s rapidly taken away. Yuuri wonders if it’s obvious that no one explicitly praised his skating. Yuuri noticed and he’s pissed about it; so Victor messed up, but he was still good. Whatever he’s feeling seems for him alone because Victor whoops when the Czech skater lands a jump combination. Yuuri has no clue how Victor isn’t a mess after getting that score. Yuuri’s probably more distraught in the moment. He’d be crying and punishing himself if it were him. But Victor’s cheering for his completion, jostling Yuuri and trying to explain the technical elements while Yuuri nods, barely looking down at the ice, too busy watching Victor.

The smile dims as the routines progress. For an entire skate, Victor doesn’t even respond, eyes on the rink but unseeing. He doesn’t even seem to notice that Yuuri’s staring.

“Vic—” Yuuri starts to say, reaching a hand out to lay on Victor’s knee.

“Up next we have Christophe Giacometti from Switzerland performing to Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”

Victor shoots to his feet screaming. Phichit does too. Yuuri and Brianna assess each other before nodding and standing to cheer too.

 

 

“Did he just…?” Phichit whispers into Yuuri’s ear at the end of Chris’s skate.

“He did,” Yuuri supplies grimly.

Chris is waving at the stands, flushed and glowing.

 

Chris joins them in the stands for the last two skates, comfortable in track clothes. He and Phichit gush at each other; Brianna raises an eyebrow when Chris flirts with her; Victor, with a congenial smile, tells Chris not to do anything untoward to Yuuri.

Yuuri invites Chris to join them for dinner: “Earnesto’s in nearby and open late. I hear it’s good.”

Chris grimaces. “Pizza?” He doesn’t pretend to smile, like Victor had. In fact, he turns to Victor with an accusatory fluttering of his eyes. “Pizza?” he repeats, menacing the word.

“When in Rome!” Phichit shouts helpfully across the distance of Yuuri and Victor. “Yuuri wants stuffed crust.”

Yuuri doesn’t really want stuffed crust pizza. He wants like, a single bite. He also wants to make Victor eat it just to watch him make a face. He’ll buy him real food – Yuuri doesn’t need to buy him food, does he? That’s a funny thought. Victor doesn’t need tended to like before, in Japan. All the same, Yuuri think. He’ll take Victor out to a nice dinner, if he’s able.

“Stuffed crust,” Chris goes on in the same tone, more and more suspicious of his new friends and his faith in Victor’s taste in friends before inspiration strikes the precocious boy. He ribs Victor, and in a not-so quiet voice concludes: “I bet Yuuri wants stuffed.”

Yuuri squeaks. Phichit grins because yes he totally made that joke too! Twinsies.

Summoning every ounce of gentlemanliness and gallantry capable of him, which, even passing knowledge of Victor Nikiforov alerts one to the large quantities of such attributes thriving in his androgynous blood, Victor lifts his chin and chest in the puffed posture of a bird in the throws of wooing a mate, and staunchly declares: “Nay. Tis I who is wanting to be stuffed.”

“Oh my god,” whispers Brianna. Phichit clasps her hand for dear life.

Chris’s mouth drops open but his eyes twinkle with pride and mirth.

Poor Yuuri folds his hands in a prayer of supplication for a moment’s deliverance and weeps gently against them.

“Pizza sounds nice,” Chris agrees when silence otherwise dwells over the small party.

 

Victor apologizes many times over to Yuuri for saying something “embarrassing” and “inappropriate” even though “it’s the truest thing” he’s ever said. Yuuri forgives him. They do not order stuffed crust because the pizzeria does not do stuffed crust. The words “stuffed crust” are banned for the course of the meal.

They order delivery and eat it in Victor and Georgi’s hotel room, the other Russian skater joining them unexpectedly when he walks in to the small party.

People are quick to praise Georgi’s performance. He scored 85.72 and Chris 81.01. Victor’s only behind Chris by a little, in 8th place with today’s rankings. They’re actually all together, 8th, 7th, and 6th. Even though Victor hadn’t done his best today, he’d explained that it wasn’t bad either. The difference between him and the short program first place was only 23 points. The Free Skate was where it mattered most.

Yuuri doesn’t know much about Georgi and wonders if he should. He would have guessed Georgi would be Victor’s best friend, but perhaps competition runs too strongly between them? They’re evidently close though, as Victor invites him for a slice immediately and makes a round of introductions between everyone.

 

“All of Russia is in thanks for your returning Vitya to us,” Georgi thanks Yuuri when he’s finished a single slice, probably out of politeness.

“Ah,” Yuuri acknowledges, bobbing his head and making a point to wipe his hands studiously on a crinkled napkin. “He left on his own. I didn’t return him.”

Victor, Phichit, and Chris are crowded over Brianna’s phone, squiting at a video clip from an American show. None of the skaters have showered yet, and mingled with the pizza is the flat smell of sweat. It’s lost its charm, with Victor’s smell indistinguishable from the general odor.

Georgi shares similar eccentrics with Victor, but doesn’t have quite the same overt charms as his rink mate. He’s a bit too strong-featured for delicacies although a fair amount of glitter from his skate clings to his face hours later, making everything about him this evening garish and silly. A man who wears that much glitter, at his own instance, Victor had helpfully informed Yuuri, should absolutely be taken seriously.

“He returned better than when he left. You are responsible,” Georgi continues. Yuuri hesitantly meets his eyes and finds Georgi on the verge of tears. “Love is the most powerful force in the world. Vitya is lucky to have you supporting him all this way. ”

Yuuri blanches. He suddenly remembers the one detail about Georgi that he should have been actively remembering: he’s a staunch romantic whose girlfriend recently broke up with him.

Victor has some sort of sensing power for his distress because he appears at his side not a second later, bright and engaging. Whether he suspects that he was the roundabout subject of conversation doesn’t show.

“Georgi, did you tell Yuuri how much you like his dance?” Victor bumps his shoulder against Yuuri’s conspiratorially. “That brassy swing piece you did with Wani.”

“In the Mood,” Yuuri supplies with a small smile.

“Da!” Victor snaps his fingers, on the money, and reaches Yuuri’s knee to jostle Georgi’s. “Didn’t you try to get Mila to dance it with you?”

With attentions sufficiently diverted from the topic of love, Georgi sheds no tears. Yuuri catches Victor’s eye and receives a wink.

Yuuri and Victor do manage to extract themselves from their friends and slip off into the city for a proper meal. No one except Phichit and Brianna ate more than a single slice of pizza, as the athletes weren’t keen on the fat content of cheese. They walk side by side, Victor methodically hydrating.

“I’m surprised you didn’t shower before we left,” Yuuri notes with some surprise. Victor washed his face but seems content to remain dirty. It puts Yuuri on the edge of paranoia, as if his preference for Victor’s body smells has been found out. Each waft of him causes an ache, all the nights spent missing him in bed curling up through Yuuri’s chest.

“Too much work,” Victor shrugs. “I’ll wash before bed.” At the mention of bed, he turns an eager look on Yuuri. “Can we sleep together tonight? We can trade off our roommates. I think Yakov put me with Georgi on purpose.”

Yuuri had the same thoughts, but wasn’t going to suggest them. After last night, when Victor had speedily departed from him, he hadn’t the gumption to suggest sleeping together. He’s grateful for Victor’s persistence, and a pleased flush warms his cheeks. He’s trying very hard not to think of Victor’s boldly spoken desires about what he’d like Yuuri to do to him.

“I’d like that.”

 

They buy a bottle of champagne, swearing not to tell Yakov of the indulgence, and take it to a byob sushi bar. Yuuri pities the fried baby octopus on the menu and sends a photo to Phichit of the course, winning him a series of distressed emojis that he shows to Victor who laughs. Dinner’s surreal, casual and irreverent. Yuuri stares at Victor in a dazed trance, watching him mull over the menu, pointing and asking questions about this or that, speaking woefully of his strict diet and Yakov’s well-earned harshness.

They’re here, in Boston. Victor left, but they didn’t fall apart. Yuuri flew 20 some odd hours to be here with him, to watch him, to love him closer and longer. His heart hasn’t stopped racing since Victor leapt into his arms yesterday.

They order. All of Victor’s rolls are cooked or vegetarian. Champagne’s one thing, but raw fish during the World Champions? Victor doesn’t tempt fate.

They ask after each other. Victor dodges and vagues most inquiries, claiming that his life is boring and routine. And it does sound so, minus the passion and drive that Victor has for skating that transmutes the daily grind into something lofty and inspirational. And when he asks after Yuuri’s dance a little too closely, Yuuri has to duck away from the answers because they get too close to talking about the future and the future will spoil the now. It’s stupid, but they mind it all the same, knots twisting in their stomachs.

The way Victor averts his eyes makes the knot in Yuuri’s feel like a noose twitching tighter.

“Yuuri,” Victor queries distractedly, looking at his glass. His eyebrow his twitching, indecisive of its attitude, sometimes plaintive and high, sometimes low and critical. "Tell me something bad.”

“Something bad? Like global climate change?”

Victor smiles, amused. “No. About yourself. Tell me something you wouldn’t want me to know, that you know I won’t like. Anything.”

Yuuri blanks. His face blanks too, eyes wide and dislocated from his mind. Victor huffs and reaches across the table to take his hand, rubbing the back of it with his thumb. “Please. Something bad, Yuuri. Anything.”

“I smoke.”

Victor blinks once twice three times. “What?”

Yuuri ducks down, chin to chest, shame burning across his face. “I smoked cigarettes. On and off through the years—“

“Yuuri!” Victor scolds, horrified. “Are you mad?”

His shoulders knock up under his ears defensively. “You said that you wanted to hear something bad.”

Victor covers his face with a hand and groans before it smacks down on the table, palm flat. His eyes are sharp but not angry: curious. He leans across their narrow table, the edge cutting into his chest. “Why, when you are a dancer? What would possess you?”

For them, smoking is nonsense. And yes, possess seems the most apt word for the indulgence. The taboo and Victor’s rapturous curiosity over the topic stirs with the erotic, like Yuuri’s been caught in silken garments through the crack of a door. Still, though, smoking is hardly happiness for him.

“I would steal Mari’s cigarettes sometimes when I was a teenager. Out of curiosity. But at uni, I smoked when I was drunk. Lots of my friends did, even some dancers. I don’t know, I’d be at a party and someone would offer me a smoke and it was nice to step outside onto the fire escapes.” And then, because Victor’s squinting and rapt, he digs a little deeper, sighing. “It wasn’t much. But when I came back to Japan, I picked it up. I didn’t think I’d dance again, so what would it matter? But it made my stomach sick more than anything,” he laughs, fixing his glasses, making a glare cut across his vision and whiting out the scene for a moment. He’d smoked as a punishment when he came back to japan, telling himself he’d never dance again. It would have been the slowest way to kill his dreams. “I don’t anymore, but sometimes I really want to. In my head, I always think it’ll help whatever situation Im in even though I know it won’t.”

Victor hums, stroking his hand once more. “You have fantastic stamina. I’d hate to see it marred.”

“Would you like to know more bad things?” Yuuri offers, looking up under his glasses. Victor nods rapidly. He makes Yuuri feel like a little kid showing off scars and scabs on the playground. It feels good. He never let Phichit find out he’d smoked after uni again. “I’ve done coke. Me and Phichit took acid a handful of times too. I like psychedelics, although I haven’t done them in years. I think I’m too old for drugs now.”

Victor clicks his tongue, taken aback. His thumb pauses in its comforting circles long enough to worry Yuuri before it resumes, fingers clasped around his a little tighter than before.

“How reckless,” Victor says in an odd tone.

“I guess,” Yuuri agrees. “I think that was the point.” Smoking had been quiet and he would say ‘yes’ and it was easy to stand outside and do that. It gave him ten minutes of ease with people. The coke? A few other dancers did it. It was easy. It was scary. He stopped when one girl in his building bled from her nose like she’d been struck. The acid, though, that was just for him and Phichit.

He’s interrupted from further contemplation of his past when Victor smiles and brings Yuuri’s hand to his lips to kiss. “Thank you. That’s just what I wanted to hear.”

Yuuri twitches a brow. “Uhm. Why?”

“Oh,” Victor release Yuuri to wave a hand enigmatically around his head. “I wanted to see if you have committed actions that I would disapprove. Things of shame. I want to know even the bad things about you – not that they’re bad.” He takes hold of his chin in a thoughtful pose. “It’s good not to see each other as perfect.”

Yuuri snorts and makes a face. “Vicchan, how could you ever think I’m perfect?”

He’s not. No one is. And once upon a time, being told of his imperfection, of being reminded of his flaws, would have sent him hiding under his bedcovers, itching to make up for it. But he’s well acquainted with his reality and now he’s mostly floored that Victors had to go looking for evidence of it.

“I know you aren’t,” Victor says bluntly. Yuuri smiles reflexively. “But it’s…reassuring to know that you have things in your past that you aren’t the proudest of, like me! You used cocaine at your American college, and I got gangbanged at the Olympics. Now we’re even.”

“Vicchan,” Yuuri hisses, looking around, face hot and his gut hot too. He knows about Victor’s past escapades. Raoul and the Russian hockey team. Victor had cheerfully recounted his sexual experiences to Yuuri once they started engaging in that level of intimacy. But still. They’re in public.

Victor laughs and takes Yuuri’s hand once more, shushing kisses to his knuckle, looking spritely and smug.

 

“You brought the gangbang up on purpose,” Yuuri deduces when he has Victor pinned against the wall just inside the hotel room. He says this after he’s already kissed Victor’s mouth into a sorry state and just before he licks the column of his delicate throat, stale sweat and heartbeat and all.

“Yes,” Victor sighs, letting his head rest against the wall, whole body curving graciously to Yuuri’s touch. “I can’t help it. You get so –so,” he shudders, breath hiccupping when Yuuri slips his hands under Victor’s shirt to touch the shy skin of his lower back, “so hot over it.”

How could he not? The picture Victor makes, sex-drunk, hands all over him, fucking him silly -- Yuuri groans guiltily and stuffs his nose into the crook of Victor’s neck, huffing. “Sorry. I’m sorry.” And now the smell of him is overwhelming and cloudy in Yuuri’s head. He’s undone too easily by the other man, weak for him.

“I’m not!” Victor laughs. He scratches his fingers over Yuuri’s scalp and embraces him, edging them into the room and towards the bed. “The thought of you thinking about me in such a way…” he trails off with a pointed roll of his body against Yuuri’s. Without further ado, he pushes Yuuri onto the bed and pounces after him with smothering kisses.

“Vic-Vicchan,” Yuuri huffs in-between wet kisses, hands roaming excitedly, reacquainting themselves with the shape of Victor. They’re back in Hasetsu, where even in a perfect darkness, Yuuri knew the secrets of his body. “wait. Wait.”

Victor sits up, flushed, hair undone and frazzled around his head, smiling dopely.  “Yes?”

Yuuri props himself up on his elbows and takes a breath, gathering himself. “Have you been with anyone?”

Victor’s face falls, looking like a kicked puppy. “How could you ask that?”

“Sorry. Sorry,” Yuuri drops back against the bed and covers his face. “Okay, sorry. No, you haven’t. We never said anything – sorry.”

“Okay, okay. You’re sorry. It’s okay. No. I haven’t. Have you?” Victor pries Yuuri’s hands free from his face and presses them down into the mattress, lock of his fingers firm. Yuuri shakes his head side to side. His breathing slowly lifts and lowers Victor who sits astride him.

“Good,” Victor says meaningfully, teeth in the word, tongue sharp on his pallet.

The idea of anyone else touching him, of touching anyone else, of entertaining the thought, disgusts him. Yuuri opens and closes his mouth twice before he blows out a deep breath, the weight of Victor on him noticeable in the give of his diaphragm. “It was silly to ask you that.”

“Maybe,” Victor muses. He doesn’t let up Yuuri’s hands. “But then again, it’s safe to ask. Informed.” He leans down to kiss Yuuri, and the heats still there but it’s slow and comforting. Yuuri closes his eyes, heart in the back of his mouth, surely there for Victor to taste.  “I know that I said that I wanted you to,” Victor’s tongue traces his bottom lip in an interlude, “to stuff me. But that’s too stupid even for this stupid boy right here to do during a competition.”

“You’re not stupid,” Yuuri says reflexively. Then the rest of Victor’s words clarify. “Oh. Oh! I didn’t – I didn’t think that we’d – I’m not here to stuff you,” Yuuri blurts crassly. Victor barks a laugh against his mouth and sits back, mouth a leer, eyebrow cocked in amusement. Yuuri rolls his eyes at the expression and takes his hips in confident hands, rolling his body to meet Victor’s in all the nicest ways. “Tell me what you want, Puppy. Where do you want this to go tonight?”

Victor’s eyes sear with heat, darkening with a desire that he answers by rocking with Yuuri, matching their rhythm until they both sigh in contentment and then he’s letting go of Yuuri’s wrists so Yuuri can hold him close. He answers with kisses that aren’t answers at all but teasing suggestions. His hair falls around Yuuri in a silken fountain, shielding them from the nothing gaze of an empty room.

They find each other again, squeezing and gripping, biting and kissing and licking. Giggles come with a greater frequency than pleasured hums. No clothes fall away but hands slip under shirts and down the back of pants. They make out like a couple of teenagers, humping doggishly, rolling over and over in the freshly made bed. Victor whines about being tired and makes Yuuri get on top, riding him in slow rocks, their clothes bodies miserably hot, the restraint building to something bigger and better. Yuuri could pop, with a little pointed attention, but he’s enjoying Victor’s persistent hands down the back of his pants and the throb of Victor’s pulse under his lips.

“Yuuri,” Victor finally gets around to saying. Yuuri holds mostly still. “I want to be able to touch you everywhere tonight.” He punctuates this with a meaningful grope. “I went through withdrawal without you in Russia.”

“I want the same thing,” Yuuri says simply. He tucks away a lock of hair from Victor’s face and touches his lips gingerly. “I was thinking, because you’re sore, that I could give you a massage? If you’d like. I also uh—” Victor’s staring with rapt interest. Yuuri could step on Victor’s face and be thanked, he’s relatively sure…actually, he knows very well that Victor would be thrilled to be under Yuuri’s feet. That’s just the thing. “Feet.”

Victor blinks once, clarifying, and purses his lips. Yuuri mirrors the contemplative expression, making Victor crack into a smile and look away, licking his lips. “Feet,” he repeats.

“You commented with an eggplant emoji on the video of my ballet foot exercises.”

“Did I really?” Victor feigns innocently, looking around the room with sudden interest and scrutiny.

“Well,” Yuuri says, swinging off of him. “I’m going to take a shower in my room and come back here?”

Victor whines at the loss but satisfies his immediate longing with a quick smack to Yuuri’s butt that Yuuri could have put money on. “Yes. Take my keycard out of my wallet so you can let yourself in if I’m still showering. I plan to be very thorough.”

 

Phichit isn’t in his room when he enters, but Georgi is. Yuuri stumbles through a greeting and hurries to the shower, feeling naked and obvious. He jacks off, hand against the wall, taking the edge off. He wants to make Victor feel good, for as long as possible, and doesn’t want to be distracted.

“Thank you for accommodating us,” he says civilly to Georgi. Georgi appears to be playing a video game, the music to it familiar but Yuuri isn’t of mind to place it.

“I will never stand in the way of a friend’s pleasure,” Georgi says, noble and heartfelt. Yuuri wishes he could have phrased that differently. “Be gentle with him!”

Yuuri had changed in the bathroom into sweats and a t-shirt, and brushed his teeth and such, but was now trying to pack a small, discrete bag with a few overnight items.

“Yup!” Yuuri squeaks, snatching it up and shoving everything together before he bolts out of the room.

Out one door and into another. Victor’s still in the shower, so Yuuri calls out to announce his presence, getting a muffled “Okay!” in response and the water shuts off. He abandons his sneakers at the door and sets his water bottle on the bedside and pops the glass jar of coconut oil he prepared into the room’s small microwave. It goes round, melting down into a puddle.

Victor comes out in a billow of steam, his hair braided over his shoulder, naked body scrubbed pink. Pink, except for the jarring bruises broken across his body.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri gasps, caching sighting of him, moving towards him hands outstretched like a healer. His hips in particular wear the worst of the ice’s unmoving coldness, mottled colours of long-worn aches.

“It’s not bad,” Victor comforts, taking Yuuri’s hands into his own and smiling. He’s wearing socks, and beneath the fresh cleanness of him is the smell of antiseptics. The microwave dings. Yuuri ushers Victor to the bed, given a view of his tight, plush buttocks and its own dappling of bruises.

“Did I hurt you earlier?” Yuuri asks worriedly, watching Victor move, looking for pain.

“No. Or if you did, I liked it. I’m okay. Don’t tell me a few bruises are worrying a dancer like you?” Victor teases, reclining on the bed. “What’s in the microwave?” he asks, redirecting and not giving Yuuri anytime to fuss over him.

“Coconut oil. It’ll feel good warm. Lay on your stomach and get comfortable, Vicchan. Let me take care of you.”

Victor obeys, as he does, and Yuuri almost misses his quiet murmur: “You always do.”

The oil’s a little too hot, so while it cools, Yuuri kisses and strokes Victor’s back and his legs, tracing patterns on his skin. He wants to talk, to admit his longing, but his tongue’s impossible to work. Victor seems content in the silence, eyes closed, face lost in the downy pillow. Except for the occasional squirm when Yuuri brushes a ticklish spot, Yuuri would think him asleep. When Yuuri finally slicks him over with the oil, he sighs, chest decompressing under the push of Yuuri’s hands; it turns into a deep groan, like he is being fucked, when the heel of Yuuri’s hands rubs from the base of his spine up between his shoulder blades.

“Good?” Yuuri asks with an smug smile.

“So good,” Victor slurs.

“Let me know if it hurts, or to go harder. Any especially sore places?”

“Everywhere,” Victor admits, burying his face into the pillow like he’s been caught. But he can’t breathe that way so he surfaces, opening his eye a crack to look at Yuuri. “My legs and my butt, truthfully.”

“I’ll get to them. Just relax. You’ve been working so hard.”

Yuuri works top down. He remembers sitting in a circle on the studio floor with his dance squad, rubbing shoulders and backs. Mari used to make him walk on her back, when he was still in high school, her spine popping under his feet. He watches Victor’s face for winces, moving slowly from his shoulders and neck down his spine. He’s solid muscle, tight and strained but with time and attention, Yuuri works him into a softer state, into a body of give and ease. He shuffles down the bed and carefully works on Victor’s ankles, lifting a leg across his lap and rolling his foot slowly, rubbing up the tendon and into the calf. That’s when Victor really starts hissing, sometimes jerking out of Yuuri’s touch. They both apologize, and Yuuri gentles over the knots. He does both ankles and calves before he starts on the thighs and for that, he taps on Victor’s bottom and spreads his legs, getting between them.

He’s half hard from this. Victor squirms against the bed and his hips lift when Yuuri kneels between his legs. Yuuri’s in the same state, and he takes a breath before he palms Victor’s ass.

“Am I to guess that coconut oil is safe in more intimate spaces?” Victor drawls, sitting up and moving about until he has a pillow under his hips, his ass raised up invitingly.

“It would erode latex, but for us…” Yuuri dribbles the oil over Victor’s butt; some of it runs down to pool in the small of his back, into those sweet dimples, and the rest spatters over his cheeks and runs down between them to drip and slick and make Victor shiver. Yuuri goes through the pretense of oiling him up until he’s shining. “It’s edible too.”

“Please,” Victor whines, shimmying his hips.

“I’m working back here,” Yuuri laughs. He kneads his palms into Victor’s butt, moving from his thigh and up and over the mounds of his ass, baring his weight down. Victor groans, that delicious deep-bellied wrench of noise. Yuuri breathes in sharply and repeats the gesture.

“Massage, my ass,” Victor chuffs. “You aren’t subtle, Katsuki. I know your game.”

Yuuri runs a finger down Victor’s crack, swirling it over his hole. He’s wet with oil and it’s positively sinful. Victor shuts up with a hiss of breath. “Relax.”

He does rubs Victor’s butt down thoroughly, and tries to massage around the bruises on either side of his hips but the areas too tender for much attention. He sticks to playing with Victor’s ass, spreading and squeezing him. When Victor settles into a restless grind against the pillow beneath him, Yuuri helps him along, pressing him deeper into it and pulling him up until Victor’s rocking his ass up and down, spreading apart for Yuuri’s touch andd Yuuri’s eye.

It’s this sight that undoes him. This bare look at Victor. His glorious, muscled buttocks tightening and relaxing in a leisurely thrust, the dark redness at the apex of his thighs, the hang of his balls and the bob of his cock between his legs. Yuuri loves this part of men, where they smell like musk and are tender and hot. His mouth waters, and he rubs first one finger over the tight pucker of Victor’s hole, then two, rubbing the oil in shiny swirls. Victor’s quiet, so quiet, that Yuuri’s caught off guard when Victor brings his knees under himself, prone and begging with his body. He’s playing with himself between his legs.

“Can I?” Yuuri asks, breathing hard. He strips off his shirt and tosses it away.

I already said please,” Victor huffs impatiently.  

“You did,” Yuuri says cloudily, taking Victor’s slippery cheeks into his hand. He scooches back to get a better angle and blows a cool breath over Victor’s hole, watching it twitch and tighten in reaction. “Itadakimasu,” Yuuri chirps brightly.

“You did not – ah!” Victor’s indignant outcry slips into a shrill whine at the first touch of lips and tongues on his most sensitive parts, and he squirms away from Yuuri’s mouth with a jolt, only for Yuuri to yank him back with a hungry sound. Victor arches his back, spine curling like his toes, almost to the point of breaking, before he shakes all over like a wet dog and goes slack, spreading his legs wider on the bed and jerking off steadily as Yuuri bows to eating his ass like the feast that it is.

There’s no way to be neat about it. Yuuri’s face is instantly covered in coconut oil. That overwhelms him, to his dismay, and then there’s the smell of soap still tucked into Victor’s skin and pubic hair, but with firm licks over his hole and cherishing kisses to his balls, Yuuri soon has the smell of Victor’s sex mingling with his senses. He sucks over his hole, a noisy slurp and makes sure to keep his hands moving, rolling over Victor’s body, one hand sneaking around his hip to find Victor’s hand and join it on his cock. He’s light headed with vicarious pleasure, mouth fixed to flesh, ears listening for every hitched moan and staccato tear of breath and every Yuuri that falls from Victor’s beautiful lips.

Yuuri comes up for air and realizes that his neck hurts to all hell. He gets off the bed without hesitation and drags Victor with him, flipping him over onto his back.

“What--! Oh – Yuuri!” That’s all he gets out before Yuuri’s down on his knees, holding him open and licking everything he can. Victor helpfully holds his sac and gives over to stroking himself and moaning while Yuuri slips his tongue into the clenched heat of him. “Ya hochy tebya vnutri menya!”

Yuuri’s jaw aches by the time he’s able to freely thrust his tonge into Victor. One of Victor’s legs is over his shoulder at this point, keeping Yuuri suffocating close. Victor kicks him spasmodically, traps him so that Yuuri’s ragged between his cheeks, sucking like he’ll breathe through Victor’s body. He’s hot. He’s sweating as badly as Victor is, only managing to catch his breath when he peels away to bite the inside of Victor’s thighs and lick the shaft of his cock – then Victor’s dragging him back with a hand in his hair and begging for Yuuri’s tongue, and his mouth has never found greater purpose than unwinding Victor from the inside out.

When Victor comes, Yuuri’s hand is on his dick and his tongue is almost squeezed off. He swallows his moans, a squeal of noise, and deep gush of a sigh as he comes, spend running over Yuuri’s fingers, the coin metal taste of his insides imbedded in Yuuri’s tongue. Yuuri slumps between his legs, breathing just as harshly, ears ringing. He swallows, parched, mind hazy and heart pounding. Victors tugging on his hair, saying his name.

“Did you die?” Victor’s asking. “My love? Yuuri?”

Yuuri lifts his head off Victor’s thigh and finds Victor propped up and looking down at him. Hair has escaped his braid, cobwebbed around his red face.

“Blink once if you’re dead and twice if you’re alive,” Victor tells him.

Yuuri drops his face into the crevice where Victor’s thigh meets groin. “M’dead.”

“No man has died for a greater cause,” Victor intones sagely. He flops back onto the bed, strung out. “Give me a minute. Then I want you sitting on my face.”

They break for water. Victor kisses Yuuri, filthy and full of tongue. Yuuri puts up a token protest about sanitation but he’s full of shit and Victor just laughs and makes a show of licking his lips because he’s shameless. Yuuri hovers over Victor’s beautiful face, all sharp cheekbones and beaky nose, says something about breaking him to which Victor snorts and pulls him down. Victor eats him out lazily, slowly, hands squeezing Yuuri’s hips and cheeks, holding him open. Yuuri bites his lip painfully, rocking gingerly on Victor’s face at then encouraging push and pull of his hands, blushing all the way up to his eyeballs, his arousal sweltering. Victor moans, the noise shaking out of his lips, and slurps at him, licking everything, totally gracious in his adoration. This position lasts until Yuuri’s thigh shake too badly and then Victor’s pulling him to the edge of the bed and bending him over the mattress, kneeling between his legs and groping him hungrily, somehow finding the breath to talk about Yuuri like he brings the sun across the sky and puts the moon to sleep.

“I’ve wanted to be between your legs like this,” Victor’s voice is dark and molasses thick, “since I saw you. God, the shorts, Yuuri.” He kisses Yuuri’s furled open hole, opening his mouth over it and slipping his tongue in slow and relentless, letting Yuuri push back into his nose. He bites both cheeks, quickly distracted by thigh and fat until Yuuri, at his wits end, reaches back for a fist of hair and guides his mouth back to the more important task at hand.

They’re a mess by the end, Victor coming twice. They don’t make it to the bathroom to wash up, but they push that regret for their morning-selves. Victor’s asleep still spread eagle and Yuuri’s praises the design of the room for putting outlets beside the headboard. He dumps the room into darkness and folds Victor onto his side, spooning his sticky, sated body.

 


 

 

 

Yuuri gets the breakfast burritos. He brushes he teeth before slinking into the hall but he’s definitely well fucked and there’s nothing to do for it. He doesn’t want to do anything for it. Victor woke up and sucked him off before brushing his teeth and crawling back into bed with a pout about being hungry. Hence Yuuri now fetching them their sustenance. He feels like a hunter-gatherer. Except he’s bringing back tinfoil wrapped burritos stuffed with every form of American breakfast protein ‘No Cheese.’

“Do you want to go to the stadium?” Yuuri asks, handing Victor his unevenly warmed burrito from the microwave.

Victor takes a huge, ugly bite, mouth packed with eggs, ham and sausage. He shakes his head, cheeks bulging, and pats the bed meaningfully. Yuuri plops down beside him and pulls the blankets over his newly naked legs. His clothes had gotten glared off his body the moment he returned from his mission.

“Do you have to be anywhere today?” Yuuri asks skeptically. Victor pats the bed again, more insistently, shoving food into his mouth like he’s not tasting it. Well. Okay then.

They eat and fool around and doze off again, waking up some time after 2pm. Yuuri puts Victor out of his misery and gives him an overdue footjob, his bemused curiosity turning into his own arousal simply due to watching Victor work himself into a fit between the arches of Yuuri’s well-kissed feet. Victor does all the cleaning up too, clearly enjoying himself, and that’s pleasure enough for Yuuri. He’s too spent to explore anymore kinks for the next few hours and lays in Victor’s arms to be leisurely fingered, Victor’s mouth littering him with scraps of hard loving.

Some sense of need beyond sex and sleep takes them finally. Victor takes the longest piss Yuuri’s ever heard and crawls back into bed with his big water bottle, drinking it in long pulls and looking permanently ruined for polite society. He’s taken his braid out and his hair rolls down his back in crimped waves. Yuuri runs his fingers through it admiringly and that makes Victor turn to him with a smile and play with his hair.

“It’s gotten so long. It grows faster than mine.” Victor smooths Yuuri’s bangs down over his face, the end of his hair just reaching his mouth. “As if you weren’t beautiful enough. Now you have this sexy lion’s mane.”

“It looks like a family of squirrels is living in my hair right now, Vicchan,” Yuuri huffs, batting his hand away. He plucks his glasses off the nightstand and peers around the room. Georgi’s bed is the only thing that’s not in chaotic disarray. Even the desk with the phone and a hotel notepad is off its mark, having been put to some use in their morning activities. “Should we, uhm, like, get up?”

“No,” Victor declines, laying back down and picking up his phone. “I’m not interested in wearing pants or talking to people today.”

“Hmm?” Yuuri sits up against the headboard and checks his phone, replying to a few comments on instagram. “That’s unlike you. I would have thought you wanted to walk around Boston. You’ve never been.”

“The only thing in this city that I want to see is you.”

Yuuri looks over and Victor’s turned on his side, cheek in hand, radiating charm. Yuuri thinks that he’s the only man who can say something like that and not sound like a fool from a bad romcom. That’s often the case with Victor Nikiforov. As if to prove his point, Victor reaches over and whips the sheet off Yuuri, exposing his nakedness to his appreciative eye.

“See? That’s all I need.” He rolls closer and cuddles against Yuuri, head on his chest, hand roaming and luxuriating in the bounty of Yuuri’s body. It’s a wonder he can put his ear so close to Yuuri’s fluttering heart and look peaceful when Yuuri feels like his bones are about to uncage themselves to make room for the swell of emotions lifting high in his chest.

Yuuri swallows. That’s plain unfair. “How can you be so cute?”

 “I’m a puppy and puppies are sources of infinite cuteness.” Victor twists his head to smile up at Yuuri. “And they don’t have to wear pants either. They are the ideal creature.”

“Okay,” Yuuri agrees. That’s sound logic. He plays with Victor’s hair and scrolls through his feed. “Whatever you want. But we’ll have to go get food. You need to fuel up for tomorrow. I, unlike you, am respectfully fearful of Yakov.”

“We can order room service.”

“You really don’t want to leave the room?” Yuuri lifts an eyebrow at him, but Victor’s playing on his phone. And it’s not that Yuuri necessarily wants to go do things that take effort, but he’d be okay with watching some of the skates. But he can’t just leave Victor can he? Unless…this is code that Yuuri should go? That Victor wants to be alone? But no, never mind – one look at him dismisses that idea. Victor hasn’t stopped touching and kissing him since they got into bed last night.

“I don’t want to have to talk to people,” Victor says mildly. He’s pinning summer looks to his fashion boards. Apparently he’s very into naturally dyed linen this season.

“Since when?” Ask Yuuri dubiously, twirling a lock of hair around his finger. Victor grumbles a complaint that Yuuri can’t parse, so he automatically takes his hands away only for Victor to snag them and put them back into his hair. Okay. That’s clear enough: Yuuri is okay. It’s everything else that’s not okay. Yuuri keeps up his petting, playing with Victor’s ears as well, watching him with half an eye as he scrolls on his phone.

It’s probably about yesterday’s skate, Yuuri reasons. Victor hadn’t done well for himself, although he still held a comfortable position overall and it’s been explained to him several times that the free skate would shuffle the ranks significantly. Victor’s routine and Japan’s top skater’s routine had equal amounts of technical difficulty. It’s entirely possible that Victor can podium, assuming he performs excellently tomorrow. It seems a bit unlikely that none of the people ahead of him will skate a flawless routine. He’s stressed. He’s probably past stressed.

God. Thinking about how stressed Victor is is making Yuuri stressed.

“We should order food!” Yuuri suggests way too loudly. Food solves a lot of problems. Yuuri stretches over to snag the room service booklet from the nightstand, trying not to dislodge Victor’s position on his chest. “Mama made me promise to feed you as much as possible. You have to come back to Hasetsu in the off-season so she can make sure you’re not skin and bones or she’ll never stop calling me.”

Yuuri flips open the booklet to the side of them, preparing to read off the options, when Victor whispers, “I love your Mama.”

Yuuri keeps his mouth closed.

His voice is too small. “I want to go back.”

Victor’s laid his phone down on Yuuri’s stomach, now doing no more than curling into his chest, fingers spread over his skin in a starfish kiss.

“You can come back, Vicchan.” Yuuri tries to make his breathing unnoticeable, like too much living will startle Victor. The words should make him happier; victor wants to go back to Hasetsu; but he made it sound like he can’t; that he wants futility.

“Yuuri.” Victor says his name and blanches, hiding his face into Yuuri’s chest a second later. The starlight of his hair looks cold without the pink curl of Victor’s smile to sweeten its frosty hue. “Fuck.”

Trepidation rears up inside Yuuri. A dump of anxiety unblocks his nerves, and now he can feel the flow of blood through the capillaries of his fingers and toes, an unwanted itching awareness of his skin and his body and his wrongs that he hates to bear in bed with Victor. Yuuri pales. “Vicchan. What’s wrong?”

He doesn’t notice that he’s started to quiver until Victor runs a hand up and down his flank, soothing him, kissing his chest apologetically. “I don’t want to keep lying to you,” Victor murmurs, not looking at Yuuri.

“What -- what are you talking about?”

“I know we said we’d wait until after the competition to talk about what we’re doing together, but,” Victor sits up and pushes his hair off his face. His mouth is upturned, wrong wrong wrong, but his eyes are glazed and shut away. He trails off, still not looking at Yuuri, not seeing anything at all.

Yuuri’s stomach heaves. He sucks in a breath, trying to steady himself, making himself swallow like he’s fighting back throwing up or passing out. He’s in bed with Ryota again, about to be dismissed. The fun’s over. He’s always in bed with them when they want to hurt him.

“I’m not the person…I’m not okay,” Victor shakes his head side to side, eyes shut down, brows pinched together in mute anguish. “I’m sick,” Victor chokes out, gritting his teeth around bitterness.

One beat. Two. The storm of fear doesn’t leave Yuuri but its properties transmute and leap from one target to the next.

“Are you dying?” Yuuri gasps, taking him by the shoulders. Victor swings his head side to side, a pathetic pendulum. Yuuri takes him by the chin and forces him to look at Yuuri for heaven’s sake. “Victor,” Yuuri says seriously. “What’s wrong?”

Pearls of tears roll down Victor’s cheeks. His mouth twists ruefully and he emits a punched whine, sighs loudly, comically resigned, and flops a hand into the air in a weak queen’s wave, beckoning in the judgment and turmoil. “I’ve been seeing a therapist and she says I have bipolar disorder. Bipolar two disorder.”

Yuuri blinks rapidly. “Okay?” he says dumbly. He thumbs away Victor’s tears and holds his gaze. “Is that…it?”

“Is that…it?” Victor repeats, offended, sitting out of Yuuri’s touch. “Yes, that’s it. Yakov sent me to a therapist and she said I’m crazy.”

Yuuri gives him his space and holds up his empty hands, sitting back as well. “You’re not crazy, Victor. And you know that.”

“No I don’t,” Victor snaps, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. But he doesn’t get up. He’s naked and bruised. He’s naked and wearing love marks where his costume won’t show tomorrow. His face is ruddy with emotion, indignant anger and loathing and – fear. When neither of them says anything, Victor draws his legs up his chest and wraps his arms around them, spine hunched, becoming a gargoyle. “I don’t know that. She told me all these things and it was awful, Yuuri. It’s like I’m not even me, all of a sudden. Like it’s something else that makes me this way, and I’m not me.”

Victor looks at him, the picture of misery. It hurts to see him this way.

“I don’t’ know what’s going to happen,” Victor continues. He’s not crying by force of will, jaw clenched and bulging, breathing short and labored from his nose, nostrils flaring like an frightened horse “I’m not going to medication until after the competition because I don’t want the side-effects to ruin me anymore than I’m already ruined—“

“You aren’t ruined—“

“-and I don’t know what’s going to happen. What if all the things about me are just me being manic,” he throws out his hands, wrestling the idea in the air, before he hugs himself again, tighter this time, nails scratching into his skin. “I think I’m able to do anything, that’s what makes me so good – but it could just be me being manic! And I’m lucky my depressive episodes are functional. I thought it was just the weariness of routine. I thought I just had to wait for my high again. That spark.”

“It’s chemicals. And outside triggers,” Yuuri explains patiently, dredging up every scrap of knowledge he has on mental illnesses, long researched and poured over. “I’m sorry, Victor. You’re ill. It’s scary. It’s hard and scary. It fucking sucks.”

Victor laughs and actually smiles. He sniffs and rubs his nose, nodding. “It fucking sucks.”

“Yeah,” Yuuri says weakly. He moves to sit beside Victor, still not touching him. “Do you want me to talk about my anxiety? It’s called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Because I thought I was fucked up too. I mean… I am. We are, in a way. But we’re not broken, and well…you like me, right?”

“I love you,” Victor promises, eyes flashing wide.

Yuuri smiles at him. “Exactly. And I was a mess. Sometimes, I still am. So all the love you have and the people in your life, they don’t go away. It can be harder at times, but we’re lucky to be in the age of modern medicine. There’s a lot of helpful discussions on mental illness that might help you to read; have you read anything?”

Victor shakes his head no, then shrugs, then shrugs again. Yuuri nods and then he slowly explains his own experiences. How he thought everyone hated him all the time, even when they said they loved him. How he couldn’t shake his constant paranoia and distrust of people, positive that everyone was plotting against him or out to get him or judging him constantly. How he had to practice and rehearse all of his behavior and actions so that it looked normal and right and he could keep passing by without spectacle. How even when he accomplished something, he didn’t think he deserved it, or couldn’t accept people’s affection. He alienated people, couldn’t socialize, drank too much until he was numb enough to ignore his own thoughts and then he was reckless. He was so good at dance because he would dance until he was too tired to stay awake and listen to his endless doomsday thoughts.

“So that’s all gone?” Victor asks.  “When you started medication?” He’s thoughtful, faintly horrified by Yuuri’s internal demons, but comforted all the same by knowing that they exist in someone he adores.

Yuuri wiggles his hand, ‘eh’. “It tones it down. Mostly, my medication lets me sleep. I would never sleep, maybe 2-3 hours a night. I was too exhausted to stabilize, and in a vicious cycle.  I still have all the thoughts and doubts, but I’m very very aware that they’re baseless. When I was in therapy, I developed check systems, like uhm…like if I can’t prove my own thoughts, they’re probably just anxiety thoughts? Like if I thought Phichit hated me, because sometimes I think he hates me and he’s only putting up with me out of pity,” Victor shoots him a baffled look and Yuuri shrugs, “well, sometimes I can reason with myself and make sure there’s no logical reason for him to hate me given all other behavior, right? Sometimes I can’t and I have to text him ten times asking for him to promise to tell me the truth. I know he loves me, and he knows I can’t help the doubt even though it hurts him a little.”

The last time Yuuri talked about his anxiety like this, it was with Mari. He’d told his parents, but they didn’t really seem to get it. Mari, though; she smoked through a pack listening to him on the porch three summers ago. And weirdly enough, talking about it makes Yuuri feel better. He’s come a long way, and he’s proud of himself even though he still hates himself for it at the same time. But like so many things, he can only reconcile, sometimes over and over again.

Victor’s quiet, listening. Yuuri fumbles for words and decides to keep talking because he almost can’t stop at this point. “It’ll be hard. And I’m sorry. I’m really sorry you’re going through this, Vicchan. A lot of the people at Uni went through this too. Everything seems to come out in the twenties. But this isn’t the end. Treatment can be really helpful. But whatever you’re feeling is okay, too. Being scared or angry.” And then, because it started all of this, Victor’s need to admit his state, Yuuri adds on gently. “I love you. I don’t know where we’ll be in a week or a year from now, but this isn’t going to make me not love you or not want to be with you. It’s just another thing that we will work through together. I like all of you.”

Victor knuckles his eyes and nods, a groggy cry gurgling and dying in his throat. Yuuri’s misty-eyed but holding it together because one of them needs to hold it together. Victors’ still wound so tight it looks painful, all of the post-coital relaxation murdered from his body.

“God, Yuuri,” he manages. “Sometimes, it’s like nothingness. Not paranoia, not even fear. It feels like nothingness. I thought,” he laughs deprecatingly, “before I went to therapy, the first few days back. I don’t know. I thought I just missed you. But there’s no way – I didn’t even miss you. I did but I didn’t. I didn’t want you to see me. I wanted to be back in Japan but then I thought, what would I even say, because all I could really think about was waiting for the floor to come up over me. Happiness was like someone else’s idea, like I could only look back at you and Japan and see it as something that happened to someone else. And that’s crazy!” he shouts, slapping his hands down on the bed, swiveling his head and looking at Yuuri with a bright, unbelieving expression. “Because in japan, I would have married you! I thought about it, you know, marrying you and never going back to my life. That it would work and be perfect and I’d become a dancer with you and we’d become famous. But that’s all – that’s not even me now!”

He hops off the bed to pace, careless in his nudity, heathen in his energy. “I’m so mad, Yuuri! I’m so fucking mad.” He pulls his hair over both shoulders and wraps it in his fists, yanking. The part down the middle goes white.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri interrupts sternly, beckoning for him. Victor collapses into him and Yuuri takes his hands away from his hair before he hurts himself. This is what Yakov meant. God. “Did you or did you not start jumping quads when you were still in junior competition?”

The redirection throws Victor; he blanks, puzzled, and nods.

“When you were fourteen, right? And Yakov yelled at you? But you kept doing stuff like that anyway?” Again, Victor nods. Yuuri nods with him. “You’ve always been extravagant. If I asked Yakov, would he tell me that ever since you were a child, you’ve been a pain in his ass?”

“Is this supposed to be comforting?” Victor asks flatly.

“Yes. Because you have always been untamed, Vicchan. Even before episodes of mania would manifest. Did you therapist talk to you about that?”

Victor nods slightly, mouth pulling down. “She said…most of my symptoms would be depressive.”

“Okay,” Yuuri breathes out. He smooths Victor’s hair over his forehead several times, calming them both with the motion. “So the things that make you, uhm, Victor Nikiforov, what you’re known for…that sounds like it’s definitely you. All you. You’re not going anywhere, okay?”

 

There’s not much else to say. The fit leaves them both exhausted and quiet, but instead of crawling right back into bed they work through a two hour stretching routine, a little sore from sex, but better by the end. They order a mountain of food and in the meantime, take a shower together, Yuuri washing Victor and hugging him as much as possible. Yuuri’s glad Victor told him, and tells him so. But it’s not an issue solved in a day. Most of it really will have to be dealt with after the competition, between Victor and his therapist and, by all likelihood, a healthy dose of medication.

The depression Victor described worries Yuuri more than anything. It might get worse, the episodes might get longer. He plans to read into it when Victor isn’t with, but for now they find a cartoon movie on the TV and let it play, all bright colors and exaggerated faces and a defiance of the laws of physics.

Victor’s phone vibrates with a text from Georgi asking if he can come back to the room yet. Victor shows Yuuri the screen of his phone. Neither of them are wearing clothes. Clothes seem really hard right now.

“….no,” Yuuri mumbles.

Victor snickers as he types just that into his phone, among a million naughty emojis, and throws the phone to be lost in the covers, turning and kissing Yuuri for a long long time, long enough to bump Yuuri’s glasses halfway off his head, before camping down again. “What if I tried to marry you?”

“Right now, or back in Japan?” Yuuri dances his fingers up and down Victor’s spine with one hand and corrects his glasses with the other, watching the TV.

“Both.”

“I’d like to enjoy the engagement a little longer. My parents wouldn’t appreciate it…ah! Vicchan!” Yuuri twists away from Victor’s ticklish fingers with a piglet’s shriek and flings himself across the bed. “Hey!”

Victor usurps his stack of pillows and curls up, smile flickering on and off his face. “I need you to tell me what you figured out. About us. Because I need something I can hold onto right now Yuuri, even if that something is a ‘no.’”

“It’s not a no,” Yuuri says immediately, crawling back to him. Victor’s smiling, he’s always smiling when people look at him, but his eyes are wary. “It’s very not a no.”

“Very not a no,” Victor chirps back, the tension bleeding from his eyes. Yuuri wrinkles his nose at the mockery and Victor laughs, reaching for him and tangling their fingers together. “Okay, okay. So what’s the plan? Hasetsu does have an ice rink.”

Yuuri nods. That’s definitely an unexpected blessing in their arrangement, but the last thing Victor needs is to be dropped into a foreign country with a language he can’t speak, away from most of his support network. And Yuuri isn't ready to go back to Hasetsu. Not yet. He’s not big enough to survive the ocean walls of his hometown. In a few years. In a few years, when he has the experience, he’ll go back to Minako’s studio and take over. Hasetsu has to survive a little longer until he’s strong enough to revitalize it. It’s made it this far; it’s faith, now.

“Well,” Yuuri plays with Victor’s slim fingers, tracing down to the webbing and circling the nail bed. “I’ve been offered opportunities in a lot of places. America, Canada, India…St. Petersburg—“

Victor squeezes his hand. Yuuri doesn’t look up, fascinating with the slide of their fingers together, the way the veins on the back of Victor’s hands rise up under pressure.

“You’d come to Russia? To stay with me?” Victor asks disbelievingly.

“If you’d like,” Yuuri murmurs. And there it is, the doubt he can’t shake.  He doesn’t have to endure second-guessing himself for long because soon his averted gaze is filled with Victor, who’s face is split with his wide, gummy grin and crinkled eyes.

“Very much a yes!”

“Oh,” Yuuri says simply. It’s that simple. He smiles.

And then they’re there, holding hands, watching their shared future begin in a hotel room in Boston.

 

 

They do eventually allow Georgi back into the room. The poor man wrinkles his nose at the overpowering smell of sex in the air. Yuuri avoids eye contact with him for the rest of the night. Victor makes a show of stretching and groaning and sighing like he’s still having sex. Yuuri and Georgi both throw pillows at him; there is a brief, alarming melee. Yuuri ducks out as fast as possible claiming his glasses are at risk and sits back as the Russians slap each other senseless with feathers and cotton.

He records it, as one would in such a situation. “Can I put this on my instagram?”

“Yes!” Victor cries immediately before launching himself at Georgi.

“The pillow smells of your sex!” Georgi shouts in his heavy accent. Yuuri makes sure to crop the last few seconds of the video before he puts it online.

 

 


 

 

Yuuri’s just wiggled his way through the stands to get back down to the track surrounding the rink and hunt down Victor before his free skate when Brianna joins Phichit with a latte for them both.

“My hero,” Phichit praises, taking it rom her gratefully. Brianna hums and uncaps her, sipping off the milk foam. “Yuuri left right before you got here to find Victor.”

“Did he ever come back to the room last night?” Brianna asks, manicure eyebrow raised suggestively. Phichit’s innocently distracted face is answer enough. She laughs and blows on her drink. “I’m surprised Victor can go on the ice after spending that many hours alone with Yuuri.”

Yuuri’s back in Victor’s red jacket, a bright target to follow.

“Yuuri says they mostly ‘talked’.” Phichit air quotes talked. “What about you? I saw the photos on instagram from the ISU event. You were living it up.”

“Oh, hell yes I was,” Brianna grins. She’s glowing with triumph. “Guess who’s getting promoted.”

“Really?” Phichit doesn’t need to know someone long to be able to summon enthusiasm for their success if he likes them. “That’s awesome!”

“I know! I’m so happy. The Icyhot event went so well. Really, Phichit, Yuuri’s amazing. And I know you helped him a lot. Thank you so much too. But holy shit.” She puts a hand to her forehead and shakes her head slightly, eyes wide and blinking in disbelief at her own success. “I just made a queer, Japanese, plus-sized dancer into an international sex symbol. I’m amazing? I’m a goddess. Now all he and Victor have to do with get on the Ellen show. Victor’s whiter than fresh snow, so they might manage it. But whoo,” she kicks her feet out and looks down at the rink, assessing. “I’ll be designing more marketing campaigns and I’ll be able to hire this intern I really like as the new assistant.”

Phichit claps his hand against the inside of his wrist. “Well done, well done. I’m glad Yuuri could be of service. He’ll be happy to hear that this has been mutually beneficial. He won’t admit it out loud, but he did this for the publicity. He’s practically a D-list celebrity now. Everyone’s a winner.”

“Including the children. Let’s not forget the children.”

The skater before Victor’s up, someone from America. It’s a remix of a pop song. Phichit’s into the bop.

“It’s a shame Victor didn’t do as well as expected on his short program,” Phichit says after a minute. “I just hope Yuuri doesn’t think he distracted Victor or something like that.” Because Yuuri would somehow come to that conclusion, knowing him.

“He did well, all things considered. He still has a good shot at the podium. Speaking as someone from the ISU, it’s a mixed bag on him. Some people think he’s a god in skating and thought he will ace his way through, but a lot of people don’t want to see that. He took two months away from skating, flat out gone; it’d be a slap to the other skaters if he still won over them.”

Phichit hums. “Yeah, I guess.” He really didn’t think that hard about it. “He must be disappointed.”

“Skating’s fickle,” Brianna shrugs. “And competitions like this are a really exaggerated way to judge a skater. Everyone has to be able to roll with the punches and accept a bad round. Victor’s already well decorated, he knows that doing poorly here won’t erase his previous accomplishments. These competitions stress me out. They work all the time, train all the time, for seven minutes of performance. Thousands of hours go into this one shot. If a skaters off mentally, it can ruin whatever their body has learned. Oh look! There they are!”

She points down to where Victor’s appeared near the rink, Yakov on one side, Yuuri on the other side. Phichit’s seen Victor’s videos. Yuuri showed him them practically every day, moping and mooning after him when he’d gone back to Russia. Video doesn’t compare.

“—158.70 putting America’s Amal Hussain in 12th with a total of 228.52 after his free skate.”

Victor takes off his guards and hands them to Yakov, hugging his coach. Then, he hugs Yuuri, pulling apart to touch foreheads with him. He’s smiling. They’re both smiling. Yuuri kisses his nose and Victor throws his head back and laughs, is still laughing when he takes to the ice and waves at his audience.

“Next we have Victor Nikiforov from Russia skating to “La Chanson de la foulle au bord de la meror “The song of the mad woman by the seashore,” a piano composition from French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan.”

His costume is a feminine, asymmetrically hemmed skirted leotard in a dark, cloudy gray accented with a shimmery thread and soft, lacy collar and sleeves that sets off his pale complexion and bright silver hair. He’s wearing his hair in a high ponytail with a familiar looking jade pin the only splash of color in the ensemble. His eyes are dark and there’s spots of color in his cheek but he lacks the heavy, operatic makeup from this short program. He’s too broad to look waifish, but he moves like silk on the ice, a loose-leaf of song made flesh.

The screens planted around the stadium project his face, listing off a few stats about him. He looks happy. As the music cues, he closes his eyes and visibly blows out a breath.

 

That’s a secret only she knows…

The low rumble of open piano notes fills the stadium, followed by a delicate, girlish melody tiptoeing through the rumble. Victor spins out, a moon flower opening, his arms liquid and boneless. Loneliness. Abandonment. Isolation. Alientation. He’s confronted these ideas all season and truthfully, all his life. Loneliness looks small, when people imagine it. It’s the child in the corner, the mute face on the bus. It’s the life passing away without notice. But it catches even in the crowd, a lurk of shadow. Victor’s had the smile stolen from his lips amongst company he loves, robbed of warmth without his consent. But who is she, his mad woman self, what is her song by the seashore?

Two days ago, he couldn’t skate to abandonment. He couldn’t be Tosca. He’d felt too much her rage, felt too much the concealed knife. He was ready to kill on the ice, loathing and frothing with rage at the thought of flinging himself from the parapets. No one, nothing, would make him give up. He’d tried to skate abandonment and only felt malice. If god or art or even love forsook him –

“Nikiforov’s serpentine sequence is taking him around the rink and there’s his triple axel double loop combination. That was stunning. He’s really in better form today.”

Relinquish. He’d give them up. If they forsook him, he would do so in turn. Tosca. He’d hated her and mourned her in that skate. He pities her and hates her for it. He doesn’t want a miserable fate. He won’t have it.

His mad woman. He feels her, knows her, wakes her. The melody repeats, relentless, speeding up and he speeds with it. He can smell Hasetsu’s ocean again, its coldness climbing his skin. Yuuri’s tears salt to salt into her body. Alkan wrote this; did he spy her from a window. Did he conjure her from the ache inside himself, the hermit neighbor, the lesser known man. Isolation. Alienation. Who was she to him – a figment? But what now, when Victor swears she’s singing inside his blood, reincarnated and twinned with him. He’s hearing the music and for the firs time, it sounds celebratory. Always unleashed. But alone isn’t death. Alone can be safe.

 “The power and skill needed to execute the series of jumps and spins packed into the height of music is a daring move on Nikiforov’s part—“

He jumps at the key change and spins, eyes open, watching the world whip and whirl, seeing the tail of his hair chasing itself.

“He nailed his quad flip!”

But he’s not alone. And the mad woman isn’t throwing herself into the sea. They can swim without drowning. They can touch the waves and walk away. He’s scared. He’s scared for her and of her and is her. But they don’t die on that shore or sink out in the black wine of the ocean. Because alone ends.

He’s nothing but spins and jumps, body lost in his own relief. The frenzy usually takes him at this point; he’d burn up, start melting the ice, smoking with sweat. His skin’s tight and enflamed, pores gushing, but he’s not nearly so tired, nearly so undone. It’s not a fight.

“He’s upgraded his triple lutz to a quad lutz with a triple toe loop double two loop combination, landing them all – and now a beilman. This is –“

He can have his banshee wail of pain and have his lover’s kiss too. He can. He can. Yuuri runs into the sea with him, sun-gilded, taking his hand.

“—Breathtaking—”

Victor stops the world spinning. He catches his breath, limbs and lungs flung wide, a tremor rattling him all the way down to his skates.

“That was by far Nikiforov’s finest performance of his career. So overwhelmed with the emotions of his skate, he’s weeping on the ice, still in his final pose. The crowd’s silent…”

The strength of his neck gives out, head to heavy, and he bows over, covering his mouth to cup the hiccupping sobs that escape him. Then the noise comes, maybe it’s always been there and he couldn’t hear it over the rush of his own blood, a drowning of hands slapping and feet stomping and nameless faces naming him over and over: Victor, Victor, Victor!

 

“Vicchan!”

 

 

Nikiforov breaks free-skate world record

Adding an unexpected fourth quad to his free skate, a 4Lz with a 3T 2T combination to increase his technical element to the highest in this year’s roster, and executing a masterful performance, Victor Nikiforov (21) of Russia crushes his own free-skate record and sets the new Free-skate record for Men’s skate with a score of 221.58. He finished the championship with a total of 301.65 points, earning silver at this year’s ISU World Championship for Men’s, behind Spain’s…read more

 

Love on the Ice

After his heart wrenching free skate, our darling Vitya started crying! Me too! I was sobbing halfway through, he was so beautiful. I’ve never seen him skate so emotionally, so nakedly. This season has been his hardest to date, what with his concussion and disappearing for two months. But he hasn’t suffered it alone. The proof’s on the ice. When Vitya sat down crying on the ice, YUURI RAN ONTO THE ICE. Even a talented dancer like him wiped out a few times (okay WHO put them in slow-mo!!??). But watching them hug it out on the ice resurrected me. I died and came back because of them…read more

 

[Photo of Yuuri cupping Victor’s face in his hands, both of them kneeling on the ice.]

38,239 likes

unofficialworlds2016 Ice skating is a good sport :)

 

 

FLIRTY DANCING -- SPOTTED!

The stars have aligned for us dancing fans! In the past month, Yuuri Katsuki has taken the internet by storm was video after video of himself performing his own choreography of anything from hip-hop and shuffle steps to pristine ballet compositions and swing dances that would make a youth group faint. With his romantic relationship to Russian Olympic gold medalist, Victor Nikiforov, it’s only been a matter of time until, yes, you know what’s coming – he and Lilia Baranovskaya are in the same room TALKING at the 2016 ISU World Championships. Nikiforov’s coach, Yakov Feltsman, has been wed to the former prima for the Bolshoi Ballet for thirty-nine years. Lilia came to Boston to support her husband and his skaters in this year's...read more

 

 

[Chris spread out shirtless on a table, a row of blowjob shots lined down the center of his torso, surrounded by Phichit, Yuuri, Victor, Brianna, Georgi, another woman and another man]

25,237 likes

Phichit+chu relaxing with the silver and bronze men’s medalists of the 2016 world championship. Nothing to see here ;)

christophe-ge @Arithearies <3

Ariethearies Hi Phichit u can tag me :)

Phichit+chu @Arithearies Done!!! :P too bad @ y-katsuki won’t let me put up the picture of @ v-nikiforov in the same position ;)

y-katsuki didn’t u say u wanted to be our pr rep?

 

 

 

 

532,908 views

y-katsuki There’s a lot of dances I could dedicate to @v-nikiforov to express the love and inspiration he’s given me. I might never stop dancing to the thought of him and the #emotion he gives me, but I have to start somewhere and this song always makes me thing of him. <3 U can watch the rest on my youtube

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v-nikiforov thank god im already in his lap when I started watching this

flashfeet1 YUURI! I LOVE this omg this song is perfffff

carlyrae5evr this is sooooooooooooo good wtf

mila-mifa-mere @y-katsuki come to the rink and choreograph for me!

 

 

 

 

301,004 likes

v-nikiforov HELLO WORLD LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL LOVE IN BEAUTIFUL ST. PETERSBURG BEING BEAUTIFUL

 


 


 


 

 

August mornings in St. Petersburg leave a cold dew on the grass. The city became unbearable with tourists and not enough entertainment for Victor’s taste, but this year, Yakov and Lilia had kindly invited him and Yuuri along to their dacha in the countryside between St. Petersburg and Novgorod. Yakov reasoned to them both that their presence couldn’t possibly be worse than the squealing of Lilia’s nieces and nephews. Not much better, mind you, but not possibly worse.

The sun lights a flush over the countryside. Leash in hand, Victor runs out barefoot over the grass, chasing the animated brown fluffball that’s zigzagging across the grass, stopping to smell every leaf and scattering of animal poops just long enough for Victor to almost catch her before she yips and darts off, looking over her shoulder every few leaps to make sure her daddy is enjoying the game of chase.

“Makkachin!” Victor calls, not begrudged in the least that his morning warm up looks like him chasing his puppy. “Come on, girl.” He whistles and she finally comes to a halt, ears flopping and tongue lolling. She barks at him before trotting to his feet, circling him excitedly. “Good girl, good girl. That’s it.”

She’s six months old and has feet too big for her body yet, growing rapidly and adorably. At a hand gesture, she drops into a sit. At another, she lays down, dark eyes glowing with interest and attention. “Good girl, Makkachin,” Victor praises, kneeling down to give her a small treat.

He’ll leash her later, but for now he gets to enjoy training her off the leash. She never strays far from him after her initial romp that’s all sleep-sotred energy and a morning zest for life. She’s perfectly mindful, despite her youth. It’s like she knows that Victor needs her and never goes far, always turns into his hand with kisses and a cold nose.

Yuuri was the one who suggested an emotional support pet as a way to help with the depressive episode. An animal to provide routine, unconditional love, and a daily sense of accomplishment. Makkachin wasn’t a service dog, so Victor would have to get approval from facilities about her if they weren’t dog-friendly, but he didn’t plan to take her anywhere fancy. Mrs. Petrova had agreed, when Victor brought it up in therapy. Victor took her to obedience classes three times a week and Yuuri once a week. She’d already graduated from the basic puppy commands with flying colours! There was a doggy ice cream cake and a lot of photography for her. She was practically famous on both of their instagrams because neither Victor nor Yuuri can resist her or, too often, the other man being cute with her. They are, after all, dog people.

 

After a few laps around the dacha and a brief harassment of some local squirrels, Victor and Makkachin head back to the house, the sun warming skin and fur respectively.

Yuuri’s standing in the doorway, still sleepy in his pajamas, holding a steaming mug of tea. “How’s my puppy?” he asks, smile softer than the light on his cheek.

“Good.” Victor leans over the threshold to kiss his cheek. He hums gratefully when Yuuri passes him the mug of tea. It’s strawberry tea and honey-heavy.

“And how’s my favorite girl?”  Yuuri coos, bending down to ruffle Makkachin’s fluffy crown and floppy ears. She licks his face, not at all adhering to the civility and chasteness Victor had exemplified in his greeting. Yuuri laughs and dodges the tongue.

“Vicchan,” Yuuri tsks and taps on Victor’s bare foot. He swats off a ride-along bug. “Shoes?”

“They interrupt my communion with the land,” Victor defends. His feet are numb with chill and have bits of grass stuck to them. It feels good to run with them naked, unrestricted. Free from heavy skates. Yuuri knows it too and only sighs, worrying about sharp stones lacerating his pink underfoot.

 Yuuri’s been with him in Russia for four months and every day’s been better than the last, even when sometimes Victor can’t feel it. They had the benefit of already knowing each other’s habits, and their own occupations. Yuuri instructed at a performance dance studio, doing contact improve and contemporary with lyric and hip-hop movements blended in heavily. He made music with his body, animated even the simplest of compositions into theatric emotions and expressions that left his audience dazed and glutted with emotion. He’s never been happier.

“Stay there,” Yuuri orders casually, going back inside, leaving Makkachin and Victor in the doorway.

“Are Yakov and Lilia still asleep?” Victor whisper-shouts after him.

Yuuri reappears quickly with a sad looking towel. He sits down at Victor’s feet and – cleans off Makkachin’s paws. Victor snorts. Of course he does. “Yes, they’re still asleep. Do you want to make breakfast for everyone with me?”

Yuuri looks up, glasses slipping down his nose, smile sweeter than Victor’s tea. He’s wiping mud from Makkachin’s back foot and this – this is the picture of happiness.

“We can use up the eggs and get more at the store this afternoon.”

Yuuri sends Makkachin inside with a pat to her rump and picks off Victor’s foot, cleaning it off carefully. Victor bites his lip, suffused with a buttery pleasure. He melts further when Yuuri lifts his now clean foot and kisses the inside of his ankle, over the thin pink skin that stretches as a scar over the knobby bone.

“I’ll never wear shoes if you treat me like this,” Victor warns him.

 He gives Yuuri his other foot and gets the same tender treatment. He’s certainly awake now, and Yuuri knows it if his raised eyebrow is anything to judge by. Victor helps him to his feet, Yuuri pulling him flushed to his body, stepping backwards smoothly in a waltz step that he uses to spin and lead Victor into the home.

“I’ll never set you down, if that’s the case,” Yuuri counters smoothly, adjusting his arm around Victor’s waist to sit under his ass and allowing him the leverage to lift him into the air, taking his weight easily. “You won’t need shoes.”

“Or feet. Or legs!” Victor teases.

“No,” Yuuri makes a face. “I like your feet and legs.” To make his point, he presses Victor against the nearest wall, in the short hallway between the main room and the kitchen, and pulls Victor’s leg up around his waist.

Victor looks around, double-checking for privacy. Getting caught smooching by Yakov is one thing but Lilia? Lilia is a whole other kind of scary. And Yuuri will die if Lilia scolds him. He’d pretty much died ten times already in the week that they’ve been at the dacha. (“I’ve never seen her with her hair down, Victor, I think she sleeps with it in the bun. I get tension headaches of admiration from looking at her.”)

Coast clear, Victor kisses Yuuri on his peppermint mouth, humming with pleasure. Yuuri’s firm interest is nudging his stomach, and it sends thrills down Victor’s spine. “You’ve been so frisky this week,” he admires.

”We’re on vacation,” Yuuri mumbles, chagrined in expression but not in action because his hands are sliding under Victor’s shirt, eager for smooth skin. “And you weren’t in bed when I woke up.”

Victor gasps at his own audacity. “My deepest apologies, solynishka.”

They kiss and grind lazily against the wall, friction burning slowly between them. But just as Victor starts pushing down the elastic of Yuuri’s pajama pants, looking for his first source of protein for the day, the stairs creak with a heavy weight that can only belong to Yakov.

 

“Dobroe,” Yakov grunts as he steps into the kitchen, clearing his chest with a good pound. Victor’s all smiles and immediately fluttering around his coach with tea and jam and bread. Yuuri’s pretending to be engaged in reading the paper, sounding at random words like he’s studying his Russian.

“Dobroe utro,” Yuuri replies. Victor gives him a thumbs up.

“You two are awake early,” Yakov says, squinting at Yuuri curiously.

“Oh, Yakov,” Victor says in English, tapping Yakov on the shoulder and getting his attention. “I was thinking about my costume for the season—“

“Vitya, let me have breakfast first—“

“-and I’m thinking crystals. No more sequins. Crystals and mesh. I showed you the pictures Yuuri’s sister sent me—“

“Vicchan, you are not wearing BDSM gear on the ice—“

“But Eros, Yuuri!”

“Ten minutes, Vitya,” Yakov sighs over his cup, rippling the black contents. He pats Victor’s cheek with a rough hand and gives it a pinch. “Then you talk.”

Yuuri gives Victor a thumbs up.