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Translations: Terminations and Transitions

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(More extensive) Author's Notes (in part because it is easier to hyperlink in the body of a story.)

First of all, I should explain about the meaning of the word translation as I’ve been using it in the titles of this series. In biology, translation is part the way in which DNA instructions become actual proteins. The DNA is the programming on the computer, including, say, a design file which gets turned into a PDF (messenger RNA) through a process called “transcription.” Now, you’ve seen PDFs online, but you can also print them. When you do that, you press the print button, it brings up a dialogue, your computer talks to a printer, the printer shoots ink or puts toner on paper in a specific configuration, and then something comes out and you have a real thing in your hand, rather than a collection of instructions for making the thing or the idea of the thing.

In biology, the messenger RNA leaves the nucleus and ribosomes attach to it in specific orders based on the coding of the RNA. That’s initiation. Then amino acids stick to the ribosomes in a specific order (like printer ink on paper, or plastic in a 3d printer adhering to the layer below) and get stuck together into a long chain. That’s elongation. When the end of the program is reached, the protein comes out of this microscopic cellular printer, and you have a polypeptide, which is like a sheet of paper in a book that is the eventual protein. That’s termination, the point at which the instruction has become a “real” complex unit, ready to build into more complex units.

So termination isn’t “death,” it’s the beginning of a new process. And this story has been about the process of getting from the idea of the thing to the actual thing.

This is partly about the “end of the beginning” of their relationship, and partly about a half dozen different transitions going on. Other stories in this series will probably have “transition” in the title. This will also have chapter titles, which may or may not follow a pattern.

On the political situation for LGBT people in Russia. I can’t, can not bring myself to write this completely true to the current situation in St. Petersburg. I can barely bring myself to read about the current situation in St. Petersburg. Let me just say that IRL they would probably not set foot in Russia without a team of bodyguards and then only for competitions. Or they would have been a hell of a lot more careful. Being out in St. Petersburg now is incredibly dangerous. trigger warnings abound.

Johnny Weir shot a documentary called To Russia with Love on the down-low while in Russia for the Sochi Olympics. As of this writing, it's streaming on Amazon Prime. If you're interested in the real-world situation there for LGBT people, you should definitely watch it. But it's heartbreaking.

If you wonder why I use that acronym, they just really don't go deep enough into the nuances to pretend that the movie really covers QUIAP per se. They talk mostly about gay men. My impression is that people are spending too much time trying not to get killed to insist on more granular labels.

And that's about ten times more depressing than anything that you'll find in this particular story. 

ETA: it's gotten worse IRL since I started. There will be some reference to violence happening in Russia when they are not in Russia. It will not be as bad as IRL.

So, some of my assumptions going in:

1. In my version, the series takes place almost entirely in 2016. In the show, there's evidence (a sign at the Cup of China) that the show actually takes place in 2015, which makes sense timeline-wise given where events take place. I didn't know that at the time, and from a "real world politics" perspective, 2015 vs. 2016 Matters A Whole Lot. I could write a Tumblr post on the differences (and probably will.) For our purposes, the tension around Trump's election and the stuff going on in Russia matters, so 2016 for the show it is. ETA: Aaaand there's now mixed messages from the creators on this, and maybe 2016 is canon after all? Hard to say. Not really relevant, this is what it is and it's set in 2017 with the show happening in 2016.

2. How old is Minako? How old is Lilia? We don’t know exactly. But elite ballerinas are hypermobile, it’s a prerequisite, and most inherently hypermobile people have some variation of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome—a connective tissue disorder which makes joints particularly bendy… and often makes skin look incredibly young. I was mistaken for a teenager into my 30s. My mother was mistaken for my sister at 40. EDS ranges from a cool party trick (or a serious athletic advantage) to a debilitating shit-show of a syndrome that is like the godfather of 97 other syndromes. They're all one big unhappy family. (ETA: this is a rapidly developing area of medical science and definitions have actually changed since I started writing the story. So if this seems off with current websites, that's why. It doesn't change the fact that many hypermobile people look very young.) My grandmother lived to be 101 and could still put her hands flat on the floor without bending her knees when she was 90. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to some real world ballerinas who may well have inspired these characters. 

This is Maya Plisetskaya (I’m SURE the name similarity is no accident, it is a feminine version of Plisetsky) who inspired Lilia, dancing when she was 50 years old.

And this is Miyako Yoshida, who is, oh, 50-ish and fucking adorable. Here. More. Tell me this woman didn’t inspire Minako.

So my headcanon puts Minako at about 51-52 and Lilia at 52-55. They’re contemporaries. But Lilia could be anywhere from a low of 50 to a high of 80 and I would not disbelieve it. Plisetskaya died at age 89 and looked MAYYYYBE 70, though I’ve seen 45-year-olds look worse than she did within a couple years of her death. At 50, she could have easily passed for a slightly tired 30. On the show, she’s drawn with dark hair, and drawn but not wrinkled skin, outstanding posture. She’s older, but she doesn’t look “old.” Most people just looking at her would guess 45. Knowing she’s a ballerina, and seeing who she’s based on, and who she was married to, I’ll say 55 is probably the best bet. A 15-year age gap (between her and Yakov) at say, 25 and 40 would not raise eyebrows even a little in the elite dancing/skating world. Less so at 50 and 35. So I don't headcanon Lilia and Minako as teacher and student, but as close contemporaries. Very close.

3. How hard is it to plan a wedding? Let me put it this way, the next fanfic wedding I'm planning? They're eloping. Weddings are ridiculous and what they're doing is absurd and the only reason they're doing it is because of the political situation (see: why it's important that the show was 2016 and this story is 2017.) Real world advice? Keep it small, cheap, and simple. Worry less about the trappings and more about making sure you're hitched at the end of it. There is an inverse correlation between wedding expense and marriage length. (That means that weddings that are more expensive often result in shorter marriages.) I've planned a wedding. If I knew then what I know now, I would have married him dressed in a burlap sack in a barn simply to be married to him. The wedding was a party that I can barely remember and spent a year planning. I hand-dyed silk. I hand-embossed invitations. 90% of the people who were there I haven't seen since. I don't regret it, but really, it doesn't have to be that hard. These guys are getting to take the easy way out by having a magazine intern and a wedding planning service do literally everything and it's still overwhelming (mostly because they're doing it in 4 weeks but that's, you know, them. Without the large volume of other people's effort and other people's money, they would be getting hitched at a Danish registry office.)

4. On music and routines. I have a (distant) background in piano (8y), voice (20+y), ballet (6y), and I've had maybe 5 figure skating lessons in my life that I can remember.  I have a few years of high school (Belgian) French and a little bit of grade-school (Canadian) French and I did not, in fact, write the thing in the first chapter in French, but I did run it through enough translation software to make sure that it mostly rhymes where it should. Going into the first chapter, you might want to familiarize yourself with some of the the following:

Nessun Dorma (Stammi Vicino, musically, feels like an homage to this, to me.)

Spanish Guitar (Eros gives this feel)

And on that note, The Flower Duet. It's relevant. It's also a gorgeous wlw love song. Also, would be good to skate to in its own right.

Victor canonically has pieces composed to his specifications. I've actually had pieces composed to mine, but not for this, lol. Saying, "I want something that fits with these other pieces but pays homage to this piece over here, oh, and please keep the thematic elements similar enough that I don't have to change my routine too much," is actually probably easier on the composer than "I need something to skate to."

5. On scoring and planning routines. Okay, so this is completely unnecessary at the fanfic level if you just want to wing it (which I did with the first four stories) in regards to plausible scores for ridiculously high difficulty routines. But I got tired of looking things up constantly and made a spreadsheet that contains the following information:

  • Which skaters canonically can do which jumps
  • How much various jumps are worth
  • Requirements for long and short programs
  • Jump scores of canon routines (where available/where I cared) and potential routines in a situation where Yuuri, Victor and Yuri get into a feedback loop of one-upsmanship that involve things like five or six quads. Really absurd, but the points make sense. 
  • Several real world examples of judges details from scoring, including Nathan Chen's 5-quad skate at Nationals and Yuzuru Hanyu's world-record-setting 2015 Grand Prix Final free skate (which was "only" 3 quads, but had more +3 GOES than anyone has probably ever received before or since.)
  • A template that actually calculates scores. You still have to plug in base value manually (see sheet 1) but you can set up "planned" vs. "actually performed" and assign a GOE (caution: non-quad jumps have lower top GOE, this calculation will end up being in there for my own sanity but isn't yet.) 

If other fanfic writers want to make a copy (file: make a copy) of the spreadsheet to play with, go right ahead.

TL:DR on the nitty gritty of the spreadsheet? The highest difficulty performance ever seen scored 7 points less than the most beautiful ever performed despite being a point or two higher in technical difficulty. GOE matters. Program components score matters. Sometimes picking something you can skate beautifully will be more useful than blowing the top off of the technical score. Hanyu's had 2 fewer quads than Chen's. He added a quad for 2017 4cc and lost 15 points on reduced GOE and PCS. 

As I'm writing this there's about 19.5k 43k 45k 52k (and finished) of Terminations written. But there's also 9600 words of another piece written, one which moves alongside these, about Yurio, called, "Transition: Puberty." Carpe writem. This is why it is a good idea to subscribe to this SERIES, as that is a separate piece.

This paragraph ETA on 3/17/17: In addition, I have finished but not published a 1900 word short near the end of the series, a longer story mapped out called, Transition: Leap, and there will be another short finish to the series called Transition and Translation: Coda. Leap will be pretty much everyone, but pivots around Yurio, and will cover from Europeans in January of 2017 through Russian Nationals the same year. The short is basically a couple days in early January of 2018. Coda is like, Jan and Feb of 2018 but isn't going to be a big sportsy thing. 

If you're keeping track, yes, this means I actively finished something mid-chapter in this story that happens a year later, and am actively writing three separate stories at once, which is not how I usually work, but it keeps me from getting thrown too much. Also, it means that I can go from writing Yuuri on a pole and switch gears to writing the triplets when I start to get too technical.

ETA 5/17: Closing in on the end of this one, Puberty is finished and the plot bunnies for the next one are rabbitly multiplying. 

ETA: 5/28/17: This is finished, will be posted over the course of this week, and I'm 13k into the next book.

I have a lot of opinions about how to organize story structures/series here on AO3. If you'd like to learn more about why I post things the way I do, please see this bit of meta.

If you are curious about my process in writing in Google Docs and working with beta readers, see this tutorial.

I have long finished fics in many fandoms, and you can get at most of them by clicking on my username.

I'm Jenroses on Tumblr, and have my own website

For those who followed along with my mutterings about my hands during the time I was writing and posting Elongations:

I got sick December 28. That was right around the time this series started. I wrote something like 70k in 4 weeks. In that 4 weeks, I was really sick, but my joints also started hurting. 29 joints. It was when one of my knuckles swelled up that I went in to my doctor and got some bloodwork done. The bloodwork came back with really suspicious numbers that were so high that my rheumatologist (see: EDS) jumped me over a 3 month wait list to see him the following Friday, prescribed steroids and had me get bloodwork that day. I went on steroids and lost 12 pounds, that's how much swelling was going on.

The steroids were a godsend. The test results were not. A certain antibody came back so high they could not measure it. "More than our test can quantify." So after 2 years of mysterious symptoms and two other diagnoses, I was finally diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis officially on February 10. I started chemotherapy that day. Note that Elongations finished posting February 6. 

The dose of chemo for this is about 1/15th what someone with cancer would get. It is nevertheless kicking my ass. I have written 22k since I started it a month ago... plus a ridiculous amount of meta and a significant amount of work on my original novel (using the word novel very loosely, it's more than that.) And I've read a ridiculous number of other people's fanfics during that time. Like, I think I'm subscribed to 20 WIPs. It's absurd. 

That's a long and personal way of saying, "Please don't ask when updates will be coming, or I will explain the side effects of chemotherapy. Please do tell me when something I write moves you, I need the pick-me-up." And if I ever seem crabby, this is why.

The good news is that my hands don't hurt much.

The best way to keep up with this (and any other WIP) is to subscribe. Bookmark if you like, but the subscription will drop an email to you every time a chapter comes out. 

ETA 5/17: No more cancer drugs for now, on to daily DMARDS specific to RA since the chemo was sending me into new flares. Fun times. But writing is hit or miss. My hands don't hurt much, but my energy is really low, which is apparently typical of this drug. We heard you liked fatigue so we put fatigue in your fatigue so you could be really tired all the fucking time. No advice please. 


ETA: 5/28/17: So, I appeared on That Infamous Shitlist. Given that this series is the only thing I've written for this fandom and given that there are no underage shenanigans or anything else on their "criteria" list, I have no CLUE why. I don't really want to know, it was actually an honor to be included with some of the best writers in the fandom and I've been using that list for weeks as a reading list. 

I don't expect my writing to resonate with everyone. But just to be clear, I'm a disabled survivor, living with chronic physical illness and an anxiety disorder, and emotional stress actually damages my physical health.  You don't have to like my work. Please don't feel like it's your duty to inform me of all my shortcomings. 

I knew the shitlist was bull before I found out I was on it. It's a terrible concept and intellectually I know very well that I don't deserve to be on anyone's "list of bad people." EVEN SO, the full body stress reaction was so strong that I ended up back in an RA flare and had to up my steroids again. 

Ostracizing people hurts them. Even trying to ostracize them, hurts them. It is a major, major trigger for me. Don't do it. In this case, I fit into the exact category of people the list was ostensibly trying to protect.

And the effects of social exclusion are a huge part of what I write about in all my current fandoms. 

When you try to exclude all possible mentions of underage sexuality, it not only disenfranchises teenagers, but it silences survivors. Simply because I write an aro/ace Yuri doesn't mean that I think it's impossible for him to be written in other ways, or that other people are bad for doing so. Fanfic has room for everything. You get to pick and choose what you read, and that's beautiful. (Also, he's not 15. He's a cartoon.)

Last, but not least, I have a request!

If you're enough of a fan that you stuck it out through this extremely lengthy note, and you like to do fanart for YOI, I have an art request for this series! (Really, I will make greedy grabby hands over any art done for this series, but I really, REALLY want to do magazine covers.)



Chapter Text

Darkness fell long before Yuuri had begun to expect it, the sun invisible behind a thick layer of overcast, the world going blue and strange beyond their windows, and then the faint purple-orange glow in the sky from the city’s lights reflecting off the clouds. “Sunset was almost 5:30 yesterday,” he said, watching the the darkness creep in just after 4, standing before the wide windows.

Victor laughed low and quiet in his ear, arms wrapped around Yuuri’s waist from behind. “We’re much farther north. Come, let’s figure out dinner. We can go to bed early.”

They wound their way through the unfamiliar apartment, turning on lights, finding all their luggage stacked neatly inside the front door.

Yuuri stared at the menus on the counter. “I’ve been studying Russian on my own for years, and I can’t even begin to figure this out right now.”

Victor bent over the counter, finger pointed where he was reading, and scanned each of the restaurant names until he found one he liked. “Tell you what,” he said, pulling his phone out. “You helped me find all kinds of things I liked in Japan. Maybe I can do the same for you here?”

Yuuri nodded, and then as Victor began to speak in Russian too fast for him to follow, he wandered back to the bedroom, where a large bed looked incredibly inviting. A rustle and little clicks gave him warning as Makkachin trotted down the hall to join him.

The dog jumped up onto the bed and curled up on the left side, then looked at him and whined.

“If you insist,” Yuuri said in the dim light of a small lamp on the dresser. He set his glasses down under the lamp, and yawned, stretching. “It’s been a long day.”

The bed was some sort of high-tech foam, the sheets too smooth for cotton, too cool for polyester, not silk either. The bed seemed firm, but when he snuggled in next to Makkachin, it conformed, and the warmth and comfort lulled him into a nap.

Victor got off the phone after ordering a ridiculous amount of food, and looked around. “Yuuri?”

The apartment was quiet. He headed for the bedroom, and stopped in the open doorway when he saw Yuuri curled around Makkachin, sound asleep.

Emotion hit Victor like a wave, tingling along every nerve from head to toe, that this human being had chosen him, that he’d chosen back, that they were interweaving their lives. He stood there in the doorway, watching his two favorite creatures curled up around each other on half the bed, their bed, in their apartment.

He looked at the time on his phone. The food would be another forty minutes. He thought about it for a long moment, and then went back out to the kitchen and called the number Jamie had given him. «We have food coming at 5. I assume you’ll want to be the ones to receive it?»

Jamie said, «That would be best. You used the account I gave you for payment?»

«I can afford food, but it occurred to me you’d left it so I wouldn’t have to use my name to order,» Victor said.

«That would make my life easier,» Jamie said. «I’m sure our employer would let you pay the bill, but I was told that the goal was to make you as comfortable as possible. Something about his little girl wanting you to be able to focus on your skating and not worry about other things.»

«Yuuri is comfortable enough that he fell asleep already. Can you intercept the delivery at the front door?»

«Should we call up when it gets here?» Jamie asked.

Victor sighed. «Please. I could sleep forever right now, but if I do, we’ll be up hours before the sun. So a short nap, I think.»

When the call ended, he walked back into the bedroom and slipped out of his house shoes, climbing onto the large bed. The foam surface meant that Yuuri didn’t stir even a little until Victor was spooned up against him.

“Fell asleep,” Yuuri mumbled. “Sorry.”

“Shhh, rybochka moya. Food is coming later. Now, we cuddle.”

“Your accent got stronger,” Yuuri said sleepily as Victor brought the covers up and set his phone near his head on the pillow behind him.

“I’m in my homeland,” Victor said. “And I’m home, with you.”

Makkachin picked up his head, and Victor chuckled against Yuuri’s shoulder. “Both of you.” He reached out and buried his hand in his dog’s thick fur, and fell asleep almost immediately.

The buzz and chime of Victor’s phone pulled Yuuri out of an odd dream. It fled before he could grasp it, but he was left with the odd dissonance of feeling like he had already been running, and being completely warm and comfortable. Except for the phone.

“Victor, your phone,” Yuuri said, reaching back and patting Victor on the closest thing he could find.

“Touch my ass more,” Victor muttered, sleepy.

“Answer your phone and I might,” Yuuri said.

“Phone?” Victor rolled onto his back. It buzzed again, more insistently, sliding down the pillow to his ear, and he fumbled for it.

A moment later he was climbing out of bed.

“I thought you wanted me to touch your butt,” Yuuri teased, stretching. The dog lifted his head and gave Yuuri and then Victor looks of utter betrayal at the disruption.

“Food is here.” Victor said. “Come eat.”

Yuuri’s stomach grumbled in response, and Victor laughed. “Come on, I got enough for an army.”

Victor thanked Tony for bringing the food up, and started setting take-out containers on the counter. Yuuri looked through the cabinets until he found some plates, silverware, and chopsticks, and brought them over.

“Bowls, too,” Victor said. “There’s soup.”

Yuuri blinked when he saw the food laid out. “Eggrolls? No, pancakes? Blini?”

Victor laughed, and picked one up carefully. “Take a bite.”

The fried blintz was filled with chicken and onion in a creamy garlic sauce.

“That is… it tastes like it should be familiar, but it’s not…” Yuuri said, then looked at another container.

Victor asked, “More of this one?”

Yuuri nodded, and Victor took one plate and put the blintz on the other.

“Sashimi?” Yuuri asked, looking at some raw-looking salmon. “Smoked?”

“Marinated,” Victor said. “It’s lemony.”

Yuuri nodded.

“What are the balls?”

“Gefilte fish,” Victor said.

“You’re not Jewish,” Yuuri said, picking one up with his chopsticks and nibbling at it before depositing it on his plate next to the blintz. Victor put some curls of glistening orange fish and a few capers on the plate next to them, and a spoonful of horseradish.

Victor shrugged. “I lived with Yakov for part of my childhood. This is his favorite restaurant. I acquired a taste.”

“It’s kind of like kamaboko,” Yuuri said. “Only more… coarse?”

“Georgi and I used to make jokes about fish balls,” Victor said. “But they’re good protein.”

The next thing was shaped like a muffin, but was composed entirely of shreds of fried-looking eggy vegetables—when Yuuri picked one up and took a bite, he said, “We have vegetable pancakes that are very similar.”

“I know! This is a vegetable kugel,” Victor said, transferring two to his own plate. “I like sweet noodle kugel better, but they don’t have that yet.”

The next box had raw vegetables, the one next to it had roast vegetables, and Victor opened the smaller paper cups next to them to reveal several different beigey-grey pastes and an herbaceous green one. “Pesto, hummus, pâté, and hatsilim… I don’t know how to translate that, but it’s made with eggplant. The veg can go in that, or the bread.” He pulled pita bread out of a paper bag.

Yuuri took a little of each paste on a different vegetable.

Yuuri opened the next box, and said, “Cabbage rolls?”

“With beef,” Victor said.

Yuuri looked bemused. “We usually use pork.”

“I know.” Victor grabbed a second pair of chopsticks from the drawer and used them to put little pinched dumplings into the soup bowls. Then he poured soup over them from another container.

“Wontons?” Yuuri asked.

“Kreplach, but yes, pretty much,” Victor said, putting a bowl in front of Yuuri on the kitchen table.

“It feels more familiar than I thought it would,” Yuuri said, pulling out one of the kitchen chairs and sitting down.

“I was struck when I was eating in Japan, how many times I found foods that felt familiar this way,” Victor said, sitting across from him. “The seasoning is different, the texture, sometimes, but the basic idea is the same.”

“I expected more borscht and potatoes,” Yuuri said.

“Tomorrow is soon enough. You’ll get your fill.”

Yuuri stared at his plate, and picked up up a piece of grilled eggplant with his chopsticks. “Any idea which paste this is?”

Victor reached out his pinky and touched it and then tasted his finger. “You’ve put eggplant on your eggplant,” he said.

Yuuri took a bite, and frowned. He swallowed, but put the rest of the piece back down. “Somehow it doesn’t manage to taste like eggplant.”

“We should introduce them to Japanese eggplant. Also, it’s not really eggplant season.”

Yuuri pointed to a piece of cucumber. “What’s on that one?”

“Chicken liver pâté,” Victor said. “I don’t like liver, but I like that.”

It was creamy and garlicky and Yuuri agreed. The curl of salmon was surprisingly tart, but not unpleasant.

The soup looked exactly like wonton soup and the textures were almost identical, though the noodle was thicker, but the taste was completely different.

“Bad different?” Victor asked.

Yuuri shook his head. “Different different.” He finished the soup. “More garlic and onion. Less umami/sour. And the broth is… celery and parsley? Instead of fish or miso or spice.”

They finished their plates and stared at the leftovers. “I’ll put them in the fridge,” Victor said.

Yuuri nodded. “I’ll take care of the dishes.”

“So domestic,” Victor laughed.

“You can do the dishes next time,” Yuuri said.

“Both of us. I’ll dry them when I’m done,” Victor said, standing up to start closing the containers.

“There are maybe four dishes,” Yuuri said. “I’ll be done before you are.”

There was a beat, and their eyes met, and then they were both racing to get done first.

Victor ended up getting help from Yuuri after he dropped the eggplant container.

Yuuri pinched a slice of eggplant off the floor and dumped it back into the dented container. “Of all the things to drop, that was probably the least missed.”

“Not the least messy, though,” Victor said, staring at the smear of grey paste from the opened cup.

Yuuri stood and stared at the kitchen cupboards. “Do we have towels? Washcloths? Napkins?”

Victor blinked. “I don’t… Napkins! Yes.” He stood and reached into the bag the food had come in. “Napkins.”

They stared at the dish drainer. “How were you going to dry?” Yuuri asked.

“I have no idea,” Victor admitted, using a paper napkin to wipe up the smear of eggplant puree.

Yuuri sighed. “My body doesn’t want to believe it’s not even 6 yet.”

“I could make you coffee. Or tea,” Victor said. “If we can find the teapot. Or the coffee maker.”

Yuuri smiled, and pointed at the counter, where his own electric kettle was sitting, the correct plug already attached. He walked over and opened the cupboard above it, and pulled out a tin of loose houjicha and a squat, familiar teapot.  

Victor filled the kettle from a large bottle of water in the fridge, and then found an outlet. “It always feels like a victory in a new place, to find the essentials, no?”

Yuuri opened another cupboard and pulled out two teacups, holding them up in victory. “Exactly. At least we’re not searching boxes.”

They stood quietly while the water heated, staring at the electric pot. Yuuri unplugged it when it was steaming but not quite boiling, and poured it over the tea in the little pot. He counted to one hundred under his breath in Japanese and then poured out two cups, handing one to Victor.

“Let’s go sit in the living room,” Victor said.

“This will start to feel more natural soon?” Yuuri said softly, following Victor to the sparsely decorated living room.

“The place is new to both of us,” Victor said. “We’ll make new habits together. We did in Hasetsu. I’m sure you did in Detroit.”

“It took six months to stop feeling completely at sea in Detroit. Another six to feel like I wasn’t completely wasting my parents’ money,” Yuuri said, sitting down on the couch.

“You’ve got me, this time. Phichit was only there for a couple years, right?” Victor pulled the little end table that had been inexplicably put halfway across the room next to the couch and put his tea on it.

“Yeah, he’s younger, so it got easier when he came. I should talk to him.” Yuuri sipped his tea.

“Our video is probably live by now,” Victor said.

Yuuri pulled his phone out of his pocket, and sighed at the complete lack of life. Victor took it out of his hands and said, “I’ll go find the chargers and your laptop.”

“In the messanger bag,” Yuuri called out after Victor. “By the front door!”

The videos had gone live a few minutes prior, and the number of hits was far less than the number of likes and dislikes. “It always takes the hits a bit to catch up,” Yuuri murmured.

It wasn’t as overwhelming as the response to the video of their skating. Someone was deleting the worst of the trolls almost as fast as they could post, and the positive comments were streaming in, mostly congratulations.

“Should we link to them on Twitter?” Yuuri asked.

Victor did, and Yuuri followed.

It was when Phichit posted his reaction on Instagram that things started to take off and their phones began vibrating with notifications.

Victor tried to keep up and then turned it off when the buzzing got to be too much. He got up again and went to find his own ultrabook. He dropped onto the end of the couch with it and opened up his email.

Yuuri was still staring at the comments flooding in on YouTube when Victor squealed. “It’s here!”

“Hmm?” Yuuri said, without looking up.

Victor poked at the screen and said again, “It’s here! Yuuchan, we must listen!”

Yuuri looked over, just in time to whisk his laptop out of the way of Victor sprawling onto his back across Yuuri’s lap. Makkachin got out of the way, accustomed to abrupt dislocation.

Yuuri shifted, set the laptop on the end table, closed, and they settled with Yuuri’s back against the arm of the couch, one knee up against the back, one foot on the floor, Victor wiggling until the back of his head rested on Yuuri’s sternum.

“It’s downloading,” Victor said. “It’s my short program music.”

The track started with an echo of the underlying theme of “Agape” and “Eros,” but this time voiced by an oboe, throaty and slow, joined by flute and violin for the introduction, and then a single female voice, singing in French, a soprano, almost, but not quite operatic. Another soprano answered the first verse.

“Is that the same singers who did ‘Agape’?” Yuuri asked.

Victor nodded as the two voices sang together in harmony.

“What do you hear?” Victor asked, as the voices soared and dipped, a small orchestra swelling behind them.

Yuuri was quiet for a moment, listening. “A love song, but not just that. ‘Agape’ is pure, religious? ‘Eros’ is seductive… this sounds… rapt? Mutual devotion.” The voices sang counterpoint melodies, then wove back into harmony again, rising in tempo, pitch and intensity. “I can see you skating this already.”

“Right?” Victor said. “We’re calling it, ‘On Love: Devotion.’ I feel like I understand it so much better now. Not the pure lust and seduction of ‘Eros,’ nor the immaculate worship of ‘Agape,’ but with elements of both. A true meeting of mind and body, heart and soul.”

They listened together until it ended, and Yuuri sighed in the silence. “It’s lovely, but what do the words say? I don’t speak enough French to get more than a word or two.”

Victor started it over again, speaking the lines in English, softly, over the singing.

Come, my love, before the cherry blossoms
Drop petals like snow
The water, frozen smooth like glass
Waits for our feet
Waits for our hearts

Oh my heart
I see you dance on the ice
It speaks to me with more grace
Than any language we speak together

In winter, separate in the snow
You stumble, we fly, I gather
In spring, the cherry blossoms catch the snow
We fly, we fall, we rise together

The glide of skate, the cut of knife
Over the ice
Soaring, spinning, stopping
One hand reaches
Reaches for me
Where I stand, awestruck

You worship here, like a cathedral
The ice is clean and pure and peaceful
Snow falls from your skates and gathers
As we dance together

We prayed alone on unbroken ice
Perfection eluding us
Fumbling, we learned
Messy and beautiful and broken
And began to dance together

The glide of skate, the cut of knife
Over the ice
Soaring, spinning, stopping
One hand reaches
Reaches for me
Where I stand, awestruck

We worship here, like a cathedral
The ice is clean and pure and peaceful
Snow falls from our skates as we dance
As we find each other

“It rhymes better in French,” Victor said as an instrumental flourish ended the piece.

“Did you write that?” Yuuri asked.

Victor shrugged. “I usually write the lyrics, if they matter to me. Or I give them the gist of it. This one I wrote in French, because it seemed… Hm. Apropos. For a love story.”

“It reminds me of something?” Yuuri said. “Not just the other short programs. I can’t remember…”

“It’s a little bit of an homage to the ‘Flower Duet,’” Victor said. “Like ‘Stammi Vicino’ was to ‘Nessun Dorma.’ Or the seduction of the Spanish guitar and the violin evoking the tango in ‘Eros.’ I tell them, ‘These words, these themes, this feel,’ and they work magic for me.”

“Now I’m curious what you asked for, for your free skate,” Yuuri said. “But this one is gorgeous, I can’t wait to see you skate to it.”

“I asked your friend to write a complementary piece that focuses more on violin and clarinet and less on the piano, with a slight Russian lilt,” Victor said. “She says she’ll be done by the end of this week.”

Yuuri smiled. “I can almost hear that already. Play this one again?”

It began again, and they let it wash over them, the duet soaring, the voices separating, meeting, the harmony so pure that it almost hurt.

“We should do an exhibition to this someday,” Yuuri murmured, as the last notes faded. “I can already see it. I almost wish we had ice time tonight.”

“I need it for my short program,” Victor said, sounding unconvinced.

“Oh, not this year, though it would be lovely to dance to that at our wedding,” Yuuri said.

Victor nearly dropped the small laptop on the floor as he turned over. Yuuri plucked it out of Victor’s fumbling hand, laughing, and set it aside as Victor took Yuuri’s face in his hands and kissed him soundly on the lips and then sat back on his heels, saying, “We must enter to that at our wedding, since neither of us is a veiled bride to be given away or walked down the aisle. We can skate to the altar.”

Yuuri grinned, and tugged Victor’s hands. “Very dramatic.”

“You like the drama,” Victor said, letting himself be tugged closer. He sprawled across Yuuri, head on Yuuri’s shoulder, snuggling in until Yuuri wrapped around him and dropped a smiling kiss on his hair.

“I would have to, to be so madly in love with you, wouldn’t I?” Yuuri said.

Victor tipped his head up and said, “Then it’s settled, we shall skate to the altar together, to my new music.”

Yuuri dropped a small kiss on his lips, and said, “We still don’t have time to practice a full routine for the wedding and have you get two other programs ready for Europeans.”

“Spoilsport. ‘Devotion’ is going to fit in perfectly, the structure and pacing are nearly identical.”

Yuuri blinked. “It’s so different?”

Victor reached over Yuuri’s shoulder to grab his ultrabook, and shifted until he had a hand free enough to navigate to his music folder. He opened a mixing program and brought up two files, overlaid them, and hit play. He set the ultrabook down on the floor next to them and buried his face against Yuuri’s neck while they listened.

“Eros” and “Devotion” were set in the same key, the rhythm was different but the meter was not, and while they didn’t sound anything alike in style and they’d probably never overlay them again, the slow points, the high points, the fast points, and the climax all lined up perfectly, with frequent congruences between the main melodies of both.

“It’s almost as if, maybe, I planned to make it as easy as possible to adapt to the new music,” Victor said as the pieces ended together. “I could skate Eros to it and it wouldn’t look wrong, it just wouldn't quite fit the tone of the music. Fortunately I’ve worked with my primary composer for years, and he knows how to pace things for skating. He makes a good living off the media rights.”

“Mmm,” Yuuri said, his hand wandering idly up and down Victor’s back, the other toying with Victor’s hair.

“You’re not paying attention,” Victor said.

“You’re brilliant,” Yuuri said, absentmindedly, his fingers moving from Victor’s hair to trail down Victor’s neck, feather-light. “It’ll be wonderful.”

Victor couldn’t help stretching a little under Yuuri’s touch, his head falling back to expose his neck. “Mmmm. You’re very distracting.”

“I’m inspiring you,” Yuuri said, his hand coming up to cup Victor’s cheek and bring him close enough to kiss. “Showing you devotion,” Yuuri said against Victor’s lips.

“’s working,” Victor mumbled back, reaching over to pull Yuuri’s free leg over his lap and then grinding against it. “I’m very inspired.”

“Fuck,” Yuuri said, his head dropping back as his body reacted to Victor’s arousal.

“Oh, that’s very inspiring,” Victor said, rolling onto his knees and grabbing Yuuri’s hips to bring him down farther on the couch. “I could definitely work with that.”

“There is a fantastic bed in the other room,” Yuuri said breathlessly, in a rush, grinding against Victor. “And the dog is here.”

“We’d have to get up,” Victor said, then pushed Yuuri’s shirt up and started tracing a nipple with his tongue.

Yuuri squeaked and said in an unnaturally high pitch, “I have no problem getting up right now.”

Victor laughed, and wiggled a little. “I can tell.”

“Shit,” Yuuri said, wrapped his legs around Victor, and used his considerable lower body strength to roll them off the couch. Makkachin dodged, looked at them ruefully, and trotted over to the kitchen.

“Plenty of room down here,” Victor said, sprawling on the floor.

Yuuri rose to his feet, and put out a hand to Victor. “Bedroom.”

Victor sighed, and Yuuri shrugged. “Catch me, then.” Leaving Victor on the floor, he wrapped one hand around his own waist and raised the other arm, and sashayed to the bedroom.

“Yuuuu-ri!” Victor whined, and then rolled up to his feet and gave chase.

The stash of condoms and lube in the suitcase was getting low, but when Victor opened a drawer next to the bed to put the extras away, he said, “Oh look, Yuuri! Someone already unpacked the lube!”

Yuuri looked into the drawer, and then covered his face with his hands. “I am never going to be able to look Jamie and Tony in the eyes again.”

“We’re getting married. The whole reason they’re here is that we’re gay. It can’t be a surprise to them that we fuck.”

Yuuri flopped back onto the bed and covered his face with his forearm. “Still. There’s a world of difference between someone knowing you’re a couple and knowing they’ve decided where your box of condoms should live in your new apartment.”

“We could stop using the condoms if it makes you so uncomfortable,” Victor said.

“It’s not that they’ve been handled, it’s…” Yuuri sighed. “Okay, now I’m both wide awake and not the least bit in the mood.” He sat up, and looked around the room. “I think I’m going to go unpack the suitcases.”

“Worried someone’s going to preemptively hang up your poster collection?” Victor asked, grinning.

“We’re living together. Wouldn’t you find it just a little bit unsettling to have your sixteen-year-old self looking down at us while we sleep?” Yuuri stood up as Victor pushed the drawer shut.

“Does that mean I can’t hang up my posters of you?” Victor asked.

Yuuri stared at him. “You don’t…”

“I do,” Victor said. “I bought several after Sochi.”

Yuuri just blinked at Victor, who grinned. “You didn’t,” Yuuri finally said.

Victor looked around the room, opened the closet, shut it again, and then went out the bedroom door, calling out, “I’ll show you.”

“Oh my god,” Yuuri whispered, and fell face first onto the bed, hands in his hair. He made a small scream into the duvet, then rolled onto his back. 「How is this my life?」he asked the ceiling.

A few minutes later, he heard a delighted noise from the other room, and had no shock left when Victor returned triumphant, holding a bundle of poster tubes of varying sizes sticking out at all angles.

“You said a couple?” Yuuri said weakly.

Three of the tubes slipped out of Victor’s grasp, and he dropped half the rest trying to pick them up.

“Oh god,” Yuuri said, and rolled over to help, depositing the tubes on the bed.

Victor grinned, and uncapped the smallest one. “This one was the hardest to get. I had to track it down through a fan site, and then there was a bidding war.”

It was one of the first publicity shots anyone had ever asked Yuuri to do. He’d been 14 and had won his regional junior championship. They’d asked him to pose “to help promote skating” and he’d agreed out of a sense of obligation. “My mother doesn’t even have this one,” Yuuri said.

“You were so cute!” Victor said, carefully rolling it back up.

“I can’t believe you got a poster of me when I was 14 after seeing me pole dance,” Yuuri said. “I don’t know whether to be flattered or afraid.”

“I wanted to understand who you were that you had affected me so much,” Victor said. “But this one I bought later, once I realized you had a fan club.”

Yuuri stared at him. “You bought this while you were in Japan. But before…”

Victor blushed. “I did buy three posters after Sochi, but they were more recent, and one of them didn’t survive.”

“So most of these…”

“Some I bought myself, over the course of months, in Japan. But when I left and had my things shipped, Okaasan, Mari, and Minako slipped the rest in so I wouldn’t be so lonely,” Victor said. “It didn’t work, but I was delighted to have them.”

“I tried looking at your posters once while you were gone,” Yuuri said. “It was easier not to—I spent so many years wanting when I was looking at them, that it was actually better to just remember having. And to remind myself that I would have you again soon.”

“Yeah,” Victor said, pushing the tubes aside and sitting down next to Yuuri. “You hated doing publicity shots. I’d look at the posters before Nationals and think, ‘This isn’t the Yuuri I know.’ Everything about them looks forced.”

“Yours don’t, but they’re also not you.” Yuuri reached up to touch Victor’s cheek. “You don’t let most people see what you let me see. But if the posters don’t help, why are you so happy about them?”

Victor’s smile was radiant. “Because when I look at them, and then I look at you, I think, ‘My Yuuri is really here.’ And I can see in a heartbeat how much happier you are, even when you’re tired or stressed or even scared, than you were standing in front of that camera.”

“We should make a big book for our posters, so that we can look at them without them staring at us,” Yuuri said.

Victor grinned. “Right? Exactly what I was thinking. So what is it I don’t show the world, that I show you?”

Yuuri looked down and grinned. “I don’t want to tell you.”

“Oh? Now I must know.”

“All your posters are your public face. Beautiful. So far above the rest of us mortals, like a model, or royalty, or something. You are so, so smooth when you talk on camera. But in person, you’re…” Yuuri stopped. “I don’t know how to say it without it sounding insulting, and it’s not meant that way at all.”

“I let you see what an incredible dork I am,” Victor said.

Yuuri nodded helplessly. “The most incredible. It’s really a privilege to see.”

Victor looked perplexed. “You weren’t supposed to agree with me.”

“But see, that’s what I fell in love with, really. Your skill, your beauty, all those things in your public face, I wanted to be those things desperately. But who I fell in love with? That would be the giant dork who loves his dog and flew halfway across the world on a whim and showed up naked at my parents’ place and then just took over my life. The person who looked at all of my bullshit and then wanted me anyway.”

“That last bit, I could say the exact same thing,” Victor said, his voice rough.

“I mean it, Victor. The public persona was nice to look at from afar, but it’s absolutely nothing compared to knowing the real you. To knowing that in a lot of ways you’re a lot like me.”

“Ty nuzhna mne, Yuuchan,” Victor said. “I need you in my life so much. You woke me up, you made me care again.”

Yuuri’s eyes were wide as he responded, “Lyubb-lyu tebya vsem sertsem, vsey dushoyu, Vitya.”

Victor grinned, delighted. “You remembered!”

“It’s important,” Yuuri said.

Yuuri was curled up in bed with his phone when Victor took Makkachin out before bed. Tony fell in behind him without a word as Victor went out the back lobby door to the courtyard between the buildings. The walking paths had been swept clear, the snow had been disturbed and then covered over with new snow, and Makkachin seemed delighted to make bounding tracks in it. Victor walked with Makkachin on the diagonal sidewalk across the courtyard, not bothering to call him to heel.

“You know,” Victor said to Tony while Makka did his business, “you can walk next to me.”

“It’s actually better if I can see all around you,” Tony said, standing against the wall, eyes always tracking around them. “And bad form to be distracted by conversation.”

Victor sighed, and pulled a plastic bag out of his pocket. Tony looked at him strangely, and Victor just shrugged. “I got into the habit in Japan.”

“I was more surprised you didn’t expect me to do it,” Tony said.

“I’m sure there will be times when I’ll take you up on the offer to walk him, and it would be expected, but he’s my dog and I’m here,” Victor said. “And better to have you able to look around, right?”

Tony nodded. “I’d heard you were hard on bodyguards.”

Victor looked down at the ground and then shrugged. “The last time I needed them, it felt like just one more place I couldn’t be free. I’ve got more to live for, now. And Yuuri wouldn’t like it if I was reckless in ways that caused you problems.”

“Thanks,” Tony said.

Chapter Text

In the morning, they woke up with numb arms from sleeping tangled up in each other, and managed to locate enough toiletries to shower together, too rushed and nervous to really appreciate the luxuriously large shower.

“It’s strange taking a car to the rink,” Yuuri said as they went out the door with coffee Victor had put in a pair of travel mugs they’d found in the cupboard.

“Once we get a feel for the level of hostility, maybe we can try running. Though it’s still cold for it,” Victor said. “Maybe in April.”

Lev picked them up in the parking garage. Tony and Jamie stayed behind, explaining that the next shift would meet them at the rink. Makkachin jumped into the front seat through Lev’s open door and settled himself in the passenger seat as if he owned it.  

The drive was quick, and they were dropped off at the loading dock, away from the front door, where they were greeted by two new bodyguards who were obviously familiar to Lev.

“Just ask Inessa over there to call when you want a ride back,” Lev told Victor.

Inessa was almost as tall as Victor and wider in the shoulders, with a dour, tense expression and straight, mousy hair hanging to her shoulders. She stood on the concrete landing of the loading dock and glanced down at them when she heard her name, nodded, and then resumed scanning the area. She gave two brisk knocks at the door behind her, and it opened, revealing a short, mild-looking man in his forties. He glanced down at them and then back up at Inessa and nodded. Both wore black slacks and dark grey coats, as Jamie and Tony had.

Yuuri followed Victor up the concrete steps, holding Makkachin’s leash.

Inessa said something in Russian too fast for Yuuri to follow, and then looked at him and said in English, “Welcome. If you introduce me to your dog, he’ll know I’m a friend.”

Victor laughed, and said, “Makkachin assumes most people are friends.”

“Still,” Inessa said, crouching down while the man behind her watched the vicinity. She held out her hand, flat. Makkachin sniffed it, and allowed her to scratch his ears. “Yeah, all right,” she said, and cracked a smile that completely transformed her face from threatening to friendly. She nodded in the direction of the man in the doorway. “That’s Maxim. We’ll be with you until you go home.”

From the doorway, the man said in a raspy, accented tenor, “Max is fine.”

Yuuri nodded.

Victor said, “We may be working late.”

“It’s fine,” she said. “If we need to go before you do, the other shift can come here.”

“Do you think there will be trouble?” Yuuri asked.

She shrugged. “If we knew, we’d avoid it. Hopefully not. If there is, we’ll handle it.”

The guards stood aside for them to enter the building, and followed them in.

The training rink smelled familiar, the faint chemical cold registering and then fading quickly from Yuuri’s awareness. He’d seen so many videos and pictures of Victor training over the years that it was jarring to realize that it was actually his first time stepping foot in the place. His face must have shown something of his bemusement.

“Does it meet your approval?” Victor asked.

“It’s just hard to believe I’ve never been in here before. I’ve seen it so much in your pictures,” Yuuri said. “It feels, oh, almost like home.”

“It is home for me,” Victor said as they came out of the loading area and into the main rink, turning around to face Yuuri and making a grand gesture. “Welcome to my humble abode.”

Yuuri shrugged his backpack off his back, and asked, “Locker room?”

It was an odd mix of familiar and strange. Yuuri had spent most of his time in Detroit sharing a rink with elite skaters, who often spoke in languages he’d had little familiarity with. But the vast majority of his time with Victor, it had been just the two of them, with the luxury of undivided attention and an unshared rink. After the first hour, most of which was spent off the ice warming up and stretching, Yuuri wondered how much of his most recent success could be pinned on simply having uninterrupted quiet to practice in. Even in Detroit there hadn’t been this much yelling, though none of it seemed to be directed at him.

The fourth time he flinched, Victor said, “We can do night practices, if you need. Those will be quieter.”

“I just need to get used to it,” Yuuri said. “If they were yelling at me, it would be in English.”

On the other end of the rink, Yakov yelled something in Russian at Yuri, who had apparently been there an hour earlier than them. Yuri stalked off the ice.

Yuuri, getting ready to go out onto the ice, looked at Victor and raised an eyebrow, questioning.

“Yurio was pushing triples. Yakov thinks he needs another day,” Victor said.

“If he’s landing doubles, why not?” Yuuri said.

“Yakov hates it when his skaters push their jumps too hard, too fast.”

“A day won’t make that much difference, he probably just thinks Yakov is coddling him.”

“Yakov doesn’t coddle,” Victor said. “I think Yakov is likely to keep Yurio out of Europeans, because he’s been growing so fast.”

Yuuri winced. “Yura won’t like that at all.”

“He might seed better next year if he doesn’t go to Euros and bomb. Time to focus on you, and on me,” Victor said. “You can check on him after you show me the changes you were thinking about making in your long program for Four Continents.”

“I’m more curious to see you skate your short program,” Yuuri said.


They ran through Yuuri’s short program, with a quad flip instead of a quad Salchow, and a quad toe triple loop for the quad toe double toe he’d been doing. He two-footed the combo, but nailed the flip, earning a murmur from the other students in the rink.

“That ups your base score by over two and a half points if you can land that combo a little better,” Victor said.

“I can, it’s just not what I’d been practicing. What are you going to do to keep up?” Yuuri said, breathing hard, leaning forward with his hands braced on the rail.

Victor handed Yuuri his phone. “Start my music once I’m out there, and we’ll see.”

The underlying structure hadn’t changed much, but Victor had been working already on differentiating his footwork and spins. Victor went up in a quad Lutz where Yuuri had done a flip, and then attempted a quad flip/triple loop combo, but popped the second jump into an airy single, laughing before he’d even finished the landing.

“Gotta do better than that if you want to beat Yuuri-san, old man,” Yuri called out.

“I know!” Victor called back, moving into a spin.

Once the run-through was done, Yuuri said, “I assume that was supposed to be a triple loop?”

“Rub it in,” Victor said, shaking out his legs and arms.

“If you land all of those, you’ll be three points ahead on your base,” Yuuri said.

“Start landing quad Lutzes, and you can catch up,” Victor said.

“I don’t have to if you can’t land that triple loop on the combo,” Yuuri said with a grin.

“Hmph. I’ll land it,” Victor grumbled. “We have weeks.”

Yuri skated over and said, “I’m starving.”

“Pizza?” Victor asked.

“God, yes,” Yuri said.

“Should we show Yuuri the restaurant, or have them bring it here?”

“Here smells like old piss and hockey,” Yuri said. “I’d rather smell garlic and cheese.”

“Not too much cheese,” Yuuri said.

“They do a special for us, don’t worry about it,” Victor said. “It’s not too bad, nutrition wise, if you have a slice now and a slice in a couple hours.”

“I feel like I could eat a whole one myself,” Yuri said, putting on his guards and moving over to a bench to get the skates off.

“Yakov would scream. Have a chicken salad if you need more than one slice right now,” Victor said, removing his own skates. “Get the one with the nuts.”

Makkachin took advantage of Yuuri sitting to demand pets.

“Augh, get your skates off,” Yuri said. “I’m hungry.”

“Sorry,” Yuuri said, not actually reaching for his skates. “Makka just needed some love.”

Victor laughed, and knelt to untie Yuuri’s skates.

“Yobannoe dno!” Yuri snapped. “It’s bad enough at home, do I have to watch more foreplay here?”

Victor and Yuuri looked up at Yuri. Victor grinned. “Oh, do tell.”

“At the goddamn restaurant,” Yuri said. “I’m going to go order food and you’re going to pay for it.”

Victor handed him Yuuri’s skates. “If you want us to buy you lunch, put these in the locker room first.”

“I can do that,” Yuuri protested.

Yuri took the skates reflexively and then stared at them. “You skated like that, with these?”

“What?” Yuuri said.

“They’re like ten pounds heavier than my skates,” Yuri said. “Jesus, no wonder you struggled with the Salchow.”

“They’re not ten pounds,” Victor said. “Your skates are maybe a pound lighter, each.”

Yuri handed his to Victor, and then Yuuri’s.

“If you’re willing to make the switch,” Victor said, “I bet you could have five quads.” He handed both sets of skates to Yuuri.

Makkachin climbed down, and Yuuri hefted each set of skates, and shrugged. “If they’re supportive enough, I could try. I’m used to these, though.”

“I’m having to get used to a whole new body. You can get used to a new pair of skates in a couple sessions. The newest boots don’t require much break-in, they just shift your center of gravity a little lower,” Yuri said. “There’s a skate shop we can go to. I usually take the train…”

“We’ll call for a ride,” Victor said. “Maybe I’ll get new skates, too.”

“Lilia expects me at 1:30,” Yuri said.

“Tell her you need new skates again. You probably do,” Victor said.

“Don’t remind me. I’ve got a week in these, at least, I hope,” Yuri said, then looked at Yuuri. “You have six weeks to your next competition. If you’re going to do it before next year, you should switch today. Let me see if Lilia minds meeting later.”

They left the dog at the rink with Mila while Inessa and Max drove them over to the skate shop, where they spent an ungodly amount of money on absurdly light skate boots with high tech liners for both Victor and Yuuri, composite blades for Yuuri, and Yuri had his feet measured for the fourth time in two months and decided he could manage another week or so on the skates he had. While doing the heat shaping, the proprietor asked which jumps they were working on, and Victor just smiled.

“All of them,” Yuri said.

“With the new boots, you might want a harness for the first few jumps, so you don’t end up falling so much,” the shopkeeper said. “But there shouldn’t be break-in time for the boots. Maybe for you, though. If you like the skates, they’ll custom make them for you. For your costumes.”

“I haven’t jumped in a harness in years,” Victor said. “But I’ll keep that in mind.”

Yuuri elbowed him, and then looked pointedly at Yuri.

“…But that would be a great way to adapt to the change in my center of gravity,” Victor said. “Sure!”

While the shop worked on attaching skates to boots and custom insoles from impressions they’d made, they went a block over to a Korean restaurant for bibimbap and seaweed salad.  

“It’s okay to take me someplace more Russian,” Yuuri said. “If I didn’t want to experience Russia, I wouldn’t have moved here.”

“You would move anywhere Victor was,” Yuri said. “Good food or not.”

“Okay, true,” Yuuri said, while Victor preened. “But really, I lived in Detroit for five years.”

“It was literally the closest,” Yuri said. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to get you rice from a country you’re not even from to make you feel at home.”

“No, but you’d share your grandfather’s katsudon piroshkis,” Yuuri said.

“You love katsudon. That was personal. This was convenient,” Yuri said.

“Besides,” Victor said around a mouthful of beef. “You are home. This is what we do, we go to lots of different places and try different things and notice what’s familiar and what’s not.”

“Anywhere you are is home,” Yuuri said, without looking at anyone.

“Cut the mushy crap,”  Yuri said.

“He meant both of us,” Victor said, rumpling Yuri’s hair.

“Augh, stop, you’re going to fuck up the braids,” Yuri said, ducking away in a futile attempt to avoid Victor’s hand.

Yuuri looked up. “I’ll fix them when we’re done,” he said, trying to keep from laughing.

“What are you laughing at?” Yuri snapped.

“The fact that Victor messes up your hair because he knows it settles you to have someone fix it again,” Yuuri said, and took a long sip of tea.

Yuri pulled the hair band off the end of the main braid and stuffed it into the pocket of his hoodie, and roughly finger combed the smaller side braids out. His hair hung shaggy around his face.

Victor grinned, and took another bite.

Yuuri ended up doing Yuri’s hair while they waited for Victor to get his familiar style of blades set “just right” on the new set of boots.

«You’re sitting a little lower in these,» the technician reminded Victor. «It won’t feel the same.»

Victor walked around on guards for a few minutes, and then said, «There’s a spot.»

The tech handed him a hair dryer to reshape the boot, and turned to Yuuri, who was just slipping a hair band over the end of the half braid he’d just created for Yuri. «How do yours feel?»

“I didn’t get the last word,” Yuuri said to Yuri, who translated.

Yuuri shifted back and forth. “Khorosho. Netyazhelyy? Does that make sense? They’re light.”

“Tell him if there are any pressure points,” Yuri said. “They won’t break in.”

“Oh. The ankle bone,” Yuuri said, pointing. “I think it needs to be more out.”

Yuri translated.

Victor handed the hair dryer back, and they unlaced the boot to heat up the trouble spot.

“Both boots?” Yuri asked.

“No, just that one spot,” Yuuri said.

They walked out in their street shoes, but put the new skates on as soon as they were through the door of the rink.

“It feels like a sneaker,” Yuuri said. “Very stable.”

“I haven’t decided if I like the aesthetic,” Victor said. “We should tape them.”

“I should tape them,” Yuuri said. “You don’t have the patience.”

“Lilia will want me now that we’re back,” Yuri said.

“Was she upset at you needing to postpone the session?” Yuuri asked.

Yuri blanched. “No.” He gave a small, involuntary shudder.

Victor cocked his head. “The dragon lady didn’t mind you skipping off to help us get skates when you haven’t outgrown the ones you bought, what, a week ago?”

“Two,” Yuri said. “Ish. And no. Please don’t make me explain it. I’m already dreading going back.”

“Is she yelling at Yakov again?” Victor asked.

“It’s not yelling, and it’s not Yakov,” Yuri said, and stood up. “Tape your damn skates.”

Yuuri watched Yuri go, and then reached into the bag to pull out the roll of blue painter’s tape the shop had provided, and a small, disposable box cutter. “Hold your hand out, Vitya,” he said.

Victor stuck a hand out, and Yuuri slid the tape roll over his fingers, and pulled out a strip. “Thumb,” he said, and Victor put his thumb down on the roll, while Yuuri slid the blade through the now-stable tape. He studied the boot, and then put the strip down around the bottom edge of the boot.

“Not too much, you don’t want to weigh it down,” Victor said.

“I know,” Yuuri said. “One layer of blue, one layer of black, and I’m only doing it across the front half.”

By the time the skates were done and they’d returned to the rink, there was a class on the ice. Victor flirted just enough with the teenager teaching the kindergarteners that she let them come on the ice “just to try out their new skates.”

Which resulted in a dozen giggling five-year-olds watching as Victor Nikiforov, skating legend, fell on his butt turning to skate backwards.

Yuuri skated carefully over to Victor, and put out a hand, trying, but failing completely, to suppress his grin. “You okay?”

“I’ve wounded my dignity, Yuuri,” Victor moaned. “How shall I ever recover?”

“I suggest inspiring a new generation of figure skaters to get up and keep working, because even famous world champions sometimes fall down,” Yuuri said.

Victor took Yuuri’s hand, stood up, and grinned. Yuuri grinned back, then gasped and dropped Victor’s hand.

“What?” Victor said.

“I forgot for a minute where we were,” Yuuri said, his voice subdued.

Victor glanced at the kids, closed his eyes for a moment, gave a small sigh, and then called out brightly, «Everyone falls down. Pick yourself up and skate. My skates are new today, and they feel different, so I fell.»

They skated next to each other, hands extended for balance like novices but not touching, while the little ones skated past them, laughing.

“It’s tricky finding my balance,” Victor said.

“I know what you mean,” Yuuri said. “I wouldn’t blame you for going back to your old skates until Europeans and using the new ones after.”

“That wasn’t what I meant. It’s not my first pair of new skates. That, I expect to take a little time. This dance we do with Mother Russia feels dangerous. That we could be afraid around little children…”

“I’m not afraid, I just don’t want to get you in trouble,” Yuuri said.

Victor started to reach for Yuuri’s hand, and then remembered, and moved his hand back to its position. They stroked easily around the curve, and this time when Victor turned, it went smoothly. “See, I’m getting it already,” Victor said.

Yuuri turned, turned back, and said, “I think I like these.” He checked behind him, spotted the gaggle of little children far across the training rink, and did an easy toe loop, a single rotation, and landed it cleanly.

The children gasped and clapped. Yuuri grinned, and said in broken Russian, “Pozzhe tri Aksel’.”

“Troynoy, not tri,” Victor said. “And you really want to say, ‘Pozzhe ya budu katat'sya na kon'kakh troynoy Aksel'.”

“I’m pretty sure that ‘Pozzhe troynoy Aksel'’ is about all I have in me right now,” Yuuri said.

«Let us know if we are getting in the way,» Victor called to the instructor, who grinned and gestured at them to continue, speaking to her class, who all turned around, but did not all stay standing.

“Aw, kawaii,” Yuuri said, laughing, and they skated over to help two of the children back onto their feet.

By the time the children’s lesson was done, Yuuri had managed a double Axel and a triple toe loop, and promised to do his “Troynoy Aksel'” the following week. Victor hadn’t jumped at all, but had spent most of the time being trailed by small children like so many ducklings.

When Yuuri asked as they skated off the ice, Victor said, “I’m going to set a good example for Yurio. He needs the harness more than I do.”

“I’ll be using the harness, too,” Yuuri said, slipping his guards on as a horde of tiny hockey players flooded onto the ice. “I have a few more quads to learn.”

“Two,” Victor said. “Lutz and loop.”

Yuuri shrugged.

Victor narrowed his eyes. “Yuuri…”

“If I can get enough height and rotation, it should be possible. I won’t try it out of the harness until I land it in.”

“You don’t need a quad Axel,” Victor said. “No one needs a quad Axel.”

“That’s not going to stop you from trying it, either,” Yuuri said.

Victor looked around and said, “I think I want to go home now.”

“I thought we were going to spend some time in the ballet studio?” Yuuri asked.

“Only if I can kiss you somewhere,” Victor said.

“God, gross,” Yuri said, coming up behind them. “Get a broom closet.”

Victor turned to Yuri, seized his shoulders, gave him a peck on each cheek and said, “You’re brilliant, Yurochka.”

“Gah, fuck off. Ugh, no, on second thought… Just… GO. Minako is expecting you though. And Lilia. Both of them.” Yuri sighed. “You all deserve each other. I’m going home with Yakov. To his apartment.”

The ballet instructors were standing close together when they arrived, but since they were both stretching at the barre, that wasn’t all that strange.

“Yuuri! Victor!” Minako said, welcoming. “Do you like your new skates?”

“I think they’ll be good, Minako-sensei” Yuuri said. “It’s not so much breaking them in as getting used to the change.”

“Change does you good, Yuuri-chan,” Minako said fondly. “Now, I want to hear this new music of Victor’s.”

“I need to evaluate them both for flexibility,” Lilia said. “I haven’t worked with Victor in a while, and haven’t ever worked with this Yuuri.”

“Call him Yuuri-san, it makes it easier,” Victor said. “We call the other Yuri Yurio when he’s not there and Yura when he is.”

“He hates Yurio,” Yuuri said.

That got a wisp of a smile from Lilia. “That sounds likely. Basics first. Have you warmed up?”

“We were just skating with a dozen five-year-olds,” Yuuri said. “After that, and this morning, I’m pretty flexible, but not competition-ready.”

“Stretch, then,” Lilia said. “Show me what you usually do.”

Victor was yelled at repeatedly for lazy form to the point that Yuuri suspected he was doing it on purpose, and Yuuri managed to get a grudging grunt of approval for the curve of his wrists and hands, the point of his feet, but significant clucking over his overall flexibility.

“We haven’t pushed beyond what is necessary for competition,” Minako said. “He doesn’t need a hyperextended high leg lift to spin beautifully and win, and we’ve always erred on the side of stability over party tricks, to avoid injury. He’s flexible enough where it counts.”

Victor coughed.

“You agree, don’t you?” Minako said to him with a grin.

“That depends,” Victor said, “on why Yurio was so traumatized this afternoon.”

Minako blushed.

Yuuri raised his voice, “I didn’t want to know, Victor!”

“Enough,” Lilia said. “Minako is a dear friend I have not been able to spend time with in far too long. I’m sure you know just how much shit I’ve been getting from Yurio. You two are adults, we’re adults, and we’re all in the same danger here, now.”

“How bad is it?” Victor asked. “I’ve never been out, here, before.”

“I’ve never been out, period,” Lilia said. “And for good reason. It has been getting worse by the month here for those who are. I wonder that you came back at all. Both of you, arabesque, maintenant.”

“Why do you stay?” Yuuri asked, extending his leg back and up and arching his back. She pressed a hand to his leg, and he did not move.

She touched the tips of his fingers and gave an approving nod at the elegance of his line. “Be stable, and solid. Show me how long you can hold that. I stay because my life is here. My dancers were here. Now, Yuri, here. And don’t tell him, but Yakov as well.”

“We came back for Yakov, and Yuri,” Victor said. “Yuuchan deserves better coaching than I’ve been giving him, and I’m going to need every edge I can get to come back well.” He realized after a moment that they were all staring at him.

“He literally broke a world record with you coaching him,” Minako said. “Your world record. And you think somehow your coaching is inadequate?”

“That was Yuuri, not me,” Victor said. “All I did was help build his confidence.” He put his leg down, and Lilia gestured at him to switch.

Yuuri snorted. “That’s all. Right. Do you want me to put my leg down?”

“How long can you hold that?” Lilia asked.

“How long do you want me to hold it?” Yuuri responded.

Victor laughed. “Yuuri’s stamina is legendary. I recommend you tell him when to stop. Not that he listens.”

She folded her arms and then tapped her lips with one finger, watching Yuuri. “You’ve done well with him, Minyushka. That’s enough, Yuuri-san.”

Yuuri dropped his leg, falling easily into third position and gave both a polite bow.

“Oh, it’s been so long since he bowed for me,” Victor said.

Minako snorted as Yuuri turned slowly to Victor, raised one eyebrow, and said, “Oh, is that what you want from me?”

Victor coughed.

Lilia grinned at Minako. “I see what you mean. Quiet, then zing.”  She made a quick gesture to emphasize the last word.

Yuuri said, in a rush, “I think we should head home soon.”

“We should do dinner this week,” Minako said.

Yuuri looked at Victor.

“Sounds great!” Victor said. “When?”

Lilia considered, and then said, “Come on Friday.”

A meal of stroganoff and borscht was waiting for them when they got home, along with a phone call from New York, where a harried intern from Mirror Mirror had a long list of questions about wedding details.

“I don’t really care about flowers,” Yuuri said.

Victor thought a moment longer. “Something simple and elegant.”

“Let me send you some links,” the girl said.

Victor opened his laptop on the kitchen table and took a bite of soup. An email came in, and he opened it. “Hailey?”

“That’s me,” she said. “How do those look?”

Yuuri looked and blinked. “Way, way too elaborate.”

A minute later another list of links. They rejected most of them, but then Yuuri pointed and said, “That one.”

“The white anemones,” Victor clarified. “Keep it simple, please.”

“Got it. Food?”

Yuuri looked at Victor, and shrugged, looking perplexed.

“Give us some options,” Victor said. “Better yet, talk to Ivo, from the plane that brought us here, if you can. I trust him.”

“Gloria, from Versa, should be able to get ahold of him,” Yuuri said. “Or Jack Reynolds.”

“Oh, great!” Hailey said, sounding relieved. “Music?”

“I’ll provide you a playlist and the tracks by Sunday,” Victor said.

“You don’t want a live performance?” Hailey asked.

They looked at each other.

“Not necessary,” Victor said.

“Ceremony?” she asked.

“I mean, just the standard thing, right?” Yuuri said, and then took a bite of stroganoff.

“What does that mean for you?” Victor asked. “I’ve only been to a couple of weddings, but a traditional Russian wedding can get complicated. I mean, we’d have to hide and ransom each other and that would just get weird fast unless one of us wants to play the bride.”

“Which could be fun, but not in front of my mother,” Yuuri said.

“She’d think it was hilarious,” Victor said.

“I’m not sure hilarious is what I want for our wedding,” Yuuri said around a bite of pasta.

“Anyway, then there’s the ritual flinging of small items, and a truly ridiculous number of toasts, and then they yell at the couple to kiss and punish them if it’s not long enough. Well, not punish, but there’s yelling.”

“Can we skip the yelling and just do the kissing?” Yuuri asked.

Victor grinned. Then he said, “Oh, but there’s one thing I would like to do…” He pulled up an image search, and Yuuri peered at it.

“You want us to wear crowns?”

“It’s the peak moment of the ceremony!” Victor said.

“Can you show me what you’re talking about?” Hailey asked.

Victor sent a few links to examples.

“I’ll see what we can do,” Hailey said. “It might be hard to find in Denmark? Have you thought about your vows?”

“I don’t think either of us is particularly religious,” Yuuri said. “What’s usual?”

She laughed. “I might have to defer to the officiant on that one! I can have them call you?”

“Please,” Victor said.

“And going over the guest list, we have Yuuri’s parents and sister, and the Nishigoris all booked from Japan, plane tickets purchased, hotel reserved. Phichit Chulanont and his coach are coming in from Thailand. He asked for ice time?”

“We’re all going to need ice time, every day,” Victor said.

“How much?” she asked.

“Tell me the rest of the guest list,” Victor said.

“Christophe Giacometti is bringing a plus one, and said, and I quote, ‘I wouldn’t miss this for the world.’”

“Aw,” Victor said.

“Was he being sweet or getting out the popcorn?” Yuuri asked.

Hailey laughed. “Both, I think. And of your friends there with you in Russia, Georgi Popovich sent his regrets.”

“Mila?” Yuuri asked.

“She’s coming, and so are Min… I’m going to get that wrong.”

“Minako,” Yuuri supplied.

“Yes, she’s coming, and Lilia Baranovskaya. And you already knew about your coach, Victor, and the other Yuri.”

“Otabek?” Yuuri asked.

“We’re still trying to get the visa situation worked out there, but we should know by the end of the week, and it should go through okay. We’re not sure if he’s going from the wedding to the European championship or back to Kazakhstan yet, but he can decide that when the visa comes through,” Hailey said.

“So I count seven who will need ice time each day they’re there,” Victor said. “If you can book a half hour per person plus an extra hour, for each day we’re scheduled to be there, that would be ideal. We’ll need access to a gym and dance studio as well.”

“Does it have to be at the same rink as the wedding?” Hailey asked.

“If the ice is smooth and well maintained, and the rink is large, no,” Yuuri said. “And we’ve all used hotel gyms in a pinch. The dance studio space may be harder to come by.”

“You need a barre, an open, splinter-free floor, and a mirror?” Hailey asked.

“Yes, please,” Yuuri said.

“Sprung floor?” she asked.

“Do you dance?” Victor asked.

She laughed. “I used to. Just enough to go en pointe and realize how much my body hated being en pointe.”

“Ha, I never tried,” Yuuri said, “But no, we don’t really need a sprung floor, though it would be nicer. Mostly that’s for Minako and Lilia and to calm my nerves.”

“Yurio and I both need it, too,” Victor said. “Mila will want it.”

“I was going to go over the order of the ceremony,” Hailey said, “but if the officiant is going to be talking to you shortly, I might just let them handle that part. I know it’s probably getting late there.”

Yuuri yawned involuntarily.

Victor laughed. “If you can have them call us tomorrow, we’ll make time to talk to them.”

Victor found and fiddled with the thermostat, discovered it was a ludicrously fancy programmable thing, and gleefully set it to a complex schedule that he’d explained. “It should be warm when we’re retiring and cool while we sleep, then warm again when it’s time to wake and then cool during the day when…” at which point Yuuri had thrown one of the kitchen towels he’d finally located at Victor’s head and announced he was going to bed.

“Bed is a fantastic idea!” Victor said, dropping treats into Makkachin’s dish and hurrying after Yuuri.

“It all seems so complicated,” Yuuri grumbled as they got ready.

“The thermostat?” Victor asked.

“No, the wedding,” Yuuri said. “Why do I even care about the flowers?” He was sitting on the bed, removing his socks.

“You don’t, but there are going to be flowers and it would be better if they weren’t ridiculous,” Victor said, pulling off his shirt. He started to reach for a nightshirt, and was startled when Yuuri’s hand on his arm stopped him.

Victor looked at Yuuri, standing next to him in a pair of plain boxer-briefs and nothing else. “No pajamas?” Victor asked.

Yuuri shook his head.

Victor grinned. “And yet you’re still wearing underwear.”

Yuuri maintained eye contact as he slowly and deliberately removed his last piece of clothing.

Victor’s grin grew wider, and he stripped far more hastily. “I thought you were tired.”

“It’ll help me sleep better,” Yuuri said.

“Oh, is that all?” Victor asked, running his fingers down the outsides of Yuuri’s arms.

“Sleep is important,” Yuuri said, stepping into Victor’s space and ghosting his lips along the sensitive parts of Victor’s neck.

“Ha…ah. Very important,” Victor agreed, hands sliding around to cup Yuuri’s ass.

“But also, I want to feel you,” Yuuri said. “Your skin.”

“I could definitely help with that,” Victor said, pulling Yuuri closer. “You’re cold. We should get under the covers.”

“I’m not cold, it’s balmy in here,” Yuuri said, but let Victor nudge him to the bed.  

“So, what did you have in mind?” Victor asked, hands roaming lightly over all of Yuuri’s skin that he could reach easily as they stretched out on top of the covers.

Yuuri shivered at the touch. “I… I was thinking about something you said, before.” He blushed, took a deep breath, and then said in a rush, “If you want to… without a condom… maybe?”

Victor grinned, enthusiastically pulled Yuuri into his arms, and said, “I don’t think so. Not tonight.”

“But you said… I thought you wanted…” Yuuri pulled his head away from Victor’s shoulder to look at him, perplexed.

“I do. Of course I do. But it’s really significant to you, a big step, and I think you were right to want to save that for a while. Maybe our wedding night? It’s really soon.”

“That’s incredibly corny, Vitya,” Yuuri said, letting his head nestle next to Victor’s neck and relaxing into his arms. “Tell me you’re not talking about abstaining completely until then? Because that legitimately might kill me.”

“Oh, god no,” Victor said. “Let’s fuck like bunnies whenever we can. But when you said you wanted to save it for something special, I thought, why not?”

“It’s hard to remember that I went most of my life without this,” Yuuri said.

“Eventually, we will have spent most of our lives together,” Victor said, his words muffled a little by the fact that he was talking into Yuuri’s hair.

“Where’s Makka?” Yuuri asked.

“I bribed him with a treat in the kitchen,” Victor said. “You know, he really won’t care if we’re intimate in the same room.”

“I just keep picturing a cold, wet dog nose investigating where I’d rather not be investigated,” Yuuri said.

“Not even by me?” Victor asked.

“I’m pretty sure what you do isn’t investigating,” Yuuri said. “And your nose is neither cold, nor wet.”

“You don’t want me to study every inch of your skin, solving the mystery that is Katsuki Yuuri?”

“I’m really not that mysterious,” Yuuri said.

Victor laughed.

“That was just a misunderstanding!”

Victor, still laughing, flipped them, got up on his hands and knees, and then put his mouth on Yuuri’s belly. He stayed there for a long moment, and then blew a long, trumpeting zerbert.

Yuuri brought his knees up convulsively and shrieked. “Victor!”

“Misunderstanding.” Victor punctuated the word by grazing his teeth against Yuuri’s hip. “I puzzled over you for months. I seriously thought I was losing my touch.”

“You had a touch?” Yuuri asked.

“Maybe not much of one, then,” Victor said, sitting back on his heels. He reached out, and dragged a finger slowly from Yuuri’s ankle up his leg. “But I think you like my touch, now.”

Yuuri squirmed a little. “That… almost tickles.”

“Only almost?” Victor asked.

“Kinda tickle, kind of…” Yuuri gasped as Victor’s fingers reached his inner thigh. “More.”

Victor took that as a request rather than an editorial comment, and within moments the tone had shifted completely, their bodies moving together smoothly, growing familiarity and ease allowing more abandon.

Victor still hesitated just long enough to ask, “You still want me to… even with a condom?”

“Fuck. Please,” Yuuri said, grinding up against Victor’s hip as Victor reached across for the supplies in the bedside table.

Experience made getting the condom on a lot faster, and let him worry less, feeling with his fingers for the release that meant Yuuri was ready for more. It also let him take his cues from Yuuri’s movements—once he’d replaced fingers with cock—setting a deep, steady pace together.

He shifted, lifting Yuuri’s hips and working his knees under, to take the pressure off his hands so that he could help Yuuri along with slick fingers.

“Vitya!” Yuuri cried out a minute later, and Victor let his hand still, shifting to find his release soon after.

There were hand towels on the bedside table, and Yuuri reached for one without looking, dropped it unceremoniously on his own belly, and then handed the other one to Victor.

“Are you going to need a shower?” Victor asked, easing out.

“In the morning,” Yuuri said, dragging the cloth firmly across his skin and shifting to allow Victor to clean both of them. He reached over and pulled the duvet up, and then rolled into the empty spot.

“Sleep well,” Victor said, taking the towels to the hamper, the condom to the trash, pausing in the ensuite to stare for a moment in the large mirror as he washed his hands.

His body was flushed, his hair mussed, but he’d been staring into the void for a decade in bathroom mirrors and this time, the man reflected back at him was more.

A small smile was already playing at his mouth, and he murmured at his reflection, «So this is what happiness looks like. What a pleasant surprise.»  

He stopped to open the bedroom door and turned back to see Yuuri, already falling asleep quickly under the glow of the lamp. Victor climbed in behind him, reached across to turn out the light, and then let Yuuri’s steady breathing pull him down into slumber.

Chapter Text

The new skates were still different enough that Yakov took them over to the children’s rink to use the ceiling-suspended harness system as soon as they’d stretched and warmed up the next morning.

“I’ve never used one,” Yuuri said, eyeing it curiously.

“I’ll show you,” Yuri said, strapping in. A long cable extended the length of the rink, and a dual pulley slid freely along the length. The harness hung down, and Yakov held the other end of the support.

“Shouldn’t one of us have the rope?” Yuuri asked.

Yakov frowned. “Are you saying I’m too old?”

Yuuri’s eyes widened, and he shook his head vigorously. “No, no. Not at all.”

“Yuuri, it’s designed so that the pulley does most of the work. Yakov is just controlling the tension, so that Yuri can jump without too much restriction, but can’t fall,” Victor said, pointing up at the pulleys hanging down from a long cable running along the length of the truss overhead.

“Celestino used a pole for some of the younger skaters,” Yuuri said. “I never thought to ask.”

“With you falling so much, I wonder that he never suggested it,” Yakov said. “And you, Victor…”

“They didn’t have anything like this in Hasetsu,” Victor said, and then sighed. “But no, you’re right, Yakov. I should have thought of it.”

“Are we ready?” Yuri asked.

Victor checked his straps. “Da.”

“Can I please do triples?” Yuri asked.

Yakov rolled his eyes. “You’d better.” He fed the line through his gloved hands, maintaining tension as Yuri started to move.

“Spasiba!” Yuri shouted, as he turned, caught the ice on his pick and threw himself upward into a toe loop.

The landing was rough, and Yakov grunted as he kept Yuri from hitting the ice.

“Shit,” Yuri said, not sounding all that upset.

He tried again, and did a little better.

“You should tie him off and let him spin for a while,” Victor said to Yakov.

“What?” Yuri said, but Victor was already helping Yakov hoist him off the ice. “Hey! Put me down!”

Yuuri grinned, and called out, “Take advantage of the opportunity to do a octuple jump!”

“It’s not a jump if they hoist me up and don’t put me back!” Yuri griped.

“Promise you’re not going to kick me,” Victor said, looping the rope off on the tie-down at the edge of the rink.

“I make no such promise,” Yuri said. “Put me down.”

“Do you want me to spin you, or not? Arms out”

“Fine.” Yuri stuck his arms out straight.

Victor walked over to where Yuri dangled like an angry kitten a couple feet off the ice, grinned, grabbed Yuri’s hips, and spun him like a top.

Yuri pulled his arms in and crossed his ankles instinctively, increasing the speed of his spin and then laughing.

“Tighten your position,” Yakov said. “Feel where you need to put your arms to make it as tight as possible. Bring your shoulders in.” He waited, and then said, “Now open your arms and control the spin. Mind your leg position.”

“That looks like fun,” Yuuri murmured to Victor, leaning against the rail near the tie-down.

“It is,” Victor said. “Shall I lower him?”

“Hey, don’t drop me, old man.”

Victor wheezed, “Oh, I don’t know if my poor, old, weak hands can hold you up.”

“Don’t drop him,” Yakov said.

Victor braced the rope around his body as he released it from the tie-down, and then started to ease Yuri down.

“Don’t do it,” Yuri said, low and warning.

Victor grinned, let the rope drop an abrupt foot, and then eased Yuri down as the teenager swore.

“Asshole,” Yuri growled.

Yuuri whispered in Victor’s ear, and Victor paled. “Sorry, Yura.” He leaned over and whispered something urgent back.

“What?” Yuri said, annoyed.

“Nothing, just, I won’t mess with it again,” Victor said.

“What, did he threaten not to give you a blow job or something?” Yuri said, and then looked horrified as Yuuri smirked.

“You really didn’t have to ask,” Victor said.

“Trust me, no one regrets it more than I do,” Yuri said. “I don’t know whether to be grateful or disgusted.”

“Why choose?” Yakov muttered, and then said louder, “Victor, don’t drop my skaters when you’re going to be in the harness in a few minutes yourself.”

“That wasn’t what he said,” Victor protested.

“I could have let him drop you,” Yuuri said. “This way you won’t have to worry about it.”

“Argh. No. I don’t want to know.” Yuri clapped his hands over his ears. “Let me skate.”

“I’m not stopping you,” Victor said, readying the line with a practiced hand and skating alongside. “Jump already.”

“Victor, adjust your grip,” Yakov said, holding his hands up in the correct position. “You need it firmer because he’s heavier than the kids you’ve done this with.”

“Rub it in,” Yuri said.

Victor adjusted, and Yakov nodded at Yuri to proceed.

Ten minutes and nearly as many jumps later, Yuri had a look of savage satisfaction on his face, having landed a triple Axel with minimal assist.

“Can I try a quad?” he asked.

“One. Toe loop,” Yakov said.

Yuri fell a moment later, Victor easing the last few inches from the fall. He slapped his hand on the ice in frustration and scrambled back to his feet, rubbing his glute and wincing. “Again.”

“No,” Yakov said. “Go do rotation practice in the mat room. Get Mila to spot you. Yuuri-san, let’s see you next.”

“I want to watch,” Yuri griped, unbuckling the harness.

“You need the rotation practice,” Victor said. “Yuuri needs to not be worrying about anything but jumping.”

“Yura doesn’t bother me,” Yuuri said.

“See?” Yuri dropped the harness.

“You still need the rotation training,” Yakov said. “Katis'!”

“What’s that mean?” Yuuri asked Victor, as Yuri slapped his guards on, annoyed.

“Basically, ‘Scram!’” Victor said. “Here, I’ll hook you up.”

Yuuri loved the harness. Not worrying about falling let him put a lot more energy into refining his jumping, and hurt a lot less. Yakov and Victor took turns on the rope, but after the first few jumps, Yuuri got the hang of the new skates and shifted into practicing the quad Lutz. The first few times, Victor took a lot of the weight of the landing on the rope. The fourth time, Yuuri two-footed and Victor didn’t have to do more than catch a wobble at the end.

Yuuri’s grin was radiant. “Again!”

“You’ll blow out your knees,” Yakov said flatly. “Victor needs the harness time now.”

“Should I learn to handle the rope?” Yuuri asked.

“You’re too light for it,” Victor said. “I outmass you.”

Yuuri stared at Victor, not sure anyone had ever told him he was too small for anything, ever, but there’d been no trace of irony in Victor’s voice. “I thought you said it didn’t matter.”

“There’s a reason I’m a little stout,” Yakov said, patting his stomach. “Ballast.” He held out his hands for the rope, and Victor handed it over, helping Yuuri out of the harness once his hands were free.

“You’re stout because you like vodka in the evening, and too many latkes and blintzes,” Victor said. “The ballast is just a nice side effect.”

“Ne derzi,” Yakov snapped.

At Yuuri’s curious look, Victor said, “He told me not to be rude. Really, it does take some learning to do the rope, and you would better spend your time on skating.”

“Wouldn’t ‘don’t be rude’ be ‘ne bud' grubym’?” Yuuri asked.

“It’s an idiom. ‘None of your sauce.’ Don’t talk back, to be more specific.”

“Ha,” Yuuri said, giving Victor the harness, still bemused.

“I feel like a toddler,” Victor called over to Yakov, who was sipping from a water bottle, the rope loose in his free hand.

“You act like a toddler,” Yakov said after he swallowed. He skated over and set his hands on the rope. “Go on.”

Half an hour later, Victor was finally landing jumps.

“Pridurok, changing skates in his last year,” Yakov muttered.

“They’re supposed to help save my knees,” Victor said.

“Not falling will save your knees.”

“He wants to land a quad Axel,” Yuuri said. “He’s hoping the lighter boot will help.”

“Yobannyye passatizhi…” Yakov muttered.

“You don’t want to know,” Victor said, in response to Yuuri’s questioning glance.

«You’re going to destroy your joints,» Yakov said. «You’re going to break something, and not only won’t you land the quad, but you’ll end up missing your wedding, and Europeans, and possibly any real comeback. Go get your other skates.»

«Yuuri’s using new ones!» Victor said.

«And he’s not falling down like a fucking teenager on old joints,» Yakov snarled. «You were foolish enough to quit in the first place, don’t be foolish about your comeback. You want to learn the new skates, do it on the off-season like a reasonable person.»

«I will never regret going to Japan,» Victor said. «Not ever. And if you think it was a mistake, you don’t understand why I needed it.»

Yakov closed his eyes. “Just get your damn skates, Victor. And give the harness back to Yuuri.”

“Fine,” Victor said, snapping himself out of the harness, handing it to a perplexed Yuuri, and stalking off the ice.

“You can do three more quads now that you’ve had a chance to rest,” Yakov said to Yuuri, his voice weary. “But no more today after that. Someone’s got to keep you idiots from ruining your knees.”

“You mean, like no one kept you from ruining yours, Yakov-sensei?”

“Ne derzi!” Yakov said, and then sighed. “Exactly like that.”

Back in his old skates, Victor’s practice became much more efficient, and he spent the morning refining his short program and conditioning.

At noon, a man with a strong Danish accent called Yuuri, and said, in English, “I’m Harald Juhl, and I’m looking to speak to… ah, Yuri Kat-su-ki?”

Yuuri waved Victor over to the bench and answered, “I’m Yuuri Katsuki. Do you have a preferred way for us to address you?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Harald is fine. I’ll make a note of the pronunciation. Do you have a preferred honorific?”

“Yuuri-san is what most people here use. That would be fine.”

“Excellent. I’m calling about your wedding on the 19th. I work with a local planning service, and just finished talking to that lovely young lady from America about your plans. Do you have a specific officiant in mind?”

Yuuri and Victor looked at each other blankly, and Yuuri said, “No, if one can be provided?”

“Of course. I’ll actually be doing the ceremony then.”

Half an hour later, Max set salads with chicken in front of each of them, along with a small loaf of rye bread and a takeout carton of cabbage soup, and they were still discussing the ceremony with Harald. They murmured their thanks and continued talking while they ate. Mila came over and started listening in, and ended up being so helpful that they drafted her to help coordinate the reception. They ended up leaving her talking to Harald while they went back to the dance studio.

“I cannot believe how many details there are,” Yuuri said, as they stretched again. “And I’d marry you in a registry office somewhere, happily, with no party, but if there’s going to be a party, it feels like I want it to be a party we’d like?”

Victor laughed. “It’s not too late to elope.”

“I thought this was going to be more like eloping,” Yuuri said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think it sounds amazing, but…”

“But we’re trying to practice for major competitions and it feels like the world is going to blow up and nothing feels optional right now,” Victor said.

Yuuri dropped his foot down off the barre, and caught Victor off guard by sliding under Victor’s arm and clinging to him.

Victor froze for a moment, right leg still up on the barre, arms still raised, and then dropped his foot and let his arms enfold Yuuri. He buried his face in Yuuri’s hair, closed his eyes, and sighed. “Oh, my Yuuchan. We’re together, and we’ll be okay.”

Yuuri’s voice was muffled against Victor’s collarbone as he said, “I know, I just worry. It feels like too much.”

“Shh. The answer to all further questions is ‘Whatever is most efficient.’ If we’re married at the end of the day, it’ll be fine,” Victor said.

That night, Ketty sent Victor music with the filename “victor_on_ice.mp3,” which made Yuuri laugh. Her note explained, I can attach sheet music, this is digital instrumentation. I can draft some students here if you like, but thought you might prefer giving this to the professional musicians you usually work with. The friends who helped me with the last one have gone on to different grad schools. This should give you something to work with until you can get it properly recorded.

“I like her,” Victor stated, and wrote back, Please do send along sheet music. He hesitated, and didn’t send it. “Better listen first, no?”

They were on the couch again, and when Yuuri immediately scooted over, Victor laughingly made room for him and then hit play.

It started with a quiet, slow clarinet over a cello line. None of the exact melodies from “Yuri on Ice” appeared in the first half, but the pacing was similar, momentum building, the violin coming in, the piano much less significant but still punctuating the low notes, with the clarinet and violin carrying counterpoint melodies. Where Yuri’s piece had a rippling, running water piano line, evoking spring rain running into rivulets and building into streams and flowing rivers, this spoke of snow and ice, of building wind and flurries, a rising storm with a decidedly Russian flair. The interlude came as a shock, like coming in from the cold, a happiness and warmth coming from the violin and cello lines moving together, the clarinet rising like steam, and a ripple of piano borrowed from Yuri’s piece spoke of something more, but blended in with the whole to be entirely different.

It moved into a faster-paced section that felt almost like a Russian folk song, but an increasingly driving piano line underneath led into an avalanche of sound that peaked and subsided back into the clarinet, and piano, and cello, woven together into something quiet and new as the piece ended.

They sat in silence for a long moment.

“Play it again,” Yuuri said.

Victor nodded and hit play.

“I think a lot of this will rest on how much emotion the clarinetist puts into it,” Yuuri said. “This feels like the gist of something, not the actual thing.”

“I think it’s going to be magnificent,” Victor said. He said as much in his note to Ketty, and sent it, along with his composer’s email address. He thought for another moment and then grinned and send a second reply. Call it Victuri on Ice , instead.

Yuuri groaned.

Victor grinned. “Like Victory, only…”

“I get it,” Yuuri said.

“Hey, it just enhances the puns. I mean, yours was basically Courage on Love, now, Love Wins.”

“The music feels almost subversive,” Yuuri said.

“There’s no almost,” Victor said. “It feels—yes, here—like coming in from the storm to find each other, only to find another storm waiting for us.”

“But it feels like it ends, I guess… in a peaceful way? I can’t wait to see you skate to it.”

Victor grinned. “I’m looking forward to it.”  

The next morning, they were buzzing with energy in their eagerness to get to the rink. Only decades of training kept Victor from running straight out onto the ice. As it was, he was humming with impatience as he stretched and warmed up. Yuuri stretched alongside, laughing at the nervous energy Victor radiated.

“The music will still be there when you’re warmed up,” Yuuri said, as they started the on-ice warm-up.

“New music?” Yakov said. “You finally have your free skate music?”

“A draft, but yes,” Victor said. “It’s perfect.”

“How do your knees feel?” Yakov asked a few minutes later.

“Perfect!” Victor called back, and did a clean triple Lutz.

“All right, play it for us, then. Clear the ice!” The last was directed at the other students. “Mark the jumps, Victor. You can do them on the second runthrough.”

Only Victor, Yuuri mused, would pick up a new piece of music and have the choreography basically down the first time out. Victor had, in fact, been working on the elements for weeks, but it spoke to his innate musicality that he could transfer the prep work so smoothly from one piece to the next.

Standing next to him, Yakov sighed, and muttered something under his breath in Russian.

Yuuri leaned over and without looking, murmured, “Is there something wrong with it?”

“Hm? Nyet, I… He leaves little for me to do these days,” Yakov replied, quietly. “It’s beautiful. The emotion… I do not know if he can ever perform this here, but if he can land the jumps, it just might win him Worlds. Any other year, there would be no question. But he has lifted you and Yuri up this year, and I expect you will not make it easy for him.”

Going into Victor’s final spin, Yuuri recognized the move they’d toyed with on the airplane, though the routine as a whole was very different. At speed, it did feel like the winding and unwinding of a spool. Victor ended the spin upright and tight, and then relaxed into his final pose. Yuuri blinked for a moment as he realized exactly what it was.

Yakov snorted. “He’s not subtle, there.”

Yuuri blushed.

Victor gazed downward, one arm curved elegantly in front of him, a ballerina’s third position, but his left hand higher, turned palm upward, cupped, but clearly pointed at Yuuri. It was so evocative of Yuuri’s own end position that he could see himself, standing in front of Victor, with an arm around his waist and a hand supporting his extended hand, Victor’s lips on his neck. Yuuri smiled, and Victor grinned and skated over.

“Did you like it?” Victor asked, as if there could be any doubt.

Yuuri’s eyes twinkled as he said, “Oh, I don’t know. I might have to see it with the jumps.”

“Of course he liked it,” Yuri growled. “You could not be more obvious. Either of you.”

“Well, if you insist on the jumps, I think I’m warmed up enough now,” Victor said. “Yakov? Any pointers?”

“Let me see it with the jumps, downgraded, and then I’ll tell you,” Yakov said.

Victor grinned at that, and skated back out to center ice.

At the first rise in the music, where Yuuri might have done his quad toe-double toe combo, Victor soared up into a triple Lutz-triple loop combo, calling out, “Quad,” midair.

Yuuri fumbled for the pad and pen he usually kept rinkside, and started making notes.

Victor wasn’t throwing a huge amount of effort into the emotion of the piece this time, but the jumps were intense and marked the music perfectly. He opened with a downgraded Lutz-loop combo, a quad Sal, which he didn’t bother downgrading, followed by a triple flip with an absurd entry, a shout of “Quad,” and then fast footwork, a triple Axel, and then a quad toe as the music crashed and then grew quiet again. Victor’s choreographed sequence was deceptively calm, echoing but not duplicating Yuuri’s program.

The jumps in the second half were hard and showy, but not quads. A triple flip-triple toe gave way to a flying sit spin, a triple Lutz, and a triple Axel-half loop-triple Sal that had Yakov shaking his head and muttering. The final complex spins led into the ending pose, and as the music ended, the room was dead silent.

“Well? Was it that terrible?” Victor asked, as he dropped his arm.

Mila laughed and called out. “And you were worried, Yakov.”

“It was amazing,” Yuuri said, holding his arms out.

Victor grinned and skated over, letting Yuuri wrap him in his arms. “So, Yurio?”

“There is nothing fair about you, Victor Nikiforov,” Yuri said. “If I wasn’t in the middle of this damned growth spurt…”

Victor rolled his eyes. “You will surpass me in every way in three years, I have no doubt. Let an old man have his triumph.”

Yuuri coughed. “I thought you wanted me to skate my best?”

Victor grinned. “You’re planning something, aren’t you?”

“I know you love surprises,” Yuuri said. “I have something in mind.”

Victor clapped his hands and grinned. “I can’t wait.”

“You’re completely insane,” Yuri said. “The TES on that program is impossible, if you land all the quads.”

“That’s why you love us so much,” Yuuri said. “You may not be able to take Worlds from us this year, but there’s another Grand Prix this year, and the Olympics next spring… I’m pretty sure you’ll be settled down in time to qualify.”

“You’re both going to be competing in the Olympics?” Yakov asked.

Victor said, “Barring injury, I’ll likely retire after.”

“He wants me to keep going five more years,” Yuuri said.

“Five more world championships,” Victor said. “If you win the Olympics and skip Worlds that year, that would be six years.”

“Which would have you competing in the Olympics twice?” Yuri asked.

“If I don’t injure myself first, I’ll probably retire in 2022, Worlds or no,” Yuuri said. “It would be a shame to get all the way to 2021 and then not go to the games.”

Yakov sighed. “I think I can stick it out until after the 2017-2018 season, myself. Past that, I don’t know. I’m thinking about retiring someplace warm.

“I don’t turn 18 until 2019,” Yuri said, frowning.

“So I won’t move until you’re of age,” Yakov said.

“We’ll take care of you, Yura, if Yakov needs to leave earlier,” Yuuri said.

“I don’t need…”

“You’ll need a coach for longer than it’s fair to ask Yakov to coach,” Victor said. “We’ll coach you.”

“And it’s okay to need people,” Yuuri said. “It’s even okay to admit it.”

“Enough,” Yuri said, looking away. “I need to practice.”

They arrived home after a long day of practice on and off the ice to packages laid neatly on their dining room table and dinner already prepared.

“I feel like we have house elves,” Yuuri said. “We never see them work, and yet, I haven’t done laundry since we got here and it’s all clean.”

“There’s a service; I asked for it,” Victor said. “We don’t have time right now. Maybe on the off-season, if you really want to, you can do laundry yourself.”

The packages were two long, flat boxes, which each contained a garment bag, a shoe box, and a small zippered plastic bag with accessories in it, all anchored neatly to the cardboard. Victor made a strange squeaking noise and pounced on one of the boxes.

“How do you know that one is yours?” Yuuri asked.

Victor unzipped the accessory bag and pulled out a blue-and-silver silk jacquard pocket square. He grinned. “Because obviously.” He unzipped the long garment bag, and smiled. “Yes, exactly.”

The suit had been modeled on their skating costumes, but the fabrics were decadent. “Is that silk?” Yuuri asked, reaching out to touch and then pulling his hand back.

“You can touch it, Yuuri,” Victor said with a hint of double entendre.

“I’m going to wash my hands first,” Yuuri said. “If that’s silk… I don’t want to risk staining it.”

“Fine,” Victor said, and put the pocket square down.

A few minutes later, Victor was holding up his wedding suit against his body.

“I can’t believe that fabric,” Yuuri said. “It’s silk but it stretches, and looks more like a suit than something for skating?”

Victor handed over a card from the designer. “You read it, it’s in Japanese.”

Yuuri translated as he read. “It was a privilege to create these for you. The trousers are silk/lyocell twill with spandex, as are the opaque portions of the jackets. Lighter-weight silk blends are used in the torso, and the underlayer is stretch silk with a technical fiber for wicking. Skating should be possible, and all fabrics have been … shrinked, so water will not damage, though the embellishments should be handled with care.” He paused. “It’s washable?”

Victor’s suit was icy iridescent silver, with abundant tiny blue, lavender, and silver crystals scattered along the lapels and up across the shoulders and upper back. The underlayer was a shimmering silk charmeuse that appeared to have been woven of different colored threads, so that while the blue was quite vivid, the overall effect was paler. It didn’t have the glitter effect of his costume’s underlayer, but the subtle shimmer was a delight, and when Victor lifted the garment up, he gasped. “It’s lighter.” The translucent section was edged with a narrow band of white velvet.

“We don’t use heavy fabrics,” Yuuri said, but reached out to feel it. “It is.”

The trousers were a pure white stretch twill.

Victor set everything down and started stripping off his clothes.

“Victor!” Yuuri said, laughing.

“I want to try it on! There’s no one here but us.”

Yuuri rolled his eyes, but looked at his, thoughtfully, and started undressing.

Victor looked at him, looked at his outfit, seemed undecided for a long moment, and then picked up the open box and took it to the bedroom.

“Victor?” Yuuri called after him.

“I can’t watch you get naked right now,” Victor called back. “We’ll mess up the wedding clothes.”

Yuuri blinked, and blushed, and finished getting undressed while Makkachin sat patiently watching him.

There were two versions of the underlayer. One, a thin burgundy long-sleeved bodysuit. The other was a tank with two tones, the upper portion the deep burgundy, and the lower portion closely matched to his skin tone. Both snapped at the crotch. A little note explained that the plain burgundy was for the reception, if he needed to have the jacket off. He put on the two-toned tank. A second jacket, a more traditional lined suit, with a similar neckline but without the see-through panel or sparkle, sat behind everything in the box.

Once the pants were on, he stretched and shifted experimentally, to see how it moved. They allowed a free range of motion, and, pleased, he shrugged his way into the glittering jacket.

“I always liked that costume, but this is a notch above,” Victor said behind him.

Yuuri turned around and gasped. “Uwah, sugoi na!”

“What?” Victor asked, laughing at the awe on Yuuri’s face. He leaned against the archway leading into the kitchen.

“You look gorgeous,” Yuuri said.

“Right?” Victor responded. “I love these fabrics. Come see in the mirror how yours looks on.”

Yuuri shook his head, laughing. “Only you, Victor.”

There was a full length mirror in the bedroom, inside the walk-in closet. They stood there, side by side, staring, for ten minutes until Yuuri finally whispered, “We’re really getting married, aren’t we?”

“We look like disco cake toppers,” Victor said, sounding pleased.

“I like it!” Yuuri protested.

“I didn’t say that was a bad thing,” Victor said. “I wouldn’t figure skate if I didn’t like the sparkle.” He reached out, and pushed Yuuri’s hair back. “This is going to be fantastic.”

“I’m glad I got contacts,” Yuuri said, considering his reflection.

“You’re cute either way, but I’d hate for you to miss most of the beauty of our wedding out of vanity,” Victor said.

“No,” Yuuri said, “I’ll just miss a lot of the beauty out of nerves, instead.”

“Are you nervous to be marrying me?” Victor looked worried.

“Remember who you’re marrying,” Yuuri said. “I’m nervous getting out of bed every day, but I don’t usually let it stop me.”

“We’re going to need to do a dress rehearsal with these,” Victor said. “At least if something goes badly wrong with the clothes, we have backups.”

“Did yours have two shirts?” Yuuri asked.

“I left the plain blue in the box,” Victor said. “And the plain silver jacket.”

That jacket is incredible, but it’s going to be gorgeous with just the blue, too.”

“Right? And yours with the burgundy.” Victor tipped his head and said, “I love the way they did the back.”

“It’s softer, for sure,” Yuuri said. “Less thread means less weight.”

“Did they screen print those on?” Victor ran his hands over the back design. “I think it’s paint? But so reflective!”

“It’s lighter and it doesn’t itch,” Yuuri said, “I don’t really care how they did it.”

They stood, staring in silence at their reflections.

“We’re doing it again, aren’t we?” Yuuri said.

“Yeah,” Victor replied. “We should eat something.”

“Take it off, first.”

“Why, Yuuri! So forward!” Victor grinned at Yuuri in the mirror.

Yuuri stuck his tongue out, and left the bedroom to put everything back in the box.

Chapter Text

Yuri showed up at their house before practice on the 6th for a shaving lesson, and they all carpooled to the rink together afterward.

Yakov gruffly announced as they warmed up that it would be a half day of practice, and that Saturday would be a rest day.

“That’s good,” Yuuri whispered to Victor. “We’re going to Lilia’s tonight.”

Victor blinked. “Oh god.” He grabbed his phone from the rail and texted Lilia with an intensity that shocked Yuuri.

Yuuri frowned. “What?”

“He’s giving us tomorrow off because it’s Christmas. Remember I told you, we don’t celebrate on the 25th of December. Lilia didn’t just invite us for dinner, she invited us for Christmas Eve.”

Yuuri paled. “How much of a thing is that?”

“That’s what I’m asking her,” Victor said. “I don’t make a big deal about it, but she could go full church, or it could just be a lot of food, or…”

“Is Yakov coming?” Yuuri asked. “Should I be getting presents for people?” His eyes widened. “I don’t have presents for them!”

Victor threw one arm around Yuuri, and squeezed until Yuuri stopped winding up, while still staring at the phone in his other hand. “No one will mind. Everything’s been ridiculous for the past few weeks.”

Lilia responded quickly, and Victor sighed with relief. “Her sister is cooking. Oh. She wants us to persuade Yakov to bring Yurio.”

“I actually have something for Yura,” Yuuri said. Then he blinked. “Oh, and I have something for you, too. Do we give gifts tonight or tomorrow?”

“Tonight is fine,” Victor said. “Most of the gifting is already past, but a host-gift for Lilia and something for Yurio would be fine. If you don’t mind sharing, a selection of some of the treats your mother sent might be welcome.”

Yuuri sighed with relief. “I should have thought, but we’ve been so busy, and it’s January…”

Persuading Yakov proved harder than persuading Yuri, who stopped resisting the moment Yuuri said, “If you want the present I got you…”

That took Yuri from a protestation that he “hated Christmas” to a confused interest, and they moved on to Yakov.

Yakov growled at the request, and said, “You want me to spend a holiday I don’t celebrate watching my ex-wife flirt with someone else?”

“For Yura,” Yuuri said. “He has little enough family…”

Finally, Yakov asked Victor, “Will there be mushroom soup?”

“Elena is making a traditional dinner,” Victor said. “If there’s no mushroom soup, I’ll make you a soup myself after Worlds.”

“Hmph,” Yakov said, but he finally nodded. “For Yura, then.”

The boxes from Hasetsu had been put away while they were at skating practice earlier in the week, and it felt almost like shopping from their own cupboards. Yuuri hadn’t packed the boxes to begin with, so much of the contents of their kitchen were pleasant surprises for him. Victor handed him a couple of gift bags, old tags hastily removed, and smiling, Yuuri started putting sweets into the bag.

Victor stared past him into the cupboard and asked, “How much chocolate does your mother think you can eat?”

“The last time I left the country long-term, she didn’t see me for five years,” Yuuri said. “This is supposed to last.”

“We do have chocolate in Russia,” Victor said.

Yuuri took a package, turned around to find Victor very close, ripped the package open, and popped a chocolate between Victor’s lips. “Don’t chew. Just let it melt.”

Victor’s eyes widened.

Yuuri grinned. “Vkusno, right?”

Victor nodded, standing there with chocolate melting over his tongue.

Yuuri leaned up and kissed him, stealing some of it back in the process.

Victor pulled away when the chocolate disappeared, held up a finger and said, “No more, or we’ll never get finished getting ready. Is there sake? I bet Lilia would like it.”

Yuuri pulled the other cabinets open and said, “I saw… where did I see…”

Victor pulled a high cabinet open and pointed. A dozen bottles of sake and a couple golden bottles of Yazamaki single malt sat on the shelf, along with a couple bottles of mirin.

Yuuri blinked, said, “But Okaasan knows I don’t… Oh!”

“What?” Victor asked.

“She sent them for exactly this,” Yuuri said. “Thank you, Okaasan!” He pulled down several bottles of sake and one of whiskey, thought for a moment, and grabbed a bottle of mirin, as well, setting each on the counter. “That takes care of the adults, with the chocolate.”

Victor started putting the bottles into a bag, and Yuuri handed him a couple kitchen towels to pad them with.

“I need to go get your present,” Yuuri said, and then added a firm, “Stay here.”

Victor started to say something and then laughed. “You know me too well.”

“Just well enough,” Yuuri muttered, as he went to find the wrapped gifts he’d brought from Japan.

Jamie drove them over to Lilia’s after sunset. “We haven’t had any serious incidents,” he said. “I don’t think people know where you even live right now. As long as you’re not going to church tonight…”

Victor shuddered. “I don’t think church wants me,” he said.

“It will be me and Gregor, then,” Jamie said, not looking over his shoulder as he drove.

“Gregor?” Yuuri asked.

“He’s the bodyguard for, what did Victor call him? The little hellcat. Little Yuri.”

“Has he been trouble for his bodyguards?” Victor asked.

Jamie snorted. “Not trouble. Just annoying. He doesn’t go out that much but argues the necessity constantly.”

“Does he need a guard?” Yuuri asked.

“We don’t know. But he’s been vocal in his support, and the online reaction here has not been kind to him. A lot of the younger people like him, but there are a lot of trolls speculating that he argues for Victor because he has a crush.”

“Ha!” Yuuri said.

“You don’t think I’m crush-worthy?” Victor asked.

“He wants to be you,” Yuuri said. “He’s more likely to get a crush on a tiger than on a human.”

“Fair,” Victor said, leaning over to try to peek in the bags he hadn’t helped pack. “What did you get him, anyway?”

“It’s for Yurio,” Yuuri said—moving the bag out of Victor’s reach—as if that explained everything.

It wasn’t that far, but so many turns that Yuuri lost track until they slowed in front of a row of ornate old buildings, well-lit with a warm, golden glow, shops with lit red signs on the bottom, apartments above, and the car turned into a barely noticeable garage entrance. The light inside was a harsh blue, and not enough of it, and they blinked as the car pulled forward and into a parking spot.

They shared the load of the packages, Yuuri waving off Jamie’s offer of help, and made their way into the building.

A few minutes and a short elevator ride later, they were standing at the door to Lilia’s apartment. A plump woman with greying hair opened the door and smiled up at them, gesturing for them to come in and speaking in Russian so fast Yuuri couldn’t keep up with it. He could, however, understand Victor, who said, «Yuuri speaks better English than Russian.»

She put a hand over her mouth, and said in heavily accented English, “Of course, I forget!”

Yuuri said, in halting Russian, «I want to learn, if you can go slow for me?»

She gave him a warm smile, and said, “I’m Elena, Lilia’s sister.”

Yuuri bowed politely and said, «It is nice to meet you.»

She reached up, patted his cheek, and said, “Come in, all of you! There is much food!”

They found Minako and Lilia in the sitting room, sipping tea and sitting close together on the settee.

“Have a seat,” Lilia said, gesturing at a formal sofa with lion’s feet.

The room seemed to match her aging elegance, and they sat down gently, lining the gift bags up on the oval, inlaid table in front of the sofa while Lilia poured tea from two separate pots.

A few minutes later, a knock at the door heralded the arrival of Yakov and Yuri, plus Gregor, and held snugly in Yuri’s arms, his cat, who leapt down the moment the door was closed and went to find her familiar places.

“Yura!” Victor called out. “Come in so I can find out what Yuuchan got you!”

“Presents after dinner,” Lilia said.

«Is there mushroom soup?» Yakov asked gruffly from the doorway.

«It’s Christmas Eve,» Elena said as she left the room to return to the kitchen. «Of course there’s mushroom soup. And sour cream for those who aren’t fasting. It’s all almost ready. Yuri, come help me.»

Yakov actually smiled at that, as Yuri followed Elena out and Victor quietly translated for Yuuri, explaining the fasting feast and Advent Lent.

“Should we not have eaten earlier, then?” Yuuri asked.

“You’re not Christian, and I’m so far from Orthodox right now that I think they’d chase me out of the church with pitchforks and torches,” Victor said. He looked over at Lilia, who was in quiet conversation with Minako, and said, «Are you observant? Is Elena? I would not offend with my blasphemy.»

Lilia snorted, and said in English, “My sister loves Christmas, all the trappings and ritual, but neither of us is in love with the teachings of the new orthodoxy. She’ll probably go to a service later, but she does not share their narrow views toward people like us. I used to go, but I won’t leave Minako alone here to go pay lip service with people who would just as soon see us dead.”

“So political,” Yakov muttered from the wing chair he’d taken over.

“I’m fed up, Yakov. I’ve given most of my life to lip service, and I’m done with it. I never would have hurt you so badly had I not made the mistake in the first place of trying to bend. I had so much pride in my flexibility that I broke the best things that ever happened to me. I’m not being political; I’m just… done.”

Minako’s hand slipped into Lilia’s. “Not broken,” she said. “Just delayed.”

Lilia looked over at her and smiled.

Dinner in the formal dining room was long and complex. As Elena served the dishes, Yuri and Victor explained them to Yuuri. Minako had already spent several Christmas Eves in Russia, and she offered Yuuri some commentary in Japanese that made him laugh. The meal was heavy on grains and legumes, meatless but for an elaborate baked salmon in an ornately shaped bread crust.

«It’s all kosher,» Elena said to Yakov early on.

He looked bemused, and said, «I don’t keep kosher, I just like Jewish food. I’ve never practiced Judaism—my father was Jewish, my mother was not. And even so, he didn’t practice either.»

She blinked at him, «But you told our mother…»

«Your mother was a terrible cook,» Yakov said. «And she used lard in everything, so it was a great excuse. How you managed to become such an excellent chef, I have no idea.»

Elena laughed. «Self defense.»

“Yakov, stop flirting with my sister and break the bread,” Lilia said.

“Oh god,” Yuri said.

“I wasn’t…” Yakov started to say, and then caught the amused look on Lilia’s face, and her pointed glance at Yuri. “Fine, I’ll break the bread, but I’m not going to pray about it.”

After dinner, they moved back into the sitting room, and Yuuri gave a bottle of sake to Yakov, and another to Elena and Lilia. Minako got both sake and the bottle of whiskey, which she accepted with a smile, but without the desperation he half expected.

Victor handed out the chocolates, and Yuuri took a neatly wrapped package over to Yuri.

“Not booze?” Yuri said.

“Just open it,” Victor said. “I’m curious.”

Yuri ripped the paper off, and opened the box, blinked, and then lifted up a full-body, adult-sized leopard kigurumi.

“It should be long enough, even when you grow,” Yuuri said. “It’s really warm.”

Yuri stared at it, mouth open, saying nothing.

“If you don’t like it, I can return it,” Yuuri said.

Yuri clutched it close.

Victor laughed. “He’s speechless.”

“Shut up, old man,” Yuri said, and then asked Lilia, “Do I have to go to church tonight?”

She shook her head, and he bounced off the ottoman he’d been sitting on and disappeared down the hallway, pajamas still clutched tight to his chest.

Yuuri grinned and reached back down into the bag, pulling out a book-sized rectangular package and handing it to Victor.

Victor blinked, and then with a sly grin said, “Could it be a book?”

“You’ll have to open it,” Yuuri said.

Victor slid his finger under the tape holding the ribbon closed and popped it loose, then did the same for the tape holding the package shut. When he pulled the paper neatly off, he said, “Chocolates?”

The box was vaguely book-shaped, but labelled for assorted chocolates. But when he lifted the lid, inside he found a picture frame. It took him a moment to process the picture of the two of them in the airport. “When was that?”

“When you were leaving for Russia,” Yuuri said. “A fan took it, and I persuaded her to send it to me, but not to post it yet. Had to bribe her with a selfie.”

“I love it,” Victor said.

“I planned to give it to you when I first got here, on your birthday, but…” Yuuri shrugged. “You know.”

“Ha, yes, things got busy, and you coming here was so much a gift,” Victor said. “You give me so much, my love.”

「You gave me everything,」 Yuuri said.

“Save it for later, boys,” Minako said.

Victor picked Yuuri’s hand up and kissed his knuckles, just as Yuri came back in, dressed as a leopard.

“I can’t leave you two alone for five minutes…” Yuri said, but his tone was more amused than annoyed.

“To be fair, you didn’t leave them alone,” Lilia said.

“It literally never stops them.”

They returned home late with nearly as many things as they’d brought, the most embarrassing of which was Minako’s gift to Victor, a small scrapbook of Yuuri’s childhood skating and ballet pictures, all the way back to his first wobbling steps on the ice.

As they got ready for bed, Yuuri asked, “Are we really doing nothing tomorrow?”

Victor looked over, looked Yuuri up and down, and grinned. “Well, not nothing.”

Yuuri blushed.

Chapter Text

After the brief lull of the first real day off either of them could remember in what seemed like forever, things only got busier and harder to track. Skating might only be two to three hours of concentrated work on the ice per day, but on top of that they were spending hours in the ballet studio, hours on strength training and jump training, and the rest of the time answering questions about ceremonies and vows and food and a million details that seemed utterly essential until they put the phone down.

Victor’s program was still a little rough. His planned elements called for four quads, but he kept muttering about downgrading one of them.

Yuuri took to the harness system and the new skates with ease, telling Victor, “I never knew how afraid I was of falling.” He was hitting the quad Lutz-triple loop so often on the harness that as soon as he was sure of it off the harness, he added it to his short program, replacing the quad toe-triple toe. When he swapped a quad flip in for the quad Sal he’d been doing, and ran the whole thing through without a bobble, Victor tackled him to the ice again.

On a whim, Victor and Yuuri ran through the Eros and Devotion routines sans music at the same time, and the close alignment of the program elements meant that aside from a little bit of footwork adjustment and changing two of the three spins to pairs versions on the fly, the programs were positionally compatible, though not identical. They were laughing at the end, when Yuuri, instead of wrapping his arms around himself, wrapped them around Victor and dipped him instead.

“So, are we going to do that to Devotion or to Eros?” Yuuri asked, breathless as he helped Victor stand.

Victor grinned. “Devotion at the wedding, and Eros for my exhibition next year.”

“Should we tell them or let them figure it out themselves?” Yuuri asked.

“If we go to the Olympics, we’ll tell them for the special,” Victor said with a grin. “Gloria will love that.”

Georgi, much improved by the absence of pining, offered to drag them out to a club before they left for the wedding, since he wasn’t going to be able to go to whatever Chris and Phichit had planned.

Inessa was standing nearby at the time and said, “Please don’t go there. You won’t be safe and we can’t keep you safe there.”

“Is there a better place?” Yuuri asked.

She glanced involuntarily at Georgi.

Victor said, “Hey, Georgi, let us consult with our security and then we’ll talk. We’d love to do something with you, but I don’t want to make it harder on them…” Victor turned back to Inessa and said, “Shall we go talk in Yakov’s office?”

When the door was closed, she said, “Thank you, I don’t want to spoil your fun, but we… I… There have been issues at that club in particular. He wouldn’t know because he goes with girls. But you two are known, and…”

“Is there a better one?” Yuuri asked, sitting in Yakov’s chair. “One where you’d feel like you could keep us safe?”

That got a sharp intake of breath, and she squared her shoulders, and said, “I could bring you to… This is not my only job. When I leave here, I go to a club, a… blue club. I’m a bouncer there.”

“Oh, are you a lesbian?” Victor’s ass was perched on the edge of Yakov’s desk, his ankles crossed in front of him as he frowned. “Oh, I probably shouldn’t ask that. I’m sorry. My mouth runs ahead of me.”

“I’m not,” Inessa said, and then made a decision. “I’m trans. There are very few people who know that… I transitioned in Thailand, did the legal name change in Moscow, and moved here, where no one knew me.”

Victor blinked. Yuuri smiled. “We hadn’t guessed.”

“It’s because I pass well that Stefan asked me to help,” Inessa said. “We all… You’ve been important to us for a long time, Victor, and the two of you together… We have hope that you, being you, might help change things.”

“Me?” Victor said. “I wasn’t out.”

“No, but you wore long hair and played up the ‘pretty’ even though people yelled at you for doing it, and you made them love you for it anyway. And then you kissed a man on national TV and danced with him on the ice in Russia, and we… When we learned you were brave enough to come home, we did everything we could think of to help.”

Max knocked at the door and opened it, “Everything okay?” he said.

“I was just explaining to them why they should come to Ledyanoy Led, rather than Tolchok. Including why I work there.”

Max slid into the room and closed the door behind him. “Ah. Everything?”


Max nodded and looked at Yuuri, then Victor. “It’s basically the same for me. Only I’m trans and bi, both.”

“So if we go there,” Victor said, “you’d be on duty there?”

“And you’d bring Tony and Jamie. That’s why you should go. It’s more of a potential target as a place, but there’d be four of us there, versus two at a place you’re guaranteed to be hassled,” Inessa said. “We’ve had three attacks in the past year at Ledyanoy, but they were small enough that four of us should be fine.”

Yuuri frowned, “We don’t have to… we could stay at home, invite Georgi over…”

“The only person you’ve had over is someone we’re already protecting,” Maxim said, frowning and running a hand over his stubble.

“I’ve had you here for a week and a half and I haven’t been able to show you anything or take you anywhere,” Victor said to Yuuri. “We can’t hide for the rest of our lives.”

Yuuri looked worried, but finally nodded with a soft, “Hai.”

Victor looked up and asked, “When would be best?”

“Whenever your friend wants to take you. It shouldn’t be too busy Thursday? Whether less busy is good, or a crowd would be more anonymous, I don’t know. We’ve had problems during both, but we’re usually fine with either,” Max said. “I should get back to the security cameras.”

“Have we had problems here?” Yuuri asked suddenly. “Ones you haven’t told us about?”

Inessa frowned. “No serious threat.”

“…That’s not nothing,” Yuuri said.

“We had a couple idiots saying they wanted to meet you, but they knew nothing about skating,” Inessa said after a moment. “They weren’t armed, and we told them not to come back.”

“They could have been new fans,” Victor said, troubled.

“They couldn’t even pronounce either of your names,” Inessa said. “At best, they were gawkers. At worst? Yeah, we sent them away.”

“That’s discouraging,” Victor said.

Yuuri put a hand on Victor’s arm, and said, “Thank you for your work keeping us safe. I’m sorry there’s been so much trouble.”

“It’s worth it,” Inessa said. “It’s been a dark time for us, you two have been a bright light.”

“What happens when we leave the country?” Victor said.

“Max and I are coming with to the competitions,” Inessa said. “We know skating better than Jamie and Tony.”

“We may end up in Japan for a while in the spring,” Victor said.

She shrugged. “We can find backups if necessary. Most of the places you go, you don’t need 24/7 coverage, just during public events and if you socialize away from the hotel. And do you feel like you need bodyguards in Japan?”

Yuuri shook his head. “Not at all. The otaku are excitable, but they’re not usually harmful.”

“Well, if you stop needing us, we can always come back to St. Petersburg, but in the meantime, we’re planning for full coverage in Ostrava, and event coverage in Korea and Finland. We’ll definitely be bringing all of us to the wedding, but that’s more to maintain your privacy than anything.”

“I’d think we’d be okay in Denmark and Finland,” Yuuri said.

“Your wedding is a day before…” She hesitated. “We’re worried that things might get intense, especially when you come back here. And no one quite knows what will happen when that man takes control in the United States. They say he’s Putin’s puppet, and that’s terrifying.”

“We’re going to Ostrava after Denmark. Then back here, maybe,” Victor said. “How much harm can one man do in what, a week?”

“I’m still not drinking,” Yuuri said, the fourth time someone offered him vodka at the club on Thursday.

Victor’s cheeks were flushed. “Aw, but it’s been more than a year since I’ve seen you dance on a pole.”

Their corner of the club was relatively calm, but only compared to the seething mass of bodies on the next level down. Georgi and his girlfriend were down there, but since Georgi was in full stage makeup and a glittering purple crop top, no one was giving them a second glance.

Yuuri rolled his eyes, stood up, and asked Tony, standing nearby and looking vaguely threatening, “How much trouble would it cause you if I danced on a pole for him here?”

Tony’s eyebrows went up for a split second, and then he said, “I can’t guarantee no social media if you go down there, but there’s a more private room…”

Yuuri grinned. “How private?”

“We collect phones on the way in, and it’s only people we know in there,” Tony said.

“You work here, too?” Yuuri asked.

“I own it,” Tony said. “With Jamie.”

“And you still come work for us at night?”

“Jamie can watch the cameras here from your place as easily as from here,” Tony said. “We have people we trust working here. We just look the part the best for what you need at your apartment. Don’t worry about it. Go have fun with your boy.”

“Victor,” Yuuri said. “Come on.”

Victor whined just a little about having to give his phone to Max on the way into the back room, but stopped very quickly when he saw the little stage. No one was using it, but there were a few couples necking in corners of the dimly lit room.

Victor found a seat near the base of the pole and sat in it, eyes fixed on on Yuuri.

Yuuri spoke to Max for a moment, then walked behind the small stage. He crouched down, out of Victor’s view, and when he stood back up again, he had lost the skinny jeans he’d worn to the club, along with his shoes, socks, the long sleeved shirt he’d been wearing, and any vestige of shyness.

Victor whistled, long and low, as Yuuri stared up at the pole, rubbing his hands together and then testing their tackiness. Yuuri sent a sly grin in Victor’s direction, then crouched and jumped, catching the pole and using it to swing himself up to the stage. He was wearing something with more coverage than a thong, but much less than the boxer briefs he’d worn in Sochi, and a tight black undershirt that accentuated more than it covered.

Yuuri started with some easy circles, testing muscle memory and the equipment alike, and then, when he looked comfortable, he shimmied up the pole, and then let himself swing back down in a controlled tumble.

“You’ll have to teach me this,” Victor said, just loud enough for Yuuri to hear.

“Maybe in the off-season,” Yuuri said, stretching at the bottom of the pole. “I pulled a hamstring the first time I tried it. I might have made the GPF a year earlier if I hadn’t.” He stepped back, and then made a graceful leap, catching the pole midair and letting his momentum carry him around again.

“You make that look so easy,” Victor said.

Yuuri grinned, grasped the pole with his thighs, and then arched his back, wrapping one leg around the pole above him, until he was looking at Victor upside down. “It’s not.”

“Jesus, Yuuri,” Victor said, his voice rough.

Yuuri laughed and flipped gracefully down to the stage, every movement controlled. “It’s like flying, a little,” he said, as he climbed back up, and tumbled back down, never losing control.

Victor was having a much harder time maintaining his. “I was thinking about having one of these installed in one of the rooms at the rink. But I’m thinking now, maybe the third bedroom.”

Yuuri swung back up, laughing. Victor found himself wishing for better lighting, fewer—no people. He stood, and waited until Yuuri was arching back off the pole again to step forward and run a finger along Yuuri’s skin.

Yuuri shivered, and laughed, and twisted, and the next thing Victor knew, he had an armful, Yuuri’s legs wrapped around him.

“The way I see it,” Victor murmured into Yuuri’s neck, “is we can either get you dressed and go out there and dance, or we can go home and continue this.”

Yuuri stretched, put his feet on the ground, and pulled away to duck behind the stage. He stood, jeans on, shirt tied around his waist, tank top and shoulders both damp with sweat, smiled slyly at Victor, and said, “I want to dance.”

Victor grinned, completely delighted.

Downstairs, they danced to a pounding beat until they were breathless, and then collapsed onto bar stools, laughing, to order club soda.

“I thought I would never see dancing Yuuri without champagne,” Victor said.

Yuuri grinned. “I’m just pretending you’re the only one here.”

Victor looked Yuuri up and down. “That’s a good look for you. I mean, I haven’t seen many looks on you I didn’t like, but this one…”

“I’m sweaty and wearing an undershirt,” Yuuri said, running his hand through his hair self-consciously.

“Exactly. You should skate that way someday.”

The bartender leaned over and said, “I’m with him on this. It’s a good look.”

Victor very deliberately picked up Yuuri’s hand and kissed his ring. “A very good look.”

The bartender laughed, flipped a towel over his arm and said, “Easy, girl, I know who you are. Wouldn’t dream of intruding. Can’t help admiring.”

At that, Victor grinned. “He’s impossible to look away from, right?”

Yuuri looked at the two of them, blushed beet red, and quietly shrugged his way back into his shirt.

“Aw, I was admiring,” Victor said. “You’ve been getting so strong.”

“I’ll show you later,” Yuuri said.

Georgi dragged his girlfriend over to the bar, his makeup running from the sweat of dancing.

«We’re going to have to introduce you to waterproof mascara, Zhora,» Victor said to Georgi.

The girlfriend laughed, and took a napkin from the bar. «Come on, let’s fix this,» she said.

«Restrooms are all-gender,» the bartender said.

«Thanks, Mishka!» she said, and dragged Georgi away.

Yuuri sipped his soda, looking dazed.

“You okay?” Victor asked.

“Hm? Oh, I’m just realizing that I skated for two hours, worked out off the ice for another six, and then came here and climbed a pole and danced for a couple hours. I’m really tired, Victor, can we go?”

“Hot bath?” Victor asked.

“Mmmm.” Yuuri nodded.

“Mishka, will you let Georgi know?” Victor said to the bartender.

He nodded.

Jamie and Tony fell in behind them as they left, without a word, and watched the street carefully as they climbed into the car.

The next morning, Yuri came over early for another round of shaving practice. Yuuri was still asleep and Victor was loathe to wake him, so Victor leaned against the counter and gave less than helpful advice while Yuri tried on his own.

Three nicks later, it was done, and they were making coffee.

“Should we wake up the Katsudon now?” Yuri asked.

Victor looked outside. “No, let him sleep. We were out late. I’ll leave him a note. Let’s walk to the rink! It’s not very far.”

“If the security people don’t mind,” Yuri said.

“We’ve got your guy and my two,” Victor said, scribbling a note and putting it on the counter with a cup of coffee and a thick slice of buttered rye bread. “I’ll have one of them stay here for Yuuri. It should be fine.”

“Just don’t expect me to jog,” Yuri said. “I’m saving it for the ice.”

“Walking is good for you,” Victor said.

“Are we taking Makka?” Yuri asked.

“He’s still asleep, Yuuri will bring him.” Victor slipped out of his house shoes by the front door, exchanging them for his street shoes. He picked up his bag.

Yuuri woke when the door slammed, and sat there confused for a long moment. He climbed out of bed—disturbing the dog—and made his way to the kitchen, looking for Victor. Without glasses or contacts in, everything was blurry, but it was obvious Victor wasn’t there. He went back into the bedroom and put glasses on, threw on clean clothes, and then went back out to the kitchen.

“Ah, Makka. A note.” He swallowed down the still-warm coffee as he read it.

He thought about putting contacts in, but didn’t want to take the time, so he grabbed the lens case, dropped it into the outer pocket of his backpack, put the backpack on, and went out the front door with Makkachin. Jamie met him, and said, “They’re walking. You should be able to catch up easily. I’ll follow in the car.”

They met on the bridge, Yuuri running, Victor and Yuri waiting, alerted by Makkachin’s bark. The arena was visible from the bridge.

“Look, Yuuri! My city!”

“It’s January,” Yuri said. “Brag about it in May, when it looks like something.”

“It’s not the inside of our apartment or a skating rink,” Yuuri said. “I love it. You should have woken me, I wanted to help Yura…”

“I shaved without you. He was no help.”

“I gave useful advice,” Victor said.

Yuri rolled his eyes. “You told me to go the other way, and I cut myself.”

“I meant the other other way.” Victor took Yuuri’s hand, and then dropped it.

“I don’t know why you love this shithole of a city where you can’t even hold hands.” Yuri kicked a rock between the posts of the railing, where it made a long arc and dropped into the water below.

Yuuri snorted. “I thought that would be a plus for you, us not holding hands.”

“Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean you should be afraid to do it,” Yuri said. “I’m not that much of an asshole.”

“Otabek’s visa cleared,” Yuuri said.

Yuri turned and stared, his expression wide open. “Really?”

“He’s coming in before us on the 15th,” Yuuri said. “He’ll probably meet us at the airport.”

That got an actual smile.

By the day before their flight to Copenhagen, Victor’s short and long programs were nearly finished. Not refined, just something he could actually skate most of the time without falling down or forgetting elements, and without looking too preoccupied by the task of remembering the order.

Yuri’s jumps were not improving, and Yakov threatened multiple times per day to pull him from the European championship. He’d already replaced his skates once since Victor and Yuuri had bought theirs, and new costumes were set to be delivered to the hotel in Ostrava because his existing costumes were both laughably short. In deference to his growth spurt, both costumes were dramatically simplified, made two-piece with longer shirt tails, and the hems were six inches deep, so that in a pinch, they could be let down on the fly. Echoes remained of his Grand Prix costumes, but with his growth spurt clearly nowhere near complete, they were echoes only.

Victor was loaning him clothes for the wedding, having attended formal events at nearly every stage of growth.

Hailey called to say that she and her immediate supervisor, the administrative assistant that Jack Reynolds had spoken so highly of, would be meeting them in Copenhagen with Mike and several other staffers, and that they’d found a better venue where they could do the wedding as scheduled, but also allow ample morning and some afternoon practice time. The facility was newer, and thus did not have as many established clubs, and the management was eager to cut a deal to improve the rink’s visibility and prestige on an international level.

“It may be an absurdly large place for such a tiny wedding,” Hailey said, “But it shouldn’t smell too much of hockey players yet. It’s really new.”

Their hotel was amusingly named “Axel,” but Hailey assured them she’d chosen it for the ambiance more than the name.

“We could have booked you into a hotel right next door to the rink,” she said, “but the pictures are about as bland as I’ve ever seen. I’m sure it’s very luxurious, but the one we’ve booked for you feels far more Danish.”

“Hygge?” Victor asked, sitting at their kitchen table, making a list for packing.

She laughed. “It’s the trendiest old hotel I’ve ever seen.”

“Sounds perfect,” Victor said.

“Trendy?” Yuuri asked.

“Think of it as militantly comfortable,” Victor said.

“Comfortable is good,” Yuuri said. “Is there a tub?”

“They have a big spa and a cold tub, a sauna, and also a bath in your room,” Hailey said. “It should be fine.”

“So what’s the full itinerary?” Yuuri asked. “I know we’re getting there tomorrow, but I’d thought we’d be leaving after the wedding, and there’s no confirmed flight?”

“Ah, Gloria got the people who took you to Japan and back to Russia to help out with that. They’re going from London to Ostrava on the 22nd, so they thought they’d pick you up then. They can take you back to Russia, after. Since we have more ice time than we thought, I hope this works. And this way any of your guests who want to come along to the event can. We’re happy to transport them home if they prefer. This gives you more time in Denmark, and since Ostrava is a little less open, I thought it might be nicer that way. Plus, the weekend is going to be a little strange, probably. There might be demonstrations, and if you’re traveling on the 20th or 21st you’ll run right into them.” Hailey paused, and then said, “The mood here is so bleak. I don’t know what it’s like in Russia, but it’s just really strange here. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“How old are you?” asked Victor.

“22,” she said with a laugh. “But my mom says she’s never seen anything like it either, and she’s been around a lot longer. Don’t for a second think that Americans are happy about what’s going on here.”

“We live in Russia,” Victor said.

“Right,” Hailey said, and there was an awkward pause. “Okay, so I’ll see you in Copenhagen.”

On the 14th they left Makkachin with Elena, at Lilia’s suggestion. When they arrived to drop him off, he trotted over to the spot in front of the fire like he’d lived there forever, curled up, and didn’t even blink when Yuri’s cat came and curled up on top of him.

“Yeah, okay, I feel better about this,” Victor said. “I still wish Makka could come to the wedding, but I don’t want to put him through flying cargo for a couple weeks.”

Yuuri Pole Dancing drawn by bowldeepfannish

Chapter Text

They flew commercial to Denmark on the 15th.

Victor was quiet on the tiny regional plane between St. Petersburg and Warsaw. Uncharacteristically so, sitting upright in the aisle seat in business class next to Yuuri, staring thoughtfully at his hands, twisting the ring that still sat on his finger.

Yuuri watched the tarmac slide by, slow as they taxied, then faster as the engines on the wing behind them whined to full throttle. He watched as the ground fell away, the plane angled sharply upwards as the improbable tube climbed rapidly to cruising altitude.

“We won’t be up very long,” Yuuri commented, and then looked over when Victor didn’t respond. Victor was still looking at the ring, bemused.

“Victor?” Yuuri said.

“Hm?” Victor looked over at him and smiled.

Yuuri smiled back. “You looked so thoughtful.”

Victor gave a small, sheepish laugh. “Stunned senseless, maybe. I guess it’s finally actually starting to feel real. I mean, that we’re going somewhere, together, with the express purpose of getting married. I’m still a little dazed that I actually get to marry you.”

“Surreal,” Yuuri said, sliding his fingers between Victor’s. “I feel like I should be telling you that.”

“Oh, please do.” Victor lifted their hands, and kissed Yuuri’s fingers. “You know, in Russia we wear wedding rings on the right. Are you wanting to move yours to the left?”

Yuuri held up his still-free right hand, and looked at his ring. “I hadn’t thought about it. I guess in Japan we usually do wear them on the left after the ceremony?”

“I just like the idea of your ring touching mine when we hold hands,” Victor said.

Yuuri laughed. “Victor.”

“Too cheesy?” Victor asked.

Yuuri blushed, kissed Victor’s ring, and said, “Just cheesy enough.”

They were in first class, such as it was, on another regional jet from Warsaw to Copenhagen. Between Yakov, Lilia, Minako, Yuri, Mila, Victor, and Yuuri, they had the entire section.

“Not as nice as Yuliya’s plane,” Yuri muttered, but he had his headphones in and didn’t hear Yuuri comment that they’d be on that plane again soon.

As Poland fell away, Victor watched the window past Yuuri so intently that Yuuri finally asked him if he wanted to switch.

“What? No, this lets me see you and watch for when we’re out of Eastern Europe at the same time,” Victor said.


“I’ve been reading about where in Europe people are against us, and mostly as you go farther west it gets better,” Victor said. “Poland isn’t the worst, but they keep turning down things that would allow us to marry.”

“So basically when we’re over the water, the next thing is Denmark,” Yuuri said.

“Right. So I’m watching.”

The winter-white random patchwork of the Polish countryside stretched out beneath them, but then disappeared beneath a white carpet of cloud.

“The next time we see land, it should be Copenhagen,” Yuuri said, as the plane turned slightly and all they could see was white cloud and impossibly blue sky.

Victor’s fingers squeezed his, and Yuuri turned back to Victor and smiled. “We’re almost there.”

Yuri was cranky and withdrawn until they landed and found Otabek waiting for them just past the security gate.

As they stood waiting for luggage, Victor nudged Yuuri and nodded back behind them. Yuuri looked back and grinned. “I don’t think I’ve seen him that happy since Christmas.”

“I don’t think he was that happy at Christmas,” Victor said. “I mean, he was happy, but this?”

“It reminds me of…” Yuuri started.

“Yeah,” Victor said.

The hotel was adorable and cozy. Hailey met them in the lobby, and launched into a bewildering explanation of every single thing that was going to happen in the next two days until Minako put a hand on her arm and said, “I think if you email each of us the relevant itinerary, we’d be happy to follow along. Is there anything my boys need to do tonight?”

Victor blinked at being included as one of “Minako’s boys.”

Hailey said, “Oh, of course! I’m just so happy to finally meet you all. No, nothing is planned for tonight. We have our film crew booked at the rink for photos there tomorrow mid-morning, but until then…”

Lilia smiled and said, “Then we should let our skaters rest. What time should we leave for the rink?”

“Oh, meet here in the lobby at 10,” Hailey said. “We’ll have the bus take you over. You’ll have the rink until two, but there’s at least an hour or two of magazine stuff in there. Oh, and one of the sponsors wants a—”

“I’m sure you can tell us tomorrow,” Minako interrupted.

Hailey handed out cute little key cards folios made of a rough paper covered in sketched flowers and birds, and pointed them to the elevators.

They were on the top floor, in a suite that was not expansive but had an interestingly bean-shaped freestanding soaking tub, a large bed covered with fluffy featherbeds, and warmly glowing, strangely pear-shaped lamps everywhere. After sliding his bags into the barnwood armoire and hanging his coat up on the mushroom-shaped knobs on the wall next to the door, Victor drew back the curtains to reveal the surrounding rooftops. The hotel was not especially tall as hotels went, but they were just above most of the surrounding buildings anyway.

The sky was a deep, darkening blue, twilight already setting in beneath a persistent overcast. In the distance, the bottoms of some of the clouds were blurred with falling snow.

Yuuri wrapped his arms around Victor from behind, leaning his head against Victor’s shoulder. “We’re actually here.”

Victor’s shoulder shook once with an amused chuckle. “Strange, isn’t it? How we can plan for something, take every possible action to make it happen, and still be surprised when it actually does.”

“I feel that way every time I look at you,” Yuuri murmured, so quiet that Victor suspected he wasn’t really meant to hear it.

He reached back to put his hand on Yuuri’s head, but when his hand brushed against Yuuri’s soft hair, the motion became a full turn, and an embrace, and then his face buried in the strands.

Yuuri pressed his face against Victor’s thick, cream-colored sweater, breathing in deeply.

“Four days,” Victor said.

“Three days, seventeen hours, and forty-six minutes,” Yuuri mumbled into the cashmere fisherman’s knit. “But who’s counting?”

Victor laughed and pulled back just enough to look at Yuuri. “I can’t wait.”

There was a cutely illustrated menu sitting on the side table, and the large bed in their suite was too inviting to bother going anywhere else.

Chapter Text

The next day, they ventured down for a “delicious and sustainable” breakfast in the hotel restaurant, where they discovered Phichit and Celestino, and  Christophe and his partner—who he introduced as Franz—had all shown up the previous evening.

“You should have messaged me,” Yuuri told Phichit.

Chris leaned over and said, “No one wanted to disturb you, and we were all tired.”

“Pretty much,” Phichit said.

“Did you bring your costume?” Victor asked Phichit.

“All three of them,” Phichit said.

“What…” Yuuri looked back and forth between Victor and Phichit.

“Everyone’s going to skate!” Victor said. “We can start off with Devotion, and then Phichit wanted to do something, and Chris promised to keep it clean… This way everyone gets ice time in without having to do a practice on our wedding day. Great, right?”

Yuuri blinked, swallowed, and said a little too brightly, “Sure. That will be great.”

“Yuuri, it’s just for fun,” Phichit said. “You’re getting married on the ice, everyone here cares about you, there’s no pressure.”

Yuuri nodded, but ended up staring into his muesli without actually eating it while the conversation swirled around him.

“Eat,” Victor said in his ear a moment later, startling him. “You’ll need the energy later.”

Yuuri nodded, and took a few bites.

Mila asked a little while later, “Are you two writing your own vows?”

Yuri laughed and said, “Victor will talk forever, and Yuuri-san won’t at first but then he won’t shut up.”

“We’re actually keeping it simple,” Victor said, and the table burst into laughed.

Victor frowned, while Yuuri tried not to smile. “What?” Victor said. “Why is that funny?”

Yakov looked up from the paper he’d been pretending to read and looked over his reading glasses. “Victor Nikiforov, you have not done anything simply in your life. We’re in Denmark, and you’re getting married in an ice rink. There’s a documentary film crew.”

“To be fair,” Lilia said, “for him that probably is simpler than getting married anywhere else.”

“Wait, film crew?” Yuuri said. “I thought I told them no…”

“We get control over the result, but they offered, and I thought we might want a video if people are going to be skating for us,” Victor said. “To look at later. And I know I probably won’t remember anything that isn’t on tape, and I want to remember it all.”

“Oh,” Yuuri said, and took another bite of muesli. “That’s just more people…”

“It’s Mike, if that helps?” Victor said. “You didn’t seem to mind him…”

Yuuri sighed with relief. “No, he was okay. I was just picturing all those people just staring at us while we’re getting married…”

“It’s just like…” Victor started, but Phichit cut him off.

“It’s not like a competition at all,” Phichit said. “It’s more like, remember when we used to goof for the other students back in Detroit?”

Yuuri nodded.

“It’s like that. It will be fun! We’ll make it fun. And you get to marry that guy sitting next to you. For real.”

Yuuri blushed, looked at Victor, blushed again, shook his head, and then started laughing as Victor wrapped his arms around Yuuri’s shoulders.

“It was the simplest way to use the music without trying to actually skate before the wedding when I’m going to be so nervous I’m worried about walking straight,” Victor whispered in Yuuri’s ear. “You seemed overwhelmed with it all, so I asked people and then everyone got all excited…”

“It’s fine,” Yuuri said. “I’m sure it will be fine.”

When they got to the rink—an airy new stadium more comparable to the large arena in St. Petersburg than the training rink they normally used—the magazine’s crew was there for photographs. Mike was rolling smoothly around on a modified Segway, a steadicam strapped to his body, calling out to one of the photographers across the rink.

When he spotted them, Mike rolled over and said, “I’ve got a new toy. If you guys want to just warm up normally, we’ll be getting set up. Oh, and I brought along someone you should meet. Gloria recommended him. Hey, Goldie!” Mike looked expectantly over at the stands near the big entrance.

The first thing they saw was a bright blue warmup jacket and a black knit cap, descending from the nosebleed seats, where a camera was being mounted. A pale, stout man in his late fifties, “Goldie” smiled as he stepped briskly down from the stands to join them in the wide entryway.  He had a rugged black messenger bag slung over one shoulder.

“Hey,” he said, with a friendly smile as he came to stand next to Mike.

“This is Goldie,”  Mike said.

“Sten Goldmont, but yeah, everyone calls me Goldie when they’re happy with me,” Goldie said.

“I’ve heard of you,” Victor said.

“Likewise,” Goldie said with a smile. “Gloria suggested I come meet you all. Suggested you might need someone to help with the detail work on the business side of things. I know you’re busy, and I don’t want to get in the way, but I was headed to Europeans anyway, and she had the crew here, so…”

Yuuri looked confused.  

“He’s an agent,” Victor said. “Usually works with the Americans.”

“That’s usually who American businesses want to hire, but, well, you’ve caught the attention of a marketing demographic some of the companies have been having a hard time with, so I think if you’re willing, we can probably do some good things for you.”

Yuri said, “Do you always refer to yourself in the plural?”

Goldie laughed. “Only when I’m talking about my ad agency. You must be Yuri.” He pronounced it the Russian way.

“Da,” Yuri said.

“Amazing short program in the GPF. Extraordinary. And Yuuri-san, I presume?” Goldie said, again nailing the pronunciation. “I saw your last couple of events. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more perfect free skate. Breathtaking, really.”

Yuuri blushed, and gave a small, reflexive bow in response to the praise.

“Wasn’t it amazing?” Victor said.

“It really was. I can see why you were so taken with him. So I know you two don’t have time right now to go over contracts and such, but I know at least three companies that would be interested, if you wanted to come to the US after Worlds. Don’t think too much about it now, I’ll be around.”

They nodded, and moved over to talk to Hailey. Behind them, Goldie said to Yuri. “And if you have some time to talk later, I’d love to get you signed on.”

“Why me sooner and them later?” Yuri asked.

Goldie laughed. “I’ve been married four times, kid. Those two aren’t going to have the focus right now. I thought you might like the distraction.”

Yuri shrugged. “Sure.”

“How many?” Victor said, his voice carrying. Yuri and Goldie moved over to join them, Otabek tagged along.

“We have six vendors who’ve given resources free of charge, who’d like to have photos crediting them in the magazine spread for Vague,” Hailey said. “You don’t have to do anything extra beyond the regular photo shoot, but there are some contracts…”

“May I?” Goldie asked.

Victor looked over, sighed with relief, and said, “Please.”

“Carry on,” Goldie said. “I’ll read through these and let you know if there’s anything you need to add.”

“We don’t have a contract with you yet, though?” Yuuri said, questioning.

Goldie waved him off, attention already on the contract. “We can talk about that later. Consider this a favor I’m doing for an old friend.”

“But we just met you,” Yuri said.

“My ex-wife recommended you highly,” Goldie said, his attention still focused on the forms.

“Who?” Yuuri asked.

Goldie looked up. “Left that part out? Oops. Gloria was my second wife. But don’t worry. We’re much better as friends. She may have shown questionable judgment marrying me, but she’s got an unfailing eye for talent. Anyway. You’ll want to sign with me soon enough. I won’t lose anything showing you why I’m worth it.”

A pen materialized in his hand from somewhere, and he pointed at the contract. “See, these things are bog standard, boilerplate, model release, blah blah. But I’ve got my own boilerplate, and we’re going to attach an addendum clarifying that they get to have their product name alongside yours in the magazine, but that for a scaled endorsement fee, you’ll add a few words that they can use in their marketing, and extra pictures not used in the the article.”


“Based on their audience size. You won’t have to do anything until after Europeans, and then it will just be a few words. I’ll suggest things. It’s a good way to maximize your return on your effort.”

Yuuri stared at him for a long moment, then said, “You’re hired.” Then he blinked and glanced at Victor. “I mean…”

“No, I think your instincts are good,” Victor said. “What’s your usual cut?”

“On deals where I do all the legwork of tracking down sponsors, setting up meetings, etc.? Twenty. If you’ve already made the contact and I just handle the paperwork? Ten. If you want me to go over your existing signed deals to make sure that everything is on the up and up? For you? Five percent. But all future deals go through me. I’m here to make your lives easier, and I aim to be worth your while. You’re about as busy as two people ever get, and it’s better if you don’t have to wait for the off season to make the connections I know how to make. In exchange, I look for ways to get you visibility, make your brand worth more, and help keep you from making career mistakes.”

“Fifteen percent on future deals,” Victor said. “We’re already successful, we already have very public personas, you’re not taking much of a chance on us, and since we’re mostly a package deal, it’s less work for you. And this excludes winnings. Those are already being siphoned for coaching and our skating federations.”

Goldie raised his eyebrows, and then smiled. “Fifteen it is.” He put out his hand, and shook Yuuri’s and Victor’s in turn. He turned to Yuri. “Well?”

“Fifteen?” Yuri asked. “Versa already signed me on a per appearance basis.”

“Twenty until age eighteen, then we’ll renegotiate,” Goldie said. “Assuming your parents agree.”

“Twenty until I am no longer a minor, if Yakov agrees. He’s my guardian,” Yuri said.

Goldie narrowed his eyes. “You’re fifteen.”

“And in Russia I can be emancipated at sixteen if I am doing enough ‘meaningful economic activity’ and my guardian agrees. You make the agreement with Yakov now for twenty. If I become emancipated, we’ll talk then,” Yuri said. “They won’t emancipate me unless I’ve got steady income, so it’s not a losing proposition for you.”

Goldie laced his fingers together in front of his chest, tented his index fingers together and brought them to his lips, considering. He finally tipped his head to one side, pointed at Yuri, and said, “You’ve got a deal.” Then he looked at Otabek. “You two a package deal, too?”

Otabek snorted. “I have an agent in my home country. I haven’t caught the international imagination the way the rest of them have, and Kazakh businesses require a local touch. And I don’t really need the money.”

“Everyone needs money,” Goldie said. “But if things change, you’ll know how to find me.”

They spent the next few hours alternating between practice for Europeans, photo shoots with the camera crew, signing documents, and going over details with Hailey.

“Everything should be here tomorrow,” Hailey said. “Flowers, props, etc. We’ll be able to do a full run-through on Thursday. You can meet Harald then, too. He seemed like a real sweetheart when I talked to him.”

Yuri and Otabek disappeared sometime in the early afternoon, there during one pass and gone while everyone else was distracted with a particularly involved pose for the photographers.

When Victor asked Yakov where Yuri had gone, Yakov sighed. “With his friend.”

“I would think you’d be more upset at him skipping out so close to a competition.” Victor slipped his guards on, and stepped off the ice, with Yuuri right behind him.

“I would put the odds of him actually skating at Europeans at less than ten percent,” Yakov said. “Every time I suggest withdrawing to him, he screams at me.”

Yuuri stood up from putting his guards on. “So low?”

“He’s hurting enough that it’s affecting his jumps but not so much that he’ll tell me. The last time he was this snappy with me, he ended up in Japan,” Yakov said. “I won’t let him skate if he’s really hurt, and he knows that, but I just don’t want to have that particular screaming match this week. I’m glad he’s taking the time off. But he’s barely landing triples out of harness, and hasn’t improved this week. If anything, he’s worse today than he was two days ago. I sent a message to his friend telling him that he’s got my blessing to distract Yura from skating as much as possible right now.”

“You’re using Otabek?” Yuuri asked as they moved over to a bench to take their skates off.

“Well, Otabek won’t tell me tales behind Yura’s back. He’s a good friend. But that doesn’t stop him from listening to me. Yura says it’s growing pains, and what I’m seeing isn’t inconsistent with a growth spurt… If Otabek knows they won’t get in trouble from me, he’ll feel more free to keep Yura from overdoing.”

“Even after how he helped with Yura’s exhibition?” Victor said slyly.

Yakov snorted. “It’s an exhibition. Yura deserved to blow off some steam. Plus it was worth seeing the look on Lilia’s face…”

Victor blinked at Yakov. “You put him up to it.”

“I didn’t. Much.” Yakov kept his face composed.

Victor grinned. “Yakov, you devil.”

“I might have suggested that exhibitions didn’t have rules and that it was a good place to show people what he’s really about,” Yakov said. “He wound himself so tight over not being ‘perfect’ in his free skate that I figured it would be good for him.”

“I remember being 15 and wanting to scream to the rooftops that I wasn’t a child,” Victor said.

“It’s like cosmic payback that his growth spurt came right after,” Yuuri said with a sly smile.

That evening, Chris, Franz, and Phichit dragged them through the red light district near the hotel to a gay strip club for a bachelor party. The club wasn’t empty, but on a Monday evening in a snowstorm, it wasn’t packed, either. Victor slipped money to a bartender and Phichit dragged Yuuri onto the dance floor while Victor, Chris and Franz made their way back to a private little nook, luridly lit, with curved padded leather benches surrounding a private dance pole.

“I don’t know which is worse,” Chris said to Victor half an hour later as they watched Phichit and Yuuri dancing well, but tamely, halfway across the room, through the opening of the nook. “That you’re both here, which means that I can’t debauch either of you, or that Yuuri won’t drink.”

“Yuuri doesn’t have to drink,” Victor said. “He wants to remember. And it doesn’t take booze to get him up on a pole.”

“He won’t do that with me, sober,” Chris said. Next to him, Franz snorted.

“You don’t understand,” Chris said, turning to his boyfriend. “It’s so much fun dancing that way with someone who really knows what they’re doing. He’s really an amazing dancer.”

Franz stretched his arms across the top of the booth and shrugged. “I’d watch you on a pole with or without him.”

“Maybe I’ll ask him,” Victor said.

Across the room, Yuuri and Phichit were laughing and doing some convoluted and silly dance—perfectly synchronized—that it was clear they’d done many times before.

“What?” Yuuri said, his gaze darting back and forth between Chris, Victor, Franz, and Phichit before coming to rest on the pole.

“I was wondering if you’d be willing to show how amazingly beautiful you can be up on the pole,” Victor said. “It’s not like you need to do a striptease.”

“I’ll do it, too,” Christophe said. “I love pole dancing with a partner.”

“There’s hardly anyone here,” Phichit said. “And it’s super private.”

“Except you and your thousands of followers,” Yuuri said, rolling his eyes. “Like you would be able to resist…”

“I’ll give my phone to Victor,” Phichit said. “And Christophe would murder me dead, anyway.”

“I’m just going to be looking at Chris,” Franz said.

“Liar,” Chris said, grinning.

Franz shrugged. “Mostly.”

“You really want me half naked on a pole with Chris?” Yuuri asked Victor.

“You’re both very talented dancers,” Victor said. “But if you’re really not comfortable…”

“He never let me come watch,” Phichit said. “Closest I ever got was that picture I already showed you.”

“I’ll just do it alone,” Chris said. “If you don’t mind?”

Yuuri raised his eyebrows and gestured at the pole. “It’s all yours.”

Fifteen minutes later, Yuuri swiped the rest of Victor’s drink and tossed it back before Victor could stop him. Yuuri frowned as a sweet artificial vanilla taste registered and said, “What is that?”

Victor blinked, and said, “It was a Gay Russian. Yuuri, what… I thought you didn’t want…”

“You really ordered a Gay Russian? I thought you had that covered?” Yuuri said, starting to grin.

“It was either that or a Flaming Cocksmack, but Chris thought that handing me a drink that was actually on fire was probably a bad idea,” Victor said.

“I’m going to have to look at that drink menu,” Yuuri said, “but maybe after I dance.”

“I thought you didn’t want to forget?” Victor said.

“Don’t let me down too many too fast,” Yuuri said.

“I couldn’t stop you from getting that one,” Victor muttered as Yuuri pulled off his shirt.

“So what’s in a Gay Russian?” Phichit asked from across the nook before taking a sip of his lime daiquiri.

Chris arched his back up near the top of the pole and looked at Phichit upside down. “Yuuri, later, is my guess.”

Phichit did a spit-take, as Victor said calmly, “Oh, I do hope so. But this has vanilla vodka and Irish cream.”

Yuuri stood up—stripped down to his low-rise boxer briefs—and said, “Not if you guys keep making that kind of crack.”

“Technically,” Franz said, “the Gay Russian is in Yuuri right now.”

Phichit started coughing. Victor tried to look contrite and failed completely. He settled on leaning over and flagging down a rather sparkly waiter to order a Blue Moon.

Yuuri called up his move to Chris, and joined him on the pole.

Pole dancing with Chris sober was nothing like pole dancing with his college classmates, Yuuri decided. In part because he’d spent a lot more years in dance training than most of Yuuri’s former classmates, but mostly it was strange being the small one.

About ten minutes in, Yuuri realized he was having a blast. They were mostly figuring out what they could do, while poking fun at Victor, who kept turning pinker and pinker. It didn’t feel particularly sexy to Yuuri, mostly because he was focusing on not dropping Chris or falling off the pole.

When they went into a standing seat hang, with Yuuri head down facing the pole, Chris holding him around the waist, while his legs arched out, Phichit said, “How the hell does he do that without getting an erection?”

Chris laughed and said, “Because I’m not Victor.”

“All right, fair,” Phichit said, as Yuuri brought his legs up to catch the pole.

“Hey, even I don’t get erections while I’m doing the serious stunts on the pole,” Chris said, stepping down and reaching up to give Yuuri a hand down. “Not when I’m mostly sober, anyway.”

Yuuri stepped into his pants, but Victor reached out and snagged him over into his lap before he could get the shirt on. Yuuri snagged Victor’s martini glass but didn’t even get a sip of the ridiculous purple cocktail before Victor swiped it back and held it out of reach.

Yuuri made a pouting whine and made a grabby hand at the drink.

“You don’t want it,” Victor said. “You told me.”

“Usually he wants ten of them if he wants any,” Phichit said.

“Yeah,” Victor said. “But that’s usually because he wants to forget something he think he’s going to be embarrassed by. And he’s got nothing to be embarrassed about. Anyway, as pretty as this drink is, it tastes mostly of babushkas.”

Yuuri wiggled a little on Victor’s lap and Victor’s head dropped back. He barely managed to keep from spilling the drink, and Yuuri took advantage of the opportunity to snag it and taste it.

“Oh my god, Victor, why did you order a drink that tastes like soap? Sweet soap?” Yuuri set the drink down on the little table in front of them and wiped his tongue with the back of his hand.

“I thought it was going to be citrus,” Victor said. “In the tropics they use Blue Curaçao.”

“You should order something better and let me taste it,” Yuuri said.

Phichit picked up the drinks menu and said, “They have a strawberry champagne blended daiquiri that looks like it might be both tasty and hard to rush.”

“When did I turn into the grownup?” Victor asked aloud, as he flagged down their waiter.

“You wanted me to pole dance,” Yuuri said. “And I wanted to. But there was no way that was going to happen completely sober.”

The strawberry daiquiri arrived just as Yuuri was sliding back into his shirt, and Victor insisted on keeping the glass under his control. Yuuri retaliated by insisting that Victor spoon-feed him, and ended up stretched along the bench with his head on Victor’s thigh, opening his mouth for bites like a baby bird.

They ambled back to the hotel later, flanked loosely by a far-more-relaxed-than-usual Inessa and Max, to find Yurio and Otabek in one of the lounges on the ground floor in front of a fireplace, Otabek reading a paperback, and Yurio curled up with his head on a pillow on Otabek’s leg, staring at his phone.

“Yurio!” Yuuri called out, a little too brightly, both arms wrapped around one of Victor’s, leaning sloppily against his fiancé.

Yuri startled, and his eyes narrowed. “You gave him alcohol?” he said to Victor accusingly as he sat up, his expression pained.

“He had maybe two servings worth out of mine. I had more than he did,” Victor said. “And I’m not even drunk.”

“I’m right here, and I’m not drunk, I’m just happy.”

“Your fucking judgment is impaired, Katsudon,” Yurio snapped. “Come on, Otabek.”

“Stay,” Victor said. “We’re going up.”

“I don’t fucking want to know,” Yurio said, settling back down against the pillow. “Go away.”

“We’re going to the spa,” Chris said. “Come with us, Phichit?”

Phichit grinned. “I’m going to assume that you two aren’t?” he said to Victor.

Yuuri had snaked a hand down to Victor’s ass. Victor blinked, shook his head, and said, “Another time.”

“I bet,” Phichit said, laughing. “Have fun, kids.”

Yuuri’s lips were on Victor’s neck as soon as the elevator doors closed. Victor fumbled past him for the button for their floor, fumbled again for his key card, his eyes rolling back and knees buckling as Yuuri found his earlobe and sucked on it gently.

“Kotenok, please, the elevator,” Victor groaned as one of Yuuri’s hands slid down his side. “We have a bed.”

“I saw you watching me and Chris,” Yuuri murmured against his neck.

“Only you,” Victor said.

Yuuri chuckled. “You don’t have to lie for me. I wanted you to watch us both.”


The elevator dinged, and the doors slid open, and Yuuri backed out, dragging Victor by the wrist. Another fumble at the door, and they were in the hotel room.

“What do you want, Vityenka?” Yuuri said, leaning against the wall as Victor put his key on a side table.

Victor looked over at him, and said, “For you to call me that again.”

“Vityenka. What else?”

“What do you want, Yuuchan?”

“I want to strip for you, and then I want you to fuck me, and then I want to fuck you,” Yuuri said. “I could be persuaded to reverse that.”

“I’d forgotten how forward you can be,” Victor said with a smile. “Yes, I’d love that.”

Yuuri pulled his phone out of his pocket and thumbed over to a little-used playlist. The sound of a sultry, slow blues song started, and he let his gaze slide up to Victor.

Victor’s eyes were fixed on Yuuri as he stepped back, feeling awkwardly for the bedpost before sitting on the edge of it.

Yuuri let his lips curl into his most seductive smile, and let his hands wander up with the purring alto hum of Melody Gardot, pulling his shirt up a little, letting it slide back down.

A twist of the hips, a button here, a button there—Yuuri took his time, letting his shirt fall open as he slowly, slowly walked toward Victor, who sat with eyes wide and hands slack at his sides.

“You wanted to see it,” Yuuri said.

“You didn’t need to drink for me,” Victor murmured. “Are you okay?”

Yuuri grinned, and dropped his shirt. “I think I like swiping yours,” he said, then turned around and looked back at Victor as he unbuttoned his trousers. “I don’t feel like I can get my own, so I don’t go through them so fast. I wanted more, at first, but it’s okay.” He slid the trousers down over his ass a little with the music, then back up.

Victor made an incoherent little noise, and Yuuri let them fall, stepping out of them gracefully and turning back around. Still wearing his boxer briefs, he stepped the last step forward and pushed Victor back on the bed.

“I’m still— I still have clothes on,” Victor said.

“Shh,” Yuuri said, climbing up to straddle him and putting a finger on Victor’s lips. “All in good time.”

“Ve… very good time,” Victor said past Yuuri’s finger. Then he caught Yuuri’s wrist and sucked the finger into his mouth.

Yuuri groaned and involuntarily ground down against Victor, then lifted up again to replace his finger with his mouth. Victor reached up, but Yuuri caught Victor’s wrists and brought them back down to the bed, pinning Victor there.

Victor grinned and planted his feet to push his hips up under Yuuri, who in turn hooked his bare feet back over Victor’s thighs to hold him in place. Victor tested the hold, and Yuuri pulled back to look at him.

“You have me pinned,” Victor said. “Whatever will you do with me?”

Yuuri considered, and then said, “What can I do with you?”

“Right at the moment,” Victor said, “I’m pretty sure there’s nothing you’d want to do to me that I wouldn’t want you to do to me.”

Yuuri grinned, but then said, “Do you need a safeword?”

“Will you stop if I say nyet or stop?” Victor asked.

Yuuri’s eyes widened. “Of course.”

“Then no, I don’t,” Victor said.

Yuuri let go of Victor’s wrists. Victor started to reach up, and Yuuri shook his head. “Stay.”

Victor’s hands dropped slack against the bed, and Yuuri smiled, reaching for the buttons on Victor’s shirt. “I want to unwrap you,” he said. “You’re a gift, you know? Precious to me beyond measure.”

Victor watched him, eyes wide, as Yuuri carefully pushed each button back through the buttonhole. When the last one came undone, Yuuri spread the shirt open and sat back on his heels, looking down at Victor.

“Some days I look at you and I wonder how on earth it is possible that I get to touch you,” Yuuri said. “You used to be paper, and pixels, and unattainable dreams.”

“That always feels like someone else,” Victor said softly.

Yuuri moved off of Victor then, so that he could run a line of kisses from the small tuft of silver hairs just above Victor’s belt up to one of his nipples. Victor’s breath caught as Yuuri’s tongue traced a tingling circle around the tip. “Yuuchan,” Victor breathed.

Pushing the shirt farther open, Yuuri nuzzled his way up to Victor’s neck, where he lingered, teasing and nibbling. When the shirt wouldn’t open any further, Yuuri pulled back, and turned his attention to Victor’s trousers.

Victor started to bring his arms up to get the shirt off, but Yuuri shook his head. “In time.”

He moved slowly, opening the fly on the pants, and then carefully bringing them down, leaving Victor’s bikini underwear on. “You’re better, you know, Vityenka.”

“Better?” Victor asked.

“Than your image. I used to look at you and think ‘He’s so perfect, how is it possible for someone to be that perfect?’”

“Photoshop,” Victor said.

“But you’re better than perfect,” Yuuri said. “You’re real. Everything you are, everything you achieve, and you’re still not afraid to fail.”

Victor laughed. “I’m terrified of failing, but fear makes me stubborn.”

Yuuri dropped down to the floor to pull Victor’s trousers completely off and lingered, pulling each sock off in turn. “I love your feet.”

“They’re terrible right now,” Victor said, with a startled laugh at the change of subject. “I thought I wasn’t slacking off in Japan, but the training schedule…”

“Knowing that you have to work for it, too, makes it easier for me,” Yuuri said. “Everyone always said that I wasn’t talented, that I just worked harder than everyone else.”

Victor let out a disbelieving laugh. “You have more talent in your right toe than they have imagination in their entire bodies.”

“But I’m glad they didn’t tell me I was talented,” Yuuri said. “The fact that I was able to learn things even when they were hard meant that I didn’t give up. It might have been easier still if they hadn’t kept pointing at people and saying how talented they were. I love your feet because they aren’t perfect and they show how much you work.” He ran a finger up Victor’s ankle, and followed it with kisses up the inside of Victor’s calf. Victor let his knees fall open.

Yuuri grinned. “So eager.”

“You’re killing me slowly,” Victor said. “Please continue.”

With a chuckle, Yuuri brushed his hands up Victor’s legs, lightly, just enough to ruffle the tiny hairs and send a shiver all over Victor’s body. Victor’s bare toes curled against the carpet.

“Move farther up,” Yuuri said, and Victor scrambled until he was stretched out on the bed, leaving his shirt behind.

“You didn’t try to seduce me when you were on the pole,” Victor said as Yuuri climbed onto the bed and knelt, considering.

Yuuri grinned. “It worked anyway.”

Victor’s belly tightened with a sharp laugh. “True.”

Yuuri reached out, fascinated, trailing a finger across the muscles.

“Aiee, tickles,” Victor said.

“Do you want me to stop?” Yuuri asked, sliding two fingers up along Victor’s ribs. “If you breathe through it, it might be something else.”

Victor inhaled sharply, and then deliberately slowed his breathing, letting the sensation happen. What has started out as a tickle turned into something far more erotic with the issued challenge. “Keep going.”

“Try to stay still,” Yuuri said, fingers tracing feather-light along Victor’s skin. Little shudders seemed to ripple across Victor’s entire body as he fought to control his breath, his body.

“What do you feel?” Yuuri asked.

“God, Yuuchan. You touch my stomach and I feel it in my toes. Everywhere.”

Yuuri grinned, and traced his fingers up Victor’s sides. “Stretch your arms back up.”

Victor did, and then swore, arching his back and grinding his pelvis up into the air as Yuuri bend over him, still teasingly light with his fingers, now tracing swirls from his armpits out to the insides of his elbows as his lips found one of Victor’s nipples.

“Please, solnishka, can we take off the rest?” Victor panted.

Yuuri glanced down, laughed, and freed Victor’s cock, sliding the last of Victor’s clothing off and abandoning it at the foot of the bed. “Where was I?” Yuuri asked.

“You were going to let me fuck you,” Victor said hopefully.

“Eventually,” Yuuri said. “I think I was driving you quietly out of your mind. Breathe.”

And with that, his hands resumed their slow tease. Victor groaned.

“Tell me if it’s too much,” Yuuri said.

“I… in a good way… keep going…”

Yuuri laughed and stretched out next to Victor, which made it harder for one hand to move, but allowed him to use his toes along the inside of Victor’s leg while his fingers traced maddening lines and his lips teased at a nipple.

Victor was panting, his breath short and shallow, his skin flushed, vibrating with the effort to keep still. “Yuuri, please…”

Yuuri stopped everything.

“No, don’t stop,” Victor said. “Just, I’m so close, and I want to be in you.”

“Condom?” Yuuri asked.

Victor rolled, and pulled one from under his pillow, and a packet of lube.

Yuuri shifted off the bed.

“Come back,” Victor said.

Yuuri gave an absolutely wicked grin and said, “When I’m naked. Watch me.” With that, he turned around and slid his underwear slowly off, bending at the waist.

Victor lunged forward, fingers tracing down the line of Yuuri’s ass, to the silicone base now visible. “Yuuri,” he breathed. “How long have you had that plug in?”

“I put it in right before we left the club,” Yuuri said.

“May I…” Victor asked, his fingers already tracing the perimeter.

“Please,” Yuuri said, shifting his stance a little and deliberately relaxing as Victor added a little lube to his fingers and gently twisted the plug.

“I didn’t even know you had this,” Victor said, giving an experimental light traction, his eyes widening at the amount of stretch.

Yuuri breathed slowly, deliberately, and applied just a little pressure, and it slid out. “I thought it might let us play sooner,” Yuuri said, as Victor set it aside. Yuuri stood. “Back on the bed, please.”

“Should I put the condom on?” Victor asked. Yuuri didn’t answer, just plucked it out of Victor’s fingers, tore the packet open, pinched the tip and rolled it onto Victor’s cock.

“That works, too,” Victor said, as Yuuri followed it with lube.

Yuuri straddled Victor, but didn’t take him in. “Remember that first time?” Yuuri asked. “When I sat like this on you, teasing you like this?” His fingers deftly rolled Victor’s nipples, and Victor made  a rippling grind under him.

“I remember,” Victor said, watching Yuuri.

“I was shy, when you asked me to lift, so you could adjust yourself.”

“I didn’t want to rush you,” Victor said.

“I could feel your cock just like this,” Yuuri said, reaching back to where Victor’s length bumped against his lower back. “And when you were in Russia, I thought about what it would have been like if, when I’d shifted for you, I’d let you do this, instead.”

And with that, he shifted upwards, centered Victor’s cock and slid down on it in one long, slow slide. “Fuck me, Vityenka. Let go.”

Victor shouted, and thrust up into Yuuri, his hands coming down to Yuuri’s hips as he finally let his body move. Yuuri ground down against him, but Victor soon flipped them both over to get more room to move, his hands everywhere, mouth latching onto Yuuri’s neck as he pumped frantically.

Yuuri wrapped his legs around Victor and tightened around him, and it sent Victor over the edge with a gasping cry.

Victor went limp on top of Yuuri, his body twitching with little aftershocks. Yuuri tightened around him again, and Victor gasped and reached for the condom to pull out.

“Shall I get you ready, or do you need a break?”

“I can’t feel my feet,” Victor mumbled. “Go right ahead.”

Yuuri laughed and found another condom and the rest of the lube. Victor was so relaxed when Yuuri tested with a finger, that he just lubed everything liberally and said, “Tell me if anything hurts.”

Victor nodded, and watched through lidded eyes as Yuuri pressed the head of his cock to Victor’s opening, and with the gentlest pressure, eased his way in.

“Sorry I didn’t think to prep the way you did,” Victor murmured.

“Don’t…” Yuuri gasped, “…apologize.” It was slower, without the extensive prepwork they usually did, but Victor was relaxed, blissed out in a post-orgasmic haze. Yuuri waited when he felt a slight spasm, moving when it released, and then slowly, slowly thrusting, first small thrusts and then longer and longer slides. He added the last of the lube as he pulled almost all the way out, and then was able to slide deep, deep in.

“Fuck,” Victor said.

“That’s the idea. Too much?”

“Fuck ice skating, this is what I was born for,” Victor said.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Yuuri said, and then rapidly lost the ability to speak as Victor tightened around him, encouraging him to move with his heels on Yuuri’s ass.

After, they lay limp next to each other, fingers entwined, shoulder to shoulder in the warm hotel room, staring at the fabric that draped over the four-poster bed.

“Wow,” Victor said.

Yuuri grinned. “Yeah.”

“I hope you had as much fun as I did,” Victor said. “Any time you want to try something like that…”

Yuuri chuckled silently and then said, “It might be a while before I work up the nerve again.”

“The nerve?” Victor asked.

“It’s like for skating Eros, where I have to get into a specific mindset to tell that story,” Yuuri explained. “I like doing it, but it’s definitely not the most natural thing for me.”

“Was that changed your mind about the alcohol?” Victor asked, “Wanting to do this?”

“That was more about the pole dance and wanting to see if there was any way to have ‘some’ rather than ‘all’ of the drinks,” Yuuri said.

“We could have ordered you something,” Victor said. “But you don’t have to do anything for me that requires you to drink first to get there.”

“I am an extreme person,” Yuuri said. “Drunk or dry. Shy or out there. Virgin or Eros. I didn’t know if I could do moderation, but you’re the first person I’ve drunk with who hasn’t pushed me to that particular excess when I asked you not to. It can be hard for me to stop after the first drink. I love Phichit to death, but he tended to egg me on. Takeshi, too. I wanted to try.

“It’s a lot easier to find and less likely to get me in trouble with the law or the ISU than some of the meds they’ve suggested, but I don’t want to make a habit of medicating with something that’s so easy to abuse. But it was nice being able to relax completely without getting smashed.”

“I spend all of my professional life in complete control of my body,” Victor said. “And my public life was so tightly controlled that taking an occasional vacation from that with alcohol sometimes felt like the only sane response. It let me feel less alone. But I haven’t gotten drunk, not even tonight, since the Grand Prix Final. Do you know why?”

Yuuri shook his head and rolled onto his side to make it easier to look at Victor. “You got drunk in Hasetsu a lot.”

“It was the first time in my life I’d truly thrown caution to the wind and I was terribly afraid that I’d made a huge mistake,” Victor said. “Getting drunk was a…” he searched for the word. “A release. The handle on a faucet, opening it up…”

“A valve?” Yuuri asked.

“Valve, yes. Once it became clear that throwing myself at you wasn’t the right course of action, it let me control myself more when I was with you. And it was really obvious that it didn’t help to drink when we were together. I don’t need it now like that.”

“I’m sorry it took so long,” Yuuri said.

Victor shook his head, rolled onto his side, and stroked Yuuri’s cheek. “I’m not. This is a jump we’ve worked for, and I think we are doing a better job of it for the time it took getting here.”

“I like the idea of being able to have a little of what you’re having,” Yuuri said. “It lets me tell people no when they offer, but still have some.”

“And it’ll keep me honest if I know that I need to watch how much I’m drinking because I know you don’t want to get blackout drunk.”

“I think I like this,” Yuuri said. “It’s relaxed without being out of control.”

“You are amazing,” Victor said. “I feel like I should tell you that more.”

Yuuri blushed. “It’s easier to hear when I’m a little buzzed.”

“If I wasn’t completely boneless, I’d be jumping you again right now,” Victor said.

“I think I’m good,” Yuuri said with a laugh. “We do have rehearsal tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri woke up the morning with a feeling of impending embarrassment that never quite managed to land, and Victor handing him aspirin and a glass of water.

“I don’t think I need the aspirin,” Yuuri said, downing the water. “I really didn’t drink that much.

Victor smiled. “You were amazing last night.”

“Like me better a little tipsy?” Yuuri said slyly.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Victor said, taking the water glass back. “It’s not possible for me to like you better than I do already. It was just a surprise.”

Yuuri lay back and closed his eyes, smiling. “It felt good to let go.”

The blankets shifted, and Victor slid back into bed next to him. “You’re still naked.”

“I’m wearing blankets,” Yuuri said.

Victor grinned. “Ah, but I’m inside the blankets now.”

“How soon do we have to get up?” Yuuri asked.

“I think we have a little time,” Victor said, and disappeared entirely under the covers.

A moment later, Yuuri was not relaxed in the least.

The rest of Tuesday was more practice and more cameras, only this time Victor and Yuuri ended up with Mike and the photography crew out and about with their skates at a public rink downtown. The ice was too rough to jump, but it was picturesque, the sun was streaming between the clouds after days of overcast, and the thin layer of snow on the ground from the night before sparkled where the sun hit it. They took a few pictures in their wedding clothes, and then switched to more sensible training clothing.

They signed autographs and posed for selfies and posed for the magazine and bought cups of hot spiced glögg at a little café.

When they got back to the hotel late that afternoon, Yuuri’s parents were sitting in front of the fireplace, snuggled under a crocheted afghan together, reading.

“Okaasan!” Yuuri said to his mother. 「I’m so sorry I wasn’t here when you arrived!」

She laughed. “It’s fine. We expect you to be busy.”

Victor made polite bows to both of Yuuri’s parents, and said, 「Thank you for coming. Please eat with us tonight?」  

Yuuri’s father nodded. “It will be good to have a meal with all of us, together.”

“I’m sure it won’t be as good as your cooking, Okaasan, but I’m happy for you to have the vacation,” Victor said with his most charming smile.

Hiroko blushed and Yuuri rolled his eyes.

“Where’s Mari?” Yuuri asked.

“With Minako and the other ladies,” Hiroko said. “They offered for me to come, but we get away so rarely together…”

“We can meet you at seven for dinner,” Yuuri said. “I’d like to change.”

“Have fun,” Hiroko said with a cheerful, teasing grin.

Yuuri blushed and fled, dragging Victor after him.

They decided to go out to dinner rather than eating at the hotel, and after some back and forth, the concierge suggested a restaurant that was linked closely to an art gallery. Minako and Lilia joined Yuuri, Victor, and the Katsukis for a tasting menu.

「I haven’t been anywhere this fancy since I was in high school,」Hiroko told Yuuri quietly while Victor and Mari were laughing over something on the beverage menu. 「My host family in Ann Arbor took us out before I came back to Japan, and I remember being overwhelmed by the number of forks.」  

He laughed. 「I’m still overwhelmed by the number of forks, and Celestino spent an absurd amount of time on table manners for eating with sponsors.」

Victor leaned over and said, 「You own a restaurant this good! Your food is better!」  

“My food is very good,” Hiroko told him, “but we’re not fancy like this.”

Across the table, Minako was feeding Lilia a bite of something, and they were laughing.

「Are they like this always now?」Hiroko asked Yuuri under her breath.   

Yuuri glanced over, and then nodded.

「It’s good to see her happy, finally, after so long,」she murmured.

“How long were you in the States?” Victor asked.

“Nearly a year,” Hiroko answered. “I was fifteen and stayed with a family. Minako-senpai was already traveling then.”

Minako looked over. “When?”


“I met Lilia that year,” Minako said, glancing over with a smile.

“You were tiny and cute and could do fouettés faster than anyone I’d ever seen,” Lilia said.

“Where did you meet?” Victor asked.

“I was on tour with the Kyoto Ballet, and we were in Paris. I wasn’t even a prima yet, but Lilia was there with another company, and they came to see us, and we started talking after.”

“She had this little solo,” Lilia said. “And she just sparkled. I told her I’d sponsor her if she wanted to come dance with us. I was 19 and felt like I owned the world.”

“You owned the ballet world,” Minako said. “When Lilia Baranovskaya asks you to come to Russia to dance with the best ballet company in the world, you go.”

“It took some doing, though. My god. It was still Soviet then, and bringing a Japanese dancer in was not simple. Worth it, though.”

“How long were you there?” Yuuri asked.

“Long enough to fall in love, not long enough to figure out what to do about it,” Minako said dryly. “Lesbians were not discussed, and were certainly not tolerated. The company turned a blind eye to us for a few years, but then they didn’t. My parents had a hard enough time with me leaving, when I tried to tell them what was happening, my mother insisted I come home.”

“And you went?” Yuuri asked.

Minako shook her head. “Not right away, but there wasn’t… Lilia couldn’t leave without defecting. I couldn’t stay without making my parents miserable, and I actually cared about that, then.”

Lilia reached over and took her hand. “It was as much my fault as anything. I chased you away on purpose because I was so afraid you’d stay and get hurt.”

“It’s still dangerous in Russia,” Victor said, with a pointed glance at where their ever-present bodyguards were sitting near the door of the restaurant.

“If I have to walk away from Russia, I can walk into jobs in twenty countries, as an out lesbian,” Lilia said. “That wasn’t true back then. I’ve had my beautiful career. I think you’ll understand reassessing priorities and allowing oneself time to have love and a life outside ballet, Victor.”

Victor glanced at Yuuri and blushed.

Yuuri startled and looked at his mother. “Wait, was it Minako you were talking about, before, when we were in Hasetsu and you told Victor about friends who’d been treated badly for being gay?”

Hiroko nodded.

“Why do you think I spent so much time in a bottle?” Minako asked. “I tried being home for a while, then toured with whatever companies I could for as long as they’d have me, but eventually it just wasn’t worth doing and I couldn’t bring any joy to it. So I came home, but my parents wouldn’t have me. Your parents took me in until I got my studio. I taught. And drank so that I wouldn’t think when I couldn’t find anything else to focus on.”

“And I married Yakov eventually to dispel the rumors, which was really not a kindness for anyone,” Lilia said.

“That’s when I switched to the hard stuff,” Minako said with a dry laugh.

“What are your plans now?” Mari asked.

“I think as long as Yuuri and Victor are managing to stay in Russia, so will we,” Minako said.

“And if it’s not safe enough for them, we’ll probably go with them,” said Lilia.

“Even if Yura is staying?” Victor asked.

“Our little fairy may not be gay, but he’s not straight enough for Russia, either. I think he’d rather follow you two, and where he goes, Yakov goes for now, so…” Lilia shrugged. “I do not think that will be an issue, not with his friend wanting to train with him.”

Hiroko was speaking softly in Japanese to Toshiya, translating. Toshiya said something back and then spoke up in careful English, “Please feel welcome to come to Hasetsu if you must leave your home. Minako-san and little Yurio are family to us, so you are family.”

“Yurio is taller than you now, Otousan,” Mari said with a laugh.

“He could be taller than Victor and he’d still be little Yuri, Mari-chan,” Minako said.  

Lilia blinked back her astonishment at Yuuri’s father’s words and then said, “A gracious offer. Perhaps I will visit when the season is over. I’m sure Minako will want to return at some point.”

Minako shrugged. “Right now I’m following Yuuri-chan, and I’m sure he’ll want to go home eventually. My visa is 90 days, and I haven’t decided what to do when it ends.”

Victor looked over. “So it runs out during Worlds? That’s actually good timing. I’d love to head to Hasetsu after.”

“They’ll want me to do the Team Trophy,” Yuuri said.

Victor laughed. “If we do as well as I suspect at Worlds, we could lie on our backs for the month between Worlds and Team Trophy and still get top marks. Besides, that’s in Tokyo. So Japan would be convenient.”

“It would be good for you to be home again,” Hiroko said. “I’ve missed you. All three of you. Four, if you count Tora-chan.”

Yuuri laughed. “He would adore that. I’m going to have to start using it.”

Victor looked confused. “Tora-chan?”

“Tora is tiger,” Yuuri said. “It’s basically like calling him ‘tigrenok,’ or ‘tiger, dear.’”

Victor pondered that for a moment, and then smiled, slow and wide. “I think I will, too.”

“You might ask him,” Mari said. “I think he still hasn’t forgiven me ‘Yurio.’”

Phichit dragged Yuuri off after dinner to hang out in his hotel room with a video game console and a large bowl of popcorn, while Chris ditched Franz in the spa to take Victor out for a less fraught drink.

“Only two,” Victor said, as they walked down the well-lit street, their breath puffing white ahead of them.

Chris pressed his gloved hand to his chest and sighed. “It’s true. Victor Nikiforov has finally grown up. Woe betide.”

“I have a competition in eight days, and I’m getting married in two,” Victor said. “And Yuuri doesn’t need the stress of dealing with me, drunk.”

“’Tis the end of an era,” Chris declared. “Two it is.”

At the bar, when Chris was three drinks in and Victor was still nursing his first, Chris said, “So, Victor, tell me. You’re really happy?”

Victor blushed. “Does it show?”

Chris stared at him long and hard. “It does. I was worried about you for a long time, but this… I think you’re going to be all right.”

“I don’t know how long I’m going to skate,” Victor said. “I don’t know where we’re going to live long term. But every time I start to wonder, he looks at me, and I just don’t care about all that.”

“Salute! Bon courage!” Chris said, and tossed back the last of his drink. “I had a terrible crush on you once. But Yuuri is much better for you, and you for him, than we ever could have been for each other.”

“And Franz?” Victor asked.

Chris raised an eyebrow. “Look at you, expressing interest in my love life!”

“Have I truly been so self-centered? No, don’t answer that,” Victor said, putting up a hand. “Tell me about your love life.”

“He’s good to me, and very patient with my wandering eyes,” Chris said. “It is not a great passionate love affair, but it is comfortable. We could grow old together in our mediocrity and be perfectly, boringly content.” He flagged the bartender down, and said, “I want the fruitiest, frilliest, tastiest drink you know how to make.”

“And how drunk do you want to be at the end of it?” the bartender asked, amused.

“He needs to be able to function tomorrow,” Victor said.

The bartender looked around. The bar was almost completely empty on a Tuesday night, and she shrugged. “Fruit, some booze, lots of color, and fruit on an umbrella?”

“God, yes,” Chris said.

Victor finished the highball he’d been sipping. “You can make one for me, that sounds amazing.”

She flipped a bottle of gin in the air thoughtfully, then smiled. “This might take a little while.”

They watched as she pulled out several cubes of puréed frozen fruit, and blended each with a spoonful of a different alcohol. Passionfruit got a hit of peach schnapps and some syrup, mango got a little midori, vivid yellow pineapple got a spoonful of light rum. A raspberry purée mixed with a little Chambord and grenadine and blueberries with blue Curaçao. Then she layered the slushes into two curvy poco grande glasses, expertly skewered fruit onto two little umbrellas at the same time, and garnished the glasses, passing them over with two long spoons and a couple of wide straws. “Enjoy, boys.”

“He’s getting married in two days,” Chris said, holding his drink up and studying the layers.

“Congratulations!” she said, wiping the bar down and shifting the blender over to the sink.

Victor smiled.

Chris continued staring at his drink and finally declared, “This is gorgeous. We should get a picture.”

Victor obliged, and Chris posted the picture immediately with the caption, “So many fruits, so little time.”

“How was he last night?” Chris asked.

“Are you asking the inappropriate personal question or as a friend?” Victor asked.

“Whatever I can get away with,” Chris said.

“Not as drunk as I was afraid he might be,” Victor said.

Chris cocked his head to one side. “You like him drunk.”

“He doesn’t like the aftermath of being drunk, and it scares him to forget what he’s done,” Victor said. “I’d rather have him happy for days than giddy for one night. But he was pretty fucking fantastic anyway.”

“To Katsuki Yuuri,” Chris said, lifting a spoonful of blue slush up into the air, and then sipping at it.

“To Yuuchan,” Victor agreed, echoing the gesture.

“So how formal is this thing going to be?” Chris asked. “Do I need to be preparing anything beyond a gushingly inappropriate speech for the reception?”

“I expect no less,” Victor said, putting a finger over his straw and plunging it down to the passionfruit on the bottom of the glass. “And skating something that will make everyone blush. Keep it tame enough for the kids.”

“Those children are shockingly savvy,” Christophe said. “If they ever start competing, the skating world will never be the same.”

“I’m hoping I get to coach them at some point,” Victor said. “They’re going to be so much fun.”

“You really are ready to retire,” Christophe said, using his straw to sample each layer after he spoke.

“I promised Yuuri I’d come back, but I would have been fine just being his coach,” Victor said. “It was important to him though, and I figure as much as I want him skating, he probably feels the same about me. And I’d rather skate for Yuuri than any other reason I’ve come up with over the years. But the next injury, I’m done. Or the Olympics. Whichever comes first.”

“I’ll stick around as long as you do,” Christophe said. “You make it worth doing.”

Victor grinned. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“I’m going to beat you one of these days,” Christophe said. “I swear.”

“I’d like to see you try,” Victor said, but there was no hint of irony in his tone. “I really would.”

“You make it sound like I haven’t already,” Christophe said.

Victor shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. It just means more when people are doing their best. And I don’t feel like I have anything left to prove. I have things I want to say that I can say best on the ice, but the winning? If you win, if Yuuchan wins, if Tora-chan wins, none of that will make me any less happy.”

“Where has your competitive spirit gone?” Chris asked.

“Oh, I still want to win,” Victor said. “But it won’t hurt me if I don’t. I don’t think. I feel like if you won, I’d be so happy for you. I used to have all of my identity wrapped up in that ‘Victor Nikiforov, Champion’ label. Now? It’s not the only thing I have. And I will always have my victories, no matter how many times I win or don’t.”

“Big talk, Mr. Nikiforov,” Chris said. “We’ll see how you do after I win next week.”

Wednesday dawned with bluster and rain beyond their windows, just warm enough that the snow was melting into a drear slush, though the wind felt much colder than the thermometer read. Inside, the energy was much the same, a frenetic, nervous busy-ness that seemed to pervade everything.

Hailey Aldersen was losing her mind. She’d been through every box, every shipment twice. The room they’d rented at the rink to store everything was full, and it was absolutely clear that the special Russian wedding crowns she’d ordered were nowhere to be found. She explained it to her boss, who shrugged and said, “So we don’t have crowns. Are they that important?”

She sighed, worried, and finally found Victor and Yuuri out on the ice, practicing their duet version of Devotion. She waited for the final spin, and then called out, “Um, guys, can I talk to you for a minute?”

They skated over, hand in hand, and came to a stop at the rail.

“Something wrong?” Yuuri asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I mean, yes, but I don’t know how big a deal it’s going to be. I ordered crowns, and they should have been here days ago, but they’re not. Tracking can’t find them, the hotel doesn’t have them. The closest I could possibly get would be tiaras, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to do the trick. I don’t know what else I can do.”

Yuuri looked thoughtful, and a complex series of expressions crossed Victor’s face in quick succession.

Behind them, at one end of the rink, a crew supervisor was giving instructions to workers about where and when various equipment would be set up, and several of their friends were getting ready to skate.

“Do we have the flowers yet?” Yuuri asked.

“They were delivered to the cooler an hour ago,” Hailey said.

Yuuri smiled. “I think I might be able to help, then.”

Victor looked intensely curious.

“Do you have time?” Hailey asked. “I hate to ask it of you…”

Yuuri nodded. “It doesn’t take too long, and I can do it while other people are practicing. I’ll call Yuuko, she might want to come help.”

“What are you thinking, Yuuchan?” Victor asked.

“You’ll see,” Yuuri said. “Where are the flowers?”

In the cooler were large buckets of white anemones, white and deep red roses, baby’s breath, and a variety of greenery. The magazine’s floral designer was there getting set up, and when Yuuri explained what he needed, she pulled out wire, tape, greenery and flowers for him, and they talked about how to keep it fresh until the next day.

They took the flowers out to the stands to work, and Mike ended up dragging the photographer over as Yuuri wrapped a wire around the top of Victor’s head and then deftly secured it in the right shape. His fingers flew as he built the floral wreath, while Victor watched, completely bemused.

“I hope Yuuko gets here soon,” Yuuri said. “We made more flower crowns when I was 13…”

“Why then?” Mike asked.

Yuuri blushed, and Victor said, softly, “I wore one when I won Europeans that year.”

“What do you think you would have done then if someone had told you you’d be making a flower crown for Victor for your wedding day?” Mike asked.

Yuuri laughed and said, “I’d have either yelled at them for making fun of me or fainted, depending on whether I thought there was a chance they meant it.”

“How long had you known about Victor then?” Hailey asked, picking up a wire and copying what he was doing.

“Three years,” Yuuri said. “I saw him skate when he was 14, and I was hooked.”

Victor had heard this before, but blushed anyway.

“When did you first see Yuuri?” Mike asked Victor.

Victor blinked. “Well, of course I first talked to him at Sochi. That’s common knowledge, but I’d seen him skate before. Let me think.”

“You knew who I was before Sochi?” Yuuri asked.

Victor gave him a look. “I watch my competitors. I saw all your Grand Prix performances on tape that year, but I think I first noticed you a couple years before that. I think we were at Worlds together once.”

“I was in one of the early groups and didn’t make it to the free skate, during the year I debuted in seniors,” Yuuri said. “I got sick twice after finals week and missed the next two years. It’s why I focused on the GPF.”

“I saw you skate that year and knew you had paid attention to my skating before,” Victor said. “That’s why I offered to take a picture with you at Sochi.”

Yuuri laughed sheepishly as he placed a rose and started anchoring it. “I thought you didn’t even know I was a competitor, just a fan.”

“Most of the skaters seek me out at one point or another,” Victor said. “They’re going to start doing it to you now, too. Some already have. Even Yuri was a fan before he was your competitor. You were just the first one who walked away from my offer.”

“Made you pay attention the next time you saw me,” Yuuri muttered, and Victor laughed.

“It was your dancing that made me pay attention.”

“When did you know you were in love?” Hailey asked Victor.

“That night in Sochi. Yuuri was… surprising. We barely talked, mostly just danced, and he asked me to be his coach and promptly forgot he’d done so.”

“I don’t think I’m ever getting drunk again,” Yuuri said. “Not like that.”

“When did you know you were in love with Victor?” Hailey asked.

A voice from behind her said, “I can tell you that.”

“Yuuchan!” Yuuri set his flowers down and stood up hastily.

Yuuko smiled and stepped up to where they were sitting. “Are you working on Victor’s?”

Yuuri gave a quick nod.

“I was trying to make one for Yuuri-san,” Hailey said. “But as you can see…”  

Yuuko giggled. “I think I can help.”

“So when do you think Yuuri was in love with me?” Victor asked, while Yuuko took the wire from Hailey and re-measured it.

“Oh, he was in love with you from age ten,” Yuuko said. “He didn’t understand it until a lot later, though. He used words like ‘admire’ and ‘idol.’”

Victor laughed. “Well, I think I fell in love with him the moment I saw him dancing. That first time he really looked at me when we were in the same room, I was gone.”

Yuuri blushed.

Yuuko studied the flowers in front of her, and then put the wire on Yuuri’s head. He didn’t even twitch as she held flowers up this way and that way, contemplating how she would arrange them.

“You guys have done this before a lot,” Hailey said.

“There was a whole spring where every time a new thing would come in bloom, we’d make it into crowns,” Yuuko said. “There was so much research. We have a cold place to put these to keep them fresh?”

“Cold storage, and we’ll put damp towels on them,” Yuuri said. “I didn’t bring the anemones because I don’t know how they’ll hold up.”

“They’ll make you itch. Much better in a vase,” Yuuko said.

“I should have asked you to do the flowers,” Yuuri said. “If we’d had more time…”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” Yuuko said. “This is enough for me.”

“Vitya, come here,” Yuuri said, holding his head still for Yuuko and pointing at the space in front of him.

“Certainly,” Victor said, and knelt in front of Yuuri to be crowned by a wire with one rose.

The frenetic hurry-and-wait continued as they got ready for the rehearsal later. “The good news,” Hailey explained to the wedding party after practice as they waited for the crew to transform the ice into a wedding-ready venue, “is that we have this place to ourselves today and tomorrow. It’s part of why we moved to this one, because it would allow us more time to really get the setup right. They were more than willing to comp the venue for the exposure for their new facility.”

“I hear a ‘but,’” Phichit said.

“The other side of having more time is that it means rather than doing this very informally, we have a chance for you do to a rehearsal and a full runthrough, which can be time consuming and tedious. Anyway, Harald texted me and said he’d be here in about twenty minutes.”

Yuri, lounging on one of the seats in the stands, said, “Everything about this is tedious. Why should this be any different?”

“Trust me, you’ll want the practice,” Otabek said. “When my cousin got married, their ring bearer got confused and ran into the coat closet and wouldn’t come out.”

“I think I can figure out where I need to be,” Yuri said.

“I mean, the kid was two, but still,” Otabek said. Then he called out, “Hey, Katsuki! You gonna let the triplets be your flower girls?”

Yuuri blinked. Victor laughed. “Why not?”

Yuuko, who’d stayed even after the flowers were done, smiled. “If you want them to, they’d love it, but we should get them over here to practice.”

“Do they have something appropriate to wear?” Yuuri asked.

“Don’t be an idiot, Yuuri-san,” Yuri said. “They’re triplets and they were already coming, and they probably have adorable little dresses that match, too, right, Yuuko?”

“I’m sure someday they won’t want to dress color-coded and matching,” Yuuko said, giggling, “but not yet. I’ll have my husband bring them over.”

Harald showed up about ten minutes before the triplets did, and helped walk everyone through the order of the ceremony. He had a pleasant speaking voice, and Yuuri found himself losing the thread of what he was saying, listening to the timbre of the middle-aged Danish minister’s baritone.

“Yuuchan?” Victor said to Yuuri, who suddenly realized that the minister had stopped talking.

“Oh, so sorry,” Yuuri said, flustered. “What was that?”

“I know it can be overwhelming,” Harald said, “I was just wondering if you each had things you wanted me to make space for in the ceremony. We can do that right before the vows, if you like.”

Yuuri gave a quick nod. “I wrote something down.”

“Same,” Victor said.

“Make sure to kick them if they go on too long,” Yuri said, lounging in a folding chair in the front row of seating. “When they get going, neither of them knows how to shut up.”

“I mean, we do have the rink until four tomorrow,” Hailey said with a grin.

“Please, god, do not let them talk that long,” Yuri said.

“Please don’t let me talk that long,” Yuuri echoed. Then he paled.

“What’s up, Yuuri?” Phichit asked.

“Nothing,” Yuuri said, his voice rising a little. “It’s fine.”

Victor reached over and wrapped Yuuri in a one-armed hug until he settled, then nodded to the minister. “Go on.”

Harald looked out at the rink, and the walking surface that had been rolled out on top of it to get people safely to their seats, and they discussed how they’d get everyone to where they needed to be.

It was funny having everyone run through the basic positions they’d be in and the things they’d be doing in their practice clothes. A few ideas went by the wayside when they ended up being anything but graceful in practice, but eventually everyone seemed to have an idea of what was going to happen and when.

That evening, they all met in the hotel restaurant for dinner in a private banquet room.

A server came around to take their orders, a young woman with mousy brown hair and a cheerful smile that got even more friendly when she got to Mari, who seemed to know exactly what she wanted even though she hadn’t picked up the menu.

Phichit said, “Got something going there, Mari-san?”

Mari rolled her eyes. “I ate here for lunch. It was good.”

Takeshi looked over at Yuuri halfway through the meal, and said, “You don’t seem all that nervous. I nearly fainted when I was marrying Yuuko, and I’d known her forever.”

Toshiya laughed. “When I married your mother, I was still hungover from the night before. I thought her father would kill me.”

Mila, sitting near Chris and Franz, said, “I think they’re more worried about Russia than Victor’s parents. And Yuuri’s parents are darling.”

Yuri, who had been sitting next to Otabek and thumbing through cat pictures on his phone, looked up, saw Yuuri tensing up, and stood up abruptly. “You’re all idiots,” he declared. “I’m eating in my room. If you all had any sense, you would shut your mouths about how chickenshit you were when you were getting married and how scary everything is. You’re just making him stressed and it’s bullshit. They may be gross, and weddings may be stupid, but you’re supposed to be here supporting him, not making him more stressed than he already would be without your ‘help.’”

He looked at Yuuri, who was staring at him wide-eyed. “That idiot sitting next to you is legitimately bat-fucking insanely in love with you. There’s literally nothing you are capable of doing that would make him not want to marry you tomorrow. And everyone here has seen you do way, way more embarrassing stuff than getting married and they all still like you. This whole thing is ridiculous, but it’s the kind of ridiculous people expect. Anyway, I’m tired of sitting, so I’m going upstairs.”

“Yura!” Lilia said.

“Let him go,” Victor said, sliding his arm around Yuuri’s shoulder.

“If they could send mine up, too?” Otabek said, apologetically, putting his napkin on his plate as he stood.

Yakov nodded.

“Sorry, Yuuri-kun,” Toshiya said. “I wasn’t thinking.”

“No, it’s fine,” Yuuri said, watching Yuri leave the room.

The triplets started telling Yuuko loudly about their adventures with their father that afternoon, and the conversation shifted.

Yuuri took a deep breath, and looked over at Victor, who leaned in and whispered, “He’s right, you know. There’s nothing you could do that would make me not want to marry you tomorrow.”

“Just hold on to me and keep reminding me,” Yuuri said.

Chapter Text

Thursday morning, they woke up at 6 am to loud knocking. Victor threw on a robe and opened the door to find Phichit, Christophe, and Mike outside their hotel room door.

“I thought there was some superstition about couples being apart the night before a wedding,” Mike said, grinning.

“Neither of us is a bride, and Yuuri would have been awake all night without me,” Victor said.

“Who is it?” Yuuri called from the bed.

“The worst men,” Victor said. “We were going to sleep until 6:30.”

“There’s going to be so much to do,” Mike said.

Victor closed his eyes, raised his eyebrows, and took a deep breath. He sighed. “Okay. I’m up. Give us a few.”

“I’m ordering breakfast downstairs,” Christophe said. “If we don’t see you in half an hour, we’re sending a search party. So don’t do anything I’d do.”

Victor snorted. “Half an hour,” he said. As he closed the door, he saw Chris proffer a solemn elbow to Phichit as they followed Mike to the elevator.

“The worst men?” Yuuri asked as Victor dropped his robe and climbed back into bed naked.

“Anyone who makes me get out of bed with you at six in the morning is the worst, I don’t care if it’s our best men.”

Yuuri sighed. “We should get up.”

“You’re already nervous again?”

“It’s only the most important day of my entire life,” Yuuri said.

Victor grinned. “Then we should start it off right. I will help you relax.”

With a grand flourish, he pulled the blankets over his head.

A moment later Yuuri squeaked, “Victor!” when he felt a hand and mouth latch onto his cock.

Victor threw the blanket back and looked up at Yuuri, then pulled away just enough to say, “Shhh, I’m helping.” He resumed his ministrations.

Yuuri watched him for a long moment, and finally said, strained, “Vityenka, darling.”

Victor froze and looked up, cock still in his mouth. He let Yuuri go. “Yes, Yuuchan?”

Yuuri reached down and stroked Victor’s cheek. “This would work better if you came up here and kissed me.”

“I’m not that flexible,” Victor said.

“Sex, not the blowjob,” Yuuri clarified. “When you’re down there, it leaves me too much time in my head thinking things like, ‘Oh my god, Victor Nikiforov is blowing me. Oh my god, I’m marrying him, today.’ And then I panic, because part of me is always going to be a star-struck fifteen-year-old and it’s a lot easier to turn my brain off and enjoy myself when I’m kissing you.”

Victor grinned. “Are you saying you’d rather be fucking me?”

“Just kiss me, Vityenka,” Yuuri said, and reached over for the lube.

“No blow jobs?” Victor asked.

“Not never, just not right now,” Yuuri said against Victor’s lips as he reached a slick hand between them.

Victor groaned and thrust up into Yuuri’s hand. “God, do that more.”

With a gasping chuckle, Yuuri used his other hand to bring Victor closer, in order to better press sucking kisses to Victor’s neck.

Ten minutes later they were in the bean-shaped bathtub, using the hand-held shower to get clean quickly.

“Thank god we’re getting dressed there,” Victor said, waiting for Yuuri to finish with the showerhead. “This is awkward.”

“There is no way I’m eating anything in my wedding clothes until after we’re married,” Yuuri said, rapidly washing his hair. “Even then, I want to switch to the suit.”

“So the fancy sparkly ones for the wedding itself and the performance, and the suit for the reception?” Victor asked.

“Let’s do the long sleeved tops without jackets for the skate,” Yuuri said. “It would feel weird to skate Eros in my free skate costume.”

“You’re going to wear it to skate in after this?” Victor asked, taking the wand as Yuuri climbed out to dry off.

“‘Yuri On Ice’ is about my life as a skater. What better way to tell that story than skating it in my wedding clothes? Besides. They’re more comfortable than the costume.”

“I’m going to cry like a baby every time I see you in it,” Victor said.

Yuuri grinned. “Glad I’m not the only one.”

Victor looked back at Yuuri over his shoulder. “You know, every day I look at you and it leaves me breathless that you want to be with me forever.”

“Stop making me teary,” Yuuri said. “I need to put my contacts in.”

He stopped, while he was getting dressed, and took a deep shuddering breath.

Victor looked over. “Nerves?”

Yuuri nodded.

“Yuuchan, remember that this is just us. You didn’t invite anyone who doesn’t care about you. There’s no one here you have to impress. You could fall down on your butt and get married sitting down, and if you’re married at the end of the day, that’s what matters, right?”

Yuuri nodded, and then asked, “Taking notes from Yura?”

Victor grinned.

A few minutes later, dressed in their warmups, with Yuuri carrying their garment bags and Victor carrying their skating bags, they stepped out of the hotel room. Victor immediately said, “Wait!” and dashed back in, and then came back out again a moment later.

“What?” Yuuri asked.

“I wanted to make sure I had everything,” Victor said, patting his pocket.

At the rink, Phichit, Hiroko, Minako, and Yuuko dragged Yuuri into one of the luxury box suites while Christophe and Yakov took Victor into another to get ready. Before they went in, Yuri confiscated their rings and headed out to where the wedding preparations were happening on the ice.

“Your hair is getting so long,” Hiroko said as Yuuko brushed it back and applied an absurd amount of product to keep it in place. “You’ve been wearing it back so much, I don’t usually notice.”

Yuuri shrugged, his thumb rubbing against the skin where his ring was missing.

Yuuko swatted his shoulder. “Don’t move.”

“If I’d thought about it, I could have given you a haircut when we arrived,” Hiroko said absently.

“I’m growing it out,” Yuuri said.

“When you tried that when you were thirteen, it didn’t go very well,” Minako said.

Yuuri started to shrug, then remembered not to, and said, “I was surrounded by people who threatened to beat me up. Now, it’s actually pretty good camouflage. Or it will be.”

“He looks really pretty with long hair,” Phichit said. “It looks fine now. This costume feels amazing.”

“It feels even better on,” Yuuri said. “I think it’s going to be easier to skate in. The other one has so many sequins that even with the liner it gets to be too much.”

“I can’t believe my baby boy is getting married,” Hiroko sniffed, petting the silk.

Minako grinned. “I can.”

Yuuko stared at Yuuri’s head for a moment, and then pulled a hair elastic off her wrist, and pulled the top half of Yuuri’s hair back. “Ah, that’s definitely better.”

“It’s long enough?” Yuuri asked.

“Take a look!”

They walked over to the full length mirror that had been brought in for them, and Yuuri blinked. “Wow. My face looks so different.”

“Victor’s going to flip,” Phichit said, and then hurried to add, “In a good way!”

“How much do I get to doll you up?” Yuuko asked.

“No glitter on the face,” Yuuri said. “Whatever you have to do to keep me from looking completely dead in front of the cameras. Nothing fancy.”

“Can I do your nails?” she asked. “I have galaxy polish. Quick dry.”

Yuuri blinked. “I can’t remember the last time… Do we have time?”

“I can go check,” Phichit said. “Do a base coat at least.”

“Makeup first,” Yuuko said, opening Yuuri’s performance kit. “That won’t take long.”

“It’s been a while since you did this,” Yuuko said as she mixed a little moisturizer with foundation on a little mirror. “Remember when we did the glitter?”

Yuuri laughed. “We were finding it for weeks afterwards.”

She sponged the mixture on in a thin layer.

“He needs some concealer under the eyes,” Minako said, holding out a tube, and Yuuko nodded.

Once the concealer was on, Yuuko dusted on a light, translucent powder. She looked in the kit and found a matte lip treatment that matched his natural color, and said, “Your lips are in a lot better condition than the last time we did this.”

Phichit laughed at that. “Have you seen Victor with him? Always with the lip balm. Then again, he probably has an ulterior motive.”

Minako snorted.

Yuuri’s ears turned pink, and Yuuko promptly spread the lightly tinted moisturizer there and powder after, holding a curved piece of paper behind his ear to keep the powder off of the hairline.

Phichit handed Yuuko a clear mascara. “For his brows.”

“Really? Are they that bad?” Yuuri asked.

“It’s your wedding,” Phichit said. “Let us primp.”

“Go check the timing,” Yuuri said abruptly. “So we know if I can get my nails done or not.”

In the other box, Victor was applying his own makeup perched on one of the box’s elevated bar chairs, while Chris sat on the bar next to him, watching. Yakov sat on a stool on the other side, pretending to read a newspaper.

They’d propped a mirror against the plexiglass that separated the box from the rink below, and Victor kept glancing down to where he could see the seats being set out and the small raised platform at the front of it.  

“I don’t know why you won’t let me do that,” Chris said.

“I always do my own for performances,” Victor said. “I have a routine. I should be there to do Yuuri’s…” He started to stand up, and Yakov’s hand fell on his shoulder, a heavy, implacable weight.

“There’s a reason we separate people when they’re about to get married,” Yakov said. “Let the boy have some time with his oldest friends. Phichit and Yuuko know what to do. So does Minako. One of them will take care of it.”

A few minutes later, Victor brought a steely grey mascara up to his eye, and then hesitated.

“Hmm?” Chris looked at him inquiringly.

“Maybe you should do this part. My hand is shaking too much.”

Chris gave a wide, serenely smug smile. “I told you we should have pulled the curtain on the rink.”

“The rink isn’t the problem, I’m just…” Victor sighed.

“Second thoughts?” Yakov asked. “Wondering if you’re doing the right thing?”

“Not for a second,” Victor said. “I just… what if I pushed him too hard, too fast? I don’t have a doubt about wanting to marry him, it’s just I thought it was over six weeks ago, and I know I want him forever, but there were so many times last year when I was just at sea and what if I pushed him into this…”

Chris laughed, a short, bright bark of glee. “You’re wondering if Yuuri loves you as much as you love him? Have you met Yuuri?”

Yakov muttered, «Seventy years and never once has anyone looked at me the way that boy looks at you.»

Chris slid from the bar into the chair next to Victor, and said, “Turn,” as he held out his hand for the mascara.

As he leaned in close to apply the mascara to Victor’s lashes, Chris looked at the color and said, “Where do you even find mascara two shades darker than your natural color?”

Victor said, without moving, “Custom blend. Just dark enough to make my eyes more visible and not dark enough that people think I’m wearing it.”

When Chris finished, Victor handed him eyeliner several shades darker than his natural skin tone. “Do you think you can float a paper-thin line along the lash line?”

“Please,” Chris said, rolling his eyes and taking the brush and tube.

“This seems so unnecessary,” Yakov said. “Under the lights of a performance, certainly. But no one here will mind.”

“There are HD cameras out there,” Victor said. “I don’t want to look back at pictures of my wedding and cringe because I look washed out.”

“I already did mine,” Chris said.

“What do you do about the beard?” Victor asked.

“Just a quick light wipe that doesn’t touch the skin,” Chris said. “Why don’t we ever see you in a beard, Vitya?”

Yakov laughed at that one. “Because he looks like an old fisherman. It’s completely white.”

“How did you end up with grey hair? You’ve had it as long as I’ve known you, I don’t think I’ve seen a picture of you without it,” Chris said.

Victor shrugged. “It went silver when I was a child. Some fright, or stress, I suppose. I decided to wear it proudly, as something unique rather than a flaw. It was a sandy light brown, in the oldest pictures.”

“I asked your mother and she said you’d been ill when you were very young,” Yakov said.

“Tell me you didn’t tell her about this,” Victor said.

Yakov said gruffly, “Of course not. You did not want them here, I did not tell them.”

“I don’t think I could deal with them right now,” Victor said. “Am I terrible for not inviting my parents to my wedding?”

“I know your parents,” Yakov said. “And I wouldn’t want them at my wedding either.”

“My father would be looking for the vodka and my mother would be looking for anyone but my father to take her home,” Victor said. “And they’d berate me for marrying a man, but also for neglecting them when they sacrificed so much for me.”

“They got their money back and then some,” Yakov said. “You owe them nothing.”

“You know, they just wrapped me up in their family and made me theirs,” Victor said, looking past Chris’s shoulder as Chris drew the thin line along the top of his lash line.

“Yuuri’s family?” Chris asked, after a puzzled moment.

“It’s so strange,” Victor said. “They’re fantastic, and they love him dearly, and they’ve welcomed me with open arms, but I have no question at all why Yuuri is so anxious. They don’t say things with malice, but there’s always this little pull, this social pressure, this little seed of doubt. Yura had the right of it last night when he yelled. I adore his parents, but I wouldn’t see him live with them again. I think he drowns a little in his past anxiety when he’s there. I’m thinking about buying a place for us in Hasetsu for when we visit, so that we can just visit, and be guests. They’re nice to me the way you’re nice to Yuuri now.” The last was directed at Yakov.

“He’s polite, and he listens, and he was willing to throw his career away to bring you back to the ice,” Yakov said. “He got Yura working harder, and he learns quickly. And your skating has more emotional depth since you returned. Of course I’m nice to him. He’s not like the rest of you lumps who only respond when I scream.”

Chris pulled his hand away just in time to keep from jabbing Victor in the eye when Victor snorted.

“I love you, too, Yakov,” Victor said.

“You and Yura are as close to sons as I will ever have,” Yakov said, abruptly. “So you’d better.”

“Blink,” Chris said. “It has to dry before you can get weepy.”

“I hope Yuuri is using something waterproof,” Victor said, blinking rapidly. He pulled a pair of glasses out of his pocket. “Don’t let me forget to take these out there.”

Chris took the glasses out of Victor’s hand and slipped them into his own pocket. “Your wedding clothes don’t have pockets.”

“I told the designer not to because it would ruin the line,” Victor said. “The suit has pockets.”

Chris frowned. “Since when do you wear glasses?”

“They’re not mine,” Victor said.

“Anything else you need me to carry?” Chris asked, capping the eyeliner.

Victor nodded, and handed Chris his notes.

There was just enough time to get the quick-dry polish and top coat on and dried before it was time for Yuuri to put on what Yuuko had dubbed his “finery.” Yuuko and Hiroko stepped out; Phichit stayed, waiting for Yuuri to come out of the private bathroom. A drape separated them from the rink.

“I don’t know why you care about them seeing you in those boxer briefs you always… Yuuri!” Phichit stared as Yuuri walked back into the room. “Does your mother know you wear underwear like that? It’s like a glorified dance belt.”

“That’s because it’s basically a glorified dance belt,” Yuuri said, blushing furiously under his makeup. “Why do you think I sent them out? I knew you’d be bad enough about it.”

Phichit laughed. “I’m sure Victor will love it later. It’s just a side of you I don’t see very often.” He took the two-toned tank off the hanger and held it out.

“You’ve seen my ass a thousand times,” Yuuri said, sliding his arms into the tank and gingerly pulling it over his head without letting it touch his face or his hair. He put a foot up on a bar chair and snapped the crotch. “How are we on time?”

“Time enough for you to put your clothes on and warm up a little,” Phichit said. “It would be really stupid for you to go through all this trouble and pull a muscle skating without a warmup later.”

“We’re supposed to warm up while they’re tearing down to give us the full rink after,” Yuuri said.

“I’m glad you’re not trying to skate out to the altar,” Phichit said.

“Ha, no, me too,” Yuuri said. “I think it’s enough that we’re skating after. I’ve never seen Victor look quite so awkward as when he was trying to put on guards with no rail. And I nearly shook off my skates just standing there at the rehearsal.”

“I saw the little girls this morning. They’re so stinking cute I can’t stand it,” Phichit said. “They have these little flouncy lace skating costumes, in three different colors.”

Yuuri laughed. “Yuuko was so scared she’d mix them up when they were born that she color-coded them, and it’s stuck ever since.”

“You didn’t let me get a flouncy skating costume,” Phichit said. He was wearing the suit he always wore to banquets.

“There wasn’t time, and I didn’t know you wanted one,” Yuuri said.

“I didn’t know I wanted one until I saw theirs.” Phichit held out the trousers and Yuuri shook his head.

“I need those first.” Yuuri nodded at a package, and blushed.

Phichit raised an eyebrow and opened the package and shook out a pair of black silk thigh-high stockings and a couple of small suspenders.

“That dance belt…” Phichit asked.

“Has tabs for these to clip on,” Yuuri said, rolling the stockings on.

“Wait, did you shave?” Phichit asked.

“Hose are a pain if you don’t,” Yuuri said. He clipped the suspenders into the little tab pockets on his underwear and then clipped the other end of each to the top of the hose.

“Victor is a very lucky man,” Phichit said. “And I’m totally taking notes.”

“Like you’d ever let someone tie you down,” Yuuri said, and then stuttered, “I don’t mean… not like…”

Phichit lost it completely, laughing so hard that tears were running down his face. “I would totally let someone tie me down like that, but not the other way. But I’m only a babe of 20, not like you old men.”

“If the world wasn’t so fucked up right now, I’d have wanted to wait,” Yuuri said. “But with the way things are going…”

“Say no more,” Phichit said. “This is a happy day. You are marrying Victor Nikiforov.”

Yuuri blinked at him.

“This can’t be a shock to you,” Phichit said. “You just put on fuck-me hose for Victor.”

“Oh god. What if he wakes up and it’s like I’ve trapped him and he suddenly gets freaked out and…”

“Put your pants on,” Phichit said. “The man showed up naked in a hot tub with no warning. You are totally even on the grand, embarrassingly obsessive gestures.”

“I thought I was going to die of heart failure on the spot,” Yuuri said, pulling his trousers up. The silk twill was cool as it slipped against the stockings. “Oh my god, these clothes,” Yuuri said, rubbing a hand on his knee to feel the fabrics shift.

“Gotta put your jacket on,” Phichit said.

“Right!” Yuuri said, sticking his arms out for Phichit to slide the jacket on.

“Should I get your mother?” Phichit asked.

Yuuri blinked. “You should get my mother.”

“Are you losing your shit completely?”

“The shit is beyond lost,” Yuuri said.

“Right.” Phichit walked over to the door and opened it it. Yuuko and Minako were leaning against the far wall, speaking rapidly in Saga-ben with Hiroko, who stood with them, so fast that Phichit couldn’t catch a single word. “Yuuri’s decent now,” he said, and they looked at him.

“Right,” Minako said. “Freaking out?”

“Past that,” Phichit said. “I think he’s almost catatonic.”

Yuuko brushed past him. “Okay, Yuuri, you have your notes?”

Yuuri looked up at her and then down at his clothes. “I don’t have a pocket.” His forehead twisted with worry.

“That’s why I’m standing up there next to you. What do you need me to carry?” Phichit asked.

“I wrote a thing,” Yuuri said, rummaging in the pocket of his training jacket. “Here.” He held out a notecard.

“Yuuri, are you saying this to him in Japanese?” Phichit said, looking at the card.

“Oh god, I should translate it into Russian. I don’t speak Russian well enough. Oh my god, I should be able to speak Russian better by now!”

“English will be fine,” Hiroko said. She opened her handbag and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. “Go ahead and translate it now. You have time, and it will calm you. It’s not that long.”

Yuuri took a deep breath and got to work.

art by bowldeepfannish

Later, Yuuri would look back on the ceremony and remember it in snapshots, most of it a blur, but with moments standing out in sharp relief (helped by the amazing photography.)

Meeting Victor at the entrance to the rink before the music started, and being folded into one of the best hugs he’d ever experienced.

The little girls bouncing with excitement in their colorful little lace tutus and bows and their black patent Mary Janes.

Yuri giving each of them an unexpected hug before the music started, more hugs from Yuuri’s parents, and a gruff clap on the back from Yakov as they all went in to find their seats.

The music starting, so familiar to them now but new to most of their guests, and Christophe and Phichit making a grand show of linking arms to walk each other down the aisle before taking their places to each side of the minister.

Their vows were a blur in his memory until he looked at the video later. When he saw it on the screen, he could remember being there in the moment, listening to Victor talk about how he, Katsuki Yuuri, had transformed Victor from a shell of a man—a stage presence only—to a whole human being. He’d cried so hard his contacts had come out, and then had a shaking panic when the minister said it was his turn to talk and he took the paper of the English translation from Phichit only to discover he couldn’t even see the letters on the paper, his eyes were so blurry.

Things had cleared up suddenly—later he went to the video to figure out how, and saw Chris slapping something into Victor’s hand. Then, Victor tenderly setting Yuuri’s glasses on his nose so that he could see the paper.

And so, of course, nothing he’d said after had even been on the paper. He’d started with, “You keep on saving me, Victor Nikiforov, so it seems only fair if I saved you, too,” and that had gotten an affectionate chuckle from everyone in the room, and he’d looked over the words he’d written before, decided they were wholly inadequate, and spoken off the cuff anyway.

They’d only made one change to the actual vows they spoke after, a standard Western set of vows close enough to what they were both used to that they didn’t feel much need to change anything. But they did add, along with love, honor, and cherish, “support, respect, and defend.”

Nothing had ever felt truer.

Victor etched the whole thing in his memory and then went back over all the video later to make sure he’d gotten it right in his mind, that it had all happened the way he remembered, that it had really happened, that he’d gotten them both through with an acceptable number of tears and managed to get ahead of Yuuri’s absolutely inevitable panic attack. He’d cried more than he expected, but he didn’t mind.

Hearing Yuuri say, “I’ve only ever asked you to be yourself, because there is no one I’d rather you be,” was a balm to his soul. He’d heard much the same from Yuuri before, but really, one could never hear that too often when one had spent one’s whole life trying to fit one image or another.

And yes, maybe he was playing a part with Yuuri, too, but it was the part of his choosing, and that was part of who he was, this putting on and taking off of costumes, of roles. He’d been a lot of different people with Yuuri, and Yuuri had embraced every one that felt true. And if he finally figured out who exactly he was, he no longer had any doubt that Yuuri would love him regardless. “I am the one Yuuri loves” felt not just sufficient, in that moment, it felt like everything.

They both remembered Yuri fumbling in his pockets and swearing before handing over the rings.

And they both remembered clearly the moment their lips met after the minister said they could kiss, and the flower crowns dropping on their heads, but the bustle afterwards was a blur of music and laughter, of talking and dashing in to change for their performance.

(A literal blur for Yuuri, because Victor had stolen the glasses back for the kiss.)

Things got a little less fuzzy for Yuuri once they were warming up after, in their long-sleeved tops, flower crowns now more firmly anchored with clips, while the crew took the chairs and the runners and the ice swans that had been on either side of the aisle and the endless draped flowers, and shifted everything out of the way to make most of the rink open to them, draped and lit like an exhibition.

Putting on his skates always brought clarity, and this was no different. His bag had another pair of disposable contacts in it, which he put in for Victor’s sake. It was easier to be daring when you could see what you were doing, even if it was harder to be brave when you could see everyone watching you try.

But it had become clear, one of the only clear things in that moment, that the people who were there with them cared about them and did not take his faltering personally, just wanted him to succeed. He wrapped that feeling around his heart like a blanket while they skated together to warm up.

“Did we sign everything we needed to sign?” Yuuri suddenly asked Victor, as they turned together on the ice.

Victor laughed. “We did.”

They came back together for another move, and Yuuri said, “So we’re really married.”

Victor gave the widest, brightest smile Yuuri had ever seen, and nodded.

Yuuri couldn’t help but grin back.

As they glided off the ice to wait for everyone else to take their places, Victor said, “Oh, I got Yakov to agree to let Phichit stay after, so you have someone to hang out with at Europeans who isn’t competing. If I had my way, we’d run away together for the next six months and ignore everything, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to skate if you want to go to the Olympics.”

“Don’t you want to go?” Yuuri asked.

Victor shrugged. “I’ll go. I said I’d skate until then, but it’s mostly for you. I want to skate with you, but I honestly could have been done without the comeback and been okay.”

“You would have regretted it. Or at least, I’d always have wondered if you did. This way…”

“I don’t mind coming back. I did miss it a little. But this, with you, is more important to me than the ice ever could be,” Victor said.

Yuuri stared at him and was still stunned when he trailed Victor out on the ice to skate their combined programs to “On Love: Devotion.”

Victor’s choreography for his solo had been designed specifically to fit with Yuuri’s. It would be another week before their non-Russian guests would see it performed alone, and no one who saw them skate it together would ever forget Yuuri when watching Victor.

As Yuuri began the seductive opening moves of Eros, Victor’s gestures were worshipful. Their footwork took them dancing around each other, coming closer and pulling away. The spins were done in tandem. The only jump that was in unison was the triple axel; Victor’s lutz came early in the program, tied neatly in with the story of Yuuri’s footwork, and his quad flip triple toe preceded the slowing break that marked the transition to the second half. He kept the lutz to a triple, but no one batted an eye at downgrading a jump. Yuuri kept all of his to triples, but kept them in the second half of the program.  

Their ending sequence landed them in each other’s arms, breathless and happy.

As they skated off the ice, Yuuri said, “I forgot to dip you.”

“Later,” Victor said with a leer.

The skating after their program really was a blur, they were so wrapped up in each other. Phichit, Christophe, and Mila all skated their exhibition pieces individually, to the delight of the rest of their guests. Their attention returned to the ice when the little ones and Yuuko did something unspeakably cute in their lacy ruffled skating outfits in pink, purple and blue—Yuuko in black .

Yurio and Otabek had apparently been sneakily working with the little girls to pull together something Yakov called “schmaltzy” that made everyone cry again. Later, they would go over that performance on the video that Yuuri finally came to peace with over and over until they had it memorized, but in the moment it was haunting and sentimental and closed out the time at the rink on a suitably poignant note.

Yuuri was feeling so giddy already by the time they got back to the hotel for the small, informal reception that he didn’t dare take a drink. Something got under Yurio’s skin and he and Otabek disappeared early in the evening, but there was an impossibly large cake for their small wedding party, and dancing, and the triplets were buzzing so hard on the sugar that it felt like there were six of them.

Chris and Phichit both gave rambling, embarrassing speeches in excruciating detail—which they managed to ignore almost completely in favor of sitting snuggled on one of the cozy loveseats in the lounge they were using. Victor wrapped himself around Yuuri, and Yuuri leaned into it, threading his arm around Victor, closing his eyes and letting the warmth of the moment wash over him.

When it was time to eat dinner, Mari was nowhere to be found, but Hiroko did not seem the least bit concerned with her daughter’s absence. The mystery was solved when the wait staff served katsudon as the main course. The appetizers were reminiscent of Ivo’s cooking, but the katsudon was clearly the family recipe. Mari appeared looking mussed and triumphant to join them for the entrée.

“How long have you been planning this?” Yuuri asked her.

“Okaasan tried to insist she should do it, but as soon as we got the invitation, we thought you should have your favorite. This is, after all, the best gold you will ever get. You could win the Olympics and I don’t think it would top this.”

Victor laughed. “Careful, the last time we brought up gold medals, our dearest friends got grumpy at us.”

“You basically told us that none of the rest of us could win,” Chris said, and then took a bite of the food in front of him. His eyes widened, and he nodded and pointed at the dish, mouth too full to say anything more.

Mila, watching, laughed, saying, “I cannot believe you managed to make food so good that it shut Christophe up.”

“Take a bite,” Victor said.

She took a small one and blinked. “Dash ermayshing” she said around the mouthful.

Off to one side in the dining room, Hailey was sitting, going over something on her tablet. Victor called over, “Oh, Hailey, did Ivo have something to do with the rest of the meal?”

She looked up and smiled. “I talked to him and your sister on the same day, and we all ended up on a conference call with the hotel. Mari-san was so helpful yesterday with the prep for the tonkatsu, and Ivo designed the rest of the menu.”

When Yuuko finally dragged the little girls off to bed, Christophe said to Victor, “I’m shocked you two are still here. Don’t you get to go debauch each other now?”

Phichit overheard, and leaned over to whisper something in Victor’s ear. Victor’s eyes widened and he said, “Christophe, you’re brilliant.”

The conversation finally registered for Yuuri, who blushed and said, “Everyone is terrible.”

“Yes, but you’re going to come upstairs with me now, right?” Victor said hopefully.

At that, Yuuri grinned, and sighed, and stood up. “I need to say goodbye first, they’re all leaving in the morning.”

Chapter Text

Victor managed to disentangle Yuuri from his family half an hour after they first decided to go up.

In the elevator they held hands, their rings touching, glancing at each other every few seconds and smiling.

Yuuri mumbled something under his breath and Victor asked, “What?”

“I was thinking about the Japanese words for husband,” Yuuri said.

“To call me, or call you?” Victor said.

Yuuri let out a short, sharp, “Ha!” and then said, “Both.”

Victor grinned. “In Russian, it could be ‘muzh’ or ‘suprug’, but I want to call you ‘muzh’ because it sounds a little like ‘muse’ in English, and you’re both.”

Yuuri flushed. “Most of the Japanese words imply mastery, which would be a little strange.”

The elevator opened, and as they walked out, Victor said, “Hm, especially since I have more fun when you take charge.”

Yuuri let out a slightly strangled laugh. “We sometimes use ‘hazubando,’ but that’s just a loan word. I might go with that, or ‘hazu’ for short.”

“Just so long as you don’t stop calling me Vityenka,” Victor said, opening their door. “I like that, and Vitya.”

“It’s just the words keep running through my head, and it feels, oh, awe-inspiring that I can use them and mean you. That you’re mine in that way.” Yuuri followed Victor into the room, and found himself being pressed against the wall.

“Moy muzh,” Victor growled near Yuuri’s ear. “Yes. I see what you mean.”

“Hazu. Moy muzh,” Yuuri said, and then couldn’t say anything because Victor’s lips were very busily occupying his own.

Minutes later, Yuuri put a hand on Victor’s chest, and said, “I need a moment, and then I’m all yours.”

Victor pulled back, and then nodded. “Whatever you need.”

Yuuri stepped into the strange little bathroom, with its mosaic floor and carved stone bowl sink. The toilet was just as peculiar as the rest of the plumbing but the basic shape wasn’t impossible and it had a bidet.

He sat, head in his hands for a long moment, then stared up at the ceiling and let out a shaking breath. That happened. I’m married. I’m married to Victor. His next breath came out in a slightly hysterical giggle.

Victor’s voice came muffled through the door. “Are you okay, Yuuchan?”

“Fine, great, amazing,” Yuuri called back. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

He took a few minutes to prepare, dried off carefully and then put himself back together. He debated going out already undressed, and then decided Victor would probably rather help. He caught his reflection in the mirror and took another minute to take the makeup he’d forgotten he was wearing off his face and get the crunch out of his hair. It stayed mostly back, and it really was starting to get shaggy, but at least with the remaining product it looked deliberate.

He looked at himself in the mirror and muttered, “And now I’m going to go get fucked by Victor Nikiforov. Again.”

Through the door, he heard, “Are you almost ready, lubya moya? I miss you.”

He grinned, and then caught his smile in the mirror.

Oh. That’s the one that Victor loves, he thought. His hand came up to his mouth, and he sighed. Vitya. Vityenka. Hazu.

“Sorry, I just wanted to get the stuff off my fa…” Yuuri started to say as he opened the door, but Victor was right there, picking up where they’d left off.

A moment later, Victor, working the trousers down Yuuri’s legs, gasped when his hand encountered one of the suspenders for the silky hose Yuuri had been wearing all day. “Yuuchan, what…”

Victor pulled back to look, and his delighted grin was everything Yuuri had hoped for. Victor knelt, running his hands down the smooth stretch of Yuuri’s legs, and then back up again.

“Let me…” Yuuri said, reaching down to open the snaps of his skating shirt and lifting it over his head as he stepped out of the trousers that pooled around his ankles.

“Save the stockings for me,” Victor said, bringing his hands up to the bare skin above them. “You shaved?”

“Last night,” Yuuri said. “It’s still smooth, I hope?”

Victor made an incoherent noise, and leaned forward to brush his lips against Yuuri’s skin.

“It feels strange without hair,” Yuuri said, voice rough.

Victor’s lips played in light kisses along Yuuri’s inner thigh, and Yuuri reached out for the post of the bed to keep himself upright. Unsteady fingers found the little clips for the suspenders, and Victor flicked one open and smiled against Yuuri’s leg when the stockings didn’t immediately slide down.  

He quickly opened the other clips, then stood, finding Yuuri’s mouth with his own as he backed Yuuri up to the bed. He pulled back long enough to say, “May I remove this?” with a quick tug at the skimpy underwear that was barely containing Yuuri.

“God, please. Yours too,” Yuuri said, opening Victor’s trousers.

“Mine can wait a few minutes,” Victor said, sliding his hands down Yuuri’s back as he nuzzled Yuuri’s neck and nudged the underwear down.

“Ha,” Yuuri breathed, almost laughing as Victor grabbed his now-bare ass. “Please be wearing less clothing.” His hands fumbled at Victor’s shirt, which remained stubbornly snapped. “I don’t want to tear this but I want to touch you.”

Victor quickly pushed his pants down with one hand, kicked them to one side, and awkwardly reached to unsnap the increasingly uncomfortable shirt. Yuuri helped him bring it up over his head and then they were both bare, except for Yuuri’s thigh high stockings.

Victor looked down with a shuddering sigh and said, “Yuuchan, I don’t think I’ve wanted anything in my life as much as I want you right now.”

Yuuri grinned and half fell, half climbed backwards on the bed. “You like the stockings that much, Vityenka?”

“You. I like you,” Victor said, climbing onto the bed after him.

“I’m all yours,” Yuuri said, and then blushed.

“You are. But I’m yours, too. For the rest of our lives.” Victor punctuated his words by trying to kiss Yuuri everywhere at once, which set Yuuri laughing.

“Just come up here,” Yuuri said, tugging.

It was overwhelming, their bodies moving together. Their kissing turned into grinding, and Yuuri reaching blindly for the lube Victor had stashed next to the bed, slicking Victor and then demanding, “In me, please.”

Victor shifted a little and then returned his attention to Yuuri’s collarbones, to his neck, to his earlobe, as Yuuri’s fingers dug into Victor’s back, encouraging him upward.

Victor’s cock nudged first near, and then at Yuuri’s hole, his mouth almost distracting from the gentle pressure, not in, just there, hips moving slightly, until Yuuri’s teasing tongue and lips on the sensitive skin below Victor’s ear prompted a slightly deeper grind that opened Yuuri enough for Victor to slide a little way in.

They both froze, Yuuri’s breath came in short, light, panting gasps. Victor finally got words out in English to ask, “You okay?”

“Keep going,” Yuuri said. “It feels… I… different. Intense. Good.”

“Da,” Victor said, shaking with effort to move in slowly, pulling back, pushing a little more. “Don’t want… hurt…”

“I prepped…  some…” Yuuri said, and Victor was already moving a little deeper. “More.”

Victor slid the rest of the way in and stayed for a long moment. “Open your eyes, Yuuchan,” he said, grinding slow and deep.

Yuuri, spread out under Victor, head thrown back, mouth open, opened his eyes unfocused for a moment, and looked up at Victor. Yuuri smiled the sweetest smile that Victor had ever seen, then reached up and touched Victor’s cheek.

Victor grinned back and then drew back and thrust deep, and laughed when Yuuri gave him a wild look, head lolling back and eyes closing again, grinding back against Victor until they were both lost in the overwhelming stimulation—all barriers gone except the slippery silk of Yuuri’s thigh highs.

It was not very long until Victor lost control in a babble of Russian, clinging to Yuuri as he came.

“So much,” Yuuri whispered, and then rolled the two of them over as Victor slipped out.

Victor made a mewling whine of protest and Yuuri laughed, a little dazed himself. “Shall I finish in you?”

Victor, still breathing hard, said, “Ha…  Da… Podozhdi minutu…”

Yuuri laughed and stretched out alongside Victor, up on one elbow. “Do you want me to wait until you can speak English again?”

Victor nodded, and sprawled limp on the bed, little involuntary quivers shuddering with his breath. He finally managed to get out, “Are you okay? I kind of lost it.”

Yuuri grinned and nuzzled Victor’s neck. “Want me to show you how okay I am?”

Victor nodded, and let his knees fall open. “Take me.”

“Prep?” Yuuri asked.

“Da… Please,” Victor said.

Yuuri shifted to find the lube again, and screwed up his mouth in consternation when he realized how sloppy he felt.

Victor put his arm back under his head and raised an eyebrow. “Still okay?”

“Messy,” Yuuri said. “It’s messy enough with a condom, it’s messier without.”

Victor gave a weary chuckle. “We can clean up later. It felt so good inside you with nothing between us.”

“Mm,” Yuuri agreed. “It was good for me, too. I almost came just from that. Aha!” He found the lube and held it up. “Fifty rupees for me.”

Victor snorted, and then gasped at cold gel and then warm fingers opening him up.

Between panting breaths, he said, “Was it okay without the prep before?”

Yuuri laughed softly and said, “You went so slow, it was fine. I don’t want to have to go that slow right now, so…”

Victor nodded and then arched his back as Yuuri’s clever fingers worked deeper inside. “Fuhhh, Yuuri… Please…”

Yuuri grinned and withdrew his fingers. “Your wish is my com… fuck, Vic… Vity…” Yuuri lost his words as he slid into Victor in a single smooth slide. He stayed there for a long moment and then pulled back slowly, leaning on his arms, head bowed, eyes closed at the intensity.

Victor reached a trembling hand up to Yuuri’s hair in a gentle caress. Yuuri opened his eyes and looked at Victor, and as they gazed at each other, Yuuri began to move in languid thrusts.

“I can feel every bit of you,” Victor murmured, and then touched Yuuri’s cheek with a look of wonder. “Tears?”

Yuuri smiled, and shifted his weight so that he could touch Victor’s cheek as well. “I’m not the only one.”

“You can lean your weight on me,” Victor said. “I want to hold you while you come.”

Yuuri thrust deep and then shifted again to rest much of his weight on Victor, grinding more than sliding as Victor’s arms wrapped around him, losing himself completely in the sensation until it overwhelmed him.

“That’s right,” Victor said, stroking his hair. “Come for me, moy muzh.”

The rush of sensation and emotion drew a sob from Yuuri as he came, shuddering, his forehead on Victor’s collarbone.

A moment later they shifted, and Yuuri lay limp on Victor, held tightly. “’m squishing you,” Yuuri mumbled against Victor’s shoulder.

“I like it,” Victor said. “Stay.”

Yuuri sniffed and made a slightly hysterical-sounding chuckle as he brushed a tear from his face.

“Hmm?” Victor stroked his hair.

“I was just commending myself for choosing to take my makeup off so I didn’t leave a face print on you.”

Underneath him, Victor twitched with laughter. “I wouldn’t have minded. You know Yakov had to stop me from finding you to do your makeup before the wedding.”

“Yuuko did it,” Yuuri said.

Victor picked up Yuuri’s hand. “Your nails even sparkle. I missed a bet, we could have matched.”

“Yours would have had to be silver-blue,” Yuuri said, closing his eyes as Victor kissed each adorned finger.

“With lots of glitter. Maybe if I decide to use my wedding clothes to skate in…”

Eventually Yuuri rolled off and sat up, wincing at the mess. He turned to suggest they shower and then blinked at a pile of gifts neither of them had noticed before.

“Victor, look.”

Victor glanced over. “Oh, yes. I told them to put them up here when we were at the reception.”

“There are so many?” Yuuri said.

“Well, I assume there are gifts from our guests, and some from fans maybe. I don’t know, people are always giving me things.” Victor shrugged. “We can look at them later.”

Yuuri stared at the pile and then said, “After a shower.”

Dealing with the strange bean tub and the hand-held and the funny shower curtain was rapidly losing its novelty, Victor decided. “Next time we get married, we insist on a hotel with a dedicated shower,” he said, wincing as the spray ballooned the curtain out again, splashing the floor.

“If we get rinsed, we could bathe together,” Yuuri said. “It’s a terrible shower, but the tub isn’t half bad as hotel tubs go. And it might be fun to be slippery and naked and not have to bathe after.”

“So soon?” Victor said with a laugh.

Yuuri waggled his eyebrows, and shrugged.

“I often wondered what it would be like with you, in the onsen,” Victor said.

Yuuri looked scandalized. “I would never.”

“No?” Victor asked.

“The water wouldn’t feel good inside… there’s a reason we never go under, it’s not good for eyes, for example. But also, it would be very impolite.”

“But a tub like this?” Victor prodded.

“We empty it. It’s plain water. Why not?”

An hour later they realized that the answer to “why not” was that water was actually a terrible lubricant. Laughing, they got out, tossed extra towels onto the bed, and continued playing.

After, they used the towels to clean up, and crawled into bed, where they lay in each other’s arms, half dozing, mostly looking at each other with gentle touches and no words.

Yuuri reached for his phone to check the time when he realized that he could see deep blue sky over Victor’s shoulder as the night began to wane.

“Hmm?” Victor hummed against Yuuri’s hair as Yuuri held the phone over Victor’s shoulder.

“I should go say goodbye, they’re leaving for the airport in a bit,” Yuuri said.

“Thought you did that last night,” Victor mumbled sleepily.

Yuuri sighed. “If I was asleep, I’d let it go, but I won’t see them for a while… I’ll come back up when I’m done and we can go back to sleep.”

“We should practice at least a little while today,” Victor said.

Yuuri grinned and rolled on top of him. “I wanted to practice my hip thrusts, for my footwork,” he said with a leer and a grind, a toe trailing the inside of Victor’s calf for good measure.

Victor laughed deeply enough to bounce them both, and said, “I think I can attest to the… perfection of those thrusts, but an hour or two on the ice in the afternoon might be good.”

“How about this?” Yuuri asked. “Breakfast, talk to my parents. Come back up here. We get up when we get up and go skate. Then back here…”

“When the season is over, I want to take you to a tropical beach,” Victor said. “Someplace with no ice rink and no schedule, for, oh, a month. A real honeymoon. We can lay on the beach and drink out of coconuts and spend the rest of our time in bed.”

Yuuri grinned. “I don’t know about a month, but a beach would be fantastic.”

Victor tried to get his head into a position to look at Yuuri better and said, “Two weeks?”

Yuuri nodded with a bright smile.

“In the meantime, I think it will be our honeymoon always,” Victor said, and tugged Yuuri down for a kiss.  

They found the Katsukis and Nishigori family getting breakfast with Minako at the restaurant’s buffet and joined them around a coffee table in front of one of the fireplaces.

“I’m surprised to see you up so early,” Mari said dryly. “Didn’t think we’d see you for a couple months.”

Yuuri and Victor looked at each other, and Yuuri blushed as he said, “We, um, haven’t really, um…”

“We haven’t slept yet,” Victor supplied. “Maybe later.”

A small argument broke out between the triplets and their mother over their choices from the buffet, and Minako called out, 「It won’t kill them to gorge on pastries for a day, they don’t travel often.」

「We want to try all the pastries,」Axel said.

「It’s only one of each!」Lutz supplied.

Loop nodded seriously. 「We were going to cut them up so we could share them all.」

Victor weighed in, 「I like to try the sweets when I go new places too.」      

「You’re no help,」Yuuko said to Victor.

Nishigori laughed. 「No, but his Japanese is getting pretty good.」

Yuuko sighed, and the triplets sat down at a nearby table with a stack of pastries which they surgically divided into precise sections. A low flurry of discussion flashed by too fast for anyone else to understand, and every piece was further divided while the adults continued chatting about the coming trip, and the upcoming events.

A few minutes later, the girls came over with three plates, one for Minako, one for Yuuri and one for Victor, each with a sampling of the pastries.

「Because you took our side,」Lutz explained, handing her plate to Minako.

「Because you like sweets, too,」Loop said to Victor as she handed him a plate.

Axel handed her plate to Yuuri, who raised a questioning eyebrow. She grinned. 「Because if you didn’t marry Victor, we wouldn’t have gotten to go on this trip.」

Yuuri managed to keep a straight face as he gave her a polite nod and thanked her. Then he yawned and clapped a hand over his face, embarrassed.

「Yuuri-chan, take Vicchan back upstairs and go to sleep this time,」Hiroko said. 「It is lovely to see you but we did not expect it today, and you need the sleep.」          

Yuuri opened his mouth to argue but another yawn escaped, and Victor stood up, holding out a hand.

A passing waitress said, “You can take your plates up, if you like.”

Victor nodded his thanks and consolidated their plates into a pile of pastries and finger foods as Yuuri stood and made his goodbyes again.

They nibbled on the way up, first on breakfast, then on each other, setting the food aside in the room and tumbling back into bed with clothing scattering.

They found their way to completion and drifted off in a slant of morning sunshine.

Later, they woke, midafternoon, showered, and called for the bus to take them over to the rink.

Yakov was hanging out rinkside with Lilia and Minako, watching Mila work on the ice when Victor and Yuuri arrived, and looked plainly astonished that they’d shown up at all.

“We’re running through our routines and the exhibitions,” Victor said as they began to stretch. “Nothing more.”

The ice was familiar, everything about the routine was familiar, but they found themselves hyperaware of both each other and their surroundings.

“It’s all different,” Yuuri said, finally, as they worked through “Stammi Vicino” in sections, testing out the changes they’d been working on, shifting some of the moves from ice dancing to pairs.

“Yeah,” Victor agreed absently as they paused between jumping sections, and then looked more sharply at Yuuri. “Wait, good different, or bad different?”

“It’s like the whole world changed, but maybe it’s just us?” Yuuri said.

“Everything is sharper, brighter,” Victor said. They pushed off and Victor threw Yuuri into a triple axel.

“I’m noticing everything,” Yuuri said when they slowed again. “The fog is gone.”

Victor grinned. “Do you finally believe?”

Yuuri’s answering smile was radiant. “You know, I think I do. Do you?”

They went into the final spin together, but lost control a little and stumbled out of it laughing.

Victor wrapped his arms around Yuuri and said, “In answer to your question, you may be the only thing I’ve ever truly believed in.”

They kissed until Yakov snapped from the sidelines, “You have a hotel room for that. Quit wasting my time.”

Victor made a rude gesture while still kissing Yuuri.

“If you weren’t on your honeymoon…” Yakov growled.

“Let them be,” Minako said quietly. “They have precious little time to enjoy this.”


Don’t think about Yuuri, late on the night before his wedding, creeping out of bed and into the bathroom. Don’t think about him running the water into the tub, putting a hand cloth down to keep it quiet, generating steam to get his skin soft. Don’t think about him covering his legs in gel and using a new razor, carefully removing every trace of hair from his legs, getting a little nervous in the groin area and resorting to just trimming that neatly.

And really, don’t think about how he panicked when Victor started to play the next morning, worried his surprised would be discovered too soon, pulling his soon-to-be-husband up for a kiss to distract him.

Don’t think about how the silk trousers moved feather-light and yet teasing over the silk of his stockings, or about how that feeling helped undermine the creeping anxiety, because thinking about how smooth his legs felt and how much Victor would like the surprise distracted him from the lies his brain kept wanting to tell him.

Don’t think about him actually preparing himself for the fact that despite their cost, they wouldn’t last more than the night.

Don’t think about the fact that Victor loved the surprise but didn’t realized more than a fraction of how it affected Yuuri until much, much later.

Chapter Text

They returned to their hotel room after practice long enough to get naked, get messy, and get clean again before they decided to go down and have dinner with their remaining guests, most of whom were sitting in the comfy lounge they’d mostly taken over for the bulk of their visit.

Victor looked around and then grabbed a wide wicker chair.

“Where am I going to…” Yuuri started to say, until Victor pulled him down into his lap.

Yuuri snuggled up against him, forehead against Victor’s cheek. “Okay.”

Victor ordered and Yuuri asked for the same, not bothering to even look at the menu.

The lounge was tense, and Victor finally asked why as they fed each other bites.

Christophe looked at his watch and said, “Unless there was some miracle, the Americans have a new president.”

Yuri looked up from his phone. “No miracle.”

Yuuri shuddered. “Phichit, I think we got out just in time.”

Phichit shrugged. “I was glad to be out of Michigan when it went for that macaque .”

“Macaques are way cuter,” Yuuri said.

All four of the bodyguards looked tense, and more alert to their surroundings than even their normal vigilance. Jamie was sitting in a corner with a laptop and an earpiece while Tony stood near him looking dangerous.

Victor leaned over and said to Inessa, standing nearby, “Is it bad out there?”

“Demonstrations have been going on for a while now,” she said.

“Would you be happier if we were upstairs?”

“There’s a rooftop garden next to the suite we’re in,” Christophe said. “It has a heater. We could go up there?”

Inessa looked torn. “We can handle it wherever you are, but yes.”

“No need to make it harder than it needs to be,” Victor said.

They started out in Chris’s suite while the staff fired up the heater, standing on the balcony. A coordinated chant could be heard in the distance, not clearly enough to sort out the words, but the emotion was clear.

“We got married and the whole world changed,” Yuuri said, arms wrapped around Victor from behind.

“It’s not your fault,” Victor murmured.

“No, but it feels like the world won’t wait for us to enjoy our honeymoon,” Yuuri said with a sigh.

“We will. After Worlds,” Victor said. “No matter who’s in charge.”

There was a little commotion behind them, and Yuri stalked off with Otabek in tow.

“Hmmm?” Victor said to no one in particular.

Yakov said, “I think he’s hurting again.”

“You’re not going to let him skate, are you?” Yuuri asked, turning to look.

Yakov sighed and looked every one of his 70 years. “No. I’m just trying to figure out the best time to break it to him.”

“Otabek said he’s taking a couple days off,” Phichit said to Yuuri.

A hotel staff member knocked to let them know the rooftop garden was ready, and they made their way out there. Phichit made an expansive gesture at the little wicker loveseat near the heater, and said, “For the newlyweds, a seat of honor!”

Yuuri blushed but sat down anyway. Victor seemed pleased.

“Can I take a picture?” Phichit begged.

Yuuri looked at Victor and then grinned. “Yeah.”

“Can I post it?” Phichit asked.

Victor nodded.

“Alright then, show your rings,” Phichit said.

Victor simply lifted their already clasped hands, and turned Yuuri’s hand over to kiss his ring, keeping a merry eye on the camera.

Phichit cooed in delight. “Another?”

Yuuri rolled his eyes, and then flipped Victor’s hand over and did the same, with a wink.

“Let me see!” Victor said, as his phone beeped a notification, and then another before he could fumble it out of his pocket.

Each was captioned, Kissing gold, #justmarried, #victuuri, #congrats

Yuuri, looking over Victor’s shoulder, murmured in his ear, “I’d rather be kissing you.”

A moment later, Phichit flipped around and made a face for the camera while Victor and Yuuri kissed behind him. In the background, Yakov could be seen sitting with a tablet in his hands, in reading glasses, rolling his eyes at the shenanigans, while Chris chatted with Franz off to one side.

Victor startled out of the kiss when his notification went off.

Newlyweds. #victuuri, #honeymoon

“I’m pretty sure if this was our actual honeymoon, none of you would be here,” Victor said.

“I mean, you could be in your lovely suite now,” Chris said.

“Later,” Yuuri said.

At 8:30 in the evening, Inessa and Max both put a hand to their earpieces and then went pale. Inessa rushed inside. A moment later, Tony appeared and said, “I hate to interrupt but we have a situation back home, and we are going to be distracted for a while. I don’t want to cut your celebration short, but if you would be willing to come inside, it would make our job easier right now.”

Victor blinked, started to open his mouth, but Yuuri just said, “Of course, where would it be best for us to be?”

“Any of the hotel rooms, curtains drawn,” Tony said. “We will be in the lobby.”

“What happened?” Yakov asked.

Tony shook his head. “Please let me get more information. I’ll tell you as soon as I know for sure. We are getting news reports of several gay bars in St. Petersburg being attacked. We’re trying to reach our people at Ledyanoy Led now to make sure everyone’s okay.”

Yuuri and Victor looked at each other and Yuuri said, “Would it be helpful or would we be in the way if we joined you downstairs? If that’s okay with you, Victor?”

Victor nodded as Tony said, “That would be fine.”

They all ended up back in the lobby for a while, waiting, when Inessa finally said, “Mishka is injured but alive. A number of the patrons have burns, but they went out the back and no one died. I’m talking to Petra. Another club was not so lucky.”

Max took a shuddering breath and closed his eyes.

Jamie, who was closest to Victor, leaned over and said under his breath, “Inessa and Max and Mishka all live together.”

“Do they need to go back?” Yuuri asked.

“A better question is do we need to get Mishka out?” Jamie said. He checked his screen, and then blanched. “Yubileynyy was apparently tagged with graffiti and there was a molotov cocktail thrown there, too. They put it out quickly, but…”

“What graffiti?” Victor said, his voice full of ice.

Jamie hesitated.

Victor’s voice intensified as he said, “What. Graffiti. Was it aimed at us?”

“You don’t want to know what it said,” Tony said. “Not today. But yes.”

“Is it safe for us to return?” Yuuri asked.

Their guards looked at each other, and after a long pause, Jamie said, “I honestly don’t know. Most of our previous altercations have involved fists and the occasional stick. A few guns. If they’re organized enough to be coordinating attacks, throwing incendiary devices and targeting your training facility?” He shook his head. “I just don’t know. It’s your home. It’s my home. But it doesn’t feel like home right now.”

“We don’t have to decide right now,” Yuuri said. “But if you need to go back…”

Inessa looked up. “Petra says that Mishka might be in the hospital for a week. He should be safe there, we’re pulling in more people to stand watch. I think we have time.”

Later, back in their hotel room, Yuuri went to the window and looked out. Victor came over next to him and pulled the curtain shut.

“I was…” Yuuri started, and then jerked with realization. “Tony was worried about drones.”

Victor turned from closing the curtains, folded his arms around Yuuri, and said, “Shh, love. Yes, but it’s unlikely. We just don’t know.”

“It feels like the whole world changed. I thought it might, but I didn’t expect it to change so quickly,” Yuuri said.

“Maybe we don’t go back to Russia,” Victor said. “It always felt safe in Japan.”

“We need Makkachin,” Yuuri said. “And what about Yuri? Yakov? I think Lilia and Minako would be just as happy to leave, but Yuri has ties there. Would Mila come with? Georgi? Can we ask that of them?”

“Breathe,” Victor said, pulling back. “Look at me.”

Yuuri looked Victor in the eye, shaking and worried. “But…”

“These are important questions. And we’ll talk about them tomorrow. Of course we will. But we can’t do anything about it tonight, and we don’t have to. We’re safe now. We’re together. We have money that is not tied to Russia or the United States, for that matter. We have friends all over the world. We have allies with money who are willing to help. And we have each other.” Victor leaned in, kissed Yuuri’s forehead, and said, “I’m scared, too. But I also know that I am married to the love of my life, and we’re both okay, and it may be selfish, but that’s really all I can bring myself to get worked up about right now.”

“How can it go from the best thing that ever happened to so scary, so quickly?” Yuuri asked.

Victor shrugged. “Life? We’ll be okay. And if we’re not, we’re still in this together, no?”

Yuuri closed his eyes and sighed. “I think I need some help stopping my brain from circling right now.”

Victor grinned. “I might have an idea about that.”

“I’m not feeling very sexy right now,” Yuuri said.

“If you don’t want to, we won’t. But it might be a very good distraction, and you’re always sexy to me,” Victor said.

Yuuri snorted and looked very skeptical. “Always? Even when I have morning breath and bedhead?”

“I love your bedhead,” Victor said. “And when you have morning breath, I usually do too, and it’s not so awful if we both have it.”

“Would it be really bad if I said I needed a drink?” Yuuri asked.

“To feel sexy?” Victor asked.

Yuuri shook his head. “Just to turn the volume down in my head.”

“Why don’t we share something?” Victor said. “Oh! We should open our presents, though. It would be a distraction, and who knows? Someone might have given us booze?”

Yuuri smiled in spite of himself.

It wasn’t until they unwrapped a truly bizarre vase nearly a meter tall (and so peculiarly shaded that Yuuri decided it had gone past ugly and circled back around to weirdly beautiful) from someone neither of them had met higher up in the Russian figure skating organization’s hierarchy, that they found the most immediately useful gift of the lot. A large picnic basket filled with shelf-stable snacks, a bottle of sake, nonalcoholic sweet beverages, and several cups, plates, chopsticks, and linen napkins from the Nishigoris. The note, in Yuuko’s neat writing said, “We got something like this from my mother when we were married, and it was the most useful thing when we didn’t want to leave our room. Enjoy!” Underneath were funny little drawings of them skating, obviously from the little girls.

Yuuri smiled and translated it for Victor, who already had a pack of snack cakes open.

They left half the packages unopened as they took the basket back to the bed. “Oh!” Victor said, unloading it. “The lining of the basket is a table cloth.”

They picnicked on the cloth on the bed, sharing the sake and the snacks, and then using the cloth to sweep everything aside after, to make better use of the bed.

Chapter Text

Saturday, they learned more about the attacks in Russia, and the city was so full of people marching in pink hats that Yakov cancelled practice. Victor desperately wanted to go march, but the bodyguards talked him out of it. Lilia and Minako went, as did Christophe, Franz, and Phichit. They found out later that Mila had gone as well. With no practice and most of their friends gone, they spent most of the day in bed.

Sunday, they got back to work, spending much of the day in the hotel gym and at the rink. When they realized they hadn’t seen Yuri at all the previous day, they investigated and learned that he was resting in his hotel room, so they took a little time in the afternoon to visit.

They found Yuri ensconced in a pile of pillows in his hotel room. Their visit was not long, as he was snappish and not wanting to talk about his injury or anything else. Everything felt odd and transient, and they spent the evening packing.

“Thank god we’re taking a private plane,” Yuuri said, staring at the unreasonable mountain of gifts.

“I especially like the pillows Phichit gave us.”

“I left several in Detroit when I went home,” Yuuri said. “I’m pretty sure the one he gave us with your picture on it was one of them.”

“I don’t know whether to be jealous or flattered,” Victor said.

“You should definitely not be jealous of a body pillow,” Yuuri said, blushing.

“But my picture got to sleep with you long before I did,” Victor said.

“In fact, your picture got me off long before you ever did in person,” Yuuri said.

Victor looked completely delighted, and dropped the clothes he was putting into a suitcase to climb over the bed and wrap his arms around Yuuri’s shoulders. “Tell me more, Yuuuuchan.”

Yuuri rolled his eyes, and pushed Victor off so he could keep packing. “You knew I was a fan.”

“Ah, but this…”

Yuuri sighed, shook his head, set down the clothes he was folding, turned around, and then very deliberately pushed Victor back onto the bed, straddling him. Victor grinned up at him.

“You want to hear about how I, a desperate fanboy, lay there in my bedroom alone, staring at your picture and jerking off,” Yuuri said.

Victor pretended to look thoughtful for a moment, and then nodded with a goofy grin.

“Why?” Yuuri asked.

“Because I spent months wondering if you were attracted to me at all, and this balms the wound on my soul of feeling completely insecure for the first time in my life,” Victor said, his tone shifting, his face suddenly vulnerable.

Yuuri managed not to laugh, and said, “Okay.”

Victor waited for a moment, and then wiggled under Yuuri and said, “Well?”

Yuuri laughed and gave a little swivel of his hips. “Hush, I’m deciding what to tell you.”

Victor started rubbing little circles with his thumbs against Yuuri’s inner thighs, through his workout pants.

“Do you want me to tell you or do you want to distract me more?” Yuuri asked.

“I have to chose?”

Yuuri nodded, and Victor made a show of bringing his hands away from Yuuri’s legs, lacing his fingers behind his head.

“Okay, so you did the one photo shoot, the drink thing where they made you be shirtless on the ice,” Yuuri said.

“And wet. It was freezing.”

“It made your nipples crinkle,” Yuuri said.

Victor grinned, raised an eyebrow and said, “I now feel that shoot was completely worth it.”

“Oh, but that was just the beginning,” Yuuri said. “They had drops of water and ice crystals all over you. You were in your top condition, hell, they probably photoshopped things, but I didn’t care.”

“So you would look at this picture of me, wet and cold, and…”

“Oh, there was a whole thing in my head,” Yuuri said. “Let me see… You looked cold, so I imagined licking the droplets off of you, especially the one that was just clinging to your right nipple.”

“I suddenly feel like I’m wearing too many clothes,” Victor said.

Yuuri looked down at him. “Probably.”

Victor squirmed. “I can’t get them off with you sitting on me.”

Yuuri grinned. “I know. Let me finish.”

With a groan, Victor went slack under him, listening.

“Where was I?” Yuuri said, bringing a finger to his lips. “Right. So I imagined licking the moisture off of you. I imagined how it would feel to have that icy droplet on a nipple, and then have a warm mouth chasing it.”

“What did you do?” Victor asked.

Yuuri said, “I would come back to my room, alone, with a cup of ice and a cup of something warm, and I would take my shirt off. Looking at your picture the whole while, I would run an ice cube along my body, in all the sensitive places, and when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I would make my fingers warm and wet and chase the chill away.”

“Sensitive places?” Victor asked.

“I could get some ice and show you,” Yuuri said.

“On me, or on you?” Victor asked.

Yuuri blushed. “Which would you rather?”

Victor blinked. “Why don’t you let me up, and I’ll go get the ice from the machine, and when I come back, I’ll answer?”

“Can we go together so that I don’t completely lose it when you leave the room?” Yuuri asked, suddenly shy, climbing off of Victor.

“If you’re wondering if you should be embarrassed,” Victor said, “don’t. I’m incredibly turned on right now. I will only be a minute.”

He dashed out of the hotel room door, then dashed back, grabbed a smaller-but-no-less-peculiar vase from the pile of gifts and returned a moment later with the vase full of an unrealistic amount of ice.

Yuuri started laughing. “We only need a few pieces.”

Victor shrugged. “It came out all at once. And the answer is, both.”

“Both… Right. Both.” Yuuri took a deep breath, and said “Do you want to see what I did or what I wanted to do, first?”

“Do what you you wanted to do. I don’t have warm water for you to show me everything, but I do have a mouth,” Victor said, pulling his shirt off and throwing it over the large vase.

“Pants, too,” Yuuri said.

“Mmm,” Victor agreed, and dropped trou immediately, bouncing onto the bed and flinging his arms to the side. “Show me.”

Yuuri climbed up next to Victor, and knelt, leaning the vase against a pillow to keep it mostly upright. He reached into the jar and pulled out a cylindrical ice cube, moving methodically, as Victor watched his every move.

Yuuri held the cube above Victor, and waited as the heat from his fingers melted a drop, which hung for a moment before landing on Victor’s sternum.

“You missed,” Victor said, with a small shudder.

“No, I didn’t,” Yuuri said. “Patience. I went so slow.”

Another drop fell, this one on Victor’s neck.

Yuuri’s hand moved, and a moment later, another drop landed on Victor’s belly.

“I thought…” Victor started, but Yuuri held up his free finger to his mouth.

“I’m setting the stage. There you are, before me, covered with droplets.” Another drop landed on Victor’ shoulder, and Yuuri changed his grasp as his fingers chilled. Several drops at once scattered across Victor’s face.

“They sprayed me with a mist,” Victor said. “We had to do several takes.”

Yuuri nodded. “You’re cold already, but then there is an ice droplet on your nipple.” He held the cube over Victor’s chest, and they watched it together as it melted slowly.

Victor shivered as a barely thawed droplet fell directly onto his right nipple, which crinkled in response.

“You’re cold,” Yuuri said, his hand coming down to Victor’s neck, as he traced the ice cube directly along Victor’s skin.

“So cold,” Victor murmured.

“You know we can stop if it’s too much,” Yuuri said.

“I know,” Victor said. “Show me.”

“When it was just me, I would keep one hand cold, and one hand hot,” Yuuri said. “It’s easier with two.”

“What would you do?” Victor asked, gasping as Yuuri’s icy fingers trailed the cube down to Victor’s nipple.

“Warm follows cold,” Yuuri said. “I’d start the warmth following the path the ice cube took.” He leaned over and sucked the moisture from Victor’s neck, following the line down to Victor’s nipple, while his icy fingers trailed lower, circling at Victor’s navel, and then lower still.

Victor arched his back with a shouting gasp as Yuuri’s warm mouth found his nipple at the same moment cold fingers found his cock. The ice cube was gone by that point, but the chill remained, and the contrasting sensations overwhelmed Victor completely as he found himself thrusting into the cold circle of Yuuri’s fingers.

“Your mouth feels so hot,” Victor said, as Yuuri left the nipple behind to follow the trail of chill down to Victor’s cock.

“I thought about doing this,” Yuuri said, “But warm fingers were what I had.” And with that, the warmth of his mouth chased any possible chill away.

Victor was struggling to keep his hips still as Yuuri worked, but failed completely when he felt an absolutely icy finger slide into his ass. He thrust up and came without warning, vaguely aware that Yuuri was chuckling around him as he swallowed Victor down.

Victor swore for twenty seconds straight in Russian while he came and kept babbling something Russian after.

“I didn’t quite catch that,” Yuuri said, sitting back on his heels, grinning.

“You caught me off guard,” Victor said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t warn you.”

Yuuri ducked his head and gave a half-embarrassed smile. “I was… expecting that response. It was the icy finger that usually ended things for me. Something about the shock of the temperature contrasts.”

“I want to do that to you, but I’m not sure I can move,” Victor said. “You thought about doing that to me, and still turned me down flat when I came to you?”

“Honestly, if I hadn’t, I probably would have had an easier time saying yes,” Yuuri said. “Besides. I had it in my mind that I wanted to be you. I told myself it was about the winning, about making skating so beautiful that people would want to take pictures like that. It took me a long time to realize that I wanted to be the warm mouth and not the one standing in the cold.”

“Now you can be both,” Victor said, rolling onto his side and pushing up on an elbow. He pointed at the bed. “My turn.”

Yuuri stripped his clothes off and dropped them off the side of the bed, and then lay down next to Victor, naked.

Victor picked up a piece of ice, looked at it thoughtfully and then held it over Yuuri. “It would have been a much more enjoyable shoot the way you imagined it. That whole year would have been better.” As he spoke, water dripped. “I wish I could convey to you how much joy you’ve brought me. How much you’ve changed things for the better for me.”

“I feel like loving me has turned your whole world upside down,” Yuuri said, shivering as a droplet hit his hip. “Your government…”

“Screw them,” Victor said. “I would rather have no country at all and have you than have the devotion of my country and nothing of you.”  

A droplet hit Yuuri’s left nipple and sparked a sharp inhale.

“You are home for me, Katsuki Yuuri. Never doubt it,” Victor said. “I don’t care how cold it is out there.” He touched the cube to Yuuri’s earlobe, and Yuuri closed his eyes, tipping his head to allow better access.

The cube traced a fiery path of cold down Yuuri’s neck, circling slowly as Victor neared the nipple. “I want to be your warmth, too,” Victor whispered in Yuuri’s ear before warming the lobe with his lips and tongue, as the ice drew Yuuri’s nipple up.

“Haa… Hai,” Yuuri said, his breath shuddering. “You are.”

Victor ran his tongue down Yuuri’s neck, and whispered, “Good,” against Yuuri’s skin, before wrapping his burning mouth around Yuuri’s icy nipple, and sliding the last of the ice up Yuuri’s cock.

Yuuri swore in Russian, and Victor looked up at him. “Who taught you that one?”

“You did,” Yuuri said, his voice coming high and tight as Victor’s cold fingers teased.

“How did you do the thing with the fingers at the end?” Victor asked.

“Let my hand rest in the ice bucket while I worked with my mouth,” Yuuri said, squeaking at the end when Victor’s mouth worked down and enveloped him.

Even expecting it, knowing it was going to happen, the shock of cold fingers inside, against the blazing heat of Victor’s mouth flipped a switch for Yuuri.

Victor sat back a minute later and said, “As good as you imagined?”

Yuuri let out a shuddering laugh and said, “I have a wholly inadequate imagination.”

“But very good ideas,” Victor said, flopping across the bed to reach over to the gift pile and grab a set of matching hand towels. He pulled one out of the pack, and used it to wipe them down, handing the other to Yuuri.

“We have to pack it now, you know,” Yuuri said, laughing.

“We’ll send out a load of laundry tonight, and pack it clean,” Victor said.

“Who gave us the vase?” Yuuri asked.

“I think Georgi sent it.”

“Oh, thank god. If it had come from an elderly aunt or a higher up at the ISU, I think I would never be able to look at them again when they asked me about it.”

“Georgi wouldn’t care,” Victor said.


“I suppose this isn’t the moment to tell you the hand towels came from Lilia’s sister?” Victor asked.

Yuuri turned over and buried his face in the pillow. “I’ve been getting sex jokes from my parents ,” he mumbled. “Now I have to worry about blurting out that we used her towels for sex.”

“You probably won’t see Elena again any time soon,” Victor said. “We won’t be back in Russia for a while.”

“We still have to get Makkachin,” Yuuri said.

“We’ll sort that out after Euros,” Victor replied, and set the vase full of ice on the table next to the bed so that he could bring the covers up over them.

“We still have to finish packing,” Yuuri said.

“After we warm up. Besides. It’s a private plane. It’s not like they’ll leave us behind.”

Victor woke early on Monday, and carefully disentangled himself from Yuuri with a small chuckle that they’d accidentally fallen asleep for the entire night. Yuuri rolled onto his stomach and turned his head, but didn’t wake.

Looking around the room in the grey light filtering in, Victor pondered, and then got to work, packing everything as quietly as possible, except for the clothes they would be wearing (both outfits his, because they were softer and more comfortable and Yuuri had been wearing his clothes half the time anyway.) He gathered the laundry bag full of dirty clothing, checked the hotel’s printed directory, and called for express laundry service in hushed tones. The gifts he reboxed as much as practical, nesting things that could be combined for space. He opened his laptop and checked the email he’d gotten from Hailey with their updated travel plans, noted that they were already booked for the private jet after Euros, and nodded. The gifts could follow them, awkward as it was.

He sat there staring at the laptop without actually looking at it for a while, mulling the conundrum of returning to Russia. Makkachin would need to be retrieved. Perhaps Yuri and Yakov would return without them. He could coach Yuuri in Hasetsu again, work on his own, maybe have Yuuri work on learning how to help him, too.

He thought about how he’d dreamed of showing his home to Yuuri, how impossible and dangerous that felt. The image kept flashing through his head of someone throwing a lit bottle of vodka into the club while Yuuri danced, nearly naked and completely vulnerable. Of having to face hostile graffiti or worry about being accosted on the way in to the rink, or worse, at night.

He thought about how neither of them had been at ease anywhere but their apartment, and even there, it had felt conditional. Like they were in hiding.

He thought about Mishka, laughing and bright behind the bar, how broken and afraid Max and Inessa had looked while they were waiting for word, their relief that it was only— only —second degree burns and smoke inhalation.

That others hadn’t been so “lucky” was not lost on him. That he and his Yuuri might not be so lucky… He ran his hand through his hair and let out a shaky sigh.

There was a hand on his shoulder, and Yuuri’s voice, sleepy and content, saying, “You packed everything?”

He drew a deep breath and put on a smile and turned around in the chair. “I did! You looked so cozy, I didn’t want to wake you. The laundry should be back in an hour.”

Yuuri’s forehead crinkled with concern. “Are you okay?”

“I…” Victor looked down and then back up again. “I’m fine,” he said with a too-bright smile.

“Nope,” Yuuri said. “That’s your media face. What’s going on?”

“I don’t want to go back to Russia,” Victor said. “I’d rather give up my career than see you hurt there.”

Yuuri blinked. “Could you train somewhere else?”

“Maybe,” Victor said. “I’m not sure. But I’m pretty sure I can’t train there. Not without worrying every minute.”

Yuuri startled him by letting out a laugh. “I live my whole life that way.”

“I… I felt at ease in Japan. We could try there?” Victor said. “Maybe not long-term, but for now?”

Yuuri nodded. “But maybe we find a place where I don’t have to worry about my parents listening.”

Victor’s grin was wide and real this time. “I think I could manage that.”

“I’ve got money,” Yuuri said.

“We can do it together, then,” Victor said.

“Do you think Yakov will be mad?” Yuuri asked.

“I think Yakov might just understand this time,” Victor said.

On the plane, late in the morning, Yakov listened to Victor, looked at him, looked at Yuuri, looked at Minako sitting with her legs folded up and her head on Lilia’s shoulder, looked at Lilia’s head on Minako’s, and Mila sitting across from them with her eyes closed, listening to music.

“Mila!” Yakov called.

She opened her eyes and looked over at them, then pulled the earbuds out of her ears. “Yes, coach?”

“Would you like to train in Japan for a while?”

She blinked.

“It’s fun,” Victor said.

“I don’t speak Japanese,” Mila said.

“Neither did I when I went. It was okay,” Victor said.

“How long?” she asked.

They looked at each other and Victor shrugged.

“Shouldn’t we ask Yura?” Yuuri asked.

“He’s already made his feelings clear on the subject,” Yakov said.

“If you’re going to be in Japan,” Phichit said from one of the front seats, “Maybe I should talk Celestino into moving with me there.”

“You wanted to be in Bangkok,” Yuuri said.

“I would rather be with you guys. I was in Bangkok because if I couldn’t have my best friend, I wanted my family. I wouldn’t want Russia. But if you have facilities good enough for you and Victor, and you’re skating again…”

Christophe turned around and looked between the seat backs. “I’m probably retiring this year, or I’d be tempted to join you.”

Victor looked over, “Chris, you cannot possibly retire this year. Switzerland needs you in the Olympics. And if I can’t retire until then, you absolutely cannot.”

“I don’t remember you asking my permission before you retired,” Christophe said.

“Come visit us in the summer,” Yuuri said.

Christophe pursed his lips, and then grinned. “Maybe. Probably.”

“That means yes,” Victor said.

“We don’t have to decide this minute,” Yakov said.

“True,” Victor said. “But soon.”

The trip was not long, and Ivo told them as they disembarked to leave any nonessential luggage in the hold, because they would be staying through the competition for Yuliya’s sake.

“Don’t you have school?” Yuuri asked Yuliya.

She smiled. “Katya tutors me when I travel. The school has many international students. I’ll be done with my homework for the week by the time the event starts.”

They left the gifts in the hold of the plane, and walked together, surrounded by their friends, to the waiting shuttle.

“Back to work?” Yuuri said to Victor as they sat down together.

“Is the honeymoon over?” Phichit asked from the seat in front of them.

“Never,” said Victor. “It’s barely begun.”